My Fortress and my Sanctuary

Our family went to Manila for the weekend. I've been wanting to see Old Manila, also known as Intramuros or The Walled City. This was part of our preparation for transitioning to the US – seeing places in our host country we'd like to see before we leave.

Looking at Fort Santiago in Manila on Saturday; the ingenious of man to build such strong structures, caused my heart to sing in praise to my Saviour and God.

Psalm 62 played in my head:
He is my fortress Psalm 62:2.

Oh God, You are my God My lips praise You! You are my rock and my salvation My fortress, my strong tower

You are my shield and my strength, I worship you.

In silence do I find You!

My soul thirsts for You! You are my strength and shield I love You, my Abba Daddy!

I will not be greatly shaken Shaken, yes, but always firm in Him.

Thoughts start streaming about my 11 years in this country. Looking at those strong rocks and amazing architecture, my soul blessed my Saviour. I have entered my last 16 days here in the Philippines, and since May 1, knowing we leave May 28, I've been having a full range of emotions. Thankful beyond words for all the experiences, yet looking forward to coming to the states to be near family and friends. Though, I must admit, the transition will have many challenges to establish a house of our own for our family, purchase a car, decide what school to have our sons attend, where to live, etc.

This journey has definitely answered a prayer I started praying when our first child was born. I started praying that my children would not know just “white, middle-class, Americana.” I desired for them to see beyond the suburb. And we all have been blessed with that ability on our missionary journey.

We moved here in 2006 with no idea what was to be on our path in Davao. But oh, the wonderful people here I've fallen in love with, the stark reality of rich and poor, extreme poverty, extreme joy, rising to challenges and responsibilities, intense reeducation of what is really important. The being a “minority' and never really “fitting in”.

As I reminisce about the lessons learned on the mission field I have been shaken. In quietness and trust I've learned to wait.

I've been reshaped, remolded. I'm not the person I was 11 years ago. I have grown stronger by seeing so many ministries bear fruit and by working through some difficult and persistent trials personally, relationally, within our family, and with colleagues. And I've learned so much along the way. I've been driven by winds, pillaged by evil intent, laid waste by emotional traumas, and healed – in the shadow of my loving Abba's wings. My soul clings to Him and He upholds me.

A book is in the works on my missionary journey musings.

I have looked upon You, Daddy, in the sanctuary (Psalm 63:2).

Hewn from strong rock, tall tower reaching the heavens. Our day tour so hot, each of us so thirsty and drinking refreshing bottles of water. My soul thirsts for You, Dad.

He is my strong tower.

In the shelter of His wings is healing and shade and rest. He is my rock, my redeemer, my salvation, my fortress, and my water of life. In Christ alone.

Reflections on Caring for Jerard

May 18th marks the day my son, Jerard, went home to be with Jesus.

In the midst of all our good-bying I also feel a deep thankful sadness remembering Jerard.

Recently, my Facebook account popped up a memory I had posted four years ago shortly before Jerard died. As I read it I was filled with such thankfulness for being Jerard's mom, for God gifting this special boy to me. I thought I'd share the memory I had posted four years ago with you all. Reflections on Caring For Jerard It is interesting having a child who is total care. Jerard spends a lot of time now lying on his side or stomach as we are fighting an almost continual pressure sore near his tail bone.

There is something special about taking care of Jerard that is hard to explain. While some may view his life as useless, there is a peaceful, thankfulness I feel in tending to his needs. He lies there, totally vulnerable to whatever may come his way.

and I start thinking, vulnerability, it can be hard to be vulnerable in relationships. Weaknesses are hard to admit. Jerard is weakness embodied.

I know that God is glorified through our weaknesses but often I just want to show the strong side. Jerard’s life brings God glory in his weakness. And caring for Jerard brings me closer to my ABBA.

Just as David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”

I approach God more openly in the most broken times. He hears my anger, tears, cries for mercy; .... and He hears praise, thankfulness and my cries to know HIM more. There is like a hunger that wells up in my soul desiring to be closer to my Heavenly Dad.

Like the song writer says, “I want to know You, I want to hear YOUR voice, I want to know YOU more….” For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything (1 John 3:20)

I don’t know what God’s plans are for Jerard, but I do know I am thankful for Jerard. There are hard times, and we’ve been close to breaking, but maybe, just maybe it takes getting us to a breaking point before we finally learn to let go of our plans and lean fully, trustingly in God’s arms.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Ps 131:2

and Isaiah offers a beautiful picture of God holding each of His children in HIS arms…. he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (40:11)

Just as Jerard trusts in my arms picking him up to bathe or hold or feed, I am asking God to teach me more of HIM through this blessing of our weak, vulnerable, fragile son, Jerard.

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11)

2012 - 2018 COPYRIGHTED material used from "Missionary Musings" by Beth M. Symanzik, unpublished (yet)

Treasure to Trash

We participated in the annual FIA "yard sale" where people rent tables and sell their stuff. We had so much stuff we rented two large tables.

As I sold items, bargained with buyers, saw many, many people carrying bags of stuff I was reminded of a sermon I recently heard by John Ortberg and also remembered a poem I'd written 11 years ago when I was selling off stuff to come to the Philippines.

Jonathon Edwards' words ran through my mind, "The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."

Treasures are part of human experience.

James is enjoying a treasure trove of dachi and Pokemon cards he received from friends. Enjoying earthly pleasures is not wrong, just that our heart should not be wrapped around those items.

Jesus doesn't tell us not to treasure anything but that we are not to treasure the wrong things. Our eternal hearts should be wrapped around Him and His Word, not earthly things.

So as the crock pot I've cooked many meals in walked off in someone else's hands I prayed that person would be blessed in it's usage as I was. As the pots and pans used over the years walked off, as the plastic storage boxes, toys, games, clothing, and other household items walked off I just prayed for the users to be blessed. My heart felt sad yet happy. Happy someone else will use these items, sad at the thought of soon leaving friends.

My treasure is not here on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but my treasure is in Heaven. The “scattered beams” of friends spread around the world. Our missionary journey has provided friends from Europe, Canada, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, the USA...

Treasuring God above all else is the most important treasure. This is Matthew 6:33 living – seeking Him first in all my ways. Loving Him, Worshipping Him, Serving Him, Delighting in Him, Seeing Him in ALL I do.....this is my ultimate treasure – one that never rusts but grows glowing brighter and brighter – one that will last for all eternity.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be” Matthew 6:21. “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength” Matthew 22:37

Of all my earthly possessions, my Bible is my greatest earthly treasure. I am working hard to hide His Word in my heart as He commands (see Ps. 119:9-11, 2 Tim. 3:16, Colossians 3:16, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, Matthew 4:4).

His Word, above all, is my treasure. I pray it is yours as well.


Weary relief floods my soul as I sing praise to God for His merciful blessing of James' approval.

This means, in a week or two we will have James' passport and visa papers and can purchase tickets for him and Kurt to fly to the USA. Hopefully they will be on the same flights as Ben and I!!!

Thank God from whom all blessings flow.

It's been a long haul (since 2014) trying to get his visa to the USA...

God has taught us much of His grace, severe mercies, patience, learning to rest in Him.....

We are thankful....

See you soon in the USA!!!

Scattered Beams

There are seven weeks exactly today before I fly out of the Philippines fully intent on not returning. Seven weeks to say "see you later" to friends that I have made in the 11 years of living here. But as I have been reflecting on the unsteadiness transition can inspire, I've also been firmly aware and thankful that my Heavenly Father is my solid rock and no matter what storm or unrest aspires to offset me in this life, it is on Him and Him alone I stand.

In providential grace I came upon this quote today from Jonathon Edwards that sums up so well how I feel and believe

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.

Friends and family are but shadows, scattered beams, and streams - - they are blessings from my Father's hands. I am so thankful that we've been on this adventure in the Philippines, so thankful for all the experiences and growth, just so thankful!!!!!

Psalm 25:4,5, 11-15 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long...All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord,..