Letting Go

It is challenging. Beyond materialism, it’s challenging. We’ve tried to live a patterned life of simplicity, and yet it’s still challenging. 

It’s hard to walk through the rooms and think, “What would we take with only two suitcases a piece?” It’s challenging to see it all as so replaceable, especially when we’ve saved for a long time or worked hard to get some of these items. 

It reminds me of the rich man. Jesus talks about him in Matthew 19:24 when He says, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Sacrifice is even harder when we believe we are our providers. When comfort isn’t guaranteed.

God is slowly teaching my heart to let go. Let go of the work of my hands. Let go of the presumptions of needs, that are really just wants. Let go of sentiments that don’t actually hold the meanings in themselves. He’s slowly training this mind of mine to see things as tools, even if they are hard to come by. Letting go is a long process. And it leaves the wall bare sometimes. It reminds me of His desire for our flexibility. His desire for our complete dependence. 

I’m learning, Lord. Slowly. 

Thanks for holding my hand.

One step at a time…

An International Calling

As many of you heard yesterday at church, the Lord has been making some changes in our household in preparation for His next calling on our lives. God has made it quite clear over the last 6 months that He is calling our family to the International Missions Field. What does that mean? Please allow me to explain and answer some questions:

We are currently candidates with the International Missions Board (IMB), meaning that we’ve been through the initial interview, filled out some beginning paperwork, gone to a weekend conference explaining so, so, so much about what that picture will look like for our family, and the IMB has chosen to proceed further with our family in anticipation of us joining the missions field in 12-18 months. We are honored that the IMB also sees this Call on our family’s lives and sees the opportunity as now to pursue that Call. I want to be very clear here that we are not IMB missionaries. It’s not until job placement confirmation and the commencement ceremony that we would ever become IMB missionaries, but we are currently past the “seeking the possibility” phase and onto the candidate phase upon the IMB’s approval/recommendation.

So where do we feel called? We feel called to the Sub Saharan Africa region. Where’s that? This picture helps with perspective.And while these aren’t the exact borders that the IMB works within, you get the idea. And yes, the Lord is calling my family of burnable white people to the dry, desert equator. It’s a good moment to reflect on the joy of being called during an era of the invention of sunblock. ;)

Are we aware that we have four small kids? Um, yes. Pretty aware. ;) And it is our responsibility to care for them the best that we can. So we’re taking our missions opportunities seriously, with prayer and discernment. But we also trust that when the Lord calls us, He calls our whole family and He knows EXACTLY the best for every single person in our family. And still He called us. So we joyfully obey, knowing He knows best.

What happens next?  Well, next we fill out A BUNCH of in-depth application and deployment paperwork. And then we have another big long interview. Then we’re handed off to the Sub Saharan Africa guy who has a big long interview with us, yet again, and begins to offer us job possibilities. After prayer and discernment, we select a job of our interest, research a bunch and even have an interview or two with the team on the ground in that country. If everyone is in agreement that it’s a good match, then we proceed forward to the Board. After the Board prays through our application/checks off all our paperwork then we get offered the job or we end up looking for a new job to better match us. In general, we are told that while nothing is finalized until the Board agrees, therefore offering us that job, everyone is wanting to get us onto the missions field so it’s more of a matter of job matching and less of a matter of “no more room in the inn”. After job placement match and approval by the board, there’s a commencement ceremony, a month to say goodbye to our things, 8.5 weeks at Field Placement Orientation (FPO) in Virginia with our family and then within 2 weeks we’ll step foot in our new country of residence. Then it’s a 3-4 year apprenticeship with lovely language school for a year and acclimating to our new norm with our new team before we are “free to have furlough or move, etc” missionaries.

Yes, that’s a lot of information. Yes, it’s one step at a time. Yes, it’s a lot to take in.

How exactly does the IMB work? They fully fund their missionaries. There will be no fund raising from us. They will take care of 100% of our medical insurance needs (with no co-pays), cover moving expenses, airline tickets, in-country housing rent/establishment, etc. They’ll walk us through every step, unite us with a team and keep in regular contact to assess God’s Kingdom work. They are VERY good at what they do and their reputation proceeds them. And their recidivism rate from the start of the IMB candidate (our current phase) through completion of the first term of field work (apprenticeship) is 3.5%. The closest missions agency to the IMB has a 12% recidivism rate and they don’t count those that return after stepping foot on country soil.

But what about our heart for adoption? Yes, we still would like to adopt, and plan to. Yes, we’re still praying through that. And it’s looking like “on the field” could be an opportunity once we get through language school and settled. But we are not heading to the field for the purpose of adopting. We are heading to the field for the purpose of sharing Christ with the lost and dying world.

Don’t we know the world is scary? Yes, and so is the US. (Remembers a burglar breaking in through the nursery window while my children were sleeping). But God goes before us and behind us. He has been, is and will always be more than enough. And the IMB is REALLY GOOD about maintaining the best watch on a country’s security. It’s risky to go and it’s risky to stay. We are all living in a world that is passing away. So we will continue to listen to the Lord’s guiding and trust the discernment He has placed without our hearts. He has protected us before and we trust Him to guide and protect us in the future too.

Don’t we realize that we’ll be leaving our friends and family? I don’t think we’ll ever be ok with that part. I don’t think I’ll ever be ok thinking of Eden not remembering a time when her grandma or her Goga held her. I don’t like it. It hurts. But… then I think of the millions of people living without hope. In fear. Alone. And suddenly Skype and furlough feels doable. We will be intentional. Our hearts have to be. You friends and family are dear to us. So dear. But our hearts burn within us for the lost and dying world. And we know that our love with you all will withstand the physical distance between our Skype sessions. When a board of IMB missionaries were asked about their friends and family back in the States there was not a single dry eye. Leaving will always be hard. That’s how you know the relationship is real. It’s deep. And yet one missionary said it best after his 20 year term on the field, “God works supernaturally to build a relationship between us that we never thought possible with the distance. Trust Him. He will take care of it.” Our relationships will be different. But different does not mean shallow. We’ll bring you all. Our contact and communication will look different. But we’ll bring you because we can’t bear to leave you. We love you.

What if the IMB doesn’t work out? Then God is intending to get us to the missions field through some other means and we will pray through the next step from there.

How long will we live abroad? I don’t know. But we trust God to answer that one once we settle in toward the end of our apprenticeship. We may only serve one term. Or two. Or three. Or more. But we trust the Lord, who knows better than we, to show us one step at a time down this path of trust and obedience.

So the news is out and we covet your prayers. Big Time, we covet your prayers!!! Our children are excited and nervous and curious. And we are excited and nervous and curious, too. ;) Feel free to ask questions. But don’t be surprised if we don’t know the answers yet. This is all unfolding slowly and in God’s perfect timing.

To God be the GLORY forever and ever, Amen!

He is the reason that we go.

Outside

It’s like passing by a window in a dark hallway.

The vivid colors beckoning outside.

Only a view.

But enough to catch you.

Enough to grasp you.

And make you not want to return.

Ever.

No you don’t know what all is out there.

There could be scary things.

Hard things.

So many unknowns.

But suddenly the hallway is not enough.

You have to readjust your eyes to look back into the room.

And you can’t wait to go outside.

Please, Lord, send us outside …of ourselves, of our “deserves”, of our comforts.

All for Your glory.

Urgency and Gratitude

We said goodbye to Ms. Jan. She went home to be with Jesus, leaving an incredible legacy of faithfulness, trust and servitude to our Lord. I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit with her for a while. But she was on my heart through Matt’s visits. Such a dear woman. Such a wonderful example of the faith. I took the girls to the funeral service yesterday. They did pretty well at staying quiet so I could actually participate in the celebration of Jan’s life. I’m grateful. I hope to leave such a legacy. Just a quiet, humble life. Daily serving. Daily surrendering. Daily worshiping.  I hope to leave this world with such a legacy of missions trips in my senior adult life. She never lost sight of the world’s need for the Gospel. And she was willing to be the feet. Her funeral left me in a place of urgency and gratitude.

We’ve been working on our family covenant renewal for this year. Nope, the renewal can happen any day, not just January 1. =) Matt and I have walked through the fleshing out of all the categories; our family’s relationship to God, one another, the Local church, and our Neighbors. There’s a part in it for everyone. All the way down to the smallest of smalls. It’s about intentionality. How are we being Christ’s feet? The covenant has left me in a place of urgency and gratitude.

Another posting on my Facebook page. 18 more lives rescued from human trafficking. We should all be celebrating these things. This is freedom from modern-day slavery!!! The post has left me in a place of urgency and gratitude.

I’ve been going through the girls’ clothes again. It’s that time. Time for the best hand-me-downs to go the Women’s center. Because we, as a family, want people to fall in love with their babies. Their babies that they would otherwise abort. Because every life matters. Even the smallest. We all have specific purposes. And if a pair of baby sandals can remind a Mommy or a Daddy that their ultrasound is a real person, then please, please(!) take all the shoes we can possibly give, even the ones off my baby’s feet. I’m not tooting my horn here, friends. I’m trying to be an encouragement. I mean if we, hand-me-down abusers, can possibly find something nice to donate then surely ANYONE can. Let’s ban together and flood their gracious distribution shelves. The value of life has left me in a place of urgency and gratitude.

Urgency to be His feet to the lost and dying world. Gratitude at the chance to even be used to further His Kingdom.

We feel His poking. His prodding. His changing, His opening and His awakening of the very depth of the hearts He has grown in us. We are in an active waiting phase of our lives. Waiting with urgency and gratitude. We want to be used. And we trust His timing. He is preparing us. He is preparing others. All in His perfect way. With urgency. To our knees we go in gratitude.

Wintry Whisperings

We’ve been temporarily displaced due to our heater being useless during a few cold winter nights. We’ve found our happy refuge among good friends. And it’s in these quiet moments that God is teaching my soul how flexible we really are as a family. We’ve been sleeping on the floor. Not a mattress, dear ones, the floor with a blanket buffer. And honestly, we’re all just so thankful for a warm house and wonderfully warm friends. The kids have slept great and God has been opening my eyes to the beauty of flexibility that He has been growing in our hearts and in our lives. It’s this flexibility that He is nurturing for His Kingdom. And I’m just so thankful to even be a tool. 

So as we roll over, a little achy in moments for us adult people, my heart has been praying for the thousands upon thousands around the world that find themselves sleeping on the floor every night. And yet they still raise their arms in thankfulness and praise to Jehovah Jira- God, our Provider.

 I don’t know if we’ll always have a bed to sleep on in this world, but what I do know is that our Lord has blessed us BEYOND measure no matter where we lay our heads. And His provision will ALWAYS be more than enough for our souls.



Thank you, Jesus, for Your abundant provision. 

– Stay warm, dear ones.

Get Yourselves Organized Down There!

A Wallace and Gromit quote favorite. And while it is in a ridiculous scene, Wallace sure does have a point.

I’ve taken the opportunity for this past week during our Christmas break to reorganize our homeschool world. We had fallen into a rut in school and I wanted to freshen things up and be more intentional in some of our studies and my planning.

I’m not sure if any of you have faced this, but I’ve found that this year we have hit the “no, we can’t do that” phase of homeschooling. Let me explain. Now that Rachael is biting off more substantial curriculum in first grade and there are more children than I have hands, our schedule can no longer be flexed around play dates, errands and field trips. Oh don’t get me wrong, we still have flexibility, but I’ve found the reality of a set schedule as being both grounding and helpful in our pursuit of well-balanced education. I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year in homeschooling and mommying. I’m not as stressed as I’ve been in the past and yet, in many way more stressed in the larger workload. So it was time to focus in on some areas of stress in our daily world and clean them up.

Since I’m a visual person, I made a glorified wall-mounted filer from my existing material stash (most of which is donated from my Mother’s overflow – thanks, Mom). It took me a day and a half, but I busted out a functional pocket organizer to display our core subjects and a modified “workbox” idea for our family. What I’ve discovered is that I need more advanced planning than the traditional workbox system. I need to see and stock for more than the system’s “one day at a time” method, hence my addition of subjects into the workbox idea. I also really enjoy collaborative learning amongst ages, so it’s helpful to have a subject heading for those subjects I group teach. It’s a blessing to do things together as a family from my first grader all the way on down to Ms. Six Months. I really love seeing them all together, enjoying life.

But beyond the sheer functionality of the space, I have found myself grasping a greater organization of our purpose. Beyond the Math manipulative and the workbook pages, I have revamped our day, keeping what has worked and discarding the rest.

So cheers to new beginnings. Cheers to greater intentionality in school, chores and play. Cheers to more laughter during homeschool and more light in all our eyes. And cheers to a six year old, four year old, two year old and six month old learning, growing and sharing, that Christ would be realized in our home and overflowed outside.

I’m excited. And I’m ready. This has been and will continue to be a GREAT school year. =)

Beyond Disney World

I read an article this morning during the routine 6am nursing session. The author spoke of casting off the pressures that pinterest, blogs and facebook posts put on being the over-the-top parent to your children. The need to have the most creative, perfect vacation or birthday party or day of homeschool for that matter is ridiculous. It becomes about our status and quite honestly, our pride.

But I found it sad that the author failed to remember times when her parents played with her and her siblings. I get that family dynamics require parents to work from home at times. I get that family dynamics sometimes require both parents to work. I get that the house doesn’t clean itself and dinner doesn’t cook itself. But I still remember my “picking up an extra shift” Daddy staging pillow fights with us. I still remember my “returning to school to get a better job” Mommy baking cookies with us, even inviting in the neighbor kids to share in the flour mixing. Sure there was a the balance of my sister and I walking home from school together and coming to a quiet house where enjoy a premade snack of carrot sticks from the fridge or celery with peanut butter that Mom made before she went to work. And then we’d proceed to entertain ourselves for an hour or so until Mom got off work.

It was a balance. We still went to the children’s museum, climbing the rock climbing wall alongside of Daddy and racing Mom in the timed sprint display. And I remember self-entertaining on Summer days or during Mom’s study sessions.

I strive to be a parent of equal balance. Yes, I expect my little girls to play independently at times. Their imaginative delight should not be tied to me entertaining them. But I miss so much if I don’t don a princess crown regularly, or instigate a pool noodle sword fight. I miss too much if I don’t wrestle them in a game of tickle fight until our sides ache from laughter at our floor frizzed hair. I miss far too much if I don’t use the curb as a balance beam or dance unashamedly to a Disney song with a twirling ribbon.

What do I miss? I miss expressing my value in doing life with them. That their hearts matter. Right where they are. In whatever little imaginative phase they choose to live in in that moment.

I’m not saying this author’s Mom didn’t love her. HA! Not saying that at all. I’m just saying that in the swing back from our culture’s need to make Motherhood about a Mother’s status and pride, don’t forget to dabble in your children’s play regularly. No don’t buy their love with vacations and regular showerings of toys until they have so much stuff that you can’t even play with it all. Materialism creeps in so quickly.

But don’t miss out on the opportunity to just sit and read together and play together. Because just like I tell my little ladies, “we’re the only family we’ve got. So let’s do life together.”

At the end of the day, I want more than the title of Mother, Provider or Caregiver. And it has nothing to do with me. I want to leave a legacy in their hearts that we walked through their childhood together because their worlds mattered so deeply to me that it was worth the sacrifice to make them my dreams.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are such a blessing.

Merry Christmas

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Merry CHRISTmas to you and to yours.

May this new year bring the Lord more glory than last year

in all our hearts, minds and souls.

And thank you to the readers who’ve stuck with me

through many months of quiet as we settled into our new.

It’s a blessing to my heart to share in our lives.

I hope that it is as much of an encouragement to your heart as it is to mine.

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Love,

our little slice of wonderful.