Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Being Noticed by God in the Details

So many people who return from living cross-culturally speak of reverse cultural shock. This shows up especially in the stores--the abundant choices, the selection, the prices, the breadth of stores from which to shop. It overwhelms and paralyzes the newly returned cross-cultural sojourner. Sometimes it goes deeper. There is a judgement placed on the First World. Cross-cultural workers come back and struggle with the 'haves vs. have nots'.  They've seen material poverty first hand and struggle to find the balance and acceptance in the abundance that is seemingly everywhere around them.

I will honestly say that this hasn't been a huge issue for me. Until now. Yet, it's personal. It has illuminated a dark spot in my heart.

When we lived in Nicaragua, there were a myriad of things that I wanted. However, I had no access to them. {News flash: there is NO Target or Amazon in Nicaragua.} So, I had the false sense of being 'good and holy' in sacrificing the things I wanted for the sake of the call. That was a facade. I see that now.

Now, as I live in a land of Target, Amazon, and every.single.store.on.the.planet {not to mention that there is a functioning package delivery system} at my fingertips, I find myself stricken with the plague of coveting. The list of 'wants' seems endless. Only this time, there is nothing but self-control standing in the way of getting what I want. The guise of 'holiness' has been shattered.

So, I pray. I pray for contentment. I pray for self-control. I pray and thank God for His forgiveness when my self-control fails and I come home with a bag of Yankee Candles {even though I had a coupon}.

AND... I let God know my wants (which are VERY different from needs). In the back of my journal, I have a wish list. No, it's true. I keep a wish list of my wants and I hand that over to God and I try to leave it up to Him on how He'd like to provide for those wants. I've been doing this for nearly 20 years. I've watched God provide for the entire list. The provision doesn't always look like I imagine...but it is always better. God is NOT a Santa Claus...He's way better. He is a LOVING FATHER-GOD from which ALL good things come (James 1:17). He delights in His Children. He delights in me. He lavishes His love on us...and sometimes that looks like the 'stuff' on my wish list.

When God provides those things on my list, I feel like I've received a hug from God. I realize that sounds child-like and perhaps crazy. Yet, it's true. There is such delight in being 'noticed' by God.

I will finish this post with a story testifying to the goodness of God in the details.

On my wish list was written 'Christmas decor'. On Monday, some friends came over and they had four boxes of Christmas decor that they were going to donate to Goodwill after they left our house. They said we could look through the boxes first. We ended up with several strands of lights, evergreen garland, ornaments, and a small Christmas tree. Then on Tuesday, I was informed that I had won the super cute iron/metal snowmen from ESVO, a vocational school ministry in Nicaragua.

I love being noticed by God. I love that He knows the details and desires of my heart...and I love that He redeems them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Planning Freedom or Living IN Freedom

As I work through the process of 're-entry' [yes, this is still something I am in the process of...it takes longer than you want, think or imagine]...different aspects of American Life stand out to me in a different light.

As of late, I am keenly aware of the pursuit of planning and perfection. Between workout programs, healthy eating philosophies, Pinterest, blogs and a myriad of other sources...there are a million ways to feel inadequate and enslaved by 'the right way to live'.

From my perspective of having re-arrived in American culture, it seems that we, as believers in Christ, may have lost sight of the freedom that we have in Christ. Let me try to describe what I mean {and this might be super random and all over the place...just warnin' you.}

There seems to be COUNTLESS rules to 'living right'. Rules prescribed by good people with good intentions...but with potentially 'not good' effects. Pinterest has seemingly endless suggestions on how to decorate, cook, raise kids, dress, organize life, etc. Blogs (yes, I suppose I am guilty of this simply by having a blog) have all sorts of opinions and ideas on 'Christian life' and godly living. Let's not even get started on all the articles about parenting! The thing is...these suggestions, opinions and ideas start to feel a LOT more like 'must-do's', 'should-do's, or worse-- 'rules.' From where I am standing, these rules look like they are enslaving us, as believers, rather than affording us the freedom we have to live an abundant life in Christ.

I find myself spending MORE time reading about and planning how to live that abundant life than actually living that life. What I find is that all the rules of how to live a godly and healthy life are the very things that get in the way of living an abundant life.

Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

I can so easily be burdened with the yoke of 'what I should do' according to the culture of Pinterest, blogs, articles, social media. There are so many 'good' things that have enslaved me. There are so many yokes that I have carried: pursuit of perfection, guilt over the should-do's but didn'ts, and the yoke of over-planning.  How easy it is to get trapped by the 'shoulds' and the plans rather than seeking God, His Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit and His promptings on how to live in the freedom of Christ. I want to live in freedom--freedom that allows me to enjoy life and enjoy God rather than being enslaved by the plans to enjoy life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Depression's Gift

As some of you know, between April 2014 and March 2015, I experienced a deep depression that was nearly impossible to crawl out from under. The best way that I can describe my experience with depression is that it felt like someone covered me with a heavy, soaking wet wool blanket.

Heaviness. Darkness. BLESSING.

Wait, WHAT? Blessing?

Yes, BLESSING.

During that year, I leaned into the Lord. I crawled up on God's lap and leaned in to His Love. I read. I camped out in the Psalms. I conversed with God. I journaled. I pondered. I rested.

See, God makes beauty from ashes. He turns tears into gladness. He redeems. He restores.

The blessing {gift} that I received at the end of that dark tunnel of depression was this:


Well, I mean, God didn't actually send this necklace to me...
{I had this necklace made as a reminder.}

The gift was a deep, heart knowledge that I AM LOVED. I am loved even if I am NOT productive.  I am loved even if I am not effective in ministry. I am loved regardless of whether I accomplish what I think God expects me to do.

I am loved...just 'cause. I am loved because He loved me first.

Depression is a huge de-motivator and debilitator--you don't get a whole lot done in the valley. Whatever illusions you had about how your 'work and service to the Lord' was worth something...whatever erroneous theology you believed about how what you 'did' equated to 'how much you were loved' quickly fades away. You are left with nothing. Nothing to show to others. Nothing to show to God...except...yourself. And it is then that you realize that YOU ARE LOVED.

I learned that God was far more interested in me being WITH Him--the God of the universe--than what I could do FOR Him.

This isn't everyone's experience with depression. I realize that. This was MY experience...and I am eternally grateful for it. However, I'd encourage you to ponder what it looks like to be loved by God.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Flavored Guilt

A few days ago, I posted on FB about 'all things pumpkin spice'.  I found these pumpkin spice flavored Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies that made clean eating' a forgotten concept. The whole 'pumpkin spice' industry went gangbusters while we lived in Nicaragua where Autumn doesn't exist. So this fall is the first time we experience the full force of the 'pumpkin spice movement.'

So what does pumpkin spice have to do with guilt?

Well, after I posted on FB, one of my friends in Nicaragua replied, in good humor, to my post. Reminding me how 'those on the other side feel about posts such as these.'  ENTER GUILT.

It was then that I realized that I am hovering between two worlds--the one I left in January and the one I now find myself in currently. In that first year of living in Nicaragua, I remember making the analogy of a trapeze artist. I had let go of one swing in the U.S. but had not yet grabbed fully onto the next swing in Nicaragua. Now, I find myself on that trapeze again. I have let go of the Nicaraguan swing and I have, perhaps, grabbed hold of the U.S. swing. But I am still hanging there--swinging back and forth. I feel suspended, in a way, between the two worlds--the world of pumpkin spice and the world without autumn. It is an interesting and conflicting place to hang. See, it is when you swing here in the 'in between' that things like pumpkin spice cookies take on a whole new meaning and weight.

Perhaps, for the general public reading this post, it seems I am over-processing this whole pumpkin spice thing. Perhaps, it is a re-entry thing. Perhaps, it is again one of those things that can't be explained outside the world of those who have lived and returned from serving cross-culturally.

Either way, it will probably be a while before the 'special treats' of the seasons here in this world get taken for granted in our home. After all, eggnog isn't on the shelves yet!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Things Borrowed

I've probably blogged about this topic before, but I don't remember, so here I go again.

Independence. We really like that word in American culture. We fought for independence. We fight for the independence of others. We strive for independence as adolescents. We raise our kids to be independent. We celebrate independence.

The opposite of independence is...

That's right.

DEPENDENCE [or as someone recently suggested INTER-DEPENDENCE].

Yeah, we don't like that word as much. It conjures up negative feelings. It sounds weak.

However, independence isn't a squeaky clean word. There seems to be a flip side to independence. Perhaps we could label it...pride.

As a family of believers in Christ, or perhaps even more basic...a family of human beings, dependence can be healthy.  I think that 'healthy dependence (or inter-dependence)' is something we learned while we lived in community in Nicaragua. We were dependent on each other for many things--practically and relationally.

We shared. We borrowed. We lent. 

We really wanted to carry this concept back with us from Nicaragua. After all, it is a Biblical concept according to Acts 4:32, which says, "All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had."  Of course, God doesn't force us to share. If he did, we'd all look a lot like a toddler aged child who is forced to hand over a toy to another toddler. 2 Corinthians 9: 7-8 says: "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." 

So, real life story here. We only own one car. We have been able to borrow a car from Shelter Pines for the last several months but this week we need to return that car. We started looking at used cars...and car loans.  UGH. We can't really afford a second car. However, on the days that Jeff works, the kids and I have different activities and errands that need to be run--namely, homeschool co-op. I honestly considered just Uber-ing on homeschool co-op day. 

As I was doing some car loan research, I felt strongly that I should text a friend that I only just met in February (she is a friend of one of my closest friends in Nicaragua) AND I seem to only text her when I need something. So for a second, I thought to myself that perhaps I shouldn't text her at the risk of being that overly needy friend. [This is where prideful independence walks into the room.] Pushing that thought aside, I texted her about our need for a car.  She immediately texted back that she did know of a car we could borrow.

Meet O.B. (O.B.'s family names all their cars.) 

















O.B. is a 2001 Subaru Outback, 5 Speed Manual AWD wagon [believe it or not--I have REALLY missed driving a stick shift!]. My new friend's brother has generously loaned us O.B. for about a month or so! Ironically, this is the type of car we were thinking of purchasing--so now we get to do a really long 'test drive' of sorts.

Will we be able to afford a second car in a month? I don't know. What I DO know is that I felt prompted by God to ask for help from a friend rather than independently forge ahead. God will meet us where we are NEXT month. I learned in January that God provides day by day. I don't need to worry about next month.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kinda Like Childbirth and Toddlerhood: Fond Memories and Pain Amnesia

We recently had the blessing of getting together with some friends whom we had met when we did our cross-cultural training six years ago. They are serving in Europe and they will go back for another term at the end of the summer.

I loved seeing them. AND, seeing them made me realize a few things.

  • I am still very much processing our time in Nicaragua. I realized this as I heard myself start every other sentence with: "When we were in Nicaragua...." 
  • While I want to work with missionaries in the member care arena, I am not 'there' yet. During our time of debriefing last summer, the analogy of a "Transition Bridge" was illustrated. We have crossed over the 'chaos' portion of the bridge, but we are still in the 'resettling' zone and I believe we need to be further into the 're-settling' zone (or even 'settled' zone) before I am ready to really come alongside others in an objective, helpful and healthy way. 
The Transition Bridge

I found myself feeling a little envious that they will return to their host country in a few weeks. Crazy, right? I think that 'serving cross-culturally' is like pregnancy (or the toddler years of my kids) for me. That season was really, REALLY hard but I seem to only remember the sweet moments. OR it could be analogous to childbirth. Several months after giving birth, I had pain amnesia. The pain memories had faded and I only remembered the sweetness of holding my newborn for the first time. Yet, I am thankful for the sweet memories I have of our time in Nicaragua. That time changed me profoundly. I am grateful to have experienced that depth of change. I also made sweet, sweet friends who may be far away now, but I will have for forever in Eternity.

This re-settling thing is interesting for sure. Thanks for walking it out with me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"The Follow-Up"

I am so glad that people took me up on my offer to email and push back on my last blog regarding "dichotomies" and "newsletters." Some of the responses that I've received have given me much to think about and reconsider. Sometimes I want to take a grey issue and make it black and white. But alas, God speaks of mystery and things we can not understand...and those are colored grey! As a research-obsessed nerd, I am enjoying digging into Scripture to find greater clarity. It is fun!
I have been stretched and challenged. It's a good thing to be stretched and challenged. I will continue to ponder these issues. 

A few thoughts or conclusions:
  • The connections that my mind makes between things are NOT the connections that other people's minds make between things...or at least not to the same degree.  For example, the issue of a missionary's newsletter writing and accountability to donors (in relation to raising support) is not necessarily related to the spiritual vs. secular dichotomy in the minds of others.
  • The secular vs. spiritual dichotomy is the main issue that motivated me to write a post. In processing aspects of this blog post with my kids, it became clear to me that I want to be certain that our family doesn't give credit to the notion that one job is more 'valuable' or 'worthy' in God's eyes than another provided that they are glorifying Him in what they do. It was an enlightening conversation as I asked them to label jobs as 'secular' or 'spiritual'. We then debriefed the effect of that labeling and discussed that as believers in Christ there should not be a difference in professions based on the verse of 1 Corinthians 10:31.
As I said in the original post, I am NOT opposed to sending a newsletter or being held accountable to others. Communication and accountability between donor and receiver was not and is not my main point--it was an example of the dichotomy, that in my mind, made sense. It might just be in MY mind! Scripturally there is clear evidence of missional giving, financial responsibility, accountability and partnering with one another in God's Work. We certainly have enjoyed the privilege to partner with others in whatever and wherever God has placed us.  

As I process our time in Nicaragua, I have had the opportunity to see things from a slightly different perspective -- 'margin' and lower humidity do that!  I might post other controversial musings. I hope you will stay engaged. I promise to post fun stuff in between the serious stuff! 

***[Feel free to continue to email me your thoughts regarding this...this follow-up is not the end of the discussion!]***

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The False Dichotomy and the Ensuing Struggle

Are you ready for a controversial post (or what might turn into a series of posts)?
 
Ok, here we go...

"While we believe there is an inherent separation between things that are of God and of "not God," we uphold that what is often touted as the dichotomy between the sacred and secular is largely false. God is God of all. The Holy Spirit is also at work in practices that happen outside of what gets labeled "church" and "ministry." (From the book Faith Coaching)

That largely false dichotomy between sacred and secular bothers me. This divide between realms has been especially bothersome to me in light of our shift from our work cross-culturally (labeled missions) and our current situation stateside (labeled bi-vocational ministry).

As you know, historically we have sent out newsletters (or updates) every other month for over five years. Now, hear me when I say that I am not opposed to sharing what is happening in our life and ministry--but I am opposed to the idea that I am required to give a report because what we do falls into some sort of 'ministry' category that necessitates a report.  Let's flip it around -- I don't expect anyone to send me a report of what they do at their jobs at banks, schools, businesses, or engineering firms. Of course, amongst friends, I am more than happy to hear what you are doing and how God may be working through you in your workplaces, but I don't have the expectation that you will send me a newsletter outlining the details of that. So, that makes me wonder...why is this expected of me? Again, it's not that I don't want to share what is going on...but rather because I question the motivation of why it is 'expected' that I share. I think that the answer in that lies in the chasm that is created by this dichotomy.

That dichotomy has some nasty side effects. It can tempt those on the "ministry side" to embellish/skew/alter the news they share or even hide certain aspects of life. This is dangerous. This starts to effect one's own personal view of their life...or even their 'worthiness.'  On the other side of this dichotomy, someone who works on the "secular side" may question their worthiness in God's Kingdom. Yet, if we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says -- "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" -- then whether I work work at homeless shelter or on Wall Street, it matters only that I should be doing what I'm doing for the glory of God.

Is there a difference between things of Earth and things of Heaven? YES. But as the quote with which I started states..."God is God of all." I am both struck and stuck at the divide we create (and allow) between that which happens in the 'secular' work place and the 'ministry' work place. It gets even more complicated when you throw "raising support" into the discussion. (That might necessitate a 'part 2' to this blog post!) And now that I've sent Pandora's box lid flying, let me just say that I feel like I've only scratched the service. I think so far, we are merely looking at a meta-theme when it comes to dichotomies that exist in the Christian culture. We can get a lot smaller (and controversial) than this. Dare I mention the dichotomy that exists between stateside ministry vs. overseas missions OR missionaries to un-reached vs. reached cultures.

So...what do you think?

Do you believe this dichotomy exists?

Where do you see yourself acknowledging a gap where God doesn't intend one to exist?

Are there jobs that are more 'holy' or 'worthy' than others?  Would you rank these jobs as having different 'value' or 'significance': pastor, ditch digger, barista, doctor, missionary, stay-at-home mom, banker, teacher?

Clearly, this is something that I am pondering deeply, especially, since returning stateside. While I love a good debate, I hope my motivation for bringing this to light functions more to help close the gap that has been allowed between the 'secular and the spiritual'.  I mean, really, if you think about it...we'd live so much more integrated lives if we close that gap. Of course, that is far easier blogged than done.

[End rant.]

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this.
Email me.
Seriously.
You can even push back a little.
Ready? GO!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reflecting Creativity

As some of you know, I have been working on and documenting my DIY coffee table project. Now, I'll be the first to admit...I, generally, am not a fan of DIY posts. Yeah, it's true. I am not a big fan of Pinterest...but I do have a Pinterest account. My dislike of these things is not because I don't like the stuff...but it is SUCH a temptation to compare myself to others and then take that comparison and let it affect my sense of self-worth. And admittedly, I am quick to judge it as being superficial and show-off-y. Yet...

There is another side to DIY posts and the sharing of creative ideas. We are, after all, created in God's image...and none is more CREATIVE than HE. He has decorated this world far more intricately and beautifully than our minds can truly comprehend. He cares about the 'environment' in which we live and enjoy Him. He adorns this world with amazing and beautiful things. As image-bearers of God, we reflect and express that creativity. Some of us 'express' God's creativity in ways that can be easily pinned to a Pinterest board...others reflect and express it in more linear and scientific ways. Thus, the 'showing off' of DIY projects in its purest form may be an expression of creativity that has been gifted to us by God. For example, my friend Yeymi in Nicaragua enjoys making amazing creations out of fomi. She will use these creations as gifts to bless others. Yeymi reflects God's creativity [Yeymi se refleja la creatividad de Dios.]. DIY projects are not a first world luxury. Creating and constructing are not bound by culture or economics. Creativity and its expression is inherent in being God's created.

For me, 'creating' is an outlet and expression that I really enjoy. I like building, painting, constructing, and using power tools. It touches a place deeper inside my spirit. While we lived in Nicaragua, I didn't have the bandwidth in my spirit to fully express this creativity. It was, at times, stifling. Admittedly, now, I have more margin for my creative expression...not to mention a pile of free pallets! I have really enjoyed the opportunity, as of late, to 'be creative' in building furniture. I do love functional and unique creations! It is even therapeutic and worshipful. I listen to music and spend time conversing with God as I sand or paint. I get to exercise the part of me that reflects God's Creativity. It is a way for me to glorify God.

Just for fun...here is a picture of the coffee table that I made from a pallet. NOW, don't be like me and be tempted to compare yourself. But DO take a minute to ponder the amazing ways that you bear the image of God.








Monday, July 4, 2016

It Takes Time

Someone recently asked me, "Now that you finished your DIY bedroom furniture project, does it feel more like home?"

No. Not really.

Just because my clothes are now placed in the newly painted dresser doesn't mean I am settled. Don't get me wrong--I am SUPER excited to have a dresser, night stands and headboard & footboard. I've never actually had matching bedroom furniture before--it is a lovely thing to behold.  Yet, I am still in the process of re-settling.

I am learning that 'feels like home' takes time. It takes more time than you think. It takes more time than, perhaps, others would like to 'give you.' You can't rush it and you can't predict how much time you will need to 'settle'. I am still kind of 'surviving'. I am accustomed to 'surviving'. It is how I've made it this far without sofas and proper dining room chairs. However, surviving isn't necessarily the healthiest approach or place to camp out. On certain levels, I survived living cross-culturally. I have also survived, in different ways, moving back to the States. Yet, I am in the process of re-settling. After re-settling is 'settled' and that is where 'thriving' takes place. I am not there yet...and it takes time to get there.

Now tomorrow, we will will move forward one more step. Our three-piece sofa set will be delivered tomorrow. That means we can all sit on a sofa in the living room. That means guests can sit on something other than the floor. It is another step toward being settled.  See, having 'seating' options means you can have people over...and with people come relationships. Relationships are key to thriving...because God made us for relationship...without them, we merely survive.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Hangin' in the Airport Terminal

Re-Entry. It’s still happening. It takes a while. In fact, I realized today that I am stalled. I am stalled in settling down. The best way that I can describe it is that it is like living in an airport. You have your essentials packed in a carry-on and you are just waiting. Waiting for the next flight. Waiting for the next move. Except, you don’t have a ticket and you aren’t going anywhere else.  But you hang out anyway because it feels more natural to be ‘moving’ and ‘unsettled’.  Perhaps, it feels safer in a way. You can blame a lot on transition. You don’t have to ‘invest’ if you keep moving.


Maybe I feel stalled because we are still ‘in process’ of setting up house.  Although, we are hoping to get ‘real sofas’ this month. Maybe even ones that match! I still haven’t hung anything on the walls. Although, for the last three weeks we’ve been working intensely at the guest apartment at the ministry where we are interning. We’ve been creating a living space for those who are ‘re-entering’ whether for their stateside furlough or their transition back into American life. It has been a tremendous experience to be a part of that process. However, it has helped me see that I need to ‘create a living space’ for myself and my family. Hanging out in our theoretical airport isn’t going to fly. [Pun totally intended.]

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Re-Entry Observations

Some 'randomness' to start the week off right....


  • Butter stays solid without refrigeration in Colorado.
  • Chips don't get stale if the bag is left open BUT bread gets hard if the bag is left open.
  • Toilet seats are cold in the morning.
  • Speaking of toilets, you can flush paper here. (Caught myself looking for a trashcan in someone's powder room the other day in which to put my toilet paper. That would have been awkward.)
  • The check-out person has no need to touch my credit card....I can swipe it myself...or insert it into the chip reader--which by the way beeps loudly when you need to remove your card.
  • You have to bring your own cart out to the car.
  • There aren't any guards at any of the stores. Cameras suffice. The kids say America must work on the 'honor system.'
  • Water and Sanitation fees are WAY higher here. But then again, you can also drink from the tap.
  • You can cross 'the paint' on the road...mostly. 
  • You can return things...even if you kinda used them. A.MAZ.ING.
  • Decision-fatigue is a real thing. (Just stick with the 'flavor' of Cheerios you know!)
  • It is quiet at night.
  • Hello--daylight savings! It is light out until 8ish!
  • I still reach for the emergency brake where it was in my SUV in Nicaragua. 
  • Left is HOT, Right is COLD--they're not both cold.
  • If you spill sugar or something sweet on the counter--it is not covered with ants within minutes.
  • Irony: expensive avocados and mangos (tiny expensive avocados and mangos) and cheap apples and berries. 


Friday, May 6, 2016

Bicycles and Memory Investments and A Little Bit of Screaming

Well, you've heard me say [whine, complain, lament] about how we have very little furniture. It is true. We have a budget that we need to adhere to and therefore, it will be a slow process of accumulation.  However, we have spent money on Sunday Fundays and recently we bought used bikes for all five us. So you may ask [wonder, criticize, admonish] us why we have routed funds to 'those' things instead of furniture. 

The answer, I believe, is grounded in relationship and family investment. This time of transition is tough. For all of us--in different ways. Many things have changed. Many things are still unknown. Yet, our anchor is the Lord because He is unchanging. He is faithful. He has given us each other and so we huddle up as a family and work through the transition. Sunday Fundays and outdoor activities, like biking (or indoor activities like movie nights or nerf wars or Wii), are ways to continue to connect as a family. That connection allows us to work through the bumps and blockades of transition TOGETHER in a healthy way. 

I wasn't able to really put all this in words until last night when a friend pointed out that we are INVESTING in MEMORIES (thanks Amber). YES! We ARE investing in memories. The material investment of furniture and decor (and new clothes) can wait.

So, let me leave you with a visual description of a memory my kids will likely carry with them throughout life. 

I mentioned--we all just bought used bikes. That included me

Let me share with you that I haven't ridden a bike since I was about 19 years old...and that didn't go well.  In fact, Jeff and I decided that for the sake our friendship at the time, we shouldn't bike together...perhaps EVER again. 

Before that, when I learned ride a bike as a child, I consistently crashed into the same stump of a tree EVERY time I tried to ride past it. Not kidding. It was pathetic. 

The first time I got a ten-speed bike, I wiped out on a patch of sand and slid into on-coming traffic. 

All that to say, bike riding is NOT in my skill set. You know what though, I LOVE my kids! They wanted to ride to the park to do 'school in the park' the other day. They were all excited that we ALL had bikes. So, I donned the only helmet that was left--which was a toddler-sized helmet. (Oh, and do you know when the last time I wore a helmet was....NEVER...because 'back in my day' we didn't wear helmets.) And OFF WE WENT! 

As we encountered the first downhill leg of our journey, I screamed all the way down, "I AM GOING TOO FAST! I HATE GOING FAST!!!!!!"  The kids thought this was hilarious! Glad I could provide some humor to this wretched field trip! 

We rode again today. I didn't scream this time. I am making progress. It is ALL a process after all.

[Enjoy some snapshots of this expedition below.]

 
My Bike. It has 18 gears. I know how to use 2 of them.

School in the Park

My Toddler-Sized Helmet. Notice the Goodwill price tag--classy!

Seeing this view on the way home makes me smile. T
he kids like to stop and just look--which makes me happy and
gives me a chance to kinda catch my breath.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I think it's because...

"So, can you, um....."
"Hey Andrew, can you do the, um, the...."
"Ella, did you get the the the...."
"Noah, where did you put, um..."
"Does anyone know what...."

That's right. I didn't finish my sentences. Seems to be a regular occurrence with me. It is driving my kids CRAZY!

So, I can't blame it on pregnancy brain. I don't have toddlers anymore, so probably not accurate to blame "Mommy Brain".  I am forty years old...but I think it is a little early to be blaming this issue on age. I am blaming it on TRANSITION.

Let me tell you friends, TRANSITION is no joke! My mind is in a million different places at once. (Ok, as a female, it is often in about 100,000 places but still...). I am not sure I can explain it all! It is a bizarre phenomenon. I even spell simple, often-used words incorrectly. I tried to do a little research about it. I didn't come up with much. Perhaps there is a neuro-scientist out there that wants to study the effects of cross-cultural re-entry on the brain--and for an added level of study--the female brain in particular!

I have been far less organized than usual (some of you may be giggling with delight over this!) My house is a M-E-S-S most of the time thanks to my (and everyone's) inability to completely finish a task. Here are some pictures (read totally revealing photos) to prove it and subsequently thrust me into a full-blown 'smashing the pride' moment. [Ok, granted, to defend myself, we have very little furniture or practical methods of organization. The majority of what we own right now is Rubbermaid bins. I use a Rubbermaid bin as my bedside table, file cabinet, desk and shoe bin. Jeff is using a plastic bag as a sock drawer.]


The state of my bedroom (and house at large) on any given moment. 


Life in transition. It is messy. REALLY MESSY--physically and emotionally. My mind is still processing our departure from Nicaragua. I have many default instincts based on living in a tropical country for five years. (I checked my shoes for cockroaches the other day--I have yet to see anything more than tiny house spiders in our home--not too many insects live at 7200 feet.) I am still processing our arrival to Colorado. It is a totally new place for us and I am still in a bit of 'awe' that we live here. I've made more U-turns than I'd like to admit. The GPS has had to 'recalculate' quite often.  In fact, I talk to myself about directions while I am driving. Andrew finally said the other day while driving with me, "Mom, are you talking to ME and asking ME questions? Or are you JUST talking to YOURSELF?!? Because I can't tell and it is starting to frustrate me!"

Transition has also zapped me of much of my creativity, as well as my humor. I WANT to blog about our re-entry. Yet, I get stuck. My thoughts go everywhere at once.

I have little bandwidth for relationship outside my immediate family. I want to be a part of community (I certainly miss my Nica Community something' fierce) but I don't have the emotional capacity to 'enter in.' Like many things, it takes time, I am learning.

As someone who depends on and needs order and routine, this transition gig is tough. It is yet another opportunity to lean hard into God. It is an opportunity to extend grace to myself and accept God's grace for the day. It is an opportunity to grow in flexibility and patience (with myself). It is an opportunity to LEARN TO ACCEPT THE PROCESS.  There are lessons to be learned in the process. There is growth in the process. There is BEAUTY in the process.

If this was too random or disorganized...I think it's because....OF TRANSITION. Just sayin'.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rocks Cry Out

When we drive to our once-a-week homeschool enrichment classes day (we call it a co-op even though technically it's not), we get a beautiful view of Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is the 14,000 foot summit on the southern section of the front range of the Rocky Mountains. It can be seen easily from most places in Colorado Springs. When we were originally house-hunting, we were hoping to get a house that offered a glimpse of this mountain. We ended up picking a pine tree packed lot instead--although, if we walk around the neighborhood or to the park down the street, we can catch glimpses of the mountain range.

That mountain view still places us in a state of awe of God's Creation.  This morning, as we made the drive and ooh'd and ahh'd at Pike's Peak, on the radio there was a song playing with this lyric:

"Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your Name"
(from Chris Tomlin's Shout To The Lord)

It made me think [which then becomes me talking aloud to whomever is nearby...in this case, my kids]...

What would it look like to see Pikes Peak bow down? We all pondered this a moment. Then Noah said, "Well, Mom, you know that the Bible says, if no one praises God, the rocks with cry out!" (Luke 19:40)[Yes, I was amazed and humbled by the Word of God that Noah has (not so) hidden in his heart.]

 A view of Pikes Peak taken from the park near our house

A glimpse of  Pikes Peak taken on the road that
leads from the park to our home. Yes, that is Andrew on the right.

Indeed, the rocks will cry out and what a mighty cry the Rocky Mountains would make! However, let us live our lives praising the Lord in all we do!

Monday, April 4, 2016

A New Chapter: We Are 40-Something Year Old Interns!

It's been a while! Whew! Moving internationally, then domestically (many times), and attempting to 're-settle' is time-consuming (among other adjectives)! In the coming weeks, I will try to compile some of our re-entry experiences and thoughts and post them here. It is a faith-walk for sure!

We are starting a new chapter today. We will have our first meeting as official 'interns' of Shelter Pines this afternoon. To fill you in, let me share a portion of a letter that we sent out to our financial partners recently.

"You may have read in our last CVM newsletter about how we were in discussion with a Colorado Springs-based ministry regarding a nine-month internship. We are excited to share with you that we were officially offered this internship and we will start April 1st! We are truly in AWE of God’s provision and attention to the details of our hearts' desires! While we have had an increasing passion to walk alongside missionaries as they navigate the cross-cultural journey, we lacked the education and training needed. Now, we have an opportunity for hands-on training and mentorship from a wonderful couple who has over 15 years of experience! We are excited to come on-board with Shelter Ministries at Shelter Pines! (CVM is aware of, and in agreement with, this shift in ministry and direction.) 

The mission of Shelter Pines is in line with Psalm 18:19 which says, “He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.” Shelter Pines provides a short-term place of rest and refuge for people working cross-culturally who are either stateside on a homestay or transitioning back to the States. They offer the space and counsel (if desired) for cross-cultural workers to get the rest they need. We, personally, found this SO incredibly helpful this past summer. Shelter Pines is a SAFE place for families and individuals to REST and RESTORE from the stress and strain of living cross-culturally. 

We wondered how we would make time for this training and education if Jeff was working full-time as a veterinarian. Miraculously, Jeff was offered a great job in which they only wanted him to work part time (which comes with part-time pay). Taking a step of faith, Jeff accepted the part-time job and we are hoping to continue raising financial support to meet the costs associated with the internship. Shelter Pines is a faith-based funded ministry. 

... While member care can be hard to define, we want you to be educated partners! The Global Member Care Network defines member care as: 

“…the ongoing preparation, equipping and empowering of missionaries for effective and sustainable life, ministry and work. Member Care addresses all aspects of well-being of missionaries and their dependents. It includes spiritual, emotional, relational, physical and economic matters. Member care addresses the needs of single people, couples, families and children. It seeks to empower missionaries to make healthy choices by offering ongoing training, resourcing and equipping in all these areas.”

We know first hand how crucial it is for cross-cultural workers to have a safe place to rest and restore while stateside. Shelter Pines exists for this purpose. Many of you have heard us express our deep desire to enter the world of missionary member care and we are amazed at how God provided this opportunity. We remain hopeful at what He has planned for us in the future as it relates to this area of service. "

We are quite excited to be given this opportunity to learn in a personal, relational and 'hands-on' way! This has been our passion for some time now and we are in awe of the ways God has orchestrated this opportunity! 

This is part of the Shelter Pines property. A beautiful and majestic place to rest.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

All We Need Is Today's Honey Wafers

Manna. Manna is described as honey wafers. And...why does this stuff not fall from Heaven anymore? 

The Israelites were told to collect only enough manna for that day. Personally, it would have been really hard for me to not hoard honey wafers. Seriously. So, God explicitly told the people of Israel to only collect one day’s worth, except for the day they needed to prepare for the Sabbath. If they collected more than needed for the day, it spoiled. Built in consequences for hoarding out of distrust for ‘tomorrow.’

Yet, isn’t that the way it goes. We have the temptation to hoard, fearing not having enough for the future. We don’t trust that God will be waiting for us in the ‘tomorrow.’ We take matters into our own hands out of fear (which takes on the appearance of worry). 

For the last several months, I feel like I’ve been taking an intensive class called: “How to Live Day-by-Day.” From the moment we decided to leave Nicaragua, we had more questions and unknowns regarding the future than we had answers. Taking steps forward when you can’t see the future is, well, faith-building (and that would be the understatement of the year). I guess that is why they call it ‘walking by faith, not by sight.’ 

Over the last several months, I’ve concentrated on the verse of Matthew 6:34 which tells us to not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will have enough worries of its own. Bite size pieces. Enough manna for today. Tomorrow will have its own manna. God is both in today AND tomorrow. Trust Him today. Trust Him with tomorrow. Don’t run ahead of today. 

There have been moments, throughout our most recent transition, when we HAVE tried to run ahead of God and find food other than today’s manna. Guess what? What we find is that the substitute junk food isn’t nearly as delicious as the manna God wants to provide. 

For example, several weeks ago, we started to get anxious about finding a place to live. We spent a day looking at apartments that didn’t come close to meeting our needs. At the end of the day, we were exhausted and discouraged. We repented of our ‘worry over tomorrow’ and focused on the ‘today.’ See, what God was asking us to do in the ‘today’ was rest. Rest. Not apartment hunt. Looking for an apartment, while not an unwise plan in the eyes of the world, was our attempt at hoarding manna for the future. Our motivation for apartment hunting was worry. Where do we go next? What should we do? Where will we live? But, at the time, our housing was secure for another few weeks AND we had an offer for ‘free housing’ if we needed it. We got antsy. We took matters into our own hands wasting what the 'today' had to offer.

I am NOT saying planning for the future is wrong. We DO plan for the future. I guess what I am learning is that when God asks us not to worry about the future—because He holds the future—it gives us a lot more peace, energy, and strength for the present day. I have found, as a recovering control-freak, living in the TODAY provides a lot of freedom. There is also tremendous joy in taking each day as it comes, knowing that God has provided the right amount of ‘manna’ that I need for the day while trusting that He will be in the ‘tomorrow’ as well. 

Perhaps our life’s circumstances of late have inspired our day-to-day living. Leaving one world behind in Nicaragua and walking forward into the unknown is not everyone’s story. However, we learn from one another, right? So, hear me when I (the hyper-ist planner on the planet) say…practice living in the 'today', being content with the amount of manna given, and trusting Him to meet you 'tomorrow'. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Taking the Roundabout Route

I love efficiency. Those that know me are likely chuckling or full on “LOL” right now. It seems that sometimes God isn’t as concerned about the most ‘efficient’ way of doing things as, let’s say, I am.

In reading Exodus 13, I noticed this verse: “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS THE SHORTEST ROUTE to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a ROUNDABOUT WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17,18, emphasis mine)

Well, that isn’t efficient. AND, there is that wilderness again. Not to mention the Red Sea. We’ve got roundabout routes, wilderness wandering, obstacles like the Red Sea…and God’s grand plan to display His love, mercy and glory!

Looking back and looking around, we’ve been on the roundabout route. As Jeff says, God has dangled a few carrots out ahead of him to coax him along the roundabout route. This isn’t meant to sound like God is teasing us. According to Jeff, God knows what He needs to do to get Jeff moving forward. There have been several ‘opportunities’ that we thought would materialize. None have. So, we wander in the wilderness a bit. And that is okay. There have been some Red Seas that we have crossed and several more crossings on the horizon. And that is okay too. We’ve all heard the saying (which according to my super quick google search is by Ralph Waldo Emerson), ‘Life is a journey not a destination’.  For the most part, I’d agree with this saying—except to say that what is experienced and learned about the Lord on the journey will impact our eternal destination. 


We are embracing the day by day journey that we are on as we follow the Lord on this roundabout route.  More on the ‘day by day’ next time. 

Some views from the journey: