Tuesday, July 25, 2017

20 Years...and Counting.

As I sit here on the eve of our Twentieth Anniversary, it seems impossible to find the words to sum up the last twenty years (and you all know that I love words)! Marriage is an incredible journey. Truly.

Now for those who have heard our story, despite picking out my own engagement ring, when Jeff asked me to marry him, my first response was "I think so." I am so glad he re-asked me and I said YES! We were all of 22 years old when we married each other and we've grown so much together in the last two decades. The beauty of marriage is that we both sharpen, shape and sand the edges of each other's lives so that we hopefully look more like Christ.

While marriage has its ups and downs, walking those TOGETHER as been beautiful (and sometimes a beautiful mess...and a little bit crazy). I said it in a Facebook post previously...but we have walked through some valleys and stood on some mountaintops....TOGETHER. We endured the loss of three children through miscarriage and we celebrated the births of three amazing kiddos (and we've made it to the teen years!) We have endured a cross-cultural move (and taking language school side-by-side) and celebrated the joys of serving together and experiencing all God had for us in Nicaragua. We have journeyed through many seasons...TOGETHER.

Back when I could sing a little (or thought I could)...I sang "Grow Old Along With Me" by John Lennon to Jeff at our wedding rehearsal in place of our vows (we decided our vows would be said aloud for the first time at the ceremony). We have definitely grown older (and hopefully a little wiser) through the many seasons along this marriage journey. And like the song says, we are two branches of one tree...and our roots have grown deeper and stronger both in our love for each other and in the Lord. I hope we continue to grow old alongside one another because we are better together than apart. I love and cherish the partnership and friendship that we have. I love that God picked us out for each other.

It has taken intentionality to arrive at 20 years. We have had some amazing mentors along the way...both in person and in print. We have enjoyed learning and studying about marriage. We want to continue being intentional. We want to continue to be students of marriage. Being married takes effort and investment. And it is worth it! We've watched God pour blessing and provision over that effort.

We stood before God, amongst friends and family, twenty years ago and made a covenant to God and to each other. Here are the words we vowed to each other on July 26, 1997:

Jeff's Vows
I, Jeffery, in faith, honesty, sincerity and love, take you Bethany to be my wedded wife. I believe that God has brought us together that we may fulfill the plan He has for our lives so that He may be glorified. I recognize and accept the responsibility and authority God as placed in my hands. I also accept the responsibility of following God's lead and patiently guiding you and the family God may entrust to us as He directs us in the course He has for our life together. I promise to selflessly guide, protect, provide, and care for you, and above all, to choose each day to love you as Christ does His Church. I promise that just as Christ is faithful to us, I will be a faithful husband by seeking to fulfill all the duties of a husband that God, in His Wisdom, has established. And although I do not know what lies ahead on this course God has set for us, I know that I will stay by your side to respect you, be sensitive to you, and to live with you in an understanding manner. Bethany, I promise to you my life as a faithful husband.

Bethany's Vows (no surprise, mine are longer)
I, Bethany, in faith, honesty, sincerity and love, take you Jeffery to be my wedded husband. I believe that God has brought us together that we may fulfill the plan He has for our lives so that He may be glorified. Recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I  promise to live first unto Him, then unto you. Christ is the head of the Church, in the same way the husband is the head of his wife. Jeffery, I submit myself to you under God’s hand. I promise you with all my heart, my complete trust and respect, my deepest devotion, esteem, and admiration.  Above all, I promise you that I will chose each day to love you with renewed love given by God. I promise you that I will strive to be understanding when I can not comprehend, to be patient when I want to move ahead, to be selfless when I want to be selfish, to be flexible when I don’t feel like being bent, and most importantly I will strive to be forgiving, remembering that I am to forgive as Christ forgives. Although I do not know what lies ahead on this course God has set for us, I know that I will stay by your side to support, encourage and help you. Jeffery, I promise to you my life as a faithful wife.

And no blog is truly complete without some photos. Now, believe it or not...but the first 9 years of our married life, we only had a 'FILM' camera. I know. Practically an antique now. 

The September of our Senior Year of College...the year we got engaged.
Our Wedding Day
The summer of our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY. We went backpacking.
Jeff's Graduation from Vet School in 2001. I was 5 months pregnant with Andrew.

And two become three.
And four.
And five (then).
And now. 
20 years. Two shall become one, then five. (God's math is funny that way).
My prayer is that we continue journeying together wholeheartedly--nurturing a vibrant and thriving marriage that brings glory to God. But for now, we celebrate our twenty years (and counting).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Like a Silly Song with Larry

Before I post another weighty blog to follow up with my previous blog about OCD, I thought I'd post a somewhat silly blog as an intermission of sorts. Remember Veggie Tales and Silly Songs with Larry? This is a like that.

I am an impulsive DIYer. There I said it. I cut or sand or demolish without a whole lot of thought as to what comes next. For any given picture hanging on the wall, there are several nail holes behind it. I think this causes Jeff some stress.

For example, here is where I took a belt-sander to our perfectly decent wood floors in the dining room.

Jeff's comment was, "Um, why did you do that?"  To which I answered, "Well, I wanted to see what the wood looked like underneath." Admittedly, I am not a fan of our wood floors and have far off dreams of replacing them or refinishing them some day. We joke that NOW, I've guaranteed this project be completed since we now have a sanded spot on the floor.

Shortly after moving in, I pulled the old, metal medicine cabinet out of the wall in the bathroom. I tried to 'finish' the project, but we don't have a table saw, which apparently is something I need to finish the project. So, it looks like this...still:

Pulling Andrew in on the next project, I convinced him to help me remove the mantel on the fireplace. My 'plan' is to use a huge spruce log that we got from Shelter Pines as a rough hewn mantel piece. It is newly cut and quite sappy. Who knew it took so long for a big ol' hunkin' log to dry. I did read that you should strip the log of its bark. Andrew got pulled into this too.

When Jeff saw what we did, he said, "Did you have a plan?"  Of course, my answer was 'no' but I did mention that thing I read about removing the bark.

Future mantel? Let's hope so. 
Hearth without mantel piece

Oh, speaking of the fireplace hearth. So, I decided it would look better white washed. That's right...the DIY project you can never really come back from.  I showed Jeff some photos. He hesitatingly agreed (probably with much fear). I looked up some tutorials....which is a good step for me! And I started. Coat 1. Hmmm. Not 'white' enough. Coat 2. I think one more would be good. Coat 3. Maybe coat 4 will be the magic number.

Jeff: That is NOT like the pictures you showed me.
Me: Yeah, I know! Hmmmm. It is a slippery slope, Jeff. {Bethany starts researching how to remove paint from brick.}

Well, you will be happy to know that I found a blog from Australia about removing paint from brick.  Apparently, vinegar removes paint. Two gallons of vinegar later, it is 'better' than it used to be.  I like it. Jeff is not convinced.

coat 1

coat 2, I think.

Coat 3 or maybe 4. 

After multiple rounds of vinegar.

Current condition. Except the very bottom section which is still
sporting coat 4. I think I will apoxy some pallet wood or something
on that surface.

By the way, I decided to take a hammer to some of the brick. You know, to make it look "old." Andrew said, "Mom! I REALLY don't think that is a good idea. Maybe you should wait until Papa gets home."  {I only hit a few places with the hammer...it looks just fine.}

AND...we did find a new fireplace screen that fits into the archway. Here it is:

Granted, in this room with the fireplace, we also have a hole in the wall. This would be because I thought we could use the dead space under the stairs as storage. However, for a long time I couldn't decide what kind of door I wanted. I finally decided. That is in the works.

It looks better than this now. This was 'in process.'
By the way, that is Andrew stripping wall paper off the walls.
To defend myself, eventually, I get good results. I am a visionary and a demolition addict. I know enough about 'stuff' and tools to be dangerous but occasionally successful. I have a saint of a husband who is exceedingly patient and kind. He is quite handy with tools--thankfully.

Currently, I am working on restoring an old Amish farm table. So far so good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

It's NOT About a Symmetrically Cut Pie

I've started and stopped this blog post a hundred times! Not only is it a topic that is multi-faceted but it is exposing some of the deepest parts of my crazy! As many of you know and have experienced, there isn't much that I won't say aloud! LOL! However, this topic pushes me past my comfort level in many ways!

{You’re all curious now, aren’t you?!}

This week, for the second time in the past year, I sat waiting in the radiology department for an ultrasound to determine whether or not pathology would be discovered. The first was for a lump I found on my thigh--turns out it was just a lipoma. A lipoma is a fatty mass (because a girl needs more fat in her thighs!). This past week’s visit was to look at some lymph nodes in my neck that have been enlarged for a few months--even though my bloodwork was all normal and the doctor wasn’t too concerned.  Chances are, all is well. I am still awaiting the radiologist’s report...but the technician said everything looked within the realm of normal.

{By the way: Here is where the topic starts!!!}

I have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). My OCD complicates ANY (and most) situations, especially, anything that has to do with health. I recently needed to block all health sites through my internet filter. Ya know why? {My apologies, in advance, for the crudeness of this description.} Because sites like WebMD, MayoClinic.com and health forums are like ‘porn for the paranoid.’ I call it medical porn. I can’t not look at it. And...all medical google searches lead to cancer and death on the internet!

In contrast to Facebook memes, OCD is NOT about having the picture frames just so on the wall. OCD is NOT a perfectly organized cabinet or drawer. OCD is NOT about a symmetrically cut pie. It can, on the surface, manifest in some of these ways...but these things do not mean you have OCD. You may be a very neat and organized person. You may be a Type A personality. But, if you have OCD then your intrusive and paranoid thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors invade and disrupt your day in a way that leaves you paralyzed and unable to function normally.

The way I describe it is: being held prisoner in your own mind.

Picture this-- an intruder comes into your living room. The intruder ties you up and then proceeds to run around you in circles screaming the same thing at you over and over and over, while you sit there, helpless to stop the madness. It’s a little like that.

I have several different triggers that open the door to that intruder. Health is one of them. It makes things like lumps and lymph nodes an all-consuming, life threatening drama filled saga. It affects my day...or days on end. It can consume me...and then paralyze me.

“Just trust God” has often been the advice I get. I wholeheartedly agree that I need to trust God. However, for me, having OCD means that I must engage in a full-contact battle between heart and mind in order to trust. Trusting God, with all things, takes ALL I HAVE. Trusting the Lord will all my heart and leaning NOT on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) is probably one of the hardest things I struggle to do. I recently saw the verse Exodus 14:14 with all new eyes. It says, “The Lord Himself will fight for [me]. Just stay calm.” After fighting my intrusive thoughts regarding the enlarged lymph nodes to the point of mental exhaustion, I felt powerless to trust. However, realizing that my God fights for me was hugely freeing. I am learning how to stay calm AND I am learning what my part in that battle is.

I will say that since starting medication nearly 13 years ago, trusting has become attainable. Perhaps moreso, being able to talk with the Lord without the ‘intruder’ screaming at me has become possible.

Through this swollen gland issue, I’ve realized a few things.
  1. How much fear is a stronghold for me. I desire to see God as my refuge {Psalm 46}.
  2. How much health has become a very shiny idol. It competes with my affection for God.
  3. How I need and want to learn how to glorify God in my brokenness. I don’t need to have it ‘all together’ to please or glorify God.
  4. How glorious the knowledge that the Lord fights my battles FOR me {Exodus 14:14}.
  5. How deeply loved I am by my God.

I have vowed to not ‘squander the swollen glands.’ I am leaning into God and learning. I am pushing against the fear. I am learning to surrender the things I am tempted to love more than God. I am learning what it means to live, broken, in a broken world as child of a Perfect God who loves me perfectly.

Friday, January 13, 2017

On Return-Musings and Other Ponderings

January 12th marked the one-year anniversary of our re-entry into America following our 5 year, 2 month Nicaraguan adventure.

Sometimes it feels like we just left Nicaragua and at other times it feels like we’ve been back for more than a year (then I look around at my sparsely furnished home and think of the near panic attack I had in Costco and realize...nope--just a year)! Re-entry back into American life has been AND CONTINUES to be a journey and a process. You simply cannot live outside your passport country and not be changed in some way...in our case...in profound ways! Our re-entry journey has been greatly influenced by several things. We have been warmly enveloped by our new community group here in Colorado for whom we are thankful. We have had the extra blessing of interning (and now working) for people who ‘get it.’ We are thankful for God's providential timing of life's events--we were able to officially 'debrief' our time in Nicaragua at Mission Training International's Debriefing and Renewal program BEFORE we officially moved away from Nicaragua and that allowed us to 'say good-bye' in a healthier way than other global workers have the opportunity to do.

It is challenging to summarize such a multi-faceted journey, so I am going to list some thoughts in no particular order.
  • The re-entry process is not limited to one year.
  • Wal-Mart still overwhelms me and I am thankful for Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up Service.
  • I’m still amazed by the USPS, UPS and FEDEX.
  • Not living in ‘everyday-right-outside-your-door-community' is different and at times, hard. I miss the 'sanity loops' and calling for 'Wilson' over the fence.
  • Not living in chaos is very nice.
  • My kids miss Nicaragua. That makes me sad and happy. Sad, because I am sad when my kids hurt. Happy because they loved well and were well loved. {Paradox: it is a way of life for those who have called two distinct places home.}
  • God provides. Hands down.
  • Returns. WOW! I am still amazed at the ability to return products to stores! I mean, they often don’t even need your credit card...I want to be like--"Are you sure? Don’t you just want to hold the card? What about a ‘reason’, do you need an essay outlining the reason for my return? You DO see that I opened that package, right? I mean I TASTED the food." Seriously, I feel like offering a service of returning things for people because I am just so enamored with the whole process!
  • Decision fatigue is a real thing.
  • Friendships take time...and sometimes waiting is hard.
  • Sometimes you really miss the pets you left behind.
  • Missing the friends you left behind hurts. Entrusting those same friendships to God is crucial.
  • I can still pull out some Spanish when I need to. It isn’t pretty...but it never was.
  • Dry climate hair is WAY easier to ‘do’ than humid climate hair.
  • We walk forward richer in heart and mind because of where we've been...and who we've met...and what we've done (or didn't do).
  • Inter-dependence is beautiful and America doesn’t necessarily accept or embrace it. I hope we teach our kids that despite America’s preference for ‘pulling one's self up by one's own boot straps’, inter-dependence is a far more beautiful and Biblical way to live.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Setting the Stones for 2016

I have seen so many parallels this past year as I have read through Exodus and Joshua in Scripture. The stories in these Old Testament books have resonated in my heart and gave me reason to ponder and consider the faithfulness and unchangingness of our loving God.

Just as God had Joshua instruct 12 men representing the 12 Tribes of Israel to lay down stones as remembrance after they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, I'd like to set out some stones (represented by photos) remembering this past year--a year of re-entry, change, transition and the beginning of re-settling into a 'new land' on the other side of the river that was crossed.

a renewed wonder of God's creation in nature
 and a beautiful climate in which to enjoy it

the blessing of wonderful next door neighbors
 (this table was given to us by our next door neighbors)

a visual reminder of the host country and amazing community in which we lived

Lilacs from our yard which speaks to the sweet tenderness of God

'new' family pets that have warmed our hearts
after having to leave behind our beloved pets in Nicaragua

a pair of ducks representing the paradox in which we live this side of Heaven
A pinecone symbolizing the new roles that we will step into
at Shelter Pines--a ministry that allows us to grow
in the ministry of caring for cross-cultural workers

Keys to our 'new' home
(and a great keychain from an even greater friend)
proving God always provides
the provision of a welcoming, friendly and community-oriented church 
this is Creamy. he is my aunt's cat. she and creamy were so kind as to let us
live with them for a couple of months. we are thankful to our 'in-state' family
who have gone above and beyond in caring for us in so many ways.

this dresser represents the many, many 'material' things
that God has so graciously provided for us
through the generosity of others

since we don't have a photo of our wonderful new friends
who welcomed us into a fun and friendly small group I am using this
photo of the beautiful deer that visit our yard

Interestingly, there are 12 'stones' pictured above (I didn't plan that intentionally). 

Thank you for journeying with us this past year. We loved seeing our friends from Nicaland who visited us throughout the year. We are so thankful to have met new friends here in Colorado who have  welcomed us and embraced our quirky repatriated selves!  And props to our kids who have navigated this re-entry journey like champs!

Happy New Year!
With LOVE,
Jeff and Bethany
Andrew, Ella and Noah

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?


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.
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.]