Friday, April 29, 2011

My Dad

Well, we are moved in and settled.  And no, I am not super woman - I just need to have some control over something in my life, and the house setting seems to be the only thing that I can even partially do that with!  ;)  I am glad that it is over with and we can relax and enjoy this amazing, new place!
As I was ironing curtains to put them up (it's about the only time my iron gets much use) I was thinking about something that made me giggle.  I recently had an experience with my birth father that reminded me of some hurtful things.  No one likes to feel rejected, yet time and time again in my life that had been the feeling I have gotten from him.  And not for any particular reason that I can see - just simply because I am me.  That's the worst rejection, I think.  Who wants to be told, "It's not me, it's you!" ?  :)  (And I should clarify that my grandmother and all the extended family on that side has been a wonderful part of my life!  I love you guys!)
As I was struggling through this feeling and wanting to beat myself up because I am 36 years old and "should be" use to this and not be hurt by it anymore I even thought - "And I have a dad who has loved me since he met me - even though I am not really his biologically!"
My step father (whom I call Dad) IS my Dad.  He has raised me, cared for me, provided for me both financially and emotionally, and loved me.  He is who my children call Grandpa- Andrew is named after him!  When Shawn asked his permission to marry me he said, "I like you, but I love my daughter.  If you hurt her, I will kill you!"  (Shawn knew he respected my dad at that point!) ;)  In every way that matters he is my dad.  There were people who asked if we would still see him after my mom died, and that was such an incredulous question to me!  Why would I NOT see my dad?  We need each other now more than ever.  The truth of the matter is, I talk to him more now than when Mom was an easy go-between!  And he even entered the world of texting and cell phones!
In this way Dad (and his family, who took us in so readily) showed me God's love.  Yep - my Dad, who has time and time again told me that he thinks I am insane for my beliefs-brought me closer to God.  I am adopted into God's family, too.  Though Dad did not officially adopt me and give me his last name, he loves me as if I were his own flesh and blood.  The same way God loves me.  I have all the rights of a blood daughter in Dad's home - I can call whenever I want, visit anytime, sleep there, ask for things, be there to help, and be helped by him.  I can expect to be loved and joyfully received no matter how long it has been since I have been there, and I count on that!  When I send pics of the kids, they are proudly shown around, and drawings and letters displayed!  It is the same way with my heavenly Father.  He is proud of me!  He loves me and I can imagine him showing me off with snapshots of my life.  He sings over me with joy and he welcomes me back into the family when I am gone for any length of time.  He, like my dad here on earth, simply loves and accepts me BECAUSE I'm me - not despite of me!  What joy!  What delight!  What freedom!
In this I have leaned to love and be loved by my heavenly Father's family all over the world.  When we have been away from family in ministry, we have been loved by others who have been family to us.  All of this was taught to me to some degree by my dad and his family.
So I am feeling thankful and sentimental today.  Since I know there is no way my dad will read this, I should let him know personally.  Thanks, Dad, for being an example of God to me!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Home sweet home

Well, we are moved in, unpacked, and mostly decorated.  We have eaten here, slept here, did dishes and laundry here - so I guess we are officially home! :)
This move is a different type of move for us.  Though we are in a different house and different town, and though we will be attending a different church on Sunday mornings, it does not feel foreign.  We still will be at Green Hills a few times week - in fact we have worship team practice tonight.  And we have known many of the people at this Carman Road church for a long time - including two of the former pastors and their families who are friends of ours.  So it does not feel like there is a lot of adjusting and changing.  It is a little strange to be living in "Tim and Melinda's" house!  And we discovered that went to Nyack with the guy who did the design on the living room ceiling!  To know so many people who have lived in the house in the past is always a fun thing about living in a parsonage!
Sorry this does not have much depth...I can't think straight because I am so tired!  I have been thinking about something that God has been teaching me, and I look forward to sharing it with you and getting your opinion and thoughts on it in a day or two!  Until then, enjoy the nice weather that is supposed to be coming!  :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

packing it in

Today is part 1 of moving day.  Part one because we will pack up the van after the Good Friday service tonight, then sleep at a friend's house! (Thanks, Rosina!)  Tomorrow morning we head to Schenectady, unpack, return the truck, and once again sleep at Rosina's house, because we have a sunrise service in Troy on Easter!  It will be our last Sunday morning in Troy as we start the transition to these two pastorates beginning May 1st. 
This is what my house (in Troy) looks like right now...





(Most of our earthly possessions in one room!) 

Thankfully my ever-flexible kids have found ways to work/play despite the chaos today!

I am thankful for the Good Friday service tonight, and a chance to sit in a clean, uncluttered sanctuary and reflect on why we are doing this thing called life to begin with.  Happy Good Friday, everyone.  Sunday is on the way!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

gushy thankfulness

I have often heard people in ministry complain because of lack of pay, unrealistic expectations, and various other things that we face as a pastor's (or missionary's) family.  And though I am sure that some of those things are valid concerns, I have been extremely blessed in my time in ministry.  Throughout our times in all the different churches we have been at, we have experienced God's blessings to us through his people.  And I guess I have been one of those lucky people that have been places where people accept me for who I am, because I have never really felt pressured to be the "pastor's wife."  (I have learned over the years that honesty and transparency is a wonderful thing - but so is knowing when to keep my mouth shut!  lol!) 
I was thinking about this today as we pulled up to the parsonage to finish cleaning and painting before we move in on Saturday, and there on the front porch was a brand new mattress for one of the kids!  A nice one - pillow top and comfy!  All it said was "Property of the Shawn Wallace family."  No names or ways to thank the very generous person who somehow knew our kids needed beds!  (Thank you, if you are reading this!)  This is just one of the many, many ways we have seen God's blessings over the years.  There have been vacations given to us that we could never have afforded, furniture (a friend today told me she used to say her house was decorated in "gently used!"), money, vehicles, food, toys, and gifts of all shapes and sizes.  But there have also been those gifts of friendship and relationship - the people that we have gotten to know that we have laughed and cried with, played games with, traveled with, experienced ministry and life with, talked with, and prayed with and for.  Some of those people have come into our lives for just a season, but many are still a big part of our lives, and would not have been a part at all if we had not met them through our times in ministry. 
I've rambled enough - but thank you, friends.  And thank you Lord!
James 1:17  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Monday, April 18, 2011

lent

So I did something new for me this year - I observed lent.  I don't completely understand all the ins and outs of it still, and I hope I don't offend someone with this post!  For example, am I even supposed to tell people I gave up something for lent?  Politically correct things aside, it has been an interesting experience for me.

I grew up in a denomination that more or less ignores lent.  We have celebrated the Easter season of course. But the time leading up to it - starting with Ash Wednesday - was somewhat of a mystery to me.  This past year has been a time of meeting people that I respect who do the "church thing" quite different from me.  I felt myself being drawn to some of the more traditional, liturgical side of things.  I met two women who are Episcopalian priests and who have become friends of mine.  I love listening to them pray and seeing their heart and passion for God.  Shawn's good friend (and mine) is a Methodist pastor and I jokingly call him a "charismatic traditional."  By this I mean he often worships God through written prayers, liturgy, and things that seem formal and foreign to me.  Yet he does so with arms raised high, tears in his eyes and a passion in his voice that surprises me each time.  Coming home from his service tonight I was thinking about what I had just experienced.  I had been moved deeply by the service, yet strangely uncomfortable.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that reminded me that I don't have the whole concept of worship and praise "down" just because I have been a Christian for so long.  I love being around these people, and I always walk away pondering my own traditions and the way I think things should be and how I should worship. 
So when lent came around this year, I studied it a bit and asked some questions, and then decided to observe it.  I gave up chocolate, and I have to admit that it has not been easy!  There are birthday celebrations and retreats and everything else in the time of lent.  And there have been people who do not understand why I would do this-partly because, like me, it is not something they are familiar with.  I will be honest, I have not observed it with all the rules of meat, fasting, etc.  For me it was more the idea of discovering something that was an idol to me, and giving that to God.  And yes, I like chocolate that much! :)  It has been eye opening to me to realize how often I turn to chocolate (and food in general) in place of God.  And how grumpy I got when I would remember my self-imposed ban.  I am just stubborn enough that there were times I refused chocolate simply because I made this promise and I wasn't going to "fail."  Yet there have also been times of really giving it to God because I don't want idols in my life - I want my life to be about him.  It has also been freeing in a way as I have discovered that God really loves me in spite of these things.
I am happy that lent is almost over, and believe me, I will be eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for Easter! But I feel like a bondage has been broken in this season - one that will carry with me even after lent is over. 
Thanks for letting me ramble about this new experience!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bucket list

Made a bucket list with Shawn tonight.  We are very different, so often times we would have to add our names after certain things.  For example, I could care less about seeing Bigfoot (really?!?) and he does not want to take a cake decorating or Latin dance class with me!  But when it comes to traveling, we are two peas in a pod - and I think our children are taking after us.  With all of us sitting around I heard:  visit the Western US and do a park tour, see a hockey game in Russia, boat on the Amazon, swim in the Nile, Visit the pyramids in Giza, pray at the Wailing Wall, walk on the Great Wall, eat fish and chips in a pub in England, lift our kilts in Scotland - Brave heart-like, take in a game at the new Yankee stadium, and try to make the guards at Buckingham palace laugh! 
I am so glad that God put my family together this way!  As we go through this life and continue our crazy adventures it is always fun to see how they play out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Transitions and change

Change is not a bad thing - but it can certainly feel like it is picking you up, tossing you around, and then flinging you back to the ground bruised and uncertain about the ride you just took.  You would think that I would be used to transition.  After all, the almost 19 moves - including the one coming up next week - to 4 different states, several different towns and houses, two different continents, and many different church families that have dotted our marriage have all had many more amazing, life changing applications than bad ones. (Even the "bad" experiences are things I can be thankful for as I look back and see God's hand!)  And the relationships that we have built over the years because of the moves remain, for the most part, strong and vital in our lives.  We do not always get to see people as much as we like, but when we do it is usually picking up where we lift off.  I am thankful for this gift, as that should not necessarily be the case.
But change is still change.  It stretches you and tests your faith in the way you think things should be.  It can be as simple as what color the dining room should be painted (I happen to adore the lemony yellow of our new house!) to how things should be run, where the store is, meeting more new people and remembering names and position, and learning a new culture.  Even in our moves within the USA (and even within a state) each new place has its own feel, pace, and social structure.  and this time we will be traveling back and forth all week between those two things.
The  two churches we are a part of are very different - traditional, long standing, older in age versus mostly younger, more contemporary, and pretty hands-on.  Neither is better - just different.  There are things that I love about each place.  And God is doing an amazing work in us by allowing us to form relationships and love both of these churches pretty quickly.  We were praying for that, yet I admit, the quick answer has surprised and pleased me!
I always worry about the kids in the changes we make!  I was anxious for months about our move to Malawi and how the kids would react.  It was baseless as they ran off, made friends, tried new foods, and enjoyed their new space while I sat in loneliness and learned to give it over to God.  I had been hoping that as we went to a new church in the States that there would be a kids program - and once again we are at a place where that is not up and running yet (though we are starting a kids church program in May!)  But I feel a lot less anxious this time, as I am beginning to understand and believe that God is in control and has amazing plans for my children's lives that do not just start when they hit 18, but are happening now.  This is part of that plan and purpose that he has for them - one with a hope and a future!
And as we continue to pursue Sudan and a life there, we will revel in the adventure he gives us here each day and the gifts and growing he wants us to do in this period of change.  I thank you all for your prayers!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The next step

A couple months ago I blogged about the fact that our church was struggling financially, and we did not see how we could stay on full time.  I was frustrated that God was not giving us answers, but simply telling us to wait on him.  I didn't want to wait until a week before the church was out of money and have to start looking for a job!  But as I settled into believing that God was at work, I started to see his hand in things that I never would have expected.
This evening Shawn was appointed as the part-time pastor of Carman Road Alliance Church AND Green Hills Alliance Church (Starting May 1st.)  We have been at Green Hills for three years this summer, and are glad that we do not have to leave it- but I never expected to gain another church family in the process!   In fact, I was sure that God would lead us to a church that was not a re-development church, not to the opportunity to do two of these churches at once!  I admit, both Shawn and I fought the idea at first.  But as soon as we started to actually listen to God's voice, he brought peace and excitement.
This other church has a parsonage, and we will be moving in the next week or two.  Shawn's time will be split between the two churches at three days a week.  The churches are half an hour apart, so on the days he is is Troy the kids and I will pack up and come with him so we can be there for the services.  Green Hills does the main service (Compelled) on Wednesday evenings, and Carman Road's main service is Sunday morning. 
It's not going to be easy, but honestly, most of the work that God has called us too hasn't been easy.  But it has been extremely rewarding and had benefits that we continue to reap to this day in the form of amazing friendships!
We are continuing to pursue going to Sudan with World Harvest Mission (whm.org) and we were honest about that with the churches.  Things seem to be moving in that direction, and we still have a heart for Africa.  But I believe, as with all this, that even that desire will come through as God designed.
So pray for us as we start this adventure!  Pray for the two churches - they both stretched their faith tonight  in their desire to give us a salary that will cover our expenses.  Pray for God to show himself in ways that we have never experienced before, or even imagined!