Wednesday, December 28, 2011

new year's plans

Today is Wednesday - that means it is Compelled. I am happy about that - it is always a highlight of my week. But it also means this week is going too fast! I am really enjoying Christmas break - no school, lots of parties and friends, seeing people we haven't seen in ages! We get back to the normal on Monday, so I am already getting lesson plans done, meals planned, and the next few weeks mapped out. I am also planning some longer-term things. We have a list (and yes, your name is probably on that list) of people to send all our info about South Sudan to. We are trying to get that list in order, figuring out the trips we need to make (Georgia, Ohio/PA, Ithaca, etc.), and getting a strategy in place for the support raising we still need to do. As you plan out this new year for you and your family, be praying about how that fits into your life.

There have been many people asking why. Why would we leave this country? Why would we got to a brand new country that is just developing and has a history of war, famine, and strife? Why would we take our kids there, away from family and familiarity? There is a lot of money we need to raise to do all this, is it worth it?

In a word - yes.

You already know all the "We are obeying God's call on our life" answers, so let me leave you with a few more tangible reasons we are doing this: (Photos courtesy of Larissa - check out her blog under the "team mates blogs" on this page!)





Thanks for your support!

Friday, December 23, 2011

a gift

One of the benefits of doing all the counseling for World Harvest this summer was the friendship we formed with our counselor. This morning we took the hour long trek to Lee, Massachusetts to spend a couple of hours hashing through things with her and taking in her wisdom. It wasn't so much that we had big issues, but more that she is a person who has "been there, done that" when it comes to living in Africa, raising funds, being in the pastorate, and just the life that we lead in general!

She reminded me that I am not a complete failure in every aspect of life, and that some of these emotional swings I have are normal. (You hear that? I AM normal!) ;)

It comes from a snowball effect with emotions. I have a bad day with the kids and I must be a horrible parent. The next day school doesn't go as well as I wanted it to, so my teaching abilities are in question. Then someone decides to leave the church, so I must be the worst pastor's wife on the planet. And I can't even get dinner right - I burn my husband's favorite meal! What a disaster of a wife I am! See what I mean? Something simple-one individual act- makes everything else seem so much worse than it really is, and soon I think that I am a complete failure at life. It's good to be reminded that his mercies are new every morning, and even if I mess up at something in one moment, all that means is the next moment is a new one to start again. I am not defined by who I am or how well (or badly) I do things! I am defined only by my relationship with my Father-and he thinks I am beautiful; he sings over me in love; he pursues me in his desire to be with me and make me whole; he gave his very life so we can be together for eternity; and I am a co-heir with the Prince of Peace! I have everything as his child!

I am so thankful for his gift of newness.

Monday, December 19, 2011

a new song

"Parenting is the composing, the performing, of music, song upon song. Musicians play one right note after the next right note after the next right note. It’s not an erratic splattering of sound, a fickle, helter-skelter banging of random notes. Music has order. It is composed. Notes are intentional, considered, deliberate.

As music has rhythm, recurring refrains, order, so does peaceful parenting. One action thoughtfully follows the next action that wisely follows the next. Days of habits, fluid and lyrical, create pleasing harmony. Lives with known rhythms, thoughtful arrangements, sing.

I have flailed and I have failed.

But there is hope. Listen. Can you hear the serenade of His Kingdom? “Behold I make all things new (Rev 21:5). I am about to do something new (Isa 43:19).” We with shapeless, jarring songs may, thankfully, choose new songs."
Ann Voskamp

I am reading her book, One thousand Gifts right now, thanks to a recommendation from my friend, Jennifer. It is kicking my butt, and changing my heart. As I was sitting in bed reading with Shawn last night there were tears streaming down my cheeks, and he looked at me, surprised. When he asked why I was crying, I said, "This stupid book!" He asked me to explain more, but I felt like I couldn't - like I am at that place where there is something so new, so raw that I can't put it in my own words just yet. Though it touches my heart and soul and I long to understand and know better, it still feels like it is just out there beyond my grasp in some part.

So I told him to read the book. It's not his writing style, and he may struggle through some of it, but I have no doubt he will be curious enough to wonder what touched his wife so deeply that he will check it out.

The blurb above is from her blog, aholyexperience.com. In my desire to seek out Eucharisteo (intentional life-filling gratitude) each day, I realize how much I have missed in the rat race of life. I have hurried and run, pushed and shoved, and overlooked the gifts that are given to me each day. And in the process I have cultivated the same ideas in my children. So as I am learning to savor, to be intentional, to be grateful for each moment and remember it is a gift, not a right, I am desiring to pass that on to my children.

That means changing some things in my own life. Digging up some old, deep-rooted habits of chaos and unorganization, and establishing some peaceful patterns in our family life, in our prayer times, and in our seeking of love.

My sweet friend, Jenna, uses the expression "Word Vomit" and I feel like that is what I am doing right now as I try to express what He is doing in my heart and life! But there is real life and desire and passion and hope coming back in after months (years?) of scurrying, hurrying, and hopelessness. That is going to be number one on my list of gifts for which I am thankful. And as I start to teach my children this way of living, I will sit and enjoy watching as they blossom into people who live this way at a young age. It will affect the way they choose to live and relationships they desire to have.

Lord, make us new...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home!

This weekend I am going home. Well, at least to the home where I grew up. In all our moving around, I am not sure where real "home" is anymore. Maybe it really is where you hang your heart, and that is not just a cheesy hallmark expression? I think perhaps I am just longing for Heaven one day when I think of home. But that's not what this post is about...

I am going to see my sisters!!! If you have a sister, you probably know that there is no other bond quite like it in this world. We have been best friends and worst enemies at times in life (More the former than the latter in these "adult" years of life!) But no matter what, I always have loved them with an intensity that is real and steady. And I know they love me the same way. And I don't get to see them nearly enough, so I am so excited that all of us (including my sister from marriage, Gina) will be there this weekend - with all our families! (well, minus Shawn, who has to stay here alone - if you are around you can come hang out with him since he is stuck without a car!) It is going to be chaos in my Dad's house, to say the least, but it is a also going to be two days of memory building. And with the idea of moving to South Sudan in about a year, we are storing up all the memories we can get!

This is also going to be a weekend where I do not have to think about anything but enjoying this family. Dad, Gram, and many extended family will be around as we go to a Christmas party. I don't have to worry about planning the service for church, playing the piano, making sure Children's Church is going, who I am sending what to, home school, or anything else. I am hoping that I can share with many people my excitement about South Sudan, but if that doesn't happen, I am not going to stress. Like I said, this is memory building time - for all of us!

I am thankful for this time - even more as I realize that the "ease" of spending time with my sisters and our family is going away soon. It is hard to think about, that is for sure. But I am not going to dwell on that, I am going to be thankful for many things this weekend:
noisy chaos of 13 kids under one roof at times - my kids being the oldest; exchanging simple ornament gifts; eating around a table together; watching different personalities figure each other out and the dynamics of relationships of people not together often enough; and games, laughter, and long talks. I am so excited!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

back to basics

This year has been a year of God stripping me down to my core at times. It has not always been a fun year - in fact many times it was down right rough. Between some intense counseling that was required to go the next step in getting to S. Sudan, the death of a young friend, the moving of our family (again), the adjusting to not one, not two, but three jobs (counting fund raising), and the re-entrance of an old relationship that was not always healthy and easy into my life recently, I feel like I am stretched to my limit. Yet in it all I see God's fingerprints.
The counseling that felt like another hoop to jump through was a time of acquiring real health and wholeness again. I gained not only a clearer view of myself and God, but I also developed a new friendship with a Godly woman whom I trust and who "gets me." (That feels hard to come by, sometimes!) The death of one young man lead to the eternal salvation of another and the chance to tell of what the amazing change in his life was about. The moving gave us a wonderful house where we have been able to invite people over and develop new relationships and spend good time together. (Our house is always open - come visit - or even stay a while!) And the three job thing - well, God is faithful and supplying all we need in it. The two churches are growing and being stretched themselves, and fund raising is a time of being able to share our heart for Africa over and over and over again. And that relationship that has re-entered after all these years? Well, how does one say no to a person who repeatedly asks you to tell them about Jesus and what that means for his life? I have noticed that as I have prayed for this person and God has given me a real love again for him, that I am (once again) feeling more healthy and whole. I can't imagine how heaven will feel, when all of these earthly hurts and circumstances are gone - I have felt free and able recently in ways that I haven't experienced before.
In all of those big things God has been faithful in the little things, too. And he continues to pursue me, lavish his love on me, show me his plan bit by bit and moment by moment, and astound me with his love and mercy. So, for all my dear friends whom I have recently talked to that are feeling overwhelmed, tired, alone, and hesitant to believe in His faithfulness I say, "Stand strong and persevere." He has a plan for you - one with a hope and a future. And believe that in all of it he will continue to carry that plan out. For your best.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creative waiting

I feel like I should be posting in something profound in this blog, because it has been a while (it's been a LONG while since I've actually posted something profound! LOL!) But the truth is, my mind is not working in that mode these days! I am simply trying to focus on the every day, each moment, and trust and enjoy. (I guess if I could actually do that it would be considered pretty profound, no?)
Today is the beginning of December so the kids and I are doing a count down to Christmas like we do every year. A couple if years ago my sister in law sent us a long string of pretty envelopes to open each day with fun activities to do. Unfortunately those envelopes were destroyed in storage (I was so sad!) so I had to come up with my own ideas this year. I wanted them to be fun things to do together, but also to have much of the focus on being generous.
Last night at Compelled we talked about being generous financially. As we are in the process of raising support to go to South Sudan, I do not want to get so focused on how to get money that I become completely selfish and ignore others. It would be an easy thing to do-and if I'm being totally honest, I have found myself slipping into that mode at times. Then we had some wonderful friends of ours who are raising support themselves donate to us. That opened my eyes and heart to remind me of the person I want to be.
So while our countdown this year includes building a Lego Christmas wonderland, watching Elf while sipping hot chocolate with candy canes in it, and driving through the amazing light display in Washington Park, we are also looking at things like visiting people in an assisted living place, putting together a surprise "12 Days of Christmas" box for a family, and taking cookies to our neighbors. And we will, of course, be considering what the purpose of Christmas is this season - the amazing generosity of God to send us the ultimate gift.
So I am interested - what are ways you celebrate the advent season? How do you focus on being generous and showing God's love to others? I would love to hear your creative and fun ideas!