Friday, August 31, 2012

ch-ch-ch-changes

August has been crazy busy.  Yep, that's my excuse for not being on here as much as usual.  But God has been at work in us and with us.  I am almost feeling overwhelmed about what to write here because there are so many things I would like to share, but I don't want to scare anyone off with the length of this blog! It has been a month of change, beginning of transitions, and a time of starting to let go.  To take the steps out of the boat and try to focus on Him and what he asks instead of the waves around us.  We have often failed at that, and after a few moments of panic have had to cry, "Lord, save me!"  And he does.  He was all along.  lovingly, patiently, and perfectly.

So what has been happening?


The beginning of the month was when we candidated a family to come in as the assistant pastor at Troy and the eventually take over Shawn's role as Senior Pastor.  We are so excited about hiring Andy and Beverly.  Yet in reality there were a lot of emotions and "self" that popped up in that whole process. Pride, jealousy, fear, anger, worry, joy  - all flashing together one after another in a matter of moments, then starting all over again.  The hiring of them means that we have taken those steps in Troy to remind people that we are leaving - that Africa is real and our calling there is real.  And that is a mixed bag, honestly.  I LOVE this church family.  They are my close friends and family.  There are relationships there that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life (I have moved enough to know how to do this) yet I also know that it is not the same as seeing each other several times a week to pray, laugh, hug, and work through life together.  So there is mourning and sadness that way.  Yet excitement because it means we are heading to another season of that in South Sudan, with another team of people.  (Which also brings the junior high worry of ,"Will they like and accept me?"  But that's another blog!)

Right after that happened we came to the decision through a variety of things happening that our time in Schenectady was done even sooner.  Shawn put in his resignation, and at the end of September he will only have the part time job in Troy and fund raising to focus on.  We will also be without a house and half our salary.  Needless to say that has been one of those things that Satan has whispered over and over again in our ears.  Yet through it all I have felt mostly peace - and relief that we can really start to focus on getting to South Sudan.  And, as usual, God is providing.  We have options of housing.  And through those options we have the ability to not have to take another part time job, but to be able to focus on the things we are doing.  Why am I always surprised when this happens?  He is only showing the next step - one at a time, not the whole picture - but he is showing us what we need when we need it.

Then we went on vacation.  And that was pure bliss.  5 days in a row of sleeping in, swimming, reading, playing games with cousins, swimming some more, tubing, fishing, and hanging out with God in stillness and quiet beauty.  (Side note...anyone in this district who is a pastor that is reading this -if you DON'T take the AWM up on staying at the missionary cottage for free, you are nuts!) One of our dear friends (sister, really) came the first night and vacation mode started almost immediately as we kayaked, swam and ate together!  I wasn't ready to come home.



In between all these major steps towards transition there have been those moments that have changed us, also.  Christina and Logan, who have been living with us all summer, moved out and on to Alabama.  Our house has been to quiet and void of baby squeals and Christina jokes.  Going to Walmart is not nearly as fun.  And all our late night talks are deeply missed.  God blessed us with that season of months together with this young woman that is more family than anything else.  It was another goodbye that hurt.

We had a late night prayer walk at the cafe, missed our dear friend who was in Uganda for a few weeks, I had a birthday and got my nose pierced! (Something I have wanted to do since college when I saw one of the coolest people I had ever met at that point had one!)  harvested garden goodies, babysat for a friend, and just did life.


We called on you all to pray for us this week, and have been humbled by the numbers of you that are!  I will write more about that after the week is over and let you know how God is using your prayers!

Tonight we have our welcome back picnic at the Troy church.  There will be music, food, games, fun, laughter - and hopefully more than a few new faces!  It is my last big "hurrah" as far as planning things in Troy.  It will be a long day, but a fun one. And I will keep packing up the house into piles of "keep", "save", "Africa??", and "What-in-the-world-do-we-do-with-this?"  Thanks, God.  It's an amazing ride.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

the kiddos

In our journey to South Sudan we have had a lot of people ask us questions of all sorts - and we love to answer them.  Even those questions that we have answered a thousand times are fun to answer because it means we get to keep talking about the love that we have for the country and the people, and the excitement we feel about going there.  However there has been one question (or comment) people ask that we find ourselves answering in different ways depending on how we are feeling that day.  That has to do with our kids and the implication that we are may not be doing the best thing for them.  This is hard for any of us that are parents, as we question and re-question our actions each day.  I believe God has called us a family and did not give our kids to us by accident.   However, the added factors of going to a third world country still recovering from war, a place in the world that continues to teeter in instability - this "ups the ante".
I have avoided writing this blog because I have not wanted to offend anyone or have to answer other questions it may bring up.  However, I recently decided it was time to write it -with fear and trembling, since we are still working through these things.

I'm not going to lie - I think about it.  They are my kids, for goodness sake.  I would do anything in my power to keep them safe and healthy and loved on.  So how does one reconcile taking them away from home and family, going to a place that has basically only known war and famine, and continuing on in our life that does not include white picket fences and a childhood home where there are decades of memories?  I know God has called us.  I know he has called us at this time, which means he has also called our kids.  But putting my mother's heart to rest about these things is easier said than done.  

I feel like as I have worked through some of these things and prayed about them, God has been formulating answers in my mind and heart.  Yet trying to put those answers in words were about as easy as trying to give a tangible expression about who He is!  The answers he was giving me were more about expressions of peace and feelings of assurance of his love for all of us.  There were thoughts and phrases going around in my mind, but none that I could put into words that made any sense. I read books and blogs about missionary kids and spoke to friends who are missionaries and their kids.  But the truth of it is that God's plan for me and his plan for our family (which includes all four kids right now) is unique and perfect and he is carrying it out.  Within the family structure, he also has a plan for each of us as individuals.  Watching that unfold in my kids life is amazing and terrifying and awesome all in the same breath.

So I started asking myself another question.  What is it that I want for my kids?  Of course I want the things I mentioned above - health, happiness, contentment, love, safety.  But more than that - more than anything - I want them to know God.  REALLY know him.  In this "line of work" I see too many people who settle for less because God is simply a part of their life, and not their whole life.  I want my kids to eat, sleep, and breath the Holy Spirit and his love.  I want passion and intimacy in their relationships with him that makes me jealous for a deeper relationship too.  I want them to truly experience him in fullness.  But that usually does not happen in a "perfect" world.  If I am trying too hard to protect and shelter, I could actually be making it harder for them to see and know God.  Of course I would not do anything overtly stupid or allow them to be hurt intentionally.  But how can they know the real meaning of in our weakness He is made perfect if they don't experience their weaknesses?  How can they experience the closeness of God in that comes in brokenness if they are never broken themselves?  I've been through some brokenness...I know the sweetness of coming through that with Him.  I desire that for them.

And I want my kids to know and understand that they are so, so, so important to me.  They are my priority. I adore them.  But they are not the only people in this world.  I want their eyes open to the fact that if they did not get the birthday gift they wanted, the world does not end and it does not mean they are less loved.  When we were in Africa last time I watched as my kids went from protecting the few toys they had with them (a natural reaction we all have) to giving away the very shoes on their feet (or earrings from her ears!)  They realized that we may be sick of Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but it is nutritious and filling while others are living on rice alone.  Simple, easy things to see that are not so easy to live out.

A book I am reading called, "Parenting Beyond Your Capacity" says this in it:  "The mission of your family is not to ultimately protect your kids but to mobilize them to demonstrate God's love to a broken world."  I desire this more than anything for my kids. For them to know God's love and intimacy and power in their own brokenness and then overflow that into a world that is hurting and needing more than it understands.

So, am I scared?  You bet!  God is not a tame God!  My favorite quote from the Narnia series is by Mr. Beaver, "'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver; 'don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.'"  I want my kids to know just how good he is and that they can rest and live in that.   I am also sure of this  - that He who began a good work in John, Anna, Andrew, and RJ will continue it in them until it is complete.  That he has plans for each and every one of them and they are good plans with a purpose and hope.