Sunday, December 5, 2010

Not quite an earthquake, but definitely a shock!

It's kind of funny, sometimes, how things work out. No matter how much we think we are planning our own lives and determining how things will work out, somehow God always has a way of showing us that we only think we are in control of things. I'm not saying that planning isn't good, we've been doing a lot of that ourselves lately. I am learning, though, on a case by case basis that I need to have a lot more trust in the truths God has shared with us about how he will meet our needs and provide on a daily basis. I'm learning to be more flexible, so that I can fit in easier into the plans that He has for us. This is way easier to say than do, especially when we find ourselves in the middle of a 'lesson'.

As many of you know, Jon and I have committed our family to serve in the mission field, specifically Honduras, for the next 3-5 years. We had planned on moving around May 26, 2011. We thought this timing was perfect--we would be here for the whole school year, but then get to Honduras just in time to be involved with the groups who would come work with our mission during the summer. We thought our timing was perfect.

Then we got a surprise! A shock. Our own personal earthquake. On Friday, September 17th, I got a A++ on 3 different pregnancy tests, and a November visit to the doctor confirmed that we are officially expecting our 3rd child on May 25th. The day before we were supposed to move. Wow!

Talk about mixed emotions! I'm going to be real here, because sugarcoating it and saying that immediately I thought this was GREAT news would be a bold-faced lie! This has to qualify close to the top of the list for "Gut-wrenching change of plans" of my life. Those first few weeks were really a roller coaster for me. Kind of excited about a new baby, but really confused and upset about the timing. Upset that this would drastically change the role I would be able to play in the mission field--going from 2 big kids to 2 big kids and a newborn. Upset about facing the choice of either moving much earlier than we had planned, or several months later. Embarrassed that people might think we were irresponsible in 'letting this happen', especially with all the other plans we'd been making. Then, I was upset and feeling terribly guilty about feeling upset about being pregnant. What kind of mother am I, anyways? What kind of mother feels upset about learning that there is a gift from God growing inside her at that very moment? It was an experience I've never felt before.

It actually took me about 4-6 weeks to get to the point that I felt I could even tell my closest friends. Jon was so irritated with me--he wanted to tell right away. I couldn't, though. I wanted to wait to see if I could arrive at the point of being excited about this baby...I hated the thought of telling people that we were expecting but being so sad and upset about it that our friends walked away with the feeling that it was 'bad news'. I had to wait until it really was 'good news' to me!

Over the course of several weeks I came to my senses. I was able to become excited about this new baby...excited about the plans God had in store for this precious little surprise he has gifted us with!

When we told the kids they became ECSTATIC! They started talking about how much fun it would be to have a little baby in the house. They talked about how much they could help and what they would help me do. Lawson said he could feed the baby and Jordan said she could put the baby to sleep. Lawson said he wanted a brother, and Jordan said she wanted a sister.

The first thing Lawson said was, "Well, if we are going to have a baby, we'll have to think of a name to call it!" I said, "Yes, we will!" Lawson said, "If the baby is a girl, I think a perfect name will be Josie, like on that show 19 Kids and Counting, where they say, '...and our latest, tiny, precious addition, Josie...'. If it's a boy, we can name him, um, James." (I couldn't believe he quoted the line from when that show comes on!) I told him, "That sounds nice, but Lawson, your middle name is James." He said, "It's okay. I don't use it very much. The baby can have it too!"

As we've told people the news, God has really used our friends to encourage us and to build us up. We have had nothing but positive reactions and encouraging comments. It really was an answer to my prayers, especially since I was so discouraged at first.

Jon and I are thrilled to announce that we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of this very special 3rd Stacy baby. One day, I wonder how this baby may feel if he/she looks back and sees how I felt when I learned the news. I hope that I will be able to encourage him/her with knowing that he/she was a big part of some lessons God was teaching us at the time. I know that this baby will be a blessing to me, and to our whole family, and I am excited about getting to witness the experience my kids will have of having a little baby brother or sister around. I am definitely sure...this baby is Great news!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it's what's in the middle that counts. So, when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will. --Birdee Pruitt (Sandra Bullock) Hope Floats

The ironic thing about this statement is that oftentimes you must encounter the beginnings and the endings at the same time, and for people like me, that can turn into a pretty e
motional predicament.

For the past hour and a half, I have been laying in bed trying to fall asleep, but my thoughts won't allow me to stop crying. Every time I think I'm done, I look at my kids' doors or think of any of a million different memories that are running through my head and the waterworks start again. I wouldn't consider myself an overly emotional person, but when it hits me, it hits hard!

You see, tonight is our last night to spend the night in our home. Tomorrow we will load our furniture into a U-haul and drive a few miles away to unload, and tomorrow we will spend our first night in our rental house. I wasn't expecting to be so overcome with emotion and memories, but I can't stop thinking about all the things over the last 4 years that have helped to shape our family into who we are today. When we moved into this house almost four years ago, Jordan was only 4 months old. Lawson had just turned 2.
With the privilege of staying home with them, I have had the joy of seeing every growth and change they have experienced.

Jordan ate her first food here and said her first words here and took her first steps here. Lawson 'helped' his daddy and me as we stripped wallpaper and knocked out walls. We have changed almost every square inch of wall in this house. We've done papers at this house. We've oooh'ed and aaahh'ed at our Christmas decorations. We've read countless stories and played countless games. We've danced to the iPod and sung silly songs. We've played in the yard and raked billions of pine needles. We've learned letters and numbers and colors and shapes. Lawson started Kindergarten and is learning how to read.

Pretty much, what any family does in their home, I guess--nothing special. And the reason we're moving is an exciting one. We're only going to be in this rental house for a few months because it is our transition home before we move to Honduras next year. Our whole family is excited about that.

Tonight, though, I find myself torn between the emotions that Birdee expressed in Hope Floats. Tonight, I am sad that our wonderful time of making memories in this house will end. I am sad because I feel like we are leaving our home. Tonight I am also scared. Tomorrow is scary because it is our first permanent change that shows we have committed our family to service in the mission field. In my mind, this is the beginning of our transition to the new place that will become our family's home. Very soon, I trust that my excitement will return. for right now though, I will allow myself to just feel the reality that we have put ourselves into a situation that is perhaps a bit uncertain. And I realize that uncertainty is sometimes just a little bit scary.

The best part of this, though, is that part about hope. God gave us our emotions, and feeling them is a good, natural thing. He also gave us something else, though, that allows our souls to remain centered and stable and at peace no matter what our mind may be thinking at any given moment. I may be feeling a little bit sad, but my God has given me a joy that can overcome any sadness. He gave me a power than can overcome any fear. He gave me a peace that can withstand any storm.

It's okay to spend some time looking back and reflecting, but I also must boldly move forward, in faith, to the new places he is sending us. I'm ready. Let's do this.


A walk down memory lane...

Stripping wallpaper-December 2006
Jordan helping Mommy cook in the new house--Feb 2007 Lawson and Jordan--Christmas 2006
Growing right up--May 2007
"At the office"--October 2008
My, how they've grown! --October 2010
Last night in the place we've called home for the past 4 years--November 5, 2010

Sweet dreams babies!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flash from the past...

The other day I was looking back through my other blog and reading some old memories when I happened to find this post from July 31, 2008. That was almost 2 1/2 years ago, and when I read it I instantly remembered that day and the thoughts I was having. I remember wanting to write it down so that I could remember later.

I am so glad I did, because on this day I can so easily look back and see how God was planting seeds in our hearts so that he could nurture them and provide a way to bring that desire to fruition. Kinda crazy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Telling the Teens

A few nights ago Jon and I went before the youth group to let them know about our plans to move. This was something that was as difficult as it was exciting. This is our 6th year to be involved in our church's youth group. We LOVE hanging out with the teens, going on retreats, worshiping with them, texting and Facebook-ing them--we just love being with them as they do the things they do. We have grown such close relationships with many of them, and we will truly miss this ministry that we have become part of.

It was really neat when we first told our youth ministry team about moving. They were super supportive and very excited to hear all of the plans that were already in action. They wanted us to tell the teens ourselves, and they realized that in only a few weeks they had scheduled a mini-series about Missions and reaching out to the world. They had already scheduled the first 3 weeks' speakers and invited us to share our story on the fourth week, commenting how it might be very touching to them, especially since they know us so well. Following God's call isn't something that only a select few are qualified to do. In fact, that would be one of our main messages to them that night--something one of Jon's Harding professors had told him: "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." They know that we are just regular people and that there is nothing special about us. What makes this special is that we are just trying to work where we see a need in the Kingdom.

On September 1, the night to tell had arrived. I had become pretty nervous in the stomach before we actually walked up to the front--I just wasn't sure what the reaction would be. To open the lesson, I had prepared this video full of funny photos of Jon and myself throughout our lives, trying to tell our story in a light-hearted way.

video

It worked--we definitely got a lot of laughs at the beginning, but towards the end I noticed that some of the girls were getting a little bit teary as they started to realize where the message was leading.

Next, Jon started with the lesson he had prepared. We didn't want our time in front of them to be all about us and what we were planning on doing, but rather to be about how we wanted them to have the courage to step out and follow when they felt God calling them to be a part of His big plan. Jon shared the Francis Chan quote that I blogged about here in August, "But God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."

How if we ignore the parts of the Bible that make us uncomfortable, or the parts that we don't think apply to us, we are really missing out on the mission that God has for each one of us. What if we looked outside the walls of our churches, past the nice houses in our neighborhoods, beyond where we are actually present at? Would we see a calling that God has for us? If we did, would we have enough faith to step out and pursue that calling?

Sometimes that can seem pretty scary. It can be easy to let fear hold us back, but we are promised that God is with us wherever we go. He will give us what we need, and if we commit our plans to him they will succeed.

I love to share how I have seen God work in my personal life and Jon shared a little bit of it with the teens that night. I had the desire to work in the mission field all through college, and had planned on doing that even after graduation. I also had the desire to marry and have a family too, though. When I met Jon, I felt like I had to choose one or the other. I love the family that I have, but also had begun to look back and wonder what would have happened had I chosen not to marry. I feel like I have been so blessed with a great family and a godly husband who shares the same desire that I do to serve God in the Kingdom. I feel like my cup is overflowing because it turns out that I really didn't have to choose from those two things--God has blessed me with both. Jon shared this verse that means so much to me, personally, because of this:
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
--Psalm 37:4
I firmly believe that God 'working all of this out' is that he wants to show us how much he can bless our good intentions. We truly want to serve Him, and even though we don't always get it 'right' he still blesses our efforts, and that can be so encouraging.

To wrap up, he shared this verse that has meant so much to me personally since I came across it in high school. I read it to several friends back then, and couldn't understand why they weren't as excited about it as I was. To me, it's a verse that shows just how much God wants to bless our efforts, and I just love it:
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
--Malachi 3:10
Malachi the prophet records God talking to his people about offering up their tithes to God, and in return he will bless them. The principle of a tithe is for people to relinquish control of a small portion of what they have as a sacrifice to God, and here God is begging his people to trust him. If he give him what we have, he can make so much more out of it that we could have ever imagined!

We have decided to answer God's call and test his promises to be faithful to us. We don't have much to offer, but we will do whatever we can to spread the Good News to the people of Honduras. We are just ordinary people. There's nothing special about us, and this story isn't even really about us. We haven't done anything to make any of this happen. This is just the story that we are letting God write.

A couple weeks ago I was sharing our plans with someone and she said, "What makes you think you and Jon can do that? What makes you think you are qualified?

How do you answer that?

So I said, "Well, I'm not exactly sure why we can do that. But I also see no reason why we can't."

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

We encourage everyone to listen for God's voice in your daily life. Listen for his calling. If you are a believer, then he has work for you to do. You may not be able to move somewhere far away right now. Some of you reading may not even be old enough to drive or able to afford a car! But I bet there's someone at your church or school who could really use a friend right now. I bet there are people who don't know the reason for the hope you have. There are people everywhere who need for someone to reach them.

When you don't know the right thing to do or exactly the thing that God wants you to do, don't let fear or shame or anything else stop you. Be bold. Step out in faithful action. He will bless your efforts. He will bless your faithfulness.

At the end of class, one of the youth ministers came up and prayed over us and our family and the plans that we were making. Then someone started leading "What the Lord Has Done in Me" and the whole youth group surrounded us up front. The lights were off and the singing was beautiful. It gave me chills and it brought tears to my eyes and my heart swelled. It took my ability to sing away, and I could only listen, but it blessed me immensely. I can remember it so vividly, and I hope I always will be able to. It is one of my favorite, most touching memories. Ever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Carrying Mats

I recently got a new Bible. This was a huge decision for me, as I had grown to love my old used, worn, highlighted, marked-up Bible. There were so many notes and comments from teachers, preachers and mentors that I have known and respected throughout my life. When “the seas parted” and Genesis 1-7 were completely broken away from the rest of the Scriptures, and when Ephesians 1-5 were no longer permanently attached I thought I might be nearing the end of that Bible’s daily use, but when the binding broke out and nothing was attached to the outside cover anymore I knew I had to break down and purchase a new sword.

I had decided that I wanted to have my notes and underlinings handy, so I sat down for several evenings and transferred all of the markings from my old into my new.

I loved this for so many reasons—one of which was that it helps bring back the comfort of knowing where some of my favorite passages are located, but another was just the benefit of reading through and remembering all of the lessons and comments that have meant so much to me.

I noticed one of my notes was by Mark 2, and I just loved reading over it, especially since I felt that the concept fit so perfectly in my life last week. So do you think I was shocked when Sunday night at Fall Family Worship that the lesson was on the exact text that I had already been meditating on? No, of course I wasn’t, because that is how God has been doing lots of things in my life lately. I guess he knows that I might not catch on if He tells me once, but once He finds lots of ways to tell me over and over and over I start to get the hang of it and take notice!!

The story in Mark 2 is about when Jesus came into Capernaum and began to speak in a home. Four men wanted their paralyzed friend to come to and see Jesus so badly that when they couldn’t go through the door they went up onto the roof, dug open a hole, and lowered their friend down into the house. Jesus saw their faith told the man that his sins were forgiven. Jesus knew that some men were wondering in their hearts who this man, this Jesus, thought he was, forgiving sins and all. And just to show them the authority and the power that he had, he turned and told the paralytic that he was healed and to pick up his mat and go home.

Next to Mark 2 in my Bible I have written these notes from a lesson I heard:

*Faith*

paralyzed physically and spiritually

Who has carried you on their stretcher?

Who have I carried?

This story is amazing because it shows such a sense of community. That man’s friends knew he needed to see Jesus. On his own accord, his physical conditions would have kept him away, but in faith his friends overcame that physical obstacle and brought him to Jesus. While we may not be paralyzed physically, how often do we become paralyzed spiritually? Overwhelmed by our circumstances. Attacked by the evil one. Weary. Distant. Hurt. Scarred. Unsure of how to even move on. Sometimes we even know that we need to find our way back, that we need to find Jesus again, but we just aren’t sure where he’s at, how to get there, or if we’ve got it in us to make the journey. Paralyzed.

That’s where the family that God has given us comes in. We are supposed to be that support for people. We are supposed to be so involved in other people’s lives that we know that they are struggling; know when they need help getting back. And as brothers and sisters, we are to pick them up on their mat and take them into the presence of Jesus. It sounds flowery and beautiful written out, but practiced it takes a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of prayer. A lot of love. It's quite a responsibility, if you think about it. Sometimes getting involved in other people's lives can get pretty messy.

I know in my life there have been many who have carried me on my mat. There have been times that I have been so hurt, so lonely, so lost… The troubles of this world can seem to crush in all around, and knowing that there are friends and family who will pray to the Father on my behalf is amazing. At Fall Family Worship this week, David Skidmore talked about this same story and stressed the importance of having friends who would bring them closer to Jesus, especially during difficult times. He asked them, “Who’s your four?”

I am so thankful for the friendships that God has blessed me with throughout my life. I feel so blessed to have had strong, mature mentors to guide me and friends to encourage and strengthen me along my journey. Friends that I could shoot a quick "My family is being attacked and we need extra prayers this week" email and I got responses back within minutes assuring that they 'had our backs'.

I hope and pray that I have been that kind of friend to others too, but I fear that without having consciously made the effort that there are so many opportunities that I have missed out on. I can only say that from here on out I am resolved to ‘carrying the mats’ of my friends who need help getting closer to Jesus, because if I can’t do that then nothing else I do matters much.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Career vs Calling

Jon has been reading the book The Hole in our Gospel for the last few weeks, and he has shared some of the striking quotes and concepts that Richard Stearns presents in the text. Stearns’ story is actually quite amazing—he was a very successful business man, but left all of the prestige and luxury that came along with that when he began to feel a calling from God to minister to the children of the world. He went to work with World Vision and he and his family have been making an impact in the name of Jesus since then.

One of the things Jon read to me was this:

American society does not talk much about ‘calling’ anymore. It is more likely to think in terms of career. Yet for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives.
A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god.
A career is something I choose for myself; a calling is something I receive.
A career is something I do for myself; a calling is something I do for God.
A career promises status, money or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering—and the opportunity to be used by God.

For many years, Jon and I have focused mainly on career. Well, really we have focused on money. Everything we did seemed to be focused on our financial situation, no matter how fast it seemed we made our wheels spin. We have found ourselves drowning in student loan debt and credit card debt, which became an even bigger ‘god’ in our lives when Jon would lose jobs or be laid off. Even when he is working full-time or extra-full-time, there just seemed to be no satisfaction or joy in the work he spent almost all of his waking hours doing.

The rat race of Jon going into a job that has no eternal worth or value, being gone from our family for 8-15 hours a day and being exhausted and drained had really stated to wear on our family. It seems a little crazy, then, when we say that we are leaving that behind for something that may be even a little bit tougher?

Being in another country will for sure bring its challenges. The distance from our loved ones, the culture adaptations and the language barriers will definitely add to the list of challenges that being a godly family already brings. However, we really believe that God is calling us to this work, so as faithful servants we must answer his call. We trust that his divine power will give us everything we need for life and godliness and that when he works through us he is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, and if we commit our plans to the Lord they will succeed. That’s only a few of the promises we are leaning on, there are so many more!

Following a calling, I believe, doesn’t really have much to do with our status here on Earth. I am pretty sure that we will never be financially ‘rich’. We are never going to have the nicest things or the fastest cars. It’s not about that. I have heard, though, that up in heaven there is a 'bank' where we can store up treasures, and that is where we are choosing to make our deposits!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the world is....

Santa Rosa de Copán?

Here is a map of Honduras to show where we will be working. Santa Rosa de Copán is in Western Honduras, and is in purple lettering. It is 6 driving hours from Tegucigalpa (the capital) and about 2 1/2 driving hours from San Pedro Sula, which has the nearest airport.

Santa Rosa de Copán is the capital of the department (like big counties) of Copán. It is not as modern as Tegucigalpa, but has an urban feel and many of the amenities of a larger city.

Many of you know that Jon and I have also been involved in the groups that go to Mission Lazarus, and have wondered if our full-time mission work is going to be with them. Mission Lazarus is in Southern Honduras, about 45 minutes east of Choluteca. We may spend some time visiting with them, but will be working primarily in the Western region.

In June 2009, Phil and Donna Waldron established Mission UpReach, which is a work focused on spreading the Word to and helping the people in Western Honduras. This is the mission that we will be involved with during our time abroad. There will be more about the Waldrons and Mission UpReach in the future!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breaking the news

I have to admit that I don't really know exactly the reaction that I was expecting from people when we told them about our plans. I maybe thought I would have to give more defense. Or maybe feel like I needed to be a little apologetic. Or maybe people wouldn't understand. Or share our excitement. Or maybe think we were crazy? I'm not exactly sure...

I only know that whatever I was expecting is not what we have gotten. Almost every person that we have told has reacted with excitement, positive encouragement and joy. We've had people shed tears full of emotion with us. Our friends and family have been a source of ideas and refreshing encouragement. They have blessed the choices we are making. They have told us they can picture us doing this and that it's a good match for us.

It really has been uplifting to me to experience the "building-up" that others can provide. Sometimes in the 'busy-ness' of life there's no time to build up doubt or fear or insecurities, but when things are calm sometimes Satan's voice begins to speak about things we 'shouldn't' do, or things we 'can't' do...I believe the words of hope and of confidence and power that God has for me so that I can hide myself away from the evil one. In addition, I am so thankful for the body that He has provided us through the church and all of the ways that we can encourage, help, support and build each other up.

I have faith that God is leading us in this journey, and I know that He is the one I am to listen to and follow. I am thankful for his Word which gives me hope and confidence that He is who He says He is, and that He will do what He has said He will do!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Old School?

I am a product of several education systems. My mom stayed home with my brother and me and pre-schooled us up until it was time for us to go to Kindergarten. I spent grades K-3 in a private elementary school, and then grades 4-12 in our (very good) public school system. I then spent 5 years studying in a Christian university. (this one!) I loved school, honestly. I didn't like all the drama of (middle and high) school, but I loved getting good grades. I loved hanging out with my friends. I loved going to activities like dances and pep rallies and field trips and sports events. I loved school.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would question our cultural norm of sending my kids to school. It is so socially accepted that it must be THE right thing to do, right? I assumed so...until I had my own children, that is.

When I had Lawson, Jon and I agreed that I would stay home with him. Naturally, when Jordan came along Lawson and I just had another playmate at home. I'm not gonna lie, there are days when I feel like I am going crazy. There are days that I want to pull my hair out then go lay in my bed (where it's quiet) all day! But those days are infrequent and, for the most part, spending every day of my babies' lives with them has been one of life's biggest blessings for me.

I cannot even describe the feeling I have because I am privileged to see them grow and develop. I love to see their eyes light up when they discover something new or understand something they have been trying to learn. I love watching them play together and laugh with each other. It truly makes my day.

When Lawson turned 4, I started thinking about the day that he would one day go to Kindergarten. It kind of make me sick to my stomach! I hated the thought that he would (in less than 2 years) be spending the majority of his time with someone I didn't even know. Someone who could be the most fabulous teacher ever...or...someone who was waiting around for retirement. Someone who might like my child...or...not like my child, and definitely could not love my child the way Jon and I do. But definitely someone who would then have more time with, and also more influence on, my children.

At age 4 Lawson knew all his letters and numbers, colors; he could count and start telling me sounds. He loved to sing and knew Bible stories. He had tons of friends at church, and played with them just fine. He was already smart. For the first time ever, I began to think about keeping my kids home from school and home-schooling them. I mean, up until then, they had already been home-schooled, right? And of course, true to form with me, the doubt then started creeping in.

In our society, it seems that almost as soon as someone has a baby, they are immediately looking for some sort of daycare of mother's morning out or preschool, and inquiring about at what age they can start taking their child there. To put them in "school." To have a break. To get some of their "me" time back. So they can go to the grocery store alone. And even if parents don't utilize a preschool program, most moms long for the day their kids go to school.

I just never felt those things. Yes, there are days that I want a break, but Jon has always been so great about giving me chances to get out, and then he gets time to be with the kids too! I really feel that God has given these children to us to raise up in Him, and handing a 5-year-old over to a school system to raise just doesn't seem right to me.

Anyways, for the past 2 years, I have been in a mental battle trying to decide what the right schooling choice for our family would be. I didn't really want to home-school, but every time I tried to justify just sending him to school I couldn't. If I kept him home with me, would he feel like he was "missing out" on what the other kids do? Would I be cheating him out of something? I have been mulling over this for two years, without giving any thought to correlating it to our journey to the mission field. In fact, at that time we had only just begun to talk about talking about missions.

This summer was the time to make the decision. Time for Kindergarten. I had to choose between what I "wanted" to do, and what my heart just kept insisting was the right thing for our family to do. We chose to home-school. So far it is going great! Lawson and Jordan are both loving their schoolwork. We have been on a couple field trips with our home-school group. Our family schedule hasn't been disrupted.

Looking back, I can see how this whole thing was another way God was preparing me for the journey we are about to go on. While we are in Honduras, I will be home-schooling the kids so that when we return to the US they will still be on pace academically. Why not take this last year before we go to spend our time doing things we love to do as a family and not living the crazy schedule that is the life of "school"?

By now you are probably thinking, "When is she going to start learning the "Trust God" lesson? I'm working on, I tell you! For now, this is just one more thing for me to scribble in the "If you do what God's telling you to do, He will work things out for you" column!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Uncomfortable

"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."

I have never read one of Francis Chan's books, but it seems like everyone else in the world has. I recently read this quote on a friend's blog, and it struck me. It has been rolling around in my head causing me to think. A lot.

I so agree with this statement, but I am also so afraid of the implications of agreeing with this statement. How, as a human being, do you get to the point that you can physically and mentally be 'unafraid' of being in uncomfortable situations? Situations where we have relinquished all control.

But in 'real' life, though, what do we really have control over? Is control just an illusion before us? Maybe the 'unafraid-ness' comes from just realizing or admitting that we never really had control over anything in the first place. When we come to that conclusion can we find a peace in letting go of all the stress and worry that goes along with trying to control it all.

I am resolved now to make a concerted effort to move forward in faith. Uncomfortable. Unafraid. Trusting Him Completely.

And I know He will come through.

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:4

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him... Psalm 37:7a

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stacy and Jon's Excellent Adventure

As I have mentioned before, Jon and I wanted to go visit the Waldron family to get a feel for what their mission work was all about. We were amazed that the weekend at the end of our Mayfair trip was the only weekend they were available for the next several months! We extended our trip, and on Friday, June 4th we began our 'Excellent Adventure.'

We drove with our group to the airport and saw them off, but instead of going into the airport with them we turned right back around and re-rented our pick-up truck that we had already had all week. Federico, the manager of Friendship Car Rental in Tegucigalpa was so kind and helpful to us, as well as Cameron from Mission Lazarus. They both helped us make sure we had our rental, an accurate (well, mostly) map to follow and all the information we needed to make a 6-hour-one-way trip into Western Honduras all by ourselves.

It was a mixture of emotions flowing around in my head as we watched our group walk off. On one hand I felt a little bit nervous that we were now on this journey alone. We didn't have the security of the whole group around us. On the other hand, I was SO excited that we were embarking on this journey together. I mean, how often do two people who are kind-of stuck in the early 30s, 2 small kids, drowning in our bills RUT get to spend 5 days driving through beautiful countryside, learning from seasoned, wise missionaries, and working and worshiping with brethren in a foreign country? And on top of the excitement of all that, knowing the plans that were brewing and the reasons for this survey trip made the feeling of elation almost too much for me to contain!

Our trip started out relatively smooth. There was some construction traffic to drive through, and the heat was oppressive but Jon and I were passing the time by looking at the breath-taking landscapes and by having great conversation. We had gotten directions from Donna, and were on our way. We stopped at Burger King before we got too rural to get food safe for our innocent North-American stomachs, then headed on, following the directions we had been given.

We thought everything was fine, Donna had said the road was steep and very curvy. We would pass through a few small villages, but it was very remote. We thought we were going the right way. On the map (that was mostly right) it looked like we were on a legitimate road that went to where we were going. We came into a small town--a super cute, quaint town that looked like time had forgotten it about 50 years ago--and kept driving until the main (key word-paved) road we were on ended and continued in a rustic, gravel form! I thought, "Surely, if this had been the case, Donna would have warned me!" So, we looked for someone to ask directions of--preferably someone who looked like they may have gone somewhere in a car before. We found an older man strolling the street so Jon pulled over, I rolled down my window and started talking:

Buenas tardes! No somos de aqui, y estamos buscando la ciudad de Santa Rosa de Copan. Usted sabe como llegar a esa ciudad? (Good afternoon! We aren't from here and we are looking for the city of Santa Rosa de Copan. Do you know how to get to that city?)

And his answer was this (with a friendly, yet amused smirk on his face):

Santa Rosa de Copan? Estan PERDIDOS!! (Santa Rosa de Copan? You're LOST!!)

He gave us directions, but I didn't believe him because they didn't match up with what Donna told me. Thank goodness that after driving around that town for what seemed like forever we found the one spot that my cell got signal (at a shocking international rate, I might add!) We got in touch with Donna, and when we told her we were lost she promptly gave the phone to Phil, who promptly realized she forgot to tell us about a right turn before the left turn that took us up the remote mountain where the road ended!!

In the end, we got to take the hour-and-a-half-longer scenic route, seeing a beautifully picturesque little town, a herd of cattle walking up the mountain taking up both lanes of the paved road, cowboys trotting on their horses, and a lovely banana plantation. And we have an awesome tangent to the story! :)

We ended up arriving in Santa Rosa just in time to have dinner then head out with Phil, Donna, and their 2 youngest children who live there with them, Harrison and Laura. Friday nights are when their small groups meet and they invited us to come with them. We told them that we were there to see that their life was like, so whatever they did we were going to do too!

Small group was great--there was singing and Bible study, then snacks and a good time of visiting. I spent most of the study time trying to paraphrase the ideas quickly so Jon would know what they were talking about, and most of the visiting time talking with a teenage girl who wanted to practice her English with me!

Saturday morning we helped all of the team members who met to clean out the new church building. Only the week before they had rented a new building because the church had outgrown their previous facility, and it desperately needed to be swept, mopped and just plain cleaned. We spent 4-5 hours clearing out the construction debris, sweeping and mopping, cleaning windows, setting up the chairs/benches for worship and working on the sound system for the next day. It was hot and we did a lot of work, but it was a great feeling to only be there for such a short time but still get involved in the work of the church and get to visit with some of the brothers and sisters there.

We were so thankful for a chance to have some rest Saturday afternoon; we were treated to a delicious lunch, got to check our email and Facebook, and get a short nap in too! Saturday evening the Waldrons had planned for us to have dinner and dessert with all the Mission UpReach team members. This was a great, informal time to just start to get to know these men and their wives, and also for them to get to know a little bit about us too.

Sunday morning Jon and Phil went to run some errands while Donna, Harrison, Laura and I went to the market. I don't really know how to describe the market--I guess that it matched the stereotypical market I have in my head, but there were some things about it that I had never even pictured. I was surprised, though, because I was expecting it to smell very foul and it didn't; I suppose because it was an open-air market and not enclosed in a building. Donna has begun to make several acquaintances at the market, and she searches them out first. If they have what she needs she buys from them because they treat her fairly and honestly. She bought potatoes, onions, carrots, strawberries, and some little fruits that we called snot-balls because we can't remember their real names.

Sunday evening we had worship and it was fabulous. Great attendance, great singing and a good strong message. It sounded like the children's classes went well and I think their first official meeting in their new building was a great success.

Mixed in all of this activity we had time to sit and talk with Phil and Donna about all the different aspects of their work. They told us about their experiences in Mexico and Honduras, and some of the things we could expect when moving our family to a new country. We talked about what Mission UpReach is doing right now, what they want to be doing in the future, and what role Jon and I might be able to play in that vision. They talked to us about the financial side of things and helped us get ideas of how we would address that issue.

Monday morning we stopped in at the Mission UpReach office to see where all their work and planning goes on. We sat in on the first part of one of their team meetings so we could see how a typical morning might go. It was time for us to go, but before we left they prayed over us, our family, our travels, and our decision to return to live in Santa Rosa to work with them in spreading the gospel to their region. Then we thanked them for being so welcoming and gracious to us and we headed back to the capital.

I must say that our visit was so encouraging and uplifting. Jon and I both left feeling such excitement and anticipation for everything that lies ahead of us on this road! The brothers and sisters that we met in Santa Rosa all personally came up to us and expressed how much they would love for us to come be a part of the work that is going on there. They told us that they were praying for us, that we would one day return with our family to live and work with them there. And to think that we had been concerned that we would be led to a place that wasn't receptive or welcoming to us if we came to spread the gospel. I am ashamed of what I was expecting, because I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and love that was shown on us by people who hardly even know us!

How many times is God going to have to show me that He's got our back? Well, how many times is it going to take before I totally believe him before I see the end result? I'm learning...I'm learning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How do you know...

where to go?

I am a person that can cause my husband (and possibly others) extreme frustration when it comes to making choices or decisions. I labor over even the smallest choices, stressing myself out trying to decide if I have made a good choice or a bad choice when, really, much of the time the choice I made really has no lasting consequences at all. Where to eat a meal out, for example. Whether or not to go up and talk to someone. What to wear to a particular event. What to make for dessert, or what meal to take to someone in need. Silly, really, even as I look back at those myself!

But what do you do when you are trying to make a big decision? One that really does, in fact, matter? Big decisions can keep me up at night. I confess this--I know that I should not be anxious for anything, and make my requests known to God, but even after lifting it up in prayer I spend too much time still mulling it all over in my head. I don't know why I do this, because He has shown me so many times that He's taking care of the stuff I give Him. I wish it was easier for me to just let it go. Gone. Like a balloon loose on a windy day. Like a flame on a muffed candle. Like, well, any dessert left at my house! :)

When Jon and I started seriously trying to put a plan together to move to Honduras, we tried to discuss exactly where in Honduras we should go. I mean, you can't really just blindfold yourself, wiggle your finger around in front of a map, pin-point a spot and say, "There. That's where we're going." What do you do then? Just show up, put on a big smile, throw out your arms and say, "Here we are!! Ta-da, WE are YOUR missionaries!!!" Not so sure that would work out...I mean, they might not even want missionaries.

So how would we find our place? We had only a few guiding factors for our decision. One, we felt like we were being led to Honduras. Two, we felt that we should go somewhere and assist an existing mission instead of two complete rookies trying to build something from scratch. Three, it was important to us (especially me) to be somewhere that we would have a singular church home. That is, while we would be involved in an evangelistic mission spreading the Word and planting churches throughout a region, that we would be active members in one specific congregation. We feel very strongly that this is essential for our own spiritual growth, as well as developing a sense of security and relationship for us and our kids. Fourth, we were hopeful that we would be able to work with someone who could mentor us during the time that we are so far away from home. We strongly desire guidance and mentoring in regards to our mission, as well as to helping our marriage and parenting skills to grow stronger during this season as well. We thought it would be especially helpful to have someone who either was raising small children or had raised children in the mission field to advise and encourage us.

We originally had planned on applying to work with Mission Lazarus for a year with the goal of spending that time apprenticing and learning from them, then moving on to another more permanent location. Jarrod and Ali Brown were there, had proven themselves as faithful, hard-working, and successful missionaries, and were raising 2 small children, so we thought it would be a great place to learn the basics of the mission work as well as the culture and language. Jon and I both felt confident that this was a good plan. We were halfway through the extensive application paperwork, though, when we received the email that Jarrod and Ali were re-locating back to the States in May of 2010.

So what now? We could still go to ML to learn Mission Work 101, but there would be no one there with children who could be an encouragement and guide for us as parents. There also wouldn't be the opportunity to worship with one congregation, as the missionaries there move from church to church to encourage all of the members in the region.

As a 'shot in the dark', we emailed the Waldron family. You remember? The ones from Cozumel. The ones we saw at Mission Lazarus in 2009. The ones who had just moved to Honduras and planted a mission just one year ago. We weren't really even sure what to say--just that we were wondering where they were at in their mission, if they had considered ever having others come work with them, if they were even at a point where other workers would even have a role to fill there. At the very least, if there was no opportunity for us to maybe work with them, would they mind doing some mentoring or guiding with us as we were trying to take these steps into uncharted territory as far as we were concerned!

Donna emailed back, with such an encouraging response. She shared that they had been open and prayerful that others would come to work with their mission. From then we maintained an email conversation and tried to find a time for us to come visit and see what they had going on in Western Honduras.

Since we were already going to be in the country for our Mayfair trip, we asked the Waldrons about coming to visit the day that our group was flying back to the States. We were hoping that we could visit for a long weekend, then return early the next week, and I don't consider it a coincidence that the weekend we were able to come was the only weekend they had available until after August. Do you?

I will probably do a more detailed post regarding our visit with the Waldrons and the church family in Santa Rosa de Copan, but for the purposes of this post I just want to express that after our little excursion to Western Honduras that we knew God had answered our questions about where we should go.

I could have never anticipated the warm welcome and the encouragement that the brothers and sisters in Santa Rosa gave to us. After only a few hours of working, visiting and worshiping, we felt welcome, included and wanted.

And that, my friends, is how we knew where we should go. We waited for God to work that all out, then we waited for Him to show us. It appears that this is how this entire journey will go...we must learn to wait in faith because just when we need to know it, he will show us our next step.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A God Thing

As I mentioned in my previous post, my road to missions began in high school. Later, in college, I made 3 trips to Venezuela, and I was pretty sure that I would one day end up serving the Lord there. I became very close to my Spanish professor, Ava Conley, and began to go on many of the trips she organized, including to a Venezuelan preachers conference in Houston and a Thanksgiving 2000 trip to Cozumel, Mexico.

This trip to Cozumel was a great trip for me. While I don't remember all of the details and don't really have any pictures to look at, this trip changed my view of missions. Jon and I had only been dating a few weeks when I left to go on this trip but I had a feeling that he was the one for me. While I was in Cozumel I met Phil and Donna Waldron who were the missionaries there, along with their three young children. This was the first time I had ever observed a family of two American missionaries working in a foreign land with small children, and it changed the way I envisioned missions.

In fact, I came home and told Jon all about them. Their story had a big impact on us, even though I had only spent a week with them and Jon had never met them at all! That spring, Jon and I went on a campaign to Oregon together and learned about some mission points that they supported in China. We talked extensively about this opportunity, and seriously considered going to be a part of that work. We then allowed ourselves to talk ourselves out of it, because of money issues. Ever since then, I think we have both regretted that we were not bold enough in our faith to take the steps necessary to be able to spend time working for God in China. We let fear and inconvenience direct our paths instead of trusting in God with all our heart and leaning on our own understanding.

I was a little bit troubled...I had long had a dream of working for the Lord in Latin America, but I also had dreamed of marrying and having a family since I was a little girl. I felt like I was in a position of choosing one dream and leaving the other behind, and that was very difficult for me. It was so sad to me to think that once I married Jon that I wouldn't be traveling to Latin America anymore. I chose to marry Jon, though, and see where God led us from there.

Well, we stayed put and got married, continuing to live in a selfish, consumeristic lifestyle for the next 7 years. We felt like every action we took and every move we made was to try to better our own financial position or to bring ourselves more personal enjoyment. Not to say that we had fallen away from church--we were still faithful, active members wherever we lived. We had just gotten in a cycle that I believe is typical of many American families, and it's brought on largely by the pressure of our culture. We were too focused on our own lives and that was sapping all of our energy. We felt like we needed an "escape plan" to save us from ourselves.

In the spring of 2009, Jon served on a mission team in Baja, Mexico, and in June we both went on a mission trip to Mission Lazarus in Honduras. We had started bringing up our old dreams again--moving somewhere in Latin America to work with or plant churches--and we took these trips with a 'scouting mind.' We were hoping that God would give us a hint to let us know if one of these places was somewhere that he could use two eager, yet relatively unexperienced, adults who now had two small children who would now be part of our dream as well.

While we were at Mission Lazarus for 8 days, God gave us a hint, for sure. While we were sitting at the ranch in the middle of the jungle in southern Honduras, we encountered the Waldron family. The family from Cozumel. The family that had gotten us talking about a life of mission work nearly 9 years ago. They were there, at the same place as us, the same week as us. We were talking about possibly moving to Honduras as long-term volunteers, and they told us that they had just moved to Honduras that week! I still tear up when I think about it, and can hardly believe how God worked that message out for us.

It's amazing, because it's like God is giving us back that dream that we thought we had left behind all those years ago. While we have been far from perfect, we have tried earnestly to live in the way that He would have us live, and when I read "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart," I can't help but feel like that was written to me!

Since then we have talked on and off about seriously putting together a plan for our relocation. In February Jon told me that this is something that has been on his heart for months. It is something that he can't stop thinking about and he feels that he's been called to this work. I feel that same way, I'm just a little more afraid than he is.

To me, this is not just about two young college grads without a care in the world anymore. We have young children. We have a house and cars to sell. We have family that won't get to see us as much. It's not just a mission trip--we're moving. We have to find a new home. We have to get new vehicles. We have to keep our kids safe and school them. It's kind of a big deal--the logistics are a little bit threatening to me. But we firmly believe that God has led us to this decision; thus, we firmly believe that His hand will be on us during the entire journey and that He will bring us closer to Him in the process.

It's definitely a God thing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Commissioned

–verb (used with object)
15. to give a commission to: to commission a graduate of a military academy.
16. to authorize; send on a mission.
17. to give the order that places a warship, military command, etc., in a state of complete readiness for active duty.
18. to give a commission or order for: The owners commissioned a painting for the building's lobby.

From www.dictionary.com

I enjoy painting various designs on canvas; it's a hobby of mine. From time to time, a friend will call requesting me to design and paint them something very specific for their home. As an artist, I have then been commissioned to complete that task, according to my friend's direction and to the very best of my ability. I feel a certain responsibility to that friend to create something beautiful for them; something that will be pleasing and beneficial to them. It's part of the role that I stepped into when it became known that painting was something I was able to do. This is a great example of definition #18 above.

Having been a follower of Jesus for all of my life, I have heard so many of the Bible's scriptures in classes and sermons. Many of those scriptures have been impressed on my heart as I have heard them over and over during my 30+ years of faithful attendance. It's still puzzling to me how some verses can have an immediate impact on my thoughts or actions, while some I seem to zoom right over, think on it for a while, then go back to regular life.

I have always been fascinated by people who devote their lives to mission work, especially those who move their family to a foreign land, to spread the gospel of Christ. When I was younger, my home congregation supported several missionaries (they still do, by the way) and one couple made pretty regular visits to us when they were home. They were serving in Venezuela as a family and I just loved hearing their stories when they would come eat in our home. As a teenager, my very first mission trip was to Venezuela to work with the church they had been fostering to grow. It was then that the bug first bit me.

After years of just hearing Matthew 28:19-20, I really listened to this verse. Ten days in Venezuela was my first opportunity to "make disciples of all nations" and I continued from that point on to participate in mission trips to various locations throughout high school and college. I dreamed that one day I would move overseas and serve the Lord by working in his church. I contemplated several avenues in college to fulfill this goal, including applying for the Linguist Training Program for the Army, as well as getting degrees in Spanish and International Business so that I could get a job in Venezuela and love on the church there in my free time.

When I started dating a fabulous young man, I was afraid that if I pursued that relationship that I would bid farewell to my opportunity to move overseas. I was also afraid, though, that if I didn't pursue the relationship that another one of my dreams would pass me by--I wanted to have a family.

Well, making a long story short (I will tell our whole story at a later date), I am completely in awe of my God. Being the finite human that I am, I never dreamed that He would see fit to find me a strong Christian husband who would share the same desire to fulfill the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew. Granted, lots of "life" has happened between our younger college days and now, but we are as sure as we have ever been that God will use us if we are faithful to obey Him.

We have been Commissioned. I know that this isn't really our story. This is God's story and we just get to ride along. And I'm going to journal this journey, because with God driving this bus I'm sure it will be an adventure!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010