Saturday, December 10, 2011

From where you stand...

From my balcony, where I stand right now, this is what I see:
Beautiful, right? I know. Some days, it is easy to look that way and just soak in the beauty of what is standing right in front of me. The beautiful green grass, trees, rolling hills and mountains. It's hard to see in this picture because it's small, but in real life, I especially love the little picturesque Honduran home way back by the hill side. I stare over there and see this little home with its property, trees, corn field, and banana trees and think, what a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Right this minute, you may be in your own reality and perhaps a little bit jealous of my view. You may think, I want that view. My view doesn't look like that. My view isn't so has _____ in it, or ________, or _________...whatever you decide you need to fill in the blanks with. And I agree, compared to the view I just showed you, mine might appear to be better.
Let me share this with you, though. From where I stand, on my balcony, I also see this:
Not so appealing, right. The rear-end of a huge, gray, smelly, coffee-bean-drying factory. Trucks coming in and out. Smoke billowing up to the sky. Not quite so picturesque. There is the chance that I could choose to look only in that direction, and start to believe that this view is my only option. My only view.

In our every day lives, we are faced with many decisions. Lots of options. From where you stand, you can't see everything that lies in front of you, but you can surely see glimpses from different directions. Sometimes it's a struggle--we get stuck looking at one ugly choice. An ugly glimpse. An ugly view. And we somehow talk ourselves into believing that the ugly is all that lies ahead of us, from where we stand.

Not to say that "the ugly" is not real. There are many, many very real things in life that are very, very ugly. They can take over our lives, it seems. Sap us of all the energy and will that we possess. The point, when we are faced with these ugly things, is to not be consumed by them. David found this out and wrote about it in Psalm 121. Even with all of the hard times that he faced in his life he learned which direction to look at--which view to look at:
"I lift my eyes unto the hills--where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth."
I would encourage you, friends, when you find yourself thinking that "the ugly" is all that lies ahead of you, to look again. To spin around. Crane your neck. Look for the rest of the view. Because it may take a little effort, but you can always see more than it might first seem from where you stand. Then, when you can see more of the picture, it is up to you what you will focus on. You can choose to succumb to "the ugly". It can bring you down and discourage you. It can cloud your vision. Or you can look to "the beautiful". And it can bring you up and give you strength and hope.
I read this verse today and it encouraged me. We will all have days filled with sunny skies and a beautiful view, along with cloudy skies and an ugly view. The key is to look to God through it all--He really is where our help comes from.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Monday, November 28, 2011

To Redeem

Do you remember the sign at the prize counter in the arcade? Redeem your tickets here. It meant that you have done the things asked of you and now you can receive your reward.
Webster classifies the word redeem as a verb. It is an active word. Action accompanies this word. The definition is this "to free from the consequences of sin".

The redeeming power of God's love, mercy, and grace were so clearly demonstrated before our eyes over this past week. We were blessed to be able to put together the first retreat for the teens here in Santa Rosa. You can read about that here. We had been praying for several weeks that God's power would be at work in the lives of these teens that weekend and as usual our ideas fell incredibly short of what He would come to do that weekend. On Saturday night 4 teens gave their lives over to God and put on Christ in baptism. A total of 8 teens would become our brothers and sisters in Christ that weekend. But the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus didn't stop there.

Church here meets on Sunday night for regular worship service, Tuesday night is a night of praise and prayer, Thursday night is discipleship classes, Friday night is for the life groups, and Saturday night is for the teens. On the Tuesday night following the retreat our fellow missionaries, Phil and Donna Waldron, came up to us to tell of more fruit that was been born as a result of the retreat. One of the teens that was bapitzed Saturday night was Nelson. Turns out that Nelson is 21, not that uncommon here since a jóven (young person) is anyone from 13-29 In our youth ministry program we make our age range 13-21. The story from there becomes one that only God could orchestrate.
Nelson goes home to his uncles house and tells them of how he has given his life over to God and was baptized. He then tells them that he needs to go and reconcile to his common-law wife Yulissa and their 2 year old son Nelson Gustavo. Nelson had gotten Yulissa pregnant at 16 and had stayed with her for a time until his drinking and trouble making led her to kick Nelson out of the house and out of her and their son's lives.

Nelson moved in with his uncle and aunt and began to slowly straighten is life out. He had quit drinking and making trouble and had begun to work in the construction trade. He had been to church a few times before and one of the brothers here pushed him to go on the retreat. Little did Nelson know what God would do in his life over those 2 days. Hearing the word and being convicted by it, Nelson put on Christ in baptism and then reconciled himself to his common-law wife. Yulissa, moved by Nelson's life changing decision started studying the Bible with one of the brothers here.

This past Saturday afternoon I was up at the church with Jóse Batres getting the teen room ready for class that night. While we were rearranging the room we heard voices coming up the stairs. As we walked towards the stairs to see whom it was, we were greeted by Yulissa and Nelson's Aunt. God was going to redeem her too. Aristedes would arrive in a few minutes to take Yulissa's confession of faith and we would have the privilege of watching Yulissa become our sister in Christ.
God has the power to redeem, not only people but marriages as well. Nelson and Yulissa also want to get legally married and will be as soon as their paperwork gets approved. Not only have they changed the course of their lives but in a country ravaged by absentee fathers and single mother homes they have changed the life of their son Nelson Gustavo. He will now have the far too uncommon privilege of growing up in a two parent Christian home.

I'm sure that God is not done with Nelson and Yulissa and I can't wait to see the rest of their story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thinking back. Being Thankful.

Think back. What were you doing eleven Thanksgivings ago?

Eleven Thanksgivings ago, I was with a campaign group. We were on the island of Cozumel, Mexico helping the church there put on a gospel campaign preached by Bob Brown. My Spanish teacher, Ava Conley, had invited me to come along. I was seriously committed to the mission efforts in Venezuela, so for me this was just a chance to do some work in the kingdom and see some place new. For me, I was just along for the ride.

We rented jeeps and rode around the island with our hair blowing in the ocean's wind. We snorkeled, saw schools of fish and a barracuda. We dodged sea urchins as we headed out of the water. With a friend we grabbed a conch shell, cracked it open, and ate its meat right there at the edge of the water. (Ew. I know.) We went to a pitiful little 'zoo' that someone had that their house. It only had a few skinny little animals. We ate at a church member's house who was serving chicken soup. I held out my bowl for my spoonful and saw something horrific looking plop into the bowl. Ava confirmed that I had, in fact, received a tiny bit of broth and the whole chicken neck. (Ew. I know.) :) I tried to drive the stick shift jeeps and it took me 25 minutes to drive across to the street and pull up to the gas station. The gas station, who had been watching me approach from 30 feet away for as many minutes (and everyone else in my jeep) started applauding when I finally got close enough to fill up and stalled out for about the 95th time.

On Thursday of that week, we bought tacos from a street vendor for lunch, then for dinner we went back to the house, and made make-shift Thanksgiving dinner and pumpkin pie. We ate and were thankful--it's hard to be anything but thankful when you are on a mission trip.

For me, I had received a paradigm shift--I wrote a little bit about it here--when I met the Waldron family who were missionaries helping the church in Cozumel at the time. They had small children and I didn't know families with small children could even be missionaries. I thought that job was for old people and single men! I came back home, told Jon about it (we were only a 2-month old dating couple at the time) and he was impressed too. Well, we went on with life as usual from there.. Dated. Married. Jobs. Kids. Etc. Then God had a bigger plan for us. I'm pretty sure He had it all along; we just didn't see it coming.

Flash forward to yesterday:

The Waldron family had dinner at their home in Western Honduras. And they invited US. Because we're working with them. On their team. We're partners. Eleven years later. They still have 3 kids, but they're not little anymore. This time it's us with 3 small kids. Talk about a Full Circle Moment. Wow.

We are here because it's where God has a job for us now. I'm praying that some young college kid may see us and realize that ANYONE who is willing can work for God in the kingdom. He can use anyone who has a heart for Him. Who knows? Maybe in 11 years we'll be somewhere working with someone who visits us on a campaign and decides that they, too, can bring souls to the Father somewhere. Who knows? Or God might have an even bigger idea. Something that will wow me even more. I'm wayyyyyy over thinking something's too big for God.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are
my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As
the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to
it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it
yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out
from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11
SO. My life is a daily reminder that my God is meeting all my needs and has also provided so, so many of my desires as well. He has over-filled my life in such an exceeding way that the only way that I can respond is with thankfulness. Humility, gratitude and thankfulness.

I hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you were able to spend it with friends or family. I hope that you were able to reflect on what God has done in your life.

Be blessed. And be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Retiro Juvenil 2011--Youth Retreat!

Good morning!! This blog has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving attention from us lately! I'm not sure if we should chalk it up to moving to another country, staying with friends for 5 weeks, unloading a container and setting up a house, getting 3 kids settled in said house, schooling 2 of said kids to catch up for a late start in the school year, going to church 5 nights a week, or planning an entire youth retreat in a month and a half...Hmmmmm... :)

Obviously we have a lot to catch up on, and we plan to do so, but right now I want to tell you about the retreat that we just came back from this weekend! Mission UpReach generously provided all of the things we needed to make it happen, and Jon did an amazing job putting together a youth retreat for the youth group at the Iglesia de Cristo en Santa Rosa de Copán. It was the VERY FIRST time that ANYONE there (adults and youth) had ever seen anything like it! The theme was impactful. The lessons were powerful. The activities were purposeful. The games were fun. The food was delicious. Lives were touched. Transformed. People were changed. Eight new brothers and sisters were added to the kingdom by putting Christ on in baptism, and many renewed their commitment to Christ and were covered in prayer.
The youth group here had been a sort of scattered mess. Meeting regularly, but no sense of unity. No real growth. No order to the lessons. We wanted to provide them with a weekend that would teach them about true surrender to God. About becoming one as a group. Supporting each other, helping each other and growing together rather than tearing each other down.
The theme of the retreat was Entregate, which is a term that means to bring yourself. Surrender yourself. Hand yourself over. Give yourself up to HIM. Submit. Follow his calling. Allow him to work in your life. It's a pretty heavy word.
Raul Solis and his family, who live in Toluca, Mexico, came in to bring us the lessons. He did an amazing job. In three sessions (1. Deny yourself and follow Him, 2. Forgetting what is behind, 3. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me) Raul did a beautiful job teaching our teens how to surrender themselves. We learned how we need to leave behind our former lives when we choose to follow Him. We no longer should think as the world things, act as the world acts, admire what the world admires. How we become weighed down by the baggage that we carry around daily--the sins that overtake our lives and make us feel helpless to change. Things like lying, hate, anger and gossip. Others like malice, pornography, fornication, and hypocrisy. When we can let those things go and ask God to purify us, cleanse us, and help us move forward, we can strain toward what is ahead--to the purpose he has for us. Finally, in the third session Raul talked about how once we forget was is behind and we bring ourselves to God that we are to become a new creation--that we no longer live but Christ in us.
We had activities to help bring out these points...We made up a sort of relay game that we called Baggage. During Solo Time they had spent time following a guide that directed them to write their sins and struggles, their baggage, on 3 bricks. During the Baggage game the groups had to haul their 18 bricks of baggage through four different stations:
  • Put a puzzle together.

A brother in the church made us these puzzles that were SOOOOOO hard to do, but I just love them. They're beautiful! The cross is cut out in perfectly straight lines, and the other pieces were curvy and confusing. The application verse in this activity was Romans 12:2--"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

  • Crawl under a net.

We made a cargo net and staked it to the ground. The kids, and their bricks, had to cross to the other side, completely under the net. The application verse in this activity was Hebrews 12:1-2--"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..."

  • Red Corn.

In a jar full of kernels of corn, each group had to find ONE kernel that had been colored red. The verse was 1 Corinthians 4:7, 10--"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us..."

  • Brick Puzzle.

Finally, after carrying these bricks through the entire course, they had to take them out, and sort them out to read Filipenses (Philippians) 3:12-14--"Not that I have already obtained this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Saturday evening, we had a bonfire and after another powerful message an invitaion was given and 4 teens responded to the call. Phil baptized them for the forgiveness of their sins and we had a joyful evening welcoming these new brothers and sisters. Sunday morning we had a special communion service followed by the Application message--over 20 responded that they were renewing their commitment to Christ and 4 more responded to the call of baptism. A brother, Daniel Perdomo, baptized these 4 and one of the most touching moments of the weekend was watching him baptize 3 teens and then his own daughter into Christ. There was hardly a dry eye to be found.

God was working here this weekend in Santa Rosa and it was amazing to watch. Personally there were a few times that I was nearly overcome with emotion. As I watched Jon running here and there, I was so proud to see how all of his planning, preparation and hard work was being blessed by God. As I reflected on that, and as I saw the way that the message was touching these kids' lives and changing their hearts, I had no doubt that God had brought us here because he has a work for us to do. It was amazing confirmation to my heart to see how He was blessing every effort that had been made--down to the beautiful weather, the power not going out, and the wet firewood staying lit during the bonfire. It is obvious that He was at work, and we gladly give all the glory of the success of the weekend to Him.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ironic yet Refreshing

Our family has spent the better part of 3 years praying about our decision to come down here and help the church here grow. We've talked to friends, family, and elders to get advice and feedback. Jon has preached several times to different churches letting them know our plans and petitioning support. Part of his sermon includes the Francis Chan quote that I've blogged about here before--
"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."

He's talked about how we have felt like we were too comfortable and we needed to go somewhere else so that we could re-focus on serving him and not on what it took to maintain our comfortable life. This involves a measure of sacrifice, and for most, moving to a 3rd world country would be considered a sacrifice of sorts.

Our mission (and this blog) is based on the Great Commission, which tells us to go into all the world preaching the good news about Jesus to people. We have studied and heard lessons on the story in Isaiah 6 about the Lord expressing a need for someone to go minister to his people and Isaiah says, "Here am I, send me!" We have expressed our desire to work with the church here as they desire to plant churches throughout their region of this country. It is our desire to do this work, and we have chosen to come here, to Honduras, to work with the people here.

Tuesday night we went to church and Jon and I were stunned at the material in the lesson. Josue Molina was bringing the lesson, and his topic was "What does planting churches look like?" The discussion was centered around being a reproductive, active, living church that reaches out to plant churches and take the message to places that don't know about Jesus. He read from Isaiah 6. He read the Great Commission in Matthew 28. He lined out the biblical model for mission work and how the apostles went from their home churches, sponsored by the church, into far-away lands to spread the word. They were encouraged by the brethren where they went, and sent back reports to their home church. This material is found in Acts 13-16. Then he told the people in the meeting that they needed to stop being so comfortable and step out for Jesus--being a Christian is not about being comfortable.

He told them to stop being so comfortable. The people we left our 'comfort' for so that we could come help them do their work and attain a better standard of life. We thought coming here was a little bit uncomfortable, and the first lesson we hear here is the teacher telling the people here that they're living too comfortably. Now that's ironic.

What's refreshing, though, is how passionate they are here to spread the word. This church wants to be a reproducing church. He said, "We are a church that has 20 years of history here. How much do we have to show for it?" I think there are lots of churches that might need to ask themselves that question. After 20, 50, 100 years, does a church have lots of 'children-churches' that they have planted and helped to grow? Or are they just a group of people who have met together, all by themselves, and not done much of anything outside of their walls? Reminds me of the parable of the talents. I'm thankful that I've grown up in churches that are passionate about missions.

We are so thankful to be here--to work with the people as well as to learn from them. I am sure that God will bless this work and allow it to blossom and grow because the church here is focused on doing what He wants them to do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Smiles along the way

Monday our day of travel was so great!! It was long, but the kids were troopers and everything went almost perfectly--couldn't have asked for a better day. It is the morning after our first full day, and I just wanted to put down some of the things that have happened that I want to remember...

*We decided to get the kids their own cameras--figured that it would be a good way for them to document their favorite things along this journey. The things they take pictures of makes me laugh--but they have had so much fun playing with them. I'm impressed that they've been very careful to take care of them, and have picked up how to use them so quickly! Monday during the flight I had fallen asleep and when I woke up I looked over to see what Lawson was doing to entertain himself and he was holding the camera backwards, videoing himself singing! Hilarious! :)

*Monday during our layover in Atlanta we got ourselves settled in at the gate for our next flight, and Jon went over to the other terminal to get us Chick-Fil-A for our last American meal for a while. It was de-lish! An added bonus? He stopped and got me a Cinna-bon that I hadn't even asked for!! MAJOR brownie points! :)

*While he was gone, the kids took turns pushing Tobin around in the stroller--he was having a ball and they were feeling like such a big brother and sister! I admit that I was a little upset at first that the baby would be so far away from the big kids in age, but day by day I realize that God gave us this baby at just the right time for us and I love, love, love my family so much!

*Sitting in the airport, Jordan came up behind me to play with my hair. I don't care for this--it gives me the shivers and makes me twitchy--but it made me smile when she leaned around me and said, "Mommy! You have hair just like Belle's!" :)

*During the descent of our long flight, we started to hit some turbulence. Some people may react to turbulence with fear and intense gripping of the seats, but not our kids. Last time and this time, our kids react to turbulence with uncontrollable giggling! I'm self-conscious about how loud my kids are being in an enclosed space, but it is still so funny, and often contagious, to hear them grabbing the arm rests and giggling like crazy every time the bumping tickles their bellies!!

These are just a few things that have caused me to smile along the way so far! :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Last Sunday

Our family has spent the past month visiting our friends, family and supporters as we traveled around on our “Farewell Tour.” We spent a week in Michigan, a week in Oklahoma and a week In Huntsville, with a few other stops in there along the way. We have grown weary of packing and re-packing, living out of suitcases, driving forever and ‘being’ company, but those things do not overshadow the fun we’ve had, the encouragement we’ve received and the bonding time we’ve shared as a family. In fact, even though at each stop people were hugging us ‘good-bye’, it was hard for me to even realize it as that because we were having such an enjoyable trip, and for us it wasn’t over yet.

Even this past week at Mayfair, which has been a week full of wonderful blessings and seemingly-endless good-byes, it didn’t seem real because we were still going to be at church Sunday night. Then Wednesday night. Then Sunday again, Then Sunday night again.

When we got to that last Sunday, though, it was a little bit different. Sunday morning was pretty bittersweet. I love church, and I love Mayfair. Trying to soak it all in—good singing, a great lesson, a thousand friends in the hallways, our amazing class—I couldn’t help but get choked up. For a long time from now I am sure I will still love church, but the church that I will love will not be the same as Mayfair. I am going to miss this. Then for the invitation song we sang I Surrender All and tears sprang to my eyes.

I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.

A little redundant, I’ll give you that, but in light of the fact that in about 26 hours my whole family would be stepping out of an airport in another city in another country put that song in a whole new light. I cried because I felt that (in my mind) there were things that I were surrendering for my Jesus, but on the flip-side I couldn’t help but do some self-reflection and question, “Do I—no, would I—really surrender my all to Jesus. That’s a tough call to answer, I’ll tell you that.

For lunch we ate with some of our very dearest friends. Among other times that we hang out, we have eaten Sunday lunch with them pretty regularly over the last few years, and Jon and I both consider them among our closest friends. Our kids are also the best of friends with each other and it has been so sweet to see them grow up loving each other like we love each other. These friends are true, I tell you. They have given so selflessly to us in every way as we’ve prepared to make this move, even though in the end it’s hard—they’ve actually been helping to send us away because they know that’s what God is calling us to do. I can’t even articulate how grateful I am that they have been so involved in our mission, and on such a real basis. For our last lunch I was focused on enjoying their company and making a good memory and that’s just what happened. We ate, talked, laughed and just enjoyed each other. Then my friend and I took our girls and we got pedicures—a memory I’m sure they enjoyed making and will treasure too.

Later, we attended our last youth event and we knew that after this we were going to pack and be on our way. For real. For good. The youth group has been a very big part of our life over the last 6 or 7 years and we love those teenagers. It was great to visit with so many families with whom we’ve built relationships and love dearly. It was heart-warming to sing in worship together. And that’s when they came. Round one of real, ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-finally-here’ tears. We got up to leave just a little bit early and people started following us out just to give us one last hug, and knowing those were the last hugs to share with them for a while truly brought sorrow to my heart. I walked away with tears streaming because standing there longer would have only brought more.

That night we headed back to the house we had been staying at to try to wrap up the packing that I’d been working on already for three days. The baby was fussy, I was hot and irritated, and we were all exhausted already. It was like an impossible puzzle that you absolutely must finish by a ridiculous deadline. My friend blessed me by dealing with the baby so I could work, and at 9:45pm we had finally gotten the van loaded up and were headed over for a couple last goodbyes.

We arrived at our hotel at 11:15pm. By the time we got a roll-away, put the kids to bed, brought the 10 suitcases up, and took showers, Jon and I laid down about 1am. I was so exhausted. I had a thousand things running through my mind, but just didn’t have the energy to type it all out—and our wake-up call was looming only 2.5 hours away!

The feeling I had was just so surreal. This move has been in the making for over 2 years, and so much has gone into the preparation for every detail. For all this time, though, it always was something we were just talking about, and was so far away. Until now. As each month this year has passed I have seen the end of September approaching, and the emotions that go along with that are just so varied. Just like in one day I experienced joy and nostalgia, laughter and tears, anger and sadness.

My Facebook status for Sunday was this:

Trying to decide whether or not to even put on mascara. I am sure that this is a day that will exercise every emotion that I possess.

It for sure lived up to that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back at Highway

A few weeks ago, Jon’s mom called and asked if they could have the kids for a couple weeks in Oklahoma. Little Rock, Arkansas, is the half-way point between our homes, so last weekend Jon and I made the trip over so that we could hand the kids off to the grandparents. While we were there, we stayed with some of our very special friends, which we always enjoy.

Even though Jon’s from Oklahoma and I’m from Michigan, Harding University and Highway Church of Christ are where “We” began. We became friends freshman year, started dating senior year and married after Jon graduated. The day after our first date we went to church together at Highway, and we spent our entire dating relationship there and our first year of marriage too.

So many of the churches in and around Searcy have a huge influx of college kids who are looking for somewhere to worship while attending Harding. While at Highway, Jon and I didn’t want to be ‘just one of the college kids’. We wanted to be active members who could build relationships and grow as a result of being a member there. Several other close friends of ours felt the same way, so we all enjoyed attending Highway as well as hanging out ‘in real life’ too. We joined a Heart Group, which was a small group that met in members’ homes for a meal, bible study and prayer. We attended baby showers and wedding showers. We brought food to the potlucks and helped with service projects. Over time, we really started to genuinely feel like the people at Highway were like family to us.

It’s interesting, in retrospect, to hear about how the ‘real church people’ at Highway felt about the college kids coming to Highway. They told us that at first they were a little upset because there were so many. They didn’t like that we were making it hard to find a seat. They didn’t like us coming into their groups and trying to belong. Over time, though, we all started to grow closer. They started to get to know us and we all became so attached.

One family in particular has been so very special to Jon and me since the beginning of our relationship. Kevin and Cindy Western became like our ‘college parents.’ Even with the craziness of having 3 boys of their own, they invested themselves in us. They went from strangers, to mentors, to friends, to family. They’re enough older than us to have very relevant advice to share, but they’re young enough that they don’t even seem older. Over time, we really became close friends. We’d keep their kids sometimes. Cindy and I shopped together. Kevin and Jon hunted together. Even after we moved to Huntsville, they came to visit us and we returned to visit them. We grew one of those special relationships that not everyone has and that doesn’t come along every day.

Even today, when we head back to Arkansas we stay with the Westerns and we stay up til the middle of the night catching up and reminiscing. We really, truly love them. We were their first group of college kids, and since we’ve been gone they’ve taken in several other college kids over the years.

Well, last week after dropping the kids off we stayed all weekend and worshipped at Highway in the morning. As soon as we walked in the door, it still felt like our home. We were received with smiles and hugs from so many old friends. We participated in a wonderfully heart-felt worship service and heard a very touching message. I did catch myself day-dreaming a little bit as I saw so many familiar faces. I felt such gratitude that as a college kids we felt such acceptance and received guidance there. As a young wife I felt so nurtured by the ladies there. As a young couple we were blessed by the generosity there.

Toward the end we sang a song that, to me, is very reminiscent of Highway and our time there because it was a favorite of ours while we were there—Mansion, Robe and a Crown. Cindy leaned over and said that one of their current college kids couldn’t sing that song without giggling because the bass part would get her so tickled. I love that song so much, but that day I couldn’t sing because my throat was choked up and my eyes were trying to hold back the tears. I leaned over and whispered, “I can’t sing this song without tearing up, because it reminds me of being here.”

Well, after church we went to a small Mexican restaurant with the Westerns and another family and ended up sitting there talking for a couple hours before it was time to hit the road back to Huntsville.

As Jon drove home, I stared out the window reflecting on the weekend. I love being in Huntsville and I love our current home church, Mayfair. I’m excited for the journey ahead and the relationships that will form as a result of our next move. But I am SO thankful for the blessing that our friends at Highway have been to our lives and for the meaning they still have for us. They really helped shape us as a young couple and helped us get started in the right direction and they will forever be special to us.

It’s always special to me to be back at Highway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Packing. Again.

May 25th will be our 10th anniversary. Since we’ve been married we have moved 8 times. We are currently packing for our 9th move and this one will be the farthest one of all. That’s right, we have begun to face the daunting task of going through all of our possessions, deciding what we should pack, sell, donate or toss. It’s a little bit crazy, thinking that in a month we are going to pack our belongings on a container that will sail across the sea to our family’s new home.
Going through everything during a move is always a little bit nostalgic for me. It’s inevitable to come across things you haven’t seen in a long time, and I love to take my time remembering the people, places and activities that those things represent.

Jon and I went through our closets this past weekend. It’s pretty shameful, actually, how many clothes we had hanging in the closet—we completely filled up each of our closets. The problem is just that we never sat down and culled through them, so with each move we just kept toting along all the excess—the clothes that were torn, worn out or too small. I finally decided that we were going to take it all out and cut it in half—no mercy! It really turned out to be fun because we reminisced about all the memories over the years.

A t-shirt from the day we started dating. My platform flip-flops that I wore on our wedding day. Ratty old t-shirts that bore paint stains from both of the houses that we’ve completely repainted—together. Memories of so many activities with the youth group at Mayfair. It’s so neat, the story they tell.

It’s not just the clothes, though. Going through the bookshelves. Seeing pictures and albums that have been gathering dust for a while. Reading my baby book. Sorting through drawers that have piles of sweet pictures and drawings from the kids. Things that I am keeping and treasuring because I want to be able to look at them when I’m old and gray and remember these days. I’m thankful God gave us the ability to remember; it really is such a gift.

Packing, again, has been a refreshing walk down memory lane, and it’s calming to me. It's also a reminder that even though things remind me of special times in my life, that things aren't that important. The memories I keep are what mean so much.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Any move involves a lot of logistics, simply because there’s a lot of details that need to be taken care of. Making an international move, however, has unveiled an even longer to-do list. I’m sure, too, that since we haven’t actually moved yet, there will probably be a thousand other things that come up that I’m not even expecting.

For the past several months, though, I feel like I have had a constant swirl of activity in my mind. All the pieces of the giant puzzles that are floating around. I feel like I have to keep thinking about them because if I don’t they’ll float over to a corner, get lost and I’ll never remember it again!

Things like getting a passport picture of each kid…scratch that—getting a GOOD passport picture of each kid. Actually just having to get passports for each kid. Getting new copies of birth certificates for all of us so that we can get a special notarization called an apostille (sounds like aaap-oh-stee-yay). Yep, I’d never heard of it either, but apparently we need it to move to Honduras. Figuring out whether or not to ship our things in a container, and whether or not our things will fit in a container. Figuring out what container company to use, what size of container to get, how much the container will cost, when the container should get here and how in the world we will load the container in 2 hours.

Things like trying to figure out all of the policies we need—medical insurance, life insurance, evacuation insurance (yep. We have to get evacuation insurance.) A post office box so we can still have a state-side address. What sort of company we’ll use for maintaining a US phone number. What kind of computer to get because our old one is going to explode any day. I’m almost sure of it.

Things like ‘cleaning out’ my kids’ bedrooms while they’re gone so I can slip some stuff they won’t miss in the trash. Things like scourging the closets of everything that we no longer wear.

Things like going through every drawer and cabinet trying to sort out the junk from the good stuff. The stuff I’ll need and the stuff I won’t.

Things like trying to figure out what we’re going to need while we’re there but won’t be able to buy there so we need to buy it before we leave and take it with us.

Things like searching the entire country looking for a great deal on a vehicle that will meet our needs as a family and still be able to maneuver effectively on the, ahem, rough terrain of Honduras. Then test driving vehicles, making decisions on purchasing the vehicles and trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get the new vehicles to Honduras, sell the vehicles we aren’t taking and still have a vehicle to drive in the meantime…tricky.

Things like sending my husband to Honduras so he can find us a house to rent. Not just any house, either, but a house that meets the needs and maybe even some of the wants of our family. A house that has things like running water, a hot water heater, a good measure of security, several bedrooms and a little grass for the kids to play on.

Things like planning out our last 8 weeks down to a T, trying to make sure that we get everything taken care of and that we are able to spend some time visiting with everyone that we really want to visit with before we depart.

That’s not every single thing we have to do, and not all of those things are that huge. It’s just a list of a few of the things that have been assaulting my thoughts over the last several weeks. It’s crazy. In January, when you say you’re moving in September it seems SO far away. Even in April or June, September seems distant. Two-thirds of the way through July gets here, though, and suddenly September is very, very close! It’s almost enough to justify a little bit of panic!

Thank goodness for mentors who are walking us through things step-by-step. Thank goodness for a husband who has been on top of things like making calls to companies I never knew existed about things that I never thought about needing. And thank goodness that in the big picture, these little details really are just that—little, bitty, give-or-take details.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Community

Last week I went to my Bonco group to eat, play, visit and laugh with a group of girl friends. We get together to have a meal and then we play Bonco. After playing, someone shares a scripture or thought then we share prayer requests and pray together. It was my night to share a thought, and there had been a lot on my mind that week. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to share to encourage my friends, but couldn’t quite settle on an idea. One sweet friend asked if it would be my last Bonco before moving, and I realized that next month, I will go to what will probably be my last Bonco for a long time. That hit me.

Probably 8 years ago, a new friend called and invited me to play Bonco, which was something I had never, ever heard of. We had just moved to Huntsville, and we didn’t have many friends here. I thought, “Why not try it? It might be fun!” That first night, there were 12 of us there and we ate dinner and learned how to play this ridiculously simple game. And we had a blast. We decided to make it a monthly event, and almost a decade later I still make it as often as I can.

It’s not the same, mind you.

Over the years, our group has grown. So dramatically, in fact, that we’ve split. A couple times.

We’ve changed the night we meet. A couple times.

We’ve welcomed new members as people move into town.

We’ve said good-bye through teary eyes to dear friends as they’ve moved away.

We’ve welcomed babies into this world—lots and lots of babies.

We’ve rejoiced as friends got married.

We’ve shared advice and tips and tricks and stories.

We’ve laughed together, often to the point of tears.

We’ve wept together, sharing in each other’s sorrow.

We’ve shared our lives with each other.

It’s been such a huge blessing to meet together with ladies on a monthly basis. Even through the changes, I’m thankful for the relationship I have formed with all of the friends that we’ve played with—past and present. Even though we’re not all at the same stage in life, we all enjoy a night of food, fun and fellowship. It’s a neat community that we’ve formed.

It really is evident to me that community is something that God has given us as a gift. It really helps to meet some of our needs and it can help us grow in so many ways. There are lots of ways we experience—family, friends, at church. Especially as ladies, we have a connection as wives, moms and Christians.

I thought of this passage in Ecclesiastes:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one
falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no
one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how
can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend
themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Think about it—“Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” How sad it is to me that some go through life without the support and encouragement that I have found in my sisters in Christ. I’m so grateful that I am a part of their community.

So that night at Bonco, I shared these thoughts with my friends. Out of the ladies who were there, none were part of the original group. I shared how the changes a group goes through can sometimes hurt, but it also can encourage even more growth. I tried to encourage them to support each other, reach out to each other and be there for each other. I want them to take full advantage of what being a part of this group can offer to them.

To close, I shared this verse that a dear, dear friend shared with me years ago. She had been such a friend and mentor to me, and she read this verse to me before I went back to college one year.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the
gospel of God but our lives with you as well, because you had become so dear to

When she read that to me it touched me deeply, because that revealed to me the model of how our relationships should look when we are in Christ. We should not only be open to sharing the Good News about Jesus and the hope that he provides, but we should also have relationships with people where we are not afraid to dig deep and be real. Ever since my friend shared this verse with me, I have tried to be conscious about the kind of relationships I keep.

This has also become the verse I share as I sort-of go through these stages of saying good-bye to all of my different groups of friends. I want them to know how much the friendships we’ve shared mean to me and will continue to mean to me even when I’m a little bit farther away.
It amazes me when I really think about it how well our Father knows us. He knew we would be social, and have a need to share and be with others. I love how he instituted the church, too, which is one way for us to have that need fulfilled.

It’s a good feeling when you realize that Someone has been lookin’ out for you. He’s got our back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday's post was the first in a while, I know. We've had a lot going on--last time I posted it was the middle of January and I didn't want to say so but we were getting ready for a month-long family trip to Honduras. This trip was meant to be a sort of 'trial' trip to get a taste of what day-to-day life in our new town would be like. We were so excited about this opportunity to introduce our kids to Honduras, to get some hands-on time with the team at Mission UpReach, and to visit with our new friends in the church there.
We had a wonderful trip--it was full of fun days, interesting experiences, hard work, and a few speed bumps. It would be laborious for me and probably boring for others if I were to account for everything that happened during our 3 1/2 week adventure, so I'll refrain from documenting a play-by-play. Instead, I am going to spend the next few posts trying to highlight some of the things that stuck out to me or some of the things that I would file under my "Lessons Learned" category.

For now, here are a few pics from the trip...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Isn't it interesting how sometimes nothing goes like you thought it would go, but things still seem to work out so perfectly--like they should have in the first place? Along this whole journey, we have hit several speed bumps that might have de-railed our plans altogether, but as we continue to forge ahead we can see the way that God is continually providing for us and meeting our needs.

Provision comes in many different ways. It can be as simple as a basic need being met, such as daily food or drink. It can be a complete supply of a basic need. It can also indicate that an arrangement or preparation was made beforehand so that the doing of something, the meeting of needs or the supplying of means can be made.

One way that I specifically see this provision is in the leadership that we are blessed to have at Mayfair, the place where our family worships. When we "randomly" moved to Huntsville almost 8 years ago as a young married couple we had no idea just how much God was going to work through "our" crazy plan. We thought that we had just come up with a fun place to move with some friends and see how it went. Eight years later, and with 20/20 hindsight, we see that our roots started growing almost immediately and God started growing some amazing relationships for us here.

We have grown to love our friends here deeply. We love the ministries that we spend our time working with. And we love the elders who humbly lead and guide our church family. We have seen so many examples of their servant attitudes and wisdom through various situations and decisions over our time here, and we have developed such a respect for those men. We knew that we were more than comfortable asking them to be our overseeing eldership who would offer us spiritual guidance while we served in the mission field.

When we decided to follow the call to Honduras, we started conversations with the elder who oversees Missions at Mayfair. He was excited about our story and over the next several months we developed a relationship with the Missions Committee as our plans started to fall in place. Even before our move has taken place, we have felt the commitment that our elders have to helping us make decisions that are in our family's best interests.

There are times that following wise leadership is difficult, because wisdom comes from a different perspective than ignorance or inexperience. Already, we have reaped benefits from following their counsel that was difficult for us to swallow. We're young, excited and naive. We're new to this stuff, and our leaders have lots of experience and wisdom to share with us. That's a huge blessing to us, but it's also difficult and I can tell that this is an area that we will have to grow.

We thought we were being 'young and free' when we moved here, but I am convinced that God knew what He had in store for us when he led us to Huntsville and to Mayfair. Even through difficult times our needs have been met. He has showered blessings on us as our family has grown here. God has blessed us with an amazing church family here, and God has blessed us with strong, godly leaders who love us and support us.

I don't know how you feel, but I'd say that's provision.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Going Public

This is a scary day...

For about 8 months now, I've had this blogspot as a secret place to journal our story. It's been kept private on purpose--only Jon and I knew about it. I really just wanted to have a place to document the way God has orchestrated this whole situation in our lives. It's such an amazing story that I knew I had to write it down, or one day I would look back and wish I could remember how it all just 'fell into place.' That's not to say the past few months have been perfect, though. It's also been important for me to be able to blog some of the emotions that I have felt as we've gone through several big changes and face more that look like Everest.

This is a journey that I am excited to be on. And, I'm excited for you to follow along, if you want to. I knew this day would come--this day of "going public"--and to tell you the truth it feels a little bit vulnerable. I'll warn you, this is a journal of my thoughts. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes, well, it's not. Even going back and reading some of the feelings from just a few months ago still bring tears to my eyes, but then seconds later I smile at the way God answered my fears or hurt in mighty ways.

If you want to, go all the way back to the beginning and head your way up to the top--that will get you to where we're at now. Or, just jump on board here and keep up with us. Either way, I'm so glad you stopped by!

Here are the posts I've written so far (listed earliest to most recent):
A God Thing
How do you know...
Stacy and Jon's Excellent Adventure
Old School
Breaking the News
Where in the world is...
Career vs Calling
Carrying Mats
Telling the Teens
Flash from the Past
Beginnings and Endings
Not quite an earthquake...