Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Miss Them

I love communication-listening, talking, writing, reading; I can't get enough of it. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am rarely at a loss for words. Like oil-well-in-the-backyard, lightening-striking, 80-degree-weather-in-January kind of rare (we are from Minnesota, people). Therefore, when I don't know how to articulate a thought or emotion, it can be...confusing. It totally throws me off my axis.

Anyway, I had one of these rare emotions that I couldn't describe when it came to how I felt about going to Africa. I knew going was right, but there was so much I couldn't explain. How do you explain to a non-believer HOW you know you've been called? They would suggest that maybe it wasn't God's will, but our will. Really? I know I've always wanted to live in a mud hut, not have real showers, be away from almost everyone I love for a year, coexist with scorpions, snakes, and insects, and be exposed to all sorts of fatal disease. Good times. Then there were the people that acted like it wasn't a calling, but rather a vacation. I would just smile at them and not say much.

I try not to make decisions based on emotion (see the Campus Crusade for Christ Fact-Faith-Feeling train). I knew all the facts behind our decision, I had faith the Lord had brought us to this point-He told us through prayer. But the ultimate decision also involved feelings: Josh and I both had an active sense of peace, an enthusiasm for the "assignment," and a burden to serve.

I experienced another overwhelming feeling, one I couldn't articulate, one that grows more intense every day. It was only through the movie Facing the Giants that I heard it described. When the lead characters wife talks about her desire to have a baby, she says, "How can I miss someone so much when I haven't even met them?" That is it; that is exactly what I feel. Only, it's not about my child, it's about God's children.

He has put a burden in my heart that is so powerful, sometimes I feel I can't even breath. I hurt for them, I cry for them, I want to hold them and put them in time-outs when they're naughty and care for them. I can't wait to meet them. I predict I'll spend a solid week just bawling after I meet them. I already love them.

But who am I, to meet such a need? Father, guide me. Give me wisdom, strength, energy, patience, love...

Their need is like none I've ever seen. My parents have done foster care my whole life, and I believe God has been using that as preparation for this time, but it doesn't compare. Disease, child soldiers, sex slavery, poverty, starvation, bitterness, and broken hearts. How can your heart not break???!!!

As the time to leave draws nearer, the greatest struggle for me becomes clear: it will be to leave the kids who have stolen my heart here. The Lovewells, Princess, and my new baby nephew have all taken a piece of my heart, and refuse to return it. But I know that I will see them again. It will be far to long a separation for my liking, but I will see them again.

When we leave Africa, we will most likely never see those kids again. I am already aware I will spend a year of my life pouring myself out, only to never see their future. From a purely logical standpoint, it doesn't really seem reasonable, does it? Nonetheless, God has so convicted me as to not even make it a choice; it is a command. A command to love and serve with my whole heart. A command to make sacrifices, to suffer for put the needs of His children ahead of my own comfort...

How could I refuse? I can't.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recent Events and Tree Farm Pictures

Last week was incredibly busy for us, with the multiple Thanksgiving celebrations, getting an assignment, my parents 25th anniversary party, getting a new foster brother, and our annual time with Josh's family to cut down and decorate a Christmas tree.

We had a good time wandering around at the tree farm, but it was pretty chilly. I was wearing half a dozen layers and was still cold, and by this point I was thinking we should just pick a decent-looking tree and go. Honestly, once a tree is decorated with lights and ornaments and tinsel, its flaws sort of seem to fade into the background. At least that was my logic while freezing.
During our quest for the perfect evergreen specimen, I decided we should take a cute family picture to commemorate the occasion. I instructed everyone to find a tree to peek out from, put the camera on the tailgate, and set the timer. The picture in which I am running and Josh and Zach are laughing at me was taken after the 2nd time I bumped the camera with my coat after setting up the "perfect shot." Yeah, I am a real professional.
Anyway, the last picture is really how it was supposed to turn out all along. In case you can't read the itty-bitty writing, it just says each of our names (l-r: Zach, Josh, Lori, Hetal, Ken, Chelsea, Nicky).
We have officially entered the Christmas season, and not just in the stores-want-your-money-so-they-put-Christmas-merchandise-out-in-September way. My goal this season is to remember to not get wrapped up in finding the perfect gifts and fitting any event we are invited to into our schedule. It's not about the decorations or events or music or gifts, or even about the people. It should only have one focus- Jesus Christ. I know that, more often than I care to recall, I have pushed Him down my list of priorities in order to make room for all the holiday festivities. The holiday dedicated to His birth. Yeah, I know it's messed up. It am trying to not be so busy with outwardly showing my love for Him that I forget to show Him my love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Man vs. Wild

One day back in early September (before our assignment to Kenya fell through), I decided to watch a show called “Man vs. Wild” with Josh. We aren’t huge TV watchers, but I knew it was a show he enjoyed, so I thought I should check it out. The basic premise of the show is that a former member of British Special Forces is dropped into uninhabited wilderness, charged with the task of reaching civilization using only what he finds along the way. Some examples of "survival techniques" presented on the show are eating raw game, eating beetle larva and other insects, filterig urine into drinking water (using a found plastic bag), spearing and eating stingray; you get the idea. It often takes days to reach his destination, and the environment is truly inhospitable.


We had recorded a few episodes, and one description said it was in Namibia, a country in Africa, so I chose that one as my introductory episode of “Man vs. Wild.” It’s a long way from Kenya, but what do I know about Africa? Any knowledge is worth something. On this particular episode, he was dropped by helicopter to a rocky coast consisting of 60 miles of desert. It is impossible to safely reach land from the water, as the piercing shoreline will demolish any ship. In fact, the reason they chose this location is that many individuals have survived these shipwrecks only to die in the desert. I looked at Josh and said (with a sigh of relief), “Praise the Lord He’s not sending us there.”

Guess where we are going, people. Yeah, that’s right. We have a new assignment- to Namibia.

Shocked? Me, too.

Laughing so hard you just fell off your chair? Hmm.

I decided to keep my mouth shut and just never say anything like that again, ever. Well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Thankfully, the location of our assignment is pretty much inconsequential to Josh and I. We are just thrilled to have an assignment. I think we may end up loving Namibia.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What is Love?

The following is an excerpt from recent journaling. If you have any thoughts, please share them. I want to become more like Christ, so I must at least endeavor to understand His prominent characteristics.

In Greek, there are four different words for love- "eros" (passionate/ romantic love), "storge" (familial love), "phileo" (brotherly love that often presents in the form of community), and "agape" (unconditional love). However, in the English language, the only word for love is... well, love. Of course, we attach all sorts of adjectives to it to delineate different types, but maybe having one word as a catch-all term is confusing us.

If you asked 100 people what "love" means, I would predict you would get at least 25 different answers. What would you say?

Although "feeling" love is really a very small part of the entirety of love, I believe we have gotten to a point in which people only associate love with feeling. If they don't have butterflies in their stomachs every time they think of their significant other, it is time to end the relationship. Maybe someone decided to term all forms of "warm fuzziness" love; no wonder it can be confusing.

Maybe the thread that ties all of these forms of love together is choice. I can choose to love and care about someone even when I don't like them. Maybe the Hebrew language gives us a hint; "ahava" has a root word "give." Not in terms of words, gifts, or service (necessarily), but rather of oneself in a sacrificial manner. We choose to care for them in spite of how they hurt us, even if they have mistreated us to the point we can't be around them anymore. We want the best for them.

Easy enough, right? Right.

Our greatest example of love is love personified in Jesus Christ. But His love doesn't fit into a little neat category. How do we emulate it if we can't comprehend it? His love included fellowship, emotion, sacrifice, discipline, accountability...we have descriptions of His love, but studying only them seems akin to getting to know a person through his or her friends.

I want to dig in, to analyze this (go figure), to understand it.

But I am looking at it the wrong way.

If God is Love, this explains my soul-burdening desire to know God's heart.

Falling in Love All Over Again

A while back, as I was doing my devotional, the book I was reading was talking about the character of Christ, and how we should reflect it better as we come to know Him more. I was expecting to read something about being committed and willing to sacrifice, and exhibiting Fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, we should “become a progressively more joyful, loving, and winsome person.” I completely agree with the first two, but winsome? Hmm. I wanted to know exactly what the authors meant by that term, so I looked it up. Synonyms include charming, pleasant, likeable, attractive, engaging, endearing, and appealing. Our relationship with Christ cannot be akin to the friendship with our childhood best pal. We seem to forget He is God. I found the following online, and decided I couldn’t say it any better:

“…we’ve tried to present Jesus as someone people should like, someone who is
“relevant” and fun and always good to have at parties. But mostly this “new
Jesus” ends up looking about as interesting as the store manager down at
Office Depot. He’s friendly, tame, middle class and safe!

No, you can’t re-imagine Jesus! You can’t turn him into the ‘nice guy’ down
the street. You have to take him for Who He really is – as He’s revealed
Himself in Scripture. And there you find that he’s rarely “safe”. As Mr
Beaver says to Lucy in C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (the book, not the
movie!) ”He’s not a tame lion!” Nor is He “safe.”

In that same passage from the book, Lucy asks Mr Beaver if Aslan, the Lion representing Christ, is “safe”. To which he responds, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

If I recall correctly, Jesus was not most concerned with people liking Him. In fact, he was rejected by many, if not most. He was bold, wouldn’t support sin, and offended people in the process. But he also had a spirit of ready forgiveness when people repented. He cast out evil spirits. He was and is mighty and loving and confident and kind and He works miracles with no strain at all. He secured His own death by refusing to acquiesce to Jerusalem or Rome. It doesn’t seem to me that His priority was to be winsome at all.

This week has been a time of refocusing, and I am so grateful the Lord called us to it. Time is important in missions, but not more important than keeping our eyes on God. I have fallen in love with Him all over again, not just as my Savior, but as the one who knows everything about me, even the less-than-winsome parts, and loves and adores me anyway. I can't think of a better way to prepare for our time on the mission field.

Monday, November 17, 2008


This picture seems to pretty much sum up part of our lives right now. We have been presented with several opportunities (a blessing), but really that means we aren't positive which ones God wants us to be involved in. For example, right now we are considering two assignments simultaneously. How do we know which to choose? We are [im]patiently waiting on the Lord to make that abundantly clear to us.

At this point, the best choice seems to be continuing to move forward, but with cautiously and prayerfully. We know part of God's plan (missions together in Africa for at least 1 year), but the rest is all a little sketchy. Therefore, we have decided to step back from it all (for at least this week), and refocus. Instead of seeking after the answers, as we've been doing, we need to seek after the Lord with our whole hearts. After all, it's because of Him we are doing this in the first place.

Lately, my quiet times have been...lackluster. Usually I am excited to dig into Scripture, pray, and listen to what God has to say, but recently it has become a spiritual discipline in a new sense of the term. This week, I am committed to challenging myself to meet God in new ways. This morning as I was driving, I was awestruck by the beauty and complexity of the natural beauty I witness every day. The amazing part is that He probably made it in less time than it takes for me to remember my own name. I was inspired to spend a little time with God, photographing His creation. [None of these photos have been edited].

After all of the dreary weather in the past week, today's bright blue skies were a welcome respite. I drove (it was cold!) around the "neighborhood" (a 3-mile block), and actually took many shots from our car.
This photo is a great reminder to me to consider perspective. As a detail-oriented person, I sometimes focus too much on the little things, which breeds anxiety.

Sometimes, you just have to back up and look at the big picture- same angle, completely different view depending on where the focus is.
That's what it's all about. It's not about the 5- or 10- year plan, or money, or even family. From the Christian perspective, although it often seems to be about ministries or missions or programs or churches, it's not. Those are only tools. The purpose is to glorify God, and to show others how to know Him [better].

I literally drive past these views almost every day, but I never notice them- pathetic. I am usually too "busy" with my to-do list or worrying about something that is probably pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of life.

This is my favorite sight in the world. Even after visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Wall of China, nothing compares to coming home. This week, it's about adjusting our focus in the spiritual equivalent.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank yous

Here is a thank you right now to everyone who has supported us through prayer or financial donation. You will be getting a more formal one in the mail, but it might be a while. I sat down last Saturday to design thank you cards to be printed- they will have a design on front and be blank on the back-when I realized after looking at about 500 pictures (literally!) that not a single one will suffice. It is important to include at least a small picture of us for those people who may have a hard time remembering us by name, and AIM has quite a few strongly-suggested guidelines regarding any pictures in any sort of missions literature. We already made a mistake with our initial support letters, in which we included a wedding picture (rule #1 is no bare shoulders). Women should not show knees or have any sort of remotely low neckline, and men should not wear shorts, as that particular fashion is consider boyish in Africa.
I love taking pictures, but the majority of them are either landscapes, animals or other people- which doesn't really do us any good in this situation. All the rest of our shots were group pictures, of us kissing (making up for lost time), with sunglasses on, etc.
We decided to make an effort to rectify the situation by taking an appropriate picture outside. It had been snowing and we thought we'd get in, get out, be done. We asked our friend Liz (see picture) to help us out, and she graciously agreed. I later found out she had written earlier on her Facebook page that she was avoiding the nasty weather by staying inside- oops...Yes, she is an absolute doll.
Well, we decided that we should give our best effort at around 4:30. Oh, yeah, we forgot about the time change and all. So, here are the resulting pictures- fine, but probably not going to make the thank you cards. There is just something about missionaries being surrounded by a cloud of black that I think gives the wrong impression...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Denominational Ridiculousness...

My husband has a burden for the Christian church to be united. I mean, think about it: our primary jobs as Christians are to do our best to emulate Christ and to share the Gospel, right? So what does it say about Christians when we pick apart each others' beliefs? The average non-believer probably doesn't really care if you do believer's baptism or confirmation. If the people who already believe choose to focus on their [minute] differences, why would non-believers ever be drawn to this mess???
This all comes up because we really need some financial support. Of the people we sent letters to, approximately 1/16 have responded. So, I started calling churches. First of all, it is so humbling to ask for money. However, we know it is not for us, but rather for the Lord's work, so we are trying to be bold. Second, some people make things difficult. I talked to some churches that were just downright rude. I understand that many churches already have fulfilled their missions budget, which is great, but 2 of them said they would not even pray for us. Huh? I thought the one guy was kidding at first, so I sort of started to giggle (oops...) I just can't recall anywhere in the Bible where it's written we should not pray for our brothers and sister in Christ. Curious. Very curious. I think we are missing the big picture here, people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Status

Just a quick update to let you know our current status
  • Our former assignment in Kenya fell through. We are disappointed, but grateful that God was so clear in showing us it was not a part of His will for us
  • We are currently praying about an assignment in Tanzania. It is not exactly what we originally envisioned, but we are just trying to be open to the Lord's leading
  • We have continued our efforts to raise support from individuals and families. Almost all of the support packets have been assembled and sent, although a few are lagging behind because I am searching for the addresses and such.
  • We have continued our efforts to raise support from churches. We have met with the mission boards of two churches so far, and yesterday we had the opportunity to share with the congregations of two wonderful churches in the area. Additionally, I began making follow-up calls to churches today. I had moderate success with those I contacted, but after having a dozen or so go to voice mail, I realized it is Monday, and many churches are closed.
  • Prayer requests: for clarity in assignment, and that potential supporters would seek the Lord's will and be obedient to it, whatever that may be.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Misconceptions of...Myself???

Today as I was driving into town, I realized I don't even fit my own stereotype of a missionary; it's really okay, because only like 5 people do. I've always pictured missionaries a certain way- the women all have REALLY long hair and wear floor-length skirts and long sleeves (even when it's 120 degrees), and the men have long beards and suspenders. Similar to my stereotype of Amish people, but...not. This is totally ridiculous, and I have no idea where I came up with it- none of the missionaries I know reinforce it. I am glad it's all in my head, because I don't think Josh will agree to suspenders, which, in this alternate world of mine, would somehow preclude us from missions.

Honestly, how many misconceptions do we carry about all types of people? We are moving to an entirely new culture, and I am trying not to imagine what it will be like, as I will most certainly be wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Minnesota Autumn

Oh, it's been a while. I feel like cataloging the events of this Fall through pictures for more pictures, visit our smugmug site):
In mid- October, we went with Princess, my sister, and the 3 Lovewell kids to an apple orchard in Eastern Minnesota. We had so much fun, and all the kids were precious and well-behaved (yay!)

The next weekend, we took a trip to Duluth for a foster care conference. Nicole's brother Trouper was awarded MN Foster/Adoptive Kid of the Year. During the day, while Nicole's parents were in sessions, we visited Amnicon Falls State Park in Superior, WS, an absolutely gorgeous park with lots to see in a small radius, so it is perfect for kids.

At the end of the month, one of our churches (Calvary Baptist Church) held its annual Fall Fun Fest on Halloween. We had a great turnout and tons of fun with all the families that participated.

Monday, September 22, 2008

SmugMug vs. Flickr

The online photo storage debate has ensued for over a week now, and after much research, deliberation, and the discovery of a 50% off coupon, the winner is (drum roll, please)...SMUGMUG! I am just thrilled I can attend to my pathological need to organize my photos (you have no idea...) Feel free to stop over and visit our site at your leisure. Unlike many of the other sites, you don't have to register to view pictures; eventually we will have a password so that voyeurs and other strangers will have to look elsewhere, but I think this link should always work. Anyway, I must get back to work- I forgot how long it took to upload several thousand files. Good times.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Prayer Cards

I have finished writing our support letters and addressing envelopes, and today I am working on completing the rest of our support packets so we can take them to the printer. This includes prayer cards, the cards that missionaries give out that people put on their fridge or in their Bible or wherever else they think they will see it often and remember to pray. Remember, in missions prayer is especially crucial, and can often mean the difference between life and death. Hopefully people will look at these often and remember to pray.

No pressure. I am simply trying to make these cards (because I am too cheap to buy them) that will be on dozens of refrigerators, and if they look horrible I'll be to blame. Okay, so I am not panicking that much yet, but I am definitely feeling the tyranny of freedom, part of Self-Determination Theory in Psychology. If you have any interest at all, I strongly recommend you click on the link and read the article, but the basic idea is that having too many choices can be as oppressive and disabling as not having enough. For example, let's say you want to buy some jam. There are literally dozens of varieties, and you must make multiple decisions- flavor, jam, jelly or preserves, seedless or seeded, what quantity, with sugar or sugarless, and so on. If there were only two kinds of jam, the decision would be much simpler.

So when it comes to prayer cards, I am trying to pick size, background color, layout, pictures, color or black-and-white, wording, font, font size, font color, etc., etc.

That's it for my ranting. Time to get back to work.

Beach Pictures

As a result of the migraine, we weren't able to do all the pictures we wanted to. We REALLY wanted to do some at the beach, so our photographer said we could do "make-up" photos later (bless you, Nikki). We decide our first anniversary would be the perfect time; unfortunately that coincided with our lake turning green. Nonetheless, we finally had them done. Here's a sampling:

People, you have no idea how cold that water is. And I didn't think to bring towels. Brilliant.

Nikki Edwards, our photographer, is my "other sister." For real. Funny, you say, that my parents named two children the same name with different spellings? Yes, I don't know what they were thinking. On the other hand, all of George Foreman's kids are named George. Therefore, relatively speaking, it's really not that freakish.

It makes sense- Nikki is the missing link (see picture with best friend Marcie). See, she looks like she and my sister are sisters

and like she's my parents' daughter. This is my parents, holding her daughter (aka "Princess").

Sometimes, people think Princess is my daughter.

So we all really must be related somehow...
Anyway, Nik: thanks a million. We love you.

The Nightmare

At our wedding last year, I got a migraine. I had taken drugs, had Uncle Rob (a chiropractor) work on me, and had prayed a lot, but it soon became clear I would have to go to the hospital.

This is me after the ceremony that was perfect for Josh and I. As soon as we completed the recessional, I said something to Josh about having felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and how perfectly it went. I said that, even if nothing else went right, it would still be an amazing day. It was, but keeping my mouth shut would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering (life lesson, kids).

During this picture, I look happy, right? What I'm thinking is something akin to "Oh, Lord, take me now."

We went to the reception. It took only 15 minutes to make it from car to front door (50 ft?) because walking made me nauseas. Talking and thinking did, too. We entered the reception accompanied by loving applause; yeah, that went over BIG inside the cranium. It's amazing what a smile can cover up.

Here, I am thinking that endorphins and serotonin may help me feel slightly better. Josh was thinking that he hadn't kissed in more than 3 years, and he had to make up for lost time.

Eventually, is was clear the headache wasn't going away. Luckily the lights were low because I had to leave, bawling, to go to the hospital. Of course, this was after arguing with my new husband that he should stay at the reception (I was very concerned about leaving our guests). I lost.

At this point, as you can imagine, I am thinking quasi-nightmare scenario: I won't get to enjoy the reception and dance I've planned for a year, I will be sick all night, I won't get to dance with my husband or do the father-daughter dance. I had been working so hard all day to just enjoy the moment, to not stress, but this was insane.

We got to the hospital, and the secretary actually asked me if it was my wedding day. No, I wear a large white ball gown with a train every day, and he wears a white tux. Now, I recognize that she was trying to be sympathetic and make small talk, but anyone who has had a migraine can tell you that was the last thing I was interested in. Just give me the drugs...

Miraculously, the drugs worked very quickly, and we were able to return to the reception. So many people were praying for us, and God definitely intervened. I thought most people would have gone home, but we still had around 300 people there. Some people said they never even missed us- a compliment for the DJ (who was incredible, and from a Christian DJ company called Beautiful Day DJs).

We cut cake, danced, laughed, and enjoyed a glorious evening until well after midnight. God is faithful.

Miscellaneous Musings

This is by far the weirdest September of my life (well, that I can remember). For the last 17 years of my life, this month has met new books, pens, and notebooks (I LOVE a fresh notebook). Since graduating I have realized that, if not for the weather, I could easily delude myself into thinking it was that carefree (superficially, at least) season until snow fell. If it weren't for sumac...and harvest...and ragweed...well, you know what I mean. I am trying to enjoy it while I can, as I'll be attending graduate school when Josh and I return to Africa, and after that I'll be chained to the school schedule of my children. Oh well, I find I enjoy structure, and when I don't have enough I feel as if I need to accomplish everything I have ever put off- always ultimately disappointing. Freedom, schmeedom ;)

On patience: I literally just said to my mother (in reference to unknown information) "Yeah, but I want it now." This does not bode well for my future, given I am moving to a region where it's not unheard of for somebody to be 3 hours late or to not return a call for weeks.

My husband works a crazy schedule- he usually works from 7am to 3:30pm, which isn't so bad until you add in the 1.5 hour commute each way (it was two hours from our former apartment). This means he typically wakes up at 5am and gets home at 5:30pm, and has to be to sleep within a few hours. Now, this is his normal schedule; when you work in the construction industry, you do the work while you've got it, and that has meant many late nights very little time to see each other (14 hr day + 3 hr commute= very little Josh & Nicky time). Now, here's the cool part- he's been working on a school, and they need to do a lot of work when class isn't in session, so he's been starting (and finishing) 3 hours early. That's right, he wakes up at 2 am, bless his heart. The kicker is that he likes it, because we are able to spend more time together (still haven't figured out how...)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Support Letters

This past week, we sent support letters to churches. This week will be a busy one, as I will be making follow up calls and trying to set up meetings with mission boards. Additionally, we will be sending out letters to individuals and families. You can see a copy of the support letters on our other website. Please pray on behalf of fulfilling God's vision.
We have still not heard back about many of the details of our trip.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disregard Yesterday...

Well, I continued on the online photo storage search, and I am done with SmugMug after 1 day. Although I think it's probably a wonderful program, it costs money (after all, we are missionaries), while Flickr does not (and still uses the same photo book company). But now I'm all confused, because I think you may be able to use the photo book company on its own, without storing any photos . Wasn't the internet supposed to make our lives simpler?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Switching It Up

This post has little to do with missions, so for those of you with that as your primary interest, we would like to inform you that support letters have been sent out to churches (Although, if any of you know of a church that hasn't received one that would be interested, DO NOT HESITATE to email me at!) Anyway, you all can stop reading now.

As you may or may not know, I love photography. Working in a photo studio was one of my jobs in high school, and it was there I got a free education about taking, developing, and editing pictures. For several years now, I have been a member of Shutterfly, a file storage and sharing site. Although I have been somewhat pleased, lately I have found my participation in this site to be more frustrating and less gratifying then before. Instead, I am going to be doing a free trial at SmugMug, a site that at least on the surface seems to have more advantages, like:
  • the ability to caption and comment on photos
  • less expensive photo books (Important- cheaper and easier than scrapbooking with more professional results- crucial if you make a lot of albums)
  • non-members can view and order pictures
  • no ads or spam
  • if you get a certain type of account, you can upload video (this may be helpful for when we are in Africa; I'm still thinking about it
  • the ability to design each album
I am not sure of the other characteristics, but I'll keep you updated as I try it out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This weekend, Josh and I went to Lifelight music festival in Souix Falls, SD, a free festival with Christian bands and 200,000 people. We have gone for several years, and highly recommend it to others who enjoy contemporary Christian music, everything from mxpx to Michael W. Smith. In addition to some new bands, I discovered a few new things to pass on. First is ShoutLife, a social networking website for Christians, which means it's like Facebook without inappropriate pictures and with monitored content. I am just now creating a page, so I don't have a lot of firsthand knowledge, but it looks promising. Second is a new clothing company called Castle Rock Jeans and Apparel, a company devoted to producing stylish and modest clothing (they make some really cute stuff). They were having some sort of sale, but I am not sure if it was just for Lifelight or it's online, too. While we're on this topic, a few years ago at Lifelight I found Christi's Pure Style , and recently found a website discussing the "Pure Fashion Movement." If you are interested in this topic, you should definitely check it out.

We have no more information on our trip at this time, but I thought I'd check in anyway. There is a bit of a predicament in that (ideally) we would be able to raise support quickly to get out on the field ASAP, as there is an immediate need, but we know very few details. In order to schedule meetings with churches and send out letters regarding support raising, we need to at least know how much money we need to raise, and ideally when we will leave. Therefore, the support process is essentially at a standstill until we get more information- a frustrating place to be. We would greatly appreciate prayer for this situation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Kind of Like Swimming...

Mission work is no vacation. Just in my limited missions experience, I've gone for weeks without showers, traveled to foreign countries where no one speaks my language, lived with people I've never met before, eaten things I won't even mention here, not been able to call home for months, been tracked by the government, had my room ransacked by "maids" who turned out to be spies, had things that looked like they were from a science-fiction movie crawl out of my shower drain, and have had to speak in code, lest be deported. (Wow- at this point I sound so much cooler than I really am.)

But the thing I most dread about mission work is "support raising." This is pretty much a euphemism for begging in the name of God. To be sure, it is a necessary part of mission work, as we don't want to be a burden on those we are serving, but raising support is most definitely a humbling and challenging experience.

The first challenge is explaining to those around you how you know you are called to serve the Lord in a distant land. Why can't you just serve Him right here? We certainly have need in America. For a look at how the need compares, view East Africa Statistics or Cultural Disparity). Are you sure you aren't projecting your own desires onto something you term "God's Will?" If it were about my desires, we'd be talking about a beach in Hawaii, not a disease-ridden, snake-infested, poverty-stricken region. How do you know for sure you are called? Well, it follows Scripture, we have had many confirmations through people and events, and we have a sense of peace. Beyond that, how do really explain God's calling to another person? As far as I am concerned, it's kind of like swimming: you can read books, get advice, watch people swim, wonder about it, try it, but until you actually are able to do it, you don't know.

A second challenge is explaining to people we are not mentally insane, just obsessed with serving the Lord. Yes, we are aware of the recent political instability of the area. Honestly, I don't think it has ever been stable, and it won't be in the near future- so no time like the present, right?! Yes, there is disease, poverty, wild game, pickpockets, crime, pollution, bad sounds like some parts of Minneapolis to me.

The most challenging, and humbling, part of raising support isn't sending out hundreds of support letters or taking meeting after meeting with churches. Rather, it is adequately reaching another person's heart with the vision God has set in front of you. We have come up against roadblocks in the past, as with a couple who told Josh that they thought it was time he "did this on his own." Can you imagine if everyone had that attitude? There would be no missionaries, because it is completely unrealistic. Thankfully, many people are willing to support missionaries with either financial assistance or prayer, both vitally important to missions. Josh and I are passionate about the work we will be doing, as well as where and with whom we'll be working. As it wasn't even on our radar 1 year ago, we know it is from the Lord. We will do what it takes to be obedient- sacrifice our own plans, time, comfort...and even ask other people to catch the vision.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mukaa, Kenya

We have an assignment!!!!!!!!!! Yesterday morning we officially accepted an assignment in Mukaa, Kenya. This is a small village located about an hour from Nairobi. We will be at a children's home that houses around 90 orphaned, abandoned, or mistreated children, and is expanding. Josh will be able to do electrical and construction work, and I will be working with the kids. Additionally, we may be working in a recently-discovered village where little to no ministry has been done. We will be able to live on site, and there may be one other person coming to work with us. Right now, we don't know many details, but we will post them as we know them.

We also started a blog that will simply have our prayer lists. If you'd like to take a gander, visit

Friday, August 22, 2008

Possible Assignment

Today we got a call from AIM saying that they have found a possible assignment for us. It would mean a short turnaround time, so we would have to raise support quickly. But, if it is God's will, we are confident He will take care of it. So, right now, we need prayer. We are and will be praying over the weekend to see if God gives us peace about taking this assignment. We are excited to serve, we just want to be sure it's where HE sends us...

Monday, August 18, 2008

East Africa Statistics

Since I began this season of my life knowing very little about the region Josh and I are about to move to, and I am guessing my lack of knowledge isn't unusual, here are some of the many interesting facts I have discovered while researching East Africa:
  • East Africa is comprised of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Sometimes the Sudan and Madagascar are included in this region. [Clicking on any of the links will take you to that country's entry in the CIA World Factbook.]
  • East Africa tends to have particularly high concentrations of the "big five"- elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and black rhinoceros
  • E.A. is home to Mounts Kilimanjaro (pictured at right) and Kenya (the two tallest peaks in Africa), Lake Victoria (the world's second-largest freshwater lake- Victoria Falls is pictured above), and Lake Tanganyika (the world's second-deepest lake).
  • Although E.A. is on the equator, the climate is rather temperate. Although different sources give varying answers, it seems as though the average minimum temperature is somewhere between 60-70 degrees, and the average maximum is somewhere around 85 degrees. It also tends to be very dry.
  • Political history is far to complex to relay here, but it is important to note "ownership" and political power have changed often, and political instability isn't unusual.
  • Some common agricultural crops are plantains, cassava (tapioca), sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, corn, beans, groundnuts, coffee, coconuts, pineapples, cashews, cotton, tea, tobacco, and sugar. Farmers also raise cattle, sheep, and goats.
  • Other industries are fishing, forestry, plastics, cork, beer, and soft drinks.
  • Other exports: gold, electrical products, iron, steel, limestone, and salt.
  • Droughts cause severe power outages, and 12-hour blackouts are not uncommon.
  • Like the rest of Africa, AIDS continues to be an epidemic, with no cure in sight. The following is a note from the CIA factbook page for Uganda:
    • "Population:31,367,972 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)"
  • Risk of disease is very high- bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, chikungunya, malaria, plague, African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), schistosomiasis. I don't know what most of these are, but none of them sound good.
  • If you know any interesting facts about East Africa, please leave a comment!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cultural Disparity

Although we have not yet received our assignment (We are still waiting. Patiently :P), we do know some things about the area we will likely be serving in. There are snakes. Not garter snakes, but the snakes of your nightmares-Vipers, Cobras, and Pythons (yeah, can't wait). Ebola isn't some exotic disease- it kills your relative, your neighbor. There is no running water, no electricity, no air conditioning (it's on the equator), no antibiotics. AIDs orphan roam the streets, and 12-year-olds are heads of households because an entire generation has been decimated by the disease. Malaria, polio, and other diseases that have long been cured kill people, because they can't afford vaccines or medicine. Life expectancy is 49 years for men and 51 years for women, compared to 75 years for ment and 80 years for women here in the U.S. There are violent rebel groups, sex slavery, and child soldiers. People literally die every day from malnutrition.

It is a world Americans can scarcely comprehend. Even America's poorest citizens seem wealthy when compared to East Africa's average citizen. People here earn an average of approximately $900 per year- that's about $17/week, or $2.50/day. Could you live on that? Could you raise a family on that? Some of the most basic needs, like dental hygiene (and by that I mean toothbrush and toothpaste), are unheard of. If you make $17 a week, buying toothbrushes for your family of 5 most likely isn't your priority. A friend of mine began The Muunoo Smile Project to educate about and perform dental hygiene in Africa; it's a fascinating operation, and if you would like to know more, you can visit her website at

Our goal will be to live as much as possible as the native citizens.

This blog will hopefully serve not only to update our family, friends, and supporters on how our work is going, but also to illuminate the East African culture.

Happy Birthday

My husband missed my birthday (gasp!) Before you nominate him for the Worst Husband of the Year Award, let me explain- I encouraged him to. He was on an annual camping trip with 8 other guys (probably not helping him much yet...). I think all-guy time is important for men. They can talk freely about bodily functions, sports, life, manhood, fish, God, and get all the masculine behavior society has wrested from them out of their systems. I'm guessing there is also a lot of "bonding" that goes on just by being silent. He comes back refreshed, rejuvenated, and missing me more than ever (absence really does make the heart grow fonder).
But that's not the point. To make up for missing my birthday, he went above and beyond, and I just wanted to brag about him in public. He took me to a hotel (our room had a jacuzzi- bonus point for him) and out to eat. The fact that we are currently addicted to the Olympics (and chose to watch it for an hour) should in no way denigrate the thought and effort Josh put in to planning this celebration. While many husbands in this same situation would have said something akin to "Happy birthday, honey- have a cupcake," Josh went out of his way to make me feel special and important (just to reiterate- he's taken).
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men."
- Song of Solomon 2:3
Josh, here's to you. I am so blessed to share my life with you. Every time God's creation leaves me in awe, I want to share it with you. Just thinking about you now makes me smile. You are everything I'm not, and together we are so much stronger than we are as individuals. Even in difficult times, I am humbled and grateful that He has chosen to bring us together. I love you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Although we are not yet certain of our assignment, there is plenty to learn about the organization we will be serving with- Africa Inland Missions ( When we began to look for organizations we could possibly serve with, we found many that met most of our criteria- committed to presenting the Gospel, service, love, compassion, cross-cultural understanding, etc. AIM set itself apart by an emphasis on serving others while preserving their dignity. If you would like to know more, please take the time to visit their website.

Incidentally, as I begin to unlock the many mysteries of the blogging world (bet some of you didn't even know it existed) (oh, yeah- me, neither), I've been adding elements to the page/site/home/whatever-you-call-it. As you can see, we now have prayer requests and a slide show of some pictures. (I think it makes this whole operation look more official ;)
[If you find the Sudan (large yellow country in East Africa), you can see the two countries we are most likely to be assigned to. Directly below the Sudan, in pink, lies Uganda. Just east of Uganda is Kenya, in orange.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Humble Ramblings

Day 2 of my foray into blogging, and I have to say I am a smidgen proud of my self. Confession: I am technologically challenged. No, really. Sure, I can surf the net, photoshop (from my work in a photo studio), and I am addicted to email, but a blog?! Inwardly I feel like a computer geek- and I like it.

Since Josh and I continue to wait for our assignment, there is little yet to say about the details of our trip. I know there has been so much that God has done up to this point, even some things that I am aware of, but I think they'll just tumble out spontaneously amidst my humble ramblings. Besides, the life of a future missionary is filled with more than just missions; therefore, I implore to to humor me and I'll try not to bore you.

Last night I was blessed to be able to hang out with some of my favorite kids in the world. You have to understand that "babysitting" to me is really code for "get paid to play with kids who hug and cuddle and think you're amazing because you can fix their toy." We'll keep that between us, though, or I'll have to start getting real jobs. I have nannied all through my college career, and after my second family moved away this spring, I was without a position for the first time in 4 years. I love, relish, cherish times like last night. Josh and I had 12 kids in our wedding party- yep, you read that right. In spite of the fact that we both have huge families, we weren't related to a single one. They were simply children who have leeched on to our hearts to the extent that if they weren't an integral part of our wedding, it just wouldn't be right.

We have been praying since the first day we really felt called to Africa that we will be able to leave the kids at the end. I would adopt them all, but having several million children would be frowned upon, and how could I choose between them? To be perfectly honest, I don't really understand my deep love of children. I am passionate about caring for and serving them, but it doesn't seem logical.

Take, for example, the Lovewells. There children are Sweetpea (age 7), Buddy (age 4 1/2) and Little One (7 months). I have babysat the kids since Sweetpea was 2 and Buddy was 6 months. In that time I have changed countless diapers, been puked on at least once by all of the kids, given time-outs, dealt with screaming, crying, and bickering, and have often driven 3 hours round trip just to see this family. But it's all worth it- slobbery kisses, hand-colored projects, "I love you," our overnight parties, bedtime stories, and seeing (and hearing) their excitement when walking through the front door are priceless.

Sometimes I fear becoming a mother someday. Don't get me wrong: I believe parenthood is the highest calling, and I can't wait to have kids. But sometimes I wonder, since I love these kids so much, and think they're brilliant, talented, beautiful, polite, kind, and fabulous, how will my children ever measure up? How can I possibly love other children as much as these? Their parents are so kind, always saying how my husband and I are godsends and like family (which I of course love to hear :)). What they really don't understand is what a blessing they've all been to us. When I was at my first college, it was one of the most stressful and depressing times of my life. Then, out of the blue, God brought us together. Every week, I would drive home just to see them. I found peace and comfort in their presence (not to mention in my marathon talks with their mom), only to realize children bring me closer into God's presence.

When Josh and I move to Africa, I anticipate a great sense of grief from being away from family and friends. The longest I have ever been away from home is 3 months, and I would be perfectly satisfied with that. However, I know even now that the people I will miss the most are "my kids." They grow so fast; after a year Sweetpea will have written a book, Princess will be in post-secondary education, Buddy will be training for the Olympics, and Little One will run the UN (maybe she can whip it into shape). I guess my greatest fear, deep down, is that they will forget me. I pray the love I've shown them will sustain itself until we return, because they are indelibly imprinted on my heart

I Know Nothing

I guess you could say it all started with the quarter-life crisis now so ubiquitous on college campuses- "I've gotten this far, ready to take the world by storm, but precisely how do I fit into God's plan?" I went into college thinking I would graduate from the same school I started at in four years, go on to medical school, and not so much as date until I was officially an M.D. Instead, I transferred schools (which meant graduating in five years), switched majors twice, am planning on graduate school for psychology, and was married before my senior year of college.

Check out the lantern in this picture, one of the hundreds donated by the class of 1958. Every member of the class of 2008 received one, and we all lit them simultaneously- so cool!

Incidentally, I would like to state for the record that those requisite graduation caps do nobody any favors. It seems like a ploy in which school administrations have one last chance to manipulate students into doing something ridiculous- "They look like fools, and they paid for it- mwa ha ha ha (maniacal laugh)".

The Call

Frankly, I think it's preposterous that one is expected to decide one's entire future by the age of 22. Many 22-year-olds I know shouldn't be allowed to decide what to do with a weekend, let alone a lifetime. After much time spent in prayer, I felt I should apply to graduate school. I waded through the dense web of standardized tests, transcripts, references, and essays. I did the interviews. I waited, worried, and prayed. But before I had so much as heard from many of the schools, God made it clear this was not His timing. I was less than thrilled to make this discovery.

It started out with a speaker to our church in the cities who was also the founder of a missions organization. As soon as I read the snippet about the message in the bulletin, my anxiety skyrocketed. For several years, I knew God would eventually call me to Africa to work with children; it was always on the back burner, an adventure always set in the distant future. I really hoped God wasn't going to mess up my plans...I know it sounds ridiculous, but you know you've thought it, too.

He started to talk about his background. Although he knew our pastor from time in Arizona, he actually grew up within an hour of our hometown. His first "real" missions experience was taking Bibles into China and serving there (as was mine), and his daughter was finishing up her doctorate in Psychology (my eventual academic goal). These, among many other similarities, forced both Josh and I to take notice. Long story short, we told him we would keep in touch about serving with his organization in the distant future. Later, I came to find out that my parents also knew him from working with him in the 1980's- it was a little surreal.

When Josh and I both came to realize God's plan was for us to serve in Africa much sooner than ours, we asked for confirmation. We prayed with our pastor's wife, who felt the Holy Spirit lead her to ask for not one, but three, confirmations. This was at the beginning of our church service, and by the time we left, we had all three.

Since then we decided to switch organizations, moved out of our apartment, put most of our worldly possessions in storage, and are preparing to leave behind everything we know. This is in large part based on faith. We have no details about an official assignment (who, what, when, where), we haven't been able to raise support yet, and we aren't really even sure how long we are going for (most likely somewhere around one year). For the hyper-organized, compulsively scheduled control-freak that I am, this just doesn't sit well. I thrive on details, and right now, I pretty much know nothing.

What I do know is this: when God asks me if I am willing to go, I will say yes. I am perfectly aware of the rebels, of AIDS, of poverty, of living situations; we are called to look beyond that, above it. As a missionary I recently met said, the most dangerous place to be is anywhere but in God's will. I know that there are people who need the love of Christ, and the assurance and peace of the message of the Gospel. As I said to Princess (the little girl my family has taken care of on the weekends for the last 5 years), we are going to help and take care of kids who have no mommies and daddies.

We won't forget the ones we love here; we will learn to love better by God breaking our hearts for the lost and underprivileged. Finally, I know that, although Africa can be a dangerous place, I would rather go, serve, and die there, than spend the rest of my life knowing I was disobedient, that I had given up the opportunity to be used to change even one life in the name of Christ.