Friday, December 31, 2010

Adventures in Wonderland: This is no fairytale, Part 3

In those moments immediately following, all I could do was pray and praise God that He had prepared me through multiple First Aid certifications. As a former lifeguard and police explorer, I knew I had had good training.

She was soaked to mid-thigh, crying, and approaching shock within the first thirty seconds. I snapped into adrenaline-fueled composure, picked her up, and set her on the stepstool. It should be said that she is around 60 lbs, and I knew that was going to be a significant amount to carry out. I planned in my head while I stripped off her boots, socks, and jeans. Her feet were freezing, so I put my gloves on her feet. I put my scarf around her neck (I was wearing a vest instead of a coat, so I didn’t have that resource), and her legs in the arms of her coat. Even when I zipped up the coat, it only reached mid-thigh, so I shook off the little bit of snow from the fleece blanket and wrapped it around her (which was a feat in itself, as I had to use one arm to pick her up and one to wrap).

By this time I was already exhausted… and I still had to find some way to get her out of the canyon.

I picked her up and carried her in front of my body. There was a sort of trail through the snow, but her squirming and shivering made things more difficult. She was still whimpering, and I knew I had to distract her, so I had her sing me songs. By the time we got to the bottom of the stairs, I was already completely out of energy.

I knew I couldn’t set her on the snow, but I couldn’t hold her anymore. I sat down on the snow-covered step, and held her on my lap. Thankfully, my parents had given me moisture-wicking long underwear for Christmas, because I was soon soaked through to the skin (they dried my skin soon after standing). The last thing we needed was to have us both wet and freezing. My muscles we already burning, but I knew I had to hurry to get her in the car.

I stood her on a step and put her on my back. I used one arm to hold her and one to hold onto the railing. The stairway was treacherous, and it wouldn’t have taken much for us to tumble down the stairs. Then we would be in REAL trouble.

At the top of the longest staircase, I could hardly breathe. I was berating myself for not being a gym rat, but I don’t think that would have helped much. I sat down and held her on my lap again until I caught my breath (thank you, lingering bronchitis). When I put her on my back again, she started saying she was scared and afraid I would drop her- it was a LONG way down. I reassured her and continued on.

We finally made it to the top of all the stairs. I just wanted to collapse. While I was carrying her the rest of the way to the car (in front of me know, because she was too weak to hang on), I thought of the car keys. I had her put them in her jeans pocket.

Her jeans were in the canyon.

Then I remembered that when we had come back to get her coat, we had switched the keys to her coat. Thank you, God.

I sat her on the hood of the car while I unlocked it (no remote here), and put her in the backseat. Thankfully, my coat was still in the car and was warm and dry. I found a towel in the trunk, cranked the heat on high, and climbed into the back of the car with her. I kept talking to her while I stripped off anything wet and re-bundled her. I blew warm air on her feet- praise the Lord they were pinkish red and not white. At that point I knew she was okay. After a hot bath, a good meal, and some warm, dry clothes, she was as good as new.

Now, looking back over the day, I praise God for taking care of us in so many ways.

We just happened to have left the tripod.

I just happened to bring the blanket and stepladder.

It just happened to be well warmer than usual.

I just happened to get long underwear for Christmas.

We just happened to go back for Belle’s coat.

We just happened to move the keys.

We just happened to leave my coat in the car so it was warm and dry, even though I’m usually freezing.

Since I don’t believe in coincidences, this looks like God’s work to me. He is so good.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adventures in Wonderland: This is no fairytale, Part 2

One of our Princesses (yes, we have connections to royalty : )) has been staying with us this week. We are very close, and after living on the same street this summer, it has been some much-needed quality time. Josh and I don’t have any kids yet, but we have some that we absolutely cherish and love spoiling.

I recently photographed an engagement shoot at a local frozen waterfall, and I have wanted to take Princess there since then, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I felt a little unsure, like maybe it was unwise to take her to this place by myself (Josh was at work). What if I fell and broke my ankle? What if we got the car stuck? What if….?

But, not wanting to live in a spirit of fear, I ignored that little voice. After all, we can’t live our life by “what ifs.” It was 36 degrees when we left the house today, and I couldn’t dream of better weather for our little hike. I pack the car with coats (we didn’t even need them from the house to the car!), the camera (of course), a blanket, and stepladder (for the camera because we left the tripod at Josh’s parent’s house over Christmas). We wore two pairs of socks and boots, hats, gloves, and scarves, and I had my cell phone on me. We talked about going slow and holding hands and not touching the icicles and staying away from any running water. We were as prepared as I thought we could be.

We went VERY slowly down the dozens of wooden stairs leading down to the canyon. After we made it halfway down, Princess said she did need her coat after all; I was a little impatient at the time, but it turned out to be important. The stairs were solidly packed with snow, which made every step a little tenuous, but we made it just fine.

What awaited us was a beautiful winter wonderland. The weather was so warm that the giant icicles were starting to drip, and it was so silent that you could hear every drop of water.

We are planning on making a mini-scrapbook of her all the fun activities we’ve been doing since she came, so we snapped a few photos (you can view them here). We were having a great time, playing in the snow, and she was as in awe of this miracle of an ice waterfall as I was.

I went to put the camera on the stepladder so we could take a shot of the two of us for the scrapbook, when I heard

CRACK!

As I whipped my head around, “NIIIIIIIIIIIIIICKYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Princess was standing waist deep in snow: “It’s cold, it’s cold, it’s cold, it’s cold!!!!!!!!!!!!”

As I stepped to pull her out (I had only been about 10 feet away), I saw that she had been trying to get close to see the shallow river, and had stepped right through the ice!

Even though it was above freezing, getting wet increases your chances of hypothermia and frostbite exponentially. According to the United States Search and Rescue Task Force http://www.ussartf.org/cold_water_survival.htm, cold water robs the body of heat 32 times faster than cold air. They define “cold” water as around 70 degrees and below, so I have no idea the effect of freezing water that has been right under ice. To say the least, I was scared, and there was nobody around to help.

(continued tomorrow)

Adventures in Wonderland: This is no fairytale, Part 1

Have you ever had a feeling you shouldn't do something, a feeling that doesn't make any sense? Don't take that meeting. Don't go on that trip. Don't move to that house. Don't make that investment. Things that, from a logical perspective, make complete sense.

I get these feelings all the time, more than I care to admit. I was raised on realist, empirical academia, and these "senses" as I call them (to delineate them from emotions) are not logically explained.

I tend to have a hard time knowing what to do with them. On the one hand, I know the Holy Spirit has often spoken to me in this way, and obviously I would want to heed those nudges. However, the enemy has a way of imitating that same sense, and filling me with unnecessary fear or worry. He wants to trick me. (If you think this sounds paranoid, you should read some books on spiritual warfare. I recommend "Waking the Dead" by John Elderidge.)

So what do you do? How do you know the origin of anxiety? How do you act on this thought?

Until the last few years, I would err on the side of caution. However, I know I missed opportunities as a result of unnecessary. Meditating on this verse changed my way of thinking.

"The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold
as lions." -Proverbs 28:1

In my Bible, I have written next to this verse "I will not live in a spirit of fear." I want to live boldly and dangerously for Christ and His kingdom. We are called to be warriors, and I am not willing to sit on the sidelines and let everyone else do the work. I think this attitude is what Christ demands, but I also think not having a black-and-white standard to err on the side of caution definitely complicates things. You must take each decision on a case-by-case basis, which definitely widens the way for errors. You get confused, and don’t want to live in fear, and instead ignore the Holy Spirit’s leading.

For me, many of these situations have been memorable. Injuries, arguments, and dangerous situations have occurred outside of what logic would predict. I won’t soon forget today.

(continued tomorrow)

Monday, December 27, 2010

What Do You Think?

Found this on a friend's facebook page- what are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Only Takes a Minute

Please take just one moment to say a prayer for all those who will be away from their families this Christmas. Whether missionaries, in the military, experiencing financial hardship, or whatever, it is always difficult to feel alone. This feeling may be exponentially emphasized during those times when you feel like you need to be with family. I know they will all appreciate it. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Promise Worth Trusting

I feel right now like there are so many things that I would/could/should/want to/need to write about, but I'm just not sure where to start. I just finished my first graduate school semester two days ago, so that has taken up most of my life lately. And what a semester it has been. School itself has been GREAT, but...well, let's just say that more than once I've had the following conversation:

classmate: "I'm so stressed out! School is making me crazy!"

me: "I'm sorry to hear you're having a hard time. Is there anything I can do to help?"

classmate: "Not really, but thanks for asking. Aren't you stressed out too?"

me: "Yes, but not about this. Grad school is the least of my worries!"

There have been multiple times I have coped with some really stressful situations just by throwing myself into my work. I'm not sure that's healthy to do all the time, but in this case it was just what I needed.

We have dealt with a lot since we got home from Africa, and it looks like we will continue to, at least for the near future. We have chosen to commit to living the life God sets before us, and to not choosing something else out of fear of stress or the unknown. Therefore, we are often stressed and don't know.

Terrific.

Those who know me or read this blog know I am a bit of a control freak extremely well-organized (well, except during grad school finals) and I need to know what is going on.

Okay...I want to know. Working on that whole needs vs wants language. But sometimes it feels like a need.

I've gotten to the point that I can accept God has it under control and I don't always need to know- for a little while. But as soon as another layer of stress is piled on top of whatever avalanche we are already under, it seems like I'm back at the starting gate of fear and wanting control (and sometimes just trying to take it) and worry and despair. The consistency is not there yet. Sometimes it even feels like this act I can't get the hang of.

[BTW, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but the alternative was to say "of which I can't get the hang." So you see my dilemma- please have mercy.]

Do you ever feel like you NEED to know what God is up to? What do you do when He doesn't share that with you?

My solution is usually to rely on Scripture:

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes for them." -Romans 8:28

Such a simple and familiar verse that it is easy to forget this is God's Word. It is His promise to us. Even when I'm scared and I wonder what He's doing, that's a promise worth trusting.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Um, Duh...

I'm not sure I have ever been so excited for a Monday. This summer I decided that I don't want to be one of those people who wish Monday's away; after all, they are 1/7th of our lives! If you follow this blog at all, you know that I often write about the struggle to be present, my struggle to be present. I refuse to wish life away...but it is a constant process and battle for intentionality.

But a recent Monday wasn't like that. It signaled to me the welcome beginning of a new week, and more importantly an end to the last.

It all started on Wednesday, when I got sick and had to take midnight trip to the E.R. due to lung and breathing trouble. They weren't able to find an exact cause, and sent me home with some medication, with the disclaimer it may not work (less than encouraging). [Note: this disappointing and unhelpful resulted in an $800 hospital bill- are they insane???]

Thursday brought more illness and exhaustion, but by late morning I was able to do some work on the computer. I found out that my financial aid was messed up (thankfully I have been able to take care of that), which definitely increased my stress levels. For some reason, money issues just have this way of seizing my sanity and peace in the moment. As I was working on that, my computer contracted a virus. After working on that for an hour without success, I had to take it into the shop. [Cost: $130 more- it was becoming a REALLY expensive week].

Friday dawned fresh and new, and I was *sure* the day would go better. Or not. During the afternoon, as I left my house to drive into town, a lady bug crawled under the sunglasses I had perched on my head. When I pulled them over my eyes, it bit me right below my right eye. Yes, I was attacked by a ladybug (I'm kind of glad I'm not a guy, or I'm sure I would never hear the end of that). And apparently I am allergic to them, because within 15 minutes I could literally see the swelling out of my own eye. I stopped into the student health center, and they fixed me up.

While I was waiting in the office, I decided to check in with Josh, and he let me know there is now some uncertainty about the future of his job. Of course, what I heard in my head was "he's losing his job and we will have to move and I won't be able to be in graduate school and we can never be missionaries or have kids or have any other dreams and they'll probably even kick us out of our families and America, too." Or something like that.

By this point, I was feeling a psychotic break coming on, so I did what every mature, grown adult does- I called my mommy. And then she put my daddy on. I don't know what it is, but my dad just has this way of reframing things that just calms me down and makes me feel all is not lost (believe me, Josh knows and takes advantage of this fact often). Things felt manageable, once again.

But that lasted only for about an hour. I had an online assignment due Friday night, and hadn't been able to get ahold of the professor. After the allergic reaction, they instructed me to take some benadryl and sleep for a while. That was at 3, the assignment was due at 8- I figured I had plenty of time. Around 6:30 or so, I drove to the school to use the computers at the library. But guess what? The library was closed! CLOSED! What university library closes at 4pm on a Friday? I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I kind of did a little I'm-crazy-and-out-of-my-mind-right-now giggle, as no one was around (thankfully). After all, I am studying to be a mental health professional- the last thing I need is for someone to see me having a mini-nervous-breakdown and report that to my program. Ai, mon.

The weekend involved more ups and downs. When I got to school on Monday morning, I was about my weekend with a classmate who also happens to be a Believer, and she asked whether it might be spiritual warfare.

*Umm, duh...*

I told her I hadn't even thought of it. But it made sense. Just recently, Josh and I had been delving deeper with God, and making new commitments in our finances, marriage, and quiet times. We had been fighting hard in prayer for loved ones. It seemed to add up. We were a threat, and we were paying for it.

I can't believe we didn't see it. We have dealt with quite a bit of spiritual warfare before, but it didn't even occur to us that this could be the reason. We were blinded. We were lied to. The enemy is so sneaky...

But there was also something empowering about realizing that it was battle. We could fight back. We have the Victor on our side.

Sometimes I'll look at Josh and say, "Do you think this level of stress is normal?" By that I mean stressful circumstances, not our response to them. I mean, I work with people and their stress. I feel I have a pretty good handle on what may and may not be healthy levels of stress. We'll talk about it, and he'll remind me we have God and each other to rely on, and I'll feel better for a while. But one time he said something that changed my thinking:
"We have a target on our backs."
Josh is not afraid of the notion of spiritual battle. It's as natural and real and common to him as drinking water or breathing air. But I have to say I am much less aware, and often feel uncomfortable about it. I know it's true and real and have seen it with my own eyes, but I prefer to not focus on it. In truth, I prefer to pretend it's not there. I am like a little kid- if I shut my eyes against it, it can't see me.

Would that it were...

But it's not. We face the enemy everyday. We have a choice- to acquiesce, or to not back down from the fight. I would like to leave you with a quote from a 10-year-old girl who spoke to 11,000 college students at a Midwest conference.
"I'm not cute, I'm dangerous...and satan is terrified of me."


God, make us dangerous.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Little Something For a Spare Minute

I have some sort of dysfunction or latent effect from childhood or something that precludes me from being able to relax. So, when I find something that doesn't take a lot of time or make a big mess, I jump on it. If you're like me, you should totally check out jigzone for online puzzles. Geeky, but fun. Trust me. Or, if you don't, give it a try right here!

Click to Mix and Solve

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Simplifying: A Change of Heart

I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little ashamed of myself. Or a lot. It just kind of depends on my mood.

Africa taught me so many things and changed me in so many ways I could never have anticipated. One of the few I did anticipate is that I would long to live more simply, especially in regards to material possessions. Thankfully, Josh feels the same way, and thus we have embarked on a hard-core self-imposed simplification.
It started before we even got back, when we gave most of our belongings away. It has continued over the summer, with a huge front porch sale, lots of sorting and organizing, and an effort to buy very little.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I find things to get rid of that I didn’t need to buy in the first place. We have 4 or 5 pairs of scissors. Three packages of cup hooks. More than a dozen skeins of yarn. Tons of wrapping paper and gift bags. Things that are certainly not enriching our life. Things bought with money that is needed so much more by others. Even when cutting us some slack because we had to buy some things we already had when our stuff was in storage, it is still too much. And, this is all after already having gotten rid of lots of stuff before we left. Sadly, I would have told you that we had significantly fewer possessions than most people then…and I probably would have been right.

But in all reality, simplifying is not as easy as just getting rid of stuff. That is simply called a “Salvation Army run,” and is a one-time deal. Simplifying requires a change of heart, and a willingness to constantly push against a society that encourages consumerism.

And it is hard.

This is the society we grew up in. We are used to that kind of lifestyle, and a year overseas doesn’t change that. We have made certain decisions to help us out, like focusing on helping others by giving away, and not having a TV with which to receive more brainwashing. Seriously, brainwashing is really not an exaggeration: you do not “need” a certain kind of shampoo or makeup or restaurant food, and don’t even get me started on “must-see” TV… ugh. In order for this change to take root in our heart, it will take time and God’s help. I am trying to be patient, and am trying to remember it is a process and will not happen overnight. I am trying to take it one scissor, one cup hook, one prayer at a time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Update:

It’s been a long time since I gave a general update, and as usual so much has happened.

After we got back in April, we spent a month living with my parents so we would have the opportunity to rest up and ease back into American culture. This time was invaluable; not only were we able to spend a lot of time with them and with God, but we were able to take a few weeks off before going back to work.

We were able to give presentations to several classes in the schools around our hometown, which was an absolute privilege. It’s pretty unusual for people in our area to live across the world, so it was fun to be able to encourage them to think big and realize their full potential. They were so attentive to or stories and pictures of the kids we had worked with. We tried to get them to realize that they could have been born in Namibia in those same situations. Empathy can’t be taught, but compassion can be encouraged. Of course, given the fact the schools were public, we could share very little in terms of the Gospel, but we were able to answer a few insightful questions regarding our philosophy of missions. It was an absolute privilege.

Over the summer we lived in a wonderful, furnished home owned by a sweet couple in our hometown. They have a cabin up north that they stay at during the summer, so staying at their house was the perfect situation for us because we were able to rent it without having to sign a long lease while knowing we’ be moving for graduate school in September.

Josh got a job working at a trucking and manufacturing company he worked for in college, and continued to look for employment in his field. He was eventually hired on by a company that builds and maintains cell phone towers, and is really enjoying it. He is able to do work that counts towards his journeyman’s license, and will hopefully be able to get that within the next year.

I started my own photography company, and have been staying busy with that. I am learning so much, have had a great response so far, and a ton of fun. I am getting ready to push to a new level soon, with some promotions and advertising coming up. I am excited to see how God uses this.

We taught VBS, and were able to give a presentation to the kids. Two years ago, the VBS mission offering went to us, and last year we used that money for a VBS for our kids in Africa, as well as for the youth program. We thought it was important to show the kids that, when you donate money to missionaries, it really does go toward important things. Sometimes I think kids just think the offering money disappears, but we showed them pictures to prove otherwise! : ) We are hoping to do more presentations at our supporting churches this winter, so that we have time to let everything sink in, pray about what God wants us to share, and put together a presentation. We don’t want to waste this opportunity to show others about God’s love for all of His people. If you would like us to speak at your church, please leave a comment or email me.

We were able to buy a car a couple of weeks ago, which was a huge blessing filling an absolute need. It’s not anything beautiful, but it does the job. We only had one car between the two of us, as Josh’s had died just weeks before we left for Africa, and we needed one so he would be able to drive back and forth to work (he commutes an hour each way on average) and I could drive to school. It was a much-appreciate answer to lots of prayer, and a reminder of Gods provision.

Other than that, we have been spending lots of time with friends and family. It has been at times challenging, at times wonderful, but always exciting being able to become reacquainted with one another. We were able to have dinner with each side of our family almost once per week since coming home, and have spent almost every Friday night with a few of our best friend from… well, forever. We have been so mightily blessed.

We continue to pray about our future in missions, and would appreciate your prayers for clarity regarding Gods will.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Next Step

Last week, I started graduate school. I am not even sure what to think as I move into this next phase of life and my academic career. To begin with, we’re still adjusting to life back in the United States. I know some of you are probably like, “geez, it’s been 5 months already (I can’t believe it’s already been that long!), but it’s a blink of an eye considering the adjustment we are trying to make. We lived in what seemed like an entirely different world. We had our hearts broken in ways most can only imagine, if even that. It’s a struggle to adjust, and something that will take time.

Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to give this season of our lives full attention and presence. In some ways, even this next phase seems like a transition period. People are constantly asking us when we are going “back,” as if our return is a given, even thought that was never part of the plan (although it could be now). Even once we decided to go on the mission field, we thought it would only be for 6 months or so. On the one hand, it is comforting, as people obviously see something in us that would encourage them to think we would be a good fit for serving God in this capacity. It’s humbling and reassuring and a quiet confirmation of where we think God may be leaving us. At the same time, it can be frustrating to deal with people’s somewhat demanding expectations, and makes it difficult to be present and focused on where God has put us right now. I don’t believe God wastes time. He is always teaching us and using us. It is just a new challenge for me to be focusing on here and now, even while knowing what is [possibly] next (you never really know- He may just not have revealed His whole plan about that yet!).

I never expected to attend graduate school. I always wanted to go to medical school, and there are times even now when I question my decision to take another path. Since then, I have decided to go to graduate school, applied to one type of program, decided to go to Africa instead, worked in the field, decide on a different type of program, applied, was offered a great deal of money and prestige in a terrific program, and instead turned them down and decided to accept a different program’s offer, which to the average person would seem significantly less enticing.

Rereading that last sentence, it basically sound like I just can’t make up my mind! As someone who loves order and routine and repetition (not that you’d know it from my life as of late), this constant change in direction has been a bit of a challenge. However, I don’t think it means I am crazy or indecisive or unfocused; rather, I think of it as an example of God’s wisdom. I believe He knew (and knows) precisely where He wants me to be, but He also knew I couldn’t take the change in direction all in one step. I am certain there will be many more similar instances of change and growth in my life, but I find it so comforting to be the child of a gracious God who knows my limits. So many times lately, they have been and are being pushed to their borders. I am so glad to now He is loving an merciful enough to accommodate my weakness with His love and grace, even while helping me to overcome them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On the Move

I remember the first time I moved, about 7 years ago. I had lived in the same house since birth, and for me the place completely embodied “home.” In fact, the attachment runs so deep that there are parts of “family” and “home” and “security” that are so strongly linked to that place that they are almost inseparable. I imagined I might move to college, then move back to the area of my youth and call it good.

Instead, last week marked my 21st move. In order that you might understand the gravity of the situation, you should know that I am a complete homebody. I stayed home most nights during high school- because I thought it was fun. I regularly came home during college, sometimes even in the middle of the week. Even though I’ve traveled all over the world, there is no sight more beautiful to me than that of the road leading to my childhood home. So, to move 21 times has been a matter of obedience and circumstance, rather than choice.

However, although I still despise the mess moving makes and the pervasive feeling of being “in transition,” I was surprised to noticed how I’ve grown in relation to moving. The first time I moved away from home, there were lots of tears, fear, and a good-bye dinner with family and friends. At this point, we just pack up and go, and expect that email and Facebook will fill the gap with loved ones until the next time we can see them. Somewhat necessarily, most emotion has been forced out of the equation. I mean, honestly, can you imagine if I broke down every one of these times? I’d accomplish nothing!

As a student of psychology, perhaps what intrigues me the most is the function that the attachment/detachment cycle of moving can play in our lives. After all these moves (and while knowing there will be more in the foreseeable future), and am both surprised and comforted by that fact that our connection to our roots seems to grow stronger. It’s as if, instead of breaking them or cutting them off, they’ve just been shaken loose, allowing us to go and grow in the direction that God wants. They’ve responded to these challenges by becoming stronger, and I guess you could say we have to. Don’t get me wrong, moving is something that is still extremely difficult to me, and certainly doesn’t come naturally. I am looking forward to settling in for awhile, even though I don’t expect (or even want)it to be forever. However, I am so grateful God is slowly (and repeatedly!) releasing me from fear of moving, and is allowing me to better be able to trust His will for our lives, no matter where it takes us. I truly want to do His will, and don’t really see any point to staying somewhere where there is no use for me. I am excited to see what He has in store for us in our new location. Besides, if all else fails, there’s still Facebook ; )

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog Philosophy

I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging, writing posts, who blogs, why blog, my philosophy of blogging, etc. If you follow this blog at all, you’ll know I am certainly not that consistent about it, let alone someone who is dedicated enough to post every day. I have been away from blogging much this summer, for so many reasons.

At the top of the list would be time. Josh and I have had an extremely busy summer- we’ve moved twice, been trying to reconnect with family and friends, I had mono, he started a new job, and then switched to a different job that was a better fit for him, I started and am running a full-time businesses (which has lately taken up most of my blogging energies), I start grad school this fall, we are trying to simplify our possessions and way of life (which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to happen overnight), not to mention the fact we’ve been readjusting to our own home culture.

The other biggest factor in my blogging hiatus is probably lack of direction. I am just not sure what the point of this blog is anymore. Although I know I have so much more to tell you, both about Africa and about life and what God is teaching me, there has been so much going on that I am not sure what to share. In all reality, there have been many things I have wanted to share- about transition back to our own culture, about leaving our second home in Namibia, about what God has taught us about love and missions and service and ministry, about the way people responded to us when they saw us for the first time after getting home or things they said- that just aren’t appropriate because some people are not a a position to be able to understand certain things, and we don’t want to hurt any feelings. We recognized we have gained a different perspective than some, which we firmly believe is from God, but we don’t want to cause any divisiveness in the Body of Christ.

So, consider this a warning: this blog is not limited to Africa. Don’t be surprised to read about moving one day, a pet peeve the next, a fun event in our lives the next, pictures and a story from our time in Africa the next, a spiritual revelation the next… you get the idea. I know there are tons of people out there who write incredible blogs that are dedicated to certain subjects. It looks like that need is taken care of, so check back here if you want some random doses of everyday real life. I do not consider myself to be a blogger, but rather someone who writes just to share with you and get some of my thoughts out of my head. I enjoy it. I need the release. It’s really okay if nobody reads it, because I can’t be in this to please others. I can’t tell you what it will be about, because I just don’t know what my own life will look like in a week, a month, a year. I guess we’re both in for a surprise.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tales From the Sale, Part 1

I told you a couple of weeks ago that we were having a “front porch sale,” and I wanted to report back to you. Overall, it went great, but I definitely think that what they say about sales being more work than they are worth is true. The fact that we were donating the proceeds to charity made it worth the effort, but we will likely just donate our [mountain of] stuff next time. However, the sale was nothing if not eventful :D

To begin with, Josh had started a new job just that week. We knew there was a possibility of travel, but certainly didn’t think he would be gone the first week. Umm, wrong. He called me Tuesday morning (his first day) to inform me that he would be coming home to retrieve supplies, and then would be gone the rest of the week. [Note to all potential burglars: You should know that, lest you think I’m an easy target, this house is armed to the teeth and I know how to use it all. Seriously- I have my firearms safety license and know how to handle a gun : D ) Bless his heart, he felt bad about leaving me to do all the work for the sale, even though it wasn’t his fault.

I made do, and his absence meant I could work for many hours straight without taking any breaks. That, combined with help from our parents (thank you!) meant that we were all ready to go by Thursday night. Yes, we put everything out the night before- there was no way I was getting up early enough to set everything up before our 8 am start time. I figured that if anyone stole anything, they probably needed it more than us. I woke up about 7:30, when I got my first big surprise...
[to be continued]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

3 Years Ago Today...

...I married my best friend.

...I hoped you would think I was beautiful.

....I cried when you cried when you saw me for the first time.

...I had complete peace that I was making the best decision of my life.

...I welcomed your love and partnership as a gift from God, with joy and awe and humility all rolled into one.

...I married my Knight in Shining Armor.

...our loved ones gathered to witness our union.




...I promised in front of the whole world to love, honor, and obey you for the rest of our lives.

...I kissed you for the first time in three years.

...I had a husband.

...and you had a wife.

...I signed up for a crazy, life-long adventure, without even really knowing it.

...It was the beginning of the rest of my life.

...I knew I could love you forever.

...I loved you more than I ever had before...but not as much as I do now.


Happy Anniversary, Josh. To my husband, my best friend, and my hero: you mean more to me than you could ever know. I love you.


[All pictures by the lovely and talented Nikki Edwards, of Elite Portrait Gallery]

Monday, July 12, 2010

1000 Words Photography by Nicole Wilke

I have had several people tell me they didn't know I had a photography blog, but I totally do. I have been doing photography professionally since we got home, and it has been a huge blessing in my life. I want to tell you a little more about how it came about, but first let me connect to you the relevant information. You can visit my photography blog here. If you would like to subscribe via email, which means you will receive an email message each time I publish a new post of pictures, you can just scroll down to the very bottom of the page and enter your email address into the box there. Then hit subscribe, and you should be good!

As I say in the intro to the blog, professional photography was never one of my goals. It's a passion that just happened into my life, and I am so thrilled it did. It's another one of those situations where God's plans were so different (and better) than mine. While I was praying about how I would pay for graduate school, I spent a lot of time meditating and just listening for God. I eventually felt Him say that wedding photography would be the way He would cover the cost. I was shocked!!! Although I had worked in a photo studio in high school, that had been the full extent of my professional experience. Josh and I prayed about it and both felt God was confirming this, so I decided to pursue it.

Due to the fact we were living in Africa for the time, my start in wedding photography was a little unorthodox, to say the least. After much prayer, we decided the best way for me to gain experience would be to volunteer to do photo shoots for people in our community (in all of my extra free time- ha!). Babies, seniors, weddings, etc.- they were easy to come by, because photographers are few and far between in less westernized areas. People were so eager to have their picture taken. For some, it will possibly be the only time they will ever be photographed.

From those shoots I gained experience with all the fundamentals, and more importantly in working with people from behind a camera. Most people don't feel at home in front of the lens, and it is my job to connect with them, and help them to relax. It is my job to help them be themselves, so that I might capture their spirit on film. For your viewing pleasure, I have included a few examples of my recent work. Check out my blog for more!



















I love people and relationships, love and family. I love being able to freeze time for an instant, and to immortalize a memory on film. I love what I am doing, and am exciting to see how God uses it. If your interested, you should check out the blog, and join me on this journey of discovery.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grief in Change

I have no doubt that the end result of the simplification process will be lovely. Freeing. Peaceful. Beautiful. Organized. Totally worth it.


But with everything I decided to sell, give away, or trash, there is a little bit of me that grieves. To varying degrees, of course. The half-used green eyeliner from 4 years ago doesn't grip me with the same sentimentality as the books I once loved in 6th grade (yes, I am actually getting rid of books- a first for me). Nonetheless, it's an exhausting process.


Take, for example, my formal dresses. After Proms and President's Balls and weddings, I have about 8. The logical side of my thinking clearly sees that 8 formal dresses are not a necessity. But still, each one carries a memory with it, and the process of deciding what to keep and what to get rid of has taken much thought, time, and consideration. (For those of you thinking, "Geez, they're just cloth!", you have either never been a pack rat, or are a man. This post may not be for you.)


Stage 1: Denial
I don't really need to get rid of these. After all, I am getting rid of meaningless junk. These have memories attached. They are not meaningless. And they have taffeta. And glitter. You know how I love sparkle!!!

Stage 2: Anger
Why me? Why do I have to get rid of my beautiful things? Everyone around me gets to keep their stuff. Why do I have to be different? Why did God ask us to do things differently? [mental kicking and screaming ensue]


Stage 3: Bargaining
Maybe if I get rid of more other stuff, I can keep these. Maybe getting rid of just one will be enough. I suppose if I get rid of something than need it, I can just buy more...maybe. Besides,
what does God really mean by "need?" It's probably open to interpretation.


Stage 4: Depression
I guess I don't really have a choice. We'll probably end up with not enough stuff, destitute. My daughters will never be able to wear them *sniff*

Stage 5: Acceptance
Not having 8 prom dresses is probably okay. It will even give me more closet space! I do not want to have more than I need. I would rather spend time with friends and family than cleaning.


Let's just say I am so glad we are getting this under control before we have kids. That will be a whole new challenge in reigning in the sentimentality.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Memoirs of a Pack Rat

I have always been a pack rat. Judging by the 10 year old received Christmas cards in my parents house, it might be a genetic trait.

But people put time and energy into those cards and letters. They don't write themselves, you know. Besides, don't you want to remember what your third cousin Sally was doing in 2001? It might come in handy later.

For me, the journey towards minimalism is shaping up to be a long one. Honestly, it already has been. I decided while living in a college dorm room that the more belongings you have, the more you have to clean and organize and maintain. Frankly, I have better things to do with my time than rearrange meaningless junk.

But all the cards from my high school and college graduations aren't meaningless, are they? What if someone who gave me one dies, and it's the last piece of paper I ever receive from them?

How about those countless souvenirs from the far-flung places my friends and I have been blessed to visit? How does one survive without half a dozen Chinese fans?

What about that soccer uniform? Maybe without it I will forget I ever played soccer.

Those doubles of almost every picture I own could be important, because what if I lose the first set? Going with that logic, I should also keep a backup set of all journals, academic records, and financial information- just in case.

And that candy from halloween? You know it is perfectly fine.

I listen to my internal dialogue with horror and humor, sadness and hope. Until you really take stock of what you have, both in comparison to what you need and in comparison to the rest of the world, you don't realize how much of your identity is tied into your belongings. Think of how we describe people- the boy in the blue shirt, the woman who drives the black SUV, the girl with the purple bookbag, the man who lives in the big green house on the corner- and you will realize how much we associate people with the material items around them.

I don't doubt this journey toward a simple life will turn out to be more far more psychological than physical, more emotional than logical.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Front Porch Sale

My house (okay, actually the house we are renting right now) is a disaster. Seriously. It's not unusual for it to looked "lived in," but this is a little extreme. As in pick-a-path extreme.

But not for long. This weekend, we are having a front porch sale, which is a like a garage sale but on our large front porch. For more information, you can check out the event Facebook page here.
This is sort of an emotional event for me. We have been talking about simplifying since before we left for Africa, but the conviction became even stronger there. Even I saw that one coming. This sale is the first in a long line of steps we need to take to simplify our lives physically, materially, socially, financially, and in every other way that we can think of.

As much as I love my country and am proud of my culture, it is making a decision to turn my back on what has become accepted as the American way of life-

Excess.
More money.
More power.
More status.
More possessions.
More activities.
More competition.

Josh and I have decided we just don't want that life. We want to be as free as possible from the things that may distract us from God. We want to be able to have room in our daily lives for the Holy Spirit to direct us.

Therefore, we are starting down this alternative path. I told a good friend the other night that Josh and I are like [Christian] hippies minus the politics [and drugs]. Maybe not exactly, but it kind of sums up something complicated in one phrase : ) It'll do for now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We Will Praise You In This Storm, cont'd

Continued from another post- read the first part here.

*****************************

I laid down on the bathroom floor, staring toward the ceiling in the dark, numb. I felt as if I should cry... but no tears came.

My mom's text: Their house is gone.
I can't even wrap my mind around it. Memories, safety, security- the flew away with the building.

What if we lose them? Are they safe? Injured? I can't stand the thought. I push it out of my mind.

I pray.

I plead.

I struggle.

I want to praise God in this storm. It is a reminder of His mighty power, His strength, and His complete control. We are so obviously utterly helpless, which oddly feels more comfortable than when we are helpless but refuse to admit it.

But words seem so shallow and meaningless at this point. I often hear people talking about praising God through a storm, but what does that look like? I think that, more than pretty words, He wants our sincere trust and resignation to His will. I don't think anyone is grateful to find out they have cancer, or is thrilled to lose their job or, God forbid, a child. If God knows our hearts- and I believe He does- language that reflects the attitude we want to have about a situation is not what He wants to hear.

As I laid there praying, I remembered that this is part of the Holy Spirit's job, according to one of my favorite passages:
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we
ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that
words can not express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of
the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with
God's will." - Romans 8:26-27
You know what? I love this passage. It gives me so much peace to know that I just can't fail at praying. The Holy Spirit guides us, and stands in the gap for us. The only way to fail is to not pray at all. As for praising God in difficult times, I think He wants our sincere love and trust, our awe of His might, our surrender to His will, more than He wants us to pretend we like everything that's happening. After all, He already knows my heart; I can't pretend with God.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We Will Praise You In This Storm

I am literally in the middle of a storm (on Thursday night). I'm not talking about a metaphorical, blog-type storm, but rather a storm system full of tornadoes. We have been sitting in the basement bathroom of the house we rent, just hanging out. The lights have flickered, but the internet has stayed on the whole time, which is one of those curious modern-day situations I can't quite understand.

This storm has been...well, intense. Usually it seems as if the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, we all seek shelter, and nothing happens.

But this time is different.

I am not sure of all the facts right now. What I do know is that the radio keeps throwing around phrases like "half-mile wide tornado," and "people trapped in their house," and "warning has been extended."

The house of our dear family friends just flew away- with them underneath it. It's so strange for me to even imagine. All I can think of is the "Wizard of Oz." I was literally at the beach with them this morning. Until I heard that they were safely at my parent's house, all I could wonder was if that was the last time I would see them. There are literally holes in their yard from where trees were just picked up out of the ground. They are rounding up cattle because all of their outbuildings are gone, too.

I think we here death and destruction and disaster sensationalized so much on the news nowadays (I cannot believe I just used that word), that we forget the layers present in ever story, in every number. Each number is a life, full of hopes and dreams and responsibilities and potential. Each life connects to hundreds of other lives. God loves each life each number represents. When tragedy hits home- literally- it challenges you to actually think, to feel, to have compassion for others. In some ways, desensitization may be healthy- imagine if we were overcome with grief every time we heard about something horrible happening. We would hardly be able to function in daily life (as someone who is strongly mercy-oriented, I say this from experience). However, being desensitized to the point of not feeling is pathological.

***************************************

The National Weather Service tornado warning for our area finally expired. Now it's time for dinner (at 9pm), so this will have to be continued... : )

Friday, June 18, 2010

Is It Just Me?

For some reason, I am a creature of habit. No, really. Like more than is normal. Sure I love to travel and have periodic reprieves from my patterns, but more often than not trying new things is like running anything more than a mile- every. step. takes my full attention. I blame it on my dad; he is the same way- perfectly content to be home, to be surrounded by what he knows. We like the familiar.

But some habits are best broken sooner rather than later. While preparing for our time in Africa, and while later living there, I had no trouble contributing to this blog regularly. It felt necessary. I could pre-empt other activities with no guilt, no feelings of selfishness; despite the fact I enjoyed putting my thoughts into words, I could convince myself that it wasn't for me- it was for a greater purpose.

Now, writing gets pushed to the end of my to-do list, the same list that is never finished. The tasks remaining at the end of the day are transferred to the next day's list, but there is never enough time to complete them. I can't put my finger on it, but there is just something about that fact that seems wrong to me... I just don't think this was what God intended. Our lives are always... unfinished. We forget we are totally complete in Him before we cross a single item off the list.

I have learned so much in these last few months that I want to share. Even if no one ever reads this blog again, I want them written down, even if only so that I don't forget them. But some of these truths are so mammoth and so life-changing and so challenging that I know my limited skill just can't do them justice. I admit I am intimidated, but I need this. I need to conquer this fear of failure and selfishness and insignificance before they take long-term root. This is me, breaking a habit.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Update:

I am a terrible person...well, at least I am a terrible blogger. I have hardly written anything since we got home going on 2 months ago. To be sure, we have been SUPER busy and had a ton to adjust to. I remember hearing someone complain about how stressful a [minor] situation was in her life and thinking, i am moving for the second time this month, helping my husband search for a job, interviewing at my new graduate school, launching a business, and adjusting to culture shock to my own culture- and that's all just this week!!! Part of me wanted to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to get a grip. Thankfully, the more rational side of me won out, and I was reminded that everyone is in a different place, and we are called to meet people where they are at. It has been a common challenge.

I am not done with blogging simply because we are back in the U.S. I have dozens, if not hundreds, more stories and pictures to share with you- of ministry, spiritual epiphanies, travel adventures, struggles, and new endeavors. Our life has continued to be eventful. There are fleeting moments when I wish for less stress, but then I realize I wouldn't be able to handle the boredom that inevitably accompanies a stress-free life. I am grateful for what God has given us.

I have missed writing and sharing with you, if for no other reason than it has given me a concrete way to process my experiences, emotions, and ideas. I have missed putting what's inside of me into words, and freeing myself from the duty of keeping it hidden. I will do more of that, but not for a short while. In the first few weeks, it took all of my energy just to adjust to jet lag, see loved ones, and answer the all-to-common question "How was Africa?" It took and takes all of my willpower not to respond with, "Well, how was your last year in a few appropriately brief phrases?" I know people mean well, but it is not exactly a well-thought-out question. But I digress...after the first few weeks, I continued to feel exhausted and under the weather, which I attributed to allergies. After all, we are around allergens we haven't been exposed to in almost 2 years (having left at the end of winter and all).

But as I found out Sunday, it turns out that I have mono. When I think about it, it makes so much sense. It's just that I didn't think of it. The fact that I have an autoimmune disorder that presents almost exactly like mono doesn't help either, but I am happy to know it is something that will eventually go away, and that I am not just incapacitatingly allergic to my beloved Minnesota. With all this in mind, it may be a week or two before you hear from me again, but hear from me you will. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Friday, April 30, 2010

No Good, Very Bad Day Morning

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from later on March 16, 2010:
________________________

Today has been a bit of a challenge. I am badly sunburned and covered with huge mosquito bites (but I can't scratch because of the sunburn). I am sick with a runny nose (a roll of toilet paper that doubles as kleenex is my constant companion), sinus headache, and a cough. My lungs hurt quite badly- I am not sure if it is the cough, altitude, or adjustment to humidity. Maybe it's all three. I can't take my medication that requires electricity, because we don't have any power. I broke my white sunglasses 2 days ago, and my black ones fell off my head today under a waterfall, so no hope of recovery. As I opened our cabin door, something on the other side stung my finger. Then I walked into our slanted door frame while borrowing Josh's sunglasses and they shattered on my head. Who knew they were actually glass? This was all before lunch.

The caretaker suggested maybe I should just sit down and rest... so I did : S

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Truth About Evangelism

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from March 16, 2003:
________________________


I was thinking a bit today about evangelism, especially in regard to a couple we have had the privilege of talking with lately, who are both seeking. I know there is so much bad evangelism in the world today, but I wonder what makes up good evangelism. I think the key is not necessarily that you have to know so much about your faith, but rather that you have to believe it. It is only then that you can encourage people to seek truth.

No one is going to be offended by being encouraged to seek truth, because it still respects their right to decide for themselves what they believe truth is. It respects their ability to reason. It prevents you from coming across as if you think you know better than they do. People know, deep down, that they were created for a purpose, even if they aren't sure what that purpose is. This means they know (at least on some level) that they have value, even when they don't always feel like it.

Traditional evangelism, in which we tell others what they need (Jesus), how to get it (prayer, repentance, relationship), and when they need it (now- or maybe yesterday), may certainly work in some situations. But it assumes they want to know our views, and may give the impression that we think we know more than them or are smarter than they are. Far too often, although we have the best of intentions, this pushes people away. It leaves too much opportunity for us to come across as bossy, self-righteous, or condescending. There is too much chance that our human way of doing things (which is often woefully inadequate), will get in the way of the Gospel.

But, if we believe Jesus Christ as truth, we can encourage others to seek truth, all the while knowing that God is faithful to draw truth-seekers to Him.

Sometimes people will ask what you believe, and of course we should use every opportunity to share our Christian faith. But oftentimes I have come into contact with people who aren't really looking for yet another opinion or belief- they want fact. They want truth. They want Jesus, even if they don't know it yet. If they seek truth, they will find Him.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

As Long As We Both Have Breath

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from March 5, 2010:
_____________________
Today we had the opportunity to swim at the edge of Victoria Falls. Literally at the edge (see photo):



This is the only time you will likely ever see me in a bathing suit. I feel it is crucial to the integrity of the story (sound familiar?). Moving on...

I kept marveling at how much water was going over the falls- they are more that 1.7 kilometers long, and 100 meters or so to the bottom. The river was high, and massive amounts of water rushed over the edge of the cliff. It seemed like so much, but in reality it only fills the Zambezi River. It reminded me of God's power, but I was completely struck when I realized this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of water He flooded the earth with when Noah built the ark!

I was so glad to see this sight with Josh. If he hadn't been there, my experience would not have been complete. Several years ago, a young friend became a widow when her husband was killed in an accident. I cried and grieved for her, but the magnitude of her loss didn't hit me until a month or so later. As I was staring out at the game refuge behind my parent's house, the wind was blowing the long grass, making it look like waves in a green sea. It was so peaceful and perfect; the only thing that could have made it better was for Josh to be there to share it.

Then it hit me: she would never again share any experience with her husband, even those precious everyday moments that we take for granted. I grieved for her in a whole new way.

I always love Josh, but I don't always like him : ) Of course, I say this tongue-in-cheek, but those of you who are married know exactly what I mean. Remembering this story reminds me of how blessed I am to have him on loan from God, and that I need to cherish every day. We aren't guaranteed even another breath... I am certain my friend would sacrifice almost anything to have more time with her husband. Leaving his clothes on the floor or not taking out the trash would seem inconsequential. I pray I remember that, too, while we both still have breath.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Attitude is Nine-Tenths of the Law

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from February 23, 2010:
________________________

We are trying to straddle so many areas of life at once right now. We are trying to wrap up ministry and leave relationships in a good place. We are planning our overland trip. We are packing. We are trying to take care of grad school and housing and jobs for home. At times I feel like my head is just spinning.

Through all this change, Lord, help me to focus on you, and to know that everything here on earth is temporary.
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered-how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
At best, each of us is but a breath.”
-Psalm 39: 4-5

Today in “Streams in the Desert,” it says

“Every difficulty and every temptation that comes our way, if we receive it correctly, is God'sopportunity.”

That's a thought-provoking idea, and one that should liberated us from fear of difficulty and temptation. But, the clear stipulation is that you have to receive it in the right way. I am not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds like it has a lot to do with attitude. I pray I can grow to have a learning attitude towards trials and challenges, because they are always going to be a part of life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Potential

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from January 24, 2010:
____________________
What is the value of a life lived for oneself? At best, you can impact one life-your own. But a life lived with the purpose of glorifying God by serving and loving others has the potential to change the world.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Joy to the World

As we wrapped up our time in Africa, I looked back over some of my old journal entries and found a few that I would like to share. Today's is from December 5, 2009:
________________________

Tonight [at camp] we watched a skit on Creation. In it, the soundtrack said that man was created on the 6th day, with a purpose to make babies and enjoy God's creation. As believers, I have to imagine there was more to it than that, and we are to share the Gospel, love others, and glorify God.

But what if that is what we were truly created for?I know it was before the Fall, but might God still want these to be a part of our lives? Like a significant part?

How many people do I know that I think of as joyful? I know people whom I consider to be industrious, gracious, successful, faithful, sensitive, and a million other positive adjectives, but very few who I would describe as joyful. In fact, if I think of the top 3 characteristics (as I perceive them) of people I know, not many are joy. This should not be considered a negative reflection on them; rather, I think they may be a representative cross-section of our culture. Is it culturally motivated? I don't know. It certainly doesn't seem to be a priority in our society.

Another possibility is that it has to do with me. No, I am not suggesting that the mere circumstance of knowing me strips one of one's joy. However, it may be that I don't know how to recognize joy. I wouldn't say it is one of my 3 primary characteristics, or even my top 10. If this is what we are created for, that's a scary thought.

Maybe it is a result of sin being in the world...that sin would rob us of our joy doesn't seem far-fetched.

Are we really even sure of how to define joy? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that if it is what God created us for, I want more of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

“We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it.” - Mother Theresa

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
To receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

- Revelation 4:11

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

“No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first.” - Oswald Chambers

Monday, April 12, 2010

“I will never fail you; I will never abandon you.” - Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, April 11, 2010

“The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. God created us for union with himself. This is the original purpose of our lives.” -Brennan Manning

Saturday, April 10, 2010

“Charity wins awards and applause. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order.” - Shane Claiborne

Friday, April 9, 2010

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” - Philippians 3:8-11

Thursday, April 8, 2010

“We, too, have been freed- freed to serve God without looking over our shoulders to see if He is glaring at us with suppressed hostility, freed to offer ourselves as servants, and freed to accept the commission.” - Jim McGuiggan

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.”-
Phillips Brooks

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” - Nelson Mandela

Monday, April 5, 2010

“I am alone, surrounded by unbelieving activists and inactive believers. Where are the true Christians?” -Shane Claiborne

I am pretty sure this is not the way it was in the Acts church.

This Is No Sacrifice

We are home in the States, safe and sound.

Even though I have quotes set to continue to load every day for the near future, I felt a pull to post today. After all, this post needs to come on Easter...

Today, as I was sitting at Josh's parents house, I was thinking about Easter and all that it means. It seems that with all of the traveling and reacquainting and settling in and jet lag (we slept 15 hours on Saturday!!!), I have hardly had time to focus on God this weekend. I know most people use "not enough time" as a lame excuse, but I am completely serious and literal about it right now

Of course, that just isn't good enough. It is in these times that we must push ourselves to make time, and to show God that He is our priority.

Everyone goes on about the sacrifices Josh and I have made this last year- being away from family & friends, living in a brutal climate, acclimating to a new culture, etc. And yes, while the last year has been a blessing and privilege in many ways, it has also been a sacrifice. As a result of our decision to be obedient to God's calling on our lives, our families and friends have also had to sacrifice. It has been a challenge for us all.

But when considering "sacrifice", the term is somewhat relative. Relative to the cushy American lifestyle of TV, internet, personal vehicles, homes with multiple bedrooms, vacations, fast food, etc., our choice might look somewhat significant. But this weekend we celebrate God's sacrifice, when He gave His only Son to die for our sins. On a cross; a criminal's death. He was perfect and had done no wrong, but He suffered the consequences of my sin. He died for the salvation of the whole world, but He would have done it for any one of us.

That's real sacrifice. That is the measure against which I want to model my life. To know that my life is no sacrifice, because it isn't really mine at all.

Our dear friend Britt taught a song (by Jason Upton) that has really resonated with me this past year. The chorus says:

"Your thoughts are higher than mine
and your words are deeper than mine.
Your love is stronger than mine.
This is no sacrifice; here's my life."
People often ask us if we will return to Africa. The reality is that we just aren't sure. At this point, it seems that God may be leading us back there, but all the details are hazy and incomprehensible, so really nothing official to report. What I do know is this: I pray God will give us the courage and strength to obey His call, no matter what it might be- whenever, wherever, however. It is terrifying, especially given the fact that we know God may call us to things that are a little different than for most. But what is my life for, if not to do His will? There is nothing I can do to repay Jesus for His mercy, love, generosity, and selflessness. As I see it, all I have to give Him is everything that I am.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

“Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our hearts desire is to glorify your name.” - Isaiah 26:8

Saturday, April 3, 2010

“Although it seems safe and logical to be in charge of your life, being in charge becomes a heavy, lonely responsibility. Your Father graciously offers to take your life, protect you, strengthen you, and comfort you on your journey. You need not fear relinquishment for it leads to freedom, security, and the real you.” - Cynthia Heald

Friday, April 2, 2010

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Thursday, April 1, 2010

“The place where God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet.” - Frederick Buechner

If all goes according to plan, we should be on an airplane heading home today. Please pray for protection and guidance. We are so excited to see our loved ones at home!!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” - Philippians 2:5-11

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Maryanne Williamson

[Used by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech]

Monday, March 29, 2010

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.” - Philippians 1:29-30

Sunday, March 28, 2010

“I write this with all reverence: God Himself can not deliver a person who is not in trouble. Therefore, it is to some advantage to be in distress, because God can then deliver you. Even Jesus Christ, the Healer of me, cannot heal a person who is not sick. Therefore, sickness is not an adversity for us, but rather an advantageous opportunity for Christ to heal us. The point is, my reader, your adversity may prove your advantage by offering the occasion for the display of divine grace.” - Charles Spurgeon

Saturday, March 27, 2010

“What heartbreak we must bring to God when we continue to disbelieve His love. What more could He have said? What more could He have done? Believe even when you do not feel. Know even when you do not see. He gave the life of His Son to demonstrate His love. The time has come to believe.” - Beth Moore

Friday, March 26, 2010

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” - Bruce Cockburn

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Psalm 139:23-24

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“I take back the stolen ground by simply being in relationship with me Father. His holy genes are now part of my inheritance from Him. I must simply stand and be who He says I am.” - Dennis Jernigan (on becoming free from sin)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

“Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.”- Mrs. Charles Cowman

Monday, March 22, 2010

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long,. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Sunday, March 21, 2010

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” - Romans 7:15-20

Nice to know I am not the only one!

I can totally see kids saying, “No Mom, it wasn’t me who stole the cookies, it was the sin! Punish the sin, not me!” But if my kid said that and quoted the verse, I might have to give them some bonus points.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

“Under conviction of worldliness, many well-meaning persons have simply transferred their huge egos from the world to the church. Beware of spiritual ambition. We are most useful to God when poured free of self and full of Christ” - Beth Moore

Wow. The enemy is sneaky.

Friday, March 19, 2010

“Each area of our lives that is controlled by sin is an aspect of our soul under deception…Consequently, the more truthful one becomes with himself and God, the more He is delivered from the “deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13), allowing righteousness to come forth.” - Francis Frangipane

Thursday, March 18, 2010

“Then I heard the Lord asking,
“Whom should I send as a messenger to this people?
Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.””
- Isaiah 6:8

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

“The giant step in the walk of faith is the one we take when we decide God no longer is a part of our lives. He is our life.” - Beth Moore

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” - Romans 8:26-28

Monday, March 15, 2010

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge God in all your ways, and He will direct your paths.” - Proverbs 3:5-6

Easier said than done. I am so glad He is patient!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

“The Spirit forced me to acknowledge that subconsciously I did not really believe that an African could be as good a Christian as I was, or could know the Lord Jesus or understand the Bible as I did. My caring had in it an element of condescension, of superiority, of paternalism.” - Helen Roseveare

I have spent so much of this last year discovering and [with God's tremendous help] eradicating biases I never even knew I had. It scares me a bit to think of what else may be lurking deep inside my heart. I am greatly to have a Saviour who takes that ugliness and makes me pure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

“I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a counselee say, “Oh, I confessed that sin a year ago- a thousand times.” First, that is 999 times too many. Second, each subsequent time that sin is confessed, rather than the confession bringing relief, it only reinforces the false belief that it has not been forgiven. Double, or re-confession, only deepens the false belief that we have not been forgiven” - Dr. Chuck Lynch

Friday, March 12, 2010

So, So True

"A pastor friend of mine said, "Our problem is that we no longer have martyrs. We only have celebrities." Most of the time, when I see Christian superstars like Jerry Falwell or Al Sharpton, I feel like I'm watching professional wrestling. There's a lot of shouting and sweating, but the people seem too superhuman, and I'm not convinced all the moves are real. And as with any sports event, there are tons of spectators, desperately in need of exercise, who sit back and watch a handful of people who could really use a little break, or maybe a massage." - Shane Claiborne

LOL. He kills me.

But seriously, this begs the question of whether or not we want our faith to be represented by a few "superstars." Is their message one we are satisfied with backing? Are we content to let them speak for us all? Or do we want our own voices heard? It seems most are willing to sit back and take the path of least resistance. As for me, I want my voice to be heard, and for it to share the true message of saving grace.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

“…She did not live the life of a frail person. On the contrary, for the sake of the Gospel, she was a pioneer in a land whose climate has broken the health of many who went out stronger than she.” - Noel Piper on Lilias Trotter ("Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God")

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

“…Whoever wants to be a leader among you must first be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:26-28

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

“It’s not that people don’t believe in God; it’s that they don’t think He believes in them” - paraphrased from Louie Giglio

Do you use quotation marks around a paraphrase? How come I was never taught about this???

Monday, March 8, 2010

“Only Jesus would be crazy enough to suggest that if you want to become the greatest, you should become the least. Only Jesus would declare God's blessing on the po0r rather than on the rich and would insist that it's not enough to just love your friends. I just began to wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said." — Shane Claiborne

Sunday, March 7, 2010

“We learned why God has given us His name as I AM (Exodus 3:14). His grace always proved itself sufficient in the moment of need, but never before the necessary time…As I anticipated suffering in my imagination and thought of what these cruel soldiers would do next, I quivered with fear…But when the moment came for action…He filled me with a peace and an assurance about what to do that amazed me and often defeated the immediate tactics of the enemy.” -Helen Roseveare

I was blessed to be able to read this book after I borrowed it from a fellow missionary. I HIGHLY recommend it- these women were vessels for God's glory.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all of my past life had been but a preparation for this life and this trial” - Winston Churchill

It is amazing to me how God uses everything, even the seemingly insignificant things, to prepare us for something in the future. This is the very definition of efficient!

Friday, March 5, 2010

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” - Philippians 4:11-13

Thursday, March 4, 2010

“Baptizing in the Spirit and baptizing in water is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” - John Piper

This quote has been especially thought-provoking in the context of our setting- there are many here who believe baptism with water is equal to salvation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

“And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” - John 17: 14

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.” - Psalm 8: 1-2

Monday, March 1, 2010

“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die.” - Jeremiah 10:23-24

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I sensed Him saying, “My Child, you believe Me for so little. Don’t be so safe in the things you pray. Who are you trying to keep from looking foolish, me or you?”- Beth Moore

Saturday, February 27, 2010

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” - 1 Timothy 4:12

Please pray for us today- we are having our farewell party, and it will be an emotionally draining experience to say goodbye to so many wonderful friends.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter" - Tim Kizziar

Lord, let it be so.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There are congregations on nearly every street corner. I am not sure we need more churches. What we really need is a church. -Shane Claiborne

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher that your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” - Isaiah 55:8-9

I have CLUNG to this. There is so much I don’t understand, and so many questions I don’t have answers for. And that is okay.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Missions Motto

“We are called not to be successful, but to be faithful.” - Mother Theresa

This has been my missions motto. There is so much that I hope and pray for regarding those we work and live with here in Namibia, but He is in control. He is the only one who can make so many things happen. My job is not to fix things or change people, but rather to faithfully do what God asks from me, submitting to His will. It has been such an important reminder of priorities.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Near Future

For the next couple of months, I am taking a complete break from blogging. Between finishing out our time in Africa and transitioning home, I have neither the time nor the emotional energy that blogging requires. But, once we are settled back in the States, I look forward to regaling you with the hundreds of photos, anecdotes, and stories of God making Himself known that currently fill my brain. It will be an adventure!

In the meantime, please enjoy the quotes and verses that I have set to post each day. Each of these has impacted my life during this past year. It is my hope that one, some, or all of them might meet you where you’re at.