2020 Seniors, You Can Do This

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I’ve enjoyed looking at everyone’s senior photos from back in the day trending on social media. I also understand that although the intent is to encourage the Class of 2020 amidst the coronavirus quarantine, with a laugh at our expense, it could end up hurting as well as helping. In an effort to help, I’m adding my senior photo to the worldwide yearbook to offer hope for today’s graduating seniors.

Seniors, you can do this. You can graduate (however that looks) and go on to live a full and productive life reaching your goals and realizing your dreams.

Looking at myself in the photo, I don’t even remember my senior year — or 10th or 11th grade. I never attended one high school dance, including prom, due to crippling social anxiety. Pep rallies, extra-curricular activities, field trips, and basically anything outside of structured class time sent my anxiety into a tailspin.

Bucking tradition, I did not attend my high school graduation. Rather, I walked into the school office that summer and picked it up from the secretary who found it tucked away in a file cabinet.

Why did I skip it? I could not emotionally handle hearing classmates’ family and friends clap for them as they walked the stage; or seeing everyone take photos afterwards and enjoy parties for themselves and their friends knowing I didn’t have an audience for me. I was merely trying to find the strength to get out of bed and take a shower every day.

My mom was dying of breast cancer my entire junior year. I spent as much time at the hospital as I did in class. She passed away the summer before senior year, and twice divorced, there was no father in my life.

My grandparents and sister were grieving the loss of my mom as much as I was in their own ways. Frankly, I spent any extra energy apart from daily survival on trying not to fail math.

Years later, I found a letter from the principal congratulating me on my academic success of my senior year. I have zero memory of those days, so seeing I made honor roll was a shock. The letter was addressed and written to “The parents of…”

I was one of those students who fell through the cracks. The school evidently did not realize I had no parents and that my grandparents signed on as legal guardians to keep me out of foster care my senior year since I didn’t turn 18 until August after graduation.

My boyfriend broke up with me to date my best friend during my mom’s illness. Within a week of her death, life began to free fall and all I could do was watch frozen in horror.

As a minor, I had to legally vacate my childhood home and our belongings had to be sold in an estate sale to pay off family debt. I was forced to put down my 13 year-old dog (my 4th birthday present and BFF) because the stress of everything caused her to starve herself. She was emaciated beyond help and having to end her suffering was one of the worst moments of my life. My cat ran away, and the only mentor I had in the whole world announced they were moving out-of-state for a new job. Friends told me my life was a trainwreck and they didn’t know what to do with me.

I totaled my ’74 car (which had been my grandmother’s, then my mom’s, then mine), which meant losing my driver’s license and gaining a probation officer with community service hours to work off — the night before my mom’s funeral.

All of this happened the summer before senior year. I had nothing and no one except Christ, my sister’s hand-me-downs, and ironically, an empty hope chest.

I was devastatingly lonely, had no college fund to rely on, and began to struggle with an eating disorder as a result my mom’s death — with which I still wrestle.

There is always a story behind the smile.


I read a Facebook post regarding ancient senior photos floating around the world wide web which said today’s seniors don’t want to see others’ senior years in tact. *In tact* is a huge assumption.

No life is perfect. Every life has a story. It’s what we do with our story that paves our journey forward.


2020 Seniors, your grief is real. Your feelings are valid. Do not deny yourself working through the loss of your senior year. In your grieving, I encourage you to stay there only as long as necessary to heal.

Use grieving to help you take the next step forward. 

From someone who spent more time wanting to die than live because of trauma upon trauma, with no coping skills or outside help, I can tell you that you get to choose what you do with this senior season.

You can let it destroy you, or you can tap into strength you did not know you have and lean on God in ways you did not think possible.
Not only can you make it through this, but you can emerge stronger, more determined and more focused than you ever imagined on what you want for your next chapter.

Want to know what I chose to do instead of attending my graduation? I got on an airplane with my (then) boyfriend and flew from Florida to New York to meet his family. Four years my senior, he served in the Air Force and his mandated leave time overlapped with my graduation.

I had a choice. I could either attend graduation, which highlighted what I didn’t have while unresolved grief & social anxiety swallowed me alive walking across a silent stage, or forego tradition and take a leap into my future to meet a family who I already knew would be my future family.

He and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last month. My decision then was absolutely the right call and I would make the same decision a million times again. They welcomed me into their family when I was 17 and I married at 19.

We worked hard. He worked day, swing, and midshifts full-time with full class loads and I worked two jobs and took day and night classes. We put ourselves through college debt-free with every cent we had plus scholarships and grants we earned. I completed my B.A. four years later. He completed his B.S. the year after.

We bought our first home when I was 21. A tiny foreclosure on a cul-de-sac, our nicotine-drenched, ripped wallpaper, nasty bathrooms, abandoned house needed a lot of love. It was our little nest, and we slowly remodeled it room-by-room while working and going to school.

If someone had told me only four years earlier at 17, when I didn’t know what home address to put on my high school contact card, that I would own my own home — I wouldn’t have believed it.

If someone had told me when I skipped my high school graduation that I would go on to earn my bachelor’s degree and graduate on time — I couldn’t have believed it.

What I knew that night, donning a black silky robe and balancing a mortar board on my head, as I waited to take my turn to walk the university stage with my husband, grandparents, sister and her then boyfriend (now husband) and our best friends cheering for me in the stands, is that God can most certainly redeem what was lost.

The loss may be irreplaceable — as nothing could bring back my mom or replace everyone and everything ripped from my life — but if we stay in a posture of being willing to receive the gifts God has planned for us, and we continue to take a new step forward each day, then our hearts and lives can be genuinely full to overflowing with good things. Soul-filling, goal-accomplishing, dream-realizing things. Things beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

An awesome, fulfilling and rewarding life is possible after traumatic loss. 

During my junior year of college, someone I highly respected flat out told me that I would never graduate. They genuinely did not believe in me and it broke my heart in ways that silently hemorrhaged for years. I chose to extend forgiveness toward that person, and felt a personal cathartic release proving them wrong, as I shook hands with faculty on the stage that night.

Moving my tassel from right to left was a symbol that I did it. God gave me the strength and work ethic and I used all of it to run through that finish line.

I skipped my high school graduation because I was embarrassed and overwhelmed that I didn’t have a traditional posse cheering for me. One thing I’ve since learned is me cheering for me was enough. Accomplishing a goal is personal. And when I walked the stage to receive my college diploma, I was eternally grateful for those who came to cheer me on, but most of all I looked to heaven and gave thanks to God that he completed a work in me and we did it together. (Phil. 1:6)

Everyone’s journeys looks different. My husband and I were blessed to rear three kids who have grown into amazing adult children whom I highly admire. They have my heart.

One out-of-state move, three houses, multiple jobs, and being blessed to live out our heartbeat for international missions and relief work, I never could have dreamed that God would raise up beauty from ashes in the brokenness of my life. All glory goes to him.

He is absolutely the God of the impossible and only asks we trust him and take the next step that he puts in front of us.


2020 Seniors, I know inconsolable grief. Overwhelming loss. Desperate disappointment. Uncertain futures. Gripping fear. Unquenchable loneliness. Paralyzing hopelessness. Catastrophic helplessness.

I also know that you have the choice to allow how much this surreal season affects your present and future. I know there is purpose for you. I know there is an entire world waiting for you. A world who needs you to do what you were born to do. And I know that you have the power to choose whether this season breaks or benefits you.

If you’re quarantining in your home with those you call family; food in your pantry; an education to continue online or otherwise; and you have one friend who misses you; and a sport, club, volunteering or work that you miss, then you already have everything you need to graduate abundantly blessed.

Embrace what you have. Trust God that he can work for your good if you give it all to him, including your grief. Choose to let this season make you better, not bitter.

Keep looking ahead. Keep stepping forward. Take Bruce Lee’s advice and “Be water, my friend.” You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13) And keep smiling, knowing the best is yet to come.

The blessing of waiting

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This moment caught my eye today. It represents eight months of waiting.

Bruce’s layoff was part of a company downsizing in May. Since then, he’s been working so hard building NEED POINT, Inc. while looking for work. He’s also been resting.

Resting.

After 34 years of working tirelessly. Working three jobs as a teenager. Joining the Air Force at 18 so he could pay for his college education while serving his country. Working day shift, mid-shift and night shift until he couldn’t see straight.

For 25 years he’s never taken his role as leader and husband carelessly. It’s always been his first priority.

We’ve seen companies come and go. We’ve experienced promotions, layoffs and a relocation.

He’s traveled to work by car, bike, plane, bus, carpool, trolley, taxi and on foot. He’s gone to work healthy and sick. He’s worked when there were celebrations and when there was sadness.

He received calls when I went into labor and when his dad passed away while he was at work.

He’s always put family first, which meant passing up promotions, travel opportunities and jobs themselves if it would be a determent to our family.

He is brilliantly genius. The best in his field. Technology courses his veins and there is no one better.

So these eight months have been a blessing and a burden. He has felt discouraged, down-trodden and depressed. A man of his talent and energy, and humility, can start believing the lies about who he is after this long.

Recently, when we turned the page of a new year, I had a moment. It was a gut-wrenching moment of realizing we were dragging the dreaded unemployment into a new year. The weight was crushing.

But then, something happened. God flipped a switch in my heart. I watched Bruce as he slept and prayed, “Lord, if you are not going to change his circumstance, change his perspective on it. Change my perspective on it.”

From that day forward, everything changed. We have found peace in the waiting. We know that God is working around the clock to bring everything together in His way, His time, for His glory.

We know for certain there is purpose in the waiting.

As my husband hammers out countless resumes, holds numerous phone and video interviews, and reaches out to every contact we know – all while still working on our non-profit – there is a new perspective which gives us the strength, peace and joy to meet each day while we wait.

We are living Isaiah 40:28-31 –
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

So when I saw Bruce resting on the couch as our city is shut down with winter weather, I smiled as I looked at living, breathing Scripture. God is giving him a much needed, long overdue, season of rest both as a respite from decades without a break and to rejuvenate him for the days to come.

I thank God for this gift, as the hope for our future blooms a new bud in my heart. It is well with my soul. ❤

 

 

 

Making a local, global and eternal difference

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Twenty-five years ago, God told my husband, Bruce, and me His vision for our marriage in the most unexpected, nearly unbelievable, way. To skip to the spoiler, His message was that our marriage is to be an extension of His open hand.

Huh? Not sure what that meant.

In the last two and a half decades, we both graduated from college, celebrated weddings, retirements, births & baby dedications, buried loved ones, moved, changed jobs, honored anniversaries, graduated our firstborn from high school and sent him off to college (with two more teens right behind him), endured surgeries and illness, learned a lot of lessons and made a million memories along the way.

We did not understand what God meant all those years ago about being an extension of His open hand as we just did our best at living life.

We were cruising along to the rhythm of the American dream of the house with a picket fence, kids running barefoot on the lawn with the family dog, and saving for retirement while planning the next annual vacation.

Then, five summers ago God rocked our world through several very significant moments placing us at life-changing crossroads.

He was totally setting us up for a one-way ticket from a life and future we worked hard for to a life He had planned for us since before the beginning of time.

Cut to the chase again, and we found ourselves on our first mission trip (and first trip out of the country sans the Bahamas for our honeymoon) with our 10, 12, and 14 year old children in tow.

Are you kidding me? Bring our children? This mama bear was hyper-vigilant, anxiety-ridden, and fear-filled about doing this at all, much less as a family, much less to Africa. I felt utterly unequipped to handle being a chaperon with school to the local museum (stressful!) to taking my kids so far out of our comfort zone I can’t even describe the angst that churned inside me. Our trip leader stills says that he really didn’t think I’d actually get on the plane.

But I did! We did! And, our family has never been the same.

God blew our hearts away with a bursting love for this world in a way we could never conceive. He took us to four more countries around the world over the past four summers on mission, and we have never been so in love with a world He so loves.

This love continues to multiple in our hearts every single day as we laugh with, cry over and pray for those from every walk of life around the world who we now consider family.

Fast forward to this past December 29th. Bruce went in for simple shoulder surgery, which proved to be anything but.

After a full tear was reattached and repaired, he had some serious, and extremely painful, recovery waiting for him.

Four months into recovery, after not having been able to return to work due to the pain, he was unexpectedly laid off. We felt like we were kicked when we were down.

However, God reminded us of a conversation Bruce and I had a year ago. Bruce said to me, “I’ll be honest. I’m never going to have the courage to leave this job. It’s too stable.” To which I replied, “Since we’re being candid, I’ll never have the courage to tell you to jump. It’s too stable of a job. The most stable company you’ve ever worked for.”

Bruce then said, “If God ever wants us to make a change, He’s going to have to take this job from me.”

So when he came to me on a regular ol’ Tuesday morning, after almost nine years with the company, and sat down at our son’s desk and looked at me, I should not have been surprised when he said, “Well, God took it.”

We both knew exactly what he meant.

Ever since then, Bruce has looked for work.

Nothing.

He told me in the beginning of his job search there is nothing for him in this city.

Then came an interest in him, but it involved relocating. I’ll save that story for a blog post, but here we are. No relocating. No more job prospects.

All the while, he was meeting weekly with a dear friend in albeit a different kind of work situation, the end result was the same – unemployed.

They began meeting as encouragement to each other over coffee.

Like a good pot of coffee, their hearts began to percolate an idea that brought both of their long-term visions into one plan.

NEED POINT, Inc. was born.

Nothing quite like this exists in America, much less the world. As God has brought people across their path over the past few months, something beautiful began to take shape. Something neither of them could have ever imagined.

NEED POINT combines our team’s passions for both global and local missions in new and innovative ways that meets individual needs on a community level.

NEED POINT is a non-profit that connects people in need with people in local churches and faith-based businesses to help meet their needs. From needing lawns mowed, to helping with medical bills, to befriending the lonely and beyond, NEED POINT is the liaison to match the person in need with someone who can help meet it.

The vision is to expand this blueprint to local communities all over the world!

Curious as to how this all works? CLICK HERE to visit the website.

This grassroots movement is swelling as folks get excited about how they can be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Our team is stoked about this opportunity and trusting God for every step of the way.

Between global missions and NEED POINT, Bruce and I are beginning to understand what God meant by our marriage being an extension of His open hand. We only wish I didn’t take twenty years to get there. But, better late than never, right?! 🙂

We would LOVE to have you join us in the journey. Check out NeedPoint.org and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/needpoint. Let’s get going!

One decision that changed me as a wife

When I said I do to my husband at the ripe age of 19, I was insecure of myself as an emerging woman and distrusting of men.

Never thinking I was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough or simply – enough – I used to watch my husband when he didn’t think I was looking when other pretty women were around. Whether passing a Victoria’s Secret store in the mall, standing in the checkout line at the grocery store or stopping at a red light, I was always on high alert, not because of him…because of me.

In my heart, I was constantly testing him. I didn’t say a word, but I was always looking and waiting for my fears to be confirmed.

Twenty-five years later, I did something that surprised me.

We were in a large bookstore, waiting on our teenagers to finish browsing. My man and I meandered to the magazines. I was interested in cooking, travel, etc. He was interested in cars.

What comes with cars? Women. Women scant-fully dressed, selling sex as much as selling cars.

Over the years, this is when my palms started sweating. This is when I watched him out of the corner of my eye, waiting for my fears to be confirmed.

Oh but this day was different. I casually walked ahead of him, beating him to the magazine racks. Quickly scanning the selection, the car magazines with provocative women were there just I as I suspected.

I quietly walked over to them and turned them over.

Then I proceeded to the cooking and travel magazines as if nothing happened.

What was different this time? Was I being proactive in fear that he may catch a glance and lose all interest in me? Was I being paranoid that this would be the day he would look for visual pleasure elsewhere? Would this be the day all of my twenty-five plus years of insecurity, inferiority, and self-deprecating secret thoughts would be proven right publicly?

Why did I do this without a second thought?

For one, my husband has never done anything that would make me fear all of the worst. He won’t even watch a bra commercial. Trust me, I know. I’ve watched him countless times–because I was watching, testing. He fast-forwards romantic scenes in PG-13 movies. He has literally told me that he will spend his entire life proving to me that he is faithful to me.

But you know what? There is another reason. One that is even bigger than his noble character.

I’ve changed as a wife.

Wives are helpmates, and I realized after all these years I wasn’t helping him navigate the minefield of everything sexual this broken world offers. Instead, I’ve been testing him out of paralyzing, unsubstantiated fear.

How doubly difficult for him it must have been all these years to not only have an insecure wife, but a wife who won’t trust him, not because of who he is, but because of who she believes she is.

He’s been fighting this battle alone. Where was his helpmate? Retreating in the shadows, biting her nails, watching and waiting for him to fail, simply because that is the reputation of other men.

I’ve decided to help him and stop testing him. I’ve grown up enough to understand the God-given teamwork of marriage and to get over my own insecurities.

It’s amazing how many other ways this this has changed me as a wife. I am now intentionally looking for ways to share more of the load mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. in areas of our marriage whereas before I was content letting him carry his load while I carried mine.

I surprised myself at the ease and confidence in which I turned over those magazines. A fighter raised up in me that said, You’re not doing this to my man, with strength I didn’t know I had.

Since that day, I continue to change. I am growing stronger as a woman as I understand who I am in Christ, who I am to my husband and who I am in my own skin.

Although my man has never given me one reason to worry, a sense of protection has raised up in me. Not a territorial, jealous woman. Rather, a woman who believes in fighting for who she loves.

I am protective for him, not of him.

He is a grown man and I am a grown woman. We will make our own decisions about our respective lives. But together, we are a force to be reckoned with as I have finally opened my eyes to see that instead of watching over his shoulder at his every move, I am standing with him, back-to-back, watching over him. There is a difference.

It is no coincidence that both the website Ashley Madison and the movie War Room are making headlines at the same time. There is a battle for every soul, marriage, family, church, community, city, and state in this country.

One of my favorite Scriptures is the account of Nehemiah spear-heading the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. Read it, slowly, in the context of fighting for rebuilding and strengthening marriages (from chapter 4)…

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

The battle is raging for our marriages and families. Turning over those magazines was a huge push-back against the enemy because I finally realized that my husband and I are on the same team, and have been all along. I was just too insecure to see it.

Fight for your marriage with faith, love and absolute resolve. Being on God’s team, we’re not in this alone. He goes before, and fights for, His children.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Photo credit here

Tourist in my own hometown

Recently, my husband and I set off to be tourists in our own city. Fun! There were several reasons we took the day off, one of which was our 25th anniversary (we got married really young 😉 ).

Another reason was to play with my new camera lens. As a photographer, I run my equipment into the ground. One time the repair man said I “killed my camera” from taking too many photos. Ha!

My equipment has ways of meeting their untimely demise, like the elbow at Disney that sent my camera flying off the table and cracking on the concrete. Another time, I turned my head for a minute and a curious pair of hands picked it up…and dropped it. Once upon a time, my neck strap snapped and in a split second the camera spiraled to the ground. There was nothing I could do but watch in horror. Arg! I could go on. Needless to say, extended warranties are my friend.

Anyway, thought I’d post some fun shots of a super great day.

If you haven’t taken time to rediscover your city or town in a while, I highly recommend it. In our daily routines, we miss so much of the flavor that makes our hometowns unique.

Taking a day to see our city as a visitor gave me a new appreciation for where we live. Sometimes a new perspective in the same place is just what we need to feel like we’ve gotten away without ever leaving the city limits.

Wherever you live, embrace all that makes it home to you. ❤

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The relationship of lifelong love

I often see the same senior couple walking when I exercise. What strikes me about them is that they are always holding hands. Not just a loose touch, but a firm grip on one another. I am captivated and curious as to why.

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This particular morning was no different. There they were, walking without words, yet holding one another. As my dog and I trailed at a distance on the same familiar path, I watched them and wondered, Why the tight grasp?

I’ve thought all along that what makes this couple hold each other’s hands so tightly was their lifelong love for each other. Hopefully so, but there is something more so subtle that if I blinked I would’ve missed it.

It isn’t only because they want to – they need to.

As they walked, each took their turn ever-so-slightly losing their balance. Time and again, I watched as one of them began to lose their footing, the other one pulled them into their side for support through the strong grasp of their hand.

It was beautiful.

This husband and wife know a truth many marriages never learn. They not only want each other, they need each other. They not only need each other, they want each other.

Too often, marriages side with one or the other: I want you, but I don’t need you. Or, I need you, but I don’t want you. In either case, the relationship is doomed to stand the valleys and victories of life.

If a marriage is based solely on wanting each other, what happens when those wants change as time passes and we change with it?

Or, what if we need each other without wanting each other? This is more of a business partnership than a marriage. People use each other up until there is nothing left.

What I saw this morning was the idea that it’s both – want and need. Not out of selfish gain, but of selfless giving. Their actions gave new meaning to the vow, To have and to hold from this day forth…

That’s a vow, and a hand, worth holding on to.

 

 

The secret to an awesome family vacation

 

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As teachers, students and parents breathe a collective exhale at the end of another school year, families begin planning, packing and preparing for vacation.

It took me years to learn the secret to an awesome family vacation, but I’m going to share it in two short words.

Transition Day.

Each year as we packed up the van with suitcases, the dog, a hedgehog, pillows (and for the beach – every known piece of beach paraphernalia) a few extra items got packed as well as got left home.

What got left behind:

* patience

* joy

* laughter

* camaraderie

* perseverance

What snuck into our luggage:

* a bad attitude

* everything that goes along with a bad attitude

I just couldn’t figure it out. All of us were so excited to take a break, spend family time together and have an adventure. Why oh why were we fighting before we crossed the city limit? I was all over my kids nagging them for “plugging in” too fast to their technology and how we weren’t bonding as a family (at least not in positive ways).

Like summer thunderstorms in Florida where I grew up that we could set our watch by, bickering and arguing were predicable accomplices in ruining our first day of vacation.

To be honest, I could feel the fight swelling up in me.  Why?

One vacation, we were truckin’ down the road and I was biting my tongue. Why was my husband so annoying to me? Why could no one do anything right around me? This quiet moment became surreal as I stared out the window on a lonely stretch of highway. Without warning, it seemed that the mystery completely unfolded before my very eyes.

It was grace. Grace invited itself along for the ride. I stopped what was on the tip of my tongue, and grace spoke into my heart. I saw that my anger towards my husband was not at him at all. It wasn’t even anger. It was frustration. Exhaustion. Missing him.

He can say the same about me.

What happened in the car at the start of every trip was a lot of pent up stuff. Months or weeks of topics we had not had any time to discuss typically flew out of my mouth like bullets. Frustration over not having any time to discuss them was the trigger. A lack of communication during our exhaustive days led to feeling distant (a woman does not like to feel distant from her man). Hurt feelings ensued and so on. It’s a giant house of cards that is built one busy day after the next, blurry month after blurry month, and by the time vacation comes I’ve got my panties in a wad, he’s tired, and neither one of us wants to deal with the kids.

On this particular vacation I blurted out with wide eyes and a smile, Hey! Let’s try something new. Let’s have a transition day!

<cricket>

We’re all tired. We’re spent. With the energy left in our pinky toes we set off for an adventure. But, let’s be realistic –

Families need to time to adapt. We all need time and energy to mentally and emotionally leave our routines behind as much as we do physically. We need to have flexibility to do that in ways that are right for us. As much as it is uncomfortable for me, I need to let my kids unwind with their technology for the first leg of the trip if that’s what works. For my husband, it may be listening to tunes or simply not talking. For me, I adapt by catching up on all of the things I’ve wanted to share with my man that our routines rob us from communicating.

So, how does his not wanting to talk jive with my need to talk?  After 24 years of marriage, I found out that what I am really looking for is for him to listen. I decompress by exhaling my words, feelings, emotions, etc. I don’t regenerate by him wanting to solve or fix every issue I bring up. I just need to get it out. It’s beautiful, really. I talk and talk and talk. He listens. We both win because I am not asking for him to share equal words in the conversation. I’m not asking anything of him. Sometimes I am just venting or processing things out loud and would rather him not say a word. In order for me to embrace the vacation and be in the moment, there needs to be room in my heart and mind to hold the new memories we will make. I can’t do that if I’ve drug all of the muck from home with me. He feels no pressure to respond except for the occasional smile, glance, or head nod. It’s perfect for us! Meanwhile, the kids have tuned into their music and miss all of my introspective downloading.

Also, we’ve learned that the first day of vacation isn’t our best, so we need to extend intentional grace to each other. It’s likely my husband has just finished a conference call as we’re packing the van. Being it’s a time for a break, the kids have most often just come off of hard tests and papers and presentations. We all need grace to fill in the blanks when we are not enough for each other.

The vacation I mentioned above was a turning point in our family. We declared Transition Day (out loud) and all of the stress of regular life, the stress of travel, the stress of wanting to have a good time, and all of the other stress that keeps my shoulders and neck muscles rock hard began to melt away.

Now, we actually laugh about it. When someone’s attitude tanks on that first day, we just smile and say “Transition Day!” and give grace. This has helped to cut down how long the transition takes, because the pressure of performance is gone. We can show our weaknesses. We are not “on” like we have to be in so many venues of our lives. We don’t have to begin making scrapbooking memories the moment our tires leave the driveway.

Giving each other freedom to have a transition day has been very healing. I can stop being wife and mother and just be Kristi – whether Kristi is tired, emotional, happy or mad. Likewise, each member of our family can simply be who we are. The van is peaceful even if someone is bent out of shape. Odd, huh?

By the second day (or even that evening) we are all ready for fun! We have switched gears and truly let it all go – without unnecessary friction that is draining and spoils the fun.

I’ve now started doing a mini version of Transition Day on the weekends. It’s not a formula. It’s simply putting ourselves in each others’ shoes and remembering we are humans who are imperfect but are trying to be the best we can anyway.

Grace is now not only at the top of my packing list for vacations and weekends, but it’s becoming part of my daily to-do list. And as often as I need to give it, I realize I need to receive it.

Vacation Transition Day has become part of our family’s everyday moments and is a game-changer because in giving grace – love wins – and that’s the main goal no matter where we are.

 

 

 

I prayed the wrong prayer

I’ve had missions on my mind heart and mind so much lately as sign-up deadlines approach.  In the post, An honest look at missions, I divulged some of the fears I’ve felt this year about returning to the global mission field.  In, The day I touched fear, I explored more deeply what those fears look like from the inside out.

Today, it’s a totally different story.  Just when I thought things were beginning to settle down in my mind, God had something unexpected prepared for last Thursday.

It began on Wednesday night.  We were at church for dinner before nightly activities began.  Serving the salad bar was a man I highly respect and admire (though I am not sure he knows it).  His and his wife have dedicated their retirement years to taking their grandchildren, one by one, on mission.  It is their gift to them.  I had never heard of this, but now, Lord willing, Bruce and I would love to do the same thing one day.  So my dear friend, Kermit, said Hello – always with a smile – when he saw me approach.  Hi Kermit!  I replied cheerfully, always happy to see him.

When I see him I think of one thing…Kenya.  He and his wife were part of our team in 2011 that went on mission to Kenya.  Let me just tell you that this man was incredible throughout the entire journey.  He never uttered a complaint, never said No, never looked tired, nothing!  He trucked on every day with whatever the agenda was.  Our team leaders, Don and Pat, also grandparents, as well as Kermit’s wife, Kay, were exactly the same way.  They have no idea how much I watched them work through every unexpected trial and celebrate every great moment.  Kenya was my first global mission trip as well as the first time I had ever left the States.  I was wide-eyed at the whole thing and loved every surreal moment.

Kermit was a mentor to me on that trip whether he realized it or not.  Whether it was sawing wood at an orphanage, washing feet at a children’s school on the side of the mountain, digging trenches for a foundation, or harvesting corn for an orphanage, his attitude was always an enthusiastic Yes.  At any given time you could find him quietly working – never for accolades, never bringing attention to himself.  He simply did what he came to do – serve.  And serve with a joyful heart he did.

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 194

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 195

He and his wife brought one of their grandsons with them who was graduating high school and wants to go into medicine.  He was able to observe surgeries at the only hospital in the entire area servicing 850,000 people.  So in addition to tireless efforts of physical work and long van rides across unbelievable bumpy roads, Kermit and Kay spent quality time with their grandson in the evenings encouraging him in his passion for medicine.

You can see why I am so taken back with them.  Role models.  Inspirational.

A few Sundays ago, when I was really struggling with feelings of fear of going on global mission, I stood with the congregation at church while everyone sang – but me.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  I could not utter a word.  I was overwhlemed with emotion because in the choir stood men (including Kermit) and women who have been on mission all over the world, and yet they were able to stand and smile while singing Chris Tomlin’s song Whom Shall I Fear…

You hear me when I call, You are my morning song, Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light…

Whom shall I fear?

You crush the enemy, Underneath my feet, You are my Sword and Shield, Though trouble lingers still…

Whom shall I fear?

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side.  The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

My strength is in Your name, For You alone can save, You will deliver me, Yours is the victory

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side.  The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

Whom shall I fear?  Whom shall I fear?

And nothing formed against me shall stand, You hold the whole world in your hands, I’m holding onto Your promises, You are faithful, You are faithful, You are faithful

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

The God of angel armies is always by my side.

(Read more: CHRIS TOMLIN – WHOM SHALL I FEAR (GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES) LYRICS)

 It has been people I know who have inspired me the most to take our family on mission.  Celebrities make headlines and win humanitarian awards, but far and away it is people who quietly go about the Lord’s business, sacrificing their hard-earned money and vacation time, who I look at and think, Maybe I can do it, too.

With that thought, an unexpected conversation came up between my husband and me.  I was sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot with the bright morning sun beaming into the van last Thursday.  I called him to briefly chat about missions.  We’ve been so upside down and inside out about it that we seem to talk in circles.  Frustrating.

I told him that I felt a new passion to go back to Ukraine.  As for Kenya, that is still undecided.  I heard myself say to him with confidence and certainty, I’m going to Ukraine.  He basically said, Okay, but I’m not sure what I’m doing.

After the phone call, I sat silent in the van.  Something didn’t seem right.  Why wasn’t I excited that half of my decision for this year’s missions had been finally – at long last – decided?  I should’ve felt relieved, joyful and sure.  Instead, I felt very anti-climatic about the whole thing.

God spoke to me in the van and said, Why is this only about you?  Are you not half of a whole?

Immediately, my heart understood.

To know me is to know I’ve struggled my entire adult life trying to live a life of biblical submission to my husband.  It’s not how I was raised, as my biological father and step father both left my life at early ages.  I grew to be a headstrong, independent and self-reliant woman.  Partially out of mistrust of men, and partially because I never wanted to be hurt again and believed people will only let you down – especially those who are supposed to have your back.

I have such a stubborn, independent streak in me it is nearly impossible to ever ask for help of any kind from anyone.  It’s not a control thing.  It’s an I’m going to end up having to do it anyway so why go through the grueling process of involving others because they are only going to let me down thing.

So, without me even realizing it, missions had become yet another area where I took the ball and ran.  Rather than looking at these opportunities with my heart toward my husband, I was peering through the glasses of practicality and reasonability.

I had been praying the wrong prayer of God, where do You want to send me?  Instead of, God where do you want to send us?

I didn’t even realize I had morphed my independent nature into missions!  Bruce and I are different people with different passions.  But, we are two halves of a whole.  When we made a covenant oath at the altar almost 23 years ago, we were joined into one flesh.

Leaving consideration for him out of my prayer was selfish.  And it was the feeling of, I got my way, that I felt in the van that left me celebrating alone.

Despite my good intentions of doing God’s kingdom work here on earth, my carnal nature creeped into my thoughts.  Here’s why…the first two mission trips were very scary for me.  I am not a seasoned world traveler.  I am not bilingual.  I am not proficient in cultural differences around the world compared to my own – other than the obvious ones.

It was all of these I’m nots that kept me from feeling qualified or invited to go on mission for my entire life until now.  Fast forward – jumped those hurdles, but it still took more courage than I could muster up to commit, particularly because these mission trips involved taking our children which I take very seriously.  I needed Bruce to make the final call.  As the leader of our home, I needed him to say yes or no.  So for both trips, I passed the baton to him to decide.

This year, however, it felt very different for me.  I’ve been to both places, so there aren’t near as many unknowns.  I also understand more what is expected from me from the team.  I simply feel more prepared than before – as much as it is possible to feel.

Enter my stubborn independence.

I was ready to possibly take an entirely different mission trip from my husband, without ever hearing his final point-of-view…and God let me feel every last ounce of that loneliness.

There is a time and season for everything, and I am sure there will come a time when we do participate in different mission trips, but neither one of believe that time has come yet.  It was out of sheer self-reliance that I went ahead and told him what I was going to do.  Hmm.  Then God brought to mind our crazy life.  Between work, kids, and all of our commitments, we have to scratch and claw for anytime together.  It could always be worse, but it’s not ideal.  We know this is a season of life, and all too soon our house will be deafeningly quiet and I will mourn for the wonderful chaos that greets me in the morning and tucks me in at night.

Given that, why would I not bat an eye at the possibility of spending weeks apart?  I believed my own lie of being too independent.  God brought to mind my biological father and his wife.  You’ve never seen a closer couple.  They were best friends.  Inseparable.  Loving.  Considerate.  Two halves that made a beautiful whole.

I want that.

Watching her care for him in his last days, the intimacy they shared – the eye contact, touch, whispers, – was the result of many years of building a marriage that was committed.  Resolute.  I used to think it was a little over the top that they always had to sit together, go places together, etc.  Now that he is gone, I see that they were intentional about making the most of their time together.  There were their own persons, yes, but they never forgot they were two halves of a whole.

After pondering all of this, still sitting in the parking lot, I texted Bruce.  This is what I wrote, Hi Honey, I wanted to tell you that after giving it a lot of thought, I would rather go with you on mission to wherever than without you on mission to wherever.  I often think about Ray and Gail and their relationship.  They were inseparable.  They were best friends and did everything together.  I would like to see that for us in missions, so I concede to wherever it is you want to go just as long as we can be together or unless God says differently.  We are one flesh, one team, and I don’t want to break up the team.  Think about it and let me know.  I love you.

That text was surprisingly freeing for me!  I felt like my heart was finally in a place of peace.  Funny, the first two years I needed him to make the decision as to where to go. This year, I asked him to.  I may have felt my inner wild horse buck and kick, but my heart knew that missions isn’t one more thing I want to lead us on different paths.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine (who went to Ukraine with us last year) asked me if we were going to sign-up for it this year.  With a calm, peaceful smile I was able to genuinely reply, I’m waiting on Bruce to make that call…and if so, I’m leaving it up to him to sign up us.

That, friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit because the independent woman writing this would normally take matters into her own hands.

She smiled at me and said, Oh, you’re working on the “s” word, huh?  I laughed because I knew what word she meant – submission.   Indeed I am.  Waiting for Bruce to write our names down is very important to me for whatever reason.  I suppose it shows his iniative after much prayer and discussion, though I haven’t told him this is my wish.

Last night, before we left to watch the Superbowl with some friends, Bruce casually told me as we gathered coats and a chocolate cake,  Oh by the way, earlier today I put our names down for Ukraine.

His words stopped me in my tracks in the middle of the kitchen.  Later, I circled back with him and inquired.  He agreed that this is the only option for our family to go on mission all together.  He feels a peace about it and we are all excited.  God knew my secret wish for Bruce to write our names down on any of the trips we take this year, and He directed Bruce to do so out of loving consideration for me.  God is the good God and knows our secret thoughts.  Incredible.

So, one decision down and one to go – Kenya.  God has given us much peace that this decision will come in His timing, not ours.  So be it.  For now, I look forward to going back to people we fell in love with in Eastern Europe; to work with a team we greatly admire; we get to take all of our kids; and…most of all…Bruce and I have the blessing of going on mission together.

God is good.  Actually, He is amazing!  Every year, the decisions we have made about missions have been completely unique to the trip.  This year is no different.  God’s ways are not our ways, and His timing certainly doesn’t hold itself to our society’s demand for instant information, but His ways are best.  Had He given us the answer early on, I would have missed a teachable moment to see that in this process, Bruce and I walked dangerously close to the line of separating our longitude and latitude, once again, for the good of the cause.  We do enough of that in our daily lives.

When the time comes to travel separately for missions, God will give us a peace about that and we will perfectly okay with it.  For now, I write to testify that Philippians 4:6-7 really works in and through all things – even with a strong-willed, autonomous person like myself. 😉

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Today, and on mission, I won’t forget I am half of a whole.  Colossians 3:15 reminds us – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Thankful, indeed.

An honest look at missions

I’m wrestling against an enemy I cannot see.  Right now, our family is making some difficult decisions regarding missions for this year.  As I sat at the dinner table last night, a raw thought spilled out of my mouth.

This used to be fun, I said resting my fork on the table and blankly staring out the window.

You know, the mission decision.  It was exciting.  Adventurous.  A radical move of following God where He leads.  Now, I am so twisted up in knots I can’t think straight.

My children looked at me in bewilderment.  This wasn’t their fearless mother who encourages, instructs and motivates her children to say YES! to God before we know the question.

I hesitate to write any further in the event I come off sounding like a whiny, spoiled American.  The fact is, I have nothing to complain about on a global spectrum of needs.  I feel guilty for even writing this post because I have no room to complain compared to the billions of other people who share this planet.

But, I am also human.  Finite.  Flawed.  I have weaknesses I cannot deny, and it’s those weaknesses that want to keep me from leaving my nest.  I have feelings.  I have emotions.  Sometimes when thinking about missions I wonder how much my heart can take when I see the most basic of needs or witness the power-hungry, cruelty of humanity.

I am a woman who has been on 2 different mission trips to very different parts of the world – Africa and eastern Europe.  On each trip, I’ve never felt so alive.  So…New Testament, if you will.  I’ve never in my life cast everything aside to follow God and trust Him for every step.  It was blind faith like I’ve never had before.  It was perfect peace that is ridiculous to the world’s ears.  So, why aren’t I dragging out our bags and grabbing our passports this year?

I will be completely honest and tell you it is fear.

You see, when I went on those trips, I had no idea what to expect.  The trips were going to be what they were, and I was perfectly fine with that because I didn’t know any differently.  I lived moment-to-moment in each continent and abandoned all of my plans, agenda, requirements, everything.  I fully immersed myself in the culture and in God’s leadership.

However, when we returned from Kenya two summers ago, a tsunami-sized wave of what if scenarios hit me hard and brought me to my knees.

My eyes were no longer blind to what could happen on a mission trip, or simply traveling overseas by myself or with our children.  I know it was the enemy that tried hard to steal my joy of all that God did on that mission trip, and I felt powerless to stop him because what could I say?  God never promised safe passage, only that we’d never be alone in it.

There were times when we were completely relying on God to help us – like when we arrived in Nairobi and customs took far longer than we thought.  The driver who was to pick us up at the airport, when the clock finally struck midnight and the airport was closing, wasn’t there.

I thought, That’s okay.  Our leaders have this under control.  I’ll just wait with the kids and our luggage until something works out.

On a warm summer afternoon, as we drove back from visiting a school totally off the grid, rain began to fall.  The water mixed with the powdery dust and made the roads as slippery as ice.  Our van slid and skid and we hung on tight as I looked out the window to see deep trenches on either side of our van.  I simply hung on, smiling, knowing everything would be alright.

When our oldest son fell at an orphanage and suffered a severe, and I mean severe, concussion, we did all we could for him without the availability of any proper means for exam or treatment.  In fact, the next day we had to travel hours to another school, which proved to be the worst roads I’ve ever been on.  We were literally thrown out of our seats for the hours-long ride.  Not at all what a concussion patient needs to rest and mend.  However, choices were limited and we trusted God with our son’s health – in addition to pain relievers and waking him up every two hours and doing all we cold to keep him comfortable.

Even on the safari we had the privilege to take after our mission work was done proved to make the hair stand up on my neck.  At one point, our Land Rover got lodged on a large boulder on an incline up a mountain.  If that wasn’t nerve-racking enough, there happened to be two Cape Buffalo on either side of our vehicle, so close we cold touch them.  Our driver was out of cell phone reach and we were stuck.  That was one moment when I truly felt like I was going to have a panic attack as our vehicle had no windows or roof.  We wound up having to back off the boulder, going straight down the mountain backwards.  Oh my soul.

Upon our arrival back in the States, something in the water the ONE TIME my husband and I consumed it via ice on the plane made us so sick we wanted to die.  We broke our family’s 8-year streak of not throwing up.  Friends had to come take our kids to their homes so Bruce and I could just lie there and not talk or move or anything for days.  It was wicked.

I could go on and tell of the times that I felt vulnerable and completely out of my element…but it was awesome.  When I was at my weakest, God was at His strongest. Never have I needed to rely on Him more.

I could tell you how much I learned from the loving Kenyan people that contentment is a state of mind, not a tangible luxury.  They blew me away with how happy they were in the midst of suffering, gentle in the face of hardship, at peace in the midst of crisis.

I could tell you about a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, who lost her leg in a fire and dragged her little body on her stomach every week from her house to church – by herself.  The church, using scrap lumber from a donation to build a small, plywood structure, constructed a crutch for her, and how team members with us made some phone calls and lo and behold a pediatric prosthetic surgeon was going to be making her first-ever visit to this region and with donations from our church this precious little girl now has a prosthetic leg and runs and plays with the rest of her friends for the first time.  Her mom, a former prostitute, was so overwhelmed by the love of the church that she gave her life to Christ and has begun an honorable career to provide for them both.

I could tell you about the wonderful man who runs a dearly loved orphanage with children that we fell in love with so much our hearts nearly burst.  He has dedicated his life to providing for these children, when he himself lost his oldest son in a piki piki (motorcycle) accident last summer.  Yet, he continues to serve these precious little ones who are so full of promise if only they would be given a chance.

I met a boy at this orphanage who is so brilliantly smart, will he ever have an opportunity to change the world?

Our daughter fell head over heals in love with a little girl at this orphanage and the two became inseparable.  A photo of the two of them hangs on the wall of her bedroom still today.

The worship, the joy and the trust these Kenyans have in God is breathtaking.

In Ukraine this past summer, we met some of the most inspiring young people I’ve ever seen.  They are a new generation whose hope is in God of the possible.  They welcomed us as family from the first greeting, and clung to us in sorrowful tears when we left.  They are unlike any group of teens I know.  They have committed themselves to the leadership of their church.

Working with them was such an honor!  They don’t know the word impossible, and have a pure faith in Jesus that is hard to find in the States.  A few boys and girls befriended me and I carry them in my heart still today.

One young boys’ dream is to come to the States so he can be healed of his crippling disease and deaf ears.  His heart is so tender and smile so big, he captivated me with his gentle spirit and quiet determination to be involved in what everyone was doing with us.

However, the remnants of Soviet control are everywhere – and it was daunting.  The search light towers, barbed wire, and antiquated barracks of military and political oppression were merely feet from us and proved to be an ominous presence for a woman like myself who has never been more grateful for her freedom in the United States.

I also had one of the worst sinus infections I’ve ever experienced the day we were to return home.  Flying with a 101.5 fever and climbing, a head so stopped up I could hardly hear and definitely couldn’t breathe well, it took everything in me to step on the plane. The first leg of the flight was 10 hours, then an overnight stay and connecting flight.  I tried to count the hours until I could get to a doctor, as well as muster the courage to get on the second flight.

But for the time being, I had to succumb to the fact that I would be airborne for 10 hours with this horribly severe sinus infection. I wanted to just let the luggage fall off my shoulders and let my body fall into a heap in the middle of the airport.  I wanted to cry. But, I had to keep moving.

On both missions, the good outweighed the bad for sure.  But here I sit with some big decisions to make with my husband.  Dynamics are different this year.  We are confused. I can’t hear clearly because of the what-ifs taunting me.

It would be so easy, so comfortable, to just say no this year.  We have a full life right here, and most days we feel we are hanging on by our fingernails.  We wonder if it’s too much to ask of our children again.  Perhaps some will stay home?  Perhaps not.  Bruce’s work is a demanding job, and he enjoys it very much.  But, it consumes a lot of his time and as a wife I worry about balance in his life.  Can he handle missions this summer, or will it be too taxing on him mentally, physically or emotionally?  I get concerned about my own health, as since traveling overseas I’ve realized my ankles blow up like balloons and am not sure how bad or not this is for me.  I wear compression hose, but still…  Also, our typhoid shots expire soon and we may need new ones.  Will this be the time one of us has a reaction to the vaccine?  Will the fundraising come in as I honor my husband’s (and children’s) requests (which is also my heart’s desire) to stay home for this season of life as wife and mother and we live on one income?  Will international travel go okay this go round?  Will more injuries occur?  Will more illness break out?

So many questions burden my heart.

The first time around, we were giddy knowing that God simply said Go.  Ignorance truly was bliss.

Now, we’re not so naive, and the knowledge I’ve gleaned about serving on short-term mission trips scares me.  There is so much that could go wrong that I never ever imagined. Now my eyes are open and I kind of wish they weren’t.

I have a whole new appreciation for Christ’s words to pick up our cross daily and follow Him.

To go or not to go isn’t about leaving my comfort zone, although I shocked myself with how uncomfortable I was feeling dirty the entire time in Africa.  I hid these feelings and they turned into shame and guilt – which discouraged my desire for missions.

I was overwhelmed the entire time we were in Ukraine regarding the language barrier.  I remember riding in a bus on the highway trying to make any sense of the billboards.  It was almost a panicky feeling that swept over me in an enormous need to simply read or hear English in the community.  Again, I was so ashamed of these negative feelings I hid them.  Stuffed them.  And the enemy is using them against me.

Perhaps some of it is a loss of control of my life on mission.  I am a team member and follow the leaders.  Here in my daily life, although Bruce is surely the head of our house, I am the site manager who oversees the house, kids, volunteering, everything that is in the scope of my job while he is as his job.

Empty hands feel odd.

I’m so okay with following an agenda bigger than myself, the loss of sleep, the different foods, etc. so what’s my problem?

I don’t like flying at all.  I must leave some creature comforts at home – and with my back that’s easier said than done.  And I’m afraid of the known and unknown.  Okay.  I said it.

I hate admitting fear because it’s admitting a lack of trust in God, and I want to trust God with everything in me.  Mark 9:22-24 sums up my heart the best.  In the words of a worried and scared father over his possessed child…

“…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

If you can? said Jesus.  Everything is possible for him who believes.

Immediately the boys’ father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Yes, God, I do believe…help me overcome my unbelief.

I’ve been yearning for direction and confirmation about what to do for missions this year. We feel the squeeze of time to make decisions.  I’m so tangled up in this I can’t think straight.

Oh how I wish I could just say, Yes, now what’s the question?

However, yesterday we received a letter from our Compassion daughter in Africa.  She has had such a hard life – losing her mom and dad – yet she has accomplished a nursing degree and is now working and supporting herself and her little brother.  We are so proud of her.  She’s come a long way since she became a part of our family when she was only 7 years old, living with her grandmother and brother.

In her recent letter, she told us her grandmother died and she is working in a different town than where she grew up.  She has had family and location changes.  Totally out-of-the-blue, in her letter to us she wrote, I encourage you don’t worry, for God is with you everywhere you are and He has good plans.

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I have been struggling inside over what to do about missions.  I have been beside myself and lay awake at night and mull it over and over in my head. I continue to ask God, but my thoughts drown out His voice. Our Compassion daughter’s words jumped off the page and into my heart.  Of all the letters over the last 14 years from her, it was this letter and her words at this time.  It is no coincidence.

Our Compassion daughter, who we’ve supported by paying for her food, clothing, education, etc. throughout the years in hopes that she will come to have a fulfilling life, saved by grace, provided me the wisdom I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it.  All these years I’ve been trying to bless her, and, as a fully grown woman she blessed me with Truth that I know, but cannot hear above the fear.

I was her mission ground, and her words all the way from Africa penetrated my heart and helped me believe again.

It’s with a broken heart, having seen the needs of this world God so dearly loves, and a mind submitted to God’s sovereignty, that I cannot resist Him anymore.  His love is contagious. His mercy divine.  His call undisputed.  His promise to never leave me is enough.

I will go.  Where?  I don’t know.  But I do know that my answer is Yes.

So Lord, she asks with a trusting heart and trembling hands, what is the question?

What he said, she said about love

Happy 2013!!

I am so excited to continue this blog into a new year – this is a first!  We have 364 more days to traverse together, God willing.  Before launching forward, I want to share a December moment that I hope will be a blessing to you.  Ironically, this moment of the recent past has become a springboard in my life for a better future.  So perhaps this Christmas post does have a rightful home here today as I pray the same encouragement for you.

This Christmas was our first time using our new advent candles (via a recent post).  I really didn’t know how this would work out, and felt like I was bucking the system making up our own.

Turns out, we have had more meaningful conversation surrounding these candles than any other year ever.  On the 4th Sunday, we lit the 4th candle, the red candle of love.

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We asked the same question around the table, Anyone have a story of love they’d like to share?  My husband, Bruce, spoke up, I’ve got one.

He continued, looking at our children, Your mom and me.  She’s the only one for me.  Over two decades ago, she accepted me just the way I was – failures, flaws and all.  She was way out of my league.  I am still amazed that she chose to love me, but I’m glad she did.

I listened, then added with a contemplative smile, That’s funny, because I remember it very differently.  I couldn’t believe you wanted me!  I was such a mess.  I was a broken person with a shattered life, who felt very unlovely and unlovable.  You were my knight in shining armor.  You swept me off my feet – especially in your Air Force uniform.

Two people.  Two very different stories about the same love affair.  How could this be?

There was one common denominator that went far beyond our starry-eyed love for each other.  It was God’s love for us – and still is.  He is the God who saw our whole lives, and purposed to intertwine them together.  We have always loved each other, but it is God’s unending love for each of us and for our marriage that is the foundation, the glue, the common ground on which we stand – even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye or momentarily dislike one another.

We read 1 Corinthians 13, known as the love chapter, and we see what we strive to be to one another.  However, when I look at our marriage through God’s eyes, I see His vision for us, as well as where He implements this passage in our relationship.

God is 1 Corinthians 13 to us because God is love (1 John 4:16 ).  Knowing He has our back gives us strength to show love to one another.

God gave up His only Son out of love for the world.  Each December, we begin the reflection of this great sacrifice at Christmas as we walk Jesus’ timeline on this earth.  We do this every year in honor, remembrance, and celebration.

Spouses can have this same love in their marriages as well.  Whether it is as Christmastime, New Year’s, or any of the other 363 days of the year, we can light God’s light of love in our relationships. We do this not in our own strength, but in His.

God is for marriage – the way He intended it to be.  God is for His children who are the husbands and wives that make up the millions of marriages in this world.  It pleases Him to see men and women living in healthy, loving, covenant community with one another.

If you’ve come to a point in your marriage where the light seems all but extinguished, hope is elusive, and warm hearts have turned cold, seek God first.  Ask Him again to be God of your marriage.

He is the tie that binds when we are frayed and frazzled.

I look back at the beginning of “us” and am in awe at how differently Bruce and I saw the beginning of our relationship.  Both broken.  Both flawed.  Both dependent on God alone to guide us by His mighty hand.

We’ve called on that same hand for twenty-two years.  To hold.  To warm.  To lead.  To sustain.  It is strong enough to carry any load.

Because we have been forgiven and set free from our sins, as believers, we have total freedom to love each other as Christ loves the church, even as we still wrestle with our carnal natures.

It will always be a mystery to me that God can take two broken people and create one whole marriage.  I’ve never been good at math, but how does 1 + 1 = 1?

Scrapping the math book (gladly, I might add) I turn to the Bible for the answer.

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” ~ Matthew 19:4-6

I believe with all my heart that one of the main issues tearing marriages apart is that husbands and wives fall into the trap that in an argument, touchy topic, or whatever threatens to divide, there must be a winner and loser.  In a marriage, if there is both a winner and loser, both people lose – and so does the marriage.

We must daily remind ourselves that we are on the same team.  I know.  I’ve been both the winner and the loser and neither position was productive in our relationship.

When we take sides, we divide what God declared as one entity.  This only leads us farther down the wrong path.

As 2013 begins, may I challenge each of us to examine our relationship with God, with our spouses and all of our relationships?  Are we loving others as He loves us?

No matter how wonderful or not our marriages are today, there is a whole year just waiting to happen.  We will ride the highs and feel ran over by the lows.  Today.  Today we must decide what our plan will be.  That begins with God’s plan.

Whether you are married, engaged, or seriously dating, one New Year’s resolution worthy of doing (not just making) is to pray for these relationships, release our control of them, submit to God and His plan, and love as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us.

Let’s make this year, 2013, the year God has full-reign in our hearts, minds and actions for His glory and our good – and all of this begins at home.

What do our relationships look like from God’s perspective?  Read with me 1 Corinthians 13 as God Himself sets the example for each of us to follow…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s grace, peace and blessings to you this new year,

Kristi