27 August 2007

Joy In The Journey

Here's a picture of us that was taken early this year. And, actually, the only one of us that still looks the same is Joseph. We're not so good at remembering to snap pictures. I'll update with another picture of our family soon.

We are having so much fun around here . . . but let me say, it is hectic. We're working like mad dogs to get our house finished. My handy husband put wood floors in the downstairs last year, but from that, we've gone rustic. We're finishing the wainstcoating and the trim . . . painting, staining, etc. Our motivation, of course, get the house on the market so we can get the equity out, eliminate debt and then travel in our trailer as often as we can before we leave the U.S.

Meanwhile, homeschooling will begin on Monday. Yes, it is Labor Day, but the kids have no idea it's a holiday. I mean come on, grilling burgers and eating watermelon can be tagged on to the end of any day. The kids are so excited. Katherine (6) is just ready . . . she's been ready all summer long. She's very smart and remembers everything from last spring. She will probably fly through the curriculum I have for her and we'll end up looking for more. Joseph (5) keeps me on my toes. Last year I finally resulted to motivating him to learn to write letters of the alphabet so he could actually be able to write the word “Jedi” and the name “Luke Skywalker”. Elizabeth (3) wants so badly to do school. If she is not included, she will be crushed. So I will busy her with learning to draw shapes, maybe some letters, and Bob Books. Bob Books are wonderful. Then there's Samuel (1). He is weaned, so in theory this year should be easier. However, he is mobile. Meaning he can deshelve entire rows of books, pry keys off my husbands laptop keyboard, open cabinets to rearrange and pull out anything they may contain, and he's always sure to make the most of any opportunity to get into one of the bathrooms for a little hands in the toilet fun. It's an adventure . . . a fun one at that!

In the midst of all of that, God continues to confirm in our hearts His calling for us to go overseas. We meet with our IMB Candidate Consultant on September 24. From there, we'll have a roadmap of the rest of the process . . . possible dates for conferences, etc. Our praise is that God has led us both to a directive in our debt and school loan elimination. Of course, directive 101: trust Him and His timing. In addition to that though, He's helped us to prioritize how to handle everything. All praise is His, Amen?

20 August 2007

An Itchy Twist on Yesterday's Entry

Yesterday I wrote all about my whiny questioning and the uncertainties I was feeling regarding God's call for us into full-time mission work overseas. Let me just say that a little perspective goes a long ways (see yesterday's entry).

Today I'll share two of my most unfavorite consequences of the Fall itself. These are based solely on my own personal experience of them. First of all, the pain of childbirth. Yikes! When God said to the woman that He would greatly multiply pain in childbirth, I wonder what exact denomination of multiplication He used. I've given birth four times, from which God has blessed us immensely with four very wonderful children. But I'm very glad to be in a position in which I will never have to do THAT again!!!!!

My second, most recent experience of the full terribleness of the Fall is poison ivy. We went to Lake Catherine in Arkansas a few weeks ago and camped there for a week with other family. We had a blast hiking the trails, fishing, boating, etc. I've been in contact with the plant poison ivy many times, but never contracted it until this trip. Now, granted, it is not painful like childbirth. But it is the itchiest, most drive-you-crazy predicament that I have ever experienced. I know what the plant looks like and plan to avoid it in the future.

There are many more consequences of the Fall we all have to contend with on a daily basis: the heart wrenching ability of others to reject Christ, sickness, death, toil, weeds, mosquitoes, this Texas heat (I have no reference, but surely it is somehow related to the Fall). And the list goes on.

So as I continue to scratch my ankles (of which I've finally reached a stage that they only itch in the evenings and when I get overheated) I'm happy to recount the promises of Jesus' return, and the future final defeat of the one who makes our existence here on earth rather miserable sometimes!

19 August 2007

Oh The Humanity!

We attended church today . . . such an exciting place where everyone just loves to come and worship and fellowship and learn about and serve God. But I found myself, shortly after church, questioning the “whys” of our being called to full-time overseas mission work right now . . . while things seem to be so good. God has blessed us personally and blessed His work here, and I and my family are quite comfortable and content. I wasn't questioning the call, but just the timing of it. And to be honest, I sometimes find myself fearing the uncertainties of what the future holds for our family of six. So my feelings seemed to be a mix of 'why now?' and a little 'scaredy catness' (please pardon the term).

And I come away from all of that with this: Aren't we a pathetic lot? I mean, God proves Himself faithful in so many, many ways . . . countless, actually. And then I question His timing? I'm reminded of Job . . . whose circumstances were extremely dire, to say the least. And then God's poignant questions to him: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? . . . Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? . . . . .Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? . . . Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you understood the expanse of the earth? . . . . Can you lift up your voice to the clouds , so that an abundance of water may cover you? . . . Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind? . . . Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” and then, after Job's wise silence, God begins with round two in chapter 41. (Read it . . . Job 38-41).

Who am I to question His timing? Who am I to question His future provision for our family? I just wrote in the August 11th entry “. . . compared to the God we have and the life He gives us, no cost is too great. How could it be?” I'm honest with Him . . . and I know He desires me to be. Any intimate relationship should at least be this. David is one of our great examples of how honest, and even whiny we can be with the Lord. God is much more gentle and patient with me than I am with myself once I finally get things in perspective. And through my fears and uncertainties He strengthens me. I don't know why He contends with us (this is the age old question, isn't it?), but I'm so glad He does.

Now, let me share some exciting news of what happened later in the day. Our Ford Escape sold. It was the second day that it had been for sale, and it sold. We made $1000 on the sale and eliminated a monthly debt of $212, and then whatever the monthly insurance for it comes out to be. So we're able to apply the $1000 and then an additional $212 a month to the elimination of our debt. YEA!!! (We had tried to sell the thing last year. It was 'for sale' for a couple of months and we didn't even get inquiries on it.) It's wonderful news in the elimination of all our debt so we can go overseas.

17 August 2007

Issues Wives & Mothers Face on the Mission Field

We got an email a couple days ago from the International Mission Board office of the candidate consultant that will be working with us through this process. The email acknowledged receipt of our application and gave us a brief bio of our consultant.

The email had an attachment entitled “Issues Wives & Mothers Face”. It addressed the following topics:

  • Wife's call to this type of ministry (wanting to eliminate those who are committed to following their husbands in ministry, but don't feel called themselves). A wife is considered to be a full-time missionary along with her husband.

  • Witness on the mission field - Every missionary is expected to be regularly involved in sharing a verbal witness with non-Christians. Wives are often able to reach certain groups of people that the husband is not able to reach simply because of relationships with other women and avenues of ministry through children to other children and families.

  • Options for service: 1.“home/community” - maintaining a home for our family and then developing a ministry through the home or alongside other responsibilities. The mission board considers care of children of primary spiritual importance. 2. full-time professional – filling a particular mission related vocation skill. The first option is, of course, what I would be doing.

  • Language – must be comfortable with international and intercultural lifestyle and is expected to take full-time language study to learn, understand, speak, read and write effectively the language of the target area.

  • Culture – willing to make social and way of life adjustments to aid in the acceptance into a new society.

  • Spiritual development – expected to maintain a growing relationship with God, practice the disciplines of the Christian life, maintain a wholesome Christian family life and take all opportunities to witness in and through her home.

  • Children on the field – being very positive with children through the change, helping them feel not only a part of the culture but also a part of the mission work.

  • Education of children – there are many options here pending the location of where we are going. Homeschooling, of course, is one and what we will continue to do.

  • Health and medical care – varies in accordance to the assignment location but is a priority with the IMB.

  • Separation from extended family – the hardest part of it all, I think. But it's much better than it was years ago. We have modern communication systems (emails, blogs, etc.) and transportation possibilities. There is a special support system and close bond among families on the mission field.

The attachment also had a list of suggested readings: Becoming a Trans-cultural Woman by Barbara Collins, Children of the Call: Issues Missionaries Kids Face by Charlene Gray, It's OK to be an MK by William Viser, Culture Shock! Successful Living Abroad: A Wife's Guide by Robin Pascoe, Women's Guide to Overseas Living by Nancy Peit-Pelon, Your Child's Health Abroad: A Manual for Traveling Parents by Jane Wilson Howarth & Survivor's Guide to Homeschooling by Luanne Shackelford.

I plan to learn about these books and acquire the ones I think would be the most benefit.

14 August 2007

Responses from loved ones and our being fidgety around here

It's been an interesting time of sharing our news of God's calling to full-time mission work with family members. We have had responses ranging from complete excitement and encouragement, to questions asked from a premise of 'you must be crazy', to just sadness at the thought of our going so far away (and most are a mix of all three of these). A wonderful part of it is that all responses have been loving and genuine, and have caused us to think definitively and be so certain of God's calling.

Robert is going to be addressing a lot of concerns about the IMB (International Missions Board) in a series of blogs that he is hoping to begin today.

We've submitted our application and are waiting to hear back from an IMB consultant. We'll be contacted by email first (within the next 3 days) and then by telephone within the next 7-10 days. We'll keep you posted.

Robert and I are praying together daily. Our hearts are united in this endeavor and our souls are exuberant.

In the mean time, the kids and I are fidgety for school to start. It is going to be a great homeschool year for us. Summer has been wonderful, with camping trips and high adventures of trails and climbing and lakes and exploring. But we're to the end of our summer activities and are restless for school. The hold up is curriculum. As soon as we have it . . . we'll be on our way!

I guess it would be correct to say that Robert and I are a little fidgety as well. On the one hand, we know God's calling and we want what He is going to accomplish through us to start yesterday. On the other hand, we want to make the most of every opportunity and relationship while we are still here . . . in our church, and in our time with family and friends. And training time . . . I'm sure there is much to learn! And then there is much battening down of hatches so to speak . . . eliminating debt, Robert's degree (of which he only has to complete one more class to graduate!!!), the completing of the work on our house and then the selling of our house, and the selling of a vehicle, the selling of other things such as power tools, etc., etc., etc. By the way, anyone interested in adopting a couple of dogs?!!!!!

12 August 2007

My husband blogger

Robert has begun his blogging of where God is taking us. It is called "Odyssey of Obedience" which is a title that I think just rocks! You can link to his blog off my page . . . just click "Odyssey of Obedience" in the left sidebar.

11 August 2007

Counting The Cost

Today we shared news with our parents of God's calling and of Belgium. What wonderful parents we both have. Although I'm sure they were surprised by the news and that there must be a hint of sadness in the idea of son, daughter and grandchildren moving so far away, love and encouragement was offered to just follow God.

My husbands mom told him that she had always known that God would call him to mission work in another country. She said very confirming things about the strength of our family and how well suited she thought we would be for whatever God calls us to do. When Robert shared what she had said with me, we both were tearful (in a good way).

My mom said that the news was very exciting to them and that they would always want us to follow God wherever He leads. She added that following God is more important than anything.

We filled out an application for the International Mission Board and plan to submit it early this next week. We are so eager to learn more. When God calls us to do a work, it's hard to settle in to the idea of it taking time to get there.

Intermittent throughout the day I found myself joyfully counting the cost of what God is calling us to do. It would seem that the task of counting the cost would not be so joyful. Is this more evidence of God's calling? I have no reservations about selling our lovely home, of living in a small trailer to accomplish the paying off of all debt, of giving up any material things that we may have. I guess the most difficult part to leaving would be saying farewells to those who are so dear to me. My parents most definitely top the list. And then there is my brother and his family . . . my in-laws. And it will be difficult to say farewell to my dear friends that are my church family. Of course, in the world we live in of blogging and email, there is always a way to stay in touch. We are supposed to count the cost . . . and compared to the God we have and the life He gives us, no cost is too great. How could it be?

So I find myself relishing in the blessings that have been ours in living close to family and having such dear people in our church that we call friends. And I am resolved to not take these blessings for granted in the remainder of the time that we are here.

I know we are going. I'm not sure when yet, and I'm not sure where. What an absolute honor to serve God and for Him to allow us the opportunity to be ambassadors for Him. Everything about Him is amazing to me.

10 August 2007

Here Am I, Send Me

What an exciting day! God has laid on both Robert and my hearts and minds the desire to take His word to another country . . . where people don't know Him at all.

Robert is currently pastoring a very healthy, vibrant church. It is markedly different than most of the churches of this country. Members of this church give their relationship with God top priority. Out of that, God accomplishes genuine ministry and the drawing of unbelievers to Himself. It is a joy for us to be in a healthy church where true fellowship takes place, where God is genuinely worshiped and where believers are committed to following Him. There are no power plays, no facades . . . it's genuine people who genuinely love God and strive to please Him. On one hand, we're crazy to even contemplate leaving. On the other hand, these are people who would continue to do the same even if we were not here.

Here's the other astonishing thing of the day. As I was alone in our room (children upstairs playing) I was talking to God about us becoming missionaries to a foreign country. My mind was battling back and forth with it. And I finally said out loud to God, “okay . . . we'll be missionaries, send us to Belgium”. (Where “Belgium” came from I really have no idea.) At the same time my husband, who was preparing for his Sunday teaching at the church, thought “Belgium”. He went online and looked at the International Mission Boards website and there is a NEED for missionaries in Belgium. 1% of the population is Christian. ONE PERCENT!!! It is a new, exciting work where seed planting, discipling, mentoring and establishing churches is paramount. Our hearts are thrilled by it! Does it mean we're going to Belgium? I have no idea. We'll go just where He wants us to go.

Our children became curious this afternoon at what I was looking at and thinking about. I told them that mom and dad were thinking and praying about selling our house, leaving all our friends and family and going to a country where many people don't know Jesus loves them. I wanted to know what they would think about leaving grandparents and friends and toys and dogs behind to tell others about Jesus. Our oldest two (ages 5 & 6) immediately said that telling others about Jesus would be more important than any toy or house, and that we would always have our family and friends who love Jesus. And our youngest daughter (age 3) said “let's sell our house and learn a new language.” Then she began speaking what I will call Dora The Explorer Spanish.

So here we are . . . amazed and humbled at God's call for us to go. And what can we say but what Isaiah said . . . “Here am I, send me!” God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He's proven Himself faithful so many times in so many ways. We have no doubts. We have been adventuring with Him for years, and the adventure continues!!!