Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Faith and other ramblings...

All of my couch cushions, save one, have been peed on at least once in the last twenty-four hours. They are now soaked in rubbing alcohol in a desperate attempt to prevent any urine smells. As you can see, potty training is going well.

We had tacos for dinner last night.

I spilled tea on myself twice just this morning, and on my remaining dry couch cushion.

Those are some random facts of our life in Indiana. Engaging, I'm sure.

In actuality, people have been curious about the differences between Indiana and Oregon and here is what I've noted so far.

1. Indianians (okay, that's awkward, which is probably why they refer to themselves as Hoosiers) don't know how to drive. If you thought Californians were bad, this is worse. Much worse.

2. Red lights and speed limit signs are apparently only a suggestion here.

3. People are ridiculously and genuinely friendly. I'm thoroughly enjoying the social aspect and getting to know people. And it's genuine. It seems as though community is highly valued and inclusive of newcomers. Oregon is much more individualistic, but community is still a real and thriving thing here.

4. Apparently the weather isn't always this nice, but it has been a perfect 70-ish degrees since the first week we arrived and I feel like I might be dying of happiness.

5. People sit on their front porches and get to know their neighbors. Since you can't see my face, it is an expression of happy awe and pure shock.

6. Birds don't just cheep here, they actually serenade you. It's hard to describe, but the birds just sing differently and it's so soothing and magical.

In spite of all this, I'm beginning to miss "home" and my people. It's been wonderful getting to know new people, exploring, and enjoying all that Indiana has to offer, but there isn't a replacement for the people who are already in your heart. We're transitioning out of feeling like we're on vacation in a new place, to really settling in, and I'm finding myself waking up missing my family and my people. I'm grateful for facetime and phone calls and getting to share our hearts with one another even from a distance.

God has been teaching me so much recently. I wrote a list in my journal, but the one that seems to keep coming up is faith. Our house in Oregon hasn't sold yet and I have been really struggling with frustration and impatience with this issue. But on Sunday, as Andy led our little family in "church," we looked at a passage in Hebrews where Paul commends Abraham's faith. He talks about how Abraham followed God initially because of faith, but he had to continue living by faith even in the land that was promised to him. It really struck a chord in my heart because I realized that we made this journey in faith and yet we must continue in that same faith even as we live in the place that God has called us to.

I spent some time on Sunday afternoon, asking God what that looks like, and I realized in so many ways that faith and surrender must always go together. That it is our faith that allows us to surrender because we believe that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. We cannot have surrender without faith. So I surrendered what I thought ministry should look like here. I surrendered our financial situation to God. I surrendered my hopes and dreams to him. Everything and anything that I was worried or struggling with was laid at His feet in surrender. And then peace came flooding in and the ability to pray, "Your will be done," was genuine and brought so much comfort to my heart because I knew I could and can trust Him to do what is best for His kingdom and our lives.

I don't want to control God's work in my life. If he would have us poor for His kingdom, then I will be content in that. If He would have us live in a beautiful home, then I will be content in that. If my ministry is homeschooling and loving my husband, then I will be content in that. If my ministry is teaching and preaching, then I will be content in that. Whether I or my children are healthy, I will trust Him. In all things, I long to say, by surrender through faith, that I'm content in whatever circumstances that God leads and calls me into.

It is by faith, through grace, that we are saved. If our salvation started in this way, it must also continue in this way. Trusting and surrendering to Him all that we are and all that we desire in confident expectation knowing that He is faithful to us in all circumstances and that ultimately His will for us is good, even if it is also, at times, hard.

Faith is the evidence of things hoped for - and do we not hope for Him? I've been baffled by this verse at times (Hebrews 11:1), wondering if faith is being confident that God will do what I want, but I've come to the conclusion that faith is being confident that I belong to Jesus and that He is mine also. That desiring Him, hoping for Him, is where you find faith.

It's amazing that when we take our eyes off of what we hope for, what we plan for ourselves, and place them squarely on the person of Jesus and His love and power and goodness, that we find the tangible substance of our faith. He is the evidence of our faith because He is who we place our hope in. He is the author and perfecter of our faith because He is also the object of our faith.

And yet we continue to pray for our home to sell because know His great love for us and His concern for His people. We've been asking Him to sell our home, but our hearts add a "Your will be done because we trust You in this," knowing that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

Our faith is more precious to Him than solid gold (1 Peter 1:7), so we pray most that He would refine our faith. Surely, we desire far greater riches than what will come from the sale of our home. We seek after heavenly riches which are only given by grace through faith. Like Abraham, we wander through the world as strangers because we are waiting for a "better place, a heavenly homeland" (Hebrews 11:16). And so, like Abraham, we also seek to live this life in faith trusting His promises because "God has far better things in mind for us..." at the end of this journey (Hebrews 11:40).

All that said, we would still love for our home to sell. Would you be willing to pray that it would sell and that God would strengthen our faith in the meantime? Please pray that we would trust in Him and put our hope in Him, regardless of our circumstances or desires?

Praise Him for the peace He has given us in the meantime, and for wisdom as we move forward in our life here. Please pray for the people we've met here that they would come to know Jesus personally or that they would grow in their faith also. We are getting to know our neighbors who are all such wonderful people and we would love those relationships to deepen and the gospel to permeate them in every way.

May we all grow in faith together, knowing that our Father is good and that He loves us.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Learning to Dance: An Ode to a Friend on Discipleship

I remember the day I heard her name. I wandered into a Bible Study and was handed a beautifully made bible study book with a woman's feet sunk deep in ocean waves. I hadn't been to a women's bible study before. Ever. This workbook was handed around the room and I held it in my hands and thummed through it and there her name was, written in the corner. The woman who had put this whole thing together.

I passed over her name quickly and dove into my first women's bible study and the beauty of scripture. Walking in Freedom, I think it was called, and my heart craved the nuggets of truth it helped us uncover as we dove into the scriptures together. My soul began unfolding like a flower as her words drew us to scripture and the truth that we are free from performance and from needing to be good enough. There was grace and we couldn't be perfected by our own efforts.

Then, months later, an invitation came through facebook to a young women's retreat from this lovely woman. We had met, I had seen her face around church, but I remember this retreat so vividly. We walked into her family's home in the country and her bright smile made me feel welcome and loved immediately. She hugged me and laughed and welcomed me, and though I didn't know many women, I immediately felt drawn to her. She was beautiful inside and out. She taught that weekend, opening the scriptures and sharing her heart and all that God had taught her. I drank in her words and God's words through her. One small phrase, possibly said off-handedly, changed my life.

"If you read the scriptures for five minutes a day, you'll finish the bible in a year." What? I realized I didn't know whether I had ever read through all of scripture. Most of it certainly, but all of it? I didn't know. "You can do almost anything for five minutes a day." How many other things did I waste five minutes a day on? Too many. And this was important. I made a commitment that day that began to change my life - to read through scripture daily.

The retreat ended and life went on. She continued to follow Jesus and I continued to watch from afar, picking up bits and pieces here and there. She wrote a blog that I began to follow - the only blog I've ever followed - and her words daily felt like they were written just for me. As if the Spirit had authored those words in her specifically for me. Sometimes, it felt as if she had read my thoughts and my struggles and was laying them bare with her words and then offering me the solution I didn't have the wisdom yet to find myself.

I was asked, one day, who were people I trusted to give me council on my life, and I realized, though I had little relationship with this woman, that she was on my "board of directors," as they called it. She didn't know it, but Jesus in her life was changing my life.

Then an announcement on Sunday at church, this woman and her husband were going to plant a church. Our church sent them with love and support and I felt a sudden need to somehow support them. We didn't know what that meant, but Andy and I both knew immediately that we either needed to give to the church or go with them to start it.

It ended up being a bit of both. We joined their church plant and stayed at our other church (which was a bit complicated, but God worked it out in the end!) and this woman and I began to develop a friendship.

We did bible studies together and our children played together. We announced the pregnancy of our second child and they rejoiced with us. We prayed and walked with them as they had a woman who lived on the streets come and live with them. We became closer friends and began meeting regularly to pray and share our hearts with a couple other women from our church.  We led bible studies together and I shared hard things from my past with her that brought freedom to my life. We learned about healing and deliverance together. We learned about prayer together. We grew in the knowledge of Christ and His love for us together. Their church became our home and they became our family.

And through the years we've spent together, I've watched and learned. You see, after all these years watching this woman and learning from her, I've realized something about discipleship.

Following Jesus isn't something you can learn.

Before you throw me under the bus for that statement, please keep reading. Following Jesus isn't something you can learn, it's something you can do.

Please hear my heart - having good theology is essential, but all the head knowledge in the world won't mean anything if it doesn't translate to what we do.

A verse in the bible says, "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

I grew up in the church, watching people who just listened to the word and who were themselves deceived. You can listen to the word and know the truth, but it means absolutely nothing if you don't live it out in your life.

I watched this woman live her life for the past 6 or 7 years DOING what the word said. It captivated me in a way that nothing else in this world has. For so long, I had only seen people who knew what the word said, but I hadn't met someone who so radically DID what it said. I started following her because she was actually and literally following Jesus.

Paul says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." In so many ways, we need less learning in the American church and more people imitating Christ. But it is a hard jump from normal daily life to imitating the God of the universe, which is why I think He gives us other Christians who are following Him to imitate. I "learned" more about following Jesus from watching her follow Jesus than I have from anything I've ever read anywhere.

I saw her suffer for His sake, and give radically and joyfully for His sake. I got to see her faithfulness in showing up when it was hard or didn't have any immediate rewards. I watched her faithfully obey His quiet directions to her to buy or not buy certain things, to eat or not eat certain things, to do or not do certain things, to pray, to fast, to give, to serve, to love, to share, to teach, to train, to hug, to speak truth in challenging situations, to surrender, to honor, to build up. Her life was a constant picture to me of how to listen to God's Spirit and apply His word and to live for Him.

It changed me in ways I don't even have words to describe - far beyond probably what she has any idea.

But it wasn't my dear friend who changed me - it was Christ. Her yielded submission to Him became the model I began to imitate and as I learned His rhythms, I began to find a new place of freedom in Him. Where I started imitating her, I ended up imitating Him. Where she inspired me, He took reign.

Slowly, like learning the patterns of a complicated dance, I began to grow confident in the steps. I had leaned on her in the beginning to show me how the steps went from theory to practice, but I was developing my own strength and beginning to dance out the steps with God Himself.

You see, I think this is how God intended discipleship. So often we think head knowledge is enough to equip someone .to follow Jesus, and maybe for some with the partnership of the Holy Spirit, it is. But more often than not, it seems to me, that God chooses to use people surrendered to Him to teach the steps through their own life to those who are just learning the ways.

You can grow up in church all your life and know the Bible, you can even preach the Bible, but until you learn the steps, until you learn to do what the Word says, you aren't dancing. You aren't following Jesus until you start moving. It's so easy to deceive yourself, that you are living according to the word - we're not bad people after all - and that's a sobering thought. But when we see with our own eyes someone dancing to the rhythm with God - someone living in complete surrender to His will - we can see clearly that we aren't dancing like that. When you see how beautiful it is to dance with Him, it creates a longing in our hearts to join in and to learn the steps.

This is discipleship, and it is beautiful. May we all join the dance.

{To my dear friend, Kari, on Mother's Day: 
words are not enough to say thank you for leading with your life} 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Jesus-Centered Church

It was a year ago that I sat on my couch one evening in prayer and suddenly, my mind came alive with inspiration and started whirling with a crazy idea. I grabbed my journal and began wildly scribbling thoughts as they poured into my head. It was called Novo, and it was a church, but really it was the Church.

You see, since I first started diving into the scriptures as a young adult, I began to see something of a discrepancy. Every time I read the book of Acts, I was confronted with the reality that my churches didn't look like the Church described in this book. It shook me up as a young person and even made me question whether I wanted anything to do with going to church in our modern-world. I wrestled with questions about whether a pastor was a biblical thing and why our churches felt more like performances than Christ-centered people building each other up and taking the gospel out. Over the years, God began to show me that He loved His church - it is His betrothed after all - and that if I am of Him, I must also love His church and His people. So we got involved in a wonderful church and joined a church plant several years later and I have embraced His people with a passion and a heart to see them know Christ and make Him known.

And then one day, quiet on my couch, head bowed in prayer, this radical idea of a church that looked like the first church in Acts idea could be a real possibility. I know this isn't new. In fact, the more I dive into this idea, the more I keep seeing it being lived out around me. Home-groups and Life-groups and House-churches and Missional Communities. So many names and diverse cultures, but the heart is the same.We've been involved in many of these and my in-laws have even started a house-church movement of their own.

And I'm coming to realize, that this idea that God planted in my heart has been planted in the hearts of so many who love him across this expansive nation of ours. I'm beginning to see churches leave programs and christian culture for a more radical Christ-following life-on-life style of ministry. I'm excited to join what God is leading in the hearts of so many of my brothers and sisters. I know what we are doing isn't going to be unique to us, but rather is just a small extension of what the Spirit is doing in the lives of many believers and churches across our nation and throughout the world.

I don't know that we'll be different from so many of these beautiful churches and home-groups, but here is what we will be:

We will break bread in our homes and eat together with glad and sincere heart. Acts 2:46
We will be a people who pray. 2nd Chronicles 7:14/1 Thess 5:17-18
We will have no one who is called by a title of Pastor/Teacher/Father/Master. Matthew 23:8-10
We will be led by a group of godly men, called Elders who share in teaching, nurturing, shepherding, and discipling the spiritual lives of those who become part of our church family.
We will be Word-centered and, therefore, Christ-centered. John 1:1
We will be led by the Spirit. Romans 8:14
We will be a family of missionary servants, modeling our lives after Jesus' life and living in relationship with Him, His people, and inviting the world into the joy of knowing and following Him. 

This is a starting list of our foundations and I'm sure we will be much more than these things and we may struggle in many of these areas, but this is a starting point for our little home-church.

As I prayed a year ago, I had this beautiful picture in my mind of a church that met in homes, and businesses like coffee shops and restaurants, and was led by God's Spirit and gave space for people to grow in their spiritual gifts and be discipled in the truth. It was warm and inviting and relational and people who didn't know Jesus felt at home with us and intrigued by the love among us and the Spirit of God at work in us. It was a place where people experienced spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing. It was a place where people met Jesus, maybe for the first time, and constructs of religion fell away to give a place for relationship with God our Father. It was a family - growing and changing and making room for more - but it was God's family being created among us and God, our Father, instructing us, loving us, and changing us. It was centered on Jesus, and full of Jesus, and brought Jesus glory and honor on earth and made his name known.

A verse in the old testament says that the people perish for lack of vision. It may take us a lifetime to see something that looks like the above. It may cost us everything to see it happen - it certainly cost Jesus everything. But it is something worth living and even dying for. Without this vision - the vision that Jesus cast for His church - the people perish. I long to see churches revived, people revived, christians revived, the world revived by Jesus' vision for His church and I long to see His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. So we pray for that and we live for that and we let Him lead and accomplish the work in us and through us and in the church and through the church.

Will you pray with us? Pray for our little church, pray for the big Church, pray for His kingdom to come, His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven? Will you ask Him what role He would have you play in accomplishing these goals and what vision He has for your life and what purpose He has in mind for you in this grand vision of His?

He who started this work is faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Let it be.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

7 Joys to Share

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and I feel like I'm just getting settled into a rhythm of life again. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us and this journey we are on. I can feel your prayers and I see the fruit of them! Since many of you are joining us on this journey through your prayers, I wanted to share some praises!

1. The plane trip was far better than expected. Our gate happened to be right next to the only playground in the airport (I didn't know they even had one!), so the kids were able to get all their wiggles out before flying.  Samuel fell asleep in my mother-in-law's arms on the first plane and spent the second flight treating me as his personal jungle gym, but there was very little fussing and no crying, so I'm calling that a miracle!

2. We were SOOO blessed by the homeschool community we're joining here in Fort Wayne. We told them we were coming and they offered hands, and help, and meals, and we felt so embraced and overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness. The first two days we had families from the community bring us dinner and donuts and dessert and helped move our furniture into the house and so much more. I was near to tears with gratitude and I'm still reeling by what a blessing they've been to us! Also, these donuts are called "Amish Crack" for a reason. :)

3. We live down their street to an amazing homeschool family who has a little girl who is 6 years old. Her and Isabel made an instant heart connection and everyday Isabel asks, "Can we play with Lucy today?"  The fact that Isabel has one person she's excited to see and play with warms my heart and gives me a joy I can't describe. The view from our yard:

4. Our rental home has been absolutely lovely. I love the layout and the space and the neighbors. We've been spending the last couple days lounging in the front and backyards eating watermelon, catching bugs, picking flowers, and getting to know our neighbors. AND the family we are renting from is fabulous and I've had so much fun getting to know them. I think we may be kindred spirits. :)

Our fabulous rental home:

5. The library!!! Oh seriously, this is probably my favorite part of Fort Wayne so far. Their library system is seriously fantastic and THERE. IS. NO. BOOK. LIMIT. Oh my goodness. I feel like I fell into homeschool heaven. Plus you can check out homeschool curriculum at the library and they have a whole section of their library devoted to homeschool curriculum and support. Seriously, I was not expecting this and I can't explain the level of giddiness I feel at thinking of all the homeschooling resources available to us here! Logic of English, here we come. Eeee!

6. The zoo is mind-blowingly awesome! I wasn't expecting it to rival Oregon's zoo, and while they do have less animals, I would dare say that I enjoy their zoo better. There are so many animals you can interact with (ie. petting sting rays and feeding giraffes!) and the zoo is much more interactive and engaging.

7. Church Planting has been a surprising blessing also. At this point, it has been only our immediate family worshiping and learning together, but I was praying about what God wants this whole thing to look like and He reminded me of the verse that talks about how if an elder can't manage his home, how can he care for the church? The Lord showed me how this time is like taking a magnifying glass to the church within our home and building a strong foundation with the bare minimum, so that as God adds to our church family, we are fully equipped to lead, disciple, and care for the people God brings to us. As the Church, we are a family of missionary servants and it is no surprise that God is strengthening our immediate family in gospel rhythms before others are brought into our home and life and family to join along.  I am eager though to have fellowship and times of prayer with adult believers though, so please pray God brings people who would be willing to be a part of our little church family and/or who would be willing to meet weekly to have prayer and worship together.

Andy leading us in worship Sunday morning:

Thank you to all who have been praying for us! Everything has been so smooth and I feel so at peace being here. There are so many unknowns at this point, but we are taking it one day at a time and just embracing the moments, the place, and the people right in front of us each day and asking God for opportunities to speak and share His love with others.

Two quick adorable photos to leave you with of our little two splashing in rain puddles in our alley behind the house: 

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Road to Indiana

Really, this is probably not the best time to start writing. Our life is in major upheaval. Everything is changing. I think the changes are what make me want to write – to process my thoughts and feelings and help explain this crazy adventure a little to those watching, and even to myself.

As we move away from everyone we know and love, I feel strongly that I need to record this journey and invite the ones we’re leaving to follow along with us as we embark into unknown territory.

I can’t promise it will be well written, or even very interesting, but it is my life and I want to invite you into it and the random wanderings of my heart and mind as much as possible.

I may not write very often. I may write everyday. I don’t know what to expect from myself as writing and blogging has been something I’ve been very inconsistent with. But I know that God is teaching me a lot and is moving in ways I want to remember. I want to build an altar of sorts, rock by rock, as a testimony of what He is doing in my life so I can look back and remember each piece He provided and each way He stepped in and did what only He can do.

The story began long ago, of God teaching me and inviting me into a life-changing friendship with Him, but our recent journey began in December. I’ve always wanted to go abroad and share the love of Jesus with people in other countries – to be a missionary – and give my life in crazy radical ways for the gospel. And this last December, I again came to my husband and shared my longing to go and be a missionary. This desire has been so deeply rooted in my heart since I first gave my life to the Lord, that I don’t know where I begin and it ends. It is as much a part of me as my own breath and for so long, God has said, “Stay. Be here. Love here. Grow here.” And I have. I’ve grown and changed and fallen in love with God in new ways everyday. I’ve been truly content and full of joy right where I am, living for Jesus where He has called me to be, but still, like an ache in my chest, I’ve longed for missions like a steady pulsing pain. A constant ache and reminder that I can’t ignore.

In December, we went away for our anniversary, and on the three hour drive, I poured out my heart to my husband for the thousandth time of my longing to go and do missions and this new sense that God is preparing us for something altogether different. I asked him, “Please pray with me. I will stay in Oregon with peace and joy if this is where God has called us to be, but will you please commit to praying with me and asking Him where He wants us to be. And will you really pray earnestly about it?” This was not the first conversation where I’ve begged Andy to move to Africa or India with me, and it may not yet be the last, but Andy committed himself to praying and to seeking God’s will for our life.

Fast forward a month, Andy had a hard day at work and came home and shared about some of the struggles. The conversation spurred on talks about the future and ideas and dreams of what could be. The following day, he shared some of his dreams with a friend of his who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and they began dreaming together. Andy’s work eventually evened out, but something in Andy’s heart began to want a life in Indiana and the possibilities that were available to us there. He began to talk seriously about us moving there. We dream a lot together about this idea or that idea, so we dreamed a bit, but I didn’t truly expect it to result in anything.

In the end of January, I went on a prayer retreat and we had a time of listening prayer. During that time waiting on the Lord and listening for anything He wanted to say to me, I heard very clearly that He wanted us to move to Fort Wayne, Indiana and that it would be a season where all I had to depend on was God and that I was to press into the suffering and into Christ, choosing the path Jesus walked for the sake of the world. I truly don’t know what that means or will look like, but it certainly didn’t make me excited!

I went home and shared what I heard with Andy, and we continued talking. His mindset was still very practical – finances and career options were his primary focus at the time. We talked and shared our thoughts with some close friends and family and received very mixed reactions. Some reactions made us reconsider the idea entirely – maybe this was a horrible idea. But still, there felt like an invisible hand was guiding us down this path. We read an amazing book together called “Money, Possessions, and Eternity” by Randy Alcorn that really motivated us to think about our finances even more in the light of Kingdom values and the importance of being completely debt free. We began to talk about ways we could be debt-free in Oregon as we have a home loan, school loans, and a car loan. Through these months, we decided that stay or leave, we needed to live debt-free with no loans or mortgages of any kind and that we were willing to make drastic life changes to accomplish those purposes.

We wrestled back and forth, should we go or should we stay? What about other locations? Are we only supposed to be in Fort Wayne or could another cheaper location be an option to us as well? Maybe something closer to our families and home? No matter where we looked or how cheap another place was, we kept feeling ourselves drawn back to Fort Wayne. We felt no peace about any other place and the more we researched Fort Wayne, the more we felt drawn to a particular 10 block radius. It felt crazy, but we both felt sure it was Fort Wayne or nothing.

But we still were wrestling with the whole topic and we were struggling with leaving our amazing communities and families behind. During that season, the Lord reminded me of how He has called nearly every major biblical person of faith to leave their families and their homes to follow Him and of the call in the gospels from Jesus to do just that. Abraham, Moses, Joseph (although unwilling at first), Isaac, Jesus, Ruth, and so many more. The list was startling as I realized that this walk of faith in following Jesus sometimes (often!) calls you away from everyone you know and love and leads you to a place of total dependence on the Father.

We decided, we didn’t want to leave our families and our friends for anything other than a call from God to do so. We decided to wait and pray until my trip to Africa. We asked friends to pray with us and we felt that we would know more clearly after Africa somehow. So we waited. And prayed. And then Africa.

I fell in love with Africa. Uganda was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. It was like a I fell into a romance with a people and a place and everything about it was intoxicating and full of wonder. The people, the sights, the smells, the weather, the traffic, the food, and this siren possibility of all the ways that God wanted to do a renewing and restoring work there wooed me into a place where one night when I awoke at 1am (jet lag!), I laid in my bunk and begged God, with tears and sobs, to let me stay forever. I felt like my heart was aching and yearning in a way that I have never felt before – and breaking too. It hurt so much to want something so bad. And as I lay there, sobbing and begging, He broke my heart and told me “no.” He told me Uganda wasn’t for me, but was for my children. That my love for Uganda was for them. He reminded me of David wanting to build a temple for God and how God said that David couldn’t, but his son Solomon would. David spent the rest of his life storing treasures up for Solomon to use in building the temple, but David would never get to see it completed. My love for Uganda was the treasures I was storing up in my children’s hearts so they could one day complete what God would not allow me to do.

But in that heartbreak, He told me again that He was calling us to Fort Wayne, Indiana. He said many other things – things about a church plant and His vision for our lives there. And I knew, this was my future now. I felt a grief the rest of the trip, but also peace that comes from full surrender, and an ability to embrace my time in Uganda, however short it may be.

During my time in Uganda, Andy committed to meeting with someone each night to pray for us and for our future. During one such night, a friend and him sat and prayed together and asked God for specific direction.  Andy had a vision of our future that was a tailor-made for Andy version of what I had heard from God myself. So while I was in Africa, 8,931 miles away, we confirmed that we would follow God’s leading and move to Fort Wayne. We had no idea how or what Andy would do for a job, but we knew we were called and needed to go.

Andy had previously talked with his boss about moving to Indiana, telecommuting and the like, and his boss had said that wouldn’t be possible with the type of job that Andy had. Through a number of events at Andy’s work, they suddenly needed someone to start a warehouse in the Midwest or somewhere equally as inexpensive. In faith, before we had talked and after he had had his vision, Andy went to his boss and suggested that we would be open to running the warehouse in Indiana. That evening, Andy and I skyped across continents and shared our experiences and made our decision. Andy emailed me the next day and this is what he said:

Yesterday I expected to have a big long talk with [my boss] about IN, but as soon as I went into his office, we started talking about warehouse plans and everything. About an hour into it, I stopped and said I'd like to talk about the whole "me running it in Indiana" thing, and he responded (in other words) saying basically "What's there to talk about? That's what we're doing" so I guess it was a done deal! Glad you said yes, otherwise this could get real awkward.”

And things have been tumbling forward from there. There has been miraculous provision for our living situation that has made people who don’t even know us say, “I think this is God!” In fact, the house we’ll be renting at first is inside the 10 block radius we felt called to, is exactly the amount we first discussed for a rental, and is in the backyard of the Classical Conversations community we’ll be a part of. Plus it is walking distance to a park, has neighbors with kids our children’s ages, and is a block away from the home of our Classical Conversations director. And we’re renting from an incredible le family of believers who have been amazing to work with and who, I think, we could become good friends with!

In all of this, we’ve had people offer crazy generous things to support us in going. James, a friend who constantly embodies the willingness to serve with love and generosity, is driving over with Andy and the U-haul. My mother-in-law felt God put it on her heart to fly over with the kids and I and to help wrangle them on the plane. Another dear friend generously offered to pay a large part of our moving costs. And there is so much more that would take an entire another post to put into words.

In all this, we are just standing in awe of all that God is doing and how He is providing. There have been hard aspects of this journey, particularly in leaving everyone we know and love, and the challenges that come with that. We would love prayer going forward, especially as what God has called us to (more on that later!) is something we feel completely inadequate for. I have no experience and no model that I’ve seen to work from. We are literally walking through the dark waiting for him to light the path directly in front of our feet. And He is faithful to do that and so much more. He says He will do abundantly more than we could ask or think and so we walk, not by sight, but by faith, trusting Him to fulfill all His promises and to lead us “in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

All praise and glory be to Him forever and ever!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Homeschooling: The Journey Continues

The most challenging aspect of beginning the homeschool journey for me has been determining what our homeschool looks like. I love reading articles about the paths other moms have chosen. Simple Homeschool has some great stories where different moms share a "day in the life" and what their nitty gritty looks like. It's good to know they are normal people doing normal things and that pinterest-perfect isn't their normal either.

But, their day-in-the-life still doesn't answer the question, "What does my day-in-the-life look like?"

I've read and wrestled, and read and wrestled some more. At some point, a person can read too much and have too much to wrestle with. The mass volume of information and ideas available muddled my mind so fully that the structure of our homeschool began to look like a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey with me trying blindly to pin the right homeschool method on my family's unique build.

To describe the start of our journey, I jumped into a Classical Conversations community at the outset. We joined a community, purchased all of the curriculum, and I was hopeful that we would thrive and, as advertised on their website, I would single-handedly cultivate a love of learning in my child. They would read blissfully in fields of flowers by the age of 5 and the sun would beam down on our perfect happy homeschool family. Okay, maybe I didn't expect all that, but I look back and realize I was hoping the Classical Christian method would be our perfect fit.

We joined the community and we struggled immensely all year.  Each week, we went to a very LONG four hours of repetitive repeat-after-me sessions, where we both felt ignorant and ill-prepared. After a number of weeks of feeling like the dumb kid (and the dumb mom), I spent the week pushing Isabel (then only four years old!) too hard so that when she came to class she wouldn't feel inferior (and neither would I) and while she learned the content and began to improve in class, she began to hate doing "school," as did I.  Most of the time when we thought about doing "school" at home or at CC, we both internally cringed. We limped through the rest of the year and by the last 6 weeks, we had emotionally and physically checked out almost completely.  I was emotionally exhausted from trying to keep up and I realized I had caused damage in my attempts to do so in my child's "love of learning." The very thing I was trying to cultivate was the thing I trampled underfoot as I looked too intently at the "garden" I wanted to grow in the distance and not hard enough at the "garden" I was planting.

Recently, I've been reading through the amazing book, Homeschooling, Take a Deep Breath - You Can Do This, and this paragraph describes my feelings about last year homeschooling Isabel.

 "I began my homeschooling career by teaching only the oldest of my three children. I was new, so I was managing to make every mistake commonly made by homeschoolers, but I also faced the challenge of spending so much uninterrupted time with a child whose personality was as strong as mine. She and I clashed as I struggled to be the perfect teacher and to force her to be the perfect student. When I was teaching one child, I put all my self-esteem, my goals, my pride into this child's education. It was, I thought, her job to prove I could do what most people thought I couldn't do. Instead of starting out slowly and gradually getting used to what we were doing, I charged into full education mode ... This was far too much pressure for one child, and it's a wonder we get along so well today."

Over the summer, I struggled with whether to even try homeschooling again. I was exhausted and I felt like I had irrevocably ruined my child for life. I'm confident Isabel will be just fine, but at the end of the year, I felt like I had failed her and myself unforgivably. Maybe I'm not cut out for this, my mind swirled. Or maybe it was just a hard year with a newborn? Other homeschool parents have newborns and they don't seem to be ruining their kids' homeschool experience. I had, in fact, just read a blog by a mom who had homeschooled her children while also caring for newborn twins. What excuse did I have then to not be successful?

I read articles and blogs and they all said to go with the flow and not to stress. Easy for them to say, my brain retorted, their kids haven't been scarred by a mom who pushed her child too hard. Their kids don't fall apart every time they start doing "school." 

I almost gave up on it all, but I kept feeling like God was gently nudging me back to homeschooling. Don't you see how poorly I did last year?  I asked Him. He gently reminded me that He often calls His people to do hard things, things that they can't do in their own strength. His words resonated in me as I thought of what Jesus walked through for me and the hard things God asked of Jonah, Joseph, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Abraham, Moses, and countless others. Perhaps I did do poorly last year, but it seemed that God was calling me to do hard things with Him.

In so many ways, I look back at our last year and realize that I wanted to be successful in homeschooling for my sake and not for my children's sake. I wanted educated, kind, respectful children partially so I could say I successfully raised my children well. I needed to decide whether I was homeschooling so I could produce perfect children who brought credit to my name (not a great motivation, by the way), or whether I would homeschool for a deeper, more lasting reason. 

God gave me the reason I was homeschooling as clear as day here - paideia - and it changed my heart about homeschooling.

Finally, I had my purpose for homeschooling but was still asking the question, "What does homeschooling my children look like in light of the purpose God gave me?"

I may ask that question every day (maybe year if I'm lucky) for the rest of my homeschool life, but I came up with some solid framework for what our homeschool will may look like this year.

More on the nitty gritty of our homeschool plan for 2016 next....

Melody perusing fairy tales in ballet attire

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Elisha Reads: Homeschooling, Take a Deep Breath - You Can Do This!

I'm learning so much as I've embarked on this homeschool journey. I'm sure many of you are seasoned homeschoolers and much of what I am discovering now, you have fine tuned or you've already discarded. Each new day, it seems I discover what works for our family and what is a complete bust. It feels a little like trying on shoes - some squeeze, some pinch, some are snug, some are so comfortable you never want to take them off, and some fit just right for all the things you need to do in a day.

Last week, we sauntered down to our local library (and if you aren't aware, sauntering with three little children looks more like hustling ornery cattle through an obstacle course) wherein I proceeded to herd Samuel (my little one year old) around the library. As I bent to snatch him up before he could scale the book shelves, my eye landed on a book. It almost reverberated with that fictional magical aura and before I knew what my hands were doing, it had landed in my arms with my squirming child.  A happy throb seemed to emanate from the book as it snuggled its way into our overloaded bag of library loot.

When the kids settled in for naps and the house was miraculously quiet, the book almost jumped at me, so I didn't resist the impulse and I caught it and began to peruse the chapters. Each sentence seemed to flash before my eyes as if the author was looking straight into my fears and my challenges and my children and addressing every question before my mind had finished asking it.

More than any other resource on this homeschooling journey, this book has done wonders for my heart and mind. Even its name sounds like it was meant for me. 

Homeschooling, Take a Deep Breath, You Can Do This by Terrie Lynn Bittner

I won't spoil all the goodness of it, but if you are starting out homeschooling, this is a must-read. She breaks down the homeschool process well for minds that are bent towards creativity rather than list-making and organization. While at the same time, she supplies some very do-able recommendations for getting organized and making lists. It gives me hope that I will find my perfect balance between freedom and structure in my own homeschool life.  And on top of this, it has spurred my imagination and activated my creative juices!

I hope you get a chance to read it!

Most of the books I read are recommendations from others - they don't normally jump off library bookshelves like this one did - so please take a moment and share your favs in the comment section!

{With everything that is available to read, thanks for reading this!}