Thursday, July 28, 2011

How did I end up here? -- Part 5

If you missed Part 4 --click HERE.  Or go HERE to start at Part 1.

So, a bit nervous, we go to share about what we felt the Lord was saying and where we felt he was leading us to go at a meeting with our leadership.  We share first where we felt God was leading us, and we see a bit of surprise on their faces.  You see, many people see The Haven ministry as THE ministry to be apart of: its located in beautiful Portugal, beaches nearby, having fun with all the missionaries the come by, etc.  They couldn't help but ask if that was why we were choosing The Haven.  A legitimate question, yes, but a painful one to those that have been through quite a journey to even get to this point.  YES.  

We answered as humbly as we could and then shared how the Lord led us to this decision.  When all was said and done, they were excited for us and blessed us in it.  They just said one thing, "We are excited for you guys, but just so you know, FIVE other couples have applied to join The Haven and two singles."  Lovely.  Not only, are we asking to join a team (previously we were the ones being asked to join!) but now we were also going to be in a line-up!  My self-esteem took a further dive south as I thought about being lined up with five other couples!  Surely, they were more spiritual or disciplined or holy or whatever.  I was a bit discouraged.

Well, we sent the email to the leaders of the Haven anyway.  We were certain of what the Lord was calling us to and we had to go for it however challenging it was.  We get a response the next day and the day after that we are Skypeing with the leaders, sharing our story with them.  That led to seven weeks of Skype interviews.  For seven weeks we had NO idea (other than God's consistent confirmation that we were on the right track) whether they were going to accept us or not.  We weren't allowed to share with anyone which team we were applying to, just that we were no longer pursuing Russia and were looking into another team.

Can I tell you how hard that seven weeks were?  Very hard.  But, you know, God was faithful.  He gave us word after word and encouragement after encouragement that we were on the right track and that The Haven was where he was leading us to go.  We even had people(who had no idea where we had applied to) ask us if we had considered applying for the Haven team.

Well, as you probably know, we got accepted.  We were thrilled to see God's promises come true.  He is faithful.

Oh, remember our house?  That we rented way back in October of '09?  Well, its SOLD.  :)  It sold this past May.  Perfect timing and a great encouragement to us.

We are currently fund raising and as soon as we raise all of our financial support we will be on our way.  We are currently at 65% of our monthly financial needs.  Pray with us to see 100% reached soon!

If you have read this little novel in its entirety, I commend you for you patience!  Next up will be something along the lines of "lessons learned during two years of transition" or something really fun like that.  ;)


How did I end up here? -- Part 4

If you missed Part 3 --click HERE.

We decided to take a couple of weeks to fast and pray about what we were to do.  Really, just to hear from God about what in the world he was doing with us.  You see, throughout the entire process we were praying, seeking counsel, and walking in community so that we wouldn't miss God.  So that we wouldn't be alone in this journey and so that we would have accountability.  And, you know what I know for fact?  We didn't miss God.  God is God and His ways are not our ways.  More on that later.

During our time of fasting and praying, Luke and I took the first few days to simply take in what the Lord was saying and we didn't consult with each other until a few days into it.  At that point, what I was hearing was crazy and I just HAD to know what Luke was hearing!  During that time, God helped me release Russia.  He helped me realize that I was holding on to it way too tight and that I needed to keep my hands open. I realized that with the way things were looking, I didn't WANT to go to Russia.  We were looking at more of the same.  More transition.  You see, we would arrive there, be there for three months then have to leave the country to reapply for our visa (this could take up to a month to happen), then we could go back for three months.  If we filled out the proper paperwork for a residency visa and handed it in the day we arrived, we would then "hopefully" have an answer before our six month visa ended.  If not, out we would go again but this time we wouldn't be able to reenter until the following year. There were just a lot of "hopefully-s" involved and a lot of it was just impossible for us to do.

It took me three days to reach that conclusion.  It is amazing how God knows us so much better than we know ourselves.  During this time I felt God kept asking me the questions:  What do you want to do?  Where do you want to go?  Well, I just wanted him to tell me!  I finally gave it some thought and He led me back to the original dream in our hearts.  We wanted to be apart of a team that traveled and encouraged missionaries.  A team made up of power-packed, on-fire-for-God people that would bring life to weary souls!  That made our hearts excited and we thought that someday we would get to do that but that we probably needed to get a few years of missionary service before that happened. 

God is good and has good plans for you.  God's ways are not are ways.  One of our organization's ministries came to mind, The Haven.  This ministry does just what we wanted to do.  We knew about this ministry but not until now had God opened our eyes to the possibility of us joining that team. 

I asked God if this was it.  Was this where he was leading us via such an unusual path?  The answer: YES!  

After those first few days Luke and I got together to talk about what we had heard.  God had led us to the exact same conclusion.  Seriously.  I was surprised to hear that God had asked him the same question, What do you want to do?  Led him to the same conclusion of joining The Haven team.  Wild.  Wild, wild, wild.

Well, needless to say, we were in a bit of shock but decided to go for it as we felt very strongly about God's leading.

Continued in Part 5.

How did I end up here? -- Part 3

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 --click HERE.

Well, we made it back home!  We had a wonderful time in SC but there really is no place like home.  So, we move into a church house  and we wait for word form the school on whether or not they were approved to hire a foreign worker.  And just so you know, we had been in great contact with the director of the school.  She was a very nice lady who went above and beyond to make us feel wanted and as involved in the whole process as we could be.

September comes: WORD!  We finally hear word concerning the approval.  Well, you might not believe this but it is the honest to God truth:  we get word that the school got approval to higher Luke BUT they were no longer going to.  Just two weeks prior the director that we had been working with the entire time had quit and the new director had just got on the job.  The new director did not know us and she said that they didn't have enough students to continue with starting the school, therefore, they didn't need him.

Yup.  We were fairly flabbergasted.  In one sense we were just happy to have a FINAL word and not have to continue waiting and hoping.  But on the other hand, we were greatly disappointed.  We put so much into this opportunity that we just didn't know what God was doing. 

So, we consult with our leadership and teammates.  The decision was made for us to stop pursuing joining that team .  There just wasn't another viable option for us to enter the country.  Well, throughout that whole waiting and training time, another church (the one we originally went and helped out on our short-term trip in '05) had been saying that if it didn't work out with the one city, that we were invited to join them.  Well, Luke and I knew this was a possibility and we would have jumped on the opportunity before but we really wanted to walk out the opportunity that was before us first.  We  consult with leadership and it is confirmed that we would change our target city and join this other team (they were certain they would be able to get us in).

Well, November rolls around and we had made our third move since arriving in Waco.  We also found out that I was pregnant.  We were thrilled but I was feeling terribly sick.  Sometime around then I also start noticing that our fund raising efforts (now that there was no job with a salary, we had to raise our financial support) were not producing much fruit.  And beyond that, finances were not looking good.

Come a few days before New Years and I find out I'm miscarrying.  Terrible, terrible blow.  It knocks us to the ground.  "God WHAT are you DOING with US????" was the main question.  Throughout this entire time we had been consulting with leadership and this time we came to them with the terrible news of our miscarriage.  The "no" to our first opportunity, the lack of growth in our fund raising, and now, a miscarriage.  Those things were not what we expected to encounter on our amazing adventure with God.  If God was leading us to Russia, then WHY IN THE WORLD were all these negative things happening to us?  Why wasn't our support coming in?  Why did I have a miscarriage?  To add to all that, we weren't seeing a clear way to enter Russia even through this new city.  

Continued in Part 4.

How did I end up here? -- Part 2

If you missed Part 1 go HERE.

Well, just a few months later (June '09), God opened a door (or so we thought).  We get word of a private international school needing an English elementary school teacher.  They would pay a salary, give us a housing stipend AND fly us over.  Well, needless to say Luke applied for the job and within a week, he was accepted with the request to be there by Aug. 20th!  Yes, just two months out.  So, we were completely overwhelmed and excited at the same time.  We had lots to do!

We began by putting our house on the market (hoping and praying that it would sell in two months--we've heard of crazier things!) and selling all of our belongings.  Yes, we sold all of our furniture, most of our dishes, lots of clothes, books, kids stuffs, etc.  Where we were going we couldn't take it with us and we did not know when we were going to come back. During that summer, we also did some fund raising as we still needed a bit to supplement the salary and we had one time costs as well.

August 20th came and went and we were still stateside.  The school had encountered some registration problems and we had to wait.  September came around and the registration problems were fixed but now they stumbled upon the "hiring-a-foreign-worker" problem.  We would have to wait til October to hear word.  Our house had still not sold so we decided to rent it out.  We packed up a few things to store in the grandparents barn (some books we wanted to keep, a few baby items, some bedding, and our expensive cookware and china that we had received as wedding presents) and the rest we could fit into eight trunks and a few suitcases.  

October comes, our house is rented and we move in with some dear friends.  Word comes that the school has been denied to hire a foreign worker but the school is hopeful that by going to the next level of government (federal) that they would get approved.  We would have to wait some more.

November comes: no word.  December comes: no word.  Right before Christmas we talk with our leadership, the school officials and our team members and everyone is in agreement that we should forego trying to shoot for this school year (it was already half over!) and try again for the 2010 school year.  In the meantime, we could keep moving forward by attending a Russian language school.  In South Carolina of all places.

Oh, and remember our crazy amount of debt, we were able to pay it off!  Completely.  We were reminded of our teacher retirement accounts.  Combined they had enough for us to pay off our debt completely, penalty and all.  We were so thankful!

January 7th come along and we pack up our 20 year old Plymouth Acclaim, had a hitch attached (probably not the best idea) and pull a smallish trailer with our stuff inside.
Oh the stories we have to tell of that three day road trip!  God was faithful to get us to SC safely but not without some adventures along the way!

We arrived in SC and were blessed with the generosity of people who didn't even know us!  God granted us much favor and we experienced a wonderful time there.  School was hard but satisfying.  We missed our friends and family greatly but we pushed on knowing that we were moving forward on the path God had laid out for us.  
Strawberry picking in SC.

Our time in SC ended that summer ('10) and we excitedly made the trip back home early August.

Part 3 is up next!

How did I end up here? -- Part 1

Ever since college (and before for Luke), I knew that I was called to live a radical life for Jesus.  I knew (in my head) that it wouldn't necessarily be easy, that it might be hard even, but I didn't really care.  I had a calling on my life and how could I ignore it?

Well, Luke and I got married and started living a pretty normal life by your typical American standards.  I  taught third grade and after Luke graduated he started teaching as well.  We bought a fixer-upper house.  Settled in nicely after lots of work and after four years of teaching we decided to have kids.  I taught my last year pregnant with my first son and when that school year was over ('07), I became your typical stay at home mom.  I loved my job and struggled with not working for awhile but I knew I had made the right decision for us as I just could not imagine anyone else raising my child but me.

At this point, I have to back up and say that in the summer of '05 Luke and I led a short-term missions trip to Siberia.  I had been on numerous short-term trips to Siberia before (even studied abroad there for 6 months before graduating college) but this was Luke's first time.  He fell in love with it as I had years earlier.  That summer we were invited to join a long-term team who would be doing mission work in a more western city in Siberia.  We had lots of college debt (somewhere around $30,000) but we prayed and felt like we were to say yes.  Now, this didn't get us out the door or anything as the team wasn't even going to start for a couple more years but it did get us on the "let's get ride of this debt fast" train.
The team we led!

Soooo, for the next two years we simply tried to pay off as much debt as we could, attended a missions training school and had another child.  In February of '09 we were encouraged to go through our organizations staff training program even though we still had around $22,000 of debt left.  The thought was, God had led us this far into serving him overseas, let's see what he does with this debt.  So, that Spring we officially became staff members as overseas missionaries, headed for Siberia, somehow!

Continue to Part 2.
Not wanting to write a book, I'm breaking this up into parts!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why "Seasons Change"?

seasons Of Life pictures
Well, I went ahead and created a personal blog. I kept finding myself wanting to write about my life in general and I just couldn't get myself to throw personal posts in the mix along with my crafty ones, so I would just mention a bit or so about my personal happenings.  Little bits just aren't very satisfying all the time so, here we are!

I thought and thought (well, maybe not that long) about what to title this blog and this verse came to mind:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 
1 To everything there is a season,

      A time for every purpose under heaven:
       2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
      A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
       3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
      A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
       4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
      A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
       5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
      A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
       6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
      A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
       7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
      A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
       8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
      A time of war,
And a time of peace.

This verse came to mind because if these past two years have taught me anything, it is that life goes through seasons.  Some are hard, some are easy and some are somewhere in between.

So, this blog will be about all of life's happenings.  All of my life's happenings-particularly, my life since we started this crazy journey of going overseas two years ago.  Next post will bring you up to speed on those past two years.

Thanks for "listening."