Monday, May 30, 2016

Quick Hello...Quick Goodbye

I has been forever...again!  I really though I would be so good at updating this blog.  I was wrong.  We have now been in SLC for almost ten months.  That is so hard to believe.  It seems like years since we have hugged the necks of dear friends and only moments ago we were registering for school.  Our kids have survived their first year of school in Salt Lake.  My parents have survived nine months of 6 extra people in their house.  Chris has survived his first Young Life season.  So much has happened!

I have been shocked at how hard this life change has been for me.  I mean, for the first time in over 20 years, I live in the same state as my parents and one of my sisters...I didn't assume it would be seamless, but I never imagined it would be so hard!

To be perfectly honest, this year has been spiritually really hard on me.  While Chris has thrived and loved every minute of his job, I have felt like I have barely kept my head above water.  I have been through every emotion, but  have spent most of the last year in a pretty low place.  I have cried more  in the last 10 months than I have in the last 19 years of parenthood...and THAT is saying a lot!  My faith has swung from amazing highs to amazing lows and is resting somewhere on the lower side of normal right now.  I love being a part of a church plant...but I miss the encouragement of like-minded women.  I love the opportunities that abound (and I mean ABOUND) to share truth with people...but I get tired of being the only Christian in most settings I enter.  I love seeing Chris' excitement in his job...but I am having a hard time finding the balance between supportive wife, loving volunteer, and a working mom.  I totally realize that this year has been FULL of answered prayer...we were fully funded before starting the job, we sold our house despite a lot of unexpected issues, we found a house in our ministry area despite a ridiculous housing market, all of our kids flourished in school, I found a part time job for this year and have a full time teaching position next year, my family has completely blessed our socks off with hospitality, Chris' family has been beyond supportive despite the fact that we moved 2,000 miles away from them, we have seen God provide over and over in our ministry, we have watched Him provide full scholarships for kids to go to camp...I could go on and on.  And yet, I struggle.

That is part of the reason the posts have been few, because I felt like if all I could do was whine, it was better to be silent.  But, I think the fog is beginning to lift and I hope that in a month or so, I can come back and not be a big baby.

However, I wanted to get on here to let my few sweet readers know what we are doing and how they can be praying.  Chris and the two big kids left today headed for Seattle.  The Littles and I will get on a plane Wednesday morning and meet them there.  We will then head 5 1/2 more hours to Egmont( I think), Canada where we will get a ferry that will take us to Malibu Harbor where we will get a water taxi and travel another hour to Malibu Club in Canada where Chris is on Summer Assignment for the month of June.  He will be head leader at the Young Life camp there for the first four weeks.  Our family gets the privilege of going with him and loving on the volunteer leaders that are bringing kids to get to know Jesus!  We are super excited!  (We are also super stressed because we just started moving into our house 2 weeks ago).  Please be in prayer for our family and for all the kids that will be introduced to the amazing love of Christ during this time.  We will be almost totally out of phones and super limited internet access, so there will be no updates or social media posts...but we will be sharing a lot when we get back in July!

Also, please be in prayer for Adam.  He is struggling spiritually.  This is a hard place to be and he hasn't had anyone besides Chris and I to pour into him and that has been hard.  We are praying that this summer at camp he will make some connections and maybe get some encouragement but he could use the prayer support.

Chris' parents will come spend the last week of camp with us and then drive back to UT for a few days.  Then, Brooks and Hannah will be coming to visit on July 6th (Yay!).  The last week of July, Chris and Adam will be heading to Arizona for our kids' camp and two weeks later we will be taking our Jr. High kids to CO to camp.  Our niece will be getting married right after that and then school starts back again and I will be starting a full time life isn't really going to slow down any.  Please be in prayer for a little bit of rest and recoop time...I don't handle change well and we have had a lot in the the last year!

Please also just continue to be in prayer for this area and our ministry.  There is just SO MUCH NEED and so much opportunity but funds and volunteers are limited.  Pray for direction on what opportunities to take and what to table for the time being.  Pray for the planning of some fund raisers and that God will provide all necessary funding for the work He has planned.  Finally, and selfishly, please just pray that I can get back to the person I used to be.  I know that I have lost a lot of my sense of humor.  I am cranky more than I laugh.  I am cross with my children more than I want to be.  I am cross with my husband more than I want to be.  As an introvert, I know I need time alone to process and refresh and that has just been impossible for many months.  Pray that I would learn to manage my time in such a way that my soul in being nourished so that I can continue to serve those around me.

I love you, sweet friends...Bye for now and I'll "see" you in about a month!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Longest. Post. Ever. God Bless You if You Hang on Until the End!

Yep, we are still here!  We are almost 5 months in and we are settling in to a new normal.  I was looking back at the few blogs I have written over the last few months and it is really neat to see what God has done and how prayers have been answered.  We miraculously got 100% funded in a matter of a few weeks.  Our house did sale, although the selling price, fees, etc. we had to pay left us with almost nothing to put towards a new house.  Our son has completed his first semester in college, and so far, we have been able to pay what we need to...but he will have a LOT of student loans to repay :(.  Our kids are all enrolled in school and thriving and our daughter even got a chance to witness to a student at her school a couple of weeks ago.  Chris' parents are doing well and we are hoping that they get to come visit us in the not too distant future.  Clubs are going well and we have had a lot of growth in the number of students that are attending.  We are on a little break until February, so hopefully we will see a return of all of those kids.  Chris is LOVING his job and feels completely confident that we followed God's will and are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.  We have even found a church plant that we are getting involved with that we are loving!

We had a great Christmas and loved Brooks being home!  We had a VERY white Christmas, took the kids sledding, ate way too much, had TONS of family time, took some great family photos, worshipped together as a family and a church and Lilly and I watched a LOT of Hallmark channel!

All that being said, I still find myself struggling.  This is so frustrating to me because my husband is over the moon happy in his job, I live close to my family for the first time in over 20 years...really close to my, in their basement, and my kids are thriving.

I think of the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13, "Not that I am speaking of being in need for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  That is where I want to be, I want to live victoriously no matter what situation I am in...and yet, I find myself fighting feelings of defeat and frustration almost daily.

I am frustrated with my "career".  I like my job...for those who do not know, I am working as an aide in an Autism support classroom.  It is really a great job.  I love my students and I feel like I have learned so much from them and have learned to be a better parent, teacher, etc. as I have learned to deal with and embrace their "quirks".  In a way, I think I have a pretty good thing going...I am in a classroom and enjoying the kids but I never have to bring work home with me because I am not the main teacher and I do not have any paperwork, conferences, etc.  However, I cannot help but worry about finances.  As an aide, my job is discretionary from year to year and I will not get paid through the summers.  I have tried to find out what it would take to get certified to be a traditional teacher in Utah but, despite reaching out to several people both at the state level and through my school, I can get no one to tell me what to do.  I know I would have to take classes and we would probably have to take out loans and I am not sure we can afford to do that...I'm not even sure I want to, but it would be nice to at least know what would be required.

As I said, we did sell our house, which was a HUGE relief, but we came out of it with very little to put toward anything here.  House prices are so much higher here, and the area that we have been asked to live is one of the most expensive in the valley.  Occasionally, I will get a crazy whim and look on the real estate is depressing and scary.  I figure, if we live in my parents' basement for about 5 more years, we might be able to get into a little shack!  I MAY be over dramatizing a little bit, but that is what it feels like.  Again, I know I should have faith and Chris tells me all the time not to worry (oh, how the tables have turned) because if God brought us here, He has a place for us to live...and I do believe it is true, I am just afraid it may be my parents' basement and that is not a fun thought!

Along those same lines, I am always thinking about school next year.  We know that Adam is set, but Lilly is in her school on a provisional contract that we will get a house in that district.  So if we do not have a house in the district by next year, I am afraid she will have to change schools and start all over making friends, etc. I also have to think about the littles.  This year, they are going to school with my mom but she is retiring after this year so we will have to do something different.  I can petition to get them to go with me to my school next year...but I am not guaranteed to have a job at that school (in all likelihood I will, but you can only request one time, so if I did and then changed schools, we would be in a predicament).  If we did find a house and move, it would be ideal to have them go to their assigned school, but if I am still at my school, the schedules would not match up.  We are doing four different school schedules this year and  it is about to kill me!  Everyone starts at different times, ends at different times, has different days is crazy town!

So, I was in the shower having a nervous breakdown the other morning thinking about all this stuff.  Oh, if only you could see into my crazy would all feel so much better about yourselves.  Let me give you a little view into one of my "prayer times" in the morning.  It begins with a little praise and recognition of who God is and how big He is...sometimes it goes on for a LONG time because I have to convince myself that I really believe that  (just being real).  A while back, I realized that I really do believe that...I was going through a crisis of whatever and I really WANTED to be mad at God and question him but I realized as much as I wanted to doubt or feel angry, I couldn't, I just felt sad and frustrated.  Anyway, I do my little praise thing and then start the juicy stuff!  I pray for the kids and for our YoungLife kids and begin to pray about a place to live...then, I begin to feel guilty about praying for a place to live...I mean, we do have a place...we aren't homeless, exactly, so then I wonder if I should even be asking; God never made us promises for a house and there are MANY people in the world that faithfully serve God without anything!  So, I wonder, should I even pray about this, shouldn't I just be happy with the blessings I have...but then I realize that we are so far from our ministry area here and we don't really feel settled so I should be praying that we find a place in the East Bench area that we can get settled in and do a better job at bringing people into our home, maybe host small groups, etc. so I pray some more... but than I realize that if we do move, what will I do about my job and the kids...I would have to leave EARLY every morning to get the littles to school but would then have two hours of nothing before I went to work, then we would get home late every what should I do about my job?  Then I start praying about my job and then I feel guilty for not appreciating that job I have and being whiny about driving.  That brings me to wondering about next year.  Should I go to back to school or try to stay with what I am doing?  Or should I try to get on in one of our high schools in an office or something so that I could meet students, etc.  Then I begin to stress about not getting paid through the summer and begin to wonder if I should get a supplemental job (you know Tupperware or something :))  but that would be really hard to do and still support Chris with club, etc.  Then I think, maybe God has something totally different, I used to always want to write, maybe I could do something like that, but I have NO inspiration right now and am pretty sure I couldn't make enough money to be helpful...then I begin to wonder what my calling in life is and wonder why I haven't figured it out at 40+ years old.  By then, I am a totally mess and have wasted A LOT of time in the shower so I just give up and feel like I do not even know how to pray or have a relationship with God.

So, I was having one of these breakdowns and I felt God saying "Be Still".  In our Jackson house, we had the words to Psalm 46:10 on our wall, "Be still and know that I am God..."  I also love Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  I say these verses, but it is so hard to do it, but I really felt God saying, "Just be still, I've got this." It felt so good, and for a couple of days, I had such a peace and felt relief that I didn't need to DO anything, just trust God.

However, I am back to my crazy.  I have been reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and, while I love her style and her humor, I have felt so frustrated reading it..I mean, people, I have issues!  She even has an essay where she talks about your "calling" and discusses how God is not going to drop opportunities in your lap.  I almost threw the book against the wall...I am DESPERATE for God to just drop something in my lap, or send me a flashing sign, or something!  Isn't that what being still is?  Anyway, as I was mentally yelling at Jen Hatmaker, I had to remind myself that she is not God.  She is a funny, wise author but she isn't writing scripture and I should probably spend more time in scripture than reading an entertaining book of essays, which promptly made me feel guilty again, which sent me back into my crazy cycle...I need help, people!

Anyway, as I have said before, this is really just my brain dump place and I kind of feel guilty and embarrassed even opening up my crazy self, but I also think that in the Christian community, we often put our best face forward and try to paint a picture of beauty and serenity and Heaven on earth and that just isn't the truth.  Sometimes life is hard and being a Christian is a little dirty and gritty and we are not doing anyone any favors by pretending that life is rosy and wonderful and we never struggle or question.  The truth is, I have been a Christian for almost 40 years and sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing!  I want to spew out words of eloquent wisdom and be an inspiration to masses...instead, I am tempted to curl up in my bed, cover my head and block everything out.

So, that is how we are starting 2016...I'm not sure what this next year holds.  I hope we get to meet lots of new kids and share with them the love of Jesus.  I hope my kids get a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people that have never experienced true love that is based totally on grace and not on works.  I hope we get to be a part of encouraging our leaders.  For myself, I pray that I would trust more, believe more, love better and learn to just "be still"...and if I could overcome just a little bit of my crazy, maybe I could reduce the MASSIVE amounts of medicinal chocolate and Diet Coke that I have been consuming the last few months!

And finally, my inspirational quote of the day.  I read this in For the Love, but it is not by Jen Hatmaker, she is quoting another author, Scott Stratten who says, "Don't try to win over the haters; you're not the jackass whisperer."  I am taking this into the new year, you know, for those that choose to hate on my crazy!  :)