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!  :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

From a Momma's Heart

Wow!  By the end of this week, we will have been in SLC for one month.  In a way, it feels like it couldn't have possibly been a whole month already and in a way, I think, how could we have possibly done all we have in only a month!

We are starting to get into a routine...and that should be good, but to be honest today, I am feeling a little sad and nostalgic.  Forgive me for the emotions, but this is my journal spot so I want to put down everything and one day look back and see how God used even the not so pretty.

I don't like change.  I am a creature of habit.  I go to the same restaurants and order the same meals, I read the same kinds of books and my furniture never moves once I have placed it...which was quite obvious when we began to move that furniture out of our house!  :)  I knew that this adventure was a BIG change, but I was excited about it.  I was excited about living close to my family again and I was excited to be a part of a full time ministry.  I was actually embracing change!

But change is just really hard for while parts are good, I find myself still struggling.  I LOVE being near my family and even have loved being in the house with my parents again...that could  have been all kinds of bad but so far, it has been nothing but a blessing.  I have been blessed to get a job really easily...I didn't even interview!  My kids all got established into their schools and we couldn't be happier with their teachers.  So, I should be ecstatic.  But I am struggling.

To be honest, I haven't really even shared this with Chris much.  He is LOVING his job and loving being in ministry.  He is probably becoming a top customer at half the area coffee shops and he is in his element planning and talking and doing.  He is so excited to get clubs off the ground and really pouring himself into the people here.  I am finding myself a little...lost, maybe?

Part of it is just the change, but part of it is the busyness.  I have not worked outside the home in many years and I have had my children close to me all the time.  Things are different here.  The big kids have to leave the house by 6:45 to get to school on time and the little ones leave with my mom at 7:00.  I don't have to be to work until 10:30 so I have been trying to do a little work for my dad, do some housekeeping, run errands, etc.  I work from 10:30-3:30.  Chris picks up the big kids from school and my momma has been getting the little ones.  They get out at 2:40, but my school does not release until 3:30 so they just have to hang out in my momma's room until I can come get them.  We then go home and start homework and get supper and do laundry and before I know it, bedtime has come and I haven't had even a moment to just sit down and enjoy being with my kids...AND, I am tired and cranky so I'm often not very nice to them.  I know this is every working mom's dilemma, I am just new to the game!  Cooper cries before school every day and it is just completely breaking my heart.  I feel so bad abandoning him to traditional school and feel guilty for the short time I invested in home schooling him...yet, I know that is what we have to do right now and it is probably good for him because he is REALLY attached to me.

Chris has me signed up as a volunteer and is encouraging me to get started and to begin to invest in discipling our female volunteers and begin planning the Wyldlife meetings and maybe go with him to the Young Life meetings...but I am just tapped out.  I know this is why we are here.  I want to be in this ministry  and yet I am already finding myself so bogged down in just living that the ministry feels like a burden.

So, sorry for a depressing post, but this is where I am right now.  I know that some of this is just the growing pains that we experience when we start a new period of life but please pray for my attitude and that I will find the joy of ministry.   Please pray that I can work through the changes and find a love and passion for the people that we are here to serve.

We visited a church Sunday that the kids really seemed to like...pray that we will be drawn to the church family that God wants us to be a part of  and that I will make that decision unselfishly.

Please also continue to pray for the sale of our house.  We are still waiting on some of the improvements to be is frustrating not being there to push things along.  Our realtor is not going to officially list the house until the work is completed, so right now, we are just at a standstill.  This is so frustrating and I have to keep reminding myself that God is bigger than these tiny circumstances that seem insurmountable...he can send someone to that house whenever the time is right so I just need to calm down and trust His goodness, but that is hard.

Pray also for Brooks and Chris' parents as they are still there.  We talk to Brooks at least once a day and he is loving school but is really wishing he lived on campus and at those times when there are resident life activities that he isn't a part of, he starts feeling a little lonely.

Despite all the depressing, we are abundantly blessed.  The people here are amazing, I get to be close to my family and we are meeting some great kids!  We also get sweet, encouraging messages from TN friends so often and it is good to know that we have not, yet, been forgotten.  We love all of you who are praying and encouraging us.  Thank you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Quick Update has been awhile since I posted but things have been CRAZY!!!   I still don't have a lot of time, so I am going with the short version (for me) of life right now.  My mom and dad came to TN to help us get packed up and moved.  The 26 foot moving van that we rented was not big enough and we had to rent a U-haul trailer to pull behind my car...and leave a lovely little stash of goodies in the garage for whoever wanted to come claim them.

On August 2nd, we said a heart-wrenching goodbye.  I knew it wouldn't be easy, but leaving Chris' family and Brooks behind was AWFUL, the children were devastated to say goodbye and LOTS of tears were shed.  We got a late start and didn't roll into Lincoln (our first night's stop) until about 1 am...I won't even go into detail about Chris' "short-cut" by-pass through Kansas City!  :)

We arrived in SLC on Tuesday, Aug. 4 and I promptly went the wrong way to my parent's house!  Thank goodness for GPS or I would be a hermit now!

We took a couple of days to FILL a storage unit and every nook and cranny in my parents' house!  My sisters are now making fun of the huge amount of clothing we have and we are learning to live minimally, sort of!

Chris then settled into figuring out this job of his and I began trying to get the kids registered for school.  Oh. My. Goodness!  Why didn't someone tell me how hard it was to get kids into school?  I had no idea how easy home schooling was until I tried to do something different!  Yikes!  We  finally have everyone a home!  Brooks started Union today (sob!).  Adam and Lilly will start tomorrow, Adam at Olympus High School and Lilly at Olympus Jr. High.  Cooper and Annet start next week at the school my mom teaches at.  Everyone, including momma is excited but have some butterflies about this new step!

I have a new school home, too.  I am working a little for my dad but I also got a job as a 4-6 grade aide in an Autistic Unit at one of the local Elementary schools.  I am a little nervous but it is a great way to get my foot in the door in the area and the hours are good.

We have had a couple of chances to meet some of "our kids".  We attended a camp reunion party and last night Chris and Adam went to play Ultimate Frisbee with some of the kids.  I hear that Adam is quite the Ultimate Frisbee player...I had no idea!

I know that as school starts and I start working, things are bound to get even crazier, so I wanted to just check in and let everyone know what is going on.  I hope to be able to find a window to do updates at least once a week.

For our TN friends, we miss you like crazy!

How can you pray for us?

  • Pray for Brooks as he begins classes at Union.  Pray he adjusts to his new schedule and school workload...and Jackson peeps, feel free to make sure he is doing homework and getting to class!
  • Pray for the kids as they start school.  I know they are a little nervous.  Pray especially that each of them would find at least one person to begin building a friendship with.
  • Pray for our house to get finished up and officially listed.  We have people coming to do work that are not being really quick about it...we NEED to get this house on the market!
  • Pray for the sale of our house.  Lilly has been allowed in her school under  provisional enrollment.  If we do not move into the boundaries, she will not be allowed to attend next year. I do not want her to have to make another BIG school change.  This is the one that is really stressing me...I know, God's timing, just being real.
  • Pray for Chris as he figures out what he is doing...things are a little overwhelming now and he is still trying to do fundraising as well.
  • Pray that God will lay on the hearts of people to give.  This ministry is not possible without the support of our financial partners.
Please let me know how we can be praying for you.  More stuff soon...maybe!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Two Weeks and Counting

Two weeks.  In two weeks, we will be loading up a moving van and heading west.  It still isn't real.  It should feel real because we live in a state of utter chaos right now.  Two rooms are full of packed boxes and every other room in the house is in a state of half packedness (I coined yet another term).  In an effort to "get ahead", I have packed everything I think we will not need in the next couple of weeks, but obviously, some of our stuff we do need.

After starting to pack up the kids' rooms, I realized, if there is any chance I will retain any amount of sanity, I actually have to allow  them to have a few of their toys, games, etc.  Although, for a couple of days the perfectly neat rooms were amazing!  I did however, have to break into some already packed boxes and give them back a few items so that I did  not end up in jail after reacting to the favorite saying of mothers everywhere, "I'm bored!"

Needless to say, things have been a bit crazy around here!  Chris is still working a full time job while trying to fundraise, which is also a full time job.  He works a full work day each day and then disappears upstairs to make calls until bedtime...and he has not complained once.  I know he is exhausted, but he has pressed on.

I confess, this fundraising has to end soon, or I will weigh 300 pounds!  As often as possible, we are taking people to coffee or dessert or doing dessert in our four or five times a week, I am eating/drinking about 5 million calories and I haven't exercised in two weeks.  So yes, if you see me...I am packing on the pounds.  AND, I have discovered that when you stress eat, you NEVER accidentally find yourself munching on a carrot!

Honestly, this has been just an amazing time of seeing God work.  Chris was released about a week and a half ago to begin fundraising...and we are at 64%!  That is just so amazing to me.  Knowing we had to raise our own funding was so intimidating to me and I just did not see how it was possible...but, I am telling you, we have the most amazing group of friends, family and church members.  We have been floored and humbled and left speechless by the generosity of people!  We still have a LONG way to go...but our faith has been bolstered by how people have stepped out, have made sacrifices and have believed in this ministry enough to support us.

We were blessed again last night with another answered prayer.  Adam (our 15 year old) was accepted into the high school he wanted to go to.  That is one area that I have continued to worry and pray about.  We had no idea what we would do if they denied our request to get him in.  When I heard the news, I cheered, did a little dance, praised God and ran in to tell Adam.  His response?  "Oh."  I asked him if he was excited and his response, "I guess...about the non required classes."  Welcome to 15 year old boy land!

So, for those who are coming here to see how they can pray:

If you ask Chris, he will be very spiritual.  He will ask you to pray for the kids we will be ministering to and for our volunteer leaders.  The kids will be going to camp next week, so pray for them as they travel and that they would listen as God speaks to them.  Pray that, as we hit the ground in SLC, we will be able to meet kids and that we would be able to establish relationships with the schools.  Pray for the committee and those already in the area that we would be able to blend ideas and visions and work together to reach the kids.

I am not so spiritual right now.  Please pray that we can get our house to an acceptable place to put on the market and that it will sell.  Chris is really stressed right now with work and fundraising and he just does not have time to work on home improvements.  He is having trouble getting people to call him back and it is just more stress he doesn't need.  I, being the more emotional one, am just scared to death of the what ifs...I love this house but know it needs work and just have trouble imagining someone who will love it enough to take it on.  I can't sell this house, but God can!

Pray for Chris' parents as they prepare to send us off and welcome our oldest son into their home.  Brooks is going to live with them and attend Union so that will be a HUGE change for both of them.  We are so grateful for all they have done for us over the years and it is going to be so hard to say goodbye...we are just hoping for some long visits eventually.

Pray for Brooks as he starts college on his own.  In a way, I am so excited for him...this is a big growing up stage, but I am so sad to know that we won't be experiencing it with him.  This is what we raise our kids for, but it is HARD!

Pray for our other kids as they move to a new place and have to start over meeting new friends, new schools, etc.

Well, I could list a million things because I am worrying in advance and have a million what ifs that run through my mind daily.  For now, just pray that I would keep focussed on the eternal.  My tendency is to get bogged down in the practical and forget the kids that we are going to minister to.

Finally, please just give thanks with us, because we serve a good God!  He has been so faithful.  One thing I so want to share with these kids is that He loves us not because of us but because He is LOVE!  I find myself striving to earn that love and I just can't.  Any success, any good you see in us, is just God working in us.  We are so amazed at what God has already done and cannot wait to see how He continues to work!

"Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
    you have done wonderful things,
    things planned long ago."

                                        Isaiah 25:1

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I'm Freaking Out a Little Less Often!

I have not, once again, forgotten this little blog.  I really want to keep up with this for my own benefit so I can see how God works through this crazy time.  We have been out of town on a LONG vacation, so I have been MIA.

This year is our 20th anniversary, so Chris surprised me with a cruise to Alaska!  We headed out on June 10 for the three day drive to SLC, to leave the kids with my mom and dad.  After dropping off the kids, we caught a plane to Seattle and spent a day seeing the sights before boarding the boat on Sunday.  We  have never cruised before, so everything was a new experience.  I was a little worried that the stress of all that is going on in our life would affect our enjoyment of the trip...but I am telling you, I have never in my life, ever, been able to just forget everything and just enjoy myself like we did on that cruise...maybe too much because by Friday, Chris and I both admitted to one another that we had so gotten into the relaxation and getting away of the cruise, that we had not even prayed about  all that was going on...oops!

The cruise was really the trip of a lifetime and we had and amazing time...but we did have to come back.  We got to spend four days in SLC with my family before heading back and that was such a blessing.  In fact, one of my big prayers was answered during that time.  One of the things that has stressed me the most about all of these changes, is that our 15 year old was TOTALLY against it.  We had prayed about this, felt he would be okay, still felt God leading us to do this and just started praying for him.  While we were on the cruise, he got LOTS of time with his cousins, one of whom he just absolutely adores.  They have so much fun together and have really similar senses of humor.  She actually lives in Boise, about 5 1/2 hours from Salt Lake, but much closer than we are in TN.  He also has another cousin in SLC that he is the same age as and they have a great time together.  So, by the time we got back from the cruise, his spirits were already higher.  On the first day back, my husband had some things he needed to do for his new ministry, including taking pictures of the area that he will be working in.  So, while I was catching up on MOUNTAINS of laundry, he took my 15 year old and they went exploring.  As it turns out, they looked at all the high schools in the area and our son found one he was really interested in.  I called the school and we ended up going the next day to tour it.  It was AMAZING...people, I think I would go back to high school if I could go here.  It has so many cool classes and so many opportunities, my son was fired up!  He grabbed his phone and said he was about to text all his friends in TN and tell them....he was moving!  I took an opportunity later that day just to check on how he was really doing and he said that as soon as he had seen his cousin he adores so much, he knew everything would be okay and he was ready to move.  Y'all, I cannot even tell you what a blessing those words were.  So much stress lifted off my shoulders and I knew that our God that loves us passionately had worked a miracle in the life of my boy!  How precious to see Him working...and how glad I am that my friend advised me to document it so when things aren't going so smoothly, I can look back and be reminded.

I would like to say that I have been soaring on cloud 9 since, but that would be untrue.  Just as God's people have done through the ages, as time goes on (and, clearly not much time), we tend to forget the blessings and dwell on the tough.  As soon as we got home, the reality of what we were doing smacked us in the face again and the stress began piling up.  We are slowly packing up the house and trying to get things out of the way so we can start getting it ready to put on the market.  A realtor has come by to look at it and was very gracious in his recommendations of what we should fix so we are trying to get done what we can.  The biggest stress there is just our time frame.  We are planning on packing up the moving van on Aug. 1 and heading out Aug. 2...that is not a lot of time to pack up a house we have been in for 11 years with 5 kids!  OY at all the STUFF!  I am trying to be ruthless as I go through the process and purge, purge, purge...some of it is easy, but I also realize that I may be slightly over sentimental...I saved every piece of paper my firstborn touched for awhile...I have BOXES of art projects and notes and papers...I know I need to purge, but I feel so guilty throwing them out, especially now that those tiny little hands are grown up hands that we are about to leave behind (sniff).

Just before getting this opportunity, I was reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker (by the way, you should totally read this book...if you are willing to have your world rocked).  She was talking about making a radical life change and how scary it was.  She talked about her husband leaving his job and going 12 days without any idea of how they were going to survive.  So, as we began this process, I kept remembering that story and how, on the twelfth day, they got a call, out of the blue, from a total stranger that began answering some of the questions.  So, each day, as I was having my panic attack, I would cling to that story and remember, just 12 days...we can survive, just like the Hatmaker's did...for 12 days.  Well, it has been over a month and, while some things have become clear, we still have a lot more trusting to do than answers.  We know where two out of our 5 will be going to school (we hope, if the high school will give permission for our son to attend), but I am not sure whether I will be getting a job immediately or home schooling the littles for one more year.  We still have not been cleared to begin fundraising, so we have no support yet, we have a house we have to sell and no way of buying or renting there until we do...and the questions continue.

I lean towards panicking on a daily basis, but a few days ago, in my quiet time, I read a very familiar story.  It is from 1 Kings 17 and it is about Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath.  It is one of those favorite childhood stories that used to come around about once a year in the children's curriculum and I have heard a million times.  One of those that you start to read and then just kind of skim over because, please...I know this one already!  But this time, it really struck me, this story.  So, the CliffsNotes version is this...there hadn't been any rain for a long time and the brook that Elijah was using for water dried up so the Lord directed him to go into Zarephath and find this widow who was going to supply him with food.  So, being a good prophet, he went and sure enough, he saw this widow out gathering sticks and asked her to bring him some water and a piece of bread.  The widow replies that she has no bread and is, in fact, on her way to use her very last bit of oil and flour to make a final meal for herself and her son and then they will die...because the food is gone.  So Elijah, being the sensitive guy that he is, tells her go ahead and go home like she planned but before she makes that last meal for her son and herself, make him a little bread first because the Lord has told him that the flour will not be used up and the oil won't run dry until it rains again.

Y'all, she did it!  I mean, I like to think of myself as super christian, but I'm gonna be honest, as a momma, I think I would have looked at that man and said, "You have got to be kidding, you have some nerve asking me to give you the very last food I have for my son...You are crazy!"  But she did it.  She trusted  and believed that God would take care of her and do exactly what He said He would do.  She didn't ask for a guarantee.  She didn't ask for proof.  She put her life...and the life of her son, on the line because she trusted God's word!  She must have been so scared.  I wonder, as she was going through the process of making that bread, was she talking to herself, was she telling herself she was crazy, were tears running down her face because she was terrified that her trust was misplaced?  Did her son know that she was possibly sacrificing his last meal?  Did she balk at the last moment and wonder if she should just sneak the bread to her little boy?  She must have been so full of worry and fear, but she was obedient, and, of course, He was faithful!  I really wish there was a "where are they now" update on that story...I would love to know what happened to that widow and that you boy after the rain came.  I wonder, did she have a faith that was just unstoppable, or did she eventually forget?  I cannot imagine ever forgetting something like that, and yet I know that is my see God work in amazing ways and then when the going gets tough, to feel defeated all over again.  But for now, every time I feel that wave of discouragement, that panic trying to overwhelm me again, I remember that widow...I remember her actions, she didn't just SAY she believed, she radically acted on that belief and I want to do the same.

So, that is where we are today.  Today, there will be more packing, more purging, and probably more crying.  I will have moments of victory where I pat myself on the back because I am making so much progress and moments of utter defeat as I look at all that is left to do.  I will feel guilty for neglecting my kids and will roll my eyes when Chris gets home from work just as stressed out as me.  But through it all, I will know that every single moment of stress and fear and struggle is worth it, because He is refining me and even though I may not be able to see the end right now, He does and He is faithful and loves us with a ridiculous, unfathomable love that it is a privilege to get to share!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

And Then She Freaked Out Some More

So it has been a week since I poured out all my fears here.  On a good note, I'm not crying every hour of the day anymore.  On a bad note...not a lot of answers have appeared yet.

The reality of our situation has become we have begun to tell people and prepare for a new adventure.  I have cried with several good friends and have given official notice to the tutorial that I will not be coming back.  I have talked to a couple of parents who said that their children were going to be devastated that Mrs. Star would not be their Science teacher next year.  Admittedly, that makes me feel good...I hope they knew I loved them and I hope they loved learning about God's world.  They will also all breathe a HUGE sigh of relief when they realize that Mrs. Star not being there probably means no Science Fair project.  I will try not to get my feelings hurt when that revelation hits and the celebration begins!  :)

I have begun going through one room at a time and trying to purge "stuff" that I don't want to have to move.  I thought that would be easy and freeing but it is TOUGH.  Every room I start working in is a reminder of how unsettled we are right now.  Every decision is made more difficult because we just do not know much of anything and I do not operate well like that.

I guess the hardest part of trusting God is trusting God.  :)  I know that sounds ridiculous, but even though I know, in my head, that these things are really small issues for Him, in the reality of day to day life, they feel insurmountable.  I am glad no one is really reading this anymore because I have to confess to being a really shallow baby right now.  I HATE not knowing.  I HATE not knowing when we will move.  I HATE not knowing where my kids will go to school.  I HATE not knowing where I will be living or working or going to church.

Every day is another question and another frustration.  Should I sell my home school books?  I don't know.  What if I sell them and then we do not raise the money  in time to start in August?  What if I don't sell them and we do and then I am forced to pack and move a TON of books we won't be using. What if I pack up each room and then we don't move as planned?  Do I have to live in a chaotic half moved zone for 6 months?  What if I don't pack and we do move?

So these are some of the things going through my mind constantly and then yesterday, I just hit a wall.  You see my sister texted to tell me that there were teaching positions open in her school and I could probably get a job there and just work toward getting re-certified while I worked.  This seemed like a great option to me.  She works at a charter school where kids get in on a lottery basis and teachers in the school get priority.  If I could get on there, my kids would have a good chance getting in.  That means that no matter where we live, they can stay in that school and we would not have to worry about putting them in one district temporarily and then moving them again.  I was so excited!  I thought maybe this was a first answered prayer, a way to settle my mind that things were going to be okay.  I excitedly went to tell my husband...he wasn't thrilled at all.  He immediately responded that that school wasn't in our target area of ministry and we needed to try to keep things within the boundaries of our ministry area.  I was crushed!

I know this is very small and petty...but this is my journal right now and it is where I am.  You see, a few days ago, I had another idea about a job.  I love the idea of only buying fair trade items and supporting the marginalized in our purchases instead of the big box companies.  So, I saw an opportunity to work for a direct sales company that gives jobs to women in developing countries.  I loved that idea.  I could feel like I was making a difference, maybe make some friends and help support our family.  I mentioned the idea to Chris...and he immediately responded that I could not do that because it would take me away from the ministry too much.

Please understand, I love this ministry and I am excited.  But...they aren't giving ME a job...they are giving it to my husband.  He is so excited because he is filled with ideas and visions and anticipation. He knows what he is going to be doing.  I, on the other hand, am excited about the opportunity...but I don't have a role...I am trying to figure out where I fit in and what my place is and it feels like every time I turn around, another question arises but never an answer.  I kind of feel like I am smothering.  Each time I feel like I can grasp a little air, get a little relief, I am pushed back under again to wait and wonder.  To be really honest, I am a little resentful.  For the first time in 20 years, I will live close to my family and I feel like I won't even be able to see them unless I have a signed note from the ministry.  I am resentful because I feel like I have lost my choice in everything.  I cannot choose where I live, I cannot choose where my kids go to school, I cannot choose where I get a job...I am so disempowered...and that makes me mad...but that is where I should be, that place where I am utterly powerless so that God has all the power.  That place where, whatever happens, I will know not I but Him?

So that is where I am right now.  I look forward to coming back here, at some point and shaking my head and laughing at my lack of faith.  I look forward to writing down how God swept in and took care of all the details that I am panicking about.  I know that my failures right now will be God's victories in the future.  For now, I am just crying a lot and trying to hang on...but I am tired, so if anyone does stumble across this page...please say a little prayer for me.  Pray that I will just keep my eyes on the One who sustains, pray I would submit gracefully to the authority of my husband and that I would be willing to go through this refining process.  It isn't comfortable or fun, but I know that, if I come out of it reflecting the One who refines, it will be worth it!

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30