On Being Caught…

It is our last night. Tomorrow we board yet another plane and a mere 23 hours later we will land back where this whole adventure started. When we left, we had a clear direction. It felt like we were leaping off a cliff, but we had a confirmed promise that when it was over, we would be caught. I often wondered over these last months what the “catching” would look like and when we might get a glimpse of what was waiting.  As the weeks went by and we still had no further direction for our future (other than the continued assurance that God had it under control), I kind of kept reminding God of His promise. It didn’t seem to hurry Him along. Well now we are one day out, and it looks like it will be a blind landing.

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I have many thoughts right now…some good, some panicky. I feel crazy, irresponsible, wondering if somehow we missed God in all this because surely this can’t be how it was supposed to go. We are supposed to have a plan that is set and falling into place.  We are supposed to have figured it all out and know what’s next. We are supposed to be seeing open doors – not doors slamming shut everywhere we turn. What’s going on? Then I spend time with Him, read His word, remember His character, and my heart settles. This is actually what it’s all about, where we get to discover what it really means to trust Him, to surrender our lives, to follow Him one step at a time – no turning back. I think of all the ways He has gone before us and carried us and prepared us for all that is to come. I remember His words whispered into my heart last January… “I want you to be overwhelmed with only one thing this year. Choose to be overwhelmed with My goodness.” And right now I am clinging to that. Because He is good. Because He does care for me. Because He has never made a promise to me that He didn’t keep. Because His Word proclaims that if I will seek Him first, all things will be added to me as well.image

So we are returning to Montana to live, to settle, to wait. There is still a yes in our hearts. Yes to God and all that He may call us to. Yes to going but also yes to staying. Either way, our hearts are set on obedience to Him. I think that’s the biggest lesson I have learned from our recent journey…that it doesn’t really matter where we live or what we are doing. If we are living with our eyes focused on Jesus, He will speak, He will guide, and He will use us to spread His love. To know Him and make Him known…that really is the point. That is what we say yes to.

So if you’re wondering what we are doing next, the short answer is…so are we! Hopefully in the near future, I’ll be able to tell you what our “catching” ends up looking like. In the meantime, I’m busy being overwhelmed…with Him.image

 

The Little Girl…

imageShe is pressed against the glass, her face pained as she gestures wildly toward her mouth then rubs her stomach. My kids notice and say “Mom, what does she want?” And I say “Food and money,” but I know there’s so much more. Her clothes are torn and dirty and several sizes too big. Her feet are bare. Her matted hair a faded shade of orange-y brown that I know is caused by malnutrition. The first time I saw her here I gave her my food, thinking it would help if only for a moment. She took it but then turned and walked into the shadows where the older, bigger kids waited. I lost sight of her for a minute but then she was back motioning that it wasn’t food she needed but money. I shook my head, knowing that it wouldn’t help her but so tempted to give it anyway… if only to ease my conscience. She followed the boys and I down the street for a block or two then finally stopped with a look of disgust when she realized I wasn’t going to give her any money. But here we are a few days later, and she is back.

We finish eating and head into the grocery store. I grab a bottle of juice and a protein bar just in case. We walk outside, and she is there sleeping with her head in the lap of a teenage girl. Another little boy has joined them. We give them the drink and the bar then add our own snack items. It is so not enough.image

We walk away. It is our last day in this place. In fact the vans we have hired to move our team to a new location are already on their way. We have gone about a block when I feel a small tug from behind. I turn and she has come after me again. She holds out her hand for money. I shake my head no. I see the desperation in her eyes, her young old eyes. My family is continuing ahead not noticing that I have stopped. A part of me wants to run after them, block this little girl out. I feel so frustrated, angry, and sad. I don’t want to turn to her because I don’t know what to do. I can’t bear to see and walk away…again. But I turn back anyway. I kneel down on the side of the road. We are face to face. I see an odd mixture of hope and fear in her eyes and a whole lot of other things I can’t define. I gently put my hands on her shoulders. She doesn’t resist, just looks at me with those fathomless black eyes. I draw her to me and hold her close. By now I am crying, and I just keep telling her that I’m sorry I can’t rescue her. I’m sorry that she has nothing and I have everything. I’m sorry I don’t know what to do to make a difference that will continue when the hunger pangs return. I’m so, so sorry. She doesn’t speak my language, and I don’t speak hers. But I know the One who speaks every language. I know He sees this little girl, and I know He sees me. I begin to pray. As I wrap my arms around her small body, I am overwhelmed by such pain and sorrow that it literally feels like a physical crushing weight in my chest. Is this what the Father feels when He sees the suffering of the helpless? Is this why His anger burns against sin and injustice? Not because he wants to keep us from fun and personal fulfillment as He is so often accused of but because He knows that the innocent ultimately pay the price for the darkness we allow in our world. That our pursuit of pleasure, comfort, and power paves the way for the oppression of the weak and eventually leads to the hopelessness of so many. We see it in the headlines about sex-trafficking, genocide, cop-killing, terrorism. I see it first-hand in the eyes of this little street girl. But it all comes from the same place…choosing hate over love, bitterness over forgiveness, excess over generosity. Serving self instead of God. What can we do to stop this? What can I do?

So we kneel in the dirt road, and I pray until I have no more words and there is silence. She finally steps back, looks one more time into my tear-stained face. This time she is the one who walks away. I can’t stop crying.

It has been over a week now, and I still cannot sit and write about her without the tears falling and that horrible crushing pain returning. I’m not sure what to do with it. I pray for her, over and over. I know it matters.  My whole life has been a lesson in learning that God is faithful to hear and answer my prayers. I know that my pleadings on her behalf are not falling on deaf ears. Yet still I wonder if it’s enough, if God can take my prayers and move others into her path, if He can bring one who can and will rescue her, if He can bring her into life and safety and healing? Then I remember that He can…just like He brought me. God arranged a meeting between a little street girl with a broken life and a grown woman from halfway around the world with a heart capable of being broken. Who knows what eternal things are even now being sown into her future by my prayers? God does. He created her. He planned her life. His eyes are upon her. If God can bring me across her path, surely He can bring another and then another until she recognizes His pursuit and understands His love.

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs say “Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause. As I walk from earth into eternity.”  I never realized the full impact of what I was singing and asking for. I never thought about the physical pain that comes with a broken heart, and I’m pretty sure I’m only feeling the smallest part of what is on God’s heart for the hurting. It’s tempting to want to block it out, refuse to revisit the weight of that moment, to delete the pictures and block the memories. But I won’t. I will choose to remember. I will choose to embrace it. I will choose to learn from it and be moved by it.  Moved from from my blindness and complacency. Compelled to fight for her and all the others like her on my knees. Reminded to be a better mom, to teach my sons that it is never okay to seek your own happiness at the expense of others, that sin and selfishness lead to only to destruction, that we overcome darkness by walking in the light one decision at a time. My legacy to that little girl is the prayers that are now covering her life. Her legacy to me is that for a moment I was allowed me to feel the Fathers heart. I hope that neither one of us is ever the same.image


Note: None of these pictures are of the actual little girl. Her image is captured only in my memory.

Our Cebu life…

imageSo here we are in the Philippines, specifically the island of Cebu. For three weeks, we are staying at a YWAM base. After the initial shock, we began to settle in and are feeling at home very quickly…mainly due to the amazing hospitality of our hosts.

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Here is where the five of us wake up each morning….and come back to cool off at night. After the high temperatures and 99% humidity, that AC unit is one of our biggest blessings!image

This is where we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff works very hard to please us, and though the food is not what we are used to, we are definitely not going hungry

The pictures below show where  we congregate while waiting (which we do a lot of!) and where we watch the kids play basketball.imageimage

Here is how we get around….

Tricycle Taxi
Tricycle Taxi

Believe it or not, our family of five, our interpreter, and the driver can all fit on one taxi! Our team of 18 can also fit in one van when needed…the kids keep us entertained and distracted by singing complete with sign language or dance moves!image

Our days are full. The morning routines vary. We have prayed for the sick at the local hospital, ministered at the nearby prison, done neighborhood prayer walks, evangelism at the park and the mall, and led worship and intercession at the YWAM base.

Praying at the hospital
Praying at the hospital
Figuring out a drainage system for the base
Figuring out a drainage system for the base
A homeless girl we bonded with on one of our prayer walks
A homeless girl we bonded with on one of our prayer walks

Every afternoon we load up and head to the slums where our team leads a mothers Bible study,  puts on a program for the kids with music, dancing, skits, testimonies, and prayer. We play with the kids, do crafts, and share the love of Jesus any way we can. We also get to take them a meal and hand out dresses and shirts where there is a need.

Isaac and Lucas in the drama
Isaac and Lucas in the drama
Leading worship
Leading worship

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Craft time
Craft time

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In just a few more days, our team will head to the north part of the island to work on an evangelism campaign with Impact World Tour. And the adventure continues…

Two houses…two worlds…

I walk down the dirt lane, my flip flops heavy with mud from yesterday’s downpour. The two houses sit side by side. One is so big, brightly painted, accented by ornamental trim and tropical landscaping. The other a pieced together shack of left-over plywood and tin, accented only by the smell of rotting trash. One sits back from the road, carefully protected by wrought iron fencing and shady palms while the other barely has room in front to park the rusty bicycle that sits there and nothing at all to protect it from curious eyes like mine. I wonder about the families that live on this street. Do they know one another? Do they wonder about each other’s lives? Do they say hello when they pass? Mostly I wonder about the one living in plenty. Does she look out her windows and easily ignore the abject poverty being lived out right next door. Does she turn her head when she drives out her gate? Does she even notice? Did she ever notice? What if it was me? Would I see? Would I care? Would I find out my neighbors name and offer to watch her babies and drive her to the doctor and cry with her and pray with her and love her? Would I really?image

We are one week in to our two month stay in the Philippines. It’s different here. I’m being stretched in a hundred ways. I wonder why? Why am I choosing this? What good is this doing? What are my children learning as the five of us try to make a home in one tiny room, grit our teeth through ice cold showers, hike to the laundry, and try not to think about what’s on our plates each meal? Will there be redeeming value? Will it somehow cut through our selfishness and pride and teach us true gratefulness? Will we be changed at the end? Will we be more like Jesus? Or will we simply flee back to our comforts and settle in?imageWe went to a “slum” the other day. I feel uncomfortable even using that word but that’s what they call it. It was just like you might imagine except worse. Some of those around said it was a “nice slum” and the way to tell was that their their clothes were not completely tattered. My role was to speak to the women while their kids were being entertained by other members of our team. They gathered around, maybe 20 women or so, most of them young, some nursing babies, some with pregnant bellies. They stared at me expectantly. I looked back at their dark eyes. What could I say? What in my life even vaguely resembles their daily reality? I spoke, praying and listening for every word that should come next. After I shared, the women came for prayer one by one. I thought my heart would break. Oh how they need Jesus. In every way they need Jesus, just like I do. But how can I share my heart, pray for theirs, then get in the van and just drive away? I know God hears my prayers, but it’s hard to see how He can answer. The need is so great. Their opportunities are so few. They need long-term workers, long-term solutions, long-term discipling and mentoring, not a one time Bible study and a passionate prayer from some foreign girl that they can’t really understand. And I’m back to the question, does it matter that I’m here?image

So I walk down the road. I see the two houses, and I think about my normal life, the one where I’m in my big house, living my comfy life. It’s not so obvious where I live, this contrast between the haves and the have-nots. The poverty and wounds and hunger and filth are carefully hidden, sometimes pushed away to the “other side of the tracks” so we don’t have to look at it, sometimes barricaded behind facades of manicured lawns and manicured nails. But I know it’s still there. Do I do anything? Do I care? What if I’m just like the woman living in this beautiful house in front of me? What if I’m the one turning my head, enjoying my life, drinking my coffee and having my morning devotions while all around me, women are shriveling up in poverty of spirit and dying from wounded hearts and unfulfilled dreams? A prayer wells up inside and this, maybe just this, is why I’m here. So that God can open my eyes. No matter where I’m at, no matter what nation I’m in, no matter how obvious or hidden the needs are around me, I want to see what He sees. No more turning my head, no more living behind the gates of comfort and security. No more thinking that showing His love is something I will do someday in some other place in some other circumstance. Lord, please open my eyes!image image

Going forward…

Its been a long time coming, this crazy dream of mine to haul my husband and my kids to some far off land to bring the hope of Jesus to the nations. A dream that started before I even had the husband or the kids. A dream that burned and wouldn’t go away no matter how impossible it seemed or how much I tried to ignore it. And now it’s here and coming true. In five days, Jon and I and our kids along with three other families will travel across the world to Cebu, Philippines. For seven weeks we will have the privilege of serving  this island…a spot picked as one of the top ten island destinations in the world by travel magazines yet also a spot where poverty and need mix with wealth and privilege to make a climate ripe for child trafficking. Here we will go to bring the gospel wherever and however we can…into the slums, into the schools, into the prisons and hospitals. We will be teaching a mothers Bible study and playing with the kids in the streets, helping to rebuild a typhoon damaged village and bringing help and encouragement to long-term missionaries. I am excited and scared, filled with anticipation and frightened by the unknown, feeling totally out of my comfort zone yet also totally ready…all at the same time. Once again I know I have a choice. I can look at the heat, the bugs, the strange food, the language barriers, the possibility of my kids having melt-downs in the middle of ministry, the challenges of living in very close community with others and on and on and be paralyzed with fear. Or I can look at the One who calls me, the One who heals the sick and shows mercy to those in need. He is already there ahead orchestrating my steps, planning my pathway, whispering words and vision into my heart. His plans are so much bigger than the things that might seem difficult to me. When I keep my eyes on Him, all the little stuff shrinks into insignificance…the way it’s supposed to be… and my heart is filled with faith and courage and determination. image

As we prepare to head off, it also means this short season in Kona is coming to an end. It’s been so, so good and it’s been so, so hard. We came here in such a searching place, in obedience to God’s word to us to come to Hawaii with no strings. So we let go of our past life, all of the things that were the sum of us for the past thirteen years. It’s hard to explain what that feels like. Different than what I thought. Not so much free but more like free-falling. You don’t really think that you find your identity in your job or business or home or friends or stuff until suddenly you let it all go and then feel like you aren’t sure what or who you are. We’ve left what’s behind and don’t know what’s ahead so we are left in this in between place. It’s strange and unfamiliar. These last three months have been a time of rediscovering where our true identity is…in Christ alone. He has been setting our feet firmly in His Word, and we are finding Him to be solid, steady ground. In the beginning of this journey, I wrote about how God was showing me that His work in my kids starts in their hearts. If I want Him to work, I have to let Him in. Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t just for my kids, it was for me. This season has been all about letting Him get to my heart, letting Him take my safety nets and cover-ups, stepping out in spite of my fears. And guess what? As I’ve walked forward into deeper water, I’m not sinking! I’m finding Him safe and secure beneath my feet.image

I still don’t know what’s ahead for us, but God sure has given us a lot of promises…promises to take care of us, promises to bring the right opportunities when we need them, promises that He has a plan even if we don’t see it. When we left Montana, I felt like God was going to drastically change my life forever, make it look more like the missionary dreams I had as a girl. Maybe He still will. But maybe He won’t. And that’s okay with me. Before we came, I think I had placed the “mission field” as kind of an idol…thinking that this long-held dream would somehow fulfill me and make me happy. But more and more what I’m discovering is that Jesus alone is what fulfills me and makes me happy. He is what I want. When I’m filled up with Him then whatever I do, wherever He calls us, whether in ministry or business or motherhood or missions, in some foreign place or right back where we started, my life will bear fruit and will be filled with purpose. As I’ve been on this journey, I’m realizing just how much God has always been working in the secret places of my heart even when I thought I was just wasting my life in Montana.  God is showing me now that He doesn’t waste anything. So as I walk forward, first to outreach in the Philippines then on to our next thing – unknown to us but totally planned out by God- I can rest. I can trust. I can look up.image

Motherhood and Missions and Me…

The topic of the night was “Moms in Missions”. They sat across the front, these three women. They were beautiful, poised, eloquent. One held her baby girl in her arms, another held hers in her growing belly. Between the three, I think they had eleven children of all ages. Their lives were different from each other – different pasts, different journeys, different callings – but somehow they all ended up here on this international missions base in the middle of the Pacific to tell us what it’s like to combine full-time motherhood with full-time missions. I was expectant and came looking for something. I wanted to know how they do it. Is it really possible to raise kids in the middle of a crazy, unpredictable missionary life? How do you balance dual callings or is there even such a thing? Does it have to be either/or? How do you travel so much? What is it like to raise a family while dependent on others for support? And on and on my list went. Just in case this is my future, I want to be prepared for what’s ahead and what my life as a mom might look like. image

They told their stories one at a time, and they were simple, profound, full of mistakes and challenges and unexpected things, but also full of Gods mercy and redemption and overwhelming love. One talked of the perpetual feeling of being overwhelmed, how God clearly spoke and set her free. Another spoke of the comparison trap with other women that almost derailed their ministry in Africa. The third spoke of the pain of infertility leading to an adoption and then a pregnancy that came at a very surprising time.  They all spoke of the struggle of entering into motherhood and of laying down their own wants and expectations for the sake of the little souls in their care. They spoke of their daily lives, husbands and children, ministry and carpool, having company for dinner and seasons, especially seasons. There is a time for everything. Motherhood. Ministry. Motherhood AS the ministry. They prayed for us and over us that we would find our place, that we would lay down our comparisons, that we would come out from under the burden of being overwhelmed, that we would be blessed in our season. And it was over.

I left the meeting deep in thought. They didn’t answer even one of my prepared questions. They didn’t give any charts on how much time they devote to ministry versus how much time they devote to motherhood. They didn’t address all the ways missionary kids could feel deprived of a “normal” childhood. They didn’t talk about money at all. In fact, the more they talked, the more I realized that their life sounds a lot like mine. Yes they are missionaries – women sold out to Jesus, living lives of obedience far from the places they grew up. They left their homes and cultures to train and equip and spread the Gospel, but on a daily basis, their obedience looks so much like my obedience. They still have the same choices to make…to clean up messes with a smile, to steward their children’s hearts when they really just want to get some sleep, to communicate with the their husbands, to walk through their days without complaining, to choose Gods priorities and perspective over their own. The work of managing a home and raising children doesn’t magically disappear or change just because you move far away and take the title of missionary. There’s still laundry and homework and meals to prepare and children to train up. And these are not the lesser things of ministry. They ARE the ministry. Being a mom in missions is the same as being a mom in any other place.  It’s following Jesus first and realizing that the daily things of life are where we really walk out our faith. It’s the unglamorous duties that mold our character and teach us so much about how to love well. Choosing a right heart in the smallest of things matters to the Lord as much as the grandest achievements in His name. He is glorified when we serve whoever is in our path whether it’s children or husbands, the homeless man on the corner or the indigenous people of some foreign place.image

So in the end it doesn’t matter whether I end up wearing the title of missionary or not, my calling is the same as every other mom, to love my husband, to train up my children in the ways of the Lord, and to seek first His kingdom right where I’m at. I may get to experience motherhood in a new context with some new challenges and some new places.  I may not. Either way it’s okay. Raising these boys, loving their dad, serving where I am…this is my season. Whatever the future holds, I am content, and I am ready.image

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What do I want next?

The sun is hot, and I can feel the heat of the rough concrete wall stinging the back of my legs.  The waves come in, building and rolling over and building again. Schools of bright fish tumble in the surf, yellow and black and brilliant blue flashing through the water. We sit on the sea wall in companiable silence just watching, then he asks the question, “What do you want? What do you want our future to look like?” I’m quiet at first. It is the question in the back of my mind, the one I know is there and needs to be answered but also the one I’m running from. I’m afraid to examine what I really want, afraid to discover what’s really in my heart, but I can’t push it away forever. Uninterrupted times between the two of us don’t come along so often so I just start to speak, not really even knowing what I will say until the words begin to pour out, “I don’t know what I want. I think I want it all. I want my big house back. I want space that is clean and decorated and mine. I want to be comfortable and secure. I want to be able to give our kids all the desires of their hearts…football and gymnastics and friends and stability. I want to know where our money is going to come from.  I want to give not need. I want to live somewhere safe and familiar. I want life the way it’s always been…good food, good friends, good vacations.  And I want to NOT want all that stuff. I want to be willing to give my life away for others. I want to be willing to live somewhere uncomfortable.  I want to rescue children and feed refugees and care for orphans.  I want to find my comfort and stability in what is unchanging and eternal and truly secure. I want to discover the joy of walking in self-sacrifice. I want to live so my children know the sum of our lives is not in stuff and ease and self-serving achievements. I want to be willing to say yes to anything and everything that God would ask, not counting it a cost but a privilege. I want both…my comfortable nice life AND the way of the Cross. I want to live the American Dream AND have the fulfillment that comes from giving it all up. I WANT IT BOTH WAYS”  Even as it comes out of my mouth, I feel ashamed and selfish and afraid. Afraid that even with all I know and with all I’ve walked through, I will hit a point when I’m no longer willing. I look at others, at what their “yes’s” have required and I don’t know if I can go that far. I came here thinking I was willing, telling God I was willing, even naming this blog after the forever yes that I told Him was in my heart. But what if I’m too weak? What if I can’t follow through? What if my desire for an easy life trumps my desire for servanthood. All of these thoughts are swirling and crashing and colliding in my mind as I stare out at the waves. What if…image

He says nothing at first and I imagine that he is disappointed. That he never thought I would be the one to get cold feet and want to back down…me-the one who pushed to be in this place, who prayed for it, longed for it. I finally venture, ” I guess you think that sounds pretty pathetic, huh?” And he answers with compassion, kindness, love, “No. I think it sounds real.” A pause and then another question, “But why are you so afraid? What is your history?” And it’s like a light turns on for me as he says those words. I know the answer. My history is that I say yes. I have always said yes, and I will continue to say yes. I’m only afraid because somehow I took my eyes off of Him and started to look all around. I stopped recounting the ways He has been faithful to me and started judging the ways I perceived He hasn’t been faithful to others. I’ve been trying to figure out every horrible thing He might possibly ask of me instead of seeking what He is actually asking. That simple question from my husband stopped me in my tracks and made me realize this truth – I don’t have to say yes to everything all at once. I only have to say yes to what He is asking today, right now in this moment. To say yes to the journey, yes to the tests, yes to the blessings. And this I can do. My Heavenly Father is so gentle with me. He has never asked me to walk a path that He did not prepare me to walk. He has never left me. He has always, always given more -so much more – than what He asked for. My history with Him is that I say yes. His history with me is that He cares for me, He watches over me, He does exceedingly more than I could ask or imagine, He takes what is meant to crush me and turns it to my benefit. And He is big enough to handle this, my doubts and fears and the pull of self. He will lead me step by step by step on the path that He has planned for me from the beginning of time. And whether that path leads back to Montana or to the most forsaken corner of the world, it doesn’t matter because what I really want is Him, and He will be there with me.image

It’s Like a Garden…

Since we got here, my biggest struggle has been watching my kids struggle…all three of them in all different ways. I’ve been talking to the Lord about it, asking for wisdom and guidance, patience and endurance. And He has been answering, giving me the words in the moment, helping me hold my tongue when I want to be cross, assuring me that He sees and knows and cares -about them and about me. But tonight I feel weary. I don’t want to battle for them and with them. I’m ready for things to get easier, to fall into place. But just when I’m wanting to settle in to this place, to dissolve into discouragement and self-pity, I hear these words and Jesus so gently and so simply reminds me, “Your kids are a garden. You’re just in the planting stage. Don’t stop now.”image

And I know a little about gardening. I know that planting is really hard work. It’s hot and dirty and sweaty. Your hands get blistered, and you get dirt under your finger nails. I know it takes time, so much time. It takes attention to detail. You have to plan and measure and study if you want it to turn out right. You have to know what you want to grow and what it will take to thrive and turn into something beautiful or useful or both. I know that even when the soil has been prepared and the seeds have all been planted, you still aren’t finished. You’re just beginning. You must keep working and watering and weeding and watching. You don’t dare stop. You work and you wait and you trust…trust that under all that barren earth, good stuff is taking root, trust that someday you will see new things breaking through, that life will begin to show instead of plain old dirt. This is what I know about gardening.image

So I picture their struggling hearts with the empty and dull and turned-over places. I’m not blind to what is there, but my perspective is changed. I’m not so tempted to quit or cry in discouragement at what I don’t see. I know that it’s okay. It’s okay that this parenting thing is messy and dirty and exhausting. It’s okay that there are weeds showing up. It’s okay that I can’t see the signs of life I’m hoping for. It’s like a garden, and right now we are just breaking up the ground, planting the seeds, pulling up the old weeds to make room for new growth. There will be a time when the plants are tall and the fruit is obvious and abundant. But not now, not yet. Now is our time to keep doing the work, planting good seed, watering what’s there, and trusting for a harvest of righteousness. So I will…and my kids are going to be just fine.

So do not become weary in doing good for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9image

(I wrote this two weeks ago but it’s just been sitting here unpublished waiting for pictures. I’ve been thinking so much about this lesson, this perspective, but tonight was just one of those nights with the boys. They were finally all off to their classes. Jon and I were standing on the grass overlooking the meeting, listening to the worship. I was wanting to join in but I held back, feeling so raw, so tired, so defeated. Questioning, wondering if I’m getting anything right? Then a tap on my shoulder and a soft voice asked if we were the parents of a particular set of boys. When we nodded, she told us that she had been observing them at school and offered some praise on their behavior, then she ended with this, “Whatever you are doing, it is working. It is obvious that they love the Lord. I just thought you should know.” She walked away, and I started to cry. God always knows just what I need! If any of my mama friends are out there feeling like me…tired, discouraged, questioning. Take heart. There is fruit and it is growing, even when we cannot see.)

It Starts in the Heart…

We stand outside the schoolroom door. The other kids are inside settling at their desks; their parents walking back down the path. My son sits on a little wooden bench just outside swinging his feet back and forth over the pile of flip flops deposited there. “I won’t go in,” he declares defiantly a continuation of the battle we’d been having ever since he woke up. I feel frustration building inside me. I want to respond back in anger. Why does he have to be so stubborn? A deep breath, a whispered prayer for patience and wisdom. I kneel down beside him so I can look in his face. He turns away and says again, “I won’t go in. I can’t go in. I HATE IT! WHY DID WE HAVE TO COME HERE?” And I somehow hear him this time, hear his heart. It’s not defiance or anger. It’s fear and loneliness and helplessness. Tears well up in his eyes and leave tracks down his little boy cheeks. He struggles to hold them back, trying to act tough. Finally he turns, “Please…please don’t make me go in there.” imageDesperate, broken, begging. And my mama heart hurts so much, but even though I want to, I can’t rescue him in this moment. He has to go to school. I have to go to school. So his dad and I kneel down and hold him close. We pray over him, asking our Father who cares so much to take care of our son, to help him face his fears, to speak to his heart, to send him a friend, to help his teacher understand him, to show him where he fits in this new place. And after we pray, the tears stop and he picks up his backpack and heads inside…just like that.

His dad and I don’t talk about it. We simply join hands and head down the path to our classroom. My heart is still heavy, and I have so many questions…mainly this, “Did we do the right thing?” We told the kids over and over before we came that this journey we are on is for all of us, but right now I’m wondering if it’s true? Is this what’s best for them? They are struggling so much with everything – the heat, the food, the long school days, language barriers, cultural differences, lack of space, the constant noise of community. I so want this adventure to be good for them. I want to remove every hard thing and make all things fun and easy. I want them to love this experience, love us, love God. What if they don’t? I go through the day, but I’m distracted thinking about a little blond boy bent over his books, listening to his teacher, at recess, at lunch. I’m praying for him, and I’m praying for me. What will I say if it isn’t a better day? What will I say if his resentment of this place settles into his heart and turns into resentment against us? Against God?

At the end of the day, I walk into his classroom and I notice on the wall their school motto for this quarter. “It starts in the heart.” I can’t look away. The truth of that simple sentence washes over me, and I think of what I REALLY want for my kids. More than their short-term pleasure and life free from difficulty, more than a great time, I want my kids to discover for themselves what it means to follow God, to hear His voice, to know Him, and to follow Him. I want them to know the Truth that to find your life, you first have to lay it down, that there is nothing that brings more joy than full surrender to their Savior, that the God who created them has amazing plans for them. And in that instant, I hear that still small voice say, “That’s what I want too, but you never let me get to their heart.” I am undone. It’s true. In the normal life I lived just a few short weeks ago, I could protect and guard and coddle. I could make their favorite foods and run to the store on a whim, change our schedule to accommodate their wants and desires. I could and I did rescue them from so many things. I thought I was protecting them and guarding them from the cruel things of life, but suddenly, standing in this classroom, I see that I have been guarding and protecting them from too much. I’ve been blocking the very tools that God wanted to use to teach them and train them to hear Him and follow Him. I no longer have that option here, and I’ve been struggling as I watch them struggle. But suddenly I see the opportunity. Instead of rescuing my sons from trouble, I get the chance to walk through it with them. They get to see firsthand that when we don’t know what to do, we ask God. If we are lonely, we can call on Him. If we need something that we don’t have, we can ask him. If we are struggling in a friendship, we can ask Him to soften hearts. We can learn to love when we don’t feel like it; persevere when we want to give up; wait when we want it now. Before, we talked about these things in theory, sang songs about God being all we need, but in reality, we were the ones meeting their needs, meeting our needs. If we had a problem, a difficulty, we solved it and had the resources to do so. Now, in this life, not so much. And it’s hard and it’s good.

As I stand staring at the sign, my sweet boy comes. “It was better today , Mom.” And I let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding and whisper a prayer of thanks to the One who holds both of our hearts in His hand. He is faithful.image

 

 

 

Our Kona Life

In case you’ve been wondering, here’s what our life is like…

We wake up here…

Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom

or here…

Kids Bedroom
Kids Bedroom

We gather our stuff here…

Our living  space
Our living space

And try not to get too distracted by this view…

View from our window
View from our window
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Cafeteria

We eat in this building three times a day…starting with breakfast every morning at 6:30.

Here are some of the sights we see as we walk the boys to school…

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School days
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U of N campus

The boys start school at 8. They are all three in different classes with kids from all over the world. One of the friends Lucas has made here in his first grade class speaks English as his third language.  School is definitely a challenge as they study the character of God, learn to hear and recognize Gods voice in all aspects of their life, and keep a journal of their days. They are also learning much about Hawaian culture and all the things that live and grow here.

Jon and I spend our days here…

DTS classroom
DTS classroom

Yes, it’s a tent, and we are very grateful for the ocean breeze that blows through! Every morning we have teaching until lunch. The afternoon sessions are different depending on the day and include worship and intercession, couples date, family outreach, small groups, and on Fridays we have family connect time at the school.

Evenings and weekends are mainly free and feel like normal life…laundry, errands, homework, cleaning house, and did I mention laundry? image

After two weeks here, we are starting to adjust and settle in but still enjoying the new things we get to see and experience!image

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Jon’s height is in high demand
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Frequent house guests
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Bananas fresh from the tree
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Riding the trolley
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Church by the sea
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The sunsets are breath-taking every single night

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