Tuesday, March 25, 2014

As the hows and the whys and the what ifs threaten to overwhelm:

A few days ago, I was driving down the road only marginally distracted by the craziness in the backseats, my mind absolutely whirling. The last few weeks have been drinking from a firehose of information about what our life will be like from here on out. Patrick had a very productive trip to Kenya, and was able to communicate often due to the cheapness of international calling cards. (yay!) So every day or so he called and filled me in on what he was learning, as well as talking lots of pictures and notes. Then we would hang up, and I would think (ok, perhaps worry) about that day's news. Then the next day would come, and the cycle would repeat. (He was gone 10 days. You get the picture.) Then he came home, and before we even really had time to debrief, we visited with an AIM Air family who we had been corresponding with for a while and were so excited to meet. We packed an awful lot of questions into that 2 hour visit, which led to, you guessed it, more "thinking." I am not, by nature, a worrier. I am, however, a planner. A big planner. I plan years in advance. I plan for things that will never happen. (I'm talking about good things, like parties and vacations.) I started looking at curriculums when Hannah was barely 2. I start packing for a road trip days in advance. So you can imagine how I'm doing with the task of "planning" for the next few years. (A few years is all I will go; even master planners have their limits!)

I have to be honest here. All this information has me overwhelmed. Everyone knows how excited I am to go to Africa. Pretty sure I've run that one into the ground. But, to be painfully honest, now that it is actually here, I'm starting to get nervous. In the car this weekend, 10% of my mind was on driving, and 90% swirled uncontrollably with all the knowns and unknowns facing us. For example: 
  • The actual packing. How does one pack for 3 years (the probable length of our first term)? Will we pack a shipping crate, or just take extra trunks with us on the plane?
  • How will my family (children) do with the "transition?" (I don't mind telling you, I'm starting to strongly dislike that word. I just hear it, and say it, ALL THE TIME.) 
  • I understand that this experience will be completely different from my last time in Africa. What made it so enjoyable, fulfilling, and worthwhile for me was the Senegalese people themselves, and my relationships with them. But those relationships came because of my complete freedom to learn the language and spend every waking moment (that I had the energy for) with a Senegalese person, usually in their home. This time around, nearly every waking moment is already taken up with the people in my home. How will I learn the language when I have hardly any time or energy? And how will I embrace/be embraced by my new host country when I can't communicate with them, or don't have the time to build those relationships? 
And then the ongoing issues, the ones that will be there as an undercurrent running through our lives for as long as we're there 

  • Am I making the best decisions for my children's educational and social wellbeing
  • Home assignment is meant to be a break from the stresses of living overseas, but can often be very stressful in and of itself. 
  • Living off of support, how to plan ahead for the fluctuations there 
  • Being so far from our families
  • What our specific role will be in the organization. 

Thought after uncontrollable thought, worry after uncontrollable worry. And the echo of it all, 
What if I can't do it? What if it's too hard, too complicated, too stressful? What if I end up just not even wanting to do it? 

Eventually I noticed in the background the voices of two lovable peas, singing about flying as they jumped on a trampoline. 

Strength will rise as we wait upon the LORD, 

             We will wait upon the LORD, 

We will wait upon the LORD. 

Am I the only mom to ever have been challenged, even convicted, by our Veggie Tale friends? They got me good this time. If I am waiting to have enough strength and fortitude to do this on my own, then I will be waiting an awfully long time. I do not have the strength. My feet will fail at times, I am sure of it. But, He who calls us is faithful. And HE will do it. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The journey to here: God's purpose in our seasons of desert wanderings

Recently, Patrick and I have been learning about partnership development, and working on some tools to help us share our story, both the story that has led us up to this point, and the story God is leading us into. So, the whole process has been a big ol' walk down memory lane for us. Sometimes there are parts in our past, all of us, that we would rather not dwell on because they were painful. Perhaps we are not proud of some seasons of our life.

To be honest, the past 8 years haven't been exactly easy! If you have heard all or parts of our testimony, you probably know that already. While walking through it, I often would have chosen for things to go differently. It is a darn good thing I am not in charge. Because looking back, I can see how things happened for a reason. When I came back from Africa the first time, I naively thought we would be returning again quite soon. (Not Africa, necessarily, but somewhere.) So much of my frustration has stemmed from the fact that I thought we were supposed to be missionaries, and that just wasn't happening. Not only that, but we had no real plans of how it was going to happen. Now that we are here now, I can see that this "delay" wasn't necessarily about us not working hard enough to make it happen, or some mistake on our part. Instead, it was all about what God was doing in us before we had even a hope of being ready.

This means so much to me because it means I can trust God. He won't let us move before He thinks we're (somewhat!) ready. He cares about our wellbeing enough that He won't throw us out there unprepared, even if we, in our youthful confidence, think we are prepared. It also means He doesn't waste our experiences. We don't need to look back on the last 8 years and think, gosh, I wish I had that back. It has been an invaluable season in our lives.

If we had gone into international missions right away, I'm %100 sure our marriage would not have survived. We had to go through some trials, as well as everyday life together, in order to know, trust, and appreciate each other. I would not have known or appreciated the local church. I would not know the challenges of serving on committees, trying to vote on and divide up budgets, how precious pulpit time is on Sunday morning, how churches are bombarded with needs from every direction and the challenge it is to accept some and reject others, in order to focus your efforts in a strategic way. I definitely would not understand the challenge of living life day to day here, and try to be at all connected with or interested in international missions when its going on a world away and seems to have no relevance to daily life in America. Basically, I would not understand the life that everyone of our partners faithfully lives here.

I would not have even appreciated my salvation to the extent I do now. Definitely my faith had some growing periods as a young adult, but nothing compared to the challenges of adulthood, the intense refining process of marriage, and the curveballs life throws. I've always known I needed Jesus, but to be honest, I used to think it was more of a future thing. The longer I'm alive, the more I'm convinced I need Him every single day, and without His grace and mercy in my life, I am a wretched sinner who deserves nothing but eternity apart from God in hell. I have absolutely no hope of living a life pleasing to God on my own, and it took living through some of life's difficult moments before I was able to see that. Now I can honestly, sincerely say, "here is the difference God makes in my everyday life. Here is why He deserves my absolute devotion and unquestionable obedience. Because of who He is, and who He has shown Himself to be on my behalf."And most of all, I used to see my life calling as being a missionary. Now I see my life calling as being a follower of Christ, of being in fellowship with Him day to day, of trying to live a life worthy of that calling, of being an example to the world of a redeemed life, and of bringing joy to the heart of God as one of His lost children who is now returned to Him, and of being wholly committed to living for the Kingdom of God instead of this world. If I am able to go overseas to do that, that is an awesome privilege. But it does not define who I am, as a Christian or otherwise.

We would not have had the time with family. Since being married, I have always lived quite far from both sides of my family, which has been difficult for me. (Except for that short stint in Alabama when we were about 6 hrs from some family members. That was the closest!) But we have still managed to see each other as often as possible. Although my kids are still young, they have definitely begun meaningful relationships with their extended family, and I am so grateful for that, and that my kids will have memories of the people and places that mean so much to Patrick and me.

Thank God He is in control! On a lighter note, here are some pictures of the last few weeks. Enjoying spring here in Kansas! (take heart, northerners; if spring hasn't reached you yet, it will soon!)

Surely there is some country song about kids playing with piles of cotton? 

Hannah building a snow tower. Until it crashes! (I told her to enjoy it, as it was the last snow of the season? right???? ;-) 

field trip to the science museum 

the tornado simulator. (And no, they do not have debris flying around knocking you in the head. But still; why would anyone want to simulate being in a tornado? scares the pee out of  me.)

Excavating sea turtles. Apparently there was one here in KS. evidence of a flood, anyone? 

Yes, that is my Caroline, trying to climb in. 

This being Wichita, they have a big aviation exhibit. My kids were quite surprised when they overheard other kids talking about never having been in an airplane before, commercial or private. But i'm sure they will soon be very tired of hearing people tell them "oh, what an interesting life you have." Or "you're so lucky to have these experiences." So I try not to do that. As impossible as it may be, I just want them to feel normal. 

To say we were tired out is an understatement! 

If you follow us on FB, you can skip the rest. It's all review! 

And, buh bye Daddy. Our fearless leader is off to scout things out and return with details. Lots of details!