Wednesday, December 29, 2010


If, on the 12th of December, you found out that you had sold your house and needed to be out in just one month, what would your December look like? Well, there would be shopping, baking, and wrapping, right? There would also be packing, purging, and cleaning, right? Of course, because that’s what you do in December when you’ve sold your house.

UNLESS, you’re delusional, like me and instead you choose to “check out” using the following coping mechanisms...

A large laminated US map with dry erase marker, a Rand McNally Road Atlas, the book 1000 Place to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die, and a laptop with multiple windows open including the National Parks Service, the Homewood Suites website, and Mapquest.

That’s what I’ve been doing in my “spare” time. Or at least in my “I can’t take this anymore” time. Ryan and I had decided early in our process that we were going to take the kids to see a good bit of the US before we leave. So, for the month of April, we’re going to the West Coast and back with the young’uns and we’re very excited. We have had so much fun in just the planning phases. Figuring out which things we really want to see, what we want to see along the way, or what we think the kids would love to see has been quite a challenge. We were disappointed to find out that the northern sites like Yellowstone are not really accessible in April. However, we still have more than enough planned to fill our 27 day itinerary and we can’t wait to experience it as a family.

I am also excited about blogging the Campbell Circus Cross Country Tour!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Relating to the Shepherds

One thing that I love about the Bible is that it never changes, yet every time I read it, I gain a new understanding. Take the Christmas story, for example. I remember my first Christmas as a mom. That year, it was Mary's role that leapt off the page at me. I remember being overwhelmed by her youth and the fear and anxiety she must have experienced, along with the maturity and obedience she showed. Another year, I was totally struck by the idea that Jesus actually left the glory of heaven (as in HEAVEN) to be born in a manger. I always knew that, but I remember when I really KNEW that.

This year, it was something different. It was the shepherds. We don't get any background info on these guys, so I have imagined a bit. I imagine they were pretty ordinary shepherds, just trying to make a decent living. I am sure they were just doing the best they knew how to do with the task they'd been given, sometimes failing miserably.

I imagine that there were lots of other shepherds in the Bethlehem Metro Area that God could have chosen to send the angel messengers to that starry night. Some of those other shepherds were probably wiser, handsomer, more polished, we don't know. But, for some reason, God chose those particular shepherds and He opened up the heavens and He called them to come and worship their king. And they came, out of their obedience and their reverence, they came.

I wonder if for the rest of their lives, some people thought they were crazy? I am curious if there were those who doubted if they'd truly been called to worship? I am sure there were some who wish they'd had that same call.

I know those shepherds were never the same. I wonder if their wives, mothers, and daughters understood that they simply couldn't be who they were before. Life had changed for them, they had been called by God to do something extraordinary. I suspect there were times when they, themselves, wondered if it had really happened or was it simply a dream? I imagine they were comforted by talking to the other shepherds who had been there that night and reliving the amazing events they'd experienced.

This year, I could relate to the shepherds in a way I've never considered before. Their part of the story just leapt off the page at me. Over the last year, as part of our hiring process, Ryan and I have had to articulate our call to missions multiple times. And while it's nothing like worshipping at the manger in Bethlehem, it is the reality of my life. We've had to examine our motives and God's hand in our lives over and over. We have had to defend it to our company, our families, our friends, and many times, our own hearts. There have been moments when I've wondered if we're insane, and then, God's word rushes over me along with the reminders of the moments when God spoke to my heart and told me to go.

I am peppered with questions. Why me, I have 5 children? Why me, we have a good ministry HERE? Why us, our parents will be heartbroken? Aren't their others who are more qualified? more flexible? more adventurous? more gifted at sharing their faith? more __________? And on, and on, and on the list goes. But, I know I've been called.

Whether anyone else in our world can understand, Ryan and I know that God told us to go. And we know of no other acceptable response but to go. We can already see how we will never be the same- not because of anything we've done, but because of what God is doing in us. I have been humbled over and over again to realize that it's not for me to ask why. I also acknowledge that there are many others who are more qualified, equipped, and prepared. Yet, for some reason, knowing our many weaknesses, God has called our little family, and we have a choice to make. And, like the shepherds, Ryan and I have chosen to respond in obedience and we pray that our obedience will bring nothing but glory to God.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favoritist Gift

When I was young, I always remember thinking that it was weird that my parents expressed little interest in what they wanted for Christmas. How could they not “want” something? Or many somethings? I spent hours making multiple drafts of my Christmas lists complete with alternating lines of red and green crayon font with holly doodles in the corner. When people would say that Christmas wasn’t about the gifts, I would think, “What, are you crazy? It’s all about the gifts, oh yeah, and Jesus too.”

Now that I’m older, I’m happy to say that I understand. While the gifts at Christmas are always fun and appreciated, they honestly aren’t important to me. I enjoy the Christmas season immensely, and I especially love the times of worship and reflection concerning Christ’s sacrifice. I really love all of the family time and baking for people that I love. Really, I love so many aspects of Christmas...the lights, the trees, the carols, and the parties. Fun times.

This year, I didn’t even know what to ask for concerning my gifts. When you’re getting ready to totally change your lifestyle, it’s hard to know what you need, much less what you “want.” Ryan and I struggled a lot with how to handle Christmas gifts for each other this year. But, like always, my sweet husband came up with a gift that was definitely my most favorite ever. In his usual, sensitive way, he chose something that I will treasure always and will surely travel with me to every continent I ever live on.

Are you ready to hear what this amazing gift was? He (with the help of my good friend Casey) had my blog made into a book. A beautiful, precious book.

I have been reading from it over the last couple days and it has been such a joy and comfort to me. Those first blog posts from the early days of our adoption process have helped me to see God’s faithfulness again. We humans tend to forget the details and the little provisions along the way.

I am so thankful that I chose to bare my soul for any and all to read. The chronicle of our journey has been worth all of the risk it takes to put your thoughts out there. I have so many opportunities to encourage other ladies because of my experiences and I am so thankful for that. In addition, re-reading those posts has also given me the courage to be a little more transparent about our current process, which I have been on the fence about sharing. Can’t wait to share a bit about our journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Over the last few years, God has given us an increasing burden for loving our neighbors. We have been very convicted of our selfishness when it comes to pulling in the garage, hitting the button to close the door, and then heading into our house for some peace and quiet. We were content to live our lives, completely disinterested in what might be happening in the lives of those whom God had placed a few yards away.

When our next door neighbors first moved in, I have to confess I was downright cold hearted toward them. There were four children in the family and none of them had the same last name, much less first names that I could pronounce or spell. I am ashamed to admit this, but I was concerned about what sort of influence they would have on my children. What I should have worried about was how God would have us to serve them well.

My husband has led our family well in how we should treat others in this circumstance. He has set an excellent example of "loving your neighbor" as he has consistently sought opportunities to show kindness. This spring, when we were having a "perfectly planned" birthday party for my son, and they came to the door, I was trying to figure out how to get them to go home. Instead Ryan invited them in and then sent them home with the leftovers.

About 6 months ago, the husband moved to NY so that he could find work that had eluded him here. He has come back to visit a few times, but for the most part the Mama has been on her own. So, this summer, when their mower broke, Ryan took over the mowing of their lawn. While I was busy wondering how long that would take each week, he had all the kids weeding their flower beds.

The list of opportunities goes on and on. A few Sundays ago, we helped the oldest finish a Japan research project because her printer was out of ink. Last week, it was birthday party invitations that needed printing. Yesterday, it was a band-aid needed from a bike fall.

These neighbors have brought me to a realization of just how self-centered I am. I wish I could say that sacrificing my agenda for opportunities to serve them comes easily to me, but it doesn't. Yet. I pray that it will become more and more of my DNA. I pray that I get to the point that I am never comfortable putting my to-do list above relationships. I can say, that it has gotten easier. Instead of getting frustrated with the multiple doorbell ringings each day, I'm learning to be thankful for the opportunities to serve. Thankful that these girls trust me enough to come and ring my doorbell. Thankful that we've been able to share our pew at church with them for the last 3 weeks. Thankful that God is refining me with opportunities to die to myself.

We decided that we wanted to do something for our neighbors this year for Christmas. So, we're doing the 12 days of Christmas. I am sure that they probably suspect it's us. But, our kids are still having a blast dropping a gift and then ringing and running each night. They're telling us that they think it's an angel bringing the goodies. And from the stories the neighbors are telling our kids, they're having a good time finding the gifts. I pray that the Mama is feeling encouraged by these little tokens and that it will give me even more opportunities to share kindness and hope with her.

Tonight's drop-off:
4 calling birds are difficult to find,
but candy and a show went with our rhyme.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What a Miracle!

We sold our house. Well, we have a contract from someone who has already secured a loan, so we're very close to selling our house. Considering we are in a market where things have totally tanked and it's December, we're delighted. Houses simply are not showing and definitely not selling. Our agent told us in no uncertain terms that if we hadn't sold our house by Thanksgiving, we could totally forget it until March.

The only problem is, March didn't really work with our timeline. So, we refused to believe that was true. Instead, we committed to praying and fasting for a period of time until the house sold. We invited others to pray and we waited in anticipation of what God was going to do. Well, we didn't have to wait long. Praise the Lord!

Now, comes the fun of purging. We have no new housing secured, and we have 32 days to be out of our current house. 32 days that include the weeks of Christmas and New Years. This oughta be an adventure! The thought of what an adventure it will be is exactly why I am bright-eyed at 5:30 in the morning. This adrenaline stuff is going to do me in soon! But in the meantime, I'll simply ride the energy wave.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Have I mentioned that I LoVe snow? It's even easier to love when you only get it 2-3 times a year and then it melts and you can get by with just a scarf until the next snow. This year we got an early snow and here are a few pics of our children enjoying our brief but magical December storm.

We weren't expecting any accumulation, so at the sign of the first flakes, Lily ran out to catch some on her tongue before it went away.

By evening, it had piled up on the deck, nice surprise!

Abe just wanted to eat it.

Everyone back inside nice and toasty after putting up the tree. We are about to eat our annual Christmas tree "party foods" dinner which would be better named "Chocolate and cholesterol delights." This tradition started, quite by accident, about 8 years ago and now my children do not think that you can put up a tree without "party foods."

Reality and Goodness

A few of our "rejects"

Last Saturday afternoon was absolutely beautiful. It snowed all afternoon, and because I'm so terrible about following the weather, it was a surprise to me. Now, we don't get much snow in the Carolinas and definitely not in early December and it was a true delight. To top it off, we were decorating our tree and the snow made it sort of magical.
I know this sounds selfish, but I feel like the snow was just a little gift for me. Because last Saturday morning was not so beautiful. It started out fine, with all of us excited about getting out the tree and the ornaments and decorating for our favorite holiday. Of course, the reality of it is, there is always a lot of grunt work before the fun part can begin. So, innocently enough, Ryan asked me if I would come and tell him which of our fall decorations I would like to keep as he was taking them down. And that began a very emotional process for both of us.
You see, when you're moving to the other side of the world, you don't get to take much of your "stuff." We knew that, and we could have told you that pretty nonchalantly in a conversation. But when it came down to pulling out a plastic tub and saying, "If it doesn't fit in this tub, it doesn't go," well, that's reality. So, we began sorting, which wasn't too difficult. Then we had to agree on what to do with the abandoned stuff, again not too difficult. But then we began to talk about the fact that this was 3 little tubs of fall decorations. What about the 9 tubs of Christmas decorations? Or the garage full of tools? Or the attic full of toys? Or the closets full of way too many clothes? And the whole process became overwhelming.
The rest of the afternoon, as we unpacked the Christmas stuff I kept thinking through what might make the cut and what wouldn't. It was a long afternoon. I LOVE Christmas and I know that one of the hardest things about moving overseas for me will be the distance during the Christmas holidays. I will miss the decorations and traditions that I love so much. I kept reminding myself of how purposeful this move is and how thankful I am that it is becoming a reality. And it helped, mostly. But it is still hard and will continue to be hard.
In some ways, I think it would have been so much easier to do this 15 years ago when everything we owned was hand-me-downs or Big Lots purchases. But we have lots of memories, time, and money invested in this stuff and the truth is, it's harder than I thought it would be. So many of those things were gifts from people we love or purchases that we saved or searched for. But ultimately, I kept coming back to the fact that it is stuff. Stuff is not eternal. People don't need stuff, they need hope and I refuse to let my attachment to stuff keep me from sharing the hope that comes from knowing Christ. I had to tell myself the truth all day long, but I still went to bed tired and drained.
Sunday morning when I woke up, I took a minute of quiet time, like I usually do before waking the kids up. I picked up a book I've been reading from the last few months called Voices of the Faithful and opened it to the correct date. God, in his goodness, used that page to minister to my heart with this story from a missionary serving in the Caribbean. In the first paragraphs, she was sharing about her first Christmas on the field and how she struggled to get in the Christmas spirit without all of her normal decorations and friendships. Then she said this, "As I sought the Lord, I was shown the actual heart of Christmas, which in turn changed my own heart. It occurred to me that while all these things symbolize Christmas, all of these things are not Christmas. I learned that Jesus is enough, Jesus is Christmas. When all the stuff-the lights, gifts, trees, food, and even friends- was taken away, it came down to Jesus."
Wow, I look forward to knowing that in my heart the way that I know it in my head more and more as time goes by and I am so thankful that God is good to remind me of the truth when I most need to hear it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Brownies on Thursday?

Last night we had brownies after dinner. Brownies that I bought on sale, with a coupon. The cost was minimal, but still, brownies on Thursday? We don't eat brownies on Thursday at our house. Dessert is for Friday nights. Okay, okay, I confess I do eat a fun size pack of our Halloween clearance M&Ms or an occasional popsicle on the average weeknight, but hot from the oven brownies, no way!

So why, you ask, did we have brownies on Thursday? It was a celebration at our house. Yesterday was what we now call "job match" day at our house. We got "the call" we've been waiting for and after a week of truly believing that we had come to the end of the road with our overseas possibilities, God "wowed" us again.

Now, I need to be careful here and point out that it is still tentative and it's only unofficially official. Two big things have to do down: we have to sell our house by mid-April and we have to pass the trustees vote in March (which should not be a problem, but is certainly not guaranteed). But, even with those things on the table, we are light years closer than we were a week ago.

Here are a few details about how it went down, if you're interested! Last week, before Thanksgiving, we got a couple of very discouraging e-mails from our consultant. He was being as loving and gentle as possible, but he wanted us to face the reality that things were not looking good and we might not make it through the process. The problem, from what we could tell, was that there are some budget restrictions in place and so there is a reassessment of needs taking place. However, the company's age limitations for teenagers already has us on a very strict timeline and this temporary hold was going to push us back just enough that our window of opportunity would likely close before we could get through. One of the few jobs that is actually available during this time was not available to us because of our peanut allergy. So, we were stuck.

We were devastated. We traveled to KY last week with such a heaviness. On the way, Ryan expressed a desire to communicate the certainty of our call to the company again, but we were unsure if that was appropriate. We did not want to be manipulative, but we did feel that we needed to do everything in our power to fight for our call. He said, "I wish that we could talk to someone on the field and ask them what we should do." We decided we would just wait and pray.

The next morning, we got up and found an e-mail in our inbox from a missionary serving in Africa. We had communicated with this man several weeks ago and he had heard about our peanut disqualification. He wrote simply to encourage us and he wanted us to know that we needed to strongly communicate our call to the company over and over again if we were certain that we were to go. So, Ryan and I looked at each other and quickly confirmed that we had our answer about writing the company. We sat down and drafted a very heartfelt and honest e-mail about what we felt God was telling us. Now, I don't know if that e-mail had anything to do with our progress this week, but it had everything to do with bringing peace to my heart. I knew that I had done everything in my power after sending that e-mail and I was able to rest and celebrate the remainder of the holiday in peace.

We returned home from KY and began to settle back in to our rhythm of waiting and praying and on Tuesday, we got a call from our consultant asking us if he could discuss our case with the Drs. again and see if they would reconsider our allergy disqualification. Now, according to him, this isn't something they do. But, having lived in the country for years himself, he felt very strongly that we would be able to thrive even with the allergy. We agreed and I then skyped with some folks in a similar environment on the field and they also assured me that there are people in their group that have peanut allergies and do well, with simple precautions.

Again we began praying, waiting, waiting, praying and just asking God to give the Drs. wisdom and to give us peace. Then, yesterday, we got the call that we had been waiting so many months to get. The Drs agreed to allow us to go, though they did issue several cautions. Fortunately, the things they expressed are modifications that I already practice after 8 years of being an allergy mom. The kids were crazy with joyous hysteria and all appearances of order quickly went out the window. Prayers of thanksgiving were issued, maps were being pulled out, phone calls were being made, tears were being shed, and very few thoughts were actually completed. It was a precious moment, much like the day of our referral with Abe.

One of the things I'm thrilled about is the fact that I now have dates on a calendar. I have a timeline for the next year, which is something I haven't had for a long time. Although anything is subject to change, these things are fairly firm, IF our house sells. It looks like we will be appointed in LA in May, travel to VA for 2 months of training in late July, probably go to Vancouver, BC for a 4 month Urban training n September, and finally deploy to Africa somewhere around the 22nd of January, 2012. Needless to say, we are thrilled, terrified, relieved, overwhelmed, and overwhelmingly grateful that we serve a big God whose amazing ways are so much higher than ours!