Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Over the last 12-18 months, we've been faced with a difficult decision... what to do about our children's schooling next year.  For no less than a dozen reasons, many of which I listed here, homeschooling has been the right choice for our family up to this point.  So, when we heard that we were going to be living in a city that had a school for TCKs and encouraged to consider it as a schooling option, we were in a little bit of a quandry about what we should do.  

The bottom line is, I need to learn the language.  It is an expectation of my job and I want to be properly prepared for our ministry here.  We sort of decided that we would send the kids to the school here for one year and see how it went.  Then, after my formal language learning, we could decide whether we wanted to bring them home again or not.  We left North America with that expectation in mind.  We didn't have complete peace about it, but it made the most sense.

Then, we got here and began to get settled.  We had multiple opportunities to visit the school and spend time with several of the families who send their children there.  We could see that it's a good school which is a great fit for many of the families here.  But, it became increasingly obvious that it's not the best fit for our family.  We wrestled and prayed and discussed and we couldn't get a peace about sending them.  

It's not that there is a problem with the school or the kids there.  But, sending 5 kids to school means juggling 5 sets of homework, extra curricular activities, curriculum concerns, picture days, field trips, volunteer opportunities, etc.  Realistically, we just didn't see how it would really free me up that much.  Plus, we didn't see how our kids would have a chance to be involved in our ministry here, which is really important to us.  Quite frankly, we just like the dynamics that homeschooling brings to our family.

So, with much fear and trembling, we announced to the powers that be that we could not, in good conscience, send them to school next year.  We shouldn't have worried, everyone was supportive and affirmed our decision.  We felt complete peace with our decision, as soon as we settled on it.  It will make language learning a bit more challenging and it may slow me down a bit.  However, I don't think that in the long run that will make much difference.

I'm excited as I look ahead to next year.  The Lord provided 3 different volunteer teams who are each willing to bring in bits and pieces of our curriculums, so I should have it all by early July.  The kids have mixed emotions about the decision.  I have a couple who couldn't be more relieved and a couple that are a little disappointed.  We covet your prayers as we juggle the demands of homeschooling as well as the demands of language learning.  

And now, here are a few pics from our school since we arrived here...

Here's Isaac doing math with the puppy's help.

One day recently, Abe and I were working on the letter M.  We were reading about monsters and decided to make a clay one.  The older kids decided to join in the fun.  As you can see, Lizzy covered her grammar book with crafting materials.  When I finally convinced them to clean up, we had quite the monster family.

Here are the girls baking lamingtons as we studied Australia.

Here is the explosion of the "volcano" the kids crafted as they were studying the Pacific Rim.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scaling the Wall

I wanted to take a minute and say thanks to all of you who offered encouragement after I wrote my post about the butterflies and rainbows.   I also want to tell you that I am honestly feeling much, much better.  Actually, I have felt better since I woke up the morning after writing it.  I'm not sure if it was all of your prayers, the encouragement that so many of you sent my way, the fact that we welcomed a new family onto the field and I was able to serve someone else, or simply that the Lord has granted me an abundance of grace these last 10 days.  But, whatever it is, I feel more like myself than I have felt since about mid-April.  I'm not dreading getting out of bed in the mornings and I am actually looking forward to the summer and the weeks ahead.

I guess that maybe it was the infamous "wall" that we hear about in the missionary community.  I had heard that you can expect a horribly low point around the 3 month mark.  In fact, one of my friends here told me early on that she was basically bed ridden with depression around the 3, 6, and 9 month marks.  I hope that my waves aren't that deep, but I can say that the Lord's grace is sufficient and he knows how to minister to me when I walk through those valleys.  If valleys are necessary for greater intimacy with my Lord, then I just pray I walk them in a way that glorifies him.

At any rate, I am so, so thankful for those of you who wrote to tell me that you were praying.  I'm thankful for those of you who reminded me of God's word and lovingly told me the truth.  I'm also very thankful for the fellow missionaries who wrote and said, "Thank you for saying what I've felt, but haven't had the courage to say."  It's nice to know that my struggles are not uncommon and that others have walked this same road.  

I am so blessed to look across the span of my life and see how God continues to use the body of Christ from so many seasons of my life to minister to me, even from the other side of the world.  Blessings!  Christy

I'm So Excited!

Our crate is coming today!  At least that's what the nice truck driver who called us last night to tell us that he is on the way and he'd see us tomorrow said.   And so, I'm choosing to believe it.  I'm so excited.  I thought I'd take a minute and make a list of all of the things that I'm so excited about doing when it arrives, though I'm not sure where I'll start.  So, here they are in no particular order...

1.  Sharpen pencils, lots and lots of pencils so that I will no longer hear my children fighting over the one pencil that actually works today.  Oh, quality pencil sharpener, how I've missed thee!  We've broken no less than 5 of the plastic handheld ones since we got here.
2.   Dry clothes.  In a dryer!
3.  Make something that includes parmesan cheese in the ingredients and not feel like I have to skimp on the amount.  Just once, then I'll go back to skimping.
4.  Wash my hands with Bath and Body Works hand soap, which was one of my decadent inclusions.  But, I caught a bunch of it on sale around the 4th of July, so I loaded up.  And yes, for your information, I did pack that crate around the 4th of July.
5.  Make something with my long-lost Kitchenaid mixer!
6.  Eat a big ole handful of almonds.
7.  Throw away ALL of my boy's existing socks which are too disgusting for words and replace them with some of the dozens of pairs that are on there.
8.  Write notes on post-it notes and not feel like I have to ration them.
9.  Use a brand new Expo marker for Math lessons,  one that actually writes.
10.  Hopefully I'll bake a loaf of pumpkin bread.  I'm really hoping that I remembered to put pumpkin on there.  I'm a little worried that I forgot.  After all, who thinks about pumpkin at the 4th of July?

Okay, that's enough for now.  I'm so stinkin' excited!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Butterflies and Rainbows

I guess that's what I've been waiting for... butterflies and rainbows.  I haven't been posting because, I've been trying to go with Thumper's mentality that if you can't say nuttin' nice, you shouldn't say nuttin' at all.  And I haven't had much to say that's nice.  I've been waiting for the butterflies and rainbows to come along.  I'm pretty much becoming convinced that I might have to wait awhile.  I'm not seeing any on the horizon.  Nor any puppies, unicorns, or smiley faced sunshines.

I don't want to be a Negative Nellie, but we are having a really hard time.  Some of it is our circumstances.  We generally feel as though we're facing a mountain with getting our crate released.  Not to mention we've had a continual stream of issues with having functioning water and electricity.  Lump all of that with the fact that this is still a very new, different, and difficult culture and we're barely treading water.  How can this be when we're four months into this journey?   I think that we're at the point where the novelty has worn off, but the normalcy has not yet kicked in.

Though our circumstances are tough, the reality is that our emotions are tougher.  My faith is being stretched in ways that I never dreamed it would be.  I guess I thought I would give up all of the things that I loved about America and I would come here and I would rescue the dying and bring light to the darkness and leap small buildings in a single bound, and it would be worth it.  But the truth is, I'm not.  I'm barely learning what should be a simple language, one verb and noun at a time.  I'm barely keeping the clothes washed and my family fed and my head above water.  Our only Nigerian friends are the people we pay and their extended circle.  Because of the circumstances in our city and country, we have no opportunity to travel and we even feel the need to be extremely cautious in our own city.  We feel a total loss of independence.  It's like we went from being the big man on campus to being preschoolers.  And we're seeing almost nothing that looks like ministry.

Every day I get up and I have the fleeting thought that if I could go back two years and do it all over, I wouldn't have put the "for sale" sign in the yard.  I would have said, "No!"  I look back and I see that I was in a place where I had an effective ministry.  I had a circle of influence that made a difference.  We had a home, a job, a church, a life that we loved.  And every single day that I'm here, I honestly wonder if I'll ever wake up and like it or even not hate it.

Sounds awful, doesn't it?  I know that if I were reading this post, it would sound awful to me.  Trust me, I'm not content with being discontent.  I'm digging into God's word.  I'm reading books like Absolute Surrender and Dangerous Surrender and My Utmost for His Highest.  I'm looking at the life of the Apostle Paul and I'm desperately wanting to be willing to give it all for Jesus.  I don't want to be a cost counter.  I don't.  I want to be content.  But I'm not sure how to get my little American dream oriented brain to embrace the biblical reality that, "in this world you will have trouble."

Yet, I know this.  So much of what I'm dealing with is the fact that I am having to die to myself.  And it is painful.  I'm having to surrender and it hurts.  I thought I surrendered when I sold our home, our possessions, left our church, and took those five precious grandchildren from the arms of their grandparents and boarded the plane.  I thought that the deal was done.  But what I'm finding that was only the beginning.  Every single day, it seems as though I'm having to surrender again and this time, the things the Lord is requiring of me seem so much more painful than the items that were in those yard sale piles.

I don't understand it all.  This morning, in the midst of a major meltdown I looked at my husband and I said, "I don't understand why God picked me.  I have friends who love Jesus and are doing remarkable things for him, but they get to live in houses in America that have electricity and climate control and dishwashers, and they have mini-vans that they can get into and drive to Chik-fil-A and Target.  Their children have friends and they get to go to a church that they love.  Why did God pick us?"  The poor man, what do you say to that?

I've been wrestling with God about all of it.  I have been pouring out my heart to him and begging him to change mine.  I've been getting up every morning and I've been putting one foot in front of the other.  I've been doing the next thing, even if the next thing is only starting a load of laundry or sending an e-mail or listening to my language phrases.  And I've decided that for now, that's all I know to do.  We know God called us here.  We are not here by any of our own dreams or manipulation.  We were clearly called.  To leave would be disobedience.  We don't understand what God is doing.  We do not understand why our friends who shipped a crate to our country from America after ours had already arrived at the port here got their items weeks ago and we're still waiting.  We don't understand why the switch on our water pump has broken 4 times.  Or the tile on our counter tops has had to be repaired 3 times in 2 weeks.  Or why our generator only works about half of the time.  Or why nearly every child that one of my children has hit it off with is on their way out of this country in the coming months.  I don't understand.

But, God is on his throne.  And for whatever reason we've gotten a baptism by fire in many, many ways.  I don't like it.  I don't have to.  But, I do have a choice to make about how to respond to it.  And I am trying with everything that is in me to respond with obedience.  I am trusting that God will take my pathetic offerings and do with them what he will.  I have taken comfort in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3 when they make a difficult decision about obedience .  When they are faced with the decision to do the easy thing and find safety and comfort or do that which they know is right, even though it will cause them distress, they respond with these beautiful words...

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Man, those words..."even if he does not," are words that I am clinging to right now.  I am trusting that he will bring us out of this season of darkness into a place where we can clearly see his hand and his light, a place of fruitfulness and wholeness.  But, even in my meltdowns and my tantrums, even on my darkest days, I whisper these words to myself.  "even if he does not."  I am consciously choosing to be as faithful as I know how to be..."even if he does not."

Anyway, I probably shouldn't be being this transparent.  This probably isn't in the manual of ways to mobilize your prayer partners.  But I don't have any butterflies and rainbows to talk about, so I guess I'll just tell the truth.  We need your prayers.  We need the wisdom, courage, perseverance, and encouragement that comes from the body of Christ.  Thanks so much for all of the lovely notes and words and prayers you've lifted up for us.  Keep them coming, we're not out of the woods yet!