Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Being Process Oriented

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I tend to be more focused on the goal than the process. This is usually OK. My profession involves pushing people and materials toward goals that they don't necessarily share with myself. I have to be careful that I don't become focused on the goal to the exclusion of considering the means, but being goal oriented is not normally a bad thing for me.
God is so much more process oriented than goal oriented. At this time of year, Christmas and the birth of Jesus are at the forefront of our conversations. If God was goal oriented He would have installed a fully adult Jesus as an earthly King of the World. He could sit on His throne and solve the problems of anyone He deems worthy. It really would have cut out a lot of the messy parts of the story! Instead God comes to earth as man, born of a virgin. He spends years growing to adulthood. Then He starts working with a whole group of unreliable people. (Your going to build your church on PETER???) A few years later Jesus allows Himself to be hung on a cross and crucified. What kind of process requires the protagonist to die? Any man looks at this process and sees madness. What goal could God possibly be headed towards?
God doesn't want us to be quite so goal oriented. That's His job. Our job is to wait patiently for His will to be revealed to us. Our job is to be certain that we remain in His will. My biggest problem is that I'm a very inconsistent Christian at this point in my life. I know that I want to be in God's will. Every once in a while I get goal oriented again and I want to start driving the process towards my goal. Notice I said MY goal. Whenever I take the wheel it's to be MY goal. It's not God's. God's process sometimes seems messy. It very often seems headed towards goals that are, shall we say, sub-optimum. But only the driver really knows where we are going and how we are to get there. Even though it sometimes seems like we are careening out of control down a one-way street I need to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
We have been very goal oriented lately as we fill out our medical forms and schedule interviews, etc. If I had my way, we would spend 48 hours immersed in the application process and the IMB would render a decision and we would go on with our lives as missionaries or not. Thank God for Christian brothers. Tim Judy reminded me today to enjoy the process and stop focusing quite so much on the goal. God doesn't want us to just float with the wind as even He has a plan in which we are invited to participate. But He does want us to let go of the planning.
I suspect that God has a very full slate of concepts that I need to learn in the next year. I am so thankful that teaching me is not my responsibility! I am impatient for the process to move along. I've made the decision to give up anything and everything if that is what I'm called to do. Now I am learning that control of the destination is part of what I'm giving up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hannah's Beginning

This has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! There have been some hard days here and there. I am ready to go out and tell everybody I meet that I might have an opportunity to live out my dream as a teenager! This is what I want to do with the rest of my life so why not start now. I have always had the dream to live in South America so at first the thought of going to Ukraine was hard and I really wanted to go somewhere that the people spoke Spanish, but now I am fine going anywhere. It has been really hard trying not to have the mindset of this is the last everything, especially Christmas. No one understood why I was making such a big deal about Christmas this year and I wanted to tell them so bad. Overall this is an experience that I am glad I am having whether we go or not.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Christmas has had a different feel to it this year.  We committed to spending less and doing the holiday on a smaller scale.  Every gift we give is filtered through the idea that we might be leaving the country and don't need any more junk.  We are decluttering our lives and don't want to add to it.   The kids were happy with what they got and never thought twice about why it was smaller.  Maybe the need for the hype is more on the parents part than the kids?

Every piece of the Christmas tradition at my house has been experienced through joy and tears.  I have tried to be sure I didn't miss anything, because who knows - this may be our last Christmas here in the states with family around.  In a "down" moment a co-worker said to me earlier this week "who knows, you may still be here next Christmas."  But I responded, but what if I'm not and I missed doing something this year.

Then I stopped and thought.  Why does it matter if this is the last Christmas here or not?  No one has the guaranttee of tomorrow - not here in the states nor in some foreign country.  No guarantee of another Christmas or for that matter, no guarantee of another day.  Why am I not living every day as if today could my last?

Am I taking time to cherish every moment?  Am I loving every one around me as if today may be the last time they see me?  Am I leaving everything in a condition that would be pleasing if I never returned?  

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matt 24:36).  Am I keeping watch or am I trusting in a tomorrow?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The To Do Lists

The focus of this journey can so easily become about the process instead of the call.  I know that the process is necessary and I do appreciate that the IMB is so meticulous in its screening of candidates, but at the same time I want to just yell "let me go!"  Of course, I must also say that I recommend not doing the process at the Christmas season.  How crazy is it to try to prepare a house to sell at Christmas?

One of the first decisions we had to make was that we were more in love with our God than our stuff.  For the most part we have let go of our stuff, but there are still occasionally those things that we thought we would have forever that bring tears.  Sometimes there are even outright full crying fits, especially when it comes to our carpet - the object of the majority of my tears.  I asked for carpet for 5 years and finally got it - just so that I can give it away.  We had to replace the carpet to prepare the house to sell.  I know, crazy, but the process does crazy things to you.

The forms and required information are overwhelming.  There are 5 health questionnaires, 2 educational reviews, 2 MMPIs, 5 dental forms, and an interview looming in the future.  Hours every night to try to gather it.  And just exactly where do you go to find an immunization record for a 45 year old man who was born in Egypt and then moved to NC at age 1?  Again, I know it is necessary - but why can't it just go faster?

And of course the house is for sale.  We got 15 minutes notice last Saturday that it was going to be shown and I of course had four loads of laundry on the floor and Christmas baking covering the kitchen.  We ran like madmen around only to find it was just a realtor previewing it or a family who is moving here in the spring and it was have been OK to just straighten up the kitchen and not ruin a batch of goodies.  Because the economy is so slow right now we have given the realtor permission to show the house at any time, even if they can't get in touch with us so it has to be in showing condition every time we walk out the door.  My prayer is that the house sell soon.  

The process also changes how you look at things around you.  I know God requires of to be faithful to the end of one journey, even as he is moving us to a new path, but it is hard.  There is so much excitement and to do lists that it is difficult to not "check out" of this life.  My frustration with my coworkers is at top level and at times I just want to walk out today.  Christmas is in a week and I'd be ok to just skip the things and spend time with family.  But Christmas is still going on for others. For example, we had dirty Santa at the staff party.  It was hard to be excited about any of the things knowing that hopefully in a few months we will be doing away with things.  But it is also an emotional roller coaster, because although I didn't want any of the stuff, I really wanted a musical duck.  (and my dear friends made sure I got one later)  So I cried over bringing home "junk" and cried about not bringing home "junk."  What a roller coaster!

What have I learned from all this?  Follow Jesus.  Sounds simple, but it surely isn't.  First lesson I have learned in regards to following Jesus is be sure you are following Jesus and not man.  Every person's journey is going to be different.  I must be sure that I am first listening to Christ and his commands and filtering others advice through what he is saying to me.  I am not saying do not listen to the wisdom of others, but also be sure that I am first hearing from God.

Second, follow Christ's example.  At the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose to get away from the disciples and spend time alone with God.  He left the busyness and the people to spend time just with God.  If it was necessary for Jesus, how much more necessary it is for me?  I am a people person and would spend every moment with crowds if possible, but it isn't good for me.  I must remember through this whole process to stop and spend time alone, not just my quiet time, but more.  How can I truly follow Jesus if I don't stop to hear him?

I would pray that the process would end quickly, but the journey is worth the struggles.  Oh how I yearn to be found faithful on this journey, even in the process of "to do lists."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The House

The house goes on the market in 48 hours! We are still very early in the application process but have determined that regardless where the IMB process takes us, we will sell our house and get 100% out of debt. We will then decide where life takes us. This is a lot of work. I have discovered that we have way too much stuff that we never use. What a waste it is that we have allowed our material things to accumulate this way. May we be better stewards with every penny we have not only through this process, but after - regardless where we land.

With the listing of the house comes a whole new set of issues. We are praying specifically that the house will sell this month and we can move on from this step - but wait, we don't have anywhere to move. We have no plan if the house sells immediately, but know that God has one. (If you are reading this some time long after the date of this process you need to remember we are listing our house for sale in the month of December right after the housing market totally fell apart - according to the realtor there are almost as many houses for sale that are either in foreclosure or close to it as there are houses for sale for other reasons. It is not the ideal time to be selling).

The realtor said to get it ready for showing we needed to replace the upstairs carpet and declutter. Carpet is set to be replaced Monday - for the past three years I have talked about replacing it, and now we are replacing it for someone else. Isn't life just odd sometimes? As for the clutter - the amount is ridiculous. For awhile I packed pondering each item as to where we might end up and if we would need it. The reality of the whole process became more and more real with each item that we packed up. Oh so many tears were shed. Now, I have a deadline and we are just packing.

I know the first time I drive up to a For Sale sign in the front yard will be hard. It's not that I am attached to the house, it is a reminder of what lies ahead. At times I can hardly wait, and at other times I begin to focus on the things in my life and I am sad. The lesson I am learning today is that I truly have to decide what drives my heart, is it a love for God or a love for people and things. I guess that is a battle that I will face for a long time.

With the sign also comes the public knowing we are moving. Scott says I should never play poker because I can't hide anything! We are trying to not tell the whole world that we have applied (we are still very early in the process), yet it is all over my face when someone wants to know why we are selling. I am trying to be wise in the process, but at times I'd like to throw all caution to the wind and tell the whole world. Guess I am also learning (sometimes the hard way) to let God control my mouth. Our pray is that we never lie to anyone in the process and yet we also use wisdom in our answers. That may be harder than selling all our wares and moving to a foreign country.

If you are reading this as it is posted, I ask that you join us in prayer for the sale of the house. Our prayer is that it is quick and the price is right. When we started the process I would have told you that if God wanted us to go to the mission field he would sell the house quickly, I would have seen it as a fleece. No longer, he has so confirmed that we are hearing what he wants us to do today that instead I look at the sale of the house as an indication of his time table and blessing on the commitment to become debt free. I don't need the fleece, I know that today I am sitting in the middle of his outstretched arms and sincerely pray that I remain there. There is no better place to be!

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Beginning-Scott

I was raised in a Methodist Church in Jacksonville, NC. I wouldn't say that we were very active in missions, although we heard the occasional missionary story and gave to UNICEF every year. it was really something that other people did.

After coming to Cornerstone, I began hearing more about missions and it was from the point of view of people who were actually planning on Doing. For several years missions was still something that other people did.

Our family participated in a construction/VBS mission trip to Maine with Cornerstone. I wasn't completely sure that this missions thing was for me but I was willing to go along. I loved the trip and ministering to Christians needing love and support in Maine.

I later felt a call to participate in a planned mission trip to India. This trip was canceled due to the tsunami of 2004. I eventually began to discuss going on a mission trip to Ukraine with Marsha Judy. I had no idea what I had obligated myself for. The trip was a conference for pastors in Ukraine and the surrounding areas. The goal was to encourage and uplift the pastors so that they would be rejuvenated for service in their own ministries. I thought I had volunteered for some sort of background or support role. Before I knew it, I was "preaching". Marsha has a knack of getting people to do things that they don't believe themselves capable of doing.

God blessed me through our Ukraine mission trip and I was changed in ways that I didn't quite yet understand. Over the next year or so I began to understand that I was experiencing a call to full time missions. I was still a very immature person and Christian. I wasn't really ready to go at that point but God knew His timing. Cindy really wasn't ready at that point either.

Cindy and I have joked about the idea of going to the mission field for a couple of years, but I don't think she really took me seriously. I eventually understood that this was a calling experienced by a couple and that she couldn't or shouldn't be rushed into it by me. I was convicted to wait for God's time for her. In October 2008 we took a family vacation to Myrtle Beach and the subject of missions came up. I said something about going and Cindy realized for the first time that I was serious. The next 24 hours was a blur for both of us as we began to seriously consider making the idea become reality.

We committed to pray about the idea for a month. It took about two weeks for us to realize that we really had been called and it was time to do something about it. The month since then has been a blur. The idea has gone from abstract to concrete. We are now trying to get our house ready to sell. We are listing our possessions for sale. We are considering who we need to tell now and who we should wait to tell. (If you are a friend reading this and you weren't one of the first ones we told, please don't take it personally! We know you all love us. We are sometimes concerned about our employment situations and how this knowledge might affect our jobs.)

God has been very good to me. He has held my hand and comforted me throughout this process. I'd like to say I never had any doubts, but that would be a lie. I've worried about how I would take care of my family. I've worried about how past sins might affect my ministry in the future. I've worried that I'm not going to be "good at it". I've even worried about some of the things I knew I was going to have to give up. But mostly I've been filled with joy at the prospects of serving God with my life. I am beginning to feel a fulfillment that I've never known before.