Saturday, November 28, 2009

Knee Deep in Paperwork

I had no idea how much paperwork it took to become a missionary.  In some imaginary land I believed you woke up one day, told God yes you'd go wherever he wanted to send, and the next you left.  Boy did I have it wrong!

First the initial application - it was relatively short and easy.  It was our first opportunity to tell the administrators of our sending agency that we wanted to go.  It was all about the exciting pieces of being called to missions.  It was fun.

Then came the next phase of paperwork - a little more detailed and a lot more questions.  Because we are working with an interdenominational organization we had to answer questions related to theology and scripture.  Make me think do I really know what I believe.  Then we had to come up with 7 references each (no duplicates) related to all the different aspects of our lives - work, family, friends, ministry, and more.  Best part of that phase was that we got to stop and realize how blessed we are with friends and coworkers who support our desire to be missionaries and who walk in the same faith that we share.

Then we waited.  Then all of a sudden the wheels began to turn and have turned in fast pace since then.  And to prove it, the paperwork has come in faster than we can finish it.  There is the application phase 2 - a chance to tell SEND about every aspect of our life, including writing an autobiography.  So how detailed am I supposed to be?  I wonder if they really want to know that I rode my bike to school as an elementary aged student and that my first car was a Ford Pinto?  Then the health questions came.  You wouldn't believe some of the questions they ask.  I know they are all for our good, but I do not remember how old I was when I had the chicken pox and where do you look for childhood immunization records when you are 44 (I have learned you can call the school system where you graduated from high school and they will have a copy)?  I am doing much better at completing the health forms for Alex - he's only 11 so my memory doesn't have to be as good.  Pray for us as we dig out all the answers.

Then there is the prayer card.  We need a family portrait. We have been discussing family pictures for six months - guess now it is time to actually to do it.  I am thinking white shirts with either black pants or blue jeans.  Something casual - now on to the location.  Any suggestions?

Orientation is in January and since we have almost finished the pile of paperwork we have now, they sent us some more.  Spiritual gift surveys and personality surveys and more.  When we finish the paperwork I will know more about myself than I ever did.

But the exciting part of the process has been that as I have had to figure out all these answers we have reminisced about forgotten memories.  Made me think of friends I have lost contact with (and even took time out to look up a few) and made me stop and tell the kids some stories of their childhoods.  I guess I'll have to add all the paperwork to my list of things I'll choose to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Praise and Prayer

We want to give praise to God for:
  • Being a God who is trustworthy, faithful, loving, purposeful, caring, merciful, full of grace, forgiving, my stronghold, my protector, and more.
  • Knowing all - what happened yesterday, is happening today, and will happen tomorrow
  • Giving life - not just a life of breathing and heart beats, but a full life - one that is able to enjoy every moment
  • Fall - the colors of fall give such a beautiful picture of God's creativity - not a boring, stone god, but one who is the creator of beauty.
  • His plan - He could have chosen to save the world without the "help" of man, but instead he has allowed us, ME, to be a part of the blessing of seeing men and women, boys and girls, begin their relationship with Him.  There is nothing more exciting!
  • Tears - I don't particularly like to be sad and shed the tears, but imagine life without emotions.  Oh what we would miss!
We ask you to join us in asking God for:
  • Direction - we are making lots of decisions quickly.  Pray that we hear God's direction in every decision we make.
  • House - our desire is for the house to sell today (alright, its 8:00 at night, so it isn't going to sell today, but tomorrow would be ok).  Pray that it sells quickly and for the right price.  We are specifically asking that God sell the house so that by the time we go to Candidate Orientation Program in January the house is sold and we are moving. 
  • Finances - pray that we will be committed to looking at tomorrow and not today with every financial decision we make.  Keep us focused on the long term goals and not the rewards of today.
  • Paperwork - we have lots of paperwork to complete over the next two weeks.  Pray for time to complete the paperwork, answers to be clear, and for SEND personnel to read them and hear our hearts, even if the words aren't right.
  • Home Visit - we have scheduled our home visit for December 10.   Pray for the safe travel of the SEND interviewer and for the time we will spend visiting in our home. 
Thank you for your support and friendship; this is definitely a group journey!

Field Trip

I took a field trip Wednesday to Siloam Missionary Homes (  It is a retreat center that provides homes for missionaries while they home for either medical visits or stateside stays.  It is located on a beautiful piece of property in Snow Camp, North Carolina (a little community outside Burlington).  The homes have all been built with donated money, materials, and labor.  The homes are beautifully decorated and are a variety of sizes.  They are provided for minimal rent charges.  The field trip opened my eyes to new ministry opportunities, but even more to the realities that we have surrendered our lives to.

We watched a video promoting the homes that pointed out the needs of missionaries.  Realities that I knew in my head, but had not really totally considered.  I knew we would sell our house and our worldly goods and move to some other country, but what were we to do in four years when we come home on furlough?  Live with my parents for a year?  Who is going to rent an apartment to Americans who have not been in the country for four years who have no employment?  Not to mention, how are we going to afford the average cost of an apartment?

What about when we are too old to continue to serve on the mission field?  No house to sell to allow us to move into some type of retirement home.  Will we live with our children and their families at this point? 

I know that God is going to provide for those needs, but the reality is big.  Each day I learn a little more about all that I have surrendered.  The journey is exciting, but along the way there are many road signs.  Pray that as we continue on this journey we keep our eyes on the prize - obedience to God and an opportunity to impact at least one person's life for Christ.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crossing the Finish Line

I did it!  I not only finished my first 5K race, I wasn't the last person to cross the finish line.  And to make it even better, I was still running when I reached the finish line!  Anyone need proof that miracles still happen? This is a big one.

I started in the spring doing the Couch Potato to 5K program. (  It is suppsoed to be a 9 week program that is interval training.  Well, it took me a little longer than 9 weeks to finish the program, but I stuck with it and I finished the program and the race.  Now I still can't run as fast as the program trains you for and I am definitely better at flat land that hills, but I finished.

It felt good to finish something physical.  I am so not athletic!  I have always throught I would like to run, but I have a great aversion to sweating, but this was worth it.

Now on to the next race - I am running in the Gobbler on Thanksgiving morning with Hannah (Scott and Alex did the race yesterday too).  It isn't quite as flat, but am excited anyhow. 

Anyone wanna join me?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm NOT in Control!!!

I am a planner.  I like to know what I am going to do today, tomorrow, and hopefully next week too.  I like to have check lists and I like to see things checked off each day.  I like to have lots of things going at once because you can almost always see progress in at least one of the projects at all time.  I like black and white and no shades of gray.  I am not a visionary but instead I am an implementer.  You dream it and I'll get it done. 

I am usually good at making decisions because I'll search until I know the answers to all the questions.  I research it, make lists, and can usually come to a good decision.  I can handle major projects with little notice, just give me a pad and let me make a list of what we need to accomplish.  I especially like it when everyone wants to follow my list in my order.

There is a big problem with all of the things above.  Almost every sentence started with "I."  I can do all that in my power.  As long as I have control I can do pretty good.  But guess what.  Very little of life is done my way with my being in control.  So what do I do with the remainder of my life where I am not in control?  The majority of my life?  What do I do when I know that what is happening to me is totally out of my control?

My first response is to grab a big piece of gooey chocolate dessert and a great chic flick and hide on the couch as if life isn't happening.  My next response is to panic and try to regain control.  Eventually I often even hit meltdown (and I'll spare you the details of how that looks).  But you know, when all this is done I am still not in control.

So if I'm not in control, then who is?  God is!  Nothing in my life surprises him!  Nothing in my life is out of His control.  He doesn't even need my help or even one of my lists.  He can handle my life (and yours) all by himself.  But the question is, will I let him?  Why do I fight it so much?  I never win.  Why can't I just let him have it from the beginning? I'd save myself (and all those around me) a lot of grief and torture.  I wonder what it will take for me to decide from the beginning to let Him be in contol instead of me. 

My first step is to decide that I trust Him enough with my life to let Him be in control.  My needing to control him is a symptom of not trusting.  Ouch!  Letting go of control is where the rubber hits the road - my faith hits life.  Do I (or do you) trust Him with your life totally and completely that I don't need to be in control anymore?

My second step is time in prayer.  One day I pray that I master letting go without the temper tantrums of a toddler, but to get there I'm going to have to spend a lot of time with God, letting Him remind me time after time that He is trustworthy.  If I just stop planning (and list making) and listen, God will show me His plan and His list.  He doesn't need my help, but I have to be quiet and still to hear it from Him.

Thirdly I need to memorize scripture that reminds me He knows every detail of my life - the number of hairs on my head, whether I am standing or sitting, the thoughts of my mind, ... If he knows the whole picture (more than I could ever know) doesn't it make sense He makes a better "driver" in my life than I do?  But when Satan starts to whisper those lies in my ear about God needing my help I need scripture to remind me that God is doing just fine without my help.

How about you?  Are you still in control?  Are you just trying to help God out a little?  Guess what - He doesn't need your help anymore than He needs my help.  I pray that you and I both get it - we cannot be in control of our lives.  It just doesn't work and when we try it is definitely a lot of useless work.  I pray that today and tomorrow and the tomorrows that are coming I will be ready to move out of the way and let God be in charge.  I'll still make lists and I'll still try to organize everything and everyone, but the difference is that God will direct my lists and organizing and timing and plans and more.  We are in for the "ride of a lifetime" and my God is trustworthy of directing the ride!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Send International

Wow!  Go from no posts to three posts in two days...lots of catching up to do.

After a lot of searching and praying and investigating and questioning and etc we began the application process with Send International.  I invite you to wander through their website and learn about them.  They are a smaller sending agency with the focus of church planting through discipleship.  They are much smaller than the IMB and therefore they are in fewer countries.  Their primary focus is Europe, Asia, and Canada. 

Because of their size they are able to make more individualized decisions which is a plus for our family.  They have missionaries serving in their organization from all over the world.

They are a faith based organization which is stretching our faith.  As we work through the process we will begin to raise our own support.  We are learning a lot about faith and obedience.

Pray for us as we work through the process - things seem to be moving quickly right now - so watch for updates in the near future.

SEND International

Days in the Desert

When I think of a desert I think of dry, parched land.  I picture scenes from movies where the character is alone and dragging themselves across the sand and searching for water or people.  They are usually searching for someone to rescue them from dying in the desert.

The only description I can find for the past months is that of a walk in a vast desert.  It has been lonely at times and dry and seems to go on forever.  There seemed to be  no one to rescue from the desert, no one to offer a drink of water.

Now let me be careful to say that this wasn't a lonely walk because people weren't around, but instead because it was a journey that I needed to take with God.  People around me were encouraging and asked to pray for us.  People were in that desert with me, but the walk God had planned wasn't one of fellowship with others, but fellowship with Him.

He intended to teach  me that He was the sole author of the plan for my life.  He was the water that quenched my thirst and the director of my paths.  Because we  reached a no in the journey didn't mean He had changed.  He needed my attention to teach me some things.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in the desert was that God was trustworthy and that He still speaks.  I learned that I needed to first run to God and trust that He would answer my prayers and show me the way.  I had the formula backwards - God will speak and he will use circumstances and people to confirm His speaking.  I tended to listen to people and circumstances and beg God to confirm what they were saying to me.  Dangerous ground to tread on.

It took not sharing a lot of things with people and focusing on listening to God, but I can tell you that He will speak when we choose to listen.  He will make His way clear.  He is trustworthy.

Would I chose to intentionally wander for 10 months in a desert?  Absolutely not - I prefer cool weather and lots of fellowship.  Would I trade the lessons I have learned in the last 10 months.  Definitely not!  I have found a friend who so greatly desires to rescue me from a dry desert and lead me beside still waters!

The Wheels are Turning

It's been about ten months since I wrote and now I don't know where to begin. I have known that it was time to resume the telling of this journey but couldn't figure out how to condense the last ten months into a single post so I kept postponing. Finally decided today to just begin to tell the journey and fill in the blanks as I go along. I'll try to not write books with each post, but good luck in catching up with this roller coaster ride.

When we last talked, the IMB told us that we were not a fit for their organization. They recommended we wait at least three years, let Scott get a seminary degree, and we no longer have teenagers in the house. What a blow! We knew that God had placed the call of missions on our life, yet we were being told no.

Ten months later the emotions still rise quickly to the surface as I think of those days. We argued with God, with man and with each other. We searched to hear what God was telling us through man. How could we know so confidently that we had heard from God yet hit a solid wall in the progress? What did God want us to learn. When the emotions calmed down we searched and begged God to show us His plan. Over the next few posts I'll tell you about the many lessons we learned, but the first thing I have to tell you is that we learned that God was still God. His plan had not changed. His love for us had not changed. His call on our life had not changed. And most importantly - He didn't leave us when we heard the answer no.

God is God, no matter what. No matter what man says, God will be God. God will use everything to accomplish His plan. God's plan can not be thwarted. God will reign over everything. God was not surprised with the IMB answer and God used it to shape us a little more into the people we need to be for His perfect plan.

In some ways I would describe the last ten months as standing still, but as the wheels have begun to turn again, I realize that we have never stopped moving, just not at my preferred pace. So hold on and join me for the ride of a lifetime. I can promise you it is full of curves and hills and the speed will vary from moment to moment. But even more, I can promise you that God has a lot to teach me (and maybe you).