"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, His wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:23-30

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reluctance

It's been almost three weeks since my husband announced to our church that we are leaving them. Perhaps that sounds like a negative way of talking about accepting a new call but it is the truth. I did not want to go to church the day of his announcement. I felt sick over it and I couldn't bear to be sitting there with eyes on me while he made it. But I knew I couldn't leave my husband without family support that day so I prayed, earnestly, that the Lord would help.

When I arrived at church it was easy at first. He wasn't supposed to be making his announcement for another week yet so no one knew he was making it. My heart pounded in my chest. Lord, are we insane?! It must be something like standing at the door of an airplane right before a sky diver jumps. We have to be mad. I gathered my boys and we walked though the narthex when suddenly I realized someone was in our pew! Bother. Any good Lutheran knows a pew is sacred space, now we would be sitting somewhere awkward on such a big day. My eyes darted trying to figure out where to sit when I realized there was something familiar about the heads in our pew. The couple stood up and turned around and I gasped, it was my husband's aunt and uncle! Words can't convey how my heart swelled. I absolutely adore these two people, from the moment I joined the family they have shown me such warmth and unconditional love. I asked them how they knew and what they were doing here (they live over an hour away and a visit was not planned) and her eyes teared up and she said, "We didn't, he just told us what is happening today, we were in town yesterday for business and stayed the night and decided to come to church here this morning." I hugged her.

We took our seats and before I could think my husband was coming out and stepping down amidst the congregation. I swore I wouldn't cry but my eyes began to sting hot. His voice took on a shaky edge as he made a few other announcements and I saw some eyes look curiously at me wondering why he seemed that way. Then he took a deep breath and said he had another big announcement to make. Every eye locked on him and I saw people stiffen. I don't remember the words he said, it all just blurred at that point, but as my aunt put her arm around me and began silently crying, it was all I could do to not fall apart as the tears streamed down my face. To say there was an audible gasp when he announced he had actually accepted a call across the world would be an understatement. How could a pastor with 5 young children leave a booming, proud LCMS church that boasts a 4K-8 school with a waiting list a mile long? How could he go to perils unknown and sell everything he owns? How could he leave family and friends and the ability to communicate and go to a place where he will not only start over with relationships but even in the ability to speak? Members began streaming out of the church into the restrooms and hallways to cry and console each other. I wished then that the announcements were after church instead of before. But as he closed his announcement he said that now we would draw near to the Lord for comfort as He gives us Himself in His Word and Sacraments and draws us, as always, to the entire church around the world and the church triumphant.

It's been three weeks since that day. But it feels like an eternity. I once read a book titled "The Reluctant Companion" about a pastor's wife who ended up a missionary's wife when her husband's first call out of seminary was overseas to Africa. To say I'm reluctant at this point sounds like a paradox. Didn't we agree to this? Didn't we pray about it for months? Yes. But it's quite a different thing to dream about adventures afar and then to wake up and realize it's no longer a dream. We are committed. There is no turning back. For months we romanticized and talked to our families feeling quite proud of what WE were willing to do to serve the church and then we woke up on the other side of his announcement and realized how very weak we are. It is the Lord who will do this, not us. This is our comfort. And so every day we wake up to our new reality and try to find the strength to begin the months of preparation for deployment.

Last night as we prepared for bed, my husband read a sermon aloud from Reverend David Petersen's Advent and Christmas sermons. Anyone who is familiar with Pr. Petersen's sermons knows the powerful preacher he is. The law in his sermons strikes hard and swift like a hard slap on the face, but his Gospel rains over like a torrential warm spring downpour. Last night I was shocked to hear Gospel from beginning to end. I know there was law because Pr. Petersen does not preach sermons without law (for it is the law that shows us our need for a Savior), but the Gospel was so strong and so comforting, and perhaps I needed it so badly, that I soaked in its glory from beginning to end. He spoke on love, on God's plan of salvation from the garden through the incarnation, and God's intimate way He draws us, not as a God that forces Himself on us and forces adoration, but as a God that so desires us to delight in Him that He draws us tenderly, affectionately, as a groom draws his new bride tenderly to himself.

My husband and I spoke in hushed voices. God has most assuredly drawn us to this, and where He draws, He loves: tenderly, completely. Christ is bigger than all of this and His love for our current church far exceeds our love for them. He will show us how deeply He loves when He continues to provide for them during this very unexpected departure and when He continues to provide for us during this curveball we never, ever, expected. My husband and I laughed last night about how we don't even like to try new restaurants. Or really go to new places. We prefer to vacation by visiting our families. But God's calls rarely make human sense. What matters is that God has called, and where He calls, He equips. May He equip us to this service with love and humility.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

A new adventure

This morning my children and I took the pew at the early service and listened with tears as my husband announced that he has accepted the call to serve in Africa as a missionary. The tears were tears of sadness for the dear ones we leave behind, tears of uncertainty of what lies ahead, but tears of joy that the Lord calls those whom He loves. We have the Lord's love, Christ be praised. May His good work and will be done in us as we follow where He leads. Lord keep us your servants ever in your care. Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2015

It's all an illusion.

Pain and loss, disease and war, none of these are laughing matters. None of these things are creations of our Lord, none of them exist in creation as He intended.

So, today, as I see the headlines of America going crazy on "black Friday", my heart may be sad for the brokenness, but it is not afraid. To fear something means there is uncertainty in our outcome. But these are but birth pains, and all things are under the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mess is not a creation of our Lord Jesus, but all of creation is subject to Him, thanks be to God. So, there is no fear, because we are His.

Therefore, sometimes it helps to just turn off the news, put down the phones, and go build legos with the boys, or put your hands to something beautiful. He is coming soon. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Get that ball rolling

         In late spring the kids and I tagged along with Daddy to his pastor's conference. We love going along because it's a small free vacation, albeit without Daddy because he's in conference all day. The kids and I enjoy relaxing in the hotel and sometimes exploring local museums or kid centers. This hotel happened to have an indoor pool with floor to ceiling windows all along one wall that looked into the hallway directly outside the room where the pastors were all having the presentations. They often left the doors open into the hallway so that as I sat watching the kids (and holding my five month old), I could also peek into the conference room. And, when Daddy had breaks, he could wave into the pool and come in to see how we were.

It was during one of these breaks that he told me he was sitting next to one of his classmates from his DMin program at the seminary. This classmate happened to be deliberating a call, two actually (three if you count his then current call). One of them was to overseas missions. My husband was completely engrossed in this conversation and in hearing every detail of this classmate's application process and then contemplation. His classmate happened to be really struggling with his overseas call because he had gone through the months-long application process and, after all of that, how does one then turn down the call even if it is not right? But, as Adam talked about his friend's struggle, my husband was strangely excitable. I was too busy tending to 5 kids in a hotel to pay much attention so I listened to him go on about missions the entire conference, it was a fun break from normal kid conversation, to talk about adventures unknown while out of town.

We went home and life returned to normal, or so I thought, but that week is what I look back on as starting the ball rolling on this crazy adventure we've been on since that week in early spring. (Though, if I'm being honest, a lot longer than that because of all the people that had approached my husband about this over the past three to four years.)

Fast forward 7 months and my husband is currently deliberating a call to Africa. I won't give specifics here because this is a public blog, but this is an adventure I never in a million years would have ever, and I mean EVER, pegged for myself.

This call is the hardest thing we have ever had to decide. It is downright heart wrenching to think of leaving our church, and the members have reciprocated the same feelings during this time of contemplation. And yet, we cannot ignore the ways God has worked during these months of talks with regional missions directors and the work God is doing in foreign lands. I see the gifts and talents my husband has, and I look at his two calls, and I find myself thinking I wish we could do two things at once!

We have been deliberating his two calls (the one we currently serve and the one overseas) for a little over a month already. Missions is being very patient with us and we have another two and a half weeks before we have to give our decision. We are hoping to have an answer before that because this deliberating stuff is like waiting to go into labor while 40 weeks...or..maybe it's like being STUCK in labor!! It needs to end. Will we continue to live our lives here in a beautiful city in America where life makes sense and we have more blessings than we could ever thank God enough for, or will we embark on the journey of a lifetime to perils unknown...with our 5 boys in tow? Lord have mercy and guide us!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Curve ball

   I had no idea what to name this post. I've been wanting to share why I left this blog for awhile but could not until a few weeks ago, and then I was not ready. I started to name this post "a year of growth" because that certainly defines what we have been through, but during these weeks of deliberation, it feels much more dramatic than that, the Lord threw us a curve ball we never expected.

Anyone who has read this blog long enough knows that after having four beautiful boys (and one child in heaven) in 6 years and living in five states, my husband and I were blessed with another child and lost her early in the second trimester. That began a year of losses, five in all, before the Lord blessed us again and we had a beautiful fifth son. Our fifth son was born October 30 of '14 and we rang in the new year enjoying our family and settling in to our new normal. Life felt good, my husband and I were both finally in our 30's and out of the "tumultuous 20s", and we started the new year off right by taking a Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom seminar.

Dave Ramsey changed our lives. For our first 10 years of marriage we thought we had a grip on finances. We used credit cards "responsibly", lived within our means, and put extra towards debt to get it paid down faster. And yet, we were ALWAYS IN DEBT. Every year we knew by July we would be sunk in credit card debt. Our tax return the following year was always to bail us out again before we began the march towards stacking up even more debt. See, we THOUGHT we used credit cards responsibly, but since we didn't have an emergency fund, we were always sunk in debt at the slightest unexpected expense. Dave Ramsey changed that. We had been avoiding him like the plague because we were worried about things we had heard. Dave Ramsey would never let us buy anything ever again and we would have to live like poor people. Except that wasn't true. And now for the first time in our lives we not only have the freedom to spend, but we have not had one ounce of credit card debt all year long. To top it off, we have an emergency fund with more savings than we ever knew possible.

So, we began the year feeling the glorious freedom that comes from a plan that WORKS to get rid of debt once and for all. We were feeling like adults, settling in for that stage in parenting that flows between family play time, school lessons, church, and meals around the table. These are the good years right? And then came our curve ball...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A tiny jewelry box

Two and a half years ago I found myself at Target one night thinking, for sure, everyone knew what creepy mission I was on. It felt like I was branded with a sign that read something like "incompetent" or "failure". I was there to find a box to bury my two inch long daughter in, the daughter my body had let go...the daughter my body was supposed to grow into a full sized baby and deliver safely to the font. But, of course, my body does the bidding of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And His will is perfect and beautiful even when my human heart wants so desperately for things to go my way. And so I wandered the aisles. The kitchen section? The storage section? Where on earth does one look? As I wandered around an end cap caught my eye...jewelry. Of course, a jewelry box. After all, my baby is a treasure.
My apple tree snowing delicate petals towards our babies' garden this spring. 

This past weekend my family all began to fall ill. We had unknowingly been exposed to an awful flu virus just as we were supposed to be preparing to go out of town and I was feeling pretty angry about it. I began praying, "Lord, please don't let..." before I could even get the selfish request out, I chided myself mentally. What is He? A God vending machine? Sigh. I wrestled with my thoughts as I hung up shirts on my husband's side of the closet. "Lord, I don't know what to pray. We can't get sick now...Lord, teach me how to pray. How should I pray?" I hung a few more shirts while the baby on my back kicked and grabbed at my hand. The baby on my back....I have a baby. I thought back over that awful year...Anastasia...Amadeus...Alleluia...Mercy....Noel...my Genesis (screen name only). Why did the Lord let him stay? Why after all those losses?

But look at all the good. I won't dare selfishly proclaim that I know why the Lord gave and received home those 5 children or pretend that those children going home have anything to do with a timeline that allowed other things in my life to play out as they have. God does not use children as pawns like that, they are just as important as my life or any other's. No, but He DOES work all things together for the good.

I tried my prayer again. "Lord, I really do not want to be ill right now. My family needs me. And I don't want my children or husband to be ill, we really need to get through this trip. But, Lord, you know all things, you know what is truly for our good. And if it is your will for me to be ill, please help me bear it with...endurance?....strength?...yes, and even thanksgiving and...(gulp) joy. Help me to remember that you are my Great Physician and, according to your will, lift us back up in due time and restore our health. Amen."

The baby on my back squealed and yanked on my hair while kicking me in my hip. "Yea, help me to tolerate that too, Lord," I laughed. And suddenly I thought back to my elementary school history lessons..."Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness..." I snorted. For the Christian, there is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness. It is a lie and it actually serves to steal our joy. If happiness is felt, it is something to give thanks for, but to set it as our focus and to pursue it ignores that life is not, and never has been, about pursuing happiness. I learned that the year I watched 5 babies go home to Jesus. Sometimes the reason hard things hurt so badly is because we think we deserve them and that to not have them is an injustice to our happiness. But life is about love. Life is about service. Life is about the least of these. Life is about dying in order to live.

Monday, January 19, 2015

January

We've been in the swing of things around here since I was two weeks postpartum and returned to full time babysitting. With lil miss here we have to be on a routine so that I'm not trying to nurse my baby, bottle feed her, and feed my four big boys all at once. It's nice.

Lil baby is about to be 3 months old in 11 days. He's a fantastic baby. He's slept through the night since the night he was born. Seriously. Now, my definition of sleep through the night is 10-4. Pretty good no? There has not been one night that he has not had that routine. OK, sometimes he wakes at 3:30 instead of 4. :) Then he goes back to sleep until between 6:45-8.

When he's not sleeping he's happy. He likes to just lay in his rocker or swing and just watch the chaos. There's always a brother talking to him or trying to carry him around. He nurses well and is growing fast.

So, I'm not sure if it's something having to due with January (bored from not being able to go outside? Feeling cooped up?) but I've been on a huge purge spurt. Maybe it's a postpartum thing. Regardless, I'm going room by room, digging in dark corners, cabinets, drawers, etc etc and purging. It feels SO GOOD to take bags and bags of stuff to Goodwill and to the trash. I want to take a complete inventory of every single thing in the house (no, not written, just mental) so that "every item has a place, and everything is in its place". That is so important to me.

These days the minimalist lifestyle is huge. You can't scroll through Facebook without seeing ads for the "tiny house" or the recycled "shipping container house".  The funny thing is how grand they try to make them look on the inside, because even if we're living in a shipping container we want to feel rich and spoiled. But, I read THIS fantastic article on why the minimalist lifestyle is a TERRIBLE idea for a large family. I was so relieved to have words for the uncomfortable feeling I had whenever I was tempted to "go minimalist". The thing is, as responsible and frugal parents, we can't afford to just run to Goodwill for an appliance and then donate it right afterwards. People try the "own 100 things" challenge, but what they don't tell you is they are constantly paying for things they use once and then get rid of.

So while minimalism will never have its place in our 7 member family due to finances alone, I do insist that if an item does not have a place, it shouldn't be here.

So, we're cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and really enjoying a much cleaner house. The work is never done. By the time I get through the whole house it will be time to start right over again. But, if my work were ever done, I would have no vocation. Work is constant and that is good, it is good to set our hands to work, it keeps us humble and repenting as we fight against the dirt, decay, dust, and broken things in our lives. It reminds us every second of why we need Jesus.

On that note, it's bed time. Christ keep you.