Thursday, September 26, 2013

We finally moved...

Well, it happened. Our home closed and we moved out.
It was an emotional few weeks (for me, anyway!) but we did it and you may be surprised to find out that we are now living in a home, with plumbing AND a toilet! Score!!

There were a few reasons that we had difficulty deciding where we were going to live.
Originally, we had talked about living with my parents for awhile and saving money so we could convert their detached garage into a carriage house for our family. This plan seemed fairly on track until we found out that the city we live in does not allow carriage houses and my sister and her family moved back from out of state and needed a place to live for awhile. Since we were still in our home, they moved in with my parents and weren't certain how long they'd be there.
We have also been feeling, for awhile, a stirring of sorts. I really can't think of a better word to describe it, but our hearts are being pulled in directions we don't understand or know. We really feel that this is God moving us; pulling us into something that He has had in the works for awhile. I'm sure if you are friends with me on Facebook or have read any of my sparse posts over the last year or so, you've caught hints of this. These stirrings began at the beginning of last year and led us to a new church family (with which we have fallen completely in love) and while we expected that moving churches was the big thing, I'm now starting to understand it was just the tiny first step into the actual big thing.

Deciding where to live has been most difficult because we can't shake the feeling that God would like us to go to Cuba and become involved with the people there.

Because of this, we have been weary of signing a lease or making any long term or permanent plans, which as you can imagine, makes finding a place to live a bit difficult.
It probably doesn't surprise you that we have more questions than answers right now.
What does going to Cuba actually mean? Visit? Live?
How are we supposed to get to Cuba?
Who do we meet while we are there?
How long should we stay?
What will we do when we are there?
The questions go on and on.
And on.

God, as usual, remains ever faithful.
My sister and her husband moved out of my parent's house and we were able to make a smooth transition from our home to my folks, just a mile down the road from where we had been living. My mom and dad have been very generous with their home - we have taken over not only their spare bedrooms, but their entertainment room as well. We have a bigger yard and more house to roam in than we ever did before. As far as living with someone else goes, it's a pretty ideal situation.

One of the benefits to living with my folks is that we have time to try and figure out the answers to some of our questions, and that is what we plan on doing over the next few months.

We would like to ask that you join us in prayer as we look to the Lord to give us some clear direction for what this next chapter in our life holds. We are spending some of our time meeting with organizations who are looking to get into Cuba (or are already working there) and are looking for what will be the right opportunity for our family. As of now, we are not looking to start a church or begin a new ministry but would really like to come alongside a pastor or ministry and help/encourage as needed. It's a very open ended desire and many ways that it could look, so while we are excited, we are also unclear about what this will mean for our family. There is so much that seems impossible; but we know that if God is in this, all things are possible and we are anxiously waiting on Him to bring the right people to us and point us in the right direction.

If you would like to add our family to your prayers, we ask specific prayer for the following:
*Clarity and purpose as we step out in faith into what we feel God is calling us to do. Once we have some direction, it will help to determine our long-term living/savings needs and goals.
*Opportunity to interact with Cuban nationals so that we may establish relationship and begin to understand and know their culture.
*An ability to learn Spanish (or in my case, remember). Whether this is using Rosetta Stone or finding a language school, we are unsure, but we definitely know that learning Spanish is going to a pretty important part of this!
*As we meet with different organizations and missionaries, that God would impress upon us the role He has for us.
*That our love for Cuba and the people there would grow - that God would instill in us a passion for those there and that we would be completely unsettled until we are doing what He wants us to do.

The other night after meeting with Tom from Dwellings, Mike turned to me and asked,
"So, are you ready for our lives to get wrecked?"
It may seem a funny question, but you know ... I really am. I'm ready to see how God is going to use our lives for His glory. We've spent a lot of time being really comfortable and complacent. Though, as I look back over the last 12 years of our marriage, I see how God has been preparing us for this all along. Quite a few summers ago (too many) we went to visit our friends in Montana. On the way back, Mike and I had a conversation about how God must be preparing us for something. We got out of debt when we never thought we would be able to live without a credit card, we began homeschooling when it was never our intention to do so, we moved to a new church and made new friends when we had been perfectly happy with what we'd had before...
All these little steps, completely wrecking our lives and then rebuilding them into something way better.
So, yes. I am ready to be wrecked. Because I know what waits for us is going to be pretty stinking awesome.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We are the Wheelers

My family. Next to Jesus, they are the greatest treasures this life has to offer. I told a friend the other day that I realize I am blessed. I am married to an incredible man who adores me and God has trusted us with four healthy really fantastic children. With all our trials and difficulties, when we are together, at peace, I feel as if being with them is the closest I'll ever get to heaven, this side of heaven. :)

Finding a photographer who can capture that feeling for me? Nearly impossible. I'm not even kidding. There are lots of very talented people out there who can take great pictures. But finding someone who can capture the very heartbeat of your family? That's a totally different story.

When Mike's parents asked us to vacation with them on the Oregon Coast this last April, I began searching for a photographer who I hoped would be able to do just that: see my family the way I do and somehow manage to translate that into photographs.

Xiomara was the first photographer referred to me and the only one I contacted. When she called me we talked for 45 minutes and I knew that not only had I found the right photographer, I'd met a kindred spirit. She, quite literally, had me at hello.

Words fail when I try to explain what Xiomara did for our family on that very windy day in April. Not only did she take amazing photos, capturing each child's personality and the love Mike and I have for them and each other, she made us feel like rock stars. She had us laughing and enjoying ourselves so much that when the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, our poor kids, constant victims of my need to document life's every milestone, continued to smile and play along. Something they never do for me! 

I am trying to treasure each moment God gives me with our kids. They are small for such a short time, and life isn't often very easy. Taking the time to appreciate each child for who they are and for the unique spirit God has placed in them is not often at the top of my "do-to" list. Going away, on vacation together, helped me to slow down, remember how amazing this life God has given me is, and to really value the husband and kids God has graced me with.

I am so grateful to Xiomara for helping us to relax and enjoy the moment. For capturing our laughter and smiles. For bringing out the best in our kids. For taking the time to capture who we truly are. For being more than a photographer; for being a friend.

These are a few of my favorites from that very special session!
All photography in this post by Imago Dei Photography

I know you'll enjoy all of Xiomara's work so go check it out!

Friday, May 24, 2013

I just don't know

As some of you know, Mike and I are in the process of selling our home. It is a process, and has been a long time in the making, but once the decision to sell was made things have progressed very quickly. The first question people ask when they hear we're moving is, naturally, "Where are you moving to?" Our answer often surprises them. Or worries...or frustrates...or confuses...

We do not know.

We have a plan, but there are a lot of factors that may sway or change our course. We're ok with that, and ultimately, we really have no clue where we'll be living when our home closes. To add to the confusion, we are doing a short sell so even though we have an offer on our home, we have to wait for the bank to approve everything and it is a time consuming process and requires a lot of waiting.

The fact is, this is absolutely thrilling for us. We've made a decision without having a solid plan in place and are stepping out in faith in what we feel is obedience to God. Not having a plan is very unusual for us but we feel as though God has spent the last few years stripping us of those things we find our comfort and security in, that are not Him. While this is exciting for us, the kids see it a little bit differently.

Last week, before church began, the kids were asking about when and where we are going to move. I told them, yet again, that we do NOT know, but that God does. They continued to ask questions.

"Will we take our TV?" Yes.
"Will our new house have an upstairs?" Maybe.
"Will we take the fireplace?" No.
"Will we take our beds?" Yes.
"Can my stuffies stay with me?" Of course.
"But the light switches...will they come, too?" No.

So. Many. Questions.
At one point, Brooklyn began to cry and wailed,

"What if our new home doesn't have a baaaaaaathrooooooom?"
It was comical. I tried to suppress a laugh (unsuccessfully) before I went to give her a hug and assure her that Mike and I will make sure that her basic needs are going to be taken care of.
And the words just slipped out,

"Why can't you just trust that we will take care of you?"

Oh man.

Did the Holy Spirit totally just talk to me while I was reprimanding my daughter?


The kids have never moved before so this is a new experience for them, but I honestly reached a point where I thought, "Have we taken such terrible care of you, have we provided so poorly for you, that you can't even trust us to make sure you have a place to go to the bathroom?"

How many times do I do that with God? How many times have I become hung up on these details that are of no consequence? How many times have I questioned His ability to care for me, or to provide for me, or to love me simply because I can't see what He has in store? When things don't go the way I expect, how quickly do I become despairing and begin to wail and moan that He isn't giving me what I think I need?

I've been told that raising children is a refining process that reveals much of your own sin. Over the years I've thought this meant that I would see how selfish I am (it has) or how impatient I am (yep...that, too) or whatever other sin I think I am struggling with. I didn't think it would be revealed how little I trust my Father to take care of me.

In that moment with my daughter, I felt a deep compassion for her and a need to just hold her. I heard myself saying,

"Mom and Dad are going to be there. We'll be with you. We'll take care of you. That will never change."

I could feel God saying the same things to me.

I don't know how our story is going to play out. I don't expect that we will always be comfortable, or warm, or honestly, that we will always have a toilet to pee in. God has never promised us those things. But He does promise to never leave us and that He does work all things for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I'd like to think that means having a toilet, but ... you never know. I do know He has it all planned out and I am thankful that even when I'm crying out to Him because I just cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on, He can gently chuckle and put His arms around me and whisper to my heart,

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:3,4

So, no. We don't know where we're going to live.
But God does.
And by God's grace, I'm content to rest there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today was a wonderful day.

To my shame, I don't often take the time to really sit back and think of all the ways God has shown up in my day. As the sun was setting today though, I realized what an amazing blessing today has been and I just felt the need to share my joy with others.

I will never tire of these blue skies!

1 - The sun was shining and it was warm. This kind of weather is so good for my soul.
2 - Today was our last day of homeschool co-op until the Fall. I really can't explain what a blessing the women of this co-op have been to me. Each Monday of co-op, I come home feeling full and encouraged. While I look forward to having a little down time from having to get out of the house so early each week, I will sorely miss the women whom I have come to cherish so so much.
3 - I left my cell phone in my friend's car yesterday afternoon. She returned it today, but I had almost 24 hours without it and I realized how much I enjoy the quiet. I am thankful for the reminder.
4 - A friend whom I love dearly but don't get to really visit with often enough, had sent me a text asking if we wanted to have a play date while my phone was away. To my great joy, when I finally was able to respond, she was available still and we had a great visit! God spoke through her to get through my hard heart. I treasure her so much!
5 - Mike is at refresher today and was home at 5 p.m. We get to go to bed together tonight and wake up together in the morning. A week of "normal" work shifts is wonderful.
6 - We stopped for dinner and I met an amazing homeschooling mother of six. From the time our conversation first began I knew she knew Jesus and she gave me hope and encouragement that she had no way of knowing I needed.
7 - My sister cleaned my house. It is sparkling and wonderful and I could kiss her (and probably will!)  for taking care of me this way!
8 - I got to read my Bible. I'm still working on making this a habit that I stick with, but God is so gracious and patient with me even just a few verses feed my hungry soul.
9 - I'm still on a high from having spent the weekend with the women from my church. While it wasn't what I expected, it was more than what I hoped for and God affirmed the love I have for our church family.
10 - The blog post from Imago Dei photography of our family session went live today. You need to check it out. Xiomara did a stellar job; we were brought to tears!!

I'm determined to take stock of the little blessings more often. I have a feeling if I were to look, I'd see God a lot more often in my day. I'm so thankful He's always there.

What are some of your blessings today?!