Saturday, May 31, 2014

Switching Gears...and Continents

This conversation: 

"Er...if we don't end up going to Cuba, we're going to look really stupid for that last blog post"
"Yes...oh gosh, yes we will. I shouldn't have posted it. Why did we post it? Oh it too late to delete it? Did anyone really read it?" 

This conversation has happened many times over the last eight months, and it began about twenty minutes after I hit publish on my last post. But I didn't delete it, and I didn't take it back because...

We just feel so confident of what God is calling us to do.

But also completely unsure.

So, as far as social media has been concerned, we've kept pretty tight lipped because our list of questions continued to grow longer than our list of what we knew. I would have been giving you months and months of We Still Have No Clue What The Heck Is Happening Or What In The World We Are Doing posts. Which would have been rad. 

"Oh, the Wheeler's? The ones who aaaaalways are talking and neeeeever doing?"

You guys! Would you say that?! 
Because quite honestly, that's what goes through my mind. I'm convinced it's what everyone says while they're falling asleep at night. Because you know...Mike and I carry such clout in your lives.
Good Lord.
Why are we so prideful? Why do I think it matters so much? 
We are certainly a work in progress.
And THIS, this whole thing...this missions thing, it's been quite a process as well.

By the end of last year we had been in contact with two separate missions organizations who are either already working in Cuba or who are trying to get into Cuba. With both organizations it seemed at first to be an open door but as we tried to move forward, nothing happened. There were some really clear and obvious "no's" and some "well...maybes?" but ultimately, each door was closed for us.
We were discouraged, but the whispering in our hearts would not be silenced so we continued to pray about how to move forward. We began wondering if Cuba was even the right direction?

Perhaps God just wanted our hearts to be willing ... so we waited.

I need to interject here that w a i t i n g is not something I'm good at. Fight it as I may, I am a product of our instant gratification culture.
I want a plan, and I want to execute that plan. Now. Like right now.

God is changing that in me (thankfully) but my gosh...I'm a difficult task and through showing His patience with me, He is granting me the patience I need. He's cool like that.

About six weeks ago, we had a meeting with a gentleman named Scott with Ibero American Ministries. We did not initiate this meeting; we were simply invited to attend as our church has been looking at different international organizations and ministries and how we could potentially partner with them. 
The day before the meeting I asked Mike, "What do you expect from tomorrow's meeting."
He replied, "Nothing. Not one single thing. Every meeting we've had has resulted in nothing. Every door we've felt was opening has closed. Honestly, I'm tired of meetings and I don't know why we've been invited to go tomorrow." (See? Discouraged.)
So, off we went to this meeting where we expected absolutely nothing to happen.
Looking back I wonder, maybe that's a really good place to be? That place where you're just "done" and are finished trying to do things your way, or the way you think they should be done; because when that's where you are, when you get out of the way, that's when God can get to doing His thing His way.
At that meeting Scott explained that IAM's mission is to raise up local leaders, who plant churches and provide humanitarian services to those around them; to be friends with their neighbors and to show them Christ's love in action on a daily basis. The ultimate goal is having genuine relationships that reveal God's glory and draw people to Him.
Oh...I love it!
When Scott found out we were at the meeting because we had a heart for missions, he excitedly told us about all the opportunities and then explained a bit about their internship program. IAM's internships serve many purposes, but one of the main ones, from the intern's perspective, is to help determine if missions is actually the direction you are meant to head in. The program is short term - from 3-12 months or so - and allows interns to get some experience, pray, and decide if international missions are what one is supposed to do with their life.

Scott said he'd send us the intern application and manual.
And then he did. That. very. afternoon.

To say we were surprised would be a complete understatement.  We were caught completely off guard. Mike kept saying, "Wait...what? What just happened?"
Having faced only closed doors to this point, a path to begin walking down was beginning to take shape and we couldn't believe it.
Not only did Scott take us seriously, but he took. us. seriously.

That following week we Skyped with Doug, a missionary with IAM living in Santiago, Chile, asking him all sorts of questions about what an IAM internship would look like for our family and what IAM does and what we could do for IAM. When we finished the call we were in total disbelief - could this be what we'd been waiting for? We spent a few days praying and seeking wisdom from those we trust most, and the next weekend Mike filled out our internship application and we purchased Rosetta Stone in faith that we were headed in the right direction.

Last night, at a potluck to meet Ricky and Tracie, some of IAM's missionaries living Santiago, Scott said, "Oh yeah, by the's official. You've been accepted into the internship."

And just like that, we're preparing to go to Chile.

The list of what we don't know is much longer than the list of what we do know; which I'm sort of realizing is God's way. 

But, for those of you who are curious, here is what we know. And I'm being serious...this is all that we know.

* God has opened the door through IAM and we are excited to step through it.
* Mike and I are planning to go to Chile with our church at the end of October for a vision trip. During this trip we will visit IAM's church plants in Santiago as well as in surrounding areas. The purpose of this trip is to help our church see what the needs are, how we can meet them, what kind of teams we can send out, and (this is probably only on my agenda) to help determine where Mike and I will fit in.

There are the graphic details for you.

I have ideas and assumptions about how the trip in October will affect our family, but again, I'm realizing I shouldn't think I've got it all figured out or put God into any box because He just doesn't seem to be confined by what I put together. 
At some point we'll have a definite time frame of when we will go with the kids, for how long, exactly what city we'll be living in, how much support we need to raise and what ministry we'll be assisting with. 
While not having any of those details rightthissecond is a little difficult for me, I also see the beauty in it. I'm being forced to follow Jesus, forced to let Him be the one who's calling the shots, forced to acknowledge I have no clue what's going on...
It's good for me. 
I need Jesus so so much. He has so much to give, and I'm so thankful to receive because I am simply empty and wasted without Him. 

Mike and I are thankful to have a direction to be moving in and a sketchy plan to follow, and ultimately, honored to be able to give Christ all the glory and credit. We would love it if you would pray with us over these next few months as we work on getting all the details squared away. We are confident that if this is what God has in mind for our family, everything will fall into place as it should, but walking in that place of faith requires a lot of...well, faith, and knowing that there are people praying for us helps us to stay grounded.

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, 
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." 
Psalm 9:10

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.