Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

I love this time of year.  I get a kick out of reading all of the "Most Tweeted Moments of 2011" and "Top Plays of 2011" and "16 Fashion Must-Haves of 2011" lists that fill every website, newspaper, and magazine.  It's nice to see what I missed all year.  Haha. But, truly, I love that this is the time of year to reflect on what was and embrace the clarity of hindsight in order to position yourself for what can be.  For me, this is a season of hope and possibility and I get excited just thinking of what the New Year might hold.

But first, a few reflections on what went down in 2011...
We started the year off with a bang, well... more of a crash.  Shawn spent the first three months of the year brokeback and I got very good at tying his shoes. Since Shawn had so much time laying (lying?  I never get this one right.) around there was time to fill out applications to spend the summer in Mozambique.  Just as Shawn was cleared to work, we were accepted to Harvest School and had a couple months to make as much money as possible (we were already 3 months behind in income), pack up our house, and do all the things it takes to get to Mozambique and back.  It was during that time I learned that I never have to question if God has enough grace for me.  It. Is. Sufficient.

Our time at Harvest School was, without a doubt, The Epic Experience of 2011. I will be reflecting on that for the rest of my life, so I can save those musings for later.

Since our return, I am reassured that God's grace won't run out on me.  Life has taken turns I did not expect - or didn't take the turns I was expecting is more like it. But that is what makes my hope for the future even more acute. I know that I rest in the palm of His hand and I can trust in His loving kindness.

We did have a close second in the Epic Experience race this year. Honorable mention goes out to the most Incredible Vacation Ever.  We spent five unbelievable days in Playa Mujeres, Mexico with our best friends and were able to RELAX. I left cold Minnesota feeling like a wrung out sponge that had been burning at both ends.  I came back feeling completely refreshed and revived and a little sore from all the dancing. Thank you, Jesus! I started my 2012 vacation fund immediately.

I have such hope and anticipation that the good work God started in me will continue to unfold in the New Year. More of my destiny will be revealed and I will walk with more confidence. This hope has given me a second wind to keep pressing in and fighting for what I want out of life.

I'm really excited about our new role with IRIS Relief. Shawn took his first trip with IR in December on a two-week response into the flooded areas around Bangkok, Thailand. And while Shawn was shoveling mud out of houses and dressing up as an elf to raise money for an orphanage, I was Stateside helping to build teams for future relief trips. Check out to see more of what we're up to.

I have a new appreciation for the unknown and for me, 2012 is all about embracing that adventure. I know that I have put my trust in a very safe place so regardless of the outcome I can rest secure. Plus, I'm going to back to Mexico for vacation.

Bring it on, New Year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

So, after a few months of being back from Mozambique, a month of road-tripping, and another month of Shawn working in Minneapolis and me & the kids living large in Duluth, we are now back in our sweet little house in Linden Hills. The wonderful people who own this house graciously let us move back in for two months - they will be back for Christmas and then they're having the kitchen and bathroom remodeled. Living separately or moving in somewhere for two months? Hmmmm. It was an offer we couldn't refuse.

It has been a bit surreal being back because it's like nothing has changed. When we first walked in the house, Luciana ran upstairs yelling, "My bedroom! My bedroom!" And when Judah saw one of our neighbors walking to her house he did a slow motion movie run into her arms.  That alone makes the hassle of packing...unpacking...and packing again totally worth it. 

We won't be here for long, but it feels good to be home for now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Take the Whine Out of Your Voice and Try Again, Please

I said to myself, "Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings.  Soul, you've been rescued from death; Eye, you've been rescued from tears; And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling." I'm striding in the presence of God, alive in the land of the living. (a little bit of Psalm 116 from the Message version)

How can you argue with that? God is above circumstances. His goodness, faithfulness, and everlasting love never change. He is awesome whether or not I'm feeling it. Sometimes [read: more often than I'd like to admit] I need to pep talk myself out of a pity party. It is way too easy to let my focus slip from the Maker of Heaven and Earth on to me and what I want and when I want it and why haven't I gotten what I want yet? You get the idea. I frequently say to the kids when they are whining about something, "Is that working for you?" and I hear Holy Spirit calmly asking me the same question. Oh, to really be striding in the presence of God! Doesn't that sound amazing? To be at rest in Him, confident and secure in His love and provision. I could get used to that.  

I think I'll start telling God how great He is and about how much He loves us and about all the amazing miraculous stuff he does [cue: Delirious' I Could Sing of Your Love Forever] and then I'll never get to the whining. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update 7: The Journey Continues

I had planned on returning from Mozambique and spending the next week soaking in my parents' bathtub while they reconnected with the grandkids. Instead, we had a brief, but lovely, layover in Duluth full of washing clothes and eating vegetables. I had also planned on leaving Mozambique with a hand written letter (scroll?), or at the very least an email, from Jesus detailing the future. In my imagination it would include every step along the way - where we should live, where we should work, how far Whole Foods would be from Judah's school... Now I'm not saying that can't happen, I'm just saying it didn't. I had gone all the way to Africa and I thought for sure God would repay me by not requiring me to live by faith anymore. I mean, he would clearly show me how I could serve him more fully. Instead, we left feeling pretty sure that we were supposed to be in California for an Iris Reunion/Conference being held at Iris Central Coast in Pismo Beach. God had given us Step One.  

We stuffed the kids in the car and whatever camping stuff we could find in the trailer and headed west. We drove straight through arriving at the church just as worship was starting for that night's meeting. We didn't stay long that night because needless to say, we were tired.  The kids are amazing road warriors, but they were really happy to crawl in bed. The next morning we were at a meeting for Iris alum and Shawn looked at me and said that he'd had a dream about that very church. We knew were in the right place. One of the people there was Yonnie Cheng the director of Iris Relief and it was our intention to connect with her and see if there was a place for us with IR.  

We had dinner with Yonnie that evening and in between cleaning up spilled chocolate milk and various potty breaks we managed to have a great conversation and confirm in our hearts that this is what we were looking for. The next morning was even better. We met with the small Iris Relief team that was there and spent some time brainstorming and sharing our hearts. By the end of that meeting, Shawn and I had been given responsibility for building the North and South American divisions of Iris Relief.  I can't be too specific about what that looks like yet because we don't really know. Once we start digging into the logistics we'll know more - or less, but I'm pretty sure we'll need some coffee.

On a more relaxing note, we met an incredible guy named Nate who let Judah ride on his shoulders and drive him like an airplane for a LONG time, whose family has a home in Tahoe. He generously invited our family and a couple other Iris Reliefers to spend a few days there.  We quickly adjusted our road trip schedule to include this.

So, we take one step after another waiting on the leading of the Lord. Even though I would really like to know all of the details, I know that this is the grace of God for me. If I knew each step ahead of time I would want to skip to the end and, what's more, I wouldn't need to depend on God. I would run ahead thinking I could do it on my own. This way, I have to press into God, fully depending on his timing and direction. As we were driving through Nevada, I saw a truck pulling a boat and since I was driving at the time I was also having an on-going conversation with God. I mused how funny it looked to see a boat being pulled through the desert - it was so out of place. But, God said that's pretty much what we were doing. We were sure that we had the word of God that he was going to give us the next step and even though he didn't text it to us we had the peace to pursue it in California. Sometimes it looks funny, but that truck knew there was water for the boat and so through the desert they went.  Our journey isn't over yet.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Update 6: Flying High

Ain't no party like a Holy Ghost party 'cuz a Holy Ghost party don't stop. Our last week in Mozambique was silly crazy fun. It was a love fest. Let me just try to describe one of our last classes: Rolland Baker was due to speak and he got up and just said, "Ask Jesus what kind of mood we should be in for this session (or something like that - I wasn't transcribing at the time...)." Anyway, it wasn't long before people were laughing, hugging, falling all over each other and then a dance party broke out. When bandwidth permits I will post the video. All I can say is Jesus knows how to party. When the Bible says that all of Heaven rejoices when one person comes to know Jesus, I don't picture a polite golf clap. I'm sure the angels are chest-bumping, the great cloud of witnesses is doing the wave, and the Trinity is high-fiving themself. And after the 10 weeks we just had there is A LOT of rejoicing going on in Heaven.

And the party didn't stop there. We got on our plane yesterday and lit that place up. I think there might have been about 6 people on the plane who hadn't just spent their summer (or Mozambican winter) together. It didn't take long before the flight attendants were just relaxing and we were the ones serving the sandwiches and coffee, picking up trash, having prayer/prophetic time for the flight attendants, and finishing up with a fire tunnel exit. One of the girls was even invited to sit up in the cockpit for the last half hour and watch the plane land. It was her birthday and the pilots gave her that for her present. When the flight attendants were making the final announcements - put on your seat belts, the temperature in Johannesburg is winter, etc (they didn't let us do everything) - they also announced that this was the best flight they'd ever had. Yay God!

We are excited to be on our way back. We still don't have the master plan from God - I suspect one of the hallmarks of our life will be that we walked by faith not by sight - but He's giving us one step at a time. Right now our plan is to get back to Minnesota and sit still for a little while. And rest. And eat strawberries. Then we're going to shove the family in the truck and drive out to California. One of the things that struck a chord with us in Mozambique was Iris Relief. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, people from Iris organized quickly and went in to bring food, water, medicine, and love to the people hit hardest by the disaster. From that, they started to work on forming an official Iris Relief. The people in charge of that task are going to be in California for a couple weeks in August and Shawn and I are going to meet with them and see if there is a place for us with them. We are just exploring our options and following the peace in our hearts. We know God has some more connections for us to make and it looks like we have to take a road trip to make those connections.

One quick Judah story before I wrap this up. When we were at the Pemba airport yesterday, we were watching one of the planes load up. It wasn't our plane, but one that a lot of Harvest people were on including one of Judah's new best friends. I asked Judah if he saw any angels and he said he saw 10. He pointed out where each one was and he said one was getting on the plane. When I asked him what that angel was going to do he said, "That one is going to keep everyone safe and give them hugs." That must have been a pretty good flight, too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Update 5: Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

This last week one of the speakers, David Wagner, was crazy enough to voluntarily pray for/prophecy over every student here.  All 258 of us.  He did it in small groups over the course of the week and to me, it was like Christmas.  When he was wrapping up his prayer for us, he said that God has supernatural surprises for us and that in the next few weeks God would give us the next steps.  Hey-oh! Can I get a witness?!?  We already knew that God was going to be clear with us and that one of the things God wanted to do here was give us those next steps, but there's nothing like a guy you don't know telling you that very thing.  I feel like for the first half our time here I have been gripping the handle of a roller coaster car, white-knuckling my way up the steepest and highest track imaginable.   I know that we are in the right place and the right time and that God wouldn't have sent us (and made other people pay for it) half way around the world just for kicks and giggles.  And I have been reminding myself not to panic; God hasn't forgotten me, He knows where to find me (in House 4), and His timing is perfect.  But, I was as successful at playing it cool as I am at keeping a beach ball submerged.  And then, Christmas in July.  I feel like I've crested the highest peak and instead of short breaths and tense muscles, my arms are flung wildly in the air and I'm enjoying the ride.  Are you as excited as I am for the next couple updates?

Even though we don't have any specifics yet, like what to do with our trailer full of stuff (Sorry, Dad.  It's going to be there for a bit longer) or if I should inform the school Judah is enrolled in that he won't be attending, there are so many things God is depositing and confirming in our hearts.  One of the biggest things for me is the need to be in the presence of God.  To live in and from that place and to be fully dependent on God.  I wanted to be so completely lost in His presence that I can't find my way out.  One morning, Heidi Baker was teaching and she started out by saying she was the least of these - like when Paul said he was the lowest of the low.  At first, I though, "Ah, man.  If she is the least I'm leaster than the least."  But, then I understood the truth.  Heidi Baker is an amazing woman of God who is doing crazy awesome things with and for God. And it is precisely that awesomeness that makes her need the presence God even more - to be so dependent on Him.  In the Kingdom of Heaven there is an inverse relationship between your outward greatness and your inward posture.  As you accomplish more and more things for the Kingdom your spirit must bend lower and lower and very humble before God.  That feels like freedom to me.

Oh, the voice of God is so sweet.  I pray that you hear His voice and know that He is for you, that you are the one He loves with an everlasting love.  

On a final and most important note, we have become friends with a certain Dr. Johan from South Africa and I promise I'm being discrete, but I have been scheming ways to get him to Columbus, Ohio.   You're welcome. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Update 4: Don't Be In A Hurry

This weekend was the halfway point (we made it!) and it was also our Outreach weekend.  I have been dreading holding my breath for this since I discovered we were required to do it on my first read through the Student Handbook in February.  Outreach is the time when you go out to the bush-bush for 3 days and work with a village church.  If you’ve seen the film “The Finger of God” it was exactly like that.  If you haven’t seen that film you should see it.  Our plan was to do Outreach separately – I would do one with Asher and Shawn would stay with Judah and Luciana and then later on Shawn could go on another Outreach.  We were fine with that especially after talking to a family who split up their Outreach and the wife went first with their 11 month old – they said for sure separate.  And that was our plan up until a couple weeks ago when another family (their kids are 8 and 5) came back from their village vacation and had a different experience.  Well, the more we thought about it the righter it felt to take the whole family.  Shawn and I have to split up on a lot of things already and the Outreach is such a big experience that it would be impossible to come back from it and fill the other person in.  We really wanted to be able to share this together and even have the kids – especially Judah – be a part of it, too.  We also felt like this was going to be a pivotal experience for us and that it would be one of those events that you look back on and can see the hand of God clearly. So that settled it.  We’re all going.  We had to borrow around to get enough camping stuff for the whole family since we only brought enough for one of us.  On the Tuesday before Outreach Heidi Baker was speaking and she gave a lot of practical advice for going on Outreach.  Things like, don’t wander around alone, a few men need to stay back and guard the tents, if your butt gets pinched you have permission to say “No!”  Things like that.  But the bit that stayed with me was, “Don’t be in a hurry.”  It is my natural inclination to want to keep things moving or rather, skip to the end.  But, I knew this experience was going to be about each individual moment and not just driving back to the base Saturday afternoon in triumph.
Outreach Day 1
Our village was only about a 2 hour BUMPY truck ride away.  I think it was only about 55 kilometers away, but the “roads” made for slow travel.  Asher, Luci, and I sat in the cab with Lydia from Norway and the driver.  There were about 45 people –and luggage – crammed in the back of the truck including Shawn and Judah.  When we got to the village we set up our tents in someone’s back yard and then set off to show the Jesus Film and pray for people.  Luci, Asher, and I stayed back at the tent to sleep because they were exhausted and Shawn said it was crazy over where they were showing the film.  Eventually, Judah came back to sleep and I listened to the movie and then to the preaching.  Heidi Baker came on our Outreach so she did the preaching (and brought Starbucks coffee for the morning.  Praise Jesus!). Three people who were deaf were healed, a lady with severe back pain was 100% better, and more things I can’t remember off hand.  Not bad for a first night.  Shawn crawled in bed at about 11:30 and we had the sweatiest night of sleep ever.
Outreach Day 2
The kids did so great in the tent.  That was our first time to go camping and what a way to start!  We were up nice and early (5 am) thanks to our proximity to the latrines and two escaped chickens running through our tent city.  We had a lovely breakfast of the whitest bread ever with a little jam on it and some weak, but sugary, coffee.  By about 8 am they had us line up according to country to meet the chief of the village and his wife.  We stood in the hot sun singing songs led by the Mozambican Bible School students waiting for our audience with local royalty.  We were all doing fine, until about 45 minutes into waiting.  By then the kids were hot and tired and Asher wanted to eat and go to sleep so badly.  I have never seen him so unhappy.  I knew he knew I knew what he wanted, but he didn’t understand that we had to be introduced before I could go back to the tent.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry.  We eventually had our turn and the chief’s wife was so pleased we brought our whole family with us.  She said she was happy to have her nieces and nephews in for a visit.  Asher went to sleep immediately after that (in the Ergo, thanks Mama Jeanne and Granny!) and we set off to do a little preaching and praying.  By the time I got to the church – well, we did everything outside the church under a big tree – they had started to do the Good Samaritan skit we worked up.  I didn’t know Judah was playing the part of the victim until I saw him being tossed up in the air.  Later he told me that he got to ride on Mr. Nick (a big guy from Alabama) who was obviously playing the role of “donkey” and got punched in the head for real.  Treasures in Heaven, Judah-man.  You’re storing up treasures in Heaven.   I was usually in the middle of a crowd of kids about 6 deep.  Other moms would be around with their babies strapped to them, too, so we would coo about each others’ babies and then I would have to excuse myself to find Luci who was either being squeezed by a 6-deep circle of village kids or trying to find a place to go potty.  Luci had become an expert latrine user by mid-morning.  We then broke in to groups to wander about the village going house to house praying with people.  My participation lasted two houses until Luci had to be taken back to use the latrine.  Since we weren’t supposed to go out alone we had to stay back at the tent site until everyone else got back from praying.  We did, however, walk out of our fenced area and Luci went across the way and sat down on a grass mat with an older man.  She just sat there, so I figured I better go just sit there, too. [During this time, Judah was with one of the other guys on our team and Shawn who had been resting due to a serious sea urchin induced infection was also out praying with people.] Luci sat for a while and told the man that he had no boots.  That was true, but his flip-flops were right next to him.  He didn’t speak any English, but he seemed amused with Luci and how much she had to say.  Asher just wanted to bust down the bamboo door.  What if he actually had?!?  A little later Luci moved over to where an older woman was sitting with two other ladies who were taking dried corn off the cob.  Luci got right in there and started taking the corn off.  By this time we had drawn quite the crowd.  I was just sitting there trying to keep Asher from eating too much dirt and destroying their house.  I probably said to myself, “Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t be in a hurry.” a hundred times before we finally got up to leave.  I think we sat there for a half hour. 
Then it was a quick lunch of rice and goat (rice that Judah and Luci both helped to sift and goat that Judah watched be cut up).  Shawn said that he didn’t think he would ever want rice and goat again and I said that if I ever prepare a meal of rice and goat he had my permission to go out for dinner.  After lunch we piled on the truck to go to another village to show the film and do it all again.  When we pulled in to the village and Judah and Luci hopped out it was like they were different kids.  This time they knew what they were doing and it was as if they owned the village.  Luci was grabbing kids by the hand and pulling them around.  Judah was immediately holding a bird a boy had found.  I spend the next two hours following Luci around as she chased kids and they chased her back.  It was crazy.  I’m pretty sure those village kids got the best night of sleep ever.  Soon it was time for some outstanding dancing by our team, a little Jesus Film, then wrapping up with praying for anyone and everyone.
Outreach Day 3
I had early wake-up call thanks to a village kid melting down at 4am and an ant party going on in our tent.  The good news was Luci and Asher slept until about 5:45 and we had to wake Judah up.  We packed up our tents and went to the church for a short service.  Shawn and Judah did some of the preaching.  Shawn was talking about how Jesus always made a way for the kids to come to him [in this village there were A LOT of kids around, but relatively few adults] and then Judah, who was stoked to use the microphone, shared some of the times God has talked to him.  After that, we loaded up the truck and drove to one last village to encourage the pastor and his wife.  I was soooo ready to get home, but “Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t be in a hurry.” was my mantra.  It was a short stop in that village, but we spent some good time praying with and encouraging the pastor and his wife.  The pastor is going to be attending the Bible School at Iris and will be away from home for about 3 months, so I prayed extra for his wife.  Then we were back on the truck and heading home.  Immediately upon our return, I filled up three tubs and dropped three kids in.  Never in my life have I been so happy to scrub, scrub, scrub.
I’m not sure that I made a dramatic different in the lives of the people in the village, but for what it’s worth I was really proud of us that we made it through the whole ordeal.  There are lots more stories to tell from Outreach and even more things that God is showing me, but I’m tired of typingJ

P.S. Asher took a few steps last week.  That sweet boy is going to learn to walk in Africa.

Friends, we love you and miss you.  Thank you for your support and prayers – we couldn’t be doing this without you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Update 3: Observations & Occurances

I'm still hoping to have a glorious blog post full of miraculous happenings, open Heaven encounters, and a hot shower, but life in Mozambique with 3 kids allows for little reflection.  I don't even get to engage in the favorite pastime of the other students here: sloaking (sleeping+soaking).  So until then, I keep jotting down little things that we do each day so later I can remember that I was actually in Mozambique and it wasn't just a crazzzzzy long dream.

1. We haven't had water for about 10 days.  It's not completely out, though.  It comes on for about an hour a day - at random times - and then we have a "hygiene" frenzy.  We get water to wash dishes, kids, hands, flush toilets, etc.  I prefer actual running water.

2. Shawn went snorkeling for Fathers' Day.  He had been snorkeling several times since not for Fathers' Day.

3. Shawn had to have a sea urchin spike removed from his foot yesterday that he got while snorkeling.  Fortunately, one of his snorkel buddies is Johan the doctor from South Africa.  Speaking of, does anyone remember Snorks?

4. Now that we get eggs every Saturday (it's a pathetic comment on life here that eggs get us that excited...) our neighbor, Uncle Dan, makes us omelets if we bring our eggs over.  Luci was singing, "Yay! Yay! Uncle Dan!" after she got her omelet.

5. There was a fire on one of the other Iris bases just a couple minutes from where we are.  I was filling up a tub to do some laundry and a staff person came running over yelling for people to get tubs and go help fight the fire.  We could see the smoke from our porch and from a couple houses over - if you climbed up - you could see the flames.  They were able to get the fire out and a few days later Shawn went and helped put up a new water tank because the old one had melted in the fire.

6. We had "dinner with a dorm" night.  Our house and a couple others brought dinner and dessert up to the Fogo (fire) dorm of kids up to 7 years old.  We ate and then played games and mostly ran around with them.  Judah played with a sweet boy named Noe and two other boys, Willie and Jouma, chased Luci.  

7. On Fridays we don't have any sessions, but instead we all have different areas we volunteer in.  Our area is hospitality so we do anything from clean the visitors' bathrooms, to sort out donations, to airport runs.  This seems to be a really good fit for us.  The kids get to help, I finally feel useful, and part of our job description is to hang out and talk with the people visiting.  Not bad.

8. Just about everyone is feeling better - although our standards are muuuuuch lower these days:)  

9. I'm trying to learn some Finnish.  There are a few Finns here and I figure if I learn some key phrases my Grandpa (who occasionally writes me letters in Finnish) will be persuaded that taking the family to Mozambique wasn't the worst idea in the world.  

10. We were going to go to a Mozambican wedding.  Two people who work here, Ed & Rosa, got married and Luci and I even got the matching capulanas (a traditional Mozambican wrap skirt) to wear, but when we heard that it was going to be about 6 hours long, no shade, and no way to leave early, we opted to skip the ceremony.  From the stories of the people who went, we made the right choice.  Mozambique is hot, even in the winter.

11. I'm going to burn - I mean donate - my capulanas when I'm done with this school.  They are hard to walk in and even harder to keep from coming untied.  I only wear mine if I have to, the rest of the time I use it for a beach blanket.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Week 2: Time is Squishy Here

This would be more accurately titled, "Update 2."  It is much harder to get to the internet than I was expecting...  I don't even know where to start either.  It's funny because there is so much going on, but at the same time each day runs together in a blur of sun, rice & beans, kids, and more African kids.  We had a bit of a rough go last week with the kids all having fevers and other "symptoms."  If we were in America it would be easy to guess the cause - teething, another kid's germs, or a mall play area.  Here, it could be teething, so many other kids' germs, or an unknown tropical disease.  Thankfully, the fevers passed and no one is worse for the wear.

I wish I had lots of stories of all the amazing things I've seen and done and learned, but I'm finding that I spend a lot of time with our kids - the further removed from our American home the more intense the kid tending becomes.  And we are REALLY far from our American home.  I am happy to rest in knowing that we are here for a purpose and it doesn't matter whether I get that from a class or from hanging out on our porch with another mom who is missing class.

It's feels impossible for me to collect my thoughts enough to make a cohesive post, so I'm just going to list some highlights and click "publish."

1. On Saturday our breakfast was delayed.  We are usually up between 4:45 and 5:15am and we go get breakfast (a bread roll and sweet tea) at 6 am.  By the time we were able to get out breakfast at 7 we were hungry.  Shawn came back with our regular rolls, but also 5 eggs a piece for each person in our house and a jar of peanut butter and one of jelly.  There was great rejoicing!  It is the simple things around here that get us going.

2. We have had very intermittent water this week.  I don't care who you are, running water is wonderful and when you don't have it - even for an hour - you notice.

3. Luciana has ringworm.  As a mom, from a place that doesn't have ringworm, I was horrified to here that.  But the woman who diagnosed it is a mom/nurse from South Africa and when I showed her Luci's leg, she was unphased.  "Yeh, that's ringworm." She gave me a cream to apply 3x a day for 10 days and that's that.  She said it's really common here and in South Africa and it comes from playing in the dirt.  I said I would just keep Luci out of the dirt.  I wish there was a font for sarcasm.

4. I had my birthday in Africa.  I was planning to run Grandma's Half Marathon, but instead Shawn took me to "Club Naval" and we shared chocolate ice cream on the beach listening to the waves on the Indian Ocean while our new best friend Sarah from Colorado watched the kids.  Being 31 isn't so bad.

5. One of the people in our house figured out how to make brownies.  We are considering selling them and making enough money to spend the rest of our time here suffering for Jesus in the Pemba Beach Resort.

6. Shawn is starting to have an Irish accent - kind of.  He and a guy named Aaron from Northern Ireland have a common love of airplanes/motorcycles/helicopters/food and they spend a lot of time together.

7. A woman from one of the villages who works with the Iris base lost her house in a major downpour and the school gathered enough money to build her another house.  They are going to build it this weekend and Shawn and I went to town today to put together a house warming wash tub for her.  It just seemed to me that if she was going to get a new house she should get to put new stuff in it.  In America I would have bought a nice house plant, in Mozambique it's clothes pins, a mirror, food staples, some dishes, and laundry soap.

8. There's more and I have cute photos of the kids taking baths, but I don't have time to write it all (please take me out for coffee when I get back and I'd be happy to tell you all about it - verrrry slowly) and there isn't the bandwidth for pictures.

9. Can you feel our love?  We miss you all so much and would love to being hugging you right now.  I hugged/creeped out a girl who had just met some of our friends from Ohio a few months ago.  I just loved hugging someone who has hugged people I love.

No big plans here until the 30th - I'm going on the bush-bush outreach with Asher.  Shawn will stay back with Judah & Luciana and then he'll go on a different outreach.  I'm nervous about that, but I've already jumped off one cliff, what's another one?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Week 1: We Made It

We are in Mozambique!  This post is going to be brief because it's my first trip to town and Judah sent me with a Whole Foods bag that he said I could fill with cookies.  So, I have work to do, but I wanted to get an update out before my cookie quest began. 

We enjoyed a variety of flights and layovers to get to Pemba, but the kids were amazing and it wasn't until the last five minutes of the last flight that Asher decided he'd had enough.  The good thing with all the traveling and wildly interrupted schedules is that we all adjusted to the 7 hour time difference pretty quickly.  We arrived at the Iris base at night (it gets dark here around 5:30pm) so it wasn't until the next day that we got a chance to see our home for the next 10 weeks.  We are staying in a small house with another family - the Wicars: Zach, Kate, Levi (3 1/2) and Max (2) and a couple, the Thalheimers: John & Cindy (they have a 23 year old son who lives in Texas and they are our house leaders).

The kids love running around with all the other kids here - African or otherwise - and Asher has eaten more sand than most kids do in a lifetime.  Yesterday I saw Luciana making dirt angels outside our house... I am grateful that they allow families to hire a laundry lady! 

Ok, this one is really short, but the upload time is said to be looooong.  Next time I'm going to type it out and then just copy and paste it.  Plus, I have a bag of cookies to buy.  We love you all and can't wait to fill you in on all that's happened in person.  At Starbucks.

BTW: a blind child was healed during a weekend outreach.  He had been born blind and had never walked, but people prayed for him he was healed and he saw his mom for the first time.  Yeah, God!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Time for the Impossible to be Possible

I have never had to pack for a family of five to spend ten weeks living in another country - especially a country that doesn't have Target.  Here it is by the numbers:
4 suitcases
44 pounds in each suitcase
4 carry-ons
15 pounds each
53 diapers (that's all I could fit and if it turns out I can't buy more there, some one's potty training early. Really early.)
3 sets of sheets
28 clothes pins
1 plastic pitcher
76 Crystal Lite packets
30 Starbucks Via packets (Thanks, my jungle friend!)
3 rolls of toilet paper
5 long dirt colored skirts
8 pairs of keep-the-mosquitoes-off-of-me leggings
12 pairs of pants, 5 dresses, 15 shirts for Luci.  This little lady can go through the clothes
4 sets of Crocs
5 Twins t-shirts - they're navy blue and Judah likes #7 (Go, Twinkies!)
10 pairs of brown and/or black pants for Asher.  His wardrobe was selected based on a sophisticated crawling:dirt:time ratio.
1 tent
1 sleeping bag
2 hammocks
4 bottles of sunscreen & 4 of bug spray - is that even enough?!?
1 well stocked first aid kit
7 quart baggies stuffed with leak-potential toiletries
5 activity books to keep Judah busy
4 coloring books for Luci
2 sets of watercolor paints 
1 bag of Jolly Ranchers (this may not make the final cut.  The peanut butter was already weeded out.)
And that's just what I can remember off hand.

So, we're pretty much set to take off of Saturday.  We have our passports, our visas approved for the full 70 days (apparently no small miracle in the bureaucratic world), plane tickets, a few places to stay as we travel there and back, a lot of anticipation and expectation, and some butterflies.  Really rowdy butterflies.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And Heaven Moved Earth

This is going to rock your world.  I am about to TesTify.

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, it costs a modest fortune to get a family of five to Africa and back;  our best guesstimate of how much money we would need was $18,500.  Not long after we got our acceptance emails for the school,  we contacted our home church in Ohio to see if they would be willing to let us run our finances through them.  This way, our generous benefactors could get a tax write-off and it would provide us with financial accountability.  Our other accountability option was written on the memo line of a check made out directly to Shawn: if you use this money for anything else besides Africa, I get to choke-slam you through a wall.  We have pretty good friends...

Our church in Ohio said "yes" and encouraged us to come out for a visit to reconnect since we've been gone for two years.  We don't need much of an excuse to pack the van and drive to Ohio, so we made plans to make a weekend of it.  Well, a weekend turned in to a week when we found out that Georgian & Winnie Banov were speaking one Sunday and Bobby Conner was going to be there the next.  And to make it awesomer, our friends told us that they were going to host a fundraising event for us while we were in town.  I'll get back to the details on the fundraiser, but needless to say it was imperative to spend a week in Ohio.

This is when things start getting crazy.  When we left our house on Saturday we had gathered about $2,000.  This money came from a few people - most of whom we wouldn't have thought to ask for financial support from.  Each of these has a longer story, but to sum up, we got money from a good friend (the choke-slam check), the people who own our house, a man Shawn met when he stopped by a car dealership to buy a truck (this guy ended up knowing one of our good friend's dad - this is a good story, but for another time), and another woman whom I've had coffee and conversation with a few times gave us money.  Each person had essentially the same story: I have more than I expected to have and I just felt like I should give money to you.  One of my good friends - part of the Ohio fundraising brain trust - told me to write those instances down on post-its to always remind me that God is in this adventure.  She said, "He's moving the hearts of people to give you money so that you can follow the call of God on your life. That's proof right there that you're in the right place."

We got to Ohio and on Sunday morning the church prayed for us again (I'll never get enough of that!) and generously took an offering for us.  These people definitely believe that there's always enough because we're not the only ones from the church that are going overseas and people didn't hesitate to give.  If you ever find yourself in Powell, Ohio check out Zion Christian Fellowship (

Then on Tuesday was the big fundraising event.  Our friends worked crazy hard to put this together.  These friends have walked with us every step of the way and have believed in the call God put on us from the beginning - they are just as invested in this adventure as we are.  They pulled out all the stops to make sure the fundraiser was a success.  When we got home from the event that night, we recalculated what we had raised and we had gone from $2,000 to $17,000!!!  Did you just read that?  I think I need more exclamation points!  That kind of thing doesn't just happen - God moved Heaven, opened up his storehouses, and made quick work of our budget.  Done.  And the next day we bought our plane tickets.

Among the coolest of the cool ways God provided the money is this one.  One of our friends is a college student and she felt like God gave her an amount to give.  She kept this amount to herself, but went about raising it by telling friends, classmates, and I think some strangers what we are doing and then getting money from them.  TOTAL strangers have given us money.  It just gets better.  Our friend is also a nanny and she told her employers what she was doing and they thought that was cool so they said they'd match what she raised.  What?!?  Other people she babysat for gave her money because she told them what we're doing and God moved their hearts.  Someday I'm gong to find out the rest of their stories because whether they know it or not, God spoke to their hearts and they obeyed.  They sowed into God's plan for our life and there is no way they won't get to enjoy the blessing that comes from that.  I know that it will happen because I asked God for that.  I don't know what it's going to look like, but they are going to be rocked!  When we got home from the fundraiser she told us how much she had raised.  $1,000!  God told her to get $500 together and her employers matched it.  Ca-Razy!!

Not long after we were accepted to the school, Judah was praying for dinner and in his prayer he asked God if it was okay for us to go to Africa.  He got quiet for a little bit and then finished his prayer.  I asked him what God said and he answered, "God says it's 'okay' for us to go to Africa and he's fundraising for us."  Mmmmhmmmm.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Worries

When I was younger I had a tendency to worry.  I may be understating that a bit - I think I worried about everything even to the point of absurdity.  My mom likes to tell the story of when I was in junior high in full-blown meltdown because I had gotten a "B" in gym class.  I was so worried [read: hysterically crying] that that horrible grade was going to keep me from getting in to the college of my choice.  As it turns out, throwing a football through a hula hoop was not part of the application process for any of the schools I was applying for.  I sailed through college without ever having to throw a football.  Or take out a student loan, for that matter.  Take that junior high gym class teacher!

But there is a larger point here.  During my career as a worrier, my parents did their best to talk me down.  I vividly remember my dad coming to my room to pray with me on many occasions and, as he so often did, he used the truth of scripture to help bring guidance and peace to the situation.  He always used Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known before God.  All I could think was, "He just doesn't get it!  I'm not anxious for this stuff to happen - I don't want it to happen."  Eventually, I learned what the scripture meant - both the double meaning for anxious and how essential it is to "cast my cares" on God.  Maturing is a process...

I have learned - ever so slowly - that worrying about something does not help it, fix it, change it, or keep it from happening. It doesn't even make that something easier to deal with.  Even the Bible tells us to chill out, "...don't worry about what you're going to eat or wear; don't even worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own."  I think it was when Shawn and I were first married and had no money that we fell asleep one night saying this verse over and over - that's when I had a worry breakthrough. It wasn't so much that I learned not to worry, it was that I learned to trust. 

On Thursday, we had our appointment at the Travel Clinic for a debrief on all the diseases we could pick up while in Africa and then to get vaccinated for any and all of those diseases.  In case you are unaware, there are A LOT of diseases you can get in Africa.  We were offered vaccinations for everything from typhoid to rabies.  And for better or for worse, the kids are too little for some of the vaccinations so we just have to be careful that they don't eat poorly cooked food or get bitten by a monkey.  I'll be honest, there was a wave of worry beginning to wash over me.  This trip was suddenly getting a bit too real and I had been in an ignorance-is-bliss sort of mode (about getting sick and especially about spiders.  I have purposed it in my heart not to think about the possibility of spiders until there is an actual spider) right up until the nurse slammed me with the double whammy of dengue fever and yellow fever.  I don't mind putting myself at risk, generally, but putting my babies in harm's way is a whole other story.  Because the kindness of God is unending, I felt him whisper, "Trust me. Just trust me."  There are simply too many things that are out of our control - in life in general, but especially with this impending upcoming trip.  We can do our best to plan and prepare, but when it comes down to it, if our trust is not firmly rooted in God, we will fall apart long before we print our first boarding pass.  

I'm not making any medical recommendations here, but we walked out of there only updating our Hepatitis A vaccinations.  We opted out of all the non-required shots, especially the rabies one, because even with the shot if you're bitten by something with rabies you still have to get more rabies shots.  Why do they even offer that??

Anyway, on the drive home, with my shoulder throbbing and the kids putting the stickers the nurse gave them all over the van,  I absolutely felt the peace that passes all understanding.  My brain is quick to remind me that this is a crazy adventure we're on, one full of potential danger and logistical snafus.  But, my spirit is confident that God is in this.  I know that I know that I know that this is the next step on our journey with God.  I am leaning my whole self into God, into his power, wisdom, and goodness.  I know that whatever he has on the other side of this experience is worth everything.  He is worth everything I am and have.  That is where I have put my trust.

My dad always said that someday I would write him a letter thanking him.  Well, consider it written, Dad.  Thanks for hiding God's Word in my heart and thanks for teaching me how to sweep with one hand and hold the dust pan with the other.  I'm going to change the world.

Monday, March 7, 2011

No Plan B

I had intended on naming this whole blog "No Plan B," but that blogspot name was already taken.  Ironically, I was able to come up with something else...

While I was packing up our house in Ohio, without any idea of what we were going to do next, I told God, "We have no plan B.  It's you or it's nothing.  All we can do is trust you and know that you are good."  We had just experienced a major financial kick-in-the-pants which necessitated all the packing and moving. Both Shawn and I felt like we were just to trust God and wait - don't pursue the money, pursue God.  In the back of my head I was sure - I just knew - we were going to get one of those "eleventh hour" saves  - someone would leave a stack of cash on our doorstep, we would strike oil, or something - something spectacular would happen.  But, things didn't work out like that and we loaded all of our stuff into a trailer and left it at Shawn's parents' house.  At that time, God spoke to my heart the verse in Psalm 121 -...where does my help come from?  My help comes from you, the maker of Heaven and Earth.  I needed to remember - to hang on to for dear life - the truth that my help, my salvation, is God and nothing else.

That's how it is for me, it's got to be God.  If God isn't there, I don't want to be there either.  So imagine the hot mess I became as I'm chipping my way through the stack of required readings for Harvest School when I get to page 11 of one of Heidi Baker's books.

Since moving to Mozambique, we have learned to depend on God for everything. If God does not show up there, we are dead. We need to be totally dependent on God showing up.  We need his pure presence.  If God doesn't show up, no one else will either.  If God does not heal, we will be dead.  If God does not deliver, demons torment the people to death.  We have no back-up plan if God does not take care of our children and provide for our needs.  We can't and won't go on.
~ Compelled by Love, Heidi Baker

We have a long list of books, articles, and sermons to read before we get to the school and everything I've read so far is something I can't wait to pass on.   Judah was asking about all the books I was reading and I taught him the word "required."  Later, I found this stack of books on the counter.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The First One

*Disclaimer: The blogosphere is new to me and I'm not familiar with blogging protocol.  So bear with me as I make one faux pas after another.

So, then.  Here it is: a blog to keep connect in the coming months.  I figure that since there are so many people we want to keep updated on our upcoming journey (and the journey to get to that journey) why not use the internet for what it was intended?  Groupons.  No, a place for anyone to say anything about anything.  Plus, I'm hoping to get so many followers that Oprah will have to invite me on her show.  Or her network.  Or give me a show on her network.

As many of you know, we were accepted to Harvest School 14 in Pemba, Mozambique (check out for all the nitty gritty details) and will spend 10 weeks soaking in the presence of God and pouring out his love.  I can think of worse ways to spend June & July.

We looked into Iris Ministries almost 2 years ago after we left Ohio and took ourselves on the road trip of a lifetime - me, Shawn and two of the sweetest little kids imaginable (now we have three of the sweetest kids imaginable)  in a truck. We literally criss-crossed the country driving wherever we wanted and for one week in April, we were in Redding, California.  We met with two of Iris Ministries' staff while we visited Bethel Church and we got the low down on what it would take to work with Iris.  Well, obviously we didn't take the leap then - not that Shawn didn't already have our passports out just waiting to be stamped.  In the following two years, we moved back to Minnesota, had happy Asher, and knew we wouldn't be satisfied with our status-quo.  For me, specifically, and that is the benefit of being the typer, it was a now or never kind of deal.  I have said "no" to a lot of opportunities we've been given or made up ourselves because either I was sensitive to the Spirit and knew it wasn't right for us or (and this just me being honest) I didn't want to do it because it would be hard.  This time, I had to say "yes."  For all kinds of reasons, but mostly because if I didn't do it now I might never do it and in 40 years there's a good chance I'd be kicking myself (literally, because I plan on being in good shape at 70).

In the last year we've had a few standout God moments that have really given us direction and peace about attending Harvest School.  In June of last year, we were back in Columbus for a supernatural conference with Kevin Dedmon (out of Bethel Church in Redding, California) and at the end of the conference he prayed with us and gave us the scripture II Thessalonians 1:11-12.  Here it is, so you don't have to open another window and google it yourself: ...We constantly pray for you, that our God may  count you worthy of your calling and His every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete your every effort prompted by faith (faith which is leaning of the whole human personality of God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness).  Thus may the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified and become more glorious through and in you and may you also be glorified in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Amplified)  Yes.  Please.  

We were in back in Ohio in December for yet another conference this time headlined by Chad Dedmon - Kevin's son.  On Sunday morning during church, the pastor of our church honored us by calling us up for prayer and prophecy.  People who didn't know us prophesied over us what we have heard many times before - a call to the nations, the gift of healing, etc.  They didn't really say anything new or exactly specific (like, you're going to apply for Harvest School,  be accepted, go to Mozambique, return to America and be on the Oprah Show...), but for some reason I was undone by this.  In the natural, I heard the words and understood what they were saying, but since it was still a little vague (c'mon, you know how the prophetic can be) it should have been like any other time someone prayed for us.  However, I was a wreck - crying, holding on to Shawn so I wouldn't collapse, and only occasionally thinking about the mascara running down my face. My spirit totally knew what was going on.  My spirit connected to God and was eating it up, soaking in the promise and provision of God, and at some point, when I'm actually in the middle of what God was taking about, my natural mind will get on the same page with my spirit and then I'll really get it.  I'm looking forward to that.

And finally, we were at church in Minneapolis two months ago and George - one of the leaders - had been talking about prophecy and how some people are content just knowing that they have a calling and chase prophetic words to confirm their calling, but they don't ever step into the being chosen - going and doing - part.  He said something to the effect of, " might be called to missions, but instead you spend time building a business that's going to take 20 years to build..."  Ok. I get it.  I think I filled out the application that night.

So, anyway, now we're X-ing our way through a massive to-do list.  I'm grateful because this time our transition has come with a 3 month prep period AND we know what we're preparing for.  We wisely had gotten Judah and Luciana's passports last year and just had to get one for the little guy.   A friend shared with us a picture she had of our family standing on a diving board about to jump off and that's exactly what this feels like.  And I'm doing my best not to look down.

It's time to go big or go home.

If you want to help us get to Mozambique you can send tax deductible donations to:
Zion Christian Fellowship
10405 Sawmill Road
Powell, OH 43065

Please put Mozambique 2011 in the memo line

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.