17 December 2008

So awhile back I promised a review of some of the books I've been reading. So, to start, here is my 4 word review of Anne Lamott's Travelling Mercies:

Brilliant writer. Crazy heretic.

Now, to be fair, I expected to find her to be a crazy heretic before even opening the book. But I did not realize I would be enraptured by her writing just the same. There's something so refreshing about a truly screwed up, but grace-covered Christian. If, of course, one can call her that. I'm still not sure. I wish she offered other people as much grace as she's so happy to receive. But either way, I was glad I read it, even if her views on God (or Goddess) are totally whack. 


Taking a mental picture

10 December 2008

I wish I could describe the scene I'm currently sitting in, and yet be able to do it justice. I know it's an impossible task, but still I wanted to share it with you - my anonymous friends, my sisters, and you, Donna. :)

Jackson is asleep on the couch. After we read our Advent verses (making up for a couple of missed days), we prayed. And we prayed for a long time, which is unusual. He wanted me to pray for his Great Grandma & Grandad Stecker (as well as all his other grandparents). A very sweet request as it's been so long since he's seen them, and he never really saw them that often, but he said God told him to pray for them today. So we did. He then curled up, kissed me goodnight, and swiftly fell asleep.

The lights in the house are turned off, with the exception of my trusty Ikea paper floor lamp, and a green scented candle, burning inside our little black church sitting on the mantle. The lights on the Christmas tree are on, too, and I'm sitting in a chair, between the lamp and the candle, facing the tree, listening to Songs for Christmas.

A scene so perfect that I don't even mind the toys and papers on the floor, or the dirty dishes in the sink, or the fact it's been a crappy day, or that I'm waiting on the husband (again) to return home. So perfect a scene that I finished my Bible study for tomorrow, the first time I've achieved this feat in innumerable weeks. There is a snoring child happily draped on the sofa. Another one upstairs in her own bed (for now). And I am at peace (for now).

I have found that in the midst of completely chaotic, soul-searching, heart-wrenching, hair-pulling times, God has been known to give a good gift or two. Or a sweet moment or two. Or just a chance to catch one's breath and see that some things are right. Maybe not all, but some. And sometimes, some things are just enough.

Things of interest

08 December 2008

Just a few things of interest that I'd thought I'd share with you...

Ikea Hacker - my new favourite site. I'm in love with mostly everything they feature on here, wishing I were only half as creative as these amazingly inventive people.

Advent - I wrote a lengthy post on our ministry blog about our search for new family traditions. 8 days in and I think we're doing pretty well so far.

The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - OK, so book club was last week and I only got about 40 pages into this memoir, but it is so funny and nostalgic and a must for men who used to be boys and for those of us who have moms who steal sugar packets from restaurants. Also, it is a happy memoir, which is generally unheard of these days.

Sufjan Stevens : Songs for Christmas - As I told a friend recently, this is Folk, Indie, Bluegrass, Alterna Christmas at its best! LOVE IT! Available on iTunes for $15.99.

Radiant Magazine - my favourite online magazine (for the ladies) is back, revived and retooled! I have written for Radiant on occassion and would like to do so again if I can get my act together!

Finally, a picture of my sisters and me last year at Christmas. I miss them.


01 December 2008

newcastle 16

Lately I've been feeling like a cheater. I know this thought in itself is ridiculous, but still... it swims in the back of my mind on the hard days, when the support is down, the morale is down, when it feels like we came here a lot sooner - with a lot less - than we should have.

After four years of trying, we were given the chance to come here with a slashed budget for a shorter amount of time. Obviously, we jumped at the chance. It was not of our own doing, but was presented to us by the Higher Ups. By people who wanted to see us here as much as we wanted to be here. So we came, still coming up slightly short in the financial department. And I felt like a cheater.

The upside: it was the perfect timing, really. We knew it would be tough, would be a struggle, would be tight on all sides. But it was time. God had presented us with this moment in time, with a promise, or rather, the hope of a promise: it'll all work out.

And really, work-wise, it is working out. We are doing what we love, working with people we are growing to love, and getting to see something big and wonderful happen from way up close. And still, I feel like a cheater. Because between the cracks of those big and wonderful moments... still the idea of us not having measured up in that one area, still not measuring up. Never being 100%. Never being perfect.

The question of if we made this all happen, if we skipped a beat, if we didn't pay our proper dues... leaves me feeling like a cheater. Like we really don't deserve to be here. Like at any moment we'll receive a phone call, "The jig is up. The money's gone. Go home. Better luck next time."

And still, there are 176 people who at one point or another, believed in this with us, so much so as to give a part of themselves. It fills up my whole heart with hope and gratitude when I think of it.

God did that, not us. Surely, He has something in mind.

Northern Irish Images

30 November 2008

It just occurred to me that I should post a few pictures of our time @ Giant's Causeway (the children survived without us, by the way, with just the one black eye).

Tomorrow, a reprieve

22 November 2008

I cannot remember the last time the husband and I were alone for more than 3 hours at a time. I know it was at least 6 months ago, far away from here, in another life. It's more than fair to say that since we have arrived in Ireland, I have been somewhat hesitant to leave my children for long periods of time. Not that we've had many chances to do that (or have conquered that elusive quest to find a child minder (aka babysitter)). But still, the need for uninterrupted togetherness that consists of long conversations and carefreeness, minus nappy changes and demands for sweets, remains.

So tomorrow we are taking full advantage of having a Grandma around (sadly, she departs the day before our first Thanksgiving in a new land) and making her mind her adorably rambunctious grandchildren for 36 hours. We will be heading to the North to partake in some shopping (Ikea) and some sightseeing (Giant's Causeway), and perhaps an American indulgence (the brand-spankin' new Chili's in Belfast).

I'm only slightly nervous about leaving my mom with the kids for a couple of days, but have left notes and suggestions and frozen pizzas to make the task a little easier on her. I will also be secretly suggesting to a few friends that they stop by for a quick chat, just in case...

A year ago

17 November 2008


Ella says "dance" and "thanks".
She signs "more" only if absolutely necessary.
She puckers her lips when happy and tears at her clothes and hair when mad.
She cuddles more than before, especially after exposing bare bellies - hers and mine.

Jackson writes his name - all the time - every day.
He draws, too - LarryBoy and pumpkins.
He quotes lines from commercials and points with his middle finger: "Your world, delivered."
He prays and talks to God and he says God talks to him, too.

Matt is in Ireland, pursuing a dream, answering a call.
I think he will find Christ there, leading him.
I pray for his heart to endure the waiting.
Strength to overcome the fear.
Wisdom to replace all questions.
More like Christ now, to serve Him better later.
To introduce who He is to the doubtful and proud, we must be more like Him -
chase His holiness.

I am in Kansas. Finally learning a thing or two.


written 11 November 2007

An Itty Bitty Victory, of sorts

03 November 2008

After the super, duper, heavy post, I thought I would write about a bit of a triumph I experienced yesterday.

Some of you may know that our eldest, the 5 year old boy, had a rough start to life in Ireland. Culturally and socially, he just did not fit in, and we were really not at all prepared for how hard this would be on our typically easy going child.

The week after we moved into our house, he had a bit of a run-in with some neighbour children, which commenced in an awkward/angry encounter with their mother and a plea to keep our children separated from now on. Jackson wasn't too phased by this situation (as he had already picked out his BFF who was our next door neighbour boy, and they continue to remain best buds). However, I was devastated at my first big, public failure as cross-cultural worker/server/reacher-outer. Ugh. It just cast a pall over me. I questioned my responses to the situation (which coulda been better, seeing that I'm kinda a mama bear), questioned why we were here, thought Jack would never make friends and figured we'd have to move out of our housing estate hanging our heads.

Cut to 4 months later. A birthday for our girl. And one of the children in this family happens over for some cake and a little bit of friendship. The next weekend, a birthday present appears for Ella from this family. Then yesterday, a doorbell and two children at our door asking Jackson back over to their house (for the first time in 5 months), where he's treated to a birthday party for the youngest, cartoons, cake, sweets, and a goody bag.

As I walked back home after depositing him at the party, my smile grew with each step. I sighed a long, deep breath of relief. It took awhile, of course, but the space and time (and smiles in the school yard and the occasional drive-by wave) seemed to create an opening of possibilities.

So today, the middle child stopped by again, for a play-date. Jack proudly showed her around the house introducing her to "Alison" (Granny) and "Karen" (Mommy) and Ella who followed her around the house yelling, "HUG!" The new child was slightly confused and I thought, eventually, she'll get used to this.

Free to be you and me

01 November 2008

Lately I've been feeling like I'm losing pieces of myself.

This has been a hard week. Really, a hard month. I distinctly remember talking to a coworker/friend (more friend, than coworker) exactly one month ago and her saying, "I think you're doing great. Do you think you're doing great?" And I replied, "I think I'm on the verge of doing not-so-great."

I wrote a post awhile back about my own self-censorship. This is almost an entirely new arena for me, who so easily and happily sticks foot in month and tongue in cheek. Lately, I've been wrestling with a lot of stuff internally (in my brain, and stuff)... things which have been brewing for a long time, that I've really only shared with the husband, the sister, and occasionally with the quasi-anarchist cousin.  Now I find myself at the point where I feel an overwhelming need to express such thoughts/ideas/opinions/questions. I also find myself at a point in time where I can't share these things publicly without repercussions (even on my own, non-ministry blog, there are consequences).

Now don't get all riled up thinking the worst (Mom). Nothing fundamentally has changed inside this brain/heart (my salvation, I'm sure, remains intact). But really, the ideas are more practical in nature, more... holistic? More of an independent experiment? I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say... it's hard having to be so cryptic.

Here's the thing: I willingly signed on for this theoretical spotlight on my life. We talked a lot in prefield training about giving up our rights. Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness (along with other unnamed and not nearly as important "rights") should be... maybe... if we can... checked at the feet of Christ if we are to be His ambassadors. Ok, sure, I can do that. No prob.

Except... I'm wondering if one of my rights that I'm expected to give up is the right to be who I fundamentally am. I guess - it could be argued - I'm just expected to give up the old, less spiritually mature me, happily assume the role of the new psuedo-Pauline me, if it lurks in there somewhere. You know, the old man/new man thing. To me, it seems I'm not only becoming the quieter, meeker Me, but also Me minus thoughts & opinions, creative license & passion. Quickly turning into the shamed Me (yes, I have felt an increasing amount of shame as the old me parts ways with the new me). Or the Me who cries a lot. 

[ick, I'm just noticing how many times I say me, me, me... perhaps that's just as telling...]

This is not necessarily a reflection of life overseas. On the contrary, my new friends here seem to really want me to be me. Rather, it may very well be just a reflection of my own self-imposed restrictions for fear of rejection and failure. Or it could be an overreaction to the awareness that I am no longer my own person. Apart from belonging to Christ (which I willingly submitted to long ago), I now belong to one country, four churches, 176 individuals/families (who I also willingly submitted to), and I speak/act on behalf of all of their opinions/desires/beliefs/politics.

In conclusion, call this Pity Party 2.0. Commence consequences.

[This is why I have my own blog and why I write. Because there ARE thoughts that must be expressed, and if they aren't, I will fade away.]

Now for some fun

26 October 2008

So I went all crazy working on that project these last two weeks (I refer to it as a "project" because just calling it a "flyer" makes it seem so mousy and easy, when in reality... well, you read the post). Now, the craziness is over, the printer has taken over, shiny new flyers will be posted to teens all over Ireland inviting them to a youth retreat, and I bask in the glow of a job finally done and being able to be just a tiny part of God's bigger plan.

Now, for some fun. Me mum has arrived from the States for some good times with the grandkids, and perhaps a few girls-day-outs.  I'm going to take a wee break from work for a few days, and then, on to the next project! 
And now, a fun pic for your viewing pleasure. Sometimes it really is all kicks and giggles.

"I sense you don't have the experience..."

21 October 2008

This has just been one of those weeks. 

You know, where you are faced with a big task that you know you can complete with hard work, tenacity, and a wee bit of luck. So you set to it... you hit a wall, you find your way over it, you set to it again... and then you hit another wall. You work through it, feel a small sense of accomplishment, get back to work again, and then... another wall. This wall is taller and a bit more jagged, and looks difficult to climb, but you do it! Hooray! Mini celebrations abound! You can do it!

And then, yet another wall. One wall too many.

This is the point where you just wanna crawl back into bed and pretend your life has gone back to normal. I would say that this last wall may be the one that does me in for good. "I sense you don't have the experience..." is what a professional recently told me. Perhaps, he is right.

Birthday girl, take 2; or Will my kids grow up to hate me?

04 October 2008

Today my girl Ella Cate (The Artist Formerly Known As "Eleanor") turns 2. She got her first princess dress today, her first purse, and her 2nd-3rd-and 4th baby dolls. I will also tell you that she was angry for most of the day, we didn't get a single picture of her opening presents, we forgot to sing happy birthday to her, and she didn't blow out any candles. But that was all OK... having a full house of new friends made up for it.


Last night husband and I were reminiscing (regretting?) how many changes/transitions our kids have had to endure over these last 5 years. In Ella's two short years, we have moved 6 times. In Jackson's five years, we have never lived in the same place for more than 2 years - the shortest of which only being 6 weeks. It seems like we have packed them up, dragged them around, shown them off, and wiped away their tears of confusion more times than I would like to count. All because we wanted to follow God wherever we thought He wanted us to go.

No doubts about it, we know He wanted us to go to Ireland and He consistently confirms this fact to us, but I wonder if He didn't make the path a little bit straighter than how we chose to follow it. I wonder how much crap we piled on top of that path, until we could no longer see it clearly and didn't know where to step.

Perhaps the winding road we followed instead was exactly the one God meant for us to be on. But I can't help but wonder: will our children, who never chose to follow this path and instead are along for the ride, end up resenting us one day because of it...?

My one and only post about the election

03 October 2008

There's been a lot of consternation in our household lately. Surprisingly, it has less to do with the value of the dollar (yay!) and more to do with the upcoming presidential election (nay!). Here's the dealio-yo: I just cannot fathom voting for either candidate. I can't do it. I just can't. I'm not going to get into all the details, but if you are investigating the who's who in this election, you know what they are, and most likely you are struggling too.

It's not that I dislike them. In fact, all four people with their names on the ticket seem likable enough. I can see myself talking to them about life, gardening, school schedules, Dwight's latest antics on The Office. But I just cannot seem to make my convictions compromise - either way - with their policies. I'm really trying to figure this one out folks. In fact, sadly, I think this is the first time I have actually prayed about voting beforehand. I'm wanting God to take charge of this like I want Him to take charge of all things in my life. But He's not leading me in any particular direction this time...

I feel about voting for a democrat the way I feel about joining an Emergent church: I'm just not cool enough. I am not too cool for school. They are not my people. Or, rather, I think they don't want me to be their people. The Republicans, I feel, want me to be their people too much. I have the right label (Christian) and I love the not-yet-born babies. They want me and my Christian conviction (shame). 

I don't like what the election process turns my elected officials - and my family and friends - into: stark, raving, mad lunatics! I don't like what it turns my pastors back home into: convenient sound bytes. I don't like what it turns voting into: if you don't vote, you don't care, and you will never, ever again get to ever speak about anything at all in the public square, EVER! I don't like the fact that we can ignore issues for 3 years, sit on our bums not doing a thing about the world around us, and then for 1 year only get all nutso about biblical principals in government. 

So here's what I think I'm going to do: I'm not going to vote in the booth, but I'm going to vote with my life. I'm not going to choose a side, because I don't think God has. I believe He's on everyone's side. And if I'm on everyone's side, I should choose to be by their side every day of the year. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm just beginning this "journey". Voting with one's life takes A LOT of effort! Arguably, a lot more effort than ticking a box on a form. I don't think I'll ever adequately vote with my life the way God intends for me to... but let's just call this an experiment: a daily vote. Ticking the box that says "walking along this road with you, following after Christ." We can see what the results are in the next four years, or 40 years, or maybe in heaven... I'm not sure.

Sometimes voting your conscience is impossible... sometimes it means simply not voting at all. Perhaps there is no biblical mandate on voting. Perhaps, God is in control either way. 

Kudos for this blog go to: 
Relevant Magazine and their "How to vote without losing your soul" cover story / All of my friends who are different political persuasions than I am (at this time) and who I love anyway - I would rather serve along with them in life than vote against them in the booth / Anne Lamott who has proven to me, through her books, that I am definitely NOT cool enough to be a democrat, but she's trying very hard to love people like me anyway...

Blogging, reading, and other things I do to avoid cleaning

22 September 2008

There's been a bit of a lapse in the blogging department as of late, not that I don't have a bazillion things bouncing around in my head that I desperately need to write down and "process". For now, though, I am spending quite a bit of time reading. This is in the hopes that

a) I will learn something,
b) I will grow spiritually and/or intellectually, and
c) I can write some wicked book reviews that will blow your mind.

For those interested, or for those who have lots-o-time and can read many books at once, here is my reading list: 

  • Bowling Alone (so I can impress my new-found book club friends who I think are testing me with this nonfiction American read)
  • Travelling Mercies (so I can be an informed Anne Lamott judger, instead of an ignorant one... I'm surprised to say that, so far, I kinda like it)
  • Eat, Pray, Love (I don't know why... I think I'm reading it so I can rip it to shreds, but it's a borrowed book, so that might not be wise)
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (so far, finishing this book is proving to be a long obedience in itself...)
I can't promise I will finish any or all of these books, but here's hoping that it will enable some good blog fun. Also, while reading all these books, I plan on squeezing in raising my children and the occasional design/editing work. 


As a side note, so you know that I have been reading books that are specifically work/Ireland/culture related, here is a list of completed (or partially completed) books from my first few months here:

I've thought about writing book reviews on these reads, but feeling still so inadequate in deciphering Irish culture and life in "full-time ministry", would rather save my snarky comments and irreverent opinions on books that come from self-centered Americans (A Long Obedience withheld from consideration). :)

Why I'm an editor at heart

15 September 2008

Because I constantly write something, delete it, write something, delete it, etc. etc. It never says exactly what I want it to say, how I want to say it, and never has the ability to be said (or typed) without consequences... of course I think of all the amazing writers who don't give a hoot about the consequences (James Frey, anyone?), but they don't live off of support like I do. Or at least, not in the same way. If they something provocative, they get paid more! And go on Oprah!

To be continued...

Another Top Ten, American style

13 September 2008

I've been putting off writing this post because I thought it would depress me. Seeing as I'm already in a funk and would like to just reminisce about the good ole days for awhile, here we go...

Top 10 things I miss about America:

  1. My mom's front porch
  2. Not worrying about who Jackson's playing with, or if he's behaving himself
  3. Peanut butter m&ms
  4. Our first apartment in Oak Park, IL (we haven't lived there in 7 years, and yet when I think of home, I think of that small, beautiful apartment on Humphrey. I think of Oak Park and Chicago in the fall and my old friends at Logos Bookstore... I remember the carefree-ness that being young, and newly married, and without responsibility brings... I remember how God provided that apartment... and I can literally feel my heart hurt a little)
  5. The hospital where my children were born and the wonderful OB that held my hand through the loss of another...
  6. Having an over abundance of parents and siblings around
  7. The Farmers Market in River Market, KC (and the mennonites and their delicious breads, buying fresh flowers in autumn colors, the pumpkin patch, and taking Jackson to the tiny coffee shop for juice and a ginormous cinnamon roll)
  8. Target
  9. Our friends, and our friends' friends, and various family members young and old, who gathered in our living room discussing politics, or calvinism, or love, or the latest episode of The Office
  10. Feeling normal

There you have it.

Forgotten Girl

09 September 2008

In all the hubbub of Jackson's life changing drastically, I realized Ella-centric posts on this blog are lacking. So let me tell you a little bit about our girl:

Our somber little non-smiler appears to have changed overnight.  She is simply boisterous. She laughs and sings and dances and speed walks (her favourite olympic event).  She loves to tell jokes, and loves even more to laugh at them.  When Skype opens up on our computer, she runs into the dining room, yelling: "Gramma! Jessica! Papa! Grampa Huber!" We can't leave the door open for a mere minute without her escaping down the street. 

Her best friend (besides Jackson) is our baby neighbour, Rachel. They exchange greetings every morning, love to say eachother's names over and over again, sharing pacifiers and little buggies and laughs and tickles. 

She has numerous "babies", all named Emma or LarryBoy. She eats sand by the scoopful, licks rocks, and loves to fall bum-first into the surf of the Irish sea.

She's also a great little sidekick for Jackson. A gift we thought we'd never have.

Hard, but good

This has been my motto as of late. Life, love, ministry, kids... all hard, but good. Yesterday was a hard, but good day. And really, it was more good than hard.

The hard part: proof of my baby boy growing up, letting go, continuously giving him up to God and saying "He's Yours".

The good part: a new beginning for Jackson, learning and growing and watching him learn something new every day, Matt saying, "He's becoming Irish!", trusting God more...

For fun not likely for profit

28 August 2008

So I got this idea from a co-worker of mine (OK, I stole the idea!). 

I play around a lot with photography and like to think I'm good at it (though really I just don't have the patience or energy to be that good at it), so I joined a website called where I can display and/or sell my photos. Really, this is just for fun and very unlikely to produce any profit, whatsoever. But still... nice to think about some of these images on the face of a card or mounted in someone's hallway - even if it's just my mom's. :)

Also, I know a lot of you have taken some amazing photographs, so perhaps you should think about joining as well. Did I mention it's free?


23 August 2008

J sure is photogenic these days.

Birthday Shmirthday

22 August 2008

Anticipating 30 sucks. So far, actually living 30 isn't too bad.

Last night awesome spouse and lovely friends took me out to dinner in Dublin - Mexican food! Brilliant!

And today, Facebook and about 30 of my closest friends and family sent me birthday wishes from afar. Skype let me see the faces of all of my parents. Sunflowers were delivered to my door. Apple pie was made (and vigorously eaten). Neighbours BBQed for us and now Matt and I sit on the couch waiting for 30 Rock to come on. (Oh wait, I just got that! 30 Rock!!)

Of course, 30 +1 day might not be so hot.

But still, for today... I am grateful for good friends, good food, and feeling at home in Dublin.

Failure Feelings

20 August 2008

I have found that one thing Satan really likes is our pride, and one thing God really hates is when His children use the term "failure." I found this out early on during our Annual Conference experience, and I admit that I fell into that little hole of self pity.

Some background info:
After nearly four years of raising support to be long term missionaries, our sending agency suggested that we switch to a short term program. The benefits being a smaller budget, shorter term, and speedy arrival on the field. So we jumped at it! We believe God has called us to live and work in Ireland for the rest of our lives, but if His will is to only have us here for 2 years, we will gladly serve Him here for those 2 years. We are now currently serving our first term of 2 years, after which we will go home to raise more support so that we can come back for good.

A few downsides to this situation: we are viewed differently here. It is much more difficult to form relationships and friendships with our neighbours if they only view us as living here short term. It is hard to describe to them that while we are only "committed" here for two years, we feel that this is our permanent home. It is also more difficult to contribute openly and equally within our field of coworkers, all of whom are in this for the long haul and some of who may (inadvertently) view our situation as a temporary, passing phase.

All this came to a head for me at our organization's annual conference. Being "short termers" as we currently are now, for organizational purposes (I assume) we were lumped into a group that contained other "short termers", as well as "interns", whose terms of service ranged from 2 weeks to 2 years. I ashamedly admit that I was humiliated. I was so annoyed (hurt, offended, you fill in the blank) that my four years of painstaking work was going by unnoticed. Not just that, but I was flabbergasted that we - a couple who have committed their lives to this work - were being grouped in with people who had committed 2 weeks! The shock of it! Friends who knew us when we first joined the organization came up to us, confused, asking, "What happened? Why aren't you long term?" I wanted to answer, "Oh, we failed at support raising so they threw us a bone and are letting us serve for just 2 years." Of course, I didn't say that! But the truth was, I did feel like a failure. My pride got the best of me, and not living up to that meant failure.

So this general feeling of discontent and disgrace lasted a couple of days before my husband gently kicked my butt and snapped me out of it. "Our miracle is that we are here and that God is allowing us to live for Him here, in Europe, no matter for how long." The thing was, it didn't really matter what WE think we are doing here. What mattered was what God was doing here, that He could use people for 2 weeks to accomplish something for His Kingdom, or 2 years, or 2 decades. Not bound by time, and certainly not bound by money, He has a job for each of us. Was I willing to do that for Him, without the recognition? Was I willing to do that and give Him the glory, instead of wanting it all for myself?

Well, I think I answered yes, because the rest of the conference was brilliant. My pride and Satan's lies had kept me from enjoying fellowship and listening to God's word. God's truth and my eventual submission allowed me to share in His story - the one that He's telling in Europe.

I'm certainly not proud of most of the things written in this post, but I felt that to get it all out - to write the truth - is one weapon I can use against Satan's failing deceits. Tomorrow, when I feel like a failure all over again, I can pull this up, read it, and realize my shortcomings allow God to do the job. I can't take credit for that.

Coming "Home"

12 August 2008

Yesterday, for the first time, we came back home to Ireland. I really didn't think much of it until a friend of mine sent me a message: "Welcome home!" For some reason this has taken awhile to get used to, but today I happily rest in being home.

So yes, we are home now from Hungary, where we attended our organization's annual conference. Good times were had by all, especially the children, and I am so grateful that God has led us to this organization. Here are a few pics of our trip (including a brief stop in Vienna).

More deep thoughts will be coming your way about our time away, but I will need a few days to process before coherency can commence.

Culture Shock 101

05 August 2008

Yesterday I cried a lot. Here is the reason for my crying: it rained. Now I'm living in Ireland, so it rains a lot, without warning, intermittently throughout the day. Usually I don't mind; I actually love the rain here (though I could use some thunder on occasion). But yesterday I slept in way late, felt kinda funky, and we determined to go for a walk as a family to the shop for some milk. Thus ensued about an hour or two of temper tantrums, dirty diapers, searches for missing shoes, and time outs... until we were all finally at the door about ready to walk out when we saw it: downpour.

That was the culture straw that broke this mama camel's back. 

 I promptly turned around, went upstairs, and cried. I'm sure you're thinking that is relatively a small issue. And it was - so unbelievably small! But... I'm kinda at the end of my processing rope. We're not doing any language learning here, we're doing "culture learning". There are assignments and suggestions and discussions that come out of this culture learning period, but the level of success or completion is not a fixed variable. We're not graded, no quizzes, no certificate of completion. We just try and soak up as much as we can each day, and the next day try to maneuver life in Ireland a little better.

The mental power this takes is incalculable. We sleep nearly 10 hours every night. It takes us an hour to get ready to go anywhere - even down the street! We have to think through literally every decision or every movement over and over again. Cooking takes longer, cleaning takes longer, grocery shopping takes FOREVER! And when I do make it out of the house, praying to meet some people and have some (hopefully) intelligent conversations (I'm not as funny in "hiberno English", I've discovered), those conversations only last about 30 seconds. The need I have for interaction with people is not exactly met. I go home a little frustrated, and the next morning I get up and try again.

So about 3 months in (or in my case: exactly 3 months in), culture shock sets in. CS isn't just one event, it's a culmination. But sometimes it is one little event that makes all the others protrude on a larger scale and suddenly it seems completely overwhelming. That is where I am. Sensory overload. Emotional exhaustion. Physical weakness. Spiritually drab. Our advisor from prefield training emailed me straight away with two crisp and clear points: It isn't terminal, and it doesn't last forever. Very good to know!

Last night I could feel it getting a little better, especially after processing all of this with another new-to-the-field friend, but I know this funk might last a little bit. I'm hoping that at least being aware of it will help me handle it better. And I'm praying that in the midst of it, God will meet me someplace in the form of a new Irish acquaintance, or a tiny place to serve, or in a crowded airport with all the Irish missionaries 24 hours from now... maybe it will endear me to our coworkers here, who at times seem so far away... maybe I'll lose the will to eat and lose 10 pounds.

 See, I'm already looking on the bright side!

Declarations of a 5-year-old

02 August 2008

I originally started writing this post on the history of J's spiritual growth.  Then I remembered a crucial point: he is 5!  I don't have to dramatize the effects of this story to receive a higher grade in Personal Evangelism (Moody reference).  So I will lay the facts bare:

Saturday evening my boy asked Jesus to live in his heart.

He also asked Jesus to throw his sins away.

He also asked Jesus how big the universe is.

Three big questions for one little guy.  Now I know he's only 5, and who knows what spiritual decisions actually "take" at such a young age, but I have come to the understanding that that's God's problem.  He knows what a little boy is capable of understanding, and if a little boy wants Jesus to save him from his sins and wants to live in heaven with Jesus, then God will say, "Yes".

The best thing about this episode in our family life is this: Jackson heard God speak to him.  First, regarding the universe, he gasped and said, "God answered me! He said it's WIDE OPEN!" Second, regarding his sins.  "He answered me again! He said YES! I heard Him!"

Thinking back on it now, I have to ask myself: when was the last time I heard God's voice so clearly, and believed and obeyed Him instantly?  Not only that, but when was the last time I asked God a question, and waited for the answer?   My boy, who has been a "Christian" for three days now, taught me an invaluable lesson.  Not only does God hear us when we pray, but He will answer us.  Maybe not as quick as he answered Jackson... but there is an answer.  

Another Top Ten

28 July 2008

The busy month of July is almost over and I'm afraid I'm on the verge of crashing from this month-long high.

A short list of the amazing things that happened this month:
  1. The Boy, having attended two kids clubs and one camp, made a friend (or two, or three!)
  2. Having become a commuter and a bookclubber, I made a friend (or two, or three!)
  3. Husband unofficially began full-time ministry
  4. Six campers put their trust in Christ
  5. Our crate came! We are now sleeping in our own beds and we are surrounded by family pictures.
  6. I got to design and edit (and finish!) our field orientation manual
  7. My mom bought a plane ticket to visit in November
  8. The Boy is enrolled in school
  9. Summer has come to Ireland - at least for the last 3 days!
  10. The Girl continues to live her happy Irish life

I'm beginning to learn the importance of writing down these (big and small) milestones... to remember God's faithfulness, despite my reticence; to rejoice in His strength, despite my weakness.

Just as I wrote this, a letter came in the post... from our church, and our dear friends.  And a quote:

"Don't sweat the petty things,
and don't pet the sweaty things!"

Truer words were never spoken.

Favourite. Picture. Ever.

22 July 2008

The only way this picture could be better is if I had gotten Ella's face in the shot.

My Top Ten Reasons...

21 July 2008

...why I don't camp. Period.

1) bugs
2) sweat
3) shared bathrooms
4) very low top bunks
5) bugs
6) dirt
7) Jackson & Ella, unplugged, and outta control
8) early nights
9) earlier mornings
10) bugs

So alas, I have found myself at a camp. I have posted on another blog (a more upstanding and slightly holier blog) about the upside of camp life. I take it all back! No really, this camp isn't too bad. The people are lovely and the scenery is quite beautiful and Husband is in his field of expertise, but the children... oh the children... not the campers, but MY OWN CHILDREN! They're crazies! Nature brings out this feisty, dirt infested, always hungry side to my children. Then there's the being stuck in the same room with them, for hours at time, with nothing but LarryBoy reenactments to keep us company. As of now, I have zero photographic evidence of said children, but that's for fear of sand and dirt and rage being inflicted upon camera.

So I'm considering taking leave tomorrow, with crazies in tow, back home to lovely Co Meath and our separate bedrooms, and DVD player, and bathtubs. Of course, then I will be alone with them, all day, sole disciplinarian and cook (I'm sure those who know me will know which of these two things is the most difficult for me). Stay tuned...

The New Telemarketers

10 July 2008

An email from my mom yesterday...

So I got this phone call last night from Jay Sekulow - the Christian justice guy. So they play this breaking news tape, then the guy comes on and asks me for a couple hundred dollars. I told him I didn't have a couple hundred and he said they didn't need it immediately, just sometime during the next three weeks. Then he explains Jay's message and what it would mean to Christians and would I stand behind Jay, and I said, sure I'll stand behind him, I just can't give any money. Then he talks about it a little more and asks for 35 to 50. And I say I just don't have any money. Then he explains the situation further and I said, Please don't ask me a fourth time. I don't have any money. Then he said thank you and hung up. They just don't give up, do they?

I'm not sure I have any quippy remarks about this one, despite reflecting on the fact that "Christian" appears to have been hijacked by just another mass-market harasser. A more worthy cause then cheaper long distance? Perhaps... Rude and self-aggrandizing? Definitely...

Whatever happened to praying?

A Kept Woman

26 June 2008

Today we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. That is such an amazing feat, at least to me, considering that I am not yet 30 (one month and counting!) and have already been married 9 years. Not just that, but today we celebrated those amazing 9 years in Ireland. We spent four of those nine years just trying to get here!

There are a few conundrums to our union, not the least of which is that I hate cuddling. And he loves to cuddle. And you'd think in a marriage, this would be a difficult thing to overcome. And yet, because of love, there are days when the world stops for the brief few moments that my head rests between his clavicle and shoulder. It just fits there perfectly. I believe God made it (him) just for my head (me).

And then there's the kiddos. I'm stunted for words when I think about it. There's a quote from a Doris Lessing short story (To Room Nineteen). The anthology I have that this story is in is still in America, so I don't have the quote perfect, but essentially it's the wonder of love, marriage and family: that all this (kids, house, home, life, family) came into existence because two people fell in love. The short story actually is quite depressing, so there's nothing else really from the story that reflects our marriage, except that one idea. But it's a mesmerizing notion just the same.

On my spouse's nifty facebook page, it says: [he] thinks it has been 9 years of blessed imperfection. I think that's all we can really ask for.

Thou Shalt Not Covet (thy friend's house)

Everyone sins.  Some people have sins that are more obvious, more public, more noticeable.  Other people have sins that are an easily kept secret.  I have a particular one (of many, I'm sure) that I feel I must share with you at this particular moment in time.

I covet.

This is a particular issue in our line of work.  We hear (and preach) a lot about denying self, picking up our cross, forgetting what lies behind and striving towards what's ahead.  That's all well and good, but it's hard to look ahead when my head is always turned, leering and secretly thinking, "If only I/we had that."

When I was pregnant with our son, we considered buying a house.  We looked around, researched, planned... and then the husband said, "I think we need to remain mobile."  (Husband has the gift of prophecy).  Thus, the dream of a house of my own ended.  And then everyone around me started buying houses! Not just any old house, but houses I could've seen myself living in, fixing up, raising a family in and calling home.  We rented, moved around, lived with family members, and now today I sit on someone else's couch in someone else's home that we are renting, 3000 miles away from where the American dream had secretly enmeshed itself in my heart.

Do you see the sin there?  I like to think it's not there and that it's only natural to want something for yourself.  That's not bad in and of itself, right?  But when it becomes painful to even visit those places, where friends and family call home, and wish it was you and begrudge them the joy?  That's a heart issue, and I am struggling with it.

We spent a month in a school that prepared us for living and working in another culture.  The instructors told us - time and time again - that in order to best acclimate to another culture, leave who you were and where you came from behind.  This included personal belongings, things that had become a part of our history and our lives...

Our couch.  Last week I sat on this "other" couch and cried because I missed my stupid couch.  I've been going over pictures of other workers preparing to come here, dwelling on the fact that they "get" to bring everything they own over here, while we left nearly everything behind.  (Don't think this was an entirely spiritual decision on our part; this was due in large part to save money.)  We are waiting on a 6 foot x 6 foot crate with the few things we couldn't leave behind: pictures, toys, files, and our bed.  I covet that 20 foot container they get to bring.  And I covet the money that they have that pays for that container.  By extension, I belittle the money that was given generously and sacrificially by others so that we could bring a little bit of home with us.  There is a sin being committed there... and again, I struggle with it, because I know it.

Why is this even a struggle?  These are just things!  What is at the root of the covet?  A pastor here said that sin is not so much the issue, but the thirst that precedes the sin.  We solve the issue by quenching the thirst.

I keep thinking I'm quenching the thirst.  And then God reveals to me another area where I'm still thirsty and craving something other than Him.  He points out how pitiful I am.  And I'm brought back to the idea of dying to self.  To quench the thirst is to die to self, and to live for Jesus.  

Smitty WAS right...

24 June 2008

If you didn't graduate from high school (or middle school) in the mid-1990s or ever said goodbye to fast new friends at Bible camp, then you have not truly lived... the Michael W Smith golden rule:

Friends are friends forever,
if the Lord's the Lord of them;
And a friend will not say never
cause the welcome will not end...

Blah blah blah.

Ok, yes, I admit to being a cynic and not all that... shall we say... sentimental?  First of all, I have never really thought of myself as fertile soil (at least not until I had babies).  I have one friend I think of this way, but that's because she KEEPS having babies!  (and adorable ones too - I'm not judging).  I admit to maybe tearing up once during this song, but I think it had to do with a boy and youth group and... well, you get the idea.

Anyway, here am I, in Ireland - lovely, lovely, totally God's will and brilliant Ireland - and right now the place I want to be is Chicago, in the autumn, for a wedding.  My dearest girlfriend from college just got engaged and I cannot be there to see her walk down the aisle.

Cue piano.  Or synthesizer.  Maybe some humming.

Here's the thing about our friendship: husband, career, kids, geography... all have brought about a sort of distance in our relationship.  But the distance has never been a hinderance.  Rather, we have lived our lives, then reunite every 2 or 3 years, marveling at each other's accomplishments, and rejoicing at what God has done in each life.  Ok, I write all that and it sounds so... small in comparison to the... and love God's given
springing from the hope we know

Wow.  I have a disease.

So there were a few tears this week.  About the joy I can only witness through emails and IM chats.  And they weren't just my tears, either.  The sweetest thing being that there were a few tears on the other side of the Atlantic, too.  And a couple of I Love Yous.  And an "I wish you were here" or "there".

And then in 2 years or so, we'll meet again at the same spot we always do in Chicago.  And I'll see a ring and and meet a husband.  Probably a few tears then, too.  Celebrating a new chapter...

Darn you, Smitty!  

Psalm 45v1

18 June 2008

This blog is for me.  Or maybe, this blog is for you.  

For four years, I have chronicled the journey of our family's move to cross-cultural life and work in Ireland.  I realized today - as I wrote a post for prayer for my son - that I needed a space where words could not be minced and where my own journey from safety to risk could be laid bare.  This is with the hope that you can join me here, too, for my journey is definitely not the only one being taken.

Also, this won't always be as heavy as this first post might feel now.  I hope it to be light and airy and full of life and grace.  It's just that God has brought me to a heavy moment and the need, always the need, to write.

And as for the title of this blog and the purpose... my life verse, only read today for the first time from The Message:

My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. 
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
shaping the river into words...