Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Post from the Archives

So, we just moved back to our host country after a 6 month time in the states. What are we suppose to call that time now?  I never know.  Anyway, it was a good time of connecting with supporters, churches, family and friends.

And now we are in the throws of transition. Oh the joys.  I think in some ways, we got lulled into a false sense of security, thinking since we were returning to the same house, it would feel more akin to coming home from vacation, just unpack and go.  But we've hit some bumps, from the oldest down to the youngest.   Such is life!

While I would love to give you something witty and charming and new, I am going to repost the first in a series of articles about moving across the world.  I've been asked 4 times in the last week for my advice on moving, and it seems timely.   Feel free to click through the other articles in the series. Hopefully it will help some of you out! 

So without further ado:  Moving Across the World
So, as I thought about what to share with you all today, I couldn't get away from my moving notebook.

I kept grabbing it and jotting down "boys jeans" or checking the "To Buy in the States" page to see that garage sale had anything we needed.  And as I thought more about what to write, I figure, well, we all have to deal with this right?  I mean, we all seem to live in two or more places and moving a family across the world is simply the reality of missionary life.  And frankly, it can be big and scary and hard to even know were to begin!  I remember thinking "I wish I had seen someone do this before!"  So, in hopes of helping someone, you can watch our family move across the world.  And let me just say as we start out, this is what works for our family.  It may or may not work for you.  That's ok.  Take what you think will be helpful and leave the rest.  Really.

And so, here is "Everything I Know About Moving a Family Across the World".  Well, that title is a bit long.  Let's say instead, "Moving Across the World" or MAW for an even shorter title.

I guess the most logical place to start would be from the beginning, hummm?  Before we were deployed (yes, that is the word our mission uses, hehehe), we were living in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with a garage.  We decided early on that there were things we wanted to keep.  You know pieces of family furniture, keepsakes from our childhood and from our boys.  Baby equipment for the next kid.  You get the idea.  For us, what made the most sense was to buy an old storage trailer (we found this beauty on craigslist for about $1400, which from everything we were told, was a steal!)  It's 20 feet long and we keep it next to my parents' barn.

We didn't know when exactly we were going to be moving because of funding, but we knew we were leaving.  And we knew that all our junk would not fit in the trailer or come with us.  So, about 8 months before we actually left, I started purging, sorting through our house room by room.  I worked with a couple of thoughts in my mind

1.  Do we love this item?
2.  Could we buy something similar in Costa Rica?
3.  Is it worth it's weight?

If we love something, we kept it.  If we love it and it's worth it's weight, we bring it.  If we love it and it can't come, it stays in the trailer.

If it's not something we love, worth it's weight or we could buy something similar in Costa Rica, we get rid of it.  Maybe we give it to someone who could use it, or we sell it on Craigslist, or we give it to Salvation Army.  But we move it on out!

Now the "is it worth it's weight?" question.  Sigh.  This is probably different for every family.  For use there are somethings that just make life a little brighter. You know, when your whole world is different and you can't read the label for the soap, it's nice to be able to reach for a familiar thing.

 For me, it's my own linens.  And since linens in Costa Rica are terrible, it makes sense to bring them.  I also have a thing for glass jars.  I have a few packed for this next move.  Yes, they are heavy, but I know I am not going to find these particular jars there.  For me it's worth it.  It's going to be different for everyone.

So there you have The Beginning of MAW.  Stay tuned for more thoughts and ideas on this crazy process of being a nomad.

What was/is your thought process on what what things should go and what should stay?  Any tips for making the process easier in the beginning?

Want more MAW?  Check these out
Moving Across the World:  Toys 
Moving Across the World:  Buying and Acquiring 
Moving Across the World: Packing 
Moving Across the World: The Big Day(s)
Moving Across the World:  Helpful This and Thats

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Taming Kids' Room Chaos

We live in a 2 bedroom apartment with 6 people. Perhaps some of you live in tighter space than we do, but even so, it can still be a trick for us to fit ourselves and all of our belongings into our home in a comfortable and non-chaotic manner. We may have moved overseas with only a few bags, but almost 9 years later, we’ve had plenty of time to acquire things that now battle for precious and limited shelf and closet space.

I won't win any awards for style or decor on my kids' bedroom, but we do have 4 kids sharing this one room and we've managed to find ways to keep it a manageable and comfortable place for them to enjoy. They are also mostly able to maintain its' order themselves.
A major area that needs constant de-cluttering is our kids’ room. We have all 4 kids in one not-so-large bedroom. I feel like I am constantly sorting and getting rid of toys that don’t get played with to try to keep their room from being overrun with clutter. My kids themselves sometimes reach the point where they are begging to get rid of things so their room will be more peaceful. 

So, since I bet a lot of you are in the same boat as our family, I thought we could share ideas about taming clutter, particularly in our kids’ rooms. I'm not an expert on this, but we've needed to be attentive to this issue since there are a lot of us and not a lot of room in our home. Here are some of my thoughts about keeping kids’ possessions manageable if you happen to fight this same battle. I hope you'll share yours too!

     1)      Kids really don’t need a ton of toys. Really! Over years of analyzing what my kids actually play with, I am pretty sure that my kids would be perfectly happy if they only had blocks to build with (like Duplos and Legos), a few stuffed animals each, a few baby dolls with clothes and blankets, a doll stroller, trains and tracks (Thomas or Thomas-like generic version), games, arts and craft supplies, and books. Actually, I bet they would be perfectly fine with less than this, but these are what they regularly play with now and make up the bulk of their toys. All of the other little toys that they have rarely get used.  As a result of observing this, we’ve learned to freely pass along toys that the kids don’t use. It makes them (and me!) feel less stressed when their room looks nicer. It also makes cleaning up so much easier and faster for them, and they don’t miss the toys that we give away. They are able to easily clean up their room on their own every night, meaning that we can start each day with a tidy room and that their things do not become a burden to them. We still have more toys than we need, but we've definitely tamed what could have been!

     2)      Toy rotations are great! We have buckets of toys that slide in and out of our small Ikea toy organizer. We have more buckets than shelves for the buckets, so some of them stay in the kids’ closet. When they tire of the toys that they have out, I ask them to fill up a bucket or two that they would like to trade in for whatever is in the closet. It revives their interest in some of their toys if they are put away and then brought out after some time.
The short storage area contains some of the storage bins that we rotate.
3)      Suggest non-toy gift ideas to friends and family who want to show your children love. Living overseas, there are fewer ways that our family and friends can show love to our kids, which makes gift-giving very important, but because of this, our kids may often receive more gifts from friends and family than they perhaps would otherwise. You may want to try to think of and share gift ideas that family and friends can give to your kids that won’t result in loads of toys for every holiday, birthday, and in between. Perhaps they can send a special picture book, or give a coupon for a special outing either for something that you can do in your host country or home on furlough, give the gift of Skype story times or craft/music lessons or game time with a loved one… Get creative! The point of gift-giving is to show love and build the relationship between the child and family member or friend. Of course sometimes toys are the perfect thing for this, but other times there are non-toy options that might be even more meaningful.

Those are just a few ideas on how to tame clutter in kids’ rooms. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas too!

Do you battle to keep your kids’ room from being over-run with toys? If you could make a short list of the most entertaining toys, what would you recommend? Do you have other techniques to share on keeping their rooms in order? What sorts of principles guide you as you consider how to manage the number of possessions that you own?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Longevity in Ministry ~ Hoping to resume an abandoned but not forgotten study

Last summer, I began a series that has certainly been challenging and searching for me.

Then life happened: a transitioning college student, four high schoolers with their crazy schedules and homework load, working at a local pregnancy resource center, volunteering at a wildlife rehab clinic with a few of my children and teaching English as a second language (ESL)… I managed to keep up with all of that and blogging… Then hubby traveled for a couple of months and I enrolled in an online course to get my ESL certification.

Something had to give and that something ended up being blogging. I’ve missed writing and I’ve been wanting to finish up the final posts scheduled for this series. 

Since it has been so long, however, I decided to do a “recap” first and summarize some of the key points from each post to date. Clearly, this will help me as I look at finishing the series. But hopefully, it will also summarize what I’ve shared so far and pique your interest for the final two to three posts remaining. 

A sermon preached by the senior pastor at my sending church provoked this series. My notes start with these words: 

"Like longevity in life, some basic things are needed - 
right genes [to be a child of God], right diet [God's Word], 
right exercise [involvement in ministry] 
and right environment [a place in God's community - the Church]. 
The Apostle Paul set it as his goal to walk worthy and finish well. So should we!"

Yet what does the practical outworking of this look like in real life - not just a paragraph of pretty words in a complex simile?

Using my sermon notes and through further study, I’ve identified seven essential priorities that help protect those in ministry, particularly cross-cultural ministry, from burnout and the temptation to sin... ones that direct and give hope for the future... ones that remind that all is grace and a gift from God.

Those priorities are (the last three are the ones we’ll be looking at over the summer):

1. Continuously and consistently seeking the Lord - It is so obvious, so simple - to increasingly grow in intimacy with God, we must walk with Him. It must become a habit in both senses of the word - a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up, as well as my regular dress or attire (thing of a nun’s habit).

2. Praying without ceasing - steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully - Satan has blinded God's people so that prayer is trivialized and less important than some other priorities. We forget the truth that the Spirit laid upon the heart of Oswald Chambers and which he later penned: "...prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."

3. Balancing personal growth, rest and ministry - We must minister to our family, our neighbors, our community, within our official ministries... and at the same time allow God and others to minister to us. Sometimes that means accepting help…

4. Welcoming accountability - Accountability means submitting to, as an obligation and with personal willingness, the responsibility to report and to explain one's words, actions, plans, etc. Accountability-done-right works because it gives hope, and “hope is the only thing stronger than fear” (President Snow, in The Hunger Games).

5. Committing to marriage and family;

6. Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and

7. Determining to be a genuine team player.

Underlying the practice of EACH the above priorities are two truths: 1) we can trust God, not only because He is sovereign - but because He is sufficient in that sovereignty, and 2) Our obedience has to be the grace based obedience of trusting faith - we work out what God is working in.

My pastor shared an illustration that I found very helpful when it comes to looking at the sovereignty of God. He'd heard it, I believe, from one of his Bible teachers. 

As men and women with limited perspective and a very finite view, we look at a crazy oxymoron where God says He is divine and yet, that we are responsible. His Word teaches both. It doesn't make sense, no matter how hard we try.

But that is because we can only see as if we are the standing at the open side of an enormous horseshoe, so enormous that we cannot see the U-shaped part of the horseshoe. Human responsibility is on one of the separate ends; divine sovereignty at the other. Our perception, and rightly so if we lived our lives based only on what we see, is that those two are separated by a wide space... irreconcilable... and made of material that bends or changes shape only under great pressure or heat.

There is great danger if we decide that because we can't see how they meet, they can't... that one or the other is more true... should take more priority... than the other and therefore we can discount the other. Those who believe the whole is God's divine sovereignty risk an extreme fatalism. Those who believe the whole is human responsibility risk extreme humanism. Neither extreme pleases or honors God.

God, however, looks at that horseshoe from above. He looks down and sees the whole and how those two principles fusing together and forming a single amazing, protecting, correcting, steadying and sustaining, healing and building reality. 

Those truths - God is sovereign and man is responsible - are so important... so necessary, as we consider this issue of longevity. 

How does a horseshoe serve a horse?
  • It protects from bruising and extensive wear, 
  • It corrects or improves performance/presentation issues (i.e. stride length, overreaching, etc.), 
  • It helps steady draft or trail horses by maintaining or providing traction as they work, 
  • It is therapeutic, aiding in recovery from injury or while building strength. 
Put simply, people use them because horseshoes extend the longevity of the horse.


I’ve tried to summarize what I’ve shared so far. But I’ve also included the links below for any who would like to follow up by reading the actual post. I’m looking forward to finishing up with this series…. and for what I’m sure God still has to teach me through this study.

Series: Longevity in Ministry
horseshoe photo credit: w0LD via photopin cc
all other photos are mine
To listen to the actual sermon "Start, Run and Finish Well," click here.