Courageous

It’s missions month at our home church in Cape Town and this year’s theme is ‘Courageous’. Because we are missionaries who are a part of the church, we were asked to share about our experiences around this theme. As Kenny and I brainstormed about what we would say to the church, my instinct was to rely on his giftings and allow him to share our story. You see, he’s the confident one on stage. He’s the one who tells our stories. It is not his natural desire to be in front, but he always ‘takes one for the team’ and represents our family well.

The problem is that the morning after we chatted, a story started to grow inside of me. I agreed to share it, but it had to be on my own terms…in other words, NOT live on stage. I spent the better part of one afternoon forming my thoughts and I recorded a short video.

Sunday morning arrived and I was ready to sit back and watch my vulnerable self on the big screen. But then, the most horrible thing happened. I walked into the sanctuary with all 3 kiddos and Kenny says to me “They can’t get the video to work. You’re upside down and they can’t make it right. They want to know if we have a back up plan?” Um…nope. I sure don’t. Not a plan that includes me at least. I looked at my husband, with tears in my eyes, and I said “No”. I just can’t. The missions team quickly came up with a good back up plan that let me off the hook. (Can I just tell you how grateful I am for the people around us who support me and love me right where I’m at, insecurities and all!?)

I was definitely feeling defeated during worship, but I repeated all of my excuses not to get up on that big, scary stage. I already did my part. This mistake is not my fault. They’d just have to show the video another time once they figured it out. I didn’t practice this morning. I wore the wrong outfit. I had no notes with me. What if I froze or fumbled and represented our story poorly?

I felt like a coward, but I had made my decision and I’d have to live with it.

While we continued in worship, the Lord very clearly reminded me that the theme was ‘Courageous.’ Duh. Of course. This moment was my object lesson. I turned to Kenny, pushed my fear back for a quick second, and I told him that I had changed my mind and I wanted to do it…and you know what? I got up there on stage with my family, held that microphone in my shaking hand, and I shared my story. God was with me as I faced my biggest fear. I felt peaceful and confident in His message. Honestly, just to be able to say that I didn’t die is a major success!

God gets all the glory and I am so very grateful that He allowed me the opportunity to stretch my faith that morning. Praying He allows you the freedom to do the same.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Here’s my courageous story (which, by the way, was formatted correctly for the church screen with a simple push of a button later that day):

What’s next?

What’s next? It’s a question we were asked a bunch during the 5 weeks we were visiting Colorado. And with our visas expiring in about a year from now, we have been asking ourselves the same question (a lot!). What’s next? Do we extend our visas and commit to another term in Cape Town? Or do we return ‘home’? Truth be told, there are great advantages and great losses with either option.

The short answer: we don’t know.

The long answer: we don’t know, BUT we DO know that we are called to be obedient. Obedience. This is the word we have heard spoken over our family over and over again as we’ve been seeking direction.

As a parent I expect my kids to be obedient. When I ask them to do something, I trust they will do it. They show me (and my husband) respect and love through their obedience. We set up boundaries and expectations, not to simply exert power over our children, but because we love them and because we want what is best for them. When they listen and respond our house runs fairly smoothly, but things quickly fall apart when they fight and deliberately disobey us. Obedience brings blessing in our home: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'” Ephesians 6:1-3

Kenny and I believe the same principle applies to our lives in Christ. When we are obedient to Him and His will, we experience blessing. When we lean into what He is doing and what He is saying, we find freedom and joy. This is truth no matter where we are on the planet. So, for now, we are ok with the ‘I don’t knows’ of our family’s future. We commit to being obedient in the daily decisions now, so that when the time comes for a move (or recommitment), we’ll be ready.

What’s next for you? What is God calling you to be obedient in today so that you can experience His richest blessings for you tomorrow?

Do not be anxious

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

This used to be my life verse. By life verse I mean the one I clung to and repeated and referred back to whenever I faced something scary or uncertain. Do not be anxious. And when I say ‘used to’, I mean that anxiety isn’t something that troubles me in the same way that it did in my past. Maybe it’s because, as a mom and a grown up who gets to choose what my days look like, I’m not forced to do things that make me squirm (like public speaking) very often any more. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and matured in my trust of my God. Or maybe it’s both.  Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that anxiety is not nearly as much a part of my life as it used to be.

But in the last couple weeks it’s reared its ugly head again. Anxiety is trying its damnedest to overtake my mind and steal my focus. I’ve lost sleep, focused on the ‘what ifs’ of an uncertain future, and let much of my peace slip away.

The thing is, though, I’m not going down without a fight! I am seeking His joy, and I will not let anxiety win the day. God wins. His peace, His thoughts, His love, His joy. Through my daily surrender, I’m finding that He wins the battle and the war over my mind. The following are the verses He’s been speaking to me in the recent weeks. These are the verses I cling to today. I share here because I hope they encourage someone else and direct you back to His heart for you.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (When I shared this verse with my husband, he said that when I said the word ‘destroy’ he actually felt like I had been ‘deJOYed’)

“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b

Wishing you the fullness of life that God has for you as you are obedient and allow Him to shape your thoughts. Honored to be on the journey with you.

Psalm One

Earlier this month at Bible Study as we were going around the group sharing prayer requests I asked for prayer for clarity. I feel like my thoughts are often scattered in a million different directions and I can’t make sense of what I’m feeling. One moment I’m happy and then the next I’m sad or I’m angry. On some days I’m fulfilled and content, and on others I’m searching for purpose. The list of my opposing feelings is long, and it seems that the only thing that remains constant right now is that nothing in me is constant. This is probably why I haven’t blogged much recently–I don’t have well packaged themes to share, especially not ones that I can tie together with a pretty bow in the end.

The rest of the group shared their requests and then we prayed for one another. Afterward one our friends encouraged me to spend some time reading Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

The thing that speaks to my heart is the part about the tree. I see a strong tree standing tall next to a flowing river. This tree is not by the streams of water by mistake. It was planted there by someone who knew what it needed to grow. It’s a tree that is full of fruit during the summer months, but even as the winter comes and its fruit falls, its leaf does not wither. It doesn’t die in the off season; it uses that time as a time of preparation for the next harvest.

This is the tree I want to be. Blessed. Growing. Fruitful. Patient. Confident. Quenched. Satisfied.

Unfortunately I think I’ve been letting my leaves wither lately. The last 18 months in South Africa have been full of delicious fruit, especially as I look at the people around me (there is seriously so much to love about our lives here!). But for me, it has been more of a season of trials and testing and struggle. Even as SA is experiencing a major drought right now, I feel like my spirit is parched. In the deep places of my heart I find myself longing for a place and for people and for the comforts of home. I miss our old life. And I think that’s ok. It’s ok that I’m homesick. It’s ok that this place still feels foreign to me. What’s not ok as I read this Psalm is that I allow this season to kill the fruit and the leaves on the tree that God has planted. He has planted me here, for this season, next to His rivers of life. And so I will drink.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Videos of the kids

The kids are growing so much lately! We know that many of you who follow our journey don’t get to see them regularly so here’s a couple recent videos. The first one is at Kommetjie beach near our home and the second one is of both Avery and Zeke rocking the monkey bars (which is a new accomplishment and a big deal!).

Barefoot with a Knife

This morning I sent my 5 year old daughter to school with a knife…yes, you read that right, a knife. And not a butter knife for a PB and J sandwich, a sharp knife that could totally be considered a weapon. To school.

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Her face says everything I’m feeling…this is terrifying! We even prayed on the way to school “That Avery wouldn’t cut her finger off.” Didn’t think I’d ever be praying that over my child on the way to kindergarten.

Every other week the kids get to bake and this week her class is making beef and veggie soup. I’ve been told it’s delicious and Avery is so very excited, but it’s taking everything in me to not think about blood and ER visits while I count down the hours to pick up time.

I’ve also been looking at all our friends back to school pictures as it’s the start of a new year in the States (which are wonderful, by the way! We miss all of you!). How different life would be if we hadn’t moved–Avery would just now be starting kindergarten this week instead of being in the middle of her 3rd term (quarter). And I highly doubt that she would ever be asked to bring a knife into Rolling Hills Elementary.

This is certainly not the first (or the last) time that we have noticed differences between school in SA and the US. We aren’t experts as our kids didn’t go to school before we moved, and we’ve only experienced one school here, but here are some things we’ve observed:

  • School here is more about learning through play and exploration, rather than knowledge on paper. Avery knows her letters, numbers, etc, but has trouble going all the way across the monkey bars or walking on a balance beam–at her parent teacher conference in June these were the things that were highlighted. Her gross motor skills were emphasized over her readiness to read.
  • Schools seem to be more free here. Kids are encouraged to go to school barefoot, climb higher, ride faster. Teachers aren’t as worried about lawsuits if a child gets hurt because they believe that kids rarely do more than they are comfortable doing. They are also very resilient. No shoes would never happen in the States…imagine if a child cut her foot on a thorn when she jumped down from the monkey bars!? The parents might sue!
  • School is less sterile here. Much to my dismay, there is not hand sanitizer outside every classroom. The kids share cups sometimes. They wash their hands in standing water with bars of soap after using the toilet. They get to bake with raw eggs and meat, and they actually get to touch it instead of watching the teacher demonstrate. And you know what? The kids have been just as sick as they would have been at home in their first year of school. We haven’t gotten salmonella or any other weird African illness.

Most of this is very unnatural for our family. Kenny and I are relatively cautious people, and he is especially protective. Avery’s teacher has had to tell us (him, really) to loosen up a bit and let the kids do more than we think they can. And as we’ve done that we’ve noticed huge improvement in the confidence of our children! It’s been so fun to watch!

I told a friend here the other day that Kommetjie Pre Primary School has challenged our kiddos in ways that they aren’t as gifted in and I think it’s a great foundation for what’s to come. I think in addition to challenging our children, school here has challenged us as parents and all of this is preparing us for what’s to come next.

Soon it will be Zeke’s turn to bring a knife to school or Cassidy’s turn to cross the high monkey bars. When the time comes, we’ll be ready. But for now I’m off to go pick up our big girl and make sure she still has 10 fingers.