Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Year's Worth of Birthdays...

So with everything that has been happening the last year, I am terribly behind on my posts. With Michaela's 7th birthday quickly approaching, I realized the other day that I have not posted anything this year about the girls' birthdays. So I am combining some posts to be able to catch up somewhat on our lives.

Michaela's 6th birthday:
Michaela's 6th birthday came a mere 2 weeks after Enoch's birth, so we had a very low key birthday. She invited her cousin, Kaidan, and good friend Arianna to spend the night and we had a simple party with a butterfly cake. But we splurged on the present! Michaela got a playground set to play on with her sisters.

Michaela Grace, it has been a joy this year to watch you blossom into a beautiful, responsible young lady. I have loved to watch you thrive at school and watch your world open up as you become a strong reader and writer. You are a wonderful friend and student and big sister. At times I watch you and wonder how it's possible for my tiny little baby to have grown into such a unique and amazing person. You are beautifully and wonderfully made by your Creator. He has great plans for your life. I love you.

Eliana's 5th birthday:
Eliana wanted to invite all of her classmates for her party. It felt like a rushed affair with our preparations to leave for Bolivia and to move, but as a mommy, all of the work is worth it when your daughter hugs you and tells you "Thank you!" She wanted a Rapunzel party, and we did our best with what princess decorations we could find, a castle cake, and a Rapunzel obstacle course designed by Daddy.

Eliana Joy, as always I continually enjoy your sweet, nurturing character. I have loved watching you love on (sometimes a little to much) your little brother. It has been a joy to see you adore your teacher and learning. I have treasured seeing each and every thing that you have brought home from school. And it is one of the most special things in the world for this mommy to see you begin to read. I can't believe it has been 5 years since you have graced our family with your special personality. You are an amazing, intelligent young lady, beautifully and wonderfully made by your Creator. He has great plans for your life. I love you.

Jana's 4th birthday:
Jana was SO excited about inviting all her friends from school to her Dora party. She was like a little butterfly, flitting around welcoming them, accepting presents, playing with them in the backyard. And the special part about Jana's birthday was that Nana and Papa and all of her Marcum cousins were present! And thanks to the extra family members - we have a lot more pictures of Jana's birthday than either of the other 2. We made a star cake and monkey cupcakes to go with the Dora theme and Daddy planned a 'bear hunt' and a special Dora themed obstacle course and a pinata.

Jana Faith, your vivacious, expressive self never ceases to amaze me! What a unique and special creation you are and how blessed we are to have you added to our family. You have grown so much in this last year, loosing all of your babiness and turning into a little girl. What a blessing it has been to have you so happy in your preschool - I have been astounded at how your Spanish has taken off and so happy how your teachers rave about what a model student you are. Where have the 4 years gone? You have changed from a rolly polly baby to a beautiful, active little girl with red ringlets. God has great plans for your life! I love you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One year later...

March 1st marked our arrival in Ecuador one year ago. Tonight I am sitting in the living room of our second house - the rain gently falling outside, a fire smoldering in the fireplace, 4 children bathed, fed and in bed. Feeling at peace in our home.

One year ago, we were still considering where we would live. Awaiting Enoch's birth. I was feeling grateful to finally be where we were going to stay, but overwhelmed with all the decisions in store for us... and lonely. How much changes in a year. We are blessed beyond measure.

My husband shared an article with me a couple weeks ago by a well-known Christian author. He stated in his article that if you are a Christian, you should have a blog. A way to share your faith walk with the world. I regret that I have not done a better job this last year. It has been a challenging walk of faith this last year. Maybe for that reason, I couldn't get the words down on paper. I was too busy surviving and working through the details with Him.

And what can I say I have learned in my faith walk this past year? Here are some of the things I am reflecting on...

-Why do I worry? God always provides. There have been some hard moments in the past year... where to live? transportation? where to get the remainder of our support and relocation funds? where to send the kids to school? Those are just some of the huge decisions we have faced. And yet God has proven himself and affirmed our presence here in each and every way.

-The decision to start working part time was one of the hardest decisions for me. It was all wrapped up in 'mother-guilt' too - wanting the best education for my children and hating leaving Enoch. "In his heart, man plans his course, but God determines his steps." God knew my inner workings. I think - as hard as it was - He knew I needed something to get me out of myself and into other relationships with people. I think this job helped me overcome some underlying elements of depression that were lingering and helped me to get out to know the city and the people of Ecuador. I have enjoyed being back in the classroom (without the responsibilities of a full-blown classroom teacher). I have been blessed to know the girls' school in a deeper way, the spiritual focus and daily workings and teachers - and to interact with my girls on a daily basis at school. I have been blessed by the community the school provides. I am content knowing Enoch is happy and loved and well-taken care of at home by a dear friend and sister in Christ. I am more understanding towards moms that work in outside careers.

-Sometimes being in closer proximity gives you more insight into people's lives. Being here has helped me develop a closer relationship with both Josh's parents and his sister and her family. I am so thankful that God has always allowed us to lived close (in the same country or state) as one immediate member of our family. I have both more insight into their lives and more compassion towards the different joys and struggles that they face. There have been some difficult moments as well as we attempt to create our own niche of life and ministry, but God continues to bring us to a place of equilibrium.

-'Culture shock' has been experienced more subtly. Moving from a less-developed country to a more-developed country has made some transitions easier (no more gas shortages or running around looking for gas tanks for example). Moving from one Andean country to another has eased certain cultural adjustments. Moving back to a place you know (for my husband well, for me on a surface level) has proved both helpful and difficult at times. Probably the biggest 'shock' we have felt has been the change in ministry styles. Instead of church-planting, we have moved into a leadership development role. There is a part of us that misses the style of ministry we had in Cochabamba. The other difference has been moving from a 'team' to working with family. Finding our niche here has taken time, but we have been blessed and confirmed to be a part of this work.

-Some the 'shock' we have felt I think too is morphing into a new stage of life with our children. Having kids in full-day school is much different than having a house full of young children. Activities outside the home increase and so must coordination. Finding a 'family day' and a sabbath has been much more challenging. I just recently finished reading a book called "Spiritual Rhythms" and have been challenged again to find a day to set apart for re-creation, fellowship, and worship like we had in Cochabamba.

-Living 'out' was such a blessing for our family in Cochabamba. We enjoyed the peace of the countryside, the space, the rhythms of the earth. It's funny how the stage of your life can change your need. Living 'in' has been a much greater blessing here! Saving 10-15 hours a week in commute time - time we can invest in our family. Reducing the stress and danger of driving. Being close to medical care (both for us and for being a 'base' for Josh's folks). Being close to the girls' school for work and activities. Being more involved with the lives of the students at the EQEB. Being close to the airport for picking up people and for Josh's frequent traveling. Again, God's providence is overwhelming. Each of our homes has been exactly what we needed at the time. And even though we are right smack in the middle of the city - our home right now is like a green oasis in the middle of a desert of buildings. We have a lovely back yard with a thriving vegetable garden. We still get to see God's hand at work in creation.

-I feel less involved or invested in Josh's ministry here for the most part. But ever since we moved - we have time to pray together almost every morning before school and work. What a powerful and blessed avenue of communication that has been between us - to know the important matters on our hearts and to lift up those we care about in prayer. It has helped us connect again - connect our lives and ministries together in a way that only God can do.

-God has graciously granted me the way to rediscover some activities I have enjoyed in the past. I have been able to start running again on the school's track near our house. I am reading again for enjoyment's sake. We have found a piano - finally! - that we'll take possession of the first part of May. I am back in the classroom - both at school and on Sundays for Bible class. I do not want to take for granted even the smallest of these gifts.

-God always hears the desires of our hearts - His timing is not always our timing though. This last year there have been times I have been intensely lonely. And yet I have found myself still waiting and watching for that 'kindred spirit' in Anne language. Only to discover in the last few months that my sister is moving here! Sometimes the waiting is because God has something beyond our wildest dreams in store. And sometimes the waiting brings us back to Him - the lover of our soul.

The peace of the evening is dragging at my eyes - I feel my body longing for bed, for sleep, soothed by the haven God has carved out for us here in this place. The rain has slowed.... the fire burns down... the frogs outside sing their praises to our God... our Creator... our Provider. our Peace.