Sorting Through a Life That Never Happened

Today was an interesting day.  If you haven’t read about my family’s change in plans, you can get the whole scoop here.  The short version is that we are not staying in Quito, Ecuador as planned and prepared for.  A week ago today we accepted a new assignment as Cluster Coordinators in Cordoba, Argentina (in addition to our Short Term Missions responsibilities).  We are privileged to be able to serve this great team of church planters.  As you read the rest of this post, please remember that I’m totally at peace and happy to go where God leads.

One of the effects of this change is that we have to decide what to do with all the things we had stored at our friends’ house for our move to Quito.  These wonderful friends graciously lent us half their garage since February.  Half a garage filled with furniture and kitchen supplies, bedding and blankets, homeschool supplies and toys, Christmas presents only played with a few short weeks before being put into storage and more.


Yes, it’s all just things, things that can be replaced, things we can live without.  But it’s more than that.  Half a garage full of boxes and bags represents months of planning and preparing to be in Quito for the long haul (or at least a few years).  It represents hours of planning the best use of suitcases coming down to South America,

Now half a garage will be reduced to less than a dozen suitcases.

It hurts.

It hurts when God calls an audible and moves you into a new position and you have to let go of your own plans in order to say “yes”.

You know what else?  It’s totally worth it.

I write the words above as a reminder to you and to me.  It’s always been worth it to give up what I had planned for what God had planned.  He has always blown. my. mind.

He has always been faithful to replace how I imagined things with something better than I could have imagined.

So, today we peeled off a big layer of things that don’t matter. (I only cried once today, but I made it count.) Tomorrow we pick up with facing the reality that most of the “hope it fits” things won’t make it as I start to wrestle my expectations into suitcases.  It’ll be okay.  Nobody will die.  I’ll probably cry again.

But as we sort through a life that never happened, we’ll try to figure out which things will enrich the life that will happen, trusting God has great things ahead of us all.

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Nets and Networks

Today, I’m working on the final week of my class on Pastoral Counseling and I wanted to share an excerpt from something I submitted in an assignment.  This is an idea that’s been developing in my mind and heart and (so far) this is the best way I’ve put it into words:

“This idea of uniquely walking out the path of God before you, according to your gifts and God’s direction is one that has been coming up for me over and over again in ministry and as we speak to churches and individuals.  I have an image in my mind of a circle or network going out from each of us to touch all the people of the world who need Christ.  My net or network can’t possible reach the whole world, but with my net and your net and the nets of all the Christians in the world, God is making good on his promise to fish the whole world for people who would follow Christ.”

What I love about this image is that it takes the pressure off a little bit…but it also puts a different kind of pressure on at the same time.  It takes the pressure off in the sense that you don’t have to save the world (Jesus already did that, if you hadn’t noticed).  The salvation of the whole world doesn’t rest on your shoulders.  Whew!

It also puts the pressure on, because you have your circle, your net, your network of influence into which you can uniquely bring Christ.  Neither some mythical super-Christian, your pastor nor “the missionaries” can reach the people God has given you to influence.

The only one who can obey God and bring Christ into the spaces in your life where He is needed is you.

Isn’t that like God, to take our misplaced sense of responsibility and replace it with His perfect expectation for each of us?  Sometimes it means letting go of our hero-complex and sometimes it means being willing to step up into the fullness of the name Christian and bring Christ into the hurting world right where we are.

Who has God entrusted to you to be their gospel-bearer?  Are you faithfully bringing Christ into the spaces and places God has entrusted to you?

Kicking off 4th Grade!

Today, we’re kicking off Genna’s 4th grade.  I asked some friends for their favorite school and homeschool routines and extras and some were confused that Genna is starting 4th grade (in March).  Genna’s schooling has been the part of following God’s call the mission field that has caused me the most confusion and searching for what is best.  The last three years have been an interesting mashup of schooling for her, so on this, our first day of 4th grade, I thought I’d go through the history and reflect on where we are now and where I think we’re headed with her schooling and with Juliana’s.


One of the things I looked forward to as Genna approached school age was the idea of homeschooling her. To go on an adventure of learning, to share my great love and curiosity for the wonderful world around us with her…how great is that?

Then she turned three and saw the church preschool being set up and was in love with it all.  So, we signed her up for two days a week and she loved it.  I liked having two days a week to plan on my own.

The next year, I could tell she was ready for something more than preschool, but there was no way I was going to put her into a five-day kindergarten at 4 1/2 years old, so we started weighing our options.  The idea of homeschool was still there, but then we learned about Providence, a University model school.  For kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, the kids go two days a week and are homeschooled according to the teacher’s curriculum plan the other three days.  (When they’re older, they’re in class three days and at home two.)

It was the perfect fit for us.  Genna had school and a teacher and classmates and I had structure and school-mom friends and I still got to take part in her learning.  So, she spent kindergarten, 1st grade and six weeks of 2nd grade at Providence.

Then we moved to Peru and our options were to homeschool or put her in a private Peruvian school.  We thought it would be great for her to really learn Spanish and meet other kids, so we went forward with the school.  When we tested her with the school, they wanted to put her into first grade, so she could learn Spanish.  We wrestled with the decision, but in the end decided that part of the reason she had started kindergarten early was to make space for an opportunity like this.  She clutched her Spanish-English dictionary for dear life that first day of school, but pretty soon she was comfortable and doing well.

The thing about school in Peru is that it begins in March and ends in December.  So, after her (second) first grade year (in Peruvian school) we had to figure out what to do for third grade (or was it second?).  We had a year left in Peru, but knew if she was in Peruvian school again, she would have just finished second grade, but age-wise should be half-way through third grade when we returned to the States for home assignment…what to do?

We pulled our second grade curriculum back out and tried to hit the high points until August when we jumped into Providence’s third grade, so she could finish third grade at Providence during our home assignment for the first half of 2014.

I learned a lot during our year of homeschooling in 2013.  I learned that I would have to restructure my work/ministry role to make space to do a really good job homeschooling. (I didn’t that year.)  I also learned that I would have to have a more streamlined curriculum than we had been using at Providence.  I like the various curriculum elements from Providence, but they are beautifully arranged and supplemented by the fabulous Providence teachers in a way that I couldn’t imitate or succeed at on my own.

So, while we were back in Arkansas in 2014, Genna finished 3rd grade and a couple months later, we moved to Ambato, Ecuador.  We were doing double-duty as Cluster Support and Short Term Missions staff, so we thought putting the kids into Ecuadorian school was the best idea.  In September, Genna started Ecuadorian fifth grade (which is equivalent to US fourth grade because they count “kindergarten” as grade one.)  Several weeks into the school year, it was apparent that jumping from first grade in Peru (all in Spanish) to fifth grade in Ecuador (all in Spanish) was way too big a leap.  By that time we had a better idea of how our 2015 schedule was looking (busy, with a bunch of travel), so we pulled her out of Ecuadorian school and began to homeschool.

I found Alpha Omega’s Monarch curriculum, which is all online and super-easy to plan for and we signed up.  I was uncomfortable with the lack of continuity of Genna’s language arts instruction from 3rd grade into 4th, so when I set up her curriculum, we took a step back into the 3rd grade material.  So from October 2014 until now, we’ve been reviewing and trying to get into a schooling rhythm.  When we came back to Arkansas for our three month home assignment, I had planned to wait until returning to Ecuador to start 4th grade material.  As I watched Genna get frustrated with the material and way we had structured our homeschool (way too far on the independent work side of the scale), I knew it was time to reset, refresh and move forward.

So, today we came to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to mark our first day of school.  We’re starting our new daily structure of hands-on supplemental curriculum (for handwriting, literature, artist and composer units) combined with Monarch online for her Math, Language Arts, History & Geography, Science and Bible.  Tomorrow we’re going to the library for Juliana’s first day.  I’m hoping that by doing an activity that anchors the year, Juliana will get a little more on board with the activities from the preschool curriculum I have for her.

Among other changes to the way that Chris and I are scheduling P1000541our days, we’re really making homeschooling a priority instead of an addition.  I want Genna to love to learn and I know that leaving her alone with a computer will not cultivate that love of learning.

It’s been an interesting journey that I could never have predicted up to this point and the future could bring educational options we can’t anticipate.  But for the next year and a half, we will be homeschooling (best I can tell) and, for today, we are in a beautiful place, marking the beginning of what I hope is a beautiful new chapter in Genna’s schooling.

3 Week Whirlwind…

Three weeks ago today, we arrived back in Arkansas from Ecuador.  I can hardly believe it.

In three weeks, we’ve had a family weekend, celebrated my birthday, packed again, spent ten great days in New England with our LINKs district*, started online theology classes and went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (thanks to my parents!), all the while keeping up with meetings and our work for Short Term Missions with Extreme.

It also occurs to me that three of our eleven weeks in the States are gone.  Whoa! That was fast.

It hits me like a ton of bricks that in eight short weeks, we’ll be packing our bags and jumping into a full project schedule.  The ten days on the road really caught my attention about how the coming year is going to affect my family.  I really need to be thoughtful about what kinds of routines and structure Genna and Juliana are going to need with so much transition this year.

I also have a TON to do between now and May 11th. (I almost hate to type that because everybody’s busy.)

I’ve been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done principles for a long time with mixed results, but recently, I stumbled upon and it was love at first sight.  If you’ve known me very long, you know that I love learning about time management and productivity principles (really, I love learning about practically anything).  I cried the day my first Franklin Day Planner came.  (I was in college…in the Commons.)  So, to finding a website that embraces the ideas of GTD and helps moms apply them to their unique situations was SUPER-exciting to me.

So, we’re adjusting our strategy (using principles form Power Of Moms) as we move into the next eight hectic weeks.  (As of now, we have our work with Extreme preparing for seven projects that are coming up, raising support to go back to the field, spending time with family, homeschooling our girls, speaking at various churches and to various groups, finishing our classes, assessing things we are storing at my folks’ house and packing for our return to Ecuador).

We hope to set up some really great daily routines that will provide consistency for our family and that we can apply wherever we are in the upcoming year.  If you would pray for us for wisdom in the next few days as we work to lay out a good plan, I’d really appreciate it.

As I am pursuing fluency, guiding my girls through these transitions is extremely important to me.  I’d love to hear from those of you who have walked your kids through transition.  What are some strategies you recommend?




*LINKs is a program in the Church of the Nazarene that connects missionaries with our local churches for mutual encouragement.

Why Pursuing Fluency?

“Practice makes perfect” is an adage that often guides our desire to improve in some particular way.

A few years ago, a quote in an Elizabeth George book on life habits (or something) refined my understanding of what my ultimate goal was. “Good, better, best.  Never let it rest.  Until your good is better and your better best.”  In many ways this was an improvement over “perfect,” but left questions, “What is my ‘best’?  How will I know if I’ve arrived there?”

I’ve had many internal debates throughout the first half of my thirties about how to cut myself some slack without becoming a slacker.  So, at thirty-six (today!), I’m pursuing fluency.

What does that even mean?

For me, the idea of pursuing fluency is to pursue a competency in my most important roles that makes my life flow.

No longer weighed down by a worldly (or even churchly) expectation that I be perfect or my best in every aspect, I seek to be free to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me in progress where God desires it.

As I have been learning Spanish for the last three years in Peru, then Ecuador, I’ve learned that perfection isn’t the ultimate goal (who could even measure that?), but fluency is the goal.  To be capable enough when speaking Spanish that the words flow and the ultimate goal of building relationships that point to Christ is met.

It is the same for me in my marriage, my mothering, my academic life, my missionary life…

My greatest desire is to be fluent…fluently filling the roles that God has given me.

And this blog is meant to record my journey.

It’s meant to give me a place to share the parts of my heart and thoughts and experiences that don’t necessarily go on our family’s ministry blog.

It’s meant to be an invitation to my heart to be like Mary and ponder the things of my life and treasure them…to slow down in the mad rush through my days and really see.

You are welcome to ponder and pursue with me.