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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Green Light!

We are thrilled to announce that our family has been officially cleared to return to Kenya!  I spoke on the phone yesterday with a good friend from our mission’s home office in Georgia, and she was pleased to give us the thumbs up.

green lightAs a faith-based and completely donor-supported ministry, we are required to have 100% of our financial support pledged before we return from home assignment.  This policy is in place so that people don’t return to the field and struggle to make ends meet. 

A financial target is set based on family size and ministry location (for us, it’s a family of 5 at Rift Valley Academy), and then our support raising goals are set around it.  When we arrived in the States in July, we were at about 88% of that magic number.  As of yesterday, we are at 106%!!  Praise the Lord for His abundant provision!  And a much deserved THANK YOU to those who have stayed with us, those newcomers who have jumped on board, and those who have pledged to continue once we get back.

Partnering with all of you in this venture has been a joy!  Watching God provide the exact amount we need, precisely when we need it has been a humbling, faith-building experience, allowing us to witness first hand that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights…” (James 1:17) 

THANK YOU for your prayers.  THANK YOU for your partnership.  THANK YOU for your obedience as God has called you to walk by faith with us! 

In three short weeks we will board the plane for Kenya with this peace of mind: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:19)  That is quite a promise!  Consider, just for a moment, what ‘the riches of his glory’ really means. This is the basis for being able to trust Him – His storehouse never runs out, His cattle are on a thousand hills, His people and resources span the globe…and this is OUR GOD!  Find encouragement today in that truth.  We certainly have!

Blessings to you as you celebrate the ultimate GIFT this Christmas season – the one we could never earn, pay back, or deserve.  The life of Jesus, given for us, while we were yet sinners!!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In their own [words]

What follows is a completely unprompted, unedited (from what my memory and scribbling notes can recall), and unsolicited (is that the same as unprompted?) response to tonight’s dinner topic of choice.  Courtney was with friends, so it was just me, the three kiddos, and an 18 inch pizza. 

As the oozing mozzarella and pepperoni settled swiftly to the bottoms of our welcoming tummies, Nate posed a suggestion:

“Let’s play, ‘What do you miss most about Africa?’”

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Ethan and Evelyn were clearly game.  I knew this could be gold, so I ran for a scrap of paper and a pen – our dining room table is a good spot for those.  It usually houses our family’s version of a haphazard, starving artist’s studio.  As I was about to grab a naked brown crayon, I spotted a ball-point hidden halfway under an unfinished coloring page.  Success.

Dashing back to the kitchen, I entered just as the negotiation of turns was ending.  It came as largely unchallenged that Nate should be allowed to answer first, since he came up with the idea.  This is standard procedure in the world of dinner conversation amongst our band of under 8’s. 

My attempt at narration below [italics inside of brackets, as here] follows no known protocol for recording conversation.  Do not attempt to match it to MLA or APA writing formats – you’ll be sorely disappointed.  I simply hope to provide the most accurate picture of what took place with a ‘minimal’ level of commentary for your comprehending pleasure.

NATE:  “I miss working with Jesse [our outside worker], I miss Tyler [Nate’s Kindergarten buddy], all my pet chameleons [‘pet’ is used here in the loosest sense of the word; he catches many and keeps none for longer than a day], my bunk-bed, my pre-schoolers, and my room.  Also my toys and Ben…”

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DAD: [interrupting for clarification] “Wait, Ben who?”

NATE and ETHAN: [almost in unison] “You know, big Ben?  Our neighbor with the trampoline?” [How could I overlook our 9th grade next-door neighbor?  Duh, Dad!]

NATE: [continuing] “…Titus [another buddy, Nate’s age], the trampoline, and Caroline [Ben’s 11th grade sister]…but mostly Tyler.”

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DAD:  “Ok.  Ethan’s turn.”

EVIE:  “No, my turn!”

DAD:  “Evie, let Ethan go first.”

EVIE: [ignoring me completely“I miss Haley and Elisey and my bed…”

DAD:  “Evie, let’s let Ethan go.  You can go next.”

ETHAN:  “I miss my toys, my room.  School… yeah, I guess I miss school. [pause] Oh!  Pinewood Derby!  Coke date, drive-in movie, carnival and corn flakes”

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NATE:  “Yeah, corn flakes!”

EVIE: [fed up with being the only girl, the youngest, and always getting the short end of the stick during turns negotiations, which aren’t really negotiations at all, but rather pre-determined conclusions that the boys will always go first]: “No, Nate, MY turn!”

DAD:  “Go ahead, Evie.”

EVIE:  “I miss Haley [Evie’s 11th grade ‘big sister’], Elisey [Titus’ younger sister], my bed, Veronica [our inside worker], Caroline, the trampoline, Africa, my kitchen…”

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DAD:  “Good.  What about when we go back?  What do you guys think you’ll miss most about America?”  [Referring back to my original claim of ‘unsolicited’ and ‘unprompted’ (which the more times I write, the less I’m convinced is even a word), this is the ONLY legitimate question I posed that wasn’t in direct line with the current vein of the discussion]

ETHAN, NATE, and EVIE:  “OOOH, me first, me first!”

DAD:  “Let’s let Evie go first this time.  [Justice delivered.  Excuse me while I reach awkwardly to pat myself on the backWhat are you going to miss about America when we go back to Kenya, honey?”

EVIE:  “Ice, Lydia…” [Lydia is a good family friend, about six years older than Evie, and represents to her everything good about knowing someone who ISN’T one of her older brothers]

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NATE:  [acting as though Evie’s answer was perfectly acceptable and within reason AND as if someone had clearly said, ‘OK, Nate’s turn’, which nobody had – this is not uncommon] “This house…”

ETHAN:  “Snow!” [at this point, I will refrain from interjecting a narrative note as each successive speaker steps to the front.  Suffice it to say that they were all answering at once, casting off their high view of turns and fairness.  I did my best to keep up]

EVIE:  “…this house…Daddy, can you draw it?

ETHAN:  “Don’t forget the chimney, Dad”

EVIE:  “Can you draw the big bad wolf?  And some people?”  [Here, I rattle off a quick sketch of a very generic house, with a chimney, the big bad wolf standing nearby, and some people.  Satisfied laughter follows from Evie and Ethan]

big bad wolf sketch

NATE:  “Wait, let me see! [the paper is turned so Nate can see; he smilesCool, Dad.”

DAD:  “Ok guys.  Anything or anybody else you might miss?”

NATE:  “Grandpa, working with Grandpa, cousins…”

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ETHAN: [very excited“Dad!  Did you know that actually two days after we leave, someone else is going to be leaving to live somewhere a LOT closer to us while we’re in Africa?!  It’s Ben! [his best U.S. buddy moving to the U.A.E. for a few years]

DAD:  “Yeah, I know.  Are you going to miss Ben?”

ETHAN [less excited]: “Yeah.”

NATE:  “….Grandpa’s farm…”

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EVIE:  “Oma, Grandma…[pause, then with renewed enthusiasm] Africa!” [she had a tough time with the abstract concept of what she thinks she’ll miss when she gets to a place that she isn’t currently in…can hardly fault a 3-year old for that]

ETHAN:  “football games, trick or treat…”

NATE:  “I thought they had trick or treat in Africa.”

ETHAN:  “No, they have carnival, Nate.  Cottonball! [the lone surviving sheep on Grandpa’s farm]

NATE:  “Yeah, Cottonball!  And Milly and Billy.”

DAD:  “Who are Milly and Billy?”

ETHAN:  “Those are Grandpa’s goats”

DSC_0025*I am aware that this picture is NOT of the goats.
**Also Note:  Most of the animals in this picture WERE harmed, although not for the purposes of taking this picture, or writing this blog post, and completely on an unintentional level.  It turns out Grandpa wasn’t such a good sheep farmer.

DAD:  “Oh.”

ETHAN:  “…Raisin Bran Crunch, Life, Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Nut Cheerios…”

EVIE:  “Haley…”

DAD:  “Evie, she’ll be IN Africa!  Any other people you’ll miss from America when we move back to Africa?

ETHAN:  “Mrs. Knapp…”

NATE and EVIE:  “Yeah, Mrs. Knapp!”

ETHAN:  “…Jason, Sabrina [also Knapps], and Bobbi [the Knapp’s blind and miraculously still living dog – not to be confused with Ethan’s long time favorite stuffed animal, Bobby the not-so-white-anymore dog]

EVIE:  “…Africa!”

DAD: “Oh my …”

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

In the Day of Trouble, He will Keep me Safe

Psalm 27 – a Psalm of David:

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

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4 One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

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7 Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. 13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

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I’m no stranger to anxiety.  I’ve struggled with it for as long as I can remember.  I have a vivid memory of lying awake at night as a child, counting down with the clock the hours and minutes of sleep I would still get if I fell asleep now … or now … or now.  Worrying and fretting about not getting enough sleep, but not wanting to close my eyes for fear of falling into a horrible nightmare.   

Somewhere in my growing up years, my sleep habits improved, but I continued to struggle with fear and anxiety. During my faith-growing years in college, the Lord began revealing to me the depth of my worry, and through that He pointed a spotlight on my sinful control issues, my self-interest / self-preservation, my idolatry.

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Ten+ years later, I still struggle.  I wage war against the idolatry in my life – good things like my husband, my children, my own life, our finances, other people’s happiness, my reputation – all seem to creep into the number one most important spot in my life, and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ takes a backseat.  And when any one of those GOOD things becomes the ONLY thing or the MOST IMPORTANT thing, I sink into fear unspeakable and anxiety riddled what-ifs.   What if ___________ happens and I’m not prepared?  Or worse, what if _____________ ?

In this 10+ year struggle with fear, even as a believer in Jesus Christ,

I found myself often unable (or unwilling) to pray about it,

unable to see past the fact that bad things still happen in this sin sick world,

and unsatisfied with the response that “the likelihood of one of those scenarios taking place in my life is quite small.” 

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But just recently God brought me to Psalm 27, a Psalm of David, and it is rocking my world.  What if the absolute worst thing you can dream up or imagine actually happens?  David says WHEN evil men advance against me… THOUGH an army besiege me…THOUGH my mother and father forsake me.  Nowhere does he contemplate the what-ifs in this Psalm.  His fears have in fact become reality, and yet, he writes that he can gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and not fear. 

This.  This is a solution that takes into account that bad things do indeed happen, and God is still sovereign.  How does David face these real adversities without fear?  Verse four says he gazes upon the beauty of the Lord, seeks Him in His temple, and dwells with Him there.

For it is there, with God in His rightful place as the FIRST and ONLY thing we’re striving for, that we are free from the worry, the fear, the anxiety, the panic that binds and cripples and destroys. 

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How do we do this practically?  When life IS hard and our lives or our family or our security IS threatened.  What does gazing on the goodness of the Lord look like?  I think it probably looks like the cross.  Because of His mercy and love, God sent His only Son as the atoning sacrifice for my sins (past, present, and future), while I was still dead in my trespasses.  God’s great mercy. God’s great love and goodness and provision.  He IS, after all, the ONE thing, the ONLY thing we should be gazing at and seeking. 

And secondly, we have to be putting to death those other things that often take the place of the FIRST thing, sacrificing them, as we reorient our will and our purpose and our life toward God through Jesus Christ with the Spirit as our helper.

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Fear is still a huge obstacle in my life, but it’s one that Christ is redeeming, by exposing it for what it is, and providing me with a way out of it’s strong grip.   Gaze at Him, Seek His face, Dwell in His presence. 

*all of the above photos were taken on our ten year anniversary trip to Portland, ME, this past October.  we loved our time in Portland and we love being married. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Home Assignment {so far} in Photos

Enjoy a few shots from our time Stateside so far.  Two months down, only three to go.  Unfortunately, time flies when you’re loving it! 

Family photos July 26th 130We were able to coordinate ONE evening where all 33 people in Dan’s “little” immediate family were together. We were sure to snap a quick picture to document it!   (2 Grandparents, 10 siblings/spouses, 21 grandchildren + 1 more due in October)

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Our boys enrolled in swimming lessons for two weeks in August and boy, have they have come in handy since then!

DSC_0291-001DSC_0108DSC_0480DSC_0099No three-night family reunion would be complete without volleyball tournaments, swimming, hiking, and archery lessons.

DSC_0002Lots of visiting - Extended family, church family, supporters, friends.  One benefit of living in transition: our kids love people, quickly.  You wouldn’t believe the number of hugs they insisted on giving Great-great Uncle Joe and Aunt Jo, having only met them an hour earlier!

DSC_0026DSC_0001 (2)DSC_0008DSC_0004DSC_0008 (2)DSC_0012Hiking, working, and playing – lots of time spent and great memories made on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm!

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DSC_0066 Sailing on Lake Erie?  Check.

DSC_0022A chance to pick up an RVA grad at the airport and deliver her to college?  Absolutely!  We jumped at the chance to walk Grace through her first steps on U.S. soil.  She ordered food at a drive-thru and went shopping for college basics at Wal-mart, all for the first time.

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DSC_0616DSC_0521A long weekend with Oma and Buddy in Altoona gave us the opportunity to visit with Nana, as well as go out for icecream in our PJs, go bowling with buddy, and spend a whole day at DelGrosso’s amusement park. 

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DSC_0050 (2)DSC_0107DSC_0122DSC_0195It has been SO good to be with family!

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DSC_0022DSC_0002September marked the beginning of our stay in Western Pennsylvania and the start of homeschooling for the boys.  We are thankful for this time spent together as a family of five. 

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DSC_0080 (2)DSC_0084 (2)DSC_0058 (2)September also took us south to visit family again, this time in the form of a beach vacation.  The Lord blessed us with 7+ days of sunshine, laughter, close friends/family, and loads of fun.   

More pictures to come – THANK YOU to so many who have made our time here memorable and comfortable.  God has used you to bless our little world-traveling crew and we are couldn’t be more thankful!

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