Monthly Archives: October 2014

Beyond Imagination

This blog is going to get a little personal, just a disclaimer, warning, or even an invitation.  It will also be long, covering my surprise gift from Bart… a cruise!

In Ephesians 3:14 and on, Paul writes some pretty passionate words about his desire for the church in Ephesus.  He says that he hopes they can be strengthened by the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work within them. Then he closes his letter by saying “now to the God who is capable of doing immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout generations forever and ever amen.” 

Our purpose, in all of our messiness, is to bring glory to this extraordinary God who works in us. A God whose desire is to love, to reach people with His purpose…not to check them off of the “church attender, saved, good deeds” list, but because He is a God who longs for His children. He wants everyone to come to know the radical, life changing hope of Jesus Christ.  Hold on to this for a second, and let me catch you up.

The last blog I wrote was on faith and righteousness…and the day I wrote it everything crazy started happening….because crazy has never been a part of our lives before right?

That was the morning of the 4th, and we were supposed to drop our kids off at a friend’s house that afternoon for our surprise getaway. Bart plans something each year, because I love surprises, and because my birthday, Christmas and our anniversary are within weeks of each other. I knew that we would be away from the kids for 5 nights, and that Bart would tell me what I needed to pack.

The night of the 2nd I dumped boiling water on 3 of my fingers leaving 2nd degree burns. I have never screamed that loud aside from child labor. It was definitely not bad enough for the hospital, and we didn’t have any aloe on hand. I tried everything from a slice of potato, tea bags, ice water, and what helped the most for pain relief…white vinegar! I was so surprised by that. Who knew?! Obviously some awesome lady on the internet…

The morning of the fourth we were getting all dressed and ready to head to the playground nearby. I opened the door to our apartment and the kids stepped out into the hall. As usual, I stepped back inside to get my keys from the closet by our door. Bart was heading out the door when I hear a very distinct, loud scream and crying from Hosanna. They like to chase each other down the hall by our door….you know…the concrete hall with the concrete and tile flooring. At some point Lucas attempted to assist his sister in running, at which point she lost balance, flew forward, and bashed her head into the concrete wall. I sprint waddled down the hall, losing all of my grace with Lucas, exclaiming “GET in your room” With the mom voice.  I scooped Hosanna off the floor; she had her back to me. At which point I turn around and Bart says “Andi! She’s bleeding! A lot!” Hosanna had split her head, an inch long and ½ inch open. It was deep, and I could tell that from the first look. We ran her in the house and I put her in Bart’s arms. These are the moments when I thank God that Bart has so much emergency medical experience.  Also, there was no way I could put her head by the sink to rinse off some of the blood with this HUGE belly. We have this awesome coffee table in our living room that is super sturdy and we used that as our work space. I laid out a towel and Bart laid her down. We prayed immediately and checked all of the basic signs for concussion, and she was fine. We immediately felt frustration to the fact that Bart’s suture kit had somehow gotten left behind.  I hunted for butterfly band aids while he cleaned the cut. Hosanna had stopped crying and seemed more fascinated by what daddy was doing. We used make shift butterfly band aids, and I stayed with her while Bart ran to the pharmacy (He’s getting kind of popular there) to get real butterfly band aids, gauze and whatever that stretchy white stuff that you wrap around someone’s head is called. Obviously, Hosanna’s bleeding had stopped almost entirely. She stayed horizontal the whole time, and I turned on Tinker Bell for her to watch. When he returned, Bart made an awesome job of pulling the cut together, keeping pressure on it, and wrapped her head the equivalent of a General Hospital star with a concussion! Hosanna didn’t cry until we mentioned that we might have to cut her hair to get the bandage to stick. She took her nap on the table, and I made sure I rechecked the concussion signs when she woke up. Every emotional faculty I have as a mom was on high alert. Don’t get me wrong, I never once panicked, but when you see your child covered in blood it makes you very aware of how much of a “vapor” we actually are. We called the friend who was going to watch the kids and explain the scenario. We explained that, although we had the situation under control, if she felt in the slightest bit uncomfortable, we would keep Hosanna home for the night to make sure she was healing well. Our friend is a mom of 3 amazing and rambunctious kids, and has the experience of cleaning and changing stuff like this and assured us that she would be fine. Hosanna literally acted as though nothing had happened, and when Bart checked the bandaging later he discovered that it was already beginning to pull back together. We praised Jesus. Our friend came to pick up the kiddos, and Bart and I breathed a nervous sigh of relief.

Now to get back to what I said earlier, about that awesome God who WANTS to blow our minds with love. He wants to give us more than we can ask or imagine! Bart and I left the morning of the 5th, and took a train. I had no idea where we were going or what the plans were. I saw the sign for Marseilles and inwardly smiled. We had come here with Bart’s parents. Maybe we were staying a few nights here and going to explore. Then we took the metro to the bus, and the bus to the middle of nowhere. The bus was awfully full, and I couldn’t figure out where we were going, aside from the fact that it was near the docks. We followed a herd of people and were super excited to see a 1967 red convertible mustang. I love old cars. It was so out of place and so very personal. Up to this point everything was going completely right and in truth I kept expecting something bad to happen. I didn’t want to get my hopes to high because I knew that, well, let’s face it, I’m not that great of a wife, and I am already having an inkling of guilt. What would our supporters think? Would they criticize us for taking this time? We kept walking, getting closer and closer to the boats. Hmmm…maybe Bart was taking me on a boat tour of Marseilles and we would stay on one of the islands nearby. Then I started to notice all of the people we were walking with going in different fence entrances for these HUGE cruise ships. I stopped. I was completely stunned. “Bart, be honest with me” Bart’s face grew worried…. “Are we going to take a cruise?” His face exploded in a smile. “Mmmhmmm”.

Immediately tears began running down my face.

Once we were on the boat we hunted for our room, and upon walking in to ours Bart stopped. I understood, everything was absolutely beautiful! We had a balcony view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the room was gorgeous. “I hope this is right, because this isn’t what I paid for at all! I paid for the least expensive room, and then checked the little box that let us upgrade for free if possible”. We checked the information in the room, and it was ours! It began to sink in that maybe God was just as happy about this time as we were. He seemed to be blessing us at every turn. I sat down and let it sink in. Again, tears ran down my face. This was completely incomprehensible. Soon my soft cry became a pretty big bawl. Bart came and snuggled next to me and I began to say thank you, probably 100x. You see….I was convinced that I was pretty worthless. I think we all hear that message from the world we are in, but mine might have come in a little louder through the megaphone of some really horrible relationships; some pretty messed up people, and even some family. I have forgiven and moved on, but there is no time frame on trust. I never, in a million years imagined myself married to a man who could love me so completely. How could God bring this guy, who prays for and with me, helps me in the house, adores our kids, and accepts God’s call whole heartedly into my life? Our cruise was a huge stepping stone of belief in God’s unimaginable love for me. While on the cruise we ate like kings. The first night I had a famous French soup “Bouillabaisse” and a salad. Like all things French, it came with bread. We had endless drinks on the cruise, and every meal was bottomless, it was all paid for. My husband is awesome at bargain shopping.  It was completely unreal to me. Amusingly, the cruise was advertised as Franglophone, meaning French speaking. Yet because of the destinations of the cruise we were surrounded by Italians. It was sooo funny and entirely countercultural for French.

Our first stop was Savona, Italy. Each night a little paper was delivered to our door that had the excursions for the stops, and we chose to go see the 2nd largest Aquarium in Europe. I love all things water, including seeing dolphins, and beautiful fish. It was very cool! After the aquarium we went on a boat cruise around the cape and saw some extraordinary views. We came back, and stumbled into a couple we had met upon arrival of the ship. They were older than us, but had been married about 8 years. He had surprised his wife just like Bart had surprised me! They also were native French speakers, so we made arrangements and ate with them for the next two nights! We also went to the cruise spectacle, which was a musical display of gymnastics, incredible voices, and an amazing performance. I knew almost every song by heart, and they even did a tribute to Whitney Houston. The next day we went to Barcelona, Spain and we were able to see Gaudi’s amazing artwork. We took a bus tour and had a small time to do some souvenir buying. We came back to the boat, and spent time at the pool, which was a salt water pool…where I very quickly learned that salt water is an amazing (ly painful) cleaning agent for open blisters. We had incredible weather the entire cruise.

Our last day, in honesty, stands out above the rest. The day we left the cruise, we took the metro and the bus again. Again, the bus took us to a beautiful place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We got off the bus and looked off of the bridge we were standing on and saw such a breath taking view. The Mediterranean Sea was under us. I turned and looked at the beautiful sights, and noticed a pretty blue and white building that didn’t really fit in to it’s surroundings. “That’s a peculiar looking building! It’s blue and white and just kind of juts out from the rocks.” Bart turned “You’re right! Let’s go check it out!” So as we came upon the building Bart led the way up the stairs, turned and smiled that glorious love filled smile. “This is our hotel, Andi, let’s go check in.” Once in our room Bart had to disappear (More plotting). My first discovery was that we had a balcony that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, and also that the room looked like it was decorated for a princess. Not at all in a tacky way, but it was very soft colored, with beautiful linens and a round curtain that came out from the balcony window. I was completely speechless. Bart didn’t even know he would receive the balcony when he requested an ocean view. When Bart arrived he led me to the bathroom. It was the first bathtub I had seen since we took my mom to Paris. It was HUGE! We quickly changed into our swim suits and went exploring. I was able to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, the same sea that Paul sailed in during his journeys, and was even shipwrecked in. It was beautiful, as was the beach. We ate at a little beach stand that night and the next day we took a bus tour all around Marseilles. We ate our breakfast on the balcony. We didn’t take another trip to Chateau d’if, but we had an amazing last day of adventure. Even now, looking back, it feels like a dream. This….this love, this trip, was truly beyond my ability to imagine. The dedication of my husband during the whole time, his patience when I broke down, or when I was too tired to move from all of our walking, was a powerful symbol of the way Christ loves the church, and laid down His life for it.

The night we got our kiddos back Lucas woke up with the flu, and since then we have been finishing even more vaccinations, Bart has been tested for his allergies, with no real answers. He was able to get the needed vaccine while closely monitored. We have been avidly using a program called Conversation Exchange, which allows us to schedule rendezvous’ with French people who want to speak English. This has helped me tremendously, and most of the time the people want to continue meeting week after week.

I am now 31 weeks pregnant and Bart is preparing for his trip. Lucas is on his break from school, and the cold weather has officially blown in! The wind is back! Today it was in the high 40’s, and I was pretty cold!! I think Indiana might be a little rough on us. Speaking of which! Please pray for all of the travels necessary before we leave the country, and also for our teammates as they will be departing for the US in November and we will miss them tremendously!!

Thanks for reading my insanely long blog post friends!

Andi

Faith and Righteousness

It’s 6:20 am. Some of you may already be awake. Yet, for some like me this early of a morning finds you groggy and drowsy. It’s not that I am NOT a morning person, more that I need a full 9 hours of sleep to function and usually that doesn’t happen. Mosquito’s have infiltrated our home again, and Hosanna and I have each received numerous bites while we sleep.  We hoped the cooler weather had helped, but the combination of excitement and nervousness from Bart and I’s upcoming get away and the itchiness kept me awake, as well as a little girl with a cough. Whenever a child is sick, even with the slightest illness, a parent feels it in the depths of their being.

Yet it isn’t the sickness, or itchiness that awoke me. The Lord has woken me early this morning. I wonder why. Last night I was reading through Romans 4:20 through all of chapter 5. I actually had been reading through Job, which at one point in my life was my favorite book of the Bible. In no exaggeration, I have probably read it 5 or 6 times. I have seen a lot of trial in my short life. I have seen brokenness far beyond 27. I have seen the death of the young, I have felt the deep pangs of chemical depression, I have watched mighty people crumble into sin, and the meager rise up in faith. I have spent countless hours in tears before the throne of our mighty God in heaven, and felt his sweet and tender love as He heard my cries and freed me from fear, doubt, bitterness and the many other chains that the devil used to hold me back from God’s great love. It’s about love my friends. A radical love that has gotten under my skin, consumed me like a burning fire, and entirely filled me with hope.  I began reading in Romans 5, but the chapter starts with a Therefore. Whenever you are reading the Bible and see a Therefore, you need to back track and see what it is there for.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

 

Pause. This verse says that Abraham, whom was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac, never wavered in his faith. Abraham, who was told to get up and go, with his family, but wasn’t told where, never wavered in his faith. I did some research in the Greek, and righteousness in our perception isn’t too farfetched. It really does mean to be just, or right, lacking fault. Yet, it doesn’t give us a measuring rod of tasks to complete in order to be righteous. It even says that Because of Abraham’s faith God counted him as righteous.

Seriously. Read that again.

Faith. I just finished reading a book called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day”. It echoes a theme that one of our biggest problems to overcome as lovers of Jesus is our lack of faith. It isn’t works. It isn’t applying some new “Live life better” strategy to our lives. It is faith. Faith doesn’t come without a challenge friend. We have been told over and over and over in the scriptures that our faith becomes refined much the same way that gold does. The impurities are BURNED out. Some of you might be thinking….why. Why would a God who loves us, a God who is called Abba, father, BURN something out of His Children?!? WHY?! Because He aches for us, He longs for us. We see it in the death of His son Jesus who was tortured on the cross so that we could have hope! He didn’t do this as a last chance shot at dragging His wayward kids back into His life. He did this because He knows that we are broken, and that we will never be able to earn or deserve it. So let’s redefine righteousness. Let me go out on a limb here. Let me say that maybe righteousness is less about living in fear of doing the wrong thing, and more about taking risks with Jesus leading the way.

You might think this is easy for me to say. I’m a missionary, who has already achieved that “superior level of crazy”. I am fearless right? Completely incapable of not obeying God’s call.

Let me assure you, last week I watched as French speaking doctors vaccinated my kids and my kids screamed and begged for me to not let this happen to them. Yet I knew that we were moving to a country where vaccinations literally will save my children’s lives and I don’t have the option. I have seen my son and daughter break down and cry because of the confusion of another language, and then heard the voices of so many people stateside saying “Oh! They’ll learn the language! They are kids! They are resilient! This will make them better people!” I myself have been on the floor of my bedroom before, crying and asking God if He understood the ache in my heart as I prepare to take my kids back to the states for 8 weeks only to then take them away from the people who would give anything to hold them closest. I have seen my husband  and teammates endure complete exhaustion going from one government office to the next to try and complete all kinds of necessary paperwork in the French Bureaucratic System.

Yes friends. I have fears. These experiences don’t mean my faith is somehow superior to yours. These experiences are just a different type of faith fire than your own. We each have it. We each have moments of complete and total breakdown before God. For you, your faith fire might be your job; a place in which you love the people and the specific tasks so much that you know that the persecution and resentment you face are nowhere near the value of your staying put. Some of you might have a faith fire in your marriage. You may have come to know the love of Jesus while your spouse is still searching. Family may be critical of your “unequally yoked” marriage, or in other ways, but you know that you have joined a covenant and are faithfully a part of that.

I have simply learned that God’s word is complete truth. When I read “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and sound mind” I trust him entirely. I recognize fear of anything but God as exactly that, as spirit. Then, I cast it out as such, just as the first disciples cast out spirits that hindered. I surrender my perspective, I surrender the doubts, and I trust that God, who is already at the end of my life, as He was at the beginning, knows what He is doing. I have my moments of complete breakdown. Yet, when you have felt God’s call in your life, when you have seen Him pave the way because you have eyes of faith, there is no fear big enough. When I feel fire in my life, I know that it is either from God, for the purpose of making me stronger, or that in some way I have allowed sin in my life. I seek His word, and trust Him to lead me on.

This was a long blog my friend. Thank you for taking the time to read how God is challenging me this morning. Thank you also for your prayers as we are transitioning through many changes in the upcoming months, including:

  • Finding new and creative ways to learn French as Bart and I have both quit regular French school and have been practicing one on one in different settings with French friends.
  • Bart’s trip to Tanzania, Africa in November.
  • Having a baby in December, while packing!
  • Our move stateside for 8 weeks in January!

A reminder, as some have been a little confused. We are learning French in order to effectively communicate with the government, and military in West Africa. There are road blocks along African dirt roads, much like the western world’s have stop lights, and there are military stationed at these blocks that speak French (though slightly different than some of the French we are learning now). We will have to interact in French every time we travel to and from the capital city (6+ times annually), and any time we need to sign papers, arrange visas or passports etc. We cannot just learn basic phrases, but have to hold our own in French.  The people group we will be working with does not speak French. We were told there is one lady in the village who knows some French. They speak an entirely different language. No…it’s not a French dialect. So, yes, we will need to learn an entirely NEW language upon arrival to our home in West Africa. We are preceded by many missionaries who have done this before us, and we would not be doing French language learning if it weren’t entirely necessary.  I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings about the language learning process ahead of us.

With His hope,

Andi