The New Year has arrived! We hope that it has greeted you warmly, aside from the weather. This year has brough new goals, new hopes, and new adventures. I think survival would be our biggest goal for the next transition.
There are many things that I struggle with in my life. Stubbornness is one of them. Yet, I wouldn’t say I “struggle” with stubbornness, but rather it is a gift that I am exceedingly good at. If you tell me I am incapable of completing a task, I will do it and probably be laughing the entire time. If I have a belief, or a passion it is nearly impossible to take it from me. I am very competitive, and this can be a weakness as well as strength. Of the many things I struggle with, one that is painstaking would definitely be navigation. To say that I am “directionally challenged” would be so kind, it would nearly be lying. I am so bad at directions that my dad used to have to tell me how to navigate the grocery store in order to buy eggs. This was mostly so that I could find my way back out of the store before the age of cell-phones. When Bart and I first met, I once made a 2 hour trip to Terra Haute, Indiana into a 5 hour trip. The biggest change in my navigational abilities is my ability to keep calm now. If I were to get lost even 4 years ago, there would have been tears, panic, and near complete refusal to try again. The first time I attempted a trip to Rainbow Christian Camp, where my husband was raised, I tried patiently to explain that I never went anywhere alone, and that my sense of direction was that of a battery-operated helicopter with half the blade missing. He assured me over and over that he could get me safely from Richmond, Indiana to the small and beautiful farm town of Converse, Indiana. “It’s only a 2 hour trip and I can get you here in 3 turns once you are on 27-Chester Blvd”. I was so full of doubt, but he kept assuring me “3 turns and you’re there!” It was the first of hundreds of times when my husband’s navigational abilities astounded me. I left with my Verizon flip phone in hand, and enough money in the bank for a tank of gas and some McDonald’s. 2 hours later I arrived safely to the parking lot of the conference center at Rainbow. That was more than likely my first successful trip more than 10 minutes away from home without making at least 1 wrong turn.
Looking back now, I can see a strong parallel from my story to the one God is writing with us now. I see Him beckoning us to take a risk, asking us to trust Him, and providing a way. The big difference is, I have never heard God say “3 turns and you’re there!” I have never heard Him give me a detailed route to where we are going. Bart and I have learned that we daily must submit our plans to Him. We now take joy in asking God to “go before us, make a clear path for us, and bless the way which you have called us”. Our life now is no exception. From the first week we arrived in France until this very moment we are constantly being taught to trust God. Here are some examples of how God has challenged us:
- When we arrived we were all very sick and had to find a French doctor (severe respiratory virus and Bart had shingles)
- We began French school anyway, including sending Lucas to a French preschool
- I struggled with every effort I made toward learning French
- both kids endured huge stress from culture shock including Lucas’ refusal to speak French
- We became pregnant
- The necessary change of plans for our departure to West Africa (delayed)
- Bart spent more time in French government offices than either of us have ever spent in an American government office (in order to prepare for baby Benaiah’s arrival)
- To receive financial aid (French Medicare) for the baby’s birth, Bart and our forwarding agent were scanning, emailing, mailing, and praying over our government papers (such as birth certificates, passports, marriage license etc.) that they would be recognized by the French government.
- We were informed that it would not be possible to continue our current timeline to West Africa, and thus we began praying, readjusting, re-planning, rehoping, refiguring…and well…you get it.
What makes this whole process even more challenging is to do it in a way that helps our kids and our family not fall into survival mode, but do it all while trusting Jesus to provide the grace. We need all of the prayer we can get during this time, and we appreciate it greatly.
So what are our plans? For those of you who also read our newsletter, this will be covered there.
We have begun sorting, pitching, giving away and selling some of the things we have here. During a recent phone conversation someone said to me “Well you can’t possibly have gained THAT much stuff in a year! What is there to sort?”. When we came to France, we had full expectation of leaving here directly for West Africa. Everything we have owned in 7 years is either with us, in about 8 Rubbermaid totes underneath my sister-in-laws house, or in West Africa in a giant container waiting for us. This includes many of our children’s toys. Thus, upon arrival, there were some definite necessities for a family of 4 that we had to purchase, as well as simply acquiring things that others have given to us. A good friend complimented my packing a few weeks back, and it occurred to me how much we have mastered planning for packing. Almost all of our kids toys can collapse, fit into a small container, or lay completely flat. We learned to differentiate between a frivolous extra, what is necessary, and a necessary extra. During the last few weeks of pregnancy I began pre-packing. I knew that once Benaiah Jude arrived, it would be all I could do to help in the basics. I wrote out all that we own into lists and categorized them. Is it sellable? Is it staying in this apartment? Are we giving it away? Is it coming with us? This will be tremendously helpful. I also made freezer meals, and even organized the things in our cabinets in groups so that it would be easier to pack.
Our departure date is January 22. Our hearts are full of emotions. Our kids have expressed to us in many creative ways their emotions about the coming changes. We have tried to affirm them, and explained that all of what they are feeling is ok. We have all felt some fear, sadness, joy, and anticipation. We fly through London, and then change planes before flying to Chicago. The trip should take 14 hours. Lucas and Hosanna are very excited to fly. We are sure there are reasons we SHOULD be stressed about taking a 14 hour trip with 3 young kids, yet we know that God has gone before us every other time, and does not fall short of our needs. The first week back will be spent resting and organizing our stuff!
Our first 8 weeks are packed full of visits with churches and individuals. We also have some much needed transition time planned. We encourage you to check out your weekly bulletin and see if we are coming soon! If not, give us a call or an email and we will get in touch with you! We are making plans that involve spending more time in Knoxville at Johnson University. Bart will be finishing his Master’s during our time stateside, and I will be (ideally) finishing my Bachelor’s. We will both be pursuing methods of French study, including the possibility of taking courses through Alliance Française and French courses through Johnson.
Our friends, we are so very eager to see you all again. God has given us peace in this time of change, and again, we covet your prayers. Our two biggest needs right now are prayer and patience. The first weeks we are home will be packed with emotion. There will be many tears as we readjust and we encourage you to ask us questions, and give us time to answer them honestly. You don’t have to fix how we feel, we are very excited to have someone to share our stories and experiences with. We don’t expect you to understand all of them. Thank you for your willingness to let us be honest. Here are ways you can pray.
- Pray for the people of West Africa, that God would speak to them through dreams and visions of His son Jesus. Also for the physical well-being of the people there.
- Pray that God’s steadfast love would guide us through the upcoming transitions and travel.
- Pray that we would be able to say goodbye to all of those we love here.
- Pray that we would be able to close all French accounts without problem.
- Pray that we would stay healthy during all of the travelling
If you would like to get connected with Bart and I during our time in America, please feel free to get in touch with us!