What it's really like living on support

One of the hardest parts for me about being a missionary is raising our own support. We took a course on Partnership Development and we learned all about why it’s okay to ask for support, why it’s necessary and even beneficial for those giving. We learned that it’s Biblical and how to do it well. We also learned that it should be comfortable and a blessing to all those involved.

We learned so much about raising support. The only problem…I still feel so awkward. Nothing stuck for me. I didn’t suddenly get comfortable doing it. I didn’t suddenly feel great about it. The idea of support raising, asking individuals and churches to support us and our ministry financially still makes my palms sweat, makes my stomach turn and makes me feel so awkward.

I’ve often told Phillip that I wish we could make our own money. Maybe get part time jobs and support ourselves. That way we could buy whatever we wanted and not feel guilty about doing certain things with our income because it was given to us. I feel uncomfortable eating out, going to Starbucks, taking the kids to the zoo. I always think “would our supporters be upset that I’m using their money for this?”. I know that it sounds silly, but when we are paid by individuals and not necessarily an organization I really start to think about what we’re doing with this money and what other people would think about it.

It’s stressful sometimes too. Living on support. To be completely honest, there are times that we don’t know if we’ll have enough money to make it through the month. Sometimes people forget. It’s normal. I’ve forgotten to pay a bill before. And if it’s not coming out of our account automatically, I have to put up reminders to pay things. Life gets busy. People forget.

Sometimes people have to stop supporting us for whatever reason. We get it. It’s not personal. But it also means that we have to figure out how to raise that extra money.

You see….for me, living on support is difficult. It can be awkward, it can be uncomfortable and we have to constantly do it.

But here’s the flip side. Here’s what makes it all worth it (for me anyway):

Living on support is living on faith. We have to trust God for EVERYTHING! I cannot tell you how many times we have been on our knees asking God to come through on our behalf because the support just wasn’t there. And it’s crazy you guys, just absolutely crazy because God does come through. Every. Single. Time. He comes through. He’s a miracle worker!

About a week or so after we miscarried I was feeling pretty crappy. Not only was I mourning this incredible loss, but we were cutting it very close in the finance department. I was growing increasingly agitated and grumbling at God about how we’re supposed to be doing His work yada yada yada, and He’s not even there for us. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was mad at God for not providing and for allowing us to live this uncomfortable life.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I got a card from a girl in my Bible study expressing her sorrow about our loss, but also exclaiming that God laid it on her heart to give us this money. The money was just the amount we needed! God is faithful. But He’s more than too. Yes, He faithfully provided the money that we needed, but He also provided some measure of comfort that I was longing for.

A few weeks before Christmas we decided that we would drive back “home” to visit with family and pick up some welcome baskets a supporting church made for refugees coming into our area. We were hesitant to make the decision to go because we just didn’t have the money. Like…we did not have the money. At all! But we knew we needed to go because we had to get those welcome baskets back here somehow, AND my dad told us he wanted to buy us a new vehicle! And so we prayed! We told God our needs, asked Him to somehow provide for us and thanked Him for His continual provisions. And we set out for the Midwest.

I kid you not, within the first 2 days of our trip we received $1000 from various people. One thousand dollars! Is that not insane?! We were blown away. Even now as I am writing this, I’m getting all choked up thinking about how God prompted several different people to give of their hard earned cash. He cares! And He provides.

These stories are not unique to us.

It’s funny though because I continue to worry and stress when bills come in and there isn’t enough in our bank account to cover everything. I still get nervous when a supporter doesn’t give one month or when checks come in late. I still sometimes doubt that God will come through this time, for whatever reason.It’s living on faith. Constantly, every day.

Often Phillip and I will discuss whether or not we should get jobs outside of the ministry, to help offset some of our costs, to pay off our student loans, to save some extra money. These conversations usually take place when we are smack in the middle of money stress. It seems that within moments of these conversations (that may be slightly exaggerating. Maybe hours or days) God provides for our needs in very specific ways. And then we say “Well, I guess He wants us to just keep doing what we’re doing?!”

Living on support is a love hate relationship for me. I still don’t always enjoy it, I still feel awkward sometimes. But I love that it causes me to have to trust God completely. I love that I have to rely on Him, that I get to pray about specific things all the time. And I love the ways in which He provides. It’s always different, it’s always amazing.

And really, I love having a connection with our supporters. I have such amazing feelings towards them. I’m humbled all the time by their generosity, by their love and support. More than most people, my heart goes out to them. I think about them and pray for them often because they are allowing us to do this work among refugees without the added worry of working a traditional job to afford it. 

We are certainly blessed.

Posted on January 8, 2016 and filed under missions, preparing.

Does it ever get easier?

The past few weeks I have found that I’ve been pretty sad. Just a general feeling of being “bummed out”. I couldn’t really pinpoint it, but I knew that I wasn’t myself. And one evening as I was washing the dishes with tears brimming in my eyes I looked around at my half-packed kitchen and pink and purple streamers still hanging from Jaelyn’s 3rd birthday and I just sighed.

Yep, it was that time again. The time when we pack up our belongings and say goodbye to another home with fond memories. A home where we brought our 3rd baby after her traumatic entrance into this world, a home where Pax became a big brother, where the kids had their first swimming pool and Phil had to mow the lawn. A home. One of many. But one with memories of beginnings, of new things and fond moments.

It’s a home that we are leaving. Another place to say goodbye to.

It was this moment that made me sigh because I realized why I had been feeling so bummed out. This is hard. Really really hard. I thought it would get easier. I hoped that it would not always be difficult. But packing up and saying goodbye just never gets easier.

Leaving family and friends and amazing relationships with loved ones never gets easier.

I’ve gotten better at packing. I’ve learned to pack the things we aren’t using daily first. I’ve figured out to pack things room by room, to label the boxes specifically. I learned to start packing a few months before the big move and to get rid of things you haven’t used in awhile or don’t want anymore. I’ve started leaving out 2 weeks’ worth of clothes for each person, so that I can pack up all the clothes (which makes it a lot easier when washing and sorting!), and I’ve gotten really good at only leaving out one bowl, plate, cup and silver ware for each person so that everything else can be packed. I’ve alsogotten really good at sorting what is going into storage and what is continuing this journey with us. After our many many many moves, I’ve got the whole packing thing down.

But that doesn’t matter. I wish I wasn’t good at packing. I wish I didn’t know what it was like to have to move away again. I wish I didn’t know what it was like to say goodbye to people that I just want to spend my life living with and growing with together.

So no, it doesn’t get easier. It’s been really great living in this area for these past several months and rekindling relationships and spending time with family. And now we get to leave them all again.

Granted, this is the life we said Yes to when we heard God’s call on our lives. This is the life we love as we get to travel and meet new people and share the Gospel with those that have not yet heard. This is the life we believe will benefit our kids as they are able to see firsthand the needs in this world and how God is leading them to help. This is our life. We love it. We really do. But sometimes it’s hard. This part of it is just really hard.

Posted on July 4, 2015 and filed under preparing, missions.

Bon Voyage

Well we did it. After years of dreaming and learning, and months of planning and anticipation, we are finally in France. This is just the beginning of our journey, but it’s as exciting as ever.

I woke up this morning and looked out Jaelyn’s bedroom window. Mountains! And this is our home for right now. We are indeed blessed.

But…let’s back up a few. I need to share about our journey here.

Our first flight was the long one. I anticipated a smooth trip to London because we were flying at night, and I figured the kids would probably sleep a good portion of it. We had great seats, with plenty of leg room (no one in front of us), and Pax even had his own infant seat that pulled down from the wall. Again, I thought he’d do great because he could sleep in that.

I must have forgotten how much my kids hate the car and being strapped in their carseats. Seriously, after our last trip back from Texas my kids would begin whining and melting down after just 10 minutes in the van. Poor things were traumatized!

Pax ended up falling asleep about 2 hours into the flight. But continued to wake up constantly. Probably mostly due to the fact that he is a tummy sleeper (with his little tush up in the air), and was unable to turn around in his seat.

Jaelyn was wide awake and didn’t want anything to do with sleep, even after they finally turned off all the lights on the plane- about 4 hours into the flight. Eventually she did fall asleep, and slept until we landed.

Neither Phil or I got any sleep. So…that’s always a great start to a new day.

We arrived in London and after waiting 30 minutes for our stroller, we were informed that it had gone to our next flight. Great…two kids, 3 carry-ons, running late to the next flight and NO stroller.

We had to go through security again and this time it didn’t go well at all. They insisted on taking EVERYTHING out of the diaper bag and small cooler I had for the kids’ drinks. It was 8:45 a.m. and the gate to our next flight closed at 9:00 a.m.

I asked the man attending to our things how far the gate was, and he informed me that he’d tried to hurry so I didn’t miss the flight. Well hurry he did NOT! At 8:50 I sent Phil and Pax to the gate so they could try to get them to wait for us.

I grew increasingly impatient with the man that insisted on taking his sweet time, knowing that I had minutes to get to my flight….which happened to be on the other side of the airport.

By 9:05 he was finally done. He took the small ice pack I had to keep their milk/drinks cold, saying that it was a liquid and I wasn’t allowed to have it on the plane. Even though I had clearly had it on the last plane.

I wondered out loud how I was supposed to keep the kids’ milk cold, but was more frustrated by the fact that he had made me late to my next flight.

I grabbed the bags, picked up Jaelyn and tried to get to the other side of the airport as fast as I could. It was then that my body decided to have an emotional breakdown. I couldn’t stop the tears. I must have looked so ridiculous! A pregnant lady carrying several bags, a toddler, half-running through the airport and now sobbing! What a sight!

I made it to our gate and found Phil and Pax waiting by the desk. The lady had graciously waited for us!

We boarded our flight to Switzerland with everyone gawking at us. But we made it! So I didn’t really care.

And when I sat down I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. I had bottled up all of the emotions of saying goodbye and actually leaving, waiting to have a quiet moment to cry by myself. But now, I was sobbing on an airplane packed with complete strangers…and my family sitting right next to me.

The flight to Switzerland was just over an hour. Pax, however was completely overtired and wouldn’t wait an hour to have his meltdown. I apologized profusely to the lady seating in front of us- the seat that he kicked in frustration and anger through the whole flight He FINALLY fell asleep as we were landing. And he slept hard! I had to carry him through the airport to baggage claim (because we still didn’t have our stroller). He didn’t wake up at all!

We finally found our stroller, just hanging out several feet from the baggage area. I was so thankful to finally be able to strap the kids in and not worry about having to carry them around.

We managed to get 9 of our 10 suitcases. But then there was the task of getting 2 carts to push them on and figuring out how to get the bag that was missing. In another country. Where we don’t speak the language. And we don’t have their money.

That took us about an hour to accomplish. Which was unfortunate because the taxi bus to pick us up arrived at 12 p.m. By the time we were heading out of the airport, it was just after 1 p.m. I was certain we were going to be stranded in Geneva- still 2 hours from our final resting place.

But by the grace of God, our driver was STILL there! He was a sight for sore eyes. And once again, the tears came unsuspectingly. And once again, I’m certain I looked ridiculous. This time pushing a cart full of suitcases AND pushing a double stroller. How I managed that, I’m still not sure.

With both kids fast asleep, we loaded up into the van (which I guess is a taxi bus!) and headed to the school. It was a beautiful drive! And I wish I could have stayed awake to see it!

The kids and I slept nearly the whole way there! And we arrived at the school in Albertville around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

I wish I had some pictures to show of our trip, but…I unfortunately forgot to put a memory card in the camera. Go figure!

We are so blessed to be here. And we are even more blessed by the place that we live in. It's quite amazing!

More on our home in a later post  though (with pictures this time!!).

Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under missions.

Without a Home

As we packed up our belongings and said goodbye to Texas, we also said goodbye to our home. To a place we could call our own. Driving across the country, we began to realize that we were nomads. We had made plans to stay with different family members and to be on the road in a new place every single week. The idea behind this decision made sense at the time; we were going to be visiting family and friends and saying goodbye to many people. Some of these people we won’t see again for years.

But it’s hard. I think, mostly for me, it’s hard because of the kids. I have always strived to make them comfortable, to provide a stable and consistent home life, to have structure and routine. But that’s almost impossible when you are living at someone else’s house, when you have to almost fit yourself and your kids into other people’s schedules, when your babies are sleeping in a different place every week.

It’s hard because people that don’t have children also don’t have homes that are baby proof. No fault of their own, of course! But it makes things just a little bit more difficult as we have to constantly be redirecting the children, telling them not to touch that, and physically moving them away from areas that might be a little dangerous. And can I be just a little selfish right now and say that, as a pregnant mom, it’s utterly exhausting! I miss my own home that was completely baby proof, where I had the option of sitting down for a few minutes while the kids roamed around and were able to play anywhere without the potential of harming themselves.

As a mom of two active little ones….I miss our baby proof home.

But then I have to think about what’s really important. Sometimes I like to believe that getting what I want and not being so exhausted is really important. But again, that’s really just me being selfish. What’s really important is to be able to visit with our families. For the kids to know their grandparents and their grandparents to get to build special bonds with these two precious kids. It’s important for us to get to see our supporters and thank them in person for what they have allowed us to do so far, and what they will allow us to do in the future. It’s important to visit with friends that we haven’t seen in a while. It’s all so very important because these people mean the world to us and it will be years before we get to see some of them again.

So yes, it’s hard. It’s hard not having a home. It’s hard without a routine for the kids. It’s hard sleeping in someone else’s bed every week. But oh is it worth it! We are certainly cherishing the moments we get to visit with the people we love.

Posted on July 22, 2014 and filed under missions, preparing.

Will you Trust Me?

As our last days in Texas are drawing to a close, the reality of leaving the States has really hit hard. These last few months have been a serious test of faith as doubts have laid a heavy burden on our hearts. At first it appeared that the doubts were about God's calling on our lives. But through prayer and wise counsel we have realized that the doubts are really about our own strengths and abilities. It's a unique position to be on the verge of something so completely life-changing. Many have experienced these moments months, weeks and days before getting married. Is this really who I should marry? Will I be able to spend the rest of my life with this person? These moments also happen for new parents, or even second and third time parents. Will I be able to take care of a tiny helpless little person? Can I add another member to the family without losing my sanity and without neglecting my other kids? Will I have enough love and attention to go around?

Everyone faces these types of situations, these questions and doubts. We have to choose to embrace the uncertainty of it, relying on God to calm our anxious hearts and lead us in the right direction. Even if that direction is hard and uncomfortable and not always what we want to do at that time.

For me, the reassurance of God's plan has come through a number of sources over the last few months. When I was in the throes of terrible doubt and questioning whether or not we should even continue in this direction, God was using people in my life to let me know that this IS what we should do and that He was not abandoning us. Why does it sometimes feel like we are all alone in this journey, when God is always right by our side?

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about how different songs tend to be mytheme song for a period of time. Well lately my song has been Oceans by Hillsong. When I was telling my very amazing friend about my struggles and not being sure if we should even go to the mission field, she told me that God often uses songs to tell her things and suddenly the song "Oceans" by Hillsong popped into her head. She said that she had to look up the lyricsbecause she didn't really know that song. And when she did, she said she immediately knew it was the perfect lyrics for me right now.
In that moment I knew that God was giving me the reassurance that we were headed in the right direction. And I felt like He was asking me "Will you trust Me?" But, like Gideon, I needed another sign. I told God I wasn't convinced and I continued to beg him to change His mind.

Then, while in chapel one Friday, someone spoke about the struggle they had gone through on the mission field. It was a long story, but the final point to his message was that God wants you to focus on being, not on doing. He has the resources and can do this.
Again I knew that God was telling me that He would take care of me. If I would just choose to follow Him and trust Him, He would take care of everything.

Unlike Gideon, I still was not convinced. I think it was more stubbornness. This isn't what I wanted to do anymore.I kept thinking of all of the difficulties. Of raising a family with no support. Of being in a foreign country and not knowing anyone and not understanding the language or the culture. I couldn't stand the thought of our kids not seeing their grandparents and uncles regularly. My heart was already breaking and I just didn't want to continue. But I still felt that tugging and God asking "Will you trust Me?".

And then one day something from our home church in Indiana popped up on my news feed on Facebook. It was a sermon called God Has Bigger Plans For Your Life Than You Do. He talked about how taking a risk for God can be really scary because we can't see the outcome. But if we will just trust God and follow Him, the blessings He has in store for us are going to be amazing. Just like His blessings for Abraham.

That really convicted me. And as if that weren't enough, ANOTHER thing from that church popped up in my news feed. This time it was a blog. It was about Clarity vs. Trust. Again with the trust thing, God? Yes, of course! If it's going to take me fleece after fleece after fleece to fully and truly know that God was indeed calling us to this mission field, then yes, another message on trust was absolutely necessary. God knows me.

I know I have written about my struggle with going before. And I hope I'm not being redundant as I go back and forth with knowing what God has called us to but being uncertain about it at the same time. But in an effort to be blatantly honest about this journey, I must admit that I often feel bipolar with all of this. It's a daily battle. And I have often felt alone in my struggle because I haven't heard other missionaries in this stage talk about how they often just didn't want to go. 

But it doesn't really matter if others have faced these same struggles at the same time and same stage as I have. It is through these struggles that I have been drawn closer to God. It is because of these struggles that I have been praying more earnestly, more passionately, more honestly. And it is through these struggles that God has shown me how much I desperately need Him. He is also teaching me about trust. And trusting in God is so important.

So yes, I will probably continue to have this daily battle of not really wanting to leave. But I know that we will leave. And I am trusting that God has something far better in store for me and my family. So God, in answer to your question, Yes. Yes I will trust You. Yes I do trust You.

And ya know what...I'm kind of excited too.

Posted on June 23, 2014 and filed under preparing, missions.

Hurry Up and Wait

When I was in college and getting my degree that I believed would eventually get me to the mission field, I was in such a hurry. I hated going to class and learning….oh learning, how dreadful it was! I just wanted to GO! Why did I have to sit through lecture after lecture when I could just hop on a plane and be there?! I seriously contemplated ditching the books and just boarding a plane.

I was in such a hurry to get to where I knew God was calling me.

What I didn’t know at the time was that God had called me to other things as well. Things that would need to take place BEFORE my dramatic move overseas. I gained knowledge and insight about how to actually do ministry in a cross-cultural setting (thanks to my degree!), met my amazing husband, got married, had our first baby and learned a LOT about myself.

Together Phillip and I felt God calling us to be missionaries overseas. We didn’t know where, but we knew we would go. So after the birth of our daughter we hurried to sell or donate all of our things and moved in with family so we could begin support raising.

We were in a hurry to get to where we knew God was calling us.

What we didn’t know was that God once again had called us to something different first. A month after we moved in with my mom we found out we were expecting baby #2. If you’ve ever tried to plan for things and suddenly found yourself pregnant, you can attest to the fact that baby’s bring change. And so God was calling us to wait.

And it was through that period of waiting that we made some amazing friendships at our new church in Indiana. I cannot tell you how blessed I am that we had to wait. God always knows what’s best for us, even when we think that WE do.

After the little guy was born in August we again made haste and raised 60% of our support in the first month! It was amazing and we just KNEW that God was calling us to go now. In January we packed our bags and made a long cross country move to Texas. We continued to busy ourselves with the work we needed to accomplish so we could leave the country in August.

By May, when we still only had 75% of our budget, I was getting discouraged and doubtful. I thought God had wanted us to go now? I thought this was HIS plan? I prayed “God if you want us to go, you have to make a way!”.

I am in a hurry to finally get to where I know God is calling us.

I was growing tired of all of the hurry up and waiting scenarios. When would God finally allow us to go?! And then a very dear friend gave me a book by Oswald Chambers. Growing Deeper with God is the book and the first pages I read really opened my eyes to some new truths about God.

God is not in a hurry.

Chambers wrote about how Moses had a calling, a desperate desire to free his people from slavery. This was a God-given desire. God also wanted the Israelites to be free from the Egyptians. And I know the story of Moses and the Israelites, but the reality of what happened next has never hit me like it did when I read this book.

After Moses killed the Egyptian and fled, he was terribly discouraged. Chambers writes “God allowed Moses, the only man who could deliver his own people, to be driven into the desert to feed sheep—forty years of blank discouragement” (p. 16).

Wow! God had a plan for His people. He knew exactly what He wanted to do and who He was going to use to accomplish it. And He waited 40 years! God is certainly not in a hurry.

When I think about that story, it helps to put my own life into perspective. I honestly don’t know what the future looks like. I have a dream, I have desires, and I have wants. But right now, in this moment, I am trying my best to wait on God’s timing. If we go in August, fabulous! I’m all in. I’m so excited and I’m ready. If it’s later on down the road…even if its years down the road, fabulous! I know it’s because God has called us to something different first. And it will be an amazing journey!

Posted on May 16, 2014 and filed under preparing, missions.

Because I don't want to be swallowed by a big fish

"I could never do that! You must have a lot of faith!" I can't tell you how crazy this statement, or similar versions of this statement, makes me.

This is me being transparent:

If it were up to me, I would not be uprooting my family and moving to another planet (okay, Africa is not another planet. But as far as other people are concerned, it may as well be). If it were up to me, I would not leave my friends and family- uncertain of when I may see them again. If it were up to me, I'd stay in the comforts of my own home, attending my own church, and enjoying life where it's oh so familiar. If it were up to me.

This is something I've wrestled with for some time now. And to be completely honest, it's a daily battle. There are moments of panic and heartache, when I tell God that this isn't what I want. I'm not cut out for this. What about my family? What about the life we have here? What about the needs in THIS neighborhood?
I can't tell you how many times I've cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this from me.
You see...this is difficult. The most difficult thing I've ever had to do (and I haven't even done it yet!).

So what propels me onward? I don't want to be swallowed up by a giant fish! Okay, well that's not exactly right. There is some truth to that, in that I don't want to be disobedient to God. After all, isn't that what the story of Jonah is all about? God wanted him to go, but Jonah didn't want to. He wasn't interested in doing that. He wanted to do something else. Ultimately, though, God's plan for an entire nation rested on Jonah's obedience to just go. So yeah, obedience does drive me (and the fear of living in the belly of a fish!) but it's bigger than that.

What really keeps me heading toward ministry in another country? God does. As I've wrestled with this over the last several months, God has really opened my eyes to some truths. A big question I have to ask myself is "Who am I trying to please?" Am I trying to please my friends/family, my own self, or God? It's a serious question that deserves a lot of thought. And while I love my family dearly and want to do what makes them happy, they are not my priority. No, I am not trying to please them. If I were...I would be pulled in so many different directions. Yes, I need to take their opinions and concerns into consideration. Often God will use those closest to us to steer us in the right direction. But ultimately, I do what I do because of my desire to please and serve God.

I could tell God no. I know that He would still love me, and we could continue to grow in our relationship. After all, He did create us with a free will. But I would be missing out on some amazing blessings. When we say yes to the plans God has for us, immense blessings are in store for us. I don't mean blessings of health and wealth and a lifetime of happiness and good fortune. I mean the blessings of God and his power and promise to provide everything we need.

Part of my problem is the constant need to rely on God. We are currently living on support right now. That means that we have absolutely no financial security on our own accord. Monthly we trust the Lord to provide (through our supporters) for our needs. And right now we are waiting on God to provide us with 100% of our support AND $15,000 in one time costs by the beginning of next month. The anxiety, the fear, the doubts and the questions that are coursing through my mind is exhausting. What if we don't get the money? Does it mean God is closing the door on this? Is he just postponing it? What would we do in the meantime? Where would we live? How would we pay for the things we need? Would our supporters stop supporting us?
These questions are constantly racing through my mind.

But even through this God is teaching me some of His truths. I need to rely on Him. I need to give Him control of everything. I need to trust Him. Whatever the outcome, I just need to trust Him.

So when people say things like "I could never do that", I want to say "Neither could I!" Because the truth is, I can't do it. But I trust God to do it through me. I am learning to trust Him with my very life and trust that He has great plans for me and my little tribe.

Posted on April 22, 2014 and filed under preparing, missions.