Open Doors (Post from 6/16/17)

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my work and haave not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8)

For a while now we did not have our first service opportunity for August and September 2018, however leave it to God to open another door as a way to show us that He is in charge and He is in control. We can try to find opportunities ourselves, but without His help we will continue to find nothing. This is exactly what has happened for us. We have been trying and trying to get something set for our first service project to no avail. But when He was ready for us to have something set, it happened. A wonderful friend of ours, Chris, was able to help secure a service opportunity in a small rural town in Germany. We will be working with the local church doing various tasks, including English lessons, working on cleaning up the church, helping with the Vacation Bible School, and whatever else the community and the church may need. We will be at their disposal. What is even more wonderful is that they are working on getting the kids into the schools there, so they will be starting school with the rest of the kids in the community (how wonderful!!).

For me, every time there is just a little bit of doubt or anxiety about this service project, He opens another door and continues to show us that this IS our path and this IS what we are supposed to be doing. He continues to light the path that we are supposed to be on, which is a very comforting feeling. He shows us that He is in control and that He is there, always, to care for us, to help us, and to guide us. He is our rock and our stronghold.

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. (Psalms 31:1-3)

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Modern Day Abram and Sarai (post from 3/27/17)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) Abram took his wife Sarai and His brother’s son, Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Harah; and they set forth to go the land of Canaan. (Genesis 12:5).

A couple weeks ago our new pastor (who knew nothing of our plans) preached on this passage from Genesis. Jeff sitting the choir loft and myself sitting in the pews at church, we couldn’t help but lock eyes almost instantly; enormous smiles appeared on both of us which turned into silent chuckles and for me even tears of just complete shock and joy and fear and every other emotion you could imagine. I was so taken back by the sermon and I can remember feeling like this was another one of God’s messages to us that this is what we are supposed to be doing; we were on the right path and we just need to trust Him.

Now I will give you some context for how we came to this decision…It was sometime last year, early summer 2017 that one of my high school teachers posted something on Facebook that sparked a conversation between Jeff and I. Mr. Allen had posted that as he was approaching retirement he wanted to buy an old bus, paint it “hippie style” and take 50 kids or so around the USA for a year, stopping at all the historical sites around the country. I can remember thinking how amazing this would be, so I brought this up to Jeff, really just as a conversation, not really with any intention of doing this. However the more we talked about how neat this would be for us, we decided that we could totally do this! We are just renting our house, so we decided that we could sell one of the cars and most of our belongings, buy an RV and tour the USA while homeschooling the children. Well, this conversation continued for about a week or so, but then we started talking some more about this and we agreed that if we were going to do this, we needed to think bigger. We both felt called to not just travel and explore, but to serve others. This conversation continued and before we knew what was happening, it quickly became a call from God (or call it open doors, whatever you’d prefer) to serve others around the world; people from totally different cultures and worlds would be more impactful for us and for the children. Thus started the conversation about traveling abroad and serving those most in need. Initially we started to look at volunteer organizations around the world that would accept children, but what we found was quite discouraging, most places wouldn’t allow the children to participate in the volunteer work and most of these organizations were “voluntourism” (basically a vacation where you can do some volunteering). Voluntouring was NOT what we were being called to do. We were beginning to think that maybe this was not what we were supposed to do…but just when God closes one door He opens a new one. We found a book at the library, Wide Open World by John Marshall that was about his family’s experience doing volunteer work around the world. After reading this book, we found opportunities to volunteer in rural Thailand teaching English with an organization called Volunthai and a Presbyterian orphanage in northeastern India on the border of Nepal called The Good Shepherd Argricultural Farm. Both of these opportunities were discussed in the book and when we contacted them they were more than welcoming to us, even the children. As time continued to go on we realized that there are few, if any, organizations out there to help families wanting to do volunteer work around the world find opportunities, thus began Casting Off Globally (COG), our non-profit organization which has the purpose of linking families with organizations around the world that would accept the help of families with children. We have been very blessed to have the support of our interim pastor and now our current pastor, as well as a few friends that have been able to connect us with churches and communities around the world who continue to open their doors to us.

God’s call is very much alive and real. As long as we continue to be open to hearing His word, He continues to lead us down this path; He is planning this for us and leading us to the unknown. We have found so much joy and faith in trusting His call and letting go of the idea of being in control. We do not know where this will lead. We do not known what will happen while we are away for year living amongst the poor, the lonely, the destitute, but we are confident that He will guide us and that He will keep us in His loving arms. We do not know what will happen when we come back; will we go back to same life we have now, will we do something completely different, will we do this again? There are so many questions for which we don’t have answers, but then I am sure Abram and Sarai had questions, doubts, and fears too. Yet they followed God’s call and He provided for them, just as He will provide for us, if we trust and have faith in Him.

Jesus In Disguise (Post from 1/9/2017)

Mother Theresa said “each one of them is Jesus in disguise”. She was speaking about the people she served while in Calcutta, India. This woman gave every breath she took to Jesus and allowed him to work through her; she is truly an inspiration. This quote has resonated with me and has given me a different perspective on those we continue to serve here in Madison, as well as those we plan to serve during our year of service starting in 19 months (wow, this is coming up fast!). If we all saw people for what they are, a child of God, we would start to see Jesus in everyone. We may start to realize that if we care and treat everyone how we would Jesus, our world’s problems would be eliminated. Yes, I understand, this is very Utopian, even heaven-like, and yes naive. But truthfully, 1 act of kindness is like a ripple in a pond, it continues and grows and spread. So if I can continue to make ripples in the pond, maybe I can have an impact on our world. I have a new hope for change and faith that I can make a difference; my children and my family can make a difference. I have new faith that our small ripples can spill out to others around us and these ripples have the potential to grow into larger and more impactful changes in our world.

Loving Those Closest To Us (post from 12/25/2016)

I was reading Mother Theresa’s book A Simple Path and found so many opportunities for reflection and growth, which has also let to multiple conversations with the kids about loving others and showing that love with kind and loving actions and words. (Granted, this usually comes up while they are fighting with each other.) But we have had great conversations about different ways to show our love for one another, because as Mother Theresa said, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones–the ones at home”. We must first love ourselves and then our families before we can go spread that love to others.

So I asked my children to write 3 things about each of their family members–things that they loved about them, things they excelled at, things that made them special and unique, etc. What they came up with was really fun to read…
Anjali wrote:
To David: you are good at karate, you are nice, you have neat handwritting
To Lucia: you are funny, you are small and cute, you are nice
To Mom: you are a good mom, you are happy, you are nice
To Dad: you are merry, you are always happy, you are kind
David wrote:
To Anjali: you are amazing, you are cool, you are nice
To Lucia: you are awesome, you are cool, you are nice
To Mom: you are nice, you are courteous, , you are cool
To Dad: you are courteous, you are nice, you are cool
Lucia wrote:
To David: you are good at karate, you make me happy when you play with me, you make me happy when you read to me
To Anjali: you are good at gymnastics, you make me happy when you put me to sleep, you make me happy when you make me lunch
To Mom: you are a good cooker, you make me happy when you play with me, you make me happy when you put me to bed
To Dad: you make me happy when you read me stories, I like it when you give me Mentos, you are really good at hunting

I love how simple some of these are. They also surprised me, as things I didn’t even think of mean something to them. This just goes to show that we don’t know how our actions are going to impact the lives of those around us, so let’s all go out and shower everyone with love and kindness. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” (Mother Theresa). This is my new goal. I want to shine His light everywhere I go.

Planning Frustrations (post from 10/6/2016)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I am having a hard time keeping my frustration in line. While we have found 2 places who would gladly accept our children for this volunteer experience, most other places they are not as welcomed. I have found it to be exceedingly difficult to find opportunities where the children can volunteer and serve alongside Jeff and I. While there are agencies that are willing and able to accommodate the children, we cannot afford to participate in their programs at $2000 per week per person, even with their “discounts” for children under age 12.

It seems we have identified a need: to support, connect, and provide helpful information to families looking to volunteer with younger children around the world at a minimal cost.

I know that I need to keep in mind that God has a plan for us and that if his will is for us to continue on this path, he will continue to guide us and lead us where we need to be. But this is no easy task for a person who likes to have everything planned out way in advance. This is a test for me: Can I be patient in waiting to see God’s will and patient for Him to show us the path He has in store for us?

The Waiting Game (post from 9/22/2016)

Tom Petty said it best, “the waiting is the hardest part”. With a little less than 2 years to go, both Jeff and I find ourselves having to be patient. We are both ready for this endeavor/journey, but know now is not the right time. What keeps us going since making the decision to pull the kids out of school and out of everyone’s comfort zone to travel the world for 1 year while serving and attending to those in need, is that we continually experience people, events, sermons, books, etc that continue to strengthen our desire and God’s will for us to keep moving forward; to continue the process of “going deep” into our faith in Jesus and God’s plan for our family. Its going to be a long 2 years of waiting and planning, but we truly believe that God’s plan for us is beyond our comprehension and that He will always guide us on our way, if we just listen with open hearts.