Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What Now?

Each day that passes by without some firm commitment from the two parties that are interested in the business, the more I feel like God is telling us, "Wait." Not so much, "Wait just a minute" like it's been for the past several months, but more of a "Wait, this will be in my time and we've got some work to do in the meantime." So, I'm taking a deep breath and trying to see the situation for what it is. I have to admit that the thrill of having such a definite calling and specific goal was wonderful. I felt renewed passion to share the Word of God, to encourage other believers, and mostly to be used more specifically and directly. Now, I want to make sure that we don't settle back into our old daily life. I must remember our calling and I have the opportunity to add more and more experiences that will further prepare us for that calling. Perhaps there is more growth and maturity needed and God knows that our ministry will be more effective with that. Perhaps he has a different plan, a different camp, or just different timing than we first understood. That last sentence was hard to write, specifically about the different plan. I'm not sure if it's because I don't want to be wrong about this or if I just love this plan so much that I don't want to let it go. Deep in my heart I know that all these trials, this waiting time and unknown, will work together for good. 95% of the calling on our lives has not changed; we are to passionately share the Word of God and encourage other believers. Presently my specific calling is as a mom of 3, making our house a home, preparing for #4 and our first year of homeschooling, whose mission field includes ministering to friends, family, neighbors, grocery store clerks, YMCA life guards, and Bush Park dog walkers, just to name a few. So how can I be a missionary right here in my ordinary neighborhood, with not much to offer? (You know... it's not camp!) That is what I'm looking at and praying about right now. Our church presents many opportunities to serve both at church and in the community. I'm sure as we look there will be local opportunities through the American Missionary Fellowship both in coming alongside other missionaries and in starting our own ministries. Of all these opportunities, which ones will be the best fit for me and for the family right now where we're at?

I am disappointed that it looks like camp is not happening immediately, but I'm excited for how God will use me right now, right where I am. Also, I'm still ready if the camp plan does come together in the near future. We continue on, waiting on the Lord and trusting his plan.

Lord, if your answer to us right now is, "Wait", help us not to waste
it. This isn't my first choice, I want to go, and I think we're ready,
but your perspective and understanding, your plan, is so much better than my
very best thoughts. Help us not to get discouraged or forget your call on
our lives but instead to prepare for the fulfillment of that calling. Make it clear to us how to serve you right now and where to spend our time, efforts, and money so that we most glorify you. Thank you God for renewed vision. Amen!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Beginning the Homeschool Journey

Well, my 4 boxes of homeschool curriculum came in... last week! It took me almost a full week to finally work up the nerve to open them up and begin figuring out our plan of attack. I've seen a few people's systems and all of them are very different but work well for them. Just like parenting, I guess we all have to figure out what works for us and our kids. So, I'm still discovering what I think will work best for us but I've also come to understand that it will be a constant work in progress. A question was posed to me just yesterday that I think needs to be answered as I determine how I will proceed in this new homeschool adventure. "What is my goal?" Is it to prepare them for college? Is it to prepare them for life in the working world? Is it to prepare them for service? Is it simply to make them self-sufficient learners? When I determine my goal then my path to get there will be much clearer.

Last year I had the chance to ask a former missionary kid what his feelings were about growing up in a boarding house away from his family for year at a time. I have to admit, I have immediate judgement that the kids should be with the parents, reaping from the lessons of service and ministry, and that they themselves are one of the parents' mission fields. (It's so easy to have everything figured out when it isn't your life or your circumstances!!) His perspective was that his parents were giving him the best advantage in life by sending him to an English school so he would be best prepared to do whatever God had in mind. He also said that in our Western culture we tend to idolize our kids, making our decisions revolve around them and their short term comfort. Ew, idolize! That's not good and short term comfort is not the legacy I want to leave with my kids. I thought his point was one worth examining. Unfortunately, I'm still considering it and have not come to any rock solid conclusions. Maybe it's just fine to keep it in the back of my mind as a parental check point but I have a feeling I'll have more to blog on this thought as we get into the school year.

The original point of pursuing homeschooling was due to the fact that our summers would be fully occupied with camps and in order to have a vacation or visit family and friends we'd need the flexibility that homeschool would offer. Also, in Newport, the schools are 20-30 minutes away one way in the non-snow season. With one child going 1/2 days and the other full days it just seemed like we'd be in the van all day long! Even with our future still in limbo it makes sense to be ready to go when God says, "Go!" and to begin this homeschool journey while I'm still in familiar territory.

As for the camp, I have no further updates. We have two interested parties for the business, whether they are viable options to purchase remains to be seen. I'm guessing this whole thing will work out in a way that will blow our minds and not be anywhere near the original plan that we had put together. We're good with that. I can't wait to celebrate but for now we wait on the Lord. He is good!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Art Fair Parade, City Bus Ride, Last Day of Camp, Sierra's Party and the Baby Revealing

Phew! Friday was busy. We started the day with a kiddie parade kicking off the Art Fair at our neighboring Bush Park. There were hundreds of kids there. Our kids were dressed as a cowboy and cowgirls. Originally, Mia pulled a wagon with a momma and baby horse and a little kitten poking out the back, Josiah carried the pooper scooper shovel for the horses, and Sierra pushed her baby stroller which was a last minute change from the original plan of riding the horses. All was going great until Sierra began to feel overwhelmed by the crowd so she ended up riding the horses anyway, which prompted Mia to want to ride, which left me as the wagon puller and Josiah pushing Sierra's stroller. You really feel the slight hills at the park more when you're pulling a wagon with two girls, two horses and a kitten. Josiah was a trooper with the stroller.
After that, we dropped Josiah off for his last day of Canyonview Day camp then the girls and I walked a block to the free Art Fair shuttle bus and got to ride the big city bus downtown to meet Grandma Linda for lunch. The girls felt so big because they didn't have to wear seat belts. I thought they looked so small in those great big seats.

That evening we went up to Canyonview to join Josiah for dinner, meet the rest of his counselors and see their closing camp ceremony. In the pictures he's wearing red, just up from that ladies head. He had a blast again this year and was very proud to be up front singing songs with the big group. Part way through the songs I guess Mia was feeling left out. She slowly inched her way up to the group of campers in front of all the parents and tried to sneakily join in. Nothin' doin' by her brother. He kept noddin' his head for her to make an exit and then pointing off to the side. Then he made those desperate eyes for me to get her out of there.

Thankfully a huge fight didn't erupt and I could convince Andrew to be the one to go retrieve her so I didn't have to try and chase her. Yes, she did try to run but the long arm of the law snatched her just in time. I told her that her time was coming to be a camper but this time was for Josiah. You can imagine how wonderfully that soothed the whole situation. Sierra just watched the whole thing from atop daddy's shoulders.

Yesterday was the birthday party for Sierra and we had so much fun. Daddy went above and beyond with my request for him to purchase a slip-n-slide. He ended up getting a huge blow up water slide that filled one side of the front yard. The kids had a blast! We also found a bubble machine on clearance and a huge tub of sidewalk chalk for the times when they needed to warm up out of the water since the weather was not quite as hot as it's been. Either way, the kids stayed busy which is always nice at these things.

Once all the guests had arrived and I had lunch well on it's way, we stopped for the great baby reveal. I tied a pink ribbon on Snip the cream colored beanie cat and a dark green ribbon on Luke (or Uke as Sierra calls him, or Ukelela as Daddy calls him) the black beanie dog. I opened the card which held the fully labeled ultrasound picture and then whispered to Sierra which animal to bring me. That way she was the one who got to make the announcement. Oh, you want to know which one it was?! Snip. Yes, we're having a girl and all parties are happy thanks to "Where the Red Fern Grows" whose character has three little sisters. Josiah strongly wanted a boy until he read that book, then he wanted to be like Billy and thankfully that included the sisters. When Josiah switched from wanting a boy to wanting a girl, Mia decided to switch to wanting a boy. I guess just to balance things out. After the reveal I asked her, "What do you think? Another sister in the family." She gave me a big thumbs up. Praise the Lord! I had also talked to the doctor on Friday about the ultrasound and learned that it showed a healthy baby. That's a major praise!! Now that we know it's a girl we have the joy of deciding on a name and I love how instantly I have bonded with her.

After lunch the kids did a Dora style scavenger hunt using "The Map" that I made. First they found their different prizes around the yard, then they found their way to cake. Sierra had some help from her older siblings with the candles but she was getting really tired anyway and didn't seem to mind as long as the task was done. Josiah had made a special blue heart candle at camp so that was her main candle on the cake.

By the time Sierra opened her presents I thought she would fall asleep in the wrapping paper. Again, I'm thankful there were no melt downs, and she was able to muster a quiet "thank you" to her guests.

After naptime, though, all energies were restored and it was back to the water slide until bedtime.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Sierra!

Brand new baby Sierra!
You are three years old!! I can't believe it. Sierra was born at another time in our lives when we were up in the air. We had decided to really tackle the financial issues we were facing. We downsized our home, sold our Honda Accord, and really tightened the spending belt. We moved into this house with no extra money or time to work on it but with a dream of it being beautiful again. Sierra was 6 weeks old. Have we really come this far?

Fall 2005

Spring 2008

Just a side note. In the first picture, I love the symbolism: air compressor, extension cord and ladder for our remodeling project, baby clothes and toys for our children, elliptical machine and bungees for personal goals, bills, paperwork and laundry for family responsibilities. That was my life!

One year old!

Sierra means mountain. It was so appropriate for the mountain we were climbing in life. I will always remember Andrew saying, "It's like we're climbing up a mountain of mud. I'm working so hard to take a step forward but each time I slide back several steps." It was a frustrating, mucky time. At the same time, I also trusted that God would provide wonderful perspectives from the mountain journey, so Sierra was very appropriate. She has two middle names, like the other kids: Ruby Jean. Ruby has so many wonderful connections. It is July's birthstone, Andrew's paternal Grandmother's name, and a dear friend of my paternal Grandmother's. Jean is my mom's middle name and the name of a wonderful mentor that God brought into my life several years ago. Jean also means "God is Gracious". Perfect!!

2 years old!

Sierra was a surprise baby and even that was a blessing. We've always wanted a big family and I had already begun to grieve the fact that it looked like financially we'd have to be done at 2 kids. As much as the timing seemed crazy and impossible at the time, here we are 3 years later and, first of all, I wouldn't change a thing and, second of all, it obviously wasn't impossible because we're all thriving!

3 years old and rafting!

As a Dalmatian dog at the 4th of July!

Happy Birthday beautiful girl. You'll be a wonderful big sister!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Road to Bear Paw, part 6

Well, I'm sad to announce we've been further delayed in the purchase of the camp. Selling the business has been a tough one. I can't share too many details but the bottom line is the first buyer we had just wasn't working out despite every effort made. So, we're starting over with a second interested buyer. Right now I'm just thankful that we have someone else interested. We've talked to a few people who had to begin selling their businesses with no specific interest. We have seen many positive signs that this will work out but, as we've learned, sometimes what seems like the best scenarios just aren't meant to be. We trust God with those details!

In the meantime our offer on the camp has been expired since the end of May. We still keep in contact with the realtor and have even sent the owners an update. I guess it's hard to think that the camp isn't in the bag yet. Now as we work with a new perspective buyer for the store, we have added, at the very best, a 3-4 week delay again. We were encouraged as we met with our Area Director with American Missionary Fellowship. He said not to worry about Bear Paw. What we need to keep our focus on is the call that God has given us. We feel God has called us into full time ministry, specifically through Christian camping. We think that the field he has called us to is at Bear Paw Camp but, until we're there, we won't know for sure. The call won't change though, even if the destination does.

So, currently we are working on updating our address book so that we can send out our first missionary newsletter. We are praying for God's protection and provision through all the details of selling a business, and we're praying that we will be prepared to enter into full time ministry when his timing is right. We are still mostly packed up, sleeping with our mattresses on the floor, and balancing being ready to move with living in the now!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lessons on Faith from a Prostitute???

This summer I'm reading through Francine Rivers' novellas on some of the women in the lineage of Christ. I've finished Tamar and Rahab and have just started Ruth. This is a wonderful summer series because it's a chance to glimpse back in time and also dive deeper into some of the wonderful character qualities in some women who were used by God, even though they were imperfect women. Now I know that's encouraging to all of us! And, they're short so I can finish them in just a day or two here or there.

From Tamar I learned the awesome power of being respectful to your husband. She was a beautiful example of keeping her mouth shut at the appropriate time, yet taking action when it was needed. She could have humiliated Judah for his betrayal of her but instead she kept her eye on the end result. She lost many battles along the way, but she definitely won the war. You see, humiliating Judah would have meant bringing herself down in the long run. She might have gotten short term satisfaction but she still wouldn't get what she wanted long term. The respect I give my husband to his face creates an environment that is more loving for me. The respect I give my husband behind his back makes me look really smart for the man I chose. Proverbs 31:23 says, "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." How can he be respected if his wife has so many negative things to say about him? A good lesson to tame my tongue when I'm frustrated or hurt and to go to the source when there's a problem rather than allow myself to vent to everyone else.

In the second book, I love the perspective the author has on Rahab. We are given the chance to consider how prostitution might have become her profession in the first place and why God might have chosen to save her, not only from prostitution but also from hopeless pagan life. With so little support, she trusted God completely based on the obvious power she had heard about. She recognized the pagan idols for what they were: wood, clay, and old bones. I've always thought about Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordon, circling Jericho, and honoring their word to Rahab, from Joshua's perspective but given my circumstances it was a great glimpse at how Rahab might have perceived things. She's waiting to be rescued from certain destruction. She sees them coming. Then they stop. Then a few days later they come again, but do they take the city? No! They circle it and leave. Then again. And again. Day after day, for 6 days, and on the 7th day, finally, it happens! After circling the city seven times, the walls come a crumblin' down! I'm sure she was excited each day thinking, "Perhaps today is the day I'm out of here!" She's also got to be bitterly disappointed each day as she sees them leave again. I can relate to that cycle. Despite the confusion, she keeps the faith. I was inspired by her.

I think the author hits the nail on the head when she describes each woman with one word: Tamar, a woman of hope, Rahab, a woman of faith. As I said, I've just started Ruth, and she's described as woman of love. After Ruth, is Bathsheba who received unlimited grace, and then Mary the mother of Jesus, a woman of obedience. Francine Rivers also did a series on some of the heroes in the Bible: Aaron (Moses' brother), Caleb, Jonathon (David's best friend), Amos, and Silas. Really I haven't read one of her books that I didn't like so I think I'll enjoy those, too. In her novel Redeeming Love, the story of Hosea, you can read the author's testimony in the back.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

I'm so glad I married my best friend. It was my dream to do that. The timing of our relationship and marriage did not follow my detailed plan, but now I appreciate that Andrew and I jumped into adulthood together, and boy did we do it full force.

When we met in college I was 17 and he was a ripe old 19!! I was very clear that since I was playing two sports, soccer and basketball, I had no time for a boyfriend so we'd just keep our relationship on a friend level. Well, long story short, he became such a good friend that I just couldn't live without him. I loved that we had similar goals for our lives: God first, strong marriage, big family, and an open home. Originally I had planned that I would meet my future husband a few months after I graduated college and get married a couple of years after that. Hmmm things just weren't following that path. We got married after our junior year. Andrew continued playing baseball and I continued with basketball. With our combined scholarships, grants, loans and odd jobs we made through to graduation that next year! The song "Livin' On Love" was somewhat of a theme song.

6 months after graduation we bought Salem Emblem Shop. At the time we were still living in the government subsidised apartments for $220/month. After we bought the business we decided we should move up a notch and we moved into a very small duplex in Keizer. Rent was $485/month!

Shortly after that move, word came that Andrew's sister was pregnant with her third child and we knew that this would be the last one for them. We began to talk seriously about starting our own family as cousins the same age would be so fun. Sitting at a little way side in Keizer, overlooking the Willamette River, we both agreed we were ready to start having children. I was 22 and Andrew was 24. A year later we would be grieving the loss of our first child, Faith Petra Joy.

In 2000 we began construction on a 2600 sqft house in a fairly prestigious neighborhood, at least from where we'd come from. We started construction in February and completed it the week before Halloween. By then I was 5 months pregnant. Josiah was born that next February, 2001. I was 25 and Andrew was 26.

The next year we bought the building on 12th St. and moved the business. It was an exciting time and we also found out I was expecting again. Mia was born on the first day of spring, 2003. I was 27 and Andrew was 28.

Over the next two years we experienced some real hardships with the business. Money had become tighter and tighter and despite how hard Andrew worked or how tight we cinched the belt it just wasn't improving. At one point Andrew said, It's like there's a hole in the boat somewhere. I'm bailing like crazy but it's not making a difference." In order to keep from sinking he took some fairly drastic measures and let several people go from the business. I also began working for him several hours a week. It wasn't a fun time to say the least. The kids were with sitters way more than I wanted and we were living off very little money. The changes Andrew made at the business did allow us to discover what that hole in the boat was. Someone had been embezzling thousands of dollars a month for a few years. It was a relief to know that it had stopped but so disappointing to know all the hard work and sacrifice we had done went to pad someone else's wallet. Bit by bit we climbed out of that hole. It took determination and continued sacrifice. We had to say "No" to a lot of things while it seemed like everyone around us could say "Yes" to anything. During that painful time in 2005, sweet little Sierra was born and 6 weeks after that we downsized our home to a fixer-upper just blocks from the store. This would allow us to see Andrew some as he could come home for meals during his 14 hour days. He'd be up early, come home for lunch, work until dinner, play with the kids some, go back to work, work late and then come home and crash, Monday through Saturday. I was 30 and Andrew was 31.

Slowly things got better. Andrew had some time to work on our house and finish some projects. He'd take more Saturdays off and get more days where he was home for a late dinner and stayed home. It still wasn't a healthy schedule and our dream of a big family and open home seemed to be unrealistic. I was beginning to believe I should let those dreams go. For Andrew's 32nd birthday, just last year, we finally took a trip back up to his home town in NE Washington. Road trips are always great times for us to discuss our lives and goals. As we were driving back home, refreshed from the break and amazed at how "in their element" the kids were up there, we talked, pie-in-the-sky about what we could do to live there. We passed an RV park that also had some cabins and we began to talk about running something like that for a living. When we got home I decided to check on land and home prices for that area by looking up Zillow.com. Three For Sale flags popped up. One was well out of our price range but for some reason I clicked on it. What do you know, it's a camp for sale. Andrew and I chuckled at the irony. For some reason I emailed the realtor for more information and the next morning he called. "It's a Christian camp," he said. "The owners are willing to carry the loan." Extremely curious we planned another trip up north, only two weeks later. It was the weekend of Faith's birthday, so we would miss our annual hike in honor of her.

This past year has been one of renewed vision. It had been nose to the grind stone for so long that we had stopped living and were really existing. With a new goal in mind Andrew was able to begin running the business with less responsibility on him. Finally able to trust again, he could delegate much more. We have been able to remember the ways that God has gifted us and the experiences he's given us and the thrill we feel when those gifts are being used. It is so humbling to see the opportunity that Bear Paw Camp is to use both Andrew's and my strengths in serving the Lord. Our hope is that our family will be used to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers and to encourage other Christians in their walk with Christ. We want the truth to be spoken at our camp, people to come in, as they are, and be renewed, and that they will find that the answer to their aching heart is Jesus. God has been our strength through loss, pain and struggle. We hope we can encourage others when they are at that point as well.

Even while we were dating I knew Andrew and I were complete opposites but because we had such similar long term goals I knew we were on the same path. I bought a book early on in our relationship called Opposites Attack, which was very encouraging to me that we could learn from each other and allow our differences to be used as tools to make us more balanced and well rounded. Now, 12 years down the road, I see how God uses our oppositeness like a yin and yang to accomplish his purposes. I have learned a lot from Andrew and I know he's learned from me, too. We've hurt each other and healed together, we've held each other's hands through the deepest of waters. This is a forever relationship for the glory of God.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Yesterday is Behind Me

Yesterday was a day that I was filled with frustration and discouragement. I felt like we were being attacked and like our integrity was being wrongly questioned. Honestly, I felt like God had abandoned us to battle on by ourselves. Sadly, in my own desperation, I tend to turn to Andrew and demand answers and direction from him. Uh... we're in the same boat, in the same storm, it's God that holds the answers for both of us, not each other. I think I did better this time at allowing him to experience the storm without having to carry me on his back as well.

It's so odd to know the truth that we're not alone yet to feel so utterly abandoned. That's the thing about feelings though, they are easily manipulated and very untrustworthy. The truth is as solid as a rock, dependable and completely trustworthy. So, though I admit I was focusing on the storm there for a while and was feeling overwhelmed, today I am again looking into my Father's eyes as he continues to instruct me to trust him regardless of what does or doesn't happen today... or tomorrow... or even the next day. I'm very grateful for his patience and steadfastness.

I did read into the Psalms for quite a while yesterday and cried out with the Psalmist my anguish as well as my desire to experience God's closeness again and to witness his actions in regard to the sale of the business and purchase of the camp. In my emotional whirlwind I set my jaw, stamped my foot, pointed my finger, I cried, I yelled, I bought Moose Tracks ice cream, I even rebelled and watched The Bachelor on TV just to vegetate my mind. After all that I felt the Lord, as my perfect heavenly Father, take me by the shoulders, look deeply into my eyes, and with a firm voice say, "That's enough. Trust me." There's no rejection in those words, only leadership. And, I had the opportunity to respond again to him, "Yes, Lord."
Lord, lift me above my own narrow horizons, that I might fulfill your true vision for me. - B.J. Hoff