He’s Moving Us

Sometimes we pray for a long time, over and over, about the same thing and it feels like God isn’t budging.

Our first home - the one we built together

Our first home – the one we built together

Back in 2006, we moved into our first home. It was far from church and work, and we literally prayed about moving for years before we were enabled to do so. We begged God for wisdom, clarity, open doors…and he showed up! Just not on our timeline! ;-)

And then sometimes God shows up so quickly that it’s undeniable that it’s His working, and we just sit back speechless.

That’s what our story is about today.

We’ve lived in our current house for 2-1/2 years. It’s a beautiful 2-story, corner lot, roomy kitchen with a big pantry, look-through fireplace between the dining room and living room. We haven’t loved the wood trim and paint colors everywhere, but the bones of the house are gorgeous. It’s comfortable. We’ve been happy here.

But every few months we kick around the idea of moving again, because….did God call us to have beautiful, comfortable living arrangements or to steward his money in order to benefit His kingdom?

An aside: I realize that this discussion goes against the grain of the culture. Even Christians like to be comfortable in their homes. And in reality, I’m hoping to find a house where we can breathe and grow as a family and continue our ministry of hospitality to others. I’m also NOT saying that those of you with big houses need to sell everything you have and give it to the poor. This situation is about our personal conviction by the Holy Spirit.

We are not drowning financially, but we are surely treading water here in this house. When we look at our budget, the only thing that we can really change that would give us more wiggle room is the mortgage. I mean, we could stop using heat and electricity – but brrrrr. Michigan is not the right state for that kind of frugality.

So, we were sitting here in our home office, pulling up grar.com and talking about moving. And Luke’s phone rang. It was a realtor, asking to walk through our house with an interested couple. That was 3:30pm.

Way back in June, we put a “Make Me Move” price on our house on Zillow.com. And we received a few calls this fall, which didn’t amount to anything. We even had someone walk through the house once, but they weren’t interested.

But the timing of this phone call was uncanny. We immediately went into crazy cleaning mode. I was running around our incredibly messy house, sweating and complaining to God about the timing of this thing. I was being a little Israelite, complaining about God’s provision. Isn’t it sad how badly we yearn for Him to work, and then when He does, we aren’t satisfied? Maybe that’s just me?

Half an hour later, they showed up. Luke had warned them that it wouldn’t be “showing ready.” He told them we have four littles, and we’re in the middle of a painting project in the living room. Thankfully, they were very gracious.

Luke gave them the grand tour, answered questions, chatted about our mutual friends. (GR can be a small world, haha.) And they left us with the hope that they’d make an offer.

We pulled out of the driveway one whirlwind of an hour after the call, at 4:30pm, to go to a birthday party. We were speechless. An hour prior, we had discussed possibly moving to better serve God with our money. We talked about how I would dread doing showings again with four littles and a big house to clean. And now, we were driving away with the possibility of selling after ONE showing. Never being officially on the market, never cleaning the house to spotless perfection, only one half hour of sweating and stress.

Friends, if you have ever sold a house, you KNOW that that is GOD working!!!

So now we wait. We received an offer, put in a counter-offer, and have (virtually) looked at every single home and lot in a reasonable price range in our desired area. We need some great wisdom and clarity for our next steps.

But how can we fear? God did this thing. He will be with us.

Just like those Israelites. In their wilderness wanderings, they moved when “the cloud” moved and they stayed when “the cloud” stayed. They followed the leading of the LORD. We’re going to do that, and we are going to try really hard not to complain about it in the meantime! ;-)

Consecrated and Sustained

One of the biggest blessings in my life since September has been Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). It’s an international organization, where groups all over the world are studying the same content at the same time.

This year, we’re going through the Life of Moses. We are done with Exodus, and have two more lessons on Leviticus before we move on to Numbers.

Have you ever studied Moses’ life?

Wow, what a blessing it has been to take a really in-depth look at parts of the pentateuch. And not just because Moses was a fascinating case study.

Because GOD. He is everywhere in the pages of this narrative.

I mean, how can we not be blown away by the fact that God Himself wants to dwell among His people? Incredible.

So, this past week we talked about the consecration of the priests for their service in the tabernacle. Our teaching leader, Maria, pointed out that this event was totally life-changing for Aaron and his sons. Not only was priesthood now their permanent vocation/duty, but there was a gravity to serving as the mediator between holy God and sinful man.

She asked, “Have YOU taken on work for the Lord and realized that though it’s honorable, it’s hard work?”

I couldn’t help but think of some of my friends who have recently taken on the hard work of adoption.

My friends Terry and Sommer added three sweet kiddos to their family through adoption. Their youngest has some health issues, and I know that some of her days are just plain hard. But God called them to this journey, and God will give them strength for each new day and each new challenge.

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My friends Craig and Kathy are super involved in vocational ministry in our local church body, and their kids are really close in age to ours. (In fact, starting with their oldest child, we will have 8 straight years of graduation open houses between our two families!) :-) They will finalize their adoption of a baby boy this year who has some respiratory and feeding challenges. His sweet smile and pleasant personality are such a joy to be around. But every day will not be easy.

My friends Ted and Amber added a little guy to their house of boys. Now they have four boys ages 5 and under…and baby #5 will be born in five weeks. They will have five children ages 5 and under. (I feel crazy just typing that!) Their adopted son also has some medical challenges, and again, sometimes the days are just hard. Sometimes the days are overwhelming.

But GOD. He called them to this journey, and He will sustain them.

I’m so thankful to know that through Jesus, God has consecrated us to this life. He delights in our service to Him. And He holds us up when our tasks are difficult or overwhelming.

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Keep an eye out for an upcoming book review. This one’s for all you weary women out there…I’m excited to get my hands on a copy of the new book Nourished by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph. I’ll read it and let you know what I think of it, and I’ll be holding a giveaway so that one of you can get your hands on a copy, too!

Book Review: The Patmos Deception

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Just south of Thessaloniki, Greece lies an area of land with three peninsulas extending into the sea. These three fingers are an area called Halkidiki, and way back in 2010, Luke and I were privileged to visit the westernmost finger, called Kassandra. It was a beautiful, albeit economically struggling, area.

Mt. Olympus was on the horizon. The sea was beautiful. Olive tree orchards lined the roads. Homes with red terracotta roofs dotted the landscape.

And it is in this area that a part of Davis Bunn’s novel The Patmos Deception is set.

Of course, you can tell by the title that the book is mostly centered around the island called Patmos, far south of those three finger peninsulas. Patmos just happens to be the island where the disciple John was exiled…the place in which he wrote the book of Revelation. This becomes an important detail in the story.

The main characters are an American woman named Carey who’s working toward a doctorate in forensic archeology, an American investigatory journalist named Nick who is a childhood friend of Carey, and a Greek boatman named Dimitri who is struggling to make ends meet in a deteriorating economy.

Nick is hired to investigate the disappearance of some of Greece’s most precious antiquities, and he asks Carey to help him. Dimitri falls into the story on the other side of the line, when he agrees to use his boat to smuggle goods in exchange for a great amount of money.

I like a good mystery, and besides his masterful storytelling, Bunn is able to weave in the power of the Gospel. The plot kept me reading, with bits of Biblical history woven throughout. And the character development was excellent as well.

My only complaint? While the author wrapped up the mystery portion of the novel well, he left the relationships unresolved, which makes me wonder if he has a sequel up his sleeve?

Well done, Mr. Bunn. I always appreciate a God-honoring novel with enough intrigue to keep me reading!

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for a review. There was and will be no compensation. All opinions are my own.

Eleven.

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It didn’t start out easy. It’s still not easy all the time.

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In the beginning, we were young. I was selfish and immature. SO selfish. Our arguments were emotional, at least on my end. And when he didn’t react with emotion (Mr. Steady over there), it made me even more mad. There were tears.

When we found out we were pregnant the first time, 2 months after the wedding, we were terrified. And thrilled. A tiny miracle, so quickly after we said our vows.

“Grace Elizabeth” means “undeserved gift from God.” And while that is certainly true of any sweet baby, I realize that God gave us a sweet gift that November a decade ago when he gifted us – practically kids ourselves – with our 9lb 12oz baby girl.

I was newly 22, not even married 11 months. And I was now a mama.

It was NOT the plan.

We were to get married; I was going to finish college. I was going to teach for a couple of years. AND THEN we were going to start our family, and I would be a stay-at-home mom.

Instead, God knew that if I continued in my immature, selfish ways, I would most likely destroy myself and our marriage. Having a baby and learning how to parent with Luke was one huge factor in teaching me the meaning of selflessness and sacrifice. It grew me up.

What a gift from the all-knowing God, rescuing me from my sin!

It is not always easy, this marriage thing.

When we argued, we had to swallow our pride and face each other. We didn’t (and still don’t) go to sleep with unresolved issues in our relationship. We forced ourselves to have physical contact when we were arguing, even when the last thing I wanted to do was have contact with that man. There’s just something about touch that dissolves anger.

We prayed together. Every day.

We committed to read God’s Word regularly.

We had to slowly, patiently learn a rhythm of life together.

We both had to grow in maturity and (more importantly) Christlikeness.

It takes work.

I had to learn to be a submissive wife, as God’s Word calls me to be. I had to learn to hold my tongue sometimes, and use it to encourage and build up my husband more. I realized that my job is to help Luke to become the man that God means for him to be, and I’ve had to grow into that role.

A good, strong marriage takes work.

And it’s undeniably worth it.

Because here we are, 11 years later, and I feel like we just haven’t had enough time together. Like we’re just beginning this crazy life together.

Sure, there are days that I want to smack him. (That’s my sin nature, of course.)

But over all, it just keeps getting better and better with time.

Because we work at it. Because we’re committed. Because we know that it is ultimately worth it.

Those vows we took on December 20, 2003? They hang above our bed, giving us a reminder of what we promised each other, and even more importantly, what we promised God.

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I’m praising that awesome God today for His goodness in giving me the gift of marriage – a sanctifying, electrifying, life-changing blessing.

I’m praising God today for giving me Luke – a man after His own heart, hardworking, intelligent, hilarious, sweet, and who loves God, the church, and his family well. I am a blessed woman.

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This marriage thing is so worth it.

Jesse Weekend

Once upon a time, a new couple visited our church. They were on their way toward the door when I stopped them to greet them. The chat wasn’t that significant – just asking their names, if they were church hunting, if they had kids, etc.

I remember thinking they were nice, but I didn’t think they would be back.

Little did I know, they had moved back to Michigan from Ohio about a year before, and the wife (named Jesse) was feeling lonely and disconnected without a solid church family or group of close friends. I’m so thankful that God orchestrated my steps that morning as I caught them before their quick exit.

Because they did come back. And Jesse became a very dear friend.

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We spent lots of time together – letting our kids play, celebrating our 100th day of kindergarten for Grace (see pic above – with our “100” glasses), playing at the park, gathering sap for her maple syrup, digging in her pond for polywogs, and lots of talking, laughter, and fun.

She was baptized at our church, and she and her husband Jared officially became members.

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And then, about a year after our friendship began, her husband got the call. He was being promoted, and they were moving again. Back to Ohio.

It was hard for all of us to say goodbye. But God was shaping Jesse into a woman who not only gracefully submitted to her husband’s decisions, but learned to trust God no matter where He takes her.

This weekend I was SO blessed to be a part of our 4th annual “Jesse” weekend. Each fall, a group of friends and I have visited her in Ohio. This year, we met at a beautiful cottage in Michigan.

I’m so blessed to have a friend who I can just pick up with where we left off. Who loves Jesus with all of her heart and exudes His joy. Who loves to talk about God’s Word when we get together, and encourages me to be a more godly woman.

It was a very refreshing weekend, full of (LOTS OF) talking, laughter, food, and homemade spa treatments. If you’ve never done a Fancy Nancy Ooh-La-La spa day with your friends, you’re missing out. (Tee hee.)

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I’m starting this Thanksgiving week with a very grateful heart.

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