Just Look...

Just Look...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

So, So Grateful... Blessed Beyond Measure

I'm kind of big on pre and post reflection. And mid. I think I'm just big on reflection, now that I think about it. ;) Anyway, I can't let this eve of our trip pass without saying some big thank you's and giving God the glory He's due.

I think I can be most succinct if I do it in list-form. I may or may not have an issue with wordiness. [Post-script: I laughed when I went back and reread and got to this part. Apparently I can also be wordy in list-form. ;)]

1. The Leadership/Planning
There is not a single soul in this world for whom I have any more respect than our missions pastor, Lance Colkmire. He is a man with the power of discernment and a direct line to the Lord, in my opinion. He was approached about doing this trip and these kids' camps because he is the best of the best. It was just a direct move of the Lord that at the same time Lance was talking to PCL, the Lord was calling me to go somewhere. Then my HLit kiddos teamed with PCL for their 5K, raising money for the very village I will see! It was all orchestrated by a Master Conductor.

2. The Team
There is a large whole group going, most of whom I don't know yet. But the four gals from South Cleveland would be my pick for ANY ministry. I have worked with three of them at Royal Family for years and I know their heart for kids and His work. It almost feels wrong to be as excited as I am to spend a week with these girls because aren't you supposed to suffer for Jesus on mission trips? ;) I think I am going to be having a BALL.

3. The Location
I've already referenced the 5K and People for Care and Learning's Build a City. It baffles me to this day to look back and see the way the pieces fell into place over the past year for tomorrow. To be 100% truthful, I never ever envisioned myself on a trip to Asia. I hope this doesn't sound as terrible as I fear it's going to, but I've never had a particular burden on my heart for the people of that continent. I have always had such a deep and burning love for Latin American countries and people and have always assumed that's where my first adult mission trip would take place. But oh... my heart is already so very drawn to these people. I am so in love with the work PCL is doing over there and I haven't even seen it yet!

4. The Support
If I start naming, I'll mess up, so I'm going to speak in broad terms. We had three major fundraisers for this trip and the support of our church family (and others) has been ridiculous. We took a special offering and had a yard sale and bake sale. People gave so much to these events. For those who donated yard sale items, gave in the offering, brought us donuts or breakfast or lunch, sold lemonade at our yard sale (Emma and Kelsey, that's you!), made brownies to sell, brought a sweet for our dessert auction last Sunday, BOUGHT a sweet treat from our dessert auction... We thank you more than we can say. People came out of the woodwork (and had me steal them at a family vacation to cut clothes) to work on the paper doll project, a brainstorm of Beth's. My grandmother gave me a bunch of little purses she has worked on this week to take to the little girls.

For me personally, the number of precious text messages, voicemails, and fb contact from so many people in my life has been simply staggering. I'm just going to say, it is a bold Christian teenager who will send a text message to a teacher describing in vivid detail exactly what prayers are going up for her this week. I got the kindest word from my principal and fb messages from parents of students. My friends near and far, new and old, have left me voicemails (got it, JP!) and texts and fb posts. I wrote a whole post about Mayfield, but the number of people from my kids' school who have offered support on this endeavor has been insane. My grandparents called me tonight to pray for me over the phone before I leave. I am blown away by the love of my people.

5. The Finances
I hate to talk about money but I feel like I can't let it pass without issuing a public thank you (you will get a personal card) and also giving God the glory He is due. This trip cost $3000. People donated $2895 of mine. The donations came from some I sent letters to and most whom I did not. My very first donation was from one of my oldest friends and he handed it to me when I had barely even mentioned going on a trip. My last came from a friend who lives across the US and whom I have not seen in person since my first year of college. I, through little to no effort or advertising, got 24 orders for seat belt pillows in a month that paid for the rest. I so appreciate those who had me craft things for them or plan their parties in exchange for a trip donation. God is just amazing. That's all there is to it.

I am so BLESSED. Plain and simple. I have told Kraig a hundred times over the past nine months that I am surrounded by the biggest-hearted, most loving, most Christ-like, BEST friends and family a person could ever, ever have. Please remember us this week. Please pray for our team and the kids we will come into contact with, for seeds to be sown. Pray for safety and provision for us over the next ten days. Pray for protection over the families we leave behind and for peace of mind as we leave them (that's mostly for me, I'm pretty sure). ;) Thank you!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Help Me Know You are Near...

Question: If you were leaving the country in 36 hours and had not packed one item nor cleaned one room of your house nor even PLANNED what all you needed to take, would you be sitting on your couch, playing on your phone and blogging? Likely not. You know why? Because you very likely focus and plan and do not procrastinate.

The crazy part is that I am a CHIEF planner and organizer and focus entirely too much on most things. (Admittedly, I have a minor procrastination problem, but really, who doesn't???) But for this trip, the biggest trip I have ever been on to the most distant country, I cannot seem to get myself in gear. I have put everything off till the last minute. I needed contacts and new glasses to take. It seemed sensible to me to wait until six days before departure to visit my eye doctor. Thankfully they took it more seriously than I did and put a rush on everything so that it would make it. I had to have an antibiotic. I waited until Wednesday to make that call. I didn't pay off my trip until yesterday. I got mildly chastised by my bank for waiting so late to ask for crisp small bills to take. It's just crazy because it's not me.

But I think I have figured it out. First of all, let me say that I have zero doubt that I am called to go on this trip. The Lord was calling me to go at the very moment this trip was even being initially planned. I just didn't know exactly WHERE He was calling me to go. The finances have been provided in miraculous ways with money coming to me from so many from whom I never would have requested it and this can only be divine providence. I delayed getting a passport until the eleventh hour and it came literally five weeks before I needed it! Even the last minute details listed above have all worked out beautifully. So I am certain that my God is sending me on this trip, that He has placed me here "for such a time as this". 

However... I don't think I am quite sure yet that He can handle Tennessee and my people while I'm gone. 

I know He created the world, raised people from the dead, died and was Himself resurrected... I know the ocean waves I watched in June come in and go out at His authority... I know He places leaders of countries in power and removes them from power... I know demons flee at the mention of His name... I get it. 

But to send angels to encamp around my family over the next ten days? 

to wrap His arms around them when I can't? 

to hold them safely in the palm of His hand until their hands hold mine again?

I just don't know about all that. 

I'm just being real here. Might as well call it what it is. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life and it can become debilitating and overwhelming. I have not worried one iota about myself going overseas. (I did worry a little about what I would eat when I saw some of those pictures of Cambodian food, but I felt much better once Jake described the American food we could order.) Concern for my safety? Not for a second. But I have had moments of raw terror in my heart when I let myself think for very long about being literally around the world from my family. All I can think is how long it would take me to make it back if something happened. That and the fact that I won't be aware at every second of what's going on or able to communicate any time I want. 

And what does it boil down to, really? That so far, I have been trusting God with everything except the people who matter most to me. And packing is going to make this whole thing very, very real.

I have a precious friend who serves as my anxiety accountability partner (or my co-pilot on the crazy train), and I had contacted her last month when I had a particularly anxious few days of thought about leaving the girls. She advised that I find a couple of verses to repeat to myself and practice putting it in His hands. I did that ("They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord." ~Psalm 112:7 and "Peace I leave with you and my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled  and do not be afraid." ~John 14:27) and have remained a little more in control of my emotions. 

Then Wednesday night, we sang that beautiful praise and worship song, "You're All I Want". I hadn't ever paid much attention to the line, "Help me know You are near" until that night. I think that's when it became clear to me that just because He's going to Cambodia with me does NOT mean He's leaving my babes alone in Tennessee. His hand will be on them as surely as it is on me, all the way around on the other side of the world. 

And you know, I think He even understands my lapses in faith and the moments I feel like I can't swallow because I am almost paralyzed by the fear my thoughts create. I know that, in those moments, He's going to "help me know He is near". He will remind me that He is near to me and He is near to Emma and Kelsey and Kraig (and all of my other loved ones on this continent). That's just the kind of God He is.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Chair, a Playset, and a Realization

***Disclaimer: If you are about to send a five year old to Kindergarten, an eighteen year old to college, have a daughter get married, or are the emotional mother of a new baby, you might want to steer clear of this one. ;)

One time I cried about an over-stuffed chair. At a yard sale. And again later, at home, in the secret of my bed. That chair was one of our early marriage purchases, bought at some point before we had Emma. It came with a huge ottoman that was the perfect size for "burrito-ing" (swaddling) a baby, for changing a diaper, and later for a toddler pulling up. That chair (and its partner love seat and couch) was peed on, pooped on, spit up on, fed on, and a whole lot of loved on. It was in that chair that I battled Emma and her refusal to eat during her first few days. The day we brought Kelsey home from the hospital after her extended pediatric stay, I sat in that chair and tried everything I knew to make her stop fussing. And then I sat in it as I just wept with her. I sat in that chair every single time I nursed Emma or Kelsey. I doubt any piece of furniture has ever been the holder of any more baby snuggles than that chair. It was just the perfect shape and size to hold a mommy and her girl, whether her girl was brand new or three years old. Just after we finished our current house, we sold that furniture at a yard sale. As I watched that chair get loaded into the back of a truck and put that dirty $50 bill in my pocket, I knew I was watching the end of babies. And even though I knew I was READY for that ending, it still hurt. There are still days I wish I could cuddle up with a little downy head in the crook of my neck and smell that baby smell. And even in knowing that, I know that there were many tears shed in that chair, many nights of wishing the present would become the past and things would get easier.

Tonight I cried over a playset. Correction, I am CURRENTLY crying over a playset. I hadn't realized this until just now, but that playset came into our lives right around the time the chair went out. We bought it just after we moved into this house. I doubted it would ever come to completion because when Kraig opened up the box from Sam's, all of the stickers that labeled each piece of wood were laying in the bottom of the box where they had fallen from the heat. He had to measure EACH STICK OF WOOD and figure out which ones were A, B, C, and that stinking D. I am not exaggerating when I say he (and several other helpful people) spent about 26 hours working on that playset. And yet, it was so worthwhile. It has been home to little baby legs just learning to push on the swings, to hours of playing "school" in the upper house, to picnics on the platform, and to "club meetings". It has entertained kids during innumerable birthday parties and social gatherings.

I went out tonight to clean it out so that its new owners can pick it up tomorrow. The tangible evidence of childhood imaginations almost broke my heart. A bell hung by a string from the top to the ground... their doorbell. A whiteboard listed "club rules" and club members. Probably the cutest and what brought the most tears was a pair of "binoculars"... two toilet paper rolls glued together and attached by a string to the hook above the window. And there were the two little Strawberry Shortcake stools that sat inside.

See, the memories of that chair? I was present in all of those. I have crawled through the tunnel and spent time in the playhouse up top (and slid down the slide), but more of the memories of the playhouse don't include my presence. I was outside, but I certainly overheard (and chuckled at, and tweeted, and later repeated to Kraig) many of the conversations that took place inside. And so tomorrow, when I pocket the $125 and watch the playset get loaded in pieces onto a trailer to be taken to a new location to be played on by other kids, in some sense I'll be seeing the end of childhood, or at least young childhood. And I'm just not so sure this is an ending I AM ready for. I don't think I can say goodbye yet to toilet paper roll binoculars and campaign posters taped to walls. I still need the funny conversations and the separate but together presence.

Because I know that the next big thing... it won't even be as "mine" as that playset was... Every phase passes with less of my presence tied to it. And that's how it's supposed to be. Kids grow up and they need you less and you aren't as physically tied. But somehow, your heart feels more wrapped up than it ever did. I guess this is what parenting is... getting as much out of the moments, whether they are spent bouncing a screaming baby who refuses to be soothed or listening to two sisters as they sit on Strawberry Shortcake stools and call each other pretend names and practice a grownup world... all the while knowing that one day those moments will be gone and someone will drive away with a loaded-down truck, ushering in a new phase of life.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The One that Never Leaves

I live with the best of intentions. Truly. I'm going to keep my house straight, wear my seatbelt, go to bed earlier, start riding my bike, blog regularly. Then it's like I look up and there are dirty clothes piled in my bathroom instead of in the hamper, my seat belt warning bell dings nonstop, it's 1:42 AM and I am just starting my first blog post in a month and I haven't even sat on my bike since early June.

It is this knowledge of myself that contributed to the fact that this summer, for the first in a while, I didn't set a lot of goals for myself. I knew we would be gone a lot and that my Cambodia trip would take a large portion of my summer. My primary goals were to clean my refrigerator and press n seal the shelves (it's about time Pinterest gave me something that WORKED-- I'm still smarting from the HOURS I spent on salt dough starfish that broke after NINE DAYS OF DRYING) and to just drink in the time with my little four and a few other family members.

Well, as of last night, the refrigerator is complete (cleaned the microwave too-- BONUS!) and I am milking the next few days of all of the family I can get. I don't think I consciously took time off from friendships this summer, but it's the way it happened and it feels right. I just needed at home and vacation time to center on my family people.

We've been swimming almost daily with cousins and Granna and Natalie, made homemade ice cream four times, blackberry picked,  thrifted with Granna and Natalie, beach vacationed with our Davis peeps, crafted, counted baby cows, done the eating and swimming and skiing and boating that is Bear Paw with our Silver clan, almost finished reading my favorite childhood book aloud (one chapter per night), and now the girls will spend a week at the camper with Nana, Popaw, and Kaleb. Time has been cherished but has still felt like it slipped through our hands like the sand at the beach.

I don't know what's ahead. I know from the unfortunate stories I hear nearly every day of scary diagnoses or frightening phone calls or tragic accidents that life can change in a split second. I know that my summer time with those I love most is drawing to a quick close, with only four days left until my trip. And I know that we will never regret having spent this summer focused on those who will be there no matter how or where it all ends, because your family is the one that never leaves.