The Mighty One, God, the LORD speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. Psalm 50:8
It’s been really busy around here. Not crazy unhealthy busy, just busy. The other day as I was driving over a bridge near our house I saw a beautiful sunset. I actually parked the car at the risk of being late to get Elli to try and enjoy it but by the time I parked and made it back to the spot it was done.
This verse from the Psalms is one of my favorites. Lately I’ve been so connected with nature and being outdoors and I find that it’s a way that I can tangibly think on and experience God. Maybe this rising and setting of the sun is God’s voice to me..to us. It’s a reminder of Him calling us to himself.
Today as a family we were all together at the sunset and we walked to the bridge and waited…
The pictures don’t really do it justice. It truly fascinates me to look and stare.
The Mighty One, God, the LORD speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. Psalm 50:8
The story of us and North Point begins on a couch in Austria back in 2002. So many people are surprised to hear that, since Ian is an Atlanta native. We were a newly married couple, plopped in a new country trying to figure out how to worship together. After a fruitless search of a place that fit, Ian suddenly thought of North Point and searched on line for messages. 10 years later we’re back in Europe with a heart to see people connect with God, not just from their couches and a computer screen but live, up close and personal.
But there are 3 people that are most important to us. Three little souls in our care. Our hearts wants so much that they too can connect with our Heavenly Father in a way that makes sense and is relevant to them in their lives.
Since coming back to Europe, one of our biggest struggles as a missionary family has been leading our kids in faith. I know it seems so crazy because we’ve moved across the world in faith and for this faith but by the time you make it through another day of figuring out how to do life, you’re stinking tired. You just don’t have the energy to muster up an awesome Bible time with your kids and honestly you’re not so sure they got to see much Christ in you throughout the day. You’re left thinking about the incredible surrondings that they were taken out of and the reality of where they are now and you question and wonder is any of this sticking in? Will this faith be theirs? Will they really ever understand following God to a foreign land so that others may know him too?
These thoughts have been weighing so heavily on my heart over the past several months. It’s been a consistent point of my prayers. I read the other day in Psalm 36 these words: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” I thought…ok God there it is again. You are the instructor and the teacher. I am the student. Will you show us the way to go with our children? We’re doing the best we can but often our best feels not enough.
This past Sunday, we decided to do worship at home with our kids.
As we were preparing what to do with them I thought of how nice it would be to be able to watch a kid focused service on line much like our experience 10 years ago. I’m not sure how I missed this HUGE TIDBIT but KidStuf is available on line now! I was so excited as I randomly found it doing a google search. So we gathered our kids on the couch and we all sat around for 45 minutes and watched and listened as they poured into the hearts of our kids. The message this month is about Faith. It’s the very thing that our 9 year old can’t figure out right now.
She’s experienced some things as a 9 year old that I didn’t encouter until my twenties. She lives among those who pay no attention to her God and who certainly don’t live by His standards. She’s lost everything familiar to her and endured the loss of a baby sister. It’s hard for her to keep going and trusting and believing when life hurts and things can sometimes be so stinking unfair. After watching the program she told us all about the big idea with a grin from ear to ear. The program captivated her like I’ve seen nothing else do in the past 20 months of being here. She got it, it stuck. Faith is believing no matter what.
I hope she knows that it was no accident, me finding that this Sunday. I hope that she can really comprehend that we are in a relationship with a very personal Heavenly Father and even among the doubts, hurts and pains of this world, he’s calling her and he’s right there with her. He truly is the teacher and he constantly reminds me that he loves them so much more that I can really comprehend. He is calling us to himself and in the midst of this hectic I needed that reminder too.
Today it was as I pulled the plates out of the cupboard for lunch and I pulled down only 5. It’s something I’ve done for the past few years but I had anticipated that soon we’d need 6 places at the table. Yesterday it was going to a kid’s flea market with Ellison and trying hard not to look at all of the baby girl clothing available for the Spring. The day before it was watching the crazy unfold between your siblings and wishing you too were a part of it. The thing is, it’s not just today…. it’s everyday. It’s everyday of missing you Pierce. There is an eternal line now- life before you and life after. Even logging back on to this blog for the first time in months and looking back just two posts, I see a picture of you. You inside of me. Full of life. Tasting those berries right along with me. So much hope right there in the comfort of my womb.
So as I pick up once again to writing the stories of our lives, I just needed everyone to know, that no matter what I write here you are a part of us and we miss you so very much. Your life matters. Although it’s what the world sees, we are no longer a family of 5. Although I don’t set a place for you at our table, you my precious baby are a part of our lives. You have forever changed us in ways we never imagined.
Today will be lived to the fullest. It’s one of the many things your life has taught us.
As I type this it is 55 degrees outside so summer is definitely over but…we enjoyed every minute of the warm weather here even if it lasted for only 2 months :-).
Last year Ellison and Ian got the chance to go to the church’s annual camping trip together and this year, Ian took both Ellison and Jude. The theme was knights and female knights (what do you call those??). Asher and I dropped the crew off on a Friday afternoon and we spent a quiet weekend together which was pretty awesome. We returned on Monday to pick up the group of tired and stinky (yep I said it) campers. Overall they had a blast and made some great memories and Asher and I did too!
Asher and mom stopped in at IKEA of course
In the summer there are lots of opportunities to pick pick fresh fruit here. Picking fruit and making jam are not just a new trend, they really are a part of life here. The double house that we moved into has a place in the garden with raspberries, a tree that grows sour cherries, bushes filled with currents and apple trees. We are truly blessed! Last year we were pretty much immersed in just moving in and missed out on really getting into this part of culture and picking fruit. Unfortunately, we saw the longest winter in recent history here and so the harvests overall were not as good this year.
One day while out taking a walk, we noticed a sign for a local strawberry patch and decided that we’d make some time and give it a go this year.
You can eat as you pick which was Jude’s favorite part. In the end we picked about 2 pounds of fruit. One of my friends here laughed when I told her that because that is not nearly enough to do much at all with :-). We didn’t end up making preserves as someone is short on energy right about now..ahemmm… but we had a lot of fun soaking up the sun and picking some delicious strawberries.
Believe it or not, this post is actually not that far behind real time. We’ve been out of school for only about 2 weeks now. We live in the Bavarian region of Germany which happens to have the longest school year here. One of the major adjustments to living overseas for us has been adapting to a new school calendar. Our largest break of the year is 6 weeks which we get over summer. Throughout the year there are other 1-2 week breaks around major Holidays like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. The daily schedule is also different because Ellison actually got of school on M, T, W at 1pm and on Th and F at 11:30 and 12. Not that long of a day huh? Kids either come home for lunch or go to a local Kindergarten facility for afternoon care.
About Kindergarten…Jude, although he was in “Kindergarten”, went to a separate facility. Kindergarten the term is actually more of preschool (by American standards) and the last year of Kindergarten is called Vorschule which Jude just finished up. For Germans the big entrance into school life comes in the 1st grade. Kindergarten translated means Children’s Garden and is a more accurate picture of what that experience is like here. Our boys wore out shoes and pants so fast this year because the majority of the time there is spent outside playing or doing arts and crafts. By the time a child leaves Kindergarten to enter the 1st grade they may or may not know all of their letters and numbers.
Because Ellison is in a public German school it was recommended that she repeat the first grade so that she wouldn’t fall behind academically and could focus primarily on speaking and understanding German. We totally didn’t expect that, and we were really nervous to make the decision to hold her back. It’s honestly still hard for her because she started the 2nd grade last year in a transitional class and then switched to a full functioning German 1st grade class so to her it feels like she should be going into 3rd grade not 2nd. It’s turned out to be a really good decision because she did really well this year and has a great handle on the language but she continues to wish that she could be in her “normal” grade.
Clear as mud right…well here are some pictures from the first and last days of school this past year. I just cannot believe how much the kiddos have grown!
Ellison- September 2012
Jude and Asher September 2012
School’s Finally Out!!!
Summer seems to have settled in here in Germany. We have had beautiful weather for the past week and a half with temps between 75 and 80. The sun has been shining everyday which is just so lovely. This is definitely a new normal for summer temps for us, but I have to say that considering the absence of AC in homes and stores I don’t think it would be very enjoyable if it got too much warmer.
Last summer we kept eyeing a local swimming pool and waiting for it to get hot (like Georgia/South Carolina hot), but it never came and we missed the chance to swim. As soon as we saw the forecast for temps getting a little high this year we purposed that we would drop everything and get to the pool. A few weeks ago a heat wave came through! It was like a gift lavished on us from our gracious Father who knew that we were in need of some summer people! For the entire week it was in the 90’s here. Abnormally hot for this area! One day it even got up to 97 degrees. If we’ve learned anything at all over the past year or so here, it’s never..ever…take beautiful weather for granted. So, when we saw the temps up high we dropped everything and headed to the pool. To our surprise our family could get in for about 6Euros and swim as long as we wanted!
On a few of the other days we set up some water fun in the backyard and the kids had a great time.
This week we announced on Facebook that we’re expecting again! I loved all of the likes and sweet comments from people back home. It’s so funny how times have changed in just 9 years. Nowadays it’s like Facebook is the official message board to all of your friends. Nine years ago, when we found out we were pregnant with Ellison and we sent out an email to lots of friends announcing the news. Ha!
This go round not only the way we announced it was different, but I’ve felt different too. I was crazy sick the first 3 months which didn’t make for a very nice pregnant woman. Every other time, I’ve devoured my first trimester cravings, slept a bit more and waited for my belly to really show. This go round I lost weight (who knew this could happen right!) thanks to my smaller appetite, slept a ton and just tried to keep moving. I will say that the one thing I loved about the first trimester was announcing it to the kids and hearing their questions and seeing their excitement each day about a new baby on the way.
I’m now in the second trimester with my belly already protruding quite nicely and I’m pleased to say that I have regained my appetite(and cravings) and I haven’t had nausea or vomiting in quite a few weeks! I’m hoping it’s safe to say that that phase is behind me.
So come November, we’ll be adding another baby to our crew and we are all very excited to experience all the joys that new life brings!
We are back in town after a 7 day trip away to Austria. Last Friday we grabbed the kids from school and drove for 7 hours to a small town outside of Graz called Deutschlandsberg. We met up with a church who we will eventually intern with once we get to Vienna. Over the weekend we got the question a lot about when we’re coming to Vienna and what our plans are once we get there. Almost each time that I got that question I answered it in some form of we don’t know but right now we’re in Augsburg and we have to simply take the next step until it leads to the next.
The past 6 months haven’t seen a lot of words on this blog and since I’m the major contributor you usually get to hear my voice. My words on life here have been few. It’s not that there hasn’t been lots to tell you but I think I’ve said this before- it’s really hard for me to write about fluff. I want to be honest about how we are doing and so to be fair I have to say it’s been a bit harder than I expected over the winter months. It’s been a winter of taking the next step and trusting that God will meet me…meet us… right there. Sometimes that’s been going to 3 grocery stores to get next weeks meals. It’s been finding the right German class for mom to get involved in. It’s been filling out applications for Asher to go to preschool and then figuring out exactly where he should go. It’s breaking up yet another fight between siblings. It’s putting on jackets when you just want to wear a tank top and flip flops because the calendar says its May for goodness sakes. It’s entering into the messy friendship when you don’t have the energy, it’s taking risks and being bold for His sake. It’s easy to say we’re just taking the next step but when you’re a person who’s wired to know what’s coming, the faith and trust required to only be able to step one step further is sometimes overwhelming.
So here’s a next step on the blog and I’m saying hello again. No promises about how frequent or how often the words will come but I know there are many of you out there who read and who want to know what’s new in our lives. For tonight however, I just want to say hello and wish you all a great weekend and steps of Joy and Peace.
This past week when I went to pick up Jude or “Judee” as he’s called among our crew, his teacher called me over for a little talk. Anytime this happens I get nervous. Number one: the language. Jude’s teacher speaks no English…zero. And we have to completely communicate in German. I am always afraid that she’ll say something that I can’t properly respond to or that I’ll completely answer the wrong question because I got a verb tense wrong or I misheard the pronoun (that happened with Ellison’s teacher). Number two: Jude’s transition to Germany has been the most difficult among all of us. Just a few days ago he was telling me that he really misses his old house and his old bunk beds(a HUGE step that he’s talking about that). As a result, school’s been harder for him. For the first couple of months Jude wandered friendless and had no clue what was being said to him. I would pick him up on the playground and watch him alone or trying to engage with kids that had no interest. And then one of you prayed for Jude to find just one friend. And you know what…God delivered one special buddy for him that week!
Over the past 10 months so many people have reached out and asked how he’s doing and have offered loving suggestions. So many people have heard our requests for prayer for him and for us as we figure out how to wisely help him in this transition. And I believe with all of my heart that what the teacher said to me is directly related to Jude’s Father in Heaven and the love that has been poured out on his behalf. She said to me “Wow Jude has really made a turn around. He is speaking in our morning group, he is speaking directly to me, he is playing better with kids. We have all noticed a change in him.” I wanted to jump up and down in that moment. I’ll never forget Jude looking up to me with that grin of a smile and those big eyes as the great report was communicated to me.
This winter, Jude has also joined a soccer team. Honestly he doesn’t love it but all things considered he’s doing really well. When I remember the child that we brought here 10 months ago who would not shake hands with people or greet people and who didn’t know one word of German and now I see him out there trying his hardest-my heart gets so full.
So I am really thankful today for the big strides that we’ve seen in our guy. When you take big risks and leave everything familiar you are afraid. You are scared. I’ve been afraid, I’ve been scared. I will be afraid again…and scared again. Not only for me, but for my kids.
They look to us with fear and expect us to be brave, but deep down inside sometimes we’re not. We’re just taking steps of faith and we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. But thankfully we can trust in a God who does. He knows the plans for each and every one of them…of us and He cares. Last week I read a story in Luke and I was so moved by this verse “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry. (Luke 7:13)” I could write and write about the little intimate details of how God has cared for our family over these past 10 months. How his grace has so incredibly covered us. The past several months have by no means been easy and I’m sure there are more difficult days in store. This week, Jude faces yet another challenge with a German speaking screening. A new environment, new conditions and all in German…Instead of fretting, I will choose to take comfort in the fact that He knows, He sees and He cares. And I will ask you, once again to pray. Pray for God’s will to be done and for peace for him as he walks into an unknown environment.