A Plain Black Bag

When I look at this bag I could just cry. Although it looks like a plain black bag filled with books, it is an answer to prayer! Sometimes when we are praying for one big thing like… ahem a visa, we can forget the ways that God is faithful along the journey.

So I started homeschooling Ellison again at the end of October under the assumption that we would be doing it for a month or two…max. It was kinda like “OK God I can do this for a little while” type of attitude. You probably remember that my initial go with homeschooling this year was not so great. Well, now that we’ve 3 months, I started to  get concerned about Ellison’s academic development and was wondering if I was hitting the marks with her in terms of her needs.

Our host family is a homeschooling family and my sweet friend Kirsten, the mama of this nest, has been a HUGE help along the way. She has provided me with tons of support, materials and suggestions and I’ve learned so much just by watching her educate her girls.  It’s truly inspiring. She along with some other friends have been praying with us about this specific area.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve really started praying about our school time.

I’ve been reading “The Power of a Praying Parent” and the first chapter encourages parents to cast all of their cares about their children on the Lord and this was one big care for me. Preparing Ellison in education is a big priority for me and we are doing the best we can to make sure she does not fall behind since she will inevitably be behind her peers in language when we arrive. I feel like it is so important for me not to take this lightly because falling behind in 1st grade would be huge to her future growth in Austria.

She was having a hard time focusing during reading and was getting really really frustrated. She and I were both back at dreading our school time and honestly I knew that those emotions were robbing me of valuable time with my daughter. I prayed more 🙂 and began to seek some wisdom.

I first reached out to an elementary school teacher on our support team and she graciously spent over and hour and a half after her school day sitting with us and trying to gauge where Ellison is in the areas of math and reading. After our time together she suggested some things I could be doing to improve her math skills and offered to meet again to look further at her reading! I was overjoyed and so thankful and the bonus is that we will have the opportunity to meet up with her again until we leave.

When we went to Knoxville, we got to see one of Ian’s aunts who has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years. Shortly after we all got together I asked her what grade she was teaching now and she told me that she has been teaching 1st grade for the past 9 years!!! Can I tell you how excited I was to have someone with all of that wisdom right there for the asking! She was offering to share everything she could with me in our limited amount of time together.  Almost immediately I began asking her questions and before I knew it, we were headed to the School Box to get some supplementary materials for Ellison’s phonics work. The next day, she offered to meet me at her classroom and showered me with extra copies of things that she has collected over the years. I told her over and over what an answer to prayer she had been. When I left that afternoon, I had all the tools I needed to complete a phonics and reading program for the rest of 1st grade.

Here is the best part! Since coming home and implementing some of our new tools, she cannot stop reading! She is so excited about books on her level and the other day I caught her reading a book to Jude during “non school” hours and they were both laughing at some humor in the book.

I am so excited to be reminded that I am involved in such a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. This was such a tangible picture of 2 Corinthians 9:8- God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Knoxville

So…if you know Ian, you know that the man loves his sports! In the past month we have gotten to see Duke University the home of  his all time favorite basketball team and this past weekend we went to Knoxville to visit Ian’s extended family and we got to take a quick visit to UT. Ian’s Dad and Uncle both played football at UT so it’s natural that he is a big fan. Looks like it’s rubbing off on someone else…

Although getting to visit the actual campus was a hit with the kids, the real reason for going to Knoxville was to see some of Ian’s extended family.

We spent most of the weekend just sitting around and catching up which was so nice. Ian’s Aunt Liz and Uncle Neal became grandparents a little over a year ago and their house is equipped! It was awesome to just walk right in to a house filled with great toys, a crib and special snacks and foods just for our kids. On Saturday night Liz hosted a big dinner for all of the family in town and we also got to see Ian’s Uncle Rodney along with his wife and 3 kids. Ellison really enjoyed being with Tori (pictured below) and Tori was so patient with our kids!

I’m sad that I can’t share more pictures because I did not take a ton. Although the pictures are few, our time together was really memorable and sweet.

Each time that we are on the road  seeing family and friends, it seems like the knowledge of knowing that it will be the last time in a long time has really fostered some awesome conversation and rich memories.

 

Here’s our PO Box

Here’s a picture from our PO Box. It’s become sort of a fun activity for us to check it each day. We all want to be there the day that our papers actually hit our box!

We’re thankful that this week we’ve had two other people inquire on our behalf. We’re hoping they find out something other than our applications are “in process.”

In the meantime we’ll keep checking :-).

 

 

“He takes the long view”

I admit, I just don’t have a lot to write about right now. I keep having all of these post ideas in my head but then I’m just not motivated to finish any of them and I feel like they are empty… like there is no heart in them. I like to write. Especially when I feel like I really have something to share.  So when things don’t feel very “exciting” I have a tendency not to share anything at all.

This morning I sat down to write something and I realized that the best thing to do is to be honest and open about where we are and how we are feeling. I would be lying if I did not say that there is a lingering sadness among us right now. Which is difficult to say because things could be so much worse, but honestly Ian and I are sad. I’m reminded of Proverbs 13:21: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” That kinda sums it up for us, our hope has been deferred (again and again) and sometimes- right now in fact- our hearts feel a bit sick.

We just flipped the page of the calendar on the month of February and I wanted to cry. Looking at February makes me sad because we never imagined that we would be in the US still. If you’ve been following our journey, you may remember that we’d really hoped to be in Austria in early January so that we could  enroll Ellison in school when they resume from winter break next week.  Since October, I’ve been holding off on celebrating holidays till the last minute with the idea that maybe we’d be gone. Every time we buy new toilet paper or paper towels or even laundry detergent we buy the smallest bulk (silly I know) with the hope that we only need a little more.  We have bypassed deadline after deadline of when we thought we would be gone, and sometimes that stinks.

One of the things that’s keeping both of us going are our friendships and encouragement from others. This week, I got to meet with two friends and they both asked how we were really doing as a family. I had a choice to talk about how awesome our living situation is (and it really is!), or how great the past few weeks have been to really say good bye well to those we love. And in both cases I did say those things. Because they are true.  But I also took a risk and was honest about how we are really feeling right now. I admitted that we are struggling to maintain peace and contentment and we just want to leave. We want to be there.

I was thankful to be met with nothing but love and understanding on the other side of the table. They were sincerely hearing me and both said to me “what you guys are doing right now is hard.” At both meetings, I thanked them for their words and for giving me the permission to be honest. So many times, I set up this standard for myself of how I should behave or feel and the thing is, although I know the truth (eventually we will get there and ultimately we are not under our time table) I’m still sad and I know that He is ok with that. That’s the beauty of my relationship with our Heavenly Father. When I am open and honest I believe that it opens up a freedom within me and makes room in my for Him to act.

I had a chance last night to read an article from the director of our sending agency, Charlie Davis. The words so spoke to our situation so I wanted to share them. I underlined the words that spoke the loudest to me. If you’ve been reading this long and have a few more minutes I hope you’ll read what he had to say.

“Jesus is the one who knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. He is the “alpha and the omega,” the “beginning and the end,” the one who is “from everlasting to everlasting.” In our small minds we can think ahead a few months or a few years if we try really hard, and we can look back a few decades. But God holds thousands of years in view effortlessly. God takes the long view

We live in a world that emphasizes the immediate, the short-term, the fast approach, and we think that a year is a long time. We want results with the push of a button, the click of a “mouse,” but God is unruffled by our restlessness. Centuries ago he said, “Be still and know that I AM God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The outcome is not in doubt, nor is it in doubt that the Lord takes the long view. “

Today I’m choosing to stand on this verse and this promise. I’m praying that he would teach us as a family to be still and remember who He is. I’m praying that we can take comfort in the sometimes uncomfortable truth that He does take the long view and really I’m a part of His story, not my own.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying!

 

Beach Visit

I grew up near the coast of SC so any time of year is the right time to visit the beach!!

While we were with my parents we took the kids down on our last morning. The temperatures there were in the mid seventies so it was beautiful.

We figured that the kids would want to get their feet wet but we did not plan on this!!!

Both Elli and Jude were soaked! The water was freezing but they didn’t seem to care.

While we were there, Ian negotiated a deal with  a guy on the beach to take our picture. He said “I’ll take yours and you can take ours.” The man kindly said,  “no worries, I’ll just take yours.” Turns out he was a photographer and we could tell within minutes of him getting his hands on our camera. He was changing settings and doing all sorts of things that we didn’t know it could do! As they continued talking we found out that he actually attends one of our supporting churches! So cool.

Oh beach we will miss you you indeed!