Monday, January 26, 2015

A New Kind of Normal

With only 3 weeks left in the States I'm trying to read and cram as much wisdom and advice and knowledge into my brain and heart as I can. I think I have this idea that the more I read and learn, the more ready I will be for whatever is coming as we touch down on African soil again. One of the books I'm reading right now is called "A New Kind of Normal" by Carol Kent. This title jumped out at me from the library shelf because I have been trying to prepare myself for a new "normal" when we return to South Sudan. To be honest, I don't even like the word "normal".

"Normally" when preparing for a new term on the missionfield, I would spend time beforehand praying and thinking about goals for the next three years. Personal, spiritual, ministry - goals that I hope to see achieved in my life or through my life. I feel like I can't really do that yet. We are heading to Kenya first off on February 15th and from there we will meet with our field director and talk about when we can fly into Melut, our home town in South Sudan. We aren't sure how soon we can go. So instead of setting goals and having expectations for this year, we are walking forward in faith, trusting in our Good Shepherd to guide us one step at a time.

I am also a "To-Do List" person. I love having a list of things I need to do because then I know I won't forget (hopefully) and it's always so rewarding to cross that thing off when I've accomplished it! Right now I have a doozy of a to-do list that I've been working on this last month to get everything done that needs to be done before we go. Do I have any idea what we will need to do upon arrival in Kenya? Or upon arriving in South Sudan? Again, I think I need to  adjust to a "new" way of doing things...for now. Taking one day at a time.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I have realized that we are going back to a much different country, a different home, different friends, even a different team. And rather than feel bad about that, I want to jump ALL IN and EMBRACE this new whatever-it-is. I can't use the word normal because i already know - IT WILL NOT BE NORMAL! ;)

So as I work on embracing what is ahead, admitting that I don't even know what I'm embracing, I am also giving the Lord, one. more. time. this thing, this idol in my life that is stability. I just love stability and I often catch myself wishing for it, craving for it. But if I look for stability in my circumstances or in people or in a job/ministry, that stability won't always be sound. I must fix my eyes on Jesus and recognize that HE is my stability, my only stability. Is stability possible in the midst of so much change? Absolutely! If I keep my focus fixed on the Rock.

Something I've been asking myself is, "How do I react when life throws unexpected changes at me?" I can look back over the last 12 months and tell you, I don't react very well. This book by Carol Kent is encouraging me to hold on to hope even when life takes a sharp turn. There will be plenty of twists and turns ahead so I'm trying to get a good grip.

I know I won't be able to handle all this change perfectly. I won't always be as flexible as I wish I was. But I'm so thankful the Lord is showing all this to me now in preparation for what is ahead. In the Lord's loving way, He gave me these verses this morning from Hebrews 6:18-19:
"Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

3 weeks and counting

It is hard to believe that we will be flying over the ocean heading back to our beloved Africa in just a little over 3 weeks! This has been quite possibly the smoothest time of preparation to move. Of course we still have 3 weeks ahead of us which includes packing for 3 years in a remote area in South Sudan, packing up our entire American home, speaking at a supporting church in North Carolina and a week-long missions conference at our home church THE WEEK WE LEAVE!

Despite not knowing what the political climate will be in South Sudan when we return, not knowing when exactly we can fly back into South Sudan from Kenya, and so many unanswered questions, God has been flooding Eli and I with so much peace and trust in this process. He has used so many details to confirm that we are heading in the right direction, HIS direction for us. God has already provided a lovely couple with a baby to rent our house - they signed a 3 year contract! He also found a family (Eli's sister) to buy our van, and has brought a handful of new supporters on board to provide for the 10% of support we were still lacking! Don't you think that is confirmation???

With only 3 weeks left, we ask for your prayers as we pack and still have about 10 different speaking engagements. Please pray for health as we are running harder. And please pray for our kids, that we will help them to feel loved and secure amidst all the change and packing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

5 Weeks & Counting

Some of you might be wondering what it's like in the final weeks of  home assignment as a missionary family prepares to head back to their field. Well, I would like to give you a peek into what is going on in our house.
   One of the first things we did was make sure we bought enough of our favorite luggage - the $17 black trunks from Walmart. The day Eli brought 8 home, the boys had fun playing in them (as shown above.)

Another major thing on my To-Do List was to order the next 3 year's worth of homeschool books for my boys. We use Sonlight and they did an amazing job assembling the curriculum and shipping it to me in less than a week!

Speaking of To-Do List, Eli had this brilliant idea to hang this white board/pin board on our kitchen wall. We each have our own lists of jobs we need to do but we also have shopping lists and our SIM Departure List hanging there as well. This keeps us organized and getting tasks done. However, I've noticed that just as I cross things off, I think of new things to add!

This is our 2-page Departure list that we need to check off with our mission before heading back.

We've also been checking our immunization cards to see what shots we need for another 3 years in South Sudan.

These pictures portray a very neat and organized process but there are definitely other sides to this "coin". For example, yesterday we had the first couple come to see our house (since we need to find renters for the next 3 years) and I had just come home and changed into my hot pink sweats and had tried to build a fire and failed so our living room was full of smoke as I gave them a tour! Yep, that was a little awkard!

We're also wanting to have special times to say goodbye so we have been inviting several families for dinner a week which means a messy kitchen, multiple trips to the grocery store and piles of dishes.

There are also questions that come out of nowhere from our kids. Today in the car Joshua asked me what we will do if we hear gunfire in Melut. I was ashamed that I couldn't think of a good answer but instead fumbled around muttering something like, "yes, there might be gunfire but it will be ok."

The Nile River - our home - in South Sudan

I will also admit that though my husband and I both cried for joy when our tickets to head back to South Sudan were confirmed, we are dealing with a myriad of other emotions during these final weeks in the States. Pressures to finish well, pour into our friendships here, pack everything into our 10 bags, worries about the lack of stability in our area in South Sudan and many prayers, begging God to bring peace to South Sudan.

So how do we stay focused? I stare at these faces. These precious, beautiful friends that we love so much. And I think of the verse: " Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
                                                                                                                         - Phil.3:13-14

Friday, January 09, 2015

Why we do what we do

I am attempting to share our January Newsletter. Just click on the link below and see if it works!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 in Pictures

January - conference with our South Sudan team
Praying about whether we would be able to return to South Sudan at that time 
February - we decided to come back to the States for our home assignment
This picture represents goodbyes with our Sudanese friends

In March we began our travels around the country, visiting family and friends
Hello Winter!

We enjoyed sharing pictures and telling stories of our life in Melut 

April - we continued traveling west and saw some great sights
Mt. Rushmore

A reunion with my sister in California

The Grand Canyon

May - we circled back to South Carolina and reunited with special friends
Just in time for summer fun

June - we got to move into our own house

July - Fader Family Reunion in Pittsburgh

August - homeschool started up and this time we got an extra student from next door!

September - all three of the boys played in a soccer league

Church Camping Trip

My special friend/neighor/running buddy and I ran a 10 K race together

October - the Fair!

November - Fall finally arrived in SC

Eli's soccer team

Thanksgiving with the Fader fam in Michigan

Sledding with cousins

Fader Cousins

Christmas with the Sorensens in South Carolina

How wonderful to look back through this year and remember all the ways God has been faithful! We now look forward to 2015 and whatever the Lord has in store for us.
Next Big Adventure: Flying back to Africa on February 15th