Why I Need a New Passport

I found my expired passport the other day.  And to be completely honest, I was HORRIFIED by what I saw.  Please, don’t comment with things like, “Erin, you’re being too hard on yourself” or “Erin, I don’t think it’s that’s bad” or “Erin, I think you look beautiful.”

Well, I guess you can make those comments, but then I’ll know which of my friends are liars.

Look.

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I heard the gasps.

Horrific, right?

And I have no excuse at all for that look.  Yes, those are straps to jean overalls on my shoulders that I am still wearing in 2000… well past their prime.  Yes, my hair… honestly, I’m speechless about that hair.  Each time I try to say something about it, vomit gets lodged in my throat.  And my eyebrows!  Why in the world are they waxed so far apart from each other?  And, the bags under my eyes!  What is that all about?  This picture was taken well before I had children.  Back in the day when I would lay my head on my pillow and not get up until I deemed so, which was usually around 10am, if I wasn’t working.  I have no reason to be looking that tired.

Thank God I’ll be getting a new passport soon.

Why are you getting a new passport, Erin?

I’m so glad you asked.  Gotta love a good segue.

I’m getting a new passport because I’m going on a missions trip to Honduras in July!

I love my kids.  I really, really do.  With all my heart!  To the moon and back.  Actually to the rock formerly known as the planet Pluto, and back.  (The moon is relatively close to us, if you think about it.)  Anyway, my heart overflows with love for my three munchkins, but the one thing I have completely missed since becoming a mother are missions trips.

I love traveling to new places and sharing the love of Jesus with more than just words.  I love providing for people’s physical needs, and running a VBS for the crazy kids, and helping to build homes and churches.  And as much as I say that I’m going down there to help the people, I know from experience that I will come home with my heart fuller than when I left.   I know that they will affect me far beyond what I can begin to imagine.  That’s how amazing God is, you know?

Honduras is just special to me.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it fully.  My first trip was in 1996 with my best friend.  We opted for a missions trip as a senior trip (crazy, wild, party animals that we were!)  And it was a hard couple of weeks of heat, humidity, and sickness.      But it was one of the first times that I was on my own experiencing people that had next to nothing, overflow with joy because of Jesus.  After I graduated from college, I was pretty much clueless as to what I was going to do with my life.  So I opted for Honduras, again.  I moved down there and worked with an amazing organization called Signs of Love.  They reach out to the deaf (who are largely ignored by society) and teach them sign language and also about the love of God.  That was when I first met my teamer, Robin.

There’s no better way to explain it than to say that she was (and still is) a sister to me.  We clicked from the beginning and she honestly modeled for me how to be completely and totally abandoned to God’s will for her life.  She gave up everything to just follow His voice.  Her reliance on Him alone and her passion to make a Kingdom difference with her life was something brand new for me. The time I spent with her represents a milestone in my life.  It marks a place where my love for God and my relationship with Him became real.  So much more than the dos and don’ts that I learned at church, or Bible verses that I memorized, or habits that I had formed.  It’s where I realized that God truly moves, and God is so alive, and that I really can live moment to moment for Him.

Last December the unthinkable happened to my friend, Robin.  Her husband (of less than three years) was killed in a car accident.  It was unimaginable, not only because the thought of anyone losing his or her spouse is unimaginable, but also because it was Robin.  She had waited and prayed for her husband for so long.  He needed to be a man unlike any other, that would give up everything he knew to follow the call put on her life.  Jeff was that amazing man.  And he was taken from her way too soon.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  I wrote about Steve in an earlier post.  He is the father of a childhood friend of mine, and was like a brother to Robin.  Days after Jeff died, Steve traveled down to Honduras to comfort Robin and help her to recover.  But as they were traveling in a car together, men on the roadside shot and killed Steve.  As I wrote previously, Steve was an amazing person.  His love and generosity for people was unmatched.  He had a heart for Honduras and the ministry going on down there, so in some weird way, it makes sense that his last moments were spent there serving a friend in need.

While I am definitely going to be serving the Honduran people on this trip, through vacation Bible school and finishing a church building, this feels like more of a heartfelt mission than ever before.  This time it’s bigger than the physical service we will provide.  It’s that and more.  It’s bringing comfort to a friend who lost more that I can begin to imagine.  And it’s allowing the generosity of a man with a huge heart for the poor, to continue beyond his own life.

I’m putting all of this here on my blog, because I’m asking for your support.

First and foremost, please PRAY!  Prayer is so incredibly powerful!  I have seen the miraculous happen all because of prayer and fasting.  Pray for God’s will to be done while we are there.  Pray for the safety of each member of our team.  Pray for traveling mercies.  Personally, I would love it if you’d pray for my family.  My heart is definitely torn about leaving my babies to go so far for so long, even though it’s only 8 days.  Pray for God’s grace to be all over us as we’re far away from each other.  Pray for protection and peace while I’m gone.  A mama is not easily replaced!

Finally, please pray about supporting me financially.  We are going to be doing a group fundraiser (more abut that later), but the cost of the entire trip is $1800.  And, actually Geric has decided to join me!  (Praise God!) So, the cost of our trip jumped up to $3600.  I know that seems like an awful lot of money but as Geric told me, “Where God guides, God provides.”  And he’s so right!  I’m not going to put God in a box and say that this is too expensive.  I’m going to have faith in my God as a mighty provider!  If you feel led to support me through your finances, you can just click the Honduras Button to the right on my blog (or at the bottom of this post) and from there find my name “Erin DeVincenzo” from the drop down menu and give whatever amount you feel led to give.

Also, you’re always welcome to give the old fashioned way, by writing a check, and then you have a couple of options.  You can either wait until the next time you see me and slip it into my pocket when I’m not paying attention.  I love finding money when I’m doing my laundry, it eases the pain.  Or, you can make it out to North Hills Communtiy Church (thus making it tax deductible), put my name in the memo (or Geric’s!) and send it to P.O. Box 398, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729.

Finally, I would, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it if you would leave an encouraging word or your favorite Bible verse in either the comment section of this post or in an email to me.  I know that there will be times when I’m feeling discouraged or missing home and reading a message from a friend can really bring strength.

Thanks in advance for all your support!  I’m already praising Jesus for the miracles that I will see!

The Candle of Hope: Family Night

Last year, we started a new family tradition of celebrating the season of advent, or the weeks that lead up to Christmas.

No, we’re not Catholic, but they’ve got some good traditions over there in their fancy churches.

Anywho, last year we got through three weeks and then I had to go throw a wrench in the plan and have a baby.  That put an end to the family nights for awhile.  This year, I am determined to family night it for all four weeks!

So, last night was the first candle in our advent candle holder. (We have a candle holder and not a wreath.)  It’s the candle of hope that symbolizes the hope the people had for the coming of a Savior, Jesus.

So, to start things off, yesterday afternoon I gathered the boys on the rug, and took their picture… because they’re so darn cute.  Right?

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Then we talked about how before Jesus was born, God had said that He was sending a Savior to the world and how the people were waiting, and hoping for that Savior to arrive.  I taught them Micah 7:7 from the New Living Translation as a memory verse (with hand motions that I made up to help them remember) and then we read the story of another man in the Bible who had hope in God, Daniel.  We read the story of Daniel and the lion’s den out of Jacob’s kid Bible and they were really into it.

Next, we did a little craft.  We made lion masks to help us remember that because Daniel hoped in God (not in himself or the king or the other men) God honored him by sending His angels and closing the mouths of the lions!

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Here’s the finished products.  Elijah was a little scared of the masks.  I don’t blame him.  They look a little more like cannibal warrior masks, than lions.  Maybe?

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Next, we prepared dessert for the night, zebra cake!

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We figured if the lions couldn’t eat Daniel, they were probably pretty hungry, so we needed to feed them lion food.  You know, zebras and stuff. I found this cake mix with chocolate and white cake in the same box, but you could easily buy a box of each and make it yourself.  Just prepare each batter and then take a 1/4 measuring cup and alternate scooping chocolate and white cake into the bottom of cake pan.  It should end up looking like a bulls eye, like this.

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We frosted the outside to make it look extra zebra-ish…

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and the inside looked really cool when it was finished!

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For dinner we ate meat, because those poor lions were starving.

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After dinner we talked about how Jesus is our hope for everything!  He is our hope for forgiveness (John 1:29), our hope for freedom (Romans 8:2), our hope for salvation (John 14:6), and our hope for all we need (Matthew 6:33.)  Then we worked together to make a poster titled “DeVincenzo Family Hopes for 2012” where we wrote out all our hopes for the upcoming year.

This is the part where I totally underestimated my kids.

I thought they would think of all concrete things, like “I hope for new legos!” or “I hope for a fast bike!”  Things like that.  So, I decided to start them off and said, “I hope for a fun vacation so we can spend fun time together as a family.”  (A little concrete thinking, mixed with a little abstract, right?)  Then Jacob said, “I have one!  I hope Lauren gets healed this year!”  Tears.  Lauren’s doing great with her new heart but she has been in and out of the hospital with low white blood cell counts and low platelets and getting sick and getting better, and we’ve been praying for her everyday, and it just overwhelmed me that she was the first thing my 4-year-old thought of when we were thinking of our hopes for the new year.  We must be doing something right. 

Here’s our finished poster.

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Then we lit our candle of hope.

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So, far this is my most favorite family tradition!  What’s your favorite family tradition during the holidays?

Crossroads

I’m pretty sure this is going to end up a verbal vomit-ish post, because I feel like I have all these thoughts swarming around in my brain, and I just need an outlet to get them all out.

Thank God for this here blog.

I feel like we’re at a crossroads.

Have I said that before?  I feel like I’ve said that before.  But this time I really, really mean it.  Really.  I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it’s a stirring in my heart that won’t go away.  I know that sounds hyper-spiritual (especially if you’re not the spiritual type, but deal.  Mm, kay?)

We’re just in this weird place where everything is up in the air and every time I think it’s going to settle down, it doesn’t.

A month ago, I honestly felt like our life was spinning out of control.  I was so stressed out that I got a cold sore.  That is how you know Erin is stressed out.  Ignore her words of being okay and “giving it to God.”  If you see a huge disgusting growth on her lip, she’s stressed. Hug her.  Just avoid the cold sore.  They are highly contagious.

Anyway, here I was with my cold sore, thinking that our house was going to auction, we didn’t have enough income to go anywhere but my mom and dads (which would be perfectly acceptable in any other country but America, by the way) and it felt like there was no way out.  Then things started falling into place.  The bank postponed foreclosure and was looking at approving us for a short sale.  I interviewed for a job and it went really well.  Geric started applying at churches, feeling he was ready to get back into ministry.  We were on a path.  It was good.  New directions.  Yay.

But now the bank is silent again, taking their sweet time and having us jump through short sale hoops.  The awesome interview I had has also led to silence, actually an email a few weeks ago saying that the candidates would know by the end of the week, and then silence.  I’m taking that as a no.  Silence from the churches Geric has applied for and questions in his mind… is he too old to be a youth pastor???

And now everything is up in the air again.

And I’m praying my cold sore doesn’t come back.

I feel like God keeps taking us to this place.  And I’m really trying to figure out what it is that He’s teaching me, because I’m sure once I do He’ll lead me out of here, right?  Right, God?  I’m talking to you, Big Guy. 

But then it crossed my mind this morning as I was doing my quiet time, that maybe God keeps bringing us here to this place, because he has other plans for us.

Okay, here comes the crazy. 

I’ve always felt drawn to missions.  After my first trip to Mexico (when I was in junior high) I wrote in my journal that I wanted to win a million dollars so I could give it to the people we met.  I remember feeling like I wanted to give up everything and GO!  And I did almost every summer.  My senior trip wasn’t a wild party in Cancun or Hawaii, it was a two week mission trip to Honduras.  After college, I was directionless, and my first thought was, I should be a missionary, and it felt right.  I remember sitting on a hill at the park, and it was just right.  And I did.  I packed up my stuff and moved to Honduras… to endure the hardest three months of my life.

And then I met Geric.  I met him right before he left to go be a part of YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Australia.  He came home after his trip and ended up going back to work in Indonesia.  And when he came back from there we really got to know each other when we were on the first missions outreach team at our church together.  And then you have to take into account the place where we fell in love… on a missions trip to Mexico.  I remember (once again) sitting on a hill and watching him dig out steps to the front of a house that we had just built and thinking, “I’m gonna marry that guy.”  And lo and behold,  I did.

Crazy, right?

Because missions are scary.

Honestly, I don’t want to go.

I don’t want to drag my kids to God-knows-where to do God-knows-what.  And raise them to be weird missionary kids.  (No offense Carrie.) I don’t want them to be in a place that’s considered “dangerous.”  I don’t want to take them away from their extended family only to see them once or twice a year for a couple of weeks.  That one seriously breaks my heart. I don’t want to be forced to learn another language, because that’s really hard.  I don’t want to meet new people who are nothing like me and my American ways, and then try to be their friend.

But at the same time, I love Jesus.  And I’ve come to realize that the only reason I’m here on this planet is to serve Him and glorify Him.  And all I really want to do is run hard after Him and His will for my life.

I haven’t even talked to Geric about all of this, although I know he would have our suitcases packed in 10.2 seconds if I told him I wanted to go.  Go where?  Another unknown.

Now that I’ve typed this I want to delete it.  Because I feel like now you’re all going to hold me to it.  Like if I see you out on the streets (out on the streets???  That made me laugh.) But if I do see you out on the streets I feel like you’re going to come up to me and ask when I’m leaving and where I’m going, or if I wussed out.  Don’t do that, k?

I told you in the beginning, this is all a bunch of verbal vomit that may or may not lead to action.

So, yeah, we’re at a crossroads.

 

The Big White Sign of Shame

It came yesterday.

It actually didn’t get hung on our door since Geric was out front fixing a sprinkler, but it got handed to him.

In case you’re lost, “the big white sign of shame” is the sign that gets hung on your door when you’re in foreclosure and they set a date of sale, the date your house gets auctioned on courthouse steps.  Our date is November 3rd.  I’ll be sure to wear my cutest outfit for our date.

Here’s the ironic thing.  Yesterday morning I woke up early (and the kids slept in… praise God!) so I had some time to do a quiet time.  I did my Bible study and read a couple of devotionals and then I felt led to Proverbs 31, so I read that, which is the chapter about the wife of noble character.  I got hung up on verse 25 which says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  I love this image.  Here is this amazing woman who daily clothes herself in strength and dignity, holding her head up high.  I want to be like her.  Not only that, but she laughs at the days to come.  She lays her worries aside and knows that God holds her future, so why worry?  Laugh!  Be filled with His joy!

I was so touched by these verses that I actually texted them to a few of my friends.  And while I hope they were encouraged by them, I realized when the sign of shame came, those verses were for me.  I had to keep reminding myself yesterday that God is in control, not me, not the bank, not my real estate agent.  God, and God alone.  And because of that, I can relax.  Not just relax, REJOICE!  He’s not out to get me.  He loves me.  He loves my family.  He wants good for us.  I can laugh at the days to come because He is in control of those very days.

So this morning, I remembered a sermon that Pastor Glen gave one Sunday at our church.  He was talking about 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

We are those jars of clay.  Just a bunch of boring jars of clay.  Yes, we were shaped by the Potter’s hand, but a jar of clay is pretty mundane, pretty worthless.  What makes us special is the treasure inside.  It’s Jesus!

Those verse go on to talk about being pressed, but not crushed, which is exactly where I feel like I am today.  But here’s the amazing part.  Yes, I’m being pressed on every side (like a mafioso with his head in a vice) and I’m not being crushed, but I am a jar of clay, so there are some major cracks forming in the surface.  But you know what shines through?  The treasure inside!  Jesus will shine through today!  I choose Him!  I will not be brought down by my circumstances, but I will lift my eyes to my Maker, My Creator, My Sustainer, My Redeemer, My Restorer, who gives me hope daily and fills me to overflowing with His joy!

Today I choose His joy!

And today I choose to look into His eyes when my circumstances overwhelm me.

And today I choose to hope in Him.

And today I might get a pair of new shoes for our big date.

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Am I missing the blessing?

Do you ever fear that you’re missing the blessing?  I do.

Not that I think God withholds His blessings from us. Because I definitely don’t think that.  But do you ever think He looks down on us, shakes His head, sighs and says, “Girl, if you would just let go and trust me, if you would just ignore your fears and lean on me, if you would stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and really understand what I think, then, and only then, would you see that I have SO MUCH MORE for you!”

Do you ever think He thinks that? I do.

Well, at least I think He thinks that about me. Maybe not you. But definitely me.

The crazy thing, too, is that I really feel like I have witnessed God’s power firsthand. I’ve seen answers to prayers that I thought were impossible. I’ve seen Him change people I thought were unchangeable. I’ve seen Him repair situations that I thought were irrepairable.  So, wouldn’t you think that would make me someone who would do anything to be smackdab in the middle of His will for me and my family so I could experience as much of His blessing as I possibly could this side of heaven? One would think…

I’m pondering all of this because we’re kind of at a crossroads. We’re probably going to end up moving here shortly. Geric is working, but it’s definitely not his dream job. And I’m just sort of feeling like we’re in a rut. Like, there must be more to life than this. Not that I am not fully aware of the blessings that have already been bestowed upon me. I am. Believe me. I am. But some days, a lot of days, it feels like we were made for something bigger than this.

Am I making any sense?

Some days Geric will say we should just sell everything and move away and be missionaries. And I always say, “You’re crazy!” He is crazy, right? Because I’ve done the missionary thing and I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. Three months in the heat of Honduras without my family or my bestie was a very long time. A. Very. Long. Time. And now I have kids! That just seems impossible.

But my God is the God of the impossible.

I really wish God would just write things in the sky sometimes. If I was God I would do that. Why not? My people want to know what I think? Here, I’ll write it over here in cloud formation. What’s the big deal, God? Just a little hint wouldn’t kill me. Right?

Or maybe He could show me kind of like a magic 8 ball. I could ask him a question, like should we move in with my mom and dad? And then I would close my eyes and see a traffic signal with the red light lit up, signaling, no you should not, because you’ll end up hating your mom (and she you) and your husband will go crazy.

Something like that would be really helpful. Right?

That and a money tree.

But I digress.

Here’s what I have to cling to: Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” So, it’s a constant thing. Its not a one time sky writing event, its a daily immersion in God’s word and prayer. I think we are oblivious to the ways the things of this world fill our minds to the point that we cloud out God’s will for us. We could see Him so clearly if He was our one true focus.

How much time do I truly spend with my Savior? Just me and Him? Not just mealtime prayers, or prayers before school, or bedtime prayers, but one on one time, just me and my Jesus? Not nearly enough. Could that be why I can’t hear His voice so clearly?

What’s that, God? I can’t hear you over the music from Dancing with the Stars! Speak up!

That’s a joke, but it’s kinda for reals, right?

I’m tempted to write something about how I’m going to give up reality TV to hang with God. Or how I’m gonna spend my first hour of the day with God by setting my alarm clock for really early o’clock. But I don’t think God works like that. I don’t think He wants us to feel like we have to spend time with Him. I think He wants us to want Him.

So instead of setting a time limit or calling a TV fast, I’m going to start praying for more of a hunger. A true hunger that cannot be satisfied by anything but Him. A hunger that cannot be ignored.

God, make me hungry for You

And that money tree wouldn’t hurt either.

Amen.

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By the Grace of God

Everybody has their stuff… their challenges, their hard times, their mountains to climb. I’m no different over here. I just advertise mine to the whole blogosphere while everyone else keeps theirs to themselves.  All that we’ve been going through lately has had me thinking about God’s grace.

What is grace anyway?  There’s the acrostic I learned when I was in youth group: GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  But going a little deeper, I think God’s grace is when we get something that we don’t deserve.  It’s God’s favor.  It’s God looking down on us and saying, “I love you so much, I’m gonna cut you some slack.  I’m gonna help you out.  Why?  Because you are highly favored in my eyes.”

The funny thing about grace is this… God does not dole it out equally. He certainly doesn’t withhold it, but he just doesn’t give the same amount to everyone.  It doesn’t work like that.
No, He gives it to us as we NEED it.

I went to a Beth Moore Bible Study last year at my church and she was talking about how she had a small group of girlfriends that were really close. One of the women in the group had a sick child that ended up dying. At the funeral Beth sat in the front row with her girlfriends who were bawling their eyes out in utter devastation. I guess they were causing quite a scene. She said the mother of the child that had died got up and said them, “Ladies, you need to pull yourselves together.” Yes, she was devastated too, but she had strength that the other women did not. Why? Because God gave her the grace to walk through it.

We can also see this in the Bible with our friend, Paul. Paul went through it all… stonings, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and eventually execution. However, in one of his times in prison, he penned the following words, “Now what I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” (Phil. 1:12) I don’t know about you, but if I was stuck in prison (simply because I wasn’t liked) I would be feeling devastated. I would be feeling sorry for myself and throwing myself the world’s biggest pity party. I probably wouldn’t feel much like praising Jesus for my chains and I certainly wouldn’t be thinking that I was there to bring glory to Him.

How did Paul get such supernatural strength? Grace. God unloaded a dump truck full of grace right in Paul’s lap to enable him to get through his situation. Not just enough to “get through” it but to triumph through it.

Jesus gave Paul these words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Paul knew that no matter what he faced; weakness, obstacle, tragedy, sickness, etc. God’s grace was sufficient. God’s grace alone would be what got him through. And he knew that God would give him enough grace to cause him to triumph and give God the glory.

I was thinking about all of this because after my post about losing my job (on top of my foreclosure post) I got a bunch of texts, emails, phone calls, and cards from several different friends.  (Which is why I said last week that I really, really love my friends.  Really.)  I started thinking, I should probably be more upset about this, judging by the amount of people who are reaching out to me.  And then I started psycho-analyzing myself… Am I stuffing feelings?  Am I shutting down?  What is going on here?

And then I realized… God’s grace!  He has given me the grace, the supernatural strength, to get through my circumstances.  Yes, I get overwhelmed at times.  Yes, there are days that I am completely frustrated and stressed out about our situation.  But, overall, I feel a peace that God is going to take care of us, as He always has.  I know with confidence that He has a plan for me and my family that is better than anything I can imagine on my own.  My job is to keep my eyes on Him.  As long as I do,  He gives me just enough grace to walk in front of it all.

All I have to do is trust Him.  He’s got the rest.  He’s told me so, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

That’s not fair, God.

This post is dedicated to Geneva and Lauren and both of their mommies that astound me with their strength and their faith every single day.

This week I’ve been thinking about God and His sovereignty and His justice, and why things happen why they happen. Because, honestly, a lot of it just doesn’t seem fair. Things like innocent people dying in riots in London, hungry and forgotten children in Somalia, and incurable diagnoses for children.

Why does He allow this?

Its not fair.

Sure, you can Jesus Juke me and give me the easy answer: We live in a fallen world and these are the repurcussions of sin.

Knowing that doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t bring the dead back to life. It doesn’t feed the starving children. It doesn’t get kids out of hospitals.  And it doesn’t make my best friend’s daughter walk on her own.

I know I sound faithless right now. I’m not. Keep reading.

I read in a devotional this week about Lazarus’ death. In case you don’t know the story, Lazarus was Jesus’ good friend. They were practically besties. If they had charm necklaces back then Lazarus would’ve had “Be Fri” and Jesus would’ve had “st end.” I’m sure of it.

But what happened when Lazarus got seriously sick? Jesus got word of his best friend’s illness and waited two days before he went to go to him.

Two days??? And it wasn’t even because he had to travel across a vast and arid desert to get to his BFF. It was because He simply waited.

And what happened when He arrived? Well, besides from Lazarus being dead already, Mary and Martha (his sisters) were a little bummed that Jesus decided to take His sweet time. They even said, “Dude, if you would’ve been here, Lazarus would still be alive.” (Maybe they didn’t say “dude” but they would have if they lived in Southern California.)

But what does Jesus do next? He brings Lazarus back to life. He does the miraculous, that’s what. Mary and Martha thought they had hit a dead end (literally.)   They thought they were out of options. They thought Jesus had put them on the backburner and let the worst happen. But in reality, He LOVED them so much, that He chose to demonstrate His power and His glory through them in performing His best miracle to date, bringing the dead back to life.

Amazing.

No, seriously.  Sit with that for a sec.

Amazing.

So, that’s what I have to hold on to. When I hear bad news from a doctor, when I watch my friends daughter struggle to keep up, when I hear about children starving, I can’t lose hope. We might be in the “two days.” The two days from a miracle.

And this miracle could be one of the best.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

From Ministry to Mold… and Back Again?

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you know that my husband used to be a youth pastor.  He started out volunteering at the church where we met, but then got a full time job at a smaller church.  A couple of years after that he was offered a junior high position at one of the biggest churches in our area.  Each church had it’s own pros and cons, but overall he loved doing ministry and I liked being a “pastor’s wife.”

A couple of years ago the bubble burst, he lost his job in ministry, and since then he has started his own business as a mold inspector.  At first, it was a hit to the pride for both of us.  I know men usually find their identity in what they do, but I had found my identity in being a pastor’s wife.  There was something special about it, and I liked it.  So, when people would ask what he’s doing now, I would have to take a big gulp before I replied, “He’s a mold inspector.”  Yes, it’s an honorable profession.  Yes, it pays the bills.  Yes, someone needs to do it.  Yes, it saves lives from toxic black mold.  But it doesn’t feel as world-changing as being a youth pastor did.  I would sometimes just say, “Oh, he started his own business” just to avoid the word “mold.”  I don’t know.  It’s just not attractive.  And most people don’t know how to follow the statement, “He’s a mold inspector.”  I don’t blame them.  It’s kinda gross, and not very exciting at all.  So, you usually just get an exaggerated nod with an, “Oh… wow.”

However, two years have gone by, and now I love that Geric is a mold inspector.  There’s not an ounce of embarrassment when people ask me what my husband does for a living.  I suppose I’ve gotten used to it, and it helps that most people know now, so I don’t get asked too often.  I like it that he’s his own boss.  He makes his own rules and doesn’t have to answer to someone else.  He makes his own hours.  He works from home a lot.  We see each other now more than we have ever seen each other in the span of our relationship.  And it’s nice.  We’ve become friends again.

I also really, really love living outside of the fishbowl.  If you’ve been in ministry or been married to someone who’s in ministry or are a child of someone who is ministry then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  People know you.  People you don’t even recognize know you.  And people come up and say hi like they’ve known you for years and you don’t even recognize their face.  They know the names of your children and weird little stories about your life (that were probably used as a sermon illustration) and you smile and nod and act like you know them back, but you don’t.  It’s not a horrible thing, but it does feel a little awkward at times, especially if you’re a natural introvert, like me.

The problem is, my husband is a pastor.  He’s called to be in the ministry.  I completely understand it.  I am called to be a mother.  If I had no children, but had the ability to have children, it would be sad and depressing and I would have a constant nagging to create a family.  I could go on with my life, just my husband and I, and we could make the best of it, but there would be a void.  And that would suck.

So, that’s where we’re at.  We’re making the best of our situation, but there’s a void in Geric’s heart that can only be filled if he steps into his calling.  But it makes me nervous.  For starters, I’m just not a fan of change.  I don’t want to lose my husband to the ministry.  I don’t want him to take a job at a church that we are not completely sold out to.  I don’t know if I’m ready to move back into the fishbowl.  I’m comfortable where I’m at.

But I know I need to get out of the boat.  Because if you don’t get out of the boat, then you can’t walk on water, right?  I know that if Geric goes back into ministry, God will bless us.  I’m confident that there are blessings waiting for us (for me) if we step out in faith and trust that God has our best in mind.  I know He’ll never drop us, or let us drown, but it still doesn’t make stepping out of the boat any easier.

I also know that it’s my job to support my husband, help him to fulfill his dreams and to become the best version of himself that he could possibly be.  I would never want to be the reason that he didn’t go back into ministry and in essence, let his dream die.

So, that’s where we’re at.  I don’t know what’s going to happen from here.  I don’t know if doors will open or slam shut in our faces.  But I do know that we are going to hold each other’s hand and take a leap of faith, again.  And I know, just like every time before, we won’t fall.  We’ll soar.

Keepin’ the Faith Fridays

I’ve decided to dedicate Fridays to the things that God is showing me.  It’ll probably be lighter on the humor and heavier on the personal insight.  Hopefully, it’s still your thang and you stick around.

And hopefully I stick to my word and really do this on Fridays!  Haha!

Tuesday night was tough as far as sleep was concerned.  Elijah woke up at his usual 1am and 4am wake up calls.  But Caden and Jacob decided to add some fun to my night by waking up in between because they had decided to share a bed… but then Jacob was laying on Caden… and Caden kicked him out of his bed… but wouldn’t give him any of his stuffed animals… so yeah.  I was breaking up fights in my sleep at 2am.  Awesome.  Needless to say, when everyone woke up for the day at 6:30am (nice) I was exhausted.

I had told my sister that we would meet her at the beach on Wednesday, and even though I tried to text my way out of it, she guilted me into coming.  (I’m easily guilted, by the way.)

We arrived at the beach before my sister and parked a few blocks from the sand.  After slamming my whole hand in the van door (Who does that?  Fingers, understandable.   Whole hand?  Just me.) I unloaded the entire back of the van, got Elijah in the stroller and made my way down the three blocks, baring an uncanny resemblance to a pack mule.

Once we actually hit the sand, I set out the umbrella, broke up a fight over the blue bucket, laid out towels, broke up a fight over a yellow shovel, sunscreened three kids (and my shorts and shirt because the nozzle was broken), tried to make Elijah stop eating the sand, set up my beach chair, passed out PB&J to my “starving” children, and finally sat down.  Ten minutes later I was nursing a baby.

My sister showed up with a couple of her friends. And here’s how their beach day went.  They all dropped their half filled tiny beach bags on the sand, laid out their towels, took off their clothes to reveal their skinny stretch-mark-free bodies, and laid down.  The end.

I told my sisiter about my lack of sleep and she said, “Well, at least you get a ‘lounge around’ day today.”

Yah…

I was so envious.  I get envious a lot on family beach days.  I look around at all the younger girls and think back to when I spent whole summers at Laguna Beach with my best friend.  We would get there around noon and literally lounge around until sunset.  It was beautiful.  Not a real care or responsibility in the world.  Those were the days.

As I was thinking of all this on the drive home a verse came to mind, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  It says, “Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I specifically remember memorizing that Bible verse in the back of my Dad’s car during a long drive up to Northern California.  And thank God I did.

The grass is always greener on the other side and I can stand at the fence in the middle and gaze over at that luscious green grass of my sister’s, or I can turn around and be thankful for mine.  Not just be thankful, but rejoice.  Because let’s be honest, I have more than just grass.  I have a whole garden over here!  God has blessed me, indeed.

And not only should I rejoice, but I should be thankful, because this is God’s will for me.  So often we wonder, what is my purpose in life?  Or, am I truly making a difference in the world?  But I can say with confidence that if you’re in God’s will, then you are exactly where you should be.

See, God has this whole plan mapped out and all of us play a part that He has designed, and it may not feel big now, but who knows what the future holds?  Being a mother (or a father for that matter) on a day to day basis feels tedious and sacrificing and unrewarding, but think about it in the long run.  Who are you raising?  Even Billy Graham, Mother Teresa and Bono had a mom, right?  And I guarantee that somehow, their mom shaped their future.  Even though passing out juice, and cleaning up messes, and folding laundry seems so menial, my job is HUGE, and for that I am thankful.

So, my real job?  My real role?  To pray continually.  Because prayer is powerful.  Not only do I pray for these little reminders about how blessed I am (even though beach days are far from relaxing) but I pray for my children.  I pray for their futures and for their todays.  I pray that they see Jesus everyday and grow to be men that desire to make a Kingdom difference.  I pray that I am raising passionate followers of His and men that will stand on the front lines in His name.

So how about you?  Any circumstances that you should be thankful for?  Anything you should be rejoicing about?