In Sickness and, Occasionally, Health. The Family Vow

By Thursday, November 21, 2013 0 0

first bandaid. #susannajane

Growing up I’ve always been a pretty healthy person. I never got sick very often and when I did it was usually a cold that was gone in a couple of days. That was the case for me when I moved out of my parents house and when I got married as well.

I married a woman who doesn’t get sick that often either. When she does, she chooses to pretend she is not and move through life as though nothing is wrong. “Shhh! I’m sick but if I keep doing what I always do my body won’t realize it.” I don’t think it really works that way for her, but she is a tough cookie so she is able to fight through pretty well.

When we starting having kids we were amazed that for a while nothing changed with regard to being sick that often. Susanna had a bunch of colds, but she didn’t share and removing dairy from her diet helped her constantly runny nose. Then she turned two. Apparently that is like hitting the expiration date on packaged food because magically she started getting sick with stuff that can be transferred to us simply by sharing the same last name. Our family has now struggled with having bit of illness in our house at all times. Noses are always a little runny. Sinuses and ears are plugged at various times. Coughing is heard regularly.

Post-nap. #susannajane

Not that we are never in good health but the spaces of everyone being totally healthy are fairly small and very exciting to us now. It’s like a warm sunny day in Seattle. When it finally shows up we just want to put on shorts and run around outside the entire day because we know it might be the only day we have.

As I type this I am taking an antibiotic for a small sinus and ear infection that started from a cold I caught from my oldest petri dish……er……child. I’ve had this hanging around on me for about two weeks now and for a while it made it tough to work on some of my pre-field activities. After all what pastor wants to get a call from someone saying “I wud do speak at your chuch subtime. Cad we set that ub? I’b a missionary to Sbain. SNORT!!”

I’m finally back to feeling like I can accomplish things again and I’m also getting used to the fact that the early years of parenthood is something akin to living in the ward for infectious diseases. While our kids must be taught to share their toys and belongings with each other and friends they will readily share colds, flu’s, and the occasional bout of Bubonic Plague.

So as I prepare to be healthy again soon I also know that most likely in the next month or so I will be in line to catch a bout of Dengue Fever or Ebola from one of my kids because I just can’t keep from hugging, kissing, and generally being with my kids.

I’m sure there are other parents out there who can relate to this situation and for them I offer this ending quote.

“It is no longer a question of staying healthy. It’s a question of finding a sickness you like.” -Jackie Mason

God bless all of the pre-field parents out there and their kids. We pray that God uses you all in a big way.

Daddy stopped working

By Monday, November 4, 2013 0 0

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My oldest child, my daughter Susanna, is only two years old. There are many things that she doesn’t understand in life yet, like how to use a potty and what the word “no” means when it isn’t leaving her mouth. On the other hand, there are things that she understands surprisingly well.

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I came home from work last week and was putting my girl down for a nap and she proceeded to tell me that she saw a horse. I know this was true because our wonderful friend Janine has a horse and invited Rose and the kids to see him and ride him. “That’s great,” I said to my girl. She followed this up with “He eats hay!” I responded with the obligatory “That’s right!” that a parent uses when their child has just stated the obvious. She then stated “I pet him!” and I responded, “Wow!” She laid her head on her pillow, and just as I was about to tell her to have a good nap, her head popped back up and she said very decisively, “I want pony.”

11-1-13 Susanna and Joe

As I said, some things she understands very well, like what she wants and what to call a baby horse. She doesn’t, however, understand finances. Or that we don’t have room in our condo for a horse.

Pre-field allows me much more family time. To a two year old, this appears to be me no longer having a job. Anything being done on a computer at home appears to be nothing more than playing games and looking at pictures. I know this is what she thinks because while I try to look over our new insurance information for ABWE she says “I want to see pictures” or “play counting game.”

The other thing is that I am at home more often which certainly means I can play with her all the time now. After all, when daddy is working, he leaves the house. No matter how many times I might say “I need to work on this, Honey,” it will be met with “Daddy play with play-doh.”

So here I am at a coffee shop. I am now on pre-field full time. I am working on adjusting our family to a new fashion of income and insurance. I’m making sure that I am starting to get contacts lined up. I’m working on a presentation for this Wednesday for the AWANA kids at our church. I’m running my mind over the myriad things that I need to learn and trying to remember that God’s word tells me not to worry about a thing because God, in all of his goodness and love, certainly knows how to take care of us.

I know that my work day simply looks different now. It is less “work” and more serving. Serving God. Serving people. Serving my family.

So Susanna…

Daddy stopped working.

He started serving.

Let me show you how you and your brother can serve with me.

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5 Reasons We Keep Our Kids In Church

By Monday, October 28, 2013 6 0

This is how Susanna “sits” in church. See how still and calm she is?

Parenthood brings out the soul-searcher in everyone. Over the last year, we have done a lot of praying, reading and thinking about what God wants for families and how he uses them to accomplish his purposes. We’ve discovered that families are probably the most important vessel for carrying God’s word to the lost. To that end, we want our family to look as much like Christ as possible, and how we worship God as a family is a key part of that. Below, I’ve outlined 5 reasons we keep our kids in church with us, as opposed to sending them to their own class during the worship service. It’s counter-cultural, but we believe it’s the right thing for our family and what God has called us to do. I want to make very clear that I appreciate people who serve children in children’s church a great deal and we don’t want to offend anyone. In different circumstances, we might have made different choices. We are often guests in churches where we are speaking as we raise support, and at our home church, Susanna and Austin are usually the only kids their age. Those aren’t reasons to keep our kids with us, but they do make it easier.

1. There is no other Biblical model. From Deuteronomy (see Deuteronomy 31:12-13) to Ephesians, God’s people have always gathered to worship Him with children present. Jesus invited the little children (some say the word in Matthew 19:13-15 can be translated infants) to come to him. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians included instructions specifically for the children he knew would be in attendance when the letter was read before the assembly (see Ephesians 6:1-4).

2. We want our children to know that they are to be tailored for the Church; church is not tailored for them. As Susanna and Austin grow up, I want them to be as aware as possible how they can serve God’s people in church. I want them to belong to a church in order to best serve their community, not to hear messages that make them feel good or fit their season of life. In order to see the needs of the church, my children need to be in church, where some needs are shared and prayed for, where money is collected to be used to serve others, and where needy people gather. When we send them to children’s church, we’re sending the message that we’ve created church for them. I think this will be detrimental later. At worst, they’ll walk away from “irrevelant” church. At best, they’ll seek a church full of people their own age and miss out on the multi-generational community God designed church to be.

3. The Bible teaches that the primary role of parents is to disciple their children. Teaching my children to worship God is the most important element of discipling my children. Although I know that our children’s church teachers love my kids and want to see them grow up to know and love Jesus (and they do teach them to that end), I have to take full responsibility for this part of discipleship through hands-on training in the main service. It’s going to take a long, long time, with many years where the children might not learn a single thing except that Mama and Daddy get really mad when they make too much noise. But my prayer is that as they see us, as well as older folks, worshiping, tithing, praying, learning and taking communion, and over the years it will come naturally to them to do the same.

4. It’s sanctifying for us too. It isn’t easy to keep little ones in the service. It would be much easier to drop them off and enjoy the time to ourselves. But is church supposed to be “time to myself?” Every week, I have to practice self-control and model appropriate church behavior for my kids. This means I don’t look at my phone (I do try to bring my book Bible, but the Bible app is an exception to this rule), I don’t forget to tithe, I take notes, I sing a joyful song to the Lord, I greet others “with a holy kiss” (I take this to mean with genuine care and concern, since we’re on kiss-free turf in America), and, later in the week, I apply the word I receive from God to my life. That’s where the rubber meets the road on number 3 as well: my kids hear the same message I do and then they watch me obey (or disobey) God on a daily basis.

5. It takes the pressure off. This reason is sort of a hodge podge of a bunch of different reasons we like family-integrated church (where the kids stay in the main service). There’s no pressure for others to teach my kids about Jesus during a specific time slot. The teaching just happens as my kids interact with people who have a gift. I never want anyone to think we don’t appreciate the work children’s leaders do or the gifts they have for working with kids. I want to create a space where that happens organically, out of relationships we have with people from all stages of life.

Less pressure for the church to provide childcare; not to mention all the logistics that come with that: background checks, schedules, appropriate rooms, allergen-free snacks, diaper changers (or ways to communicate the need for a diaper change), curriculum, communication with parents, etc.

Less pressure on visitors to send their kids to strange places with strange people. For a Christian, it might be strange NOT to send one’s child to children’s church during the main service. But my concern regarding visitors is mainly how a non-Christian might feel, and I imagine it feels better to know that kids are welcome in the main service.

Less pressure on kids to do anything to be acceptable to God. They are welcome to worship with everyone in the body of Christ. This means we have to accept the way they worship, but I think this is valuable to the church, much like including our disabled brothers and sisters.

Resources on family-integrated ministry that have influenced our thinking:

 

Do it all in love.

By Wednesday, August 7, 2013 0 0

Yesterday I shared a brief overview of EMC. Today I get a little more personal.

One of the poignant lessons for me was the reminder that we must be doing all things in love. I tried to keep that at the forefront of my mind as I soaked up the details of church planting strategy. Right now, 3,000 miles away and with our vision for Spain constantly on our hearts and tongues, that feels easy.

You know when love is not easy?

When your brain is about to explode with information and spiritual thoughts from a day’s worth of training but you can’t sit and discuss over coffee with your spouse because you have to pick up a sick, hungry toddler from the nursery, feed her at a restaurant and drain her energy before you all go to bed at the same time, which is too early for you, too late for her, in the same hotel room. When your very pregnant body is more tired than your brain and you still have to cuddle the toddler, who’s never spent so many hours away from you each day.

We found it difficult to connect, as a couple, while we were away at training. The enemy doesn’t have to work hard to create stress when your week of spiritual work is book-ended by five hour flights with a lively little girl who really only sleeps in her bed and likes to break crayons, not color with them. Did I mention the time change? How about the ER visit the morning we flew home?

But we prayed, we depended on God, we tried to set aside selfishness and be helpful to one another, and God answered our prayers. The time change meant Susanna slept in a little each morning. She napped on campus perfectly and adored her teachers, a local pastor and his wife plus some teens from their church and a fellow missionary. We found time with the Lord on our breaks, or in bed with the light of our smart phones. And we helped each other. I’d like to say, especially, that Chris helped me. I have been experiencing severe back pain and the week away was challenging.

And then when I returned I found this blog by Lisa-Jo Baker about real love, “When You Think Your Love Story is Boring.” What a love story we are so privileged to live!

If you prayed for us this week, please know that your prayers worked. We felt them. Susanna’s sleep, our training, surviving the week in the hotel, the finances… it all went according to God’s plan and we are so grateful for your faithfulness to us.

We often feel like slow, bumbling, unqualified, missionaries-in-training (-who-will-never-graduate). Your support is invaluable to us.

Susanna Jane Is Two Years Old

Click the photo to see it larger.

On June 30, we celebrated two years of being Susanna’s parents. We were flying home from Mexico, where we had celebrated with my family on the vacation of our dreams. Susanna got to play in the sand, swim in the ocean, splash in the pool, and spend time with her great grandparents, great great uncle Colya, uncle Mike and cousins Connor and Kyle.

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Susanna with Gramma Great and Great Uncle Colya in the background.

The weekend after we got home, we hosted a Blue Balloon Birthday Party. When I planned the party and designed the invitations (and the banner, labels and favors!), the only color Susanna knew was blue, and she absolutely adored balloons. She also looks so good in blue, with her blond hair, blue eyes, and pink skin.

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Susanna discovering her balloon cake

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Beautiful in blue

You can see the photos from her two year photo shoot (Thanks McG Photography!) here.

It is such a joy to be Susanna’s parents. We find the toddler years so much more fun than the baby years, especially as we get to know our little lady’s personality. She loves babies and is sweet and gentle when she sees them, so we know she will be a great big sister to Austin when he comes along in September.