Tuesday, September 30, 2014

USA, here we come...

I have to admit that I feel in recent years, miraculously, I haven't experienced a great deal of culture shock. It's strange, because we went from having a home in Ithaca, NY in July of 2011 to being 'homeless' a month later in August. We traveled from NY to CT to IL to WI to MN to ND, raising funds to serve in Ecuador, all the while having no home. Kaia was born in Elgin, IL in February 2012, while we were staying in an apartment in our missions headquarters. We drove back east eventually and looped back to MN, flying from Minneapolis to San José, Costa Rica in April of 2012.
We spent 2 weeks in Seattle 4 months later in August 2012 with my parents, between semesters at the language school in Coast Rica. After 'graduating' from language school, we flew straight from Costa Rica to Ecuador. This past April our son, Espen, was born here. We've been living in Ecuador since December 2012, and have only returned to the US once for 10 days to be with family in Wisconsin this past July.

That's a lot of change over the course of three years. Lots of different cultural experiences, different places to call 'home' (or not call home) and yet I've not experienced a ton of culture shock-- from what I can recognize, anyway.

On Wednesday of this week-- tomorrow -- we will get on a plane that will take us back to the US for three months. That's a long time. In some ways it sounds really long, and in other ways it's a drop in the bucket. But once again, we'll be 'homeless.' We'll be doing lots of traveling. And for Kaia especially, it will be a big cultural adjustment.

What I've been building up to is that I'm beginning to feel it. I really should say that I am feeling it. To be completely honest, I'm feeling the pressure of what's to come and I have so many different feelings, thoughts, pressures, and emotions running around inside of me. 

Don't get me wrong-- I'm incredibly excited to see friends and family members that we haven't seen in years. I'm excited to eat a good steak, have a great cup of coffee, and visit some of those old places we used to love going to when we lived in these different towns. But we're not the same people that left the US in 2012. We're not 'coming back' to a 'home.' We're passing through. We're traveling between many, many locations. And the culture we left is not our 'norm' anymore. We call Ecuador home. 

So it's this crazy blending of feelings. Excitement to see people and be with those we love. Feeling the weight of knowing that our kids will be out of their element and normal routine and may have great difficulty sleeping and adjusting to the pace of life into which they're about to be thrust. Sadness knowing there simply won't be enough time to spend with everyone and at times we won't walk away feeling 'satisfied' by how much time we were able to visit and connect. Happiness about getting to attend the churches we've gone to over the years. Stress over knowing the amount of coordinating and planning that still has to be done to make sure we can see all the people and go to all of the places we would like to. Joy knowing that God will be with us. Fear knowing that we might get sick, tired, and/or exhausted from our intense traveling schedule.

Maybe you get a glimpse-- maybe not. I guess my desire is simply to be real and let those of you who are interested in actually reading something like this, know that it's not a neatly packaged little existence we're living-- nor that we're stepping into. There are a lot of emotions and feelings going on in our household these days. And though we really, truly, genuinely are excited to be going to the US-- it's more complicated than that. All that, and the fact that I've sunk countless hours into a website for our ministry over the past weeks that crashed 2 nights ago... and I have no clue how to fix it.

So, would you pray for us? Pray for God's peace, for provision, and contentment with what this time ends up looking like.

Thanks for walking with us.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Olympics: Dedication

The Olympics have never been something that have gotten me really excited.

      I think they’re great-- don’t get me wrong-- it’s just that I know some people who get so pumped to watch the Olympics, and I don’t quite relate. That being said, I’ve watched a ton of events with Suzy this year-- probably more than I ever have before-- and it has been quite enjoyable.

      While listening to some of the stories of the Olympians, it struck me how much dedication and practice they devote to becoming the best at what they do. These athletes spend 4 years training. Some spend 8... 12... 16 years, if they decide to keep coming back; like Bode Miller who just won a metal in his fifth Olympics (his first being in 1998). But let’s stick with the idea of 4 years. Think about that decision: I will dedicate the next 4 years to train my body and discipline myself to become the absolute best at what I do. And if I succeed, I will get a small, round piece of metal and stand on top of a box for a few minutes on tv. Okay... I’ll admit that there is some world fame that goes with it and other perks, too.

      Something about that dedication strikes me. Every decision that you make for 4 years influenced by that one goal... wow. I guess the sad thing for me is that the whole pursuit is so ‘self’ focused. In the end the goal is self-promotion and fame in the eyes of man. It certainly is an accomplishment... but what if the goal wasn’t self-focused?

      What if all of that focus and energy and dedication was put towards expanding the Kingdom of God and bringing fame and glory to His name? I guess the parallel is easy for me to see, being that I’m in ministry. But this question is healthy to ask for those of us in ministry and for those who are not: Is every decision that I make influenced by the goal of bringing glory to His name?

      Whether you’re in formal ministry, serving/volunteering in a church, or someone who wants to dedicate the next 4... 8... 12... 16... or 60 years to expanding the Kingdom; can we live with that same dedication as Olympic Athletes? With their passion? Drive? Our goal is so much more worthy; our results more eternal; our impact more lasting; and our motivation more inspiring. Our motivation is not simply the same old ‘overcoming the odds of a small town in middle-of-nowhere america’ ... our motivation is that our Creator carried a cross to the top of a hill and gave His all for us: and we’re sinners! Shouldn’t that be inspiring enough for us to be willing to give at the very least four years of our lives dedicated to Him to expand His Kingdom?

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:19 - 21