Monday, August 26, 2013

What I've Learned on the Road - Guest Post by my Daughter Emily

Today's post is my first Guest Post.  My 17-year-old daughter Emily journaled some of her thoughts about our four months on the road and it's just too good not to share with the world! 

From My Emily:
I haven’t written much about our trip.
Mostly because I’ve been living, in a richer and scarier way than ever before.

Not knowing where I’m going to be living next week is scary. Not knowing what might happen in the next three days is scary. Not knowing my surroundings is scary. Not knowing if my cell phone and wifi will work at my next temporary home is scary. Knowing I won’t hug my best friends for at least six months is scary. Knowing I won’t have a house when I enter the Lone Star State is scary.

I’ve traded those securities for a life full of things I will probably never get a chance to do or see again.

I have jumped in the current of a lake carved by lava thousands of years ago in Firehole Canyon, Wyoming.  I have climbed a mountain (albeit it was a small one, but still!!). I have stood by with huge eyes as a buffalo walked five feet in front of me in Montana.

I have seen purple lightning strike right next to a vivid rainbow in Wyoming's blood-red sky. I have laughed until I cried under the stars of Tennessee with my brother. I have seen an arm of the Milky Way in Wisconsin. I have seen the sun rise over Lake Michigan and swam in its freezing embrace. I have seen mud bubbling out of the earth’s belly and Old Faithful bursting out in astonishing glory in Yellowstone Park. Zip-lined through the Indiana woods, six feet off the ground as branches whipped my legs. 

I have walked through the Creation Museum’s startlingly lifelike version of Eden, a place I have longed for and wondered about my entire life. Hiked through the wooded hills of Indiana. Watched the Nolichucky river rapids sweep over boulders like a crashing, mad stampede. Seen glaciers for the very first time in Montana. Slept under shooting stars in Washington. Bogged for crawdads in Montana. Ate at the original KFC. Stepped into Texan dinosaur footprints that dwarfed my size-10 foot. Seen moonlight shining through Arkansas’ fog. Eaten sweet wild mulberries right off a tree in both Indiana and Tennesee. 
Walked over ground that Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my heroes, regularly treaded on in De Smet, South Dakota. Screamed on roller coasters I was dragged on at the Mall of America. Ridden a horse (without assistance!) through a Tennessee wood. Driven just feet from the edge of a cliff in Glacier Park. Sat stone-still in the van as huge bighorn sheep rushed past us in the parking lot.

I’ve learned:

·         that you never drink out of still water. Pick clear, quickly-moving water.
·         that purification and lavender oil smell really good combined
·         I don’t *need* Starbucks every week (now it’s much more of a treat than it ever was!)
·         what reasonable propane costs are
·         how to assemble a campground in less than a half hour

that apples and avocados ripen each other very quickly
·         fig bars go amazingly well with coffee
·         hot showers are a luxury and not a necessity
     how to elevate a camper
·         how to set up five beds in ten minutes
·         you don’t have to have a silent environment to write or work
          you don’t NEED to download the new Skillet album the DAY it comes out
·         baking soda and lavender draw out infection
·         how to wash a full dishload by hand in 20 minutes (paper plates are my best friend!)
·          and many, many other little tips and tricks I never would have had to learn outside of my current lifestyle.


 Not to mention the household things I’ve learned. I’ve been using a lot of essential oils, which are now my go-to medicines: mint really helps headaches and girl cramps and PanAway helps with stressed or strained muscles and knots! I’ve learned how to cook large meals on a foot-wide stove or over a fire. When Mom was gone in China for a week, I got a taste of what she goes through every day of her life. 

I think the most difficult things for me to master have all been internal. I never thought of myself as selfish, materialistic, or vain, but when we moved into my moving home, my supposed good virtues got a prompt smack in the face. Learning to get along with ten other people in limited space has required a lot of dying to self, patience, and biting my tongue till it hurts, even if I’m 99% sure I’m right. Letting go of most of my earthly possessions was harder than I thought, but four months later, I’m starting to forget I actually have more stuff in storage (most of which will probably be given away!) Having just a few feet to primp and preen has been embarrassingly rough, actually. I used to spend an excessive amount of time on how I looked, curling or straightening my hair or painting eyeliner wings. Getting over having noisy bunk mates is still being mastered, but I’ve found wearing a smile and staying quiet is in the best interest for everyone.

Being cautious and careful with money is a new thing for me. Sure, I might have watched my account back home, but I also had three jobs that ensured I would always be comfortably topped off. Now, most of my money is either for things I actually NEED or an occasional treat. Imagine that!!

I feel as if I was in a comfortable, safe dream, and then was whisked away to a foreign and frightening world that was all the same beautiful and breathtaking, a world that very suddenly ripped off dross and revealed gorgeous gold beneath, however painful it was.
I’m still in the refiner’s fire and am still learning every day, like my brother learning how to walk. My legs are shaky and nervous, but I want to see what else is out there, and walk into the rest of God’s world I haven’t yet laid eyes on. 

Emily, I'm so proud of you.  I'm proud of the way you think of others. I'm proud of the way you have embraced change.  I'm proud of the way you have chosen to see things through new eyes when you could have just chosen to bide your time until we got home.  I'm proud of the growth and maturity I see in you.  Phil 1:6 makes me think of you, "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to carry it on to completion in Christ Jesus."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stories from China - Bejing

Choosing to SEE... The Great Wall.

The day we went touring in Bejing for the "Barely-Scratch-the-Surface-of-Bejing-Tour" was the most overcast, rainy day of our trip.

We got these fashionable, functional, but most of all FUN rain ponchos to keep us dry.  I requested blue so I could keep the BLUEBERRY theme going from our trip to Clingman's Dome. << read about it there.
The Rainbow Gals! 

Some of our team members who had previously been to The Great Wall were quite disappointed with the view or lack thereof, but I kept reiterating that the important part of the journey was the fact that we were there, not so much the view, but the experience of being on THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA! 

Since I've been home I looked up the section of The Wall that we toured online. 

The Day We Were There
What We Would Have
Seen on a Sunny Day
Foggy Day

Sunny Day

We chose to have a great day at The Great Wall.  It was rainy, wet, and humid and we loved it because we chose to. Choosing our emotions instead of being controlled by them is a life skill I have yet to master, but constantly practice. It's something I try to teach my children.  I know this skill is necessary, not primarily for dealing with rainy days, but dealing with cruel, harsh, and relentless realities of life. 

What do you CHOOSE to SEE?  

"Choosing to SEE, A Journey of Struggle and Hope" is the title of Mary Beth Chapman's book which came about from very painful experiences of her life which led to the amazing ministry of Maria's Big House of Hope . An excellent article about the writing of the book and a review of it can be read here.  If you've not read it, I highly recommend it.  

We all choose every single day.  

I'm reminded of God's Word which encourages us in our afflictions: 

II Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Though outwardly we are wasting away, 
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles 
are achieving for us an eternal glory 
that far outweighs them all. 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, 
but on what is unseen, 
since what is seen is temporary, 
but what is unseen is eternal.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why, Oh Why, Oh Why Do I Worry?

Three years ago today our family was blessed beyond measure with a little girl. 

Lily Anne Hope

Happy, happy birthday precious girl!

Lily Anne’s name comes from Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field, they do not labor or spin, yet not even Solomon in all his splendor is dressed as one of these.  If God cares for them, how much more does he care for you?  When, oh when, will I learn this lesson?

Four weeks before Lily Anne was born my husband suddenly and unexpectedly lost his job.  It was simultaneously the best and worst of times.  Since our health insurance was ending THAT DAY I decided I wanted to eliminate one of the unknowns in our life and find out if our baby was a boy or a girl.  So we all trekked down to the sonographers office, crammed into the tiny room, and watched what I always think looks like creamer being mixed into coffee on the little screen.  After several uh-huhs and oks and hmms the sonographer smiled and called over our youngest child to let her give the announcement.  We were having another GIRL! 

We were all very excited.  My big girls organized a baby shower for me at our friend Fiona’s and we put our faith in action trusting the Lord to provide for our family and this new baby.

At the next midwife appointment we got another opportunity to put our faith in action. The insurance plan we used was to pay fifty percent of the midwife’s fee and we would pay the rest.  We had paid our portion already but since we had lost our insurance the practitioner demanded full payment in the next three weeks, before the birth of our baby.  I broke down in tears. There was no way that was possible.  My dear husband took that bull by the horns, made the necessary calls, and found a gracious, wonderful midwife who would take payments for an agreed upon amount to attend my birth and provide the rest of the prenatal care I needed.  I have never loved that man more than I did that day!

God more than provided during that season through family and friends, His Church with skin on.  Things were tight, but we never went without. 

God called me trust Him again when I went to China leaving my nine children and husband behind for nine days.  Guess what?! Surprise, surprise God took care of them and me.

God is calling us to trust Him again.  I can trust Him. I. WILL. TRUST. HIM!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Absorbing God's Creation

The last week has been a whirlwind of beauty.  Driving through the Big Horn Mountains in South Dakota and the Rockies in Wyoming, we have seen more amazing evidence of a Creator and of the Flood than ever!  The rock formations alone are breathtaking, but then you add in the rivers, waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs and it is too much to even take in.  Of course the pictures don't do it justice, but I'll share them anyway! 

We almost got to see some hang gliding, but the wind wouldn't cooperate. (Wahhhhh!)

And these rock formations were powerful and gorgeous.

And don't forget the geysers at Yellowstone!

And the wildlife!

It's truly gorgeous here.   We have loved every minute of it!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Our Day, a Poem

Tire blown
Flames lapping
Extinguisher working
Trailer unhooked

Maps consulted
U-turn made
Supplies sought
Road traveled

Businesses called
Supplies found!
Lunch consumed
Waterfall viewed 
Canyon traversed

Gas-tank filled
Boots purchased
Cash withdrawn
Assistance arrived

Repair ensued
Wheel fixed
Van towing
Wyoming entered

Mountains crossed
Sky darkens
Lightning flashes
Hail pounds

Rain falls
Sun peeks
Rainbow explodes 
Darkness recedes
Light shines.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back Home from China.. Without My Heart.

I left it there.

At least a large chunk of it.

I have hesitated to write because black and white words on a page seem so inadequate to capture the work God began and continues in me on this trip to China. But I want to share and give thanks for the work God has done.

In China, I had to pinch myself several times to realize I really was in China.  Surreal was the word that I kept using over and over again.

I was really there, in that big, blue house! 

As we toured that first afternoon we peeked into colorful rooms with Nannies all dressed in dark slacks, black cloth slippers, and red button up shirts holding up babies, waving their little hands at us. Room after room filled with little souls beckoned.  As soon as we heard the house rules we were turned loose to play with the kids. The thing we had eagerly anticipated was finally granted.

As I entered that first room, however, it wasn't the playtime I had envisioned.  I expected that the babies would be delighted to be held by strangers, (Yes, I am a mother to nine, but apparently reality was suspended in my mind regarding this) the nannies would be thrilled to have extra hands, and the playtime would be smooth and joyful.

While it was joyful, it was in a  way that I did not expect.  As I comforted a feverish, obviously sick, little one with a malformed head. And rocked another sick little guy, my mind raced.

Is it wrong to want to hold the cute ones?

God, you made each of these little ones, you see them and love them, yet they are not healed.

How can I ever communicate the depth of need that is here to those back home?

And the starkest reality of all.  Maria's Big House Of Hope is still an orphanage.

Although I was tempted to despair, the joy previously mentioned found me in the laugh of the little man I tickled with Down Syndrome who had the happiest disposition despite his situation. It was in the soft snuggle and the sweet giggle of my Emee a six month old precious girl I bounced on my lap and lifted over my head to fly through the air.  Joy and hope were found in the midst of great suffering and pain. Sorrow and suffering mingled together with joy and hope as gasping breaths and giggles of delight occurred side by side in the beautiful mess that was my experience at Maria's.

Being at Maria's Big House of Hope stirred my heart in all kinds of ways.  It was the best, hardest, most painful and delightful place God allowed me to SEE.

I still don't know the full extent of what God is doing or why He sent me to the other side of the planet to love on these sweet, precious, amazing little souls who have survived and even thrived against all odds.  This work is His and it's messy and mysterious, beautiful and formidable.