Jericho prayers: in progress.

Back in November I made a list of huge, crazy, possible impossible prayers. Looking back at my journal tonight, I found that some of them have been answered. Not that I’m surprised, really, because God is God and He does awesome things. But I did think, Man, wow, He really did hear me! Ummm, you fool. Of course He did. #derp

#1 – That our debt will be paid off & finances released in order to give more to missions and do God’s work more effectively.

A summer research assistantship basically fell into my lap, and the professor heading it up told me that he wasn’t expecting to get the grant money for it at all. Aaron got deployment orders, which secures tax-free income and a bunch of other financial goodies, and I got word that I will be keeping my assistantship into the fall. Making progress!

#2 – That we could be missionaries in the Middle East/North Africa

We went to the World Missions Summit in December and met an amazing couple who serve in Jordan and hit it off with them quite well, actually. Making progress!

#4 (#3 is there, still working on that one!) – That Aaron and I would have an opportunity to travel over there (Middle East) soon.

Aaron’s over there now, deployed. Making progress!

#5 – #9 – Still working on those.

 

So… I guess it’s safe to say that I brought this deployment down from heaven. Hmmm, maybe that’s why I feel so “okay” about it?? I dunno, just thinking out loud here…

I’m posting this as a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and as a reminder to myself that I need to be diligent in praying for these and other “Jericho” prayers. Remember Joshua, and how God told him to march around these ginormous walls and they would eventually come tumbling down? No need to go and fight any dudes.. just march around the city. And it worked! Imagine that.

Imma keep marching.

 

Almost a year

July 8th will be a year since we moved to El Paso. I can’t believe everything that’s transpired in a year….

We rented our first house. It still doesn’t feel 100% like home. Maybe it’s because the furniture doesn’t match, or that the carpet is an awful poop brown color. Maybe we’re just still settling in. I’m glad we decided to not go with an apartment. While I’d prefer to live on the west side or even in NM, this house’ll do for awhile. [[JULY]]

We found Harvest! I love being a part of such a vibrant and diverse body of believers. We found a small group and it’s been a godsend! [[JULY]]

We bought our first car with cash money. Straight up. We ended up owning Aaron’s first car, and we own mine now, but the Honda we have now was our first automobile purchase sans financing. Of course… we have put some cash into it… [[AUGUST]]

We bought our first washer/dryer set, on Craigslist. I love that site. [[AUGUST]]

Our nephew was born! [[OCTOBER]]

We started teaching the junior high students at church. It was tough at first, earning their trust, but we really enjoy this age and our funny conversations with them. [[OCTOBER]]

We ran our first half-marathon.  [[JANUARY]]

We went “home” and spent two whole weeks together with no work. I’m visiting again in September for Megan’s wedding and needless to say I’ve had a hankering for corn fields and thunderstorms! Sometimes I get so homesick it hurts. I know, I know, I said I’d love living far away for once, in a new place. Yes, it’s great, but I have a love/hate relationship with El Paso. One day I’m cursing the heat and dust and the next I’m enamored by the mountains and sunsets. [[FEBRUARY]]

We adopted Missy. She’s taught us patience, perseverance, and unconditional love. She’s a great companion when Aaron’s gone, though a cover-stealer. (Guess I know what it feels like now!) I’m more of a dog person than I ever imagined. [[MARCH]]

We did Bataan. One word: Epic. [[MARCH]]

I’ve worked two different jobs, in two different states. In the four years since I graduated Bradley, I’ve had five jobs. Hellloooooo resume killer. I never would have expected that from myself, but you know what? I’m happy where I’m at now and for once not going crazy perusing school district websites and indeed.com. I haven’t felt that way since Midland. I really loved my job at Tremont, but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be there longer than last summer. [[MARCH/APRIL]]

My littlest sister got married! [[APRIL]]

I started some grad classes. I’m glad I didn’t commit to a full Master’s degree; I’ve learned just from the few weeks I’ve been taking these ESL/linguistics classes that I have no interest in becoming an expert in linguistics. I mean, what purpose does it serve? Sure, I learn some grammar, and stuff, but  how does that really help people? These 12 hours of grad-level courses will be enough for me, I think, and help me in a future career. [[MAY]]

Well, this hasn’t happened yet, but MY BESTIE IS COMING TO VISIT!!!! Yay! My first visitor! My first real chance to show the Midwest that El Paso doesn’t suck (usually)! [[JUNE]]

So…. who knows what this next year will hold? I’ve learned to just let go of any worry about when/if we’ll move somewhere else. It could definitely happen, but no telling when. There are days when I want to get out of here so badly, and others where I wish we could stay until 2016, and some days, beyond that.

I’d say this year has been more good things than bad, for sure. I have to say the best part is the “we…..” 🙂

Staying missions-minded

As time goes on, it’s becoming more and more evident to us that we are being called into missions. “Called” can be a term thrown around in the Christian circles.. but basically what I mean is that we have a very strong inclination and desire to go. Aaron still has four years left in the military. He’s just passed his three-year anniversary. (I know. Seven years. Unfortunately his year of training wasn’t included in his six-year enlistment. Someone screwed up.)

But really, four years isn’t that long. That’s… high school. College. A car loan. Actually, in about three years we’ll need to start formulating a plan for life post-Army. I’m really really excited about that. And nervous. But mainly excited. We both have portable careers (me=teaching, him=computers), and we could take it around the world. We could become Assemblies of God missionaries. We could support missionaries who are already in the field. Who knows?

Where will we go? What will we do? How long will we do it? I have no idea, and I’m thankful, because being the planner I am, I would be going crazy right now.

It’s exciting to me that we will raise our family to be in the world, but not of the world. While we (well, I) wouldn’t mind moving back to Illinois, central or the Chicago suburbs, I don’t think settling down, buying a house, and having a picket fence is what God has in mind. And this isn’t a new development; we’ve felt for most of our nine-year relationship that we’re meant to travel into the world.

It’s encouraging to think that, hey, we won’t really need to buy new furniture, or appliances, or cars, for the next 3-4 years. Our cars now are old, but what’s the sense in buying newer ones if we can make these last? So many people we know are settling down, having children, buying newer and bigger cars for the children they’re having. And as well they should… we’re in our later 20’s now. It’s what happens.

It’s hard to not center my desires around what most everyone else is doing. Then I hear about some distant relatives of mine who are doing various things in Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania…. all over the world, and it makes me want to go somewhere, too, and leave the comfy American lifestyle behind.

I think the military was always in The Plan. I never could have guessed that it would have been. I think it’s preparing us… 1500 miles from home is only a drop in the bucket if we go to Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East. Seven years pales in comparison to a lifetime of serving globally. Trusting God for our personal finances now is small when you think about having to trust God for the finances of an entire non-for-profit, or school, or orphanage. 95 degrees in El Paso is cool compared to 115 in the Middle Eastern desert….

This is big stuff, people.

A life fulfilled.

This morning was great! We ran our first race together, in the same zip code, in the same country! It was the Ft. Bliss Holiday 8K Run on post.

We don’t have official times yet, but Aaron ran around a 40:40 (8:05 mile! SO PROUD) and I ran around a 48:30. My goal for this first race in Texas was 51:00… pretty conservative considering my last 8K was a 46:18. I guess I just didn’t want to be disappointed.

The gun went off. It had the feel of a small hometown race, with about 200 participants. It was cool outside with a crisp breeze. However, when the sun comes out in Texas, it warms things UP! I could have run in shorts and a t-shirt and been fine.

I always try to save energy at the beginning. I looked at my watch and was starting out at a 9:00 mile… WAY too fast. So I ran between a 10:00 and 10:20ish mile throughout until the last mile, and I kicked it into gear. I ended up passing several people I was contending with the whole time; always feels good to do that towards the end of a race! It was a silly fear, but I was worried I’d be towards the end. My slowest split (I have the Garmin set to .5 mi) was at 10:16 pace… sweet!

Aaron met me at the finish line… that was great to see him! So many times I’ve had to call him and give him a report. We recouped for a second, then grabbed Starbucks and headed back to the gym for the awards. I was disappointed that the age groups were so large… there was no way I was gonna get an award when the group is 20-29. Maybe someday….

I feel elated, like I usually do after a great run, an appreciation and an attitude of I. Love. Life.

Despite not having a ton of extra money…

Despite unexpected bills…

Despite not going all-out for Christmas…

Despite not being with family for the holidays…

My life is fulfilled. If you’ve been reading my blog for two seconds you probably know that I’m Christian. Thank you for continuing to read even when you don’t agree with my views or how I got there. I never want to sound preachy; my goal is just to tell the good things God has done and let you take it from there.

I just want to tell you that these past couple months of trusting God for our needs have been some of the most rewarding. We’re seeing things happen, opportunities for relationships arise, and of course, all of our needs met. We are committed to giving sacrificially to missions. I was listening to KLOVE radio the other day (not generally a huge fan of “Christian” radio…) but I heard a song by Matthew West with a line that goes like this:

“I throw a twenty in the plate but never give till it hurts.”

Wow. When I heard that, I didn’t feel conviction but confirmation. We are giving sacrificially, even when it looks like we can’t afford it. Even a lot of Christians will say it’s foolish to do this… what about the bills? Food? Gas? Saving? What about retirement? Saving for kids’ weddings and college tuition?

And I counter that by saying… Have we ever gone without? Have we ever run out of gas? Food? Nope. As far as savings and retirement, we’ll get there.

So… trusting, living to the end of ourselves (physically, financially and spiritually), looking ahead to the future with unbridled anticipation… these are the things that make my life fulfilled.

Just enough

Just enough… like $3.46 in your checking account until payday after all bills and expenses are paid… like older cars that run on prayer and get us places… like just enough patience to get through the end of the work day…

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Last night at church we had a celebration called Taste of the Nations, where the small groups in our church each host a booth of a different country. We make food, handouts for prayer requests and info of the country, dress authentically, and learn common phrases in the language. Our small group was in charge of Libya.

I did not know hardly anything except for the location of the country before we started. Now, I know there are 26 different people groups that have never heard the Gospel. I also know that even if the Assemblies of God (our denomination) had a missionary there, we wouldn’t know because it would put that person in a lot of danger. We learned phrases in Arabic and dressed the part. I was very surprised when several people commented on how I really looked like a Libyan. Aaron and I were even asked if we were missionaries!

We encountered a young couple who have been missionaries in Sudan and now will be leading a Live-Dead team to the Comoros Islands. They have worked under Dick Brogden, a well-known missionary to the Muslim world. Aaron has connections with him through Stone Creek Church back in Champaign/Urbana. We chatted with them for several minutes. They gave us their card and a Live-Dead devotional journal.

It’s no secret that Aaron and I want to go into the mission field. It’s been something we’ve talked about since we started dating, and it’s been confirmed by others. Not necessarily that we will go international, but that God will use us as a team to reach the unreached for Christ.

Recently, I’ve lost sight of that vision. Being together with my husband and living life, however mundane at times, has kept me in a whirlwind of comfort. After his stint in the military, it’d be great to settle down, buy our first house, and start a family. I have these “dreams” for my kids.. that they’ll live in the same house their whole lives, go to the same schools and not have to move around. I “dream” that we’ll finally have a solid emergency fund and cars that aren’t fifteen years old. We’ve even talked about moving back to the Chicago area to be closer to family…

But is that God’s dream for our lives, for our children’s lives? It’s a bit unnerving to think that five years down the road we could be raising funds to go to some remote place to share the Gospel with people who are completely unlike us. Time is short, friends. Jesus could come back at any moment and we need to be ready. As much as I would love to be a stay-at-home mom and live my personal American dream for the next 50+ years of my life, there are dying and lost people out there who have to literally travel 150 miles before they even have a chance of meeting a Christian.

That needs to become a reality in my life. Aaron and I need to continue to cultivate a heart for the lost, and pursue further direction on where we should go and what we should do in 4.5 short years. All our “stuff” doesn’t matter. I think so far we’ve done a good job at not getting too attached to material things. (Check out the link for an awesome blog of a friend of ours!) God has always provided enough. Sometimes, it’s just enough. Our needs are met. Sometimes we’re blessed enough to have excess, and we need to learn how to generously give from that abundance.

We follow a pretty strict budget, but something we haven’t been able to do is save, save, save. Between Aaron coming home for leave from Korea, using our tax return to pay off a loan, and moving and using our travel pay to buy a car, we’ve had slim pickings the past few months. We are thankful for the extra things we get to do, and we have started paying extra on debt again. One of the big reasons we started this whole debt-be-gone ball a-rolling is so we can go into missions with zero, I mean zero, debt.

The truth is that God has equipped us with amazing gifts… every day I am reminded that I don’t teach because it’s what I went to school for; I teach because it’s who I am, my calling. Aaron has an incredible gift with technology, computers, and figuring out technical problems. Imagine how God can use those gifts in a country where they don’t allow declared missionaries, but they do allow teachers and IT guys?

I want wisdom. I want direction. I want a pure heart. I can’t have any of these things until I ask the One who gives all of these things freely… and He’ll give just enough for the need, and more.

I am reminded once again of a quote from A. W. Tozer:

“Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means….All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”

The season of good.

Good things are happening in the W household… Fall is here! And to celebrate, we’ve had temps in the 90’s in the desert. Fall-like, eh? And the leaves turn yellow and just fall off the tree. It has been cooler at night. In fact, I’m using three thin blankets now instead of just the sheet and and one blanket. How did 65 degrees become cold? I digress… Here are a couple pics of our fall decorations.

I put candy corn and a white pillar in the hurricane. I made the leaf coasters from felt.. super easy, and cheap! Gotta love that Pinterest for ideas.

A “Happy Harvest” decoration, a couple pilgrims, pumpkin salt/pepper shakers and leaf garland. I swore we bought more than this when we got married… our collection seems to shrink every year!

Running

As far as running is concerned, I’ve discovered the track at the gym. It’s indoor, and measured weird. 11.3 laps equal one mile. I did some half-mile repeats yesterday without the Garmin and felt really good. Just taking it literally a step at a time. No use in forcing myself to run when I just don’t want to. Staying fit and healthy is the goal here, so whatever exercise gets me there, right?

Work

There’s been some drama at work lately. I’m not a fan of drama, never have been. I try to stay away from it, and sometimes come off as a big jerk. This isn’t personal drama, it’s scheduling drama. I had been offered a promotion, like I said, and so I worked in this new position for a couple weeks. It’s just not my thing, doing administrative tasks, and especially having lots more responsibility for not-so-great pay.  Because I was in the office more, I wasn’t teaching as much. I love teaching and tutoring. That’s why I sought out this job in the first place. (I don’t think I’ll ever be a principal. Ever.)

I talked with my boss on Monday, which went really well. We figured something out to where I’ll be working in the office on Fridays and the rest of the week I’ll be tutoring in the evenings. And, get this, I’ll have most Saturdays off! I have no idea how that transpired, but I’m not gonna complain.

I still would love to find a full-time aide position or something like that. I’ve applied at a few districts, but not getting my hopes up. The job I have now definitely suffices. I love being able to be at home during the day and get things done.

Husband

I love my husband. Seriously. It gets sweeter every day, and I thank God for giving us the strength to get through the distance, because being together is just the best thing ever. The other night he went to bed earlier than usual because he had a migraine. I wanted to go to sleep, too, but just wasn’t tired enough. I stayed up for awhile and then finally headed to bed. It was such a great feeling knowing he was home. Sleeping alone was something that took me awhile to get used to, and now I really try to not take for granted that we’re together.

We work well together around the house. We try not to eat out except for once a week, so during the week I’ll get dinner ready and then he’ll cook it since I don’t get home until two hours after he does. This system works out well. We also both tackle the chores around the house. I’m blessed to have a man who not only knows how to do things around the house, but doesn’t complain about it.

Right now it’s rumored that his unit won’t deploy until the end of next summer. How awesome is that? It could change, of course, but that’s the latest he’s heard from one of his superiors.

Church

Harvest is an awesome church. We love the people… we’ve made some good friends through small group. We officially became members after doing the “mission and values” class. We were approached by one of the pastors who asked us if we’d be interested in teaching the junior high class on Sunday mornings. We would go to first service and then teach in the second. We met with another pastor on Sunday who oversees some of the youth activities and he explained our duties. Basically we’re going to set up a coffee shop feel for discussion, study and prayer for the 7th/8th graders. We have so many resources at our disposal… it’s just crazy. And we have freedom in what we teach, which is great. We’ll start that October 9th.

Around the house

We got a washer and dryer a couple weeks ago for just $150 total! I got them on Craigslist, and the guy and his wife actually brought them over and set them up. I went to Lowe’s to get a hose for the hot water and a vent for the dryer, and wa-la! No more hauling everything to the laundromat.

In the interest of saving money, I asked one of my friends from our old church (sad to say “old church”… boohoo) how she makes her laundry detergent. It’s cheap, mostly all-natural and so easy to make!

Just one batch lasted me almost two months. Granted, we’re only two people, but lots of time we’ll have two outfits per day when we work out. Mix these ingredients (I found both Borax and washing soda at Walmart) and use 1 tbsp per regular load.

Going into fall and winter…

I am so excited about the next few months. About the cooler weather, earlier sunsets. About giving out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters. When we lived in the apartment, we didn’t have kids come and trick-or-treat, so we’re doing it this year since we have a house. There are lots of kids in our neighborhood; I see them walking back and forth to the school down the street all the time.

I’m excited to celebrate our first Thanksgiving at home. We went to my parents and my in-laws’ before for dinner. Last year I had my immediate family over. This year it’ll be the two of us, and hopefully a house full of friends. We’ll see… lots of people already have  plans.

And there’s the Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving Parade.

This Christmas we’ll get to celebrate at home. Not sure where we’ll get a real tree (that’s something the husband insists on…). I suggested decorating a cactus, but he wasn’t too keen on that.

While it’d be great to be able to go back to Illinois and celebrate the holidays with family, it’s nice to just be at our home and celebrate together. After all, the two of us do form our family for right now.

 

El Paso

Aaron mentioned the other night that El Paso is starting to grow on him. I have to agree, and it surprises me. Most likely, we’ll be here for about three years. I’d actually love it if we were here through the end of his enlistment (4.5 years left). We’ve joked around about settling here, but I’m not quite sure about that possibility. I admit, there’s something about Texas in general that draws me in. With his job prospects in the civilian world, we could live in a number of different places. Guess we’ll see what’s in store for us…

>Our insecurities, magnified

>

I was thinking about this since I read a blog similar to it at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and since we had a rough morning at worship practice before church this morning.
Our insecurities don’t just disappear when we begin to get involved in ministry. In fact, our shortcomings can be magnified. That’s what the enemy wants.. for us to feel guilty, bitter, remorseful, and become so ineffective for the Kingdom. Who cares if we actually fall away from church… if we are lukewarm, we might as well have fallen away in my opinion.
My biggest strengths in ministry, and in life for that matter, are also my biggest weaknesses. I’ve been a musician for almost twenty years of my life. Piano lessons, guitar lessons, band, choir, worship bands.. you name it. I love being in a band, and having the freedom to go crazy on the keys. I love worship with all of my heart, and it’s brought me to my knees sometimes.
However, along with my passion, comes my critical side. Even on Sundays when I’m just out in the congregation worshipping, I listen to every little thing and quirk in the sound mix or whatever and it almost prevents me from taking hold of those awesome moments in God’s presence. Like I said, it’s what the enemy wants.
He wants me to become so critical and have such a condescending attitude that I will be rendered ineffective. Sure, I’ll play and sing with grace and feel something during worship.. but I’ll only be giving 5%.
So, I admit, I had a poor attitude this morning. Why can’t they play that right? Why can’t everyone be on time? Why why why.. blah blah blah. And guess what? I had my own humbling experience when I forgot what song we were playing after communion and Patrick had to tell me what it was. Embarrassing, yes. Without grace and precision, yes.
As I sat there at the keyboard staring at the keys in utter embarrassment (because you know, I never make mistakes.. ha!) I started to feel this bitter and self-deprecating attitude come over me. Then I realized that I’ve been through much more embarrassing things. I was not about to let the biggest joy of my life (besides being married, of course) be stolen from me in that moment!
Who cares what anyone else thinks? I made a mistake. I’m quite entitled, since I’m human. It’s inevitable. But it’s done, over with, and I have some worship to do.
In the past I would have let that one moment of confusion let me down for the rest of the morning. I still had another service to play through, and heck if I was going to waste it.
Part of maturity is recognizing and admitting to our shortcomings. Another part is realizing how detrimental living out our shortcomings can be to the Church. If I were to sit there and not engage in worship because of one little mistake that people won’t even remember in half an hour (we hope!), then I’m allowing myself to become rendered ineffective as a leader for that moment.
Of course, this little life lesson went right along with what Pastor Rick was preaching about… relating to people.
Hebrews 2:17-18: For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be made human in order to be relevant. How would it be if Jesus came in all His deserved glory, ruling over the earth with a spotless white silk robe and golden scepter? What if He were sitting on a throne, with thousands of servants obeying His every command? Because He’s God, He could have done that.
But He didn’t. He worked manual labor as a carpenter for almost twenty years before even beginning His ministry. He dealt with all temptations that we have, and was successful in overcoming them.
Sometimes we have to go through our manual labor for a long time before we’re ready to totally, 100%, embrace our calling. It’s hard at the time, but there is a great reward for our patience and diligence. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) 
Be prayerful and diligent in whatever ministry you are a part of… be faithful to the needs of that ministry and pray for its members as well. The Lord uses all things for good… maybe not good in our eyes. We deal with all our insecurities for a reason. I love what A.W. Tozer said,
All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”