Family

Time Passes On...

Celebrating Nancy's birthday today, another year gone by.  It isn't a major milestone, but once again, I'm reminded of the swiftness of time and the need to savor the moment.  Too often I find myself flying through a day, never stopping to look around and fix the memory of the moment.

Nancy is a fantastic cook, a chef extraordinaire.  She makes incredible meals nearly every day, simple meals of rich flavors.  Yet I must confess, most times I eat the meal too fast, without slowing down the savor the nuances of flavors.

Like life.

I've had a lot of reminders this week.
    Our German Shepherd, Britta died on Wednesday.
    My sister-in-law's mother passed away.
    Another birthday.
    Three daughters that are growing so fast that we need to plan toward college.

I believe the challenge of life is to remember the gift of time that God gives each of us.  Yes, we are eternal beings, created in the image of God, forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus, and led and guided by the Holy Spirit.  But we are blessed with people around us, friends, family, and yes, even pets! 

Enjoy today.  In a few hours, it will no longer exist.


Good Day

As we spend this year in the US, my life is one of constant motion.  My responsibilities are predominantly speaking, traveling from church to church, group to group, lunch to lunch.  I'm here to

REPORT on what God has been doing, sharing about the past 9 years. 
I am here to RAISE funds for the future, both the $4500 we need each month to support Freedom Home plus the variety of church projects we are working on. 
And I am also trying to RECONNECT with all my friends and family.  We feel the relational stretch from being gone from so many activities: weddings, birthdays, reunions. 

So services are wonderful.  Some are just OK.

But yesterday was a special day.  Not because of the location, though I thoroughly enjoyed the church in Austin.  Dave Simerson and the crew there have a wonderful church, and I enjoyed both services as well as lunch with friends. 

But it was special because Natalie came with me!  Every once in awhile, one of the girls sacrifices their chance for youth group and "their" church to come with me, listening to my stories for the 1000 time.  We had a great time...talking about salaries, vets, working at Coldstone (after we stopped for our afternoon treat), friends, Moldova, and music. 

I am not a missionary with a family.  We are five missionaries, each knowing that Moldova is where God has us for this moment of time.  We love the work, love the churches, and especially love the girls at Freedom Home. 

Thanks, Natalie, for being such a great daughter.

 


Christmas

I am enjoying a few days with the family.  One of the best things of Moldova is that life almost shuts down from December 25 until January 7.  Obviously the first date is western Christmas, and the second date is Orthodox Christmas.  Our national church office is closed for those two weeks, and you can get nothing accomplished in any government office. 

We even have all the girls from the Freedom Home away in different villages.  They are celebrating the holidays with families in different churches, a great way to stretch their wings and make some loving relationships.

And my girls are getting some well-deserved attention from both of their parents, a week with some quality family time.  We are spending time together, working on end-of-year cleaning projects, house tasks, reading, and relaxing.  It is nice to get to all of those jobs that are put off to the side due to other priorities!

So if you don't hear much from me over the next week, you now know why.  I'm either cleaning my office, reading my Kindle, or challening my girls to another great game of Ticket to Ride.

You can see a few photos below from when we started off the season, with our FIRST Christmas celebration.

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Thanksgiving

I've always said that the difference between a BIG problem and a SMALL problem is the pronoun.  MY problems are always the most important, and YOUR problems are not quite so big!  

That really is how most of us live our lives.  When a tragedy happens in our life, or in our family, time seems to slow down and we feel the deep hurt.  When it is in someone else's life, (or posted on Facebook!), we are concerned, but not nearly with the same intensity.

But in this Thanksgiving season, I want to give thanks to those that have looked beyond their personal world and blessed us.  I am reminded of people that have taken time to be concerned about our world, our needs.  They have shared our burdens as well as their own.  I am thankful for:

  • The woman in Port Edwards who recently told Nancy that she has been praying for us daily since we shared at the church 8 years ago.
  • The friend who took time with me years ago, letting me absorb his knowledge of photography and guns.
  • People who support us faithfully every month, even through tough economic times.
  • Friends who have our prayer card in this Bible or on the refrigerator, remembering us in prayer.
  • Mary* and Essie* and all the other girls at Freedom Home who have allowed us to be their friends.
  • Daughters that bring their joy for life and for Moldova home each night, making me laugh at their infectious energy.
  • A wife that is a leader in her own right, caring so much for me and the girls.
  • Moldovan pastors that have opened their hearts and are now friends, allowing me to minister alongside them, letting me preach in bad Russian.
  • The friend who routinely sends Caribou coffee, just becauseā€¦.
  • The church that blessed me by blessing my wife with an iPad.
  • Family that put up with the burden of dealing with our junk, our mail, and our absence while we are in Moldova.
  • The wonderful friend who labels and stamps our newsletters, taking that load off of us.
  • The company that prints our newsletters for free, just because they want to bless missions!
  • The cousin who even blessed us with a loaner car the last year we were back in the US.

I know that this list is full of people who have their own troubles and problems.  But I am thankful that they cared enough to make MY burdens THEIR burdens as well.

I am praying for that same heart, to BE a blessing as much as to receive one.


Milestone

_D2X0107-2 Today is Natalie's 11th birthday.  My middle daughter has advanced another year, closing in on those teenage years.

And I could not be more proud.

I know it is easy to take people for granted.  We have an almost limitless capacity to do such!  But I want to NEVER take these three girls for granted.  They are all blessings from God, a gift of life.

I found out Natalie was on the way on Christmas morning, a special gift for us.  We had faced many years of uncertainty about whether we could have kids, years before any of our children came.  Every one of the girls was a blessing, a dream and desire long before they came.

And our Christmas gift has been the best present ever.

She is so full of life, a smile that can melt the heart of everyone.
She is a loyal friend, never to be the friend of 100s, but a dear friend to few.
She loves animals, dreaming about becoming a veteranarian or owning a horse ranch (YES!)
She gives the best back rubs.
She loves to read, to draw, to create, and to climb and run.
She dreams about learning to ride horses, and is our Jr. Dog Whisperer.
She has a very tender spot for God, asking deep questions about faith already.
She loves her life here, LOVES to travel, and thinks her passport should be full before age 16.
She wants to drink coffee, and her first cappuccino came on her trip to Italy. 
(Her daily coffee will be waiting until age 13, though!)

And we are so proud of her. 

Another milestone for her and another for us.  We give thanks to the Lord for the gift of these last 11 years.


Normal

What is normal for my girls is not the normal with which I grew up!

Our Aussie friends have been visiting Istanbul last week with relatives.  When Jessie posted photos of their time on Facebook, Nancy spotted them and said, "Look!  They all have their Istanbul Starbucks mugs!"

When Lauren heard that comment, she said to me, "Ooooh, Istanbul.  I LOVE Istanbul.  It is a fun city."

My brain froze for a minute.  When I was 8 years old, I am not sure I even knew Istanbul existed!  I had no idea what the spice market, Grand Bazaar, or Blue Mosque looked like!  But Lauren does.

Normal to her is traveling through international airports and passport control.
Normal is hanging out with girls that had once been trafficked in prostitution, playing with their kids.
Normal is going to the village and getting a ride in a horse-cart.
Normal is eating shoarma's as fast food.
Normal is Skyping and emailing.
Normal is playing with international friends that will rotate out of the country within 2 years.
Normal is playing with Moldovan friends in Romanian (even if they speak Russian).
Normal is goats on the road, roosters across the fence, and squatty potties behind every church and home.

In other words, she is growing up to a different life than I ever grew up! 

Lord, give us wisdom to guide our girls to become women of strength, compassion, and normality.


Coffee Date

We have been taking this week off, trying to stay away from work-related items!  Life gets slow around the end of the year in Moldova and we are taking advantage of it.  It is a perfect time to read a pile of books, hang out with the kids, and relax.

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Nancy and I even had a day to get away from the house.  We had a dozen errands to do, but also found a new sandwich/coffee shop in town.

I like this photo of Nancy, even if the focus point is the coffee cup!  First of all, it is typical Nancy, talking with her hands.  (If kidnapped, no one would need to gag her if her hands were tied.  Without hand motion, she would be speechless)! 

But it is a great photo of the wonderful wife with which I've been blessed.  She has grown into leadership and ministry with the Home of Hope, not just talking about doing ministry but by leading.  There have been a lot of tough decisions in ministry, and not everyone has responded well.  But she has been a great person of integrity, caring for each person even if she has to confront.

I hope we have many more visits to the coffee shop, just enjoying life as a couple.  She is quite the blessing!


Day out with Natalie

I had to brave the Chisinau roads today, out to do some errands.  Natalie came along with me since one of the errands was for her.  We plowed our way to center, wandered around, bought her earrings, picked up a gift for Elissa, and then headed to the mall for two more errands.

We had a fun time together, and had our daddy/daughter lunch at Seasons.  We split a couple dishes and talked about nothing important.  But I did get some beautiful shots of her today!  Natalie is a TCK, a Third Culture Kid.  She is very comfortable in two worlds, but never fits totally into either world.  All the more reason to make sure we have lunch, just sitting and chatting about life and what is important to her.  (Of course, Christmas morning is the most important thing right NOW!)

I am sure a blessed father.

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Family Time

DSC_5535-EditThere are no normal schedules in our lives.  People have often asked me, "What is a normal day for your work?"  That is VERY hard to say!  Our lives tend to go through spurts.

In September, October, and November, we were inundated with guests and teams, with two to three teams working at the same time.  I was dealing with construction projects, an intern team, and some leadership issues.  It was quite tiring at times, very rewarding, and always with something to do.

But the joy of Moldova is that from December 24 through January 7, life just stops.  You can't get anything done in the city, so you might as well relax.  Offices are closed, people leave the city for the villages, and the phones stop ringing.

And I am going to do the same.

I am going to spend time with the family: eating Christmas baking, reading a book a day, sleeping in until 7:30 am, and playing games with the girls.  It is family time!