Monday, January 22, 2018

Shop Ethically! +My Ethical Shopping Guide Reference List!

I am so so excited to share with you all what I've been learning about shopping ethically and making the way we spend our money give back to those around the world impacted by each purchase. This all started when I had the opportunity to co-lead a Bible study on "God Centred Social Justice." As we read and prepared for the study, the Lord was convicting me in many areas on this topic. It was a blessing to be able to facilitate a conversation with students about justice vs. injustice, God's heart for the oppressed and vulnerable, and how to take action steps towards loving people here and around the world in the way God does. One of the most practical applications we talked about was looking into where our clothes, coffee, toiletries, etc. are coming from. So much of what we spend money on is actually harming people all over the world because of who is making it, the conditions in which they are making it, and the way they are being treated as they make it (among many other issues!). There are clearly so so many ways we can be a voice and love the vulnerable, but this specific area was one that had been on my heart for a good while and it was about time I took the leap into the researching of how to slowly work towards this.

So, after the week of the study, researching is just what I did. Probably too many hours researching, but once I get started on something I get a bit obsessed and usually overdo the amount of time I spend researching. :) I set out to be well informed in many different areas: ethically made items, companies that were giving back, companies I could actually buy here in Australia, and items that I could actually afford. Many of the prices overwhelmed me at first and just made me want to give up. But then I got determined to find affordable options. I also wanted to make sure we were wise in the way we spend our money and to keep to our current budget so that we still had the ability to live and give generously. I obviously didn't make the criteria simple, but I did some hard work and here are my best findings :) I'm learning through the process that minimal is best, sale pages are the place to visit, and most of all, that it is so fun to know where and who your money is going to!

The following list is a VERY small percentage of the places out there that are affordable, but they were my favourite styles, prices, and the companies that's mission got me excited as well! Click on the name of the company to go to their website and check them out! The * tells you a little about the way they are giving back or how your purchase is with a purpose. The region it is sold in doesn't necessarily mean you can't buy from there! Many do international shipping at great rates! (Which may make my list a little biased as there were SO many companies I loved in the US and UK, but they didn't ship internationally or if they did, it was pricey! So I encourage you to keep doing your research on the many awesome brands out there!)

Clothing Websites:

In Australia:

--> Fairtees - Great for your basic tees and everyday wear. Has both mens and womens clothes, is fair-trade, and organic cotton.

--> Boden - Has everything for everyone! Men, women, and kids! This excited me as there is not a lot out there for kids that I've found yet. Also, has a wide selection of items, patterns, and types of clothing. (They are a company in the UK, so have a website there too, as well as in the US).
*Works HUGELY with their employees, factories, and suppliers. They are intentional to build relationships, to train and educate them, and has various initiatives to improve the lives of employees both at work and outside of work. They are passionate about helping women, give to No Child Hungry in the US, as well as to Kids Company in the UK. 

--> Thread Harvest - This is a great website that features ethical brands and companies. I LOVE this site! You can search for items depending on the cause you get most behind and each item says whether it is fair-trade, employs the marginalised, empowers women, is organic, eco-friendly, up cycled, cause supporting, or supports a living wage. It was also a great way to find all sorts of other companies by clicking on their links to the companies represented there. They have stuff for anyone in the family, even socks, shoes, handbags, and accessories.
*Many of the companies on here are giving back in awesome ways, you'll just have to click the link to find out how! 

--> Etiko - Shirts, underwear, shoes, and kids items. Basic plain t-shirts are their thing. Everything is fair-trade, organic, and is ethically sourced.

--> Make An Impact - Basic tees and long sleeves. Great prices for both men and women.
*10% of the profit of sales goes to a charity focused on supporting the most disadvantaged around the world!

--> Ethi Collective - Another great site featuring ethical brands. I haven't looked into this one quite as much yet, but there are a lot of great brands on there to check out too. The style is a bit more dressy than my style, but would be a great place to get work clothes for those of you who need to dress up for work! It also tends to be a bit more expensive, but there are some great discounts on sale items. You can also shop by your values, similar to Thread Harvest.
*$1 from every sale goes to a good cause and you get to decide which cause you want to donate to: South Sudan School Project, The Social Studio, or Trees for the Future. 

--> Conscious Step - Socks!! I love these fun patterned socks for both men and women! (US and Australia based company)
*For every sock sold, you are supporting a partnering organisation that is carrying out world change in various areas: treat malaria, treat HIV, provide water, protect oceans, plant trees, fight hunger, end poverty, educate kids, disaster relief, or saving rainforests. Each sock supports a different cause and you can choose your sock depending on what cause you want to support! 

In the U.S.:

--> Elegantees - This is one of my favourites and the first one I ordered from! Colourful tees, tops, dresses, cardigans, and toddler clothes. Reasonably priced and my style with all it's colours! It's "a tee that looks like more than a tee" as their website says. Yep, that's my style.
*Each garment is sewn by women rescued from sex trafficking in Nepal. Their partner organisation rescues over 20,000 women and children each year at the border of Nepal and India. They offer employment for these women and impact families hugely. These jobs offer hope, restoration, dignity, and an ability to take care of their family. I just LOVE this company so much! 

--> Prana - Originally an outdoor clothing company, it's passion is for stylish, sustainable, and versatile clothes for every adventure. They have all sorts of cute fabrics and designs!
*At Christmastime, they give a portion of their sales to Outdoor Outreach, an organisation working with underprivileged youth. 

--> Everlane - Good for all your basic clothing needs for both men and women. Very affordably priced. Ethical approach, very transparent, and supposed to be made to last!

--> Tea Collection - The cutest kids clothes! They unfortunately don't ship internationally, but I had to include them as there aren't a lot of kids options out there. Fair-trade clothes for children inspired by cultures all around the world and with a hope to inspire children to be connected all over the world.
*Every purchase gives back to the Global Fund for Children, helping young people all around the world. Also, each Spring and Fall, you can give 15% of your purchase to your own school. 

--> Ash & Rose - Another great website featuring different ethical brands! This one has a lot of great selection. All of their products have been made sustainably, with fair labour, and with a focus on empowering women.

--> Fair Indigo - Sustainable materials, enduring quality and fashion, and fair trade are the values of this company. I love their clothes so much, but the thing that impressed me the most about this one was the transparency on the website. You can see in detail each step of the process of how the materials and clothing is made. You get to see the faces that make it, hear a bit of their story, and how this company is helping their communities and families. Plus you see in pictures exactly how it's all made! Note: This one does not ship internationally, but I loved them so much and found out that you can order from them on amazon and have it shipped internationally! Hooray!
*Along with all they are doing for the people who are a part of making the materials and clothing, they also have started a foundation to support schools in the community as well. At each checkout of your order, you get the chance to give extra for the foundation. You can read the stories of all that has happened to contribute to these schools as they've been able to work alongside them to help them flourish. 

--> Mata Traders - Oh another one I love! Fun, colourful patterns made from women in India and Nepal. They have women's tops, skirts, dresses, and accessories that are celebrating the art form that these artisans love using. They are beautiful and fun!
*They have a passion to help with global poverty and with every purchase, you are giving to help end poverty in Indian and Nepal! Check out their site for some awesome stories of the families that have been impacted and brought out of poverty through their role with Mata Traders. 

--> Threads for Thought - Simple men's and women's clothing for a great price. All fair trade, organic, and ethically sourced materials. Also has a line of active wear.

--> The Root Collective - Great shoes for women!
*Employing artisans to make a difference in their lives by giving them well paying, fair work. 

--> Oliberte - A great shoe brand for men and women that supports workers in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Fair trade, sustainably and ethically made, and built to last.
*Work to create fair jobs and lead the people to support their own people. Every bit of material is made from African natural resources. Plus, 1% of every purchase is given to support the planet. 

--> TOMS - A lot of people have heard of TOMS and just adore their shoes and their desire to give back to those in need. They have shoes of various styles for men, women, and children. Did you know they also have sunglasses, bags, shirts, and socks?
*With every purchase of a pair of shoes, TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. With every pair of sunglasses sold, you are helping restore sight to someone in need. With every bag you buy, TOMS helps provide a safe birth for a mom and her baby. And with every package of socks sold, TOMS helps provide a week of safe water for those in need. 

Clothing Stores in Australia:

These stores are not necessarily organic or fair trade, but they are rated highly for their treatment of their employees as well as for where they get their materials from. It is just nice to have some good options to actually buy in a store or be able to try things on! There are a few resources that I get stores'/brands' ratings from which all do a great job at explaining why they are rated how they are and what they do great/need to work on:

Good on You App (Rates clothing and accessory brands)
Shop Ethical! App (Rates pretty much everything! I love this one for toiletries, toys, office supplies, etc. It also has a barcode scanner which is super helpful when out shopping!)
Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Guide (Rates clothing brands) are the stores I've found so far!
--> Bonds
--> Katmandu
--> Patagonia
--> Country Road
--> David Jones (the store brand)
--> Levis (can buy at Just Jeans)
--> Adidas
--> Jeanswest
--> Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Cotton On Body, Factorie (And the various Cotton On stores)- I was pleasantly surprised by the ways Cotton On is giving back and it's commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.
--> Industrie and Indie Kids
--> G- Store Raw

Toiletries/ Household Items in Australia: 
I stuck to the ones you can find in stores such as Woolies or Coles or at your local chemist. Those places always have such great sales as well, which make the brands much more affordable!

--> Thank You - Body care items such as soap and lotion, a few food items, and some baby care items. They give 100% of their profits to fund safe water, food, hygiene, sanitation, health care, and safe births for those in need. You can also use the tracking number on the item you buy to search online for the exact project and place you are helping to fund!!

--> Eco Store - Laundry, body, dish, hair, and baby products.

--> Nature's Organics (this includes Earth Choice, Organic Care, Australian Pure, Fruits, Blast, Turning Point, Spa, and Funtime) - Between their different brand names, they have body, laundry, hair, face, kids, household cleaners, etc. So many options here! And they are doing heaps to give to good causes for children, schools, villages, student sponsorship, job training, empowerment initiatives, etc.

--> Who Gives a Crap - A toilet paper, tissue, and paper towel company that gives 50% of all profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation around the world- literally saving lives through toilet paper! Love it! It is also 100% made with recycled products. This is an online only company, but I had to include it!

And last but not least...
Gifts that Purchase with a Purpose! (and to get for yourself!)

--> Noonday Collection - They sell a collection of beautiful creations by artisans across the globe. Their work is giving dignified jobs to so many and supporting entire villages by the jobs created and families being supported. They have jewellery and other accessories that are just stunning. I have a few friends who work for them and I would love to connect you with them and with the stories of the people impacted by your purchases!

--> Better Life Bags - I love my bag from Better Life Bags! Their mission is to employ women in Detroit, Michigan who have various barriers to employment and gives them an opportunity they wouldn't have had otherwise. You even get a card with your bag that says the women's name who made it and a little about her. This is a design-your-own bag, custom order. This includes picking the fabric, the design, the clasp, etc. SO much fun! And such incredible work they are doing to transform families in the Detroit area!

--> Mango and Main - They sell products made by artisans in Rwanda and Haiti, and are similarly working to give dignified work and transformation to these communities. They have items for your home, clothing, accessories, kids items, and jewellery. Their stuff is so fun and bright!

--> Globe In - Monthly subscriptions to boxes of artisan made items from around the world!! Oh, I think this would be so fun to do and a great gift to give! All items are fair trade, artisan made, and are prividing for families and communities around the world. You can also buy items individually on their site.

--> Global Girlfriend - Similar to the last few, they are empowering women as they sell their fair-trade products and work with them to build sustainable businesses for their families and communities. With every purchase, they also give to help support girls' education globally through the GROW program.

Ok, we've made it to the end of my list for now! This is just a list that is getting me started with all of this. Hopefully it will continually be refined and added to. I'm excited to try out many of these brands and products, and to be more conscious of where our money is going. Praying that God would use our impact hugely for the sake of the nations and His glory among them. I hope this is also helpful to you to challenge your thinking, your spending, and your heart on this issue, as well as to provide a list of good options to get you started! And of course, if you know of any that I would love, please send them my way!

"It is not enough to deliver the gospel to the nations, we are called to advance the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations, where most people live in poverty and endure the effects of corruption and injustice...Responding to poverty, corruption, and injustice is central to being a good citizen in God's Kingdom and living out His righteousness." from Responding Biblically to Poverty, Corruption, and Injustice- Highly recommend this study from NavPress!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy Happy New Year from the Coulson's! Looking back over the past year, there has been so much going on for our family. We have lived in 6 different houses, in 3 different cities/towns, and 2 different countries. Countless friends and family members have loved, supported, cared for, and helped our family in all these transitions. We have said "see you later" to many amazing friends and family members and said "hello" to many new friends. Half of the year was spent in waiting: waiting on visas, waiting to move, waiting on God's timing and plan. During those months, we got to do some traveling as a family and get rich time with friends and family that we wouldn't trade for anything. The second half of the year was spent in transition mode: new country, new home, new friends, new school, new language, new church, new everything.

As you can see, this year has been a big one for our family and for those we are close to. It has been filled with so many ups and downs. There have been some really hard days and some really good days. There has been some excitement for a new adventure and some longing for a usual, ordinary, and familiar routine. We have learned so much throughout all of this and the one thing that remains constant through it all is the faithful, loving, nearness of God.

He has been with us.
He has been fighting for us.
He has been providing richly for us.
He has been teaching us and challenging us.
He has allowed us to go through some really hard things.
He has been drawing us near to Him each step of the way.
He has drawn people to know Him for the first time and allowed us to be a part of His rejoicing!
He has blessed us in ways I could've never imagined or even ever chosen for myself.
He has manifested His glory, goodness, and grace to us in deeper ways than we've known previously.

The list goes on and on. He has been good and faithful and loving when we have not been. He has cared endlessly, while our hearts have been distant. He has been sovereignly at work when I have doubted and trusted in my own strength. As always, the grace upon grace that God pours out to us is so evident as I look back over the past year. The gospel is so clear as I see my struggles with sin, but God drawing near to me anyways because of His great love and grace. I am more and more thankful for Christ with each passing year. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:8-9

My word for 2017 was "look." I wanted to have eyes to SEE what God was doing, to be LOOKING for ways to serve and care for those around me, and to be overwhelmed with thankfulness. I didn't want to get bogged down in the circumstances of life that we found ourselves in, but to have the eyes of Jesus to LOOK to Him and to the needs of others around me. It is always a joy at the end of the year to LOOK back and see what He has done. There have been times I have done well at this and there are times I've completely failed to have a good perspective on all that was happening this year. All the praise to Him for His mighty work and constant faithfulness throughout it all. I think Lamentations 3:22-23 sums up my thoughts on this year well:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness."

As we start off 2018, there are a million goals running through my mind. I want to read more books, do another triathlon, start my list of sewing projects I have, read through my Bible in a year, be more intentional with my kids, my husband, my friends, and the ladies I am investing in. I tend to get myself overwhelmed with all that I want to do. This year, I want to be dwelling on this verse:

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth!" Psalm 46:10.

I long to grow in the direction my heart is pointed. I want to be still before the Lord, grow in my knowledge and adoration of Him, and I long for that to be poured out to not only those I interact with each day, but also to the nations. As I orient my heart towards Him, it is my prayer that I will love Him deeper and that through that the world would see His greatness and fall in love with Him too. Here's to 2018!! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Aussie Lingo

Today is the first of my series on Australia. So, to start us off, the kids have brought to you a description of a few Aussie words :) Enjoy! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A long overdue blog...

Well, I said I was going to get back into blogging. Someday that will happen :) For now, life has happened and if I'm completely honest, I've been a bit unsure of what to say.  I'm just not sure how to say we are going. It really depends on the day that you're asking me. Most days, I'm enjoying life and feeling like we are settling in well. Other days, every little thing makes me cry and miss friends and family who are so far away. It has been especially hard on peoples' birthdays and other important events that we are missing out on. It has really hit home lately just how much we had to sacrifice to be here. And it is painful. It is hard. I'll save more of that for another post...but, so that this isn't SOO long, I'll give some general updates on different areas of life and then do a bit of a picture update on what we've been up to.

Josh: has been overall doing awesome since moving here. He LOVES the team of guys he's working with on campus, which makes so much of life enjoyable and encouraging. He is learning heaps from them and is thankful for their friendships. On the other hand, the past month or two haven't been so fun for him as he broke his shoulder playing baseball and had surgery to reattach his labrum a few weeks ago :( He is recovering, but it is a slow process for sure.

The Kiddos: are doing so much better than I could've ever imagined they'd do. I think a major reason for that is the school we ended up at. I can't even tell you how thankful we are for where they are at. We have felt so welcomed by so many families. The kids both have some good friendships forming and are just absolutely loving school. I make it a point to stay and chat with the other mums (yes, mums :) ) after school so that I can get to know some other families. This has been one of the most encouraging things for me in this whole transition. I'm thankful for the ladies that I am getting to know and for the friendships beginning to form there. The after school hour is definitely a highlight of life for both the kids and I as we get time engaging in these relationships.

Ministry on campus: We have been enjoying getting time with some men and women on campus this semester. We have been going through the book of John and looking at who Jesus is and what He wants from us. I have seen encouraging growth in the ladies I'm meeting with! I'm excited to continue to develop those relationships and see how God works. We've both also been reading with a few non-believers which has been both a great and challenging opportunity! It is hard to believe there are only a couple weeks left until summer holidays! We are so looking forward to next year and being able to be here for the beginning of the year instead of just jumping in where we can in the middle of the year.

Now for the picture update on what else we've been up to...

We got to take some students climbing during the last school holidays! It was so much fun and a great time getting to know some of them more!

It's starting to heat up here as we head into our summer months, so naturally I researched splash parks and we enjoyed one! 

We got to help organise a thank you dinner for all the people who support and are a part of the Navigators ministry in New South Wales. It was so encouraging to meet so many who support the ministry here, hear from many who God is working in, and to be able to serve that night. It reminded me of just how thankful I am for all the people who work together to see the gospel advance amongst the nations. 

Hunter and some of the friends that celebrated his birthday with him.

Addie and her friends decorating cupcakes at her party at our house. 

We have LOVED getting to be a part of Hunter's baseball club and are really enjoying getting to know all the families involved there. We are so looking forward to the rest of the season to continue developing those relationships and watching Hunter have fun with his team. He is really improving and being challenged! It's so fun to watch him grow!

I got the chance to play for the club's parents t-ball tournament! It was such a fun day and so great to get time getting to know all the parents better. And hey, our team even won!!! 

 A true highlight for me is getting to know my new friend, Phuong. I am loving getting time with her, learning how to cook Vietnamese food, and sharing who Jesus is with her. She is becoming a good friend of mine and I'm so thankful for her. I'm looking forward to time with her as she will be around during the uni holidays over the summer!

More fun times with the ladies! It was a delight to have these ladies over for dinner and for an evening of baking. These students and friends have been so wonderful to get to know over the past few months!

A beautiful winter day at the beach with some friends. We loved exploring the rock pools and looking for little creatures :) 

The big Year 2 excursion is to go down to the city, walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and go to the Powerhouse Museum. Hunter had a wonderful day of adventures!

Addie's chance to shine was at the Athletics (Track) Carnival at school. She ran four races and finished first in the hurdles! It was just the most adorable day of racing I've ever seen!

And one last adventure: one Saturday we got to explore the Olympic Park and then take a ferry ride down to the city. This is us about to go under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and enter the Circular Quay where the Opera House is. It was such a beautiful ride at sunset! We love exploring this city!

There is just a little snippet of some of the things we have been up to. Here's to trying to blog more often- hope to see you again soon :) 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Settling in to life

It has now been two and a half months since we moved to Australia. Crazy how time is flying by. So much has happened in just a couple of months.

We have settled into our new home....

We are loving where we are living. While it is a bit further out of the city than we expected to live, it is in a more residential and quiet neighbourhood which feels a little bit more like home to our Iowan hearts :) It is also close to a few friends which has helped with the settling in process, particularly for the kids.

...the kids have started school...

{Aren't they the cutest in their school uniforms?!}

They are just LOVING school which makes this mama heart so filled with joy! Hunter has taken off in so many ways. He has made a couple of good friends that he loves playing with and seems to get along with a lot of the kids in his class. His reading has improved so much and he confidently chooses to read on his own occasionally now (big win!). His favourite things at school are playing soccer on the oval, playing handball, and science lessons. They have been doing inventions lately which he really enjoys. Addie is also loving school when she gets to go. She loves playing in the kitchen there, jumping on the trampoline at recess, and meeting new friends. She's pretty excited to go to Kindy next year and be there everyday with her brother. We are beyond blessed and thankful for the families we have met through school and have felt so welcomed by so many of them.

...we have started working with students at the uni (university)...

{Orientation Week stall chatting with students}

It has been fun to come alongside the staff on campus and to see what God is doing here. We have been encouraged as we learn from them and see their passion for making disciples of all nations with students on campus. We have been able to begin reading the Bible with a handful of students, be a part of Nav Night on Thursday nights, and the various other things going on throughout the week. It has been so fun getting to know the students already involved and who are interested in learning more. We are so excited to see how God transforms hearts this semester on campus and draws people to Himself.
{Our first Nav Night of the semester was a great turnout!}

...we have done a bit of adventuring around the city...

...and have begun to get a little bit of a picture of what life looks like here. So how are we going? It depends on the day, really. Most days are so busy that I don't have time to think about anything. Other days that are slower tend to tug at my heart in all sorts of directions.

We are getting used to a life that involves lots of travel time to get places. It takes about 30 minutes to get to school and about 30 minutes to get to the uni. We have learned to be intentional during our drive/bus/train travel times. Although the days get long traveling around, I've learned to be thankful for that time with the kids each morning and afternoon. In the morning, we get time listening to the audio Bible and praying, and in the afternoon, the kids process their days well with me on the drive home. I'm thankful for how God has turned that time into something fruitful and encouraging.

Every day is a bit different emotionally. Some days its so exciting to be here, while others I feel the great tug on my heart for the people I miss and the activities we miss out on doing with them. Some days I feel like I know what's going on here and right at home, while other days I feel exhausted mentally because I have spent so much time confused, translating, and feeling unsure if I'm doing everyday tasks correctly. We know this is to be expected and that transition comes with its many ups and downs and phases. God is showing us that in the midst of it all, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, GREAT is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23. God is near to us, with us, and shepherding us through each and every step of each and every day. He is faithful and oh so good. We can trust Him and lean into Him. He is powerful beyond measure and delights to answer our prayers.

Please continuing praying for us:
-That God would continue to draw us near to Himself and cause our hearts to love Him fully.
-That the kids would continue to transition well and make good friends.
-For people to decide to follow Christ and be transformed by Him.
-For wisdom and comfort in navigating a life far away from home and in a new culture.
-That as we study the book of John on campus this semester, that Christ would make Himself known to many; building disciples of Him and disciple makers to passionately share Christ with those around them.

Thank you for praying alongside us!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We made it!!

Just over two weeks ago, we made it to Australia! It was a bit of a whirlwind of events of God providing our visas, finances, and the rest of the details to move here. It was incredibly emotional and hard to leave family and friends in Iowa. Thankfully we were greeted with such love and excitement upon arrival that we felt at home quickly. The long 17 hour flight from Dallas to Sydney was indeed long, but it went really well. The kids were champs along the way and we made it in one piece with all 12 bags making it as well! It's a miracle! We had a bit of a detour along the way because of fog in Sydney, so we landed in Brisbane, had a few hours layover, and then made our way here. Just a small hiccup.

Addie couldn't travel without her two favorites :)

Too cute.

Here we are after landing and being greeted by our lovely friends to pick us up!

The kids first train ride after arriving. Tami is showing us the ropes of finding the right train at the right time, switching trains, etc.

The last couple of weeks have gone really well for us. We have seen God provide in so many ways and are so thankful for the community around us that have blessed us richly already. So many friends showed up to welcome us when we arrived and we have enjoyed spending time with new and old friends. The kids have had a blast with everyone, which has been a true blessing and encouragement to see them so filled with joy in being here.

We have now found a home to live in (but haven't yet moved in), a car, and a school for our kids! Most of the major details have been worked out, which is a huge relief and blessing. The decisions have been hard and tiring to make. We are thankful for people who have walked alongside us to help us make the decisions along the way. We are also just overwhelmed with thankfulness for the many people who have invited us into their homes for a cuppa (cup of tea) and who have offered items to us to help us start up our new home. 

We have been able to do a couple social things with a few students who are involved at the University. We are so excited to get started on campus and to see what God has planned for this next semester. 

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks! 

We got to go down to the city with some students for an event that they have each year called "Vivid" which is when they light up places all over the city and have lots of activities. It was so fun to go and get to meet a few students as well! It was beautiful to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House all lit up! 

Hunter loved the big lit up swings!

The kids are learning the art of drinking out of the "bubblers" (drinking fountains) without getting completely soaked. ;)

We got to go to the last Nav Night of the semester to hang out with students, eat dinner together, have a campfire, and play games. It was so fun! And there were four guys named Josh there as pictured below!

Playing soccer and having fun with Jonah! The Brown family have loved on all of us so well- and the kids are just eating up every minute with them.

Addie taking good care of her new friend, Joshy :)

That's all for now! We have a few weeks until second semester starts up. Then the kiddos will start school and university will start as well. Thank you for praying alongside us and for the encouragement along this journey. Please be praying for patience as we get settled, for the kids as they gear up to start school in a new place with new kids speaking a semi-new language, that we would love one another well in the midst of all the transitions going on, and that we would lean into Christ in all things- trusting Him every step of the way. Cheers!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Still here, still waiting...and what God's teaching in the process...

Welp, here we are. Still here. Still waiting. Still constantly being challenged by God in so many ways. Up until now, this season has been hard, but I wouldn't necessarily characterize it with the word hard. As I've shared previously, God has been teaching us so much and using us HERE where we are, showing us to open our eyes to what He has for us here, and He has been giving us so much time to rest in Him. Not to mention, we are overjoyed with the time we have had to be intentional with those around us. It has been a true blessing to get so much time with people. Oh and before I forget, we got to visit some of those people all the way in Colorado and Arizona, so who's complaining right?

{And getting to stop at Arches National Park- pictured above- and the Grand Canyon were also so refreshing and fun too!}

Right. I know I truly have nothing to complain about. We are in a place we love, with people we love. Up until recently, my heart has been truly content in this stage and what God has for us (most days!). But over this past week, my emotions have run wild. Just when I might think I've got a few of these areas of character that God is working on in me all figured out, He brings another circumstance to humble me and remind me to keep my hope set on Him alone.

A few months ago, a portion of our visa application that we had been waiting on for 11 months for Australia got denied. {Insert: emotions starting to churn right about then}. We reapplied for this portion and it got approved in 1 day! {Insert: new and different emotions arising}. Then a few weeks ago, we got, what seemed like an actual timeline that MAY be reliable to go off of for when we may be able to move. {Insert: emotions, so much hope, and my mind was rolling with details of the next few months trying to get them all planned out, all the while saying I was NOT going to get my hopes up for this to actually happen}. Of course, when your emotions are running this wild, you get your hopes up even when you are trying so hard to not get your hopes up. Then a few days ago, we looked up the visa webpage that informed us of this timeline and the timeline had changed. No, it hadn't become shorter, but longer. My perfect timeline for getting there before second semester started was crushed. And yet again, God nudged me and asked, "Where are you putting your hope?"

Over the past few months of this waiting season, God has been POURING His Word into me specifically through 1 Peter 1 lately. I have spent a lot of time memorizing, meditating on, and digging into this passage of scripture. It has been my lifeline. God has used His Word to fill me up and set my hope in Him alone. It is so easy to get consumed with the circumstances that are going on in our lives and allow THEM to become our hope. I have been fighting this, as we all do, each day. I thought I'd share a bit of these passages as well as some of my thoughts that the Lord has been impressing on me deeply. I hope it can be an encouragement to you today too.

From 1 Peter 1:
"According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," v. 3

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." v. 8-10

"Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." v. 13

This thought of where my hope lies has been constantly on my mind, along with where my joy comes from. As I've studied this passage in depth, I have been overjoyed in the hope we have in Christ. HE alone is our only hope. This entire passage is about the gospel: the hope we have because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and rose again. He overcame sin and death for us and gave us a hope of a life lived with Him for all eternity. THIS is where true hope comes from. It is not in our circumstances or the people around us or in ourselves. It is in Christ alone and what He has done to bring us back to God. Our joy is inexpressible and filled with glory because it is joy in loving Christ, believing in Him, trusting in Him- He who is inexpressibly glorious. His gloriousness is inexpressibly great, so our joy is inexpressibly glorious!

But how can we possibly hope FULLY? There are so many distractions and things that are constantly drawing us away from our True Hope. It is only after reveling in the gospel of His grace (read in verses 1-12) and Him graciously saving His people, only then can we hope fully in that grace. Hope happens when our minds are set on the Truth and are active in Truth. We must run, work, and live with and in the Truth of Scripture. We must be fully carried away with hope and let God get all the glory due His name as we hope in Him. What a beautiful joy and hope the world sees when we find all our joy and peace and hope in Jesus and not in the world.

One quick reminder though. It is not about how hard we try to have our hope set in Christ. Remember  1 John 4:10..."not that we loved God but that He loved us." It is HIS LOVE for us that gives hope, not how much we love Him. I'll end on this quote from Paul David Tripp:

"Your hope is not in your ability to love God, but in His unrelenting and unshakable love for you.
Yes, the power of sin has been broken by the work of Jesus, but the presence of sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. Our hearts are still fickle, we still rebel and want our own way, we still forget God and his glory, we still write our own rules, we still love our kingdoms more than we love his, we still demand what we don't deserve, and we still question God's goodness when we don't get our own way. We tend to love ourselves and the world, but very often the love of the Father is simply not in us. So our hope in life and death is never to be found in the degree of love for God. It is only ever found in the magnitude of HIS love for you. This love is yours as a gift of his grace even on those days where your heart has run after other lovers. That's just how beautiful and faithful his love for you really is."