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."

Monday, January 30, 2017

What's Next?

A lot of people have been asking us "what's next? Your house is sold, when do you move? Where are you going after that? When do you leave for Australia?"

Good questions. Wish I knew the answers :)

At this point, we aren't entirely sure. We are in a bit of a waiting game with the government- waiting on visas. Yes, we are still waiting on visas. It has nearly been a year since the first process of applying for visas began, but we still have barely any movement in that area. So we wait. We don't know how long we will be waiting for. It could be two weeks or it could be four months. And there's really nothing we can do about it except for pray.

But God knows when it will all fall into place. He has a beautiful plan that is far better and greater than the one I have for our family.

Don't be fooled by my confidence in the Lord, I have to pray everyday that I would be content and joyful in what He has for us. That confidence you hear is a trust in Him that He has given to me so graciously. I am a natural worrier- I would normally be anxious and worried about every detail, but the Lord has given me so much peace as we wait. I am confident that He is sovereign over the hands who hold our applications (or the desk it is buried on!). He is sovereign over when we will move, where we will live, what schools we are able to get our kids into, etc. But in His sovereignty, He wants us here for now. For however long until He allows the visas to come through.

So, as we wait, I long for God to use me where He has me- He does have us here for a purpose. I long to proclaim His great name and to get good, rich time with the people we love dearly here. Though my heart longs to be in Australia, my heart aches to leave this place. More than you could ever know. It brings me to tears even thinking about it. I can't bear to think of leaving so many people that I love and want to be near. So even though we are in the midst of packing and a huge unknown, I want to soak in the time I can with the people around me. I want to be entirely as the Psalms say: "Satisfied in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14.

My prayer for this season is to trust in God's sovereign, good plan, to use us to proclaim His power and work, and to love those around me without abandon as we wait. This song by Hillsong really hit home at church the other day so I thought I'd share:

I lift my eyes
And sing out into the night Even when the world caves Even when the fight calls Even when the war's waged I'll take heart I know You are greater Forever You are Saviour I will sing Your praise With all that I have With all that I am Lord I'll stare down the waves Cause You own the tide I'll still my soul and know You wait for me on waters wild Where faith walks above the storm I won't let the storm weather my heart Won't let the darkness beat me down Sing in the night my hope alive in You I'll walk through the fire And not be burned Pray in the fight and watch it turn Jesus tonight I give it all to You
"When the Fight Calls" by Hillsong United
I know God is so much greater than my circumstances, so I can take heart, sing His praise, and find my hope in Him alone. And as we wait, be praying alongside us for God to work and expedite those visas for His glory! He loves to hear our hearts and desires. May HE be glorified in the wait. We are in a season of an unknown future- and I know we aren't alone in this. I have so many friends in this waiting phase as well: waiting on an adoption, waiting on a job, etc. I'm thankful that we can encourage one another and that we are not alone in this. I'm thankful that God is with us and knows what is to come. So we wait and find our hope in HIM and not our circumstances.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Making a House into a Beautiful Home Part 5: The Upstairs

Alright! We made it to the upstairs finally! This will be the last post about our house renovations. I hope you've enjoyed taking a sneak peek into the process of what our last 3.5 years have looked like. I'm sure you've noticed they have been messy and tiring, but oh so good. There have been moments when I wanted to just give up and sell it as is because I was sick of spending time on a house. But then there were moments when I realized how much God has taught me through this process- on hospitality even when my house is a disaster, on loving my family in the midst of chaos, on how to work alongside my husband and learn from him. That doesn't even include the amount of blessing we have had when I think of all of the people who have helped us with this house- there is a whole village of friends and family that have sacrificed many days to help us along the way and we are so grateful. We have learned so much about community, serving, and allowing people to walk through the messiness of life with us.

Anyways, on that note, here is the transformation of the upstairs. The crazy thing about the upstairs is that most of the work was done in the last few months before we put our house on the market, and there is only one reason it was completed in time- our amazing community of help that we had. Seriously, we are so blessed. So, here goes!

This hallway is at the top of the stairs from the downstairs funny "bathroom". Looks safe doesn't it? This picture is looking in to Hunter's room.

The inside of Hunter's room. What a beaut. :)

And the after picture! 

Both of the kids rooms had these dodgy closets that, again, didn't actually fit anything inside of them. Both of these were torn out and new closets were built in! So much better!

 Addie's room after

As you walk down the hall, you run into the bathroom door- which is also the hallway. Yep, you had to walk through the bathroom to get to the other two bedrooms. Once again, no privacy was aloud for a while in this house!

The finished bathroom! We built a wall to create a hallway and added a door that even locks :) Everything was rearranged, new plumbing, electrical, tub, tile, window...everything! You get the picture!

On to our bedroom, which was through the bathroom on the other side. (The brown door was the door to the bathroom/hallway)

Our bedroom finished! New closet in our room too which you can't see in the picture.

This picture was looking from our bedroom into the fourth bedroom- once again, no hallway. You had to walk from one bedroom into the other one and then through the bathroom to get to the other side of the house. And again, another safe set of rails on the other staircase. 

 Here is the fourth bedroom complete! There is now a hallway at the top of this staircase that passes by this room, our room, and the bathroom and connects to the other side of the house. So nice and private! Every room has a door and there are 4 legitimate bedrooms!

Just a few process pictures this time...Here is the studding in of the hallway and knocking out of walls to make this hallway possible. 

Hallway drywalled and mudded...that was a fun and messy stage...

Tiling the bathroom

Nearly done besides paint and a new window

There is the bathroom all finished again. Josh's dream bathroom!

And that's it! I don't have a lot of pictures of the upstairs, but it was a huge transformation! And the layout just makes sense now. And everyone has a bit of privacy and storage!

I hope you've enjoyed walking through the house with me. It is a bit emotional thinking about moving out of this place in a few short weeks. I don't think I mentioned- it sold after being on the market for only 4 days!! God is good to us and continues to pave the way for our big move back to Australia. Happy New Year!