12 June 2018

Cheesesteaks and Four-Wheelers

From early Monday morning until even now, late Tuesday night, Matt's been off in Philadelphia for EBS board meetings.  Being from Philly, this has been a special time for him, not only of good meetings and vision casting, but also spending time with the board, from Texas, Kansas, Canada, Ohio, Haiti, Indiana and Florida at Independence Hall, eating Cheesesteaks, going to a Philly's game and seeing the Liberty Bell.  

and with Rocky, of course, who has always just been a BIG fan of Emmaus.  
Meanwhile, while they've been budgeting and problem solving and envisioning, I've been trying to give the girls a few relaxing, slower days...so thankful for Uncle Don and Aunt Brenda giving us a place to be at home for a few days.  Uncle Don took today off and planted flowers with the girls, rode four-wheelers, and even got the girls in the pool.  They had a blast!





Whereas Lily will warm up to just about everyone in two seconds flat, Sofie almost never warms up to anyone.  I love and cherish the rare relationship Sofie has with Uncle Don...she loves and trusts him well, and I'm so thankful for his role in her life since infancy.
We also (separately :)  celebrated our 13th anniversary on Monday...this picture was taken in Haiti when we were dating and Matt came to visit me, so almost 15 years ago!  We sure have packed a lot in since then, but I'm so thankful for how God has continued to lead us in His faithfulness and that through thick and thin we're in it together, following Jesus.  
Tomorrow we spend the day with Uncle Terry and Aunt Lori, Amy and Patrick, and then we're on to North of Philly, where we'll spend a few days at the dentist and with my sister's family as their girls are dedicated this Sunday!  We continue to be so thankful for the men and women God has alongside us, from the ones who flew far to help serve Emmaus these two days, to those letting us drink their milk and use their car and genuinely love on our girls!



11 June 2018

the church

The church used to be and do a lot of things.  

Being the church once included tongues of fire and lots of prison time, persecution and seemingly a lot of fishing.  Tent making.  Purple cloth dying.  Lots of widow and orphan care, lots of preaching from the roof-tops to the dark cells, sending, healing and restoration, forgiveness and perseverance, admonishment and growth.

It is easy to complain about "the church" today, and our family spends an awful lot of time in an awful lot of churches, from the sweltering mountain tops of Haiti to four services this weekend in Bear, Delaware.  

We've heard lots of solid sermons and lots of lukewarm ones,  more than a few not based on the Bible, and a couple outright heretical.  

We have carried our chairs on our heads, smooshed in wobbly benches, relaxed in padded pews and set up and torn down intricate linking chair patterns across sprawling sanctuaries.  We've danced acoustic, we've waved with professional worship bands, we've joined our voices with the organ, clapped with static-keyboards plugged into a roaring generator.  We've done the little cups with the wafers in the lid, we've dipped, we've crumbled crackers, we've chugged sickly sweet wine from old medicine cups, we've passed baskets and boxes and bags and gold plates discreetly, walked to the front to fold our tithe into wooden boxes, publicly.  

We know a lot of the church, from all different places, and we've yet to meet a perfect body of Christ.

But we sure have met a bruised and sacrificial one, and you can sign me up for that Body of Christ any day.  

Traveling is exhausting, being away from home is hard, being in a different church every weekend for every service can be so draining, driving/flying all over to see everyone can whittle us down.

But the church being the church to us and for us these weeks is priceless.  

Last weekend it was Jerome in a quiet moment, hand on my head, praying for my walk, my role as wife and mama, for this upcoming delivery, for Christ to be glorified.  It was sitting down when everyone was standing and letting the heavenly worship in my own language, when our backs were against the wall and it looked as if it was over, you made a way, and we're standing here, only because you made a way and God bringing to my mind 100 times this was true, this past year alone, and restored my faith.  

This morning, it was several women throughout the services, individually, on their own, coming at random times to take my hand and to pray for me, for strength, for courage, for grace, for a safe delivery and a healthy baby.  It was Pastor Paul calling us up before Matt preached and praying for us, as he did when we were the two of us, heading off to language school, and when we were three, and four, and five.  
It's been the church being faithful...men and women grabbing our hands and looking into our eyes and saying, "We have been praying for you and are praying for your family" and us knowing without a doubt that it's true.

  It's been the church taking us in and giving us a home, either in a hotel or in their own homes, even when our kids feed their dogs spaghetti or make messes or have moments.  Last week it was His body giving us their timeshare for a week so that we could have a vacation.  It's been the church letting us borrow their cars, their best cars, when it wasn't convenient for them, picking us up at airports, letting us borrow their carseats, the elderly couple who pushed money into my hands today for the girls to get new backpacks, it's the ridiculous number of people who these past three weeks have asked me about intimate specifics in our lives that they know about because they faithfully read our blog and pray for us. 
And tonight was the cup of the church running over in my life and I was just plain overwhelmed, not by purple cloth, but by blue cakes and baby books, not by tongues of fire, but by baby boy clothes and diapers and a whole slew of the church who simply showed up, on a Sunday night after a busy weekend in the middle of busy lives, cooking and shopping and writing cards, spending their precious time thinking of us and acting, loving us and being the Body.  

Men and women who have come to our home and known our children, my sister who drove over an hour and brought me all the things she could think of that I'll need in the hospital that the clinic in Haiti won't provide, Cindy and Aunt Lori, Dawn and Rhonda putting the whole thing together and providing all kinds of awesome food and the kiddos who played with my kiddos, beautiful and thoughtful gifts from so many who have made baby four and his soon coming feel special and exciting, Doug who had two funerals and a wedding this weekend and came anyway.

The church, an OBGYN with a flourishing practice in Oregon who spends months a year of her days off in Haiti, working for nothing, helping lots of women, like me, deliver well and better, answering my every question, encouraging me, praying for me.  
I have been overwhelmed and depressed this past year over losing the Heckman family, such an integral part of our lives and ministries, moving back to the States this month.  I've been overwhelmed over the help needed, the Elders ending up back in Canada since February, the many changes.  I've been afraid these past months, as many have voiced the same concerns or possible fears that I was trying not to, over delivering Ben in Haiti.  We've been so full this year with so many visitors and so many classes and so many burdens and so much wisdom needed and so much transition and so many uncertainties, and the precious church, imperfect though she be, has been the church to us as we've sought to be the church to others. 

And by tonight, by the time I opened the last onesie with my girls all helping and this church around us in white and blue roses and mustache cookies, I was utterly aware of and met by the Lord, who KNOWS and PROVIDES and has GOT this.  

Has. Got. This.  

Through these prayers and gestures and through these relationships, the Living God has met me with confidence and courage.

THAT is a pretty miraculous thing, that is how He works, that is what He can do through His church, truly change people's hearts and minds.  He is our Help, very often through others.  

Because the church used to be and do a lot of things, and with His grace and in His ways--always new and never changing--it still is.













09 June 2018

home

We’re on the busy road back north through DC and Baltimore, and dear Nora keeps asking over and over, “Where are we GOING?  Where are we going?”

When we left the little apartment that’s been our home the last 5 days, it finally hit each of the girls…it would be ok to be going home now.  

I was reading an article yesterday about how much harder it is to return to the foreign mission field after your initial GO, because you didn’t know what was going to be hard, what would be heartbreaking, what you’d miss, until you went…and now you KNOW, and when you go now, it is knowing.

And that is true in lots of ways.

We know exactly how it feels to be far from our sweet nieces and nephew, missing birthdays and holidays. We know, as we have the air blasting in the car, exactly how hot home is right now, how hot it will be day and night for many many months still. We know exactly how easy it is to feel a MILLION miles away from the support and prayers and encouragement we’re being affirmed of in all these beautiful churches, now, how easy it will be to feel alone or forgotten, soon.  We know how hard it will be again to go back to being foreigner, foreigner, blan, blan, daily approached and petitioned and pointed out.  We know acutely how pressing is the daily need, the need, not a thousand miles away but right in front of you, under your fingers, before your eyes, and what will you do, what will you do.

And we sure are relishing the a/c, the smooth roads, the Dairy Queens, loading up the dishwashers, throwing the clothes in the dryer, the fresh and hugely varied food options, quick, the store next door, the milk ready to drink, and so many conveniences that we will never, never take for granted as long as we live.  

But it’s also true that what was ministry 11 years ago has become LIFE and ministry, work and ministry, family and ministry, and despite knowing all the hards waiting for you, it’s home.

And as I’m trying to help Nora deal with her confusion, as our baby app tells me it’s time to get packed for the hospital, instead I’m getting 5 people packed for five more very-spread-out places, with a few flights to boot, before I can think about packing for the hospital, which this time, will mostly include clean drinking water and FANS.  

As I tuck the girlies in each night, we talk about just what tomorrow brings, we remember together that the world is not our home.  We’re not supposed to belong here, be all at home anywhere, be safe and sound anywhere other than in He who is with us, carrying us one day at a time, just like He does in suitcases today and in suffocating heat at home.

Pray for Matt tonight and tomorrow as he shares the Gospel with His family in Bear, DE.  Pray for the girls and I as we seek to share it beside him as we connect and reconnect with people there.  Pray for us as we one-day-at-a-time-with-Jesus, even as it becomes more difficult to be so far from one home.  Pray for this mama who is relishing every sweet niece snuggle and sister-talk, every swimming pool and pint of ice cream, and also feeling sore and tired and ready to be settled as Ben’s day draws near…pray for me as I work to disciple and love on this precious family.  

We are so incredibly thankful for you, the world also not your home, encouraging and supporting us all the same, what a gift!

07 June 2018

Did it. Don't do it. But did it :)

I am not and will not ever recommend taking on a major amusement park with six kiddos at 35 weeks pregnant.  Man alive, I am going to be sore tomorrow.  But we DID it, Lily alone worked off the price of all of our tickets by riding absolutely EVERY ride 2-3 times (it took three adults just to keep up with her) and all the little ones had a blast of a day, too.  Busch Gardens is beautiful, and at bedtime prayers again tonight both Lily and Sofie talked about how wildly different today was than their normal life at home...about how impossible it would be to explain, and about what a treat it was. 
Thankful for my sister having a stroller we could use, thankful for the good time with family, thankful for the opportunity, and thankful the park closed at 6.  Because I was gonna die :)

Unable to ride anything, I was with the little-ests today, which was pretty precious.





Sofie was the designated "over 36 inches" rider all day so that Nora could ride, and was a champ.  
The girls are all now in mini comas, I'm about to be, Matt and Adam are out at the movies, and Lisa and I are preparing for our final day tomorrow, a Colonial Williamsburg with four 3 and under/ Pool mix.  

Saturday evening and three services Sunday, Matt is preaching at Cornerstone UMC church in Bear, DE, so we'll be crashing with Uncle Don the next few days and hopefully seeing lots of you!  

05 June 2018

away

Any time you have a chance to go on vacation with six precious girls, take it.  Lots of coffee.  Don't call it rest or think you're gonna sit down.  Maybe don't do it at 35 weeks pregnant.

  But take it.  They are so precious, and watching them together and listening in is a blast. 

Yesterday we celebrated Sofie, and today went to the water park, and I am happy exhausted.  This time is such a precious gift.  Williamsburg is beautiful, the weather has been fabulous, and I'm thankful.




Aunt Lisa took another Sofie detailed crayon birthday cake design and turned it into reality, complete with seven rainbow stripes, four layers, and a stand up name :) 


I love this crew.

Thankful thankful for His provision of this quiet place of our own (the tenth place Nora is calling, "my new house") for a few days in the middle of this wild season!  

On what feels like the other end of the earth, EBS's first summer team has headed out, the EBS team is getting ready for the next one, a team of guys is installing new inverters, preparing for new batteries, there is a master's class happening this week with Charles Lake and David Long...it's been BUSY!  So thankful for the crew facilitating it all so we could be away!

04 June 2018

Seeds of Greatness and Sof

Yesterday was a fantastically full day, full-busy and full-of-heart. 

There are a lot of special things about our Seeds of Greatness, but it all boils down in my mind to a truly genuine group of people who are passionate about pairing practical application with the Living Word.  Worshipping with them every year for the past 12 makes being there a major milestone for Matt and I, looking back, remembering, looking ahead, grateful for this partnership.

Matt might do the preaching, but we are far more inspired and encouraged by the Word being poured into us throughout any day we spend there.  
Pastor Jerome and Lisa are great encouragement and mentors for us both, transparent and faithful.  Jerome baptized Matt when he was 6 or 7, and it's always crazy to think about God's plans.
My friend Keesha has long been on my prayer list and I know I'm always on hers...For several years I prayed for the Lord to bring a Godly man into her life, then three summers ago she was dating James, last summer she had married James, and yesterday I got to spend some precious time with her carrying little James...She's due one week after I am...how special is that!

Around two we left Seeds and headed south, driving the 5 hours to Williamsburg and getting everyone into bed around 10...
and this girlie woke up now 7!!








We love her dearly and are very much so looking forward to celebrating Sofia with no where to be, today!






02 June 2018

rice and beans

Friday early afternoon Matt headed to his wedding and the girls and I headed to meet my sister!  Sofie and Nora had still not met baby Addy, who is now 6 months old, and so we met in the middle and let the girls play and caught up a bit.  First world problems...It is surprisingly difficult to have an adult conversation with 6 kiddos at an indoor playground place :)  That's ok...it was wonderful to have some beautiful time with Evie, Jay and Addy.  



Matt was gone most of the weekend, but had a great time reconnecting with a lot of family he hasn't seen in years...all his dad's siblings and cousins and spouses, and was thankful for a chance to minister to so many people through officiating and preaching the wedding.
The girls and I had a slow day today, just what we all needed, and got everything repacked and ready for checkout before an 8 am service tomorrow morning.  

Tonight for dinner I thought it would be fun to give them the choice, so I described to them some of the dozens of options of restaurants and food within minutes of our hotel.  "You guys get to pick, " I told them, "whatever you want to eat, and you all agree, we're going!"

"Rice and beans!" yelled Lily.
"Rice and beans!" yelled Sofie.
"Sghetti and catsup!" yelled Nora.  

You can take these girls out of Haiti, but...

We settled on Chipotle, where they got a huge bowl of rice with black beans and shredded chicken and avocado and three spoons in, devoured the whole thing.  

I will continue to not understand why in the world they would want what we eat EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. of the year, and they will continue to not understand what in the world a chicken finger is, and why I want them to appreciate American food.  

So glad to have Matt back late tonight (he's out returning borrowed carseats right now, now that I have our carseats back), and tomorrow holds an 8 am and 10:30 service at Seeds of Greatness, followed by a 5 hour drive to Williamsburg.

John and Dorothy (better known in our family as Dodo and Bubba) have been trying to get us to actually vacation through their timeshare for years, and we finally said, SIGN US UP, and they did!  We've never been and don't really know what we're getting into, but know we have a free place of our own in Williamsburg for the whole week, and that friends, is precious.  SO THANKFUL Dodo and Bubba kept on us, and for these next few days to celebrate Sofie's seventh birthday Monday, to be with my sister's family (yep, the timeshare sleeps 8, which is close enough to the 10 my sister and I have somehow become)!

It's gonna be a big day and an awesome chance to have the Gospel renew us, to share the Gospel to renew others.    

31 May 2018

the line

We wrapped up a lovely time in Fort Myers with Matt’s parents, brother and sister-in-law, and our niece and nephew…we had awesome food, went swimming, went to the trampoline park (it was a rainy week!), had a great church service Sunday, went on lots of walks and bike rides, had tea parties and date night, and all had a lot of good family time together!  Matt’s parents took the days off work and the cousins were mostly off school, and we had fun bouncing between his parents house and brother’s house.  

By bedtime last night everyone was emotional, just like our last evening in Kansas.  Why do we have to leave again, when are we going to see them again, and Nora adding to the mix with “But I’m going to miss my FRIENDS!!!” 


It is just not easy. Wasn’t and isn’t and won’t be. Our family is so all splayed, our homes so diverse that you’re always missing someone.  We are trying to encourage our girlies to be grateful for the precious time we do have in each place, with each person, and as we all sang Oceans again at bedtime last night, that we’d keep our eyes above the waves and trust Him as He leads.

One of those totally unexpected ways that the Lord met us this past week was on Sunday evening, when we went out with Casey and Laura for dinner.  After an awesome meal, we decided to walk around the shopping district to help our food settle, and we were only about 2 steps in when Matt heard a family passing us speaking Haitian Creole.  Being Mother’s Day in Haiti, Matt greeted them in Creole with a “Happy Mother’s Day!”

The mom, dad and three grown children were more than a little shocked, and for 15 minutes we all stood on the sidewalk laughing and talking, realizing that they are from a town not far from us, that they know several of the same people we do, that they used to go to a church one of our adjunct professors pastors, then on to what their life is like these last four years in Ft. Meyers, what our life is like these past 11 years in Haiti.  

By the time we headed our separate ways, there were kisses and good wishes and hand-holding all around, and as we continued our walk with Casey and Laura, it had been a refreshing reminder of some of the sweetness of life in Haiti…a sustainer to keep on trusting Him in the midst of travelling trials. 

“You don’t KNOW those people?” Casey and Laura asked, noting how warm and animated and kind the group had been.  

Which is just how it IS. 

A beautiful, heart-wrenching, happy and devastating place to live, where far more people are leaving than coming, where community is quick and faithful and where…this encounter reminded us…He’s surely equipped and called, formed and filled us to be.  

That fine line...even when it’s hard. Which is quite often.

Lily continues to struggle the most, continue to pray for her, and for grace and understanding and wisdom for Matt and I as we try to shepherd and disciple and love on her in the midst of a LOT of very different days, different places, different people, different experiences, different emotions, different schedules.   

It is a hard, hard line when far from home (and the girls' home culture) to find and follow while everything is so uprooted, that line between grace and discipline, between choosing the things to hold firm to and the things to let go, between what is most important and what can wait a few weeks, between our standards and world standards they're seeing and asking all about.   

We have lots of good things to look forward to and we’re pressing on!  Five am Thursday morning brought on another flight, this time from Ft Myers to Philadelphia.  A friend is picking us up, taking us to the generous Dutton’s house, where they are letting us use their car the next few weeks. We’re in a hotel for a few days, while Matt spends Friday and Saturday doing a wedding rehearsal a few hours away, and then a wedding for his cousin and her fiancĂ©, catching up with lots of his dad’s family.

Sunday morning Matt’ll be preaching at Seeds of Greatness Bible Church, both services…if you’re in the DE/PA/NJ region, we’d love to see you there, and worshipping with our SoG family is always SO good and encouraging!    


29 May 2018

family time

These kiddos have been keeping us fun and busy...we are so thankful for this good time with Grammy, PopPop, Uncle Casey, Aunt Laura, Nico and Lucia.  We've spent hours playing baseball, at the pool, riding bikes, playing games, taking the dogs for walks, playing with sparklers, and having our annual Grammy's tea party.

We also got a double date night with Casey and Laura, which hasn't happened in like 7 years!  So fun.
These kiddos have so much fun together





Our last tea party (two years ago)!

Tomorrow is our last day together before heading up north on Thursday!  If you're in the Jersey/DE/Philly region, we'd love to see you at Seeds of Greatness Bible Church on Sunday morning!!