Monday, July 30, 2012

The Exciting End of an Era!

Today, Nate got his braces off! After 2 years of having to deal with discomfort and not being allowed to eat popcorn or sticky foods, he has finally been set free. Here is a "photo journal" of our exciting visit to the orthodontist today...

Nate waits in the chair for Dr. Opin to remove his braces

Dr. Opin goes to work!

Nate gets some comfort from the therapy dog, Cooper. (Cooper is seriously the coolest part of every visit to the orthodontist!)

Nate and Cooper celebrate

All done!

Our First Commissioning

Sorry for the blogging hiatus! We've been traveling a lot this month and it's been tough to keep up with the blog. But we are trying to get back into a rhythm!

This week, we are back in Connecticut with my family and yesterday, we had the special opportunity of being commissioned by my home church in Easton. My youth pastor from growing up, Rev. Cary Slater, still works at the church and it was really great that he was there to commission us. (By the way, in the photo to the left you see a wilderness backdrop...this is not normal for the church :)  Their VBS program is this week.)

We started with sharing with the congregation a little bit about our ministry and how they can specifically be praying for us in the coming months. Then Cary invited anyone from the congregation who was a part of my discipleship growing up, like Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders, to come to the front to lay hands on us and pray over us. It was very powerful for me to see the great group of people surrounding us who were lifting us up and who have shepherded me in so many ways. God has used many people along our journey to help prepare us for the mission field!

At the end, Nate and I lit a candle and carried it out of the sanctuary, symbolizing being a shining light and sharing Christ's light in Austria. The commissioning ended with singing "Send Me" with the congregation. I'm so thankful we were able to be sent out by Covenant, and we feel very supported by them. After church, we hosted an open house and lunch at my parents' house to celebrate. It was a great day, and we'll miss all of these wonderful people here!

Monday, July 16, 2012

30 Days of Prayer

In just a few weeks, we are kicking off a special month. August 1 - 30 will be 30 Days of Prayer for our ministry and departure for Austria. As we get close to our departure goal, we are ready to come boldly before the throne of God and ask Him to work mightily and to open the doors for us to get to Austria in early October.

All of our prayer team members will receive 1 email a day for 30 days, containing specific prayer requests and updates on progress towards departure. If you would like to also receive these emails, you can complete the form at the bottom to join in the effort!

Right now, we are at almost 90% of our support goal and we must reach 100% (with monthly, quarterly and annual commitments) in order to depart. We are praying that we reach this goal by September 1st, giving us 1 month to purchase tickets, ship items and prepare to leave.

Why do we need to depart in early October? Getting on a plane the first week of October will enable us to jump into language learning full-time early enough to pass a crucial language competency exam in December. We will need at least two months of language learning in order to pass the test, so arriving in October is important. Passing this exam is required by our visa application, which we will hand in January 2nd.

Would you join us in prayer? Please be praying for our departure and that God would work in people's hearts to join our support team. Please pray for shipping and departure details to come together. But most of all, pray that God would be working in our hearts and preparing us spiritually, mentally and emotionally for the transition ahead.

We are eagerly anticipating how God will work during these 30 Days of Prayer!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions: Financial Support

Hi friends!

We are getting close to our financial support goal, and we're getting ready to depart. So we thought it would be helpful if we answered some "frequently asked questions" in terms of our financial support as people come on board. Have more questions? Post a comment here and let us know!

Why are you raising financial support here in the States?
The support we raise will meet our financial needs while we are serving in Austria. The churches in Austria that we will be supporting will not be able to pay us, and we do not want to burden then with our financial needs. This means we need to raise the funds to cover our salary, living expenses, and ministry funds. Because these costs are on-going, we are looking for people or churches to commit to giving a particular amount of money on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly or annually), so that we can budget accordingly.

Will you get a job when you get to Austria to pay some of your salary?
We do not plan on getting jobs in Austria that will pay us a salary.  We are excited to commit 100% of our time to church planting and leadership developing in the Austrian evangelical church. The church there is small and many congregations struggle to pay a pastor. We our full-time support, we hope to plant churches and help them grow to the size where they can pay an Austrian pastor to lead them. We will then move on to another church plant, and we will never be a financial burden to the churches we start.

What does your financial support pay for?
WorldVenture, our sending organization, does a great job of putting together a detailed budget for us. That budget includes: salary, ministry funds, housing and utilities, self employment taxes, health insurance, retirement contributions, savings for car repairs, savings for home visits, travel funds, medical insurance and a percentage that goes to WorldVenture for their staff and overhead costs. In exchange for the fees we pay to WorldVenture, we receive counseling, support, processing of our donations, training and guidance for their staff.

What are the different ways that someone can make financial donations to your ministry?
On-going financial supporters can sign up for our support team by clicking here. WorldVenture offers three options: sending checks, regular charges to a credit card, and regular bank debits. Anyone who commits to making a donation at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly or annually) helps us reach our 100% on-going support goal.

One-time donations are also helpful! They will help pay for language school, ministry equipment (laptops, etc.), travel expenses, and unexpected costs. One-time gifts will also help make up the difference in our budget if we lose any on-going support after arriving in Austria.

When should I start giving?
Many of our supporters are giving now. Any donations made before we depart will go towards our start-up costs, which will cover relocation, apartment real estate fees, language school, the purchase of a car, and travel. Some of our supports, however, will begin giving when we arrive in Austria. This should begin our first month on the field, which we hope will be October 2012.

We ask that anyone starting their support in October still complete WorldVenture's online commitment form as soon as possible. This makes their commitment "official" and allows it to be counted towards our goal of 100% support.

Who gives to your ministry and why?
Family, friends, and churches give to help meet our financial needs, and they give for many reasons. Many churches give out of a sense of vision and mission to accomplish the Great Commission - taking the love of Christ to the nations. For individuals, it often starts with a relationship. Many partners also give out of a sense of gratitude to God for what he has done for them through Christ. Others give out of a sense of obedience to the call in 1 Corinthians 4:1 to fulfill our stewardship of the gospel. And many partners have a strong sense of passion to see the gospel spread among certain people groups or certain regions of the world (such as Europe) or through certain types of ministry (such as church planting).

Let us know if you have more questions. We'd be happy to address them here!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Closing Out a Career

My view from the back of the hotel ballroom in CA this week
This week, I'm working at an event in California for my former employer, One Smooth Stone. This will be my last event after 7 years as an event producer. It feels a bit odd for me to finally be closing out my career and letting go of the "producer" title that has been a part of my identity for so long. It's also hard to walk away from a job that I enjoy and that I'm good at, one where I've finally gained enough experience to confidently play a significant role. If I were staying in this industry, I would just be hitting my stride and building my career. But God has something better in store.

I have many fond memories of events that I've worked and fun times I've had with clients and co-workers while on-site. I've traveled to beautiful places like Switzerland, Hawaii, Grand Cayman, Italy and Bermuda. I've worked hard on projects and seen them come to fruition and impact people. I've spent countless hours in hotel ballrooms and convention centers, not seeing the light of day! I've celebrated successful events with delicious food and fun evenings. I've pushed myself (and been pushed) to take on responsibility when I wasn't always sure I could handle it...and I learned so much through it. I've gained valuable skills in project management, communications, logistics, and discovering creative solutions to challenges.

It's been a great run, but I am at peace with moving on. I will miss my job, but I am so thrilled to be taking the next step and moving in a career that is deeply fulfilling for me in a new way. I'm excited to take what I've learned in the corporate world and use my skills to further God's kingdom and bring people into a personal and transforming relationship with Him.

I thank God for this career. And I thank God that I am ready for the next step.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

HOT-lanta Memories

We've spent the last two weeks staying at my brother's house in Atlanta. We've had a blast babysitting the kids, playing games, and making memories with the family. We are staying in an apartment attached to the house, and we've really been blessed by having some space to ourselves! The only downside has been the heat, with so many days over 100 degrees...but we're coping. Here are a few photo highlights from our time here!

Waiting at the starting line for the Peachtree 10 race on the 4th of July!
After the 10K - we survived!
Sharing about our ministry at my cousin's church, Grace Community Church in Dawsonville, GA.
The kids gather around Uncle Nate to watch him create 3D animations on the computer.
Posing after church with the two oldest, Meg (age 9) and Nate (age 8).
The many antics of little Caleb (age 4)!
Caleb's silly faces.
Kate, age 6
Meg & Nate
Group photo after church. Kate & Caleb were at their grandparents' house, so they missed out!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Good gifts?

I have been reading the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. This book has been on my reading list for years now, and I kept putting it off. Honestly, I thought to myself, "I think I have pretty healthy boundaries in my life. I'm sure it's an interesting book...but I don't really need to read it." Truly a naive thought. But I kept hearing about the book left and right, with recommendations from friends or quotes/references to it. So I finally caved in! And God has been blessing my time as I've been reading it.

One quote from the book recently stood out to me:

"God loves to give gifts to his children, but he is a wise parent. He wants to make sure his gifts are right for us. To know what to ask for, we have to be in touch with who we really are and what are our real motives. If we are wanting something to feed our pride or to enhance our ego, I doubt that God is interested in giving it to us. But if it would be good for us, he's very interested."

Wow. This really cuts to the core in its honesty and clarity, and it leads me to reexamine my prayers and requests to God. Am I truly examining my heart and motives when I ask God to intervene? Do I trust that God is my 'wise parent' and that He knows what's best, rather than what I think is good for me? Am I expectantly awaiting God's good gifts? These are hard questions and examining them has revealed my many shortcomings!

When we began our journey to Austria, we knew it would be a long and hard road getting there. But we told ourselves and others that God would use this time to mold and shape us, helping us grow into the people He wants us to be when we arrive. That's a great thought, right? But sometimes it's easier to say it than to believe it deeply. It's one thing to ask God to challenge you because you know you will grow...but it's another to welcome challenge when you're in the thick of it. And there have been some low points in the journey where I didn't necessarily want to be "molded and shaped" anymore.

The Boundaries quote has brought me back to focusing on trusting God's provision and plan as our loving Father, no matter what hardship lies ahead. It brings me back to a healthy examination of my requests to God. It reminds me that God knows best.

What does this quote lead you to dwell on in your relationship with God?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

One year ago...

Our garage sale where we sold most of our stuff - June 2011
One year ago today....

...we left our apartment behind and began a nomadic lifestyle.

...we gave up "feeling normal" and having a place to call home.
...we put our belongings in storage and learned to live more simply.
...we began a grand adventure that I has been hard, but so rewarding! And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

The view from our car the first day on the road - July 1, 2011
It's interesting to reflect on the fact that it has been a year since our big transition. As with many things, it seems like it's flown by so quickly and like it's been so long...all at the same time. As time goes by and we are "nomadic" for longer, I can admit that it gets more difficult. At first, the newness and feeling of adventure was enough to keep us going. The excitement of taking the next step and getting closer to Austria made the transitions easier. But it is beginning to wear on us. We miss having a place to call home, a retreat and a safe haven. We miss having a kitchen to cook in and we miss having access to some of the hobbies and things we enjoy doing together. We miss not having to pack and unpack every few weeks. But most of all, we miss stability. And we look forward to the day we will have it again in Austria. Each day, that stability and home get closer!