Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's officially spring! I know, a couple weeks late, but, still I'm excited. Although, with the weather here, you wouldn't really know for sure that we had made the transition yet. 
Winter was quite hard this year, so we can officially say we have experienced a Dutch winter, which we had been warned. The canals froze for the first time in years and so we were able to watch and experience ice skating on the canals. It was amazing, it just seemed to make everyone so happy.
A few days after the first day of spring is Kevin's birthday. Birthdays are big here so I threw a party. I invited all of our neighbors and friends and we had a great time just getting to know everyone better. I had been apprehensive about hosting a party because I felt like maybe it was too soon. I was wrong. Everyone seemed genuinely excited about coming. It made me think maybe I should have thrown a party sooner. But, it did make me think, who doesn't want to come to a party?! 
They even brought gifts, which was just humbling. We don't know each other that well and to take the time and effort to go and purchase a gift for him was, well, it left us speechless. We have been blessed beyond what we can describe when it comes to the people that God has brought into our life. They are becoming friends and for that I am so thankful. 
We are anxious for the coming months because of all of the visitors that will be on our side of the ocean. So, even if we don't get the sun a whole lot this spring, at least, we will be enjoying the company of some pretty special people.
In the meantime, Kevin is in the beginning stages of raising funds for the bookstore. I would like to ask you to pray for him and us as we pursue this seemingly enormous task. If you want to find out more about what we are doing the website is
I hope you are enjoying your spring and are able to take time and reflect about Easter. This year we are going to be attending a church in the city and we are really looking forward to being with other believers in celebrating Jesus' resurrection. 
I look forward to the day when the community of believers, unknown to us right now, is meeting and celebrating Jesus.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I quit Twitter. I've been thinking about this for a while, and it's not like I'm a big loss to the Twitter world. I mainly retweeted others and occasionally put up a picture, but I would look on it quite a bit, and that's what got me thinking. Was it a profitable use of my time? For me, I came to the conclusion that it was not. Not because my time is more precious than others or that I'm smarter or wiser. It's just that over the past year I have been in this battle of living in the present. Showing up where I'm at, like a saying that I have always loved, "bloom where your planted." Corny, maybe, but it is true none the less. The thought of living in the present seems like a no-brainer, but the more I listen and observe others, I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with this.

Many people, myself included, think too much about regrets and things we should have done and then we switch to what's coming down the road. Meanwhile, there is scenery on either side of us and we are oblivious to it. The reality is that we are taking pictures or filming a moment instead of just taking in it, and not even to mention the biggest failure of all, how many people are we just flat out ignoring because we are on some form of "social media." 

I know, yet another note about the evils of "social media." But, I'm really not trying to put it down. I've considered quitting everything, Facebook, Instagram, etc., but my tendency is almost always to throw the baby out with the bath water, so, I truly want this to be a "conversation" about this and to let you in on my own thoughts.

While this choice has been one I've pondered for the past few weeks, the topic of whether or not all of these outlets are profitable for me has been on my mind for a long time. Paul states in 1 Cor. 10:23, "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up." I have asked myself this question with everything I am on..."Is this profitable for me?" Does it encourage thinking, the actual turn on your brain thinking, or am I just checked out? Does it encourage me in Truth and beauty? Am I learning something that could benefit those around me? Is it helpful? This is my own checklist because I know my own struggles, but there are others that could be included too. How much time to do I spend? Am I ignoring others? Am I present in the moments I'm given? I think our human tendency is to leave out the 'profitable' part, and not even to mention verse 24 which says, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." When I include vs. 24 I have to ask myself the question, "Are these used for the good of others?" 

We just finished going through Gospel in Life, a series by Tim Keller. The themes he goes through have been ones that God seems to be bringing up in our lives the past year, the main one being, that as Christians we are to be alternate, an alternate family, an alternate city. I have realized that in my own life I tend to just adopt the culture around me without asking those same questions that I asked with Twitter. Yeah, I throw out the blatant things that I know are sinful, but I sense that it is through these lawful things is where I get off course. I want to be that alternate person, that alternate family. I want to show others I am about real relationships. I want others to know that I care about what's going on in their lives, that they don't need to clean themselves up, because truth be told, I need help too. 

Think about it, we all long for community and relationships, and the solution has been to create them through outlets that end up bringing us no satisfaction or sense of purpose, and let's not even put our real selves out there, let's re-invent and create the person we want to be. Then there is the vicious cycle of not having anything to talk about because we already know everything that has gone on in each other's day or week, so when we actually do get together we don't have much to say so...let's just hang out while we look at our phones, IPad, TV, etc. Getting out of this cycle, alone, is worth it to me. 

Moving has brought me face-to-face with these decisions. It is the picture perfect example of what I'm talking about. I want so badly to keep up with everything that's going on in Springfield, but I have to face reality, I can't. Not only physically can I not, but emotionally I have to let go. Obviously, I will know some things and I have close friends and family, but all that goes without saying. It's just that I can't have "one foot there and one foot here." I have to look at what is going on around me. Invest in the relationships that God is putting in front of me. Show up every day in my life, my family, my apartment, my city. 

Here in Amsterdam, I notice that people focused in on their phones doesn't seem to be as prominent, but I know that people are people everywhere, so I know the culture here is not completely immune. But, starting over in making friends and building relationships makes me think through what I have to do to start that conversation to get to know someone. I have to think through what it actually looks like to be that alternate person. Someone that is not seeking my own good but the good of my neighbor and the good of my city. Will I quit anything else? I don't know, and I may not even stay gone forever, if it ever becomes profitable for me and those around me, I'll be back. But for now, I'm becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that I live here...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Well...we've been back 2 weeks. We had a fun time with my mom being here with us, it definitely made the transition easier this time.
We went from hot to fall weather. We've had some sun, but we came home and put on jeans and jackets, after we woke up, of course. Jet-lag is a butt-kicker when you travel east, or, maybe it's just us!
We are settling back in, I've been decorating, or I guess you could say "nesting." It's been a while since I've really decorated a home, so it's been fun figuring out what I like and what makes our apartment feel like home to us. 
My sister (and so many others) introduced me to Pinterest while we were back and "Oh my lands!" Needless to say, they were all can be a time-sucker, but it really has been helpful. I really was needing some new recipes and dessert ideas.  
Thanks to my mom, I now have new curtains in my living and dining room. I really wish I could sew, but I just don't know if I will ever have time to get around to learning, and really, why should I...I have my sister to do it for me?! 
All of the kids, except for Jack, started school last Monday. I was glad to be back in a routine. If you know me, you know I need a schedule! They are happy to be back, except for Reece and Nina have complained that they don't like to go because they make them work. Our response to that..."gasp, how horrible! Get over it." We are waiting to hear when Jack will start. He has his class roster and schedule, but for some reason they aren't starting. I've been keeping him busy with things around the house, but he's bored. Pray he starts soon.
Our little apartment feels more and more like home. Life is seeming more normal. I can't explain it, but you know, just that familiar feeling like this is where you live...I'm grateful for that feeling. Springfield is so familiar, so comfortable, Amsterdam is...well, it's not quite comfortable yet, but it's becoming more familiar. It's weird to think that this time last year we were 6 days away from leaving. God has done more than I could have ever imagined in the space of 12 months, and for all of it, the comfortable and the uncomfortable, I'm thankful...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wow, I've not been a very good blogger, huh? I often think of things to write but then I never get around to actually putting it down on "paper." I have been thinking I need to tell you what I do on a day-to-day basis and I will, but for now, I would like to share something else with you.
It has been a little bit of a rough month for us. We have been homesick. It kinda hit us at a weird time. Things have been going really good. God continues to reveal to us why we are here. We are building friendships. The kids are doing great. But, one day, Kevin and I both just looked at each other and admitted we were tired. Tired of being here, tired of being alone, tired of waiting...
It's hard. I don't want to sound like I'm just complaining, or that I'm just scribbling down a few words after having a bad day. I have so much to be thankful for, and I have to remind myself, that God is at work and that He hasn't left us no matter how we may feel. As I have learned, my feelings aren't always the best indicator of what is going on around me. 
There is a passage in Luke that speaks to situations like ours. In chapter 18 Peter tells Jesus that they have left everything to follow him and Jesus replies with,"No one has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive it many more times in this time and in the age to come eternal life."
When I read this, I thought about how wonderful it is that He knows how I feel, how Kevin feels, and how my children feel. He knows exactly what we are going through. 
I, we, hold onto to this verse, and I believe it's Him who keeps whispering to our hearts, "Don't give up."
I don't know why I feel impressed to share all of this with you. This is a little more than I would typically share with an audience I may or may not know. But I guess the reality is, that we all go through times where we feel so alone. If you are like me, you find yourself wondering, "Is this ever going to change?" 
Kevin reminded me of something the other day. He told me, "Remember, when you were pregnant and in your nervousness to go through labor again, you would tell me to remind you that the pain wasn't going to last forever, it would be over and our baby would be here and it would be over." He said, "That's what I am thinking about all of this, one day, all of this is going to be worth it." 

"Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we don't focus on what is seen, but what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  
                                    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Monday, March 21, 2011

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else…” 
-C.S. Lewis

The weeks seem to fly by, something I tend to have mixed feelings about. I love the fact that spring is here which means summer is right around the corner, but the thinker inside of me starts pondering on how time seems to be such a fleeting thing.  If you know me at all, you know I think, probably way too much; but sometimes, there seems to be a theme occurring in my thoughts.  These are the ones I try to give more attention. These thoughts are often the ones that I feel are God given, whether I am being convicted or being made aware of something I am supposed to do. 

The thought that has nagged at me now for a couple of months is…What is my worldview? What is your worldview? Now, in reality, I am only responsible for my own, but from everything from wars, and natural disasters, to Rob Bell, it makes me think of how others, namely those who call themselves Christians, view the world and what has been in the news.  How we see the world does come from what we put in front of us, TV, music, culture, education, Scripture…

What gets the most attention? Questions like this swirl around inside my head. Could I answer a question someone has about some TV show, but also be able to show you what the Bible says about Hell? Do we (Christians) really know what we believe or do we regurgitate what has been fed to us?  Do I view everything that goes on around me through the “lens of Scripture” or do I just see it through the flesh that I live in?  Now, before we all beat ourselves up or just flippantly respond with, “Of course I have a biblical worldview.” Think about it.

When you hear about a man who writes a book that goes against what Scripture says. How do you respond? Does it depend on what that man looks like? Does it depend on what kind of following he has? If he wasn’t “modern”  would I have ever paid attention to him in the first place?

It’s easy to think or feel that, “I always thought he was a bit off.” or “I don’t see what the big deal is.” But, seeing that people don’t get the Truth from our feelings, the questions that have been posed require responses. Not that all of us will find ourselves in a conversation with someone who is asking what we believe and our opinion on a book. We do,however, end up with: Do we respond? Can we respond? Are we able to answer and not just send them to someone else or a website.

All of these things require our thoughts. We have to think. We have to process what is going on around us.  Do I know what the Bible says about Heaven or Hell or am I holding onto what I was taught in my 2nd grade Sunday School class?

R.C. Sproul states in The Truth Project, even though we are living in a day with more access to more knowledge than we have ever had, “We are living in probably the most anti-intellectual day…’I don’t want to learn, I don’t want to study the Word of God, I want to have a feeling, I want to have some kind of mystical experience and let that supplant or replace the hard study of the content of the Word of God.’ But, the Scriptures say, the way life changes is when the mind changes.”

I love that last line, “…the way life changes is when the mind changes.” Our mind has to be conformed to the Word.

When our mind is conformed to His Word we can accurately gauge fact from fiction (Romans 12:1-2).  As 2 Timothy 2:15 says, 
“…rightly handling the word of truth.” Paul is addressing the issue of false teachers here and he goes onto say, “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness…” (vs. 16) False teaching results in arguing.

What makes me sad about this whole controversy is the pastors who seem to be afraid of taking a stand on important issues.  I saw a quote from a pastor that stated, “We bash Rob Bell, but morons who say that earthquakes are God’s divine judgment get a free pass?”I know there are people out there who take Scripture out of context and say very hurtful things, but just like those, there are others who also take it out of context and say things that are false. Both are wrong. We should be asking, “Why do we NOT require (Scriptural) context from Rob Bell, but we do from the morons who say that earthquakes are God’s divine judgment?” It seems, that we are more concerned about being viewed as relevant, and dare I say it, “cool” than we are to being biblical. 

When we have a biblical worldview we see everything that goes on around us thru the filter of God’s Word. So, we aren’t surprised when someone comes along and preaches something contrary to it because we see that Paul addresses false teaching time and time again in the New Testament. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

Can you, can I, answer the questions that have been raised by this book? I would encourage you to read, study, seek out godly counsel. We have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. We are told that the “…(Spirit) he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13). Wisdom comes from the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. 

A public or spoken answer to the questions won’t be required for the majority of us, but the very least these questions should do is to push us to find the biblical answers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We have had a fun, relaxing weekend. Reece's 11th birthday was on Friday. So, what's a birthday without a party! He had 2 boys spend the night and Nina had 2 girls spend the night. In total, we had 8 kids under one roof which measures about 1000sq.ft. It was fun, and it wasn't too loud.  I was thankful for that, our downstairs neighbors just moved in, and I would hate to give them a bad first impression. 
Monday begins the new week. The calendars here start the week on Monday, not Sunday. I look forward to the start of every week. What does God have for us this week? Will I meet someone new? What will I learn this week? Will it feel more like home? So, every week is started with some anticipation, even more so this week because my parents are coming! I normally start my week with a list of things I have to do and this week is going to be busy.
There is much to be done. Cleaning, going to the market, sitting down to translate papers that have to be signed and returned. What would I do without Google Translate?! 
Finally, working on Dutch. This is the time consuming one. I will be trying to set up and schedule our formal classes this week. I absolutely can't wait to speak this language. I hate not being able to have a complete conversation. Oh, I can talk to people, but so much is lost in translation. They don't understand every word and certainly don't get our slang, cliches, or sayings. I don't understand theirs either. I learn more every week why it is so important for us to know their language. It has become an earnest prayer of mine.
Although, during this time of not being able to speak someone's native language I am learning to listen more and prefer them above myself. Which, surprise surprise, is hard to do. I have to put someone's needs above my own. Philippians 2 says to "...count others more significant than yourself..." It seems, I am faced with situations where I hear this whisper, "prefer them above yourself." Whether I am faced with 2 women in the grocery store who seem to be oblivious that anyone else is shopping or giving up my seat in the tram for the older gentleman who is having trouble walking. I wish I could say I prefer the other person every time I am faced with that choice, but sadly, I do not. I long for the day that I default to looking out for the interests of others above my own, although, I'm not sure that I'll see that day this side of heaven. 
It all seems to be wrapped up in humility. Do I ever get away from this one? 
Practicing the language is hard, and because I want to say the words as close as possible to the way they say them, I am asking questions, a lot of them, but my insecurities come screaming to the surface. I'm afraid of sounding like an idiot. I'm afraid of saying that one word that sounds like the other word and saying something really rude or profane, I've heard too many horror stories. I find myself asking strangers, "How do you say that?" or "Sorry, I don't speak Dutch, could you help me?" I have to push myself to say "Goedemorgen" and "Dank u wel." I know it's important that I keep trying even though I don't feel like it.
But, in the middle of all these new lessons of dying to self is this gift that this new experience of learning a language brings: that communicating is much more than words. It's about smiling when no one around me is smiling, and allowing the joy that is in my heart to show on my face.  Paying attention to the little details of someone's life so I can serve them and let them know I heard them and what they say matters to me.
I am excited for the day when I can converse with someone in Dutch. I know that before that day comes, I am going to have to go through some humbling experiences of speaking and, at times, being laughed at. The way I always laughed at the Mongolian restaurant in Springfield that wrote "We will rebuilt!" on their sign. I wonder if they were using Google Translate?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It is a beautiful day here in Amsterdam.  We woke up to, well to darkness, but when daylight broke it was the sun!  I was so happy to see it.  
January is over and so is our month of free public transportation. So, that means we are back to biking. Biking is something that is almost synonymous with this country. The responsibility is almost equal to that of driving a car in the states, at least, that is what we have told our kids. I have told them it is one time where you have complete permission to think only about yourself because everyone else is biking that same way. You have to watch out where you are going, what is in your way. 
It's funny though, to see someone talking on their phone or reading while biking! Everything that we would do, TRY to do, or shouldn't do, in a car they will do on a bike. They will bike when there is 6" of snow on the ground or when it is raining. They will put their 2 kids on their bike and head out to run their daily errands. It makes biking on the Greenways trails in Springfield a true leisure activity. Something I look forward to doing this summer when we are back. We have laughed many times at the comparisons. "This is like biking to Lowe's and buying our paint and tools and loading them up on our bike and going back home." 
I admire the Dutch for the attitude they have. It seems, when they have something to do, they do it. They may complain about the weather, but it doesn't stop them. I am trying to adopt this same attitude, but, needless to say, I still can't wait for spring!