Change

Change has always been a fixture in my life. As a military kid, we moved every few years throughout my childhood. I actually attended three different high schools and moved right before the start of my senior year. A lot of people are horrified when they hear that, but to me it was normal.

After Brandy and I got married, we settled down in Colorado Springs for about nine years. That was the longest I’d ever been in one place. Sometimes, it was hard. That desire to move on, to change, to do something else pulled at me. It was almost like an itch. Although with each passing year the comfort of the familiar became less alien.

This Spring we will have been living in Kandern for ten years. Two of our kids have graduated from High School here, and Faith will be starting her senior year in the Fall. Profound change is a constant in this life we lead, but we have some fixtures: friends, a home, things that feel steady and familiar.

But all things change. In the next few years, a lot of the ties that have bound us to this place will be severed. The Totalization treaty that exists between the U.S. and Germany will force us to leave for another 366 days, and we’ll arrive at that magical moment in our German mortgage where we can sell without penalty or commit to another ten years.

The moment will be ripe to make a change. But should we? Is it the prompting of the Holy Spirit, or just that old itch? I’m not sure. We’d love to have your prayers as we try to figure it out.

Do you ever feel the need to move? To go somewhere new? Have you ever felt God calling you somewhere that you weren’t sure you wanted to go?

Christmas Banquet

This was written yesterday, but didn’t get posted.

I’m sitting in a plush chair, my laptop glowing at me as Christmas music roars out of the kitchen to my left. Up the stairs I can hear a mixture of proclamations and the tinkling giggles of sixteen year olds doing their makeup. Tonight is Christmas Banquet a Black Forest Academy. In my mind, it’s an analog of Homecoming. It’s the first semi-formal of the year, open to all four grades, much is made over who is going with whom.

Suddenly, it hits me that we don’t have a Christmas tree yet. My world spins a bit. This past week is foggy and distant. Some combination of stress, allergy medication and lack of sleep has me particularly out of sorts.

I’m here trying to write a blog post, because I haven’t gotten that job done well the last several days. But in truth, I’ve no idea where this is heading. A bit of stream of consciousness meandering to…..

And now I’ll distract you from my utterly vacuous ramblings with all of these lovely ladies.

Hope for the Hopeless

“This is awful.”

“Yep.”

Isaac and I drove home in virtual silence.  The disappointments were mounting.  After getting accepted to his first choice college, Isaac had been unable to go.  It was just too expensive, in spite of his numerous scholarships from the school and even one from a local church.  Now he was waiting on his second choice school but it would be months yet.

We’d just put Brandy and Faith on a plane back to Germany, but finances had forced me to stay behind.  I had no return ticket.  No plan for when I could go home.  We were both stuck in limbo.

“Heard back on any of your job applications?”  I asked.

He just shook his head.  The pneumonia had interfered with all of his plans.  No friends.  No job.

“Maybe next week we can drive out to Barclay.”  The tiny college I’d graduated from in Kansas was hovering in the number 3 or 4 slot on Isaac’s list.  “Have a little father/son road trip.”

Isaac smiled softly.  “That’d be fun, Pa.”

While I was trying to line up appointments for my extended stay, I texted admissions over the weekend and setup accommodations for us Monday night and a tour Tuesday morning.  So, after a long slow weekend, the two of us set out for Kansas.

A six hour trip quickly became eight.  As we neared the tiny town of Haviland (population 703), a big sign reading “I’d turn back if I were you” seemed almost prophetic.  The town was so small, we drove right past it and had to turn around, but we found the school.

The Barclay College campus is actually quite lovely.
The Barclay College campus is actually quite lovely.
The bear mascot waving in the breeze.
The bear mascot waving in the breeze.

18 hours later we were back in the car driving home.

“What did you think?”  I asked.

“As plan B,” Isaac answered, “I would be happy to go there.”

The next morning dawned bleakly.  I had no new appointments.

“Dear Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t know what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it this way…  Help me.  Please, Lord.  You’re always there when I need you.  I know you’re hearing me now.  What do I do?”

When I’d finished praying, I walked upstairs to see Isaac.  He looked like I felt.

He’d been waiting for today since his arrival.  He was to audition for the church music team, but the leader couldn’t make it and they would have to reschedule. He felt a bit like the only thing he was looking forward to had been taken away.  Both of us sat looking at one another in shared commiseration.  We felt hopeless.  I started talking, trying to suggest activities that Isaac might enjoy, and all of the sudden, he sat bolt upright, his eyes lighting up.

“What?”  I asked.

He started to slump immediately.  “Nothing.”  He said.  “It’s crazy.  It doesn’t make any sense.”

I smirked.  “None of this makes sense.”  I said, “Let’s hear it.”

“What if I just go to Barclay right now?  This semester.” he replied.  “But, then I’d have to take out loans and it… it’s just crazy.”

I was glad that he was leery of loans, but I knew they’d be very small in this case, so I told him to go ahead and submit the application and I’d get started on finances.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind.  Isaac submitted his application Wednesday, was accepted Thursday and we were back in Kansas moving him into his dorm on Saturday.  Everything seemed like a perfect fit.  By the time I was driving back to Colorado on Sunday afternoon, Isaac was on the soccer team, had found a good church, scheduled an audition for the worship band and was joining the school choir.  I could see God’s hands all over this moment that was tailored precisely for my son.

The next morning, I was back in a darker place.

“Yes, Lord, it’s clear to me I needed to be here to help Isaac step into the amazing plan you have, but,” I whined vigorously, “I’m still stuck here — no closer to having the money raised!”

The foolishness of it, the ingratitude is embarrassing, but I’m being honest.

Between fruitless attempts to raise money, I tried to contact the finance office at Barclay.  Isaac was in classes, but I still didn’t know how much the bill would be.  I expected we’d need an additional $3000-4000 to be paid over the remainder of the year.  Finally, I got the finance guy on the phone.

“I’ve got all Isaac’s info here, I just have to put it into the system.”  He told me.

I listened to his clicking keys for several minutes.  Then came the big number.

“First semester,”  He informed “Isaac will owe $1247 and $1248 next semester.”

I got payment instructions and we agreed to talk again the next day.  As I hung up the phone, I got thinking about Isaac’s church scholarship.  I called them on the phone.

“Yes.  Isaac has already talked with us, we’re directing the scholarship to Barclay.”

The scholarship was $1250 a semester.  I was floored.  Here I was, questioning God and his plan, his ability even to work out our convoluted finances.  But God had known all along, where Isaac would end up and how much it would cost.  He’d arranged it all perfectly from the beginning, though we’d been unable to see it until all the pieces came together.

It’s still hard to contemplate our financial situation.  But I’ve been powerfully reminded just how good and generous our God can be, when we’re seeking him and walking in his will.  It’s not that getting there wasn’t difficult.  Of course, it was.  There were powerful moments of hopelessness and despair.  And yet, God delivered on such a sweeping scale.  How can I not have confidence in his plans for our ministry and financial provision?  Praise the Lord!

How2Video – Get Your Story Straight

It was a very long process getting this video done.  My role in GEM’s annual conference, as well as numerous other projects kept pushing it further and further back, not to mention the scope of the material being pretty challenging to begin with.  However, over the past several months, how2video.org has become the permanent home on the web for the series (even if the site is still just a place holder), I’ve gotten to work with some great new people, had a blast working with some friends, and the first and probably the most difficult instructional video is done.  🙂  Let me know what you think.

HOW_TO:VIDEO – Intro – for review

This is the first segment from the video series I’ve been working on.  The concept is to produce a series a videos, directed at missionaries, to help them correspond with their supporters via video.  The hope is that this will more deeply engage the North American audience in missions, as well as helping missionaries more effectively communicate the exciting stories from their fields.  The video may still change a little bit, but this should be pretty close to what the final video will look like.

(updated with video link for RSS folks)