Feb
02

Rest Sister

So, we leave to go back to the States for furlough tomorrow – crazy!!  Crazy because we just started packing today (although, as a friend reminded me, experience has shown we don’t actually need that much time to pack!)  Crazy too, because life has been a bit crazy lately.

You might remember that before the boys and I went to the Philippines with my family, Branden and I had some challenges with renewing our visa.  Well, praise God that visa did get sorted (in an amazing and dramatic last minute display of God’s ability to take of things we can’t!)  We are good to stay in Ireland until the end of October this year.

What is still up in the air is what will happen after that.  In 2018, the Irish government made some major changes to its immigration regulations.  We first found out about them in September when we went to renew the visa we have now.  One of those changes is that there is now a cap on the number of years you can be on this visa.  That cap is three years, which we will complete in October of this year.

Because we can’t apply for it again, we either need to leave the country or get permission to stay under a different visa.  We’ve learned that there is one other visa we could qualify for and, through lots of conversations and weeks and weeks of research, we’ve almost gathered all the documents required to apply.  Most of these documents have never been asked of applicants before and several of them are not easy to obtain.  Among other changes, the immigration department is also requiring that we apply from our country of residence, which is one of the main reasons why we’re headed home for furlough.  Once we land in the U.S., we can mail in our application and documents, along with proof that we’ve left the country.  Then we wait to see what they decide.

To be honest, we’ve been on an emotional roller coaster since September regarding the visa situation.  Sometimes it’s at the forefront of everything, this weight and feelings of things being unfair, along with an overwhelming unsettledness and questions of ‘what if?’  What if we can’t get all these documents?  What if we have to leave the country in October?  What will we do?  What will life look like?

We know others that have had to leave suddenly, because of visa issues.  And some have not been permitted to come at all.  There is so much changing in Ireland.  This process feels cold and deliberate and unyielding.  And yet, I know the Lord is there.  That these ‘what if’s’ don’t keep Him up at night.  And sadly, this situation has revealed both my lack of confidence in Him and His relentless, quiet, kindness as He calls my gaze and heart to find my security in Him alone again.

The other day, I’d sent an email to a friend in the States, asking for help with one of the visa documents.  It was on my seemingly impossible list of to-do’s.  I’d been trying to figure out this particular document for several weeks already, without much progress.  Finally, I sent her the email explaining the situation and what we needed.  A few days passed, and I hadn’t heard back from her.  I sent her a message on Facebook to see if she’d gotten it.  We messaged back an forth a couple of times.  In the end, she said she’d take care of it.  Then she wrote the words “rest sister.”

I went to bed that night with a tiny bit of defensiveness.  When we first found out about all the changes, about all that was going to be required for us to apply for this new visa, I was kind of a mess.  It sounded impossible.  And because the regulations are so new, even many of the local authorities didn’t have any experience with them.  There was no template, no list of things to do and check off; we, and the leadership in our church, just needed to figure it out.  Now over the last few months, we’ve found others that are a little further along in the process, and God has been kind to encourage us in lots of other ways.  So most days now, I’m okay with it, functioning somewhat normally with the things in front of me without crying at the drop of a hat.  But this command, this invitation – “rest sister” – it felt a little rough on my skin.  Like “Calm down!” or “Relax already!”

Going to bed that night, I told Branden, “I want to rest!  I want to not be overwhelmed and truly trust that God is gonna take care of everything.  But I also have an incredibly long list of things that I actually have to do.  I can’t just sit back and drink a cup of tea – or maybe I can, while I start packing my bags to leave the country!”  (Did I say a tiny bit of defensiveness?)

This friend of mine, by the way, with the email, she’s always been a source of truth, a way God has spoken in real ways to Branden and me.  I love her so much.

I felt tired.  Ya’ll I am tired!  Like you know when you’re toddler is crying inconsolably because they just haven’t gotten enough sleep?  Yeah, I’ve been there more times than I care to admit in the last few months.  I’ve been overwhelmed, and at the same time, so grateful for where we are, how the Lord led us here, what we get to do and be a part of, and the relationships God has grown in the last 2+ years.

And can I just take a minute and say that God is so good!  That along with what I think are relatively normal challenges of having two pre-teen boys in our house, there is peace and ease and laughter and safety and genuine love  and discipleship in our home – praise God!  Our marriage is probably the best it’s ever been, we’re healthy, ministry is full, and our church is growing is so many ways – so much to be thankful for!

And perhaps that’s why the thought of everything changing again, us being kicked out of the country, not knowing what’s up ahead, that’s why it’s so overwhelming.

In fairness, this call to rest, the Lord had already said it to me.  I know myself (maybe you’re the same?) when I’m exhausted and feel like things are out of control, it’s because I’m trying to do things on my own, trusting in my own abilities and strength.  It’s like I’m walking a tight rope strung over the Grand Canyon, and more and more objects keep getting handed to me.  I have to walk; I have to balance, I have to keep it together!  I’m just not able!

The day after messaging with my friend, I was brought back to a section of Scripture the Lord has often used to speak to me.  This Psalm has encouraged me, convicted me, held me in so many situations.  And it’s not always the same verse or section.  This time it was this:

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; He is their stronghold in times of trouble.  The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.”
– Psalm 38:39-40

My answer will come from the Lord.  Yes, there are things I need to do, applications and paperwork to fill out, but ultimately, it was the Lord who brought us here, preparing these works in advance for us to do.  And it will be the Lord that either keeps us here or moves us.  And I can trust that He knows the situation, that He knows our hearts, that He has a good plan, whatever it might be.

In that I can rest.

The person who says the words of this psalm is in need of saving, delivering, and help.  And their part, what they are able for is to hide. Not run away or avoid their circumstances, but tuck in, trust, take refuge in something, Someone who is bigger, more capable than they are.  The situation may not change (not right away anyways) but there is shelter, there is safety, and rest.  And joy in His presence!

“Rest” is a call to look up, to see that He is with us, that it’s okay if we cannot, because He can.  Praise God!

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So, we’re getting ready for a furlough.  And you know what?  When you leave home (to go home!) for six weeks, it actually requires a lot of planning!  Planning on this side – ministry stuff, house stuff, who will mind our cat – lots!  Planning on that side – we’ll visit four states in those six weeks, seeing family and places and more people we love.  So plane tickets, rental cars, meet ups, hang outs, it’s gonna be good :)

And in an effort to slow down, enjoy people, really see what’s in front of me, I’ve decided to do a little photo challenge :) One picture a day – nothing I’ll pull a muscle over, but just one image every day while we’re on the trip that freezes time and locks in something real.  Photography helps me look at things, be present, be thankful!  So that’s my plan.  Anyone want to join me?  I’m gonna use #seetheday2019.  See what I did there?  Anyways, I’ll keep you posted on Instagram and the old Facebook page.  You probably won’t be on a six week trip, but you can totally join me if you want!  Really just want to be present and capture what the Lord has each day, you know?

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Okay, one more invitation …would you pray with us?  So much to lay before the Lord.  Would you pray for our visa application?  That we’d be able to get all the documents together, that it would get to the right person on the right day, that God would just go before us (as I know He already has) and we’d be approved, without any hiccups or issues?

Would you pray for our time in the States?  I believe the Lord has so much in store, and I don’t want to miss any of it!  For our time with people, that He would use us to encourage others, that all the logistics would come together, and also that it would be a time of rest.  Please pray for safety and health and that we would abide in the Lord.

And would you pray for our church here in Cork?  For those serving in our stead and the precious kiddos and families in our fellowship?  God is doing a great work in this city, and we’re so thankful and humbled to be a part of it!

Okay, I think those are all the major ones!  Thanks for reading guys, and for praying with us, and for being a part of our family and this ministry.  We’re grateful for each of you, and know that we are not alone!  Keep an eye out for that hashtag!

Love you loads, Ernie

35 / 52 – This time last year…
Sep
03

35 / 52 – This time last year…

This time last year we were getting ready to move into my parents’ house.  The Lord had already told me we were going to be missionaries, but He still hadn’t spoken that to Branden yet.  He was working two jobs, sometimes 80-90 hours a week, and we didn’t see him very much.  I remember packing boxes day after day by myself and thinking, “If God doesn’t do what He’s told me He will, if He doesn’t change Branden’s heart and show him we’re supposed to be missionaries, I have no idea what we’re doing.”  We weren’t really “making it.”  We couldn’t afford a place of our own.  We were moving an hour out of town into a very unfinished basement and had very little other direction in life except that we knew the Lord was calling us to children’s ministry.  Branden was completely disheartened.  I was lonely.  This was it.

On the day we moved out, the Lord gave me these verses:

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’  From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”    – Isaiah 46:9-11

God is God.  He can do what He wants.  And whatever He says He’ll do, He will do.

Well, we moved into my parents’ basement.  Those first few weeks were really hard, especially on Branden.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  My parents were awesome, but the idea of reaching this place in our lives seemed really anticlimactic and kind of like failure.  But the Lord would continue to encourage me, to be present and tell me impossible things that He would do.  He provided for us to take our scouting trip that October, and then did those impossible things!  He changed Branden’s heart and finally told him we were supposed to serve full time overseas in Ireland!

Today we are getting ready to move again :)  So much has happened in the last year and even I can’t believe it sometimes!  The other day we looked at a listing for a house online – in Ireland!  The pastor’s wife in Cork (where we’ll be going to serve in just a few short weeks!) called the listing agent and set up an appointment to see it.  She took me on a tour via phone pictures and Voxer (do you guys use Voxer?  It’s an awesome walkie talkie app that you all should download so we can talk after our family moves!)  She brought home a renter’s application and we filled it out together (again over Voxer, because it’s awesome!)  And she mailed it in :)

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Yesterday as I got ready for my time with the Lord, He led me to Isaiah 26 again:

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“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me… What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”

I didn’t even realize it was exactly one year and a day since He’d given me this verse the first time until I was sharing it with a friend later that night.  He’s done so much already, things that He’d told me He would do.  Crazy things that I had no idea how He would fulfill, and He delighted in showing me!  And now, we stand at the brink of something new.  There are promises still that He has yet to fulfill.  I find myself still wrestling with doubt some days, which is crazy when I look back and remember everything He’s already done.  But He’s patient with me and is still happy to blow my mind in telling me impossible things and then actually doing them!  Things were really painful a year ago.  I wouldn’t trade those dark days for anything though, because it was in those times when the Lord showed me He was God.  I’m excited for what’s up ahead and to go with a God who walks with us in the steps of faith He calls us to!

32 / 52 – Though It Linger
Aug
11

32 / 52 – Though It Linger

For those of you who have heard our story before, you know that the Lord told me we were going to be missionaries to Ireland before He told Branden.  In fact, God said He would withhold His word from Branden for a season.  When I asked God WHY?  He said it was to teach us (sounds like Jesus, right?).  Apparently I needed to learn how to BE QUIET! and to see that the Lord is faithful, able to do everything He says.  Branden needed to learn to trust Jesus in a different way too, to believe God would take care of our family and to be open to new and seemingly impossible things He would call us to.  The Lord would take us through and teach us, but the season that came was incredibly hard on our marriage and family.

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I remember days, weeks, months of discouragement, tension and confusion.  I knew the Lord had told me we were going to Ireland, but my husband was completely against it.  The season was lonely.  Jesus would continue to tell me things, precious promises about our future.  But I couldn’t share them with my husband.  I would have to wait.  God was doing a good, hard work, and that would take time.  That loneliness was from Him, which meant I could trust it, but it was still incredibly painful.

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God was teaching me that being the wife He was calling me to be, that helping my husband was accomplished in prayer and respect rather than always demanding telling him what I thought we should do, even if it was God’s will (surprise!)  I needed to give Branden room to hear the Lord, which also meant giving him room to make mistakes.  But if Jesus had said something to me, and Jesus is faithful, then I had to believe He would accomplish it, His way.  In His perfect time, God told Branden for Himself, that He was calling us to the mission field.  And He showed me that He was completely faithful and good.

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In that long season of learning to trust and wait on the Lord, God gave me this verse:

“Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 
 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”  – Habakkuk 2:2-3
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In a season of great heartache, God was growing my faith.  And He was pulling me closer to Himself, showing me what real fellowship with Him meant.  He gave me a gift in loneliness, taking me deeper into His love and showing me that He is much more than enough for me.  I could trust Him, and I can trust Him now, to do all He has promised He would do.
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While I was in the tattoo artist’s chair, I matched my other arm with symbols for our two boys, arrows in the hands of a warrior. (Psalm 127)
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The boys were impressed to find out I had endured the pain and that they were etched onto my arm with drawings of weapons!  I’ve traded photography for a lot of great, really useful things, but tattoos are probably the coolest :)
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Daily reminders of what the Lord is calling us to, and that He is faithful to His Word and His character.  He will not leave us or forsake our hearts!
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