Friday, January 6, 2017

Soaring

As Brussels Airlines 2047 ascends through the layer of billowing clouds eclipsing my vision as in an artic snow storm, I listen to "Give Me Jesus" by Jeremy Camp. The plane emerges through the clouds and my eyes behold a sea of white ripples bathed in warm, radiant, golden rays. On the horizon where the cloud sea kisses the sky, careless strokes of pink and orange haphazardly tint the azure canvas of sky. I am wonderfully reminded that the sun is always here inadvertently creating all manner of beauty even though I can't always see it. For I am bound to this earth. But something in me is celestial; filled with longing to soar above the cloud layer and behold this beauty and then I realise that figuratively, I can. I can live above the troubles and cares of this worldly life that sometimes eclipse my view of God. I can enjoy His beauty, majesty, and peace by fixing my gaze resolutely upon Him each day in the mundane details of living. And soon His glory begins to eclipse the cares and troubles of life. I can fly with Him in this plane of faith and obedience and grace. I can spend my life beholding Him regularly. The words of Horatio Spafford, who wrote It is Well with My Soul resonate deep within me. It is well even when circumstances challenge my peace. I have deep, abiding peace that will carry me to my eternal home and none can rob it. I desire that others have it as well. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Favourite Thing

Wherever I am, my favourite thing will always be people. People make or break a place and sharing life with people is the greatest blessing there is on this earth. God has asked us to serve here in the UK and that meant leaving our own people for a time. But He has been faithful to supply new relationships and for that we are grateful. There are people from Scotland and Australia and people with Black Country accents that require INTENSE concentration to glean 30% understanding. There are joyful, energetic people and people in tight, impossible spots.  People who are lonely, grieving, lost, generous, loving, needy, funny, big-hearted, struggling. I dearly love them all and pray that this loosely organized sometimes chaotic ministry will usher in a bit more of His Kingdom in each soul I encounter. Thank you Jesus for these people.

A Week in the Life

Several have asked, “What does a typical week look like for you?” In response to that question, here’s a walk through a typical week in my (Amy's) life…

Monday         
School until 1 PM. Meet up with our intern and a youth girl who is exploring Christianity. Badminton Club.
Tuesday
School until 1 PM. Cook, clean, and prepare for Lifegroup from 6-9.
Wednesday
School until 1 PM. Discipleship group “huddle.” Administrative/secretarial work at church centre.
Thursday
School until 1 PM. Visits with church members and unchurched. Family fun night.
Friday
School until 1 PM. Serve at youth club from 7-9 PM.
Saturday
Volunteer at café, occasional outreaches or home with family.
Sunday
Church meets together. Rest and enjoy relationships.

So there you are...that's a typical week.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

A few of my favourite English things

My wry and witty husband Marshall makes very much fun of me nearly all of the time. It's because he loves me. A thing I say that elicits immediate eye-rolling from him is "That is my favourite....(fill in the blank)." His response... "That statement means nothing coming from you because everything is your favourite." I ignore him. I will now share my favorite things about England and don't roll your eyes.

Thank you England for your delicious biscuits and chocolate paired with your soul-warming tea. I haven't words.

Thank you England for your premium steak and ale pie. The best one yet is from some butcher shop in Cumbria.

Thank you God for the North Sea and for your delicious cod. England's fish and chips with salt and malt vinegar are top shelf! Never had better.


Thank you England for your national dish...curry. You are a party in my mouth.

Thank you English bakers for perfectly toasted Malted Bloomer wheat bread. You almost come close to surpassing my Meme's homemade bread.

Thank you English for being the world's most courteous drivers. Who knew you could communicate so much by flicking your lights?

Thank you God for this island's lush, green hills that roll on to the horizon. I see why sheep love you and English souls roam you. Truly you soothe my soul.


Thank you God and English farmers for planting patchwork fields of rapeseed. Your brilliant yellow flower fields evoke smiles and thanksgiving.


Thank you England for the laws providing all of us with the right to walk, ride, cycle and drive in public rights of way in the countryside. What treasures and beauties await the ramblers.

These are a few of my favourite things about England. Insert Marshall's eye roll here.


On Tea

We live in the centre of England in a town called Stourbridge. July is the hottest month, my dear friends, with an average temperature of...wait for it...16°C (61°F). We're from a town in North Carolina where July temperatures average a scorching 31°C (88°F). Needless to say, I've traded iced-tea for hot tea. Here, I have found a daily cuppa to be so soothing, especially since my hands, feet and bum are mostly ice cubes. Brits drink 165 million cups daily or 60.2 billion per year (tea.co.uk) so the cuppa may arguably dethrone Queen Elizabeth as a cultural icon. Until you're here, sipping a cup of tea is a niceity but not a necessity. Currently, I'm in the throes of my first winter here and I haven't seen Mr. Golden Sunshine a cumulative total of 25 minutes in about six weeks. The sun sets at around 4 PM. My new sun is sharing a cuppa with people I love...or at least tolerate. Following is my feeble attempt to ascertain what all the "hubbub" is about tea.

The cuppa defies the bone-chilling, damp weather. It is a hand-held, melted caramel-coloured island radiating warmth for my hands and face and insides. Mmmm.

The cuppa soothes hurts and calms emotional storms. It is a self-induced time-out from life to restore what the cruel, harsh world takes out of you.  

It is a clock keeping close watch on social visits to make sure you don't overstay your welcome and intrude on the graciousness of your host. 

The cuppa is a welcome clasp for your lips beckoning you to sip thereby keeping verbal diarrhoea at bay whilst others have a go at conversation. 

Tea is a perfectly enhancing companion to exquisite English puddings (dessert) and biscuits (cookies). To enjoy either solo deprives your pallet of divine blessing. 

It's a reminder and caution to step back from a matter and to consider its place in the grand scheme of the universe as being less important than you initially thought. 

So thank you God for this small provision and thank you England for championing this necessary social convention. I have come to deeply appreciate your soul-warming national beverage. I get it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

An Update Q and A Style...

Several of you have written with questions about how our adjustment is going. So here’s a bit of Q and A to update you.
God provided plenty of moving in help and we are now "settled" after two years of transition.
What’s been going on? 
We have been settling into our home and establishing a “new normal.” (Insert audible exhale here.) Our time of physical transition has come to an end…for now. Marshall has mastered driving by being “baptized by fire!” In his first week, he chauffeured a team of Chick-fil-A executives here, there and everywhere and some fellow GEM missionaries from the States.  Amy is learning to drive on the left side of the road in our pre-owned 7-seater Vauxhall Zaphira (the US equivalent to a suburban mini-van). We have been exploring our town of Stourbridge and the surrounding country and getting to know church members by hosting lots of dinners. We are in a life group each week and Marshall serves at the church cafe each Friday as well as helps out with the youth. Per our “transition coach,” over the next 4-6 months, we will slowly add responsibilities until our time of cultural transition is over and we have fully assimilated into life here.

What’s the area like?
Densely populated—1.5 million people inhabit a ten-mile radius of the church. The exceedingly refreshing bit is that we are an eight-minute drive to the countryside in any given direction. The country resembles the rolling hills of Virginia and North Carolina plus sheep and a few castles and manor houses here and there.
The weather has been so fabulous that we've managed to have "school" in the garden.

What is your neighbourhood like? 
There is a troop of children in the neighbourhood. Ezra joined a gang of about 5-6 boys on day one of moving in. He and his “boy band” have since been involved in Nerf wars, water fights, bike riding and serial Minecraft marathons. Eliza and Esther have found a friend in Kate who lives across from us and have danced at bedroom Disco parties, beautified themselves at homespun pampering spas, and played intense games of tag alongside the boys. Please pray for Marshall and I as we develop not-so-fast-and-furious friendships with the parents of these kiddos. 

How's the new place? 
Our house feels like home. This may be superficial and we don’t much care, but it is exceedingly comfortable, warm and relaxing to be surrounded by our own stuff. We are about a seven-minute walk to High Street where there are scads of shops, a Leisure Centre (think YMCA) with a water slide, library and an ALDI grocery store! We have managed to host an average of three events/groups per week and look forward to many more. Marshall’s gift of hospitality and his mad, lunch lady cooking skills will be wielded to the maximum whilst here.
Esther turned 6 on April 25 and we had a party for her in the garden with new church friends. 

How's the church? 
The church is all about COMMUNITY and believes and embraces that discipleship and sharing happens in the context of human relationships as you “do” life together. We host one outreach each month and cafe is on two mornings per week. All of these provide a platform for building relationships and sharing Truth as God directs. 

What's the most fun thing you have discovered and enjoyed as a family? 
One “homework” assignment, given by our transition coach, is to enjoy one cultural outing per week as a family in order to gain knowledge of and respect for the history, cultural traditions and values of the Black Country. Best homework ever! These outings have been great fun. The kids have run wild on Ludlow Castle ruins, ridden a funicular railway up a cliff at Bridgnorth, beheld fields of yellow rapeseed and begrudgingly trudged hilly terrain on more than one walk. 


Do you have an accent yet?
Although we’ve adopted some “proper English” vocabulary and phrases, we probably will not have the accent. Here are some new fun phrases…
Calling pants trousers has been SO HARD!
Trumping is a new word for breaking wind.
“Oi” expresses surprise or astonishment.
It’s all sorted (taken care of).
Whilst instead of while.
Round instead of around.

For what/whom can I pray?
The Church in the Community will host it’s first ever Superheroes Holiday Club at the end of May. Pray for all volunteers as well as children and families who are seeking the ONE who gives life and peace.
There is a second club planned for late summer with the hopes of beginning a weekly children’s club when school resumes in the fall. 
Marshall will help chaperone a youth weekend in two weeks time. Please pray for youth who are asking questions and “wrestling” with the Truth of the Gospel.
Marshall is currently away in Manchester meeting GEM partners and shepherding GEM appointees as they discover where and with whom the Lord is leading them to serve.

What cultural things have you noticed? 
People walk places and it’s awesome- even elderly people with canes load their groceries in wheeled baskets and shuffle home on foot.
Don't yield to pedestrians except at “zebra crossings” (crosswalks). 
Give yourself permission to swerve when driving and park anywhere. 
Don’t speak loudly.
Do your shopping early because shops close around 17:00 (5 PM) or 19:00 (7 PM).
Metric measures are used in cooking (grams, mililiters, etc.).
Temperature is in Celcius.
The English pride themselves on their collective sense of humor and rightly so.

What/whom do you miss?
We haven’t been here long enough to miss too much, but some of the things we are doing without are: dill pickles, Velveeta, Ranch dressing, and Esther’s favourite…cornbread.

We do miss friends and family and are sure those feelings will intensify with the passing of time. Our hearts ache when we can’t be there for deaths, births, and hardships; but we grieve, pray and rejoice from here. The blessing of Skype and FaceTime make the distance shorter and lessen the sting of separation.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

35 Days On...

35 days— That’s how long we’ve been here in the UK. Here is a summary of those days. After tearful, heart-wrenching good-byes to dearly loved friends and family, we boarded a plane for London on February 19th.

 

Eliza registers shock and awe at the amount of luggage we brought. We entered the UK border without so much as ONE question.

JJ and Ruth, a young couple from church, blindly said “yes” to hosting a family of five in their home until housing could be secured. What were they thinking?!

In all seriousness, God placed us in this specific home to “soften” our landing and develop a “speed bonding” with this precious couple. JJ and Ruth are wonderfully comedic and accomodating hosts, fielding our bazillion questions with patience and providing direction and counsel in our home search.

Here they are following “cave man” dinner (at which you have no serving dishes or utensils). As you can see, JJ finds meat quite nice.

We are slowly easing into life at Church in the Community. One of the core values of the church is engaging the community to the end of sharing the good news of Christ. Here are some ways church members are engaging people: homeless ministry, moms and tots group, weekly cafe, home groups, holiday club, puppet ministry and outreaches. Here is a photo of the cafe hosted each week by the church. It's a bit like Cheers minus alcohol and plus Jesus.
We look forward to providing “man-power” as the Lord directs the launching of other teaching and outreach ministries. What an absolute delight to participate with God in His work wherever we are!
Another American family called the Swartzs have joined us! We enjoyed a day out with them exploring Ludlow castle and dining atop a gigantic mountain in a natural area called “The Long Mynd.”
   


We move into 15 Agenoria Drive, Stourbridge on April 1st. Our shipment has arrived and will be unpacked and settled after two years of being packed away. Truly, it will be like Christmas in April!

Please pray for an outreach the church is hosting on Good Friday. We will be sharing the magnificent story of Easter with the children in the neighborhood this day. Pray that God will direct children and parents into this fellowship where they can receive more teaching and care from the people of God.

We knew beforehand that our children would not have church friends because there are NO primary-aged children in the church. Following the service on our first Sunday here, I said, “Kids, we are gonna have to rustle up some other kids so you can have church friends.” Yes, I said “rustle up.” The very next week, there were two families, with two primary school-aged children, who felt led to visit. The next week, we were joined by one more family with a boy Ezra’s age. And now, God has blessed the church with a brand new children’s Sunday School class with 10 students whilst the sermon is on. He sees and knows and meets our needs and is exceedingly GOOD.


Here is an update from the kiddos…:
“Keep calm and carry on.” Ezra
"My friend Ruthie finally got here and I like to play with her." Eliza
"I miss you and I wish you would come visit us." Esther