Filtering by Tag: journey

Parenting to My Weakness

Parenting can be such a battle at times.  And challenging.  But also joy-filled and awe-inspiring. One of the inspiring things we've witnessed lately is Justice's love of music.  The girl is captivated.

We have sung to Justice since before she was born.  We know that music has had a soothing effect when she's tired, or a calming effect when we choose the right song.  The past few months we've had a lot of fun singing songs with motions.  And most recently, Justice has taken dance to a whole new level.

It's not uncommon for Justice to pick up a random object or toy, pretend it's a guitar, and ask one of us to sing; or tap her fingers on the table and call it a piano; or lay in bed for an hour before falling asleep, singing her favorite songs to her animal friends.  Recently we went to a small town Christmas festival, and along the street were various artists singing, playing ukeleles, or dancing hula. She loved it all.  And then we passed a woman playing a harp.  Justice was mesmerized.  We were close enough to touch it (and eventually did), but her eyes were still so big as she took in the beautiful music coming from the strings.

It has been fun to sing and dance with Justice.  To teach her songs, to hear her request her favorites, to watch her "teach" her animals.  But to be honest, it's also a little frightening.  I have zero musical talent, struggle to keep a beat, and my knowledge of instruments is severely limited.  As a parent, how do I foster this love Justice so clearly has, when I don't have the talent or the skill?  Or worse yet, will my ineptitude hinder her?

I know she's only two, we have a long way to go, and it's possible this musical infatuation is only a phase.  Either way, I don't want to be in the way of something that could be a life-long love.  And more importantly, Justice will surely have other skill sets that I don't share.  So I'm interested, parents, in your feedback.  How have you fostered a skill your child possesses that you don't?  In my particular example (music) the most obvious answer is to put her in a music class.  So let's get creative.  When finances are tight, what else have you done?  Books (or CDs) from the library? Exchange services with a friendly, and talented, neighbor?  What other suggestions do you have?

Family Health

We are learning a lot about the health of our family these days.  I thought I would take a minute to share, and also invite you, the reader, to share your ideas with us.

I know the reality of "family health" will be ever evolving as we walk through various stages of life.  The two most obvious factors for us to consider currently are our marriage, and having young children.  The best marriage advice I've received is this: Marriage is a living organism.  It must be nurtured in order to survive/thrive.  I'm most interested in my marriage thriving.

Our transition to a new culture, new jobs, new child on the way, etc. has lead to a few changes in our regular routines.  Eric and I are certainly not experts, but we are faithfully and prayerfully trying.  One of our biggest adjustments (as I imagine would be the biggest adjustment for any family in a big move) has been learning the rhythms and patterns of a new job.  And in our case, one of us (me) not having a job for the first time ever.  Eric's job as a barista has planned, scheduled hours.  This is easy to work with.  But our jobs as missionaries are different.  As a little side note, we see our missionary work as team work.  We are both committed, we keep each other informed, we brainstorm and pray together.  We value one another's opinions, viewpoints, and perception of this world.  But on a very practical level, Eric does a lot more "work" than I do.  During this stage of life, I'm home with Justice.  Eric schedules meetings in the community nearly every day, and the bulk of what society perceives as "work" falls on Eric's shoulders to carry out.

This balance of work (as missionary) and home is a new one for us to navigate.  How do we remain faithful both to our work, and to our family when we don't have scheduled "hours." And when community events and church celebrations often fall on Saturdays and Sundays.  If we forget to make our family just as much a priority as our work, this balance is very easily tipped.  It's easy to work 7 days/week.  When Eric is scheduling meetings with community leaders, he schedules them during daytime hours.  But when he's attending public meetings like those for Habitat of Humanity, they are in the evening.  If we're not paying attention, our schedules are full.  I imagine you can live like this for awhile.  After all, we're doing Kingdom work, right?  Isn't "God's work" most important?

We believe our marriage, and our family, are also God's work.  Even more, we believe our marriage and our family are no less important than "professional work."  In fact, modeling for those around us what it means to be healthy as a family is an intricate part of our work in the community.  When we sit down to collaborate our calendars each week, we schedule family time.  Most of the time, it's scheduling a trip to the beach because we know our girl will love it.  If possible, before we schedule the week's meetings and appointments, we block out a chunk of family time.  Because of the barista job, this isn't on a consistent day.  It's unfortunate, but it's doable.  We also have created a standing date-night for the two of us.  Sometimes the days are long and the weeks are longer.  Sometimes I just want to sleep.  But our date nights are important.  Oh, so incredibly important.

One other thing I haven't mentioned yet is the necessity for individual time.  Ironic, because I'm using mine right now :)  We know that for our individual health we need a few minutes each week to be alone.  It looks different for each of us.  Sometimes I want to go for a long walk.  Today, I want to sit at a coffee shop with my computer and a journal.  Eric often times wants a book and music.  Or sometimes he wants to surf.  Because we understand how renewing this time is for ourselves, we are generous in creating that time for the other.

So how does this all come together?  I guess I've outlined three things we do every week to create a healthy balance for us.  Family fun, date nights, and individual time.  God doesn't want us to burn out, and we don't want to either!  I'm curious to know what others are doing?  What boundaries are particularly helpful for your family to remain healthy?  What activities have made your "top 5" list?  As our girl grows, and as our family grows numerically, what others will become necessities?  One I foresee in the not-too-distant-future are date-times with our daughter.  As Justice becomes a big sister, and also as she grows as a person, she will need these times too.  She will need family fun time, she will need Daddy-Justice time, and she will need Mama-Justice time.  I don't know what that will look like, but I know it will be important. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Justice Turns Two!

It seems to us that Justice became a toddler pretty quickly.  Since we've moved to Hawaii, Justice's vocabulary has expanded ten fold, her movements are more steady and pronounced, and her independent self-will has emerged in full force.  Her rapid development has left us bewildered, frustrated, and laughing all at the same time.  She is testing her boundaries and yet still wanting to be close to mama and daddy.  She is at times disobedient, but wants to cuddle after being sent away to "get happy."  She laughs often and cries occasionally.  She bumps her head everyday and skins her knee almost as often.  She wants to kiss all of daddy's scrapes and bruises and wants to listen to the baby growing inside mama.  She is filled with wonder at the small things and has reached a new level of imaginative play.  In short, she's now a two year old.

And we couldn't feel more blessed!  Justice has brought us such joy.  There are times when I think that I couldn't possibly have more love to give to another child, because Justice has stolen it all.  I love the way she declares to the world every morning from her crib, "I'm Awake!"  I love that books are still a favorite thing.  I love the way her eyes get big when she gets to take a big kid shower.  I love those moments right before bed when she sits next to me for story time.  I love those quiet nights when she's sleeping peacefully (don't all parents?).  I love the way she tries to mimic the way I walk, the words I say, or the faces I make.  I love the little quarks that are hers: walking to the bathroom to cough, the strut of a walk that belongs uniquely to her, and how she won't sleep unless we sing the Happy Song.  I love that she kisses both my cheeks before bedtime.  She has grown so much in two years, and we are grateful parents.  We are proud, overwhelmed at times, and filled with love. 

The Tale of Joy and a Job

I've been asked a few times recently about the status of working at the local elementary school.  I wish I had progress to share, but instead I just have news. I talked with the principal this week, who explained that my substitute application (which begins with an interview at a local school) has now been sent to the district office, and from there is sent to the Honolulu office. I turned in my paperwork over a month ago, and I have no way of knowing where in this process my paperwork sits.  Though she assured me this timeline is normal, I'm not resting assured.  In the same conversation we spoke (again) about volunteering, and I am willfully hopeful to start this coming week.  Though I cannot wrap my brain around the slow, somewhat lethargic, response to a VOLUNTEER with experience and a degree eagerly waiting to be put to work, this also raises other questions about our life.

What does this mean for me (Joy) working for pay?  Most likely, it means I won't be working this school year.  I'm 8 weeks from my due date, and then I'll have a new baby to take all my sleep awaylove on. I will gladly volunteer the time I have, and sincerely hope to help some struggling students this year, but the level of consistency I can offer over the next 6 months is seriously lacking.

Can't I just try another school?  Yes, I can.  I can try a private school.  However, we see our role as missionary pastors largely as connecting with the community.  Eric can do this in several ways, through committees and fellowship meals and meetings and working at a local coffee shop, etc. My biggest resource to offer is through education.  I'm passionate about kids having the opportunity to learn, and so many children are first/second generation immigrants.  They need the language support, and that's where the majority of my training is.  These kids are in the public school.  I DON'T think I'll work in a public school forever.  I DO think there are other, more creative ways to assist students and their families.  I just think this is a good place to start, to meet people working in the (education) trenches on daily basis, and to asses the need a little closer. 

Will we make it on Eric's income?  Well, no.  But will we make it on Eric's income + financial support from generous donors?  YES!  To be perfectly honest, the cost of living difference still has us a bit shocked.  Nearly everything is more expensive here.  We can say with confidence we are frugal spenders and we are saving where we can.  One decision that will help us this first year is we've decided to make our "transitional housing" into permanent housing. More accurately, the church has offered us our "transitional" housing space to rent for one year.  This is not what we planned on, nor what we hoped for, but we are peaceful in our decision to stay.  As we near our baby's due date, I am particularly happy to know where we will live when the babe enters our world and excited to do what we can to make this place home.

How are we feeling about the change in projected finances?  Some days we get a bit worried.  Most days we carry on as normal.  Every day we trust God's leading.  We know we are here on purpose, and not by accident.  Currently, we are not in jeopardy of running out of money (don't worry, Mom!), but this might be a different story next June.  We are grateful for those who have supported us during this first year, which affords us the time to think through our fundraising efforts for year 2 and 3.  Right now we're doing fine, actively budgeting for the future, and eagerly expecting baby #2.

Celebrating Eric

Last week was Eric's birthday, and we had a fun few days celebrating!  Eric got snorkel gear for his birthday, so we borrowed a second set and the two of us went snorkeling.  We weren't out long, but we had a great time together, snorkeled at a fabulous location (Honaunau Bay, "Two Step"), and Justice enjoyed playing with a friend while we were away.  So thankful for generous friends!

On Eric's actual birthday we had dinner with the Fasani's, and they surprised Eric with a birthday pumpkin, poster, and homemade ice cream! Good friends, good food, good times.

And the next day, Eric and I turned our regular date-night into a birthday celebration dinner, again thoroughly enjoying our time with just the two of us.

We are grateful for the friends we have made and the love they have showed us, making this a special birthday for all.  I took some time to reflect with Eric on the past year of life.  We've certainly had some adventures and I never would have imagined a year ago we'd be celebrating life in Hawaii.  But I'm so glad we are.  Here's to another year of adventure, fun, deeper love, stronger trust, and following God's guidance in our lives.  Oh, and probably a lot less sleep...

The Sewing Itch

Eric's been on Oahu this week for church meetings, which has left me with time of solitude. I visited this fabric store out of necessity, looking for a Halloween costume for Justice.

Then I tried really hard to stay awake during nap times the past 3 days and it paid off!

It's been several months since I've sewn, and apparently it's going to take me a while to learn again.  I started with a frustrating tension problem with the pumpkin costume, and ended up just going to bed for the night.  The next day I figured that out, and the pumpkin was pretty simple.

Then we took a trip to Goodwill for some t-shirts I could re-fashion into skirts.  I was so excited to have a few more comfy skirts during this last trimester of pregnancy that I started with my own.  Admittedly, I was kind of "winging it" based on an idea I saw online.  Well, it didn't work.  Actually, it worked, but was way too small for this growing body.  Oops.

So I went on to Justice's, figuring I couldn't go wrong, and it turned out great.  I have a few more t-shirts in the sewing pile, so I'm sure it won't be long until Justice has a few more.  And when I regain some confidence, I'll try another for myself as well.  For today, I'm just grateful I only spent $0.99 on that goodwill shirt!

What Do You Hope For?

The men from Judah said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
— Nehemiah 1:3-4
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As I begin to meet with church members and community members, listening to their stories of living in Kona, their family dynamics, work environment, and social relationships, I have a few questions that help guide our conversations.  One of the most important questions I ask is one of the simplest questions.  What do you hope for; what do you dream to see happen in this community?

The question almost always gets at a deep desire within a person.  This question helps me see their passion.  I'm convinced the majority of people are not as apathetic as they may first appear; rather, there is a latent hidden passion within all of us.  We all care about something.  We all would give up a certain amount of time or money to be able to do something we care deeply about.  In many cases, we already do this.  A mom values her child's education so chooses to volunteer in the local school.  A dad values both bodily health and time with his son, so he takes him surfing once a week- carving out time from work to make it happen.  We spend time and money on that which we value.  

But the question can also point toward that which gives us pain.  In other words, asking for what we ultimately hope can give us insight into what is worth weeping over.  When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish refugees, his heart was broken, so broken that he spent days fasting and praying.  He assumed the brokenness of his fellow brothers and wept.  Asking for what we hope is the optimistic way of asking, "What makes you weep?"  When you look out over your city and community, does your heart break for those living there?  Do we know our communities and neighbors well enough to allow this to happen?  Or, are our hearts so hardened to the Spirit that we would rather ignore and bypass communal suffering?  Only a church willing to weep over the wounds of the community will approach that community in the humility that engenders transformation and healing.

When we read through Nehemiah we see that his grief cultivated a renewed spirit of work.  His grief was channeled into a type of prophetic energy that led to the transformation and peace of the city of Jerusalem.  His weeping turned into a hopeful practice of rebuilding the city walls.  If someone were to ask Nehemiah what he hoped for, we could intuit his answer stemming from his grief of a city in disrepair.  The King asks Nehemiah, "Why do you look sad, what do you want?"  In other words, what will turn your sadness into Joy (Neh. 2)?  And he grants Nehemiah safe passage back to Jerusalem, the resources to build the walls, and the time necessary to do it well.  

As I encounter those on the Kona Coast, my eyes and ears are being tuned to weeping and hoping. My prayer is that we as a community may be granted the resources and time to bring about the kind of redemptive change that stems from such tears.  

What Do You See?

We've been in Hawaii now for three weeks, and I'm beginning to be asked the question, "What are you doing?"  And while I understand the sentiment behind this question- the longing for some kind of change to be immanent, the new haole* face that is both hopeful and suspect in the same smile- I can't help but think the more appropriate question might be, "What do you see?"

It's really easy to jump into a situation and start doing a bunch of stuff without taking the time to observe.  For those who are driven to be a part of any kind of social and spiritual transformation, the slowness of listening is borderline drudgery.  We fool ourselves into thinking that our doing equates to positive movement.  Not all movement is equal, especially in relation to a new context with different issues, different people, and different identities.  If we don't take the time to observe and learn, our hasty actions may cause more harm to those with whom we wish to be friends.

Learning to see is always the first step in any work.  We must ask the question, "What's going on here?"  How does the story of this community in Kona relate to the story God's redemptive work?  And, we can't understand how God is moving and will continue to move in this place unless we first understand this place.  Joy and I enter into this community like infants, dependent on the community to teach us their pattern of life, their culture.  If we don't take this time, remaining blind to the nuances of life in Kona, our ministry here won't be effective.  Without dedicated time to observe, we will continue to carry our cultural heritage and language over/against this place, expecting conformity to our way of doing things. 

Ultimately, our guide is Christ's move into humanity- the Incarnation.  Just as God fully immersed God's self into our state of living, taking on human flesh and the cultural heritage of Jewish life and all the social and political instability of first century Palestine, we too must fully immerse ourselves into a different culture, allowing our cultural blindness to be restored.  We must be given new eyes.

Pastor Ryan is in the middle of series on Vision.  He preached, "Our witness to this community cannot begin with a crow bar, using texts to prove people wrong, but with our posture praying, 'My Lord and My God.'"  For us, this means entering into this place with humility.  We do not want to force our way into change, especially when we do not yet understand the measure of change that God desires.  And that's the rub, we know God is working here in Kona.  We know God has gone before us preparing people and places for our arrival.  We know there is a general darkness in need of Christ's light.  The Kingdom of God is real, physical, tangible transformation that can be seen and touched through God's people.  But we need to first learn what God's salvation looks like in this place.  What needs saving?  What gifts and graces in the community are latent and just need to be watered?  What powers need to be critiqued and countered, and who are the ones who have been marginalized and oppressed by those powers?  Who are the ones open to our presence in this place?  What work of God has started already that we can join?

The next few months, we'll be in the process of receiving new eyes.  And we'll be sharing some of our observations and reflections with you as we learn to see again.

* Haole is the term used in Hawaii for foreigners, tourists, mainlanders, or just plain old white folk.

General Update

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  • We bought a car! 
  • Eric continues to interview for a job.  The next phase is Monday - prayers appreciated. 

  • I am in the process of becoming a volunteer at a local elementary school that's within walking distance of our home. It turns out I need to fill out a few applications, have an interview, and a TB test. I hope to have all of that completed this next week. 
  • I have been in contact with two different playgroups/moms groups. One is a playgroup that meets weekly and the other is a moms group that meets monthly. I plan to attend both of these groups this week :) 
  • Eric is busy meeting with church members, local pastors, community members, and community groups. Right now, our role is to observe, learn, and know the community and context of our new place. He is also plugging into our local church, attending staff meetings, prayer groups, and spending time with Pastor Ryan to better acclimate to a new congregation.
  • We are feeling settled in our transitional space. Actually, we feel so settled that we're not looking for another house yet. We want to have outside employment lined up before we move, and we also want to spend time getting to know the various neighborhoods before we commit to a location. 
  • The details of our move have taken up more time than we anticipated. We had some damaged furniture in the move, and Eric has spent time almost every day for the past 10 days or so dealing with the insurance claim. And while opening a new credit union account was easy, transferring funds from our bank in Tennessee has not been quite so easy.  Right now we are trying to make sure we have all of our bases covered as far as automatic withdraws for student loans, health care ministry, etc. 
  • We met our fundraising goal!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us along this journey. Any additional funds (not yet pledged) will go first towards a midwife, and second towards year two of our ministry in Hawaii. 

  • We have gone to a beach one day each week that we have been here. Justice loves the "sandbox!" 
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Transparency

Allow me to begin by saying, we are undoubtedly right where we need to be. However, as we become more settled and the rush of "things we need to do" calms down, the reality of being transplants in a new city sets in.

While I consider it a great honor and privilege to be home with my daughter, it is HARD! It's challenging when I don't know where to go, or what activities we can participate in. I have been spoiled this past year with a fantastically supportive MOMS Club, and a daily calendar of activities and playgroups in the homes of other mamas. I'm not looking for all-day entertainment here, I'm looking for an hour out of the house. An hour when I can look in the faces of other dedicated, struggling, and beautiful moms who are giving their best to their children. A time when I can share a laugh, or share some tears. A time when another mom can say, "Hang in there. We're in it together."

In full transparency, perhaps another reason I'm struggling this week is because I've been working during the days for the past 3 months, and Eric has been home. Looking back over the past 5 years, my times of greatest struggle are when I'm unemployed. And here I am, in week TWO of not having a job, and I'm going a little stir crazy!

I know I'm not alone. And I know that any of you who have moved to a new city can relate. This is, quite simply, part of acclimating into a new community. Soon, these emotions will pass. Soon, our calendar will be full and we will practice saying NO in order to preserve our sacred family time. Soon, we will begin to make friends. And instead of sitting at this picturesque coffee shop on the beach alone, I'll be sharing life with another.

At dinner time daily, when we pray with Justice, we thank God for our blessings. Today I'm thankful for the blessing of technology; for FaceTime, for email, for the phone. And I'm so incredibly thankful for the Fasani family. Most missionaries are planted in communities where they literally know no one. We are so fortunate to already know a family we met in Nashville a few years ago, thankful to be in this mission with a team.

First Week

We've moved in, hung a few pictures on the wall, and purchased a few things that didn't make the move with us (garbage can, toaster, blender, etc.).  We're feeling as settled as we expect to feel.  We know we are living in a transitional space, and driving a borrowed car.  While those realities are with us daily, we are trying to not be anxious.  We are blessed with everything we need right where we are.  And Justice has friends just a few steps outside our door.  Oh, how she loves having playmates!

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Those we have spoken with are seeking, "updates, updates, updates!"  So here's what we can share. 

  1. Our little family is trying to form new rhythms.  We have been shopping an unbelievable amount of times; trying to find the best and most cost effective way to grocery shop, as well as picking up necessities that didn't make the move with us.  Every day brings about new things that we forgot about. We try to make these trips in the mornings, while we focus our day/time around acclimating Justice well.  This has been extremely important to us, as we know our little girl has been through significant transitions these past few months.  We are grateful to say, she is doing quite well.  Sleep patterns have returned, independent play time has returned, and our little J-bird is growing right up!  Her sentences are astounding, and her creative play has really taken a leap this week.
  2. We are meeting people.  The church hosted a potluck in our honor.  We had ample time to socialize and begin forming relationships with the people we will worship with on a regular basis.  Over the weekend, we attended a prayer meeting with a few families who are trying their best to be intentional about discipling their children.  And one day last week, I attended a movie and discussion called "The Guerrilla Midwife." I was able to meet fellow pregnant mamas, a few midwives, and potential friends.
  3. Eric had his first interview a few days ago at a local coffee shop.  We are prayerfully considering our employment options, and hopeful to integrate these schedules as well.  I am anxious to get out of the house a few days a week, and I hope to volunteer at a local elementary school as soon as Eric has a work schedule!


The people we are meeting are grateful we are here.  We have been received warmly from the church community.  However, right after the "We're so glad you're here..." pronouncement comes the second sentence.  Folks seem genuinely interested in letting us know the work we are doing will not be easy.  Already in our first week we've heard about brokenness, hurt, neglect, abuse... the struggles of the community.  And from what we gather, the hurt is deep. 

Looking forward, we would be honored if you would join us in praying for our family.  Pray for us to continue to develop healthy habits, for it is only out of our health that we can effectively minister to others. Pray for employment that will be an eye into the community.  Pray for maternal care during the rest of our pregnancy and birth.  We have just begun calling and meeting midwives!