Friday, January 29, 2010

The Big Move

In January of 2008 we were scheduled to move back to the states and Mark was going to get out of the Navy. Ever since we left Jacksonville, FL for Japan we talked about what things would be like when we moved there after our tour. After being saved, I kept getting the feeling that Jacksonville wasn't where GOD wanted us to go, but I would push it into the back of my mind (just another time when I decided not to listen and obey until God made me). Mark started looking at automotive schools. If you don't know my husband he loves cars and bacon. :) He showed me the list of where all the schools were located and we narrowed it down to Houston, TX because the school there had the program Mark wanted, it was located in a warm climate area (Mark and I were a little tired of the 9 months of snow deal in Misawa), houses were cheap there and we just got the sense that it was where we were supposed to go. :) Texas is the last place either of us really wanted to go, but we took the plunge head on.

Our "plan" for moving looked basically like this: Move to Houston. Find a house to live in. Lilly would be born there. Mark was going to work for a few months until the school year started, then I was going to teach and he was going to go to school, and Lilly would be in day care.

What really happened: We didn't have a place to live in TX, our furniture was still being shipped from Japan and Mark's car was in storage. We borrowed my mom's car and drove from Indiana to Houston, TX. Checked into an Extended Stay in The Woodlands, TX and got in touch with a realtor who was going to show us some rental homes. We were thinking we would be in the hotel a week at the most. Every house that we looked at (and liked) was taken just hours before we saw it or the landlords weren't sure about renting to a couple without a job. If you don't know it is hard to get a job without an address and it is hard to get an address without a job. Our realtor said he'd never had this much trouble finding a place for somebody to live. He went over and above what he needed to do as a realtor and we say a big thank you to Mr. Al Basenburg.

We ended up staying in that Extended Stay for 3 weeks - I was about 37 weeks pregnant by this point and I was sure I was going to deliver and we would still be living in a hotel - lack of faith on my part. I began to read the book of Job while we were in the hotel and I realized that my faith was lacking, so I began to change my prayers from "Lord, give us this house" to "Lord, you know our needs and you know what is best for us, I will trust in YOU." That is when we finally found a place to live and it turned out that our landlords were Christians and they even prayed over the house with us on the day we moved in.

We moved into the house and it was go, go, go until Lilly was born. We didn't have our furniture yet because it was still being shipped over from Japan. Mark and I drove to Dallas, TX to pick up his car out of storage. After getting the car, we decided to trade it in for 2 used, family cars - which if you know anything about buying cars at a dealership, it is a LONG process. I had to find an ob/gyn in Houston, register at a hospital and find a pediatrician. We were busy just trying to get things settled so I didn't notice that I was having contractions during this time - I just thought it was Lilly moving around.

On, Feb. 29th, 2008, Lilly was born by c-section (that story in another post). A few days later, our furniture arrived. Thankfully, my mom was in town to help with all the adjusting and unpacking.

In took a few weeks before we were finally able to settle down and enjoy our "new" family. I look back on this time and just think how HIS grace and strength were the ONLY way we made it through all that. AFter personally experiencing HIS provision - I know to trust that HE will provide every time!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

All in God's Perfect Timing

When Mark and I first got married, I was ready for kids right away, but Mark wasn't. I tried not to be a nag about it, especially since my desire went back and forth, but every once in a while I would bring it up and the answer from Mark was always the same - not now.

When we moved to Misawa we were told that one of three things happens to you when you live in Misawa, you either got married, divorced or had a baby. Well, I was already married and certainly didn't want a divorce (even though during the 6 months of our stay it looked like that might happen) but a baby still wasn't a desire in Mark's heart.

After we got saved and starting living our lives for the LORD, my desire for a baby began to grow and grow. Hesitantly, I went to my husband to discuss the topic again. I was sure that he was still going to say not now, but to my surprise this time he said he was ready. Wow!

I went to the doctor and got checked out, started taking flinstone vitamins (b/c i'm such a wimp about swallowing pills), and just started taking better care of myself to prepare for a baby. We began "trying and planning" to have a baby - thinking that we were in control. ha ha Our "trying and planning" lasted for nine months with each month ending in the same result - not pregnant. I would even get myself all worked up around the time of my period, that if I was even a day late I went to take a pregnancy tests. Crazy, I know. I began to think that it was going to be years before having a baby or that we weren't able to for some reason.

Finally, I decided we weren't going to plan this anymore because it wasn't going to happen in our time, it was going to happen when God decided we were ready. I lifted the situation to the Lord - my prayer was that HE would allow it to happen or HE would change the desires of our hearts so that we would be at peace without having children.

As soon as I changed my thinking and turned it over to the LORD, that is when we found out I was pregnant. What a wonderful blessing to be waiting for something and to have your prayers answered like you hoped. It is a shame though that I went through months thinking we could control when this miracle would happen - I should have given the situation to God right away. I mean,really, it was already HIS. :)

**As a side note, it couldn't have been better timing for Lilly's delivery. I was due March 1st, Mark was getting out of the Navy and his last "technical" day was March 31st. We had all access to all the military benefits for her birth, which if you know anything about military insurance - we didn't have to pay a dime for the delivery. God is so good!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are You Sure, God?

I had been praying and searching for some way to be involved with the chapel on base. Each time I prayed, I was led to think about the high school youth program. I kept saying it couldn't be right because I was an elementary school teacher and I didn't "do" high school kids. Plus it met on Tuesdays which was the same night as my taiko drum class. This was my first lesson in listening and obeying what God has called me to do. HE lined things up so that I would have no excuse but to go and do what HE asked.

First, I have to tell you that I loved playing taiko drums. It was one of those things that I looked forward to each week, but some conflicts/drama started in the group which caused me to not enjoy it so much. Also, I started to hear the meaning behind some of the songs in a new light. As you're probably aware, most Japanese people are not Christians, so a lot of the songs were written to praise one of their gods. Being a new Christian, this was a little disturbing to me, so I stopped going to the class. Now my Tuesday nights were free to go where God wanted me to go.

Can you believe after that, I was still reluctant to go help out with the youth? I didn't want to go alone, so I told God that if my husband agreed to go with me then I would do it. I was so sure this was going to be my way out because I was positive that Mark would not want to go with me. To my surprise, Mark said sure. I was shocked! So, I had to go - no more excuses.

Mark and I ended up helping out with the Crosspoint youth for about a year. We learned so much in the process - probably more than the students did. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Misawa Family

Our small group in Misawa became our family for the remainder of our stay in Japan. Since it costs quite a bit of money to fly back to the states from Japan, not too many people can afford to do that on military pay. So, unlike the states, people did not travel to be with their family for holidays too much. We spent Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and every other holiday in between with our Misawa family. It kind of reminds me of the early church in Acts where they would meet together to pray, eat, worship, and help each other out. We met every Friday night for Bible study and saw each other at worship on Sundays, but that wasn't the extent of our time together - we had movie nights and game nights, went sledding and out to eat together, laughed and cried together.

Because we were now saved, Mark and I began to change the way we lived our lives. It would have been really hard to make all these changes still living in the states with our old friends, but God knew what we needed and I believe that is why HE put allowed us to find HIM in Japan. In Misawa, we had the support of our Christian brothers and sisters and we were away from a lot of the "wordly" influences that you find in the states. Some of our changes included:

*Instead of going out to a club or a bar on Friday nights we were playing games or going to Bible studies. We enjoyed the Bible studies and were (still are) thirsty for more "truth".

*We changed the way we celebrated holidays in our house because we wanted to focus on Christ during Christmas and Easter and not on the secular "Santa" and "Easter bunny". Also, we did research on many of the holidays and decided that we didn't want any part of halloween because of its history and because we couldn't find a part of it that would be glorifying to God.

*Mark and I began to change the music we listened to and the movies we watched because we wanted to have "good" things going into our heads and hearts so that "good" things were more likely to come out. Plus, we couldn't really find anything in our current collection that would be pleasing to the LORD. So, we threw away hundreds of dollars of CDs and DVDs.

All of these things may sound a little drastic, but a big change is what Mark and I needed. We wanted to serve the LORD and we wanted to share the gospel with others and if we were going to do that, we didn't want anything in our house or on our tongues to be hypocritical about what we were sharing.

If you want more information on holidays, specifically Halloween

Here is some information on music and movies

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Change

God took me halfway across the world to figure out what it meant to be a follower of Christ and to have a relationship with HIM.

In June 2005, my husband and I moved to Misawa, Japan. There is an air force base there where he was stationed. Misawa is in the northern part of the main island of Japan - it snows 9 months out of the year there and it is a very small country town. He worked on airplanes for the Navy there and I got a job teaching 3rd grade at one of the base schools. During our 1st year there, we didn't do much together. We went to work and came home, but he would spend most of his time playing video games on the computer and I desperately wanted to get out and see Japan. I ended up meeting some really great teacher friends who showed me around - we went to different resteraunts around town and tried out several of the onsens (hot baths). It was great experiencing the culture in Misawa, but I was sad that I wasn't able to share it with Mark. We both missed the states and we were basically counting down the days until we moved back (it was a 3 year tour).

Mark and I spent the summer after mvoing to Japan traveling to Nicaragua with my mom, stepdad, sister and brother. Right after Nicaragua we went to Charleston, SC to see other family and friends. We had a wonderful time visiting with everybody and being able to eat the food we couldn't get in Japan. When we returned to Japan all of my teacher friends were still in the states for their summer vacation and Mark was working a lot for a big inspection coming up. I missed my friends and family back home so much. Mark and I were fighting a lot because we both felt "stuck" in Japan. I wanted to move back home, but he said that if I did that we wouldn't be married anymore. Depression came over me in a bad way. I cried every day and could not seem to get myself out of my "funk". One day I was talking to my mom and she suggested that I go talk to a chaplain or a counselor. When I went to talk to the counselor on base, he kept saying that I needed to get involved with a group on base. Well, if you know me at all, you know that I am an introvert and so starting conversations with people and just "jumping in" are hard for me to do. But, I was determined to pull myself out of this deep hole so that next Sunday I went to one of the services at the base chapel. If you remember from my previous post, church was familiar to me so I didn't have a problem going there even by myself. In the bulletin there was a section about small group Bible studies. I took the bulletin home and the next day called to see about attending one of the groups. I was super nervous about making this call, but the girl on the other end of the phone was very nice and gave me all the details I needed for the next study at her house. I went to the next meeting and the people in the group were so welcoming - it was so refreshing. The next week, Mark and I both went. It took a few weeks, but we eventually became regulars at the chapel service and at the Bible study home group. That group became our Misawa family.

We learned a lot from that home group - probably more than they will ever know. I learned about submitting to your husband and what that really means. Once I started doing it, I was amazed about how much our marriage started to grow and strengthen. We became more like the "one" we were supposed to be rather than two seperate beings living under the same roof. Mark and I both became fascinated with studies on creation. Learning this new information caused me to change the way I taught science in my classroom. I began to my students about creation. This allowed them to choose for themselves which one they believed.

The way I viewed lots of things began to shift and I wasn't sure about my salvation even though I knew I had always gone to church. In October of 2006, there was a revival at the chapel. I don't remember the subject that the preacher was talking about, but at the end of the sermon he spoke directly to me (literally) and asked me if I knew I was saved. I was sooo embarrassed and put on the spot that I lied and said yes, but I knew when I got home that it wasn't the truth. I had never really accepted the gift that God gave to me (all of us) of His son dying on the cross for my sins. I had been living my life for me and not to serve HIM. That night I prayed by myself and then with Mark that Jesus would come into my heart and be ruler over my life - that HE would have control. This became the turning point in my life as well as Mark's.

Romans 10:9-10
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord" and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I was a Christian, right?

Does saying, "I'm a Presbyterian" or "I'm a Baptist" or even "I'm a Christian" make you a Christian?

I grew up going to church. My parents took me to church and I attended Sunday School at Yeamans Hall Presbyterian Church in Hanahan, SC. You know what I remember from being at that church...I remember going bowling with the youth group, singing with the children's choir (Jesus is the Rock and He rolls my blues away) with sunglasses on, being an angel in the live nativity at Christmas time, and eating cookies in the fellowship hall after each service. My dad sang in the choir at that church and, when I was in middle school, my mom began working as the Christian Educator at that church. We were a family who was active in the church, so I was a Christian, right?

As a baby I was baptized and when I was a little older confirmed. I believed in God and I knew who Jesus was. When I was old enough, I attended all the youth functions. Each summer, I went to summer camp. One summer, I was a youth delegate at the Presbyterian General Assembly and another summer I even went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. So, I was a Christian then, right?

While I was at Winthrop, I attended the campus ministry events, worked in the nursery at one of the local churches, became a camp counselor at Montreat (which is a Christian conference center), and even got hired to run a children's summer program at Clover Presbyterian Church. I definately had to be a Christian then, right?

After I graduated from college, I moved back to Charleston and I attended church regularly and volunteered with the Junior High youth group. Was I a Christian then?

Mark and I got married and moved to Jacksonville, FL. We found a Methodist Church that we joined and I helped out with Vacation Bible School, attended Sunday School, and even played handbells there. So, was I a Christian now?

I'm not implying that all these things I took part in aren't good things. They definately made me the person I am today and gave me experiences that led me to where I am today. What I am saying is that I wasn't a follower of Christ during all this time...the Bible says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:8-10

People can do things which the world considers "good" but until you are doing it for Christ, our Savior, it isn't really good by God's standard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sharing my testimony

I have shared my testimony with only a few people, but a few weeks ago I was sharing pieces of it with an old friend and he suggested that I needed to write it in book form. This got me thinking, I am not going to write a book, but a blog could be a way to share it with others. The purpose of me sharing my story is that hopefully others will come to Christ by hearing it - ultimately to bring God glory.

I think it will take many posts to share my story and obiously, since I am still living, my story is conitinuing. Just like any other Christian, I have my struggles so please feel free to leave comments that will help me along.