Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Our transition can be summed up in one word:  WAIT.  Next week, things will pick up dramatically.  I'll go to the doctor to check my progress (I'll be 36 weeks).  As long as there's no head peaking out or anything, we're planning on driving north for an interview on Thursday.  The weekend will be packed full of ... something (we haven't been told exactly what yet, but we've been told we'll be busy).  Then we'll know if the job is a fit or not, and we'll come home.  When we return we should have a plan of what we're doing or at least one thing that we are not doing. 

So, I just have one more week to wait.  What should I do while I wait?

Option One:  Pack

We want to move, so as an act of faith that we will be moving at some point in the near future, I could start packing.  But... it sure does seem like a lot of work.  It's really hard to bend over and pick things up; I probably shouldn't be lifting anything very heavy.  It's just easier to sit with my feet up and try to remember what my ankles used to look like.  The packing can wait.

Option Two:  Find good deals on the baby stuff we need.

Yes, even though this is our fifth child, there are some baby things we still need (thanks to some sticky-fingered renters who cleaned out our attic when they moved).  But... we kind of want to wait to see how this interview goes.  You see, if we stay in the area, we might be able to just borrow some stuff from generous friends.  If we move, we'll probably need to buy that stuff, but depending on when we move, we may want to wait until we're in a new place.  I don't know.  Baby's not here yet.  The baby stuff can wait.

Option Three:  Relax and wait. 

This is one I've been going with.  I've been spending my days helping my kids reach their summer goals, assigning cleaning detail, laughing at their antics.  I've been reading a little, praying a lot.  Then I'll sleep a bit, pray a bit more.  I'll cook some, pray some more.  Some days I'm not mastering the relaxing part because I get myself stressed out by all of my questions.

But, like it or not, I'm getting this waiting thing down.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Major Life Decisions

by Steven

When it comes to making major life decisions (MLDs), how do you determine the best course of action? For the purposes of this writing I define a "major life decision" as a decision that will impact more than just yourself and that once done, will be costly, difficult, or impossible to completely undo. Some examples are: relocating to a new city, changing jobs, offering (or saying yes to) a marriage proposal, deciding to try to get pregnant or adopt, or taking a sizable financial risk.

Do you ask others for input?  Do you write a list of pros and cons?  Do you let circumstances decide for you.  Do you talk it out with your spouse and make a decision together?  Do you seek for the influence of a "higher power"?

I have observed that many people in the Christian community tend to spiritualize decisions, especially big ones, and make them more difficult than they need to be.  I include myself in that lot.  I sometimes wish that I viewed life as merely pragmatic.  Making decisions would be easier if they all boiled down to the practical and economic realities in play. 

For me, however, there's always been more to it than simply weighing the pros against the cons.  There's been a deeply-rooted belief in me that tells me that my choices aren't totally my own to make.  I have been governed by a conviction that says not every good opportunity is the best or even the right opportunity.  I have believed that God, Himself, has a say in my journey, and I need to voluntarily acknowledge His right to direct me.  Even still, I probably make it much harder than it needs to be. 

Did Jesus ever wonder what the will of His Father was?  Did He go through times of waiting, just waiting, with no clear direction from Heaven?

I remember my dad long ago pointing me to a verse in Colossians.  The verse tells us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.  My dad said that to let the peace of Christ rule means to let God's peace act like an umpire in my life.  In other words, if you don't have internal peace about something, don't go that way. 

So that is how I have made my decisions; I've searched internally, long and hard at times, until I can determine if God's peace is in the matter or not.  And I have no regrets regarding who I married, or my geographic relocations from FL to TX to MO to TX to ???, or my decision to shave my chest.  Indeed, the peace of God has led me well; and it will continue to do so, I'm sure.

What about you?

The Call

Today we got THE call.  Well, maybe not THE call, but The call.  This is the call in which we were invited to come to the church for a face-to-face interview.  They'll fly us up and put Steven and I up in a hotel!  (Can anyone say, "Romantic Getaway?!")

Well, maybe.  The weekend we've been invited, I'll be 36 weeks (plus a few days) pregnant.  Apparently, that's "full-term."  Also APPARENTLY, I'm not supposed to travel.  And as a third apparently, I will not likely be allowed to travel without a doctor's note, which he's not super-excited to give.

Now, none of my other children came early, but you never know with my advanced maternal age and all.

We're very excited with the prospect and are currently trying to adjust interview plans and dates without being too difficult to work with.  Surely they'll understand, right?

I can't help but point out a few things to God, though.

"You know, God, this wouldn't have been an issue if You had let this process move a bit faster.  A couple of months ago, I would have been a good traveler... nay an EXCEPTIONAL traveler.  We wouldn't have had issues with summer camp schedules and such.  Not to mention all the stress this long process has caused.  Not that I'm not grateful, because I am.  I'm so thankful that we have this opportunity and that we'll know soon if this is a good fit or not!  I'm just saying, we could have avoided a lot of frustration, stress and tears if the timetable could have been moved just 8 short weeks earlier.  I know You're never late, but You sure do like to make for some last-minute excitement."

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, though.  Throughout the Bible, our God is a God who has a flair for the dramatic.  And maybe the journey, including all the frustration, stress and tears, was the point all along.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Please Be My Strength

Sometimes there is just a song that pretty much sums it up.  This is one of those times.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Worst Part

Waiting is the worst part.  Or maybe not knowing is the worst part.  Either way, this stinks.

Still no change on the securing a job thing or on the moving thing or on the naming the baby thing that I discussed in a previous post.  However, things are progressing, and it appears we will have a bit more clarity soon.  We believe we may even have some answers within the next two weeks (not on the baby name, but on the other two).

A few days ago, we learned that Steven has advanced to what seems to be the final stages of the hiring process at a church.  We started down this path months ago, and it is exciting that it's finally winding down.  As this end approaches, however, I have mixed emotions.

The competitive part of me wants to win.  I want Steven to rise to the top of all the applicants and get the prize, be the champ.  (I'm not claiming this is a righteous part of me; I'm just being honest.)  Additionally, there's a part of me that wants the security this job seems to offer.  We would have a steady income and know what part of the country we would be moving to.  A job and an narrowed area for us to live.  Sounds ideal!

Of course, I have to think everything through.  I have to ask, "I wonder how soon they would want us?"  "Would we move before the baby is born or wait until after?"  "When would we look for a house?" "Which would be worse:  moving across the country while 9 months pregnant or moving across the country with a newborn?"  Understandably, Steven tires of my questions.

Then there's the other part of me.  The part that wonders, what if we don't get it?  What if there's another applicant who is just as perfect for the job as Steven, and they decide to go with him instead?  What if they tell us, "No."?  Then what?

I've been putting this one job as THE possibility that is in front of us.  What will I do if this door closes?  Suddenly, our backup plan looks a bit anemic.  It actually looks a little scary.  I know I will still hope in the Lord, but what does that look like?  Do we keep looking for a ministry job or just settle for whatever we can get?  Should we move into a rental house in the Dallas area and assume we'll be here for a bit longer, or do we continue to be in this transitional mindset we've been enduring for the past months/years?  I'm not sure how much more of this I can take.

Yeah, waiting AND not knowing are definitely the worst parts.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Gate

By Steven

Within the last week I had two very different reactions to an everyday type of situation.  One reaction I believe was perfect, the other was far from it.    I'm not one to over-spiritualize things; honestly, I tend to look down on those that do.  Nevertheless, I do believe that sometimes an everyday, common occurrence reflects a bigger, more significant thing.  Here, in my opinion, is one such story.
The Setting

We currently live in a gated community.  What do you think of when someone uses the term "Gated Community"?  THIS isn't it.  Our present abode is a 2nd-story apartment in south Dallas where iron bars surround the 10-building complex to keep out the thugs.  Moreover, there is one usable entrance and exit that happens to have an iron-bar gate that slides open ever-so slowly when someone punches the correct 5 digit code.  Off to one side of the vehicle gate is a smaller gate for tenants who might be walking (or running) in or out.  This ped gate does not open by a key pad, but rather, by an old fashion key.

Episode One: The response of perfect patience

The other day I had left the protection of the fence for a jog.  I was wearing some really cool Nike running shorts - the kind that has a lining on the inside which allows me to be "free", if you know what I mean.  Anyway, I didn't want to carry a set of bulky, pokey keys with me so I took the chance that upon my return I'd be able to follow a car through the open gate.  Alas, after my 25 kilometer jog, ahem, I found myself locked outside.  At those moments I was aware of my thoughts and emotions.  To my delight I had no anxiety, no impatience, no fear and no frustration.  I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in a car wanted in or out.  I honestly didn't care if I had to wait 15 seconds or 15 minutes; I was not doomed to be shut out.  I was at peace with where I was because I knew that I would eventually get to where I wanted to be.

Episode Two: The response of a perfect jerk

Just a couple days after episode one I had a totally different reaction to that stupid gate.  (Notice how the gate that was there for my family's protection is now that STUPID gate.)  This time I'm in a car with my kids trying to leave the complex.  Usually exiting goes off without a hitch.  One can easily pull straight up to the key pad, enter the numbers and Open Sesame! The gate maneuvers to the right making for a smooth leave.  This time, however, the poor damsel in the compact car ahead of me was not able on her own to open the gate.  No problem.  She thoughtfully pulled up so that I could have access to the key pad.  To my dismay, although I punched in all the right numbers, no gate response.  Uhgg!  Come on people, don't you know that I have the right to leave at my whim and I should not be hampered by malfunctions.  It took me all of 3 seconds to call the campus security department which I have on speed dial.  (btw, our apartment complex is part of a college campus.)

The conversation went something like this:
Me - "Hi, I'm trying to leave my apartment complex but the gate won't open.  Can you send someone to help?"  Said with great annoyance.
Security guy - "Are you sure you've pulled up close enough for the sensor.."
Me, interrupting him - "I know what I'm doing, I've entered the right code and I'm on the sensor.  It's just not working."  Said with even more annoyance.
Security guy - "Okay, we'll send someone over."
Me - "Thanks."  {Click} (Do cell phones actually click?)

Now this exchange might strike you as pretty benign.  I didn't yell, curse, or  use insults.  I'm pretty much only guilty of being slightly rude and impatient, right?  Here's the deal.  About 2 seconds after I hung up, I noticed something different on the key pad - the tiny red and yellow lights at the top were no longer lit.  So I tried my code again and wham-mo! The gate began to yield to my will.  Another fact that may or may not be relevant is that after hearing the security guy say his second line, I think I recognized him as a friend of mine, but it felt too late to change my tone.  Here I am, impatiently talking to guy, perhaps a friend, as if I've been tremendously wronged, just to find out that there was no problem, only a negligible delay of say... 30 seconds, tops. *

The contrast to my attitude and response a few days earlier is huge.  Why the difference?  Too much MSG in my diet?  I don't know.  I'm actually not so concerned with why at this point; we all have our moments.  What strikes me is how relevant the whole scene seems to be to the bigger picture of my life right now.  

My family is in transition.  We are waiting for a gate to open.  Until it does, we feel stuck.  But what can seem like a major inconvenience in the moment, might really only be a brief postponement, perhaps even a respite.

I know that the gate that seems now to shut us in will soon open.  I truly believe that.  In the meantime, I pray that I'm not a jerk to those around me, including my wife and kids.  I pray that I can wait patiently without anxiety and stress.  I know this is how the Father would have me wait.  I know this is how my family would have me wait.  Now it's only a matter of getting some perspective and being confident in the Gatekeeper.

* I was thoughtful enough to immediately call the security guy back and tell him that the gate opened.  To my chagrin, I didn't include the apology that was due him.  Perhaps he'll read this and forgive me anyway.

Monday, June 13, 2011


A few days ago, I had the following thought going through my head: "Those whose hope is in the Lord will not be put to shame."

I'm no Bible scholar, but I thought it seemed like something that was probably in the Bible. (Those of you who ARE Bible scholars have permission to roll your eyes and shake your head in dismay.) The thought wouldn't go away, so I decided to look it up and see if it was in there. Sure enough. There it was:

"No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame." (Psalm 25:3)

It wasn't worded exactly the way it was going through my brain, but it was close enough to make me think that maybe the Lord was giving me something to hold on to, a promise that He wants me to remember in this time.

I've continued to mull this over in such a way that a Bible scholar might say I'm actually meditating on it. I asked myself, "Is my hope REALLY in the Lord?"

There are lots of things that I can say I hope for. I hope this baby comes early and in one push. I hope our next house is the perfect size, one where we can open the dishwasher and the refrigerator at the same time if we want. I hope our next vehicle has air conditioning so cold, we get goose bumps and have to turn it down. But I don't really have my hope IN those things. They're just things I'm hoping for, almost like a wish list.

That's different than my hope for our future, and this is where it gets trickier.

Steven is currently in the application process with a couple of different churches, one we are particularly hopeful about. The danger I face is putting my hope in that job or in that church, thinking that they are the ones who are determining our future, rather than remembering that the Lord is the one in charge of our destiny.

I know it may seem like it's just semantics, but it's a real issue to me. It's hard to remember in tough times that no job or individual is my provider.  I may have to keep reminding myself of that, especially as seemingly bad news comes or setbacks occur. When disappointments come, I may have to refocus that hope; it's easy to let hope in something else uproot my hope in the Lord.

But, as of today, anyway, my hope is in the Lord.  He's not going to let us be put to shame.

By the way, if you are in a situation similar to ours, the rest of Psalm 25 is loaded with good stuff.  You should take a look at it... maybe even meditate a bit.


Steven here.

As a husband and father, the issue of trusting the Lord for provision strikes me a little differently than it does Sarah.  (Pardon my dangling modifier)  I view myself as the one who bares responsibility to provide for my family.  After all, I'm the man of the house, and it is my God-given duty to do whatever I need to do to make sure my wife and kids have the shelter, food, clothing and chocolate they need. 

Now with this last point, some may disagree.  You may have issue with the whole man-of-the-house thing, or you may have issue with the God-given duty thing.  If so, let me put it in a way I believe even the most "progressive" person will understand my view, if not agree with it.

I am a (fairly) healthy, (somewhat) intelligent, socially-adjusted man, who has recently acquired a Bachelors degree (cum laude, I might add).  Moreover, many years ago I vowed before God to love, and provide for my wife.  Therefore, if I were to sit around ignoring our bills and tummy grumblings, would not even the most socialist minded person consider me worthless.  Even if one's ideology said this behavior is acceptable, their personal opinion of me would be some degree of scorn.

So the issue to me is not a question of my sense of responsibility nor is it a lack of desire.  Believe me, after staying at home with four kids for the last 10 months, I'm ready to get out and work.  I mean easy work like roofing, digging ditches, managing teenagers at McDonalds, running a multi-billion dollar international business, anything easier than being a stay-at-home dad.  The issue for me is finding that place of balance between me doing my part and trusting God to do His.  Yes, I'm provider for my family. But wait!  Isn't God the provider for my family?  Of course He is.  So does that mean I'm not the provider?  No.  Well... yes and no.  Yes, God is the provider and No, that doesn't mean I'm not the one who should provide.  Am I making this too complicated?  Of course I am.

There are nuances to my particular situation that most men probably don't deal with, but in general I suppose that most unemployed family men struggle with the same dilemma.  I.e., should I apply for and accept a job that I know I'll hate and that won't pay enough to make ends meet or should I stay unemployed and hold out for a position that actually suits me?  It's a tough place and I know that men with faith in God as well as those without faith in God are both experiencing this.  Personally, I can't imagine going through this without faith.  For it is God who is my hope, and with or without a job, I will not be put to shame.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My To-Do List

The setting of our story is Dallas, Texas. Our family is currently living in a 1200 square foot apartment in Oak Cliff (which, for those of you not familiar with the area, would be considered "the wrong side of the tracks"). Our four children share one room, Steven and I share another, and we use the third room for homeschooling. Two bodies can fit in our kitchen if we position ourselves correctly, and we all scrunch together on one couch to watch TV. Needless to say, it's a little cramped. We would really like to move soon. Especially since there's a baby on the way.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. This is one thing we are sure of: in about 7 weeks, we will add another baby to our family, and we couldn't be happier. Unfortunately, his arrival is the only thing we are certain of. We don't know his name; we don't know where he will sleep (recall aforementioned sleeping arrangements); we don't even know where he will sit on the way home from the hospital (I assume he will sit in a car seat, but we don't yet have said car seat). I guess I should add those to my to-do list.

     To-Do List:

  1. Name the baby.
  2. Find a crib.
  3. Find a place to put a crib.
  4. Get a car seat.
So, we would like to move. When we should move is an unknown. Should we move before the baby arrives? (Remember that will be in the next seven weeks.) Or should we wait and move with a newborn in-tow? If it were that simple of a decision, that wouldn't be so bad. But there are other factors weighing into this move, the most prominent being where Steven will be working. You see, he doesn't currently have a job.

Again, a slight detail I may have left out. Steven has been going to school for the last couple of years in order to finish his degree. I have been teaching high school geometry in the meantime. We are really not that progressive of a family, though, to have me bring home the bacon and have Steven fry it up in a pan (in addition to homeschooling our three school-aged children). So, now that he's graduated, we're ready to switch back. I will change from being a full-time teacher to a stay-at-home mom. Steven will change from being a stay-at-home dad to a full-time... yet to be determined. We have a few prospects, but nothing sure yet. A few more items for my list...

      5. Find a job for Steven.
      6. Pack up all of our belongings.
      7. Move (possibly across the country or just across town -- be ready for anything)

That pretty much sums it up. A simple 7-step process. What have I been worrying about, anyway?