What are we doing here?

 (from jme)
this is just a random update…
Some of the quotes we have heard during our training this week include:
“The most important thing in life is to decide what’s most important”
“There’s no use in nicely framing our values on the wall if they’re not lived out in the hall”
We have been challenged to write our personal mission statement and decide “What am I doing here?”  This is tough.  There is SO much I want to do and accomplish.  However, in trying to do so much, I may miss out on what is the most important to me.  So I’ve written my values and goals .  I’m praying that each day my thoughts, actions and words reflect them more today than yesterday.  Such a challenge in the busyness to sit down and do this.  But very freeing and I think a good and worthwhile challenge.
Kids have been at camp with dear friends this week.  Oh my heart is so full that we have friends who love us enough to take care of our kids for that long at a jam-packed, full camp!  I’m so ready to see them!
Earlier this month, we closed on our house a few days earlier than expected, so we stayed with my brother, Alex, for a few days before we came to Texas.  It reminded me of when we lived in Birmingham.  My family would all meet in Tulsa and stay at my brother’s house.  Since we were all in the same house, we spent every second together.  When we moved to Tulsa, we didn’t actually get to see them as much because there weren’t sleepovers!  I am so thankful for that time with him and his family.  However, I didn’t think I would get the chance to reconnect with my other brother, Paul, who lives in California.  But, because of a horrible tragedy, I was able to see Paul and his boys in Louisiana this weekend.  Mercy Ships International Operations Center just happens to be 2 hours from my hometown.  That’s pretty crazy, and allowed me to see Paul before we leave.  He had to attend a funeral and I wanted to be there for him, my nephews and family.  I hate that it was because of sadness, but I’m so glad I got to see him, his boys and my parents.

The Prodigal Son And The Totally Awesome Father(s)

Happy Father’s Day!

I have never been good at relationships.  I’m terrible at keeping in touch with my friends, and I often fall short as a husband, father, brother, and son.  You see, my busyness and selfishness often get in the way of the man I’m supposed to be.

I was reminded of this during the past week when I fell short as a son.  I was supposed to do something important for my father, and I honestly let it slip down on my priority list.

This week in class we have been learning about who God is and how we communicate with Him.  This is how God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…”

We then read the story of the Prodigal Son, found here.  No matter how much we break God’s heart, he takes our shame away and RUNS to embrace us.

While I was guilty of letting down my earthly father this week, he did a terrific job of modeling God’s grace, forgiveness, and lovingkindness to me.  My dad is the best.

Sometime during the week, I realized that I often do the same thing to my Heavenly Father.  I get too busy, and I put Him down low on my priority list, sometimes ignoring Him completely.

I’ve been challenged in class to seek God more.  To communicate with Him.  To pray boldly.  To listen for Him.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been intentional about doing this, but in just the last few days, He has shown up in so many ways.  Personal and specific ways that show me He loves me and values me.  Not because of what I do or don’t do for Him, but simply because I’m His son and He wants a relationship with me.  I would just encourage you that if it’s been a while since you’ve heard from God, spend some time with Him.  Ask Him to show up.  Be still and quiet.  Listen and look for Him.  He’s not hiding.  He wants to run to you, too.

Prayer Requests:

1.  My father is having some issues with his heart.  Please pray for healing.

2.  Pray that God would continue to grow us during this time of training/preparation.

3. Kids are at camp this week.  Praise God for the opportunity for them to go.  Pray for a fun and safe time and that they would learn more about God’s love for them.

4. Continue to pray for the transitions we are having to make.  Pray specifically for friends for the kids once we get on the ship.  I suppose Jamie and I could use some friends too!

Some random photos from the week:

Our first visit to a cowboy church.  That's a lot of hats!

Our first visit to a cowboy church. That’s a lot of hats!

Hannah and Ms. Jenelle, who will be her preschool teacher on the ship

Hannah and Ms. Jenelle, who will be her preschool teacher on the ship

Acting out the Prodigal Son in class.  In case you can't tell, this is during the famine!

Acting out the Prodigal Son in class. In case you can’t tell, this is during the famine!

An example of some things that are stretching me.

An example of some things that are stretching me.

Part 2 of stretching...

Part 2 of stretching…

Hannah dominating Connect 4!

Just Smile, or….

Most of you have seen our shirts, “Just Smile and Wave.”  We based this on the verse Exodus 14:14, “Our God will fight for you, just stay calm.”

As things often get tense or overwhelming, we have to remind each other (adults and kids alike) “just smile and wave.”  BUT we also are learning to give grace to each other when we can’t muster a smile, when we just need to bawl our head off.
Maybe amazing things are happening around us, maybe beautiful berries and friends are around.  But sometimes all we can see is the wet itchy grass on our toes.  We will change our perspective and eventually celebrate…but sometimes we need a moment to bawl our head off.
Please pray for God’s perspective for us!  And grace for us all until we get there.
“When the Israelites looked at Goliath they said ‘He is SOOO big, we cannot possibly hit him.’ David looked at Goliath and said ‘He’s so big, I can’t miss!'”  God, give us your PERSPECTIVE!!
Berry Pic
We are one week into our 6 week training in Texas.  Things are going well, and I can’t thank Brian’s mom enough for watching our kids for long hours while Brian and I go to school!  It is a ton of info and all sooo good.  We love learning from people from all over the world.  In our training class, there are 6 countries represented.  It feels like college again going to class with Brian.  Please pray we can keep learning and for Brian’s mom and kids as they are spending lots of time together.  We also want to know how our friends are doing, and be able to pray for you, so please let us know. You can text, send us fb messages, email or call!  We haven’t had much time to take pictures during training, more to come!
love,
jme

Best Day

After spending a few wonderful days with Jamie’s parents in Louisiana, today we arrived at the Mercy Ships International Operations Center (IOC).  This will be our temporary home for the next 6 weeks while we do training.  What kind of training?  We will learn more about Mercy Ships, how to live in community (with 3 loud kids!), maritime safety, missionary life, French, etc.

The kids, like us, have been feeling the effects of packing up and leaving everyone back home.  One minute they’re excited to be living overseas on a ship, and the next minute, they think it’s the worst idea in the world.  Honestly, I have a lot of the same thoughts!

What a relief it was to see their eyes light up as soon as we set foot on the Mercy Ships campus!  Today felt like a turning point.  Instead of saying “goodbye,” it was now time to say “hello.”  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them going from a 5-bedroom house to dorm-style living, but they were so excited to unpack their bags and arrange their new room.  They capped it off with dancing and singing to “Best Day of My Life.”  Jamie and I couldn’t help but look at each other and smile.

For those of you praying for our new friendships, keep it up!  So far we have met people from all over the U.S., as well as the UK, New Zealand, Germany, and South Africa.  We even met the girl who will be Hannah’s preschool teacher on the ship!

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for our nephew Eli who needs a procedure to correct a heart condition.  Pray that the right doors would open for him to get treated at the best place possible.
  2. Jamie has had some bad heart burn all day today, like really bad.
  3. Pray for a great first full day tomorrow.  That we, including the kids, would continue to make friends.
  4. Pray for my mom as she has very graciously and selflessly volunteered to take care of our kids during the day while we are at the IOC.  Pray that she and the kids would really be able to enjoy this time together before we depart.
  5. Pray that our hearts and minds would be open to learn whatever it is that God wants us to learn so that we might be better prepared to serve.

I had a dream so big and loud

I jumped so high I touched the clouds

Wo-o-o-o-o-oh [x2]

I stretched my hands out to the sky

We danced with monsters through the night

Wo-o-o-o-o-oh [x2]

I’m never gonna look back

Whoa, I’m never gonna give it up

No, please don’t wake me now

(2, 3, 4)

Oo-o-o-o-oo

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

Oo-o-o-o-oo

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

I howled at the moon with friends

And then the sun came crashing in

Wo-o-o-o-o-oh [x2]

But all the possibilities

No limits just epiphanies

Wo-o-o-o-o-oh [x2]

I’m never gonna look back

Whoa, I’m never gonna give it up

No, just don’t wake me now

Oo-o-o-o-oo

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

Oo-o-o-o-oo

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

I hear it calling outside my window

I feel it in my soul (soul)

The stars were burning so bright

The sun was out ’til midnight

I say we lose control (control)

Oo-o-o-o-o

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

Oo-o-o-o-o

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

This is gonna be, this is gonna be, this is gotta be

The best day of my life

Everything is looking up, everybody up now

This is gonna be the best day of my life

My li-i-i-ife

Hard Goodbyes

“How are you guys doing?” That’s been the most common question asked of us of late. It’s a good question, but one that’s so hard to answer in just a few sentences. Exhaustion is probably at the top of the list. Physical exhaustion just from getting everything together in order to leave, but a little more unexpected from me (Brian) is emotional exhaustion. I totally underestimated how difficult it would be to say goodbye.

Over the past month, we’ve said goodbye to co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family. It first hit me saying goodbye to my sister, Jessica. She and her awesome husband, Aaron, came to Tulsa and stayed with us for 10 days with their now almost 11-month old daughter. Obviously, it wasn’t easy traveling with a baby, right as they were in the middle of buying and selling a house, but Aaron and Jess did it, and we’re so glad they did. We spent some great time together, and Aaron helped me move a ton of stuff to my parents house. But saying goodbye was tough. Real tough.

It seems like since then, it’s been a constant stream of goodbyes. Each one chipping away at our hearts. Don’t get me wrong.  We are incredibly excited to be starting our journey with Mercy Ships. But right now, it feels more like a time of grieving. On the surface, that seems like kind of a downer, but really it’s a blessing. If we weren’t surrounded by such great people, it would be easy to leave. But we know we are leaving behind a great hospital, incredible family and friends, and an awesome church.

Speaking of church, today we had a send-off at our church, The Church.at. What an awesome experience to be surrounded by dear friends and hearing a chorus of prayers being offered up to God on our behalf. Keep it up folks! Please don’t forget about us after we leave. We need those prayers!

We leave Tulsa in the morning. Please pray for safety, sanity, and unity for our family.  We will visit Jamie’s parents before beginning 6 weeks of training at the Mercy Ships headquarters in Texas.

And thank you to all our family and friends for making it so hard to say goodbye.

I conclude with the wise words of the famous philosophers Boyz II Men. They sum up our feelings pretty well right now.

How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The good times that made us laugh
Outweigh the bad.

I thought we’d get to see forever
But forever’s gone away
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

I don’t know where this road
Is going to lead
All I know is where we’ve been
And what we’ve been through.

If we get to see tomorrow
I hope it’s worth all the wait
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

And I’ll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

And I’ll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.