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Welcome Home Haiti

February 21, 2013

We’ve stayed away for too long and we’re so giddy to go back. We’ve switched careers, moved from Missouri to California, had some difficult times and some amazing adventures and yet the anticipation of returning has always been at least a weekly conversation between Ingrid and I. Woohoo!!! We’re going back to Haiti! And we’re bringing 7 of our friends who have never been along with us. We’re currently in the process of training, preparing and equipping a team grown from our church to go to Haiti (June 2013) and do some challenging work on behalf of Haitian Christian Ministries (HCM) and Welcome Home Haiti . Ingrid and I have worked with HCM for many years and are so excited to hug our friends Manno and Prisca, who continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to the people of Haiti. We can’t wait to see all our other Haitian brothers and sisters that we’ve missed for so long and trade stories with them of how our lives have changed since the last time we met.

But most of all…we’re so excited to be building a house for a sweet lady named, Madame Vixamar. You can see a picture of her just to the right of this post. Madame Vixamar is a widow and active member of the Pillatre Christian Church and Ingrid and I have been blessed to meet her and her family during our past mission trips to Haiti. When we traveled there in December of 2010, we also got to train her son, Willem on a recently installed mixing console and other audio equipment. Willem is also a 3rd grade teacher at the school there and a very active part of the church music ministry. To wrap our thoughts around getting to now go back and provide for his mom and family by giving them a home is not an easy task but we’re overjoyed to see this become a reality. What’s more, we’re so excited to share this experience with our some amazing team members, our church family, and YOU!

Madame Vixamar has gone through the application process laid out by Welcome Home Haiti and has the land to build on, just not the means or ability to build a home of her own. So we want to help her with that. We’re not only writing this to fill you in on what’s happening during this mission trip, but we’d love your prayer support!

As this trip quickly approaches, we’d ask that you please join us by praying for these following things:

  • For the logistics of getting everyone to/from Haiti to occur safely
  • For each of us to prepare spiritually, emotionally and physically for what we’ll see and do while we’re in Haiti
  • For our safety and health as we travel
  • That we will work well together as a team
  • Peace for our families as they ‘let us go’, as each of us is obedient to the Lord in going
  • For Madame Vixamar and her family’s safety as we will be getting there to complete construction after rainy season

The other thing you can do to help us is to shop. That’s right people. We know that a ton of you are online shoppers and that y’all love you some Amazon! So if you have some purchases to make, would you help us by clicking through this link  or on the picture of Madame Vixamar to the right of this post?  The link will take you directly to the amazon.com site and your purchase will continue as normal, but a small portion of the sale (with no change to your purchase price) will be donated to our trip.

We are honored to have the opportunity to serve the Lord, the people of Haiti, and this time, specifically the Vixamar family. We’re so thankful that God has brought together such an amazing fellowship of people to share in this adventure. Thank you so very much for your love and support. We couldn’t go and serve without your willingness to send us!

Joel  (& Ingrid)

10 Lessons in 10 Years

May 25, 2012

Today, Joel and I will celebrate 10 years of being married. This is no small feat for us because what nobody can stress enough as you enter into holy matrimony is that being married, or rather staying married, is freaking hard! Joel and I have fought for these 10 years together. We have had some high highs, and low lows and by the grace of God, we’re still standing as a cord of three stands. Marriage is something I’ve become rather passionate about. It isn’t championed like it used to be. It is discarded all too often. So without further adieu, here is my list of 10 lessons learned in my first 10 years of marriage.

1. Spend time with your spouse. This one seems like a no brainer, in those early days of bliss, all we wanted to do was spend time together. But when jobs and kids were added to the equation, we suddenly realized that we didn’t date one another like we used to. And so after neglecting this area for too long, we finally took up all of the gracious people offering to watch our wee ones and began dating again. This one is easy to let slip past you but don’t, it’s important (and fun)!

2. Speak words of encouragement to/about your spouse. I’m the first to admit this is not my strong suit. I’ll talk positively about Joel to others but to him, I’m not the best about bringing in great words of encouragement. However I notice the difference in the things we’re going through when I do and so I continue to work on improving on this one.

3. Have sex (ONLY with your spouse). I can remember a dear older and wiser friend telling me the importance of this as I was up to my eyeballs in breastfeeding and dirty diapers-the days when the last thing I wanted was someone else touching me – but her words have proven true. It is important in your marriage. Don’t get too busy for intimacy or it’ll be a regret in the long run. (*ahem, plus, it’s fun too)

4. Share the responsibilities of your finances. As a former military wife, I know all too well there are times when this isn’t possible, but at least keeping the other person aware of where you stand financially is important. I get that one person might naturally gravitate towards this but both parties should be aware of how finances are handled. If for no other reason than if something should happen to your spouse, you don’t want to be sifting through boxes of papers trying to make sense of bills.

5. Laugh together. Joel and my sense of humor has carried us through some rough and tumble times. Laugh in the good and, if you’re like me, in the painfully inappropriate times too. I’m a firm believer that if you lose your sense of humor, hope won’t be far behind.

6. Be honest. About everything. Even if you know it’ll suck. The truth always comes out sooner or later.

7. Don’t be afraid to fight. Now, I get that not everyone likes to fight, but sometimes it’s necessary. Because here is the thing, marriage, your marriage, is worth fighting for. It’s worth putting it all on the line. It’s worth having uncomfortable conversations. If you don’t fight for it and occasionally in it, you may find there is no longer anything left to fight for. Please ‘o please, be willing to fight for your marriage.

8. Surround yourself with friends that value marriage and like your spouse. Because if your closest confidants think your spouse is a tool or that marriage is a waste, when you come to confide in them during the hard times, they’ll be the first one to tell you how green the grass is on the other side. Choose friends that will remind you of the good in your spouse and the importance of marriage – because sometimes, it takes a village and you want that village to be on the side of your marriage.

9. Love fiercely and put your marriage before your kids. I know this isn’t always a popular way of thinking but the best gift you can give your kids really is a family that is healthy and intact. There are all sorts of studies as to the effects of divorce on kids – I’ll let you look those up for yourself, but the bottom line is love your spouse fiercely, and yes, that sometimes means putting your spouse before your child.

10. Walk humbly in your marriage. You can’t always both be right. You can’t always both have the best way to approach a challenge. You can’t always both lead. Walk humbly when needed.

I know not everyone feels the same about marriage, which is why this is my personal account of 10 things I’ve learned in 10 years. I am by no means great at following these steps but I’m aware that I need to; so that when things get messy, I have something to go back to and re-evaluate my part of the mess.

Joel, thanks for sticking through these first 10 years – my ‘o my what adventures we’ve had and struggles we’ve fought through. Never would I have guessed that 10 years together could be this beautifully difficult. Marriage is hard but it is ‘o so worth it. Thanks for putting a priority on loving God, fighting for our marriage, and celebrating the joys. SHMILY.

When in doubt, shut your mouth and show love.

May 1, 2012

Yesterday, a man who has been fighting for his life on and off for years and most recently, for the past 5-ish months lost that battle and died. We had the privilege of briefly getting to know him through some music and kids ministry opportunities and oh my word was his heart ever to connect kids into the church – it was a beautiful thing.

When I got word of his death, I must admit that my heart instantly began to ache for his three teenage-ish kids. He has fought long and hard to stay on this side of heaven for his family but knowing he has now gone, means the fight for his kids hearts has begun.

How do I know? My father lost a long and ugly battle of his own when I was a teenager. As a family, we also endured a long hospital stay until he finally died. Life was turned upside down and in the midst of it, at the news of his death people said some pretty random things to us not realizing how it’d actually be used to tear at our hearts rather than encourage us.

So, not really being a person of influence in these three beautiful kids’ lives to share this info with them I thought I’d share it with y’all (whoever you might be).

Here is what not to say to a child/teen who has just lost a parent:

At least you know he is in a better place. Let’s start with this one most used in the Christian circle. Here is the deal: Yes, at some point in my life, it will be a comfort to know that my Dad has gone to a better place (i.e. Heaven for those who believe) but in that moment, in the rawness of him just having left me, that actually provides little to no comfort. You see, I’d much rather him to have stayed here with me. I’d rather he got to witness all of my life’s events that I am now painfully acutely aware of him missing (driving a car, graduating high school/college, marriage, kids, etc…). Yes, him still alive would actually be much more encouraging to me than his having abandoned me for a better place. And his argued ability to perhaps be able to watch me from heaven, offers virtually no support to my freshly broken heart.

At least he isn’t suffering anymore. This is a hard one because yes, the fact is it’s a true statement. But what goes along with that though his suffering has ended, it has just begun for the teenager suddenly without an earthly dad. True words but not exactly a source of comfort.

God just needed your Dad right now. His work on earth was done and now he’s moved on to a better place until you can join him. Mercy Lord. This is a loaded one because not only does it make God out to care more about His “needs” than you but it also can be interpreted that life with the teenager wasn’t all that good. It makes God seem to be a distant and needy force who cares little for the heart of the one who has just lost a parent. Nothing could be further from that “truth”. Oye.

Jesus won’t give you more than you can handle. Prove it. No really, open up the Bible and find that verse for me in it’s complete form (not pieced together bits from here and there misinterpreted into a catchy bumper sticker). I can honestly say that in that moment, thinking that Jesus felt the death of my Dad was in the realm of things I should “handle” made me want to get as far from Him as possible.

This list could go on but here was my experience in losing a parent as a teenager. From the moment that my Dad died, satan worked overtime to convince me that the reason God “took” my Dad was because God’s heart wasn’t good and most certainly wasn’t for me. Now yes, I’d been taught to know better than that but as I kept on hearing people recite to me the bogus things (and then some) listed above, it kind of acted as fuel to satans fire. I have no idea why God didn’t answer my pleas to heal my Dad this side of heaven. I have no idea why God let us watch him suffer and deteriorate until he was less than a fragment of the man I knew and loved. I have no idea why people expected the faith my Dad had to be of some sort of comfort to me in that moment.

But here is what I do know. I believe in both good and evil. I get that satan still runs around working overtime to deceive as many of us away from the hope that is in Jesus. And I’m talking real, true hope on the most pure and beautiful level. I don’t think the Christian life is filled with pink elephants and cotton candy – I get that there is a battle for each heart, mine included. When my Dad died,the true journey of what I believed began. I struggled for many years with how could a God who loved me have taken my Dad from me so. damn. early.

I finally realized that faith is just that – stepping out on the ledge and believing. Giving up the desire to wrestle for answers and explanations but instead deciding I’m all in and living my life accordingly, as hard as that may be at times. My Dad’s faith eventually became a great source of comfort to me but in that moment, as a teenager that had just lost a parent, his faith felt most like it had turned on me.

I know that the intention of those trying to offer comfort is 99.9% good so can I offer this – usually, the best you can do is just be there and listen (or sit quietly without a word needing to be spoken). Love on those who are hurting. Don’t offer explanations or heavenly encouragements that you have no business offering. Find a way to tangibly love on them and do that. And don’t freak out if they begin to question God – He can totally handle it. He will fight fiercely for the hearts of these teens (and many others) as He did mine but ultimately, that gift of free will stands. Pray for their hearts as you now know that this is a vulnerable moment (and then some, for them). Pray for the parent who is left a single parent in the most difficult years of transition. Pray as you feel led and then pray some more. Showing Jesus’ love to them will be much more effective right now than just telling these broken hearted teens about His love. Amen.

-Ingrid

My Treasure for Today

April 26, 2012
I was reading these words during my devotion time this morning:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2a

It’s so easy to lose heart. It’s not something we intend to do — but it’s something that we find occurring in some area of our lives all too often. It’s also a common temptation for us to try to warp the truth set before us in the word of God. We try to make it “work for us” in order that we can go on traveling down a path that’s clearly sinful but really tough for us to even want to get out of. So we sink into whatever the sin is and then we try to find a way to ease our conscience by picking and choosing scripture out of context in order to make some sort of funky recipe that makes us feel better…but is really unhealthy and untrue. Or, we just decide that we’ve got better things to do than make time for studying God’s Word; after all, we might be convicted to change…and that could get messy…and who wants a mess when we could have fake bliss? What’s more, we end up verbalizing those same rationalizations to our friends, family, teammates, co-workers and maybe they use it to rationalize their own falls. That’s also pretty unhealthy and pretty dangerous. And we know we’re wrong…that’s the thing…we know it. So we lose heart because evil whisper the lie to us that we aren’t sure we could ever get free from this sin or guilt. The way out is too tough…We aren’t sure that we could ever be free.
What I find most beautiful is that it’s clear that despite all of our screwing up and distortions and losing heart, God in His mercy gives us this ministry to accomplish on His behalf. He invites us to speak His truth boldly, even out of our brokenness. He commissions us to speak against our shame and live in the truth that says (in verse 7 of chapter 4), But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from usGod works in us because He expects and desires a change in our lives. But even as He rescues and restores our heart to Him, God also wants to work through us (despite our sin) to reach others and bring them closer to Him. Let that sink in.

Judge Not – Sometimes Fun Is Loud

March 5, 2012

I recently had the chance to attend a fun adult event.  Since moving from our home, the feeling of being known by our friends is one we greatly miss so this opportunity to hang out with a handful of people we’ve met here who are really getting to know our hearts was like a tall glass of water during this dry time.

If you know Joel and I, you know that our fire pit friends (as we like to call them) are what we miss the most.  The kind of friends that you can just sit around a fire pit with and say nothing or pick up and go on a crazy adventure with or visit their homes without the neat to tidy up and put on a front – you get what I’m talking about?

We have been graciously blessed with friends who fall into this category over and over again.  And it might be a little greedy to want that yet again in this new place.  But my oh my, our Father is faithful and those connections are starting to be made and it is so GOOD for our hearts.  But now I’m off track…

The chance to attend this event with people we’re growing to know and be known by meant that we could go together and have fun.  It meant that the introverted extrovert in me could feel safe being me.  So in we go; admittedly nervous about enjoying ourselves in the public eye (’cause we know we’re a loud, fun and wonderfully dysfunctional group), but thankful we’re in it together. Knowing that people are going to see the real version of us – loud, laughing, broken and genuine.  But we went for it.

Oh my word did we all have a good time.  We laughed and whooped and cut up as only safe friends can.  We brought people in on our jokes and shared our humor with anyone who stopped by to say hi.  We were as inclusive and transparent as possible.  And my oh my did we ever laugh.  If you’ve hung out with us, you know that laughter is key – life has too many sorrows not to look for chances to celebrate life and so we did.  The nerves of us just being ourselves were relieved because we were in it together.  For many of us, it was our first chance at an adult date night with friends in a long time.  Such. A. Good. Night.

And the next morning, as I arrived on time and perky as usual to my job, I was met with surprising judgement.  Through whispers and awkward comments I put the pieces together and realized that people assumed that as loud and laugher filled as we were, we had to have been drunk.  Mercy, Lord.  Yes, alcohol was served at the event.  Something we’d all discussed ahead of time since when we hang out, alcohol is rarely part of the equation.  We talked about the importance of setting an example that wouldn’t disqualify anyone from feeling they could be involved.  Wine was put on each table and we collected extra wine bottles throughout the night.  Those that came to our table commented on how many bottles were on the table, only to pick them up and realize they were almost all FULL.  Between the eight of us, we went through maybe two bottles in 4+ hours.  I can’t speak to drinks people bought on their own but I can say I suh-lammed four bottles of water that night.  Man oh man was I ever…hydrated!

All of this to say, fun is loud sometimes, and that’s okay.  Don’t judge loud fun because alcohol is in the room. If you know us, you know that loud and fun usually ride hand in hand.  And should you think someone has had too much to drink, ask them – that would show genuine concern for safety versus judging them quietly and watching them drive away.  If you’re wishing you were at the loud table, as I often have while hiding who I am, go on over and pull up a chair.  Chances are, they’ll welcome you with open arms.

Jesus taught us to love fiercely.  That means sometimes you’ve got to ask a question that might feel uncomfortable in the moment.  But go ahead and set your judgement aside and ask it, you might be surprised at what you find out and the person will appreciate your heart of understanding instead of a posture of judgment.

Given the chance to do that night over, I’d do it all over just the same.  The laughter with friends who we are known by is priceless.

-Ingrid

The Soundboard Sensei

February 21, 2012

Many of the lessons I learn in life are stumbled upon when I least expect it. As a volunteer learning the in’s and out’s of a sound board, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with my Soundboard Sensei, Nate Dogg to some, and Nathan Hall to most. During my time of serving under his leadership, I learned all sorts of amazing things about mixing sound but even more about relationships.

This is a gift he may not have realized he was giving, yet one that I hold dearly in so many situations today.

For example… there once was a sound tech that was frustrated with some leadership issues. This person grumbled quietly but you could tell there was real hurt as a result of decisions made. So I, in an ugly and inappropriate fashion, spoke the blunt truth to Nathan about the hurt he’d inadvertently inflicted.

My Soundboard Sensei could have blasted me for the way I’d spoken to him. As someone serving under him, he easily could have written me off and ignored the situation (and me) but he didn’t. Dude jumped in with both feet, came to me speaking the truth in love and said we needed to have a face-to-face conversation about what had transpired. Dude showed up at my house not long after that phone call and in we jumped to deal with the mess at hand.

Did you catch that? He didn’t just ditch me because it’d gotten hard. He seized the opportunity to lead bravely and show his genuine interest in me as a person. He came to my house to figure it out. He wasn’t about to let me hide behind a snarky, frustrated comment. He didn’t send and e-mail or text where so much could be misinterpreted or lost in translation. He engaged in the ugly, determined to get to the bottom of it. He graciously called me to the carpet and to this day, I’m so thankful for that.

His heart to disarm my prickly response and find the truth in what I was saying is a lesson I hold close. In this one instance, he chose to be comfortable having an uncomfortable conversation and portrayed the importance of me serving effectively on the team, and ultimately the importance of our friendship.

Leadership is not always pretty or doesn’t always line up with the chapters in the books some study. It can be hard and ugly and a beautiful mess. But in the end, the ability to be brave in leadership may teach a lesson that might otherwise be missed.

Be brave in your leadership. Be intentional in your conversations. Be gracious with your friendships.

The Limits of Your Prayers

January 23, 2012

Last night at church during our youth group’s worship time, I asked the following question of all of us in the room:

What are the limits of your prayers? …or stated more pointedly…What won’t you pray about?

So I figured that was a good question to dwell on a little longer than simply last night. Now I’ll ask you…at least the few of you who read our blog🙂

In your life, what won’t you ask God about, either because you’re afraid that you’ll get an answer you won’t like or you’re afraid that He’ll just condemn you right off the bat? Why won’t you ask Him about healing an addiction. Maybe it’s because you don’t really think your problems matter compared to those who are “less fortunate in the world” or because your actually not all that interested in getting rid of that addiction in the first place. Why won’t you ask Him to restore and heal your struggling marriage? Is it because He might show you things or people who you’ve allowed to take the place of honoring your spouse?

It can be difficult in many cases to pray for family, friends, co-workers. But it can be exceedingly harder to pray for ourselves when we know that we need to be changed, when we know that our brokenness and our sinfulness stand in the way of other breakthrough in our life and in the lives of those whom we love.

The beautiful thing that I’m realizing is that He is so patient and He’s very gentle and loving when I finally work-up the courage to say, Lord where am I failing…Lord restore me here…Heal this wound that You’ve so graciously shown me that I have.

Jesus wants to do these things in all of us. He wants so much more than the “relationship with us” that we hear about so many times in plenty of church settings. He wants Oneness (more to come on Oneness in future posts). He wants an open dialog instead of a one way telethon conversation that ends abruptly when we have an answer from Him.

So what have you wanted to ask Him? Don’t wait. Don’t be afraid. Just ask.

-Joel

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