Thursday, November 6, 2008

henk and ariella

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a break in Belgium

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lots of bikes in holland

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corrie ten boom house

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kyle and scott

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maria cutting pears...thousands of pears

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Rebekah

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tea and coffee time

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Eunmi

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Scott

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soup for lunch! l'abri

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robb and miriam

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kim, me and jade hiking outside of portland

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Portland...the details of a direction...

Now I’d like to share a bit about our time in Portland, Oregon, and the events leading up to our decision to visit. Jade and I were surprised by how clearly we saw the hand of God orchestrate so many events during, and before, our time there…

To back up a little, I’d like to say that neither Jade nor I were completely certain about why we were going to Portland in the first place. I haven’t told many people this, because it always seemed like a hokey thing to tell people, but a few years ago I began to dream about Portland, Oregon. I dreamt about it, literally, and also, I would catch myself daydreaming about this place I had never even been. Now I feel like I can tell more people than just Jade about these “dreams” because some big confirmations on the significance of this city in our lives, we believe, have taken their course in our lives over the past several months. Dreams can be so intangible and uncertain, I am well aware. And Jade gives me flack sometimes (with GOOD reason!) for having “dreams” about things and then taking seriously that these night and day dreams actually mean something. I know now that most things I dream/daydream about are probably the result of a lifetime of reading fiction books and connecting with the characters and their adventures, an active imagination, and the struggle I seem to have with keeping my feet in reality and living in the contented moment. But I also know that this is who God has made me to be, and there are certain “dreams” that you just know in your “knower” (something Pastor Curt Dodd always says that I can really relate to!) are legitimate. Sometimes a person, in their “knower” can really know something is right for them…but are left to waiting on God for the next step towards a decision…and months, or years, of praying for God to make it extremely clear and to give us peace. And Jade and I have talked a lot recently about how God speaks distinctly different to each person, according to how they would hear His voice most clearly. For example, I do not usually hear God through logical reasoning. I usually feel something is right to the core and dream dreams or see signs (sometimes street signs...which is how I ended up at Honey Rock Camp, but another story...) But neither is “right” or “wrong” because C.S. Lewis would have never come to Christ without the logic and the head knowledge of understanding the Trinity. So God speaks to us uniquely…and I am so glad! (AS LONG AS HIS “SPEAKING” IS IN LINE WITH THE WORD OF GOD; the most important factor, and the source of God officially speaking that we have access to, his “special revelation” and then the “general revelation” of nature and the things he has created which cause morality and the desire to know God in the heart of every man… but on with my story….)

I also dreamt of going to L’Abri my Junior year of college…which was finally made complete six years later! And now, with my husband, I am sure that L’Abri, the lessons we have learned and the community that has beckoned us back for another term, will always be a part of who we are as individuals and as a couple. But I needed to wait for that dream (L’Abri) to become reality…and the waiting made it so sweet when the perfect time in our life came.

I have always loved the outdoors (this was confirmed in my heart the summer I spent at Honey Rock in the Northwoods of Wisconsin). Hiking, canoeing, the fresh air and solitude of the wilderness. Discovering and seeing things with my eyes for the first time. So, I thought, when I started dreaming of Portland, “is this the reason my heart is drawn to this place?” Then my friend Kim told me she’d be moving back to Oregon after grad school in North Carolina, and Jade’s friends Joe and Allison were also there. We are both extremely fond of our college experiences, and eternally thankful for the spiritual strength in community and friendships we grew in there…so I thought: “are these people the reason my heart is drawn to Portland?” A year ago, or so, I was reading a Donald Miller book (the author of “Blue Like Jazz”) called “To Own a Dragon,” which is my favorite book of his, and it contains the reflections of his life without a father. A GREAT book! Anyways, in the book he talks mostly about the family that took him into their home as a son in Oregon. The man who mentored him and offered him shelter was a professional nature photographer, and also taught classes at a Portland Seminary called Western Seminary. Donald told in his book that this guy was the best Bible teacher he had ever known, and went on and on about how great this man was. So when I started looking into going back to school to get my master’s degree in counseling a few years ago, I looked it up. The counseling program looked awesome, with a combination of Counseling and Bible and Theology classes (a seminary is the only place I can both get a state certification to be a licensed counselor, but also Biblical training to integrate the two). They also have classes about cross-cultural issues like children and women who have been traumatized, etc…They require five semester of internships, which is way more than any other school I have seen, which means that you’re not just in class all the time! You get a lot of actual experience…in a lot of different settings to find out where you fit best. The school also offers free classes (to audit) to the spouse of a full-time student…which is great because Jade also desires to get some formal Bible and Theology education. I also looked up Imago Dei, the church Donald Miller frequently talks about in his books, and it looked like a great body of believers. So I began thinking: “is this seminary and the fact that on of my favorite authors loves this city the reason my heart is drawn to Portland?”

But honestly, these reasons alone were not, and still aren’t, enough for me or Jade to want to move there. They are very good reasons, but not enough to haul our stuff half way across the country. And away from our families. I already tried the moving far away thing to Georgia (in 2004) and that only lasted 7 months, ending with my mom flying down to Atlanta to drive with me and my car load of things back home. HOME is what Omaha (Homaha : ) has been to us, and coming back again with my tail tucked between my legs, I guess, is still kind-of a fear I have.

SO, it’s true that the past year we have felt a need to change our lifestyle, and to get out into the world for awhile. A time to really super glue our marriage together and to become fully dependent on God as a couple. To REALLY trust Him more than anything. To commit our travels to him as an offering of trust and dependence on His good mercy.

About half-way thorough this summer we began to meet all kinds of people who were either from Portland or who had family connections there. Jade loves the fact that I get “feelings: about things of course, but he hadn’t really taken to heart any of my comments about how I was hearing about Portland and praying that if it was God’s will, it would become obvious to both of us equally. And I don’t blame him, either, because there are a lot of other places that are great to live, and, after awhile, a place is just a place anyways. (Unless it is a place God has specifically called you…but both Jade and I were skeptical that that could happen to us.) But about halfway through the summer, neither one of us could deny that Portland was becoming a common thread in the travelers we were meeting and the conversation we were having all across Europe.

One weekend at L’Abri, my friend Kim and her sister Lynzy came to visit us in Holland while staying with their third sister Jen in Germany. While they were here, another couple in their sixties, Hans and Lois Blom, also dropped by L’Abri for a few days. Hans is a Dutchman, growing up in Holland his whole life. Lois traveled here as a twenty-something by ship, learning the language in a book on her journey across the Atlantic! She says Hans was the “souvenir” she brought home, as they were married a while later and moved to….guess where…Portland, Oregon. Through the years they had both been connected to L’Abri (and host a bi-annually L’Abri conference there), and while coming back to visit Hans’ sister in Holland, they stopped by for a couple of nights. I got to know Lois very quickly and was sad to see them go a few days later…but we exchanged information, and she said that if we were ever in Portland, we should give them a call and we could stay with them.

To fast forward to our time in Germany in July, Jade and I were starting to wonder what we would do the month of August. We knew we wanted to go home to see family for a few weeks, but we also thought that we should just take the plunge and go out to Portland to dip our toes in the water before we did anything drastic like jumping in the water…or moving out there! At this point we began to feel like Abraham and his family may have felt…knowing that, because we were avidly seeking God in prayer, He was speaking to us…but we weren’t sure exactly where he was calling us to go, and each step sort-of seemed like a blind step. Portland seemed like the right choice in our “knowers,” but we still had fear and couldn’t really explain to any one else why we were going except that we felt God “calling us to go.” I suppose Abraham must have had a hard time explaining to everyone why they were moving around, living in tents, without being sure of their final destination. (This summer, by the way, has made me ever more aware of the reality that this earth and our homes here are really just a tent…and we won’t ever, and aren’t supposed to be, completely settled until we are in our eternal promised land.)

But anyways, I had lost Hans and Lois’s email address, and so I figured, if we went at all, we would just try and stay with Kim and Joe & Allison. That VERY DAY I checked my email and there was an email from Lois Blom. She asked if I remembered her from L’Abri, and she said she had felt that morning that she needed to write me and let us know that the offer for us to stay with them if we ever wanted to visit still stood. Remember that we only met them for two days, and for most meetings in that amount of time, those people are just a blip on the radar…you rarely think of seeing them again. But this very morning that I was thinking about this couple, she had already emailed me! I think I may have laughed out loud in astonishment…I know I ran to get Jade!

So Jade and I took that as a sign to move forward on going to Portland the last few weeks of August. Our friends were also excited to have us, and Hans and Lois offered to pick us up at the airport.

After two Wonderful weeks with our family and close friends in Omaha, we headed the opposite direction of L’Abri to the Pacific Northwest.

When we arrived, Hans and Lois (the couple we met at L’Abri) picked us up from the airport. We stayed in their home and enjoyed fresh berries and freshly caught fish at every meal, watching the Olympics, fishing with Hans on the Columbia River, and the blessing to borrow their vehicle to make our way out to the coast and around Portland. At mealtimes we talked about what God had done in their family over the years, and their prayers for a son who had been estranged from their family for years. We shared our hopes and dreams of things we would like to do in our future and of starting a family. Hans gave us snippets of his Old Testament studies, which he had compiled himself and had been teaching in a church setting for years and years. We made a real connection with their family (including their dog Scandel) and it was wonderful!

From there our friends Joe and Allison picked us up and we spent the next few days with them in their downtown apartment. We picked berries on Sauvie Island, ate pizza during a movie in the park viewing of “The Princess Bride,” and took a small road trip to Mount Hood. (What they don’t tell you, is that you can only see Mt. Hood about 10% of the time because it is often very cloudy and overcast in that area.)

Up until this point we thought Portland was beautiful, but we didn’t think we would move here. We had been praying all year for God to show us a very specific answer to our “Where should we be?” question. And we hadn’t received any answer but “Wait…”

We met our friend Kim downtown and went out to her parent’s home in Beaverton to stay for our final week. We met her family and played ultimate Frisbee with her friends, and got in their hot tub to ease our sore muscles after Frisbee. We celebrated our third anniversary kayaking on the Willamette River and licking our fingers at Pit Stop BBQ.

The next morning (Thursday), we got up and we drove to the Western Seminary campus. This day was the beginning to our “answer” from God. When we arrived, we were welcomed by Laurie Bloomquist, the counseling admissions person who took us out for a great lunch. The talk I had with her over pizza got me excited about her feelings for the seminary, and the things she was learning. We both spoke about our passion for victimized women and children and for our desire to work with people from all parts of the world in some capacity. Then we went to campus for a tour, and I loved the simplicity and quaint hominess of the campus. I was greeted about every 10 feet by another friendly face, and it seemed like every person I talked to was either familiar with L’Abri or my friend Kim’s family or Omaha! I met a counseling professor, Norm Thiesen, who had helped to start the Grace counseling program in Omaha and who had been Cindy Johnson’s supervisor (a godly woman and counselor in Omaha) while she was attending Grace. Within three minutes of talking, he had given me his card with his home phone number inviting us to his house on Sunday evening for a get together of some students. I also met with two other professors, and it seemed like everything they said resonated somewhere deep in my heart. These were men I could be excited about taking classes from!

By the end of our visit, we went back to the office and were greeted (again!) by everyone there. I signed up to come in and take my admissions tests a few mornings later, and we began to inquire about housing in the area (pricing, location, etc.) The secretary told us about an international living community and training center for international students and for students who want to live in a cross-cultural learning environment. Called the “World View Center,” it was five blocks from campus and only two blocks from the entrance to Mount Tabor Park (one of the largest “green” areas in Portland!) Because we were coming from L’Abri, she gave me the center’s contact information.

From campus, which is right on the edge of Portland’s legendary Hawthorne District (a place for hippies and other eclectic people), we decided to walk the main strip and get some bubble tea. Sitting down for tea, we talked about Western and our impressions of the campus and the people. Both of us were genuinely impressed, and it was at that point that the seriousness of our thought to move there seemed “right.” Then we met a man who was born in Sioux City Iowa and had lived in Omaha for years. His mom still lived in Omaha and he hadn’t seen her in years. I told him he should go to see her. I get chills because I was also born in Sioux City. It was one of those “weird” meetings you’re not sure what to think about…but I am already convinced that there are not many coincidences in our lives.

It was an exciting day, for sure, but for the next few days, thoughts of what Jade would do here for work set in. On Friday, Jade went to hang out with his friend Joe, and I went with Kim to meet one of her uncles who has his law office downtown. Her uncle, his wife (and secretary!) and his law partner were super kind, and after no time were brainstorming their connections to see what type of help they could offer Jade in his job search. After some talking, they thought of a man named Dave Click who was the type of Christian businessman who had connections with almost everyone in the area. He was a member of Kim’s family’s church (also Pastored by another of Kim’s uncles!), and on Sunday, we planned, Kim would introduce us to him.

So, Sunday morning rolled around and Kim introduced us to one of the friendliest, down-to-earth men that I have ever met. He and his wife, Kay, are probably in their 60’s, and he is “retired” (but not really, because they are still involved with so many things!) One of the first things he told us was that he found it God’s calling on his life to help young men (such as Jade) find work in the business world, more specifically, the food industry! WOW! THEN (as if it couldn’t get any more “coincidental”) he mentioned that the man who had led his to the Lord many years before was a Bible teacher in the area, and a Dutchman….and at that moment, I blurted out “is his name Hans Blom?” And he was a bit surprised that I knew Hans, but we explained that we had met both Hans and his wife Lois at L’Abri, and had stayed with them during our first week in Portland! Dave and Click expressed how much of an influence Hans and Lois had had on their lives and I think my eyes must have oogled out of my face at that point out of shock, and amazement and just absolute thankfulness to God for making this connection. There have only been a few times in my life when the stars have lined up in such a way that it is almost as if I am feeling the gentle hand of God on the small of my back, nudging me in a specific direction. This moment in time was one of them, and even more amazingly, BOTH of us felt it at the same time…which is miraculous in itself when you have two people with different opinions, hang-ups, selective listening, etc.

That night, we went to Norm Thiesen’s house (the professor from Western who had lived in Omaha for years) and met his wife and their kids, and also some students from Western and their spouses. We watched their sheeps get sheered and ate root beer floats around their campfire. Norm even showed us his basement being finished for the future use of a seminary student and the old kyaks they wanted to “get rid of” (which Jade and I said we would gladly accept if they still had them when we got there!) After that we went and met a cousin of Jade’s mom, his wife, and two of their granddaughters. They were a Christian family and shared about their years of involvement with Youth with a Mission and their travels all over the world. If we moved there, they told us, we would have to come by often for dinner and they would be our family in Portland! What a great thing to hear! Again, we were so thankful!

We had been praying specifically for God to make a direction clear to both of us. And now, with the seminary, a start on Jade finding a job, new friends and connections made with young people, older people and a professor and his family from Omaha, we both felt like Portland already had the makings of a “home” written there.

Our trip ended there on September 4 when Kim drove us to the airport and we boarded the plane for the Netherlands and for three and a half months at L’Abri. (See our blog on “The Trip from Hell” : )

Since being here in Holland, it often feels like we are so far removed from the rest of the world. The name L’Abri means the shelter, and it truly lives up to its name. The phones here are often broken, the internet connection is painfully slow, and so contact with friends and family is minimal. The people at L’Abri, both the workers and their families, and the other long-term students have already surpassed feeling like family. I believe that we are experiencing the promise of Mark 10:17-31 in our lives here…

Peter began to say to [Jesus], “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, house and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands….

We have received far more than we have given up by coming to L’Abri. He truly does supply a spiritual family in the absence of biological family when we leave everything for the sake of the gospel. For us, this time has been a time for the gospel to take root in our own heart and in our lives in relation to other people and to God. To believe the truth about who God is, who we are in his sight, and what our lives even mean. To experience a holistic gospel in our own lives; not just a gospel of words devoid of deeds, or a gospel of good works devoid of a changed heart.
(the gospel being: The good news of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, coming…being tempted in every way that we are yet choosing not to sin….then choosing to suffer and die because our sin requires a sacrifice of blood to shed that the law proved we could never fulfill…and raising from the dead to reign over all the world, including our own hearts)

We have also forgotten the many answers to prayer God gave this summer and during our time in Portland. We are like the Israelites…God parts the Red Sea and saves their lives, promising them that they will enter the Promised Land. But then as soon as they have time “in between” to dwell on their own anxieties, it is all forgetfulness of what God has accomplished, and grumbling that they wish they were still in Egypt with their hearty meals and structured work schedules. Our Egypt is the condition our hearts were in the first few years of our marriage, Our Red Sea is L’Abri, and, for now, our Promised Land is Portland, Oregon (I’m sure this analogy breaks down sooner or later, as all analogies do : ).

We are, as the psalmist says, “resting in safe pasture” at the moment, but at times, get very anxious about moving in January. L’Abri was a short term commitment, and now Portland is longer. But even this fall we have experienced an overwhelming reassurance that Portland is the place for us to go.

There are a few people who have been students here who are moving to Portland and we are all, individually, praying about whether God would have us start some sort of “community” living situation there. We have been contacting the World View Center for the first semester (at least) of housing while we are in Portland. There is not a room available for us, but the Secretary contacted a church who is affiliated with the ministry and a couple there has offered us to live with them until we can be placed at the World View Center! Jade has been conversing with Dave Klick via email and Dave is happy to help Jade in his job search. There is even the biggest gathering of Food Manufacturers and suppliers in Portland from January 18-21, and Dave has offered to pay Jade’s way and has invited him to get involved if he hasn’t yet found a satisfactory job. There are people coming and going from L’Abri all the time who either live in Portland or have connections there, which just makes us chuckle at this point, because every time the city comes up, it is like God is whispering in our ears again. One girl, who is working as a nanny (au pair) here in Holland for a year, came to L’Abri for a weekend and I had a long conversation with her about a non-profit organization and ministry she and some friends just started for prostitues in Portland called the Scarlet Thread. This is something I would so love to be involved with!

It feels good to have all of these details written down about things that have happened in the past several months. I have become convinced that God is interested in the small details of our lives. I also know that reading and hearing other people’s stories can do two things to me: 1. it can get me excited to see that God can also answer my prayers and has special tasks for me in my life and 2. I can get jealous that it seems as though “other people” hear from God more than I do. I pray that, if you have read this, you will not be impressed or jealous by the fact that we are feeling clear direction in our lives, but that you would be prompted to look back over your own life to be thankful for the ways He has worked in yours. And that you might be encouraged anew by the words of Matthew 6:31-34…
Don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

and to remember his promise to all believers in Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

Put God to the test by praying for the small things and trusting Him with your future… When wedo this, and then record the answers He gives us, we can properly worship and praise Him for meeting our needs rather than believing that we did it all ourselves. I am so glad to know that God is in control. What have we to fear?! Let’s praise Him together for what He is doing in all of our lives!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

a few sick months

sadly, our "önce a week" updates have turned into about once a month! sorry for the few and the proud who actually read our blog! the months of september and october have been full. my allergies were cured some time ago by a magic little ingredient in a drug here similar to Zyrtec, but then i came down with a cold, and then jade with the same cold (moving from the throat to the nose to the chest to a continual coughing up of phlem...exciting!), and then as i am recovering from that, i have been hit with a stomach flu, getting to know the bathroms at lábri more than i ever wanted to. jade asked me the other day if i thought maybe my continual sickness was psychological. and after thinking about it, i thought, öh Lord, I pray it's not!" and then as the sicknesses changed in form, i realized that, no. i have actaully been sick in some way the majority of the time we have been in europe. which is crazy! but i have had to rest more than i have in a long time. rest in literal sleep, and also resting in the Holy Spirit for my attitude, kindness to others, and general patience level. i am in a season of my life when i feel like it is a spiritual discipline for me to sleep. it can be hard when there are people around all of the time and i don't want to miss out on what is going on.

last week we had a "week off," which came as a suprise to us (we had no idea ther ewould be a break!) and we were very excited at first to see a few more countries (maybe even drive to poland!) and then we got nervous that we would come back even more tired than we were, and that we hadn't enough money to travel more because it wasn't planned. and then, when i came down with the cold, Christa offered to help find a place for us to stay in belgium (just one country away!) for the week. she found us a little place for only 300 euros for the week with our own little kitchen and a beautiful view of a little lake and the red, orange, and yellow hues of fall. the region is called the ardennes region, and it spreads also into luxembourg with rolling mountains and so many trees and forests! Henk and Riana allowed us to borrow their car for very low cost and so we had the freedom of coming and going at our will. it was such an enormou blessing! the town was called vielsalm, and was known for it's witches being burned at the stake in the 1500's (we think there may be a connection to Salem in the states?) there were witch statues and figures all over town, but only german, dutch and french were spoken in many places, so it was hard to ask anyone what exactly was going on with all of the witches! though we were both sick, jade and i had a wonderful time hanging out together and jut "wasting our days" reading the bible, cooking, walking, listening to lectures on tape, visiting museams (including a battle of the bulge memorial from WWII, the end of the war, and America much to thank for it!), driving through the luxembourg, belgium and german countryside, eating beliguim chocolate, waffles, and (of course) trying a little belgium beer. mine was strawberry flavored, tasting more like fresa soda than beer...which was good for me! and talking about our future a bit. it was amazing. i am so thankful for Christa's wisdom and guidance in hooking us up with ONE PLACE to settle into for the week so that we could just relax and enjoy eacho ther's company.

and now we're back and going full force again. we have 17 guests here currently. and this weekend is one of the biggest weekends at lábri : "film weekend"we have at least 35 guests staying this weekend. it will be crazy! i am still not completely sure i understand what "cooking for 60" means (dining room fashion, with meal courses, and a fancy table setting). i guess i'll find out soon enough, huh? : ) i do know that we're watching and discussing the movies ""önce"", ""wild at heart, and a few more...so that is exciting to me, cosidering these are a few of the best movies i've seen lately.

more later....and for now...thanks for reading! we are truly blessed to be here now. i encourage you to stay thankful for whichever circumstances you are in today...at this very moment. if it's hard, it will get easier (hang in there a little longer and don't doubt there are things for you to learn through it!). if it's great, relish in the safe pasture for a time (and prepare yourself, in giving thanks and reflecting on what's past, for what is to come)! These are all things that I have been learning to do, and I know they are true and right. Our Father God adores you! ( and me too : )

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rhythm

We’re getting back into the rhythm of life at L’Abri again. I think, since June, neither of us have really felt like we have been in any sort of pattern, or part of any community, except for “jade-and-me-ness.” Saying ‘hello’ and then ‘goodbye’ again, with so many 2 day to two week visits, is wearing me out. Jade copes better and seems to be more adaptable to the shifting environments we are in. This is what we wanted though…the feeling of freedom and mobility, and the ability to see many different people and places. But none of this comes without a price. The grass is always greener on the other side…in the Spring the grasses of this nomadic lifestyle were greener…and now the grasses of being settled and grounded in one place are sweet. For now, L’Abri is our “Home,” and we are happy to lay down our door mat here.

Now for a little over two weeks we have been waking up to a life of completing our new tasks and learning to love the people we live with. Jade spends much of his day tending to the grass, the unruly hedges, wood for our fires, finishing a new apartment, picking apples and pears and whatever else is growing out of the ground in this fertile soil that needs picking. I load the laundry machines, hang-dry the clothes, sheets, towels, table clothes, and then iron those things that need to be smooth. I make tea and coffee for the guests two times a day, assist in making two meals per day and prepare the rooms for new guests. On my luckiest days, Christa also asks me to hold and watch Gido, she and Rob’s happy one year old, while she runs her twin and youngest daughter around to school, soccer, birthdays parties or the grocery store. We all love Gido! I carry my recipe notebook around everywhere as I try to glean those secrets to making quick, healthy meals from scratch. Jade and I both enjoy hanging out and living life with the other guests here.

The first week and a half here was hard. My allergies were terrible, and I began to think that it was my fate to have an itchy, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and a scratchy throat 24/7. My head was achy and felt five pounds too heavy for my neck. Night times were miserable, as I woke up several times sneezing and blowing my nose, needing to leave the room, and even the house, as early as 4:00am so as not to keep the other 10 people living closely to me from waking up too. The house we are living in is 700 years old, and there are layers of mold so deep that it is impossible to get around it. The news in Holland also told us that the outdoor allergies were at a record high as well, with all of the fruit harvesting going on. Needless to say, being allergic to mold, dust, hay and many trees had become a problem! After a week of feeling at the end of my rope (and the end of roll after roll of toilet paper!) I made the issue a spiritual battle. I began to pray that God would help me to find Him in my struggle. I prayed that I would be able to learn lessons about being joyful amidst allergies. To be gentle and kind to others, hospitable to the point of them not knowing I was struggling. It became a personal challenge to rise above this “handicap.” I also asked others to pray for me, and they did more than that. Jade and Henk shampooed our carpet, fixed a large moldy area of our ceiling (complete with killing hundreds of termites!), took down our curtains and Riana got me a new pillow. Then our new friend Eun Mi let me borrow some medication that works! And a few nights ago we have our first freeze of the fall outdoors. New I am feeling much better…and I don’t take it for granted. I have so much empathy for those who are feeling sick, now. It takes so much energy and willpower just to be pleasant to others! God certainly had a lot to teach me from those first weeks here.

For now, six other guests are living at L’Abri for anywhere between one and three months. Rebekah, a 31-year-old Kindergarten teacher and artist from Quebec, Canada who has taken a year off of work to seek God’s direction in her life. Courtney, a 19-year-old student and farm girl from British Columbia, Canada. Eun Mi, a 30-year-old South Korean who is applying to design schools and is an amazing piano player. Kyle, a house painter and aspiring teacher and writer, 23 years old from San Francisco. Maria, a 27-year-old Mennonite (she wears long dresses and a head covering all the time!) from Pennsylvania who just finished teaching English in Poland for two years and is on her way home. Scott, a 41-year-old American who has been living in Europe for three years and is creating a new website for the Dutch L’Abri while he is here. And Jade and me, as well as the three other families who live here permanently. We have quite the eclectic group staying this term! We have also just finished the second weekend of at least ten other guests coming for the weekend for a series of lectures and film discussions. It is so exciting to have so many people here on the weekends, and the ages range from teenagers to people in their seventies, from Australians, Koreans, Dutchmen and Americans.

When we were back home in Omaha for two weeks, I marveled at the diversity of people I met at my family’s lake cabin. There were medical students from Creighton from all over the States, including John, a Korean-American from Portland, Oregon whom my parents met in Guatemala! A black family from Trinidad, a Refugee from Sudan, a youth worker from Florida, a Campus Crusade staff member who recently lost his wife in a car accident, and Chris, the guy who now feels like a brother. It’s Amazing! Until this term, I had never realized before how similar it feels to be at L’Abri as those days when so many people come out the lake to share a meal together. Being part of the meal preparation for 35 people here gives me a newfound appreciation for the amount of work and joy my parents put into their hospitality for others. I also admire that Rob and Christa, with their four beautiful children, have a small house for their parents connected the theirs. Wim and Greta live at the L’Abri branch in Utrecht, a bigger city nearby, but come to the country on weekends to spend time with their grandchildren. It is so beautiful to see them so connected and authentic, and at the same time so open and welcoming to the hundreds of guests they welcome into the their home each year.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for allowing us to experience the abundance that comes in relationship with other people, and the freedom that you give us to use our gifts. Help us to look outside of our small visions to see the creative ways we can offer ourselves to others. I marvel at the beauty of your image in the lives of travellers passing through and those who live in one place. Please keep us moldable in Your hands, Great Potter. Protect the lives of the ones we love who are far away, and prepare us to joyfully receive each other when we can be together in celebration again! Thank you for the Your steady rhythm in our lives…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our (looooonnnnnng) Trip

Well, Jade and I are back in Eck en Wiel (pronounced Eck en Veel), Netherlands (aka Holland) for another three and a half months now. We arrived Friday night and are just getting over our feelings of jet lag. It is a nine hour difference from the time in Portland, Oregon; where we were coming from.

We had the most absolutely draining travel experience I can ever remember in my life. Kim (a good friend from college) drove us to the airport Thursday morning and from there we flew to Phoenix, layover, then to Newark, NJ, layover, then over night to Dublin, Ireland, five hour layover. The airline carrier we took from Dublin to Eindhoven, Netherlands has a weight restriction on check-on and carry-on baggage. We were much too heavy in our check-on luggage, so Jade had a great idea! We lugged our bags over to the giant scale near the check-in station where we proceeded to lay our 50 lb suitcases wide open on the floor and put on layer after layer of clothing! I think by the time we were finished we both had something like 6 layers of shirts and sweatshirts, plus things wrapped around our waist, two pairs of jeans each, big socks, our heaviest shoes, all the hats, belts and things to wear we could find. Then we stuffed ever pocket we had on with something small and heavy. It was insane! I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my laugh, and fortunately it was rainy and freezing in both Dublin and Holland that day, so we didn’t over heat. We looked like hockey players, and I’m sure I could have passed for a big burly man from behind.

But our story isn’t over. We then flied to Dublin and had to take a bus ride, then a train ride with three connections to a town called Tiel which is about 7 ½ miles from L’Abri. We arrived in Tiel at 9 pm (you can do the math on how many hours that is after leaving Portland a whole day and a half earlier…plus time change...) Needless to say, we were pretty tired! So we got to Tiel about 9 pm and realized that the buses had stopped running to the town where L’Abri is located two hours earlier. Neither one of us had the phone number to L’Abri, nor to the taxi service. Then we walked into town to try and find an internet café or someplace with a phone book. EVERYTHING was closed already (on a Friday night! Can you believe it?) No cell phone, no numbers, no anything.
So we started walking. With our abnormally large roller suitcases and heavy backpacks. And we walked. We put up a few half-hearted thumbs to cars driving by, thinking maybe an empathetic person would slow down and be an angel from the Lord. But nope. Instead we got some honks and a few other fingers (I guess the middle one isn’t just an American thing).
And so we walked. And walked. And pretty soon we were all aching muscles and singing silly songs in a tired delirium and we planned how we could make “speed roller suitcase walking” the next Olympic sport. And we walked. For 7 ½ miles we pulled those suitcases. And in under 2 1/2 hours we arrived to L’Abri! And the last stretch of road into the house is either gravel or muddy apple orchard, so, like a scene from Rocky IV, Jade muscled our two bags in both hands and practically sprinted the 200 meters or so to the front door. It was crazy…and kind of fun in a sick kind of way : ) Robb told us he thought that story belonged in the L’Abri Hall of Fame.
The next day Christa informed us that there is a new button at the train stop that you can push and a taxi will show up in no time. I also found the L’Abri phone number scribbled in one of my journals. I think we were too tired that night to even THINK. You know that feeling? Anyways, I had to get that story out there…I hope you enjoy it! : )

We are thrilled to be back! We are slowly getting accustomed into our daily routine again, made much different now by the variety of jobs we were given for the term…but more about that later…I’ve got laundry to hang! : )

Monday, August 4, 2008

facebook pictures

if you are reading our blog...thank you!!! i have been posting our best pictures from our trip this summer to my facebook page (Erin Sell Junod). if you would like to see them, you can sign up for facebook and request to be my friend (it is free and easy). thanks again for reading.

Discontent paid me a visit

(My friend Stephanie inspired me to write my own version of something she created...)

Discontent paid me a visit.

She joined me quietly at dawn. She was dressed for running, and I welcomed her company. Not sure of the distance our legs would take us, our feet hit the pavement. The colors of the rising sun winked at us from the far horizon as we started. My muscles were loose, my mind clear of distraction. I was just happy to be active this morning, and I sighed in contentment.

We began slow, Discontentment and I. The crisp breeze felt good on my face. My arms swang loosely, light, at my sides. My head was clear. I was keeping the pace since I'd set out to run on my own, and it was slow. Nothing to prove, and no one to beat, this run was for the sheer enjoyment of running. Stride for stride she met my pace, uncomplaining, not pushing to go faster, and I praised her as the perfect running partner.

And then I looked over at her. She was a petite little thing. Not like me, I thought. She had a smooth, strong stride and her breathing matched. My stride may not be quite so long as hers, I thought, and my breathing is a bit heavier. My running clothes aren't as put together, and my shoes aren't as expensive. The thoughts came and went. I had to laugh at myself for caring that we had differences. I kept on going.

It took me a few minutes to realize that Discontent had picked up her pace. She ran faster now, and I matched her without complaint. She probably doesn't even realize she's doing it, I thought. And I needed to run a little bit faster this morning anyway...I ate too much for dessert last night...I need to look better in my swimsuit next week...It's better that we go faster. So I picked up the pace to show her that I was capable.

The sun was a little higher in the sky now. Now, instead of giving enough light to see a few steps in front of me, the star shone directly in my eyes. I couldn't really see anything, and I ran blindly for a few moments. My eyes darted anxiously from the path in front of me to the one running beside me. She hadn't forgotten her sunglasses like I had, and was blazing forward, faster now, and even smoother. I guess my company wasn't enough for her. She took out her Ipod and plugged herself into the music.

I could turn around now, I thought. I have already gone farther than I wanted to go this morning. Any other person would be proud for getting out of bed and coming this far. I have many things to do today, and if I go further, I will still have to turn around and return home. I am beginning to grow tired...I will run again tomorrow.

But Discontent was running even faster now and for the first time, she spoke. Aren't you coming? she said. I am not even tired. Now the sun was beating down on us. The whole path was illuminated and we saw how far we could go. We could also see that we had not come very far, and I was ashamed to turn around. Beads of sweat crept into my eyes and the salt stung. She was not sweating at all.

So I kept going. I kept her pace and I did not speak complaint. But the heat of my anger matched the heat of my sunburnt skin, and I began to cast blame. Why do people expect so much out of me? {We approached a steep hill.} Why didn't anyone didn't take me running when I was younger so that I would be faster now? {We were ascending the hill how: my legs getting weaker, my breath getting shorter.} Why couldn't I have been born with the genes to be a world class runner? {I pump my arms wildly, now, trying to muster up the strength to finish the hill.} I try so hard, but I never achieve as much as some others do. {I lunge ahead, lungs burning, chest thumping, sight blurring.}

Then I am there. At the top of the hill I feel a surge of pride and air rushes into my lungs as reward for the endurance I have shown. But then I look and see that Discontent has not stopped to enjoy herself at all. She is still running ahead, planning to tackle the mountain range that looms before us both. She will try to run it all that day, I am sure of it.

As she flips her head around to see if I am coming with her {or maybe to taunt me with the reality that she has not broken a sweat}, I have a decision to make. I can try to keep up with her pace, though I will surely fail. Or I can keep the small seed of contentment I have left and finish this course when I am ready. Though I hate to do it, I smile at her, I wave, and I bid Discontent a good journey. I will not go with her.

Then I turn around. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. When I open them again, the path is clear. I can see home and I am thankful to be in the peacfulness of thanksgiving again.

Then I begin to walk. I will run again when I am ready.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Remembering

Erin and I have been going through the book of Hebrews over the past 2 weeks. The book goes through the history of Israel to show them the path that God took to bring them salvation. The writer explains to them how the history their people went through pointed them to the One who would offer a perfect sacrifice and be their High Priest forever. Sometimes it does good to look back over life and see how God works. I am constantly amazed when I look back and see how God has used my past to mold me for today and tomorrow.
Erin and I have had the priviledge to be able to visit family here in Europe. We have gained great knowledge about our families and why our relatives made the move to America. On both sides times were tough here. They both left Europe with a hope of finding a better life for them and their decendants, a promise land. What if one of them would have chosen not to come? Erin and I probably would have never met, maybe would have never been born. What happened in the past effects what is today. Yesturday I stood in the very spot that Hitler addressed the troops at Zepelin Field in Nurenburg (forgive the spellings I dont have a dictionary handy). I thought how strange it was that one man could affect the world in so many ways. Even today Europe and the world is different because of Hitler. What we do, what I do, today could have lasting imprints that will affect tomorrow.
I have been so thankful for my cousin Nicolas in Switzerland and for Tony, Kathy, Ralph, and Tante Marie here in Germany. They have loved on us greatly and have truly made us feel as though we have been part of the family all along. I will miss them dearly and look forward to the next chance that Erin and I have to visit them.
It is good to look to the past to see where we are and where we are going.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Goodbye Switzerland

We have now been in beautiful Switzerland for about a week and a half and it has been a wonderful week! first we rode a train from holland down through germany, overnight, and ended up in the mountains of chateau d'oex where we met my mother laura and her husband dan. from chateau d'oex we travelled over to huemoz to visit the swiss l'abri and caught them on a sunday afternoon when all the students just happened to be playing a volleyball tournament. so jade and i were able to join! it was fun, and the view of the mountains as i served the volleyball was surreal. (it sure beat the gym walls of sweaty high school and college sporting events).

the night before going to the swiss l'abri, we stayed in a hostel in gryon called "chalet martin". at first glance it was a crazy party house, full of young, drunk twenty somethings. but then we got to talking to a few guests and we realized that 4 of them were travelling around for wheaton college's youth hostel ministry (yhm). and those were the 4 others we were sharing a room with for a night. what a small and fortunate world.
from there we headed into the heart of the alps by meeting up again with my mother and dan for 4 days of hiking and eating cheese, first in zermatt (home of the famous matterhorn mountain) and then in murren. my favorite day was hiking to the top of gornergraat mountain and back down (an almost 8 hour hike). it was incredible, and we felt accomplished, a good kind of tired, and tan at the end of the day.

this weekend we have been staying with jade's 8th degree cousin, nicolas junod, his beautiful wife johanna and their boys, michael and patrick in bevaix, near neuchâtel. we have never had better hosts in our life. nicolas picked us up promptly at the train station on friday afternoon, and we spent the whole weekend sightseeing, eating, laughing and talking with their family. nick had an entire itinerary planned out for us, and we had our own tour guide, complete with lessons on the junod geneology from hundreds of years passed. a few facts i will carry with me is that in the 1400's, when people began getting surnames (last names), the surnames for a family were chosen according to a character trait of the family, their trade or for example where they lived. junod was chosen because they were "youngish" looking... which is what the name junod means! (no wonder everyone thinks jade is younger than he actually is)
also, the only junod that jade's related to are those from the specific lignieres village in switz. and many of his ancestors have been known in profession as farmers of the land. there are MANY more facts we have learned over the weekend, and are excited to share them in more detail with any of you as we return to the states in person. we have loved our time with the junod family, and look forward to continuing a relationship with their family over the years.

switzerland is, by far, one of the most physically beautiful places i have ever been. at the beggining of our trip, it was funny to hear jade say that every view reminded him of the scenery in the lord of the rings. we also chuckled each time we saw a large group of asian tourists in the alps, and we even came up with a code name for the phenomenon :-)...InvAsian! apparently, switzerland is a popular place for asian people to come in june and july. we have also seen george clooney's face around each corner, as he is one of the top figure in ads for Omega watch and the Nespresso coffe from Nestlé. we are starting to get used to it...though at first we were a bit upset by the frequency of his face on billboards : )

well, my brain is tired of thinking, which includes the thinking i have had to do to write this email, so i will write more soon...
tomorow morning we head to germany to learn a little more about my family heritage!
we miss you all and OH YEAH...we have just uploaded some of our favorite pictures from our trip so far on a flickr website (which is easier with uploading than this blog) there aren't a lot, but we have very limited time here on the internet, so we will show you all many more per your request when we return! (we have taken over 800 pictures total!)...
just follow the link:

www.flickr.com/photos/jaderinjunod

cheers!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Goodbye Holland (for now)!!!

the families at L'Abri have invited Jade and I back for the fall term tobe helpers here in the netherlands! i will be making coffee and tea daily for our three "high tea" times, and helping to make meals, tend to the gardening and goats, as well as doing laundry and welcoming guests as they come by preparing their room and such. jade will be helping renovate a few new apartments, tending to the landscaping of the property (everyone has commented on how the grass and hedges have never looked better--thanks to Jade!!!) and learning (from Henk) how to work with electricity and how to repair bikes, cars and lawn mowers : ) we will both be spending time with the 6 children here as their parents work around their busy, busy schedules. and, of course, we will still have time to study!

i am so excited to learn many new skills and to be used in service for this wonderful place with my husband! we won't have to pay rent, and we will even receive a small stipend each month for miscellaneous expenses. we will be staying in a room further away from the other students to have more privacy, and they will even put together a full bed they have in storage so that we can sleep in the same one! (sleeping on two twin beds of different heights, pushed together is just OK...not our "ideal" : )
i don't think it could get any better.

but today we are saying "goodbye". we're taking an overnight train to chateau-d'oex switzerland, and we will be travelling about the western half of the country for 6 days with my mom and dan.

God is GOOD!

Constants

This is from Jade



As Erin and I get set to depart from Labri (only temperary since they have asked us to come back and help in the fall), I start to ponder what things were important to me before coming and what things are important to me now. I see that there truly have been changes in my life since coming here back in mid May. Some of which are temperary like me having long hair and a beard (I have not had a hair cut since March or shaved since mid-May), and some are more permanent such as the way I view and respond to liberal thoughts. Dont worry I have not sold my Republican membership, but I do not have the desire to approach liberal ideas with hostility any longer. Though there has been so many changes that have taken place I believe something that will also stick with me is how somethings remain constant no matter where I (we) go.

The first constant I see in our travel is God's beauty. No matter if I am in Eck en Wiel, Holland or Omaha, Nebraska I have found that the beauty of the creator exist no matter where we go. There is a jogging route that Erin and I have come to enjoy that takes us on the dyke of the Rhine River (not sure on Spelling of Rine or dyke but spell check is not working :). The views of the river bottom is absolutely spectacular. There flowers upon flowers here also. So much beauty that the eyes almost become sore from needing to use all of their senses continually to take in the beauty. I have learned that we are created in God's image and as mankind we attempt to create beauty to imitate God. The Dutch have apparently worked hard at this with their beautiful landscaping, windmills, and churches.

The next constant is that family still matters. I see the joy and simplicity in Gido's (Rob and Crista's 9 month old son) smile when his mother or father walks in. He knows that he is loved by his father and mother and does not question whether or not he will be safe and cared for. I see two families open sharing life together and openning up their arms to strangers. I see how we should be as a Christian family of brothers and sisters. Loving one another first but always willing to let someone else in. To let someone who does not know the love of our caring Father, come in and be fed and loved on. Why should I hoared what has freely been given to me? I should give as I have been given.

Finally the constant that remains wherever we roam is love. I thank God for the love and support of our families. I know that it there has to be some difficulties to let us stay away so long (we will not return until 12/16/08 now). Love is present wherever we go because the Father first loved us through His Son. All we have to do is express that love in return to Him and others.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Scott

About a week after arriving at L'Abri, Jade and I were heading out for a morning run and a man with a cane stumbled up the gravel drive towards us. His hair was long and unruly, salt and pepper, and his beard had not been cleaned up in awhile. He wore a black leather jacket, crooked glasses, and jeans with white paint splattered all over them. He held his cane in one hand and a rolled cigarette in the other--a pouch of loose tobacco peaking out from under his jacket. As if his appearance weren't interesting enough, it got better as soon as he opened his mouth. His voice was hoarse, as if he had lost it from long conversations at the pub or a few too many cigarettes over the years. But a scar on his neck caught my attention and it remained an unanswered question until a few fdays later.

Over the course of the last month we have come to know Scott well. We assumed he was around 50 years old, but he is only 40. We assumed he was a homeless hobo without a place to go, but he is one of the most intellectual people we have ever met. After awhile, almost every single one of my assumptions about Scott has been wrong, and I have been put in my place about judging a person by their outward appearance. At first, every time Republicans or America was mentioned, Scott flared up and called anyone having anything to do with either of these labels "an idiot!" (He is American, but has been travelling through Europe for over two years, without a place to call home...and he likes it that way. He wants to revoke his American citizenship just so that he doesn't have to be called "american." Yes, I know, if you are an American Republican reading this, you are probably already getting frustrated with this man...and this is how Jade was the first few weeks too : ) (Everything the two of them talked about ended in a heated argument or debate.) Scott, in different ways on different days, referred also to Jade as an idiot and often asked Henk (the leader here) if he would translate Scott's arguments for Jade and I so that we could understand them. (Good times!)

But we got past the emotions of being called ignorant, and realized that Scott is just a really cool guy who has also had his long string of misfortune. He's been pronounced dead twice (once at 27 when he got stabbed 27 times on the roof of his San Francisco apartment while reading a book title "Razor Sharp". This is why his voice is hoarse...because he lost a vocal cord in the stabbing and now only has one left.) His first wife was his sweetheart from Kindergarten and also his first kiss. She was killed in a car accident. His second marriage ended in divorce. It seems that he is estranged from his father. He says his mother is an "evil" woman, and was not a part of his life. He has been travelling around to various communities in Europe to just live among the people for awhile and learn all sorts of different things. He is a free lance writer, and sends his articles to various magazines for publication. He is a genius jazz pianist and can play any music you put in front of him (he's great!!!) He dated James Dobson's dauther and Frank Sinatra's grand-daughter (or neice?) He is above genius level with an IQ of 198, a devout Catholic and a raving Liberal (as are most Europeans we've met)...and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Now that we've gotten to know him, Scott is one of my favorite people in the world. Not because I think everything he says about himself and the world is 100% true (did I mention he reads a book a day...at least?! I think fact and fiction lines may have been blurring.....?) But he is a great guy and I learn more just talking to him than I think I learned from years in school. In a week we may never see Scott again, but I'm really glad to know him now.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Responsibility and Goats

This is Erin writing:

one thing i have become more and more aware of since our arrival to l'abri is my inability to just take on "small tasks". i have believed, somehow, that the bigger my responsibility in any given situation...the more of a "leadership role" i am taking...the closer i am to God. suddenly i am seeing the flaw in this framework of thinking and i am saddened by the undue pressure i have put on myself to perform and to reach "the mark" or high standard i have for myself...and believe God has set for me. always achieving (i MUST have a master's degree! IMUST run a marathon), always working towards something (I MUST teach a class at church and be the director of a full-time ministry!)and finding it very hard to rest for fear of being scolded as "selfish" or "lazy"...these are some of the burdens i have bourne. as far back as i can remember, i have felt ashamed when all of my time is not being used "productively."

there are three mother goats here at l'abri. each are fat, and the kind of smelly, unattractive kind you would find at the petting zoo in omaha. but in the last few weeks they have each birthed one or two kids! and these goats are so beautiful!!! just seeing them cuddled up next to each other, one resting his head on the back of another; their bodies all twisted up in a pretzel of coziness...just BEING around them has brought me great joy.

while wrestling with my disobedience of God's invitation to "rest in me" and admiring these new goats, i have been doing some reading that confronts my issues of shame and identity. one such reading was a sermon preached by francis shaeffer called "no little people, no little places." some of my favorite quotes from his sermon:

...that which is me must become the me of God. then,, I can become useful in God's hands...
...much can come form the little if the little is consecrated to God...
...to be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him--this is the creature glorified...
...God does not say that size and spiritual power go together--he reverses this (ep. inthe teachings of Jesus) and tells is to be deliberately careful not to choose a place too big for us...
...we all tend to emphasize big works and big places, but all such emphasis is of the flesh--to think in such terms in simply to hearken back to the old, unconverted, egoist, self-centered me. a dangerous practice to want bigger...we all want to be boss..to be in control...to have the word of power over our fellows...
...there are no christian gurus--minister is not a title of power, but of servanthood...
...we are tempted to think: 'I will take the largest place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ'... [this is backwards]...in a lower place it is easier to be quiet before the face of the Lord (not easy, just easier)...

and the clincher for me:

"we should consiously take to lowest place unless the Lord himself extrudes* us into a greater one" (of more responsibility and authority)...to be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape...

for me, this was a wake up call. i have been ashamed the last year for working at whole foods and crane coffee, only part-time--and quitting my full-time job (which used my training from a college education.) i have been ashamed because i was thinking that God required greater things from me...and i was letting him down. and i didn't even realize i was thinking this! i have also been challenged to think about who my heros in life are since arriving here. Mother Teresa is always a women who comes to my mind. Billy Graham and Elisabeth Elliot and Martin Luther King come to mind. without realizing is, the "models" i have been trying to emulate are people with power and somewhat of a "world platform." but that's what is championed in our culture isn't it?? the bigger the better? but then i began thinking about people who are my everyday heros...women and men in my daily life who are neither famous nor looking to be. and about the more famous ones...how they must have started out just being involved in what they loved to do. just living daily lives and by doing this with courage and faith! now i realize...this is who i want to be! living life, in the moment, and working hard, through joys and pain, to find my full rest in God.

now back to the goats... : ) it has been somewhat of a challenge for me to be here in someways, because a lot of what we do here is eat, study, drink tea and sleep. sometimes i get antsy, and i want a bit more responsibility to keep me on my toes. but without seeking it out, the leader of l'abri, Wim Reitsma (in holland) noticed my strong loving feelings towards the goats...and he asked me kindly if i would mind being in charge of feeding and looking after them on a daily basis throughout our stay.

without asking for "more work" to do...a leader noticed something i enjoyed, and decided to impart a piece of the responsibility to me! of course i would like that! if he would have asked me to clean all the toilets, everyday...maybe i wouldn't be so excited...but he is asking me to do something i already love and enjoy doing anyway! in my mind, this is exactly how i would like to live out my life! finding rest in God, and finding enjoyment in the interests HE has given me, i pray that i can trust that He will enlarge my territory and bless me indeed.

because even without the blessing (the power, the recognition, the responsibility), i am realizing (slowly), that HE is enough!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Workers

I wanted to take some time to write about the workers at the branch of L'Abri. they are great and their diversity is what makes this time with them so special:

Henk and Riana Reitsma (39 & 38), and their two daughters: Babette and Ariella (8 & 6) are from South Africa.Beautiful girls with long dark hair and big blue eyes! Actually, Henk grew up in The Netherlands, but them moved to South Africa where he met Riana and where their family lived for a number of years (15, i think). Henk has eight years of schooling afer college and is one of the smartest men in the widest range of topics I have ever known. But that knowledge is also coupled with an intense love and kindness about him...he has a great sense of humor, and he works as hard as my father in manual labor (which, for those of you who know my dad, know is HARD). he is a remarkable man, and he is Jade's mentor for the summer. His wife Riana, Henk told us over dinner one of the first nights we were here, should have a tatoo on her forehead which states "driven to serve." and he would be correct...she loves to serve and is one of the greatest cooks i've met. (which also, sadly, means that i don't do much cooking here and instead have been cleaning bathrooms and raking grass....but that's ok : ) Babette is a tomboy and Arielle is a little princess. Henk is somewhat of an expert in Theology all the way to Nano-physics (i still don't know what that means even after he explained it to me...something about studying the smallest particles in existence) and he's a strong advocate for life issues. Did I mention that All four of them are fluent in Dutch, English and Africanse...and HEnk could hold a very strong and steady conversation in French, German and a number of African dialects. Theyboth attended seminary , as well, in St. Louis at Covenant. Amazing.

Beryl is a single lady who lives in the same building structure as Rob and Christa. She is from England and is in her mid-50's. she just had her uterus removed because of cancer just days prior to us arriving. so she has been resting alot! but she is a kind, laid-back woman and worked in horticulture for years ans years so her apartment is stockful of beautiful plants and flowers...she is what you would call a woman with a "green thumb" to the extreme. and she knows everyting about plants, so it's neat to chat with her about these things. she recently found out that they removed all the cancer so she is not needed any more radiation or chemo! praiseGod Almighty for that!

Rob and Christa Ludwig are the other family who live on the grounds. Rob is American (and attended Wheaton for 2 years!) and Christa is Dutch. Thye met many many years ago at the Swiss L'Abri and then re-met in seminary in St. Louis (Covenant). Christa has her master's degree in Psychology. They moved to the Netherlands together to join Henk and Riana at the Dutch L'Abri about 10 years ago (they are 36 & 38). At that time, Rob started taking Dutch classes, and he is now fluent. They have 4 children...seriously could take the prize for "cutest collection of kids" EVER. emily and reuben are twins (5, i think) miriam is 3 and guido is 9 months. Guido is the happiest baby i hav ever seen and laughs a big, belly laugh that is the most joyous sound you have ever heard. miriam is a feisty on and says "mama" and "papa" at least 5,000 times a day...and it never gets annoying because she is so dang cute! Christa is a wonderful cook, too and i know i have already gained weight by the amount of bread we all eat at every meal (homeade bread, might i add!) and cheese...ah, the gouda cheese! and we even eat chocolate.hazelnet spread (nutella) and dark chocolate sprinkles on our toast in the morning. it's ridiculous. but henk says most of the women come here too skinny (he included me in this, which just goes to show what a weird and distorted concept i have of my size that i think i'm big), so it's good to put on a few pounds. i would have to agree with him...this food is too good not to eat!
anyways, rob and christa....oh yeah, rob is my mentor, and already i have been reading things and listening to tapes that are just what i need (more about that later). Christa's parents are in charge of another, smaller, branch of Dutch L'Abri in Utrecht, a larger city nearby. oh yes, and they have a dog named Zine. i don't seem to be allergic., and he is cute, so that's good.

Grace is a cute girl from Massachusetts who was here last term and is the "helper" for the summer. She is 18 and very sweet. other than her, we have been the longest guests here so far. a few people have come and gone. a girl named Verena was here from Munich, Germany for a week and has left. we will stay with her for a night when we go to germany. this weekend three guys have arrived: two younger from locally and an older man who seems to be homeless who came from germany but said he is originally from Northern California. i'm sure we'll be hearing moreof his story...

We are in "the sticks" and it takes a lot of effort to get anywhere...so we just bike places or stay here, because we are surrounded by apple orchards and rose plants and goats and GREENness. we like it here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Identity

As we continue to seek God in the beautiful Netherlands, the one thing that keeps weighing on my mind is who am I. I know my name. I know I am a child of God. I know that I am loved. What perplexes me is how in the world I have ripened to the age of 32 without knowing what truly defines me. I have been studying David Keyes over the past week. He says that identity is made up of four parts. One is morality. What morals define me as a person. What do I consider to be right and wrong. The second is models. Who do I aspire to be like? Who is my hero? Is he/she someone I can become? So many kids make musicians and athletes their heros, only to fail to become this unattainable person. When that happens a sense of identity is lost. The third is Dominion. Being able to overcome and master things. Whether it be meeting goals or deadlines at work or learning how to skydive. This also gives us indentity. Finally love helps to define our identity. These are things that I ponder on now as I try to find out who I truly am. Erin and I seek to find the identity that defines us as a couple. We have peace here and love the people at Labri. They are helping us to seek God and one another with peace in our hearts. We miss all of you and pray all is well.
God Bless, Jade

LÁbri

we are getting into a rhythm now. we rode our bikes into town today (about 11 kilos from Eck Van Wiel, where we are staying) so that we could find a place to download our photos onto a disc, and then upload some onto our blog. this is not so easy! the library won't allow us to, and the computer at LÁbri is from the stoneage. Henk, one of our mentors, tells me to turn on the computer and then take a 10 minute walk while it boots up...he is a funny guy naturally, but for this he is not kidding : )

we also bought some paints and a few canvus's at the local "dollar store called '"Äction" because i am feeling a little bit creative....we shall see though!

thursday is our "day off" of studies and work, and this is a nice time to catch some of our local scenary. it is so unbelievably green here and is also very flat, which causes just about everyone to be on bikes or vespas. we love the dutch language...the sound of it and the intonations in the natives voicves as they speak. the kids of the lábri workers remind me of the little ones on Narnia with their english in a british/dutch/africanse accent (one of the families has also spent many years in south africa, so they speak 3 languages with their kids.)

mom and dad, i'm feeling a little jipped that i only know english!!! : ) just kidding...love you!

more later....
erin

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paris

Well, we have been in Europe for one week now! We have not had the opportunity to write anything and so I (Erin) will update you on our travels so far...

When we arrived to the airport last Monday, we quickly realized that our flight to Memphis hd been delayed for an hour, and then another hour... so Jade went and talked to the lady behind the NWairlines desk. Our first blessing was that she gave us another flight going through Minneapolis (only 1 1/2 hours later than planned!) But also, Jade asked her for some vouchers and so we received $40 for airport food (enough for our whole trip and some left over for our trip home!), 4,000 frequent flyer miles to add to our account, and also $100 towards our next flight! But this is the best part....when we boarded our "over the ocean" flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, we were shocked to find out that we had been changed to "business class," which meant nothing to us until we boarded the plane and were in one of the first few rows...with reclining, HUGE seats, even our feet raised up! : ) personal t.v.s with all the free movies we wanted (and we could each choose and watch our own! a full salmon dinner with appetizers and desert. also, hot towels sporatically throughout the night. i basically got to lay down on this flight and sleep for at least 5 hours straight. THIS WAS WONDERFUL! too bad we have to go back to coach class from now on! : )

The first thing we saw when we arrived at the airport in Geneva, Switzerland was a huge poster of George Clooney's face advertising something...maybe a Swiss watch. this was funny to us...as we expected to see something very "swiss" but instead saw this American icon. {now i'm rolling my eyes}

it didn';t take long to figure out that we were in another country when we tried to figure out, for the first time, how to get to the train, which one to take, and what time it left. these things are much more difficult than we anticipated, and we have already had to use teamwork in MANY situations to get where we want to go. thank goodness many people know at least some english...otherwise we would be...oh, what's the word? we would be screwed. : )

french is not an easy language to understand. those people use nearly no syllables in their words and leave all kinds of letters out. the whole time in paris we had to ask "how do you spell that?" if someone was giving us a street name or something important to remember.

when we arrived in geneva, we were late beacuse of our delays, and so we had to take the late train to paris. this meant that we left at almost dark and had to ride 3 1/2 hours by train, and reached paris close to midnight. from there we had to navigate our first streets in order to find our hostel! it makes me laught just thinking about what a sight we must have been! two americans, with huge backpacks and bloodhot eyes walking around in the dark with very large maps. turning down one street, then turning around to discover we were going the worng way (at least 3 times) before finally discovering our way. and then getting to our hostel room to realize that we were right across the street (and the streets are MUCH narrower than U.S. streets...almost as narrow as the Papio trail in some places with tall buildings on either side to make it feel like a tunnel) we were right across the street from a Bar with an "All Night Dancing and Drinking" sign out front. yay!!! we learned to adapt that week to sleeping with much noise.

The next two days were great. We walked about 20 miless and saw many of the famous sights.... the louvre museum (mona lisa is so small and isn't very impressive!). eiffel tower (at night it lights up and is blinking like a circus toy for awhile and is not what i expected!) and then we went to the top in the daytime which was beautiful we saw notre dame, museum d'orsay with monet and minet and van gogh paintings, including my favorite monet ever: "regatta at argentiel"! the second day we took advanteage of Paris's underground Metro system and were very pround of ourselves when we began navigating all by ourselves after many tries at it. there were even a few "indiana jonesesque" moments when we realized we were at the wrong train and we sprinted to the next one to hop on just as it was taking off. very exciting and got my adrenaline pumping!! we just took in the sights and sounds and had a wonderful time.

On Friday we arrived at L'Abri late in the afternoon and are finally settling into our rhythm here after taking a visit to Amsterdam and a famous tulip garden on Sunday. the people here are WONDERFUL (much friendlier overall in Holland than in France) and the workers and other guests at L'Abri are already becoming a special part of our lives.

it's "coffee time" now at 8:00 pm...so i'd better go! more in a few days about what we've been doing since our arrival at L'abri!

Jade and I send our love to you all.....leave a comment if you like!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Paris

Paris has been crazy and a lot of walking. :) Very Beautiful! I dont have many minutes left. Update soon.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Obtaining Vision

This is my (Jade's) first entry on here. Last night as Erin I sat on the floor of our nearly empty apartment praying, I began to grasp how little praying I do anymore. Oh, I say a prayer here and there and bless the food, but deep, heart fealt prayer does not flow from my lips as it once did. This morning Erin asked me to read My Upmost for His Highest passage for May 9th, and God confirmed in my heart what I already knew in my head. I had taken my eyes off of Him. I had lost sight of seeking and looking for God in each and every situation.
I remember when I got my first set of glasses. The clarity of each and every object sprang forth as if I were in the midst of a 3-D movie. I remember driving on a gravel road and marveling at how I could visually see each and every pebble on the road. As time went on though, I began to leave my glasses at home and just get by without them. My eyes were good enough that I could pass the eye exam for driving so I didn't really "need them." Besides they were a pain to wear, awkward and did not enhance how I looked. The same can be said of my spiritual journey. Growing up I was unaware of my flawed vision of God. I went to church each and every Sunday. I believed in God and His Son Jesus. What more could I see? Then my eyes were opened. God spoke to my heart for the first time in my life at the age of 22. It was like putting on my first spiritual glasses. Everything was fresh in my relationship with Him. I could understand His meaning clearly as I read the Bible. I saw Him everywhere I looked. But as time went on, I focussed a great deal on the legalistic part of religion. It became uncomfortable and difficult following God. The discomfort of knowing I was now different from the world gave me, a dynamic extrovert, an unease of being around nonbelievers. I found myself taking off my spirtually glasses because I could get by on my foundation in my faith. I could rely on my beliefs of right and wrong without seeking the face of God in each situation I faced. However, even my foundation was compromised as I lost sight of the Lord. My vision was blurred. All I could see was the grey of the road and not the clarity of each pebble that lay ahead. Fast forward to today. I have once again picked up my glasses and just like the first time I am amazed at how clearly God is speaking to my heart. I am looking forward, expecting God to show me the plans that He has for Erin and I this summer, and more importantly, beyond this summer.
Here is a segment of My Upmost that really spoke to my heart today. "Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint." Prov. 29:18 ".....When once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless, we cast off certain restraints, we cast off praying, we cast off the vision of God in little things, and begin to act on our own initiative. If we are eating what we have out of our own hand, doing things on our own initiative without expecting God to come in, we are on the downward path, we have lost the vision." One of the main reasons I took off my spiritual glasses is because I had everything I needed. I made enough money that I could provide for us without relying on anything from God. However, no matter what I could buy it never brought satisfaction. I make no money now (LOL) and now my eyes are openned again. Oswald Chambers finished the passage in this way, "Are we expecting God to do greater things than He has ever done? Is there a freshness and vigour in our spiritual outlook?" The answer for Erin and I is a definate YES!

Monday, May 5, 2008

4 Mustards

So we leave one week from today. ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! This must be what an out of body experience feels like. I also kind-of feel like I did right before high school graduation...like I'm not sure what to expect, and I'm freaked out. But I'm mostly just really excited.

We have been packing our stuff up this past week. We rented a garage unit at our apartment complex for storage, and we are moving all of our belongings in there for the summer. It's a pretty sweet deal because we just carry our crap down the stairs and into the garage. No moving van or anything. Saturday we moved all of our furniture out. I'm glad we did, but now we don't have a bed and we are sleeping on our queen sized air mattress. Not quite the same, but it works...we're slowly changing our standard of living to ease our way into not having a "place to rest our heads" some nights in Europe, I guess.

I was carrying an end table down the stairs a few days ago and I forgot that the black marble top wasn't attached.....and it shattered down three flights of stairs and all over the cement and grass below...that was FUN to clean up!

We are also trying to eat all of the food we have left in the cabinets and in the refrigerator. The other night I came home from class and Jade had made Beef Noodles with canned salmon. It smelled/looked/tasted absolutely disgusting. But it was cute. He made it because I had set out the salmon to use for a salad.

We still have 4 mustards in our fridge. And a butt load of soy sauce. If you have any ideas for how I can use these things in one week, I am open to suggestions. I am anal retentive about not wasting food...I know, I know, this is getting a bit ridiculous, but it's kind-of like a game. We're having fun. Well, maybe Jade isn't...he'd probably rather I buy some "real food" for our final week here instead of eating mustard and soy sauce sardine tortillas. I really do have all of these things.

Jade us officially unemployed as of last Friday! I will be tomorrow. And I didn't get the job at UNO next Fall, so we literally have no idea what we are doing about money after tomorrow in a few months. At least we've been saving up for the past year. We knew this was coming, but now that it's here it's different! This is crazy!

But mainly just exciting.

Monday, April 21, 2008

24-hours together!

"Hey Jade, can't you wait to spend 24 hours a day with me for almost three months?!"
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Yay! We can't wait to get to Europe!
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Only three more weeks to go from today until we're leaving for the mother-land!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why We are Going to Europe

To answer the questions: "Why are you going?" "What are you doing this summer?" "Where are you going?" and "Is this a Mission Trip?"...

Sitting in one of our pastor's offices, over a year ago, Jade and I discovered the encouragement we needed to take a big trip. We had both come to the end of ourselves, and our marriage was at a low point. We needed to change something, and we needed to find a common ground. Travelling, being outdoors, and building relationships with people along our path is the desire of both of our hearts. So we put our energy into strategically planning how we could financially and logistically pull it off. (Sold our house, sold our truck, decided when Jade would finish his time at Hormel, etc, etc)

When mulling over where we could go and what we could do, country after country and organization after organization came to mind. Should we go on an offical "mission trip?" Africa needs helpers right now...How about South America? I'd really like to be fluent in Spanish...OR we could just stay stateside and travel around the country in our car, seeing everyone we love and discovering all of the National Parks by foot...and on and on went the discussion (for at least 7 months).Through a series of events, and mainly just really asking ourselves "where does your heart REALLY want to go?" we settled on Europe.

In college, Erin studied the life of Francis Schaffer, and watched as a few of her friends went to Europe for the summer, staying at hostels and sharing life with fellow travellers from all around the world. Schaffer was an American who began an International Study Center for young people (called L'Abri: french for 'the shelter') who were searching for life's answers. Jade's mother had a foreign exchange student from Italy and his family came from Switzerland. Not only was this trip the one that set our bones on fire with excitement...it just made the most sense. Our desire is to be free from the pressure of programs, so that we can be free to discover the adventure God alone has planned for us...for this summer, and for our next step thereafter...

So here we are, and here is our "tentative" itinerary:
May 13 fly into Geneva, Switzerland
May 13-16 Paris, France and Belgium
May 16-June 23 Studying at Dutch L'Abri (www.labri.org)
June 23-27 Ellwengen, Germany with Erin's relatives
June 27-July 4 Hostel Hopping around Switzerland
July 4-7 Neuchatel, Switzerland with Jade's relatives
July 7-31 Italia Adventure! (plans yet to unfold)