Friday, August 23, 2013

Moving? Again??

It's time to move again, but don't worry, this will be a lot less work. For me, at least. Maybe a little bit for you.

I'm moving my blog. See, that's all - nothing crazy. You can keep reading about our ever changing lives at my new location HERE. 

If you follow me by email, there's an option to do it there as well. If you follow me in a feed, please change the subscription. I'll keep posting in Twitter and Facebook so you won't miss any posts (because I know that you wait for them with bated breath).

I'm still hoping to tweak it to look uber awesome, but people already seem to finding it so I thought it was time to roll it out. I hope you enjoy the new look and location!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Eye of the Storm

We haven't yet had the full force of hurricane season here, but I anticipate that it will be interesting. In our kids' school binders, several of the teachers have typed in a "hurricane alternative" curriculum for the days we're stuck at home. Like a snow day I guess! I'm sure we'll get to know the weather reporters on the local news well.
I feel like a weather reporter myself sometimes when it comes to updates about our transition, "The subtropical storm depression Gina from last week has temporarily subsized, but from the north side of the house we are detecting a storm surge from potential tropical storm Ethan. Parents, be advised."
Yes, if it's not one of us, it's another. As I lay awake the other night praying about this, God reminded me that He has seen thousands, hundreds of thousands, nay probably millions of people, through transitions. He walked through those with them; He will walk with us.  He controls the wind, the rain. He is my eye of the storm, the shelter.
"Seek the Lord and his strength. Seek his presence continually!" Psalm 105:4

Friday, August 16, 2013

Keep Climbing

You know those guys who lead mountain climbing expeditions up Mt. Everest? The ones who seem unstoppable, who go without oxygen and on whom you can trust your life? My husband could be one of those guys. That's how he lives, like he's got 6 extra hours in every day and nothing phases him. You think I do a lot? He can run circles around me (actually, back when we first tried running together, he literally would run circles around me. Not great for my self-esteem. Hence, we do not run together).

If I were on an expedition to Everest . . . well, I just probably would never do it. It sounds hard and cold and life-threatening, and I tend to avoid those three, certainly any combination of them. This is why I have my husband - he helps me keep climbing.

In coming back to Orlando after a wonderful summer in Minnesota and Colorado, I feel like I'm coming back to a mountain climbing expedition in the form of continued transition. Over the summer we had a glorious break from trying to figure out how to do life. Within 24 hours of getting here, I had this vague, overwhelmed, tired feeling and I realized, "Oh right, I have to go back to climbing this mountain."

There's no way around it. It's the steep learning curve of finding our bearings. Transition can feel like that - you're striving toward that place where it's easy, where relationships are already formed, where routines are established, where you've got this, but you're not there yet. You won't get there if you just give up and stop climbing.

We've made a lot of progress in the right direction and I'm thankful. Still, even though we've been in the States for almost a year, this is our first fall in Orlando and it brings lots of new experiences to be conquered. We're getting higher but we're not done.

So I have to daily ask God for help to keep climbing, to put forth the effort to initiate, to seek out what we need, to face the areas where I still feel unsure, to keep engaging with our hearts. I know eventually we'll get to a place where the terrain evens out a little and we can just enjoy the view for a little while. Until then, deep breath, one step at a time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

No More Fear

I've noticed many people lately have posted a link to a video about the danger of having location services on when we take photos with our phones. I confess, when I first watched the video, I was rattled for the first couple minutes. Then I got to the part where it told me that all I had to do to save myself from the certainty of someone hunting me down and doing me ill was to turn off my location services.

Really? That's all? Ok, that's the kind of information that you should lead with! Like, "Hey, it's probably quite unlikely that someone is trolling the internet looking for this, but just in case, you might want to think about turning off your location services if you're concerned that someone could know where you are." But that's not how media works these days, I've come to understand since I'm back in the States. This is a culture where we are encouraged to fear.

Fear sells. We're drawn in to stories that play on our desires to protect those we love. We feel empowered that we could go one step further in ensuring that nothing bad happens to us or them. We feel like we're being responsible people to buy into the level of concern the media tells us we should have.

Except it's not real. Most of the time, the threat is nothing close to what they're telling us it is. But we believe it, and we begin to live out of that fear. I, for one, don't want to do that, because it takes things away from us.

It takes away trust in our fellow man. It takes away freedom. It takes away life. It takes away energy I could spend thinking about so many other more true things. I've learned recently that anxiety, even more than depression, decreases our productivity and our ability to reason. In other words, it doesn't help us make better choices.

I don't want to be driven by fear. It becomes a prison that makes our world smaller and smaller. As a believer, I am admonished again and again in scripture not to fear, but to live wisely, to live in faith.

Is there danger in the world? Certainly. Can we protect ourselves and our families from all of it? Never. So how should we respond? Can I suggest we make a choice to stay calm and be wise? Weigh the true risks, make wise choices to do what you can, and then live life fully. That's what I intend to do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


It's the day before we leave my parents' house, and I keep having wrong thoughts. Thoughts like, "What else do I need to buy before we go?" Nothing, Gina, because they have Target where you're going. "What do the kids need for the plane?" There IS no plane. "Do we need an extra box for all the stuff we've accumulated this summer?" Um, actually, that's true, we do. It just doesn't have to fit airline standards.

We're not accustomed to this new normal, when leaving this house doesn't mean enduring 24 hours of traveling hurtling through the air in a pressurized metal tube and landing on the other side of the ocean. Now it means enduring 24 hours in a car and ending up at "home."

On the packing and shopping side, this is a relief, even if it means my "I can pack this suitcase to within 1-2 pounds of 50 without using a scale out of sheer practice" skills will go to waste. But last night, Ethan reminded me that it's not just on the surface level that this requires some adjustment.

Right before bed, Ethan tends to evaluate how he's feeling and give me an update (he is currently vying for "most emotionally cognizant and articulate teenage boy on the planet"). Generally, he finds he's feeling some anxiety about the upcoming school year. This time he became aware that part of his anxiety stems from the fact that all this packing and preparing makes him feel like he really IS getting ready for that long haul to China, and it's sad that we aren't. I'm sad too.

Grief. It comes in waves, like you're standing at the edge of the ocean and you don't know when the water will come up and cover your toes, or when it will surprise you by washing up to your knees. You could stand there all day and not have it touch you, and then in a moment it soaks you.

But I feel like the tide is going out. The waves are smaller. We sometimes see them coming. They don't knock us down anymore, just get us a little wet.

So that's how we're feeling as we prepare again to head back. I'm off to make one more trip to Walmart. Until we get to Florida, that is.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Throughout our time in Asia, God reminded me of a verse from Psalm 16:5, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup." I took that to mean that whatever came my way, He was in control of it, and it was good for me and my growth in Christlikeness.

I can't tell you how many times it didn't feel like that was true. When you're standing on the street corner with your 3 month old strapped to your chest and three consecutive cabs that you hail get snaked by other people, you can tell yourself, "This is assigned, this is assigned, this assigned" but it's not easy to rest in. I'd rather have the ride to the hospital than a lesson in patience and forgiveness, thank you very much.

Lately, though, I've been looking at this verse differently (and not because I'm hoping it means I get to skirt tough situations). When I read it in the ESV, it says, "Lord, YOU are my chosen portion and my cup." Huh. That takes me out of my circumstances altogether.

Over and over through these last few months, God has brought me back to this truth: He is enough for me. He is all that I need. He is what satisfies.

Our hearts are wily beasts. They hunger and thirst and desire and want. I don't think that's necessarily wrong. But I know that when I hunger and thirst and desire and want things outside of God, I will inevitable be disappointed. They will become idols, idols who cannot satisfy.

So He calls me back to Him, to desiring Him. He calls me back to see that He is enough. He is what I truly want. He is exactly all I need.

He is enough.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

40 by 40

A friend of mine recently posted about her list of 40 things to do before the age of 40. At first I thought, "Hey, that's a great idea!" and then I thought, "I have seven hours." Oh well.

Instead, I thought I'd make a list of things I'm glad I did before the age of 40. Maybe things I'm glad I've learned. I'm not sure. Suddenly 40 seems like a lot and until I actually make this list I'm not sure what it will contain. So here goes:

40 Things I'm Glad I've Done/Learned: 

1.     I've followed God

2.     Learned that God loves me. A lot.

3.     Married a great man

4.     Became a mom

5.     Learned that you can’t be a perfect mom, but you can be a great one with God’s help.

6.     Lived in other countries

7.     Learned that God is bigger and stronger and wiser and basically more of everything than we believe He is. And the more you trust that, the better off you are

8.     Climbed the Great Wall (and therefore am now a true Han Chinese)

9.     Wrote a book (wait, what? Yes, but it's for a limited audience)

10.   Ran two half-marathons

11.   Learned that when taking up running you should have good shoes and take extra iron or you will hurt your feet and get anemic

12.   Preached in a church in Trinidad ("preach it sista!")

13.   Learned another language

14.   Used my degree – take that all you humanities haters.

15.   Learned how to take good photos

16.   Homeschooled my kids

17.   Rode a unicycle

18.   Played several musical instruments with varying degrees of competency

19.   Learned that as much as I don't like trials, I need them to be who God wants me to be (and who I want to be)

20.   Had cheap massages on the beach in Thailand, which is the best way to get a massage in the world

21.   Stayed healthy

22.   Learned that being healthy is as much about giving yourself grace as it is about eating well and exercising

23.   Had hard conversations where I had to be vulnerable and saw how it deepened my relationships

24.   Wrote a blog

25.   Consistently sought opportunities to share with others what God is doing in my life (i.e. through this blog)

26.   Tried to be as generous as possible with my resources

27.   Read extensively

28.   Made friendships a priority

29.   Learned to apologize often

30.   Went to LEAF (leadership development time) and purposed to apply what I learned there

31.   Became a LEAF coach

32.   Prayed. A lot.

33.   Learned that my value comes solely from my position as a child of God

34.   Kept my sense of humor

35.   Made keeping tabs on my own heart a value

36.   Learned that to keep an open, soft heart requires a willingness to bear pain

37.   Learned that my depravity is deeper than I could have imagined, but His redemption is far deeper

38.   Learned that our parents are a lot smarter than we give them credit for (and so are kids)

39.   Made mistakes

40.   Learned that I still have a lot more to learn

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cease Striving

I've never been one for being quiet or still. My mom loves to tell stories of my propensity to crawl, climb, walk, at an early age, and of a 2-year-old Gina marching into Sunday School singing, "Have faith, hope and charity, that's the way to live successfully!" One memorable report card from 2nd grade lauds my sociability with other kids, my willingness to participate in class discussions. It ends, though, with the downside, "Gina needs to learn to be quiet in class."

No, I'm much for quiet and still. I like to be on the move. I like to communicate. I tend to live my life at high speeds of taking in information, accomplishing all that I can, seeking opportunities to express myself.

Cease striving, and know that I am God might have been written just for me.

I need to have it phrased that way, "Cease striving." It packs more of a divine reprimand for me that just "be still." When I think of "be still" I imagine something that is already at rest and is being asked to just stay. "Cease striving" speaks more to my MO. I strive. Oh how I strive.

Don't get me wrong. I believe it's part of how God made me, this inclination toward activity. It's something I like about myself, the high capacity to do the things that interest me. The danger comes when my activity and my own chatter silence the voice of God, when I use my actions and my voice to try to find life apart from God, to make things happen in my ways and in my time.

Lately, I've been doing that. In my desire to find my place in this new chapter of life, I want to run ahead of God. I want to make noise so that I am seen and heard, recognized and approved. I don't want to rest in His ways or His timing, but that is exactly what He is asking me to do. He's asking me to cease trying to make life happen according my ideas, to stop looking for life apart from Him.

There's actually a great relief that comes in being reminded of that. I am His. He knows what He's doing with me. I just need to cease striving and let Him be God in my life.

What about you? Are you striving today?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Running from God

Well, here I thought I'd posted something a few days ago and I came to write another post and realized I hadn't! If you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you might have missed my guest post on Judy Douglass' blog a couple days ago.

Judy is the wife of Steve Douglass, the president of Campus Crusade for Christ, International. We have met them in our time in Orlando and found them to be a humble couple who love God wholeheartedly.

Judy herself is full of passion and fire, and I am learning a great deal from her about how to be a godly woman who engages and loves the people around her. She's a prolific writer, and while you read my blog post at her blog, stay and read her posts as well. She's amazing!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't blame location

When Erik first told me we were moving to Singapore in 2004, I had to look it up on a map. I had an idea that it was near Fiji.

It is not near Fiji.

I quickly learned more about our new tropical island home than its location, just short of the equator and connected by bridges to Malaysia. I learned that it was the cleanest, safest, most efficient, most affluent, and most beautiful place I've ever been. What's not to love about Singapore?

And yet, through our time there, I met plenty of women who hated Singapore. Couldn't find a thing to like about it. Really? How is that possible? It's a tropical island for Pete's sake. You live where people dream of vacationing.

The reason was that it wasn't Singapore they hated. It was their circumstances. Singapore just happened to be the unlucky backdrop. These women generally were expat women in transition, uprooted from all they loved, their homes, their families, and dropped into a lifestyle quite unlike what they'd ever known. They were lost, lonely, bored. They probably would have been lost, lonely, and bored in whatever country God dropped them, but they happened to be in Singapore and so it was at fault.

I learned two things from those women - first, that every place has its ups and downs, and you have to make a choice to focus on the ups. Second, and more importantly (because truthfully, some places do have fewer ups) I have to separate how I'm doing internally from where I am or I will miss growth.

People have started asking me how we like living in Orlando, and I have to remind myself to stop and take away the lens of transition that colors our first six months there. Though Orlando has been the context for some tough moments, it is not the cause of them. When I do that, I can say that yes, we really do enjoy living there.

Blaming location misses the real issues. It's easy to say "I just don't like this place. Life would be better somewhere else" rather than to acknowledge and deal with what our circumstances are doing to our hearts. The great news is that sometimes we can't change location, but we can always change how we look at them.