It wasn’t a dream

Screen shot 2016-09-02 at 11.41.49 PM.pngSince moving back, Melbourne feels like a dream. Like I can’t quite catch hold of the wisps, a bit beyond my reach.

Did those two years really happen?

Much of it lies in the fact that we moved back to Orlando, the city we lived in before our move. Same city, but we are different–not quite the same for having lived and invested our hearts in Melbourne.

Some of the dream-state is also, likely, due to not having any tactile reminders.

So, with the dream still feeling wispy, I decided a wall of artwork (including my favorite local artist), photos and momentos would tangibly remind me the two years were real.

Scott and I banged hammers after hours tonight. Next, to decide what photos to display.

We’ve just finished sitting at the table, Scott and I, looking at the wall and remembering. Some tears. Really missing friends. Unexpected laughter comes from snowballed memories, layered on top of each other.

Thank You, Jesus, for those two years.

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Last goodbyes to friends and a city we love

So, I’m sitting in the hotel room toilet.

I know, that’s still a term here that conjures up the thought that I’m in the toilet bowl. I’m not. Just in the restroom.

Perched on the side of the tub. Processing and remembering.

That’s often done when my heart and eyes connect through remembering and typing. Plus, I’m trying to encourage a little girl to go to sleep as it’s 10:47pm and she’s still awake in bed in our room, intermittently calling out for me that she went to sleep but now is awake again.

I can only imagine what’s the reality in our kids’ minds when my own mind can’t quite comprehend the excitement of the to-be-coming amidst the sadness of this chapter of the following-God adventure now closing.


Another of our great duo-culture-married friends. We love you, Tim & Liz! (Copyright of the blurry goodbye captured goes to my budding 5-year-old photographer)

“Christmas in July” lunch felt authentically like US Christmas with Wes & Judy. Brrrr! (Aussie Christmas “cracker” hats)  Our official goodbye to these more-than-just-next-door-neighbor friends.Thank you, Alyssa, for driving much of our luggage* to the airport in that lovely BIG blue van. How I loved the quiet ride (no kids for either of us!!) Tears spring every time I think that I won’t get to hold that precious little Gijsber baby in September! Thank you for your friendship and being as a sister to me. Your family was truly a package deal. Our kids’ lives have a Reuben and Wes-shaped vacuum. (*a praise–God’s provision of our beloved pastor Brian bringing 4 huge bags, along with the van and a hired (rental) car we had for the day…all 18+ bags–Scott’s down in the hotel lobby counting–made it here! We are staying the night at the Melbourne airport and will go check in at 6:15am (4:15pm EST).)

After check in, we had 2 hours before the car was due to be returned and Pastor Brian would meet us at the hotel with the bags…so we zipped 20 minutes back into our beloved city, to the Fitzroy area. I prayed what felt like a silly prayer, but asked that God would surprise us on this last night in Australia. Oh my word, He did! It was one of those times that you know that God delights to provide in a way you know it’s Him. Greek food. Mmmmmm. Really great greek food. Thank You, Jesus.

Looking at our city in the distance. Goodnight, lovely Melbourne. We have loved you and will love you always. Our hearts ache for more and more and more of you to know the incredible Savior who came to seek and save you and give you abundant life.

 

 

Faces that have affected our hearts

T-4 days til take off. It’s 11:05pm Wednesday night. Scott is at our house touching up paint, fixing a lock with a broken-off key still inside, sorting and packing.

I’m at the Laws’, our friends who have so generously let us live here while they’re away. Kids asleep, and here in the dining room, my computer screen is the only light. Our favorite lullabye CD & the beep of a washing machine that’s done are playing in my ears.

My friend, Kathryn, likened preparing for a move to climbing a mountain. You keep think you’re almost there, to the summit. But you aren’t, yet.

It’s been body-tiring. Who knew how much stuff we had? Sorting. Giving away. Selling. Life admin tasks. Scott’s pulled neck muscle (better but not totally dissipated).

Praises: The very last thing to sell sold tonight. There have been signs of stress of transition but no wailing on the grocery store floor. For me or the kids. Lizzy & Joshua haven’t had severe melt downs I was sure would go with this season, even though there’s been mild ones. Scott’s been amazing at leading us. Friends have given us incredible tips about how to transition in emotionally-healthy ways. We’ve had wonderful (albeit often teary) goodbyes.

It’s so late and the logical thing to do would be to click on my heating blanket and cocoon myself into a dreamy sleep, my thankful heart wants to pause and remember. (And document for the future blog-book I hope to print.)

Here are some faces of the last weeks we’ve had to say goodbye to, that go with the lives that have marked our time here in Australia:

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The Laws (James, Jane & Ava): It’s so surreal to be full circle–staying in your home as we prepare to move back to the U.S. It seems just yesterday that Scott and I stayed with you (Oct ’12?) for a 2-week “vision trip” to see if we sensed God calling our family to move to Australia to serve for 2 years. We count you as dear, dear friends.

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The post-dinner Bentley/Law biker princess party

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 10.49.54 PM.pngKeira–next door neighbor and kinder (preschool) buddy

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 10.52.04 PM.pngMelissa, Siberian-hat-wearing Liam, Kiera, Lizzy, Joshua walking into school

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 10.50.08 PM.pngLizzy’s BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) teachers, Pat, Judy & Jenny

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 10.51.52 PM.pngThe Graces (Aimee & Michael) and us, looking like we only have one child among us instead of six.

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Lizzy & Amelia–one of the missing Grace kiddos

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 10.52.36 PMLoved these Jazzercise at Glen Iris ladies!

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Angie–an answer to prayer for a best friend for Lizzy at her new school this year. Who knew Joshua would love Angie almost as much as Lizzy?
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The Eating House will miss our monthly catch-up/talk-til-I’m-almost-hoarse fests. But not nearly as much as I’ll miss them. I love you, my kindred spirit, Cathie. Until the skyped cheesecake.

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Hannah & Tom–you’re part of our family and always will be.

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Hannah–if you steal our post-dinner dance party for your wedding we won’t be surprised.

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Joshua’s kinder buddy, Elijah, and his sister/Lizzy’s look-up-to friend, Kayla.

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Pastor Brian & Christine–you are a big reason I have no mascara left in this picture. I’ll be the podcast stalker of your sermons. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus and what He’s already done. Over and over. Whenever I hear someone refer to the Psalms, I’ll forever think of you and “The Sams”–how I’ll miss your Irish tongue!

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And…now…he’s ready to take a picture.

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Joshua’s little Columbian amigo (and recent Aussie citizen!), Isai.

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HOPE! You are such a picture of Jesus’ joy, displayed on a face. Thank you for loving my kids and showing them Jesus.

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Alyssa, Wes & Reuben (we missed you, Steve!)–who’ve become my Aussie sister/family.

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The cooking club girls (Melissa, Candice, Alyssa, Kathryn & Jane)–so glad you said yes to the American who wanted to go deeper (and learn to cook better). Our monthly times were feasts on more than one level.

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Jane–I knew I wanted to be your friend when I showed up at your MOPS. Your care and initiation with new women within arms’ length of you drew me to you.

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 11.33.19 PM.pngGrant, Chris, & James — we’d take you with us if your wives wouldn’t disapprove. Thank you for being such great friends to my husband!

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Chris & Eleni: you shouted (treated us to, including Joshua in my belly) dinner at Grill’d almost 4 years ago, then we went back to your house and sat outside for what seemed like hours–surrounded by twinkling fairy lights–and knew we wanted to be your friends. Our kids love you now. Thanks for loving them and giving us one more date night in the city last week. We will miss you, our fun American-Aussie couple!

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This family. Grant & Kathryn, you’ve been God’s incredible provision for our family: coffee-loving friends, mentors, encouragers. Grant: we’ve told you, but let us say again–your counsel to us and love for us after the miscarriage was paramount and life-changing in how we walked that road of grief with the Lord. And not lastly, your kids have modeled to our kids how to love younger kids so well that they clung to sweet, last-minute gifts from your kids, clutched in their hands as we drove home, likely with minds reliving the nerf gun game and pretend camping trip. Dinner with you tonight fed our heart and tummies. We love you.

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It’s bittersweet to have had to say goodbye in installments to these friends, sending them one by one to the States (of all places!), with Thearith being the most recent to hug goodbye. We miss our Fridays with you!

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Dear Australia,

Dear Australia,

First of all, I’m sorry.

How did I not realize (I mean “realise,” as you prefer) how wonderful and large you are? Or that you’re so very old. I mean, in a good way. All those dinosaurs! Who knew? Well, sadly, not me.

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I’m sorry I didn’t know before I moved here that you held the most liveable city in the world? Melbourne. My city of 2 years. It’s like a taste of living in New York City in the 1800s and experiencing the first few waves of immigrants from all over the world.

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I’m sorry I didn’t know you have states. Don’t tell my 4th grade geography teacher. How else can my self-centered (oops, self-centred) view of the world be exposed?

Now with confession off my chest, I begin my thanks.

Thank you, Australia, for making me fall in love with you and your people. For providing us with friends from literally all over the world.

Then, there’s my gratitude for your parks. Your coffee. Your food. Oh, your global cuisine. (One word: souvlaki) Your preschool genius of play as learning. Your model of hospitality and lifelong loyal friendship.

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Thanks to you, my view of the world is a bit less self-centered and a bit more satisfied to be a part of something much bigger than me.

A lot of life lived in almost 2 years.

But.

It was just two nights ago, in a frenzy-loud cafe over a flat white that it happened. Liz gifted me a new pair of glasses, of sorts, with her words.

And God used those words to say this to me: “See your two dozen months as marked by My goodness, Angie.” 

As opposed to the months being marked by the hard.

I’d recently been awakened to how my story is now. But, her words revealed that, deep down, I remembered the tender wounds easily and often as I recount our journey.

It’s tricky. The wounds were — and are — real. Loss. Health issues. Loneliness. Speech delay. Feeling the foreigner I am.

Liz said, “Wouldn’t Satan love to have you think and reflect on your time here and have it marked by the hard things?”

And it was like I snapped to attention just in time to realize a man’s hand was outstretched, set to grab my purse.

No! You will not steal from me, Satan. You will not deceive me as to what these years have really been marked by.

So let me set the record right, oh Australia, for myself in your hearing.

These days have been marked by good. Marked by good because my Father is good.

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The good is easy to see in the days when my recruiting job is especially fulfilling. Or when Scott comes home eyes lit up, words spilling out excitedly telling me about what tech hurdle he’d just cleared. Or helping at Lizzy’s preschool, watching her little friend wrap up my little girl in an unabashedly-loving hug. Or having a 4-way conversation at dinner because my little man plays a part in the conversation now.

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But it’s also been here, Australia, where God showed me His goodness in ways that were textbook before, but now are proven.

The hard has led to the good.

Or, is it actually that the good has been revealed amidst the hard?

My days here have ushered me into a vulnerable dependence on God that’s revealed Him as a tender Father in ways I’d never experienced. He loved our family so tangibly through so many, inviting us to remember community is where life is meant to be lived.

Our family’s story will always include you, my country/continent Friend. God has marked my life anew here, in your shores.

Thank you, Australia.

With gratitude,
Angie

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‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him over and over,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

We’re moving back!

Screen shot 2016-06-07 at 2.12.47 PM.pngThe faces of Melbourne, Australia, one of the world’s most global cities. All in the image of God.

Screen shot 2016-06-08 at 9.51.08 PM.pngThese are the 150 men and women of Cru (called Power to Change here in Australia) with whom we’ve loved serving alongside. We help people know Jesus in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne–and just in the last few months–Perth and Adelaide! We all got together for a conference in January and Angie led a recruitment training session that got some wheels turning in hopeful ways for the future.

45,523 in 2 years!

That’s the number of gospel presentations that have occurred within Cru in Australia during our time here!

Of those, 5,442 decided to put their trust in Jesus Christ! {That’s a big deal in a country that’s seemingly apathetic to spiritual conversations.}

It’s good to step back and look at the bigger picture, especially now as our 2-year assignment is drawing to a close and we are within two months of returning back to America.

Yes, we’re moving back!

What an amazing time it has been!

Angie and I are both sad to be leaving Australia soon, but very excited about what God has planned for us with our next missionary assignment back in Orlando at Cru’s global headquarters.

(We’ll clue you in more at the end of this email.)

The memories start flooding in when we recall our first few months in here in Melbourne.

We think of Hannah.

Hannah, above, is a new believer and our beloved babysitter.  Recently, Hannah’s dad put his trust in Jesus through his daughter’s influence!

 

Hannah: A changed life, telling others

We remember how, in December 2014, our family was invited to spend time with college students on a summer mission trip in a nearby town called Lorne.

Angie gave a talk to the young women, encouraging them to find their identity in Christ alone.

It was there that we met Hannah, who had just become a Christian. She was boldly stepping out in faith telling other students about Jesus.

Fast-forward to today, Hannah is now in her last year of college and engaged to Tom, who is studying to become a pastor.

Hannah has a desire to be in full-time ministry herself, particularly reaching out to women who have had similar challenges she’s had to over-come.

God is changing lives here!


Left to right: Scott, Josh (our newest addition who is almost done raising his financial support to report full time!) and James (our team leader) We love the opportunity to serve our missionaries on the field and in our country’s HQ office.


My (Scott’s) role: to simplify and stabilize our computer infrastructure

Before we got to Australia, my anticipated role was to have a heavy focus on teaching and training our missionaries in the field how to best use technology in evangelism, administration for ministry, etc.

Soon after we arrived, James (above) and I put fresh eyes on the needs of the organization. What rose to the top were the critical computer systems at our country headquarters in Melbourne.

These systems manage the ministry’s finances, donations, human resources, missionary care, etc.  They function in the background, often without notice until something goes wrong.

What were the main problems?

  • The setup had become bloated and unmanageable for James (we were running 50% more computer servers than was necessary)
  • These critical systems and our missionaries’ computers who were connecting to them were at significant risk of accidental infection from computer viruses, which could spread system-wide and cripple operations at headquarters
  • When power to the office goes out, our servers would crash within a few minutes. When this happens, it puts these complex systems at risk of corruption and not working when power returns.

Even if James wanted to fix these issues earlier, he didn’t have the capacity to, since he alone was trying to manage all of the technology needs of the ministry.

These in-depth projects took me over 18 months to complete amidst all my other responsibilities (like desktop tech for our missionaries in the office and on the field). But, by God’s grace I feel confident that our systems are far more stable, secure and much easier for James to manage going forward.

I created a method for James that only takes a couple of hours a month to complete, which helps ensure all of our critical systems and missionaries’ computers at headquarters continue to run as they should.

All this work is so that everything stays “up,” to allow our missionaries to do what God has called them to in proclaiming the gospel!


The Matchmaking Event (above) might seem like a speed dating night, but played on the idea of getting a great match. The day-long event just turned annual this year. It’s been one of Angie’s recruitment highlights from our time here. She designed from scratch a hands-on session in the afternoon that highlighted how a person’s strength plays out differently when mixed in different contexts and groups. This year’s event was last Saturday.

Angie’s role: believing God for the next wave of missionaries in Australia

Enough about me! What about Angie? Most of her time is spent being mom to Lizzy and Joshua.

But, on top of that, she was asked to help create a plan for how to recruit new missionaries in Australia. Below is a snippet of what she’s done with her one day a week in the office:

  • Helped launch an annual day-long event last year and this year to help college students and mid-career people process if God is calling them into full-time ministry.
  • Helped redesign the recruitment section on the Cru website, creating lots of new content.
  • Helped redesign the ministry’s recruitment brochure.
  • Led training events with our missionaries to help them effectively engage with others who are considering full-time Christian work.

I’m so proud of Angie and the legacy she’s leaving here!

God is doing great things through the ministry here and it also appears that He is planning something bigger.

I had a water cooler conversation with someone in our human resources team last week who said, since the beginning of the year, they are receiving more requests for applications then he’s ever remembered.

I believe God brought us here to help lay the groundwork for a wave of new missionaries in Australia.

We’ve prayed for over two years to not just fill “holes” while here, but rather that God would enable us to invest our time in ministry that would last long after our time in Australia is done.

We are getting glimpses that, by His grace, He is doing that!

What’s next?

As our assignment in Australia ends this summer, we will move back to the U.S. in time for our kids to adjust to a new time zone prior to school starting. I will begin my new role at Cru global headquarters in Orlando that is very different and VERY exciting!

To give a small taste, I’ll be part of a team that explores how Cru (both in the U.S. and globally) can match each person we cross paths with in the digital space (think: internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media) to the next best step in their spiritual journey.

Are you familiar with how Amazon or other online merchants use the data they have to suggest relevant purchases for you? Now imagine if we could do that and scale it for our ministry and people’s spiritual growth, ultimately with the desire to introduce them to Jesus! Again, this is only a small taste, so we will share more details in the coming months.

Whether it’s in the U.S., Australia or wherever God calls our family to serve, we love helping people get connected to Jesus. Thank you for praying for and with us!


P.S. Visit our blog for updates along the way, including bits about how our kids are doing.

Screen shot 2016-06-08 at 9.50.05 PM.pngGod has marked our hearts (and hopefully yours too!) with His love for Australia.

My story is now

Looking back, I think I held my breath a lot.

We got off the plane with our 18? bags and my internal Angie started to turn blue.

My heart signed an invisible contract.

I’d figure things out. I’d get us settled. I’d navigate roads and grocery store aisles and a new-of-sorts language.

And then I’d breathe. And our story would begin.

I started driving. I figured out how to interpret the dairy section and the seemingly 8 different types of cream. And I started differentiating between a trolley and a cart and entree and a main and to ring and to call and learned that women here get clucky.

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But the buts inhibited full breaths from coming.

But Joshua’s speech. When he starts talking more…

But Lizzy’s perpetual illnesses. When we figure out what’s wrong…

But

But

But

Well, Joshua’s speech is miles (kilometers) better and growing steadily. Lizzy’s never been more well. They love kinder (preschool). Scott’s thriving at his role. I love my recruiting job. My heart has made good, deepening girlfriend connections.

More recently than I want to admit, I processed with a friend (read: free counseling) and heard myself say how I felt like our story was finally starting.

And like a wave of sound that rips through a crowd, felt in every chest, God spoke to my heart.

Your story doesn’t start now when things are well and you feel more in control. Your story has been going on for years. Your life is your story. And I’m behind each act of every scene. 

Life is now.

I have to laugh that God’s given me a daughter with an oft-daily passion to decorate for/celebrate something or someone almost daily.

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So I am renewed to live fully in the now. It’s where God’s put me. Adventures behind and adventures to come. Days when everything seems to be blooming. Days when I’ve chosen tasks over people and I’m exposed in my lack of loving well.

Days when we just have a picnic on the bathroom rug.

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Joshua and Mrs. Lynn, his new speech therapist.

On the off chance I’m not alone in this holding-your-breath-until-_____ happens, can I encourage me/you to breathe today?

Our story is amidst the good, the hard, victories, failures and the not-yets. And my story (and yours) has such great hope because of Jesus. My story is too big for it to be about just me. And that is very good news to be part of The Big Story.

That’s what I was made for.