Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home for Christmas

Remember celebrating Christmas as a kid? You were full of excitement and expectation as you heard the Christmas story, or as you opened your gifts or traveled to see family. This year, that is exactly how I felt.

Decorating the Christmas tree was one of my favorite Christmas memories. Mom would put on a cassette tape of Kenny Rogers Christmas music or another country artist from long ago. We'd all get our own boxes of ornaments out of the closet, and for the next hour or so, the living room was a complete disaster with boxes and tissue paper.  But we were all singing, laughing and telling stories. Most of the ornaments have a special meaning or a story that leads us all to reminisce about the past. The tree would capture our attention with its splendor for the rest of the evening and weeks to come. 

The stockings were hung on the fireplace, the glass miniature village was set up on the piano, the Santa collection was put out on the bookcase, the nativity set up on the stereo—every surface was decorated! It was wonderful! 

Although I haven't been home to take part in this tradition in several years, this year I did get to see the results. And Mom didn't leave anything out! Our home was just as I had remembered, filled with Christmas joy and warmth. I had missed that feeling of being "home" for Christmas very much. For the past 5 years I hadn't been able to go to my parent's house for Christmas; I had normally just flown to Minneapolis since my mom's family lived near there. So, this was a very special trip in that sense. 

Christmas Eve was incredible. We had a huge feast for dinner and all went to church for the Christmas Eve service. We came home and gathered around the Christmas tree and opened our gifts from one another. (Once again, I hadn't done this with my whole family in 5 years!) I loved seeing the faces of my siblings as they unwrapped their gifts we had gotten them. I had worked really hard to get them each something they would absolutely love (and I almost succeeded)! It was a very joyful day.

Christmas day and the rest of that weekend was filled with seeing extended family. Christmas day we drove to Minneapolis and had Christmas dinner with my Mom's side of the family. I believe there were 25 of us or so (almost everyone made it!)

My Family: Molly, Me, Chris, Ryan, Betsy, John
Dad, Great Aunt Sylvia, and Mom

On Monday we were able to spend a few hours with my cousin Mary and her family. She and her husband, Bruce, had twins last August.  We all had a blast passing those babies around and catching up with Mary and Bruce. Maria and Darin didn't seem to mind having eight new people to play with. Once again, it was an evening filled with joy!

I can't say the entire trip was stress-free, but we were blessed with great traveling weather and a lot of time together as a family. I am so blessed to have a close family! It was so wonderful to be home for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pay it forward . . . even if its hard

You've heard that phrase before, haven't you? "Pay it forward." The idea is that when someone does something good to or for you, you do something good to or for someone else and the cycle continues. The blessings keep getting passed on. It looks and sounds beautiful. There was even a really great movie made about it called "Pay it Forward" with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.

Chris and I have been housed by many people in the past. We have often talked about our desire to pay that type of hospitality forward. When we were first looking for an apartment in San Francisco we looked into getting a two-bedroom just so we'd have the space to share. That ended up not being an option due to the cost of living in this city, but the idea and hope of helping others have never left us.

December 1st was our first opportunity to pay it forward. Mary, who I've mentioned before (and should tell you that I'm not using her real name), found herself in a situation where she didn't have a place to live. Her sublease had ended and she couldn't find an apartment close to school that fit in her budget in time. About two weeks before she needed to move, I told her that if she hadn't found a place in time, she could stay with us for a few weeks.

We knew it would be hard to share our one-bedroom apartment with the three of us, but we felt like we needed to offer what we had.  I could tell, even as we helped her move her stuff to our place that it was going to be even harder than we imagined. I could tell almost immediately that for the next two weeks, I would not be having things done my way. My flesh was waging a war against my spirit from day one.

It started with our pre-arranged time to pick her up not working out (after we got there) because she was dying her hair red. An hour and half later, we were finally home and fell into bed. Over the last two weeks, I have come to realize there are very few things I have in common with a 21 year old (my sister and other family members being the exception!). This makes me feel old in a sense, but also very glad I am no longer 21!

It's strange to think I am at an age where I can be somewhat of a mentor to someone that's 21 years old. I don't think I have a lot of life experience to pass on, but I do! Especially in being new to a city like San Francisco, finding housing and looking for work. This past year has been filled with life lessons I can pass on.

But I also have much to learn. Hospitality, which I had hoped would be one of my talents, is in fact a challenge sometimes. I really want to get better at hosting people in my home. I also need to work on being flexible with my time and space and sharing both with others.

This has also been an interesting couple of weeks for our marriage. As the stress of deadlines hits hard for Chris at work, we find that we aren't really able to just chill out together in our normal living space. The stress just seems builds up. There is also this strange feeling I have sometimes that is completely new to me as a wife. I think it's a protective instinct that comes when there may be a threat to my husband's eyes. I'm not used to that in my own home.

I'm sure others have experienced struggles with opening their home to others. (I hope Chris and I didn't cause too much trouble for those that have helped us.) And it's still a desire of mine to be able to help others in this way, but after this experience, I think I would do it a little differently. It was definitely more difficult than I thought it would be.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Thankful Heart

We stood in a circle holding hands. We were about to say grace for our Thanksgiving meal when the host, my Aunt Patsy, asked us each to share what we are thankful for this year.

Chris and I have been to Aunt Patsy's home quite a few times this year—one of Chris's several relatives that live in California. She and her husband have blessed us with that 'family feeling' over many holidays where we were not able to travel to Minnesota or Texas. Last Thanksgiving, her home was filled with family members, most of whom I was meeting for the first time.  This year, her Thanksgiving feast was a smaller gathering shared with friends, neighbors, her parents, and us. No matter how big the party, she ad her husband are gifted in making one feel at home and loved.

As I stood in that circle, looking at Patsy, I was struck by how blessed I really am. My mind flashed back to a year ago when we were unemployed and on the verge of homelessness; I didn't know anyone, much less my husband's distant relatives. And now, we have work, we have a beautiful apartment, and so many wonderful relationships. I thought, "Lord, you have answered our every prayer, you have provided for our every need (and then some)! You are truly amazing. Thank you."

I am so thankful for my family—no matter how far down the family tree they are. I am so thankful to be getting to know my husband's side of the family this year. I love that his third cousins are more like aunts to us than "distant relatives." And I can't wait for Christmas, when we'll be seeing my family again!

I am so thankful for all I have and all those I hold in my heart. May the Lord bless you richly as you wait on Him!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


No, not the TV show—although Chris and I do enjoy watching that one.  The concept of belonging to or having relationship with a group of people is what I want to talk about tonight. Chris and I heard someone mention that the most common unmet need in San Francisco (and possibly globally) is community. In a place were there are roughly a million people I wonder how can that be true?

And yet, it is true for me. I'm not saying I'm completely alone and have nowhere to belong. I belong to a wonderful church and small group, which does offer a great source of community and relationship.  I also have some really great colleagues at work. But I want more. Not really more friends, but deeper relationships. Granted, I've only been in the city for five months and it's bound to take a lot longer than that to build solid friendships. All I'm saying is that I understand the longing for community.

I wonder what people who don't go to church do to find friends. In all honesty, I don't even know where to look other than church. Do I join a gym or take a class to find people who might have one shared interest with me? Do I go to the bar? Do I sit down next to a complete stranger at a coffee shop and start making conversation? Seriously, how do people get connected with others and experience real community in real life?

I have been in a "Christian-bubble" for so long, I don't even know how to make friends normally. Ugh! In High School, I didn't really have a choice, there were 17 students, so naturally they were my friends. Our town was small, so you just did what everyone else did and you had instant community. It was easy in college—people had similar classes and majors so finding common interests was a no-brainer. You also had organizations and clubs at your finger tips so finding a group to belong to was stress free. And the cafeteria was perfect for meeting people! Most of my friends from college were actually strangers to me until I sat down next to them for lunch (a few I seen previously from a class or something).

So what makes "real life" so much different—so much harder? I wonder if as we've gotten older, we're more reserved in what we share with others, which leaves our conversations lacking any real meaning.  I wonder if we stop making time for other people because there is just too much going on in "my world" right now. Or, maybe we're fearful of someone really knowing us?!? The surface looks good and clean but digging deeper reveals hurts, weaknesses, regrets, and sins making us unlovable and rejected.

What is it that makes people bond and become friends?

These are just my thoughts from today—spurred on by an idea of building a different and stronger community. I'd love to hear your thoughts about what community is and how you find or create it! 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Help! I'm Stuck!

I think about writing to you almost everyday.  I love writing to you—updating you on my thoughts and sharing with you how God has led us to where we are.  But the past few weeks I just can't think of anything new to tell you. Routine and normalcy have entered my life and to honest I don't know how I feel about that.

There is something energizing and exciting about not feeling settled. Yes, its extremely frightening most of the time. For the better part of this past year I have felt uneasy, anxious, and uncertain about where my life was going or what I was suppose to be doing in San Francisco (or even if San Francisco was where I was suppose to be). And during that period I know I didn't like it. But now . . . I'm bored.

And I hate to put it that way, but today, thats how I feel.  Now, you may be asking, "Emily, isn't it impossible to be bored in a city like SF?" That's not what I mean. I love this city. I don't think I could ever grow tired of all there is to see and do. I'm bored because I don't know what I'm suppose to be putting my time and effort towards or trusting God for next.

So, maybe "bored" isn't the right word after all . . . "stuck" might work better (at least for today). I'm waiting for the Lord to direct my steps again and lead me to the next part of this journey. I feel like crying out, "Ok, Lord, I'm here, now what!?" But in the back of my mind, I'm scared of what He might say!

Doctor's Orders: Rest (and no heavy lifting)

Two weeks ago, the Lord was telling me to rest. Actually, He's been telling me that for a while now, and it was my doctor who told me to rest—for an entire week!  On October 21, I had a minor surgery to have a couple of ovarian cysts removed.  My doctors orders: Take a whole week off of work. 

"What?!? A week? What am I suppose to do for a whole week?" I thought.  But, it in the end it was a huge blessing. I feel like I got to experience what rest really is. Both the lazy kind and the kind that only comes through knowing our Heavenly Father. 

To rest in the Lord is to trust. Trust that He is in total control and you are in His care. Trust in His promises and His plan. And let go of the need to run or control your own life. Worry and anxiousness have to place in this type of rest. There is no greater freedom than in resting in the Lord. 

The weeks before my surgery I found myself feeling very anxious and worried. Anxious because I didn't know if this was really the best thing for me and worried because my insurance company wasn't handling it the way they needed to. Some days, these feelings would overtake me and I'd be in tears, other times, I knew that this is what needed to be done and I had faith that all would work out well. 

On the morning of my surgery, I remember feeling a bit nervous, but as soon as my doctor was there I felt better (she has this great affect on me whenever I talk to her). And when the surgical staff asked, "Are you ready?" I actually smiled and said, "Yes!" I had this indescribable sense of peace as they wheeled me into the operating room. I knew my Father was with me. 

Being cooped up in my apartment for an entire week helped me rest physically and spiritually. I could praise the Lord for bringing me out of surgery successfully and providing such wonderful medical care. I could rest in him knowing that He is faithful to His promises to care for me and provide for me. I also had to give up control over what happened in the kitchen (and the rest of the apartment) as Chris was now in charge of all the cooking and housekeeping for the week (part of the doctor's orders).  What a great exercise in giving up control—and practice for giving control over to the Lord for everything else!

I am a worst-case scenario worrier by nature, but now that I've learned this lesson on rest, I don't want to go back to my "old" self.  Hopefully, I can remind myself to find rest in the Lord each day—no matter what worries come my way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

San Francisco Beauty

I haven't shown you many of the sites of San Francisco, mostly because I haven't taken very many photographs. But last weekend I had the perfect opportunity. My friend, Anya, came to visit for four days from Colorado Springs. The two of us spent the whole weekend with our cameras in our hands as we hiked Lands' End trail, took in the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, and walking around downtown.

So, this blog entry is purely to wet your appetite for more and perhaps inspire a visit! Enjoy!

Building Art: You'll have to look closely but there are actually large pieces of furniture hanging out of the windows and the fire escape. Apparently, the building has been vacant for years!

This is Chris's favorite view of the city—the contrast of the traditional brick church surrounded by skyscrapers. This view can be found in Yueba Buena Gardens downtown.

These four houses are quite famous. They are known by a couple different names: The Painted Ladies and Postcard Row. We love the view of downtown from here.

I don't even have to tell you what this is and I can't admit how many pictures I've taken of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sometimes, the fog is so thick you can't even see the top!

Don't get your hopes up, although on this particular day the ocean looked wonderful and the sun was really warm, the water is freezing!

The statue of the "Thinker" is outside the Legion of Honor, a truly beautiful museum inside and out.

Lands End hike—absolutely gorgeous

Sutro Baths (the ruins) are in Lands End park. The hike is gorgeous on a sunny day and the baths were pretty cool too.

San Francisco is full of interesting places. This was my first time to Sutro baths and Lands End and I can't wait to go back. Let me know when you're coming! There really is something for everyone.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Joy comes in the Morning (after you've waited)

Last Monday, Chris embarked on a new adventure! He started a new job!! (shouts of Joy inserted here) He started a new entry-level job in an editorial studio for a feature film. The job is contracted for three months with the possibility of it being extended four more months in December. We are also hoping that it might become a full-time job after that.

Right now is a time of transition for him as he finishes up the work for his previous employer and begins learning all his new job entails. So, he is currently working part-time at both places. Starting in October he will be working 40 hours/week for the studio. I must admit it is a time of transition for me too--gone are the days where Chris had spare time to run errands for me. Now, I have to learn where the Post Office and the Bank are!

This almost seems like the end to our story (or at least my blog) about our adventure to San Francisco. After 11 months, it is all fitting into place. But really, it is just the beginning of the work the Lord has for us here. We didn't move out here solely for work but also to be a witness for our Savior.

San Francisco is a very dark place spiritually. Its a city full of freedom to indulge in whatever lifestyle you desire where most of the time, it seems there are few consequences. Often we hear that people moved to this city to get away from Religion.

There is a need for our lights to shine brightly here. Please keep us in your prayers as we live out our faith. Pray co-workers, neighbors and others would see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven.

Another reason for joy is a new friendship! Chris is very closely tied to the Navigator ministry and therefore connected to people across the United States. So, when a College student who has been part of the Navigators moves out to San Francisco, we are here to welcome him/her. We had our first opportunity to do so a few weeks ago.

Mary moved to the city without knowing a soul. A Nav Bible study leader from her college connected the three of us. From there we were able to take her to church and introduce her to our small group. Because she is surrounded by unbelievers at her new school and in her apartment she seems to crave Christian fellowship and I am so thankful we can be that for her. Please pray for our new friend, she's had a rough transition. Pray she would find others her age who are also believers.

Over Labor Day, Chris and I went to San Antonio Texas for a few days to see his family. We had such a wonderful time. All of his siblings were home and we were able to send off his brother, Brad, to France for a mission trip. The highlights were getting caught in a huge rain storm and teaching our three-year-old niece to ride her bike!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

City Life

"What do you like about the city?" Chris asked.

We were having lunch in downtown San Francisco and I had just exclaimed, "I really like it here!"

I grew up in rural, northwest Minnesota. You'll laugh when I tell you that I graduated with a class of 17 and the whole school (K-12) was less than 200 students. From there I moved to Moorhead, Minnesota which actually had an interstate highway! I never thought I would live in an area as urban as San Francisco. But I do love it here!

I love that I can take a bus or walk to work. I love that its a 10 minute walk to a major supermarket—but even better is the Mexican produce shop right across the street. I like walking by all the cute little boutiques on Valencia or discount stores on Mission St. There is no shortage of places to hang out, things to see, or do.

Last weekend, Chris and I took a walk down a street in our neighborhood. We were totally surprised to see a variety restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and bookstores, a video store, the library, and a natural food store! Yesterday, we discovered an amazing farmers market just a mile away too! I love my neighborhood!

Yes, sometimes the noise is too loud, the traffic is bad, and the busses run late. The weather is funky (I just heard that summer is in September!) and sometimes the sun only shines in one part of the city.

It reminds me of my time in Gambia too—the markets, the walking, and the public transportation were things I loved about that country (beyond those things, you can't really compare the two places at all).

I think its this urban lifestyle that makes me feel like I'm participating in something beyond myself. I'm surrounded by people everywhere I go: the bus, sidewalks, markets, etc. I'm never really alone (even in our apartment the street noise is very present). I'm reminded everyday that life is not about me! (I'll tell you more about that later!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Good Shepherd—Amazing Presence!

Two weeks ago, at our Thursday night church gathering the subject was on the spiritual discipline of "Simplicity, Silence, and Solitude." Basically, the idea was that in order to hear from God, we need to make time for him and step away from the noise that surrounds us, quiet our thoughts and listen. The speaker used Psalm 23 to demonstrate these three things. The very next day, I started reading a book called, "The 23rd Psalm for the 21st Century" by Lon Solomon (its published by Jews for Jesus's production company). The author spends an entire chapter on each line/verse—and its amazing!

I think I've memorized the Psalm not by trying to, but just by hearing it and reading it so often. But even though I know the words, I have never captured the meaning of it like this pastor does in his book. I read it during my 15 minute breaks at work and it completely covers me in the Lord's peace and calms my mind down completely. I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things he says in the book . . . (but there are copyright laws).

I do want to tell you that the words of this Psalm are meant to describe to us the relationship we are to have with our God. He is the shepherd, we are the sheep. He truly cares for us the in the most loving and protective way anyone possibly could. He is there to guide us—He knows what is coming up ahead, he knows that we have to walk through valleys, but he also knows HOW we will get through it! He takes us to the places where we need to be and provides all that we need! And he is there with us always! I think its the presence of the shepherd that got me really excited—the sheep don't go anywhere without the shepherd (if they do, they end up in trouble and the shepherd has to rescue it). It's the shepherd's presence that gives the sheep the comfort—not the absence of difficulty!

How wonderful is it to know that being in God's presence, knowing the Good Shepherd is what is going to get us through! That we don't have to do anything on our own or by ourselves except follow Him! Read the familiar words again, let each line sink in. Let the Spirit fill you with His peace! Trust Him!

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One Year of Marriage

On July 11, Chris and I celebrated one year of marriage! It is hard to believe that a year has gone by . . . but, then again, so much has happened in our lives that it makes sense. Our celebration took place at another wedding in Colorado Springs. We made a weekend trip to our old "home" and spent some great quality time with the friends we had to say goodbye to 8 long months ago. And yes, now friends of ours share the same wedding anniversary!

We had a wonderful time catching up with friends and even made some time for a little date for just the two of us. We celebrated it again on Saturday, July 17--Chris bought me a dozen red roses, took me out to eat and then we went dancing! It was a great date!

I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately. I've probably read more than my fair share of marriage books this year and am going through another one now. What I find interesting is that a majority of what these books say about a woman's role in marriage is very different than how society and even other women seem to treat marriage. Marriage is given to us by God; it's precious, it's emotional, and it's fragile, but it also has the capability to be the strongest human relationship we can witness on earth. It's NOT two people making an agreement to stay with each other for as long as it works . . . it's SO MUCH MORE!

Marriage was meant to be an example of God's love for us and Christ's relationship with the church! Paul writes about that in Ephesians 5--the church is the bride and Christ is the groom. It's a beautiful image of headship and submission, and of respect and love. It's God's design for two working as one.

Another passage in scripture says "as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another." Doesn't that sound like a fun process! Marriage, too, is a process of becoming holy or "like Christ." Our mistakes, our sins, and our faults are plainly seen by our spouses (and vise versa). Learning how to confess, repent and ask for forgiveness and also to offer forgiveness are, in my mind, the hardest things in marriage. But, it's also through this that we become closer and experience the love Christ has for us.

Hearing the vows at the wedding we attended last weekend were a great reminder of what Chris and I entered into a year ago. I made a vow to encourage, respect, love and cherish this one man for as long as I am alive! We've made it through one year . . . it definitely deserves to be celebrated . . . but its just one year out of who knows how many! As one good friend said, "Congrats! One year down, 70+ more to go!" We're not even close to being done! (And yes, that is a good thing!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Chris and I have been living in San Francisco for one month already—and we LOVE it! Our apartment really does feel like home and we are more comfortable with our surroundings. Over the past month, we've worked hard to furnish our home with used furniture, most of which was found at garage sales, craigslist or friends. We just have a few more things left to find before its complete!

My parents and two sisters came to visit during the last weekend in June. Amazingly, all 6 of us fit in our apartment and it worked great. We hiked around Muir Woods, went to the ocean, took public transportation downtown to do some shopping and toured Alcatraz Island. We also hit up a flea market and estate sale! It was a packed weekend!

Having family visit was wonderful. I hadn't seen my family since October and missed them terribly. Although, I think having them visit made me miss them even more as I realized just how far away from 'home' I really was. But Chris has been good to remind me that I have a new family and a new home now—with him in San Francisco.

So, as promised in my last blog post, below you will find photos of our apartment. (with my family)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The News We've All Been Waiting For!

On Saturday, June 4th, we packed up our car and truck once again to drive the last 36 miles of the trip we began last November. As we crossed the Bay bridge into San Francisco I felt the same sense of hope and excitement I felt when we initially left Colorado. It was unreal. We had been waiting for God to provide housing for so long that actually moving seemed more like a dream than reality.

I will spare you the details and emotions of trying to find a one-bedroom apartment in the desirable "Mission District" that we could actually afford and that we both liked. I will tell you that in the end of the two-month process, as we signed the lease, it felt like God was handing this apartment to us on a silver platter. We have a beautiful one-bedroom apartment on Mission street, in a very Mexican part of the city. The bus that both of us take to get to work is right across the street and parking has been fairly easy (being we still have two cars). And our really nice landlord is also a follower of Jesus! (Pictures of the apartment will be posted after we have it furnished!)

I find it interesting how quickly our attitudes and thoughts change when we get what we've been waiting and praying for. I have to admit that it was much easier for me to praise God with a genuinely rejoicing spirit after I knew we had the apartment than during the period of waiting. I have to remind myself that even when we are in the valleys (the low points or times of hardship) God is still God and very much in control. He does not change. It's amazing how quickly He can pull us out of that valley and onto the top of the mountain! It takes only an instant!

I am so glad we continued to trust in God, even when it was hard. He has blessed us with a wonderful place that already feels like home. And we know that he has a plan for us here. My job continues to go well and the realm of data-entry is growing wider and deeper every day (it's much more involved that I ever gave it credit for). And Chris still continues to work for the investment firm as an office manager.

After those last 36 miles, it feels like we started life again after an 8-month pause. And life is good; God is good—always. May we all continue to take steps of faith that will, without a doubt, bring us closer to our Lord.

Our New Address:
3812 Mission St. Apt. 1
San Francisco, CA 94110

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Refiner's Fire and Abundant Life

Its been over a month since my update and its not for lack of news—time seems to be flying by and I'm just trying to keep up! From a distance our lives look unchanged since a month ago or even two months ago for that matter. But from my perspective we've been through a lot—I don't know how many times I've thought, "God, this is hard. Why is it so hard?" As I was praying and reading the Word this morning this is what I read,

Bless our God, O peoples,
and sound His praise abroad,
Who keeps us in life
and does not allow our
feet to slip.
For You have tried us,
O God;
You have refined us as
silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive
burden upon our loins.
You made men ride over
our heads;
We went through fire
and through water,
Yet You brought us out
into a place of
Psalm 66:8-12

Two words caught my attention: life (vs. 9) and abundance (vs.12). This reminded me of what Jesus said in John 10, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

The next phrases that caught my attention was "For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined" and "Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance."

This passage lit up for me as I read through it a second time. It made sense. God's plan is for us to have life abundantly but I don't think we know how to experience that on our own. It has to come from Jesus. God is making us more into the people he wants us to be with each passing day—he's refining us, molding us, changing us inside and out to be more like Him. So, of course there will be hard days! Change is always difficult, even when you know its for the best.

But this passage also points to events that seemed like forms of punishment (oppressive burden, men riding over their heads, going through water and fire) that eventually brought about the abundant life. God is allowing us to go through struggles and tough situations because on the other side of it is His blessing.

So what sort of struggles have I been going through exactly?

Well, a few weeks ago, we found the perfect apartment and we could even afford it! We put in our application hopeful that we had found our new home. (I was dreaming of how to make it a home the minute we walked out.) A few days later they said it was denied because we didn't make enough money. I cannot describe to you the disappointment we both felt that day. I will say that it had us questioning our decision to move out to San Francisco.

The following week, I was told about a job in Colorado Springs that was exactly what I wanted to do (and had a good chance of getting) as well as offered a full time job as a Data Entry Operator at Jews for Jesus. I hated making this decision. I didn't want to have to choose between taking a job in San Francisco that I was good at but didn't fit into my long-term career goals and a potential dream job near my good friends in Colorado Springs. Even more importantly was how this decision affected my husband's career aspirations. I was in turmoil. What was God doing?

And still the constant struggle of job searching for Chris. We've been in California for six months and have not had any success in breaking into the film industry. This has been very discouraging again leaving us in a place of uncertainty.

The good news is that I accepted the job offer with Jews for Jesus! Although this was a tough decision, I do feel at complete peace that we need to be in San Francisco. And although it is not my dream job, it will hopefully allow us to move into the city and provide for our immediate needs as Chris looks for work. I did not expect to be working for another non-profit organization but this seems to be what God has in store for now.

So, although April/May has not been all that we hoped it would be in regards to our living situation, it has—to say the least—been a time of refining. Please continue to pray for us as we look at apartments and search for work for Chris.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What can I do?

Every day I walk by at least 10 homeless people. I have a 5-block walk from the B.A.R.T. station to my new workplace. These homeless people are not the intrusive type who beg for money or hassle me on my way to work; they actually seem quite comfortable in their little groups of two or three. I imagine they discus the previous nights events or plan their day, but I honestly have no idea. Some have shopping carts stuffed to the brim with their belongings and others just a backpack. Some even have dogs!

I feel inadequate, clueless, and helpless in knowing what to offer them. Surely there is something they need that I could give them and yet, I just keep walking. I don't have much experience in what to do. Like I said, I'm clueless.

I have heard stories about what happens when you give a homeless guy money—he'll buy liquor, drugs, or other things that don't help his situation. You hear of someone taking in the homeless only to find that they never leave or that—when they do leave—they take your things. These are all things I've heard when I ask my friends how to help the homeless. The answer seems to be, "I know not to such-and-such; as for what to do, I don't know." You want to love them, help them, serve them like Jesus says, but you feel like you have to do it with boundaries for your own safety and privacy.

God set up a system in the Old Testament that protected the widows and the orphans. Communities were designed so no one was left in need. Here are a few passages that have given me some direction in this area:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed . . . "(Isaiah 58)

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).

There really isn't anything in the scriptures that says if we feel uncomfortable or unsafe we should NOT help the poor, hungry or needy. In fact, the parable of the good Samaritan teaches quite the opposite. If you read the above passages in their entirety, you realize that they all speak to how much God loves us and how His love needs to affect how we treat others. God's love for us is passionate, purposeful, even reckless. If that's the case, should I really let my need for security and my earthly possessions stop me from helping someone else? Isaiah 58 even goes into what God will do for you IF you do these things—do you doubt God will provide for you if you give everything away?

I haven't done any of these things yet—but I plan to. And you can hold me to it.

In other news, I have been working for Jews for Jesus in San Francisco for three weeks. Time seems to have flown by—which is a blessing because I think if my days of data entry went any slower I might go crazy. The job really isn't that bad—it does have its moments of boredom but I suppose that can be expected.

We are once again in Castro Valley after a wonderful one-week stint in the city. Being back here means we both have over an hour long commute each way to work. This has been a little exhausting, and I can't really understand why people choose to live this way long-term. We would appreciate your prayers as we seriously look for housing in the city! We are hopeful the move could be soon!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Day . . .

I walked out the door and started my 8-block-trek up Dolores street. The sun is shining brightly and its only 8:30—definitely didn't need my sweater and jacket. I feel fresh, new, nervous and excited just like the first day of school—where you could imagine what it would be like but really had no clue what was in store. (I even bought a new pair of dress pants for the occasion!) The sites on the streets were new to me . . . the 'For Rent' signs caught my attention immediately, the unique looks of the edwardian-style apartment buildings, parents dropping off their youngsters for school or daycare, and the all-important pedestrian 'walk' lights. I tried to notice everything.

Yesterday was my first day of work! Yes—I got a job. Just a temporary position with a non-profit called "Jews for Jesus." I work 40 hours a week for 4-6 weeks. The job: data-entry operator. What is that? Well, when you give a donation to a non-profit you eventually receive a receipt—my job is to enter in your donation information so each receipt is customized with the name, address, and donation amount printed on it. Its not exactly the most exciting job in the world obviously—but it is interesting to me (granted, I've only been doing it for 2 days).

Why is it interesting? For the last two years, I have worked for a large non-profit bringing in millions of dollars. I designed their receipts, their monthly newsletters, and other information the ministry sent them . . . and now I see how they kept it all straight. I understand the effort it takes to customize all those donor letters, receipts, appeals etc. (Sorry to spoil it for those who thought some poor employee had to type each letter individually so it looked like it was personally addressed to you!)

Let me back up to the beginning of story—where I walked out the door and was suddenly in San Francisco. Chris and I know a young couple in our new small group who got married just a few weeks after we did and are just now able to go on their honeymoon. They asked us to stay in their apartment while they're gone for the week (for free)! So, Chris and I are getting to 'try-out' living in San Francisco this week. We LOVE it!! The apartment is right in the middle of "The Mission" district which is exactly where we'd like to live. (And it cuts out the hour-long commute and transportation costs we have while living in Castro Valley.)

We have been blessed this week for sure—Chris is still working at his part-time temp job, I have this new temp job, and we're actually staying in San Francisco! Last week was also really great as Chris's mom, Sheryl, and younger sister, Shannon came to visit! You'll have to check out photos at here on facebook —hiking the Elkhorn Slough and the Muir Woods and visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium were all fantastic. And getting to spend time with my new in-law family is always a pleasure!

Continue to pray we find full-time and long-term employment soon. Now that we've experienced life in the city, I'm not sure how much longer we can wait to move here!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Struggles in Servanthood

Even though our situation remains the same—we don't have full time employment, we don't have a home, we don't know what to do next—I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster. Usually, I know that we are where God has told us to be, I am at peace, and have hope that someday soon we'll have work. Then there are days like this past Sunday where I feel like I want to scream and shout and be angry at God. It took me a while to actually put into words the frustration I was experiencing—I wanted my own way. I wasn't getting what I asked for and I was throwing a temper tantrum just like a two-year-old. (I didn't actually start pounding the floor but I thought about it.)

Everyday I remember the passage that inspired me to start this blog . . . "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." Well, we've been praying and asking like crazy believing that our requests will be granted. And everyday—nothing. I've been asking so many questions lately but never hearing any answers. I want to know why we don't have jobs yet . . . when will we have them . . . what will we be doing . . . where will we be living . . . when will we find a home . . . how long will this family let us stay here . . . is this right? Basically my question is, "God, why don't you give me what I want—when I want it?"

As I was processing this emotional battle and trying to figure out why I felt the way I did on Sunday, Chris was talking to his parents. He told me that his dad had gone through something similar many years ago where his cry to the Lord was, "Lord, don't I have rights?" To this the Lord responded, "No, I bought those on Calvary."

When Chris retold the story I felt like I was slapped in the face—of course I don't have rights. I've heard that before (thank you Jake Peterson and Prism). I should know that. But knowing that and believing it are two different things. If my life was purchased by Christ's blood and I am asked to serve Him with all that I am and all I do—I don't have rights. I am a slave to Christ. Does a slave become angry with his master and start demanding his rights? Not according to the Word.

I know that God is not my fairy godmother here to make all my dreams come true and make my life easy. But that is honestly how I treat Him sometimes. I think God knew that I would feel this way . . . that many people would feel frustrated by the turns life takes. There are so many passages in scripture that confirm it! Life won't be easy, we will have struggles, and God has his own way of doing things.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

Thankfully, these verses calmed my anger and brought me peace once again. I can't imagine what it must be like for those that don't believe God has a plan—that He is with us. I might go through feelings of anger every now and then— or impatience, selfishness, pride, etc. But I can't live that way for long! The Spirit has a way of softening my heart giving me peace—and renewing my passion to be Christ's servant.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Living By Faith . . .

". . . is living on the edge of disaster while trusting God for a miracle."

That is what the pastor at church told us last Sunday. It was repeated again this week. "Living by faith is living on the edge of disaster while trusting God for a miracle." Well, we're there! We have been in the San Francisco Bay Area for three months and continue to wait for God's miracle. Let me reassure you that the disaster is more emotional and spiritual that physical!

This past week has not been without hope. On Friday, Chris went into the city for an interview! The job was a three week temporary part-time position as an office manager—mostly answering phones and filing—for an investment firm. He started today!

But as exciting as that is, we still wait. We long to be living in San Francisco—to be a light in darkness. We desire work that lines up with our film and advertising backgrounds. (I want to have my own place with my own things.) We wait in expectation, often feeling as though we are put on hold.

Remember I mentioned we'd be dog-sitting for another couple in February? Well that ended up not working out—they found someone else to watch their dogs. So, we continue to stay with the Cathey's. They have been so kind and generous to us—indeed we have been blessed by them. But at the same time we feel like we're about to overstay our welcome.

Psalm 77 was a great reminder for me yesterday (please read it slowly if you have the time!):

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.

I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.

You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;

I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:

"Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.

Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.

With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.

The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.

Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

God has been so faithful in the past, hasn't he?!? Yes, he has! Chris and I were reflecting on all the things God has done for us in our lives and how he provides at just the right time. We continue to trust in Him, for His timing, His provision, and His will. We continue to live by faith.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Praises, Provision & Professional Dog Sitting

"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be on my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt his name together."
Psalm 34:1-3

I usually come across psalms like the one above when I'm feeling especially selfish or needy. I'll be asking God for a list of really big things like a job, housing, friends, etc. and He reminds me of where my heart needs to be—praising my God. How often do I praise Him? Is His praise continually on my mouth? I continue to go back to Matthew 6 where Jesus says to "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added on to you." Most of the time my earthly needs beat out praising and seeking His Kingdom—but why? Why would I allow that to happen when He promises to provide all we need WHEN we seek His Kingdom first? This is where I've been placing my focus this month—in truly praising God and learning to love Him and his Word with my heart, soul, strength and mind.

Neither Chris nor I have been successful in finding work yet, but somehow God continues to provide for all of our essential needs. Over the Christmas season we were dog sitting for a couple (the Cathey's) just down the road from our original 'host family'. When the Cathey's got home we asked them if it was possible to stay with them longer. They got back to us a few days later and said their neighbors need a dog sitter during the first two weeks of February so we could stay with the them until February if we agreed to dog sit for their neighbors. We were very thankful for their unexpected generosity and a little surprised to see that in our pursuit for careers God has allowed dog sitting gigs to provide our housing.

This week we have an opportunity to attend a conference on building spiritual bridges in reaching out to Muslims. We are really excited to attend and look forward to how it will inspire our love of sharing the good news. It is interesting to notice that if we had work at this point, the four-day event would be out of the question.

This adventure has not been what we had expected at all—but we continue to cling to God's promises, be in awe of how He has provided, and thankful for the time we have to spend together and the people we've met along the way. We're praying for work (and looking at every opportunity) and seeking His will.

O, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt his name together!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Cultivating Faithfulness

"Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it."
Psalm 37:3-5

I read Psalm 37 a few weeks ago and have not been able to stop thinking about it. There is so much in that passage that speaks to me at this point in life. We keep asking ourselves—and the Lord—what to do next, where to look next for work, where to move, etc. But the answers never seem to come.

This passage is as close to an answer as we have found so far. What do we need to do right now? Trust in the Lord, delight in the Lord, and commit our way to Him. This passage also contains some wonderful promises—God will give us the desires of our hearts . . . and He will do it! So, even though the Word does not give us directions such as, "Apply Here" or "talk to this person" it does help to realign our thinking and to give us the proper perspective: the most important thing to us in our lives is our relationship with the Lord.

The phrase that quickly grabbed my attention during my first reading was, "Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." I felt like this command was exactly what Chris and I have been doing for the past two months. We are dwelling here in the Bay area, and we are cultivating our faithfulness to God and each other.

We went for a drive in San Francisco making a stop on Twin Peaks (the highest point in the city). The view of the city from that point was amazing. And I couldn't help ask, "Lord, is this our land? Is this going to be our home, our city?" Did I hear anything in response? No, but I felt at peace and full of hope (even a bit excited!).

The New Year is starting out differently than we imagined, but we continue to commit our ways to the Lord, continue to seek His direction and continue to apply, apply, apply. We know His ways are not our ways, so we wait on His timing and His provision.


• I have had one job interview and the follow up meeting is scheduled for next week. Please pray that if I take this job, it would be something I would enjoy. (At this point that aspect is uncertain.)

• Our dog-sitting gig is almost up and we continue to pray for affordable housing. Hopefully within the next week or so we will find what we need.

• Our first Christmas together was wonderful. We visited some of Chris's extended family in Frenso, CA.

• My sister, Molly, came for a visit after Christmas. It was so great to see her and be able to spend so much time her. (Not possible if I had a job!)