This post may get long, and it may seem very…I am not actually sure what the right word is to put there. We’ll see where we get by the end of it.
2018 has been hard.
There. I said it. It’s so easy to paint a perfect, pretty picture on social media, but you know what, I LOVE honesty and transparency from others and find strength from it so it’s high time I join the club. I’ve also been so terrified of admitting this at the risk of others thinking we made a bad decision, which I absolutely do not think. But you know what? I am doing it.
Transition is hard. It’s confusing. It’s unsettling. It’s this great in-between, and quite frankly, I am NOT a fan. The human, immature part of me wants to lay on the floor and kick and scream and cry until someone gets me out of it – get me out of this transition and to the good stuff. (If only!) I think I have changed my mind about what I am doing (what I should be doing, what I want to be doing, or any other version of that) about one hundred times, and now I am so scared of my own lack of clarity and indecisiveness to actually make a decision. I usually make decisions quickly, too, so that is not helpful in this scenario.
One thing to be super clear on before I go much further – in the moments I feel confused, challenged, frustrated, even losing a little hope, I have gone back to the 10 months Robbie and I spent praying, seeking counsel and discussing this huge transition, and my heart settles. My heart settles into the fact that we did that process really well. We committed to doing it well in the beginning, and we stuck with it. We took our time. We prayed. We invited others in, and each person that sat, listened, prayed and advised us through that process had a helpful piece to our puzzle at just the right time. It’s actually sort of crazy how that all happened when I reflect back, but I absolutely know God was with us and for us and he still is!
This year has been hard, though, for a number of reasons. I have been challenged and grateful all at the same time by my husband who has been incredibly strong and unwavering. He strengthens our family so much! He’s also been incredibly patient with me when I have been confused or frustrated or sad. He sees things simply, and he’s always optimistic and hopeful for our future. I am so grateful for this!
Part of the challenge has been the lack of settledness I have felt. We went from living in our own place for 6 years to being “in-between” places and unable to settle fully. We are still in-between. We went from a church we were a part of for years and years, with relationships that were so beautiful and special and supportive, to searching for a church again. We went from friends who walked with us as singles, married and having kids to wondering who those new people may be here, unclear how long it could take to find and develop some of those friendships. We went from a culture and nation that we loved and had adopted as our own to returning to a familiar/unfamiliar nation we grew up in. We went to Australia out of college, ready to see the world, and we left Australia more aware of ourselves, of God and our relationship with him, with a spouse and children. We left dual-citizens. We went from knowing our role and our mission to having a broad vision with the specifics yet to be determined.
I say all of that, but many of those things have actually happened. We’ve been attending a church, we have made new friends, Robbie got an amazing job. Those are not things that I am taking lightly or forgetting. I am so grateful for those breakthroughs! I still recognise that uprooting your entire life and planting it somewhere else does require some challenges, though. I don’t know who I am in this context yet. I don’t know who I am without the vocational “missionary” hat yet. I know the core of who I am, of course, but the mom in Indianapolis is different than the mom in Australia with new rhythms, friendships, preferences and more. When you build a life somewhere, it’s a grieving process to leave it, no matter how certain you are of your decision and the path forward.
I am slowly reading a book on transition, and right away, there were a few parts that really helped me recognise what I was feeling.
“Those who have chosen to make changes that had put them into transition tended to minimise the importance of endings; it was almost as if the act of acknowledging an ending as painful was an admission that the change triggering the transition had been a mistake.”
Wow. Thats so good, and that’s why this post is only now being written. Fear. Leaving Australia – my home for 8+ years, my friends, my church, my country – that was painful, and it still is. AND THAT’S OK! It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Another quote:
“Rule number two: every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one – not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are.”
That time, that season is over. I know that. There are still many parts of me that are defined by that place though, by those people, and I think it’s a process to let go of that. It’s a faith step to let go, not knowing where you will land.
I never thought this would be easy. Our first week or two home were so hard, particularly for Eleanor, and that made me incredibly emotional. However, things shifted and seemed relatively easy that first month or so. Maybe it was the novelty of the new season or place. I’m not sure. The dust settled, though, and we are here. There’s a lot to still figure out.
The biggest area for me is what I am doing. It’s so different outside of what I am used to. I am used to YWAM, where no matter how much or how little I worked, I was still a missionary. My role looked different over the years, but the context never changed. Now, I am in a new context, and I am not sure what my role is. I am certain I am with my kids of course, but to what extent? Do I work some? Do I work a lot? Even more, do I need to work? Outside of a faith-based financial situation there are different pressures and realities that we weren’t used to. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, though. I don’t want to forget the big vision. The vision that gave us confidence to take that next step. I remind myself of it often.
So what are the specifics for me? I had this epiphany last night when I was chatting with a friend on Facebook. I am an “all or nothing” type personality. I am Type A through and through, and I prefer to have all my ducks in a row. I’ve always fought for clarity, a strength and a weakness at times. If I could know what I would be doing in 10 years, well of course I would start doing it today. That’s not reality, though. What’s right in front of me? My epiphany was that I don’t have to decide what I will be doing for the next 5 or 10 or 15 years today. So simple. Sometimes what I need to or should be doing today is only for a month or a year, and then we move on. It’s to serve the here and now, which will ultimately serve the long-term. It was this beautiful and freeing thing, and it helped me to ask different questions.
I remember one time picking up a speaker in YWAM from the airport. He asked me what I was up to these days, and at the time, I was in between roles. I said, “I’m not really sure yet. I have a few options in front of me, but I don’t feel like God has given me a clear answer yet.” His response was so beautifully frustrating – “Maybe you’re asking the wrong question…”
Maybe you’re asking the wrong question.
I think I have been asking the wrong question. I am hopeful that by asking some of these new questions, I will have more clarity or at least the next step forward. During our process and into this year, there has been a verse in the Bible that has continually come up.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105
If you think about that picture, I see a tiny little lantern-type lamp. Something you hold in your hand. The light that shines from it is bright enough to see your feet and maybe a step or two in front of you, but it certainly cannot light up the entire path. Sometimes we have to be ok with just that next step or two without having the whole path figured out, trusting that each step will be important and necessary to the whole.
The other challenge with my search and desire for specifics and clarity is that I want to do it all. I don’t want to say “no” to anything that’s in front of me, but I am realising that one, sometimes “no” means “no for now”, and two, my “no” to one thing gives greater room for my “yes” in another. Equally, my “yes” to something often means “no” to something else.
That’s where my head has been. I have literally gone back and forth so much about so many things, and that frustrates me to no end. I worry that people will be confused or worried about me, but at the end of the day, that’s not what should be at the core of my heart and mind. And, the reality is that most people that I am surrounded by are infinitely supportive and encouraging. I am so grateful for the people God has put in my life over the years.
So here concludes my first true “Transition Talk”. A few nights before we left Australia, we were sitting on the floor of our empty living room chatting with our base director. Two things stood out during that time. One was a specific word he felt for Robbie’s job, which has absolutely been evident in the job he has started. It’s so amazing to see that after reflecting back on that conversation! The second is that I chatted about this exact thing – this call I felt to write vulnerably about transition. This desire to talk about this when it seemed not many had. That was 5.5 months ago, and I am really just now starting. I am hoping to write more though, and I am hoping that these posts are encouraging to whoever reads them even if they don’t hold all the answers. My heart is to create a “me too” voice in my writing, for others to feel they have someone that can relate to them and their situation.
Be on the lookout for future “Transition Talk” posts!! Thank you guys for all your support and for staying up-to-date with me!
I realised as I was planning my next several posts that I actually missed a lot in December. So I thought I’d catch up with a little photo post with some fun things that happened throughout the busy, exciting month of December. Enjoy!
^The beautiful Sarah teaching Eleanor how to be a cool, skater girl! Eleanor really loves visiting Sarah at the warehouse, even when she breaks her lawn gnomes. (sorry Sez!)
^The aftermath of a grape popsicle at the pool. We loved going to Lambton Pool with the Beck family and cannot wait to go back again this summer!
^Eleanor’s climbing skills have seriously improved in the past month. She’s become quite the little monkey actually, and she scaled this ladder with no problem.
^A few weeks into December, we decided to do a cookie decorating day at Mums Morning Tea. For Ollie and Eleanor, it was mostly a “cookie eating” day, but Essie really got into decorating. She’s quite the little artist. There were icing and sparkles and beads everywhere, but it was all worth it in the end. Such fun seeing these little friends play together and enjoy a number of activities.
^Eleanor’s cookie at the beginning. 30 minutes later, it looked like a sugar cookie that was dyed purple with no sign of actual icing anymore. She scraped every little bit off.
^Playing around with my camera one night. I love blurry light photos, and Christmas is a favourite as well. So this picture just had to be thrown in the mix.
^Grammy sent Eleanor Olaf and Elsa Christmas ornaments, and she was always so excited to show people. She did fairly well with leaving ornaments on the tree. Mostly, she just pulled the bulbs off, would throw it and say “ball”. Right idea, kid. Right idea.
^Robbie has given Eleanor her love of bugs, and I am going to let them have fun with that while I steer clear. He put a “Christmas Bug” on her little stick, and she was pretty amused until it peed on her. Then she wasn’t such a fan. These bugs are so interesting. They’re only ever around for this short period of time each year, and they’re brightly coloured green and red, hence the name!
^Eleanor holding Daddy’s jalapeño loot. Don’t worry, she didn’t eat them or get any in her eyes.
^We went in town to the beach the day before Christmas Eve with the rest of the base for a BBQ. It was such a nice night, and Eleanor enjoyed showing off her sunnies.
^Eleanor got given this little picnic table from some friends, and for her, it’s more of a ladder, at least initially. I set up a little tea party with her new set from some other friends, and she promptly threw it all on the ground and climbed to the top. What did I tell you? Monkey! This table is now outside with her water table!
^My two favourites on Christmas morning, chowing down on some cinnamon rolls and coffee. It was a nice, slow start to the morning at home, and I loved every minute of it.
^This is Lucy, Eleanor’s new baby doll. We’ve tried a few names for her, but none seem to stick. She’s trying to say Lucy now, though, so that’s a start. Lucy goes most places with us, and Eleanor now sleeps with her every night. It’s pretty cute.
^Far out, I love these two so much. I am so grateful for them, and I loved this holiday season with them. I am so excited for a million more to come!
^And finally, this is Eleanor’s new water table from Aunty Deb and Uncle Givenski. She loves this thing so much, and I am glad she has a fun activity to do in our backyard now, even if she does get soaking wet every time she’s out there.
This was my first year hosting Thanksgiving, and I really enjoyed it. It was thoroughly exhausting but worth every bit of time and effort. It was actually a team effort with different ones bringing different items, and the collaborative effort of friends produced an amazing Thanksgiving meal. My friend Emily took on the turkey, and I was so grateful. I’m not sure if I was ready to host and do my first turkey all in one year. She did a great job with the turkey and also chicken. We had a feast of sides – green been casserole, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, salad, and rolls. There were probably a few other things I am forgetting, but my plate was full. It was all so delicious.
We set things up outside on our new farm table that our friends Fred and Jules so kindly gifted to us, and the weather was perfect. I was so grateful for the weather because it had been really hot earlier in the week. We filled our plates and got to eat. My friend sent this meme earlier that day, and it was almost true for Eleanor. She did eat ham, though, and she gave the mashed potatoes a try. Kids don’t know what they’re missing!
After many rounds of the main meal, we dug into allllll the pies. My friend Jess started serving them up, and when everyone was wanting a small sliver of each, she began calling it a “triple decker.” I’m pretty sure most people got a triple decker – pumpkin, cherry and pecan pies. So yum!
We all cleaned up, and the three girls took a bath together. It was so cute and energetic. Eleanor was very tired at that point, and after about 10 minutes of group bath time, she gave me a look of “please take me to bed!”
We finished with some chats and relaxing in our living room while the final two energetic girls (I’m looking at you Lil and Essie) wore themselves out. I am so thankful for all my friends here in Australia who can celebrate together a holiday that many of us are so familiar with. Out of the 11 adults, 8 are from the US, and it was so fun seeing each person’s own recipes and traditions brought together at one table. It makes it just a little easier being halfway around the world from all our own families.
I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving as well!
Yesterday I led worship for the first time in about 8 months! I hadn’t even officially said I was available to be on the roster yet, but I was just filling in. I knew there was a need, and I felt a prompting to at least pray about doing it. When I prayed, I felt strongly that it was right. Totally didn’t make sense to me. I have barely sang in that time. I am out of practice. I don’t know what songs are “in” right now. It just seemed overwhelming, yet I knew it was right and I had a peace. I felt like God was relaxed – just do the songs that draw me closer to Him and that will be what’s best for everyone.
All of that to say, I did the song “Fall Afresh”. This song is exactly where I am at…exactly what I need…exactly my prayer right now. I just rewrote it this morning in my journal, and I feel like I want to sit and have coffee with the person that wrote it. I want to ask them what their season was and how did the song come about.
Here are the lyrics. Maybe it will be encouraging for you today? (Video at the end)
Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as You did at first
Spirit of the Living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow
Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength
Spirit Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
This past week, Robbie, Eleanor and I had the privilege of traveling up north to Townsville for an international YWAM gathering called YWAM Together. As far as I know, there haven’t been too many gatherings of this magnitude worldwide, so it felt particularly special to be a part of it.
I wasn’t planning to go originally. I have known about the event since earlier in the year, and when I saw the timing, it didn’t seem possible that I could go with a 2-month old. However, when it came down to it, we just prayed and asked God whether Eleanor and I should go with Robbie. As we prayed, we felt it was good for us to go as a family.
Preparing to travel for a week with a newborn is definitely a new experience. Fortunately we had taken a couple steps to helping that – one night in Sydney, then 4 nights in Sydney and now 7 nights in Townsville. I am glad we did those other trips first. We had the flying component to this trip, however, and I was admittedly nervous about it. Eleanor did wonderfully, though. It helps that she sleeps very well when being held and that’s what we had to do on the flight.
We got to Townsville on Sunday afternoon with 41 other YWAMers (read: 41 other YWAMers from our flight alone!). We got settled into our accommodation, which was near The Strand (the beach area of Townsville). The accommodation worked well for us – a little studio apartment with a kitchenette and bathroom. The only challenge was being a 25 minute walk from the conference. However, I decided it was my introduction back into exercise post-baby! We were walking 1.7km (just over a mile) each way, so 3.4km per day! That doesn’t count all the other walking we did!!!
The conference began Monday night. I was glad we got there on Sunday and we were able to settle in before going straight into it. All the night sessions were celebrations. We celebrated different cultures, what God was doing globally, Loren Cunningham for his 80th birthday (and the biggest birthday cake I’ve ever seen!), Papua New Guinea’s 40th year of independence and so much more. The night sessions were so full of life and exciting.
Then Tuesday morning, we began with the morning sessions, hearing from different ones in the mission. We started with worship, though, and that was really cool to worship with 1300 other YWAMers. I thought they did a particularly great job of choosing a wide range of songs to appeal to everyone. The afternoons were full of different expos and seminars. Robbie taught a couple and attended a whole lot more.
For me, being at a conference with a baby was a different experience. I was very much thinking in terms of her schedule – when did I need to feed her next, was she too hot, where’s a spot out of the way, etc. By the end of the week, I had found a great spot in my friends’ Anna and Kelly’s office where I could still hear what was happening but be a little separated to feed Eleanor. Because of that schedule, I feel there were a lot of sessions I missed out on or only got to hear bits and pieces of.
The week was so worth it, though. Going into it, I was really feeling the need for a fresh injection of vision as a missionary. I have found that the past couple months, while great, haven’t felt too “missions” minded in the way I am used to. I know that’s so normal because it shouldn’t feel the same – I am a mum in missions now. Things are different. I really felt I was to connect with some different mums while I was at the conference, and I was so glad I did. I pursued a few different ones, and I just asked them about their experience being in missions as a new mum. I learned so much from all those conversations, and I left with this sense of excitement for what is to come.
One point that stood out to me from one of those conversations was to remember that Robbie and I aren’t missionaries who happen to have a daughter, but rather, we are a family in missions! That’s one of YWAM’s foundational values, and I loved hearing that.
Overall, as tired as I felt coming home from such a big week of travel and all the walking and meeting new people, I feel so grateful to have gone and to have been a part of it. I am SO excited for the future as a mum in missions!!!
Here’s some photos from the past week…
Loren Cunningham (YWAM Founder) wanted everyone to commit to ending Bible Poverty for his 80th Birthday. In a nutshell, Bible Poverty is when someone doesn’t have the chance to have a Bible in their own language. There are teams working hard to change this – to make it available for the all and the every!
One of the “professional” photos (aka not an iPhone photo! haha) taken by the staff at YWAM Townsville of little Miss Eleanor sleeping away. I promise she doesn’t always sleep haha! #toomanyphotosofeleanorsleeping
I’ve been wanting to write this post for this past month now – to reflect on the journey of getting Permanent Residency. It’s a bit of a longer post for me, but I hope it’s encouraging with whatever season you’re in. If you’re a missionary and waiting for a visa or for anything really, be encouraged! :)
Robbie and I got married in 2012, and towards the end of that year, we had to apply for our first visa together. His visa was expiring, and although mine wasn’t, we decided to get onto the same visa with me as a dependent. We filled out all the paperwork, got the appropriate things notarised, sent of for police checks, etc., and we got the visa granted about a month later.
When we applied for that visa, though, we knew that the next visa was the big one – Permanent Residency. At that point, we’d had two of our long-term staff successfully receive their PR visa, so we weren’t too worried. However, Julianne recommended that we go ahead and start that process when we still have 10-12 months left on the Religious Workers visa, as a buffer.
2013 rolled around and about halfway through the year, we started thinking and planning a bit for how we were going to raise nearly $7000 for the visa and when we would put in the application. October came, and that left us with one year on our current visa. In November, we held a PR Fundraiser at our church, and we were so encouraged by the response from our local church and all our friends. We received over half of what we needed for the visa from that night alone.
In December, we began putting together the paperwork. Two others were applying around the same time as us, only their current visas were expiring, so they had to put in both parts. We put them all in, and we waited.
The other two (a single girl and a family of 6) heard back after about 2-3 months, so we were anticipating the same for us.
June rolled around, and it had been 6 months. Another staff had applied and gotten an answer all in that time, and we still hadn’t heard anything. According to the immigration website, they try to finish these visas in 6 months. Obviously they cannot guarantee that, but that is their “standard”. It had been 6 months, and we hadn’t heard anything.
So we started calling and waiting on hold for an hour at times to talk to someone. By the time we hit August, we were really confused. Throughout those 8 months, we had seen more finances come in for the visa, and although there were bigger issues nationally with this visa, we were still hopeful. The single girl had gotten hers granted back in March, even though there had been a couple denials as well. For some reason, it never crossed my mind to wonder if ours would get denied. I had never had a visa denied before, and in fact, I’d always had incredible favour with them. My first religious workers visa got granted in a week!
Julianne finally got through to someone in late August, but again, there was poor communication, no follow through, and still no answers. Every time she would talk to someone, we would get everyone to pray. We sent out communication to all our friends and family and told them to keep praying that hopefully we’d have an answer in the coming weeks. Still nothing.
Then one Monday Julianne was away and told us we could check her email to see if anything had arrived. That previous Friday, we’d had another communication come through indicating that we’d have an answer soon, and we had everyone praying. I logged into her email, and I saw the email. Well I saw the email and a split second later recognised in the subject line the word “refusal“.
We had an answer.
I didn’t cry or feel very emotional. I think I really felt nothing – more just acknowledged that hey, this is a set back and now we have less than a month to do this part over again on top of the more expensive second part. It was a very busy season with the Ship Tour happening, and I was thankful for the grace of God over me in that time. It was good to at least have an answer, even if it was the wrong one.
Robbie and I prayed after we got that email, and we didn’t get a sense of panic or fear or worry from God. We felt God lead us to the verse in Joshua 1:9, and we wrote it on a board in our house. This was what we were to believe. This is how we were to posture ourselves.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
We continued the journey, now 9 months into the applying stage but many more months into the whole “season”, and we reapplied for the first part and applied for the second part. Submitting both parts is very expensive and far more implicational.
We prayed and pressed submit.
I was hopeful for a quicker answer this time, but again, there was really no telling. Their standard was still 6 months, which wasn’t until the following April. So we continued to wait.
During those months of waiting, another of our staff who had previously been denied on the first part and resubmitted just as we had done, got her first part approved. It was so wonderfully encouraging. Then a couple months later, she got the whole thing. This increased our excitement and anticipation. This was such good news.
March came, and we got our first communication back. They were asking for more information, but what they were asking wasn’t crazy…it just needed a little work. We were encouraged and set about to answer their questions. We got people praying again. We had 28 days to submit everything.
After preparing everything with the Immigration Lawyer, we submitted our answers. We utilised all the time we had to make sure we were doing it right. Before submitting it, we all prayed and made sure it was the right answers – that what we were submitting was the best thing we could submit.
We submitted it, and we waited again.
In the meantime, we had to get a special temporary visa to travel to Robbie’s sister’s wedding. This would allow us to leave and return to the country while another visa was processing. I did that the Friday prior to the trip, but they never actually processed it.
The following Monday, Julianne called Robbie, and as they were talking, we all realised that we had been granted the first part of the visa.
Robbie was still on the phone, and for the first time throughout this entire season, my emotions overwhelmed me. I don’t think prior to that I was ever suppressing my emotions, but I feel God was really protecting me. Every time throughout the journey that I would even start to think “what if”, God would so quickly stop me and remind me of His promises. So although I am generally an emotional person, God really protected my heart.
This “approval”, as the visa said, it overwhelmed me, and I think it surprised me as well, which only added to that emotional moment. I found myself not just crying but borderline weeping. The first part – the part we had previously been refused and was generally harder to obtain – was done. It was approved.
After Robbie got off the phone, we prayed and thanked God and hugged. It was such a surreal moment.
A few hours later, we received the phone call from Jules that we had received it all. We were Permanent Residents. I did a little scream, and we all celebrated. We called friends, and we posted the picture below. It was incredible and wonderful and even though with the first call we had only received the first part, my emotions were much different with the second call. I was just ecstatic and ready to celebrate.
We travelled to the wedding that week, and for the first time we got to mark the different section of the paper for customs. Robbie was telling everyone – the ticket agent, the customs person, etc. It was so exciting, and yet it still felt so surreal.
Once we were back, our “official” Medicare cards came in the mail rather than our interim ones. We wrote out “Thank You” cards – the ones we said in the beginning we would write once we got it, thinking it would only be 6 months tops. We planned a party to celebrate with everyone, and we had that in our backyard.
It was so exciting, and yet it felt so surreal and weird to not have this “please pray for our PR visa” bag that we’d been carrying for over 16 months!
It’s a very strange feeling when the waiting is over. It’s strange when something you have been praying, hoping and believing for for so long is done. It’s all good. We don’t have to leave – ever.
When I think back to some of the other times I’ve waited for something, I see that it was always worth the wait. Each season was very different, and I was often praying or believing for something very different. The outcome, though, is worth waiting for because you learn so much in those seasons.
It’s similar to what I talked about in my Beautiful Process series, but this is a little more outside of our control. Often we want things so instantly, particularly in this microwave/digital generation. We don’t want to wait. The waiting is worth it, though. The journey is worth going through.
If someone asked me a couple years ago if I wanted to get my visa in 6 months, I think of course I would have said a resounding YES! However, looking back and observing the journey, I am thankful that our story wasn’t so cut and dry. It had challenge, and it took time. It is still so surreal, though, to know that I don’t ever have to apply for a visa in Australia again. It’s surreal to know that my baby will be a citizen in just a couple months. It’s surreal to know that Robbie and I could become citizens in a year or so.
So surreal but so wonderful! I am thankful :)