Two Questions

We get asked a few questions frequently.  Here are two with today’s version of responses:

How long are you staying in Cyprus?

We get asked that a lot. We tend to answer with contractual obligatory details. But, we typically leave this open ended. Not sure this satisfies the interrogator. It is peace….for us. Time and location are no longer within our desire to control, on good days. Certainly this produces some discomfort in missing family, friends and our home culture, in tandem with this is the miracle of certain peace.

A good third of our life (pending normal expectancies) has been spent procuring the place, position, domicile and monetary idols, which our world deems as normal. Get a bit more, stay a little longer, and make it softer and bigger. Yep, we were the picture of the American dream. Peace it wasn’t. And, the moments when we drift back towards this elicits a bit of chaos within our family.

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Youngest Refugee on the Block

It’s been a strange week or so, which had all of the following:

  • Becoming a Refugee
  • Cardiac Care Unit
  • a phrase full of truth
  • and coming home.
**not necessarily in that order.
For the past few months, I’ve been bustin’ it pretty hard on all fronts.  Yet, like a treadmill runner, putting on the miles but getting no closer to accomplishing much visible progress. Well, maybe that’s true.  It certainly is a perception.
Feeling the pressure to be minimally productive at home, in relationships, at the office and in local ministry I was driving to work last week thinking, “not sure today is possible.”  Then, without asking for it, the Lord instills this nugget in my life, “my blessings are more than enough for you.” That doesn’t happen too often, unfortunately.  And, if this had come from any Christian friend, I would have felt like opening up a can of righteous indignation on their Christian-easy input.  But, coming from the only one who actually can make that true, it was life sustaining, substantive, “take-another-step-enabling” nourishment.  Cool, right?
Then on Sunday, it was my turn to preach.  Um, first, um real sermon without any other motive but to teach the Word.  The passage, Psalm 31.  I preached on how we must live out the fact that Christ is our only source of refuge.  And, how we should lay aside our worldly status and our ability to produce security and comfort and instead take on whatever He would give us – for His glory and our Kingdom inheritance.  I really enjoyed preaching and hope it was relevant and true.  You can listen here, feedback is welcome.
Little did I know, I would have the chance to put these words into actions.  Around 3pm on Sunday, I started to experience discomfort in my chest – a strange tightness.  I went to bed and woke up with the same sensation and a feeling like my heart was racing, fluttering, um, doing the Ickey Shuffle. Cute, but not entirely helpful.  I went to the office and lasted till afternoon before I was too distracted to work.  I was thinking, this most likely is a bit of anxiety or heart palpitation that just requires a short nap.  I’m not a doctor, but that seems logical, right?  By evening, around 30 hours of feeling like a rock tumbler, I decided (with much prompting) to go the ER.
Within, oh, 30 seconds, they start moving with purpose, getting on the horn and prepping me for the ride upstair to the Cardiac Care Unit. I sort of figured they would only look at me and send me home.  Not so much.  I spent the night, the youngest kid on the cardiac care block.  After a lot of tests, all known causes for atrial fibrillation were determined not to exist.  But, the AF persisted all night but subsided with medication meant to slow my heart rate from 140bpm to around 100bpm by 6am.  Not much sleep, but my chest cavity was finally able to rest.  Hopefully this was a one-off 40 hour carnival ride.  With no known cause it seems to be a fluke, most likely made possible by the afore mentioned stress load.
So, after a sweet homecoming, hugs and snuggles for all, Sarah and I talked and now see the writing on the wall.  We’ve known for a awhile that I need to find daily moments of peace and a few substantive days of retreat.  It’s not really too optional.  How, when and what that looks like remains to be seen.  If His blessings are more than enough for me, then perhaps spending some extra time in His presence is a smart approach.  So, pray that making this a priority becomes our reality.  

If He is our Refuge, then it’s time to be a Refugee!

The Most . . .

This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to share.  The grief our friends are going through is the most unimaginable. The grief we feel for our dear friends is deep.  Yet, somehow, through God’s amazing providence, it is the greatest and most humbling honor to be able to share with you a story of faith and redemption in the very face of death.  Our friends are grieving to be sure.  But, their great faith bears witness to the great faithfulness of the Lord Jesus to be there in the dark times, to be there in their ongoing lives and hopefully revealed in the hearts of everyone who hears this story.

Below is the email that we received last week.  May this illustration of faith move any pebble, stone or mountain that exists in our hearts that separates us from the great Redeemer, Savior and death Conqueror.

Hi Dan & Sarah,

I’m so sorry we haven’t had a chance to email you lately, so many things have happened in the last few days.  Some very big, and painful things have happened.

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Pressing On

Thank you, friends, for praying and encouraging us so greatly.  So many of you have let us know that you care and are committing to prayer for our family.   For sure the last few weeks have been trying.  But, He who is in us is greater than He who is in the world.  Intimidated? Yes.  Pressing on?  Without a doubt.

A quick update on the kids: Elisa is doing well.  We took her to her pediatrician who gave her a thorough exam and determined that she is healthy.  She hasn’t had any further dizziness or fainting.  Calvin has been resting peacefully for the most part.  We have been very diligent about praying and reading from the Word before bed.  This seems to help.  Last night (Sunday) he had a brief time of fear.  We were able to comfort him, pray and put him back to bed.  While it seems to be going somewhat better, we still have some concern about this.  Each time he has experienced these things, Sarah and I have been aware of an uneasiness in the room.  Last night, it was especially tangible.  I felt the need to spend time praying over Calvin long after he was asleep.  Please keep praying for Calvin.

A Note from Sarah

For the past couple of weeks, I have wanted to update our blog to give our readers an update from my point-of-view.  I would first like to thank everyone who has prayed for my grandfather.  Praise God!  He is doing a little better.  I am so thankful for technology–we have seen and talked to him twice on Skype.  What a blessing it has been to see both my grandparents and for them to see our family, including the new baby.  We named Joyanna after my grandma (her name is Anna)!

Dan and I are so glad to be serving here in Cyprus.  We have made a lot of sacrifices, but now that we are here, it has definitely been worth it.  Dan is enjoying his work at SAT-7 and I am enjoying raising our children in a different culture.  My days are very busy with homeschooling Calvin (2nd grade) and Elisa (Kindergarten), and of course, taking care of our new little one.  Joyanna’s schedule seems to change every couple of weeks, so she keeps me on my toes.  I am struggling keeping up with our household chores and ministry administration stuff (keeping track of our ministry expenses, writing thank you notes to donors, etc.).  I am trying to relax about not being able to “do it all”.  Babies stay babies for such a short time, so I am trying to savor the moments of smiles and laughs with Joyanna.

Both Calvin and Elisa are doing really well this year in school.  Calvin has become our math wiz and our Google Earth expert.  I am really pleased with how quickly Elisa is picking up on reading.  There are definite struggles with homeschooling (sometimes attitudes can flare up), but overall I am thankful to have this precious time with the children.

We live in a mostly Cypriot neighborhood, so we hear a lot of Greek when we go to the local park.  The kids have interacted pretty well with other Cypriot children.  I was really proud of Calvin one day at Burger King (yes, they have Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and a few other “American” restaurants here–the menus are different than they are in the States).  Cypriots lives revolve around their children, so almost all restaurants have HUGE playcenters.  Burger King’s playcenter is a smaller version of Escapades in Muncie.  A lot of children were playing in the ball pit and Calvin began to feel overwhelmed with all the balls thrown at him.  He said “ohxi” and the children stopped throwing balls.  “Ohxi” means “no”.  Then, when he wanted the balls thrown at him he said “nay”, which means “yes”.  I was proud of him to use Greek to communicate to the other children.  Elisa has also used some Greek with other girls.  She has told them she is “penday” years old (5).  As part of our homeschool curriculum, we are studying Rosetta Stone Greek.  I don’t think it will get us fluent in Greek, but it has been helpful.  Most Cypriots understand some English and many foreigners don’t bother learning Greek.  It has been fun to learn a little Greek with the kids.

I am finally somewhat comfortable driving here.  I struggled staying in the middle of the lane at first, since the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car and one’s perspective totally changes when you drive on the left-hand side of the road.  I got a crash course on driving, though, one evening when I got lost for over two hours.  Nicosia is the largest city I’ve ever lived in, so that also added to my feeling overwhelmed.  I can get around to the places I need to go each week fine now.  Each week the kids have a few outside activities.  Calvin is in a Boy Scout troop at the American International School.  He is really enjoying it!  He also plays soccer every Saturday at the UN Headquarters.  Elisa is in a ballet class that meets once a week for 45 minutes.  The teacher commented to me that Elisa is talented.  Hmmm….it will be interesting to see if Elisa has a future in singing and dancing!

I’ve been very pleased with both children’s growth in the their love for the Lord.  Calvin is now reading an adult Bible and he reads out of it every day without being told.  Elisa is enjoying the devotions we do and the stories I read about Christian missionaries.

Calvin had some strange ticks (jerky involuntary movements) this past summer, but they seem to be gone now.  Both kids talk about missing their previous homes in the States and our dog, Zeus, but they have been bringing this up less and less.  They love to receive emails and letters from their friends and Skype calls have been fun a few times too.

I am doing better now, after a very long and hot summer.  It took me awhile to get used to the heat while being pregnant.  I also had to get used to the hard floors in the homes here.  Now that I am finally healed after my c-section and the temperatures are cooler, I am enjoying the sunny skies and stroller rides around the neighborhood.  I don’t know if I will ever get over the uncomfortable feeling I get when there are communication issues with other people.  It is challenging to have a baby here and to not feel completely understood when I take her to a clinic to get immunizations.  Different medicines, different immunization schedules, different formulas with all the labels in Greek (I nurse mostly, but also bottle-feed some), all add some stress into life.

Overall, we are doing well and adjusting to life here in Cyprus.  Your prayers mean so much to us!

Cozy Discomfort

jonah_undertreeI love to be comfortable.  One of my favorite activities is to take a nap on our ultra-squishy, overstuffed couch.  It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when it does it is true bliss.  I don’t like to sweat (moving to Cyprus not a good idea), stand for too long, wait for anything (moving to Cyprus not a good idea) or virtually anything else that causes the least bit of discomfort.  Being raised in the U.S., comfort has been pretty easy to come by.  Isn’t that what the American dream is all about? Build up a life that is predictable and avoids discomfort?  I have spent much energy on this dream.

The problem with this is that my desire for comfort could and probably has hampered my ability to follow God.  I have yet to read anywhere in the Bible that we are to seek comfort with all our ability.  Nor does it say, that the reward in heaven is great for those with the softest couch.  The message by John Piper in my last post has been challenging me.  But, even before listening to this, I believe that God has been pruning away my selfish desire for comfort.  He has been replacing this with a desire for Him.  For this I am grateful.

There are a couple of examples of in the Bible of people choosing comfort over obedience.  Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus three times was rooted in the desire not to be in jail or persecuted.  Jonah’s free-loading in the whale’s  gut was also an avoidance of doing the uncomfortable.  I believe even the Pharisee’s denial and killing of Jesus was based on a “don’t rock my boat” mentality. Continue reading