In the past year, I’ve gotten to know missionaries whose lives are inspiring and encouraging. They’re going to places in China, Kuwait, Australia, Greece, and France. Some are like us, waiting to go because of global restrictions on travel. Yet their call, and the faith that undergirds it, is greater. When we committed to move to Paris, serve churches there, and ultimately plant a new church, we knew challenges would come. Since returning from a road trip this past August, we’ve faced new adversities.
First, we had a car accident. After driving our Honda Pilot for years, and recently cross-country, Linda and two of our children were in a car wreck in Mississippi. They are well, but they were fortunate. The vehicle was totaled. Linda suffered a concussion and sprained wrist. It was inches away from being much, much worse. Yet God provides protection and provision. Vehicles have been offered, even gifted to us. We are humbled and thankful.
Second, I had a health scare. After several tests, we discovered it was not serious, but at the time, we weren’t sure how significant it was in the middle of a pandemic. We so often take our health for granted, until we don’t have it. I know I am not the only one who sees 2020 as a teaching moment, not only to value our own health, but more intentionally consider the physical well-being of others.
Third, we had to wrestle with the right time to sell our home of 15 years. If you’ve sold a house, you know there is much to do in getting it ready, showing it, fixing what needs to be fixed, and negotiating a fair price. Add to this our need for stability for our children, we’re weighing the right time to sell. We’ve had interest, even an offer, and a home inspection over this time. All this has forced us to daily consider what’s best for our family while still in the United States.
Fourth, we are homeschooling 3 rambunctious boys, to economize while living on full missionary support and to be flexible to leave at any time. Homeschooling has changed our entire family’s definition of teamwork.
Fifth, some people have been skeptical or negative about our move to Paris due to the COVID-19.
Sixth, and most importantly, global restrictions on travel means we have to wait. Simply put, we aren’t able to procure visas as France (and all EU countries) aren’t processing new applications for Americans. Travel is restricted for all U.S. tourists. One can only go, at the moment, if they already have a visa (student, residence, or work) or are married to an EU citizen. We don’t know when restrictions will be lifted, yet they could change sooner – or later. So we wait.
All of these things could add up to negative feelings of fear. None of us knew what 2020 would bring, even as we formulated best laid plans. It has brought adversity for countless families, churches, pastors, physicians, communities, and the entire world.
In all challenges, I try to ask: What is God doing? What is God teaching me? Since I know God is at work in all my life challenges, they become opportunities to grow in areas where I need it most. For me, I know God is peeling back layers of attachment and idolatry I have had to things here in Mississippi and in the United States. Such layers are basing my significance and self worth on position or reputation.
One can easily be attached to a beloved car, a house, a school, or a community. These can be very good things, yet they are not ultimate things. I can clearly see how these good things have become my idols (things I can worship and that my identity depends on) when they are stripped away. Thus, while not yet in Paris, and in this strange, in-between, uncomfortable gap, God is teaching me in my fears that He is all I need.
Too often, fear drives me. Fear is pushing harder than our bodies can handle or trying to control everything. Fear is worrying about losing something dear, not having enough, not being known, or not being fully known. Or we may have fears of moving to a different place, starting a new season, or finding ourselves on an unexpected journey. The Bible reminds us faith is always greater than fear because all faith looks forward.
“…Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, demising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
I love this reminder because I love to run and test my endurance. In this race of life, I know I am going to stumble or get so exhausted I may want to quit; but when I see the joy ahead – the reality that Jesus really sits on a throne and orchestrates every detail of my life – I find renewed energy and excitement.
Trials are gifts too. Trials of all shapes. My prayer life has grown tremendously over the past few months. Why haven’t I prayed more in the past? Because I used to rely more on getting things done with hard work and connections. When you have no other choice, meaning COVID-19 has changed so many things, you realize prayer ends up being your best choice.
When you decide you can’t control anything, you realize God has to show up in everything.
Unexpected gifts and opportunities have also come to the fore. Our partners, here and abroad, have shown us love, care, and continually prayed for us. We’ve realized we can leverage this gap time to broaden our partnerships, deepen existing relationships, and create new opportunities. I’ve been able to tutor high school students in history and english. I’ve been able to preach in our partner churches in Paris via video, in addition to attending their weekly staff meetings via Zoom. I’ve been able to share in several churches in the metro Jackson area and throughout the state about the needs in France and our call to meet them.
So what do we need in this gap time? We need your prayers. We need your encouragement. We need you to share our story and vouch for our mission. We love to meet up with friends to swap encouraging stories during COVID-19. We love to meet up with people or churches interested in more details. We love to pray for others during this uncertain time. You can connect with us and we will be in touch.
We are grateful for this time of preparation. We know it is bringing further maturation for the next season that has already begun.
Right now, most Americans are banned from entry to France. The United States has not been added to the European Union’s “safe country” list. This means no US tourism in France. But for us, this means no long stay visa, usually an easy visa to acquire. So we are waiting, reading the news, waiting, reading the news – you get the idea: a somewhat torturous way to figure out our departure date.
What are you doing while you are waiting? Are you ever going to leave? What is most curious to me is the tone people use when asking these questions.
Some truly ask out of love and concern – they understand our mission to France, and are 100% supportive. Others ask with reservation or incredulity. Lingering doubts that they feel, but that we do not, are framing these undertones: Why are you still going with COVID-19? Have you not read the news about terrorism in France this fall? Is it still worth it to move your family to France?
Yes, we are going! We hope our departure date will be Spring 2021, but with COVID-19, we are learning to adjust as needed. As John Hugh listed above, we’ve been inundated with plenty during these fall months. It’s been an unusually busy time while we are in-between.
My fears are not unusual for a wife and mother of three children. I think about how my children will socialize while they are being homeschooled. I debate how we’re going to be financially secure while on missionary support even though we are not in Paris yet. I wonder how I can get everything done in a day when I am the mother, teacher, principal, cafeteria worker, PE teacher, housekeeper, driver, and more.
This gap time has surprised me. In the past, I have dealt with my fears by over-organizing and neglecting my physical health & emotional well-being. My auto-pilot is to work, with loads of nervous energy, on a list far too long for a normal human being, and then go to bed, fooling myself into thinking I can get more done tomorrow. This time, my frenzied pace is teaching me to stop, to find new opportunities, ones I missed in the past, to train those around me – first up, my husband and three kids.
So, instead of pushing to update this blog (we took a 2 month break if you hadn’t noticed) or filling my calendar to meet with people I love, but don’t see every day nor every week, I have settled into a pace of priorities. First comes first, and I have to trust God with the rest of the order. If I am to feel rested to homeschool our boys of 13, 11, 7 with one being special needs, really character building in all sorts of innovative and unexpected ways, I can’t afford to be frazzled.
Every day is different, but my fears are no longer the drivers of my day. I go to bed every night and clear every anxious thought with prayer. I wake up each day with the same habit. I rarely use down time to scroll on my phone, a terribly old habit from when my children were very young, a habit I now see helped me numb fears through procrastination. I take time to eat well, exercise, read my favorite books, along with some great homeschool read alouds, and even start a YouTube channel.
How does this all get done? With lots and lots and lots and lots of help from my 3 boys and husband. It’s been a miracle and a gift of new priorities for the whole family. Your fears are your teachers. I have turned my fears upside down to help me. Instead of running from or numbing my fears, and I have well grooved tendencies to numb my fears with food and overwork, I have woken up every day expectant.
I can mindlessly repeat all the lofty ideals of faith of Christianity in auto-pilot, or I can choose to live them fully. With COVID-19 uncertainty, it’s no longer a choice. It’s the only way I can live. And each day I do, my world is suddenly guarded by peace (Phil 4:6-7) and filled with an out of this world, alien, yet very welcome joy (Phil 4:4). And this bumpy, crazy journey I call life suddenly becomes more manageable, regardless of all the curveballs.
ARE YOU STILL MOVING? YES!
Yes, we are still planning to move to Paris. Our departure date is delayed until Spring 2021. Thank you to our partners so far! We are humbled by those who are supporting us. We are committed to this mission, regardless of a pandemic or other deterrents. If you are interested in partnering, join us on our journey today.
THANKS FOR READING!