Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I Learned While Traveling the World with My Babies this Summer (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, the main lesson that I learned while traveling to Europe with my babies this summer is that God can be glorified in a place where we focus on doing less and being more.  This is hard for me.  I like to be busy.  I like to do things, but I'm learning day by day to embrace His grace and walk in it.

I'm also learning to find joy and His fingerprints in the messes of life.  I don't like messes either, but this simple lesson was on full display as we traveled to Europe this summer with our girls (honestly, is it even POSSIBLE to travel with a 3 year old & 13 month old without a giant mess in your wake?)...and I think I'm starting to get it.  God can be in the midst of the mess.  He isn't nearly as uncomfortable as I am, and He really does love using the foolish and weak parts of our lives to show off.  Here's two ways He demonstrated this to me on our trip:

Fashion Class and "Glitter Nails" in Czech Republic
We were teaching in a creative arts camp while in Czech Republic and I was assigned to help my
amazing friend Dita teach fashion class.  Now, while I DO love a good pair of shoes & sometimes tune into Fashion Police, I am far from a fashionista and I know next to nothing about designing clothes, which is what this class would be doing.

Leading up to the camp, Dita would email me her amazing ideas (creating wedding dresses out of plastic, t-shirt transformation, and a lecture on Grace Kelly style), and often asked what I wanted to contribute.  Contribute?  As in teach something about fashion?  I had nothing.  I scoured Pinterest, but discovered that my best ideas had been done in previous years at the camp.  The only idea that I had to offer that seemed of interest was "glitter nails."  Now, I had never done "glitter nails."  I had read about it on Pinterest and seen some successful ventures on the hands of a few friends.  It looked easy enough, and I felt confident as I purchased numerous shades of polish & glitter from Wal-Mart - I could make this fabulous!

Dita gives the girls her opinion on their latest des
My first day in fashion class was fun albeit a little overwhelming.  I was trying to get into a rhythm of juggling my babies while also connecting with the young people, and I just tried to stay up.  We colored fashion designs and played with pastels to get a feeling for how color works with fabric.  I smiled at the sweet girls in our class and had barely exchanged names when our 3 hours class was finished.

Each day got progressively easier while the projects were progressively harder.  We created dresses, painted t-shirts, and designed wedding gowns out of plastic.  I quickly realized that I needed to at least try to help with fabrics & design.  I remember clearly trying to help my girls with the wedding dress and thinking to myself, "I am making a mess!"  And in that moment, I felt God whisper, "I can be in a mess...just keep working at it."  And so I stapled and fitted plastic on our model.  We laughed together and little by little we transformed yards of white plastic into a beautiful gown that I was quite proud of (if I do say so myself).

The final day of camp we had a fashion show & party where each class was able to show off what they had learned.  As we prepared for our walk down the cat-walk, Dita asked if I could give each of the girls "glitter nails" so we could look fierce.  Absolutely!

And so, in the last few minutes of class with these precious girls, I helped create another mess.  We started to paint and add glitter to our fingers when I realized that we were not looking like the Pinterest pictures that I had seen.  It was a mess.  At first I wanted to panic with the realization that this was not living up to my preconceived ideas of fabulous "glitter nails" when I looked around to see that the girls didn't see the lack of perfection that I was so sensitive to...instead, these girls who had bonded over the previous week were oohing and aahing over one another's hands.  There was laughter in the room, and more than a couple of the girls asked if I could paint their nails for them (I was, after all the "glitter nail" expert).  And in that stuffy classroom across globe, I felt the presence of God.

With sparkles of glitter on these young women that I now loved, I silently prayed that they would find Him.  May they be drawn to the One who makes life radiant.  May they see that He alone can redeem and create beauty from the messes we are so prone to create.

Pastel drawings as we practiced with color

Our plastic wedding dresses as modeled in the fashion show

Selah's FAVORITE moment of the entire trip - modeling her t-shirt in the fashion show

Puddle Jumping in Norway
Our week in Norway was focused on prayer and encouraging our good friends (Sean & Hannah) as they prepare to plant a church in September.  Again, we would "do missions" by just "being with them."  Everyday was spent prayer walking for a couple of hours & then we would simply hang out - talking, dreaming, bouncing ideas off one another.  In the midst of this talking and prayer, we had five children in their house, which could only mean one thing - plenty of messes.

I gave up after a couple of hours trying to pick up after my girls.  It was a loosing battle, and we all decided to just relax and let them have some fun.  In my mind, this was fine when we were at home, but when it was time to do our prayer walks we should be extra spiritual - no messes.

I think God was laughing at my attempts to be spiritual, because on our very first prayer walk we definitely encountered a mess.  We walked to a school where they plan on meeting for their church services, and because it had been raining for days the parking lot was dotted with puddles as big as a playa lake.  Our kids were in strollers, and so the adults took a few minutes to walk around the school praying and seeking God...and being spiritual.  I was focused in prayer when I heard my daughter's laughter across the parking lot.

As I looked up, I realized that she & Sean's oldest son had gotten out of the strollers and were running, jumping, and splashing in the giant puddles!  My first thought was that she would be soaked, and that I wasn't up to the mess that would certainly ensue, when I was reminded of my recent lesson in Czech Republic - God can be in the mess.

And so, I decided to let her play, and I stood back and smiled at the joy of these two small children.  It was better than Disney World!  They laughed and shrieked, and before I knew it, all of the adults were cheering them on.  God spoke to my heart a lot that day - about jumping a little more...about trusting Him even when what is before me looks like a mess...about the joy that is all around if I will look for it...and about this church plant.  Our friends are probably going to make a mess or two.  They will definitely be forced to jump out of their comfortable and clean lives to make an impact in Norway, but they are saying yes to God and ready to make a mess for Him.

We prayed that day while our kids jumped in puddles that this school would be a blessing for their church...that they would find favor there & that God would get glory as they make a mess for His kingdom.  And guess what?  Two weeks later, they met with the principal of that school and were given three rooms to meet in each week...for free.  Let the puddle jumping begin in Norway!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I Learned While Traveling the World with My Babies This Summer (Part 1)

It's been a month since we were in Czech Republic, but as I've reflected over the last couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few lessons that I learned while away.  For those of you unaware of our family adventure, Josh and I decided to take our two girls with us this year as we led a short-term missions team to Czech Republic.  We then sent the team home and traveled for another week to Norway so we could see our friends and spend some time praying with them as they prepare to plant a church next month.

When we first decided to take our girls with us I knew it was the right decision in my heart.  Josh and I have traveled internationally in a short-term capacity for years.  In fact, some of our dearest friends now live across the globe, and before I became pregnant I had a bit of a bargaining session with God.  It went something like this:

Me: If I agree to this whole kid thing, what is it going to do to our love and sense of calling when it comes to international travel and missions?

God: I don't understand?

Me: Well, do I have to give it all up?

God: No.

Me: Well, how is it going to work?

God: You'll see.

Me: I don't like this answer.  I would like you to expound please.

God: You'll see.

Me: Again, I need more details before I commit to these children I think You intend for me to have.

God: Sigh...Paige, some things in your life are gonna change - change for the better actually - and you'll just have to trust me on this one.  But I will tell you this about travel.  It's going to change too, but overall, if I give you the grace and love for the nations, don't you think I can grace your kids too?  You and Josh know that I've called you as a family to this...and that calling can extend to new additions of your family...including small additions.

Me: you promise?

God: Trust Me.

****Hope you know, I just took great liberty with this conversation, but in general it went something like that, and from that day forward I had an internal sense and belief that God would give grace to my girls for whatever He wanted us to do as a family.

So, I knew in my heart that travelling as a family was the right thing, but I have to confess that as the date of the trip drew near I began to panic.  How would the flight work?  I mean, I have a 13 month old who crawls and moves and is BUSY!  How would I keep her at bay for a 10 hour flight?  And what about jet lag?  Packing?  And our poor team?  Would the 7 young people traveling with us explode at some point with Selah's amazing propensity to ask "Why?" 57 times in a row?

Suffice it to say, I started to pray a lot and I made plenty of lists.  The morning that we left I woke up with my stomach in knots, and it wasn't until we had been on our longest flight for a couple of hours that I finally took a deep breath and remembered God's promise to me - my girls had His grace for this trip.

And His grace is always sufficient.

We helped with a creative arts camp in Czech Republic & one day Haven got to be a model for the photography class.  She was definitely up for the task!

Throughout the trip I was continually amazed at His grace.  My girls laughed more, played more, and slept more than I could have ever imagined!  The team embraced my babies and someone seemed to always have them on their hips.  And not only that...but I saw how God wanted to use my girls to bring His love into the lives of the amazing young people we met in Czech Republic.  A 13 month old with a big toothy grin can bring down defenses like nothing else, and I found myself having easy conversations because they were kicked off with laughter at my kids antics.

These sweet girls were in my fashion class that helped out with & they were quite smitten with Haven
So, the greatest lesson that I learned while we were away was that if God says it...He can do it.

Also, there really is something to doing less and being more.  I read that statement a while back, and I'm realizing that in essence this what I did on this trip.  At one point I was feeling the pressure that perhaps I wasn't DOING ENOUGH at the camp because of the needs of my girls.  Wasn't I supposed to be helping more?

I texted my mom & mother-in-law about this frustration and asked for them to pray, when my mother-in-law sent me this text:
     God's Love is being communicated greatly through your family of 4.  So rest in that.  Meaningful 
     conversations may "look" differently this trip, but KNOW THIS, His will IS being performed, and 
     you are grooming two amazing missionaries, even now, carried in your arms.

Such wisdom and such truth.

And now, as I'm back in "real life" I'm asking myself how I can be more while doing I can bring my girls more fully into the life I know I'm called to live...and how I can rest in His promise of grace.

Josh talking with the team all while juggling his girls
The plane ride was one of Selah's favorite parts!  The time went fast, and there are plenty of great blogs out there with ideas on how to keep your kids entertained on long flights.
Selah enjoyed painting in fashion class...she jumped right in with the "big girls"
And our amazing team made my girls laugh to know end.  In all honesty, they may have been tired of Selah's "roars" in their face (she was a lion or something for a couple days) but they were the best people to travel with

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