Tuesday, September 20, 2016
You have to read to the end to get ALL the details....
We have heard from so many different people, "get ready, Okinawa is the two baby tour!" Lol! We embraced the warnings and looked forward to getting pregnant. :) Our baby Beniah is rather massive now so Stephen and I are looking forward to the chaos that another new life will bring. You are waiting for the announcement, right?! ;) Well, the very morning that we were packing to fly out from VA to Okinawa, I took a test and it faintly read, "positive!" What?! Crazy, right? Stephen had been teasing me a few days prior that he thought I was pregnant because I was being especially emotional. That was the 2nd time he totally called it! We were so scared, excited, and didn't really have too much time to dwell on our feelings because we had to move overseas real quick. ;) That morning Stephen and I prayed together and thanked God for trusting us with a blessing from Heaven.
Three Days later, I took another test and it said the same thing, "prego!" We chose to tell family and even our kids as it's too exciting to hold inside and we appreciate all the prayers we can get.
After a week of finding out, we had an 8hr New Comers Brief and we both passed our drivers test! Woot Woot, and Praise God! Thank you for praying for us...I was SO nervous. The next day Stephen had a Housing Brief to attend before they would offer us a house. This is the part where they tell you if you are getting 2 choices of homes to look at on base, or if they are full and you have to live out in town. My friend had just helped me get Tierzah to her first day of Kindergarten and back to the Lodge when I got a text from Stephen. "Babe, if you can get to the clinic to get an official confirmed pregnancy test then we can live in a 4 bedroom house on base. If not, they do not have any 3 bedrooms available and we'll have to stay 20 more days in the Lodge and then move out in town." That motivated me enough to push Micah and Beniah in the stroller, in the rain, while trying to manage an umbrella, up hill the wrong way, back down the hill, and now soaking wet to find the Clinic and get that dang piece of paper! A kind Samaritan woman pulled over with her van and said, "Can I please take you wherever it is that you are trying to go?" Haha! She was so sweet. Side note, I saw her again later that day while I was lost and wondering around Tierzah's school trying to find her class. I think she might be my angel in disguise. Anyway, I get business taken care of, email the form to Stephen, and Amy comes to save us from walking home in the rain. Whew! I feel so very needy and dependent these first few weeks on the Island. It is a good humbling experience and God knows we have appreciated all the help! Thank you, friends...and strangers.
The next day we got the keys to look at the house we were offered on Camp Courtney where Stephen will be working, and we love it so much that we didn't even go to look at the 2nd option. Monday we signed the paper work, Thursday we got the keys and government furniture, and Friday we packed up our suitcases for the last time and wheeled them to our new home!
Some other fun things that happened in between are: I got my hair cut by a ninja with scissors. Seriously, he was so fast and precise. I felt spoiled as I was given a hot hand towel, tea, an oil scalp massage, and a shoulder massage all included in the $40 price! What?! Amazing. Stephen took the kids to the beach while I went to get my nails done with a new buddy at Cocok's. Again, it was $40 for a legit leg and foot massage, iced tea, incredible artwork they do on your toes, and of course awesome conversation. What a fun experience! Somehow we managed to also squeeze in a trip north to the Aquarium that has whale sharks! We ended up getting passes because there is so much to see and do that we barely touched the surface of when we went. We are enamored with this beautiful island.
So that's all the fun highlights that you would see on Facebook. Now for the stuff that didn't quite make it to my status update...last weekend I started spotting. I knew what was happening as I have miscarried three times before. You'd think that I would get numb to this kind of loss but the Bible describes the feeling well, "hope deferred makes the heart sick." Even for the short while that we knew that we were going to have another baby, our dreams grew and our joy increased. Last week, the baby naturally passed away and I started to sink emotionally as well. My thoughts were negatively bent and I know that Stephen carried a heavy burden as well. We cried together, prayed together, and tried to allow one another the space to feel and grieve. I was so irritable and angry that this was part of the plan, that I had a belly with nothing to show for it, and that on top of this things were not going quite as expected. But at the end of day, I trust God as my sovereign Lord and believe that he is good, just, kind, loving, and always has his glory and my good in mind. Even when I don't understand what is going on, I have the hope of eternity and the belief that because Jesus laid down his life to pay for my wrong doings, was raised again to conquer death, took his place in heaven, and as my mediator he made a way for me to have a right relationship with God..."I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God, From my mother's womb, You have chosen me, Love has called my name, I've been born again, Into your family, Your blood flows through my veins (Bethel Music)." Thank God for Hope through Jesus Christ! I know there are 4 little Griffins running around Heaven giving the Angels a run for their money. ;) I know we will meet one day! We thank God for our 3 kids that we have been gifted and are reminded again of the brevity of life. I am also reminded of the quote I heard Craig Groeschel say, "When you can't trace God's hand...trust His heart." It can "be well with my soul" if even if my emotions are still catching up because I can trust God's never changing love and character. I read this passage this morning and felt like I could resonate just a little with it:
“He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.
Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.
Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.
For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.
Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say,
The water rose over my head, and I cried out, “This is the end!” But I called on your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.””
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Warm rain is pouring sideways outside of our little hotel room. Instrumental music is playing softly in the background and the three kids are fast asleep napping on their beds in the living room area. I probably should be napping as well since we all woke up bright and early at 3 am again. Jet lag is kicking our tail but God is definitely giving us grace to not kill each other, enjoy the sights, and get A LOT of business taken care of! I can’t believe we have been in Okinawa for 4 days already. Getting to this point has absolutely been an act of God. If you have been following me on FB, than you know our daily shenanigans that we were able to get into during the whole month of August. :) I won’t go into all the details again (even though I love me some details) but we were able to see our families and make incredible memories that I don’t want to forget. What a special gift that was for us to just be together as our little family for so many days. It didn’t matter what we got to do, just the fact that we got to do it together was enough. We have tried to make it a point to do what we call, “First Things First,” everyday together with the kids. In an effort to put God first in our day as a family, we have grown fond of this 5-10 mins of taking turns praying. Sometimes the kids want to pray as well and nearly every time Micah prayed he would say, “Tank you, God, that daddy doesn’t have to go to work.” lol! Precious. We are very thankful for Stephen’s awesome job and the mission that we get to have as a family! God knew exactly what we needed to get rejuvenated, though. Thank you to our families who went well out of your way to make us feel loved, missed, special, and allowed us to invade your homes and lives! What is more important than legacy…than family? Stephen and I read recently the importance of valuing children and family. Years from now, the many great great grandchildren later will not care if we made a bunch of money, if we were super nice people, or if we were successful in other ways. What will matter to them is that once a upon a time, Stephen met Julie, they had Tierzah, Micah, and Beniah, who got married, had kids, then those kids got married, had kids, and all we will be remembered for is being the old people who fell in love and were blessed with kids. :) Children are such a gift from God, no wonder the enemy tries to make us believe that they are an inconvenience, dream killers, life enders, and a nuisance. They epitomize Life, bright futures, hope, faith that is full, and expose the deep struggles of our hearts and motivations. Yes, they are exhausting to keep up with, to teach and train, and they do hold our whole hearts in their hands to crush. Family is such a beautiful gymnasium to learn how to build muscles in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control through God strengthening us. I have heard from so many people that Okinawa is such a great place for families. They really do cater to making children feel special and adored, place high honor on elderly people, and live simple lives. I’m looking forward to learning more! GETTING HERE… Oh man! So we flew from Dullas, VA, 6 hrs to Seattle, WA. The kids did great and we were exhausted but ready to just finally be in on our way to Japan. We went to the amazing USO in SeaTac Airport which was full of people who were also going to wait 6 more hours with us until check in began. The family room was packed full of sleeping families but a kind volunteer showed us a tiny room that we could unload ALL of our stuff and sleep on the floor for a couple hours. It was time to get in the hour long line with our 3 tired bunnies at about 3am. We were last in line and we were at the counter loading our luggage to be weighed when the one cashier noticed that Stephen’s Military ID expired 2 DAYS before! The nearby attendant wanted to just wave us through but the manager quickly said, “No valid ID, No flight!” and walked away. Ahhhh!!!! We were devastated. Already exhausted, we numbly walked back to our tiny room in the USO to pray together, make another plan, and try to sleep on the floor for a few more hours before the AMC office opened. Long story short, Stephen was able to take the train to a Coast Guard base, get a new ID, call for help to get commercial flights to Japan, we spent another many hours in the airport, got to explore the Seattle area that night, and 24hrs later we were flying to Okinawa, Japan. Whew!! What an adventure. That 16 hour flight is no joke with little ones! We were blessed to get our seats changed so that we could be near each other, though!! God gave us so much grace and loved on us through the kind people he put in our path. Weary and worn right out, adrenaline filled us as we crawled to the baggage claim in Naha airport and saw 6 Chaplains and some of their wives waiting at 9/10pm for us to arrive with smiles, welcome gifts, and 3 cars to transport all of us, our 5 suitcases, 3 car seats, and many carry ons. Seriously, what an incredible feeling to meet brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the world. It’s like having the biggest, weirdest, loving bunch of extended family ever. :) Thank you kind friends! TAKIN CARE OF BUSINESS… Josh and Amy are friends that we met when they came to our Chapel on Camp Pendleton one Sunday a couple of years ago. They soon got very involved and helped in many ways around the Chapel. We thought it was much more than a coincidence that they were located to Okinawa just a few months before us this year! Thank you both for showing us around the Island, giving us treats, helping us get to Koza Baptist Church our first Sunday here, get phones, for helping me get Tierzah’s school supplies, and introducing us to American Village. :) We are thankful for your generosity and kindness! Some big 1st week things that we need to get done upon arriving is: -Get our bodies on the same time zone! lol -Get Phones since American phones do not work here -Get Cars -Get Childcare for the all day “New Comers Brief” that is mandatory before we can be given a house, purchase a car, etc. -Go to the New Comers Brief on Wed :) -Register Tierzah for school -Get School supplies -Study for and take Drivers Test to drive on the other side of the road :) (prayers!) -View the 2 options of homes that we will be able to choose from hopefully asap -Take Tierzah to her first day of school. Tears!! (<-friends and family that are interest in this decision, I’ll write more soon! :) This has been a whirlwind for sure. It would not be nearly as possible or enjoyable if we did not have the wonderful people here giving up their time to help us, and YOU back home praying for and encouraging us! As Tierzah has been saying this week, “God bless them for helping us!”
Friday, June 24, 2016
This bench faces the beautiful San Clemente Pier on the Pacific Ocean. It's such a refreshing place that our family loves to visit. There also happens to be a yummy pizza place and little ice cream shop across the street too. ;) Anyway! I saw this message on the bench and knew it was a Word from God to me, "Sit. Rest in the Lord, Julie." Makes me want to apply the 4-by-4 breathing Stephen taught me this week. You breathe in for 4 counts, hold that breath for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. Try it! It's so relaxing. I have been using it in moments when I find poop on the walls, a toy shark in the potty, another busted out window screen, my list of moving preparations that still need to get done, and also when I slow down enough to catch a beautiful piece of God's creation outside of and inside our home. Sit Back. Rest Awhile. Trust Unwaveringly. Breathe Deeply. I read a quote from Charles Spurgeon, "When you can't trace God's hand...trust God's heart." Trust His character! He is good, faithful, just, loving, compassionate, holy, and very intentional in each of our lives. He's greater than any obstacle in my life presently: anger, addictions, fear, control...to name a few. I needed that as we come to our last 5 weeks of serving at Camp Pendleton and face a lot of unknowns. PCS (permanent change of station) is always an exciting and scary time in our lives. A beautiful array of emotions flood my heart every now and then and I find myself randomly ugly crying. Lol! I love change and I'm definitely looking forward to the adventure of Japan! However, God has allowed us the blessings of living near my mum, having amazing friends, wonderful neighbors, a precious Chapel family to lead and be taught by, and fantastic memories made as our family has grown in everyway over the past 3 years❤️ Thank you dear people for loving our family and making this time one that I will hold forever near to my heart!
Beniah~ 12 months"Oh God, forgive me for excusing away my sin of worrying, fearing, and lying to myself that I have can have control over things and people in my life. I have grasped for any piece of thread that I could hold on to as a substitute for relinquishing my life and all that I treasure into your hands. Help me to learn more about You, my Creator. Teach me how to rest in Your character and that to be "enough." One day I will pass on to the next life to be with You and only what I have done to please you will matter then. Help me to be still and know that you are God. Amen."
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
After getting married, I would get so frustrated at Stephen because he wasn't fulfilling me. If I was lonely, dissatisfied, irritated, or fearful, it drove me crazy that Stephen couldn't just "fix" it. So, like Stephen talked about on Sun, I began to demonize and resent him. ;( I put him through so much hell our first year of marriage because I had turned my eyes towards Stephen instead of turning them towards God. Craig Groeschel said in his book From This Day Forward, "Whatever we idolize, sooner or later, we will demonize and criticize." Stephen was still a terrific husband! He doesn't have this view of our first year of marriage at all...he would even say it was amazing! Lol :) That's because his heart was planted in Jesus first and not in his imperfect wife. The break through happened for me when I became so depressed that I started counseling with an amazing, seasoned Christian counselor. God spoke through her to tell me that I am expecting from Stephen something that only God can provide. It wasn't until I began to make Jesus the #1 Leader, Lover, Friend, Protector, and One Who I depended on that I was able to truly enjoy my marriage and relationship with Stephen again. I still screw up in this area but 9 times out of 10 when I'm getting bitter towards Stephen, I can trace my frustrations back to my heart's priorities. Am I frustrated because I'm trying to draw from Stephen what only God can satisfy inside my heart? Am I being nagging, critical, and needy because I've made Stephen the lord of my heart? I'm Sharing this to remind myself of this truth and to encourage you all to SEEK GOD FIRST and HE will add all that you need to your life. No one and nothing can satisfy us like time poured out in honest communication (praying/reading the Word) with Jesus. If it's weird at first :) I totally understand and I've been there! I remember the first time I got really real in my prayers and said a lot of angry things to God...I waited for the lightening bolt to strike me dead. ;) It was so refreshing to begin a raw communication and friendship with Jesus. Since he already knows my heart, it was cool to just be real with him. ;) God loves us more than we can imagine and he wants to spend time with us. Lets keep each other accountable! When Adam and Eve were hiding from God after they had sinned for the 1st time, God said, "Where are you?" We're pretty sure he knew which bush they were hiding behind ;) but that questions still rings loudly for us today, "Where is our heart?"
Another great point from the sermon was the idea of praying with your spouse everyday. Whether it's through text messages, a popcorn type prayer whenever a situation comes up during the day, praying over the phone real quick, early in the morning, or late at night. We didn't do this very much earlier in our marriage (other than praying at meals and for crazy life events). As we add more kids to our crew, time alone gets to be harder to find :), but there is an absolute difference on the days where we have taken a moment to seek God together from the days where we are "too busy" to pray together at all. We are a super normal family and still have heated discussions ;), wild children, melt downs, hard times like everyone else. But having the hope of Heaven and the peace that only God can bring during those turbulent situations is such a gift. The best truly is yet to come!
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Matthew 6:21, 33 NLT
See you THUR at 6:30!