Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Count Your Blessings

“Count your blessings.”

Have you ever heard that phrase? It’s not a verse from the Bible, but it is a theme we can certainly find in the Bible. Many of the psalms involve the psalmnist looking back and recounting God’s blessings in his life. The whole idea of memorial stones in the Bible seems to be a method of memorializing blessings from God. Really, we could find and discuss a lot of references in the Bible which speak to this idea.

My concern in this blog during this Thanksgiving week, however, is not that people in the Bible “counted” their blessings but why I believe there’s value in doing it. Why count our blessings?

I could use many of the psalms to make the following point, but since I was reading Psalm 61 when I felt God put this word in my heart, that’s the one I’ll use here. Specifically I want to focus on Psalm 61:1-3 (ESV):
1 Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.
David prays to God with confidence and faith believing that the Lord is going to answer him. Why? I think the key to that answer is found in verse 3. It's because God has already proven Himself faithful in the past as a refuge and strong tower to David. And here is the truth that I felt like God put in my heart as I was reading this:
God's past faithfulness fuels our present faith.
Our faith is not a blind faith. Our faith is a result of looking back and seeing God's hand on our lives. When we see how faithful He has been to us, it motivates and encourages us to have faith in our present circumstances!

So why count our blessings? Why take time to think about all the things for which we have to be thankful? Why take time to thank God for all He has done? So that we can remember His past faithfulness to give us the faith we need now. He has done it before and He can do it again!

This is the reason David points out God's faithfulness to him in the past. This is the reason Joshua set up the memorial of 12 stones in Joshua 4. And this is the reason we too should count our blessings and express our thankfulness for all God has done and accomplished in our lives this year: to have the faith to believe for Him to answer us again in the year to come.

So I encourage you to take some time to set up your own memorial stones. Count your blessings. Write them down. Remember all the good things God has done for you. Give Him thanks. Then when you're standing in front of an obstacle that seems so challenging, you can have the faith to know that God is faithful and that you can trust Him!

**UPDATE** I want to share an example of this that came yesterday morning before I wrote this post but after I had decided to write it. We were blessed to receive a generous personal cash gift from the Southern New England Ministry Network's Women's Ministry this year. We wanted to be able to use the whole thing for Christmas but needed to put 2/3 of the gift toward our credit card. Yesterday morning when we opened our statement of donations, we noticed that a friend had made a personal cash donation to us (totally unexpected) for the exact same amount of the other donation we needed to put toward our credit card. We were once again reminded that God is faithful, even in "simple" things like this.

** Want to read more? I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about how a hen came to symbolize God's faithfulness in our family. Check it out! **

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Unloading the Weight

It has been a little over 3 weeks since I started regularly exercising and eating healthier. And I am feeling great. I have been losing weight and getting stronger and faster by the day.

As I was running last week, a thought occurred to me: I am improving exponentially. I believe there is a good reason for this. I am running (and riding my bike one day a week) which is building my muscle and making me stronger. But I'm also losing weight in the process. And the more weight I lose is the less weight I need to carry with me as I run.

This fit with another thought I had recently: The hardest thing to do is to get going. But once you get going, it's a lot easier to keep going. It's like a ball rolling down a hill. It starts off slow but it gets going and starts flying. I really do believe that most people just need to find that motivation to get started. And something I think that will help is by remembering that you can't tackle it all at once. You're not going to lose weight and get in shape in one day. It will take time. But you have to start that time at some point. My mentality is that you should just aim to do better than before in the beginning. You don't have to hit the ideal right away. Get the ball rolling.

After I had the initial thought last week, another thought came to me: This is not much different than another aspect of our lives. How often are we carrying heavy burdens with us? How often are we trudging through feeling defeated and overwhelmed? We need to start getting rid of some of that baggage, because once we get going it will become easier. The less weight we're carrying with us the more confidence we have that we'll get rid of the rest. This is true of our physical bodies, but also mentally and spiritually, I believe.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 ring so loudly as I think of this:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (ESV)
I don't know what you're carrying with you right now. But I do know who can help you: Jesus. As I read in my devotions on Wednesday, Psalm 30:11-12 says,
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (ESV)
So it's time to get out there and start shedding some weight, both physically and metaphorically. I want to leave you with some encouragement.

Physical Weight Loss Encouragement

Get out there and get started. Start small. Take a walk around the block. Want to run? Start with some walking breaks in the middle. "Oh, but that's not good enough. I should be able to run the whole thing." Listen, you will with time. But you need to start somewhere.

Metaphorical Weight Loss Encouragement 

Spend some time in prayer and reading the Bible. Ask God to take your burdens. He can give you rest that you will never achieve on your own. Not ready for the certain things yet? Start with something you are ready for. Trust Him. He will never let you down.

Here are 2 more verses:

Psalm 68:19
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (NIV)
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (ESV)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Most people lose weight leading up to their wedding day. I, unfortunately (in this instant), was not like most people. I was the heaviest weight of my entire life around my wedding and honeymoon. I had never really struggled with weight issues until college and the years following. I've covered more about that story in a blog already so I won't cover it here.

Since I lost my weight in 2009, I had done a pretty good job of keeping it off. I went to Costa Rica weighing about 175 lbs (about 10 more than my ideal weight). I don't know how much I weighed upon our return but that number ballooned even higher after reintroducing myself to some of my favorite foods (especially cheese) that I hadn't enjoyed very much during our time there. When I finally weighed myself back on Sept. 12 I was about 190 lbs...25 lbs more than my ideal weight. Oops. It was time for a change. So I decided on a reverse New Year's Resolution. To lose 25 lbs by the New Year. 111 days. 25 lbs. The challenge was on.

So, I have spent the past few weeks changing my eating habits and exercising again. And as of Monday (2 weeks after starting), I was down 6 lbs. More than that, I feel stronger, faster, healthier, and just all-around better. Oh, and my clothes fit better. I still have a long way to go, but it has been a good start.

I was thinking about how nice it is to celebrate these victories. Then I read Psalm 21 in my devotional time one day. I want to highlight a few verses that share one thing relevant to this that I took from this psalm:
1 O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
7 For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.13 Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
You see, I think it's great to celebrate our little victories. But that's because I think it's a great opportunity to remind ourselves that our victories come not in our own strength but in the strength of the Lord. God is the one that gets the glory and the credit for our victories. They are reminders for us to thank God for His goodness and favor.

Since early on when I started running again years ago, I have run with a mantra: "In His Strength. For His glory." I run with God's strength and do it to glorify Him because He's so good! So I do celebrate a great start to accomplishing my goal. I celebrate to thank God for the strength to have a great start. Let's never lose focus or forget to thank God for His goodness to us and the strength that He gives us!

BONUS: Running Tips

Since I'm sure some of you reading this are in a similar place, trying to lose weight, I thought I'd share a few personal tips. Healthy eating habits are also critical and a different discussion altogether. These are strictly some tips regarding the exercise. I'm not a medical professional nor a running professional and these are just personal thoughts, not official scientific advice:

Change up your runs - Do not run the same distance or pace every day or even every week. You should vary course, distance and pace. Some examples of types of runs you can do are:

  • Distance runs - Run an easy pace where you can talk and aren't breathing heavy for your longer runs.
  • Mid-distance runs - Run a pace where you are breathing a little heavier, not really able to carry a conversation.
  • Hills - Find a hill at whatever grade and length you're okay with and do repeats by running up at a good pace and then jogging back down. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  • Intervals - This is best done at a track or around a block. You run a lap fast, then jog a lap. Repeat at least 4 of each (8 total laps). If one lap around the track is too much to start, do half the lap.
  • Fartleks - During a normal jog you can randomly pick an object within view and sprint to that object before returning to your normal pace.
There are obviously many other types of runs, but this gives an idea. The point is that if you run the same distance and pace and route all the time, your muscles will start becoming adjusted to it and you'll eventually stop improving. By switching things up, you'll be better off in the long run (pun not initially intended).

Be creative with running routes - I recently did a running route that had me pass by all the houses in which I have lived in Malden as well as the hospital where I was born. This made for a far more interesting run because I had lots of little destinations and had lots of opportunities for reminiscing as I run.

Cross train - Even if you prefer running like I do, cross training is always advised. I haven't always stuck to this, but I am this go-round. You can swim, ride a bike, row, etc. The idea is to still do cardio activities but not running.

Create a plan - In order to make sure you are changing things up, you should create a plan. This also helps ensure that you are more likely to not take off days when you should be running. You are more likely to follow a schedule if you actually create one. I continue to tweak mine but it currently looks like this:
  • Monday - Speed drills (hills, intervals or fartleks)
  • Tuesday - Cross-training (biking)
  • Wednesday - 5k (mid-distance) running pace
  • Thursday - Off
  • Friday - Long distance jog (the goal is to still get faster as you continue training)
  • Saturday - Weight training or crossfit style workout (or active family activity)
  • Sunday - Off
I will still walk or do other activities during off days or other days beyond my workout at time, but your body needs rest from strenuous exercise at least once a week (in my opinion). The key is that you have constant goals.

Set attainable mini-goals - Set goals along the way aside from your ultimate goal. Make sure they're attainable. But little victories give us confidence towards bigger victories. And they remind us that God is with us, giving us strength!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just Keep Peddling

This past Sunday, we didn't have a scheduled service, so we decided to attend my home church where I grew up which is not far from where we've been staying. Already ready to go by 9:00am for a 10:30am service and knowing the church was only 2-3 miles away, I decided to walk to church on a beautiful day. I asked Jonah if he wanted to go with me. Of course, he did.

Jonah has one of those tricycles that has an optional handle in the back to push. So whether he's peddling or not, we can push him on it. He can move the tricycle a little on his own, but he certainly couldn't have made it the 3 miles (as it turned out to be). So I walked, pushing Jonah along. Even still, he just kept peddling along the way.
At one point a thought occurred to me:
Jonah never questioned the route we took. He never questioned my decision to cross a street or when to do it. He never questioned my choice to be on one side of the road or the other. He just kept looking forward (occasionally turning to look at his surroundings) and just kept peddling.
Jonah was going for a ride on his tricycle with me, his daddy. He trusted me. And for good reason. I was born and raised in Malden. And I had been to that church hundreds (possibly thousands) of times during my life. I knew how we needed to go to get there. I knew where we were going. I knew how to get there. There were a number of ways we could have gone, but I opted for what I thought to be the best path for us. Not the shortest path. Not the path with the best views. The best path.

This isn't much different from our lives in a number of ways.

God, our heavenly Father (and no, I'm not trying to compare myself with God, just making an analogy using my role as a father), always knows where we need to go and how we need to get there. Our job is not to think we know better and question the path. Our job is to keep looking forward and just keep peddling. And similar to Jonah riding his tricycle, even though we're peddling, God's really the one enabling us to keep moving forward. It's really by His strength and not our own. But He does allow us to do our part and peddle.

We need to remember that God knows the best path for us. Not necessarily the shortest path. Not necessarily the path with the best views. But it's the best path for us!

Maybe you're going through a situation you don't understand right now. Maybe you don't understand the timing...you think you're ready to arrive at whatever is next. I want to encourage you today to trust in God. He's got this. Just keep plugging away and trusting Him. Just keep peddling.

"For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless."
Psalm 18:31, 32 (ESV)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Confusing the Why with the What

Many of my life lessons and analogies come from running. Today was no different.

I recently started re-emphasizing a healthy lifestyle. This includes running more regularly. Because I am the way that I am, this means logging my various workouts. I like to keep track of what I've done so that I can measure improvement.

At one point during my run today, I cut a corner shorter by about a couple of feet. In reality, I didn't really cut it all that short. But because I am the way that I am, I think of silly things like this. I was thinking about how I could even log that. Then I thought about the extra steps I had taken in a different area and how I didn't even consider over-running what I would log. If this sounds confusing, it's probably because my mind tends to be confusing. Regardless, the point is the same. I was focusing on how to log my run.

It almost immediately hit me. This is what we can do in other areas of life as well. We begin doing a certain activity, get into a routine, so that we can grow in a certain area. But at some point along the way, we begin to focus more on what we're doing and can actually lose focus on why we're doing it.

Let's look at one spiritual application.
Do you pray? Do you read the Bible? Why do you do those things? Hopefully you do those things because you want to grow spiritually, in your walk with the Lord. You want to grow in your faith. Have you ever tracked this? Have you ever allowed prayer and/or Bible reading to become a "check-list" item? You know, something you do to say you've done it. But you don't do those things to satisfy a to-do list, right? You do them to grow. But instead of focusing on seeing that growth, you begin to focus on the activity that is meant to help you achieve your goal.
Further into my run another thought hit me. This time it was as I was taking a selfie while running. Again, I was losing sight of what mattered most. I allowed this run to become an opportunity to show people that I was running. While there is a good level of accountability this can provide, the motive what probably more of me wanting people to see that I was running.

Let's go back to that spiritual application.
Do you sit down with a Bible and cup of coffee so that Instagram or Facebook knows that you're doing your devos (short for devotionals, which is a common word used to incapsulate the idea of praying and reading the Bible)? I'm not saying it's wrong to post photos in these moments. I'm just suggesting that we check our motives.
So I encourage myself and you today. Let's not get so caught on what we're doing but remain focused on why we're doing it. It's possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons. It's also possible to do the wrong things for the right reasons. I want to do the right things for the right reasons today.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thank You

This is probably our shortest blog posts, but it's also one of our most important ones.

Polly and I visited a partnering church last night for a service. We were on the stage during the time of praise and worship. As I looked out at the crowd of people in this church which has supported us from early on, this thought came to me:

When some people think about missionaries they think about sacrifice. They think about the sacrifices that missionaries make in order to serve their respective fields. They think of how missionaries leave family and friends and livelihoods behind. They think of how missionaries give up the feeling of control and stability regarding their finances. And it's true...missionaries do make sacrifices.

But as I continued to look out at the people in that church, my thoughts turned to the sacrifices they made. Many people in that room give generously of their time to pray for missionaries and finances to help missionaries do what they do. Specifically, these people in this church helped us get to Costa Rica and will help us get to Bolivia. And they have sacrificed to do it.

I have no doubt many make other sacrifices as well, but it was these sacrifices that I was thinking about. The sacrifices that helped us. The truth is that we couldn't have made any of our sacrifices if they (and many others) hadn't made their sacrifices first.

After the service last night, we were approached by a family (Polly and I went to school with the dad, who wasn't there last night). They wanted to tell us that they pray for us regularly. Specifically the 5 year old son always wants to pray for us and wanted to meet us. It was such a sweet, humbling moment that I had to take a photo with them:

So with that truly humbling thought in mind, we want to say a big THANK YOU! to everyone who has made a sacrifice in any area of life on our behalf to make our missions work possible. So if you have given a single penny or a split second in prayer or a few moments to care about us in reading our blogs, newsletters, updates or in sending us a word of encouragement, thank you! We appreciate you!!! May the Lord bless you and increase to you many times over for all you have offered on our behalf!

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Couple of Trains and a Lesson on Trust

During my morning run, I stopped to take a few photos while on a bridge over the Mystic River. While taking a photo, I noticed an orange line train crossing another bridge over the Mystic. Then I saw another coming from the opposite direction. They were heading toward each other.

In this photo, if you look really closely, you can see the two trains heading toward each other just as they are about to...

Okay, let's be real. We all know that these trains were not going to crash. They were on different tracks. Although I knew they weren't going to crash, I couldn't help but think about how they looked like they could.

As I continued running, a couple thoughts came to mind which both ultimately teach a lesson about trust. I want to share those thoughts with you now.

1. Trust the Conductor

The trains looked like they could have crashed from where I was standing. But there were conductors on board each train who knew that they were on the right track, so they knew they wouldn't crash. And it's unlikely that anyone on the train even realized there was another train until it was passing. It's also unlikely that anyone worried that they were going to crash. Why? They trusted the conductors.

God always knows what is best for us. He is our great Conductor, guiding us along the right train tracks. And while trains really can crash and train conductors can make mistakes, God is perfect. We can always be confident and know that He will take good care of us.

But sometimes, we think we can figure things out better than God, our Creator, can. We think that our plans will be better than God's plans. We think the other set of train tracks look better. So we switch to the other tracks and...CRASH! We make choices every day. But we need to make sure that the choices we're making are according to God's will and plan for our lives. We need to trust Him!

Did you know there's potentially another problem with going against God's will? Think about it...if we're doing the wrong things, then perhaps whatever we're doing was meant for someone else. Our plans crash into each other. For example:
We want Job A. But God knows that Job 1 would be better for us. We still decide to go with Job A because we think it will be better. We trust ourselves over God. Now we're doing Job A (which won't be as good for us as Job 1) and the person who should be doing Job A is left to look elsewhere.
Maybe it's not that drastic...but maybe it is. Regardless, our decisions have consequences: some good, some bad. And sometimes those consequences impact other people.

So, we should always want what God wants for us. It has been my experience that when I have had a plan for something and God has led me a different way, I have always ended up looking on it (whether sooner or later) realizing that God's way was the better way.

We need to trust God as He leads us.

2. God's Perspective is Perfect

Another thought I had was about perspective. From my perspective, it looked like the trains could have crashed. The problem was that my perspective didn't have all the facts and information available to it. There were different sets of tracks on that bridge, but I couldn't see them.

That's a problem with perspective: we don't always have the best one. In fact, we really never have the perfect perspective. How often have we held an opinion about something or made a decision about something only to learn later that we were operating with the wrong perspective. But God does have a perfect perspective! Always!

God has all the information, all the details. He sees and knows everything. I don't. So His perspective of any situation is the perfect one. I would rather trust His perfect perspective over my imperfect one. He sees the big picture. He knows what we need and when.

Trust God

We can't steer our own train. We don't have a perfect perspective. The solution to each fact is the same: we need to trust God!

We are so grateful to those who have taken time to pray for us as we have been walking through this transition. Thank you so much if you have prayed for us. We spent the last 3 days of focused prayer asking God to answer some specific prayers. Last night as I was praying for the final time during the 3 days of focused prayer, I felt like the Lord put something on my heart: that we need to just trust Him because He knows what we need and when. He will take care of us. He has the answers. I felt such a peace.

As I was running today, before I even came upon the trains, I kept singing a line from a song (not even a Christian one) over and over again: "When one door closes, I pray one more opens." I was thinking about how we need to accept God's answer, even when it's a "No" and He closes a door. Because I know that He will open a different door will will prove to be better in the end.

So we don't have all the answers to our requests from the past 3 days. But we know that when God gives us the answers, they will be the right ones. We will trust Him!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

3 Focused Days of Prayer

We ask for prayer from time to time and have mentioned a few specific needs recently. We are still awaiting answers to some needs and have just started a very important itineration season, so have decided take 3 days of focused prayer (which I felt in my heart this morning, Sept 6). We are asking for any who would be willing to join us in prayer to take some time over the next 3 days (September 6-8, 2016) to pray for the following needs:

Living Arrangements
  • We are still awaiting the go to move into the house we'll be renting through December before we move into a church's missionary apartment. Please pray that the inspection and everything else would go smoothly.
  • We will be needing a few furniture items for these 4 months. Thankfully, God has already answered our need for a fridge and some living room furniture, but there are some other needs. The biggest of these needs is a twin bed for Genevieve [Update: Someone contacted us yesterday with a twin bed for Genevieve].
  • We will also be needing a few small appliances like a microwave and toaster [Update: It sounds like we have a microwave now too].
  • We are still waiting for the vehicle we will be using to be fixed. The part should have been shipped and it should be done soon but let's pray for that as we need this vehicle.
  • We need this vehicle to last this itineration cycle. Please pray for God's favor over the car, that it will not have issues moving forward.
  • We need safety as we travel. Itineration involves a lot of travel. We ask the Lord's hand of protection as we travel.
  • We need to raise our monthly and cash budgets prior to departure for Bolivia. We are hoping this will take about a year. This will take God's help as we cannot do this on our own.
  • For our schedule to remain full during this itineration season. We hope to have opportunities to visit churches each Sunday. And, of course, we are hoping for many of those that we visit which don't already partner with us to become monthly partners. We are also hoping for current partnering churches to continuing partnership with us.
  • For the right opportunities to connect with individuals. We don't only seek church partnership but also partnership with individuals. We are hoping for family, friends and strangers to commit to monthly support or one-time donations. We are also hoping for current partnering individuals to continuing partnership with us.
  • For other fundraising opportunities.
  • For the right words to speak whether we're sharing a window or sermon at churches, sharing with pastors, boards or missions committees or sharing with individuals.
  • We (mostly Polly) will begin homeschooling Genevieve this week. She will be starting the 1st grade. We need the wisdom, guidance and patience to not only do it, but do it well.
  • For Genevieve to thrive in her schooling.
  • For Jonah to do well as he learns and grows and for Polly to balance taking care of him with teaching Genevieve.
Personal Finances
  • Beyond raising our budget, we also would like prayer for our personal finances. We still have some school debt and have a small amount of other debt which we would like to eliminate as quickly as possible.
  • That we could settle in to start working on setting our personal spending budget for while we're here in the States. Our current situation isn't the norm so we haven't really been able to figure this out yet.
  • Since we haven't settled into a normal routine and schedule, we still feel like we're in transition. We would love to settle in. Beyond that, we ask for prayer concerning the following areas:
    • Spiritual - Our schedules are crazy but we consider time of prayer and devotion (Bible reading) to be very important to our personal lives and in preparation for itineration and ultimately our ministry in Bolivia.
    • Physical - We ask for health and safety as we go through this itineration (and always). I also need to find a routine so I can become physically active in exercise more regularly.
    • Emotional - Emotions can fly at times when people feel that there is no firm footing beneath them in a transition. We know that God is our firm footing which has helped, but we can still use emotional strength. [Update: Genevieve had a really difficult day emotionally on Sept. 6. But through that, she also opened up about some of the things she misses and why she wants to go back. This was good for her to verbalize, I think. Please pray especially for her during this transition.]
    • Relational - We want to have great interpersonal relationships within our family and also be great family and friends to those around us. We also want to continue to make and develop new relationships with others. Also pray as the kids continue to develop their social skills.
    • Mental - We need to continue growing and learning mentally. We need to keep up our Spanish so we don't make it more difficult on ourselves when we move to Bolivia. We also need to have times to rest and relaxation to remain mentally strong.
I'm sure there are other areas where we can use prayer. If while you're praying you feel the Lord puts something in your heart regarding us, would you please message or email us to share it with us. We appreciate you taking your time to pray for/with us. Would you also pray blessing over my (Mike's) parents as they have given so much of their time, home and vehicle to help us through this transition. May God bless you as well!

Friday, September 2, 2016

He Chooses to Use Us!

Yesterday I shared about how God thinks about and takes care of us. I based it out of Psalm 8, which I had read the night before for my devotions. Well, last night I read Psalm 9 for my devotions and a verse in that chapter brought to mind a thought that pairs with yesterday's.
"For the needy shall not always be forgotten,and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever." (Psalm 9:18 ESV)
Yesterday I was looking at God's care for us from my perspective as a person with a need. As I read this verse, I couldn't help but think about the fact that we will be working with poor and needy people in Bolivia, especially through the ministry of Latin America ChildCare. While we don't deserve it (similar to how we don't deserve God's care for us), God has chosen to use us as a part of the solution for the poor and needy there. His sending us is proof that "the needy shall not always be forgotten" and that "the hope of the poor shall not perish forever." He's sending us because He hasn't forgotten those we'll be working with, just as He hadn't forgotten us Wednesday.

God used the people in the story I shared yesterday to bless us. I don't know why God chooses to use people. It's a great mystery. But I do know that He does choose to use us.

So I want to encourage you today that you might be a part of God's solution to somebody's need. You never know whom you might encounter, but you can be willing to be used and be ready to be a blessing, whatever that may entail in a given situation.

God doesn't need us. In fact, I believe He can work in spite of us. But I would rather that He could work through me. I want to be obedient and participate. Let's be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and be a blessing to other's today. What might seem so simple to us could be a huge answer to prayer for someone else.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

He Is Mindful of Us!

I'm not one of "those people" who LOVE trips to Walmart. In fact, it was after over 3 weeks being back in the States before we finally made a trip to Wally World yesterday. And it was really only because my mother needed us to pick up some things for her. We had just finished our laundry and had about an hour before lunch, so we decided to head that way.

Yesterday morning in the car there were issues we discussed: 1. That we needed solution regarding laundry (we were under the impression that we wouldn't have a hook-up in the house we'll be living for 4 months even though we have a washer and dryer) and 2. That we needed to get Genevieve set with her homeschooling. I reminded Polly that we needed to call a friend who has been homeschooling her kids in Malden for years to help with that, which we had meant to do the day before. I know for sure we prayed about the first. I can't recall but we may have also prayed about the second. We have learned many times in our lives that we need God to meet these needs, because we cannot without him.

Anyway, fast forward to Walmart. As we were getting some produce we saw a familiar face. It was the owner of the house we'll be renting for the next 4 months. We asked her about the washer and dryer hook-up and she told us that we can been misinformed. There is a washer and dryer hook-up. I wish you could have seen the joy in Polly's face. With all the rest of our hectic lives, that's one less hectic aspect to it.

We continued shopping and I went into an aisle to pick up some pencils for Genevieve. I heard, "Michael?" I look over and who is it? Our friend (my former youth pastor) who we were needing to call about homeschooling. I hadn't seen her in years. We weren't originally planning to go to Walmart. She said she almost never goes during the day. And yet there we both were the day that we were talking about needing to talk to her.

Coincidences? I think not. I believe that God was reminding us, once again, that He has everything under control and is taking care of us. The psalm I read in my devotions last night says, "Who is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:4 ESV) Really we don't deserve to have God think of us and take care of us. But as David continues to point out in this psalm, he does think of and care for us. What's was David's response to that reality? The same that ours should be:

"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1a and 8:9)

Thank you God for reminding us again that you think of and care for us!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Next Book in the Series

Have you ever read a really good book? One where you cannot wait to turn the page to see what happens next? Genevieve and I read one together recently that she really enjoyed. It was a kid detective story. After each chapter, she wanted me to keep going.

Have you ever read a series that good? You finish one book and cannot wait to tackle the next? I was that way with The Lord of the Rings among others. Sometimes, though, the next book in the series can take a little time to get going.

This is where we are right now in our lives. At first I was thinking about how we're turning the page or starting a new chapter. But really I feel like the better comparison is a book series. We're living out The Brown Family Missionary Adventures. We've already lived out the first 2 books: The Prequel: Preparation for the Journey and Pura Vida Costa Rica. Now we're living out the next book: The Transition. This is our first time going through such a transition. It's slow moving in the beginning, but we're still excited to see where the story leads us.

We still haven't moved into our transitional house yet. This is where we'll be living until we move into missionary housing at a church in January. We should be moving within the next couple weeks.

We still don't have a vehicle yet, though the part has been ordered and hopefully will ship in the next day or two. This means that we should have the van by next week.

But while we're continuing to work out these details we've already begun the itineration process, as we've shared at 2 partnering churches. We'll continue visiting and sharing at churches each Sunday with occasional midweek services scattered during our time in the States. Once we have a vehicle, we'll also begin meeting more regularly throughout the week over coffee with pastors and individuals.

We'll feel more settled when we have a more normal routine and schedule, but things are settling. We're beginning a new chapter in our current book.

This is the first of many chapters covering fundraising, the majority of the material that will be covered in this book. The simple fact is that we cannot go to Bolivia until we have all the necessary funds to go. This will take the continued partnership of churches and individuals as well as the new partnership of churches and individuals.

I'm sure there will be plot twists and many moments of conflict and resolution. We don't yet know all of the characters that will enter the storyline in this book. But what we do know with certainty is how the book will end: with a cliffhanger of the Browns ready to go to Bolivia to bring good news to lost and hurting people, anticipating the next book in the series: Browns in Bolivia.

Would you like to be a character in this story? Would you like to invest in the next book through financial partnership in this one? Please contact us for more information on partnership.

We're excited to keep turning the pages, working our way through the chapters. We want to enjoy this book but also eagerly look forward to finishing it in due time so we can begin the next book in the series.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Do We Actually Do?

We've now been back in the States for 2 weeks, working through this transition. I'm sure some wonder what we actually do during our itineration year (until we leave for Bolivia). So I figured it was worth the effort to share.

1. Logistics

There are many logistical things to work through.

We're still in the process of finalizing details on our temporary apartment until we move into a missionary apartment in January. We need to ensure we will have all the furniture and such we will need there without investing a lot of money since it's only for 4 months.

We're also still in the process of having the necessary work done on the van we will be using in the States. Until then we're using public transit, borrowing vehicles and getting rides. The itinerant life is not easy without a vehicle so we hope to have this finally resolved shortly (a donor has offered to help with this!).

Another big item is emptying the storage locker someone has been keeping for us while we were gone. We need to go through our things, figure out what we still need to keep now that we have a better idea of this life and bring them back to the Boston area. A family from my church has offered up space at their house to store stuff for now.

There are many more logistics including visas and such which will come as well.

2. Partner Building

The logistics keep us busy, but there is an actual purpose of us being back in the States: to build our financial partner base through traveling to churches and getting together with family and friends. We can't go to Bolivia until we have our full budget raised, so this is critical. This means phone calls and emails to churches trying to get services and otherwise connecting with pastors, family and friends to share our hearts.

If you are a pastor or individual and would like to hear more and connect with us over coffee or via Facetime/Skype (if you're not in the area), we would love to meet with you. Please call or text us at 774-262-5554, email us at mikeandpollybrown@gmail.com or Facebook message us.

3. Preparation

We have meetings, interviews and trainings before we can be approved and ultimately go and serve in Bolivia.

There are other conferences and events we may attend relating to the ministries with which we'll be involved.

We also have to study and prepare in other ways for our lives and ministry in Bolivia.

4. Visiting People and Places

We have already mixed a bit of this into our first 2 weeks. The kids are really dealing with this transition and it's important to visit people and the places that are special to us here in the States. We want to help them as best as we can.

It may look like "vacation" to some but work continues. We're just prioritizing our free times to include as many fun, special events, moments and memories as possible. And many of those events are being offered by gifts by family and friends who want to love on us and our kids.

5. School

Polly will be homeschooling the kids during our itineration year. So the Brown Academy will be starting soon. 

So as you see, this is far from a year off. We will be busy, while trying to mix in as many special moments as possible. Thank you for your cares, prayers and financial partnership.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Well, as we've been posting about we have said goodbye to Costa Rica and our amazing friends there. Some have asked how things are going here in the States. On the one hand, it's been great seeing some family and a little of the things we've missed here but on the other hand we're still pretty unsettled so it's a tough thing to assess.

We have gone through the process of goodbyes and will certainly miss people and things in Costa Rica (I still start a lot of sentences with, "In Costa Rica..." and have found myself eaves-dropping on any Spanish conversation I have heard) but we're already ready to move forward to what life will look like here in the States for the next year (or so). And while this year in the U.S. is a transition year in its own way, in this current moment it's a more intense time of transition.

Before we can live our lives as normally as possible here while raising the needed funds to go to Bolivia (after being officially approved for that change), we need to get set up to live our lives as normally as possible. Which leaves us with some checklist items including some very big needs, including:

1. A place to live until our missions' housing becomes available in January
2. A car
3. Car insurance
4. Cell phone service

Of course there are a plethora of other needs we have. But these seem to be the biggest. The latter 2 is just a matter of getting it done after finding the best option for us, but the top 2 on this list is something bigger than us just getting done. We need the right situation at the right price and that means we need God's involvement. (We do have a potential option for each but the car one needs work and we're not sure on the house one yet.) Would you please pray with us for those situations and even let us know if you know of any options?

Update: It looks as though both of the options that were in the works for items 1&2 (which was totally God in the first place) will work out for us. Please keep praying that there's no hiccup and for the finances needed for both, but things are looking good.

So, this is the stage we're in right now: transition. This means that life feels unsettling as we live out of suitcases (though we have set up as "normally" as possible at my parent's place for the time being), don't have phones to communicate with people and don't have a way to get around aside from public transportation (which means we can't even get down to visit Polly's family yet).

Thank you for following us through this process and for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


If the month of July was one of the craziest, busiest and most hectic of my life (a trip to Bolivia followed by 3 straight missions teams), then August is sure to be one of the most emotional. I shared last week about how we're feeling through this transition in general as we leave Costa Rica and go to the U.S. Today I wanted to share a little more specifically about what the "leaving Costa Rica" piece looks like for us.

In the midst of the practical - paying bills, suspending our residencies, packing - there is one action that has stood out as important and difficult this week: saying goodbye. Polly had read in a book called "Third Culture Kid" that it's important to say goodbye to not only people but also to places. So we have been in goodbye mode. Saying goodbye has got to be the most difficult part of leaving a place. But it's a necessary step in the process.

So if you thought I took a look of photos before, watch out. We're taking photos of everything and everyone as we say goodbye. We've said goodbye to friends. We've said goodbye to some of our favorite spots. I even took pictures during our last trip to the farmers' market, of the last pineapple we bought here. But our toughest goodbyes are still to come (we had friends over yesterday but we'll see them one more time briefly to say goodbye, but the goodbye to spending time with them has now passed). Today I say goodbye to one of my closest friends. And we say goodbye to our mentor missionary (though we'll surely see her again as we will be working with the same ministry and will undoubtedly have meetings in the future). Tomorrow we say goodbye to the kids from Linda Vista (including the chicos and chicas we've worked with). I think there will be tears. Friday we'll say goodbye to other great, life friends. Saturday we'll say one last goodbye to many of our missionary friends here. Sunday will be tough as we say one last goodbye to our church and church family here. Who knows what other goodbyes will come along the way. 

Goodbye is a word we've become accustomed to using a lot during our time here. But I don't think we ever really get used to it. We certainly haven't become numb to it. So we'll continue our goodbyes, trying to work through this process. Just don't be surprised if we're a little extra emotional. We would love your prayers for God's hand and emotional strength as we walk through this step of saying our goodbyes.

Monday, August 1, 2016

An Interview with Genevieve

In our last blog, I shared about how we're feeling as a family as we face this upcoming transition from Costa Rica, to the States. I decided to give Genevieve a chance to speak for herself, which I thought would be easiest in an interview format. I tried to follow her train of thought the best that I could while also trying to ask questions that would give the reader an idea for how our little sweet 5 year old is processing things.

Q. What's your name?
A. Genevieve

Q. How old are you?
A. 5

Q. What's your favorite color?
A. Purple

Q. Why is purple your favorite color?
A. Because it's Saprissa

Q. Where do you live?
A. Curridabat

Q. In which country is Curridabat?
A. Costa Rica

Q. Which languages do you speak?
A. Spanish and English

Q. Which language do you prefer to speak?
A. English

Q. What are we doing next week?
A. Leaving

Q. Leaving where?
A. Costa Rica

Q. Where are we going?
A. To the States

Q. How do you feel about moving?
A. Sad

Q. Why sad?
A. Because I'll miss my friends

Q. Do you have a lot of friends?
A. Yes

Q. Do you have a best friend?
A. I have 2. They are Lucy (another MK here in Costa Rica) and Raeah (also another MK currently here in Costa Rica)

Q. Do you have any tico (Costa Rican) friends?
A. Yes

Q. Do you speak Spanish or English with your tico friends?
A. Both because they want to learn English

Q. Which do you speak more with your tico friends, Spanish or English?
A. Spanish

Q. What are you going to miss most about Costa Rica?
A. The dinosaur room at the Children's Museum

Q. Are you going to miss anything else here?
A. School

Q. What are you most looking forward to in the States?
A. Children's Museum (in Boston) because the climbing part

Q. What is your favorite memory from Costa Rica?
A. Waterfall Garden

Q. Why did you love the Waterfall Garden?
A. Because of the tall waterfall and also the wide one

Q. If you could choose between staying in Costa Rica or moving to the States, which would you choose and why?
A. Staying in Costa Rica because I want to go back to school

Q. How should people pray for you as you go through this transition from Costa Rica to the States?
A. To have a good time

It's also worth sharing a conversation from this morning. She started talking about how we wouldn't be at our own church next week (she meant the Sunday after this coming one) and how she's going to miss all her church friends. Then as Polly was explaining what we will be doing, she took her little pony she was holding and just kept making her say, "boo."

We ask that you please remember Genevieve and Jonah in your prayers as we walk through this transition. It's been especially difficult on Genevieve emotionally as she prepares to say goodbye to friends and loved ones. And even though Jonah is quite young and not really sure about what's going on, he's about to live outside of Costa Rica for the first time in his life and will undoubtedly experience some changes. Thank you!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Torn Hearts

For some of our friends, we’re leaving Costa Rica. For other friends and family, we’re returning to the United States. For us, we’re doing both. And there are emotions connected to each. There are many who assume we must be excited to be returning home to the U.S. And while we are excited to return to the U.S., “home” is a pretty fluid concept for us right now. Why? Because before we can arrive “home” to the U.S., we must leave “home” from Costa Rica. We want to be excited and celebrate our return “home” with friends and family in the U.S., but we’re not there yet. We need to process through the stages of grief that comes with leaving people and a place that we love. Our heart is torn.

When we left the U.S. for Costa Rica in January 2014, there were so many unknowns. We probably had more questions and uncertainties than expectations. But as August 2016 fast approaches, we are preparing to leave a place we know well and love deeply. We came here not knowing anyone from here. We prepare to leave so many friends and kids, who are like our own kids at times, behind. This transition back to the U.S. is nothing like our transition to Costa Rica. There is no real comparison to be made. We know what we’re returning to. While we will face reverse culture shock, we have a strong base of family and friends already in the U.S. It’s just not the same.

It would be one thing if we were preparing to return to Costa Rica. This moment would be more of a “See you soon.” But this is a real, genuine goodbye. Nobody really knows what the future holds. But while we may have a chance to visit Costa Rica in the foreseeable future, there are no plans to live here again in the foreseeable future. So we are in fact saying goodbye to this place as our home. This will take processing.

So for those in the U.S. who may be excited for us to be home for a year or so before we make a new transition to Bolivia, please be patient with us and extend to us grace and mercy if we don’t quite seem so excited in the moment. Please understand that we will be excited to see you and reconnect. Please just also understand that we still need to grieve a significant “loss” as we leave so much we love behind. I believe in the notion that it’s better to meet people and have to leave them behind than to have never met them at all. But I also believe that it can be hard in the moment of the goodbye. Please be sensitive and give us that opportunity.

Please don’t misunderstand this post. We’re not depressed or angry or frustrated. We’re not upset about our upcoming transitions and what God has in store for us. We’re in a good place. We view grieving as healthy. We just want to respect the process with no regrets. Thank you for caring enough to read this post. We covet your prayers. We love you. Blessings!