This post is day 13. New to the series? Start here. You can join the conversation by commenting, it would be lovely to have you join us. If you’re reading this in your email, please click over to the post to comment. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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rock 2

The story goes like this, I tell Big Boy and Little Bear, Joshua and the people of Israel were getting ready to cross the Jordan River. Days away from entering the Promised Land after decades of wandering in the wilderness. And God tells them to build an altar, an Ebenezer, the altar is a monument to the faithfulness of God, it is Israel’s way of saying thank you.

Ohhhhh, the boys nod along in the car.

So today, we are are going to make our own Ebenezer, I tell them. We are standing at the steps leading up to the door of the Yellow House. Everything is finished inside, clean and gleaming, our things are gone. Our landlord comes in an hour to inspect and take the keys. Our little family of four gathers around this large rock and a permanent marker.

We will write down our thanksgiving on this rock, and it will stand as a monument to the faithfulness of God. 

What are you thankful for, Josiah? I ask Big Boy.

I’m thankful for the Yellow House, he says.

And we write it down. Line upon line, here a little, there a little. Little Bear goes next, Husband, me. We cover this rock in what our eyes have seen, what our hearts have known. We write down the ways in which we were embraced by Love. In the throes of grief and sadness, it tells us the truth: He led us here, he provided for us here, he gave us everything that we need here, and he is the same yesterday, today and forevermore, he goes before us as we leave. 

You cannot say goodbye without first saying thank you. Our gratitude drew us back to the truth, that we bore witness to the goodness of God the two years we lived in Sweden. Even though we were heartbroken to leave, even though we didn’t know the details of what comes next, we needed to remind ourselves of what is trueLook what God did. That’s what this rock says. We planted it in the bushes in the garden that is no longer ours, a monument to the faithfulness of God.

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rock

This was on a Monday, the day before we said goodbye to our little church in Stockholm. Our dearest friends gathered around us, laid their hands on us and prayed. Our pastor said he saw a picture of a snake shedding its skin, There are some things you are going to leave behind in Stockholm. And my soul knows it is true, there are habits that cannot continue, there are attitudes that will kill my soul, there is selfishness that will destroy my family. I can repent, I can say to myself: No more. It does not have to continue. 

Leaving Sweden was an open door to me to draw a line, to take responsibility and to turn in a new direction. Leaving any place is that opportunity for all of us, the ending of one thing is the beginning of something else. We do not have to know what that thing is in the very real terms, I may not know what our life will look like in Australia, but we have ownership of our hearts, our souls, our minds, our actions. We can choose what those things will look like. We can choose how to think, what we will believe and how we will act. We are not helpless victims in difficult circumstances, we can choose what goes into our minds, we can choose the meditations of our hearts.

So that is what we do next at the Yellow House. I have scraps of paper in my handbag, and we each write down what we want to leave behind. What I wrote was personal, but I can tell you this, it felt powerful. Like I was owning my life instead of saying life is happening to me, like I was taking responsibility for my mistakes instead of saying someone else made me choose this. 

The boys dug a tiny hole in a corner of the garden, and we buried those scraps of paper in the fresh earth. I can tell you that it felt like freedom even though the work is real, the failures daily are real, but there is a hope this moment writes on my heart. He makes all things new. 

I was searching for the Ebenezer and Joshua story in the Bible while writing this post and couldn’t find it because it turns out, I got the story wrong. It is found in 1 Samuel 6-7 (chapter 7:12, for the specific verse). Israel is walking away from God, and in the beginning of chapter 7, they turn around and ask Samuel to intercede for them before God, turning away from their idols and promising to love God alone.  As they gathered to repent, the Philistines come back to attack, but Samuel intercedes for them and God saves Israel.

Samuel then sets up a stone and calls it Ebenezer, Hebrew for, The Lord is my help. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, Thus far the Lord has helped us.

Thus far the Lord has helped us, he says. Because he helps us in all things, and we saw his help, his provision, his incredible grace in the Yellow House, and all we can say is, Thank you. Because he helps us see our mistakes and our weakness, and he says, Return to me. Always, always, his words are, Return. 

I don’t know who you are or what your circumstances are, but perhaps he is asking you today, What do you need to give thanks for? What do you need to turn from? He is your help, and he can do it. 

I’m linking up with Jennifer and Holley today. 

transition

This post is day 12. New to the series? Start here. This week I will be writing about practical ideas related to moving, you can expect posts about marriage, getting help, decluttering and making space for beauty. You can join the conversation by commenting. I would love to hear from you. If you’re reading this in your email, click over to the post to comment. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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bucket list blog

This is one simple way to make a transition meaningful and fun. Make a bucket list. Take the time by yourself to make a list of serious or fun or unique things you can do before you move. My list had a mix of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to visit, and moments I wanted to have with my family. Hang something up in the garden. Go to Ulriksdal with the kids. Make cardamom buns.

Writing down my desires is one of the most freeing and satisfying experiences of my day-to-day life.  It releases me from feelings of shame that I even have desires, it sets me free to work toward something and it lets me know what is important to me. That last one may sound silly to those of you who are heavily sensory, but for us intuitive types, we don’t always realize what is on the inside. Putting it on paper makes it more real, and it gives me a list I can give to Husband and say, This is what’s important to me right now. Inevitably it also shaped the way I spent my time in the weeks before our move.

One thing we did with our move from Sweden was to sit down with our four-year-old and ask him if there was anything he wanted to do before we left. He had a list of six things, and we wrote it down nice and big on a white sheet of paper, and it was on our fridge until the last day. It was a wonderful insight into his heart and mind. There were places he wanted to visit that were special to him like the Vasa Museum and Lek o Bus (an indoor play centre), but there were also very simple things like play in our garden, go to the water, go to Aunty Wilma’s house. These are insights into his heart that I need, it reminds me now after we’ve left Sweden, these are the things he probably misses the most, these are the places where his heart is likely to be hurting.

We worked our way through the list one at a time, he crossed it off every time we finished something. He loved it. His bucket list was a way to give his opinions and feelings a priority during our move, it acknowledged to him that he is important, and in the process we made several wonderful family memories. The last item on the list we crossed off a day or two before we drove away from Sweden, and something about finishing his list said to all of us, It’s time to go now.

Now it’s your turn: What do you want to do before you move? Even if you aren’t in the middle of a move, what things would you like to do before the year ends? How would you like to spend your October or November?

This post is day 10. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

Today’s post is by my friend, Lana of the wonderful blog Spare Change. I met Lana through her blog before I moved to Stockholm, and she quickly became a great source of information on life in Sweden and then so much more.

Lana Wimmer is a writer and artist. She received her B.S. in Family Psychology from Brigham Young University and earned her next degree in Reverse Psychology from raising four kids (ages 6-19). Married to a U.S. diplomat for 21 years, she’s moved over 15 times, calling five different countries “home.” When she’s not multitasking, cooking or carpooling, she can be found hiking in the red rock mountains behind her St. George, Utah home. Her current project, due out someday,is a guide to the expat lifestyle.

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lana guest post

All words and photographs by Lana Wimmer

Even If Things Are Going Wrong, You Are Still Alright

Nothing went as planned, starting with the ants. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We moved to the U.S. in July. We’d been living abroad in Sweden for the past three years and before that, our family of six, moved over 15 times, calling five different countries “home.” With my husband posted to Iraq this year, we decided to buy a home closer to family (and with good weather, can you blame us?) in St. George, Utah.

Miraculously, we found and bought the house in four days. Every obstacle that came our way was removed. It felt right. It felt good. It felt exciting!

And yet when we arrived so many things went wrong.

Starting with the ants. They were everywhere, in the bathrooms, the kitchen, the basement. Roaches too, but the ants were worse. They got into our clothes in our closets and into our shoes. They crawled in through the windows and up through the drains. They even camped out in the dishwasher! The exterminator sprayed four times but they kept coming back. And then…

The waters came. I welcomed the rain, but not the leak in the bathroom exhaust fan. Water poured through, kurplunk kurplunk, splashing into the toilet and onto the floor. Ants and rain! We called a roofer to fix the leak and then…

The kitchen ceiling started leaking, water poured in from the light fixtures and above the cabinets. It was coming from the air conditioner so I shut down the system and temperatures indoors soared to 90 degrees. When the technician arrived, he found the condensing tubes clogged. The water in the “overflow pan” was flooding through the ceiling. We fixed and paid for repairs, and then…

The neighbors below us stopped by to introduce themselves, and Oh by the way, did you know you have water coming through your concrete fence onto our driveway? We’re scared the wall might destabilize and fall over onto our cars. What?!?!

I followed them back to their driveway and couldn’t believe my eyes, water oozing through the fence, surrounded by gigantic white mineral stains. See we told you, their heads nodded. “And look,” the wife said, pointing to the curb, “there’s more water running down the street. It’s coming from your yard.” A swift moving current flowed along the asphalt; something a child could have floated a paper boat on. “Where’s it coming from?” I asked.

“Maybe your pool is leaking,” the man said, easing his way toward his front door, “Or it could be your sewer. Nice meeting you.”

I stood alone feeling as though a force combined against me was trying to wash me away, literally, stripping down my resolve, planting doubt in my heart and fear in my mind. What if the pool was leaking? What would that cost? Who would I call? What about the fence? Could it be the sewer? Back home I paced the tiles, footsteps echoing, gazing up at the water stained ceiling. How many things had gone wrong?

Lord, I silently asked, how can everything go wrong when I thought this was right? Didn’t you lead me here? Hadn’t you taken every obstacle out of our way? Did I make the wrong decision to buy this home, when things had gone so smoothly?

And then this thought…when did right mean easy? Did doing the right thing mean life was going to be smooth sailing ALL the time?

No, of course not.

When I looked at my circumstances in their entirety, as they really were, I had a good life, a very good life. I just wasn’t remembering. In the face of challenges I’d forgotten how much was still going right…I had my health, I had a home, I had my family. That was the point, after all, to move back closer to family, to be there not only for holidays but also for the everyday stuff—family dinners and get-togethers. I was extremely blessed to have people who loved me and cared about my kids. I also had mountain trails to hike and National Parks nearly in my backyard—places of beauty. I had a safe community and good schools. There was so much to be grateful for.

Thank you Lord, I mustered, even if it is hard.

I looked at the contacts list on my phone. My neighbors across the street, a retired couple, had said if I ever needed anything to give a holler. “Hi there,” I said, “it’s me, your neighbor…” and unfolded my dilemma.

They said, “We’ll be right over.”

Minutes later we were gathered at the curb, heads down, studying the flow of water. The husband traced it back to my water main and pointed to where the water gurgled up next to the light pole by the road. “This is a city problem.”

I took in his words slowly. Did you just say…this is a CITY problem? “So it’s not my pool?”

He laughed. “The water pipe is broke under the road,” (he’d seen it in other parts of the neighborhood). “Call the utility company and they’ll handle it.”

The city will handle it. I don’t have to handle it. Thank you Lord!

I called the city and twenty-four hours later a crew was digging up the road, making the repairs. As for the concrete fence, I turned off the sprinklers and contacted a landscaper. The landscaper came right over and identified the problem: dogs. The previous owner’s dogs had chewed off the drip lines watering the bushes. Instead of dripping at a slow rate 45 minutes each morning, they gushed water, causing the massive seepage! The landscaper kindly replaced the drip heads AND DIDN’T EVEN CHARGE ME. Yes God, thank you for reminding me, your grace is free.

When everything seems to be going wrong and it feels overwhelming, keep trusting and answers will follow. My series of unfortunate events brought me to the point of surrender. In that humble place, I could view my circumstances and not only find gratitude, but grace too. Here’s where I found friends and help and the solutions I needed to my problems. Faith isn’t what makes things easy; it makes them possible (Luke 1:36).

When we trust God, our challenges feel different, less like hardships and more like surmountable obstacles designed to make us stronger. I was overwhelmed, taking care of ants, leaks, floods and disasters! But acceptance, rather than resistance, gave me the mindset to move forward.

We may not understand why things are difficult at a particular moment in time, but we don’t have to. All we really need to know is that, “Where you are today is no accident. God is using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow. Trust Him with His plan even if you don’t understand it.”  Author Unknown

God’s grace will always take you where you need to go, even if sometimes that place is right here, right now, in the trial. Trust that wrong can actually be all right and you’ll find seas part and rainbows descend just when you need them.

Now it’s your turn: How are your challenges helping you to move forward? What are you thankful for?

transition

This post is day 9. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
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A child’s world comes apart quite literally in transition. The train track is taken apart and put in a box, the bed dismantled and wrapped in paper. There is an undoing and a breaking in their worlds in this time, and truthfully, it is happening in our world as well. We may not have the same innocence a child has to acknowledge it, but it is there.

Our children need words of life to build their souls in this breaking, we need words of life to build our souls in this breaking. 

Put on your shoes, quick! These are the words that come naturally to me, I am a rusher, I like getting things done, a child’s pace is approximately 10000 times slower than the speed at which I want my to-list accomplished. But I have learned the very hard way the power my words and my attitude have in building or destroying my children. The very, very, very hard way. I feel the need to say this again today, I make these mistakes almost every day. Speaking words of life is an intentional, character-forming, tongue-restraining, control of my natural impulses in every way. It is not easy, it is not natural, but it is a choice. This is good news because as long as I am alive, I can make a different choice, I can choose to speak life and turn away from words that push and rush and from words that hurt and destroy.

I can think of fewer things that put life, joy and vitality back into my children and husband than affirming words. The only way I am able to intentionally speak words of life over them is to slow myself down. I don’t need to hurry them, my words can build them, and my words can show them that they are seen and known.

When he called and asked me to put his socks on after trying and I want to get out the door, You tried so hard to put your sock on, I am so proud of you.

When we arrive exhausted at a restaurant, but I still want to keep driving, That car ride was so long, I can see that you were hot in your car seat. Thank you for your patience.

When I cannot believe I have to deal with yet another aggressive move on the playground, I see you are sad to lose your toys, but you may not hit and take this other boys’ toys even when you are sad. Come to me and tell me about your sadness, we can talk about it together.

When it is way past dinner time and bed time and it’s Child Fall Apart time but an AirBnB host has messed up our booking, I know it is late and you are tired, we are doing everything we can to get the key to the guest house. Papa is trying to get a new SIM card to make a phone call about the key, we have to wait together right now. We are a family, we are a team, and we are in this together. We can do it.

Your spouse needs to know you can see what causes them stress, and they need to know that you know when you are the one contributing to their stress. It is humbling, it can be exhausting, but it leads to a tired but tried trust.

Thank you for taking the time to sort out the visa application. I really appreciate that.

The garden looks fantastic, thank you for all the time you spent working on it.

I said I would call the airline, but I forgot. I know that adds work to our schedule, I am sorry.

Gentle, patient, building words provide a rhythm of grace and kindness for our family. It makes the pace of our lives manageable in a season that carries with it inherent stress. I have to fight daily to find these words, but it is worth it.

Now it’s your turn: Who needs words of life in your world right now? What words can you speak over them? Do you need words of life yourself? Where can you find them?

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