This post is day 29. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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I wrote these words in my last week in Germany as I wrestled with our In Between-ness. The circumstances are different today, a week after we moved to Australia, but the sentiments are still the same.

I pause in the morning, and I write down what I know is true, I write down what I see.

We get to stay with Mama, she cooks for us, cleans for us and does our laundry. Thank you, God.

I get to spend more time with Husband’s friends whom I love, I get to have a community and family in Frankfurt, thank you God.

The sun has been shining, and it is so beautiful. Thank you, God.

Husband gets time with our boys that he’s never had before. They love it and adore him. Thank you, God.

They are speaking German more and more, and so am I, with increasing confidence and skill. Thank you, God.

We fly today to Australia, this day is finally here. Thank you, God. 

Open wider, oh eyes. Can you see his goodness here in the In Between? Can you feel the tender touch of grace that is always there even when pain says, it is only I here.

I can feel my spirit lighten.

Gratitude is my guide through the In Between, it is the gentle teacher that leads me truthfully in a pathway of peace. Worry, fear and doubt try to steal my attention and my joy, but thanksgiving is my bed of rest and beauty.

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This post is day 15. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented. I really appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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The list of things to get done is long before a move, the tasks are tremendous and time consuming.

I know this because my Husband tells me so.

We were flying from Geneva to Australia with our six-month-old on Christmas Day in 2011. Imagine Husband’s surprise when he walked into the kitchen an hour before we had to be at the airport and found me rolling out dough on the kitchen counter tops. I don’t have words for the expression on his face, What are you doing? he asked in disbelief.

MAKINGBISCUITS, I replied, and I’m sure my face said, WHATDOESITLOOKLIKE? Because it was our first Christmas with a baby! We had to have a good breakfast together! We have to make memories! To his everlasting credit, we sat down and had a mostly unhurried brunch together, and he was very kind about it all even though the biscuits were flat.

Someone has to be the one in charge of fun, memory-making activities when it’s moving time, and that is my territory. My Husband is the bearer of news that usually sounds like, We have to pack. Our bags are too heavy. Your [insert crazy gift or purchase idea here] will not fit. But what that means as we get close to the moving date is that I am increasingly focused on what fun things we can do together – and deeply disappointed when these things don’t happen –and he is increasingly stressed out about the things that have to get done. Like emptying the refrigerator.

We are not there yet, but somehow in this move, we had moments when we managed to meet in the middle. Emphasis on the word MOMENTS. He relaxed on some things that had to be finished, and chose a quick drive to the café on the water so we could have ice creams together. I cleaned our outdoor toys and got them ready to be packed. But this only happened because we had those honest, awkward conversations.

It’s really hard for me when you can’t see that there is so much work to be done. I need your help.

I feel sad when we can’t do some of these things together. I wish you were more present.

The communication of expectations and desires is perhaps the most underrated and dull part of marriage, but it has made ours so much better.  I made my list of things to do before leaving Sweden (see last Monday’s post on bucket lists). It was full of important details like, Hang something in our garden and Have a pizza party.

Husband’s list, in contrast, had things like Visa. Sell car. Pack.

But he took note. He checked with me periodically about how my list was going, and he did what he could to make sure white lanterns were hung up in our garden for our going away party. I did what I could to make sure he had time alone to work through his tasks, to help him out when I could and to ask others for help to ease both of our loads.

Now it’s your turn: If you are married and going through a transition right now, I am guessing you and your spouse have some differences in how you want to work through your move. How can you meet in the middle? What needs do you have that you can communicate honestly and sensitively to your spouse? What needs does your spouse have and how can you take the time to listen and attend to them?

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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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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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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. 

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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?

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