Monday, April 29, 2013

Blathering of an old British gentlemen

Well it is almost May and here we are again with a vast amount of time passing since the last post. I guess I'm not truly as narcissistic as one needs to remain to keep up a blog. I guess in reality that is good...

As Death Cab for Cutie serenade’s me I can't help but listen to the words, "I'll follow you into the dark..." and think about the way I "try" to follow Christ.

The dark being the unknown, the terrifying or even the exciting. But, regardless, dark.

As we prepare to pack up our lives once again, move from another home and drive into the horizon without clear purpose or final destination one begins to ponder ones options. Maybe God doesn't always close all the doors. Maybe a few are left open giving one the opportunity to choose a path. I've realized of late that I much prefer to leave the worrying to God and just simply follow blindly what "works out". Assuming that if it "worked out" it must be God's will.

Perhaps not entirely biblical.

Unfortunately I can't find scripture to back theology that states, "Follow Christ blindly, without question, study or intimate relationship!" Darn.

Even as I write I am working out the holes in my previous theory regarding how God and I tend to communicate. I pray, I whine, I beg, I petition, sometimes I yell violently and then I apologize promptly and wait, assuming that whatever happens is the answer. In some circumstances this rather primitive form of communication can be quite beneficial, useful and successful. But as of late I can't seem to understand why this proven process has, from my perspective, fallen short of my standards of success.

I've began to wonder if in certain situations the option to choose and choose wisely is where the lasting wisdom is found. It's not that either option is right or either option is wrong but rather how either option will affect the course of one’s life. Each option respectively offers a variety of pro's and con's that really end up being quite irrelevant in the course of one’s life; or are they?

Are they irrelevant?

If you haven't already, I would encourage you to read this post with heir and stature of any prominent British gentlemen of the 19th Century. The voice that reads me what I have written inside my head sounds like the previously described gentlemen.

Well I will leave you with the query concerning the relevance of ones decisions on the remainder of their life. I also leave you the task of realizing the importance of developing a biblical and effective form of communication with Christ.

Eighth Period is here. Oh how they try my patience.

“Sit down, shut up”, yells the teacher with a strained American accent as he slowly sips his Vitamin Water with disdain in his eyes…

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Missions Opportunity

Almost 2 years ago, God took us on a journey that would change everything we new.  After experiencing great tragedy, going on mission to South Korea and Malaysia provided me with an unexplainable closeness to the Lord that has allowed me to be sensitive to His gentle and consistent calling on our lives. Upon returning home, I didn’t know when or how we would return as a family but I did know without a doubt that we would. Through their own story some friends of ours were reassured that, “God doesn’t play jokes!” and I believe that to be true when I consider the feeling of home I experienced on the other side of the globe and the burden I feel in my heart for the unreached people of South East Asia.

In the last few weeks I can’t help but feel as if God is rekindling this once burning flame for the people of Malaysia. Almost 2 years after visiting and “luck” would have it, right after I graduate, a position at Dalat International School (DIS) teaching art has become available. As I wade through the endless paperwork associated with a position in international teaching/ministry my good friend Jonathan Smalley texts and wonders if I’m anywhere close to Plano, Texas. After some research we find that I am only 4 hours away. I immediately offer to drive half way so we can meet for coffee when he’s there. To this he says, “why don’t you drive the whole way and attend a conference with me?”

The first three days of this conference dive into everything associated with international church planting and the last three days are pointed specifically at ministering to Muslim people. (Are you connecting the dots?) After thoughtful consideration and many prayers that sounded similar to, “What the heck are You doing?” (with the you being of course God) I agreed to attend.

At this point receiving an offer to teach art at DIS is really rather moot when considering the work that Christ is still completing. Would I love the opportunity to teach there? Yes! Would it make sense? Yes! But really what I’m seeing here, is God continuing the work He started and guiding us down a path that helps makes sense of what is brewing in our hearts.

Unfortunately I either have a ridiculous amount of faith or I’m historically and possibly even genetically irresponsible because the conference, including transportation costs, food and accommodations for the week will be about $600.  I know that God will provide but I ask that you would pray for my family as we venture to seek Christ and step out in faith. I know that many who read this do not necessarily agree with the steps we are taking as we move forward; but know that we are seeking Christ with our whole being and no matter where that leads it is better than anywhere we would take ourselves.

As we believe Christ will equip us for the task we have ahead, we also believe He will equip our loved ones with the comfort and peace that passes understanding if we all continue to seek His perfect plan. I pray you will thoughtfully consider joining us not only in prayer but also financially as we seek to cover costs for this ongoing mission.  May God bless you as often and as richly as he blesses us.

In Christ, Joel

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Can it already be January of 2013? So much has happened in this last year and so much of it just in the last 5 weeks.

Waiting for Uncle Tony's Arrival...

Tony did come to visit at the beginning of December and although our fun filled week was down-graded to some entertaining outings on account of Joel working impromptu at Seven Lakes High School for a week, it was great. We toured Galveston, saw Dolphins, hit up the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and gorged ourselves on some legit home-made tacos.

The kids on the beach in Galveston with Pleasure Pier on the Horizon
Fairy ride to Bolivar where we same many dolphins and played on the beach!

It was great to have a piece of home here and Tony, who is really more of a brother and an uncle, being around was as the British might say, capital. Please notice that we now find home in people. People from our past, our present and yes even our future. We have discovered that home is no longer defined by geographical location but by the people that we were born to, the people we are lucky to call family and the people we are even luckier to call our friends. Even as I type God continues to displace our hearts from what we have ever known as home and prepare us for what I can only assume is the humble beginnings of a life dedicated solely to His kingdom. 

December 3, 2012 marked the two anniversary of our accident. While we look back with sorrow for the Larson's and the loss that they continue to feel with each passing day, we look back also with remembrance at the opportunity God gave us to better serve Him. Each day that we wake on this earth is a gift and I encourage anyone who reads this to strive daily not to take it for granted. Don't wait until tragedy strikes to glean this simple bit of knowledge, act now in this new year and make each day count for God, for your spouse and for your children. As I reread this even now I'm secretly hoping Mandy doesn't read it and out me as a failure. Even with the knowledge of how quickly life changes or ends I fall short but I remain hopeful in what the Lord can do and who He can make me and my family for His kingdom.

On December 8, 2012 Joel's college graduation came and went. While I was steadfast in remaining absent for any formal ceremonies, I will admit that when the day came I was a little disappointed on account of missing the formalities a graduation from higher education had offered. I now eagerly await my diploma so that I may have proof that I not only finished something I started, but that I have continued, with my wife and my children, down a path we believe the Lord has set before us. In my head right now I am naming people who boldly declared that I would not finish and smiling smugly to myself with the giddy satisfaction of an overweight child indulging in his third piece of cake without the permission of his nanny. Yet again I fall short and add yet another disapproving nod from Jesus right before he begrudgingly allows me to enter heaven on a trial basis.

Somewhere between Tony leaving and the rest of the Berry's arriving we moved into our over-priced town-home West of the city. One morning after just moving in Mandy found a pile of tiny little ants by the door to our 8 square foot patio. Upon further investigation we realized that the ants were really on our side and they were in-fact helping us by feasting on the corpse of small roach. Ahhh the good life. Really though, it's clean, gated, pretty safe and will do just fine until June.

Out humble abode
Adam, Holly and crew came in a whirlwind of chaos and fun and Christmas Day and left in the same fashion at midnight on the 30th. We managed to fit in Galveston, Rice University, The Chocolate Bar, La Kings, a Pirate Museum, Tennis, a lot of great food, some cards and a good old fashioned game of Jerk! Needless to say on the other side of it, half the Colston family is sick and Mandy and I are in a constant state of panic due to sleep deprivation and depleted ibuprofen stock piles. 
Ma Berr'ys brilliant impression of Will Ferrel in "Elf"

From Terminal A to Terminal C
Christmas @ Bush

Galveston, Texas

Galveston, Texas 
Pirate Museum 

They were having fun, we swear! :)

Rice University

Only Uncle Adam!

Midnight right before Adam & Holly hit the road to El Paso, Texas

It was a blast. But all good things must come to an end and you know what they say about too much of a good thing...Anyway, great memories were made and Mandy and I could not have been more blessed to have everyone here together even if for a short time!

Ma & Pa Berry are here until January 10 and we are looking forward to another week full of adventure. We have slept in until noon a couple of times and replenished the store houses with over-the-counter pain meds. All is well that's drugged well or something...

We rang in the new year with sparklers and Shirley Temple classics (the movies not the beverages). Yes you read that correctly. Hard to believe my sister and I came from the same place. No I'm not jealous of her fantastic photos lacing the blue pages of a popular social media site. Yes, yes I am. Darn you jealousy, why do you plague my ever wandering heart? Why must though rear thy ugly head, driving a wedge between siblings? That's probably enough drama for one post... Well here's to 2014 and a sweet plan to ring in the new year with a little more pizzaz or at least more sparklers!

Joel has an interview on Monday, January 7th that if goes well will provide a full-time job until the end of the school year. YEAH!!! We would appreciate your prayers asking only that God's will be done as we know that He is our great provider and no other resource can really quite compare. If however He does provide this job, He will also need to provide an additional vehicle as this school is about 30 minutes away from our apartment. So throw up a prayer or two for that as well.

With 2012 in rear view mirror and, contrary to popular belief and the ever-luming Mayan calendar, 2013 getting settled in; from our family to yours we hope that this year will be your best yet. May God bless you and keep you and may you find purpose and joy in everything you do. God Bless and Happy New Year!!!

Disclaimer: it's 1:43am. Due to ths fct, I'm tired and did not porof raed the pvireous post. Pealse frgive any grammatical or spelling errors and know that dreeges don't actually make you smrter they just laern you eogunh to get wneekdes off. Thank you and goodnight...


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Silver Lining

Ah November. The weather has changed, the allergies are in full swing and finally there is hope for a better tomorrow.

After quite a few weeks of reminding people that I was the best person for the job, I can say it is official! I will be Long-Term Substituting for an Art Teacher @ Mayde Creek Junior High beginning in late November or early December. The precise date depends entirely on when her fetus decides to make an appearance. This gig will last until the middle of February at the earliest and could last longer. Again all depends on the how much maternity leave the teacher decides to take. 

With the promise of a job(at least for a few months) we decided we should get our own place. As of yesterday, we signed a 6 month lease on a 2 bedroom, 2 bath town house in a great part of town, only 10 minutes away from Ben and Adika. After the last post, we all understand how hard this was to find and Mandy and I are now okay with paying ridiculously high rent for safety, security and cleanliness. Starting next month we will call the Enclave at Cypress Park #1003 home. We get the keys on December 4 just in time to put are clothes away before the festivities and fun the Christmas season brings. No really, remember we moved with nothing but our clothes, tortoise, iMac and espresso machine. Will it be the best decorated townhouse on the block? NO! Will it be furnished with every modern convenience afforded to the typical American? NO! Will it have the basic necessities one requires to simply live? NO! But, it will be ours!!! And we found some sweet circa 1938 22k gold plated china at the thrift store to drink espresso out of. Set of 19 for $3. Never thought I'd be proud to say that sentence...but I am! 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy it seems insensitive to even jest about donating to our cause and fortunately I really don't know how to set that kind of stuff up. So, while you're sitting around the fire place this Holiday season drinking cocoa and enjoying festive desserts, think of us and know that we really do enjoy living a more simple life without such modern comforts as sheets, spatulas, plates and other such frivolities. I mean it can't be that bad if we're drinking espresso out of 22k gold plated china right?

But, I digress. 

Rather than give us endless guilt trips about moving away and other such nonsense, our friend Big-T is coming to visit December 2-10. While Big-T is here we have a fun filled week of excitement that includes but is not limited to: An over night stay in New Orleans, a day trip to Galveston to play on the ocean, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, a personal guided tour of Cardiff Junior High and much much more. We may even let him help us move! Shshh.

We are really so excited for him to come and bring a little piece of familiarity to our new lives. And only 2 weeks after he leaves we get to welcome the younger Berry's and their humans for Christmas! Couldn't have asked for a better December!

The longer we are here, the more it begins to feel like somewhere we could call home. With that said, it also makes it possible to start thinking that anywhere can be home since really no where on earth really is. Deep right!?! My application to Katy ISD is complete and my application to Issaquah ISD is almost complete. I think I need to find somewhere on the East Coast so that we have the whole nation covered. For all of you gasping in disbelief, I was kidding. We have no intention of moving to the East Coast. 

We do however have every intention of seeking the Lord's will, and living our adventure until He calls us home. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Homeless in Houston

Think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you. Then punch yourself in the face, light your hair on fire and put your hand in running blender. That's what apartment hunting in Houston is like. Minus all the blood and skin transplant surgeries it's pretty much identical.

After recently landing a long-term sub position at a neighboring Junior High we decided it was time to spread our wings in the big city and get our own digs. Unfortunately Houston is confused and it is ridiculously expensive to rent and super cheap to buy. Thus begins our story...

The first place we checked out seemed nice and it was only 750 a month. Did I lie to them about how many kids we had so we could get the 2 bedroom instead of the 3? YES! Did Mandy like that? NO! If anyone knows Mandy, you'll know that she has a thing about lying. Something about being immoral and blah blah blah. So that place was out.

The second place seemed great. As long as we liked drugs, gangs and possible sudden death. So that didn't work.

The third place was a go! But then one thing after another fell through until we realized you don't have to be catholic to believe in signs. So we waived goodbye to all the hispanic children and women with babies feeling discouraged and a bit confused at why we were here.

If you're waiting for this to end well, just stop. It doesn't end well. It might in the future but for now, no. No it does not.

On our way home we drove past some apartments that, well they were really something! We walked in feeling immediately underdressed and out of place. Imagine Julie Roberts in Pretty Woman trying to buy new clothes. That was us.

She sat us down and said, "What's y'alls price range?"

I replied in a low but confidant voice, "We were hoping to stay around 8 or 9 hundred!"

Mandy politely reminded me and alerted the kind lady that $900 was really our max. I just looked at the wall like there was something really interesting that needed my immediate attention.

The woman replied kindly, "I can get you into one of our 1 bedroom town homes easily." I feigned interest while Mandy reminded me and alerted the woman that we had 3 children.

After a moment I asked, "Well, how much are the 2 bedrooms?"

The woman replied, "It's out of your price range!"

The worst part of this story is that unlike Julia we didn't have a purse full of money to make her feel stupid with. Of all the times not to have a bag full of hundreds, this was not one of them. Lesson learned and please for anyone who reads this learn from our lesson.

Houston, Texas USA
Mobile Photography

(Part of what makes the pictures in
the Mobile Photography Portfolio
 so cool is the danger of taking
them while driving. I think it's really going
to catch on!)
In reality the woman was very kind and gave us a number to another woman who works on referrals helping people "like us" find a place to call home. To make a long story a bit shorter, this lady is great. She sent us a list of about 20 properties the next day. After weeding out the ones that are too far away or too expensive we were left with 7. After visiting some, being turned away from others for having too many children and really loving one that was way out of our price range, we are back at square one. Just as a reminder square one is homeless paying a University 2000 miles away money to work full time for free. It's actually quite glamorous in real life but comes out a little rough on paper.

So here we sit waiting for a second list. Assuming our agent hasn't given up on us this week will probably be filled with more searching that will hopefully result in a happier tale. Until then I encourage all of you to always carry a bag full of hundreds and never, I repeat never search for places to rent in Houston. Unless you like drugs, roaches and the possibility of death
in your sleep then hey have an adventure!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Taste for Adventure

For all of you who may not know, WE MOVED TO TEXAS.

Ready for Adventure!
A little more than two months ago we packed up our mini-van with the humans, our clothes, the espresso machine, the iMac and Chin (the tortoise). With a couple dollars in our pocket, a large bag full of impulse buys from Fred Meyer and an ample supply of Starbucks Cards we set out on an adventure we would not soon forget...

We set off at 9 o'clock at night with our sights set on Denver, Colorado. We had already decided to be "that family" who would take a family photo at each State Welcome Sign and luck would have Mandy find a mustache machine on our way out of town that only added to the unadulterated awesomeness that became our collection of photos.

If anyone has ever driven to Montana than you know the Welcome Sign is posted to a bridge that stretches across the freeway lending itself to anything but a quality photo op. Fortunately natured called and determination kept us from starting our list of state pictures with a gap.
#1 Montana Rest Stop
Montana, USA
Don't let the photo fool you. Contrary to what you think your seeing, we are going strong and Denver seems not only doable but merely an afternoon drive. After a brief, and by brief I mean less than an hour, sleep at a random rest stop in middle of nowhere, Montana and about 3 or 4 shift changes we made it to colorful Colorado.
#2 Colorado Road Side
Colorado, USA
That night we met a friend for dinner and slept peacefully in a 5 star hotel. Well, it was a La Quinta. But compared to twenty+ hours in the car it seemed extravagant and lavish. As seen in the picture above, the trip had made us weary and hard as the past with its amenities and comforts slowly faded to distant dream of dream. Being a family of 5 residing in an '02 Ford Windstar changes you...

The next morning we set out refreshed, renewed and ready for anything the long stretch of road could and would bring. We laughed, we cried, we laughed some more and then we almost ran out of gas...
Middle of Nowhere, Colorado
Fortunately being a stranded family of 5 residing in an '02 Ford Windstar on the side of the road in Colorado was not part of God's plan. So, we got gas and pressed merrily forward having learned not to laugh so much you forget to get gas. 

Before we new it the panhandle of Oklahoma was fast approaching and the camera was primed and ready to capture yet another memory.
#3 Oklahoma Road Side
Oklahoma, USA
Although our time in Oklahoma was short it left a lasting impression that will...keep us from ever returning. It furthered proved my theory that the only people who live in Oklahoma are the people that were born there. Oh, and their sign adequately displays the beauty that the state landscape exudes to every border (please sense the sarcasm)! Luckily that panhandle of Oklahoma is as large as, well something small, so in no time we were ready for this...
#4 Texas Road Side
Texas, USA
Amarillo, Texas wasn't too much further and there we found Domino's and clean, inviting sheets. The next day was filled with many more stories that will inevitably fall upon the ears of friends and family for many years to come. The important part is that we finally made it to Ben and Adika's house safe and mostly sound.

The children were changed in ways that only someone who has applied a mustache in the wee hours of night can understand. Luckily they were a little crazy before so no one has noticed the difference. We are adjusting reluctantly to Texas life. But we're showing Texas who is boss by sweating, catching every disease under the heavens and finding new and wondrous things to be allergic too! 

Seriously though, God continues to provide and we have continued to live day by day trusting Him to do so. While we have little idea of what the future holds, we continue to bask in the ambiguity of life and hold on tight to the ride God continues to guide. WOW, did you just hear that poetry. You can't plan this stuff!

That dad from Modern Family once said, "If life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Then life will be all like what?" With this insight we have decided to make lemons, until we get thirsty, then we'll drink some of the lemonade. But we will mostly make lemons and be quite happy with that. We pray that God will be as real and personal in your life as he is in ours. May you be blessed and continue to bless God and others in everything you do! We Love you all...

MobileHolmes out - (Was that too much there, with that last bit all like mobileholmes out? It seemed like too much. Oh well.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Do you ever sit down to watch a tv show or movie that you probably shouldn't be watching? Well believe it or not sometimes...I do. Tonight was one of those nights! I sat down to watch some stupid show on Netflix and thought, "when was the last time I read my bible?"

Presuming the Holy Spirit was probably sleeping at 11:30 at night, I safely assumed it was just a random thought and moved forward in picking the latest episode. Before I pressed play I suddenly had the incredible urge to pee. Having not pee'd my pants in well over 2 decades I decided without much consideration to use the bathroom. While peeing I thought again, "I should read my bible!"

Again, I insisted the Holy Spirit is on a scheduled vacation and I know this is just a random thought. Finally as I sat down and got comfortable in my sin nature I think once more, "I really should at least read a chapter."

This time it's clear, the Holy Spirit is an overachiever and is working nights while on vacation. So I reluctantly pick up the word and open randomly to Ezekiel 14. Now I am of the opinion that the Word is alive and God doesn't really need me to read anything specific to have me receive exactly what He has for me in my obedience, however reluctant. But tonight was something extra special not only did the Holy Spirit convict me to read my bible but my bible was also loud and clear. Six verses was all it took to make me turn off Netflix and sit down after 6 months and create this post. Those verses were Ezekiel 14:1-6 out the New Living Translation and read as follows:

14 Then some of the leaders of Israel visited me, and while they were sitting with me, this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, these leaders have set up idols[a] in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests? Tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, theLord, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves. I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.’

“Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. I, the Lord, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among my people. Then you will know that I am theLord.

Yep. That just happened. The show itself isn't the problem really. It's what I'm allowing into my heart. If I remember the simple fact that I'm either serving the Lord or not, NO middle ground, how could I ignore that by watching ungodly crap I am setting up an idol in my heart, embracing an ungodly life and therefore falling into sin. Luckily in verse 6 I am encouraged in how to move forward. It's pretty technical so I've decided to spell it out here...STOP! Repent, turn away and STOP!

I continue to amaze myself with utter ignorance. The very idea of someone experiencing what I have and meeting God in such unexpected and real places and then falling time and time again seems ridiculous, insulting and pathetic. In all honesty it is all those things and about 15 other really bad things that I will leave at your discretion to invent and label me with. 

The reality remains that I am human and by definition a dirty rag. So rather than dwell in the patheticness of my continual failure I have chosen to repent (again), share with the galaxy this underwhelming life development and then move forward in Christ with hope. 

My big take-away from this experience is how important it is to identify spiritual lows and triumph in them rather than fall victim to them. I will forever have a place in my conscience that is reserved for the guilt concerning the accident (well maybe not forever, but for the foreseeable future, at least for now). The lesson is to celebrate the fact that God triumphs over everything rather than let one moment be a stronghold that continually leads down a path of spiritual, physical and mental destruction.

Anything that takes the place even for moment of God in my life will now be labeled an idol and adequately described as such in reference to infiltrating my heart and leading into a hole of sin. I realize that is a big jump, from tragic life experience to sinful television, but that is the way it works. Baby steps in moments of weakness that make the next step not seem so bad until all the sudden my heart is full of crap. Really smelly stuff too not like infant poop that is relatively scentless. 

Here's to learning from the past and moving forward with greater clarity and wisdom that only God can provide.