Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: November 2015

Thankful

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My family has this Thanksgiving tradition. The breakfast table is set with china. A spread of coffee cake (grain free and refined sugar free these days), frittatas, and halved grapefruits are prepared. Is that weird? Maybe no one else in the world eats grapefruit on Thanksgiving morning, but we do. Before we pour the milk into the goblets or dig into that deliciousness, we take turns sharing what we’re thankful for around the table. It’s a tradition significant enough to have survived several locations and alternate dates. The when and where are not important. Rather, it’s the giving thanks.

This year, our veins our coursing with a sense of deep, deep gratitude.

We are grateful for a baker’s dozen of churches that this fall welcomed us with open arms, extended incredible hospitality, loved our family, and then gave generously so they too might partner with us in the work God has called us to in New Zealand. Truly, we have been blessed and humbled by our worship and our fellowship with each one.

We are grateful that Q is healthy. All of the physical exams and tests have made one thing very clear: we have a strong, healthy, growing boy. He has braved the countless hours in the car, transitions, and doctor’s appointments of these past weeks well and with a sense of humor. God has equipped him well for the cultural and social transitions that are coming.

We are thankful to be a part of a global church family—a group of people from all of the world who were willing to pray for Q’s visa, who are a part of this call, and who have surrounded us with their love and support. They are our partners in ministry as we collectively seek to embody the Kingdom of God in the world.

We are grateful for Lovington First Church of the Nazarene. They’re a church family that gets it. They get what it means to serve the community and in doing so, point people to Jesus. They get what it means to care for the poor and powerless. They get what it means to be a part of the global church and the importance of continuing to look outside themselves. They get how to love pastors well—and how to send them well. As challenging as this transition has been for them, they get how to handle it with grace. They get how to celebrate the past while looking toward the future. They get what it means to be the people of God in the world.

We are thankful for the community of Lovington. It has been a great privilege to serve this community over the past seven years. This community has embraced us with open arms, given us a place of leadership, and loved us well. The people of this community give generously to feed the hungry. They volunteer their time to care well for others. It is a place where the cities and the schools and non-profit organizations can create the coolest partnerships. They supported us while we were here, and are continuing to do so as we go. We are proud to say that this is home.

We are thankful that all of the details—support raising, visas, insurance, etc—have fallen into place perfectly over the past few weeks. We are grateful for the assurance that provides and the needs that have been met.

We are thankful that God is already at work in New Zealand, and that we’ll get to be a part of the things that God is doing there. We are thankful that there are people there who will become our friends and help us navigate a new culture.

We are thankful for technology. Airplanes (Yippee for direct flights from Houston to Auckland starting soon!), What’s App, Skype, Facetime, iPhones, Facebook, videos on YouTube, and blog posts will all help make it possible for us to stay connected to people we love. They’ll help us tell the story of what God is doing in New Zealand. They may even help us tantalize you into coming to visit us. 😉

We are thankful that in the midst of being called to a place very far from home, that there are many things we’ll enjoy doing. We’re really looking forward to bike rides along the river, lots of swimming, trips to the beach, and exploring glow worm caves and the Shire and geothermal areas and so much more.

We are thankful that when we realized our dog-child, Bailey, wouldn’t be able to go to New Zealand with us, my parents willingly offered to make a place in their home and lives for her. As Q says, “Grammy and Papu will walk her and feed her and throw her ball for her and play with her.” As hard as it will be to say good bye to her in a few days, we are grateful that she will be lovingly cared for.

We are thankful for the grapefruit tree in our yard. There’s a grapefruit tree in the yard of our house in Hamilton. We’re excited about the delicious, fresh grapefruit it (and the lemon tree) will produce—almost year round. We are thankful that when we eat the juicy, tart fruit we will be reminded of the tradition of our family Thanksgiving breakfast, and we will be reminded of all that we have to give thanks for.

 

Wisdom from Pastor M

Our visas are here! In case you didn’t hear the news, all three of our visas came suddenly on Friday. In a flash, the wait was over. Jaron and I spent the weekend with a couple of fabulous church families who, like so many others before them, poured out incredible hospitality and blessing on us. Then, we bounced (yes, bounced) home in a vehicle in which the rear airbag suspension had gone out. All that bouncing (and the news about the visas) propelled us into a flurry of packing and last-minute “To Do” lists. D-13 days and counting.

It’s an interesting time for Q. On Monday morning, the dishes had barely been cleaned up from breakfast when he announced, “This is not the best day of my life. Everyone is doing too much work!”  We laughed, but truly, we’re paying attention to those statements–and to him. He even got a special movie night with Gigi last night.

Our friend Margaret Tyler has spent some significant time thinking through the process of helping kids move and journey through major life changes well. Margaret is the wife of Don, mom of two, grandma of five, pastor of many, lover of children, and bearer of much wisdom. Pastor M and her son, Kyle, put together a list of 11 things think about when it comes to nurturing children through big changes. They are as insightful and helpful for people who are moving across the state as they are for those moving across the world.

Pastor M and her husband Don

Pastor M and her husband Don

On occasion, I hear from young parents who ask, when considering a move and the needs of our children, how do we move them well? When should we tell them? How can we help them understand? Are there tangible ways that can help them understand? How can we make it easier on them? These are really important questions! It is wise to recognize that “moving well” is not as simple as discovering a new job, packing boxes and loading a moving truck. There are actually multiple layers including the good and necessary work of grief for the whole family (those moving and those left behind).

Here are a few thoughts related to the subject:

1. “Moving” is a pretty abstract concept for little people. Until you actually “move” it is difficult to grasp the concrete interpretation. So, depending on the age of your children, it may require more work to help them wrap their mind around the concept. Moving from left to right and up and down is different than moving our whole life where every norm will be altered. For little ones, I would not begin to tell them about moving until you have something to tell. However, as soon as you know where you are going and a timeline, it would be most appropriate to begin to introduce “moving language” to your daily conversations. I would especially tell them just before you begin to make the news public. You don’t want them to hear this foreign language from others.

2. Giving children space to participate in the “big deal” pieces of the move is important. For example, seeing the new place (even if it is through Skype of FaceTime). Seeing the new school, visiting the new church and helping in the process of packing to go to the new home.

3. Offering language the whole family can use so children know how to say what they are thinking. For example, our 2 year old Granddaughter referenced her “old house” and her “new house.” Her “old church” and her “new church.” This is a simple way to create clarity. 2 years later the use of this language has faded where she rarely references her old house or old church but at first she talked about them a lot. Now she says, “your state” and “my state.”

Kyle and Menda's family

Kyle and Menda’s family

4. When my 3 year old friend Tyler made a move from one state to another, he had a really difficult time managing himself. A play therapist recommended we enlist Tyler’s help to assemble a photo album. This simple tool provided him with a “story book” to remember the past and envision today. It consisted of: Photos from “old” favorite places like church, school, neighborhood. Friends and special people from “old” home. Photos of “old” bedroom, kitchen, etc. Photos from “new” places like church, school, neighborhood. Photos of “new” bedroom, kitchen table, playroom, etc. Friends and special people from new home. A photo journal to help the family pray for old and new relationships. At first they used the album nearly every day. Soon, he no longer seemed to have such an intense need. This project helped him reflect on what he lost as well as helped him begin to embrace his new story. This is not always necessary since every child is different. This was very helpful for a sensitive child. Just what he needed!

5. One of the things I have learned from our son’s move 2 years ago, it is important to expect and create space for grief. Grief shows up in many forms and at some of the most unexpected times. Because little children cannot always “name” their struggle, sometimes we forget they are grieving. We may hear ourselves ask questions like, “What is wrong with you?” as a child finds ways to act out their feelings. Our son and daughter-in-law have done a great job of allowing Lucy to hang out in her grief. When Grandma and Grandpa are driving away, they do not say, “quit your crying.” Instead they hold her and validate her tears. They always allow her to walk us outside, wave until we are out of sight and cry for awhile if needed. Lucy has learned that it is just as “safe” to be sad as it is to be happy.

Kory & Katie's family

Kory & Katie’s family

At first, when grief was most intense, they allowed her to send pictures in the mail, FaceTime a couple times per week and many visits home. Slowly but surely Lucy is releasing her longing to be in her “old” home and embracing her new life. However, it has been 2 years and I think it is fair to say that it has taken a good chunk of that time to do the work of transition and grief. It just does not happen in a week. We often hear people say, “children are resilient.” This is so true. But parents are wise to recognize the real feelings, real fears, real loss and real adjustments in daily living. While our granddaughter who moved away has walked through significant grief, so have the 3 grandchildren who remain. They grieve of the loss of a children’s pastor they call Uncle. They’ve lost the tradition of our “whole” family gathering at the Sunday table. The loss of cousins who had been in their daily lives. None of this is impossible. It is just real. Don’t be afraid to allow grief to do its work in the whole family.

6. If your “normal” includes living near grandma’s, grandpa’s, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins, etc. Moving means a huge shift in your “normal.” Your new normal may include fewer occasions for date-nights or free childcare, family gatherings, ability to attend family/friend birthday parties, etc. Again, this is not impossible but it is real. If you have enjoyed close relationships with family, then they will likely be grieving too.

7. Think about a few practical ways to create opportunities for kids to make choices that affect the family in some way. These could be simple things like allowing them to choose which room will be theirs (within reason), or letting them pick their new wall color, or letting them decide between two choices on where the couch will go, etc. This will help offer a level of ownership and buy-in to the process. Thus, feeling less like “mommy and daddy are moving and we are going with them” and more like “we are moving.”

grandkids-cousins-friends

grandkids-cousins-friends

8. There are children’s books available that teach about moving. Perhaps you could pick one to read together so you have a common language and relevant story to reference.

9. Get children involved in the exciting parts of moving. Check out the local parks to see which one you like best. Let them choose a new restaurant near your new home. Go exploring together. These positive, fun parts of your new location will offer balance when feelings of grief are more intense.

10. Moving “sounds” exciting and the truth is, it can be. But it is kind of like telling a 4 year old, “We are going to get a new baby!” That news comes with hype and excitement until you begin to live the reality of, we have to be quiet all the time so the baby can sleep, it poops on everything including mommy and daddy, it NEVER plays like everyone promised, it’s always in mommy/daddy’s lap, when we walk into a crowd of people, I feel invisible because everyone wants to see the baby. On second thought, getting a new baby is really no fun at all. It takes time for “it” to grow on you.

it=moving

it=baby

it=change

11. Finally, much of the work of creating feelings of safety for a child is on those who are moving with them. Children want to be with their family. Even if they are sad at times, having the family transition together is the best thing for a child.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

 

“Thanks for opening up the gym for us on the holiday—” My father-in-law stopped mid-sentence and laughed. He was talking to our friends Korey and Lauren Frazier, who had opened the Events Center at Bonita Park for us to play in. The words had snuck out before he realized what he was saying. We all laughed along with him. It wasn’t Christmas for anyone but us. But Christmas it was…complete with lights on the tree, decorations, chilly weather, a fire in the fireplace, gifts, yummy food, cookie decorating, matching Christmas jammies for the little ones, and a little bear nativity, all in one of our favorite settings—Jaron’s parents’ cabin at Bonita Park Nazarene Camp.

We may be #seasonallyconfused as my sister-in-law put it, but it’s not without purpose. There are traditions—as important for the grown-ups in this family as for the kids—that must be upheld and passed on, even (or especially when) your scheduled departure date is Dec. 1. The season is so important it’s worth celebrating with family six weeks early if need be. The Patman family butter cookie recipe must be made and piled with frosting and stowed in the freezer (because the “experts” say somehow they’re better frozen). A nerf shooting device must be retrieved from every stocking for impromptu battles. The table must be filled with delectable foods for every meal of the weekend, and gifts must be exchanged. All this in celebration of the greatest gift of all—the hope of Jesus.

Not one thing was amiss. Qoo (pronounced cuckoo, as Q’s cousin calls him) and The Nut as he dubbed her wrestled through our attempts to capture their pictures, played with their Christmas gifts, reveled in the rare opportunity to eat cookies with icing, wallowed in the giant beanbag chair, and only paused their shenanigans long enough to let the adults catnap in the afternoon. Together they are Qoo Qoo and The Nut. No title could be more fitting.

Wrapping and gifts were collected into piles. Stuffed snowballs were thrown across the living room. A puzzle was assembled way past midnight. Then, we all gathered for worship at Angus Church of the Nazarene on Sunday morning, squeezed in a family photo session with Danielle Rush, and played at the playground before hugging good-bye on Monday.

So, while you were probably thinking about football and fall leaves this weekend, we were jamming out to Christmas carols, thanks to Lauren, as we climbed the rock wall and slid down the giant slide late in the afternoon of our Graham family Christmas day.

Wisdom from a Kid Missionary

Great news! Q’s cardiologist visit went exceptionally well. His heart is working perfectly, and he’s as healthy as can be. We are still waiting on his visa approval. We sent the cardiologist’s report to our visa contact, but she said it is not likely that will make the approval come any faster. So… we’re praying and waiting and thanking God that we have a healthy boy.

One of the things we’re putting a lot of time and energy into these days is helping Q transition. Moving from New Mexico to New Zealand is a big transition for us as adults, not to mention a 3-year-old. When Daddy is in town and we’re all together, the transition seems to feel a bit easier for him. This week, we’re enjoying some better sleep and a little guy who is more at ease.

One of the very first things we did when we began praying about the call to New Zealand was seek advice from people with wisdom and experience that we don’t yet have. We talked to friends who have lived (and currently live) abroad with small children. We gleaned from wise sages around us who understand child development and major life transitions. We quizzed people who were raised in other countries themselves– people who have been there and done that. We’re still asking questions!

Justin and Cara Shonamon

Justin and Cara Shonamon

My friend Cara Shonamon is one of those people. She is rich with wisdom that comes from first-hand experience. Cara and her sister, along with their parents, moved to Russia to serve as missionaries when the girls were 2 and 4 years old. Cara and her family served for her entire childhood and most of her teenage years. Today, Cara is wife to Justin and mom to Mackenzie. She serves as pastor to kids and families at Flint Central Church of the Nazarene in Flint, Michigan. Her years as a missionary have shaped her worldview, her philosophy of ministry, and the ways she and Justin parent Mackenzie.

I asked Cara what her parents did that helped both she and her sister transition between cultures, embrace their ministry roles, and live fully into God has called them to be today. These are some of Cara’s insights—tidbits of valuable experience that we are taking to heart.

Kid missionaries Cara and Christy and their parents.

Kid missionaries Cara and Christy and their parents.

– Missionary kids are called to be missionaries just as much as their parents.  My parents always told me that God called our entire family to serve on the mission field.  

– My parents taught me to serve to the extent that I was able.  I helped with VBS, work and witness teams, sang in the church praise team, worked the overhead projector, etc.  I was included in the work of the church and not segregated.  I knew I belonged and was called to serve.

– My parents taught me the role of a missionary was to work oneself out of a job.  I learned this by giving up my job as the overhead projector operator so a lady in our church with cerebral palsy had a meaningful place of service.  I found other ways to serve and remember that ministry lesson to this day.

– My parents always told me that with God all things are possible and that with God we will change the world.  They still tell me that and I believe it.

– My parents continually stressed the needs of others above our own.  Particularly on airplanes!  My Dad was notorious for making sure we did not kick or pull on the chair in front of us and we were responsible to entertain ourselves.  So, we packed our carry-ons and knew we were to keep ourselves entertained.  It was not Mom and Dad’s job to keep us quiet and entertained.  

–  My parents actually scheduled dates with us.  It was on the calendar so it was important and we wouldn’t miss it.

– We ate breakfast and dinner together as much as possible.  At breakfast we would read from the Bible, ask some silly Bible trivia, and pray.  These were formative moments in my life.

– When guests came over we helped prepare the meal and sat at the same dinner table.

Grown-up kid missionaries, Cara and Christy, with their families.

Grown-up Cara and Christy with their spouses and baby Mackenzie.

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