Repatriation, Part 9

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It’s been nearly 4 and a half months since my last entry about our repatriation.  That might provide a lot of information in and of itself.

It’s been a crazy 4 months.  Two days to recover from jet lag.  A funeral; nearly a week spent in Anaheim with family; our children delivering our car to us, and announcing that they took on ¾ of the cost of the car; a trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit family, especially four of our grandchildren; back to Riverside, CA and more resumes being sent out. This was all quite expected.

But then the unexpected happened.  My husband had a bad transition from his Thai medicines to medicines that are available here in the States.  Today marks his 26th day in hospital, with his discharge scheduled for 2 o’clock this afternoon.  He still has some ways to go to be fully “back to himself,” but we know that God is able.

My job hunt has not gone well.  Because I’ve been out of country and out of the school district so long, I cannot get letters of recommendation to apply for a contract position in the public school system here in California.  I do have applications in at two Christian schools in the area.  School opens early next month, and I’ve not heard anything.  Another online teaching opportunity just fell through.  However, I have a couple of kids I’m tutoring in their reading.  I’m in the process of working toward certification in teaching dyslexic kids and adults to read, spell, and write well.  I’d really like to have about 25 hours a week of private tutoring.  That could also include EFL/ESL and even sewing and crochet lessons.  I have my Cindy’s Creative Crafts shop on Facebook, and my husband will help me get the shopping cart stuff working better.  I need to find a better way to market it.  My book about overcoming fear is now available on Kindle via Amazon. I need to find a better way to market it too.  I’ve always had a lot of different interests, and there are a few things I do well.  Now they need to provide a way to provide for our financial needs.  I will probably have at least a brief stint in the retail arena.  Maybe as a clerk or cashier or something along those lines.  Minimum wage job with no benefits, probably multiple little jobs like this. I’ve submitted at least 50, probably closer to 100, online applications to various retailers.  Crickets.

I ask for your prayers in this next season of our lives.  We need a little place of our own, it doesn’t need to be much.  We need to stay in the Riverside area so my husband can complete his recovery here with the medical staff that is already involved in his care.

God has always taken care of us in the past, and I know He’ll continue and provide the perfect resources so we can once again serve with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

 

Repatriation Part 8

Hugs from the kids

Tonight, we leave for Phuket International Airport at 9 p.m. for our 2 a.m. flight tomorrow morning.  14 more hours in our neighborhood.  We’ve been here nine years, one month, and nine days.  This is “home.”  The stuff we’re leaving behind is selling quickly, the sofa gets picked up 4 hours before we leave – so a couple of lawn chairs for us to finish out our time here.

Yesterday was difficult.  It was our last church service with our beloved church family here.  Pastor Levi and his team are perfect for the church here.  We feel so blessed to have them come.  There are three cell groups nearby that will be joining in.  It will be good!

The most difficult part was saying good-bye to the children.  Those of you who know us well know that we were missionaries in Riverside, California with Child Evangelism Fellowship© for 11 years.  You know we also served as volunteers with AWANA Clubs in two churches in the Greater Riverside Area.  Children are near and dear to our hearts.  Every week, two of the children pray at church before they collect the offering.  These kids want to serve!  So, we let them!  The church has been a shining example of 1 Timothy 4:12 – “1Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  When the adults started drifting away from the Wednesday evening meal/prayer/Bible study meeting, the children continued to come, learning the Scriptures and growing in their faith.  They continued to share, every single one of them, something they were thankful to God for, every single week.  Two of the older girls – seventh and eighth graders – helped with translation from time to time.  It’s exciting to see how they’ve grown!

Dana “just happened” to be preaching from 1 Timothy 4 yesterday morning.  If you know how Calvary Chapel teaching usually works, the pastor teaches through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse.  Sometimes a chapter is broken into two or three parts, sometimes two chapters, or more, can be combined. And yesterday it worked out to 1 Timothy 4.  The church, including many of the new members, were charged to continue a focus on the children.  There are not many “second generation” Christians in Thailand.  These children are the first in their families to come to faith.  They are the foundation of continued growth here in Tha Chat Chai.  Pray for them.

The picture I chose to use for this blog was taken at the most difficult part of our day yesterday.  Pastor Levi and most of the adults had gathered around us and prayed for us.  Then the kids.  The hugs.  The tears.

Even if we never make it back to visit Tha Chat Chai, we KNOW we will see our beloved Thai family again.  What a comfort as we end one chapter in our lives and begin the next.

Repatriation, Part 7

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So, it’s March 9th  here in Thailand, four more sleeps, hopefully a nap Monday afternoon, then off to Phuket International Airport at about 9:30 p.m.  These days are flying, but they’re also dragging.  So much to do, so overwhelming.

Tomorrow morning, in about 27 hours, the sea container guys come to collect our packed stuff.  You see most of it in the picture, minus four more buckets and the keyboard and a couple of pictures.  We still have stuff to sell, a bunch of kitchen things, the wardrobes, shelving, the sofa, THE MOTORCYCLE!  Some things will be going to the thrift shop that takes the funds to help train women in skills so they can support their families.  I think that trip will happen on Saturday morning.

We’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.  Such mixed emotions!  Excited to be closer to family, so sad to be leaving our home these past 9 years and all those in our neighborhood and church, leaving the country we’ve called home for 10.5 years.  Reverse culture shock, here we come!

One thing I learned very early in our stay here in Thailand is where my TRUE CITIZENSHIP is.  I’ve come to the realization that I live in Thailand, my earthly citizenship is in the U.S. – the proof of which is my passport, but my TRUE CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN.  I’m praying that I don’t lose that perspective once we repatriate.

So, a 30 minute break to check email, write a little blog post, then back to work.  My physical body is beginning to rebel, especially my knees.  Not sure why they’re acting up so much.  Must be all the junk I’ve been eating these past few days causing inflammation.  I really need to get back to the strict vegan + salmon + sea fish diet, adding in ½ of a burger each week.  (The beef in the burger seems to give me more energy – could be just a mental lift, or could actually be doing something – who knows why?!)

God bless you, my friends, and say a quick prayer for us as God brings us to your remembrance.

This Week’s Adventures

life-is-an-adventure

I realize I’ve not posted in a week, maybe a little more.  It surely wasn’t due to my laziness!  Planning and packing for our repatriation and getting my little book (Living Boldly: Acknowledging and Overcoming Fear) published on Kindle Direct Publishing has taken most of my “spare time.”

The packing is going well.  Hopefully there will be a little “garage sale” this weekend.  Of course, we have no garage and this really isn’t a Thai thing, but it’s time to dispose of some of the bigger things and appliances now.

The book publishing adventure is surely an adventure.  I’ve found that there are two misspelled words in the text, and there’s a goof-up on my cover – never noticed it!  I’m going to have to get the graphic artist to fix it for me.  It should be quick, and then I’ll have to figure out how to fix both of those things.  This has surely been a learning experience for me.  THEN to figure out how to get everything sized so that it can be available as a printed product.  That may take a while with everything else going on.  Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WW81JGX/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487894561&sr=8-1&keywords=Cindy+Bratton.

Funny thing as I was getting ready to click the publish button on this.  A wave of fear hit me.  “What if no one likes it? What if there’s something that’s not quite right theologically?  What if . . .”  That’s the topic of the book!  So, I remembered where this fear came from (not God!) and hit that publish button anyway.   To be honest, it’s a bit odd to begin thinking of myself as a published author.  I really believe that God has led me down this path, and I’m excited to see what He will be doing with it.  I believe He has given me insight into how to simply apply the Word to my everyday life in order to impact those around me, those in my sphere of influence.  I just want others to be able to be encouraged to do the same.;

My posting on this blog may be a bit sporadic over the next several weeks.  A lot is going on, a lot of it physical too.  Selling/giving away most of our earthly possessions; packing up 4 cubic meters to ship on a boat; flying to Los Angeles from Phuket; recovering from jet lag; a day at Knott’s Berry Farm with family; a day at Disneyland Anaheim with family; a road trip from Southern California to Vancouver, WA to catch up with family, then back again; finding employment/ministry positions and an apartment; settling in to life in the States again.  God is good!  He will take us through it all!  I’m excited, but also a bit exhausted just thinking of it all.  Overall, I’m excited to embark on this next step of our journey.

THE TICKETS ARE BOUGHT!

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We did it! Yesterday, the 7th of February, we bought the tickets to take us to LAX. Asiana Air now has an A380 for the leg over the Pacific Ocean. The flights in the A380 are sooooo smooth – and quiet! We’ll be arriving at LAX on March 14th, 9:40 a.m. 35 more days, 31 until the sea container guys come to pick up 4 cubic meters of our stuff. Couldn’t sleep last night – such a mix of emotions, believe it or not. Excited to be reconnecting with friends and family, especially the grandchildren; sad to be leaving our dear friends (and pets) here.

Pray for the stress we’ll be going through these next few months – not only leaving our home of over 9 years, but finding jobs in our early 60s and settling back in.

We have enough in our account to cover the airfare (reimbursement will come the 7th of March), and we were able to fully pay for Dana’s cataract surgery – not sure how the money’s stretched that far, but it has. The next big expense on the agenda is payment to the shipping container company. That’s 2,500 USD – OUCH! Still cheaper than replacing the stuff we’re shipping with them . . . we’ve tried to keep it as low as we can. We need that amount to come in by the end of this month so we can pay the shipping guys without going into debt.  17% interest is a killer!  The contract has been signed with the shipping guys, so we can’t back out of it.

Once we’re back on U.S. soil, we’ll need increased support for March – June, to pay for increased rent and basic furniture and electric appliances as we set up house from scratch once again and find employment. Hopefully for the last time. We’re feeling our age, and getting older is NOT for sissies, that’s for sure!

If you would like to consider helping with our final expenses, we would greatly appreciate it. Over the course of the next 5 months (February – June) it seems to be about 11,500 above-and-beyond what we already normally receive, 2,300 more per month. Crazy, I know! This would enable us to pay our daughter back for the car they found for us and repatriate debt-free, able to help the family members we’re returning to help. It would also enable us to be in ministry positions that might not be able to provide as well as work in the public sector might. 23 people/families/Bible Study groups committing to 100 a month for the next five months would accomplish the goal.

Here’s a link to our mission facilitator’s page for us:
http://ssmfi.org/missionary/dana-and-cindy-bratton/

God bless you as you pray for and support us in this adventure!

Repatriation, Part 4

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Last October, I really pared down my schedule and began to focus on Life Objectives.  Call them whatever you want, but this is what one system called them, and it seems to fit.  I had been sensing that God was getting ready to show us a next step to take, not really knowing what it would be.  By the end of November, I wrote down what I believe God was showing me.  Three or four weeks later, it became clear to both Dana and I that this change would be repatriation to the States in the Spring of 2017.  I share this because I know that it will be easy to conveniently “forget” some of this, especially as I need to seek employment/income producing ventures when we return to the States.

I know it would (probably) be easy for me to get substitute teaching work in the public school system, wherever God calls Dana to serve.  It would probably be not too difficult to get a contract teaching middle school science in the 2018/2019 school year and beyond.  Who in their right mind, having an education in science, would do that?!  I would, and I did, for several years before heading to Thailand.  But, as I look at those things, I wonder how they truly fit in with my life objectives/purposes.  The overarching purpose is to know God and to make Him known.  Would the public school system be only for money to bay the bills?  Is it REALLY what God is calling me to do?  Would I find fulfillment in His calling on my life, our would the 50-60 hour work weeks physically so exhaust me that I just wouldn’t have enough energy left in this nearly-60-year-old body to do much, if any, ministry at all?  So, I share this.  Pray for me and Dana as we begin this adventure of job searching at the ages of 59 and 60.  To be honest, we never expected to have to do this again!

I’ve written a little devotional booklet, trying to get it ready for e-book publication.  It’s based on lessons I taught the Thai ladies here.  There are several more topics I have the basic notes for, so maybe a little series of 5 or 6 booklets.  I want to see if this might be a way I can make God known.  I’ve figured out how to center vertically using Office 365, now to remember what I’ve learned.  I’d spent hours trying to get this to happen.  I got an e-cover and a print cover designed on little to no budget – thank you Fiverr!  Pray that God guides in this part of the adventure.  The last thing that is now left is to confirm my formatting, and try to get it up on Kindle Direct Publishing and “market” it. (BTW, if this would interest you, follow this blog and I’ll get you on an email list, as soon as I figure out how to do that LOL!)

I love to crochet and sew, and enjoy knitting too.  These may be ways I can help support us, by selling products and also by giving lessons on how to do these things.  I need to hear clearly from God on this too.

I want to invest in lives in VERY significant ways, building up disciples of Christ and leaders that will serve long after I’m gone.  (Morbid, but my 45th birthday marked a paradigm shift to wanting to leave a legacy of godliness.)  Trust me, I’m not ready to go yet!

I’ve seen “job openings” (hate to use that term when it comes to ministry) for children’s ministers.  Those descriptions excite me!  Investing into the lives of not only the children, but also their leaders, helping them become better equipped and skilled for children’s ministry.  I think this would be a good fit for me.  I’ve also seen a missions pastor position – a great position for Dana and I to fill as a team.  Neither one of us has the full skill set for the position, but the two of us together do!  We have simple tastes, so probably one salary would work for us.  Pray as we look into these things. Pray that we won’t become discouraged.

This is the skeleton of what I came up as I sought God out back in October.  This is a scary thing for me to make public.  But, I need to make known the things I’ve been shown.  I need to be held accountable to stay true to these objectives/purposes and strategies.  I need to make sure that, if I make any changes, these changes are done with much thought and prayer and counsel. What follows is list form, so quick to read.  Let me know what you think!

 

Life Objectives

Since I am not traditionally employed, I choose to have four fundamental objectives; one spiritual, one health related, one relational, and one addressing future financial stability.

  • Spiritual Objective: To know God and to make Him known
  • Health Related Objective: To be as healthy as I can be
  • Relational Objective: To be an emotionally stable wife, mother, grandmother, and friend
  • Financial Objective: To be debt-free and able to retire in Fall of 2024, without burdening friends and family

 

Life Objective Strategies

Spiritual Objective:  To know God and to make Him known

  • To Know God
    • Quiet Time
    • Prayer
    • Journaling
      • God’s messages to me (use for blogging and writing?)
    • Attend Conferences if possible
    • Read Books, Articles, and Blogs
  • To Make God Known
    • Blogging?
    • Writing?
    • Discipleship/Teaching
    • Evangelism
    • Hospitality
    • Music
    • Giving
    • Encouraging

Health Related Objective:  To be as healthy as possible

  • Diet
Consistent with vitamins and supplements

 

Decrease Increase
Weight – 135# Nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts
No turkey, chicken or pork Veggies
Shellfish only once a month Fruit
Cheese only twice a month Olive, coconut, and sesame oils
Tuna only once a month Fish
Baked goods (cake) only once a week Legumes
Beef only once a week Water
Soda only once a week Low fat dairy – yoghurt, keifer, sour cream
As little sugar as possible  
  • Exercise
    • Walking – work up to 10,000 steps/5 miles a day
    • Planking
    • Low-impact aerobics
    • Find something for my flabby thighs and triceps

Relational Objective:  To be an emotionally stable wife, mother, grandmother, and friend

Two key tools to help me accomplish this is a really, really good calendar and a super-complete address book

  • Wife Role
  • Mother Role
  • Grandmother Role
  • Daughter Role
  • Sibling Role
  • Extended Relative Role
  • Friend Role

Financial Objective:  To be debt-free and able to retire in Fall of 2022, without burdening friends and family

  • Pay off student loan
  • Build up $15,000 (3+ months expenses) savings account
  • Active Income
    • Crochet – product and teaching
    • Sewing – product and teaching
    • Tutoring – English, reading, basic math
  • (Relatively) Passive Income
    • Books?
    • Blog?

Pray for me as I embark on this adventure, as we repatriate and I need to fulfill what, after much prayer and thought, even a bit of fasting (something I don’t normally do), I believe God has placed in my heart.

 

p.s. Once again I snitched the picture from Google Images.  Seems to fit.

Living Boldly: Fear of the Unknown

fear-of-the-unknown

Abraham Called to Leave Ur of the Chaldees

a synopsis of Genesis 12:1-9

When Abraham was 75 years old, God called him to leave his home in Haran and go to a place that God himself would show him.  If he did so, God promised him that he would make a great nation of him and would bless him and would bless those who would bless Abraham himself.  So, he gathered up his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, and everything that they had acquired in Haran along with their servants and their families, and headed out to the land of Canaan.  When they got to a certain oak tree in Shechem, the Lord appeared to him once again and promised him and his offspring the land there.

God called Abraham to leave everything he knew and move to an unknown (to Abraham) location.  Even though God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, I know from other accounts about Abraham that he was probably fearful, at least at first.  But, as we read in verse 4, Abraham obeyed, taking his wife, his nephew, his servants, and his possessions and set out on this grand adventure.  He didn’t know where he was going, when he was going to arrive there, who was in the area he was moving to, what the land looked like.  It was a total unknown.  Yet, any fear he had was overcome and in faith he moved forward.

Sometimes God may call us to leave all that we know and move elsewhere, not knowing all the details of the move.  This happened to us when God called us as full-time missionaries.  But there are other unknowns we face far more often.

The fear brought about by serious illness is one.  Not knowing what the illness is, not knowing what treatment is best, not knowing how long it will last.

The fear of attending a new school or university or church.  Yes, heading into a new place with unknown people and an unknown culture.  Every institution has its own culture, so there will be adjustments in order to adapt to each new environment.  Often, we don’t know what those adjustments will be.

The fear of a new job or volunteer position is very real.  Once again, we don’t know the people, the culture of the organization, and we usually don’t know all the particulars of the position.  This can cause a lot of fear.

The fear after unexpectedly losing a job: how will I pay my bills? How can I live? What job will I find next?  Frequently we have no idea where we will go next, how we will generate income.

The fear of a new neighborhood, new people and their pets.  Sometimes this is mixed in with the excitement of the move, and only becomes apparent when it seems hard to “settle into” a new place.

There are so many other unknowns that we can fear.  So, what are we to do?

First, we need to recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, we must acknowledge that not knowing what is happening or what will be happening is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Third, we need to overcome that fear.  This is often the most difficult part of the process.  One of the best ways I know to do that, and what has worked for me in the past, is to memorize and recite a Bible verse or passage that particularly relates to that particular unknown.

Here is an example from my own life:  I was very fearful when we entered full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in August of 1989.  My husband was leaving a 10-year tenure at Pacific Bell telephone company, where we had adequate salary, full medical, dental and optical insurance, and a good retirement plan in the works.  Now we would be paying the bills from the generous gifts of friends, family, and churches that believed in what we were doing and that also believed we were the ones to do it.  We were going to have the income cut by 60%, have to pick up self-employment taxes, and not have any benefits such as insurance and retirement plans.  What passage of Scripture did I learn and cling to during this transition?  Matthew 6:25-34.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

God built it into my life through this passage that, as long as I was pursuing what He called me to do – seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – then everything I needed – food, clothing, and I was so bold as to add in shelter and the tools to perform the work He had called me to do – would be provided for me in one way or another.

One other thing, too.  I learned to pray like I had never prayed before, trusting God to meet my needs and those of my husband and children.  I learned what the father of the boy possessed by a demon cried out to Jesus in Mark 9:24 –

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

So many times I asked the Father to help me believe more; build my faith strong.  And He was faithful, answering the cry of this wife and mother as she traveled through this unknown territory.

So, to sum things up, we must identify fear as fear, acknowledge it exists in our life, then overcome that fear with an appropriate passage of Scripture to memorize and meditate upon, and with vibrant prayer.

Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” stories.  I’d LOVE to read them and see how God worked in your life.  Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” verses, verses that spoke into your heart and life.

 

Visual from http://www.ics.com/blog/planning-unknown-unknowns