Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Misty Maples Syrup Farm

I love field trip days! It is a day I get to practice French, not be stuck in a classroom all day, be around friends, and get to be a tourist...all in one event! The coveted trip of the year? The syrup farm or "cabane à sucre."
We got to "tour" a Maple Syrup farm and learn all about the process of making syrup (in French). I would like to share with you a little about the process.
A hole is drilled into a maple tree that is at least 30 years old. Then, a tap is placed into the hole to allow the tree's water to drip out. The nectar gathers into buckets attached to the tree. The buckets have covers to prevent anything from contaminating the liquid. Unfortunately for us maple syrup lovers, syrup gathering is only available in certain temperatures and only for a few weeks during the year. This is why it is so expensive!
We were allowed to drink some of the water. It tasted like refreshing water, with a hint of sweetness.
How much water does it take to make syrup? Forty (40) gallons of maple water equals one gallon of syrup! The syrup at this farm just happens to be boiled by hand on site.
Depending on how long the water is boiled will yield a different grade. The darker the grade, the thicker the syrup. Which is better quality? Well, it all depends on the person. Some like it thick and dark, while others like it thin, clearer, and runny.
The highlight of the day? A traditional Canadian candy: Tire Sur La Neige (maple taffy on snow). Hot maple taffy is poured on the snow. Using sticks, you roll the syrup up on a stick and eat (with or without peanuts)! Yum!
Pouring the candy
Rolling the candy
Kevin is enjoying his with peanuts

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What If...?

Everyone has thought of a “what if” moment before. You know, what if I had done something different in my life? What if I had not said that stupid thing that my friends overheard? What if I had completed my graduate degree before getting married? What if I had not bought a house right before getting married? What if I had not changed jobs? What if I had children earlier in life? What if…?

In Janis Joplin’s song “Bobby McGee” she says that she would “trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday.” What if…? What if you could go back and change one of your “what if” moments? Growing up I used to think about that very scenario. As a child, I wanted desperately to change the past. I wanted to go back and say the right words that would have convinced my father to not commit suicide. But as I grew older and became a Christian, I began to realize what I would have to trade in order for this scenario to come true. I would have to give up my baby brother, who was born four years after my father’s death. Would I give him up? Could I give him up? It was then that I began to understand the “Butterfly Effect” of life. In order to change one scenario, you cannot have the present stay the same.

Today, as I was rocking my sweet little girl to sleep, I thought to myself “what if?” Here I am, in my 30s, married, with a 9 month old daughter, a missionary in language school, soon to be in Africa. But what if…?  And it was then I realized I don’t really want to know. I cannot possibly imagine a life without my soul mate, the man of my dreams who completes me as a person. I would never want to picture my life without my precious baby. I don’t think I would be the same person I am today without the things that have happened to me in the past, in the order they happened, both good and bad. Many times we have curious thoughts, thinking “what if?” But you know what? I no longer care about “what if” because I am content where I am.

In class the other day, we read Psalms 139 (in French) and talked about why it was important to us (in French). Although my lack of knowledge of the right words (in French) might have prevented me from truly expressing myself, I still managed to get my point across: This verse helped me when I was pregnant by knowing that even if the baby was not to be, God had a plan.

God made us, He knows us, nothing is hidden from him, we cannot depart from his presence, and as impure and imperfect as we are, we can always delight in Him when we follow His will. Why spend time wondering what could have been, when instead we can praise God for what could be!

139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
…. For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blast From the Past Part 4

Here is the last of the re-caps of our Technical Evaluation. Some of the friends we met during this process have become much closer friends, who we would spend a lot of time with at Candidacy and the Ministry Partnership seminar. Enjoy!

               Friday morning came and I was certain we would have to go back to East TN needing to do more training before we would be accepted. Glory and grace to God, the instructor said I actually did very well. There were a few things he said I needed to work on, but I knew about theses areas, mainly navigating with only compass, map and clock. At no point in the cross country was I lost, I knew where I was all the time (although the one “airport” was a different story-but I never lost sight of obvious landmarks), but I relied very heavily on only one method of navigation called pilotage, and all but ignored another method called Deduced Reckoning.  Hey, I was recommended technically for the next step, I was tickled to death. Scott said a prayer, we took some pictures and I went back to the apartment to wait until our next meeting with the head of Ministry Partnership. We met with him for an hour and he talked about all that was required for fundraising. We have a book to read and a bible study to do, and come up with a list of 200 people and as many churches as possible so that MAF can send information regarding Ministry partnership (i.e. prayer and financial support)

               After the Ministry Partnership meeting, we met with the candidate committee for the second time. They asked us how our two weeks had been, what we had seen and learned, how Tasha was feeling and spent some time getting to know us a little better. They asked more specifically about how our meeting with Dr. Bennet went. He had actually not given them his report yet, but after telling them what he talked about, they felt there would be no issues. We were accepted to the next step with MAF, which is candidacy. This will begin July 11 and will last roughly 5 weeks. The first two weeks will be Candidacy, where we learn more about MAF as an organization, the ministry opportunities available, where they go, what they do, who they are, and things like that. At that point we sign on the dotted line and begin. It is then we will have officially quit our jobs (Our last day will be July 8th, 2011) and upon official acceptance (98% of families that get as far as we have are accepted) we will be on the MAF payroll and insurance.

     Then we will go through a two week fund raising seminar.  We also found out our new friends who came to the TE at the same time we did, Pete and Joy Neal, also got accepted. That night we joined several other families for a pizza party and movie. We packed that night and left for the airport at 3:30 AM the next morning. On the flight back, I reflected about all the families we met there preparing just as we are to go overseas and serve. It is truly amazing to see how God has prepared these families all over the United States with so many different backgrounds, and brought them together just because of one man two thousand years ago. As exciting as the process is, it is sobering to think that our job is necessary because a group of people needs our help so desperately and humanity truly cannot take care of itself without a God that truly loves us.

          It was an amazing two weeks. We were both put under stress many couples do not go through together. They do this for several reasons. One is so they can see how we behave under stress, and how we behave long term, rather than just a one day interview. Two, they do this so we can learn about ourselves and lean on each other and God. We both relied on each other heavily for support, strength and encouragement.  Tasha was such a blessing to me the entire time. Even with nausea, she gave me the courage and motivation to keep going and do my best. We both learned how crucial trust in each other is, and more importantly, trust in the Lord. Through this experience He has solidified and re-enforced our calling to missions.

     The bar is set high with MAF, and they require a very complete set of skills for the job, not just in the pilot and mechanic, but in the wife too. I know for sure I wouldn't be here without Tasha supporting and pushing me to do my best and keep going. I am even more confident I would not have even been accepted (much less even thought about going to the interview) without a loving wife, and the grace, mercy and love of Our Lord. We are confident that these are the good works that Paul talks about in Ephesians 2:10 "for We are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". From our perspective, we can see how God has led us through different struggles and situations to allow us to grow and gain abilities that have taken us to this point. It is nothing to do with us or who we are, but it has everything to do with God and who He was, is and will be.

    We are so grateful for all of the prayers on our behalf and give thanks to God for everyone who prayed for us. Please continue to pray as we have much to do and little time to do it before we leave again in July. Pray that our child continues to grow, and that mother and child will be healthy when it gets here. Tasha is about 10 weeks along and is due December 14th. God's timing is perfect once again. We will be able to be together throughout the whole pregnancy and birth and will get some time to raise the baby stateside with the help of the family for about 6 months.

  (Editors Note: we suffered a miscarriage shortly after this, but God is faithful.  He gave us another not long after and she got to spend her first 3 months with both sets of grandparents after them. The miscarriage was not easy, but actually cleared our minds about some decisions we needed to make and we praise God for his care over us) 

They say fundraising takes about 13 months, which puts our time to ship out for language school in our country-probably Indonesia- around August of 2012. 

(Editors Note: Because we were in fact assigned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we still “shipped out” in August 2012, but instead of going to our assigned country, our language school was actually in Canada. We are looking at entering active field service in October of 2013. Our friends who did go to Indonesia are going through language school now and will enter active field service about the same time)

For more information, or entertainment, on MAF visit www.MAF.org  http://www.maf.org/   or  http://www.youtube.com/  and search for Mission Aviation Fellowship.  There are hours of video of jungle flying, landings at remote airstrips, and people reached more efficiently and safely because of Gods work through MAF.

Pray that Gods will be done through us and that we will see clearly where He leads us.
Praise Him in all things. His love endures forever!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blast From the Past Part 3

When we last left our intrepid hero, he was hurling straight at the side of a mountain at 80 knots. Will he be able to turn away in time? Will he puke all over the windshield, or just wet his pants?? We are about to find out in the third installment of the MAF Technical Evaluation. This was one of the last-first steps to becoming a missionary with MAF. Enjoy!

The natural tendency is to pull back on the yoke, but this is discouraged (trust me, it is TOUGH to ignore the feeling in your gut SCREAMING at you to pull back). We got roughly as close as 1/4 of a mile from the mountain and turned away. With a horizon full of mountain in every direction, it’s very difficult to tell if the airplane is climbing or descending. I know it sounds simple, but it is really a difficult thing to do. We in fact did that a few times, then actually flew up a canyon, and then performed a ridge crossing. The mountains in this area are absolutely stunning and rugged. After this we went to another airport to practice short field landings and takeoffs, using the MAF checklist system. These went pretty well. Scott demonstrated a few for me and I was able to duplicate the same procedures and get the airplane off the ground and back on the ground in about the same distance as him. Then we went back to Nampa and were done flying for the day. He briefed me on the cross country he wanted me to plan and we were done.

Thursday I got to the airport, with the flight plan in hand, and we departed. Again, the beauty and ruggedness of the area are so hard to comprehend, even looking at it. We flew north to McCall, did a landing, then instead of flying directly to another airport west of there, he gave me an altitude not to go above, which required me pick my way through valleys and canyons and other terrain. This airport was 1800 feet above sea level, in an area where most of the terrain was around 5800 feet. So needless to say, it was Ray Walker’s voice deep down in a huge canyon, at the very bottom right next to a beautiful river. This airport was closed so we just did an approach and then instead of landing, climbed out of the canyon and went to our next airport. We landed there and ate lunch. He then gave me 10 minutes to plan the remainder of the flight which was to another airport then back to Nampa. After we took off, he "failed" the engine on me. I found an airport, mentally planned the gliding approach, and landed safely.

 We took back off, and he simulated an emergency medical call to an “airport” not even on the map. He had to draw the “airport” on the map, and I had to find the headings and distance, and then navigate to it. After the time it should have taken to find the “airport” elapsed, I couldn't find it. I was sure I had failed the flight evaluation. We searched around a little and didn't see it. So went back to my last known point on the map and tried it again. This time I found it....remarkably. The “airport” was nothing more than a clearing of tumbleweed on the side of a mountain and a windsock. Then he had me go back to Nampa. All the flying we did that day was without any GPS or other navigation equipment. All I could use was a compass, map and clock.

            Normally, in flying or leisure or for corporate, we just wear a headset and maybe sunglasses if needed. These weigh next to nothing and pose no strain on a neck. During the flight portion of the Technical Evaluation, we wore helmets which had a sun visor built in, and a headset, much like what the military fighter pilots wear.

      They are pretty neat looking and surprisingly light. However, with my nerves, and having to look at a map in my lap every few minutes, then out the window straining to find land marks, then back to the instrument panel, then to the instructor, then back to the map in my lap, the weight of my helmet took its toll on my neck. Once the adrenaline of the day wore off as I walked back to our apartment, my neck just about completely locked up. 

(Editors note: Thanks to Hosenfeld Chiropractic in Knoxville, TN the neck issue should be no problem now. They put in a lot of time and effort in aligning everything and giving me exercises to strengthen it and keeping it in check, plus much needed support and encouragement in the fundraising process. Thank you so much for your help! My neck loves you for it!)

Stay tuned for the last in the series next week.