Friendship, Uncategorized

Ode to Friendship

In three short days, we will fly away to Australia to begin our new life.  As I reflect on the last few weeks, the phrase “rich in friendship” comes to mind.  Greg and I truly are rich in friendship.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  I look back at the last seven years in Austin and all the way to sixth grade where I made a friend for life named Erika, and I can’t believe how many loyal friends we have.

You have been here in our time of transition to encourage and believe in us.  You have prayed for us, cried with us, written us cards and notes, fed us, housed us, made us laugh, sown financially into our church, and more.  What a privilege and honor it is to know so many wonderful people and be surrounded by such love.

Although we are moving several thousand miles away, we are connected forever.  Memories, photographs, laughs, and pain have entwined our hearts and we can cherish that no matter where we live.

I don’t have enough time or words to write to each of you how much you mean to our family.  I can see your faces when I close my eyes and I can hear your laughs.  I once heard that we become the books we read and the people we hang around.  If that’s the case, I feel pretty good about myself.  The people in my life are wonderful.  This gives God great honor as well.  The Bible says we also ought to love one another since God SO LOVED US. If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

We will continue to love one another in this next season.  It might look different and cost a little more to get together for lunch, but we have Skype, Facebook, blogs and Twitter to make connecting so easy.  Please continue to pray for us as our journey is just beginning.  We will pray for you as well!

And with faces like this, we are sure to make new friends quickly!!
Timing, Uncategorized

Visa Approval

Last week was a huge milestone in our journey to start a new life and church in Australia.  One of the big hurdles for anyone wanting to move overseas is obtaining permission from the foreign government to do so (a visa).  Many people inaccurately think you can automatically go if you are married to someone from that country (like I am).

I applied for a partner migration visa back in October.  After a month-long process of gathering documents including a notarized stack of birth certificates, marriage certificate, copies of passports along with obtaining about 4 new passport sized photos for each family member, my application and the $2200 was mailed off to the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C.  I still had to wait on the state of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reply with a piece of paper saying I had no criminal history on record.  The process also included a trip to Dallas with the kids to obtain medical checks, chest x-rays, and blood and urinalysis to declare us all healthy.  I accomplished each of these final application pieces mid-December.  And the waiting began.

Everything I had researched said the provisional visa takes anywhere from 5-12 months to be approved.  I would be able to stay in Australia and work legally as well as acquire health insurance.  After two years, I could then apply for a permanent visa to live there as long as I want.  Then, I could even apply for citizenship (I would be a dual US/Australian citizen).

After checking on the status of my application in January, I was told the same 5-12 month timeframe from when my application was received (October).  Our entire future plans rest on this visa being approved.

Well, (drumroll please)… I am thrilled to announce that my visa was approved last week!  Yes, only FOUR months after I applied!  What a relief!  Not only is my visa approved, but I have a deadline for entry which is October 10.  Meaning, I MUST move by October or my visa is void.

Secondly, an unexpected blessing is that the type of visa I was approved for is a PERMANENT migration visa.  This means the two-year waiting period has been waived.  I can apply for citizenship, work legally as soon as I arrive, obtain medical benefits from the Government health plan, and even receive free English language tuition (which I might need!).

God is so good.  He is faithful.  He is never late and never early.  He is always on time.  The fact that my visa took less time than expected means we have work to do and he is paving the way for us to get there and get started.

Australia, Uncategorized

Stuff is Just Stuff

Several times throughout the year, I think about de-cluttering my house.  Sometimes I follow through and take on the job!  Garage sales, spring cleaning, making room for new toys at Christmas or birthdays can all be opportune times to clean out closets and drawers.  Sell some stuff on Craig’s list or donate to Goodwill.  Moving to a new house makes this process a necessity.

Re-locating 8000 miles from Cedar Park to Newcastle, NSW, Australia is an opportune time for me to look at every single solitary item I own with scrutinizing eyes.  We had an expert with Allied Moving Company do an inventory of our home last week in order to give us a quote on our cost for shipping our belongings overseas.  Everything we will own in Oz will travel by boat on a 20 foot crate.  After being dug through box by box by customs agents and after we pay $11,000 plus the taxes, port fees, duty (if applicable), etc., we will be able to get our stuff and move it into a house there.

This whole process takes about six weeks.  The fees are based on the weight of our belongings and we have decided whatever doesn’t fit on the 20 foot crate doesn’t come with us!  We will have an “electronics liquidation” some time soon since anything that plugs in has to stay behind.  It’s amazing what you own that uses electricity- the beloved quesadilla and popcorn makers, the blender, the iron, the electric fry pan, every lamp, TV, and more.

The question at every turn becomes, “do we bother with this old (fill in the blank) or do we just buy it when we get there?” Of course, some have sentimental value like photo albums and kid’s artwork and accomplishments.  Many items are quite a bit more expensive in Australia so we have decided the more we can ship, the better we will be on the other side.  We will need to buy cars when we get there so our black sedan and silver wagon will be for sale shortly too!

I have moved many times throughout my life.  This house is the longest place I have ever lived (6 and half years).  Moving has the benefit of forcing closets, attics, and drawers to part with their goods.  I’m looking at everything with the lens of “sell it, donate it, or bring it” and that’s a good thing.

I’m sure when it comes time to actually pack everything, I’ll be a little sad and certainly reminiscent and nostalgic about it all.  Right now, though, I’m excited.  It’s time to do a good purge of my stuff.  I think I know what is important, what’s necessary, and what really needs to come with us.  The entire process certainly puts materialism in its proper place.  Those old purses and dusty books aren’t nearly as “necessary” when you are weighing them for an expensive boat ride!

Inspiration, Kids, religious

Half and Half

When we told our 9-year-old son, Brett, about our decision to follow God and move to Australia, his first reaction was to lament over leaving his best friend, Matthew.  Within a minute or so, he looked straight at us and very matter-of-factly said, “Well, I am 50% American and 50% Australian.  So, I guess I’m 50% sad and 50% happy.”  And that was the end of it.

Brett’s wisdom in that moment is a lesson we can all learn.  Oftentimes, our days are filled with good and bad, happy and sad, difficult and easy, fun and boring.  To think that everyday is perfect or that every situation is easy for anyone isn’t realistic or true.  The Bible even says that in this life there WILL be difficulties.  We are to take heart, however because Jesus (our redeemer) has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Even though we are Christians, our days can be 50% joyful and 50% sorrowful.

It’s up to us to determine our attitude toward those circumstances.  The Bible tells us that we have authority to take any thought that is contrary to our knowledge of God and “make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  What are thoughts that are contrary to our knowledge of God?  Feelings of unworthiness, depression, worry, anxiety, bitterness, etc. The Bible is full of God’s thoughts towards us.  They are to prosper us, to give us hope.  We are created in God’s image and He has gigantic plans for us. 

The question is not whether we will have hard days and tough challenges.  The question is what are we doing to do with them?  We have all authority to take our thoughts captive.  We can choose what we dwell on.  We can choose the perspective we have about our circumstances.  We can choose what action we will take to MOVE FORWARD past our problems and worries.  God has given us this ability and if we choose to dwell on the negative, it will only hold us back from God’s best for us.

I’m impressed that the biggest potential “bad news” my sweet 9-year-old could have received took him all of a minute to move through.  He took his sadness over leaving the home he has lived in for two-thirds of his life captive and immediately thought about the 50% of himself that was totally fired up for our new adventure.  This is not to say hard days won’t come.  Or that loneliness won’t creep up when we are starting our new lives in Australia.  But what it does say is that he is going to do well.  He will have many blessings to focus on and we will make sure to point them out!  And if I need a “pick-me-up,” I know who to call!