Saturday, September 8, 2012

"the end"

This post is the end. It is also the beginning. It is the end of almost a month of living apart from Rich. He moved to Bloomington, Illinois last month to begin teaching, but the kids and I have been on our own back here in Pennsylvania waiting on a few tiny logistical details such as where would we all live in Illinois? It has taken this entire time to sort out living arrangements, nail down a moving truck, pack up the house, get our current home on the market, etc....  But now, finally, with 9 weeks left until the next Sealy is due to be born, our family is at the end of this season of separation and poised at the very beginning of a new life together in the midwest. We're moving into a rental house this coming week and then hopefully over the month or two that follow, our house here will sell and we'll find a house out there to buy. The Lord will do all things well.

This post is the end of my occasional daydreams about how much more efficiently and smoothly I could run a household without the interference - pardon me, I meant INPUT - of my husband. This month has been an exhausting and eye-opening experience of what my life would be like without Richard and I have grown immensely in a mature appreciation of not only what he does for us but more importantly who he is to us. Yes, he takes out the trash and cuts the grass and squashes bugs and frees me to go to the grocery store without dragging three highly needy individuals along - but truly I have not missed him primarily because of his usefulness. I've missed him as my best friend, companion, soul mate and sounding board. I've missed him as the father to my children. I've missed the person of Richard - and so have the kids (particularly Bernadette. Joseph, I think, has mostly forgotten that such a person as "Papa" exists).  But I confess I have also missed his usefulness. Tremendously. It turns out he is far more useful than I was giving him credit for. Praise be to God.

This post is also the final, last, true end of our Mission to New Zealand. We are beginning our next mission - after a three month mission-recovery-respite, the Lord has finally moved all the pieces and placed them just so and by next week the whole family will be inserted into this next chapter in our communal life. I call this mission "The Mission of Everyday Life" and actually, we are all living out a mission of the same title, all the time, in New Zealand, or in America, or anywhere else.

Since this post marks the end of our Mission to New Zealand, it seems apparent to me that it is now time to end this blog as well. I have lots of mixed feelings about signing off, but with two moves on the horizon, a fourth baby coming in a few weeks and the part-time research project that Rich and I are collaborating on, I'm not sure the months to come will hold many hours for blogging anyway. And if I should change my mind down the line, I already have set up my next blog. A few months before leaving NZ, I played around and set up my post-New Zealand blog. Once life settles down a bit, if I feel prompted to begin blogging again, here's where you'll find me:

Many thanks to all who have read along with us and who have supported and cared and encouraged us. May the Lord bless you with His reckless generosity, may He give you every needed grace in His perfect timing and may your hearts find deep and abiding peace in Him.

The End.

Friday, August 17, 2012


In college I had a very close friend named Eileen. She now has two little boys roughly the ages of my two girls, and just a few months ago she had a beautiful baby girl and named her Quinn.

Quinn started showing all the same symptoms Joseph showed at a few weeks old. The doctors were investigating to see if the diagnosis of Alagille Syndrome was appropriate for Quinn.

This morning Eileen wrote to tell me that Alagille Syndrome has been ruled out - Quinn has been diagnosed with a very rare disorder that causes blindness, deafness, retardation and then death by age 2. There are no treatments.

Everyone has prayed so much for Joseph and he has escaped nearly every upsetting prediction the doctors have laid out for him. Please pray for little Quinn, for Eileen and her husband, and for Quinn's two brothers. Pray that she may see miracles from our good God as Joseph has, and pray for every needed grace for this family.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

details (and a mini-tantrum)

The Sealy household is a flurry of activity again! Rich is preparing to start teaching high school theology in Illinois. We're acquiring his professional wardrobe, and packing, packing, packing. I think I could practically be a professional packer by now. Our house goes up for sale on Monday and there have been some logistical boxes to tick (but more than that, I've been grappling with the emotional side of letting go). However, the Lord has blessed us in so many ways this past week, that I am in a season of feeling nearly overwhelmed by two truths: that we exist for the praise of His glory and that He has done all things well.

invincible cuteness

After six months of frustrating and stressful "job searching" we felt no closer to finding a position that suited Rich's interests and gifts than we had at the beginning. Then two jobs that Rich had not applied for (or even known existed) dropped out of the clear blue Provident sky right into his humbled, grateful lap. A good friend who had been Rich's best man at our wedding called to say that a teaching position had opened at his school - the only catch was that school started ten days from the date of the call and the school is about an eight hour drive from our current home.

(click on map to enlarge)

We had to make a decision quickly, without seeing the town to which we'd move or the environment in which Rich would work. Kind of like our discernment about New Zealand....(only I think Fr Michael had given us fourteen days to decide, not ten - and Rich had seen Lord of the Rings like a zillion times). Rich and I have been to Illinois once. For about 48 hours. That said, we both loved it. I'm 110% pro-Midwest. It snows there, you know.

bernadette celebrated her 3rd birthday on July 29
(her first ever birthday on american soil!)

Speaking of Fr Michael, for two years he never stopped telling Rich that he should teach after our mission years. It turns out that guy really knew what he was talking about!

Then just tonight Rich accepted an (unexpected) invitation to do part-time, home-based research for some additional income. As the father of a growing family, he was very grateful for this opportunity. (We buy so much milk every week that I wonder if it would be more economical to purchase a cow). We are stunned and astonished by the Lord's Providence and determined more than ever to radically abandon ourselves to trusting Him in all things

I think the requested "purple kitty cat cake" came out as my best cake yet!

So at present, life is very busy, but very good. Rich is praying that the house sells by Tuesday - or Wednesday, at the latest. I might need a few more days to accept that this house - which is like a member of the family to me - is going to belong to someone else. YUCK! I'm trying to be graceful and feel happy that such a sweet, cheerful little house is going to bless another family, but all I really feel is NO fair! It's mine! Mine, mine, mine, MIIIIINE!!!!

Pray for me. Fervently. I clearly need to grow up.

MY happy little living room

MY bedroom, in which FOUR of my children have destroyed many nights' sleep
(even the little twerp in the womb is perfecting this art already)

There are lots of transitions and adjustments and new challenges in the weeks ahead, but it's an exciting and blessed time for us. Busy as anything, a little overwhelming - but blessed - almost in a surreal way. If the fruit of an authentic blessing is increased humility, it's been a very humbling week! Praise the Lord.

true, there may be someone else out there worthy 
of enjoying quiet evenings on MY - I mean, this - porch. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Thank you to all for prayers! The sought-after clarity and definite answer came fast and furious as a result of all that praying. I will post the details very soon. In the meantime, the house is going on the market this week and the family is in Transition Mode. We are hoping for the speedy sale of our house in Pennsylvania, a blessed house-hunting experience as we seek a new home, and for peace during these upcoming months, especially for Maria and Bernadette (who have already coped with so much change, and still have so much more to come). Can't wait to share the bigger picture!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

it never rains but it pours

It's been a little while. Mostly things have been "the same" - which, though deliciously tranquil, does not offer much material for the sake of blogging. But then, this week happened.....  Now, if all was left up to me, I would probably have waited until next week to have written about this week, but Rich expressly commanded me to write about this week TONIGHT because he feels incredibly in need of prayer. So, here goes!

Since I last wrote, Rich has been working as a summer handyman up at our parish. It's been a great job and a true gift of Divine Providence. He can walk to work, attend daily Mass, come home for lunch, and the job is so flexible that he can take hours off to do a Skype interview (or days off to fly to an out-of-state interview) and make up the lost time later. Given our circumstances, this flexibility has been an incredible blessing, as one might imagine.

Unfortunately, all this flexibility was not bearing fruit in the form of that desirable little perk called "a permanent career". At least not in the speedy fashion that we were wishing for. Rich feels pressure as the provider to be settled in a new job and I feel pressure as the ticking baby time bomb to be settled in a new home. I say all this - but these past two months have been a time of blessing and richness. Our basic needs have been provided for: Rich's handyman wages have covered our mortgage, two unexpected gifts from friends have covered our groceries for the entire interlude and Joseph was granted government health coverage after being denied private coverage because of his pre-existing conditions. Give us this day our daily bread - shelter, food, medicine - and He has. What else do we truly need? We have lacked nothing necessary. To the contrary, we have been blessed with a full cup, running over.  The Lord is good. 

I've spent the month learning the meaning of the words, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil." The Lord has been at work increasing my capacity to be at peace, through trust and simplicity, though the future is veiled and uncertain. I've spent a lot of time in prayer reflecting on how well and truly different are the Lord's ways from man's. See, if I was the Lord - and I called a young family to risk all their security and move across the globe as missionaries - I would want to give them an amazing job as soon as their mission ended just to show all the doubters and naysayers a thing or two! I would want to prove myself to all those who scoffed and discouraged. So, this month I've learned quite a bit about my pride and the Lord's humility.

But more than that, I've also had ample opportunity to consider what is truly good. It is good to have a job. It is good to have stability and security. It is good to be able to pay bills confidently.  But - it is better to be a vulnerable child ever more aware of her dependence on the Father. It is better to grow in absolute trust of Him. It is better to be humbled before Him and before the eyes of men. It is better to grow in gratitude and to let go of the need to be independent of others.  It is better to grow in love and amazement of Him as He tenderly cares for me - undeserving me. He always gives what is best - not just what is "good", but best. We have learned to trust that if He is not giving us a steady job, it is because He is giving us something that is ultimately better for us, in a very profound way.

After interviewing for many jobs which, for various reasons, were not a "good fit" for Rich or for our family, just this week Richard interviewed for a job - and it was unexpectedly fantastic. It is a job for which he had applied without even being very clear about some of the specifics, but he exited the interview full of hope and excitement. It is very very far from where we now live (though, of course, not quite as far as New Zealand) and the distance gave both of us the same fluttery nervous-excited feelings we had about New Zealand before we arrived there. Just like with New Zealand, we've heard many wonderful things about the natural beauty and down-to-earth people in this place. In fact, the job seemed perfect for Rich in every way. So we hunkered down to wait in hope and prayer for a definite offer from this amazing job.

And then, of course, jobs just started popping up all over the place. A former employer of Rich's contacted him in reference to the job search. Danielle, the missionary who preceded us in New Zealand, called to tell us about an intriguing missionary-style job just two hours from our home. [It would entail moving back into a presbytry (rectory) and I'm not sure I am quite ready for that again - but it did intrigue us both nevertheless.] And then today....a wonderful friend called and flat-out offered Rich a fantastic job - a job that is in the field to which he has long felt drawn - a job "only" eight hours away that starts in ten days. And we are utterly baffled. We have perhaps three days to decide.

The two jobs are vastly different in terms of location, ease of visiting the grandparents, salary, Catholic community, type of ministry, etc... There are many factors that have to be considered and they must be considered very, very quickly. Our emotions are all jumbled up - excitement, relief, stress, nervousness, fear, joy, gratitude, uncertainty, thanksgiving - which makes it even harder to discern clearly and prudently in a short space of time. So Rich asked me to write tonight and ask for prayer - the readers of this blog have interceded for us so many times over the course of our mission. We have felt and seen the power of those prayers repeatedly. The youth of New Zealand saw the fruit of those prayers with their very eyes and had their own faith bolstered - because of which, I believe that you who interceded for us were actually an active partner in our missionary efforts, witnessing to and impacting those young people and showing them how real and near the Lord is - and how faithfully He answers fervent prayer. I'm amazed to think that now those young people are part of this great team of intercessors as well! We feel confident that in this last great hurdle of our mission, the prayers of all those who have invested in our mission will again please the Lord and release much-needed graces upon us.

Once all is settled for certain, I will happily post more specific details. (If it takes more than a few days, be assured it is prudence, not laziness!) Until then, Rich and I say thank you once again (in advance this time) for your prayers. Our own faith in the power of prayer has grown so strong through the intercession that has been offered on our behalf by our blog readers over these last few years. What a gift you have given us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

another day, another Catholic celebrity

Today the family drove over to a Benedictine Monastery for the solemn profession of vows of a very dear friend, Fr. Jean-Luc. While he was yet a diocesan priest in 2007, he baptized newborn Maria - and shortly after entering the Benedictine Novitiate, he was godfather to newborn Bernadette in 2009. He's very special to us and so Rich and I were excited that we returned from New Zealand in time to witness this incredible occasion in his life. After the (LONG - but very beautiful) ceremony, there was a luncheon. Our children were so thrilled to have a few more hours of sitting quietly in a formal setting after the hours spent in church that morning - but at least this time there were cheese, crackers, pasta, roast beef and chocolate cake. Oh, and A.C. - let me not forget the blessed A.C.! (Air con, Kiwis, air con - we're talking temps in the low 30s and a jam-packed church building just baking away in the summer sunshine). 

in the back of the church after the Mass

Seated at the table directly adjacent to ours was a beautiful family of eleven, with nine children ranging in age from maybe six months through sixteen years (my guesswork). The two eldest boys actually did not fit around the table with their family and the poor guys got stuck sitting with us. Meanwhile Joseph liked the looks of their two youngest sisters so much that he spent much of the luncheon unsteadily tottering over to visit the other table. Because of the chaos associated with feeding, quieting and keeping track of the twelve children between us (and the cups they shattered and the spills they created) we parents smiled and spoke a few words, but did not get much beyond that. On the drive home, Fr Jean-Luc called to thank us for coming and mentioned that the family of eleven was none other than that of a very prominent Catholic author and publisher whose work Rich has long admired. We were stunned. Richard joked to me that if he had known, he would have tried to get my book publishing deal brokered on the spot so that he could quit his job search. But even more amazing was that during the luncheon, a different, but even more famous and prominent Catholic author and speaker (from Down Under, by the way!) called Rich on our cell phone. Richard had interned for this man over eleven years ago and has not kept in touch since, but they caught up for a few minutes today by this man's own initiative.

None of this has anything directly to do with our prayers for employment. But in one week's time, the Lord has brought no less than THREE very powerful Catholics shoulder-to-shoulder with us (a Bishop and two renowned authors) - which we are choosing to interpret as His reassuring sign that His own power and influence are just as near - and nearer. I feel like He is just showing us the many friends He has in high places and the many ways He can work to bring people together without any anxiety or effort on our lowly part. 

I was laughing the other night as I scanned the week's readings and saw Jesus' instructions, "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers few, so pray the Master of the harvest to send laborers for the harvest." I feel like Rich is jumping up and down with his hand in the air shouting, "Pick me, Lord! Pick me! Send me to the harvest!! Pick me!"  And He seems to be reassuring us this week that He does have a corner of the vineyard all picked out for Rich, but that there is still a season of waiting (and growing in trust) for us to complete before the harvest season of work is fully upon us. So - we continue our efforts ("efforts" of grace alone) in that endeavor. 

Incidentally, it's not all R&R anymore either - Rich is beginning two part-time jobs this week so that we will have this little luxurious thing called "income"- but this is still a time of relative calm before all the drama of moving and shouldering heavier responsibilities. We are very grateful for these two jobs! Thank you to any and all who joined us in praying for some work for Richard as we wait on The Call.

Last night was Joseph's first night ever in a big old American crib!
He'd been sleeping in a pack 'n play since we returned. 
Translation for Kiwis:
Kia Ora! Last night (which was the middle of the day for you, of course) 
was the first time EVA that Joseph has slept in an American cot. 
American cots are nearly twice as big as Kiwi cots, 
even though strangely, American porta-cots are 
barely half the size of Kiwi ones. 
Sweet as! She'll be right. Cuzzie. Kia Kaha. All sorted. Mean!
(oh yeah, we've still got it!)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

in the confessional

Today Rich headed out to Confession. He wanted to go to Confession at our own parish earlier that day, but I had been invited out to a beautiful luncheon and had left him with no car, three kids and the shoe-leather-express option - in 100 degree weather. So he decided to wait until this afternoon and drive to another parish for Penance. But when he set out, he passed a different, closer parish and realized that they had Reconciliation taking place at that very moment so he turned into their parking lot instead.

He made his Confession to a priest he had never seen before, spilling the beans on all his least gorgeous behavior from the past two weeks. He also needed a bit of counsel about how to live this job-less limbo that has been getting him a little down in the dumps, so he gave a nutshell version of the past two months or so. The priest asked for a few more details - and said something like, "I know a Bishop who is looking to fill a job in his Diocese" Rich told him a little more about his experience and what kind of work he is looking for. But - it turns out that what this priest actually said was "I am a Bishop who is looking to fill a job in my Diocese," which of course, makes all the difference in the world!

Rich came home looking like he had seen a ghost - the Holy Ghost, to be precise. Neither of us has the faintest clue if any of this will actually pan out into "Our Future" - but the most important detail is that the Lord has once again flexed His mighty muscles in our presence and completely reassured us that He is perfectly capable of providing for our most urgent need  -  out of thin air  - at any moment of His choosing  (and without any help from us, thank you very much). Seriously. Not only was no resume or application sent to this prospective employer, BUT rather than showcasing all his best qualities to the "interviewer" he confessed all his worst ones! Only the Lord works in this way, upside down from the way the world works. Or rather, right side high are His ways above our ways.

(And the second most important lesson from this is that Confession is awesome! RUN to your nearest Confessional! Who knows what the Lord has in store for you there!

Friday, July 6, 2012

in the waiting room

The Divine Physician is running late - again.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

The point is that Rich and I are still waiting and we are feeling a little....antsy. We are still at peace and hopeful and all the rest (blah, blah, blah) but we're just restless. Rich has applied for openings at some really exciting jobs in some really exciting places - from Oregon to Maine, from Texas to Missouri, from Florida to Kansas (Kiwis - looking these places up on a map could keep you busy for while! Americans, maybe you too! [Or should I be ashamed to admit that it did for me????])  Rich is very excited about the prospect of possibly moving to places with New-Zealand-like climates (or warmer!) and New-Zealand-like beach access. I, on the other hand, will die if I don't see snow this winter. And I have successfully brain-washed Maria into believing the same. I know snow means nothing to my husband, but I'm astonished that he has failed to grasp this simple truth by which I choose to live: the hotter the weather, the bigger the bugs. It does not seem to fill him with an ecstasy of relief that the biggest insects in our house right now are the teensiest little ants you ever did see. After living with enormous cockroaches for two years, I don't even squish these adorable little ants. I just smile at them kindly and wish them well in their quest for crumbs and point them gently in the direction of the highchair.

I don't know how to articulate that it is possible to feel truly peaceful and at the same time restless, except to say that we are not so much worried about our future as we are eager to get cracking. I think poor Richard has had his fill of domestic life - and "domestic life" is ready to put down an anchor and settle into some serious routines. Floating and drifting was fun for a while, but we both feel a little directionless now. We're eager to know what it is that the Lord has planned here. We're quite sure that He has a plan, but we're begging for a little teensy tiny hint. I sort of knew before we left New Zealand that the Lord was going to leave us guessing until the Very Last Minute (because that was His preferred pattern over the entire mission period). I must have said it a million times. But I thought that the Very Last Minute was going to occur somewhere around the third of June. It's more than a month past my definition of "The Very Last Minute", so I can only presume that He is stretching my understanding of the concept of "Last Minute" - in addition to some other bits that needed to be stretched.

Nothing is wasted with God. He is always extravagant but never wasteful. Therefore, this extended period of rest and uncertainty has a purpose. Many purposes, I presume. So the mission in which we're currently immersed is trying to figure out what He's teaching us here - and to be good pupils. I think until this week I had been looking at this season as a such a fleeting and transitory one that it could just be lived any old way. This week it's starting to dawn on me that there is no such thing as a snippet of time (no matter how short) that ought to be lived just any old way. Each day is a gift, and each day needs to be lived as a gift and given back to the Giver.  

If I could possibly set aside my impatience to feel some sort of "stability and security" take hold, the gift of these days would not be so lost on me. I am happy. I mean seriously joyful - all day long, just filled with deep and satisfying J-O-Y over very small things. Having so much more time with Rich has been so awesome for us as a married couple. Having so much more time in general has been awesome for me as a mother. I feel like a calmer, more attentive and more intentional parent than I have for two years, and I'm enjoying the littlest things about my children more. For example, every day after Mass this week, Bernadette has asked me to drive past Fr. Friedhelm's house. She never requested this favor the whole time we lived in New Zealand. Now she asks every day. It's driving Maria insane as she repeatedly explains that Fr. Friedhelm does not live in Pennsylvania. Bernadette is unconvinced, even by Maria's most exasperated, animated, frustrated tirades about airplanes and international moves. This conversation replays every morning during the 3 minute drive home, and it cracks me up every time. I don;t even participate, I just listen. I actually think Bernadette knows that Fr. Friedhelm is in New Zealand - I think she is just enjoying her ability to calmly drive Maria so berserk. And each night, Joseph wakes up from a sound sleep somewhere between the hours of 11pm and 2am and he happily begins singing ALLELUIA!!!! as loudly and as joyfully as he possibly can - for about a half hour. If he goes on too long, Rich and I just push his crib out of our bedroom and into the kitchen, but I'm laughing the whole way. And then there are the sounds of the (American) birds singing loudly first thing upon waking and the sounds of the (American) bugs singing loudly as the last thing I hear before sleeping. It's all the little things that I'm enjoying so much. And when bugs make you this happy, you know you're in pretty good mental space.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

house guests

Today Richard and I practically hosted a New Zealand reunion! Danielle and Krista (two of our missionary forerunners) spent the afternoon visiting, reminiscing about New Zealand, catching up and watching Fr. Michael's farewell video. We were having so much fun that they were three hours late for their next appointment. They both loved the miniature Kiwi accents from Maria and Bernadette (I hadn't even known that Bernadette had acquired an accent; I thought she just spoke in Baby Chipmunk). It was a really special afternoon and it was only after they left that I realized that I had actually never "met" Krista prior to today. (Her face is so familiar - and I heard SO MUCH about her from the girls' group for two whole years.....) One thing we all agreed on emphatically - you are very special people and we all miss you - and your beaches - very much. Hopefully next time we have a New Zealand reunion, some authentic Kiwis can be present as well!

Friday, June 22, 2012

unexpected changes

(Disclaimer - I don't know why most of this post is highlighted white - 
there is no significance to the highlighted sections
except to show how technologically incompetent I am....)

After many months of uncertainty and waiting on the Lord, we thought that the biggest elements of our everyday life had finally solidified. We thought we knew what kind of work Rich would be doing and in what area of the country we would be living. He had been unofficially selected for a position in a thriving Diocese in the Midwest, and was looking forward to being involved in lots of awesome branches of ministry including those pertaining to youth, young adults, engaged and married couples. Tonight we learned that the position has fallen through, due to extraordinary circumstances. We are pretty shaken and deeply disappointed. But in this too, the Lord is at work. There is nothing to do but cling to Him in trust.  What follows is the post I had been working on this afternoon, hours before we got the sobering call this evening..... 

Life is good - really good. There's tremendous peace in finally knowing what kind of work Rich will be doing - and until he starts, we are in a sort of fleeting season of leisure, rest and deep contentment. The kids are sleeping well, eating normally, scrubbing toilets, bringing in paychecks and not crying at all. Just kidding - but they are sleeping well and crying less. Last week we picked out a twelve week old All-Black kitten, named her "Sara Socks", and she has helped immensely in the child-joy department. She doesn't (much) mind Joseph pulling out large chunks of her fur, nor Bernadette carrying her everywhere in a chokehold, nor Maria forcing her little whiskered face into the food bowl to "help her" eat. 
Every morning Joseph naps right after Mass, Richard gets some peaceful time to either fix up the house for sale or to relax, and the girls and I go visiting. All of my good friends in Pennsylvania have children who match mine in ages - and because the mothers are so lovely, naturally the children are unfailingly delightful as well. (Just like mine.) The girls and I are enjoying our new lives as social butterflies. A lot. And Richard is getting lots of projects done in these child-free hours. Everyone wins. 
Richie's latest achievement: repainting the bathroom
(Joseph woke up a bit early and Papa had to finish painting with one hand
while holding the little guy with the other hand....
we're still working on getting the paint off his tiny feet) 

Our afternoons have been full of splashing in the little wading pool, swinging on the porch, visiting parks & playgrounds - and refereeing whose turn it is to hold the kitten. But by 6:30 each evening, all three kids are tucked in bed and Rich and I get to spend truly peaceful evenings together. It's been like a series of little honeymoons. For the past six years he has been out doing ministry anywhere from three to five nights a week - this little interlude of quiet evenings at home is such a treat. We're playing board games and card games - and talking - and just being together in happy silence. Our marriage feels especially blessed and rejuvenated. We're loving having our porch swing again, and our tranquil little neighborhood overlooking a beautiful cemetery. We're amazed by how the fireflies have proliferated in our absence - and how the stinkbugs have disappeared. It's lovely. 

It is going to be hard to leave it all again. And for good this time. 

even lovelier glittering with fireflies at 9pm

Pennsylvania itself has no hold over me. P.A. is to me what L.A. is to Neil Diamond. In other words,

P.A.'s fine,
 but it ain't home
New York's home, 
but it ain't mine
no more. 

Pennsylvania itself has never felt like "home" to me. New York, for all that I resist much of what defines it, is still the place that just "feels" like home. My goodness, I would never want to live there ever again - it's just that things make sense to me in NY. I know how to get places, all the little towns are like old friends and even the way that people drive makes sense. (Richard insists otherwise, but I think that New Yorkers' hyper-aggressive, horn-obsessed driving is just regular, ho-hum, normal driving.) Since I left NY, I've spent four years in Rhode Island, two in Ohio, four in Pennsylvania and two in New Zealand. My husband insists that New Zealand is his "true homeland" but I'm still searching for mine. Maybe it's waiting for me in (the Midwest). I am so much more cornfield than I am Times Square - and I have liked every single person from the Midwest that I've ever met. But it's a little sad now to think about leaving the pieces of P.A. that are very home-like. Our house here is the most perfect little "Kelly home" that I've ever lived in. My friends here really feel like home to me - I didn't appreciate that fully until just this month. Our kids have grandparents, aunts, uncles - family who love them - here. 
a purple bedroom, a new kitten, and the entire Little House series:
little girl heaven

I think a week ago, Rich and I were in a bit of a sadder place about leaving all that we have just so recently regained. These last few days have brought a lot of peace and hope. We're much more focused now on the possibilities and adventures that await us, rather than on that which we will leave behind. We still will leave with some pain and difficulty of course, but also with deep conviction that we are  following the plan - the very good plan - that the Lord has laid out for us. Rich is so enthused about this new job and I love to see that. We are both a bit anxious about where we will live and about how the whole moving thing is going to go (selling our house, living apart temporarily, finding a new neighborhood and house that is a good "fit" for us, helping the kids - Maria in particular - deal with more loss, more transition, more instability). But He knows what He is about. And we trust in that. 

I can do nothing other now than reiterate those last two thoughts from earlier today, even though our circumstances have changed so dramatically in just a few hours. He knows what He is about. And we trust in that. For the past two years in particular we have dealt time and again with hard news, uncertainty, challenges and devastating surprises. And He has seen us through all of it. We have done best when we have had nothing but Him to cling to. So I am - in some true but odd sense - glad for this.  Or at least at peace with it. I'm not properly "glad" - far from it, actually. But I only want to be where He wants us. If He wants us in that job after all, He will work it out and we will be absolutely thrilled. If not, He has something else that He is asking of us, and we will embrace that. Please pray for us to remain steady and unwavering in trust. And obviously for work - the Lord has provided for a little while more of job-searching time, but due to Joseph's medical issues and our unborn baby, we are hoping to be insured as soon as possible. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

another week closer to normal

the squirrel who used to eat all our birdseed
has not budged an inch in two years

I'm not caught up on email yet. I've only made two non-essential phone calls so far. But otherwise, I really thought that we had more or less come to a place of some sort of stability and calm. But then on Monday we completely forgot about Joseph's doctor appointment and on Tuesday we actually missed our plane as we set out to Richard's most important interview. Those of you who know me will know that I do not miss doctor appointments or airplanes. Ever. So - perhaps - we are still a lot more inside-out and upside-down than we realize. I'm starting to feel that the excuse is wearing thin though.

The airplane thing was really something straight out of a movie (and not the boring kind of movie where everything works out awesome for the hero). After a series of hiccups and tangles that delivered us to Pittsburgh International Airport only an hour prior to takeoff, we got stuck in endless lines both for check-in and security. We cleared security only twenty minutes before takeoff and sprinted to our gate. I've not done much sprinting in maternity jeans during any of my previous pregnancies and I don't recommend it. Those pants just did not want to run as fast as I did. So Rich galloped ahead, lugging all four bags while I tried my darndest to keep up. I had Joseph in the Ergo on my back and the diaper bag bouncing wildly over my shoulder (the girls were staying with their grandparents). I'm pregnant enough to be a little short of breath while just rocking calmly on my porch swing - this sprinting business left me gasping for air and clutching frantically to my falling-down jeans, which were being shoved off by the ergonomically-designed waist panel of my back-pack style baby carrier. Joseph - who had been sleeping- was bobbing and crashing manically in the carrier and about every four strides I had to create a free hand to firmly yank my sliding elastic waistband back up as high as possible. "Jesus, I trust in You!" I was frantically praying. We arrived at the gate juuuuuuuuust in time to see that airplane backing slowly away from us.

Thy will be done.

I think Richard may have said something like, "Rats!" I couldn't hear him that well over the wheezing gasps of my own breath and the blood throbbing in my head and the nononononononononoNO! screaming in my soul. I did noticed that my ever-calm husband was covered in sweat and looked like he might be sick in a moment. Joseph starting laughing and kicking, wanting his "pony" to return to that crazy-fun gallop. Neither parent spoke - to him or to each other - for quite some time. And the pony  wouldn't try even just a trot - not even hours later.

We did board a later flight - and had a wonderful trip. But the first thing we saw upon arrival at our final destination was this - 

Kiwis, I do apologize!
(I walked around this airport globe three times looking for you -
but it appears that you might no longer exist.)

We're waiting now on a final decision and have a lot of praying to do. Richard's keeping busy with some projects around the house. I'm blissfully engaged in repainting old furniture (a beloved hobby I have not indulged in two years) and the kids are enjoying having their very own grass in which to get bitten by their very own ticks (Joseph, today). Maria is struggling very much with the prospect of another move, and if there was only one thing I would ask prayers for, it would be for her peace of heart.

power-blasting the back porch

one coat of primer on the kid's drawing table -
I'm thinking about going for "robin's egg" 

picnics in our front yard

finally got the kitchen (the last frontier) organized!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

finding an equilibrium

slowly adjusting to the tastes of America

Last night was one full week since our plane touched down in Pittsburgh. The week was a fast-moving, stressful blur, but it was a super-productive one. The house is (mostly) in order. The kids are (mostly) sleeping. We now have internet, phone, utilities, bank accounts, drivers' licenses, temporary health insurance and - as of tomorrow morning, a car.  In other words, we're in a much more relaxed place today than we were seven days ago. Actually, I'm amazed that it only took seven days to get to this place. We owe a huge thank you to Rich's parents for all the work they did getting our house ready for us before we even arrived. They gave us an enormous head start and saved us days and days of cleaning and hauling furniture. We also owe much thanks to my mother, who flew to meet us at LAX and offered our girls a timely distraction, enabling Rich and I to catch up on sleep, catch two peaceful flights and gather luggage.

helping to get everything in order

Thanks to all for the prayers and email/FB words of encouragement as we went through the craziest and most intense days of transition. Rich and I feel really great now about how things are unfolding. We're having a lot of fun together shaping our life here and the Lord is showing us that His Providence is overseeing all. For example, this week I contacted a real estate agent (who I selected randomly based on her cool website and the fact that she looked "nice" from her photo). As we chatted on the phone, it turned out that she has been supporting an American missionary in New Zealand over the past few years! There have been so many of these unlikely coincidences that we have a real peace that the Lord is at work as we patch together the life we are going to lead now that we are home. We continue to put the pieces together (in a much more peaceful fashion now than a few days ago) and will give updates as the biggest pieces fall into place!

learned how to climb a tree this week

not 100% unpacked and organized, but getting closer every day

Sunday, June 3, 2012

can we go back to new zealand?

The short answer to the question "How are things going so far?" is this:


A more elaborate answer might go something like this:

Well, the house - the four room house - is in absolute disarray and chaos and I can't seem to make any palpable progress because of priorities like groceries and diaper changes and locating underwear for four people amidst mountains of stuff. All three kids have been crying and/or awake every single night until 2 am (or just beyond) and Richard and I are averaging about five or six hours of sleep daily.

around midnight, first night in our own house

Maria, who already lives at a level of existence intensely elevated from most of humankind, is now absolutely overwrought with stimulation and is having mood swings akin to a very hyperactively ecstatic Dr Jekyll and a horribly angry, mean and tearful Mr Hyde.

Bernadette is crying all night begging me to sleep with her, eating barely enough to keep a hummingbird alive, vomiting dry heaves - and "hating" everything in America ("hate" - being a word Bernadette may have used three times in her life prior to landing in America - has now become a word she uses at least five times hourly.) Before she even laid eyes on our house, I told her that we were going to drive over to see it and she informed me, "I hate our house." It's been like that.

Joseph is also crying all night - responsibly filling in for Bernadette during the hours she falls silent - and seems to be stuck on New Zealand time for sleeping and waking.

please don't let these happy faces fool you for a moment

We still have not found a good minivan to buy. Up until today we have been living the Amish dream, totally technologically cut off from the world, without internet or phone. We've been mooching a car and our meals off of Rich's parents. I could go on, but I think the picture emerges fairly clearly and that the reader will understand why Richard and I keep giving each other looks that say, "In five minutes, I may just give up entirely."

"I hate that and that and that"

The travel was actually easier than these first days have been. Fr. Michael drove us to Auckland and there was none of the usual drama associated with taking three small children on a fairly long drive. We arrived with the perfect amount of time to check-in, check our five allotted bags, plus the one that was going to cost $115 to check except that the lady decided not to charge us. Then with our stroller and  six carry-ons (some of which nearly doubled the allotted 7 kg weight maximum) we said a sad goodbye to Fr. Michael, ate a leisurely dinner, passed through "security" without a hitch (including the random selection of only our two lightest carry-ons for a weight check). Within an hour we boarded, took off and got started on the eleven-plus hour flight. Everyone was happy. The girls watched Up (but refused to wear headphones and hear the movie as well). A meal came, which neither ate - the first of many, many meals that Bernadette would not eat - she has not really eaten a normal meal since we had lunch in Mt Maunganui the day we left). Then they slept - all three of them. For about three hours. Maybe less.

 the calm before the storm

Joseph woke up first and began screaming. I mean, the kid was screaming. The whole plane had been  asleep and he woke everyone up. Including, of course, his sisters. Nothing would calm him - not even the man behind him angrily taking the Lord's name in vain.  He screamed on and on and on - for hours. It was hideous. He finally settled and slept shortly before we began our descent, but the rest of us landed at LAX exhausted. By the time we checked into our hotel I'd been awake for 30 straight hours. The girls were doing really well, despite their lack of rest, until dinnertime. They happily went to the pool with my mother and splashed merrily for over an hour. But neither one ate a bite of dinner and finally I had to remove them, crying, from the hotel restaurant. We bathed them and put them to bed, expecting to get some serious sleep, but all three simultaneously awoke at midnight. There was no coaxing or commanding them to sleep. Lights, crayons, pretzels, grape juice, ESPN, coloring 2 am they were ready to give that whole sleep thing another go. And except for the first night home, when they slept the whole night through and had to be woken for lunch at 11:30 am, they have repeated this pattern every night since. Usually with more crying and sometimes with vomit.

partying at midnight in LA

Richard has a couple of interviews coming up over the next two weeks. I honestly don't know how he is going to pull it off. If I had to interview for a job this week, they'd probably take one look at me and make me take a drug test before the interview even began. Once I started talking they'd probably make me take another. But all will be well. Somehow. Please pray for us!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

done and dusted

six bags for check-in
five carry-ons
two boxes posted (not pictured)
one laptop bag
and a stroller with an Ergo.....

But the point is that we are all done packing. Except for one little teeny tiny load of laundry currently washing, plus the things we are all wearing to bed and toiletries. I don't know where any of that will go in the morning since all the bags are packed to their 23 kg and 7 kg capacities, respectively - but I'm sure we'll have a fresh perspective on that dilemma after a good night's rest. The women in my new mothers group here told me that the Kiwi airport staff is a bit soft and if some of my bags are overweight and I can squeeze out a few tears and clutch my pregnant belly tragically, everything will be just fine. I'm banking on it. In fact, our entire airport strategy consists of Richard quietly melting off into the crowd while I approach the check-in desk in a shirt clinging to my just-showing "with-child" belly, with 1 year old Joseph in the Ergo on my back, nearly three year old Bernadette in the stroller, newly five year old Maria holding my hand, and bags heaped behind me. At this point we imagine/hope desperately for a great horde of Traveller-In-Need-Of-Assistance Staff swooping in from every direction, anxious to collect all my bags, rush me through security and permit the kids and me to board ahead of every other passenger - all because I will be surrounded by so great a cloud of children. We don't have a back-up plan.

 It's 7:19 pm, the kids are all in bed, I just packed the last bag and Richard vacuumed the carpets. We're done. We have some friends coming over in ten minutes to celebrate our last evening Down Under. Last night Richard and I went for dinner at a little Italian place with Fr Michael (who is heading off to Rome next month to study at the Angelicum for the next two years). It was a perfect night out. Today: lots of goodbyes, lots of packing, lots of bustling about, lots of children crying - but it still has not really hit me that we are leaving tomorrow morning. Even when Richard asked me just right now to take a break from the blog to trim his beard and we couldn't find any scissors other than child safety scissors because I packed in dribs and drabs over the past two weeks and now have no idea in what bag any given item might be located so I had to trim his beard with that ridiculous instrument.....even then it did not really sink in (at all) that everything we own is packed and we are leaving tomorrow. After two years and four days, we are leaving New Zealand and returning to the States. I just cannot take it in. And there is no time to try to take it in right now because our friends are arriving and Richard's beard is still all over the kitchen floor. Until then, please pray for safe travels and for the kids to feel less panicky about the plane ride than they were feeling all day today. Thank you to all! This is not the last blog post, but it is the last post of missiontonewzealand written in New Zealand.  I'll write again in America!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

matching set

This morning we were very happy to learn 
that we are the parents of two American girls 
and two Kiwi boys. 

At least Richard and I were very happy to learn this. 
Maria burst into tears right there in the sonographer's office 
and begged the tech to check and see if maybe there was 
another baby in there who was a girl baby.

Alas. There was just the one. 

A little (pre-lunch) celebratory trip to the ice cream store
 soon put a smile back on Maria's face.
Richard didn't need any ice cream - 
what he will need is something to wipe the
 off his face. 
I think the plane trip on Wednesday should do just the trick. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

mars & venus in transition

Last night was the very last night of New Zealand ministry for Rich and me. He met one last time with "A Few Good Men" and I with "Girls and God". We each had an excellent "last hurrah" with our respective groups.

I had hoped to do something really special for those girls for our final gathering. Instead, they did something really special for me. Over homemade chocolate-raspberry cake, they each gave their own little "toast" to me - each girl spoke for a few minutes about what part of our time together has been most special or most fruitful for her personally. They went deep. I was awed - and a bit sheepish. They all laid hands on me and prayed. We talked and exchanged mutual assurances of gratitude, respect, affection and enduring friendship. It was incredible. It was emotional. It was very, very, beautiful.

The boys group took Rich to the paintball field and shot him repeatedly.

It's amazing that there are actually people in the world who claim there is no substantial difference between the two genders.

Now that we are done with ministry, these last five days are just party, party, party. And packing. And errands. And phone calls to airlines and banks and hotels.  Actually, everything is upside down. Joseph finished yesterday with his five day frenzy of full-afternoon hospital IV outings. Desperate to entertain him hygienically amidst the hordes of tiny pneumonia and croup patients, I gave him my sanitized cell phone to play with. He was delighted - and happily changed my phone settings so that my outgoing texts can now only be written in Chinese characters. Other than acquiring a language barrier, things went well on the ward. They'll retest him tomorrow to see if he's cured. Meanwhile, our house is like a train depot - so many comings and goings. Ladies traipse in and out to match wallpaper samples and window treatments. Burly men (covered in what my daughters call "scary tattoos") are measuring and replacing windows. Carpenters are banging and smashing walls as they update the office soundproofing on the other side. But the truth is - I like it. (No sarcasm.) It feels like closure. It creates a definite mood; there is a palpable feeling of hustle and bustle that puts me in just the right mood to clean and pack efficiently and get the heck out of here. 

The kids are a bit overwhelmed by it all. Particularly Maria. The other two have some built-in protection called "oblivion". But Maria really gets the total upheaval - and does not have the sense of how temporary it is. Even though Rich and I do know it's just temporary, we're a bit overwhelmed too. We aren't crying quite as much as Maria, but we have had some very funny interludes concerning the packing process. When it comes to transition, I like to dive in, plan, organize, get busy, do stuff. Rich likes to stick his head way down deep in the sand and pretend that no change is coming until the change is actually physically taking place. He'd rather I not start packing anything until a few hours before we have to leave for the airport. I'd like to have finished packing last week. Right now I'm making piles, cleaning things and stuffing suitcases. At the very same time, Rich is taking things out of my piles, dirtying things I have just cleaned and negotiating the return of items from perfectly packed suitcases. I wish I'd thought ahead and asked some of the guys to invite Rich to go out with them (a lot) over this past week. The next time I have to move, someone remind me to do that.

For the past six days he has been asking me to reveal the whereabouts of Moo, Baa, La La La. I keep telling him that it's packed already.

"But it is Joseph's favorite book!"

"No love, Toilet Time for Girls is Joseph's favorite book" (it has that working flush button)

"Well, it's his second favorite book."

I think actually Baby Signs for Mealtime is Joseph's second favorite book. I say so. I also mention that I'm almost positive that the animal book with the lift-the-flap windows is third for him - but that really, he is quite happy to bite the pages of any board book - indiscriminately. I think Moo, Baa, La La La might be Richard's favorite book (to read to Joseph). In fact, I'm pretty sure of it.

Today I finally realized I'd have no peace until I surrendered Moo, Baa, La La La. In exchange for possession of this Sandra Boynton classic and three free hours tomorrow to go play board games with the guys, Rich has solemnly pledged no more interference whatsoever in my packing ritual. He earnestly promised to set no more limits, make no comments and demand nothing back. We shook on it.  Then he read Joseph the Moo book. Twice. He triumphantly informed me that Joseph had laughed on every page. I hadn't noticed - I'd been busy, quietly packing up all of Rich's underwear.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

living on the edge

looks more like a broken arm!

The last two weeks we had in America before moving to New Zealand were literally chock-full of drama, complications and intense near-disasters. It looks like our last two weeks in New Zealand will be no different. After a very hectic week, yesterday afternoon little Joseph had to spend four hours on the Tauranga Hospital Children's Ward on an IV drip. He had had a bad reaction that morning to a medication (something prescribed this week for a UTI) and he needed to be assessed and given an alternate treatment for the bacteria. The only alternate drug needs to be given intravenously, so he was discharged with the line still in. Each day this week we will have to take him into hospital for a dose of antibiotics so that hopefully he will be healthy in ten days' time for departure. The nurse did ask if our plane tickets are insured just in case..... but we're not even going to entertain that possibility.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

last birthday

EVERYONE gets excited about birthdays!
After 2 years of birthdays abroad, the Sealy Family celebrated its last.
 On May 16, Maria turned 5. 
Packing is already tight, so I tried to think of the tiniest possible gift to give Maria 
and instantly, the answer was obvious -
it required no packing, would thrill her and
would fulfill a dream she has cherished since she was 2. 
not scared, but bracing herself

no tears at all - pure joy

and a fairy cake, complete with parasol that caught on fire

we love you so much!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

facebook & the culture war (part two)

Earlier today I wrote a post on why I personally abstain from having a Facebook account. Now here's Part Two of that previous post - here are my thoughts on using Facebook fruitfully.

Off the top of my head, I think there is one basic principle a Christian can bear in mind when communicating on Facebook: Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.  I'm going to say "Facebook" a lot from here on out, but in using that particular example, I include social media like blogs, websites and other forums in which Christians are creating media (whether they realize they are doing so or not).

Being wise as serpents has more implications than I can tackle in this small space. In part it means thinking through what I intend to accomplish with my Facebook page. One approach is to use this media form to provide inspiration and encouragement and fellowship for fellow believers. That's awesome. The virtual world needs that. In my Facebooking days, I benefitted from pages such as these. If my intention, on the other hand, is to try to reach out beyond my fellow believers, a FB page consisting only of beautiful moral posts and deep quotes may be largely ignored. If my intent is to reach that wider audience, it may be more fruitful to create a dynamic page with broad appeal, a personal page, a page to which a wide circle of friends is naturally attracted. In this case, consider the manner in which peers use Facebook. Ask: Who is my intended audience? In other words, who are my friends? Who is actually seeing my Facebook? What are they most interested in? What do they write about? How can I most effectively engage them, attract their interest, spark conversation or thought? What kind of wholesome images and articles would they like? The answers to these questions will vary depending on my own age and the age of my Facebook friends. It will vary according to my personality and the personalities & beliefs of my friends. But chances are that my friends primarily come to my Facebook to learn about and connect with me - therefore, making myself accessible and human on my Facebook increases the chances that others will read my page when I post links and status updates that express my faith and morals. Facebook is not primarily a tool for evangelization - it is primarily a tool for connecting human beings. By that I mean that most people, when they sign in to Facebook, are seeking human connection, not ideology. That's not a bad primary purpose. We have to understand the purpose and power of the tool in our hands. We have to "speak the language" of those to whom we are trying to bring the Gospel. Many people do not speak the richly nuanced language of Church documents, Scripture passages and gorgeous religious art. How can I engage those people in a way that they can "hear" - in such a way that they will want to listen, to look, to click the link? That's not an easy question, but it's not impossible to answer either. Spending a few hours really looking at the Facebook accounts of those we wish to reach with the Gospel will provide some helpful clues. Ditto for scanning the Facebook accounts of Christians who are evangelizing well through their own Facebook accounts. The more "normal" and natural we are, the more people will take us seriously and hear us out. The more fanatical and "out there" we seem to be, the more we will be written off and the more unable to exert an influence on the general culture around us.

Being gentle as doves means that when we use media in the culture war, we do so in the spirit of Christ. We can't defend the King's honor or the Kingdom's in a way that inherently dishonors either. I can't urge others to obey the King by disobeying Him myself. There are two blogs I have regretfully unsubscribed from in the past six months - both are created by brilliant writers ingeniously defending the faith....but doing so with such frequent and intense uncharity that I was completely disappointed and uninspired. I don't see how a Christian blog that defends the teachings of Christ while violating the spirit of Christ (through intentional insults, barbed sarcasm, self righteous judgments and unkindness) is actually a Christian blog at all. It seems to me a Pharisee's blog, urging others to obey strict laws while ignoring the Spirit that those laws serve. The same would go for uncharitable Facebook dialogue.  I have enough uncharitable thoughts of my own to battle without having them fed from media sources meant to strengthen me in my Christian journey. Some people will protest that rants and cutting sarcasm are just about keeping things "real". Maybe. Maybe "real lukewarm". Or "real mediocre". But not real Christianity. Uncharity gives scandal and confirms for unbelievers those negative stereotypes they've heard about Christians. It hardens hearts and creates anger. It feeds self-righteousness and destroys humility. Christians who wish to fight for the Lord must strive for ever-greater discipline, virtue and self-control. We must become perfect in using the Ultimate Strategy of the Ultimate Chief General; we must become adept at adopting the tactic which is most effective and powerful: Love. Charity. We must 'adopt' it because it certainly doesn't seem to bubble up naturally from within us! This does not mean that we never take a firm stance or use strong language. Both are often necessary. But there is an enormous difference between boldly stating a shocking truth in unyielding language and engaging in the nasty mud-slinging hostility that marks much of the political and religious conflict that takes place on Facebook.

Jesus's most important, most central, most crucial teachings are not about health care or religious freedom or marriage. Those are very very important, but they are not the overarching essential truths for which He lived and died so as to teach us. They are these:

Love God above everything else. Everything.
Do nothing to another person that you would not want done to you. 
Be merciful. Forgive. Know you will be forgiven anything - if you forgive. 
Stop judging. 
Stop acting in anger. 
Be humble. Be kind.
Don't live with the emphasis on this passing world - live for the world to come. 

I could go on, but the point is that living these tenets is more important - and harder - than winning arguments and politics. In Jesus' day, those who were urging perfect universal orthodoxy while ignoring the points above got slammed with the whole brood of vipers thing. Ouch. It's not either-or, it's both-and. I need to vigorously defend the truths and morals being attacked or destroyed in the culture while at the same time not violating any of the above points. Man, is that hard. Nearly impossible. Sometimes I seriously just want to give up altogether because of how much I stink at it. But God's power is made perfect in my weakness. His grace is enough.  

Which brings me to my last (and longest) point. We do have to know our weaknesses. We do have to discern wisely where we serve best, what we are most suited for. There is a war going on, but we are not all Navy Seals, Special Forces. Some of us are just best at driving the trucks of food rations. Some are sewing tents. Some are fighter pilots. Some are ground troops. Some are generals. Some are by sea and some are by air. NONE OF US IS ASSIGNED TO BE A BOMBER PILOT. ALL of us are wounded badly and ALL of us are tending to the wounded.

This brings me back to my personal decision to avoid the Facebook front. I'm not gifted for it. In fact, I'm really bad at it. I'm better at hand-to-hand combat. I have much better emotional intelligence face-to-face. I'm both choleric and melancholic (the two most intense personalities) and a writer. Once I try to fight these fights in writing, I know no other way but to dive in with all my intensity, handling the issue at hand as directly, clearly, thoroughly, efficiently and idealistically as possible. It's too much. I'm far gentler and more effective in person. I need to see the other person's face. I need to hear their tone of voice and I need them to hear and see mine. In human interactions, it's far more prudent and efficient to bide time - to be more indirect - to be even a little vague and then gently build to the specifics. It's also necessary to know when to drop it. I seem unable to do so through faceless media. I need the cues of the human body. That's a simple truth I have come to see about myself. 

On the other hand, I know many people who are gifted at going gently and slowly through the process, even over media, but who perhaps struggle to make their thoughts clear - either through a lack of formation and understanding - or through the inability to communicate with clarity. Perhaps they leave the other person more confused and muddled then they were prior to the discussion. We need to know our strengths and weakness - and in which situations we tend to succeed, verses where we tend to fail. Obviously, on the spot, each of us must do our best to give a reason for our hope, despite whatever weakness we know ourselves to have. Once I've seen or heard something that is seriously blasphemous or immoral, my silence is assent and I must speak. Nevertheless, if I know I tend to flub things up on Facebook, it makes no sense to go courting those situations. 

Besides knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, I think it's essential to recognize the possibilities and limitations of Facebook as a tool for winning hearts or saving souls. The soldier need not pour everything into a skirmish that doesn't contribute much to the war. In this war, most victories are won face-to face, person-to-person, in the flesh. Most victories are the fruit of real friendship and testimony and prayer and timely conversations held in private - away from the noise and confusion of battle. In contrast, Facebook skirmishes are often fought very publically between parties who have no ability or intention of actually listening to each other. There is nothing an atheist can write on Facebook, no article he can link to, no argument he can offer, that for the slightest moment will open my heart to the idea that there is not a good God. None. He might as well use Facebook to try to convince me not to love and serve my children. I know God to be true, good and beautiful - worthy of my love - despite never having seen Him - in the same way that I know each child of mine to be good and beautiful and worthy of my love - and I know that to be true from the womb, even before the child is first laid in my arms and beheld by my eyes. The atheist's heart and mind are equally as closed to my arguments as I am to his. There is nothing I will say that is likely to make him question his most basic assumptions about the universe. There is very little I can say that resonates with the the atheist's faith in empiricism, his measure of all things - just as there is nothing in his arguments that resonates with my experiential knowledge of ultimate goodness - my measure of all things. We do not speak a common language. But we still ought to speak. Often. Respectfully. Trying to lisp words the other comprehends. And we must understand and accept the most likely outcome of our dialogue, and the limits of our given forum, or else we shall both be very frustrated indeed. 

Defending the faith on Facebook is the equivalent sometimes of trying to fight against something like guerilla warfare. It's very hard to make any real progress, but we can keep from losing the ground that is still in our possession. On Facebook, we are not going to beat the other army directly in any given battle, but we may influence a whole lot of "undecideds" who are passively watching these battles unfold. If we fight with honor and skill and grace, there may be some neutrals who decide not to join the other army - maybe they consider being our quiet allies - maybe they even start thinking about actively fighting alongside us.

In any case, charity is the winning strategy. And the victory is already won. 

(For further reading on this topic, 
Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media
 by Eugene Gan
 is a worthwhile book!)