Thursday, December 17, 2015

Announcing a Life Change

A year ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be writing this.  That I’d be announcing this life change for our family. 

Last December we sensed that a change was coming, a change was needed. That sense caused lots of angst in us.  We loved our work in China, and we loved the people we did that work with. So when our family showed signs of needing to leave China, we ached, thinking that would mean giving up the work that we loved, the work we felt called to, meant for.

We lamented what we thought were our only two options: return to China after our one year home leave, knowing that certain needs of our family would not be met. 

Or say goodbye to the work we loved in China, and head into the unknown of a completely different life somewhere in America.

Aaron and I would lie in bed at night, praying for direction, praying for a release from the angst we felt as we stood at this crossroads.

We shared our hearts with leaders and friends, and through that sharing an idea was birthed.  A third path we never once had considered as an option.

What if we could continue serving with our organization, what if Aaron could continue in his director position (that felt like a perfect fit for his gifting and training), and what if we could do it from Thailand? 


A place we knew and loved from the yearly time we’ve spent there.  The place Aaron and I first went to Asia together as a dating couple nearly thirteen years ago.

The place of our daughter’s birth.      

A place that holds memories for our entire family.

A place that has the opportunities our family needs in order to thrive. 

A place that acts as a hub for women serving overseas, the perfect place for me to lead Velvet Ashes

A place that offers potential for connection and development with students that we’ve been working with in China for years.  A place that has opportunities we'd love to tell you more about in person.  

Sometimes you can’t see the answer to your prayer, because you didn’t know to pray big enough.

Although the dream was planted, it involved months and months of waiting to see if it would become reality. 

Waiting in the tension, wondering through the “what if’s,” and then finally, finally the confirmation.

We’re moving to Thailand!

As planned, we’ll spend the next five months living and teaching on a college campus here in Missouri.  (We’re SO excited about this!)  And then come summer time, we’ll be packing our 10 suitcases once again, and this time our flight to Asia will take us to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The release of angst has come.  In its place is that deep down sense of knowing, the sense we’ve had each time we’ve made a significant life move.  That this is where he’s leading. 

We’re incredibly grateful to those who have walked with us through this time, who have prayed for us and sat with us in the waiting. 

And to all of you who are a part of our journey, part of our service to Asia, we say “Thank you.”  We are only ever able to serve because of you.      
While we know where our journey leads, there are still steps we need to take to get there.  We have two significant needs.   

Would you join us in praying for a part-time teaching position for Aaron in Thailand? (This would provide us with a visa and supplement our financial needs).

Would you consider partnering with us to meet our increased need in support?  We have a total of $23,000 additional support needed for the coming year.  We’ve already raised $10,000 of this.  If you’d like to financially partner with us, check out our new support page here. 

We're excited to share this next chapter with you as it unfolds.  I'll be sharing most of our daily life pictures on Instagram, so you can follow along here: @daniellemwheeler.  If you're not on our newsletter list and would like to be, email me or personal message me on FB with your mailing and email address.  If you're interested learning more of the details of our work in Thailand, we'd love to meet with you, or share with your church.   

Thanks for praying us through this next transition.  We are forever grateful for your love and support!  

We're about to pile in the car to road trip many miles to be with family on this, our American Christmas.  Wishing you and yours all the wonder and joy of celebrating Immanuel.  Merry Christmas!      

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Purge Your Home When You're a "Stuff" Person

I am a “stuff” person. 

I get emotionally attached to stuff.  When I look at an item in my home, I see memories.  I see the face of the giver.  I see a need to save it for when I’ll use it again. 

This is not a good thing for a person who has had to fit her life into suitcases.

I’ve read books and blog posts about people who simplify, who get rid of their excess stuff.  They talk with almost annoying perkiness about how freeing it is.  “Just get rid of your stuff, and you’ll feel so much better!”    

This has not been my experience. 

No, getting rid of my stuff, dropping it in the donation bin, selling it for next to nothing at a garage sale, leaving it next to the dumpster, it has never felt freeing.

It has felt like loss… and grief… and fear… and then some shame layered on top.

I grieve the loss of memories.  I fear for the future, that I won’t be able to find or afford to replace what I need in my new home.  And then I feel ashamed that I’m so attached to stuff, that worldly possessions affect me this way, that I’m not trusting in His provision.

This has been the story of my multiple global moves…   

Until now.

This time, it’s different. 

Fair warning before you read it, the author, Maria Kondo, is a little… out there.  She’s borderline obsessed with “tidying” and she talks to her purse.  So there’s that.  BUT, she’s not whacko. 

Her words have made a huge impact on how I am purging my possessions.  This process is being forced and expedited by my impending global move.  But I would be inspired by this book whether I was moving or not.  It's not just a "how-to organize," it gets at the root issues, which was what made it different than other things I've read.   

Here are some of the gems Kondo offers:

“Don’t organize by room, organize by category: clothes, books, papers, etc… Take everything out.  Everything.  Handle each item and ask yourself, ‘Does it spark joy?’  If the answer is ‘no,’ get rid of it.” 

“If you come across something that does not spark joy but that you can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, ‘Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?’”

I’m paraphrasing here, but she says to acknowledge your emotional connection to the item, appreciate it for what it was, thank it even for what it did for you, and then release it.  It has served it’s purpose.  Just because it once had a purpose for you, doesn’t mean it still does.  Send it off with joy to make room in your life for your current purposes.

Her words validated my emotional attachment to stuff.  Now, instead of feeling guilty for the attachment, I can acknowledge it.  That acknowledgment somehow helps me to release it. 

This time, the getting rid of stuff process has actually been freeing.

Attachment to the past…. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I waddled all over Beijing, hunting for a rocking chair.  I could never find what I wanted.  Nothing looked remotely comfortable or affordable. 

So I found a rocking chair from Target that came in a 50 lb box, and I had my in-laws check it as a piece of luggage for their trip to China.  When I brought my daughter home for the first time, my dear father-in-law had it built and waiting for us.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent in that thing with each of my three babies nestled to me.

Soon my beloved rocking chair will go to a new home.  The loss of the chair is not the loss of the memories though.  Nothing will take away the importance of that season.  I can release the chair to be something special for someone else now. 

Fear for the future…

We’re heading into a lot of unknowns.  We’ve made faith leaps before, and those leaps held a lot of angst for me.  I still have my moments, but this time, there’s a deeper level of trust. He’s carried us before, and provided for us in ways beyond what we could have imagined. 

Fearing you won’t have enough, is no way to live.  

As Kondo says,

“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”  

Living with less stuff and less fear, it’s kind of amazing.  Even just in these weeks that we’ve been purging clothes, toys, books, papers, junk, our home feels lighter, more peaceful.

I love opening my wardrobe to this...

“What would it be like to have a home that has only items you love?”  -- Marie Kondo 

I’m still in the process of getting there.  But I’m convinced now that living with less is better.  And for us global nomads, it doesn't have to feel like loss and fear and shame.  

Our life is getting whittled down to 10 suitcases.  I know from experience though that it does not take long for a home to accumulate too much again.  But this peace and lightness that comes from having less, it's too good to let go of.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What Moving Looks Like for Us

I should be packing right now. 

Because, three weeks. 

In just over three weeks we’re boarding an American-bound plane for yet another trans-global move, this time for a one year home assignment. 

I’d like to think that we’re going to be totally on top of things this time.  No more last minute insanity. 

But who am I kidding? 

Let me tell you how it’s going to go.

Every day these next weeks, I will plan to pack and sort.  And then a friend will text to get the kids together to play because the sky is blue and how many more times will our kids get to play together?  And I will say “yes” because, of course.

I will start each morning with some journaling and not be able to stop because this writing it down is saving me.  All the feelings.  All the thoughts. 

I will go out for all those dinners, because if I don’t say goodbye to those dear ones, my heart will break and I will kick myself when I’m gone.  I will take their sweet going away gifts and discreetly slip them in the give-away box. 

And I will ask that family over for a dinner, because I need us to sit and laugh and share all our stories just one more time.  I need us to leave well. 

I will sleep very little the last week before we move.  There will be lots of late nights, because I’ve been doing all the above.

Also because packing while 3 kids are awake in a little apartment is … not what you’d call productive.

On that last day, my husband and I will scramble around, we will argue over the last items that can’t fit. 

Then time will freeze for a moment and we will hold each other in the middle of the chaos, the two of us surrounded by all the luggage.  I’ll lean my head on his shoulder, his arms wrapped round me.  I’ll remember all the times we’ve done this moving thing, how I’d do it all over again to live this life, this story with this man. 

Then a child will yell and break the spell.    

I will ugly cry when we shut the door on our empty home.  Because I always do.    

We will say our last goodbyes, and I will cry more.   

And then just the five of us will go hide at a hotel near the airport for 2 nights.  Because I’ve learned I cannot get on an airplane like this, or my sanity might be left somewhere over the Pacific Ocean forever.

We will spend an entire day swimming in the hotel pool, eating good food, and sleeping…finally sleeping.    

Then I will step on that plane, shoulders aching from the carry-on that was supposed to be nice and light, but magically grew heavy.

There won’t be a lap baby this time, which is worth a whoop, holler and a sob.

I’ll lean my head back against my seat as the engines thrust us into the air.  I’ll watch China slip away beneath us. 

That’s when I’ll breathe this, my airplane/moving prayer…

That is, I predict, how these next three weeks are going to go. 

What does moving insanity look like for you?

I'm linking up with Velvet Ashes at The Grove.  Our prompt this week is "Sanity."  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Life These Days

These are the days when waking up before the toddler is an effort in futility.  So with the first crack of early dawn, he finds me just where he wants me.  He slips into the warmth of our nest bed, his arms wrap round me, his ear on my heart.     

This, I know, is the way to start these days. 

These are the days of long hot showers, taking the chill from the skin.  The heat’s turned off in our building now, but the warmth of spring comes slowly.

These are the days when homeschooling feels like the worst and best thing I’ve ever done. 

These are the days of double dates with former students.  When did they get all grown up and married with big fancy jobs?

These are the days of routine, every day has its plan.  The predictability soothes our souls.

And yet these are the days when change is lumbering, looming closer.  Every time I look to the horizon and see it there, I breathe, just breathe.

These are the days of spring winds, when sandstorms whip round our home up here in the stratosphere.  There’s grit in the nooks of life.    

These are the days when my kid swipes her own subway card, and I marvel at the confidence blooming in her. 

These are the days I find myself wide-eyed at the fruit market.  Blueberries and avocados? Oh, China, how you have changed. The me of nine years ago would not believe.

These are the days when blossom scent drizzles the air, a patchwork of color dolloped across the concrete jungle.

These are the days of strewn Lego, of artwork masterpieces papering the fridge.  These are the days of wondering how a mountain of dirt fits into the pockets of boys.        

These are the days of pouring out the story, of last minute emails for visions grown real, because perhaps what I need is what others need too.  To retreat and renew, to release and be free. 

These are the days when my own writing happens in fits and starts, jumbled daily in a private journal, these are my treasures, the working of him in me.  And oh, how I'd like to sit and write and write.  But I have a child smooshing my cheeks right now, and, yes, that’s good too.  What’s there to write if you miss the moments? 

This is my life these days in snippets and bits.   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

And My One Word for 2015 is...

When I go about choosing my One Word for the year, it always goes something like this:

1.     Toss a few words around in my head.  How about _____?  Nah.  How about _____?  Snort.  Definitely not.

2.     And then a word pops in my head, and it feels like…home, like it is mine and meant for me.  I can immediately come up with a list of reasons why yes, this is exactly the word for me. 

3.     Then I think on it a few days.  And doubt creeps in.  Maybe this isn’t the best word.  Maybe I misheard.  This is actually a terrible word.  How about….. And then absolutely nothing comes to mind.

That’s when I know.  I am stuck with my word.  It’s meant to be mine.  This is how it has gone in years past and this year was no different.

My word for 2015 is...

I love it and I hate it.      

This is the word that is going to walk with me through my year. 

If it’s anything like my story last year, I am going to be all about this word, and then I am going to forget about it.  Then it is going to show up, surprise me, turn my life inside out, and become indescribably dear to me. 

I could write out all the reasons why I feel I’m meant for this word, but I think the truest reasons will unfold with the year. 

I will say this.  In 2015, I want to be rooted in Christ and in Christ alone, to grow down deep into the soil of his grace. 

I had planned to end this post here.  But then this happened….

The first day of 2015 dawns and I hear squeals coming from the kitchen.  Ellie comes out with our bean jar in her hands, her face all lit up. 

It’s the bean jar I had resigned myself to doing.  It was the one science experiment I told myself, “We should actually do this one.”  All the other weekly home school science projects required more energy and coordination than I could muster up.  Sorry, kids.  I’m learning to embrace “good enough,” and this year science worksheets are good enough.       

Maybe it was because I have generations of gardeners in my family and never a square inch of garden to call my own.  Maybe it was because it only required a paper towel, the included bean seeds and a glass jar.  The honey jar happened to run empty that day.

For whatever reason, I decided to try and grow some beans seeds.  I decided to try even though our basil seeds had failed miserably earlier this year.  I’ve still got the pot of dirt on my window ledge. Never a single sprout.

I decided to try even though we’re leaving in a few weeks to travel, and what will happen to our poor seedling then? (That is, if they should actually sprout.)   

Whatever, I told myself.  We're just going to do it.  The perfect time will happen never.  Live in the now, or something like that.   

So we slide our bean seeds down between the glass and the wet paper towel.  It should take about a week, the book said, to see any signs of life.

Each day the beans seemed to sweat and swell a bit.  Still I was dubious.  We had three days to go before we should even look for growth.

But on January 1, Ellie sees it and squeals the news “We have a root!”

One tiny white bean root has entered the world.  On this the first day of my year of “Rooted.” 

It feels like hope and grace and promise.

I start going on to my six year old about how my One Word is “Rooted” and “Look, we have our first root on the first day of the year!” and “Why are we growing beans in the dead of winter? I don’t know, but isn’t this great?!” 

“What does ‘rooted’ mean, Mom?” 

I stammer to explain that roots are what go down in the ground and drink up life, and how we are to be rooted in Jesus.  I can tell she doesn’t get it, but she’s excited because I’m excited. 

“Maybe by the end of the year, I’ll be able to explain it better, sweetheart. Because this, this is my year of “Rooted.’” 

I'm linking up at The Grove today at Velvet Ashes.  We're joining up with OneWord365 and sharing our One Words for 2015.

Do you have a word for the New Year?  I'd love to hear.

Photo Credit: Unsplash