Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last step for us in the Adoption

Yesterday we drove to Raleigh-Durham's INS office to be finger printed. A four hour trip each way. We were in and out in about 12 minutes!!!

That is the very last thing for us to do. Now it's the waiting time. Wait and wait and wait. Waiting and working toward something is not so hard; but just waiting is hard.

If you want to pray for something, pray with us that we can get a December court date. Our wish and prayer is to be able to travel and bring them home for Christmas. Can you imagine what kind of Christmas that would be? It would be great too because they could enjoy some down time with the other kids at home during Christmas break.

Please continue to pray with us for financial resources. We're still hoping for adoption grants and/or loans and haven't gotten anywhere yet.

Continue to pray for orphans and widows around the world. Pick a specific country or city and pray for all those that work with and for them.

As the economy continues to drag and struggle, please pray for those without jobs or who own small businesses that are struggling.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

40 Days of Purpose

Our church, Nags Head Church, is studying the book by Rick Warren, "A Purpose Driven Life". We study the book in our various small group meetings, and our pastor, Rick Lawrence, teaches about it on Sunday. For those who aren't familiar with the book, its basic premise is that as Christians we should not just live our lives in survival mode - existing day to day waiting for Christ's return or our demise. We were put in this earth for a purpose; we should live for that purpose and seek to accomplish that purpose. Of course the difficult part is, discovering that purpose.

The purpose is not found "within", nor can anyone else tell us what it is. It comes only from God our Father. Just as all of creation has its purposes, each of us has a purpose. In my experience, you can sort of see the people who are living in a purpose driven life. It's not about them, it's about what they are doing. It's not about happiness or success. It's about obedience to God's leading.

I remember earlier in my life there were people who used the term "living in the center of God's will". Now as I look back, I believe they were trying to live a purpose driven life, but called it something else. This is not to say that they actually achieved this goal of living in the center of God's will, but they felt as if they were. I was sort of jealous of them. However some of them were fluent speakers of Christianese. You know, they're the ones that use that special set of vocabulary that only "mature" Christians could understand. Sometimes if you sat and listened to them you wanted to just say, speak English! They were so much impressed with themselves and they wanted to impress each other. These were the ones who tended to use the "center of God's will" conversations.

So finding our purpose, is it a journey or is it a goal? I guess a little of both. Once you find your purpose, it simplifies your life because you can drop all the other unimportant things in your life and you can concentrate on living that life. It helps you say "no" to other things that just clutter up and make you busy but not productive. It doesn't guarantee success in life. At least not in the world's definition of "success". But if you know that you are being obedient, you don't look for success, you just look to obey... That is what God is looking for from us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On to Europe.


We flew into Paris and as some trips will happen, things immediately go awry. We planned on buying local currency at the airport when we landed. That would have happened flawlessly had we not landed so soon before the currency exchange kiosk opened. Then we planned to take a bus into Paris to get near our hotel. We needed small change of course so we had to wait for the kiosk to open. Once we were in town we were going to get some money out of our savings account through an ATM machine and go on about our business. Except at the time, the European ATM only recognized checking accounts and didn't allow choices to access savings accounts. So we had to wait until the banks opened, called our bank and have them transfer funds from the savings account to the checking account.

And that was all in the first few hours of the first day! Pam was ready to get back on the plane home by then. Once we got to our hotel, settled in, freshened up and had Pam had a good cup of real French coffee, we were good to go. Paris is a very beautiful city, esthetically. Everything seemed so pleasing to the eyes. While there we frequented a couple of the tourist hot spots, but mostly we stayed off the beaten paths and had a great time. For those who haven't traveled to Europe, we suggest the same path. The people who don't have to put up with tourists all day, everyday, tend to be more forgiving, more communicative, and more friendly. Another word of advice. At least learn how to say "Thank you" in the language of your host country, if you at least try, the people are warmer toward you. And last but not least, don't automatically expect everyone to speak English. Just because we're American and we love our country, doesn't mean that everyone else does. Be a good guest and they will tend to be hosts.

One funny story...Pam and I were going to visit Versailles. We were following the directions of our guide book, which told us which train station to go to, which track the train left on and other general information. It was a Sunday so the station was fairly deserted. When we got to the track we were looking for, we wanted to be sure so as not to make complete fools of ourselves catching the wrong train. So I asked a gentleman in a nearby booth (Yes, I do ask for directions, Whoa!!) "Does the train to Versailles come to this track"? I pointed to the track I was talking about. He responded, "yes". So we sat down to wait.

After a few minutes Pam and I noticed a handwritten note on a post near the booth the man was in. It was in French (of course) and the word "Versailles" was in it. Pam and I looked at the note, looked and each other and wondered aloud about the note. So I went over and asked him what the note said. His response, "The train to Versailles does not come here today, you must go to train station (something I don't remember)" Then he had this smirk of a grin on his face. I'm sure he justified himself in his mind by saying that I asked him if the train comes there, I didn't ask if the train comes there today. I wanted to bonk him on the head. But we had to run halfway across town to get the train that would get us there in time to see Versailles and get the last train back for the day. So it was France 1, Stupid American 0 for the day. But Versailles is well worth the trouble...BEAUTIFUL!!!

By-the-way, we're considered "Stupid Americans" in lots of countries because we tend to only speak one language. Uncommon in most countries.

More later....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Whew! I'm back!

Wow! It's been a long time.

I finally finished the budget (mostly), the end of month is done (mostly). I have to say mostly because there's always someone out there with something to change after you think you're done. I'm down about 20 hours of sleep. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to regain your strength after losing a lot of sleep? Tuesday I went to work and it was to be a very busy day because I had a conference call with corporate headquarters. I find out that I've screwed up something on one of the spreadsheets. Something that was very key, and of course, the most time consuming to correct. I ended up working until 4:45 the next MORNING fixing it! I drove home, caught a 45min nap, showered, shaved and was back to work by 8:00. Pam was obviously very upset that I worked all that time and then worked full day that day as well. Sometimes, working for publicly held companies are not all what they're cracked up to be.

When budget season comes in, she ends up doing all of the running around for the kids and sometimes only sees me for a couple of hours a day. Being in management means not ever having a good time to take off. There is always something. You basically have to try to find where it will do the least amount of damage and anger the least number of people...then just suffer the consequences of daring to ever take a day off.

Last Saturday our oldest daughter at home started her second attempt to pass the Drivers Ed class. It's a tough class on its own, and she has her limited English skills to pile on top of it. There are kids in her class taking it for the 3rd and 4th time! The school doesn't make it easy, which all of the parents are glad of, but someone has to keep driving her to and from school for the classes.

The middle daughter is still doing soccer. The team is made up of 7th and 8th grade boys and girls. Her team has been undefeated for years now. There was one season where only one school ever scored once on them. Since she's in the 7th grade, she doesn't get to play as much as she would like, but she's gaining skills during the practices.

The boys are still doing gymnastics classes and enjoying it. We let them all try something new to see if they'd like it full time. D seems to like it more.

Our adoption agency mailed our dossier off to Ethiopia this week!!!!!!! Now it's just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Well, this was just a quick update. I'll write on the European trip in a bit (maybe even today, after a nap)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just a quick note

This past month has been a bit of a monster for me at work. It's budget preparation time and end of tourist season at work. Thrown into the mix is the end of month accounting processes and 4 kidlets at home. Please forgive me if I'm not too timely in finishing my thoughts about the European trip, but I will because we enjoyed it so much.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Our Trip to Europe

Pam and I decided we would do the trip with backpacks. Not the ones you see college kids lugging around on summer trips that are half the size of the person, but the kinds you'd see college kids lugging around campus. What we couldn't fit into those small backpacks didn't go. That didn't leave much room for the kitchen sink or the "everything but" either. A couple pairs of jeans, a couple of t-shirts, a few sets of underwear, toiletry kits and our travel guide. We didn't intend on buying souvenirs, except for plates (I've been collecting those cheesy (ugly) souvenir plates for years). When they got too heavy to carry, I mailed them home. I do painfully regret not buying more souvenirs. Unfortunately we didn't have a digital camera back then either. Oh well.

We had decided to take along just the parts of the guide we needed. So we chose our countries, ripped them out of the book, stapled the sections, and threw out the rest. As we left each country we threw out that country's section to lighten the load. The guide was very useful; it told how to get to each country/city by train, gave a small selection of hotels within certain price ranges, a list of some interesting restaurants, provided a few rudimentary maps (not to scale - we found) and some points of interest in certain cities. It was a very good investment.

We stayed in the least expensive hotels we could find without having to go to hostels because we wanted to stay in the same room with each other. There was a couple times we had to use bathrooms that were down the hall and one time we stayed at a hostel that was more like a hotel than any we'd ever seen. One time the bed in the hotel room was so bad, I dragged the mattress to the floor to sleep on it. It felt like a cot from the World War II era or something.

Going cheap is actually easier than you would think. It just takes a little sacrifice and the ability to lower your normal standards a little. We also decided before hand that being lost was going to be the norm of the day, so we promised each other not to get upset when we couldn't find our way to or from something. It actually added in a little more adventure to the trip.

More to come...

Family Needs

We've had friends and church family ask us what we need and some have suggested that we publish a list of the things we could use. I'm going to try to put this list in order of importance and if you have any of the items available, just drop us a line at our e-mail address (johnson29708@yahoo.com).

3 Sturdy chest of drawers (a.k.a dressers)

Girl's clothes (6x - 10)

Boy's clothes (6x - 12), especially jeans

Double bed sheet sets

Bicycles (med size)

Girls and boys toys (7-10 year range)
i.e. Barbie and her clothes, soccer stuff, base ball stuff, etc

Book shelves

Thank you so much for all the prayers of those who have been following our blog. It's coming along.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's been almost 10 years, but it was great

Just to show that we were not always so 2 dimensional. We did have lives before kids. In 2000, I graduated from the University of Kentucky's MBA (Lexington KY) program. We decided as a graduation present to me and a "thanks for hanging in there" present for Pam, we took a trip to Europe. I had accepted a job offer at an insurance company in Louisville that would start the very next day after we got back.

We didn't do a lot of planning; it was to be a lot of ad lib and college kids kind of adventure. Pam had enough miles on one plan from her previous travels and those of her late husband, that the flight there and back was free. We bought 2 three-week Eurail passes, (at the time it was cheaper to buy them in the US, I don't' know about now). We set out a general tentative map to what countries we wanted to visit. Set our flights to fly into Paris and fly home from Frankfurt. The only hotel we booked prior to flying out was in Paris. We had planned on looking for hotels as we prepared to stop in each country and since we didn't have any solid plans we figured that a day's notice was all we'd have. We found out that was sufficient (almost all of the time).

The secret to our success - Fromm's, "Europe on $60 a day". It'll probably be $160 by now! Our plan was to visit France, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. As we were looking up things to visit, we found out that in Oberammergau there was to be the Passion Play, which has been put on every 10 years since 1633. We tried to get tickets but failed (a funny story to tell later). If we ever go to Europe again, it'll be the eastern European Countries, but we might try to slip in Oberammergau.

The adventures to come...