Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Salem Update

Our second and very  precious daughter, Salem Margaret Joyner was born on Sunday, March 9th at 1:24pm.   Salem is a reference to the Hebrew word for "peace" and Margaret is the name of one of our very favorite women, Noah's momma.

We are so grateful for everyones prayers and concern involving her arrival.  There is some personal and medical information surrounding her birth that we would prefer to keep personal, but we are so grateful for how many friends and family care about the details of our life and hers.
 Because of concern for Salem's safety, I had an emergency c-section.  
Noah, Salem, and I will all be staying at UNC for the next 10 days while Salem is admitted to receive a round of IV antibiotics for an infection I developed in the last days of my pregnancy and could have passed on to her. Mom and baby are both in good health and recovering well. We would love your prayers for our other children, who are currently staying with other family members. We miss them so much and are greatly looking forward to our  family's reunion. I have to stay with Salem to nurse her and Noah has to stay with me until I have recovered well enough from the surgery. We would also appreciate continued prayers for Salem's health and protection along with my recovery-ouch. This has been a draining few weeks leading up to her arrival and surrounding her birth but we have seen a constant and uplifting hand of mercy around us. It has often felt like chaos only to be revealed to be divine order. We have much to marvel at and hope to worship God well through this situation, wether we can make sense of the details or not. Thank you again for all of your concern on our behalf. 
Stephanie and the Joyners

Saturday, February 22, 2014


 ** I suggest starting the youtube video first. That way you can be listening to the song while reading, especially since I reference the song so much in the post itself.**

I'm sitting in my favorite yellow chair this morning with the sun radiating through the big window beside me. Half of my children are sleeping and half are playing legos at the table because dad told them that I needed some quiet time this morning. He then went on to threaten them in ways only a daddy can and so far...success.

Me. Sitting down with my bible.
Why does it take me so long to do the things my very soul needs? 
Why does it take so long for me to simply stop? 
And bow down?

Of course, I should have been sitting in this chair days, weeks before I am now.
But by the grace of God, I am here now.
And isn't that the whole point? I'm no good at this whole thing.
That's why to be a Christian is different than to be....anything else.
It essentially means that I'm most qualified for something by realizing how no good at it I am.
We've been watching the Olympics around here.
And it couldn't more different than that.
In the Olympics, the cream of the crop rise to the top. Step by step. Race by race, the strong get to the podium.
But in this race, this spiritual one, you do best to acknowledge your weakness and your failures. This is how you run.
You run to Jesus.

So, here I find myself.
Being no good at waiting on God.

I've waited many times and in many ways in my life and rarely have I done it well.
When I first heard the song,  "To those who wait," by Bethany Dillon, I was waiting on God to open up a door we could walk through in the midst of a very complicated adoption. It seemed I banged my head into a wall at every corner.
"Bethany Dillon" and "Shane & Shane" came to perform at our church and that's how we met. 

I may have mentioned it before, but my man and his whole family can cook up some good food.
When I met Noah, I was a vegetarian who had just come home from living in Europe for a year and eating food with names like "Hutspot."
He was an educated redneck, whose family cooked an entire pig once a year and actually owned a grill that could fit a whole pig on it.
We were clearly a match made in heaven. 
So, it only made sense that if our church was going to host some of the best contemporary Christian artists in the industry and we were going to need to feed them, we would need to feed them Joyner food.

While the guys made food, I got the privilege of chatting with Bethany and God led our conversation to the adoption we were neck deep in at the time. She shared with me about someone dear to her who had fostered 2 children for many, many years before they were ever able to adopt them and how faithful God had been in the midst of the impossibility of the situation. We then moved on to the concert portion and Bethany shared this new song she had written. At the time it hadn't been recorded so I couldn't buy the CD and listen to it on repeat day in and day out but in that dark sanctuary, while she sang, God spoke clearly to me about waiting on Him.
That was about 3 years ago and God closed the door to that adoption and we continue to wait on Him to lead us in the details of that story.
But now, the big waiting is being done with a full belly, sleepless nights and random kicks to the bladder.
The waiting is being done in the planning of days that all have to begin with "IF I haven't had a baby.." and in the suspension of all normalcy.
I've learned that with the process of giving birth to a child, my waiting is best done quietly resting.
But that isn't always easy.
I would rather be distracted from the present reality than to sit and soak in it.
I find this to be true about all waiting on God, though.

It's in times like these that we are forced to face our impatience. We are forced to face our restless spirits and our quick discouragement. 
My heart is no different now, in this moment, as I wait for something only God has the power to do.
It's no different than when I want people to change quickly or children to learn faster or answers to unknowns to come swiftly.
 While I wait for God to bring this child into the world, I get to see what kind of waiter I really am.
The pressure is on...literally. It's uncomfortable. I want relief. The grass looks greener on the other side. 
It always does when you're waiting.
I forget that there are sweet things about this spot. 
I may have a full belly and no lap to speak of, but I can eat a meal basically whenever I want.
Newborns have a way of getting hungry right when you are. That always annoys me. I'm not gonna lie.
So, it turns out that this isn't just about being pregnant.
Which means it won't really go away when I deliver this child.

It's about Him.
It's about me.
It's about waiting well.
It's about a life that we are in but don't control.

She sings, 
"You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do."
This line in the song is so articulate.

I'll never forget my second borns arrival.
My first was 4 days overdue but I went into labor naturally.
So, I had the idea that my second would come earlier, him being my second and me being so uncomfortable.
Haddon's due date came and went and I could be found squeezing pressure points in the fleshy part of my thumb while devouring Eggplant Parmesan. 
Anything that had the possibility of inducing labor. 
I was doing it.
I walked. 
Shoot, at one point, I was practically running up and down the long driveway of my parents house.
4 days overdue, with the threat of induction for low fluid on the horizon, everyone made their way to church and left me in a quiet house for the first time in a while, free from the buzz of activity.
  I lay down to take a nap.
I stretched out and snuggled up to my pillow water broke.
Haddon is the only delivery that began with my water breaking, and I couldn't find it more ironic.
With all of my doing to cause my labor to begin and the moment my labor began was when I stopped doing.

"Oh my soul wait on the Lord, keep your lamp filled with oil."
"Oh my soul, be not deceived, wait for Him, don't be quick to leave."

I grow so impatient so quickly. And up I jump from this quiet place of waiting. Up to do something.
Let's go on a walk. Let's go shopping. Let's go get me my favorite food.
Something to not have to wait on God.

It's sweet to get family time in this waiting. It's fun to go to the park and walk and get ice cream.
But nothing will heal the anxious heart like stopping.
Looking to God.
Seeing His kind and gentle strength.
Seeing His sovereign hand holding up the details of your life.
And being ok with waiting on Him.

Cause really, I am not waiting on this baby, am I?
This child can't make themselves arrive.
I was not waiting on Haitian adoption laws to change.
I am not really waiting for my circumstances to change.
God is in control of all of the details.
All of my details.
And He's in control of yours, too. 
And we are not waiting on ..... 
whatever we are waiting on.

We are all waiting on God.

And we aren't the first ones to struggle with it...

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Psalm 31:24
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Psalm 33:20
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 38:15
But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
Psalm 39:7
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
Psalm 62:5
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him
Psalm 69:3
I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
Psalm 130:6
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
Isaiah 25:9
It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 30:18
The Lord Will Be Gracious ] Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those whowait for him.
Isaiah 33:2
Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.
Isaiah 40:31
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 64:4
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.
Lamentations 3:25
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:26
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of theLord.
Micah 7:7
But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

May you be blessed in your waiting as I am an mine and may we all see His face anew because of the waiting, not just despite it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A teensy, weensy, way late update...

Oh my.
We've been home for 3 months and this is the first time I have even attempted a blog post.
And this particular effort is not because I have anything particularly helpful or insightful to say. It is mostly so that folks who don't live near us and use this blog as a source of updates will know we are still alive.

Ta-da!! Here we are!!!

Obviously, we did make it home from the Dominican Republic.
We do miss the DR and are looking forward to heading back this Spring.
And while we miss our close friends, tropical rain showers, the best beans and rice you can imagine and fresh mango juice,
I've never been happier to sleep in my bed. The bed that I adore.
My Dominican bed stinks. Hard like sleeping on a stinkin' stone tablet.
I've never more enjoyed a dishwasher, consistent power, and a glade plug-in to make things smell all home like.
Let's be honest, American life has many luxuries.
But one that may surpass them all... No really...listen up here...
is the ability to wipe with toilet paper, then drop your toilet paper into a...toilet!!!
Note, I did not say trash can. I said toilet.
And then, miracle of miracles, you just flush it on down!  No, seriously.
You never have to see it again! It's like it never even happened! So liberating.
You just have no idea.
In fact, while still in the Miami airport, one of my kids literally paused mid-way through the process. He looked right at me, toilet paper still in hand, with a look of awe and said, "Mom! Wait a minute! Can I just throw this in the toilet?!" To which I replied with great pleasure, "Yep."
He then proceeded to slam dunk the toilet paper into the toilet like a younger, whiter version of Michael Jordan, then flush the handle and exclaim, "That was fun!!"
It doesn't take much, people.
Some people turn to Chuck E. Cheese to entertain their children.
I merely choose to deprive them of basic comforts and then graciously offer them back at such time when fun is in short supply.
You're welcome.

Once we recovered from our newfound toilet freedoms, we spent the first few weeks transitioning, unpacking, and getting rid of a lot of things. We got home and I looked at the room where we'd been storing things while friends stayed in our house and thought, "It sure would be easier to just get rid of this stuff instead of trying to organize it." Noah is always trying to get me to get rid of things but I find a lot of comfort in the "stuff" I've acquired, especially with all of the moving we do. It's like my own little 401k. I'm not a minimalist by nature and I find a little stuff in a home to give it that comfy, "life goes on here" look.
With that said, there was way too much life going on in our 1100 square feet. And after living with only about 5% of our things for the past 6 months, it wasn't a terribly hard sale. I didn't miss most of it the entire time we were gone.

Also since transitioning back into life in the states, we have started our new school year and we have begun a new year with our favorite Elon Co-op. We have also reconnected with friends and family and church, done some traveling to meet with both current and potential partnerships for HaitiLove, and enjoyed the holidays back here with friends and family. In about 2 weeks (I've had to adjust that number twice, seeing as it's taken me a month to write this quick update), we hope to meet the newest addition to our family. Boy or girl? We do not know, but it won't be long now!
After the baby is born, we hope to spend a couple of months adjusting before heading back to the DR.

I won't write much more, in hopes that I will reserve my blogging motivation and be more efficient in my attempts to update after the baby comes.
But to be honest, this precious life God has given, this present lot that is so divinely mine, fills my days to bursting with life being lived. And I'm not one of those people who thrives on busyness, so the ability to manage tasks and projects outside of the realm of my home and savor the life right in front of me seems to often escape me. 
I love writing. I love connecting in this way with so many other people who I would otherwise be disconnected with.
But I cannot figure out how so many women manage to blog on a daily or weekly basis and manage other realms of their life and home well.
Just one of life's mysteries,
along with stuff like Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle and wether or not Nessie really does live in a giant lake somewhere.

So while I ponder these mysteries, I will also be resting and waiting and preparing and enjoying these last days with my 4 children.
For very soon, we will be a family of 7.
And oh how I love this very full, very small village of people my best friend and I have been given the chance to know.
They keep me oh so busy and oh so tired and oh so happy and oh so grateful...all in the matter of a few moments.
Life is full.
Life is good.
And life is full of good.
Until next time...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

HaitiLove video

Less than 24 hours.

That's how long we have before we're on a plane back to the states.

Back to Fall weather, comfy furniture, and family.
Good bye to mangoes the size of your head, avocados ripe to perfection and friendships that feel a lot  like family.

As we pack up things and ready for our departure, I would like to leave you with a short video that depicts what it is we even do over here in this-
 the poor man's Caribbean.

The message is simple.
The purpose is clear.

We believe whole heartedly that countries and their people are languishing (def. lose or lack vitality; grow weak or feeble.) because God's people are languishing in that country. 
The biggest problem a person/people face is not poverty of things but poverty of the soul.
A person can prosper under all kinds of less than ideal circumstances, 
when a soul is alive and thriving. 

Habakkuk 3:17-19
"Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to tread on the heights."

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
 He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Fueled by this perspective, our mission is simple.

"HaitiLove is a ministry of the local church that exists to glorify God by loving Haitians through education, proclamation, service, and prayer. It is our practice to connect Haitian and American churches for mutual edification, that results in healthy local churches, that reproduce themselves and transform their communities."

So, we preach the gospel- the life saving, world changing truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and He has to come to rescue a people and make all things new!
And we encourage, support and educate the local Haitian churches here to do the same!

We believe this provides a long term solution to a very long term problem.
We believe that the bible teaches this truth and that it's not a new idea, nor is it "our" strategy.
It is really true that the God of the bible does not just provide lofty ideas and ethereal philosophies.
When spiritual needs are met, it transforms all other areas of life.
Practical areas of life.

Most of the time, it quite simply,
 looks a lot like this...

HaitiLove: What we do... from noahjoyner on Vimeo.

If you would like to know more about how to invest in the work that we do, please feel free to contact me through the "Get in Touch" button on the upper right hand corner of the blog.
Also, we would love to keep you updated through our frequent newsletters and ministry updates. If you're interested in this, go to the HaitiLove website and click the "subscribe" button.
Also, the HaitiLove website has been revamped a bit and is a great resource if you have more questions about the ministry of HaitiLove.
Thank you for all the ways you all keep connected with our family.
We are so very grateful.
The Joyners

Friday, September 6, 2013

What are you thinking?!

"I don't get it...
What are you all thinking?!"

Have you ever looked at someone else's life and said these words?
Or maybe you just thought it.

Maybe your response came from a place of judgement, but more likely it comes from a place of sheer confusion. You just don't really understand why someone would do...that.

Our family gets the shocked/confused/perplexed face fairly often.
There are some choices we have made as a family that don't fit into the "norm" and often times folks are simply confused as to why we would choose this seemingly nonsensical path.

In this post, I seek to explain a little bit of where we're coming from, as a family.
Not to defend any one world view.
Not to speak for anyone else who has made similar choices.
Simply to expose our hearts and intentions,
in hopes that it will be easier to understand us.
And who knows?
Maybe you know someone like us and it will help you understand them a little better too?
The goal is not to have you necessarily agree with us.
There's nothing wrong with disagreeing.
There aren't any 2 people in the world who always agree.
I think that it's not  the agreeing that's important.
It's the listening.
And the understanding.
I have found in my own life that it's easier to distance myself from people who I don't understand.
And it always seems easier to keep misunderstanding than it is to seek to understand.

I also think that, most of the time, when we stop and take the time to listen to people who are different from us, we will find an immense amount of compassion and grace hiding in our hearts.
SO, like I said, I am not speaking to any one particular person or for any group of people.
And please know that I am not speaking against anyone who has differing opinions. 

Just here to say...In case you've ever wondered...this is where this family is  coming from.

Often times, I think people think we are either
 Super crazy,
Super weird,
or Super Spiritual.
I think we are non of the above.

But then again, from where I sit, it would be hard to say, definitively.
At least about the weird and crazy part.
I can say definitively we are NOT super spiritual.
We are just regular people whose lives really were made new and redirected by a Super natural event.  We were made into new and different people after being drawn into a personal relationship with the  God of the Bible.
This one relationship does motivate all of the choices that we've personally made. But that is because we serve a very personal God who very personally leads His people.
It doesn't mean that our choices are "distinctly Christian" choices or ones that all Christians should make, if they love Jesus.
With that preface...

What kinds of things exactly do we get funny looks for? What kinds of things do people ask us questions about either directly or indirectly? Here are a few.

1. Why would you take your family (especially all of your young children) all the way to a third world country to live? Isn't that selfish or foolish at best? Surely, their quality of life and safety is greatly compromised. You're not just some bohemian couple who can travel at a whim. You have to think about your children, too.

We've chosen to live, for a time, in the Dominican Republic instead of our small town in North Carolina, where all of our family resides. This does come at a level of sacrifice. But every choice you ever make will come at a certain degree of sacrifice.  Even living in a nice, big house in Suburbia and having the best insurance possible will come at a sacrifice (Someone has to work long, hard hours to afford said life). The real question becomes, "Is this sacrifice worth it?" We live here because we have the opportunity to serve Haitians living here and we consider this work to be something God set aside for us to do as part of our "life's work." For how long and in what capacity is totally up to God.
We believe certain things about our personalities and dynamics as a family have been given to us as gifts from God, to help us accomplish the tasks laid before us. It's not so much that we do these things because of our personalities or desires, but that our desires and personalities are tools for us to use.
For example-
we like change, are pretty resilient, enjoy traveling, don't mind living minimally, are fairly laid back by nature, etc.
We do think about how our choices affect our children. This is of great importance to us. We are not comfortable sacrificing our children at the altar of work wether it is called ministry or humanitarian work or being a good doctor, or teacher, or plumber. They are a great priority to us and we expect that whatever choice we make as we follow our good and loving God (who greatly loves them too) will have powerful affects on who they become. We also expect that our choices, just like all parents, will have some "negative" affects and some "positive" affects on them. Many times, it is hard to see from where we sit how it will all shake out. Our hope is that our children will be flexible, resilient, sharp-thinkers, who can process much of the unknown world around them and love people well regardless of where they come from, because of the experiences that they are having in their early years. We hope that they will be strong and have the ability to do things that are uncomfortable with servant hearts to lead those around them.
it could be that they become people with OCD who crave stability and avoid riding in tight minivans at all costs, so as not to relive their childhood of being packed into gwa-gwas with ladies who carry chicken's in their purse.
Hard to say.
Gonna have to trust God on that one.
And love them like crazy, regardless.
And be willing to apologize.

2. When are you all going to stop having kids? And why wasn't it a couple kids ago? 
The other day, we were walking through Sosua, a town here in the Dominican, close to where we live.
We were waiting at a cross walk. I carried Joey in the sling on the front of me and held Shepherd's hand while Noah held Aslan and Haddon's hand. Sosua is a not a town intended for families and the crowd that frequents it's streets are, well let's just say, not generally families.
A couple of ladies zoomed up on their moped to the light where we were waiting to cross. She looked at us wide-eyed and counted out loud while pointing at each of our children, "Uno, dos, tres, quatro..." wherein we couldn't help but interject in unison, while pointing at my belly, "cinco!!"
It was like a cheesy moment from a Spanish Sesame Street episode.
They laughed and shook their heads like, "Crazy gringos," and off they went.

I think those moments are funny. I am  not a person that is easily offended and I get that it's just completely out of the expected norm.

So, why do we keep having more kids?
Well, one reason is...
 we like it.

I enjoy being pregnant.
I really enjoy all of my kids.
So the thought of more is a pleasant one.
It's not totally complicated.
It doesn't mean that you don't enjoy your kids as much as I enjoy mine if you've chosen to have less children than we have.
I'm just saying it's not all that puritanical.
We are young. We are happily married. We do what young, happily married people do and we get pregnant and we're ok with that. God could have designed the conception of a child a million different ways and he chose one specific way.
And we aren't in a place at this point in our lives where we want to go to great lengths to redirect His natural design. We know most people do and that they love God just as much,if not more, than us.
It doesn't mean we are trying to make some sort of "statement." It doesn't mean we have a number of children in mind for our family. It doesn't mean we will have more after this baby, or that we won't. We will just take life one gift at a time. There are certain ethical convictions we do have about the gift of children and the sanctity of life and God's design within creation. We have no idea what life will hold for us and for our future.
We just know that we want to have hearts that are always open to the gift of a child.
For a child truly is a gift, in every way.
Always. regardless of their health, regardless of their gender, or the timing of their birth.
We want to have hearts that are filled with thankfulness, when gifts are given to us.  We, as people, cannot always recognize a gift when we see it at first. But we want to always have hearts predisposed towards gratitude.

But how will you provide for all of these children?! Financially? Emotionally? Spritually? Eeeeeek!!!!!

This is the one we get the most. People are generally most concerned about the financial element, which I find surprising, to be honest.

Noah and I are Americans. This means we are from one of the richest countries that has ever existed in all of history. At least for now.
Of all people in the world, it is hardest to make an argument for having less children in America because you won't be able to provide for them.

Right now, we live in a third world country where people truly struggle to feed their children.
With that said, we are from a country where parents are almost ALWAYS able to feed and clothe and shelter their children if they so desire (barring mental illness or some other unique circumstance.)
Maybe not exactly how they want to but not because there simply isn't enough work or food or shelter.

Noah and I live the way that we do by our own choosing. Financially, this means that currently Noah has chosen a vocation that offers a product that does not bring in it's own income. Therefore we, like almost all people in our type of work (pastors, humanitarian/aid workers, some non-profit employees, politicians, etc) rely on the financial support of others who want to see us do the work we do. If people who believe in the mission of HaitiLove did not give, we simply could not do the work we do. But they give because they believe that this is God's mission and not just a personal whim of our family. We strive to gain more support on a monthly basis and this is a major area of prayer for our family.
With that being said, God has always provided for our family, abundantly.

In many seasons of our lives, God has provided for us through a job that brings a direct income for it's service (i.e. electrician, carpenter, youth pastor).
Noah has done many jobs and provided for our family in many ways and this is always a priority to him. Our children have never gone without needed food/nutrition and we don't ever expect them to.
I choose not to work outside of our home to bring an income and Noah chooses to be in full time ministry right now.
And we choose to live with the limitations of these choices. Our children have never complained about all of the time they get with me.
They may complain about not getting to pick out any toy they want at Target or eat out whenever they want. But that is just life. No one always gets what they want.
At any point in time, if God ceased providing for our family to do what we do, we are left with numerous options.
part of the reason Noah and I can do what we do is because we have a low expectation of financial "stability" and a high threshold for financial "instability."
What this means is that we are simply more comfortable with a certain level of "financial instability" than most people. This is a matter of both preference and conscience.
Most people prefer to live at a level of material comfort that is slightly higher than ours
 (though I do like material comfort aplenty. More on that in a moment.)
I think it just has something to do with those special "tools" God has given us.
 I'm not saying that we are slumming it or anything. We are not poor. Trust me. We just have less than most Americans.
BUT, I honestly do not care if we ever own our own home.
I could care less of we have 2 cars... or 1... or none (though I'd prefer one to none;). I doesn't bother me much if I drive a junk heap that will keep me from having to stress over spilling coffee on the upholstery. Or if I get the opportunity to drive a beamer that I don't eat or drink in. Either way is fine for me...I think. Don't have much experience with the latter;)
We don't need a spacious home. I don't have to have a "new house" or a "nice house." I've lived in both. They're both equally a home to make memories in.
It's not that I don't care AT ALL or that I don't struggle with materialism. Trust me. I DO.
It's just that I don't care enough to let it drive us to make different lifestyle choices.
I'm as materialistic as the next gal. I love shopping. I love beautiful things and regardless of if we live in a trailer or a big house, I will try to reflect the beauty of our Creator in both order and creativity.
I just don't HAVE TO have _______to be happy.
I may want it some times. Bad. But not enough to go work a full time job. Not enough for Noah to go get a job somewhere else only for the sake of "financial security."
Especially because "Financial security" tends to be a false illusion anyway.

Anyone can lose their perfectly secure job at any moment so making decisions solely with financial security in mind isn't what makes most sense to us.
Especially when God is so clearly leading us down a path that may not offer financial security but does offer the peace of following obediently after Jesus and His plan for our lives.

It's perfectly honorable to work hard at whatever you do and even to seek financial stability for yourself and your family.  We seek to do this through raising our own support and having our monthly support goal be one that provides things like insurance for our family.
But this is also why I say it is a matter of conscience. Some people would have to betray their conscience to go without insurance for a time or not provide certain things for their family that are either real or perceived needs, so it would be wrong for them.
But we are fully at peace with the choices we've made and feel that our entire family is well provided for.

Sure, all those kids may not seem like a big financial burden NOW, but wait till they're older or worse... in college!

Yeah, maybe.
I don't know because I've never had teenagers or children in college.
Here's what I do know.
I have three boys right now who eat like grown men.
I plan to restrict all sports in our home so that extra calories can't be burned, therefore raising poets and artists, instead of athletes.
This is a practical step towards keeping the grocery bill down.
Oh, Shoot!!
But I need them to play sports so they can get scholarships because I can't afford their college!!
Well, crapper.
I'm up a creek on that one.

But seriously, here's the thing.
I know I am not enough for my children. 
Neither Noah or I were made to give them all that they ever need in life.
We are 2 people with limited time, resources, patience, etc. But we will live and make choices both knowing this and yet simultaneously acting like we are enough. I don't know if that makes sense.
Here's what I mean.
My children aren't a side note in my life. We make choices assuming that they need ALL of us. And yet, we will run up against our limitations and our humanity time and time again. And this will not be surprising to us.
They were not made for us and us for them.
They were made for God.
And, gratefully, His limitations are truly endless.
There will be so much we cannot be for them. So much we cannot offer to them. Not just financially, but in so many ways. Yet I have no doubt that they will always have all of what a person really needs in life. They will have all that God has in His endless resources available to them, if they want it. A person is so much more than flesh and blood and circumstances. They are people with a body, a soul, and a mind.
 My hope is not to offer them everything but instead to offer them the real things.
They will struggle and they will find places of great need and there will be times I want to rescue them or offer a way out and I cannot. But God knows what they really need and they were made for Him and His plans for their life.
So they will be ok.
Life is hard. And life will offer us all many obstacles and disappointments and I hope they will experience some of this reality in the environment of a loving home before they have to experience it in a harsh world with people who don't know or care about God being at the center if it all.
This is of immense comfort to us.
And this is a big reason why I am not afraid of having 5 children. Or no retirement. Maybe I should be more afraid.
Maybe one day it'll hit me like a mac truck. But I don't think it wise to make decision based out of fear. I am not afraid about my future or about my children's future. Proverbs 31:28 speaks of a woman hopeful about the future, "laughing at the days to come..." even though she doesn't know what exactly they will hold.
Our lives may be terribly hard and they may be terribly wonderful and they may be both. And that may or may not have something to do with the amount of children we have or our lack of savings. Our children, thus far, have brought us an immense amount of joy and we look forward to the next one.

As far as college goes...
I am not planning on being able to afford my children's college education.
Don't call Social services yet.
To be honest, that would be the case wether we had 1 child or 12 children. College in America is very expensive and though I don't know the future, I don't anticipate Noah and I making the kind of income that affords many of the college options available.
This doesn't mean I have stolen opportunities from my children.
They are free to go to college-if they want to.
They don't have to.
Maybe God has made them to do something that doesn't require a college education and they are dang good at it and they love doing it more than anything else.
They should do that thing.
Maybe I end up being better at this homeschooling thing than I realize and one of my kids is crazy smart and wants to be a doctor.
They will need to go to school for that.
And lots of it.
And we can cross that bridge when it gets here.
They can, believe it or not, work their way through college.
It may be really hard. But hard stuff isn't bad.
Maybe they're smart enough to get a great scholarship.
There are plenty of options available for almost any goal.
I want to raise children who know themselves and their gifts very well. I want to raise people who know what God has given them to offer this world. People who know where they're going in life before we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure it out.
And then, once our children know where they wanna go, we will do everything in our power to get them there and pray for all of the the things outside of our power.
We're in 100% to see our children be successful.
There are just lots of unknowns and many ways to define success.
We are choosing to invest the majority of our efforts into their person as a whole in the present and not worry about their future and all of it's unknowns.

If we can build people.
I am confident that they will build lives.

On that note, people some times wonder...

Why do you choose to homeschool your kids? Aren't they missing out on tons of socialization and educational opportunities?!

Yeah, Maybe.
There are pro's and con's to every choice. There are things we gain and things we lose from homeschooling. But for our children and our family life right now, we gain far more homeschooling than we lose.
I could sit here and argue for the fact that not all home schoolers are weird and that they generally excel beyond their peers academically. But who cares?
Umm, I think lots of kids are weird.
Lots of people are weird.
And lots of people are smart in lots of different ways.
I went to public school up until junior high and then onto private school and finally homeschool, finishing it off with a good ol' dropout and GED.
Which one of those made me weird, huh?
 I have tried it all and enjoyed different elements from them all. I don't think that there is one way to educate a child. I simply think that it is important for parents make the decision of how to educate their child with a well informed, humble, prayerful attitude. And may they be led by faith. There may very well be a particular child or a particular season in our lives when we choose to educate our children totally different. These are people we are raising! Not robots. May God continue to lead us and may we walk by faith regardless.
We've weighed the options. We've watched our children and we know our family and this is the best option. Today.
It's not the blueprint to building successful people.
It's just us listening to God lead us. Today.
And we are so grateful for the freedom to choose this for our family.
We don't know everything. No teacher does. We have tons of resources, tons of love and tons of insight into these little people. In that sense, we have much more than most traditional teachers.
But it still doesn't mean it's always the best option.
Just now. For us.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Our family's First music video... with a surprise ending

Happy 4th of July from the Dominican Republic!!!
Today we are celebrating the freedom we have to see every life as a blessing.

p.s. I haven't played the guitar in about a decade so try to appreciate the effort;) pleeeeez...
Or not.
Your call.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Banana Pig

My kids are blessed beyond measure.
They've been given two phenomenal grandmothers.

And they could not be more different.

My mom is 6 foot tall, a bundle of energy and adventure, and considers the word "nap" to be akin to dropping the F bomb. If she were a work out, she'd be Billy Blank's "Tae Bo"... in heels. To have fun with her grandkids, she does stuff like have all 11 grandkids (all under the age of 8) help her put up and decorate the Xmas tree without any other adult supervision, then they all sleep on her floor in her bedroom that night.
Like I said, who needs sky diving when you've got adventure like that?!

Nana, on the other hand, is the perfect Yin to Mimi's Yang. 
All slow southern drawl and gentle ease. She considers the word "nap" to be better than most things the world has to offer. She knits and reads and watches old movies. If she were a work out, she'd be a walk through the park...a short one. One in which she would stop multiple times to observe and appreciate some sort of bird or flower or amphibian. Maybe pick up a snake?
I kid you not. You would never guess this gentle grandmother loves reptiles and other slimy things.

My mom? She may have a snake skin purse or heels. And the slimiest thing she handles is hair wax.
Nana actually used to have a pet snake.

For Nana, quality time with the grandkids is usually one on one. While here, she read to the kids and had numerous intimate conversations with my oldest who wanted nothing more than to just sit in her room with her while she relaxed and he talked and she listened. 
She's very good at listening.
And just like that, while she listened and we talked and everyone smiled...she came and went. 
Her 2 weeks with us were refreshing and relaxing and just like we knew they would be.
 God answered our prayers to protect her health during her trip and she felt great the entire time. 
As did we, anytime we looked up from our day to see her there, in our lives, enjoying the little moments with us.

Nana and Joey together
We love Nana like crazy and she is truly one of my very best friends. 
I knew the first day I met her.
I actually went to her house to meet her without Noah, even though we had only been dating a few weeks.
Noah wanted us to meet and she had me over to her house one Saturday. 
She was wearing denim overalls and playing in the creek barefoot with her granddaughter.
They were catching crawdads.
She spoke slow, walked slow, thought slow and I never felt rushed in her presence.
Not once.
It made me feel safe and welcome then.
And it still does.
eating roadside empanadas on the way to the beach

She sat and listened and smiled gently and I got the sense there was no wrong answer.
Only love and acceptance and a warm embrace.
That is still how I feel with her, which may be why we still love to talk so much.
Nana at her favorite place in the world- the beach 
She's still as beautiful as she was when she had her 3 boys. And she still loves the beach just as fervently.
She and Papa Wayne raised their boys going to the beach and it is my guess that they would slap a trailer down in the Outer Banks in a heartbeat if they didn't like their kids and grandkids so daggum much. 
I know that sitting in the sand watching my 3 blond sons run around the beach, collecting sea glass and pointing out crabs, was like reliving her days of motherhood.
Only hers would have probably included one boy tricking another into kicking down a "sandcastle" which was in actuality a brick hidden in a pile of sand.
Not like that ever happened.
Just throwing that out there.
At random.
Her boys were complete gentlemen.
I even got Nana to do Yoga with  me. She really loves me.
And so do her ligaments.

Even better, Nana lets me talk her into almost anything.
I can't talk my mom into many of my crazy ideas.
Nana, who remember doesn't do much uhh, strenuous activity, let me lead her into twisting her feeble old body into a pretzel.
I love her soooo much.

Nana and Joey are getting buried in the surf
Nana and Noah heading to church in Congrejo together

Nana had so much fun meeting the people who we get the opportunity to serve day in and day out.  Since getting home, she has said she still thinks about the people she met almost every day.  It was a great blessing to us for so many people and places we care about to collide. The best may have been when we tried to explain to Madame Clebert what we call Noah's mom. 
"Nana Peg."  Like "Banana" and "pig" but "Nana Peg."
It was a language fail.
As you can imagine.

Nana helps with school

She also jumped into our Ocean unit study, even bringing some old Seashell nature guides along.
I am OBSESSED with books, particularly old books and children's books and nature guides.
Books are only one of the loves Nana and I share.
She was a career librarian and I started a classroom library in the 1st grade with paper cards,stamps and all.
So we have practically the same experience under our belts.
Nana leaving. Sniff,sniff.

We were, of course, sad to see Nana go but we're already looking forward to time with her and Papa Wayne out on their land when we get back to NC.
Quiet space, forest walks, coffee, and some fried fish or any other delicious meal Papa Wayne can throw together.
It'll be grand.

Other than Nana's visit, here are some snippets of things we've been doing over the past couple of weeks.

Most of the time, we have power but about once a month, we randomly lose power for hours a day. It can be annoying, especially when you don't expect it, but it can also force us to slow down and appreciate the simplicity of life.

The boys continue to be blessed by their friendship with our neighbors. Not that they have a lot of fun or anything, but they manage to make it work.

I continue to look older with each passing year...who knew that would happen?!  I knew I had crow's feet in my future but it seems they have crept up on me while still in my youth.  Huh.
I also enjoy carrying around a baby doll head attached to the front of me.

Family time

Aren't they supposed to wait till they are teenagers to be too cool for school?
You may not have your own Banana Pig, but
I hope you are enjoying your summer and getting good quality time with your family and the people who will fill the history of your family memories. 
To God be the glory.
Thank you for keeping up with us.
The Joyners