it's all grace

a journey with the Thomason family

Month: June 2016

Two Years Later

2014-06-23 19.10.42

On this date, two years ago, we lifted off from Los Angeles headed for Czech Republic. Just prior to lifting off, I wrote this Tweet:

I sent that Tweet out at 10:00pm and I remember feeling really tired. I also remember getting our kids settled into the plane and thinking to myself just how crazy we were. I also distinctly remember sitting on the plane reflecting on a story I once heard from a missionary about his feelings when he took his family, with their little baby, to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I remember him saying, “I was sitting in the airport in San Diego thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing?! This is crazy! Should we really be doing this?!'” We weren’t on our way to the jungle, but those were my feelings exactly. A little excitement. A little fear. A little “oh man… what are we doing?!”

We did make it to Czech that day. In fact, that was the night that I wrote my very first blog that would be come the daily blog of our life in Czech. You can read it here: http://www.itsallgrace.com/this-is-the-first/ — In it you can hear my excitement and my tiredness. Just re-reading that post brings a few tears to my eyes (which is what basically happens every time I read one of those blogs!).

I originally wanted to title this post “The Two Years That Weren’t.” We had made a two year commitment (minimum) with our organization in Czech and I was very intent on keeping that commitment. In fact, I thought it would pretty easy because in our minds and hearts we were basically “lifers.” You could say we were “all in” on being and living in Czech. But as many who read our blog and know our story, that wasn’t what God had in mind at all. Right around a year and a half later, we were back on a plane headed for the States.

And here I am. Two years later sitting at the same desk, writing on the same blog, but in a very different place. Last week I took a group of students from the youth ministry I direct to camp called Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest here in California. Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined that. But we had a blast! Bethany and the kids were able to come and enjoy the week while I worked. It was so much fun to hang with the students and be in the mountains, but it wasn’t the fun I had imagined just a few years ago, and those definitely weren’t the mountains I imagined being in.

Hume Lake (2016)

Despite the changes the Lord has asked us to make in the past two years, I don’t sit here upset or angry or even second guessing any of it. Have I had my moments? Sure. But as I sit here today, I’m thankful for all the Lord has done because it’s growing our family to look more and more like Jesus.

Right now I’m taking our students in the youth ministry through Kevin DeYoung’s book The Hole in our Holiness. We’ll be finishing the book this Sunday and in the last chapter he makes a point about how often we should use our “spiritual thermometer.” Helpfully, he writes,

…you shouldn’t take your spiritual temperature every day. You need to look for progress over months and years, not by minutes and hours. As David Powlison likes to say, sanctification is like a man walking up the stairs with a yo-yo. There are a lot of ups and downs, but ultimate progress nonetheless.

The only question I’m asking myself tonight is if I look more like Jesus today than I did two years ago. If Kevin DeYoung is right, then this is a good opportunity to check my spiritual temperature. As God uses His Word and my circumstances to form in to who He wants me to be, do I look more like Jesus today than I did on June 23, 2014? In my pride, I always want to say yes without hesitation. But is that the truth? Have I really grown? My honest, humble answer is yes. Yes, I have. In fact, I’d probably tell you that I’ve grown more in the past 6 months than just about any other time in my life.

God has used our time here in the States to stretch me in ways I didn’t know I needed stretching. And just like stretching new muscles doesn’t feel good, it hasn’t always felt good to me to be in the midst of a little Godly stretching. But that’s part of growth. That’s part of becoming more like Christ. It takes work and it might even hurt a little at times, and yet the Lord promises us that it’s for our good.

Today has already brought it’s own challenges. Today was even one of those “harder” days where both Bethany and I have to look to the Lord for strength and comfort. And just because we’re not on an airplane taking what we thought was a huge leap of faith doesn’t mean that today we can just relax on faith. Oh, that we would believe always and trust always in the Lord! This is my prayer. This is my heart tonight. Thank you Lord for using whatever you have to make us trust in you.

One Year Old

Every day I get a text message asking me one simple question: “What are you grateful for today?” It comes from a little service I signed up for called Gratefulness and each time I receive the text I reply back with something I’m grateful for that day. This past week my responses were:

THAT THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING TO GROW IN. I HAVE NOT ARRIVED.
Tuesday May 24, 2016 At 08:57 AM

FOR BLAKE BOYS’ WIT.
Wednesday May 25, 2016 At 09:05 AM

FOR MISSIONS AND FAITHFUL MISSIONARIES.
Thursday May 26, 2016 At 05:29 PM

THIS NEW THRICE ALBUM.
Friday May 27, 2016 At 08:37 AM

SLEEPING IN.
Saturday May 28, 2016 At 08:34 AM

Truly, my heart in using a little service like that is to remind myself that I need to be grateful. Not just grateful for things, but grateful to the Savior for all He’s doing in my life. Should not my life be lived out of gratitude to Christ for all He’s done and is doing in my life to make me more like Himself!? I believe I should, and all Christians should!

Today I received that text message and I only had one response. What am I grateful for today? The birth of my daughter, Karis.

We are celebrating her first birthday today and it’s something unique and special. As you may recall, when Karis was born we were living in Czech Republic. Karis was born in a town called Ostrava-Svinov at a hospital with very few English speakers. It was a scary thought that my wife would give birth to our daughter in an unknown place, while also having very little help from medications we use in the States. But God was so gracious to Bethany and me as Karis came quickly and she was born healthy! As I re-read my own account from this blog of her birth (click here to read it), tears filled my eyes just remembering that day. God was so faithful!

Karis

But here we are one year later. Today we’ll celebrate alongside some of our family who is in town to visit, but we’re not in Czech Republic anymore. We’re here in California in what seems still like we’re waking up from a dream. Did we really do that? Did Bethany really give birth to Karis in Czech Republic?! Did we really live there!? These are the thoughts that sometimes race through my mind as I think back on the past year of our lives. What a whirlwind. What a crazy year it’s been.

Karis’ birthday brings with it more than the joy of her birth, which is so special to us. It also brings with it the memory of a life we never thought we would live–the life of missionaries living overseas. The past few weeks Bethany and I have been reflecting on Czech more and more. We think often of our little apartment next to the church with the beautiful view out the kitchen window. We have missed the Spring rain and beautiful green Czech countryside. Avery has mentioned multiple times how she misses our yard “at Babicka’s house” and how she loved “how big it was.” We have cried some. I miss things like our little mini van with the stick shift. We miss the mall where the kids would play while we “splurged” on a McDonald’s meal that was 45 minutes from our house. We miss the bike ride to the river and the walks around our little town, even when it was literally freezing outside. We miss learning the language and trying hard to communicate with strangers and even with friends. And yes… our friends, we miss them dearly.

“But wait… I thought this blog was about Karis and being grateful?” you ask. Well, you’re right. It is. You see, when I think about Karis’ birthday, I can’t help but think about our time in Czech. In a real sense they go hand-in-hand. Karis’ birth was a bright spot in a time of uncertainty for our family’s future. Her little life brought us so much joy and I praise God regularly for that special gift. Karis is always smiling, even to this day. She constantly smiles…it’s amazing to me. She has been a very easy baby and even now while she has begun crawling around our house, I just look at her and think how gracious God has been to us. And that grace has been shown to us through her life and what God has done in our lives.

Did we think we would be sitting here in the States a year later? Honestly, no. But I do know that we serve a very gracious God. Sure, we have had a whirlwind of a year, but I also know that God has moved and worked mightily through it. Bethany, our kids, and I would not be the same today had it not been for the past year. As we celebrate Karis’ one year of life we can also celebrate the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is always faithful. He is always trustworthy. He is always working for our good and His glory. He is always gracious. I just can’t get around it: it’s all grace.

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