Unnumbered blessings!

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So in two days Darcey will turn 1 and before we reach that milestone I realise I should probably update those who are interested on the incredible milestone we passed just over three weeks ago.

I can’t quite believe that much time has passed here already. If I’m honest, I’ve been putting off blogging about it. The only reason being that I know, try as I might, I will never do justice in words to all that God has done for us since we hugged, cried and said goodbye to my family at George Best Airport in Belfast last month.

We had so many people praying that our journey would go smoothly. Two flights with three children under 5. The first, just over one hour and the second, just under eleven. We began at lunchtime in Belfast and landed in Los Angeles at around 4am our time. Here are some pictures.

The first short flight was great. Isla and I flew to spend time with Auntie Stephanie when Isla was 9 months, she didn’t remember it much, and I’d rather forget that flight! So this was like a first time for all three. Paul took Darcey on his lap and the two of them snored all the way to London. The rest of us read, ate, chatted to flight attendants, ate, read and ate. It wasn’t just easy it felt like a really fun adventure! Prayers answered.

We saw Heathrow in a blur as we went straight to the “The Big Plane”. Opening ceremonies made no difference, it was a breeze. Isla had tuned into Disney before most people had found their seats and Ruairi followed swiftly behind. Darcey began and continued to make friends with anyone who’d make eye contact. Air New Zealand was great, their spacecouch worked just like they showed in the video and all three children stretched out and slept for a chunk of the flight. Meanwhile, Paul and I sat back and marvelled at how easy it was. Thank you to those who prayed for our journey, we were carried here by your answered prayers.

The less said about customs the better. “Welcome to the US” was not so welcoming, but that was quickly forgotten when our real welcome party came into view. New friends, who already feel like old friends, greeted us with much needed smile and hugs and we were filled with a sense of relief and genuine joy.

On the short drive to our new home in Santa Clarita we got an impression of LA. It’s true what they say, stuff here is big. Big cars, big roads, big buildings, it’s just big. But it’s starting to seem more manageable and we’re starting to feel less small!

Arriving at our apartment. This is where my words will definitely let me down. In our heads it’s gone 4am and we are just thankful to have arrived somewhere that we can set the bags and children down! We knew there were beds waiting for us, an answer to prayer from months previous. We knew someone had given us a table and a chairs, that the children would have some toys to play with and that we had a fridge. But really we had no idea what God had for us. We opened our front door and found ourselves completely speechless. Our apartment was good to go. It was just too lovely. I know I say lovely far too much but it was so, so lovely. Photos of our family hung on the wall, the sofa and the armchair matched, the fruit bowl on the beautiful kitchen table overflowed with fruit, fresh flowers were on the side in a vase. The children’s bunk beds were made, pink and blue. Darcey’s crib was ready for her even if she wasn’t quite ready for it. We walked through the rooms unable to speak to each other as we took it all in. Friends watched the children while we filled in all the necessary paperwork and then they left us to it, to make ourselves at home. We still couldn’t speak! It was only then that we started going into cupboards to discover they were full to the brim with everything we could think off. Crockery, pots, pans, a steamer, a blender, a crock pot and cutlery. In others there were shelves of food: Cheerios, pasta, tuna, ketchup and cookies to name a few of the provisions. Then our fridge, which to us looked more like a wardrobe, was jam packed with goodness too. It was impossible not to cry as the reality of what had been done for us started to sink in. Bedding and toileteries, office supplies including Paul’s all-time favourite post-it notes had all been donated. The cherry on the cake: an iPad from the Brennans, we’d be able to take everyone at home on a Skype tour of our new place. Every last detail covered. This had been a huge project, lovingly undertaken by others for us. Amazing.

I wish we had taken a video of our first few minutes here but I don’t think we will ever forget how we felt. The overwhelming evidence of God’s love through his people welcoming us to seminary life will remain one of our happiest memories. In Psalm 89 it says

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”

There are times in our lives where we experience the riches of God’s goodness in a very tangible way. Our journey here and our arrival at this apartment was one of those times. I could echo the words of the Psalmist with my whole heart. I am thankful that as time here as gone on this feeling hasn’t passed. I only have to look around myself at this place and am reminded of how God has brought here and is taking care of us completely.

So many people have been involved in His plan for us, I will never be able to fully convey how grateful I am to them. To those who have prayed us here, supported us financially and continue to do so, and to those who lovingly made this home for us thank you so, so much.

We were excited to see how God would provide for us but it was daunting, stepping away from the security we have known until now. We need not have worried. Our Father knows all that we need and so we must not worry about the tomorrows. If you are praying for us, please pray that Paul and I would seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Pray that we would remember not to be anxious, so that all the glory would go to Him.

 

We have a fridge

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To most this might not sound very exciting and in and of itself it probably wouldn’t be. But this news arrived on Tuesday morning when we woke up and we knew it was the last in a long list of things that our new friends had been sourcing for our new home in Santa Clarita. Yet another answer to prayer.

It was around Easter time that we got a quote to ship all of our belongings to the States. It was a lot! An amount that would afford us a few more months at seminary when finances were far from certain. In the end it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave most of what we owned at home. We would go in plenty of time to find an apartment and furnish it with whatever could before Paul’s classes began.

The idea of arriving in the States with our family and nowhere to live and nothing to live with would have seemed somewhat ridiculous when we began this process over a year ago. But so much has happened in that year. When a dear friend encouraged us to come in spite of finances and to trust in His provision and care we couldn’t have imagined what He would do.

New friends, who we have yet to meet, got in touch to help us organise our new home from afar. We have an apartment all sorted. We have beds to sleep in, a table to eat at, chairs to sit on, a desk to work at, car seats to ride in, toys to play with and we have a fridge. We are so, so thankful. In Acts, it talks about the church getting together and sharing between themselves as each had need. We can testify that God’s church still does this today. We had needs and God provided through his children, our church family.

This last month since leaving Ulverston has been wonderful. We’ve been able to spend to spend quality time with friends and family in Glasgow and here in Belfast. After the chaos of the our last few months in the Lakes, packing up and organising to go we’ve had time to recover, rest and reflect before setting off on the last leg of the journey. Watching our home come together over there has only served to dispel any last minute nerves and fill us with excitement as we set off to go.

Please do pray for safe and straightforward travel. God has blessed us with spirited children so this journey may well be jam-packed with lessons in patience and humility! But come what may it will be over soon enough and then we’ll be there!

Please pray for our family too. We’ve said lots of goodbyes in the last few months but for me today will be the hardest yet, I have heavy heart and a lump in my throat as I write this. I thank God for my family, for their love, prayers and support. Mostly I’m thankful that they know and love Jesus and so, as difficult as this morning will be, we can rejoice together at His hand in our lives. We believe God led us to go to seminary and to this seminary in particular. We chose it for the teaching offers Paul, believing it to be the best place to start the next chapter in our family’s story. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel the distance between us and our family, it just gives it a good and heavenly purpose and we trust that God will answer our prayers for peace and joy when we miss them most.

So we’re off. Please do pray with us that this would be the beginning of something great. Looking forward to telling you how it it goes!



Lots of letters

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As I sit down to write this post it hits me again “We’re really going!” This August Paul will start training at seminary. Our first big step towards what we hope will be a lifetime of full-time Christian ministry. This might not sound like a big deal, and perhaps for some a move towards this sort of change of lifestyle is an easy one, but for us this has been such a long process that I still have to remind myself – it’s really happening.

He did it. He answered our prayers time and time again and on Friday past he opened the final door for us to go. Our visas should arrive this week in the post.

On packing up to leave Ulverston we came across the mountains of letters we have written to each other since getting married. In fact they began just before we got engaged, they began with Paul’s initial training at Dartmouth in September 2005. The addresses on the envelopes track Paul’s progression through training to sea on HMS Illustrious. It was on Illustrious that we received news that he had been appointed to the submarine service. I reread the letter he sent me just after he’d received the appointment. It was, to us at the time, the worst news ever. Paul told me to pray that we would trust that God would use this for his glory and that he would guard our marriage throughout the patrols when Paul would “disappear” for a few months.

It was also in the Illustrious letters that Paul told me he had a growing burden to communicate God’s word to people. It was mentioned, then discussed in lots of these letters and by the time he (eventually) came home the process of preparing our hearts for what lay ahead had well and truly begun.

With hindsight, the submarine service was a blessing we could never have imagined possible. Unsurprisingly, God knew what he has doing.

We couldn’t write letters then, for obvious reasons(!), so instead we kept diaries for each other, to fill in the blanks for when he came home. In an effort to make packing up easier we were thinking of adding our letters and diaries to the “DUMP” pile. I asked a good friend whether or not we should hold on to them. She told me to “definitely keep them” if nothing else it would let our grandchildren know that we were young and in love once! I’m so thankful for her advice and not just for my potential grandchildren!

Reading through the diaries again, I was able to see step by the step the journey God has brought us on to this point. Every submarine patrol when Paul went away the diaries each followed a similar pattern. They’d begin with a week or two of tearstained pages (only in my diaries, of course!), then we’d get back in the zone and we’d talk about what we were learning and how God might be working all this together for him. The last few weeks would be full of ideas and plans for how we’d put into practice what we’d been learning and figuring out once we were back together again.

On patrol Paul had what seemed like endless hours to read and study, time like which he will probably never have again given our children! He listened to masses of great teaching on his iPod, hidden away in his bunk or amongst his warheads, feeding on God’s word from really gifted teachers. Meanwhile, while I probably had less free time, writing to Paul forced me to think through and articulate what God was teaching me. It was always incredible to see similar thoughts emerging from both our diaries, hopes for our family, study and perhaps serving God overseas.

While I hated being apart at the time I am so thankful for these separations because I really believe God used them to get us on exactly the same page for what we would do as a family when he opened the door for us to move on from the the Navy.

The last twelve months have felt like a whole lot of doors being opened. Prayer after prayer being answered. We are daily amazed, unbelievably humbled and endlessly thankful for how all this has been made possible. I write this post for myself because it has made me stop, think and be thankful for every day on this journey that has brought us here. I hope it might serve as an encouragement to those who cannot see what God is doing right now in their journey.

He says in the Bible:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

There will be days and weeks and maybe longer periods in the future when I will struggle to see what good will come from what we are faced with and at those times I hope I remember these verses and this post. I have six years of written evidence that testify to His hand in our lives and I will definitely be holding onto it.

My first post!

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I have been thinking about blogging for sometime now but haven’t known how to begin or reached a milestone that warranted being marked. The last few months and weeks have been particularly momentous for our family and with one of our biggest milestones to date firmly on the horizon now felt as good a time as any to start.

This weekend we drove away from our home in Ulverston, Cumbria. We had lived in the beautiful Lake District for just over a year. In that short time we were blessed with some wonderful new friends, a caring and supportive church family, an endless list of things to do and see as a family, all set in one of the loveliest, friendliest little towns you will ever come across. For those that know me well you will unsurprised to hear there were quite a few tearful goodbyes!

Being a Navy family you get somewhat used to moving houses, but packing up a home and saying goodbye to those who have made it such a happy place for our family to live never gets easier.

Paul’s job has taken us from Portsmouth to Glasgow and then to Ulverston. We can testify to God’s goodness towards our family in each of the homes we have had. He has given us lasting friendships, loving church families, learning experiences and perhaps most notably a new little one to join our family in each place!

As a wife and mum I spend a lot of thinking time just trying to work out what my role as “homemaker” should look like. With every house move comes new resolutions on tidiness and organisation, rolling menus and grocery shopping, making the nursery run and the bedtime hour less manic and countless other “home improvements” we’d definitely benefit from.  Trying to create to a happy home is probably my most time consuming and my favourite pastime.

I called this blog “Not home yet” because, in the first sense, we as a family have not settled down into a lasting “home” yet. Since being married five years ago we have packed up and moved ourselves every other year. This lifestyle has presented a number of challenges, not least of which includes staying up to date with all the friends we’ve made along the way. This blog is one way you can see what the Twisses are up to and where God will lead us next.

More than that, however, is that we have been blessed by how mobile we have been. We’re continually reminded that we are “not home yet”. As Christians we look forward to a new home, a perfect and eternal home with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The next move for the Twiss family will take us to Santa Clarita in California. This August Paul begins a period of study at The Master’s Seminary near there. We hope and pray that this is major step towards a life of full-time Christian service. Where and what this might entail, we don’t know yet. We’re entrusting our family and our future into His safe hands and we move on to our next home trusting He is faithful to keep us.

I hope this blog would be a testimony to all that God can do with one family, for His glory.