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Monday, September 8, 2014

What Have We Been Up To? Well Let Me Tell YOU (Long Overdue Update)

A dear friend emailed me recently requesting an update, and it made me realize that people who are following our blog are way past due for an update as well. So I will do so now.

I was previously working for two different employers- one of them being a fantastic experience, and the other the polar opposite (the former being mentioned in my last blog update). That second place which I worked at ended up being a horribly stressful and abusive atmosphere. I worked for that company for roughly 7 months, by which time I was bordering on a nervous breakdown. 
Raeleen and I were praying for a different job and Raeleen felt that I was going to get a new job in July, but I didn't feel that I was supposed to be applying for jobs, so we were quite confused.
The second day of my vacation (2 days after my boss went crazy on me as was explained in my last post) Raeleen was at work and her boss was on the floor working with her (which doesn't happen often). He asked Raeleen if I would like to work for him, and in 2 days I had an interview with him and was hired on the spot.
He gave me the exact hours I needed and I'm getting paid more than I was in my previous position AND it's a very low-stress job with a good boss and positive work atmosphere.

God has provided some absolutely amazing relationships here and THAT has been immensely helpful and encouraging.

If God didn't direct us to this church and we didn't meet the people that we did and connect to a church family the way we have, I have no idea where we would be mentally and emotionally right now. 

Raeleen has been co-running the Kid's church and I have been playing in the worship band, rotating instruments as needed, and I am also one of the Worship Leaders.

We started a Community Group at our flat with 5 people in attendance, 3 of which were non-Christians. We decided that for our first series we would do Alpha, so we JUST finished Alpha 1 week ago and 2 of the 3 people became Christians, and one of them also became filled with the Holy Spirit.
The third person is Muslim, but is VERY interested and I think she will come to Christ very soon.

In our group we had 2 Germans (a married couple) 2 Chinese (friends who met at an ESL College- a man and a woman) and a Turkish lady (also friends with the 2 Chinese people from ESL College).
English was the second language for everyone in the group except for us, so we were trying to walk through the salvation message (Alpha) with people who had VERY broken English. We spent much time using Google Translate, and THANK GOD Student Alpha on YouTube has subtitles in various languages. The Chinese subtitles are apparently very professionally done, but the Turkish subtitles were absolute rubbish, so the Muslim lady was even more of a challenge because we had to break down each video every few minutes and explain what was being said AND how that corresponded to the Bible.
Many of the questions asked are extremely difficult to answer even for people who are native English speakers- so dealing with that barrier AND figuring out ways to translate to different languages was incredibly difficult!

But...the Holy Spirit transcends all language barriers, and now 2 people are following Jesus now (with hopefully one more to follow soon).

The timing was incredible because both of the Chinese people had to move out of city to go to different Universities the week after our final Alpha meeting. Now we have the Turkish Lady and the German couple (these two are Christians by the way). We have another lady who will be joining our group starting this week as well which is exciting.
We are planning on doing a series on the book of John next.

Please keep these people in your prayers- Brian (the Chinese man), Joanne (the Chinese lady), and Tugba (the Turkish lady- pronounced Tuba like the instrument).

The flat that we lived at when we first arrived in Edinburgh was where we stayed up until the beginning of this past July. It served us well for the time that we were there- however it posed a couple of huge blockers against us moving forward in the fostering process. 
We didn't have an extra bedroom, and there wasn't any heating whatsoever in the flat. Our previous landlord agreed that he would install the heating system necessary to pass the required Health and Safety Inspection, provided we were willing to sign a longer lease. We agreed on this seeing as though we hadn't felt any release for us to move, AND, if he installed the necessary heating we could at the very least still move forward with the process with the provisions that we only had infants in our home which could stay in our bedroom with us since they wouldn't have their own room. However nothing happened for a few months afterwards, and our landlord seemed to keep stalling us on the installation which was frustrating. 
Then one day we felt the release needed to start looking for another place- a bigger place with an extra bedroom and all of the things needed to be a shoo-in for passing the Health and Safety Inspection.
We didn't have very much extra money to spare and knew that we were going to have to trust God in finding the place that we would need and provide the finances to be able to pay the rent. 
We looked at several places, and none of them felt right to us. We were praying for some very specific and important details, and each of the places we looked at was lacking at least one or two of the ticks on the list that we needed. 
One day Raeleen emailed me an ad for a flat which had 3 bedrooms, Gas Central Heating and double-glazed windows and was a great price. The big problem though was that it was unfurnished (hence the way cheaper price). Since we moved to Edinburgh with only a handful of suitcases, and absolutely no furnishings to speak of, we had, up till that point not even been considering a non-furnished flat. However, it seemed that our options were growing thin and we weren't going to be able to be picky, so we decided to check it out. If we liked it we had to just bite the bullet and buy some extremely basic furnishings to be able to get by and start building again- but we still (as we did before moving here) felt like we weren't meant to buy furnishings. So we had very low expectations regarding this viewing.
Upon entering the flat I saw a deal-breaker immediately: the was no washing machine or fridge/freezer as well.
My first impulse was to leave at that point, but something prompted me to keep looking around the flat and have a quick pow wow with Raeleen.
We liked the size of the flat, and all of the details missing from a our current flat were included in this one (including some I haven't mentioned). But the fact still remained that this flat was COMPLETELY unfurnished.
I suddenly got this crazy idea to ask the landlord if he would be willing to fully furnish the flat if we were willing to pay more then what he was requesting per month (this never happens). I asked him with extremely low expectations, but much to our surprise he agreed immediately. Not only did he agree, but he offered to fully furnish the flat for only £50 more per month. Also, he was more than willing to work with the Fostering Agency in doing anything that they could possibly request to pass their Health and Safety Inspection.  AND the icing on the cake: he ended up offering to throw in a small list of extra add-ons to our flat that we had been praying for for months. Some of these add-ons are rarely offered even in the more expensive rentals.
We have been in this flat now for 2 months, and have found our landlord to be very kind, attentive and facilitating. He lives right in the city as well and works in the trades, so has connections with every trade we could possibly need. Our previous landlord, although kind and well meaning, lived at the far south of England and was very difficult to contact- so working out any issues with our flat was a nightmare and very time consuming and frustrating. 
We had ourselves a predicament though: our current landlord already had the expectation that we were going to be staying and signing a longer lease, and so I was very nervous about letting him know about our decision to move. We were really wanting to move on good terms and have a strong reference but I was extremely reluctant to make that phone call and give him the notice, and half-expected a confrontation (which as I explained in my previous post I couldn't stand the thought of.

It turned out that the reason why our landlord had been stalling for 3 months was because he had been deliberating whether to sell the flat or not. He made the decision to sell and then called us and gave us 2 months notice and the promise of a great reference. 
All details were packaged up with a neat little bow.

We are only a 7 minute walk from our previous address now, so we still reside in one of the most undesirable areas of the city- but we feel that God has us in this area for a specific purpose for this point in time, so we're very thankful for His provision, and choosing to have a positive and cheerful attitude.

We sent off our application and are now awaiting a response from the fostering agency. They will assign a caseworker to us and then we will proceed through the months-long process.

Please also keep this process in your prayers as we've felt to do it for many months now, yet have only in the past 2 months been fully eligible to move forward.

Last year Halo and Ryder were both in school, but this year we are trying Homeschooling. 
We had never foreseen ourselves putting our children in Homeschool, but God has been surprising us every step of the way, and here we are.
We don't know if it will be long term or just for a year or 2, but we feel that we are to try it for one year and trust God to see what to do from there.
So far so good. We have so much more freedom with our kids home, and their learning is much more hands on which is great.

Being that we live in one of the least desirable areas of the city, that itself has presented many challenges. We've vacillated various times between wanting to stay in the area to help and wanting to get as far from the area as possible.
But it seems that, for the time being, God wants us in this part of the city, and has been using us to connect with families in this community. There are severely broken people in this area- kids who are really messed up from poor parenting and their parents who are really messed up from alcohol, drugs, and them having bad parents as well. It's a self-perpetuating atmosphere, so we've been praying for it and specific people whom we've been building relationships with.
We have our moments where we feel like Jonah in Nineveh.
This section of the city is our own personal Nineveh. 
However, God has been faithful to us JUST as he was completely faithful to Jonah so we're extremely thankful.
Even in the 14 months that we've lived here God has been teaching us and working on our hearts SO MUCH! 

We still don't know the big picture as to why God brought us here, which of course has been an immense sense of confusion to us- but He has been revealing Himself and His plan little by little as we've been taking baby-steps by faith. He has taken care of us every step of the way and our relationship with Him has been growing by leaps and bounds.

We've been reading through the Bible-in-a-year and God's word has been becoming more and more real and personal for us! 
God has been speaking to us so much through our experiences here, and seeing how the Bible has been speaking directly to each of our challenges.

Now that we'll have children (2 more hopefully) in our home in the not-too-distant future, we find ourselves in need of a car. We had 2 vehicles in Canada. Since we've moved here we've had only the bus system, which, although robust, still presents definite limitations. However we can't afford one just now and don't feel like we're supposed to be working more hours to be able to do so. The extra time we have available we are investing in people's lives in the community, and our church.

Please keep that in your prayers as well. 
The children that we foster are going to have all sorts of emotional/psychological AND physical issues and so it would be very dangerous and intense to have them in buses with groups of people.

We have had our moments where we have really missed Canada and wanted to go back- but God always reassures us that we are exactly where He wants us to be, and so we know that God is in control and that His grace is engulfing us.

Through all of the challenges we are very thankful that God has chosen to use us and we ARE very excited to be on this adventure and be stretched in so many ways.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This Is How We Overcome

I have always been a very laid back and easy-going individual.
I have never been one for confrontations- in fact, for many years I would try and dodge and avoid them at all costs. If or when they would occur between members of my family or friends, I would tend to be the mediator to try as best as I could to diffuse any altercations as soon as was possible.
For me, confrontations, whether big or small, were very intimidating. There would always be a feeling of anxiety attached to it.
Sticking up for myself has never been one of my strong points.
This being the case, people who were so inclined would find it very easy to walk all over me.
When I would feel intimidated, the witty part of my brain would seem to go on a break, and return (conveniently) after the confrontation. It would only be then that I would think of all of the things I could have said (although I still probably wouldn't have said them). 
I think that over the years I have come to master the art of avoiding any forms of confrontation or altercation. 
However, much to my chagrin, there are times when they are a necessary evil- and it is my job to recognize those times and take action.
I hate them just as much now as I ever have- but having my own family that I need to provide an example for has somewhat forced me to step up and face my fear.

I used to drive Raeleen crazy when we were first married because she would see people walking all over me and I would just take it. It would definitely affect me, but I would be at a loss as to what to do and how to respond. 
I have been getting better at it as the years have passed, but I don't think that it will ever come easy for me.

To be clear, I don't find it difficult to stick up for other people. In fact confronting someone on someone else's behalf feels quite natural for me. 
For example: there was a man a few months back who was screaming at and verbally abusing this random lady on the bus. 
Something rose up inside me and I told that guy off, then he sat down and was quiet.
That was easy for me, because it was for someone else. In fact, I actually felt a sense of obligation to do it because she was vulnerable. 
But for some reason the difficulty is in confrontations that are directed at me.

I wish it were possible to confront people exclusively via email- this way I would have a reasonable amount of time to compose my thoughts and properly articulate what I am wanting to say.
If someone chose to harangue me by email it still would be very stressful for me, but much less stressful because I would then have the precious time needed to formulate a proper response. 
O.K. O.K., I think it would be a decidedly bad idea for all or most confrontations to be via email because that would quickly become very unhealthy for relationships. But you can see what I'm getting at here. For some people (ie; many A-types) it's much easier, if not, dare I say it, exhilarating. And it's those people to whom I would generally prefer any unfortunate interactions to be via electronic mail (haha).

To say the least, God has afforded me many chances to exercise courage over the years.
Two of these major instances have been within the past month.

One of the cases involved my manager from my previous employer here in Edinburgh, and the other, my previous energy company.

The first case, my manager from the company I previously worked for was very verbally abusive, manipulative, dishonest and narcissistic.
Over a period of 2 months all but 4 of the staff members of the store had quit. The conditions in the store were very stressful, and the manager was on a rampage trying to blame everyone else but herself for the failing of the store she was running.
It had gotten to the point where I couldn't stand heading into work anymore because she was a ticking time-bomb. 
Plus, with such a bare-bones team left I had no idea whether the store was going to close at any moment or not.

Our Assistant/Deputy Manager gave her notice that she was transferring to a different store, which really made my manager angry because it was more insult to injury for her poor performance. So she proceeded to trash her to her superiors so that her transfer to the other store would fall through.
Thankfully it didn't.

One day, my last day of work before vacation, my manager sat me down for a "one-on-one".
She then spent the next half an hour venting on me that she had been sacked because of MY poor performance. She gave me a long list of horrible things that her boss and one of the other managers had supposedly said about me, and that as a result of that SHE was going to be out of work (makes perfect sense right). She wasn't going to be out of work for 8 weeks however thanks to her long tenure, and so she was going to make my life hell until she left and slap me with disciplinary at the drop of a hat.

Thank God for self-control because I honestly had the notion to jump over the desk and wring her neck. 
Of course I never would have, but you know the things that flash through your mind in those types of instances.

I told her that everything that was supposedly said about me by those two people was completely false and that I wanted to call them immediately and talk about it.
She then said that I shouldn't because I needed to handle things "diplomatically". Instead I should just leave it for some time (if that sounds weird, it's because it definitely is).

After that talk I left my shift to start my vacation, and I was literally shaking I was so upset.

I talked to Raeleen and prayed and gave it a few days, then I sent an email to her boss (who was supposedly the person who had said all of this to her) and Carbon-copied the other external manager (who also supposedly had said horrible things about me) and then also CC-ed the Human Resources Director.

I outlined in the email all of the concerns I had, and all of the questions that I wanted answered regarding the offensive garbage that had supposedly been said about me.
I also included screen-shots and copies of all the paperwork needed to prove that what was said about me was completely and utterly false.

I received a call shortly after that telling me that my case had gone up 3 levels of management, and that the Divisional Director was handling the case and flying up a colleague from England to talk with me and get things sorted.

I attended said talk and answered all of the lady's questions and provided her additional paperwork proving the purposeful negligence on the part of my manager in providing any of us employees with our 3 month review meetings and letters notifying us that we were off probation and were now permanent. Much to the contrary. I had a letter with her handwriting telling me that my probation was going to be extended until all of my references had responded, AND my performance improved.
However I had paperwork proving that my references had been received for a period of months AND my performance had always been exemplary. She had been keeping us all in probation to leverage us into keeping quiet.
I found out that no one had ever said anything negative about me, and it was 100% made up by her. No one knew anything about her being sacked or even leaving the company at all.
She never expected me to talk to anyone about what she said to me because she has been with the company for 17 years and felt that she was invincible.

There was a full investigation opened, she was called in for a talk immediately after me, then immediately went on "stress-leave" and hasn't returned. Ironically she lied to me about being sacked and losing her job so that she could vent on me, leverage me and say all sorts of horrible things- but she got tangled in her own web when I called her bluff. 

For that matter I had to endure a face-to-face altercation with my manager, then send a very intense (but diplomatic and professional) email to a small list of my superiors, followed by an intense discussion face-to-face with upper management, then a final email to close the deal.

In the end God protected me, all of the upper management acknowledged that she was in the wrong and that the matter was going to be dealt with severely- also that, as far as they were concerned, I was a really great hardworking employee and they wanted to keep me.
Unfortunately I had already accepted a position offered to me by another employer and so was leaving the company.

The second case, as I said before, involved my former energy supplier:

This energy supplier is one of the "Big 6" in the UK. There are many suppliers in the United Kingdom, but there are 6 juggernauts, that, between them supply to most of the UK.
The company that we had, had a very good deal and so we signed up with them.
Unfortunately we ended up having some really big problems with this supplier and they started mixing up our bills. I called customer service several times to try and get the matter sorted, but I was just sent in circles and transferred from department to department.
Then they would tell me that the problem was sorted, but my bill would be doubled the next month. It was then that I went online and discovered that they are rated the lowest company for customer satisfaction in the whole of the UK, and that countless other people were having the same issue as us. I cancelled with that company and was left with a hefty outstanding balance, which of course I wasn't willing to pay because it was their fault.

I called the Energy Ombudsman and asked them what our options were. They are the company that goes to bat for you for free if they feel that you have a valid case against an energy company. They have an average 70-80% success rate at winning in favor of the customer.
They told me what to do and I gathered all my paperwork and made detailed notes to myself on my laptop.
I then took several deep breaths and proceeded to call my energy company, politely letting them know that I wanted to speak to a manager and that the conversation was being recorded...AND that I had already been in touch with the Ombudsman.
Oddly enough (heaps of sarcasm)  they transferred me immediately to a manager. All those other times I called and wanted to speak to a manager he inexplicably wasn't in, or wasn't available.
I then proceeded to have a 3 hour phone discussion escalating up 3 levels of management (sound familiar). We went back and forth and I had to haggle the price of my outstanding bill like I was in a Shanghai marketplace (did I mention I hate confrontations).
I was exhausted, frazzled and extremely frustrated by the end of the conversation, but we had a victory in the end and that's what matters. 
I took on a corporate giant and won! That was a huge rush, but that feeling didn't kick in until a while after I was off the phone and able to calm down.

All of this to say- I know that there are countless people out there that have struggles and fears in their lives, but feel like they are the only ones experiencing and grappling with them.
You CAN have victory and overcome. 
Confrontations have always been a very weak area for me, but I know that through my being transparent and authentic- others who may be experiencing the same thing will be encouraged, and not feel alone. I purposely told those stories in detail rather than quick summaries because I know that there are others who would have experienced the same emotions, frustrations, exhaustion and confusion that I did and feel a connection to them.
The fact that I was able to confront both of those situations still astounds me. God is awesome. Some may look at those stories and see them as silly and small, but for me they were Everests, and I conquered them...and I will continue to conquer as God gives me strength.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Atheists...Agnostics In Denial?

Atheism, to me, when you wade through all of it's complexities, really can be boiled down to one simple question: "Why is God so evil?"

First let's break down what "Atheism" technically means (Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
a :  a disbelief in the existence of deity

b :  the doctrine that there is no deity

Atheism, as diametrically opposed as it is from Theism, shares an ironic common-bond.
Neither of the two can, or will ever in the future be able to, 100% conclusively prove their theory or belief through the scientific means that the "educated world" would deem necessary to claim objective fact.

There are many staunch Atheists in this world, and Atheism has existed since as far back as we have records (or even further depending on whether you are Atheist or Theist).

I can understand, to a degree, the people that don't believe in a deity, simply because they've never put much thought to it. But then I wouldn't really consider them to be Atheist, as they have never really sought out an answer for themselves, and so could possibly be just as easily swayed either direction.
Instead, even if these people would categorize themselves as "Atheist", I would suggest that they are really instead "Agnostic": a:  a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not

I will instead focus on the staunch Atheists- the ones who believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God, and that we are here by chance, and completely on our own.

I have myself grappled many times in my life with my understanding of the character of God- wondering whether God was a God of anger, spite, punishment, love or just plain indifference.
But I have always felt it extremely difficult to believe that "a god" doesn't exist period (full stop).
The older I get, the more I experience, and the more humanity gets a handle on the sheer complexity of life and our universe- the more difficult it becomes for me to consider it all coming from nothingness.

And there is really only 1 reason (that I can see) why someone would dedicate their whole life to proving that there is no God- and that is because they can't stand the thought of a God existing that would/could allow all of the pain/suffering/sickness and violence in this world to happen.
But the problem is in the person's perception of God, not in God Himself.

First of all, allow me to make a point.
For arguments' sake, let's just borrow a quote from Richard Dawkins, a devout and militant Atheist, to paint a picture of why an Atheist wouldn't want to believe in the existence of a deity:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Alright...if God really were that way, then I could fully understand why Richard Dawkins wouldn't want to have anything to do with Him. In fact I would be 100% in agreement with his stance.
However, His perception of God is completely flawed, based off of His lack of understanding of the Biblical text. Atheism can refer to any deity, not just that of the Biblical God- but being that the Bible is one of the most fought over books in the world (with Atheists and religions alike), it is fitting that it be used for this example.
If you are 100% Atheist however, then God's character really shouldn't even come in to play. I will explain:
I think that most people that you would encounter would agree that Adolf Hitler was a very evil, sadistic, megalomaniacal, genocidal etc.. man- yet with that knowledge, just wishing that he never existed would never change the very real fact that he did.

You can't just choose to believe that someone or something didn't exist, simply off the basis that you don't like the idea of them having existed. You have to accept that Hitler existed just as equally as you would accept that he was an evil mass-murderer.

Allow me to borrow another quote, but this time from C.S. Lewis, a once devout Atheist who became a Christian: "I was at that time living like many atheists; in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with him for creating a world. Why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent?"

If an Atheist asks you why you believe that God exists, of course feel free to provide the answer (the best you know how)- but why not also respond with asking them what would make them believe that God doesn't exist.

I can understand why people would question the character of God, and I can understand how people could grapple with the existence of a God who doesn't fit their ideal character- but I can't understand how it would be possible to just completely write off the possibility of the existence of a deity without ulterior motives behind it.

It's interesting to note that even Richard Dawkins, being one of the world's most widely known and self described militant Atheists has, as of recently admitted that he is instead Agnostic. He admits that he can't prove that God doesn't exist, but yet he does say: "I certainly don't believe in a God who answers prayers, forgives sins, listens to misfortunes, cares about your sins, cares about your sex life, makes you survive death, performs miracles - that is most certainly a God I don't believe in. Einstein's God, which simply means the laws of nature which are so deeply mysterious that they inspire a feeling of reverence - I believe in that, but I wouldn't call it God."

To be fair, he did also say: 'On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn't, I call myself a six.'

So for him it doesn't come down to a matter of God not existing- but merely him "Dawkins" wishing that God didn't exist based off of his misconception of what God's character would be if He did.

I didn't write this to answer the question of how I believe that God exists. I didn't even write this to defend God's Character (although I would love to discuss both of those matters with anyone who would be willing and open).
I do however wish to break down that wall of misunderstanding with Atheists so that it will be possible to deal with the root of the problem.
If you ask the right question, you have a much higher chance of finding the right answer.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sometimes We Come To The Wrong Answer Because We Didn't Ask The Right Question

We have been living in Edinburgh for roughly 7 1/2 months now- our time here thus far has been invigorating, challenging, exciting, confusing, and revelatory.

When God tells us (or even hints at us) to do something, there is always going to be at least a modicum of faith required of us. Some requests/calls may necessitate a small portion of faith, and yet others, every ounce of faith that we (feel like we) could possibly muster.

The problem with us as humans is that when God asks us to do something, we tend to do it with some preconceived idea of the outcome.
Sometimes God is clear with us regarding what the outcome will be- but other times He just tells us to do something, and leaves all the details a secret, so-to-speak.

Man, us humans can't stand not being "in" on a secret. That's why as kids we will sneak into the room where the Christmas tree is setup  (when we think that no one is looking), and shake and listen to the presents to try and figure out what they contain inside.

Our parents and siblings would wrap them in sometimes very bizarre ways to throw us off the scent- but that wouldn't stop us from mentally filling in the blanks and trying to figure out every possibility of what that wrapped up mystery could be.

As adults we tend to do the very same thing with God's presents.

Case in point: Our move to Edinburgh.

For those of you who may not have been following this blog since it's inception, I will provide a brief summary:

Raeleen and I felt God leading us to give-away/sell all of our possessions (save for a handful of suitcases with clothes and toiletries) and move to Edinburgh.
We had no idea what we were to do when we arrived here, nor where we would live, or how we would pay the bills.
We didn't know anyone who lived in the entirety of the United Kingdom, let alone Edinburgh Scotland.
All that we felt confident about, was that God wanted us to go, and that we weren't to worry ourselves about the details. He was going to handle everything.

When I summarize that in a few sentences it seems almost too simple.
Dare I condense it even further? Yes, yes I dare:
1) Give/Sell Everything
2) Go Where I'm Sending You
3)Trust Me
The End

In the midst of some of the bizarre, frustrating and confusing experiences that we have waded through thus far, I can feel the weight of the truth of God's word in an almost tangible way.

Raeleen and I have been praying for God to grow the fruits of the spirit within us (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control- Galations 5:22-23), and to transform us from the inside out so that we can be used in any way possible to further His kingdom.

He has been coming through on our request in various ways- one of which is through our children.
The more I watch, interact, listen to and teach my children, the more I come to realize that kids are really just younger versions of adults...
Yes, I know, that's painfully obvious, and it doesn't seem that profound- but yet it really is when you consider that every little day to day difficulty, frustration and obstacle you encounter is just a more advanced version of something that you would have experienced as a child.

This brings me back to that "present" I was talking about.
We were given a present, and naturally not told what was inside. All we knew was that it was going to be something great, and that the unwrapping would happen at His chosen time.
The time frame ended up being longer than we expected, so we proceeded to start shaking the present in hopes that we might guess the contents- or more specifically, we didn't know what God was going to do with us here, so we just started guessing and picturing.

Little by little we started forming expectations of what was going to be in that present, and when that present was going to be opened.
That's where things started to really get difficult and exasperating.
We (unintentionally) made things more complicated then they were intended to be, and the result was worry, confusion, and a sense of panic.

Now, I think that it goes without saying that when God says "just trust me" that it's much easier said than done. However, looking back over the months that we have lived here it becomes very apparent that we wouldn't have had to face some of the emotional difficulties that we did had we not shaken the box.

As soon as we started to worry that things weren't happening at the speed that we had anticipated- misplaced expectations quickly formed.
And we finally came to realize that we weren't frustrated about God not coming through on the things that He said that He would do. We were merely frustrated about God not coming through for us in the way we had expected.
Realizing that distinction has been part of the journey.

In our moments of panic (yes there have been some of those) we made some decisions and took some steps to try and at least go in one direction or the other. You probably have heard that old Christian-ese saying: "God can't steer a parked car"- well as soon as you start reading into what God has told you to do, you can very quickly find yourself in a downward spiral.
Since we had mistakenly given ourselves a time frame, we began to think that we were maybe doing something wrong since things weren't happening the way we expected within the confines of that time frame.
As a result, we thought that we should just do something so that we would at least be moving- then God could "steer us".
 Thankfully God has been extremely gracious by closing certain doors that we were trying to open, and opening certain doors that we didn't even know existed.

Of course God HAS been working out every detail, and any worries on our part have really been for nothing. In reading this you may think that that is the obvious answer, but it really doesn't feel obvious when you're right in the middle of it.

Another way that misplaced expectations can become problematic is when you may think that you're supposed to be working on one area of your life, when in fact God is trying to work another area first.
The longer it takes for you to put your expectations aside- the longer it will be before you realize that God has been working in your life the whole time...just in a different way then you've been noticing.

Again using children as an example (and more specifically my children);
I find that when I am having to deal with wrong actions in my children, if I were just to respond to the action itself, the problem would never be solved, because the action stems from a hidden motive or heart attitude.
When I respond to the motive first before the action, I find that very quickly the ongoing attitude tends to disappear.
Thankfully with our children as young as they are, it's still quite easy to spot wrong motives.
It is so much harder to spot with adults as they have had so many more years to hone the craft of deception and manipulation.

Thankfully, our wrong motives and attitudes are even more obvious to God OUR father then our children's motives are to us.
He knows the parts of our character that we may be unaware of that need to be worked on first, before we can effectively work on the parts that we think we need to.

I feel completely comfortable being open and upfront about the fact that I know very little about automobile maintenance and how a vehicle runs.
I know how to drive the car safely, pay the bills for registration, fuel and upkeep, and I could change the oil in a vehicle if it was absolutely necessary. But that's where my automobile knowledge ends.
If one day I noticed that the back wheel was wobbling slightly, my first thought would probably be that there is a problem with the wheel. However, upon closer examination, a trained professional may see an additional problem with the axle which has in turn warped the wheel.
If I had just paid the mechanic to replace the wheel, the problem would have still existed.
Instead, I pay someone who is far more knowledgeable then I in that regard- and he spots and then proceeds to deal with the root of the problem.

Now, bringing that back to us. We find ourselves in a position where we are wanting to help others, yet we are needing help ourselves.
We have been helping others where ever we have been able to find the opportunity, and we have been doing so without any expectation of anything in return.
The problem has been in us letting others do the same.

You see, when we started developing these misplaced expectations, we started mentally concocting all the ways in which we thought God was going to come through for us, since of course there were definite needs.

When we started to see Him come through in a completely different way then we were expecting, it began to make us feel very uncomfortable.
God has all sorts of tricks up His sleeves for making money magically appear, and if it had to be through people, we kind of pictured it being through rich people who could afford a bit of extra cash here and there.

But far before that would even possibly be in the cards we would have expected that God would have had jobs prepared for us upon arrival, or some means by which we could provide for ourselves.

However, we were finding that, not only were we finding it impossible to obtain sufficient work to pay (all of) our bills, but also the people who were volunteering to help us as a result were people who had to give out of sacrifice.

This is where Raeleen and I ran into some serious problems. It almost felt like since God wasn't coming through for us to pay the bills that other people were having to give of themselves to compensate.

Now, flip this around.
In the past we have known various people who were in a not dissimilar situation to ours, where we saw an opportunity to help them financially, and so we did. We weren't rich (by any stretch of the imagination), and we really could have used that money, but we saw a need, and we wanted to help. We wanted to live a generous life and trust God to come through in the details. That's what the Acts church did, and that's what we wanted in our own lives.

However, letting others do the same for us has been extremely difficult. We really haven't even wanted anyone to know that we have needs, simply because we didn't want anyone to get any sense that we were guilt-tripping them, or hinting. We didn't want anyone to feel any sense of obligation to give to us.
There are a few here that know us really well, and so have been much more direct with their questions.
We reluctantly answered them, at the risk of lying.
When they started helping us in various ways we almost felt sick.
They have hearts of gold, and we are eternally thankful for everything that they've been doing/giving, but why them? It's not financially easy for them to help us. If we aren't to have sufficient employment (for the time being) to pay our bills, then at the very least, if we have to receive money from someone, can't it be someone who wouldn't feel it in the bank?

This has been a hard lesson learned. However, when we think about it- this happens many times in the Bible.

When you look at the Acts church, you don't see God dropping money from heaven and magically supplying everyone's needs. You see all the people giving of themselves and sacrificing for each other so that no one was in need for anything.

When the Bible talks about everyone being a part of Christ's body, each part doing their share to ensure the health and functionality of the whole- that puts the onus first and foremost on the people, not on God (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

We have never lacked anything while living here. That is the big picture. How God has provided, and will provide is in the details. It doesn't matter how, but THAT HE WILL.

We've never wanted anyone to feel guilty or have any sense of obligation when we've helped them. We were just really excited to have the opportunity and to be able to make a difference in someone's life.
When God puts it in someone else's heart to help us, regardless of the sacrifice, we need to be able to receive in the same manner as we give.

So, 2 big lessons for us:

1) When God tells us something simple, keep it simple. Forming expectations above and beyond will only
     serve to complicate and frustrate the situation.

2) It is equally as paramount that we have a right heart in our giving as in our receiving. God is very rarely           going to do things the way you expect, which is why living a life of humility is of the utmost importance.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Picture Me Curtsying Like A Woman

I went to work this evening (oh ya, I haven't mentioned that I have a temporary Christmas job at a Walgreens/Shoppers Drug mart type establishment) and used the loo before I proceeded onto the floor to start stocking shelves.

It wasn't 15 minutes before I realized I was feeling a slight draft in my nether regions (don't worry, this doesn't get gross), and I thought to myself "hmmm, I could have sworn I zipped up my zipper".

I looked down, and my zipper was broken. 
Now there are some types of trousers that don't open much, even if your zipper is down.
Unfortunately, these weren't that type...not by a long shot!
My zipper area was wide open and I was wearing a white button-up shirt underneath which was painfully obvious.

I was seized with a moment of horror, knowing that I couldn't just take the bus home and change...I just started with this employer. What would they think!?
You could almost taste the smoke billowing from my brain as I desperately grasped for any possible solution to this dilemma.

"SAFETY PINS!" I mentally screamed. 
I turned to the side and asked a lady that I was working with if and where I could find safety pins in that building.
She said that if there were any, they would be in the First Aid box at the Pharmacy.
That was all the way at the other end of the store, and this is quite a large store!

I shuffled along nervously, looking in all directions for any possible encounters to avoid, then I made it!
They gave me 2 safety pins, then I proceeded all the way back across the room again and up 2 flights of stairs to the toilet.

I frantically secured the two pieces of cloth together with the two safety pins, but unfortunately, being the design of those trousers, there was no way to safety pin the pieces together without people seeing these 2 really big and bright safety pins sticking out of my crotch. Ya THAT wouldn't be distracting!

So I safety pinned them in a way that at the very least covered up the hole, but by no means pulled the zipper together. So my zipper was still wide open and it was painfully obvious. People just couldn't see the white shirt underneath or the pins.

The rest of the shift was absolutely ridiculous and excruciating!
I had to constantly walk everywhere with a box in front of my crotch, or walk around areas where people wouldn't see me from the waist down (think Wilson from Home Improvement, but the lower half of my body). 

When I was at the shelves stocking, I couldn't have my shield in front of me, so I was extremely self-conscious. 
And every time I bent down to put stock in the lower shelves I had to bend like a woman in a tight skirt, or do a really lame curtsy so that the safety pins wouldn't stretch and pop out.

I tried to do all of this for the whole shift, and all the while do it inconspicuously and as manly-looking as possible.

Now that the shift is over I can laugh hard about it. But tomorrow, the first order of business is getting a really strong black zipper sewn into the crotch of my trousers!

The War Within

I drive myself crazy sometimes- and it's those times that Romans 7:15 really hits home for me:
"I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate." (Living Bible Translation)

There are 2 things that I desire so desperately, but yet have so much trepidation and reservation about asking God for: patience and humility.
I always know that God is going to come through on both requests- but as wonderful as that knowledge is, it's tempered by the fact that it's never going to come easy.
In fact, more often then not, the ways that I receive the most profound breakthroughs in both of those areas are through very painful and/or extremely frustrating circumstances.

There are those moments in your life when you feel like you're on the right track and you're doing pretty good...hahaha, oh man those moments make me SO nervous!

We are in this new chapter of our lives (feels more like a new book actually for how different it is) and we are focusing with laser-like precision on loving the "unlovable".

I haven't mentioned before, but feel to mention now, that we live in a fairly undesirable part of the city.
It doesn't fit the stereotypical "wrong side of the tracks" scenario with gangs, shootings and the like- most of what happens, happens behind closed doors. This is by no means any less nefarious, but I wish to paint an accurate picture.
There are high instances of drug and domestic abuse that happen in this area, and the population of Edinburgh in general has projected a colossal stigma over this whole section of the city.

We have a lady that lives downstairs from us who works for Social Services. I mentioned before that Raeleen and I are really keen to foster children here, and that the need for foster carers in this city is beyond desperate...but we were given some further insight recently from this woman as to exactly how desperate the situation is.

She has the very stressful and unfortunate job of having to go into abusive and extremely dysfunctional homes and physically remove the children from their families. Most of these cases are in our general area.
These children have been either abused, or abandoned, or both.
The even more sickening part of it is that a lot of these children are so used to it, that they don't want to leave it because that's all they know.

When the children are removed, they are put in either temporary or long-term foster care homes, or put into group homes if all foster care resources have been exhausted.
Even the group homes are so full now that children, bizarrely, are being put back in their original homes with unchanged situations- and in some cases far-escalated situations since the parents may take the whole ordeal out on the children like it was their fault to begin with.

On a side note, just so that no one becomes concerned for us- I'd like to make it clear that we are not in any danger. God really did provide a great place for us in a safe area.
The block that we live on is actually very quiet, and all of the neighbors are very kind.
You go over a couple of city blocks and it's a very different story, but we've never been in a situation thus far that would make any of us feel unsafe.
I just always stay close to the family if we ever walk around this area when it's dark.
But even Raeleen says that she never feels unsafe, and that this specific block was and is an absolute God-send.

 From time to time you can hear people screaming at each other from down the street, but I've encountered that in almost every town/city I've lived in so it doesn't really phase me.

It is definitely worth noting that this area isn't close to as bad as the stigma placed on it would make you believe.
This city is very old and has more then it's fair share of lore and myths surrounding it's history.
Many people that have never even seen this area are afraid of it simply because of what they've grown up hearing.

Anyways, having said all of that, I think that you could probably guess that the school which Halo and Ryder are attending, which is 2 blocks away from where we live, has a smattering of dysfunctional children.

I also mentioned in a previous post about a group that we have joined in the school called F.A.S.T. (Families and Schools Together).
It's a group that has 2 purposes: 1) bringing various parents (whose children are attending the school) together to build relationships 2) providing a constructive and organized atmosphere where parents can further bond with their children in ways that they may not normally have opportunities (or the capacity) to do so.

We didn't know before we moved here that we were going to be moving into an "undesirable" area, we just trusted God that He had a plan.
We really feel at home here now and God has really been tugging at our hearts to reach out to this community and build relationships with people in this neighborhood and from Halo and Ryder's school.
There are, understandably, a lot of walls that people in this area have up, and it can be very confusing at times having any idea what people are thinking. But God has been opening doors for us to get closer and step inside the bubble of these people's lives, and it's really quite awe inspiring.

The feeling of experiencing that pivotal moment when someone changes from actively avoiding conversation and eye contact with you, to  them smiling and opening up and that barrier melting away is really magical.
And it's been happening little by little with a whole host of people.

The big thing for me has been trying to see everyone the way God sees them.
There are so many subconscious judgments that I place on people without even thinking about it.
But even worse is the fact that I am sometimes consciously judging those people, and trying to squash them neatly into this box of who I believe them to be.

That has been a huge struggle for me, and those moments of realization can make me feel sick to my stomach.

Let me provide a few examples. I hate that I have any examples, but the fact is that I do, and that me being authentic about it and "owning it" is necessary to helping me change and receive specific prayer for it.

I am no stranger to seeing homeless people. Observing their filthy bodies clothed in dirty rags, and having them accost you on the street for money. Some can get right in your face, while others sit on the ground with a blanket and quietly wait for anyone to take notice and provide some source of help.

As sad and shameful as it is for me to admit, I have, until moving here, had difficulty feeling pity or sympathy for the homeless. I have always felt it to a certain degree, but never enough to drive me to action.
The reason for this is quite simple. I'll put it bluntly, as it feels necessary to do so:
most of them have made their own beds, so they should have to sleep in them. And there are people that don't fit that judgement, but how can you really know who does and who doesn't?
Which person is a legitimate case of an unfortunate circumstance happening to an otherwise responsible and upstanding citizen? And which case is simply one of some person squandering their money irresponsibly or spiraling down the gun barrel of drugs and alcohol?

This may sound calloused, but my response to not knowing the answer to that question, was to default to just assuming that everyone fell into the latter category, and to just leave them to wallow in the mire that they created for themselves.

What is even more messed up about me doing that, was that I was sub-consciously making that decision without even putting a lot of thought to the matter.
The reality is that I would see them there on the streets, and have no idea how to really help them. It actually bothered me so much that I didn't know how to handle the situation, that I ended up setting up this whole wall of judgement between me and them so that I could just afford to not have to think about it.

I've always felt some sense of pity for the homeless, but somehow I've always been so involved with keeping my own life afloat that I would end up missing out on the big picture.

God has been doing so much work on my heart and motives over the past few years, and it has felt compounded exponentially since we moved here.
All of my preconceived ideas, judgments and mental struggles are being laid bare before me, and I'm being forced to acknowledge them and surrender them over and over again to the feet of almighty God.

There was a homeless lady that was sitting at a street corner downtown (or "high street" as they call it here) asking for money. I had a moment where I really felt like God told me to empty the money in my wallet and give it to her. So I did.
I would love to say that she showed her infinite appreciation, and that it was this really profoundly beautiful moment...but no- her immediate response was to get angry at me, cause the amount that I gave her wasn't enough for her to get what she wanted.
Oh man, I had some choice words to say to her (thankfully, and by God's grace I didn't).
I mean seriously, I didn't need to give you money lady, it was FREE...a gift! I felt my face becoming hot, but I just calmly told her that that was all that I had and even showed her the inside of my wallet.
She then walked off to get more money, and left me feeling really messed up inside.

Fast forward to today. I dropped the kids off at school and then took a bus to high street to go for a stroll, and then surprise Raeleen at her work and go home with her.
I stopped in a cafe and had a coffee and prayed for about 45 minutes. It was a really amazing time where I just quietly talked to God and thought about his goodness and provision. I left the cafe feeling really peaceful and upbeat. The coffee I bought had 1 free refill, so I got that in a to-go cup for Raeleen and almost bounded down the stairs.
On my way into the cafe I walked past a homeless man sitting on the ground just outside the door. I really felt the nudge to buy this man breakfast and a drink (juice), so I did.
I had this really excited feeling, thinking about the opportunity I had to bless this man.
I stepped out the door and turned to the man and handed him his meal with the juice.
His immediate response was "no no no, coffee please, I want the coffee".
I had about 6 separate thoughts go through my head at that moment as I was gripped with utter frustration.
Thankfully my reasoning process, within about 3 seconds went from a very powerful feeling of "screw you" to the sad realization that this man was sitting out in the cold and really just wanted something to warm him up. Rather then my first thought of giving him the coffee but taking back the juice (that would show him), I just gave him everything and walked off, trying to sort out what had just happened.

Regardless of the response that I received from both the woman and the man- the reality is that Jesus loved them anyways.
He never had any ulterior motives, and he never responded wrongly to anyone regardless of how they treated him.
It really doesn't matter in the end what those 2 people's responses were going to be. I should be giving out of a loving and selfless heart regardless of whether I receive any kind of  warm, bubbly, heart-warming response in return.
True love isn't just shown to people who reciprocate, but to the ones who never will...or even worse, will return your gesture of kindness with a spit in the face.

I have so very far to go!

There is a father of a child that Halo goes to school with that looks like he is or was at some time addicted to drugs. I know the look all too well. And given the reputation of the area that I live in, I just automatically shoved him into that mental box. He didn't stand a chance.
It wasn't till the first day of F.A.S.T. that that changed.
He came into the room that we were all meeting for the first time in, and there was a small part of me that was thinking "oh, it's good that he's here, this will be good for him".
About 5 minutes later he introduces himself as one of the coordinators for the group....
WOW, did I feel like a total jerk!?
It turns out that he's actually a really nice guy and loving father, who is living a very clean life (now).
I was definitely knocked down a few notches realizing how I had egregiously misjudged this man.

And then there was the time I was standing outside the church waiting to be let in for worship band practice, since the bus had dropped me off a little early.
The street was very quiet, and I stood at the bus stop (which incidentally is about 3 feet from the church) and looked around, listening to my music through my headphones.
I spotted a large open pizza box sitting on the sidewalk across the street and thought to myself how annoying it is that people litter and show a complete lack of respect for the community.
Around the corner strolls this man, again dirty and dressed in raggedy clothes, carrying some makeshift rucksack over his shoulder.
The thought flashed through my mind, "there's another homeless guy, I wonder if he is the one that dropped that pizza box on the ground in the first place"?
The man walked halfway down the street, then stopped, walked all the way back to the pizza box, picked it up, then walked back to a rubbish bin and threw it away.
Again, that same feeling of being a total jerk! "WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!?" I thought to myself.
I could have picked up that box myself rather then standing there thinking the negative thoughts that I was-but instead I proceed to judge some man and assume the worst of him, when, in fact, he ends up doing the very thing that I should have done all along!

So many of these judgmental thoughts that I have had I've never really taken the moment to realize they were there. They just kind of existed, and festered subconsciously. Now that I've been spending so much time praying for God to reveal Himself to me, and for patience, humility and the strength and guidance to love others the way that God loves them- I'm having all of these heart attitudes being exposed, and it's really painful! Like me wounding myself over and over, and then continually tearing off the scabs.

I keep being brought back to a place of recognizing my utter inability to help myself, and complete reliance on God to change me with His power alone.
It is so true that God's strength is made manifest in our weakness.
I see all these people around me that need help, and God has been melting my heart for them.
Unfortunately my response sometimes can be looking down on them instead- my life embodying the life of the Pharisee in the Bible in Luke 18:9-14:
"9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Message Translation)

The people who's Christian lives have had the most impact on mine are the ones who are authentic.
They have a deep and sincere desire to follow God and do what He asks. They live transparent lives, letting people know about the struggles along with the victories.

I would love to jump onto a soapbox with a megaphone in hand and proclaim to the world that I am always victorious, that I don't have any hangups, and that I have everything under control- but to do so would be a lie, and complete and utter foolishness.

I am a broken man who needs help, and only God can help me, change me, craft me.
And He IS, by His grace- whittling away, little by little.

I hate the pain and ugliness of my sins being laid bare before me...but I love peace that God is so graciously filling me with as He has His perfect way, and I become less like me.

God is so far from being done with me- but I am eternally thankful that I can leave the shaping of my life and future in His capable and skillful hands, and not have to rely on the disastrous, clumsiness of my own.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Can't Hear You, Sign Louder!

Raeleen and I are advocates for travel, and for experiencing other cultures (in their own environments).
It presents a way of stepping out of our mental and societal boxes and realizing different ways of life, mind-sets and traditions that you never knew existed.
We also believe it wise, and paramount that people connect with the various cultures within their own communities.
When you live in the same town/city as people of different nationalities and cultures, and you don't make the effort to understand their traditions and why they do what they do, it becomes very easy to judge, alienate and marginalize them. Even more importantly, God loves all of His creation equally, and us not taking the time and energy to connect with them means that we don't care enough about what is important to God to step out of our comfort zones and lower our guards to the unknown.
There are so many people in this world that don't have a voice, and this will never change until people are willing to tear down their own walls to reach and connect with them- to speak out on their behalf, and to help sort out a way to remedy the problem.
I think that most people would agree that it would be ignorant and offensive to tell a deaf person "I can't hear you, sign louder!"
Also, that doesn't even make sense.
Yet being around cultures that you don't understand (and don't care to give the effort to), and expecting them to speak your language and communicate the way you do can be akin to the same thing.
Raeleen and I have lived in North America our whole lives (albeit various areas with their own sub-cultures), and we've always been the ones "on the inside" so-to-speak. We thoroughly understood our culture, and knew the language proficiently.
People that we met who were new to North America seemed to always have this bizarre difficulty adjusting.
To a certain extent you just get it-
They don't speak English, and this is a new country for them. 
That's an over-simplification, but you get the idea.
The problem is, what they are going through is so much bigger than that.
To a degree it could be tantamount to sitting a baby in an office chair at a NASA facility and telling him to adjust the trajectory of an orbiting satellite...blindfolded.
Let me be clear that Raeleen and I have always had great respect and sympathy for anyone brave enough to start a new life in a completely unfamiliar culture- but being in their shoes now has turned our world upside down and completely over-hauled our perspective.
To a certain extent we have had it easy, because we moved to a country that still has English as it's first language. That is only one detail, but an important one none-the-less.
However, living in Scotland, for us, isn't what you would picture it to be: one English-speaking person conversing with another. It's much closer to one English-speaking person conversing with someone with extremely broken English.
But we're the ones with the broken English.
The mixture of thick accents, cultural idioms, and a whole dictionary of different words made it feel like we were pretty much learning the English language all over again.
But that's just the beginning.
Even though we tried to do our homework before we moved here, and learn as much about Scotland and the UK as possible- nothing could have prepared us for the culture shock electric fence that we were about to sprint face-first into.
If I were to try and put it into a percentage, I'd say we were expecting Scotland to be about 20-25% different than Canada. A very noticeable difference, but hey, we're all still a part of the British Commonwealth right? It ended up being more like 75-80%.
Conversations were constantly fragmented, interspersed between awkward silences and bewildered responses. Learning countless new words is exhausting enough, but couple that with the fact that there are still a myriad of other words that we have in common, but mean completely different things, and your brain just starts to short-circuit. 
We had to re-learn the most basic fundamentals of day-to-day life. 
When we first moved here, we didn't know how to turn on the shower, use the electrical outlets, debit machines, washer, stove, anything that you would use on a regular basis (in western society) without giving a second thought to. We didn't have phones, a bank account, any sort of healthcare, or vehicles. Considering we gave away all of our possessions, save for a hand full of suitcases, we didn't have anything at all really.
We had no idea where we were, how to get anywhere, or even who to talk to if we had questions, aside from Carlo, who we didn't want to burden with all of that. He'd done so much for us already.
He wouldn't have known the answer to a lot of our questions anyways because we were trying to establish things that he hasn't had to worry about for decades, if at all.

We've had our share of awkward moments trying to pay for various items with cash. It seems silly, but British money looks and feels completely different than North American money. The sizes and weights are different as well. This may sound like a small detail, but it really isn't, considering Raeleen and I still find it embarrassing (and frustrating) paying with cash in stores because he have to fumble about trying to figure out which coin is which.
Also, each individual bank in the UK has their own bills, so there are various designs of 5,10,20 etc.. pound notes.
We had no idea what was a good deal and what wasn't because of the currency difference and pay structure here.You would think that you could just convert the amount in your head and be done with it, but it's not like that. You have to understand payment structure, or you are going to think you have way more money than you do.
For example: In North America, the average starting wage for a Registered Nurse would be (approx.) between $27-$30/hour. In Scotland, R.N.'s would start between £11-£13/hr.
Minimum wage here for 21 and older is £6.31/hr.
Almost across the board, jobs in the UK get paid much less than their North American counterparts.
If you live here and this is the norm for you then this info would be neither here nor there. However, for us it really means a lot. Jobs that may start between $13-$15/hr. in North America may start at minimum wage to £8/hr. It isn't even linear or parallel, you can't just make one simple equation and apply it across the board, which makes it even more confusing.

Almost all of the food here tastes different than North America as well. That may sound weird, but it's just the facts.
We've had to rediscover food all over again. Some foods here taste better than their North American counterparts (in our opinion of course), whereas some others taste worse.
North America and the UK share very few brand names in the scheme of things, which means we've been learning all new brands through trial and error.
Many foods here have completely different names then their North American counterparts as well, which means you have no idea what you're looking for until you see it.
Which brings me to the next detail.
The UK has a very different logic system than North America regarding where items should be displayed in grocery stores. Grocery shopping for the first month or two almost made our brains explode, because a vast majority of the items on our lists were found anywhere but where we would have expected to find them shopping in North America.
The system here makes sense once you get used to it, just in a completely different way.

Before we moved to Edinburgh, we owned 2 vehicles. We could throw the kids in the van and drive anywhere we needed to at a moment's notice. Since we've moved here we've been relying completely on the bus system and walking. Mind you the transit system here is far more robust than anything we've ever encountered in North America, it's still a massive shock. We can get anywhere we need to in the city on the bus, but it takes much more planning now, and is more complicated with small children.
We are getting plenty of exercise, and our bodies are thanking us, but 2 city blocks for us may feel like 50 for Ryder. As such, we usually end up taking turns carrying Ryder through different parts of the city once his threshold is surpassed. Let me tell you, that boy gets heavy fast!
Probably within the next year or so Ryder will be able to do all the walking himself, as Halo rarely has any difficulties whatsoever, but for the time being, this is the way things are.

We're planning on acquiring a vehicle not too far down the road as it will be more of a necessity once we have additional foster children staying with us. Especially since at least one of them may end up being an infant.
We are able to exchange our Canadian drivers licenses for UK ones, however this means that we will be required to only ever drive Automatic Transmission vehicles unless we take their drivers test. You can't drive a manual transmission vehicle unless you have some sort of documentation on your previous license that states that you took your drivers test in a standard.
Considering most vehicles here are manual transmissions, we won't ever be borrowing anyone's vehicle for moving or anything like that.
Also, people in the UK drive on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. And because the road systems on the whole in the UK are far older than most places in North America, they are also much more confusing. Grid system? Not a chance.
Most places where you would expect to see traffic lights actually have "round-abouts" (traffic circles) instead. The idea of a traffic circle is quite simple, but not at all when you can have 6 exits within the circle at seemingly random intervals exiting you to even more confusing angles and directions. Also you have to know what part of the exit the sign will be that tells you the name of that exit.
Couple that with the fact that you practically never see street signs anywhere. The signs are to be found on buildings which means that you will have no idea which road is which unless you know which building to look at to find the sign. And many times the sign is only at one end of the street, so you can drive almost the full length of a street before you even know what the name of it is. By that time the name of the street can be changing as well. You can drive down a road and within a couple of miles (they use miles here) the name of the road may have changed 3 or 4 times.

The pedestrian laws are different here as well. Simply put: the pedestrian does not have the right-of-way.
So vehicles own the road here, not pedestrians. This doesn't stop pedestrians from randomly crossing the streets constantly. It just means if they get hit it's their fault. So people generally don't stop for pedestrians here, unless it's at a crosswalk (or zebra crossing as it's named here). Even then many people will just keep driving and you gotta squeak your way though.

Growing up we've always heard stories about gestures or words that may be polite or acceptable in one culture, but completely rude or offensive in another. We've been experiencing that first hand here.
For example: picture a slow dance in which it is completely normal and acceptable for one person to tap another person's shoulder and then butt in to the dance (you see it all the time in movies).
Now picture that, but in a conversation.
I could be chatting with Jack, and someone could come up, tap me on the shoulder and say "sorry to interrupt Mark but..." then that person completely changes the subject and starts a different conversation with the person you were talking to, or both of you.
At first Raeleen and I were really taken aback by this, as it's considered very rude to do in North America.
It's completely normal and acceptable here however, and it happens all the time. It's just another detail that we need to adjust to.

None of what I have said thus far is meant to sound negative, and I'm definitely not complaining about living here. In truth we absolutely love it here, and all of these things are just speed bumps (or humps as they call them here). We knew that our lives were going to change dramatically, and that there was going to be a steep learning curve, but we are honestly infinitely thankful for all of it!
None of the things that I have mentioned are bad, they are merely different.
It's all challenging, and invigorating. We have had our share of frustrations trying to adjust to this new life, and we know that there are more to come. But we now have a much deeper respect for those who are able to have the courage to immigrate to a completely foreign land and flounder their way through until the unfamiliar finally becomes familiar.

All of the details that I mentioned were examples of people moving from one first world country to another, which for us has been astronomically challenging in itself. But now try and picture people emigrating from a third world country to a first world, or vice versa.

Thank you God for continually working on our perspectives, humbling us and helping us to see other people's lives and circumstances through your eyes.


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