Not the “W” we had anticipated…

Over the past week a one letter abbreviation flashed through my mind on a number of occasions.  What was the abbreviation? Why, I’m glad you asked!

It was the “W.”

Comedian Zach Galifianakis says, “The word abbreviation sure is long for what it means.”

W can be short for a number of words.  Consider these possibilities…

W– the Win– As in, #FlytheW

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You’re welcome, Natalie Ross Morefield!

W– the Withdraw– As in, “This class is too stinking hard; I need to drop it with a W before I get an F.

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This is no student I’ve ever taught!

Or also as in, we had to W from this location before Nate broke into hives…

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W– the former President George W. Bush- As in the President who used such intriguing malapropisms as, “You misunderestimated me” and “‘Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!'”  (Editorial note: There is no political meaning intended here. Just some fun with language!)

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Last week the meaning of the abbreviation really mattered. We experienced the Withdraw when we were hoping for the Win. Our dog Gracie’s situation with the Hoosiers didn’t work out so well, so she had to drop that course and is back home again- in Alabama.

To be honest, friends, we’re praying for a few more Ws of the WIN type! We’ve got less than six weeks left in Birmingham and during that time, in addition to finding the right home for Gracie, we need to sell our house and close in on our missions support goals. The house has been on the market a little over a month, but things seem to have stalled out and we haven’t had any offers.  Fortunately, we’re at about 60% of our missions fundraising goals! (A HUGE thanks to many of you who partnered with us in this way.) We only have that last 40% to go….You know, I do believe this is where the George W could come in handy, if only we knew him…

There is a 4th W. It’s one that I didn’t think of immediately, but one that is essential.  It’s the abbreviation for the word “with” – as in that southern favorite, biscuits w/gravy.  The With is crucial for us right now. We are so thankful you are w/us on this journey! We could not do it w/outyou!

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Nate w/a group of OB-GYN South employees

Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for all God is doing and for each one of you. Please join w/us in praying that our house would sell soon. Pray for a great home for Gracie. And pray all the resources we will need (financial, as well as emotional and spiritual) will be provided to accomplish the plans in this next season of adventure.

For those who are interested, here’s the link for giving. We also have a new Text to Give option.  You just text the word GIVE to 205-206-6116 and then follow the prompts.

Thanks for your love and support. We appreciate you!!!

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When the dog bites, when the bee stings…

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Ok – so we weren’t bitten by a dog, or stung by a bee, but it sure did hurt as we took Gracie to her new family and then drove away…

 

Gracie entered our life almost 10 years ago. She was found as a stray at a local church and a friend sent us a picture of her and said “This is your new dog.  God told me.” I’m not sure if that was really from God, but having Gracie certainly has been a “God thing” for us. Yes, at times she’s snooty, quirky, mischievous, and high maintenance, but then the same things could probably be said of me (this is Nate writing, Cheryl is of course NONE of these things). But she became an important part of our little family.  And throughout all the ups and downs that we’ve had over those 10 years, Gracie was there. Always ready to listen, comfort, and just be a quiet fixture.

 

 

One of our big prayers during our planning to move to Ethiopia has been “what to do with Gracie.”  Taking her with us was really not an option.  Gracie used to have this tendency to run away and dogs that run away in Ethiopia, well…. it usually doesn’t turn out so good.  We had posted our need on Facebook and we had a woman named Ryann reach out to us.  This is where it gets a little Seinfeldish.  You see, Ryann is a sweet woman who is a former patient (yes – she gave me permission to share this so don’t go all “HEY, Nate’s violating HIPPAA!” on me!) and I had delivered her first 2 children years ago.  Since then she’s moved away to Indiana where she is a math professor and has had a couple of more children.

 

She really felt led that she was to have Gracie, and as it has turned out, she was right!  Funny thing is that Cheryl and I are both from Indiana and we actually met in calculus class.  So 32 years later Gracie moves to Indiana to live with a calculus professor. I’m sure there’s some kind of differential equation that explains all of this, but I think a better explanation is that we serve a great God who saw fit to find Gracie a great home with a great family!

 

Yes, driving away Saturday was the hardest part about this journey so far.  But I’m sure it won’t be the hardest, and I know that it’s all part of His great plan. We all are just watching it unfold and continuing to trust and obey.  Even when our equations are not the same as His.  Because at the end of class, the professor is always right…

“All Done”

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit my sweet friends, the Lutzos, who live in the fair city of Boston. Andrea and Nick were both students of mine when I taught at Southeastern. It’s been a joy to watch them grow; they have become like family.  Since Andrea and I have literally run thousands of miles together, we thought it would be fitting to do one last race together before the move. We chose a half-marathon in Providence, in which we dressed like Ethiopians, but ran like slow Americans!
Before heading down to Rhode Island for the race, I spent the night in Massachusetts with them and their two little kiddos, Colin and Addison. We went to see a few sites around the city, and as children often do, they didn’t want to carry whatever was in their hands for long.
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“All done,” Addie said to me as she handed me her sippy cup, baby doll, or whatever she no longer wanted to be responsible for. She fully trusted that I would take good care of the things she passed off to me, seeming never to worry about it again.
As I thought more about this, I realized this little girl was reminding me of an important lesson. This is precisely the kind of faith God wants me to have in Him. Pass it off to Him, trusting that He’s got it covered.
In this time of crazy transition- trying to sell our house, pack for Ethiopia, find a home for our dog Gracie, raise financial support to be missionaries, finish up our work here in the U.S., say goodbyes, and more- we need to continually pass things off to God and believe He’s going to talk care of it. Oh sure, there are things that I am responsible for, but my constant temptation is to try to carry, manage,and control it all myself. This leaves me overwhelmed and spinning in circles at times.  How silly is that, when the God of the universe is right beside me, ready to jump in and bear my burdens.
A great verse in the New Testament say this:  “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
As much as I worked to keep little Addie safe and her important items protected, God is infinitely better at being a protector and provider. He loves us. He has called Nate and me to this wild adventure. He will work it out. He knows it all. I can trust Him completely when I take my little hands off things and let Him guide and protect.  So, I think I’ll add a twist to Addie’s phrase…. “All done, God.”
Let’s see if I mean it as much as Addie did!

One of those people…

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I have no idea who these people are – my apologies if they are your friends or family!

You know them… I know them…. Those “missionary people.”  I remember them growing up.  At first they were just people in photographs.  Hung on billboards in the corners of the church.  Sometimes with a piece of yarn connecting the picture to some random silver thumbtack on a multicolored map of the world.  Some far away place that I’d never heard of and that I was pretty sure I never wanted to visit.  I would think to myself “well that’s nice.  I guess somebody needs to go there and better them than me.”

Then they arrived.  I usually didn’t know ahead of time, but they showed up.  At church.  Sometimes staying at my house.  They seemed a bit awkward.  Well, actually, they seemed really awkward.  Kind of like a new kid in school.  They were usually dressed in clothes at least 10 years out of date, and as an awkward kid myself who wanted to “fit in,” these fashion-challenged people held no appeal. 

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No – this is not Lance Armstrong. This is me sporting my first new really cool Schwinn bicycle – an obvious future Ironman and missionary.

And they kind of smelled funny.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe they had either, over time, decided to go with the whole sans-deodorant thing, or maybe they were still using some antiquated deodorant/perfume/cologne from a bygone era.  Either way, they smelled funny.  And they seemed to have no idea about our current pop culture.  About what the popular TV shows were (how could you NOT now what the show ‘The Love Boat’ was??) or who the popular recording artists were (once again, how could you have NOT heard of the Bee Gees?!?!).  Oh, and they wanted “support.”  I wasn’t entirely sure what this “support” meant but I was pretty sure they were looking for more than just high fives and people saying they were going to pray for them, but not entirely meaning it.  They wanted U.S. dollars.  And preferably the ones with Benjamin Franklin.  Not so much Andrew Jackson and for Pete’s sake nothing with Washington or Lincoln.  And as they approached people they seemed unsure of who they were or if they knew them.  When they greeted people they smiled and stuck out their hand with that desperate look of “please, please tell me who you are and if I know you so I don’t have to pretend one way or the other…”  So the idea of hanging out with, let alone “being” one of these goofy maladroit characters held no appeal to me.  At all.  Ever.

Until I actually went to one of those random places on the multicolored map with the silver thumbtack.  Then I got it.  That there’s a whole world out there.  An amazing world with amazing people with extraordinary needs.  Actually their needs are the same as mine and yours.  They need to know the love of Christ, to have healthy relationships with other people, and to have basic human needs met.  Some places just happen to have more challenges doing that than others.  And so as we embark on our journey to Ethiopia to take part in that amazing country and culture, I wonder if I’m about to be one of “those people.”

The truth is that I probably will.  The difference however between “now” and “then” is that I really don’t care.  I know I’m called to this and that all the unique parts of my story have come together to prepare me for that.  We all have a special path that God has placed us on.  This is mine.  What’s yours?

p.s.  If I smell funny when I return please don’t tell me.  I’d just rather not know…  Just make sure to tell me your name.

p.p.s  And thank you for your “support” 🙂     Click here if you’d like to donate :))

 

Sharing the Vision

Sunday night we had the pleasure of sharing the vision and plans for our move to Ethiopia with a number of friends. Some of you asked about whether we recorded the event and the answer is YES!!!! Amazingly, (after about 8 hours of attempts) Cheryl was able to upload it to YouTube for your viewing pleasure (links at the bottom).

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Due to some unknown reason (length, maybe??), we had to break the video into 2 parts: The first is 30 minutes; the second is 15 minutes, plus 15 minutes of Q & A.
Enjoy!!

Vision for Ethiopia Part 1

Vision Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Photographs open doors into the past, but they also allow a look into the future.” – Sally Mann

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Ethiopia is an amazing place. The countryside is beautiful and the people are warm and hospitable. We had a wonderful visit to Soddo last week and are so excited for our move there in August.  Since Cheryl is a picture taking fool, we thought we’d share some of the scenes with you.

Around the grounds… 

 

Where we’ll be living…

 

City views…

 

The obstetrics department…

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And a few more shots, just for fun…

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Hundreds (if not thousands) lined the streets waiting on the Wolaita Dicha Football Club to return from their win in Egypt. Auburn and Alabama got nothing on the Wolaita fans!

 

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My gate!
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Nearly every night there are soccer and volleyball games on the big field. The goats don’t seem to notice…
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The weather is fabulous. Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s. Perfect for an evening fire!
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Amazing soil!
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Coffee break for the staff. Did you know coffee was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century? It was considered a “magical fruit.”
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Patients and their families often sleep on the grounds of the hospital because they have traveled far for medical care.
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No matter where you live, you have to take out the trash…

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If you live in the Birmingham area, we would love for you to join us the evening of Sunday, April 8th when we share the vision about our move. Click this link to see the invite and RSVP:   http://evite.me/VVDXEjf27K