Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Returning to my first loves

So, now that we've started this blog, it has me constantly thinking of things to add or stories to relate. While there are many we need to share from our first year in the Philippines, I thought I'd share what's on my mind today... and the fact that I feel like I'm 12 years old again...

If you didn't know, our school calendar here in the Philippines is quite different from the states, and we are currently on summer vacation. I will take a couple summer classes in May, but our next semester doesn't start until July. I'm realizing that I haven't really had a free summer vacation since high school, so it's a very different feeling. Before classes finished, I made long lists of all the things I wanted to accomplish this summer, and of course, now that we're in our second week of vacation, I haven't even come close to getting any of them completed. But, the thing I'm finding myself spending a lot of time doing and thinking about are the 2 things I couldn't get enough of when I was growing up: reading and playing the piano.

This wouldn't be a surprise to everyone that knew me before 2003, but my life has been void of these two loves significantly in the last few years. Yes, I played the piano for our church in Guam, but it was definitely more out of necessity than desire. My wonderful friend, Melissa, who is a talented artist, is about to start working with some Filipino street kids in teaching them art. She shared with me the other day that she was feeling convicted about starting to teach art when she feels like she hasn't been using her talent very much in the last year. And I realized that is exactly how I feel about my piano. About 2 months ago, I started teaching piano to one of our professor's 2 children, and I immediately felt convicted about my lack of playing and practicing since college graduation. But recently, I have been very inspired to start exercising my fingers again by practicing my scales and arpeggios and digging out my old pieces. And, for the first time in a long time, I'm playing the piano because I want to, not because I'm expected to or someone else needs me to. And I'm having such a blast teaching piano again... here's a pic of a keyboard I made that we're using to play games and help learn theory... it's just a plastic tablecloth and black duct tape, but it's tons of fun! :)

I've also been on a reading binge this last week. A few weeks ago I organized our bookshelf and placed all the books I have but haven't read on one shelf and was overwhelmed yet excited by the number! So many of my memories when I was growing up include getting lost in book after book during the summertime, and it's SOOO wonderful to have the opportunity to do that again. Of course, I should be finishing a curriculum project for a professor, volunteering in the field office, helping Brian prepare for a youth event next week, studying Tagalog, preparing for my teaching next semester, and numerous other things that are on my 'summer to do list'... but what am I doing instead? I bought an additional 3 books from a bargain sale at a bookstore yesterday to add to my collection of books to read! :) So, after I finish writing this, I'm going to start a new book and play the piano for a while... what a change from the last 5 years! Unfortunately, it won't last for long, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can. So let me know if you have any good book recommendations!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Life these days...

Well, since we've proven ourselves to be some of the worst friends in history at keeping in touch with people, we've decided to try a different approach... :) So, we're starting this blog where the goal is for us to post short updates on happenings in our lives as they occur... and not in a mass twice yearly email where only boring highlights are given. Having said that, here's the typical quick update of our lives in this last year....

In May 2006, we said a tearful goodbye to our beautiful island of Guam. After three of the most incredible years of our lives - filled with new friends that became family, experiences that ended in laughter and tears, and our amazing God stretching us and showing us His grace and love in ways we never dreamed - we felt God leading us to change direction in life and move to the Philippines to attend seminary. So, after a few weeks of visiting with family and friends in Texas, we arrived in Manila in the middle of June. Going from our home island of 150,000 people to a bustling city of around 13 million people was quite a change. But the biggest change came in leaving our jobs and beloved church to becoming students again and starting over with many relationships and adventures. In addition to starting school at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, Brian was also offered a position with our church's regional staff as the Youth Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in the Asia-Pacific Region. After much prayer, he accepted and has immensely enjoyed this opportunity along with going to school full-time. APNTS has a policy that couples that live on campus must both enroll in classes, so since we felt we really needed to become as much a part of this unique cross-cultural community as possible, Julie is also pursuing a degree.

So, what has this new life been like for us in the last 9 months? Well, God is of course blessing us and stretching us again in ways we never imagined. Brian has been thrilled to get back in school (pursuing a Master's of Divinity degree) and has also fallen in love with the incredible youth leaders he is working with and learning from on a daily basis. He coordinated the participation of 36 youth leaders from our region to attend a global youth conference in South Africa in January (separate blog with those details soon to follow), and the impact of that experience on their lives and our region is immeasurable. Now that we're finished with our second semester, he is forging ahead with plans of visiting other countries on our region and continuing to coordinate communication, vision, and leadership between the youth in Asia-Pacific. Please pray for Brian as he seeks God's guidance for effective youth ministry on our region and as he balances responsibilities between work and school.

Julie has also found herself in much different roles compared to life in Guam. Being obligated to go back to school was quite difficult at first (pursuing a Master's of Religious Education degree), but God has blessed her with incredible classmates and professors that have given a renewed energy and motivation for being in the classroom. She has also had the opportunity to be trained in teaching English as a Second Language, and this has led to many exciting opportunities. Twice a year students from Korea Nazarene University come to APNTS to study English, so in January, Julie was asked to teach one of their classes, and after falling in love with them and teaching English, she was also asked to teach an undergraduate English course for APNTS next semester. Again, this is something we would have never envisioned, but God always knows what He's doing... :)

We've also been overwhelmed by an incredible new group of friends that are quickly becoming family. It's such a privilege to be on this campus where we live with other students from all over Asia-Pacific and learn from them in how they follow God to reach out to others. We've also been blessed with an incredible church family and friendships with other missionaries here in Manila. We're attending a Tagalog speaking church, so we won't get lazy in always speaking English, and have been blessed with many friendships with the young people at our church.

Well, of course there are many more stories to share, but that's what we'll do in separate entries with pictures! So, more stories and pictures to follow, but know that we miss and love dearly all of our friends in Guam, US, and around the world. We covet your prayers as we continue to learn how to live in the Philippines, speak Tagalog, and follow God's direction for our lives here. Please keep in touch and let us know how we can be praying for you!
tons of love,
julie and brian :)
Posted by Picasa