Friday, March 20, 2015

Update: March 20th, 2015

     I have not written since going home to be with my dad to be with him as he passed from earth into heaven.  I wanted to process with family and friends and not broadcast that part of the journey.  God is good and walked with me through grief and deeper trust.  I write now because we know we can't walk this path alone.  We would love your prayers.  We still trust in a good God who created us in love and with a purpose.  Here is an e-mail Jeff sent out yesterday.  The news about Jeff is still fresh as we process this with each other and the boys.  Please know we will read every e-mail and message sent, we may just not be able to respond to them each day.  Ian is learning to ride a bike today and we are then heading to the new Young Life camp for a work crew weekend.  Life is as full as ever as we move forward.  Love, Becca

Hi friends.  Team Stables is in shock.  You should probably not write group emails to faithful friends and supporters while you are in shock, but here I am doing it.

Wednesday I was diagnosed with stage 4 Esophageal cancer.  Its worked its way into the lungs and is considered incurable.  So we are weighing options about palliative care treatment (slowing it, and managing pain etc)   The Lord is allowing us to get second and third opinions from some of the best in the world.  The survival times for this type are measured in months not years, but all the averages are based on 70 year olds so nobody really knows.

But I know a guy.  His name is Jesus.  We are welcoming all prayers.  Especially the absolutely ridiculous ones.

For now, the plan is to stay in Scotland and continue ministry.  In addition to your prayers we would love for you to continue your financial support.  You can pray for the timing of possible trips home to see family and friends.  

This isnt how I would have written the story.  But the writer always makes sure He gets glory in the end.  The good news is still good news, and its still the most real reality.  Im anxious to see the ways He intends to use this part of our story.  

My health is good right now.  I got in 12 miles running last week.  If Im honest, Im scared of the breakdown of the body.  Whole new appreciation for the faith and courage required in those seasons by so many of the saints that have gone before us.

I would ask for special prayer for my Luke, Levi and Ian and my precious wife Becca.  I know God will provide for them in so many different ways.  We will continue to update you as plans settle into place and treatment plans are chosen.  One thing we are grateful for is the authentic community of friends the Lord has surrounded us with here, and the amazing family and friends in the states.

If you choose to respond with encouraging words/prayers etc please know that we will read them and be blessed.  I may not be able to respond to all of them, as we are in a pretty intense season.

Time to go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu man chu.

In Christ,

Jeff Stables
Young Life International
NE Fife Scotland
Area Director
Madras College Chaplaincy

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sufficient Grace

This week did not fly by like the others.  It clunked and clawed and left muddy footprints through the days.  Just when you think you have the steps memorized, have the rhythm worked out you end up on a dance floor without a clue what to do.

Friday though Sunday Jeff was away speaking at a camp with 48 kids from different Young Life areas in Scotland.  In America I would have stopped the juggling act of different hats to go with him.  Giving the mom hat to a grandma to wear and donning only a ministry one.  Here, we aren't quite at the place were we can leave three life loving boys with someone else for more than a couple hours.  So, I stayed and prayed for the kids and leaders instead.  The boys and I took trips to the forest, did Saturday football and visited the Dundee Science museum.  Those are the things I take pictures of to remember and share with family back home.  And on homesick days we sometimes go through the virtual photo album on my phone.  On the hard days, the remembering is so important.

Jeff came home on Sunday evening.  In time to go to our dear neighbor's funeral on Monday.  The neighbor with twinkling eyes, and  knowing smile.  The one that shared a similar story to my dad.  And clouds formed in my heart and head that seemed to muddle all the good things that are given each day.  The things I can usually see and give thanks for.

Jeff left again long before the sun came up Tuesday.  This time for an all staff conference in England.  Another thing in America and with the help of grandma's I would have gone to.  And now Thursday night, the week almost complete I am surrounded by the balls I have dropped.  Two sick kids, three very important phone calls missed, late to pick up Ian twice, late to pick up Levi once, and a parking ticket today.  Laundry is still sitting in piles and dishes have yet to be washed and put away in the same day.  The desk I paint at has sat empty and I have eaten scones almost every day (my new comfort food).

Hours ago I sat down defeated, and pulled up the photos.  Ian sitting next to me and put out a finger to slide the pictures one by one.  By the fifth picture Levi stopped playing Legos and came over to see, and not long after Luke leaned over to get a look also.  The pictures start with all of us standing in front of the mountain of luggage we had packed to move here.  Ian slid his finger past our first weeks here, walking and exploring.  Past our first trips to Dundee, and Perth.  Through the countless playgrounds and forests trips. Their school, and new friends, the Monday night group of Young Life kids, and night of fireworks with neighbors.  He slowed as he reached to the last ones taken.  The trip to the bay.

I had forgotten I had even taken him there after school on Tuesday.  I forgotten I had snapped pictures and then given him the phone to capture images.  My heart and head were still heavy.  Heavy with Ian's questions of why did God have to make germs and sickness anyway.  If He was God why didn't He make the world where people didn't get sick and die?

But the trip to the bay quieted the questions of why for both of us.  I didn't know I was about to flop through the week in a clumsy dance.  In those pictures I clearly remembered how amazing an artist God is.  That in one rain dropped leaf I see more evidence of God than a thousand answered questions.  The goodness of God is surrounding us, His gifts are given daily.  I just can't always see them as clearly.  My kitchen still holds the treasures of the trip.  Sandy stones, and sticks still drying out, bit of bark and a twig of berries to draw later.  The phone flashed low battery and the boys dispersed, Ian saying, "I love our life, and I love when you are late to pick me up because it means I get to look at books!"  Learning to thank God for the days I know the dance and the days I stumble through in His grace.

Jesus  -- "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Cor 12:9

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our little pocket of the World

     And a month can go by in a blink.  You know when you are getting settled when routines that seems so unreal become familiar.  I still love that I cross over the Firth of Tay when going to get groceries.  One minute I am pulling out of our sleepy little town and the next I am driving over a four lane bridge stretched over two miles of water.  The bridge with a speed limit that changes with how strong the wind gusts are. Dundee is on the other side and it seems as if I am entering another world.
  The boys know and still enjoy the schools they are in.  They wake up at 7 am, uniforms on, breakfast, and teeth brushed.  By 8:30 am shoes and coats are on.  8:40 am helmets and backpacks are on and we wave good bye to Luke and Levi on their bikes (or Levi often catching the school van) By 8:45 I am already heading to the door with Ian to take him in the opposite direction to his school.  Then there are three hours for phone calls, emails and meetings for Young Life.  Mondays are Young Life game nights.  On Tuesdays I get an hour and a half Greek lesson from Bob, my neighbor.  Wednesdays are training days.  Thursdays are one on one meetings.  And on Fridays I have been painting instead of writing a blog post (sorry about that).  Jeff's days are like mine but ten times busier with pastors, head teachers, committees, and students.  It is all becoming more familiar as we grow deeper into the community around us.
    Maybe that is why it seems more important to explain just what that community is.  So here goes.  We are in the Burgh Wormit, If you look at the first map we are the last blue circle on the left that is on the waters edge.  You can see the rail bridge to the left and then the town next to us on the right, Newport.  Newport has the road bridge that I cross over to get to Dundee and groceries.  Further over to the right is Tayport.  These are called the Taybridge area in Fife.  Each of these three areas have their own Primary school.  Kids from age 4 to 11/12  are in primary school.  Then, when these students are done with Primary School they will take double decker buses to St. Andrews to go to Madras College.  Madras College is really a Secondary school (think American middle and high school combined). St. Andrews is the big kidney bean shape at the bottom of the second map.  This is where we are starting Young Life, Madras College.  We have been working with a small group of Madras students that live in the Taybridge area and training University students that attend St. Andrews University.  It may all seem very far away on the map but St. Andrews is only 10-12 miles away.  That is twenty minutes driving in Scotland weather and on their smaller roads.

     We are getting more familiar with each of the areas as we zig zag through our days.  The more we get settled and enjoy where God has planted us the more we are feeling some pangs of homesickness.  Pictures of our friends, family, and even friends pets make us sigh.  A sigh mixed with remembering, and missing.  In a perfect world we would smush Scotland and Virginia together in a big happy family.  Phone calls home make us weepy and grateful.  The connecting with friends and family is harder than we thought it would be.   As the world here grows bigger and deeper in our hearts we are having to figure out how to carve time out of our nights to call or write home.  The homesickness is hard but there is so much to be grateful for.
     Tonight at dinner Luke and Levi described again why school is so amazing.  How welcoming their classmates have been, and how much they enjoy their teachers.  Ian pipes up to say, "I can't wait to be in Primary one!  Next year I will get to finally have a desk and work!  This year I just play and bake cookies and do art", insert frown and Luke and Levi laughing and shaking their heads.  And school is such a big part of their world right now, so I cannot even begin to tell you how much this encourages Jeff and I.  Here is a picture of the boy's schools.  Luke and Levi's is on the left.  Those huge windows look out over the Tay Estuary and the train bridge crossing over it into Dundee.  The field is where they spill out of the school to play on each day from 12-1 pm.  Sometimes Levi will bike home only to change and bike back again to play football (soccer) with kids who don't want the day to end just yet.  Ian is standing under a mosaic at his school.  He will be there just for this year, and it is only a town over.  Next year he will be at Wormit Primary with a desk and big work to do!

 Thank you for all the prayers and encouragement.  We are excited to see what the next months have in store.  We are amazed by His grace in this transition time and can't imagine going through it without all the support and love.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What has stayed the same

I could write everyday to tell of a new word we have learned or a new experience we have had.  Honestly so much has changed it is hard to think about what has stayed the same.  Luke and Levi were both asking why time in Scotland seems to be on super speed.  Jeff and I heartily agree that there are not enough hours to do everything we want to.

This past weekend I was able to go to a Young Lives retreat.  The young moms were from Perth and Dundee and the leader is one of the first Scot to take me around town, out for a proper cup of tea, and ride shotgun while I was still hitting curbs.  The weekend was filled with learning about the truth of God's love, grace, and forgiveness.  We also got to go on one of the largest zip lines and ropes courses I have ever seen.  I am not afraid of heights and love adventure, but my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding as we zipped over towering pines and stepped out onto tight wire stretched between posts.

And that is how life feels right about now.  Up higher than what feels relatively safe, and staring down at what use to be a normal walk in the woods.

So here is what has stayed the same.  We are tied in securely to Christ.  The only reason I would have climbed that high and jumped and swayed through the course is because I was harnessed and clicked into a safety line.  I started the course knowing if I fell I would be caught.  It made the leaping a whole lot easier.  And even though it feels like we are zipping through life at a million miles an hour, He still orders our days.  He has hemmed us in before and behind.

The story of love and redemption is the same.  The scenery is different.  The people surrounding us are different too.  But we are to love and live with intention no matter where we are.  To live poured out and not held back.  I falsely assumed the backdrop would be grey and the people here, reserved.  I cannot believe how wrong I had it.  I have never lived in a place where weather changes every hour on the hour.  Blue skies, white clouds, howling wind, sideways rain, and fog thick as a blanket all in one day.  The people we have met have been generous, open, helpful, and very willing to hear our hearts and story.  The backdrop and people will change through the years but we are so grateful for the story of love and redemption that will never change.

I still fiercely love my family and friends back home.  To leave them was incredibly hard.  To be here feels easier than I thought it would be.  I know that we are exactly where we are suppose to be.  There are few times in our lives that we have felt the pieces click into place so securely.  And we have felt a tremendous amount of grace in the transition.  But when I creak open the boys doors and give them one last kiss goodnight my heart can ache and I can wonder why we are doing this so far from the people we love.  So far from the ones who helped us understand what a family is.  Christmas is coming and I know my dad and mom's visit will have to wait.  I hear my sisters laugh and see pictures of growing nieces and a nephew and it is enough to make me forget that the heart ache is a gift.  To be homesick means we were lucky enough to have had a home.  A place that was filled with laughter and shared memories.  Parents, grand parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles that helped mold and shape us.

I am still trusting that God will use us because we are willing and not because I have turned into a better version of the American me.  I still breakout, talk too much, day dream even more, and play Lego's when I should be doing laundry.  I think being placed in completely new surroundings can make you realize your shortcomings in a new way.  And that can make even the most playful and spirited person feel insecure and quieted.  We have learned to not take ourselves so seriously in this season.  Humility goes a long way in a new country and culture.  And it is way less painful when we remember where our worth and purpose comes from.

So as we learn words like full stop (a period at the end of a sentence), lug (ear), kitchen roll (paper towels), plasters (band-aids), and jotters (notebooks), we are also learning that the best parts of life have stayed the same.

Thank you for all the love and prayers.  Our oldest, Luke leaves on Monday to go to an adventure camp with his Primary 7 class.  They have been covering adventure and quest in literature (think Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe) and now they get to experience some of their own for five days!  We are in the midst of packing his bag and while I am a bit nervous, Luke is not at all.  In his own words:  "Why would I be nervous when it is something this awesome.  Adventure is always worth the risk mom."  We also have started up a leadership program to train some pretty amazing St. Andrews University students to become potential YL leaders.  We are more than excited for this next step and would love pray as we move forward.

"Love must be honest and true.  Hate what is evil.  Hold onto what is good.  Love each other deeply.  Honor others      more than yourselves.  Never let the fire in your heart go out.  Keep it alive.  Serve the Lord.
                                                                            Romans 12:9-11

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Harvest time in Wormit

      All the fields around us are changing.  The skies are getting bigger as the land shrinks.  It is harvest time for wheat and barley and Ian knows all about the harvest thanks to his Nursery 4 teachers.  For two days the combine and tractor rumbled back and forth as Ian explained why the farmer was harvesting.  "Soil was broken up and flipped over, then seeds were planted, rain watered the broken earth and seed and small plants appeared.  Next, he says each time with his teacher voice, the plant grows and grows and grows, and when it is tall enough, the farmer knows it is time to harvest."  I sound amazed each time he recounts this information because I truly am.  Watching it all unfold in front of me while I do dishes and prepare dinner helps me soak in the miracle of it, how something can start so small and then grow into something so big and vast.
And I can't help to think about our small little burgh of Wormit.  Small enough to pass the same people on bike rides and walks.  Small enough to pass through the whole town on a ten minute bike ride.  Maybe a fifteen minute ride if your enjoying the scenery.
     But this small patch of earth has had many seeds planted.  While there may be a distinct absence of youth workers in Wormit and the surrounding burghs, there is not an absence of prayer.  When we arrived we had already gotten to know several people  through emails and phone calls.  People that had stood in the gap of hope and faith and prayed for the next generation to know life in the fullest.  They prepared the way for us to come and settle and call this place home.  I have been convinced over the past few years that God wastes nothing.  He is not a God of waste.  All the time spent with hands feeling tied and feet stilled we were also praying.  At time it felt the only thing moving was our mouths mustering up small prayers to a big God.  And the entire season of what felt a lot like waste was really a season of sowing seeds.
     We are starting to have weekly meetings now.  There are some pretty amazing people that came to camp and now to Monday nights.  They all go to Madras College (the catchment secondary school for the surrounding areas, think USA 7th grade-12th grade.)  and they show up to play games, eat large amounts of ice cream and talk about life.  It is a small group of ten or eleven.  But man is this time sweet.  It is hard not to think of the small shoots we saw growing in the field across from our house when we first arrived.  Remembering how they grew a little higher each day. And now we have watched a large harvest be cut and collected.  Truck load after truck load of grain that grew right before our eyes.
Please continue to pray for our family as we transition.  Jeff is playing tennis on Sundays and attending  lectures on Thursday nights at St. Andrews University.  I am hoping to start and art club and take some art classes near by at a newly opened community art center.   All these things are helping us to better know the community we are being planted in.  The boys are still loving school and are making friends.  Ian even dug up potatoes at school today and brought them home to cook for "tea" (what they call dinner here in Scotland).  Thanks for all the love and support we feel every bit of it an ocean away.

"Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.  If they watch every cloud, they never harvest."  Ecc. 11:4

 Had to add this last picture.  Here in Fife, we recycle everything!  The brown bin is for food waste and yard clippings, the green is plastics and tin, the small blue one is for trash that cannot be recycled and the black is for cardboard and paper.  In the USA we use to fill a bin larger than the black one in one week with all our trash.  Now it takes two weeks to fill the small blue one!  Luke is the recycle sorter and he is thrilled with that chore.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three ways our lives have changed

We are still readjusting to life in a small village in Scotland.  This phrase alone makes it sound hard and exhausting.  It is not, it is actually pretty amazing so far.  We are clearly smitten with the land, culture, and people of Scotland.  Everyone tells me this is the honeymoon phase and that harder days are coming.  I believe them a hundred percent.  But during this season of fully embracing our new home I will explain a few things that have made this move easy and how our lives look different than before.

Number one, FREEDOM.  We all have wheels of some type.  Whether borrowed or bought.  We have also never lived in a house that you can just walk outside hop on your bike and end up at a rivers edge, bay, or corner shop.  Luke bikes everywhere. Even to school and back.  Levi can walk to the corner store alone, or to a friends house and back.  Ian, well Ian still has to stick with me.  But he gets to ride his scooter to pick plums or blackberries after preschool and he loves that.  The village is small and everyone knows or at least can recognize you.  When I meet someone on the bay and I tell them I live in 2 The Beehives house, they smile and say oh yes, that is where you are, I always see you doing dishes.  There is only one church in Wormit, one restaurant, a blacksmith, a hair dresser, a small corner store and post office.  In Culpeper, VA we drove EVERYWHERE, had many shopping and eating out options but only rode bikes at the park or walked in the woods behind our house.  We had two neighbors we could walk to, now we have a whole village to get to know by foot, bike, or scooter.  There is something about passing someone face to face and being able to stop and talk that has been such a fun way to get to know kids and families.

Number two, RECESS!  The boys absolutely love school.  They also loved their school in Culpeper.  The school day here however starts an hour later and has a twenty minute morning break and a full hour of outside recess (picture the whole school pouring outside to the big green field to play last man over, sleeves up, and all of the other games they have yet to learn.  They also have far less homework and are not tested (think SOLs) until Secondary 2.  That would be our equivalent of 9th grade.  They seem to be at the same level and have not complained of feeling far ahead or behind (except in cursive and handwriting).  They do wear uniforms and instead of not liking them, they love not having to figure our what to wear each morning.  They also have outside and indoor shoes for school.  Floors stay clean and the janitors here must be happy about that.  Ian is in Nursery 4 and spends the majority of time there outside.  They trek to the bay, and local farms, and even have a forest academy where they all don jumpsuits and head out to the forest to learn.

Number three, RISK!  The playground and outdoor setting here offer adventure and risk.  Ian totters up tall climbing towers, the boys swing on huge rope loops, they jump from mound to mound and fly down some of the tallest slides I have ever seen.  Scotland playgrounds look more like a training ground for vikings.  Or a outdoor retreat center to work on fears or team building.  The playgrounds are where I have met the majority of moms and grandmas I know.  The local hub for young people and I love that my boys have never asked "when are we leaving?"  as we talk.  

Everywhere we go we feel like we are living life to the fullest.  Getting to know more and more the community around us.  We are enjoying the increase in family time and the larger overlap with ministry and the boys.  We really do feel like we will reach out as a family instead of just sending Jeff out each morning and night.  Incredible connections have been made as the groundwork is laid for Young Life in Fife, Scotland.  Churches have been supportive and we have felt welcomed in so many ways.  Pray for us as we seek to meet and develop leaders, student leaders, and move boldly towards the vision God has for us.  Thank you for walking beside us as we continue to discover what God has in store!

John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy;  I have come that they may you have life, and have it to the full."   Jesus

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Our lives are in His hands

 How do I wrap up two weeks in one post?  In the life we live, it seems close to impossible.  The boys and I picked up Jeff for the last week and a half in America.  We squeezed out as much time as we could with family.  Visas came in and we rejoiced.  Tickets were confirmed and Jeff and I got not one, but two dates.  I said hello and goodbye to way less people than I thought I would.  We stayed in a lovely house in the wood with very little Internet connection and with a loaner phone that had none of my friend's numbers in the phone.  That was sad at first, but became a unrequested blessing of rest in the middle of a maddening season.

Once visas were in and Jeff was with us again I had time to reflect on the last month.  I realized again how grateful  I am for my parents and sister.  I am the youngest of three, so I grew up very aware of just how much they helped usher me through life's tougher moments.  My sister ate my peas, told me about life, and helped me match my socks.  She still is the calm I may never grow into.  My mom was and still is a bundle of life and joy.  She taught me to pray for joy as my strength, not a happy heart, but a rich joy from being rooted in God's love.    She could run a small country and will talk to anyone.  My dad help formed some of my earliest memories of the God who made me.  A wild, untamed God, full of love and mercy and forgiveness.  He taught me not to be afraid of people's mess.  To not be afraid of my mess.  They made life easy to live out, to grow up into.  All the fearful awkwardness of it.  I know that is a gift many do not get.

 And so when we said goodbye this time there were less tears.  They have always been excited for our chance to live out our calling, whether in Culpeper, VA or Wormit, Scotland.  We said goodbye to my dad while he was still in the hospital.  Fluid retention around the gut was slow to come off kept him in longer than any of us hoped.  The boys and I sat on the edge of his bed and prayed for him and then he prayed a blessing over us, releasing us back to Scotland.  I called from the airport during our layover to see if the liver test came out okay.  I stared out into the night as we flew further away and I put a shaky heart in God's hands.  Even if you know you have held a rare gift for so long, it still does not make it easier to lay down.  Material things are easy to let go of, but handing over the ones we love feels a little trickier.  Do I trust the God who knit my father's heart together?  Yes.  Does my heart ache in the goodbyes and the not knowing?  Yes, in a messy, heavy way, that doesn't make it all feel okay.

We landed feeling as if we came home.  We drove through our town and parked the car and ran in yelling "We are HOME."  And it feels so right and great to be back.  We all feel it.  The clicking into place of something good and real.  Wormit, Scotland is exactly where we are suppose to be.  We ran to the bay and stayed up way too late as the tide rolled in.  Today we went to the church's soup lunch and said hello again to many of the people we have met on our trips to the bay.  I took some soup home to deliver to my neighbor who I had heard was ill while we were away.  Knocking on his door, I saw him struggle to get up and open the door.  I sat nervously, knowing I was already acting completely American visiting so soon after getting back and while he was ill.  He told me he was in the hospital for two and a half weeks.  Almost the whole time we were away.  He was in because he had fluid on his gut and legs and it was slow to come off.  I listened as he shared how hard it was to be away and wait to come home.  And I shared with him about my dad an ocean away walking out the same hard lesson.  Our lives are in His hands, and His hands alone.  Every chapter.  We both were amazed at the similarities to how much fluid they are allowed to drink a day to the different medicines they have been on.  I left with a lighter heart.  To trust that God has the exactly the right people to shape and change us into His image.  To show us how to be His hands and feet to the world around us.

We ended our day with a trip to Tentsmuir Forest.  The boys got soaked in the North Sea, smiling and shivering.  We remembered all the beach trips with Mimi and Papa and cousins, toes all digging in the sand.  Luke asked if I thought Papa would get to see all this.  How beautiful it all is.  Get to feel how much this is our home too.  I answered what I hoped but didn't know.  We got home sandy and wet and to an e-mail that he is finally home from the hospital.  How sweet it was to read those words.  On the way to church tomorrow, I will knock on my neighbor's door to tell him an answer to prayers that included his.  They both will sleep in their own beds tonight, an ocean away but with the same grateful hearts.

Please pray for my parents as they plan a trip to come out to see us for Christmas.  He is released to come if he is able.  We are praying that he will get to see this land we call home and meet all the people who have opened their  hearts and homes to us.

We begin work again on Wednesday, working with the youth of Wormit and NE Fife.  School here begins August 20th and the boys are ready!

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34&35 ESV