Monthly Archives: July 2013

Roadmap For Life…


Do you ever wish life came with a roadmap?  Have you ever found yourself asking God, “Should I turn left, or right?”  “Should I marry him, or stay single?”  “Should I take this job or that job?”  “Should I buy this or that house?”  Floating throughout the world of Christendom are a grip-load of catchphrases we say to comfort and encourage one another in a moment of decision.  Some are helpful, some are confusing, and all are well-intentioned.  

When Phil and I made the decision to pursue missionary aviation, we were careful, slow, and deliberate.  Phil fasted, we both prayed, and in my signature Jessica-Vana-Listmaker-Fashion I counted the cost…on paper.  We consulted others, we asked for prayer, we felt confirmation, and when we felt we’d heard from the Lord we set out to obey. no. matter. what.  

“No matter what” is one of those phrases that is loaded from the get-go because we aren’t given a roadmap for the journey.  Specifically, the road to serving overseas as missionary aviators is complicated simply due of the nature of the job: in-depth specialized training, various and varied organizations to choose from, and a unique calling to serve as a missionary and a technician.    

When we set off for A and P school (airplane mechanic school) in Michigan last year, we had no idea what we didn’t know about missionary aviation.  Today (with most of what we own in boxes and our hearts more certain than ever of the call) we continue to learn what God may have in store.  When we tried out with JAARS in October we learned a whole lot.  Then, we went through and passed our Technical Evaluation with MAF we learned a lot (and had a ton of fun, too).   

As we learn, you can be sure of three things:  We are committed to the gospel and reaching lost souls for Christ.  We are eager to serve and be a blessing.  We will looking forward to the good work Father God has in place for us and we can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get started. 

As we learn we would love prayer for the following things:  that the Lord would lead us and guide us, that we would be wise and discerning, that we would find our place in the world of missionary aviation and thrive as servants of Christ.    

In each step we take and in all the steps ahead, both known and unknown, may our trademark be love and may the love of Christ radiate through our lives and light up darkened hearts with true hope and restoration power!  

We love you!

Jess (and the fam!)

Phil performing a wedding last weekend!
Little man





Preparing For The Mission Field…





Yep! That cute!

At a leadership conference I was asked to play a game.  The speaker told us to close our eyes.  With eyes closed he asked us to make a list of everything in the room that was the color red.  We all struggled to come up with four or five thing that were red and then we were told to open our eyes.  With eyes now open we were told once again to notice things that were red.  We couldn’t believe it. Red was all around us.  The point of the exercise was this: whatever you tell yourself to be on the lookout for, that’s what you’ll see.  For the rest of the day red was popping out everywhere just begging to be noticed.  


So, here we are.  Solomon is born and integrating into our family.  We are in that great big ole new-baby-learning-curve, but God is good and He is helping us find our footing.  With the mental weight of Solomon’s arrival behind us, we are pressing on toward our goal of missionary aviation with a renewed sense of intentionality and hope.  We’ve been praying for the Lord to make us wise and prepare us for a useful purpose on the field.  


As we seek Him and as we appeal for tools and skills that will prepare us, I (Jess) am noticing things I may not have otherwise noticed.  And I am seeing how some of these things are part of the Holy Spirit preparing us for good work.  Here is a recent example.  


Last year in Michigan we LOVED our church.  It was a rockin’ church of precious people passionately pursuing our Savior plunked down in a small rural town called Lowell.  Our pastor (Jason) was a true gem.  We still follow him on facebook and I’d like to share with you something he wrote recently to encourage the flock.  Here goes…”I wrote something a while back to remind myself and our church to be hospitable to others who come into our “big home” each weekend. I can’t tell you how this will affect the environment and culture of our church if a huge number of us live out this simple characteristic. 

As you come to church each weekend…
1. Get to church 15 minutes early to make yourself available for God to use.
2. Look for a new, disoriented face.
3. Share encouragement with people.
4. Ask people questions and listen well.
5. Be positive, tell jokes, be of good cheer.
6. Laugh a lot and produce laughter. 
7. Introduce people to other people.
8. Create energy in the Worship Service by participating.
9. Look around you and ask who God wants you to introduce yourself to.
10. Greet people around you.

Don’t just…
1. Go to your seat and wait for the service to “start”…it’s already started.
2. Go to your familiar friends and huddle up by yourselves.
3. Immediately leave and go home after the service…mingle.
4. Bury your head in your bulletin and keep to yourself.
5. Think about yourself and your needs…think about the needs of others.

As we continue to expand, we will need more people to step up with their personalities, gifts and attitudes. The growth is always exciting, but there has to be an intentional spirit that creates life and culture. 
I think that’s us. Strike that. I know that’s us. 
Thanks for being the backbone, torso, guts and heartbeat of our body. I lean on your leadership.”

Now is that a good word, or what?!?!  I read this again and consider it a good word as we prepare to serve overseas. It’s basic servant-leadership but it has the power to make each of us missionaries, right here, right now.  

May you be encouraged and may you see opportunities this week to implement this pastor’s good advice.  

Oh, and if you pray for us, we’d be super blessed to have prayer in the following areas.  

1.  We used to have a little friend called “sleep.” Where oh where did he go?

2.  For God to bless us with wisdom and favor in all our endeavors.

3.  That we would make the very, very most of our time here in the states before going overseas.  

4.  That God would help us be super-intentional in sharing Christ with our children.    

5.  That we would be a blessing to our friends, family, and church.

6.  That we would be encouraged in our journey.  
Thank you again, for your love, friendship, and prayers. 


Overwhelming Gratitude…


Have you ever been overwhelmed by gratitude? Have you ever felt the goodness and love of God in such a tangible way that you lost your ability to describe or quantify it? Have you ever been so blessed by the outpouring of love from others that you simply stopped and felt like crying? (Maybe you did cry!)

I would say that we seem to be floating as we celebrate the birth of Solomon John and receive such love and generosity from others. I cannot help but give glory to God day and night. Why has He been so good to us? Why has He lavished such good gifts upon us? Why do people love us and stop me at church to tell me so? I am overwhelmed. It brings me to tears even as I write this blog.

A little story and then a list of some blessings…

Jessica went into labor on July 4th and we made our way to the hospital in more time than Jessica thought was appropriate. But, we made it and quickly checked in and prepared to have us a baby!!! Everything went smooth, especially after the epidural, and Solomon came quietly (well, he was quiet for about 33.8 seconds) into our oxygen breathing world at 6:16 pm. (This ranks as one of the top five times that I been this proud and crazy in love with my wife. She is incredible!) I did not plan it, but I had tears in my eyes when I caught Solomon and delivered him into his mother’s arms. Then, I couldn’t stop laughing as I heard him cry and looked him over. Bellisimo! He was 6 lbs 13.2 oz and 19 1/4″ long. We made it to our post-natal room in time to watch the grand finale of a fireworks show outside our window! What a night!!!

Solomon and Jessica are doing great. God has given us what we have been praying for. A good sleeper, a good eater, and a good pooper! Oh, and he is cute too!!! AND, Jeremiah up and decided to start walking on the 6th! What a guy!

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us and for the delivery of Solomon John. We are blessed beyond words. The only thing that is crazier is that we know God is not done with us yet and my mind cannot even comprehend it!


Here are just a few blessings that have left us overwhelmed with gratitude…

– The help given to us by both of our parents! My parents flew in on the 3rd and took care of Adelina and Jeremiah while we were at the hospital. It was even more grand because my sister was in town to celebrate the 4th with us! My Dad organized my garage and helped me fix my toolbox, and my Mom has organized everything else and cooked a number of excellent meals!!! Jessica’s Mom has been picking up various things that we need as well as thinking of gifts to give Adelina and Jeremiah. (Adelina is already a pro at Candy Land!) Jessica’s Dad just came into town and he and his family are loving the socks off of our kids!

– A woman from church offered to do labor photos for Solomon’s birth and they are beautiful. She spent a portion of her 4th of July holiday taking pictures for us (and they are awesome) and she told us that it was a blessing for her! Wow!

– A number of people have offered to bring us a meal as we transition into life with three kids. We have been set while my Mom is in town but those meals are going to be extremely helpful in the coming weeks.

– A couple from the campus ministry in Prescott, AZ sent us a check just to help out with whatever. (Yes, tears again as I write) Why? I don’t know. Overwhelmed? Again and again.

– Solomon is absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. (At least I think so and I am his father!) He has already gained weight and grew a 1/2″ in 4 days!!!

The list goes on and so does our thankfulness. God is good. We do not deserve it, yet Jeremiah 30:18 says, “…the LORD longs to be gracious to you…” (NIV) I love it. It is like He just can’t wait to be good to us, though we don’t deserve any of it! Praise be to God, the giver of every good gift and provider of all things! Hallelujah!!!

Look who’s walking now!!!


He ain’t walking but he can stand!!!

Isn’t it amazing when God pours out His grace and gives unmerited favor?

I certainly think so. For example…

There is a woman at Trader Joe’s who is one tough cookie. The first time I met her she told me that everyone thinks she is not very nice (this is the G version) and she doesn’t mind. It seems like she wants to come off that way. Well, we were working next to one another the other day and I asked her about the significance of her tattoos. She has quite a few and I know that she is proud of them.

She looked at me for a second, gauging why I might be asking that question, and then she says, “I think I can trust you.” Then, she tells me about how she had a verbally abusive childhood which has led to low self-esteem and poor self-image. She has never liked the way she looks and, despite walking around like a confident and intimidating lady, she is very insecure. She feels like everyone looks at her and judges her. She began getting tattoos 3 years ago because she thought, “I might as well put some art that I like over my skin since I don’t like it very much. And, if people are going to look at me, I might as well give them something to look at.” So, she has tattoos all over and loves to show them off.

I share this story simply because I was blessed and honored that she would tell me such personal information. It could be easy to be turned off by her demeanor, but she is a broken woman who desperately needs the love of Christ. I thank God for the favor He has given.

Another example is that a guy and a gal from work want me to marry them this August! They were saving for a wedding that would take place next summer, but they have decided to have a small, extremely small, a 5 person (including me!) small wedding. They want to drive up to Tahoe, pull over along the Mt Rose Hwy, get married, and continue on to Tahoe to celebrate over a meal! I have worked with both of them a dozen times and I was surprised and excited to be asked to do their wedding. I am hopeful for the opportunity to share the gospel as well as participate in their wedding! What a blessing!!!

The last example happened just 4 days ago. One of the supervisors told me that I was going to be his floor leader the following morning. The floor leader is the supervisor’s right hand man for the shift. They help keep everyone on task, make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be, and make sure that things are running smoothly. It is pretty amazing that I was asked to do this and I haven’t been working at Trader Joe’s for three months.

After the shift, I asked the supervisor why he chose me to be the floor leader and he said, “Because you have a lot of potential. You could really go far with Trader Joe’s if you wanted to. I know you are leaving in a few months but I want to give you the opportunity to grow and lead. You have a great attitude and you work hard. We need people like you to set the tone. You did a great job today.”

Favor. It is God’s unmerited favor. Glory to God in the highest!

Adelina loved pushing her friend on the swing!
No, they can’t get ANY cuter!!!