search
top

Chapter 51: You are Mine

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.

 

Isaiah 43:1-5

When life seems to consume you, it is easy to lose track of your identity.  In this scripture, we are reminded to whom we belong, and the character He has.  We read about His presence in our lives, His desire to intercede, the abundance of His strength, His capacity for Love.  We read about a loving Father who has adopted us into His family.

We are His.

Michelle and I have been praying for God to give us wisdom, discernment, strength, and understanding about a great many things in our lives.  For the past 6 months, God’s response has been simply, “Trust me.”  This seemingly ambiguous phrase seems to be our family’s mantra. “Trust Him.”

Our family has sought out to live a healthier lifestyle.  We have been quick to turn to food during stressful(filled) times.  Working at a phenomenal bakery doesn’t help this problem, but enables my improper response to be deliciously satisfied.  My Uncle Tom would say, “all things in moderation,” but I have not followed this advice.  I have come to recognize that instead of taking smaller problems to God, I was replacing Him with food.  I was replacing precious time with our creator, for a creation that would satisfy an immediate gratification.

We took a 40-day break from sugar and the times we have had of worship have been much more satisfying.  Instead of splitting a bar of chocolate, we have shared prayer.  How much more rewarding this has been!  Of course, we did take a quick break from this sugar fast to properly celebrate Dotties’ first birthday!  Wow!  Time flies!  Dottie is now staggering (almost walking) around the house.  She is fiercely determined to catch up to life around her.  Jack and Loralie dote on their sister and joyfully interact with her.

Two years ago she wasn’t in our lives.  One year we didn’t know how to add her into our lives.  This year we don’t know what we would do without her in our lives.  Our hearts are full.

We talked about a door shutting for the kids school in our last newsletter.  We will finish out the semester (June) for the kids and then begin the process of Home school in the fall (unless God changes our plans!).  As this door has begun to shut ,we now have a door opening!  In the next few weeks we will be receiving a car!!

That’s right, RECEIVING not PURCHASING!  A friend of ours is out of the country and she has graciously offered her car until she returns next year.  This means that by next month we wont have to take the public transport to the kids school!  Woohooo!  I have never been more motivated to receive our International Drivers License.  The only expenses that will come with this car will be Insurance (200zl/month), gas (equivalent to roughly $5/gallon), and any other regular maintenance (oil change, tires, etc).

Our first response to this was, “how can we possibly add another expense to our airtight budget?!”  All our close friends kept reminding us of how God doesn’t provide blessings that will lead us into debt or down a destructive path.  When we prayed about what we should do, we received a simple response.

“Trust Me.”

I know some of you at this point are doubting our family’s decision.  “If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be doing this.”  I know because that was my first response.  But that isn’t how God operates.

-When we didn’t have the income, we had some debt, and needed our plumbing fixed, God provided.

-When I had a plan to pay off our car, pay off our debt, pay off our student loans, pay off our house…and lost my job?  God provided (and in record time!).

-When I kept a part time job with Starbucks and Michelle worked at the YMCA and our income never exceeded our expenses.  God provided.

-When we needed $5,000 to complete our fundraising to come to Poland, we quit our jobs and moved to my parents house with no new leads?  God provided $6000 3 days after we got to Colorado. (6months from receiving the call to work with Sweet Surrender till the day we arrived)

-When we needed to raise more money to return to Poland for a second year, it took 3 months and God provided.

-When we were in a car accident that should have taken the life of Loralie, during a 3 month trip where we earned 3x our normal monthly income while on the road, God provided and protected.  (Also a rental car for 2 months).

-When we prayed for a car, not having the finances for it, God provided.

So after all this, I am going to say that God won’t provide the 500zl a month?!  I would be crazy not to see this!  We are so thankful for this huge blessing that will give us back 2-4 hours every school day.

With the understanding we will be (99% sure) homeschooling this fall, we turn to the problem of my 45 minute commute to work (one way) every day.  Aside from the kids school, our lives are focused around the city center, so our plan is to not renew our contract at our current flat.  We love the apartment, I MEAN LOVE IT.  But with a huge commute, it limits our ability to connect the kids with Sweet Life, the amount of time I am able to spend with family, and our interactions in the city center.

We are currently discussing what to do about our flat with our landlords.  There is a possibility that we will be released from our contract a few months early so they can renovate the flat and prepare it for the next tenants.  This would allow us to house sit for our friends while they are gone this summer to the States.  We are at the early stages of these talks, but it looks promising!

We have great expectation for this year.  God is stirring something in our hearts and we are eager to see what God has in store.  If I look back on these last 4 years, I know it’s going to be awesome!

In all of this we are humbled by God’s provision.  The presence of our family, friends, networked churches, and our home Church (Centerpoint) has been overwhelming. Your prayer and financial support has encouraged us every step of our journey these last 5 years.  We do want to be transparent with you.  Last year we saw our expenses rise and our funds take a dip.

Even though I am working full time for Sweet Life as a barista and Cafe manager, we are in the early years of the business so my pay is minimal (as any new business would need to operate with).  Our expenses are roughly the same as they would be in the United States, so our living expenses are not covered by my salary.  Your commitment to partner with our ministry and immediate family needs have been tremendous.

Would you consider partnering with us and committing to support the Graves family for 2017?  We will need to increase our budget by $500 a month to cover the increased costs of food, clothing, baby needs (forumula, diapers, etc), car needs(insurance and gas), and housing.  Please prayerfully consider joining us on our journey in reckless pursuit of God.

Please join us in prayer:

-Continue to pray for Sweet Life: God’s will, presence and movement would be clear and evident and that we would follow it.  We have some big decisions and opportunities coming up.

-Pray for our kids with regards to schooling.  Which home school or international school we should enroll them in.

-Pray for health as we brave 2017. We are continuing to make changes in our lifestyles in order to make our lives more focused on health both spiritually/soul deep and physically. We are God’s temple!

-The Women’s prayer group Michelle is involved in. Building women up, speaking prophetic encouragement and loving those involved through relationship with our Father God.

-For Brad as he is balancing work, home life, and ministry.  He would identify with his current role, continue to work on better managing time,  father and husband.

-With the damages to our apartment and the renovations that will take place, that we come to an agreement with our landlords about timing.

-That God would provide financial support through partners in our ministry.

Giving:

If you feel led to give we have several (tax-deductible) options:

1.  Go to https://app.easytithe.com/g3/
2.  Select First Time to create an account (recurring options) or quick give (one time)
3.  Change “my donation” to “Missions- Poland Missions”
4.  In the “Other Comments” you can say “Graves Family”
5.  Give as the Lord leads.
– OR –

Make checks (or cash) payable to: “Centerpoint Church”
In the notes say it is for: “Missions- Mission to Poland”
Send to:
Centerpoint Church
2750 Cornerstone Dr
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

Chapter 50: New Year, New Challenge

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I had a customer come in the other day and was extremely rude to their “friend” on the phone.  I looked at my co-worker and said, “In the States we would say, ‘with friends like that, who needs enemies!'” I was stopped in my tracks immediately after this with the realization that God loves them as much as me.  God loves people who are horrible human beings, as much as He loves me (maybe slight judgment, my apologies!).  After this realization, I knew in my heart that God was asking me why didn’t I love them too.  Ouch!  I am sure some of you can relate to this feeling with all the political turmoil in the United States.  People on both sides of the political lines fighting with hate and not love.  For those of you, like me, who need to be reminded of what it means to Love, I have provided above a beautiful scripture for reference.

Family:

We are almost through the birthday run!  Michelle and Loralie had awesome birthdays full of fun, family, food, and friends. Loralie is now seven years old and is as determined and strong willed as ever.  She has grown up so much and we are so proud of who she is becoming.  Her birthday also coincides with Sweet Life’s birthday, which just turned O N E.  Last year we had to focus on the launching of our coffee shop and bakery so her birthday was majorly lacking.  We decided to give this day to her, devoting all our attention to her to remind her of the Love we have for her (mission accomplished!).

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, February 11th, we will celebrate Dottie’s FIRST birthday!  WOW!  Has it already been one year since we were preparing for the hospital to welcome our third child into this world?  What a year it has been! The joy she has brought us, the mild temperament she has, and the joy and peace she brings is unbelievable.  Jack and Loralie absolutely adore her and are awesome big brother and sister to her.

Michelle and I had a simple celebration of our tenth Anniversary, the day of.  We have almost finalized our plans for April to go to England and Scotland for six days for a more extended and elaborate celebration.  Our friends here have all agreed to help watch the kiddos during this time so we can travel child-free to be able to more fully focused on each other.  Vacation with children is much different than without!  Thanks to all who made this possible!

Schooling:

We have decided to not continue with Loralie and Jack’s current school.  The cost is increasing by 10%, the school is splitting its campus (Jack stays at the current and Loralie would move over 1.7 km away), and the transportation is highly unfavorable (even moving wouldn’t help).  We believe the correct course of action is Homeschooling or seeking other English friendly education (we have to be able to communicate with a teacher or principal).  We are leaning very strongly towards Homeschooling, but are open to God’s leading.

Changing this would also free up Jack and Loralie to engage in more extra-curricular activities.  We are looking into some possible football (or any sport) clubs, cooking classes, skiing and other activities that we previously and are currently unable to to participate in.  Loralie really needs some avenue to release the energy that builds up from a long day at school. Waiting for a bus (2-30 minutes) to take us on a 30-45 minute journey home just doesn’t cut it!

Prayer

-Pray for Sweet Life: God’s will, presence and movement would be clear and evident and that we would follow it.

-Pray for our kids with regards to schooling (Current and Future), friends, and development.

-Pray for health as we brave 2017. We are continuing to make changes in our lifestyles in order to make our lives more focused on health both spiritually/soul deep and physically. We are God’s temple!

-The Women’s prayer group Michelle is involved in. Building women up, speaking prophetic encouragement and loving those involved through relationship with our Father God.

-For Brad as he is balancing work, home life, and ministry.  He would identify with his current role, continue to work on better managing time,  father and husband.

-The landlords and building administration are coming to look at the apartment.  There are some damages to the flat that have recently happened and they hope to discover the cause.  With the unknown cause of the damages, we don’t know if major or minor renovations will take place.  Please keep all those involved in your prayers!  Depending on the renovations needed, it could displace us temporarily (daytime only would be best case scenario).

IMG_7277 IMG_7262 100_0006 IMG_7180

 

By the way, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Chapter 49: Pieces

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2: 10

 

You ever feel like your life is in pieces?  Do you ever feel as if your life is shattered into so many parts it can’t be patched back together?  Do you ever feel broken?  I do.  There are times in my life when I feel that I have my life together, propped up, and ready to display for all to see.  But lately, I have felt broken.

It is so easy to feel this way when we neglect the time we need to spend with our Father.  I listened to some really great music preformed by Steffany Gretzinger.  In a song called Pieces, she sings of how God does not share His love in pieces.  I started to think about how much He loves me (us) and how I have not shown that same unrelenting love back.  How I share my love with God, and towards others, in pieces.

How incomplete.

How broken!

But God, who brings strength through our weakness still loves us.  My heart is filled.  My gaze turns to Him.  And I seek Him.  God uses us despite our brokenness, because of His grace.  I am relearning that many times this begins with forgiveness.  Whether for myself or others, forgiveness leads us towards another depth of Love (for ourselves and others).

I am on the rise and on the mend, and you can be too!  Always remember that you are not alone.  If you ever feel alone and need someone to talk to, Michelle and I are here…6-9 hours ahead of you.  Message us and let us plan a time to talk and pray.

We just enjoyed a time of thanksgiving.  We missed out on our first Thanksgiving celebration this year due to illness and work.  Man it’s been a busy season for us…and that’s an understatement.  Even with this craziness we are in the midst of our Birthday Run!  That is the season from November to February where our family celebrates my (Nov 10th), Jack (Nov 16th), Michelle (Dec 19th), Loralie (Jan 7th), and Dottie’s (Feb 11th) Birthdays…..not to mention Thanksgiving, Christmas, Our 10th Anniversary (Jan 6th…the day before Lolo’s Bday), and 4 other immediate family member birthdays!  Instead of focusing on stress, money, craziness, etc.  We turn to celebration and thanks!  Praise God that our lives are so full during this season.  God has really blessed our family with such an adventure!  He is so good.

We are in a season of Advent.  Christmas is right around the corner.  Can you believe it?!  As we are quickly swept up in Christmas Caroling and music, decorations, presents, and gifts, remember the true reason for the season.  The birth of a baby, our Lord and Savior.  Fully Man, Fully God, Full of Love.  Christ came to this world to pursue His creation in active relationships.  CRAZY AWESOME!

Change.  It is never easy, usually comes with pain, but tends to end with Joy.  In these last two months we have experienced a lot of change.  Loralie has made a really strong friendship with one of the girls in her class and we have started to connect with this family.  Life is so much easier when you have friends by your side!  Though she is still learning to express herself.  She is full of love and opens herself up to others quickly.  This can present some awesome moments of joy, and some of deep pain.

Dottie is now extremely mobile!  She has gone from backwards movement to full steam ahead.  She is pulling herself up and is starting to take those daring steps out from the safety of the nearest couch or table.  Her personality is starting to really develop, she is full of so much joy.  Her smile can melt a day from troublesome to peaceful.

Jack is extremely creative and imaginative.  He finds himself fully immersed in his own world, only to surface when the need arises.  He is having difficulties being in the middle.  It is not easy to find the right balance with three kids, and Jack seems to be getting the short end of the stick.  We are learning how to speak to his love language while still focusing on Loralie and Dottie.

I (Brad) am trying to work smarter not just more.  This year has been extremely long and hard, never short of difficulties.  Spending the right amount of time between work and family is a never ending challenge.  I am trying to figure out how to better prioritize my time at work with the never ending to-do lists and demands, the need to work as a Barista, and the desire to please everyone.  I forget the desire to please everyone means that I won’t please anyone (not all the time, but for the most part).

Michelle is spending large amounts of time with the kids.  It is a rewarding challenge that brings much joy.  I am so thankful for such a loving and caring wife to help raise our kids.  She provides a beautiful example as a strong parent, a faithful child of God, and a devoted spouse.  I see great examples of what Love is all about by watching her in action!

We know this year has been a trying season; no matter what country we live in, what language we speak, or what culture we are attempting to identify with.  Adjusting to a family of five is difficult.  Adjusting to owning and operating a new business (with 3 spoken languages, cultures, and nationalities represented) is not easy.  Putting these two together is even more so!  But we remember this:  “We are God’s Masterpiece.”

Please continue to keep us in your prayers:

-Pray for Sweet Life: God’s will, presence and movement would be clear and evident and that we would follow it.

-Pray for our kids with regards to schooling, friends, and development.

-Pray for health as we enter 2017. We are already making changes in our lifestyles in order to make our lives more focused on health both spiritually/soul deep and physically. We are God’s temple!

-The Women’s prayer group Michelle is involved in. Building women up, speaking prophetic encouragement and loving those involved through relationship with our Father God.

-For Brad as he is balancing work, home life, and ministry.  I would identify with my current role, better manage my time, and be a better father and husband.

-For Michelle and I’s 10th Anniversary (January 6th, though we probably will celebrate later).  We would love to do something nice.  I’m not talking about just spending lots of money, I am talking about the ability to have quality time with each other.  Having a three kids and constricted income isn’t the most conducive to quality time.  We attempt to make each other a priority and want to make this anniversary a special one.  That requires having people available to watch the kids and the ability to get out of town (or the house) to focus on each other.  Our dream has been to go to Ireland (Republic or North…or both), which would require some additional finances (albeit significantly less since we live in Europe!).

Chapter 48: Stand

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:13

Have you ever felt God was preparing you for something and then asked you to be patient and wait?  That feeling when you just finished putting on the armor of God, like a mighty warrior, and then being asked to stand and let God show up and take care of it.  Michelle and I have been praying through some difficult situations in our lives.  We seem to keep putting on the armor of God ready to make a move, and then he doesn’t give the direction or leading that we were expecting.

Last week God gave Michelle the words “Jehovah Perazim.”  After some quick research she found it to mean “The God of Breakthrough.”  How fitting to hear confirmation of what our prayer partners and the scriptures have been saying all along;  He is the God of breakthrough.  Sometimes we just need to focus ourselves on God, putting on His armor as described in Ephesians 6, and allowing Him to fight for us.

Loralie and Jack are doing great in school.  It is a big adjustment from last year, but it is exciting to see them excited about school.  Every day they come home eager to share about what they have learned.  Dottie is getting so big!  It is crazy to imagine we are a family of FIVE and that Dottie just turned EIGHT months old!  She is babbling away, able to sit up on her own, and is starting to do the electric slide (meaning she can slide backwards but can’t crawl forwards).  It wont be long before she is on the move, which will change everything!

This next week is a big step forward in our Honduras Coffee connection.  On October, 20th we will be performing the final cupping (I hope!).  A cupping is a method of brewing coffee to understand the aromas and flavors associated with a specific coffee.  It is commonly used by roasters to identify which coffee has the greatest potential or to identify if a coffee has defects.  Pray for wisdom and clarity to identify which coffee we will choose to source for our new Espresso.  This will allow Sweet Life to connect with a farming community in Honduras. It has been a long time coming, but we are almost there!

This month is going to be slightly busy with work and ministry.  Michelle is becoming more involved with the 7x Gospel workshops that our friends are coordinating and with the local anti-human trafficking group.  As we mentioned before, Gospel music is big in Poland.  In Kraków alone there are over four large groups meeting around Gospel music.  Not everyone who sings Gospel music is a believer, so this is an awesome opportunity to share with these groups, and the many participants of the workshops, about God (the one whom they are singing about!).

In this last month God has continued to identify what I am most passionate about and what is most important to me.  My goals are to develop my coffee knowledge and grow further in the areas of Cupping and Sensory development, Brewing technique, and learn the art of roasting.

A few forward thinking dreams I have would be to complete qualifications to become a Judge and cupping specialist.  I would also like to compete in regional cupping or brewing competitions this upcoming year.  I competed in the 2014 AeroPress competition and it was such an amazing experience and networking opportunity.

Lastly, on the conversation of dreaming! We were given an entire coffee shop worth of merchandise from an acquaintance last year. I am not sure if you know what this means so let me give you some details! There is a 1.5 Kilogram coffee roaster, grinders, espresso machines, green coffee, cups, plates. All things we could add to our inventory at Sweet Life as well as offer a more sustainable and cost effective use for coffee that we purchase from Honduras and the like. If we had the roaster I would take a year or two (or however long it would take me) to learn the expertise that is roasting good quality coffee.

Like I said, this is all dreaming and forward thinking! While we have investors at Sweet Life we consider YOU our investors! You have prayed alongside us for the better of four years as well as encouraged us, blessed us financially and some of you have even come to visit and see what we are doing here!

 

 

Please continue to keep us in your prayers:

-Pray for Sweet Life: God’s will, presence and movement would be clear and evident.

-Pray for our kids as they adjust to new school routines and the next step in their education in First Grade(Loralie) and Kindergarten(Jack).

-Michelle has become involved in an anti-human trafficking group here in Krakow. There are several events she is working on being involved in, however we have limited time to invest so we need to make our time count.

-The Women’s prayer group Michelle is involved in. Building women up, speaking prophetic encouragement and loving those involved through relationship with our Father God.

 

Chapter 47: PDX Wedding

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Ephesians 6:23-24

Hello friends and family!

We want to start with the exciting news! We are anxiously awaiting the arriving of Brad’s parents at the end of this next week. Jack and Loralie have not seen Grandma and Grandpa Graves in over a year, while Dottie has not met them at all. We are all so excited! Also, in less than TWO short weeks Michelle’s twin sister is getting married! Brad’s parents will be watching Jack and Loralie while Brad, Michelle and Dottie travel to the USA.  We know that this is something we need to be there for as Brad will be officiating the ceremony (we love the Sautter family!) and could use as a short time of refocus. To date we have received $1500 of the $2500 needed!! Amazing!!  Michelle and I are truly humbled at how God has used so many people to help us make this trip turn into reality.

This month Loralie began First Grade.  She has done really well and is making new friends!  Any questions or hesitations of whether or not she  (we) were ready for her moving up have been answered….and she is ready and so are we! After Loralie’s first day of school she was invited back to her close friend’s house for an hour of fun. This filled Loralie’s love tank to the brim! Aside from that we have made many new connections with parents and hope that can grow some deeper relationships from them.  So amazed at how grown up she is!

The school decided to reformat it’s Preschool which means that Jack is now in the older group of two Kindergarten classes.  Jack is in Kindergarten!  Wow!  We cannot believe Jack is in Kindergarten!!! He is growing up so quickly, he could not even walk before we arrived in Poland.  His character and personality are really starting to shape up as he is a doting big brother both offering cuddles and a constant smile for his little sister. Also, Jack even decided that he was done with his nighttime pull-up!  So we have almost gone a full month with no diapers and no accidents!

Dottie is a constant source of Joy.  Her smile has the ability to help ease the pains and hard work of somewhat owning our own business.  She has started to eat more solid foods and has begun teething.  She even started to rock back and forth during tummy time….which means its only a matter of time before she’s crawling around.  At the rate she is babbling, she may be talking in no time!

We have made great progress on sourcing coffee from Honduras this last week after a cupping with local friends at their roaster. I believe we have one more sampling of coffee and then we will move forward on purchasing coffee directly from a farm.  It is really exciting to be able to see a dream of connecting the communities of farm and shop!  More news to come!

Please keep us in your prayers:

-Pray for Sweet Life: God’s will, presence and movement would be clear and evident.

-Pray for our kids as they adjust to new school routines and the next step in their education in First Grade(Loralie) and Kindergarten(Jack).

-Pray for our trip back to the states, for financial provision and work to run smoothly in our absence.

-We are getting ready to hit the ground running as October begins a busier season for us, and Krakow, in general.

-Michelle has become involved in an anti-human trafficking group here in Krakow. There are several events she is working on being involved in, however we have limited time to invest so we need to make our time count.

-The Women’s prayer group Michelle is involved in. Building women up, speaking prophetic encouragement and loving those involved through relationship with our Father God.

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has sent us a note to say you are praying for us and our family! The letters, comments, emails and phone calls has meant so much to us. We truly love you and thank God for such faithful friends and supporters! We would not be here without you and when we see a victory or experience immense blessing we have to thank YOU as well.

 

Please let us know how we can pray for you. As we have always said, we pray for you!

 

Also, if there is information you wish to know more about or if you want to know more specifically what we are doing here in Krakow, email us back and join our family! We are on this journey with you!

 

Brad, Michelle, Loralie, Jack and Dottie Graves

 

img_5707 img_6113 img_6224 img_6479 img_6489 img_6499 img_6509 img_6525 img_6538 img_6551 img_6101

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

top