Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Week

Yes, I know, it's been way too long since my last post. But I think I have some good excuses. The first week of orientation was pretty crazy, and I wasn't always clear on what I could and couldn't talk about in a public forum.

Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, on our first week in D.C.

I really enjoy wearing a suit everyday, but it's no bueno in the summer. Unfortunately, all my ties ended up packed in our air shipment (no word yet on delivery) so I've been forced to expand my tie collection.

Traffic is fairly horrendous on the main roadways, but everything we need is pretty close. That said, GPS has been invaluable.

I love the Metro. Our aparment complex runs a shuttle all day from the front office to the nearest metro station (8-9 blocks away). It's a nice break from driving everywhere, and walking is nice.

I didn't think I would get MORE excited about my new job, but I am. Some of the briefings have been kinda sleepy, but we've heard some great testimony from other FSOs at all career levels.

This week we received our bidlists--the list of available assignments for entry-level officers. Sara and I have spent a good amount of time reviewing the list, ranking the assingments, and researching the posts. We find out on July 20 where our first assignment will be, and I'll make sure to post it promptly here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Multi-day Update

Monday 6/15
Pack-out was a challenge. We basically had two sets of movers collecting two different shipments: a 600 lb air shipment coming to our D.C. apartment, and a ground shipment going to storage (the rest of our stuff). There was some general confusion among the parties about who was supposed to be taking what, but eventually the ground folks finished up and left. But then it turned out that we were over our weight limit for the air shipment. The packers stopped at 600 lbs and left, and we still had stuff left in our apartment. We moved into the hotel and spent the evening with friends.

Tuesday 6/16
After many phone calls, we arranged for the movers to come out again on Wednesday to collect the rest of our junk and take it to storage. It was the only option we had that didn’t result in us incurring substantial cost. During the day, we did all of our laundry and ran a few other errands. We had a great evening at our friends’ house.

Wednesday 6/17
Malachi slept in until 8:45! We headed back to the apartment to pack the car. It’s amazing what you can fit into a compact car when you’re really committed. A lady from our church came to clean our apartment, so after she got started we headed back to the hotel for napping. We came back in time to meet the movers. Locking the apartment for the last time was a bit surreal. Now the only key on our keychain is for the car; we are officially homeless for three days. We hung out with friends the rest of the night.

Thursday 6/18
Finally, we got underway. We don’t move in to our D.C. apartment until Saturday, so we are taking our time. As I write this, we’re in our hotel room in Memphis. We arrived around dinner time, so after checked-in we took the trolley to a BBQ restaurant for ribs. On the way back, Malachi played in the fountains with some other kids. Tomorrow, we head across Tennessee to Kingsport, and then continue on to D.C. on Saturday. We’re getting a two-bedroom apartment right away (we were originally scheduled for a one-bedroom temporarily), so that’s pretty exciting. Enjoy the pics below.

Finally on the road!

Malachi stuffed into the only available space in the car.

A great place for ribs in Memphis.

Malachi in the fountains.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving Day

Movers just arrived. Did we organize well enough? What will we find ourselves without when we get to D.C.? How much trash will be stored in Maryland for years to come. Will a cockroach family hitch a ride in our stuff? Only time will tell.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Waked Up

“I already waked up!” was the announcement that jarred me from deep dreaming to fully awake. For the first time ever, Malachi got up on his own instead of calling for mommy & daddy. We’ve been trying to get him to do that for months, but I wish he had picked a different day--like a day when Sara had been in bed too (I suspect she stayed up all night reading--I haven’t seen her yet this morning).

This is the last day of our Minnesota trip, and one week from tomorrow we move into our new place in D.C. We’ve had a great time here--we accomplished out goal in less time than we thought, and have visited with lots of friends and family. We have one more friend/family gathering tonight and then we leave early tomorrow for Dallas.

Tomorrow is our going away open house and dinner with friends. Sunday we have a gathering after church with more friends, and Monday the movers come. We’ll be in a hotel for our last three nights in Texas.

Ok, I’ve written slowly enough that everyone else is up. I was right about the all-night reading.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Apparently, I’m a packrat. We came to MN to go through the many boxes we had stored at my parents’ house for the last 6 years. But there was a distinct pattern with almost every box: cut it open, look inside, Sara: "More of your crap, babe."

Out of roughly 25 boxes, only 5-6 were exclusively Sara’s stuff, and at least 15 were exclusively mine. I found a couple of old treasures, like a chunk of the Berlin Wall, my Micro Machines (as previously mentioned), and my old pig puppet, Francoine. I estimate that we ended up trashing about 1/5 of the total contents of our storage, and donating about ¼ of it to goodwill. We left a tidy pile of boxes in the attic.

We’re hoping that the shipment dates from MN to storage and from storage to our first post will work out such that we could bring some of those items. But if not, we can always grab them before our second post. I figure if we’ve done alright for 6 years without them, we can stand another 2.

Monday, June 8, 2009


So we're in Minnesota to sort through boxes of things at my parents' house. Later, we will have most of those things sent to storage in Maryland. For now, it's been fun to find (read: play with) some of my old Construx and Micro Machines. But that's not what I want to talk about right now.

When we handed our IDs to the agent at the check-in counter yesterday, he glanced at Sara's and immediately handed it back to her. But mine he scrutinized, squinting, examining it in great detail. After looking back and forth between the computer screen and my drivers license several more times, he made a phone call--the kind of phone call where your voice is barely audible because you don't want people around to hear you.

He hung up the phone and announced that he would be right back before disappearing through a door behind the counter. He returned a few minutes later and handed me my ID.

Him: You're good to go.

Me: Sooo...what was that about.

Him: Hm? Oh, apparently you're on a "No-Fly" list.

Me: WHAT?!

Him: Well, not YOU, but someone with your name. But we cleared you.

Me: So how do you know it isn't me?

Him: We checked the birthdate.

Me: Is is older or younger than me?

He didn't have an answer that could clue me into my doppelganger's identity. I wonder if it might be Patrick Roy's son--he seems to get into trouble fairly often. Anyway, I sense that having my name on a "No-Fly" list is going to make travel pretty interesting for a while. I wonder if getting my diplomatic passport will make things easier.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Beginnings

This is a copy of an email that I sent to many people today, my last day at work. I reposted it here for those who I may have forgotten.

This is my last day at Benny Hinn Ministries after nearly 5 ½ years. I have enjoyed my time here immensely and thank God for the privilege of working for both temporal and eternal rewards.

Without a doubt the best part has been working with all of you. There is nothing like being surrounded by Christ-filled coworkers when stress sets in. And there is nowhere else quite like BHM. Thank you so much for your love and friendship. Please share this message with others I may have forgotten to copy (sorry!).

As Sara, Malachi, and I walk through the door God has opened, we will treasure and continue to pray for you and this ministry.

For those who are interested, you may follow our lives and adventures on our blog:

Again, thank you for the years of memories and prayers. God bless you.

He is faithful,


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


This is for my wife, who is concerned that my blog is nothing but State Department recruiting propaganda.

We are two weeks and two days from our move and feeling the pressure.

This is my last week (and Sara’s last day) of work. It’s been especially busy here as I try to 1) document everything that I do, 2) prepare to train my replacement, and 3) offload many responsibilities to other people. And the busyness doesn’t end when I leave the office.

While we’re not allowed to pack any of our things (the movers handle that), we do have to separate our junk into things we want to have in D.C., and things that will be stored until we move to our first post. Our place in D.C. will be fully furnished, so we won’t need much more than clothes, toys, and a few things to remind us of home. The remainder of our personal effects will go into storage until we move to our first overseas post. At that point, we will designate some things to follow us quickly (weeks), some to follow slowly (months), and the rest to remain stored in the U.S.

We will be in Minnesota next week visiting family & friends and relieving my parents of boxes of who-knows-what they’ve stored for six years. I haven’t been up there in over a year so I’m excited for the trip, but wish it was a little longer.

Our pack-out is scheduled for two days after we get back from Minnesota, and we head out three days later.

We’ve been trying to divide our remaining time between preparing for the move and visiting with friends. This is definitely a bittersweet departure. Our time in Texas has been incredible, and we wouldn’t leave for anything less than the opportunity of a lifetime.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How I Came to the Foreign Service – 3

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is the first step in joining America’s diplomatic corps. I took the test in July of 2008, but I began preparing for it much earlier.

Here is a brief description of the test for those who don’t click the link:

The test will measure your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer [including]…

  • Job knowledge – [covers] a broad range of topics including but not limited to the structure and workings of the U.S. government, U.S. and world history, U.S. culture, psychology, management theory, finance and economics, and world affairs. In addition, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic.
  • English expression
  • A biographic information section that asks you to describe your work style, your manner of interacting and communicating with others, and your approach to other cultures.

I’d heard various opinions on studying for the exam, ranging from “it’s impossible to study for,” to “at least a year of prep is recommended.” But the perspective I agree with most is “it’s the test you’ve been preparing for your whole life.” Some of my studying helped on the test, but mostly I benefited from years of loving to learn.

Still, I did prepare quite a bit:
A little over a year before the test (and before I even planned on taking it) I started listening to NPR on the way to and from work everyday (~2 hours daily). This one habit, more than anything else, did the most for me.

I also subscribed to Newsweek and Foreign Affairs magazine, and read them cover to cover. I read several online news sources everyday. I purchased and surveyed economics and management textbooks (thank God for Half Price Books). I read several books off the suggested reading list. One, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, taught me a lot about myself.

I memorized the geographic position of every country in the world using this site (Africa was the hardest). I brushed up on U.S. history, researched government structure, and memorized portions of the Constitution. I practiced writing essays quickly and had my wife proof my writing and logic. Having just completed an English degree, I wasn’t very worried about this section of the test.

On test day, I watched Hot Fuzz to relax. Honestly, the test wasn’t that bad. The biographical section took me by surprise, but the government’s NDA prevents me from saying more. I felt pretty good when I finished, and sat back to wait two months for my results.