You Don’t Have to Wear the Panty Hose

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I’ve been traveling for the past several weeks with my husband Jamie and our youngest daughter Andreya doing what missionaries do when not on the field: visiting churches and supporters, giving reports of what is happening with the work overseas. It’s been a great time of renewing friendships and meeting new friends.

Nevertheless, traveling so much has given me the unique opportunity to catch up with what’s trendy and new. I have to say, one of the coolest “new” things I have seen has been ordering food online and having it delivered to whatever address is entered into the proper fields. It’s possible to order a complicated burrito without speaking to a human being!

Another crazy new trend is the “virtual assistant” craze. A virtual assistant (or VA) is someone who offers administrative support that can range from making phone calls and writing emails to marketing online. This is something I’ve never even imagined but as I think of it, I can see how in today’s fast-paced society that having a virtual assistant could be a great benefit for certain people.

With the spread of the internet now reaching far and wide, people are able to upload ideas at an amazing speed and, with the right people reading those ideas, they can grow into “viral” trends in what seems to be the blink of an eye.

There’s a medical term, “social jet lag” that refers to the condition of falling victim to erratic sleep patterns causing exhaustion and a litany of other symptoms. This definition hails from the jet lag one experiences when travelling across time zones (a condition that I am well-versed in). However, I have begun to see social jet lag in another light. I define it as “the condition one succumbs to when trying to keep up with all of society’s trends.” I’m not sure if my definition will reach the heights of the online masses, but when I try to keep up with all of the trends in society today I feel socially jet lagged!

I remember when all the rage was to keep your roots colored; every 4-6 weeks women would flock to their local beautician to get their roots done so they wouldn’t have the dreaded line of “roots” showing. Fast-forward to a few years ago and the “ombre” look became all the rage. “Ombre” is having the longer parts of the hair colored a different color from the roots. Those of us who have been struggling to cover those roots for years became seriously confused. I still don’t know whether to color or not – am I in or am I out???

I remember when having a perm was all the rage – I sure hope it doesn’t come back any time soon. I was so relieved when I no longer had to perm my hair! Give me a hair straightener any day.

I remember when all the rage was to wear panty hose. They had many styles: sheer, control top, ultra-control top, sheer toe, reinforced toe, not to mention the rainbow of colors that were available.  These were to be put on by rolling them up and beginning at the toe, you rolled it up over your legs up to your waist. Either the hose would pull up seemingly to your chin or hang uncomfortably near your knees. If they were control top, they served as what felt like a corset (you couldn’t breathe too well wearing them).

Suddenly, after years of  wearing hose, that often came in cool egg-shaped containers, someone decided it was time to throw them away. Women everywhere struggled to adjust (and shave their legs more regularly) and some, like me, rejoiced thinking that we would never have to wear hose ever again.

Until someone invented leggings, jeggings, and skinny jeans.

Now women everywhere who had been liberated from the form-altering panty hose flood stores looking for the newest legging, jegging, and skinny jeans.

Aren’t these items simply panty hose with no feet?

Social jet lag, I feel it. I can’t keep up. I can’t be relevant at the pace with which society dictates I keep up.

Thankfully, I’m no longer 25 for when I was 25 I worried far too much about what was in and what was out what people did and didn’t like. I’ve learned as time has passed that it’s impossible to please everyone. In fact, it is very difficult to please more than 1 or 2 people at a time, if even that many.

Pile on top of my inability to keep up with the trends, the fact that I’m a missionary Jesus-lover. What would cause me to leave my own children, grandchildren, extended family, friends, and country? This is a question that is really very simple to answer and is not a very politically correct one: my life is not my own and I live to please Him Who gave Himself for me. I was a case before I came to Him and was on a road whose destination led nowhere but to sadness, but now that I know Him, every day is filled with hope and an expectation for something better. I don’t have all the answers as to how this change came, but I know Him Who changed me and that is answer enough.

This fact pushes me to live for Him and not myself. Don’t get me wrong, it stings to be away and I’m not sure I even fully understand this pull I have with my husband to work in Africa. I cry just like everyone else when saying goodbye; I miss my children and now grandchildren. Yet, I wonder how helpful living here would be for them when God has called their father and I to serve Him elsewhere. What kind of example would that be in the end? What would that teach them?

All of us, in different ways, have been called to serve the King and be part of His Kingdom. This call is not popular nor is it in any way relevant. The Gospel at its core confronts people with their need for a Savior, and this is not a popular message. We definitely need to use culture to appeal to those around us, but we must be aware of the fact that we cannot mute the voice of the Gospel that calls everyone everywhere to surrender to the King and His will.

Paul, when preaching at Athens in Acts 17, he studied the culture of the people (vs. 22,23) and appealed to them through using what he learned. Once he had their attention, he gave them the full download of truth from heaven that included confronting the parts of their culture that displeased God. I wonder how well we would receive Paul’s message today in our approval-driven society.

As approval-driven we are, we might project some of that onto our relationship with God and risk having the loving relationship He wants to have with us. God’s approval of us is not based on what we do; it is based on what He has done for us and our surrender to Him, our understanding that He did it all when we couldn’t do anything.

This life is too short to live for the trend of the moment. Rather, seize life for the adventure it is meant to be and live fully in the moments you have.

 “We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.”   Robert Moffat

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Getting My Roots Done

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I was really irritated; it seemed I had just come from having my hair done and I woke to my hair rebelling and growing. It needed to be retouched and I simply can’t easily find time to keep myself sorted. I mean, looking this way doesn’t just happen by chance.

Yes, I’ve fallen as most of us have for the lie that we need to work hard to keep things at least in a satisfactory condition. I won’t stop doing my hair any time soon, although I wonder if there might come a day that I’ll opt for something simpler than having my roots done every 2 ½ months or so, but I do know that there’s a nearly invisible line that I need to keep myself from crossing in order to keep things in the right perspective.

There are many things we allow ourselves to think are important when, really, they fall under the “optional” category. Some of those things might even fall into the “unnecessary” category. Finally, there are things we may entertain with the hope of improving ourselves that fall into the “don’t do it” category.

Why have we allowed ourselves to believe we need to adjust who we are in appearance, personality, or ability to the point that we become almost unrecognizable? I wonder if we are simply trying to fill a void inside of us that only God Himself can fill for when He fills us – His satisfaction of Who He is fills us.

God isn’t in the middle of an identity crisis nor does He feel the need to change His appearance according to the eclectic whims of society’s norms.

Jeremiah  9:24b TLB “Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast; and that I love to be this way.”

When we come to know God, when He becomes our Father and Jesus becomes our Lord, His desire is for us to know Who He is and to understand that He is very secure in Who He is. He doesn’t try to make Himself out to be anyone other than Who He is – and He wants us to be just as secure in who He has made us to be.

As a parent of 4 amazing children (3 grown and one 9-year-old), there’s little that moves me to tears more than having my children believe that they aren’t “enough” as individuals. I know, and their father knows, that they’re amazing – and if someone doesn’t recognize this and tries to get them to change who they are, my heart is grieved!

I can’t imagine what our Heavenly Father feels every time we bow to the pressures of society saying,

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re too young to understand.”

“You’ve lived overseas, what do you know about America?”

“You’re now too old to make a difference.”

“You’re out of touch with what’s relevant today.”

“You take God too seriously.”

Such statements make us feel very uncomfortable and bring us to question our internal values – those values we used to hold dear. That we are the children of God, that we are redeemed, that we are loved, that we are cherished, and that He makes up for all of what we lack. He makes us to be enough for Him which astounds me.

Since when have we stopped loving who God made us to be?

God, our Heavenly Father, is the only One I can take seriously in a day and age when opinions change daily. Everything from earthly friendships to politics are subject to change moment by moment according to what is acceptable – according to what is relevant and politically correct at the moment.

So, in response to everyone who may think I’m not enough, or think that I take God too seriously I say:

Yes, indeed, I take God very seriously because He takes me very seriously and won’t discard me as I am tomorrow. When I wake up, He is with me and when I sleep, He will be there. I am His, and He is mine, and that I have found is enough.

Psalm 139:17,18 NLT “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

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The “Why”

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“Why?”

It’s the question of the ages that has gone largely unanswered: Why do bad things happen?

The past months, our world has been inundated with bad news; catastrophe after catastrophe, loss after loss, and without much explanation. We struggle to get behind the reasons for the trouble; if we could know “the why” perhaps, we reason, we could come to terms with the outcomes we are facing.

Working in Central Africa years ago in Burundi during the time of civil war, I had my first real wrangling with trying to answer that question. The violence, which began in the country’s interior, had caused a migration of thousands to the capital city, Bujumbura, where we were living and pastoring our first church. Within a few weeks of the escalation of fighting, makeshift displaced persons camps were set up in the city. Initially, those in the camps were the elderly, women, and children who had fled the violence. Of course, as the weeks and months went by, those having less than noble characters hid themselves among the innocent making their plight in the camps even worse.

Hunger gripped the city and those fleeing the violence felt it more than most. As it is with most of these types of situations, the NGOs and worldwide community took a long time to respond and it was up to the local community to react – and spring into action we did. The ladies of the church and I, there were only a few of us at the time, decided to pool our resources and cook whatever we could find for the children. At first, we thought our outreach would last only a few weeks as we hoped along with everyone else in the country that things would “cool off” and life would return to normal. Little did we know that this situation would rock on for years to come.

God blessed and we found ourselves suddenly feeding hundreds and thousands of hungry mouths. We worked to bring children’s church lessons to the children as well as finding ways to provide medical care when needed. It’s easy in these situations to get swallowed by the need and allow the pressures of the situation take a front and center position in life. After some time of being witness firsthand to the anguish felt by mothers who watched their children suffer the effects of the war, I found myself pulled into the whirlpool of “why?”

“Why, God, is this allowed to happen?” Became the mantra of my prayers, and it went largely unanswered for a long period of time.

The stress of having to find the answer to that question produced an anger in my heart that I couldn’t immediately shake. It pushed me at first to work harder, which caused me to nearly neglect my own family and health. I became exhausted and felt as if I was the “only one” who cared if the children lived or died. I went to meeting after meeting of NGOs, who by that time had tried to involve themselves in the relief effort going on in the country, and felt I was unheard by those who apparently “knew more” about the situation even though all they did was dictate how to work from their air-conditioned offices surrounded by private security. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the ground scrambled to bring what help we could to the children.

One morning, I went to the local market to purchase some food supplies and while there I saw, for the first time, stacks and stacks of food clearly marked “not for resale – for distribution only” for sale. Incensed, I reported it to the organizations responsible, but there was no change. Those items continued to be for sale in the market and no one took notice. I was disillusioned and disappointed by those saying they wanted to help but only seemed to profit from the pain of the people. It seemed no matter how hard I worked, it wasn’t enough to mean much, adding further complication to my “why?”

Once I grew tired of being angry, tired of asking why and not understanding, I surrendered to God and changed my question from “why?” to “how can I help without being swallowed?” For I came to the understanding that the answers to the “why’s” were so far-reaching that it went beyond my ability to explain:

Why do people hate one another to the point of killing those they hate and their children?

Why won’t more people help?

Why are the poor marginalized?

The answers to those questions lie within the hearts of those committing hate motivated atrocities; there’s no understanding that can be applied to hate. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and if we aren’t careful, we, too, can be “rightfully” infected with a hate for what we cannot understand and, in the end, does that make us any better than they are?

The only answer I have found for hate is love. Loving more, loving extravagantly, loving when it is easy, and when it is hard for love is an easy load to carry. Jesus never asked us to take up something we can’t bear, for He bore it all for us and what He calls us to carry is light in comparison to what this world would lay on our shoulders:

Matthew 11:29-30 NKJ “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

As time has gone on, I have learned to keep reaching out, keep caring, keep loving people even though I can’t understand the motivations behind their situations. I only carry in me a better way to live – through the love of God.

Galatians 5:6 NLT For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus…. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”

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