Posted in Family, Good night, Mother's Day, Perspective, Time

The Last Time Mama Tucked Me In

I wrote this in 2015 remembering my mother and wanted to reshare it as I remember my mother this Mother’s Day weekend. She’s been gone for almost 11 years, but she’s not gone from my heart. Happy Mother’s Day Aiti. I love you!

_______________________________________

I tucked in my little seven-year-old girl last night in her bed in her bedroom. She had a night light. She had her music. She had her baby doll that she had to have for Christmas. She had the most important item of all: her blanket. We were all lying down in our beds and sleep had begun to descend on us when I feel a light tap on my arm. I opened my eyes and the unmistakable voice of my baby girl wakes me up:

“I can’t sleep.”

We tried to get her to her bed a few more times; it’s late and school comes early in the morning so guess who makes her bed next to mine, gets tucked in, and sleeps soundly? This happens so much in our house that our three grown children complain that she has gotten the princess treatment.

Perhaps she has, I reason with them. I do, however, distinctly remember all three of them on the floor in our room many weekends. Three a night in our room = three nights with one seven-year-old. I’ve won the fight of reason, albeit barely.

I’ve watched all three of the older ones grow – the first two have already left home and the signs of the third one leaving are already there. The truth of the nest becoming emptier are all around me and still my little one remains with me for a while.

It’s been some years since I left home to marry my husband. I remember all of the activity surrounding the events of our courtship, engagement and then wedding. There was a shower, presents, dress fittings, florist visits, and rehearsals to tend to. My mom, she went to be with the Lord in September 2008, was busy with preparations and invitations. As time for the wedding drew close, we were like ships passing in the night as she worked and I was going to school and working. We didn’t have much time to connect.

The night of the rehearsal dinner came and went. Afterwards, we all went home to try to get some sleep. Nervous, I checked my dress, rechecked it and made sure my shoes were still where I placed them in the closet. In finally fell into a light sleep after some nervous hours. In the middle of the night as I was dozing, I saw a light turn on in the hallway and the unmistakable silhouette of my mother enter my room. I laid there as she put her hands on my shoulder and prayed for me and cried, wiping tears as she asked for the Lord’s blessing on my life. After some time, she tucked me in for one last time and left the room.

My eyes are now drawn to the little bed on the floor. Mom’s prayers have carried me for many years and have touched all my children and landing on bonus baby number four. For now, I think I’ll keep working on tucking her in in her room but when she needs to come and have a “mom and dad scare the bad dreams away” sleepover in our room I’ll be happy to pray for her and remember the last time mama tucked me in.

She will spread her wings soon enough. Until then? Come here sweet one, mama is here.

Posted in Family, Love, Marriage, Missions

Lists, Beds and Dishes

Someone once said to me that they admired me because I was organized enough to get things done without writing a list. I stopped and thought for a moment and realized it was true. Lists weren’t something I adhered to mostly because if I wrote one I would forget that I wrote it and forget where I placed it! I tend to wake up in the morning and just go and do what needs to be done.

My husband, Jamie, is the polar opposite when it comes to listing. When asked what he has going for the day, his reply, “Let me look at my list.” He’s very old school when it comes to lists in that he writes everything down that he wants to get done every day. I’ve learned not to look down on his list system as he gets things done and rarely forgets something that has been listed. I even ask him to write things down to remind me – he gets a bit upset when I ask him and wants to know why I won’t write my own lists to which I reply:

You know I’ll forget that I wrote it down and I’ll forget where I put it. It’s not rocket science, I get up and go and hope the chips land in the right places by the end of the day.

I think it’s pretty amazing how we have learned to function over the years. We used to clash over things like listing and washing dishes but over time (35 years this July!) we have evolved in our understanding of one another. For example, he doesn’t understand why I like the bed made because:

We’re just going to sleep again tonight, why bother making it again?

To which I respond:

Then you have no opinion over what bedspreads or decorative things I use.

We are at peace! At first, he didn’t make the bed and I got somewhat used to his view on the matter. Now as the years have passed, I’ve found the bed made from time to time when I’ve not made it! I think he must like me.

Years ago when we first moved overseas, I was busy with three young children at home and naturally let him cover most of the mission office work. I thought I had enough on my plate (and I did) just trying to get from morning til evening with the family. I reckoned that he should take care of the office – until I watched him one day. Jamie worked hard to keep everything in order but was swimming in administration. I’m pretty good at telling people what to do, at least that is what my kids have said, so I quietly (almost imperceptibly) began taking much of the administrational load from him. Slowly I assumed the task of writing our newsletters, overseeing some accounting for him, and other mundane but necessary tasks. I think I really like him a lot.

We have learned to take up the slack for the other; neither expects the other to fit into some prefabricated mold. Our responsibilities overlap in such a way that works for us, our marriage isn’t what’s “my” job or “your” job. Our marriage and everything that it’s about is “our” job. Sometimes that calls me to give a bit more and other times he gives a bit more, and we try not to keep track of who is ahead in giving. We’re cool with one another like that.

I didn’t set out to write about our enigmatic way of working together but this blog, like our life together, doesn’t ever end up looking like what it started out to be! Life with Jamie has been an adventure, I can never say he’s not taken me anywhere. I can also say it’s been very good to grow together in love as we wait for the next part of our adventure to unfold.

At the same time, I still like the bed made and dishes washed and he still likes lists. Maybe I should write him a list about the dishes and bed? Nah, that might be pushing it.

M7WWsTxUSrSxI7dFu3rd9w

 

Posted in Despair, Destiny, Endurance, Faith, Family, God's call, Missions, Perspective, Rewards, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, The Call of God

Always

I’m happy.

The fact that I can say that despite all of things that need attention around me makes my head spin. I have so many frying pans in the fire that I’m running out of firewood! Spreading myself thin has taken on a new meaning in the past few years. By no means is this a complaint – I wouldn’t live a life other than the one I am now living – but if I’m not careful I can quickly slip into feeling overwhelmed, sad, and helpless wondering about what I left behind in the wake of answering the call that lies before me.

I tried a few times in my lifetime to fit into the normal mold of what a Christian mother/wife/leader (whatever I am) is supposed to look like. The popular Bible studies and books meant to “better” my life all lined my bookshelves; they didn’t just line my bookshelves, I read them all and I learned, oh did I learn, that I am an enigma among my peers. This has caused me great frustration over the years; I would find myself wondering (and sometimes still do find myself wondering) what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just like everyone else and be satisfied with what normal people are satisfied with?

I’ve long dreamt of a home of our own to settle down in. My husband and I have tried a couple of times to “settle down” and do what we thought was expected/needed from us. I lived in a house in the USA for just over 2 years that I loved. I thought this was to be the place where my grandchildren would visit me and I would finally be able to “nest.” I kept it well; I loved it so – but the tug for what waited for me on the other side of the horizon called my name every morning and evening.  I planted a garden and a hedge and it was beautiful but there came a time when a choice had to be made and we drove away from that home for the last time. We once again said goodbye and boarded a plane, looking for the place that kept calling our names from the other side of the world.

I’ve dreamt of being a normal mother and grandmother. Well, I know I’d never be normal in the classic sense of the word, but I have dreamt of being accessible, nearby, to see my grown children have children and watch their families grow. I pictured myself wearing bright red lipstick, driving with my grandchildren to buy toys and ice cream and feeling their little arms around my neck and telling them how much I love them. Seeing them through Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime does little to soothe the ache that fills my chest whenever their names are uttered. Then, they resume living and I hear our names called from far and I have to answer.

On a far less serious note, I’ve dreamt of having a dishwasher, a SUPERMARKET with lunch meat, hairspray, shampoo, soap, and Ziplock bags, and a nice salon where I can get my hair done – ice cream would be amazing too.

In the distance, however, a people calls our names and where they are, I can’t find any of these things but what I do find in doing God’s will brings me deep joy that I can’t explain.

I suppose today’s blog is my Thanksgiving blog and I have so much for which to be thankful – and at the same time I find myself wishing that the traditional Thanksgiving turkey would be on our table tomorrow. I wish for the day to be surrounded by all those who are far, to hear a loud football game playing on TV for my husband, to pray a Thanksgiving prayer and tell each one how much I love them.

But a traditional Thanksgiving is not in the cards for us this year. We don’t have a turkey, no stuffing, no eggnog, no gravy, and no football game (although I’m quite sure my youngest son will find a way to send his dad a link to view the game). What is in the cards for our Thanksgiving is a day with those who are here with us. We will have, of all things, homemade enchiladas with salad and a cake for dessert. With those family members and friends we have here we will give thanks, thanks for all we have and for the opportunity to answer the call. Yes, I thank God for the opportunity to say yes, to obey Him, to grow enough in courage and faith to answer when He called.

The call took away so much of what we would consider “dear:” family, friends, culture, language, finance, and more. Things that you don’t think you would miss like toothpaste and your preferred brands of shampoo suddenly become a big deal when every day you are reminded of all that you have left to answer Heaven’s charge.

While all of this could sound bleak to one who’s never answered their call, those of us who have heard our names calling us from lands afar, “count it all joy.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 119:2 LB “Happy are all who search for God and always do His will.”

 

 

Posted in Change, Correction, Cross, Family, Forgiveness, Kindness, Kingdom, Missions

Be Nice

I remember one of my favorite things to say to my 3 older kids when they were growing up was:

“Be nice.”

Sometimes it felt nearly impossible to get through a day without a major crisis unfolding between 2 or all 3 of them. The oldest would pop the youngest over the head, the 2nd born (a daughter) would take great delight in getting her 2 brothers in trouble, and the 3rd born relished in the fact that he had it a bit easier than his 2 older siblings. Now, with a 4th one that came a full 15 years after our 3rd, you know there is a lot of “you didn’t do that for us” going around.

Well, I confess, there’s truth to that statement, but we learn as we go don’t we? While we were waiting for our first child to be born, I remember thinking how I would do everything better than everyone else (why I thought this I am not sure). I knew how I wanted to raise my child in a certain way that was better than everyone else’s. I was sure that my household would be quiet, peaceful, the laundry would always be folded, dinner on the table, and everyone would be nice.

tenor

Fast forward 10 years and I found myself up to my neck in raising children, living abroad, and somehow working as a full-time missionary Africa. I honestly do not know how I made it through those days with my mind still somewhat intact. The amount of work that just goes into running a household here is stupefying; there is no fast food (thankfully), no quick place to shop (you go to the market which is an all-day ordeal), and keeping the house clean is a whole other blog for another day. All of this doesn’t take into account the work of the mission and church. At the end of every day (much like you wherever you are), both then and now, I wonder how I made it and continue to make it and follow my own counsel to “be nice.” Honestly, I wasn’t always as nice as I had hoped to be – but I always worked on it and am still working on it!

Ephesians 4:31,32 LB “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.”

In the current supercharged world of “speaking our minds,” many have forgotten the need for those of us identifying as Christians to just be nice, be kind to each other. Everywhere we look these days be it online, TV, print, or in person there’s a strong negative current to “speak up for what is right.” We are ambassadors of the Kingdom and our righteous King, but we won’t convince anyone of their need for Christ if our righteousness is covered in ugliness. No matter the situation, Scripture is clear on the matter, we must be nice.

Society has always been ugly, humanity has always been divided, and the church can’t fulfill her mission when she looks, acts, and speaks like the world. Whatever happened to following Jesus advice to “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NLT)

Have you ever noticed how exhausting it is to force change with anger or frustration? I wonder how many ulcers and troubles with high blood pressure could be averted by simply being nice. 

I learned this truth the hard way years ago serving here on the continent when I saw much hunger, injustice, and unnecessary death. I worked myself to the bone trying to bring change; no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many hungry and vulnerable children I fed, there were still more than needed feeding and despite my valiant efforts, people still went hungry. I became tired and bitter about my situation and the unfairness of it all – until one day, after sickness forced me to rest, I understood that anything pulling me from Jesus’ yoke that gives me rest is not His will for me. Over time I began to understand that this fallen world is full of sin and sin can’t be dealt with on our terms. Anger, frustration, overworking, and self-righteousness pull us away from His way to address man’s fallen nature by just being nice. The response of humanity to the message of the cross is not my responsibility; I am only responsible to bring the Good News. As long as there is sin in the world, there will be division, injustice, and pain.

This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth for Scripture clearly instructs us to “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) What is our motive for speaking out and what is our method? If love for those we see lost in sin is our motive, then our methods will line up with Scripture – otherwise we are only adding fuel to the fire of division instead of bringing Christ in to redeem the situation.

How has frustration over the sinfulness of this world worked for us thus far? How has being angry helped any situation? Jesus walked this fallen earth and seldom was seen showing outright anger and frustration to the world; He had come to save them, give Himself for them – He died for them. His frustration was seen in the temple, among the “righteous,” who were too bsuy enriching themselves to reach out to those who really needed help – those outside of the temple (for us this can be taken to mean the church).

My youngest daughter loves the movie, “Frozen” and the theme song, “Let it go.” I rarely spiritualize animated movies but today I will make an exception. Those things frustrating you, those unfair, unrighteous, unholy, difficult things that anger you – let them go. Take Jesus’ yoke on you, He is the only One qualified to measure out judgment. Now is the time to be the church in the world, speak in love, and simply put:

Be nice.

 

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Comfort, Courage, Destiny, Familiarity, Family, Missions

Abnormally Normal

wintry-2068298_1920

“If you do not hope, you do not find out what is beyond your hopes.”                           Clement of Alexandria

I’ve hoped and dreamed and trusted for so many years for so many things – some have come to pass and some haven’t. Why have some come to pass and others haven’t? I don’t think I’m able to grasp the “why” of each circumstance, but I do know that I somehow still find in myself the grip of my going on with my dreaming, hoping, and trusting.

What if what I’ve dreamed of, hoped for, and trusted is on the way is just beyond this moment I’m in?

What is the alternative to dreaming, hoping and trusting?

I’ve heard it said that if you shoot for the moon, you might hit the stars. If you shoot for nothing, that is exactly what you will get. I think the chance of hitting a few stars is more appealing to me than achieving nothing at all!

As if our own internal struggles weren’t enough to tempt us to discouragement, there are those who have taken up the cause to help us “think things through logically.” Or to be “wise” in the way we approach things. Indeed, we are to live in wisdom, but not the wisdom that this world is accustomed to:

1 Corinthians 1:20,21, CEB “Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, He determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.”

Wisdom that comes from God will always run cross-grain to that what this world considers to be wise. Certainly my life doesn’t appear to have been lived wisely as far as this world’s wisdom is concerned. First of all, I didn’t get a degree that would promise me a lucrative career; imagine spending years studying Theology and Christian Social Ministry. It doesn’t bring in much money even though I earned my Master’s Degree – nevertheless I loved every bit of my studies. A part of me wishes I could go on further but time, location, and cost give me reason to pause!

Where I’m located (Burundi) also presents a problem as far as the wisdom of this world is concerned. I’m far from family, friends, and my home culture – I can’t tell you how painful it is to be far from our families but The Name is worth the living and giving of all of our lives (see Acts 5:41, that’s a blog for another day). To fit in, I’ve had to learn languages, cultural cues that make no sense to me, and face misunderstanding on every side. Why choose to be far away? Why choose such a road? How will you afford retirement (we have saved regularly but it’s far from what is projected that we would need later on in life, missions work is not lucrative)? How will you pay for all the things you say you’re going to do?

There are no easy answers to any of those questions as far as “normal” people are concerned and it’s painfully obvious that I’m not a normal person and I didn’t marry a normal person either. We are a terrific misfit couple and are comfortable in our “abnormal” normal (for us) life. This doesn’t mean we don’t struggle or feel anything, it simply means that the One Who pulls us to do what we do, hope for what we hope for, dream as we do, and trust when everything says “give up” is far more powerful than any opposition and hardship we face.

Who will step in and resuce me when things go upside down? Not anyone who has tried to convince me to do something more “reasonable” with my life – for they would find something unfortunate to say even if I lived “safely” according to what the world thinks is wise. The only One Who has the power to save, and has saved me each and every time I’ve needed it, stands by my side keeping watch over me and mine.

Psalm 11:1,4 LB “How dare you tell me, ‘Flee to the mountains for safety,’ when I am trusting in the Lord?…But the Lord is still in His holy temple; He still rules from heaven…”

He still rules and that is more than enough for me.

 

 

Posted in Choices, Distractions, Family, Mercy, Missions, Perspective, Time

Temper Tantrums and Leftovers

lego-568039_1920

“You just don’t want me to have fun!”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard those words. If you haven’t, it’s most likely because your children are still very young. Sometime around the 2nd or 3rd grade mark, children begin to think that their parents’ goal in life is to keep them from having fun.

Mom: “Clean up your toys.”

Son/daughter: “I’m not done playing with them.”

Mom: “They’ve been out for 3 days, it’s time to put them away.”

Son/daughter: “You just don’t want me to have fun!” This is often accompanied by a strong folding of the arms or stomping of feet for emphasis.

Now that my 4th child is 10 years old and I have a bit of experience under my belt, I know how to reason a bit with her when she begins to go down that spiral of, “You just don’t want me to have fun!” The other day I sat with her and asked her, “Why would I want you not to have fun? What good would I get from you not having fun? I want you to have fun – why else would I have gotten you all these toys? To have fun of course.” Cue the blank stare…I usually have 2 or 3 minutes to get a meaningful bit of communication in before the curtain of attention falls.

lego-708088_1920

My life is full. There’s no real reason for me to have a temper tantrum with my Father over things that I have/don’t have or things I have asked for but have yet to see. Yet, I somehow find opportunities to fold my arms, as it were, and look at my Father and say, “You just don’t want me to have fun!”

On the occasion that I have obeyed in some area, much like my children have been at home, I will think that my obedience gives me “credit” or “points earned” towards favorable outcomes in life – especially in those “spiritual” arenas of life. Since we are missionaries and all of what we do is basically for the Kingdom, it’s easy for me to think that God should understand and will hand everything to me on a silver platter. If things don’t work out as I think they should, “You just don’t want me to have fun!” Complete with folded arms and stomping feet.

“I’m doing this for You! Where is the money to get this vision You gave us to get this done?”

Yet, the things He had given me before are still strewn all over the floor. The new believers who need following up, leaders that need to be trained, and the community outreaches that need to be developed are still unorganized and waiting to be tended to.

If I’m honest with myself, there’s much that I am able to do without money. In fact, helping  someone develop in their life with the Lord takes more time than it does money – and time is something no one is willing to part with easily. In our era of “time management” and scheduling, we find it difficult to invest what’s needed in people to see them grow into their potentials. We have families, jobs, hobbies, sports, and recreational activities we have to fit into our schedules. Doesn’t God want us to be happy? Sounds a bit familiar.

hurry-2119711_1920

We can find scripture and verse to assuage the guilt that tries to assault our hearts when we consider what we should be doing when it comes to our participation in God’s work. We want more “fun time” while God our Father is asking us to collect what is strewn on the floor around us.

John 6:12 NKJV“So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’”

What is significant about the leftovers is that God takes what others would consider useless and scrape into the trash. After a large holiday meal, what’s leftover is often tossed into the trash bin as everyone has already had enough to eat. Without giving it another thought, the designated kitchen cleanup crew won’t bother with the odd bits and pieces of leftovers. Why save them? Everyone is full! Throw them away! Unless there’s an old-time auntie or grandma in the group who insists on taking the leftovers home. “It will keep me full for days!” she says while collecting the last few dinner rolls and scrapings of casserole.

The lives of people that are scattered as fragments in our societies won’t collect themselves. Much like our families’ cleanup crews, the disciples would have most likely preferred to have left the crumbs on the ground. They had already worked and served thousands, but after all of their work, Jesus told them, “Gather the fragments.” They might have wondered, “Why gather fragments? They’re just trash.” Until all the fragments came to 12 baskets full – I am sure that 12 baskets of leftovers fed many, perhaps for days.

italy-1454688_1920

The things we allow ourselves to make time for are what become precious to us. Family and friends are precious for they take up our time. However, family and friends, with time, change. Children grow up and leave, friends move, life inevitably changes, and unless we have simultaneously invested in those things that are timeless, such as God’s work, we will find ourselves hungry and life will appear meaningless.

Once upon a time, like you, I was a fragment, someone whose life didn’t appear to be meaningful enough to gather. I’m so glad that someone took the time for me – someone saw value in the broken fragment of me so I wasn’t thrown away. Surely I have time to do the same.

Posted in Adoption, Choices, Family, Mercy, Why

The Paintbrush…

I have four children, each one is precious to me. My firstborn was the first: the first child born to our family, the first one we taught to walk, the first one we walked to school, and the first one to leave home. He was the “trial run” that paved the way for his siblings. I’ll never forget what it felt like to find out for the first time we were going to have a baby, the first time that I held him, and the first time that he smiled at me. Our daughter came a little more than 4 years later. She was the easy-going baby who had to stop and look at every flower, laugh whenever her daddy played with her, and cuddled close to me at bedtime. By the time number 3 came around, we were “professional” parents. He was our funny child; always ready to laugh, always ready for a game, and since we thought he was the last baby, we made sure to enjoy him as much as we could. Fast-forward 15 years and surprise! We were blessed with a bonus baby: number 4 who captured all of us. She had been abandoned in a local government hospital in Malawi where we lived at the time (we still live in Malawi) and when we saw her, we knew she was meant for our family to raise.

After a long and arduous process to adopt her, she became our daughter legally. Our oldest son made the long trip over to Malawi from the States (he had moved Stateside to finish his education by this time) and was with us when the time came to appear before the judge. It was a special day, seeing the first one all handsome and grown, together with this little baby and I thought, “It’s not fair that little ones like her should suffer, that millions around the world should suffer.”

“It’s not fair!” It’s the cry of kids at home worldwide. Each one of my children has cried foul whenever another was introduced into the family. Fairness, as I have come to define it, is an unseen scale by which we measure treatment. All parents try their best to be fair, but as all parents know, what is right for one child may not be right for the other. My second born child never needed a bedtime when she was young because she would fall asleep very early on her own. My oldest, on the contrary, needed a bedtime because he could stay awake until late and then struggle to get up to go for school. What wise parents do is give all their children a level playing field where all are given equal amounts of understanding, mercy, and love.

God is the Ultimate Parent, He knew that all His children would need unlimited mercy, understanding, and love. In His wisdom He affords everyone the same opportunity and sets us on a level playing field.

Romans 11:32 ESV“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all.”

All of us need mercy, just as our children need mercy when they blow it (and we all know that they do) and all of us have been given the same opportunity to be forgiven. On our individual journeys, it may seem what is happening to us isn’t fair. Perhaps the best way to view it isn’t through the limited lens of fairness but painted with the broad brush of mercy that exceeds what any of us deserves.

We naturally paint the world around us with our understanding of fairness, of what is right and just. Where we stumble as we interpret our world is judging on the surface by that unseen standard of what we think is fair. Were we to know the entire backstories to those issues we are witness to, it might be that our opinions would change. There is only One Who knows the backstories to all the unfairness in the world and He is the only One Who is equipped to understand it all. I don’t suppose, if we knew even a bit of what He knew, that we would be so quick to see things as “unfair.”

As I am writing this, I can hear baby number 4, who is now 10 years old, laughing while she’s playing with her friend. That we listened to God’s heart to take her in when we saw her is an image of God painting a life with His love and mercy. You see, it is only through the hands of His children can He extend mercy to others. Imagine if we all, instead of wondering about the fairness of it all, would paint the lives of those around us with mercy.

Posted in Choices, Family, Fasting, God's Word, Missions, Sacrifice

About Those Potato Chips

The food that potato chips bought.

This time of year, we take part in a fast. It’s always a very meaningful time where we push back and set our minds on our relationship with the Lord and what He has planned for us in the coming year. It’s kind of a reset button that helps us keep our ears and hearts open to God’s voice. No one enjoys the physical process of fasting, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

At home, we’ve always encouraged (never forced of course) our young children to give up, or fast, certain activities (TV and other forms of media for example) or unnecessary snacks for a period of time. Our youngest is an avid potato chip fan – she knows most of what’s available here and panics when the chip stash runs low. This year, she has laid down the chips and has somehow enjoyed the sacrifice. Of course it’s not a full chip fast but it’s precious nonetheless!

One of the often overlooked parts of fasting has to do with what to do with the money we’ve saved with far less grocery shopping. Do we save it or buy something that we’ve wanted but haven’t been able to afford? Do we pay down bills or put it into savings?

While saving money feels good, there is another powerful element of fasting that has far-reaching potential:

Isaiah 58:6-9 NKJV

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily,

And your righteousness shall go before you;

The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Today the three of us piled into our little car and drove to the store and purchased food and soap that we will distribute among some of the poor in Blantyre where we live. This is actually something our daughter thought of last year after seeing how poor many are in our city. What we purchased today will be bundled into care packages that we will begin distributing this week and she will be front and center putting the packages together. Her joy is palpable and contagious!

Yes, we are aware that this little bit of help will most likely do very little in the larger scope of things to address poverty – but simply because it isn’t enough doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Who knows? This little bit of help might just be the glimmer of hope someone needs to see to light their way in the dark. Obedience in the Kingdom of God goes a long way and translates into miracles.

About the potato chips? That sacrifice will go a long way.

Posted in Beginnings, Church planting, Destiny, Family

How Incredibly Reckless

wave-1913559_1920

I don’t know where to begin with this thought. I’ve been staring at an empty screen for some time, typing, deleting, and typing again only to erase my thoughts and start over. I don’t want to write something that is simply entertaining or interesting – I want to achieve something with this entry that comes from a part of my heart that I rarely share.

Most of my life has been spent working in missions and there are times when it has felt as if I’ve been trying to empty an ocean of need with a teaspoon. I’ve been shoveling and shoveling for many years and it would seem that the water level hasn’t moved a bit.

We began our work 30 years ago on the continent of Africa and what we are doing today was the farthest thing from my mind when I first stepped on the airplane with my husband and 18-month-old son. I thought we were going to serve under our senior missionaries Ralph and Shirley Hagemeier for the foreseeable future; church planting wasn’t even a thought that I had allowed to cross my mind! My husband Jamie wasn’t intending on pastoring, he had grown up in a pastor’s home and knew the stresses that went along with the job all too well. Yes, I was happy to settle in and be a teacher and a preacher’s wife. We had the luxury of a reliable schedule during the week and on the weekends; my husband was invited almost every Sunday to preach in churches in the surrounding area. Looking back, it was an amazing time where we were allowed to land “softly” into missions. We had seasoned senior missionaries watching over us and we worked in an established Bible school. What more could we possibly want?

Then came the call to plant churches. This disturbed my idyllic life on the mission field. I can’t say that the call came in the form of a great vision or prophecy. It came more like something we knew we had to do. At first, it was exciting – the very idea of starting a church from nothing was intriguing. Where would we go? How would we start? Who would come?

While we had no idea which city we would start in, we knew we had to learn another language: French. We had already learned Swahili but in the Central African region, we knew that learning French would only be an asset to us in the region. For nearly a year we studied in France and prayed about where we would plant the church. We knew we wanted the church to be planted in a capital city and in time we felt in our hearts that we would go to Bujumbura, Burundi.

On a warm October afternoon in 1991 we landed at the airport in Bujumbura. There wasn’t a person around to receive us; this was my first indication that we weren’t “in Kansas anymore.” When we were asked why we were in the country, all we could say was, “We’re here to plant a church.”

That evening, we somehow found our way to the home of a family that was gracious enough to let our little tribe settle with them for a few days until we found a home of our own. Within a week we had rented a house and began the task of applying to register the church.

Months passed; we faced sickness, civil unrest, and our own nagging fears. Nevertheless, God was with us and the church finally was approved and we were able to begin. I thought, naively so, that things would get a bit easier with time but that was not the case at all. Civil unrest turned into war when the president was assassinated and we wondered if the church would even survive. No one ever taught us how to lead a church during war – so we did all that we could do. We prayed.

Survive it did and it thrived during the years of war and 9 years after the church was planted, we handed it over to our national leaders and moved on to plant another church. Time and again this scenario has repeated itself: we move to a previously unknown city in an unknown country, we arrive with no one to meet us and begin at ground zero. Each country has challenged us, each church we have planted has touched us, and each pastor we’ve been allowed to mentor has changed us.

Looking back over the years of seeing churches born and leaders raised up to lead those churches, I find a smile forming on my mouth as I think of how incredibly reckless this kind of life might seem to those who are looking from the outside in. How did we dare raise our children when life was, seemingly, so uncertain? There were times we wondered whether or not we could continue, there were times we rejoiced over great miracles; that our children grew up in such an atmosphere of faith and trust in God and His plan is nothing less than a great honor for us as parents. While we may not leave them a great financial inheritance when we step over into eternity, our children have a heavenly inheritance of faith that will see them and their families through their own personal journeys.

Back to that teaspoon emptying an ocean of need; all these teaspoons later and here I am still scooping away. Somewhere along the way I have found it’s not what we perceive on the surface, like the level of the ocean’s water, that matters. Tsunamis form on the ocean floor, far from the surface. When they form out in the deep places, it isn’t immediately apparent the size of the wave since the ocean’s surface covers a vast area. However, as the wave moves toward land, it gains momentum – it’s size and power is only evident once it reaches the shore.

God has seen fit to place us where He has placed us for reasons only known to Him. On the surface it may seem to be little, and indeed it is, but the power of the wave that has been created will be seen, perhaps years from now, when the wave reaches its intended shore.

Be encouraged as you take your journey. You may feel as if your part in the great puzzle of life is so small that you don’t matter – nothing could be farther from the truth. Keep on being faithful to what you have been called to do, for you are part of a great wave that will, in God’s time, surprise the world.

Colossians 3:23 NLT “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”