How Are You Sleeping?

There are some things we can’t avoid.

As parents there’s no way out of nightly feeding, potty training, skinned knees, and many many tears. Just like we can’t get out of the hard things, there are also positive moments with our children that fill our hearts: the first word, the first step, the first laugh, graduation, marriage, and perhaps the best of all being GRANDCHILDREN.

I find it curious the amount of energy we put into lessening the blows of the negatives we face when raising our families. Theories abound on how to get our babies to sleep all night; the inevitable question, “How are you sleeping?” is bound to arise at some point. Of course no one is sleeping those first weeks, sometimes months, and for some children even longer as they resist every technique that promises parents several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Two of my four children fell into the category of “resistant sleepers” and the dark circles under my eyes still pay tribute to many midnight hours of rocking, praying, pleading, and halfway dozing in my chair with my baby in my arms. I’m sure millions of dollars in revenue have been earned by those writing the popular “how to” books for sleep training our children. Some work and some don’t; it all depends on the child.

The truth of the matter is that a child’s personality cannot be contained – what works for one won’t always work for another. Parenting is the one job I’ve had in my lifetime that has taught me, brutally at times, how to read situations from different angles, how to empathize, sympathize, and most importantly how to love in the middle of misunderstanding. While learning this I have had to, at the same time, maintain a standard for our children of what is important to us as parents. Truly parenting, not just having children, has been the challenge and joy of my lifetime.

I imagine, as God’s child, I have been a challenge to raise. I have resisted many of His prompts, schedules, and standards. He has sympathized, empathized, and loved me in the middle of the midnight hours and my loudest of tantrums. Never once has He compromised His stance, but in His discipline I never found rejection. On the contrary, I found a Father Who was true to everything He stood for and faithful to love in the middle of my refusing to settle down and trust Him.

I’ve heard it said that children are looking for boundaries, for safety, and will test those boundaries (albeit unconsciously perhaps) to see how much they are loved. While human parents will fail, I have failed miserably from time to time as a parent, God cannot. Human parents may give up on their children for one reason or another – God returns to us time again refusing to give up on any of us.

Could there be a better example of parenting? I don’t think so.

I used to think that my parenting career would retire at some point; that my children would no longer be as connected as they grew up and moved on into their own lives. This is true to a certain extent, our children need to form their own families without our overbearing interference. However, I’ve also found that I’ll always be their mom, that my heart will always be full when they call or message me, that there won’t be a day that I don’t think of and pray for them, and that I’ll always be there when they need me.

While my own mother has gone to heaven and I often feel the sting of her absence, and someday my own children will face my departure, I won’t face the absence of God, my heavenly Father, ever. I remember growing up into young adulthood and often resisitng my mother’s advice for one reason or another because I knew I could “do it better” than she did. As the years passed, I began to realize she knew much more than I did about many things and I began to seek out her advice. When she died I realized what a treasure of advice and counsel I had lost. In the same way, the older I get, the more I realize how much I need and rely on my Father’s counsel.

I”m grateful, so grateful, to have learned to trust Him rather than resist Him.

Life is beautiful in His family.

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On a side note, another innocuous change in me as a parent as I’ve grown older is found in my lunch offerings for my fourth child, our bonus baby. Yesterday, she had samosas (a fried slightly spicy meat pie that is the food of heaven) and marshmallows for lunch. I was tempted to feel “parent shame” until my oldest son (who I had messaged her menu to) said, “It’s ok. Let her enjoy life.” 

The student has become the teacher!

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The Chips Will Fall

It’s hard to live out our convictions in an increasingly hostile world – and I’m not only talking about the hostility we see on the news or internet. In our personal, day-to-day lives it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with intense rejection any time we choose to go against the grain of what is “the norm.” In this atmosphere, it’s difficult to know what “the norm” is at any given point in time; it feels as if we are walking on eggshells trying to keep everyone happy. The problem resulting from working as hard as we do not to rock the boat is the incessant gnawing in our souls of not living authentically before the world (see 1 John 2:10).

I’ve written about this subject many times approaching it from many different angles and why the tempation to please people holds us as it does instead of living truthfully, continues to evade me. One simply has to experience the pain of rejection once to learn the lesson: living for the approval of others will ultimately drain us of our of joy and energy. However, instead of learning this lesson, we work harder to fit in, to make sure everyone knows we are just like them – and this further complicates extricating ourselves from the complicated world of peer pressure.

When I was a teenager, I thought peer pressure was something that would fade away as an adult – was I wrong! Peer pressure (I know that’s the old fashioned term) grows from a trickling stream in our childhood into a raging river in adulthood. Unfortunately for many, fearing rejection prevent us from daring to live out loud. The importance of living authentically is often put off until later in life when one finally tires of the unreliable opinions of their peers.

The pressures of living authentically differ radically from living to please others. When I chose to live truthfully before the world, it did (and does) create waves. It has taken time for me to allow the “chips to fall” where they may – but the truth of the matter is that I am not living to make anyone besides God happy. I’m not even living to please myself because like my peers, my emotions and opinions are unreliable and can change from one moment to the next. The only unchanging opinion belongs to God; He is consistent, reliable, loving, patient, kind, and always has my best interests at heart and this puts Him in a category all by Himself.

I will face pressure no matter which way I choose, but I’d rather live in the Truth I’ve found than in the shadows of fearing rejection.

As a misfit, see my entry Musings of a Misfit Missionary for a bit of background, I understand the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. I’ve been told that I’m selfish, short-sighted, irresponsible, and “the worst parent” in the world (the full account of “the worst parent” comment is told in our book, No Retreat – No Regrets which will be re-released this year). It’s very hard to face those kinds of words without giving in to the opinions of those hurling them at me, but I’m thankful to have had the overwhelming grace to stay the course and continue living the truth of what God has called me to be: a misfit missionary.

Living truthfully doesn’t give me license to live ugly and confrontational towards those who don’t understand. On the contrary, it gives me license to love more, give more, and serve more. It may be that living the truth in love might give those who don’t understand a greater understanding of the love of a Father Whose interests for them far outweigh the opinions and ultimate rejection of their peers.

Imagine this: there’s Someone Who really cares, really wants the best for you, and died for you to make it happen. That’s the kind of person Whose opinion has won me over.

Jeremiah 31:3 NASB I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

The Dance

Worship
No on knows what’s behind these lifted hands.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post; we’ve been in the middle of a move and if you’ve ever moved you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the house we moved to is a short distance from where we were, making the actual transporting of our things a bit easier. I still need to hang curtains for the few curtains I had are too short to fit the windows – I’m wondering how long I can bear leaving my few bedsheets on the windows.

I’m forever explaining myself away.

Why I’ve not posted a blog.

Why my husband and I choose to keep pursuing overseas missions.

Why, why, why do I feel indebted to explain everything away to everyone?

Romans 13:8 NASB “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Inside I feel, as I suppose many of us do, the need to be understood and accepted. I easily concur with the above verse from Romans; the only debt I have to others is to love them. However, I want others to love and accept me and my natural tendency is to explain things away to gain approval.

What a waste of energy because the opinions people have of us can change as swiftly as the direction of the wind.

In our church here in Bujumbura, we have a lovely lady named Mama Christine Makamba who is one of our cell leaders. To get by, she farms; she works hard and shares her harvest with poorer single mothers who attend her home cell group. When they arrive at her home for meeting, she has a meal prepared for them and spends time listening to them, praying for their needs, and trying to help them find a way to feed their young children.

This past Sunday, as usual, Mama Makamba and I chatted about her group, about certain ones we want to help, and as she talked I marveled at her smile. Her joy is almost tangible when talking about her ladies and the change in the lives of her members. Her frustration also rises to the surface when she feels she’s not breaking through and making a difference.

What most people don’t know about Mama Makamba is that she is 67 years old (she won’t mind me saying so), has had 10 children and was a pastor’s wife in one of our churches. Her husband died about 10 years ago from complications of a stroke he had a few years prior. Two of her 10 children were poisoned and died and she has had to face the harsh realities of life as a widow in Africa. I can’t imagine what she has had to endure.

And yet, she has the strength to smile and the strength to love. She believes in paying that debt of love.

On Sunday, Mama Makamba is the only older person in our worship team. Everyone else is much younger but they all sing with her without regard to her age, and I think this is because she loves them all and it shows. She leads them in joy and love – and when she dances something moves in the heavenlies.

No one, besides God, knows the price she has had to pay, the price any of us have paid to get to where we are and there’s no explaining away the work of God in each of us because His grace meets us all where we need to be met. No one else, besides ourselves, can “get” what He has done in and for us and that gives us reason for joy.

I’ve decided, instead of explaining, to follow Mama Makamba’s example and dance – God knows why I’m dancing and He is the best Partner.

Zephaniah 3:17 NKJ “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

 

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!

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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.

Consequences

This month in our newsletter from Africa & Beyond, we talk about consequences. They aren’t all bad; in fact, some of them are good and those are what we are after. Click here to read more and to watch short video compilation of our 2019 conference in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Also, here’s a shameless plug for Bonfire! Bonfire is an online tshirt printing company that is helping us print tshirts that will be released with our revised book, No Retreat – No Regrets. Check them out by clicking here, they have been great to work with.

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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.

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