Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crossing Cultures

Who would have guessed that moving to Tanzania and back again was only the beginning of my international life?
In the Amsterdam airport, on my way to Kenya for the first time, in college, 2005
Chacos on my feet, camera in my backpack... I was off to capture the world (and learn a ton along the way!)
I never. Ever. EVER planned on or even conceived of meeting and marrying a Korean. Ever. Especially after living and teaching Kids from around the world in East Africa for four years! But God has a sense of timing, wisdom, and humour that I have yet to figure out.

And so, while I was once worried about coming back to the States and to no one who could understand my weird Christian world-perspective or grieve and rejoice with me about events around the world, I've found my life to be anything but. And while cross-cultural marriage has its challenges (much less than expected, to be honest, in the case of these two crazy world-travelers!!!), the perks of joining with another international for life, and of having an incredible multicultural community in part because of it, makes my life richer and more thankful. Who knew I would have the chance with my husband to touch and shine light in the lives of people from every continent* around the world without setting foot outside of good ol' Dutchland, West Michigan?

I get to tutor kids from overseas and whose parents are internationals. I think missionary and third culture kids are some of the coolest kids out there. We're surrounded by cross-cultural marriages in our church and at our dinner table. 

Who would have guessed our wedding party would have people representing every continent* without even realizing?

Our wedding 'guestmap' :)
And then there are the (completely regular) days when I sit at our dinner table as the only "American," among a Korean, a French man, and an Egyptian straight in from overseas. Or with a Korean, Bulgarian, a Nepelese man, and a Malaysian. 

Notice the continuing Korean theme? Yep, this guy's pretty much my favorite. :)

Picture taken by Samara, budding photographer, age 10.
I've tried more new foods since returning from the Land of Tanz than I did while there. I know what celebratory Chinese New Moon cakes taste like, what traditional red bean tteok treats look like for Korean thanksgiving, and that Bulgarians make the best cheesy bread and salad on the planet. I know that Malaysia knows how to make some seriously cute wall-hangings of monkeys for the upcoming Chinese New Year's "Year of the Monkey," that Koreans say "Kimchi!" instead of "Cheese!" when taking pictures, and that little girls from Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, Uganda, and Australia all equally love to sing the "Let it go" song with the same exuberant gusto and sweeping elaborate gestures as their American counterparts.

There are the days when I connect with dear-to-my-heart missionary friends from the Land of Tanz and my heat aches for the people I got to serve with there. I still want my kids to grow up overseas, if even for a short time, and I wish the country we live in wasn't so bent on individualism that we'd get excited for a neighbor willing to trade ingredients and share household items when needed.

But I have no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. That God's crazy, out-of-this-world plans were established for me long long ago, and that they are better than I could ever have imagined. And so we set out on our knees with prayers for wisdom, grace for ourselves and each other, and a lot of thankfulness each day as we cross cultures in our home and beyond... and know that none of these opportunities, connections, or relationships would be possible without Him.


*(minus Antarctica, of course!)

It's a Miracle!

Or is it just answered prayer?

I think sometimes God just likes to show off. It seems like I've had a lot of prayers being answered in big ways recently, and I'm a bit in awe of how He chooses to use His little, fallible child.

Do you ever, like me, get surprised when God answers your prayers?

Maybe I just lack faith. And sometimes, I struggle with that whole "pray continually" thing. (Ok, make that usually!) But then there are times that I actually put into practice what He commands... And He always, always blows me away.

You'd think I'd learn, right? Apparently, I'm a slow learner. But in those times when I pray fervently and seek God, He answers. Not always right away. I'm still waiting for prayers for healing for my horrible allergies... I DID wait 10 years after college before meeting the man I'd marry, and then there were those many weeks where our house kept getting broken into over and over in Tanzania when it seemed like prayer wasn't working. Or the time I prayed and prayed and funds didn't come in to go back to Tanzania for an extra. 3. Long. Months.

Except, looking back? It was during those 3 months that I had sinus surgery which helped relieve my allergies. God opened my eyes to the possibility of coming back to America to stay and serve here. Oh, and I also met my now husband.

Maybe it wasn't so bad after all?

But back to prayer. There's a verse in acts which always makes me laugh a little, about how God was doing extraordinary miracles through Paul. Which begs the question, were ordinary miracles so common that these particular instances had to be differentiated out?

And then I wonder... What distinguishes a "miracle" from "answered prayer," anyway?

Is it the longing behind it? The pervasiveness of our prayers, the seriousness of the issue, the delayed gratification of waiting and hoping?

The presence of God in the seemingly impossible situation?

And isn't that our every day? Our need for grace in every moment, the breath we have been given to breathe, the provision of a kind word when we most need it or patience to give that to others?

Regardless, it seems like what God says works*. And hopefully, this time, the lesson will stick...


*Surprise surprise, right?!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Boot Camp


(It's been a bit of a hiatus since I last posted... but writing has continued along the way, and I'm excited to share a bit of it with you! This post was written July 7, 2015)

Some people say the first year of marriage is the biggest challenge.

I wouldn’t know. We haven’t started yet ;).

But for us, the challenge has been ongoing from the beginning. Not because we don’t fit well together – God is making it very clear that this is the direction of our relationship we should be taking! But because, well, He’s bringing us through some serious training before the actual marriage begins.

Yes, we come from two different cultures. We’ve lived in very different places. But somehow, God has used these experiences to bring us closer together. Our views on family, marriage, money, so many things are so similar it’s crazy.

At the same time, we’ve both been single for thirty-something years. We’ve both lived by ourselves, he longer than myself, and have developed ways of doing things that are particular to us as individuals and that haven’t necessarily been challenged by my multiple housemates along the way.

It’s easy to get selfish and self-focused as a single. Without even knowing it.

And so, when presented with how to do things in a home, how to make a meal together, how to do little and big things… conflicts discussions arise. Let’s just call them “bumps.”

And it’s been amazing. Can I just brag on my soon-to-be husband a bit? I’ve never met anyone so willing to work through hard stuff, get to the root of whatever issue we’re having, talk through it and figure out how we can do better next time. And then CHANGE. Make the changes himself, and support me in doing the same, changes that we need for a strong foundation for our future.

He’s willing to do the hard work of talking, praying, examining, letting the junk fall away as we seek to become more like Christ and more unified as we prepare for a life of marriage together.


So after all this hard work, it seems like we’d be doing pretty well. And we are! But then the last couple of months, God had some more training in store for us.

We got news that the campus where Sang Mark has worked for the past 8 years is closing down in September. He was given the offer of a transfer to Detroit, and GM started pursuing him as well. We were amazed at the opportunities before us and excited for what God might be doing – he would love to work at either of these places with the amazing people and projects and opportunities there! At the same time, we are entering our first year of marriage, I’ve not even been back in the States for a full year yet after years overseas, neither of us are big-city people per se, and he (we) have an incredible church and friend community that I’ve been adopted into here in Holland.

So the question, with 34 days till we get married, was is… do we add a move and new community to a new marriage and new job situation? Three of the biggest stresses in life all at once? And if so, where to go?

We checked out Detroit and found a couple of places we liked, but still struggled. We needed to make a decision by Monday, and then God granted an extension of a week. But pressure was still on. A potential job was in the works in Holland but not guaranteed (and still isn’t). Do we take what we know, the obvious amazing offer we have? Or do we do what we feel better about at this time of our lives?

In the weeks leading up to this, and as things changed with every passing hour of every day, God started making changes in us that showed the reason behind this difficult process. As we sorted through priorities and what is most important to us in our lives, our relationship, our marriage... we moved from being individuals to being united under one head - Christ. We pondered whether community and stability this first year were most important, especially since I’ve been through so much the past few years? Or was money and career opportunities what we valued most? And even more importantly, what exactly was God saying? Because that’s what we really wanted.

We learned to pray together – not just the happy-go-lucky prayers we’d started our relationship with, but the heart-cry for help and guidance and wisdom and surrender giving everything over to the Lord, no matter what He says, and telling Him we’ll follow Him prayers.

We learned to share what we thought God was saying. To pray for one another, to listen to what God might be telling the other person, and what they were processing themselves. We learned to be convicted by what God was saying through the other person and to change our habits, our minds, our attitudes.

Sang Mark learned that girls' tears are ok – and to comfort me when they came. We learned what it meant to be cheered on by a church of people who were rooting for us to stay, even when they hadn’t known me for very long yet – and the blessing of having them throw me a Bridal Shower just a few months after we’d all met. And give me a place to live the month before we got married when I needed a place to stay.


We learned that asking God to show us His path as soon as possible wouldn't come in our time - but definitely would happen in His sovereignty. We were some of the first people to know what the path ahead looked like job wise, which was a blessing leading up to our wedding for sure! And this difficult but precious Boot Camp time allowed us to face some of the issues and decisions that most couples go through over the first few years of marriage. Because, seriously? Why not just get it all out of the way before you even tie the knot? ;)

And in the end, 4 long, “we’re trusting in You to come through God!” days after turning down job offers with companies in Detroit, Sang Mark was offered a job on the other side of the same building where he’s worked the past 8 years. We get to stay in Holland! And we are so thankful, not only for this time of staying in one place and fewer transitions (and not trying to house hunt the month before the wedding!), but also for the ways God used this time to prepare us for whatever He has to come.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Musoma Miracles

I may not be living in the Land of Tanz these days, but many of my heart’s prayers (and so many dear friends) are still very much there. In Tanzania, a good bit of our lives were focused on survival, on the work that we were doing at the office, or on the support work we’d gone there to do (eg. teaching missionary kids). But in-between and in the midst of these things, we became the lucky recipients of great Tanzanian friendships with neighbors, coworkers, and employees at our houses and in our communities. Many families and individuals have done this well, much better than this introverted, lacking-Swahili-skills girl ever did. One teammate in particular shared an amazing story recently that I wanted to pass along.

On January 25, she posted:

"We're so excited! This past Tuesday our outdoor worker (the one who keeps our yard from looking like a jungle and also takes care of our dogs) announced, "My wife and I have been talking about you and we have decided that wherever you worship, we want to worship from now on!" We were stunned because Karume is Muslim but he was very serious about what he said and today he and his wife and new little baby joined us for Karume's very first Christian church service! Please be praying for him as he learns more about the Savior!"

In a place where everyone is "born" Christian or Muslim - and these are more often than not mixed together with traditional beliefs or visits to the witch doctor - any change is a huge deal... and this announcement shows 1. Just how much God is working through my friends to shine His light in very real ways, and 2. Just how much God works in hearts in ways we wouldn't necessarily expect.

Then today, I read:

"Some of you might remember my excitement over Karume, our outside worker who made the decision to start worshiping with our family each Sunday. Since that time he and his family have experienced a miracle. After searching and praying for his missing son (missing for over 2 weeks) the boy was found this past Friday!! Ends up he was abducted and taken to a town quite a distance from his village but somehow managed to escape, PRAISE GOD. Karume can't stop talking about the way God protected his son and everyone in church got to hear all about it this morning. Eleven-year-old Wambura is in the center of this picture - pray for him as he is still really shaken up by this whole thing."

This last post really got to me - not only because Karume was someone I saw around Musomaland on a semi-regular basis, and because I know that abductions do happen - but also because I recently finished reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Tears of the Giraffe and had read about something similar happening in Botswana... but in a fictional tale. This, on the other hand, is very real. I'm smiling from ear to ear, though nothing like Wambura's parents - and I am just so thankful for this happy ending - and beginning - for this very special family!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Sequel

 
You know that magical moment, when you finish the last page of an incredible, epic story that made you laugh, cry, connect with incredible character-friends and wish and hope and pray for them (wait, am I the only one that ends up doing that?), and you sigh, wishing you could start the whole thing over again from the beginning? Except, you know without a doubt that a second reading, while good, would never be the same. Ever. You have already been changed. You know too much, the surprise will cease to catch your heart, and the story will be too easy to read from an outsiders’ view instead of being wrapped up in the midst of the moment.

And then there is the sequel. You know it’s coming, or is already out, yearning to be read… and you desperately hope for the best. And yet, I’m not a big fan of sequels. They always leave me… disappointed. The original story that I loved so much, the character’s ambitions and ideas, are all changed and different and they just.aren’t.the same as before. And it makes me sad.
This is pretty much where I am right now in life. I had a hunch when I left Tanzania, and realized more and more over the subsequent months, that not just a chapter, but a whole novel of my life was finished. I had turned the last page, said some final (and some not-so-final) goodbyes, and it broke my heart to let go of a story that had brought tears, laughter, runs in the rain with friends to finally.cool.off in hot season, teachable moments with incredible children from all.over.the.world who I see pictures of regularly on Facebook and just want to reach out to and give hugs and be a part of their lives again. Families that adopted me when I most needed a home and traditions created that will never resonate quite the same way again.

I realized recently that I would be more than willing to hop on a plane and go back to Musomaland again where they STILL NEED ANOTHER TEACHER. This is the reason I struggled so much with leaving this place that had become home in the first place – I knew there were elements of this life that I would carry with me and be changed by and forever recall and wish for again. The team I served with, the real, really-shared-on-all-levels prayer and Bible Study times, the kids and the laughter and the transitions and the understanding and deep bonds that form in hard places… these can’t just be recreated and reread and experienced in the same ways again. And while I’d love to pick up the story from those days in college when I yearned for Africa and had absolutely.no.idea.what.I.was.getting.myself.into but am glad I did… I’m not there. I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve been changed from the inside out over five or eight or ten incredible years. I know too much, and I know for a fact that I’m supposed to be in the States.

And so I hold memories and people in my heart and wonder hard about the sequel. One which can’t be a disappointment, because the writer of this story is way too Great for that. And I look forward to the next story, where I’ll go, what characters I’ll meet and cry and laugh with and pray for (legitimately, this time) and experience grace with all along the way.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's NOT that time again, but...


(from Christianity Today)
I recently heard about Joni Eareckson Tada for the first time when her picture made it on a magazine at our one-and-only local wazungu-type cafĂ©. True, I’m probably the only person in the greater Christian community that hasn’t heard of her, but I’ll attribute that to my not growing up reading biographies as a kid. For some reason, I was way more interested in epic stories of kids in far-off lands!

Back to the point. I heard a brief synopsis of Joni’s story – how she was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident, and how she has been used in powerful ways over the years by God. With her name in hand, I set off to find her biography on Kindle… and sat down to read in-between letting bread dough rise for dinner.


And then, I kept reading. And reading. Through the second-try of rising bread dough (the first one was disgusting, thanks to a bad batch of flour!), and more reading in bed that night. Yes, it was really good – but in some ways, I kept reading because I wanted to get past the uncomfortable, difficult bits of what happened and on to what God is doing now. While Joni’s experiences were nothing like mine, her story all-too-clearly whispered back memories of a story of my own.

A story of facing death, wondering if I would wake up unable to use part or all of my body for awhile or forever. A story of a teenager who lived life through movement and saw the possibility of this all being taken away. A fear of what we can’t control, a reminder that life is short, that what we have we take for granted, and that God is in control even when it seems all is wrong.

As I read, I could clearly imagine the feeling of lying in bed staring at a ceiling, unable to move a muscle. The possibility was once all too real. It’s not out of the scope of my imagination to know the dread of hoping and praying and having no idea what the outcome might be. And yes, for some reason my ending was not in a Stryker bed and wheelchair, but in a recovery room playing with the oxygen monitor on my finger, years more of dance and competitions and eventually living on another continent teaching kids.

It’s funny, how these feelings sometimes creep in unexpectedly, sliding under the door unannounced but all too real. I used to worry about “what might happen if” and dreaded checkups. These days, my biggest thought concerning this time of my life is the reminder to save up funds towards my next MRI. While once fears were real, now I consider my check-ups a great (though loud) nap time and am not surprised when I get a clean (though expensive) bill of health at the end. But then there are moments like reading Joni’s book, moments that bring me back to that time and make me realize just how very different the result could have been.

And while I try not to wonder “why” anymore, “Why did my story turn out so differently from so many others…?,” I do count my life and breath and being and ability to move and love on kids and teach with song and dance a privilege, just a little bit more, when I’m reminded of the gifts I’ve been given, while fully knowing God would have provided exactly what I needed even if the results had been different.

In any case, whether you’ve heard of Joni (or not), I definitely recommend her first book. The story of her healing and understanding of God is incredible. However, just a word of caution to anyone with a history of head trauma or brain/spinal issues… if that describes you, I’d recommend possibly skipping the biography and reading her more recent writings instead!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding Christmas (I Want My Culture)

My friend, neighbor during language school, and fellow Tanzania-teammate from the States Robin Gregory recently posted this on FaceBook, and it really captured how I feel each year at Christmastime in Tanzania. Just wanted to share her words with you!

I used to love Christmas. The entire season filled me with wonder anew as the snowflakes fell, and the music played, and the decorating ensued as the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes on my T.V. screen. He must have been able to smell the cookies in my oven. Never mind how warm it would have been where Christ was actually born; to me, Christmas has always been encapsulated in a Midwestern snow globe. I don’t particularly care for winter in general, with all it’s cold and slippery shenanigans. But at Christmas, it’s all okay. As it should be. And I’ve never really been able to consider one without the other. Not even at the church Christmas program. Not even when Linus tells us the real meaning of Christmas. No, not even then. I had no idea what a product of my culture I’ve become.

Now here I am, in Africa.

It’s December, and I am waiting. Waiting for the feelings of Christmas and the thoughts of sugarplums to start dancing in my head. Come on, I don’t need a ballet; I’ll settle for a little two-step. How about just swaying from side to side? Waiting. Maybe if I say it out loud, “It’s Christmas!”. Nothing. Why couldn’t Disney have made a Lion King Christmas special? That would have helped me bridge my two worlds. I could write it. Simba would tire of the riff between the good lions and Scar, and would come to him with a peace offering of roast-wildebeeste, and Scar’s heart would grow and then a furry giraffe would stand on tiptoe and hang a silver star on the tallest baobab tree, and a bell would ring and a little warthog named Tiny Tim wouldn’t jump off the bridge at all, but turn into an angel and take flight,as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. Oh wait, that’s not right. Never mind. No Olympus, unless it’s an ‘80s Lion King Christmas special, with Toto, too. Now that would be really cool.

Okay, what was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. It doesn’t feel like Christmas, and I don’t know how that could happen. I’m thinking, “this isn’t how Christmas is supposed to be.”

Huh. I bet that’s what Mary and Joseph thought. I bet it was so not what they expected. What anyone expected. A Deliverer; a new King, that’s gonna have to be someone pretty spectacular, and he’s gonna come in here in all his wrappings and save us all. We just need to stay out of his way and cheer from the sidelines. That’s how it’s always been with deliverers and kings. If he comes any other way, it just won’t feel right.

But then He came. And everything everyone ever thought about how he would come had to change. He wasn’t big and strong; he wasn’t a warrior. He didn’t ride in on a float in the parade. He came without lights. Well, okay, he had a light. But he came without swords. He came without tags. He came without chariots, boxes, or bags. But he came. He came, just the same.

It doesn’t seem like Christmas. But it is. I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. But deep down in my overheated, culture-driven, Midwestern heart, I know that Love has come. He’s not wearing a parka and carrying jingle bells, but he’s not wearing sunglasses and carrying bug repellent, either. He’s wearing the weight of a broken world and he’s bringing the light that shines in the darkness. And Jesus, I promise you I will welcome you. I will come thirsty to the well in the heat of the day, and I will find you in this crazy mixture of culture that I find myself in. And I will celebrate you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

30

Somehow, I’ve never subscribed to that idea that I’m supposed to care if people know how old I am.  Even now, as I turn 3 decades old today, it doesn’t seem like a big deal for people to know my age.  Maybe it comes from working with kids… whose guesses of my age might range from 16 to 60 on any given day.  Or maybe I’ve just decided that each year is a grace and I’m thankful for the life I’ve been given.

Despite my not caring about my age, it does seem a little funny to be hitting THIRTY this year.  There are definitely life events and things that I would have thought would have happened by now – but on the other hand, there are a million things I never would have expected to have happened EVER, let alone by my third decade circling around the sun.

This past weekend a bunch of us got together to play games and celebrate the week’s numerous birthdays, and we ended the night sharing where each of us were and what we were doing 10 years ago. 

It's funny to look back.  If you had asked me ten years ago where I would be today, I never would have guessed that living in North Carolina might have been part of my journey, nor that I’d have been living in East Africa teaching missionary kids for the past three years of my life.  I might have guessed I’d be a doctor by now (I started Hope pre-med), working in pediatrics... married with kids, living the "American dream."  Traveling was a passion but living overseas never entered my mind. I really didn’t know that much about the Bible, other than it was Truth – I certainly couldn’t have told you that I’d be supporting the work of Bible Translation into 120 different languages in Tanzania.  I couldn’t have even told you where Tanzania WAS.  Granted, a year later, God started laying teaching missionary kids on my heart, but it wasn’t till 3 years later that I started even thinking about Africa as a potential place to live, let alone a specific location on this continent. 

It’s funny how the best-laid plans are often not God’s.  As I look back over my last thirty years, or even the last ten, I can’t regret anything that’s happened.  God’s grace has taken me on an adventure I never could have imagined.  Discovering teaching as my passion, teaching kids from around the world, gaining amazing friendships and experiences and having my eyes opened to the world in new ways every day, committing to serving God wherever and however He calls me and seeing that come to fruition for now in the work of supporting Bible Translation, leaning hard on my Savior and seeing Him come through in working out all things for His glory and my good… tasting the loneliness of being an alien on this earth and yet gaining more “family” everywhere I go, surrounded by amazing believers old and new, and getting to walk beside kids of all ages as they grow in their faith and love for Jesus.  

God is faithful.  I am blessed.

Kaleidoscopes

While I wrote this last weekend, this post pretty much sums up the entire past week as the elevation of joy and "hard stuff" has continued.  Just thankful for my Rock that I can cling to through it all!

I’ve been living a kaleidoscope of thoughts and feelings the last couple of days.  All the colors of life - the bright and the dark - make it more beautiful, but it's not always easy.  On the one hand, it’s birthday week here in Musoma – and pretty much around the world, it seems!  We got to host all the ladies at our home for a fun night on Saturday, playing Nertz, laughing a LOT, and realizing we need more time-outs like this from life.  Sunday I had a relaxing day of cooking.  Monday I had a good start to the school week, a fun evening “off” with my roommate and a fabulous introduction to Doctor Who while crafting on the couch.

My 30th birthday is in a couple days, and while I’m generally cool with this landmark (though perhaps not as excited as my kindergartener who’s been counting down to her October birthday since the first day of school!), it’s also been a time of processing, looking back, and looking forward as I rest in the Almighty’s arms and choose to Trust and enjoy this adventure called life.

Woven into the background of this thirty-year, busy but full tapestry of life reflection have been the reports from Nairobi.  Hostages held in a supermarket we’ve all frequented on our trips to Nairobi.  Checking BBC reports online and getting Whatsapp personal reports from a friend in the city, who was supposed to be at Westgate that day.  I know pretty well the spiritual battle here in the world, and I know this event is just a reflection of our fallen world.  At the same time, it’s depth and impact and close-to-homeness makes it oh so much more real and gut-wrenching.  My heart hurts, my soul cries, “Jesus, this is too much.  Please, come soon!”

I’m holding fast to Truth and joy, not letting the world’s ideas of what three decades of abundant life lived means to those with critical eyes, and am celebrating a life thus-far well-lived.  I’m mourning deep the despair and hurt of our fallen world, of lives lost and cruelty and hate not-yet-overcome.  My prayers come in short spurts and I’m glad God knows what my heart is speaking when I can’t find the words.

I’m not a stranger to counting my days, to knowing just how much can change and how short life can be.  I’ve felt disappointments and hurts, fears and failings, not being what people expected or wanted or even deserved.  I’ve felt joy unspeakable, dear friendships that welcome me openly and loving acceptance without reservation.  I know just how quickly this can all pass away.  And I wish that recent events aren’t the reason for reminding me yet again of the shortness, frailty, and gift of life we’ve each been given. 

Lives celebrated, lives lived and loved.  Lives lost in tragedy and fear.  Being surrounded and loved on from family and friends near and far.  Watching people hiding in corners, fearful of gun fire and praying for their lives.  Knowing the shortness of our breath-long life on earth, and loving and enjoying and living full each day.  Standing arm in arm with brothers and sisters in Kenya and around the world with blisters and bruises, batterings and bombings… feeling the sting of death, the weight of sin, the hurt of tragedy and brutality of scars.

So, this is life.  A sadly apt reality of life, of my life, in a nut-shell.  Of the world, this place we’re called to live in for now before the joy of heaven begins.  Joy and sorrow mixed bleeding on a cross.  And prayers mixed with thanksgivings and hurts poured out to One who, somehow, understands it all.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

I hesitate to say "Happy Good Friday" today because, in one sense, it doesn't express the awesome gravity of the occasion.  We say Merry Christmas - and we are merry because of the celebration of a Savior's miraculous, humble birth into our cruel, screwed-up world.  That somehow seems to fit.  But happy?

And then I remember this.

Yep.  It's a good, happy day.

I read a bit of the Jesus Storybook Bible to my students in class yesterday.  If you're a kid, or if you have kids, or if you've ever been a kid, you should own a copy of this book.
Yep, it's that good.

Here's a bit of what I read to my students yesterday.  I can't think of a better way to express the overwhelming amazingness of what this day represents in a language that speaks to kids and kids-at-heart alike.
"God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts.  He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies.  God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong... Jesus was going to take on the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or would ever do... It would crush Jesus."  

"The full force of the storm of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On his own Son.  Instead of his people.  It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin."

Happy Good Friday!

*All quotes and illustrations are from The Jesus Storybook Bible,
written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gratefulness

It’s a funny thing, how temperamental we humans are.  Or maybe it's just me.  It seems like I'm never completely content with what I have.  I'm always looking ahead to the next and greatest thing to come.  The grass is always greener, right?  There’s something about practicing contentment in the moment that seems elusive to our sinful states of nature here on earth.  And I just wish I was better at practicing it on a daily basis.

So here I sit, half-grumbling about making a copy of every. single. page of my passport.  I’m worrying about how and when my visa for Tanzania will come through.  I’m filling out visa applications (5 copies, in fact), getting notarized copies of my teaching license, finding certified copies of my birth certificate.  Filling out medical forms (always fun!).  Applying for an international driving permit for the interim while I work on getting my Tanzanian license in-country.  Converting my height into centimeters and the miles into kilometers.  And then mulling over whether to apply for a visa to Kenya (for our branch missions conference in July) from the States (where I have to send my passport to DC), or wait till I get to Tanzania.  Assuming, of course, the office is open and the power is working on the day I go in Dar.

And then, it hits me.  My perspective is all wrong.  Yes, I have to copy every single page of my passport… but that’s because God’s allowed me to go to so many places!  Between my resident visas for Tanzania and my entry stamps for Kenya, Germany, Colombia, and the States… God has put me in awe of Him the past year.  And while all the travel hasn’t always been easy, restful, nor stabilizing (just ask the poor people I’ve processed with along the way!), I’ve certainly gotten to see some cities (and continents) I never dreamed I’d experience.  I've started my masters.  Got to be part of my brother's wedding.  All amazing things.

So, as this thought crossed my mind, I decided to turn everything upside-down and see what amazing things God is doing – and has already done! 


  • Yes, I had to get ten extra copies of my passport picture made AGAIN today.  But this time, they actually turned out decent (well, for passport photos).  And I’m pretty sure they’ll be accepted.
  • Yes, I have to get all these forms filled out for my visa.  And yes, this stuff is stressful.  But… I’m doing all this because I have the opportunity to live and serve in a place that many people never get to go.  I get to teach great kids and support families who are working to get the gospel into the language that people in Tanzania grew up speaking.  (And when I compare it to the paperwork my friends have dealt with for the process of adoption, I know I have no right to complain...)
  • And ultimately, this is just one more step in the process of living in this place we call earth, which will someday pass away.  I’m thankful my citizenship process for heaven is a bit less complicated!
  • Yes, I need to get a bunch of shots… and soon.  But the thing is, I have access to them.  These shots and vaccines are available to help keep me from getting sick.  And for that, I am thankful.
  • I have to get a visa for Kenya… because, well, it means I get to hang out with some great people, be refreshed and encouraged, and worship and learn with others in my own English language before embarking on a three-month learning tour of the Swahili language at a campsite in the middle of Tanzania.
  • And yes, I have to get forms notarized – but I have a friendly neighbor who is willing to do it.
  • Yes, I have to fill out a TON of paperwork for my visa.  But I’m doing this only because God just provided my funding for serving overseas and allowed me to be cleared to go.  Because He brought a team of amazing people behind and around me that are allowing this all to happen.  As if He can’t work out this detail, too.

And so, as I sit here, “lifting my eyes unto the hills,” and feeling my stress levels drop (if even just for a moment!), verses come to mind of God’s perfect peace.  That He, in fact, asks and commands us to take hold of this upside-down perspective of joyful life on a daily basis.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thes 5:16-18

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.  – Phil 2:14-18

Praying that I’ll be better at keeping my mind focused on him in the midst of everything... and trusting Him to take care of the things I don't have control over along the way.  And thankful for all He’s doing every. single. day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Excuse my Mess

My home church, GraceSpring Bible Church, asked us to start January off by considering a word or phrase that we felt defined our coming year of 2012.


We were supposed to write our word on a piece of paper to put up on the wall so everyone’s would be together, but I hesitated.  I felt like mine might be a bit misunderstood.  Because generally speaking, my word isn’t spiritual.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not even cute, clear, or clean.  (Though it is fairly concise!)

My word for the year ahead is… “MESSY”.

No, I’m not hoping to become a messy eater, to have a messiER teacher desk in my classroom, or find the messiest ways to cook dinner.  (Although I have it on good authority that the best cooks make the biggest messes!).  Rather, I feel like God is encouraging me to let go of my control in some areas of my life, even in ways that mean things might get a little, well, messy.

Messy in terms of my life not being planned out.  Messy in terms of being ok with not knowing the future.  Messy meaning I don’t have pat answers, I don’t know how everything is going to work, and I don’t have a set system for everything I do.  Messy in terms of telling everyone “I’m leaving for Tanzania in June!” while wondering how it’s all actually going to work out.

Messy like being a little kid who is playing and enjoying myself, instead of hoping I can make all the details fit on a color-coded excel spreadsheet plan for my life.  Messy like popping balloons with kids and sharing stories I hope they’ll like while we pray for people in Tanzania they’ve never met.  Or bouncing around like a crazy person for a worship song dance party with the girls down the street as we make pancakes.  Or making decisions on the fly as I travel across the country in a car.

Messy in terms of being ok with letting my guard down, not worrying so much about how people perceive me, and trusting God to help me just be myself in the midst of daily life.  Messy like working through tough times and letting things be “strewn all over the place” in my life for awhile, instead of constantly trying to “clean up” the messy pieces, make firm plans, and ensure everything is pretty and proper.  Messy in terms of not being sure of how to share my passions and dreams and heart for teaching MKs, but choosing to do it anyway.  Messy like getting to a new place to visit with people, and having all my plans fall apart… and having to trust that God has a plan for it all even though I wonder why I’m there. 

Messy in not knowing what the future holds (did I mention that already?).  And trusting that God is in control even when it looks... messy.
So… I hope you can excuse the mess.  I have no idea when it’ll be finished.  God hasn’t given me a timeline for when things will be back to being neat, tidy, pretty, and clear-cut in-a-box.  Probably… never.

And I’m learning to be ok with that.

The Carley Cat

 (I wrote this back in January of 2011... and just found the file today.  
Thought I'd share it with you anyway!) :)


We have a cat living at our house named Jericho.  Up till now, it’s been called “Carley Cat” or just “Cat.”  The original name of Ginger didn’t fit so well when they found out she was a he.  So, "Cat" it became.  But when it moved with Carley into our new house over the holidays, I decided that any animal living with me in the house must at least have a name.  So, Jericho it became. 

Jericho is funny in that he is a one-person cat.  Carley’s.  No questions asked.  When Carley isn’t around, Jeri will moan and cry and whine, and brush up against you till you pet him… but he’s still not content.  It’s only Carley he wants, and no one else. 

To illustrate this point, when Carley went away for a few days, Jeri disappeared.  And fast.  We found out that he had made his way – on foot – back to the previous house.  He went in through the screen, and was found curled up under the Christmas tree, patiently waiting for his beloved Carley.  Talk about devotion.  The houses are about 5km apart, with crazy-busy streets in-between.  Even more, the cat had been transferred to the new house by car and definitely wasn't familiar with the route on foot!

Today, as my other housemate, Marie, mentioned how Jeri had cried for Carley ALL day long (while she was at school), it struck me that this is one devoted cat.  And it made me think.  I said, “What a miserable life it must be to yearn after someone so much…”  Then it struck me.  That’s exactly what we’re called to do – and joyfully allowed to do – with God!

The difference is, God is with us all the time.  He WANTS us to yearn after Him every moment, and He loves this because HE LOVES BEING WITH US.  He wants us to love time with Him to no end – and wish every moment we’re not with Him, that we were. 

As much as the cat drives us nuts sometimes (come on! I give it attention but it could really care less that I exist!), :( it shows a devotion that is crazy to us in this world.  How much would God love it if we were the same way… yearning, seeking after, searching earnestly for Him every step of the day?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This is Very Good

written by Misha S.  For more stories, go to www.TheTask.net

Tanzanian churches are attended by people from various language groups, and because the Bible is in the national language of Swahili, prayer is always in Swahili. During a recent orthography workshop, when an elderly pastor from the Zanaki language was asked which language he used when he prayed alone, the pastor thought for a moment and answered, "Swahili. I always use Swahili. I don't think I have ever prayed in Zanaki. Yes, I am sure I never have in my whole life."

He readily agreed that it would be possible to pray in Zanaki and he believed God would understand Zanaki, but since the prestigious national language is the language of the Bible, it simply never occurred to him that he could use his mother tongue for prayer.

After they heard this testimony, the group of Zanaki speakers spent an hour doing a different sort of work. They discussed a list of prayer requests for their upcoming Bible translation and literacy project. Just before beginning to pray, however, they were asked to pray in their own language. They were startled, but agreed.

In Tanzanian fashion they all prayed aloud and simultaneously. Passionate prayers tumbled out as all seven participants asked God to bless the Zanaki project. At one point one woman simply sat smiling and crying, listening to the others pray in her language. When their voices all quieted, one man closed with a Zanaki, "In Jesus' name, amen." They lifted their heads and everyone had tears running down their cheeks. Tanzanians don't often cry in public, but every one of the seven was wiping their eyes. The elderly pastor who had just prayed and heard others pray in Zanaki for the very first time could not stop smiling.

One Zanaki man said, "Let's do this again. This is very good."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A lesson in boys... and the Bible

The other day I had a lesson in all things... boy.

I was subbing for a Sunday School class, you see.  Since the focus this month is on honor, the co-leader (a male high-schooler) and I sat down to run through the lesson before class.  According to the lesson, we considered a question from the notes for ourselves.  "Who is someone you would consider to be your hero?  Or who is someone you want to be like when you grow up?"

It took me all of .3 seconds to think of several.  Depending on my various ages and stages throughout childhood, people I aspired to be like ranged from Kim Zmeskal and Bridgette Bartley to my coaches, mentors, and Godly women around me.  My models have changed to reflect maturity and understanding over time, it's true.  But it wasn't a difficult task.
Pretty sure I had this poster of Zmeskal hanging in my room for years...
how can you do something like this and NOT be a little girl's hero?

For my co-leader, it was a different story.  He couldn't think of one.

"Who is someone you respect?" I prompted as any true teacher is trained to do.  "Maybe someone who is really great at sports... or skilled at something..."

It took awhile, but... I finally got an answer.

"Yoda."

Really?  Yoda?

But of course, what was I thinking?  Despite the fact that this completely made-up character is from a different planet, has strange features, is green in color and speaks in a strangely mixed-up way... why wouldn't Yoda be the first choice for someone you want to be like when you grow up?

Then again, he's small... but mighty.  He gets to use a cool light saber and blow people up with his hand while flipping with ease 30 feet into the air.

Of course it would be Yoda.

My lesson in "all things boy" continued as a total of 8 boys meandered into the classroom.  No girls to be seen.  My conversation with my co-leader set the stage for all future discussions to be had.  We talked about the lesson, of course... just with a bit of a twist.  "We look on the inside and not on the outside because, well, it's the inside that really changes things."  "Yoda can do all this cool stuff not because he's just that awesome himself, but because he has the Force inside him.  And why is it that we can do great things?  What is our power source?  Why, the Holy Spirit, of course!"  "We can use this power to fight for what is good and in so doing, fight against the Dark side - the enemy."

I felt fortunate to have been inducted into all things Star Wars at an early age - compliments of having my dad and brother guide my formative years.  And don't get me wrong - I really do like a lot of the Star Wars (first) trilogy.  In Sunday School that week, we laughed a lot, learned a ton, had great discussions, and had lots of fun.  But at the same time, I had to sit back and laugh as I watched a room full of boys take on the topic of God with light sabers in hand.

Just one more reminder of how much I have yet to learn if I ever hope to understand the mind of boys!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This is impossible… but with God, all things are possible!

Many of you are aware of my special relationship with the Puffs Tissue company, who adequately maintain their positive net growth each year due to my struggle with allergies.  I’m still waiting for their call of complaint (which I’m sure is coming soon) that I’m going back overseas, where they do not regularly ship their products.  In Tanzania, I stem the flow of my nasal suffering with regular toilet paper (though not the recycled, purple version, as I don’t really want a purple nose!).
It seems like this struggle is going to continue.  And though I’ve prayed… and asked… and hoped that by some miracle my allergies might just disappear one glorious morning… that doesn’t seem to be happening.  And so I continue to talk with people educated in the realities of allergy suffering… aka allergists and others… to see what can be done.

With this, I’ve found a couple of new medications that seem to be helping.  Note the word “helping” as it’s still not perfect by any means!  But they do seem to be making the ridiculous faucet called my head to slow at least a bit, which is helpful in terms of living, well, everyday life.

The issue is, though, that these new medications cost money.  And even with insurance, their arrival on the scene has added over a couple of hundred dollars worth of expenses to my budget each month.  Granted, I know this happens to people all the time.  But usually said individuals aren’t in the midst of creating their budgets and raising support for the upcoming years of ministry while it happens. 
So, it’s back to the drawing board.  Or the budget-board, I suppose you might say.  Recently, I officially reached a very exciting percentage in my support-levels… 50%!!!  While this is still a loooonnng way from the 100% I need to make it to Tanzania, at the very least it’s an important landmark.

About this same time, I realized that the finances I needed each month might be changing.  And when I add in additional costs of medications and such, my percentage levels fell back down to 45%.  SO disappointing! (Yes, I recently moved up to 48%, which is HUGE.  But it’s still been a long frustrating journey of a week!)
Ok, this picture totally cracks me up.  Just had to share!
I say all this, first of all, to be honest about my financial situation.  Many of you are allowing me to do what I do each month by financially partnering with me on a regular basis, and there’s no way I could do any of this without your financial and prayerful support!  I want my situation to be an open book for you as we continue to develop our partnership.

I also want to ask for your prayers.  Both for answers and health in this, and for the monthly funds I need (now a bit more) to get back to the field.  On the one hand, I know that with God, all things are possible.  I know that God can totally work out the funds for me to return to Tanzania in June at the latest.  Somehow, some way.  At the same time, I’ve been struggling with a sinus infection lately, feeling dead tired, and am seriously having some down moments when I wonder just HOW God is going to work this out.

Trying to remember and hold on to the verses that say:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  (Is 55:8-11)

and

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mat 19:26)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

3 September 2011

I stopped by the Family Christian Bookstore today, just to look.  I haven’t been there yet and I’m slowly experiencing all these places anew since I’ve been back.  Today seemed a good day to check this one out.  I’m always amazed that, even though I’ve been back in the States for a month now, I’m still overwhelmed in new surroundings and particularly in stores.  One day this will all become normal… but for now, the site of so much well-made, fun, attractive, and well-stocked merchandise never ceases to overwhelm my senses.

Today, as I walked into the store, I discovered a few things. 

One, a new movie is coming out by the makers of “Fireproof.”  And lots of books and decorative signs and stuff are available for purchase pertaining to this.

Two, evidently they’ve gotten on board with the Free Trade idea and have a variety of bags, clothing, jewelry, scarfs, etc from all over the world.  I wandered through this section and nearly wept.  Not only did this area bring back the memories of things and places and people, things I felt were “normal,” but it also touched me so much to think of people being really impacted by this… and got my brain rolling on how to connect people I know to opportunities like this to sell the things they make.  Yep, Anna, I was thinking of you and all your paper-bead necklaces available for purchase from Uganda!!!

I wandered through the rows of cute plaques and Biblical sayings you can set on a shelf or hang on your wall.  I was overwhelmed not so much at the amount of things for sale (as is my usual reaction to stores these days), but I was instead touched at the thought of so many Biblically-focused decorations and reminders being available all in one place.  I hadn’t seen something like this for two years… and it made me miss places like this where the Word of God is so available and accepted.  If you live near a place like this, give thanks that it's there!  There is no where else around the world (that I've seen) where you'll have access to so much Biblically-focused material than the States.
It also made me think I need to start getting things like this made in the Land of Tanz (it’s just carvings on a piece of wood, after all!)

Then, there was the Bible aisle.  Or, should I saw, aisleS

This shouldn’t have surprised me.  I know they’re there.  I’ve been in this same place numerous times before.  I’ve journaled about the availability of the Word of God in over 500 versions in the English language… and how we have this so accessible and yet hardly use it.  But as I heard a clerk ask someone if they were looking for a study Bible or simply something decorative, it hit me.  Wow.  Not only are there entire sections dedicated to one version of the Bible, and other sections focused on Bible software (which is awesome, btw!), but people have these in their houses.  And maybe, hopefully, are using them.  But, they are available!  In any color combination or decorative type, version or size or shape you could imagine.  

The reality of the accessibility of the Bible in our own language – did I mention we have over 500 versions?  which is awesome!  I love to compare and see another way to express what God was saying in a way that connects and makes more sense to me.  But… the fact that we have this in our own language, in a language we understand… is still startling as I prepare to go back to Musoma.  Which is a place where people are working diligently to get the Word of God into NINE languages that have NEVER HAD IT before.  Many of which were just recently written down. 

These are languages that speak to people’s hearts.  That have a saving message of a Friend, Messiah, Father, Saviour, King, Lover, Warrior just for them.  And that many of them yearn to hear in a language that they truly understand. 

And it makes my role in the scope of Bible Translation just that much more clear.  This place, this role, this job ahead of me has a purpose in the Kingdom.  It’s bigger than anything I can do alone.  And it’s something that I am completely convinced needs doing.

It’s amazing what can come out of a simple trip to the local Christian Bookstore!

"...Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted!"     - Isaiah 12:4

Saying Goodbyes

2 September 2011

Over the past few months, I've said more goodbyes than I can count.  People that have become a huge part of my life, sisters and brothers and second/third/fourth-moms and uncles in Christ... are suddenly several hundred or thousand miles away... close enough for an occasional phone call or Skype-date, but much too far for hugs or every-day-life interactions.

It's a strange feeling.  Part of me knows that this is the norm for missionaries.  And another part of me retaliates, saying things like, "it's not fair!" and "am I doing something wrong?"  Realizing I have many dear friends around the world but none in the city where I'm residing (as of the moment) makes me feel a bit... discombobulated. 

A neighbor recently lent me a book that her sister (who happens to be a missionary in Ivory Coast, West Africa) wrote.  After reading many funny, oddly-familiar stories about transitioning into African culture and experiencing disorienting culture shock, I flipped back to the part about goodbyes. The author expressed how I feel about this so well that I thought I'd share her words with you.

 
Goodbyes
“The first condition of happiness, reasons Augustine, is that it be permanent.  To love what can be lost is to live in fear.  Freedom from fear, therefore, can be found only in the immutable possession of an unchanging object and the only object independent of flux is God."  – Gordon H. Clark
"Goodbyes are a natural part of life, but in some lines of work they are far too frequent to be comfortable.  We belong to a group in constant flux seeing many people come and go.  This is the life of a missionary.  I rarely cry now at a parting because I have prepared for it as inevitable.  It is only afterwards, in a quiet moment, the tears begin to flow at the memory of a friend who has left our lives once again, or of our extended family far away on the other side of the ocean.  In missionary life goodbyes are as frequent as greetings, and the special people in your closest sphere are continually changing.  When we leave our friends and family across the ocean, God brings in others to replace them for a time, but eventually we lose them too...

Though missionaries are a highly mobile community, it is a deep, rich community.  Even though its members constantly move on to different assignments, they still have friends all over the world.  We have gained from each of our friends in special ways.  I learned from an older friend how to accept whatever God gives us in life and carry on.  Their departure would be difficult, but as with anything difficult in life, they had accepted it and moved on – now so would we…

Once I was sitting by a missionary colleague during a conference, and she commented about this difficult aspect of missionary life.  She said there are only two options for survival: to love quickly and deeply, or not to love at all.  In the former course you hurt badly every time you move on and a relationship is broken, but in the latter you shut yourself off from loving anyone, and while it is true that you do not hurt when someone leaves, you also begin slowly to die within – no one can live without giving and receiving love.

We have a common bond with other missionaries and we need each other more in a place where life is rough and comforts are few.  Backgrounds, interests, and age no longer seem to matter much.  Our friendships tend to run deep and fast making them all the more difficult to break off.  How can you face the subtle prolonged grief of always saying goodbye?  When you love deeply it rips you apart and leaves you hurting.  Some people cannot face it and leave to put down more permanent roots back home.  I cannot blame them.  Though we repeatedly hurt, we also repeatedly run to the Lord who heals all our wounds.  We cry and He comforts us.  We grieve and He holds us.  The more we hurt the more He heals us, and the more it becomes apparent that there is no end to the fountain of His grace. 

As I stood in our no-frills kitchen in the village with the evening breeze coming through our open window and the night quickly following with the setting sun, I felt the tears welling up inside me as I remembered once again those who had left.  Yet God was there.  He would always be.  He is the one thing that never changes.  He only is always sure to fill that emptiness completely.  This life is only temporary; we are just passing through and moving on to better ground.  We are doing our best with what we have, trying to please our Lord, until we arrive safely home to our final resting place.  There we shall see all those we have been parted from for so long, and we will greet them – never to say “goodbye” again. "

from At the Edge of the Village: Musings of a Missionary Wife, by Lisa Leidenfrost

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Simple Things

 17 August 2011
Do you remember that story of the guy who asked God for healing back way back when?  I think his name was Naaman.  He had a skin disease.  I never understood how he could be the captain of a nation’s mighty army AND have leprosy… I didn’t think he would have been accepted in those days.  But that’s not the point.

Naaman heard something about this guy who could heal him.  A prophet in Israel.  And he got excited.  He got ready.  He brought:
a letter from the king of Aram.  
750 pounds of silver.  
150 pounds of gold.  
and ten changes of clothes.

This guy knew how to prepare for a meeting.  And he was serious about getting himself healed.

But God, it seemed, had other plans.  When Naaman arrived, Elisha didn’t even welcome him.
          No glass of lemonade and cookies.
                        No fattened calf killed.
                                  No warm welcome, hug, hand shake, or high five.


Instead, Elisha sent a messenger with a note.  He said, “go wash in the Jordan River seven times and you’ll be healed and clean.”

Simple, right?  Except, that’s not what Naaman was looking for.  Let’s recall.  Naaman was the captain of an army and a mighty warrior.  He had traveled a long way with lots of gifts.  He was ready and prepared to do and give anything… ANYTHING in order to be healed.  Elisha was supposed to come out, wave his hands over him, and call on the name of the Lord so he would be clean.  (Literally… that’s what he was expecting.  Go and look it up.)


And... this is my favorite part.  As the captain stormed off in a rage, one of his servants came running after him.  (Which took a lot of guts, I'm willing to guess.  He's a powerful captain of the army, after all!)  And he said…
"...had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?"
Ah, it’s so simple.  Really.  And that’s how God tends to work.  He speaks to us in a still, small voice.  He desires to spend time with us.  He says, “follow me.”  And when Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t give His disciples a 57-step, complicated, burden-loaded curriculum for them to follow.  He simply said, “Go.  Make disciples.  And by the way, I’m not going to leave you.  Ever.”

But, let’s be honest.  We often want something great.  Its way more cool to have someone stand over you and make a show than to simply go wash in a dirty river while counting to seven.
Recently, in the midst of a million and one transitions… in the midst of trying to figure out how to dress and what to eat and what currency to use in the offering plate and how to greet people and where the milk goes in the fridge and what side of the road to drive on and how to settle into a routine at my parents’ home… in the midst of a zillion thoughts and questions about the future… it seems like God has been saying, "Crystal.  Be still.  And let ME tell you who you are.  Let the Truth of who I say you are wash over you and take away your stress, your worries, your anxious thoughts."

Somehow, it all just seems too simple.

Yikes.

It turns out Naaman and I have a lot in common.  And I'm praying that I wouldn't be as stubborn as he was... even though, in the end, he was obedient, and God worked an amazing healing according to HIS time and way!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Friends Around the World

Right now on FaceBook, I have dear friends online who are in:
  • Cameroon
  • Dodoma, TZ
  • Indiana
  • Dar es Salaam
  • North Carolina
  • Musoma, TZ
  • Denmark
  • Tennessee
  • California
  • and Holland, MI.
It’s amazing.  I love that I live in a place where I’m surrounded by – and get to know – so many people from and in so many places all around the world.

And yet, as I prepare to say goodbyes…
               goodbyes to my kids,
                             goodbyes to new friends and old,
                                          goodbyes to a life I’ve grown accustomed to in this city for the past two years and a community where I’ve had good times and bad, hard transitions and joyful hugs... have fallen down, gotten back up and kept going…
I’m struggling.  Struggling with what it means to have friends everywhere and yet… no place to call home.  Or every place to call home.  Which, in essence, is really no place at all.

It’s ironic, really.  How can I know so many amazing people and yet feel so… by myself?  Have great support networks around the world and feel… misplaced?  Say I trust that God has a plan and yet… question everything He's doing?

Know I don’t belong in this place, in this world… and yet, somehow want to?

Hebrews 11 says,

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.  And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Yeah.  This is a reminder that I need.  Especially right now.  And often.  That this place is not our home.  And that someday, we'll get to BE home.  With Jesus.  Surrounding His throne.  And seeing all the people that we were honored to be surrounded by along the way...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." - Heb 12:1-3

I guess if the life I've been called to requires that I remember even more vividly that I'm an alien and stranger in this land... if I'm stared at and called out to daily... if I'm charged higher prices and am treated differently because of the color of my skin... if I don't always understand what's going on around me... and if I live far from "home"... then it'll have to be worth it in the end.  Because, when the time comes, I won't be so attached to this place.  It will be even more evident where I truly belong.  And God won't be ashamed to be called my God (Heb 16:11), because I've lived knowing there's something better in store for me ahead.

Taking it one. day. at. a time. :)