Sunday, May 22, 2011

Schenectady = heaven? ;)

So it's May 22 and we are still here.  Not that I thought it would be different, though it is wise to remember that day will come sometime! In that spirit the kids and I had a fun talk at breakfast yesterday.
They have been around and heard people talking about the end of the world - at church, with friends, etc.  So I asked them, "If Jesus were to come back today, how does that make you feel?"  I got a couple of nervous smirks and a giggly "I don't know."  So I encouraged them to be honest because there can be no wrong answers when you ask someone how they feel about something.  Eventually we got around to talking about being nervous because we don't really know what heaven will be like.  We had some fun discussions on that one:  No, we will NOT turn into angels, they are created beings and we have the ability to choose to love and serve God where as they don't; We will be "caught up together with them in the clouds" (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NIV) so I don't think that means we just dissipate into thin air ("That would hurt, Mom"); I hope there will be animals in heaven, but I don't think it will be these animals - they don't have a soul or the ability to choose Jesus; Maybe a log cabin is a possibility instead of a mansion???; I have no idea at all what will happen as far as ages and bodies are concerned in heaven, so I have no idea about how the babies that I lost look or live there; There are MANY more unknowns than knowns about all this; Through all the scary unknown, we still know and trust that God has the absolute best for us!!!
I was thinking this morning as I sat in my new house and relished the birds singing, the bright, cheerful colors, and just the house in general (have I mentioned how much I LOVE my new house?) that we really have no clue what is best for us or even what we really want!  I liked the house I lived in prior to this.  I know it was small (ok, minuscule) but we made it work!  And we even had friends and family stay and were able to have fun and keep things relaxed and mostly stress-free.  It was not ideal but I didn't think too much about it,  because I assumed with what rent costs and the haziness of our future here, that as long as we lived in this area we would live there.  So I made it home.  And it was a nice home. (I may fight change sometimes, but when I accept it I have an alarming ability to roll with it!)  
In fact, when we talked about moving here, I was a little sad about leaving our neighbors and the pretty green living room and the big counter top in the kitchen where I rolled out so many cookies and pizza doughs!  But each day here I am so thankful for the space, the brightness, the backyard, the neighbors, the neighborhood and area to walk, the chance to garden, the basement, the comfy family room...well, you get the point.  I didn't know that there could be something better for me and I almost fought the chance to have the thing that was given.
Obviously heaven is better than Schenectady!  (hahahaha!  People around here call Schenectady "Skanktady" and Troy "Troilet" though I think those are undeserved names!) But I realize that as I was nervous about the unknown and not really wanting Jesus to come back, that I was also fighting the thing that will be the best, most amazing thing I could ever have or experience.  Not that I could stop it anyway - like most things in this life.  But I have decided to start the paradox of living in each day to it's fullness and being content, but experiencing the excitement of looking at what is to come by falling more and more in love with him and learning to trust him better.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

laying down the burdens

"You're calling me to lay aside the worries of my day
To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place
Worthy, Worthy
I open up my heart and let my spirit worship Yours
I open up my mouth and let a song of praise come forth
Worthy, You are worthy
Of a child-like faith
And of my honest praise
And of my unashamed love
Of a holy life
And of my sacrifice
And of my unashamed love"
(Ten Shekel Shirt, "Unashamed Love")

These last few weeks have been rather difficult weeks spiritually for me.  There has been a lot of opposition spiritually and I have not fought well!  I have given in and listened to the lies that Satan has whispered in my ears.  Lies that said, "You are not good enough and you will never be good enough.  How can God use you?  Why would God want to use you?"  And I fell for it -hook, line, and sinker.  Often I would find myself despairing over things that are out of my control, and obsessing over ways to fix it and make it more "control-able." 
Yet through it all, God was calling me back to him.  He loves me so much.  He calls to me to lay aside these burdens and worries and come to his arms and rest and praise.  It is such a pure and simple thing, and yet so consuming and healing.  So why do I fight it every time?
Today we had the wonderful chance to get together briefly with Michael, the team leader from the Sudan team.  Two weeks ago we found out that we still don't have any answers to if we will be going to Sudan - and probably will not until the fall.  I was frustrated, angry, pouty, and full of self-pity.  Then I put it out of my mind - stuffed it to the back to be ignored.  I decided that I had to focus on the here and now and not the unsure future.  And I did it too - all in my own power.
Silly me.
That was all great until today, when Michael came!  Then my desire to be in Africa - especially with this team that we admire so greatly - rose to the surface again.  I had to take time this afternoon to really lay my heart bare before God.  I realize I cannot stuff something down that he has has given me (a love for his people in Africa and a desire to serve there), yet at the same time I DO have to live in the here and now and love his people here and serve here.  (And I admit that it has been a surprise to me how easily I am falling in love with  these people!  What a wonderful group God has put us with here.)  His timing is always best, and his ways may make no sense to me, but I trust them.
I am learning, God!  Thank you for being patient with me!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This world is not our home

My heart is aching for many friends as I read their facebook posts, blogs, and prayer requests this morning.  I am sad for those in the south who are suffering from flooding and people in Pakistan who lost another loved one in a bombing and people in so many countries where there is not the freedoms we have.  I have been reading some books on persecution of Christians, and as I read through stories in Voice of the Martyrs I wonder if I could withstand the things that are being done to these brothers and sisters.  I feel heavy and overwhelmed for all the evil in the world, and the people that face it (and enforce it) each day. 
I keep reading about the prediction of the rapture happening this Saturday.  I put no stock in this prediction, but there is a glimmer of hope in remembering that it WILL happen someday.  And then those of us who know Jesus, who have relationship with him and have experienced his loving embrace here on earth will know it to the full measure as we go home - finally.  Our real home.  The one we long for in our hearts and dream of in our heads.  Where evil is no more and we can't imagine the wholeness and life that we feel for the first time.
Then I ache again - for so many that I love will not be experiencing that wholeness and home.  And as I pray for His return in one breath, I plead for his patience with this world in another so that more may come to know him.
Would you pray with me this day?  In all of it we can rest in our Father's arms and trust in his love.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

comforting familiarity

I love adventure!  Exploring new places, meeting new people, trying new foods, and doing different things all make me happy.  I have found that since I came to a place in life where I am not trapped in fear constantly (that's a blog for another time) I really enjoyed some things that I never thought I would do - flying in a MAF plane, canoeing on a crazy  river, and going to foreign countries.  I am a girl that use to have a panic attack riding a carousel because "what if something happened and my horse broke loose?"  (What if?  How many crazy carousel accidents have you heard of?! )  Anyway...
That being said, there is something comforting and intimate about routine.  Tonight at Compelled we got done practicing and the whole worship team, including the sound guy, went into the prayer room to pray together like we do each week.  There was no pushing people that direction.  Everyone put down instruments and went back to pray.  And we prayed together with the ease of people who have gotten to know each other well and love God and each other.  And I can say that I do love this team.  It is filled with people who know how to laugh and have fun, yet are passionate about their relationship with God and seeing others have a relationship too.
As the school year is ending (for colleges) and many people in our congregation with be leaving for the summer - or graduating, boo hoo - I have felt sad these past few weeks.  As much as I like adventure, I struggle with change.  It's a weird paradox in my life.  I like knowing that I will see these people that I have come to care about each Monday night for practice, and then again Wednesday.  I like knowing that if we are playing a certain song, James will play something that makes my kids want to be like him, JP will add a cool bass line to it, TJ will add his own rhythm and sound to it (and probably break another pic), Jay will keep it going with the drums, and I can play off that.  We play well together (most nights...tonight was a little rough for me! Hahaha!)  We have learned to "hear" each other.  I like that familiarity.  And now it's all in chaos for the summer.  Sigh.  Roll with the punches, I guess.  And trust God.
 But if you happen to play an instrument and want to come see us each Wednesday - we would love it! ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We've got issues :)

Doesn't everyone? :)  Shawn and I do counseling with several people each week - it comes with the territory of being a pastor and his wife.  And I really believe what I am saying when I tell them that it is a healthy, good thing to go to someone for help or advice.  I think we are very self righteous if we think we must have all the answers, and refusing to go to someone else for help when you need it shows that you must believe that! We have also been in counseling in the past.  When we were in our church in Ohio and had gone through a few crazy years of babies, miscarriages, redevelopment churches, surgeries, depressions and RJ's holes in his heart we looked at each one day and said, "And who are you?"  Shawn wisely called our wonderful DS and the district set us up with a week away with some intense counseling and then some weekly stuff for a while.  Just being away and having someone help us focus on God again did wonders.  We saw that we had not been guarding our hearts well in all the craziness of life, and so we were in survival mode instead of living as God intended. 
We also went into counseling after we got back from Malawi.  We had been ripped away from a place that, for the first time, I had thought "I could spend my life here."  I didn't want to be in New York.  I wanted to cry and mourn.  Shawn wanted to "move on"  Both of us needed to work through things in a healthier way, so once again God placed us in the presence of someone who would help us through. 
This time the situation is a little different.  There is no big crisis.  In fact, our lives are going pretty wonderfully right now.  We have moved into a beautiful house, we have ministry happening in two churches that are challenging, but in no way boring.  We have friends who love us, family close by so that we get to see them, and there are no big obstacles happening right now.  But as many of you know, we are hoping to go to Sudan with WHM and so there are some things that we need to resolve (or at least recognize and work on) before we go.  I understand this.  They (the WM people) do not know us really.  They want to make sure that they are sending us in a state of mind that will not destroy either us or their team there.  I am thankful and grateful for that.  The last time we went it went something like this:  We want to go overseas, someone wants to do a ministry there, yippee - let's go.  No preparation, no organization, nothing.  And while I don't regret a minute of our time in Malawi, I wouldn't want to repeat that situation.  And let's face it -Sudan makes Malawi look like summer camp.
So on to counseling again.  With the same wonderful woman who helped us when we got back from Africa.  I am so thankful for that contact and her ministry to missionaries and pastors, because she offers her time for free.  But I admit, my flesh fought it.  I was prideful enough to think I actually had it all together this time.  Then I swung the opposite direction and thought that I would never be good enough and fell into self pity.  Then I got angry and self righteous again.  Then the pity party showed up again.  Then...well, you get the picture. 
But today I feel like I have a new, fresh view of the fact that God is working in me, and he believes that I am worth polishing, cleaning up, using, and displaying.  He is proud of me and loves me, and this time of sorting through things and working through issues is a time of showing me that love. 
So I will guard my heart, allow God to pour into me through this time of stripping away and revealing, and praise his name through it.  Thank you for your prayers.   

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

I celebrated Mother's Day this year a little different than most would expect - with 15 people at my house for dinner.  I was only related to 5 of them.  :)  I LOVED it! 
Shawn has been teaching an international bible study on the RPI campus for the last 2 years.  (I think he has done it 5 semesters total.)  He loved this ministry, and it was so great to see the relationships formed and the people from all over the world - especially in places where the gospel is closed off- come to this study and hear about Christ.  It has been fruitful in many ways, and he had been rejuvinated many times just from going to this class.  But with our new schedule at two different churches, this has been one of the things that he has had to drop.  He will be in Troy Monday and Wednesday evenings, and both of those evenings are taken with things right now.  We are hoping he can get involved in the same ministry on the Union campus here in this area. 
Anyway, after each semester the students have wanted to take him out to eat to thank him, and also to say goodbye to the people who are leaving to go back home.  This time I joined them, and last Sunday evening we went to Buffalo Wagon to share in a traditional Chinese meal.  (The majority of the students are from China!)  We all ordered something, put it in the middle of the table, and shared.  I got complimented on my chopstick skills and decided to be brave enough to try everything - even the seafood and tofu soup.  (I usually hate seafood and tofu, but this soup was delicious!!)  I got to know some of the men and women better and really enjoyed myself.  When the topic of American food turned to McDonald's experiences, I know I couldn't leave them with such a poor picture of this country! ;)   So we invited them all to come over the following week for a real American meal.  I wasn't thinking about the fact that it was Mother's Day! 
Last night we had 6 Chinese men and women, a couple from the Carman Road Church that we are getting to know, a student from the Bronx (that's international, right?) and our family in for dinner.  We had fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs, and 5 pies!  Good old Southern comfort food! 
The eating went well, and people seemed to like it, but the thing that I enjoyed most was the companionship.  With my family's hearts coming alive at being with people from different cultures, we  loved sharing the experience with Al and Ruanne (the couple from Carman Road) who jumped right in and asked questions, played pool, and made fast friends.  It had been a rough week of spiritual warfare for our family, and we were tired and had (honestly) failed at praising Him even through crazy emotions, sickness, and insecurities.  I was so thankful that God showed his love for us despite our "performance" with this amazing time last night.  He is such a good God and it was a the perfect example of a parent's love.  Which is, after all, why we are celebrating Mother's Day! 
Oh yea, my kids also made me some pretty wonderful cards that are hanging in the kitchen to remind me of this love!