Tuesday, January 29, 2013

sometimes the music says it all

This weekend we went to Shawn's cousin's church.  It also happens to be David Platt's church, so it was quite an experience for us, since we have never attended a church that size!  Aaron Keyes lead worship, and one of the songs that we sang really hit me.  The words are as follows:

There is strength within the sorrow,
There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding,
You're teaching us to trust

CHORUS
Your plans are still to prosper,
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined,
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens,
Reaching down in endless grace
You are the Lifter of the lowly,
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me,
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good,
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You are working for our good,
You are working for our good and for your glory


Our waiting...
 It seems so trivial compared to many.  I know when we went through my mom's cancer journey and watched her die that summer - the waiting was sometimes excruciating, yet at the same time it was treasured because we knew we had precious little time left with her.  
There have been many times of waiting in my life - waiting for the right job, the right person, the answer to a circumstance.  Often that waiting has ended with clear answers - but many times the time of waiting overlapped into another time, and one outshone the other.  Sometimes He doesn't choose to give us the answers we are looking for.  

It seems we are in another stage of waiting.  Waiting for the support to go to South Sudan.  Waiting for this "in between" time to be over so we can feel like there is a definite purpose to what we are doing each day.  The ironic thing is, that in the same service this song was sung, the pastor preached passionately about missions and going and being involved.  Yet in it all, I feel the father telling me to enjoy each moment.  His plans are stil to prosper, he has not forgotten us.  But maybe WE have forgotten.  We have forgotten that this big thing, this life, is made up of so many little tiny, seemingly insignificant moments.  And we need to really learn how to know him, trust him, be content in those moments.  And all the while he is working - in us and in the world around us.  

So we wait...sigh

I choose to believe.  To wait.  To live in your word and promises, which are my delight.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Glimpses...

When we first cam back from Africa in 2008 I remember having conversations with many friends about the abundance of things that the church (as a whole in America) was lacking.  I was bruised and limping, and angry about being back in the States, so my views on things were more than a little warped.  Though I enjoyed visiting people and churches that we had missed while gone, I felt such an emptiness.  (That is not meant to be a reflection necessarily on those churches, but rather my state of mind at the time!)

As we got to Troy and settled in to the business that is involved in church redevelopment, that view stuck around for a while.  I had a hard time connecting, and easily found fault with church rather than taking time to see the good things. I was tired and angry, and wanted to be in a big church where I could hide and get whatever I though I wanted and needed, yet God decided to place me in a small, struggling church with a handful of people who were probably even more tired than me!  Here I was the pastor's wife, and supposedly helping to rebuild the church, yet I had nothing good to say about church in general!  Me, I , Myself - that seemed to be the point of view of was stuck on.  God has such a sense of humor.

But God did a work in my heart, and I have grown to fiercely love that church.  We have faults and problems - it is a place filled with broken people trying to figure this thing out together.  Yet God has opened my eyes to what I believe the church is.  He calls us his bride.  Yes, that means Christians a whole.  But I think there is something special and holy and sanctified about the church as individual bodies- working all around the world in their own imperfect way, yet loving Jesus and desiring that truth and love to be spread.

I'm not naive.  I know that is not true of all the churches out there.  Yet in this time of fundraising, God has brought us to many, many different churches in various places - even different denominations (gasp), and we have worshiped together.  And in that worship, I have seen the face of Christ reflected in his bride.

We have worshipped with an Episcopal church in the Adirondacks that has embraced and loved our kids (and whole family) as they have decided to partner with us.  We have danced and sang with some some new Jamaican friends at another. (I loved the African feel of that service!) We have gone to several CMA churches in the area and been welcomed and prayed over and given to.  We have met pastors who are men and women of all backgrounds and struggles - yet are speaking the truth of the gospel each week - and living it out before their congregations.  We live in a house provided for us free of charge from a church that did not know us until a few months ago!  And just this morning we went to a church here Port Wentworth, GA where we were welcomed and hugged on by both the people who remembered us, and the ones that didn't.  Prayer cards were asked for, and since we had spent some time here before Malawi and I went to a few Alliance Women's prayer time - I know that when they say they will pray - they mean they are doing battle!

I'm thankful for my own healing, and that God has used me in whatever small way to show his love for his bride, and to remind people of how beautiful - even in our brokenness (especially in our brokenness?) that we are.  And that through celebrating him each week with these churches we are getting a glimpse of eternity.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Dad is an artist!

Before starting this trip south I had a lot of emotions happening - anger, frustration, excitement, grief, anxiety.  I felt overwhelmed with all of that, and so I focused on what I could control - the packing, organizing of school, getting the schedule straight, and so forth.  The problem is, that while I really did enjoy the first couple of weeks on this trip, I knew something was wrong inside.  It was as if instead of facing many of those feelings that had been hitting me like a constant barrage, I just didn't feel at all.   No low points.  No high points.  But not in a good "I'm not being swayed by my emotions and totally focusing on God" way.  Just a void.

I didn't even realize it.  I mean, I knew something was wrong - but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.  I didn't even know how to pray.  My prayers have consisted of, "Protect my kids, guard their hearts and minds," "Please, please, please provide the funding we need to go to Africa," and "Protect us in our journeys."  None of these are bad things - I know God desires all those things and he loves us to ask.  But the joy, the relationship, the thankfulness has been missing.

Yesterday it was almost 80 and absolutely gorgeous outside here!  (Don't be hating!) We went to what we affectionately call "the Alligator Place," also known to most people as "Savannah Wildlife Center." It is a 5 mile drive through a beautiful wildlife area filled with birds of all sorts, crabs, fish, snakes, turtles, armadillos, deer - you name it.  Our favorite is the alligators.  And there have been times that we have seen as many as 50+ in a trip.  However, being January, we didn't really expect to see any.  It was amazing weather, though, and so at the first stop I got out and decided to walk.  It's a great time of year for birds that have migrated south, and the place was swarming with them.  Occasionally one of the kids would hop out and walk with me, but usually Shawn just drove really slow (with the van door open - the kids thought it was great) and I tagged along behind.

I love the water.  I love the sun.  I love being in a place where His creation is so alive and abundant.  And suddenly, my heart was stirring.  I started praying and thanking and thinking of scripture and praying some more.  I was in awe of the nature and I thought, "You are an artist!"  And I knew, in a heartbeat, that he did this for me.

I'm not arrogant to think he did it only for me.  But I knew that he would have done it only for me.  You always hear that about the work on the cross, and I am not downplaying that.  But this - this majesty, this splendor, the warmth and beauty - this is the work of an artist who took great joy in making it for me to see at that moment in that time.  I could feel his pleasure in my pleasure.  I burst out with, "I love you," and was surprised to see how much I meant it.  God and I have a lot of honest talks, and in that I don't always feel as though I love and trust him.  He allows me to say those things, and loves and and works all things for my good anyway.  But right that moment I knew, and I wanted to tell him over and over again - so I did.

"I love you, Daddy!  You are amazing!  Look at this!  I love you!"

Today as we went to the ocean there was a storm coming in, and I could once again feel his presence.  This time it wasn't that warm, giddy feeling.  I was very aware of his power - his deep, incomprehensible nature and love, his foreverness.  The ocean is such a symbol of that to me, and today with the storm coming, it was beautiful and drew me to it's edge.  Yet is is dangerous in that you don't always know what to expect with it.  Things will not always go according to your plan with the ocean - there are undercurrents and tides that can take you and turn everything upside down in a matter of seconds.  You can't see the depth, and if you want a glimpse of it, you have to be willing to risk dive in deep.  And then it can be so murky sometimes that you have to go by faith.  That is relationship with God.  Sometimes scary and unclear, but always powerful. Always real.

In both of these days he showed himself to me with feelings that were clear and strong.  He also answered every little prayer.  When I asked to see gators close enough to take pictures (but far enough away to be safe) he provided 6 of them!  6!  In January!  One even had a dead dear and was rolling it and feeding!  What a neat thing to see!  When I asked for something cool today, He showed me pelicans perched in the waves bobbing up and down, dry sand blowing across the wet sand looking like a mysterious haze, shells and fossils, and skies brilliant blue one day and dark and foreboding the next.

Wow.

My Dad is GOOD!

How amazing is that? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

emotional chaos

So, I kind of had a breakdown today.

We are getting ready to road trip for a little over two months to do some support raising for our missions work in South Sudan.  We have a lot of parties planned with people and places that we need to be at certain times.  We had someone give us a van, and we really appreciate that.  However, that van came from Ohio, and there is no inspection in Ohio.  There is, however, inspection in NY.  And apparently, after 13 counts against us, said van is going to be about $1800 just to get us to code.  And we can't leave tomorrow as planned because it will be in the shop all day.  Sigh...not exactly as we planned.

However, as inconvenient as it feels, it is not melt down worthy.

So I was sitting and crying and feeling inexplicable angry at God.  Then Shawn mentioned something to me that became clear.  None of these feelings are about the van or the inconvenience, or even the money that we have to spend.  It's about good-byes.  And denial.  And endings.  And enormous amounts of loss that we are facing in our lives.

I realize in my head that we are coming back to the area in March, and since we don't know what will happen with our support raising on this trip (we are praying for miracles) we have no idea how long we will be here before we take off again for training.  So even though last night was our last night at Compelled, and Shawn is officially done as pastor, I have been able to deny that things are changing.  That they have changed.  That even when we come back, things are going to be different.

I know that doesn't mean my relationships have to suffer.  I have deep friendships with others that I do not see each day.  But this phase of life - with kids growing up and into teens, losing my mom to cancer, and learning so many things about myself and who I am - this stage of life has been navigated with some amazing people whom I have grown to depend upon a great deal for prayer, encouragement, acceptance, and love.  And I love them deeply.

So even though I am excited about the things that the are in our future - immediate and the future in South Sudan - I am also really, really sad about this change.  Even though I know this is a choice, and we made the decision to go - it was also a choice to obey God and do what He is asking.  So while there is excitement, anticipation, and joy in the choice, there is also grief, anger, and emptiness in it.  And each of those take turns coming out.  Sometimes they try to come out all together, and they fight until one wins.  Like the anger today.

This life is so crazy.  And I still choose to believe that there is hope and joy and thankfulness abounding in all this.  But today was just hard - and there will be other, even harder days ahead as we return to say real goodbyes.  Thanks for your prayers.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hope

Hope  - Merriam Webster defines it as "To cherish a desire with anticipation"; "To expect with confidence"; and "To desire with the expectation of obtainment."  There is a lof of expectation and anticipation in those definitions.

Each year I ask God for a word or phrase to help direct me to something that he wants to show me or have me learn more.  The last two years have been thankfulness (I guess I had a lot to learn, since he didn't give me a different word last year!)  Of course, that carries over.  Thankfulness is the key to victory in our Christian walk, I firmly believe.  But this year I am adding to that "hope."

If I'm being honest, I'm a little nervous how he is going to teach me.  I mean, being hopeless is a catastrophe.  It leads to so many terrible and toxic thoughts and actions.  Recently I was watching the interaction of some kids, all junior high or younger.  They live in an area in our city that is filled with drugs, violence, gangs, sex, and crime.  They are just the next generation to participate in all that - most come from families where at least one person in in jail and another in a gang.  Many are related - because promiscuity is rampant, and young, unwed pregnancy so normal.  There is violence in their houses, schools, neighborhoods, families, and relationships.  As I sat and watched the boys and girls react to each other (and they are BOYS and GIRLS, not grown ups) I saw the boys imitate the men they knew with their language, sexual comments, and vulgar actions.  I watched the older girls' expressions go blank and try to get a tough exterior, while the younger ones still could not hide their fear of what they were expected to be a part of.  But more than anything I saw hopelessness...they are steeped in it.  They have no way out.  My heart broke.

I can teach about Jesus and his love for them and the hope he brings - but it is a foreign language to them.  And it's not just them - its the majority of this world.  So many people have nothing to hope for, nothing to expect and anticipate.  They don't even know that there is that possibility.

Then I think of the verse in Hebrews where it talks about faith being the evidence of what we hope for and the certainty of things not seen, and I think - how can they have faith, if they do not have hope?  It's  a vicious cycle, I suppose.

So that's my word this year - my ministry, my desire, my challenge.  To allow God to develop more hope in me without fear; to feel hope and anticipate the things he is going to do in me, for me, and though me; and to pass that hope on to as many people as I can.  To help teach what hope is and where real hope comes from.

You want my new year's resolution?  There it is.