Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Endurance

Fits and starts for over a year now, and I'm only halfway there. But why not continue to count anyway? So I start again, each day a new opportunity to discover the wonder and count the blessings.

# 530 — 555

~ talking with Tammy til the phone dies
~ a husband who steadies me, even long distance
~ a teenager who leans into me while we watch
~ an abundant table that tells the truth about an abundant life


~ Mom and me doing the dishes
~ that I sometimes hear His voice speak to my spirit
~ that he confirms his will concerning the hard things
~ deciding to go where He leads me
~ His grace and patience when I fail
~ that He would use me anyway
~ a youth pastor's sermon
~ when toddler thanksgiving breaks the silent tension
~ a beautiful emailed prayer from a neice to an aunt
~ watching them grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man
~ talking about his desires and dreams for the future
~ mothers-in-law who love each other


~ one marriage saved and a woman's courage to say so
~ emails from Wayne
~ Adrian leading worship
~ all my children serving on the platform
~ four nights in a row with Adrian home
~ a husband who flies to grieving friends
~ a father-daughter duet
~ when photosynthesis stops and trees show their true colors


~ the good that can come for a bad situation
~ the struggle of maintaining the posture of gratitude and continuing to count

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dusting off Matthew 15:18 and Doing the Hard Thing

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

Does anybody really do this?

I should have seen it coming a mile away. God, early Saturday morning, speaks into my heart as I breathe in the oxygen that my corner Christmas tree expels. God says softly, "Let this be a season of quiet rest." Even under normal circumstances, which fly at me with break-neck speed, this will be a challenge. Surely I should have seen this for the set-up it was -- it's classic. But I am obtuse. Less than one hour after that sweet time alone with God and our new Christmas tree, I learn that a brother has sinned against me.

The rest of my day was anything but quiet rest.

I was angry. I felt violated. I needed a sounding board, but my husband had just flown out of town. I reached out online for wisdom from others, I wrestled and replayed the offense in my head. I fussed and stewed turmoil right into my quiet peace. And that quickly, I was disobedient.

I pound out a sharp email, but don't hit send. My gaze keeps returning to the beautiful still tree that breathes in my living room. It mocks me. I stop, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Breathe, I tell myself. The roiling storm slows to a simmer.  

I confide to a friend that I hate confrontation. I realize as the day progresses that my tension is actually because I'm sensing that God is prompting me to confront, but graciously, and I am resistant.

Then there is confirmation in my inbox and in my husband's tired voice over the phone when he says the word instruction among a flurry of others. It's the only word I remember after we hang up late. Angst is tiring, so I sleep well.

On Sunday, I draft another email, softer this time, and let it simmer, too, right through morning worship.

Our youth pastor preaches a sermon about the fear of the Lord. He takes us to Jesus' letter to Pergamum. Jesus is concerned about how this church tolerates false teachings that lead to immoral deeds. Jesus warns in 2:16, "Repent; or else I am coming to you quickly and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth."

Jermaine probes to the heart of my matter, "Why would we tolerate sin in the church? Why shrink back when righteousness has been compromised? If we do not confront the sin among us, Jesus warns that he will come and fight himself with his deadly double-edged sword. Better for us to confront. Do we hesitate because we fear man rather than God?"

I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him. (Luke 12:5-6)

I still hate confrontation, and I don't yet feel peace in my circumstances, but I finally know what I must do: the hard thing for righteousness' sake. I may have needed three confirmations because I am, after all, obtuse, but I'm glad God keeps speaking his will to me until my heart is quiet again and still.

Pray for me today while I dust off Matthew 15:18 and do the hard thing?

 
I'm writing in community with Michelle this week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Long Quiet

It's quiet here this morning. Adrian worked late last night. Noelle and Reagan shopped early Black Friday with a cousin and an aunt. They will all sleep in. Mike flew south at 5am for family friends and a funeral. So I sit alone in the quiet and resist the urge to turn on music.

The tree lights are lit. Part of me wants to sit, only sit, long and quiet. The other part wants music, chores, and the race and pace I know so well. To rest I must resist.

So I take myself to the tree and sit across from a new living guest in my house. After ten years of artificial, this tree smells of earth, pours sticky sap, and drinks in water. It stands quiet in the corner and breathes.


The nativity scene is on the coffee table awaiting the Christ child that will be born unto us Christmas morning, delivered to his manger, his mother's arms, and his mission.  The familiar participants look on with expressions that were meant to be responses by the artist, but with this empty bed of hay, their expressions oddly become those of anticipation.


This is how it was for four hundred years.

Quiet.

Life was freeze-framed with something crucial missing. A silent God quietly awaiting a cataclysmic event of his own making at the precise moment of his choosing. God waited, said nothing, did nothing. For four hundred years.

While generations are born and are buried. While nations rise and fall. While the earth spins its continued orbit. Four hundred springtimes and harvests, 146,000 dawns and as many dusks while God's prelude played silently.

Today, as the Christmas season begins, I decide it will be for me what God prescribed: a time of quiet waiting. Of course there will be things to do and preparations to make. I'm yet to buy a single Christmas gift. The challenge will be in what to let go and what to keep in order to maintain the quiet and expectation. It will mean resisting and saying no to some things.

I tend to want it all, especially during the Christmas season, but having it all is losing something crucial. This year I'm choosing quiet expectation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks


 Happy Thanksgiving 2011
May you find God's bounty and blessing around your table today.

Laced With Grace

The Laced With Grace Team has put together a special
Thanksgiving post today.
All of us are together for the first time.
Stop by for a visit?



Monday, November 21, 2011

Winning, Losing, and Getting Home Safe

They were fairly competitive, this bunch of young men who found a place where they could still be boys.  The softball diamond each weekend in the late 80's made for grand slams, sliding home safe, and easily knowing whether you were a winner or a loser after just nine innings.

Among them are my big brother, his best friend, my future husband, his two big brothers, our best man and his big brother. Youth, brotherhood, and competition made these guys a team.



Yesterday, we had a guest musician in our service. He didn't play on this team, but against it on a team that rivaled ours in athleticism and records. It's how we came to know Gerald Simmons. He was fiercely competitive in his softball and equally as zealous for the Lord. At the time, he was a budding music minister in a local baptist church that was experiencing a bit of revival. Back then he was confident about his game and his God.

But yesterday, he wept through his testimony, one he doesn't often tell. It involved divorce and middle-aged drug addiction that began innocently with pain-killers after surgery. The tale was rife with losing. Kids. Control. Companies. Dignity.  But there was a second wife who refused to accept defeat. She knew a love never backs down and always wins.

So Gerald wept when he said he was the the prodigal son from Luke's chapter about lost things.

Until then, I had always seen the story of the prodigal as the story of salvation, lost being this boy's condition before he humbled himself and returned to the man who could take care of him. But yesterday, through Gerald's prodigal story, I saw that lost things are lost because they once were where they belonged. Only when they turn up missing are things deemed lost. Gerald was the prodigal son. He was a winner who had become a loser. He walked away from God a son and came back hoping to be servant. What was lost now was his pride.

So Luke 15 is about lost things, but it's also about the finding. And the knowing who you are. It's about a celebration for winning after so much losing. It's about winning because you made it home safely. And yesterday, old softball rivals and brothers rejoiced in that.



 
Writing in community with Michelle and Jen today.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For When Life Dogs You









Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:5


Photo Credits:  Noelle and Reagan Gonzalez

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Canopy of Angel Wings

The desire to serve the little ones grows until it leans on your own front door and you hear Jesus standing at the door knocking. God tells you to open your home to those babies with the undeniable eyes, but you hesitate because it's the home with your wife and your own son and daughter. And these other children come empty-handed, open-mouthed and scar-hearted. They offer only their poverty, exploitation, and they are broken. It might be messy, so you hesitate.

God in his mercy gives you a dream of two angels facing one another with wings that canopy high overhead. The battered, bruised and hurting children pass beneath angel wings and emerge healed and whole on the other side. Is it not unmistakable?

Day 1 and Now

Day 1 and Now

City of Children:  New Hope
 
So you create a logo and you answer the knocking door. You grow your family from 4 to 24, and it takes hired help and volunteers and faith. You come to America and flash a picture of a family of 24 on the screen and you say, "These are my children," counting the biological ones with the spiritual ones.


Then God gives you a piece of property, miraculously, unexpectedly, paid in full -- somehow -- because you (He?) have been thinking bigger and more, a whole city of children. It takes land that there is lack of in the city. Kids that play on rooftops, need to play in rolling hills. And you are already building lives, so why not a big ole house?


The landscapers and architects study the property and determine the most suitable place to build the home:  on firm ground that is flanked by two mountains, where broken children can pass through the doors, between the mountains and the angels, and be healed and whole. 

When we have his heart, he gives us wings, he moves the mountains until they are a canopy of angels, and unexpected dreams begin to come true.


Would you like to know more about our work in Guatemala?
Want to join the team through prayer, giving, or going?
 Email Mike at pastormg{at}gmail{dot}com.

Photography by Amber Twitty, one of our resident missionaries in the children's home in Coban, Guatemala.



 
Joining Gypsy Mama for a five minute free write about what I've learned this week while Pastor Cristian has been with us in the states about the beginnings our ministry to the indigenous children of Guatemala.
 This week's prompt is unexpected.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sabbath Keeping

A blogger friend lost her husband yesterday.
 I fear it may have been unexpected, although I cannot be sure of that right now.
She has a Sunday ritual called Sabbath Keeping.
Under the circumstances, I assume she will not be keeping this Sabbath day on her blog,
so I will do it in her stead,
in her honor,
and ask your prayers for my friend Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm.


To die will be an awfully big adventure. 
 ~J.M. BARRIE, Peter Pan


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
~King David, Psalm 23 




Cowards die many times before their deaths
The valiant never taste of death but once. 
~WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Julius Caesar

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
~Proverbs 3:5-6

[After shaving his wife's hair that was falling out after chemotherapy] It was the first of many personal moments they would share together, a long sabbatical into her day to day care, part of the mechanics of dying. He'd done all that he could, but choosing to lovingly care for her was like steering a plane into a mountain as gently as possible. The crash is eminent. It's how you spend your time on the way down that counts. ~Jamie Ford, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
~Jesus, as recorded in the gospel of John Chapter 14 Verses 1 through 3


We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream: it may be so the moment after death.
~NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, American Note-Books, 1836


Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.
~GEORGE ELIOT, Adam Bede


When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
  “Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?”
~Apostle Paul, First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15 Verses54 and 55


For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.
~Apostle Paul, Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 1 Verse 21

*     *     *
May the God of peace give you comfort this day, Sandra.
Our prayers are with you.


Friday, November 4, 2011

A Journey Through Jonah to a Job

This is my testimony about giving up my stay-at-home mom status and re-entering the workforce.  It involved giving up homeschooling and the sin of worrying. Like waves lick the shore with rising and falling tides, God overlapped his work in my life with my last study-journey through the book of Jonah.



Part 3:  Fish Bait

Part 4:  God on the Spot

Part 5:  Sure Foundations

Part 6:  Secret to Success:  Tales From the Belly
{Part 6 requires clicking through to the (in)courage website.}

Part 7:  Land, Ho!






Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confessions of a Desperate Housewife

He's here, our missionary in Guatemala. Of course he doesn't really belong to us, he was busy doing his work there in his home country long before we met and partnered with him.

But we love to claim him because he's taken in 22 children from remote villages where children sleep on floors of dirt without bedding, get wet inside their homes when it rains, and whose tummies are filled with worms instead of supper.


It's not an orphanage, because most of these children have parents who love them and made the sacrifice of parting with them for the sake of their future, so they might have food, education, and be rid of the parasites. They are now sheltered from the elements, but also from being beaten, becoming child brides, and being raped at the hands of family members. Among them are the children of children, being raised as siblings because what else can be done?

Pastor Cristian runs a children's home, lives there with his wife and his own two children. It is not his job; it is his calling, his family's life.  The transformation of these kids is stunning. They have learned Spanish, manners, life skills, and Jesus Christ.


This is our missionary, the one we claim as our own because he's done so well for many kids and for God's glory too. We are proud of him and all his home-work.

::

He's here, a guest in my home. He's going to see how a family of five lives in America with harried schedules and unmopped floors and spoiled kids. I fear he will see my inadequacy to raise but three, and what goes undone when I work outside the home and try to maintain patience and a godly, if dusty, home.

I fret because he will see the dishes my kids leave in every room although they are permitted to eat only in the kitchen. It is not the only parental expectation my bold American kids defy on a regularly basis because their stretched-too-thin American parents are too tired and distracted to enforce the rules.


In Guatemala, his kids are more than happy to eat in the kitchen. They are happy to make beds and to keep clean rooms because they remember not having any of these things. Kek 'chi children who have been rescued from despair happily comply with his rules.


How do I compete with this? And why am I compelled to do so?

I'd rather keep my door closed to his discovery that this once stay-at-home mom did too much for her kids and not enough with them. She served without teaching them to serve right along side a little more. If I was to teach a cheerful heart and a hearty work ethic, I have failed.

I think these defeated thoughts as I lean my desperate comparisons into the tub's soap scum and try to scrub away the dirty evidence in the bath and in my heart. The descent of an airplane will deliver scrutiny to my door. So I scrutinize myself, but my questions will not be vacuum up like my dingy carpet.

Why am I only now discovering my mothering faults when it's too late to correct them?  Why am I expecting judgment and comparison from a godly man who knows all too well the challenges of raising another generation for God? I fear the cultural and lifestyle differences will not be taken into account. Or worse, that they will. The questions slosh in my head as tawny brown replaces the suds sloshing in my mop bucket.

I scrutinize my home and my children frantic to make the inside match the facade we spend more time maintaining. I want my home to ooze with the same kind of flourishing order and grateful servanthood I see from our Guatemalan counterparts. This desperate housewife would rather claim the work she contributes to in a foreign land than the one behind her own front door.


As I tried to ready my home last night, I prayed that the clean up effort would uncover grace that's been lost in the shuffle of our hurried lives. I'd like to rediscover and dust off that grace, but I realized therein lies my problem. Grace is the cleansing agent, not the forgotten prize for achieving perfection.



 
{linking with Emily's imperfect prose}

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An X and an O


It's an X and an O. They're bookends that prop up the beginning and the end of everything written in the books between them. They are the newest addition to my office, a big ole pink hug and kiss sitting there on my shelf. They make me happy, but not just because they're so darn cute. It's their story that makes them so special.

The first time I saw these bookends was during the Christmas season almost a decade ago. They caught my eye and made me think of my sister-in-law because they're just her style and she works out of an office in her home. I could so see these bookends propping up her important files, reference books, or research material, so I bought them and wrapped them in Christmas paper, tagging them with her name. I wanted her to think of us and feel hugged and kissed everytime they caught her eye or caught the rest of her stuff when she pulled something off her bookshelf.  She enjoyed them for many years, and I forgot all about them.

The rest of the story is over at LacedWithGrace today. Why don't you click on through to see what's next for that X and O. I promise it doesn't have anything to do with marriage — 31 Days of that topic is enough for awhile.

Come on, follow those bookends. The Laced With Grace button will take you there.

Laced With Grace
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