Heaping Spoonfuls of Grace for When We Goof It All Up

Day 28, EAT (Five Minute Friday)
We sat hunched over half-full plates forcing spoonfuls of chicken, rice, and lentils into our mouths as our host sat watching us. We were doing our best to finish a special meal in honor of the Dashain holiday at our language tutor’s home. We had lost track of the courses but were sure this was the end.

With a sweet smile, she placed TWO GIANT, HEAPING bowls of Asian noodles before us. We stared at the remaining spread in disbelief. Our kids weren’t much help. Our daughter turns her nose up at anything that isn’t pizza, and our son was just over a year at the time but was given a grown child’s serving. My stomach was churning, telling me to stop. But with a forced smile and a feigned word about how delicious it was (nothing tasted good at this point), I kept eating. And then….she brought me some plain yogurt. Yay.

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The second time we ate at her house and reminded her, in advance, our inability to eat large amounts of food.

She asked me several times if I didn’t like it. I knew she wanted me to finish it and ask for more, to convince her once and for all that it was tasty and I was thankful. I knew how hard she worked to prepare this meal for us (slaughtering the chicken and all!). My desperate prayers for freed up stomach space went unanswered, and I had to admit defeat.

Sometimes our efforts to live for the benefit of others and the glory of God just don’t cut it. We are limited and unable to perform the tasks that spell out gratitude and love. We hope and pray that those whom we labor to love will see our efforts and know that we did our we will inevitably fall short.

We will let people down. We won’t be able to fulfill what we promise. We won’t find the strength to love like Jesus. We occupy bodies broken by the Fall and are unable to live perfectly and honorably at all times (or most of the time!). We trust God to work on our behalf, to communicate the words we fail to speak, and to show the love we fail to display.

We will strive and struggle. It’s all part of this thing called sanctification. We need heaping spoonfuls of grace and answered prayers for the strength to do more. We make right the things we can make right, and we ask God to take care of the rest. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

Do you struggle with guilt guilt over your shortcomings in service to others?
Do you need heaping spoonfuls of grace (like I do)?

Talk to me in the comment section!

The Burden Bore ’round the World

As a student, I could wear it on a t-shirt or keep it in my back pocket to pull out as was convenient.

While raising support, I could pack it up and put in the back of our minivan and retrieve it to display alongside our family’s smiling faces and pressed attire.

When leaving the land of my birth, I zipped it up in a 50 pound bag and stowed it away, more burdened by the fragility of my small babies whose worlds were about to be rocked.

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On the field, it became something else entirely, too heavy to handle on my own. The burden for the lost and dying. Those that hadn’t heard. I picked it up and put it away often when my residence was in America, but from now on it would be forever with me sitting on my chest and whispering in my ear, even as I slept.

It calls my name from the sides of the streets where naked babies play with a passed out parent on the sidewalk. It grabs my attention from the beautiful views of this land and draws it a darkness for which I can’t craft a comparison. I hear it in ringing bells and blowing seashells as my neighbors lift up their voices in dramatized prayer to their chosen gods.

The burden I shared while raising support for this ministry was real; don’t get me wrong…

To read the rest of this post, visit Women Behind the Scenes

 

Coffee for Your Heart
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Five Minute Friday: Long-Distance Loyalty

 

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“I was surprised at my automatic response to an SMS popping up on my phone late one evening. I realized that something had happened in my heart sometime over the last year of change after change in my unsettled life in Nepal, and I felt compelled to confess.

I told my friend of many years how I had distanced myself from those residing Stateside in some strange act of self-preservation. For some inexplicable reason, I had convinced myself it was just easier to do things this side of the world on my own. Like I had something to prove to myself that I was capable of handing the many curveballs thrown my way without the encouragement of friends and family.

Whoa, pride…Not cool!

The confession was difficult to release, and I immediately wanted to retract it. The dancing dots on the screen that told me she was crafting a response lingered for far too long and increased my anxiety about the situation at hand. But in true faithful friend fashion, she thanked me for my honesty and even affirmed my feelings despite how crazy they seemed to me.

I felt free to share, wholly accepted and loved. I had allowed the lonely moments and feelings of being forgotten overshadow the great blessing of the truly loyal, life-giving friends I have, and I had failed to return that great gift of loyalty from my side of the world.

This friends’ faithfulness shined a light on my own lack of loyalty to these invaluable treasures. I had excused myself from these friends’ lives because it just seemed easier, and maybe, in some ways it is.

But receiving the great gift of loyalty from a faithful friend makes me recognize its immeasurable value which I had been missing out on. What a great privilege it is to pass it on!”

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This post is part of Five Minute Friday where many writers join together each week to write for freely Five Minutes on the same prompt and encourage each other along the way. Join the fun!

 

 

On Finals and Finishing: When the End is only the Beginning

Tomorrow is our last day of language school.

TOMORROW.

If you noted that I am kind of freaking out, you are correct. You get the gold star today. Actually, my daughter is giving out stars today and she says they’re purple. So, congratulations.

In some ways, I am thrilled….relieved.

But in most  others, I am anxious. My emojis are all over the place. Just ask anyone I’ve texted with in the last week.

However naively, I thought, when I finished language school, I would be a fluent speaker. I have to laugh at that idea now or I will cry. OK, I’m probably gonna cry anyway, but let’s pretend I’m not.

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We’ve been given the boot. We’ve been given counsel by experienced missionaries whose opinion we value immeasurably to fly the coop (read: get KICKED OUT OF THE NEST). Our classroom learning period is over. We can talk and write and read and translate, and, to be honest, WE ARE BORED in the classroom setting.

We told our teacher we were planning to wrap up our time with her and she said, “I’ve been telling you for months you don’t need me anymore. I don’t know what to teach you.” Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, right? I can tell how much she is going to miss us…

So, we’re done. But does that mean I don’t trip over my tongue when speaking to a Nepali neighbor about a subject I’m not extremely familiar with? Does that mean I can speak through a headache or emotional uprising? Nope. Not at all. And once ears are burning, all bets are off. I’ll say even the most basic phrase like someone who better take a taxi home tonight.

For a missionary, finishing language school does not render the end of the learning process. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel like IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL. That is, if I really put myself out there, shame myself on the daily, maybe I’ll be classified as fluent in a year or two, however, knowing I will be a life-long learner of this language.

At that thought, my soul screams, “Can I go home now?”

I’ve shared in the past about how learning a a language has been the most stretching, challenging, humbling, emotional and spiritual battle for me. Even though we are far from what I call the “goo-goo, ga-ga” days, we are still far from the finish line and aren’t even sure there is such a thing for a foreign language learner. We’ll let you know if we ever get there.

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But such is the story of any job worth doing. Motherhood, marriage, ministry…pretty sure all are endeavors where the end goal is elusive and the finish line blurry at best.

And such is following hard after Jesus. Knowing I’ll never live up to His sinless life is not a viable reason to lessen my efforts to resemble Him in some way. Because even the smallest tastes of Jesus can spark a hunger in a heart searching for Him. My efforts to love others like He does, though only on the most microscopic of scales, is no reasonable excuse to cease from showcasing His compassion.

It’s better to forget the “goo-goo ga-ga” days of doing not much of value for Him. To reach ahead and reach out. Moving forward sometimes means moving on but moving on doesn’t always mean finishing. And not finishing doesn’t mean I should quit.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

What are you working on, wrapping up, or wrestling with?
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Seeing Clearly for the First Time

A sudden realization struck me. Trees have individual leaves. Of course, I knew this, but it wasn’t until my left eye was assisted with a lens as thick as any book I’d ever read, that I really saw them for what they were.

Vivid. Veiny. Vivacious even, and I don’t just say that for the art of alliteration.

I was nearly blinded by the rich hue absorbed for what felt like the first time.

Each leaf flaunted edges and lines unique to itself, yet, together, contributed to the enchantment of this majestic feature of the forest.

It took me 16 years, but I finally observed it as the carefully crafted creative-collective that it was, and I stood amazed.

I pulled the black rims down onto my nose.

Green blob sitting atop a brown stem.

I pushed them back up again with the finger that pointed the tree out to a friend like it was some ground-breaking invention.

Realigned, I reassessed.

The green blob morphed into a web of greens and yellows tangling and twisting towards the sky. The brown stem, marked by age and eroded by the elements, straightened and stiffened, proudly boasting the limbs that lit the colors dancing before my eyes.

The blanket of blue seemed to exist at this moment only to frame the towering timber, and I wished to tuck myself into its comfort.

It’s been a decade since I became 20/20 and felt trapped by the awe I felt in a world that had always been my home. I’ve since stopped wearing corrective lenses because I just didn’t love that my one eyeball appeared at least three times the size as its parter in sight who happened to be much more skillful.

The world is dull again, I suppose, but it’s not to say I really notice.

As I write this, I long for such a moving moment of clarity, to be dazzled by the daily and magnify the mundane. But I think I left that pair of glasses back in America.

The untrained specialist within tells me that surely, in the last ten years void of proper correction, my senses have weakened, demanding a stronger prescription to achieve this level of perspective.

Maybe I’ll visit that office with the walls of limitless lenses and find a few that order my focus. Until then, I’ll have to depend on my more developed senses.

For, certainly, every tree and each leaf that hangs upon, whispers His name.

I’ll close my eyes and peer through this memory when my hearing joins my sight on the downward slope of age or else is drowned out by the louder levels of life.

I reckon this is why He gave me five whole senses. So many ways to soak in His glory and be left in mouth-gaping awe. It is a shame I only have one voice to share it, but I am motivated by magnificence to at least try.

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Thanks for letting my share my moment of clarity with you. It’s my prayer that you’ll step outside and sense God today. Or, if you’re bound to your bed, tangled up in toddlers, or pilfering through paperwork, I hope that you will dig up a shard of sharp perspective like I have done today. And do share these experiences with me in the comment section below!

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).