Cold Coffee Confessions

It’s no secret that I’ve gone silent on my blog for quite some time. I’ve been thankfully and happily busy in life with my crazy clan and our adventurous interns/downstairs neighbors. As we host these two, I think back often on the time I spent being  downstairs neighbors to a family of seven some time ago in that musty, unfinished basement (that we loved!) on Spot Road, and I am trying to be half of the considerate and sweet friend my neighbor was to me.

While I haven’t been showing up here often to share with you what in the world is going on on my side of the world, I will tell you that God has been faithful. We have experienced both great victories and defeats like I never imagined would touch us. The events of our days and subsequent emotions are often hard to put into words that I want to bring before the world — or the few people that read my little blog, but you know what I mean.

If we were friends sitting down to a cup of coffee — preferably, iced because it is a billion degrees in my home as I write this — I would tell you that often sleep eludes me, and I lie awake wondering what the Master weaver could be working in our lives and ministries because it seems like nothing more than a blundered mess of good intentions and well-laid plans. I’d tell you how exhausting it is to plan and revise, dream and doubt, serve and surrender day after day after day.

I’d reveal to you that I have baked chocolate chip cookies when I knew of no other way to encourage my husband and offered them to him with a weak smile that said, “I know it doesn’t help, but I tried.” We’ve whispered, “I love yous” and held pinkies as he shifted gears in our Maruti sazuki jam-packed with our growing children and a few too many members of our growing church body. We’ve lost each other countless times amidst all that is marriage and ministry mingled together but have — by God’s grace — made our way back to each other every time.

I would tell you that the highs and lows of ministry are sometimes more than I can bear, and that the lines between work and life often get blurred. I would tell you that the mama bear comes out fierce and strong, and sometimes I am ashamed at the ways I don’t trust God with my children. I would tell you the million-and-one ways I’ve messed everything up yet God has redeemed every bit of it. At this point, I would hope you wouldn’t walk away in shock of all that I’ve revealed to you, and I would regret that I let it all out.

But if that’s what’s left at the end of this conversation on this imaginary coffee-date, then we have really missed it. I’ve said all that to only say that God is faithful — again. To encourage you and me that this life of service to God is worth it. To remind us that our Redeemer is still at work in our lives. I know this because in all the ways I’ve failed to live up to His standard in marriage, motherhood, and missional living, He has done a work in each of those areas. When I’m sailing through life and everything makes sense, He is good and He is faithful. When I’m struggling to pull myself out from under my sheets and just feed my kids, He is good and faithful. And all these things I struggle to juggle, He has given me to hold. They are gifts that sometimes make me want to pull my hair out, but they are precious just the same!

Don’t abandon your coffee, friend. I imagine you have your stories, too. I hope you’ll see in them that while things haven’t been perfect, they have had purpose. And, if you’re willing to admit you’ve failed, that He has been faithful.

Life is good, friend, and I am happy to share it with you.

To Have and To Hold [Day 7: hold]

My husband and I had a hard time getting used to sleeping in the same bed. The first night we slept as husband and wife, I woke up on the opposite side than the one I fell asleep on without memory of how I got there. We would recount stories of what the other spoke out loud while they were in a REM cycle each morning. Of course, it didn’t take too long to get used to, and we were certain that it was worth it. I had that star-struck-love thing where I really did wake up grateful that he was there and so supremely blessed to be his wife after all this time of waiting.

We said the traditional vows which included the words “to have and to hold from this day forward.” It was a pledge in the true sense of the word to respect our vows and cherish each other. The have is the keeping, the showing up every day in our marriage. The hold is something else entirely. It is not careless as it knows the value of what is in its clutch. And it is careful not too cling too tightly lest the great prize be broken.

I can have the have without having the hold — this is how starry-eyed lovers become considerate roommates. When I celebrate small, I praise God for the precious gift of a partner to navigate life with. I see God’s loving kindness in a man who truly tries to understand me and comforts me on the days where the enemy delivers some serious blows. I don’t ask from him what I can only receive from the One who knows me best. I trust him, assuming the best of him and supporting the dreams and desires of his heart.

The hold doesn’t look around at all the other things it could have instead of what is in its possession because it can’t break its gaze with the precious gem in its grip. It admires, seeing all of the fabulous features and none of the flaws. When I celebrate small, I don’t ponder what I could have or what I may be able to get. Envy doesn’t come easy when I gratefully gaze at what I’ve got.

When I see my husband for the gift he is from a good Father, I wake up grateful again. He’s not just a person who steals the sheets and sets his alarm more early than I’d like. He’s a man who has chosen to live his life with me in it, who trusts me to care for his children, and allows me to share in his big dreams coming true. It is an honor. I will cherish it –and him — forever.

How can you cherish your spouse today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

Stewardship of Speaking

Five Minute Friday: SPEAK

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“You speak our language?” they ask in amazement. “I do,” I respond as humbly as I can despite how proud I am of myself and thankful I am to finally live in this reality.

And with this hard-fought-for ability comes a great responsibility. My words in any language have always had weight as I have spoken with believers and unbelievers alike. There is always an opportunity to speak truth and love, but there is equal opportunity to spew condescension or judgment. With all my heart, I hope to steward these opportunities wisely for the glory of God.

Such conversations often move quickly to the whys of our living here and what we are hoping to do. Question after question rolls out in my direction in effort to know more about me, but what I  really desire the person on the other end of the conversation to know about is JESUS. On the days I am feeling confident and not overly bogged down by the previous events of the day, I try to steer in that direction. I wish I did this each and every time because the result is generally sweet, something certainly to be savored. Occasionally, my sudden shift to spiritual things is not welcomed, and I sense this in sharp vocal tones and stiff body language. I thank God for the opportunity to speak of Him and trust Him to multiply the fraction of truth I have presented and build upon the fragile foundation I have created in simple words spoken in foreign tongue.

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Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Ephesians 6:19-20

Encouraged and Empowered by Hospitality

We had planned a quiet day at home: fallen leaves swirling around the backyard we shared, our daughter playing on a borrowed swing set. We would leave this home soon. I cherished another day looking out French doors across the vast green where chickens and barefoot toddlers roamed wild, but Thanksgiving Day in this fashion just seemed wrong. Visa decisions and an international move loomed as we prayerfully anticipated our son’s upcoming birth, trying also not to relive the day we met his brother whose home was made in heaven.

We joined our church family to lift words of spontaneous praise to the Giver of all good gifts. My hand swooped across my belly as I relished the swishing that indicated a child thriving within. Dark clouds had been dominating the light of joy which made brief, infrequent shifts in the daily climate. Grieved over this storm I hadn’t chosen to weather, I silently asked forgiveness and begged for peace. Certainly, these are among God’s greatest gifts.

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Minutes later, a mom of nine, with whom I’d previously only shared pregnancy horrors and birth stories, approached me, and said, “We would like to have your family over for Thanksgiving dinner. “ She proposed this so matter-of-factly like her house wasn’t full enough and she didn’t have a sufficient amount of work to do.

Shocked and relieved, I scribbled down her number, promising to call her after discussing the plan with my husband. But what was there to discuss? We had a clear calendar, an empty fridge, and restless souls.

I entered her home round belly first and toddler on my hip. I wish this memory included me bringing along some tasty treat to add to the spread. We had little to offer aside from ourselves, broken and weary as we were.

No one seemed surprised that we were there which says much about our holiday host. She embraced me with butter-covered hands, pulling me against an apron adorned with flour. Her hair was plastered to her brow, evidence of the labor of the day. I basked in the beautiful glow communicating a persisting joy I hadn’t possessed in quite some time.

There was a sense of belonging in this place which was more like the set of a sitcom throwback than a modern monument to perfected homemaking. I waddled over to a well-loved La-Z-Boy and settled to watch football while the oldest siblings took my eager toddler to bounce around a super-sized trampoline. I exhaled my worries and breathed in the enticing aromas of the equally sizable supper to come..

We feasted on fresh-baked rolls, sweet potato casserole, and new-found friendship. We savored the sweetness of spoken memories and a family founded in Christ. We ate until we were full, and we wasted the day away in the comforting silence of satisfaction punctuated by stories, laughs, and the occasional temper tantrum of a tired two year old.

It seemed, the forecast within my weary ministry/momma heart was changing. I sensed sunlight peeking through the clouds. And with it, a realization: I had vowed to carry my light to the edges of this earth but had allowed the fierce winds of sorrow to blow it out. How could I shine for Christ in the darkest of places when I carried a flameless candle in my own home? I pondered these things while I walked around the track at the park in attempt to prod my son out of my protruding belly. My induction attempts were unsuccessful, but the change in thinking as I walked ’round and ’round were well worth the waddling.

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Our home grew to include ten tiny toes a few days after this life-giving holiday celebration and the days of healing that followed. Our daughter stayed at our new friends’ home, jumped on the trampoline all day, and went to sleep in a room full of giggling girls.

I can never repay her for what she unknowingly did for me those days, how she awakened my weary soul to see all that there truly was to be thankful for. I can, however, extend grace born out of gratitude for the sacrifice made to make us daughters of God. This gratitude moves me across the world with my little light in a depth of darkness that makes my knees knock together, begging God for added souls to our spiritual family.

Kindness blew away the swirling storm and replaced it with sunshine in my soul. I was encouraged and empowered, ready to share the warmth of this kind of genuine love for the Lord and for the least of these —like me— around the world. I take lessons learned from beautiful friends like this one, open my heart and prop wide my front door to the hurting and whole alike. The forecast looks as promising as a Thanksgiving spread.

 

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Moments of Hope @ LoriSchumaker.com, Monday’s Musings @ What Joy is Mine, Glimpses Linkup @ Embracing Every Day, Literacy Musing Monday’s @ Mary-andering Creatively, Tuesday Talk @ Sweet Little Ones, RaRaLinkup @ Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story @ Jennifer Dukes Lee, Mommy Moments Blog Hop @ Life of Faith,

Baby, Give Your Best: Lessons in Generosity from a 4 Year Old

My 4 year old daughter has a sweet, giving spirit. She runs all over our house (and outside, for that matter) collecting all sorts of things, coloring, cutting, and pasting mashed-up masterpieces crafted by busy hands. I am walking the fine line of praising her for her creativity and generosity while challenging her to think about what the recipient of her gift might like. “Honey, I know you really like that paper scrap you tore from your pre-school workbook, but to our neighbor, that just looks like trash.”

Her eyes become big and wet with disappointment. Her lip quivers, and I want to take my words back, but I know they are true. “Let’s think about what she would like. We could paste that onto a butterfly, and I will teach you to write her name. I bet she would like that.” Of course, I know that either masterpiece will end up in the same place. Here, we call it the dustbin.

This morning, in obedience, she threw something in and spotted one of her handicrafts inside. She gave me the third degree about trashing something she worked so feverishly to create. We talk about what happens to paper scraps left in common spaces, and she finds it in her tiny heart to forgive me and promises she will keep her artwork upstairs from this day forward.

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We gather some supplies and remember the task at hand: revising this trash into a treasure worth gifting. I want her to believe that the work we do for others is valuable and that being thoughtful is an admirable trait. I don’t want to crush her creativity or squish her generous spirit. I love that she desires to make others smile and spend time creating something to offer to another. But giving hands offering scrappy seconds is not giving at all. We want to give our best. We want to give until it hurts. We want to share our bag of imported Reese cups, even if we’d rather lock them in the upstairs closet for a rainy day (bad example, I know, but chocolate is really important to me!). We drive across town for birthday gifts and sit in traffic instead of buying something cheap from the shop around the corner because we believe this. These small acts of thoughtfulness make big impressions.

I write down our neighbor’s name and send the budding artist upstairs to sit at her desk with the special markers we don’t use often and the paper bags from America we use to make puppets and to quick-ripen peaches. She painstakingly copies her Auntie’s name and puts about twelve too many hearts on her creation. The puppet’s face is smiling, and so is mine. My daughter is proud, and I am, too.

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It’s a few minutes shy of 8 am, and she is ready to walk over there and present her prize. I’m off to get her dressed for school, and we will go with dust-bin-destined art in hand to deliver this piece of her heart before her bus arrives to shuttle her to the place that overflows with paper scraps, scissors, and glue.

I’ll stay behind to clean up the debris of crazed crafting hands and smile, thinking of the baby who seems more like the child of Mother Theresa and Picasso than the flesh and blood of her Daddy and me. I bring the Reese cups downstairs, brew a cup of coffee -the good stuff- and invite a neighbor over to share.

As I sip the fresh brew and chat with a new friend, I think about giving my best to God. How so often my best, looks like nothing more than a mangled up mess of trash. It isn’t treasure in anyone’s eyes. But it is good and acceptable, pleasing to my Father for no other reason than He loves me. I seek only His approval, and knowing I already have it, I busy myself with the work He puts in my hands to do. I proudly give it back to Him, as unimpressive as it may seem, trusting He will find the good in it. Even if its creator is backwards at best, I’m hopeful that, by His grace, my offerings make a difference to someone in this world.

I trust that He will bring to light the things that bring Him glory and throw everything else in the dustbin where it belongs. I’ll try not to get my feelings hurt knowing He knows the value of all things, and it all belonged to Him in the first place anyway. I’ll practice thoughtful generosity because I remember that my doing unto others is a reflection of the God that works in and through me. Half-effort jobs and scrappy seconds just won’t cut it.

He reminds me of all the good gifts he’s buried me under and urges me to love others well out of my abundance. He says, “Baby, give your best.”

 

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Moments of Hope @ LoriSchumaker.com, Monday’s Musings @ What Joy is Mine, Glimpses Linkup @ Embracing Every Day, Literacy Musing Monday’s @ Mary-andering Creatively, Tuesday Talk @ Sweet Little Ones, RaRaLinkup @ Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story @ Jennifer Dukes Lee