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

Do We Have Anything in Common Anymore?

Five Minute Friday, COMMON
// indicates when my 5 minutes ran out and I kept on writing anyway!

After a year and a half in Nepal, I am returning to America for a 3 month visit in 10 DAYS. Someone asked me the other day what was the first thing I wanted to do when I returned aside from visiting my family. My mind went totally blank. I said, “Go through a drive-thru?” just because that, even after only 18 months abroad, seems like a total novelty to me.

But I also very much look forward to coffee dates and lunch meet-ups with my mom and other friends. I imagine myself sitting across the table, chit-chatting the day away, and I realize… my imaginary conversation is happening in my second language! I try to re-imagine, and I can’t think of anything to say in my first.

I wonder if they will think I’m as weird as I feel like I’m going to be. Will we still be able to hold a conversation free from several awkward silences? Will their babies I’ve never met be scared of me? I wonder if they will think the stories I tell are interesting or just strange and unrelateable. Will we have anything in common anymore?

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My husband assures me that these fears will be unfounded (although there is no guarantee their babies won’t be afraid of the crazy person declaring herself their aunt). My friends that loved me before I left have still loved me with all the distance and silence between us. We might not pick right up where we left off, but maybe that’s why it’s called catching up.

We may not find common ground in our recent cultural experiences, but we will find it elsewhere. Maybe this table where we sit needs a perspective only my strangely unique experience could bring. Maybe more, this friendship needs me to not worry and just show up. To sit across the table with my biscuits and gravy (Bob Evans, y’all) and sigh. It sure is good to see an old friend.

Finding the Mission Field Outside my Front Door

Day 21, Five Minute Friday Prompt: PARK

The walking bridge in the main intersection near our house has been torn down. Major construction to replace it has begun as well as efforts to improve the traffic flow that jams it up on the regular. A temporary wall has been built which blocks off most of the intersection and re-routes every traveler.

In short, it’s a HUGE inconvenience. My husband has had to leave much earlier and has come home late every day. I am not able to get a taxi to come get me or find space on a bus to take me down to the main chowk where I’d just end up sitting anyway.

I’ve been parked at home all week. I have felt stuck and stir-crazy. I usually only get out once or twice a week anyway, but being forced to stay home makes me want to rebel.

I’ve gotten to know my neighbors a little better since we are all home-bound. Today, I sat with a sweet older lady as I waited (and waited and waited) for my daughter to come home from school. She told me that she briefly lived in Ohio as well as Israel and Beirut (where she survived a bombing). She has come back home to see her grand babies grow up.

I remember that in high-school, I used to ask God every day to give me a mission field. I didn’t realize at the time what a brave and scary thing this was to do.

Now that I am on the mission field, I am not as faithful with this prayer but realize I need to be. Because the tree and little patch of grass where my kids play ring-around-the-rosie is a mission field. And the little concrete slab next to a little bench where the same four ladies sit every night is a mission field.

I live the Golden Rule by seeing the humans among the harvest and by noticing the need right outside my front door. My ministry may not always be formal. Sometimes it’s not fancy at all: just two people sitting on a bench chatting the loneliness away.

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Sometimes God asks me to wait. Sometimes He parks me in the lane that’s not moving. Sometimes He asks me to follow him inch by painful inch performing small acts of service to Him. I have to trust that God will use me where I am in all the little ways I’m able.

Soon, I’ll be in America, away from this mission field for a short time. I better start praying now for that daily gift of ministry. I’m guessing most days my mission field will consist of two tiny people and the ministry opportunities they bring to me as it most often does now.

Is God asking you to serve Him in a waiting period?
Are your eyes open to the mission field on your door step?

Talk to me in the comment section!

Everyone Needs Someone to Walk With

Day 1, Five Minute Prompt: WALK

“Do you need a friend?” I hear them say to one another as they travel down dusty streets.

The sweet people of my host culture can’t stand to see someone walking alone. They aren’t as eager to walk with the red-headed foreigner lady, I’ve noticed, however.

I thought by now I would have found a friend with whom I’d walk this road of culture and language learning. I guess I’ll just have to keep going until I do.

As I go along, I’ll find others who walk alone and say, “Do you need a friend?”

If we’re honest, we all do.

And if you’re like me, you sometimes feel like you’re standing alone, watching others walk happily hand-in-hand (friends actually do that here). You’re pining for the kind of intimate friendship it seems like everyone else already has.

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I’ve shared before how I love…

what the Word says about friends…
  • friendly (Prov. 18:24)
  • love at all times (Prov. 17:17)
  • comfort and edify (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • encourage to love and live better (Heb. 10:24-25)
  • live selflessly and sacrificially (John 15:13)

I may not be invited on a lot of long walks with close friends. But the more I extend my hand to those who walk alone, the more I will be invited along the way. The deeper my relationships will run, and the more influence I will have for Christ in this country.

Who do you see walking alone today?
How can you apply the Golden Rule to your relationships?

Talk to me in the comment section!