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,

Celebrate a Special Far-Away Friend with a “Birthday in a Box” [Women Behind the Scenes]

A birthday on the field can be a lonely time for an MK. She may remember her family and the fun celebrations they used to have back home. She may think about her favorite restaurant where she used to spend her birthdays or all the things she might receive if they were on American soil where they have all. the. things. Memories of birthdays past with special friends emerge with a longing to spend a day like those she’s spent before.

My daughter was young when we moved to the field, and the first birthday she had here was her fourth. Even at such a small age, she remembered her past birthday parties with her family. She wondered out loud if this birthday would be any fun. We included our friends here and had a small celebration a few days before, but when her actual birthday rolled around we didn’t have much planned…

Grandparents to the rescue!

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Continue reading this sweet story at Women Behind the Scenes and you’ll find a little tutorial to help you love someone special from far away, too!

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!

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!

Why Can’t We Live in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?

Day 18: NEIGHBOR

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

This melody rings through my home at least once a day. Netflix just came to Nepal, and all my kids have wanted to watch for the last month is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

I love that my four year old sings, Thank you for everything you do to me while she’s brushing her teeth and has learned to Flush, Wash, and Go. Daniel’s mom and dad always are understanding of his whiny ways and sing sweet songs to teach him how to maneuver around his tiny tigey-centered world. In some ways, I wish I was more like them.

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Or that I was more like the dad of young girl who starred in a recent viral video. He held her, standing on the bathroom sink looking in the mirror reciting some inspiring words before she went off to school. It is super adorable and sweet, and I admire such a hands-on and loving parent. But I stumbled over part of it which kept me from sharing for sake of smiles.

He leads her in saying, ”I am the best. No one is better than me.” She repeats, “I am not better than anyone else,” but the number of time she states, “I am beautiful. I am amazing. I am the best” caused me to just forget about that part completely. I wonder if she did too.

I want my children to be bold and confident and sure that God made them special because it is true. But I also want them to understand that God made them special for service.

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Unfortunately for my fun-loving, self-centered children (and for me too) a Biblical application of the concepts of being a good neighbor is a lot less fun than play-dates and birthday parties in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:2-8).

Oh, boy.

Teaching these truths doesn’t even feel like living the Golden Rule towards my children because my own flesh fights them so fiercely. However, I am confident that one of the best things I can do to ensure lasting joy for my children is to teach them how to treat other people. How to make a snappy new day not for themselves but for others.

Some days living the Golden Rule turns out to bless us in tremendous ways and, on others, our kindness is not rewarded. We have only the satisfaction of having done right.

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We say we want our kids to be like Jesus, but this is one of the million and one ways we don’t. Jesus loved and poured himself out for people who called for His crucifixion. His great love was spat upon by the very people for whom He died. Yet, He still commands us to love every single hot mess person we meet (unfortunately, there is not a friendly face on every street just waiting to greet us!).

We don’t want to stand in front of our mirrors and say, “I was made for Jesus. In this world, I am nothing. I will lift up the needs of others and seek to glorify God with my life.” It goes against our very nature which is nurturing our children in the Word of God is so vital. And we can’t skip the hard parts.

I have to believe that friends who show themselves friendly will find their tribe and be loved in the loving. In the fear of all the ways humility will hurt my children, I am certain the love of Jesus will cover the multitudes of sins against them.

At times, there may be a lot more suffering than singing in our neighborhood, but it is ultimately a joyful place. It’s a place I’m happy to show my kids around even if it has its dark corners.

When my kids want to know why can’t we live in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, I’ll remind them,  It’s a land of make believe.

Are you teaching your children to live the Golden Rule?
How can you encourage your children to serve others despite the cost?

Talk to me in the comment section!

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