A Sacrifice of Praise [Day 12: PRAISE]

I sat in Ama’s home with a lovely group of women made up of Americans and nationals too. We had paid our dear widow of our church a visit with the hope of being a blessing to her. But I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we were all blessed that day. She made us black tea, and we conversed with her dogs to make her smile. One of the girls of the group shared later that a cockroach crawled between her feet. We thanked her for *impressively* remaining calm and not taking away from the sweet vibes shared between sisters in Christ sipping tea and enjoying the company of one another.

As the conversation died down, Ama showed us her beloved Bible — never mind that she can’t read — and sadly shared with us that a rat had eaten through some of its pages. She then pulled out her solar powered audio Bible and began playing in Genesis 1:1. She closed her eyes and smiled. She listened intently as if it was the first time she had pressed play on this device.

When she opened her eyes she said, “I love the Bible. It’s sweeter than honey to me.” I translated these words for our visiting friends, and the elders in the bunch got collectively teary-eyed. She began praising God and sharing with us how good He is. Even though she knew there was not one unbeliever in the bunch, she got her Gospel on in a big way!

Photo by Kelly Rockhold Photography

I was encouraged by Kate Motaung’s post today to change my vocabulary to regularly praise God for everything He is and every gift He gives. And I was encouraged by Ama that no matter how little I have or how small my life may seem on the grand scale of things, I can praise God big. I can offer a sacrifice of praise.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Hebrews 13:15-16

It has been said that praise is the consummation of joy. When I’m truly enjoying God and relishing His gifts, praise is the expression of that fulness I find only in HIm. He is well pleased, and His name is glorified when I offer it back to Him. May my heart always be the kind that rejoices in the Lord and my mouth always be spewing sacrifices of praise.

I “make” God big in my life when I praise Him in times of victory and defeat, great joy and great sorrow. I “make” Him big when I enjoy Him and let Him (and everyone else around me) know it. 

What can you praise God for today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

Behind Closed Doors [Day 11: DOOR]

I shared yesterday about my identity crisis of sorts which occurred after my son began to attend pre-school. I suddenly found myself with time on my hands — which we know for a mom of young children is a strange feeling! While I’ve always preferred to be out and about or spending time with people, I found that a lot of my time was spent alone. I do have a sweet lady that comes to help me complete the never ending task of cleaning a home in a dusty country, but other than encounters with her and neighbors on my morning and afternoon walks, I had little interaction. More dangerously, I had little accountability.

No one knew how I was spending my day. No one would know what is happening behind closed doors. Thankfully, I had managed to cultivate my devotional and housework habits while my little ones were still home all day. I just found I got them done a lot faster now! I did love to linger in my Bible reading and sip my coffee in peace. But what would I do with the two or three remaining hours before I would go get my son?

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
A new “to-do”

I created a new sort of to-do list to keep my thoughts and plans ordered. It only listed these things: read, write, rest, create, connect, care. I plan to do another post on exactly what each of these entails, but it kept me mainly focused on being in the word and keeping busy while also making time to take care of my body and practice hospitality. Otherwise, I know I would have had a daily date with Netflix. We actually canceled our subscription months ago. Each thing didn’t get accomplished every day, but my list kept me on task until my house filled up again in the afternoon. It also kept me available for my husband and children should they need me during the day. I wasn’t nailed down to some big plan every day, just a few little things that could be squeezed in here or there or rolled into the next day’s list if necessary.

Daily questions

Aside from the to-do list, there are questions I need to ask myself about what happens behind closed doors:

  • Is who I am in private who I am in public? Or what I would want people to perceive me to be?
  • Am I spending my time in idleness (looking at you, Instagram) or in a way that honors Christ?
  • Would I be comfortable with someone I am discipling seeing who I am behind closed doors — or looking at my internet history or mirroring my TV screen?
  • Does my alone time indulge my desires or lift up the needs of others?

As I ask myself these questions I keep Scriptures like this one in mind,

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

1 Corinthians 4:5

Time to grow

No one will probably praise me for staying home a few days of the week, but I know this is my training ground. I shared with you that my prayer is for my schedule to fill up with opportunities for discipleship and ministry. This does not mean that I should wander through this time aimlessly, but rather spend it intentionally. I should be seeking God and growing in my knowledge of Him. As I grow in the Word, I grow in my ability to lead others. I know the Lord will use this time in my life for the rest of my life and ministry.

For now, I want even my empty hours to honor Jesus.

I “make” God big in my life when I seek to honor Him in all the time He gives me — including my much longed for personal time.  

How can you honor Christ behind closed doors?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

How to Embrace the Smallness of Your Life [Day 10: HOW]

We started our son in pre-school just before he turned three years old. While I don’t feel a compulsion to explain myself to the internet world, I believe we had valid reasons for sending him. The reasons were based mainly on culture and our desire for him to have time with other children — something he was not getting at church or around the neighborhood. In the long run, I’ve seen that it has been so good for him. There are days the mommy guilt creeps back in when I compare myself to some rockstar homeschool mom, but I recognize that God guides us to lead our families in different ways all for His glory.

I suffered an identity crisis when my kids were gone for several hours a day. I didn’t know how to fill my time. I was restless yet idle much of the time. I was wrecked by the insignificance of my existence and resented that no one needed me most of the waking hours of the day — which is funny because I had moments of resentment about being constantly needed in the newborn years. The heart is so fickle.

Photo by Kelly Rockhold Photography

In the last year, God has done a work in my heart to train me to embrace the smallness of my life. I’ve learned to trust Him in every aspect and to use me in little ways as I seek to serve Him with the time He gives me each day. He has used the empty hours to make me fall in love with Him more than ever and revel in the life He has given me. While I could never present an exhaustive list which ensures this outcome, I do believe there are a few things we can do to truly embrace the unique lives and callings God gives each one of us.

Repent Sin

Realizing that that my longing for something that God had not granted me was a straight up sin was a big deal for me. I also had to take a hard look at myself and see that many of my ambitions were not God-given but were purely self-motivated. Recognizing the sin, I must repent over and over as I stumble each day. Moving forward, I must make choices that reflect heart change by the Spirit’s hand.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1).

Give Thanks

This is the anecdote for many of my problems. I must learn to be truly grateful for the opportunities and graces God gives to me. Every good thing comes from Him. I will see that He has done great things in my life if I pause to give thanks for each one of them. Even the trials of life or daily disappointments come from His hand, and I can trust He will use it for my good according to His infinite wisdom.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Say “No” to Self

I must surrender my dreams and desires each day to the Lord. I have to decide day by day to trust Him with my collection of concerns and cares. Dying to self, I make way for the Lord to work through me without interference from me. This is the “return” of the repentance. I turn from my sin of selfishness, eyes on Jesus all the way.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

Enjoy the Lord

One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 37:4 which admonishes believers to delight in the Lord. The promise attached is that He will give you the desires of your heart. I’ve come to understand over time, however, that this doesn’t mean He gives me everything I want. As I delight in my relationship with Him, loving and learning more of Him, He changes me. He changes my desires to mirror His and accomplishes His will in my life. One of the greatest purposes and privileges of a child of God is to know and enjoy the Savior. When my focus is on loving Jesus, service is an outflow of my full heart for Him.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
In thy presence is fulness of joy;
At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).

I “make” God big when I embrace the small role He gives me to play in this big world and just enjoy being His.

 

 

How Do You Inspire Others? [Day 9: INSPIRE]

A generous commenter on this blog the other day said that he supposed I could “find the holiness in tying a shoelace.” I’m not sure about that because I buy my kids velcro shoes so we can get out the door faster. But I have seen God work in the smallest places and have become sensitive to all the ways He is working in my life. At other times during our overseas ministry, I have woken from sleep with a heavy heart, lacking that sense of holiness in common days lived for the Lord. I look ahead at my day, and it feels so empty. I know this feeling is not unique to overseas ministry or to my life.

A look at instagram will tell you that we are all after a little inspiration. Would you be surprised if I told you the Bible actually instructs that we inspire one another? Hebrews 10:24 stresses the importance of believers provoking or stirring up good works in one another. We are to inspire one another to live in faithfulness to God in service to others.

Photo by Kelly Rockhold Photography

This takes thought and discipline. Our fallen nature wires us to always do what’s best for number one. This passage teaches that we must thoughtfully consider how we may inspire others. John Piper says, “The aim of our lives is not just loving and doing good deeds but helping stir up others to love and good deeds.” This is something we can feel good about putting on our to-do list each day. As we live in service to others, we inspire others to do the same. As we serve those we rub shoulders with, we glorify God as we go. We know this is the ultimate goal.

In a nation with a Christian minority, Christian fellowship is harder to come by. Perhaps I could pass off this passage most days of the week due to my lack of daily contact with the Christian community. However, what better way can I stir up love and good deeds within another person than to introduce them to Jesus? How many opportunities I have to do so if I choose to see and act upon them.

Verse 23 of the same passage tells me how I can live this out in the day-to-day. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with how loving or good I am but completely depends upon God’s faithfulness.

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

Helping kids put on shoes or passing plates of heaping rice in circled up fellowship, I can inspire those around me to love and good deeds. I do this daily drawing from the deep well of God’s abounding love towards me. Suddenly, my life feels a little less small.

I “make” God big in my life when I depend on His faithfulness to inspire good works in others. Only through His grace do I have the capability to love and do good deeds beyond common morality. He inspires true Christian service. 

How can you inspire others to love and good works for Christ?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

Awkward Encounters of the Worst Kind [Day 6: BELONG]

I stopped to visit a friend in the neighborhood on my way home from the bakery one day. It had been a while since I checked in with her, and I didn’t realize her husband had come home from his work assignment out of the city. I simultaneously called out her named and popped my head around the sheet she hangs in her door of her one room home during the day time. I was surprised to see her husband and two friends sitting down eating heaping plates of dal bhat.

My friend was on the opposite bed with her sleeping son and invited me to sit down where she had been sitting. As she went to make me a cup of tea, the interrogation began. They grilled me on all the usual topics and then some. It was embarrassing and exhausting. She could not come back into the room fast enough! When she arrived, I quickly sipped my tea and caught up with her as well as I could. I tried my best to avoid any more questions from the three amigos. What I had hoped would be a time of connection with a friend turned into a very frustrating encounter. I didn’t savor the last drop of milk tea. I slurped it down as fast as I could, and said something in my second language like, “Oh, look at the time.”

Photo by Dustin Smith

It’s moments like these that cut right to my heart. I think things like, I don’t belong here. I don’t understand this culture. I’m not a friend — I’m just a novelty. As much as I love living here, there are times when the reality of what it’s like to live in a culture not your own hits home. And it hurts. I feel small and forgotten.

I fall into the trap of thinking that this friend or this house or this level of language ability will finally make me feel like I belong. Maybe if our ministry takes off, and my schedule fills up with opportunities to teach and train, I will feel fulfilled. But in all these cases, my thinking is wrong. The truth is, if I ever make my home in this world, it stands on shaky soil. The US or any other place I reside should not have my heart. My heart should always be in heaven. I find my belonging in Christ alone.

That friend or that house or that coveted lifestyle can make me no promises, but my Lord Jesus has made a few. 

 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness (Psalm 107:9).

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst (John 6:35).

The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever (Psalm 22:26).

He alone can satisfy the longings of my soul. My home is in heaven with him. My heart will always feel the tension of my desire to serve Him on earth and dwell with Him in my forever home. This is true whether I’m in my home country or on foreign soil. Until He renders my service here complete and takes me to spend eternity with Him, I’ll continue to faithfully stumble my way through this life of ministry and all its awkward encounters. Trusting that His promises are true, I’ll find my belonging and satisfaction in Christ alone.

I “make” God big in my life when I find my belonging in Him alone. When I trust Him to satisfy my soul in the smallness of my life with the vastness of His love, I will find the contentment I am lacking. 

In what places have you searched for belonging and come up short?

Talk to me in the comment section below!