23 March, 2016

It's my Life

.....frying mandazis

.....listening to Pandora.....what is it about music that just.....works? I find myself dancing around the kitchen, grubby apron wrapped around my middle, music swirling around like so many sunbeams. Standing still in church while singing is next to impossible for me and its not because we have a band. We sing old fashioned hymns but we stand and the acoustics are amazing in our little country church and the worship lifts me up, up away.......

.....kissing a fat baby boy with a very bad cold

.....pulling out kenyan treasures, remembering

.....sitting in our store, chatting with the hot owner who also happens to by my husband, on stools that have price stickers on them

....watching the trees bursting into buds....purple and white haze filling the tree lines

....laughing as cousins make memories and delight in the joy that is family

....knowing that Jesus loves me, even me

These are a few of the things that are occupying my days and it's good. Very good.


17 March, 2016

A Cup of Water

     It wasn't such a bad dream, really. To reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus. To weep with them and to live life with them. No matter that they were African and i was American. I had always longed to serve somewhere foreign......far, far away. And then we moved to Kenya and my dreams of what a missionary woman's life would look like slowly crumbled and i found myself weeping by my lonesome instead of with the Africans. There came a day, when i was hosting guests once again and cooking food for yet another white person, that i apologized to Jesus for failing Him and for failing what i always thought missionary life should be. He ministered to my heart that day in that rocking chair with the broken back and dusty cover. He showed me that no matter how lowly and humble the job, if it's done in His name, it then becomes something so much more in His eyes. My heart was comforted and i went back to cooking rice and beans, and wiping dirty little faces. We left for the states several months later and while i was at peace with how my journey in Africa turned out, i still didn't understand.

   I didn't understand until last week while sitting in a basement in the heart of New York City. We were at missionary de-briefing and re-entry at the Mission Training Center under DNI, and it was then that i caught at least a small reason of why my time in Africa was so far removed from what i had always imagined it would look like. I didn't lead one person to Christ.......never so much as led a Bible study. What i didn't realize was that my Heavenly Father, in his mercy, wanted to teach me to serve in the smallest of ways in order to show me one of the greatest ways to live.





   As i processed those two years in Kenya out loud last week, my mouth fell open as i realized what God saved me from. I went with a pure heart but a rather condescending one. I think it's a common enough trap to fall into it and many of us are guilty of it. We mean well but subconsciously we think we are going with the answers to hand out to the poor savages who haven't any at all. Instead of humbling ourselves to serve, we go to be served even if we would never in a million years recognize it. We don't understand their culture, nor do we really try to, and they certainly don't understand ours and we end up playing a game where everyone's the loser. If i would've done many "spiritual" things, i'm afraid i would've came back insufferable, my spiritual ego inflated and my heart quietly (or not so quietly) condescending towards the people at "home" who never had the courage to leave at all. Instead, i was allowed to serve Jesus through a cup of cold water........over and over and over again. I came back humbled and with few answers. However, i do know this.

   Jesus WILL build His church and He needs servants to do that. Humble servants without all the answers but with teachable hearts. God will not be robbed of His glory by anyone, and that includes middle aged, missionary women in dresses who have lofty dreams of reaching people for His name. I am now reaching the place where my heart is worshiping Him in allowing me to learn those painful, exhausting lessons that has taken so much out of me. He is a good Daddy who has been, and still is, tenderly rubbing away my tears, pruning those sharp edges of spiritual pride, and teaching me the joys of serving Him in the humblest of ways. In my heart is still a bit of a longing to climb back into an airplane and try it again. I have absolutely no idea if i will ever be given that privilege. For now, i will hand that cup of water to whoever He asks me to and in doing so, rejoice that i am allowed the honor.



19 February, 2016

I love me some..........

.......Piano guys.

A favorite of mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOO5qRjVFLw

Crank the volume up, people. It's the kind of music to thunder throughout the house. Ahhh, yes.

Thanks you, Bajus's for introducing us to them. Who knew piano and cello could be so fun.

13 February, 2016

Someday

   Someday i might have unlimited time to blog.......write.......read........drink coffee.......

   Right now my life is full of noise and laughter.

   I'm surrounded by busy little bodies, pressing against me, drawing strength from me.

   Homeschooling takes hours from my days but we've hit a groove and i'm remembering why i was always so passionate about it. Some moments are hard. No doubt about it, homeschooling stretches a person but how i love the renewed relationship with our children. Even the moments of tears and frustration are so worth it. Please remind me of that next time i want to run away. :-)

  The children and i have been reading a chapter in Proverbs every morning, even the messy parts about sensuous women luring foolish men. I talk frankly, praying that wisdom will soak deeply into our sons hearts. In family worship Marlin has had me read "Ten P's in a Pod" and as we sit in a circle, the fire crackling, i wonder if they will remember these days. Dear God, help us.

  We have been hosting friends and family and there is quite a bit more of that in the near future. We love it.
 
  In March, Lord willing, Marlin and i head to NYC for missionary debriefing and re-entry and to spend time with Marlin's sister and her little family in their wee apartment. From there we head to Boston to spend more time with family and to fellowship with other believers. A whole week, just me and Marlin and chub-a-lug, Christopher.

   In April, we celebrate our 20th anniversary. Wow, unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is that our marriage has survived and we are still crazy about each other. A gift. A wonderful part of 20 years is that we have older children to babysit while we sneak out on dates.  Not selfishness, just self preservation. Haha.

  So my days spin past at a dizzying speed and my blog sits quietly, waiting for the day when i have the mental energy to write. I've written several posts but never published them. Too raw, too personal. God forbid i jump ahead of Him by spilling out thoughts prematurely.

  Someday i may be back with pictures and thought provoking words. Or maybe not. I don't know but for now, i know that i need to give myself the permission to post infrequently. I also give myself permission to hate adding pictures to my blog. It's one of the bigger reasons i don't post oftener. I'm a writer, not a photographer. So perhaps the time is coming when my writing will drift towards books.....who knows. With the world as my canvas and God as the author it's anyone's guess what the future holds.

16 December, 2015

Jesus + Messy

   Why is it that when a person surrenders their life to Jesus, we no longer expect messy? We expect them to act like an appropriate christian should, cleaning up any mess in their lives and for crying out loud, stay clean. Except that it doesn't always work like that. New christians are like babies, messy and unpredictable. I know, i used to be one. I accused a friend of harboring the devil under her cabinet because she hid alcohol for her brother so he wouldn't drink at bars and kill himself driving home. She hung up the phone weeping while i wondered how it was possible to be so blind. I also told people that unless they changed their ways they were on a fast track to the bad place. All good points but said in a very messy way. Which brings me to another thought. Why do i expect my older children to act like mature believers when not only are the young christians, they are still YOUNG??

   And why is it that we don't expect serving Jesus to be messy? Who did Jesus say He came to save? The nice, clean, church going crowd? Or the prostitutes, the liars, the thieves, the broken? I find myself hiding from the messy people because i might get, look, or act in a way that other people think is messy and ridiculous.

   I grew up in a conservative mennonite culture that had a lot of good points. Good work ethics, high moral integrity, scrupulous obedience to scripture......but messy wasn't appreciated. Our lives were to be lived in an orderly fashion, dotted along the way with handing out tracts and turning the other cheek. The only problem was, people from the "outside" sometimes strayed into our circles that were quite messy and eventually, they usually strayed back out. We comforted ourselves by saying only a few can manage the straight and narrow, but now i wonder if perhaps it was more because we couldn't handle getting messy. They were expected to act, think, and dress a certain way and when it didn't happen, we blamed it on their messiness and not so much on our lack of grace and compassion. Don't get me wrong. There were many wonderful, godly, loving people in my growing up years. This is not a lash out at my church group growing up but as Marlin and i have grown spiritually over the years, we have noticed that the more sold out a person is for Jesus, the more it seems He leads them to reach the unloved and unlovable. In short, He expects them to get their hands dirty.

    For example, we have friends who have a family of six children. Young children. You would think they have a quiver full, at least for the moment. Altho i wouldn't take my word for it since it seems our own quiver keeps expanding. But instead, this family is praying about adopting a little boy from China. A little boy who was abandoned outside a factory, most likely because he had hydrocephaly. As we sat and talked recently, i was totally challenged and excited to hear their hearts and why they are seriously praying about this. They're not naive, and they know it could be very, very hard. In short, she put it exactly right when she said it will be messy. And it was then that a light bulb came off in my head.

   It's messy that Jesus is so often wanting us to serve and it's messy that so many times i run from. Messy is hard and puts us outside our comfort zone. Messy might make us look bad, or maybe stupid, which is almost as embarrassing. Messy can be very expensive and it certainly doesn't guarantee a comfortable life or a fat bank account.

   Not everyone is going to be called to adoption. As of now we haven't. Maybe because it feels like we have all the messiness i can handle right now within our four walls. On the other hand, its not for me to say no to messy if it's Jesus calling us. I can point out a few times in our lives when we obeyed Jesus and it became VERY messy, and as long as we stay surrendered (completely!) i have no doubt there is more of that in our future.

   But whatever you do, don't embrace messy unless you have embraced Jesus first. Trying to serve messy without Jesus in control is disaster and will bring heartache and bitterness. You will need His strength, His wisdom, and especially His love and compassion. But whatever you do, don't try to keep your hands from getting messy. Get out there, tell Jesus you're willing to do whatever, however as long as He is in control, and prepare for the ride. Wherever Jesus is, there's bound to be messy because that's who He came to save and who else to serve them but those of us who have seen our own messiness without Him.

02 December, 2015

Of This and That


The hero in our family
   

   It's been three months since we've set foot back in the States. It's been good. It's been hard. It's been stretching. In the last three months we've remodeled a store, bought merchandise, (it's a returned merchandise store) and opened the doors. That involved many late nights and much running between house and store as i took meals and boys back and forth. Sometimes we all work at the store and sometimes Emily stays home with littles so i can help when we're on a time limit. It's also been exciting to see God open up doors for ministry through the store. A certain lady comes in almost every day and while she claims christianity, it seems to be more of a "i'm not muslim so i'm christian" thing. I met her for the first time the other week and recently she told Marlin that there is something about our family that is just so peaceful. She thanked him for our family taking time to talk with her and including her. We were amazed because our family feels anything but peaceful most of the time! But we pray it's Jesus she is seeing. I really enjoy helping out at the store when possible. There is a mennonite owned bakery, deli, and bulk food store in the same building with doors that open into ours, making our store smell amazing with the scent of freshly baked breads and pies wafting through. It's fun learning to know the neighbors and we have people that come back on a regular basis to check out new merchandise. There's also stressful moments when we wonder why in the world we thought this whole store idea was a good thing but overall, it's been good. To keep things exciting Marlin sliced the tip of his finger totally off this past saturday. He was cleaning up an ice shaver and next thing he knew he had shaved his finger. He sent me the pic of his fingertip and at first i thought it was a joke but when he sent a pic of the bloody bandages, i knew it was for real. I of course wanted to take him into the ER but he insisted they would simply bandage him up and charge him a fortune so he's been taking care of himself. He puts Dr. Christopher bone and tissue salve on it along with antibiotic cream and it's been doing well. At least that's what he tells me since i haven't looked.


Setting up shelves in our store


Emily painting like a pro
  The last three months have also involved homeschooling and i might as well be honest and admit that it has been a tough readjustment in that area. Homeschooling is something we feel called to do, but i came close to seeing if our church school had openings. Then i remembered that God doesn't call us to things that are easy, but He does call us to trust Him for strength. He's not asking me to have it all figured out (i don't) or to so much as crack open a book without His help. So why do i think i'm tough woman and can do it by myself? We have finally found a rhythm of sorts and it's been a blessing to see the children pulling their share and growing in areas where they have struggled. Emily especially has relaxed without the pressure of trying to keep up and strangely enough, things are all of a sudden making sense to her. She's very self motivated and plans to graduate in the next couple of years. She has the will power and determination to do it. Zachary was very unhappy that we chose to keep him in CLE language but after some heart to heart talks (some threats may or may not have happened) he is doing much better and his grades are coming up. I sat down with him and went over lessons and explained, explained, explained. It looked so overwhelming that he had just given up and was winging it, which never works. Especially in language. Joshua is an easy learner and needs very little help which is a blessing because...........i have the twins. HELP!!! They are almost 8 and struggle to remember what their numbers or letters look like. Meanwhile, Jacob is slowly but surely passing them up. I have done research on dyslexia and suspect the twins have it. They are also immature so how much that plays into it i just don't know. I'm using a curriculum that specializes in dyslexia (http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/) and so far so good. I'm also praying about finding a tutor for them if need be. Research has proven that the homeschool setting or personal tutoring is ideal for dyslexic students since they simply can't keep up in a traditional school setting but i feel quite inadequate. I want to do what's best for them so i'm continually praying for wisdom and direction.

 
School with my crazy crew

Reading time on mama's bed....one of their favorite times and places. :-) 



Making their letters in salt. We tried shaving cream one day for something different and none of us were real impressed, esp not Eric since we used up the last of his bottle. 

  We are really enjoying this part of Virginia. Farmville, the closest town to us and where our store is located, is beautiful with gorgeous, massive, antique brick buildings that are now retail stores. Lanterns line the streets and there are neat little stores for shopping. The weather has been quite warm for winter but we're not complaining. At least the adults aren't. The kids are hoping desperately for snow but while i enjoy winter, i no longer have a 4 wheel drive van and don't relish the thought of driving on snowy roads. 


What happens when you can't get along with a sibling? Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Simply adorable!
     I think overall our adjustment is going well. When people ask me if i miss Kenya, i tell them sometimes that wish i could say i do. It would seem so much more spiritual. But in reality, i don't. I miss the missionaries we worked with and there's parts that i have a lot of nostalgia about, but Kenya itself i simply don't miss. I pray regularly that God will keep my heart open to whatever He wants for us whether that's Virginia or somewhere else, but for now i'm soaking up family and friends, along with building new friendships and relationships. God has been so very gracious to us.

  

31 October, 2015

Head Coverings


   I have loosely followed a certain blog for a while and today i was impressed to post a link to an article one of the young women posted. I think it's one of the clearest and well written explanations of the head covering i've ever read. And i think their head coverings are beautiful! I know Marlin prefers diversity in head coverings so i may need to experiment. :-)




http://radicalfemininity.com/2015/10/26/why-do-you-wear-a-headcovering/