Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our Week

We are healthy and whole and full of energy, which is a good thing, because we are busy as usual!
I thought you might enjoy a few pictures from a family walk the other night.
It feels so good to have the strength to get outside again.....just for fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Shanty

I was nervous about the directions from the moment my husband gave them to me.
I had never been to this house before, and I wasn't quite sure I could find it.
The directions included phrases like "the alley by the pole", "a small path on the edge of the farm fields","a two-story asbestos building", and then the one that caught my attention: "the beautiful vine-covered shanty."
"You can't miss it," he said.
We walked down the main road, down the first side road, and then down the small road until we came to the alley.
We turned in, climbed through some scaffolding that was in the way, and followed the alley until it ended at the fields.
So far so good.
I couldn't remember if John had said to turn right or left, but the tiny path to the left looked a bit more well-trodden, so left we went.
We skirted around the backs of some houses, saw the tall building John had mentioned, and met an old woman sorting ayoyo leaves.
We mentioned the name of the lady we were looking for, and since everyone knows their neighbors here, she told us to keep going straight ahead.
We crossed a shallow ditch full of dirty wash water, and then I saw it.
The house was nothing more than a shanty.
It was roughly built of a mishmash of wooden slats, black plastic, corrugated zinc sheets, and nails.
A poor man's home, probably a transplant from the northern villages who couldn't afford rent, so had found this quiet spot on the edge of a field and gathered whatever cast-off materials he could, until he had enough to build himself a small dwelling.
And yet, it was far different from all the other shacks I've ever seen.
It was beautiful, for someone had taken a small vine, planted it in the soil close to the wall, and allowed it slowly creep and grow along the walls of that small home until it was almost completely covered.
Gone was the look of broken boards and wrinkled plastic, in their place was a gently dancing cloak of green.
Leaves to block the sun and the rain, and tendrils of green to please the eye.

So it goes with myself.
There are hard things, ugly things deep inside of me.
I am that old, cobbled-together lean-to, with nothing to say in my favor.
This heart of mine is nobody's dream house, no humble, homey cottage, no sought-after refuge.

But then one day I heard a knock.
I peered through a crack in my creaky door and saw One who wanted to come inside,
to meet me right where I was: hidden away, off the beaten path, in a hovel next to a dirty ditch.
I did no more than say yes.
And He came.
He planted those tiny shoots and covered my brokenness, my empty places, with His robe of righteousness.

I am not famous.
Not many people even know I exist.
In the scope of this earth, I'm no one important.
But I pray that by God's grace, I can stand along a quiet path, near the edge of a field, and offer a bit of Truth, Hope, and Beauty to those who pass by....
a beautiful vine-covered shanty.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

For the Days When All is Well....

There are times when life is hurry and flurry and bluster and blow.

Our family has been caught in the middle of a raging tempest for the last few months.

The hardest part of it all was not being able to find the cause.

Of course, our Lord never left us alone.
He slowly opened doors, and led us to people, and into conversations, until we were able to find the source of our troubles...
and some possible solutions.

And now we are well, and our bodies are whole again, and our days have taken on the sound of life after the storm.....just the quiet dripping of the remaining water cupped in the leaves outside.
And we are grateful.

*To all of you who have prayed for us and sent encouraging notes over the last few weeks ~ thank you. They mean more than you may ever know.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

For the Days When You Wish Your Perfect Someday Would Come....

We've been passing through some dark valleys here in our little spot on the globe.
Shadowy days and black-as-pitch nights have been the new norm around here.
A rigid diet, herbal teas, fevers, pains, fatigue, vomiting, black-outs ~ these are part of my tired brain's whirling thoughts hour after hour.

Our family has been stuck in a cycle of lingering illness for almost two months, and when you are a family that never {or at least hardly ever} gets sick, that's hard.

On top of the sickness, our days' work lists have been miles long as the Lord has given us a number of extra ways to serve Him in these last few months.
I try to smile as I look at the school calendar and wonder how we're going to finish this year's schooling, much less finish it well.

As I roll out of bed in the mornings, still tired after long, hot nights without electricity, and lots of trips with little ones to the bathroom, I wish for all of this to be past.

If we could all just get better....
Once all the newbies are settled....
When John and I get more than two minutes to talk to each other....
I'll do something fun with the girls when.....
We'll just push through a few more days of school, because we've got to get this done....
In a few more weeks when we can eat what we want...

These are the thoughts on repeat all day, every day.

The problem with this way of thinking, though, is that I don't know when things are going to change.
I don't know when life is going to be "normal" again....whatever that means, anyways!

Maybe God will allow this physical malady to trouble us for another six months.
Maybe the new missionaries will need more help than we ever imagined.
Maybe our schedule will continue to be so full that John and I only get two minutes at a time to talk to each other, school won't get done any faster, and there will be no way to fit in some extra fun things with my kiddos.
Maybe we'll be stuck on this strict diet and swallowing these bitter concoctions forever.

The real crux of the matter is that I don't know the future.
That brings me to one of two choices: I can find ways to rejoice in today, or I can keep waiting for that perfect *someday* that may or may not ever show up.

I grab my extra eye, and I begin walking through my house, searching for things to be thankful for, to help me find joy in this moment....

I find drawings, and doodles, and stacks of books....
Imaginations sketched out all over paper....
Lumps of clay kneaded into tiny figures....
Sunlight dappling a favorite gift....
Patchwork, and weavings, and candles, and beads, and paintings all catching the light so that they glow...
A tiny moss rose blooming on the porch...

As I hunt and count, the heaviness lifts from my heart, and the dullness lifts from my mind.
Yes, even in these hard days, I can rejoice!

In the hardest of moments I'm surrounded by God's goodness, if I'll but open my eyes to it.
So today I choose.
I choose to rejoice and be glad in this day.
It's the only one I know I have.
Better days may or may not come, but if I open my hands wide to this day, I will receive the gift that it is.

* Yes, our family has been down sick for quite some time with a serious illness, and the Lord has given us a lot to do in recent months. I did not share this to gain sympathy or answers. I simply hope that maybe somebody else might be encouraged to accept their *today*, whatever it looks like.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dear Weary Soul....

Dear Weary Soul,
Maybe today hasn't lived up to what you thought it should.....and possibly today YOU didn't live up to what you knew you should?
And maybe it hasn't just been today, but maybe the last week, or month, or year. Does it feel like maybe your life hasn't turned out at all the way you wanted it to?
That maybe your dreams have dried up and blown away and you're a shriveled, shadowy version of yourself?

Maybe your to-do list is too long, and your days are too short.
Maybe your kids are bad, and so is your attitude.
Maybe you know you should stop reacting so quickly, but often the screams have erupted, the words were shouted, and only after your breathing has slowed do you even realize how harsh you've been.

Maybe the kids are sick, and the buckets keep filling, and the toilets need scrubbing, and the sheets need changing, and the washer needs to be run for the 40th load in a row.
Maybe you're tired of checking temperatures, and wiping noses, and cleaning little bums, and reading another round of every Dr. Seuss book you own.....which is all of them.
Maybe your little patients are whiny and cranky and won't be pacified, and they crawl into your bed at night and you all wake up in a puddle.
Maybe the only thing that seems to make sense is to lock yourself in the bathroom and cry and then eat that bag of chocolate chips you've been hiding in the back of the freezer.

Maybe your spouse is unwell, and you're afraid, and waiting for test results can feel like a 1000 year process, and you do and don't want to know what's wrong
Maybe it's your own health that can't seem to settle in a good place, and no matter what you do, you just don't "feel right" and the doctors don't seem to have a clue, and you've scared yourself with Googling your symptoms until you're pretty sure that you have every single rare disease in the world at the same time.

Maybe it's just a running list of little, seemingly inconsequential things that have slowly piled up until you feel like you're waiting for the avalanche to come sliding down.
Maybe it's the knocking under the hood of the car, or the weird rattling every time the refrigerator runs high, or the leak in your bathroom that are grating on your last nerve.
Maybe its the ants, or the cockroaches, or the mice, or the mosquitoes that won't just die already.

Maybe you don't know the next step to take, and you feel like you're living in limbo, and you just wish God would open a door wide, but it doesn't even feel as if He's listening at all.
Maybe your at your wit's end, hanging on to the end of the rope, staring at that empty bank account, and a stack of bills.

Maybe you're overbooked, and overscheduled, and over it all, and you don't know how to get out.
Maybe you're in a season of life that requires every ounce of you, and you've given and given until there is nothing left to give.
Maybe you see the mistakes you've made, but you just don't know how to start fixing them.

Maybe you're addicted to: video games, movies, your phone, coffee, chocolate, books, shopping, sleep, anything that lets you forget about your life.
Maybe you keep telling yourself it will all get better when ___________ happens, but deep down, you know that isn't really true.
Maybe you're ready to quit on a friendship, a child, your marriage, your calling, because it just feels too hard.

Maybe your tired of feeling like you are the only who is trying, that you've put in all of the effort, that somebody else should step up for a change.
Maybe you have been wronged and forgiven the offender almost 70x7 times, and they never seem to notice.
Maybe you've seen a relationship ripped apart, and only now can you see the areas you've failed, but the one you've failed doesn't want to forgive you.
Maybe you've been hurt, wronged, and the bitterness is there, snaking its destructive roots down deep into your heart.

Maybe your day has been chaos from beginning to end, full of headaches, and purple paint, and books scattered off of every shelf, and a rainstorm, and mud brought into the bedroom to "cook with", and a little one having an accident right on your lap, and multiple baths, and dirty dishes, and a sad soul, and a too-short devotional time, and a little one who wouldn't eat her supper, and hands thrown up in disgust.

Dear one, if any of those words describe your life in any way, then you are in the right place ~ a place of need. Because only when we come to the very end of ourselves do we find Jesus quietly waiting...strength for a broken body, truth for a battered mind, and rest for a weary soul.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Our Last Few Weeks....

While Easter is long passed on the calendar, I've yet to share our Easter weekend.
Our life has been rushing along at quite the rolling pace these days.
We had a lovely Sunday celebrating Christ's resurrection. We had baptisms planned for the day, but our dry season has been so long that both rivers we use for baptisms were completely dried up.
Here in Ghana, we celebrate Easter Monday, too {per the British custom}.
It is always a wonderfully fun day as a church family!

We share breakfast together, and then play outdoor games all morning long!
Pastor Andrew brought people from his Bible Study to join us. We had almost 90 people there, and it was such fun just playing together.

On Tuesday morning we boarded a bus for the capital.
As I alluded to last time I wrote, God has given us some added opportunities in the last few months.
First he brought the Acree family to join us for a time. They had been in another city for about 20 months, but were struggling to learn the language and culture. God lead them to join us here in Kumasi until their furlough, as the language learning and cultural adaptation should be a bit easier here than their previous place.
Secondly, he brought us a brand-new missionary family to help get settled and learning the ropes.
The trip to Accra was to pick them up from the airport.

We had hoped for a good two days of rest before they arrived, but both Carey and Mackay got sick on the trip down. We spent all of Tuesday at the guest house hoping they'd sleep it off. Carey did, but Mackay had a really rough night. So it goes.

Once everybody got feeling better, we did find a new family restaurant that was delicious. They even sold homemade salted butter caramel gelatto ~ what a special treat!

On Wednesday night the Rosenbalm family arrived, along with their pastor and his wife {who came to help them travel with four little guys}. Since then, we've been go-go-going {along with the help of the Aaron and Acree families}, helping them get settled, buy appliances, learn the shopping, making food, and all that goes into making a home in a new country.

We are tired, but happy to encourage and help these young missionary families as they learn to make Ghana their home.