Thursday, July 31, 2014

Facing Your Fears


I live in a land of walls.
Almost every business, almost every house, almost everywhere one looks......walls.
If there aren't walls, there are bars, and gates, and locks, and razor wire.
Things designed to keep people out.


When I first moved here, I felt like I lived in a prison.
I hated looking out every window and seeing bars.
I hated locking the key, and the deadbolt, and the gate, and the padlock on the door each night.
I hated the fear these things represented.


I grew up in a place where we never locked our house.
Before we left for a week's vacation each summer, we'd spend a few hours trying to find the door key so we could lock up while we were gone.
But as much as I laughed at the "safety precautions" when I moved here, I soon realized that I could do the same thing to my soul.


I found that it was easier to lock myself away than be hurt.
It was simpler to close the doors,
to hide behind barred windows,
to huddle away from people than to be misunderstood.

Knowing people and being known by people can only come when I step outside those walls.
Learning to speak a new language, whether of the tongue or the heart, takes work.
Understanding how someone thinks, whether in my own culture or another, takes patience.
Becoming part of a community, whether a familiar one or a foreign one, takes effort.


Being known outside the walls takes vulnerability.
And laying myself open to laughter, derision,  scorn is a fearful thing.
But stepping outside the walls is the only way I can find friendship, understanding, and a place to belong.
I get that choice.
So I choose to come out of hiding, unlock the doors, swing wide the gates, and step outside the walls...
Stepping into freedom.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Common Things



It's easy to think that the most important things in life are the BIG things.....
that my husband will remember the surprise date I put together for him.....
that my children will recall the pancakes shaped like teddy bears.....
that the grandparents will smile over the hand-made Christmas gifts....
that the people in our church will remember the Easter Monday picnic.



But I've been reminded of something recently.....
really important, but really simple:

People remember what is most common.




My husband might remember that I set up a surprise date for him, but he might not.
What he will remember is how I lived most days....
was I kind to him?
did I smile at him?
was my speech sharp, my tone harsh,
or did I speak lovingly?
Did I respect him?



My kiddos may remember the teddy bear pancakes, but they may not.
What they will remember was how I treated them....
did I get frustrated easily?
did I yell, fuss, nag, and complain?
did I ignore them for things I deemed "more important"?
did I take the time to look at them and smile?



Did they get to spend time outside, soaking up God's sunshine?
Did I read to them?
Did I let them pick flowers?
Did I allow them to play?



Did I teach them how to wash dishes, pick up after themselves, make biscuits?
Did I make them a daily priority?


The grandparents surely remember the hand-made Christmas gifts.....
but wouldn't they appreciate more...
a card regularly in the mail,
some new scribbly pictures,
a photo of their sweet grandbabies from this month instead of last year,
and a weekly phone call?


Yes, our church members probably remember the fun we had at the Easter Monday picnic,
but what is more important is how I treated them the last time we met.
Did I make sure and greet them at church on Sunday?
Was I well-prepared for our lesson when we met together?
Did I send a text or make a phone call when I heard their son was sick?
Did I encourage them the last time we saw each other?
Did I spend time praying for them?
Did I live out Christ's love for them this week?


Yes, big things are good.
But the common things.....
those are the most important.

For the common things make up our days,
the days make up our years,
and the years make up our lives.

And a life full of common, but beautiful things?
It is a beautiful life indeed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Road to a Heart


I remember my first mission trip to the place I now call home.
I don't think my camera left my hand for two weeks.
Everything was new, exciting, different, as far opposite from my own world as could be.





I was enamored by the noises, smells, sounds, faces......the differences.
I wanted to capture it all.



But now that I've lived here over a decade, I'm hesitant to take the camera, to snap the pictures.
These are people, not merchandise.
They have thoughts, feelings, and preferences, just like everybody else.
And while many of them may live in what some consider poverty, they still have pride in how they look and where they live.




When a child gets up in the morning he makes his bed, straightens his room, dresses for school, and eats his breakfast.
And while the bed might be a mat, and the room might be shared with the rest of his family, and the clothes might be his brown and orange school uniform, and his breakfast might be beans, rice, and hot pepper, he's really not much different than you or me.



When a child sets off for school in the morning, he might go by car, school bus, moto, taxi, or tro-tro, but then again, he might go by foot.
He may walk on busy, paved roads, crowded with morning traffic, or he might walk a slippery, dirt path through the plantain trees and corn.
One foot in front of the other......just like everybody else.






When he's extra hungry, he brings the big bowl, hoping mama will fill the whole thing.
When he's cold he wears a jacket, even if it is 75 degrees F.
When he finds creatures to scare the girls at school with, they may be snails or centipedes.
And when he gets new school shoes, they may the coolest shoes he can find.....they might even be green.



I've heard it said that people all over the world are the same.
It's true.
We are all souls, seeking to be filled.
Oh, our skin tones, languages, and foods may be different.
The way we interact and what we value may not be quite the same.
The roads we walk day-in and day-out may not look alike, but the paths to our hearts?
They're all the same......
they are reached by Love.


This week the whole family got the privilege of going to public school Bible club with Daddy, and then to visit some of our church members afterwards. I hesitated on taking my camera, but in the end, I'm glad I did. Some days a camera lens between myself and the rest of the world helps me count my blessings a little better, see souls a little clearer, and appreciate my life here just a little bit more.


Friday, July 11, 2014

For the Days When You Are Not Enough....


So this day marks the beginning of this thing I call my life.
To be honest, I thought I'd be more at this age...
more mature?
more beautiful?
more organized?
more got-it-all-together?
more spiritual?
more wise?
more adult?
I'm not really sure exactly what I thought I'd be more of.......just something.
But I'm not.


I feel a constant pressure to be more.....
it's in the whispering voice of pride that tells me my worth is wrapped up in what everyone thinks of me;
it's in the clamoring voices of the internet that tell me my value comes from how many people "like" me;
it's in the unending barrage of articles that tell me that I just need to change one more thing;
it's in the endless streams of photos that urge me to change my hair, my wardrobe, my food, my fingernails, and my kid's birthday party;
it's in the sinister voice of the Liar who prods me to look at every other missionary's numbers and compare.

More often sneaks in disguised in good intentions.....
"I need to be a better Christian."
"I need to be a better wife."
"I need to be a better mama."
"I need to be a better missionary."
He ties my thoughts and emotions into knots.

But More?
He is a thief and a liar.
And just like I would never allow a real thief and liar into my house without a fight,
I must choose to do the same with this one.

I start by speaking truth.



I'm a mama of bigs and littles.
We play and cry and make messes.
There is silverware scattered on my kitchen floor most hours of most days.
Many times supper is nutritious and hopefully tasty.
Picture worthy?
Not usually.




On some days, there are tears and raised voices and lazy kiddos and a frustrated mama.
Most days there are letters on my walls, and many times they are drawn there with marker or crayon.
Some days the babes get to play on the grass, and some days I don't see sunshine at all.
On many days, there are princesses running through my house leaving a huge mess of a bedroom in their wake.
There are more dirty diapers than I care to count, and a two-and-a-half year old who is still trying to get this thing called potty-training.



I don't have ten hours to read my Bible and pray every day.
There is no sustained quiet time in this house.
I'm lucky to get the babies to nap for twenty minutes at the same time so I can rush back to the school room and work a little more with the older two before I have to get lunch on the table.

This is my life right now.
This is truth.



The fact that I am not enough?
That is true, too.
And when I accept that......
what weapon does More have against me?



Lord, help me today to remember that even though I am not enough, You are. Help me to accept the forgiveness you so freely offer when I do wrong, and choose to accept your strength to do right the next time. Settle my heart in truth. Draw me near and whisper that my worth is found in You alone.
Thank you for giving me this life. Amen.