Friday, September 10, 2021

What a Fledgling Sparrow Taught Me About My Fears, Or, Why a Mama Bird Has No Arms




It started with a shout from my youngest. She was certain she had seen a strange new bird right in front of our house and was doing her best to call all of our attentions to it. As I leaned over the edge for a look, I saw a poor fledging sparrow frantically trying to land on the roof above our entrance door. It didn't make it, and soon crashed on our front steps. All five of us ran out to find the poor babe shaking on the edge of the steps, trying to decide if it should throw itself down into the snake plant for safety. With a warning I stopped my most enthusiastic "helper" and warned everyone to back up. This baby had a mama and daddy somewhere close by, and it didn't need our help. 

We all scooted away and tried to see the mom and dad. Once we were quiet, we heard the baby chirps followed by the matching mama and daddy calls, but the parents were being very careful. We were big and could be predators -- so could our neighbors who were driving out, or the stray cat that likes to hide in our bushes and hunt for food, or even the big lizards that laze on the top of our walls hoping for tasty morsels. A few times they came out of the coconut palms where the nest was to sit on the electric lines, but then flew off when something startled them. I would lean out the door every few minutes to make sure the baby was okay, but then duck back in with the hopes that the mom and dad could help the poor little one out of his predicament. 






After a while my oldest reported that the parents had finally landed in one of the bushes in front of the house and had coaxed the little one over to them, one hop at a time. It was able to works its way up into the top of the bush to be with its mama and daddy again. All was well.

Growing up, I remember a dear lady in our church singing the song, "His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I Know He Cares for Me." I think I remember mostly because she had the most melodious alto voice I'd ever heard, but for whatever reason, the words of that song are still mine after all these years. And today, they started playing just as soon as I saw that wee little bird on the steps. 

I used to think that because God's Word says that He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground that meant that He would never allow anything bad to happen to it. He would take care of it right away, no stress, no difficulty.  But as I watched the scene play out today, I realized that I had that Scripture all wrong. When a fledgling is learning to fly, it is not good at it immediately, and those baby birds often get into bad places. Mama and Daddy birds have no arms. The parents cannot go pick their babies up and carry them back to safety. They must watch from a distance, do their best to keep the baby from being noticed by things that could harm it, call out reassurances, and often wait until all is clear, but even then, the baby has things it must do too. It has to learn how to be on its own, and eventually it has to learn to fly. All of that is hard, but it is good.






Thursday, July 29, 2021

I Want to be the Older Mom...


Last week I decided it was time to take a fast from social media for a while. 
Some things seem to take much more time than they are worth, if you know what I mean? 
I didn't want to feel the pressure to keep up and follow up and speed up any more.
In fact, I wanted to slow and let go and fall behind and be bored.
And I've been reminded that being bored is good for me.
It gives room for the good stuff to slip in and fill up the cracks.



I've had space to breathe and a mind slowly unwinding, and I've leaned in to the quietness of it when my habits tell me to pull away and "just-check-something-real-quick." 
I've used the big camera, the one that gives the sharp edges and a beautiful blur instead of the phone camera, and many times I've just taken the picture with my eyes instead. 
I've savored the moment rather than trying to save it.



This week I pulled down something that was written by an older mom that served as a guidepost to me for many years as a young mom, and I passed it on. 
I'm not a young mom any more.

I wondered, what has happened to the other older moms, are they still out there?
Or have they been swallowed up in the roaring rush of this social media-saturated world of ours too?
Maybe they are just being quiet, and that is a good thing, and maybe they are living out Titus 2 every day. I sure hope so.
But maybe they are not. Maybe they've quit trying and have just joined the madly rushing river that is our world, driven by all the things that matter very little.
I don't want to be that older mom.



I want to be the older mom that has a sweet friendship with her kiddos, no matter how tall they grow.
I want to be the older mom that meditates on Scripture for more than 30 seconds now that all the babies aren't babies any more.
I want to be the older mom that speaks words of life and truth into those she sees every day.
I want to be the older mom that doesn't settle into finishing up her work, but rather sees that their are mountains ahead, out of the misty flatlands and into the high places. And really, our job is to "Climb or die," as Amy Carmichael so wisely said.
I want to be the older mom that still knows how to have fun, and be silly, and find joy in each new day.
I want to be the older mom that isn't bitter, but thankful.




But all of this takes work. 
For me, the early days of motherhood felt desperate. I was so, so tired, and overwhelmed, confused, afraid, and worried. 
Those battles were fought in quick cries to God for mercy, Susanna Wesley style, and snatches of God's Word when I was still long enough to read, usually while feeding a baby or cooking. 
Many tears were shed, but God was faithful.
My days don't feel that way anymore. Desperation is an emotion I rarely feel. I have more time to pray and read and meditate on God's Word. 
But if I'm not careful, that time can slip through my fingers and be gone when I'm looking the other way.
And so I rest, trusting in His faithfulness again.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

News!!!

 


Hello, friends! Things have been quiet around here, haven't they? We are well, and I hope you are, too. Though there hasn't been much writing here, John and I have both been quite busy writing in other places. May I share some of them with you? 

Before the pandemic I began writing a missionary letter for children. It is sent through the mail, to them, and tells about life here in Ghana. I try to include a picture of some sort every time I write. I share them with Sunday School classes, school chapels, junior churches, and any children who would like to receive them. If that is you, please comment with the names and address they should be sent to, and I will get them on the list. If you desire to send that privately, feel free to email me at ghanagirl@rocketmail.com.   

 I regularly share on Instagram. Right now I'm in the middle of sharing missionary biographies and stories for the 40 days after Easter.                                                                    

Lastly, I am now writing for Common Place Quarterly, a beautiful homeschooling magazine. 

John is contributing to Story Warren on a regular basis, and we have just started a monthly newsletter called Words by the Way. We will be sharing about family and reading, abundant living and creativity. The reason we started this newsletter, though, is because we have exciting news! 

Five or six years ago, John and the girls wrote me a story for Christmas. I enjoyed it so much, I thought maybe other people would enjoy it too. I encouraged John to try to publish it. We prayed and edited and rewrote and reworked and prayed some more, and in the first quarter of 2022, Bandersnatch Books is going to help us launch our book into the world! 

It is a middle-grade reader, but excellent as a read-aloud, too. Our dear friend John Neiner (a pastor and an incredible artist!) is doing all the art work.

In our newsletter we will also be sharing about what it takes to bring a book to life. If that would interest you, please sign up here. 


Thursday, January 28, 2021

How To Fix Every Broken Thing




Once upon a time a young husband and wife moved half-way around the world to build a home and a life in a brand-new place. This place was new and different from everything they had known and for the most part, they had very little human help. They didn't have to report to work every day; there were no time clocks or activity reports. They could go where they wanted to go and do what they wanted to do, except for one thing: they had a calling on their lives. They were not supposed to "be their own."

They tried to set schedules, but since they were still learning how to do things AND how things were done, they never seemed to work. In time a baby came along, and since they didn't want anything to cramp their new-found freedom, they just carried the baby along to whatever they were doing. The house was messy, meals were erratic, frustration mounted, tears flowed. Time and again they tried to figure out how to have a family life and home life and ministry life, but most days they just dropped in to bed irritable, dirty, and exhausted. 

                 


  They struggled on like this for three full years, just barely holding it together. Furlough in America would certainly fix it! So they went and another baby came, and it got harder. Feelings hurt deeper and anger flashed more often and one or the other of the young couple withdrew, because they didn't know what else to do. In time they went back to the field. But not before the Holy Spirit had begun a deep heart work in one of them. 

Though it was not easy, the one being prodded listened, repented, and begged for help. It came. Oh, it didn't come in rushing torrents, mostly just the tiniest of droplets, but still, it was enough to moisten the dry soil of a life. Though unseen by any human eye, that tiny obedience, that bowing to the One Authority, was like a stone dropped in a pond. It rippled outward. Those waves began jostling the other one, and sins that had been long buried were brought to light. Repentance. Cries for mercy. The answer came this time also, and that obedience softened the soil more.

Joys, trials, good days, bad days, tears, fears, hopes, answers to prayer, sickness, health came and went. A baby was given and a baby was taken. Seeds that had been faithfully planted many years before and new seeds dropped in here and there began to find purchase in the soil of their lives. A few roots began to find their way down, down to truth where they could draw strength and nourishment. More babies came; more heartaches came. But with both, this couple was learning what it meant to find their hope in Another. And with both, they began to learn the importance of strong foundations. 

The wise man built his house upon the rock; the foolish man built his house upon the sand. A song from childhood, a truth from Jesus. They sought that Rock. Many days it didn't FEEL like they were growing, that they were making any progress. Having a happy, loving marriage was hard. Parenting was harder. They tried. Most days they felt like they failed. They had learned, somewhere along the way though, that each day they had to just get up and do it again. Their roots clung to that truth when all else failed. Slowly they began putting habits in place, nothing fancy. Washing the dishes before going to bed, no matter how tired they were. Practicing the guitar for just 15 minutes, no matter how little progress was seen. Schooling the children, no matter if everybody enjoyed it or not. Cooking the food, because it had to be cooked. Giving the gospel, even when the language barrier seemed insurmountable. Letting people into their lives, whether they wanted them there or not. Feeding and washing babies, because it had to be done. Many days it felt pointless and useless, but they had been promised that He would perfect that which concerned them. By God's grace they believed it to be so, and the foundations became stronger. The roots went down deeper.

Now a season of trials came, thick and fast. The storm raged, the winds howled, the waves crashed, the rains beat, but the Life they had planted together stood firm. They certainly looked weather-worn, and the smiles were often a bit forced, but they survived. They could join in the great company of witnesses and say that their Foundation was enough. 

After the hard days came a stretch of beautiful ones, because no life is complete without both. It seemed almost like a dream at first, but they soon realized that no longer was their plant hanging on for dear life. It was growing, thriving, and bearing fruit. They had learned that the strength was in the Vine, and as long as they were attached to Him, they needed nothing else. All the days of digging, planting, weeding, and pruning were accomplishing what they were supposed to accomplish: fruit. The foundations were deep and strong; the water source was clear and sure. This was not a matter of bragging, but simply a matter of truth. It was a promise of God.




I wrote the above, dear friends, because foundations and deep roots and habits and the abundant life are some things that have been on my mind a lot lately. Last week we got a phone call that the roof of our church building had ripped off in a storm. Why? because the original framing on one side of our rented building had been eaten through by termites. When the winds blew, it collapsed and the roof had nothing to hold onto. This last year of lock-downs and government regulations and changes in daily life have revealed who has deep roots and who does not. We have seen some choose to follow a path that will lead to destruction and others choose to follow the path of life. As we prepare to fledge our oldest baby bird from the family nest, we are seeking to help her learn to send her roots down deep, not to mama and daddy's Rock, but her own. And so it goes. Daily, each one of us gets the choice to be obedient and faithful with what God has called us to do or not. We CAN choose. What we can't choose, though, is the consequences.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

For the Days When You Want to Build Walls





We live in a day and an age of walling people out and walling ourselves in. We make sure we set clear boundaries and indelible demarcation lines, and we are quite sure that all those things will make us happy and fix our problems.



Why do we have these problems? Maybe we ask ourselves that question out loud, and maybe we ask it in our heads, but either way, we just know our problems are the other person, and if we can just keep them farther away from us the troubles will go away. So we keep on picking up the stones or the bricks or the barbed wire or even the pretty little pickets and build the fences higher and stronger to keep all those who would come to ruin our lives out. 

There is no time for appreciating that each person we meet was made just like us -- by a loving Creator. Instead of learning to be friendly with those who live to the right and left of us, the clerks at the grocery store and the gas station, the person who messed up your order at the drive-thru, and the family that sits on the other side of the auditorium, we retreat into our houses. We keep the blinds closed, the curtains pulled, the lights off, and try to find "friends" in the virtual spheres. How often do we rather make new enemies, though?





We scour the internet looking for more articles to support our opinions. We clap each other on the back, and high-five when somebody makes a "smart" comment and makes somebody else look stupid. We watch debates and listen to radio shows and podcasts to fill our minds with all the reasons why we are right and everybody who doesn't think just like us is wrong. We fill our hearts with the fear-mongering and the conspiracy theories, and then wonder why we are anxious and hopeless.



Why do we do such things? Because it is easier. It is hard, hard work to learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. If it was easy, God wouldn't have had to command us to do so. It is much easier to pick up stones and stack them back on top of the fence than to pull down the walls that stand between us and our fellow men. It is difficult work to actually close our mouths and open our ears and listen to what someone else has to say rather than to assume we already know what they are going to say. "What if that person believes something wrong?" you might ask. What if they do? Then you will actually know what they believe rather than just assuming. Sometimes you might be surprised. It might even give you a bit of insight into where you can begin speaking to them about the Truth that matters the most.



It used to be that people had to learn to live with their neighbors. They were the only people they had. They might not think just like them, but in time, with patience and hope, and a good bit of humor thrown in, they learned to share life together. When somebody needed a cup of sugar it was available. When someone needed a doctor, they helped. When a baby died, they wept. When a barn needed raising, they brought their hammers. 
No, many of us don't live in that kind of world anymore, but couldn't we try? Couldn't we, along with the poet, ask, 'Why DO fences make good neighbors?'