Sunday, June 17, 2018

For the Weeks that Don't Go As Planned...

I had so many plans for this week.
Summers can be like that.
Our barrels that we shipped our books and household goods in arrived on Sunday afternoon.
I was so excited to get them unpacked, and the house finally all put together.
I had been figuring and planning since we got back, and I knew right where things were going to go, and how it was all going to come together.
The last seven days were perfectly laid my head.

And then life happened, as it has a tendency to do.
The things that I wasn't prepared for....
Part of our missionary family headed to America on furlough.
Goodbyes were hard.
Dear missionary friends in another country were passing through the valley of the shadow of death with their two-year old son.
Updates and times of prayer were wrenching.

We had to go to town to get our food for the month.
Another day used up.
Emptying the barrels didn't go as smoothly as I'd pictured,
the curtains all had to be cut or hemmed....all 12 of them.
The new handles for the cabinets in every room were a half inch too small.
By ten o'clock {at night} everybody was exhausted and things weren't finished.
I ended up with an infection I couldn't shake.
We had church obligations, and social obligations, and ministry obligations,
and all the amazing books God blessed us with for our family and our future library
wouldn't fit on the shelves.

I stayed up late every night trying to get stuff done.
I slept poorly.
I was on a strict regimen of loads of raw garlic to get feeling better.
My time with the Lord in the mornings was lackluster.
I didn't fit in any extra reading.
I barely saw the sun as I was inside moving and changing and unpacking and drilling and fixing.
I felt dull, tiresome, and frustrated.

To state it plainly {if I haven't already done that!}, I was weary when I woke up this morning...
Tired of how things were, ashamed of how I felt, and ready to begin the new week on a different note.
But how?

Feelings are good servants but bad masters, and I have found that as for myself, there is only one way I can deal with them properly:

1)  I must acknowledge that they are there ~ Yes, I have them. Yes, I am feeling things, good, bad, and ugly.
2)  I must give them to God ~ He already knows all the emotions swirling through my mind and heart. Why should I try to hide them from Him?
3)  And then I must think truth ~ My feelings are not true. They change with the moment. I must go to God and His Word and find the truth I need to be thinking on, not just revel in whatever grabs my fancy in the moment.

Now I wish that the moment the Holy Spirit brought these things to my mind, my battle was over, but it was not.
One cannot go an entire week listening to lies and instantly stop doing so.
Once Satan has found a weak point, he loves to continue the attack at the same place.
So I turned to the next book in my daily Bible reading, and there was the truth I needed for this day and this week:

That is where I've been seeking to dwell today ~
not consumed with my faithlessness, 
but resting in His mercy, His compassion, and His faithfulness.

{The paper dolls that the little girls are playing with are actually the inside of the book jacket of a new favorite picture book in our house ~ Lola Dutch! Also, I want to thank Ann Voskamp for the inspiration on how to deal with feelings, from her book, The Broken Way. And lastly, I love our new wooden house sign. It was a Christmas gift from here.}

Sunday, June 10, 2018

For the Days When the Newness has Worn Off...

The newness of change has now worn off.
I feel it slowly slipping away.....
and then one day, it is just....gone.
The first few weeks of any big life change are different.
Everything is new again: the eyes are open, the ears are open, the smells are stronger, the sun is brighter, the sounds are sharper, the days are harder.
But one month in, and things are starting to find their new normal.
This is what I fear.

I fear normal, because during that time of transition, I could see a fleeting glimpse of what things might be.
Maybe I didn't have to be so tied to my to-do list...
Possibly there was a better way to approach this, that, or the other....
For a short while it was as if all my senses were extremely fine-tuned; I was a super hero with x-ray vision.
But now?
I'm just plain ol' me, feeling like I'm stuck doing things like I've always done them.

Does it have to be this way?
I wonder.
I try to hold on that the clarity of mind that came with the newness, but it begins to dim.
I search my emotions for the ones I felt when we'd just been here a few days, but they are now homogenized with the ordinary feelings that come each day.
One day hubby and I look at each other, and we both know what the other is thinking ~ the last place is beginning to fade away.
We are settling in.

We are slowly checking things off the "to-be-done-when-we-return" list.
The rooms are getting painted.
Curtains are being hung.
Old friends have been visited.
The language is coming back.
Church and ministry are feeling normal.
And while that isn't at all bad, is it good?

Why do I want it to hold so tightly to how it felt when it was all brand-new again?
I think I know.
When things are different and difficult, it is so much easier to hold tightly to Jesus' hand, to find myself praying through the day, seeking guidance and wisdom for the many decisions that seem hard or strange.
Prayer is a first response rather than a last resort, because I simply don't know what else to do.
When my days have no rhythm, I must ask the Lord to guide each step so my days praise Him.

But now, NOW is when the fight begins.
The energy and excitement of all that is new is gone.
Now it requires battle, and too often I seek to fight alone.
The same God that helped me through the hazy, overwhelming first days is available to me, but do I ask?
Now is when the Holy Spirit seeks for me to put into practice the things He has been teaching me.
Now is when the spiritual disciplines need to be practiced.
Now is when I need God's mercy and grace.

I spend a fitful night, tossing and turning.
I wake, irritable at best.
I turn in my Bible to the portion of Scripture I've been reading from, and He grabs my attention with these words, "...for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts."
He has called me and given me His name.
He has claimed me.
He, the God of the whole army of Heaven, wants me for His own.
I am His and He is mine, and He will fight for me.

The truth washes over me as I listen to a new favorite {that is actually really old!}; He loves me.
Not because of who I am, how I feel or don't feel, or even if I'm walking in obedience or not.
He loves me, because He can do naught else.
He saw me through those first hard days of change and elation, and He will now see me through the ones that feel "too" normal, because He is love, and He has a work that He will finish in me.
And that, my friends, never changes.

{Book 1, A Chance to Die ~ I love Amy Carmichael's writings, but I have never read this biography by Elisabeth Elliot. I'm already enjoying it immensely. Book 2, Yo and the Yak ~ I found this sweet book at a library sale. Lovely picture of life in the Himalayan mountains in the past. Book 3, The Trumpet of the Swan ~ I love all of E.B. White's kid books. This is a great read-aloud for the whole family. This is our second or third time reading it together, and my little two sit spellbound as I read. Book 4, A Passion for the Impossible ~ I shared this one on my IG feed earlier this year. It did not disappoint! In fact, it was so good that now John and I are reading it together.}

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Learning to Hear Again

Living on the equator, the sun is up early every day of the year, and the people are right behind it.
Prayer calls from the nearest mosque, the swish and scrape of brooms sweeping the neighboring compounds, roosters, dogs, children headed to school, construction workers next door, the chop of machetes in the long grasses out front, gates clanging, water buckets filling, trucks honking, and always, always, loud, driving music - these are the sounds that wake me every morning.

As I mentioned in my last post, God has been teaching me to see with new eyes, to really look at what is going on around me and seek to think of it with His thoughts and not my own.
But part of what I've realized since returning to Ghana is that to see with new eyes, I must also hear with new ears.
All these sounds competing for my attention each morning are a temptation to rush through my time with the Lord and get on with my day.

There is always plenty to be done in this busy household of ours, and I typically wake with a mind full of things that need to be addressed {and quickly, before my dear children starve....or so they would have me think}.
I used to think that was just a result of my personality type, but recently I began to see it another way.
I've always known that Satan is an accuser and dart-hurler, but it never occurred to me that all those noises and lists of responsibilities might actually be temptations to turn my mind from God.
When the Holy Spirit brought this to my mind, I was sobered, because if that was the case, how much of my time and mental energy had I wasted allowing myself to chase after those distractions?

An attacked, fretting mind, consumed with the general clamor without and the racing within did not allow me to start my day well.
I would head out the door already consumed with the million and one things that needed to be accomplished.
There was no room to find the Lord's will for my day in that.

Satan's goal is for my ears to be so full of competing voices that I can't hear the quiet one whispering for me to ask what He wants me to see and do each moment of each day.
And so, I rush helter-skelter through the day, crossing lots of things of my mental list, but reach the end of the day, tired, dissatisfied, and a bit sad, feeling that maybe I have missed out on the most important things.

Why hadn't I made time to see the spider my daughter wanted to show me?
Why didn't I ask one of the girls to join me in the kitchen to help with the cooking and talk over her day?
Why didn't I give a church invitation to the man who greeted us as we walked up the road?
Why didn't I take a few minutes to read that book that has been such an encouragement to me?
Why had I spent so much time worrying about something that might {or might not!} happen next week?
Why had I made my day so full of thoughts that I didn't actually take time to live the day God had gifted me with?
Why hadn't I listened to Him?

Hearing with God's ears is also allowing me to catch the things that aren't said and respond rightly.
When the child lashes out at her sibling, the Spirit-empowered ear hears the deeper heart hurts that need to be addressed.
When hubby responds sharply to a question, the Spirit's reminder is to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
When my own tone becomes terse and my words clipped, I must question my reaction and measure it with truth.

Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus Himself said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear..."
Time in the wilderness is teaching me that the hearing is as important as the seeing.
Lilias Trotter put it this way, "...another river lesson has come with the words 'His voice was as the sound of many waters' -- I have never notice before how such a thing will check the voice of the torrent -- a rock, a bush, even water running will dull it from a thunder of power into a mere whisper -- where all the harmony of its multitude of tones is deadened and lost -- oh we want to live where not one of the undertones or overtones of His voice is stifled or missed!"
That is how I want to live ~ that not one of the tones of His voice when God speaks to me is lost!

{The first book is Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey ~ great fun for middle age readers, by the man who wrote Make Way for Ducklings; the second book is a new favorite, Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard ~ I just wish I'd read it sooner!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Learning to See Again

"All bad things come in threes," at least, that is how a friend of mine put it a few weeks ago.
And up until a few days ago, I would have told you that we must be stuck in a cycle of "bad things" then, because we had passed that number three a long time ago.

Weeks and months passed silently here, because I felt there was nothing I could say.
The words were all tangled up inside of me, and I couldn't make any sense of them.
I started post after post, because writing is how I sort out all the things in my head, but I would quit before I was half-way through.
I couldn't twist that jumbled mess into anything sensible, and I began to wonder why God had left me alone in my struggles.

We faced some of the hardest things we have ever been asked to face over the course of the last two years, yet I didn't feel that I could write it down for people to see.
If I didn't understand, what was the point of displaying it for anyone else?
Why encourage others to question God as I was doing?

I chose to trust Him
{because I've seen His faithfulness over and over again},
but I did not understand His ways
{because I couldn't make them make sense to me}.
I lived in a fog of sadness, frustration, and confusion.
I thought I might be stuck in that dreary place forever.

God always seems to work the same way in my life: there is an area where He, in His goodness, mercy, and wisdom, is slowly changing me.
Usually I don't know the area.
I often feel unsettled, unsure, wishing I knew what God was doing.
In the past I have been tempted to try to find all the areas that I thought needed "fixing" and try to do so....and that has never worked.
When I get to the point of greatest frustration and confusion, and consequently surrender, God begins to peel the scales from my eyes, and then one day, He rips them away, and suddenly I can see what He has been preparing for me.

He brings all the blurred images into focus.
He lets me see through His eyes.

And so, we are on the other side now.
I see that is was not a cycle of "bad things" at all, but a time of learning instead.
He has brought us through a wilderness, because He had much He wanted to teach us.
We had to go the way of loneliness, because only there would we seek His face.
We had to come to a place of loss so that He could be our gain.
He had to change our perspective from eyes of doubt to eyes of faith.

Lilias Trotter once said, "Many things begin with seeing in this world of ours."
And so I am learning to see again, but this time with His eyes.