Hello, Friends

Hello, friends!
I started this blog many, many moons ago on the suggestion of a friend. She wanted to know what life on the mission field really looked like....from the missionary wife and mama point of view.
She had another missionary friend who had started a blog, and she suggested I go take a look.
Since I didn't actually know what a blog was, I thought I should do as she said. So I looked. And I was encouraged. Here was another missionary wife and mother {in Poland} facing so many things I had faced and sharing all the ups and downs of God's calling on her life.
I began blogging. My blog had a lime-green background and a {not really} catchy title, but it was a place where I could share what my life looked like here in Ghana.
In time it became a place for me to work through the long days and nights of raising little ones, what it looked like to attempt to juggle motherhood and my calling, the things God was trying to teach me, and the things I was hopefully learning.
And then I hit a roadblock. I came to a time in my life when God began using circumstances outside my home to really mold me. I didn't feel as if it was a story I could freely tell, because it wasn't only mine. I would sit down to write and just cry, because no matter what I tried to tap out onto the screen, eventually I would just erase it all and go to bed. The sadness and the trials were mine to grow through alone. They were not to be shared.
In time, not writing became easier than writing.
We went on furlough, and furlough is a strange world all to itself, so I didn't write then either.
I did begin sharing on Instagram, and posting pictures and words there became my new outlet, but I often wondered if I was done with this space.
I had all the reasons -- blogs aren't the "thing" anymore, people want shorter more curated content, nobody has time to read. Deep down, though, I really wanted to be back here typing it all out again. 
I just didn't know where to start.
Every time I'd pick up my proverbial pen it would come out awkward. After a half-hearted attempt here and there I was ready to call it quits, just leave the blog to sit quietly on its shelf.
Unbeknownst to me, John and I have both been praying about the same thing for a while. When we returned to Ghana from furlough I began asking the Lord what this new season of my life should look like....no more tiny babies or even toddlers {my littlest turns 6 next week!}, my oldest is in her last term with us {she just began 10th grade!}, more time in some ways and less time in others, different responsibilities in our church as church members have taken over my former duties. 
How was I to best use this time?
I decided to take September off of social media {besides checking messages occasionally} and just spend time with pencil and paper, and the longer this month has gone, the more the desire to write again has grown.
The problem then lay in what to write about.
I am not the same person I was three and four years ago when I wrote regularly. 
Praise the Lord, I've learned! I've grown!
I have so much I want to write about.....yes, motherhood and the mission field, and the lessons I'm still learning, but I also want to write about victory and new ideas and things I've changed my mind on and books and people and things that have been a blessing to me, and of course still share pictures of my crazy kiddos and our home here. 
I guess I just want to be able to share all of who I am and am becoming in this place.
I don't want to be tied to who I used to be or what I used to write about. I just want to jump in right where I'm at.
I know I don't have to ask permission for that, but somehow I feel like I should.
So there it is. 
I'm going to be writing here again. You're welcome to join.

For the Days When You Are Tired of Climbing.....

I fell in love with the mountains when I was almost 16 years old. 
Being from Michigan, I had never seen anything more than small, rolling hills. Lovely, but not awe-inspiring.

The summer of my 16th birthday I got to go out West with my best friend and her family, and there I saw real mountains for the first time. 
These were the kind that songs are sung about, the ones that have snow on top year-round, the type that fill one's soul with their bigness and highness and beauty.
We drove through them and around them and up them and over them, and I was humbled and quieted and awe-struck by the works of my Creator.

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "over the hill."
It was as a joke at a birthday party filled with black balloons and signs with tombstones strung from the ceiling.
The party-goers were teasing my mom about her new "old age" and how it was "all downhill from here."

Since January I've been thinking a lot about mountains and hills and old age and that party, because this year is a decade birthday for me. 
I've wondered what the other side of that hill looks like and why people think of it that way and if I've climbed the hill behind me well.

James Fraser, a CIM missionary to the Lisu people in the early part of the 20th century, once said that language learning was like mountain climbing.
It looms in front of one, almost insurmountable, but after much hard work and time, it is topped. Then the climber sees many bigger and higher mountains above and beyond the first.
The first hill is just the beginning.
He knew this to be true, because he climbed the Salween mountains {near Tibet} to reach his people, and He had to develop a written language for his people too.
He understood mountain climbing.

As I have spent time 'considering' this year, I have come to the same conclusion about age that Fraser came to about language learning ~ this is only the first hill. 
There are many bigger and higher mountains waiting to be climbed.

I got to return to the West with my own family while we were on furlough two years ago. 
We enjoyed those same mountains that I was awed by as a teen. 
We rode to the top of one of them in a cable car, and as we ascended, I was thinking about the enormity of this pile of rock 10,000 feet above sea level, but then I looked at the next mountain top over. 
It was another almost 4,000 feet higher.

Yesterday we celebrated my birthday in our own family way, except yesterday I did nothing but cook the food and bake the cake {those are things I LIKE to do!}.
I was told to take the day for myself while my girls and hubby did everything else.
I didn't have to decorate or plan anything.
They scurried around and hid behind closed doors and whispered and giggled and banned me from certain rooms.
And when I was allowed into the front room last night? all I could do was cry.
It was beautiful, and perfect, and exactly what I would have imagined for myself except better.

The words they had written, 
and the cards they had made, 
and the gifts they had chosen, 
and the song they sang were life-giving, 
and love outpoured, 
and far beyond what I deserve. 
As I soaked it all in, all I could think was that every moment of climbing, 
every hard day, 
every sleepless night, 
every time I had to deny myself to love my family well has been worth it.
That first hill was worth the climb, and the next one up will be worth it too.

For the Days When You Want It Easier.....

These days.
I feel like they whip past me at astonishing speed, like the winter winds where I grew up.
I try to gather my thoughts, my struggles, the lessons I'm learning, what the Lord is working in me into something neat and tidy, easy to smooth into words on a page, but I just can't seem to do it.

The hard sanctification of motherhood is still ongoing, but these days aren't like those when my girls were little and the messes were mostly physical.
These days the messes come in words and attitudes, in hearts and minds.
Many days the hardest messes are mine.

Little ones sleep.
I've realized what a blessing that is now.
Older ones do not.
They seem to go from early morning to late at night, and just when I want to crash in bed, someone needs to talk "for just a minute."

I am thankful they want to talk.
I am thankful that the lines of communication we have worked so hard to lay from the time they were young are still open.
Sometimes though?
I just wish they would go to bed at 8 o'clock for a night.

I remember the early days of mothering when I was just happy to have them all tucked in for the night, hoping and praying they would sleep through.
It's been a while since I've been up with somebody in the night {though it still happens!}, but now the hopes and prayers for the night are deeper, harder.
I pray for hearts and minds to be turned to God.
I pray for future decisions that are fast approaching.
I pray for salvation and dedication.
I pray that all the sowing will bring forth fruit.

Mostly I pray that I won't really mess things up.

Some days I look in astonishment at the women my girls are growing into.
Other days, I'm not sure we'll all survive.

In all the heaviness and neediness of young women on the brink of adulthood, I still have young ones to care for, too.
No dirty diapers here, yet lots of dirty play clothes from all the mud pies being made.
Quick tongues, pushing, unkind actions, whining, selfish hearts, these plague our days.
I seek to hold my own tongue, lest I display the same sinful actions I want my girls to stop.

As a young mom I often thought that when we reached the next "stage" things would get easier - sitting up, crawling, walking, eating table food, dressing themselves, playing alone.
There is no such stage.
Each new age brings with it greater burdens and blessings.
I used to daydream about the day when my girls could _____________. I just knew things would get easier then.
I've realized that the goal isn't for things to get easier.

I've been blessed with a job to do, a sacred duty to perform.
These children are a gift.
May I rise up to my calling today.

Beginning Again....Some Thoughts on Buds and Fruits.....

The beginning of April seems like an odd time to begin again, but really, when is a better time than now?
Before the turn of this year, 2019, I did something I've never done before. Maybe I've grown enough in my Christian walk to finally see what I needed to do, or maybe it is because this year I will reach a milestone birthday {though those are things we DON'T talk about in Ghana!}, but this year I spent the week before New Year's praying about what this year was supposed to look like.

As I prayed, I realized there were some things I knew I needed in my life, but didn't want. Have you ever been there? A healthy body....sounds great, but takes denying of self. A sound mind.....sounds exciting, but takes choosing the best use of my time rather than the easy. A godly soul.....sounds worthy, but takes submission, effort, and time.

And then, an idea: what if I prayed and asked God to change my heart, to change my mind, to help me fall in love with what He desired for me? What would that take?
How does one fall in love, I pondered. 

I remember the day I first saw John on campus. He was tall, blonde, good-looking, and best of all, I knew his twin sisters. Of course, I hadn't seen them since the previous school year had ended so I needed to go greet them and welcome their brother to school ;)
It would make a great story to say that it was love at first sight, but that wouldn't be true to our story! After that initial introduction, we didn't meet again until several weeks later on the beach volleyball court. He was impressed with his skills......and I was not. He was pride, and I was prejudice. There is more to our tale, but it is enough to say that God had work to do in both of our hearts before we were ready to be even civil with each other.

The initial attraction was there, but for love to grow there had to be a choice. After we both decided to give the other another chance, we both had to pursue that choice with intention. We had to make the time to get to know each other. We had to work at becoming friends and then something more. It took time and effort, and some days I didn't want to make either. And some days? I saw that the time and effort was well worth it!

I am so quick to pull my life in two ~ I put the "spiritual" in one realm, and everything else in another. This is a false dichotomy. My love for my husband is no less spiritual than my love for God, because God is love and He created me for it. Learning to love what is true, right, healthy, and whole is spiritual work.

I began to pray.
I prayed for that initial attraction God had put in my heart for a strong body, soul, and mind to grow.
I prayed that I would choose what was best for me.
I prayed that I would know what to intentionally pursue.
I prayed that I would make the time investment needed for it to grow.
I prayed that I would work at doing what was right.

And friends, I'm seeing the results of these prayers this year! Yes, it is April, and yes, some of these things are just starting to bud, but buds are a sign of life and growth! Buds grow into flowers, and flowers grow into fruits. And fruits? Those produce seeds, which produce more and more and more fruit!

For the Days When the Battle is For Your Mind....

I sit gathering my thoughts on this quiet Monday afternoon. It has been hot here, the kind of hot that seems to suck the strength from the body and the virility from the mind. The kind of hot I had forgotten about over furlough, just like now I can't remember the cold of Michigan my Mom told me about on Saturday. For a few weeks now I've been feeling the dullness, the stupor creep in, but not until today have I put my finger on what all I'm feeling. 


Earlier this afternoon I was able to finally put it into words and with that came the overwhelm, the fear, the emotions, the opening of my eyes to just exactly where I'd allowed myself to go.
A slack mind.
I knew my mind had not been controlled, but I'd been excusing it, pushing it away, pushing through to the next thing that had to be done. I hadn't stopped to think of the pit I was allowing myself to slide into.
It is a dangerous place, a place I allowed myself to live for years......a mind lead about by every thought and feeling that came along. No control. No direction. No casting down of imaginations. No mind protected by the helmet of salvation. 

For too many years I lived as a victim to my doubts, my feelings, and my fears. I wanted them to change, but I thought if I just prayed about it, it would just one day, somehow, be different.
A few years ago, God set us on a course of trials. Not just one test, but instead a long road of them....three years worth, to be exact. {We are on the other side of that now, and I would not trade those three years for anything, but I would be lying if I said it was easy while we were in them!} As I cried out in desperation for relief during a particularly grueling month, I remember the Holy Spirit bringing a question to my mind: "What are you supposed to be thinking about?" It stopped me in the middle of my prayer. What WAS I supposed to be thinking about? And then another prompt: "Are you thinking about ME or yourself?"

 That was the day that truth broke free in my mind. My years of struggles were my own fault, my own sin, and it would not go away because of praying about it when it got too much to bear. By God's strength I had to change my way of thinking!
Scripture is full of references to our mind and our will, and God commands us to bring our mind under His control. That only happens, though, when I choose to do so. I must choose to reject the wrong thoughts, and I must choose to think the right thoughts. The best place to start? With my mind meditating on God and who He is.
So back to today. It is time to remember those lessons again. More than idle hands being the Devil's workshop, an idle mind is the Devil's playground. I have let him have his time to play and there are consequences to my choices. But I don't have to do so any longer.

I wrestle not against flesh and blood.
I have armor to wear.
I have the Sword of the Spirit. 
Satan is a defeated foe.

I am stooped, but now in submission.
I am weary of allowing Satan easy access to my mind.
I am no longer scattered, but collected in heart and mind.
I am full of the Hope that lieth within me.
I am ready for the battle, but I remember that the victory is the Lord's.