Monday, March 20, 2017

For the Days When the Flowers are Blooming.....

We spot "the wall" on a side street we've zoomed past a million times, but today, we really see it for the first time.
Scores of bougainvillea bushes reach their long arms toward the sky, each one trying to touch the clouds before tumbling into rainbow arcs that reach almost to the ground.
They are covered in blossoms of flashing pink, magenta purple, snowy white, fiery orange, and glowing coral.
Funny how often I've passed this place and never noticed its beauty.

I pass the bathroom in my dash to get to the next thing that must be done, and some bright colors catch my eye.
A line of rubbery, glittery dresses are on the floor, and a jumble of dolls sit on the toilet, awaiting their new wardrobes.
I wonder what balls and parties my little ones have been dreaming up for their tiny plastic friends.
My temptation is to call for someone to come pick up the mess that has been left behind, but I hesitate......something about the way the light is catching the sparkly dresses suggests I should leave them there for now.

Though we don't really have spring here in Ghana, this is one of the times that many things are blossoming.
Everywhere we go, trees are blooming, full and flamboyant and sweet, and just as quickly they are dropping their petals again, showers of soft, delicate flowers dropping silently down.

At my house it is play silks left in piles, and pillows scattered everywhere except where they are supposed to be, and piles of books unpiled, and legos dumped skittering across the floor, and dress-up clothes heaped and spilling out of their trunk, and I feel the desire to get it all cleaned and straightened and in order, because there is enough chaos in my life already, and yet.....might there be some beauty in these, my children's joys falling 'round?

I find babes of all colors, makes and models tucked in bed, and I wonder what their mama whispered to them as they drifted off to sleep.
I find something that definitely resembles the Great Wall of China, and something else that resembles a zoo, and I step past, leaving them for their owners who might just not be finished yet.

We go and pick up some new dresses from the seamstress' shop, and I hang them in the closet.
They are bright and cheerful and vibrant.
Like most African prints, they echo the colors that saturate this land of heat and sunshine and constant growth....
Radiant fabrics to clothe my own budding ladies.

As I look at my to-do list, I'm tempted to rush, to run, to speed through my days.
And yet, the flower-laden breezes that gently blow through my front windows whisper to me to slow down, to breathe, to enjoy these moments too.
Why is it so easy to stop and smell the roses outside my home, but so difficult to stop and the smell the ones growing right under my nose?

As I stoop to pick up a pair of sandals, I pause.
I am in a race with no own but myself.
A moment to enjoy the buds along the way might be just what I need.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

For the Days When the Chains Are Heavy....

A few weeks ago my girls made a paper chain to help the little ones understand when we were finally going on our big trip.
At ages 3 and 5 they don't quite grasp all this talk of airplanes, and America, and seeing the people they only know through a computer screen.
I don't know if I quite wrap my head around it either.
Some mornings when I wake up, those thin strips of colored construction paper can feel like real chains binding me tight.

God's Word often reminds us that this world is not our final destination in this journey called life.
I'm never reminded of the truth of that more than when we are headed on furlough.
We must prepare our home and our belongings and our church and our children and our own minds for this time of absence and change.
It's important.
It's a blessing.
And it's hard.

As I rise each morning, part of me feels chained to Ghana: cooking and cleaning, teaching my children, sharing the gospel, counseling, ministering to our people, loving and serving those whom God has given me to love and serve.
Another part of my feels bound to the mile-long to-do lists: the packing, scrubbing, planning, finishing of all the things that must be done before we go.
And still another part of me wants to rush on to everything that will be happening once we board that plane in a few short weeks.

If I take the time to listen, though, the Holy Spirit will remind the way out of the snare ~
I must control my mind.
It's the only way to break the chains

First, I must fill my mind with Truth. God's Word is a mighty weapon that can slash through the heaviest of chains and a comforting balm that can heal the weakest of hearts.

Then, I must spend time thinking and thanking. As I take time to dwell on God's goodness to me, my faith grows strong again.

And lastly, I spend time asking God what He wants me to do, what He wants me to wait on, and what He wants me to set aside. My focus must turn away from myself and rest squarely on His will for my day {and my moments!}

This is a time of surrender He asks me to go through as a missionary.
I then have two choices: I can seek to run away from it while still dragging those clanking chains, or I can ask Him to bind me to Him.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

For the Days When You Are Surrounded By Brokenness.....

I've witnessed brokenness today.
Lately, it seems I see it all around me.
If I open the news home page on the computer {which I purposely don't do very much any more}, it's there.
If I pay attention at all when I leave my house, I see it.
Sadly, in my home, with my own family, I feel it.

This morning started with someone sharing a broken heart.
I felt as if the hurting one might split apart from the pain.
I moved to teaching time, and in between songs and lessons and words of correction, I saw it staring back at me from the eyes of adults and children alike.
While home this afternoon, I had to deal with my children, little hearts and minds being guided by broken, sinful ideals.
Tonight, I witnessed a beating.
Yes, because sometimes here I get to see brokenness not in the uncomfortable ways that I can shut my heart and eyes to, but in it's most raw, savage forms.
Brokenness so immense that I can't hide from it.
I feel as if I might shatter.

In the past weeks and months I've sat and listened to story after story.
Women who feel as if others have broken them.
Mamas who want to love their babies well, yet feel so inadequate, so broken that they can't fulfill their duties.
Ladies who want to do right, but feel is if all they can ever do is mess up.
Others posing their questions, or shouting their anger, or spewing their hatred online, trying to cover up their pain and brokenness by wearing their self-made armor.

The brokenness cuts deeply, and I've asked myself how I can answer the questions, guide the conversations, help people to see the only One who can fix the most broken of us.
The answer comes from a woman carrying a small creamy-white jar.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye heave the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
There, looking up at me from the pages of Scripture is the truth:
brokenness can only ever be healed by more brokenness.
Me, being broken and spilled out, not for others, but as a gift to Jesus,
while pointing them always, only to the One who was broken for us.

All the right words cannot heal the brokenness.
Gifts, advice, hugs, time, notes, none of these can heal those who feel torn apart.
I can never repair the brokenness.
There is but one sure medicine ~
the love of The Broken One freely shared through my own brokenness.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

For the Days When You Are Afraid to Trust....

It's Monday afternoon and we are out for our weekly nature study.
After a very "monday-ish" Monday it is necessary to get all of us out of the house and into the fresh air.
I hope maybe it will lift the dark cloud everyone seems to be under.
We find a road on the University campus we've not walked before and decide to follow it wherever it will lead.

My mind and heart are full.
Maybe everyone has been feeling my heavy mood today and feeding off of it?
It is entirely possible.

It is dry season and we are never sure what we will find growing.
The weather here right now feels much like I've felt over this past year -- dry and shriveled.
We pass a huge termite mound and the girls enjoy trying to see if anyone is home.
On the other side of the road is a field.
Most of the undergrowth is brown and papery.
As this is the tropics, there is always some grass and weeds growing, but then I see a spot of fire in an otherwise plain clearing.
It is a lily, and the moment I see it, I'm transported to another day long ago, a day when I felt many of the same emotions churn in my soul.

We had been in Ghana just a few months, and we were deep in culture shock.
God chose deep immersion for us, and I felt as if I was drowning.
I was overwhelmed by everything - the culture, the climate, the language, the food, the relationships, the enormity of the task before us, but most of all, my own sinfulness.
A wise woman told Isobel Kuhn that when she reached the mission field, "all the scum of your nature will rise to the top."
I was seeing that truth unfold in me just as it had in Isobel, and I felt hopeless.
God in His love and sovereignty was allowing me to see myself for who I truly was, but all I wanted to do was run and hide.

One afternoon John thought it would be good to get out of our tiny apartment and try to practice our language skills and so we walked to an area where we had met some people.
They weren't home, and so after trying to greet a few new people we started the long walk home another way.
I don't remember us talking much on that long trek back to our community, but I do remember being on the verge of tears most of the time.
God had called me to this life, but I felt as if somebody had failed.
Most of the time, I was positive that it was me, but from time to time a voice would whisper that maybe the one who had messed up wasn't me, but God.

I was alone, my faith was about gone, and I didn't feel I could trust anyone with my secret fears.

And at that moment, God gave me a gift.
Not because He had to, but because He IS good.
We were crossing a bridge on a busy road, and as I looked down into the dirty, smelly gutter next to that bridge, I saw a beautiful red canna lily growing right up out of the sludge.
How could something so brilliant and lovely take root in that horrible place?
The Holy Spirit's gentle whispers brought His words to my mind, "Consider the lilies....."
His truth and His creation gave peace to my soul on that hard, hard day.
He could be trusted.

My mind snaps back to the present.

My family isn't far down the road, so I know I've not mused long, but in that short window of time, God has reminded me of time after time I've felt that I couldn't trust God again.....

when He asked us to trust Him to give birth to our first child on the field with no one to help us and how he provided a hospital, new friends, and a place to stay for free.

when we needed a new place to rent and He provided one for a fifth of what we had been paying for accommodations.

when God convicted me about submitting to my husband, and by His grace helped me to obey Him and in turn God changed John.

when we prayed for many long years for more children and after five years He gave us two more.

when we sought healing for our Lili's heart and instead He gave us doctors and a hospital here in Ghana and all the money we needed to pay for her heart surgery.

when we had people lie about us and betray us and God kept us safe through the storm.

when we needed a car badly, because it was so difficult to use public transportation with a family of six, and He gave us one for exactly the amount someone had gifted us for whatever needs we had.

when our baby church got kicked out of our rented school rooms and God gave us a new and better place on the last day we had.

immigration problems, and paperwork problems, and people in sin, and our own sin problems, and people needing to be saved, and He never failed us once.

I gaze at that orange and yellow flower flaming at my feet, and one of the verses that God gave us when He called us to Ghana settles in my mind....
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 
It is enough.
He can be trusted.
I run to join my family with trust ignited anew in my soul.