Monday, May 20, 2019

Cross-Cultural



A little girl, five-years-old, plunked herself down in a chair next to my husband and just stared at him with her big brown eyes. She started rubbing her hand back and forth over the top of his head and said, "Oh, that's soft." Then she stared at the white hair sprouting off his arms and age spots on his arm and had some questions for him about that. She asked him to take off his glasses and was absolutely fascinated by his blue eyes. She obviously had not seen a lot of blond and blue-eyed people.

She finally stared right into his face and pronounced loudly to the room, "You're old!" We roared with laughter!

Last night we had the fun experience of attending a graduation party of the daughter of an Ethiopian pastor. Their church recently joined our denomination and Dan has gotten to know him and we were invited. I did read up a bit on Ethiopian culture so we wouldn't blatantly do something to offend.

The invitation said it started at 5 and we arrived a few minutes past that. First cultural difference. Later on, our friend, Teclu, told us that they put 5 on the invitation because their culture is notoriously late to parties. He said if he put 7 on it that people wouldn't arrive until 8:30 or 9!

It wasn't just a party the way we think of parties. It was a celebration and ceremony. There was about 30 minutes of singing and dancing. We couldn't understand a word of the songs (and as far as I could tell it was just 3 songs over that 30 minutes), but one of the guests told us it was a song of thanking God for His blessings. As the women danced they let out a high pitched, "La, la, la, la" and we were told that is a sound they make of joy. It was loud!



Then someone got up and preached for 30 minutes. Again, I couldn't understand anything except the words, Jesus Christ and amen. We were told that he was thanking God for His guidance. 

Since I couldn't understand anything, my mind wandered a bit as I looked around the room. There was a family in front of me that had 3 small children. As I watched the little boy give his mother a very hard time and at how laid back the parents were it reminded me of the time that I was a nanny while attending seminary. The family I worked for was from Lebanon and their children were the center of their universe, and to be honest, quite unruly at times. In their culture, children and especially, boys could do no wrong. 

My experience last night reminded me of that. The children were loud, joyful and interrupted things constantly and no one seemed to mind. How very different from our culture where we expect children to be quiet and listen!

After about an hour and a half of the songs, preaching, prayers, and other things, we ate. And again, it was culturally very different. I've had Ethiopian food before and this was a spread over 20 feet long. It started with sour injera bread and pan after pan of different types of meat, lentils, goat cheese, sauces and vegetables. I had no idea what much of it was but it was very tasty. You eat with your fingers in Ethiopian culture and use pieces of the bread to pick up the food. Our friend told us that all of the women in the church prepared the food.



Since we had an hour and a half ride before us we left before the cake and many speeches to the graduate. It is such a hospitable culture and they were honored that we had come. I'm glad we were able to go and are definitely looking forward to visiting again.

I love that our denomination has a heart for missions and the world. Dan and I will probably never get to go overseas as missionaries at this point in our lives, but I am thankful that God is bringing the nations to us. We both have the desire to reach this world for Christ. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Bleeding Heart


The problem with having a bleeding heart is that no one can see it from the outside. You can walk around and smile, carry on conversations, and act like you always have, and no one is aware that your heart is breaking and the life is slowly oozing from you.

Many of us have become adept at trying to fake it until we make it. We've become experts in plastering on a smile while inside it feels like we are dying. We've gotten good at hiding our bleeding and broken heart.

And yet, we are called to share our burdens, pray for one another, and share our lives with each other. But how can that happen if we walk around trying to keep it together so no one will know what's going on deep down?

It's going to take a little vulnerability and transparency. It's going to mean that you open up a bit and say what's really going on. It means swallowing our pride and allowing others to see the cracks in the armor.

And that's scary because sometimes people offer up pat answers or can make it worse or not even understand. But it's a chance that needs to be taken because if you never open up, no one will see that bleeding heart and no one will know how to really pray.

When we open up and show our wounds to another there is the chance you will find you are not alone in your bleeding. Your transparency may give someone else the courage to open up and share their struggles as well. And that's what being part of the body of Christ is all about.


Galatians 6:2 ~


 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Words of Encouragement: Be a Bird Brain


I sat on my deck with my eyes closed and just listened.

Listened to a chorus of trills, chirps, and songs.

Oh to be like a bird.  They flit from tree to tree, snatching up a seed or some other morsel.  No cares.  No worries.  No wondering.  They just live in the moment.

I, on the other hand, hardly ever live in the moment.  Like a tape player that never shuts off, my mind mulls over past conversations, present worries, future concerns.

"How are we going to pay this bill?"

"What if Emily doesn't find a job when she comes home?"

"Why did that person say something so unkind?"

"What if I don't pass my consecration exam?"

Why, what, when, how are all questions that play over and over and over.

And yet, Jesus says to be a bird brain.  To live in the moment.  To have no worries.


Matthew 6:25-27 ~ 

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

Is my life richer because I worry?

Can I change my circumstances by worrying?

Have my children felt safe and secure in their lives by hearing Dan & I talk about our concerns?

Can I add anything of value to my life by my lack of trust?



If my Heavenly Father cares for the birds and feeds them, how much more does He care for me?  My life is in His hands.   He has it under control.

Why do I try and play God?  What makes me think that I can handle things so much better?  All my meddling does is leave me with a headache, a knot in my stomach and a furrowed brow.

The birds have the right idea.

Sing

Be joyful.

Let God do the worrying.

Live in the Moment.

Let go.

Be a bird brain!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bits and Pieces












It's been raining so much that I'm starting to think I need an ark! It's a bit disheartening because the warm-weather season is so short here and it's been cold and rainy for most of the past 6 weeks. In between rain drops I try and get out and walk. 

Last year when I was recovering from knee surgery, I started walking around our property because I don't always have a car and it's convenient. Three times around the perimeter was a mile so it worked perfectly. However, so far this year it's like trying to walk through a swamp so I can't do that. But down the road is a cemetery that's dry and so I've started doing that loop which is the same distance.

Dan and I went to one of our favorite places on Saturday since it stayed dry most of the day. Green Lakes State Park has walking trails around a beautiful blue-green lake and is a nice place to go.

My life has slowed a bit and I'm starting to be able to focus on the house again. What a mess! Emily is coming home tomorrow night for the summer so Stephen is going to be moving back out into the sunroom. So I've been busy reorganizing, deep cleaning and trying to figure out how to make it all work. Unfortunately, our house is very small so even a few things make it looked cluttered.

I picked some dandelions last week to make dandelion jelly. It's so good and tastes like honey. I think I'm going to participate in one of the farmer's markets this summer so wanted to start getting some jams and jellies together. After making the first batch I wanted to make more. My yard was covered with dandelions and on Saturday I was thinking I needed to go pick some but wasn't really in the mood. I thought I'd do it on Sunday afternoon and of course, our yard guy decided to come and mow on Saturday evening! No more dandelions! lol

I've also had time to start sewing a bit more and made a clothespin bag for a neighbor. I love these and they are quick and easy to make. I'm going to be making more of these as well.

It's been a bit of this and a bit of that the past few weeks. I need to work on a message I'm doing on Monday at the local nursing home we are going to and I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon, but for the most part, it should be a quiet week.

Maybe the sun will peak through the clouds at some point this week!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

To All Those Women Who are Hurting this Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day to all my friends and family! For some this is a fun day and for others it brings up painful memories. Others just hope to get through the day and seeing all the Facebook posts stirs up loss and hurt.

There are times when it's easy to compare yourself and your family to another person's and feel like you are lacking something. Maybe your mother was missing from your life or she wasn't the mom you wanted or needed. Perhaps your children are estranged or just plain thoughtless. Maybe you've been unable to have children of your own.

No matter what your reality is you are loved, valued, and wanted by the Lord. He took time and effort in lovingly creating you into the woman He wanted. You are enough. You are special in HIs eyes. You are His child. 

So don't place your value in a man-made holiday. Place your value in the fact that God loves you more than you can even imagine! And rather than just climb into bed and pull the covers up over your head, look around you and see who you can come alongside of today and encourage. Invite someone over for dinner. Spend some time letting someone else know how loved they are as well.

Romans 8:38-39 ~

For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Frugal Friday


I have not done a Frugal Friday post in forever and thought I was due for one. Some of the reason has been the sheer busyness of ministry and some of it has been that I don't feel like I've really saved much of anything lately.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and I'm so thankful for her wise insight and advice. The ministry I do for our district is volunteer. I do receive a very small monthly stipend for the ministry I do for our church. Between the two ministries I put in about 30 hours per week. The example I had in ministry as a young adult was that you live by faith, don't ask for what you need, and you just pray and wait on the Lord. That's a wonderful model, but I think I may have taken it too far. 

Some of our debt is because I have been afraid to ask for what I need or because I think it shows that I have less faith, or that it's putting a burden on the ministries. I went on a missions trip a few years back and never asked a soul for money to help fund that trip and so, we incurred debt. I have purchased numerous ministry-related items throughout the years and never ask for reimbursement because I feel guilty and so, more debt or expense. I've done speaking engagements where travel expenses haven't been reimbursed and I've used money that we really don't have for extras.

I'm working through some of those deeply ingrained values and emotions as I work on this. It's not a good thing if in order to do ministry, we have to incur debt and so I'm working on it. I wish we had a large salary or salaries to contribute out of our own pocket, but we don't, and so I need to ask for what I need. I love being generous but not if we are going to end up not able to make ends meet because of my generosity.

But here are a few ways I've saved this past week:

$ Dan and I went to the regional farmer's market yesterday and for $22 I got the following: 8 mini-cucumbers, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a pint of radishes, a basket of potatoes, a quart of strawberries, a pint of blueberries, a bunch of bananas (obviously, not regional), a quart of green beans, a bag of micro greens, and a bag of spinach. Not bad!

$ I took cash to the grocery store and tried to keep what I bought to the amount I had. I went over by a $1.54. Woot! I think we may be doing this every week. 

$ I went out and picked dandelions yesterday and steeped the heads in hot water. Today I'm making jelly with them. If the opportunity presents itself this summer, I'd like to participate in a farmer's market or two.

$ It looks like staycation is in the plans for this summer so I'm going to be looking into free or cheap places to visit locally.

$ We are headed to our National Council at the end of May in Orlando, Florida and the hotel is outrageously expensive. The ministry pays for it, but I still was feeling badly that it was going to cost so much. The food in the hotel is expensive too. So anyway, I booked an Airbnb and we will have an entire condominium to ourselves for half the cost of the hotel. We have to rent a car to get back and forth to the hotel but even with that it was still a few hundred dollars less than just staying in the hotel room. I can cook which will save us on food expenses.

$ I went to Ohio last weekend for ESL training and someone put me up for the night and that saved me the cost of a hotel room.

So it's not a lot but every bit counts!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

When the Road is Hard


I was looking back over family pictures the other night and felt a lump rising in my throat and the crushing weight of anxiety settling on me. While I have so many good memories, there are also memories of difficult times, hard roads, and rocky paths. Raising a family with disabilities, mental health issues and other problems is overwhelming at times.

We've never had a "normal" life compared to many of our friends and we probably never will. Yet, this is the road that God has chosen for us to walk down and I don't want to spend my time wallowing in self-pity. And I certainly don't want to complain about it. 

But I don't want people to think they are alone in it either. Some of the words we deal with bring shame to some people and all too often go unspoken - anxiety, Tourette's syndrome, autism, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a few more thrown in for good measure. But the more it's unspoken, the easier it is to sink into depression, loneliness and isolation. And yet, I think there are a lot of people out there who deal with family members who have these things or perhaps, deal with it themselves.

The road is hard but there is hope in Christ. It seems that no matter how many times I feel that anxiety, when I spend time in prayer and reading God's word, the hope returns. Peace settles back on me and I'm ready to face each new challenge and each new day.

Yes, the road is hard, but I also know the ONE who is walking beside me through those valleys.


Psalm 46:1 ~

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Owning their own Faith


Yesterday, my eldest child turned 28 years old. At the end of the month my youngest will be turning 20. When did that happen? It seems like I blinked and children have become adults. 

As they have entered into their 20s there have been some bumpy spots as I've had to learn how to relate to adult children in a whole new way. Ordering them around, especially the boys, just doesn't get the same results as it used to when they were young. ;-)

After dinner the other night, Stephen and Dan were talking about faith and teens and discussing how many young adults were turning their back on their faith. Stephen made the observation that some of it has to do with the way parents relate to their middle school and high school aged kids He said that when teens start questioning their faith, many parents have a tendency to give them trite Sunday school answers and shut them down immediately. Some parents relate to their teenagers like they did when they were little.

It was nice to hear him say that he thought we did a good job raising him and his siblings because we talked to them like adults at an early age. We let them raise questions, and we wrestled with some big topics. We listened to them and allowed them to express their opinions about different issues.

Do I always agree with my kid's conclusions about God and faith? No. But I'd rather have them wrestle with these things and allow God to work in their lives than just give them pat answers. Because if I never allowed them to question things I believe it would be much easier to be led astray.

I see so many adult Christians who blindly follow leaders without checking things against scripture or thinking things through to their logical conclusion. These same adults share meme after meme on Facebook that cause me cringe when I read the faulty logic. So yes, I want my children to learn to reason something out. I want them to develop a strong faith which will only happen if I allow God to work in their lives as they wrestle through things.

I spend a lot of time praying for my adult children, but I also trust that I raised them well. They are going to make many decisions in their lives. Some I'll agree with and some I won't but I want them to be able to think things through and embrace their own faith. Because when they own it, that will be a lasting faith.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Multitude Monday

A woman in our district makes beautiful art out of books. My sweet friends from church bought this one for me as it was our theme for the year.






 



Change is always difficult for people and I know that I personally do not like it. And yet, change is a necessary part of life. Seasons change. People change. Circumstances change. Organizations change. And that is as it should be. Without change things begin to stagnant and eventually, die out or become obsolete.

So this weekend as I had to introduce change in a variety of ways it wasn't necessarily an easy weekend for me, but it was one in which I saw God move. My desire is always to bring God glory and promote Him and I think that happened this weekend. 

The women who descended upon the hotel were challenged, stretched, and hopefully, some left changed for the better. God was lifted up in the music, through the speakers and in many conversations that took place.

I came home exhausted, but at the same time, invigorated with the desire to keep going where God leads me. I was inspired to grow deep roots and to bloom wherever God plants me. 

It's a good Monday which will be spent moving on to the next task before me but with a heart that is full of a multitude of blessings.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Planting


I leave today for our district woman's retreat in order to get things set up and ready for the ladies who will arrive tomorrow afternoon. I'm looking forward to it and our theme this year is "Planted for His Splendor."

That has been the desire in my life. I want my life to bring God glory. I don't always do that so successfully, but when I stumble and I fail in that goal, I get up and keep moving forward.

It's my desire that each trial I go through, each opportunity I receive, and every joy I have be used to show others how good our Lord is, and how much He loves each person. I view my life as a planting of the Lord to point others to Him.

As I've grown in my walk with Him it's become a stronger desire and sometimes the stronger the desire, the more temptation there is for it not to happen. So each day is a surrendering of my will, my desire, my preferences and one in which I'm seeking to see what the Lord has for me for that day.

Each of us is a planting of the Lord. Will you use your life to glorify Him?

Isaiah 61:3b ~

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday Words of Encouragement: Broken Vessels


I get so frustrated with myself at times because I'm such a flawed person.  I have a standard in my head that I want to attain to, but it seems as if I fall far short so often.  I whine, complain, grumble, get stressed, anxious and to be honest, am just plain sinful at times.  And when I fail I get so discouraged with myself.

Yet, as I read the book of Romans, I'm reminding of the following...

Romans 8:8-13 (NLT) ~

That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

I'm flawed, but not a failure.

I stumble but have the Spirit to help me get back up.

I waiver but am not a washout.

I'm sinful but not stuck in sin.

I'm a broken vessel, but still beautiful because of Christ's love.

That is wonderful news for us all.  We may be flawed but we don't have to stay that way.  God has given us everything we need to live a life worthy of Him.   

Because He lives I can face tomorrow!