America, Asia, Missions, Religion, Travel

Giving Up

Jake says that my life is just one continual series of blonde moments. I think he might be on to something…

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Like this subway selfie I took right after I put on the public lip gloss tester in It Takes Two

Seriously though, I do (almost) everything with a reason and intention. I’ve just been noticing that my reasoning is different than everyone else’s.

On Wednesday night, we’ve been teaching about the Fruits of the Spirit and this past Wednesday, we were going to cover Patience. I was assigned the task of coming up with an activity that the kids could do that went with the lesson. So, I found a game that involves a team stacking cups with a rubber band tied with strings.

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I failed to realize that it would require more patience to tie the strings on to the rubber band than to play the game. I also failed to realize how much time it would take to tie the strings on. So, I was running late to church, as usual. In my rush to get on my way, I thought, I will put these rubber bands with the strings on my wrist so I won’t lose them! See, I was thinking ahead and realizing that it would be very likely that I would lose them between the house and church. So, I put them on my wrist and this is what they ended up looking like.

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Rubber band catastrophe

So much for thinking ahead.

I give up.

I’ve kinda wanted to give up on a few things lately actually.

If you’ll remember: I started this blog really because of a nutrition project I felt led to be involved in. If you’ll also remember: I felt a call to missions a long time ago. And, I committed to that then. I told the Lord I would do that. I would do what He wanted. And, in saying that, what I really said was, I won’t do what I want. Because automatically, when you say yes to God, you say no to self.

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First time in Laos

Lately, though, I’ve felt a pull to give that up. I decided I wanted to stay where I was, focus on work, and in essence, focus on me. Did I actually tell myself that I wanted to give up on what God was doing in my life? No.

What I did say was that I wanted to choose where God was going to use me and how I was going to be used. I still wanted to be used, I just wanted it to be on my own terms. Which is never a good idea. But, I convinced myself that it would all work out just fine.

I mean, surely this commitment to missions that I’d made had an expiration date, right? That’s the way to live your late teens and early twenties. But, eventually, you need to “settle down”. Isn’t that what society tells us?

Plus, God can use me at home, right? I hear people say that to me all the time. And, I believe that 100%. I told myself that He could use me more effectively at home than He could with me tracking myself around the globe. I reasoned it all out and it sounded really good to me. Just like the rubber bands on the wrist thing.

I think I ended up with some tangles in my plan though.Without fully realizing it, my new commitment to serve where I wanted and focus on me meant saying yes to myself and no to God.

The problem was: I decided I was done. The nutrition program was tentatively going to require traveling to Asia twice within a few months. So, I established in my mind that I couldn’t do that. Once, maybe. But, not twice. That was too much. That wasn’t what I signed up for. Those weren’t the terms of my contract when God called me to do mission work.

Then, I heard a word from God. Literally, one word.

Follow.

When Jesus called His disciples from their boats on the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t tell them how long they’d be gone. He didn’t tell them what they were signing up for. He said: Follow Me.

He didn’t continue that phrase with a timeline. He didn’t say: you can go back to fishing after a few years with me. And, it wasn’t a question. Jesus didn’t say: do you want to follow me? Do you want to try it out and see how you feel about it? He didn’t give them an itinerary or a list of terms and conditions.

It was a command.

Follow Me.

And, it’s still our command today. Without question. Without concern.

Follow.

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Beauty, Health, Religion, Travel

Enough is Enough

Magazines are good for two things: airports and waiting rooms. I tend to like books better, but when I read a book, I usually get lost in it. So, magazines are my answer to casual reading. 

There was an interview with an actress in a magazine I was reading recently. She’s smiling, all glossy and beautiful on the cover. In the interview, the author of the article is asking her the typical questions: what’s your secret to looking so good? What’s your daily skin care routine? What tips do you have for how to eat healthy? And she’s giving all the right answers about exercise and SPF and healthy diets. But they asked her another question that caught my eye. What’s your greatest fear? And you know what she said? I’m terrified of not being enough. 

Enough is a word I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I’d been thinking about it before I read this article, which is why it caught my eye. For me, sometimes, Scripture will jump off the page and speak to me. And I think it’s supposed to. But it’s not always the major Scriptures, the ones from the Gospels and Romans, the big ones. Sometimes the Lord speaks through the tiny details. Which is what I found in this verse. It stayed in my mind. Joel 2:19: “The Lord answered their prayers and said, I will give you enough grain and wine and olive oil to satisfy your needs.”

What is enough? See, that’s what I love about this verse. They had been going through a rough time. They had turned their backs on God, famine had taken over their land, crops were no good, animals were starving, all around catastrophe. Finally, they turned back to the Lord and He gave them this promise. 

Enough. 

He didn’t say He was going to rescue them immediately and turn everything around. He didn’t promise abundance. He promised enough. 

For the actress, she was scared of not being pretty enough or smart enough. But enough means different things to everyone. I worry about doing enough, having enough time, getting enough sleep, learning enough, being enough of whatever anyone needs me to be, and a million other enoughs. 

I don’t think the Lord’s promise applied only to the rebellious Israelites though. I think it applies to me too. The Lord will provide. He will satisfy my needs for today. His Promise is true. 

And that’s enough for me. 

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Celebration, Garden, Religion

The Boat Brigade

We’ve established that I’m accident prone, correct? So, I was baking a loaf of bread today and I was really worried about making sure that I didn’t burn it. I had it in a crock in the oven and you are supposed to bake it with a lid then without a lid, it’s got a lot of directions. Anyway, so I removed the lid, set it aside, closed the oven back up. Then, promptly grabbed the lid in all of it’s 450 degree glory and effectively singed the fingerprints off of three of my fingers on my right hand. Ironically, I didn’t burn the bread. I’m thinking I could probably adopt a new identity now, seeing as how I no longer have fingerprints. Although, I don’t know what good a new identity would do me. If you can’t tell, I’m being a drama queen, it’s really not that bad. I mean, it’s kinda bad, but not adopt a new identity bad.

So, as I mentioned previously, VBS was this week. Is VBS a globally known term? When was the concept of VBS even started? I think I need to look this up. Vacation Bible School. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. It’s a vacation school where you learn about the Bible? I feel like these words don’t all really fit together. On to my point though, this year for VBS, we planned a fishing theme. And when I say we, I mean I talked while my dad listened and nodded. And you want to know where this plan was made? Out on the lake. While we were fishing. Sometimes inspiration just hits, what can I say?

This was the day I got a scorching sunburn. You think I'd learn eventually...

This was the day I got a scorching sunburn. You think I’d learn eventually…

I decided on Fishers of Men, then told my friends about how I wanted a boat and fish and props and nets and minnow buckets. So, Jesse got to work on building us a boat. And, let me tell you, it. is. awesome. The kids loved it!

Jesse the Boat Builder

Jesse the Boat Builder

I talked my dad and a couple other guys into being our storytellers. They were men from Galilee who ran a bait shop during Jesus’ time and told us all firsthand stories about Jesus’ ministry on the water. One little girl saw my dad dressed up and with a very serious face, asked “are you God?”

Galilee Bait Company

Galilee Bait Company

Children’s ministry is so funny. Those little guys are honest and just say what they think. Sometimes I wish as an adult, I could do that. Sometimes, I’m thankful that I can’t. As Spring has passed and Summer has arrived, it has given me some time for a fresh perspective and I think raising kids and raising fruit trees has got to be a lot alike. I guess I should preface this by saying I’ve never raised a child and I’ve planted only a few fruit trees, so maybe I’m not an expert. And maybe they’re completely different.

What I do know about kids I’ve mostly learned from children’s church. Children’s church seems to bring out the best and worst in personalities. I know this from having been raised in the same children’s church program that I now help teach. I think I was in the program until I was around 10-12 and started teaching the little ones when I was 13-14, so I’ve been at it for awhile now. Let’s just say I’ve been around long enough to now be teaching the children of the children I grew up in children’s church with.

Fruit trees are a different story. I planted a single peach tree about 7 years ago. And it’s basically dead. I think I’m finally ready to admit defeat with that one. However, I planted 6 new trees in October 2012 and 5 have survived. So, maybe I’m learning.

The thing about fruit trees is that it takes a long time to see any progress with them. They bloomed beautifully last year, but produced no fruit. This year, ever faithful, they bloomed again. And, be still my heart, there are little peaches and pears appearing on the branches. Whether they’ll last through the summer and til harvest remains to be seen. But the sight of those tiny fruits make the effort of planting seem worth it already.

Baby Moonglow pears

Baby Moonglow pears

We have one mature fruit tree on our farm. It’s a mulberry tree that I harvested a lot from last year. And guess who planted it?

No one.

No one had any desire to harvest mulberries, no one toiled to dig a hole, no one watched the tree come up expectantly, waiting year after year for the bounty of berries it would produce. Instead, it was probably a leftover seed, dropped years ago by a bird flying overhead. And now I get to collect what nature so generously left behind.

Our children’s church and youth ministry have gone through phases of abundance and times of little to no activity. Recently, we saw the children’s ministry, which had been a thriving branch, drop off to nearly nothing. But, as Spring is like to do, we saw new growth. Kids are coming, ones who have never been in church before, who have not heard much , if any, about Jesus.

And who planted these seeds? Who prepared and watched patiently as these little trees were planted? I plan and I try to do the best I can. But, it is ultimately the Lord who sends the harvest. I get so focused and so tied up in programs and lessons and crafts and games and everything else that comes along with children’s ministry. And sometimes I forget, it’s not me who sends the rain, it’s not me that brings about growth, it’s not me who plans the harvest. It is the Lord.

VBS was good this week. We didn’t have astounding numbers, we didn’t have anything new or flashy. But, we did have some kids who were hungry. Not hungry physically (although we had those kind too) but hungry for something they don’t even realize yet. You can see it in their eyes. They’re searching. Their little hearts are wanting more. And if there is one child who comes, who is seeking the Truth, I want to be the one there to show it to them.

Because, you know what? Someone was there to show it to me. We talked with the kids this week about “the call”. That call from Jesus to come follow Him. And you know when I got that call? When I was their age, at VBS, sitting in the same pews they were sitting in this week, hearing the same Truth they heard. I was them. My heart was hungry for something this world could not give me. But, that week, I found what I needed.

The Lord is faithful for a harvest. So, now, we wait patiently and watch these little seeds grow.

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Asia, Missions, Travel

I Can’t Do This.

I have the best friends. I mean, I always think it is kinda dumb when people say that. Of course everyone would think their friends were great. If they didn’t think that, then they wouldn’t be friends with them. Right? But, still, I do have really great friends.

One of my friends decided to do something really thoughtful for me and wrote encouraging messages to be read at any time on this trip when I was feeling in need of a pep talk. How nice is that?

[Side note: Personally, I think encouraging other believers is one of the most under-utilized practices in the church. Or maybe I just rely on encouragement from others more than anyone else. But, I really do think we need to practice this more. If you feel led to say something uplifting to another believer, do not miss that opportunity. Write a note, say it, send a text, whatever you have to do. But, be encouraging, lift each other up! How strong would the church be if each of it’s members felt the support and encouragement of other members? A kind word or note from other believers has helped me hold on to the end of my rope more times than I can count.]

I’m gonna be real for a minute: the mission field in Laos is rough. And, it was especially so for me on this particular trip. I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but I never read anywhere about Him sitting in a bunch of business meetings. I think administrative duties are just not my calling. It feels really fruitless to me. It feels devoid of anything having to do with the Gospel. I want to be able to share and love the way Jesus did. But instead, I’m stuck at a desk taking notes about hospital procedures. Jesus is never mentioned, lost souls are not won, and my hands are tied.

I woke up on the morning of our second day of meetings and literally my first thought was: “I can’t do this.” Which I knew was a terrible way to start the day. So, I got my Bible and out fell my little envelope of encouraging messages. I figured if these were for times I needed encouragement, this was the occasion. I randomly selected one and this is what it said: Mark 9:23- “What do you mean ‘If I can?’ asked Jesus. Anything is possible if a person believes.”

You know those moments that God speaks right to you? This was one of those. Sitting in meetings may not be my thing. And, I may think this all feels fruitless. But, newsflash: it’s not about me. I’m not in charge and if this is the path that The Lord has chosen, it’s the best way. Laos won’t be won overnight, the Gospel will not be spread there in only one way, and it will be a long road. Those meetings might feel devoid of the Gospel, but those Lao doctors and nurses sitting across from me, taking notes too, need to know Jesus.

Not all mission work is going to be fireworks and revivals. Sometimes it’s going to be note taking and hand shaking. And that’s okay. Jesus can shine through the darkest (or dullest) of circumstances. So, I’ll claim His promise, stand strong in His Truth, and continue to work in whatever way He leads.

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