Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The joy of Joy

This week Shawn's Aunt Joy turned 75, and her kids put on a big bash for the celebration!  I love going to Shawn's family parties-this is a HUGE family, and they are a lot of fun.  And once you are in, you are IN!  Hanging out, laughing, eating, playing games, and more laughing is always involved in these get togethers.

This party was not only fun and celebratory for an amazing woman that we love - but Aunt Joy took it one step further and asked people to donate to our World Harvest Account in place of traditional gifts.  What a blessing.  Not only did we receive a good chunk of money towards our ministry there, but we had several more opportunities to talk about getting to the place that our hearts and going more and more each day.

Aunt Joy has always been a great gift to our family, but this day was a special blessing to us.  It encouraged us in ways that she may not even realize.  Because, yes - we DO need monthly donors to help us get to the field and stay there for our 5 year term.  But we also need those people are are excited and on board with us in every step of the journey.  Thank you, Aunt Joy, for being one of those people!  We love you! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Love in the gaps

"If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer: Intercession is a way of loving others."  Richard Foster

I have had some thing become very clear to me recently.  I have started to love recklessly.  Not selflessly - not by any means.  In fact, most of my love for others comes with some sort of expectation, if I am being completely honest.  I wish it didn't, but it is always there in the back of my mind trying to poke it's ugly, selfish head out.  Regardless, when I love you - really love you, I love with abandonment.  

As a woman who has been in ministry my whole adult life, I have had to learn to love difficult people.  (I am sure people would say the same of me!)  But there has usually been a holding back in that love; a self protection mechanism where I feel like if I do not love completely, and give completely, then when it is time to leave, or when I am disappointed by someone, it will not be as bad.  And in my experience, those two things always happen.  We disappoint and are disappointed because we are human.  And sooner or later, we leave - for another place to live, or from this earth altogether.  

In the last four years, since coming back wounded and limping from Malawi, there has been a lot of work in this area of my life by God.  At first there was no opening to people.  I was friendly and could smile and offer prayers and advice, but that was as far as it was going to go.  However over time those things started to break down and be stripped away.  I started to meet people that I was drawn to, and people who loved me.  We went through counseling and had some in depth healing done through the Holy spirit in ways that I had never experienced.  And despite the fact that we knew we were headed to Africa again, I started to soften my heart and fall in love with this place, this church, these people.  

One of the problems with being a church with so many college students is that you are constantly saying good bye and letting go.  Ouch.  We have had that experience again this month as all the colleges have finished and students came to their last Compelled for the summer - or for forever.  My guitar player,  a young man my whole family adores, said goodbye - perhaps for long term.  He is studying in Singapore next semester, and will not be back to Compelled until late January - about the time we are hoping to be on a place to South Sudan! My heart was heavy.  

Even harder than the goodbyes, though, is the deep, intense, overwhelming desire for wholeness, love, passion, healing, and completeness for those that you love.  When you start to open your heart and really love people, and when you ask God to give you his love for people, you do not just meet those who are stable, disciplined, healthy people.  In fact, more often than not your eyes are opened to the fact that we all -every last one of us- are so fallen and broken without the Holy Spirit.  And so when you love someone, and walk alongside them, you have to take the good with the bad- the ugly with the beautiful.  That means you have to take the hurt, disappointment, and slaps in the face as well.  

Anyone who is a parent already knows this feeling.  You will do anything for your kids - you desire so much more for them.  As a Christian parent we want our kids to not only be successful, healthy, happy people in this world - but we want them to know intimacy with Jesus, have a passion for his heart, and be walking in step with him.  It can become an obsession in the way we live and act to try to develop the perfect atmosphere for our kids to become these things.  

Shawn and I, in our love for people, have taken on more responsibility that we actually have.  We have counseled, advised, worked alongside, expected, disciplined...yet it is not enough.  We cannot change people's hearts or minds.  We cannot be the ones to do the healing and completing.  We have gotten tired and overwhelmed and discouraged.  It makes one wonder if it is all worth it -this love, this work.    

When we come to the end of our patience with a person, or our hope for restoration is depleted, we finally then come to God.  And he smiles and folds us in his arms and reminds us of not only his intense love for us , but his unending, un-understandable love for those we are hurting for.  And we remember the only thing that we can really, truly do completely for that person - pray.  Intercede.  Stand in the Gap.  Fight for them.  Relinquish them.  Plead for them.  Pray.  And the burden of feeling responsible for the whole world, and failing miserably, starts to drop off.  And that reckless love no longer seems like a curse, but a privilege.  

I realize that many of you are those gap-standers for us and our family.  You are forever in my debt.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

this crazy, amazing life

God is such a crazy, amazing, wild God, isn't he?  Yet in the midst of all of it, he is a calm refuge.  I don't understand how those two things work, but I am so glad that it does!

A few things that I have been so thankful for in the past couple of weeks:

A GREAT time in the Buffalo area with friends from a decade ago.  Laughing, sharing, praying together, laughing some more...it was wonderful!  And watching my kids hit it off with the kids there was great, too.

Watching Anna go to Junior high Youth group at Kenmore...where were got our official start!  (All I could think was, "I hope this Jr high youth is not a crazy as ours was!"  HA!)

Laughing at RJ for trying to eat without his two front teeth - which are FINALLY starting to come in.  Poor kid - he's a mess-maker as it is, but now there are constant food stains on his cheek where he tries to eat from the side of his mouth!

A visit to the magnificent Niagara Falls.  When we lived close and went all the time, I forgot how beautiful it is.  Seeing it through my kid's eyes was pretty cool.

Friends that fill in the gaps when you are gone...and then love you enough when you get back to make you talk, and pray with you.  (Such a gift)  And then invite you to the movies to watch the Avengers! ;)

Time with two of my sisters a few weeks ago - swimming in cold water, eating all day long, and sharing together.  These are times that do not come often enough (and will be even less when we go to Africa) so I treasure them greatly!

Funds starting to come in for South Sudan...from places I didn't expect.  And doors opening up to share with churches what we will be doing!

Spending 13 hours in two days at the pool with my kids in the hotel...and reading my Nook when I wasn't swimming.  Loved the down time and watching them enjoy it!

There are so many ways that I am blessed...these are just a few!

Friday, May 4, 2012

a quote

I saw this on a friend's wall today on Facebook, and have thought about it all day:

  "Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong." Tim Keller

The worry part I knew and understood - it is something I think about often as I get anxious and fret.  However,  I have never thought of bitterness that way before. It makes me really dig deeper into my reaction to some things.  I have a deep desire to trust God in all circumstances - past, present, and future.  Honestly, it gives me much relief and freedom to really live that way - realizing I don't have to "remind" God, nag him, reprimand him, or worry that he has "ulterior" motives.  Who am I to say he is not doing things right or that God got it wrong in the past? Isn't it more freeing to just believe he is who he says he is, he loves as he says he does, and he has a perfect plan that he is carrying out to completion in our lives?

This quote came at exactly the right time to remind me of this.  Don't you love when he works that way?

Another in the fire

Maybe you don't know what the process to move overseas is like, but there was a lot of what we thought of as jumping through hoops ...