Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's Cooking?

I made salsa! Never done it before. But I grew a garden and had too many tomatoes and peppers and basil and cilantro. It wasn't that bad, and tastes good!

I'm proud of myself today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Water Under the Bridge

Did I already mention that I prefer to deal with conflict or anything else head on?

Not everyone is like that.

My husband prefers to do nothing. He waits until enough water has gone under the bridge for things to be ok again.

So, today... there hasn't been enough water under the bridge. It is at that awkward stage where some water has gone under, but not quite enough.

When is it really enough? Is it enough when the problem is slightly covered with water? Is it enough when the water flows over it, but if you look directly at it, you still see it lurking under the water? Or is it enough when so much water goes by that you forget what was buried down there?

Oh, for the simplicity of repentance and forgiveness! Aren't you glad that God forgives? We don't have to wait. We don't have to wonder. It is gone. Forgiveness takes the issues out of the stream, gone for good. Clear water again flows, and we don't have to be afraid of the view from the bridge.

With repentance, we have no shadows lurking in standing water, no surprises to appear in times of drought. No memories to surface again when we run dry of grace.

But he has not yet discovered this. What he misses knowing is that forgiveness is already waiting for him. It has been for a long time. For this, for many other things that he simply buried under the bridge. It is there waiting.

We simply need to be open to receive forgiveness. We can not have cleared away what we cover over and hide.

So, here I am today, watching water pass by and wishing for simple talk, for the freedom of repentance and forgiveness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Don't Hit Me When I'm Down

Today is a bad day. If it wasn't enough to be disappointed not to have time with my friend, the day got worse.

I never know at times what I will be facing. One day, things are fine, and I can count on sympathy and a warm hug. Another day, one tiny mistake or irritation, and I get blown out of the water. Thursday was more like the second.

The way I am built, I love peace. I crave gentleness, order, and being able to know what to expect from people. I can face changing circumstances relatively well, but I like to know what to expect from people. But I am capable of handling conflict. I prefer to deal with it right away or as soon as possible. To talk it out, deal with it, and go on.

I am married to someone who prefers to ignore it and hope it goes away. Or to punish me with the silent treatment. Who believes there is no point in discussing conflict at all. He'd rather just be silent and angry for days to weeks.

So, now I am enduring silent treatment. And I am struggling with it. On top of my disappointment, discouragement. How long will this go on? It hurts me.

Being trapped in the circle of ministry... where is there a place to ask for support and help? Where do I go to cry, to ask for encouragement? The people we are with are also team members, coworkers, friends. Do I humiliate my husband by taking personal problems there? Do I suffer in silence? I don't know how to handle this situation. There is no "good solution". The one person who is capable of dealing with it is gone. His schedule and my husbands will not intersect for another few months.

I just don't know. I hurt right now. And I haven't found an answer to this. I feel very alone. Struggling.

It is hard to be ok with God at times when faced with things like this. I don't know why. I just know if people are telling me I am unlovable and telling me they don't want me, it affects my relationship with God. I struggle to believe His truth about me.

This is my prayer right now when I turn my face up to God, "Love me right now obviously. I need to see it. I need Your comfort. Catch my tears, hold my heart, and be with me in the lonely, silent times. Give me hope again."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Argh! I Hate Disappointment!

It is not that it is such a big disappointment, not really. It is just that it is disappointing. I had been looking forward to something for a few days, hoping to get a chance to do it. A chance to spend time with a friend. It wasn't even guaranteed, just a possibility. But as the possibility grew closer and closer, I think I pinned more of my hopes on it.

It didn't work out. And the chance to do this again won't come for several weeks, more than a month. So I am disappointed.

I should know better. It was just a chance, and it didn't work out.

But I am feeling down today. Sad. And irritated at myself for being so disappointed - I could have just tried not to hope so much... but how do you realistically do that when it comes to something spending time with a good friend? I did go out for coffee with another friend today, and I am back into things here, building connections with people around me... but a good friend is still a special thing, and I miss that time I was hoping to have.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Givers and Takers

I'm tired today. Guests just left. We've had people in and out of our home for the last two months. I like people. I like guests, too. It is part of life being a missionary - having others stay, staying with others.

But today, I am tired. Five days by ourselves before the next guests arrive. I should be cleaning today, but I am just sitting. I'm tired.

There are some guests who come in and are "givers". No, not money, not acts of service, not things. They just give. They add to our lives, blessing us. Then there are "takers". They are the ones who are like a little hole in a bucket. The more they are around, the more drained you feel.

I've had both "givers" and "takers", but recently more "takers" than "givers".

I've been both myself, I think. At least, I'd like to think a few times that I was a "giver", too. It may depend on what we have just gone through, among other things.

As missionaries, we all are either being guests or having guests often. What is it for you that makes the difference between "givers" and "takers"? I find for me it isn't so much what people do as who they are.... but I guess I could think of things that make a difference, too. Tell me what you think.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Children

My daughter grew tired of the long sermon yesterday. She curled up on my lap, waiting for the end. At the end, we pray. She knows that.

After a few minutes, she looked up at me and asked, "Are we praying now?"


She peeked around me and surveyed the half of the church she could see.

"Then why are so many people sitting with their eyes closed?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Happened Next

I guess I wasn't really sure what I expected to happen next. I just stood up and told my life story. Not the highlights and good parts, just who I was.

I had been told by some that some things in my life I should never share with women in this area of the world. That they would have no respect for me it I did. I believed what I was told.

But while believing it, part of me wondered. How then do they deal with their hurts? Or is just not talking about it working for them?

And besides, these women were all mature believers, reaching out to others around them. Maybe they could handle it. Maybe we could begin to discuss how to reach women beyond the barrier of shame and silence.

I just wasn't sure what would happen next.

But slowly over the room, women began to cry.

I got nervous. I really am just beginning to be comfortable with tears, and a roomful of crying women still scares me!

But I had just heard these women's life stories. I was impressed with one fact. They talked about horrible things which happened before and sometimes after they became believers. Bad decisions they had made, abuse which had happened to them, but their stories never finished. It was as if becoming believers had suddenly made the history all better with a magic wand.

I've never found that wand. My past still affected my life, even as a believer. I had needed some healing. It hasn't been an easy path, but God has been walking me through this way.

But I had wondered when I listened to these women - had they ever dealt with their hurts, or have they only been good Christians? Oh, they are good Christians - much stronger than me, people who I admire and respect.

Yet now I was in a room surrounded by strong women crying. Help!

Over the next few days, we talked. I had minutes here and there with a few and they talked to me. One ministered to me in ways that few have been able to. Another took my hands and prayed for me.

And then, as I became vulnerable enough to let them pray for my hurts and comfort me, and as they saw my tears and my struggling with letting people pray for some of these areas in my life, things began to change.

They tried to talk; they tried to explain it, but words at times are difficult. It began with "I can't tell you why, but you got inside my heart." Finally, one or the other said to me, "you suffered like we suffered, and you gave us hope. You showed us a door to this hope."

Another older woman went to the room of one of our leaders, sat on the floor, and very gingerly asked for prayer for the hurts from twenty years ago. She had shared her story at times, but not her heart, and she wanted to talk and to be prayed for.

I stood back in stunned awe. I had really expected judgment; or perhaps, at the best, to be able to open doors to talk about how to reach other women who are hurting. I had not expected this. I had not expected that these women who have it all together would dissolve into tears and want to talk about things they had not yet been able to.

I stood quietly at times and looked up at God. Who would have known? Who would have believed? My brokenness and still unfinished healing could bring hope and healing to a small room full of other women.

I had grown up believing we had to be perfect to be good missionaries - or as close to it as we could be. We were examples, so we had to live right and show perfection.

And I had just shown weakness and pain.

And all I could do was hold my hands out to catch the blessings which filled the room.

I had grown up believing we minister to the local believer - after all, we are the missionaries.

And I just had one of these women come to me, hold my hands up, and tell me that I could take this one step that I needed to, and she would hold my hands until I was strong enough to do it myself. And she prayed for me, and ministered to me in something I had been begging God to do for a long time.

Another came and sat beside me one dinner and told me her story. Because I shared that I was struggling in this area in my life and had no answers there. She quietly told me her story, her struggles, and God's working in her life and her marriage, allowing me to question, to learn. And she gave me a door of hope to go through, and encouragement.

Transparency. Taking that plunge. It led to healing. For me. For others.

And it led me to stand back in a quiet amazement of how God works. I guess He meant it when He said when we are weak, then He is strong.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Taking the Plunge

A cold summer morning at the edge of the pool somewhere up north. Swimming lessons at 8:15. The pool filled with glacier run off, and hasn't yet had enough hot summer days to warm up.

Do you ease in slowly, only enduring a small amount of pain at a time, but drag it out? Or do you take the plunge?

Remember the friend I was not completely sure about? Insecure. Not knowing what she meant. Do I really risk being open with her when I don't know how she will react?

Another risk faced me recently. A room full of women I had not met before. We met to learn from each other how to best minister to women. All of us from different places, different countries.

How much do I risk? Do I watch carefully, testing slowly to see if I can trust? Or do I just take the plunge?

I used to leap wildly into the water when I was a skinny ten year old kid. Now, I am much more of an "easer-slowly-in". My kids watch this process laughing. "Mom, just jump in and get it over with! It is not that cold once you're all wet."

I know they are right, but brrr!

I took the risk with my friend. Decided to just tell myself to assume the best, and go ahead and trust her.

I faced the room full of women. I was asked to share my life. What do I share? My carefully constructed nice life? Or who I am with all my failures, history that is definitely not beautiful, and my current struggles? Really the shape I am in now, some will argue that I ought to be kicked off the field, not reaching out more. What do I share?

But over the last few years, my attention has been caught by something. Someone has shown this to me and it is beautiful. It attracts more than light does to mosquitoes. Transparency. The ability to be open with others. As I have watched and learn to walk this way little by little, it has changed me. The beautifully constructed nice lives do not appeal to me anymore. They are a shallow beauty, much like a painting, compared to the real.

Yes, realness means there are shadows in life, but shadows do not take away the beauty. They add depth.

So I stood on the edge of my cold pool, and jumped. This is who I am.

Something else about transparency - it is refreshing, much like that cold swimming pool at 8:15.

What happened? That is a different story. But a good one.