Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Full House

We've got a full house again.  Family came by!  Wow!  I have cousins who live about a day's trip from where we are.  We haven't seen each other in two years, though.  I think our furlough and holiday times just never coincided.  They came up for the New Year's holiday.  Wonderful!

And - I managed to get the house completely cleaned first.  All Christmas stuff put away.  All ironing done.  Even the socks matched.  Ah, peace!

Now there are twelve of us here.  Wonder how long we can keep it clean?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Only On A Sunday - it's easy!

I was dressing for Christmas eve service, and I wanted to wear one black skirt.  (Ok, I can't believe I am admitting this on a public blog!)  With this skirt, I wear control top tights... well... because my tummy just ain't the way it used to be before it carried five babies.  So, I wear this.

Well, this night I couldn't find them.  Likely because my room was a mess! :)  So my daughter watched me search.  Finally she asked, "mommy, why do you wear your tight tights?"

"Oh, honey, they just make my tummy look a little smaller."

She tried to comfort me, "Mommy, you look really beautiful the way you are.  It will be ok."

I know.  It is just that my tummy looks better in jeans... so I muttered a "I know, thanks" as I continued to hunt.

She watched for a little bit more and then said, "But mommy, I know a way to make your tummy look smaller without your tight tights!"


"Easy mommy, just run."

Thanks child.  Thanks.  That made me feel really good.

Feeling Overwhelmed

That is how I feel today.  Partly because my house is a mess, and I don't deal well with messes.  (No "I told you so" from people who might be tempted to say that! You know who you are, and no laughing here!)  Messes make me feel on edge.  Now, mess is normal at my house.  I am not a clean freak.  I enjoy clean - just wish the house would find a way to stay that way on its own!

Partly because my house has had a continuous revolving door recently.  I like people.  Really.  But I am built so I need my down time, my alone time.  When I don't have it, I get.... think of a word that starts with B, but don't say it!  We don't talk like that.

Partly because life is going at such a speed, and big things are happening in my life at a high speed, and I need time to think about them.  I am not getting that time.  My life is filling up with people and people have problems and needs and questions.  I feel like I am on constant giving right now, and I need some time to sit quietly and take again.

But I am lazy - yeah, that is why I get a messy house.  I am also lazy with my time with God.  Taking time to sit and listen to Him.  I don't do that well when people are around.  Not when I've been staying up late.  Not when I'm exhausted.  Then I get grouchy... like when I don't get time with my husband.  I get pretty miserable then, too.  I need time alone with him, too.  It recharges me just to be with him - to have his attention, to be held.  I can be with him all day in a group, and it is not the same.  I want time alone with him.

That is how I feel with God right now.  I am not far from Him.  I'm with Him, been ok, but I miss that time alone.  The time just to curl up and rest against Him and pour out my heart.  That is what I am without right now, and I am feeling overwhelmed... no time, and that leads to me being pretty... well, we won't say that word, will we?

I'm going to bargain for some time off tomorrow.  My husband has been really nice - it is not that he wouldn't give it to me.  He gave me a morning to sleep in.  He's been helping out.  It is just that I've ben sick, and the type of sick where you are better if you just close your eyes and sleep.  And I am lonely.  Lonely for spending time just curled up in the mornings resting my heart against God's and listening.

I'll be happy to be back in routines again in a week.  I do better with routines.  In the meantime, I got  call that more guests are on the way.  This time a family of six.  But, on the cheerful side, these people are ones who give into my life instead of taking.  So it could be a blessing.  I'm optomistic.

In the meantime, pray for peace.  Peace may not rule in the events happening in our lives right now, but peace can rule in my heart.  Let's pray for that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Do You Comfort?

I'm beginning to think that one of the toughest things in a first generation church is death.  How do you give comfort?  I've been dreading this in our own family.  My husband's parents are getting old and we have plans in place, funds laid aside so he could go at any minute.  The plans are easy, but the comfort is impossible.

We had a guest, a new member of our team - well, she's only partly with us.  I hope she joins us full-time soon.  Anyway, she was at our house and told us her dad is very sick, but she doesn't think she could go see him.  Remember those funds laid aside?  We thought that perhaps she could go.  She could use those, and later on we'll worry about repayment.  So we searched and found a way to get there, and phoned the family to see how he was doing.  He had just died.  Only hours before....

She sat in our living room crying.  She phoned other relatives around the world to let them know.  We sat with her.  There is nothing more we can do, just to be there.  We prayed with her.  We cried together.  She's been through six deaths in her extended family in the last three months.  It's been tough.  She's at the end of her emotions right now.

But as we sat, I thought this is the hardest thing to deal with in a first generation church.  When we lose a family member, even one we don't think was a believer, we try to hold out some hope.  We hope that at the last minute, they might have called out to God.  Of course they knew of the gospel, so we hope.  We hope even when we don't know.  But to these believers, it is totally different.  They face the deaths of their families knowing that there was little chance they even heard the gospel.  And the face of that grief is different.  Very different.  I grew up in a family where most of us are believers.  When we die, we mourn the loss of the person in our lives right now and we look forward to seeing them again.  To the first generation church, death is very different.  It is so final.  I dread the deaths of my husband's parents.  He lost an uncle and cousin last year in an accident, and that was tough.

So this Christmas, we have a mixed crowd in my house.  Part of our family here - the three new ones.  The family which just moved here.  Our friend who just lost her family.  And a new believer from nearby who dropped in and is staying for Christmas.  We have both joy in being together, and pain in facing death.  I am at loss as to how to comfort here.  All I can do is listen and learn from them.

Pray for me, too.  I've got a severe UTI and am in a reasonable amount of pain right now.  Trying to manage hosting Christmas through all this.  I've got help and it's going ok.  I'm on antibiotics and cranberry extract, and it is resolving, but it will take a day or two, and I am in pain.  Was up last night crying half the night, and am exhausted today.  I've got a great husband who took the kids out so I can rest and who helped clean, so I'm going to be ok.  Just I am really, really sore right now.

From last year to this year, I am amazed at the changes in our family.  Even from three months ago.  Something to give God thanks for.

Have a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stepping into the Mess

It's Christmas, and my brain is kicking in with messages that it should be a relaxed time.  Time to play games, eat wonderful cookies and foods, do shopping and planning for gifts, enjoy life...

I think that is my child's view of Christmas.  It's coming into stark contrast with reality recently.  I think my Christmas blues have nothing to do with anything serious in my life right now.  Just with the awful reality that I am now the grown-up.  All those wonderful things that are supposed to happen at Christmas.... the food, the candy, the cookies, the presents.... they all mean WORK for the mommy!

I feel like I'm running all the time and am always running behind.  Every party, every event, every request for one more goodie for school, work, or minstry party... it is all one more thing to do.  And I am the mommy who doesn't buy store bought cookies.  At least my kids expect that.  Today, I told them that there is too much sugar and they should bring chips instead.  No one makes home-made chips, and the arguement saved face for me.

It hasn't helped that a friend is having a rough time.  I don't know what it is because I was gone today and not able to be there for her to talk.  But I have three extra kids.  Caring for them for her right now.  She can't.  She can't pull the energy together right now, and it is almost Christmas.  Kids should have memories of making homemade cookies, hanging out by the fire giggling at cartoons while eating cookies and chocolate milk, not memories of mommy crying and being too overwhelmed to play.  So, I have three extra kids right now.  I love them.  They are cute.  Oh, and then I have another extra because I had already promised my daughter and a friend that she could have a sleep over.  So that makes eight.  Not to mention the other five that I took home from school today, too.  Thankfully, I had not agreed to keep them, only give them a ride home.

So I feel like I am getting behind.  I'm not getting that perfect picture done.  My house is not vacuumed.  The laundry is not all done.... I'm only hoping I find clean uniforms for all these kids tomorrow.  I made batches of cookies, but they all went to carefully boxed gifts for the team.  I have to start again for our family baking.  And I'm tired.  I'm sitting at midnight waiting for the washing machine to finish so I can get the clothes to dry before morning so I am ready.  Six lunches sit laid out on the counter, and backpacks and jackets and boots and lined up in a row.  It will be an early morning tomorrow.  Two are not finished their homework, but we had a church program.  I'll have to get them up and get them focused.

I'm getting behind the perfect picture of Christmas, but this is Christmas.  It is about getting involved in other people's messes.  That is what Jesus did.  He got deeply involved in our mess.  So, I smiled at my friend and told her to hang in there, told her I enjoy her kids (I do).  That they giggled all afternoon while mixing cookies with me.  Three little girls sat lined up on my kitchen counter and I had to referee who got to stir for how long to keep it fair.  They had fun.  I hugged my friend and told her that she saw me go through last year, and that when she is ready to talk, I am here to listen.  If she doesn't want to talk, I am here to help her with the kids or anything else without needing answers.

And my house is full of children - children who likely will only remember playing games, watching cartoons, giggling, and eating cookies.  They don't see the midnight cleaning of the kitchen, the tired laying out of the clothes and lunches, the double checking sleeping heads, and the constant feeling of running behind.  For them, it is Christmas.  They're full of surprise and excitement.  They're looking forward to class parties, sledding, and fun.  I'm the one trying to locate 8 pair of gloves at midnight and make sure they all get dried for the next day.

It likely won't be picture perfect around here this year.  But, if we can keep some kids giggling and give some parents hope to keep going, it will be worth it.  There were people who stepped into my mess.  There still are.

Just heard the washer quit... got to go get six uniforms out to dry!

Monday, December 14, 2009

There's Froggies on My Gown!

Part of our family traditions involve some sort of gifts for others.  My kids really do not need any more toys.  They prefer playing with rocks and sticks anyway!  So we spend time to make gifts for other people.  Where we live, they have their own version of "gifts for poor children", but the problem is that the "poor" are not poor here.  I got fed up this year when our church was given suggestions for the families we chose to givve gifts to and one suggestions was "games for his X-box"!  He has an X-box, and you're so poor that you are on a charity gift list?!

I am sort of burned out on giving to those who don't have because they chose not to work and then have little to no idea of how to spend the money they are given.  So we look outside the box for who to give for.

Last year, we shopped for second hand dresses for a few ladies in a nursing home whose clothes were falling apart.  I altered them to make them easier to put on, and we gave that with some warm socks.  This year, i noticed that most of the nightgowns that these ladies were wearing were threadbare and ripped.  I found some bright, fun flannel, and last night sewed some hospital style gowns out of flannel.

They are a bit different than your traditional blue backless gown.  There is the blue one with kittens and hearts.  The pink one with cows jumping over the moon, and my favorite, a green with froggies on it.  I can't wait to see what the ladies think of them!  Their minds are too far gone to know it is Christmas, but they still love to look at bright colors and pictures of animals, so I am hoping these cheer them up!

They were so easy to make out of only a yard and a half of material that I think I might make some more and use up some of my fabric stash that just uses up space.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Christmas Party

We had our big team Christmas party recently.  That second time in a year when we all get together and smile and spend some time.  Actually, there is an improvement.  One couple who are friendly and care about people came.  We invited them home for the night, and they came.  That was fun.  I like people.  I really do.  I like people in my home.  I like to have people with me.  Formal visiting bores me, but I love having people in my home.

We gave them our bed, and we bunked down by the fire in the living room.  I think we figured something out - going to do that again.  Soft firelight dancing on the room, a very warm head by the fire... we slept so well!  I think we'll have a family sleepover there over Christmas break.  #2 has already put dibs out for the place farthest from the fire.  The kid sleeps in shorts with a light blanket only in the middle of winter when snow is piled up outside out house!

But... this team...  I had a hard time seeing them all again.  The first time since the summer conference where we studied transperancy, relationships, and care... this team who did not even bother to contact us during that awful last year.... I still struggle with that.

But today, my husband said something and light went off in my head and I feel .... what?  Better? No, not really.  More understanding?  Not quite. Perhaps more able to grasp and put the whole thing in some perspective.

He said today that our field leader (who did nothing) and our team leader (who has a serious problem with his vision) grew up together and are from the same community. 

Ah!  Light goes on....  I always wondered.  One or the other's reactions I could better pass off as, well, as not everyone is skilled at everything.  People have blind spots.  But both of them.....?  I begged for help for four years, and my own field office did not so much as write an e-mail to see how we were.

But, tonight when I understood the connections there, I can see where the issue of one accepting another's opinion as fact without checking for themselves would come in.  Not that it is right, but I can see it happening.  A high level of trust between the two, so they take each other's word, and neither were here to see, just to hear.  (Oh, it would have been so easy to come here to see, but it was, after all, two hours drive.)

Honestly, for me, I'd be delighted if we had no "team events".  It seems like an contradiction to me to say that word "team".  Now, we've got a great team here, our small team.  Very, very thankful for them.  Yeah, we have one who causes problems, but we still like each other and keep in contact with each other.  But the bigger team events, I think I would be just as happy skipping.

But, God gives us reason to smile.  Our new family was there, and she came up to me and stayed with me.  She said, "I feel like a stranger here, and I don't know anyone, and I feel awkward just smiling and pretending to talk."  Yeah, me too.  So we hung out together, and we visited with our small team and with the one family in our big team who has ever made an effort to be friendly with us.  Ok, I get it that we are foreigners here, a bubble contained in their larger team working for somewhere else, but we are people, too.

And the evening ended with our small team's children singing happily sitting on the floor at the front of the meetings, arms around each other and swaying in unison to carols.  A reason to smile.  We can not change how they act, but we can try to build a family in our own team.  And we can continue to invite others to get to know us.  How wonderful to have this one couple who took advantage of the offer to stay the night.  This morning, we had coffee and breakfast with them and another of our small team's families dropped in, too.  A great relaxed morning.  We thought it was such a great idea that we might make Friday's breakfast days for the group living on this end of town.  Drop the kids at school, and come over for a relaxed breakfast and coffee altogether.

So, I left happy.  But also sad as this lady shared with me quietly about struggles she is having, and I see her not getting the support she needs in her team.  I've asked myself many times since this spring's meetings, "How many will we lose until we get this member care figured out?"

Missions is not all about getting the work done.  It is about caring for people.  After all, isn't that what is supposed to be attractive about us?  The mark of us belonging to Christ?  Then let's get this one skill down then!

Odds and Ends

My husband got me a little heater for my feet in my office.  I like it, and it warms my heart.  I'm struggling more with cold this year than last and wonder if it means I need to get some bloodwork done.  After years of struggling with low iron levels, it was nice to be healthy for awhile, but I am wondering.  It's been a few years since I was checked.

One of my friends just lost their baby at 20 weeks.  Also a daughter.  My heart hurts for her.  I'm beginning to think heaven is going to be bursting with babbling babies bouncing off each other.  This friend and I had our babies together - they shared pacifiers, toys, blankets, and beds.  Now our daughters play together in heaven.  I'm sad.

I had a bad driving experience today in the snow and am still tired from it.  My husband put better tires on, so I will be fine now.  (See, he is taking good care of me!)

I don't know why people have more than one cat!  (I love cats, really do, and if it were culturally appropriate to have animals in my house, I might have a cat again.)  I helped someone pack who had two dogs and two cats, and my allergies acted up awfully.  Didn't even know I was allergic to animals.

I finally got my tree up.  (I did, Angela - now it is your turn!)  I don't feel like Christmas this year.  Too tired maybe?  Too cold.

I really want to be a bear in my next life.  Reasons:

1. They get to growl when they are unhappy.
2. They get to swat their kids when they misbehave.
3. They get to eat all they want all summer and put on lots of weight and they feel good about it.
4. They get to hibernate all winter and sleep it off.
5. When they wake up, they get to be all beautifully skinny again, and start eating all over again.
6. They get to give birth to their babies when the babies are not much bigger than a walnut.
7. Those first few months of nursing and tiny babies, they get to sleep right through.
8. They look good in fur.  Even uncombed fur.

Yup, I want to come back as a bear.

I think I am on a down after all the emotional energy last week.  We were so busy with speaking and meeting people, and then squeezing in a visit to "that place"... I'm just tired.  I'm doing ok, really, but I am just tired.  Wishing it wasn't Christmas so I could take it easy for a few days.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Cookies!

I am.  Yummy!  Making cookies to give away.  I'm trying to stick to simple things this year, but since I seem to be the only member of our team who knows how to bake, I have been assigned cookie duty.

I have a suspicion that pie duty is going to be assigned next.

We had one Christmas party, and what fun to watch about ten of our team's kids with some from farther away all sitting with their arms around each other's necks swaying and singing loudly with the music.  Ok, they did sing loudly and about a half note ahead of  the music, but they were cute!  I looked at them and thought that we had pretty much every color and design represented in those kids, and not one of them cared.  They are family.

Time to make cookies!  What is your favorite simple Christmas cookie?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cat in the Hat

Despite my strong objections to posting photos of my kids and my belief that I should not post photos of other people's kids without their permission, I had to post this.  It was just that cute.

My daughter and her best friend - the two have been inseperable since kindergarten - had a dress-up day at school.  Their teacher often dresses as the Cat, and when I had been looking through that book, I came up with a perfect idea for two best friends.  They dressed as Thing #1 and Thing #2.  Mine is Thing #2.

It was too cute not to post.  Excuse the fake smileys on the faces... I still have a problem posting photos on a public site.  But you can at least see the costumes.

Easy to make, but so funny as a combo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

He Made All Things Beautiful In His Time

We're back.  Thankfully, we walked into a quiet clean house.  We only picked up our daughter tonight and left the boys where they were.  I'll see them at school tomorrow.  We're back to the cold...brrr...

Back to picking up the pieces and going on with life.  There is homework, work, Christmas, paperwork, stuff to deal with.  It was a good trip.  It really was.  Crazy busy, but good.

Oh, and thanks to finding a good resturant, I got to eat some of my favorite food.  Stuffed myself on it - twice.  Ahh... mmmm....  My poor husband was shocked with how much I can eat!  I'm this odd mix as an MK, having grown up in two countries and served in three... I have widely different  tastes in food, and rarely get to have some of them.  Now... I am a little frightened to step on the scale.... but it was worth it!

I have to pick up a situation tomorrow that baffles me.  I stand back and watch it and scratch my head puzzled.  I can't figure it out.  But tomorrow, I will again walk into this situation and pick up pieces.  What I will have to say is not what I wanted to have to say for it.  I wanted a different solution, a better choice, but it is not going to work.  So I need to be very careful now not to offend, not to hurt, while sharing the solution that now stares us in the face.  I guess, too, I am disappointed in people's responses, and would love to change it... but I can't.  A part of peace comes when we realize that we can not change people's responses.  We can try to influence, but we can not change others.  We can only make our own choices.  So tomorrow, we begin to talk about our own choices, and sometimes that can sound very harsh.  And yet, I am not harsh... I feel... deeply... but I also know this path.

Yes, work hits tomorrow morning... but tonight the memories still linger... beautiful memories, actually.  I feel a sense of completeness.  Maybe what Alece talks about when she talks about shalom.  Complete, whole.

I'll still sit down and write - maybe tomorrow, maybe later.  I stood there and faced the wall, and many of you stood with me.  And I think the wall has crumbled.  I feel a sense of deep peace.  No longer the shadowy questions.  No longer the frightening dreams.  Substance to nightmares, and they crumble.  They are past, not now.  A deep peace replaces the questions I had about God.  I still have no answers, but a peace.  Isn't there a verse somewhere that talks about when we finally see the one who has terrorized the nations, we will shake our heads and say, "that's it?!  That scrawny, puny, miserable excuse for a person frightened us so badly?!"  I feel like that now in a small way.

"That's it?!"  I don't have to live my whole life in fear of that, in reaction to that... That is it.  And I have been made whole... given peace.

I think when I first talked about it, I drew boundaries around the nightmare.  "This is what happened."  It then changed my feelings to "This is what happened and only this."  The big made small.  Defined like black coloring lines.  Now, when I've been there and walked away, I defined myself.  "I am not just this.  It is a part of me, leaving a scar, but I am so much more than this."  I am.  More than this.  Even this that is part of me is not carrying shame... it is not awful... it is not devaluing me.  It is part of me, and God has made me beautiful - even this.  He has made all things beautiful in His time.

Now was His time.

And I feel whole, happy, content, like Cinderella walking into the ball - the ashes have been washed off, the tears wiped away, and I am dressed in beauty.  Except, unlike Cinderella, when the clock strikes, this dim beauty will fall off and even more unbelievable will be given to me - to us all.  Until then....

Until then... until then, I'll go diving back into that muck at a moment's notice because, unlike Cinderella, I do not want to be the only one chosen.  I want a whole contingent of us washed, whole, and delighted in being loved so deeply.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We Went There

Today, I went back there.  It poured rain.  The skies opened and poured rain.  Fitting.  It was raining that day my world went from sunshine to shadows.

We went back.  We walked around.  We saw.  We went in to that place.  Everything was exactly like I remember.  The one detail that always puzzled me confirmed.  How could that be?  I've never seen a room like that before - no closet there.  But there it was.  Exactly like my memory said it was.

I wasn't sure how I would react, but it was ok.  I went in.  I walked around.  I saw.  I looked.  Yes, I was slightly trembling, but only slightly.  I'm sure I didn't look anything more than like I was a little chilled in the pouring rain.

Then I walked out again.  Shut the gate behind me.  It was a feeling of peace, a quiet conquering.  But more than that, something surprised me.... surprised me even more when my husband prayed for it, too... because I wanted to pray that also, but didn't know what he would think...

forgiveness...  we both prayed for it... forgiveness for that woman who handed me over....

We talked about it later.  But we both wanted to pray that.  Compassion on her.  Yes, it was bad.  Yes, it scarred me.  But... God walked me through it, and He bears scars, so mine do not bother Him.  But I felt compassion for her... I'm NOT a compassionate person in regards to this...not at all.  But I know God... and to not know Him... and to be in such darkness....

Then we sat together and prayed - for blessing on that place.  That the former things would be gone and that from there, blessings would be.

Ah, it is hard to explain it all right now.  I'll process it and write again when I've had time.

Thanks for all your prayers.  I actually feel stronger, more whole, less frightened by the whole events than I did before.  I've faced it and walked away whole.  Perhaps scarred, but I'm even learning to love my scars... who I am now because of them is someone I like...

I downloaded my pictures this evening, pictures of that place, too, and then looked at them on a slideshow.  Was it any coincidence that the photo that the computer circled around to when it got to the end of those photos was one of this child of our coworkers who was abused/bullied in his school?... it was a photo of him in his new school smiling in his desk... yes, I like my scars.... they make me quick to react to protect and care.  This is who I am, and I am at peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Not Today

Life is always full of changes, isn't it?  Today didn't work out after all.  So we will go on Sunday afternoon.  That is fine, too.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Today is the day

I'm going there today.  Actually, I'm sitting here this morning only a short distance from this place.  My husband and I prayed together this morning, right now we have some business from what brought us here, and then we will go there today.

I was expecting to go there on Monday when we had time off, but the schedules change - as schedules so often do - and we are going there today.  I'm doing ok, sort of a settled peace.  A little tense awareness, but a settled peace.  I feel that God has brought me full circle again, to close up this chapter.  And as I sit here this morning waiting to go there, I am at peace.  I see what God has brought in my life - yes, even through this - and I am content.  Content to rest in His arms, knowing that even the pain He brought me through is only temporary and that He is and will use it for His glory.  Like Joseph.  I think that is the ultimate defeat of the destroyer: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."  You may have thrown your best at me to warp and detroy me, but God did not only save me through it - He is using that very pain you inflicted to reach out to snatch others from your grasp.  You DID NOT WIN!

So, I'm resting comfortably in the arms of the One who held me through all this.  And I'm grateful for all of you who are praying around this big world for me.  Ah, the stories we will all get to tell when we are all together in the end!  When we see what God has done.

Until then, I'm resting.  Calmly waiting to face this and be brought full circle again.  To stand there with my husband and to be able to say who I am.  I am a daughter of the King.  He delights in me and sings over me in love.  That is who I am.  And I am resting in His arms, trusting even though He let me go through some awful things.

.... if I remember correctly, He went through some pretty awful things for me...