Monday, November 29, 2010


I hate that feeling - being stuck.  Due date for a newsletter hanging over me for weeks... even months over due, but stuck.  Nothing to say.  Oh, there are things to say, but we're not even sure we can say the things that there are to say.  And then so much of my life is very, very repetitious, monotonous.  Boring.

What to write about?  Do I write about how we honestly feel right now - battered about, watching pain happen, struggling?  People in our churches already wonder if we are chasing a hopeless task....  what will they say if I say we are struggling, discouraged, saddened?

But we are not discouraged, not exactly.  We are - the situation is difficult and this year our friends are suffering.  But we aren't discouraged- we are seeing people standing against persecution... difficult things are happening, but people are still standing.  That brings enormous joy... along with the tears as we watch.

But can we share all that?  What can be said?  Difficult questions to answer.  There is a lot to think about before we share much of anything.

So what do I write?

I sat there for weeks.... letter way over due... too much on my heart to write... questions about what could or could not be said...

Then there was no more delaying.  I prayed desperately, and combined all the little beginnings I had made over weeks.  It got done.  Now I have also organized my inbox, done all my address changes, and filed all my letters.  I responded to all the people who needed letters.

Aahhh... time to have a cup of hot chocolate and relax... nice not to have it hanging over me.

just don't tell me the Christmas letter is due soon....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Is That In the Oven?!

My daughter was helping me cook our Thanksgiving dinner.  We only bought a turkey breast this year since we are only six and didn't need the expense of a whole turkey.  She was talking on the phone to her grandpa and asking me what we were going to cook so she could tell him.

Pumpkin pie, apple pie, casseroles, and turkey breast.

She carefully repeated to her grandpa, "We're going to cook, pumpkin pie, apple pie, casseroles, and Cherokee breast."


Then she began questioning me on the history of Thanksgiving and then the Revolutionary war.  I told her the Thanksgiving story - how it is a story of forgiveness and grace of a man who could easily have held a grudge and chosen not to help, but who forgave and helped.  We are familiar with the thought of people who have to leave their country because of their religious beliefs, so the story made sense to my daughter.

Then she began talking about the Revolutionary War for some reason.  She had read a book about the Redcoats fighting, and wanted to know who they were fighting, because the book said that the Redcoats were fighting the, "I think it said the pirates.... or maybe it was the parrots.... who were they fighting, Mom?"

The patriots, maybe?

After defining patriots for her, she stopped asking questions and is now buzzing around the kitchen singing "God Bless America."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gospel According to....

My daughter was excited after church this week.  She gets points for her memory verses, so she works hard at them.  She was very excited to tell me that in two weeks they are going to learn a verse that she already learned last year in school.

I asked her which verse that was.

She replied, "I am not sure exactly, but it is that one, well, you know, that says, 'If I go to bed with my angriness, then I will help the devil climb up the mountain'."

On farther examination, she did understand what the verse meant, but her way of expressing it was something else!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Telling My Story

Tonight we told our story.  We had guests over, ones who wanted to hear, and because they work in similar things, in similar places, they could understand and wanted to hear.

So we told them our story.  Its been several months now - not quiet months among our friends... more troubles followed more troubles followed even more.  The troubles have not ended even now.  I feel odd sometimes sitting here in peace and safety.... others are in trouble now, we think of them, pray for them, work for them... We are ok...  it is over for us.

It is.  All that is true.  At times we feel odd, not guilty, but odd... why are we blessed and in comfort while others aren't?

All that is true.

But it is still a blessing to be able to tell our story.  With each telling, we hear it again.  We sort through it.  We process it.  My story is mine.  My husband's is his.  We went through different things.  Different reactions.  Different struggles.  Different victories.

We never got to tell our story really.  He told his once to people combing for details.  I did not tell mine then - no details were needed from me.  We told it again to a group - again looking for lessons and details...  We both told them then.  That ended in a huge conflict of people upset and angry with us.

We rarely told our story after that.  Once or twice to a group - in ten minutes.  My inability to tell it made it very difficult for me to process the event.  I need to talk to think.  I need to write to think.  To put things to words.  The most I told my story was on my blog.  Then once we had coworkers from another organization visit, and we told our story - both his and mine.  The first time that both of us in detail told our story - not just events, but some feelings too.  That was good.

But then troubles began, and our story got put to the side.  Time to help others.  I don't for one minute regret helping others.  I would do it again.

But we hadn't been able to tell our story well.  To tell my story.  To be heard.  I still have an aching gap - something I would love to say that I haven't been able to say.  Not everything can be written on my blog, and I haven't been able to tell some things.  It has grown into a settled sadness, an awareness that it may never be told.  I haven't been heard well, and may not be.

Tonight, though, we told our story.  I know it is months later, and there are other crisis going on.  But to be given the chance to tell again.  This time the people listening wanted to know our stories - how we felt, how we dealt with emotions.  No one has ever asked the "how did you feel?" questions before.  No one.

I needed to tell my story.  I needed to be heard.  I will likely need it again.  In letting me tell my story - not for your entertainment and curiosity, not for your lessons to be learned, but to hear me - you help me heal.

Who needs you to listen to their story today?  What story do you have that needs listening to?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Evening in the Life of..... or Why You Should Think Deeply Before Having Four Kids

One evening, not too long ago, I ran out to get food.  I also decided to get some dish soap for the bathroom soap dispenser.  Some idiot had loosened the dish soap lid to almost off.  When I put in in the van, it tipped over and spilled all over me, the carpet, and the sliding door mechanism.

It took me half an hour to get it cleaned up as best I could with towels.  I had bought an extra big bottle, of course.  This turned my ten minute errand into a much longer event.  When I got home, #1 asked to speak to me.

Apparently, while I was gone, the following happened.  (I had left them with simple instructions - please dismantle #1's bed and take it downstairs to his room, which is now repaired again.)  And this happened:

1. They were taking apart #1's bed, so #1 asked #3 to go look for a tool.

2. Girlie was in the hallway and decided to block the hall so #3 could not get through.

3. So #3 kicked Girlie in the stomach.

4. Girlie ran to the bathroom and was gagging over the sink.  (It remains a question if she was really sick or exaggerating.)

5. #1 was holding the bed and couldn't get free right away, so asked #2 to check on Girlie.

6. #2 looked at Girlie, but then decided he would chase after #3 instead.

7. #2 ran outside to confront #3.

8. #3 ran screeching around the house and jumped the wall.

9. #2 hotly pursued #3.

10. #1 called #3 to come in and stop screeching.

11. #3 came in, but then #1 sent him out to go get the tool - the original mission.

12. #2 meanwhile decided to hide up above where the tools are kept in the storage area.

13. #2 jumped out at and/or yelled at #3 when he came in the storage room.

14. #3 took off screeching and running again.

15. #2 pursued #3.  Lap number two around the house.

16. #1 got them inside again and asked them all to come up to his room and work on the bed.

17. #2 got angry about something, so took a bolt and either did or did not scratch #1's radio.  (The truth was unable to be discerned.)

18. #3 tattled to #1 that #2 scratched his radio.

19. #2 yelled at #1 that he did NOT scratch the radio.

20. #1 attempted to find out the truth by asking different people, but by this time he was pretty ticked off.

21. Girlie kept back-talking to #1 and didn't let him talk to #2 and #3.

22. #1 clamped his hand over Girlie's mouth to get her to be quiet so he could talk to #2 and #3 and find out about the radio.

23. Girlie fought and howled.

24. Somehow, #1 set her free and sent Girlie and #3 downstairs to sit on the couch.

25. #1 and #2 then took apart the bed, carried it down to his room, and put the tools away.

Then I came home.  It took over half an hour of piecing together accounts and wading through such lies as "I only ran after him to make sure he was ok and was not going to run in the street and get killed." to figure out the gist of the story.

I told them all I was highly disappointed with them (not #1).  I told them that every single one of them had a chance to stop the whole event with their actions, and they didn't.

Girlie could have let #3 walk down the hall.

#3 could have asked #1 to ask Girlie to move.

#2 could have checked on Girlie and stayed with her to comfort her.

But each chose to make a stupid decision which led to conflict.  Poor #1 was stuck trying to sort out the mess, and he did not do it perfectly.  (They all wanted me to punish #1 for clamping his hand over Girlie's mouth and for grabbing #2 once to pull him off #3.)  I told them that #1 is only 14 years old, and is not a parent, so the fact that he made some mistakes in parenting in a difficult situation does not surprise me, and I will not judge him for it or punish him.  Later privately, I did point out to him where he could have made a different choice.  I reminded all three that none of them tried to help #1, and actually few of them obeyed him at all.  He made really good decisions at first, but they did not follow them.

I told them that especially in a crisis, there needs to be a clear single leader who people follow.  #1 took that role, but then #2 decided to take things into his own hands.

I told #3 that he used his God-given strength in a wrong way to hurt a girl he was supposed to defend.  I told #2 that he used his God-given desire to defend women in a wrong way without wisdom.

So I showed them what I had bought for a nice evening relaxing and having treats and told them I was sorry we could not have it, sent them to shower, fed them supper, and sent them to bed.

First I made them all apologize, starting with Girlie as she had initiated the conflict.  Then I disciplined #3, and told him that he is not allowed under any circumstance to kick or hit a girl.  That men are far stronger in force than women (we just had earlier to ask the neighbor to help me lift something since I couldn't) and they must learn to control the desire to use that force to hurt.  If he hits or kicks Girlie, I will discipline him every single time.  I told him he always talks all the time, and now, in the once instance when he should have used his mouth, he didn't.

Then #1 and I set up the new bed.  While we were working, he apologized for the way the evening went, but I told him that I have no expectations that he will be perfect at parenting now, and that he did pretty well.  He can't control their choices, but in the future to use a "Girlie, go to your room right now" instead of being physical with her.

So that was my evening.... :(  And people think missionaries are perfect and their kids should always be well-behaved... sigh...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crowned with Many Crowns?

My daughter is memorizing James 1:12 this week for school.  A perfect opportunity to have some discussions about what lasts and what doesn't.  There is one thing that can never be taken away from us.  Ever.

Eternal life.

Anyway, she was wondering about what she heard in Revelation where it says Jesus is crowned with many crowns.

" Do they all fit on His head then, Mommy?"

I love the literal minds of kids!  They are able to grasp such deep thoughts so simply, but then they also struggle over how many crowns Jesus can balance at once!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday School and Why I dread what it teaches.

I went to Sunday school.  I even taught Sunday School for years.  I was very blessed to teach under  master teacher and learn how much kids are actually able to think.  Most Sunday School curriculum is dumbed down.  It is only a repeat of a few basic themes:  we need to love each other, we need to be thankful, we need to share, followed with the good old Sunday School standard, "Don't be afraid.  God will keep you safe."

While I firmly believe in the keeping power of God, this Sunday school pablum irritates me.

I lived enough of life as a child to know that God does not always keep you safe.

We live a life where God keeping us safe accompanied by a picture of a child sleeping in her bed with no nightmares does not quite cut it.

This week alone, we are waiting for news of a friend whose decision to follow Christ is likely going to cost him his life.

Then I went to chapel at my kid's school to hear some teacher do a skit with the whole idea, which she repeated several times....

If you make good choices, you will have good consequences.
If you make bad choices, you will have bad consequences.

Try telling that to my friend whose decision not to deny Christ is going to cost him his life.  Try telling that to my kids a few months ago.  Try telling that to..... argh!

How about the very real truth in 2 Tim. 3:12?  
Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Sort of blows our good choices - good consequences teaching out of the water.  Don't get me wrong, I think we should make good choices, and I think that good choices will ultimately have good consequences, but we need to be really careful about giving our kids false promises in God's name.  God never promised them that if they make good choices only good will happen, and we are remiss as parents and teachers if we do not prepare our kids for life.

I became adamant about this early on in my kid's lives, but became even more so when I became a Sunday School teacher to a small group of kids who had been through an awful tragedy where they thought they would be safe.  I glanced through all the lessons that were available to teach and grew nauseated with the pictures of kids sleeping in their beds, smiling on swing sets, and playing in sandboxes while week after week that message that God loves them and won't let anything bad happen to them was taught.

I threw it all away and started again.  What do I need to say looking into the eyes of kids who have seen what we only read about, and how do I help them maintain their faith in God?  We struggled through that year, learning the promises of God, reading through those Bible stories that don't always go perfectly.  We read of Corrie ten Boom, and let them see the truth in the fact that while she survived, her sister and father didn't.  We faced pain, acknowledged its existence in our lives.  We studied the beginning of evil in the world.  And we came back to the promises and power of God.  We read of heaven and how we are instantly there, all pain gone, all fear gone, tears wiped away, forever all together.  We healed and faced our fears together.

Yes, men can hurt us, but God is always with us, and there is nothing that can take us from His hand.  Not even death.  Especially not death.

But I bristled when I heard this taught again in my kid's chapel this morning.  Good choices can have very bad consequences.  My friend is facing those today.  And if I get the chance to hold his children in my arms, I will not throw their faith into confusion and doubt by teaching them a doctrine that causes them to question their father's choice to follow Christ or their God's ability to intervene, but I will tell them of the promises of God.  How He was there for their father, even in the darkest hours.  How He will be there for them, to father them, to care for them through the pain He has asked them to walk through.

And I will tell them of heaven.  Of the forever where tears are wiped away and relationships are restored.

Incompatibilities.... an apology?

I told the person who asked me that question that I wasn't thrilled with them right them.  Why ask that now?  It has been a big enough step for me to get from anger at how we were wronged to knowing that my attitude in response to the wrong was also wrong.

Why ask me to apologize?

Should he apologize first?  He did the wrong first, not me.

"What is that to you?"  - An interesting question Jesus asks Peter when Peter asks, "What about John?"

It is really none of my business if or when that man deals with his actions in front of God.  If he sees he hurt us or not.  If he apologizes or not.  If he corrects the lies or not.

Not. My. Business.

At least, not an excuse for me not doing what is right.

My business - my walk with God.  My wrongs.  My sins.

Not his.

If that means, to deal with my sins, that I need to apologize, then that is the way it is.  Some people will say that we do not need to apologize, especially if the other person may not have known about our attitude.  I was told that as a child, but now that I am older, I don't think I agree with it as wholeheartedly as I used to.  I think we use that too often as an excuse not to deal with things "because it was a private sin".  There is nothing quite so definite about dealing with a wrong attitude than confessing it and asking for forgiveness and grace.

Besides, very little with me - at least with what I am thinking and feeling, is private since my face reads like an open book!  So there was no doubt that the person knew how I felt.

Sigh.  So there was no excuse, no escape, no blame casting.  I want to follow God, so it was time to get up and obey.

It was hard.  First I had to come to the place that I was willing to forgive him for what he had done.  That is hard when there is no forgiveness asked, when the very wrong that was done is justified.  But forgiveness is for sin.  For sin, not just for mistakes.  Forgiveness can include forgiveness for not being repentant.  It can forgive for the hurt of never acknowledging the hurt and the damage done.  God forgave me before I "felt sorry".  He asks me to forgive - no conditions included.  Now, that forgiveness can be offered freely now, but there may be limits to the enjoyment of the forgiveness.  Or maybe I would say to the restoration of the relationship.  Restoration of the relationship would mean the receiving of the forgiveness.... just as God offers to all the world forgiveness and grace, but if we do not receive it, we do not enjoy it.

His heart is not my responsibility.  Mine is to offer forgiveness, and to deal with my sins.

But how?  This man is hard to catch.  Like a minnow, he darts here and there.  Like a house-fly, his attention flits from subject to subject.  I spent two years telling him that when he comes, while he is here, I want ten minutes to talk to him.... but never got it.  He always forgot.  Got too busy.  Just ran out of time.


You know the delight of a great relationship with my husband now?  I can ask his help.  So I did, and we managed to catch the minnow.

It was awkward, but I simply apologized for  my attitude while he was here last and for confronting him on that issue publicly when I should have done it privately.  I think he was shocked.  I think he was even more shocked that I did not confront him more.  I did state that I have been aware of the things he has said over the years and that has made working with him difficult, but that I was wrong to confront him like I did.

It was over in five minutes.  It was relatively painless.... the pain was in dreading it, not doing it! I think I left disappointed in a small way.  If I was writing a book, it would have ended with him apologizing, too, and saying that he was wrong in the things he did.  In restoring the relationship to something beautiful.

But I am not the author of this book.  And this is real life, not a fantasy.

I walk away clean.  How he goes on from here is really none of my business, but belongs to him and God.  Maybe he has dealt with it.  Maybe he hasn't.  It isn't mine to carry.

So, yes, an apology.  You see, I can continue where I am because I am in God's care, not this man's.  I am safe, loved, and do not need to fight every one of my battles to defend me.  God is capable of defending me.  Why He does not seem to have done so in this case puzzles me, but I chose to trust.  I am safe.

Besides, it is God who speaks my value, not man.  I do not need to live the things that have been said about me, not now, not earlier.

The anger went.  My relationship with my husband deepened through this.  And slowly, since that time, there have been those moments where I have seen that those who were on the receiving end of some of those accusations against me do not believe them.  They have gotten to know me.  I am not so defensive now.  Relaxed.  Happier.

I think I am more free.  What this man thinks does not control my thoughts as much.  If he wants to think that, fine.  It doesn't have to chain me down, fill my thoughts, evoke such a response in me.  I am not judged by his words.

Only by God.  Who has declared me loved, delighted in, whole, and beautiful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Late Night Hospitality

He offered to cancel the dinner.  I was fighting off a cold and tired easily.  The house was still in disarray being in the middle of a basement repair job, and the remains of babysitting a friend's toddlers the day before.  I just wanted to crawl back under the covers.

But he had invited them, and they were leaving soon.  He had asked me because he wondered if they needed to talk.

He offered again to cancel the dinner.  I was not looking good.  But I declined.  I am sure we can handle a dinner.  After all, they will leave soon.  The dinner will be, in the typical fashion, after church that evening, so not until at least nine.  They won't stay that long.

So I cooked.  I stayed home from church to reserve my strength, and cooked with my kids.  We had fun - trying a few new dishes.

And then they came.  After dinner, our kids went to bed.  Their child was with friends, so there was no reason to stay up and play.  We settled in to talk.  Small talk... for an hour or so...

We could tell they needed to talk, there were things.  They talked about stress, about needing to rest, struggling to find that...  no definition nor context to the stress.  So we took a gamble, and opened up an area of conversation.

They needed to talk.  Like us, they find themselves in an unique place - mixed marriage, a country foreign to both, working, difficulties, grief... it piles up.  Some things are difficult to talk about to people who do not live the day to day realities of marriages with very different cultures under the stress of 24 hour ministry and small children.

We shared some of our life.  Our near crash as a couple from not seeking help early enough, not knowing how to seek help, and the difficulties of actually finding competent help either on or off the field.  We shared the path we have walked.  There is hope.  There is the ability to speak honestly.  There is a future, still, and hope even though we walk through difficult times.  It is very hard at some times to find what is needed.  Mission groups do not always put a high priority on member care.  Even when they say they do, the process is often so ungainly and very dependent on the person who should arrange it.  Some do it well, and others not.

But there is hope.  The need to find a safe place to talk.  The need to be a safe place for each other.  Things we wish we had known.

It was a good evening.  When we looked at the time, it was near 1 in the morning.  We talked a little more, and then they left.

I woke this morning with a chest cold.  The little sore throat and light fever I had the day before settled into a wheeze deep in my chest.  Breathing is tiring.

I should have gone to bed early yesterday.  I should have rested and canceled the dinner.  But God had some late night hospitality on His agenda.

I don't mind.  I have also been the person keeping someone else up late, late a few nights.  I don't mind.  It is time to pass it on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Incompatabilities - What is my responsibility?

I was not too happy with what I had read in my book late that night.  To have to come face to face with the truth that God, knowing the weakness and faults in the person He chose to put over us, still chose that person to be in authority over us.

I think there has to be a fine line between the "submit to all authority no matter what" which historically has caused much harm in missions and "fight against any authority that does not put your best interests at heart" which would cause chaos and divisions. 

That balance.  It is a tough one - one I think we can only find well as we walk closely with God and lay these situations in front of Him.  I still think some of the things done by my leadership over the last years, and especially during two crisis that we went through, were wrong - very wrong.  I am aware of other situations where this leadership has made other decisions that were wrong that hurt other people.  It is difficult at times.  There have been times we have had to say, "No.  That is not good and we will not do that."  There have been times when we have had to face someone in authority and say, "How you acted in that situation was not right, and you should have considered these factors..."  We have had to speak to those in authority over the ones in charge of us.  These are all appropriate things to do - carefully.  Very carefully.  They have to be done from the right heart and in the right way - first speaking to the individual, and then to others above him - quietly, without gossip.

So, no, I do not believe in blind authority that will allow abuses.

But I also do not believe that every fight against authority is just.

There are some questions to ask:

1.  Is this important?  Is it going to make a difference in the long run?   Is it just something that I could be inconvenienced with today, or is it a long-term issue that I need to address?

2. Is it just about me?  We have an exaggerated defense system when it is all about us.  Or is it an issue if not corrected that will adversely affect others?

3. Is my attitude right?  This is a big one, and the one I think we don't always stop to be honest about before we confront people.

There are times to stand up and say, "no".  There are times, too, I believe when someone else should be standing up and saying no in our behalf.  If we have those people in our lives who can do that, we are blessed.

But back to the truth in the book - that God chose to put this faulty person in charge over us.  It is actually comforting to me to read that throughout the history of missions, people have struggled with this problem.  It is not unique to me.  So, I can assume that God does know what He is doing and is capable of seeing us through it.

(However, that may not prevent me from dancing a happy dance if one person ever gets transferred.)

But until then, my job is to keep my heart right before God in relating to this imperfect person He has chosen to be over me.  sigh....

Because I struggle most on the third question - "Is your heart right?"  I get angry.  What was done was wrong.  Some of it was a very personal attack on me.  It hurt.  It still does.  Thankfully, over the last year, the ones who were on the receiving end of the lies about me have gotten to know me much better and have realized that it was at the least, a very inaccurate view of who I am.  But it still hurts.

It hurt that when I was hurting, I was thrown to the sharks.  That was very painful.

I made a crucial mistake that day.  I confronted this man with his mistakes and wrongs there in front of the group publicly.  I shouldn't have.  The confronting needed to be done, but how and where was wrong.  That led to a huge uproar and a lot of pain.

What is my responsibility?  Not his actions.  Not his response.  Not even his learning process.

My responsibility was to speak the truth (should have done it in more love!), but to clearly speak the truth.  I think to not speak would leave others open to hurt, and my very firm insistence on the truth being heard did protect another friend when she went through something similar, and for that very fact, I am thankful that I did it - even if it was painful.

My responsibility is to speak the truth and to keep my heart right and to continue to honor those GOD has placed in authority over me.

I saw that that evening when I was reading my book.

I would have been just fine then, if one annoying friend had not asked me the awful question, "So when are you going to apologize?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

Ever since I made the International Barbeque back in September, I've been restless with cooking.  Really bored of the same old same old, and wanting to try new things.

Very thankful for the internet which allows me to study recipes and compare them.  When I made the apple jams and apple butter and apple pie filling, I simply looked online and made adjustments according to what I had on me at that time.  The international bbq was the same thing.  I love the internet.

Recently, I was craving some candied orange peels that I had bought on one of my trips to a certain country.  Oh, they were good!  So I searched, and sure enough, there was a recipe.  Yum.

I made them.  Easy recipe with ingredients most people have on hand - oranges and sugar.  Some people like them dipped in dark chocolate coating, but I don't really.  I have never liked the combination of orange and chocolate.

I ate half of them the next day, though....

Today, I wanted to make some gingered pear perserves, but it called for candied ginger.  Candied ginger?  Never heard of it, but following my ease in candying orange peel, I thought I would give it a try.

Also fairly simple.

And oh, did it smell good!  I could not resist, so snuck a spoonful of the simmering gingered syrup.... mmm..

It was then I discovered I had made two things in one.  Candied ginger and a great sore throat soother!  The candied ginger will taste great tomorrow when it dries, but for now, that sweet, very gingery hot syrup is just the thing for soothing this nasty sore throat I have.

I sneeze horribly if I eat mint, so most cough drops do not really soothe anything for me, but this stuff is great!

If you want it, basically simmer cut ginger slices in a 50% sugar and water solution for twenty minutes or so - wow!

I am thinking it will also be a nice syrup to add to tea to make a great flavored ice tea.  Have to try that one tomorrow.... maybe green ice tea, and it would be like that stuff we get back home that my son loves.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Incompatibilities.... and some late night reading.

I knew that he would be coming this fall.  He always does.  My husband and I had an honest talk one day which resulted in me as kindly as possible putting my foot down and refusing that he will ever stay with us.  We used to host him.  As local team leaders, we always hosted the bigger team leader.  I eventually realized that I am under no obligation to do so and that it was not healthy for me.  Instead, I chose my favorites of those coming to host.

But he was coming.  The events of this spring were doubly hard because of the actions of this man, and his reactions to the crisis resulted in us being thrown to the sharks when we were wounded rather than receiving help.  So I knew that facing him this fall was going to be extremely hard. 

I am not a pretender. I detest having to pretend. It is just not me. I am also rarely rude.  I am usually very nice to this person - extremely nice. Why? Because that is who I am - not because he has earned it, but because I chose not to let him dictate to me who I will be.  I refuse to be something I am not just because this person habitually hurts me. But it costs me something.  It is difficult.

That was when I picked up this book, "Born for Battle" by Arthur Matthews. It's a good book, very good.

One night, I took the book to bed, thinking I would reread the first chapter and think through it again. All day, a phrase had been repeating in my head. "Discipline accepted, discipline rejected". I had remembered hearing that phrase a long time go, but could not remember where. As I thumbed through the book in bed, I was really surprised to see the phrase in it. Really?  It was a chapter title.

Ok... there ought to be a point when I just give in and look suspiciously up at God and bluntly ask, "what are You up to?!" Instead, I just flipped to that chapter to see what it said.

I had read this book back in Bible school with my room-mate.  Every night we had read a chapter, discussed it and prayed together.  I saw that parts of this chapter was carefully underlined in pencil.  I guess back then, that section had spoke to us. Not as much as it spoke to me now, twenty years later...

If we want to be used of God year after year in the place of His appointment, then let us welcome the incompatibilities that toughen spiritual temper and at the same time drive us to the resources of the Life that was laid down for us.

I sat staring at the page very quietly. This was the quiet night before the team was all to arrive the next day.

Then I reluctantly flipped back towards the beginning of the chapter. It talked  about Jesus being able to finish His work because He daily accepted discipline.  It talked about not just His death at the end of his life, but His daily accepting to continue without sin and not give in to selfishness.  The dying to Himself.

"To have relinquished this dying at any point in favor of some escape scheme would have forfeited for Him the right to claim Mission Accomplished."

hmpf.  It did not quit there...  

"The one who will go through to the end with steady pace is the one who accepts the daily discipline of dying, choosing to renounce and repudiate the competitive voice of self. This is what God seeks from those who serve Him."

hmpf.  I kept reading.... a little annoyed, but very, very quiet.. why does He have to be talking about this right now, right now when this man is coming and I can't stand him because he has done wrong which has hurt me?

"...God sends discipline into our lives. It is here that things seem altogether awry. Why does God have to mediate His disciplines through the clumsy and unsympathetic hands of those we dislike and despise and whose authority we resent? We need discipline, granted - but why cannot it be delivered through acceptable channels?"

ugh. Ok. There are times there is not much you can say in answer.... other than, I am wrong.  I am seeing this as an "all his problem" type of thing... and it is not to say that he is without fault.... but I am looking at it skewed.  I can also look at it as these are the circumstances that God has chosen to put me into.

I have been struggling with God about why He allows this hurt... and can't get past the basic fact that everything that people do that affects me, God knows about it. He could stop it, and He doesn't. And that brings me back to the basic fact that I have to trust God, even when He allows things that I don't like. I had even blogged about Andrew Murray's four stones: .. "in time of trouble, I can say I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, for His purposes, for His time".... this....

Straight in my face...even clumsy, despised leader.... even that...

I chose to accept God's sovereignty and acknowledge that in allowing me to go through this, He allowed it for my good, and has purpose in it... Even in this.

Ugh. I did not really like where this late night conversation with God was leading because it led me flat out to a place where I had to accept what hurt me and to continue to live honorably before God accepting both that He put this man in leadership over us with all his faults and He allowed him to act like this in this time....

which then leads me pretty quickly to the place where I have to say that I am wrong - my attitude and my feelings and thoughts towards him are wrong.

Which I knew.

There is a small part of me that protested and says that wrong is still wrong. That struggling with the balance of defending myself and not... But when I view it from the angle that God is fully in charge and is allowing this for good in my life, it is different.  It is different than not defending yourself because you don't think you are worth it. It is not defending yourself because you know you are worth the intimate and detailed care of God... that what He is allowing is purposed for good, for discipline, for my good. It is the difference between saying "I don't deserve better" and saying "I know I can trust because You deeply care". So the protest is small because I know I am wrong, and two wrongs don't make something right.


Because in the end, the only behavior I am responsible for is my own. And I am responsible for my own behavior.

Incompatibilities..... Is there any answer?

If you've been around reading my blog for awhile, then it is no secret that I struggle to get along with some people in our team.  One person, mostly.  In fact, I wonder at times if God derives some odd delight in putting incompatible people together on teams?  (Just kidding..!)

It has made life difficult.  It would be difficult in the best of situations, but in times of trouble, it becomes more difficult.

It's been difficult as we struggled through troubles in our marriage.

It's been difficult as we've struggled through relocations and threats of relocations.

It's been difficult as we faced a crisis in our work involving our family.

I wrestle with my attitude and knowing how to respond at times.  I do believe this person loves God and has a heart to do right.  It seems, though, that he lacks some skills or an ability to see, perhaps intuition.  I think the only thing worse than people who have problems seeing is people who have problems seeing who think they don't.

I lived once in a place where horse carts were a common means of transportation.  To prevent the horses from spooking in the busy city traffic, they wore blinders on the sides of their eyes.  This allowed them very good vision in the direction they were going, but a total lack of peripheral vision.

This person is a lot like that.  What he is good at and what he sees, he does with the utmost attention to detail and insight.  It is just where he does not see that he is clumsy.

I live in this man's peripheral vision - not in the direction he is going, but attached, along the side of.  As a result, I get banged around and stepped on often enough.

It doesn't really matter how much a horse intended or didn't intend to step on your foot - it still hurts.  Intended or not, the pain that has been caused is very real.  And it has gone on for years, over and over and over.

There have been some things that were careless.  There have been some things that were insensitive.  Those are difficult, but perhaps if it had stopped there, I would be managing.  But there have been some things that are incomprehensible.  Things said about me that have attacked publicly my character, sanity, and honesty.  Those are the most hurtful.

I've cried this through often enough with God, asking for a solution, a resolution, a transfer from out from under this person, but God has been silent.  I really do seek to live at peace, to go on despite it, to show love, to serve, and for the most part, I do well enough... but it is my heart that is harder to manage.  The hurt.  The pain.  The constantness of it.  The resentment.  The very fact that these wrongs go on, year after year, unsettled, open, wounds.

How do you offer forgiveness that is never asked for?  Even harder, when what was done and said is justified?  When the public accusation of my character remains without retraction, even though time has proved that it was wrong?  I don't really have the answers to these questions.

It has been a topic that I bring up again and again with God.  Asking for answers here.  Wrestling with the issues of obedience, respect, love, unity, hurt, boundaries, honor, grace, and forgiveness.

Just when I think I've got it settled, he comes by again.  (I guess I can be thankful that he does not live here with our smaller team, but only visits several times a year.)  Then out pours the emotions again.  And I am back to looking up desperately to the God that placed this man in our lives over us and asking for strength, wisdom, and grace.  And quietly, quietly begging my Father to come to my defense, to lift my head, to be my glory in all that has been hurled against me.  Asking for strength to again show love and service.  For comfort for the tears in the night, the pain of arrow wounds from my own side.

This fall, he came by again...  and God had some new lessons for me to learn.

What Do You DO?

Do you ever cringe when people ask you that question?  As a missionary mom?

What do we do?  I still believe my primary responsibility is to be a mom.  Of course, I do other things, too.

But people want a nice packaged answer.

I have one for my husband.  He has a defined job.  I can say, "He does......... "

But what do I do?  Well... I am tempted to say "I am a filler of holes."  That is what I do.  My daily tasks may be very different, but basically, I fill holes.  Where someone is missing, I fill in.  Where something lacks, I fill in.

If I sit down and list all the things I do, people's eyes widen and they say, "Wow, you are a busy woman!"  But I am not - well, not that much.  Not continually.  I just have a wide variety of very part time duties.

Today, for example...

I am a wife and a mom.  I got four kids and one husband off to work and school.

I am a cleaning lady.  I stopped at the school and helped clean out some shelves in the kitchen, and noticed the little oven desperately needed cleaning.  I guess the cleaning staff over look that... so I cleaned an oven.

I am a secretary.  I organized letters and filed away ones to respond to.  Desperately need to get a new prayer letter out.

I am a cook.  I planned supper and pulled out what I need to cook.  Trying to plan a menu and try some new foods recently.  (Of all the things I miss most about being "over there", it is having someone to do most of this job for me.  I am a good enough cook, but it is just not the job I love on a daily basis.)

I am a dictionary.  I answered two phone calls on how to spell words.... as the only native English speaker on our team, I get the job of being the resident dictionary, grammar textbook, and even at times, concordance....  I got woken up groggily after working a night shift once to be asked "When was Moses with seventy elders on  mountain?"  Huh?  Pop quiz time?

I do construction.  Our basement leak is finally fixed, so it was time to plaster the seams in the repaired wall.  I pulled out the tools and set to work.

I am a teacher.  I am about to head off to teach math.  I love teaching kids.

I am a demolition expert.  :)  Today, we need to head over to a friend's house to destroy some very old, huge piece of furniture that can not be moved out without being at least taken apart.

That is today.  Tomorrow, I may be something else.  Where there is a job with no one to do it, that is where I get put.  Like plaster - I am a filler of holes.  Which is just perfect for my slightly ADD personality.  I think God knew slapping me in one role would frustrate me.

How about you?  What do you do?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No Greater Joy...

I was thinking of this verse today as I was teaching math...

Now, I know it wasn't exactly meant for this situation, but still. "I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4) This year, I have a graphic example of that verse almost daily, and it brings a smile to my face.

I've been faithfully teaching Kayla for almost three years now. Day after day we slogged through math. Day after day through the same basics, over and over. Trying to simplify math...

"Kayla, there are only four ways to solve a problem - you can add, subtract, multiply, or divide. All you need to do is figure out which one."

"So, are you talking about parts and wholes here or about groups? Every question will talk about one of those two. Start there: Parts and wholes? Or groups?"

Over and over the basics we went. She made progress, but it was slow and tedious. We learned fractions, measurements, and geometry also, but still slogged daily through the basics.

Then came this year. This year, we did some review without a calculator in the beginning. (We had decided last year that if she was competent to figure out WHAT she was supposed to be doing with a word problem, we had no problem with her using the calculator to get the right answer. More important was her understanding how you found the answer - not the actual calculation with paper and pencil.)

But this year, I decided we would do the basic review without a calculator. She should learn how to do simple multiplication and division without a calculator. I grit my teeth and settled down for a very long and tedious week going over the basics yet again. And I gave her a problem like this:


Then set about it. She multiplied the four times the 345 without difficulty, and then began on the 2, but I stopped her and asked, "What do you have to do first?" She paused and said, "Oh wait! I think I know! Don't tell me, don't tell me!... umm.... um... OH! I have to add a zero first!"

I was amazed, and said, "Yes! Do you know why?" Then my mouth fell open in shock even more when she said, "Oh, oh, because I am multiplying by 20 and not by 2, so it is a tens place!" You could have almost picked me up off the floor when the next question I gave her was multiplying 532 x 285 and she said when she got to multiplying the 2, "Ok, now I have to add two zeros since I am multiplying by a hundred."

You seriously could have scraped me off the floor with a spatula at that point! If you knew how many times we went over these basic ideas with no comprehension for two years, and then she waltzes in at the beginning of this year and just says, "Oh! Oh! I think I know!"

We went on to long division - which she hated, like all kids, but she managed. Now we are finding the greatest common factor and simplifying fractions before multiplying them together, and she is going on. When I began teaching her two and a half years ago, she was at least three years behind. Now she is neck and neck with her sister who is one year behind her, and I would almost say she is catching on faster than her sister.

I stand back in awe. And I come away smiling, tears of joy in my eyes. She is doing well! After all that work, she is doing well! (I don't claim the credit for it, no more than just for sticking to it - I think this year her brain has begun to grow and she is more capable than she ever was. I saw that in my oldest and his spelling ability at that age.) So I am full of hope for her. And joy. It is a delight to watch her work.

And every day, when I walk away from teaching with a great sense of joy, I think of this verse... "I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth."

Imagine if God thinks this way of us. Instead of looking at us and thinking, "How many times have I told you that, and you are just beginning to get it! What is wrong with you?!" He thinks, "I am delighted. It was worth it all."

In all honesty, Kayla is still behind. Realistically, she should never become a math scholar. There are days her mind still goes blank and we are back at asking, "Is it talking about parts and wholes or groups?" But she IS learning, and she IS getting it. And that thrills me.

Maybe God is so thrilled with me. Even when I am slow.

I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Monday, November 1, 2010

If Only....

Number Three was watching an ad on the computer with me before a show. The ad was for So You Think You Can Dance.

His comment?

"I think that would be a nice show to watch if only the people would dress appropriately."

Yeah... well...

Number Two was driving home from school with me, and I hadn't eaten all day, so my tummy was grumbling very, very loudly.

His comment?

"You could probably call dolphins with that noise."

Yeah... thanks...