Thursday, December 7, 2017

A really good God story with a hefty bit of TMI

I'll warn you now- this post may be a bit TMI for you. I am so in awe of how good God is and that's what this story is primarily about. But it's also about lady bits. So, read on at your own risk.

My TMI story happened yesterday. It was a normal day. I'd started my period a couple days before (see, told you. It's a story about lady bits) it was totally normal. And just like every other morning, I got ready to run after dropping Isaiah off at school.

The run was great. I'd had a lot on my mind and after 30 minutes of easy jogging, felt a big mental relief. "Wow, I'm so sweaty!" I thought as I finished up, but I wasn't sure why. It was hot, but not overly hot.

By the time I got home I felt even sweatier and after trying to cool off a bit decided to have a shower. Undressing in the bathroom I realized it wasn't sweat, it was blood. In the shower there was a whooshing feeling and I thought a tap must have turned on in my body. The bleeding didn't stop and it didn't slow. I was scared.

I sent my doctor friend a message letting her know what was happening and that, "I'm not sure if it's ok or not." She called me back an hour later she said, "It's not ok. You should have called me. I'm coming now."

Waiting at home, I felt alone and very scared. Ben was out flying and we have a deal - I will not contact him when he is flying. A worried and distracted pilot is a dangerous pilot. Any news can wait until he has arrived back in Wamena.

I started google earth to track his flight and saw the helicopter on the ground in Senggi. He was nowhere near Wamena. Would he make it home today or have to overnight in a village? I sat down and sobbed. I felt so weak and tired. What if the bleeding didn't stop? How could I take care of Isaiah? How could I take care of myself?

15 minutes later my friend was at my home with medicine to stop the bleeding and an ultrasound machine to make sure nothing more serious was going on. "Take two of these." she said handing me the pills and a cup of water. She did an ultra sound check, detecting nothing out of the ordinary. "Sometimes this just happens." she explained. And seeing how tired and emotional I was followed up with, "I don't want to leave you just yet. Let's have a cup of tea."

The medicine began to take effect and I slowly started to feel a little better. By the bottom of my cup of tea, I'd even managed to laugh a bit.

Having a medical emergency here is one of my greatest fears. Yesterday it happened. And you know what? God knew. My friend had only received the medicine I would need the day before. Yes: ONE DAY BEFORE.

The medicine was there and ready just at exactly the right time.

And my doctor friend could come right away to help.

And she didn't leave me, but stayed to make sure I would be ok.

And another friend picked Isaiah up from school and looked after him until dinner time.

And Ben made it back.

I can't tell you what this does to my heart. It's humbling and encouraging and overwhelming to think about. I was scared, but I was also cared for.

I am ok. Absolutely ok. And absolutely in awe of God's provision and tenderness towards me. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

No Safe Places

About this time last year, we fired one of our guards. The relationship quickly deteriorated and after weeks of threats to our family, we ended up paying him a large sum of money on the condition he sign a letter stating he would stop harassing us and the others who work for us. It was all a big mess, extremely hurtful, and a hugely stressful.

Coming back from furlough, I hoped I wouldn’t see him. Maybe he would think we’d left for good and would stop coming by our house? Maybe we could live peacefully this next term? But Wamena is a small town. I was sure at some point word would get out that we were back, or perhaps I’d run into him in town somewhere. I prepared for both scenarios.

Here in Wamena I don’t feel safe a lot of the time. It’s not that we’re under some kind of immediate threat, it’s just that over last term we had so many things happen that I tend to stay constantly on alert. I never know when something bad will happen again.

But there is one place in town were we could go and always feel safe. Nothing bad seemed to ever happen there. I enjoyed the reprieve and could let down my guard. 
One morning last week I went to visit my safe place. As I came around the corner on my bike, there was our old guard! My heart beat wildly – what was he doing here? How could this happen? This is my safe place!!!

Earlier that morning I’d read and highlighted a section in my Experiencing God devotional book, “Your opponent’s hostility is your invitation to become involved in God’s redemptive work to free him or her from spiritual bondage. Be alert to the spiritual warfare around you. It is real and potentially destructive to you and those you care about. Knowing your real foe will protect you from bitterness and unforgiveness. Your hope lies in the reality that “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4.4) Do not place your hope in humanity, but steadfastly trust in the One who has already defeated your enemy.” 

While the panic rose in my chest, the morning’s devotional came flooding back. He is not the real enemy. Fight the real enemy.

I came home and cried. This is so hard, Lord! It’s not fair that he’s in my one safe place! I have no more safe places! This is so hard and so unfair!

Honestly, it sucks. The whole entire things sucks a lot. I’ve seen him again several times and while our exchanges have been cordial, I wonder just how long it will take him to turn on us. 

Sometimes it is so very difficult to see the real enemy. 

This morning I read in 2 Corinthians 2 were Paul urges the believers to forgive someone who deeply hurt them. He urges the believers to forgive “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant to his designs.”

So I fight to forgive. It’s not easy. I’d rather bury the past and all the hurt. I’d rather not risk seeing someone who could hurt us again. I’d rather have my safe place back.

But then God’s like, “This was never your safe place anyway. It’s always been me.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Back in Wamena: Live the Life

Last term, one of my main struggles was comparison. It is so tempting to look around at all the other women here and think, “They do this life better than me!” And once you start on that downward spiral, defeat, discouragement, and depression are not far behind.  Comparing yourself to everyone around you makes this life though.

When we left the field 7 months ago, I was hurting too deeply to even begin sorting through these wrong feelings and searching for truth. Thank God for furlough! It’s amazing what debriefing, rest, and a determination to sort through lies and replace them with the truth will do for you.

This morning, on day 3 back in Wamena, I opened my bible and read in 1 Cor 7:17, “Only let each person lead the life the Lord has assigned to him, to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

There it was, right at the beginning of this next term on the field, the reminder to simply live the life I have.

What does this life look like?

It looks like compassionate parenting.

It looks like a healthy marriage.

It looks like writing.

It looks like loving my neighbors.

It looks like wrapping my heart’s deepest affections around Jesus.

That’s a life I love. That’s a life I can live with joy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Remember to Drink

“Remember to drink.” Dad said, “If you’re thirsty, it’s too late. Your body is already dehydrated.”

I was almost 12 years old. Dad, my 10 year old brother, and I were training for the MS 150, a two day/180 mile charity bike race from Houston to Austin. As the Texas heat bore down that training day, Dad reminded us to take in a constant flow of water. If we neglected a steady intake we wouldn’t make the 40 mile ride, we’d wear-out. Or worse, heat stroke may set it.

23 years later, I moved to Indonesia for a first term of service with our aviation ministry. I was excited! After almost a decade of my husband training and building experience, we finally arrived. I so badly wanted to do this whole missions thing right. I’d certainly made up my mind about the kind of missionary I didn’t want to be.

I didn’t want to live in a missionary/expat relationship bubble. I wanted real and meaningful relationships with the people we came to serve as the bulk of my friendships. After all, I thought, we moved overseas for them, not for other missionaries.

The missionary community in language school town is quite large. Early on we attended a Friday night social at the international school and were overwhelmed by the number of missionary families. There must have been 200 people. I felt like bolting from my seat and determined never to go back.

Language school began and I made many friends, none of them other missionaries. My local friends were wonderful. Through elaborate hand gestures and minimal language abilities, they included me in everything. I made it through language school mostly due to their love, encouragement, and friendship.

I was happily turning into the missionary I wanted to be – immersed in local culture and friendships. Besides, I thought, I have Jesus. I don’t need other missionaries. 

Then I got sick. Really sick. I needed someone I could clearly explain my symptoms to in my own language. I needed the missionary doctor in town. I needed the missionary clinic at the international school. 

Then I made a huge cultural blunder. I needed long term missionaries who understood more of the culture than I did. I needed people who could help me navigate through the mess because they also understood my cultural lens.

Then the strain of cultural adjustment began to tear at the seams of my marriage. I needed someone who understood culture shock. I needed someone I could confide in.

By the time we completed language school and moved to our assigned town, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I needed relationships with people who understood what I was going through and I needed them immediately.

Shortly after we arrived in our new town the missionary community experienced a crisis and turned inward. Deeply wounded, no one had the emotional capacity to begin a new friendship - especially not one with someone also hurting and worn-out.

I was desperately thirsty. My body, mind, and emotions already parched, I needed relationships now. I'd been peddling flat out, but not drinking. I’d left it too late.

Fast forward another year. Our community is healing and so am I. A steady commitment to relationships with other missionaries is an important part of my life. I understand now that these relationships don’t hinder my service – they enable me to keep on serving.

"Remember to drink." Dad said. "If you’re thirsty, it’s already too late."

My thirsty soul needs a steady, daily, deep drink-in of Jesus. That’s for sure - a total given. But I also need a steady intake of community. 

After all, Jesus himself didn’t go it alone. He had team. Imperfect as it was, Jesus chose community. 

Like a healthy intake of water, a healthy balance of relationships won’t slow us down. It keeps us in the race.

Friends, it’s a hot day and we’ve got a long ride ahead. Remember to drink. 

This post is a link-up with Velvet Ashes.
Read more thoughts on this week's writing prompt "Thirsty" here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sometimes Ministry Sucks: Theology For Wounded Hearts

I can count exactly four lightning bolt moments in my life and this is one of them. The kind of moment when all the theology running circles around your head finally collides and truth explodes in your heart. A sudden paradigm shift presenting a simple choice, continue to live and minister the way you always have or step out into a whole new reality.

The leader divided up teenagers into groups. I, a brand new camp helper, had arrived high on expectations. “You three go with Miss Anisha” the leader called out and I smiled across the room at my little group.

At once, all three girls threw back their heads and with pouty scrunched up faces and stomping feet protested, “No! We don’t want to go with her! Don’t make us! It’s not fair! We don’t like her!”

Heat rose quickly on my insides. What?! They don’t like me? This is crazy! What little brats! They haven’t even met me yet! I’ve given up my time to be here and help these teens and this is the greeting I get! The nerve!

Then I heard it. Cutting straight through the girls’ outward protests and my inward rant came these calm, steady words, “I didn’t ask you to love them because they would like you. I asked you to love them because I love them.”

That instant everything about the way I approached ministry changed.

In a poorly lit church hall, I saw with new eyes. I have a divine invitation to love not because I will be loved in return, but because God, who is the embodiment of love itself, has fully loved me and is looking for people to love the world through.

The implications of this truth are huge.

Because God loves, I can…

Respond with grace and reason when treated harshly.

Continue to pursue relationships with those who are not easily likeable.

Let go of my expectations of how ministry should be done.

Submit to decisions by leadership that I don’t like, see a reason for, or agree with.

Speak up truthfully and graciously.

Work through disagreements with kindness and respect.

Honour my side of a commitment even if the other side doesn’t honour theirs.

Refuse to take up offence.

Live in community.

Serve without fear.

Don’t hear me wrong, I don’t like to be mistreated. I certainly do not purposefully seek out harmful relationships. I’m also not saying that in the name of love we live passive lives towards those that hurt us.

I am saying this: Ministry is filled with painful relationships and situations but these need not derail, discourage, or destroy us because the reality, not just theology, of who we are is rooted in Christ’s love. It is precisely this love that leads us to actively and effectively engage in life and ministry.  

Remember when Jesus told the parable about the vine and branches[1]? He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

To put it another way Jesus is like, Hey look, let’s think of life this way. Imagine I am a vine and you are the vine tendrels. If you didn’t belong on the vine the Gardner, God, would have already pruned you away. The fact is you do belong, I’ve already cleaned you up with my words. Now bear fruit, live in a way that the world knows you are connected to the vine. You can’t do it on your own, it’s impossible. So remember who you are connected to. Remember your source. 

Consider the Apostle Paul who penned these heart-breaking words to the church in Corinth, “If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?”[2] Paul poured out his life and heart in ministry for this church only to later have to defend his integrity to them. This in addition to all the persecution he endured. Talk about hurtful. Paul’s explanation of how he can continue to live, suffer, and minister comes together in one simple phrase, “For the love of Christ controls us”[3].

Recently I was let down by someone who I had been loving and mentoring over the last 8 months. It hurt and I’m sad about it, but this truth of being loved by God and from there reaching out to love others propels me forward.  

I have the ability to walk in love, real tangible practical love, not because it’s the natural thing to do or because I will be loved in return, but because Jesus loves and my life is wrapped up by His.

“Eyes on Christ.” a friend and church elder would say every time we met. Really, no matter what life and ministry may bring, that’s the point of it all, isn’t it?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9

[1] John 15:1-11
[2] 2 Cor 12:15
[3] 2 Cor 5:14