It’s Okay

How do you feel right now? What is going through your mind? How are your heart and soul? What has this season of life been like for you? Do you feel like your answers to any of those questions aren’t okay to have?

I feel like there’s trend and pressure to be happy all the time. We should be in relationships that make us happy. We should have jobs that make us happy. We should only post positive, upbeat, happy things on social media and if we don’t, there’s something seriously wrong with us. We should do activities that makes us happy and only be around people who make us happy. You know what?

Sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I’m lonely and feel isolated. Sometimes I’m sick. Sometimes I feel weariness in my soul and heaviness in my heart. Sometimes I’m just not happy. Sometimes I’m not “good.” Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I do things that aren’t fun or easy. And that’s okay. 

I may have missed it while reading my Bible-I don’t know of a verse that says we have to be happy all the time.  A children’s Sunday school song that’s a little off theologically-yes, scripture-not so much. Yes, there are verses about being joyful or cheerful.  There are also verses promising us difficulty, pain, and trials.  Why do we feel such a need to ignore what those difficulties, pains, and trials do to us? Why the pressure to focus so much on the joy in the morning when the sorrow and mourning of the night is a blessing?

Life on the field has been hard.  I won’t put any “buts” with that or qualify that statement. I don’t need to. The truth is that it has been hard.  Some stretches have been harder than others. We have certainly had our joys and times of happiness. We have had stretches that are easier than others.  As we’ve learned and grown and gone through transition after transition (the consistent inconsistency can feel both adventurous and grueling at the same time) our lives have certainly morphed.  No matter how long we do this, no matter how much we figure out, we will always have difficult times. We will always have lots of transition, grief, and loss in our lives.  We will have seasons that aren’t as smooth and easy to get through. And that’s okay.

The last eight months have been tumultuous for me. And that’s okay. Sure, my preference would have been an easier pregnancy, clear skies, no illness, a consistent travel schedule for Toffer, a great handle on homeschooling two kids while caring for two others, having everything clearly mapped out about who my kids are and what their needs are and how those can easily be met, more frequent rains for our house to be cooler, having two cars, getting to regularly see friends and have actual adult conversations, and so on and so forth. That’s not reality. And that’s okay. It. Is. O.K. 

I don’t say all of this for sympathy or to be cheered up. In fact, I say it all with the hope of normalizing feelings, emotions, etc. that aren’t happiness.  Instead of wanting to cheer up someone who is hurting or lonely or sad, allow them to feel that way. Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died even though He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He expressed where He was in that moment and it was okay. Jesus wept. Period. He didn’t weep, but… He wept. That was it, in that moment.

Some seasons are just not as full of rainbows and lollipops and Skip to My Lou. Some seasons are more tiring, more lonely, more difficult. God has not left my side. He has not forgotten or forsaken me. He is near me in my broken moments. He catches my tears.  He has also seen all my smiles and heard all the laughter in our house and brought joy.  He knows what this season has looked like in our house and for me personally. He knows the paradoxes, mixed feelings, bittersweet moments, ups and downs. He’s seen all of it and understands the complexities of who I am better than anyone. He can take me at face value better than anyone else when I say, “It’s okay.”

In Process

I like Thanksgiving. I like that it falls shortly before Advent and if we really appreciate the holiday for what it is, it puts our hearts in a grateful place before beginning the weeks of anticipation leading up to Christmas.  I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for the past week or so, though honestly, my heart and mind have been in some turmoil and I know I haven’t been as focused on what I’m grateful for as I could, or should, have been. In knowing that, I am reminded what I am very grateful for this year: We are always in process.  I am a person in process.

I’m so grateful that God sent a Savior, whose birth we will joyously celebrate in 26 days, to provide the ultimate change in our lives: sinner to saint.  It’s a process to truly understand we are sinners, to make the choice to repent and put faith in Christ, and then the sanctification process that begins with salvation and ends with our natural death.  The length of each part of that process is different for everyone. I’m thankful God doesn’t give up on us.

I’m thankful God’s time table is not restricted to our timing. Granted, there are times it’s frustrates me that God has done something faster than I want or not nearly fast enough or not even at all.  In hindsight I have usually seen why God has done what He’s done when He’s done it.  His time table being different than ours brings a peace to me, too.  I don’t have to panic that something hasn’t happened in my timing because how things ultimately play out is in His.

I’m thankful that as God has brought me through the process of life that He’s put such a wide variety of people in my life for a wide variety of reasons.  Some relationships are healthier than others. I’m thankful some of the healthier relationships I have are with the main man and four little misters that I share a house and adventure with through life.  Toffer and I are very well-suited for each other and I have such cool kids. I’m thankful that one day God will make any less-than-healthy relationships whole and reconciled in heaven, if not on earth.  Relationships are in process just as much as individual people.

I’m thankful for the various processes it took to get back to the field.  We had to go through the process of raising more financial support, more prayer team members, sorting out visas (a process that is seemingly never-ending for those of us who live abroad), and so on and so forth. Working through all of those things grew our faith and trust in God and His plans.  We worked and waited and saw God move.  I’m thankful God worked everything out for us to continue living where we had been.

I’m thankful for where God put us in the world and how we’ve learned so much more about this world because of it. I’m thankful for the ways God has challenged me as I’ve watched so many heartbreaking events unfold, but also seen how His hand has been in them. I’m particularly thankful He’s pushed me to look at the people, not at the events themselves, and how that has changed how I react when I see something.  I know God is moving even when things seems dark and desperate.

I’m thankful for tears and laughter and myriad facial expressions and all the emotions that go with those. As we go through life we do have ways to express what’s going on in our hearts and minds.  Learning to express these things in good, healthy ways is part of the process, too.  I pray I do it well more often than not.

I’m thankful most of all that God is always with me. God always loves me. He will never leave or forsake me. He will never give up on me. He will never say enough is enough. And as much as that is true for me, it’s true for every other person, too. I know I can look anyone in the world in the face and say, ” God loves you” and know that I am speaking truth to them.  That is something for which we can all be grateful.

Wu, Lima, Five

I often hear people counting to four as I’m out and about with our boys.  I’ve learned to count to four in several languages now and will soon be hearing a new number-five. Instead of hearing just yi, er, san, si or satu, dua, tiga, empat or one, two, three, four, I’ll hear a wu, lima, or five at the end of the string of numbers.  Each of those numbers is one of my kids and in a little less than four months my fifth will be born and get added to the mix.  Sometimes I’m asked if they’re all mine, which does not offend me as I know locals and ex-pats alike who sometimes have other people’s children with them.  And there’s usually a confirmation that all the littles with me are indeed boys.  Dress for very young children can be nebulous, so again, this question doesn’t bother me.

Then comes the best part.  The person who has counted and asked a few questions says the phrase

You are so lucky! 

Oh me, oh my, that makes my heart swell!  I hear this at least once a week when I’m out and about with my boys. And my boys get to hear it, too!  They hear other people say how lucky their Mama is to have them in her life instead of hearing her asked questions as if ignorance, stupidity, and a lack of pattern recognition resulted in her socially unacceptable number of children spaced a socially unacceptable number of months apart.

I usually say that I am indeed lucky and try to also say that these little boys in tow were gifts from God, something the person I’m talking to may not have heard someone say before. We live in a multi-cultural place were most of the cultures have deep-seated superstitious beliefs where everything seems to have good or bad luck.  So someone telling me I’m lucky isn’t just an off-hand comment-it means something to them to be lucky. I pray it means something that I attribute what they see as lucky back to the God who gave me these gifts.

These children are gifts. I do not at all take lightly the fact that God has given me the great privilege, the holy and amazing experience, of being pregnant and parenting these children.  Each child with his own unique appearance, personality, interests, quirks, and challenges. This child I carry is also a unique individual who we will meet in the not-so-distant future.  We don’t know how in the world we’re going to parent five kids. When people ask how I stay home with four kids and homeschool all I can say is, “By the grace of God!” and I absolutely mean it!! I just do what I have to do and God gives me everything I need to do it. I know He will do the same with five little ones in tow.

And I know as I go about in our community that I’ll hear that additional number as people count the little lives God has put into Toffer’s and my care.  Then I hear those great words, “You are so lucky!”

Year Four: ?????

A few weeks ago we celebrated four years since our move to Asia. I’ve been trying to write something since then and have had trouble gathering together our year into something that makes sense. Honestly, this past year was really weird.  We spent the first half of our fourth year in the U.S. for our first home assignment, then returned to spend the second half in Asia.  Our time in the U.S. was very nomadic- we just had much fancier digs than a yurt.

I can’t neatly wrap this year up and tuck it away in a box on the shelf. It feels so fragmented and unusual, even for our consistently inconsistent life.  Right now I’m very much feeling the inconclusiveness with which we all live, knowingly or not.  God certainly brought conclusion to some things, like where we would be living.  On its own, that ordeal was 10 months beginning to end.  We were thankful for an end and thankful God made a way for us to continue where we have been living.

We’ve had a lot of unknowns and changes come into our lives personally, work-wise, with government issues/instability/volatility where we live and several places we work, with human rights issues in the region and the list goes on and on. So much of it is very complicated and strange.  We feel like we don’t have a voice or a way to enact change in a lot of it.  Of course, we know a great God who sees and knows so much more about all of it than we do.  We have certainly brought these things to Him in prayer.  And we will continue on with life while waiting to see how things unfold and what becomes known of the unknowns.

Our return from the U.S. made me once again very much aware of the spiritual darkness that surrounds us.  The darkness can feel very heavy and burdensome at times, particularly to me with the gifts and sensitivities God has given me. It’s a reminder how vital the role God has placed me in to be present in our community so I may reflect the Son’s light in our daily lives.  God has been gracious to show me seemingly quiet and subtle ways He uses me where we live.

This year, unlike our others on the field, we had an opportunity to miss our Asian home.  We were more aware than ever before that no matter where we are in the world, we are always missing someone and we are always being missed. It’s wonderful to have people in so many places that have become part of our “village.”  It’s hard that our village will never all be in one place this side of heaven.  One of many paradoxes that come with this life.

God has worked in our lives this year.  We have these lives, these paths we’re on.  So much of what comes on the path ahead of us is a mystery. We serve and love a mysterious God, so our paths being mysterious seems fitting. We know the path for our natural lives ends in physical death and for our spiritual lives we have assurance of eternal life through Christ.  I feel like what happens from now until then is rather blurry.  God has blessed me this year by giving me weaknesses, taking things away for which I mourned, putting obstacles in my path, and challenging me with difficult decisions.  I know these blessings have helped shape me for what is to come.

I don’t know what I will be saying this time next year.  Maybe our lives will be more just consistently inconsistent without as much instability and maybe slightly fewer unknowns. Or maybe everything will seem to have completely fallen apart. I don’t know. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay not have a “but….” about it all. It’s okay to just say that I know God loves me and He is present with me and leave it at that.

With Open Hands

Last week as I held and prayed for my favorite Daniel, who was in the hospital with a mystery illness, God reminded me of something I’ve been pondering a lot since we returned to the field-living our lives with open hands. I could absolutely hold my little mister in my arms, but his life needed to be held in God’s hands. I can care for him and pray for him, but ultimately what happens with his life is up to God.  It’s true of our whole family-our lives are not, cannot, be in our hands; they must be in God’s. Our. Lives. Must. Be. In. God’s. Hands.

We’ve become much more comfortable with our own mortality and that of our children. Some people might see that as callous or untrusting. We know what the world we live in is like. We know what the medical care is like. We know how lacking the response is with emergency services.  We also know God is sovereign and what will be, will be.

My first major opportunity to open my hands wide was when I sent Toffer off to Nepal just a few days after the earthquake. I was never more proud, more excited, nor more terrified to put him on a plane.  I did not know how the trip may change him, or even possibly if he would not return.  We knew in all likelihood he’d come back, but the situation was a little volatile and going to Nepal is dangerous even without strong aftershocks.  He went twice more after that and God saw fit to return him in generally the same condition that he left.  He was there to shine Light when it felt very dark. He. Shined. Light.

Our summer was spent paying WAY more attention to the political situation in multiple countries across the region than seems normal in any circumstance. When it impacts our work, and possibly where we live, we pay a bit of attention.  And we get to have the super fun “What Do We Do If We Have to Leave Quickly” conversation. When said political situations change backup plans, those conversations happen occasionally and bring up a weird set of emotions. We have to hold where we live, how we work, where we work, and so much more with open hands knowing that shifts in each country affect us differently. We were once again reminded that we could just have to walk away. We. Could. Just. Have. To. Walk. Away.

And then what? I don’t know. We spent 10 months last year being nomads with nice digs holding where we would be living with open hands. On Good Friday, with water streaming down the wall and stairs due to busted pipes, we got the email saying we were approved for visas to continue living where we have been living. Those ten months were crazy and stressful, but we knew that God’s plan was better than ours, even if it wasn’t what we wanted.  Whatever God was going to bring our way was best. God’s. Plan. Was. Best.

We have learned that living with open hands and following God’s path can bring great grief, pain, sorrow, and heartache.  God’s path is not easy nor safe.  Oh, but it is rich and beautiful and full of amazing people and things to eat and places to go.  We are surprised, frequently, with good things (so glad we tried Char Kway Teow-yum) and bad things (mice-ew!), but never bored.

We live this extraordinary life and the more we get to see God move and be part of His story, the more we want to stay, the more we want to grow, the more we want to be open so we can go and do and be and eat (food is an important part of our culture). Yes, it means we’ve had kids hospitalized four times while we’ve lived here. But, hey, we made it almost six months back on the field before it happened this time. And God used us. God. Used. Us.

He brought about a conversation between me and our non-believing pediatrician that I’m not sure I could have had any other way. So while it was stressful and uncomfortable and exhausting, it was worth being there at the right time with the right words to speak truth to someone who needed to hear it. And it didn’t hurt that a couple nurses, one who is definitely of a different faith than ours, heard the whole conversation.  The. Whole. Conversation.

To some that might seem like nothing, but these three women may never have witnessed God working like they did that day and have someone point it out.  God was undeniably in that room for those few short minutes. Had we given up years ago and packed it all in, we would have missed the chance to be part of it. God would have worked whether we followed the path He wanted us on or not, but we would have missed out on getting to be part of it. We. Would. Have. Missed. Out.

I don’t want to miss out on God working. I don’t want to miss out on seeing His hand moving, however slightly and gently.  I want to be privy to His work and see with His eyes the world around me.  I cannot hold my life or anything in it too tightly, for in doing that I can’t cling as tightly to Him.  I have to hold my life with open hands and hold on to Him for this wild ride. Hold. On. With. Open. Hands.

 

 

 

All Lives Matter

The constant stream of news from so many different sources can make discerning the truth, the heart of things, difficult.  And it can make getting caught up and unnecessarily involved really easy.  Every day a new reason to be outraged comes across social media feeds.  Stories from across the street and around the world are quickly made visible to us.  It can be very easy to focus on the issues of these stories instead of the people. Each story these days seems to have huge, dramatic implications.  I understand that some really do have huge, dramatic implications, but so many things reported are pretty much just gussied up gossip.  It makes it hard to see truth and, just as importantly, to see the people inside the stories.

Pictures of events come across our screens.  We talk about the issues at hand and look at the pictures without seeming to connect with the fact that they are real people whose lives matter.  And what seems to get lost the most is that at the core every person has the same basic, fundamental need: Jesus.  No need in anyone’s life is more important than the need for Christ’s redemptive love.  We can feed, clothe, and care for people all we want, but if we never tell them about Jesus it doesn’t matter.  We can rail against people and try to stir up hate and fear against them, but that won’t change the situation.

It can be easy to be fearful of the actions of an “enemy” and have that fear turn to hate or at the very least an utter lack of concern for them.  As followers of Christ we have one real enemy: Satan.  Yes, people allow themselves to be used of him, but there is hope for every person on this earth as long as they still live.  From the moment of conception a person is not a lost cause until their last breath has left their body.  What if we started looking at people by their most basic need-whether or not they know Christ? 

It’s easy to distance ourselves by saying, “But so and so did x, y, and z.” And?  Aren’t we all sinners? Don’t we all require the redemptive blood of Christ?  What gives us the right to Christ that others shouldn’t have? If you know and love God someone had to introduce you to Him, had to pray for you, had to care that your most basic need was met. These stories are about people.  Start looking beyond the issues and look for the people.

When a story about a natural disaster comes out, look at the faces in the pictures, think about how their lives have been impacted, pray that this disaster will draw them to the God who loves them.  When stories about horrific events of kidnapping, dismemberment, destruction, and terror from Africa and the Middle East get frequent play on news sites, think not only of the pain of the victims, but also of the perpetrators.  When you read stories of how devastating and pervasive human trafficking is, consider how complicated the issue is and all the many, many people involved that must be hurting and broken on all sides.

What if the traffickers came to Christ and used their routes as ways to spread God’s mercy and love?  What if the people terrorizing so many in Africa and the Middle East came to Christ and went back to the places they destroyed to ask for forgiveness and help rebuild? What if we look at natural disasters as opportunities for Light to shine in places it may not have before? What if we pray for people and think about them as broken human beings in need?

I am not at all saying we shouldn’t stand in solidarity with victims, with those in need who are hurting and helpless. They absolutely need our help and we should do what we can to help them. What I am saying is that they aren’t the only people involved who need help.  We are commanded to take the Gospel to all nations, to all peoples, to care and love those who hurt themselves and others.  God does not discriminate in who He loves.  His love is wide and deep and encompasses so much more than our finite minds.  God’s love is patient and His love is kind. His love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. God’s love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God’s love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, additions and emphases mine)

At the core of all human beings is the most basic and fundamental need that only God can fulfill.  If we seek God and ask Him to give us love like His we are much more likely to see people based on their core need of Christ instead of for the sensationalized news story they may be involved in.  ALL people should have the opportunity to know how this need can be met. ALL. LIVES. MATTER.

An Answer to the Question

What did you learn while you were on home assignment? 

Our director asked us this about 36 hours after we got back to our Asian home.  At the time we were severely jetlagged and my brain was not really processing as well as it does at other times, so I didn’t give much of an answer.  I’ve thought about the question since and I can answer with a little more clarity and thoughtfulness.

I’ll be very honest and say that I went back to the US with an amount of guilt and shame.  I felt like a failure.  I hid those feelings well, the depth of them even from myself to an extent.  Toffer had so much to show for his time on the field. I had what felt like nothing to show for all the prayers, work, tears, blood, and copious amounts of sweat I’d given to our first term.

Our first couple months in the US we were able to lay a little low because we weren’t technically on home assignment.  Toffer kept doing his job, including a return to Asia for two weeks, until our home assignment began in early October.  We started our official time in the US in a healing way.  We went to Colorado to spend a day at our organization’s headquarters, then up the road a short bit to spend a week debriefing with other people in our line of work from a variety of organizations and fields.  God met me there in a powerful way.

He used the other people in our group and our facilitators to speak truth into my life, truth I needed to hear.  While other people might be disappointed by me, God was not disappointed in me. HE saw everything I had poured into our first term. HE saw every tear, every drop of sweat, every single minute we spent at the hospital. HE heard every prayer. HE knew what I had done and HE was not disappointed. HE didn’t tell me to look at the silver linings or the brighter side. HE allowed me to begin to process, to grieve, to get perspective on where I had been and where I was going. HE fought for me. HE was with me. I had space to name my experiences for what they were without judgement or condemnation. I had done nothing wrong and had no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or like God was disappointed in me.  It was freeing and I felt healthier spiritually and emotionally than I had in a long time.

We went from there to Iowa to see family, friends, and supporters. We were in a place that is one of my homes. I have several and keep adding to the list.  We had a lovely week and left Iowa feeling encouraged and built up.  That was the beginning of about five months of church visits and supporter visits and raising insane amounts of support and trying to figure out why in the world America has so many varieties of Cheerios (True Story-I apparently looked so perplexed one day trying to pick out something at the grocery store that a lady told me to just buy one of everything on the shelf in front of me). As we went along doubts of who I am or what I had/hadn’t done crept into my life. God was not impatient with me and kept showing up as I continued to process our time on the field.

We  eventually made it to February and what a month it was. The whole thing was a huge, miraculous blur where God raised up people from all over America to fulfill our significant financial support needs. I spent so much of that month telling God about what we needed and why we needed it and He always responded, “I know. I see. I’m not confused or surprised or unaware.” I became so acutely aware of God’s presence.  All that faith He’d built in me during the previous years, all the times He was there when each day felt like a fog trying to learn to live in a weird place.  That month it all came to a head-I had to trust, I had to realize God was truly present. And He showed up, as He always does.

That month was capped off with a missions conference at a supporting church.  One of the other participants has been in our line of work much longer than we have and he works in caring for the workers in his organization.  We had dinner with him one night and interacted with him on several occasions throughout the weekend.  He told me two things during the weekend that were so helpful. One was telling me that, like my children, I am a third culture kid (which I was also told at debrief, but hadn’t really started processing until I was told again at this conference). The other was telling me that God is so very proud of me.  God put him in my life to encourage me in ways I needed and to give me a solid reminder of how He feels about me before we got back on the plane.  This kind gentleman’s words have come to mind multiple times as we’ve been resettling here.

The question was posed two and a half months ago and as I’ve continued to process, resettle, and move forward I feel like I can give a much better answer than did. These are brief synopsis of deep and ongoing work that God is doing in my life.  Here is the truth God gave me:

God is fully, unconditionally, without fail present in my life and He, a victorious warrior, is for me.
I am a beloved Daughter who brings joy, not disappointment and shame, to the King.

We Still Get On the Plane

Air travel is a big part of our lives.  Toffer always has to fly when he’s going out to the field for work. If our family wants to go more than a few hours away we almost have to fly to get there.  Car travel in Asia just isn’t the same as it is in the western world.  A number of things have happened this year that could make us turn in our frequent flyer cards and walk away from flying and the life we live, but we’ve chosen to still get on the plane.

Not long after Daniel was born flight MH370 disappeared and it’s still not been found.  Actually being in Southeast Asia while the whole thing unfolded was rather surreal.  About that time Toffer was making plans to come back to the US for a conference and training in April. My flesh ached to say “DON’T GO!” but my heart knew he needed to go. He made his reservations as planned so he could still get on the plane.

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Blankets are a must for our boys no matter how long we’ll be in the air.

A few weeks after that we were all traveling as a family and we had the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. Considering I was on my first flight at 7 weeks old and have flown all over the world, that’s saying something.  It was scary and I honestly thought the plane might go down.  We made it through the flight, landed, spent a few days at our destination, and went back to the airport. All of us were nervous, but we still got on the plane.

A week after that terrifying plane ride Toffer’s trip to the US was upon us. I had four little boys, 5, 3, 2, and 6 weeks old at home with me and once again my flesh cried out “DON’T GO!” while my mouth said, “Go. I love you! Don’t do anything stupid!” Had I known what would happen while he was gone I would not have encouraged him to go, but I didn’t know Samuel would get so very, very sick. I didn’t know I would get sick. I didn’t know. So Toffer still got on the plane.

I was a bundle of nerves for the next couple trips Toffer took. I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to have to make the phone calls again that I made to him that week Samuel was in the hospital. I didn’t want to go through something like that alone again.  But I had to choose to put my doubts and fears and reservations aside and Toffer still got on the plane.

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Excited to get up in the air

Then mid-June came and we were informed we would be leaving our Asian home much sooner than planned.  The next few weeks went by in a flurry of packing, planning, and good-byes. It was July and we were on a  flight we didn’t want to take.  We were getting on a plane to take us away from a place that had become home not knowing if we would ever live there again. We still don’t know for sure. We had a very uncertain future and we still got on the plane.

We spent a week in Bangkok with some of our teammates after leaving our Asian home. Part way through that week MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine. That didn’t exactly bring up peaceful feelings for us, especially given that one of our flights to the US was over several countries that aren’t known for their stability. But we had our tickets and we had to come back to the US, so we still got on the plane.

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Our littlest lad on the first leg of four on our journey from our Asian home to Nashville.

About six weeks after our return to the US Toffer was going to return to Asia for a trip that was planned prior to finding out we were leaving Asia early. He was finishing a project he had worked on for over a year and needed to be the one to go. The last time he went to the other side of the world things went very poorly at home. I honestly had nightmares about what could happen this time. I had very conflicted feelings about him getting on that plane, going to the other side of the world, leaving us behind. I’ll also be completely honest and say I was also a wee bit jealous he was getting to go to Asia when the rest of us weren’t, but that’s a different issue. Regardless of my feelings and what I wanted, I knew he needed to go. I knew the project he was finishing was important and he had people depending on him.  He still got on the plane.

This week once again a tragedy has struck an Asian airline, one we’ve flown, as have millions of other people trying to get to get from Point A to Point B without breaking the bank.  We could easily be scared off at this point.  We could choose never to get on an airplane again. We could choose a different life, but we’re not going to.  Our lives are mere dust to begin with. We are mere mortals walking the earth as God calls us to walk.  He has called us to walk our steps in Asia right now. And that brings with it all kinds of perceived risk. What I find more risky than flying airlines with fatal crashes this year or having my husband travel to the ends of the earth is not following God’s plan.  Too many other mortals walking this earth have never heard about God’s love for them, the truth of who He is and what He has done for them. It’s too risky to sit by while they walk around oblivious. So we take the risks. We still get on the plane.

 

The Wonder of It All

I actually DID yell last night. Not at someone else-I was all alone in the car. I yelled out of joy and excitement and relief and just because I could. And then I cried. Tears of joy and excitement and relief and gratefulness rolled down my cheeks.  So many things went into all the emotion behind the yelling and the tears. It seems strange something so small, so tiny could bring up so much emotion in me.  After the year we’ve had I’ve needed times of release and last night, all alone in the car, I chose to let something some people despise propel me towards peace and a renewed appreciation for being in the US.

I spent the first year we were in Asia despising the weather.  Our seasons are only separated by how much it rains and not a difference in temperature or what kind of precipitation we have.  The most severe weather that we can experience is strong thunderstorms.  We almost never check weather reports because it’s going to be the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow with the exception of how much rain we’ll get in a day. That’s the only variable. After living most of my 31 years in a four-seasons climate (I lived in southern California as a child, but even there the temperatures dipped a little in the winter) it took a while to wrap my head around not having seasons, around the fact that I have no need to own or wear long pants and long sleeves and shoes that actually cover my feet.

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Isaac and I at the botanic garden

But over time God showed me the beautiful things that come with living in that climate.  Monkeys run wild where we live. The botanic garden is essentially a rain forest and the trees and flowers there are unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else.  During monsoon season we get a lot of rain, but it’s hot and we take advantage of that by running around outside in our rain coats. Yes, our neighbors look at us like we’re crazy.  I’m okay with that.  It doesn’t take an extra 15 minutes to get out the door due to putting on socks, tying shoes, and bundling up against the cold.  Trying to remember how long skin can be exposed to the temperature outside before frostbite starts hasn’t crossed my mind in years.  It took me a while, but I finally warmed up to a one-season climate and miss things about it.

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Enjoying the pumpkin patch on a beautiful fall day

I also want to appreciate the climate here.  When the weather was warmer we were spending as much time outside as we could.  Being able to go outside without sweating was such a novelty to our family.  Deer, turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies, bugs, and beautiful birds have come across our path while we’ve been back.  The amazing colors on the fall leaves reminded me why I love the change of seasons so much, the old going away and the new coming in.  God made our world to have seasons, some places it’s more subtle than others.  I want to try to appreciate the whole world for what is and know that God put me in each place for a reason and a time.

Right now it’s COLD outside. And when it’s cold the precipitation is a little more frozen. Last night as I left a friend’s house I noticed little, tiny, white flakes falling from the sky. I must have said “It’s Snowing!” a dozen times until I was yelling

IT’S SNOWING! 

incredibly loud. Something so small, despised by some and loved by others, brought up so many emotions in me. Emotions poured out, tears rolled down, and God drove down that road with me with snow swirling around soaking it all in with me.

 

 

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything At All

I was checking out at the grocery store the other day and had to do a lot to keep my mouth shut. The girl who was scanning all my items, I’ll call her Checkout Girl, was talking to another girl who appeared to work in the deli or bakery, I’ll call her Bakery Girl.  So Bakery Girl started in about how Christmas is SO important to her. She just HAS to have the day off from work. And the way she was going to make sure she had the day off was to tell her boss that it’s a religious holiday and she needs it off for her religion.  She kept going on and on, laughing the whole time about how she was going to get the day off for religion and if she says it’s for her religion they HAVE to let her take the day off. She got Checkout Girl going, too, and they had a jolly time laughing about how Bakery Girl was going to take Christmas off for her “religion.”  It took a lot for me not to yell

IT IS A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY!!!

And to not continue on about how Christmas is about Jesus and not whether or not she has the day off.  {Then indignantly stomp off in a huff because I was SO offended by her yucking it up.}

I kept my mouth shut, paid for my groceries, smiled at the girl who was bagging groceries listening to the whole exchange while also keeping her mouth shut, then went home and whined to Toffer about the preposterous conversation and how I wouldn’t likely hear something similar in Asia. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. I think we can all agree that yelling at Bakery Girl and Checkout Girl would not have been the best way to tell them about the wondrous birth of our Savior.  In hindsight, of course, I wish I had spoken truth in love to them and told them how…

Those who are hungry will be fed for Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Those who are thirsty will be quenched for Jesus is Living Water.

Those who are tired will find renewal for Jesus brings Rest.

Those who are weary will find their loads lightened for His Burden is Light.

Those who are mourning will be comforted for Jesus Weeps with Them.

Those who are seeking Him will find Him here for He is Emmanuel, God with Us.

Those who are experiencing discord will be calmed for Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Those who are lost will find directions for He is The Way.

Those who are confused will be re-focused for He is The Truth.

Those who are dying will be reborn for He is The Life.

Those who need redemption will find it because Jesus is our SAVIOR.

 

Christmas is a special and holy day set apart to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel who came to dwell among us and save us.  My prayer is that God will give me words to say to anyone else I may encounter, words of kindness and truth that reflect this auspicious occasion of Christmas. And that somehow Bakery Girl and Checkout Girl would see the truth themselves of this “religious” holiday and celebrate it for what it truly is.

Merry Christmas!