Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Waiting for the Unknown....

I wish it were easier to share all that has happened in the last few months without filling several pages of the internet. There is so much that God has been teaching me. Someday it will all leak out into a blog post about our lives. For now, I want to share the thoughts that have been building on my mind as we approached and passed the due date for our first child.

I wish I could express joyful excitement and anticipation about the arrival of our baby.
I love children.  I am incredibly privileged to be given the gift of a child to carry, the fruit of my own womb and my husband's child. I know how many men and women desire that treasure and have not received it.
I am also painfully aware of the statement many wise parents have mentioned to us since we announced our expectation of becoming parents. I think the most accurate paraphrase was, "You can never be selfish again..."
But the truth is, I am selfish. I have been self-centered since the day I was born. Self is one of the chief idols in my life. What about yours?
One of the greatest challenges about the gift I received when I said, "I do," and promised my life to my husband was that I promised to cherish him above myself. My "self" did not surrender to that promise without a fight. In fact, it is a daily battle to let the Holy Spirit of God change me, transform my desires, and teach my "self" to submit or surrender to a better purpose and plan than what I think is best or desire for myself. I have never regretted the results, only felt the sting and pain of the challenge to practice denying my "self" in marriage.
In light of that, why would I be excited about expanding that challenge to include another person?

Can I confess how hard it is to wait for something you are uncertain will be wonderful?
No matter how many people promise me that I will experience this wonderful joy, it is an experience I have not yet personally enjoyed. I cannot place my own confidence in this expectation. Even the Bible promises this truth is universal. Do I believe that truth?
John 16:21 "It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world."
Wait, did that just mention anguish? Yet, the expectation is that anguish gives way to joy....

Another thought that has been on my mind the past few weeks.... It is so HARD to wait for and anticipate an event that you have NO IDEA when it will happen.
Honestly, I love my family and friends and the excitement they all have as they anticipate our child's birth. But, may I thank those that have not asked if the baby is born yet? Is is hurtful to express how much it does not comfort me to be reminded so often that my baby has not been born yet and I don't know when the baby will come? Trust me, I wish I did.
Part of my self-reliance and need for control (which I do not have) produces a strong desire to plan and execute life according to what I have determined will be best. Example: I would deem it best to have all the laundry washed, folded, and put away before I go into labor. How many times can you accomplish this in the space of a few weeks???? How many times can you try to catch up on dishes, only to make more dirty dishes before one day is over???? Seriously, is it impossible to be fully prepared for the arrival of this little person?

My current stress and conflict have reminded me of the teachings of Jesus about his return to earth.  Have you read the parables Jesus taught about a bridegroom whose arrival is expectantly awaited but the hour is unknown? (Matthew 25)  Jesus also used the illustration of servants whose master entrusts them with a task while he is away, and he returns at a time that they did not anticipate because it was unknown to them.
In each scenario, the arrival of this important person was expected, even anticipated with joy. Yet, no one knew when to expect the arrival of the person they anticipated.  Some people were prepared and others were not prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom or master. Those who remained prepared through the long, unknown waiting period were rewarded with the opportunity to celebrate when the person arrived. Those who did not remain prepared were busy trying to catch up their preparations and missed out on the celebration. Some were even punished for their disobedience to the master's instructions to prepare for his return or their foolish expenditure of the time that had elapsed while the master was away.

Am I listening to the warning in my own words? How am I waiting for Jesus' return to earth? I know that I will rejoice in his return, but will my joy be mixed with sorrow that he finds me unprepared to welcome him? Will I be distracted with preparations I failed to make ahead of time and unable to truly enjoy the celebration of his arrival?  I know these parables are illustrations of truth and not exact examples of what will happen. Still, I need to heed the warning.
Even in the anticipation of our baby's birth, one that seems to drag on repeatedly without resolution, I see that I must be vigilant to remain prepared. Otherwise, many cares will impede the joy and celebration that we could have when the baby does arrive. I know if the dishes don't get done that there will still be more to do after the baby comes. I know that laundry will only increase once this child is born.  But, in the moment that my child is placed in my arms, will I wonder who is going to get those things done because I left them to the last moment? Will I regret the load I placed on my husband to catch up what I can no longer attend to (for the moment)?

More importantly, what tasks and preparations are needing my attention to be ready, at any moment, for the return of my Jesus?  Am I making disciples like he commanded immediately before his departure to heaven?  Am I being a witness for his gospel and telling those around me about his death and resurrection and the hope of eternal life? Am I using the gifts, talents, skills, privilege, wealth, and abilities he gave me to care for the broken and hurting world around me? Do I demonstrate the love and grace he has given me in how I choose to use my time and treasures or how I treat the people in my life?
How will Jesus find me when he returns to marry his bride? Will the bride be ready for the wedding or will she need "a few more moments" to look her best?  Do I want to disappoint him that much?
Do you?

Acts 1:6-11 
"6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Epic day (a post from January)

I'll admit not many people would guess what my greatest fear is.
I fear failure. I want to convey confidence, competence, and courageousness (and I like alliteration). But, my greatest fear has been to fail God, failure to meet his righteous standard, failure to trust his goodness, failure to overcome sin, failure to love as he loved. Born out of insecurity and an imperfect understanding of what the Bible says about who I am to God and my identity in Christ, I am constantly faced with my greatest fear. I have always been a failure.

Tuesday was an epic failure day.

I woke up lacking sleep and feeling stressed, worried, and on the verge of sickness because I couldn't stop talking to my husband to let us get some sleep the previous night.
I hadn't made time to cook dinner the night before because we were both going places and unable to have dinner together. We had food Monday night but there was nothing in the house to send with my husband for lunch the next day.
I took time for a nap but made sure to get up early enough to cook a lunch that I could take to my husband at work. Everything seemed to work beautifully. Ten minutes before his lunch break, the oven had failed to heat up to its set temperature. The meal was supposed to bake 20 minutes but 30 minutes still produced semi-raw chicken. I left the meal in the oven and drove to take my husband to Subway for lunch. On the way home, I had intended to run a couple necessary errands. I wasn't as fast as I should have been, knowing the chicken was still in the oven. When I returned home, the house smelled good but the chicken didn't look good. It was burnt.
I spent most of the rest of the day barely putting one action after another. While I washed dishes, I cried. Any time I thought about the chicken, I cried. I couldn't think of anything else to cook for dinner. The chicken was the only meat we had thawed. Everything else was rock solid. I was determined not to go over budget on an already tight grocery month. I didn't want to rush out to buy fresh meat. I'd already been out several times more than planned. Dinner plans had no flexibility because we had an appointment that evening as soon as I picked up my husband from work.
I had failed.

It struck me in the midst of weeping over such simple things that God has been preparing my mind to understand this moment in life. Our church home has been studying through the Old Testament on Sunday evenings. Currently, I've been reading through the book of Genesis in preparation for the Bible study discussions. Our last study discussion focused on Genesis chapter 20 where Abraham lies to the King of Gerar, a Philistine, about Sarah being his sister not his wife. She was his half-sister but Abraham had chosen to conceal the truth about their marriage to one another. This is the second time Abraham has lied to a foreign ruler about his wife. Each time he states his reason for lying was that he was afraid for his life if the truth were known. Several times, I have read Abraham's predicament as a result of the lie being found out. One of my discoveries the last time I read through Genesis is that this instance of Sarah being taken into the king's harem would jeopardize the fulfillment of God's promise to give Abraham a son through Sarah. Abraham's lie put Sarah in the position of being defiled because another man slept with her. Even if she didn't conceive (because she had been barren until this point), any child she did conceive within that time frame would be born out of questionable paternal lineage.  How could Abraham force Sarah into the situation of possible adultery? How could Abraham doubt that God would protect them? Hadn't he done so before in multiple situations? Hadn't God protected them the previous time that Sarah was taken into Pharaoh's harem despite Abraham's lie at that time? God had just appeared to Abraham to reassure him that Sarah would bear his son within that year. How did he know she was not already carrying his child? Abraham put everything about God's promise at risk. He failed big time.
Abraham is not the only person in the history of Genesis, or the rest of the Bible, to fail to trust God or meet his righteous standard. In fact, my favorite thing about the book of Genesis is how it reveals the faithfulness of God to people unworthy of his calling or his blessing. They were not chosen because they were perfect or because they were righteous. Many of the patriarchs, Abraham's sons and grandsons, did not even choose to follow God initially. God chose them. God called them to obey his commands. God promised them descendants, inheritance of the land, and great blessing. God kept his promise to each of them regardless of their sordid history or their faithfulness to his commands. God counted them righteous because one single act of obedience demonstrated their faith in his promise. Other acts of obedience followed as God continued to reveal himself to them and demonstrate his faithfulness to his promise. But, God kept his promise to these people to demonstrate his character, not because of their character. They grew in obedience and in character because God taught them how to have faith in him and to obey his commands.

On Sunday evening, I kept bringing up the amazing revelation of God's faithfulness to Abraham. I could not seem to get anyone else in the room to grasp that this chapter of Genesis was revealing something wonderful about God, not just how much we all make mistakes like Abraham.  Perhaps I was the one not listening, I did not realize that I was the one who needed to be reminded of God's faithfulness in the midst of Abraham's failure.
God prevented the King of Gerar from touching Sarah. He even prevented anyone in the entire palace from conceiving a child during the period of time when Sarah was in the King's harem. God warned the King not to touch Sarah and to immediately return her to her husband or there would be more severe consequences. God intervened on Abraham's behalf, and Abraham received honor and riches despite his deception. God intervened to guarantee his promise that Sarah would bear Abraham a son, the child who would begin the family line of Jesus.

Doesn't God intervene in my life still? Didn't he intervene in the midst of my sin, my failure to meet his righteous standard, to demonstrate his love for me? "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 God chose to love me and to call me to faith in his promise of eternal life and redemption from sin. He did not choose me because I rose above the crowd in character or performance. He chose me because of who he is, not because of who I am. His choice to call me includes changing me, just like he taught Abraham to change. Eventually, Abraham demonstrated epic faith that makes him famous today. I may not end up having my life actions and faith-based decisions recorded in a book. I know the Bible is finished recording the lives of those God has chosen, but God is not finished calling ordinary people whose lives are full of failure. God is not finished taking a life of sin and redeeming it to create one of purpose, grace, beauty, obedience, and faith.

Isaiah 61:3

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory." (Italics added for emphasis)

Beauty for Ashes by Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly You Tube Video-Beauty for Ashes

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Silence of the Blog

You may have been wondering where I've been the last few months...
In case you didn't know, my husband and I moved to another state. My husband started a new job, training to become an aviation mechanic through an apprenticeship. Honestly, that's the whole reason we started this blog, to catalog and process this journey of faith in God and following his calling to spread the gospel to all people around the world. God led us to choose the airplane as the means of getting to all those people.
Another major life change happened in the last few months. I found out I was expecting our first child on our anniversary, two weeks after moving to a new town, new state, new everything. Only Walmart was familiar in this new place. I'm grateful we had two previous opportunities to at least meet the people we would be working with in our mission organization. I knew names and faces of the people who would become our community. Still, there have been a lot of people to get to know: neighbors, church members, pastors, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, etc.

There could be a few reasons why I've struggled to post a blog since August. Let's be honest, I've written some but they may never make a public appearance. The most common reason is that I'm not listening. You may have noticed that my blogging style tends to lack the basic details of life, family, schedule, daily stuff. Instead, I unleash my ponderings on the meaning of life and the perspective lent from God's Word to help me understand my life. I like to meditate on the Bible through my writing. The traditional definition of meditate means "to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect". The Bible encourages meditating on God's words day and night. Typically, if there is no blog on my brain and nothing flows from my fingertips onto the screen, I have not been meditating on or listening to God's Word, the Bible.

Another reason that often hinders my thought process is my emotions. Sometimes I've been reading God's Word and trying to listen to what it teaches me about life, but my emotions cloud my perspective and drown out any other thoughts or understanding of life. It's been an emotional transition into these life changes. So much change is demanding and exhausting. Even my new role as a stay at home mom is an adjustment filled with emotions.
Early on, my husband would complement how well I'm adjusting. I think a fellow missionary warned me that the rollercoaster was slow getting started and all the upheaval of these changes may not hit for a few months. We are in the thick of the upheaval now, maybe on one of the downhill sides. The emotions of loneliness, distance and isolation, challenges in a new situation, stress from learning new expectations, and struggling to fulfill those expectations all clamor for attention. God is still there, speaking through his Word, singing to me in a praise song, or demonstrating his love through his children.  I just need to stop and listen.
How thankful am I that our God speaks whether I am listening or not. In the Bible, I find many examples of how God spoke to his servants, to those who feared his name and called on him in prayer. Sometimes, God spoke through thunder as the glory of his presence appeared so that all who saw would fear his name. Sometimes, he sent angelic or human messengers to share his plan or bring answers to a specific question. Sometimes, God spoke in a still small voice to reassure his servant of his presence. Now, God speaks through the truth he has preserved in the Bible. His Word is eternal and the truth is unchanging. All I have to do is pick up my Bible and read it, dwell on his words of truth, and allow it to change my thinking, my feelings, and my worldview from lies to truth.
One thing I have been listening to the past six months is how to let the Bible expose lies and reveal truth. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to complete a seven week Bible study with other ladies in my community. We studied the book, "Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free." I was challenged and I noticed my perspective on life began to change as I invested time in replacing the lies that influenced my thoughts, feelings, and actions, with truth from God's Word. One of the results is that I feel my mind is primed to listen once again. I am ready to hear truth from God's Word and be changed.
I'm listening, God...