Tuesday, March 19, 2013

when you really boil it down...

{Some thoughts I wrote last month, after talking with a friend at a conference... I thought I was busy with three kids, but she has four under seven!}

When you really boil it down, it all comes down to trust.

How much do I trust Him?

Enough to let Him organize my day?  Do I trust Him to give me that half-hour with that friend if it’s really part of His plan for me, His plan for her?

Do I trust Him enough to let go of that idea for that blog post I was going to write, when the baby has an extra blow-out and won’t go down for her nap, and it eats up the 20 scant minutes I was going to use to catch the idea on paper?  Do I trust Him that if it’s really important in His list of what He wants me to say, He will bring it back to my mind and open up the time to write it down?

How about trusting Him enough to be content with letting my kitchen stay a little messy (or a lot messy!) if it means my three-year-old gets an extra couple stories at naptime instead of me cleaning up the lunch dishes?  {After all what is a clean counter-top compared to extra cuddles with the warm, snuggly body that houses the eternal soul of my child?}

What is it for you?  What’s that thing sitting desperately on your want-to-do list, that thing you think will refresh your heart, revive your soul, make you feel better?  Saner.  Calmer.  

For me, it’s clean counter-tops.  Connecting with a friend.  Writing down my thoughts.  Drinking in the Word.  Devouring a great book.  Having a nap.  

Guess what... That thing?  Well, if it robs us from what really matters, it’s nothing less than… (ready for this?)

...an idol.

Idol is an ugly word.  But I can feel its truth in my heart.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus really does own all 24 hours of my time, every day.  So shouldn’t it actually be up to Him how I spend it?  Who really sets my priorities, Him or me?  What does it actually mean in real life to have Someone Else as LORD over my life?

The book I’m longing to finish.  The baking I want to do for my neighbors.  The writing, or emails, or dishes, or craft or… you name it, when I am holding more tightly to that thing than to Jesus, it’s an idol.  And once I see it for what it is, I’m finally able to open my hands and let it go, as if it burned me.  

And the little panicky feeling around my heart?  That feeling that makes me clench my fists when I’m right in the middle of capturing a train of thought that’s been eluding me all day, and big brother wakes up little brother from his nap half-an-hour early, and they’re squabbling in their room together, neither having had enough sleep, and I know I can look forward to a long, cranky several hours til dinner… 

Instead of exploding, I can take a deep breath.  Let it out again, slow.  I can remember that Jesus is the One ordering my day, and that I. can. trust. Him.  If it’s on His agenda, it will get done.  If not, does it really matter?  Really.  I mean, Who’s actually the wiser one, here?  Who’s priorities will always be Kingdom-oriented?  Eternal?  Don’t I want that, anyway?  

In that moment, if I make the choice to trust instead of explode, the panic loosens its squeeze around my heart.  I can unclench my fists, and open my arms to my tumbling, squabbling boys with a smile and a welcome in my heart.  

Here’s the thing: I do not want to look back in 10 years, when my kids are 15, 13, and 10, and think, I missed it.  

I missed it.  

That I was so busy squeezing this in here and that in there, ekeing out a half-hour for this and 10 minutes for that, wildly resenting any unexpected interruptions, that I missed the moments.  The precious, irreplaceable moments with my kids that I can never live again.  

As this was all hitting home for me this morning, I picked up Jesus Calling and flipped to today, February 17, and here’s what I read: 

“It’s easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life.  Although each day contains twenty-four hours, every single one presents a unique set of circumstances.  Don’t try to force-fit today into yesterday’s mold.  Instead, ask Me to open your eyes, so you can find all I have prepared for you in this precious day of Life.”  

Jesus, help me trust You enough to let go of my own agenda, every day, 

and receive Yours for me instead.  

Help me trust that if what I want to do matches Your agenda for me, 

You’ll make the time for me to do it.  

And if it’s not of You, it’s not worth doing anyway.  

Remind me to receive each consecutive moment, as it comes and goes, 

as a gift.  From You.  For me.  

Whatever each moment holds, frustrating or cheerful, mundane or exciting, 

help me cup my hands around it and enter in with joy.  

{except this last one, all photos are by James, 
from last month's family holiday}

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

for when you're feeling weak and heavy-laden

Have you ever been giving advice to somebody, and as it’s coming out of your mouth you realize you need to take your own advice?

It happened to me yesterday. 

I’ve been feeling really tired and discouraged.  Lack of routine, coping for almost five months on broken sleep, clusters of things swirling around in my head that I want to do, be: memorize Scripture.  Exercise regularly.  Drink more water.  Read a verse with the boys in the mornings.  Be more patient.  Serve my husband better… the list goes on.  

I just plugged in to the ScriptureTyper community a couple days ago, and yesterday, I quietly posted my first prayer request, timidly stepping out into this new community.  

Thirteen people responded.  

Thirteen people I’ve never met.  Thirteen hearts are graciously lifting up my quest for routine, my sleep depravation, my walk with God.  Thank you so much.    

During my naptime yesterday, I couldn’t put this down.  I checked email (bad idea at naptime), and my Dad had sent this pre-Easter link.  I was supposed to be sleeping, but I just couldn’t stop scrolling.  The words held me all the way to the very end, scrolling down through pure Truth.  It was like my soul took in great draughts of fresh, clean air.  By the end, Jesus was pulsing in front of me in all His glory.

I got up with my heart full of Jesus.  (Probably more refreshed than if I'd slept!)  I made a cup of tea, went out in the hall to let housekeeping know we were up from our naps.    

Now, not all of the Thai cleaning ladies in our hotel can speak English, but yesterday the lady on duty could speak more than most.  As she came into our room to make up our bed, I was sitting down changing Ruby on the floor.  She smiled at Ruby, so while she was plumping the pillows and changing the sheets, I asked her if she had any children of her own.  Just making conversation.

She said, “Yes, one.”  

“Boy or girl?” 


I asked how old he was.  

“Fifteen,” she said, glancing over at me as she snapped the sheets into place.  

“Wow,” I said, “he’s a big boy!”  

“Yes,” she said, a little sadly.  Before I could ask if she wanted to have more children, she filled in the gap.  “His father leave when he one month old.  I no know where he is.  Like... dead.”  

My heart nearly stopped.  

She doesn’t know where her baby’s father is.  She raised him all by herself.  

She keeps talking, the words stumbling out of her.  “Your country not same.  Your husband, he take care baby for you.”  James had been holding Ruby until I was ready to change her.  “He help you.  He good man.  Not like our country.  Woman do everything.”  

The thought flits through my mind: How. blessed. I. am.

I ask if her son lives with her.  She says no, he lives with her mother in North Thailand.  She only sees him for his two-month summer break every year.  Her son can’t live with her.  She only sees him two months out of twelve.  She has to stay in the big city to earn a wage that’s enough to support all three of them: herself, her son and her mother.  So she works and lives alone, and sends money home so her son can eat and go to school.  

“I worry because... my son no speak English.”  English is the ticket to a good future.  She makes a wry face.  “He have many girls talk to him.”  She laughs, shrugs her shoulders, but there’s a tinge of frustration.  Helplessness.  She’s not there to do anything about it.  

I nod.  Listen.  Ask simple questions.  I fight the urge to offer platitudes, try to fix her life.  I can’t fix anything.  I can just be here with her, sitting on the floor with my baby, while she makes the bed.  I’m feeling a little helpless myself.

She coos at Ruby, makes her smile.  “Your baby very cute.”  She’s not bitter at me for having three children.  For having a loving husband.  For being from a country where life is relatively easy.  My heart is breaking for her, but she’s resigned.  This is her life.  It’s just the way it is.  

I go into the other room, ask James whether I should tip her.  I’m longing to help her in some tiny way.  He agrees, and I pray, bide my time, wait until she’s done mopping the floor, pick my moment.  I pray again.  Lord, give me Your words.

I follow her to the door.  I make eye contact, ask her name, avoiding a glance at her name tag.  I’m asking her as a person.  As a woman.  

“Hom,” she says.  Home, without an ‘e’.  

Her name is Home.  

I look her in the eye and slip a small bill into her apron pocket.  “Khap-kun-kaa,” I say, “thank you.”  And then, I go on, my words tumbling over each other.  

“You know,” I say, “I want to tell you something.”  I hold her eyes, bravely.  “God sees you.  And He loves you.  He loves you.”  I try to hug her with my eyes.  Something wobbles behind hers.  

“And when you feel… weak,” I drop my arms limply by my side, charades, “He is strong, for you.”  I make muscles, laugh.  Still holding her eyes with mine.  I want her to know, really know.  

“Do you… have you ever read - the Bible?”  I’m hesitating.  Unsure of her English level, unsure of myself, out on a limb.  

“We believe Buddha,” she says simply.  “We good people.”  How can I argue with that.  I  can simply offer what I know.

“We believe in Jesus,” I say, “and he says in the Bible, when you feel weak and have heavy burdens - “ more charades: I mimic a heavy load on my shoulders, point to her.  I know she’s carrying a load.  She knows I know, nods.  Smiles.  “Jesus says, ‘Come to Me and I will give you... rest.’”  I slump my shoulders, close my eyes.  “You can read His Words in the Bible…”  

Just then, another foreigner walks by in the hall, en route to his room.  I’m suddenly acutely aware of my non-PC-ness.  Standing in the doorway sharing the gospel.  Who really does that?  And how shallow am I that I can be suddenly flooded with shame over offering this Most Glorious Gift to this needy heart?  

She’s meant to be cleaning his room… she blushes, thanks me, nods, bows, smiles again apologetically… I ask her quickly if she’ll be cleaning our room again next week, and she says she switched shifts with someone just for today.  Just today.  

I smile at her, say goodbye, close the door quietly.  Let my breath out.  Thank God for Hom.   

And she stays on my heart.  The boys pray for her at bedtime.  “Dear Jesus, pray for Hom, pray that she would come to know you, Jesus…”

This morning on the treadmill, finally getting up early enough to exercise, I have a new lease on life.  The encouragement of my new friends at Scripture Typer and the words of Romans 1:16 are racing through my brain:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, 
because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”

Lord, bless Hom.  Water Your seeds.  Make them take root in her heart.  Forgive me for being ashamed of you in front of that foreigner… maybe he needs You too.  

Gungor’s music accompanies my beating heart, and I realize: I've been needing to take my own advice.  Come to Me, and I will give you rest.  

When I get back from exercising, the boys have finished breakfast.  I dole out vitamins, flip the kitchen verse calendar I dug out of the suitcase last week to the page for today.  My heart skips a beat.

March 6

I will refresh the weary

and satisfy the faint. 

Jeremiah 31:25

A promise for Hom.  And me.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Home

{Every Friday, the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker posts a prompt and lots of beautiful hearts write for 5 unedited, unscripted minutes... Join in with me?}

This week's prompt:
(to which I wrote while still groggy from sleep... I know, I know - no disclaimers, sorry!)


{Ben and a friend blowing bubbles last summer 
on the steps of our then-new-to-us "home" in Central Asia}


I woke up from my nap, checked for this Friday's prompt while we're still in Thailand with fast internet, waiting to go back to our current "home"... and the prompt was this word.  This cryptic, loaded, elusive word.  Home.  Home is a word that encompasses familiar, that wraps you around like a blanket, that hugs your heart.

Home is where the heart is.  And in this life of sojourning (whether, like us, you travel continents and live out of suitcases, or whether you've lived your whole life in one house - you are still a sojourner, you know.  We all are...) it's important to know where Home is.

For me, Home is Heaven.  Home is Jesus.  "Home" on this earth is where all the members of my new immediate family: my husband, my two sons, and my gorgeous baby daughter: are gathered in one place.  "Home" for me used to be where my parents live, but not any longer... and that's as it should be.  I'm creating a new "home", for my new family.  My children will say "home" is where we are - Mom and Dad - and that's as it should be.  But my Home?  My true Home?

Is just simply nowhere in this world.  With every year that passes, and every airplane flight we take, the world gets smaller.  And feels less and less like it fits around me.  Maybe when I'm 80, I'll just be so loose in my body that I'll just simply slip it off and float away... Home.

And that's when I'll see Him face to face for the first time, and my heart will know... Home is where my heart is, and my heart has been with Him since I was 6 years old.  He is my Home.  Every sojourning heart needs His Home-ness to truly feel like you belong.  He's calling you Home today.

Can you hear Him?


{I wrote a whole song about this... find it here!}

Monday, March 4, 2013

for when the only way out is through {Multitudes on Monday}

{An honest glimpse of our reality from several weeks ago, still on the road…}

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, 
but in liking what one has to do.” 

~James M. Barrie (1860-1937), Scottish novelist and dramatist

I feel crazy. 

No, I feel dry and helpless.

Someone else has my baby, my boys are parked in front of the TV, I’ve just packed up our bags for the umpteenth time, and my heart feels so dry.  I felt like I just couldn’t do one more thing (pack lunches, pack dinners, do something creative with the boys) until I wrote down some of how I’m feeling.

I’m dying to be a good Mom.  I’m dying to not have “stress spikes” that make everyone else in my family miserable.  I’m dying to memorize Ann’s Romans passages, to start exercising again.  My heart feels thin and my tummy feels fat and flabby.  

When my heart runs dry, and there’s no song to sing…
No holy melody, no words of love within
I recall the height from which this fragile heart has slipped
And I remember You
I will turn back and do the things I used to do
For the love of You

I feel like I have to put my life on hold, to live my life.  Like, in order to obediently complete the life God has asked me to live, I have to put all the things I long to do on hold.  I know in my heart that’s not really true, but today, as we contemplate getting on yet another plane, with 11 more days, and then an international journey, 2 more weeks of yet another country, and a grueling all-nighter to get back to our house - which will probably be filled with cobwebs and freezing cold… as I look at that, my heart sinks within me.  I quail.  I can’t do this!  I don’t want to live this day, this life!  How can this possibly be good for us?

What about the healthy rhythms?  How in the world do I maintain those, when my baby is still waking up 2-3 times every night, and I despair of going to sleep because I know I will not feel any more refreshed or rested in the morning.  I lie there with eyes open, aching, frustrated.  

I feel like I have to wait to start exercising again, memorizing Scripture, creating music, cooking creatively, until we get back to our “settled” life.  But that’s another whole month away, and we’ve already been 5 months in transition.  When I think those thoughts I feel like screaming. 

So what’s really going on here?  What’s pushing me?  Ann’s beautiful blog, maybe?  Ok, well, what do I see when I read her blog?  Health.  Contentment.  Peace.  Fulfillment.  Rest.  Intentionality.  Creativity.  Beauty.  All the things I long for and desire.  All the things I’m craving this morning, none of which I feel is true of me right now.  My socks don’t match my shirt.  My muffin-top tummy sticks out over my pants.  My hair is frizzy, boring, pulled half up, exactly the way it always is.  My face is unmade-up and blotchy with tear stains.  I’m sitting on the floor in the guest room with our borrowed bedding piled next to me, our borrowed bed behind me, the carpet still dented with the wheels of our suitcases.  

Sometimes this life just doesn’t make sense.

James read Psalm 30 to me this morning, and it was these words that sang to me:

2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

Joy comes with the morning.  

I do not feel like that is true today.  I feel like despair came with this morning.  

But the reality is: It IS true.  Those words ARE true, whether I feel like they are or not.

Joy comes with the morning.  

If the punctuation of the last verse of Psalm 30 were slightly different, it would read like this: 

12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O LORD my God, 

I will give thanks to you forever!

In order that my glory may sing praise and not be silent (oh, how I feel like being silent!), I need to give thanks.

Thank You that my baby girl has almost doubled her birth weight in four months and is plump and happy, unlike the starving babies I read about this morning in Christianity Today.

Thank You that my boys are happy, healthy and learning how to be holy, despite all my weaknesses and failings.

Thank You that my husband paused to kiss me through my tears and whisper, “We’re doing this together… we need each other… I’ll help you and you help me.”  

And thank You for the words James gave back to me then, the same words I gave to him a few days ago when he was spiraling into frustration: 

“The only way out is through!”

Help me Lord, 

to give thanks and not be silent, 

that my soul might sing praise on every day, 

no matter where in the world I am 

or what lies in front of me to do.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

{Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker posts a prompt, and lots of wonderful people write for 5 minutes with no editing and no "perfection-izing".  This week's prompt is ORDINARY...}


Ordinary.  Our ordinary feels pretty bizarre to me some days.  Lately, for the past 6 months, ordinary for us has included moving around the world, living in three different countries, scraping together a routine (or just scrapping it altogether some days)... ordinary has been exhausting, stretching, and nauseatingly filled with upheaval...

but also, full of joy.  Freshness.  A new daughter to love.  Waking up to her each morning feels like Christmas every day - the opposite of ordinary.  My two little boys, precious, unique - ordinary in their underpants and buzz cuts, getting dressed every morning and changed into jammies every evening... they're both big brothers now, and that feels anything but ordinary.

What exactly is ordinary?  Mundane?  Does it mean "the things we do every day"?  Lately, we go down to a buffet breakfast every morning at our hotel here in Bangkok, and that's starting to feel ordinary because we've been here so long, but a buffet breakfast in Bangkok is anything but ordinary in most people's lives!  I think for me the ordinary is becoming precious, because I miss the little mundane details of our life in Central Asia (finally!)... never thought I'd say that after we left 6 months ago and I couldn't wait to leave, to have a break, to be taken care of... but the day has finally arrived.

I'm longing for ordinary.


(A few photos from our time at my parents' house in CA...)