Mission: Mexico

When you consider that a procrastinator, like myself, is packed and virtually ready to walk out the door for a week in Mexico- TWO WHOLE DAYS- before we are slated to leave, well, you could call that a miracle.  But not one that has been easily won.

This spring, our church offered a missions trip that was affordable and offered a great variety for those who were “beginners”.   An orphanage in Mexico that additionally provides childcare, school, and even bible college to the children in their community for a very affordable rate.  It ensures that children receive two meals per day, education and an opportunity to know their Lord & Savior.   I knew immediately that I would be a part of the team that would go. This was not a trip that I wanted to miss, even though missions have never even sparked an ounce of interest in my life before now.

Fast forward to today, two days before we take off.  On Saturday, we will drive into a community where third world conditions and poverty exist.  We will get a small water ration for a shower each day.  I’m not sure if  it is heated.  Stay tuned.  Our meals will consist primarily of rice, with some type of protein to accompany it.  There will be not air conditioning, no wireless internet or cell service.  No electricity between the hours of 10:30pm and 5:00am.  We will be working on construction type projects in the morning and outreach in the afternoon.  Sharing our stories in hopes of winning another life to Christ.  So far out of my comfort zone that I will admit to a small case of nerves.  But, I’m excited.  As excited as going on any other trip or vacation away from home.  I have learned so much about God, just in the preparation time, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us while we are away.  Here are just a few of the things I have discovered as I prepare myself to leave.

1.  I am really looking forward to being unplugged.  Allowing myself to get to a place when I can hear from God in the quiet.  A place where I am not going to have a device competing for my attention.  A place where human interaction comes first.  A time to build relationship with God and the team that he is sending me with.  A chance to hear from him in an environment free of the electronic distraction that I have come to be addicted to here at home.

2.  My essentials aren’t so essential anymore.  When we started thinking about packing our number one goal became how we could get maximum impact with the least amount of stuff to take.  When you’re heading out with a missions team, you carry what you pack.  It’s a rule I have raised my kids with, but we still have a pretty incredible man that bails us out sometimes.  There was some issue between Chloe and I on not having enough pants to take.  I don’t know if you have experienced this, but my recreational clothing is extremely limited.  I can dress professionally for about two weeks without doing a load of laundry, but my evening and weekend wear is limited.  Then, add the rule that your shorts have to reach your knees and you just took out a huge portion of my wardrobe and all of hers.  After searching through our Goodwill giveaway bags, we found enough clothing to sustain us through the week.  It isn’t two changes of clothes for each and everyday- there will be some repeat action happening for both of us, but I have to wonder, will the kids we are serving have a brand new and fresh outfit to wear each and every day?  Or is this simply another matter we take for granted in the land of plenty?

3. I am not alone on this journey.  It is said that there are two types of people involved in missions. The go’ers and the senders.  And the senders are pretty darn cool. I posted a mom stress moment on Facebook while I was attempting to help my daughter pack.  She was freaking out about her lack of supplies, including a suitcase.  Within ten minutes of posting, we had several suitcase offers and an opportunity for her to go and shop in Grandma Melissa’s closet for the remaining clothing items she needed.  The words of encouragement that we have received from our family, friends and church family have been overwhelming.  Their excitement for our journey just feeds the fire that is already hot in me to do something for God.  I can’t wait until it is my turn to be a sender.  Senders are proof of God’s limitless ability to supply our every need.  Even if the need includes a suitcase “large enough to carry a body.”  (Jon, you always make me laugh).

I’m heading off to my last day of work before taking off.  The anticipation is building.  I ask for your prayers in our journey.  I ask that you would appeal to God to meet each of us there, right where we are at.  That he would appeal to us in a very personal way.  That we would be open and willing to do the work that he has appointed for us.  That we would have the heart of a servant ready to work on his behalf.  That he would use us in a way that brings a supernatural harvest to these children in Mexico. That, in preparation, we would not be overcome by the details, but that we would lean on him to work all things together for good.

 

 

This little light of mine.

“See! I knew there was something I liked about you! You can’t hide your light!” Wow. What a statement. Isn’t it funny that even in a business meeting, it doesn’t take long to spot a fellow Christian. Her words were such an encouragement to me as we said our final goodbyes. It was something I desperately needed to hear. You see, I almost let my light go out.

But even in darkness, I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. PS 139:12 NIV

A few years ago, I attended my daughter’s Girl Scout camping trip as a chaperone. Part of their badge requirement was to build a fire without a chemical accelerates. Dry grass, leaves and wood were added with a touch of air. Soon their spark turned into a flame large enough to cook lunch. The goal now? To keep the fire alive for dinner. This girl was up to the challenge. In exchange for two quiet, kid free hours, I was in charge of keeping the fire going. No big deal.

A couple of hours and a dead mouse later, the girls were returning and their beautiful fire was almost burned out. Please tell me I am not the only one who has ever been caught sleeping on the job.

A fire requires three basic elements of oxygen, heat and fuel to stay alive. When you remove any one of these elements, the fire extinguishes. I forgot to feed the fire. I found my Christian life in a similar predicament. A number of well choreographed circumstances happened in my life that left me feeling let down and a little disappointed with myself and God. I found myself looking to God for direction that I could no longer hear. Exhausted, tired, anxious and confused about how God could let me fall so far away from him. You have to understand that as I made decisions prior to that season, I consulted with God regularly. I heard his voice clearly. I knew I was right where he wanted me to be, but none of it made sense at the time. How could He be so far away when I knew I was right where he wanted me to be?

I cry out to God most high, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” PS 57:2 NIV

My passion was waning. I was operating on my own strength. The voice of God was almost silent in my life. I found I had a choice to make. I could continue on and expect a different result (hello insanity), or I could stop. Look up. Truly listen to what God was trying to tell me. Up to that moment, every part of my life glorified me. My priorities were out of line. I approached the throne of God with false motives. My ambition, even in ministry was selfish. God had to bring me to a place of humility so I could refocus my life back on him. His plan, his path and his purpose. And in the transition, everything has changed. I no longer spend time in his word looking to justify my actions and plans. I look, instead, with a heart that says, “Show me more of you.” Show me how to balance in your priority order. Lead me to your divine appointment, even if it messes up my day. And in that I find a spark. A new breath of life. With regular focus, regular feeding, regular prayer I hope to feed a fire that cannot be extinguished. Who knows. Maybe it will spread to those who surround me. Baby steps. Imperfect progress. Obedience. Whatever you choose to call it. It’s all I’ve got. Not me, Lord. Only you. May your light continue to shine through me in hopes of reaching others for you.

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. Ecc 11:7. NIV

Dear Grams

Grams,
I just received word that you went home to be well with the Lord tonight.  To be honest, I feel as though you had been taken from us long before now.  I laid in bed tonight, overwhelmed with the memories of who you were and how you touched my life in so many ways.  Yet, had I told you, I don’t know that you would have understood in your final days here.

When I was little, I couldn’t imagine life without you.  The traditions you worked hard to create.  Your home always felt like my respite from the storm.  Even as an adult, I looked forward to just stopping in to spend the day.  It always brought me back to a simpler time. 

I remember the excitement about spending the week with Grandma St. Germain.  Meeting in Champaign to eat at Bob Evans.  Singing Jesus Loves me in the car along with all of the other crazy fun kid songs you had.  The collection was endless.  Walking to the restaurant for pancakes in the morning with your daycare kids.   You always let me have soda while everyone else had to stick to milk or juice.  I remember putting money in my Moola Moola savings account.  Sitting at the drug store and munching on penny candy while you caught up with Ruth at the counter. You introduced me to everyone you knew.  “This is Sam.  Can you believe how big she has gotten?”  I remember driving by the whiskey barrels in Kankakee, shopping at the farmers market and rooting on Jim McMahon and the Bears on their way to the Superbowl.  Darla and I had the Superbowl Shuffle down.  And when Grandpa would fall asleep watching TV, it was always so fun to turn it off on him and hear him proclaim, “Hey, I was watching that!”  It was the thing to do, every evening just after the 10 o’clock news.   You would snooze on the sofa and I would camp out in my sleeping bag on the floor.  And the summer you taught us to stand and walk on a rolling trash barrel down the hill.  Yep, I still can’t believe I came away from that unscathed.  We both know how graceful I am.

At Christmas, I remember Santa delivering my gift.  He would stop to smile for the camera before coming in the front door, a quick pose in the front picture window.  And I remember us running into him at Santa’s Village when I was around 12. It was just as I had stopped believing that we walked into Santa’s house and he called us all by name.  What a funny moment of surprise that was.  He became the National Lampoons Santa.  And he used one of your pictures on his resume.  Yep, that is still my favorite Christmas movie.

At Easter, you hid baskets for kids and adults alike.  I remember wandering through your yard and the neighbors, looking for our Easter treasures.  And then, of course the hunt for the last few eggs that we always hid so well.  But more than anything, I loved to hear the stories around the table. Easter could not pass by without Jello Eggs from Liz or Sugar Cookies from Darla. 

Have I mentioned the cousin’s pictures yet?  Yep, those were a hoot.  You decided to do those shortly after I was married.  It was a bit awkward being the only adult in the cousin’s pic.  I never told you this, but it is next to impossible to find bib overalls for an adult.   My absolute favorite picture is the one we got for free.  No one was posed for the camera, so we all had our relaxed faces on and we were looking in different directions.  That picture hung proudly on my wall for years. Mostly because it is the only one in which I was smiling AND having a good hair day all at the same time. 

I loved that you loved my husband.  I still cherish our corner cabinet and cradle that Gramps made. What pressure you put on David, to get that cabinet home safe.  He has never driven slower on the interstate.  The day you told us about our handmade cradles, I had just started to suspect I was pregnant with Chloe.  I remember telling you a week or so later and you giving me such a hard time about holding back important news.  You felt so guilty about not coming down the day she was born.  Yet, we passed you on the way home in the hospital parking lot.  You and mom had already been by our house and decorated with yard signs and pink balloons.  You were there when I laid Chloe in the cradle for the first time.  And when Lucas was born, you were right there to cradle him on as soon as you could.  He was the first grandson in the family, after all.  I love that you would remind me that I was a good mom.  That David and I were raising our children right.  That God would honor the decisions we were making in regard to our family.

When David went to the guard, and particularly when he was deployed, you were always faithful to check in.  You prayed.  You made sure he got his birthday and Christmas gifts all the way overseas. You sent him a used cellphone because you heard the troops had a way of being able to use them to call back home.  We never actually figured out what that program was, but he brought the phone back home because it had a picture of grandpa on it and he didn’t think you would want to get rid of that quite so easily.  We probably still have the phone tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  I never could bring myself to talk you out of the ideas you had, especially if you thought they were helping the greater good. 

The hard part is that this is just the touch of the iceberg of the memories you have left behind.  I remember you showing me the family bible.  The playhouse in the backyard.  Snuggles, Lokie, Sable and Bailey.  I remember mom and I dognapping Lillie after your mastectomy.  She is doing well, but now has a little sibling rivalry going on with her new brother, Gus.

You have left a legacy of strong women behind.  Daughters,  Granddaughters and a Grandson that will carry on to make a difference in this generation and the one to come.   We will make you proud, I have no doubt.

I love you and miss you.  You took a little part of my heart with you today as you said your final goodbye on this side of Earth.  I am thankful you are healthy and at peace now.  That you have reunited with those whom you have loved so dearly.  I will never forget how you have impacted my life.  Thank you for everything.

Game Face.

A Wife of noble character, who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
                                                                                                                     Proverbs 31:10-12

As we pull into the drive on Friday night, we notice that our neighbor is at it again!  She is a single mom of three girls.  She works full time and spends her expendable hours at ball diamonds following her athletic girls.  But Friday evening, she was using her precious time at home to tackle her overgrown lawn.  Every few feet, the mower would choke out and die.  She would roll her eyes, sigh in exasperation and start it all over again.  My husband, who has been in conflict about this since we moved in, says, ” I would be happy to help her but I don’t know how to approach her.  She’s wearing the look.”  “The Look?”  “Yes, She’s strong like you and she wears a look that says, “I’ve got it all under control.”  Ah. “The Look”.  I know it all to well.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done a great job in cluing my husband into what “The Look” really means.  “The Look”, otherwise known as our Game Face. You know, the one we wear when our list of things to do is longer than the hours we have available in our day.   The one that means we’re stressed to the max and ready to break,  but will not show it.  No ma’am.  The look that sends our husband scrambling to the nearest easy chair he can find.  He knows that when “The Look” comes out, there is no way in heck he is going to win.  No matter how hard he tries.  Ladies, what a tragedy.

When I think about my game face, I realize there is no one I can blame but myself.  My need to appear in control takes over and I allow my pride into the driver seat.  I, under no circumstances, can ask for help.  Nor can I accept it when it is offered.  It would appear that I am weak and unable to manage all of my responsibilities.  It would appear that I am some how lazy.  Possibly that I don’t manage my time well.  Or I’m spoiled, because heaven forbid my man would willingly do something as trivial as our laundry.  It means that I am falling short of the high standards that are expected of my.  But my question is, Who?  Who places these standards on me to look, act and behave in this manner of insanity?  The answer is simple.  Its me. 

Mother’s Day weekend is approaching.  The Day in which Mom’s are celebrated for their Superhero abilities.  Or is that really it?  This week, when I am tempted to put on my game face, I am going to make a conscious effort to instead ask for help.  Or, I am going to pleasantly accept it when it is offered.  And, when the project is completed, I am going to say “Thank you!”, even when it may or may not be completed up to my normally high standards.   This Mom is tired of trying to keep up the Game Face.  As Flylady says, “Housework, done imperfectly, still blesses your family.”

“If I was your mom, I could understand the conversation you are both trying to have with me right now.  But I’m not, so you will have to speak one at a time!”               David Landrus

Trust and Obey

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and he’ll make your paths straight.”


“The Lord is my shepard, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1.  My daily meditation verse.  For 2013, I chose the word Obedience as the word I am focusing on for the year.  As I came to this word, the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to spend time each day focusing on one verse.  Taking time to meditate on it and record what He had to tell me.  When I came to this simple verse of Psalm 23:1, I was a little disappointed.  And it took me a while to open my ears and truly here His voice.

Regardless of how the circumstances seem; regardless of how daunting your To Do list appears- I have given you a perfect portion.  I helped you coordinate and plan.  I see the whole picture.  I know exactly what your up against- have no worries.  Trust me!

Trust me.  At this moment, I am picturing Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  Aladdin is sitting on the magic flying carpet, reaching out his hand to welcome Jasmine to take a magic carpet ride.  He says with a gleam in his eye, “Do you trust me?”  In that moment, she realizes this arrogant prince is the peasant she has dreamed of in the marketplace.  She accepts his offer.

I looked up the word, trust.  Of course, the definition I was looking for was simple.  A firm belief in reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.  But what struck me was the following definition.  “Confidence placed in a person by making that person the nominal owner of property to be held or used for the benefit of others.”  Trust me.

When I choose to obey God and “trust” him with my life, I am giving him ownership of my life for the benefit of others.  I am confident in his ability to manage everything that comes my way. My time, my marriage, my family, my job, ministry opportunities- the list goes on and on.  He doesn’t miss a single detail.  Not only that, He gives me the strength of his Holy Spirit to rely on in times when I am weak.  His power is made perfect in my weakness.  What a relief. 

When I make the decision to trust God, I can stop striving. I  can stop approaching my time of bible study with the sole purpose of trying to discern his purpose for me.  I can approach his throne with a quiet heart and listening ears.  I can get to know Him and His promises.  And in return, He will make my paths straight.  Trust and Obey- there really is no other way. 

Christmas Traditions & other random thoughts…

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”                                       1 Timothy 1: 15 KJV

The season of Christmas is here!  Truly my favorite time of year!  Hallmark Christmas movies, Christmas trees and lights, the music, the cookies- there isn’t a single part of it I don’t love.  There is a certain magic in the air.  An enhanced sense of the world outside of myself.  The wonder and mystery.  Believe, or Don’t believe- that is the question.  The celebration of a baby who came to save the world.

Tradition was the name of the game in my family.  Every Christmas Eve that I spent with my Grandma, Santa would come to make a delivery before bedtime. I can’t remember what the gifts were, but I remember that jolly elf peeking in her picture window before making his delivery.  The entire family gathering together on Christmas Day.  Seeing my Dad for a few hours.  Amazing food.  And stories.  My Mom, Grandma and Aunt sharing memories around the table.  And when we were at home?  Laying in bed at night, listening for elves and wondering if it was really my parents.  Hoping it snowed, but not enough to keep us from traveling.  The presents!  Of course.

And now, with a family of my own, it’s my job to create those memories.  And suddenly, Christmas doesn’t seem quite so magical.   Priorities have to be set.  A budget adhered to.  And the big question?  What do I really want my kids to take away from this season? 

Really, the answer is easy.  Christmas is all about a gift.  God sent his son to us.  For a select amount of time, He came to Earth as a man taking on flesh so we could know Him.  Have a relationship with Him.  Accept His gift of salvation.  I think if God was setting the Christmas priority for me, He would want me to give His gift away.  Not just during the season of Christmas, but all year long.  Christmas gives us an amazing opportunity to highlight giving.  To plant some seeds. To show Gods love.  But, if this is the only time Christians show up to give, we stand the chance of losing a bountiful harvest for Christ.  The attitude of being the hands and feet of Christ should be with us, regardless of the time of year, or even circumstances we are facing. It should be something we wake up with every single day.

 Even worse, if we don’t show up.  If we get too caught up in our traditions and agendas to see the opportunity for service.  To take some time to speak a word of encouragement to the frazzeled checker taking care of ringing up our order. To drop a few coins in the bucket AND acknowledge the individual ringing the bell.  For me, it is slowing down enough to realize there are people surrounding me everywhere I go.  People that need hope and encouragement.

I pray that if I set any traditions for my family, it would be an attitude of giving.  When they remember Christmas, they remember the opportunity to bless others in the name of Christ.  I pray that I don’t miss a single chance to reach out to the people who surround me today. 

Redirection

Two weeks ago, Madi came home with a negative hearing test from school.  After two failed hearing attempts at school, we had to pursue a formal hearing screening.  As we settled into the sound proof booth, the “games” began.  Madi was to put a block next to her cheek and drop it in the bucket when she heard the ding in her ear.  We did well- at first.  But, as time progressed, she became more intrigued with the blocks than the test.  I knew the moment I lost her.  I handed her a long circular block.  She held it next to her cheek.  A second later, the block was Madi’s new mustache.  Hearing test?  Forgotten!  The Audiologist redirected her attention to the test.  A few minutes later, also during the test, Madi struck up a conversation about what was on the block, again, paying no mind to the fact that she was supposed to be “listening” for beeps.  Long story short, with a little redirection, she passed her hearing test.  But, what sticks with me was how the testing would have come out had she not been redirected.  When she was paying attention to what she was supposed to be doing, she had exceptional hearing.  However, when she was doing her own thing, her hearing health fell way below the line.  She was deaf to everything but her own purpose in that that moment.

Hearing Aids:
Yesterday, I was reading the account of Haggai the prophet, and this verse struck my attention regarding another group of people needing redirection.

“Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?  Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”  “You have sown much, but bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but are not warm; Ane he who earns wages, Earns wages to put in a bag filled with holes.” 

Thus says the Lord of hosts; “Consider your ways!  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified”, says the Lord.  You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?” says the Lord of hosts.  “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.”         Haggai 1: 3-9

Haggai brought this message to the people of Judah and Jerusalem after they began the work of rebuilding the temple but soon became discouraged with the mission God gave to them.   They stopped building when the going got tough.  They made excuses.  The reasoned that the temple they would create would never be as marvelous or beautiful as what Solomon had.  So they lost focus.  They attended to themselves and they were spinning their wheels.  All of their work ended in ruin.  They were financially and spiritually devastated personally and as a nation.  Why?  Because they simply needed a little redirection. 

“…and be strong all you people of the land, ‘ says the Lord , ‘and work: for I am with you” , says the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:4)  The story of the people of Judah and Jerusalem caused me to stop and take note.  Am I doing the work I am supposed to be doing?  Or and I simply working for my own purpose and pleasure?  I don’t wish to spend the majority of my time spinning my wheels.   My prayer, this week, is for redirection and restoration from a God who longs for His temple to be built to its full glory in my life.