Freedom, Fruitfulness, and…Fertilizer — August 9, 2016

Freedom, Fruitfulness, and…Fertilizer

2 days into my first week of “freedom” from language school, and I am laughing at myself.

Reality checks are always fun, right?

I had been feeling pretty anxious about this transition in our life and ministry. I wanted to stay busy. I wanted to keep learning, growing. I wanted to be fruitful.

HAHA. Oh, Amber, you’re too funny.

The first day I succumbed to a sinus infection after a week long battle with a cold the doctor says just comes with the territory of Nepal (thanks for your help, doc, I see why they pay you the big bucks). In true sickly stay-at-home-mom fashion I let my overly healthy toddler climb over my head while watching Baby Einstein on repeat until nap time finally graced us, and I joined the babe in sweet slumber. Judging from the snot+tear accumulation on his face versus the joy/elation/relief/um…drool…on mine, I was way more pumped about it than he was.

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I figured I would get out after our naps, but the beating in my brain and the heat unabated by the drizzle of rain that broke through for a moment breathed a seemingly audible, “Yeah, right.” Maybe that was just my sigh.

I got language practice, sure. I got to talk to plumbers about the septic system that was rather non-skillfully pieced back together after the landslide last year. They assumed I didn’t understand Nepali when I answered their question regarding the location of our main line (in Nepali) with an I don’t know (diddly squat about plumbing). In any language.

Today was immensely better in terms of intensity of pain in my temples but not so much in terms of things accomplished, though I did whine enough to the plumbers that they agreed to come a day earlier than promised, so that’s something. Also something I would NEVER do in English or in America, for that matter.. When in Nepal, I guess.

I’ve collapsed in bed alone at 7:30 after coaxing my children to sleep and watched the videos my husband wouldn’t watch with me on YouTube if he were here in the bed with me. I’m missing him tonight, and feeling like I’m also missing out (he went to India without me, please give him a guilt trip about this. I don’t think I’m allowed).

I’m guessing this feeling won’t be foreign to me as I navigate home and ministry as a helper to my husband here. As I stumble over syllables and mispronounce my neighbor’s name for the 13th time since this morning. Humbled doesn’t even cover what I feel like at the end of these two days where nearly everything in my home was either lost or broken and every family member had something decent to complain about (and they did).

Oh, and the whole house smelled like a day old diaper. Thankfully, my nose is all blocked up. My 4 year old tells me it’s rotten as I search for my last candle which turns up broken. No one will ‘fess up.

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God, you gave me these draining, disappointing days, and I know you will use them to grow me, teach me, and make me fruitful, though I can’t imagine how. My trials are so small when placed on a scale I didn’t forge from my Facebook feed. If I would have been less of a baby about sweat stains and sunburns, I could have glimpsed just how minuscule they are compared to those I decided not to face today.

So, the transition wasn’t smooth, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be redeemed. Fruitful days will follow because that’s just who You are, a good and gracious Master. Working through the sighs of a stressed out servant is not beyond your capabilities. I’ll try to remember that if carrying a cross was not beneath You, humbling at the hands of an overflowing toilet and a champion sleep refuser is something I can certainly deal with. Especially knowing the price paid for the peace that resides within me somewhere beneath the junk I’ve covered it with.

After all, blessed blooms of hard-fought-for fruit is often fertilized by a whole lot of…well…

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How is the Lord humbling you now and preparing you for future fruitfulness?
I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Beauty in an Overgrown Rose Bush — July 14, 2016

Beauty in an Overgrown Rose Bush

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She was sweat and tear soaked. The sidewalk had claimed her knees and hands once again. I was encumbered by her big-for-his-age brother and had one hand free to help her up the steep hill ahead.

She had suddenly become a baby again. The pain she felt lit her instinct to crumple in my arms and be carried back home. Naturally.

Since my arms were currently occupied, she reluctantly (and slooooowly) dragged her feet step by torturous step towards home. We passed the overgrown yard she can’t walk by without commenting on, but instead of all the weeds, this time, she noticed the rose bush spilling over the front gate.

“Mom,” sob…sob…sob…”The flowers…they’re so…beautiful!” sobby sob sob.

And there I was, my own eyes misty, full of pride and moved by a four year old’s appreciation of beauty there by the old abandoned home.

Through her tears, in the middle of her pain, dragging her tired tootsies, she saw beauty in an overgrown rose bush nearly choked out by weeds. And I was thankful. Because I wouldn’t have noticed until she graciously gave me the opportunity to see through eyes that had only witnessed a few seasons of bloom.

I slid her brother over to the hip made for baby-load-bearing, and I summoned my mommy super powers to pull her up on the other. She cradled her chin into my neck as she had done so many times before. Together, we pointed out all of the small sources of delight all the way home.

I thought of all the weeds that life has sown in my life over the last few years. Great changes, great losses that have yielded an overgrowing faith in an even greater God. And though my perspective has been often clouded by scraped knees doled out by scathing sidewalks, there has been observable beauty in the tiresome journey. So often I have missed it.

I’m on that long walk home. There is pain aplenty but there is also beauty here. It’s crafted by the same hands that spoke immeasurable majesty of an untainted world into existence. And it’s for me.

When I’d rather embrace the pain and crumple into a Father whose arms never get full and whose load is never too heavy, I know I’m welcome there. As we go, He will ever so gently nudge me, encouraging me to lift my head every so often for a peek at the rose bushes along the way.

One day, I’ll open my eyes to see the gold streets lighting the way to where the pain won’t touch me again and my eyes will forever be wide open to beauty which makes the wonders of the world mere piles of rubble in comparison.

What scraped knees? It’s popsicles and praise from here on out.

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The Myth of “Me” Time — November 15, 2015

The Myth of “Me” Time

I have found that “me” time, deemed necessary by some, is most often unattainable.

Read any mommy blog (except the ones suggesting swaddling and smelling your babies at all times), and you’ll see this concept. But in reality…

My day starts with a 3 year old smacking me or “whispering”. “Mom, is it 6 time yet?” It never is. After several attempts at getting this early bird to stay in her room until the appointed time, I drag myself out of bed regretting that I didn’t shower before she got up, as I promised myself I would.

Breakfast or toast. The propane crisis has made me lazy in terms of food preparation. We coax our feisty gal to eat before bouncing off to the next activity.

The morning goes on much like this with a near-1-year-old thrown in about an hour later. Feeding, bathing, bed-making,.. The nanny comes, and my kids are so excited. I feel a little jealous but thankful that we have found someone so wonderful.

We walk a mile, get a taxi, and I fall asleep on the way to meet our tutor at a coffee shop where we study for 3 hours before walking home. At the door I am greeted by Paul’s evening tutor, a reminder that it’s me and the kids from here on out. I visualize myself putting my “game face” on, whatever that is.

The nanny asks if she can leave. Can I say no? She gives the kids hugs and kisses, and I reluctantly let her go.

Keep the kids busy. Limit screen time. Prepare and serve dinner. Get the kids to bed at a decent hour. Keep the peace.

I collapse on the couch at 7:15. A little behind schedule but feeling pretty proud to have pulled it off myself without having to send out an SOS. Paul takes his tutor home while I clean up the kitchen. He returns, ready for a snack.

For a second I thought I might have a minute to myself. Maybe finish that cold cup of coffee and that blog post I started reading 4 days ago.

Snack fixed. Blankets pulled out. Date night on the couch has commenced. This only lasts for a half hour until we can’t keep our eyes open a moment longer.

I lament that I didn’t have the instagram worthy Bible study/coffee time that seems like it would be so refreshing. Listening to the audio Bible in the shower was nice. Maybe tomorrow I will at least get to read at the breakfast table.

Another day in the books. Another day closer to beginning our ministry here. As the selfish ache reminds me it’s there, I remind myself…

My heart isn’t knit closer to my husband in “me” moments. My children don’t feel my love surround them in “me’ moments. Memories and ministries are not composed of “me” moments. Some day, I will have lots of “me” moments and I will long for the days I had so many things keeping me from them. 

IMG_0717Have you felt dissatisfied by your lack of personal time?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

Service: Saving Me From Myself — November 4, 2015

Service: Saving Me From Myself

I have found that no matter what is going on in my life or in the world around me, my family still needs me.

My son doesn’t decide not to wake up in the night because mommy is exhausted from waking up to countless aftershocks.
My daughter doesn’t forget her lengthy bedtime rituals because I feel desperately that I need to talk with my own mom .
My husband doesn’t stop needing dinner because his wife would rather cry than cook .
They all don’t stop needing my love and encouragement when I don’t feel much like giving it.

Moms don’t get sick days or sad days, or “I’d rather sit and feel sorry for myself than serve you” days which is actually kind of great! Many times my family, as needy as they can be, have pulled me out of my self-pity schlump and into service that has brought out the better in me.

God gave me this man and these little people to love. Only I can be wife and mom to these wonderful people. Just as God ordained my husband to walk our family through these trying times, He has ordained me to love it through them. The trials are great, and the needs are endless, but, thankfully God’s grace in my life is unmatched! Only through his power can I pay the grace he has given me forward, showing favor to my family, serving as a humble steward of His matchless grace.

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

Being forced to focus outward is a gift I can’t give myself and one that saves me from myself. Though in the moment I don’t feel like giving thanks for this gift, I truly do find that I am grateful! And I hope that my family, which is so precious to me, treasures the gift I give of myself, especially during these times in which it can be difficult to graciously give.

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Have you found it difficult but rewarding to serve your family at times?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

Passenger Post #3- One Day at a Time — December 13, 2013

Passenger Post #3- One Day at a Time

I try not too look too far ahead on our deputation journey, otherwise, I get more than a little stressed out by our jam-packed schedule and the magnitude of miles between this meeting and that.

It drives my mom a little crazy when she is trying to keep up with where we are and what we are doing, and, really, it drove me a little crazy in the beginning too. I used to constantly ask Paul where we were going to be, when we would be home, when we would be seeing family, how many hours we would be in the car, etc. Come to think of it, that probably drove him a little crazy, too!

It has taken some time, but I’ve now gotten quite accustomed to going with the flow a little more. I always say, “All I ask if that you tell me when to be ready and how many days to pack for.” I’ve come to find that what the Bible says is true (imagine that!). As we seek to follow and honor him as we travel on deputation, tomorrow always takes care of itself!

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew 6:34).

Choosing Thankfulness — November 27, 2013

Choosing Thankfulness

Wow, looks like me and my friend Kelli were thinking the same thing today–even shared one of the same verses! I didn’t see hers until my draft was finished. Anyway.She says it much better than me here

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Thanksgiving, for me, this year is totally different than any other turkey day I have celebrated previously. Prior to this year, I had never experienced any truly HARD circumstances in my life. God had been incredibly gracious to not have allowed me to see financial hardship, death, health problems, or any kind of trauma in my bubble-wrapped life. It was easy to give thanks of a truly blessed, whole heart.

But this past year, all of that changed. Deputation rocked my scheduled, secured world. A car accident shook it to its core, and the loss of our second child then shattered what was left. After the loss, health issues remain along with a plethora of questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven. How do I give thanks from a burdened, broken heart?

In my Bible reading, I have been studying much about the life of the apostle Paul. This missionary was no stranger to hardship. In fact, it was much more a part of his lifestyle than ease was to mine. He was beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and left to die on several occasions. Yet, he CHOSE to be thankful in the midst of these unthinkable circumstances. He said, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I would much rather if that verse had said, “In most things give thanks.” That would be much easier to swallow, but my God has a different, more perfect will for my life. And He wants me to give thanks, because He knows, in doing so, I have chosen the better. Is it the harder option? Absolutely! And I don’t quite see the fruit of this choice in its full extent, but I trust the Lord and His perfect will for my life.

This past year, more than ever, I have had to CHOOSE to be thankful. Naturally, it hasn’t come naturally in the midst of these tough circumstances. It hasn’t come in between waves of grief, it hasn’t come with the persistent back pain, and it hasn’t come without any prodding on my part. I have had to cultivate a heart of thankfulness. But as I prompted it out, it began to grow on its own, watered by the word and nourished by the light of the gospel.

This Thanksgiving, I will sit around the table with my family who are so precious to me. I will squeeze the sweet little babies that fill my empty arms. I will give thanks in everything. Or, at least, I will try!

Because with every day of life, God has given me a gift I don’t deserve. Beyond that, He has given me so much, done so much in my life, and filled my world with light and hope. I’m so thankful to be a child of the King, and I feel like I need a whole other blog to expound upon all the wonderful blessings for which I can give thanks to my loving Father.

God is so good!

 

Mommy Guilt — September 17, 2013

Mommy Guilt

I’m about the share my biggest battle on deputation with you. It’s not sleep deprivation, lengthy drives, financial struggles, or excessive carb-consumption (though at times, all of these wear on me!). It’s Mommy Guilt.

All of those little things about deputation not only have an affect on my life but also on the precious life of my toddler. At times, I begin to feel guilty about the long hours in the car, the 100th french fry (or 4th chocolate chip cookie) of the day, or the fact that she has worn the same thing for 3 days in a row and has had the same 5 toys to play with for an entire month. I get frustrated by our lack of schedule and bedtime that fluctuates by 1-3 hours which sometimes results in the following:IMG_0291

Thanks to my informative friend but victimizing enemy, Facebook, I see mommies doing activities I had hoped to experience with Jolynn this summer, teaching new things in creative ways in their home, purchasing new play items to stimulate and entertain their children and creating healthy, yummy lunches. As I peruse these displays of mommy perfection, the scum rises to the surface. Jealousy (there it is again). Guilt.

So maybe my child hasn’t had milk in her sippy cup for a few days, and has watched the same episode of Veggie Tales 16 times in a row. But this mommy needs to forget Facebook and focus on what my sweet girl does get to experience. She has fun, meets new friends, and learns everywhere we go. She gets to see her grandparents, great-grandparents, and other extended family on a much more regular basis due to our frequent travels.And not only that, but she gets to be with her Daddy a whole lot! We sure are lucky ladies to spend so much time with Daddy!

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She is loved by many people in many states. People all over the US have her picture on their fridge and pray for her by name. I would venture to say that she has had more hugs, snuggles, and kisses than the average kid, too. She plays with brand new (to her) toys and meets new friends in different nurseries 3 times a week. Many people give her gifts to keep her looking spiffy and staying entertained.

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She is learning to sit in church and will soon be learning from the Bible! She has become extremely sociable and will go to anyone. The most common thing we hear about Jolynn is, “She never meets a stranger!” With each person comes laughs, learning, and love.

If I think on the right things, I can see that truly, my girl is a blessed baby, and I am one blessed missionary mama!

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Babies, Babies everywhere! — August 28, 2013

Babies, Babies everywhere!

I love babies, I love friends having babies, and I love that Facebook has become, in recent years, what I have deemed “Baby Central.” But along with every uncontrollable smile, “eek!”, and cheek-squeeze in response to each swaddled burrito of cuteness comes a little twinge of hurt and a small but fleeting feeling of jealousy.

It’s ugly, I know. It’s discontent at it’s finest. Trust me, the Lord is dealing with me on all counts. I don’t feel as though I have been dealt a bad hand, and I wouldn’t say I am bitter (if you see this in me, please stage an intervention!) I would acknowledge, however, that I’m still grieving.

I listened to a podcast about grieving loss today while I was walking (an activity I have found to be very helpful when I’m feeling the blues). I was reminded by the speaker, who lost her daughter after 199 days of life, that contrary to popular belief, you can be sad and have joy at the same time. It might seem like an enigma to some, but it shouldn’t to Christians.

This has been particularly my experience. I DO have joy and carry on from day to day with a peace that only could come from the Lord. BUT… I’m still sad.

It’s only been 3 months. His headstone was just put into place. His due date hasn’t even come around yet. I don’t even think I’ve begun to deal with the full weight of what has happened to us.

But this woman who suffered such great, unfathomable loss reminded me that just as I expected those who love us to weep with me when we experienced our loss, I have the same responsibility to REJOICE with those who experience the wonderful things life has to offer (and there is nothing more wonderful than a newborn baby!).

Scripture is clear: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15-16).

So, in the midst of my pain, when my sadness seems like it might win, I will choose to rejoice because that’s exactly what I’m commanded to do.

So bring on the babies, and bring on the JOY!

**This post is not written in response to any birth or birth announcement. There has been no perfect time to post this since this baby boom began!

Second-hand Confidence — June 5, 2013

Second-hand Confidence

I wanted to share a blog post that I had written on the Women Behind the Scenes blog last November. It’s amazing how the Lord teaches me things in preparation for what I will go through in my life. I have gone back through and bolded the parts that really ‘WOW’ed me!

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“Oh. India…Wow. I’m glad someone is going there, but I’m glad it’s not me!”

On the deputation trail, I have met many well-meaning people who have made this statement or similar ones and have left me feeling very discouraged about our field of choice- New Delhi, India. It’s too hot, too crowded, too scary, too disease-ridden, too closed to the gospel, too big, etc. These people are shocked that I would take my baby girl to such an “unsafe” location. I try my best to be sweet and understanding, and praise the Lord, I have always succeeded. However, sometimes I just want to be a little rude and say what my flesh wants me to say with the tone of sarcasm I have ashamedly mastered, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

I am both offended that that they think we can’t hack it and that they think our God is not big enough to overcome these obstacles. Then I think, “These are my natural thoughts, too.” My flesh feeds me these lies. True, India IS too big, too scary,etc. BUT it is not too-ANYTHING for God! True, we can’t hack it…on our own, BUT we serve a GREAT God who I have the privilege of seeing work around the world through goer- and sender-friends of mine. Like Paul, they have endured trials in order to make His name great in their fields.

“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).

Thanks to these awesome ladies, many of which write on this blog, I am more confident and more bold to speak the Word without fear. Because of Mindy Bush, I know that the Lord can save me, and even use my family as a great testimony, in the midst of violent attack. Because of Jillian Bashore, I know that residents in a country closed to the gospel can come to know the Lord as their Savior. Because of Natasha Tolson, I know the Lord can sustain me in the most lonely and grief-filled times of my life. Because of Holly Pearson, I know that I can conquer my fear of rejection and share my faith with those I encounter in the secular work-force and community.

Any trial I face is merely a small blip on God’s radar; delivering me is just a check mark on his “To-Do list”. I have seen him provide joy for the mourning and rest for the weary. Whatever I endure for His name, I can CHOOSE to have “fall out RATHER unto the furtherance of the gospel.” In other words, I can have a poor-me attitude, or I can have a FOR HIM attitude!

As I do, those who come behind me can feed off of both my failures and my victories to reach their fields in a confidence and boldness that only comes from knowing we are safely in His hands! This confidence can make great change in this lost world.

We all know Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We love to use this as a verse of victory: “I can win souls, I can become wealthy, I can pass this test,” whatever suits our goals at the time. However, verse 12 gives me another perspective: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” THEN follows, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I can suffer for His name sake through His strength alone, and I can do it with a FOR HIM attitude! As a result, I can influence souls for Christ in the field where He has called my family, and I can make confident those that labor after me. I can have a fun and satisfying life in India. I can raise a happy family that loves the Lord and shines His light around the world. The possibilities are endless because the power of Christ is endless!”

This is not our home — April 27, 2013

This is not our home

The other night, Paul and I somehow went from near coma on the couch to cleaning frenzy in the kitchen in a matter of minutes. I think it was our irritability that got us started on the spring cleaning rampage. (Anyone else out there a stress cleaner?) I began in the cabinets, looking for things I could pitch…and so, the Goodwill box began. I was surprised at how quickly it filled up! It is amazing to me how quickly we acquire junk, and how we have so much stuff we rarely, if ever, use!

I don’t know what it is about de-cluttering that feels so great! Paul says, “I get high on getting rid of junk!” After our box was full, we continued to look in other rooms for things to trash. We filled one more box and 2 trash bags! Jo’s bedtime came, and since her room is in the kitchen/dining/living room (one bedroom apartment with open floor plan…we make it work!), we had to cut our mood-boosting chore short.

I think our lack of attachment to things will make our move to India MUCH easier (or at least our bags to India much fewer!). We have never put a lot of stock in STUFF (still can’t figure out how we ended up with so much!). We also know that our time here in the States and in this apartment is limited. We plan to stay here with 2 babies and only one bedroom, and we have not even painted over the dry wall after nearly 3 years of living here! Whenever I begin to complain about these things, Paul reminds me, “This is not our home.”

We will paint our rooms in India, our babies will have a room/rooms in India, I’ll pick out our appliances and home decor in India. We’ll hang pictures (and doors that actually close!) and make memory after memory in our new home. We will most likely rent, and our address may change from time to time or furlough to furlough, but we plan to make our home, to raise our family, to make meaningful, lasting friendships, and to serve the Lord in India for as long as He allows.

Sure, I’ll miss this home just like I miss our previous home in Ohio at times. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, wherever He moves us is home! There’s nothing better than knowing we are where God wants us to be! We are so thrilled to be following Him to India to set up a home and establish churches! And if for some reason, He keeps us here or sends us elsewhere, we’ll make a home there, too!

After all, we are just strangers in a strange land; we’re citizens of heaven, just passing through! (1 Chronicles 29:15) We will serve Him wherever He has us, knowing He will be swift to call us to our eternal place with Him. We will FINALLY be HOME!

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