I’ve Moved! — September 25, 2016

I’ve Moved!

Grab your coffee and follow me over to the NEW location of All Things Bright and Beautiful

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Trusting Jesus my Refuge AND Friend — September 21, 2016

Trusting Jesus my Refuge AND Friend

The house is shaking, swaying, swirling me into the sea of fear and doubt again. I thought we were done with this. It had been nearly been a year since the monstrous earthquake rocked my new country of residence and my self-set security.

I run to check on the baby, who had finally given up the bed-time battle but was now wide-awake, shocked and sweaty.

I pray a silent, stressed-out prayer. In my reality, I had run up the stairs. But my weary soul that dictates my steps ran them right to the Refuge I had never utilized as such until it was my last resort at rest. I’ve lived under His unshakeable shelter ever since. What else can I do?

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He’s my Refuge.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof (Psalm 46:1-3).

The quake that tips the Richter scale doesn’t hold a flickering candle to the power my God possesses.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust(Psalm 91:2).

I can weather the storms that will inevitably rage. Not because I’ve crafted a tempest-tested vessel, but because the Christ who humbly let death momentarily defeat him conquered it three days later.

His power walked His once lifeless body out of the tightly shut tomb, but His love for me kept Him shamefully still on the cross as His last breath escaped His colorless lips.

He’s my refuge.

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But He is also my friend.

And isn’t that the best kind of friend to have? A trustworthy treasure, a selfless safe place, a reliable Redeemer.

I can shoot a text to my BFF who may roll her eyes at my latest conundrum as she seeks to untangle the fears and temptations that weave tightly around her own soul. Or I can cling to the hand of my soul’s indweller as He leads me to my only true confidant, my best friend for eternity.

He’s been called a friend of sinners. And, rightfully so, since he’s a friend of mine. The benefits of this relationship so lavishly extended to me are as freeing as they are mind-blowing.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:16-18).

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He equips me, in His love, to live fearless and free resting in His refuge yet enabled in boldness that draws others in for an introduction. As I invite them into my safe place, I can trust that the Holy Spirit that guides my steps to the Cross time and time again will pull them in with power and grace that comes not from my weak attempts to convey His worth that speaks for itself.

I can’t force people into the Refuge or pressure them into a relationship with the most precious Friend they could ever have. But I can proclaim with unwavering faith forged in His providential power that He is the only One who can save us from death and set our feet on unshakeable ground.

How empowering it is to serve the Savior! How sweet it is to call Him friend!

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Finding my Home in the Listening Space — September 16, 2016

Finding my Home in the Listening Space

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“I’ve been listening for a year and a half.

Listening to the sounds around me that started foreign and have become familiar. Listening to how my new friends describe the happenings around me and the meaning behind the holidays we celebrate in Nepal.

I constantly gather information, storing as much as my heart and mind can hold.

I haven’t spoken a lot.  I think there are still some people who don’t realize I speak their language fairly well. I suppose I’ve gotten into the habit of just being, taking in all that is around me.

I’ve come to realize that’s not so bad a habit.

I’ve learned so much in the listening.

I’ve left room for others to share their hearts with me as I process what has been said and offer little in return save the listening. For fear of embarrassing myself in my language inadequacies, I avoid saying too much, but it turns out saying little is sometimes a gift.

It’s a gift to me, peacefully pondering all the words I’m trusted with, and quietly storing them in my heart. It’s saved me from turning conversations towards myself when they aren’t about me at all. It has allowed me to savor the sweet words, interpreted but not interrupted by my urge to punctuate the silence with quick drawn response.

It’s a gift to the speakers. They know I try to understand and take in all the meaning just to be nearer to knowing them. While often my listening is laced in a desire to learn and understand this language, the end result is the learning and knowing of another person.

Certainly that is a gift to us both.

Those who know me in my home country and in my first language may be surprised with how quiet I have become in a room full of people, how little attention I draw to myself. I still remember a high-school teacher referring to me as the girl who entered a room mouth first.

That’s not me anymore.

I’ve been freed from my big mouth to open ears. The space of listening is a home I’ve grown to love.”

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 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:  For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God (James 1:18-20).

Pre-School on the Other Side of the Planet: A Mama’s Desperate Act — September 14, 2016

Pre-School on the Other Side of the Planet: A Mama’s Desperate Act

I’m over at Women Behind the Scenes today talking about my decision to put my 4 year old in pre-school in Nepal during their Back-to-School themed week! Make sure to check out the other posts this week for some insights on how God leads and provides in schooling ministry children over-seas.

Every morning around 9, I hear two long beeps from the end of the road. Even the baby has learned what this means by now, and he runs to get his shoes from the closet so he can accompany his sister to the yellow van we call “bus.” Many days, he tries to hop on with her, and the driver and helper on board laugh like it’s the first time.

Usually, my four year old pre-school student is eager to climb on and slide over next to one of her little friends whose names we are all still learning to pronounce. Some days, she asks to stay home with me and “have fun.” I tell her about all the laundry I have to do, and she decides craft time doesn’t sound so bad.

After moving to the other side of the world, and living through a natural disaster and subsequent shortages, we had watched our bright butterfly stow away and become more and more withdrawn. We thought, with time, she would re-emerge with a smile as bright as before.

But that day never came.

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Five Minute Friday: The Wound that Never Heals — September 9, 2016

Five Minute Friday: The Wound that Never Heals

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I fractured my tail-bone four years ago during the hours of labor that led to the arrival of one of my greatest joys, a spunky girl who’s always singing but who was, at that time, just a sunny-side up miracle.

As my daughter grew, the pain in my back-side lessened, and I imagined that things back there were healing properly. However, strapped to a stretcher a little over a year later, the pain was back and more intense than ever. I had hurt that tender spot again.

One still-birth and one live-birth later, I’m in a mess of pain most days. We bump along the poorly-made and poorly-cared for streets of Kathmandu, and I wince and bite back the complaints on the tip of my tongue.

I often think, this wound will never heal, as it is constantly chipped at again and again.

As we bumped along on the way back to a hotel today to say good-bye to grandparents headed back to America after a sweet but short visit, my focus was more on the pain in my heart than on the bone that bounced upon the back-seat.

The wound there was big and gaping when we left for Nepal last March. Over-time, it began to heal and was bandaged by Face-time chats and care packages. But with each visit and each goodbye, cracks I thought were long-ago sealed re-emerge.

The TLC delivered is so needed and is medicine for motivation. My heart is certainly more helped than hurt, yet I am left with the somber presence of this thought, “I guess this wound will never heal.”

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And certainly it won’t for the Grandma and Grandpa with 6 grandbabies on 3 continents. I covet your prayers for these heroes of mine and the heavy hearts they are lugging back to America today.

Five Minute Friday: When the Path I’m Called to Walk is Lonely — September 2, 2016

Five Minute Friday: When the Path I’m Called to Walk is Lonely

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I memorized The Road Not Taken as a senior in high-school, and though I can’t recall each line, the theme rattles in my head from time to time…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Long ago, I pondered whether I would follow the path lovingly set by the Lord before me, or forge my own way, knowing which choice was the more popular of the two. Considering the sacrifice made by the One who went before me and made a way to meet God on my trail of self-seeking, the idea of following my own feet just wouldn’t settle in my soul.

Confident in the Lord who directed my steps, I set off on the less-traveled path. I delighted in the beginnings of my journey, as I knew I should. But when the path grew hard and lonely, darkened by death and disappointment, I wanted to back track.

This road would not diverge away from these obstacles, and turning back was an impossibility. I had to keep walking, knowing who walked with me, though I was not always aware of His presence.

There weren’t many who could have or would have walked with me on those paths. Though there are certainly ditches and trenches on every route, these circumstances were unique to my own, and I mainly maneuvered them alone. The dips and valleys many and fellow-walkers few, loneliness abounded, but just as at the time of my salvation from sin, grace did much more abound. The longer I follow Jesus, the happier I am on this path.

Not sure this is what Frost had in mind when he penned these words…

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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 I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:8-11).

With Lifted Eyes and Lifted Hands: A Prayer for Harvest — August 12, 2016

With Lifted Eyes and Lifted Hands: A Prayer for Harvest

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Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest (John 4:35).

I’m lifting up my eyes, I’m seeing the fields.

But I don’t see a lot of said white. Lord, give me your eyes.

Because what I see…

I see Hindus bowing to golden idols created by skilled craftsman.

I see Muslims faithfully answering the call to prayer.

I see Buddhists running fast fingers along brown beads, lisping secret prayers.

I see broken people torn apart by the sins of their own hands, and, some by the hands of others.

I don’t see hope. I don’t see harvest.

Give me your eyes. Let me see it.

I’ve gone. I’m here. I’m ready to harvest. The reaping day seems afar off, but I trust it’s here as You have said it is.

I’m lifting my eyes. Lord, make them like yours.

I’m lifting my hands, Oh, God, put them to work. Let me harvest something, anything, for You and I’ll be sure to give you all the praise for letting me see the ripe fruit, gather it, and give it back to You.”

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And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together (John 4:36).

Rejoice with me!
Tell me about the harvest on the horizon or the harvest at hand in the comment section below!

Hidden In My Heart — July 29, 2016

Hidden In My Heart

This post is part of Five Minute Friday link up hosted by Kate Motaung. I am enjoying being a part of this writing community and putting together these little posts and getting to know these wonderful people!

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When the car crashed.

When my son died inside.

When the visa was denied.

When an earthquake broke my home and shattered my security.

When the toddler suffered a 10-foot-fall.

There it was. Hidden in my heart.

Too shocked to seek.

Too broken to pray.

Too lost to ask for direction.

Homeless. Heartbroken.

Stuck in traffic en-route to the hospital. Trying desperately to keep her awake.

There it was. Hidden in  my heart.

Whispers of Holy words reminisced from Sunday school classrooms and quiet times with the Savior I had slowly gotten to know. I didn’t intentionally plant seeds of scriptural significance in anticipation of moments like these.

And, yet, they bloomed at just the right time.

Thank God, they were hidden in my heart.

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Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word…..Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous worksMy soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word (Psalm 119:11-16,27-28).

Just a Tonka Truck — July 27, 2016

Just a Tonka Truck

It was just a Tonka truck. Tucked into a 50 pound duffle bag of garage-sale gathered toddler clothes and toys.

It was thrown under a plane in Cincinnati, in Chicago, and again in Abu-Dabi along with other travelers’ jet-setting necessities and relocating families’ most prized possessions. It arrived in the back of our little Maruti Suzuki bursting with the gifts of doting grandparents finally arriving for a 10 day stay.

The next morning, it spilled out among the spoils spread out upon our marble floor. I nearly gasped at the sight! The previous Christmas, I had placed a Tonka truck on my Amazon wish list, not thinking much how unlikely and inconvenient this request was for a family living in a foreign land.

But leave it to Grandma to fulfill these crazy notions bound by far more than my imagination. She revealed to me that she had searched and even prayed while scavenging yard sales in my home town to find one of these golden vehicles of destructive delight.

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It was just a Tonka truck. But to me, it was so much more. It was a glowing, gleaming expression of an indestructible force- love. Though this tough love is threatened by thousands of miles, it plows and plunders through every obstacle and runs down each hill heaped up by hundreds of hardships.

Its work is HARD, and it is quietly admired by those privileged to behold its wonder. Its work is worth doing. Its work challenges and encourages me, though it is most often done without applause or praise.

Not many volunteer to take part in the cause. Most cringe a little at the mention at such a tedious, difficult task.

It speaks to me of a Savior that gives good gifts, no matter the cost. That toils to soften hard and frozen ground, to love those that are incapable of extending anything worth offering.

And it challenges me to love and give beyond myself. When it’s not quite cute and cozy and capable of being captured in a filtered photograph. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of loving other people.

Across seas. Across cultures. Across the dining room table and down the hall.

Across the yellow-tape of my own comfort zone.

So thanks, MiMi, for the Tonka truck. Every time Shep vrooms it around the house or throws it down the stairs, I think of you (usually fondly, less so on the latter act). But mostly, I think of the hard work you’re doing.

And I thank God for a little boy so loved…

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…even if he doesn’t seem to appreciate it like I do.

 

 

Toddler Taught Truth — February 12, 2014

Toddler Taught Truth

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My daughter cracks me up. Especially when she throws tantrums. I really don’t want to encourage the behavior, but seriously, it’s hard not to laugh sometimes! Am I the world’s worst mom or can somebody relate to this predicament?

I’ve figured out that I can’t give Jo something (namely a piece of candy or food) if she can’t have ALL of it. I have to hand her the entire bag of fruit snacks instead of just one at a time. I have to give her a banana whole, not chopped up. I have to hide the jumbo bag of dum-dums in order to hand her one, and I have to show her my empty pockets. I’m not kidding.

I’ve seen my poor little girl sobbing…WITH A SUCKER IN HER MOUTH. I can’t even understand how she could possibly cry with a pink lemonade treat on her tongue. Seriously, what could be the problem? Didn’t I just send her to “toddler heaven?”

Her dissatisfaction with what I have seemingly withheld from her makes her incapable of enjoying the bit she holds in her hand. What she doesn’t know is that a lot of moms don’t let their babies have candy (and those moms probably aren’t in a car with their child for several hours a week!). I don’t HAVE to give her candy at all, but still, she acts like she has been on the receiving end of some major injustice by her mother not allowing her to rot her teeth out of her head.

And it’s funny how the Lord uses these moments to teach me. A red-faced nearly-two-year-old screaming with blue lips (from the treat- not a lack of oxygen!)  and a sucker in hand. And I think it’s ridiculous but it’s not far from home.

We were a stocking short on the mantle at Christmas, so I felt lonely when surrounded by a loving family. I long for my baby boy and fail to cherish the moments with my precious little princess basking in what an incredible miracle her sweet little life truly is. I think about each holiday and birthday being the last in the States, and I am tempted to sulk instead of take in every moment. But at the same time I long to be in India, serving where God has called our family, and I don’t make the most of the ministry God has given me stateside. And it’s nothing but ridiculous. I am robbing myself of the joy of the blessings God has given me because I’d rather focus on what I feel like has been withheld from me or even taken away from me.

I don’t indulge my toddler with everything she wants or thinks she needs because I love her. The decisions I make are for her own benefit. All us parents are in agreement here (except for maybe the lady who said, “Shame on you” for giving Jo yogurt while her father and I ate ice cream). This makes perfect sense to us.

Yet, when the Father in heaven withholds or takes away, we question Him. Does He really know what He’s doing? Does He really have it all under control? Why would He not bless me in the way He blesses others, and why would He take something that is precious to me away?

Because while it may not please me, it benefits me. And you know what’s the greatest thing about that? He actually KNOWS what’s best for me, without a doubt, because He created me. He knows my inside and out and has been conscious of every moment of my life from the moment of my conception (what?!?).

And let’s be honest, I really have NO clue what’s best for Jo. I read blogs and books, I pin and ponder, I ask advice and worry around the clock. But I don’t really know what’s best for her. But, oh, I sure do try.

But he knows. And he provides, and He doesn’t have to try. Blessings and benefits flow from His wounded hands. He is incapable of producing anything but righteousness. Rightness. And everything He allows in my life is for my benefit whether I can wrap my head around that or not.

Maybe it’s the blessing of being used for His kingdom or just the sake of knowing Him more intimately. But isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

That’s all I need. You can have my blue lollipop and day of the week. Just don’t take Jo’s. Trust me on that one.

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