The Burden Bore ’round the World — August 31, 2016

The Burden Bore ’round the World

As a student, I could wear it on a t-shirt or keep it in my back pocket to pull out as was convenient.

While raising support, I could pack it up and put in the back of our minivan and retrieve it to display alongside our family’s smiling faces and pressed attire.

When leaving the land of my birth, I zipped it up in a 50 pound bag and stowed it away, more burdened by the fragility of my small babies whose worlds were about to be rocked.

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On the field, it became something else entirely, too heavy to handle on my own. The burden for the lost and dying. Those that hadn’t heard. I picked it up and put it away often when my residence was in America, but from now on it would be forever with me sitting on my chest and whispering in my ear, even as I slept.

It calls my name from the sides of the streets where naked babies play with a passed out parent on the sidewalk. It grabs my attention from the beautiful views of this land and draws it a darkness for which I can’t craft a comparison. I hear it in ringing bells and blowing seashells as my neighbors lift up their voices in dramatized prayer to their chosen gods.

The burden I shared while raising support for this ministry was real; don’t get me wrong…

To read the rest of this post, visit Women Behind the Scenes

 

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Five Minute Friday: Long-Distance Loyalty — August 26, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Long-Distance Loyalty

 

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“I was surprised at my automatic response to an SMS popping up on my phone late one evening. I realized that something had happened in my heart sometime over the last year of change after change in my unsettled life in Nepal, and I felt compelled to confess.

I told my friend of many years how I had distanced myself from those residing Stateside in some strange act of self-preservation. For some inexplicable reason, I had convinced myself it was just easier to do things this side of the world on my own. Like I had something to prove to myself that I was capable of handing the many curveballs thrown my way without the encouragement of friends and family.

Whoa, pride…Not cool!

The confession was difficult to release, and I immediately wanted to retract it. The dancing dots on the screen that told me she was crafting a response lingered for far too long and increased my anxiety about the situation at hand. But in true faithful friend fashion, she thanked me for my honesty and even affirmed my feelings despite how crazy they seemed to me.

I felt free to share, wholly accepted and loved. I had allowed the lonely moments and feelings of being forgotten overshadow the great blessing of the truly loyal, life-giving friends I have, and I had failed to return that great gift of loyalty from my side of the world.

This friends’ faithfulness shined a light on my own lack of loyalty to these invaluable treasures. I had excused myself from these friends’ lives because it just seemed easier, and maybe, in some ways it is.

But receiving the great gift of loyalty from a faithful friend makes me recognize its immeasurable value which I had been missing out on. What a great privilege it is to pass it on!”

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This post is part of Five Minute Friday where many writers join together each week to write for freely Five Minutes on the same prompt and encourage each other along the way. Join the fun!

 

 

On Finals and Finishing: When the End is only the Beginning — August 4, 2016

On Finals and Finishing: When the End is only the Beginning

Tomorrow is our last day of language school.

TOMORROW.

If you noted that I am kind of freaking out, you are correct. You get the gold star today. Actually, my daughter is giving out stars today and she says they’re purple. So, congratulations.

In some ways, I am thrilled….relieved.

But in most  others, I am anxious. My emojis are all over the place. Just ask anyone I’ve texted with in the last week.

However naively, I thought, when I finished language school, I would be a fluent speaker. I have to laugh at that idea now or I will cry. OK, I’m probably gonna cry anyway, but let’s pretend I’m not.

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We’ve been given the boot. We’ve been given counsel by experienced missionaries whose opinion we value immeasurably to fly the coop (read: get KICKED OUT OF THE NEST). Our classroom learning period is over. We can talk and write and read and translate, and, to be honest, WE ARE BORED in the classroom setting.

We told our teacher we were planning to wrap up our time with her and she said, “I’ve been telling you for months you don’t need me anymore. I don’t know what to teach you.” Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, right? I can tell how much she is going to miss us…

So, we’re done. But does that mean I don’t trip over my tongue when speaking to a Nepali neighbor about a subject I’m not extremely familiar with? Does that mean I can speak through a headache or emotional uprising? Nope. Not at all. And once ears are burning, all bets are off. I’ll say even the most basic phrase like someone who better take a taxi home tonight.

For a missionary, finishing language school does not render the end of the learning process. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel like IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL. That is, if I really put myself out there, shame myself on the daily, maybe I’ll be classified as fluent in a year or two, however, knowing I will be a life-long learner of this language.

At that thought, my soul screams, “Can I go home now?”

I’ve shared in the past about how learning a a language has been the most stretching, challenging, humbling, emotional and spiritual battle for me. Even though we are far from what I call the “goo-goo, ga-ga” days, we are still far from the finish line and aren’t even sure there is such a thing for a foreign language learner. We’ll let you know if we ever get there.

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But such is the story of any job worth doing. Motherhood, marriage, ministry…pretty sure all are endeavors where the end goal is elusive and the finish line blurry at best.

And such is following hard after Jesus. Knowing I’ll never live up to His sinless life is not a viable reason to lessen my efforts to resemble Him in some way. Because even the smallest tastes of Jesus can spark a hunger in a heart searching for Him. My efforts to love others like He does, though only on the most microscopic of scales, is no reasonable excuse to cease from showcasing His compassion.

It’s better to forget the “goo-goo ga-ga” days of doing not much of value for Him. To reach ahead and reach out. Moving forward sometimes means moving on but moving on doesn’t always mean finishing. And not finishing doesn’t mean I should quit.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

What are you working on, wrapping up, or wrestling with?
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Seeing Clearly for the First Time — August 3, 2016

Seeing Clearly for the First Time

A sudden realization struck me. Trees have individual leaves. Of course, I knew this, but it wasn’t until my left eye was assisted with a lens as thick as any book I’d ever read, that I really saw them for what they were.

Vivid. Veiny. Vivacious even, and I don’t just say that for the art of alliteration.

I was nearly blinded by the rich hue absorbed for what felt like the first time.

Each leaf flaunted edges and lines unique to itself, yet, together, contributed to the enchantment of this majestic feature of the forest.

It took me 16 years, but I finally observed it as the carefully crafted creative-collective that it was, and I stood amazed.

I pulled the black rims down onto my nose.

Green blob sitting atop a brown stem.

I pushed them back up again with the finger that pointed the tree out to a friend like it was some ground-breaking invention.

Realigned, I reassessed.

The green blob morphed into a web of greens and yellows tangling and twisting towards the sky. The brown stem, marked by age and eroded by the elements, straightened and stiffened, proudly boasting the limbs that lit the colors dancing before my eyes.

The blanket of blue seemed to exist at this moment only to frame the towering timber, and I wished to tuck myself into its comfort.

It’s been a decade since I became 20/20 and felt trapped by the awe I felt in a world that had always been my home. I’ve since stopped wearing corrective lenses because I just didn’t love that my one eyeball appeared at least three times the size as its parter in sight who happened to be much more skillful.

The world is dull again, I suppose, but it’s not to say I really notice.

As I write this, I long for such a moving moment of clarity, to be dazzled by the daily and magnify the mundane. But I think I left that pair of glasses back in America.

The untrained specialist within tells me that surely, in the last ten years void of proper correction, my senses have weakened, demanding a stronger prescription to achieve this level of perspective.

Maybe I’ll visit that office with the walls of limitless lenses and find a few that order my focus. Until then, I’ll have to depend on my more developed senses.

For, certainly, every tree and each leaf that hangs upon, whispers His name.

I’ll close my eyes and peer through this memory when my hearing joins my sight on the downward slope of age or else is drowned out by the louder levels of life.

I reckon this is why He gave me five whole senses. So many ways to soak in His glory and be left in mouth-gaping awe. It is a shame I only have one voice to share it, but I am motivated by magnificence to at least try.

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Thanks for letting my share my moment of clarity with you. It’s my prayer that you’ll step outside and sense God today. Or, if you’re bound to your bed, tangled up in toddlers, or pilfering through paperwork, I hope that you will dig up a shard of sharp perspective like I have done today. And do share these experiences with me in the comment section below!

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).

 

Can I Help You? — July 23, 2016

Can I Help You?

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. Most weeks, it’s all I have time for! I also wrote a few posts for Women Behind the Scenes this week, so for a little closer glance at my heart these days, you can check those posts out!

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My baby girl, Jo, took this picture!

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“Little babe, playing naked on the side of the road, I can help you. Displaced family, lives rocked by the great earthquake, I can help you. Young boy, huffing glue, who has seen too much, I can help you. Hopeless, beaten and battered mom-to-be, I can help you. Precious little princess, sold in marriage, innocence lost, I can help you. Widowed father who can’t collect enough rupees for his cherished chori’s school supplies, I can help you.

No, no, no no. The needs are too many. The resources, too few.

I want to help you. I really do. But the truth is…when I’m really honest…

I can’t help you. Not all of you. Not most of you.

At this realization, I feel so hopeless. So helpless.

Maybe I’ll just get in my bed and find solace in my movies where everything turns out tidy. Where the needs of the main character are all that really matter. I’m the main character in my story. Maybe it would just be easier to focus on my own needs. Of the needs of my own family. We have enough.

But something tells me the Author of my story would not be satisfied with this response to these stressful stimuli. Perhaps the words He will weave into my story involve other characters. They may not be the ones that demand my attention on every street corner, but He will quietly call my attention to their presence.

And maybe, making proper use of His infinite resources, I can help.”

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Creating a Monster — July 16, 2016

Creating a Monster

Joined a little Five Minute Friday party with lots of fun and friendly bloggers on Twitter. Most of them were headed to bed on Thursday night and hopping on to chat until the prompt was unveiled by the host: CREATE.

It was Friday morning for me, and I was feeding my kids rice for breakfast (because…Asia), but I loved connecting with those who love the Lord and love to write…just like me! So here’s my first official attempt at writing for 5 minutes straight- no proofing, editing, or overthinking. WHAT. WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS?

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Dr. Frankenstein thought he was doing something good. The blood, sweat, and tears had to mean something. What do good intentions breed? Apparently, a monster. 

I, too, have good intentions. My desire above all is to learn this language to reach these people with the gospel. In order to do that, I have attempted to create an atmosphere in which this is possible, even probable.

Leave my kids daily to attend language school.

Read my Bible in Nepali…only.

Listen to songs, sermons, and watch movies in my second language.

Walk around my neighborhood engaged in conversation, speaking in Nepali with those who would rather learn English from me.

Throw in a little guilt, competition, comparison, and cultural stress and…a monster emerges. My creation is crazed. My good intentions are laced with far too much guilt and much less grace.

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What good is a fluent speaker without joy? What good message can I bring if I am not saturated in the grace that has been lavishly bestowed upon me? Pressure to perform, pushing farther and greater than I am made or expected to be brings only regret.

Thinking often of the Gospel Prayer (J.D. GREEAR)

(1) “In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done, or could do, that would make You love me less.”

(2) “Your presence and approval are all I need today for everlasting joy.”

I don’t want to be a monster. I want to be an instrument of grace. Speaking boldly of His goodness. Working more and worrying less.

I know my God has only pure motives in creating me and placing me here. I sure would hate to turn what He has created for His good into something…else.

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Kathmandu as Seen by Jo — May 11, 2016

Kathmandu as Seen by Jo

My daughter got a little heavy duty toddler camera for Christmas and logged her first few days out and about with it. I have been meaning to put them up for some time now. I thought it was pretty neat to see things from her perspective whether through her eyes or through her aimless arm-length, blind photo snapping! Now that she goes to school, she is out and about more  and seeing more and more things and learning about this culture and this people. It is fun to hear all her thoughts on this crazy place!

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Her favorite picture of all…

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and mine…

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365 days — April 5, 2016

365 days

Our one year anniversary of moving our family to Nepal and starting our ministry has come and gone. At that time, this post was on my heart, but internet and power issues kept me from communicating those thoughts. I’ve let them swirl around in my head and heart a little while longer…let’s see if they make any sense.

365 days. In some ways it seems like so many less and, in some ways, so many more.

365 days pouring everything we have into learning a foreign language and surviving in a place that is so drastically different from the home we had known and of not seeing the familiar faces and places that make our hearts swell and our spirits soar.

365 days of falling into bed exhausted, praising God for allowing us to just get through another day. We go to bed not knowing what the next day holds yet sleep in peace knowing He will carry us as He had the previous day.

365 days of weathering the storms that culture shock brings into our marriage and family.
Receiving the grace from His outstretched hand and summoning everything in us to extend it to each other.

365 days of being relentlessly sought after by my precious Jesus. Leaning hard into His breast, holding my breath in with the kind of trust you have to have when you’re falling from 10,000 feet.

365 days of stumbling, failing, forgiving, realizing more than anything else, I am nothing and HE IS EVERYTHING.

My prayer is to spend thousands more just like these last 365. Thousands more in this place I love but sometimes hate. Thousands more bringing my faint light into the blackest of spiritual darkness.

And I beg the One who has given me 26 years…

God, give me more days.

 

The Nanny’s Tears — March 19, 2016

The Nanny’s Tears

I recently heard about Five Minute Friday where you set a timer and just write for 5 minutes. This was my first shot!

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I’ve seen them several times. She’s rather tender hearted.

The first time I witnessed those brown eyes brimmed was post-earthquake post-great big grateful bear hug as I thanked her for swooping up my baby in the scramble of a shaking building.

I saw them a second time as she watched my babies’ grandparents give a final squeeze and a broken whispered ‘goodbye.’ She finally realized that this cost us something, she said.

They slid down her face that day. Most other days she hides them well.

Her voice cracked as they skimmed to the surface just last week as we were hunting for a school to start our favorite girl’s educational journey. As she held in her tears, I held in my giggles but felt my heart swell with emotion all the same.

This time she was moved to tears over the fact that this girl she loved who didn’t love Nepali food was faced with a Dal bhat only menu. And I nearly broke down over how much this person who was a stranger at this time last year loves my children.

This morning, as my big girl set off for her first day of school, the nanny’s tears emerged again. Later, she told me how quiet the house was without her and how every time her brother looked for her, their Nepali momma’s heart broke again.

I have a feeling I will see them time and time again. Nothing quite makes me feel at home here like our nanny’s tears.

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On This Day: Facebook-Archived Memories I Might Rather Forget — February 10, 2016

On This Day: Facebook-Archived Memories I Might Rather Forget

The ever popular social network is faithful to remind me every day of the memories on this date in the past years. Most days, I scan posts between friends I am no longer even online acquaintances with. Some I even have to go look at their profile picture and think long and hard about who in the world that person is.

Most days are boring and uneventful as such is life. But some days bring back floods of memories. Some of these reminders pull warm fuzzy moments from deep within that bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Others swell with waves of painful gut-wrenching grief that threaten to overwhelm me again.

Did you know that you can set dates for this Facebook application so that you can avoid painful reminders on certain days you’d rather just pretend didn’t happen? Tempting, in some cases.

This week, I’ve been receiving reminders about two major events in my life.

A pregnancy announced in February, 2013 that would end in May of the same year.

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Visa issues that resulted in a major change of plans as we were not granted access into India for church planting work and changed fields within a month of receiving this news.

Countless prayers for a healthy baby graced the ears of God. Perhaps many more did the same begging God for access to the country which He had placed in our hearts.

A due date. A departure date. Both came and went without the expected outcome.

We planned, we prayed, we hoped. We trusted God as we held our breaths in reckless obedience to His supposed will for our lives.

We were heartbroken, disappointed, and let down when our plans were derailed, our self-sculpted worlds crumbled, and our hands were forced to change. I guess the ball was never really in our court, anyway, but why was it so comforting to think that it was?

In these scenarios when everything fell apart and we were left wondering what just happened as we sat helpless in the debris, we had nothing to cling to but the Cross.

Why would the God of the universe give us an unexpected blessing in rosy cheeked flawless form just to let him rot in my womb for weeks while I dismissed my fears in attempts to fully trust the One who watched him take his last breath?

Why would God impress this needy country, these people lost without the gospel of Christ upon our hearts, allow us to see the need with our own eyes, and raise the support needed to go…only to allow the hands that held the power to grant us entrance to clench them in their unrelenting fists?

I wish I could tell you. Even now, I still wonder about these things, and on the hardest days when the memories I’d rather make sure to avoid sweep around my swimming thoughts, I ask these questions again.

But when I rise above the waves and get a nice big breath of the sweetness of the Lord to this child of His and I steal a glimpse of the grace He has extended to my family, I am in awe of the beauty He has created out of what I once thought was such a heaping mess.

Isn’t that just like him?

I have a perfectly beautiful family only an egregiously gracious God could give me. I have two constant reminders of the miraculous work He wrought inside of my Creator-crafted body to bring two more of His fearfully, wonderfully made masterpieces into this world broken by sin.

I live in a country I knew nothing of exactly a year ago. I speak a language (sort-of) I didn’t know existed. I have friends it would kill me to leave now should He relocate me again and opportunities for life-changing kingdom work on the horizon. This is mind-blowing to me!

We make plans, we move forward, and we trust once more. Knowing He can wreck them all again. But knowing He will carry us through it if He does and will bring about something so right and so beautiful. The growing hurts. There’s no getting around that. And the beautiful is usually real ugly before it is brought to the light.

I would have never chosen to make some of the memories of the past, and the Lord knows they are painful to recall.

And while some days, I wonder what life would be like with my 2 1/2 year old son bouncing around the house I imagined we would live in in New Delhi, India, most days I just bask in the admittedly weird (and inexplicably challenging) but wonderful life I lead looking forward to the memories yet to be made.

Bring on the memories of old. Don’t hold back. Don’t pour on the perfect and protect me from the pain.

And you know what, while I’m at it, I better start adding to the stockpile so I can have the precious and painful memories of a life lived for Christ to look back on in the years to come. Seeing always that He is good, faithful, and kind. And that I have never lacked a perfect gift from His hand. That His plans for me, though not in accordance with my own, are forged in unharnessed hands that work only to bring about good work in my life.

And sweet, sweet memories. Thank you, Jesus.

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