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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Five Minute Friday: HAPPY — August 5, 2016

Five Minute Friday: HAPPY

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We are not public dancers, the Taubes. But we enjoy a little living room dancing every now and then to get the wiggles and giggles out of my little ones. For a couple years, my daughter has preferred the song, “Happy” from the Minions movie to get the jiving juices flowing.

She was happy (and not just because of all.the.presents).

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Happy.

That’s all anyone would have described baby Jo as, and that’s all she ever really was. Unless you robbed her of her fruit snacks, of course.

When we came to Nepal, the sad side emerged more and more. It was quiet and didn’t demand much attention most of the time. It was moody and morose but occasionally erupted in red-faced scream fests.

I figured she was a little bored at home and that the threes were just plain harder than twos which I had heard to be true. By four, I was, honestly, just grasping for anything to help bring the happy back.

I enrolled her in a nearby pre-school. I thought she might be sad to leave the house or scared to get on the bus with kids she didn’t know and who didn’t speak her language.

I was wrong.

She hopped on the bus like it was Grandma’s car with the car seat loaded up and cup-holders full of goldfish crackers.

She played, and sang, and danced and chatted her little English-speaking mouth to death. She came home and crashed on the couch each day. She was exhausted. And happy.

And mom was happy to have her joyful Jo and a house full of laughter again.

Sometimes the hardest decisions we make end up making us the most happy.

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A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones (Prov. 17:22).

What are hard decisions you’ve made that lead to your or your family’s happiness?
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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! Join the fun next Thursday night on Twitter!

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).

 

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.

 

 

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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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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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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