Monday, July 2, 2018

The Harvest

In all my years in Dallas, I've never gone blueberry picking. So Emily, my neighbor and I thought it would be a great adventure and so off we went to Quitman, Tx with kids in tow.

We even planned ahead on this hot July day to go as soon as the kids woke up so we wouldn't be in the heat of the day. We packed water, snacks, bug spray and sun screen. Knowing that Joy was small and not used to such torturous heat, I brought a cooling towel. All of those things came in handy, but none of them prepared us for how much work harvesting a gallon of blueberries would be. It's $15 for the bucket - whether you pick 10 blueberries or the entire bucket. If you know me at all, that meant I needed a FULL bucket to get my money's worth. This was easier said than done. 

At first we were looking for the plumpest blueberries, Andrew was helping and Joy was happy on the hip trying to pick blueberries too. But fun soon turned into work. It was hot, we were sweaty, Andrew picked slower and Joy grew more impatient. We began a new approach - pick whatever we could find in clusters. 

In the middle of this Andrew says to me, "I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit." His comment literally turned on a spiritual switch in my brain - Jesus began to flood my mind with illustrations. 

It was just at this time that Emily took the kids back to the car and I got to pick by myself for a few minutes. The Lord brought this verse to my mind: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his vineyard." 

Every other time I have read this verse, I've thought, 'Yeah! Who wouldn't want to harvest?' Today I realized how HARD the harvest actually is. We were only out there for a few hours, we had the sanctuary of AC to escape to when needed and knew that we could leave at any time. But what about those who do this job EVERY day with no end in sight. Now that is hard. 

I began to think about our little morning adventure like a "short-term mission trip." It started fun, had some hard parts but at the end of the day, I knew I could retreat to my home. Those who do this job every day as a laborer in the field are like "long-term missionaries." This is life. You have to do the job very differently if you are going to last years or even a lifetime. 

I am thrilled that Steven gets the job of equipping the long term laborers and I get to help with the short term laborers. Both are important. God has called laborers to go out - but the great thing is that they are supposed to have the body surrounding them, supporting them, and training them. Steven will get to walk with missionaries through the tedious application process, mentoring them, and helping them find a good fit within the gifting the Lord has given them. Instead of just being thrown into the field, they will go knowing the harvest is plentiful but difficult, feeling equipped and yet leaning on the Lord at every turn, having the tools they need to navigate this new job but also having people "back home" they can call to get a word of encouragement or a listening ear. I will get to help with logistics of short term trips - from the small things like plane tickets to helping them to truly help the fields and long term laborers they are going to bless. 

We get to do that! 

I know that's a lot to get from a simple trip to a blueberry farm, but as I picked, I got excited to be a part of the harvest. We all have gifts that Jesus wants to use for His glory, but when we don't use them its like the blueberries that stay on the vine too long - they wither and no one benefits. So what are you called to do? Harvest, equip laborers, send laborers or ask the Lord of the harvest to do all these things? Don't miss out on being part of the harvest.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Do you need REST? I do.

Put your feet up. 
Relax a bit. 
Take a breather. 
Grab a little shut-eye. 

What comes to your mind when you think of rest? This is a time in my life when rest = sleep. Sleep is something in short supply. So the question is, if I don't get sleep, can I still get rest? 

The answer, I'm learning, is YES. Instead of just a thing to be had, rest can be found in a person. In life we are looking for things to relax us - whether that be food, Netflix, hobbies, vacations or sleep. How many times have you caught yourself saying (or even just THINKING to yourself) "I could be at rest and anxiety-free if I just..." My most recent fill in the blanks are "had 8 solid hours of sleep!" Or if we were fully supported and on to the next part of our adventure OR if we found just the right house. Then I would truly find rest. 

And what happens when all those things happen? Once we've moved to the Carolinas, have a house, have sleeping kids? Then what? I be anxious about new things... if only this felt like home, if only my kids had friends, if only I had friends! If only we were back in Dallas doing what I was doing before 😳 Uh oh. If I cannot find rest in Jesus where I am, will I ever find rest? 

This is something Jesus has been reminding me. My rest needs to be found in Him - not in 8 solid hours of sleep, my current situation or my comfort. He says to me: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28). 

During this time of absolute exhaustion: physically, mentally and emotionally, He has stepped in and rejuvenated my soul through His Word - speaking words of truth to me when all I want to believe is the overwhelming, anxiety-filled lie.

As a mama of 2 smalls in the middle of one of the biggest changes of our lives, He has been so faithful to make my heart at rest, even if the world around me is spinning. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

He's big. I'm little.

Andrew and I went to the UT Planetarium with some friends and I was struck by something, the grandeur of the universe. I remember going to the Planetarium when I was a kid, but somehow it didn't really phase me... until now. I sat there under the stars, hearing about each of the planets JUST in our solar system and stood in awe. 

If earth was any closer to the sun, we would burn up; any further away and we would freeze. We have to be at just the right tilt and spin at just the right speed. Our planet is the only one that can sustain life and its not even that big. 1,300,000 earths can fit inside the sun! 
 Eta Aquarid Fireball Meteor with the Milky Way Photo by Mike Taylor

Earth is one of the smallest planets in our solar system. Our solar system is small in the Milky Way. The Milky Way is small in our universe and here I am, just a small person on what SEEMS like a huge planet. And all of this, GOD created. It takes my breathe away.

I stand with David and say, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" Small me, on a small planet, in a small solar system in YOUR universe that is too big to measure.  

Lately, I have allowed the bigness of God to sink in. His character, abilities and magnitude to clear the fog that tells me that things are impossible. Every time I start to hyperventilate over fundraising or moving, kids growing up or parenting, I allow the awesomeness of God to hit me like a tidal wave. All the while letting his love rush over my tired and weary heart like a stream flooding a parched desert. Even in his majesty, he loves little me, wants to hear from me and will catch my tears in a bottle. 

So when He speaks to me, "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand." I will answer with Job, "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted... surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." 

Lord my God, You are very great.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday: The most confusing day in history

Saturday. The day between Good Friday and Easter Morning. One of the most confusing day in history.

When we read the Gospels, WE are not surprised that  Jesus was captured, beaten, and crucified but his poor disciples were. They had no clue where this was coming from. Palm Sunday was JUST last week where it seemed as if the whole world was chasing after him crying "Hosanna!" Now, all of the sudden, He's dead and buried? Did we miss something? Didn't He say he was the Messiah? The Son of God? But now He's gone. We gave up EVERYTHING to follow... follow who? A dead carpenter. Now what? Where do we even go from here?

Talk about confusion.

Have you ever had one of these moments? You were SO convinced of something only to feel like you hit the brick wall of reality and began to doubt that you were ever right to begin with.

I remember clear as day when this happened to me - almost 10 years ago. I had given up a stable job working with the youth at Prince of Peace and was embarking into the world of missions. I was so excited knowing this this was the time the Lord had set for me to pursue my heart for foreign missions... until I'd spent months looking and looking for the right place to go with nothing in sight.

I began to doubt and wallow in my confusion. I clearly remember telling the women's group I was a part of, "I think God's going to take me home. He must just be done with me and doesn't have a purpose for my life anymore!" Yes, I know that is a bit dramatic, but that's how I felt. Confused that the Lord would bring me to this point only to keep all the door closed.

In those times of confusion we have two choices: fall head-long into hopelessness OR trust the One who called us in the first-place.

As I've heard so many times before and must remind myself often: Don't doubt in the darkness what God revealed to you in the light.

The end to my story was good: my dad found a position with SIM working at a coffee shop outreach to high school and university students in Loja, Ecuador... my absolute dream job.

And the end to the disciple's story was Easter morning.

But we can't read into the future... and some days we feel like we are just sitting in the confusion of Saturday doubting the goodness, faithfulness or purpose of God.

"So be careful how you make sense of your life. What looks like a disaster may in fact be grace. What looks like the end may be the beginning. What looks like hopeless may be God's instrument to give you real and lasting hope. Your Father is committed to taking what seems so b ad and turning it into something that is very, very good." - Paul David Tripp

Can I remind you? Sunday is coming.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Be secure in my Love

I am constantly telling Andrew to be secure in my love.

The other day he was crawling all over me while I was talking to my mom, desperately wanting any and all attention, whether good or bad. After a few frustrated "Stop it!" comments from me, I hung up the phone and looked him in the eye and said, "Do you know that I love you?"  He nodded his head. So I added, "Can you be secure in my love?" More nodding. "When I'm talking to your sister, do you know I love you?" A nod. "When I'm on the phone do you know I love you?" A little smile and a nod. "When you're on the couch and I'm in the kitchen, do you know that I love you?" A laugh and a nod. "Then be secure in my love for you. I can do other things and STILL love you fully."

Jesus speaks to me a lot through illustrations and in more recent years, through my children. This was, again one of those moments. I doubt the Lord's best intentions for me when I can't see Him right in front of my face. When I pray in these insecure moments, it's like I'm jumping around saying, "JESUS!? Do you really love me? Do you really have my best intentions? Will you truly come through for me when I need you?"

My loving Father gently (and without frustration, I might add) says to me, "Can you be secure in my love? Be secure in who I AM and who I have made you to be. Trust me."

He brought me back to his Word, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love." - Romans 8:38

He whispers to this doubt-filled, insecure child, "Be secure in my love."

Friday, March 2, 2018

We love a good story...

This fundraising journey has included a lot of food and friends. I find that there is nothing like talking about our hearts and future over a shared meal. Not that I don't like going out to eat, but there is just something relaxing about having people in our home. There is no rush and feeling like I'm cheating a waitress out of another table. We don't have to wrangle kids or try to get them to be quiet for the other patrons. Nope. It's just us and you sitting down for some good food and good conversation in my little house. 

Part of good conversation to me always includes story. Yesterday I got to retell one of my all-time favorite stories from my time in Ecuador. It's been a good decade since it happened, so I figured it was time to retell this story on the blog too. 

But just know, Steven and I are full of stories... from the past, the present and what we are hoping to do in the future. We'd love to have you over to hear more of your stories or share with you a few of ours! 
In the meantime, hope you enjoy a good laugh on me...

I spent 2 years as a missionary in Ecuador working at a coffee shop outreach to High School and University students. I was learned spanish while I was there so as you can imagine there were lots of opportunities for things to get lost in translation. I learned the hard way that you don’t just answer “” when you don’t understand the question.

I had plans to hang out with my friend. We were going to go swimming in the afternoon, but she called me to tell me she had to cancel the swimming, but she wanted me to accompany her to ____________ (a bunch of words I didn’t know). I asked her to repeat it, but to be honest, if you don’t know a word, it doesn’t matter how SLOW someone says something or how many TIMES they say it, you’re just not going to get it. So, I just say “” and asked her when she was going to come by my house.

When she got to my house, it was raining like mad so I thought we might not go and just postpone it to another day, but she was insistent on going. She was also a bit dressed up which I found rather strange due to the fact that she’s never dressed up. I asked her if I should change and she said I was fine. So I grabbed my chaccos, my rain jacket and rolled up my jeans a bit because it was pouring. When the taxi driver asked her where we were going, she said a church. I was a little taken aback because she’s not the church going type. And I said, "I didn't know you went to church." And she said, "I don't. Only when I go to (a bunch of words I didn't know)." We arrived at the church and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was dressed up. As I looked at the bulletin that we received when we walked in, I realized that everyone was wearing black…

I quickly realized that we weren’t just in ANY mass. We were at a funeral. Yep, those words I didn't know... they meant “funeral”… actually burial which was a word I learned very quickly after that moment. 

Once the funeral finished, I breathed a sigh of relief and asked if we were leaving and she said yes, we were off to the cemetery. After about fifteen minute, we arrived at the cemetery where they attempted to put the casket into the ground. In the States, you lower the casket it… in Ecuador they put it in at an angle.  So now you have a bunch of women yelling at a bunch of men as to HOW to best put this casket in the ground. All I could think was: sweet Jesus if this man falls out of the casket, I don’t know what I’m going to do. 

Thankfully they got him in place and then they put all the flowers that were at the funeral all over his gravesite. My friend had a flower in her hand, but she decided last minute she didn’t want to step up and put in on his grave, so she gave it to me. So here I am, a gringa wearing sandals and a rain jacket holding a funeral flower.

Needless to say, God does not do things like this to me for nothing because on the way home my friend began to disclose to me her family and their “religious” ties. The obvious question was, “What are you?” And she said she didn’t know… she was nothing. She began to ask me about me, “Are you religious?” And I got the joy of sharing with her that I didn’t like religion. That what I have is a relationship with God because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. 

As we walked back toward town she asked me if I wanted to get some lunch and I said, "Where?" To which she responded: ca efe ce. And I thought, well, I guess if I’ve been saying yes to all these other words I don’t know, it can’t get any worse. 

As we turned the corner I breathed a sign of relief as we walked up to KFC.

A few days later I felt like the Lord was asking me an open ended question… would you do anything for me? I think that He will be the only person I answer “” to even if I don’t know what he’s really asking.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Wrestling with Dad

The other morning, Steven and Andrew were wrestling in bed. Andrew decided he had enough and wanted to go eat breakfast, but Steven had him in a tight bear hug. They play a game "Lockdown" where the other has to guess the password to get out of said situation. This is how the conversation played out:

Steven: Lockdown password.
Andrew: Let me go!
Steven: Lockdown password is "I love honey nut cheerios"
A: No. (kicking and squirming)
S: Just say it.
A: No. (more kicking and squirming)

And this went on for another 4 rounds while Andrew tried to fanagle out of Steven's grasp to no avail until Andrew finally gave in and said the lockdown password.

As I watched it play out, I had to smile and ask the Lord, 'Do I do that?' Do I fight with you because I want my way? Do I somehow think I am stronger than you or can outlast you? Yes, indeed I do.

Paul David Tripp asked a very pointed question in his book "New Morning Mercies" that cut me to the core this morning: Will you give way to the frustration that you are not getting your way or celebrate the grace that has included you in the most wonderful plan that was ever conceived?

In this journey of raising funds, prayer partners and preparing to leave, I have had a plan and I get annoyed with things, like sickness impede my ability to carry out my plan. I get frustrated when I don't get my way. God is more about the journey than the destination. He wants to teach me through this and I just want to get it done.

Jesus then followed up this little lesson for me with Psalm 73:28 "But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works."

May that be my ultimate desire, not what I want but the nearness of the Lord.