Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Was it Something I Said?

"Was it something I said? "

My “Ask Jamie Jo” question in reverse (since you have no questions for me, then I’ll ask one of you!) is: How do you live with the consequences of hurtful words once spoken but never forgotten by those who took offense?

Particularly, how do you hold your head up and continue in fellowship with loved ones and/or coworkers, who choose to hold a grudge, yet may never let you know what it was you did or said that was so unforgiveable?

The thing about being imperfect is that I can freely forgive those around me, at least for insignificant little offenses. One of my virtues is that I really truly “get” what it means to be loved unconditionally and to be completely and forever forgiven. Thank You, Jesus!

Because of that (and a very forgetful nature in general, which in other contexts is anything but a virtue), I can forgive myself when I blow it. I hate my sin, but I know where to take it for daily/hourly/ continual washing. That’s the greatest blessing in this life as a Christian – being bathed in love and forgiveness.

Being forgiven, I can then forgive myself, and being aware of my constant struggle against this sin nature (and careless tongue), I can easily extend grace to others when they sin against me. Usually.

Ironically the one sin I hate the most is the sin of unforgiveness. I just don’t get it.

How can Christian workers and family members grow old and bitter, daily revising a long and ready list of offenses people have ignorantly committed against them? Maybe they really don’t “get” it – the whole gospel message of forgiveness, redemption, setting the captives free, healing the broken-hearted and all that. In that case, what is the point of their missionary zeal?

What message are we conveying if we don’t demonstrate love and forgiveness?

Help me out here. I want to understand. You see, lately I have been convicted of my role in some broken relationships. When I’ve asked, “Was it something I said?” more often than not, I’ve discovered that yes, in fact, it was. Sometimes the offense was so long ago, I can’t even recreate the scene of my crime to possibly untangle or rectify the damage of my careless words.

All I can say is “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Mostly I just carry on, making new friends, hoping and praying that they are the forgiving type, knowing that eventually I will likely offend them in some way, too. I choose to embrace my friends’ humanity along with all their oddities, and to forgive when they fail to love like Christ.

If only I could more easily forgive when they refuse to forgive me….

Tell me honestly now: What do you do in these situations? Become a paranoid people-pleaser, and keep everyone at a pseudo-happy distance, never saying much for fear of causing offense? Or...?
IRL* Tempting though it is, this seems like a lonely road to becoming un-real.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Obsession: Hospitality

Surely there is some happy zone that lies between boredom and fatigue, but I’m having trouble locating it. Instead I am swinging from one extreme to the other. During the summer exodus, things were quiet to the point of boredom (except for 4th of July, when the English-speaking community came out of the woodwork).

Now the rest of the “family” is returning, and I am exhausted.

After a week in the U.S being spoiled with hospitality and meals by my new ddil’s family and friends, I was inspired to more fully use what I have to bless others.

Last Thursday I hosted a dinner party for a couple who recently returned from furlough. Included were the couple they are staying with while they are house hunting. Before I knew it, the kids insisted we also invite their youth leaders (plus their two babies). The husband’s mom was visiting from the States, so of course, we included her, too.

That’s how it happened that amid my 3-hour naps to conquer the effects of Dengue, we ended up with eleven plus a high chair and an infant around our table. It was great catching up with those three couples, especially since my dishwashers (aka “dc”) were working.

Two days later, my heart went out to two families who had just arrived after a summer in the U.S. and hadn’t possibly had time to drive to the city for groceries; so yes, we had another dinner party on Saturday night. Believe me, this is not typical for me, but a new obsession with hospitality.

Monday was our first day of school. Jonny (his real name, by the way), my ds, left at 7:00 AM for the MK school in the city, and I started our official year of home schooling the two remaining girls at home. All was fine until dh reminded me that Monday was the day the missions pastor from our kids’ church in California was coming with his wife and a local pastor. You guessed it. They stayed for lunch.

Be patient with me; I’m not quite done.

Then finally there is another family heading out to do their translation and linguistic work in a village, so we agreed to keep their son for six weeks since he is attending the same school as ds. Remembering how hard it was to clean and close down an apartment before going back to the village, I, of course, offered to have their family for supper before they leave.

I think I have possibly gone a wee bit overboard. What do you think?

It all goes to show how one family’s willingness to host and feed my family, extending hospitality during the week of their daughter’s wedding, has drawn out the good in me, causing me to strive to be more generous with my own heart and home. Who knows but maybe their kindness will trigger a whole movement of people blessing others even when it’s not the most optimal time?

And maybe, just maybe, moderation is overrated when it comes to hospitality.

IRL* If I can’t have my own twelve family members around my big ol’ table, it’s still fun to fill it with other people we love.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Emotional Spin Cycle

The df* Darling [and Dear] Loker Family

This past week was an amazing outpouring of love and family fellowship. A year ago I was bawling my eyes out, not knowing when, if ever, my whole family would be together again after my son’s wedding. Who would have imagined that this summer another wedding would be the happy excuse for another reunion?

As my firstborn and his expectant wife drove away from the hotel on Sunday, I pointed out rather proudly that I was not crying. The simple fact is that I can handle good-byes when I know when I am going to see that person again. Just after I explained this (rather boastfully), my other son said, “Yeah, but when are you going to see Mike and Amy again?” True, the bride and groom were leaving for their honeymoon in Mexico before moving to California, with plans to go to the Middle East in the future.

On that note, it was as though the faucet was turned on. I cried for real with that one. To quote a df, I feel like I am on the emotional spin cycle this week.

One thing that really struck me was how relaxed things were at the beginning of the week, and how progressively complicated they became as more family members arrived on the scene. I had to consciously allow myself the freedom to live and talk and risk offending people.

It was crazy how I struggled to not hurt anyone’s feelings. By praising one person’s wedding, maybe the others would feel I didn’t like their ceremonies. By hanging out with my kids, maybe my dmil or dmom or dsis felt neglected. By caring for my dmil, dmom, and dsis, I ran the risk of ignoring my own children who would only be together a few short days. By doing one thing, I was forever making a conscious or subconscious choice to NOT do something else.

In the midst of all of it, I was still fatigued with the lingering effects of dengue fever, and rather wishing I could withdraw from the whole crowd and just relax for a few minutes. With prayer warriors lifting this particular need for my daily strength and energy, I just kept pushing ahead, trying to stay medicated enough with Tylenol so that I could continue to function.

When it was all said and done, I have to say that I have a deeper appreciation for the way God cares for the entire universe all at the same time. By my over-concern for each person’s feelings, you’d have thought the Creator had suddenly stepped down from the throne and delegated to me personally the responsibility of assuring the happiness of each and every loved one. Let me just say that it was a useless and exhausting experiment to try to keep everyone content when there was plenty of joy and fun to go around without my help. It was a wonderful, fabulous, beautiful, joy-filled, magical week. I am so thankful for every minute spent with my family, and getting to know our new extended family.

IRL* Once I gave up trying to make sure everyone was happy, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. I even danced at the reception.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cookie-Cutter Missionary, a Tale

by Ilona Hadinger, guest blogger
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then he formed man in his image; male and female he created them.
In the middle God birthed His New Testament church. Then he commissioned them to go into all the world; anointed with his Spirit he sent them.
Near the end, God hastened his task. Then he formed a cookie-cutter shaped missionary; identical he produced them, for the harvest was great and the workers were few.
And they rarely lived happily ever after.
The end.
Written by Lax N. Site for the “Myths, Lies, and Twisted Truths” anthology.
You’ve never read that? Oh, but many of us have believed it – or live surrounded by those who do.
Like me.
It began with the “I do” to a minister on my wedding day. I felt I had to be that cookie-cutter pastor’s wife. I did love people, but I couldn’t sing, wasn’t a social butterfly, and the only songs I knew on the piano were 70‘s hits like “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.
Was I the wrong cookie for that post?
In time came the call to missions. With itineration came invitations to be the engaging speaker for the women’s event in There-ville. “Come, share your vision with passion!” Except that I hated public speaking and was still recovering from the shock of the call.
Was I the wrong cookie for that plate?
On the field, most national’s have received us warmly with invitations to preach. In my case, again to women in conferences or other large gatherings. Often I sense their disappointment that I am not the Patsy Clairmont or Beth Moore they expected...or hoped for.
Am I the wrong cookie for this place?
I used to think so, but not anymore. Sweeping the crumbs aside, a dormant truth in my heart awoke to active belief: I am uniquely created by my Maker! My talents and abilities are to be used for His glory, for the calling of His choosing.
As a missionary, I can serve Him with what He’s given me, though others try rolling me, cutting me out and baking me into what they think I should be. If I like to write, paint, bake, or to raise my kids well and be the best help-meet for my husband, I can do any of those as faithful ministry, creatively using my desires, abilities and talents for God’s glory.
Have you ever read about Bezalel in Exodus 31:3,4? God uniquely used him to help build the Tabernacle: “I have filled him with the Spirit, with make artistic designs.” Or you may recall the Levites in I Chronicles 23-26 who each had a specific work to do, “...they were to serve the the way prescribed for them...and so they carried out their responsibilites.” And let’s not forget Tabitha in Acts 9 who served the Lord by sewing for widows.
This is cookie-cutter freedom!
You know both your calling and your talents. May God continually roll you, shape you, and make you into what He wills. His house will fill with a wonderful aroma and your life will be a trail of delicious crumbs for others to taste and see how good He is.
IRL*Thank God for making you the right cookie for the right place!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tapering Off: Does that have to be the norm?

This summer is all about family. I am consumed with travel itineraries. Dh is attending a family reunion with his mom in Wisconsin this week. Tomorrow, 16-year-old dd is visiting her big sister in Colorado before we all meet up in Illinois. Next week I will leave with the remaining two children, ages 12 and 14, to spend a week with ds and his fiancĂ© before the wedding (!). Ds from Canada will join us for that week, too. The following week I’ll see the eldest ds and his wife, who are expecting my first granddaughter!

With the anticipation of many joy-filled reunions coming up, I’ve been on the Lingo phone and Skype a lot more than usual. Suddenly we can’t wait to see each other, so we are chatting almost daily. After the wedding, I’m sure the visiting will continue at a higher pace than usual, until it gradually tapers off to our norm, which is a couple of weeks between communication. Eventually real life consumes us all.

It’s like going to see the dentist. Before a check-up, I tend to pay a lot of attention to my teeth, trying to get them cleaned up before getting them cleaned. (How dumb is that?) Then after they are professionally cleaned, I am super diligent to brush and floss for the first few months, but when it’s time for my next appointment, I find myself digging out the floss again.

It’s inexcusable how neglectful I get the more time that passes between visits, whether with friends, family, or dentists. I might even argue the same applies to household help. We dash around tidying up the house if a maid is coming to clean, and then we work hard to try to preserve the clean house once she leaves. That never lasts long, though, unless we are expecting company. Clutter eventually reigns (or rains?).

Unfortunately, the same principle also applies to my times with God. The more I hang out with Him, the more I want to. Then if I am not super careful, I can easily fall back into bad habits of rushing through “mandatory” conversations with Him each day, allowing clutter to take over my daily agenda.

This summer I took the 90-day challenge with one of my readers I am blessed to know IRL. (Thanks, Inky’Spot!) We’ve been reading through the whole Bible since June. It takes me over an hour most days, and even longer if I journal, pray, and think over what I have read. It’s been a fabulous experience. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more time I want to spend with Him, just like with my family and friends.

Today is day 57, and I up to Jeremiah. I have no idea how I will carve out time for this luxury once I fly up to be with my family next week, but for now I am hooked.

Keeping up with adult children, cleaning house, flossing teeth, diet, exercise, daily Bible reading, and warfare prayer…. Discipline is such a virtue worth pursuing and maintaining.


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