Wednesday, May 30, 2012

That's a Wrap!

In just a few short days I will be back in the land of plenty, where everything is available to those who can afford to buy them.  You can tell I have my usual ambivalent feelings about leaving home to live out of a suitcase for a few months, being tempted on all sides, while trying to raise money, not spend it, and to lose weight, not find it.

Right now I am surrounded by lists – things to do before we leave, people to see while we are stateside, stuff that needs to happen down here even while we are gone, and junk to purchase and cram into suitcases to bring back in August.  Meanwhile I am consumed with tidying up the house and tying up loose ends I don’t care to face three months and thousands of miles down the road.

With WOTH’s blessing, I’ve decided to take off the month of June to help transition into mini-furlough mode, so you won’t hear from me again until I am in Ohio in July. Rather than leave you dangling, I thought I would write one final post to tie up some loose ends with you, too – an update of sorts.  If I’ve left any other question marks in your mind, leave me a comment and I will attempt to answer it.  How’s that?

Plumbing. Would you believe we are just now almost getting the plumbing problems fixed?  Yep, a whole year of stench and inconvenience, and we almost have it resolved.  Almost.

Techy side.  My dream is coming true as I sing and chat with my little 5-month-old granddaughter.  This week I was blessed to share in her bedtime routine via Skype, watching my son read The Poky Little Puppy aloud to her in the nursery.  What a precious gift technology is to me.

Will they ever forgive me?  One estranged friend I have prayed for recently friended me on Facebook, and another is looking forward to seeing me this summer for this first time in more years than I can remember.  A third just chatted with me the other day on Facebook as though nothing stands between us.  God is blessing there, too.  There is hope, my friends!

Speaking of friends,  I am looking forward to a little reunion with some of my dearest high school friends – the first time in way, way too long.

At the end of my Unforgettable Week, yet another coworker passed away, and I blogged about it here.  Later I read a fascinating article about another fallen hero I never met or even heard of until his death – Jim Elliot’s brother, who faithfully served the Lord for over 60 years without any fanfare at all until he reached heaven.

Now that I’ve gotten you up-to-date I really must get busy on all the other items on my to-do list.  Procrastination stops here – right after I reread all your comments and suggestions from this post  and today’s post.

IRL* See you in July!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zest that Exudes

When I die, just put me in the box as is, or is it as am?  As I will be? 

Some women beg their friends to promise there will be no open casket when they die.  Why?  Mercy, they say, what if my hair isn’t done just so?  What if they put on the wrong color of lipstick?  Ew, what if I look gross?

As for me, I say put me on display for all to see.  Don’t bother with my hair or make-up.  Let everyone comment about how horrible I look.  Maybe people will finally appreciate all the effort I put into looking presentable at this season of life.

At the same time, tell everyone that for the first time ever, I do not care about my appearance.  Finally I will be free from my mortal body and sin nature that always cared too much how I looked and what people thought. 

Then I will be truly beautiful inside and out with no vanity or wrong motives.  Let my decaying body be a reminder to all who see it that I am not there!  Don’t waste money on embalming and beautifying my corpse.  Let my pale wrinkly old face serve as an object lesson.

I’ve shared before about my ongoing struggle against becoming a frumpy missionary, but as I grow older and wiser I wonder why on earth I fight the inevitable.  Money is precious, and worldly beauty is costly.  How can I rationalize the haircuts, the makeup, the clothing, and the shoes? 

Yet I look in the mirror, and I shudder to think what my family would be seeing all day if I didn’t touch up the results of a restless night’s sleep. Lord, help me to find balance!

This past week I met an exuberantly vivacious (is that redundant?) old woman who epitomizes true beauty.  I want to grow up to be her.  She radically changed my definition of loveliness.  True beauty has nothing to do with glamour, jewelry, clothing, hairstyles, or even teeth. 

If there were a missionary magazine looking for a centerfold of the most beautiful woman on earth, I would submit Valentina.  She has curiously split ear lobes, no teeth, failing eyesight, wrinkles galore, unruly gray hair, feet that shuffle, posture that stoops, and a voice quality that warbles and squeaks.

But you know what else she has?  Valentina possesses an inner glow, a zest that exudes joyfully from every pore of her being, even though she lives spitting distance from a cemetery and within sniffing range of the city dump. 

She is the me I want to be when they put me in that pine box someday. 

I want people to stand around and tell stories about my life, not about my decaying body.  I want people to smile and remember the real me, the radiant me who reflected God’s beauty and glory, just like Valentina.

What made me chuckle is that even my hero, Hermana Valentina herself, attempted to smooth down her long gray braids when she saw the camera, braids that were once carefully tied with red satin ribbons.  Vanity is an issue even among the world’s most astonishing beauties.

IRL* When I grow up, I want to be a Valentina who still acts young, not an old person trying to look young.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flora. Fauna. Forgetfulness.

About a mile high.  Pomegranate.  80’s during the day, 40’s or 50’s at night.  Yes, it’s probably safe to drink that.  Another short while and we’ll arrive in the village.  You know, I have no idea.

Can you guess what I’m doing this week?  Yep, we’re hosting a short-term team from the States, and I am answering the same questions we are frequently asked.

What’s the altitude here?  What kind of tree is that?  How hot does it get here?  What’s the coldest it gets?  Do you think they boiled the water they used to make this drink?  How much further until we get there? 

I’m okay up to this point (as long as, in fact, it is a pomegranate or jacaranda or one of the other two trees I can actually identify).  Then we get into regional birds.  “Yes, that is a bird.”  (No idea what variety or species or however you identify such things.)  Then I resort to a long string of “I have no idea” answers until they finally stop asking. 

Just between friends (shhhh!), I confess I may at times make up a plausible sounding answer just to avoid yet another admission of my ignorance.  I shudder to think of visitors passing these fabrications as the truth.  Lord, forgive me - after You stop laughing.  (He gets my wacky humor.)

Personally I am always relieved with the visitors who consider what it would be like if I came to their neighborhood and asked them to identify all the flora, fauna, and the warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates with beaks and feathers.  Probably they don’t know the population of every surrounding neighborhood, the daily income levels, and the occupations of each person on a given street either.

So why do I end up feeling unintelligent when people ask me all these things?  It’s just silly.  I don’t know.  I never have known.  Even if I learned it once upon a time, I probably forgot.  I can identify the few trees and most of the flowers in my garden, and usually I can call each of my children by the right name.  With that, I want to be content.

After being on the field all these years, you’d think I would know more than I do.  The fact is that the more I learn, the more I forget, and the more I discover that things I thought I knew were not exactly what I thought they were anyway.  Does this make any sense at all? 

This how it goes in my Christian life, too.  The longer I live, the more I see how much I still have to learn.  There is no point of “arriving” – at knowing everything.

IRL* Having teams is a humbling reminder of how much I have yet to learn. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The "Big But"

How long has it been since you cried actual tears over your sin?  Earlier this year I was writing about “acceptable sins” – the ones I must struggle to even recognize as sin.  Meanwhile all around me I see the tragic effects of sin in the lives of loved ones, neighbors, and strangers in the news.

Daily I have been preaching the gospel to myself and to my kids, trying to make it relevant in every situation that life throws my way.  I know that it is true, but I am struggling to live as though I really believe it.  In the past few years since I started this exercise, I have found it much easier to extend grace to others – in light of the gospel.

One ongoing prayer is that God would faithfully show me what’s in my heart, what sins still lurk there.  Boy howdy, let me warn you in a hurry that this is NOT something you want to pray without serious contemplation.  God is faithful and just, and He will gladly answer this one.

What I have been living through the past couple of weeks is a brutal and agonizing battle of the soul.  I’ve seen some serious stuff in my life that ‘aint purty in the least.  It’s downright UGLY, and I am not kidding.

For years I have had a nagging suspicion that there is some hidden fault that is apparent to everyone around me, but that eludes me.  After all, I can see traits in my friends that probably any mutual friends would agree “could use some work” – but I always wondered what other people were too kind to point out in my life.

Are you tracking with me here?  Do you see struggles in others’ lives that you have conquered in you own?  Or things that sort of bug you about friends you choose to love anyway?  Maybe it’s different in your corner of the world, but I fellowship with some amazing people who are loving, kind, generous, caring, fun (some of them, anyway), but….

It’s that but that always gets me.  They are still human.  They still have struggles.  They still have snarky days.  Some seriously need an attitude adjustment.  They all are bound to a flesh and blood sin nature with hormone fluctuations, mood swings, and varying degrees of selfish motivation that taints even their best efforts.  They are imperfect.

Nonetheless I love them dearly.  I know they love me, too (except the ones, of course, who don’t).  But what’s the “big but” they would add to the list of my better qualities?  I’ve just gotten a glimpse, and let me tell you, it’s huge.  It explains why I’ve unknowingly alienated myself from some people I love with all my heart.

It’s taken the greatest effort to stay at the computer and write today.  I’ve gone through such guilt and shame and self-condemnation over words I have spoken or written that I can’t take back. Words that reflected something nasty residing in my heart or sometimes just a fleeting thought I should have booted out before it hit my tongue or computer screen.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a harder time forgiving anyone as much as I have fought to forgive myself.  Like I say, it’s been a battle of the mind and heart.  I know God forgives me, and I am truly thankful.  But certain people may not choose to do likewise, and if they don’t, how can I ever forgive myself?

And to think it all started with a simple prayer.  Would I be happier to be blissfully ignorant of my failings?  Maybe so, but then how could I ever hope to change?

IRL* Beware, my friends, what you pray this week.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Unforgettable Week

We used to tease my dad about his obsession with reading the Dallas Morning News obituaries first thing every day during breakfast.  His reply was always the same:  “Just checking to see if I have to go to work today.”  Being self-employed, he seldom took the luxury of a day off.  Dad went to work almost every single day until the day he didn’t.  (It’s been almost ten years, and I still miss him.)

The truth is that my dad looked at the paper to see which of his friends and acquaintances had passed away so he could pay his respects.  The older he got, he more funerals he attended.  That’s just how it goes.  My grandmother used to say that one of the worst part about growing old was outliving all your friends.

This past week I felt like my dad, only I was checking Facebook  (instead of a newspaper) each day to see if different friends and loved ones on my prayer list “had to go to work” again, or if they had been promoted to glory.  Happily for them, but sadly for those left behind, several died last week.

First was the death of my friend’s mother, whom I had been praying for since she suffered a stroke that weekend.  Then the team leader from a short-term group who came down a few years ago lost his battle against cancer, passing away that same day. 

A couple of days later, a car accident in Paraguay took the lives of a woman some of you may have met at the WOTH retreat last fall, Julie Kurrle, and her six-year-old son.  Then without any Facebook warning at all, a neighbor across the road passed away.  Finally on Sunday a Sonlight forum friend lost her precious little daughter, Megan, to leukemia.

Of all of these, the most tragic are the ones involving the little children whose lives on earth seemed cut short.  I cannot imagine the pain and emptiness felt by the parents.  But then again, those are bittersweet when we picture Jesus welcoming them directly into his arms.

What was truly heart wrenching was the reaction of unsaved loved ones when my neighbor, Joel, died.  My husband and I were in their home when the first responder finally gave up on CPR.  I have never heard such despairing cries of agony and loss.  The wife and daughters were wailing out of sheer hopelessness, not understanding the implications of Joel’s profession of faith in Jesus.

Such an unforgettable week points me again to the reason we are here, the reason we make such sacrifices (like being thousands of miles away when my little granddaughter was taken to the emergency room earlier this week), and the reason we have hope even in the midst of terrible tragedy and loss.

So many have yet to hear the reason for the hope we have.  Here is a sermon that reminded me why we are here, why we do what we do, by  David Platt, author of Radical; it reminds me again of God’s sovereignty.

Here’s a song to minister to your heart, in case you’ve had a week like mine full of sad surprises. 

IRL* If you're reading this, then I guess you have to go to work.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...