Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."  ~Helen Keller

Hope.  A tiny baby.  Born not in a palace to a king, but to an unmarried, peasant girl in a dirty, smelly stable.  Announced to the lowest of the low----shepherds.  By angels!  

Illogical at best.

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."   I Cor. 1:27

To show HIS power.  And that He cares about the least of these.  He's in the small stuff.

"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Emmanuel.  God WITH us.  GOD with us.  God with US.  

Evil will be destroyed.  Suffering will cease.  Wrongs will be made right.  And crying will end.  

Because of one wee babe.  The HOPE of Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

When winter has passed....

It's Spring in New Zealand.  The winter has passed and new life is popping up all around.  There have been lots of rainy, gloomy days but brilliant, sunny ones as well.  Like the morning currently shining through my window.


Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and of singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, 
as lovely as Mount Carmel of the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory, 
the splendor of our G0d.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, and do not fear, 
for your G0d is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you."
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind 
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer, 
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, 
and streams in the wasteland.
The parched ground will become a pool,
and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish 
where desert jackals once lived.     
And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
-Is. 35:1-8

I LOVE the mental picture that brings!  Beauty out of barren land.  Healing out of a wasteland.  HOPE.....

Last night I heard Casting Crown's new rendition of one of their much loved songs.  And it reminded me that this..........


.......doesn't happen without the rain.  And the storm.  

Just like in the garden of my (and your!) soul.

Days like today make me smile. But they're all the more brilliant because of the winter and the barren days that have passed.  Yet today the birds are singing!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Responsibility and Hope

Steve's still where we usually live and has been really enjoying the time.  He's hosted a couple of great teams as well.  The current one from one of our supporting fellowships in the US sent skilled tradesmen who have been giving large portions of FS a face lift with a coat of paint.  Because they can work extra quickly they're painting walls in high traffic areas that have never been painted before.

Five new women have recently started training as well!

I heard a wonderful story the other day about how a large retail store in the city donated very slightly damaged but new cots/cribs to the nursery/creche.  That's really a first since the general feeling in the city is to avoid contact with people in our area.  The store wanted photos to show their employees so one of the women who has in the past few years taken a position of leadership in the office took the photos to the most flash mall in town so they could see.  This is a place that it's surreal to walk into because of the contrast between what's inside and what's in the city around it.  It made me smile to hear how excited this woman was when she came back at how welcoming the staff was and how pleased they were to see the photos.  This is a women who before she started work at FS wouldn't have been welcome to even walk through the doors of the mall........

Change!!!  And now she can hold her head up high.

On the flip side Steve says there are more women 'standing in line' on the main road nearby than he's ever seen before.

I've been thinking lately about how in ways life at FS has 'ruined' us----because now there's a lot that we know.  I worked before Hannah was born at a jewelry store for a number of years and to this day still notice jewelry without meaning to.  After time at FS I notice women that I wouldn't have before.  I know who is looking for a 'customer' on the streets even though she's not scantily dressed and there's not a brothel nearby.

That translates to the streets of New Zealand where I am at the moment.  I find myself googling the awareness of trafficking here and asking questions about the welfare of women.

William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in abolishing slavery in England said:

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” 

Now I know.  And with that comes responsibility.

That's pretty daunting at times......

I don't like seeing more darkness than I used to be aware of.  There's a lot of shadow in this world.  And I don't like wrestling with those 'why' questions that arise.

That's why I love verses like this:

"On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign L0RD will wipe away the tears from all faces...."    Is. 25:7-8

It's not forever.

We all sing things like, "Break my heart for what breaks yours.  Everything I am for your Kingdom's cause."  And we mean it.  But that doesn't mean that it's easy to always walk it out.

I love being part of FS because while there's darkness all around it's a place of hope as well!

(Someone else's blog I read today that meant a lot to me:  Why I will not say I never made a sacrifice )




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happenings....

It's been a while since I've given just a general update so thought I'd post a few things that are going on.  First of all, as of yesterday we now have two high school graduates in the family. Yay! Congratulations, Rachel!  And Hannah has finished her first year at Univ. and is very much enjoying herself learning and working hard at her internship.  I've gotten to hear her speak several times lately.  She does a great job---and that's not just because I'm biased!

Adam turns 10 on Monday and there will be no single digit kids left in the family.....

Steve has been back working where we usually live for the past several weeks.  He's loving it!  He will come back to NZ in three more weeks and bring Aaron for Christmas as well.  For various reasons, one being taking the time for me to get back to full health before I go back to the Third World, I will stay in NZ for the next year.  I have to be here for the second half to complete the time for residency anyway, and we think it unwise that I go back at the end of January yet as was the original plan.  Steve will go back for around three months at the end of Jan., however.

In light of that we've also decided that Aaron will stay in NZ with us for the coming year as well.  He's had a rough last term at boarding school and is excited that he'll get to be with us this year!

Aaron and one of his favorite teachers

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Marked

Steve and I were able to do a debrief for people in our line of work last week.  (He flew back to the city we work in yesterday.)  It was an excellent time of evaluating and processing our personal histories.  It also gave especially me some great perspective on what I need to do differently in the future.  How Steve and I naturally see some things differently so how better to support each other as well.

One thing that may sound a bit too simple for me to need to be reminded of (but was necessary!), was the understanding that it is OK to have needs of my own.  I was designed that way!  Compassion Fatigue is apparently common with people who work with people with dire needs.  Their needs seem so overwhelming that you discount your own, but then fade over time yourself.

One thing that really struck me as we went through this time of evaluation was this.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could become totally 'whole' in all areas.  Wouldn't it be great if we could like the three men in the fiery furnace come out the other side of things, "without even the smell of fire," on us?  (Dan. 3:27)

Unscathed sounds great but then maybe we'd be without some of the benefits of those experiences as well?  Maybe we wouldn't have increased wisdom, compassion for people in similar circumstances, and most of all we'd lack His 'mark' on us in ways that matter.  After wrestling for a night with G0d Jacob always walked with a limp. (Gen. 32: 24-26) It was his Father's mark on him for the rest of his time on Earth.  A reminder.

Like Paul did we should boast in our weaknesses. (2 Cor. 12:9) They're the sign of His power working through us, not our own.  They're areas that He's touched us.  And while they may make us feel 'weak' in ways they're just a sign that HE is strong.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seeker

I'm turning into a seeker of the sun.  Most of my adult life has been in countries where you tend to avoid the sun so you don't melt!  That's true where we usually are, too, but there the smog is so dense that while it makes you hot, the sunshine never gives that nice 'ahhh' feeling on the skin.

New Zealand is cool enough this time of the year that I'm finding myself irresistibly drawn to sunbeams.  I'm outside as much as possible to look at beautiful things and feel that sun on my skin.  It just feels soooo good. (Maybe I'm low on Vitamin D!)

But seeking the creation is only a shadow of seeking the Creator.  The sun on my skin reminds me that I need to be a seeker of the Son, too........

"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything G0d made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing G0d"          -Rom 1:20

In front of our house.
View from 'my' bench by the beach.

Pathway beside the beach

Another....

Tree on the beach

Just because they're so cute!
Photos are just taken with my phone so not the best quality!  I need to remember to take a real camera with me sometimes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Being Creative

I am about the least artistic person that I know when it comes to drawing or anything along that line, so when I walked into a creative journaling seminar last week and saw art supplies on the tables I got a bit nervous!  I guess the fact that the seminar was called "Beyond Words: Journal Workshop" should have clued me in!  Luckily the seminar gave opportunity for creative expression, but didn't require any skill to participate.

It was really good to be challenged to think outside of the box. As someone who likes words I tend to just journal by writing a lot.  The downside is that if I'm not in a mindset to articulate well, then I don't journal and leave huge gaps in my 'story.'

I didn't write the figures down so don't quote me, but the speaker talked about how bringing a creative aspect into something that you do actually slows down the words per minute that your brain processes (something like 600 words per minute as the usual down to 120) and leaves you in a more restful, contemplative mode.  And how much we need that in our modern world.  And how helpful that is to calm us down to contemplate Scripture and talk to our Father.

We did a number of exercises which I actually quite enjoyed---even though there was something art related in my hand!  One of them was to write a 'cinquain' and decorate it if you wished to slow yourself down to really think.  I think I related especially well to this one because it still let me use words!  A cinquain is this:

Start with ONE word
Choose TWO adjectives
Add THREE words ending in 'ing'
Next come FOUR words that make a sentence
Lastly,  a ONE word ending.

A few days ago something happened that suddenly left me feeling tense, unfocused, and worried.  I decided to try a cinquain in my journal at home.  I was in no mood to articulate sentences but somehow just putting down the root of what I felt seemed do-able.  I wrote this:

FEAR
Ugly binding
Stressing worrying over-thinking
Is not from G0d
Bondage
And I drew chains around my poem.  (Those are easy to draw!) I didn't like leaving something so dark so thought I'd look at the opposite:

TRUST
Restful holy
Refreshing peaceful loving
I'm free in You!
SAFE

And I drew a daisy chain around that. :-)  (Mine wasn't quite as good as this picture, though!)

Somehow slowing down and doing this simple exercise relaxed me and focused my mind and heart so I could actually deal with how I was feeling with a lot less struggle to get to that point than usual.  I had a great talk with my Father and left the room after only about 15 minutes feeling peaceful and trusting.

So while I'll never be artistic in that way, I'm leaving a box of art pencils by my journal in the nightstand---and we'll see what happens!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Worldwide......

It's been an interesting day of being confronted by something 'normal' to me where we've been living the past few years in a different context.  Well, I don't think the exploitation of women is 'normal,' but it's something I've grown accustomed to--but not comfortable with--being around.

Today I've been horrified by a terrible Facebook hack of someone I know who is not in a first world nation. I don't think she has a computer at home so it will probably be some days before she discovers the horrible pornographic photos put up on her wall and even as her cover photo on her page.  She probably used an internet cafe computer and left her page open.  She'll be absolutely mortified and feel victimized when she discovers what's happened.

But what about the girls in the photos to start with?  No woman suddenly just wakes up one day and decides to take her clothes off for a camera.  They're victims, too........

Aaron's here for his mid-term break (and medical appointments).  The boys have been wanting to go to an army surplus store to browse so we took them to one in Auckland today.  Prostitution is legal in New Zealand and it turns out that the store was on a street with a lot of brothels on it.  There was nothing going on on the street, unlike our usual neighborhood, but it was disturbing to see the signs and blatant advertisement of what goes on behind the closed doors.

We were at a function a while back where I sat by a lady who had worked as a social worker who checked up on the well being of women in the trade in Auckland.  She obviously thought it was well within the girls' 'rights' to sell themselves, but when I asked her opinion of how they got there to start with she replied, "Well, obviously there's a strong connection between past abuse and women who chose the lifestyle."  Huh?  But it's OK????

I think not.

It's a big, bad, fallen world..........everywhere.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Time with Adam

I'm really enjoying homeschooling Adam again.  We do all of the normal subjects but have been doing extra things like spending a lot of time outdoors with daily walks.  We're loving reading really good books, too (currently 'The Hobbit' before the movie comes out soon!).  As he's had time Steve's been enjoying doing Science projects with Adam as well. They've researched what to plant, built a little glass house and have a whole crop of sprouted veggies on the porch.  They'll start a project about 'clean water science' soon.  I'm studying marine life with Adam and we've had lots of fun examining tide pools on the beach.  Adam wants to start an ant farm that he saw in town next.  If only Mom wouldn't make him do math every day.............

Some of our conversation today:

Me: (reading from 'Story of the World 1' by Susan Wise Bauer) "Shamshi-Adad wanted the people of Mesopotamia to be afraid of him.  He was a dictator-he didn't allow any of the people in his new kingdom to ask questions about his laws and his commands.  He just wanted them to obey him immediately."

Adam:  (interrupting) That's just like YOU, Mom!

(I HAVE been talking to him the past few days about taking his own sweet time getting around to doing what I say!)

Me: (When I could read again without laughing.  It took a couple of minutes.) "How did he get them to obey?  He killed anyone who wouldn't do exactly what he said!" So do I do that as well?

Adam:  Well, maybe you used to have more children than you do now?  I think maybe you actually had 10 to start with........!

Taking a contemplative break during a walk
(Homeschooling is SUCH a rough life for kids!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Questions......


I had an interesting discussion with a few people the other day about the city where FS is located and it's impact on people.  It doesn't seem to leave people unchanged.  It's such a crazy, dirty, vibrant, sad, poverty stricken, enthusiastic, heart rendering, historic, hard, wealthy, colorful place of fragile beauty and 'in your face' pain.  There's just no where else quite like it!

The city and especially the area where FS is makes people ask hard questions, too.  It seems to make people either reach deeper for answers or, sadly, we know of those who have walked away from their fai-th because the questions were too much.

Questions like:

"Where is G0d in the night sky?
Where is G0d in the city light?
Where is G0d in the earthquake?
Where is G0d in the genocide?

Where are you in my broken heart?
Everything seems to fall apart
Everything feels rusted over
Tell me that you're there"
                   -by Jon Foreman  ('Vice Verses'-Switchfoot)

Or maybe phrased a bit more like this for our city:

Where is G0d in the stolen women?
Where is G0d in the homeless children?
Where is G0d in the poverty?
Where is G0d in inhumanity?

Where are you for their broken hearts?
Everything has already fallen apart
Everything feels hopeless forever
How can you be there?

These are valid questions and ones that we have had to face daily.  And there are no easy answers----except to struggle with it. And not to stop.

As our Rachel said at the end of the conversation I mentioned, (about those who have stopped asking and have walked away) "Let's not let that be us!"

P.S. Today is FS's 11th birthday of offering Freedom!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another sad day......

Monday was a sad day at FS.  We wish we could have been there with them but were there in our hearts.  On Sunday the call came that another of our beautiful young women had killed herself.  Who it was was a shock, however; a lovely, bright 22 year-old named Shanti (it means 'peace') who had started in screen printing but had been promoted and was working happily in the office for the past six months.  She had even just given out wages to the entire staff on Friday.  There was absolutely no warning.........

She was found hanging from the ceiling fan that was still going inside her locked room.  The last phone call on her phone was apparently from her boyfriend who it is rumored had just broken off their engagement.

Suicides happen far too often in the district where we live.  They also seem to be somewhat glamorized by the young; a final, terrible statement to those who have hurt them.  When life has been hard sometimes hope is scarce and things that 'shouldn't' become too much.

She didn't have to die, however.  She had a loving community of 200 at FS that would have surrounded her. That community is now devastated by the loss.

Maybe somehow the knowledge that others cared so much for Shanti and would have been there for her will keep someone else from following her path.  May HOPE reign..............

Monday, August 27, 2012

Natural Theology

I'm a 'commune with Him through nature' kind of girl.  Something that's been a bit challenging the past few years in the place we've been living----so I'm drinking it up here in NZ!

 HOPE
Amazing double rainbow taken through my windshield.  
 PEACE
View from the reserve a few minutes walk from where we're staying.
TRUST--spring always comes!
One very early rose in the midst of the brown in front of our house.

Making Me


Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty


Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely


‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
L0rd, please keep making me
                                                   -Sidewalk Prophets

I can't get this song out of my head.  It's what pops out lately whenever I start to randomly sing.  It's a catchy  tune but when I stop to think about the words I get a bit nervous!  This really is the cry of my heart, but lately I'm feeling a bit weary and kind of sore.  I'm not sure I want more 'making' for a while.

Last Saturday was a beautiful, almost spring day in NZ so Steve and Adam mowed the lawn and pulled weeds at Steve's sister's holiday home where we're staying. Adam stumbled up the stairs the next morning moaning and groaning whenever he moved.  He's still sore today.  Since he's one of those perpetual motion nine-year olds I was surprised, but I guess he used muscles that he hadn't for a while.  

Sore muscles.  They're a good thing because they make you stronger.  Sore hearts/spirits?  I guess they make you stronger too.  And that in the long run is good.

"Til You are my breath, everything.........."

"The LOrd is my shepherd, I have all that I need." Ps.23:1 (NLT)



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Aaron goes back to boarding school tomorrow.  It's been a very sweet time of getting days of the six of us together in New Zealand! Yesterday we went to our favorite hang out place as a family before Hannah had to go help lead a camp this weekend.





Friday, August 10, 2012

The Hard Stuff

Quite a few people that I love are going through really awful, shattering, life altering stuff: sickness, death, divorce, watching grown children make bad decisions, depression, a spouse in jail, bankruptcy.  And that's just people in the USA and NZ.  Heartbreaking.

When people are sharing sometimes the best thing to do is just listen and love.  But while I can't solve their problems I want to encourage them as well.

In the middle of the struggle it's hard to see the light at the end.  It's hard to see beauty through the shadows and pain.  It's hard to imagine that something good can come from the ashes.

Steve was reminding our family the other day about how the Good News was originally spread. It was through persecution when the people scattered because they were forced to leave Jerusalem and through the blood of martyrs.  Sometimes terrible things, while still terrible, aren't only what they seem. And He still looks after us through it all.

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, G0d's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before G0d. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for G0d is worked into something good."
                                                       -  Rom. 8:26-28 (the Message)

But what can we do in the middle of the struggle when we can't see the end?  There's no easy answer but here are a few things I've jotted down when my own road has been rough and I've found solace in His Word:

1.  WAIT and TRUST -  "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength, they will soar high on the wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint."  -Is. 40:31   "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD ; Be strong and let your heart take courage ; Yes, wait for the LORD."  -Ps. 27:13-14

2. HIDE in Him - "G0d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble"  -PS.46:1  "Do not be afraid , for I have called you by name; you are mine."  -Is. 43:1  "See, I have written your name in the palms of my hands."  -Is. 49:16a  

3. Find PEACE- "Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life?" -Matt. 6:27  "Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?" -Mark 4:40 (After J3sus calmed the storm)  "For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.  They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone."  -Ps. 91:11-12

 "Rehearsing your troubles only results in experiencing them many times."  -Sarah Young

4. Rely on His STRENGTH- "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I willboast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Chr1st's power may rest in me." -2 Cor.12:9  "Look to the L0rd and his strength; seek his face always." -Ps. 105:4

5.  Guard your THOUGHTS- "So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." -Rom. 8:6

"In the process, I've come to believe that G0d will never waste our pain-----but I can." -Glynnis Whitver

6. FOLLOW Him- "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do:  I will not forsake them" -Is. 42:16

"I was documenting the storm going on right now and suddenly realized that there are beautiful things happening all around us all the time, if we would just open up our eyes and see them ."
-quote and photograph by my friend Katherine Murray Williamson

Imagine the smile on His face as we enjoy the things that He has made for us!  Especially when they are moments of beauty in the middle of a storm........

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Refreshment


Rolling river G0d
Little stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
so, I am a stone
Rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river's chill
But when I close my eyes
And feel You rushing by
I know that time brings change
And change takes time
And when the sunset comes
My pray-er would be this one
That You might pick me up
And notice that I am
Just a little smoother in Your hand
Sometimes raging wild
Sometimes swollen high
Never have I known this river dry
The deepest part of You
Is where I want to stay
And feel the sharpest edges wash away
                            -(River G0d by Nichole Nordeman)

I've been given a gift recently-----some time for CONTEMPLATION.  I've been living in a very 'Martha' situation for the last few years, but I'm a 'Mary' at heart.  (In fact, Mary's my middle name!)  I'm realizing that to be who I've been created to be and to operate better in the things that are actually my strongest gifts, I'm going to have to do better about finding time to truly sit at His feet.

You'd think I'd know living in a place that consistently takes me past my own strength that the only way to survive is by drawing from His well.  It never runs dry.  Unlike mine!  But now I'm finding myself really thirsty..........

I keep expecting to notice one day that I'm filled up but I'm finding that the more that I 'drink' the more thirsty I am.   I haven't been writing much here in recent weeks, but my personal journal is packed full of stuff that might spill over to this page eventually.

We live in the era of the quick fix.  Things happen so fast and we expect immediate results.  But things that are worthwhile take time.  It's a slow 'river' that washes away those edges and makes us smooth!

"This journey (contemplation) may take us away from the 'wholeness' we seem to have at the moment.  It may drag to the surface of consciousness many things which shatter our illusions of wholeness.  This journey may radically challenge our lifestyle and identity. Wilderness territory lies between Egypt and the Promised Land.  


At the heart of contemplation is the loving submission of our will, in naked fai.th, to the loving G0d revealed in Chr1st.  That is costly.  And in the process of building our 'wholeness' His way, not ours, the G0d to whom we lovingly surrender, will send us to love the suffering world one way or another as 'holy' members of his 'holy' people.  


Chr1st1an contemplation is primarily about holiness in this world, not wholeness. Nevertheless, in the fullness of time, wholeness will be one of it's fruits, whether in this life or the Age to come........But the authenticity of our wholeness is always tested by whether we go on to minister to others to seek their wholeness."
(by Peter Stuart, the Refresh Journal)

Yup, contemplation is worthwhile!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why worry?


I Worried
by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

I got this poem recently from a friend and thought it was awesome. It aptly shows the futility of worry in our lives.  Yet how often do we do just that, worry................

We may not realized that it's worry but just a nagging unsettledness in our chest.  Issues that we spend too much time rehearsing and rehashing in our minds to find an answer for.  Fears that creep in slowly until they become a 'normal' part of our thought processes.

Yesterday I read one of my favorite passages and was reminded not to worry and how practically to accomplish that:

"Always be full of joy in the L0rd.  I say it again-rejoice! 

(If we're full of worry, anxiety, stress, tension, fears, etc, there is no room to be full of Him at the center of our being!)

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember the L0rd is coming soon.

Don't worry about anything; instead, pra-y about everything. Tell G0d what you need and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience G0d's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.

(HOW to work out all the yucky stuff I've mentioned above.)

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Chr1st J3sus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."         Phil. 4: 4-8

(How to STAY in that peaceful place!)
 A few photos of family time in NZ so far...........






Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Far Side of the Sea

 'If I rise on on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
~Ps. 39:9-10

I wonder how many times I've read these verses and related to them?  They were written so long ago but they sound like exactly what we do in modern air travel today!

Rachel, Adam and I have been in New Zealand for two weeks today.  Steve and Aaron just arrived three days ago.  We've seen Hannah some as she's been finishing her semester at school, but tomorrow she'll join us for a week long holiday.  Looking forward to precious time together!  It was so wonderful to see all four kids laughing and talking at the airport when we picked up the guys.  This weekend we've had Kerry and Annie's Rachel staying with us.  Since she's like a sister from our other home to our kids there's been a lot of merriment around the house.

It's such a strange thing to so quickly be on the other side of the sea these days.  I was soaking up the sights and sounds of NZ and enjoying people that we love here while still trying to get the dirt of my other home out from under my fingernails. I miss people there already.

We are drinking in the peace that this place (specifically Steve's sister's holiday home/bach that she lets us live in) brings to us and I am feeling knots in my shoulders unwind.  Steve arrived just in time to go watch the Rally of NZ with one of his old racing buddies.  Last night we all went to a family pub with friends to watch the All Blacks smash, I mean 'play' Ireland.  It was such an 'other world' experience being in a room packed with people yet everyone respected each other's 'space.'  No random fights broke out, no one yelled at each other.  No one openly stared at us or tried to grope my daughter. This morning we will go w0rship with those friends and others from three years ago.  

Our ears are still ringing without the constant background noise that we experience in our other home.  We're still freezing (but enjoying it!) while everyone else is just chilly.  Every long missed food is a party in our mouths.  The smell of clean air savored.

It's a much appreciated haven that we get to enjoy for now.  Yet the needs of our other home won't be forgotten......... 

The entire FS family taken last month.
The management staff

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Leaving for a while

Well, the day has arrived!  Rachel, Adam and I fly to New Zealand tonight.  Hannah and Steve's folks will pick us up at the airport.  Lots of hugs ahead!  Steve will come with Aaron in 11 days after Aaron's school finishes for the year.  We're looking forward to some time as a family.

There are always mixed feelings, of course.  I haven't wrapped my mind around the fact that I won't be back here until January and that Rachel won't be with us when we return.

When we're in NZ or the US it's hard to believe that this place exists and when we're here it's hard to believe that places like NZ and the US exist.  Living here has become relatively normal so as I've contemplated the coming months it's made my eyes 'fresh' to see what's around me every day.  People often tell us we should post more pictures but it's difficult when we live here and are part of the community.  It seems even more invasive towards them when we don't appreciate constantly blocking men from taking photos of our daughter on their phones!  So here are some mental snapshots instead......

A couple of days ago I was walking with Adam along a back lane.  We came to a neighborhood rubbish tip/dump.  It was about 10 X 20 feet and exactly what you'd imagine: a bunch of smelly garbage dumped there by the nightly street sweepers who had swept up the refuse that people had left in places around the streets.  The rubbish tip is emptied occasionally.

What caught our eyes was a large, reddish cow contentedly eating away on top of the rubbish totally unconcerned by the people walking past.  A number of huge, black crows were using it's back as a perch while a couple of roosters scavenged around it's feet.  Remember this is in the middle of a city!

We crossed a road and came to an area where industrial sized cooking pots are made and beaten into shape by hand on the right.  To the left were about 20 of these which are rented out each day to lungi clad often barefoot men who do backbreaking work hauling loads for hire.


Immediately after was an even more populated area of ancient buildings for housing with narrow lanes snaking in between.  It was the usual hustle and bustle of people coming and going, purchasing things or chatting at little hole in the wall (literally) shops and stopping to bow or place flowers at Hindu shrines.  We passed the sad sight near home of the closest brothel just up the road.  It's one of the lower cost ones where about 8 women in their 30's and 40's sat on little stools outside waiting for men to choose them to take turns in a few rooms inside.  If we had taken a small lane to the right we would have seen other similar doorways.  About 100 meters further up the road we were at the building where we live.

I wasn't sure how to explain why we need to go to NZ to the women of FS, but yesterday morning I gave it a shot.  They never like it when the foreigners go away for a while.  Their world is totally here and they can't imagine being so fickle as to come and go.  When I sometimes take my turn to teach at the morning devos I still have someone translate for me.  I have OK conversational language now but that's still beyond me! I can think of what to say alone in my own home, but get muddled when in front of them. Since I knew the women wouldn't like us leaving, however, I wanted to tell them directly in their language.  I wrote it out beforehand and read it to them before the day started.

I looked out on all those faces that we love and was sad to go but overwhelmed with joy at the same time because they were sitting there free from the chains of the trade.  I chatted a bit with the new girl that I talked about a couple of posts ago and loved looking at the open smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes.  I am so grateful that she isn't experiencing what many of the other women have.  Some of the older ones will never sparkle like her again.  They are making the most of the lives that they have but they are still emotionally scared, physically scared from beatings and struggle with disease every day that they picked up in the trade.

But they have Hope!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ties of Love

"I led them with cords of human kindness and with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them."
                                                               ~Hosea 11:4

Steve's mum handed me a card with this verse on it last time we were in New Zealand.  I found it in my Book again recently not long after I read this:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
                                                                    ~Matt. 11:28-30

Since then I've been thinking a lot about yokes.........

The truth is the yoke doesn't always seem easy or light.  It's often heavy and cumbersome.  But if I believe that my Father means what He says, I have to believe the above verses.  And that makes me consider what it is that sometimes makes that yoke weigh so much.  And why do I try to carry it anyway?

The answer I've come up with is this------Myself and my own expectations.

I have pretty high expectations of myself and sometimes that's colored by real or perceived expectations of others as well.  These can become a heavy burden that my Father hasn't put on me.  I frequently forget that I'm not super human after all and expect myself to perform at the same level as everyone around me, whether I've been given the same gifts or grace that they have or not.  

Heavy, tiring yoke.  I still have a lot to, "....learn from me (Him)."  

I am, "Fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 129:14)," to carry the yoke that He has for me.  The rest?  I just want to lay it down.  

It's hard when it looks like good stuff, though!  It's difficult to give myself a break when I'm living among the poor and no matter which way you look at it their lives appear harder than mine.  

My sister-in-law gave birth to my niece when she was only 24 weeks pregnant.  I can't remember how many times the doctors told her and my brother that their precious firstborn may not survive the night.  When I finally got to see them (and my niece) I remember expressing how agonizing that must have been for them and that I didn't know if I could have done it.  She turned to me with a look of amazement on her face and said, "Heather, I could never do what YOU do either!"  

Different yokes for different folks. :-)

I'm in the process of figuring out exactly what my yoke is in the different contexts of my life.  And the key to that is obviously communication with and time in the presence of the One who gives out yokes, or "ties of love," anyway.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Age


"Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it. I promise."

                                                     --Shauna Niequist

I've thought of this quote a number of times this week since I turned 44 on Monday.  40 slid by since Steve and I had just gotten married but somehow forty-FOUR sounds, uhem, more impressive.  I was slightly distracted by the fact that I spent part of the day in the hospital with Steve who had a minor operation (No it's wasn't THAT minor operation! And he's doing very well, thank you.). That's how my 30th slid by since I was in the hospital because I had just had Aaron by C-section the day before.  

Maybe it's the twinning of the 4's that makes me stop and think.  The next twinning for me will be 55!  

Anyway, the above quote is oh so true.  Would I go back?  Absolutely not!  It's that 'groundedness' that my spell check doesn't recognize as a real word that clinches the deal for me.  There are times I'm not as comfortable in the mirror as I was when I was younger, but I'm so much more comfortable in my own skin.  Even if it's not as firm as it used to be!  

And maybe as the outside gets less and the inside gets greater and more connected to Him, the truth that my skin on this earth is not my real home becomes more apparent. Someday I'm gonna shed this skin and that's just fine--------because that's when the REAL fun starts!  

I do think that when Shauna said the above that she must have been younger than I am now, however. Because the truth is, "....your ability to look great without exercising," and DIETING is closer to the truth for me now!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thought for the day......


Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?


        ~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day, 1992

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Something to smile about...

Sometimes I feel like I write about a lot of hard, sad, and depressing things (!) so it's wonderful to have something positive to share!

Last weekend a couple of FS staff found out about an 18 year-old girl who had just been brought to a brothel by her mother from a village up north.  She was going to be put into the trade.  The family was so poor that sacrificing this one child for the rest seemed like the only option....

She was offered a job at FS instead while her mother sat in the corner and cried with relief that he daughter would be spared.  Hope and dignity were extended to her and now she will never know the shame of a life in the trade.

She started work on Monday!

Gifts in Season

It's been hot lately.  Really, really hot.  Today is better than a couple of days last week since the heat index (humidly factored in) is only 48 C / 118.5 F!  Living in a insanely dense city with no AC definitely has it's cons.

But right when the temperature skyrockets, something appears that really helps us through this season.  Dad's gift to us, what we need, just at the right time.

Today's purchase on my counter

Our local bazaar is filled with wonderful, inexpensive fruit and eating a bunch of it and drinking a LOT of water help us through the worst parts of the day.  Mangoes and lychee are full of natural sugars, give us a boost and rehydrate us at the same time----and they're really, really yummy!

Neither of these fruits are around during the time of the year where the weather is a bit easier to handle, but they're there when we need them.

It's that just like Him?  Hard times come but His loving provision is always there for us when it's needed.  (And we're just like a mango that's even better when it's a little squishy because it's been knocked around a bit!)

In The Hiding Place Corrie Ten Boom tells a story about a conversation with her father:

"I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can't die! You can't!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

We can trust Him to provide the 'ticket' we need for whatever season in our lives.......

When I was a kid I didn't like the book of Revelation.  It scared me with all the terrible things to come.  I read it this week, however, and found it full of promise!  He will look after us, give us what we need at the right time, and at the end:

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"   ~Rev. 21: 3-5

Now THAT I can't wait to see!!!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

While we're used to living here in many ways I still frequently have moments where something clicks and reminds me of just how different my perspective is than that of the people from this area.

A couple of nights ago we were getting ready to go have dinner with some of our foreign co-workers.  I walked to a little shop nearby and plunked down the cash for a couple of 2 liter bottles of sodas/fizzy.  While it's something we don't purchase often here just for ourselves, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable contribution towards the nice dinner that was about to be provided for us by our friends.  After all there were five of us coming from our house (we have a young Kiwi guy living with us).  The drinks cost $1.09 US each.

I turned around to walk home with a bottle dangling from each hand. As I passed people living in our area I suddenly wished I had brought a bag to bring my purchase home in because I realized that what I was carrying could come across as extravagant.  For many of my neighbors what I had just casually spent would be a good wage for a day's work........

Perspective.

Earlier today Rachel and I were walking home from the Metro and saw a little 1/2 naked boy toddling around and trying to whack people who came past with a stick.  It looked so cute and harmless and reminded me of my boys playing 'pirates' when they were younger.  I smiled at the ladies standing there and told them how cute he was in their language.

As we arrived home I was still thinking about that little boy and my perspective changed.  I realized that he probably wasn't sword fighting and that the motions he was using weren't of that kind.  He probably was mimicking things he had seen in his home, someone giving someone else a beating.   It happens a lot.

Then I remembered last night walking home from the bazaar and seeing a woman who used to work at FS.  She was given a couple of extra months to try to complete her 3 months training program but finally quit after not showing up on time, etc.  She's one of the minority who have expressed interest in freedom but are so emotionally trapped that freedom seemed too hard.  She went back into the trade.  She has a little boy who used to come to the nursery while she worked.  The last I heard of him, however, his mother has basically abandoned him to live with a group of kids who scavenge at a nearby dump for survival.

At least the little boy who was whacking people had a well fed tummy, a place to sleep at night, and someone to look after him.

Not a good one, but perspective.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Family Hug
My favorite photo from four years ago today!  

People We Love
Taken a couple of weeks ago.  Heather is in the middle to the right.
(Just look for the hair that doesn't belong!) 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Joy and Pain

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. 
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? 
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? 
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. 
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
                                                                                                 ~Khalil Gibran

I read these beautiful words yesterday on a friend's Facebook page and immediately resonated with them---yet found them painful at the same time.  

I've felt 'hollowed out' over and over in recent years, yet last night at a friend's 39th birthday party I could reassure her without hesitation that my 40's have been the best decade of my life so far.  

There's a mystery in the marriage of joy and pain......

A lot of the excavation of my soul the past few years has been living in a neighborhood where hard things far outweigh the joys in my neighbors' lives. It's also brought more into focus than ever the depth of joy that can exist when someone has experienced profound pain.  

I was prepared for hard things when we came here.  I knew that poverty and injustice would change me, and they have.  

But the loss that's cut me the deepest and made me reel is one that you don't have to move to an exotic land to feel and it has to do with this:

Letting Aaron go to boarding school was a huge thing for me with months of fairly agonizing preparation in my heart beforehand.   It wasn't a 'normal' thing to let your 13 year-old go, but I knew it was what's best for him so I worked hard at dealing with it.  I was still adjusting to that when Hannah's departure seemed to sneak up without warning.  I told myself, "It's time.  She's ready.  This is a normal part of life.  It will be good."  I gave myself a couple of weeks when we got back here to grieve and then told myself to pull it together and get on with it.  In hindsight I didn't give myself very good advice!  

Since then I've had friends from all over tell me how agonizing it was for them as children started to leave home.  Some experienced depression or started experiencing panic attacks and needed medication.  Obviously it's not an easy thing to do!

I'm so happy for both Hannah and Aaron.  I love how they're growing and couldn't be more proud of them.  I wouldn't change their current experiences for the world.

But having them away from us for long periods is an adjustment and a grief and I wish I'd been more rational about that a few months back so I would be further along in the process now.  Live and learn!  And next Mother's Day Rachel will have left the nest as well.

Children are a ble3sing and oh so precious!  They are one of the brightest spots in my life and I look forward to ongoing, adult relationships with them in the future.  I want to be their biggest cheerleader as they strike out in the lives they're being prepared for even though they won't be as physically close to me.  

There's lots of joy ahead, but sometimes first:

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."


I've got to say as well, however, that the more things that are stripped in my heart, the more I'm finding my deepest delight in Him!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why?


Rachel and I had an interesting conversation in the back of a taxi just like the one above today.  As we crept along in traffic watching the city roll by (and trying to ignore our sweaty backs sticking to the seat!) she asked me questions like, "Mom, is it wrong for a mother to get into prostitution if she's watching her children starve otherwise?"  And in this context the answer just wouldn't come off my tongue quite so quickly.

It's easy to say, "Of course." and move on to the next subject from a First World perspective, but it's not so easy here.  Extreme, intractable poverty and starvation aren't concepts here.  All you have to do is look out the window as your taxi rolls past.

Hard things don't change morality but they make you say things like, "I know it would be wrong, but since I've never been put in that position I sure wouldn't want to judge."  Things often just don't seem quite as black and white anymore.

Most people that come here ask questions like, "How could G0d let this happen?"

I read an answer this morning:
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends.  With the L0rd a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The L0rd is not slow in keeping his promise (to come back and set things right), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.........So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  Bear in mind that our L0rd's patience means SALVATION." (Caps obviously mine.)    ~2 Pet. 2: 8-9, 14-15a

He doesn't want any one to perish.  He watches his creation struggle in a sin filled world that breaks his heart every second and waits-----out of love.