Friday, January 31, 2014

Giving it back....

I love words.  They float around in my head like a bubble and I love plucking just the right one from the cloud.  That's probably what drove me the most crazy about learning to speak Bengali, I was locked into basic communication because of my own lack of expertise instead of expressing just the nuance and tone that I wanted.  It felt like baby talk and left the communicator in me feeling like I was missing a vital part of my anatomy.

That's why I like to write.  I don't think fast enough, or I'm just too picky to be happy with what generally comes out of my mouth.  I have to say a lot to get at what I really want, whereas when I write I can pause and let the word come like an artist with a paintbrush.

At times I write because I have something to say and somehow want to express that---even if no one ever reads it.  Sometimes it's a form of processing for me and helps me work through some emotion or thing that I don't understand.  And at other times I just write for the love of it.  It fills me with peace and a deep sense of satisfaction.

Lately I've been feeling a responsibility to write.  A compulsion to do it regularly.  And I wonder if it's just somehow that it's good for me, or if maybe it's an impulse put there because of something that I'm meant to say after I practice the process a bit more.  The thought that it may be for the sake of others fills me with trepidation and feelings of inadequacy.

Yesterday, however, I was thinking about gifts and the Giver and about how I've always without really thinking about it, considered gifts as something to be 'used' for others.  But that doesn't quite fit with the practical, internal theology that I've been developing over the last couple of years.  The mind-shift that what's the first priority isn't what is given out, but about what goes in and the Relationship that that involves. (Something that I've always believed but didn't always live.) That the service is just the overflow of that.  And if our value isn't based in what we DO but just in Him, how does that co-exist with gifts and their usefulness?

Google says that a 'gift' inherently is, "a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present."  So if it's something given, then doesn't that mean that it's something meant to bring joy to the recipient as well?  And bring joy to the giver, too, in the act of giving?  THEN being played onward in that the person with the gift can use it for others as well---and gain further joy from the expression of it?

In the movie Chariots of Fire there is a scene where Eric Liddell tells his sister why he puts value in his ability to run.  He says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

Running.  Something that sounded frivolous to the sister, but brought joy to Eric himself.  And ended up being part of the platform of 'usefulness' in Eric's life.  

Perhaps 'gift' in the sense of a natural aptitude for something is more than just a way of being 'useful.'  My light bulb moment yesterday involved putting 'gift' into a different paradigm, into how using a 'gift' can actually be an act of worship.  An act of thankfulness to the Giver.  Ultimately an act of relationship........

Bringing us closer to Him.  Acknowledging where the gift came from.  In dependence on Him.  In partnership with Him.

My hubby finds joy in mechanical things.  A smooth engine is like Beethoven to his ears.  He can tell you what kind of engine is driving past just by the sound.  A couple of our kids can draw and I love to watch their joyful concentration in the process.   A friend has discovered at age 40 that she can run.  And she loves it!  Some are gifted in relationship, and thrive off of making someone else feel good about themselves.  Some find joy in a perfectly balanced budget, making unruly numbers obey them instead of vice versa (another one of Steve's loves!).  Another friend finds relationship with Him when she's baking.  It's the activity that brings her the most peace.  I'm so amazed by one friend who officiates wedding and funerals, but absolutely thrives on a funeral and the celebration of a life by those who were touched by it.

Gifts.  They come in an endless variety reflecting the boundless creativity of the Giver.  I'm thinking that it's valuable to express them positively.  Even if at times they don't seem 'important'.  Or seem trivial.  That the very act of using them brings glory to the Giver and brings us closer in relationship to Him as well.

That taking time out of busy lives to hone our gifts isn't frivolous, it's worthwhile---and might just be exactly what He had in mind!

So grab your gift.  And open it!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Sound of Love

There are times when life leaves you feeling a bit stretched.  A bit too slim.  Times when there's been just a bit too much angst in your world, and your patience and maybe even your hope is wearing thin.

I got to take a walk on a beach today in the sunshine while the boys swam.  Food for the soul.  I walked, drank in beauty, and let the breeze wash over me and blow away the sand that had sifted into my heart, blocking out joy.

And words like these came to mind, "Love is patient.  Love is kind."

There are many people that I love.  It's the ones who hold the absolute center of my heart, my heartstrings, that can really make me bleed.  When someone you love like that is hurting.  Oh my.  And often there's nothing that you can say.  Just give love.

No one ever said that loving is easy.

Ann Voskamp said in her poetic way recently:

"Joy and pain
are two arteries of the heart
that pump through all those who don't
numb themselves to really living."

Love does hurt.  But who would want to live without love?  Even though it's painful. 

It would be a empty, shallow existence at best.   

And the One on Heaven's throne understands because of His love for us. "It broke his heart."  (Gen. 6:6) And we've still been breaking His heart ever since.  God understands grief.  He understands hurt and regret. The Alpha and Omega comprehends.  He knows.

Photo credit:  Hannah Bates
Love is powerful.  "The greatest of these if love." (I Cor. 13:13)  It's the biggest thing we have to share with the world around us; a knowledge of His love and exemplifying His love through us.                                     

"There is no sound louder than love."


It's what the world is desperate for.  And what we need to be showing.

"When we love, we earn the right to speak the truth
When we speak truth, we show the world we truly love
I'm not pointing my finger.  I'm holding out my hand. 
I'll lay it all on the line now to see God save my friend
Let my life and my words be the proof
I'm gonna love you with the truth." 

~Casting Crowns (Love You With the Truth)

This song makes an excellent point.  I think in modern times, times that are getting more and more post-Christian, times where moral absolutes are disappearing and truth is considered relative, that we as The Church no longer have the credibility of times gone by.  Being a Christ Follower hasn't been part of the lives or upbringing of the masses.  So why should they listen just because we say so?

Maybe they haven't seen us love enough.

The below cartoon caught my eye on a friend's Facebook feed.  Unfortunately it makes a valid point........

So what do we do?  Let's scream that 'sound' of love to a world that desperately needs to hear.  Loud. WAY out-loud.  Let's show them with our lives.  Let's leave coveted comfort zones behind.  Let's get our hands dirty in other people's messes. Let's care beyond what is comfortable.  Let's love the fringes like we love our own, our heartstrings.  Let's love, and let it hurt, before we even think about opening our mouths.

Let's earn the right to speak.

Not sure where this came from!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Gift of Being Content: Jesus

There is one major chunk of my life that is a misty blur.  When I became a widow and the kids and I moved back to the USA I was in full, hyper-active, get through today, blinders on, survival mode.  Everything was overwhelming.  Not just the major questions of where would we go and what would we do, how do I help these broken and bleeding children heal, let alone myself.  These were big enough.  But little things sent me reeling.  The grocery store, for example, for some reason was my nemesis.  The camel that regularly broke my back as culture shock overshadowed my life.  It was often easier to feed my kids unhealthy fast food for nights in a row than to face the dreaded grocery store.  I had to psych myself up, spend a couple of hours walking the aisles and reading everything because not one thing looked 'normal' to me, deciding between things like fifty different cereal options, and go home exhausted body and soul.  Even now I shudder at the thought!  The Land of Plenty was too much for me.

Most of the next couple of years is rather shadowy in my memory.  Sure there are moments that stand out, but even at the time day to day living was a blur.

I look back now with sadness knowing that I missed out.  I was robbed of part of my children's childhood.  Years that I barely remember and will never get back.  Adam in one of my favorite stages of childhood from age three to five.  Aaron eight to ten, the girls in their tweens and early teens.  I have very few mental snapshots to treasure.  But lots of memories of turmoil inside.

Yes, there were understandable reasons 'why', but when I consider what I was missing during that season, the word that comes to mind is: contentment.

Now we're in another transitional phase, but I'm determined to not let lack of contentment rob me of TODAY.  Contentment can be elusive, but is easier to find than we often think.

Contentment is the recognition of a gift.  It's living in the now and acknowledging that today is enough.  That, in fact, today after today after today is all that there is.  It's not passivity, complacency, or being lazy.  It's thankfulness, gratefulness, and a bringer of joy in the NOW.  It's finding fulfillment is what He has provided so that we can walk and serve and thrive out of abundance rather than lack.

Discontent is ungratefulness and lack of trust.  It's what caused the original sin and Fall of Man from the presence of God.  It made Cain kill his brother and Judas betray his Savior.

Contentment is key.  It's embracing Jesus, receiving with arms open wide.  It's taking a deep breath and dialing down through our harried thoughts and worries to receive His gifts of grace.  Today.

It's finding fellowship with Jesus in this moment.  And being at rest.

"We look at this Son and we see the God who cannot be seen.  We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created.  For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels--everything got started in him and finds its purpose in Him."  
(Col. 1:15-16 msg)

Jesus. "Visible image of the invisible God" (same verse NLT)

Read this verse slowly with your senses wide open.  It's beautiful!

"Because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace."  
(Luke 1:78-79)

That same Morning Light wants to shine in our hearts today.  Give us peace on the path.  Contentment.  Jesus.

Let's not live portions, or even days, of our lives without acknowledging and receiving His gift of relationship to us.  Today.  

Look at You in all of Your splendor arrayed
Words can't describe just how beautiful You are
Look at You and all Your magnificent ways
I can't comprehend just how infinite You are

When I see You, everything is lovely
When I see You, my whole world seems to change
When I see You, there's no way I'll ever be the same
When I see You, when I see You

Look at You, You're such a compassionate friend
The world's yet to see one as faithful as You are
Look at Your mercy and grace without end
Your kindness is leading me right back to Your heart

When I see glorious, wonderful , Almighty King
You reign in power and we bow before You now
Author of majesty, the whole earth will sing of who You are
Oh, and how great You are

(From "When I See You" by Big Daddy Weave)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hope: Ruminations of a Reforming Optimist

I'm an optimist.  Always have been and always will be.  But I haven't always been a wise one.

When I was 19 I spent a couple of months in China on a missions team.  Being the natural optimist that I am, I blissfully ignored the state of many things that I had to cope with---including toilets that I had to use.  A squatty-potty in a busy hostel that doesn't flush properly so I have to be careful just how low I squat with other stuff already in there?  No problem!  Sharing a slit in a wooden floor as a toilet in an inhabited pig sty on a bus stop out in the middle of nowhere?  Easy peasie!  That's what I thought at the time.  But the big reoccurring stressful dream of my life to this day is of being desperate but unable to find a toilet that is clean enough to even approach.  Yuck, huh?

When I had my second baby, the first of three born in Fiji, I spent hours in labor only to have a C-section again in the early hours of the morning.  I was then put at the end of an ICU ward of about ten moaning women in the furthest bed away from the nurses' station. I couldn't move or attract the attention of a nurse all night because the bottom half of my body was still asleep from a spinal.  I had to lay flat on my back for the next 24 hours, but chose to focus on the fact that I was in the bed closest to the window in the sweltering, hottest month of the year so I had some breeze while others didn't.  Find the joy in the midst of (or just ignore!) the pain, right?  I came out of that experience with claustrophobia, especially if I feel like I can't move my legs, that I still deal with today.

This is pretty much a life-long pattern for me.  Focus on the good.  Ignore the bad.  Sounds good, right?  Possibly even admirable? "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (I Thes. 5:18)  

What this verse DOESN'T say and I, and possibly other optimists like myself, have missed for years is, "Just ignore the bad and pretend that it doesn't exist." There are many ways of avoidance in this life.  Ways to ignore or make ourselves numb to things that cause pain or that we just don't like.  I didn't know for years and years that autopilot cheerfulness could be one of them.

Ignoring pain while just trying to be cheerful and thankful is passive and harmful.  It's denial. It's avoidance at the core and comes back in negative ways to bite you. Like panic attacks.  Ask me how I know! Active thankfulness involves acknowledging pain in order to process it----but then intentionally choosing thankfulness anyway.  That's focusing on, "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy" (Phil. 4:8) in the way that it was intended.  

So when I talk about hope (like I did in my last post), I'm not talking about innocent, Pollyanna, blind-to-reality hope; hope that doesn't confront pain.  I'm meaning hoping with your eyes wide open.  Eyes that see the pain that is there, but are hopeful anyway.  It's pulling your head out of the sand and embracing and having respect for reality.  That's the kind of hope that's worthy of admiration.  Otherwise it's a hope that's pretty hollow.

And I'm working to correct the things I've ignored and let build up enough to bite me from the past.  I'm determined to face them now, albeit a bit late, and not let them control me.  You can just imagine how well pain-avoidance patterns work for someone who lived in a red-light district in one of the poorest cities in the world.  Yeah, not so much.

Hope is real.  And it's always there.  But in order to dwell day by day in a hope that's strong enough, deep enough, and powerful enough to grip you like an "anchor for the soul" (Heb. 6:19) it needs to be based on reality, the good and the bad, as well.  And most of all based on Him, who is the Giver of Hope.

A practical way to develop real hope today by the camp director of my high school years:  

"Stop worrying.  Stop over thinking.  Stop playing out all those worthless scenarios.  God will take care of you.  Own that.  Take control of this minute right now.  What are you doing, or thinking, or saying that you need to change?  Are you seeking Him first?

Take control of that."  

Not great shots, but amazing fish from Kelly Tarlton's in Auckland this week:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Life Themes: Hope

I ended my last post with this verse"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31)  Right now I find great comfort in this verse.  Almighty God-----for ME.  But it occurred to me that the confidence that this verse inspires or doesn't  depends a lot on our current opinion, impressions, or belief system about who God is.

Ladies, you will know what I mean by this statement:  All mirrors are not created equal.  Can I get an, "Amen"?  I have two mirrors in my house big enough to show me all that I need to see.  In one of the mirrors I usually look great.  It flatters me and makes me look my best.  I call it my skinny mirror.  The other mirror, well not so much.  If I look in THAT mirror before going out I feel dumpy and not so good about myself.  I've come to think that reality is somewhere between my two mirrors and so can adjust my thoughts about my current outfit accordingly.  Or I can just stick with my skinny mirror! 

I think how we 'see' God, how much trust we put in Him, how much faith and hope we have in Him are directly representative about what 'mirror' we're seeing Him through.  Are we in a place where our minds are filled with distress and doubt and therefore have distorted our image of Him?  And, therefore, ourselves.  If so, we need to stop and stare and refocus our view by the Truth of Who He Is.

Some of us always have a sound track of music in our minds.  Some of the songs are quite short-termed; music that we've been listening to recently, the irritating but catchy song that we just heard walking through the store.  Then there are the songs that resurface from our deepest, default memories when our minds are pretty blank otherwise and we just feel like singing.  Songs that have inspired us, challenged us, made us who we are.

One of my default songs is:
My hope is built on nothing less 
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness 
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame 
But wholly lean on Jesus' name 

On Christ the solid rock I stand 
All other ground is sinking sand 
And all other ground is sinking sand 

Hope.  Something challenged me to consider recently that if I had to pick one thing to call the theme of my life, what would it be?  I decided that it would be:

Not that I have always walked every single day in hope.  Not that I have always been a source of hope for others.  But when whatever happens in my life, whatever layers are of things that shouldn't be there are stripped away, whatever lesson I end up learning, it always seems to somehow come back around to hope for me.

"Hope isn't about knowing how things will come about.

Hope is envisioning the future and choosing to enjoy that now.  Hope is really about rest.  Resting in the imperfections of today because you believe that tomorrow there is possibility.  Sometimes the hope isn't for the change as much as it is for the change in me."

If you've seen me much lately I may have been wearing this around my neck:
(I need to learn how to do those cool, focused on the object but blurry around the edges photos!)
I had fun recently selling some jewelry I've had for ages and getting some new things that make me smile instead for my next season of life.  Since working at an artisan jewelry shop before I had my first child, I see jewelry as an art form and wanted a few things that not only brought me joy to look at but meant something to me as well.

A while back my daughter's hope had fled.  I felt helpless.  I didn't know what to say or how to best support her.  I was just muddling along day by day trying to show love and hope fueled by His.  So I got this.  I want her to see hope 'fastened around (my) neck' (Prov. 6:21) when she looks at me.  A tangible reminder.

It's surprised me, however, that there are days when I struggle to wear this myself.  Days when I find myself shying away from the word 'hope'.  Those are the days I realized that I need to clean my mirror that lets me see my Father.  Unfog the reflection of my heart.  So I guess you could say this visual representation of a concept has become a barometer of my own heart as well.  Hope fastened around my own neck challenged me instead.

"Resting in the imperfections of today because you believe that tomorrow there is possibility."  And embracing that NOW.  

There is always, ALWAYS hope.

Our son, Aaron, got to go to an adventure camp this past week. (Thanks, Mark and Kerrie!!!) An awesome thing for a 15 year-old boy.  We picked him up at the bus depot last night and as he exited the bus I looked forward to seeing a big, happy smile on his face.  But there wasn't!  While he'd had a fantastic time, a few days before he'd hit his mouth on a rock while white water rafting and couldn't.  His swollen, cracked and puffy mouth was just too sore.

May we find a clear vision of who God is so we can have hope in our hearts today.  But let us also look for those whose hearts have been bruised and are sore, who can't smile for themselves, and model a life filled with incomprehensible, irrational, irrepressible hope for them as well.
(Because you never know the other half of everyone's story......)

When darkness seems to hide His face 
I rest on His unchanging grace 
In every high and stormy gale 
My anchor holds within the veil 

His oath, His covenant, His blood 
Support me in the whelming flood 
When all around my soul gives way 
He then is all my hope and stay 

On Christ the solid rock I stand 
All other ground is sinking sand 
And all other ground is sinking sand

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Easy Life?

I've never expected an easy life.  Somehow the 'become a Christian and your life will be perfect' thinking that I've heard before never rang true with me.  Maybe it was just good theology that I heard, maybe it was the influence of my parents and my amazing youth leaders growing up, maybe it was the fact that my childhood church frequently had speakers like Corrie Ten Boom, Nazi prison camp survivor, and Richard Wormbrand, founder of Voices of the Martyrs who spent years being tortured in a Soviet prison for preaching his faith. I was taught that being a Christ-follower is a privilege and that with that comes responsibility, one that's not always easy.

There are pivotal points in our lives that mold us as well as the general soundtrack of our childhood.  One of those for me was something said when I was a little girl.  Someone prayed for me and felt like God had given him a picture for my life.  It was a girl walking along in a field carrying buckets of water.  I kept going back to the well to fill my buckets again because as I walked along I kept sloshing out water on the field.  He said that the water was kindness and the well was God as the source. Then he saw me later again when I was older and while life hadn't been easy, I was still sloshing water.

He mentioned Isaiah 12:3 as a verse for my life, "With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation."  The visiting speaker had never met us and didn't even know my name. But my first and middle name literally mean "joyful spirit" and "living water."

But then there are days like the one when your daughter tells you that she wants to die---and you finally realize that she actually means it.  Then there's the day that she gently tells you that despite your best intentions to protect her, you failed and that someone hurt her in a way that's been slowly killing her for years.  And you didn't even know.  And you question what kind of mother you've been at all?  Then there's the day when you think she's doing a lot better, but your other daughter calls from the emergency room to tell you otherwise.  And many other days of different sorts of trials as well.

On days like those it's been comforting to know that in my little girl prophecy that at the end of my life I was still sloshing water.  That I WILL make it.  That I can survive.  That somehow my parched buckets of nothing left to give will be filled again.  And where to fill them. I can cling to that hope partly because of the encouragement given to me as a child, but it's something that we all can find promises of in His Word as well.

But while we know that we will be carried, while we know that our loved ones are actually in better hands than our own, we still wonder, "Why?"

Life was never meant to be lived in a vacuum.  While it might sound peaceful for a time, no one actually wants to live in a sanitized, sealed bubble.  Even safe bubbles have walls that confine.  And we are meant to rub shoulders with things in this world even if they're painful.

C.S. Lewis said, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny."

When you go through the hard stuff and eventually smile, when you get back up after you fall down, and when your world looks 'over' but isn't and people around you know it, something amazing happens------you can open your mouth and they listen.  You have a voice.  You have credibility.

You see, it's not about the journey and your failures, weaknesses and pain along the way.  It's about the destination.  WHERE you end up.  WHAT you've learned.  HOW you've made it through.

Kay Warren, whose son killed himself last year, wrote in her book Choose Joy, "All of us want the product of trials and pain--maturity--without having to go through the process.  But James warns us not to try to wiggle out of the hard times too soon; if we do, we will short-circuit the process and remain immature."  She's referring to this:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

" that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky." (Phil 2:15)

Photo by Beth Waterman (I think!)
Day to day in Kolkata there were some pretty awful days scattered in there.  Days where nothing went right. Where machines broke, tempers flared, local government interfered, or the heat was unbearable.  But around FS those days actually became the very best ones (not that that was easy to remember in the middle!).  Because while they weren't great to live through, those where the days where the stuff that mattered the most happened. Women who were broken beyond our imagining saw people around them respond to trials and difficulty in a different way.  They saw them be kind in the face of ugliness, have faith in the face of despair, hope in the middle of what looked like impossible situations, patience under stress and on and on.  Not that people were perfect, but they walked together. The women weren't just told to live differently than before, they were SHOWN by those who walked beside them in love and who gave credit to why they lived differently to Him.

There was a guard at the door of the grocery store that had all of the 'extras' that I couldn't get at our local bazaar in Kolkata.  I'd go there about every two weeks and ended up having ongoing disagreements with the poor chap.  His job was to make sure that no one exited through the entrance and to make sure that any bags that weren't ladies' purses were checked in at the counter by the entrance

The problem was that the smaller FS bags that I carried just didn't look like purses to him!  He'd say, "Madame, bag," and point to the bag check in counter.  I'd say, "No, this is a handbag."  We'd go back and forth until I'd show him that I, in fact, only had a wallet, etc, inside.  He'd still say, "No, not handbag," until I'd start to get cross.  Then he'd let me through.  I eventually saved time by sounding cross to start off with instead of playing out the same ludicrous exchange each and every time.

The issue was that that man was just glad to have a job.  He'd been given a very narrow set of parameters and perspective to follow and refused to think outside of his box out of fear for his job (and I knew that it wasn't safe to check my wallet, phone, etc, in at the counter!).

We need to remember in the midst of life that we have tunnel vision as well.  Our vision is limited.  Our knowledge of things is actually quite small.  We can't often see the 'whys'.  There's an awful lot that we don't understand.

But God can give us the bigger picture.  He can help us see past today and even if we can't see forward clearly, give us hope for tomorrow.  Because He's already there.  And we've never been promised an easy life to start with.  Just that He'll be faithful, and He promises:

"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine. 
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you to through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you..........From eternity to eternity I am God.  
No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
No one can undo what I have done."  (Is. 43:2-3, 13)

Let's be honest, trials stink.  But in the middle of them we can cling to this:

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom.8:38-39)


"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31)

Yeah, that's pretty much the ultimate encouragement right there!  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Important update on us.......

Dear family and friends,

Happy New Year!  We pray that your year has started out well!

We have some quite important things that we're finally ready to convey in this email so will get right to it.

This past year Steve has spent quite a bit of time going back and forth to India while the kids and Heather have been based in New Zealand.  The purpose of this has had a number of facets, but the main one has been to look after our kids. We've spoken of Aaron's health, etc.  Thanks for all of your prayers for him!  He seems to be doing better and better.  

Another reason we think we are to be based in NZ for now, however, has been for the sake of Rachel.  We haven't felt the freedom to convey information about her since what's been going on in her life is her own, very private story.  However, she has just started blogging and sharing her journey herself as she wants to give hope to others. She's doing an amazing job!  ( ---Read the first entry first) 

Basically our beautiful, amazing young woman has been struggling with depression for a while and tried to take her own life on Oct. 10, 2013. She's had a lot of hidden pain for years and years that we've come and are coming to know more about slowly.  She's moved back in with us, is working but will take the next year off of university, and is making good progress in her life towards healing.  But she knows herself that she has a journey ahead of her.  And while she's an adult and this is her journey, not ours, we want to be there for her when she needs/wants us.

So to make a long story short and for many various reasons (not just Rachel), we feel like the time has come for us to leave FS and for Steve to be New Zealand based full-time as well.  We've been in a holding pattern a bit seeing how things would develop, but while we have deep sadness of heart we also have deep peace that the next season of our lives is in New Zealand, at least until Aaron is ready to be on his own and possibly Adam as well.

But what does that look like exactly?  We'd like to know as well!  Basically we think it would be good to stay in the same area (north of Auckland) that we are in since we've all made relationships here and are feeling settled, and we'd prefer not to throw any more change in the mix at this time.  Steve will need to start looking for a job and may have to commute to Auckland depending on what he finds for work. A job for him is a huge concern for us so we'd appreciate your prayers!  A bit daunting to join the workforce again after years of full-time work in missions.

While we know that God has a plan and a path, this has aspects of feeling like a child ripped away as I'm sure those of you who have put your heart and soul into something will understand.  We love mission work, people in general; that's our heart.  But we love our kids as well.

For those of you who support us, first of all we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts!  We've had the most amazing, supportive team of people behind us.  We just can't express how much easier that's made the load that we've carried overseas as well as left tangible things behind.  We are humbled by you.

Our plan is to be off missionary financial support as soon as possible, but for those who would like to continue for a few months or so longer as we transition, that would be very appreciated as well.  We are blessed to have the asset of a house that Steve's had in S. Auckland for years so have just sold that so we can relocate, but we own little else.  We've been living in Steve's sister's holiday home and using all of her furniture, kitchen stuff, etc.  A huge blessing!  But will need to set up the basics of life for ourselves as well.

So there you have it.  And to be honest we're probably more surprised than you may be!  We're a little bent and a little broken at present, but trust in His Goodness and plan for our future path.  We also know that He's not finished with us yet.  

Thanks so very much for your many prayers over the years---and for us right now, too!

With love,
Steve and Heather

Our crew along with Hannah's man Luke and our mate Toby from Kolkata.
And why are they the only two just looking normally at the camera? :-)

Monday, January 6, 2014

All About People

A couple of days ago I got to sit at the top of a hill all by myself and just stared.  I sat for an hour or more and let my mind wander.  I thought about this and that.  I stared until my thoughts untangled, my shoulders relaxed, and I breathed more deeply than I had for a while.  Something that I should do far more often!  Take the time to think through things, talk to God, process; just dial down, find perspective, and not leave until I do. While nothing in my life had changed, I walked down the hill with a clearer head and a more peaceful heart.

I often wish that I could just stay in that 'top of the hill' place.  The things I could do in the challenges of life down below with the peace and perspective of 'above!'

The problem is that the top of the hill is a place that is hard to get to and impractical to live.  Most of all, however, no one else is there.  While that might be nice for a while, life would get pretty dull, pretty fast without others.  And what's the point of the top of the hill when there's nothing to gain perspective FROM?

Jesus is all about people.  He spent massive amounts of time with them while here on Earth.  People are the center of His heart, the passion of who He is, and considered in all that He does.  He modeled how to live for us while He was here on Earth and was about people, not power nor position.  He led from the bottom up and served others.

I've read a number of things recently that ripped Christians to shreds.  Called us 'sanctimonious, bigoted, judgmental, superficial, holier-than-thou' to name a few.  Ouch.  I'm seeing this more and more and if that is the impression that people have, then what kind of legacy are we as 'The Church' leaving behind?  Because Jesus is all about people.  Every person that ever was or ever will be.

Couldn't resist this with some Christmas money that I received.  It's called a Circle of Friends but it just reminds me of the value of people!

Jesus didn't criticize the government of His day, although He easily could have (Mark 12:17).  It was oppressive and godless. Although the Old Testament shows that God is a just God and that we need a Savior, Jesus didn't condemn sinners (John 8:1-11), but gave His own life instead.  In fact, the only time that I can think of that He was openly critical was about the religious leaders of the day (Matt. 23, Matt. 21:12-13).

While other parts of India* can be militant against Christians, Kolkata* is unique in that people of different religions for the most part get along.  I think this has a lot to do with Mother Teresa.  All she did was love in Jesus' name for years and now around the city Christians are thought of as generally good and loving.  What an amazing legacy that is.

I spent another happy hour yesterday looking at the 'Humans of New York' page on Facebook by the author/photographer of the bestselling book by the same name.  Amazing photos and interesting bits from interviews of random people from all walks of life on the streets of New York City.  Man, people are interesting!  Valuable, vulnerable, intriguingly unique.

I wonder what would happen if we just loved them?  All of them.  Embraced them regardless of their differences from us.  Whether they made us uncomfortable or not.  Whether it was convenient or if we even liked them. What if we set aside the bickering, finger-pointing, and holier-than-thou attitudes that have made us notorious?

What if we just loved from the bottom up?  Like Jesus.

That's the kind of legacy I'd like to leave behind.

* Since I'm now writing from NZ I've decided that it's OK to name locations of our other recent home.  I won't name the business that we've worked at by full name, however.