Monthly Archives: July 2013

Birthday Girl

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Emma and her friends

This is my Emma (in black) and her friends.  Today she turns 12.  She is the reason I never went back to home schooling after language school.  She is such a social butterfly that it would kill her to stay home day after day.  She absolutely loves school, everything about it.  The Lord has given Emma a large circle of missionary friends here in CR.

Right around this age girls normally divide into two camps, the little girls and the big girls.  The little girls still play with their dolls, still draw and write, still say they love their teachers.  The big girls are moving more towards the teen years.  They bop around with ear buds plugging music into their heads.  They stare vacantly at their texting device of choice.  And they spend longer and longer amounts of time preening in the mirror before they go anywhere.

Maybe because she’s a middle child, Emma is successfully straddling both worlds.  She’s making her metamorphosis gradually, and I’m happy about that.  (I’m not ready to pack up the dolls yet.)  She had a “Cup Cake Wars” themed birthday party.  At the party, we gave her make up for the first time.  All the girls ran screaming and squealing up stairs to give each other make overs.  They came back down all sparkly and jazzed up, ready to curl up with their pillow pets and watch “Little Women”.

Happy Birthday to my Emma Daisy, my very own American Girl Dolly.  I hope you love your new iPod.  ❤

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Slaughter the Oxen, Burn the Plow

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I Kings 19:19-21

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

There was nothing wrong with what Elisha was doing before God called him to become a follower of the Prophet Elijah.  I imagine that Elisha was diligent in his work, a responsible son, obedient to his father and mother.  All good things.

And when Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha, which is symbolic of the Calling of God for ministry, he did not order Elisha to slaughter the oxen and burn the plow.  Some people would consider that to be a horribly insensitive and irresponsible thing to do.  After all, someone else might be able to use those tools.  They could be sold for a profit, or at the very least, left behind for another family member to use.  Why burn everything?

Elisha was leaving his old way of life behind.  He was not going to leave a “back door” open as a route of escape.  He was in this thing whole heartedly for better or worse.  There was no going back now.  He kissed his parents good-bye, prepared a good-bye feast for the people using his own resources, and set out to follow Elijah.

In his Evangelistic Crusades, Billy Graham used the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” to call people to make a decision for God.  The song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus- no turning back, no turning back.  Though none go with me, still I will follow- no turning back, no turning back.  The cross before me, the world behind me- no turning back, no turning back.”  Don’t leave an escape route open when you decide to follow Jesus.  Slaughter the oxen and burn the plow.

To the beat of God’s drum

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“Do not be afraid to be different from other people.  The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you.  The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts.  To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people.  However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.” ~Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

In any random gathering of missionaries there will always be a large handful of them whose families back home are (or were) unhappy with their decision to be missionaries.  This lifestyle upsets the whole clan.  It tears the heart out of Grandmas and Grandpas.  It brings conviction on lukewarm, comfort loving Christians in the family.  It strains and pulls at relationships.

Jesus knew this would happen.  He said, “Unless your love for me is so much greater than your love for family and home, you can’t follow me.”  A missionary’s love for God often hurts the ones we love the most.  That is the nature of the Upside Down Kingdom of God where first is last, love is pain, and we go against our nature to do what God has commanded.  Relinquish your desire to please others and yet still be a blessing to others.

Walking to the beat of God’s drum is admirable, but it will cost you something eventually.  You can’t be listening for the approval and applause of mankind and still hear that beat in your heart.  When God’s opinion of you matters more than the opinion of friends and family, then you will be free to move, free to march, free to GO where God commands you to go.

God calls NONE of us to comfort, ease and luxury.  If you have been saying to yourself, “I’m glad that God never called ME to go overseas.  I’m called to be right here in my own home town.”  Then I suggest you haven’t been listening for that drum beat.  NEVER ONCE does God tell us to settle down and get cozy in our Christian life.  If you are tucked safely into your comfort zone, you can not step out and move to the beat of God’s drum.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, famously said, “‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”

“Finding Nemo” and Faith

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I looked high and low for a youtube clip of this scene from the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, but I couldn’t find it.  Do you remember the scene where Marlin (Nemo’s over protective father) and Dori (the little blue fish with no short term memory) are trapped inside the whale because Dori thought she could speak whale and tried to ask for directions?  In this scene, Marlin is throwing himself against the baleen of the whale trying to escape to continue his search for his lost son.  In discouragement he sinks to the bottom of the whale’s mouth and gives up.

He says,  “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.”

Dori pauses and comments, “Well, that’s a funny thing to promise someone.”

“What?” Marlin looks up in a bit of surprise.

Dori continues, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.”

I’ve thought about that often.  A good parent doesn’t over protect.  For the good of the child, parents need to let their children have experiences in life.  Age appropriate experiences can provide wonderful teaching moments.  Difficult experience can provide opportunities for growth and for trying new things.  Risky experiences can build courage and faith when handled properly.  You can’t prevent things from happening just for the sake of protecting a child from what MIGHT happen.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

God does the same with us.  If he wanted to, he could place us in a perfect little environment with a protective dome over us.  We could live in a celestial terrarium where nothing would ever happen to us that was outside of our control.  But what fun would that be?  We would never need to learn to trust if there was never any risk.  We would never explore our limitations if we never faced challenges that pushed us to our edges.  We would be bored silly with how safe and ordinary and self centered our lives would be if God never allowed ANYTHING to happen to us.

Maybe that’s why we encourage people to “get out of their bubble” and have an adventure or go on a missions trip or try something scary for God.  You can’t stay at home forever.  Get out there and see what can happen when you let something happen.  Don’t be scared of the possibility of something bad happening.  You should be more afraid of nothing ever happening to you.  Take a chance!  Don’t fear the what-ifs.  Turn them into why-nots?

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

“No one in the world likes you”

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Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

When my best friend from high school was a little girl, her mother used to rock her in her arms and tell her, “Hana, there’s no one in the world like you.  There’s no one in the world like you.”  One day her mother over heard little Hana speaking to her baby brother in a sad tone of voice.  Listening carefully she heard little Hana tell the baby, “Franky, no one in the world likes me.”

Poor girl.  Can you imagine?  She thought her mother was telling her over and over again that no one loved her.  Apparently her mother was able to correct the misunderstanding and she seems to have turned out just fine.  But it’s funny and sad at the same time.

We get these messages mixed up from Father God too, you know.  God says, “Here are 10 rules about how to live your life and the rest of the Universe is one big YES!”  But what we hear is, “Christianity is just a bunch of rules and things I can’t do.  I never get to have any fun!”

God says to us, “I have good things planned for you.  I am not planning to hurt you but to prosper you.”  And we hear, “Bad things happen to you because God is punishing you.”

God says to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And we hear only silence.

Just like there was nothing wrong with what my friend’s mother was gently and lovingly whispering to her daughter, the break down in communication happened in HER young mind.  So it is with God.  There is nothing wrong or fickle or petty or petulent in what God tells us about Himself and about life, but we often experience a break down in understanding on our end of the line.  That’s not God’s fault, that’s our fault.  We have been listening to some lie from the Devil and not the pure truth from God.

So the next time you find yourself “hearing” something that causes your accusing finger to wave in the face of God, stop and ask yourself if there is a chance that you are once again listening to a message that is twisted and false instead of the pure truth from the Word of God.  The problem is likely with your “hearing” and not with God at all.

15 Ways to Pray for Your Missionaries

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Last week on Facebook a friend of mine posted this and it’s just too good NOT to share!  (I take no credit for this whatsoever.)  This will help move your prayer life beyond the “Lord bless our missionaries” phase into something deeper and more meaningful for both you and the missionaries you pray for.  This is good stuff!

15 THINGS EVERY MISSIONARY NEEDS from WorldVenture

Specific guidelines to assist in praying for your missionary

Do you sometimes seem to “get stuck” when praying for missionaries? Are you frustrated because your prayers seem general or shallow? If so, here are some specific things you can pray for when you are interceding for missionaries.

1. Love for God

Overworked missionaries can become service-oriented rather than love-oriented. Pray that your missionaries’ love for the Lord will deepen, and that love for him will always be their prime motivation for service.

2. Love for Others

Yes, missionaries are human, and just like you, sometimes they have trouble showing love and respect to those “difficult to love” people-either their missionary coworkers or nationals. Pray that the Lord will make your missionaries’ love “increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

3. A Deeper Relationship with God

Missionaries’ schedules can become so packed that they might skip or skimp on their time with the Lord. Pray that your missionaries would follow Jesus’ example. It’s hard to imagine any missionary having a busier life that he did; yet he consistently sought out time alone to commune with his Father.

4. Spirit-Controlled Lives

Just like the rest of us, sometimes missionaries have a tendency to do the Lord’s work in their own energy and human ingenuity. Pray that all of your missionaries’ actions will be under the control, and by the power of, the Holy Spirit.

5. The Fruit of the Spirit

As you pray that your missionaries will be under the control of the Holy Spirit, pray that the fruit of the Spirit-the very beauty of Jesus-will be manifest in their lives.

6. Wisdom and Knowledge

Strong-willed missionaries often come into conflict when two or more of them have opposing viewpoints. Pray that missionaries will have the wisdom of God, which James describes as “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

7. Courage

Imagine your missionaries making the same prayer request Paul did in Ephesians 6:19: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

8. Receptive Hearts

Pray for divine providence, that the Lord will lead your missionaries to people whose hearts will be open to hearing and receiving the gospel message.

9. Disciples

Pray that your missionaries will experience the joy of leading others to salvation, and of “teaching them to obey everything [Christ] commanded” (Matthew 28:20).

10. Strong Faith

The apostles once made a direct request of Jesus: “Increase our faith!” Pray that your missionaries will have great faith that will lead them to ask great things of our Lord.

11. Steadfastness

Pray that your missionaries will follow Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “Stand firm.  Let nothing move you. Always give fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

12. Strong Family

Cross-cultural living can magnify even small family conflicts. Pray that members of missionary families will be drawn together, not torn apart, by living in a new culture.

13. Protection

Missionaries are prime targets of the enemy. Join Jesus in praying to the Father: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

14. Material Needs

Missionaries often face harsh living conditions, and may have to struggle to meet basic physical needs. Pray that the Lord will supply all their financial and material needs “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

15. Health and Strength

In today’s increasingly violent world, missionaries face not only sickness, they may also be victims of crime, civil unrest or political upheaval. Pray that the Lord will grant the measure of health and strength that will bring his greatest glory and the greatest good for the missionaries.

The next time you sit down to pray for your missionaries, use this list as a guide to help you pray specifically. And pray for your missionaries consistently. They need you, and the Lord needs you to help fulfill his Great Commission. Your prayers count!

Hallucinating in Spanish

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Last week a flu bug passed through our family.  Normally we get sick at the most inconvenient times.  But this time we were in between teams, so it was an OK time to be sick.  Is that weird?  It was a total body aching, pounding head ache, thing.  I am thankful that it wasn’t a stomach flu though, because there is nothing in the world that I hate more than throwing up.  Seriously.

But the weird thing about having a fever is that sometimes I hallucinate in Spanish.  I can’t even describe how strange that is.  I do crazy things like trying to conjugate proper names.  It’s just wacky.  This time around I didn’t actually hallucinate in Spanish, but I did translate my own thoughts into Spanish all night long.  It was like my brain got stuck in Spanish mode and I couldn’t shut it off.  I woke up feeling like I had worked all night long instead of slept.  it was awful!  I can now say that I have been sick in Spanish.  (OK that little play on words is lame-o).

Photo credit: ckaiserca / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: ckaiserca / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Here in Costa Rica you can get a lot of medicines over the counter at the pharmacy that would require a prescription in the States.  The Pharmacist can actually do some doctory type things too like giving vaccinations and checking for ear infections.  They aren’t supposed to dispense antibiotics without a prescription, but sometimes they do.  However, they NEVER give you any instructions sheet or cross medications warning or ANYTHING informative with the meds.  If you are lucky, they might write the recommended dose on the box, but nothing more.  I now have a collection of dosing cups and droppers that I brought from America because they don’t usually come with the medications here!

In Mexico it was worse.  You could get anything without a prescription.  (The government once considered giving free Viagra to men over 60 to improve their quality of life!)  I remember once when Lucy was a baby I thought she probably had an ear infection.  So I called her pediatrician to make an appointment and was told, “Just go to the pharmacy and get some antibiotics!”  Oh, silly me.  So I went to talk to the pharmacist.  He asked how old she was and how much she weighed.  Then he handed me a bottle 1/4 full of a white powder with absolutely no instructions.  I was lucky there was a label with the name of the antibiotic on it.

I took my bottle of powder home and called Walgreen’s in my home city in Minnesota.  I explained that I was in Mexico and they had given me this with no dosing instructions.  What would they recommend I give a 6 month old baby.  I read all the numbers off the label to the American Pharmacist.  She told me, “Wow, we don’t even sell that strength here in America!  I would dilute it up to the top of the bottle and give her no more than a teaspoon twice a day.”  She also said to discontinue use if she started acting differently.  Oh great.  Now I feel better.

I know it sounds scary and complicated, but when I’m in the States sometimes I miss the ease of just walking into a pharmacy and buying some high-powered drugs without the hassle and expense of seeing a doctor first.  I just have to remember to NOT go to the drug store when I’m hallucinating in Spanish or else I might come home with a dose of Viagra instead of cough syrup.

Growing into her skin

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When we go through our school of missions in our sending agency, we have an amazing program for the kids as well.  The idea is to prepare the kids for some of the challenges that they might encounter on the mission field.  The leadership builds community and unity and identity in the kids by encouraging them to embrace “the MK way” by constantly referring to them as Missionary Kids (MKs).  Most kids bloom under this kind of encouragement and thrive in their identity as an MK.

But not everyone.  Sometimes kids get “dragged along” to the mission field- or so they perceive it that way.  Some kids come out of the MK training and feel displaced and angry.  Change is hard.  These kids are part of a family that is going to leave everything familiar to them, all creature comforts that they love, and travel to a new world to tell people about Jesus.  Some kids feel like, “If Jesus called my parents, then he forgot to talk to me about this decision!”  Some kids end up hating Jesus and his stupid Calling.  This is hard.

Six months ago I met an angry MK.  She was not comfortable in her own adolescent skin and not comfortable in her new school and not comfortable with being called an MK.  She had experienced the double whammy of being a teenager AND having too much change in her life all at once.  She was not happy.  She bristled when anyone tried to show her love.  We loved her anyways.

Six months later, our young friend has changed quite a bit.  I almost don’t recognize her!  Her hair is now her natural color and no longer hanging over her face.  She’s incorporating color into her wardrobe… under her black hoodie.  But most importantly for me- she smiles.  This girl has made close friends both at the missionary kid school and among the missionary families living in Costa Rica.  She is now at place where she is comfortable in her own MK skin.

Recently at a gathering of missionary families, our once angry and resentful kid-of-missionary-parents finally showed that she had embraced her identity as a Missionary Kid.  She showed a video that she had made of her and her friends laughing and doing silly teenage things.  She set it to bouncy, happy music and added cute titles.  And the very last screen was the sentence, “This is the MK way.”  I got tears in my eyes as we all wildly applauded her creative expression of who she finally decided to be.  She had finally grown into her skin and she is happy again.

Relax and enjoy my Friendship

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This is the devotional I read for July 9 and 10.  Yes, I bunch up the readings and then let them sink in for a while before I bite off another bunch.  I read the book “Jesus Calling” as my morning devos. and then I do longer readings from other books and a portion of scripture for my evening devos.  This blessed me, and I just want to share it with you.

Photo credit: annais / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: annais / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

“Stop worrying long enough to hear My voice.  I speak softly to you in the depths of your being.  Your mind shuttles back and forth, hither and yon, weaving webs of anxious confusion.  As My thoughts rise up within you, they become entangled in those sticky webs of worry.  Thus, my voice is muffled, and you hear only ‘white noise.’

“Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can think My thoughts.  This ability is an awesome benefit of being my child, patterned after My own image.  Do not be deafened by the noise of the world or that of your own thinking.  Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Sit quietly in My Presence, letting My thoughts reprogram your thinking.

“Relax in my peaceful Presence.  Do not bring performance pressures into our sacred space of communion.  When you are with someone you trust completely, you are free to be yourself… I know the worst about you, but I also see the best in you.  I long for you to trust me enough to be fully yourself with Me.  When you are real with Me, I am able to bring out the best in you:  the very gifts I have planted in your soul.  Relax and enjoy our friendship.”

~Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Love to the End

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I often speak of the friends that the Lord has put into our lives who love us unreasonably.  You know, those friends who have no reason to open their hearts to you, but they do.  They take a chance and reach out.  Those are the friends through whom I most feel the love of the Lord radiating towards me.  When that dear friend hugs me, I feel like God is taking me in His arms and smiling down into my upturned, little girl face.  Those are the friends that “stick closer than a brother”. 

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted this beautiful photo of her step mother and her aunt reconnecting at a funeral.  The story she posted with the picture brought tears to my eyes.  I wanted to share it here to show you how far love can take you.

Two hearts still connected after so long.

Two hearts still connected after so long.

This is a picture of my mom & my sweet Auntie Bernice yesterday at the funeral of my dear Aunt Hazel. They may look like two ordinary, older women but there is so much more to the story. I will cherish this picture because it reminds me of the long time & unlikely love these two women have shared.

Aunt Bernice is my first mother’s (Bernadine) sister.   My mother Bernadine died at the age of 29 leaving my father Dale a widower with 4 young children under the age of 7.  Aunt Bernice was so close to Bernadine.  They were born 20 years apart…to the day!  She being the oldest  and my mother being the youngest of 9 children.  What a sorrow she felt at the loss of her dear young sister!

Then my father starting “courting” my 2nd mother, Barbara the same year.  Many family members were not happy (that had to be so hard).  But dear Auntie Bernice, with so much love in her heart, just opened her arms to Barbara.  She insisted that she stay with her when Barbara came to visit us that first time.  When Barb and Dale married that following July, 1965, sweet Auntie Bernice LOVED my NEW mother just like she was one of her sisters.

Over the years Aunt Bernice has made sure to pass on all the memories of our first mother, her sister, on to Barbara.  So now our second mother had those to share with us (dad forgot so much!). Aunt Bernice loved on us so deeply over the years, even moving to be within a block from us so she could help.  What a wonderful link she has been to our first mother’s family.

Now they are nearing the next part of their journey.  Mom is 82 and Aunt Bernice is 98.  So yesterday at the funeral of Bernice’s other sister Hazel, I wheeled my sweet mother close to my dear 98 year old aunt and they spoke, quietly heads bowed.  We all stood in such awe.  Later when I asked my mom what Aunt Bernice said, she told me, “She said that she loved me from the first moment she saw me.” I am in awe of that kind of love.  It only comes from the Father.

Thank you Mari for sharing the story of your step mother and your aunt who loved her like a sister.  It isn’t just because I too knew Barb and Dale and loved them both that the tears swelled in my eyes.  This is such a beautiful story of the love of God shining through us and it’s power to heal and hold.  Because Bernice accepted Barbara who replaced her own lost sister, the children were blesses as well.  Her love brought wholeness where there was brokenness.  That’s what Jesus does.