Tag Archives: change

Thank God for Your Weaknesses


Ever since I had cancer, I have had to accept that I have a new “normal” level of energy.  I used to be able to work hard for very long periods of time, and I was proud of my strength.  Now I wake up every day at 5am, and the first words in my mind are a prayer asking God for the strength to make it though today.

I just don’t have the stamina that I used to have.  I fight against my own inclinations to be angry about that.  I quit asking WHY long ago.  It’s pointless to ask that.  No one ever gets the answer they want.  It makes me sad to think that the older I get I can expect my strength to continue to wane.  That’s natural.

So today I’m going to share a few clips from the devotional book that I’m reading in the mornings for my “quicky devos”.  I do a longer Bible reading at night when I have quiet time to myself.  In the mornings I am reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Here are a few sound-bites that have ministered to me:

Bring to Me your weakness, and receive My Peace.  Accept yourself and your circumstances just as they are, remembering that I am sovereign over everything.  Do not wear yourself out with analyzing and planning.  Instead, let thankfulness and trust be your guides through this day; they will keep you close to Me…

Come to Me for rest and refreshment.  The journey had been too much for you, and you are bone-weary.  Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion.  Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.  Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different.  Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be.  You will get through today one step, one moment at a time…

Thank Me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells.  Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances.  Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me… My strength and power show themselves most effective in weakness.

Thank you Jesus for being in control of every circumstance of my life.  Even though it’s hard for me to do this because I’m still learning how, I thank you for my weakness.  I don’t understand it, but I trust you.  This is what you’ve given me, and I thank you.  Glorify yourself in my weakness.

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder


“Resilience is a precious skill.  People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages:  a belief that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.  These beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster.  Dangers seem more manageable to these people, and they perform better as a result.  ‘Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,’ says George Everly Jr…”

I recently read a book called The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley.  Though the details of how people survive disasters are morbidly fascinating, the author is an evolutionist who takes a bleak and sterile point of view when considering the motives of humans under duress.  For her, everyone is selfishly motivated to preserve their genes, and the thought of a higher, more noble way of looking at life is foreign to her.  I think her point of view is sad.  However, I did like her research and anecdotes.  It was fascinating!

It was fascinating that (forgive me for being vague) something like 40% of all the 9/11 survivors went back to their desks and logged out of their email or computers before evacuating the building!  That’s insane!  They felt the building sway and shudder under the impact of the airplane, they could see the smoke and flames from the floors above them, they heard the orders to evacuate, and still they delayed.  They were in denial.

So where am I going with this?  Friends, Jesus is coming back soon.  We can see the signs all around us.  There are earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, pestilences, famines, and fearful signs in the sky…  and yet people delay in making a decision about Jesus Christ and his message to us.  Jesus is calling us to repentance.  A massive, cancerous growth called “Apathy” has dulled our senses and covered our eyes to the obvious.  We don’t WANT to believe that things are THAT bad, that we would need a SAVIOR.  “We aren’t in need of rescue,” people say.  Yet the signs are all around us.

This old world is straining and shuddering with the impact of collective sin, and yet we delay.  The flames of hell leap higher and higher,  the smoke billows around us, and we deny that we are in danger.  In Luke 21 where Jesus talks of the signs of the end days, he says people will be busy carousing and getting drunk and will be distracted by the worries of life, then this last day will catch them like a trap.

But the most fearful verse, for me is Matthew 24:12 “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  MOST!  He said MOST!  That terrifies me.  I have no intention of being counted with the majority in that instance.  I am doing all I can to not grow cold even as the heat intensifies around me.  It’s time to wake up.  Shake off that apathy that has held us in its cold grip so that we don’t even sense the burning up of all that hay and stubble in our lives.

Let the fearful events that will be unfolding in our future become a catalyst for change in you.  Take notice of how the world is crumbling and step up on the high rock of Jesus Christ and be saved.  It’s not too late… the tower hasn’t collapsed, yet.

Fresh Eyes


This is called “Mamon Chino” here in Costa Rica. It’s “Rambutan” in other countries. It’s one of my kids’ favorite fruits.

This last week another batch of new language school families arrived in Costa Rica to learn Spanish at the school where we studied back in the day.  (I taught there for the last year and a half too.)  So Josh and I have dedicated a week or so to helping them get settled in.  Our language school directors can’t be in a dozen places at once.  They are good friends of ours, so we are happy to help them carry their load for a while.

But the thing that I like the best about receiving the new families is getting to show them around Costa Rica.  For most of them, this is their first experience moving overseas.  Some of them have never even traveled outside of the U.S.A.  So we get to be the ones that share their first few days of blissful excitement when everything is new and fresh and amazing for them.  I get to see my home through fresh eyes too.

It’s kind of therapeutic for me.  I’m not in the “honeymoon” phase anymore, haven’t been for years.  So there are things that get on my nerves, things that I have forgotten to enjoy, things that I no longer notice anymore.  But when I get to hear all the excited observations of the new students, it reminds me that I DO love it here.  I am so blessed to call Costa Rica MY home.

We get to tour the newbies around the city for a few days.  We take them on their first grocery shopping trip.  We take them to the farmers’ market and show them exotic fruits and vegetables.  We take them to their kids’ school and get their kids enrolled.  We take them to church on Sunday morning.  It’s a lot of fun for our whole family!

At the Feria (farmers’ market) with my kids.

My kids get to show off a little bit too.  They love to show the new kids how to eat tropical fruits, how to find the sermon text in their Spanish Bibles, how to order food in a restaurant, and which stores carry American foods.  They warn the new kids to watch out for dog poop on the sidewalk and in the park.  They remind them to pay attention in the street so as not to fall in an uncovered manhole.  They help translate for the shopping day at the farmers’ market and help take pictures of the group with their arms laden with their abundant harvest.  My kids get to be the experts for a few days.  It’s fun.

Keeping your eyes fresh is not in the job requirement.  No one checks up on us and makes sure that we are still in-love with our country of calling.  No one forces us to stop and smell the roses once and a while.  For me, keeping a fresh perspective on life is a key to my mental and emotional health.  Sometimes that fresh perspective comes from the joy of my children and sometimes it’s from the excitement of fresh faces on the field.  Wherever I find that refreshing, I like to camp out there for a while and bask in it’s rejuvenating energy.  It’s a good thing.

Running on the Hamster Wheel


This is part 3 of our story of how we were called into missions.  If you missed the last 2 days, you can go back and read them, or you can pick it up from here.

We had just bought a new house, but something strange was happening to me.  I kept forgetting what the front of my house looked like.  I don’t know how many times I drove right past my own house and had to turn around and go back.  I just couldn’t fix it in my mind.  So one day as I was pulling out of the driveway I turned around for one last look of the house to try to fix it in my memory.  Suddenly the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “This isn’t yours, don’t get comfortable here.”  I had no idea what that meant.

There was a little lake across the street from our house, a mile and a quarter around.  I’ve never been a runner, but all that spring I had such a restlessness in my spirit so I started running around the lake in the mornings.  I’d run and run and run, trying to out run my restlessness.  Trying to escape out of my own mind.  I ran so much that I started to feel like a hamster running on the wheel, always running and never getting anywhere, uselessly running in circles.  I felt restless.  Change was coming.

Then the purging began.  I started giving stuff away.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe surrounded by so much stuff!  I just had to get rid of stuff.  I didn’t care about money, I just wanted to purge my life.  And with each gift to friends and family, I felt lighter and freer.  It felt good, so I kept doing it.  I just gave stuff away!  That was weird, but in a good way.  Change was still coming.

Then one day we came home from Youth Group on a Wednesday night and I felt like a light switch had just turned off in my heart.  “I think I’m done,” I told Josh.  That’s it, I’m just done.  Well, he wasn’t done.  But I said, “when you do feel done, don’t wait for me- I’m already there.” So that was that.  Nothing left to do but wait for God to make his move.  Waiting for change is like waiting for the storm to arrive.  Tense.

A few months later Josh walked into the senior pastor’s office and plopped down in the chair.  “I think I’m done.”  He finally was feeling the winds of change blowing through our lives and he too was uncertain about which direction they would carry us.  Our pastor suggested missions, knowing how much we loved going on our trips with our teenagers.  “Hmmm, maybe someday, but not yet” Josh said.  Our pastor graciously let us stay on staff until we figured things out, for as long as it took.

A month later we were on a missions trip to Mexico City that had been in the works for nearly a year.  We knew it was our last trip, but the kids didn’t know anything.  On the last day there, the missionary took us to the University campus UNAM.  He told us that there were 400,000 kids studying on this campus and it’s extensions, yet we have no ministry for them.  He asked us to walk around the campus and pray for God to send workers here.  Josh and I sat down on a bench together.  He looked at me and said, “Well, what do you think?”  and I knew exactly what he meant.

In a fraction of a second, I had an entire conversation in my heart with the Lord.  “Mexico?  Mexico?!?  But I took FRENCH!!!  Oh wait, is this one of those times when I say Yes to what you want and then you give me what I really want?”  No.  Then in a flash, the Lord took me to all the times that I had ever knelt at an altar after a missions service and begged, “Send me!  I’ll go ANYWHERE!  Just send me SOMEWHERE!”

And he asked me Did you really mean anywhere?”

I paused, then I said, “Yes Lord.  I did mean anywhere.  I will go where ever you ask me to go.”  And I had the sensation of free falling off a cliff… backwards, arms flung wide open… and I had no fear because I knew the Lord would catch me.  Surrender.

...Read part 4 tomorrow…

Room Temperature Butter


If I ever started a band, I might name it “Room Temperature Butter”.  But that has nothing to do with this blog.  I’ll get to the butter in a minute.

Since moving to Costa Rica I have noticed how much the weather was a part of our lives in Minnesota, or more specifically, how the weather is always the same here.  In Minnesota, I had a thermometer conveniently placed right outside my kitchen window.  I had another in my car.  I watched the news every night to see what the temperature would be the next day.  If I missed the evening news, I would check the weather channel’s website.  And I knew where every bank with a digital clock/thermometer sign was on my side of town.  Knowing the weather in Minnesota was an important daily ritual because on any given day the temperature can vary as much at 40* within a matter of hours!

The weather is also an important topic of conversation in Minnesota.  Nobody really cares, but we use it as a filler topic.  Minnesotans don’t like to have heavy conversations and we don’t like awkward pauses.  We all carry about mental flash cards with small talk themes that we can impliment to ward off an uncomfortable conversational lull.  Deep conversations are like dessert for the one or two friends that make it past the 20 year mark, but everyone else nibbles on appetizer conversations.   “How’s the weather up in Alex?” is right up there with “How ’bout those Twins!”  If we happen to be having unusual weather for a particular season, this can easily consume months and months of conversation rations.  Minnesotans will talk about a hard winter for the next 25 years!  As a matter of fact, I still remember the snow drifts in 1983.

The dramatic changes in weather are also signals to change out the wardrobe.  One of my favorite seasonal chores in Minnesota is rotating the seasonal clothing.  I love getting out the boxes of clothes for the next season and feeling like I’m getting a whole new wardrobe!  I love that.  In Costa Rica we only change out our accessories.  When the rainy season starts we get out the umbrellas, rain boots, jackets and light boxes.  (That’s to avoid the depression brought on by 40 straight days of rain, I don’t know how Noah managed.)  When the dry season arrives, we use more sun screen.  And that’s about it.

Finally, the weather clearly defines the changing of the seasons in Minnesota.  It is one of the real beauties of our State.  Each season has its awe-inspiring moments that make you wonder if you could ever be truly happy without all 4 seasons.  Even if you don’t particularly care for one season, change will occur in a few months and you’ll feel it’s all worthwhile. It’s worth it just to experience the joy of spotting the first green sprouts peeking up from the winter sleepy garden, or admiring the breath-taking fall colored leaves that radiate with an internal brilliance, or spying the first snow flake or the season with a child-like thrill.  It’s worth it.

But here in Costa Rica our seasonal changes are less dramatic.  We basically have two seasons: Rainy (April-Nov.) and Dry (Dec.-March).  We have our weather jokes like most places do.  We say we have two seasons, wet and wetter. It’s the equivalent of Minnesota having winter and road construction.  We have certain flowers that bloom during various times of the year (I don’t know what allergen blooms in the “spring” but it’s sheer torture for me.).  We have certain fruits that come into season once a year (mango season is my favorite- just before Easter).

Our year is also broken up by religious holidays.  Semana Santa (Holy Week or Easter Week) is a time when all the hotels on the coasts are booked solid.  The church puts on pageants and parades, it’s quite the sight!  Schools have their long summer break over Christmas time from December to mid-February.  So many people plan vacations during that time as well.  If you stay in the city, there are festivals and parades and bull fights and tamales and fireworks to mark the season.  We even have our own version of the Holidazzle Parade minus the  -40*F wind chills.  Each holiday has its special ingredients that make up the flavors of Costa Rica.  (This is a video clip of the bull fights that we watch on TV all December long it’s hilarious!!)

Our temperatures are pretty stable in the 70s and 80s all year round.  What changes is the level of humidity.  In Rainy season it feels like I’m  breathing through a wet blanket wrapped around my head.  In Dry Season I enjoying the refreshing tropical breezes of the Christmas Winds.  My family back home balks when I complain about being cold when it’s 50*F here.  They forget that when it’s 50*F back in Minnesota, it feels good… outside of the house.  No one thinks it feels good inside the house.  Inside we have heat, fireplaces, carpeting, insulated windows, and blankets to keep the crisp air outside.  Here in Costa Rica, I judge the climate by the state of my room temperature butter.  When the butter is rock solid… it’s cold.  Butter doesn’t lie, People!  Unfortunately when it’s cold here, we don’t have heat in the house, carpets, windows that close all the way, or warm clothes.  It’s all relative, I guess.

So all of this is why compared to how Minnesotans talk about the weather in literally every conversation, Costa Ricans almost never talk about the weather.  It’s just not a topic of conversation around here.  It’s the same every day, so why talk about it?  It’s just not an issue.  It’s the equivalent of asking someone, “how’s your butter doing?”

Kick my Crutches out from under Me


I’ve heard many times that when a person loses one of their senses the other senses become more sensitive and acute in order to compensate for the loss.

I have been speaking Spanish for 6 years now.  I have “Good Spanish Days” where things flow smoothly and “Bad Spanish Days” where my words are clunky and awkward.  I have days when I can’t understand anything anyone is saying to me.  I have days when I want to hide in my house and not speak Spanish to anyone.  I have days when I dread, I mean dread, going to a meeting or get-together because it’s all going to be in Spanish.  I used to loathe going to church and sitting through a 5 hour Spanish service with my 20 minute attention span.  (Those were the days I would end with a migraine from concentrating so hard.)  When I get nervous or angry, I sound like an babbling idiot.

When we first started learning Spanish I wanted to tell everyone I spoke with, “I know I sound like a 2 year old, but I’m really quiet intelligent in English.”  I was usually a sentence or two behind in any given conversation, and even when I wanted to participate by the time I formulated a reply, the moment of opportunity had long passed.  Having my language abilities drastically limited was like receiving a devastating wound, like losing a limb or losing one of my senses.  I felt handicapped, marginalized, ignored, depressed and frustrated.  It changed me in ways I will never be able to fully explain.

Before we left for the mission field I was a pretty shy person, very private and not inclined to talk much with people I didn’t know.  After 3 years of being immersed in Spanish every day we returned to Minnesota for our first furlough.  I noticed the change in my personality right away.  I couldn’t stop talking to people- total strangers- everywhere I went!  It was like I had 3 years worth of English words bottled up inside of me and someone shook the bottle and popped the top!  I just gleefully exploded on the people in the grocery store line behind me, the kid working the McDonald’s drive thru window, anyone in a coffee shop… And the weird thing was that I knew I was  acting like a lunatic, but I couldn’t stop!  It was like having an out of body experience where I saw myself freaking out all these quiet, Minnesota Scandinavians and inside my head I was telling myself, “Shut up!  These people don’t care that you’ve just moved back from Mexico.”  But it was just so EASY to speak now because it was in English.  I had changed.

Another thing that I noticed about myself was more spiritual.  Because my natural crutch of English had been kicked out from under me I found myself relying more on my spiritual sensitivity, especially in churches and in God-related settings.  When I didn’t understand the words of the song, couldn’t understand what the pastor is saying, didn’t have the Bible verses memorized in this new language I actually could FEEL the Holy Spirit much more quickly and more intensely than in the past.  It was like being blinded, yet suddenly seeing with my heart.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but because I had lost something so vital to me, something that helps me relate to those around me, my spirit was cleared of lots of clutter.  I couldn’t excuse my non-participation by saying “Oh, I don’t like that song” or “This guy is boring to listen to”.  My language crutch was gone and I had to stand alone- and that’s when I noticed God standing beside me and supporting me.  It was a painful and sweet experience.

I still have bad Spanish days.  I’m getting better, but I’m probably the least fluent missionary on my field.  But I would rather feel God close to me than to not.  I’d rather stand with the support of God than to stand on my own and ignore my crutches.  Please God, Kick my crutches out from under me and help me to stand with you.



This week I got an email from a long-time friend in the throes of change.  She was discouraged that she was moving back to her hometown after living overseas.  She felt like she was moving backwards in her life.

I know that feeling well.  I too, have left places only to return a few years later.  I remember feeling depressed at going back.  I had changed, would my old life try to press me back into its mold?  Would old friendships still be available to me?  Would old habits or bad memories pounce on me and try to shackle me again?  Fear mixed with sadness blunted my hope and anticipation of the future.

Re-entry shock is real for missionaries.  Not only have new shops and subdivisions been built while I was gone, but new people have moved into the space that I once occupied within my circle of friends.  There are new faces at church, new faces on campus, new faces in all your old places.  I remember many years after I graduated from college I returned to the campus to say Hi to some friends who still worked there.  I needed to use the bathroom.  I excused myself and headed down the hallway were there USED TO BE a public restroom.  Suddenly I noticed that the whole wing had been renovated.  I stood looking at the wall were the door had once been.  I looked left, I looked right.  I finally hailed the nearest 19-year old and asked where the bathroom was.  She called me ma’am.  I felt so old.  I used to know this place like the back of my hand!  I used to know people here and they knew me too!  I felt like shouting down the hall to no one in particular, “Hey!  I used to BE somebody here, you know!!”

The thing is, Life rarely moves in a straight line.  Sometimes it doesn’t even move forward.  Time always moves forward, but sometimes Life goes backwards, or sideways, or even comes to a stand still for a while.  (Ever have a loved one in the hospital?  Then you know what I mean.)

Life is more like a Slinky.  If you hold the top of a Slinky and let the bottom drop you get a long spiral.  This is how I imagine Life.  We keep cycling and recycling up through lessons, places and relationships but each time we cycle back around we are on a different level.  Hopefully a higher level.  This time around we are more mature and will see details that we missed with our more youthful perspective.  We have a greater framework of experience on which to hang these reviewed experiences.  We are wiser and know how to avoid traps that we fell into before.  God has a new lesson to teach us in an old place.

We can look at those old shackles lying on the ground at our feet and not fear that we might pick them up and put them on again.  That’s called “Victory”.  We now know how to pick them up and move them out of the way so we can keep moving on.  We don’t have to fear old habits, old relationships, old ways of being.  We let God teach us how to hang them up for good. And remind ourselves that we are not the same person who passed through here last time.  I have changed. I am stronger, wiser, more focused, more powerful.  This time around I have a better perspective.  This time around I am more of who God is making me to be.  So don’t let the Slinky of Life get tangled and cause frustration.  Just keep moving upwards as God leads you and teaches you.