Esperanza Means Hope

As she was walking away, she watched us pull up to the house , a smile on her face in a pale blue maternity top.  I made eye contact and waved, she waved back. She looked happy and at peace as she followed her husband up the driveway to the road which led to where they would stay until her baby was born.

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We had just arrived from the airport and were still taking in all that was not Northern Virginia. Colorful homes dotting the landscape, steep mountain roads, banana trees, and coffee plantations were just some of the things that bombarded the senses. Not in a bad way. Costa Rica is beautiful.

We soon learned that Esperanza, the sweet smiling mama, was a Cabecar woman who was due to have her baby any day. Her husband wanted to be with her but, only women are allowed at St. Francis Emmaus Maternity Hostel so the little family, which also consisted of a 9 year old daughter and a toddler boy, were staying at the future home of St. Bryce Mission.

Mama is mildly intellectually disabled and her little boy, who was born with a severe cleft lip and palate almost died because he didn’t get the care he needed.  His lip was repaired but they went back to their home in the reserve and didn’t make their next appointment, which was vital to repairing the palate while it was still soft. He had aspirated some food and almost died of pneumonia. Now he’s older and the repair will be more complicated.


We visited the place they are staying. St. Bryce and St. Francis Emmaus have plans to make the property the new center of operations, with a large home to house the mothers the center will minister to. The  home, while in need of major rehabilitation, has good bones and beautiful wood throughout and has running water, a decent roof, and many rooms. 

The Mitchell’s brought us there before we went to Grano de Oro and the Cebecar reserve on the Friday we were there

It was uncomfortable.  I felt like a tourist peering in on the private lives of this sweet little family with our i-phones gawking and the language barrier an obstacle.  Esperanza still wore that sweet smile. Her daughter seemed to be the main caretaker for the two year old son. 
There were mattresses on the floor, the only furniture in the home. A smoky smell lingered in the air from a wood stove they used to cook their meals. This home however provides much more than they are used to on the primitive reserve in the cloud forest.

Bags of what looked like donated clothing were on the mattresses. Esperanza was in  a nightgown her thin legs wrought with bulging varicose veins, baby belly large and ready. Coleen with her confident, caring presence spoke words of encouragement as she checked the position of the baby. 


Esperanza went into labor the other night, Colleen was there. She said it was a quick labor and their new baby girl is healthy and strong, but was also born with severe cleft lip and palate, and club feet. Costa Rica provides free medical care for all it’s residents, that is a good thing.  But the challenge of getting to that care and navigating the system and understanding the health issues is daunting.  It would be daunting for any family. For this Cabecar family who would probably like to return to their home on the reserve there is an extra layer of daunt…is that a word?…it should be. Getting in and out of the reserve to doctors appointments would take a whole day.  It would be a full time job. They will probably continue to stay with St. Bryce. The logistics of ensuring the baby and her brother get the care they need will most likely fall on the Mitchell’s. Please pray for them. And if so led and able please support them

http://stbryce.org/donate/

St. Bryce Foundation https://www.facebook.com/StBryceMissions/

21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:21-26English Standard Version (ESV)

Now We See Dimly

We reached the spot where, if it were clear, we could see for miles into the Carribo reserve.  The clouds obscured our view. At an altitude of almost 7000 feet we were quite literally in the clouds. I whispered a prayer, just a wish really, that the clouds would clear. And they did. Slowly they dissipated and revealed the beauty, astounding beauty, of the reserve lands of quite possibly the most unknown indigenous people of Costa Rica, if not the world. The Carribo Reserve stretches 200 miles from the middle of Costa Rica to the Panama border.  The further in you go the more primitive the lives of the people.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there does it make a sound?  This is a question I pondered about the Cabecar people, the women especially. If they don’t see their lives as tragically unjust, should we? If nobody sees and they think it’s just the way of life is teenage pregnancy, polygamy, wearing skirts without underwear to be easily accessible to men who choose to violate you, high infant mortality, disease, and malnutrition wrong?  Someone saw and heard, recognized the wrong, and is doing something.

We came with The Lov Foundation to come along side the women living at St. Francis Emmaus Center to teach them a skill that will empower them with earning power. The centers Mercy Goods division is already providing opportunities for the women through the Fair Trade Friday initiative. Now The Lov Foundation with ViBella Jewelry has partnered with St. Francis Emmaus to bring more earning power to these beautiful, hardworking women.

We made jewelry the first three days then spent some time sight seeing and touring the country side. Al l through the week we learned about the Cabecar people and the Costa Ricans (I will tell of the Costa Rican women I met another day).  I did woefully little research before I boarded the plane with Nicol Epple, founder of The Lov Foundation, her sister, mother and daughter, Kim Hyland, and my daughter Anna. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Thankfully there are people who do know, and know that we don’t know.

St. Francis Emmaus Center

The Cabecar have a voice in Greg and Colleen Mitchell of St. Francis Emmaus Pregnancy Hostel(a part of St. Bryce Mission) in Turrialba, Costa Rica. Colleen was our hostess for many meals, our tour guide and translator for the week. Colleen Mitchell is a woman with a love for God that spills out in joy to those around her. She locks eyes with whoever she is talking to and captivates with what sometimes sound like tall tales so incredulous they sound to my Northern Virginia ears. She is a story teller who speaks with humor and warmth and respect for those she speaks of. She knows it is a sacred responsibility. She and Greg don’t seem to tire of relaying all they’ve seen and all they hope to do. It was a lot to absorb in a week.

The Mitchell’s have humble hearts and hands that love as Jesus loved; sacrificially in light of eternity, with the foremost mission to spread the gospel of Jesus.

Anna stringing pearls at St. Bryce Missions, Therefore Go emblazoned on the wall.

As I listened with my western ears imagining the trials, with womanhood the only common strand, I cringed and cried and internalized the struggle of the Cabecar women who know nothing else. They walk hours out of the reserve to Grano de Oro, a small town on the outskirts of the jungle, to catch a bus into Turrialba to receive medical care for themselves or their children. Before the Mitchell’s started their ministry, the infant and maternal mortality rate of the Cabecar was 5 times higher than the rest of Costa Rica. Six years after opening their doors to the Cabecar they have reduced the mortality rate by 50% and have served over 700 women.

One story I will never forget is of the woman who began her trek out of the reserve when she was in labor with her second child to get to the hospital. She went alone traveling hours on foot. She bled, contracted and eventually could not go on.  She stepped into the woods, pushed her baby out, cut the umbilical cord with a banana leaf, birthed the placenta wrapped her baby in her clothes, and went back home, naked and bleeding all the way. Why didn’t she just stay home?  Why is there not a culture of midwifery in the villages?  If there was midwifery at some point it’s been long lost and now they rely on the social services available to all who live in Costa Rica. The Mitchell’s have become a liaison between the Cabecar and the local hospital and health care providers.

We went to Mass the Sunday we were there. I contemplated the cross above the alter of Jesus hanging naked and alone dying from thirst, physical beatings, nails in hands and feet, pierced by the sword and saw his suffering in a new light. While he was pierced for our transgressions, the sins that require just retribution, he also suffered for our humanity in humanity.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:3-4

I  looked over the precipice straining to see into the reserve and soaked in the utopian landscape and imagined the darkness and poverty within.  I’m so very thankful for this opportunity to see the world through a new lens.  But even this lens is clouded there are still questions. But, love remains.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12

 

 

 

 

It is Finished!

Incomplete. Again. Never quite finished, again.  The book started, the exercise program left by the wayside, the refinishing project not finished, the bachelor degree never earned,  course work  started to become a nutritionist stopped after 3 courses, the seven blog posts sitting in the draft tab can’t bring to a conclusion. Cursed by an inability to finish things.

Careers in restaurants, store management, multi-level marketing (Amway) left unfinished.  Work at pregnancy centers, homeschool co-ops, church positions; never stayed long. Oh and my children, I wish I could say I completed them and made them ready for the world, but no they too are incomplete at my hands as a mother. Can anyone relate? What have you left unfinished that follows you around like a curse and beats you down, whispers to you that you are worthless, unfit, undeserving?  Those whispers are lies.

Even though the facts might be true it is not the whole of a life.  The path traveled is not a straight line to the top of some imaginary ladder of success in which you will know that you’ve “arrived”.

To counter the lies I could give  a list of what I have accomplished. There are a few things. Is that the point? Put everything on a scale and hope the good done out weighs the good started but left undone? Is that the measure of a life?  or that the good done out weighs the bad done?  Oh, I have bad done …I have completed bad. Would rather not even put those on the scale.

No, God’s word informs my thinking. I can replace those lies, those whispers of worthlessness with truth. God is not weighing my actions, intentions, or what I’ve done or not done to determine my worth. On the cross Jesus finished the work of reconciliation and bridged the  chasm between me and God.  I no longer have to work to enter into God’s presence or to earn God’s favor or to complete God’s work  to live eternally with Him. He declared “It is finished!” He is the maker and completer of us. Paul was confident when he declared this to the Philippians:

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

He is the starter and the finisher and perfecter of our faith:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-3

We may struggle against sin, we may struggle with  weaknesses but this does not define our worth or our status before God. We need not be afraid!

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.b 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

We may leave many things unfinished in this life.  But with Jesus our hope is not in this life! We will not be judged by how many things we finished. Love, Christs love covers and completes and compels us to love above all.

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4

The creator of the universe lives in us!! Completing us and making us perfect in His time, but not in this lifetime! We need not worry, be condemned or fret. He has us in his hands!

I’m reading a book, You’re Loved no Matter What, Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect by Holley Gerth with some ladies. This is what has me thinking about being complete, because I think all the things left undone and feel condemned by are a manifestation of perfectionism and the lies I’ve believed. How does perfectionism manifest itself in your life?

Yard Sale of the Mind

yard-sale

I love the minimalist philosophy of traveling lightly through this world. Less stuff, less debt, less house to take care of.  How freeing. Time to spend in relationships and more meaningful pursuits rather than taking care of all the stuff.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

I first heard this now often quoted phrase over at The Art of Simple and it’s a helpful guideline for the purge. The past few months and weeks have been a constant questioning of possessions: useful or beautiful,  avoid over-sentimentality.

This morning while walking the dog, my racing mind cluttered up with all that needs to be done, how I was feeling, the troubles of the world, the troubles of  friends. The wave of thoughts were sure to overwhelm.

I had to have a yard sale of the mind…it wasn’t  monetarily profitable, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to have those goods, but I did profit in a better way. Purging all the thoughts that distract and overwhelm and replacing them with beautiful, useful thoughts brought me close to God and His peace.

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4

Just as the minimilists promise peace through first simplifying your outer world God promises peace in our inner world through His Word. A peace that transcends understanding! I want that!

No matter if you de-clutter your home and life and stuff and relationships or not you can still draw close to God by thinking pure, lovely, admirable, God-rejoicing thoughts.

This doesn’t minimize the real often traumatic events of life, or the hardship everyone faces at some point in life. What it does though is turn our eyes to what is eternal rather than temporary.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

How do you de-clutter your mind?

Aging Out

Fourteen got me thinking.

My son Sam, adopted at age 6 from China, turns 14 today.  He is an amazing boy and I’m so very privileged to be the one he calls mom.  He is sensitive, sweet, funny, thoughtful and so much more.  He also has some developmental delays and learning disabilities.  We didn’t know that last part when we brought him home at age 6 but we rolled with it and found him the help he needed.

He has enriched and blessed all who know him. At school, in the neighborhood, and at church he is well known and loved. I can’t imagine life without my Sam. So we have been celebrating his birthday for the past few days, keeping it low key though no big party.  Dinner with the family one night, cake at school last Friday, and today his regular activities with a little extra attention. All happy events marking his 14th birthday.

For an orphan living in a Chinese orphanage turning 14 is not as happy an event. Fourteen marks the age you are no longer eligible for adoption.  Most of the children who have not been adopted by age 14 have either physical or cognitive special needs. They are allowed to stay in the orphanage and continue their education or seek employment but life is not easy. The stigma of the orphan follows them out of the orphanage. They are considered unlucky or cursed.

This article on the Love Without Boundaries website explains the difficulties for the older orphan who is no longer adoptable who must stay in China. It’s hard to fight the cultural stigma and come out on top.

Adopting older children is not always easy but for those who do it there are many rewards not only for the adoptee but the family as well. DSC_2623

Sam may have had someone else step up to adopt him had we not but there are still lots of children who don’t get adopted before their 14th birthday.  Below I am highlighting different adoption agencies and the advocacy work they are doing for older and special needs children.

If you have a heart for the orphan or have considered older child adoption please check out the links below and the sweet children available for adoption. Adopting is not the only way to help the orphan, if you are not able to bring a child into your home there are still ways to help.  Advocacy and financial donations so that others can adopt are just two.

http://www.nohandsbutours.com/children-wait/

http://adoptedbydesign.typepad.com/blog/

http://www.awaa.org/wc/default.aspx

http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/

If you’ve adopted older children I’d love to hear your story please comment or contact me.  Or if you know of other organizations advocated older child adoption let me know.

 

 

Survival of the Redeemed

What is natural selection?

Natural selection is the idea that the fittest survive and pass along their traits to their offspring.

This is the science memory sentence that brought tears to my eyes last Friday.  It’s part of the memory work that our Classical Conversations co-op introduces each week in the elementary years.  The tutor asked the children if they knew what a trait was. Most knew and explained that it’s like getting your green eyes from your father or your dark hair from your mother.  That’s what did it that’s what brought the tears to my eyes.

My daughter, adopted from China, who sat in that class, has no way of knowing from whom she inherited her traits. And in that moment it seemed very unfair. I had to walk out of the room and dry my tears.

Her beautiful strong body, gorgeous black almond shaped eyes, and long dark shiny hair, all traits passed on through the genetics of an unknown parentage. My son too with his happy expressions, kind gentle heart and slight build, traits passed on from people he does not remember.

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What an injustice to be ripped away from your mother immediately after birth to spend the first year of life in an orphanage to then be ripped away from your country and heritage and placed in a family with unfamiliar traits.   There are consequences to the disruptions in nurturing. To varying degrees all orphans suffer attachment issues, altered brain chemistry, delayed development and emotional trauma.

I had little understanding of that when we were in process to adopt my two youngest children. Oh I knew that my children from China were abandoned and I had read much on parenting adopted/hurt children.  In a cursory way I understood their loss of family was an injustice of the Chinese culture. I’ve come to understand in a deeper way though how hurt and loss always precedes every adoption and carries over into the new family.  I’ll never know completely, personally, how that loss feels yet I experience the effects it has on my children.

My daughter was abandoned as a newborn girl, my son as a weak sickly child of 11 months.  One might say that my daughter was one of the fittest, but you couldn’t say that of my son. According to natural selection he shouldn’t have survived.

I don’t understand why suffering has to precede adoption. The injustice my children’s lives began with is just a small sampling of the atrocities of our  broken world. As a Christian I know we live in a fallen world and I can’t get too caught up in the “why God?’s” .

This is what I do know: God  is a redeemer, a healer, an advocate. He places the lonely in families(Psalm 68:6), He defends the cause of the fatherless(Deuteronomy 10:18), He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3), He raises the needy from the ash heap (Psalm 113:7) And He adopts all who believe, grafting us into His eternal family giving us all a hope and a future.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3

Natural selection has little to do with my children’s survival. God’s steadfast love and redemption has everything to do with not only their survival but their living full happy lives.

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Winsome Dreams

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40

Joy is my word, the word I want to define my life this year and every year there after.  I’m leaning into to joy and am learning more about this state of being that is sometimes elusive.

I started the year memorizing Psalm 16 with a friend. It’s a Psalm that meets me  right where I am, starting with what my friend described as a primal cry for help.  “Keep me safe O God, for in you I take refuge.”  I repeat this often, willing myself back into the presence of God where, according to verse 11, there is joy.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

In February I registered for the Winsome Retreat  I had never heard of this retreat but a Facebook friend posted about it  and I jumped at the chance after reading this on the “about” page:

Why Winsome? Because we all want to be!
It literally means {JOY} some.
And who doesn’t want some joy?

We’re not talking about circumstantial, bubbly, fragile joy, but deep, strong, messy, right-here joy. In these circumstances, good or bad.

Joy that not only brings happiness on our good days but sustains us through our worst.

Join us this April for a weekend of discovering joy!

The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
~ Frederick Buechner

God has designed you with a unique purpose. He has placed His dreams in your heart. And there is no greater JOY than discovering that purpose, walking in these God-sized dreams, and bringing His love, truth, and justice to a waiting world.

Wow! …discovering that purpose, walking in these God-sized dreams and bringing His love, truth, and justice to a waiting world.

This is what I’ve been delving into the past couple of years. Purpose, dreams, justice, truth…which all lead to joy! I knew I had to go. The timing was perfect a week after Easter, a week after a 40 day fast from some things to feast on others (like God’s word) prepared my heart for this retreat.

And Winsome did not disappoint! I’ve been back a week now and I’m still on that after-retreat-high; pondering the messages shared, remembering the beautiful scenery, so very thankful for the new friends made.

God met me at this retreat. Things I’ve been pondering for months, maybe years  were given voice. Areas of desire that I buried were unearthed.

IMG_4978
We were spoiled with Winsome goodies.

At Winsome I met and heard women step out in faith and courage to tell their stories, their hard in the pit stories, and follow their dreams and were encouraging others to do the same.

Holley Gerth showed us how to find our God-sized dream, which she says is finding more of what God has for you, by finding the place where our service to others, our strengths and our skills intersect. This is very practical! I know many women that have naturally entered into their God given purpose the path has seemed so clear for them. While I’m sure I’m in God’s will and have some big areas where that’s obvious I’m entering a season where I need encouragement to follow my desires and believe God has more for me now.

I’ve read many books in the past year about finding purpose, taking risks and telling our stories (which has many benefits to ourselves and our hearers) that have tilled the soil of my soul so that this message of finding and following our God given dreams fell on fertile ground and gave me the validation I needed to think about giving dormant dreams wings.

Kim Hyland, the winsome women behind the retreat, in her final message answered the questions I had about following dreams. It was uncanny how she accurately described how I feel when entertaining desires of the heart.  I view it suspiciously, knowing my heart is selfish and greedy. I have either ignored or indulged by inklings. But the question I had been mulling is don’t I have the mind of Christ?

Why yes, yes I do. I am a Christian who has been made new:

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 15The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?”d

But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2

Kim encouraged us by reminding us that our Father wants to meet us in our desire. He planted our desires there.  When we are seeking God we can trust His leading.

I think Amy at be-loved in blue jeans, though has put it best for me. I feel commissioned. Commissioned to go and tell.  Not sure exactly where the path will lead but I’ll step out and ask God to search my heart orchestrate the timing and give me the words.

Saturday night at Winsome there was an extended time of worship and prayer and I was reminded of Psalm 40. If you have time read through the whole Psalm slowly.

 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I’m on solid ground and I have desires, dreams, things I want to do, and people I want to serve. I’ve found the validation I need to go for it. I’m seeking God to determine what the next step is and asking for His provision and clear guidance as I draw near to Him.

Join me will you?  Find your dream! Here are some other blogs, books and resources to help you on your way:

http://www.amazon.com/Youre-Made-God-Sized-Dream-Opening/dp/080072061X

http://godsizeddreams.com/

winsomeretreat.com I think they’ll have the speakers sessions on line.

 

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened[c]
    burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home?

6fb763113cd9c105fc245e2b2d9da20b

Home Sweet Home, Not a sentiment everyone can grasp.

We hosted a Valentines dinner for our church back in February. We had a fun time of food and fellowship and meaningful discussion. Our theme for the night was “home”. Jesus came to earth, made a home with us, then went to prepare a place for us and until then  lives with us every day. Discussion questions centered around what makes us feel at home here on earth. Most answered along the lines of where we feel comfortable, places we feel like we can put up our feet and let down our guard and just be ourselves.
Some of us didn’t live in that kind of place growing up, myself included. I often walked on eggshells at home as a girl because I didn’t know the next time my  my father might be drunk or my parents might be fighting. I often felt I had offended them or was doing something wrong. I was awkward and didn’t know how to express myself. My mother couldn’t quite figure me out and was pretty busy with my younger siblings and her irresponsible husband. I was a free range child with no boundaries or responsibilities.  My mother* is the first to admit I was somewhat neglected. I never really felt “at home” at home.

I did know a place though where the laughter was generous, the love was tangible and there was no fear.
Mom Jenny showed the love of Christ to me. She welcomed me in, played games, taught me to sew, brought me to church and even though she had her own troubles she always spoke of God’s generous provision and protection. It was at the little Baptist church in Osterville, MA that Jenny took me too each Sunday where I heard bible stories and the good news and where I felt accepted and at home.  For about three years I attended that church, took part in their Sunday school and then the youth group before my parents separated and, our of necessity, Mom moved us 500 miles away.  By then I was drifting towards rebellion anyway but  Jenny, who I still call my other mom, that church and the kind people who made me feel at home left a lasting impact on my life.

Erin, Mom Jenny, and me a few years ago.
Erin(Jenny’s daughter), Mom Jenny, and me a few years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely at home in this world, C.S. Lewis made me understand that:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
― C.S. Lewis

I’m grateful though for the memory of Jenny’s home where I was welcomed and accepted and loved. It was a little taste of the place Jesus has gone to prepare for all who believe in Him.

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:2

Do you know the way to your forever home?

*My dear mother is a wonderful woman who had her hands full, I don’t blame her in the least, I was an easy child who didn’t demand much so it was easy to let me go my own way. My mother too is thankful for the kind people in our lives who helped care for her children.

 

 

 

Snowed In

Virgina finally got her snow storm.  We have about 8″ topped with a sleet covered crust. It glistens, it shines, it’s beautiful but also dangerous to drive on.  It’s a Sunday. I don’t like missing church but it doesn’t have to mean missing worship.

Waking early I did some stretches by the back window and enjoyed the white washed scene  Then I used the Lent devotional to worship. Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of lent but are used to celebrate the Resurrection. Each Sunday of lent the Resurrection of Christ is highlighted and Christ is praised for what this accomplished.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Brought to glory.  A wretch made a treasure. I sang this song alone with just the dim light of a rising sun coming through the window and tears brimming as I reflected on the truth that I was a wretch. I was a mocker who scoffed at the cross.

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
Knowing that the passion of Christ accomplished so much for the whole world and me personally is hard to fathom. I was a mocker, I believed that hell was on earth and heaven was a myth. To dust we return was the end of not only the body but the soul as well.  But it’s not, for our souls there is an eternity waiting and we choose where we will spend it.
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

 

Looking for the Loophole

Walking the dog with phone in hand I look out of habit for the Facebook app. Then I see I have google plus on my phone, maybe I’ll look there and see what’s up with whoever is posting. Then I think no that’s too much like Facebook and would be cheating…then I see twitter and think, maybe i’ll learn to use twitter and see what’s up there. I’m looking for a loop hole. Another way out of really denying myself to draw closer to God.

A loop hole, a way out of following what I promised or what is required. What I’ve promised to give up for lent is not a law. I don’t expect that I will gain a greater acceptance from God for giving up anything, but I do expect to gain deeper communion with God. And I’m seeing the constructs that keep me from that. I am seeing how much I fill up these voids in my life with empty practices, the peering into others lives in Facebook distract me from my own life and family right in front of me.

The Pharisees looked for loop holes, they asked Jesus who their neighbor was hoping for an easy answer but Jesus told them whoever is in need, whether they belong to their little club or not, is their neighbor. The rich young ruler was looking for a loop hole, look at me he said i’ve followed all the commandments, yes but, Jesus replied, one thing you lack. His loop hole was his obedience but he still held onto his wealth and that kept him from true communion. What loop holes do I look for everyday? What easy answers? What am looking to hold onto when God is calling me to give it up?

I am a Martha pleading with Jesus for help in my daily tasks yet neglecting the one thing. I want to be a Mary and know that whatever is needed will be provided as long as I sit at Jesus’ feet. He can redeem the time. I want to be generous and give of my wealth, he will give back pressed down and overflowing.

Last night I received ashes and was reminded that I will return to dust that this life is fleeting and that I have choices to make. Jesus paid an unthinkable price so that I could live forever, yet I’m given a brief time on earth to live for Him.

And I think this is it this is the only life I have and I grope and claw for the best I can get right here and now. It’s not though, the best is yet to come and i’m traveling towards a greater understanding these next forty days leading up to the cross.

I’m ready to take a hard look at my heart and see what made it necessary for the sacrifice that saves. I want to turn away continually from the sin that separates. My Haughty eyes, my lying tongue, selfishness all of it I want to turn away from and turn to the everlasting arms of a Father who sent His son to suffer on a cross for me.

I want to learn what it’s like to have a faith worth dying for.

These coptic Christians who never denied the faith even though it meant losing their lives and leaving their families. Ann Voscamp writes eloquently about their faith and how we can pick up our cross, remember the martyrs and how they remind us that we do have a faith worth dying for, and we can pray for our enemies, real enemies.

So while I suffer a coffee headache and work through not checking on my facebook friends I’ll pray not just for my relief but for the whole world. I’ll suffer through killing my apathy, slaying my pride andI’ll cry out to God to fill me up so I”ll pour over and spill out His love to those around me. My neighbors are everywhere so I’ll serve the needy and I’ll give of my wealth and seek justice.

Won’t you? There are no loop holes in this faith.