Thursday, January 21, 2016

on being content

A phone call started me thinking about all of this. It was unexpected. She had met my husband 3 years ago and something he said, something he shared had encouraged her to seek a life of serving God overseas. We both teared up thinking about that ever present longing never far from the surface. A longing and dream to be overseas again. I struggle with what part of that longing is my own sin of discontentment that I can easily justify or cloud in calling and what part is the way He wired us and what He is asking of us. This inner pull to search Him out in distant places is so real in my life. But discontentment is the nagging voice that I too often allow to take over. I'm still in the mess of figuring this out. 

I need to be reminded that God is as real here in suburban America as He was to me in rural Africa.   My time in Africa allowed me to really believe what I had said I believed for years.  But you see without that testing I was not really sure.  I was mostly sure but I was never put to the test; to have to count suffering as joy. The trials and stretching we experienced helped me fall more in love with His people, His church, and His purposes. It helped me to trust that even in the moments when your entire family might perish He is present and real. He really is, friends.

But it is more than that. I miss the rope string uncomfortable couches of our living room and the red dust and thick heat in the air. I miss not being able to find a moment of silence because the community He planted us in was so thick and full. I miss drinking chai with "biscuits" (and the sweet & rare victory of having no bugs in either package).  I miss trying to read while listening to the neighbors greeting each other and children seeking into our yard to use our swings. I miss days that seemed unplanned but always ended up so full. We miss the chaos and intensity of being so forced outside our comfort zone that He was the only thing left to cling to. We miss the like minded people and quirky expats (ok, weird..mostly weird like us) we found in guest houses and hospital waiting rooms and restaurants that served a few Western dishes. We miss our friends whose stories were so different than ours but who welcomed us into their lives and homes and hearts.  And although we were always outsiders it was home and it is deeply embedded in us.

But I love this place too.  It is home too. It always will be. It was home first. I love this place too with the comfy couches and dear friends that have known me for most of my life. I love coffee shops and convenience and not waiting all day (or year) for an item to come into stock at the store. Amazon Prime people! I love ordering Thai food and sushi, and running to Trader Joe's.  The comforts of first world living are not lost on me. But it is deeper than that. I love family being close and cousins gigling together and Bibis' who are adored.  I love friends that are like family and who put up with my crap and tell me the truth no matter what. I love being able to easily express myself and be understood. I love that I have had so many opportunities here to become the woman I am still becoming.  This place is deeply embedded in me as well. And when we lived there I often wanted to be here and now that I am here I long to be there. Just so many feels y'all.

Another friend who spent time living and loving in another culture once told me it is both a blessing and a curse because you grow to become an alien in both places. Strangely, this brings me some comfort because I know we are called to be "strangers and sojourners" in this world. CS Lewis said

“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.”

I feel that desire for another place but it is not found on any map or in another adventure. It is living each day and knowing He is intimately involved in the details. So what to do with this all? Heck if I know. I just know I am holding these things in my heart today and asking God for vision AND contentment. For contentment and joy in the everyday tasks He has put before me. Parenting the 4 children in our home right now seems so daunting somedays.  But I remembered that is because IT IS and I am not enough. I will never be "enough" but that is FREEING.  Because trying harder in my own strength is not what I am called to do. I am called to the much more radical things: to trust. to breath. to not take myself so seriously. to live with joy in a world of comparison. to boldly stand for and with others without believing this compromises who I am. to seek out and use my gifts and celebrate the gifts of others.  to love without fear of what the future might hold. to live today fully and still have visions and dreams for tomorrow.  For me, I must trust Him that when He spoke we heard and that He is faithful in His timing to accomplish His will. I need faith to believe that He still speaks.  And I desperately need the courage to listen and respond. 

This is the thing: discontentment can also be a gift. It can lead to following your passion. It can lead to following His leading. It can be the beginning of a shift that is just what we need. But it can also hold us hostage. It can whisper that if things were just a little different we would be happier, better, more successful, etc. I am still in the mess of discerning what my discontentment means but for today it will not steal my joy.  And He is still present and speaking now.
I'm finding Him here. I see Him here.
I want to eyes to see Him show up wherever He is. Always. 
Peace on the journey friends, 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

the story of my ink.

The memory is still so fresh in my mind. I can smell of sterile sheets and hopelessness in my room. I can hear the annoying beeps from the Zofran pump and the clicking shoes of the nurses coming and going every 30 minutes. I can close my eyes and imagine the constant dizziness. In a dark hospital room about 3 years ago I was desperate. For my story to be different, for something to change, for relief, for a way out.  God did not provide the things I thought I needed at the time but I believe He spoke.

After having a PICC line inserted I could not stop crying or shivering.  But I was so dehydrated that no tears were coming.  The one thing I do so often: crying was not even possible. I was so depressed and felt terribly alone. I closed my eyes and saw a beautiful colorful vision that gave me some sense that this was not without purpose. I felt warmth all over my body and saw the world and the universe but it was insanely colorful and dripping away like a painting. The 2 verses that came to me where "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you" and "But take heart, I have overcome the world."One from John 14 and one from John 16.  Words that brought me comfort and peace that although I would not find the rescue I sought in that moment I had already been rescued and was free. And no matter where I go or what happens I am not alone. Ever. Jesus has overcome this world that is beautiful and broken at the same time.  And all is fading away. It was a peace in the midst of such darkness I never wanted to forget and finally almost 3 years later I have a permanent reminder.  No one knew about this vision, even Jason had no idea what tattoo I was getting or the specifics of the story.. He only knew that when he visited me in the hospital the next day I told him I felt such peace and that God wanted me to get a tattoo (I'm pretty sure he attributed that to being on a tons of meds at the time :). But almost 3 years later and I knew it was time. The day before I went to get my tattoo I reread all my journal and blog entries from then (here, here, here and here). And I cried. Because at that time and space in my story I could never imagine an outcome where I felt peace or healing. My emotions were raw for so long but I can say I have experienced healing and redemption. It does not erase the darkness but the darkness enabled me to more clearly see the Light.
in hospital
And I found this picture....and I knew I want to always remember and mark all that He has done.
Jamie's images (2)
Jamie's images (15)
Jamie's images (30)
I'm liking this view a whole lot more than the IV, tape, and hospital band but every time I look down I am reminded that He was present and with me during a dark time and that time was not has been and is being redeemed. This tattoo was a bit like therapy for me and it was a long time coming. 

images by my friend Jamie

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas with family

Christmas Day we spent the day with my family and as usual my mom made tons of yummy food and we opened presents and laughed and ate way too much. And the day after we did the same with Jason's family at his sister Annie's home except there were tons of cousin chaos and even a talent show (which MUST become tradition!). Both days were full and we are so blessed to have family close and to spend time together. Here are my faves from Christmas with family......
Auntie Katy and Uncle Josh came home too!!
Hope your Christmas was full of silly faces, food, friends, family, and celebrating God's love and goodness.