21 January 2017

Five Minute Friday ~ Just my opinion, but I think our process of distilling information needs some serious refining.

Friday, yesterday, was President Trump's inauguration. I didn't watch it. I had an incredibly busy day, was feeling a bit under the weather, and while I think watching would have been a good thing, it didn't make it high enough on the priority list for me to try and make it become a logistical reality.

Social media reactions, however, have me mulling some things over.

In particular, I've been considering the extreme and opposing responses to his inaugural address. Looking at my feeds, I have to wonder if everyone actually heard the same speech, for how could the same 1456 words lead to such absolute extremes of reactions and understandings?

At one end of the spectrum are those convinced he loves the USA and that life will improve dramatically as he begins to actually follow through on his campaign promises. At the other end of the spectrum are those convinced he is selfish and inept and that if he even starts to do anything he threatened, our country cannot survive. 

Clearly, words aren't offered up on a clean slate. 

Rather, our understanding and interpretation of words spoken or written by another person is influenced by more baggage that we typically care to admit. Things such as:

  • personal agendas;
  • perceptions, right or wrong, of the person wielding the words;
  • previous interactions with the actual words used or with the person using them;
  • proper awareness of the context in which words are used;
  • prior understanding of topics discussed; 
  • actual mode of participation in the conversation;
  • grace and pardon one is willing to offer to those whose words provoke unwanted or undesirable results; and/or
  • pliability in accepting those who view things differently.

I could probably expand that list further if I had more time or if more "p" words were coming to mind

I still haven't watched the inaugural address. 

But clearly, most of us need more practice at recognizing that no one is a neutral listener. 

We all favor our own personal agendas as we listen and interpret the speech or the writings of another and our abilities to set those agendas aside to really hear first needs q lot of refining.

photo credit: Geoff Livingston 
The U.S. Capitol Building Readied for the Trump Inauguration 

19 January 2017

How Dare We !!?

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24.17,18)

I'll never forget how physically sick I felt the day a dangerous individual who had harmed others and sinned greatly died, or more accurately - was killed, and my Facebook feed was littered with celebration.  Many rejoiced saying that said individual deserved even worse than the consequences already received.

True enough. I really can't argue that.

Justice HAD been served.

The celebration, however, broke my heart. To know that a soul, one most likely not prepared to stand before God, had entered eternity unprepared? No longer did any opportunity exist for a change of heart for that individual. And people who love Jesus with abandon apparently felt no sorrow that a soul was now condemned to hell.

Actions have consequences. Absolutely! 

In fact, the consequences of my actions make hell a just destination for me, but for God's mercy and grace.

Sometimes I forget that. 

When I get all caught up in the hating of an antagonistic adversary or despicable foe, I totally lose sight of the fact that the only reason I only look any different in God's eyes than does "my enemy" is that because He sees me clothed in Christ's righteousness. Somehow, I start suspecting that my own righteousness and efforts are impressing the Almighty, if only just a little bit.

When that mindset creeps in, when I realize that I'm glad - rejoicing and celebrating because of another's 
  • tottering,
  • wavering and weakening where there was once strength,
  • stumbling and falling,
  • fainting,
  • bereavement, 
  • being cast down, 
  • decaying, 
  • failing, 
  • feebleness, 
  • ruin
  • death?
I do not please God.

The only thing I can think of that begins to compare in my own life is when I see one of my children delighting and gloating in the deserved comeuppance of a sibling. Discipline is necessary and so critical as parents disciple children, but it pains to see one I love so much suffering through shame, guilt, conviction and/or consequences. 

It pains just as deeply, though, to see another one of my children enjoying their sibling's sadness, making merry as another reaps the aftermath they've brought on themselves. The more godly response would be sober sorrow.

Sober sorrow, however, must be the evidence of God's grace. This proverb warns, "Do not let...," words which remind me that rejoicing in another's just consequences or punishment is the natural and worldly-fleshly-sinful response. 

It is God's unfettered grace that enables His own to "not let" rejoicing ensue at the demise of a real or perceived enemy and to genuinely sit awhile with sober sorrow.

1st photo credit: adedip via photopin cc
2nd photo credit: Amarand Agasi via photopin cc
*originally published here, and slightly edited  and republished here.
Still convicting thoughts I regularly need to revisit, so revised and published once again..

06 January 2017

Five Minute Friday ~ Connect

The first thing that actually came to mind when I saw today's Five Minute Friday word, connect, was one of its antonyms: sever.... or the French word sevrage - which can refer to any sort of separation, but I specifically remember it because I heard it A LOT when weaning my kids, each time we reached that stage in life with one of them.

It was hard and often uncomfortable then - even thought right and normal and good...

But the sevrages of this season of life, as we coach from afar our young adults busy about this business of adulting are even harder and more uncomfortable than I ever dreamed.

And just in case you are wondering - the idea that it gets easier after they are out and  more or less successfully adulting on their own a bit? That's hogwash!

We just spent a fabulous 10 days back in Michigan with our extended families... but especially with Brendan, Rebekah Joy and Nadia. It wasn't ALL the sweet smells of cinnamon, vanilla and roses: siblings argue, parents forget and try to insist on things they don't have a right to insist on with their young adults (old habits do die hard), feelings get pinched a little when big sibs run and hang with friends instead of little sibs... and then Mama teases back to make sure big sibs understand that... And then there's the queue for the bathroom when SOMEONE is taking too long, stinky foot smell when someone removes their shoes in close quarters and suffocates the family, disagreements over which game or which TV show, etc.! But all that's just normal family stuff. And there were those really precious moments: surprise sweet 16 planned and organized mostly by big sisters for little sis, thoughtful presents, big bro-little sis dates at Barnes and Noble, lots of snuggles and tickles and good natured teasing, as well as some fierce fights via computer gaming, some dancing (the Macarena to Brand New Day... all eight of them, in the living room) and lots of KPop and animé.

Saying goodbye on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning - that was HARD. And UNCOMFORTABLE. They've all got big life decisions looming: deciding where to go to school, looking at what to do after school and starting to think about what things need to line up for that next step, considering changes to the original next step, thinking about a missions exploration trip, securing a job in chosen field to fund continued studies... In the immediate, one has a long trip back to campus in potentially nasty weather while the other two drive in nasty Michigan winter weather for the next few months.

Tears were abundant.

The more precious the connection, the more painful the sevrage.

I don't always like it; but, I am always okay with it. 

It is right and normal and good. And exciting.

I'm so proud of my adulting young'uns... even as they make mistakes. They are brave, strong, full of fascinating ideas and hopes for future, and most of the time, trying hard to make good choices. They're still learning much about letting God be the only one on the throne of their lives, but then so am I.

I couldn't be prouder.

I can't wait to "connect" again - even though the sevrage that time will still be every bit as hard and uncomfortable.

As it should be.

30 December 2016

Looking past or really seeing

I was walking from a parking lot just up the road to a center where I was having a meeting recently. It was bitterly cold, a fierce wind blew more than gusted, and even bundled up, I was freezing. I usually love winter weather. After years of living in the Sahel, I appreciate… even relish… actually being cold. I know; it’s a bit strange. Yet as I was hoofing it that morning, I yearned for a transporter that would allow me to instantly teleport back to the oft sweltering heat of West Africa.

The silver lining?

Brilliant arctic blue colored the skies, cotton ball clouds dotted that wide expanse, and the sun radiated a dazzling, blinding glow that bounced everywhere, momentarily blinding as it reflected off the snow covering the neighborhood. It was a beautiful winter morning! Living in Quebec, sunlight is a commodity to be treasured during the long hours of seasonal darkness.

I noticed something that morning. Sunlight is powerful. Incredibly powerful, in fact. That morning, it was well below 0’F (-18’C) and I had refused to look at the wind chill because I just really didn’t want to know. Yet sunshine was still melting snow. Frozen patches of ice had small streams of water flowing toward storm drains, even surrounded by all of that frigidity. It didn’t seem physically possible.

In that moment, the thought crossed my mind that this is not only true of sunshine, but also of “sonshine.”...

Please join me at A Life Overseas, where I'm posting today, to read the rest! Hope to see you there.

29 November 2016

YES! I did it!

I REALLY don't like talking on the phone, for any reason, ever. Not even with family and close friends. I can do it, I don't sound freaked out and usually don't stumble over my words. I even leave coherent messages on answering machines. But given the choice between talking to someone in person, texting, fb messaging or email... or making a phone call - I will NEVER choose the phone call. 

My husband doesn't get that, not at all. So, sometimes I have one other avoidance option - I get him to make the necessary phone call for me!

He usually rolls his eyes and sighs big... and then does that little service for me, because he loves me!

When you add the complication of trying to make a phone call in French - well, I can become a world champion procrastinator...

Several months ago, I decided I decided it was time to start looking for ways to volunteer, outside of my church or a Christian school, in my local community - wherever that might be. It was one of those New Year's resolutions from a few years back - before we left Niger for home assignment. I had been convicted of my furloughing introvertedness:  when home from Africa (our place of service, at that time), I'd literally quarantine myself within the Christian community. I couldn't... didn't... do that for four year chunks while in Niger; I figured I had that right and I had justified it by my very real need need to rest, recharge and rebuild. 

January 2013, I realized that MY "reasonings" were hogwash - and simply excuses for me to avoid ministry and give in to my nature that is perfectly content at home, not talking to or interacting with people, except on MY terms. In fact, I was convicted that my "self-fulfillment" in that sense was nothing less than sin.

So, I made that resolution and by God's grace... and a few friends and family members who help keep me accountable... I've actually followed through and maintained this practice for a significant chunk of time - volunteering at a Pregnancy Resource Center and at a wildlife rehabilitation center while back in Michigan. 

Then we moved.

It was easy to get involved in our church, Christian school and the studio ministry - for the obvious reason: THAT was why we came to Quebec - to encourage Jesus followers here and to hopefully encourage others to become Jesus followers.

Finding ways to get involved in our communities, outside the Christian communities, however, has taken a little bit of time.

Tori gave the first accountability nudge, without even realizing it! We hadn't even been here a month, I was still unpacking boxes, and she began begging to find out if there was a wildlife rehabilitation center in our area. She loved working at the A.R.K while back in Michigan (and usually requests the possibility of a shift or two when we are back in town for vacations). We did find a place to volunteer - only they only needed help from April to September. We contacted them in October. I left my name and contact information - and hoped to hear from them the following spring.

I was content to let the volunteering stay on the back burner until April - I was starting to experience the full impact of plunging 6 kids at once into a non-maternal language school system, and homework not only felt overwhelming; we were drowning in it. But Tim kept telling me about a guy he worked with at the studio, an older gentleman that volunteered, working with kids after school to do their homework. He kept saying I'd be good at something like that. That wasn't the direction I really wanted to go. I was doing enough French homework with MY OWN kids! About that same time, a refugee family (from Congo by way of Burundi) started attending our church. The idea of helping refugees sounded a lot better than homework, and the arrival of Syrian refugees was all over the news. 

So I looked on line and found a center that coordinates volunteers, filled out the application, went in for an interview, had my police check and thought I'd see lots of opportunities to help welcome newcomers to the Belle Province. Except there were none of those opportunities listed, at least none that I found. 

So I started to sign up for one-shot opportunities, to at least dip my big toe into the water and test the temperature.

I'll never forget my first volunteer experience here in Quebec. It was helping with a 5K cross country up near the military base. All the other women who looked to be about my age got to stand around and hand out bottles of water as runners passed their table. I was recruited with the 20-something crowd (Really people? Can't you see the gray roots and wrinkles?) to run up a mountain and then stand there all morning, cheering and directing runners to follow the race/right path. I stood right next to a sign that warned of the prolific presence of black bears in the area. I was a little nervous most of the morning.

Would I do it again? Possibly... ah... probably.

Tori and I did hear back from the wildlife rehab center - and volunteered there, averaging 1-2 shifts/week throughout the rehabbing season this past spring and summer. We are both looking forward to returning next spring. It is funny how in serving and caring for animals, I get an opportunity to serve, care for and love people who are passionate about wildlife and the environment.

But I knew that would be coming to an end with the beginning of a new school year...

So, I finally decided to take a peer counseling training course, thinking I could get involved that way. The first session was offered over the summer, while we were traveling - so I registered for the one slated to begin in the fall. I received my certificate in October, and am officially signed up as a trained volunteer with the "Maison de la Famille" as a peer counselor.

But what does all that have to do with using a telephone... the subject with which I started stream-of-conscious-ing way back at the beginning of this post?

Well, I picked peer counseling because it is something done in person. No one told me, until I was already signed up and given a client to contact - that THAT FIRST CONTACT was done by phone.


Today - after much fear, trepidation, procrastination and finally, prayer - I made the call.

I was able to understand and be understood.

And I've set up my first actual meeting.


Not just celebrating my phone call,
but the success my football team has experienced this season as well!

Don't expect me to say that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Because it was. I feel like throwing up just thinking about it, and knowing that it will be a part of every helping relationship I have through this organization.

That, however, isn't a good enough reason for me to consider not being involved... not trying to serve this community... not taking His love into this world with every tool and talent God has given me.


How are you giving back? 

Are you seeking ways to be involved, even though it may not feel natural or comfortable for you?

How are you involved with people outside of your Christian community?


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