Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ Not what I expected...
Last week was a bit of an enigma... or maybe paradox .... is a more accurate word. In some ways, the whole week was a mountain top time: Grandpa Gene and our friends, Larry and Pam Macklin, arrived and our French school kids were on vacation - so the family was flying high. I, too, was delighted. I love the time just hanging with my kids and I love visitors: it gives me an excuse to try some new recipes and then introducing others to Niger - seeing, hearing, feeling, touching this place as though for the first time all over again - is nothing less than exhilarating. Hearing first hand news from home, notes and cards from family, small treats tagging along in luggage - and just knowing that someone cares enough to write, to send, to make this trip because Jesus has compelled them to serve our family - any and all of those should have left me totally overwhelmed with joy and excitement.
Instead, I felt as though unexplainable sadness and discouragement stalked me throughout the week.
I don't know exactly - if there was a formula for "How to have a good week, spiritually" I pretty well was following it. I spent a good chunk of each day meditating long and deep on Philippians 4.5 and my heart rejoiced and delighted in what He was showing me. I had sweet times of prayer. Tim and I kept short accounts with each other, seeking forgiveness quickly when we'd wronged one another. The kids were in good spirits and enjoying each other-including good discussions of God and His faithfulness. Ladies' Bible study was on Saturday, and I'm always encouraged by meeting with that group of ladies, as I see power of the Gospel truly beginning to impact and prevail in their lives. I spent much time serving my family and others... and was genuinely content to be doing so. I continued remembering gratitude to my God and for His lavish love, care, forgiveness and abundance in my life. But even amidst all of that, sadness and depression lurked about.
Then Sunday night, we went to the English Evening service - it is not a church, but rather a fellowship of mostly first-language English speaking expat workers here in Niamey who gather each week to worship, pray and hear a sermon in English. We were reminded several times in many ways last night that it is God who is our Rock, the one and only Sure Foundation, our Shelter and the One who causes us to soar above the tumult of tossing waves. I was reminded as we remembered the Lord's Table in both services yesterday that I cannot trust family, friends, feelings, circumstances or spiritual formulas and still practice godly pleasure always. It is only when the source of my joy and gratification, of daily calm and contentment is God and God alone that I will be able to combat those days, weeks... perhaps even longer seasons, when it feels as though discouragement looms around every corner, even in places where I've not stumbled over it before.
Speaking of stumbling, while looking through photos of last week, I literally lurched across these, several of our kids playing with toads. Racing their toads, in fact. This is one of those things I don't understand - I can barely deal with frogs, but toads? They are horrible, warty-covered, probably disease-carrying creatures that my children search out. Why this obsession with toads? I'm clueless. Elsie Mae even cuddles them... And that said, please know it is followed by a disgusted shudder - and a quick wash for her afterwards... or after the photo! YUCK!
Yet... so slowly, infinitely slowly it seems, I will learn that just like the fairy tale frog who turns into a prince when kissed... or in our case here, the toad that changes into a champion when cheered - those things that seem to stalk and threaten abiding joy can be the very things God uses to drive me to remembrance of Him as my Rock, my High Tower, the Lifter of my head, the Source of all good... my Champion. They are unexpected instruments in God's hand, if I will but let Him use them.
#854 unexplained sadness that stalks... and sends me scurrying to my Savior
#855 words that surprised, uttered by one I trust, words that seemed to violate that trust - and the comfort that comes from God when my heart is wounded
#856 Christ, my Champion
#857 when others begin to value that which has infinite value
#858 remembering that the Lord is near - not just His imminent presence or the time when He calls me home - but His very presence, His hand on my shoulder - as I type, teach, wash dishes, hang laundry, sweep floors, grade papers, cook...
#859 the stability that will come if I just learn gentleness... gracious reasonableness...
#860 opportunities to practice having the very mind of Christ in me
#861 my partner and earthly champion - a husband who will come home just to help me light the pilot light for the oven when it has befuddled me
#862 listening to my two oldest work out their differences, with gentleness and love - and with only one reminder
#865 God uses imperfect tools to perfect us, and that because we have His Spirit to guide, we can use imperfect tools to draw closer and learn more about Him
#866 God's Word - that speaks to me whether I read in English, French and now... it is just beginning... to speak to me through Zarma
#867 cool nights and early mornings
#868 a little girl, not my own, who sought out a cuddle during church Sunday morning
#869 listening to my children sing in the car... and then joining in with them... a multitude of songs in a multitude (well, at least 4) of languages - and most of those songs were ones of praise and worship
#870 an unexpected Sunday conversation with one of my favorite friends and one of the best examples of a godly mother I know