Wednesday, February 18, 2015

God's Heart towards Those Who Give

Today I share a companion article to my first post on the Breathe Ministry website, an online ministry focused toward missionary and pastor's wives. A story from 1 & 2 Kings led me to consider God's Heart towards Those Who Give.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Best Birthday Gift

Today when my husband answered the door in cargo shorts and a well-loved t-shirt, Marcelo (the man who delivers our drinking water) curiously inquired, "So you have the summer off your job then?" I heard his question through the window and thought, "Oh, if he only knew!" Such is the interesting dichotomy of a missionary pastor's life. Those on the outside of church wonder what exactly it is he does. Sometimes it's even a little embarrassing to think they might assume because my husband is home at times during the day, he doesn't work all that much. On the other hand, they know nothing of his early morning office hours, late-night phone calls, emotion-laden pastoral visits and dedicated times of study and discipleship. 

On this particular Saturday, Marcelo couldn't realize that Pedro had woken before 4 a.m. to do an airport run for a family from church whose daughter suffered a scary accident yesterday. Nor did he know that my husband had afterwards taken only a brief nap before rising to prepare me a delicious breakfast omelet, prior to heading back out to shop for a family from church facing a major move today. In fact, Pedro had only just returned from dropping off needed items to that family when Marcelo arrived with our weekly water delivery. And no sooner had Marcelo departed then Pedro took another phone call which resulted in driving back to the family's home to pick up their children and deliver them to our colleagues' home for babysitting, allowing just enough time for him to sit down with us for a very quick bite of lunch and birthday cake before joining the official moving party at 2 p.m.

Which all leads me to write this post. This morning, very briefly I felt a twinge of temptation to think, "It's my birthday! I want to be able to sit down peacefully with my family and enjoy this day, rather than having my husband rushing in and out taking care of other people's needs." But overwhelmingly stronger was a sense of gratitude for having a husband who cares so much for us - and for others.

So this is for you, Sweets. On my 39th birthday I just want to say that you are the best birthday gift I have been given. I thank God for you and your love for Him, your family and others which you demonstrate in your kindness and service. I love you!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Thank You, Adventures in Odyssey

I love the things our kids say sometimes! I only wish I remembered to write them down more often.

My husband shared a humorous "quote of the day" from our nine-year old son this morning. Pedro was examining a Lego masterpiece by Ian, our seven-year old who had created a house with a "loza" for a second floor. "Good job, Ian! How did you do that?" he asked admiringly.

Without hesitation, big brother Owen jumped in with an answer. "Easy, Dad! He used a colloquialism!" When Pedro burst out laughing, Owen defended himself by exclaiming, "What? Eugene says it all the time!"

To which my husband could only say, "Thank you, Adventures in Odyssey!" :)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Celebrating Her 14 Years (Eva)

To our animal-loving, song-composing, Odyssey-listening, horse-riding, and always-creative oldest daughter: 

Happy 14th Birthday, Eva Grace! It is such a delight to watch you growing and maturing in heart, mind and body as you enter your second year as a teenager. Daddy and I often shake our heads in amazement that our first baby girl has turned into a beautiful young lady so quickly before our eyes. We have been so proud to see you taking steps of faith this past year such as rising early and beginning your day in God's Word, participating in youth group, and even overcoming your apprehensions to attend camp this summer.

We are also thankful for your helpfulness at home. Though chores are not always your favorite, you fulfill your responsibilities and even impress us with your abilities to quickly organize a room when asked! Sometimes you even have the patience to watch your little brothers for a spell. I should also mention you have learned to make a delicious chocolate crazy cake this year! :)

Of course, this letter would not be complete without recognizing your newest passion which has been a huge part of your life this past year. When you are not riding horses twice a week, you are reading about them, drawing them, playing with replicas of them, talking about them, and even handwriting your own encyclopedia about them! We are grateful that God surprised us with the opportunity for you to explore this area of interest with riding classes offered through the military. It was something we never dreamed of, but God in His goodness gave you this gift. I hope you'll always remember this as an example of His great love for His children!

We look forward to seeing how God leads throughout your life to use your enjoyment of His creatures to serve Him. Always remember that first and foremost, our love and loyalty is to the Creator and Giver of life - and to His Son, whose sacrifice provided a way for our salvation. We love you so much and He loves you even more! Happy 14th birthday to our darling daughter.

Birthday Posts by Year:

13th Birthday - Eva
12th Birthday - Eva
11th Birthday - Eva

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Heart for This City

Early this morning as he maneuvered our car into a temporary parking place near the extranjeria office, my husband let out a whistle. We were later than planned, but earlier than our last visit two months ago. The office still would not open for another 30 to 45 minutes. 

outside the extranjeria office last September

Even so the line of people already snaked around three city streets, or 3/4 of the way around an entire city block. Perhaps it is the summer influx of foreigners. Our local paper ran a story just this week stating that Iquique is the third most "cosmopolitan" city in the nation, with 30% of last year's births attributed to non-Chileans. Flooding the region in search of stable jobs and a better life, they find a relatively sympathetic system which allows the "regularization" of work documents for those who have managed to enter Chile legally or not.

inside the extranjeria office last September

My husband reminds me that this long line is still better than things used to be. In our six years in Iquique, the extranjeria office has changed locations at least three times. Two years ago when we first began the long process for Ian and Alec's paperwork, Pedro had to spend the night outside the office just to be able to make it inside the next morning.

Although the government website informs us that they boys were awarded their permanent residency in September of last year, our last two visits have been fruitless except to receive yet another stamp extending our wait for another few months. I am so hopeful that today we will finally close this chapter in our lives, but I am not sure whether Pedro will even make it in. Such is life in Iquique.

After being away for a month, the drive downtown and home again felt fresh and so did my eyes for the city. The faces in line at extranjeria represent only one facet of the needs here. "Disheveled" doesn't begin to describe the rail-thin man staggering outside his shack on a street corner in oversized, dingy clothes who tossed a stringy head of hair and waved a wine bottle as I drove past. It was only 8 a.m., and he was only one of dozens of homeless and hopeless we see here every day.

Even those who seem to have it all together, simply don't without Christ. Last night one of our kids' former teachers whom we had seen recently and who seemed to be doing well, wrote a cryptic post online. He recognized having made a weighty mistake and now facing the consequences. His words about "trying to show oneself as a strong person and inside being broken" saddened me very much. 

I felt led to write him and share that our testimony (Pedro's and mine) is that without Christ we would be completely lost every day, but with Him we can daily renew strength and find His forgiveness. I knew Pedro would be willing to talk to him and told him so. This morning he responded in a way we hear all too often in this confused society, thanking me for the good "energy" found in my words. It is not "energy" he needs but Emmanuel, God with us through salvation in Jesus Christ!

the clouds hovering over the harbor remind of the clouded lives of so many without Christ

May my heart continue to break for Iquique, for it is a broken place. My prayer to God is that this year would be a year of reaping, of seeing years'-long relationships finally bear eternal fruit for His Kingdom. He is the God of these people and this place, and I sing along with those words of hope that "greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city!"

Monday, February 02, 2015

Precious Heart, Tender Prayer

I called my nine-year old son back to me as I often do with the reminder, “You didn’t give me my hug!” Feigning reluctance but hiding a grin, he shuffled back to the couch and reached out his long arms. As he we held each other he hesitantly asked, “Mom, can you pray with me?” Of course!

He folded his lanky frame into my lap as I asked, “What do you want me to pray for?” To which he replied, “No, I am going to pray! But I want you to pray with me.”

It was the end of a sensitive evening. He and I with his two older sisters had watched a movie depicting the tragedy and triumph of a group of Sudanese “Lost Boys.” Afterwards we discussed the reality of those experiences and reflected once again on the mystery of God’s allowing our son, born to a Sudanese refugee in the United States, to be adopted into our family.

On the 10th birthday of each of our children, I have sought to fill in additional blanks of their adoption stories as best as I can. The time seemed right to share some of what I have learned with him. He listened carefully and asked questions seriously, with occasional nervous giggles. Eventually we finished and he headed to bed. As he started up the steps, I called him back to me.

Snuggling his face close to mine, he prayed. He thanked God for a good day at church today, and for his sister’s upcoming birthday on Saturday. Then he made a sincere plea. “Please help my birth brothers and sisters know Jesus.” 

Precious heart! What a moment to treasure with my cherished child. I trust we will one day see the answer to his tender prayer.

After the movie, he wanted to see the South Sudan flag. He promptly sketched it in his notebook so that he would remember. A short while later he commented, "If I ever get to Sudan, I am going to take lots of cream!" He was sincerely concerned in one part of the movie where after walking hundreds of miles with little to no water, the little boys' faces understandably looked as though they could use some moisturizer. My sweet, funny O.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

God is So Good, He's So Good to Me

The familiar refrain repeats, "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me."  

That is the fulness of my heart as I reflect on the past month which He so graciously gave our family as a time away from the pace of ministry in Iquique. Many factors came together in such a way that we were able to do something we've not done before and may not ever do again, which was taking this block of time to travel and be refreshed and blessed as a family, with our family. We delighted in meeting baby Kai, my sister Jennifer's fifth child born on December 12. And we soaked in the sweet moments with my parents who traveled to Santiago to meet Kai and spend several weeks with our two families.

As time allows, I hope to share some of the memories on our blog as a place to record them for the future. Our return to Iquique, however, places us in the final weeks of summer and the pressure of purchasing school uniforms, books, and utilities; as well as completing some necessary house maintenance and catching up with church responsibilities while also investing time and preparation into the coming months of ministry. However, it warmed our hearts to hear our children rejoicing to return "home!" Despite having greatly enjoyed their time away, they were cheering as we rounded the corner and they saw Iquique drawing closer. Just for fun we snapped a video of the celebration:

I did want to share the link to a blog post (2015 Team Chile Retreat) by missionary colleagues in Santiago. Brian and Phyllis are ministering alongside the field team there and are an encouragement to many with their gentle hearts of service. She wrote about the Chile field team retreat in which our family also participated during our final week in Santiago. It was truly a time of spiritual renewal and rest for our souls. We are so grateful for those who invested in our children's lives during their separate times of learning from God's Word as well.

Through it all, God is good. We hold the beautiful moments in our hearts and we thank Him, for "every good and perfect gift comes from above." (James 1:17)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God's Heart towards Those Who Receive

Recently, I was asked to become a writing contributor to Breathe Ministry, an online ministry seeking to encourage the hearts of missionary and pastor's wives. My first post can be found on their website today: God's Heart towards Those Who Receive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Celebrating Ian's 7th

Dear Ian, 

Yours is the lone birthday in our immediate family at the tail end of the calendar year, and sometimes the wait is so painful for you.When your big day finally arrived on December 9, we wanted to be sure you felt special and celebrated! We started out by calling off school and heading out to a birthday breakfast with Mommy and Daddy at the Cioccolata restaurant overlooking the Playa Brava beach.

You are growing so fast and your appetite is growing along with you, so we treated you to the house special with its big piece of lemon pie, cup of fresh fruit juice, hot tea, two fried eggs with fried ham, and four slices of buttered toast. You made most of it disappear! (Little did we know this would come back to haunt us later, ha!) It was fun seeing you and Daddy in your matching dress shirts and listening to him tease you about the "Barbie tricycle" he insisted you would be receiving on your birthday. You weren't quite sure what to believe!

Ever since Aunt Terri's visit last year when Alec was able to accompany our visitors on a boat ride, you have been reminding us that you wanted a turn. So we surprised you by picking up two of your friends, Kylie and Kristi, to take the hour-long loop around the Iquique harbor. Unfortunately, the wait was long and once the ride was finally in motion we discovered that you suffer from seasickness! To relieve your symptoms, the captain invited you to help him turn the wheel and guide the boat into calmer waters. It didn't help much and we were all relieved when the long-awaited outing was over. I am sorry that aspect of your birthday did not turn out as you had hoped, but it certainly was memorable!

We enjoyed one of your favorite foods for your birthday lunch - empanadas made by Sra. Leticia in various flavors (chaparritas with hotdogs and cheese for you and Alec; espaƱolas with sausage for Sissy; mexicanas with spicy meat for Daddy; fried cheese and chicken for Owen; steak, cheese and tomatoes for Eva; and chicken, chard and cheese for Mommy.) Then came birthday gifts! And finally, your very own bike! - after weeks and months of pleadings and reminders. You impressed us all by teaching yourself to ride a bike without training wheels at school this year. Mommy and Daddy were happy to surprise you in this way.

Your sisters kindly took you to the cancha to practice riding your bike, and later in the evening we enjoyed having your teacher and her son over for supper and cake. Your third meal of the day was another favorite - taco salad - and though we couldn't find strawberry cake, you seemed pleased enough by one with cherries! Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop called to wish you Happy Birthday, and Grandmom and Grandpop even sang along with us via Skype on the computer. They said it felt just like being there. :)

Ian, we hope you know that you are loved! This year has held many challenges for you. Sometimes they made you sad or frustrated, although one of the qualities we most love about you is your overall joyfulness. Next year will be a new experience for all of us as you begin to home school and discover new things God has in store to teach you. We know He has a very special plan for your future and look forward to seeing it unfold in your life. Happy 7th Birthday, Ian David!

All my love,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It Starts with Each One of Us

"Stop right away. Put your hands in the air, like this. Don't move. Don't argue, even if you know you haven't done anything wrong." I read the tragedies in the news that lead me to these conversations with my children.

We talk about gun safety, even though we don't own one. What do you do if you find a gun? Never. Touch. It. Call an adult, immediately. We talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This week in our town, two young men were gunned down on the soccer field where my son has often played. There was no reason. It was 4:30 AM. If only they had been home, in their beds, safe. We talk about making eye contact, looking honest. We talk about being suspected, misunderstood. How sensitive these conversations are! To talk things through without creating fear or frustration, or forming unfounded biases in our kids. We remember positive examples, godly friends who are trustworthy men in uniform.

Yesterday evening my husband was listening to Albert Mohler's daily news briefing. He on one side of the room, me on the other and our son in the middle with a bedtime snack. Our son glanced up and caught me looking at him with teary eyes. Without a word, he stood and came to sit beside me and hold my hand. He had heard and was weighing the words of the broadcast. I told him that people respond in different ways to these stark realities, but we have to seek the way of God. Does He want us to walk around scared? No. Angry? Bitter? No. Wise, careful and forgiving? Yes. But it's not easy.

His response brought emotion into my throat. Head down and tracing crossword puzzles, without looking directly at me which is his modus operandi for sharing the deeper things of his heart. "I'm scared every day at school." It's tricky to pull out details without pushing too hard and closing him off. Turns out the big kids (high schoolers) make him nervous. He recounted two instances in particular. One of these involved a red-headed girl calling him a Chilean expletive. I kept my calm for him but later told my husband how I would love to grab her red curls in both of my hands and give her a lesson for messing with my son! Only we both knew I wouldn't because just as I teach him to forgive, I must also.

I told him, honestly, that sometimes I feel bad for him and sometimes I am in awe of him. I feel much has been expected of him as only a 9-year old boy. To go alone into his new school, the only one who is "different." No, he told me, there was a boy in a wheelchair. He was different, too. He graduated this year. And he was voted "best classmate!" We talked about what it might have been like for that boy when he first came. The stares, the questions, maybe even the taunting. Yet he opened everyone's hearts - and that is exactly what my son is doing as well. For every one person (and thankfully there have been very few) who is unfriendly, I encouraged him to think of all the friends he has made. I tried to explain that because of his friendship, they will now look kindly instead of warily at the next boy or girl they meet with his skin color. He is making a difference.

As his mom, there are times I want to protect him in a bubble. Homeschool him and keep him at arm's reach every day. He wishes it, too. But we would be doing him a disservice by not preparing him to courageously live in the real world which for him, may be much harder than for some others. Even so, I encouraged him to remember that he does not go out there alone. Every day my prayer for him is to remember that Jesus is right by his side, to feel His presence with him in every situation.

Often I reflect on my own childhood. I grew up in the same country, but in a different world. I cannot remember a single conversation where my parents spelled out how I should act in the presence of a police officer. But it was not for the reason some might assume. Certainly we were taught unconditional respect for any adult and especially those in authority. Additional conversations were irrelevant for one specific reason: we were raised in a dictatorship. The police were a branch of the military who carried machine guns and stood on street corners. For better or worse, we minded our p's and q's and dotted our i's. We didn't live in fear, but we functioned with careful respect. 

Perhaps that is the crux of the matter. Respect - for position, for authority, but most importantly for the simple fact that we are all human beings created equally in the image of God. Romans 12 has been on my heart this week, particularly these verses: "Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good. Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other." (Romans 12:9,10 NOG) Indeed, what a wonderful world that would be. It starts with each one of us.

Friday, November 07, 2014

November Is National Adoption Month

In the United States and a few other countries, November is National Adoption Month. While Chile is not yet one of those countries, it is our deep desire that believers here would also count the cost of committing their lives and opening their homes to children in need of forever families. It is not much, but I am doing a personal adoption "campaign" on F*cebook by creating cover photos that highlight adoption throughout this month. I have also been collecting short videos and creating a P*werPoint presentation on adoption to share with our local church. We have done similar things in the past and we have also personally accompanied two families from our church to informational meetings on adoption, but we have yet to see anyone here personally take that step. (Someday!)

We recently had the opportunity to speak to the social worker in charge of our city's local adoption branch.  She shared with us the great need for families open to children with special needs. Her definition of special needs was anything "organic" that cannot be fixed - it could be as mild as limb differentiation or something much greater. It might also include Down syndrome. She stated that just last year they were searching for parents for an 18-month old with DS who had been in care since birth. They also had a little girl who - after exhausting all national and international possibilities - had to be placed in a special-needs group home when no parents were found for her. She will not have the opportunity to be adopted again. Heartbreaking.

This social worker said it is very hard for Chileans to consider special needs adoption. Since we have found that many misunderstandings about traditional adoption still abound here – though thankfully that is gradually changing – it is easy to believe she is right. Encountering a family that is willing to consider a special needs adoption, she described as “magical” for social workers in Chile’s adoption system. The adoption process for special-needs is the same but streamlined and prioritized, and the pool of children is nationwide. In each case, adoptive parents set their parameters according to what types of special needs they feel capable to handle.

The video above is beautiful, isn't it? Can you imagine if a family like this sat down with the social worker from SENAME? It would be absolutely unbelievable! But such is the power of God which enables average people to do uncommon things for His glory and the good of His children. 

I loved what my husband had to say after our meeting with the social worker. Many times people relate the adoption of children to our adoption by God. Yet Pedro reflected that really, it is special-needs adoption that most closely illustrates God's love for us. "For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) - not once were perfect and whole, but while we were broken and defeated God extended His love and mercy to us. Through Jesus Christ, He offered not only the salvation of our souls but also our adoption into His family as "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17.)

Not everyone is called to adopt, but we can all minister to the orphans in our world. With our prayers; our financial support of orphan ministries and/or families in process of adoption; our presence and friendship in the lives of adoptive families who may struggle through the process of restoration with children whose early history was so very hard. While adoption may still be a new concept in our church, I am thrilled that just last month we began what hopefully will become a monthly ministry to a local children's home. Puppets and playtime and snuggles and snacks with twenty-four beautiful kids ages 2-7 blessed us even more than them.

November is National Adoption Month. How will you play a part?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Uncovering Memories (A Post for My Parents)

"Then I saw your dad, and I knew it was going to be okay." 

I was listening to my friend share her story of unexpectedly encountering my parents on a very difficult day, as she and her husband prepared to board a flight back to the States for the funeral of her father-in-law. She told me that just seeing my dad gave her a sense of peace. "He's such a big guy, you know, and then he wraps you in a hug and everything is better. And his puppy dog eyes! They just make me melt." 

I smiled as I listened and reflected on how much I love hearing these memories about my dad. Later when I was alone, I cried happy-sad tears because I love and miss him so much and am so thankful for the gift God gave me in both of my parents.

My friend's story isn't the first I have heard along a similar vein. While on furlough, a woman in my mom's Bible study shared about attending the funeral of an unsaved family member. She and her husband, being the only Christians, felt very much alone. "Your dad was having back troubles and couldn't drive. But he still came! He laid down as best he could in the back seat, and your mom drove all the way. As soon as they arrived at the funeral, we felt like we could finally breathe. Your parents are so special!"

I have a lifelong friend whose own father died when she was young. One day foolish boys at our school played a prank that turned painful when it involved pictures of her father. My dad was then the school administrator and rose up in righteous anger in her defense, enacting stern and appropriate consequences for the perpetrators. "Your dad will ALWAYS be my hero!" she tells me to this day.

One of my former teachers, now also a lifelong friend, echoes those words. She came to our school fresh out of college and my dad gave her not only a chance, but encouragement and wise advice on teaching and life. After her own dad died, she leaned on mine for comfort and counsel. She also loved and looked up to my mom. I love hearing her memories of them.

The song "Find Us Faithful" speaks of uncovering the memories of our parents' lives. How thankful I am to uncover these when I least expect it, such as yesterday's conversation with my friend. And sometimes those memories are too good not to be shared. Love you, Mom and Dad!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Processing Life

(Note: This little post is just an effort to process life through writing. Sometimes taking a step back and seeing things in black and white helps to frame the good, bad and the ugly!)

I stare blankly, my mind whirring on empty. Unsuccessfully I try to conjure images of who/what/when/where relates to the question I've just been asked. All too often this is my response when trying to remember what happened only one, two, or three days ago! Life of late feels just a little too crazy.

Every weekday morning starts similarly. 6:00 AM, Pedro rises and starts moving the rest of us. 6:30, boys roll out of bed and start getting breakfast, uniforms, school bags. Our morning girl Eva may or may not decide to go ahead and start her online school around this time. Her sister Isabel will certainly cover her head with pillows and try to cling to dreamland. By 7:20, Pedro departs with Owen and Ian which leaves Alec to finish any lingering homework and play Legos or watch Clifford (in Spanish, to "practice" for school.) Around 8:00, Pedro returns to make coffee before heading to church while I leave with Isabel to exercise at the stadium. Either Pedro or one of Alec's big sisters walks him the few blocks to Kindergarten at 8:30. The girls and I eventually reconvene at home where we all do our respective schoolwork (Eva - 7th; Isabel - 6th; Stephanie - counseling coursework.) Except for Tuesdays, when I have ladies' prayer time at 8:30 AM at church. At 12:30, 12:45 and 1:00 schools end for Alec, Owen and Ian. 

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Pedro picks up our girls and Alec first at home, collects Owen at his school; then gathers five or six other children at three separate locations. He accompanies this group of kids to the stadium for track & field training with Coach Anibal. Meanwhile, I drop Ian at the Spink house to do homeschool with Aunt Kim for an hour, then head back home to cook lunch and await my hungry crew's arrival around 2:30.

Our evening schedule is also a bit bonkers. On Monday nights at 7:00, the boys have soccer class. On Wednesday and Friday evenings at 5:30 PM, Eva has equestrian class. (Whenever possible, I try to squeeze in reading for my classes during these sports events.) On Tuesdays at 4:30, the boys and Isabel go to Kids' Club at Spinks' house. On Wednesdays at 4:00, Owen has handball class. (Pedro drops him off, then often uses these two hours for visitation.) On Fridays at 4:30, the boys and Isabel have basketball class. For the adult schedule, on Tuesday nights at 8:00 Pedro has discipleship. On Wednesdays at 8:00, Stephanie has class with the church ladies. On Thursdays at 7:00 Pedro has Bible study; at 8:00 he and the girls go to prayer meeting. On Fridays at 8:00 is youth group. 

And that's just Monday through Friday! It doesn't even include weekends with their many church commitments or other "miscellaneous" stuff - or many of Pedro's commitments, which I can't always keep track of. Some days are unpredictable. One recent Tuesday I had ladies' prayer time at 8:30 AM; picked up one of our college girls for breakfast and accountability at 10:00 AM; got Ian from school at 1:00 PM and bought empanadas for the crew at home; took three of our kids to Kids' Club at 4:30 PM; used that time to take to lunch one of our teen girls who has been somewhat adrift of late; picked up the kids at 6:30 and then headed to soccer (an event which has since been eliminated because - well, crazy is just crazy!)

I write endless lists on notebook pages, church bulletins, and slips of paper to try and organize this crazy life of ours. Upcoming events include today's visit to a local orphanage; next week's track meet; the following weekend's ladies' annual ladies' retreat. Next month I travel to the Santiago for a medical visit. Kindergarten graduation for both of our little boys, and a birthday for Ian are just around the corner. A third trimester test schedule is the bane of Owen's existence at the moment. Twice this week we have had late (10- or 11-o'clock p.m.) deliveries of items we agreed to store for a family displaced in April's earthquake. In the midst of it all I feel so much pressure to complete my studies but guilt when I hole away from the kids to do so. How to find a balance between it all?

Lord, help me to center on You in the midst of the craziness of life. Help me to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Keep me focused on Your purposes and Your Person. And when too much becomes too much, let me let go of anything less and simply hold fast to You!

"But I trust in you, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands ..." 
(Psalm 31:14-15a)

Friday, October 17, 2014

It’s a {Colorful} World

Oddly enough, my son’s school celebrates Mother’s Day in October. No problem, I am more than happy to receive a handwritten card and some special loving no matter what time of year! Thus yesterday evening I pulled my high-heeled boots out of hiding and proudly escorted my handsome boy back to his big, city-block-wide school building.

The size of the school is worth mentioning because parents were told to enter on one block, and students on the other. Unfortunately, we parked on the parent side and walked around to the student side only to be sent back to the parent side together again! And while the school itself is a good school, the neighborhood is not the greatest. On our return trek Owen was nervous, because each way we had to pass a very angry, drunken man screaming on the street corner. He was a crash course in Chilean swear words and happened to be positioned just a few feet from the gathering crowd of parents.

While his wails came at us from one direction, we soon got an earful from the other. Owen and I were standing next to a father with a young son. The son stared at Owen and began talking to his dad in a very loud voice. “DADDY! LOOK AT HIS SKIN! THAT BOY HAS DIFFERENT SKIN! HIS SKIN IS DIFFERENT THAN US, DADDY! WHY IS HIS SKIN LIKE THAT? IT IS BLACK, DADDY! IS HE DIRTY? DADDY, HIS SKIN! HIS SKIN!”

Ugh. I often wonder how many times my son has bravely stood silent in the face of such commentary when I am not around. We both knew the boy was immature and not purposely being unkind. I put my arms around my son and kissed his beautiful face, looking at the other boy and trying to smile. The boy’s dad encouraged him to talk to Owen but the little boy refused. I asked Owen if he knew what an ambassador was, then explained that he was an ambassador to so many boys like this one who didn’t realize God made people in many more colors and varieties than they had ever seen.

Finally we were allowed inside and immediately Owen was whisked away back to the student side. After a program of live entertainment by students and (very! very! very!) loud invited singers, we moms were reunited with our children who proudly treated us to a beautiful tableful of yummy goodies. When everything was nearly over, Owen and I walked back to our car with a classmate and his grandma. As we climbed aboard and pulled into the street, another interesting sight appeared before us. Out of the gloom a man materialized on the corner, gesturing wildly and shrieking. He too was apparently drunk, with an unkempt gray beard and pale bare chest. But his most striking feature was a black eye patch which gave him the impression of a misplaced sailor roaming the big city.

It’s a colorful world we live in. Some colors are beautiful, like my son’s glistening skin or the purple hues of an ocean sunset. These I love to gaze upon or spend an evening enjoying their company. But other circumstances color our world dark and gray, such as poverty and drunkenness and homelessness. We see these so often in our city that they sometimes draw only a glance as we become desensitized to human tragedy. 

Our challenge is to remain engaged and caring in a culture gone awry. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) May we see this colorful world through the eyes of the One whose palette first brushed it into pure life, and Who will one day renew its pristine beauty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cherishing Faithfulness

One morning last week, my mom and I talked life and ministry over the phone - she at her home in Delaware, me on my couch in Chile. I listened as she shared recent challenges and encouragement God had placed in her path. I could picture her with her groups of ladies on Tuesday mornings and Tuesdays evenings and in her Sunday morning ladies' class. All my life I have witnessed my mom's faithfulness as a teacher. To children as an MK school teacher and Sunday School teacher; to young adults in teacher training; to adult women in ladies' groups at church and conference settings.

I sat under my mom's teaching as an elementary school student; as a young teen training for summer ministry via five-day clubs; and as an older teen taking night classes for teacher training at our mission seminary once upon a time. Then came college and marriage and years of long distance. On occasion, Mom came to Chile and spoke to our ladies here. And this past furlough was especially sweet as it allowed me the opportunity to participate in one of my mom's weekly ladies' Bible studies at her own church in the States.

One thing I appreciate about my mom's teaching is her sincerity. She would be the first to claim she is not polished but those who hear her, hear her heart. She carefully prepares and she is creative, often using visual aids and object lessons. I know there are times she feels inadequate, yet she rests in the promise that "His strength is made perfect in our weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9.) I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that dozens, if not hundreds of women have been blessed by her ministry over the years. 

As I listened to her share with humility and enthusiasm about a recent experience in one of her Bible studies, I had tears in my eyes. She spoke of what could have been an awkward moment with a visitor, which God instead turned into the perfect avenue to share the gospel. It was not about her; it was all about God. And I was struck by how much I cherish my mom's faithfulness. She has done ministry for decades, but God's working never grows old for her. She is still in awe of those moments when she can sense His Spirit moving a way she never anticipated.

How thankful I am for the example I was given in my mom! She is not perfect but she is tenderhearted, forbearing, generous and kind.  Most of all, she is faithful. There are so many areas I wish I better reflected her. But I know that what I am truly admiring in her is her reflection of Christ.

 Thank you, Mom, for being faithful. I love you!