Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s Just Geography


Tomorrow night I get on a plane with these four (Jason and Bethany will follow on the 11th).  I will be taking them to a country they haven’t seen in four years and for the most part, know nothing of.  So many emotions, so many prayers, so much yearning to know God more fully.

If I had to try to choose the most important lesson I have learned in the last four years in Indonesia, I think it would be this:

God cares much more about who we are than where we are.

Our ministry isn’t a state of residence, it is a state of the heart. It has taken me a long time to learn that.  I have spent so much of my life looking for a place that was “perfect” for me and a ministry that would “make a great fit.”  But really, it’s all just geography. If our hearts are turned towards the Lord and not towards the approval of man, God can do mighty things in us and through us no matter where we live.  If our hearts are more concerned with what those around us think of us than what the Lord thinks, it doesn’t matter where we are—we are useless due to the idolatry in our hearts.

So as we transition to the States for a time, I realize that as big of a deal as it is in some ways, it isn’t a big deal in any of the things that matter.  We’ll enjoy the food.  We’ll soak in the time with friends  and family. We’ll gawk at the cereal aisle. We’ll enjoy driving on roads where the rules matter, drinking water straight from the tap, and not having to translate everything in our heads before we speak.  But, it’s just geography. God is still God.  We are still us. Our hearts are still what matters.

 

 

 

 

More of This

Mother’s Day.  You can see more photos here.

I’ve had some good conversations lately. About being a mom, what that means, how hard it is, and why I do what I do. I love talking about these things because they make me think, learn, grow, and remember what I am called to do. I wrote to one friend what a lonely road this can be. I told another friend how hard it is at times.  I spoke with someone else about wanting to fulfill God’s plan for our family, not worrying about what others are doing. I shared with another friend my sadness about a lack of role models who are doing this mothering thing whole-heartedly. Being a mother, and doing it in a way that makes my children see that Christ is all-satisfying, is hard.  It’s scary.  It’s lonely. And I cannot do it on my own.

This morning I read something beautiful. A few months ago, John Piper announced his plan to retire from his pastorate at Bethlehem Baptist Church and their church has now voted to appoint Jason Meyer as the new Pastor of Preaching. His wife wrote a beautiful letter to the church and shared a little of their family’s process of coming to this point of acceptance. You should really read what she wrote.  She is speaking specifically of their call to the church and how it wasn’t a role they wanted, but her words ring true regardless of the situation. As she explains, they realized that to take a path that is scary and not what they would choose means that they will get more of God. And who doesn’t want more of God? I love this part especially:

Lord, you know that I do not want this, but you seem to be leading this way. Why? It seemed as though the Lord said, “but what if you would have more of me in all of this?” It was the answer we needed and it became the watershed moment. It was like Jericho where all of our defensive walls fell down. We were able to say, “We have never wanted this (Pastoring Bethlehem), but we have always wanted that (more of God).”

Everything changed after that point. Suddenly, the path that we were on (which we loved), was now the one that seemed scarier to stay on because the Lord was moving to another. Don’t get me wrong, this path scares me. However, if this path that seems scary and big brings me closer to God, then it is the path for me.

If only all of would grasp this truth! The path we should be on is the one that will bring us closer to God.  It isn’t the path that is easier, or less risky, or filled with our friends, or what is culturally acceptable, or what is financially feasible.  The path that we should be on is the one that will bring us to God. It’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

If God calls me to a path that doesn’t look like anything I imagined, should I run away?  Should I cling to the opinion of others, to my own desires, to the health and well-being of my kids? Or rather, should I take God at His Word, trusting Him in all I do, and leap into His arms and say, “I don’t know where we are going, but I am here for the ride!”  

My mind has mulled over what this looks like for me as a mother, but the same principle could apply in so many areas. Fill in your own blank:

“We have never wanted this (_________________), but we have always wanted that (more of God).”

Yes, Lord.  More of this.

Focus




So much competes for my time and my energy. Moving in 20 days. Packing a house.  A garage sale. Saying goodbye. Getting ready to say hello. Wondering about the future.  Doing my best not to worry. Finishing up another school year.  Planning (with much excitement!) for the next year of homeschooling. Doing things that fill my soul so that I will have something to draw from. These things are all in front of me, all saying, “I am most important! Think about me!  Dwell on me!” And the thoughts swirl and I struggle to focus.  To focus on what matters most.  On who matters most.

So yesterday I just had to stop.  I had to stop all that was pulling on me and begging for my attention and to instead really see these precious children.  They don’t understand the concern. They don’t see to-do lists.  They just see a mama who they want to spend time with.  So we loaded up on the motorbike and went out to lunch. Some yummy nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice), root beer, and an hour of silliness. I love these little people.  They tire me, frustrate me, worry me, and often make me question my sanity, but oh how I love them.  And I want their hearts.  If I lose their hearts, it won’t matter what other good things I have done in my life.

The biblical mandate is clear.  You must care first for your family, and do it well. And then—and only then—are you  free to minister to others.

I’ll never forget the stinging words of a 14-year-old girl.  I was working in a residential treatment home for troubled kids. Most were Christian kids from middle- to upper-class.  These were kids whose parents took them to church, smothered them with gifts, and were active in their churches, ministries, and communities. Her words, spoken on a dark night upon her arrival, were life-changing for me. I wasn’t even married, and yet I knew those words were ones I would carry in my heart forever. Words that would be part of my battle cry, part of who I would be as a mother.

“My dad was too busy saving the world to save his own daughter.”

I don’t ever want to be too busy doing anything and lose my kids in the process. Sure, there will be ebbs and flows to life.  There will be time when life demands more out of you then you really have the energy for.  Thank God for the fruit of His Spirit! But for the most part, our boundaries in life need to be set in a way that we don’t lose the heart of our children. If we focus on good things to the neglect of the best things, we will have failed.

So yesterday, I chose to focus on my children.  To give them my undivided attention and  make sure they knew—in actions, not just words—that they are important.  That they are loved. That they are cherished.  The next few weeks will be busy.  The next few months will be full of surprises.  But I will choose to focus. To focus on my calling as a mother and to strive to do my best each day so that when I lay my head on my pillow at night that I can say to the Lord, “I did my very best to be a good steward of my day, my time, the gifts You have given me, and my children. I did the work and I will leave the results to You.”

 


Sometimes, It’s Just Plain Hard

People often ask about what it is like to have five children.  About living overseas. About homeschooling. Few dare to ask about what it is like to have all three of those combined. Usually when I respond, I just smile and say, “We’re busy, but we love it.”  And when I say that, I am not lying. I do love it.

I love having a big family. I see tremendous value in having this many children. I see God’s design for family. I see the amazing benefits to my character, to the character of my children.

Living overseas offers an amazingly new perspective to the world, to “needs,” and to what “normal” is. We’ve lived in Asia for nine of the past 12 years and I love it.

Homeschooling is amazing. The honor of teaching my little ones and just experiencing the beautiful weave of life, learning, and discipleship is really awe-inspiring. I wouldn’t trade it. Not for more “me time” while they are at school, not for a cleaner house, not for anything.

I love having a big family. I love living overseas. I love homeschooling.

But you know what? Sometimes, it’s just plain hard.

I don’t ever want anyone to get the impression that I have it all together. That we never have bad days. That I never feel stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed. I don’t want people to think that somehow I got lucky and have five perfect children who always do what I ask, behave in ways that are appropriate, and always, always love each other at every minute of every day. Just like anyone else with little kids, we have bad days. We have days when moods are foul (often mine!) and when children fight. We get stressed, angry, and we make silly mistakes.

Sometimes, it’s just plain hard.

I had to take a few minutes today during school to go up to my bed and cry. Bethany had been fussing all morning. I am going on day four of a headache. I was reading with Caleb and no matter how many times we came to the word, “says” he just couldn’t remember it. Worries fill my heart—lists of things to do, things to sell, things to settle before we leave in 27 days. Trying to sort out a bazillion details when you can’t speak the language is maddening. The tears filled my eyes and I told the kids I just needed a break. A few minutes to myself. I brought Bethany upstairs, laid on the bed, and let all inadequacy and fear and stress and fatigue wash over me and I let the tears fall.

I’m not superwoman. I get overwhelmed. I get frustrated. I feel sad, scared, and unprepared for this task of parenting. I am just like every other mother out there.

The difference comes, perhaps, in my response to all of this. When the tough days come, I remind myself that no one ever said that this mothering thing was going to be easy. No one ever said that we would have the strength and patience on our own to get through the long days. No one ever said that parenting comes naturally.

When people ask me, “How do you manage with five kids?” I think about the choices I make. I choose to receive my nourishment from Christ. I feed on His Word. I find my peace and solace during my reading time and my praying time. I don’t look to friends, books, movies, “me time” or anything else to help me endure, to help me persevere. I choose joy. I choose to see the joy in parenting. I choose to not complain about my kids. I choose to see the honor of God allowing me the privilege to raise these little people. I choose to remember the pain of three miscarriages before having kids (and wondering if I would ever be a mother) and the two miscarriages since having kids (and wondering about the little people I will never know) and I choose to rejoice that He has made me the joyful mother of children. I choose to embrace this calling and this trust from God. Remember, when He comes back He wants to see what we did with what was entrusted to us.

And so on days like today, days when it’s just plain hard, I choose God. I choose to be a Mother. I choose to pull myself together, remind myself of God’s love for children, and humbly go back downstairs and start again. I listen to stories, I dry tears, I cuddle a baby, I make lunches, I clean up messes, and I remind myself that this—this is my spiritual act of worship. This is the denying myself that He is asking for. This is the serving the least of these. This doing everything to the glory of God (even if the everything is changing dirty diapers, making binoculars out of yogurt containers, or cleaning wax out of ears while little boys do their math.) This is doing, in word and deed, all in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is doing my work heartily, as for the Lord. This is the “anything” I told God I would do if it was His will. This is what God has called me to, what He has called any of us with children to do.

It’s not failure or struggle or inadequacy that sets people apart. It’s their response to it.

And I am praying…daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute, to have a right response.

I Want to Remember

One of the things I will miss most about Indonesia is my morning walk.  This past year—and these last few months in particular—has been amazing.  I have always enjoyed walking, but this year, it has been so much more.  My two-mile walk each morning is my prayer time.  My counseling time.  My therapy, soul-filling, soul-spilling, breathe-deep-and-inhale-every-ounce-of-God’s-blessing time. I have really had no other time in my life quite like it.  I have talked to God.  I have cried (a lot!) I have prayed and sought God for wisdom.  For answers.  I have listened.  I have had God speak to my heart words of encouragement and words of gentle rebuke.  He has brought healing to certain periods of my life and excitement for periods yet to come.  I really can’t express the gift that each morning brings me.

And so, with only 29 days left, I decided to bring my camera this morning. It was an attempt to capture a glimpse of my daily gift from God. Of course, each day is different.  Each day the sun and the clouds dance to different music and each day a different painting is brushed in the sky.  But this is a peek.  A look into my favorite 45 minutes of the day. I want to remember this.

I want to remember the long shadows cast as the sun hits our backs.

I want to remember the sun and its amazing shades of orange and red

I want to remember the solitude I enjoyed every morning.  Just me and my sweet dog.  And every once in a while, a husband or kid (or 2!)

I want to remember all of construction I pass every morning and the little “homes” the workers build for themselves. If you look closely, you can see a TV in this one.  It’s on every morning.

I want to remember my sweet companion. Her excitement about her morning walk keeps me accountable!

I want to remember all the house boys I see, washing cars and sweeping leaves. It never ceases to amaze me how many workers our neighbors employ!

I want to remember the foggy mornings (like today) and how beautiful the scenery is, no matter what the weather is doing.

I want to remember the intensity of the equatorial sun and how fast it rises, changing the color of everything in its path.

I want to remember seeing the place of Bethany’s birth and being reminded every day what a blessing she is.

I want to remember the rukos (rumah= house, toko=store, rumah+toko=ruko) that I pass each day.

I want to remember the “grass sidewalk” that Levi introduced me to.  I wonder how many times I walked past it without ever realizing it was there?

I want to remember the muddy motorcycle tracks I have to walk through each morning to get to the walking trail

I want to remember all the little “shops” that get set up outside the gate for all the construction workers.  Every morning I pass people drinking hot coffee, eating breakfast, and getting ready to start their day.

I want to remember the ment that I see fishing for their breakfast

I want to remember Lucy’s excitement (and her frustration every time I stop to take a picture!)

I want to remember the primitive fishing boats and nets

I want to remember the house at the end of our road that didn’t even exist when we moved in 11 months ago.

I want to remember the bamboo raft that the people from the kampung (village) us to cross the water.  Pull the string, the raft comes to you.  Pull it again, it takes you to the other side.

Often there are ladies doing their laundry on this raft.  It amazes me to watch them just washing away, regardless if the raft is crossing the river or not.

I want to remember the beautiful flowers and bugs and the lesson that God taught me on my walks: Just Look!

I want to remember all the tiny little “fields” and plantings that mean food and livelihood for those who work on them

I want to remember the long and winding path and the lampposts that make me thing of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I want to remember the contrast of the primitive fishing boats and fields next to the expensive and luxurious homes

I want to remember the bus that brings so many to work each morning

I want to remember the security booth and the Satpams that greet me every day

And I want to remember the path that leads me home, leads me to the beginning of my day, leads me to the five little people who depend on me for so much. By filling myself—first with Bible time and then with my walk—I have something with which to fill them. 

What fills your soul?