Monthly Archives: June 2012

Making Summer Memories

It's so good to be "home" in the States.  We've really needed this time to reconnect with family and friends, reflect on the last four years, and talk, pray, and dream about the future.  There are a lot of questions I am asking, a lot of things I am seeking God's will for. In the process, He is asking me a very important question: What is most important to you?  The answer isn't as simple as it seems.  It is easy to say that one thing is important to us, all the while spending our time, money, and energy on something else. I'm excited to see where God is taking me with this question and I have the feeling that the answer will mean significant and intentional choices and decisions in our lives.

In the meantime, we are enjoying making summer memories. Playing outside, hanging out with grandparents and cousins, enjoying new-to-the-kids experiences like Happy Meals, road trips, and good ice cream. Summer in America is such an amazing time and I am so glad to share this with our children.  We are in Michigan right now and for the next month we will be doing lots of visiting with friends and enjoying all that summer has to offer. I can't wait.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with something special for you as you seek to make your summer memories.

The picture? Making memories this past weekend.  I photographed a wedding of a girl we first met when she was in junior high in India. It was so fun to see friends we hadn't seen in nine years.  I love that the international community is filled with "see you laters" instead of "goodbyes!"

Open Hands, Open Hearts

As I walked along the path of my morning walk for one of the last times, this was my prayer:

Open Hands, Open Hearts.

Over and over again, I prayed those words.  I didn't have any other words.  The Lord and I, well, we had taken this walk many times and we had shared sweet times of fellowship.  In the previous months He had confided in mecounseled me, directed me. Those walks were life-giving to me. It may sound odd to some, but really, my walks were where I found God. It was when He spoke to be, prodded me, encouraged me, challenged me, and spoke gentle words of correction. It was communion.

But on this particular walk, there were few words.  Just, "Open hands, open hearts.  Lord, just give us those."

I wanted so much to be open to whatever God was doing in us.  I wanted so much to say "Yes!" to His plan even if it differed so much from the plan that I had been forming. I wanted to enthusiastically embrace God's direction and listen intently as He spoke.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it" whenever you turn to the left or to the right (Isaiah 30:21).

Oh Lord, what about the kids?  What about money...oh my goodness, where are we going to get the money?  What are we going to do?  What about our plans?  What about our families?  What will they think? What if they are mad at us? What if people think we are foolish? Indecisive? Weak?  What if we are foolish, indecisive, and weak? Oh Lord, what if....

Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it" whenever you turn to the left or to the right (Isaiah 30:21).

Conversations held in previous days, weeks, and even years filled my mind. I remember a boss telling me about his sister in Africa and how she would love to be in the States, but that is not where God has her.  I thought of a dear friend who would love nothing more than to be a full-time stay at home mom, but that isn't what God has for her. So many stories of man's desires not lining up with God's will. "Okay, God, but what about..."

Open Hands, Open Hearts

The words ran out once again and those six little syllables were all I could mutter.

Open Hands, Open Hearts

I was scared, confused, and longing to hear the faint sounds of God's whisper:  "Just trust me."

Oh but God!  We had planned to look at this!  We had planned to talk with them!  We had planned...we had planned...we had planned."

The mind of man plans way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Okay, Lord, I trust you.

I arrived home and 30 minutes later I received a phone call. "It's 85% sure."  85%  What kind of number is that? How can I make decisions based on 85%? God...what are You doing?

I frantically made a u-turn in my plans for the day. I prayed for the kids. I cried out to God. I muttered in overwhelmed breaths, "Open hands, open hearts."  Over and over again.

I arrived at the airport, nine bags and four kids in tow. I kissed my husband goodbye. I looked around me, let the last four years of Indonesia wash over me and whispered in a faint breath, "Open hands, open hearts."

A nine-hour flight later and I was sitting at a food court in Qatar, a country we were excited to visit because it is our go-to country during our oft-played ABC country game. Q is kind of hard.

My phone beeped.  A text from Jason.  85 has just moved to 100.  I looked at my kids, felt the weight of the news on me, a weight half filled with excitement and wonder and half filled with "what if's" and "how in the world are we going to afford...?"

And then I just let it sit there in my heart. God had shown us His will, His way, in His timing.

We are returning to Indonesia.

Seven months in America and then back to a life that has brought us so much joy, so much struggle, and so much growth. It's where I grew up.  Not in chronological years but in spiritual years.  It's where I stopped feasting on milk and found meat.  It is where I learned what it meant to be a momma.  It is where I have started (s.t.a.r.t.e.d.) to learn what it means to love people. It is where my kids call home, where my husband is so happy, where we have been blessed in so many ways. We are returning to Indonesia. 

It feels good. It feels scary.  It has taken me three weeks to find the words.

God is good. So, so, good. His plans and purposes leave me in awe. Only God. Only God could do what was done, could orchestrate the circumstances that allowed us a seven month and desperately needed break, could pave a path for us return.  Only God.

I will never say that walking with God is easy.  It isn't.  It is scary, hard, and full of unexpected twists and turns.  But I don't want anything else.  I spent years trying to fill my soul with what the world had to offer and I was left empty. But my soul knows full well that "Those who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing."  Read that correctly, "...not be in want of any good thing." God's good. Our eternal good.  No promises of our immediate, earthly, fleshly good. Just ask those people in Hebrews 11.

I encourage you with these words: Open Hands, Open Hearts.  We can't beg God for His will to be done in our lives and then refuse loosen our grip on our desires and plans.  We can't plead for God to give us things and then insist that they can only come in a certain way.  If you really want God's will in your life, your marriage, your children, and your family, you must be willing to open your hands before the Lord.  And TRUST.  Believe God and His promises.  Think on eternal things, not things that are present and yet temporal.  Trust the One who can see how all things work together for good. The result may not be what we expect and it may require us to give up the meaningless things we often hold dear, but in the words of Jim Elliot,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Open hands, open hearts.

Soaking Up Summer

It's hard to believe that it has been three weeks since I left Indonesia.  So much has happened and yet, we are just the same people, regardless of where we live. We are enjoying the beauty around us, meeting new friends, visiting churches, playing at the pool, going for walks, and soaking up all that summer has to offer.  This weekend we are headed out to a wedding (that I get to photograph!) and then on to Michigan where we will be visiting friends and family for the next month. I'm be a family, to see friends, to soak up all the beauty and fun that summer throws our way. It isn't all easy—we have lots of things we are trying to work through, but in practical ways and in matters of the heart—but we are happy and healthy and together. God is working and moving and His words for me for this year, Watch & Wait, have been ringing in my ears for weeks.  Lots of watching. Lots of waiting.  Lots of learning to let go of control and trust God to lead us on the path He has planned for us.

I hope you are soaking up summer as well. Make memories with your family.  Cuddle more. Play more. Walk more. Bake more.  Love more. After all, today is the longest day of the year. Happy summer!

P.S.  You can see more pictures of our first few weeks in the States HERE.  I've enjoyed having a place of sharing fewer typed words and more heart words. Photography fills a sweet place in my heart.

You Follow Me!

The Bible often speaks to the Lord directing our steps.  He is sovereign, He is in control, His plans and purposes will prevail. He has had a plan for my life from before I was born and He has spent the last 35 years working to bring it to fruition.  He knows what the days ahead look like.  He knows what His will is for me, my children, our family.  He will glorify Himself through our lives.

I forget this.  I forget that He has way paved out before us. There are no surprises to Him.  I forget that He brought Jason and I together for a purpose and a plan of His heart and He will accomplish all of His will. I forget that I am a unique individual and there is no one else created that is just like me.  I forget that what works for our family isn't what works for others. And because of that, no plan of someone else will ever work for me. It is useless to compare.

And yet, that is what I do.  I compare.  I covet.  I longingly look at other life situations and say, "But God...

"...why doesn't my family look like hers?" "...why doesn't she have to __________?" "...why doesn't her husband _________?" "...why do you let her ______________?" "...why do I have to _______________?" "...why do we have to walk this path when she gets to walk that path?" "...why is okay that she ___________ but I have to _____________?"

Oh the whining of my spirit!  The constant comparison, envy, discontent, selfishness, and frustration!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

You see, that's my problem. I look around me at other moms, other families, and other women and I want God to give an account of what He has in store for them.  I have this sinful idea that all in life should be fair, that everything should even out in the end. I want to complain and tell God that so and so isn't as good as me and therefore she shouldn't be allowed __________. I am constantly looking at others and judging my life, my worth, my value, and my purpose by what I see in them.  But God has asked—commanded!—that I follow Him.

The path of life, love, and parenting that God has me on doesn't look like anyone else around me. That scares me.  I want to look for reassurance in others around me and when I don't see what I am looking for, I get scared.  I become fearful that I am being foolish, that I have misunderstood the Lord, that I have ulterior motives for walking the path that I am. I stop trusting in God's word and instead trust in what I can see. And faith that trusts in what can be seen is no faith at all.

We're asking tough questions right now.  We are seeking God and begging Him to show us the way He wants us to do things.  We are asking Him for wisdom in raising these beautiful kids.  We are asking Him to show us the way in all areas of life: education, discipleship, lifestyle choices, church, work, friendships, relationships, giving, and more. I have to keep my eyes on Him and trust in where He is leading us, even if we see no one else on this path.  This is the path for us.

As parents, it's just so easy to look at those around us. We  measure our parenting and living against what we see.  But once again, God is reminding me, that what I see isn't what is important.  It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. This is what He has to say to me, to you:

"What is that to you?  You follow Me!"

I want to follow Him, wherever He takes me. Takes us.  I want to trust Him each step of the way, believing that His Word will light my path.  I am so thankful He hasn't left me to find the way on my own.

And He hasn't left you on your own, either.  He has a plan for you, for your life.  It won't look like mine. It won't look like so and so's. What is important is not how it compares with others but how it compares to what God has shown you in His word. Let the ideas of the world fade.  Ignore the voices of society and let them fall faint as you soak up God's word to you. It will guide you.  It will guide me.

In looking something up today in regards to this topic, I came across this post by John Piper.  I'm thankful that others have been in this place, wanting to take their eyes off of others and place them on God alone.


One From Father’s Day

I am so thankful for these people. Life isn't always easy.  It isn't always fun, exciting, or even close to what I imagined it to be.  But with these people, I am motivated to keep going, to persevere when the way gets hard, confusing, or uncomfortable.  You see, these people motivate me. Marriage and parenting are refining experiences.  I can either submit and let God do the painful work in me to mold me into who He wants me to be, or, I can fight His will all the way, clinging uselessly to my freedom, desires, and selfish demands. With each new day, with every triumph and every failure, I am being refined.

I am praying that I can be the wife that my husband needs and I can be the mother that my children need.  But the only way I can do either of those things is to let go of the plans of my own heart and trust God with His plans.  It's scary, it's worrisome, and it's... thrilling. God knows what I need.  He knows what these precious children need.  He knows what our family needs. I'm excited to see His plan continue to unfold.

I'll be around more now that we are back in the States and feeling pretty settled.  God has laid a lot on my heart—a lot I want to share, a lot I want to process.  But I am taking my time, praying that only His words would come through my fingers.  It's so easy to let ME get in the way.  I know that we as mothers need all the grace, love, patience, and encouragement we can get.  I just want to be sure that what I write here is coming from the Lord and not from a woman desperately in need of her own grace, love, patience, and encouragement.