April 1, 2015

Jericho Fears

It was finally warm and sunny enough to visit the beloved greenway close to my house. I needed to be out in nature, to be moving with no one around. I needed space to wrestle with God.

I was wrestling with fears:
fears about finances (looming tax bills, car on the frits, lack of savings, things just being generally tight),
fears about my future (will I ever have babies, or will my body be too old by the time a husband shows up, will I ever have a house, or be able to adopt, or ever get married????) and
fears about my heart (when it is time to love, will I fail again?).

As I walked and spoke aloud with the Lord expressing my fears and pleading for him to "JUST DO SOMETHING ALREADY"... in his graciousness he didn't tell me "you are enough strong, just deal with it on your own," or "I am God, I will do what suits me," or ask "what is your problem?"

He replied to my confession with an image:

Jericho: a fortress with its walls rising, seemingly insurmountable to a band of ragtag people after years of traveling in the wilderness, but also essential to overcome as part of entering the Promised Land.

The Lord in his tenderness revealed my fears, a personal Jericho, were a wall standing between me and a land of abundance and promise. The thing that was to free me from these walls? Worship ...wholehearted passionate worship of the King of the Eternal Kingdom who forever holds me in his hands of love. Just as the walls came crumbling down with a trumpet blast from the priests the fears surrounding my heart will evaporate as I worship. Worship and time. Jericho's walls didn't topple in a day, or by the end of "Jesus loves me this I know." It took seven days, a cycle of completion ending with a grand finale. Worship is the key, but things also take time. A pattern of trust has to be build.

In our journey of learning to trust in the love and promises of the Father lets meditate on His word and what He has already done:  
"I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you." (Joshua 1:9 words of Rehab)
"The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us." (Joshua 2:24 words of the spies)

"Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)
 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (1 John 4:16)

Think about the garden of Eden... there was no place for fear there, only love. We are not meant to dwell in fear. It is crippling. We are meant to work with our hands, have free relationships, and walk with the Lord in the cool of the day, forever in His presence. We are meant for worship, crafted to be objects of his love and vessels pouring His love back to Him and the people around us. As we exalt  the One who is love our fears come crashing down, having lost their power, leaving us free to dwell in the Promised Land of abundance.

March 18, 2015

Winter's Green

It is late winter, so late that the days have begun to warm, the earth slowly turning our hemisphere towards the sun again. Sitting on the banks of the swollen creek I am struck by the abundance around me. There is a constant steady flow of water, quenching the roots near by and splashing life on the moss covered banks, the only green left in this winter-scape. There is life and grace here, even if it not bursting garish like the fall, or timid and coy like the spring, or verdantly languid as the summer. Winter life is different. It is hardy, embedded close to the mud and clay. It remains despite the frost and ice. Millions of little mosslets clumping together for warmth and solidarity outlast the grasses and green leaves. In its humble state it is sustained.

"As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are but dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts."
Psalm 103:13-18

We need not be afraid of our feet of clay, he knows that we are "but dust," but instead grow a humble home out of the muddy circumstances we find ourselves in as we press in. Do not despise small beginnings. The moss though so small and dependent holds the banks of the creek back from avalanche. Humility keeps our faith from erosion.

Like the moss we have to situate ourselves close to the constant living water, so close that we are sprinkled and splashed with daily abundant grace. This is the key to making it through the skinny seasons, the cold times, the long hard nights. As every season changes we can be sure that this winter is on its way out, but as it goes we have to learn to remain humble and dependent for there will be another winter, maybe longer than the last. We cannot give into despair. Every living creature needs constant and change, the stability of seasons.

"He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.

The Lord sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love."

selections from Psalm 147

Though the Lord holds galaxies in his hand and orchestrates the path of the planets, He cares deeply for you. He see the sparrow fall and the moss grow. He was there in the dark wet womb before our mothers knew we existed crafting you, holding you, loving you. Through this winter and the dark seasons that are ahead he will continue to sustain you, he will heal you, and bind up your wounds, and again the Lord will bring us into spring... oh glorious spring with its life, resurrection, redemption warming the soul like sun on your face.

March 14, 2015

5 Reasons I Will Be Sad to See Winter Go

Winter needs to leave. It's time already!

Even down here in the south some of us are getting cabin fever and feeling the effects of vitamin D deficiency.

I could fill and entire encyclopedia with things that I will be thankful for as spring arrives, but here is a short list of five things I will be sad to bid farewell too as the climate begins to warm again.

1. Always having a good excuse to make myself a hot beverage. I love tea, adore hot coco, and venerate coffee. As I drift off to sleep I think with delight how wonderful it will be to sip coffee eight hours later in a new day. If you offer me something hot to drink I will pretty much always take you up on it. If you want to ensure that I won't deny you the pleasure of hospitality, then offer me coffee, unless of course you got it from a gas station (excluding QT of course). There is nothing so marvelous as holding a warm cup of delight in cold hands on a grey cold day.

2. Wearing scarves. Winter attire is often bulky and tiresome, but I could never get weary of wearing scarves. They are so pretty and cozy. I love sleeping with my blankets and hands up near my face, so to me wearing a scarf is like akin to staying in bed while functioning at a normal adult level through life. Spring, summer, and fall thankfully have their acceptable versions of scarf, but it is not quite the same as cozy crochet nestled between your chest and chin.

3. Making, eating, and sharing soup. My feelings for soup are not quite as strong as they are for coffee, but I do look forward to the comforting sensation of making and eating soup on a cold winter day. A big pot of soup is so easy to share with friends, and can be eaten off of for the rest of the week. Soup is so simplistic but can also be nuanced and can be crafted from almost anything you have in the kitchen. There will always be a special place in my heart for a hardy warm soup, that summer soups like gazpacho will never fill. 

4. Crocheting. I know that I don't have to give up crocheting when spring arrives, but I inevitably do. There are more outdoorish things to occupy my time in the warmer seasons than making extraneous hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. I am starting an Esty shop to sell some of my crocheted things, so hopefully this hobby will become an income source instead of dropping off. As spring comes I hope to expand my abilities into multi-seasonal projects. I have kept my expectations low, as I have a bag full of discarded projects from winters past lurking in my closet.

5. Celebrating winter holidays. The end of winter seems to drag on but he beginning of it is filled with so many of the celebrations that the child-inside-us looks forward to all year: Christmas with its lights, gifts, and such cozy feelings, Thanksgiving with its colors, food, and family, New Years where we get to start things afresh, putting the old behind and celebrating the new. Honestly after January the holidays are pretty lame especially compared to their early winter counterparts, so it is easy to say "come on Memorial Day," but just as easy to get excited again in a few months about winter's return. 

As the robins return and the spring rains drench the lawn, as our arms and ankles are free to be exposed to the sun again... I will remember winter and its wonders keeping their memories alive until the leaves drop yet again exposing the bare branches. 

November 23, 2014

Pecan Cranberry Kale Salad

Every time I make kale salad for family dinners with the people from my church I always get asked multiple times for the recipe. Kale is one of those things that people want to figure out how eat because it is so healthy, but it has to be prepared well if it is going to be tasty.

I first was introduced to this kind of salad by my aunt when I was visiting her in California last summer. I modified my aunt's recipe to something that would pair well with our recent Thanksgiving themed meal. This is what was left.

The sign that something was a"hit" is an empty bowl when the feeding frenzy is over.

Pecan Cranberry Kale Salad

1 big bunch kale (or 1 big bag pre-washed pre-cut kale)
1 small onion
1/2 - 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 - 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

This makes a huge salad, so make sure you have enough people to help you eat it or cut the ingredient amounts in half. Because kale is such a hearty green you can make this ahead of time and even leave it in the fridge over night. It makes it even yummier. 

1. Slice onion in thin half circles. Put oil and onion in a small pot on medium-high. Once oil and onion mixture is hot bring temperature down to medium-low or low. Cook this mixture for about 20 minutes while you prepare the rest. This heats the oil and infuses it with flavor and also softens and sweetens the onion.

2. If your kale is not already washed and cut, then rip kale leaves into bite size pieces and discard stems (they are bitter and tough to eat). Then wash and dry your kale, putting it into a big mixing/salad bowl (like I told you, this recipe makes a lot).

3. Put pecans in a skillet on the stove top on medium-high heat to toast them. Stir them occasionally until they look and smell toasty. (this step is optional, but makes the pecans extra yummy)

4. Once oil and onions have been hanging out for about 20 mins, take them off the heat. Add salt (start with 1 tsp and add more if needed as you dress the salad), and balsamic vinegar. This is your dressing.

5. Pour half of dressing, while it is still warm, over the kale. Mix it in with your hands (this helps to soften the toughness). Pour the rest of the dressing over the kale and keep mixing. If your bunch of kale was smaller you might want to leave off some of the dressing.

6. Sprinkle the pecans and cranberries on the top of the kale. Serve and watch it disappear.

June 29, 2014

A Little Goes a Long Ways

It was an ordinary day at work, but precious moments usually come in simple packages...

If you haven't heard, I am going to Italy and Greece at the very beginning of August with Word Outreach Center. I haven't been out of the US for more than a year and I am really excited just to leave again. It is also thrilling to me to be able to experience a different continent and culture than South Asia. I am looking forward to seeing the differences and similarities in those who believe and follow Christ Jesus in Italy compared to those in India. There is also an anticipation of God radically changing my perspective once again, aligning it closer to him and his heart with this new experience. 

God's heart from before the beginning of time has been for family and for relationship. Over the past two years the Lord has been growing my heart for Godly family. This desire to help families has definitely been furthered by my experience helping Lindy last year in India, and is currently being fostered as I am providing child-care for another single mom here in the US who has two precious boys adopted from China.

In Naples, Italy we will be assisting with a family camp that is being run by an organization called Christ is the Answer. Then we will be going to a little town called Quaglietta in Italy to help with a youth camp. After that we will going to Athens, Greece to visit a ministry that is focused on loving refugees from Iran and Iraq, both Muslim countries closed to the gospel. Many of these refugees are coming to know and follow Jesus! This is the location that I am most excited to visit. I am thrilled to meet former Muslims who are now devoted to Jesus Christ. Getting to reach out and love on Muslim refugees is also something I am really looking forward to. 

This trip to Europe, though it is not something that I have done before, is developing into something just up my alley, as we will be pouring into families, teens, and people displaced from their birth countries. I am filled with more and more anticipation for what God is going to do with our short time there.

A few weeks ago I was staring to get a little stressed about this trip. If I was going to India, the trip would be cheaper and people would be more willing to give (at least that is what I feel). I am sure there are people who are thinking "why Italy?" and "is she just going on vacation?" Don't worry, I have been assured that there will be plenty of insects in Quaglietta and there might even be "squatty-potties." So if a missions trip has to include these two things to actually be legit, then this one is covered.

I have been saving some funds on my own for this trip, but I still need quite a bit to be donated. When I started stressing about this I was reminded of a precious moment of provision:

It was a normal morning at work: arrive at 8, help get boys breakfast, keep them busy, take them to the pool, and keep them from killing each other until their mom is finished working (these boys are really good, but that doesn't stop the "brother-dynamic"). I think this morning I was trying to get the little one to clean up his toys or put his shoes on. I felt the seven-year-old come behind me a shove something in my pocket. I was distracted with helping the two-year-old follow through with obedience, and didn't immediately check out what had been stuffed in my pocket. Later I pulled out a $5 bill, and asked the seven-year-old "what is this for?" He told me it is for my trip to California. :) I asked him if he meant Italy, and he said "oh yeah, Italy." Same thing, right?

This sweet gesture of generosity blew me away on multiple levels. First of all this seven-year-old had been getting a little obsessed with his money; dumping out his piggie-bank and counting it all the time, then bragging when he got more. Both his mother and I talked to him about different people who have been ruined by their greed. Apparently he took what we had to say and took an active step to change his tune from greed to generosity. It is always a precious thing when kids really get what you are trying to teach them... magical moments. Secondly this quiet generosity reminded me and continues to remind me that the Lord provides, especially through tiny gifts from unexpected places.

I have been really challenged to trust that the Lord knows my needs (even better than I do) and that he is actively moving to provide for them. Listening to a podcast from Bethel Church I was blown away by something Bill Johnson said, "once we have experienced supernatural provision, we have lost the right to begin any thought process with what we don't have." I have seen the Lord provide in so so SO many ways, for myself and tons of other people. If I begin my thoughts with "I don't have enough of..." then I am not trusting the Lord and that he has all my needs covered. I am going to choose to change my tune from worry and whining to gratefulness and joy, then watch the Lord do what he does best...come through in miraculous ways.

If you want to donate to this trip, follow this link: http://worldoutreachcommunity.org/short-term-missionaries.html 

May 18, 2014

Good Things

The Lord has been highlighting his goodness... underlining and emboldening it. 

Everyone goes through hard seasons and seasons of fullness. In those hard times it can be so hard to see the goodness of The Lord hidden among all the thorns and rocks. It is present, but we can't feel it. In those full seasons of relative ease, it is so common to forget that the goodness around us exists and is from The Lord. It is present, but we take it for-granted and don't value it. 
I have been reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. (I know. I was pretty late to jump on that band wagon.) If you haven't read the book Ann talks about being given the challenge to list one thousand things she is thankful for. Through the process of this challenge she discovered how thankfulness can infuse our lives with fresh breath and vibrence. She stumbled on the fact that we are made to be close to God and as we acknowledge his presence through gratefulness for the goodness that he has already placed in our lives the simple goodness refracted and magnified to glorious abundance. It is our duty (not obligation) and our joy to live in thankfulness. 

Here is a quote that really struck me:
"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives."
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I want to see the wounds of the world and the wounds in my heart be healed. Thankfulness is a key to that. I have seen and felt healing in my own heart as I have begun to follow Ann down this path of gratefulness. Thankfulness is like the rock that God told Moses to strike in the dessert. Though it might not seem logical in our human understanding, thanksgiving is where the living waters of joy and healing come flowing from. 
It has been my irrational fear that somehow I will reach the end of God, or at least use up my allotted portion of him. I fear that I will run out of things to discover about him, that I will reach the end of his love, the end of his patience, the end of his grace. I have caught myself worrying about if I will be able to find a thousand things to thank him for. 

In the same journal that acts as my log of gratitude, the other day I penned this question the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear "Where does my goodness end? When will it run dry? Where am I not? Which place lacks my presence, my sacredness?" I was blown to pieces and held tightly to Jesus' chest. I cannot escape God and his goodness even if I tried. 

If you are running from God, you cannot out run him. If you are needing his grace, you cannot use it up. If you are surviving only because of his love, it is everlasting and unending. He is good. If we see it, he is good. If we can only see tragedy, he is good. If we can't see anything, he is good. He is good, and that is never going to change. 

Join me in a pattern of thanksgiving and discover the vast beauty he weaves into our lives. Glory in his goodness. Revel in him revealed. Whack that boulder in the dessert and watch as his living waters flow freely. 

Pour Life

Hanging out with kids can make you laugh like crazy and can expose you to kid cooties.

This Friday I came home with a nasty cold/sinus infection/plague... oh what fun! Because of this I have been cooped up in my room in my pajamas, with tea and my computer for almost 48 hrs. I am going a little stir crazy and started a dance party with the cats. They didn't appreciate my efforts so I thought I would focus my energy into something more creative and restful like writing (also when you have a sinus infection it throws off your equilibrium and dancing can become dangerous to everyone involved even cats). 

Ruminating on what one wants from life is always a good exercise. When you think about what you want out of life it gets you to invest more in life, because life is truly what you make of it. In my ruminations and writings I noticed that I kept using the phrase "pour life," in ways such as "I want to be in a community that pours life into me" and "I want to pour life into children/women/families who desperately need it." This phrase kept coming up so much that I wanted to distill what I meant by it, so I pulled out my handy-dandy iPhone ESV bible app and searched for "life."

Psalm 16:11 
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forever more." 

Ecclesiastes 7:20
"For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart."

Mathew 7:14 
"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." 

Mark 8:35
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

Philippians 2:16-18
"holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me." 

Colossians 3:3
"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." 

2 Peter 1:3-6
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness."

Revelations 21:6
"To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment."

Basically what "pour life" means is to live a life of sacrificial love like Jesus'. As this pouring out happens a pouring in happens as well. Like a stream that flows, the waters keep coming and keep going. Refreshing and resting at the very same time. And again the precious grace and goodness of The Father leads me back to his love and lap, to build a deeper dependence on his arm to sustain me. 

I love the verse from Ecclesiastes. I want to be so occupied with the joy of the Lord that I lose track of my days in how lavishly I am living them. As the world is awakening to the warmth of Spring, I feel my heart awakening and sprouting joy. Soon Summer will be here with fruit, and Autumn with harvest, and Winter again for the deepening of roots. But as these seasons come over and over again, I want to find myself "hidden with Christ in God," tucked away in his identity, covered and fulfilled.