All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me

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All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me
photo credit Susie Squirrell

I’m inspired by a friend tonight who courageously shared the trial she and her husband are walking through in Mexico. Each heart knows it’s own sorrow and I’m of the vantage point it is good for us to bare our souls in our struggles. In James it says to consider it pure joy when we go through trials, because the testing if our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish it’s work so that we can be mature and complete not lacking anything. So clearly trials are an expected part of our walk with God. I can’t be the only one who feels pressure to share only the glorious, miraculous things God does. And he does do glorious things, in his rich and passionate love for us.

But he is not one to mess around. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us into the image of Christ, and I think his most effective way of doing this is through trials. A missionary spoke to me once about having a Doctrine of Suffering, and as I look around our broken world I see that suffering is a principle of our faith, something we shy away from but is an inescapable reality. It opens the way to glorious resurrection. We should not deny it’s power or the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

My husband and I are visionaries. We are pioneers and see things black and white. We like to bring about change and influence the culture, wherever we are. We joke about having the Jeremiah anointing–to tear down and uproot, to rebuild and plant. We have been told we come on too strong. But apart from the ‘we’ I am non-confrontational by nature, I seek to bring harmony and peace, I am sensitive (sometimes too much so) and I want to encourage. Times of emotional stress and conflict are extremely hard on me. When one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong.

My gut feeling is that many of these qualities are not negative in themselves, but they need to be tempered by wisdom and humility. God is testing our character, our integrity, and our conviction of his word. We came to South Africa riding on the hope and expectation of starting a leadership school here. We are not the kind of people to have a Plan B. It’s all or nothing. In short, we considered our calling into missions to be specifically, at this time, to train others to go to unreached people groups.

In our minds, this took the shape of a program, a school with structure and commitment from students, where we could train and disciple and develop leaders to be fruitful and influence the course of nations. When our proposal for such a leadership school was turned down flat, we were quite stunned. What do we make of that? Isn’t the favor of God supposed to swing the doors wide open? Did we not hear correctly from God in coming to this place? Should we even stay in South Africa?

At this time of confusion God providentially arranged for us to go away for a week on a retreat to a quiet town by the sea. I had early mornings with my Bible searching out answers, soaking in the character and nature of God, and somehow God put my heart at peace. We returned home and I was feeling strong and ready to tackle the last trimester of my pregnancy and focus on the kids’ schooling, and support my husband as he goes back to the drawing board with our ministry plan to put our ideas for training into a different “on-the-job” model.

When I find out we have to move again. In two months, maybe three. I have 2.5 months left in my pregnancy. Raise your hand and wave if your want to move your family on your due date!! Yeah, not so much. I felt very close to what I would describe as an actual panic attack. I haven’t had many of those. And not only that, my husband will lose his supplemental income that has enabled us to afford medical insurance and make it without being short every month.

After phone calls and hours scouring the internet for houses and advice that we need to live in the city instead of a suburb to be closer to our team, we are no where closer to finding a house to live in. One realtor told me for every house that opens up for renting he has 30 people standing in line waiting for it. He ended the phone call by saying ‘sorry, just can’t help you. Good luck.’ A house for sale is on the market a matter of days before it’s sold. It’s the most unreal housing market I’ve ever seen.

I recognize the dark place I was in and am still struggling through as the work of the Enemy, bringing discouragement and doubt and desire to pack my bags and leave. I want to be organizing, preparing, settling in to get ready for a new little one…not putting things in boxes…again…

Now, for the life-speaking, peace-sowing, faith-steadying, words from my Great God, as he spoke to me over the weekend and gave me courage to share this blog with you.

YET he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

Our dream is not dead–but God may manifest it in a different way. I am reading Romans 4 every day, as you will too if you listen to the podcast below from Bill Johnson.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Romans 4:18

http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/hope-the-womb-of-legacy

From Psalm 42… Remember what God has done in the past.
Speak to your soul–put your hope in God!
Thirst, long, go and meet with God. We instinctively turn to Him.
Allow God to break you. All his waves and breakers have swept over me.

So this is where I am today. I see refugees in Iraq and Syria with only the clothes on their back and a donated meal and maybe a mattress and I feel some perspective. We don’t have it so bad. I know God will not forsake us. David says in Psalms he has never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread. I don’t believe God will put us on the street. I just somehow need to transfer this knowledge to my heart and live in the hope and promises of God.

To High Places by Narrow Roads

It’s remained a desire if my husband’s heart to return to Nepal for quite a few years now. When an opportunity arose for him to join a trekking group going to an unreached people group with the gospel, we both felt the answer was a resounding yes! So much preparation and prayer went into getting him physically prepared, spiritually prepared, and outfitted for a challenging ministry trip.

By the providence of God, he re-directed their route from Upper Dolpa to Upper Mustang. The blizzard like conditions and snowed in passes to Dolpa quite literally could have been the end of them. One local trader lost seven of his ten mules trying to cross the pass and barely made it out alive. The ‘mistake’ in their trekking permits which allowed them access to the restricted district of Mustang instead of Dolpa confirmed the decision to re-route the trip.

We prayed Isaiah 35 over the team and over the dry, barren land of the high plateau. Now we pray over the seeds that were planted in hearts hungry for the Truth and thirsty for the Living Water.

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Long, dusty, rocky trail

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Tibetan Buddhist man in The Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang

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In Jomsom, some of the snow-capped mountains the team planned to cross

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Calvin, Jeff, Mike, Juan, Gert

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Himalayas

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Village in Mustang District

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Handing out tracts

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My love on one of our rare, short phone calls. These meant the world to me!

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Unstable trail patched up with logs and rocks

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Desolate and barren land

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Village with irrigated fields

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The trail

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Nearing Tibet

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Ancient caves built up on sheer rock face

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Showing Jesus film inside palace walls…a new generation being touched with the gospel

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Jomsom the morning the trek began

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Stupa, place of Buddhist worship

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Trail

The Flash Mob and a Public Mocking

The hot sun betrayed the fall season on Thursday in downtown Cape Town. My kids, since they live in Africa now, think they don’t need to wear shoes anymore. So three little bare feet children followed me from the apartment block through the overgrown, grassy field. When we came upon a huge shattered pane of glass, I knelt down to carry my son piggy-back across the field. We passed more broken glass, discarded wine bottles, a cardboard shack, and used hypodermic needles strewn along the trail. The smell of human waste completed the ugly picture of urban poverty.

Crossing the street to the University, I didn’t know what to expect. We were to be part of a Flash Mob, a term I knew only had something to do with the Passion scene we were about to re-enact. Soon Jesus appeared, a teammate dressed in rags and covered in bruises, hardly recognizable.

We followed him-representing HIM- up the stairs around to the amphitheater of the University, gathering onlookers to join us. Some did, a few stood up to trail after us and see what we were up to.

I struggled to find my voice as teammates shouted “Crucify Him!”

As we passed students, their reaction stunned me. Most pulled out their cell phones to video the disruptive scene. Many ducked their heads and nervously giggled to each other as we made our procession through campus. As we continued the laughter increased. Soon many in the crowd around us were doubled over, laughing and pointing.

Laughing. Mocking. Jeering. It was like they were part of the mob. Or were they?

I stood there, feeling on fire, hot with the sun and hot with emotion at seeing the likeness of a crucifixion even in the small degree we re-enacted. My kids held back, gaping, as the crown of thorns rested on his head. Suddenly all our sin seemed equal. Great or small, we have all sinned against this perfect Savior.

I was part of the mob.

Then preaching. Moving for us who love Jesus, provocative for some, offensive to others. The kids and I took the basket of freshly baked German bread, each shaped into the form of a cross, and dispersed into the crowd to share about the love of Christ. We talked to many people, and each person unique in their perspective on what they just witnessed and their thoughts on sin, the afterlife, and a Savior.

Driving home that day I recalled my prayers for an outreach our family could participate in together. Our hearts are tenderized from this experience. We celebrated the Passover today (on Good Friday, a little out of order but no matter), and besides being exceedingly grateful to not be subject to boils among the other Plagues (don’t go google pictures to show your kids what a boil looks like…trust me!) I believe each of us has a deeper understanding of the perfect lamb, slain for us, saved by his blood and soon to rejoice in his resurrection.

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A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.

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While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

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Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.

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cosmos

The End.

 

 

photo credit

It Pleases God to Make You Strong

I’m relieved.

Relieved 2013 is over.

I am astounded we are in such good condition. There were new lows in our marriage as my husband and I wrestled with upside-down and different roles. Instead of him out of the home as a pastor and paramedic 72+ hours a week, he was working from home. Oh wait, first we had to define ‘work.’ What is a missionary raising support supposed to be doing, anyway? Such a strange time. We figured out a clunky system of sharing the homeschooling responsibility, sharing support-raising (mostly me wanting him to do it all), me taking care of my dreamy-eyed baby girl, and him managing much of the household (used to be my job). Yes, it was a weird time. I battled post-partum depression like I’ve never experienced before—the cold, dreary winter making it worse. Our (then) 7- year old daughter developed stress-induced insomnia and started sleep-walking. Then my husband left for a month to South Africa to get some answers to big questions about our ministry. All of this was done with minimal sleep, minimal income, in a falling-apart doublewide with a sketchy gentlemen’s agreement for rent. And this was just the first 5 months of the year.

I guess I’m feeling honest today.

If I can share my best memory of 2013, it is of my dad walking in from the cold to our linoleum-floored kitchen with freshly baked cranberry muffins. His bike parked outside, glasses all fogged up, our kids bouncing up and down and rallying for attention from Grandpa. Pretty much every memory I have of myself is holding a baby in my bathrobe. That’s why I secretly hate Skype, by the way. Somehow we were always on Skype in 2013, with a huge audience…either my sister-in-law’s busy household in S. Africa or in front of our dear church family in Missouri. And I’m in my bathrobe, with coffee in hand, spit-up on my shoulder and big raccoon eyes…or, I’m cleaned up but worried one of my kids is picking their nose live on screen in front of our church!

Which brings me to Jurassic Park. You know how John Hammond created dinosaurs from mosquito DNA, and the dinosaurs who were at first cute and novel became an uncontrollable force with a mind of their own?

Lately I’ve felt my husband and I created our own version of Jurassic Park. We have 5 amazing, energetic gifts of life with minds of their own who make a noise best classified as varying decibels of roar. We are responsible to guide and steer them in the right direction, while keeping cautious boundaries in place. It is a daunting, colossal task. Our kids are growing up. Just as I started to feel rather overwhelmed, God provided food and direction for my soul as a parent through one of my favorite authors, Sally Clarkson. We are praying and writing down 5 ways to leave a legacy for our children, and then practical goals in how to implement our plan. I am excited as we figure out who we are as a family and what our values are.

So I’m relieved 2013 is behind us and 2014 has begun! I am shedding an old, dead skin of flesh. God is stretching me in new ways. I feel like we have an open road ahead of us, and in many ways, that we are equipped for whatever lies ahead. Not to say it will be easy, because our faith is really being tested. Since I am being honest, it is still really hard for me to not have a normal job with a steady paycheck. Don’t every romanticize missionary life! This is part of the shedding process. Today, God probed my heart…do I want Him more than gold or silver? Is He the one who can satisfy me? Does my heart long after him, or after other things like the security of a ‘normal’ life? But this is the life he has called us to, and he is building Jurassic strength in me to take on the challenges.

I sure miss you all. I would give anything to drink an extra-hot, Grande, Toffee-Nut Latte with half the syrup from Starbucks with you. Or to hear the sound of my parent’s clock chiming again. Or to see my kids playing with their cousins in the States. I miss that feeling of belonging somewhere.

2014 is going to be a great year. Thanks for letting me share some of the real, grueling parts of last year with you. Raising kids, building faith, and following the Lord is messy business. But as I was reminded recently, God is transforming us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:12-18). As Matthew Henry says, ‘we should not rest contented without an experimental knowledge of the transforming power of the gospel…bringing us into a conformity to the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

It pleases God to make us strong. This is my word for the year. Keep pressing on!

Its Dark in Africa

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If you’ve followed my recent posts, you’ll know we’ve arrived safely in the Cape. Let me assure you, the trip down here was NOT uneventful!

Saturday was packing day. My husband rose to the occasion, once again, and fit all our stuff into a rented trailer for the big trek southwest. All except the ‘last minute’ items which always amount to WAY more than you think.

We fixed a quick dinner, and as we sat down to eat, the power went out. And it did NOT come back on! I was not finished packing, the kids had not bathed, I did not make sandwiches for the road yet. In darkness we finished our food, made some instant coffee on the gas stove and swapped camping stories rife with unfortunate events involving blow-up air mattresses.

We realized the power was not coming back on anytime soon, and with the light of small flashlights and a couple candles hunted for our scattered belongings. Our efforts were fruitless and we decided instead to make bedtime 8pm and try to get everything done in the morning.

You know its going to be a long night when you think you’ve slept until morning, look at your clock, and discover its only 10:30pm!

I don’t know how many times we got up that night. The most exciting was waking to Etian coming in for a drink of water and then throwing up in his bed. I fell into a deep sleep about 5am just in time to wake at 6am. Love the life of a parent! So we got everyone up, and discovered…still no power. Which means no water. Which means no showers. Now, one of my favorite things to see on my kids is dirt. No, I’m not being sarcastic! I love it when they have dirty fingernails and muddy feet and grass in their hair. It means they’ve been playing outside in the fresh air, learning, growing, exploring, creating, expending energy as a kid should. But, before a 16-hour drive I planned on having freshly scrubbed children and non-sticky hair. What to do?

We learned someone stole the power lines. Yes, you read that right. The copper inside the power lines is apparently too great a temptation for a thief. Never mind the personal risk involved of electrocution. I used this as an opportunity to explain to the children how one person’s wrongdoing affects many, many people.

So with greasy hair and dirty children we loaded up our car and said goodbye to my beautiful sister-in-law and her family. It still doesn’t feel right that we are in South Africa and she is so far away.

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We visited a Lion Park called Boskoppie on our way to Bloemfontein! As our family walked by each cage of lions, they singled out Gabrielle as the weakest one among us each time and stalked her. Totally freaked me out!

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We played with five-week old lions cubs! A first for me.

I really must laugh about the packing tape holding our tarp over the trailer. Amateurs. It lasted about four hours til we decided the flapping tarp was worthless and we tore it off the trailer. We arrived in Bloemfontein, Free State, to stay with relatives. Who happen to be the dean of a university and professional musicians. We’re talking stringed instruments here. Cello. Have you ever heard a more beautiful instrument?

We finally bathed the children including our unhappy, ill son and fed them ice cream and put them to bed. That’s what any good parent does, right? Ice cream before bed.

The next day is when the fun really started. A 10-hour drive still to go, we got an early start and were merrily on our way. I was taking one of my 5-minute power naps when I hear Gert mumbling something in Afrikaans and we pull off the road. I know its for real when he mumbles in his first language.

The tire on our trailer blew out. Not just a flat tire, but the whole tire was completely gone and the rim just a curly piece of metal laying on the side of the road. Why didn’t we crash? I believe the answer to that question is that angels do attend us. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14

So my strong, capable, handy husband gets out the jack and changes the tire. And we all watch the spare tire flatten to a lumpy pancake. We are in the middle of the Free State, something equivalent to North Dakota or Eastern Montana. There ain’t nothing nowhere. We waited no less than two hours by the side of the road, trying to reach someone who could deliver road-side assistance.

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We drove from Ermelo (east of Johannesburg) to Somerset West (near Cape Town)

The miracle here is that we all kept our cool while being stranded on the road. We had grace to endure patiently, water and rolls to fill the tummies, and a side road to empty bladders. Help finally arrived and we were on our way, albeit behind schedule. We opted to push on to Cape Town instead of sleeping over on the road somewhere and arrived somewhere around 1am.

Move in day is Friday and Saturday. After that, I’m not going anywhere for about six years. At least that’s how I feel.

Boxes

Boxes are a big part of my life right now. In fact, most of our lives are stored in boxes or recently unpacked from a box. In the last 10 months, we will have moved six times.

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Proverbs 24:3-4

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
NIV

Yesterday, we sorted through more boxes, the remnants of our year-long stay in South Africa from 2006-2007. So much happened that year from the birth of our son to building a storehouse of memories with Pa, Gert’s father. He lived strong and joyful!

As I unpacked items long forgotten about, I remarked to my husband that God provided these much-needed household items long before we knew we needed them. Many things are brand new, in better condition than the items we let go of.

Psalm 139:2-4
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
NIV

One of my daughters perceived that we don’t really have a home right now. Each of our children is dealing with this year of nomadic change differently. We thought Hebrews 11 would be a good chapter to memorize this month.

I pointed out that we do have a home, we’re just not there yet.

Heb 11:1-2
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
NIV

I’ve been missing my family lately, missing the conversations about work, the farm in North Dakota, the Mansion, kids, food, the weather…all the little things we talked about while living under one roof. My soul is restless, very aware of the lack of familiarity around me and longing for fresh mountain air and the sound of our clock chiming the quarter hour.

Our memories are packed up in boxes right now, stored away for safekeeping. These are not the boxes in the garage but rather compartments of my heart; each room of the rich and blessed life God has graced me with.

As I lay down many anxieties trying to live this life of faith, God is teaching me there are no formulas to living an exceptional life such as those in Hebrews 11. I want to imitate their faith. Yet the only way to successfully live a life of faith is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

All these people were still living by faith when they died.

They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

They admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth.

Eight days until we make our journey to the Cape. I hope we are in time to see the phenomenon of Namaqualand…an arid desert that erupts into flowery blossoms after the rains saturate the dry ground, but one time a year.
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