Memories

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It’s Memorial Day in the USA.

In remembering and giving thanks for all those who have given their lives, and those who are risking their lives everyday, so that others may live free, I’ve begun to reminisce about my home country.

Over the years, I’ve learned to let go of things that I miss about it.  And that’s definitely not a complaint!  But today, I’ve allowed myself the luxury of remembering things that I miss, and I’ve created a little list.

It adds to the enjoyment of the reminiscence if you write it down and play with the words a bit. So, with that said, here are some things I’ve thought of that I miss –

Grape jelly…or jam….or grape anything.  Mmmmm…grape.

Cherry Limeade from Sonic.  In the great, big size that takes two hands to hold securely.

Cinnamon candy that leaves a fire-y feeling on your tongue.

Peanutbutter cookies, flavored Coffeemate, and hard, sourdough pretzels.

Warm weather that comes around in spring and stays until fall. Hot summer days and air conditioning. Walking bare-foot. Wearing short-sleeves (and not needing a jacket for “just in case”).

The twang of southern accents, and the genteel grace of southern hospitality.  Drinking iced tea outside in the shade, until it’s too hot, and then going inside to cool off.

Thunderstorms and lightning bugs. Wide-open spaces with miles and miles of mostly nothing. Awe-inspiring mountains rising up out of the prairie.

Seeing family, and the comfort of knowing that they live only a day’s drive away.

It’s a dangerous thing to start thinking too much about what I miss.  I’m not one to be home-sick (any more), and don’t want to work myself into that place of longing.  It’s ‘safer’ to not think about it too much.  I don’t want to be ungrateful.  I don’t want to be like the Israelites after they left Egypt, always longing for what they left behind and romanticizing it, without remembering the hardship.

I used to dream about going to other places, and would feel jealous when friends went somewhere far-away and foreign, and I wasn’t able to.

I don’t regret living away from the United States for as long as I have.  It hasn’t all been wonderful; there have been some times that were really hard. But everyone has hard times, no matter where they live and what they do. And God has been so faithful.

He doesn’t give me what I want, but He always provides what I need.

Right now, I think I need some hot summer days, listening to the voices of loved ones. Staring at them until their faces are imprinted on my mind again.  Laughing together, drinking iced tea by the gallon, catching up on their lives, watching the clouds drift by, and the storms roll in.

Not forever, but for awhile….please, God.Iced Tea

 

 

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Who Are You Really?

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I’ve recently been forced to come to the realization that I’ve been finding my iMaskdentity in my accomplishments and the qualities that I think I possess.

I allowed myself to “become” my various titles:  I’m a mother, therefore, I am nurturing, encouraging, and loving.  I’m a missionary, so I am passionate for God and people.  I’m a manager, so I am a servant-leader, mentor, organizer, and driving force.  Hah!

Wrong!  I am not those things.  I never have been.  I can put on each persona, like a hat, but that doesn’t make me any different.

Those are roles I fulfill, but they are not me, and who I am.  And I was wrong to derive my sense of self from the various roles I perform.  I can be all of those things without confusing myself with my title, but I didn’t.  The sad part is that at one time, I knew better.

I thought I had learned to be only who God says I am.  I would speak, out loud, over myself the Bible verses that talk about my identity as God’s child and follower of Jesus.

But somewhere along the way, I allowed myself to believe the myth that “we are what we do,” and “we’re only as good as our latest achievement.”  As if my performance somehow added value to me as a person.

With the discovery that I’m not who I thought, the image I had of myself crumbled around me.  What I thought were my abilities, and, therefore, my sense who I am and what I’m capable of, dissolved,  like a ripple-effect fade-out in a cheesy movie.  But instead of switching to a different scene, what was left was a confused, blurry image of a person who was no longer sure of herself, what she’s meant to do, or what she’s able to do.

Over the past weeks, I’ve felt worthless and very confused.  I am so thankful for my dear family! They have been so loving and supportive.  I have been more than reassured that they love me unconditionally, and that they are not swayed by any outer facade.  They have helped to remind me of my innate worth as a person made in the image of God.

As unpleasant as this time has been, it has led me to not only re-examine where I derive my self-image from, but to also sift through the rubble and find the foundation.  I thought my foundation was built on God’s unchanging love, but somewhere along the way, I began to build on the shifting sands of society’s standards, which by their very nature change over time.

Am I worth less because I don’t succeed, accomplish, or perform to an arbitrary standard? Not according to God, who has said I’m worth more to Him than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field.  He has numbered the hairs of my head and caught all of my tears. A re-reading of Psalm 139 is a good reminder of the intimacy with which God knows and loves us.

It’s been good for me to have this ‘false self’ stripped away.  Brennan Manning called it the Impostor.  It’s the mask we create for ourselves to hide behind, and supposedly fool others into believing that’s what we’re really like.  Only we also think we’re hiding from God, either never knowing or forgetting that God sees the ‘real’ person all along, and still loves us unrepentantly.

“God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” [Abba’s Child by Manning]

Thank the Lord for His reminder that I am His beloved child.

It’s not about what I do, or what I accomplish.   That’s not who I am.

I am a sinner saved by the outrageous grace of an infinitely loving God.  I am someone who makes mistakes.  But because of God’s mercy, they aren’t fatal.

“But God loves who we really are – whether we like it or not.” [ibid.]

If you’d like to read Psalm 139, I’m including it here:

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
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, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me
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Waiting

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It seems like in life we’re always waiting for something.  A bus, a repairman, the end of the work day, the birth of a child…. the birth of a dream…..an answer to prayer.

I’m in a season of waiting.  A whole season.  Sometimes it’s exhausting.  This waiting, expecting, hoping, watching, listening, wondering.  I try to be patient; to encourage myself, usually by reading the Bible, praising God, listening to uplifting music – those disciplines I’ve been taught as a follower of Jesus.  And I try to be content where I am, continually giving things to God. Telling Him I’m sorry for being ungrateful for all He’s given me.  Only to take those same ‘things’ back again, apparently, because the discontented feelings resurface eventually.

Maybe you’re waiting, too.

Waiting for a fun, new job with creativity and lots of satisfaction. One that you look forward to going to everyday. That helps you not mind that it’s Monday.

Or waiting for love and a family, wondering if that’s going to happen for you.

Or waiting for your skills and talent to match your dreams.

Life is so full of unknowns.  Mysteries.  Disappointments.  But it’s also full of surprises and wonder and joy. Of new beginnings and hope. Of peace and contentment.

I know this is awful, and shocking, but I used to say, “Life sucks, and then you die.”  (I know!)  Slowly, God has changed (is changing) my outlook.  He’s helping me to look beyond circumstances, surroundings, bank balance, and the other trappings of life here on earth, and instead look at Him.

His economy, allegiances, opinions, are not the same as those we’re surrounded by.  He owns everything. Loves everyone. Forgives those who ask. And draws near to those who seek Him. In fact, He promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with all of our heart.  He says, ‘Seek Me, and I will be found by you.’

That’s the best kind of waiting.

Waiting in God’s presence.  Because He is good and worth waiting for.

I was re-reading one of my favorite Brennan Manning books yesterday, after hearing the sad news of his death.  Here’s a quote he included about waiting:  “In a revealed religion, silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God.  Failure to recognize the value of merely being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, is to gouge the heart out of

Zippy WaitingChristianity.” (Abba’s Child)

So waiting isn’t always a bad or hard thing.  It can be illuminating. Fulfilling.

It can also be restorative and refreshing.  Another Bible verse says, “Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)  That is a promise from God to us that He will give us the strength we need to continue. Even if it’s to continue to wait.

I’m also waiting to be made perfect. To stop making the same mistakes again and again.  I think I can file that one under “Definitely not going to happen.”  At least, not on this side of Heaven.

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Things I Don’t Always Remember to Miss

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I was thinking this morning about how long I’ve lived in Scotland. Twelve years.

Sometimes I actually forget what it was like to live in the USA. Sometimes – not always.

Especially when I reflect on the way I do things now.  Things that I’ve become so accustomed to that it seems like I’ve always done it this way.

Let me elaborate on what I mean:

Washing our clothes in the front-loading washing machine in the kitchen.  In Scotland, washing machines live in the kitchen.  The utility room around the corner, which is unheated, contains the refrigerator.  This is not the norm, but all three homes I’ve lived in here have been like this.

Speaking of laundry, we do not have an electric clothes dryer. Many people do, I think, but we don’t. Instead, the clean, wet clothes get hung up on radiators and on the drying rack, that, for us, stands in the upstairs hallway.  Needless to say, doing laundry is a much more time-consuming affair than it ever was in America.  No nice warm, soft clothes fresh out of the dryer, but unless I really think about it, I don’t remember to miss it.

Washing dishes by hand is normal to me.  I’ve even come to think of dishwashers as luxury items that waste loads of water and electricity.  Again, many people here have them, but we never have.  And, we wash the dishes in a single sink, instead of the common double sinks for washing and rinsing, that are found in most homes in America.

Then there’s the heat, or more specifically, the lack of it.  We have radiators (as mentioned) that are turned on and off by a central timer.  We have always lived in old homes which haven’t been brought up to modern insulating standards.  As a family of five who usually have other people coming over, we need a lot of space, which is more difficult to find here.  Homes are more compact.  Compact homes are warm and cozy.  Older, roomier homes are drafty, damp, and COLD.  I’m not complaining!  Just being factual.  Trying to keep the house warm means bigger utility bills, so to keep the bill manageable, the heat has to be regulated.  I don’t always think about it, as I’m accustomed to living this way.  Until it’s not quite Springtime and Winter seems like it will never end.  That’s when I start peeking at the local temperatures where I’ve lived in the past and remember what it was like to have nice warm days occasionally.

Convenience, or more precisely, the lack of it.  By American standards, of course.  Fast food.  Drive-thru everything. Taking your car everywhere.

As missionaries, we hardly ever have fast food.  My idea of “fast food” is frozen pizza from the local grocery store.

Castle and Fountain

And it is convenient – it’s only a five minute walk from our home.

Until recently, we didn’t have a car, so we walked and took buses everywhere.  A great deal of the time, we still do.  I don’t think anything of walking five minutes to the bus stop, riding the bus for thirty minutes, and then walking another 10 minutes to get where I’m going.  It’s become “just what we do.”

Until we have an American friend come to see us, and then suddenly I’m seeing everything the way I imagine they are.  That’s when an element of fun and novelty returns for awhile, and I remember how cool it is to live in a historic, capital city with a castle in the middle of it.

Do I miss America?  Sure, I do.  Sometimes more than others, because I don’t always remember to miss it.

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Do what you like vs. Like what you do

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Coffee MugI really had intended to write something every week.  And then I got news at work that I may not have a job for much longer.  The organisation I work for is going through a restructuring process. (Is that code for “you’re fired”?)

I admit that I over-reacted at first.  I was pretty angry and felt really betrayed.  I’ve worked so hard at what I do, way above what’s required in my contract.  I regularly put in 10-12 hour days in order to do the best job possible and bless the organisation.  I believe in what they do!  Helping homeless and vulnerable people is essential and definitely God-ordained.

Now, eight and a half years down the road, I could be out of work, forced into a more stressful job post, or find myself demoted with a salary cut.  Not really choices I wanted to have to make.  I’ve had my mind set, for quite some time, on being ‘rescued’ from my job.  I used to stay at home with my children, and would really love to be set free to participate in things I love and feel called to – like caring relationships, helping my life-partner, homemaking, and being available to my children.  I’ve been saying for eight years that I didn’t move to Scotland to do what I’m currently doing; I came to be a missionary.

I’m realising now that my attitude isn’t what it should be.  Who am I to tell God how to do things?  He can deal with me as He chooses, not as I think He should.  I need to be content in EVERY circumstance, and do everything I do as serving the Lord.

Whatever I do, I do my best.  I know that Jesus is who I really work for, whether at home or elsewhere.  He is who I answer to.  I want my life to be lived as an act of worship to God, and a sulky attitude has no place in that.

So, I asked my current boss to consider me for the more demanding position that is being created, and I am also job-hunting.  But I’m dreaming, too.  What if I could replace my income doing something else?  Something different?  Something that utilises my talents and interests and not just my learned abilities.  That would be amazing!

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No Judgment!

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I was recently asked to write a few words based on a specific Bible passage as part of a shared blog during Lent.  For those unfamiliar with Lent, it is the 40 day period leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  It has traditionally been considered part of the Catholic tradition, and has, unfortunately, been ignored by most non-Catholic followers of Jesus.  But for some, it has become a meaningful time of meditating on Jesus’ journey to the cross, and it is in that light that I now approach this season.

With that explanation, here is my contribution.  If you would like to continue to read through the daily blogs written by the folks who are a part of the Mosaic Edinburgh community, here is the link: http://journey-mosaic.blogspot.co.uk/

John 3:16-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[a]

Footnotes:

  1. 3:21 Or can see God at work in what he is doing.

How amazingly blessed are we?!! “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES in Him.”

What a beautifully simple plan God has put into place for us:  Believe and escape judgment.  Believe and have eternal life.

Believe in the One who left heaven for us.  Believe in His humanity.  Believe in His divinity. Believe in His sacrifice in our place.  Believe that He died.  Believe that He conquered death, because He rose from the dead.  Believe that He is seated at the right-hand of the Father in heaven.  Believe that He intercedes for us.  Believe that we get to be with Him forever.  And believe that love for us was the motivation for it all:  this wonderfully simple plan of God.

Sometimes it seems that so little is required of us in this plan of God’s.  Until we realise that it requires everything from us.

If we believe, we give up everything to Him and for Him, because He gave up everything for us.

We give up our unbelief, because if we hold on to that, as these verses tell us, we’ll be judged, and who would want that when we can escape judgment if we will only believe?

We give up living in darkness and holding onto our evil deeds, because His light has come, so we no longer live in darkness.  Our evil deeds are gone, because of His sacrifice in our place, so we don’t have any fear that they’ll be exposed.  We have given up hopelessness, fear, dread, and all those other slimy creatures that lurk in the darkness, because we now live in His light.

There are things that are more difficult for us to give up, even though we know that Jesus sacrificed those things as well.  Dignity might be one of them.  Rights and entitlement might be others.  We know that Jesus gave up His rights.  He could have held on to the entitlement due to the King of Heaven’s Armies (one of His names in the book of Psalms), but He didn’t.  Even so, we sometimes struggle to surrender those things.

There’s no judgment for us now, which means that we also give up judgment.  How can we judge others, when we know we will not be judged.  That’s another of the things Jesus gave up that we struggle to let go of.

What about control?  He surrendered His control, evidenced in the prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, and yet we definitely struggle to give up our control.  Until of course we come to the realisation that it’s only an illusion any way, and we’re not really in control at all.

How about self-determination?  But Jesus gave His life away.  He could have had life goals that didn’t include being led like a lamb to the slaughter.  He could have had ambitions for Himself.  He chose, instead, to make winning us His ambition.

What about ‘stuff’?  This world offers a lot of good ‘stuff.’  When it was offered to Him, He turned it down, even all the kingdoms of the world.  Few of us will ever have to give up anything like the wealth and power that Jesus was offered, but rejected.

Even when we struggle to give up some of these things, Jesus doesn’t judge us.  These verses of scripture assure us that He didn’t come to judge us.  “God sent His son into the world not to judge the world…” and again, “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In the face of such overwhelming, sacrificial, merciful love, is there really anything we would rather hold on to?

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“I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

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Moscow, via Wanda Taft


“What do you love doing? Can you identify moments in your history where you’ve known for certain: ‘I want to do this for the rest of my life.'”

I just read this in an article in Relevant magazine reviewing the book “Quitter,”  and it was one of those moments that leaves you feeling like you’ve been stopped in your tracks.

I’ve had that knowing, just once, but I’ll never forget it.  I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life, yet at the same time, felt so unqualified and foolish.

It was in Perm, Russia, while on a trip with a group of folks from my church.  We were going out each day into the city, and serving the Russian people with small acts of kindness as a way of sharing God’s amazing love with them.

That ‘knowing’ didn’t come while washing clothes for five people by hand in the bath tub, and then wringing them out in my sore, raw hands.

And it didn’t happen while trying to convince my very young daughter that she could relieve herself over the hole in the floor, while I held her securely, promising not to let her fall in.

But it was while hearing a language all around me that I couldn’t understand.

It was while smelling new smells in the outdoor market.

It was while watching and observing people and places that were completely unfamiliar to me.

And most of all, it was while looking into the eyes of people as I spoke to them, in a voice shaking with fear and excitement, about how much God loves them and wants them to know him, seeing some of those eyes well up with tears.

After deciding to take the proverbial leap of faith, while my husband and I tried to prepare for a new life and a new lifestyle, a very wise woman warned me, “It’s not all like that, you know.  There will still be dirty laundry and dirty dishes and the rest of everyday life.”   And, of course, she was right.

But it reminds me of a line from a movie:  “I’d rather have 30 seconds of something wonderful, than a whole lifetime of nothing special.”

Now if I can just remember the wonderful part through the routine of daily life, of working at a job to help pay the bills, of dark, cold, wet days, of missing family members who I haven’t seen in years…

Recount for yourself the goodness of God.  Remember His marvels, miracles, and mercies.  Build an altar of remembrance and worship Him, so that your faith will be strong when the way is long.

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Self-Pity is Ugly

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I hate that I feel sorry for myself.

But I can’t seem to change.

I go by for awhile and am so thankful for what I have.  I try to practice that “attitude of gratitude,” “sacrifice of praise,” “giving thanks for everything,” but then BLAM!  Here it comes again!  I hear of some else’s holiday, coming on the heals of a couple of cool trips to this country and that country, and I’m right back in that place of ugliness:  jealousy, self-pity, and even anger.  My heart cries, “why do some people have it so good, and my life is so hard?”

As if in answer, I can hear my own words echo back to me, “Life’s not fair.  It’s never going to be fair, so don’t expect it to be.”  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said that to my kids…and myself.

But how do I change?

We all have things about ourselves that we don’t like.  And if we’re mature people who want to grow in character, we work on changing those things.  But I don’t actually believe in self-help.  At least not for me.  The harder I’ve tried to change, in the past, the worse I fail.  I feel weak and pitiful and helpless when it comes to changing myself.

That’s why I need Jesus!  Things like this bring me back to the foot of the cross.  ”Lord, have mercy on me!”  I cry out to Him to change those things in me that seem so repugnant only now, because they’ve been shown to me under a divine magnifying glass.  If I didn’t feel this way, I wouldn’t submit this issue, that I thought was gone but was really just hiding because I’d buried it.

How amazing is our God!  One thing at a time, so we’re not overwhelmed, He puts His finger on so it hurts and we become aware of it.  Because only in our pain and awareness will we bring it to Him and ask Him to ‘fix’ it, like the little, beloved children we are.  Trusting in His faithful love as our Heavenly Daddy, knowing that His embrace of peace will envelope us, we fall into His grace.

“Okay, Father, I’m feeling sorry for myself again.  Please forgive me, and change me.”

You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but You will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. -Psalm 71:20

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Small Dreams

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My dreams are small.

I think I used to have big dreams, but they got lost somewhere along the way.  Maybe life has a way of doing that to us. When we’re kids we believe we can do anything, be anything. But as we “grow up,” we stop believing, little by little, until one day we realise that our dreams have disappeared.

That’s really sad….

So – I’ve asked God to help me dream again.  I believe that He can do that.  I believe God can do anything.  And because He is so powerful, and so loving at the same time, He will let me join Him in some amazing things…..like helping a disillusioned realist dare to dream.  Or helping someone who is losing hope to regain it a little.

Small dreams….share hope, or faith, or love, so that someone else’s life is a little different, a little better, because I’m here.

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