Monday, February 16, 2015

Designer Winds and Name-brand Storms

EARLY in the year, the winds usually pick up around here, and by “pick up” I mean loosely pinned laundry items, patio furniture, small dogs …

Especially at the “top of the hill” where we live, the gale knows no buffer.  It can be somewhat disconcerting to hear the relentless howling, to see the trees bent nearly horizontal in a heroic attempt to remain anchored to the ground. 
A few weeks ago, I was wrestling with God over a significant work situation.  Something reminded me of the winds that had so recently beaten against my house, and a visual story began to take shape in my mind.  Many of you know the one.  Jesus had just thanked God for a few trout and some dinner rolls and put on a feast that satisfied thousands.  Everywhere he went, people were clawing for a piece of him.  He was tired, spent.  He sent his best friends out in a boat to cross the sea, which, I guess, must take a while in a dinghy, as Jesus had more than enough time to hike a mountain and chat with his Father.

Sometime while he was gone, a storm blew in, sending the disciples, as usual, cowering in the bottom of the boat and assuming distant apparitions to be ghosts.  

We tend to focus on the last part of the story where Peter recognizes his friend and calls out, “Hey, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water!” Jesus tells him to go for it, and Peter jumps out of the boat.  A few steps into his watery trek, he  takes his eyes off the Lord, focuses on the winds, and gets that “sinking” feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Of course, Jesus pulls him from the churning waves and sets his sorry self back in the dinghy. Then, when they’re all safe and sound inside the rocking boat, Jesus calms the storm and they have a heart-to-heart chat.

Yeah, we usually focus on that part, but my brain had stalled back at the notion that Jesus “made” them get in the boat and set out. My mind locked in on the ramifications of that fact:

He sent them.

He sent them into a storm.

He sent them into a storm he had to know was coming!

A friend pointed out that perhaps at least the sailor-disciples knew it was coming, too.  Maybe—I’m sure they were trained to read the weather.  But I figure it’s just as likely that the skies were clear when they departed, that Jesus got to the top of the hill and said, “Hey Dad, how ’bout we stir things up a bit and see what they do?”

Alrighty then, I thought.  So what about this storm?  Am I to accept that you sent us across this proverbial sea knowing full well what we were headed into?

Or that you may have stirred it up … on purpose?!

Oh, me of little faith.

I have no doubt God knew what was coming.  I am certain that He was aware well in advance of the crisis that took us by surprise.  I am confident he knew of all the angst, the struggle, the decisions that would have to be made, and all the fallout that would come afterward.

And still, he sent us into the squall. 

So, what then?  I have a choice.

I can cower in the bottom of the boat, or I can let the experience build my faith.  

I can freeze in terror, or I can step out across the waters even while the storm yet threatens and watch God do his thing.

 (This post originally published in our February 2015 newsletter.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Visit

"It doesn’t matter where we go in the world, we will always be missing someone somewhere." ~ mendibpng @ Living Letters

They came last Friday, with Wii in tow, much to my son's delight.  Dear friends from PNG who are home on furlough made an effort to drive some 500 miles to Alabama on their way from Indiana to Colorado and call it "kinda on the way."

Bless 'em.  I know better.

But what a treat it was to see them!  To laugh and talk and "just dance." To share meals and memories.  To introduce them to my hometown and its unique culture, and to give them a glimpse of "another side of me."

But then Monday came and they were gone.

The very next day, my parents' doorbell rang again and in stepped another friend who had driven several hours to visit me from out of state.  The next few days were filled with conversations, meals, chocolate ... and a bit of "Thelma and Louise takes Nashville." 

And laughter.  Ohhhhhhh, the laughter!  She would say she got a glimpse of "another side of me," too.  But don't let her fool you ... it was mutual.

We decided we liked each other more by the time I had to send her on her way this morning.

One of the biggest blessings of the lifestyle we are living is the fact that we have friends all over the world; we have standing invitations to visit people in multiple countries.  We are enriched by their cultures, their personalities, their hospitality.  The opportunities for visits abound.

Yet, inherent in the concept of "visiting" is the idea that eventually the visit must come to an end.

But give me a few hours ... we'll get the sheets changed, the washroom will be cleaned, and I'll decompress a bit.

And then, if you're ever in the neighborhood ....

Five Minute Friday
Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and her Five Minute Friday crowd who gather virtually to write on a specific prompt at the end of each week.  Click on the button above to read more entries or to join in the fun.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Reflect

“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”  ~Charles Dickens

Three weeks ago, Lisa Jo’s FMF prompt was “Fly.”  You will note that I did not post a blog, did not write a thing, and yet I very much participated. 

You see, my Friday lasted 40 hours and I spent nearly half of that time … well, flying.

Things don’t always go as we plan (I know, understatement of the year) and with that in mind I hereby officially participate in this week’s prompt as I reflect on the goodness of God demonstrated within the last month.

If you know the story, you know why I cannot be more specific in this venue, so please forgive my vagueness.  However, I invite you to celebrate with me as I journey down this path of remembering, reflecting on God’s faithfulness.

In late October we realized that it was a distinct possibility that some part of the family would need to leave Papua New Guinea for a period of time and to seek specific assistance.  As time progressed, this seemed more and more likely, until the week of November 10 when we realized it was a certainty.

All that while, we had prayed that God would make it clear if we should go.  He made it very, very clear that we should go.

We talked over the decision of where we should go – either to Brisbane or all the way to the US.  We talked of the pros and cons of that (cheaper to get to Brisbane, cheaper to live in the US, availability of family support, distance from PNG, etc.).  We got stateside family involved in helping us plan and find people to provide the assistance we needed.  From the “immediate and strong” recommendation of person #1 to the free room and board (and car!), we knew it was the right thing to do.

God united us in that we should go all the way back to the US.  Then he repeatedly reinforced to us that this was the right decision.

We also debated as to which members of the family should go and who should stay.

When it mattered, God made it very clear who was to go and, again, we felt unified in the decision.

I was teaching the high school choir and it pained me greatly to walk away from them before their Christmas concert.  (I never cry – especially in public - but I was a blubbering idiot when I had to tell them I would be leaving.)  However, it occurred to me that, just a few weeks before, God had set someone in place to help out.  This person was now already familiar with the music and knew the students, and agreed to carry on in my absence.

Without my even asking, God provided someone to carry my choir through the end of the term and their Christmas concert.

Because I was the one who was leaving, we would have to displace the sweet girl who lived with us.  Alas, where was she to go?  I asked a few people to consider housing and caring for her, but God’s provision ended up coming in the form of people who volunteered.  One family volunteered to take her for the last three weeks of the term.  Another family opened up their home for the entirety of next semester, if needed.

God provided people to extend their hospitality to our Stacey with grace and joyful hearts.  He answered the desperate prayer of where she could go this term, and opened up arrangements for next term before I ever even asked for it.

We looked into and made reservations for mission flights, overnight lodging, and Port Moresby shuttle service.  We started on commercial flights, only to find the fares changing almost with each tick of the minute hand.  True, we were booking a week out, and flying shortly before the Thanksgiving holidays, but still …  I searched for not only our destination city, but also for three airports within a four hour drive of our destination.   I cried, I fretted.  Couldn’t God do better than this?

Of course he could.  God provided reasonable tickets for just the right timing and all the way to our ultimate destination.

As evidenced by my stress and tears, we knew this whole thing was going to cost us quite a bit of money. 

The mission flight, one-way commercial tickets, and two overnight accommodations came to within a few dollars of the tax refund we had received in August.  (And this was a good reminder that he will surely provide for the rest of our expenses, too, including all of these appointments and travel back to PNG!)

Though travel was long and tiring (and expensive), it was uneventful and smooth.

All who traveled coped wonderfully.  We could feel the prayers of God’s people over us.

We hoped to see those we needed assistance from as soon as possible after our arrival.

We had an appointment with the first individual a mere three days after our arrival in the US.  And it went even better than I had hoped.

We needed to see a second individual and when family began started calling on our behalf, the first available appointment was mid-January.  By the time we arrived in the US, the appointment had been moved forward to December 19.  Still we asked people to pray for an even earlier appointment.

Also, since we happen to be in the US for the holiday season, we were trying to figure out a way to travel over the Christmas break without having to conflict with necessary appointments.

On December 3, God opened up an appointment on December 4, less than two weeks after we arrived in the US.  The appointment went as seamlessly as it could have and we had immediate help.  And this cleared on the calendar definitive dates available for travel.

Oh … how I could go on and on.   Just because I am reflecting on the “biggest” things does not lessen the reality and impact of the many little miracles along the way.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; … I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.  Your ways, God, are holy.  What god is as great as our God?”  Psalm 77:11-13

Five Minute Friday
This post written in conjunction with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday.  Click on the button to read more entries or to join in the fun.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Together

Today was birthday party day at our house.  We're not used to celebrating birthdays in the fall, but it's just as well because on this side of the equator, October lands us square in the middle of spring.

Stacey turned fifteen yesterday and today fourteen of her classmates joined her to celebrate.  The party started off kind of slow; Stacey had requested a scavenger hunt, and we didn't want everyone to leave the house before the last few had arrived.  So, the kids sat around, talked, and took turns playing Wii.  Virtual balls were bowled and hit, virtual cars were raced around virtual tracks, and real food was consumed.

Lots of it.

The schedule was changed (because so-and-so was late, and then because these four had to leave early for a band practice), and we ended up lighting the candles on the cake before the hunt instead of after.  These kids, several of whom are in my high school choir, sang what amounted to an impromptu dirge followed by a rather pathetic set of "hip-hip-hoorays," and then sugar was consumed.

Lots of it.

Finally, after ingesting the required energy, I sent them off on their merry way to gather random items, take random photos, and record random videos.

One hour and fifteen minutes later they returned, laughing and smiling, soaking wet from running around in the rain, with grass and mud covering their bare feet, and with items, pictures, and videos.

Lots of them.

While I downloaded them to the computer for playback, the kids gathered around the kitchen table to watch the birthday girl open her gifts.

"I love it that the bar is set so low," commented my husband with a smile.

He meant it, too.  I kid you not ...

A notepad and a set of rub-on tattoos.

A package of candy.

Fifteen kina (approximately $6.43).

A Smiggle eraser and another notepad.

A K10 (approx $4.28) pre-paid cell phone card.

A can of cherry coke.

And handmade cards.

Lots of them.

It wouldn't be out of the question for more than one of these gifts to have been re-gifted from a previous birthday party, either.


But, these kids don't care, which only makes it that much more awesome.  

So, what do these kids care about?

They spent the day together.

Five Minute Friday

Written in conjunction with a community of writers who meet together weekly to write for five minutes on a prompt provided by Lisa Jo Baker.  Click the button above to learn more, read more entries, or join in the fun.  

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)