Tag Archives: Christianity

Beneath the Wrinkles and the Dirt

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 9.01.47 AMI chose peanuts—twisted up, knobby raw peanuts right from the highlands soil, still attached to their stems, with dirt clinging to every crevice of their wrinkled skin. We flew back early for the retreat. The flight went as well as a solo flight with a two-year can go. It had been a long day, well a long week, OK a long five weeks of village living full of the typical emotional highs and lows. But, we made it.

The assignment was for each retreat participant to bring an item that represented where she was in life at that moment maybe spiritually or emotionally—an object to help give the group a snapshot of what you were carrying with you to the retreat. My mind was blank. My thoughts went back to a similar type of icebreaker assignment in college that had seemed so easy. I had my pens to represent my love for writing and my little stuffed elephant made from colorful African cloth to represent my time growing up as a missionary kid. Now, life felt too scattered. Yes, I am a tired mom. Yes, I am carrying burdens and hurts that many missionaries face. Yes, my life is often in transition. What one object comes close to showing all the facets?

I thought about bringing the boarding pass from the latest flight. Oops, already threw that away and took the trash out to the road. When you travel as much as our family does you stop saving boarding passes for scrapbooks. Then I thought—peanuts. Yes, that is me right now—dirty (it takes a few good showers to really get all that village dirt washed off). Raw—emotionally from seeing so many problems spiritually and even physically that I don’t have the strength or knowledge to “fix.” (I got to bandage a bush knife wound this trip and if you know me at all you know that is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone).

I often feel knotted up and tangled like that bunch of peanuts, but peanuts also represent another aspect of “me.” They reflect how the same thing can be so different in so many countries. Peanuts here in Papua New Guinea are often eaten as a snack and usually sold still on their steams tied up in a little tangled bundle of four or five peanut clusters. Sometimes they are lightly roasted in the fire (sill in their shells), but often they are eaten raw.

Where I grew up in Congo, peanuts were also a popular snack; but they were shelled, roasted and salted. I still remember the plies of bright red peanuts sold along the side of the road. They were sold by the can (an empty tomato paste can) and so yummy; still by far my favorite way to eat peanuts.

And, of course, we love our peanuts in the US as well with our staple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snacking on cleanly shelled and packaged roasted peanuts.

As this past weekend’s retreat came to a close, we were encouraged to reflect back on our found object and see if we saw it in a different light. I was surprised and encouraged to find that I did.

The peanut is a humble legume for sure, but this time I was able to look past the dirt and crack open that protective shell just a bit to consider the heart. It is a versatile and nutritious substance. It takes time and patience to crack the shells and get to the “meat” of the plant, but it is worth it. There is more to the knobby, twisted peanut then first meets the eye and living a sometimes complicated life I relate to that so much. Underneath the dirt, and rawness of reality I do feel so blessed to be here in PNG. Is it challenging? Yes, but it is also a rich experience if you are willing to take the time to crack open the different elements that make up life here.

On a side note, I highly recommend the Velvet Ashes retreat to anyone involved in cross-cultural work: deep, refreshing, honest and challenging. I am coming away from a challenging season emotionally and am blessed to leave the time of retreat soaked in gentle truths and covered in a sense of fresh joy knowing that God does sustain, and He can use each one of us even in humble or desolate seasons.

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.”

-Mark 6:31

If you had to pick an object to represent where you are in life right now what would your object be?

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Filed under missions, PNG

Kingdom Work

I sat on the floor surrounded by purple walls covered in calk—drawings, encouraging words, scripture verses. It was my first week in Kenya and everything felt so right. We talked, prayed, and then a girl I’d just met read me like a book.

“I see you being a constant person in these kids lives,” she told me. “Meeting them at the door when they come home from school and creating a journal for them with a section for each child a book that will really encourage them later in life” I smiled because as a writer I liked the idea of that project and as soon as I arrive at the children’s home I know that it was the place where God wanted me to be. I had done a lot of different things in life, but now I was more than ready to be that constant person for these kids who had had so many traumatic experiences in life.

Her next words blew me away. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Whether that be financial or just help with something small through out the day. It’s all kingdom work.” Her words blew me away because they cut past my calm exterior and broke me open revealing one of my greatest insecurities—asking for help. I hate asking for help I don’t know if it’s pride (I can do this on my own) or insecurity (I don’t think I deserve people’s support). It’s probably a mix of both. I don’t know, but what I do know is that one of my greatest struggles is asking for help. Maybe I try to do it on my own because I’m afraid of rejection if I ask for help and no one responds. Maybe I try to do things on my own because I feel an unwritten responsibility to solve the words problems. Irrational I know, but aren’t most fears irrational?

What I do know is that I do need help. I can’t do this on my own because the work that God has called me to do is so much bigger than myself. It takes a body. Whether that be the day to day work of taking care of 17 kids or the financial strain of taking four kids to the dentist in one week when only one out of those four kids is financially sponsored. You don’t tell the other three kids, “Sorry you can’t get your teeth fixed your not fully sponsored.” You just take them to the dentist and pray that God will provide. He does provide, and He usually provides through people because He wants to use His children. He wants them to be blessed by become apart of something greater than themselves. It’s a beautiful thing, yet scary at times when your bank account starts to get really skinny.

I’ve added a Support Me in Kenya link to the top of this blog because I do need help, and I want to allow those who God calls to help to be able to support me. I don’t even like to talk about money, but God has been teaching me to do things that I don’t like in order to serve a greater good. Thank you for those who have supported me. You really are doing kingdom work as every day I am blessed by being able to see the kids at Abba’s House live changed lives. It’s rewarding, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to extend this rewarding experience to others as well. Thank you for investing in His kingdom.

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Filed under Contemplations, Kenya