Tag Archives: Contemplations

Napping in the Mess

If you’re a young mother and you’re getting up at five o’clock in the morning or maybe three o’clock in the morning with a fussy child, or a child that needs to eat, maybe the most spiritual thing that you could do in that moment is not beat yourself up because you’re not getting to read your Bible like you want to, but to recognize that right then, you’re serving! You’re serving! That’s a spiritual discipline. You’re serving your child and your family. Maybe the most spiritual thing you can do in that moment is to not be reading your Bible or practicing some more romantic spiritual discipline. Maybe the best thing you can do in that moment is to serve that child and then to go take a nap.”

Pastor Brad Evangelista’s words, on one of my favorite podcasts, sent a feeling of release over my tired soul. I felt my eyes tear up. There I was, multi-tasking as usual—listening to a podcast while catching up on housework and doing my best to keep the kiddos happy at the same time. An invitation—to just rest—not do one more thing, not to meet one more requirement in order to be successful, not to add one more “you need to…” on top of my tired shoulders—just rest. My frayed soul needed that reminder—the reminder that allowing for rest can have spiritual, not just physical benefits. 

For the first two years of his life, my firstborn rarely slept a long stretch. I tried all the tired and true methods hoping for relief for all of us, but nothing seemed to work. As a first time mom, I often felt so depleted, worn out, on edge—physically, emotionally and even spiritually wrung out. Angry (to be honest) much of the time that this little person needed me so much. “By the time kids get to college they sleep through the night, right?” I remember thinking to myself in desperation. There must be an end to this at some point.

I would inwardly cringe anytime I heard someone cheerfully quip, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Sure it sounds so easy; but if I did that, when would I get a shower, catch up on housework or get any cooking done? Living overseas, there was no grandma living close by to just pop over and hold the baby. Most cooking here is time consuming, as it mostly has to be done from scratch. So, no throwing in a frozen pizza on days when it all felt like too much. Laundry was also a big chore as it needed to be hand-washed as well. Even when I would try to lay down for a quick nap, I could not seem to shut off my thoughts long enough to go to sleep. I would lay there thinking about all the things that needed to be done instead of slipping into needed rest. Even when my husband would tell me to leave the dishes, and he would get them when he got home from a meeting I would often just do them myself because seeing them sitting there in the sink drove me crazy. If you cannot let go, you cannot truly rest. 

I’m not a neat freak, but I find it so hard to relax when there is still a mess to be cleaned up. And, as anyone with kids will tell you, there is always a mess to be cleaned up. You can get one room cleaned up just to go into the next room to find what looks like wreckage left behind by a mini tornado. My friend’s mom likes to say, “cleaning when you have kids is like trying to shovel snow while it is still snowing.” 

So when that still small voice would whisper to my tired soul, “come, you are weary. I will give you rest.” I mentally answered, “just a minute. Let me finish folding these clothes.” Somehow I thought I could manage it—that I needed to manage it, but reality is I cannot. My weary self had to learn to let go. 

Let Those Dishes Sit

There will always be one more job calling my name. I’m slowly getting wiser. Let those dishes sit. They will still be there after a nap, or even in the morning, and with renewed energy and a renewed attitude it is much easier to tackle them.  Stop—take a breath, drink that cup of tea or coffee if you can manage to before too many interruptions break in. Reheat it if necessary (I’m learning to just put mine straight into a thermos mug so that it stands up longer to the interruptions). Sit—sit in the mess and just be for a moment. The Savoir is there. He is always there waiting. He sees and knows and truly does lighten the load if only we are willing to set it down for a moment. 

In college my Psalms professor would often talk about how so much of the Bible points to themes of rest—with heaven as the ultimate resting point. No wonder our weary earth-worn souls long for true rest. Yes, there is work and there always will be, but there is something so satisfying about finally sitting down after an honest day’s work and just the peace that comes from putting your feet up. Don’t we all long to one day hear the words, “well, done my good and faithful servant. Now come and enter into eternal rest.” 

I think one of the reasons that I have such a love for chai, the sweet milky tea that my time in Africa taught me to treasure, is because it is an invitation to stop. Yes, I love the spicy flavor; but what I truly love is the permission to just sit, with my hands wrapped around a steaming hot cup, and slowly sip. It is like the world and all of its problems are put on pause for those few moments because you cannot guzzle a hot beverage.

As I have adjusted to life with small kids I have learned that rest looks different in different stages of life. I used to love spending an afternoon at a good coffee shop—my laptop, a delicious pastry, the calmness of a quiet atmosphere. Now coffee shops (at least with kids in tow) are anything but restful for me. “Don’t touch that. Please don’t spill that. Ok never mind, let’s go.” Now I find that the local nature park is restful. The kids run. I soak up some sun, and if I’m really fortunate, some heartfelt conversation with other moms while we try to catch up amidst diaper changes and relentless requests for snacks. 

Moments of rest may look different these days, but they are still there tucked between sticky kisses and runny noses. These days I find that some of the most restful moments of the day often happen when one of my kiddos wakes me up at 5 am (well before I had planned to get up). I am slowly learning that I actually find it surprisingly fulfilling to just roll with it and get up and do something that tends the soul like watching the sunrise, journaling or sitting down to write uninterrupted. These unplanned pockets of calm in the early morning hours have a way of giving a sweet peace to the beginning of the day which is much more restful then laying in bed fuming that I’m up again well before I had planned to be. Although, I will say, there are many days that I am able to roll back over and catch some more precious sleep, which can be just as spiritually refreshing for the soul as those quiet, contemplative mornings. 

The Goal of Rest Should not Simply Be to Energize for More but to Appreciate More

It is so easy to see rest as a means to an end—recharging to gain energy for the next day, but true rest is so much more than a simple recharging of the physical batteries. What if we instead came to see rest as a way of life? Society today is so driven, driven to the point that it is easy to miss the beautiful life that is happening around us. We are given today. Let’s live it intentionally. This is what a proper theology of rest can help us to do. It is often in the contemplative moments that we truly live. Isn’t this what our Creator modeled when He took a Sabbath after His work, a time to just sit back and enjoy what was created. Children are often so good at this—naturally leaning in to touch, study and just gaze at whatever catches their interest. But, as adults, we often want those children (who are relishing in a moment) to hurry up and put their shoes on so that we can rush off to the next thing on the agenda. 

Keep A Sabbath

Personally, I find the command to, “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” one of the most difficult commands to implement. So often I am addicted to the programs, the work, the schedule. As much as I like the idea of rest, in my pride, I often think I can keep going well after my strength is spent. I often say, “yes” to commitments without taking the time to think about if a new commitment is something our family can truly handle in this particular season. Just because something is good does not mean that it is necessary. So often less really is more. 

Our Maker knows that we need the Sabbath. It is a gift. A time to sit back and appreciate the day, the week, a time to reflect and prepare for what is ahead. A true Sabbath is not a stiff ritual but a needed time to step away from the norm and do something that refreshes the soul like going for a walk, journaling, reading, creating something, reading a refreshing book or article or maybe even taking that nap that has been calling your name. 

The result often is a new perspective, renewed strength and less feelings of being stuck in an endless cycle of work. What is the point of the day if we do not step back and take a moment to enjoy it? If we rush on to the next thing and the next thing are we even giving ourselves time to take it all in?

Don’t Mind the Mess

Sure there is a mess, storms can feel constant; but like Jesus, we can learn to take a nap in the boat even while the storm rages overhead. Just think about it, a storm is hardly an ideal setting for a snooze; but Jesus did not let that stop him. He needed rest, so He rested. I need this reminder daily. When rest is needed, rest—don’t wait for perfect circumstances. It is freeing, really, to let go and find ways to rest in the mess. Maybe it is just a few moments to stop and pray resetting your heart’s posture. Maybe it is as simple as allowing yourself to take in a quickly changing sunset. Maybe a moment of rest involves putting the laundry down and cuddling with your kids while you read them their favorite book. Take it in. Slow it down. Breathe deeply knowing that rest is something that you were created to enjoy. The mess will be there when you get up from that cuddle, and you will likely find yourself more energized to be able to face it all. If the Master of the Sea can find time to rest in the storm so can we. 

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Dengue Fever, Covid-19 and a Stranded Husband

Psalm 71

As I emerged from the fog of Dengue fever feeling much more myself but still tired, the rest of the world began bracing for the rapid spread of Covid-19. It feels strange to have PNG in a semi-normal state while other (more stable countries) are far from normal at the moment.

Like many parts of the world, PNG is currently under a state of emergency. But, honestly it has just been so quiet. I’m actually impressed with the country’s response as a whole. When the first case was confirmed, a two week lockdown period was put into place which included: no incoming international flights, no domestic flights, no gatherings of over 100 people, no buses running and no traveling from province to province without a permit. The two-week school holiday was moved up and many people stayed home from work. Large markets closed (or were very scaled back) and people were encouraged to stay home as much as possible while health workers did testing. A second case has now been confirmed, so that province (not the one where we live) continues to be in lockdown; but the rest of the country, while still under SOE, is no longer under lockdown. All that could change again as the days unfold and circumstances change quickly, but for now life has been simplified and is mostly just quiet.

Since PNG has had a chance to see what has worked and not worked in other counties affected by the virus it is encouraging to see the government take things serious from the get go and now easing things up a bit. Here in PNG there has not been so much of the mass panic buying that seems to be happening in other places; and, for the moment at lest, things are semi-normal.

Unfortunately, Simon was stuck up in Hagen as he had just traveled to the village a week before the ban on domestic flights was put into place. So the kids and I were in the capital city with prayers that he would be able to come home if the lockdown on domestic flights was lifted. Every day Trevor would take a ring off of his little count down chain and count the days until Daddy was coming back. I’ll admit it was not the easiest thing to be in the midst of lockdown while Simon was away. But, if there is one thing that I have learned during this time it is that God is so very faithful; and the active body of Christ is beyond beautiful. It is not until you are put in a situation where things are not going as planned that faith is really tested.

Times that shake your routine to such a level as they have been shaken over the last month often force you to take a step back and ask- what am I really leaning on right now for strength? Am I leaning more on my husband, my color-coded weekly schedule, my carefully crafted count down chain then I am on God? The collective world is learning a lot of lessons these days and one of the biggest lessons is that things change, and we are not in as much control as we think we are. Circumstances can change quickly and even the best planning can let you down in an instant. I’m very much a planner. I love when things follow the mapped out route that I have in my head, and I often stress when they don’t. Parenting has shown me that many, many things are actually out of my control; and it is a daily struggle for me to let that go of that control. When pandemics happen it becomes even clearer that we are not promised a stable future. We just have today. As Christ followers, we are told to pray for our daily bread and; we are promised peace because the God we serve is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

If we believe those promises-not just recite them but believe them, then it is wrong to continually live in fear and give into the mental “what ifs”. Now is the time more then ever to trust- trust the God who sees the future. Trust the God who knows the past. Trust the God who sees you in your struggles and promises to walk with you and provide for you as long as you seek His kingdom and His righteousness. Mathew 6:33 just happened to be my son Trevor’s memory verse last week. Now is a good time for each of us to be asking are we truly seeking first God’s kingdom? If so then we should not worry about tomorrow. If not, how can we adjust our lifestyles to do so?

While down with Dengue, I read these verses from Psalm 71:20-21, “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. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.” We are not promised an easy life. In fact, sometimes it is in the most difficult days that God draws us closest to Himself, so let us not run from the suffering but rest in the one who promises comfort and restoration.

If there is one lesson I have learned from having Dengue fever, this Covid-19 lockdown and having Simon stranded in Hagen it is that we need each other. It is not easy asking for or accepting help, but we must do so. Allowing the body of Christ to minister to you and being the hands and feet of Christ to those around you is what can lift the burden of all of this heaviness. I could tell you so many stories of how people have blessed me beyond belief over the last month- emails of encouragement, a friend taking my busy preschooler for the morning so that I could really rest. The day before our city went into lockdown a friend asked me to send her my grocery list so she could pick up some things for me at the store. I responded that I really needed to go myself so that I could get out some cash (I literally had 20 Kina around $6 cash in the house, but she didn’t know that). She responded by saying that she had actually already taken some cash out for me last night. I about cried. The amount she ended up giving was more then I had planned to take out, so I was later able to bless several other people who have been financially affected by this lockdown.

We need each other. We need to be ok with people helping us, and we need to look for ways to bless those in our circle whom we can and feel led to bless. We need to trust God who sees our every need over trusting the government, family, or even our job. God is a loving God who abundantly cares for His children. There is no need to fear the future. He cares about even the smallest details. Halfway through our lockdown weeks, a couple from church stopped by the house with a boxed filled with snacks, rice, chicken and some veggies. Trevor loves his snacks so it was yet another reminder of God’s faithfulness. Another friend messaged that she had some food to share with us from a friend who had recently left the country leaving behind a fully stocked pantry. We pick up two huge bags of food from her and swung by the store for a few essentials while we were out. While shopping, Trevor wanted to add honey to the shopping cart. I told him not today. When we got home and unpacked the bags of food we had just been given there was a full, unopened jar of honey inside. Even though my husband was stuck in the village, my amazing friend Erica was not working during the two weeks of lockdown so she stayed with us and kept our little family sane. Thankfully, domestic flights started running again; and Simon was able to make it home last Tuesday.

I just wanted to share these few stories with all of you lovely people. I’m sure many of you have stories as well from this time of lockdowns, quarantines and just general uncertainty. I could share many, many more. God is so faithful- so very, very faithful; and it is during times of trouble that His faithfulness is often the most evident. May we each be a light in our little circles of influence today accepting help from those around us and offering help when and where we can do so.

 

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Filed under Contemplations, devotional, PNG

Encounter

How do you describe the indescribable? I’ve been asking myself this for a week now attempting to write this blog post but feeling a loss for words. It was Saturday. We’d had an amazing day working with the kids in the garden, doing laundry, and taking them to play football (soccer) at a nearby field. I know laundry and gardening may not sound like loads of fun to some people, but when I’m with my kids the most mundane tasks can turn into a memorable experience. One of the best parts about working at a children’s home is that you get to enjoy having teenage children while you still have the energy to keep up with them (well mostly keep up with them).

“Here’s how this works,” Dickson told me as he showed me how to harvest the row of beans that had just been picked and were spread out on long black tarp. “You run from one end of the tarp to the other or jump up and down on the bean pods and at the end if you don’t have sweat it means you didn’t work.”

I laughed and started racing back and forth with the kids jumping on the dried bean pods and then sorting the beans from their pods. The younger kids helped pick up the beans that slipped off the tarp and the older kids got sticks and started to beat the pile of pods until every bean was loose from its pod.

We filled a sack full of beans before coming in for dinner, and after dinner is when the encounter took place shifting my worldview in a way and leaving me with so much to process that I am just now able to attempt to put the experience into words.

We had been talking about prayer and the responsibility Christians have to pray for those around the world who are being persecuted. Earlier in the morning Ruthann had had a breakthrough during her own prayer time in which she felt led to place this prayer need, along with other prayer needs, into the hands of our kids. With the dinner dishes done, we did our regular devotions, and then Ruthann told the kids that today we would be doing something a little different. We started with prayer requests—persecuted Christians around the world, financial needs of the children’s home, prayer for future kids who would be coming to live here, and so on. After prayer request time each child was given something to pray for and then Ruthann announced that we would pray for one hour. When she said one hour I thought, “oh my goodness, I’d be surprised if the kids last twenty minutes, but here goes.”

Ruthann put on some background music and then the kids started to pray all at once. It was a beautiful sound, a mix of Swahili and Kikuyu, earnest prayers from sincere hearts. I prayed for the request that I had been given for awhile and then I started praying individually for each of the kids starting with the oldest and going to the youngest. As I prayed, the room got quieter as the kids finished up their prayers. Soon one of the middle aged boys started dancing in the middle of the room and tried to pull in other kids to dance with him. He got Veronica to dance for a little bit, but the other kids just watched and laughed.

Seeing that attention levels were starting to deteriorate Ruthann switched up the playlist to a song that the kids knew well. It’s a song that I’d never heard before coming to Kenya entitled “Break Every Chain.” Every time I hear the kids sing it I am moved. The kids started to sing and Ruthann started to pray hard. She was so wrapped up in prayer that tears ran down her cheeks. When a few of the younger kids noticed her crying they crawled up on Alyssa and my lap and started crying as well. I tried to explain to the little boy that I was holding that people cry for different reasons sometimes because they are happy or because they are feeling a lot of emotion, but that didn’t stop him from crying. To my right Veronica started to pray again, and she started to pray hard. All of the sudden she began holding her hands out straight and calling out, “Baba, Baba, Baba,” which means father. Ruthann noticed as well and took her into anther room. Now several of the younger children really became upset worried that something bad was happening to Veronica. The little girl that Alyssa was holding began wailing saying that she missed her mom, and I started to wonder, “what in the world have we started. These kids emotional health can be so fragile.”

After calming several of the kids down, I went to check on Ruthann and Veronica. They were seated on the floor Veronica’s eyes had a glazed over appearance like she was in another place. She was rocking back and forth and say “Jesus” and “Baba” over and over. Ruthann told me that Veronica had just seen a vision of children being persecuted for their faith. Veronica had become frightened by what she saw but then excited as she said that she saw angels coming to protect the children. While I was in the room Veronica began to yell. “Jesus is the winner. Jesus is the winner.”

The next three hours were a blur as Ruthann, Alyssa, and I took turns holding Veronica. Sometimes she said she felt weak, once she asked for water, other times she would just praise God, or rock back and forth seeming lost for words and lost in the presence of God, a couple times I softly sang worship songs that she knew and Veronica joined in when I sang.

I kept going in and out of the room taking care of the mundane problems of the other kids while trying to be with Veronica as much as possible. I popped a movie in for the kids still waiting in the living room, went and got Nicholas new cloths when our kitten decided to poop all other him, and got milk for some of the younger kids who where asking for something to drink. All the while my head was spinning. I’d heard about experiences like this, but I’d never been apart of one. At times I felt like a helpless observer as after a couple hours had passed I wondered if Veronica would come back to us. I held her and prayed for her excited that God was giving her this experience yet a little afraid of the unknown.

At one point Veronica became restless again and called for Jane one of our older girls. I went to get her and when she came Ruthann began to pray for Jane while I held Veronica. At first Jane look scared. She’s always been one of our most reserved girls. A girl with a lot of attitude but a girl who shuts down when you begin asking her about her past. As Ruthann prayed louder and louder Jane began to cry and then she began to weep. Veronica became restless again, and I asked her what she saw. She told me she saw a black cat with red eyes and a very big snake. Veronica asked to touch Jane, so I helped her over to Jane and she held on to Jane’s arm and prayed. She prayed in Kiswahili so I wasn’t able to understand everything she said, but Jane did and she cried some more. Then Jane began pointing to something which she appeared to be seeing in the room. She shook her finger at it and said, “No, no.” Ruthann continued to pray for her telling Jane to forgive and let go. After while Jane seemed to experience a release. Her breathing slowed, and she said she felt good again.

Ruthann asked me to get my Bible and read something. I read several Psalms and then the girls both seemed to relax. Ruthann asked them if they wanted to go to bed, and they both said yes.

To be honest. I was blown away. I reacted and acted, but it was as if I was observing everything taking things in but staying on the sidelines. I was blown away that God had given one of our 13 year old girls a vision. I was blown away by the fact that God’s presence was so near.

The next morning I got up to get the kids breakfast, and I saw Veronica outside walking around with her hands together in prayer. I called her and gave her a big hug happy to have her back in a way but thankful for the experience that she had just been through. Ruthann asked her if she would like to journal about the experience and she said yes. She journalled about the vision and about how the Holy Spirit had visited her. She ended her entry by saying that she  hoped He would visit her again sometime.

When Jane woke up she asked me to call Veronica for her. I did, and she and Veronica prayed together. Veronica later explained to me that Jane had a friend at school who has a demon and Veronica told Jane not to walk to school with that friend any more.

Jane also journalled, but her entry consisted mostly of a dream she had after going to bed. She said she remembered little of the experience the night before but her dream involved the girl from school who Veronica said has a demon.

So that was a week ago Saturday. I don’t know how to end this post except to say that God is real. He is a living and active God who speaks to his children. Just being a small part of that experience blew me away and reminded me that I serve a living God who loves and protects his children.

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Hidden Moments

It seems the older you get the less “wow” moments you experience. Maybe it’s because our imaginations have developed to the place where we can imaging almost anything, and reality rarely meets those high ideals. Yet most people still keep dreaming, imagining, hoping for something to stir that illusive place in the soul that begs for the magic of being completely in awe.

I was privileged to experience one of those moments the day before my 25th birthday. During a birthday getaway in California two of my friends and I decided to explore the country side. After consulting guide books and getting a recommendation from another guest staying at the hostel, we decided to hike the Skyline to the Sea Trail in the nearby state park.

The hike began on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. We lingered at Waddell Beach for awhile admiring the waves and seagulls, but then we left the surfers in their wet suits far behind as we heading up trail.

 

The trail wasn’t one of those sissy trials carefully lined with boards and smoothed out gravel. It was a real rugged trail with a steep inclines, and fallen trees which served as bridges for crossing the creek.

For me, the wow moment came when the path took one of its many turns opening up what looked like an enchanted forest. So far the many red wood trees we had passed stood quite stately. The sunbeams streaming through the giants’ branches was a sight to behold just as I had imagined it would be. But then we turn a corner, and the forest turned into a mystical secret garden exceeding even my dreamy expectations.

 

The trees were white and still. I felt like I had entered a place where no other human had been- some kind of tangled land where elves lived. I felt at peace and empowered at the same time. It’s in those moments when I feel God’s love the most. Something inside of me finally gets it and I think, “God you’re an artist. Your world is more beautiful than I can imagine, and your love deeper than I can express.”

I took a picture of my friend Lydia walking underneath the trees. Beth was already up ahead. In my mind I froze the moment that feeling of complete peace mixed with wonder and silent admiration. As Louis Armstrong used to sing, “I see tress of green, red roses too… and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” At lest those hidden moments make it wonderful, and that’s what I want to hold on to.

 

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