Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why don't people say what they mean?

I spent 45 minutes yesterday trying to figure out what the term "a methodist in epistemology" meant.  It was in an article I was reading for school and I kind of thought I would be able to figure it out based on the context of the article but, 30 minutes later I still had NO IDEA what the article was about!  Wasn't a methodist a Christian denomination?  LIke Lutheran or Presbyterian?  I mean this is seminary right?  It must have a Christian meaning.  But that wasn't making sense.  So finally I googled each individual word and the best I can figure out it means "someone who thinks there is a method to gaining knowledge".  So why didn't they just say that!!!

Why don't people just say what they mean?

I spend WAY too much of my life trying to figure out what people REALLY mean by the words that they say.  

It happens everywhere, not just at school.  It happens with my family, with friends, at church.  Sometimes its just people being polite, sometimes it's sarcasm, and sometimes it's something else.  Now don't get me wrong.  I think it is important to be polite and no one enjoys sarcasm more than me.  It's the other stuff that bothers me.  Talking over someone, down to someone, around someone.  Intentionally making someone misunderstand you.  You know it happens.  Too often.

I'm a pretty straight forward kind of gal.  I generally tell it like it is, and yes this gets me into trouble more often than I would like.  But I still, inherently, think people should say what they mean.  

The Proverbs have a lot to say about this.  And though some might think the author of Proverbs was the perfect example (I had a much bigger word planned to use there but I didn't want to talk over anyone and frankly don't know how to spell it!) of talking around what you are really trying to say.  I find him to be very straightforward.

"The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them." Prov 12:6
"An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble." Prov 12:13
"From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things.."Prov 12:14
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Prov 12:18
"Truthful lips endure forever but a lying tongue lasts only a moment." Prov 12:19
"The Lord detests lying lips, by he delights in men who are truthful." Prov 12: 22

And that was only 1 chapter.  

We are called to speak in words of love and truth to each.  To live in honesty with each other.  We are called to be like Jesus.  

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Faith Stories

What does your "faith story" look like?  

If someone were to write out your entire faith story, the highs and the lows, what would it look like?

Personally, I think I would be a little embarrassed about mine.  

To have someone write out all the times I questioned God, doubted what he was doing, and tried to take care of things myself? I think it would be humiliating.  Yes, I'm  sure (or at least I hope) there are a few things I've gotten right along the way.  But there are SO many times I didn't trust, didn't listen, didn't obey.  I am confident I would never want someone to write it all out.  Thank goodness it is a personal thing between me and God right?

Now think of the faith stories you know.  There are lots of them really.  The Bible is FULL of them.  Story after story of people sharing their faith journey.  The times they got it right and they times they didn't.  Embarrassing and humiliating or not, it's all there for us to learn from, the good and the bad.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I read about Moses.  My bible study is reading "The Resolution for Women" by Priscilla Shirer, and she was talking about how Moses was praised in the book of Hebrew for leading  a life devoted to God and he was credited, even KNOWN, for his faithfulness.  She asked an interesting question, what would Moses think about that?  Would he look back on his life and think, "Man, was I faithful or what!"  My guess is no.  My guess is he would wonder exactly who we were talking about.  Moses, like all of us, made his share of mistakes.  He said "no" plenty of times to God, ignored what God was telling him, and disobeyed what He asked him to do.  Yet we DO look at him as heroic.  He was faithful when an entire generation was not.  His faithfulness was credited to him as righteousness.  1,000 of years later people still talk about him, study him, and try to emulate him and his faith story.

I took huge comfort from this.  I don't have to get it right all the time.  God KNOWS I'm going to get it wrong. ALOT.  And he has already worked out a plan for that.  Maybe my faith story isn't as pretty as I would like it to be.  But it's mine.  It's the story of My walk, with MY savior and that makes it beautiful, even in it's ugliness.    

Monday, September 24, 2012

Right Where I Belong

There have been many times in my life when I have simply been going through the motions.  I am a passionate person by nature.  I get fully invested in things very quickly but that passion can just as quickly putter out and I am left passionless and going through the motions.  

Does that ever happen to you?  

I think, for me at least, this happens most often when my "passion" has grown out of my own desires and not out of what God has in mind for me.  Those times when I think I know what I want to do or who I want to be and I start out without really considering what God wants for me.  Those are the times that inevitably my passion wanes and I am left holding on to something I don't really want anymore.  

But then, there are those times that I know I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing.  And even though it is hard work, incredibly hard work, harder than I EVER imagined.  I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  

I felt like this in the early days of staying-at -home with my children.  It was harder than I EVER expected it to be.  It still is.  But I love it, and I wouldn't trade it for ANY six-figure salary under the sun!   

I felt like that when I led the children's ministry at Rivercity Community Church.  I spent HOURS every week preparing my lesson, the majority of my sunday was devoted to set up, clean up or teaching.  But I LOVED it.  Every sunday when we were done I would think, "THAT is right where God wanted me today."

And I felt that again today.  For the first time since I got my acceptance letter from seminary, I KNEW I was where God wanted me to be and I could do this.  I was vigorously handwriting notes, falling behind and getting stressed, when all the sudden I realized the words I just wrote were familiar.  I quickly flipped through my typed up notes of the stuff I had been reading and realized the Prof. was discussing EXACTLY what I had just read.  I already had these notes! I'm sure my eyes lit up, I felt myself smile and I glanced up at the professor and his eyes met mine and I saw in his eyes that HE knew, that I knew what he was talking about!!!  It was a small victory but it made me feel like maybe I really could do this.  

There is something very fulfilling in doing what you know God wants you to do, no matter how hard it might be.

How about you?  Are you where God wants you to be right now?  Are you doing what He wants you to do?  

Friday, September 21, 2012


One of my biggest worries when I decided to go back to school was how I was going to balance my life.  Would the kids feel the strain, would  Erik and I still have time together?  What about my church commitments?

I've been a seminary student for 2 weeks now.  I have read over 500 pages of theology, attended 7 hours of class, watched 3 hours of online lectures and posted 500 word responses to each one.  I am half way (almost) through my first paper.

So far, I have made it to ALL the baseball games, ALL the soccer games.  I have made it to ALL the riding lessons.  I have played with the kids after school and in the evenings and spent some quality time with Erik.  I even made it back to my home town to give a friend a hug when she needed one. 

I have been able to maintain each of my church commitments, from leading the preschool choir to my life group and all the things in between.  Yes I do owe a couple of friends a cup of coffee or at least a phone call but I think I just might get to that today!

The one thing I haven't been able to find time for...folding laundry!  It's all clean, I promise, just not folded.  And I guess I don't have to worry about making dinner tonight since we clearly won't be able to sit at the table to enjoy it.  We might as well go out, right?  Great, that's one less thing I need to do!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Psalm 32:8

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should you go.  I will counsel you and watch over you."  Psalm 32:8

I am holding God to this promise.  

This is the verse I poured over, prayed over, contemplated and meditated on when I first began to think about seminary.  And this is the verse I have gone to over and over again in the past 10 days.   

There is a message that God has kept putting in front of me for several weeks now.  I think maybe I am starting to get it.   It started in Haiti in the sermon Pastor Pudence gave Sunday morning he said, in essence, it doesn't matter what YOUR plan for your life is.  It doesn't really matter what you WANT to do, you will never find true contentment, fulfillment, and joy unless you do what GOD wants you to do.  HIS plan in your life is primary and NOTHING can change the plans he has for you.  

Last night as I was preparing for my Thursday morning bible study (which I wouldn't miss for the world).  This same message came up again.  God made you to be just who he wants you to be, no one else can be the you God wants YOU to be.  And you can't fill someone else's role.  It doesn't do any good looking to someone else to figure out who you want to be.  

God will tell you who he wants you to be.  He will instruct you and teach you in the way he wants you to go.  This doesn't mean it will be the way YOU want to go, or that it will be easy. Sometime he has hard roads planned for us, seasons that challenge us beyond what we think we can handle.  But he will counsel you and watch over you.  And those things that he has given you that you honestly can't handle on your own?  Well, beautiful one, you were never meant to.  That's what he is for.

Seminary is hard, harder than I thought it would be.  And even though I'm loving it,  I feel myself start to panic when I think that this is what my life will be for the next 6-7 years.  But I trust God, I trust in this promise.  

He instructed me to go and I have to trust that he will counsel me and watch over me through this whole process.  And he will do the same for you.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I used to love Mondays.  I know that sounds crazy!!!  Who loves Mondays???  But I really do!  At least, I did.  

Maybe it was because it was Monday and no one (but me) likes them.  But for some reason, I never had things scheduled on Mondays, especially Monday mornings.  I would take the older kids to school (while I was still in pjs).  JT would watch a cartoon, I would get in some great quiet time with God.  Then JT and I would go to the gym, he would play with friends, I would get in a great work out.  We would come home and clean, play, hangout.  I would get the mess of the weekend past all cleaned up and behind me and get  ready for the week ahead of me.  I loved Mondays.

Then I started Seminary.  My one class (I know ONLY 1) is on Monday.  The last two Mondays I have woken up at 5:45 am.  I have gotten myself ready, gotten 3 kids ready, packed 3 lunches, taken 2 kids to elementary school, 1 kids to a friends house (she will transport him to preschool), fought rush hour traffic and made it to class by 9.  I have taken notes for 3.5 hours until my brain hurt and my hand cramped.  I have grabbed lunch while reading theology I don't understand.  Then raced to pick up little guy from preschool, hit the grocery store, played for 45 minutes then picked up the older 2.  Raced to the barn for Isabella's riding lessons, crammed in an extra hour of reading more theology (I still don't understand) while the boys played video games.  We have made it home in time to eat the dinner my neighbor made for us (THANK YOU JENN!!!!!!) and got homework (the kids, not mine) all done barely in time for bed.  Then I get to type up my notes and do more reading. 

I no longer like Mondays.

It's not that I thought it would be easy. And I am kind of loving it.  And I know it is only one day.  It is just a day that is DRASTICALLY different than this day used to be.  I miss my Mondays.   

I used to love Mondays.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I am New

I am heading back to my home town today to attend the visitation and funeral of a 40 year old woman.  She is my dear, dear friend's older sister.  I went to school k-12 with my friend.  Her sister went to school k-12 with my brother.  Her younger brother works with my dad.  That's how it works in small towns.  Families overlap, lives are shared.  

She was a single mother of a teenage girl.  She lost the fight to cancer.  Her name was Jodi.  Her life wasn't easy but she fought a good fight.  I couldn't help thinking of the song by Jason Gray "I am New".  I have always loved the lyrics but this morning they moved me to tears as I thought about Jodi, her smile and her spirit.

                                              I am not who I was, I'm being remade
                                              I am new
                                              I am chosen and Holy and I'm dearly loved
                                              I am new  

                                              Forgiven, Beloved, Hidden in Christ
                                              Made in the image of the Giver of Life
                                              Righteous and Holy, Reborn, Remade
                                              Accepted and Worthy this is our new name

Jodi has been made new.  We all will be new one day.  Our names will changed and we will walk in the glory of the Giver of Life.  It's a beautiful image that runs through my head this morning.  

Despite how you might feel on this earth, at this time, in this ARE accepted and worthy.  You ARE beloved and forgiven.  And you ARE made in the image of the giver of  life.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seminary Chic

It's official.  

I am a seminary chic.  I started class on Monday.  

I am overwhelmed.  

This is by far the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken.  In every single initial encounter with a professor, staff member or student I have been asked "So why are you in seminary?".  And every time my answer is "I'm not sure yet."  I don't know why God has me here, I really don't.  But I hope I figure it out soon, because this is really hard stuff.

I'm only taking one class, but it's theology.  I've never taken theology before.  It's like a foreign language to me.  This week I have to read 267 pages, watch 3 lectures online and write them each up, on top of the my 3.5 hour on-site lecture.  Next week I will have 250 pages to read, my 3.5 hour class, 1 online lecture to watch and write up and my first paper due.

I feel like some one dropped me in the middle of a marathon without any training and I'm expected to finish.  My brain hurts from thinking more than it has in the past 10 years combined.  I really should have stretched it out occasionally, done some light exercises this summer or something to get my self ready for this.  

It is probably no coincidence that the first reading assignment we had was on faith, the idea of trusting God.  That is all I have right now.  I am trusting God to be faithful to me as I try desperately to be obedient to him.  I trust that he has something planned for me, even though I don't know what it is.  And I trust that he will use this for his glory, not my own.  I will have faith.

I guess I better get back to studying...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thoughts from Haiti Part 5


I spent 5 days in Haiti last week.  5 days that I'm guessing will forever change my life.  So I wanted to spend 5 days reflecting on my experiences and what I learned.  Today is day 5.  I'm still processing all I saw and experienced and I'm still figuring out what that means going forward.  But here are the 5 big take aways I brought with me from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

1.  My priorities are way out of whack.  Prior to my trip I really thought I had it pretty together.  I thought my priorities lined up with what scripture said and I thought my life generally reflected that.  Now I know better.  I have let too much of my life be consumed with the distractions of my culture and surroundings.  I worried about what others thought of my hair, my clothes and my home, about what they thought about me.  I woke up each morning, wrote out my to do list and got it done.  Usually at the cost of sitting down with a friend and building a relationship.  

I had hoped I could just sit back and process this week but of course life was waiting for me as soon as I stepped off the plane.  For all intents and purposes this should have been a stressful week for me, but it really wasn't.  I asked myself every day, with every thing that filled my schedule, "would THIS be a priority to a mom in Haiti?"  And I have to say,  this really put things in perspective.  It highlighted what was important and what wasn't.  And the things that weren't important I could let roll of my shoulders.  My priorities have changed, and that is a good thing.

2.  There are too many kids in this world with no one to hold them.  My "baby" turned 5 this week.  We have been telling him for weeks now that once he turns 5 mommy isn't going to pick him up and carry him around any more.  I certainly didn't carry my other two this long and frankly he is getting heavy.  But you know what?  I think I'll keep carrying him.  For as long as he wants.  There are too many kids in this world with no one to carry them or hold them.  

3.  I'm called to love the one in front of me.  I may never do "big" things but that doesn't mean I can't do something.  I, you, we are called to make a difference in the life of just one.  The one God puts before us in any given moment.  Whether in Haiti or in my home, whether on the soccer field or in the grocery store I can love the one God has put in my path and I can make a difference in their life.  I will be present and engaged with the one God has put before me.  

4.  I can take care of what I have been given without taking pride in it.  Almost all of the ladies I traveled with had bigger more beautiful homes than I do.  And EVERY ONE of the people I encountered in Haiti did not.  God has given me abundance simply by the geographic location he has placed me in.  I did not earn it nor do I deserve it.  But I will humbly accept all that he has given and I will steward it in a way that is pleasing to him (I hope).  But I will not take pride in what I have, it no longer defines me.  Stuff is just stuff, some people will have more and A LOT of people have less.

5.  When you live in the middle of Hell, Heaven is so much easier to see.  This is the best way to describe the Sunday church service I experienced in Haiti.  We were in a 1/2 built church, on wooden benches, with a sounds system that sometimes worked and often didn't.  There was no air conditioning, no fans except the ones we made from construction paper, no pretty decorations or a granite alter.  We were surrounded by some of the most  extreme poverty I have ever seen.  Shacks on all side of the church, trash in the streets.  Kids barely clothes played outside.  To some, this must be hell on Earth.

But inside that 1/2 built church was some of the most reverent worship I have ever experienced.  God was fully present in that building and even though I have NO IDEA what they were singing I was somehow singing along. It was such a sweet sweet sound.  God must LOVE Sundays when His glory is declared in every tongue in every nation.   It brought to mind the verse in Philippians 2:11 "...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,..." Some day EVERY knee WILL bow and EVERY tongue WILL confess He is Lord.  I can not wait!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thoughts From Haiti Part 4

The sheer number of orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti, not to mention the all-consuming poverty of an entire nation, was simply overwhelming.  There is no possible way that one person can make any significant difference, at least no way on this Earth.  The challenge set before us this past week was not to change a nation, nor save an entire generations of children, but simply to make a difference in the life of just one.  The one that God put before you in that moment.  Make a difference in THAT life.

So we did.  We held babies (and big kids).  We looked children in the eyes and told them they were loved!  We held hands, painted faces, did crafts and played...and played...and played with children who had no one else.  Sometimes an interaction with a child lasted only moments and sometimes it lasted hours.  The length of time with the child didn't change the the one in front of you, just that one.  

Those of you who know me know I am a passionate girl.  I long to do BIG things for Christ.  I can not wait for Him to use me in big ways.  But the thought occurred to me last week that I get so caught up waiting to do the BIG things for God that I completely miss the little ones He puts in my path.  

I was convicted of this over and over again during my time in Haiti.  We didn't build anything, clean up anything, or fix anything.  All we did was spread a little love.  All I am called to do, ALL I CAN DO, is love the one God puts in front of me.  It doesn't matter if that one is in Haiti or in Kansas City.  I am called to love them with the love of Christ, whole-hearted, eyeball to eyeball, fully devoted love.

I will never change a nation.  I will never save an entire generation of children of children, but I can make a difference in the life of the one God puts before me.  I called to serve just that one.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughts From Haiti Part 3

As a little 11 month old baby fell asleep in my arms I thought, "Now THIS is trust!"  You have to REALLY trust someone to fall asleep in their arms.  It goes beyond casual acquaintance, beyond friendship.  When you sleep in someones arms it is total trust.  You are trusting them to care for you, to protect you from harm and keep you safe while you rest.   As a I stared down at this beautiful child of God sleeping in my lap I became fully aware that THIS is the kind of child-like faith Christ wants from us.

He wants us to trust Him so completely we will rest in His arms.  To trust Him to the point that we KNOW He will care for us, protect us, and keep us safe from harm.  He calls us to lay in His everlasting arms and just rest.

A very young child, like the baby in my arms will trust like that.  They even trust a stranger because they haven't learned yet not too.  They don't understand the danger in trusting so they give it to you completely.  And they find rest.  But as the child grows things change.  Hurt comes along and trust in others fades.  

I had to earn the trust of the older kids at the orphan villages.  And the older they were, they longer it took.  Sometimes there had simply been too much hurt and too much pain and they just couldn't trust me.  They couldn't let someone else in.  They couldn't look me in the eye or accept my love.  I was a stranger to them, unworthy of trust.  

But the little children, the baby in my arms, they trusted.  They opened their hearts up, they let me in and they fell asleep in my arms.  THAT is child-like faith.  And in return they got love and protection and rest.    We get the same when we allow ourselves to trust in Christ the way this baby trusted me.  When we rest in His everlasting arms we are surrounded by His love and His protection and we can find rest. 

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." Deuteronomy 33:27

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts from Haiti Part 2

It's 5:30 am Wednesday morning.  I have been up for a quite awhile already.  I have been challenged, stirred and compelled in a way I never have been before this past week.  I am physically exhausted yet a restlessness stirs inside me and I can't sleep.  I lay down and try to quiet myself but sleep does not come.  Apparently God is not done working on me yet.  I do hope he finishes soon because I am REALLY tired!

I played with my 5 year old (he turns 5 TODAY!!!) ALL day yesterday.  Whatever he wanted to play, we played.  When the older two got home from school in the afternoon I showered them with love, time and attention as well.   As we were hanging out yesterday I was struck by their eye contact.

The children in Haiti CRAVED eye contact.  The begged for it, competed for it, demanded it.  Except for the handful of children who were so broken and hurt they just couldn't handle eye contact at all.  I spent 5 days gazing into chocolate brown eyes after chocolate brown eyes.  Each one was different from the one before, but reflecting such similar pain, longing and loneliness.  A theme that seemed to run throughout Haiti.  From orphanage to orphanage.  

Back here, State side, I gaze into the beautiful blue eyes of my own children and I see only love, strength and security.  My children all gave me great eye contact but they didn't demand it or compete for it.  They gave it  and accepted it easily but were also just as happy to share it, knowing that when they needed it, it would be there for them.  

There is a pressure in my heart I can't describe as I recognize and embrace this blessing my children don't even realize they have.  Two loving parents and SCORES of  other adults in their life who continuously look them in the eyes and shower them with love.

Maybe this is why God has given me this exhausted restlessness.  Maybe realizations like this are the reason God isn't ready to let me rest yet.  If so, then I will embrace this tiredness.  

Today look your child, any child, in their eyes and tell them that you love them.  Tell them their precious Father in Heaven loves them.  Tell them they are special and significant.  That they matter to you and they matter to their Maker.  This is a precious gift that every child needs and so many never get.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thoughts from Haiti Part 1

I woke up this morning in my bed in Kansas City.  Yesterday I woke up in Haiti.  It was 5:00 in the morning there, about 4 am Kansas City time.  I had slept for a total of 3 hours the night before.  My thoughts were too filled with all that I had seen and experienced to sleep.  Yesterday was a LONG day of bus rides, crowded airports, even more crowded airplanes, more airports, more airplanes.  I walked in the door of my home at 2:30 am this morning.  I had been traveling for over 20 hours (it just took me a solid 5 minutes to figure out the math there!) I had slept a total of 3 out of the last 44 hours (I think?again not up for math yet!).  I should be EXHAUSTED but I'm really not, at least not yet.  Over the next few days I want to share with you what I experienced in Haiti, and a few of the things God taught me.

I will NEVER forget the very first child I met at the very first orphanage we visited.  I was one of the last ones off the bus and each team member had been instantly "claimed" by a child (or 2 or 3) as soon as their feet hit the ground.  This child stood there waiting for me, just for me.

She was older than I thought she would be.  For some reason, in my head I pictured all the orphans would be 5 years old or younger (don't ask me why, I don't know).  This girl was older, I would guess she was around 10 or 11  (neither of us spoke enough of the other ones language to really figure that out).   I wrapped my arms around her and brought her in for a great big bear hug, and I asked in VERY broken Creole what her name was.  And then my heart just stopped...I asked her again, "What is your name?" CERTAIN I had heard her wrong the first time. 

"Tamara,"  she answered.

I looked at her with what must have been pure shock, and somehow stammered out, "That's MY name too!  MY name is Tamara!"  Her eyes got huge and we hugged each other tighter.

I've always recognized what a blessing it has been to born where I was.  Through no credit to myself or even my parents, but ONLY by God's mercy I was born in the U.S., in a small town, in a christian home.  Honestly, I have truly wondered at times what my life would be like if God hadn't started me out right where he did.  I think this was God's answer.

THIS could be you.  Just as easily, this could be YOU, standing here in an orphanage, in a poverty struck, 3rd world country.  This could be you.  Don't take for granted for a moment what God has done for you by placing you EXACTLY where you are.  Whatever circumstances you are in.

As I loved on Tamara the verse from Acts 17:26 came to mind, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and HE determined the times set for them and THE EXACT places where they should live."  

I don't know why I am here in the States and why she is there in Haiti.  I don't know why it's not the other way around.  But I know that is how God determined it should be.  And I know that God had a reason for bringing us together at that time, and in that place.

I don't know if Tamara will remember me, our time together was very, very short.  But I know I will NEVER forget her.    God brought us together for a very specific reason and I will never forget.