Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Last year we went to a Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith concert at a local church. It was great, and after the concert we decided to sponsor our third child through Compassion. Nshimiyimana caught my eye with his soft smile and bright orange shirt.

We have friends who live in Rwanda and are missionaries there. Our goal is to visit them and Nshimiyimana (on a Compassion Sponsor Tour) sometime in the next 4 years.

Today my heart hurts because Nshimiyimana's smile is gone and his shirt has faded. I'm guessing this is his "best clothing" to wear for pictures. My family thought the new photo of him was so different that they questioned whether or not this was really the same child. I believe it is, but it is sad to see a picture so different from the one we recieved just about 10 months ago. Of course all children scowl sometimes...so maybe this was just a bad picture. Praying for my sweet boy. Join me.

Our original picture of Nshimiyimana on the left and the new one on the right. 

I don't believe in fortunes, but this coincidence was pretty interesting. I went out with our pastoral team for lunch today at a Chinese restaurant. My fortune said,"Someone in your life needs a letter from you."

Time to send Nshimiyimana an encouraging letter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It Ain't Over Yet

Nike had an ad that said, "There is no finish line." It's supposed to be inspiring. Right now it just makes me tired. I've decided to re-write the ad:
There is no finish line, but there are water breaks, bathrooms, and energy snacks along the way.

Today was a huge "water break." My friend Julie shared the bounty of gift certificates she received for her 40th birthday and let me and our friend Lisa, join her for a day at the spa. We were treated to facials, hour-long massages, yummy food, and brief visits to the steam room and sauna. We arrived at 9am and were pampered until about 2pm when we decided it was time to re-join the real world. I know that today was a day of extreme extravagance. We literally were lathered in luxury. I mean it - I went home a slathered in oil and hydrating creams.

On the heels of a week where our family hosted 3 children, most likely orphaned by AIDS, from Burundi, Africa, the timing was both welcomed and confusing. I was exhausted from the physical and emotional toll of the having a houseful Monday-Wednesday while trying to balance work and family. The experience vividly reminded me that my life is cush. Dragging my weary self to the spa this morning was a reminder that I live in the land of "first-world problems." I found myself fretting over what to wear when one has to walk into a 1st class full-service spa, take off afore mentioned outfit, and put on a giant robe and squishy sandals. (For the record, I decided jeans, a gap t-shirt, a Nike pullover, and a pair of black Converse would suffice. Unfortunately my closet doesn't contain any of those velour blinged-out sweatsuits yet.) I needed a "water break."

Me, Lisa, and the birthday girl - Julie. 

Not all water breaks need be so grandiose. But I have to admit, I enjoyed every minute...even the ones where I fell asleep during my facial and awoke to the sound of my own little snore/snort noise. I loved the time of conversation with dear friends and the ability to put the to-do list on hold for a day (or at least from 9am-2pm).

Maybe this is TMI, but you know that bathroom breaks are also essential and have their own sort of, well,...release. These short breaks provide necessary bits of time where one can't be disturbed. This analogy breaks down if you have small children, because moms know that it when you're in the restroom you are suddenly in greatest demand. Ok, let's get off the toilet and on to my third point.

Energy snacks. Yes please. When you're in a race there are often folks cheering you on (most of the people you don't even know) and sometimes those good people hand you energy snacks along the way. Their bright smiles, shouts of encouragement, and the baggies of treats freely given are the fuel that keeps you going. In everyday life, energy snacks vary from person-to-person. Some crave words of affirmation,  others thrive on a kind deed, or a thoughtful gift. We derive our energy from God-given passions, dreams we hope to reach, and the pursuit of goals we want fulfilled.

As a person who loves to see a task completed, I often wonder, how I'm supposed to keep running the race when I can't see the finish line? I'm one of those people who creates a list of things that need to be accomplished and then adds on chores/jobs I've already done just to get the satisfaction of crossing them off the list. That's a bit sick, huh? With that mindset, how will I know when I've arrived, or when I can stop? Yet, God has created me with love of surprise and a love for life. So when life feels overwhelming, remind me that it ain't over yet and water, a bathroom, and a snack are available along the way.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

All In

Wanting and doing are often two very different things. That was played out this morning by my desire to be the "host" for church today so I could be the one to give the announcements and share with the congregation the need for more Vacation Bible School volunteers. I wanted to be the one to speak so I could make sure that the recruiting message would be spoken with clarity and enthusiasm. Instead I found myself staring at my notes, fumbling with words, and not feeling engaged with the people with whom I had so desperately wanted to connect. Here's a little of what I said:

Vacation Bible School is a children’s ministry that we’ve made clear as congregation we want to offer. I love this because I believe offering VBS is one way we demonstrate how deeply we value children. Two weeks ago Eric talked about that fact that we need one another, that community is important, so important in fact, that we need it to survive. When we pool our resources, there is always enough. Last week Gregg spoke about Jesus breaking down barriers. Christ is invitational and Jesus wants everyone to have access to a personal relationship with him.

These two themes on community and relationship couldn’t be a more perfect setup for asking you to be a part of VBS. As youth and adults coming together to serve children we are able to provide the care that the children who participate in VBS need. I really hope you’ll grasp on to the spirit of this year’s VBS, that anything is possible with God, and recognize that you have the ability, opportunity, and privilege to help a child know what it means to trust Jesus Christ!

I left the pulpit expecting that no new volunteers would arise from this morning's call to action. This very attitude and lack of faith shows how severely I need to kick my pride to the curb. I know at the head level that it's not my "delivery" that will make or break VBS recruitment. I understand that I can't create in others a desire to serve kids in the ways that I want/need them to for the sake of a certain ministry. But at a heart level, oh how I wish that I could inspire people to rearrange their priorities and put children just a little bit closer to the top. I want to be able to express in public the things that rattle around in my brain and burn a hole in my gut. It's this desire that keeps me going. So I will keep challenging myself to speak as an advocate for children.

It was easy to sit there in my pew and stew about my own shortcomings. Then today's scripture from Mark 12 made me see once again how blessed I am to serve a loving God, the merciful Jesus Christ, and the empowering Holy Spirit. Serving God is something we're asked to do with every ounce of our being. It's certainly not based on performance, results, or recruitment skills.

There is a debate in Christians circles as to how we should serve. Some say it's best to offer up our strengths - to do what you good at, to serve out of our "God-given gifts." Others say, God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. In our weakness Christ's power is made perfect. We might not be very good at what we're asked to do, but we are supposed to say "yes" anyway. So which one is it: do we serve out of our strengths or out of our weakness? 

In Mark 12, Jesus tells a story about a widow who put into an offering box a teeny tiny bit of money. The poor widow gave out of her poverty. At first glance this story seems to honor the widow because she gave out of her weakness. In essence she said to God, "I don't have much, but I'll give it all to you." But this morning I also came to see the widow as a woman who  gave out of her strength. Her strength was her tremendous faith. She gave to God all that she had, her mind, soul, heart, and personal well-being. The widow trusted God with every part of herself. She had strength that I admire. She was all in. I want to be that kind of person. Giving with all that I am, even when it feels like it's not much, and trusting God to be enough.