Monday, January 31, 2011

life is not an emergency

The cardboard brown Amazon box finally arrives.  The book I have long anticipated.  I began following Ann Voskamp's blog over a year ago.  I daily find myself drawn to her words and her photos and her life and her wisdom.  Wisdom and words that are no doubt God's gift through her. One Thousand Gifts is the name of her newly released book.  On the cover are these words - A DARE TO LIVE FULLY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE.  And maybe that's why I am drawn to her words and her wisdom.  Because I sense this full living in her and it feels so far out of reach for me. 

Ann's book is largely about gratitude.  In the small things.  In the hard things.  In EVERYTHING.  A life lived in thankfulness, counting God's every blessing, even when they feel "like gravel in the mouth".  A thankful life is the grand idea of the book.  But tucked away in it's pages is a lesser theme, and it is the one that strikes hard today.  It's an idea that I know I must grab hold of if I hope to ever fully live.  I must grab hold of this if I should live a life of gratitude.  It is the rarely grasped by Americans truth that "life is not an emergency."  But oh how I live as if it is.  Hurry up and finish breakfast so we can start on school.  Hurry up and finish school so we can feel as if we've accomplished our task.  Hurry up with dinner so we can clean up and have the mess behind us.  Hurry up and brush your teeth so you can get in bed. Hurry to church.  Hurry to ball practice.  Hurry from here to there and get it all done so I don't disappoint anyone.  So I can feel a sense of accomplishment and worth.  As if life is an emergency. 

Evelyn Underhill said, "On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgement and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur." 

Yep, that's me.  A sure amateur. 

So this is today's fervent prayer:

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered - how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.  We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.  We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.  Rescue me from my rebellion."  Psalm 39

Because isn't that what all of this rushing about amounts to?  Rebellion?  When I'm rushing about to accomplish much and appear worthy, is my only hope truly in HIM?  And how disheartening to think that all my busy rushing might end in nothing as the psalmist says!  But isn't it possible? Couldn't it end in nothing?  Because the only thing that is anything is God's glory.  And how often is He glorified in my rush and hurry?  My kids could testify that it's not often. 

Life is not an emergency.  But what does this newly discovered truth change?  Because there are still dishes to be done and food to be bought and meals to be prepared and laundry to be washed and lessons to be taught.  There are places to be and friends to help and appointments to keep and houses to build and books to read.  There are bills to pay and pictures to take and babies in Africa that need mommies and fatherless children all around me.  This is reality.  And many of these things are truly urgent.  Sure the dishes can wait.  But not those babies in Africa and these fatherless children in my backyard.  And I want to be sure that in my prayerful attempt to not treat life as an emergency I do not lose my sense of urgency for the things that are the heart of God.  But surely this truth, this desire to be rescued from my rebellion and put my hope in the Lord, surely it changes something.  I can only hope it changes my thoughts, my facial expressions, my words, and my voice.  If life is not an emergency, I want to stop communicating to the world that it is with my life.  I want to slow down and have a long conversation with a friend.  I want to slow down and hold my babies before they aren't babies anymore.  I want to slow down and listen to my oldest before he just chooses to stop talking.  I want to slow down and hug my husband rather than passing him in the hall on my way to the next task.  I want to slow down and see the things that God has given me eyes to see, but I've been in too big of a hurry to look at.  That's all.  I just want to slow down and live. 

There are situations all over the world that are rightfully declared emergencies.  I pray for God to "break my heart for what breaks His." But this life He's given me, this day he's given's not an emergency.  Today is not an emergency.  And I don't want to do life like an amateur for one more day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mighty to Save!

These are pictures of our precious friends, Greg and Tesney, holding their little boy when they met him for the first time in his orphanage.  His name is Kirill.  He's 4 years old.  These pictures were taken many months ago.  Too many months ago considering Greg and Tesney have not been given permission to travel back to his country and bring him home.  The judge that is responsible for hearing and approving Kirill's case just can't understand why Greg and Tesney would CHOOSE to adopt a child with Down Syndrome.  In his country, these children are placed in orphanages which are built out in the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose of keeping them out of people's sight.  This makes the judge very suspicious of our friend's motives.  If only she could grasp that they have but one motive - a deep desire and call to love and be Christ to this precious little boy.  They are passionate about these children.  They are especially passionate about this one.  And they just want to bring him home.    

Tuesday night while we are sleeping in our cozy beds, this judge will be deciding whether or not to trust that Greg and Tesney have Kirill's best interest at heart.  She will be deciding whether or not he will  grow up in a loving family or spend the rest of his days in an institution.  And what she decides will have a long reaching impact on other families who are committed to rescuing these children.   

I've watched my sweet friend weep so many times because her arms ache to hold her little boy.  They have walked through fire and jumped through hoops - anything to bring him home.  

I know this one thing - The judge who has made this process so very difficult for my friends is no match for the God I serve.  In fact, He created her.  He loves her.  And my prayer is that He will open the eyes of her heart.  The heart that He allows to keep beating.  I am praying that she will see clearly for the first time that my friends are overflowing with the love of Christ and that is the ONLY reason that they are ready to jump on a plane at a moments notice and welcome this precious one into their family.  

Kirill is need of rescue.  Seriously.  Desperately.  And our God is mighty to save.  Will you PLEASE pray and fast for our friends over the next few days, especially Tuesday.  
Thank you!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"You'll Be Alright"

We just returned from our yearly trip to Panama City where Duane helps to organize Gulf Coast Getaway, a weekend for college students to come together, worship, learn, and give.  It was a great weekend, but as always, a bit hectic - especially with 3 kids.  We left on Wednesday morning so that Duane could arrive early and prepare for the students to arrive on Friday night.  Without reliving each painful memory, let me just say that by Friday at lunch I very seriously considered packing my kids up and bringing them home.  They were just being awful.  AWFUL.  All of them.  And I decided we could do awful at home, as we often do.  No need to be at the beach!  I was going for shock effect.  But, Duane talked me down and reminded me that that our babysitters, 2 sweet girls from our youth group, would be arriving in just a few hours!

Backing up just a bit...
God has been doing some serious work on my mom heart lately.  Over the past month or so, He has really been delivering me from much of the guilt and feelings of inadequacy I tend to heap on myself as a mom.  He has given me peace in moments that would have previously brought me to tears.  He has given me grace in moments that would have previously ended in shouting.  He has given me joy in situations that would have previously left me with feelings of despair.  And I am so thankful!

I tell you all of this so that you can understand the significance of the story I want to share.  On our way home yesterday, the kids were once again being, well.....awful.  At one point, Micah was being particularly cantankerous and chose to speak to Duane in a very disrespectful way.  I was driving at the time and I had just heard enough!  So, I quietly pulled the car over to a shopping center we happened to be passing.  I pulled into the parking lot and told Micah to get out of the car. I ended up having to personally remove him from the car.  I held his hand and led him to a grassy area surrounding the parking lot and told him to sit down.  I explained to him that the car he was riding around in was not his car.  I gently reminded him that it was my car, purchased with money that daddy worked hard for, and it's purpose was that it was to be used in a way that honored God.  I explained that he would not speak to his daddy like that in my car.  I reminded him that it did not honor God and it did not honor his daddy.  I reminded him that riding in my car was a privilege he need not take lightly.  And then I walked back to the car so that he could be alone and "think about it."  Two seconds after I shut my car door, an older lady pulled up beside our car and rolled down her window.  I was thinking, "This can't look good."  I got out and she said, "Is he o.k.?"  I replied with a calm smile, "Yes ma'am, he just needed some time alone to think about how he should use his mouth in our car."  I really don't think I appeared to be rattled.  She was so sweet and we had a very brief conversation about how she understood and that she was a grandmother and how I was doing the right thing.  All of that was very encouraging coming from a stranger.  But then, as she was already pulling away, she turned her head back and looked straight into my eyes and quietly said, "You'll be alright."  And it stunned me for a second.  And I can't help but feel that God used her to speak those 3 simple words into my life at that moment.  He's been getting the message to me in many different ways over the last few weeks and I've been trying to communicate to others what He's been doing in my heart, but I can never seem to find the right words.  In is goodness, I really feel like he wanted me to hear it spoken, simply.  Because, I will fail.  Often.  And I will fight selfishness and frustration and impatience.  And being a mom is stinkin' hard.  It just is.  But.... I'll be alright.  He surrounds me on all sides and His strength is made perfect in my weakness... so I'll be alright.

The Dump

Spoiler Alert - 
This video will, or should, spoil the pleasure that we take in living our lives surrounded by extreme comfort and excess.  I know, you can't wait to watch it, right?!  
Yes, it is a long video.  
Slightly longer than "The Office".  
Can you give these people 38 minutes of your time today?

(be sure to scroll down and turn the music off at the bottom of the page)

Duane and I were able to spend some time with Marc, one of the gentlemen interviewed on the video, this weekend.  He lives in Honduras and is doing all he can to be Christ to the people in the dump. What you've seen here is reality for too many people - many of them small children.  If anyone feels compelled to help in any way, we would be happy to put you in touch with Marc.  Please pray for the work that they are doing to restore dignity to these children of God. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Radiant Bride

I'm not generally a nostalgic person.  This is most likely because I have a horrible memory.  I'm not the type to memorize lines from old movies.  And if you ask me what year some big event in the world  happened.... well, just don't bother.  I don't typically save things because I know I won't remember why I saved them.  I even have a hard time keeping my own children's birthdays straight.  But January 12, 2008 is a day that I'm confident I will never, ever forget.  It is seared on my mind and heart.  On that day my dear friend, Evette, left this broken world to go dance with Jesus.  I will never, ever forget the exact spot where I was standing, by the window in my bedroom, when I heard the news.  I will never, ever forget the feeling of a crushing weight I was sure I could not bear being dropped on my heart.  In that moment breathing was hard work, standing was impossible, and understanding was out of the question.  She was 33 - my current age.  She was beautiful and full of love and she was more than my friend. She was my big sister.  She was my cheerleader.  She was my dirt bike driver and my macaroni maker.  She was quirky and complicated and funny and passionate.  But most of all, she loved.  And to this day, she challenges me to do the same. 

I love this photo of her!  I just love thinking that this is the way she appeared before Christ on the day he called her to be with him - his radiant bride!

I love thinking about the way he looked at her, and her at him.  That expectant look of a groom waiting to see his bride.  Is there anything like it? a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. - Isaiah 62:5

And I wonder if she could send me one message from heaven, would it be just that?  Would she remind me that even in my life, I too am the bride of Christ?  Would she whisper to me, "Jenny, your God rejoices over you!  Just remember that!  When you look in the mirror and don't like what you see...remember who is rejoicing over you!  And when the feelings of inadequacy as a mother and wife start creeping in....remember He is rejoicing over you!  When fear and guilt rear their ugly heads...remember!  Never, ever forget that our Father is rejoicing over you!"  If she could say just one thing? 

I can't help but feel her answering, "Yes!" 

Any day now we will receive a phone call and a photo of a precious baby girl in Ethiopia. Finally we will be able to put a face to the now commonly uttered name, Selah Evette.  We have prayed for her and sacrificed for her and waited for her and named her.  Named her after someone we will never, ever forget.  I can't wait to tell her about my friend.  About the way she loved.  I can't wait to tell her that her God rejoices over her!  That she and I.... we are his Radiant Brides!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Childbirth in Ethiopia

Check out this story the Today Show did on childbirth in Ethiopia.  
It's quite likely our little girl will enter the world under these circumstances.
Today I am thankful for and praying for her birth mother.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Girl Power from Caddie Woodlawn

Noah and I recently finished reading Caddie Woodlawn together.  
I just loved this excerpt and wanted to share it!

Caddie's father is speaking to her about becoming a woman:

"It's a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than of boys.  It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie who keep the world sweet and beautiful.  What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way!  A woman's task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness.  It's a big talk, too, Caddie - harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers.  It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things.  They have them just as much as men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness.  A woman's work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man's.  But no man could ever do it so well.  I don't want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady.  No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl.  I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.  Do you think you would like to be growing up into that woman now?"