Monday, December 24, 2012

Lessons from a Little Drummer Boy

I am in love with Christmas music.  I turn it on immediately after Thanksgiving and rarely listen to anything else for those weeks leading up to Christmas.  I love the way that it sounds and the way that it puts me in the mood for the Christmas season.  Most of the traditional Christmas carols I know by heart and can confidently sing them loudly without fear of screwing up.  But have you ever really listened to the words?  Or are you like me and just sing the songs because you always have and you know the tune better than the actual words?  Well, this morning, I got a lesson from a little drummer boy.
Lately I have been feeling stagnant in my quest to be a Godly, impactful woman.  I feel like I am living in a sea of complacency, surrounded by things that are comfortable and known.  I’ll be honest – I like the known and I like being comfortable.  But that’s not what God calls me to be.  And this is something that has been very heavy on my heart lately.  I have felt inadequate in my efforts to imitate Christ – to love people, forgive people, serve people, and go outside of my comfort zone.  I feel like I’ve been selfish and only talking to God about me, me, me and my own personal journey.  I have been forgetting my call to get out in the world and be with other people; to show them the love of Christ. 
I have had some big things happen in my life lately, and it has been very easy to get consumed in them.  And they’re wonderful, and happy, and reasons to celebrate.  But that doesn’t excuse me from living my life for God, does it?  It doesn’t excuse me from seeking Him, offering my life up to Him to serve others, or losing my idea of life just to find true life through Him.  It doesn’t mean that I drop off the spiritual radar and get lost in the sea of complacency.  I hate complacency.  I hate it in any facet of my life.  I never want to settle in for a life that is unchanging and routine.  I want to get out of the sea of complacency and into uncharted waters. 
In my quiet time this morning, I asked God to show me how to quit standing still and get moving for Him.  And by get moving, I don’t mean writing a check to my church.  I mean giving a piece of me up for His use.  Or all of me, actually.  I’m not very good at that.  And I trust that He will answer that prayer, because He is so faithful.  I also asked Him to encourage me; to let me know that I am not completely screwing up this thing called life.  Because I only live this life on earth once and I want it to stand for something; something that honors, glorifies, and reflects the image of Christ.
So after my quiet time, I was listening to Christmas music and piddling around the house.  And something made me listen – really listen – to the words of the Little Drummer Boy.  I don’t think that I’ve ever really heard them before.  Sure I’ve sung them many times, but I’ve never truly listened to them and paid attention to what they meant.  And I’m sure on another day the lyrics would mean something totally different, but today, a day that I spent time with Jesus and prayed that He would help me find my way out of the sea of complacency and put me where He wanted me instead of where I wanted me – well, I got a lesson from a little drummer boy.  (lyrics may not be perfect, but you get the point…)
Come, they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our newborn King to see
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King
Pa rum pum pum pum

Little Baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too

Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring

Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a King

Pa rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for You?
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum, on my drum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
Mary looked at me and nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him

Pa rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me

Pa rum pum pum pum
After really hearing those lyrics, I was encouraged.  I was reminded that my offerings to the Lord don’t have to be the most significant or material.  The little drummer boy had nothing to give the King.  All he was able to do was play his drum, but he gave the best that he had, and our King smiled.  With his drum, he honored our Lord. 
I was reminded that I have to give my best to Jesus, whatever that may look like.  It may not be a lot, but it needs to be my best and come from the heart.  Not an attempt to impress others or feel satisfaction, but an attempt to throw away my life and gain the one that He has prepared for me.  And He also showed me that there are times when He is working in me, and I don’t need to feel guilty about that.  He has prepared for us different seasons in life, and some of those seasons are meant for me to focus on my personal journey with Him, and that’s okay.  As long as I seek Him and trust Him, the season will eventually change and He will throw me out into the world, armed with the good news of the Gospel and the courage to live the life that He has called me to live. 
My pastor has been talking a lot about courage lately.  I loved an example that he gave recently about courage that said:  “A ship in a harbor is safe.  But that’s not what ships were made for.”  I do believe that sometimes God has us in the harbor for repairs and maintenance.  But we can’t stay there forever.  We must go out into this world; into the uncharted waters.  We must remember the lessons of a little drummer boy.  As long as we are giving our best to the King, He will smile at us.  Today, on the eve of our Savior’s birth, I encourage you to listen to the lyrics instead of the song.  And maybe you’ll get your own lesson.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Worth the Wait

First of all, apologies for the long break that I have taken from blogging. I had no intentions to do so, it just happened. Perhaps I was not moved, perhaps I was distracted by other things, or perhaps I was just not feeling particularly creative. But going along with the title of this blog post, maybe it was worth the wait!

Since March (and my last blog post), I have returned from my second trip to Ethiopia, continued to travel across the country and the world for work, fallen ridiculously in love, started my Invisalign treatment, developed an intense liking of brussel sprouts, beets, and anything with truffle oil, and gained and lost 5 lbs, several times :-) Eating, traveling, and loving – that pretty much sums up my year! I really can’t complain. I am blessed!

I don’t know if it’s the Christmas season, or just my particular state of mind at the moment, but I have been realizing lately how much I have benefitted from waiting. Not only on big things, but small things too. I think that God has used this past year to really show me the art of trusting, being patient, and appreciating things that take a long time. For example, a slow-cooked meal in the crockpot? Worth the wait. Not only do you get the benefit of a deliciously smelling house, but whatever you put in there is almost guaranteed to be tender and delicious. All of the ingredients have had hours to become friends and that is worth the wait.

Or what about opening gifts on Christmas morning? My family has always opened gifts on Christmas morning with the exception of one on Christmas Eve night. I remember being a little girl and begging my parents to let me open *just one gift* on Christmas Eve night. The suspense was just too much for me to handle and I so badly needed to get my greedy little hands on something and tear open the wrapping paper. They indulged me, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to appreciate the fact that I was only allowed to open one. Christmas morning just wouldn’t have been the same without the anticipation of discovering what was laying beneath the tree. Worth the wait.

I spend a lot of time in airports and on airplanes. Because of this, I have learned that there is a flight schedule for a reason. There are only so many gates, so many ramp personnel, so many crew members, and so much airspace. I have waited a lot. Waited in a security line, on a tarmac, in a club lounge, at a boarding gate, and for a mechanical issue to be resolved. And through all of this, I always try to remember that my safety is the first priority for the airport and the airlines. Not my comfort, my safety. That extra-long wait on the tarmac while I’m safely buckled into my seat? Maybe the winds are too high or there is another plane that is unexpectedly on the runway. The waiting at the boarding gate when a flight is delayed due to a mechanical issue? I would much rather not get on a defective plane. Please, take your time to resolve whatever mechanical issue there is and then let’s go. Or what about that extra-long security line that threatens to make me late for my flight? To me it’s worth the wait if it means that I can board an airplane with the confidence that I will be as safe as another human being can make me. So as frustrating as waiting in an airport or on an airplane can be, knowing that my safety is at stake here, it’s definitely worth the wait.

What about a relationship? So many times in my life I have questioned my position in life. Or rather, I have questioned where I am compared with where I thought I would be and where the world tells me I should be. It’s easy to do, isn’t it? And it’s also very easy to compare myself to other people who are of a similar age, education, and background. Thankfully, I am not governed by the world; I am governed by my Savior. And my status and worth do not come from comparing myself to others; they come from Jesus.

In June, I met the love of my life. Actually what happened is that God plopped him right in front of me out of nowhere. I am 35 years old. Was he worth the wait? Oh yes he was! You see, as much as I have wanted to be in a relationship these past few years, God knew that I wasn’t ready. I didn’t realize it, but He did. Which is why every other relationship that I have been in has not worked. And why a lot of doubt and frustration has ripped through me more times than I would like to admit. Was all of that doubt and frustration worth it? Absolutely it was. God was working in some big ways – teaching me, molding me, softening me, preparing me, encouraging me. All for Him and him :-) God has gifted me with the man who is most perfect for me; the man whom He hand-crafted to one day be my husband. And that, my friends, is most definitely worth the wait.

I truly believe that waiting helps us appreciate things more. If we were to always get what we want when we want it, we would never feel the butterflies and the joy that we so often experience when our waiting pays off. I believe we would never learn the value of life’s most precious lessons and rewards. Besides, what we want is not always what we need. And what we need is ALWAYS worth the wait.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tiny Hands and Feet

11 – the number of days before I, and our team of five, leave Houston for my next Ethiopian adventure.
8,366 – the number of miles between Houston and Addis Ababa.
48 – the number of pairs of tiny hands and feet that will be climbing all over me and embracing me upon my return to CFI, the same organization in Addis Ababa with whom I served at this time last year.
2 – the number of meals that most of the children at CFI eat each day, and that’s because they are provided by CFI.
1 – the number of Gods there are in this world that make all of this possible.
Not that I’m counting or anything J
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to go back to Ethiopia.  If you read my blog posts from last year after my first trip, you know that I fell in love with the country and the people who live there.  I had no idea how I would be impacted, but God took care of that and worked wonders in me.  In this Type A, organized, planner of a woman, God planted a seed of compassion and human connection.  And that seed has just kept growing and growing.  And that’s why, instead of following through with my original plan to head to Tanzania and hike Mt. Kilimanjaro this spring, I am going back to Ethiopia to serve God’s precious people over there.  The mountain isn’t going anywhere, but I know that God wants me back in Ethiopia right now.
What am I particularly excited about?
·         Introducing two new people to Ethiopia – two of our team members have never been before.  The third was with me on my trip last March, and the fourth is an adoptive mother who picked up her darling son in March last year, which is how I met her.  I want so badly for people to experience what I did, to feel emotions as deeply as I did, and to have tiny hands and feet all over them, bringing a huge smile to their face.  I know that the experience is not the same for everyone, but it would be hard to feel nothing.  God wouldn’t allow that!
·         Visiting with Kalkidan and her family – if you remember from my last trip, there was a little girl, Kalkidan, whose mother was very sick with schizophrenia and disappeared from the family’s home while we were over there.  My exact description of Kalkidan’s transformation during this time was “we have watched sweet, joyful eyes turn to eyes of deep hurt”.  Imagine being five and having to deal with that.  Since then, Kalkidan’s mother has returned and has been on medication for her illness, which has enabled the family to get back on its feet.  Reports from CFI are that everyone is doing great and the family wants to come visit while I’m over there!  I cannot wait to catch up with them and see how God has been healing their family.  I’m BEYOND excited to see Kalkidan and her sister Helen, and tell them how much they are loved. 
·         New doors being opened – I don’t know what God has in store for me on this upcoming trip, but I am willing and open to accept whatever challenges, emotions, convictions or blessings He sends my way.
We will be traveling from March 18th until April 1st.  We will spend time not only at CFI, but at several other organizations as well.  We need to spread the love, and the donation items!  And no doubt we will make time for a trip to the Ethiopian Cultural Restaurant for an authentic meal and cultural dancing performance, a birthday celebration of some sort will be had for one of our team members, and since I did NOT give up caffeine this year for lent, I will be indulging in plenty of Ethiopian coffee since I missed out on it last year.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this trip and/or last year’s trip, through donations and prayers.  I’m so grateful to have so many wonderful and interested people to be able to share this with!  And if anyone is interested in learning more about Ethiopia, the organizations with which we work over there, or my personal journey and experiences, let me know and I would be happy to share that information with you.  In the meantime, I will soon be loving on lots of tiny hands and feet and doing my best to show them, and each Ethiopian with whom I come across, the love of our Jesus.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

God and Orthodontics

One of my themes for 2012 is patience.  Trust me, I did not pick it.  At this point in my life, patience is hard to come by.  The funny thing is, God knew this.  He gave me this theme anyway, and then set me out on my journey. 
What do God and orthodontics have in common, you might ask?  Patience.  And why I am blogging about orthodontics?  Well, at the ripe old age of thirty something, having had braces for 2 ½ years in my younger days, I have decided to straighten up my pearly whites yet again.  Not with braces, but with Invisalign.  I recently went to the orthodontist to have my consultation, find out how it was going to work, what all was involved in the process, how long it would take, and how much it was going to cost (OUCH!).  And I'm off on my orthodontic journey!
For those of you who know me well, you know that once I make up my mind about something, I pretty much want it now.  If I decide that I want to go on a trip, chances are that I will book it that day or soon thereafter.  If I decide that I need to go on a diet, it starts right that minute, guns-a-blazing.  If I make up my mind to buy something, it happens pretty darn quickly.  And if I decide that I want to get my teeth straight, well, I make an appointment and want them fixed right now.  Not in two years (GASP!), but RIGHT NOW.  However, orthodontics doesn’t work that way.  The structure of my mouth has to change slowly over time with the help of the orthodontist, several contraptions, and usually some pain and discomfort.  But in the end, I know that my teeth will be more beautiful then ever and will walk around smiling all the time. 
So I don't think it’s a coincidence at all that God is trying to teach me patience at the same time that I am entering a long process to straighten my teeth.  His timing is impeccable.  There are things that are out of my control, which is another hard lesson for me. 
An orthodontist is a specialist who is trained in a very specific field with years of education and experience to back him up.  He knows what he’s doing, and I don’t have the ability to fix my teeth on my own.  I must rely on his expertise.  With an orthodontist, I have a formal plan that I must stick to for the desired results.  I have to go back for regular appointments, take care of my mouth, and listen to my orders.  If I don’t, then the plan doesn’t work and I end up in the same situation that I started in. 
The likeness between God and orthodontics was just too obvious and convicting for me to ignore.  I’m not saying that there aren’t differences (because clearly they are), but for my theme of patience for 2012, the similarities are astounding. 
God is more than just a specialist in one field; He’s a specialist in ALL fields.  Every single area of my life.  And He also has a plan for my life.  One that I am supposed to consult Him on and be diligent in following.  I’m also supposed to check in with Him for regular appointments.  His plan is laid out in the Bible, and those regular appointments?  That’s supposed to be my prayer life. 
So all of these thoughts have put me in a little bit of a tizzy.   I’m screwing up the plan….I’m not making any progress….I take one step forward and two steps back.  In other words, if I’m not actively striving to follow God’s instructions for my life, then I’m going nowhere.  I’m stagnant and sitting in the same position moment after moment, day after day, year after year.   If I don’t wear my Invisalign trays, my orthodontist’s plan won’t work.  If I’m not actively pursuing what God is telling me to do, I’m not getting any closer to His truth.
I think the key factor for me is truly having God’s plan as my desired result.  With my teeth, it's a clear and strong desire to have straight teeth, so it's pretty easy for me to stick to the plan.  If I desire things of this world, or my own plans and ambitions, then I won’t work hard to achieve God’s plan.  If I think that I have the best plan and know how I think I can achieve it, then I won’t be checking in for my regular appointments with God. 
So this is my point of realization where I need to change my desire before I set the course.  And I’ll have to admit that I don’t think that my heart is all in at the moment.  I always think that I want God’s plan for me, but then I get impatient and try to move things along on my own.  And hence, I end up in the little tizzy that I’m in right now.
I hope this is making some sort of sense.  I feel like I’m just throwing up all over this blog.  But it really does scare me!  I get so easily distracted in my life.  At least with orthodontics, I can see my progress.  I know that I’m getting closer and closer to my desired goal.  God doesn’t always show me my progress in life, or at least in ways that I recognize or prefer.  More than anything, I think ultimately what God wants is for me to truly, wholeheartedly, desire Him and His plan.  To be all in and to have an unwaivering faith in Him.  To trust Him.   He does, after all, exist so that I can glorify Him.  He’s here.  He’s present.  And He’s waiting for my heart to desire Him.