I Don’t Know

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ worlds from John 15:4-5 ESV

Her eyes were stern as she looked at me across the dinner table. “I wash clothes by hand,” she said in a slow and determined to be understood tone. I could see so much more meaning behind her words than just laundry.

Our house guest visiting from Uganda, a beautiful young pastor’s wife, was expressing through practical housework the unfairness she saw between her life and mine. She knew she lived a more cumbersome and difficult life than what I live. She wanted me to know she worked hard. She saw Americans with their shopping malls and washing machines, water for long showers and well fed pets in the back yard. She saw the abundance of grocery stores and restaurants everywhere. My world looked easy, cushy, soft, and lazy to her. The reality of unequal lives had hit her.

I got what she was expressing and all I could do to respond was say, “I know you do.”

I know you wash your clothes by hand. I know you sweep your floors constantly to clear the red dirt. I know you want a closet filled with nice clothes and a variety of shoes. I know you want food that is easy to prepare, even already prepared, water that pours already hot from a faucet, and pretty dishes. I know you want to be able to make appointments with doctors and not have to wait days, to be reassured that medicines will be available should you need them, and that your children will attend good schools and have even the possibility to attend college.

I know you work hard – very hard. I know you do your best. I know the world doesn’t look fair, because life isn’t equal. The thing is – even though I know it is unfair and unequal, I don’t know what it is like… and I don’t know what to do about it.

It is so easy to struggle with inequality. It is so hard to see the reality of how unequal the world really is. My eyes don’t even want to open to it sometimes because it is painful. Somewhere lost in the comparison is the unfortunate realization that instead of justice being sought to try to help those who struggle each day, prejudices are born with excuses made for why I don’t have to. Like as a follower of Christ I somehow wasn’t called to it. I buy into that lie for comfort’s sake. And then to make it worse there is this lingering argument that even if it were possible for me to make everything fair for all people, prejudice and attitudes alone could block the love I’m trying to share.

How do I say, “I love you” even though I can’t fix your struggle? Why would you believe me when you know I don’t get the world you come from?

Is that even what God is asking me to do for you? “Fix” your struggle? Paul writes in Romans 12:10 to “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to share in the suffering. Scripture goes on and on with different calls to help others. It seems like I’m being asked to “fix” struggles.

Then there is this:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ worlds from John 15:4-5 ESV

Christ is my vine. Apart from him I can do nothing.  I am to tap into Him to bear my fruit. He “fixes”.

There were so many differences and perceptions between the young pastor’s wife and me as we looked at each other across that table. So many things we couldn’t fix or make equal.

Then with our husbands we took each other’s hands and asked for blessing over the food we were about to eat. We both prayed to the one we had in common – Jesus.

We were the same as we gave thanks for the blessings. We were the same as we talked about our children, sharing their talents and skills. We were the same as we laughed at funny stories, and as we fellowshipped together.

We both loved our families. We both were doing the best we could to love our husbands and raise our children. We valued encouragement. We valued God’s provision. We both desired to be valued and appreciated. We both hurt when we saw injustice. We both needed common ground from the vine, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

We were women from two different worlds, but we were sisters in Christ.

I don’t know how to make things equal or show my love for you, but Christ in me will show me the way.

“Let not you hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” – John 14:1

“Therefore encourage one another and build on another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good work.” Hebrews 10:24

 

 

Unpredictable

 “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence. He is like a tree planted along a riverbank, with its roots reaching deep into the water- a tree not bothered by the heat nor worried by long months of drought. Its leaves stay green, and it goes right on producing all its luscious fruit.” (TLB) -Jeremiah 17: 7-8

“This is messy,” I cried into my husband’s shoulder coming face to face with a trial I didn’t want and tried to ignore.  I knew it was going to be painful and bring “yuck” and “gross” off of Memory Lane and place it right in the center of my life’s Main Street. I didn’t have a chance to prepare for this bit of unpredictable and unforeseen mess.

Already exhausted from January and February that were over filled (with good stuff), I wasn’t prepared for what rolled in with March. With added responsibility and an emotionally provoking issue my world slammed to a halt with confusion and fear quickly staking their territory. Nothing like confusion and fear to muddy vision.

Clarity. I need clarity. Focus. Rest.

Dang! I just need to stop and breathe.

This is messy. Caring for others is messy. People are messy and unpredictable.

Life can be is messy, especially if it is in constant motion.

Thankfully it’s Spring Break.  Much of the motion has stopped.  Praise God.  We planned a fishing trip for later in the week. The unpredictability of March weather has struck though. Windy and rainy conditions are forecasted for the next few days. That may mean fishing is off the agenda, leaving three rest-filled days in a cabin along a river.

Deep breath.  Unpredictably delightful.

Life is messy and unpredictable. But sometimes…the unpredictable is welcomed.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” – Psalm 34:19

Wrestling

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in all the earth.” Psalms 46:10

I’ve been struggling lately with God. At war in the fight between service and rest. Wondering if I even make a difference at all. Trying to figure out what is the point to some of the things I do. Back and forth. Wrestling.

What is it that God wants of me? I’ve heard He just wants me, but how does that fit into planet earth life. I wonder if Abraham ever asked these questions as he gazed into the night time stars thinking of the promise God made him. In Peter and John’s struggles to understand Christ, did they ever ponder such things?

Is my belief just about church life or am I impacting beyond the safety of brick and mortar cross?  Is church a place, people or just a symbol?  I am supposed to go out into the world right?

My insecurities cast doubt on my effectiveness at loving my neighbors. Knock, knock at the door, I’m exhausted and don’t want to answer. Will I have the strength to say “yes” to what they ask? Or the courage to say “no”?

All along, Christ calls to me to sit at His feet and choose what is better.

“What is better, God?” I ask.

When Jacob wrestled with God in the night was he able to see past his own selfishness and see God’s bigger picture?

Does it matter where I serve as long as I serve?

Why do I even worry about it if believing is all that counts?

All along I hear a whisper asking me to stop. To rest in Him. To trust.  I want to curl up next to Him like I do my husband at night and have him tell me, it is all going to work itself out.

Faith. Believing it will work itself out.

“Breathe, Kysia. Just breathe. I know you long for more, but be still for this moment,” is what I get.

Faith. Believing it will work itself out.

Will I limp, like Jacob when this fight is done or have a thorn like Paul’s?

“Maybe, Kysia. Just rest.”

God, Is it ever enough? This work that I do?

“No. But… I am.”

My Birthday

“Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.” Philippians 2:18 NLT

my-birthday

This morning I woke to hearing my husband turn off the alarm then reset it for forty-five minutes later. As he climbed back into bed he kissed my cheek and said, “Happy Birthday, Beautiful,” before collapsing back onto his pillow.

Next thing I remember was the smell of cinnamon pecan pancakes and bacon. My daughter had heated the griddle and was preparing breakfast. Her hair in a bun, Ugandan beads around her neck, dressed in her simple black dress and sweater, she held a spatula as she faced the stove; she turned to look at me as I entered the kitchen. “Happy Birthday, Mom! Want some coffee?”

This morning I feel blessed.

Birthdays to me bring moments of reflection.  It’s been a great year, but I just want a moment to reflect on the last two weeks.

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion with our Ugandan friends in town from Jija to join in our church’s mission’s IMPACT Celebration. We’ve heard stories, shared stories, visited, and talked about future plans for their school. We’ve toured schools, discussed American programs and attended many church activities. The visit was a whirlwind of activity.

I fasted before their visit giving up sugar for forty days praying for God to heal me from social anxiety so I wouldn’t be nervous to host them in my home.  However, I was nervous. I stepped forward anyway taking a deep breath praying each morning God would deliver joy and peace.  He did.  It was a good visit and much was accomplished.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to them at the airport knowing they were going back to very difficult lives. Lives served daily helping the marginalized around the Jinja area. Teaching, feeding, serving, and loving. They work very hard to give the future generations of their country an opportunity for a better life.

This morning I feel blessed, but I also feel emotional.

I’ve faced a few realities in these two weeks.  Realities like: God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. God is challenging me to make a difference where I am. God is asking me to use my gifts for him. God is with me each step he is asking me to take.  Each step I need to take isn’t easy.

My social anxiety didn’t just vanish after my fast. I hoped it would. I was much calmer, though than I have ever been hosting. I felt the prayers from friends I had asked to pray for me. God definitely stretched me.  I made lots of mistakes as I served these last weeks, but I was able to let many go without worrying relentlessly. God taught me much through the process.

Yesterday morning I woke, ate breakfast with our friends, prayed for them; then my husband and I drove them to the airport. After an hour of luggage issues we said our goodbyes and watched them head through security. Later, my husband and I climbed in our car to head home discussing all that had happened over the last two weeks.

This morning as I woke to hearing my husband turn off the alarm, I thought about it being a new day – my birthday. I thought about the previous weeks filled with nerves and emotions, with challenges and victories, with attempts to help and failures. I knew this morning marked a new day, even a new year for me. I rejoiced for making it through the opportunities of the last.  As I reflect and move forward, I don’t want to forget this moment.  I want to remember my daughter making breakfast, the smell of pancakes and bacon.  I also don’t want to forget the struggles of my friends.  It is within the joys and trials I wrestle with God’s will for each moment.  This wrestle keeps me focused on my purpose to make a difference to others around me regardless of how small or how vast.

So… my birthday… a new year ahead.  My tummy is full with yummy pancakes and bacon, plus, my heart and mind are challenged.

An Evening with My Girl

“Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!”
Psalms 150:2

As we headed toward the Jennie Allen event at one of our local churches, my daughter and I were both worn down from the week we had just finished. Tired and a bit weary we parked and walked into the event I had been so eager to attend.

People were friendly. We found some seats, but missed the opportunity to sit with some of our good friends. The event was good, the music was fabulous and the gathering of 1200 women from our own community was incredible. We listened to the speakers, prayed for each other and those around us, plus, sang praise music.

When leaving we discussed the topics covered, how they related to us and how to implement them into our daily lives. Then came a moment of silence as we both reflected.

I asked my girl, what her favorite part of the evening was. Her answer surprised me. I had wanted to attend the event because the topic was so applicable to where I am at this point in my life. I also wanted to share a moment with my daughter. My girl had been a little unsure about what to expect, so when I asked her what her favorite part of the evening was I really expected her to say the speakers or how she loved listening to Ellie Holcomb (which she did!) However, her favorite part was when all 1200 women stood and sang, “How Great Thou Art.” She said, “Mom, I just thought about all the women in the room singing together and the words of the song. Then I thought about how happy that had to have made God.”

She teared up as she shared her thoughts with me. So did I. I knew in that moment she knew what true worship was. My momma heart swelled with thanksgiving to the God who created her. It was my biggest lesson of the evening and the most humbling. I attended the event focused on myself, while she went focused on God. I left still trying to figure things out. She left filled with the spirit.

“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Joy and Peace

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”- Romans 15:13

“The plans have changed.”

The message was clear. He didn’t even have to say anything. My husband looked at me during dinner the other night surprised himself by the circumstances.

This was just a temporary type of change, not a life one, but I think I would handle both similarly.

My first thought was literally, “How does this affect our household and what’s the new plan?”

I remember in 2012 when our mission’s director shared that to be a missionary you needed to be “FAT”. Meaning, you need to be flexible, adaptable and teachable. While I have worked and prayed through all three trying to apply them to everyday life, there are times my need for order trumps the whole “FAT” concept, by screaming, “I need to know how, when, and where! Now!”

Unfortunately for me, the how’s, when’s and where’s aren’t always there. Sometimes God asks us to step (or jump) as an act of faith.

“Deep breath,” I told myself. “Order,” I thought. First, ask God for Holy Spirit intervention. I am not alone in this. Second, call for spiritual reinforcements by asking for prayer from those who are faithful to pray.

Thankfully, one friend was already ready with, “Kysia, I’m praying for you to have joy and peace as you serve in this opportunity.”

Joy and peace, huh? Ok. That sounds good. But… what about a plan?

Third, take another deep breath, pray some joy and peace as I serve and… step forward. Might as well step forward.

Because….

The new plan has already started.

I still don’t know the plan. Tonight, though, my husband wrapped his arms around my waist and whispered in my ear, “Life is an adventure. Thanks for traveling it with me.”

“We aren’t bored,” I said back to him planting a well-earned kiss.

“No,” he said. “We aren’t bored.”

Gracious God,
We long to serve you in our home, in our neighborhood, work and around the world. Please, give us joy and peace as we serve; believing and trusting in your plan as we go. May we be encouragers and hope givers as we go. In Jesus name, Amen.

Opinions and Advice

“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 1Timothy 6:20 ESV

“Yum, Mom! This tastes just like strawberries with crème.” My daughter exclaimed at breakfast as she ate cut up strawberries with granola and honey yogurt.

I sipped my morning coffee thinking of a time in the past I actually felt guilty for fixing my kids’ breakfasts. I had friends that had bragged about their kids being ready for life because “they made their own lunch, breakfast, and did their own laundry.” I also read quite a few parenting blogs that confirmed the comments I had heard about not doing “too much” for your kids. Although, I do believe our children need to learn life skills and learn responsibility, (please, don’t misunderstand me), there are certain things, as a mom I just enjoy. Making breakfast and spending a little time with my family in the morning is one of the things I treasure. It’s not for everyone, but I enjoy it. Yet, for a season, I allowed myself to feel guilty because of statements made and random blog advice; thus, robbing my joy of something I find pleasure in.

I’ve had to do some soul searching. Why do I value other’s opinions so much? I’ve been writing other people’s words in my heart for far too long. Worrying needlessly that, “I’m wrong because I think differently.” That is a lie I’ve chosen to believe. One that needs truth to replace it. My need to follow others is standing in front of God, so it is time to eliminate that lie with the Sword of Truth, scripture.

There has been a lot of ‘joy robbing’ and “lie infusing” lately in our country as the fight  between political parties to pursue our hearts and beliefs for their allegiance wages on. I’ve been hesitant to say anything on what I believe for fear of being a target to opinion bashing. So this morning while having some Jesus time, I came across this verse “Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.” – 1 Timothy 6:20 NLT

Whether it is people’s advice or opinions, I want to make sure I am guarding what God entrusted to me by defeating the lies around me and checking the “truth” I’m believing against God’s words in the Bible. I also want to avoid contributing to the foolish bickering.   It isn’t worth it. If I want to get involved with my passions politically there are much more constructive ways to do it other than wordy fights with friends on Facebook or uncomfortable confrontations that aren’t’ going to be fruitful.

There are times I am going to truly have to take a stand. I want to make sure I pick my battles, staying rooted in scripture so I can be ready to fight the fight that is really worth fighting.  I also want to make sure I’m not just believing the words of others, even though I respect them. They may not be words of truth when lined up against God’s word.

“And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.” 1 Timothy 6:20 MSG