Ear Plugs

“But he said, ‘It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.’” Exodus 32:18 ESV

June 2nd. Regardless of the Summer Solstice stating the arrival of summer June 20th, it is summer at Thorntonville. My kids are out of school, there are random sleep cycles going with varying work and friend schedules, lawn mower sounds are happening in the distance (need to be happening at my house) and the evenings are filled with stories from the events of the day. The days’ activities create a variety of sound. More noise going in and out of the house than average , but totally normal for summer.

I spend most of the year in a whole lot of silence. I do silence really well. If my husband hadn’t been so temptingly attractive and if I had been Catholic, I could have totally have rocked the nun life.

When summer’s extra sounds hit, I get a little anxious. Ok. It’s more of a problem than I am admitting. My whole life noises have caused me to become nervous. Growing up, I felt like a freak because attending loud events shut me down. Concerts, parties, any large gathering, even worship services at church could send my nerves over the edge. The situation really became noticeable during the awkwardness of middle school when I was ill equipped to handle much of anything different than my peers, let alone get stressed over sound. Over the years I learned avoidance for my way of coping with noise. That, however, didn’t make for an interesting life, especially when I love adventure. During therapy a few years ago, my doctor noticed my problem. I shared with her that during noisy moments I struggle desperately to focus and how often sound made life frustrating. She smiled sympathetically looking back at me and asked, “Do you carry ear plugs?” Life changing moment. I laughed realizing the idea had never even occurred to me. Here I am at 46. I still struggle with sound, but it doesn’t stop me like it once did. My car, purse, every bag I carry, coat pockets and even bed side table all have ear plugs stored and waiting for use.

My son, a music major loves making sound. My husband and I often joke at God’s sense of humor with me. A person who responds so negatively to noise birthing a sound machine. I have missed so much hearing his music during this past school year. This summer we are playing catch up; he’s practicing piano, guitar, playing vinyl, recording his music in his bedroom and singing as he moves through the halls. He also has a friend staying with us who has his own music going from the guest room. Double blasted from each side of the house. Add in my girl concocting treats in the kitchen with the beater and my husband’s tunes in the evening. There is quite a bit of noise happening at Thorntonville.

Thankfully with all this life going on there are also a lot of ear plugs.

Life at Thorntonville School Year Review

“I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, ‘so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other.’ I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I the Lord, am the one who does these things.” Isaiah 45:5-7

What a school year! I’m taking a moment to just reflect on the time from August to September. To enjoy some of the most impacting moments from Thorntonville.

Back up. It really all started in June.

In June my husband began a new job. He had been on the same banking team for twenty years when he left for a new team and opportunity. Over this year I have been inspired by his ability to adapt to change. I have also witnessed him slowly win over a team, learning even more about leadership. He’s had some ideas shot down and had to recover with his team watching; he’s implemented concepts that were new, encouraged team mates and worked hard to facilitate a team working environment. He hasn’t done all this alone. Many prayers were answered when God blessed my husband with an incredible mentor who met with him challenging him to keep God first and helped strengthen his leadership skills.

In August we dropped our son off for his first year of college. Two sets of parents between him and his roommate (and a younger sister), we all worked to create a space for two boys in a small dorm room. It ended with the parents leaving and letting the boys arrange the room on their own. I left the college that evening filled with so many emotions. Excitement, fear, anticipation, sorrow in knowing I was going to miss him like crazy. And I did. Then over the year came the joys of victory as he met challenge after challenge. Two weeks ago I went to help him move home. Not the boy he was when he left, but a man. Still room for growth, but tremendous growth revealed. Amazing!

In August my baby started high school. She marched in on the first day confident, but  nervous.  She has had to fight for some of her dreams, learn to let go of some things that didn’t really matter, and discern the difference. She has had to choose between passions because there wasn’t enough time to do it all, find courage to talk to teachers about grades she didn’t care for, pick herself up when she stumbled and plant a smile on her face when she felt like crying. We’ve discovered high school prepares for life in ways that are unexpected. She was our princess. Now she is our warrior princess. In another week, she will have completed her sophomore year.  She’s a fighter- a compassionate one. We learned all that since August. Well… some of it we already knew.

In September, I started back teaching Bible studies.  Having been out of the saddle for a few years I was really nervous.  It took months for me to get my groove on.  It took even longer for the reality of how much I loved it to set in.  One of my classes was a group of women who were so patient with me.  We all grew in God’s word together.  The second class I co-taught with my daughter.  First graders.  We were all a mess.  But in the end we learned so much and loved each one of those kiddos.  God had to get me over myself in both classes.  I was constantly tripping on my own insecurity.  In the end, I walked away stronger, wiser, and ready to implement the things I had learned.

In October my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I wept. I was frightened for him. Afraid of loosing him. In January I went to visit him and went with him to one of his radiation treatments. My relationship with him will be forever changed. He was brave. He was strong in ways I had never imagined. He was kind to those he came into contact with despite the discomfort of the disease. He shared more information than I ever wanted to hear, but he shared more than information. He shared himself through his vulnerability. It was beautiful. He was beautiful. When he finished treatment and was declared in remission he rung the bell at the clinic. I cried tears of joy and celebrated  a fight well fought, a battle won.

In March our family went to hear my son’s band perform. It was so much fun to hear him. I was caught off guard by the response of the crowd though. I’m his mom, so of course I think he’s good, but when the crowd did too.  Wow! That was pretty cool! Although his major is music, his band is totally outside of campus studies so I had been apprehensive for the time he spent on it.  However, leaving the performance, I gave thanks. God helped me see a different side of my son.

In March (or maybe it was April – kind of blur) my daughter began dating. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of momma nerves that moved in. I was so excited for her because she was excited. We knew she had liked this guy for quite a while. I was fine during all the crush time, because I crushed big time on a guy from my high school. Crushes are from a distance. Nice and safe. Then they went from texting to talking on the phone and next thing we knew she was headed out the door with this really great guy to a movie (and then canoeing and then a walk in the park…) A few weeks later he asked my girl to his prom. They were precious. I didn’t have a date for prom, so… I was really (ok way over the top) excited for her. Even more excited when he had her home by 11:30 because he was leading the praise band the next morning at his dad’s church. Told you he was a great guy!

Thorntonville has been through quite a bit of transition this past school year. There have been definite changes in our lives. We are growing up! (sniffle, sniffle) We are learning from our trials and moving forward.

But now….

Bring on the summer vacation!!!

Align

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13

Sitting in a conference a couple of years ago I heard a speaker say, “We need to align our will to be with God’s will.”

“Align,” I thought to myself.  “What exactly does that mean?”

So… I looked it up.

Align: “to arrange things so that they form a line or are in proper position” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary App)

My life was not “in proper position” with God’s will. In fact, I realized, I had spent a lot of time trying to get God’s will  “in proper position” with my will. I needed an adjustment. A realignment.

It began with a prayer…

“Holy Lord, Align us [my family] with your will. Our work, our home, our lives. Tear down the things that hinder us or block us from the life you long for us to travel and live. Eliminate pride, unforgiveness, fear and other strongholds. Give us confidence when we doubt, vision when the road is unclear and help for when we feel torn – even between good choices. Align us with you. Amen.”

…  which was followed by studying scripture specifically targeting the areas in my life that were out of line: Pride, unforgiveness, fear…

I’m still working on aligning my will to God’s will. However, the progress forward has changed my life. When I am prideful God provides humility. When I am angry God provides forgiveness (so I can extend it before exploding.)  When I am fearful God provides courage and bravery to trust Him more. When my strongholds rear their ugly heads God shows me how to break their gripping chains and cry the victory shout of, “No more!”

Alignment with God’s will brings freedom.

Freedom brings joy.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

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.