September 30, 2013

The View From Here and a Prayer

The view from here, my tiny little corner of a very small sphere, concerning things related to Christian outreach, especially foreign missions, is often clouded by the lack of information, misunderstandings, and fear.  In Mark 16:15-16, Jesus, talking to the disciples, said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned..." 

That's pretty clear.  It would seem that we are to go all over the world, to let others know the good news.  Now, I have to say that I haven't really had a heart for foreign missions, not because I don't think they are necessary or even that we shouldn't be involved in them, merely that, for one thing, the hurtle of missions is often monetary.  Often thousands of dollars are raised to send a missionary into a specific city or country, sometimes for a short period of 7-10 days of ministry.  Are souls reached?  Yes! Are lives changed?  Yes!  But how much good could those same dollars have been used for right here at home to reach an obviously lost and hurting society?  Couldn't the same principals used in cities or foreign countries be used to spread the gospel to our own streets?  Absolutely.

A few thoughts on why my personal heart doesn't necessarily lead toward foreign fields...

First, because I am a home body.  While I enjoy traveling, it's always good to get back home.  My roots are here.  The people I love are here and I crave the family circle.  But, God is my comfort.

Second, because there are Christians all over the globe at this point in history.  So to spend money to send and support a missionary or missionary family in a foreign land when someone there could evangelize seems to be money that could be spent on other ministry needs right here at home or at least in this country.  But God knows best and so He calls the right people for the job.

And third, many places that call out to missionaries are in societies that are not the same as ours...a bad thing?  No...some diversity is good.  But often that change in culture includes higher crime rates, frequent terrorist activity, prejudice toward religions other than their own, tumultuous dictatorships and/or extreme poverty which leads to crime for survival.  Can God cover His missionaries with protection?  Of course.  Does He always? Unfortunately, no.  But He knows the big plan and I don't.

And herein lies a big BUT..., for me.  The WHAT IF.....?,  the fear....I have a hard time with all the scenarios that appear in my mind.  And what it all boils down to is the fact that I struggle with my plan over His.  I want to keep my family together...and safe...I want to hold, care for and play with my grandbabies, to be a part of their life that is more than a picture or a cold, interactive "movie" that they can't hug or snuggle with...I want to help and continue being a mom to my kids that is a real, hands-on helpful part of their lives...I WANT these things!   Wow! That's a selfish statement.  But the reason is that I feel my life's mission has been to protect, disciple and raise godly children and break the mold out of the dysfunctional stuff that has been such a big deal for so long.

While I was growing up, my parents didn't get along more than about 20% of the time.  I think that's generous. Eventually my dad left us for a period of time during my early teen years and I'm not sure I was ever really able to forgive him for it.  My maternal grandfather had passed away long before I came along.  It's probably for the best since I've heard he was a mean, abusive drunk most of the time and my grandma, the sweetest woman I ever knew, died when I was ten.  At that point, I lost that entire side of my family with 18 aunts and uncles and tons of cousins...lost over a feud that goes on to this day...40+ years later. My paternal grandma died when I was 7, a grumpy woman who never really seemed to have much time for a timid little girl.  My grandpa, a big man who worked on and retired from the railroad, was a sweet old fellow who had a silly lopsided grin, loved to play his fiddle and sing at the same time, yet led a family who had nothing but contempt for my mother and her family.  Her bitterness and sense of ill treatment all her life filters into everything she has done for at least the past 50 years.

Growing up in the middle of all that, I repressed alot, tried to maintain the status quo and rise above the broken family toward what I hoped would be a better life.  Enter a husband with a little attitude...a manipulative, bitter  mom and what followed was 30 years of yet another separation that is still a battle daily.  I had to chose...husband or parents...and as I had taken a vow at my wedding, husband came first.  Which led to my children caught in the middle...a situation I had hoped to improve for them.  In order to keep them from being pulled apart, I stepped back and didn't see my folks for several years.    
After threats to take my kids away from me, even though the only situation I denied them was alone time, and various other arguments about unimportant things, the feeling that the other shoe could drop at any time was too much.  My weight had increased much too much, my confidence level was shot, and my protective mode was in full gear. Don't mess with husband...or my kids.  I've made choices and sacrifices to protect them and give them a home that, while not perfect, was a far cry more stable than the ones either of us came from.
The protective mama bear syndrome. 

I guess I carry that over into their adult lives.  And I know deep inside that God knows better than me, and His will and timing are perfect.  Better than mine...and here's the BUT...I'm afraid to just say okay to what ever. I'm afraid to send my kids off to missions half way around the globe because "What if...?"  What if I never see them?  What if they are hurt or sick and I can't get to them?  Or what if they have children that never know me?  What if they are killed or kidnapped or raped?  I always wanted the support of a family, the peacefulness that others had in knowing that they were surrounded by people who wouldn't let anything happen to them if they could help it, much less hurt them or drive them away.  That protective bubble of love that was never compromised by anger and self righteousness.  And I want that for my kids, too...from me.  For me.  Just once.  I want to have that happy family circle for all of us.

So I'm asking...Please hear the desires of my heart and consider my plea.  I know they don't come as a surprise to an omnipotent, all knowing god like yourself.  Please allow us to have that happy bubble of family love and protection that will carry us through, welcome new members and build a community of caring and supporting that I've never known and can break this cycle of hate and hurt that has been the norm for far too long.  These blessings don't come from me, or anything I've done or deserve, they are only from You.  Ultimately, You are in control and you can give me all the peace I need just from Your glory and mercy.  Your, with me. 

I know and believe all these things.  But I'm asking in the name of Jesus...hear my prayer.  I can't find the words to express it because it's so much bigger than what I've written here, but You know me inside and out...You've seen my darkest secrets and my sweetest thoughts.  Help me to trust You with the blessings You've given me.  Because in the end that's what this issue of trust.  We make decisions all the time to act on head knowledge from a right heart.  Help me have that heart and know Your peace.

Pondering My Meanderings...
with much herbal love,

August 15, 2013

God's Amazing Sense of Humor and Grace

The View from here has been pretty amazing lately.

As I watch God's plan unfold right before my eyes, I can't help but laugh with delight!  He's been planning and pondering and waiting for just the right time to reach out and bless our lives.  And I can't help but wonder at the glory and beauty of it all.  He is so good!

I had been helplessly watching a situation unfold that I just didn't feel right about.  But, there are times in your life when you just need to wait...and pray.  Wait on Him.  And PRAY!  Voice your concern and then pray. And keep Him in your lens because looking in another direction only slows down the ultimate plan.  He can't work in your life if your not allowing Him to direct your paths and are distracted by things that steal your peace.

To my great joy, I also watched as, through heartache (which was not the joyful part!) and hard lessons (a little more joyful because, sadly, they were lessons that could't be taught except through experience.) a beautiful thing began to emerge.  A return to a happier state of mind and confidence regained that had slipped away.

As I've watched and pondered this beautiful thing, it has begun to grow and blossom and bless those around it.

And now that it's blessing our lives, some of the most joyful parts are the ones that I didn't see happening before but am learning about now.  Things that were happening in other people's hearts and lives months ago that God has worked together for the good that's happening now. It's proof positive to me that God has been moving toward this lovely surprise for a while now.

And that's what makes me laugh!  Laugh with delight, laugh in relief, laugh at myself for doubting that He was in control, laugh at the foreshadowing, laugh at His humor and sigh in contentment at His grace that carries us through the valleys to the rolling hills and mountain tops that the light of His love has been saving for us until the perfect time.  And that time seems to be coming soon.

This is really a bunch of vague language that only piques attention but I'm afraid it's the best I can do right now, even if I'd really like to say so much more.  And that's annoying, right?  Well, just be happy for now and have a laugh or at least a smile and we'll see where God takes it.

I think God is just waiting to bring this joy into all of our lives if we'll just wait and follow instead of trying to lead Him in the way we want to go.  Dream BIG, but make sure you rely on God to direct those dreams and bring you the right person or people to share and support that dream.  For all you know, He's been preparing their heart for the same adventure all along.

Pondering My Meanderings...
with much herbal love,

August 8, 2013

The End is Here!

It's finally happened.
It's over and done.

When we began to prepare my youngest daughter's portfolio in preparation for her 11th grade homeschool evaluation, she asked me how many credits she needed to take in her senior year to graduate.  I pulled out past years and added this year's credits to it, and what do yo know?  She didn't need ANY more!  I added them over and over again to make sure I hadn't done something wrong.  I double checked the homeschool law for our state.  Nope she'd worked hard and I didn't realize how far she'd come.
Our evaluator reviewed her portfolio and the homeschool requirements and she agreed that there didn't seem to be any classes lacking.
To make a long story short, my youngest daughter is now a high school graduate and I am officially retired as a homeschool teacher!

Congratulations, Squirt!  You've become quite a young lady and I'm so proud of you!  I'll always cherish the time we spent together huddled over algebra, trying to work it out together.  And reading The Squire's Tales aloud over and over all those years ago.  All the reenactment fun we had, the soap demos and making butter.  Learning things together with you and Goosie!  May God bless you as you look to see what God has in store for your future!

Now what shall I do?
First, I think I'll sell some of these textbooks!  Ebay, anyone?

Pondering My Meanderings...
with much herbal love,

Way Down in Kokomo.... ....Indiana, that is.

My daughter's college roommate's wedding was this weekend. We really valued her friendship to our Goosie and wanted to wish her well, so when the invitation came, we made plans to travel from our PA home to Indiana for the big day. Goosie and our littlest pumpkin, now 17, made the trip two months earlier for the bridal shower. The night before they were to drive home (8 hours), a huge snow storm hit Indiana and they decided to stay another day until the roads cleared. That gave them the opportunity to attend a youth group sponsored by the bride's family. While there, Squirt met a group of young men and quickly became friends with in particular. From that night until the wedding, he never missed calling, skyping, or at the least txting several times every day. On the one month anniversary of their meeting, he sent her a bouquet of flowers with a sweet note. Both grew in their friendship and looked ahead to meeting again at the wedding. Now that time is here. Squirt was both anxious and excited but wasn't sure what would become of two kids, one 17 and the other 19, who lived 8 hours apart...but she knew she wanted to find out because their chance meeting because of the snow delay seemed like an event that was planned out just for her...and we all know what a sense of humor God has, besides the fact that he often works in mysterious ways. About a month before the shower, she ended a relationship with a young man who was a bit younger than her but had been a friend since childhood. Because of differences in their background, and some poor choices on his part, she decided that good friends don't always make good boyfriends. Much to her surprise, this Midwest farm boy of sorts, was able to show her the kind of attention and interest, from two states away, that she'd hoped for from the younger fellow but rarely received. Time for the road trip came and we arrived in good time. We found our hotel in Kokomo, checked in and got settled before heading down to meet her friend who had offered to cook dinner for us since we'd been traveling all day. How sweet. Since he and his brother have been on their own for about a year, they've been fending for working while the other finished high school overcoming some pretty big obstacles to keep their heads above water. In case I forgot to mention it, they are twins but you'd never know it from their appearance or personalities. But I'm meandering off my course here so let's get back to it. Dinner was delicious but because this was only the second face to face and MOM was tagging along, by invitation of course but pressure here, it was a little awkward at first. But as time went on, things loosened up a little and we all walked around the little town near their home and also where our friends live. Of course they were all busy with wedding preparations, etc., so we knew we wouldn't see them until the big event. Then we drove back to Kokomo to have a look around, found a little health food store and spent a little time getting to know the farmboy. Next day, his twin was graduating and Squirt went with her friend to see his brother graduate, after which I brought them back to the hotel to swim before the wedding.

Now for the wedding...all the things you can think to say about a lovely wedding would apply here. The bride was beautiful, the bridesmaids, too. Groomsmen all quite handsome in their gray and rose tuxedos. And since I'm particularly interested in one of said bridesmaids, my Goosie, who's been here helping prepare for the big day,...I thought she was the prettiest one of the lot! My favorite part of the ceremony was when the bride and groom exited the sanctuary to "I've Gotta Feelin'." The reception was fun with good food, fun and memories. Squirt and her date had a good time dancing and I think he enjoyed showing off his new friend to all his youth group pals. I sat with some interesting folks who have known the bride's family for a long time. They made me feel right at home.

 We helped tear down and clean the church gymnasium and loaded up all the beautiful decoations, etc. Then, even though it was late, our friends invited us to come to their house for a wind down visit. They have a lovely home that they built themselves and is an ongoing project much like our own home. We visited until our eyelids began to flutter and then headed back to the hotel, dropping Squirt's date off at his house on the way through. Our friends were shuttling folks to meet rides and flights Sunday morning so we went to church with the farmboy and his brother. What a nice church! Rock Prairie is in a little town called Tipton, Indiana. The folks there were so friendly! Shortly after the praise team greeted everyone, they invited everyone to move around for a meet and least 3 to 4 minutes long that led into another song by the praise team that continued the social fellowship for at least 5 more minutes! I thought it was so nice to spend that much time mingling. There was not a bit of pretention in any of the folks I met or observed this weekend. I began to understand about the friendly, relaxed, hospitable way of midwestern folks.

The sermon was about pride. The pastor's family met him on the platform and we watched as he and his sons humbled themsleves to his wife by washing her feet and admitting to taking her for granted, as well as complimenting her and apologizing for not trusting her wisdom in areas of her strengths. It was awesome to witness this.  The pastor had a very personable manner and was very sincere without making his wife too uncomfortable.

Although I want to be humble, I know that I often stray across the line big time. I think I may have done that with Squirt a few times in dealing with a few things lately, so when the pastor invited the congregation to step toward one of the many foot washing stations around the sanctuary with someone they wanted to honor or humble themselves toward, I asked her if she would allow me to wash her feet. She was surprised but agreed. And though they were feet that this mama has washed (and scrubbed!) many times throughout her childhood, I thought it was time for me to acknowledge that this child was no longer a little girl...and that I respect her for the many things she's become and just as much for the things she has stood firm on even when her choice wasn't the popular one. It was indeed a humbling experience that taught my pride a lesson...or two.

While we were connecting with our proper mindset about ourselves, the pastor was preparing for a baptism. I guess I don't get out much but I enjoyed seeing this with fresh eyes. The baptismal pool is under the platform and after removing some panels, we watched everything on two large screens at the sides of the auditorium. How nice to have such a close view of what was happening! The families of each person came up on the platform to witness the event. At times, there were about 20 people up there to support each one of them! I watched as an elderly father baptized his middle aged son with tears of joy on his face...I watched a man whom I got the impression was wanting to step up and be the Christian father and husband he believed he was called to be, baptize his children and then his wife as the pastor officiated. The story was that his request went like this, "You do the talking and I'll do the dunkin'!" These folks were loving the Lord, not by rules or tradition but from their hearts. I was blessed because of it.

Pondering My Meanderings...
with much herbal love,

April 3, 2013

Christians Are People Too!

When I think about what I value in folks I consider to be heroic, I think of many characteristics that may or may not have roots in religious views but most certainly are based on that person's worldview.  Bravery, Courage, Devotion, Conviction...Taking a Stand for what they believe.  Those convictions are called that, not because they are fuzzy, warm feeling you take out when its convenient, but things you cling to even when to going gets tough.
But because Christians cling to their values when it's not the popular opinion, or try to stand tall in the face of the rampage of unfair, or despicable conditions that run amok in this world, they are labeled as bigots, dictatorial, archaic control freaks who only care about themselves and their agenda and forcing everyone else to go by their rules.
It really all depends on the lens through which you view life.  I hear folks cry, "Coexist!...don't judge, live in harmony with others.  But when it comes right down to it, they are the least tolerant of other views than most.  They mock and ridicule...they judge and create disharmony because unless you believe as they do, you're somehow less intelligent than they are...or they think they are.  They act like Christians are somehow being mean by sharing their beliefs because it makes them uncomfortable to think that someone disagrees with them.
My heros stand firm.  They fight for what is right.  If what is right changes with each individual, then how do we all read an epic tale and come away with the same character as the hero?  Basically, we all have the same conscience, the same sense of right and wrong that's rooted in our soul.  Where does that come from?
When you find something that you really like or are passionate about, do you just keep it to yourself?  Or do you post it on facebook and tweet little pieces of info about it so you can share it with everyone you care about?  Sure you do.  Causes, quotes, quips and posters...poems, photos, name it.  People enjoy all kinds of things because we're individuals.

Well, Christians are people, too.

Pondering My Meanderings...
with much herbal love,

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