Tuesday, July 21, 2015

a bit lost...

It seems I've been doing this a lot lately--staring at a blank piece of paper (or screen in this case) with no idea what to write.

I know I need to write. I can feel something inside me withering because the words haven't been coming lately. Every time I try to, though, I just get...lost. The words seem to be getting stuck somewhere, and I'm not sure if it's the wiring in my head, heart, or hands that keeps getting crossed. Maybe it's a mix of all three.

In all honesty, I'm at a bit of a loss right now. A loss for words, but that's not all. I feel a bit lost in general. Does that come as a surprise? It has to me, to be sure. 11 and 1/2 years into my marriage, after 2 kids and 2 degrees, and now after we've moved back "home" to the hills of Arkansas I feel a bit like I'm wandering aimlessly with no idea what direction I should be going.


You would think that after writing a devotional all about following the Way when you can't see the path, I would have that figured out for myself, but I haven't found that to be the case. Sometimes, it seems to work that way...I can teach a lesson before I've really come to terms with it myself.

This would be the time when I would normally figure out just what it was I was trying to say, but it really just isn't happening this time. Life is all crazy and things seem bent out of shape, and I can't quite wrap my head around what I should be doing or which direction I should be headed...

So instead, I'll leave you with the verse I've had on my mind a lot lately:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
~Philippians 1:27a

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

love mercy...

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
~Michah 6:8

Mercy. In the dictionary and concordance in the back of my Bible, it says mercy is forgiveness or compassion. In another sense, though, we have an opportunity to "love mercy" in a very tangible way.

If you've never heard of the Mercy House, you should hop over there and check it out. To give you the short version, the Mercy House is a place for young ladies who are about to become mothers. They move into Rehema House (Rehema=Mercy in Swahili) where they are loved by beautiful servants of God, and where they are shown that their lives and the lives of their beautiful babies are full of promise because of God's love for them. It is the result of one woman (and her family) saying yes to a crazy dream God put in her heart.

Now, though, God has opened doors that lead all over the world. Through those doors are artisans who are now being given the opportunity to support themselves and their families using the skills and talents God gave them.
About a month ago, I received a beautiful pair of earrings from artisans in India.
(Mine are just like the ones on the far right--sorry, in the move I can't really get to the right cords to connect my camera and computer to show you a real picture!) They came to my mailbox through the Fair Trade Friday Club. You can get a new pair of earrings each month, along with a trinket bag to keep them in. If the earrings one month aren't your style--or if you look at them and say, "Oh, my sister would love these!"--you can give them to someone else using the gift tag that gets added to each bag.
 
If you aren't an earring person, there's also an option of getting a box of goodies each month, full of beautiful things that are giving some beautiful people the chance to earn a fair wage.
 
I haven't started the club yet, but once I get an address (oh, the joys of moving!) I'm going to be signing up. What a beautiful way to love mercy...
 

when we forget

It feels like the world is falling apart. In all honesty, it's been falling apart since the moment sin entered the Garden. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that order tends to chaos, meaning an ordered system will become disordered over time, and that's exactly what has been happening since this earth began.

We've been sheltered here in the United States, to be truthful. We've had the chance to live in a country founded on belief in the Creator, started by men who knew that only God's blessings and mercy could sustain such a country. But now, it seems as if our country--and those leading it--has turned its back on God. We've redefined life, marriage, love, right, and wrong, things that were never ours to define to begin with. We've accepted sin--even condoned it--in every facet of life: greed, sexual impurity, envy, deceit, gossip, arrogance, disobedience, and faithlessness are all commonplace (see Romans 1:24-32).

As we look around at our country and see how quickly people have turned against God, I think it's easy to forget.

We forget that God is still in control, that His throne isn't shaken just because people have refused to recognize Him as King.

We forget that His power isn't dependent on us, and that He said, "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please" (Isaiah 46:10b).

We forget that He is still working miracles in the lives of His children, such as His beautiful daughters in Kenya whose lives have been touched by the Mercy House.

We forget that He said, "Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength'" (Isaiah 45:22-24).

From our view, order tends to chaos. From God's view, though, everything we see as chaos He sees as moving toward His purpose.

Monday, June 29, 2015

so...blank space

Well, it's been a while...I've been pretty well silent this month, haven't I? To those of you who check in with me from time to time, I apologize for my silence. Honestly, there are a lot of big changes happening right now in our family, so things have been crazy!

Just as a quick catch up...

We're in the process of moving from Ohio back to Arkansas, where Nathan and I will both be jumping in to the world of education. Him in history, me in math. 

We're working on figuring out how to make all of our earthly stuff fit into a house roughly half the size of the one we're moving out of.

We're teaching our kids what it means to live in a small town where everybody knows everybody else instead of in a big city where people tend to avoid interaction.

I'm sitting through 3 weeks of learning how to teach (after getting my MSE in education and physics...and teaching high school for a year...and teaching college labs for 2 years...but I digress).

I'm remembering what it's like to live in hills, curvy roads, and nature instead of cities, cornfields, and straight roads.

Life has been a bit chaotic this summer, and in all honestly it's just the start of a year of chaos. I promise, though, I'll get back into the swing of things pretty soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

an open letter to my brother on memorial day

You know that I'm still mad at you sometimes, right? Mad at you for leaving me behind, despite all the times I insisted you wait for me when we were growing up. I thought it was just some crazy reaction that I was totally by myself with, but I'm not the only one who has said that if her brother walked through the front door today she would hug his neck and then punch him. And since you taught me how to punch, you know that wouldn't be one of those wimpy punches, either.

Sometimes, I still let myself believe for a few minutes that you aren't really gone. When it gets too tough and I just don't have the strength to miss you, I let myself picture a "Bourne Identity" situation for a little while. It doesn't work for long, but sometimes it's long enough to let me swallow the lump in my throat and move forward.

This week has been full of those moments. Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and I don't know how to react to it. My kids--your niece and nephew who would adore you--are excited because they don't have school Monday, but how do I explain to them that while I'm glad they are excited, it's too hard for me to be excited?

I know why you went to Iraq instead of taking the "safe route" in South Korea when you were commissioned. I understand the passion that drives people to dive into the deep end instead of wading in slowly. After all, that passion and drive were things Pop and Mom instilled in all 3 of us (though our baby sister, believe it or not, seems to actually think before she acts...crazy girl). I know what it's like to have a dream that's so much a part of you it feels like you can't breathe when you aren't living it out, so I know why you were in that Najaf cemetery that scorching August day. I know you were there doing what God called you to do--fighting for those weaker than you who weren't able to stand on their own. You were being a soldier, and that was who you were made to be. Like Rambo said, "Live for nothing or die for something; your choice."

Yes, I really did just quote John Rambo. Aren't you impressed?

It's hard living in your shadow sometimes. I thought it was hard being "Little Mike" when I started high school your senior year, but that doesn't even begin to compare. It seems a lot of people like to see you as perfect now. As your little sister, I feel it's my duty to remind you that that's not true. I don't think people know how to talk about you anymore, and it makes me crazy to see the sad, uncomfortable look on people's faces when I mention your name. I don't blame them--nobody ever really knows what to say. But just so you know, I haven't forgotten all the times you picked on me, or when you taught Jeff the lovely French phrase, "Elle est bete!" that the two of you loved saying around me, or when you came home from college telling me, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch!" and refusing to speak to me in English.

My goodness, you knew just how to annoy me!

I wish you were here. I wish I was still just a little bit oblivious as to the true meaning of this weekend. I wish I could make fun of you for being a big softie with your two beautiful nieces who would have you wrapped around their little fingers. I wish I could see you with your nephew who seems to have his "teelings" right at the surface like you did when you were little. He's a protector, too, like you. He came home one day talking about how he didn't care if the bully was mean to him, but he wasn't going to let him pick on one of the other boys.

I miss you every day, sometimes overwhelmingly so. I've tried to be strong, and I hope you're proud of that even though sometimes I fail miserably. I'm not quite the peacemaker you were because I let my emotions get in the way, but I'm trying.

Know you aren't forgotten.
Know you're loved.

"Bless you, my darling, and remember you are always in the heart--oh, tucked so close there is no chance of escape--of your sister." ~Katherine Mansfield

I love you, big brother. And I may get in trouble one day when I step through the gates of Heaven and punch you in the shoulder before I hug your neck, but just so you know that'll be your fault.

~Mandy 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

lessons from kids' songs

Songs have always had an impact on me. I have (quite literally) 45 different playlists saved on Spotify, each with its own purpose. I've had different theme songs at different times in my life, and even now when I hear one of those it brings up the memories of whatever was going on in my life at the time.

There are songs I sing when I feel on top of the world and songs I sing when my heart is breaking. Whatever the emotion, I probably have a song to go along with it--happy, sad, or anything in between.

Sometimes, though, a song comes to mind at a rather odd time. Take yesterday. I was mowing (it seems that something like that makes my brain start working, too) and two songs kept running through my head on repeat. They were both songs I've most likely known for as long as I've been able to talk, thanks to my mom. They were also both songs I haven't thought of or heard in a long time.

"He's still working on me
to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
'cause He's still working on me.
There really ought to be
a sign upon my heart:
"Don't judge me yet, there's an unfinished part."
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan,
crafted by the Master's loving hand."

"I am a promise,
I am a possibility.
I am a promise
with a capital P.
I am a great big bundle of potentiality!
And I am learning to hear God's voice,
and I am trying to make the right choice.
I am a promise to be
anything God wants me to be.
I can go anywhere that He wants me to go;
I can be anything that He wants me to be.
I can climb the high mountain,
I can cross the wide sea,
I am a great big promise, you see!"

Since I couldn't get the words out of my head, I started thinking. When kids sing those songs, you can see how much they believe them. The joy pours out of them as they sing about how much God loves them and how He has amazing things in store for them. They know that those words are true because they know that God is true to His word. There simply isn't any other possibility.



All they see ahead of them are amazing adventures. They are truly full of promise and potential, not because they know what the future holds, but for no other reason than that they know Who holds the future.


I'm sure you were like that once. The future was bright, even though you didn't know what lay ahead. God's promises were all you needed.

But then, life.

Somewhere along the way, life happened and you started singing those words with less joy. You started questioning the future, wondering if you would ever amount to anything, ever find God's purpose for your life, ever become who He intends you to be.

"I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now,
being confident of this,
that He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 1:3-6

God has promised to carry His work on to completion--in you. Not just in the world, not just in those people you see who seem like the superstars of Christianity. God's still working on you, and He's dedicated to seeing you live up to your full promise and potential.

You are a Promise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

prep work

I was talking to Pop on the phone last night and told him, "I'm not very good at this whole 'patience' thing." To his credit, he didn't laugh me off the phone for stating the obvious.

You see, I've felt like life lately--for a few years now--has just had me hurry up and wait. I've never been very good at waiting. Even when I was little I would tell people to "wait real quick," because I've never been a big fan of waiting a long time.

As I've seen time and time again, God's timing doesn't really fit with mine. You would think I would have a firm grasp of that concept by now, wouldn't you? The thing is, I still have to be reminded of it from time to time.

I've mentioned before a sermon series my parents sent me, from Dr. Tony Evans. In one sermon, he talked about how Joseph's timing and God's timing were quite different. In Genesis 40, Joseph is in prison with Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker. They both had dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. I imagine that Joseph's timing would have had him getting out when the cupbearer did, but that wasn't God's timing. Instead of bringing Joseph up to Pharaoh, verse 23 says, "The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him."

I wonder what Joseph's thoughts were for the next two years while he was still hanging out in prison. I wonder if he felt forgotten, abandoned. I wonder if he struggled with impatience, if he wondered if he would ever find his purpose.

That's my biggest struggle right now:
I'm desperate to know what God's purpose for my life is;
what He wants me to do with all the mixed up interests I have;
how He's planning on using me.

But the answers aren't clear. As much as I would like for them to be written out plainly, they aren't.

What I've come to realize, though, is that God has been investing a lot of time in preparing me for now and for whatever comes next.

In 2012, when this blog started, it was with the word faithful.
2013 was the word follow.
2014 was do not neglect your gift.
2015 is trust.

4 years of prep work, of God getting me ready for whatever He has in store. 4 years of Him telling me to lean into Him and to rely on Him. When you think about it, 4 years is a pretty big investment. Like Tony Evans said in that sermon series I mentioned, God has been preparing me for my purpose and my purpose for me.

I still don't know what that purpose is. I don't know what's ahead on what has already been a pretty crazy path.


I do know, though, that God has promised some pretty amazing things:

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
~Genesis 28:15

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
'This is the way; walk in it.'"
~Isaiah 30:21

"Because You are my help,
I sing in the shadow of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
~Psalm 63:7&8