Saturday, August 15, 2015

when God doesn't seem faithful

Today is always such a strange day for me. Today marks 11 years since my brother was killed in Iraq.

11 years--more than a decade without being picked on by the guy who always told me it was his job to keep me humble and to teach me how to throw a punch.

Life has changed so much; I'm not even the same person I was the last time I saw him in person, 3 January 2004--my wedding day. I can't help but wonder what he would think about the person I am today, and I sure wish I could watch my kids play with their uncle.

There are moments in life that change you forever, moments that happen in a heartbeat yet affect your entire outlook. Sometimes those moments are so dramatic that it seems like the rest of the world should be changed, too. I think that's one of the hardest things to deal with--the fact that the rest of the world simply goes on. At times, it seems like it's going on without you.

There are lessons in everything in life, even though sometimes it takes years to grasp them. For a long time, I didn't want to even think about what I was learning from Michael's death quite simply because I didn't want to think about the fact that he was gone. My walls have slowly been coming down, though, and as they are chipped away I see glimpses.

The biggest lesson I'm still learning is that God is faithful even when it doesn't seem like it. That one's hard for me. If something appears one way in life, I tend to think that that's how it is. I'm a pretty literal, logical person most of the time, so I struggle with things that aren't that way.

When Michael was killed in that tank in Najaf, Iraq, I have to admit that it sure didn't seem like God was very faithful.

There's one of those acronyms that floated around church camps back in the late 90s: PUSH. Pray Until Something Happens. In a simplistic faith, we pray and keep praying until God does what we want Him to do. We prayed for
Michael's safety over there in Iraq. We're a praying bunch, so there were lots of prayers. Do you know what the  PUSH mindset tells you when your prayers aren't answered the way you want them to be? I must not have been praying hard enough or I must have been using the wrong words somehow or what's probably even more common, I must have done something wrong and God's not listening to my prayers.

I still don't have answers to all my questions. I haven't been given some divine revelation about God's purpose. A lot of the time, I'm still walking through life in the dark. The thing is, through it all God truly is faithful. He's in control even when I can't see it, and He's there even when I can't feel Him.

He is faithful...even when it doesn't seem like it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

road blocks

So...life. I have to tell you, sometimes I really don't understand it. Just when it seems things are headed one direction, a bend in the road suddenly reveals a road block.

Sometimes a road block is an attack from the enemy, something he throws in the way to keep you from accomplishing what has been planned for you. When that's the case, it's our job to keep pushing--to find some way to break past the road block and get back on the right road. In those cases, we need to fight with everything we have to move the road block out of the way.

Other times, a road block is something God puts in the road to show you that you're headed the wrong direction. When that's the case, we have to back up and figure out where we took a wrong turn so that we can get back on track. We have to stop pushing and realize that that road is being blocked for a reason.

The problems start when you can't figure out which side created the road block.


Sometimes, no matter how often you pray for guidance, God is silent. That's not something that gets preached a lot; we all want to hear that God will answer every prayer the minute we pray it in a way we'll understand. In those times when we don't get a nice, neatly worded answer, it's hard to trust. For me, that was the word for 2015: trust. I should have known that this year would require a lot of trust when that was the word that came up back in January. That's been the case each year since I started taking part in the "one word" challenge. I guess that's been God's way of preparing me for what's to come each year, because those words (faithful, follow, do not neglect your gift, and trust) have definitely foreshadowed the year.

Right now, I don't know if all the road blocks being thrown in front of me are things I'm supposed to push past or if they are things God is putting in the way to try to get me to turn around. Honestly, I don't think I would be surprised by either one. At this point, I really don't even care which it is--I would just like to find out which it is. Until then, like David I'll remind myself:

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble. 
 Those who know Your name trust in You,
    for You, Lord, have never forsaken
those who seek You.
Psalm 9:9-10 

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