Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Two Feet

Nearly two feet of glimmering flakes of shivering cold floated and blew on us in about a week.  That seems to be just a little really, except for the fact that it has not snowed or rained in quite some time.  This county is the middle of a drought.  We'll take the snow, thank you.  Then the power went out all night and part of today.  (Thank goodness for generators!) And then this morning the phone lines/internet was out.  (Thank goodness for a cell phone!)

We tromp down the road to check drift levels to find that we are blocked off from the road by 3 foot drifts on both sides of our driveway.  No four wheel drive.  No tractor.  No plow.  The road has been eerily quiet today except for the noise of the crunching of our feet.  The mailman even looks like he saw the drift and turned around.  So for today, we are the little house on the prairie that is disconnected from the world.  We'll enjoy the blessing of this blanket of white!

Because We Aren't the Same--Part II

 











"For the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different, (and He rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences." -C.S. Lewis

I pointed and smiled.
Inside I was saying, "Those, I want those."  But it didn't matter what I wanted to say because I couldn't say it.  The seller picked up a few of the oblong brown potatoes with her hands and put them in a plastic bag.  Her little stand was spread out on the ground on a plastic tarp.  She got out the calculator and typed in how much I owed her.  In a country where most everything is done by bargaining, I thought I'd gotten a steal of a deal since I had passed the calculator back with my price typed in and she accepted.   Problem was, I found out the next day from a Chinese friend that I'd paid almost ten times the amount of what I should have paid.  Ten times.  "Learn the language," I'd tell myself.  I hired a local tutor, and picked up local dialect. 

Since the beginning of time, people have wanted to communicate.   However, language differences can't be ignored.  Study, sweat, tears, practice.  Repeat and add a test.  Language and culture hold hands.  They mutually work together, and one can't learn a language without learning culture.  Many things in a language start to make more sense when one learns culture. The desire to understand the culture and the language deepens the bonds between people.  Sometimes people desire to know another person and dialogue with them to understand them.  And other times people want to pick a fight, or to say the way they do things is superior. 

I wish, I long for a time when we, the church, won't be separated by cultural bounds and language barriers.  She is still the church.  She is still His body.  Can we walk in love and accept other believers even when their church doesn't look like ours (in style, in language, in worship, in method)?  When they don't wear the same clothes we do, or sing the same songs we do, can we accept them as redeemed?  Because we are all on a journey and none of us have arrived.  Clean your house, take care of the dirt in your heart.  Just because His body looks different doesn't mean that the church isn't His.  I think He quite intended for us to be diverse.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Because We Aren't the Same

I bristle. 

When I think of just having an all-white church, or a church that exists for one section of the population, I cringe.  I understand in each country there may be some variation of the body, speaking different languages, and holding to their own unique cultural traditions.  But here within the United States, were we really meant to divide ourselves by race, by social status, by income?  What if instead we chose to be the body in the neighborhood we existed in?  What if we chose to embrace those very different from ourselves in the name of Christ?  What if we chose to worship together simply because of the bond we have in Christ, and not because we had a safe church with programs for the kids and teenagers?  Because the church is about people, not programs.  How do we get that mixed up?

We sat, in that auditorium that filled 800-ish people.  We listened to him speak.  We saw the French African choir sing, and then the Phillipino choir.  Next the gentleman from Hong Kong gave a testimony.  Tears ran down her cheeks for joy as she sang next to me in English.  But she was not from my country.  The Koreans offered a song of praise, and the Chinese followed with their own.   I think 'this, this is a little piece of Heaven here on earth.'

We come back to America and learn that we are somewhat cultural misfits.  This idea of faith separates instead of unites.  After all, shouldn't the Spanish speakers have their church, and the African Americans have their church?  But the Jesus I know is color blind.  I don't think He sees us as 'red, brown, yellow, black and white'.   We refer to people by their ethnicity and see the color of their skin instead of seeing them as souls.  We will never understand people until we see them as people, and seek to understand cultures different from our own. 

Yet, she is still His body.  She is still the church. I can't make this right with my one voice.  But someday, He will.  He will call us to Himself and every tongue, tribe and nation will worship Him.  But for today, I wish for that little piece of Heaven on earth that whispers, "Sister, I love you.  Brother, you are a friend," in the language of the heart, love.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Joyful Delight

I see your chubby fingers grasp at the drain cover as you watch the water slide and gurgle tornado like down the silvery hole.  You are so amused by this.  When the water is gone you spend time just looking and patting at the drain.  You delight my heart, little one.

You watch the snow, and ride in my baby backpack without throwing your hat off.  That's right, you are a baby that likes a hat when it is cold.  Inside, Daddy shows you how to stack towers and play megaphones with your toys that aren't really megaphones.  But you don't care.  You imitate.  You look at us, and you explore.  The vacuum cleaner is a grand adventure made for you and Daddy.  The windowsill with it's lacy curtains hold peeks of the great snow outside.  My heart delights over your small discoveries.  It jumps for joy over your individuality and what you are learning.

And I am reminded:  His heart sings and dances over us.  He joys in us as His children. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Because One Size Doesn't Fit All


"Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another, the communion of the saints. If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note. " C.S. Lewis

"You coming out?" she asked me.
"No, I'm staying here.  This is absolutely hideous."
"It couldn't be that bad," she giggled from the other side of the curtain.
"It is," I said.
"Way too clingy, this Chinese one-size-fits all doesn't quite include me," I snort.
"Unless it's a muumuu," I think to myself. "One size definitely doesn't fit all." 
My arms looked like sausages that were ready to burst out their skins, and my midriff peeked out every so slightly.
"My jeans can't come up any higher, and I can't tug this shirt down further.  I'll be out in a second," I told her. I quickly changed, and exited the makeshift dressing stall.

Sameness used to mean safeness.  If I wore the right clothes, and conformed to the image of what people expected me to be then I was safe. No one would know that I was asking God questions if I played the part of what was expected of me.  In life and faith, it is tempting to scared of what I don't understand.   However, God didn't make people cookie cutters that are exact replicas of one another.  He made people as diverse as one can imagine.

"What is her problem?" I would ask, and look down my nose in judgment on someone who wasn't in the same place in their faith walk, their journey as I was.  If that person hadn't made the 'right' expressions of faith, and didn't look right, why did I feel as if I had the right to condemn?  If we are made to be individuals (which I believe we are), does it not make sense that we are at different stages of learning, and that if my Father is okay with that, I should be, too? 

Faith isn't one-size-fits-all everyone must look the same.  There is great diversity in His body.  We won't all look the same and talk the same.  Far from being a utopia, pretending like this cookie-cutter-one-size-fits-all faith is the same for everybody and if you just knew your Bible better or could obey better you'd be just like me doesn't foster or create community of believers.  It causes fear of one ever really being known, an if-you-just-knew-me you wouldn't be able to accept me attitude. 

I choose to give grace and let others be different.  I choose to let others take their own individual faith journey.  In this, I give myself grace to be on my own journey learning in the process.  Someday I'll arrive at my destination, and I'm sure I'll find then that God welcomes those who don't fit the mold.  In fact, I think His heart rather delights in our diversity.

Do you give others grace as they are on their own journey?  In what ways could you deal more gently with someone who is struggling?  What ways do you need to reach out to someone else this week?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sandhill Cranes and a Still Day

I looked at my feet, lost in thought. He made me this path so I can walk and remain close to the house.  When the weather is agreeable, I walk.  Some of my best ideas come to me when I walk.

 He asked me once, why I never seem to look up.  Why do I not notice things around me when I walk?  Years of living in a city where I was one of eight white people may have something to do with it.  My life was under constant scrutiny.  In the grocery store, they would sometimes look at what I was buying in my cart.  On the street they'd talk about me as I walked by.  "Foreigner," a man would say loudly.  A child's voice would echo the same.  Blue eyes and brown hair don't exactly allow one blend in an Asian country.  At 5 foot 8 inches, I was taller than most of the women and some of the men. I'd look at my feet because I wanted to avoid those stares.  The ones where eyes seemed to burn through your being, reminding you that 'you are not like us.'  I still walk with my eyes shifted downward.  

The noise, that noise startles me.  It sounds like a pack of coyotes and I run to the house anxious to find my husband.  "Come," I say, motioning with my hands.   He comes outside, and we look up into a sky of blue.  "What is that noise?"  I ask, and then state, "It sounds like a bunch of mechanical coyotes."  He looks up, and says, "No, it's a flock of birds migrating."  We stand for minutes on end watching the birds.  "Look, they aren't flapping their wings, they are gliding."  We watch them form a 'v' pattern and glide.  He figures it out as we watch birds clump together again when they seem to abandon the 'v' pattern.  "They are catching a thermal and riding it up, and then gliding," he says. We watch them circle and regroup.  Then, we come in the house and he reads.  "We've just seen a flock of sandhill cranes on their way to Nebraska," he says, and then continues, "they will fly all the way to Canada, Alaska and Russia." 

"I've never seen such a large flock of migrating birds," I say.  The still day caused their chirps to carry, and the sound disturbed my walk-with-my-head-looking-down.  It was one of those crazy beautiful timeless moments I'm not sure I'll every have the privilege of observing again.  Beautiful cranes, amazing creation, a bird that instinctively knows how to glide about 200 miles a day. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

This Week's Randomness




This week I was touched by this:  God Made a Mother and You--So Farmer On (by Ann Voskcamp)
Laughed over this: Once An Austrian Went Jodeling...
Contemplative about this: Real Failure or Why All of It Matters
Reading this:A Severe Mercy 
And this:All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes
Listening to this:Who You Are (by JJ Heller)
In the News:Introverts and the Classroom
From a Friend:The Power of Introverts

Other stuff rumbling around in my head, but that's it for tonight. 

That Which is Not Our Own

We watch over, and care for, that which is not our own.  

"I'm so sorry this is happening to you guys," we hear his voice on the other end of the call.  
"There is nothing we can do," Hubby looks at me and says.  We go to bed and can't sleep because of the late night call. We were abroad, and someone caught a burglar in our home.  Small miracle that they caught him, but he left a big mess of clothes strewn across the bedroom, and empty drawers.  We weren't there to watch our home, or care for it.  Someone, someone had to help us, to do things for us in our place.  "Those things, they were given to us but ultimately aren't ours," Hubby reminds me. "They are gifts," he says.   He lives this, I have watched him live this. 

As a girl, on Sunday we'd dress up and pile into the car.  We'd fight over who got the side seats because no one liked to sit in the middle.  There was less leg room and a bit of a hump where you had to cram your feet up.  This was part of being faithful.  We'd do the same thing every week.  We'd go through the same actions.  We'd learn repetition.  We'd sing three verses of 'Just As I Am'. We'd hope this week goes better than the last, and I'd ask dear Lord, please help me be holy.  What does that mean?  I wish I could be perfect.  There's no explanation that it could mean more than just trying to be good, and trusting in God to forgive you of your sin.  But I don't feel holy on Monday. 

Hands in gloves I shove my fists into the bubbles that glisten rainbows.  Faithfulness meant doing the routine.  Faithfulness meant that I was at church every time the doors were opened. Faithfulness meant that I would read, I would pray, I would do those works.  Faithfulness didn't encompass the dishes, the laundry, the chores, the homework.  It resided in its own little box. It is easy for me to think that anything within the four walls of the church is important, and what is done at home is not.  But it is all important.  It all matters.

"It is required in a steward that a man be found faithful..."  Where you are now, doing what you are supposed to be doing, taking care of what you need to take care of.  Each aspect of my life, from cleaning the toilet to taking care of relationships, requires that I be faithful.  Faithfulness is not restricted to a church building or a residence.  We've been given a privilege, to live, to love, in His place, in this place.  We watch over, and care for, that which is not our own.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'll Not Be Unlimited

"I deserve, no I have the right to be unlimited..."  I hear it and I feel like throwing my shoe at the screen.  A clean sock will have to do since me and the white load have a date.  What is it that makes society think (besides ridiculous commercials such as these) that they need to have access to unlimited data 24-7?  I don't get it.  I'm not unlimited.  In fact, there are definite limits on my time and energy.  I could spend (or waste) a lot of it looking at data I'll never remember, facts on someone's Facebook page just to waste time.  Anything of value takes time.  Writing a letter.  Making a meal.  Reading a book.  Painting.  We can't 'instantly' create something that is worth having.  Uploading my whole life and its records to a mobile device means that in the midst of living I've become more interested in recording my life.  My life isn't that interesting, in fact, I'd guarantee if we made a movie out of it much of the time the audience would see me playing with my baby, doing dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning.  All of that is important, but life, life is to be lived.  Memories are the stuff of life,  and I'll not be recording every single one of them.  I'll not be unlimited.  I don't have the time or energy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reflection on My Last Year

14 Weeks Pregnant--2011
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." Mark Twain

In my early 20's, I had this creeping feeling that I would not live very long.  It wasn't a death wish,  it was a seed of an idea that my life was short, brought on by cancer announcements from family members and a small (later declared non-cancerous) cyst I found.  Yet, here I am celebrating my 35th birthday.  A miracle enough for me that I get to enjoy it with my son and husband.

"These notes are kind of hard to translate," I told her as we poured over doctors notes typed in Chinese.  She got out her dictionary, and word by word we worked through phrases I couldn't find, or didn't know.  "Adhesion, that's what this one means," she said.  "Main artery, that's what this one means."  An hour later we had the translation for my doctor.  These weren't just any notes.  They were notes about me.  A large tumor removed from part of my uterus feeding off the main blood supply to my uterus.  Non-cancerous.

We did an ultrasound to try to locate the scar from said surgery.  The doctor's notes said the scar was on the upper left close to the main artery. No success.  "You'll be high risk," he told me.  Some people enjoy their pregnancies knowing they are bringing new life into the world.  I hoped that my own would not usher my life out as I was bringing one in.  "There is risk of rupture," he said, "but I cannot predict it.  You may do just fine.  But best to be prepared and be right next to the operating room."   He smiled and gave answers to our questions.  

I prepared myself and faced my fears.  I felt like a pregnant ticking time bomb.  She had told me it would help, to journal, to keep track of those thoughts, to think about the worst that could happen, and let go of any ideals or hopes I had, and concentrate on what I would like to happen.  Ultimately, I knew this was not in my hands.  Who can give or take life?  Not me.  I could only live life fully every day.  

Itty-bitty baby gets some loving
He'd pat my belly and tell me I was beautiful.  We'd feel our son rumble around and wonder what he'd be like.  This was my first child after all.  It could be my only child.  I could not change the process or the outcome, I could only trust with abandon.

34 was the year I became a Mom.  I learned sleeplessness nights, and bleary eyes.  35 is the year I'm thankful for it all.  To be surrounded by my husband and son on my birthday is a gift.  To love them, and be loved by them is even more precious. I don't get a second chance at life, I don't get to try again.  There will be no rewinds and repeats.  As we move forward and mesh as family we rub shoulders with mortality.  And yet, to face that gives the courage, the heart to live life and experience it together with joy.  It is a gift to be alive.



We love Papa!

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