Friday, January 28, 2011

A Very Large Hole

The current president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, wrote The Hole in our Gospel approximately 2 years ago. Rich writes about his faith journey from being CEO for Lenox China to his position at World Vision.  Based on his own experiences, he then challenges the Church (the Body of Christ as a whole) to fully live out the Gospel Jesus Christ preached.  He points out how our sins of omission are affecting the progress of the world and how easy it really is to stop poverty and other social ills if only we chose to do so. 
I knew the topic of the book when it was published, but was afraid to read it.  I figured I wouldn't learn new ideas, but was scared that seeing truths I know in print would make me more uncomfortable than I cared to be.  Bad move.  Jonah ran from God, but couldn't escape His will.  Neither could I.  I was presented with opportunities to purchase the book, but I didn't.  Over Christmas, my friend Ruth Ann handed me a copy to be my very own.  She had collected several copies at the World Vision conference in November and wanted me to have one.  Hmmm...God sure made that clear.  Anyway, I have about 30 pages left to read.  While I was right that most of the ideas in the book weren't new to me, the reality of the statistics in the book are ridiculous.  How I pray that God shows me how to glorify Him and not be content with the standards of this world!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blessings of 2010: Jessy

How do I adequately share in a blog post about a child that completely stole my heart and changed my life?  I doubt I'll do Jessy justice here, but she was a huge part of 2010 and cannot be ignored.

I was in Lusaka for several days working mostly at Chifundo School before I got to spend any appreciable amount of time at House of Martha, the orphanage for children older than 4 in the CACZ network.  The one time I was there during my first week, a World Cup game was on the TV, and since school was over and everyone was crowded around the small screen, not a soul cared that a new white girl was in the house.  Yes, 'football' is that big of a deal in Zambia!

July 3rd, a Monday, was the first day I was at HOMa for more than 5 minutes, and a little girl quietly waited for me to greet everyone and then grabbed my hand and didn't let go-for hours.  Jessy is about 6, though I still don't have as many details about her as I want.  My investigative skills are in the making.  She's super shy and quiet as a mouse.  It was a national holiday, so we were there to play, build pinewood derby cars, and make journals, but Jessy just wanted to sit.  I took her up in the playhouse and tried to get her to talk.  While Nyanja is her first language, she knows English, but was too shy to want to use it.  It took me ages to figure out she just wanted to be held.  We rocked and I prayed over her for quite a while.  Eventually we were joined by others who wanted to read, so we read!  The smiles I got out of my Jessy girl where what we both needed!  We stayed together the rest of the day, enjoying our pizza and Fanta for one of the ladies' birthdays, gluing together her journal so she could draw, and reading more books.

The following day was another national holiday, so we went back to HOMa for more crafts and play time.  Jessy was waiting in the play yard for me and latched on as soon as I arrived.  A group of girls was trying to learn to knit, but I am not the person to help with that, so Jessy and I played some awesome Zambian kid games, similar to Ring Around the Rosy and Duck, Duck, Goose with some of the boys and littlest girls.  It wasn't exactly a super exciting day, but through prayer and cuddles, that little girl and I created a bond between woman and child that I truly believe only another mother understands.

Jessy and I were able to see each other a few more times, but each was brief.  While I wasn't ready to come home at the end of my trip, leaving Jessy made it even worse.  I sat in the plane on the runway with the tears streaming.  I was leaving behind family and friends, but I knew in the deepest part of my being that I was also leaving behind my child.

I hardly slept for a month after coming home.  I'd sit in the living room at night and pray, mostly because that's when I knew Jessy was awake half a world away from me, and I would sob and sob.  I hate that she is not knowing the love of a family; I hate that she doesn't have strong male influences; I hate that she'll probably never finish school; I hate that she'll probably never get adopted by anyone else because of her age. Basically, it boils down to me wanting to sucker punch Satan again and again.  I wanted Jessy home with us so badly, and it made me nuts that I feel useless. 

First, it's not cheap to adopt, and we're still on a tight budget so we can get our school loans paid.  We don't use credit, and we don't take out loans.  If it's not in the budget, we don't do it.  Obviously, adopting right now isn't in the budget.  My gut tells me that if we stepped out in faith, and sought God in this a bit more, the doors will open, but we as a couple aren't quite there yet (and I mean as a couple...there's no finger pointing or blame game here).  Move, Lord!

Second, Zambia has an adoption law that no child may be adopted by an adult less than 21 years older than him or her.  I'm still trying to get an actual birth date for Jessy, but it looks like I, and especially Isaac, don't meet that requirement.  I don't know how strictly that particular law is followed.  Personally, age shouldn't matter when children and adults love each other.  Again, I just have this feeling that if we become willing to step out in faith, doors will open for us.  I have certainly heard of more difficult obstacles being over come when God has a child intended for a family.

I know Jessy is well loved by the house moms at HOMa.  I know she is learning.  I know that she has friends.  I know she gets to go to church and worship the One whom she loves and Who loves her more than I do.  I know she gets plenty of food and a warm bed. But, regardless of if Jessy legally becomes my daughter, I know she's mine, and the ache of not being the one to tuck her in at night and share the wonders of God is so painful it takes away my breathe.

Isaac and the Lord have shaken me back to reality and I keep the crying and sleepless nights to just a few a month now.  This little girl has certainly strengthened my faith as I've chosen to see all of that which the Lord is capable and chosen to trust Him, regardless of His answers.

If our time here on Earth is not together, the separation won't be enjoyed, but it's just a moment compared to eternity.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blessings of 2010: Travel

I was blown away by the amount of times I was able to leave Houston this year.  I love to travel, and this year was a huge sucess!

In March, I got to go to Arlington with two friends from work for the Texas Middle School Conference, but the best part was getting to reconnect with my brothers Jeff and Fred and meeting their families for the first time.  It was a beautiful weekend.

Fred, Tina, and Jeff
In April, I got to visit with my sister-in-law Brie and the girls while Jeff was in Zambia.  We went to the Ft. Worth Zoo and just be four fun-loving girls!  It was a treat to worship with them, too.
Brie, Joelle, and Tina

The month of May found us in Ohio for Isaac's best friend's wedding.  We enjoyed our time with Mark and Anna and Isaac's family.  My cousin Lindsay even joined us for breakfast in Cinci one morning.
Anna and Mark
Mid-June found us in Dallas again for our dear friends' Ashley and Tim's wedding.  We had a wonderful time celebrating the beginning of their marriage with our Houston friends and a few old friends from college.  We also got to spend time with both Fred and Jeff and their families.
Ashley and Tim

A week later, this shy, scared girl who doesn't like to be anywhere without her Mommy, Nanny, or husband, boarded a HUGE plane for London-all by myself.  I then proceeded to walk around London for an entire day-all by myself.  Wait, that's not true.  Christ was with me the whole way, and I know He's the one who gave me the courage and determination to conquer my apprehensions.  I sang "My God is so Big" an awful lot that day, but I accomplished everything on my agenda and was so darn proud of myself!
Buckingham Palace

After my day in London, this shy, scared girl boarded another HUGE plane for the Homeland-Zambia.  The fear of the unknown mingled so tightly with the excitement that I could no longer differentiate between the two.  As I walked off the plane, tears were running down my cheeks to know that God was answering 14 years of prayers right in that moment.  I was on Zambian soil, and it felt so amazingly wonderful.  I dove into the next 2 1/2 weeks with all I was as I loved on kids, taught school, and reconnected with my brother Kelvin and old friends.  I made new friends that are still impacting my life.  And Jessy, well, she's getting her own post.   Africa is more than a continent.  It's a way of life, and a spirit, and a blood flow that's inexplicable to those who haven't experienced it.  It's like Aggieland.  :)  God was present everyday, and I am so grateful for all the ways He stretched me and made me grow.  Of course, the comfort of a well hidden ratty, well- loved blanket that Isaac thought might be helpful being so far from home was a nice surprise too.  :)

Zambian Vocal Collection and me
August 8th was our first anniversary, so we treated ourselves to a five day cruise to Cozumel.  We loved being on the beach, scuba diving, and swimming with dolphins.  The time to just be together after my 3 weeks away was wonderful.

The end of October and first week of November found us in Florida for an attempted shuttle launch.  We never did get to see Steve soar into space, but we had a fabulous week of the beach and Disney with my mom and dad.  I really do hope that was the first of many trips for the four of us.  I wasn't expecting to get back to Disney so soon after Meredith and I went for graduation in June '07, and I was thrilled to be there again.  Disney is pure magic, and I enjoyed sharing it with Isaac.  We hope to get to spend more time there for an anniversary trip in a few years.
In December we went back to Ohio for the week before Christmas.  We also drove to Louisville to see family and friends of mine.  I loved it.  Snow, snow, and more snow described our trip, along with a lot of love!
Silly prom pose before our night at the theater
2010 was a blessed year of travel.  I don't think 2011 will be a repeat of the jet-setting, and I'm a-ok with that.  Praise You, Jesus for all of the people you've blessed us with as we traveled this year!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blessings of 2010: Spiritual Growth

Talking about spiritual growth has always been awkward for me.  I'm afraid if I say too much I sound "holier than thou", but this year has been one of so much change for me that I do want to share.

1 Peter 1:16/Leviticus11:44-45; 19:2  has been a constant source of prayer and meditation the past 12 months.  "Be holy for I am holy."  Those are some powerful, soul searching words.  God isn't requesting holiness from His children; He's commanding it. 

It's been a long road, but as I've sought God's heart on holiness this year, I saw how much there was in my life that made me unholy.  I began to feel like a house that was picked up of clutter but wasn't vacuumed or dusted.  At first glance, things looked fine, but with closer inspection, the dirt shined clearly.

I skirt legalism because it's so divisive.  People avoid too many rules because they get jumbled.  No one wants to be a Pharisee.  Honestly, God didn't tell me to stop anything, for that matter.  He did show me how parts of my daily routines weren't holy, and then left me with the conviction.  I had to choose to be obedient and let go of unholiness, or I had to choose to continue living in what I now knew to be sin since the Lord had shown it to me.  What did this mean?  Well, TV was the first thing to go.  When I started paying attention to just how much sin I was watching on the tube, I saw how unholy many of my thoughts and attitudes were because of it. Not everything is off-limits.  I still love the Duggars (I can't decide if it's shock or awe or both), and sports are on a lot, but shows I used to love now make me uncomfortable.   I love to read.  I devour books like many people do chocolate, but I've started being pickier about titles.  Foul language isn't ok; God said so.  You get the idea.  Movies more of a struggle for me.  I love going to the movies and watching movies at home, but I'm learning the importance of filtering what I watch there too.  That's an area for continued improvement in 2011. 

Maybe to some people, all of this 'cleansing' does seem legalistic.  I understand that.  However, the difference at least attempting to be more holy has made is monumental.  Seeking God's will has been much clearer because I don't have so much dirt blocking out His voice.  My faith is stronger, and Isaac and I both enjoy me with positive attitudes. 

None of this makes me perfect.  I still make poor choices, get angry, and flat out choose to be disobedient to my Maker.  I just feel that I please Him more when I follow what Philippians 4:8 says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blessings of 2010: Friends

Friendships didn't come easy for me growing up. It wasn't until college that God helped me learn to trust my heart to women.  That has been a process that I'm still learning, and God has blessed me with three very special ladies who have walked with me for several years now.  They minister to me and put up with my silliness.  They allow me to pray for them daily, and if you want to learn how to truly love someone,
pray for them daily.  There isn't anything I wouldn't do for these three girls.  I have watched their families grow in 2010 as they've added babies, spouses, and in-laws.  I pray 2011 is special for each of these women as we learn to know each other in new ways as God helps us grow.

Meredith and me at a spa day Spring of '04

Ashley and me Songfest '05
Michelle and me Jan '08
 When everything's blustery and you're feeling flustery, remember you have friends who care." ~Winnie the Pooh

"It's good to keep your friends within hugging distance." ~Pooh and Tigger
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