A quick glance at my most recent posts on my blog reminds me that only having posted one blog in 2011, one in 2012 and this being the first post for this year of 2013 I have not been eager to share many words. As I’ve pondered the reason for this I believe it is because life has humbled me much over the past few years.
Some people live a life full of spoken words, some are known for many great written words. Others live a life full of action with few words. Still others live a life without much purpose or direction. As for me, I’ve always had to work to be quiet and listen. Those who have known me for many years will attest to this. I don’t know what people who have only known me over the last few years think. Perhaps they still see the struggle. But I sense within my heart that I have become more of a watcher, more of a listener, more of a waiter, and more of a practicioner of the presence of God. My soul waits in silence for God. Be still and know that I am God. In the waiting and in the slowing of my thoughts and actions I feel one thing principally…humbled. I don’t feel self-degradation, I feel thankful. I feel as though I know so little and God knows so much. I don’t have much to say. I want to follow Him. The simplest of realities are so profound to me that I am left without many words.
Being a mama to Caleb has helped me much into this journey of simplicity in my life and walk with God. Discovering that Caleb had autism in 2011 and learning from our RDI instructor that the most important thing I could do, and our family could do, was slow down put me on a path I have found leads to much humility. I know how to cook “less well” than I did 3 years ago because everything I make now must be gluten and dairy free. I know less parenting answers because many of the things we did with our older three kids backfires with Caleb. I know less language here in Rwanda than I did in Togo. I know less about the people I work with and am teammates with than I knew of those in Togo. I know less culture here in Rwanda than I knew in Togo. I know less certain exactly what I should be doing for Him because he reveals simple, beautiful things to me often within my lack of busyness for Him that just make me pause in wonder. I know less about myself and more about Him. Well, more articulately maybe, I’m less interested in myself and more interested in Him.
I think now, pretty matter of factly, that life is simply not worth living without Jesus. I know it now in a certain way. It is not a revelation in a moment of heart-rending love for Him. It is not a knowledge that came after a time of Him removing all other things from me to show me how magnificent He is in the face of all other calls to my heart. It is a daily thought that feeds and sustains me. I don’t have much to say to others right now but I have a lot to show them. I have His love in me that wants to pour forth in action. I think this season of my life may be more living in each moment than any I’ve experienced before. I feel such a feeling of peace right now. No regrets, no walking or moving on my own, no questioning if that is what I should have done or not. He leads me gently now and I am following willingly and humbly and there’s not a struggle in my heart to want to obey him. I truly feel every day in the words of Peter, “Lord, where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.” I may be often at a loss for words but He isn’t. I want to just let Him do the talking and I’ll keep trying to listen and walk with Him. I trust Him to bring words if they need to be there and to keep my mouth closed when the best word is Him living in me. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. How humbled I am that he continues to dwell in me and so many around me. I just long to watch and soak up His beauty in his word, and in His creation.
This past Sunday I was challenged during a group time to write about an experience with Jesus. We were asked to use our imaginations and write descriptively about a possible scene with Jesus in the gospels or from our own experiences with Him. I had never written down, descriptively, my first experience at hearing His voice directly and personally to me, so I felt compelled to try to describe it. It was a wonderful reminder of why I love Him so much and I thought I would share it on my blog.
The pillow was cool against my cheek, wet from the tears I had wept into it, cooled by the night air. I felt utterly alone, betrayed, full of despair-unloved. Darkness was all about me, and within me HOPE seemed a feeling completely distanced from my memory. Suddenly, a shock. A bright light fell upon my closed eyelids, so bright that I could sense its presence through the darkness on the underneath side of my lids. Curious, despite my depression, I opened my eyes. There upon my pillow I saw a dancing light softly beckoning me to look up towards its source. There, outside my window and brighter than I ever remember seeing it shine through the trees, was a full, radiant moon.
In the quiet of my deep need, in the depth of my desire for unfailing love, I heard His voice. “I love you, my darling. I will never leave you. You are so precious to me.” It was not just the words, it was the enveloping warmth of His presence that I felt all about me that communicated the unspeakable depth of His love. Oh, Jesus! I had no remembrance of hearing and feeling his presence so clearly but I knew it was him. My tears began to flow again, this time out of humbled love. But, wait. Was I dreaming, imagining this scene to make myself feel better? The moon suddenly disappeared behind a cloud and my heart fell with doubt. Then, an act of grace to my doubting mind and heart – the light flooded once again, but this time square upon my cheek. “I love you” said Jesus. “I am still here.”
“I hear you, Lord,” I said. “I believe you. Here is my whole heart. It is yours tonight and forever.”
And true as He is to every promise, He has never left. And He has never stopped loving me ardently.
This is the first reason why I follow Jesus: His love compels me.
I Corinthians 5:13-14 (NIV)
If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
1 John 4:10 We love him because he first loved us and sent His son into the world that we might live through Him.
Here I am :) After a very long sabbatical from my blog I’ve decided to start writing again. I think it will take me a bit to get back into the mindset of putting my thoughts and heart murmurings into written words. But the desire in me has been re-kindled and so I shall try.
A familiar feeling has crept back into my being lately…it is one I both welcome and dread. Restlessness is usually a precursor for a truth to be revealed to me by the Lord, almost always something that demands a change in me. I’ve felt pretty comfortable for awhile….too comfortable. So I do welcome the restless feeling before an awakening. But, my flesh wants to “sleep in” a little longer. Lord, attune my ears to hear your word. I know that my soul is restless for you.
I haven’t done a good job AT ALL of posting anything over the past 5 months. This adjustment to full time schooling, mothering, and living in the US as a family of 6 has pretty much overwhelmed my time :) Some important family events have transpired, however, that I don’t want to forget. We visited Crater Lake with Mike, Earlene, and Ashlin’s baby, Landon, in July. We went on a camping trip with the Lanning family and spent a day at Silverwood theme park. Caleb turned 4 in August. My 4 children started school in the U.S., We celebrated Halloween only a couple of weeks before my grandma went home to be with the Lord. Gabriel turned 7. And our family experienced the joys of our first snow together. We are thankful to God for His grace towards us and His faithfulness that we witness in so many ways.
We are here in Richland, enjoying seeing family and trying to get into living here for awhile :) I will do my best to post something fairly regularly (at least once a month). We had a wonderful farewell to Togo. Our teammates and dear Kabiye friends sent us off with gifts and love and prayers and encouragement and our sponsoring church welcomed us with the same. We have been greatly blessed!
The Lord has made Himself known to us as the precious giver of good gifts and also shepherd as he leads us into new pastures, as well as our stronghold. He has made it so apparent to me over the past week that “without Him I have no good thing” and “unless the LORD builds the house, those who try labor in vain” I can’t do anything without Him and it is He who does the doing through me. AND He Himself is the joy and peace…without Him nothing is joyful or peaceful….NOTHING!
It humbles me when God uses me as a part of a plan He orchestrates me into at just the right time. Little Celia is starving from severe malnutrition. She is the fourth baby of her mother, Kumea. And I realized today that perhaps a big reason for Kumea not coming to get help for her baby (other than the fact that she lives far away in a remote village, has little to no money of her own to pay for services and her husband had refused to help) is that she thought she probably had HIV and that the baby did, too, and would just die. Kumea nervously consented to an HIV test for herself today and when it came back negative, she didn’t believe the doctor was giving her the true results. She can’t read and so she just had to trust that we were telling her the truth. Discrimination in the villages is so strong against anyone with HIV. In the villages it is still a death sentence, no access to ARVs and still little knowledge as to how to prevent it or the possibility of living with it. When villagers see a baby wasting away like Celia, they automatically think HIV/AIDS and tell the mother she has it, too. I’m sure part of her thinking was “Why waste money and time to go to a doctor when Celia will just die and I am probably about to die too?”
Soon after Christianne, Essowe, and I insisted that we take her and the baby to the hospital, we checked out her tongue and saw that her frenulum was too short. With some gentle pushing of the doctors and nurses from me yesterday and this morning, they did the easy procedure to cut it and she immediately began sucking harder and stronger as she nursed. Little Celia has sunken eyes, her little legs and arms are bones with skin from the joints down, she has lost hair, and her skin just sags all over her body. Her state of severe malnutrition meant that the WHO protocol must be followed of giving her amoxicillin for any infection in her digestive system as lack of food causes things to grow in her intestines, as well as anti-fungal syrup for the thrush that had developed in her mouth. They began giving her formula through a little sucking tube held up to Kumea’s breast and she did very well sucking it down and has continued to feed well every two hours.
Her whole family is in Djamba (an hour and a half drive from Kara) and one lady from her husband’s family who lives closer to town came and stayed the night with her last night but left this morning. However, a lot of the staying with her, bringing food (no food service at the hospitals here), talking with the doctors and nurses, and paying for every service or test before they would perform it has been my privilege to take on since she has no family near by. Essowe is visiting her tonight with some food and Christianne will come in from Lassa Tchou to see her tomorrow. It should be at least a week if she continues to improve and gain weight, before she is released from the hospital.
A blessing is that the hospital is only charging around $8.00 for their stay, regardless of how long it is because of her level of poverty. My experiences with CHR in Kara and CHU in Lome’ have been very encouraging as the doctors I have interacted with and staff have, for the most part, been compassionate and helpful. Medical cleanliness, practices, basic patient care, and organization leave room for much improvement but with what they have many are not giving up and are really trying to help and to heal. For this I am thanking God.
I am praying that God is saving Celia’s life for Him to receive glory. I am praying that her mother sees the compassion of Christ in us as she is new in her faith and walk with the Lord. I am praying that her family and acquaintances will be moved to value life more deeply. And I am praying for God to continue to form my mind and eyes to be His.
Perhaps this is one of my top 5 precious memories of the last 10 years in Togo. I find that my words fall short when trying to describe the treasure of this blessing. In the early years when I could only read Kabiye and not understand more than 5 to 10% of the words I was reading as I taught there was still a blessing watching women, especially, hear God’s words in the language of their heart, many for the first time. Looks of surprise and incredulity danced from face to face as they realized that Esso (God) would talk and use expressions like they would. Many times over the years I have experienced the serendipity of communicating truth which God in those moments empowered me to use exactly the right examples, words or phrases in Kabiye and watching the truth penetrate hearts, aware of the glorious reality that I was simply the vessel that God’s wonderful words of life could pass through to enter the open hearts of His people.
The last 3 years, I have invested my time in studying with and discipling Mazalo and Christianne, 2 ladies who have shown themselves to be devoted followers of Jesus. As we strategized, studied, and prayed and planned together as a team we realized that our resources are most effectively used by investing heavily in a few and then encouraging and training them to do the same and those they disciple training others etc. This was Jesus’ method so it seems like the best one. Our influence looks like it is smaller in the beginning but exponential growth over time gives much more return and there is the blessing of deep training in relationships. Christianne and Mazalo have been blessings to me as we’ve studied and discovered God’s word together. Especially hearing what God shows them as we study passages together and how they will obey what He is asking. Sometimes we’re thinking very similar things as I contemplate how to obey or respond to God from what is in His word. And sometimes we see very different aspects of ways to obey and I learn to see God and my response to Him in new ways. We deepen one another’s faith, we share deeply our praises and struggles, we pray for one another and as their older sister in Christ I have equipped them as God has led me to do the same with other younger sisters.
I love how alive His word is and how it penetrates joint and marrow and lives within us and becomes a part of us by His Spirit. And being a part of all of this in a tribal language so very different from my own in Togo, West Africa gives God much glory. His word shines all the brighter for me, uniquely powerful to transcend every language and every culture, including my own. I have learned in these years that God’s kingdom, or His culture, is in no way deeper connected to one human culture than another. He has placed eternity in the hearts of men from every nation so that all cultures can comprehend Him. And the beauty in experiencing Him through another cultural worldview is that I experience parts of Him that are hidden from me in my own culture. I learn to see Him outside of my natural eyes and the eyes of my heart are all the more enlightened. How beautiful He is through the eyes of His people from ALL nations.
Please pray for the immediate families and people under Mazalo and Christiannes’ influence: Mazalo’s older brother has welcomed us into his home in Ketao to study every week. Pray for Him to become a follower of Jesus. They are pictured here together.
And please pray for Christianne as she teaches and mentors the 9 orphans that she and her husband, Jean Marie, have taken into their home to raise. Pictured below: Both of these women desire to teach other women and families all throughout Kabiye land but they are beginning with those nearest them.