Growing Up and Growing Old

Today I invite you to come with me into the back rooms of Lorretta’s mind to the file drawer labeled “Crazy Thoughts and Panicky Moments.” It’s the one right before:”Stuff I Probably Shouldn’t Say Out Loud” and right after, “Things I’d Do Differently if I Could.”

bravely growing older

I don’t know who makes the rules for these things but apparently a new car depreciates in value by nearly 30% in it’s first year off the lot. I googled it. #truestory. The same is apparently true for mobile homes although that doesn’t seem as surprising.

There are days I feel the weight of depreciation –especially when it comes to my writing and ministry. I want so badly for these offerings to hold Kingdom value and to KEEP working miracles in my life. I want them to produce healing miracles in the lives of others as well. Any edgy shard or fragment– I so desperately want God to use. Because otherwise, it seems like a big waste, you know?

Fear of depreciation sometimes keeps me from ever beginning. I get stalled on the water, stuck at the gate, too afraid to move on.  But if I have to be honest, probably my greatest place of personal wrestling has had to do with personal depreciation. Getting older.

Our culture places a ridiculously high premium on youthfulness and looks down on aging as something to be avoided.  As if only the new thoughts, new ideas, new methods or new stories hold any weight or value?!?

Seriously?!?!

Trust me, I’m not looking for the Fountain of Youth. I’m not interested in lipo-anything or the “lifting” of anything besides my Spirit or hands in worship. (Although I did buy some cream the other day……)

Because if I’m looking to hold on to “value” the shaping and shifting of my outer self isn’t where my value lies. Don’t get me wrong;  I still take care myself but I recognize there’s a fine line between “fashionable” and “foolish” and I’ve reached the age where I oughta know better!  KWIM?

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No, it’s deeper than that. See, a few years back I came to what Henry Blackaby refers to in Experiencing God,  as a “crisis of faith”.  A lot was involved in that period of time–there was no singular event to refer to–just a whole host of things got real “muddy” and even a little dirty.

It wasn’t that I doubted or stopped believing or lost my faith in God but honestly,
I just couldn’t see how to sustain it into old age.

Being a teen or young-adult Christian woman, a VBS and homeschool Mom, a “valuable worker bee” in the Kingdom hive– I knew how to do all that and the church has wide open arms in these departments. But growing older and keeping an ACTIVE faith? Not so much.

Then, honestly? I looked around  the Church and I saw very few older women I wanted to become. I saw very few older women involved in much of anything outside their comfort zones or interacting with anyone outside their own age or financial bracket. I couldn’t find many living much further beyond the “been there-done that, complainin’ about it” mentality.

Where were the older, wiser,
warrior women for Christ?

Symphony of life

I swear, I’m NOT judging. But I got …well …TERRIFIED. Because I thought, “Is this IT?!!” Once you turn the corner, round the bend and go over that hill–  then what?!?

God led me gently into that temporary place of wilderness where I learned a whole lot about His purposes for my life at any age or stage.  Among other things, God showed me that how I see this purpose and these next stages of life is a choice. There are some things I don’t get to choose but my attitude is still one of them.

Getting older is inevitable,
being old is a choice
and growing older is the goal.

He showed me something else our entire society–churched and unchurched– seems to have forgotten: aging is a privilege. Like work, getting married, owning a home, having children and a bunch of other things– aging is a privilege not afforded to everyone.  I need to be thankful for the opportunity.

God also helped me to shift my focus away from my self, and to look more lovingly and carefully for the women who could mentor and model for me what these next stages of life need to look like. Not perfectly–but faithfully.

I begged God to send older women who’d understand this need and wow… God placed several fine examples in my midst. These women  challenge my walk and my witness. They listen hard and love me well, honestly share their hearts, hard-earned wisdom and Christ-submitted struggles…and pray–they pray for me and ask me to pray for them too.

I’ve got Jane and Jan and dear Paula, who spent her life on the mission field and whose goal is simply to become a “sweet, little old lady” (emphasis on the sweet!). She doesn’t want to become anyone’s sermon example although she continues to live an active sermon before me and so many others as she tirelessly works and loves missionally right where she lives.

These women continue to inspire and encourage me, spurring me on to the next moments of my next stages of walking with Christ, however long that may be.

The challenge now is to recognize my role in this equation which is expanding in both directions. Because somewhere out there are younger women who need to see what living a real Christian life and growing older with God looks like and some may be watching me and checking my pulse for signs of life too!

I don’t want to fail them… or my Lord.

Something tells me that I won’t if it’s more about God than me. He will be my guide.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

God’s Word reminds me that as long as I keep bravely focusing on the Truth with the Word of God as my guide and His Kingdom as my goal,  He will not forsake me–even into old age.

“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 71

I pray I’m well on my way to bravely becoming a sweet, little old lady too …an older warrior woman for Christ.

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 *This post originally appeared on LiveBrave.com in April 2013. It’s a word worth repeating here today.

 

 

 

 

giving up

It is finished.

At least for now, this part of our journey to and from the Dominican Republic has come to a close. Now begins the processes of piecing it all together— both the project and ourselves.

I don’t mean to sound all “hyper-holy” but honestly,  I always return feeling hushed and introspective. My heart is heavier afterward with the weight of a new knowledge and understanding for a new place and people and burdens I know only God can handle.  No matter what project is involved, every mission alters my course in ways that continue to unfold for weeks and months to come.  Each time, the landscape of my heart changes and will never be the same again.

I think it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

giving up

So, I have a confession: Once upon a time… I was THAT short-term missionary.

Earnestly, I went believing I had what the world needs most and my job was to go and bring some Jesus to those poor, lost people who had none. I won’t belabor this point, but I recall some pretty awkward moments culminating in one huge rude awakening.

Truthfully? I’ve never brought Jesus anywhere; He’s always met me wherever I was sent. My role then there and here now is simply to do my best to be Christlike.

Which is never as easy as it seems.

Honestly, these trips have done more to open my eyes and change me with the Gospel I profess, than I first imagined. Maybe because I have to cling so much harder to what I know   that I know    that I know— far more difficult to do outside your own rhythm, routine and comfort zone.    #Truestory

Using these off-kilter places, God impresses new marks on my heart. The fresh and beauty-full moments add color and texture and the more difficult ones apply setting heat to harden them and deepen my character and personality…for His glory— I pray. He uses it all: the people, places, faces, laughter and tears, where shared meals and difficulties become the holiest of communions along the way.

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Scripture leaves record of some of these types of moments— just enough to glimpse the Body of Christ living then from day to day. Life surely wasn’t all fishes and loaves and walking on water. There were bone-wearying storms, uncertainties, frustrations and taxes to pay. There were arguments over who would sit where and who would be serving whom.

Sometimes, I like to think that Jesus’ parables sprung out of these moments. Perhaps, in those quieter times while seated around a table or fireside,  Jesus might’ve thought, “Now is a good time to talk about…” He’d seize that teachable moment, guiding those disciples then— and us now— through the maze and mess we can make of our lives and relationships.

Because they were just human beings—a bunch of guys on the adventure of their lifetime traveling around with— and for, Jesus. I bet they bickered. Felt selfish and self-centered. They surely got ornery and tired and occasionally made each other miserable. Maybe they asked one time too many, “Are we there yet?”    Maybe.

They asked stupid questions, gave stupid answers all while simply doing their best to follow, serve and walk with the Jesus they had right there in their midst.   Glory.  He should’ve fired them!  Instead, He loved them all the more. Forgave them.   Told them some parable stories and sent them to bed.

He knew them. He knows us. Jesus knows how joy may come in the morning but Lawd, help us make it through the night!  He knows how sometimes,   the Mean  just gets “all up over you.”    Even….and especially when you are trying your hardest to keep it together.

Flawless Christ

Like that time … I was writing a Bible study on the Fruit of the Spirit. In the middle of it all, hubby got sick and went down taking my day’s plans with him.  I found myself manning the carpool that night while my “puking-unto-death” spouse took himself to the doctor. I was agitated, highly distracted and the traffic was unusually nerve-wracking.

Headed home,  (full of “fruit” mind you) I’m behind a vehicle sitting through, not one… two, but FIVE green lights. Seriously!?? So I did what any spirit-filled, FruitFULL Christian would do: I laid on that horn like a lunatic. Did I get out of the car to assist? Um….no. (In fairness— it was night-time… but still.)  Then, out steps the frailest, shakiest, most confused and panicky older gentleman…. He’s near tears.  And now, so am I.  He stutters some apology, his son is on the way and me, I’m just wanting to  Die. Of. Shame.

Jesus had to love me harder then.

Then, oh a few months back, after a particularly stressful “wedding thing” I did… a gas station clerk was flat out rude and I found myself  “thanking-her-so-very-much“ saying “God bless you!” in a tone we both knew really meant “Go to heck in a hand basket!”.
Yah. Cuz …I’m beautiful like that.

Sweet Jesus…have mercy on me, a sinner.
Thankfully, He does.

All to say— what I’ve learned to be the single-most important thing I need as I go… or stay.. anywhere really, is GRACE. Pack extra— I’m gonna need it. Sometimes I’ll be doling out heaping helpings to another but most likely, I’ll be slathering it on thickly myself.

Vividly, I remember my very first International mission trip. Remember how,standing at the edge of a cornfield before the gathered congregation, I sang with all my heart, “I Surrender All”.   I meant it.

Now I know that the “All” I surrendered then was simply the “All” I understood at that point. Since then, God has given me more “All” to surrender and I highly suspect there will always be more to come.

Recently, I was asked: “Did you give up anything for Lent?”
Yeah.. I suppose I did.
I just… gave up.

Surrendering this new understanding of All… once again.

It’s where I suppose I’ll continue to end and where hopefully, Jesus through me… beside and before me — can always begin in me .. anew.

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linking what I’ve learned with Emily.

when Deep calls to Deep

Except for the last few glorious hours before sunset each evening, it’s been mildly overcast for the better part of the last few days.  Considering how we’ve been out all day roaming and filming in various villages, this is a tremendous gift. I’ll accept it gratefully, along with the many other gifts God has been sending my way for weeks… months? Years?

Yes…. years.

when deep calls to deep

There are no other words to describe it;  I was M-A-D.

I honestly believed I was supposed to be here three years ago. Maybe I was. However, a cloud of sin hung thick and low over my life and kept me completely blinded to the fact there was no way  … well… no way in hell that I could serve here at the time.  And it truly broke my heart. God closed the door to that experience and instead, lovingly, He sent me into the desert for some “Wilderness Training”.

For a while it seemed as if I was sent there wounded and alone, but undoubtedly, God met me there.

It was in the wilderness that I would learn my name again.
It was there that He would remind me of my call.
It was in this wilderness that I learned, with certainty, of His strong and powerful, unwavering and unchanging love for me— of His holiness and how to hear and listen to His voice alone.

There I found Living water for my insatiable thirst and the Bread of Life I’d been craving, which finally satisfied this deep hunger I’ve had all my life.

Repentance, cleansing, wholeness and deep satisfaction…. are now mine.

I thought I was supposed to be here three years ago. Maybe I was. But I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I’m supposed to be here now… sitting on a wall, overlooking a mango orchard and watching the sun set on another day in the Dominican Republic.

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The story this time is clean water and the people who need it. Over 1-million worldwide with countless communities struggling against the odds to fight water related diseases and dehydration every day.

Like many other places in the world, this is a story being written in a tragically beautiful setting that could easily be considered a slice of paradise in most respects.  Also like many places in the world, the safety net here is much thinner than you’d imagine with very little separating most people from the harsh realities of life.

The story here is clean water and how, even on an island where there’s plenty all around, the lack of resources draws a sharp dividing line between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” with their ability to purchase or provide.

Clean water.  Water that ultimately sustains… because it comes in the name of the Living Water.

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Maybe it was that thirsty time during my wilderness training that finally helped me to see and understand.

Perhaps it was how Jesus, so loving, gentle and strong, “had to go out of His way” to meet me at the well, and helped me to finally know.  But I know.

Who better to tell the story of a satisfied thirst than one who knows what it’s like to be thirsty?

Who better than one who knows what it’s like to be broken and trying to draw from the wrong source?

One who knows what it’s like to drink “improved” water that looks and appears clean but is really contaminated with hidden things unseen to the naked eye… things that will make you sick. Things that will kill your soul.

Stories that RESTORE

Not long ago, I asked a chemist to tell me the difference between “improved” water and clean water. Without missing a beat, he said, “Improved water will still kill you, it just does it more slowly.”

The same is true spiritually: “improved” just isn’t good enough. Improved spirituality will still kill you— it just does it more slowly. No thank you Sir.

I’m looking for a life-giving relationship with the only One who can sustain. Give me that clean and clear Living Water drawn from the well so deep that only God, himself can draw it out. Drinking from this well, the Deep of Him calls to the Deep in me so clearly.

I’ll never be thirsty again.

We’ve come to the Dominican Republic with the privilege of telling the story of how God is using clean water provided through a program developed by Water@Work.  With their Dominican Partner agency, Fundacìon Water Work, they are building water plants alongside established churches in needy communities so that others can be physically nourished and sustained.

But it can’t end there, and it doesn’t.

The physically thirsty come with what they can afford and they buy. Others receive what they need even when they can not afford to pay and still others, are finding employment and ways to use this resource to develop cleansed water products and provide for their families and communities.

Ministries are being developed by churches around these community water houses with great hopes of opening schools and other opportunities for spiritual nourishment.

The Sky Clean LadiesIED Dominicana Church

Through this tangible expression of God’s love, all who come will have a chance to experience and hear about the Living Water of Jesus Christ with the possibility of forever shaping their eternity.

Water at Work Flower Girl

This story is about clean water… sustaining water — that Amazing Grace-filled Living Water, which only God can provide. Whoever drinks THIS water, Jesus says, will never thirst again.

Take it from a woman who met Him at the well:   I know.

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