blooming in Africa

Despite a long period of drought, flowers are everywhere in this part of Africa right now. It’s the season for the winter rains and things once scorched and left thirsting beneath the punishing sun of summer are now relaxing and unfolding under the gentle encouragement of the slightest bits of water.

It doesn’t take much. Just a little bit can bring out the green in anything and the flowers can not resist the urge to seize the moment and burst into bloom while they have the chance.

Not every plant has a flower. Not every tree bears fruit, but those that do seem to know how to respond with the least amounts of nourishment. People can be much the same you know. At least this is what I have learned. Hope is a wonderful, nourishing thing;

the hope of Christ is life changing.

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blooming in Africa

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There’s Rose.

Born with a congenital defect, unmarried and living at home with her child, Rose’s lot in life was bleak at best. Life is hard enough for the able-bodied in this part of the world and for the disabled, the challenges are multiplied exponentially.

 Perhaps it was the stark cruelty around her, or maybe it was the cruelty and rejection of others, the fact is; she was becoming hardened as well.

Closed up tight, reserved and withdrawn, Rose lived with very little hope.

As a young woman, she had been sent through a textile training program, learning to knit sweaters and other clothing items but her disability left her unable to find a paying job in that industry and on the fringes of society.

Eventually, Rose was offered a position as a volunteer teacher in the new government nursery school program, which at least opened the door to the possibility of a paid position in the future.

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When my friend Sandra first met Rose, every bit of her demeanor seemed to match her twisted, four and a half-foot frame. Cold, cruel and demanding, Rose stood at the front of the schoolroom full of 3-5 year old students pounding out the basic recitations with a stick in her hand, ready to strike at the first sign of disobedience.

Not exactly a golden candidate for the teacher’s training Sandra came to offer, but Rose had been chosen to represent her community and despite her unlikely qualifications and disagreeable disposition, she began to train with the others.

It was the first drop of rain.

Little by little, Rose began to respond to the time, training and attention being offered to sharpen what turned out to be her natural skills as a teacher. Slowly her heart began to soften and unfold as she was guided by Sandra through the new curriculum and mentored by their mutual friend, Eunice.

They taught the basics of learning and teaching beyond memorization and recitation.
They shared their time and their testimonies.
They shared their Reason for hope……. and the waters began to flow.

Bible stories were taught as a part of this basic curriculum, each one working it’s way into Rose’s careworn soul where greening was beginning to take place and hope was beginning to take root.

It was this, combined with the patient witness of Eunice, Sandra and her husband Charlie, that eventually found Rose accepting the invitation to church where she, in her words,

“Heard the Word of God and became saved.”
The floodgates were opened.

The hardness of Rose’s guarded and toughened exterior seemed to melt away as the Lord became the guardian of her heart and soul.

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we bloom in giving****************************************

Sandra introduced me to Rose as we walked along the path celebrating the church’s recent baptisms. I can’t say I didn’t notice her deformity but I can honestly say that it wasn’t the first thing I saw. No… it was the light in her eyes that caught my attention as Sandra told me how Rose is one of the area’s best teachers and how her students place at the top when it’s time to move on to primary school.

Rose was positively glowing.

We sat together in the fellowship of the other women, drinking chai from barely washed community cups and watching the children play in the dirt around us waiting for their meal.

Rose stood and taking her English bible, she began to read aloud. Then she testified in praise, how Sandra taught her to be a good teacher and how Charlie told her about the Lord and she became saved and “clever”.  Sandra reminded her that God made her clever.

Agreeing, Rose simply smiled.

Rose

It was the smile of someone who knows truth and love.
It’s the smile of one who knows hope.

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Flowers are blooming everywhere in this part of Africa right now…unfolding and relaxing beneath the nourishment of the winter rains. It doesn’t take much to bring them out of hiding– God knows just what to do.

And it’s the same with people.

God alone knows how to take a sweet “yellow rose” from Texas and bring her alongside a precious sister in Africa to show her the patient love and mercy of the very One she needs.

And only God can cause a rose to…. bloom.

Rose at school

blooming with God in Africa,Lorretta signature

outside the box

So… let’s start with a wee disclaimer shall we?

I’m not a mommy blogger.

I don’t think that’s a mystery to most of my readers but if you’re new to me, I wanted to be sure to put that right out there. I am privileged to be a mother to three nearly grown children and while we home- schooled for most of those years, I also wouldn’t call myself a home school blogger.

The fact is, I don’t feel truly “qualified” to offer any advice in these areas because on most days, I feel like I just did it all kinda crazy-wrong. However, by the tremendously gracious grace of God, somehow it’s turning out to be alright.

That’s basically where I write from: the humble place of a sinner-saved-by-grace, home schooling Mommy, who hopes God will shine through the cracks and gaps left behind and bring His light to another. It’s been a life mostly lived….

outside the box*********************************

 Honestly, parenting has been the most blessing-filled and most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted to do. The only thing MORE blessing-filled and difficult has been home schooling! No doubt about it, this journey with my children has definitely deepened my dependence upon God and my relationship with Him and it’s allowed me the opportunity to model humility before them more often than not.

 

I’ve shared this often so you may have heard we’re going on a media mission trip to Africa for three weeks. In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll already be there. What most folks don’t seem to know is that we’re taking our fifteen-year old son with us. He, like his brother and sister before him, has grown up in the midst of our Spirit-led life on the fringes with Jesus as we’ve sought to serve and tell the stories of God at work.

Once upon a time, we wanted to go into full-time missions as a family. We know we are called. Four applications and 4 rejections later left us wounded and wondering but never doubting what we know God has called us to do.

So we worked while waiting, plugging in with our local church on short-term trips stateside and abroad, volunteering and serving locally. It’s been a family thing and over time, it’s becoming their thing as well.

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In fact, encouraging their relationship with God to become…theirs has been our most important parenting goal. We’ve taught and modeled it before them (through successes and failures), and have had many discussions through the years entertaining their doubts, questions and fears.

 

Probably the most important discussions have centered upon how our faith cannot substitute for their faith. While standing close by, we’ve encouraged them to seek God for themselves trusting He will continue to reveal himself to them as they grow.

 

This has often meant living life “outside the box”, so to speak, and seeking opportunities to strengthen our faith and help us all to grow. These are the times we’ve learned to rely heavily upon God and own what we truly believe, times when we could see and experience the truth of Who God is and discover our place in this world in relationship to Him.

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Pilgrim people

 It takes a conscious effort to daily live this way versus getting absorbed into the “status quo” or stuck a quiet life of “churchianity” and it can be expressed in so many valuable ways all around us.

 

It’s not been easy.

The challenges to this type of living are both huge and subtle. This is the era where adventure and most of life is marketed, framed and contained within little boxes: in the theatre, the living room, on the desktop or now held in the palm of your hand. It takes a great deal of effort to live outside the boxes and into the reality of what God calls us to do.

 

That’s why we’re taking our son with us to Africa.

 

I pray that God will use this experience to open his heart, mind and eyes not only to the ugly realities of the effects of sin on this world but also to the beautiful work of God’s redemption, healing and salvation taking place everywhere you go….

Across the ocean, across the street, across the room.

 

So what is my greatest hope?

  • I hope he will learn how to live a life of gratitude and throw off any spirit of self-centered entitlement so common to people today.
  • I hope he will experience mercy so rich and real that he will recognize it’s richness in his own life and seek to share it with others.
  • I hope he will learn that the stories about God are not only real and alive today but that God actually is the story and his own life is written into every line.

 

Most of all, I hope he— all of my children— will eventually seek to live their lives outside of the box and always for something much bigger… much better than themselves recognizing only God is big enough to fully satisfy.

 

Indeed, it’s the very best this sinner-saved-by-grace, outside-of-the-box home schooling Mommy can hope for. 

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‘Merica, blessed to be a blessing

It’s our week in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The week when we dust off our patriotism, unfurl our star-spangled banners, and hitch our pride a little higher celebrating the land and country we love.

‘Merica  A people united by an air of fierce independence and the ideal of unrestrained opportunity…

a strange mix even on the best of days.

Somewhere at sometime, someone once said, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” Experience has taught me truth in this and that very often, Hunger is her muse.

It’s a lesson my husband and I learned well through  years of trying to keep a few pennies ahead in the positive column as self(un)employed artists raising and homeschooling a family.

There have been some really “creative” periods over the years and I sorta pride myself in my ability to “make do”…DO.  I tend to think I can manage on very little and find alternative ways to make up the lack. Second-hand is fine; homemade is better. By the grace of God, we’ve always had everything we’ve needed and most of what we’ve wanted as well.

So if you asked about my current state of affairs, I  gladly admit to being humbly content…sweetly satisfied. Blessed….without a hint of materialism or an air of entitlement in my soul.

Not much anyway.
Well…maybe just a titch.
Ok… a titch and a half!

I don’t like to think so. I don’t like to think I’m all that materialistic  or have much of an entitlement attitude  but a recent event has caused me to stop and “check my privilege”.

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Allergies. It began with allergies.

Nasally stuff, you know… dust, dander and the what-not that plagues us here in the South. Nothing major but we’ve kept it at bay with a little red pseudophed in the mornings.

It works.

Sadly, we live in a world where evil seems to have a free reign, so this formerly over the counter medicine has moved up under tighter regulation. Now you have to show ID, sign for it,  only so much can be bought, yada, yada, yada.

So we do it. No biggie…right?
Until it seems we get “profiled”.

On our way to an outdoor church event, dressed down for outdoor play, we stop to get this and a few things before the pharmacy closes. No dice. The pharmacist on duty cites a “new regional policy” and nothing we say can sway her decision.

Ya’ll…. she’s serious. I’m LIV-id— the “trying-not-to-cry-I’m-so-stinkin-mad” kind of livid.

Polite, but point blank I ask why, after months of shopping and following the rules at this store is it suddenly not OK.

Looking at me she replies, “It’s the new policy because there are a lot of dirt-bag meth heads around here.”

Whoa….excuse me?!

We left empty-handed. A follow-up with the National company left us wanting for “justice” because they leave it to the discretion of their pharmacists to make these types of policy calls.  An apologetic call from the store’s manager confirms the same.

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I stew and fume for days.
I mean.. seriously?!??! Do I look like a “dirt-bag meth head” to YOU?!?!
Wait….don’t answer that.

Wait…. because it really doesn’t matter.

Calming down, I realized that my problem was not so much that I didn’t get what I thought I needed, or that there was the distinct probability we’d been labeled. The problem went deeper.

I was angry because I didn’t get what I wanted AND the respect I felt I deserved along with it.

I was angry because I don’t like being told no.
I don’t like being told I can’t have something.

I have “rights” you know!
This is ‘MERICA dang it!

Well, apparently some “rights” weigh in more heavily than others and the abuses of some can mar the rights of us all. Evil is like that.

I was shocked to see  the ugly rear up in my heart so immediately and self-righteously. Suddenly, my eyes are opened to how, even in America, others are dealing with this every day as they are denied a good or service based on their appearance or other such determinant.

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Hidden slightly below that realization is my neglect to see,  no less acknowledge,  how blessed…. fortunate— dare I say…. LUCKY  I am to live in a country and a location where right down the street I have access to *everything* I need and most of what I want. Medicine. Milk.   At least 100 varieties of ice-cream.

I forget that WAY too often.
I seldom stop to think about it.
And I need to think about it.

Not feel guilty, but to acknowledge the bounty of my blessings and all I have to share.

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Holy Fear

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It’s been pounding in my heart for weeks now— this story and revelation have been further compounded by the numbers of people I’ve encountered who really do not realize the nature of the trip we’re about to take to Africa.

I don’t blame them….part of the reason we will go is to tell the story and show what’s being done to help.  It’s a tall order.    Complicated.

Confusion marked with ignorance or fueled by propaganda and corruption is allowing HIV/AIDS to decimate communities, families and almost an entire generation.

Even when medicines are available, caregivers, transportation, logistics,
clean water, food and …honesty…are not.

Health care and humanitarian aid organizations  are doing what they can to keep up with the crisis, to care for and educate those in need but the numbers are staggering. Don’t misunderstand; the situation is not under control.

And yet….this is their DAILY life.. ..what they know and surprisingly, in many cases, we have been told that the people are joyful, thankful… living in gratefulness for what they have.

And those who are sick, in need and near the end, when someone arrives with a hospice bucket,  they are so stinkin’ blessed by a few tubes of Carmex and some socks. Shoot, they’re blessed by the bucket itself!

So yeah… what was I… sitting in my 2400-sq foot, air-conditioned home with indoor plumbing, 2 pillows and a comfortable bed, 5 cats, 2 dogs, a garden and plenty of food to spare,               …what was I complaining about?

I really don’t remember.   You?

Blessed to be a blessing,Lorretta signature

Blessed to link with Kelli, and  Jennifer