burdens worth bearing

The cats are curled up like lazy commas all around the house and  I’m tempted to join them except  it would totally ruin my “recovery from jet lag” plan!

Instead, I find myself sitting here scanning through the nearly three weeks of pictures and the very real memory of it all hits me right between my breastbone and eyeballs: the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the lives that were touched along the way.

The way my life was touched by theirs.

The faces.
The smiles.
The eyes.

Funny School Kids

The naked joy of uniformed school children in all degrees of dress, running, laughing and waving along roadsides strewn with trash.

The constant underlying tension of poverty and despair pulling hard against the unmistakeable beauty of life being lived more simply.

And how that strange medley of sight, sound and smell still gathers around the edges of each photo  taken in that land seemingly fueled by diesel,  dust and dung.

It gets on you. It gets in you.

It changes you.

It really has to and you sorta want it to even though you know… it won’t be temporary.

bearing burdens

I’ve done enough trips like this so that by now I expect and welcome the changes that must come in me as a result.

I’ve also learned not to exploit the situation by getting ridiculously sappy and over emotional (you can thank me later) while expressing what I know God did there– as if He doesn’t do amazing things right here or anywhere else if we only have the eyes to see that it’s not about the location.

I’m not here to say I’m moving to Africa (unless God calls us to) but I confess that I am being moved and I hope to never stop moving.

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Honestly….I’ve found this article exceptionally difficult to write and I’m not totally sure why.

Blame it on the jet lag and the fact that somehow I left the ENTIRE month of July behind me in Africa. No doubt about it:  3 weeks, 5 families, 6 airports, multiple locations , countless faces and 16 hours in an airplane over open water will do something to a girl!  But that’s not totally it either.

It’s different this time.

My mind is heavier.    My footsteps and breathing… my thinking is just…. heavier.

My heart holds a new and permanent weight–not sadness but more like an added mass, depth or dimension.

It’s more like the welcome weight of a new joy and responsibility.

I’m free to feel and acknowledge it now. I’m allowed to inspect it from every angle and feel it’s heft upon my shoulders and  in my hands and heart.

Because now, I’m not standing in the room as one of the few strangers ever to cross their threshold. Not slipping into the scene, half-apologetic with my camera in hand and my heart wholly conscious of the sanctity of this moment…  of how this sudden, unbidden care may be breaking through to the moment of decision and eternal hope.

Now, I can also acknowledge how that high and low blend of those deeply soulful, harmonic choruses winging through those rooms, out the open windows and across the fields of Africa,  have found me here again, winding their way around my heart and giving me a measure of new hope as well.

Even though it was terrible at times.
Terribly ugly, awfully beautiful and totally,   earnestly,   painfully…. real.

Not perfect, but real and moving.

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Then it was Africa. Today it’s America. Tomorrow?

Who knows where, when or how God will move this discussion but that’s not the point of being moved. The point is to keep moving and being moved by Him right where I am.

Most understand even in the physical world, everything is constantly in motion. So while my table and chairs aren’t moving around the room on their own accord, the atoms inside are, even as gravity is pulling them downward and holding it all in place. (There’s your homeschool science lesson for the day!)

This is  what I sense taking place in my soul as well. God has me anchored in Him here and now and yet in constant internal and spiritual motion ready to move in any direction He wills for my life .

Realizing, I didn’t just go on a mission but rather, I am on a mission at all times.

And that weight… that added depth, dimension and responsibility… is to continue to be the vehicle of His story,    my story,   YOUR story… and theirs.

I promised.

Dorcas and her Mom

Standing there thanking each person we met , I  promised to tell their story so that others could be helped by this project as well.

It gave them peace to know they were remembered and prayed for, not dying forgotten and  alone.
It gave them purpose to know that their story could be shared and possibly help another know this peace too.
It gave them hope to know their pain would not be wasted and for some, that their eternity was now secured.

Because that’s the point: stories carry hope and can help to heal the hurts.  Jesus knows about the power of story too… He told plenty of them.

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So the joy of this mission goes on today.

I’ll be telling some of the stories here as time goes on and others will be produced and shared as videos. In the meantime, I want you to consider this project and perhaps find a way to get involved because I’ve witnessed first-hand how this simple act of love is making a difference in the lives of the dying and their caregivers.

The hospice bucket program is a project similar to the Sole Hope project in that “many hands make light work”.  Any group of any size can collect the items needed to pack a bucket. Or raise funds to send to BGR partners who are already packing and shipping buckets today.

Mud Hut African Proverb

So many of you prayed for us along the way and we are grateful beyond our ability to express. Those prayers were most definitely needed, felt and shared with everyone we met.  Thank you!

And now, let’s strive to be one of those “little people” … being moved to do whatever we can to transform the world, on mission, right where we are.

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P.S… no, we never came in contact with Ebola but we are praying for those who have.

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

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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 went on media mission trip to Africafor three weeks. In fact, by the time you read this, we’ll already be there and back. What most folks don’t seem to know is that we took our teen 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 hel learned 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 experienced 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 learned 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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 This article first appeared at Teaching What is Good.