Category Archives: my testimony unfolding

The Gaping Mouth of More

Crazy as it sounds, once upon a time, a meal at one of our more “common” fast food restaurants was a pretty big deal; a luxury. If you came from a big family, eating out was an expense reserved for high, family- feast days and a trip to the local burger joint was sometimes as close as you’d get.

So I remember this moment clearly.  A brand-new “Golden Arches” was big news for our little mountain town and all anyone could talk about. If you got to eat there you were certainly going to brag about it.  Seriously, it was a ridiculously big deal when we loaded up to go that evening.The Gaping Mouth

Excitement mounted as the six of us kids sat waited as patiently as possible for the parents to serve up our burger, drink and fries. Unwrapping that crinkly paper, I stared down at what seemed like the most perfect little burger on the face of the planet…all glossy and slick and warm. I felt all kinds of happy looking at that meal. I wanted it to last forever. I’m pretty sure I inhaled.

With the green light to eat, my little brother suddenly slid from his seat to use the bathroom, leaving his sweet little burger and fries untouched— and unattended— right there in front of me. I can’t tell you why, so please don’t ask. In the moments it took for him to step away and slip out of sight, the deed was done: I took a B-I-T-E out of his burger. Yep. With my own still untouched, steamy and glossy in front of me, I stole a bite of his first.

Shame on me.

And shame there was. Caught red-handed with a cheek full of burger and hot tears stinging my eyes, I faced the embarrassment of the loud and exasperated “WHY?!?! What is WRONG with you?!?”   Heck if I knew…..     I just wanted….     more.

More.

As you can imagine, the craving for “More” got me into trouble that day and, in one form or another,  it’s gotten me into quite a bit of trouble since.  God + Maturity + Time has revealed to me how it’s not been so much an issue of unmet needs or expectations. Instead, it’s about learning what it means to be satisfied and how ultimately, it’s God alone who can satisfy. That’s not as easy or as cut-n-dried-Christian-cliche as one might expect.

I am a Christian. I’ve taken the studies and I’ve read the verses teaching the truths and how to apply them. I am a Christian, so of course I’m expected to espouse and emulate always how God is the ultimate source of my ultimate satisfaction. Make no mistake: I know in my gut He is.  But allow me to confess that while I’m much further along than I was back in my “Burger Biting” days, at times it’s difficult to remember and recognize I’ve been drawn off course until I’m a little ways out there.

Search me God

Through my personal Lenten journey this year, God has been gradually revealing another level of “tweaking” He wants to do in this area. I thought I’d been doing pretty good— or at least better. But God wants to do what God always wants to do: Go Deeper. Further. Higher.

It’s this “call to missions” I keep going on about.  I’m justifiably terrified of getting settled into a place of self-satisfaction and somehow missing it.  Factor in how 1000+ personnel from the agency we’d been speaking with were brought back home due to budget adjustments. Now we’re not sure what to do. Continuing to pray and seek the answer,  I fear losing momentum or, as I was telling my dear friend Jane the other day— afraid of unwittingly tripping over the line between contentment into complacency. As if God couldn’t shield, protect and guide my willing and obedient heart. 

Now, you’d think… “Oh, well missions is a “God thing” so it must be OK to be discontent and crave more.”  Yes and no. Maybe…it’s complicated.

Yes to pressing in and on towards that upward calling in Christ Jesus.
Yes to flexibility and teachability.
Yes to all the “yes’s and Amen’s” of now.

That’s  also where the “No” comes in:

No if I can’t wait well.
No, if I can’t learn and be humbled during the waiting.
No, if the “thing” from God starts to take the shape of a God-replacing idol.
No… if I can’t joyfully do whatever where I am as if the mission field is always “someplace else”.

And especially NO if I give in to discouragement, unable to appreciate the good and beautiful gifts he’s placed right in front of me because I’m constantly looking towards something “More-better”.

Here, the craving for “more” gets me in trouble and it’s where God is gently, but firmly convicting me sin in my life— how I keep looking past the good gifts right in front of me, afraid to enjoy them for fear of missing the MORE I, for some reason, sense is out theresomewhere, waiting for me.  I’ve been convicted of impatience and lack of trust…and even, in my spirit, of “despising” His pleasure in small beginnings.

Small Beginnings

Soul-wearied,  I’ve asked the girl in the mirror, “WHY?!? What’s WRONG with you?!?” Heck if I know… I simply crave more.  More God-glorifying unity and diversity. More God-centered teamwork and working hard for Him together.  More of seeing Him move mightily in the lives of others and using me up to do it. I wanna be there, wherever and when it happens….and I forget, painfully forget… it’s happening right here…right now…

  • In paper cups filled with seeds and dirt and harvest promise with plenty to share.
  • Working with a community of women to open God’s grace to 91 of our young ladies.
  • In relationship with neighbors who know about Jesus but nothing yet of His saving grace.

(Sigh)… see what I mean?

So, this is where I am today— humbled, repentant and somewhat embarrassed to make these confessions. But I’m willing to put it all out here because I believe, on some level I’m not alone here. Maybe you’re struggling too? Maybe you’re having a hard time in the waiting place or in knowing how to remain satisfied with what IS even in the light of what MAY (or may not) BE. Maybe it’s a reminder to live the “someday” NOW.

Less than Living

These words shake me. I don’t wanna be “That Girl”… preoccupied with the once was or might be only to find that spent my life doing “something less” instead of the more I’ve always craved.

For the record, although I can’t tell him myself, if my brother was alive today I’d want him to know…”Hey, I’m really sorry about that whole burger thing”.

Trust me, he’d laugh.Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer@ Tell His Story

Whatever. Just Do….WHATEVER.

Grabbing my phone on the way out the door for choir, I noticed the “missed call/voicemail” alerts.  I recognized the number of a friend, but it was uncommon for her to call. Hmmmm.    Retrieving the message, I heard a strange uneasiness in her voice as she wrestled to come up with the right words.

“Lorretta…” Pregnant pause.
“Um… I was wondering…. I mean, do you still…”
Her question dangled over the phone line for an uncomfortable moment.
Then suddenly, “Please call me back when you get a minute?” Click.

Curious? Yeah, me too.
I quickly dialed her number to discover whatever in the world was wrong. Finally answering, I could tell she was still so nervous!     I had no clue.

Whatever

Rambling through the background in her mind, she finally summoned  the courage to ask if I still did “THAT”. “THAT” being the reason she needed my help. And well, since I did still do “THAT”,  I replied I’d be happy to help but inside I was thoroughly bemused by her embarrassment— for herself (maybe?) needing my help with “THAT” or was it for me—the one willing to do“THAT”?     I still don’t know.

Fact is, I did “THAT” then and I still do now.
On occasion.
In fact, I’ll do “THAT” twice this week because I didn’t have time last week.

Yes, I’m here to confess that I engage in what is likely the world’s oldest “occupation”:
I clean houses.  Whew!    I’m so glad I got “THAT” off my chest!

Another confession:  It was not a proud moment when I decided to take my first housecleaning job. But the fact is, as business owners, media missionaries and “self-unemployed” artists,  we needed a little extra at our house to make ends meet. Plus I needed the added flexibility of naming my own hours so I could keep home schooling, volunteering and GreenPeas-business-ing. Let’s face it: there are very few situations nearly as accommodating as this (without having to constantly salespitch your entire friend base). Besides, I get to catch up on all my ministry podcasts while I vacuum and mop!

So, gradually I’ve gotten used to the idea of mentioning that I do “a little cleaning on the side” and I have no problem stating as fact that it’s the way God helps me provide for my family in this season of life. Still, this look-back at my friend’s discomfort and realizing my own, I recognize that there is a certain level of stigma against the idea that someone might choose to earn money this way. I felt it at first, until God gave me peace and helped me to swallow a HUGE chunk of my “I’m-Too-Educated/Good-For-THAT” attitude (also spelled P-R-I-D-E).

A Proud Man

I remember when it happened too. Working  in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya a couple of summers ago, we were filming a ministry series for a water and AIDS hospice project. Our days were packed with one location after another interviewing and filming various people associated with these projects. It was wonderful. Sometimes, we were graciously invited into homes for a bit of hospitality. On those occasions, there was always time to share and pray (whether there was time in the schedule– or not!) and we were always left blessed.

At one home, our guides introduced us to a kind-faced woman and two younger girls. She was the local “church mother” who also trained up Christian house girls. As young Christian women they struggled with the stigma because it was not considered a very honorable profession. Not what they wanted to be when they grew up. However, it was the best they could hope for without a skill set or education. Then, remembering our conversation from the night before, our guide asked if I’d share about my experience with “THAT” line of work.

Speechless.
What I could say? 

True, we had shared our testimonies and desires to use our business/ministry to work full time on the mission field—how we did whatever we could to keep things afloat and in passing, I mentioned I did THAT.  Obviously, the Holy Spirit had orchestrated this divine encouragement opportunity and I was ON.

I wasn’t prepared to say all wish I’d said that day. I remember explaining I was glad to have work allowing me time to do church ministry and to work with my husband. I told them how it freed me up with time to teach my children and provide for my family. Truthfully, how it had been a way to serve God through some difficult times in my life and through it I tried my best to bring Him glory.

As I spoke, I knew in my heart our situations were radically different. I was working for extra money and they were likely working for all they’d have and not much more.  Lack of education and opportunity was not my issue as it was for them.

Still more humbling was the look of confusion and really— surprise on their faces because in their wildest imaginations, no white woman from America would ever have to do THAT. Surely not.
We are rich.
All of us.
Well, that’s always a kick in the pants, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure I mumbled some other well-meaning encouragements hoping they’d understand it was possible to serve God proudly in their places of employment. Of course God was reminding me at the same time how clever it is that He doesn’t waste ANYTHING from the willing.

Revelation

I needed to remember this NOW. I’ve been feeling discouraged– not despairing but wondering about the whole missions thing and how God wants us to answer the call we said yes to 15 years ago. Just being honest. It’s a big, fat question mark.

These remembrances alongside something I heard this past weekend are helping to resharpen my focus (again).  A young woman was sharing a recent experience and she said:

“Sometimes we are praying so hard for God to move us out of a situation that we almost miss what he wants to do with us where we are.”

No great mystery— just a whole lotta truth. Sheesh. More truth was piled on from 1 Corinthians 10:31 where Paul is teaching about idolatry but the word “WHATEVER” is what got me. It’s found again in Colossians 3— twice but particularly in verse 17:

Colossians 3-17

Whatever.
Just do whatever.
Right here, right now.
All of it for Him.

I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot to think about as I work and wait— doing THAT or whatever it is He asks of me— for His glory.

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Linked up with Holly!

You’re Not the Boss of Me

In the checkout line of a small local store, I had a few moments to observe the people around me— especially the man behind the counter. He was careful and attentive to the task before him and though it was only mid-morning, he wore an expression of exhaustion known well by anyone whose ever worked a retail job during the holiday season.

It’s not for the faint of heart I tell ya!

You're Not the Boss

Exchanging pleasantries, I complimented him on how neat and orderly everything was in spite of the obvious chaos this time of the year usually brings. “Thanks,” he sighed “It’s almost over.” I felt his pain but I wanted to leave him with something more. I tried to encourage him to fight the urge of pushing to get through or else possibly, like in many of my previous holiday seasons, he might get to the other side only to discover he’d missed it all… he might miss Jesus, again.  His face relaxed into an easy smile and agreeing, he thanked me for that reminder. “I really needed to hear that today.” He said. 

I did too.

I need to be reminded again and again that the whole point of the holiday experience… of daily living, is not simple basic survival. Of course, there are seasons, sorrows and situations… those moments when this survival mode of operation takes over for a time but it’s so necessary to refuse to stay there— refusing to push or be pushed through life lest we miss the moments and lose ourselves and our joy in the process.

My dearest friend and I shared this recently because it’s exactly what God has been showing her as well. She told me that this season, God was directing her to be intentional about “protecting her joy”. (She writes about it HERE)

Yes. So rational. So reasonable, loving and kind. She put words to what I’ve been feeling— this need to ferociously protect and guard my joy— every day— not so I can hoard and hold it close, but so I have more to really give away. All I can say is that it worked— but it didn’t happen easily.

You know, in some places right now, floodwaters are rising. Today I watched a video showing an entire house being lifted off it’s foundations and carried away downstream. It’s a terrible reality people are facing at this very moment. Spiritually, it’s one I fight every day. The holidays only make it worse.  And while those poor homeowners could do nothing to keep the volume and force of that water from destroying their house, I recognize I need to do whatever I can to keep the volume and forceful dictates of the world from moving me off my foundations.  Guarding my joy I must refuse to push through or be pushed along by an unnatural holiday ferver fueled  by this stuff-driven culture.

Altered life and heart

Because we all know it’s there. We feel it— that unseen force that wants to drive us along it’s track. I saw it today— in another store where, deeply-discounted Holiday items were lined up row after row and now, just one aisle over, the Valentine candy, cards and stuffed animals had taken up residence. Closer to the checkouts, exercise clothing, work out programs and equipment now replaced the space recently held by the exotic recipe ingredients and heavy foodstuffs. Are we this blind?!? Once upon a time, maybe I was. Just allowing myself to be pushed here and there, feeling completely driven inside and out by this horrible, crazy, guilt-laden “just get through it” mentality until there I was… on the other side and feeling like I had missed the point again.

Because mostly…I had.
Now I’m refusing.
I can’t undo what’s been done but I can refuse to be further undone by it all.

I can look at the calendar, the clock, the computer and potential commitments— look hard at this consumer and capital-driven culture and say, “You’re not the boss of me!” I can do this and really, for the sake of my sanity and Gospel witness,  I must.

God's Peace

What good can be done if during the holidays or the anydays I’m just as culture driven and frazzled as everyone else? How can I really see others if I’m just another cog in the same machine churning out day after day and intent on marketing the next thing to be possessed or celebrated from the ever-widening shallows?

I can’t. I won’t.
That machine is not the boss of me.
God is.
At least… that’s what I want.

Guarding my joy is the ultimate act of worship before a God who has commanded us to love Him above all and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s the ability to open wider into the space needed to love God and our neighbors well because we’ve learned how to love ourselves well.

It’s not about self-help and happiness— it’s self-care in full view of what God cares about most: holiness, which ultimately leads us to care about the things He does. Blocking out the noise and chaos so we can hear and see what He’s doing all around us and understand how He’s inviting us to join Him.

This isn’t a new idea of course. I don’t expect I’ll be changing the world with this radical act of revolution against the status quo. I am praying for revival  however, and maybe it can begin with me where it matters most: my heart, my marriage, family,  friends and neighbors. Maybe this way I can joy-FULLY be that small spark of God’s light in my community and eventually on the wider mission field if this is His will, simply because I know who is the boss of me: God.  And He is… so good….. to me.

 Lorretta signature