Learning Contentment

(This blog was written as a response to the August 14 devotional found in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.)

Oswald, You never cease to speak to me! Oh if you had know how mightily God would use you. More than a century has passed since your homecoming with Our Lord, and still He uses you to speak to me and so many others. Today, your words cut deep into my being. “Don’t be blind to this point anymore-you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were.” As I tread new waters, this statement resonates with me.

After years of struggle on the mission field, being a Christian had become easy. Trials made life such, that calling on The Lord was second nature. Everything in my life there moved and found its being…its purpose in God. But here, there are so many distractions. Abundance of things, ease of life and constant entertainment via for my attention and I find myself once again in God’s school. I am learning again to cling to The One who sustains me.

As a missionary, I learned and practiced lessons of clinging to God through difficulties and adversity. When Faith died, I learned to breath God’s breath of life in the midst of great sorrow. Through the pain of Fibromyalgia, I learned to embrace God’s comfort. When we started Hope House, I learned that God will provide all of our needs according to His riches in glory and that He is the defender of orphans. But this battle is much different than those I experienced while living in Mexico. Here in the United States, the playing field has been changed. Here, I must learn to shut out the noise and run to the “secret place”; to avoid distractions and choose time alone with God instead of the countless options that constantly come my way. The battle to not get derailed by the levity in life but instead remember that any ease we experience is only because of God’s grace.

I can so identify with the psalmist David when he said, “When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken!”…but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.” (Psalm 30: 6 & 7) It is not that God has hidden his face from me; but in the crowd, sometimes, it is difficult for me to see Him.

Oswald goes on to challenge me with a question. “Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of himself?” Then he drives the question home when he reminds me something about the process of becoming holy. “Sanctification, is not my idea of what I want God to do for me. Sanctification, is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.” You see, the integrity of my spirituality is only strong, if it holds in all circumstances. Like the Apostle Paul, I must learn to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” (Phil 4:11) By default, that means that God must place me in new classrooms and circumstances for my learning to be complete.

Do you find yourself in a new classroom? If so ask God what new material He has for you to learn.

KD

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The Process

It’s a process: learning to live here…learning to be ok with this season…this chapter of my life.

Like a glass with residue on the sides to prove it was once full but has now been depleted, my emotional cup is empty. In my eagerness, I would like to skip the cleaning process, but to fill my cup now would only result in a murky mess. This cup needs to be cleaned…and cleaning takes time. In the book of Ephesians there is a phrase that comes to my mind, which talks about using The Word of God to wash and cleanse. (Eph. 5:26) So that is what I’m doing. Sunday afternoons I spend in the rocking chair on our porch. My goal? Wash the glass! Think, Contemplate, Read, Write, Pray, Sing, Listen. It’s all part of the process.

And as much as I would like to snap my fingers and have a clean glass, I know this is a processs which will take time.

I appreciate having time, and I appreciate having a God who loves me even when my glass is messy. Eventually it will be all sparkly again: clean, filled with pure water and ready for a new season of pouring.

And that too will be part of the process.

Guilty

I’ve tried to be open about the burnout (aka: compassion fatigue) that I am experiencing. But as I’ve said, it’s not easy to be transparent. But since I have a Masters Degree in Counseling, I know the healing value of processing, so I continue to write and share.

My current battle is guilt! As far back as I can remember I have loved Missions. When I was a child I was fascinated by the stories that visiting missionaries told. When I was in middle school I attended an annual missions conference and knew then that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. Missions is in my blood, it’s what I know, what I’m good at and who I am. So no wonder I’m feeling guilty. If Missions makes up so much of who I am, how can I be happy to return stateside? Is that even ok?

The truth is, I am enjoying being in Tennessee. I love to look at the breathtaking Smokey Mountains and imagine what they will look like in the fall. I’m looking forward to the colors of Autumn, a sight I have not seen for many years. I like the cleanliness here. Even with 2 inside dogs and one that sheds extensively there is no comparison to the dirt in my home in Mexico. Here there is no mud or dirt inside, no scorpions, no mice, no roaches nor mold. I don’t have to sweep, mop and dust daily. It’s just not dirty here like it is there.

Crisis in the states are different than in Mexico. In fact, I can’t name one real crisis that we’ve suffered since returning stateside. Oh we’ve had inconviences, setbacks and the like, but for the most part life is easy here. In Mexico life is raw. There, the day is filled with a million tasks of survival. Food must be sanitized and prepared from scratch. You can’t buy or cook ahead because of the frequent power shortages (which can last for days and can ruin everything you have in your fridge and freezer). Running water and electricity are never taken for granted. Many days one, if not both, are non-existent. Dust and dirt whirl through the air and cover your house inside and out. My sinuses are stopped up every morning and at 5,000+ ft above sea level the oxygen is thin and Fibromyalgia pain at times is unbearable. There, common cuts can lead to massive infections and people easily get sick from parasites. In Mexico life is hand to mouth and it is difficult living there. The thought of returning overwhelms me! And that makes me feel embarrassed and….guilty.

Before you think I am completely down on Mexico, let me say…There are many wonderful things about Mexico. There, people are important in a way that they aren’t here. People are more important than things. The slow pace of society helps cultivate friendships. Family is honored and close knit. There, all ages hang out together: grandparents, middle age adults, teenagers, children and babies. Mexicans appreciate and enjoy children and I have learned to enjoy my daughters in a way that I possibly never would have had I not lived there.

I am thankful for my 16 years of living in Mexico, but I am glad to be stateside taking a break from raw living. And when I think of my friends there and the hardships they endure just to survive, well it makes me feel a little (Can you guess?)…..guilty.

KD

Through it All

As a missionary I have come to understand a little of what the Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians when he penned, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV) Physically and emotionally I am spent, but spiritually I am much stronger than I was before becoming a missionary.

Our time south of the border has been characterized by hardship and challenges. It seems like we experienced a steady 16 year downpour of them. Friday’s devistating storm in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillo (where Hope House is located) served to remind me just how raw hardship is there. It comes in waves often so violent that you can barely catch your breath before being pelted with another wave of difficulty. In those storms, there is One who stands ready to rescue us.

When life is easy, we often drift away from God, but when life is characterized by difficulties they can propel us toward Christ. Because of the hardships I experienced while on the mission field, I learned to trust the Lord in ways I never would have otherwise. Honestly there was no other way. No one to turn to but God and so we were forced to draw near to Him, to seek His council and guidance, through it all.

The Father of Modern Gospel, Andre Crous’s song “Through it All”, speaks of this truth. He sings: “I’ve had many tears and sorrows,

I’ve had questions for tomorrow,

there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.

But in every situation,

God gave me blessed consolation,

that my trials come to only make me strong.

Through it all,

through it all,

I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,

I’ve learned to trust in God.

Through it all,

through it all,

I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”

Now stateside, our trials are different, but I am drawing from my years of experience trusting in Jesus and know that through it all, God is faithful and cares about even the smallest details of life.

(Friday night around midnight a massive hail storm reeks havoc in the town where Hope House is located. Baseball size hail fell for about 2 hours straight. Hope House sustained considerable damage to its facility. Fortunately no one was hurt. A couple blocks from Hope House a friend’s vehicles were severely damaged with all the windows and windshield being shattered.Please pray for Hope House and the towns people as they seek to repair and recuperate from the devastation.)

Forever Changed

Three mornings a week all 6 of us load into the car and head to the gym. It’s a family activity that we all enjoy. It’s safe to say that we are the only family of six that goes to the gym together. We make quite the entrance when we walk through the door. On Friday a week ago, we piled into the car heading home after working out. The girls were in the back talking and laughing, I was in the passenger seat, talking on the cell with my mom and Rodney was driving. It was a typical morning as we drove two short miles home. Then in a moment we came around the curve and the car in the opposite lane began to drift into our lane. On that one lane country road, there was no where for us to go! I yelled and Rodney blasted the horn and floored the accelerator, while swerving the best he could while trying not to run off the road. It’s amazing how easily life can be forever changed!

Fortunately, by the grace of God the oncoming driver noticed and began to correct his path. He literally came within inches of hitting us head on. I really don’t know how we managed to escape with our lives, much less unharmed! I have thought a lot about those few quick seconds this week. I am awed and grateful to have my life and my family. I am so very thankful for God’s protection, because in a split second our life could have been forever changed.

Thank you to all of our friends who pray for us. We know your prayers make a difference!!

Censored

You get the censored version of my life. Oh there are things I force myself to share openly and other things I keep to myself. Some parts of missionary life are just to difficult to share with anyone who has not experienced them. They seem to me like a heavy weight. So I talk freely with friends who similarly struggle and I put on a smile for you. The problem is, I’ve never been good at wearing masks. My face betrays me every time!

This week I’m restless. I just returned from Mexico. I know the games that they play in the culture, and I’m uneasy. I keep telling myself to not worry and to present my requests to God. I know the drill. But sometimes scripture is easier said than done. And taking my thoughts captive, at times is like trying to restrain the wind…impossible.

Prayer:

Lord, help me as I wrestle with these thoughts and feelings, emotions that only you truly understand. Help me to overcome these concerns and give them to you to carry, for they are too heavy for my heart.

The Point

“I feel like there is something left undone!”

That’s the whole point of a sabbatical. Doing nothing, learning to rest in His presence. But like most people, I’m not good at doing that. So far I’ve been busy with administrative work for the ministry. Things that have gone undone because we were so busy meeting needs and putting out fires that we never got around to them. Then there is the day to day practical side of ministry. Is there enough money to feed the boys, pay the staff? How do we get money efficiently to Hope House without us in Mexico? Will people continue to support Hope House if we aren’t there? Will people continue to support our family if we aren’t in Mexico? What about the outreach teams we have scheduled for this summer, how will that workout with me in the States? There are endless questions that need resolution… so I work.

But work is not the point of sabbath! Rest instead of business, peace over worry and frustration, refreshment rather than exhaustion, that is what should characterize this time.

As we prepared for this sabbatical I went through a sabbatical preperation guide that compared taking a sabbatical to getting off a major interstate. It suggested that we needed an off ramp before beginning sabbatical and an acceleration lane at the end. These lanes will help the transition from full-time ministry to rest and then back again to full-time ministry.

I’ve found that even if we had not planned it, the off ramp found its way into our daily routine. There has been so much to do upon arrival in the states. We’re a few months in and we’re just starting to get to a place where we can rest.

I’ve been pondering sabbath rest when I read a blog by fellow missionary and friend Isaiah Cory entitled, “Rest Like It’s Your Job”

(http://www.shepherds-heart-ministries.org/single-post/2018/05/19/Rest-Like-Its-Your-Job)

Isaiah’s words encouraged me that this sabbatical is not only important, but needed as part of my job. Sabbatical is necessary to rest securely in the Lord’s protective care and to be refreshed and alert to give our best to the Lird’s work. It reminds me that Psalm 23 is the embodiment of sabbatical.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalms 23

Prayer:

Lord as I set aside sabbath time, help me to learn to rest in You. Help me to see this sabbatical as a necessary part of my work. Help me to “rest like it’s my job!” Thank you for taking care of all of the ministry details and thank you for taking care of us.