Marching to Our Own Drum

Over the past several months while living in America it has become evident that our family marches to the beat of a different drum. Our pace is less hurried and more relaxed than most. Being in constant motion is not enjoyable to us and quite honestly has been a difficult adjustment. Unlike many, we don’t need nor want to fill our time with endless activities. We cherish the unstructured, unhurried moments we have at home…together. Someone recently commented, “The girls “hang out” well.” And they do! There is a contentment, a quiet peacefulness in being able to just BE. NO activities, NO rush, NO detailed plan, NO running from house to house, NO driving across country, NO hours of meal preparation, NO endless clean-up.

The realization that we march to the beat of a different drum was exaggerated during Christmas. When others asked about our Christmas plans and heard that we were going to stay home as a family. Their response was always the same. (Insert “poor baby” tone here) “Oh , so your aren’t doing anything for Christmas!” After hearing this comment several times in the weeks leading up to Christmas our daughter walked in the kitchen and frustratingly exclaimed, “Why does everyone think we AREN’T DOING ANYTHING for Christmas!?!”

I guess here in the states people are accustomed to endless activities. Calendars are packed to the brim. Each weeknight, a commitment and weekends are booked months in advance. Most people travel to spend Christmas Eve or Day with extended family. We even know one couple who spends Christmas Eve with his family in Memphis and then rises early Christmas morning to drive 9 hours across Tennessee to spend Christmas Day with her family in Knoxville. Why is this considered “doing something”? Why is this considered “normal”?

Perhaps it’s our years of living in Mexico or maybe it came from my up bringing. Growing up in a divorced family, I always felt pulled during the holidays. I made a vow then, that when I grew up, I didn’t want my holidays to be filled with endless travel and activity. At any rate, no matter the reason, this year, like every other year, we planned to stay home and just hang out. In the weeks leading up to Christmas we shared meals and activities with extended family, but the 24th, 25th & 26th were spent at home, just Rodney, me and the girls.

Days later when one of our daughters was asked what she enjoyed most about Christmas. She quickly replied, “Staying home together, just our immediate family…we didn’t have to go anywhere, we just hung out and enjoyed being together!”

Her response was interesting, because to many, our Christmas plans seemed less than impressive. and yet to each of us, staying home together was the highlight of the season.

I am not suggesting that our family’s Christmas plans should be the norm. As I said, we march to the beat of a different drum. However, in this hurried world, I do think it is important to plan family moments in your schedule. Time where you plan to stay home, sharing meals together, playing games, singing, cooking, decorating, crafting, reading…connecting.

A New Direction

For over 6 years my writings in this blog have been little more than me processing life, this life that I have lived safely and extravagantly Under the Shadow of God’s protective wings. Some blogs have fallen on deaf ears, others were beloved by many and still others encouraged friends walking similar roads. Sometimes I wrote often and at other times sporadic, but the goal of practicing writing has always stayed before me. Since 2012 I have practiced vulnerability by exposing glimpses of the secrets that hovered safely in my mind just out of others’ sight.

Over the years, many of you have encouraged me to write a book, and while that remains one of my life goals, I can’t imagine what it is that I could actually write about that would be “book worthy”. Then there is the little detail, that I know NOTHING about writing a book. But there are many things that God has asked me to do over the years that I knew nothing of before I started. So if and when He tells me it’s time, I suspect He will show me the way.

I was inspired recently by comments friends have made to me, that perhaps my blog could serve a higher purpose. One comment was by a young missionary, the other a new friend stateside and the other by someone who has “been in the ministry” for many years. Each story was slightly different, yet all were agonizing over the enormity of the task that God had set before them, their struggle to fill the shoes which God had call them to wear and the weight of it all.

I too find myself in a new place, wearing new & heavy shoes. For the last several months, since moving from Mexico back to Tennessee, I have struggled with identity. As I seek to figure out who I am in this new season of life, I remember the words of a dear friend who challenged me to ask a different question. She encouraged, “It is not who you are, but Whose you are that really matters!” And she is right! So much of ME has been wrapped up in being a missionary that I somehow lost sight that BEING GOD’S is all that really matters. Weather I find myself in Mexico, Honduras or East Tennessee, the only location my identity is dependent on is continuing to live Under the Shadow of HIS wings.

Like an arrow aimed at a target for the first time, I now have a direction, other than “practice writing” for this blog.

I’m not sure this blog will really change much, but rather my focus has changed. Instead of writing for me, I’ve decided to write for you. To my friend who left comforts behind to be a missionary and struggles with just wanting to throw in the towel & go home, this blog is for you. To my friend who at God’s leading used her retirement to start a new business, and just wants to hear Jesus say, “well done” this blog is for you. To those who have faithfully served the Lord through good and bad times, this blog is for you. To all my friends (new, old & yet to come) who have made the choice to follow God when all those closest to you thought you had gone crazy. You guessed it…I’m writing for you!

I know what it’s like to take the risk and follow God when no one around you understands. I know what it’s like to be afraid of failure on one hand and desperately want to quit on the other. I know what it’s like to cry out in prayer reminding God, “I am still here!” Be encouraged and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Ministry, and quite frankly life, can be a lonely place. So as I weave my stories, I will try my best to connect with you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Even when you don’t understand and even when you think that He has forgotten you, He holds you as the apple of His eye. The fact that you are reading this blog is His way of gently reminding you that you are not forgotten and you are not alone.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

“…I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5 ESV

Be encouraged today friend, The Lord has great plans for you!

KD

I found God in Chicago

Weary, beaten down and discouraged, I boarded a plane headed to Chicago. I wasn’t convinced that I even wanted to go. Self defeated before I even began, I was ready to quit. The good news, as God often orchestrates it, I didn’t have any other options. This was the open door of opportunity and I was walking through it.

I say I found God in Chicago. Although I had lost sight of Him, He had not lost sight of me. It’s not that I had quit looking for him, or turned my back on Him. I just couldn’t hear Him. His voice, that has often been so clear to me, now seemed silent. I prayed, read my Bible, cried, pleaded and it seemed like my prayers hit the ceiling and just ricocheted to the floor.

Last week it had become clear to me that not only had I lost me identity, but also my purpose. So much of who I am has been wrapped up in the title Missionary. Since I was 12, I wanted to be a missionary. After 16 years in Mexico we agreed with the advice of our board, to take a sabbatical. We knew in doing so that we were on the brink of a new season, yet it was unclear what that season would look like. We had some opportunities come our way and open doors that we decided to walk through, but I still couldn’t see God leading me.

For years my prayer has been, “Align my heart with Yours and let me walk in Your will.” But still I felt like I was meandering blindly with no specific destination in mind. Over the last months, I have asked God why I am here and where I am going. During this time, God has used others to encourage me. The most recent being a friend’s comment that “Often we have no idea that God is leading us and then we look back and realize He’s been there along.” Although, I knew there was truth in that statement, the knowledge had not moved from my head down to my heart. It wasn’t until the other morning when I was reminded of the donkeys that my ears were unclogged & my heart came alive with knowledge.

I love how in moments when we least expect it, God’s Word comes alive and brings clarity to our circumstances. The story is found in 1 Samuel 9, I’ll let you read the details, but it’s safe to say that someone else was going through the motions of life & had absolutely no idea that God had orchestrated the whole scene: The Donkeys, The Servant, The Trip, The Seer, The Anointing, The King. And in that moment, I knew I had found God in Chicago.

I don’t know your story, where you are, your struggles & inner battles, but I know that our God is so big & powerful that you can’t ruin His sovereign plan. He DOES make all thing work for good, even when we think we’re just out trying to find the donkeys.

Not Guilty

I really can not, and do not want to live life feeling guilty. Does anyone really want that?!? I know that God has brought us to this place, it’s ok that we are here, in fact, it is part of His plan. So I decided to spend some time alone with God in prayer and fight this battle of guilt.

It’s amazing how therapeutic prayer can be! Spending time alone with The Almighty: praying and listening, as well as reading His Word always help to bring clarity. During my unhurried time with God, I pondered the Apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 4:12 & 13- “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him (Christ)who strengthens me.

Whatever season we are in we can rest assured that this too is a part of God’s big plan. He allows difficulty and struggle, times of rest, times when we know where we are headed & times when we don’t. Guilty feelings do not come from God. He convicts and leads, heals & encourages. Whatever difficulty you face, trust me God cares. He cares about you and me and if we allow Him, He will take away the guilt and set us free. After all that’s why Christ came!

KD

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

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