Dec 9, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree

Gravel and grit.

Tires and tinsel.

Rawness wrapped in lights,

beauty in the umbrella bones star reaching towards heaven, a dead branch planted in a tire vase . . .

The tire tree and dead branch tree duo, created by the residents of Pancho Mateo, a community outside of Montellano where a gravel road extends towards the mountains and frames in mixed culture neighbors, Haitians and Dominicans, is my most favorite Christmas tree EVER (and I do LOVE Christmas trees of all kinds and sizes . . . . another post).

Aug 10, 2015

Jesus love. Photo love. My Picture Project.

Jamie, on a mission trip with Makarios this summer, is being escorted by Makarios student Luigi who is helping her locate some of the kids she took pictures of back in 2008 while she was on a mission trip with Makarios.
A watered seed grows. A heart longs to beat alongside its maker.  A girl dreams, doubts, questions, seeks.  An eye sees and a soul perceives.  For far too long a gift given has sat only partially unwrapped - torn wrapping paper with just a corner of the box peeking through. The gift: to look through a lens and see such incredible depth and beauty, to be charmed by the slightest expression and drawn to rusty, raw backgrounds and candid, unposed moments shared.  And now, the Lord is telling that girl to use the gift as a bridge, to share the art with the subject, to share Him over the exchange of a photo.

It's like when I picked up a camera on foreign soil, a new breath filled my lungs and my mind, my heart, my eyes delighted in all that I could see through the keyhole of my camera.  For a long time this girl struggled with how to use this gift for His glory.  Photos are meant to be shared, and in this slice of time much of the sharing happens over the internet, for all to see, a display of that moment in time.  Over the years, I have posted photos of many people and things from my host culture, because I find them fascinating, interesting, vulnerably beautiful and I see Jesus everywhere I look.  

Aug 8, 2015

The day the gate fell

It could have turned out differently, the heavy metal gate falling on a body.  I thought he was dead as I watched in slow motion horror, the kind where you see something happening that you can't stop, as it reached towards the concrete with the heaviest of crashes, a young man beneath it's metal massiveness.  Splashes of bright red dotted the asphalt on the road as I watched them evaporate in an instant and the brightness of red could be seen gushing from his hairline, the plumber's son, as the finial on the gate took a bite out of his forehead.  

My heart, beating like that of a hummingbird or then again had it stopped pumping?, flittered with the not so distant flitter of trauma,  and without a moment the plumber's dad and I lifted with the strength of God and angels, the heaviness of metal off of the young man, the plumber's son.  He slipped out from underneath, took a few steps and crumpled.  A neighbor across the street, a doctor, having just pulled up began barking commands in Spanish . . . "GET HIM IN THE CAR! FAST! HURRY! GO STRAIGHT TO THE HOSPITAL! FAST! HURRY!" With the numbness of panic washing over me, I opened the passenger side door to the plumber's truck, the plumber's son fell onto the seat, and the red truck and my neighbor doctor sped away.  

I stood there. In the road. The gate in all of its shiny metalness layed in the road like a welcome matt for vulnerability, fear, panic.  I called Jon, and my breathing went into some sort of crazy dance that broke my words apart.  

Later, two grown men tried to move the gate out of the street and were not even able to pull it apart by an inch from the cement beneath. Kind neighbors told me not to worry, that God was in control, and we stood beneath the shade of their tree and stared at the gate lying in the road.  

Jon arrived, having had a 15 minute drive to become deeply entrenched in trauma commander mode, a coping mechanism he came by naturally earlier in his own life when his family underwent a major trauma of their own, and while my emotions spilled over, his were absent. Like water and oil in the same space, our ways of coping repelled the other at a time that closeness would have been a much better remedy.  We reconciled the moment, recognizing that when uncorked emotion meets compartmentalization, there is work to be done outside of the trauma site, but time pressed us to keep moving. A moment to be revisited later.

The life of the plumber's son, 16 or 17 years young, there to help his dad fixing our pump, is a miracle. He escaped the gate with only 8 stitches. No ruptures, fractures or broken bones.  Just hours later the gate repair man retold stories of how many people have died under the weight of gates that have fallen - that did a number on my uncorked emotion as I wondered why all gates here don't have the safety poll in front of them, that the gate repair guy would be installing that day to rehabilitate our fallen gate.  

Nonetheless, the day the gate fell tenderized my heart to hear some things from the Lord. In my reminded brokenness, that our earthly, bodily life can evaporate as quickly as blood on the steaming pavement, I broke free from some paralyzing sentiments. A new friend told me to "Be free!" It was regarding another matter (or was it?), but the soft echo of her words were soaked up as if my soul was a dry sponge.  Words spoken to me by human lips on that day were received as divine by nature, the rawness of the day's events having opened my soul up like the mouth of a baby bird reaching for sustenance with it's beak in the air. Yes, be free. 

Miracles do happen. God IS in control.  And once again, the message to walk in the fullness of His love, mercy and grace, not handicapped by fear of man, fear of oven, spiders, or gate, fear of death, has been received.

A special thank you to those who prayed for the plumber's son and his family and for me on that day last week and in the days following.  God is good.

Jul 30, 2015

The YEAR I didn't light the oven

Longing to live in fullness, dealing with the reality of being a broken person in a broken world with opposition on all sides, but also having light in the eyes with the knowledge of Christ in me, hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)

It was actually more than a year but I'm rounding down :)

A year prior, it was the beginning of a series of events that tried to shut me down.  Due to *user error, my gas oven blew up in my face when I opened the oven door with my son to put our first batch of cookies in our new house on the North Coast of the D.R. in the oven.  (*My previous oven had a pilot light that was always lit and I just turned the oven to the setting I wanted and away we went, but what I didn't realize was that in this new oven, the pilot light had to be lit each time it is used.)

On this particular day, I also had chicken boiling on the stove for chicken pot pie. I turned the oven on to 325 (without lighting the pilot light) to preheat while my homeschool student and I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  About 10 minutes later, with chicken boiling on the top burner, and an oven full of gas, I unknowingly welcomed an explosion when I opened the oven door to put the cookies in.  I was not hurt, no cinged hair, no burns and my son was standing behind me and was not hurt either, but I was tramatized.

My neighbors/friends were just a phone call away (thankful my cell phone worked at that moment) and rushed over to help me figure out what happened, make sure the gas was turned off, etc. What I did not realize was how much that instant would rock me for the next year. Simply put, every time I heard the hiss of the gas, my heart would race, I would break into a sweat and feel the poof of heat on my cheeks.  And I could neither light the stove top or the oven. Couldn't or wouldn't - either way, I didn't. For a year.

My husband graciously and patiently lit the stove top and the oven every single time I was going to make something. And if he was not home, I wouldn't use either of them - for a year.  It took me about 6 months to be able to light the stove top burners, but the oven lighting eluded me.  I limped along in life and used all sorts of things as a crutch - sandwiches, cold pasta salad (noodles cooked when Jon was home), fruit for lunch, etc. If we had people over, he helped me preserve my dignity by not calling to attention the fact that I was not able to perform this simple function and would quietly slip into the kitchen and light the oven.

The fear was real yall.   The anxiety was suffocating. The devil whispered some shame into my thinking. What an embarrassment.  "And you've been here on the island how long?"

BUT, a year later, after a lot of other things (different but the same) had happened, one day I had victory.  I said to myself, "Self, this is STUPID.  RIDICULOUS! The Lord does not want you to live like this - caged and ashamed over a stinking oven." And I bent down with the oven door open, struck the match and lit the pilot light.

Spiritual battles are real.  It says so in Ephesians. (Ephesians 6:12)

Shortly after the oven explosion, I knew I was in a spiritual battle and vowed to claim the victory. Everyday I armored up, and yet little by little the elephant on my chest got heavier and heavier.  How could this be IF I was keeping in the word, using offensive and defensive weapons of the word, etc.  Did the heavier and heavier elephant shutting me down by cutting off blood flow one limb at a time equal disobedience on my part? Had I willingly flown back into the cage of fear after having been freed from it years earlier?

I think that we have to recognize that in our pursuit of the Lord and sharing Him with others that there is a very real and cunning opponent (1 Peter 5:8) with his band of demons that are powerful but not victorious (Genesis 3:15). Ruthless and sly, willing to use all kinds of tactics to cut us off from our power source.  But even Satan had to get permission from God to mess with Job (Job 1, 2).  Yes, God is sovereign. (Psalm 73:28)

In my non-oven lighting year,  I faced spiritual attacks from multiple angles and sometimes parts of me shut down temporarily.  I was also in constant communion with God during this time because I couldn't handle much of what was going on by myself. I prayed fervently. Many sleepless nights turned into prayer sessions.  Sometimes at night I felt like things were in my room.  It was intense, but the Lord was with me and those pieces of me that died during that year - some of them stayed dead because they needed to - and some of them were restored and given new life after a time. The Lord brought some relief, and the elephant found something else to stand on.

So, friend, is there an oven that needs to be lit in your life? An obstacle that needs to be overcome? A crutch that needs to be ditched for fullness of life?

Cookies, anyone?

Jul 4, 2015


Cupped high up in the metal railing of a balcony whose eyes stretch out to the messy rawness of beauty beyond, the flickering of lipstick red flamboyan flowers waving in the distance, two little beating hearts with open beaks tilted toward the sky, wait.

May 18, 2015

The adventures of *Bubba

*Name altered to protect the identity*

A tale of God's provision, the rallying of His people, and how HE ultimately wins the battle over the enemy . . . .  

Cliff notes. God is moving. Encouragement abounds.  
Borrowed car. Stolen. Body of Christ rallies. Stolen borrowed car found. God wins.  Happy dance.

The details.

Mar 10, 2015

The can opener

1,000,000 trillion is the exaggerated number of handheld can openers I have purchased here in the D.R.  Last year I received the gift of an electric can opener from the states. I. have. never.been.more. pleased.

It's not that I mind using the hand held kind - I really don't. But the D.R. just doesn't offer well made can openers. True story. And, as it turns out, sometimes the power supply can't always accommodate such a high powered tool as an electric can opener.

The lulling, whirring of the shiny metal going round and round was mesmerizing like the tumble of clothes in the dryer, melodically uneventful.  Had I not been so angry at it, I may have been hypnotized by it, that can going round and round.

Mar 8, 2015

Why We Do IT

The short answer = God called us to another country to share Him.

Any other course would have equalled disobedience.
Obedience = love in action.

God desires our obedience more than He desires our sacrifice.  In fact, our sacrifice is completely hollowed out, like a gift bag without a gift inside, if we don't first obey.  Jon and I and our children were called to action to show the love of Christ in a specific way in the Dominican Republic.

Jan 21, 2015

No Box

A thickness long since settled on my heart like an eclipse of discouragement that hovered in front of the light source. Like the lid of a jar that you just can't unscrew, it gripped firmly to the edges of my life, all smug like.  I felt its pressure in every direction, and as if I was a mime in a "box," I let it contain me for a time.

Suffocating from perceptions and expectations and possibly inventions of an overly active imagination, hurt and disappointment seemed my new trusted sidekicks.  I had filed in line behind them and grabbed them by the hand - happy to have something, anything beside me.

Yes, desperation, I'm not too proud to admit I've acted foolish in your name at times, cementing a brick wall around myself, keeping others out and myself in.  Safety is over-rated, though, and the Lord never promised that when we enter in relationship we will leave as in-tact as we arrived, all bright-eyed and whole feeling.  The true wholeness happens when we find ourselves disillusioned and wrecked, but allow God to move us past that to the uncomfortable stretchy part that leans us closer to maturity.

Sometimes when the despair eclipse stalemates, we have to ask God to change our vantage point, moving us to a place where the light streaks out all blaze-of-glory like, blinding and beautiful and divine.  That place is not a place of put-togetherness, of family photos with clothing coordinated with the dappled light of the glowing sun kissing everyone's face just so - it's a place of raw meets real meets broken, that place that we blockade the door to that wing of our life so that NO ONE can know or see or go there.  It's like the snotty, snorty, red -eyed, bleary - eyed kind of wildly-out-of-control cry that most of us don't want to show another human being, all broken up, mottled and ugly.

BUT, it's the very place where God says, "Come here, dear one.  I've been waiting for you.  What took you so long? Your ugly spot(s) don't scare me. My son is the ultimate blemish remover and for that reason you are perfectly you and I love you. Come sit with me." 

I don't mind if I sound kooky saying that because I KNOW what a beautiful moment that is when our crap is revealed in front of a Holy God, and it changes nothing and everything in the same moment. Nothing because He already knows our secrets, how He knit us together and what we've done apart from Him, and everything because there is such unconditional love and freedom in being completely exposed and completely accepted simultaneously.  OH MIME - there is NO BOX!!!! You are free.

No matter what the world says, or how messed up the circumstances, or the depth of depravity involved, God is a God of redemption and restoration, of grace and mercy, of humility and compassion, and there is nothing that can eclipse that.

God, would you eclipse my life - covering me over so that it is only YOU that is seen? Would you forgive me for letting discouragement distract me from loving YOU with all that I am and from sharing YOU with others? Would you continue to meet me in the ugly places and transform me to YOUR likeness? Thank you for loving me enough to not leave me as I am. Amen.