Jun 25, 2016

Recent glimpses part II

A continuation of some of my favorite moments in the last few weeks . . .

My niece and her pal, both sweet and quiet, enjoying each other!

The heart of worship at the Mak house.


Spontaneous hugs for my friend, Stephanie, from these sweeties!

Joyful spinning!


Jun 24, 2016

Recent glimpses . . .

These are some of my recent favorite moments.

My new friend Kerri could be an Anthropologie model. She is getting her hair done at Salon de Chichigua!

Most photogenic baby girl ever! One of the things that I love here is how neighbors take care of each other as their own - always.

This chicken knows where to go to hide from Annabelle, the chicken chaser.

The glance. Love it.

People I love with people I love. My nephew.

Hugs are passed out freely here, but this one is special. She has been on a trip here for 3 years in a row and kids know and remember her. 

Tug of war of love. Sisters fighting over someone who loves them and seeks them out on a daily basis!

First graders at VBS cheering on their classmates in a three legged race.

More glimpses to follow :) What would you like to see more of?

Jun 23, 2016

Cien por Ciento (100%): The van saga

On April 14, 2016, one day into our 6 week medical stay in the U.S., we received word from the D.R. that the head gasket on our van motor was fried, done, toast. We sent $ to some of our D.R. friends via paypal to ensure that the work to replace the motor could begin - in hopes that it could be completed by our return on June 1. We checked in every couple of days to make sure that progress was being made so that when we returned we would not be without a vehicle - 6 weeks is a fair amount of time for a major repair, right?. Well, it was NOT ready, and as of today, June 23, it is STILL not ready.

Our second vehicle is a beater of an old jeep that on various occassions has had the drive train fall out. Well isn't that cute? It does get good gas mileage because it runs on propane.   However, for a family of 6, it doesn't function well as our only running vehicle since it only seats 4 (but hey, we live in the D.R. where 6 people can ride on a moto (motorcycle or moped) - so from time to time we do what we have to.)

So, everyday since June 1, 2016, the day we arrived back in the D.R., the mechanic who is working on the van has told us, "Cien por ciento, manaña, esta lista!" Translation: "100%, it will be ready tomorrow!" Jon has been up there multiple times a day checking in on the "progress" which has obviously been slower than    s                l                        o                          w. The process to repair it has been RIDICULOUS (and YES,  I AM YELLING!)   Orphan Annie was right, "Tomorrow is only a day away," but how many tomorrows is it going to take to get our van back????? Well, my friends, we will wait and see.

Here's the deal: we are fortunate enough to have not one car, but two - which is totally a luxury here. Many of our co-laborers on the field don't have cars but use public transportation only.  I don't want to grumble or complain, but have an attitude of gratitude - even when I am super frustrated - because I don't want to offend the Lord or those around me by diminishing these gifts!

One thing I've realized is that I grew up in and many of you are reading this from a place where customer service is somewhat of a right, and that business culture generally embraces the philosophy that the "Customer is always right." If, as a customer, things are less than satisfactory, there is always a course of action to take to bring some resolution to your dissatisfaction - talk to a supervisor/manager, get your money back, a new product, the opportunity to give a bad review, write a letter, affect change, etc. It doesn't work that way here, which has been a painful and eye-opening process to be a part of.

After all, you don't want to burn a bridge with the person who has your van in pieces because you need them, even though their 100% is actually more like 00%. In the U.S., we would just take our business somewhere else, but you can't always do that here. I wonder if there is a lesson in here somewhere? What do you think? If you were in a bad situation (not life threatening) as a consumer and had to stay in it, what would that mean? How would things be different?  What would resolution look like? You can't always get up and go somewhere else here when things don't work out as you expect, though you may want to - but I wonder if maybe there is a nugget to be harvested in this situation? Just curious about your thoughts. Are you guys out there?

P.S. In the near future, "Si Dios quiere/If God wants," we will likely be investigating and launching a campaign to replace our current vehicles with more reliable ones so that we can spend less time worrying about cars and more time doing what the Lord has called us here to do.

Jun 22, 2016

When Sewage Pops Up in the Street . . . in Front of Your House

A couple of times a year, on our nicely paved street, up out of the circular cement cover in the road seeps liquid sewage. Because of the slope of our street, the liquid stink rushes to reach the curb along our sidewalk and drains towards our house, creating a small mote of stinkiness around the front of it. Nothing says, "Come in. Stay a while. Welcome to our home," quite like this. It is lovely, the smell, and difficult to disguise. Because our doors are literally always open when we are home (air flow purposes), we can taste the aroma while we eat dinner in our house or on our back porch. It is a special feature of our current location, but also a great reminder.

Life stinks sometimes. Bad things happen. People get sick. Things don't work. There are misunderstandings. Systems are broken. People are broken. I am broken. There are painful question marks in places where we desire answers - even hard answers in place of the unknowing would be nice.  A million heavenly scented candles can't cover up the stink (believe me, I have literally tried to mask the stink of the sewage in front of our house.) I have also tried to distract myself from the stink of brokenness with healthy distractions and unhealthy ones - sometimes they both work, temporarily, but what happens when the stink remains and the distractions fade?

How do I leave the aroma of Christ when stink is all around me - or even when the stink is me? How do I live a life pleasing to Him, blessing others and gloryifying my Maker and the giver of life, when the stink is so overwhelming? 

Like the taste of stink in my mouth, the struggle is palplable. I taste it on my lips every day, and especially during a season of breakdowns of various kinds (our van has been at the mechanic's for 9 weeks now - but that is just the tip of the iceberg.) The struggle is real. The battle is on. So, I am writing this to myself, really, because I need to work through in a very real way what it looks like to thrive in Christ regardless of the circumstances around me. In short, I want to leave the aroma of Christ, not sewage, regardless of my personal situation.

Here is what I am focusing on:

Worship God.

Job is obviously the perfect example of someone responding to personal tragedy in praise and worship to the Lord. This is what he does in response to hearing that all of his livestock, servants and sons and daughters had perished:

 "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; my the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1: 20

(Our circumstances might not be as devasting as Job's but our posture needs to be as devout towards the Lord as His.)

Remind myself who He is and who I am.

He is the KING. I am His adopted daughter.
He is the potter. I am the clay.
I deserve nothing. He gave me everything in Christ Jesus.

"20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, " Romans 9:19 - 23
Trust and obey. 

I need to give up my need to fully understand that which I can not begin to comprehend (God's ways and thoughts), and I also have to give up my desire to be understood by others (because Pastor Wileman says so). Sometimes it is a major stumbling block for me - that whole deeply desiring to be understood by others - so I'm just going to lay that at His feet where that belongs. If anyone understands what it is like to not be understood fully by others, its Jesus, right? My stuff is nothing compared to His.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

I obey because I love Him.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15: 22

Claim His promises.

God's word is full of promises, and here are some of my favorites for difficult times:

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1

Who doesn't want to rest, truly rest, in the securest place of all?

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yes, that being still part is a bit of a doozy :)

These are some of the tools I am using to fight the stink away. This is not a cover up job (like spraying lysol over vomit) but an actual fool-proof plan for being able to thrive in Christ in the midst of brokenness. I'm the fool and He's the King :)

P.S.  Here is a link to a great article about finding peace in the midst of a bad situation that goes into a great deal of detail and lists key bible verses.  

Jun 20, 2016

Look for a Hand

Squatting at her laundry tub beside her house with her skirt tucked between her legs, her eyes danced with joy and sorrow. She greeted me with a hug and as our cheeks touched, she grabbed my hand and pulled me into her home with a sense of urgency. 

Her parents are sick. She is an only child. She needs to leave for Haiti in the morning to take care of them and she doesn’t know when she is coming back. But THIS is her home and she has been here in this community for 40 years, she says.  We pray together with her lips quivering and me fumbling with my spanish and her filling in words for me when the silence grows too long.  I grapple with all of the emotion that has filled her home as we stand there hand in hand.  I am humbled by this sweet sharing of a burden by my sister in Christ, M, and her grabbing me by the hand with such urgency and intention was a gift to me. 

Moments earlier, and for weeks, actually, I have struggled with the despair that some issues in my own life have presented.  Quite honestly, I have felt like I am drowning in discomfort, discouragement and despair and the magnifying glass of the mission field in the blazing Carribean sun has intensifying properties.  Discouragement, dischord, disunity are all  powerful tools of the enemy, and while I have done my best to armor up in His word, with His truths as my offensive weapon, I confess that many days I have been rendered useless. I have let circumstances steal my joy.  I have allowed difficulties to dictate my worth. I have believed lies.  

But God . . . 

He was in that moment where sweat and tears mingled in the sweltering heat under her tin roof where everything she owned was visible to me - not her pots and pans, laundry tubs, clothes or bed, but the richness of God’s spirit indwelt in her, the bittersweet sacrifice of the trek she was making on behalf of those she loved, and her desire to pull someone into her pain for a moment to share in the immediate burden that was hers, and now that is also happily mine.  I needed my eyes to be redirected to another’s need rather than my own.  How many among you would welcome the hand of another woman vulnerably and intentionally letting you into her pain to share in the burden of it? Is it not a gift to be pulled in? 

If you are in the midst of an overwhelming struggle right now, I pray that you will also receive the gift of an outstretched hand of another whose challenges you may not know about. A little divine perspective goes a long way, not because we want to feel better because someone else has it way worse, but because there is a bigger picture that we need to see that is obstructed from us when we are focused on our own pain. M’s hand in my hand was a divine wake up call to guard against fixating on my own difficulties and to wake up to the gifts and opportunities He has for me today. It would be so sad to miss something so beautiful because of hardship, and I would have if she had not grabbed me by the hand!

I don’t know if I’ll see M again. I hope that she will be able to return to her home. She allowed me to snap this photo of her in front of her house right after our special time together, and it reminds me to look for a hand that needs to be grabbed and also to look for a hand to pull in when I am in need. There is a time for each and the Lord is in both.

I invite you today to ask the Lord which hand to look for in your life right now.