Monday, March 16, 2015

For the Days When You Feel Like Your Drowning.....

There are days I feel like I'm drowning......
in life.
The enormity of all I have to do knocks me over like the waves of a stormy sea.
My lack of strength sweeps my feet out from under me.
The necessities of daily life pound against me like the tide coming in.
I'm tired of fighting against temptations, bad attitudes, my flesh, circumstances I can't fix, and troubles that won't stop.
I just want to give in.
To quit struggling.
To let the water take me where it wills.

Over the years, though, I've learned something about these days......
I may feel like I'm drowning, but I will only lose my fight for life if I accept it as truth.
It is easy to give in to these emotions, these imaginings, these lies of a weary heart.
Unlike the movies show it, drowning is usually a quiet passing, a succumbing to the surrounding waters rather than a struggle to the bitter end.

I don't want my heart, my mind, my will to slip noiselessly into a churning sea of doubt.
I can look at the dark waters surrounding me and quit, or I can fight for life.

I can cling to Scripture.
Just a verse or two may be all I need to bring me safely to shore. 
I can think truth.
God-inspired thoughts will form a life raft for the salvation of my weary heart.
I can call out for help to the Keeper of my soul.
He will snatch me from the raging waters that threaten to swallow me and bring me to a place of peace.
And when I'm sinking and my strength is spent, I can rest in the power of my God.
He'll pull me out of my pit and set my feet on Him, my Rock...
A haven from the storm.

* These pictures are from Takoradi, but not a recent visit.
We are planning, though, to get away for a much needed two-day rest next week.
Looking forward to sharing it with you after we get back!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Fight the Destruction of Your Culture Today

It's a thing that I've lived, eaten, dreamed, studied, hated, wrestled with, and/or ignored in varying degrees for more than a decade now.
I've wanted to run away from it at times.
I've pretended it didn't exist, just so I wouldn't have to deal with it again.
Being a student of culture and all that means has it's advantages, though.
It's allowed me to question the culture of my birth, to search with an open mind and wonder whether the things that were as natural as breathing to me were really true or not.
We all assume our culture is right, that everything we've been raised with is Truth.

This daily study, these ponderings have pushed me to a realization that no culture is perfect.
We are groups of sinful people with bits of Truth, but none of us live in a completely Christ-honoring culture.
That's hard to swallow.

Another lesson I've learned through my strugglings with culture is that all cultures are continually changing.
Culture isn't a stagnant thing.
Things I remember about America from my growing up years are no longer the same.
In the 11 1/2 years I've lived in Ghana things haven't stayed the same here either.
Cultures can be misunderstood.
But through these hard learned lessons, I've grabbed onto something liberating.

There is one culture that I have direct impact on, a culture where I do get to see Truth lived out daily, if I am willing.
That's our family culture.
Maybe it sounds odd to say a family has a culture, but 'culture' is simply the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
It is a 'way of life,' 'habits,' 'customs,' a 'heritage,' 'traditions.'
And I get to choose what my family culture looks like.

Not only do I get a choice about what our family culture will be, but I must choose rightly, because if I don't, then the popular culture that surrounds my family will take over.
It will become my family's culture by default.
Pop culture has a way of seeping in the cracks, slipping in through a door left open just a sliver, sneaking in when no one is watching, disguising itself as "just how things are."
It doesn't have to be that way.

I can choose to be the keeper of my home, the oikouros, the guard.
I can look to the One who is Truth to be my guide.
I can fight the destruction of my culture today by firmly refusing to accept what the world around me has to offer.
I can slam the door on filth, mindlessness, lust, hardness, fear, despair, pride, and laziness and
invite beauty, creativity, love, kindness, faith, hope, humility, and diligence into my home.
I can be a culture-transformer.

When I choose to transform my family's culture into one that glorifies God, the effects don't stop with my family.
They ripple outward like the proverbial stone thrown into the pond.
They touch my children's children...
my church...
my community...
the strangers I meet.
My family culture can change the world.

* A few photos of important parts of our family's culture ~ exploring God's creation, the written word, music, working together, real food, art, and living books.

Monday, February 23, 2015

For the Days When I Want to Be Part of Something Big......But For All the Wrong Reasons

There are days when I want to be part of something big.......but for all the wrong reasons.
Today was one of those days.
Hubby and I had had a conversation about an upcoming church program.....
he'd asked my thoughts on a couple things.....
I caught him way off-guard with some things I'd been thinking about.....less than kindly, I might add.
I was curt, adamant, and leaning towards rude.
He very wisely walked away.
I sat with my back against our back wall and cried.

Why had I responded that way?
Why did I feel frustrated, irritated, and in despair?
It didn't take long for the answer to come bobbing to the surface.

While the life of a missionary mama might sound glamorous to some {in a completely spiritual way......because really, nobody that knows me would qualify me as glamorous!}, it is often the farthest thing from that.
Let's take today for instance: everyone got up late, I had breakfast to cook, the kiddos had a long list of chores after their Sunday without them, we needed to jump right into school work, and I had baskets of laundry that had to be washed by hand.
Maybe Mondays aren't a fair example.
Since lots of people have rough Mondays, let's look at yesterday then.
The last Sunday of the month is our split men's and women's Sunday School classes. I was really nervous about sharing my lesson, but I'd worked really hard to prepare what I thought would be a blessing to our ladies.
Almost none of them showed up.
Next up was children's church.
Almost none of my kids showed up there, either.
Sunday afternoon was okay, but we were rushing to get out the door for night church when my almost-18-month-old grabbed her leftover soup off the table and dumped it down the front of her.
Quick change. Pick up three people for church. Get to church almost on time, and then had to spank three-year-old and while doing so, found out she forgot to wear her proper undergarments to church.
Wrestled a wiggly lap-baby through the entire service.

As I sat behind our house with piles of dirty laundry around me I was angry.
I was angry and full of despair.
This is what I've been called to do?
That couldn't possibly be right.
I was called for bigger, better things.
I was called to change the world!
I was called to reach the unreached!
I was called to give the gospel!
My talents, my abilities, my knowledge are being squandered here.

My tears mingled with the dirty wash water in my bucket as the Holy Spirit began to question my racing mind...
"My Child, where is the truth in what you are thinking? Is it that you really want to do something BIG for me or for yourself? Do you feel like your life is being frittered away because your faithfulness counts for nothing, or because nobody applauds your work? Do you feel like your talents are being wasted because you can't use them, or because I'm asking you to use them in small ways? Do you really think that teaching Scripture to a handful of teachable, available ladies and children cannot make a difference, or are you annoyed at their seeming indifference?"

"What bigger, better things are you looking for? Have I not blessed you with four little souls to guide, train, teach, and inspire? Can you not reach these unreached little ones with the truth of Me? Can you not live the gospel with four disciples surrounding you daily? Can you not pour Life into these four little women so that one day they too can reach the world?"

"Can you not live out the Love that I am to your husband today? As he faces the world outside the walls of your home, as he takes the Good News to those who've never heard, as he strives to be My hands and My feet, can you not take care of the daily needs of your family so that he is free to preach the Gospel? Or do you have to be the one to do all those things? Do you have to be the one that everyone knows by name? Do you have to be the BIG thing, or are you willing to be my servant?"

So the questions were asked, and my heart was convicted.
Am I willing to serve where I've been placed?
Am I loving the least of these?
Or am I driven by a desire to be known as part of something BIG?

The truth flows through my mind as I finish rinsing out my bucket of freshly scrubbed laundry.

Friday, February 20, 2015

For the Days You Feel You Can't Survive, Much Less Thrive....

At this point in my life, I write often about messes.
Why? because I'm surrounded by them.
Two little expert mess-makers live where I live, not including the other four that live in this house who do a pretty decent job at it themselves.
Case in point:

what happens when you take your eye off the toddler for five seconds.

I write, too, about hunting for beauty.
Why? because I have to choose daily to see past the sin, the ugly, the discontent that my unthankful heart can crave.

But the deeper reason I write about these things?
Because these are the things God is using to shape me, mold me, transform me into who He wants me to be.

These aren't the only things He is using, though.
He's using our electricity situation ~ it has moved from bad to getting-really-close-to-unsustainable.
We are now dealing with 24 hours off at a go.
This is not something I write about often, but it is part of my story, and it is doing a work in me.
God has been faithful through the months and months we've faced this, but it is hard.
With the lights off so much, there is a bit of a domino effect on our surroundings.
No electricity means no washing machine.......thus the need to hand wash. {I'm no stranger to hand-washing our clothes as I've had to do it for long periods on and off since we've lived here, but it does take up a good portion of time!}
No electricity means no lights on for a quick pick-up time before bed.....thus more clutter than usual when we get up in the morning.
No electricity means long, hot nights.......thus a cranky, weary family trying to live together through the days.
And lately, the water has been really low, too.
Meaning that even though the lights may be on, the washing machine still can't wash anything.
It just sits there enjoying a vacation.

God is teaching me right now that I have a choice.
I can choose to just survive this time of my life, or I can choose to thrive at this time in my life.

It's so much simpler to just drag out of bed and do the bare minimum required to get through the day.
It's easier to whip my hair into a topknot again, skip the bath, throw on the frumpy house clothes, skim my Bible reading, slap any old thing on the table to eat, fuss, yell, conveniently run out of time to do the chores, leave the dishes unwashed, nag, yell some more, not bother with teaching my kids the skills they should be learning, and ignore my relationship with my husband. It's too hard to do anything else.
I can decide to live.
Right here.
Right now.
I can decide that I only get these hours, these days, these months one time.
Do I really want to look back on this part of my life and see nothing but the gray dreariness of a life survived?

Yes, I have to put effort into living these difficult days.
I have to decide if I'm going to take a few minutes to get ready in the mornings so all my kids' memories aren't of me in my pajamas with frizzy Medusa-hair hanging everywhere.
I have to decide to think about the food we put into our bodies, and try my best to choose wisely, even if that takes more work than I want to do!
I have to decide if I'm going to bother with cleaning up the messes, controlling the chaos, and editing my life, since I know the little people will just mess it up again.....soon.

I have to decide if I'm going to decorate for holidays or not be bothered.
I have to decide if I'm going to read out loud when my voice is tired, or play beautiful music when the lights are on, or let the kids work on the big, messy school project, especially when that's the last thing I want them to do!

I have to decide if I'm going to read my Bible and good books that make me think or fritter away my time online.
I have to decide if I'm going to not only search for beauty, but also choose to add beauty to our home.

It comes down to a choice, and I'm the only one who can make it.
So today I choose to live.
I may tired.
I may be sitting in the dark.
I may be surrounded by a mess.
I may be wondering if I'm really going to survive.
But in choosing to live,
to thrive, not just survive,
I am growing,
being formed into the woman God wants me to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


*Sunday morning starts early. The electricity clicks off at 6:01 a.m.
The sun is up, but with no lights, all is gray and fuzzy.
I head to the kitchen to get lunch food started.
We have some church members coming over after the morning service, and Ghanaian food takes a while to prepare. Soon the smells of garlic, ginger, onion, red oil, and fish fill the kitchen.

We need to head out extra early this morning. John is preaching at the University campus before our normal church time. My two littlest aren't too keen on sitting still for an additional service today.
I spend most of the time outside chasing them and trying to keep their giggles quiet.

On to church. The sun is out in full force.
It's going to be a hot one today.
Mackay is quite the wiggle-worm, so I spend most of the service in the usual.
It's exciting to see our room slowly fill up.

We have a good number of kiddos for Sunday School.
They are happy to be here, and even happier to get their pictures taken.
We are extra thankful for the new roof on our room.
On days like today, the shelter is much appreciated.
No paint or decorations yet, but we are hoping it will be soon.

After morning service we have a change in plan: we have to drive one of our church members to the clinic.
She stepped on a nail at work before coming to church this morning.
Her ankle is starting to lock, and she needs to get a tetanus shot quickly.
We cram four adults and four kids into our tiny car, and head to see the mid-wife who handles such things.
After helping her get settled, we drop off the church member that rides to church with us, and then speed to the house to hopefully arrive before our guests.
Now I'm really glad I started the food before church.

A quick game of Blockus is in order while I finish the yam and stew.

After lunch and fellowship, our friends head home and we head to our rooms to rest for a few minutes before it is time to get ready for evening service.
The electricity buzzes back on at 4 p.m. An extra two hours of light today!
Sunday evenings are our popcorn night.
It's always popcorn and..........whatever else I can grab.
Tonight it happens to be brownies left over from lunch.
The guys had heard us talk about brownies, but had never tasted them so I made some for dessert.
I cut up a pineapple just in case they didn't like the brownies.
One did. One didn't.
I'm glad I cut the pineapple.

Off to Sunday night church. Mackay is very sleepy after our longer-than-normal day and shorter-than-usual nap. I spend the last half of the service outside, trying to keep her quiet when all she wants to do is stay awake.
Her method for doing so is screaming and running.
Yep, I'm glad we have a big compound.

Tonight everybody leaves church quickly.
Ghana is playing Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations, and the game is already half way over.
As soon as we get home, we quickly unload the car, pop the two sleeping ones into their beds, and then turn on the game. The older two want to stay up and watch. We pop some more popcorn and hope for a victory.

The game goes into overtime, and then on to a shoot-out.
Ghana loses the shoot-out 10 to 9.
We are sad for the loss, but happy for a good, full day.

*We get asked from time to time what our life is like here in Ghana, so I thought I'd share a random Sunday with you....