Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Enjoy Where I am When I am Not Where I Want to Be, and Other Lessons From Having to Wait, Part 1

It is no secret that we are a family of four living in Spangle, WA that desperately wants to be a family of four living in France. As every adult knows, we don't always get what we want. But those who trust in Jesus have the blessed assurance that even when we do not get what we want, whatever we have is better: Better for us; better for our hearts; better for our souls; and better for the kingdom of God.

Apparently, the best possible place we can be, for now, is here. Believing this to be true (and hating it at the same time) has led me ponder some of the things I am learning in this place. I will share these thoughts if you promise to have grace with me in the process. Notice I said "things I am learning" and NOT "things I have fully mastered and in which I am now an expert."

Raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I, (your name), solemnly swear that I will have grace for Jenn, who is, after all, quite a mess. She clearly speaks out of ignorance and acts out of impertinence. Nevertheless, she wants to be more like Jesus, so I will pray for her, and hope for her, and even point her His way to the best of my ability.

If you took the pledge, you may continue to read.

Lesson #1: Lifestyle of the Poor and Obscure

I don't think that a show with that title would ever make prime-time, but I'm sure you've all heard of it's counterpart: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. We love to see how the affluent live, with their lavish digs, their fancy vacations, and their luxurious amenities. Personal pleasure is the goal of life, and those who can afford it seek it on every front. But I am learning that perhaps I am not MEANT to enjoy every moment of my life. Did you just gasp in disbelief? Me, too! I LOVE pleasure. I like to be comfortable, and highly valued, and nicely groomed, and well-fed. However, I am beginning to realize that while I can be CONTENT in all circumstances, that does not necessarily mean that I will be comfortable.

When I am comfortable, I am not likely to make a change. I have a reminder of this in my daily life. I have been running for about 12 years, and no matter how fast or how far I have run, the most difficult part of my route has been the same 30 yards...the 30 yards from the bed to the front door. Why? Because I must deny my own personal comfort to get out of my warm, cozy bed to go work-out in the often cold, sometimes wet world. It would be easier to stay in bed. It would also be unhealthy, unfulfilling, and unproductive.

Discomfort is often on the bridge from complacency to calling. The temptation, my temptation, is to turn around at the first sign of discomfort. What I need to do, is lean in to it. Endure it. Embrace it.

So life is a little uncomfortable right now. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Financially. Geographically. Fashionably. And you know what? I'm not turning back. I'm celebrating, because I think this means that we are on the bridge to our calling. In other words, we're moving in the right direction! In essence, there is no way to France except through this discomfort.

So I say, "Bring it on!"

I am going to embrace the discomfort of living the lifestyle of the poor and obscure--but know this: I am not talking about financial poverty and obscurity. Nope. I am talking about spiritual poverty. I am living in that place of the destitute soul. Real discomfort goes way beyond having to pinch pennies. Real discomfort comes from our awareness of our own depravity and an inability to save ourselves. The Gospel must do its work in me, to change me, and that happens continually as I grow in my awareness of the enormity of my spiritual debt.

Now let's get down to the nitty gritty.

What exactly does it mean to "embrace the discomfort of spiritual poverty?"
  • It means choosing to accept the peace the passes understanding even though my life is riddled with ambiguity.
  • It means answering with a smile and the words, "I don't exactly know" instead of a sneer and a scream of frustration when the 17th person of the day asks me when we are going to leave for France.
  • It means admitting that raising support is a challenge, but delighting in the fact that God is using His body to get us to France.
  • It means reminding myself that personal comfort may appear more attractive today, but in the long run, it will leave me spiritually fat, dissatisfied, and irrelevant.
  • It means doing the hard things, not out of guilt or vain ambition, but because He has called me to these things. For the one who has called me will enable me. Apart from Him I can do nothing.
  • It means having difficult conversations with David, disciplining growing boys, and serving others when I would rather spend all my time getting pedicures, reading novels, and playing scrabble on Facebook.
  • It means eating the apple instead of the ice cream at least four times out of five--after all, ice cream is not exactly evil, and total depravation is not the answer--still...I do have those last 3 pounds to lose, and so every choice matters. And yes, this, too, is spiritual.
  • It means accepting help from friends, when my pride wants to say, "No thanks, we've got it under it control."

Uncomfortable yet?

Me, too.

Isn't it great?

His grace is sufficient.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Margherita Pizza

Last week we had dinner with some friends, and were much inspired by the dinner that they prepared for us. David has been perfecting the fine art of pizza-making for many years, but with the help and guidance of our dear friends, he has just taken it to a whole new level! See this little beauty? It is my new favorite meal.

After making his tried and true pizza crust, David rolled it out, and cooked it...

ON THE GRILL!!! How cool is that? First we baked it on one side.

Then we took it back in to the kitchen, flipped so that the cooked side was up, and topped it.

Fresh pesto went on first.

Next we loaded it with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and feta.

And then back out to the grill for about three more minutes.

Pure joy! A party in my mouth! Absolutely, without a doubt, the BEST pizza ever!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Do the Simple Folk Do?

Remember the musical Camelot? In one melancholy scene, King Arthur and Queen Guenevere are fighting a case of the blues, and they ask each other (in song of course!):

What do the simple folk do?

To help them escape when they're blue?

The shepherd who is ailing, the milkmaid who is glum,

The cobbler who is wailing from nailing his thumb?

When they're beset and besieged

The folk not nobly obliged

However do they manage to shed their weary lot?

Oh, what do simple folk do, we do not?

Arthur and Gwen try "simple folk" remedies, such as singing, and dancing, and whistling.

David and I have been wrestling with a bit of the blues, so we, too, looked for ways to "shed our weary lot." Shed it, we have!

Here are a few remedies that worked for us. Feel free to try them, should you be a "shepherd who is ailing" or a "milkmaid who is glum."

  1. Take the kids out to lunch at a sit-down restaurant. Let them order fancy drinks. Try something you've never had before. Eat with chopsticks. And leave a big tip.

  2. Watch a family movie. Quote the funniest lines over dinner. Quote the lines in the car. Quote the lines at family prayer. Laugh every time.

  3. Learn a new game and play it.

  4. Make video recordings of your cat.

  5. Buy new hair conditioner...the GOOD stuff...and use it lavishly.

  6. Go to church and worship. Go home and worship. Sing in the car. Pray in the shower. Memorize scripture, and say it aloud. Say it again. And again.

  7. Take a walk at sunrise through amber waves of grain. Breathe deeply.

  8. Lie on a blanket in your yard and read a book. Read two, if you want.

  9. Tell your favorite family stories--the ones everyone knows, but loves to hear over and over again. We love to tell our boys all about their births. And for some reason, they love hearing these stories. They join in the telling as if they remember the event themselves.

  10. Dance to Nat King Cole with the love of your life, even if you don't feel romantic at the time. Cry if you must, laugh if you can, love, no matter what.

Yes, we are better. We are smiling and hopeful and excited to see how God will move next. We sense that God is smiling, too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Due Dates

My first son, Graham, was born a full week after his due date. I vividly remember how it felt to watch a due date come and go. I remember that despite ALL evidence to the contrary, I was momentarily convinced that I was NEVER going to have that baby. I cried irrational tears to accompany my irrational feelings.

Due dates are estimates. Best guesses. Hopes.

Due dates are not deadlines.

Missing a due date does not change the inevitability of an imminent birth.

Today I feel like we are missing another due date. Our desired time for departure to France is fast upon us, but the house remains unsold and 35% of our support remains unraised. The date is passing us by; yet, an imminent departure to France still feels inevitable.

Just as with an over-due baby, we feel limited in our ability to make long-term plans; nevertheless, life goes on. The boys will start school this week, not in France as we had hoped, but in Spokane. We will engage in ministry, not in France as we had hoped, but in Spokane. We will continue to learn French, not in France as we had hoped, but in Spokane, using Rosetta Stone.

We are convinced that we will go to France. We are certain that this is God's call on our lives. When we will go is yet to be determined. Maybe next month? Could it be by Thanksgiving? Oh we hope it is in 2009! We are SO ready.

In the meantime, we trust the God that does know the day, even the very hour, that we will leave. We trust that He is sovereign over the timing. We wait anxiously for His hand to move in both the sale of our house AND the completion of our support. He is faithful, and He will do it.

Still, I did have some tears to shed over the issue, dying once again to my own agenda. These small, painful deaths are the answer to my prayer that I would lose my life for Jesus. I know. I asked for it. But it still hurts, and the pain reminds me of how much in love with my plans I really am. Surrender is necessary, and not so sweet just yet. I believe there are scars on my palms where the agenda to which I cling has been torn from my hands. Raw and bleeding, I know only this: My dear Savior also has scars on His hands, and perhaps even this light and momentary trial (trivial, really, in the eternal sense) can be used to make me more like Him.

Oh Jesus, make it so.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Antidote for Discouragement

Okay. I'll admit it. Last week I was a little discouraged. Well, maybe more than a little. Things just weren't going my way. Or according my timeline. And I was tired of feeling like I had to hang on for an unspecified amount of time until God opened the door for us to move to France. I don't want to hang on anymore, I want to GO.

So I prayed, and journaled, and broke down and ate chocolate for the first time in over a month.

And I was still discouraged.

I talked to David, and discovered that he was discouraged, too. Unlike misery, discouragement does NOT love company.

So I was still discouraged.

We decided to get away--to take a breather, and we packed up the car are drove to the lake for the weekend. We had good food, great conversation with family, and lots of playtime.

And I was still discouraged.

I wish that I could tell you that I discovered the antidote for discouragement, but I didn't. I simply rode it out, clinging to Jesus. Eventually I surrendered MY way and MY timeline to Him and decided to trust HIS way and HIS timeline.

Note: I DECIDED to trust.

I don't want to trust Him (I want to do it my way!). I am not swept up in happy, trusting feelings. But really, what choice do I have? I can stay frustrated, angry and discouraged, or I can decide to trust in the fact that I have a loving God who promises to always work all things together for my good and His glory. And that is the truth.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

He will make my paths straight.




I may not know the cure for discouragement, but I think I may have discovered the cause. I get discouraged when I forget that God is more concerned with my journey than my destination. I get discouraged when I focus on the plans of God and forget about the person of God. I get discouraged when I am pursuing my goal, and lose sight of my Jesus. My Jesus, who is with me on my way.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deut. 31:8

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alpine Slide, Big Mountain, MT

Have you ever wondered how it feels to be an Olympic Luger?

Ready? Set? Go!

Fast. Fun. Fantastic!

Let's do it again!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Montana Meditations

David is reading a novel. Graham is playing the guitar. Chandler is playing his Nintendo DS. And I am blogging.

Each of us is being refueled in our own way. Each of us is content. We are not the least bit dismayed by the cold, cloudy weather; rather, we are allowing ourselves to slow down, breathe deeply, and sleep late.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Our summer has been one of constant motion, high intensity, and great adventure. Which I love. But right now we are in a place of rest. A place where the needs and hopes of tomorrow lie in silent wait while the joys and delights of today voice their song.

"Come to me, you are weary, and I will give you rest."

Today we have everything we need. Today we are free from worry. Today we are enjoying the company of family. We belong to Jesus, and we are deeply loved.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Running for Nothing

Did you know that as of three weeks ago, David started running with me? I invited him, and I guess I thought he'd turn me down, since he has turned me down pretty regularly for the past 17 years. But for some strange reason (I suspect a bout of insanity) he actually said, "yes."

I have been running fairly consistently for about 12 years, and David has been running, well, like 5 times, I think. At least it was five times BEFORE he joined my routine three weeks ago. Now he has been running, oh about 15 times. Total. In his whole life.

Which is why I pretty much hate him. Okay, I don't HATE him, but I really HATE that after running for only three weeks, he is the one challenging me. Today I basically ate his dust the entire second mile. What's up with that? And yes, I do have issues with being competitive.

But then again, there is something pretty cool going on here. Something deeper than physical fitness, and running speeds, and endurance. David and I are learning to be teammates.

We have teamed up to paint a room or plant a garden or even parent our children. I am sure those events have laid the groundwork for our next steps--which go to a whole new level. From now on, both here and when we move to France, David and I have to figure out how to work together in EVERYTHING. He no longer goes off to his own job for eight or more hours everyday. I no longer have the run of the house. We are in ALL of it...together.

I remember an older friend telling me about her adjustment to having her retired husband at home all day. She said, "For better or for worse, but NOT for lunch." It was funny then. Now? Not so much.

Actually, I delight in all of the time I get to have with David. We are good at having fun together. We are still learning to be good at working together, which is really a whole new world.

And to add to the mix, we are each growing individually. I am not the same as I was yesterday, and neither is he. It is a great place to be, but challenging in so many ways. We cannot even predict how the other will respond to the most common of stimuli. We need to communicate better, grow in grace for each other, encourage strengths, and gently challenge weaknesses. It could be overwhelming, except for this one thing: We are running together.

In the simple act of running we are forced to communicate better (or learn to hold our tongues!), to show grace (and to receive it!), to encourage strengths (with genuine praise!), and to gently challenge weaknesses (without judgement or shame!). It is a training ground for us, in more ways than one.

I am sure that I will be a better runner for having David as my partner. It means I can't always set the pace, or choose the route, or decide on the time of day. Being a team means dying to myself just a little bit more. And that, my friends, is the deepest desire of my heart. Remember my motto? Less is more, but NOTHING is EVERYTHING.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lessons Learned

This week I learned more than any one person should be blessed to know.

I learned that my fingers will NOT need surgery to heal...physical therapy will suffice.

I learned that three more families have joined our support team.

I learned that God can redeem EVERYTHING. Everything. Wow.

I learned that the Lego R2D2 (sought by Chan) was hiding in Graham's room.

I learned that running with David is helping me to get faster.

I learned that the battery in David's truck is dead.

I learned that Chandler wants to learn to play the bass. Maybe. Maybe not.

I learned that God can meet all our needs.

I learned that even in our unemployed, pre-field missionary condition, we are rich enough to support a child through Compassion International. So we started today. With Israel Antoine from Haiti.

I learned that the word "prodigal" means "recklessly extravagant." So I now understand why Tim Keller titled his book, The Prodigal God.

I learned that my husband can make amazing marinara sauce.

I learned that I am no longer alone in my experience of having a beauty professional kindly suggest that I wax my upper lip. Someone (who shall remain nameless) now knows my pain.

I learned that our bank has been taking $40 a month from our account for the past four months for life insurance that we did not purchase and do not want.

I learned that I continue to feel better when I eliminate sugar from my diet, darn it!

I learned that we are almost out of Otter Pops.

I learned that the Lord shines the brightest when our circumstances are insurmountable. And I say, "Shine, Jesus, Shine!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not What We Expected--But Better!

Each day my support-raising husband prayerfully makes a list of the people he intends to call. Since we are in fund-raising mode, we sort of assumed that as we prayed about the list, God would direct us to people who are called to be on our support team. Well, it ain't necessarily so.

Sometimes the call goes as expected, and David is successful at setting up an appointment to share our vision for France. However, other times it seems that God leads David to call someone NOT because they will meet our need, but because he wants David to meet their need.

Take today. One person that David called was grieving because she had just lost her father. David listened and consoled her for thirty minutes. He hardly mentioned France. Then later he talked to someone who was having some challenges with a teenage child. Again, he listened and encouraged, foregoing his own agenda.

You see, we have goals, we have ambitions, we have hopes, and we want to make plans. But none of those matter unless they are surrendered to the Lord. And so we try to stay constantly surrendered. Emphasis on "try."After all, each phone call is made on God's time, for His glory, and it behooves us to simply follow His lead.

And actually, we are blessed in the process. The phone calls may not always turn out the way we expect--but they are clearly lead of the Lord, and in that way, they are far better than we could imagine.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Remember this? This is how my hand looked two days after I sustained a football injury:

Five weeks later, my fingers are still hurting and swollen. So, since I had to go the the doctor yesterday to get my thyroid levels checked, I off-handedly mentioned my injured fingers. I got sent straight to x-ray, and found out that BOTH the index and ring fingers are broken, with bone fragments milling around where they ought not to be. Hmmmm. No wonder they still hurt.

Since I waited so long, the bones may not heal correctly with just splinting, and the word "surgery" was being thrown around. Next week I will see a hand specialist. Please pray for total healing. This injury could not only end my football career, it could seriously limit my water skiing and knitting endeavors!