Restless

I’m not sure where all of this is leading us, but Bruce (my husband) and I are restless.  We can’t pretend we never saw the need.  We can’t pretend there isn’t STILL a need.  We can’t  ignore the 26,000 children who will die today from otherwise preventable sickness and disease.

We can’t forget the love and friendship extended to us when we were in Kenya.  We can’t forget the smiles and humble nature of the Kenyans from whom Americans could learn a lot!  We keep circling back to a place where we are so confused.  Both of us knew only our way of life for our entire lives.  Yes, we saw impoverished people on t.v.  Yes, we learned about people groups from all over the world in school.  However, I think we have finally realized why we are different now after going on mission to Kenya.

There is a strong, idol-like filter on America.  Everything we see, heard and read about pre-Kenya passed through a filter that encompassed all of our senses and soul.  The filter is called, normal.  What people view as normal is what they come to accept for their lives as the way things are supposed to be.  The most frightening thing about this filter is that we grew up believing our normal is right.  Right for us.  Before our trip, we heard of needs and did our best to meet them through financial aid and giving our time and energy toward projects like Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse.  We went to bed at night, resting our heads on our soft pillows behind locked doors in a safe home, and we slept peacefully believing we had done what was required of us as believers.

Our restlessness isn’t only about experiencing the devastating needs in Kenya, which is much like so many other countries, but about who we are called to be as Christ-followers.  Just as when I add filters to my camera lens, everything I see through the viewfinder is altered by the filter’s skew.  It’s the same way with the American filter.  It has been removed, and Bruce and I stand wide-eyed, to the point of nausea, at what we allowed ourselves to become out of pure ignorance.  Our society is so content and comfortable where we are, that we risk nothing out of that comfort zone that jeopardizes what we want.  For some to say that they feel solely called to help fellow Americans, which is important in its own rite, says, as David Platt puts it in his book Radical, we boast that we feel called to help only 5% of the world’s population.  Is that Christ?

During one of our annual events held to benefit Samaritan’s Purse, someone I know came up to me and said, This is good and all, but next year I’m keeping my money here and helping my homeland.

Again, that is great and noble and needed.  But, dare I say, it is not enough.  Would any of us be believers today had the disciples in Acts stayed right where they were and never acted on the Great Commission given by Jesus?

Our society is drunk on pleasure, gorged on greediness, and is caught in a sleeper-hold of comfort.  My family is among them.   I am ashamed to say that our society will take care of others, only after the portion we give ourselves is met first.  What could possibly be an example of this?  Most people in the world live on a $1 or less.  Our society spends hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on sports and arts for our children, thousands on holiday decorations, hundreds of thousands on clothes, shoes and cosmetics.  This isn’t mentioning the billions on vehicles, homes and education.  The far majority of what we spend our money on will not last. There will be no legacy.  No lasting impact for the Kingdom.  No special approval from God.  It’s just stuff that has woven us in its web and convinced us that these things will mean something one day.  Will they?

Below is an email that we recently received from our dear friend, Joseph.  We met him in Kenya. He is an overseer of an orphanage that we fell absolutely in love with there.  Some friends of ours are back there right now, and delivered a box of supplies we sent with them.  When we read this, we cried.  Why?  Because Joseph is a fellow believer.  We will spend eternity with him.  For now, he is hurting.  A couple of months ago, he lost his oldest son, whom we met, while trying to earn money for his family as a taxi driver of a piki piki (motorcycle).  We were devastated by the news.

It is very true that until a connection is made, it’s very easy for people to shrug off what they don’t want to deal with.  Joseph and the children are family to us. We pray for them every day.  The depth of my heart that was touched by his letter is impossible to put into words.  I invite you to share it with me…

Hi,

Greetings in the name of Jesus, how are you? We are all fine here. God has blessed us with rain although to others it devastating. The crops are doing well despite only yellowing of leaves in corn.

Your friends came to visit us on Wednesday, and they relayed your greetings and your friends’.

We have received the supplies and we are all happy about them.

We are happy when we are with you in prayers and we will not forget you for being with us also in the time of grief.  May God be with you and guide you as we are praying for you .

I remember your compassion when you were with us. The love of Christ that I have for you is never ending, may God bless you.

 Yours Faithfully,

 Joseph

To me, his letter was like reading the New Testament.  Brothers and sisters in Christ sharing His love and friendship whether near or far apart.  This is what will last.  This is what will impact future generations.  This is what furthers the Kingdom.  The photos below are of the Kenyans’ normal.  Does this look okay to us who have homes and vehicles and jobs?  I shot these throughout Kenya, not one solitary corner of the community. Step outside of Nairobi (with its slums as well as the business sector) and this is the countryside – a small, but accurate sampling.

I am most certain this post today will upset some people.  Frankly, I am upset too, as I see what believers in our country are capable of doing and what it is NOT being done.  Bruce and I don’t have all the answers, but we are restless.  Are you?


Selah Day? Sort of…

Happy Sunday!  Don’t you just love a day off?  Sunday may not be a day off for everyone, but I hope some time this week you’ve had a chance to decompress. We plan to do just that today. Although, it’s not exactly a nap on the couch kind of day. May is a crazy month, and there are all kinds of things wrapping up this weekend. But, we will enjoy time worshiping God in church and spending family time celebrating milestones. Who knows…maybe that elusive nap will happen after all?  I know my hubby isn’t giving up hope. 🙂

Enjoy your Selah Day, the Sabbath, and let’s not forget to thank Him who made this day and gifted it to us – and to keep it holy.

See you back tomorrow with more real…deep…stuff!

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Children

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Below are our photographs of lessons I’ve learned through my children in unexpected moments sharing life together.  I wouldn’t trade these experiences, or what they’ve taught me, for anything.

Always start the day with hope

Stay curious

God cares about the details

Some things are better left alone

Chase your dreams

Expect the unexpected

Know when to hold onto and when to let go

Look for life’s blessings

Don’t rush life

Find hidden treasure

Always be ready to make a new friend

Be spontaneous

Never forget old friends  (We had no idea these guys survived winter in our pond until we cleaned it out recently!)

Be thankful

Watch your step  (Found this guy while rock climbing)

Our lives are part of God’s divine design

Prayer binds family ties

Life is better together

Hands That Hold

Photo via case.edu

I saw a familiar sight as I walked out of the grocery store.  A dad and his daughter, no more than three years old, simply talking while walking to their car with groceries in hand. However, just as I glanced over, she began to pitch a monumental fit!  Arms flailing, crying, screaming-she threw herself on the ground.

My very first thought was, Boy am I glad my kids are past that stage!  Ha!

I was curious as to how the dad would respond.  With a bag of groceries in his left hand, he reached down with his right arm and picked his daughter up and carried her, barrel-style, all the way to the car.  I was memorized at how calm, cool and collected he was.  He didn’t lash out or yell or anything.  He also knew better than to try to reason with a three year-old in this state. He simply picked her up and walked on with her under his arm as she continued to fuss and flail.

My second thought was, Wow, that dad is amazing!  He didn’t even flinch.  

God spoke to me and said, Look familiar?

Yes, indeed, I snickered.  I remember those days with my kids like it was yesterday.

I’m not talking about your kids.  I’m talking about you, He whispered.

Oh my!  He was right.  There have been times in my life when God needed to intervene for my good even when I disagreed.  No discussion.  No reasoning.  Just action on His part in response to mine.  Whether I am overwhelmed with emotion, or so busy I can’t clearly think things through, God never gets flustered.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Would it have been okay for that dad to have driven off in frustration and left his toddler in the parking lot?  Would it have been okay to let her have her way and stay lying on the ground in the middle of the road with cars coming and going?  Would he have really had been able to articulate all the reasons why she needed to get up and move to safety?  Not in that moment. This dad acted in her best interest even though she didn’t understand or agree with his response.

I am so thankful that God does the same for us.  He sees the bigger picture and understands situations far better than we do.  When circumstances arise that we fall apart over, God is still on His throne and is able to make decisions based on what’s best for us-even if we’re throwing a fit on the inside.  Even if it means He must proverbially pick us up and remove us from the situation whether we think we know what we want or not and regardless if we think we know what’s best for us at the moment.

His hands are strong.  His heart is loving.  His mind is omnipotent.  Even when we falter and lose our senses, He is still in control.  There is a time for everything.  A time to discipline.  A time to discuss.  And a time to simply act on our behalf.

Below are some photos I’ve taken that remind me of His hands, His wisdom and His love for us. May we be able to walk obediently with God today.  And if not, may He know when we need to be picked up and carried.

The LORD answered Job… and said, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?  Job 38: 1, 8-11

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

…See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Matthew 6:28-30

(Creation You have made) all looks to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. Psalm 104:27-28

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

<<Check out the companion song to this post on my Tunes page!>>

Chicks in my nest

Yesterday was a good day.  A busy day.  A day especially fulfilling as a mom.  We’ve had a lot going on (like most people) and I’ve felt quite pulled in many directions.  However, I got to check some important boxes on my “mom list.”  I got the laundry caught up, took care of some things at home, and was out most of the day shopping for basic needs. We are blessed to live where food is available. I never take that for granted – especially after having been to Africa last year.  Some things in life seem so unfair, and so I try to be a good steward of our money and what it buys.

I love cooking and baking.  There is something gratifying about starting with nothing and ending up with a creation that makes others happy and satisfied.  We’ve been pantry-pullin’ (meaning eating out of the freezer, pantry and fridge) for quite some time to stretch the budget and eat what we already have.  But, there comes a point when a restock is necessary.  This was yesterday.  I asked my family what they would like and I made a list.

First, I went to one superstore to get the dry stuff.  After running carpool, going to the post office, etc. I made another trip to my local grocer to get the fresh stuff.  Both were long trips and I was ready to be done (but thankful I could do it in the first place).

As the kids and I unloaded the van and were putting the food away together, my daughter called me to the backyard.  We’ve been tracking the progress of a Robin’s nest for a while now.  The babies finally hatched (featured in yesterday’s post) and they are growing more restless by the day.  Their routine has been: sit quietly for a while, then frantically call for their mom who comes swooping in with a huge worm clutched in her beak.  She hoovers in the air, wings rapidly flailing, while she gives each baby bird part of the worm.  Then, in an instant, she flies off in search for more.  She’s extremely shy, and no matter how many times I quietly race out there with my camera, she’s gone in a flash.

In the middle of unloading everything, my daughter called to me that Mamma is back again with yet another worm to settle their veracious appetites.  I got there just in time to see her in action.  She was so quick, I couldn’t even focus my lens before she vanished.  But, for a brief moment, I watched her do her thing.  It touched me in a special way.  I stood silently and watched those babies rustle their feathers and squirm about in the nest.  They won’t be there much longer.  One baby hopped up onto the side of the nest and peered over the edge several times out of curiosity.

It was then I made the connection to Mamma Robin.  She and I, oddly, live similar lives.  She built a strong nest to hatch her babies.  The walls are unusally high, and even on the top step of a ladder (yeah, I know, what was I thinking!) I still could not see into the nest.  Indeed, she built a humble home for her little ones up under the roof of the house to protect them from the hawks that are common here.  She sat with them while they were very young, and now spends most of her time and energy caring for their needs.

Oh how I can relate!  Ironically, her flying to and fro made me chuckle as I had done the exact same thing yesterday, except I drove from store-to-store.

All three birds comfy and cozy yesterday.

Baby Robin #1 left home yesterday afternoon…and landed right into our pool.  My daughter didn’t hesitate to jump in after it.

It’s so scared!  But it’ll be fine.  It’s in good hands (literally!)

Wet, but safe!  It shakes off the water, as well as the whole experience, and runs under a bush.

Yesterday, two were left.

We can tell #2 is getting ready to leave by the way it paces and hops around.

<<Baby Robin #2 left sometime last night or early this morning.>>  We were excited to see her hopping around this morning.

The elusive mamma captured in a rare (albeit fuzzy) photo.

Baby Robin #3 is the only one left this morning.

While writing this post this morning, my kids called to me to come quickly.  I arrived just in time to see #3.  After perching on the edge and pacing back and forth, he finally gathered the courage and took flight.

Oops!  Trying to learn to fly, he landed in the pool, just like Baby #1.  My daughter rescued him as well.  Here is is wet and flustered.

The empty nest.

My mom’s heartstrings pulled as I gazed at this quiet nest.  For many days it was a time of anticipation and excitement.  The eggs hatched, and three adorable babies entered the world.  They grew a little each day.  Mamma Robin faithfully attended their needs.  They began to wriggle around in the nest, jockeying for position to receive the most food.  They discovered there is an edge to the nest.  And beyond the edge, there is something mysterious – a ledge of sorts.  On that ledge, they are able to see down to the ground and out into the horizon.  They curiously looked around, rustling their feathers and boasting their chests.  Mamma bird called and they jumped back into the nest.  There she found them waiting for another meal.  She left to hunt again, and they hopped back out onto the ledge, each time with a little more boldness and courage than the time before.

Then it happened.  The first one flew away.  The second one flew away.  The third one flew away.  The nest is quiet.  Mamma’s job tending the nest is finished.  She follows them on the ground for a while, still bringing them food, but no longer do they fly back to the safety of the nest.  They are on their own.  This is, indeed, the story of our children.

What seemed like forever waiting for these baby chicks to grow into cute, fuzzy birds, is now a mere memory recorded in pictures.

In my family, I have one chick perched on the edge, one rustling her feathers, and one pretty comfortable snuggled in the nest.  I can provide.  I can watch over them.  I can tend the nest.  But, I cannot stop time and nature from taking its course.

A bird can only appreciate her job so much.  She is, after all, a bird.  But, we are made differently.  We are made in the image of God – with thoughts, feelings and responses.  We have the ability to embrace the task of mothering that God has given us and do it to the best of our abilities.  I never once heard Mamma Robin squawking and complaining to the other mammas about her job.  I never saw her make the babies feel guilty for having needs.  We can learn a lot from this mamma.  Do we take our jobs to heart and show our gratitude for the blessing of our children?  Do we enjoy the time we have with them or wish it would hurry up and end?

I once overheard a mother in a store talking to a friend.  The mother’s middle school daughter was standing right beside her when the mother said, with great enthusiasm, “Yes!  I just have a few more years and then I am FREE!  I won’t have any of this anymore and I will be FREE!”  Oh how my heart broke for that beautiful young lady who stood there with her shoulders down and face to the ground.  That was several years ago.  I wonder how that mom is enjoying her freedom now, because I can’t imagine the daughter ever wanting to revisit her nest.

It’s a cliche, but time is short.  Make the most of it.  Most mothers wanted their children when they had them.  Do we truly act like it?  These are harsh words, but it’s the raw reality that in a self-centered society such as ours, the kingdom of mothers can quickly turn into a whiny parade of women who can’t let life be about anyone but themselves.

Our children will grow up and fly with or without us.  We have the responsibility to provide for their needs.  But, we have also been given the privilege to enjoy the journey along the way.  I lost my mom when I was 16.  I know time is short.  None of us know how long we have on this earth.  But, you have today.  I encourage you to enjoy it.  Enjoy tending the nest.  Enjoy providing.  Enjoy protecting.  Enjoy your children – while they are still children. And be thankful.

Deep in the garden…

It’s always an amazing sight when winter gives way to spring. All kinds of activity begins to pop up in our backyard! I thought I’d share some highlights. Like fishermen and their stories of the one that got away, I can’t seem to catch the super fast chipmunks! They are so cute, but quick! If I ever capture one on camera, I’ll share it in Deep in The Garden II.

One of the best things about all of the hullabaloo going on back there is the friends that share our passion. The kids love to romp and stomp and explore. Our friends have a family of foxes living under their shed that we hope to see before the pups grow up. It’s just so fun to watch the children appreciate God’s creation. I hope they never outgrow a love for nature.  I haven’t!

He thought he fooled us hiding on the green leaves. Nope – we spotted him!  Gotcha!

One of my all-time favorite flowers. Wish they bloomed year round!

This little bunny eats our weeds – yeah! But, she also eats our strawberries and some flowers. Hopefully the blackberries are out of reach.

These baby Robins are so cute! Their mama takes great care of them constantly flying to and from with lots of juicy worms.

A creative way to experience an earth worm. No worms were harmed in the making of this photo 🙂

A good rain is a welcome friend to any garden.

Meet Big Bull. He is a huge green frog that has taken up residence in our small pond. He cracks us up! All day he sits with his head peeking out croaking and calling and strutting his bad little stuff. Then, the minute we get even remotely close, his chicken self comes out and he dives into the water. It took me many tries to get this photo. A zoom lens did the trick, finally.

This little friend was relaxing under grey clouds and a cool breeze. It wasn’t afraid of us at all!  Beautiful.

Baby Robins!

Can’t enough juicy worms!

Okay, overlook the gross factor and this is pretty cool. I captured a snail laying eggs on the pond pump. We don’t see that every day!

The little booger!

Meet Percy and Mr. Toady. They were indoor pets until we couldn’t keep up with their huge appetites! Once, we had a cricket fiasco where a fresh batch got loose in the house. Oh my! They are a local species, so we set them free in our pond and they’ve been there ever since – and much happier being free I’m sure.

I got a little creative with the praying mantis hanging around one day.

A nest of Robin’s eggs

I look forward to these blooming every year

Trying my hand at growing tulips

An inchworm, affectionately named “Inchy” that the kids caught on camera.  Just cruisin’ along doing its thing.

Have a great day discovering God’s mysteries!