Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weird.

This picture has NOTHING to do with this post. Isn't that weird?

Speaking of weird, David and I are in a weird place in life. Weird, weird, weird. For one, my unemployed pilot husband spends his days calling people to ask them if we can meet to share about our call to France. "And by the way," he tells them, "We will be asking you to pray about joining our support team."

It is really a hard job, if one does not have a sales background; which David does not.

How does he do it? Very prayerfully. After all, times are tough. It is not like people have extra piles of money laying around right now. Yet, people continue to give. Not because they are rich. Not because they have more money than they know what to do with. Not because we are convincing or persuasive. Certainly NOT because they feel guilty or compelled. Nope.

Bottom line? People are giving because God is calling them to be a part of His kingdom-work in France. And they obey.

God delights in obedience. God blesses obedience. God uses obedience. God works through obedience.

And we are blessed. Not so much because people are helping us (which they are!) but because people are listening to God and engaging in His purposes. We are blessed because we know--WE KNOW--that God is faithful. Joining our support team just offers people one more way to experience His faithfulness. He is Jehovah Jireh--our Provider.

Certain that we are going to burst with gratitude for the supporters that God has raised up, we have recently received e-mails from some who are feeling called to INCREASE their current giving levels. Honestly. Have they checked their retirement portfolios? Don't they know how bad the economy is? Apparently, these things aren't their first concern. Weird. They know it all belongs to God and they know that He will provide for all their needs. They are out-doing each other in goodness and grace.

We will never ever be able to thank our supporters enough. It just isn't possible. But with heartfelt appreciation, every Sunday we pray for them. We pray for any specific, individual needs of which we are aware. And then we pray this:

"Lord, please send your blessing on those who are supporting us. We pray that they would feel your pleasure in their giving every bit as much as we feel your pleasure in our going."

People who give money away in the midst of a recession are weird. Every bit as weird as people who drop everything to become missionaries in France. Supporters, we love you for your weirdness--your crazy faith, your costly obedience, your passionate way of living for the kingdom of God. You givers inspire us, and we want to be more like you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Weeds

This morning I ventured out into my garden. I have avoided it for a week, but today I knew I needed to get out there. Our poor garden has been left to itself for the entire first half of the summer, and it is absolutely overrun with weeds. I wanted to cry.

Normally, I am almost obsessive-compulsive about weeds. In summers past, I have spent a few hours every week combing the garden for even the tiniest unwanted intruder, and plucking it out. However, since we have been gone for the past eight weeks, the weeds simply took over. Some are tall and strong with deep roots and prickly leaves. Others are low to the ground and spreading out fast and furiously. A few even have some blossoms, as if to say,"Look, I'm not so bad." Little liars, sucking up the space and nutrients meant for my beautiful veggies.

Graham and Chandler and I hoed and raked and spaded until the heat got unbearable. We definitely made progress, but there is yet a long way to go until the weeds are all gone. Nevertheless, the vegetables ARE growing. Sure, some are weak, haggard, and strangled-looking, but they are alive. We could almost hear them whispering words of gratitude as we gently freed them from their evil captors.

Still, I love being in the garden. A garden is a rare combination of productivity and peace. A holy place, in many ways.

And as I struggled to remove the weeds from my garden, I began to think about how sins are like weeds in our lives. If I were left to my own devices, sin would easily overtake me. But, when I keep short accounts, ask quickly for forgiveness, and repent at the first nudge of conviction, those weeds don't have a chance to take over in my life.

If we leave sin unchecked, things get ugly fast.

Some sins will not take up too much space, but they will grow deep roots and penetrate depths of our hearts. Others will spread out their tendrils, choking out the light and water that our souls need to survive. And then there are those that try to look pretty, and convince us that they don't need to go.

Oh, they all need to go.

The master gardener can free us from the weeds. He will carefully tend the soil of our souls to rout out the sins, and nurture the things that He planted to bear fruit in our lives. There may be some pruning, and thinning, and transplanting. But everything that He does is for our good and His glory.

Today, I will invite the Lord to do some weeding in my life. And I will whisper words of gratitude to Him as He gently frees me once again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

I was going to blog about what it means to be a pilgrim. Because, you know, I love shoes with shiny buckles. But I just can't. Not now. I have much bigger fish to fry.

Right now there are four happy, sweaty, loud teen/preteen boys playing the Wii in our living room. Now as if that alone were not enough to make my day, they started out by playing Rock Band. Oh yeah. Nothin' better. They were rocking out to songs from MY high school years, and totally making me laugh. Mostly because they don't know the words to the songs, so they make up their own. My favorite lyrics of the day had to do with a rabbit named Harold who had liver coming out of his ears. And by the way, Harold is a wizard. Where do they get this stuff?

Next they switched to a Raving Rabbids game called "Fart Wars," (I didn't name it!) where the deformed-looking rabbits, having just consumed massive volumes of Chili, are racing down the Grand Canyon powered by, well, let's say gas.

Now let me ask you, "Could you write a serious blog post with that going on in the same room?" Or, perhaps more importantly, "Would you want to?"

But most of all, I am smiling; because despite the total depravity of Harold and liver and farts...I finally feel like I am HOME!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stow-Away

We arrived in Portland, OR on Saturday night, and camped out at my parents' house for two days. Here is our heaping pile of luggage in their hallway. Wait a minute...


Who do I see there in the side pocket of our giant backpack?



Looks like a stow-away! He looks happy to be in the Northwest. I think the North Carolina humidity finally got to him. I guess we'll have Gumby around for a few more adventures! I wonder if he speaks French.


Friday, July 17, 2009

A Groovy Kind of Love

Imagine a place where most everyone is homeless, but no one is poor.

Where everbody is focused on a mighty goal, but few know their next step.

Where everyone is a brother or sister, though they've only just met, and may never meet again.

Where people have diverse backgrounds, varied world-wide destinations, but a unified purpose.

Imagine a place where truth is spoken, learning is genuine, life is enjoyed, and love is intense.

It is a temporary haven. A greenhouse. A launch pad.

It is the calm before a storm, and yet a storm in and of itself.

It is CIT with a group of the finest people I have ever met.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wild Woozy

Oh the wonderful adventures we had today! David and I had the joy of participating in a full day of interactive team-building. The following video is of David and I doing an exercise called, "Wild Woozy." We are each standing on separate cables that are about one foot off of the ground. As you can see, we must lean on each other to make our way across the cables, while they become farther and farther apart from each other. The people under and around us are our "spotters."

We learned from those who went before us, and made it almost all of the way across. The lessons learned were: We have to depend on each other, communication is key to success, and everything is better when you're holding hands! Enjoy our antics.

video

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Snipping at the Apron Strings

Words cannot describe the spectrum of emotions that I felt as I watched my two boys confidently walk through security at the Charlotte airport--without me.




Originally, the four of us were scheduled to fly back to the Northwest yesterday. But it turns out that David and I have one more week of required training here in North Carolina, a discovery that was made late last week. Rather than changing all four airline tickets, we decided to let the boys fly back to Portland and spend the week at my parents' house while David and I hung around in the deep south to complete our classes.

Graham and Chan were totally up to the adventure, which required a short lay-over and plane change in Washington D.C. They knew what to do and were sure they could do it. When they arrived in D.C. and discovered they would have to take a shuttle to a different terminal to find their departure gate, they were completely undaunted. They ordered and ate dinner. They bought a little candy for dessert. They found their way, despite flight delays, to my parents' welcoming smiles 2000 miles away.

Half of me is dancing the happy dance! Those boys are AWESOME! CAPABLE! BRAVE! Hip Hip Hooray!

The other half of me is grieving. Begin solemn music: "Is this the little boy I carried?..." Where did the days of strollers, and blankies, and "hold my hand" go? How did they get so big and so (dare I say it?) independent.

Of course, I want them to grow, to spread their wings, to soar. I just neglected to realize that their soaring would often take them AWAY from me.

Oh Fiddlesticks, now I'm crying!

Yet, I do not want to hold them down. I want to be the loudest voice cheering them on! WAY TO GO, BOYS! I knew you could do it! You make me so very proud. I will be forever grateful for the joy of being your mom.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Peter Pikkert

Have you ever had an instructor that seems to say and teach things that come directly from the heart of God and penetrate into the depths of your soul? Ironically enough, one of our linguistic instructors spoke to me in this way. He was quite accomplished in the areas of phonetics, language acquisition, and grammar; fluent in Dutch, English, Arabic, and Turkish; and the author of multiple books in several languages. Impressive? Yes. But even more impressive to me were the thoughts he shared during our devotional time. He was the one who got me thinking about "nothingness" last week. This week he spoke on the qualities of a pilgrim. I am still contemplating all that he said, rereading my notes, and letting the truths resonate in my heart and fill my thoughts. Much of it is still too tender to share, but as I begin to get my mind around these profound concepts I am discovering new things about myself and my God. And I am both challenged and grateful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This and That and Thus and So

THIS...


...is what happened to my poor delicate hand when I tried to play football with the BIG boys. My index and ring finger on my left hand are swollen, jammed, and in pain. At least I didn't break a nail.

THAT...


...is Michael Jordan Gumby, who was created by Chandler weeks ago. By the by, Gumby is not a part of our Language Acquisition Classroom. Apparently our linguistic instructors do not appreciate the kinesthetic learner...

...THUS...

They have REMOVED all the toys from the classroom. Now I spend much of my time in class rocking in my chair, doodling, or twirling my hair around my fingers.

SO...

Going to see fireworks in the nearby town of Gilkey on the Fourth of July was a very welcome stress-reliever.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Am I Ready to Lose my Life?

A few years ago I spent some time wrestling with the idea of becoming "less" so that Jesus might become "more." After meditating on John 3:30, which says, "He must become greater; I must become less," I was convicted through prayer that this was God's call on my life. I began to look for ways to decrease so that God could increase in my life.

At first there were some material changes--clothes were donated to Goodwill, old toys were passed on to younger children, and my shopping instinct began to wane. "Less is more" was my motto.

Eventually the changes moved to my behavior--where I would once launch into long lectures with my sons, I began biting my tongue and trusting the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. I saw such fruit from this little effort in both MY life AND theirs. I was greatly encouaged.

Finally, I found the Lord working out changes in my heart--where I once only thought of my own hopes and desires, I began to seek out His. This was remarkably freeing and genuinely revolutionary to the way I thought and prayed.

I thought I mastered "becoming less." But through the teaching I have received at CIT, I am coming to realize that "less is more" is not enough. My new motto, though I shudder to embrace it, is "nothing is everything."

In my whole process of "decreasing" I probably became 10% less Jenn. Not bad. Way to go. That means Jesus gained a whole 10% of the real estate in my heart. The problem is, it is barely a drop in the bucket. In fact, giving Him everything still doesn't go far enough. He doesn't want my everything...He wants my NOTHING-NESS.

The real truth is found in those verses that I have recited for years, but never really grasped:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself NOTHING. Phil. 2:5-7

For we who are alive are always being given over to DEATH for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. II Cor. 4:11

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Matt. 16:24-25

I could go on and on. And do not think that I have come to this place lightly. I know that I cannot fully grasp what it all means; yet, I want it. I am standing at the edge of myself, pondering what it would take to abandon all that I am for Him:


  • Will I deny my preferences? My dreams? My personality? My gifts? My comforts?
  • Will I trade all that I am and all I have worked for...my skills, my possessions, my identity...for the joy of being completely lost in the name of Jesus?
  • Am I willing to be just one of millions of threads that are woven inconspicuously into the fabric of God's kingdom on earth; or do I, in some small way, want to have a distinctiveness all my own.
  • Do I love my SELF too much to truly lose my SELF for His sake?
I don't know how, but I'm diving in.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
-Jim Elliot

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Single Most Important Attribute of a Successful Language Learner

Childlikeness.

That is the single most important characteristic of a good language learner. After all, most of us were children when we learned our first language. We were inquisitive, uninhibited, playful, adventurous, creative, teachable, and humble. As children, most of us accepted a certain amount of ambiguity, relied on context, and became fluent before ever entering a classroom or having a formal teacher.

So, the recommendation that we have received here at CIT in our Second Language Acquisition Course is to be willing to become like a child again. Really, in learning another language, we don't have much of a choice. We will not know big, fancy words. We will not be able to discuss complex topics. We will, essentially, speak and understand at a young child's level. And progress will not be quick.

And in all this, I see only good news...for I will have a very rare opportunity at incarnational living. When God Himself entered the culture of humanity He became a baby. He, who could've started at the top, chose to begin at the bottom. As a child.

And He recommended this course of action for those who desired to follow Him into the kingdom:

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-5

So I say, with all my heart, "Thank you, Lord, for this amazing opportunity to humble myself and become like a child."
 
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