Friday, March 30, 2012

Finding Grace in Living Lent

I've been a place this past week where I've really had to cling to grace with all the strength I had, and to beg the strength to cling harder when mine wore out. And, without fail, the grace has been there.

Lenten Family Altar

My husband and my oldest son have been gone for nearly two weeks. They went home to comfort and console my beautiful mother-in-law as she flew home in the arms of Jesus. It was an incredible grace to know that they were by her side at that moment. That they shared this profound moment with an intimate circle of family.

Lenten Countdown

We have decided to let our oldest remain there with grandfather for a stretch of time so that his transition to life without his beloved is not so stark and painful. It is hard for this mother's heart to let him go. But there is grace in knowing that God has given him his very own mission of mercy and that he has the faith and wisdom to embrace that call at his young age.

Lenten altar at our Church

The Crucifix at our Church

It is hard to be here in the midst of this loss. To walk without my help meet in this faraway place. To try to absorb all the pain and sadness of four little boys once again grieving a terrible painful loss. It's hard to think of my husband sitting alone in the pew at his mother's funeral. I have shed many, many tears this week. They have ministered to me in my sorrow. There is grace in tears. And there is grace in knowing that my Sweet Savior gathers every one into a vial and counts them all as grace.

Can't wait to put my arms around this neck and kiss this face

The truth is, as hard as this has been, I really thought it would be harder. I thought I would feel lost, not know what to do with myself when I needed something. I thought I would be wary to share this pain with people I barely know, in a language that makes it difficult for me to really express the deepest sentiments of my heart. I thought it would be harder to be quiet for this long, with only my little guys, their river and the presence of God as my true company. It has been hard at times. But mostly, it has been tangibly, profoundly filled with grace.

                                                        Granny and Sweet Saint Bryce --This is what is happening in heaven today!

In these days, I realize that I am truly living Lent. Accepting my cross and following Him. Falling and rising again. Stripped bare and humbled in my vulnerability. Yet not despairing. Hoping. Hoping more. Hoping still. That is grace. All grace.  And that is why I love the life I live. I cannot do it alone. I am acutely aware of that. And so His grace, freely given, is received with gratitude.

Slide show memorial for my mother-in-law produced by my amazing son

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Pursuit

It is St. Patrick's Day. I am not at a parade catching cabbages. I am not drinking green beer or baking Guinness cup cakes.  I am in my home doing my best to clean and bring order. I am in a place far away from all that is familiar.  And to be honest, I am a little bit tired, a little bit sad, a little bit lonely.

Yesterday, we followed the town drunk home. He had invited us to his house when he came here to sell blackberries.  Yesterday, he came for us.  Stumbling and smelling of liquor, he came. And we went with him, following him for a couple of miles as he stumbled and swerved up the mountain road.  We offered him our arms for support when he tired.  We stopped and waited as he stripped almost bare to bathe in the river. We showed him where he had laid his clothes when he thought he had lost them.  We breathed in the smell of a life covered in liquor and sang along as best we could as he mumbled drunken praises to our King.

And even as I winced at the smell of his breath, even as I wondered what his motives where as he forced into the small shop to buy him bread and sugar to take home, even as I shockingly fended off his unwanted advances, I thought about my Jesus.  How these are the ones He came to save.  How even if this man was insincere in His pursuit of Christ, Christ was not insincere in His pursuit of this man.

When we finally arrived at his house, we stood in his bare room on his dirt floors with all the belongings his family owns hanging from the rafters.  We stood with the Word of God in hand and a sing of praise on our lips. We stood with a sincere desire to be Christ for the least of these.  And in the short time we were there, his grandchildren who had hidden themselves under blankets and in corners upon our arrival, and his wife and daughters who sat cooking over an open fire in their outdoor kitchen, began to smile, came out from their hiding places, began to play.

The world didn't change for them or for us yesterday. But Jesus did send us out in pursuit of His poor and forsaken children. And we found them. And we did our best to love them in His name.

Today, that man's daughter showed up at my door with her young son. She came to ask if I needed any help in my home because she has been unable to find work for a few months.  I hired her to come two days a week. I am grateful for her help. But I am grateful for so much more than that.

I am grateful to welcome her into my home. Grateful for more opportunities to share, more opportunities to love, more opportunities to go deeper. And I am begging the Lord for the day I  can look in her the eyes and tell her that Creator of the Universe is in pursuit of her, is deeply, madly in love with her and wants to know her and wants to give her a life better than any she could ever imagine. Because He is.

This life I live is a crazy, beautiful mess of humanity.  It is hard.  It makes me cling to Jesus for every bit of grace I can beg.  It is profound in its brokenness and profound in its redemption. It is laced with the glory of God.

In my humanity, I want my family and friends at home to be happy and well. I want to be there to enjoy with them when they are and to console them when they are not.  I want that drunk man to show up at my door happy and sober and in love with Jesus. Today, that is not God's will for my life. Today, Jesus wants to walk with me into the ugly places, the stinking places, the alone and afraid places.  And He wants me to open my eyes and see that He is there.

And I will. By His grace, I will go where He goes and follow where He leads.  Because I know that He pursues me only in love and leads me only to the place where He can love me more and give me a greater capacity to love in His name.  In my humanity, I want a lot of things. But deep in my soul, I want only one: Jesus. I want to do His will with my life. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If I am honest, there are times when I am much like my drunk friend, stumbling around in the hard, rocky places, singing praises I do not really mean, groping for things I cannot have. And yet, still He pursues me, comes to me, reveals Himself to me.

How can I not do the same for my brothers and sisters? The answer is simple. I can't not do it. I can't turn away from the call to love, the call to serve. the call to pursue those He loves.  Is this life hard sometimes? Yes. Yes, it is.  Is it lonely sometimes? Yes. Yes, it is. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Yes, it is.

But if it means that one man stumbling drunk along life's path and his family get one long glimpse at the love of Christ in my life, is it worth it? Yes. Yes, it is.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Come Share With Us

There is a bridge in the town where we live that crosses the river flowing through the center of the town. Since we walk everywhere in our little mission base, and since we must cross the bridge to get to just about anywhere, it has become quite familiar to all of us. But when we first arrived, I was quite terrified every time we set foot on that bridge....I'm sharing my thoughts on letting our children go over at Suscipio today. Come read the rest? 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Hola! Bienvenidos a nuestra casa misionera! For you gringos, that's "Hi! Welcome to our missionary home!"
Would you like to come in for a little tour and see what our house looks like here in Grano de Oro?

Well, okay, come on in through the side gate. You'll find yourself in the breeze way that connects our open-air kitchen to the rest of our house. We use it for a casual every day eating area.

See that picture hanging on the back wall? it's a puzzle I brought with us. We built it to celebrate Mardi Gras even though we were far from my beloved NOLA. It's Rex turning down Canal Street!
If you turn to your right from here, you can come in and see our kitchen! It is separate from the house and enclosed in lattice work.
Small Sink

Larger Cement Sink, Woodburning Stove, and Pot Storage
Cabinet/Pantry Space, Counter Space, Oven
Fridge, Laundry Area
(I use that wall as additional pantry storage.)

Well, that's about it for the kitchen. Shall we head over into the main area of the house? The bathroom? Sure, it's right inside the door.

Oh, make sure the you don't throw toilet paper in the potty. The plumbing here is not made for that. That's what that trash can is for. All done? Okay. Let's head over here.
I think this room was destined to be an indoor kitchen at some point, but was never completed. It makes great storage and display for all our school stuff, shoes and other items for coming and going.

Let's go see what Quinn is up to. I think he's in his room.

Yep. There he is. His is the only room downstairs. It's a nice little spot and gives him the chance to display some things that make it feel a little more homey.
I saw an idea on Pinterest using embroidery hoops and fabric to decorate a wall. I thought it would be cute to do with t-shirts. And wooden hoops were inexpensive, light and easy to pack. I'm pretty satisfied with the result.
This is the, um, dining room....where I am folding today's laundry. Some things about a mother's life never change. This nice table does make a nice folding spot and a great space for spreading out for school work or board games or puzzle building. Let's keep walking out that door in the corner. It's really nice out on the patio.
That chair is one of my favorite spots in the whole house. I sit there early in the mornings with my coffee, bible and prayer journal and watch our little town wake up. Tea and knitting in the afternoon. The Kindle and a blanket in the evenings. Yep. I like this spot a lot. And the kids have found it to be a nice play room too.  
Would you like to come upstairs? Okay, follow me.

Here's our little "sala" or living room at the top of the stairs. I've always wanted to live in a log cabin home. I love that the upstairs of this house feels just like a log cabin. Take a peek in that door over there. That's the boys' room.
I love their sweet room. Right now the little boys are using mattresses on the floor to sleep, but we plan to get another double bed for this room.  Their football jerseys and team pictures make such the room cozy and personal, and they were easy to pack too.
More football paraphernalia. And thanks to Drew Brees double duty as inspiration and cover up for the random Rasta man painted on the wall there. Well, only one room left on our tour. Our bedroom is right over here on the other side of the sala.
Isn't it sweet and homey? I spent the months before we left pinning pretty vintage quilts and granny afghans laid out in old barn style homes to my home inspiration board and kind of laughing at myself. I mean, really, where did I think I was moving to?  I packed a few things to try to make our new home feel like "us" but quilts and afghans were a bit much. I resolved to use the things we were given and only buy the things that were not made available to us when we arrived. Imagine my delight in the Lord on the night we arrived when I found this quilt and afghan tucked in the stack of blankets I was handed.  
God loves us so well, doesn't He? Right down to all the little details.
Add in the amazing views out of our windows....

A little vintage pretty that I brought from home...

A place to store clothes ( yes, that is our shared dresser and closet)

Some lovely art to look at on the walls and a little corner for the computer and we have all we need to feel comfortable, happy, and at home in our house here.  I hope you've enjoyed your little tour. As you can see, we have plenty of space, so come visit us any time!