Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coming Soon

This may be the most personal one I've written yet.

My biggest fear.
Change. Not the change that moves me from one country to another. Not the change of moving into a different house or making new friends or finding a new church.  Not the change of kids growing up (although that one does get my heart a little weepy.)
It's the change that hasn't happened all the way yet. The one where the world is all shaken up.  The change that JESUS talked so much about. You know the whole earthquakes, persecution and messed up world that is coming. Granted, all those things are happening now.. full force in some places...just not in America in the measure that it will soon, I believe.
Why does that make me so scared?
JESUS said this would be the time to stand up, lift up  my head and watch because it's soon. But for years, whenever I think of these things, I get really scared. I don't want things to change that way.
When I was in Guinea and there would be civil unrest and craziness in the government, I was all right. Really, I was. I wasn't scared because I knew that somewhere across the ocean was a country I belonged to where I was free to worship. I could go to a grocery store and there would be food.  The things I had to worry about there were really unimportant in the scheme of things.  There I felt safe and free and happy.  I know that is changing. I know there are serious...very serious problems. But this isn't a political post.  This is about something bigger.
So, knowing that I had that beautiful land called America, I could cope with the unrest and the riots and the craziness.
The realization of that ministers to least it should.  This world is not my home. There is a KINGdom and a KING whose throne is sure.  That is where my true citizenship lies. This world, America and the rest of it will pass away. I'm not a citizen of them. I am a citizen of the city without foundations.  That kingdom will not fall. That kingdom will not be shaken.  So, why should I be?
That's truth. That's reality.  May GOD drill that into my heart!

Over the last weeks and days I've come to see this fear more clearly as what it is, a stronghold...a piece of ground in my mind and heart that I've allowed the enemy to occupy.  I read something once by Francis Frangipane where he wrote about Genesis 3 when GOD tells the enemy he will eat dust and then HE tells man that he is dust.  Frangipane's point was this: anywhere in our lives that we choose to live in the carnal flesh (dust), the enemy will feed upon.
Here's why I am sharing this. I don't think I am the only lover of GOD who feels this way.  We know we should be excited about what is to come. We know we should be brave and fearless...but we aren't.  GOD has been ministering comfort and courage to me in this and maybe it will encourage you like it has me.
HE reminds me that this time is like childbirth. There is pain and hardship but something very very wonderful is coming.  Isn't it so much easier to deal with hardship when we know that there is something very good coming out of it? This something is so good that it will never again be taken away.  It is a lasting, final good.
HE also reminded me that HE is the AUTHOR OF SALVATION.  Salvation is a lot more than just the moment we respond to JESUS' call. It's everything from that point where we die and are born again in HIM all the way to beyond when we physically die and are resurrected never to die again.  HE saves. That's what HE does.  HE is a RESCUER and a SAVIOR.  I serve a GOD whose very name means HE rescues us from trouble...and from death itself! Why am I so fearful that HE is going to cause me trouble?  Following JESUS is not easy.  It's a wild life. It will likely have many hardships...but as the Word says "The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all" Ps 34:19.
That's cool.
I don't need to be scared.  I cannot let myself be scared. HE told me not to "let" my heart be troubled.  I am weak and can only stand in GOD's strength...but that is exactly what HE wants me to do: Stand.  Be strong in his strength. HE wants me to stop whining and worrying and cowering in fear. HE has given me boldness and strength and HIS very SPIRIT to know that HE is true and righteous and completely in control.  I have to believe HIM. I have to walk in it. I have to be strong in HIS strength. I have to.
Okay, LORD.

An added bonus to this one:  There is a picture I have carried around in my mind. It's an image that fills my mind with such vividness that I feel I am almost there in that place.  This picture shows up a lot of times...but mostly when I play a certain song.  This song:


At about 2:28 in this song the music changes from good worship to something else.  The choir comes in and as if a curtain is lifted, the picture comes....
I am standing in a crowd of people all encircling the FATHER. We are all dancing.  I look to my right and beside me are my Guard Your Heart Girls (my teen girl ministry in the States).  I look to my left and there are my beautiful African women dancing with babies tied on their backs and arms lifted in worship.  In front of me are the beautiful Asian women I used to teach in women's bible study when we lived in Japan, their straight black hair flowing down their backs.  Behind me are the Portuguese...I can't see them yet. I just know they are there.   I look across the sea of people and I see my three children. They're each in a different place dancing with their own people surrounding them. They see me and we smile at each and cry for joy.  And the dancing goes on...

That's what is waiting for me.  There, with HIM and all HIS different marvelous people...pure joy.
That's worth whatever it costs.
HE is worth whatever it costs.

Be strong and courageous...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Woman Thoughts

I should not be sitting at the computer. Movers arrived today with some of our things. Clothes, blankets, pots and pans sit in piles around me and I can almost hear their whispers, "Yoohoo! Put me away or I'll keep on taunting you."
Ah, it can wait.
For over a week some thoughts have been working themselves around in my mind. They were like pieces of a puzzle, each an important thought, a good and true thought that meant something to me...but I couldn't see how they fit together. I still don't know if they do but let's try this.
In Africa GOD positioned me in a really fun place. HE provided me the world's best job, which consequently ruined me for future employment. I had no desire to work. I find it infringes on my social time with my blessings.;)  That was my defense when my husband's boss asked to hire me.
"Just bring them with you," he countered.
"No Thanks," I replied.
"She'll take it," finished My Man.
As usual, My Man was right.  So, I accepted a job whose basic duty was to keep up employee morale.  I spent a few hours a day doing that. I worked with my husband with my kids always by my side. We became a fixture his...our work! Our family, including Daddy, were together every single day.  A lot of times a father's job can detract from his time at home and with his family.  This time, home invaded the office! Woohoo!! The kids didn't have to just entertain themselves, they were involved in the work we were doing.  There, everyone knew the kids. They were adored.  Sometimes people would poke their head in my office and ask to take them for a while. I'd find them a little later playing tennis down the halls, driving a golf cart, drawing on documents they probably shouldn't even be touching, or just listening to people talk.  It was rich. It was wonderful. They were like little incense sticks spreading around the aroma of JESUS.  I knew it was a brief season but it was better than anything I could have thought up for myself.
We worked together, we lived together, we played together. It was glorious. It felt like this was how it was supposed to be. Family, that is.  Not everyone in a different place and meeting up for dinner.  It was everyone doing the same thing and each of us in our own special role.
That was Thought 1.

Things are different now. Daddy is back to work on his own. We watch the clock and wait for him to walk through the door: the highlight of our day.
I haven't made any friends yet and my entire day is here in our home, cleaning, laundry and schooling the kids. I love it. I really really do. I'd be lying if I said I didn't. And yet, the other day while vacuuming the floor for the umpteenth time, the thought came to me, "What about me? I am always working and doing everything for the kids. What about something for me?"
That sounds ugly doesn't it. I'm fighting the temptation to press delete and send the evidence of such a thought into oblivion.  But, if I didn't admit to having that thought, I wouldn't be able to share the freeing truth GOD immediately provided when that self-centered thought reared its ugly head.
Here it is:  It's not about me.
Shocking, I know.  I tend to think everything is about me.  But, HE is right. It's not about me.  I get 18+ years with each of my babies, if the LORD wills it.  That's it! That's all! That's a very small part of my life.  I will have many years with only My Man. We'll do what we want, we'll go where we want. There will be no little toys to clean up. There won't be sticky little hands and kids running through the house.  This time right now, this is an honor.  My house, my life and my day get to be about someone big and three little someone elses.
I love it.
That was Thought 2.

Now for my favorite one. Here goes Thought 3.
I was talking to UJ and in conversation he mentioned something he's said before, but you know how it is.  Sometimes you have to hear things several times in several ways before it really reaches your core.  This time it hit my center.
He reminded me that life in this age is about building the body of JESUS.  The enemy is running around causing trouble. The government is a mess. Lawlessness is increased (SOMEONE told us these things would happen...).
It's easy to get shaken.
But there's a greater reality.  As a follower of JESUS, my job, my focus is to build the body of JESUS. That is the call of the FATHER on my life.  I can't get everyone and everything else straightened out. I can't get all stressed about that.  One day, when the body is complete, HE will stand and HE will set it all straight.  But right now as I am building the body, GOD is doing something in me...and in all of us who love HIM.  HE is maturing us. HE is allowing hardship and trial and weakness and pain and poverty and even the trouble the enemy stirs up to mold us into a mature bride.
That's what HE wants! HE wants a Bride...a mature Bride. HE wants a partner HE can work with.  When HE stands. When this life is done, we will be there as HIS pure bride doing awesome work with HIM...things that HE says are so wonderful we couldn't think them up if we tried!  I love that.
This reality means everything to me.  It has made everything else fade in comparison lately.  Things that normally rock me. Things that normally feel huge now feel small.  This life is short. These hardships, they are short.  The ugliness and the is short.  HE is from everlasting to everlasting. HE has invited me into HIS life and HIS heart.
I hear HIS bidding--"Focus" "Focus"
"Remember the call. Remember to build the Body. Don't worry about the other stuff. I will set it straight. You don't have to. Just build the body. Just focus on ME."
There is a time that would have been too simplistic, too churchy a thought for me, not real, not concrete.

But not anymore.Now I get it.  Now it's real. Now it's my reality.
My is all about HIM!

(Don't be scared..but it's what yours is about too...)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Life After A Dream Come True

For years the thing I wanted most was to go to Africa. (You already know this.)  I wanted my fair skinned little kids sitting on little benches next to those gorgeous African babies!  I wanted to walk her dirt streets and love on her people.  I read about it. I watched videos about it. I thought about it. I talked about it. I prayed about it.
I wanted it. I wanted it bad.

Then, in a glorious move, my GOD gave it to me! And I'll never get over it.  Every moment of my 14ish months there was rich.  I treasured it.

But now...

I am in Lisbon, Portugal.  It's a beautiful city.  I can see a panoramic view of the ocean from many of the windows in my house.  I can walk down clean streets to a little cafe for a freshly baked pastry and coffee. I can walk through spacious parks with breathtaking gardens.  There are ancient ruins, castles and a history that predates the Romans.  There is even an Ikea (which any reasonable person knows is a thing of beauty).

So why do I feel don't know.  How is one supposed to feel after their dream comes true? What do you do in the season after you get something you really wanted?

I've been thinking about my friend CB.  She had a good long love affair with her husband. She was comfortable. She was settled.  Her husband was attentive and spoiled her rotten. She was involved in her church and her community. She took care of her aging mother and in-laws like a champ.  She had a good circle of friends and she was content in her life. She was a good woman and a good church girl.
Then, GOD called her husband home...too early (in the opinion of our frail little hearts).  Then her mother in law.
As a fairly young widow, no one quite knew what do with her.  They were used to her being on his arm. His disappearing-eyed smiles wormed their way into everyone's hearts and put people at ease.  But CB on her own? That made people uncomfortable or at least, complacent.  They probably thought that a fiery red head like herself would be fine.
Some widows get the royal (biblical?) treatment.  But not CB.  Not even in the beginning.  She sat in the funeral parlor to make her husband's burial arrangements while the funeral director scolded her for not being easy to work with.  Then in the weeks and months that followed, her church allowed her to fade into the background. When she hadn't been in service for 4 months they finally made a phone call to see where she was.  And since a single woman makes outings with couple friends a little awkward,  those faded as well.

CB was confused.  She thought she had her life. She had her husband. She had her role.

But... there was a sleeping giant under all that: a hunger for the real living presence of JESUS.
And when GOD hears that cry from a church girl heart,  HE charges in, sword drawn, like a prince on a white horse to rescue her from the safe and settled, from the religious and the routine.  And thank GOD HE does!

So there she is, a single woman doing a new thing.  She is a wild lover of GOD trying to figure out who she is in this new season.

So here I am, a post-Africa woman doing a new thing.  I love HIM wildly and I am trying to figure out who I am in this new season.

But in this I have hope no matter the season:  JESUS CHRIST is alive in me and HIS promise that HE is always at work.  So, perhaps Portugal holds the adventure and wonder I've come to love in my walk with the FATHER? Or maybe it's just a quiet time to explore the country with the world's 3 coolest kids?  I don't know.

Or is it possible that the richest part of my life...and CB' still to come?
That would be just like HIM, you know.
Just when we thought HE couldn't get any better...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ears to Hear

Little Aggie couldn't remember McDonald's. Grant it, we were rare patrons even when we lived in the States but I figured that we hadn't been away long enough for him to completely forget what it was.  He did.  His sisters and I tried to remind him of the food and the play place.  No luck. We decided that nothing outside an actual visit there would conjure up memories long buried.  So, a week into our return to the States we took him there. We had the full experience--happy meal, french fries and play place.  We walked to the play area where a boy held open the door for us to enter.  He was probably 8 years old.  "I got new shoes!" He offered in a thick East Texas accent as he held his foot up for a proper display.  That was it. I loved him.

Curly Girl and I oohed and ahhhhed over them.  I watched his family. I watched him play.  I knew he didn't get new shoes very often.  I listened to him tell me how he was good at cartwheels and head stands. Then he'd try to explain why he was having trouble doing really good ones for me. Before he left, he told me he was moving and he was afraid he would have no friends. Did I mention I loved him?

Last week we drove to what Southerners call an "old folks home" to visit an elderly relative.  I've known her a long time. I have heard many of her stories and nodded my head with a fake attentiveness. Not this time. I decided to really hear her. So I shut my mouth...a monumental task....and just listened to every word she offered me.  She talked. The more I listened, the more she shared...and the deeper she went.  She shared matters of her heart, regrets of her past, fears of her future.  I wanted to cry.  It felt like the pain of her past and the weight of her words transferred to me as she spoke them aloud.   
I saw her again today for a get together.  When it was time to go, she stopped me and said, "Thank you for listening to me the other day."

When I was still in Africa, my friend J and I were sitting on my roof porch. We planned to play a card game but were too busy talking to ever really get into the game.  We talked about serving the LORD and how simple it all really is.  You know, the whole "be not do" and all that.  I was suddenly very aware of the reality of how this isn't an Africa thing. It's an anywhere thing.  Listening to people and really hearing them.  White, Brown, whatever. It doesn't matter. People want to be heard and in the name of JESUS I can live my life...wherever I am...hearing them.    

I am only in America for a little while before we set out on another international adventure.  I wasn't very excited about coming back here...but every day I am here, the more I am seeing the people and the more I am hearing them.  I love it.  I love them.

Life with JESUS isn't complicated.  I think I have mentioned that one before haven't I? ;)  But it's true! You don't have to be with the "poor and needy" to do it.  We are all desperately poor and needy. You can see people, you can hear people wherever you are. So do it.  Let them matter to you. Hear them and do it in HIS NAME. If you do, I truly believe you will see, as I have, that a supernatural love and care...HIS love and HIS concern for them will flow through you.  

Now, that was worth the trip.   

Monday, March 4, 2013


So this is last post from Africa.  It isn't my last post on this blog...It isn't even my last post about Africa.
But it is my last one from Africa.

I am leaving in the midst of a week of riots and warfare, rock throwing, gun fights, and fires raging on the fuel of hatred.  Ironic then, that as I leave, I recognize that Guinea's greatest lesson to me has been love.
It's a strange thing, isn't it?  Love.
It shows up where it shouldn't. It flourishes when it should die. It holds on when it should give up.  It gives when the cost is great.  Love is extravagant.
I've seen it even more these past days.
A friend came by my home with his wife and baby tied on the back (my favorite thing) to bring us gifts.  Inside red paper were shoes...beautiful, African made slippers.  My friend works as a household cook. I couldn't imagine what it cost him to buy these for us.  But love is extravagant.

My neighbor invited me into her home yesterday. She presented a dress she had made for me.  She put earrings in my ears, a necklace on my neck and brought me to her mirror to show me how beautiful I was in them.  I looked around at all her children and they were beaming with excitement for my gifts.  They weren't wearing anything like what they had just given me.  What must it have cost them to do this?  They loved big and love is extravagant.

In this place where tempers are violent, I've seen patience and kindness.  In this place where death permeates everything, I've seen a remarkable amount of life.  In this place of desperate poverty I've seen extravagant giving.  In this place where injustice rules, I've seen freedom reign.

I am grateful. So so grateful. It overtakes every other emotion in me. It drowns out the sadness of leaving and subdues the excitement of our next adventure.  I am grateful that GOD gave me the thing I longed for. He gave me Africa and spent the year showing me the beauty of simplicity, engraving into the core of who I am that it all comes down to one thing: Love. Loving HIM, loving others and walking in that love.

That's not just a lesson for Africa. It's for all of us!  Don't get confused, or let anyone convince you that following JESUS is complicated or intellectual. It's not. It's simple...but it takes a lot of courage to let the simplicity of LOVE be your reality. But the GOD who is LOVE beckons us to it---"Be Strong and Courageous!!"

Who is up for it?


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013


Today there was a knock on my gate. 5 little girls were there. Lameen's sisters.  They wanted to know if they could come in to play.

HE didn't have to do that for me. But HE did... and I am so grateful.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Real Deal

Sometimes I feel like a fraud.

I checked on Lameen's mother last night.  Everything was back to normal. No friends, no one, in fact. She woke to her dead son Saturday morning, buried him by afternoon and life was back to normal by the next morning.  A normal life...with no son.
It was evening and there was no electricity so we sat in her living room in the dark, unable to see each others faces and just talked.  She told me that Lameen would often point to my house and ask his mother if he could visit us.  "No," she would tell him, "You haven't been invited."
That hurt.  He should have known he was welcome here.  Why didn't I ever tell him he could stop by anytime? Why hadn't I met his mother before the day I held her hands and cried for her loss? Her gate is just across from mine.  I failed her.  GOD planted that boy right in front of me and I was probably inside watching TV.

I met someone else this week: a thin Englishwoman who is probably in her seventies. I liked her instantly.  She was in from the village and had come over to have coffee with the missionary women.  She was excited about being in a group of women to worship and pray.  She lives many hours into the interior of Guinea.   And do you know what she does out in that remote place?
Prison Ministry.
That frail jewel of a woman spends her days teaching imprisoned men how to read.  Prisons in Guinea are horrible.  Aside from the desperate conditions, the lack of justice and organization means that once you're in,  it can be years before you get out. Not because their crime is worthy of it, but because no one is keeping tabs on when they should get out.  It is pitiful.
My English friend doesn't live alone out in that remote location.  She has a roommate, a woman in her 80's affectionately known by the missionary community as "Queen Anne".  She grew up with the real Queen of England, Elizabeth,  and when she was in her late 60's worked on board the Africa Mercy Ship, known at that time as "The Anastasia".    When the ship docked in Guinea, she got off and stayed.  That was 17 years ago. She goes on every camping trip and every hike the missionaries hold.  She sleeps on the ground and hikes the trails but no matter where she is, at tea time she always stops and sits down for tea. What is a woman like this doing in Guinea? One thing.  Just one thing.  Praying.
Those lively girls of great age...they know who they are and they know who they're not.  They aren't put off by the irony of age and camping, wilderness hikes and tea time, frailness and prisons.
I want to be like that. I want to know who I am and who I am not. I want to know it as a 30-something. Now, on this street with these neighbors.
I want to be real, the deep down to the depths of me, real deal.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


We call them "The Street Boys".  They are the boys that live in our neighborhood and hang out in the dirt road outside our gate playing football. We feed them treats and have let them in the gate to play.  We see them every time we go on our walks. Sometimes they follow us wherever we are going.  They're sweet and a little know, typical boys.
Except for one of them. His name is Lameen...
I see the other boys running the streets, but he is usually working.  Some of the boys get too aggressive with my girls. Not him.  Not ever.
When the kids and I went on a walk last week we passed him outside carrying water with his sister and stopped to say hi.  Before we walked on, I saw him.  Well, of course I saw him, but I mean that at that moment, I really saw him.  I saw a sweetness and a grace in his face that captured my attention. I said goodbye and walked on.

This morning I sat in his house with his mother. Wildheart sat beside me. We were surrounded by other African women. We were there to mourn with her.
Yesterday, Lameen had a headache.  He went to bed last night and this morning when his mother went to wake him,  he was dead.  He was only 14.
Sitting in his house with the people who loved him, the grief was palpable.  Although Africans are loud and expressive, when it comes to death, they are surprisingly controlled. In fact, when one person would begin to wail, the others would tell them to have courage. We listened when his mother spoke but mostly we just sat together.  In Guinea, when someone dies everyone floods to the house: neighbors, friends, relatives.  They come to cry and to sit together.  At times like that, what else is there anyway?

I'm not really sure why I chose to blog about this one. I didn't really learn anything worth sharing.  Losing a child is the same in every culture. It's always horrible. It's always sad. It's never fair.
I guess I just didn't want this smart, beautiful boy to go away without other people knowing that he lived...without knowing that somewhere on a dusty little street in Guinea lived a boy who was gentle with his sister, worked hard with his family and was kind to his neighbors.
Farewell Lameen, you graceful boy. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Several more to take home with me:

* I was distracted by a conversation with the woodcarver when Little Aggie decided to wander off.  I spent a couple frantic minutes trying to find him.  Finally, I saw him walking toward me followed by an old African woman who promptly spanked him and returned him to me with an explanation (in French and a few hand motions) that he had wandered up the road.  I loved it.  It meant we are officially part of the neighborhood. 

*  We drove four hours into Guinea to a town named Boke'.  There, the kids and I entered an underground cell where slave traders once held their captives until it was time to ship them away.  Then we walked in a trench that had been their pathway down to the river where a boat awaited to take them from their home.  With every step I was overwhelmed with the reality that the people I love, ripped from their homes and their lives, once walked over this same unsteady ground.  I was walking the path led by beautiful, old African women who waved branches while they sang and danced their way ahead of me. But they would have walked this in chains and hunger and pain.  The trench weaved through heavy woods and eventually the trees cleared where I could see the river.  I thought about how terrifying the first glimpse of the river must have been for them.  In a few minutes I would turn around and walk back up the trench and go home. It was a one way trip for them.  I was grieved at the depravity of humanity who could destroy his brother.  I was grateful for the GOD-HUMAN who came to rescue us from such depravity. The GOD who didn't come to make slaves, but to free them.

* A few days ago, I left my house in such a hurry to retrieve my kids from a neighbor's house that I left my shoes behind.  My guard was watching us next door and noticing I had no shoes, took off his own and gave them to me while he walked home barefoot.

*  When I got home yesterday,  my girls told me they'd had a tea party with the highest of society--our cook and our housekeeper.  <3

*  This last souvenir will go without a name.  It is the gift of all the stories that moved me deeply but I am unable to share.  It didn't feel right to go without acknowledging their existence at all. So I leave it simply at this--sometimes it is the things we cannot speak of that say the most in our lives.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Out of Africa

It's not much longer now.

We will board a plane and fly away.  We will leave people who have so tangled themselves up in my heart that there will be no way to separate.  They will come with me and I will stay with them.

Tonight I stood on my back balcony and watched the boys play soccer. All they need is a ball and each other. That's probably why there's a soccer game on every street in the evening.  I thought about how a year ago I got off the plane expecting to feel so sorry for the people here. Now that we're leaving soon, I confess that I don't feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for us.

They don't have washing machines. So, the women get together to scrub their clothes, while they talk and laugh with their sisters and girlfriends.

They don't have electricity most of the time. So, they stay outside and visit with their neighbors and friends.

Their kids don't have video games and televisions. So, they create toys out of cans and string and other treasures they've rescued from the trash.

They don't have privacy.  So, they go with it. They live their lives out loud, with their neighbors.

They don't have a sophisticated trash and recycling system. But they don't throw most things away. They are extremely creative at new uses for things.  I am convinced Guineans are the world's best recyclers.

They don't have their own cars, or labor-free ways to transport things. So, they carry most everything on their heads and leave their hands free. From the rich to the poor, everyone has impeccable posture.

They can't afford the grocery stores. So, they grow and make their own food.

Africa has its problems.  So does America.
Africa does without many things---but they are rich in love and community and friendships.
While we overindulge in more and more things to make our lives "convenient"; While we try to hold on to our privacy; While we hide away in our houses staring at TVs and computers like statues; While we spend more time looking at things with our family instead of looking AT our family;  They are spending every waking moment talking to, looking at and living out their lives with the people they love...and the people they don't.

But when it comes down to it, that's what it's all about isn't it?'s all about people.

And on that front---they've got us creamed.