this Friday afternoon…

when the rain gets too loud for conversation
and a breeze blows through
I eat the last bite of papaya
and say thank you
because,

despite all the
little tiny,
normal, or
potentially life-changing
stressors
we face,

peace is sweet…and it’s Friday!

even when days off means
days to catch up,
it’s nice to have a chance
to breathe.

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Count Your Blessings Two by Two

Mentors near and far:
Having been down this road,
They share and listen and
laugh and love in
purposeful and practical ways.

Peers near and far:
Walking this road together,
Thankful lists around the table
Littles pop into the FaceTime screen
It’s so good to be together.

Emails short and sweet:
“I’m missing you. Love, Dad”
“Your box is coming! Love, Mom”

Ipad everyday, making my life so much easier!
Clipboard too- sometimes low-tech is best.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread
Mango Coconut Ice Cream
Pinterest wins, thank-you-very-much!

Teaching a unit for the second time in a year
Learning how to mummify a chicken…I’m gonna call that a blessing in faith that I’ll survive the actual project…

So much grace,
so much peace,
so nice to settle in.
Ahhh…

oh sweet Saturday…

Saturday delights…

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baking
clean dishes that mark
the end of the work and
the start of the yum
want a piece of magic cake?

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FaceTime
friends and mom and sisters giggling and making faces
sharing the good and the hard
praying the life and the love
tissues, anyone?

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Sara Groves
soft and melodic
deep and grateful
a deep praise comes up
keeps me company in the kitchen

Time to check on the magic cake…

On Gratitude

Why I am grateful?

The theme of All-Staff Retreat is “With Grateful Hearts,” so the songs and speakers have focused on being people filled with gratitude. It’s been fun to spend some concentrated time focused on one topic, but I’m glad I’m not the last speaker who has to find a fresh angle! 🙂

Yesterday, I came to a realization in the middle of the song (appropriately titled) “Give Thanks.”

And now let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Because of what the Lord has done for us.
Give thanks.

Why am I grateful? Generally, I think about being grateful because of some good thing that has happened- something that aligns well with the way I think the world should operate. And that’s all well and good, until things don’t go my way. This song (and correct me if I’m wrong) seems to be saying that in the midst of the bad- the weakness, the poverty- we can give thanks, because of what God has done for us. It reminds me of Romans 4:18-20, which basically says that Abraham and Sarah’s chances of having a son were about 0%, but Abraham was strong in faith anyway, “giving glory to God” (vs. 20).

There must be something beyond good circumstances, then, as a basis for gratitude, if we are to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and I think it just might be not only what God has done for us, but also who He is. We could say, “Thank You that You are my strength when I am weak” and “Thank You for the hospitality of the Hendersons because You are the ultimate welcome to those who are alone” and “Thank You for that fun conversation on educational theory because You are the source and giver of all truth as well as the great teacher.”

So that’s my goal- to build a habit of being thankful both for what God does but also the way the little things show Who He is. If you try it out, let me know how it goes! I’m having a lot of fun!

“Thank You, Lord, that You are creative and give me fresh ways to worship You. Thank You that all joy and delight are ultimately found in You.”

Happy brain

Nothing excites me quite like new learning. It doesn’t need to be new to the world- it’s usually not! But when I wrap my brain around a new-to-me idea, especially when it relates to missions and theology, two of my favorite subjects, I feel like a kid in a doughnut shop with all the glass removed.

This week I got some training in cultural tendencies and preferences. One day, we focused on the worldviews* of culture. The predominant worldview in most western cultures is guilt-innocence. That is to say that it is good/respected to be innocent and the worst thing is to be guilty. (I see this at work in the way we discipline. When an incident occurs, an investigation is conducted to ascertain the guilt and innocence or the involved parties.)

Therefore, most western Christians have been taught and see the Gospel-the good news of Jesus- through this lens. Jesus came to take the punishment that we, the guilty, deserved. And the scriptures bear this out. (Romans Road, anyone?)

But there are other worldviews, too. And my new learning this week was that the Gospel is no less powerful when seen through another lens.

We had the resident missiologist sitting in on our cultural training sessions this week, and he kept reminding us that all nations, tribes, and tongues will be represented at the throne someday. Their cultural distinctions will be present, glorifying the Lamb in their uniqueness.

So it makes sense that the Gospel applies to every culture now!

More to come…

Ephesians 1

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Thanks to my friend, Lorina, for her lovely work on these canvases! After spending a formative year with Ephesians 1, I asked her to paint 7 small canvases with key words on them.

So why canvases? Why a photo of a word cloud on a Christmas card?

In short, because my thinking has changed dramatically as a result of God’s gracious work through His Word- literally! Ephesians 1 says over and over again that believers are defined by being in Christ. That’s a message I need to remember everyday and a message that backs up the idea that Christ came to bring joy to the world.

Sweet Community: Parental Friends*

Once upon a time, I was sure that I would have joined the ranks of parents by now. My life plan involved being married by the time I was 25 and having a child or two by now. I would be spending my days changing diapers, having play dates at the park, and wiping snotty noses.

As you may know, this once upon a time is not my current reality, and while there are times when I wish it were, I believe that there is purpose in this time. I get to love on 25 little ones in my classroom each day, hang out with a great group of pre-teens and teens at youth group, and play auntie/grown up friend to my parental friends’ kids…

…which is where the sweet community comes in. In the last month, I have changed diapers, had play dates at the park, and yes, wiped a snotty nose or two. I get to kiss owies, plan surprises, exchange hugs, snuggle newborns and high-five big kids. I get to sing about Jesus, pray for a good night sleep, and teach to say, “I’m sorry.” I get to live my life knowing little eyes are watching…and I get to sleep at night. 🙂

Someday, I hope to miss hours of sleep for a little one who shares my name. For now, even if they don’t shout “mama,” their little growing voices are precious. “Anga” works for me.

So here’s to all my parental friends who share their sweet wee ones with me in this journey. I am better for it.

*Parental Friends- friends who are parents. Although my parents are wonderful people and definitely friends, they deserve another post altogether and don’t fit into this one.

Sufficiency

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

This verse sums up my week perfectly. I found myself deeply challenged and encouraged.

The fact is that I generally wish I was sufficient. It would be fabulous to be an amazing teacher, leader, sister, auntie, friend, etc. due to talent and skill. I’m sure that I would also be naturally humble and others-centered, perfectly implementing Philippians 2, if my fantasy were to be real.

And…it’s not!

I felt anxious about a meeting, spent an hour and a half (from 3:00-4:30am) trying to not give in to thoughts about all that I haven’t accomplished at work this school year, worried about others’ perceptions of me, and somewhat rudely interrupted a meeting with a non-urgent message. Clearly, sufficiency is not inborn here!

And yet…

I ended the meeting with peace, woke up the next night without anxiety and went back to sleep, learned (again!) to believe God for help at work, and watched as He worked internally and externally to bring fresh hope and joy.

How sufficient He is!

Do like the ducks?

Not the Oregon ducks- the real duck momma with her ducklings.

We were finishing a walk around the lake yesterday when we stopped to let this momma and her eight fluffy bums waddled across the road. (Yes, we did joke about taking a car for them; no, it is not recommended and in any case was unnecessary.)

The conscientious momma duck had unfortunately chosen a completely fenced driveway as her access point to the lake, and while she wandered, squawking, back and forth, she was too big to slide under or around. After a few minutes, all eight babies had ducked under the fence, and momma was getting stressed.

Finally, I walked down and held the gate open far enough that she could get through, but she refused. I was tall (ok, to her) and scary, and she threw herself at the chain link fence several times in an effort to stay away from me. My sister and mom eventually got close enough that they were scarier than I was. She warily edged closer and slipped through, happily reunited with her ducklings and firmly in charge once again.

As we finished our walk and headed home, I was struck by how often I am like this momma. When I don’t see the way, I stress, forgetting that the One much greater than me will always make a way. Sometimes, that way is not the one I wanted, though, and I, too, shy away from the best thing for me. I can throw myself at the fence, squawk, and generally freak out…

and He still makes away. Here’s hoping that I remember the lesson of the momma duck!

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Hallelujah and a-choo!

I have a cold, and I can talk!  That’s reason for gratitude right there!

If you’re a longtime reader, you may remember that for most of my adult life (which isn’t actually THAT long but long enough in this case), I have lost my voice with each and every cold.  For the past few years, it was the first thing that happened, and the whispering could last up to a couple weeks.  This is a challenge, to say the least, when one is a teacher.

In May, I found out that the cause for this challenge is muscle tension aphonia- a fancy way  to say that I get too stressed to talk.  The physical stress of a cold is generally the precipitating factor, but my personality, I was told, contributes to the problem.  Phrases like, “the harder you try, the worse it gets” haunted me from the day of diagnosis.  I felt powerless to improve my situation and guilty for being the way I was.

In the desperation of wondering if I could stay in this career, why God would make me this way if it was so problematic, and other such panics, I told God that He would have to take care of this because, quite simply, I couldn’t.  My best wasn’t good enough.

And He is.  He is enough, and His grace has brought me to the present with the healthiest 9 months in recent memory, wisdom to change my habits of body and mind, and healing of my heart that allowed healing of my body.  Where my own hard work to reduce stress only made my tension and voice worse, His gentle work has brought me deeper, sweeter peace than I could have imagined.

That’s why I’m singing hallelujah between the sneezes- I can, because He is good.  It’s great to have a voice, but it’s better to know He’s the reason I do.