Thursday July 25, 2019

Jeremiah 29:11  For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

When I didn’t know what to write about I did what has always helped, I turned to scripture (and Google). This scripture showed up at the top of the list from my Google search “scripture on finding God’s will” and it could not be more helpful. My biggest struggle right now is knowing and understanding where God wants me to be. What is His plan or path for me? Reading this scripture gives me more comfort than I can express in words. I know that He will guide me and show me the way, I just have to be patient. But the fact that this scripture was at the top of my search list, I internalized it as God’s words to me. He is directly telling me that “I have plans for you”, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”. It is the affirmation of all that I believe and know to be true; God will always provide for me and for you, and I just needed to hear it. 

While these words do give me immense comfort, it still doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t have a job, I don’t have a direction or purpose right now (or I just don’t know what that is). As I have reflected on my last post, I realize that a big struggle for me is that we went from serving others for a year, and loving every moment of it, to doing nothing. I know there are plenty of opportunities to serve here in Madison and the surrounding areas, but I am hesitant to commit to projects because I do not know what my schedule will be in the future and the last thing I want to do is to commit to a project and then have to back out because of a new work schedule. As I write this though, maybe that is my problem. I have all these contingency plans rather than just doing what brings me joy, which is volunteering.  

Writing can be so enlightening. I feel like I have a direction. Just in writing the previous paragraph I realized my true problem. I need to volunteer and I need to do it now. I am craving that feeling of helping others and am lost without it. I know this won’t resolve the issues I have with the culture shock of being back in the US, but it will definitely help with my lack of purpose (I hope). My new task over the next week is to find an opportunity to serve in Madison. I don’t need to wait until I have a job before committing to a project and if I need to adjust my volunteer commitments because of my job, I can do that too. I don’t know why I felt that volunteering had to come after finding a job, but I did and thankfully in writing I have seen that is just not true!

I am feeling a bit of renewed energy. I actually got so excited that I paused writing this blog to search for volunteer opportunities here in Madison and I requested more information on a couple opportunities. I am already feeling a new spark that has been missing. 

On to another topic, I have been working hard on revising my resume and have been sending it out with countless applications for positions here in Madison. Up to this point I have not had much response as far as interviews/follow-up, but after talking with a good friend, I was assured that this is not uncommon. I know I have the skills and dedication to make a difference in our community through my work, but I just haven’t figured out how to get my resume noticed. Things have changed quite a bit since the last time I was actively searching for a job, but I am committed to getting back to work and I know that the right job is out there, somewhere. I guess I need to have faith in God’s promise to me, “I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Monday May 27, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

It is hard to believe that we will be saying goodbye to Brasov, Romania on Friday. We have loved our time here and today was no different. After our morning shift, Jeff and I headed into town for an afternoon date, bouncing from cafe to cafe enjoying snacks, delicious cocktails, and some beautiful weather. With Anjali on crutches it is just too much for her to walk into town, plus none of the kids actually wanted to go anyway!

The scripture for today is absolutely perfect, as it describes the love between Jeff and I, as well as our relationship with God. Jeff and I have tried very hard to make sure that every decision or action we do was with God at the center. This is not always easy, because sometimes God’s plan doesn’t follow along with what we want (for example, we wanted to stay in Brasov another month, but that was definitely not in God’s plan). I know that we have not been perfect and I am 100% confident that we have made errors this year in hearing God’s path for us, but I do know that by putting Him at the center of all that we are doing, we do eventually get where He wants us to go and it is usually in that moment that we realize He was directing us there all along, we just didn’t see it. But just as He always is, God has been patient with us, He has loved us, and He has never left our side, even when we didn’t listen. God provides us with the perfect example of love. He is patient, caring, and kind with us, He doesn’t get angry with us when we don’t listen the first time (or the second or third time), but rather He keeps trying to help us to understand.

I guess this is my lesson in parenting for today (for me). I do not always give my children this kind of love. I get frustrated and impatient when they don’t get it right the first time. I have the perfect example right in front of me and I still can’t get it right, why am I so baffled when my kids don’t get it on the first, second, or third try? Being away from my children this afternoon really helped to put things in perspective, plus it was a very relaxing afternoon with no kids. Either way, I know that I need to work on being an example of this kind of love to my children, as well as to those I meet every day. God asks all of us to be stewards of love towards others, and since He gives this to us, I think it is only right that we “pay it forward”.

Saturday March 2, 2019

“…May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Genesis 31:49

The context of this reading is an accord between Jacob and Laban, the former feeling a bit scorned by the latter’s less than fair treatment of him.  After Laban is rebuked by God the night before, he agrees to see things a little more in line with Jacob and they agree essentially to become friends.  Laban adds, though, that God will be watching them both so basically they both better not screw up.  The context of this reading isn’t exactly in alignment with our day today, but the whole watching while we are apart sort of is, in a stretchy kind of way.

Our original plan, nay our fourteenth plan on which we finally settled, for our last weekend in Sri Lanka was to head back to Colombo and see the big city.  We would go to a museum, see some temples, and maybe even hit the mall.  That did not happen.  We awoke with great ambition and proceeded to have breakfast.  Our meal gave us opportunity to catch up on the reading of our daily devotionals and then to discuss a plan that Sara and I had hatched while cleaning turtle tanks.  We thought that maybe we could take videos of our service projects to capture not only the service itself but also the ups and downs that go with being away from home, in another country, with three young children….etc.  But, as we have promised our family from day one, we needed to get input from the kids and to make sure that they would be okay with this experiment.

So the conversation went something like this.

Dad:  So guys, I was thinking and mom and I talked a little bit and we even contacted Uncle John (Marshall, whom we knew from his book and then the Farm and who knows people in television..) to get his feedback.

Kids:  (Staring blankly as dad yammers on and interrupts their consumption of sugar covered waffles)

Dad: So we thought that maybe we could video a family doing what we are doing and then maybe do like a podcast/youTube thing, or maybe that even turns into a reality television show.

Kids:  (drool now emanates from their mouths as the sweet aromas of donut, waffles, and juice overwhelm their limbic systems)

Dad: But we would need a test family to kind of be the first ones to try this so we were wondering if you guys….

Anjali: No!

Mom:  Well hold on Anjali, before you say no.  Why would you be opposed?

Anjali: (tears welling) No, I just don’t want to okay?

And so an hour long discussion ensues, occasionally halted for mastication of breakfast confections, about how we should logically think through decisions before rashly answering.  Anjali is not dissuaded from her position that she is utterly and adamantly opposed so we, as a family, agree to hold off on this grand notion from mom and dad.  No hard feelings and Anjali kind of sees the point we wanted to make about how you should think before you answer because fear or lack of understanding of all the facts can lead you to make a poor decision.

Childhood lesson learned or at least discussed, we headed out to sightsee.  We left the confines of the hotel and were immediately greeted by what could best be described as the moist, fiery breath of Satan himself.  It was as though Colombo had been set on fire and simultaneously was spraying us with a hose.  The heat and humidity, robbing us instantly of our breath, worked as a veritable mire intent on preventing our every step.  We slowly meandered in the direction of the mall, our first stop on the tour de Colombo,  all the while fending off offers of rides from eager Tuk Tuk drivers.  What would normally be a five minute walk was slowly dragging out to an interminable trek, each minute making us hotter and wetter.  The impending heat related snippiness was growing closer and closer but the crisis was averted as we finally arrived at the great salvation of air conditioning.

After twenty minutes or so of respite and realizing that we really needed to buy nothing we begrudgingly left the mall and made our way to one of the temples across the street.  We learned that we would need to pay for entry so we took a quick glimpse from afar and moved on.  We had seen a lot of temples in Thailand so wat’s (pun intended) one more?  We strode across a walking bridge to a small island park, did a once around, and then walked back over.  Engaging in a quick family meeting we decided that our sightseeing was now over and that our time was much better spent sitting poolside and relaxing.

Now, this is where the whole watching while we are away from each other comes back in.  On our way up to the hotel Sara got a text message from a stranger.  She had seen our post on Facebook about saying goodbye to the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project and was interested in our story.  After seeing our family’s journey, she reached out to learn more about COG.  Sara and she traded messages and agreed to re-engage after we had gotten settled in Romania and after she had returned from travels to visit her daughter.  After donning our relaxation clothes and grabbing the next available elevator we encountered a man on his way down.  We exchanged pleasantries and learned that he was originally from New York, now living in Colombo.  No big deal there.  What was very interesting though was that he had started his own company.  What kind?  Television and film production services.  Sara and I said nothing, just shared a humored glance, but just as we were about to leave the elevator he offered us his business card and bid us farewell.

These two encounters prompted an immediate conversation with the kids about how maybe God did have a plan for this after all.  We expressed to Anjali, and to David and Luci for that matter, how we saw this as a sign or at the very least a nudge.  We had given up on our plans that morning and simply turned the idea over to God, basically saying that if this project was meant to be then it would find another way to manifest itself.  We needed our family to be in a good place first and foremost to fulfill our primary obligation of this service trip, the video idea was secondary and maybe wasn’t even that good of an idea.  I am not sure what caused the change of heart but Anjali was suddenly on board with the idea of our family making a podcast.  We figured it would be a great way if nothing else for us to share with our friends and family more than just words about what we were doing.  And if enough people cared and shared then maybe it could inspire others to do the same and join in the fun of service.

I am not sure how the video will go.  This might just be another instance of thinking we have the answers and trying to pork barrel our way on God’s plan.  But with the nudge we got on Facebook and in the elevator we are going to give it a go.  If it is meant to be then with God’s help it will be.  If it isn’t, well then we just spent a hundred bucks on a selfie-stick (I cringe as I write that) and a memory expansion drive for the phone.  But we will have some fun videos, and probably a few that are less fun, for everyone to get a better idea of what our lives are like.  I cannot promise Emmy award winning television-though if we get one it will be to God’s honor not ours.  But the tears, of laughter or sadness, are real and heartfelt and we have enjoyed every one of them.