Sunday, February 14, 2021

Thank You Power Company!

I wrote this when we first arrived...I'm getting used to things happening at a different pace. 


 

Dear ONIT*,

I know you, my local power company, have a new name, but the old one is still celebrated every time light returns.

I want to write to thank you, ONIT, for the welcome you gave us on our first night back. The house was peaceful, the children getting zipped safely into their mosquito tents when I momentarily left the room for a second twin.  At that moment, you decided that you'd been generous enough, and the world went black.  If we'd been outside, I'm sure we would have shot our heads toward the heavens and gazed at the wondrous starry host, but alas, we were inside, without a torchlight or candle in sight. (Since we couldn't see anything.)  

And in this moment, ONIT, you did us a great service.  You gave us the terrified shrieks of Lydia who I rushed to and scooped into my arms.  She has forgotten that these blackouts happen and that they only last a few minutes (at least in our compound because we have a generator). Our conversation that you initiated gave great insight as I held my little girl, and it went like this: 

"I can't see you!" 

"I'm right here." 

"But I can't see you!" 

"Lydia, can you feel me?" 

"Yes, but I can't see you!" 

"Am I here?" 

"Yes, but I can't see you!" 

"Mommy will not leave you in the dark.  I will hold you. I love you.  You are safe." 

"It's too dark!  I can't see you!"

My generally joyful, trusting Lydia was so afraid of this darkness you ensued. A darkness she had never experienced before, and which made her question my ability to protect her, to know what she needed. ONIT, you may not be able to appreciate this conversation with my beloved child fully, but it reminded me of myself and my Father God.  You see, I'm going through transition, and very little is in order or straightforward. I ask God to show me himself.  I want to look into his eyes and let his gaze reassure me, but sometimes he just wants me to let him hold me in the darkness.  I cry for him to be more real, when the reality of his presence has never changed. 

All this to say, I was thankful for this moment that the Father used to remind me of his character.  On the other hand, I've learned this lesson now, so no need to continue taking light in the future. 

Your dependent patron, 

Christy 

 

*Pseudonym

 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

What to pray for: Prayer (3 of 3)

I headed north on US-31 enjoying the Michigan countryside.  Suddenly, I realized for the first time in years, I had no schedule and no one expecting to see me.  I could do whatever I wanted.  I pulled off the road, and stopped under a bridge where I had been fishing once.  I stayed for hours, then left driving on back country roads to a lovely cottage by a lake where I spent the next three days doing whatever came to my mind at the moment.  There were no crises or challenges to overcome.  As planned, I just read, ran, kayaked, doodled, took pictures, ate and slept... and enjoyed doing it all alone with God.  It was incredibly freeing!

I have discovered that I am a habitual planner.  When first confronted with a challenge my immediate response is to analyze the problem and make a plan for how I will fix the problem.  This might seem good, but it isn't.  Instead of praying about things, I try to solve them my own way.  I get excited about my ideas and then feel bad when they don't work out.  If I were to sit and write down all my incomplete plans it would be immediately obvious that I want do a lot more than one person can actually do with the days I am given.  I guess I am somehow addicted to getting things done, trying to do a lot on my own.

So I want to learn a new habit, praying first.  Not waiting to get stuck before I start praying, but praying when I first encounter a new problem.  Can you join me in asking God for this habit?

(This is the third and final post on prayer requests arising from my Daddy Retreat.  Can you join me in thanking God for this beautiful time of rest and fellowship with him, and for specifically answering my prayer to show me what to pray?)





Monday, November 2, 2020

VISAS!

 We expect our Visa applications for Acacia and Olivia are now in the embassy in New York. 

Pray that they'll come in time for our departure at the end of this month!




Make Up or Make Over



 This morning I woke up with 25 minutes to get my family out the door to church. 

Zach groggily sat up and started doing his Bible memory verses.  I protested, "Honey, we have 25 minutes!" I left him in the bedroom, feeling a bit annoyed as I headed toward the sounds of my happy little girls who needed dressing and hair brushing.  Ten minutes later, I got my African dress on I had reserved for the conference and quickly reminded my husband working on his memory verses that we now had 15 minutes before we needed to leave, once again leaving in a huff.

As my mostly dressed children were eating breakfast, I put on some blush over pale cheeks and reached for the mascara.  At that moment a question pricked my heart.  "Why do you think that you putting on make up prepares you better to go to church than Zach memorizing verses from Matthew?" 

Point taken.  My husband was focused on preparing the place where love, joy, power, and peace flow from a satisfied-in-Christ heart. I too often am focused on the things in the periphery of the heart of God. When I think of my little girls and those observing my life, where do I want them to put their most devoted attention, invest their most precious moments of demanding days?  I would really love to say with Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ," instead of "Follow Daddy 'cause he is following Christ."  I want them to see me investing in the things that last forever because only those things bring true joy and beauty!

I have a tendency to say, "Just this once," but when "just this once" becomes a pattern that doesn't lead to life, then I am not giving myself grace, I'm giving myself an excuse. I'm trying to justify a life that is not full of everything beautiful as God intends it to be. Instead, I have been satisfied with make up when I could get a make over of the heart that will reap priceless rewards today and for eternity.

Friday, October 30, 2020

What to pray for: Humility (2 of 3)

While on my retreat, I really hoped to come away with something big to ask God for in Nigeria.  I wanted some big prayer request we could put out there and ask you all to join in praying.  But while on a run one day, I was struck that what I most need to ask him for is humility.

I am too attached to the success or failure of my projects, and I let my emotions get wrapped up in this.  And then there is the habit of saying or doing things so people will think well of me instead of thinking well of God.  And these habits slowly destroy me and my ability to truly serve God.

Please join me in asking God to rework my heart with him fully at the center.

[Note: As a result of this, humility is included among the things we are asking you to pray for on our new prayer card.]

Thursday, October 29, 2020

What to pray for: Family (1 of 3)

At the end of June, I went away for a "Daddy Retreat" and asked you to "join me in the 'pause' to ask God what he wants us to be praying for." I planned to "run, kayak, sleep, read, and pray," and that is just what I did.  Sometimes when I was running, sometimes when I was reading, and sometimes when I meant to be sleeping, I found myself praying, and found that over the three days God has given me at least three things to pray for.

The first thing to pray for is my family.  In 2020 nearly all the prayer requests on this blog have been for our family so far, so why yet another one?  I love to read fiction by Randy Alcorn, and during this retreat I read about two thirds of his novelization of the movie "Courageous".  I was surprised that even when the movie comes first, the book can still be better!   The movie made me laugh and cry when I first saw it, and the book made me laugh and cry, too.  It also prompted me again to think about eternity and about my role as a father.


When I have heaven's resources just an ask away, why don't I pray blessings over my children more often!?!?  I found myself delighting in lifting my family up to God one by one, and I want this to become a habit.  Please pray that it will become a habit, and if you choose to do so, make a habit of praying for our children, too!



 [Note: Although the retreat happened in June and this three part blog series was originally written in July, the resulting prayer requests are still as relevant in October as ever!]

Friday, September 25, 2020

Interruptions Part 2

 

After thinking about ministry and interruptions being the "real stuff of ministry" (See Interruptions part 1), I considered what my every day in Nigeria looked like before I returned to the United States.  I pictured with awe, like a slideshow before my mind's eye, the startling truth of how God has been revealing this truth to me over the years. 

Here are some of those slides for you: 

Interruptions slide 1: 

I'm behind the camera.

See a group of young men, gathered under a tin roof eating ramen noodles with eggs prepared by one of their friends with layered flats of eggs, loaves of white bread, and boxes of different kinds of ready to cook noodles (we call it Indomie).  See the three white ladies with a little toe-headed girl who have arrived to eat.  The oldest of the three white ladies asks the guy next to her what his language is.  Upon hearing it, she quickly glances through the list of audio Bible's on her husband's phone, which she's borrowing because her own stopped working.  She's a bit clumsy, but when she finds the language, she presses play and the young man looks at her stunned as his language speaks God's words to him. He takes the phone from her and listens before passing it on to the other guys around the Indomie shed.  They smile, humming in pleased agreement before passing it on.  When it gets back to me, the older white woman in this case, the young man asks if he can get it.  With his help, I figure out how to use the app and send him as much as will fit on his phone.  He excitedly tells me he'll give it to the others. I have yet to follow up to give him the rest.  May God be planting his seeds in this young man's heart. 

 

Interruptions slide 2: 

Children going home after Bible study.

I finally have a moment to think about the Bible lesson for the evening's children's Bible study when the intercom phone rings and our guard, Daniel, on the other end tells me there are 5 children there to see me.  I ask for their names before telling him to let them in.  In less time than it takes me to wrap a skirt over my shorts, I have happy greetings at my door.  I welcome my little friends in, cut them a watermelon, and ask them what they learned in school.  They ask if they can go play. They race to the swings, but one lingers to tell me how they are not understanding social studies in school, and could I help them.  We look at her homework outside on the picnic tables while her friends squeal and giggle on the swings. They all pile in the car 2 hours later and we head to Bible study together...I've looked over the lesson, and gathered my materials hastily on my way out. 

 

Interruptions slide 3: 

The lady I usually buy vegetables from.

 

I have finally arrived at the market with Mariama at my side and Lydia on my back.  Aunty Victoria (my friend and helper) walks alongside me.  She has taught me the importance of greeting everyone and not just getting down to business.  She has also taught me to speak in Hausa, how to bargain gently (not like we did in Cameroon), and how to hide frustration, remaining joyful throughout my market experience.  Everyone greets me by name "Sannu Mama Mariama!" and I reply.  They ask: "How's the family?  How did you sleep? How's work? How's the cold?" I smile and reply.  This happens approximately 30-50 times every time I go to the market.  I think it's what Jesus would do...only he'd know each of their names, stories, life history, and maladies. So, I have a long way to go, but at least I have minor interruptions!  That counts, right?

Interruption slide 4: 

I am heading home from a 7am teacher's training, and I hear a child screaming. I step in.  Things change for that child.

Interruptions slide 5: 

Aunty Mary Jane being cheeky.


We just sat down to dinner, and my dear friend Mary Jane and her sister arrive.  Yeah (Their presence always lifts our hearts)! We all sit down again to eat together.  We talk about highlights of the day.  We share frustrations.  We all laugh and cry a bit.  We do family devotions.  We walk them out, talking about important life "stuff"

Our "family"

Interruption slide 6: 

Mariama's special daddy-daughter date hair.

 

I'm zippy around the house, getting ready for guests arriving that evening. Mariama says, "Mommy, can you play with me?" Mariama has just received paper dolls from her Aunties in the United States.  We sit down on the floor of her room and enter into a different world together.  A world that is controllable, joyful, elegant, and everything beautiful that we want it to be where we can ride horses and eat blueberries in a picnic next to a glistening lake. We feel full and free together. 

 Interruption slide 7: 

We are driving in the United States, and we see a girl walking along the road.  It is starting to rain.  "She looks cold and sad," I say so to Mariama.  She says, "Mommy, we are going to pick that girl up, right? We have to help her." I turn the car around, and offer her a jacket that fits perfectly (someone happened to give me a bag of clothes that day).  We give her a ride, find out she's an addict, pray for her as a family.  Never hear from her again, but I learned that my daughter knows what we do when we see someone who is hurting. 

The real stuff of ministry, the spontaneous, out-of-my-plan stuff happens daily and I pray I don't despise but welcome them!

 

Thank You Power Company!

I wrote this when we first arrived...I'm getting used to things happening at a different pace.    Dear ONIT*, I know you, my local power...