Giants and Grapes

Giants and Grapes
"Going from strength to strength until each of us appears before God in Zion." Ps. 84

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"The Element of Silence was Immense"

Apple picking, refreshing with my family.

What does a missionary, in her hometown, staying in a beautiful borrowed home, with her two precious girls happily with family, do on retreat?  That was the question.  I don't know if I've quite figured it out or have been very "good" at retreating.  However, I do know that I've had more time to exercise, listen to God, read, worship to new worship music, cry, play games, play with my children, watch movies than I have had in...years!

Because I process aloud and grow in relationship with others, I would truly value hearing how you rest and what you've been hearing or learning from God lately.  That would enhance my retreat and boost my faith, no doubt. You can reply to this in an email or answer in the comments below.

I will start that conversation, and share with you some of what I'm learning in this time. I am reading a book by Mark Buchanan called "The Rest of God." The most recent chapter was on listening to God, a discipline I so long to develop more in my faith walk.  The author talked about Lincoln, and a quote in a biography about him, "In the making of him, the element of silence was immense."  Then he says of himself "Silence is the condition for true listening.  But I have too little of it.  Silence came visiting and found me already occupied."

Isn't that true! Silence is something I have rarely invited into my life on purpose, and when I find myself in it (getting into the car, walking along the road, a rare moment when both the girls are napping) I drown it either with someone else's reflection through song, or my own inner chaos of gnarled thoughts and emotions.

He goes on to say, "Henri Nouwen noted that the root of the word absurd is the Latin word for 'Deaf,' surdus. Absurdness is deafness, where the voice that speaks truth in love, that wounds to heal, that give clear guidance amidst many false enticements--that voice is lost in the cacophony."  I have been absurd so much of my life! Not only am I loud, but I've created a world of busy noise and activity all around me.  Notice, I've created, because I'm sincerely doubting that God is the author of all this hurried frenzy.  How absurd to be inviting the emptiness that a lack of silence and listening introduces!  How vain to think that what rises from this vapor of a life, will refresh others without the bubbling waters of life that flow out of listening and acting in response to what's heard! Absurd indeed!

If you're like me, the words that Jesus says, "My sheep know my voice and follow me," (John 10:27) and "depart from me, I never knew you,"(Matt. 7:21-23) followed by the pleas of those declaring all they've done for God unsettle me! Do I know and follow? Samuel in 1 Sam. 2 ministered before the Lord, but when God first spoke to him, it was said, "now, Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him." (1 Sam. 3:7). Do I minister before the Lord without the ability to hear his words to me?

At the end of the chapter, the Buchanan repeats, "In the making of him, the element of silence was immense." Then he asks, "What makes me?  What makes you?" In Hebrews 4 we're told that God's word is powerful and active, that we have a high priest, Jesus, and then we're told to enter boldly into that throne room where God the father and Jesus the Son at his right hand fellowship. And we are invited into their communion.  A conversation of listening and boldly speaking out of what we've heard in the inner sanctuary and our human need. 

What it will cost me to breath in silence and hear God's words to me daily, I do not know, but as Buchanan puts it, "All authority is derived."  All strength to live a powerful, dynamic life trickles down, sometimes even pours, from the mouth of God, and a life void of these words is merely a shadow, a wisp, a shell.

I want this to make me: The attentiveness to God's voice in the silence, and the unveiling of my life by that word.

Building on the sand!  Making memories, not castles that last.

Home and Surrounded Once Again!

We've been back in Michigan now for about a month.  We are on a retreat this week, staying in a home provided by a generous couple that only moved in four weeks before heading off on vacation.  We feel overwhelmed with God's provision as my mother cares for the children this morning, and we have a time of praying, listening, and reflecting.  What a treasure.  To begin my reflection, I thought I'd share with you all what being home has looked like! I will do this with pictures, including captions that say what's going on in the picture and a thought about the moment.

We've made a new prayer card that includes Daso and an announcement of two little ones on the way! God gives and takes away.  He is asking us to trust him in this journey.

We went to Meijer Gardens.  I sat and walked around in public with a dress that was above my knees, held hands with my husband, breathed in the serene beauty.  No one talked to us.  We marveled together of the news of two babies, and all that could me.  We actually talked...just the two of us in public while my kids played in a children's garden with their grandmother and aunt.  Amazing.

Aldi carries most of my favorite foods.  The easy preparation of food (or already prepared foods) make eating well and easily like a retreat in and of itself.  Cheese, strawberries, hummus, pita chips, guacamole, corn chips, little carrots, crackers. Voila, you're ready to host a party!  Cheese is expensive in Nigeria, hummus takes a lot of time to prepare,  chips and crackers just taste different, strawberries are available one season out of the year, guacamole is usually seasonal too and take quite a bit of prep, no small carrots except the ones at the market, which you have to clean several times in various kinds of water before they're ready to eat.  This also makes being pregnant in the US quite tasty fun!

Street performers downtown.  Notice, most people are light skinned, rare for me to be in a crowd like that. In this case, I joined the fun with a line dance with Mariama, and as I was returning to my spot in the crowd, a friend called from the crowd for me to come over. I get called to "come" a lot in Nigeria, but mostly by strangers.  This person has known me for 16 years! Having history with people is something I treasure.

With mom in Meijer garden.  What more can I say, is there a more precious place?

Cousin time at the beach! We miss our friends on our compound in Jos.  Mariama plays with them daily, but cousins have a special place in our hearts.

Cousin fun! When God called me to mission work, my biggest heart struggle was leaving my nieces and nephews who I wanted to treasure and grow with.  These times are priceless for me as a mother.
On the way to the library. I cried the first time I went to the library in Holland, MI.  When I say I run a "library" in Nigeria, well, it's more populated than the library here, and the size of the bathroom.  However, it serves the same function, and that's why we do it!

Mariama playing with my close friend's children.  Their mother, Adriana and I remember clearly a time in college we both found each other in the library and wept...neither of us knows why.  We laugh now, at those seemingly stressful times, as we revel watching our miniature selves running and playing on the playground.

My college roommate married a Lutheran pastor now serving in Holland, MI. They came to see me Cameroon as a single, when I was thinking about marrying Zach, he married us as she stood by my side, and now we can enjoy our children's big and small achievements when we're in Holland.

Our first Sunday in Holland, celebrated in jelly shoes and Nigerian style. Mariama got to attend Sunday school and Lydia is in the nursery.  I got to sit through a whole church service, tearing as my mind was able to focus on the words being spoken by the minister in my own language.  

As I wrote the latter half of this reflection, tears streamed down my face.  I was listening to the song "I Remember" by  Lauren Daigle.  She sang, "I remember, I remember, you have always been faithful to me.  I remember, I remember, even when my own eyes could not see.  You were there, always there."  We are so thankful for how we see God's handiwork in our past, and can trust he's gone into the unmarked steps of the future. Thank you for making time to read and pray whatever God has laid on your heart for us as you read!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Sweet But Not Home

We are thankful for this time with my sister and her family in Costa Rica.  Our next stop will have us with my family in Michigan for one day before being in the rush and flow of a wedding in Indiana for Zach’s sister, Susannah.
The differences when we cross cultures are always dizzying.  Mariama often asks, “Mommy, is this drinking water?”  Well, thankfully, in Costa Rica, they have potable water!  This makes a very uncomplicated answer!  OH, and how it changes things, from being able to use newly washed dishes to quickly adding water to rice to grabbing a glass to drink. Having pure water from the tap changes our lifestyle considerably.
While we still get tropical fruits here as we do in Nigeria, there are some added special ones like Leechees and mangostins. Liquid milk, sliced grainy bread, cream cheese, Kellogs berry cereal, and butter readily available from a grocery store have us enjoying foods my girls don’t ever remember eating!
A huge difference is Lydia will often look around and ask, “Where’s Daso?”  because she’s had no extended time without Daso being a joyful presence in her life.
The biggest change for me is jet lag mixed with a relaxed schedule.  By 8am, I feel it’s noon, and I am ready to take my first nap.  By 3pm I’m ready to call it a day when often the busiest part of my day has just begun in Nigeria as much of the ministries I’m part of happen in the afternoon and evenings.
Please continue to pray for our family as we make the adjustments to life in the States for the next few months.  As we move around, we ask God to do a miracle, that our children will feel secure and stable, making both friends and memories, as we transition and rest together as a family. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Costa Rica

Here we are in Costa Rica, a three day journey from our home in Nigeria, to visit my sister and her family.  Zach is in North Africa visiting a friend there.  It has been a beautiful time of connecting and rest.  The last time we saw the cousins was one year, eight months ago.  Lydia was still newborn, and Mariama was two!  
Thank God with us for safe travels and pray for continued rest and sweet connections before we head to Michigan this week. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Are You Praying For Me?

Because I feel it!
The last week has been an amazing journey of discovering God's love for me, and sensing his peace.
Please don't stop!  I wake up every morning with a renewed sense of purpose and joy, weather that's making my family breakfast or planning an event.  Praise God!

Team Zobo from Zach's community in the United States flew out of Abuja on Wednesday. Their time here was a powerful expression of the global body reaching out to mutually love and encourage.  That was their theme verse "That you may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith," (Romans 1:12) and we saw the Father doing just that.

From the experience of Dad Yoder expressed in clear explanations of how to ride bikes well and safely to the persistence of those learning to ride, we were mutually encouraged. 

 From the ability of the team to ask good questions to hearing the testimonies of colleagues' faith as they walk this journey and live missionally, we were mutually encouraged.

From listening to Mom Yoder share her experiences of mothering to the great question that expressed sincere longing to raise children who know what their lives are about, we were mutually encouraged.

From the sweet hospitality of Nigerian colleagues in opening their homes to the flexibility of Team Zobo in new circumstances, we were mutually encouraged.

From picking up kids for the drama to the peals of laughter that came from the kids drama day experience, echoing across to the car port where the bikes were being repaired, we were mutually encouraged.

There is no doubt, and no way to explain the beauty of the body coming together that happened over these few weeks Team Zobo was here.  We can only pray that next year, more come to experience this indescribably beautiful, faith and body building journey in Nigeria.

Thank you again for praying together with us!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Team Zobo has arrived!

When Mom and dad Yoder arrived with Kirstin and Naomi on June 11th, there were plans upon plans of all the things that were going to transpire in the few weeks they are in Nigeria.  Now we are almost half way through their stay here, and the many activities are passing as unseemlessly as is to be expected!

That is to say, it's exciting and interesting to have "Team Zobo" here, and that the ministries they are involved in are making impact for the kingdom, so why would we expect them to go as we planned!  God is not to be boxed in or managed like our meetings.  This is His thing, and He is dynamic!

After the first few nights, they were off to stay with some Nigerian colleagues. Each team member reflected differently on their time there.  They got to see praise band rehearsals, traditional dance practices, join other families for meals with lots of new foods, hear testimonies of how the Father has brought them into this work, hold babies, read to their children, and be with them in the normal, mundane activities of life as well!

Some exciting and sweet things that have happened are pictured below.  We are so thankful and overjoyed that they are with us, doing ministry alongside us. 

There are new babies since Kirsti was here three months ago!

Family dinners

Reading to colleagues children at the family dinner

Bikes for our Nigerian colleagues!

Lunch with staff at the office

Mom sharing her experiences of parenting as discipleship

Dad and Zach's first group of riders. So exciting!

Coming back from a ride around the neighborhood.
Please pray for Kirsti and Naomi as they have fun with the kids of our colleagues tomorrow during a kids drama afternoon. Pray for the last group of bikers come, and for the love feast held on Sunday as our final official time of fellowship with our Nigerian colleagues and Team Zobo.  May each of these events express God's love for these brothers and sisters and their children.  May they feel affirmed and encouraged in their calling.  May we all connect well and better understand how we all fit into the body perfectly.  May we have much joy in our Father.  Thank you for praying alongside us!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Safe travels

We often ask you to pray for a safe journey.  Our recent trip to explore telling Bible stories was no exception.  Thank you for praying with us!  We traveled and returned safely.

One of the ways God answered our prayers was through a strong vehicle that easily drove through sandy streambeds.  This wasn't our original plan, but it sure made the trip easier!
 We decided not to ford this river, but took the ferry instead!  By the way, while we were in one village Mariama knocked a tooth loose (before its time!).  Thank God! With no internet access and not knowing which tree to stand under to make a call, Christy pushed it back in.  The people we were with rubbed salt water on it.  The next day we were able to see a dentist and the tooth was fine! (And when we checked online we had done exactly what is advised in such a situation!)
Living in Nigeria, we don't take travel for granted.  We pray and carefully consider each trip we take. There are many unusual risks and dangerous roads so please continue to pray for us and our colleagues as we prayerfully consider each trip.