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!

Go Away!

T here were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling...