Friday, July 25, 2014

When God Moves (you)



i've written before about all the moving we've done. all the places we've lived. all the places i loved or didn't love, for whatever reasons. the truth is, moving is hard. it's a lot of work, a lot of prep time, and usually it takes place because of a job transfer for my husband - who is excited to get to the new place and get the show on the road - leaving me to do all the arrangements. he's got a job to do!

and i've got mine.

but not this time.

when GOD whispered in our ears about making a move THIS TIME, it had nothing to do with his job (at least not yet). HE provided a buyer for our home before we even knew we were going to want to move. really. oh, we had prayed about it - the big-ness of this house, the empty-ness of the rooms, the bigger house payment that doesn't let you do everything you want to do, but we didn't know we'd grow weary of these things so fast.

when we moved here we thought our kids and grandkids would be passing through this way as they went to other places, raising support for their future missions life. we didn't know that some of them would move 1/2 hour away, and all of the grands would be within a few hours of us. we thought we'd engage with college students and have lively discussions on lazy sunday afternoons (who knew they don't travel across the bridge from indiana?). we did host a small group, but it barely got off the ground, from the longest winter ever that ran into summer vacations. when we did meet, no one wanted to come early, eat, hang around often. and that's ok. but we could do what we're doing in half of this space.

and truth be told... those were the things we thought, the dreams we had, and i don't know if we really sought after GOD to affirm these things as HIS will for our lives. (sorry GOD) i honestly thought i'd just jump back into life here, taking the best from arkansas and the creme de la creme from our life in henderson before, and make it all work here. no ifs. ands. or buts.

it hasn't worked.

i worked hard on my office space, making it bright and cheery (as much as it can be in a basement room with one window) but i don't work well down there. i really wanted to be in the top level of the house, and see what's going on out on the street, not peeking from between the bushes. and rarely does anyone sleep in the room that i wanted my office to be in from the start... not as often as we thought they would...

the work he does is consuming still, and i spend most of the time here alone - which isn't horrible - but i certainly don't need so much space to be happy. or to be content. which is funny when i think about it, because i'm not content with this abundance of space and house around me.

i still long for a porch and a fireplace and a fire pit and a large flower garden that spills from the side of the house to around the yard... and we won't do it here. which is good. it doesn't fit here (and there never was a porch across the front of this house, and this steep hillside, though i'd love to see flowers out there, wasn't going to be good or easy to mow around for my dear husband, and the fire pit was out of the question).

we knew, when the realtor called, that HE heard us, and it was more that we finally understood HIM, but HE gave us - allowed us - a season here. a season of plenty. a season of too much. and i tried to be content, with all the wasted space, and tried to be hospitable with no guests, and tried to be neighborly with neighbors that hid from us.

it's a hard mission field. to reach the rich. sigh.

now we know, HE is moving us along to the next neighborhood, closer to the grandkids, but farther from church. i know HE has a purpose in this, and i can second guess them, but it's probably best that i just follow HIS lead and prayerfully follow behind HIM.

thank you to those of you who have prayed for us! those that prayed us back to henderson, back to this neighborhood. thank you to those that have been so friendly to come and sit in the living room, and dream about birds and gardens and prayed with me for my neighbors. thanks to those that have prayer walked this street with me. to those that came to small group and hung around later, or came by on another day/time. who cooked in my kitchen with me and tried new recipes. who sat on the stoop of the front walk and chit-chatted with me. those that prayed. 

we'll still be friends. because sisters in CHRIST do that. and i've learned that no matter where you live, the kindred spirit friends always go with you when you move along. 

this new chapter, new home, new neighborhood and city, it's feeling so odd to think of life there. smaller house that needs work. not that we want to do work on it - it needs it. and it's not move in ready, but we'll move in anyways. in a month and a few days. make that move.

if GOD wills it to be, and if HE tarries HIS return.

i'm always ready to move to heaven. (amen?)

the one thing that isn't going to be new, is my husband's job. same job. this isn't a company move. not a promotion, or a transfer, so he knows his job. and he can help me with this move. meet the home inspector. pack boxes. sign in person. move ourselves. it will be a lot of work, but i love that we get to do it together. yes, together.

it will be ok. and no matter where he goes, i'm with him all the way. and wherever HE leads, we will follow. so no one else but HIM knows what's next for us... in timing or geography... and that's ok.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

At the Wall



A few times a year I am privileged to get to volunteer with Team Expansion at a display they sponsor, The Wall of Unreached Peoples. The movement, Unleashed for the Unreached, was started in 2011 to bring awareness to the number of unreached (or unengaged) people groups in the world... groups of people, whether 20 or 2 million, that are still not aware of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many have never heard His name, and are unaware of His great love for them.

You can find out all the specifics here, at the website for Unleashed for the Unreached.

We spend time talking to others about the display, asking them to prayerfully choose a people group to pray for - then share the information with their family, small group, or church, hoping that as they pray for their chosen people group their awareness will increase and a passion for them to KNOW Jesus will develop. In some instances, some churches have actually gone to that place, come to know people there, and built a ministry to reach them for Jesus.

There are others working at The Wall that are praying, asking God to intercede on behalf of the people groups, praying for the visitors at the convention to be curious about the display and adopt a people group to pray for, and of course, for some to become passionate enough to bring the gospel to these unreached areas of the world.

I am asking that you would pray for me, the other volunteers working at the display, and the guests at the convention. That the display will be successful, that God will be honored in our small gifts of time and prayer, and allow spiritual forces to be bound and His Word to be unleashed among the unreached people groups of the world.

Did you know that you can have the display brought to your church, college, club or organization? Just think of the impact it would have at your next Missions Sunday! Please check out the details at the website for Unleashed for the Unreached...


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Atlas Girl Book Review, and a bit more...




I COULD have sat down and read Emily Wierenga's book Atlas Girl in one reading.

Years ago, that's what I would have done... just chugged it down without regard for the time and effort it took her to write it.

And maybe some books are meant to be devoured like that... but not this one. not to me. not now.

I knew within the first pages why it would mean so much. Why I cared. It wasn't because of who she is now... but for the way her heart was broken from the mission field; how her growing up as a "missionary kid" (MK) poured into her brokenness as she grew up, how it affected her life, made her weak AND strong, and shaped her story.

As my heart beats for Missionary Care.

So every word I read, each page that I turned, each prayer I prayed on her behalf, was read through the lens of "this is an MK's story." That made it all the richer a book.

I love Emily's style. She writes raw, and vulnerable, and honest. She makes no apologies for writing that way, and I'm glad. I admit, she made me blush a few times... not for things she said wrong, but because I was completely, keenly aware of what she meant... and I think it was a bit embarrassing to admit that I did, being a 53 year old Christian woman.

I don't talk much anymore about my wild days - the life God rescued me from (which would make this book seem like a cupcake walk) - but because of all God saved me from, and my own lusts, selfishness, and addictions, I can remember the R rated things that Emily references (in her PG13 kind of way).

But she owned up to it, her desires, her longings, and even the moments she realized how she was being selfish during her own mom's illness. And that resonated with me in a good/bad way - reminding me how often I choose to remember how mean my mom was while she battled her lung-cancer-turned-in-to brain -tumor, but not acknowledging my young teen selfishness that likely had something to do with her anger.

So I'm owning up to my part of that situation now. (Thank you Emily, for being used by God in that.)

I couldn't pick a favorite chapter if I had to...all of her story is mesmerizing... but the stuff she shares through Chapter 29 on "Sisters" captivated me, as I'd recently traveled from the western side of Kentucky to visit my own "little sister" in California, and gone without my husband to spend some time working (photography of nature there), catching up with old friends and family, and celebrate my favorite Aunt June's 80th birthday.

I need to make it clear, my 3 sisters and I (there are 2 sets of real sisters, having shared the same womb but 2 different fathers) all love each other a lot. We're different, for sure, but at a moment's notice we'll be where we need to be to help someone out... but we also have a saying:

"Family, like fish, goes bad after 3 days." 

So, as I packed to go, my husband lovingly reminded me SEVERAL times that we had plenty of "reward points" at a few chains, should I need to stay in a hotel over the course of the trip.

I was grateful for the offer, but never had to use it.

I think it was a first for my little sister and I. :)

Maybe we've mellowed with old age, but I really enjoyed the time with her and her family. Since we've been separated by so many miles for so long, and the fact that there's more than 10 years difference between my kids and hers, we have been really busy raising kids in completely different stages of life. I have been keenly aware that I didn't know her kids at all. I always knew what they were doing, what their interests were, but I didn't ever sit down and talk with them. Now that they are teens in high school and college, I could talk to them on my own. It was a delight to see what a GREAT job my sister has done in overseeing their education, how she and her husband had raised them to be upstanding citizens, and mostly, to hear from the kids themselves how they are passionate for Jesus and making their faith their own and how they overcome the obstacles they find in life.

One favorite memory from the trip was a Sunday afternoon spur-of-the-moment road trip for little sis and I to drive Highway 1 down the coast - just she and I - to find a "different place" for me to take some sunset photos on the beach. Somewhere. We didn't have an agenda - besides me taking photos - and I admit, I was a little concerned about how she'd do with my compulsive photo habits which include turning around a lot, pulling over at random spots to grab a quick photo, and either dangling my camera by it's strap or laying on the ground in public to get the shot I want. She swore she wouldn't judge my methods, and we jumped in her SUV to head down the highway we grew up cruising in VW's.

As we left the busy-ness of the north Orange County beaches (Seal Beach, where we grew up, and Huntington Beach where we both graduated from high school), we enjoyed the diminishing crowds along the highway. She spotted a sign  for See's Candies and indulged my sweet tooth for a snack there, then spotted a garden area and detoured to make a stop and walk through the beautiful gardens.


As we approached Laguna Beach, we reminisced of when our dad dated, and then married a woman who lived there, and how we would spend time in that quirky-but-beautiful beach town. I think that we discovered how vast our 3 year age difference was really more like a 10 year span; our memories were completely different, not in opposition to what happened, but in our perspective of the events that took place. She spent much more time there, and I wasn't there (or wasn't in a frame of mind to remember, pot-head that I was back then) the charming memories that she shared.

It wasn't wrong of either of us, just different views of the same scenes.

As we snapped photos of the old house and left Laguna we headed towards San Clemente. She mentioned how the kids loved Crystal Cove (I'd never even heard of the place!) and we vowed to return with them later in the week (we did, and it WAS great!!).


After her hockey fix during a dinner of Mexican food on Main Street, we rambled back up the road to visit the cove, to capture the setting sun that was starting to slip low in the sky. We parked for free (already after hours!), walked out into the sand (which was really rocky here) and jockeyed for the best angles to take photos. We talked about cameras, and phones, and photography, and kids, and life. We snapped selfies and posed silly and giggled hard when we got our feet (and her pant-legs) soaked, too close to the waves imposing on us in the rising tide.


Life's so short. I think we knew that when we lost our mom at the young ages of 12 and 9, but didn't realize it until we took some time to be together that day. It was sacrificial of each of us... she gave up time with her family; I went outside my comfort zone to let her accompany me; but we delighted in sharing memories that were sometimes painful, and in making new memories, really delightful.

It really impressed upon me later in the week as we gathered around our 80 year old aunt, and all of us sister girls fussed over each other and teased and picked on one another... and hugged and loved on each other...our fractured family drawn together for a beautiful, memory making celebration of our aunt's life.


It was that memory that I went back to, as I read Atlas Girl... the history of our family, each one of these strong women I'm related to, how we had come through our own difficult journey to get where we are today. The struggles are all different, we have had to die to self in our own ways, our daily lives lived sacrificially in a variety of circumstances. We're each in a different place with God, but I pray that we each acknowledge Him, and will grow closer to Him, giving Him a seat of honor in our hearts and lives. That realization is a growing process, for sure... one that Emily tells about so beautifully in her book...

   
     "And then it comes to me. It takes going through hell to appreciate heaven. And on earth we have a choice. We can experience heaven on a daily basis; we can surrender our worries and  let our minds and souls be flooded with peace, knowing someone divine is taking care of us. 
     Or we can hold on to control, for fear of letting go and letting God. 
     It's not about dying and someday going to heaven, it's about inviting heaven into our everyday existence. 
     Forgiving. Redeeming what is lost. Trusting. Letting go. Living now." 

- Emily Wierenga, Atlas Girl

Friday, July 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday... Exhale

I haven't done this (Five Minute Friday) in a LONG while... when I get to working on other's blogs too much (or just working too much!) it stagnates my writing... so, on the cusp of this day, I read Lisa-Jo Baker's blog and caught wind of this week's Five Minute Friday word... "Exhale," and I could relate. 

I wanted to EXHALE too.

I had to jump in.

So here's the rules (from her site): 
So come and write with us. Together. On one word for five minutes. Here are all the details. And then link up your post or leave it in the comments by clicking here. But remember, the one must rule here is that you visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their writing. - See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/#sthash.pIb2BCeu.dpuf 

Reading back through Emily Wierenga's "Atlas Girl" so I can finish my post on it...
And here are my 5 minutes on "Exhale": 

I've come out in the sun on the patio to read. Just to step away from the screen and soak in sunshine and words. To distract me from the task of today. The "stuff" of life. I just want to breathe.

I'm reminded of a breathing exercise that our long-ago youth group minister would do to get the kids to focus. INHALE, say "More of You, Jesus" = EXHALE, say "Less of me."

This slowly transforms my "me" agenda to a moment of inviting Him to be in this place. I want - no NEED - to feel Him here. Just these few moments, before I crack open the spine of the book again. before I slip my straps down to soak up more sun. Just NOW. I need to EXHALE all of the ME and breathe in ALL OF HIM. I need more of Him. Now. Every breath.

I'm reminded of a quote that I'd read in Jennifer Dukes Lee's book "Love Idol" - something about getting up every morning and "getting over myself" to let Him give me more of His agenda, His perspective, His focus. Live for Him in that day.

I need to do that more. Again. 

Because while I can breathe in more and more of Him, if there's too much ME in there, I don't have room for HIM... (end)



My prayer: 

Lord, I'm so sorry. I confess that I let the busy-ness of each day, the worries of this life on earth, squeeze out the room in my head, my lungs, my heart - that belong to You. Take them all back. I surrender my body, my breath, back to You. Take it. Use it for Your glory, Your will, here on earth; that I may have more of You and Your life more abundantly, both here and in heaven. - Amen 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Last Week in Photographs (Nature Photography)

Last week I traveled to Missouri to see my son and DIL, then to NW Arkansas to catch up with my bosses at DaySpring. Of course, everywhere I go, I bring along my camera... it's not just my job to keep my photo portfolio fresh for Meet Me in the Meadow, but it's my hobby, my art, and a place where I see God and His handiwork... it's how I find #SpiritualWhitespace

Here are some of the photos I took... I hope you enjoy them, and sense God's handiwork in them too...











Monday, June 16, 2014

Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray ... A Review, and SO Much More...



I am generally a quick reader. Fast even. Mark mocks me as I read books... he reads slow and methodical, and memorizes every detail. I read fast and furious, and forget the characters' names as I read them. I just can't help it.

So it came as quite a shock to pick up "Faith Barista" Bonnie Gray's book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, and not devour it in one day. I think it shocked HIM as much as it surprised me! I'd been WAITING for this book to arrive, to pre-read it and write my review, to tell others about it... and then I had to FORCE myself to get through it!

I was even frustrated with me! 

Don't get me wrong... Bonnie has done an amazing job of telling her journey. I commented to another friend that I actually wished this was TWO books instead of one... as I delved in to it, I knew what was going on; I loved hearing Bonnie's voice tell her story, but her writing prompts at the end of each chapter PLAGUED me. I didn't want to look at MY STORY here... I just wanted to read about her own and move on my merry way.

THAT was the problem.

I'm still dealing with *emotional junk* and details relating to my father's death. Just when I think I'm done with it, and I've put it behind me, and I THINK I don't have to "go there" anymore, someone calls with a new bit of information, a new request for me to "check out this, or make that call" and I'm stuck in the stuff up to my knees again. I had just made a turn, grabbed the book (about 1/3 read) and left for California for a family trip, and seeing my sisters put me back in the midst of it again. I had to force myself to face the questions, and emotions, again... it was like swimming in quick sand

I prayed, recognizing that it was a spiritual problem that was keeping me from finishing the book... keeping me from completing this task. There was an element of fear that was barring me from reading the rest of the story that I wanted so badly to finish.

It wasn't until a week after the trip that I sat on my back patio, on Father's Day, with the frogs croaking in the garden, and the sun sinking low on the horizon, that I finally finished reading it. I felt as if I was IN my Spiritual Whitespace when I folded the book closed and took a deep breath.



I had been monitoring the sky, and was witnessing God's handiwork as He created the most magnificent sunset; pinks and lavenders washed across the sky. It was as if He smiled at me pushing through the mental barriers, my own PTSD set aside to reach through Bonnie's story and cheer her on. My tears flowed for her, not me. My heart raced with hers. I smiled for her victories.

I know now that I'm done reading this book, but the book is not done dealing with me.

I've always been a fan of Spiritual Whitespace, though I'd never thought of calling it that before. When I speak to others about the topic of rest, I fall back on the truth that "what's rest for some is work for others." I find my rest (whitespace) in gardening, resting in nature, walking with my camera dangling from my arm. I want to paint again, to write poetry, to fall asleep in the shade of a tree. For some of you, these things might be a chore (gardening... really! It makes some folks all sweaty and dirty, but for me it brings me closer to God the Creator!).



I know that it is likely that I will be journaling through the book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, and not only will I need a friend to support me in my whitespace journey, but I may need a counselor too. I'm realizing that I need to work through my past - all of it - and reading Bonnie's courageous journey is helping me to be brave too. I'd like to get all of this behind me, to FULLY enjoy the whitespace experiences that God has for me in the future.


Pray with me...
Lord, Thank You for being there my whole life. You know the disappointments, the hurts, the fears. You are not surprised. You know my wrongs, and You know what wrongs have been done to me. Father, help me to be brave, to have the courage to be healed from the past. I pray that as other women read this amazing story, that You will speak to their hearts, and give them the strength to cling to You through Bonnie's story. I ask that for those of us that need counseling, that You will provide the right one. For those of us that need a friend, help us to find them through Your mighty hand. For each of us, help us to remember that Your love is perfect, and constant, and always here with us. You are for us. Always our loving, heavenly Father. Amen. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From the Archives of Auntie Em Writes - Planting, Growing, Pruning and Resting


 “I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love.  Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” 
Years ago, during a difficult spell in life, a dear friend gave me this verse, framed to display and remember. Just like the change of seasons, I saw that we have seasons in our lives. Just like we care for the ground, tend to our trees, or plant new seeds, we need to tend to our hearts and minds to make our walk with God, and our lives, more fruitful.
As a new homeowner, I remember learning how important it was for a tree to lose it’s leaves in the fall; so all it’s energy could go into growing good roots, making it healthier in the springtime. Sometimes life is like that for us too; we love the new blossoms of spring, the shade and colors of summer, and even the change of color in the leaves in fall, but when the trees are bare - the last of the vibrant oranges and reds and yellows turn to brown and fall to the ground - our own hearts seem to want to turn and hibernate too. Yet it’s during THIS season that God wants to do some of the deepest work in us.
Perhaps we can allow ourselves to acknowledge God’s part in our lives during our seasons of thanksgiving, and we can let it be the start of getting our spiritual roots to run deep and grow strong, carrying us through the droughts of life, or the hardships of winter. 

I’m reminded that we have work He has asked us to do, before God can do His work in us, or through us. Just like we may divide our crowded bulbs in the fall, or turn over the soil in the fields after harvest, we should allow God to break up the “hard ground of our hearts” during this season of regeneration. 
I think that we, just like the plants in life, need to have our season of root growth. I love this from Psalm 1, “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” The trees bear fruit in each season, but only because they are well cared for by meditating on His law day and night! What a wonderful vision for those of us that forget to nurture our roots in His Word. 
In Isaiah 55:10-12 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”  
All throughout the Bible, the authors used seeds, growing, fruit, soil, crops, and many other farming terms, to describe our life with God, our journey with Jesus. So in this season, let’s break out our Bibles, dust them off if we need to, and find a quiet place to nurture our spirits by meditating on God’s Word. Perhaps with enough tending to our roots, we can bear even more spiritual fruit!

This post was first published in the November 2011 edition of "Connections Magazine of SW Missouri." You can read the original post online here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From the Archives of Auntie Em Writes - The Prodigal Child

Summertime is here, the garden needs tending, work is keeping me at my kitchen table and all I see when I look out is the too-long-green-lawn, and I'd REALLY rather be sitting on a chaise on the patio with one of the books I'm reading...  SO, I'm making the call to re-post one of my articles from my past and share it with you now... I hope it inspires you, encourages you, and that you'll come back for more! You can subscribe if you look to your right...  over there ...  >>> 



I have lived some of my life as a prodigal child. I know that there are always seasons where our life with God becomes stagnant, but there have been times I’ve turned my back on Him, and had to come to a point of repentance and restoration.

Recently, I was reflecting on how it changed my heart; having lived on “that side of the fence” and making poor choices that affected my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I was surprised by a few things while reading in Luke 15, that I had not applied before.

I have embraced the theology of “love the sinner, and despise the sin”, but I noticed that the example of loving the prodigal son was a “tough love” and did not enable him to continue to abuse the father’s resources or relationship. The father didn’t travel to see the son and pay for his bar tab; he didn’t track him down and offer him work when he heard others were going hungry. He simply allowed him to “lie in the bed he made for himself.”

I believe that the father never stopped loving his son, and thought of him every single day, but he held himself back and allowed him to live his life. Only then was the son able to realize how much better off the servants were in his father’s house; and it was THEN that he was able to be changed, capable of taking on the task of returning home with a servant’s heart. 

The son could have hid his misfortune, and arrogantly attempted to blow off any sense of failure. I’m sure that the smell of working with the hogs would have preceded him, but often we do try to pretend that we have had a great journey despite the real outcome.

Yet here we get to see repentance and restoration, the way it’s supposed to happen. So why is it that many of us who want to return “home to our Father” are held back?

Is it that many of us feel that we need to clean up our act before returning home? We want to give up this habit, or that addiction. We want to make that move to make us look a little cleaner on the outside, create some illusion that our life away from Dad wasn’t all that bad. If the prodigal son did any cleaning up, it wasn’t mentioned in the story. 

Often it’s the fear of facing that brother who remained in Father’s house and worked the whole time we were away. Boy, we CAN be judgmental when our dirty brother walks in off the streets! I love the way Jesus portrays the father’s response though, ‘“We had to celebrate this happy day! For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (Luke 15:32, NLT)

The road to Father’s house is short. I promise He is there, standing in the driveway, waiting to embrace you. Come dirty, smelling of hogs. Come penniless and hungry. Just come home, wherever that may be. Repent and be restored. We’ll celebrate with Father!!

This article appeared as the "Inspiration" for the Connection Magazine of Southwest Missouri in January of 2010. You can read the original post here (the original magazine format was not yet online). 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Power of Encouragement - An Example - An (in)courager Link Up

This week I'm linking up with (in)courage to celebrate signing up for (in)courager groups! I've been involved in this aspect of (in)courage for a few years now, first encouraging empty-nest moms of prodigals, and now in co-leading (in)courage global care - a group for women who are missionaries (global workers), former missionaries, moms and sisters of missionaries and missionary (or member) care workers (those women, like me, that love to encourage them). 

I hope that you enjoy reading this little bit about the WHY of me... why missionary/global worker/member and family care... and if you're inspired, join us over at (in)couragers and apply to join our group (under ministry groups) for global care.  - marina



encourage
 

— vb
1.to inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something)
2.to stimulate (something or someone to do something) by approval or help; support
 

Flashback to 4 1/2 years ago... It's one of my first visits to the Women's Group in this new-to-me huge church. I'm lingering around a table, helping sell tickets for something... a Women's ministry event... I don't even remember now... maybe the Women's Conference. I have a name tag on (which doesn't seem normal now, for a "normal" Women's Group meeting, but God had a purpose!) and as I'm just hanging out and smiling when a younger mom appears before me, bright smile and hugs.

"YOU! You are Marina! I JUST got an email from E telling me to keep an eye out for you! I can't believe it was THIS EASY to find you!"

I'm astounded.
And relieved.
And a little bit... comforted.

Our little meeting turned into a lunch at Chic-fil-a with her homeschooling kids in tow, as we spilled encouragement and tears over tasty chicken and sweet tea. I was newly relocated and thrilled to be here, and she was "back home," but grieving over leaving the mission field she was so in love with. Both of us were being obedient to our husband's calling. Both of us unsure what the future held.

So started this beautiful, authentic, REAL friendship with a woman who was 10 years younger than me. It wasn't intended to be a mentoring thing, as we encouraged and inspired each other - despite the age difference. It was friendship, wrapped in a dose of peer-mentoring and encouragement!

So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.  - Acts 15:30-32 

God brought us together at a perfect time. My passion was/is encouraging those on the mission field, and I'd just walked through a season where my missionary daugher and SIL had to return unexpectedly from their place of service. I was fresh with a tender heart, remembering how upsetting it was for them... but that gave me a fresh sense of what was "normal" in this circumstance. I saw that it was just as important to encourage the missionary back in their original country, as it was while they were on "the field."

I admired my new friend for being so brave; for not letting her vision or prayers die for this people group, for not letting her desire for the field ruin her passion for her marriage. I loved how she was continuing to believe that God had a purpose for the timing in them going, and returning. How she prayed for her husband to have new eyes, and a renewed passion for the field; and that God would change her heart to be content "back home." Prayers that if that was what God wanted, that He would re-direct her compass of where "home" was. That God would do something to allow a return to the field, accepting His will and His timing above all.


Several months later, we traveled to that place together with a small team, to encourage workers in that field. It was inspiring, encouraging, and amazing. She was shocked at how quickly the language came back to her, evident by our 2 hour taxi ride leaving the airport, and her talking to the taxi-driver the entire time... the only word she didn't know was "seatbelt!"

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.  - 1 Peter 4:7-11

It was a trip full of first's for me, and I caught her vision to see these people fall in love with their Creator. We prayed on beautiful beaches for the lost to be found, and prayer walked neighborhoods for God to open doors for the Gospel. We were an encouragement to those we came to see, their children, their ministry. We saw God work in each of us on the team, and through each of us. We saw history in the making, without feeling we were ever in danger. God's power was around us, His Word an encouragement to us, and as we spoke it - to each other. It was sustaining. Motivating. Healing.

Although we went to encourage others, often they encouraged us. (I love it when that happens!)

If you'd asked me before leaving, what I thought would happen, I would have told you that I expected to fall in love with this place she loved, everything about it, including the food and people there. But I didn't. I tolerated the food... most of it didn't even taste tasty to me. I love the people, more as a recognition that HE loves them, not as a "I HAVE to be the one to go tell them about Jesus!" kind of way (though I would in a heartbeat, should He open the door and tell my husband that we are supposed to be there!).

He hasn't told my husband that, and we are both OK with me/us not being there. For now my hubby is a "missionary in a chicken plant" and I'm by his side, encouraging missionaries, former missionaries, or family of missionaries wherever they are... on their field whether it's "here, near, or far away."  God's opened my eyes, and a door, for me to help encourage and equip women to be encouragers for the workers they know that are working globally to reach the lost for Jesus. This movement of *encouraging global care* will one day become *wHim* - Women Helping in Missions; because we can be an encouragement to missionaries all over the world - and in our backyard. While we are changing our babies, we can change the world. When the kids are learning letters, we can be writing letters to our friends, family members, and ministers as they reach out to those that have not heard.When our nests are empty and the house quiet, we can offer hospitality to those coming off the field, and pray for them when they return.  While they are being His hands and feet in the fields ripe for harvest, we can be His hands and feet as we lift them in prayer, and purpose, and do spiritual warfare on their behalf. We can each do our part to equip, inspire, encourage them, so we can complete the task of the Great Commission... every tongue, tribe and nation...

And the encouragement keeps spreading... along with the Gospel.

The encouragement between my friend and I is still powerful today, though she's back on field and our communication is more via social media than face to face meals. We've seen the blessing that friendship, and encouragement, is. We know that God has equipped each of us to encourage one another... and to share that gift with others that need to be lifted up ... to share with them, the power of encouragement.


Monday, May 19, 2014

(in)couragers online community groups... (in)courage global care



For the past few years there's been an amazing community online that has continued to bloom and grow. You might be familiar with (in)courage, but do you know about our online community groups? 

A few times a year we throw open the doors and allow new women the opportunity to get involved in the different communities online. This time, (TODAY!) there are more than 70 groups, and over 160 volunteer online leaders, with groups of women in just about every age and stage of life! You can find out about them here.

I'm continuing to lead a group called (in)courage global care, for women missionaries, women who assist in missionary care, women who are moms, sisters and friends of missionaries on the field. We share information, encourage the women where they are (on the field, missing a best friend or family member during the holidays, or praying about how to engage more fully in missions), and PRAY a lot for the women in our group.

Do you know a missionary? Are you actively supporting one financially or prayerfully? Do you want to get more involved in missions, but aren't sure what you can do? Then you're in the right place! Please join us!

Registration takes place THIS WEEK for our upcoming session. You need to sign up over at the (in)courager Groups page, and the group leaders will contact you with an invitation to join in the group of your choice. (Hint Hint... (in)courage global care is under the "ministry" heading...)

I hope that you'll be (in)couraged and join in with us, if not my group, then with one of the others that best meets YOUR needs! You'll find a group of women who accept you, love you and will pray with you through this phase of life!!