Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our International Thanksgiving 2008


It's taken me a week to get through everything and get here to put it down on paper (hehe...or on the screen, as it may be!). What a week it's been!

The beds are not made, there are still a few left overs in the frig, and I'm still going through photos of the great week we had with a flurry of international student friends coming through our door. 

We started with 4 girls coming over Tuesday evening...one is a girl that our son is dating, and her friend (both from England, but one is Indian), and 2 girls we are still getting to know from China...our girl from International Friends, and her best friend. We spent Wed. (day before Thanksgiving) going down to AR to drive through Eureka Springs, Christ of the the Ozarks, Thorncrown Chapel, and Beaver Dam. It was a beautiful day and we had a nice drive (despite sleepy girls and windy roads).

That night we made pumpkin bars, and a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It was the first time that some of them had ever used an oven! They were excited to hear about the things we would be making the next day for our Thanksgiving dinner. For most of the people there, it was the first time they had seen a turkey (to eat)!

The next morning we started off by sending Mark and Jason off to Springfield to pick up our other guests. They included 2 more students from China, 1 from Jamaica, and 1 from Armenia. The girl from Armenia we had recently met when a mutual friend connected us through the Fri. pm shopping excursions, and we had spent a late evening a few weeks ago helping her make dolma for the International Banquet at MSU (which was amazing). My own Armenian best is brought out when I'm around her! :) The 2 girls from China are the ones that we've been spending time with and helping out, and we see them regularly. Their work schedule had prevented them from coming sooner. The boy from Jamaica is a friend of Jason's, and sort of a last minute add on, but we were blessed by his presence and so glad he joined us!!

After they arrived, Mark got the turkeys going in the oven, and all the girls got to see what that was all about...how they came packaged, what we do to season them and prepare them for baking, and getting them in the oven to bake. Then we had several hours to goof off, so we played ping pong and wii games at the house, and then we took an impromptu trip down to Roaring River State Park. 

We came back home to the smell of turkeys in the oven (we opted for 2 this year, so there would be enough drum sticks to go around!) and quickly enlisted the girls' help to put together all the sides....yams two ways (marshmallows and with pecans), green bean casserole, stuffing (I don't stuff the turkey with it), mashed potatoes, home made gravy, olives and pickles, crescent rolls....the works. 

I learned a lot along the way...The English take stuffing and roll it into balls and bake it, the Chinese think it's weird to put meat and milk together...something they don't do, and a ton of other stuff. Of course, it was the FIRST Thanksgiving for many of our guests, so Mark did a great job of a quick history lesson on the origin of the holiday (interesting with a little England vs America bantering going on). It was a LOT of fun!

As soon as dinner was served, we put apple pies in the oven (frozen...just as good as homemade!) and we were set to go. Jason headed up clean up after dinner, and then the kids were all into the games again...until dessert, and then a trip back to Springfield for some of the guests...I was left with 3 at the house when it was all said and done.

Friday we (the girls and I) went out to George Washington Carver National Park, and walked about their beautiful visitor center. I don't know if they were interested at all in his many contributions to us, but it was a good visit and they learned a bit. Then we rushed home to watch the Cassville Wildcats win the Div 3 state championship game on tv to a basic tailgating menu of Frito Pie (chili, cheese and fritos). One of the girls bf came out and picked her up to take her back to Spr., and then it was just 2. So on Saturday afternoon we drove out to Precious Moments Chapel....my goal was to see some GREAT Christmas light displays, but it wasn't happening there. I don't know what's up over there, but half of their "things to see" are closed down now...no fountain show, musical show, and hardly any Christmas lights on display...I was so disappointed, but they were happy to have gotten out to see another part of the area. Such good sports!

By Saturday night, I was starting to wear out...and now I've got a nasty cold (sigh) and have been in bed recovering most of the week! It was totally worth it though, and I'd have a houseful again at any time to share Thanksgiving with them (although I might skip SOME of the driving around).

I know that many of the students will be traveling over the winter break, but I look forward to seeing who will gather around the table for our Christmas Dinner.... 

Thanksgiving and Advent Blessings,

marina 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

just an update

Life is busy around here...wonderfully busy! Our relationships with people at Christian Community continue to grow, and we are maturing in Christ and finding many ways to serve the body too. God's so good!! We feel truly blessed to be able to participate in life and ministry there.

I continue to struggle with letting go of my "mom habits" with my adult kids, but I'm learning. I am finding that I can look things up on line and not send any one of them a million links; I can pray for them and not give them the details of what I feel in prayer; I can listen (and hear) what they are saying and "just" suggest that they consider all the options. It's still a learning process on my part, but I'm aware of that....that I still have a LONG way to go before I totally release all of them and break my parenting habits. I know that they will still make wonderful decisions that will deserve my praise, and horrible mistakes that will still require prayers....I KNOW this because I still make those mistakes too!! That's a part of life.

There is a lot to look forward to in the next few months....getting to see my oldest daughter's family soon, International Friends joining us for holidays, family traveling in for a long stay, getting to spend time with my daughter and granddaughter for a girls' only week (or 2), and then the arrival of a new grandchild! It helps me so much to keep events and activities on my calendar, especially during these DARK days of FALL (although it may as well be winter...does it seem a LOT darker earlier than normal to anyone else??).

Today it's COLD and DARK and BLUSTERY....but I know that there is hope that down the road, that much sooner than spring itself, we'll find a morning of sunshine with an afternoon high of 70*, and I'll feel the tingle of sun's rays on my pasty white skin, and I'll love it anyways. Yet it's the wintery days of life that make me SO appreciate the summer ones! After all, nothing could grow in constant sunshine, as it takes the rainy days of life to make things nourished, so seeds will start and sprout and give fruit...and yet nothing would grow if not for the sunshine.
Yes, indeed! I LOVE those sun-shiny days! But today, I'll LOVE this cold fall day, with the touch of winter around the edges, and hold on to the hope of spring eternal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New International Friends

This is a picture of our oldest daughter and our grand-daughter and 2 of our new friends.


Often we face changes in our life that leave empty holes. It can be anything from “empty nesting” to losing a spouse or loved one…. from changing jobs to having a friend move away. Change is constantly happening in life.

The changes that have happened to us in our own life have encouraged us to create change in other ways.

Now being “empty nesters” and not quite ready to “retire” is an odd place for us to be. We love being with kids, college age kids in particular, and have for several years (even before our kids were that age). Something about that age is amazing….they go to college because they want to, not because they have to. They choose their career path, where they want to live, and have to accept the baggage that comes along with those decisions. They want to be adults, but usually not like their parents. They want adult conversation, but not to be told what to do. It’s perplexing and interesting.

I think that all the years we were involved with youth ministry at church was not only to assist with the high school (or younger) youth, but to build friendships with the college age students that headed up those ministries. (I just had a light go off in my head- duh.)

We have started to go into a new area of involvement….being involved with International Students. Specifically, we are getting involved with 2 groups that are allowing us to develop friendships with college age students that have come from other countries to study here in the U.S., and specifically in SW Missouri. Our goal: to grow friendships around the world; to learn about their home life, their culture and share ours; to be family for those that do not have any family nearby.

We have already met 2 new friends through an activity off campus that was sponsored by one of the many clubs that are reaching out to the international students. These girls are juniors in college, and the farthest away from home than they have ever been. They talk to their parents nightly, and miss them greatly. Although they are in the “honeymoon” stage of being in a foreign land, they are both enamored and frightened to be here. They cook their own traditional food at home, but are excited to try new things, to experience all that they can. They want to be the best students that they can be, and hope it will bring honor to their families (and their country). This is serious business to them, but inside they are still college kids.

The other group we are involved with is called International Friends. It’s sort of a “foreign exchange” program without housing a student. We filled out an on-line application, attended an orientation in Springfield, and selected a student to become friends with. I emailed her this morning to introduce ourselves, and hope to hear back from her soon. We’ll do things together as her schedule allows things as easy as going to a park or museum, or an activity on campus. If time and finances allow, we may go to a local amusement park or see a movie or show and then discuss the activity in comparison to things in her home country. If we’re lucky, we will have an instant bond, and invite her into our home to share holidays and traditions. If she’s interested she can come to church with us; and if not, that’s ok, as I want to learn all about her, and what life is like in her home country, in her neighborhood, and at her family dinner table.

International Friends is a great way for people to share their life and get to know someone else. It’s a great way to “be a friend” to someone who may not have one here. It does take time, but not money. It is more about building a friendship, and less about being a tour guide. It’s about sharing our daily life with them…as simple as that may be.

I would encourage families and single adults to expand their horizons, give of themselves, and open their life to a new friendship through International Friends. You can visit their web site on line at: http://www.ifmo.org/ or contact local coordinators Roger and Becky Turnbough through the site if you have any questions.

Not only do I expect to impact our new friends’ lives by being a friend to them while they are here, but I know that our lives will be changed as well. By getting to know them, we will be expanding our horizons and getting a peek at the world around us, beyond our national borders; and all without buying a plane ticket, learning another language, or leaving the comfort of SW Missouri.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A New Day

Well, we've survived Day 1 of the new parenting rules.
sigh
it's a start!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Letting Go...well, trying to....

News flash: I hate being a parent.

Don't get me wrong...when the kids were little...even when I had 3 in diapers (we had 3 kids, 3 years in a row so there was that short season) there were weary times. There were days that I just wanted ADULT CONVERSATION, and to understand every word that was being spoken to me. There were days I longed to not have to cut up food on a plate, or didn't have to wipe bottoms, and to not have to remind them to wash hands. There were times I didn't want to wake up in the middle of the night to wet sheets, or worse, a child covered in vomit; and of course, that happening multiple times as it went from child, to child, to child....and often myself getting it somewhere along the way.

BUT, I'd take THOSE days all over again if I could....each and every one of them!! It's NOW that I'm really having a hard time...harder than those days by far.

Parenting adult children....now that's the REALLY hard part. Actually, NOT parenting them is the hard part....taking that feeling, that intuition that's developed in me for almost 30 years now, and telling it to stop.

The ONLY thing I've ever really known that I wanted to be when I grew up, was to be a "mommy". I'm reasonably smart, and have a LOT of interests in a LOT of things, but failed to finish college, or pursue a steady career, because I didn't think I could do that the rest of my life - so why waste the time/energy/money to do it?? I never thought that about being a mom...even in the vomit covered, soaked sheet, middle of the night tantrums. I knew then that all I needed was a nap, a smile from a little face I loved, a hug, or an encouraging word that "this too will pass..." and I was good to go. Bring on the piles of laundry!!

Not so much now. This whole process of letting go...allowing them to make their own decisions (read: MISTAKES) is hard. Trying to keep our foundational support in place, without funding poor career choices is hard. Thinking that they know the simple truths like "the early bird catches the worm" and finding them still asleep at 9:30 am...with no intention of looking for work...hurts. How long do you let an adult child go without financial support before you give them an ok to charge on our credit card for gas in their car or groceries?? None of this was covered in all the parenting books I read when I was pregnant 21 years ago, and it's too late to put things into place after 20 years of setting the stage this way. Do I have the right to change my mind at this late stage of the game??

Well, change I am. "I can not change the circumstance, but I can change how I respond to that circumstance!" I love that quote!! I realize that only God can change others.... and as a parent I think I did the best I could.... oh, perhaps I'd make a few changes - like jobs in high school that he could have gotten on his own, instead of working at the same place dad did, but for the most part, I'd do it all the same...except these past few years. I'd have tried to let go sooner. I'd let him flounder a bit more, maybe get a little hungrier, and offer less relief less often. I'd wait for him to ask for help, instead of jumping in and offering it. Hopefully it would have taught him a bit more character, a bit more humility....and helped me in not being so overbearing....and perhaps I'd not be having to deal with the hurt that I'm dealing with today. sigh.

So, onward, upward, to living a life of being an empty-nester! I'll keep praying, for me, for him, and for the space between us to become more and more clear....not only clear of the awkward parenting discussions of "did you? couldn't you? shouldn't you?" but clearly more about "just the facts" of how he's living his life and the consequences AND BENEFITS that he will earn. I will not check up on him. I will let him call me, even letting days....NO WEEKS...pass between the calls. I won't call him when he gets mail, I'll just send an email to let him know what's arrived. Perhaps it's time for him to change his permanent address too? Perhaps time for us to stop declaring him on our taxes (even though he is a full time student, and we have provided most of his financial support over the year)??

I don't know all of the answers. But I DO know that I have to change. Hopefully, PRAYERFULLY, this will also change him, and he can become the responsible adult I'd always prayed he would grow up to be.

Maybe it's time for me to get a puppy.....as my only grandchild lives too far away.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Talking to myself...

I know...I've already written a LONG blog today....but while watering outside so many things were moving me to write again.
First was Linda's words during worship and communion preparation....oh, we have so much to be grateful for! Our God Is a provider!!
When we first moved up here, from southern AR, Mark's boss lived in a house that the company owned. There were quite a few days that I'd spend there with his wife and kids, while our husbands worked long hours. We had just sold our house in AR, and lost all our savings in it, and were starting off our lives from scratch...renting a really small apartment that was basically in a storage building next to the home of one of the local bankers. It was very humbling, after living in my "dream home" down south...but our marriage was struggling, and I knew that the move would either make us or break us.....and I was wanting to give it all I had. I used to think of this house that they lived in and think..."boy, are THEY lucky....I wish WE could live in a house like that". It was a totally selfish thing to think, and also the start of a really long journey to mature in Christ....one that I'm still on...
Several years later (after buying and selling another home) we had the opportunity to move into a home that was company owned. Again, it was comparing the LARGE, old, beautiful home that we sold, and looking at this really run down, DIRTY, farm house that had been lived in but not cared for. Mark felt certain that I would hate it. It was small (750 sq ft for the 5 of us), bug and critter infested, and sat right on the main highway. The room we would have to use as our bedroom was a former porch, and it had a whole in the roof the size of a tire with a trash bag stapled to the ceiling to catch the water. As we walked in, looked around and analyzed what it would take for us to live here, Jessica said "I think any missionary would be HAPPY to live in a house like this!" Boy! From the mouths of babes. How could we not live there, with her sharing that attitude? It put it all in perspective, and we moved in a short while later, did lots of repair and cleaning on the house, and made many good memories in the 3+ years we lived there.
When we moved from there, we moved into another company owned house, this time off of the main highway, but still on a main road. There was much work to do to it, with sagging floors and soot on the windows (and everything else) from the wood stove that sat in the middle of the living room. We spent several more years there, and then had the opportunity to move into the house we are in now (which is another company house!). His old boss and his wife were moving down to a job promotion in AR, and we were able to come into the house that they were moving out of...not the original house...but much nicer than any of them.
To consider my attitude through all of this, it's easy for me to see the growth. My first thoughts were that we DESERVED to live in a house like they did....I saw my husband working hard and I felt it was due to us as a part of his commitment to the company. The second time, when it was soooo humbling....it was the start of putting the proper perspective on it (thank you Jessica). It's just a house. As meek a surrounding as it was, it was SO much more than what most of the world population lived in....and we were blessed to have the opportunity to rent it for so little. Ditto for company house #2....it took a little work to make it a home....but realizing that it all belongs to God kept it in the right frame of mind.
When we got to move here, it couldn't have been any worse timing. The move involved us moving basically, from one side of a field to another, but with 1/4 mile of fields and trees between, so we had to use the roads. I was having disc replacement surgery on my neck, and I wanted to move a little at a time, putting things away as we made the move. Mark doesn't move like that....he does it in as few trips as possible. We are SO different this way (one of many). Since I was going to be rendered useless anyways, he made the move with our son and a few friends (I think....I really was absent in the process...in mind at least). We got moved in, I had my surgery, and if memory serves me right, we had our son's h.s. graduation, our daughter's graduation from college, and her wedding all within a month of that time. It was CRAZY around here....and I was still dealing with getting better, getting settled in, and trying to wear all the hats a mom wears when taking care of home life. It was not MY timing, but HIS; and He oversaw all the aspects of it all. He didn't want me to stress about a move, didn't want me to worry about the details. Perhaps the surgery was His way to REMOVE me from the details of the move all together!
I KNOW that we don't deserve to live here...in this house. We don't DESERVE to live in the smallest and dirtiest of the houses we've lived in....it's not about us, or what we deserve....it's about the One who owns all things...God...and His grace and mercy...the way he is the God our Provider.
This is just a house. Our home will go with us (Mark and I) no matter where we are. It's a huge blessing to be here, for this season. But at any time, God can (and no doubt will) move us in some grand way, to teach us some grand thing. For now, we're here, and we'll invite people to stay with us, and let people use the pool, and continue to take care of and fix things as if the house belongs to a king...because it does...
and He lets his servants live there with Him....

Thoughts on Proverbs 27 and 28

Love, love, LOVE, Proverbs 27!! I think it is my favorite of all of them....is that wrong to have a favorite??
I couldn't decide on ONE verse to put in...so here's the whole thing! My favorite verses today are in purple....
Proverbs 27 (NLT)
1 Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.
2 Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips.
3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier.
4 Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.
5 An open rebuke is better than hidden love!
6 Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
7 A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.
8 A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest.
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
10 Never abandon a friend— either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.
11 Be wise, my child, and make my heart glad. Then I will be able to answer my critics.
12 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
13 Get security from someone who guarantees a stranger’s debt. Get a deposit if he does it for foreigners.
14 A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!
15 A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. 16 Stopping her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greased hands.
17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
18 As workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat the fruit, so workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.
19 As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.
20 Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
21 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.
22 You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle.
23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, 24 for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. 25 After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, 26 your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. 27 And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.

SUCH good stuff!! OK, this one has too many favorites too....

Proverbs 28
1 The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.
2 When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.
3 A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops.
4 To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them.
5 Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.
6 Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich.
7 Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents
8 Income from charging high interest rates will end up in the pocket of someone who is kind to the poor.
9 God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law.
10 Those who lead good people along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the honest will inherit good things.
11 Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them.
12 When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
13 People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
14 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.
15 A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.
16 A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people, but one who hates corruption will have a long life.
17 A murderer’s tormented conscience will drive him into the grave. Don’t protect him!
18 The blameless will be rescued from harm, but the crooked will be suddenly destroyed.
19 A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.
20 The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.
21 Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread.
22 Greedy people try to get rich quick but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty.
23 In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.
24 Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.
25 Greed causes fighting; trusting the Lord leads to prosperity.
26 Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
28 When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding. When the wicked meet disaster, the godly flourish.

OH, so good for the soul. I pray I can hide this wisdom in my heart, and that it will overcome my human habits and change me. Oh...how I want to continually be changed~

Church was SO good AGAIN....Troy (and the team) did such a great job of capturing God's heart on "impacting the world around us", which is a part of our goals at Christian Community. He covered things like "Jesus wouldn't have asked us to do it if it wasn't possible" and "what does it take to impact the world?" His points were:
1. We have to develop a love for God and the way HE loves people (Matthew 27; 1 John 3:17; 2 Peter 3:9):
2. We need to start PRAYING (he shared about the life of George Muller, also Ephesians...pray in the Spirit, 1 Timothy 2, and Ephesians 6), :
3. We need to set an example for others (Love one another, model love, what was Jesus accused of...eating with sinners/tax collectors/hanging out with prostitutes...to be in the world but not of the world...letting Jesus be the solution to the messes in our messy lives...Neh. 9 "be diligent...an encouragement to the heathens among them" and the life of Paul and scriptures from 1 Timothy and Titus, using self-control and with all sincerity....also honoring God as so many before us have.)

It boiled down to "We WILL impact lives, for better or worse...one way or another" so we need to do things as Jesus did. He closed with the thought that "little eyes are watching"....and how new believers are like little children...they will copy what they see us doing....and the many times in scripture that we read that there are severe consequences for leading little ones astray, also 1 Cor. 10 and how we should not do things to make other people stumble. How even our neighbors and co-workers are watching us to see what we do, how we will respond.

This was the last in his series, and next week is Pot Luck Sunday (worship and then fellowship), and then a NEW SERIES!! YAY!! I'm looking forward to seeing what he shares next with us.

WOW...this got long! I guess if you read all this you are to be commended!! THANKS!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Proverbs 26

We've had company this week, so I haven't been on line as much as "usual". It was a great visit with our daughter, son in law and their baby...our grand-daughter....oh the innocence of children (and the ways mother's know how and when they are trying to get away with things...even as infants!).

In reading this morning, I kept thinking..."why all the stuff about fools?" and kept reading on. The verses that stuck out in my mind are:

24 People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. 25 They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. 26 While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

This is so true in my life, and I wish I had memorized it long ago. So many times I have desired to be "accepted" by others, to fit in, to be known. Especially the last several years, living in a small town....everyone knows everyone...for better or worse. There are a few people that are genuine, but more often they are superficial. It's so frustrating for me, who wears her heart on her sleeve, to fit in. Really I don't fit in at all. Just recently (again) I was shopping at the local market and someone walked right by me, looked me in the eye, and didn't even say hello or acknowledge me. I've learned to just let it slide off me and not take it personal. I said "hi ___" but she just walked on. Oh well. That time I didn't even get pleasant words....

More than often, it's family members that are being weird, or other people in the community that are fans of my son's sports achievements....they think he'll be a star some day and want to hitch to his tail....so they'll be nice to me because I'm the mom. That really bothers me.

Now all of this does have a great plus side! The place God has brought us to....Christian Community. There are many friends that we've made there. They are genuine people, living not perfectly rosy lives. They really care about me. In a larger city, with more people, they will go out of their way to say hello, to initiate conversation, to connect. We have so much more in common spiritually with them....and I am so blessed!!

So, I'll cling to scripture and hold close to God's wisdom and promises. He IS so good...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Notes on today's Proverb....

I've been really bad about journaling lately...my sleep schedule has been horrid...I'm doing my Bible time at weird hours (or not at all)....I'm really all out of sinc. sigh.

I have been praying for myself (and a few others) for a renewed passion for God's Word. I KNOW that I need to spend time with God daily, and a part of that time NEEDS to be in the Word. I have no problem finding time (or passion) to pray, or to meditate on Jesus and the good qualities I desire (my "mantra"...using that word loosely....is "more of Jesus...less of me..."), and I love to read, so you don't think that there would be a problem. But sometimes there is. I wish I could make it stop when I see it coming on, but I can't, so I catch myself after a few days and start praying for that passion again....and it returns. God is so good.

Today's Proverb is so fitting for my life TODAY. I LOVE it when He does that....gives you a word of encouragement or instruction or just a "friendly reminder" that He's there for you in so many ways. Today encouraged me (v 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 17, 29), reminded me of Troy's teaching on Sunday (v 2, 9, 16, 22, 23), and instructed me (v 6, 17-21). I need to remember all of these things! I need to not only etch them on my mind, but practice them daily. I want to see the fruits of practicing these things in my life....and without all the hoopla and emotion that can happen with it.

My prayer for today is this: That God would continue to capture my heart and keep it focused on Him. I know that my love language is "time", and it takes me taking time WITH Him to love Him the best I can. Let my life be a reflection of His qualities, and help me to make decisions that are going to enable me to spend that time with Him...whether it's creating peaceful places in my garden to rest in Him, or choosing to step away from the computer to actually DO that time with Him. Lord, make the gardens of my life FLOURISH...the physical garden...with fruits and vegetables and flowers...AND the garden that is represented by my life...through friendships and relationships and the Fruits of the Spirit growing abundantly!! Let the light of Jesus shine in me; in this dry and dreary desert...let me be a "city on a hill"......

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Christian Community Challenge #2: Operation Kiva

I’m really excited to have found out more about our Christian Community Challenge #2! Troy Powell (pastor, leader, and friend) challenged us in the message yesterday morning by reminding us how much God cares for the poor. There were so many great scriptures that he shared to make this point clearly, and it’s an undisputed fact as often as He mentions it in both the Old and New Testaments.

I’ve loved how CC has always made a difference in the local community, and Enoch works with a team monthly in serving at The Kitchen, which I think is huge. I can’t wait to start getting involved there…but the schedule just hasn’t worked out. Still, I’m glad that others are committed to filling that gap now.

Troy explained our Challenge #2 and the basis for it: The fact we have Economic Stimulus checks coming in the mail, how it’s a blessing to be living at a time that even our poor are richer than most people in the world, and different options we have in spending our check, including the option to tithe on that money. Then he had Lora come up front and explain the rest of the deal: for us at CC that choose to accept that challenge of tithing, to commit that money to sending it somewhere else! Some time ago, she gave a small loan of $25 of her personal money to an organization called Kiva (http://www.kiva.org/about ), which then facilitated the loan of that money to an individual that she selected from the web site that is starting up a business. Over history, their loans are paid back short time (less than a year), and there is less than a 1% default rate (we could learn from that here in the U.S.). When the loan we provide is paid back, we have the option of taking it back, or rolling it over for someone else to borrow to start up their business. The thought that our small church can impact the world is a real thing, and for several years to come! To think that our fund, given one time and allowed to roll over (and over, and over) for years to come is an amazing thought. Not only will it stimulate the economy by however we want to personally spend our 90% with God’s blessing, we will bless others by creating a REAL economic stimulus impact world wide. YAY!

So, as we receive our checks over the next few months, we can prayerfully choose to tithe it to the Kiva fund at church. I’m not sure who from church will administrate the decision of who we loan it too, but I trust whoever it is.

I’m really proud that Troy, Lora, and the other leaders at Christian Community came up with such a great idea! It would have been so easy for them to look at the needs of the church and say “let’s spend that HERE”, and by them looking beyond our churches physical needs they are setting an example for all of us in our personal spending as well. YAY!!

What a blessing they are to us, and we feel so fortunate to be able to get to be a part of this body of believers. Our lives are so rich because of them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thoughts (and Pictures) on Proverbs 10




Sometimes a scripture will remind us of something...for me, it's usually a worship song that was sung sometime in my early years...but today, things reminded me of pictures I have! It was odd! So I am going to share some of the scriptures I read today and the photos that they remind me of....

7 We have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away. (Pic.#1 Tante Cor and my dad in the mid 90's)
Although I was not raised IN a Christian home, my Aunt Cor, or Tante Cor, was one of the first REAL Christians I knew. I guess I didn't KNOW she was a Christian so much as I knew she was different from me, and they had different traditions (and RULES) in her home that were completely foreign to me. Sometimes it amazed me to know that it was my dad's sister...the language they would speak to each other (Dutch) and their white hair were where the similarities ended.
In the early '80's, when I started my WALK as a Christian, it all came together and made sense. I knew then, that there had been 2 women in my life that had prayed for me faithfully to turn from my evil ways and to accept the forgiveness Jesus offered. One of them was my Aunt Cor. I'm so glad that as Mark and I started our marriage (and family) that I had a few chances to thank her for the godly example that she had set for me. Although she had never preached to me, she was always there...gently, quietly, offering her life as a model. I'll always remember the seasonal walks through her gardens....arm in arm...talking about each plant, each flower, each tree as if it were created just for my enjoyment. I miss her melodic, heavily accented voice, the way she would get my (then very young) kids laughing by "playing her nose," and her sweet renditions of "Count Your Blessings".

9 People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. (Pic. #2 and #3 taken in "Monkey Park" in E. Asia)
A few weeks ago we were talking in our small group about taking steps, and THAT reminded me of the book "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On" about how God doesn't always reveal the entire plan for our life in one picture...but rather like walking by flashlight in the dark, exposing one step at a time. We need to keep at it to get to the final place He wants us.
This is different, and yet the same. If we are walking, following His guidance and direction, I think we can be safe...but although the path will be straight, we don't always know where that next step IS. Is it high (or low)? Is it wide (or right in front)? Can I overstep?? The whole thing here is, to me, WALKING SAFELY.
I am TERRIFIED of heights! (which is funny, since I'm not afraid of dying...I'm afraid of falling and living injured!!) I am more confident walking UP stairs then I am going DOWN stairs. After spending an afternoon walking up and down stairs and paths in the caves a few days before, you'd think that I was ready to do this. Not so. I was petrified, and tried my best to keep Mark in front of me as we walked down the steps, keeping a hand either on his shoulder, or holding on to the handrails, when they were provided. It was emotionally, and physically, stretching for me. I hurt....ALL OVER...my body had been tense the whole time going down the stairs. Going up was more physically challenging, but going down was the emotionally scary part for me.
I think that my walk with God is similar. IF I am walking on His path, it may (no WILL) involve uphill, and downhill times. The uphill times are physically challenging...sometimes I get to thinking, "this is cool....I can do it myself" and want to move ahead. Usually going downhill I want my Father to go before me....to assist me and break my fall should I stumble. I need to be confident that He is walking with me, well trained (spiritually) that I can keep up with Him, and willing to stay with Him and not move ahead on my own, or in a direction that He did not intend for me to go (but I chose to anyways).
Someone great once said "Being a Christian is about being on a journey, not arriving at a destination." and I believe that's true....
Grace and peace...
marina

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Expectations

It’s been a month now since my husband and I took “the trip” into our daughter’s land. She and her husband have been serving for a year in a sensitive field, and have completed their first year of language and cultural studies in a local university there. Unlike many “M’s” they are the students, not the teachers, and their long term plan is to plant seeds of faith and hope while working with some of the poorest and least educated in their country by creating businesses to supplement their meager farming incomes. That plan is down the road and for now, they focus on learning one of the most difficult languages on earth for our English tongues; a tonal language that is challenging their eyes and ears.

The original plan was for us not to venture their way until the year after they had returned from their first furlough. This way we would not distract them from their learning and immersion in the culture, and when we did go, we would get to see their first real home and the community they would be in for several years. Our ways are not always HIS ways, and I was really surprised when my husband suggested that I plan on taking this trip to see them.

Not surprisingly, the timing of his thought was at Christmas, when our emotions were running low and the thought of a trip was a great distraction. My first thoughts were along the lines of, “Why waste the money? As soon as I get back home I’ll miss them as much as I did to start off with!” Shortly after verbalizing that thought, my daughter’s mother in law reminded me of how defeatist a thought that was. I’d never make the trip, certainly not alone, yet soon God placed in my heart the desire to make the journey. My prayer for the season became “more of Jesus, less of me,” and I set off to pray about this great opportunity.

Financial limitations were carving the plan for me to make the trip alone, but a surprise cash gift from my mother-in-law to cover the cost of my husband’s airfare quickly changed OUR plan. This set the path for my next life lesson: Get rid of all your expectations.

We had overheard this teaching during a training session when Mark and I were cooking for the summer interns with a missionary sending agency last summer. I never thought that it would be a lesson I would need to put into practice, but it was so fitting for my life now that I couldn’t pass it up. Had I not taken this to heart the whole trip would have been a disappointment. This not only allowed us to live in the minute, but to fully enjoy each and every aspect of the surprising journey!

If not for this wise teaching, things on the trip would have been very different. The start of the trip would have been overshadowed by the horror that our last leg of flight was cancelled, something that we discovered the morning that we began our 3 day journey to get there. If that had not happened, we would not have seen the hand of God move us, at lightning speed, across an airport from terminal to terminal by an English speaking employee in a completely foreign land. We would not have found out that “squatty potties” are much easier to use than we anticipated.

Perhaps the most amazing expectation I had is that I would have come home with some sort of stomach ailment that would have kept me tied to a toilet while we were there! Never would I have wished that, but I had accepted that expectation to ruin my trip! We ate the most amazing food, cooked in the worst of conditions, and not once got sick!! I never ate anything “special” (thankfully, this culture serves many things all at one time and you can pick and choose what you want), and I never went hungry. If there was something I tried and didn’t like, I simply left it on my plate and didn’t get more. There were plenty of things I DID like to make up for it, and I didn’t lose a pound on the trip.

All of my exercising to prepare to go was used….and then some. I knew that we would be walking a lot, so I had started to use the treadmill to walk a few miles each day. I warned the rest of them though, all the training in the world would not make my legs longer, but I could catch up with them eventually. What I didn’t know was that I also should have been doing bleacher runs too! We ran into so many stairs, or walking uphill roads in their town. I survived though, and pushed myself in physical ways I did not expect to. I think I was more surprised than anyone!

I knew that we were going to see our children, whom we love very much, and might have missed the opportunity to fall in love with so many more people. Knowing that there is a small community of believers there that are all from different backgrounds, from places all over the world, reminded us that they are not alone. Their jobs are all different, but their goal is all the same; to bring Jesus to the lost. Some of the people we met had been there for close to 20 years! What peace it brings to me that our daughter and son in law have that wisdom to draw from. It was also fun to see them assist other new comers to the community, to share what they have learned in their first year there. For them to explain the culture and native community to these “newbies” helped us to understand some of the challenges that they faced when they first arrived. To see them thriving in society as a foreigner was amazing. They embraced their language skills, local customs, and day to day life with flair and ease. When issues arose it was not terrifying or horrendous, it was just life. This allowed us to confirm in our hearts how God had prepared them for this field and this field for them.

The hardest expectation to let go of was leaving them. I would have expected to have a few days of crying, carving memories of our final, tearful, good-byes at the airport. In actuality letting go of this expectation allowed me to fully enjoy each minute of our time together. Instead of tears, there were a few sighs. There was no long sobbing embraces at the airport, as we opted to say good-bye at the curb and handle the check in on our own.
My daughter, a bit surprised, asked if it was enough “closure” for us to leave this way. It caught me off guard. I had not thought of needing closure from our visit. Another time, another place, it would have left me sobbing good-byes. I could have gone to that emotional place very easily….I have been there many times. Remembering that I was allowing “more of Jesus, less of me,” I chose not to go there. I wanted this trip to lay the foundation for future travel there. I didn’t want them to be a burden on them, making them feel relieved that we had left. I also wanted MY memories to be good and positive, and not an emotional drain on me.

This has proven important as we’ve been home, learning not only did we go there on this great trip, but that we brought some of that place home with us. Not a day goes by that I haven’t thought of some aspect of their home, good or bad; the people stopping us to take photos with them, the delicious food we ate, lack of personal space, pollution and smells of the environment, crowded busses with curious stares and smiling children, the colors of fresh foods in the marketplace. If I had attached sadness to each of these memories, the last month would have been spent in a daze of depression. My sleep schedule is not back on track, the weather is wrecking havoc with allergies, my husband has had a cold, but depression has not seeped into this home.

I miss my daughter, her husband, and the joy that they brought into our daily lives when we lived together, but I have a new found joy in sharing a passion for this place that they now call home. This too, was something I had not expected.

copywrited by Marina Bromley March 29, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

this morning

I woke up this morning with a song in my heart...one we sang in E. Asia just a few weeks ago, and had sung fairly often when Caitlin was leading worship with us in Cassville...don't know if the Christian Community family knows it or not, but I was singing it none the less....

The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger, rich in love
The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger, rich in love

As far as the east is from the west
That's how far He has removed our transgressions from us
As far as the east is from the west
That's how far He has removed our transgressions from us

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, praise the Lord!

There's a lot on my plate today, but it will be done in a prayerful way, and with a spirit of worship....
It was a long time ago, but I had heard in an interview with Rich Mullins once that he viewed "spiritual acts of worship" in the little things we do day to day as much as the huge mountain top events....so some of the things that mattered and showed spiritual discipline to him were the simple things like the folding of clothes, washing of dishes, etc. That's how today will be for me. Quiet. Peaceful. Worship.

in His grace...
marina

Monday, March 24, 2008

Proverbs 23/24 and all that jazz....

I was moved by the start of 23....the references to food and overeating and how people can use food to trick us....never really noticed that before.
I had to giggle towards the end of 23....the references to hanging out in taverns, trying new kinds of drinks". I'm sure it is a translational thing (I'm reading the NLT) but it was actually putting truth in really current words/actions. It painted a good word picture for me.

"29 Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 30 It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. 31 Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. 32 For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. 33 You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. 34 You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. 35 And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?”

There is SO much wisdom in 24....I really would post the whole chapter here with notes on how so much of it impacts me. Read it! It's great! I do love how it ends though....a real long time favorite:
"30 I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. 31 I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. 32 Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: 33 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 34 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber."

I'm back tracking a bit here, but thought these were TOO good not to post:
" 26 An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship."
" 10 If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. " (a good T-shirt slogan) Sometimes I feel like I THRIVE under pressure....it's the day to day that kills me!!
and:
" 11 Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. 12 Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve."
That last section is a staple in the pro-life movement...and it is so true. Of course, there are others around the world who are "unjustly sentenced to die" as well, and we need to be aware and intervene in those situations too....as God leads.

Galatians 1

WOW! I had done a bit of reading of some of the "newer" Christian authors last fall, sort of seeking wisdom as to why some churches are booming while others are faltering, and ran across some pretty questionable ideas (comparing to the Bible). These verses seem to hit our nation right squarely:
" 6 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ."
and this is good too:
'10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." I get caught up in that sometimes...the people pleasing person that I am....sigh....
And I loved when he tells us in v15 how he was chosen before he was born....such a good reminder that even the crummy stuff in our lives before we knew Jesus, it was still all in God's hands. I love the fact that when we surrender our deepest, dirtiest, places to Him, that He will turn it into our greatest ministry opportunities and blessings. Satan can't get a hold of that once we've trusted it to Jesus....as long as we continue to be open and honest about it. Growth happens. Amazing.

Galatians 2
It's all interesting, how he scolds those that are acting stupid towards others. My most impacting part though, is the ending of the chapter:

"16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” 17 But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die."

What precious words. I need to write them on my heart...

~m

Friday, March 21, 2008

Catching up....

It's Good Friday....never understood that name for all that it means, but it's A good Friday, none the less....

Catching up on life today...I lost Wed. to volunteering, and yesterday to working ON the computer (not just working with the computer) and now that things are updated and back on track (we hope), I'm back to this blog.

I love this:
Pro. 20:
3 Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling.
Boy, it took me a LONG time to learn that....consider that my family "nick-name" as an adolescent was "Philadelphia Lawyer" as I'd argue ANY point for the sake of an argument. It's no wonder I despise arguing now....nothing to be gained.

24 The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?
I'm trying to learn this now...STILL. I am really trying to wait on Him, for Him to show the next step in my life, and don't understand WHY I don't see the plan, but DO trust Him to handle it.

Pro. 21:
3 The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.
SO true!

9 It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.
HOW VERY TRUE!! I've tried hard not to be quarrelsome, since our home now is lovely....

19 It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.
And this too...

23 Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.
(A harder lesson for me to remember...LOL)

And I can't remember what book we went to next...Miss J, I need your help there.... :D
I think that I'll work on the new memory verse for small group (is there a tune for this one too?) and I have to run to the store...I know it's beautiful out, but I'm so draggy for some reason. I could lay down and take a nap right now!! sigh. If it were just a bit warmer out, I could be a cat and take a nap in the sunshine!

~ m


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mean LOL's (YOU know what they are...)

In light of our recent chat (Jami), I loved the first few verses of our Proverb for today:
1 Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense.
2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.
3 Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt.
Doesn't that fit in with my dealings with those Mean LOL's??? Even in dealing with loving those that hate/are indifferent/ignore/gossip about/etc in small towns....this makes so much sense (and still makes me sooooo sad!). sigh.

14 The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? (I often wonder this!)

24 There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
I'm so GLAD I have a handful of REAL FRIENDS....not just friends who are "real", but who are willing to be REAL with me....and who I can be REAL with....GENUINE....that's a better word.

Thank you Jesus, for my genuine friends, really. :)

In Galatians:
7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
I get this....but what about a workaholic?? is that overboard? Do I need to be more patient and "let them" work with enthusiasm?? This distresses me a bit....a current thorn in my side....

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (love this)

OH, and the "spiritual armor" stuff has always been a needed favorite in my life....just recently I was at the site for Good Characters ( http://goodcharacters.com/evangelists/armor.html ) and saw this "Armor" T-shirt.....very cool. We gave J/J the "love" t's years ago, and I love the new "truth" t too....it is on my "wish list" :) Give lots of business there if you buy stuff on line....good, loving, Christian, FRIENDLY, people. Not too many of those in the world!

ok....thundering again.....time to shut it down (and do the cake, the popcorn, then???pictures?...I'm all out of sinc here.....).

LOVE!!
marina

Monday, March 17, 2008

Proverbs 16 and 17....

There's SO much good stuff in here, I couldn't pull a favorite verse if I tried to...not even a handful of them....too much good stuff.

True too in Ephesians 4 and 5.....SO much good stuff. Stuff that encourages me, convicts me, moves me and wants me to change things in my life. I never love enough....and lately I've found anger in my heart by the end of the day (too tired? spiritual battles?). Then too, I'm glad that we 've been able to talk about a few of these things before letting them get to a point of anger....God is good.

I confess, I haven't read too much (or at all) the past few days in COD....I'll try to today though. Maybe while I'm on the treadmill.

~marina

Friday, March 14, 2008

WOW....love this....

Ephesians 3 "14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (NLT)

WOW. A favorite prayer of mine....so nourishing for my bones today. For my soul too...

Not much else to say...(surprise).....

~marina

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3/13/08 - devo

After reading in COD yesterday, I didn't have much to say...re-reading the introduction and back through my "old" highlighted spots....my heart doesn't question any of the things that moved me back then...especially on pg xiv, in the middle, where he writes " It hardly mattered who I read in those days - Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God, Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, John Woolman's Journal, A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy - they knew God in ways far beyond anything I had ever experienced. Or even wanted to experience! But as I continued to soak in the stories of these women and men who were aflame with the fire of divine love, I began desiring this kind of life for myself. And desiring led to seeking and seeking led to finding. And what I found settled me, deepened me, thickened me."

This really resonated with my heart, and reminded me of so many times that I have (or still am) drawn to what I see as "spiritual giants" who just live the life....and realize that spending time with them (or reading about them) will usually draw me closer to God in great ways.

Then, this morning, to open up (well, to "bring up") Proverbs 13, and read: "20 Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." and THAT fit right in. OK, so am striving to "walk with the wise" whether it is in physical "walking" in the flesh, or spending time with on line, or even the media that I expose myself to (i.e.; tv, radio, computer web sites).

Does this mean that I won't ever come in contact with "foolish" people...not really....but I believe that the more time I spend with wise people, the better prepared I am to spend time with the foolish ones. I need that solid foundation.

I've also been re-learning the lesson that "just because it's Christian (or honorable, or legal), doesn't mean that it's good." An addiction to work (or food, or tv, or computers, or unhealthy friendships in church) can be just as harmful as one to drugs (or alcohol, or porn). Giving my heart and mind over to anything in excess is unhealthy....physically, spiritually, and all places between. To keep God at the head of my life, and other things mindfully put in places below, is where I am now....sorting through all those things under God...

This is good timing to relearn this, as I've been struggling with my place in life. Perhaps it's a normal "empty nester" thing, but it's taken a year and a half for it to hit me. I had a great job when I married Mark, and have had a few jobs that I've enjoyed in our 24 years of marriage, but nothing that's hit me as "career material". Mark's always "allowed" or "encouraged" me to try new things....the years I did Pampered Chef, working as a pre-school teacher, librarian, volunteering, or just being home and teaching the kids, or playing "parental support" roles. Now I have lots of time on my hands, but don't know what to do with it. We are not as involved in church as we used to be (however, we are as COMMITTED as ever!) and part of that is from being farther away (it takes a bit over an hour to get there). I'm not cooking for youth group, or church activities, or on the side for other groups....and I don't know that I want to right now. I like the freedom to be able to be home when Mark is home, and he has said that his work projects are going to get crazy this spring, so I'm not sure how that will affect me at home.

I tend to be a loner here....I live in a place where I know a lot of people, a lot of people know me, but I don't have any friends. Oh, if there was a tragedy, I think people would come to help out, but no one calls to say "let's do lunch" or just to hang out. It's always been sort of superficial that way here....and it's always driven me nuts...so I've withdrawn from society here.

I DO have great friendships though, with people all over the world!! Some of my closest friends are people that have spent time in this area (and experienced the same superficial society) and have gotten to move on....some are my friends from where we go to church now....some are friends from where we have lived before...GA, AR, CA....those are my oldest friendships...the women that know me best...and love me anyways.

SO....I have this time, and not really any goals or plans (besides hosting a mini-family reunion this summer in honor of my dad's 80'th, which was in Jan., and maybe getting to sneak to PA to visit my daughter and her family). Mark's told me that I can work, go to school, volunteer, do whatever....but nothing hits me as "worthy" to do....I LOVE learning...but know that education is expensive and don't want to put time and money into something that I don't KNOW I'll do for the next 30 years. I have a LOT of interests...from cooking, photography, computers, acupressure, kids....I can list things for a day and not be done.....but not all of those things are good career choices. I enjoy working with people....am pretty good at sales...and can catch on to just about anything.....but if I got a job it would mean making a commitment to NOT spending time with Mark when he is "available"....and that's something I need BADLY. I thought that volunteering at the hospital would be good again, but I was looking for one day a week, that would be pretty regular, but it's already been changed to 2 days a month (that are not even the same day...). So that's not as I had hoped...or planned...which is ok....

I want, more than anything, to be in God's will. To KNOW that when I get up each day, I am going to be doing things that bring honor to Him....representing Him to people that don't know Him, sharing my HIStory to those that don't know all that He has done in me, and hopefully planting seeds that will encourage others to want to be a follower of Jesus too. I don't see that happening so much when I'm parked at home alone.

So, that's my prayer....to see God open a door (or 2) that will clearly show His leading, directing, building my faith and encouraging others. I want a strong marriage, to be available to help/serve others, to be there for my kids (when needed). I want to be defined somehow, but not restricted...if that makes sense. I am not quite sure how to describe it. Of course, at the core, I want to be doing Kingdom work....and believe that any job can be a mission's field...but I don't know where that field is for me right now. sigh.

OK...back to the Word....
Ephesians 2......this is what hit me.....
"1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

OK....that was my point all along...I need to know (want to know) what good things he planned for me long ago to do....so I can do them now...... :) sigh

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thanks....getting back to life...


Thanks to my friend who chatted last night, who, while looking for accountability in her life was actually encouraging me to get it back into mine. I confess, this past winter I've slacked, and I feel it in my bones! It's not funny how when we allow our spiritual life to relax, the rest of our life follows....so I'm looking forward to getting solidly back in the Word, having accountability in MY life, and expecting it to spread into other areas of my life too (namely, eating and exercise!).


So, my friend and I are reading a Proverb a day (the old standby), a NT chapter a day (Ephesians first), and a chapter (or so) a month of a favorite HEAVY book, A Celebration of Discipline. Not much more serious than that! It is good motivation, but we both agreed that it takes time to soak it in....not a book to skim through and read lightly.


I'll be posting my thoughts on here (sorry for you light readers) to help with my accountability...for those of you intrigued, come along on the journey!! I promise you'll be refreshed!!


So...reading for today....(I read the NLT translation, and actually read from http://www.biblegateway.com/ since I prefer sitting at the computer to the couch), RIGHT OFF THE BAT, *BOOM*! "Proverbs 12:1 To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction." How much more plain can it be??


In the reading in Ephesians, I LOVE how he encourages the church at the end of the chapter: "15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself."


For ME, it encourages me to keep Jesus in the center of my life....and to remember that He is aware of all things going on in the world....even things I don't get to vote on (and things I do get to vote on!). I also want to continue to grow in my knowledge of God (this IS a journey, not a destination), and to have that passion for the Word that would be a sign of the "confident hope" that I should be understanding....I would hope. : } I also love that he recognizes that as a part of believing, they have a "LOVE for God's people everywhere".....we are ALL "God's people"...whether we believe in Him, or choose to follow Him, we that DO believe and follow need to still LOVE. Pretty amazing.


I haven't loved very much lately. I've lost passion for the people here, believers and non, after living for 17 years in a community of apathetic faith. Although I CHOOSE to not fellowship here, I still need to love them. It's hard to love people who see past you, through you, superficially, and could care less about the nuts and bolts of my life. But it's not about me....it's about God...so I'm praying (now) that He would give me a passion for those that He loves....even in my own backyard. sigh.


I AM excited about the lands beyond....whether they are down the road, or around the world...it's easy for me to love people who have not heard of His GREAT Love for them. I can be passionate about that. :)


Well, I suppose I will need to get into the COD book now....and some good prayer time...praying for passion for the Word, passion for His people, passion for the lost.


I'm so grateful for friends....near and far...who do not mind being "real" with me, and love me, warts and all (ok, no warts, but moles....). He is SO good.....


marina




Monday, March 10, 2008

My other site...

It's been busy around here...I've been....sleeping! The trip overseas left me with the worst case of jet lag, and it is taking me the longest time to get over it. You can read about the adventure at the blogger site for MnMgo2 where it tells all about our great adventure. There are also extensive pics at the picasa site of the same name.

Otherwise, I'm falling behind in life. Although we walked miles each day while traveling, I can barely muster enough get-to-it-ness to get my clean clothes put away (bless Mark's heart for washing it all!!). We've got things that need to be mailed out, and I've been to the post office once last week, and need to go again today now that some things are ready to be mailed. I will make an honest attempt to get the rest of the things together and packed up too (I'd love to not have to go to town again this week!).

I also have a task to do...putting pics in albums! I've opted to play "artist" and not hassle the embellishing of the photos....really....and let them stand on the beauty of the photos themselves. There should be nothing to distract from the subject matter on these. I'm surprised too that in going through the photos I took, only a handful of them are of US...most are of the people and places we traveled too (and a lot of them are blurry too...since we were on the move so much!). It's an actual reminder of the trip....all in a blur. We hardly rested at all, except on the long plane flights that monopolized our bodies so badly.

Otherwise, life is good. The sun is shining (although it's still soooo cool outside) and I know that spring is just around the corner. I'm grateful to be getting into SOME semblance of normalcy again...it will just take a little more time...a few more naps...and a lot of discipline. I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me....Phil. 4:13

marina

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the official trip blog....

To follow us on our journey, join us at: http://mnmgo2.blogspot.com/

preparing for the journey

We've packed, un-packed, re-packed. I can't tell you how many times we've run to the store "for the last time" to get things we think we'll need....toothpaste, another suitcase that rolls (instead of the duffle bag one we have that doesn't), chapstick. The truth is, we probably could do without any of this....we could throw things into Walmart bags tied at the top and be just as prepared to take this journey....or any trip...since none of us REALLY knows what will be taking place.

A little less than a year ago we got to cook for a group that sends college aged people into short term mission fields, and the very first night of "training" they had to write down all of their "expectations" of what the summer would hold for them. That night, they tossed them in the trash (or did they burn them?) as the truth was that NO ONE KNOWS what God has planned, and the easiest way not to be disappointed is not to have those expectations. It also opens your heart, mind, soul, to be totally surprised by God!! What a blessing to remember this exercise now!!

So, we'll pack, and re-pack, and weigh our suitcases and wonder what we'll left behind when we are sitting in the plane. We'll land and realize that something broke, or that something was left on the kitchen counter....and we'll make due. It's all good. God has a lot of room to work!!

I'll not be journaling on this site while we are gone, for safety purposes, but will go to a new site at: mnmgo2@gmail.com I've not started blogging there yet, so need to get the real address for the blog site and will post it here.

Although we will keep our communication from there "safe", please do not forget that God is in the middle of our time there. Not only will it be a time of prayer and restoration for our relationship with our children, but it will be a time of discovery and growth for us. Someone said it was a "once in a lifetime trip" but I hope it's not!! I hope we get to do this more often that that.

Blessings to you!! I appreciate the prayers that so many of you have been offering on our behalf. Thank you so much...they are the reason that we get to experience this at all...

grace and peace...
marina

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wise Words from Rich Mullins...

Last night, while listening to the satellite radio fade in and out, we heard a Rich Mullins song remade by a newer artist...still good, but just not the same.
With all the talk/teaching/learning on love lately, it didn't surprise me to run across this old article that Rich had written for one of the Christian magazines...back in the day...
It's message still rings so true...and it's worthy of reading again....

The Pursuit of Happiness
by Rich Mullins
Release Magazine Spring 1992
Rich Mullins explains his secret formula for finding happiness

1. Forget about finding happiness. Happiness is not worthy of your search.

2. Bake a cake - a really rich cake, preferably from scratch (and especially if you are an inexperienced baker or a tested, tried and notoriously awful cook). The value is in the baking more than in the cake.

3. Call up some enemy of yours and invite that enemy to eat the cake with you. If the cake is good you may lose an enemy and gain a friend. If the cake is bad, at least vengeance is sweet.

4. If you can't think of a single enemy, then call up a friend. Invite your friend over to eat the cake with you. If the cake is good the favor may be returned. If the cake is awful your friend may go buy one from a bakery for you.
If you are without enemies or friends, take your cake to an old folks' home. Eat it with them! If the cake is good you will no longer be without friends. If the cake is terrible you will no longer be without enemies.
Finding a friend, making an enemy - now those are things worth pursuing. Happiness may come tagged on - but even if it doesn't, at least you will have done something and established some relationships.

5. Memorize Isaiah 40 or the first Psalm or Psalm 91.
Read the closing chapters of the Book of Job.
Meditate on the Beatitudes (Mathew 5).
Write out one of the Prison Epistles (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) and send them to some other unhappy person.
All of this may not make you happy but it will tell you how to be holy. Once you tie that knot you may find yourself in a position to be made happy.

6. Work hard. Clean something. Find new and more space-efficient ways of folding your clothes. Rake someone else's yard for them. If you are unhappy maybe you can help someone else be less so.

7. Go back to the 3rd chapter of Lamentations and then repeat after me:"It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on him."

8. Reread the 23rd Psalm and remember that if the Lord is your shepherd, then you are in a lush pasture. You are by a still stream. If it seems otherwise to you, it may be because you would rather be happy than be God's. If this is so, then you have more reason to be happy than anyone. God has chosen you - ungrateful, decadent you - and being His is a joy and a happiness that goes beyond anything else you may seek, and in your folly settle for. God will (in His mercy) make you discontent with anything less than Him.
So we only have one step left...

9. Rejoice

Monday, February 11, 2008

I WANT a lot of Things....

This weekend Mark purchased a new Bible to take on our trip....a smaller Bible in a version that I read...but he lacked a copy in that translation (NLT). It's funny. The one he chose was small, and a sort of pinkish-lavender color. The thought of Mark, all 6'4" of him, carrying this small, feminine looking book, brought a smile to my face. He kept asking if I wanted a new one instead, and he would take my small black one, but I told him to choose the edition that HE wanted. He chose this one.

This evening, I felt led (it REALLY WAS a spiritual leading) to read his Bible. My intention was to delve into the word, but I started at the beginning. After the initial important facts, was the attached essay....and it blew me away!

I hope that it moves you as much as it moves me. If it doesn't, perhaps it is because we've had a few weeks of GREAT sermons on love at church...and this seemed to fit right in. I'm so grateful when God puts in these little reminders all around me to stress what He is trying to teach me. He's so good at doing that.

Grace and peace...
marina


"I WANT a lot of things.

I spend my days thinking about what I want and my hours trying to get what I want. That may sound completely self-involved, but think about your own days and hours. We want food and we go get it. We want coffee and there’s a Starbucks every 1.2 miles. We want sleep, we take a nap. We want to talk, we flip open our cell phones or hop on the computer. We want to express ourselves, so we laugh and cry and get angry and become sad.

What about NEED?
What exactly is the line between our need and our want?

Fortunately, there isn’t always a line. We need food, we need sleep, we need to talk and hang out, we need to express ourselves. We may not need those $60 jeans, but we do need clothes in some form. Still we are mostly a desire-driven generation, and many of our desires spring out of a desperateness to connect with something, anything – for the connection that will stop the ache.

This can lead us down some dangerous paths. Yet the question rears its head, how are we to view our desire-driven, thirsty selves?

Is it all just selfishness and greed locked in a perpetual and fruitless chase, or is it possible that we were made like this by a Creator who is also driven by desire? I’m inclined to believe the latter. I cannot fathom that all my needs and wants have everything to do with little ole me.
Surely my desire to connect with something greater is rooted and founded in God.

Despite all of the stuff I try to obtain to fill myself up, I really just want one thing: to Connect.

I need connection with people, and this is such an integral part of living, but underneath all other connections lies that for which we were made: to know God and be known by Him. That’s the longing that nothing else seems to satisfy.
I want to connect with something outside of myself; something that is bigger and better than any other human being.

We all do. I spend a great deal of energy making my life revolve around me, but I really don’t want the world to exist for me. Chasing myself around never satisfies and it is exhausting. In tracing the path of my pursuit through brambles and thorns, I find the roots of my desire:

GOD

At the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, there He is. I want connection; therefore, what I really want is God. All of my desires are shadows and types of my desire for Him. All the hunger pangs I experience that stubbornly refuse to be filled with the world serve to show me that God alone is all-satisfying. He wants to use all of my desire and thirsting to push me toward Him, to lead me to the One Who alone satisfies.

Here’s where the story gets a little crazy—God wants connection too.

Since the beginning of time and before, God has desired connection. He desired a creation and He created one. He desired a relationship with His creatures and so He forged one. He desired to be with us forever and so He sent Christ. The Psalms tell us He does as He pleases in the heavens and earth and in all deeps and it pleases Him to be connected with us. Because we are made in His image, we too are creatures of desire who long to connect. Connections of all sorts and shapes exist. We were ultimately made to connect with God Himself, the Holy One—the profane and the sacred become one in His economy.

I often wonder why a sovereign God wants a connection to such ones as you and me. The answer is so simple but so stupefying that it sends my mind spinning. HE LOVES US.

This reality is difficult for us to accept. Even as I type it out, I am shaking my head and thinking, You must be joking! That’s just preposterous. I am a flawed, finite being trying to embrace a perfect, infinite love. Thankfully, even though I struggle to believe it, that doesn’t change the truth: He loves me just as I am. It is the outrageous, unmatchable love of God that loves creatures such as me. I can’t even begin to comprehend the love He has toward us—but I’ve experienced it, and I’m changed forever. It’s perplexing. He loves because He loves. It pleases Him to love me. This is the foundation of connection—He loves us; therefore He stops at nothing, not the cross not death not even our own humanity, to connect with us forever.

The longing for connection is divinely natural.

It is the cry of the eternity in our hearts that Solomon speaks about in Ecclesiastes. So what’s my problem? Why do I run to everything and everyone and not to Him? Well the fact is, I am human and I am driven by (controlled by and obsessed with is more accurate) my five senses. I ignore the “Divine Whisper” because it’s just too mysterious, too unknown. So I try to be fulfilled with things I can see and hear and taste here and now.

Daily, my flesh proves to be my worst enemy! Despite my willing acknowledgement that my desires can and will only be met and fulfilled through intimacy and connectedness with Christ, sin has left a stain upon me that is hard to fight. The tale of running after other things to satiate us is as old as Adam and Eve. My desires take me on many paths—some seemingly harmless, some not-so-seemingly harmless. Some are benign and even good in and of themselves, but I often use them to fill up what only He can fill up and that leads me further and further from the divine connection I need.

If you dig deeper, past any undesirable behavior, you can see the longing—you can even hear it. Looking past my own efforts and strivings, I recognize the root. These behaviors aren’t really the problem; they are only a result and a ramification of the problem. The problem is the fount from which they spring: a famished heart. My desires are crying out for satisfaction and I convince myself that these other things will fill. We all do it. Shouldn’t we know better by now? You’d think so, but I never cease to become a completely forgetful imbecile at least a few times a day. While wrestling with a certain temptation or a besetting sin, taking a step back for some perspective reveals the same thing every time.

Why do I want to run to this thing, this idol? Because I’m hungry for connection. I’m desperate and starving. So what do I do? There is a feast fit for a princess spread on the table above me, and here I am licking up the dirt on the floor!

I’m hugging the toilet because I can’t imagine He wants to set me upon a throne of jewels! Call the dirt and the toilet what you will. I can glamorize it and make it pretty by adding a little pink bow, but it is still the same thing as it always was: a cheap substitute for immeasurable riches.
Each moment is a wrestling match between my flesh and spirit: to connect with stuff in the world or to connect with God.

Some times are easier than others, as we can all attest. But in the dark moments, I will let the howling of my heart show me the pieces of eternity that He has placed within me.

I will let it teach me that I was made for another world and for a connection that surpasses any earthly experience.

He has been pursuing me though my desires since before I was born. He has loved me forever and He is drawing me, with every bit of my humanity, with His unfailing love, to connection—to an intimate relationship with Him.

As I listen to the groaning of creation for its Creator, heard in every alley and every bar and every church and every home and every heart, I will hope. For every human cry, there is an answer. Hunger was not created for the sake of being hungry, but for the sake of the experience of being filled with what is good. I don’t know much, but I do know this: those who hunger and thirst will be satisfied. "

Ashley Herring
as written in the iConnect Bible, NLT, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005