Monday, October 21, 2013

What if God was Busy Like Us?

I rush everywhere I go.  It starts first thing in the morning, after I pry myself from bed.  I speed through my shower, rush to get lunches packed, and try to slip in breakfast before heading to the bus stop with wet hair.  Then it's rush back to the house, finish getting ready and head to work. 

There isn't a chance that I started my morning with devotions.  I obviously have chosen to sleep longer than start my day with devotions.  I used to try to do devotions in the evening after the kids were in bed but then I found myself trying to speed read or multitask read and listen to the tv.  Yet again, I chose to put something else above devotions.  It was so easy for me to go through my day without reading from my bible.  Finally, I've found my best time and place for devotions--the bus stop.  With such a wide swing between the times my girls can get home from the bus, I have quiet time by myself to read and actually contemplate the words. 

Devotions aren't the only area where we can choose to put ourselves above God and his plan for our lives.  How many times do we CHOOSE to ignore our opportunities?  How many times have we seen a note in the bulletin or listened to someone ask for help without considering ourselves as the solution?  We are experts in the area of excuses! 

That is not my gift.
Someone else will do that.
I don't have time.
I don't have money.
I don't want to work with them.
I'm not good enough.
I didn't go to school for that.
My kids have a practice, a game, a bad attitude.

What if we were honest about our excuses?

I don't want to be bothered right now.
I'll just write a check.
I think I can find something more fun to do.
I want to spend money on myself, my fun, my family, me, me, me.
If someone else will do the work I'm not going to worry.
I'm too scared to even try.
My kids, spouse, friends... are more important to me.
I'm not willing to put God above the rest of my life.

WHAT IF God had his own list of excuses and took a break from the job of omnipotent, loving Father?  At those times when we are low and broken, would we appreciate a busy signal or voicemail from God?  What if God just really wanted to drown out our whining by cranking the heavenly chorus?  Can you imagine God blowing off your most important decision because Jesus had a soccer game?  Luckily, God doesn't require all of our minutes, he asks for our willingness to be available when we can make a difference. 

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

I am my own stumbling block! I have to choose every day to set aside time for God.  Praying and bible study don't come natural to me and slip away easily.  Others struggle with prioritizing work and family commitments with church.  Some are just pew jockeys who choose not to engage. 

No matter the struggle, we must choose what we will give up for God--extra sleep, mindless tv, our checkbook, our pride, a child's practice or game, our free time.  If we choose to live for ourselves, we choose to miss the target chosen for us. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

7: 7 Foods are Better than 2

I have to admit, I'm really tired of my 7 food choices already.  There's only so much you can do with chicken to spice it up without adding other real foods.  After only 3 days I realized eggs weren't the best choice for me either but I'm using them as a fill-in every once in a while.  All of this seems like whining though given my recent travels. 

Exactly 2 weeks ago I was sitting on a bus in Guatemala City.  All of our leftovers were neatly packed into ziploc bags.  We stopped along the road outside the Guatemala City dump, opened 2 of the side windows to the bus and watched as a line formed outside. 


Children were literally running to the bus for the chance to get a bag.  They didn't even know what we would give them.  I don't think it mattered.  It was more than they had at the moment.

Even though this was a spur of the moment idea, word spread quickly to the children -- pizza, rice, chicken, and ham for lunch. 

After handing out all of the meals that we had to the children on the street, we were invited into a neighboring feeding center to give out our remaining candy.  What looked like a tiny store opened up to a large room filled with hungry little faces.  I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children in the room. 

Even in the chaos there was order.  A boy came in with his younger sibling on his shoulders.  After patiently waiting in line for their meals and drinks they joined the other children at the tables. 

Each child received the same meal--black beans and rice. I was selfishly glad that it wasn't my lunch because I don't like black beans. How spoiled am I?! I had been surrounded by poverty all week and I was glad I didn't have to eat black beans.  So many times this month I have thought back to Guatemala.  I wonder how many of those children go hungry except for that one meal each day?  Black beans and rice were their only option that day.  They don't have the privilege of being picky like me, relying only on the food given to them by those sweet ladies. 
So no matter how bored I may get eating my 7 foods this month, I got to choose them myself, it's only for 1 month, and it's still more than a lot of people have! 
I will probably still complain when people suggest ordering Red Lobster for lunch or we receive homemade cookies as a gift and I have to watch everyone else eat them but my perspective has changed.  I know that even today when I didn't eat lunch until 3:20, I wasn't starving.  And even though I wasn't excited about chicken and potatoes, I could get more if I was still hungry.  I could even add an apple or wheat bread if I really wanted it. 
With my 7 foods, I am blessed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Risks of Repeat Mission Trips

Believe me, I've gotten my fair share of strange looks and weird responses when I tell people about going to Guatemala.  Many cannot understand why I would ever want to go there.  They really got antsy when we decided to take our children (ages 3, 7, and 8).  It seems so reckless to many people.  Sure there are risks going to an underdeveloped country -- theft, kidnapping, assault of many kinds -- but these problems can be found in any major US city as well.  We try to be very vigilant during our travels -- no flashy jewelry, being aware of our surroundings, having someone with us who is knowledgeable.  We can't prevent all harm but we try our best.

The biggest risk for anyone that goes on any international short term mission trip is that You will come back changed and must reconcile your American life with what you experienced elsewhere.

Guatemala has become a place that I love -- the people, the food, the culture.  Since my first trip 2 years ago, our family's life has radically changed.  We are aware of global poverty, hunger, and the orphan crisis and we aren't comfortable ignoring the problems.  Through our trips and our lives we aim to raise awareness of the needs in other places and to be an example of love and change. 

What I didn't foresee as a risk was the attachment that has formed between us and 2 very special children.  I have now been to Dorie's Promise on 3 occasions, with Brandon joining me for 2 trips.  Last summer, Brandon had an immediate bond with a little girl named Alejandra.  Yire's cuteness won me over on our first trip.

As we walked down the street two Saturdays ago to where the little kids were playing Yire ran to me and Alejandra ran to Brandon.  To say that we were both overcome is an understatement.  More than I would have ever imagined, we feel a connection to these children, like they are our own.  My love for these children goes beyond admiration of their cuteness or pity for their circumstances.  We are watching these children grow.  These are children who we imagine in our home as members of our family.  As the week progressed it became clear to us that these children are a part of our family.  The question is how?

International adoptions have been closed in Guatemala since December 31, 2007.  We would have to think outside the box to look for answers.  I contacted friends who may know some answers but nothing looked promising.  I started brainstorming -- private adoption if we could find the birth parents, guardianship, wait for 2 more years and try for a student visa.  Unfortunately, after talking to a friend very knowledgeable about Guatemalan adoptions, none of these options will work.  The loopholes have been closed.  Even if we were able for one of us to move there and seek residency, we would hit yet another snag.  A law exists that states you cannot have a prior relationship with the adopted child.  Basically the government gets to match children with families.  We couldn't specifically request Yire and Alejandra.

Where does that leave us?  Waiting.  Waiting for God to reveal why our connection to these two children is so strong.  Waiting to see if He will open a door for us to bring our children home.  Waiting to see what His plan is for these two beautiful children.  Leaving us to trust that His plan is best, even when we don't understand.  For now, we have to be content to sponsor them and visit when we can.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

7: Month 2 Begins

The 7 Fast has moved from my possessions to my kitchen.  Month 2 focuses on Food.  This month we have 7 foods that we have chosen to make up our complete diet.  To prepare for our new challenge, we did what any food loving Americans would do, we went out to dinner!


That's right folks, I had Honey Barbecue Chicken Flatbread, Smirnoff Ice, and Chocolate Fudge Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream.  This was my last meal without restrictions.  Honestly, I made sure to have lots of my favorite foods on Monday--a Snickers bar, Swiss Cake rolls, and some pizza. 

This is my buffet for October:  Wheat Bread, Chicken, Eggs, Apples, Potatoes, Special K Red Berries, and Chocolate Marshmallow ice cream.  I know myself well enough to know that I had to include something sweet and that I can eat cereal for any meal. As Becky pointed out, I don't have any vegetables but I wasn't willing to give up my ice cream.   I'm trying to give myself a fighting chance.  No pasta, sauce, or cheese is going to require some creativity to make different meals for a whole month. 

This month may choose to be one of the hardest for me.  I tend to snack during the day and I like variety in my diet.  There are temptations everywhere--work, home, church, most places I go.  Now I have to be careful everywhere I go.  I even have a post-it note on my desk at work so I won't forget.  No more church suppers on Wednesday, I'll be packing.  Becky and I will be the only people not eating cake at the wedding in a couple weeks.  Just now I've realized that I'll be packing on Sunday for our Missions Team lunch as well. 

I'm about to be that weird person with strange food issues.  The challenge is to use my own weirdness to grow thankfulness within myself and share the reality of hunger in my area and around the world.  Actually, the biggest challenge will be not to cheat! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Joy and Thanksgiving

Last Friday we ventured back to Bethania in Zone 7.  This time we delivered 150 food bags to students at a local school.  Class by class, the children came outside and received a bag containing juice, nutritional drinks, snacks and some candy. 

Part way through I decided to stand by the door and just watch the children.  They were so happy to receive these gifts.  From their classrooms you could hear them squealing and cheering.  Even as I watched their joy I was overcome with sadness.  I thought about how sad it is that something as common as food could brighten their day, because they probably don't always get enough food.  My thoughts started drifting to my own children.  When is the last time I saw them be this happy about food?  They enjoy their favorite meal but they also know we always have something to eat, even if it isn't their favorite.  Our blessings allow us to forget how fortunate we really are and just how much we have to be thankful for.

These children remind me how little it takes to brighten some one's day and show them God's love.