Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Need to Retreat


There is nothing like feeling the need to get out of the house, to get away from the daily grind and take a break. We all feel those times, and know those moments of desperation.   Like the "I just need to leave the porch this moment or I think I'm going to scream" kind of feelings. I think it's part of our human nature.  We work, we sleep, we try to discern how to best use our time, we love, we run, we talk and listen, we bless, we discipline and train, we clean...We just straight up exhaust ourselves and need to retreat. But how do we go about this in a way that actually refreshes our soul, rather then just escape into unhealthy addictions or false realities? 

And then, how does one retreat with one husband, four kids (and one in the oven), a dog with five puppies, serving the community around, a ministry to women, and home schooling in the balance (did I mention the messy house part too?) Not very easily. 

 I feel like I'm just beginning to find more time then I used to, but then the selfish side of me comes out as well. "What? No! I'm reading my Bible! Go read a book!" or "I'm going for a run, so of course I want to be alone!"  I can find my heart wandering, wondering what it's like to have time without little children begging for another banana or always having people at my door. Or else I find myself listening to one of my single friends who is living in the heart of her calling to prostitutes, wishing with all my heart to be on the front lines with her. But then again, what is my calling? It is here, it is now, it is my life to my husband and my children. This self-sacrificing, the lay it all down NOW kind of life.  And in spite of what you might think from the outside looking in, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  So how can I ever retreat?

Jesus retreated away from the stresses of life to commune with the Father, to be refreshed and revitalized in a supernatural way.  Granted, Jesus' ministry far superseded that which I do in my own home and life, but none the less, he is our example. He is my example. He found a mountain, a garden, a piece of graceful landscape and prayed.  Luke 9:29 even says the appearance of his face changed after praying.  I remember times of deep intersession with my bestie, Natalie. We'd fall on our faces together in a quiet place and pray our hearts out until there was not a breath left in us.  Even now as I think of those moments, tears spring to my eyes.  Sweet timeless intercession.  I'd come home and hear my mom say, "Your face has changed -you've been praying, haven't you?"  I'd have to smile, knowing it was God's work shining in me, not my own doing.  I can't make my own face shine, no matter how much Bare Minerals I apply.  God's work in you is the best make-over you'll ever have! 

So, being a busy wife and mom, I have to find retreat in creative ways. Here are a few moments when I've found retreat in Him in the last few weeks:  A sunrise that deserved my praise; a morning run that burned my lungs but filled my soul with joy; meditation on 2 Corintians 4:16-18 and repeating it over for my memory to take hold; being a daughter in my parent's home; a quiet walk with the fall leaves and the setting sun; a few moments with Keith when he prayed over my tearful face; listening to Beth Moore, and getting to laugh my head off and yet know His conviction my heart of how little I bask in His love; getting to bake an apple spice cake for a friend's birthday in a still, silent house which turned my heart to Him.  These moments may look like not much, but they are the moments that keep me going, keep me longing for more of Him.  These are my little retreats into His presence.  How about you?  How have you retreated into Him today?  I hope you take time to think about it, find Him and find time to bask in His refreshment today. Nothing, not anything fills and satisfies the soul as Jesus does!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Moments Together

It always amazes me how just a few moments spent with my children gives them an opportunity to open up their hearts.  We had been away from school for almost 6 weeks and I kept telling myself to set aside some time for a fun project with the smaller ones.  I pulled out a colorful box, filled with beads of all shapes and sizes, as well as ones with letters for spelling out your name.  Squeals of delight came from Elliana as she fingered through all the colors. Noah and Isaiah joined in the fun and we all built a bracelet or neck less.

After a few quiet moments of concentration, Noah turned and said, "Mama, I just don't like when you get kinda mad.." Gulp. Kinda mad? I humbled myself and started a dialog that went something like this; "I'm sorry Noah. I don't like it either. I never liked that when I was your age..." I then repented to him, and opened up my heart's prayer this week, which had been asking God over and over again for the fruits of the Spirit to spill into my heart. To be a woman of JOY. To walk in true surrender, which then turns into true eucharisto (thanksgiving), which then is a life true joy. Ok, I think I stopped at the fruits of the Spirit part with Noah, or else it may have turned into a monologue.  Just after we finished sharing hearts, Isaiah piped up, "Mama, I lov-e that you're always home!" Oh, my heart surged with joy! All the days that I feel are just "normal living" mean far more to the heart of a child!  He then went on to ask question after question about death, where one goes, if he'll actually die, and who will rise again.  I realized that those questions did not just come up at that moment, but had probably been stirring in his heart over time, waiting for a safe opportunity to ask.

Just taking a few moments to string a few beads together turned out to be a moment to savor, think about, and treasure up in my heart.  I was confronted, convicted, and affirmed by my children's hearts.  All because I made time to be and to listen. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bending The Knee

There are those times when I feel like God brings along something simple to speak profound truth to me, or to just wake me up to the state of my own heart. One of these small moments happened this Sunday. We had a few friends over for a meeting and I was greeting people, then rushing off to add the finishing touches on the snack/tea table. One sweet friend of mine followed me into the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear with a bag behind her back. I was thinking she had brought some of her local foods, which she's promised to teach me to cook. Instead, she got down on her knees before me and presented me with a small baby item which I had lent her months back. The absolute gratitude on her face and in her jubilant expression caught my heart. She gave me a humbly written thank you note to go with it, but nothing will make me forget her physical posture of thankfulness. I've had many thoughts rumbling around in my heart since then. How often do I give thanks with such humility and gratitude? How bent am I toward taking the time to thank my Daddy God, and others with a sincere and worshipful heart? On the flip side, I've found my heart frustrated when others take advantage, aren't thankful or appreciative. After experiencing "true" thankfulness from my friend, I've realized how often I have made it a habit of flippantly throwing out a "thanks!" to one who's labored on my behalf. I have become that person that frustrates me -quickly giving thanks, and not really saying it wholeheartedly. How about you? Where do you find your heart being drawn in this area of thankfulness? Join me in repenting for our ungrateful and flippant hearts, turning them to giving thanks to our God -to physically bring our hearts and bodies into a position of humble thankfulness. "What a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:24-25

Friday, February 17, 2012

Come unto Me

It had been a long week. The heat had sufficated us each day and night, keeping us tired, perspiring, edgy, and weak. There is something about creation dying and withering that pulls my soul away from worship. It hangs on me, like a garment. It is like a bell, sending out its daunting gong, proclaiming, "Wear the curse." "Wear death." Then I shake my head to clear the tolling bell and look to those glorious heavens. I'd pray for rain, hoping, longing, waiting.

God then gave me a little gift. A reminder that He hasn't forsaken us in the midst of the unbearable sun that spares no one of its wrath. Keith and I were out for a late walk, just around dusk. We were still sweating, but the sun was down from the sky, giving us a bit of a break. We came upon one of these trees. The beauty from afar was quite stunning. We both looked in awe and just smiled. As Keith plucked off a branch, I breathed in its delightful aroma. Incredible. The awe within me was for the life that was in my hands. Living, breathing, fragrant blossoms. It struck me that even though it is like a dessert here, amid the dust and cracking ground, there is enough moisture in the ground to produce this miracle. I brought my branch of hope home with me and put it in a vase on my table. The boys all inhaled, one by one, also savoring its life breath. Elliana and I plucked off one small blossom each, putting them in our hair and smiling at one another's 'glamour'.

These flowers sat on my table for a few days, and kept my heart open, full, hopeful. Once God opened my eyes to this profound beauty, I noticed all the flowering trees were in full bloom. How had I missed it before? Were they aware of something I was missing? Were they expecting rain more then I was? Were they able more than I to produce beauty amidst dry death? I was focused on death. On the dying. On dust...Yes, I am but dust, yet if He creates and cares for these flowers in the midst of death, will he not care for me? If He can elicit beautiful worship from these trees during this season, can not I also reveal His beauty in the dry heat of life? Can He not bring me life and refreshment in this season? Truly he will, if I have eyes to see and a heart to respond. He is more than rain to me!

"Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you will find rest for your souls." Matt 11:28, 29b

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Challenges, New Year

Through the years, December has always been THE month for gas shortages. As usual, November rolled around and we couldn't find gas for cooking. When our cylinder ran out at the end of November, we were thankful we had found a friend leaving the country who gave us the remainder of her gas. Whew, I was off the hook for a bit longer. But, then I realized if I cooked the way I normally did, the gas would run out right around Christmas time. Smack in the middle of baking season. Not cool. So, what to do... I then gulped and realized it was time to grow up and learn a skill I had always dodged. Cooking on a segeri (local charcoal stove).

This was my first try. It takes at least 30-45 minutes to get these coals bright hot! The "charcoal" is locally made out of wood and sometimes hasn't been made correctly. If it is poor charcoal, it snaps, pops, and burns too fast. I stood there with a plastic bowl, waving it to keep the flames growing and the coals spreading.

I have watched women cook on little charcoal stoves for years, admiring their ability to roast nuts, make beans boil for hours, and even use the charcoal inside of an ancient iron for smoothing out the wrinkles in our clothes. Did I think I was able to do it to? Seriously, after 7 1/2 years of living here, I had avoided cooking on one, let alone lighting one. You may think it's like grilling out all the time, which it is to some degree, yet more complex and a bit more intimidating. Do I just place my saucepan with a plastic handle right on top of the fire or what? To some of you, this is a giggle. To others, you understand my inner turmoil. Life as I knew it in the kitchen was forever altered. The learning curve was big, as I had a hungry family to feed!

These pictures showed my first of many lunches and dinners I made on those three little sigeri's. I learned to like it after some time. I was able to enjoy the fun of cooking outside, and relating to all my Ugandan friends in the hardships of waiting patiently for the segeri to light! I had many cheerleaders and not too many chuckles (at least to my face). My friend Fiona told me, "Auntie, you are now officially in Uganda!" After all these years, have I not been "in" Uganda? Not really. The point was "you really can be like us". I am still learning, and know that Daddy God still has many humbling lessons coming my way in the year 2012.