Thursday, July 24, 2008

Full House

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
-Luke 2:16-19

I wonder about the kind of woman Mary must have been. Periodically I'll pick up on little things in scripture that give glimpses into her personality and disposition. As a young woman called to such a overwhelming role, I am sure that she couldn't possibly see all that laid ahead for her. She couldn't know the true nature of the role this child would play in the history of time. She was human, like me, a woman called of God and chosen for such a time. So I love that Luke recorded these words: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Many times, Mary must have watched things come to pass, knowing they were of great significance, but not understanding the true impact of these events. It was at times like this that she collected these things in her heart, to consider and meditate on them cumulatively. I find myself doing this as we continue to walk through Kristina's adjustment. Lately she and Hannah have been at each other's throats; they cannot seem to reconcile the tension between themselves. A portion of this can be contributed to being in a strange environment and out of our normal routine, but things have been intense lately and it gets me to thinking . . . and pondering.

Some of you may remember two summers ago when Kristina first came to visit. It didn't take long for us to learn that she has a fierce competitive streak and is a poor loser. We've been passing time by playing cards quite a bit lately. Kristina has a really hard time with this. She outwardly revels when someone else loses. She is ungenerous and makes excuses when she loses. She huffs and slaps her cards down on the table when things are not going her way. Plain and simple, its bad manners.

When one of the other kids tries to point these things out, that just agitates her further. After talking to her for the twentieth time about her attitude, a thought crossed my mind. Things would be much easier for Kristina if she had been adopted by a couple with no other children. She could have had the undivided attention of a mom and dad and eased into a life in a different culture.

And then it hit me, since when do any of us "ease" into life? God placed Kristina in this family because we are the perfect fit for her. Now, I didn't say WE were perfect. This chaotic, loud family is exactly what she needed. She needed to be a part of something that wasn't all about her, because she struggles with pride. She needed to have a mom and dad that don't let even the smallest things go, because she fights authority. She needed to have a sister that goes toe to toe with her, because she needs to learn that when love is shared its not divided, its multiplied. She needed to have three annoying brothers, because . . . well . . . she needs to develop patience.

While we are far from perfect, we are perfect together. My weaknesses are challenged through my relationship with the man and five children that God has entrusted to me. When we hit these little speed bumps in life, I ponder the outworking of these things and know that God weaves our lives together for our good and His glory.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Consider Him Faithful Who Has Promised

Now the LORD had said to Abram:

“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.

I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
and you shall be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
-Genesis 12:1-3

We've moved 10 times in the nearly 14 1/2 years that we've been married. Ten times. You would think I'd be a pro at this. Things have not gone well since our move and I have been looking for some clarity from God concerning what I thought would be and what actually is.

Today makes two weeks since we arrived in Mississippi and admittedly, I was not crazy about the move to start with. I was content in Orlando and could have happily stayed there, but God had different plans.

Just to get you up to speed, let me start with the problems. The housing we were counting on fell through, so we're still at my parents' house. Now granted, they've been gracious, but this is not what we anticipated. Because we're still here, Robert is commuting 3 hours round trip each day to get to his job sites. And have you heard about the price of gas??? Tuesday the brakes went out on the front of my Durango and had to be replaced. Wednesday Robert had to have emergency dental work (side note: insurance hasn't kicked in yet). And to top it all off, our sweet Jack cat went missing a week ago. I am longing for my friends, my comfortable little house, and the relative predictability of my life.

So let me tell you how this child of grace reacted to all of this. I second guessed God, my husband, and myself. I cried, I got angry, and I haven't been the most positive person to be around. Surely all of this was coming to pass because we grossly misunderstood His directing. I asked God for some reassurance and was led to start reading in Genesis chapter 12.

Has anyone ever thought about Sarah's perspective of this story? Here Sarah was in her comfortable life in Ur when Abram informed her they were moving to Canaan. "Um, where? Why would we leave all we love? We have family, friends, a life here." But according to the scriptures, Abraham took Sarah and headed into this unknown land on a promise. The scripture goes on to tell us that they found a picturesque setting, built a lovely new house, were surrounded by great neighbors, and made friends quickly . . .


They followed God's promise to go into Canaan where their name would be great, they would be blessed, and they would be protected. When they got there, they found the country that God had promised them, but it was inhabited by a hostile people and there was a FAMINE! Clearly that was not in the travel brochures.

So they went with Plan B: head south to Egypt. Sweet! Egypt! Always wanted to visit there! Of course when they got there, Abraham made a less than favorable impression by lying to the Pharaoh about Sarah. Sarah almost ended up as one of Pharaoh's wives, God sent a plague to remedy the situation, and Pharaoh kicked both of them out of the country.

Can you imagine the conversation that went on behind closed doors??? "Abe, you're still clinging to this promise right? Great name? Blessings? Protection?" Do you think that at any point Sarah said, "Okay! Enough! Things are clearly not working out." How did any of these problems, or the problems to come, impact or alter God's promise for Abraham and Sarah? The truth is, they didn't. God was faithful and saw His plan through in His time.

Sarah and I have a little bit in common here. I am forced to relearn the lesson of being a good steward of circumstances over and over again. I tend to get bogged down in the details and fail to see God working in even the small issues that arise. I consistently fail to understand that the struggles are part of the process. This, friends, is how faith is cultivated.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
-Hebrews 11:8-10

In essence, Abraham died before seeing the promise come to its fruition. His faith is counted great not because he saw and believed, but because he didn't see yet believed. How shallow my faith is when I consider those who suffered genuine tribulation, not the inconveniences I've experienced recently. A work in progress, that's what I am, and so very far from being finished. I have a lot to be be thankful for and I guess things could be worse. After all, Sarah was living in a tent!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hello Goodbye

Sorry it's been so long since we posted. So much has been going on here! The girls are all home from college and so our evenings have been occupied with three more in the house. These are all girls I taught in high school several years ago. We formed a bond that only strengthened once they graduated and went their separate ways to colleges here in town, on the East coast, and on the West coast. But every Christmas, Spring Break, and summer we end up together again for countless movie and game nights, our regular dinner at Kobe's, and runs to Jeremiah's for ice cream. I am so blessed to be part of these girls' lives. They're truly members of our family and blend right in whether we're cooking biscuits in the kitchen or teaching the kids a new card game.

It's not all fun and games though; we've gotten a lot of work done here on the house lately. The attic has been completely cleaned out. All the closets have been purged. The boys have been working in the yard and have pressure washed the sidewalks and driveway. I found this message for me one morning:

Its hard to believe that Kristina first joined us for a summer that changed all of our lives two years ago. This summer Frontier Horizon arranged for over 100 orphans to be hosted by families in the US and among them is Kristina's best friend Karina. The girls have chatted on the phone several times in the last few weeks. Kristina has missed Karina so much. She felt she would never again see the girl who was like a sister to her all those years in the orphanage. There was a real sense of relief when they were able to reconnect. Karina is being hosted by a family in Mississippi, so as it turns out, they'll be able to see each other as well.

You see, tomorrow is our last day in Florida. We're moving home to Mississippi. As it turns out, Karina will only be a 90 minute drive from our new home. That information set Kristina to dancing. We know God has been ordering things, we just haven't been sure to what end. A Mississippi school I had applied at over a year ago called me out of the blue about a teaching position. Long story short, I couldn't pass it up. Robert also received a call to preach again at Ellisville Presbyterian. He has some leveling work to do before he embarks on his PhD, so we'll be spend that time in Mississippi surrounded by old friends and family. We are incredibly sad to be leaving St Paul's, the best church we've ever been part of, but we know God has used our experience there to prepare us for the work that lies ahead.

So we begin a new chapter in our journey with a little sadness, much anticipation of a what lies ahead, and great trust in a God who has always guided our steps for our good and His glory. Please pray for us as we make adjustments and get settled in. We'll have some important decisions to make that will require great wisdom. We'll keep you posted on our transition!

"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
- Jeremiah 29:11