Tuesday, November 20, 2012

in a new place

It's been two whole weeks since I last posted.  A lot has gone on.  With one of my best friends here in IL, and with the Mister out of state, we set out to clean a farmhouse we would be renting.  We have since moved into said farmhouse and are loving the country life here.  Oddly, I miss the loud train horn but, there is the howl of coyotes in the corn fields at night and the red flashing lights of the wind turbines off in the distance.  While we can faintly hear the train horn, at night, you can see the train moving along the tracks a mile or so from us which is somehow mesmerizing.  The stars are brighter than ever.  (OK, not brighter than they were in Arizona though.  Hint, hint Mr. Jim!)

We have a sprawling old four bedroom house with a big kitchen and a huge yard complete with two tire swings, a tree swing, sandbox and an enormous garden.  Nana will be arriving for a visit soon and we can't wait to get her out to the middle of nowhere.  While, we are still acclimating ourselves to life here in the Midwest and there's no place like home (in Virginia), there's plenty of God's country here too.  For us, I do believe it's found in the middle of these cornfields.

I admit, after living in town for three months, I was accustomed to the constant sounds...barking dogs, tractor trailers on the main road a street over from us, etc.  The first day I came out to this house, I was alone and stood in the yard and it was complete dead silence!  It strangely felt a little eery, but I have since grown accustomed to it.  It's a great place to be, large, airy, open!

I'll try to meet you back here soon.  I've been busy playing house - making curtains, wreaths; organizing; planning our Christmas vacation, etc., etc.  Bye now.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

the gift of life

On Jan.20th, this man will visit our church to speak about the ministry he founded, the Juna Amagara Ministries, and the efforts of an upcoming mission trip to Uganda.

Steve showed a video this morning and laid some heavy stuff on our hearts about rethinking our Christmas gifting.  "Americans will spend $469 billion on Christmas this year."  We have sooo much stuff that we have to store it in extra rooms, our basements, attics, and garages.  Is that not enough?  Do we need more?  We have so much that we take our old clothes to thrift stores and give them away?

What if you had nothing?  No family, no money, barely any food to eat.  Now imagine a 7-year old in that situation.

Webster’s dictionary defines the word orphan as a child deprived by death or abandonment of one or both parents; one deprived of protection.  Do you know how many orphans there are in this world?  One hundred forty three million.  If you lined up the 143,000,000 orphans shoulder to shoulder do you know they would reach around the earth over 2 times?

I know what you're doing.  You hear that number, 143 million, and it numbs you.  You think to yourself, I can't possibly begin to make a dent in that number, why even try?  And it saddens you for a moment but, another minute goes by and you've forgotten them already.  It's easy - out of sight, out of mind.  So, I challenge you to watch this video...

Now, you're thinking $35 isn't much?  It's $1.16 a day.  Say it again, one dollar and sixteen cents a day.  It's a soda, a bottle of water at the gas station.  It's a couples' night at the movies.  Two pizzas from Domino's.  You get the picture, it doesn't take much.  Imagine if every family sponsored one child, just one for $35 a month.  What if your heart broke and you sponsored 3 for a total of $105? 

What would the world be like if we gave instead of trying to hold on to everything we have so tightly? Imagine how blessed our lives would be if we gave freely, cheerfully even?  Imagine, instead of stuff, this Christmas, stuff we don't need, we gave the gift of life to a child?
(By the way, today is nationwide Orphan Sunday.) 

Small Group Week 1: Becoming a Cheerful Giver

Inside every Christian is a God-inspired desire for a generous life: a life tailored around His example of selflessness and sacrifice.
I don't write every week about our Small Group meetings but, tonight marked Week 1 of November's "Hitting Play through Disciplines of Action - Becoming a Cheerful Giver" and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
We have been fortunate throughout our life together, the Mister and I.  We've tried our best to be responsible with money.  I think I can safely say, for the most part we have.  There are always those instances when hindsight is 20/20 and you can't help but say "That was silly.  We should've done this..."  We've never had to borrow money from friends or relatives.  I don't say that in a high and mighty sorta way, but am humbled by the things that've allowed us to live and give the way we have.  We've been extremely blessed in many, many ways.
What are some ways that God has been extravagantly generous to you?
Wow, how do I count the ways?  Recently, we have experienced so much in part to so many people. 
We came to this little town to start a new life together.  It all began with a dream after an unfortunate turn of events.  People called us crazy but, once on the path, friends helped point us in the direction we needed to go.  We never knew how well-received we'd be as outsiders into a new place.  It was a bit off the beaten path, a little out of the way but, he came to church here.  He told me of the town and I was blown away once I experienced it for myself.
We met incredible, incredible people who opened their home to us without even knowing them.  It was nothing short of amazing, their hospitality, their love.  Fast forward, after relaying a conversation Mister C and friends had, I could only think of how I would do this differently if given the chance again.  Tears flooded my eyes and I realized quite a bit of my angst and troubles here have been over the details of it all.  How this all seemed incredibly unfair.  In addition to feeling far, far from home, I've felt like we were a burden, such a burden.
After tonight's study, I realized a few things.  Through their tremendous blessings, we've been able to pay it forward.  It's not always been a financial sacrifice, some times it's been giving of my time or my skills but, because of them I've been able to...
  • bake pies for the Fall Festival (eleven to be exact) with proceeds benefiting our church
  • make casseroles, pies, desserts and other food for the 2nd Monday Meal
  • watch the W kids when needed (but not nearly as much as I'd like)
  • collaborate on meals so that we may fellowship with the W family and lessen the burden of feeding 10 mouths
  • donate a generous amount of money to a family in need
  • lastly, my children are ecstatic to see me at school events and performances
I'm sure there are more Mister could add but, that's a start.  I hope our friends find it honoring that we haven't squabbled away money on frivolous things but, allowed God to use us as conduits of His love, poured out into the world and into the hearts of all those who we touch daily.  This community which has so warmly embraced us deserves to see, feel and hear the love of God each and every day.

While this makes me see our time here in a different light, it doesn't lessen the heaviness that's lay so long on my heart.  I plot in my mind how to make this up to them.  I try to smile but, really, I want to hug them and weep on their shoulder and tell them how regretful I am that we've been here this long.  Again, I am reminded that we've been able to accomplish many acts of generosity because of them.  And so, I try not to dwell on this.  I try to see how generosity has trickled down from one to another to another.  That the generosity and patience shown to us is undeserving, like the love of The Father, who sent his only son for us.  This is the kind of love and generosity, we should show others daily.  Watch this...