Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: August 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What not to say!

Five things not to say to people returning from the mission field:


5.  "Bless your heart. I know you have got to be so glad to be home."

Believe it or not many people (if not most) who serve overseas actually enjoy it. While they are grateful to reconnect with people they’ve missed, they also left behind people they love. Their homecoming is usually bittersweet – in other words, the answer to your question is yes. And no.


4.  "I bet you’re glad to get American food!"

While missionaries miss the comforts of home and often the food, many return home to be overwhelmed by the massive amounts of food and the plethora of food choices. While thankful, many are also saddened because they have met people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. They may be offended by your constant complaining about the meal taking too long, or there being nothing to eat in the fridge. Don’t take this personal – they are just remembering the faces of those who are less fortunate and seeking to find balance between the world they’ve left behind and their current home.

3.  "Are you glad to be home with your family?"

Really? Don’t you already know the answer to this one! Most are thankful to see their families again, but this too can also be a stressor for returning missionaries. While they love and cherish their families, they have returned home a different person than the one that left. Families expect the missionary to be the same as before, and they are not. All family members struggle to understand each other. Pray that God will use these reunions to draw families closer, and not further apart.

2.   "I can’t wait to hear all about your trip."

First of all, don’t say this if someone has been gone for longer than a few months. They haven’t been on a trip. They’ve been living somewhere else. Lots of people say this when they really don’t want to hear about the missionary’s work. Take time to listen and learn from the missionary. Ask questions about the nature of their work, how you can pray for the people left behind, and how you can pray for the missionary during this time of transition.  

1. "Now you can get a real job."

This implies that somehow the work they’ve been doing overseas isn’t “real work.” This is very offensive to people who have made great sacrifices for the sake of the gospel, often working harder than ever before.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Swallow Me Please!!!

We all have those moments when we wish the ground would swallow us up and hide us from the embarrassment we are to ourselves. I've had way too many of these moments recently. You know what I'm talking about...those moments when you strut out of the bathroom only to be told your skirt is tucked in (yes, that happened to me today), or those times you trip and fall down the stairs (did that one today, too).

The older I get, the better I get at laughing at myself. (I've always been somewhat of a klutz.) Why is it we feel like we are supposed to have it all together all the time? Why are we so worried about what others think? People who have it together often intimidate me. My closest friends are those who can admit their shortcomings, and keep on keeping on.

In my psychology class today, I was teaching about the brain and neurotransmitters. We were discussing how neurons continue to move into the cerebral cortex until emergent adulthood. Reasoning skills improve as more neurons move into this area of th brain. After class, one of my students said, "I'm gifted. I just haven't opened all of my boxes yet." I love this! Wish I could use that excuse!

I love Francesca Battistelli's song, "This is the stuff" because it describes my life so well. Enjoy!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Lessons from a Waterfall

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my absolute places to be is at the base of a waterfall. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit a specific waterfall, I never cease to be mesmerized by its beauty. Last week, I visited such a place with friends. The chilling waters remind me that I am alive – boy howdy, that water was COLD!!! The sounds of the falls are music to my ears. I just LOVE to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

As I sat at the base of the falls, I couldn’t help but meditate on the fact that day after day, year after year, the water continues to fall. This particular waterfall is spring fed, meaning that day after day, year after year, waters continue to bubble up from the group flowing over rocks and trees to create magnificent views. The falls are not dependent on its environment, but on the spring.

As I’ve pondered the continuous spring which feeds the falls, I’ve been reminded of God’s goodness.
Isaiah writes in 41:18, “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.”
There are times when life’s circumstances threaten to overpower us, but when we stay in the presence of the spring from the River of Life, His love will flow both in and out of our lives, presenting us with love, joy, and peace.

May his love continue to rain down on us as we encounter various trials. May we rest in his love and may his goodness be the overflow of our lives.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Unexplainable Joy

I love it when a scripture jumps off the page at me screaming, “This is for you! This is for you!” Well, maybe not literally but the Holy Spirit definitely illuminates certain verses at just the right moment. I’ve been praying for someone who is in a situation that is hopeless unless the Lord intervenes. I recently received a letter from him, asking to pray that he would have the faith of Noah and of Joseph,who both faces insurmountable odds. I am praying God would give him faith that surpasses that of both of these men, and that God would give him unspeakable joy in the midst of his suffering. 

As I was praying and seeking the scriptures, three verses seemed to scream at me. Habakkuk 3:17-19 say,
                     “Though the fig tree should not blossom
                     And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

 The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.”

Even when Habakkuk could see nothing praiseworthy on this earth, he still chose to rejoice in the Lord. I am reminded of the lyrics of Matt Redman's song, “Blessed Be the Name. ”

He gives and takes away, but blessed be His name.  

I'll never forget sitting in a worship service in Mexico, three months after Michael died, while everyone around me sang these words. Even though they expressed the cry of my heart, I couldn't even get the words out of my mouth. He had both given and taken away my husband... Would I still choose to say, "Blessed be His name"?

Will we rejoice in the midst of incredible hardships and suffering? I believe it is when we rejoice that we are changed. We no longer focus on our circumstances but on the glory of the Lord. It is then that we find peace. It is then that we experience unexplainable joy.
I am curious about the end of this verse. “And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places.” I’m going to have to do a little more research on this. If any of you have any insight, I’d love to hear it!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hog Wild Dreams

I once had a professor who encouraged us to dream hog wild! She asked us, “If there was nothing to hold us back and we could do anything in the world, what would our lives look like?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

When someone asks my daughter what she’s going to be when she grows up, she answers “a wedding dress designer, an Olympic gymnast, a restaurant owner, a veterinarian” and the list goes on. She dreams big! Why is it as we grow older that some of our dreams begin to fade or perhaps we stop dreaming at all?

Is it disillusionment or disappointment from life’s hardships that keep us from dreaming? Or is it fear of failure? I’m not sure, but I am determined to dream hog wild! I may not achieve all of my dreams (isn’t that why they’re called dreams anyway), but I want to live my life striving for the things that mean the most to me.

I’ve been revisiting my bucket list, but more than that I’ve been asking myself what it is that I truly want out of life. I encourage you to do the same. Go Hog Wild – DREAM!!!


Monday, August 13, 2012

When God is Your Only Hope

I was blessed to spend three weeks in Africa this summer and while I was there I met many wonderful people. Two women however, will forever be etched in my memory. I want to tell you about them and for their privacy, I will call them Ghati and Robi.  I was visiting homes with my friend Suzie and our Maasai translator when we met these two precious women.

The first one we met was Ghati. She welcomed us into her home and we began to share the gospel with her. She told us that her husband had forbidden her from going to church. She said that he beat her and that she was afraid of him. She fell into our arms and sobbed. Her neighbor, Robi, shared a similar story. Robi's husband was an alcoholic and would come home at night to their one room home and beat her mercilessly while her two small children watched. She said she was afraid he would kill her. I asked her if she had spoken with her father about this (because this is a patriarchal society) and she said that her father had told her, "You married him. You deal with it."

Can you imagine?  My heart broke at this news. Here were two women who truly had no where to turn. In their culture it is acceptable and often encouraged that husbands beat their wives so no one in law enforcement would come to their aid. Their own families had turned a blind eye. As they begged me for help and for answers, I was at a total loss. I shared with them about times that I've felt desperate and hopeless. We began to pray with them and we told these ladies that while God may not change their circumstances, he wanted to change them. He had promised the his presence in the midst of the suffering. We explained to them that as they grew closer to the Lord and did their best to honor their husbands (who were not worthy of honor) then they could pray that their husbands would see the change in them and be drawn to Christ. Truly, there only hope is divine intervention.

I still get teary-eyed thinking of these ladies. I ask you to join me in praying that God would not only change them, but that he would change their circumstances.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Blessings Poured Out from Heaven

I was traipsing up the mountain through a cane field in Kenya because its owner wanted me to see the vastness of sugar cane field. On most days, this would have been a welcomed endeavor, but it was the end of the rainy season in Africa, and with each step I seeped deeper and deeper into the mud. Trying my best to keep the bottom of my skirt from getting muddy, I followed his lead. I guess our guide must have realized that I was a little put out that my shoes that were once white were now stained with mud from top to bottom. He looked at me and said, “For a Kenyan, the mud is a sign of a blessing. It tells us that God will bless us tomorrow with a bountiful crop.

Ok, now I felt like a heel. I was supposed to be encouraging him, and here he was not only putting me in my place but teaching me a great lesson.

Today was the Back to School Bash in our community which means slip and slides, inflatables, gaming stations, face painting and more! We were all in motion when the rains began to fall. After trying vigorously to keep our booth dry, we finally gave up and decided to leave early. As I jogged across the field to my car drenching wet, I was reminded of this man’s statement.

How many of life’s “inconveniences” does God use to bring blessings in disguise? Yes, in our mind, the Back to School Back might have had a better turn out if the weather had been dry, but what if God designed it that way for a reason. What if conversations happened because there were fewer people that wouldn’t have otherwise? I don’t know and maybe I’m overspiritualizing this, but I wonder how many times I miss God’s blessings because I am too frustrated at being inconvenienced.