Angel Knees

You’ve heard the stories.  They most commonly appear in flowing white robes and dazzling light.  Angels.  Who doesn’t love the thought of catching a glimpse?  Of receiving a blessing from heaven?

Saturday, the Lord sent us four.

Last week, I was asking for a miracle.  You see, when it comes to do-it-yourself projects, I dream big.  Beginning a 4-year contract on our rental house in Atenas, I long for every bit of the 1,050 square feet to feel like home.   To me, color plays a big part in achieving “cozy.”  The well-loved walls were beyond the help of a magic eraser intervention, so we made friends with the rep at the paint store.  And Phase 1 was born: the 3 bedrooms, the living room, the dinette, and I just couldn’t leave out the hallway and the laundry space.  Bringing home 12 gallons of liquid latex in dreamy colors made me feel like I won the lottery.  The feeling of “home” was just brushstrokes away. A lot of brushstrokes.

Painting became the ultimate focus of the two open weekends before June 7th, the day our furniture crosses the threshold.  The first weekend went great.  Only who knew how much primer it takes to cover up royal blue trim stripes?  Two full days of prepping, taping, and priming gained us a lot of ground, but not much change in ambiance.   Coming into the second weekend, we had 11 gallons to go.  I knew we weren’t going to make it.  Priority and strategy were rumbling around my mind all week.  Which rooms were going to be filled with the most furniture?  Which walls would speak the most to our hearts?

Then, hope sprung up, in a message from a friend.  She was hosting a team of  volunteers connected with College of the Ozarks.  Hard Work U, where students have the opportunity to serve in lieu of paying tuition, room, and board—how fantastic is that?  Our friend offered to share these 4 young women with us for a whole day of house transformation.  We didn’t have to pray very long to know we should leap to accept the huge blessing.

Matt and I spent Friday working all-out to get first-coats up in the 3 bedrooms, but Saturday dawned with a mountain left to scale.  Amanda, Morgan, Ashley, and Hannah arrived bright and early to dig in.  With 6 different colors in play and 5 painters, Matt spent the whole day coordinating everyone’s effort, as well as cleaning brushes and paint pans.  The girls and I trimmed, rolled, and shared our stories as the house received its new look.  Together, we did it all.  The 3 bedrooms, living room, dinette, hallway, and laundry space are now all fresh and bright, ready to welcome in our family and friends.

2013-12-21 La Paz w GmaGpa 002 color cdocOur angels didn’t bother with robes, but looked dearly beautiful splattered with paint.  Their knees were blackened with newsprint from the papers protecting the floor, but that didn’t stop them from sharing joy and their hard work.  We will always remember the blessing that the Lord sent to us through them, as we savor the colors of our new life in Atenas.

Whether sporting robes and wings, or dirty knees, God’s grace to us is truly incredible.

The Backpack Story

Our journey to Costa Rica on Monday started out innocently enough.  The small miracle of a favorite song played twice on the car radio in 20 minutes, chorusing the benediction “Let the future begin.”  A laughter-through-tears farewell at the airport.  Two low-key flights sandwiching a leisurely layover and McDonalds fries.  We were given a shortcut through the immigration line (may have been the squirrelly kids or the soccer jerseys we wore), hugged the ministry founders, Tim and Dena, rejoiced that they had ferried all of our stuff in good condition from Hogar de Vida, met our wonderful Big Sisters from language school, and loaded our baggage into the van rented to drive us to our house.

I was admiring the city lights as we drove down the highway, eagerly tuning into the conversation about something Costa Rican when Matt said it, veiled urgency in his voice:

We don’t have our backpacks.

A quick call to Tim and Dena confirmed it.  They didn’t have them in their vehicle either.  The bags stuffed with all of the things too important to let out of our sight were in fact still sitting on a bench outside of the San Jose airport in the traffic of new arrivals and taxi drivers.  In the relief of long anticipated greetings and hugs, the unsuccessful scramble to find working seat belts in the van for the children, and the busy loading of 50 lb. bags, we had let our guard down and simply forgotten to take a count.  Total rookie mistake.  We had driven around 20 minutes away, and the return trip seemed to last an eternity.  Praying with everything that an overtaxed me could muster, I called down God’s goodness over us, His plan for our time in Costa Rica, His angels over our bags hiding them from the sight of anyone on the prowl for theft.  I knew the odds were impossible.  This was San Jose, where a bag left on the seat of a locked car is an embossed invitation, and even backpacks being worn aren’t impervious.

My mind took inventory of the stakes: our passports, our laptops, the immigration paperwork, our phones, about $2,000 of cash for rent payments, and my wallet topped the list.  I pushed back the nausea and kept praying.  The city lights were an agony passing by in reverse.  Finally we entered the drop zone and saw what we had hoped and prayed for–the most beautiful lineup of colorful backpacks sitting on the bench.  We burst out of the van and collected them like prodigal children, praising God every step.  Searching through the various compartments, we found everything exactly where it was supposed to be.  Relief washed over us, with a cream rinse of exhaustion.

Backlit LarkspurWhat do you do in the wake of a miracle like that, where God has shown Himself so big, where disaster was averted only by His grace? Is there a thank you note magnificent enough?  All we have to give Him is ourselves.  So we open our hearts on a deeper level and lean more fully into this plan He has for our family to walk out His love in Costa Rica.

Bring on the cockroaches.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 58:8

On We Drive

It was time to turn off the radio.  The lights on the dash were dimming as we drove onward into the western prairie.  We were headed toward the other edge of Nebraska, and a campground family gathering somewhere we had never been before.  Somewhere we didn’t quite know how to get to.  But even in our newlywed existence, we were pretty sure we could recognize alternator failure.  My baby-faith was rushing in where angels might fear to tread, praying miracles over us like thunder.  In the meantime, we were conserving electricity by nixing the tunes and the A/C.  The summer night was humid and the darkness thick out on the country road.

2013-06-03 Colorado 002

Our alternator (and the angels) got us as far as a convenience store near the campground.  Out where cellphones had trouble reaching, we explained our situation to the clerk and called collect again to our Heavenly Daddy.  It was only a few minutes later that our nephew walked in with his buddies.  He must have been surprised at our excitement to see him, and then our commandeering their car to drive us safely in.  We weren’t.  We had been expecting God to make a way.

The lights are dimming down on our time here in Omaha.  It’s time to forsake Craigslist in favor of the Goodwill drop-off drive-thru.  If you stop by our house, odds are we will try to give you something.  We just got all our official documents to apply for Costa Rican residency, and the suitcases are filling up.  We don’t know exactly how it will look to get from here to there—closet/cabinet status is improving but not yet empty, our house is still waiting to meet its new owners, our monthly funding is at 56%—but our faith is driving on.  We know God will make a way.

Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged. . .for there is a power far greater on our side!  We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!  2 Chronicles 32:7, 8a

Giving Our Account

About 7.5 years ago, the Lord did a miracle to place our family in our home.  It was over our price range, but He invited us in and worked grace through two banks to give us a short sale (where a loss is taken just to get the property off of their books) within our budget.  And the work began.  While the potential of the house was great, the condition of it wasn’t.  Broken light bulb in a socket, sprinkler system out of commission, bushes grown into barricades,  a deluge from a skylight, and so on.  One night early on I prayed for direction whether to use our savings to replace the teenage heating and cooling system or to begin a kitchen restyle.  That very week the furnace began making an alarming noise and the repairman gave us his “kindly sober” look while asking us to say our final goodbyes.  We’ve torn down wallpaper, painted top to bottom, updated fixtures and functions,  ripped out and replanted, until our pillows whispered sweet nothings.  Last year we made it through the kitchen makeover  with a lot of help, and actually enjoyed the Costa Rican cabina feeling of doing life in our kitchenette/dining room/living room space and washing dishes in the bathroom sink.  While the place we call home is still far from perfect, we’ve come a long way by investing our time, talents, and treasure.  To say that I’m attached is an understatement.

A few months back I was lamenting the approaching “for sale” sign to the Lord.  “But God, you did a miracle to get us in this house.”  His sweet whisper immediately answered, “Yes.  And do you think I only have one house-miracle for you?” With a smile I conceded that He was big enough to do as many as He wanted to.  How often I forget.

He spoke again as I was reading in Matthew 25 the other day.  You’ll probably recognize the story.  A man goes on a trip and gives his servants different portions of silver to take care of while he’s gone.  After a long time he returns and gathers them to each give an account of how they had used his money.   Those who had made a good return on his investment received praise and the commendation: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.  Let’s celebrate together” Matthew 25: 21, 23 NLT!

His whisper on my heart was simple, yet profound.  How much easier to bear His yoke, how much lighter to carry His burden when I remember that this roof and everything under it has always belonged to Him.  He’s been letting us tend it, and now He is calling us to give our account.  We have been diligent with this thing that is small from an eternal perspective.  Now He has in mind for us new responsibility: to care for sweet brown eyes in Costa Rica and nurture fellow believers as they step out of their country and culture to serve.  Kingdom festivities are in the works.  So I nudge my heart to release its grasp on this box of treasure in the prairie and take hold of the greater plan that He has for our family in the land of rainforests.  The Master is worthy.  Let’s celebrate together.

A little instruction on the fun picture gallery of our Kitchen Remodel above:  Hover your mouse pointer on a picture to see its caption.  Click on a picture to enter the full-size slideshow display.