Costa Rica by way of Guatemala–Part 1

Learning the Windows 8 operating system has reminded me of some of my as-yet-unredeemed character traits.  When things don’t work the way I expect them to–or don’t work at all–I can get my grumble on.   It’s easy to assume that if something isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, it’s a Windows 8 glitch (of which there are many).  I spent days irritated at the lack of sound on my laptop’s video application before Matt discovered that the volume default was set to mute.

Similarly, back in 2006, my spiritual ear was set on mute with regard to global missions.  Matt went a gentle nine rounds with my “no” when the Lord spoke to him about the two of us serving in Guatemala that summer.  Who would take care of our kids for 10 days?  How would it feel to leave them for so long?  Where would the funds come from?  Would we need shots?  It was all just too messy to pursue.  Grumble.  Exasperated with the direction I couldn’t hear, I eventually went to the source and huffed out a “Lord!”  His still, small voice asked me, “Do you want My way or your way?”  My heart squinched up it’s little face, balled it’s fists, and proclaimed, “I want MY way!”  Then, knowing where that rebellion would lead in the end, my self-righteousness deflated.  I repented.  That moment I became close friends with a prayer that has changed my life over the years since, and will surely serve me well the rest of my days: “Lord, help me to want what You want.  Help me to want Your way.

We signed on for the trip and I emotionally muscled my way through the first meeting.  Over nachos with the leaders after the second gathering, I enjoyed a revelation with my queso:  this was going to be a lot of fun.  So I put my shoulder to the yoke, and we got busy.  Letters written, Psalm 91 prayed, skirts scored via Goodwill, vaccinations updated, culture-adjustment book read, and a lot of laughter shared.  The Lord overwhelmed us with encouragement and provision–enough to pay all of our expenses and another team member’s as well.  As we lingered over goodbyes at their grandparents’ house, our children were eager to begin the special time with people they loved.  Our then 4-year old daughter gently took my hand and interrupted the conversation with a loving, “I want you to go now.”  All cleared for takeoff.

We set off on the trip that opened our lives to serve beyond the box of our language,  culture, and comfort.  Many lessons were learned: how to brush your teeth with bottled water, how to pace yourself during days filled with activity, how to tailor four formal dresses with a few needles and a lot of God-inspired creativity, how to look around for the hot water knob in the shower <shiver>, how to be content with your assignment and not covet your husband’s, how to NEVER AGAIN drink a large shake before a 3-hour restroom-less drive up the mountain.

We could see the impact of our love and effort.  Four young ladies were celebrated at a beautiful coming of age quinceañera (fifteenth birthday fiesta).  A developmentally delayed baby girl made so much progress than Matt had to credit the Lord’s goodness rather than his own physical therapy skills.  The local women were treated to an afternoon tea complete with spa treatments, gifts, and a time of worship where the Lord spoke to them about uniting in spirit despite their different congregations.  The courtyard wall shared with the town’s prosperous witch doctor was fortified with prayer.

And perhaps most important of all, my heart grew.  It occurred to me for the first time that English might not be God’s favorite language.  I fell in love with the brilliant colors and stoic expressions of people who lived in a simplicity I had never considered before, with the beauty of mountains and cultures that I had yet to ascend.

A Different Kind of Love Story

Okay, I admit it: love stories make me cry.  The other day as I was reading our history lesson over Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s tragic end, my daughter patted my arm and went to fetch me a kleenex.  Then I happened upon the trailer for a new movie rendition of the Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, and I began to consider what the world values as a great love story.  In these two examples, at least, the answer is made up of intensity of emotion being held as a virtue to the exclusion of wisdom, demanding immediate access to privileges that haven’t been earned, and the forsaking of holy covenants and duty for the pleasure of an unsustainable present without regard for the crumbling future.  In view of the way they turn out (one in history, the other in fiction), isn’t it odd that they are lauded as some of the greatest love stories of all time?  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but “happily ever after” they were not.  This “love” wreaked havoc on everyone around it, destroying lives literally and figuratively.

The Lord’s calling for our family to serve in the nations is a much different kind of love story.  Bit by bit we are releasing the things that our flesh wants to cling to, to take hold of the future that the Lord has for us.  Some of it is easy.  Craigslist can have those golf clubs I haven’t used for 10 years. But the cozy bed I climb into at night feels so real, I can’t always grasp that the day is coming when we will say goodbye.  Life goes on as normal.  We do school lessons, grocery shop, cook meals, wave goodbye to Matt as he leaves for work, and mob him when he comes home.  But underneath all that is a revolution building.  My heart tentatively touches concepts that feel raw and strange–living on faith support, speaking Spanish, different government and healthcare systems–to see if they are becoming less uncomfortable as the days pass.

Some moments I stand surprised and awed at the ways Lord is establishing this work He is doing.  Prayers covering over us, divine connections made, love unlooked-for freely given, new inspiration for loving on short-term mission teams and at-risk children. I shouldn’t be surprised that God is able, but I am.  He really is good.  In the face of change that is so big I can’t conceive of it all, I remember again that He’s bigger.  This call is stripping me of all the little veils covering my eyes about my own faith.  I am humbled and yet thankful to understand how shaky I am and let the Lord lead me to higher ground.

Instead of living for the moment and leaving the future to itself, the Lord has us planting our present comforts in the field of His hands.  We are trusting that He will use it to bring forth a future harvest.  Team members inspired to live all out for the Lord.  At-risk children loved, fed, and healed into the kingdom of God.  Laughter and life-giving relationship with Costa Ricans.  Growing faith that expects the Lord to do what He has promised.  When this love story concludes, we pray it will be filled with lives blessed and hearts lifted by His strength, His love, and His glory.  Kleenex optional.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

Sowing Seeds

Our church took part in the nationwide 21-day Awakening Fast this January.  We broke the fast on Sunday, and most of us are happily reacquainting ourselves with the pleasures that we put on the altar for a time.  Meat.  Solid food.  Facebook.  Chocolate.  Movies.  Sweet nothings by the mouthful.

I’m relieved to have finished out the 21 days, but find myself reluctanct to leave this place at the altar.  This place where I couldn’t run to the candy bowl for comfort, so I opened my arms to my Savior.  This place where my time was better focused because I wasn’t checking Facebook 20+ times a day.  You all are  fascinating, you know.  This place where the Lord lit a fire in me to study Spanish so that I will be able to connect on a heart level with the beautiful people at the Home of Life in Costa Rica this summer.  Where I began to sort through our abundance of things and release them.

The journey that stretches before us is a marathon rather than a sprint.  My quality time each day with Rosetta Stone and StudySpanish.com is chipping away at the language barrier before me.  The skis we sold on Craigslist, the ski boots we still have posted, and the craft room piled with outgrown toys waiting to be posted are drops in the bucket of bailing out our home.  And the Lord whispers in my heart that this is planting time.  The Spring, if you will, of the new direction the Lord is taking us.  Each verb that I learn to conjugate, each one-time treasure released to a new home, each prayer lifted up to fill the bowls in the throne room is a seed sown into the field of His future for our family.

So I linger at this altar of 3 weeks that advanced His purposes in my heart, praying over what to let back into my days and with what boundaries.  Because planting time has only begun, and I don’t want to short the harvest He has for our lives one measure by underestimating the value of each seed sown.

The Final Stretch

We head back early in the morning this Thursday so tomorrow is our final day at the Home. Our prayer right now is that we will be able to finish strong and do all of the things Our Father has for us in this remaining time.

We look back at all of the therapy sessions with kids and staff, preschool classes, hugs for the kids, prayers, meetings, fellowship times, cookies baked, devotions, trips down the slides and shovels of dirt. God called us to come here. We pray that everything we have done was a blessing to the kids and the staff.

Your prayers have covered us throughout this trip. We have been safe and richly blessed through this entire time. The Lord has shown up in mighty ways throughout our time here at the home. He has shown His healing power, guided us and protected us. He has revealed Himself in hugs given and received, smiles shared, praises sung, words spoken, quiet moments, the glory of His creation, the spirit of His people and the life in His Word.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us as we finish our time here, as we travel home and throughout our transition back into life when we arrive home. It is always a challenge to come back from a missions trip. The enemy pounces as our defenses relax, ‘real life’ crushes back in and tries to steal everything the Lord has done in us during our time.

Thank you for blessing us.