Monday, March 31, 2014

Grace, Grace, God's Grace

A dirt floor. Plastic chairs. A clothesline right above our heads. Five women sitting outside a shack in Sacjavilla desperately trying to share the Gospel with a family. Our path had been directed toward the matriarch of this family, but she was hardened to the Good News. Her daughter…the same. Kathy sees the son-in-law of the family sitting off to the side. His eyes full of tears and a Bible in his hands. She taps me on the should and whispers in my ear, “I think we’re here for him.” Loree continues to share with the women.

Somehow, the conversation gets redirected (God’s ways are not our ways) and I find myself sitting in front of Santiago. I have never seen a man so broken and ready to hear from the Lord. As I flip the pages of my Bible, he turns his in sync. With each verse his sin is set before him, and he weeps. He knows the truth. But, he cannot accept the fact that God can love him. He has drunk too much. Neglected his family. It’s beyond the reach of the Father. Unable to be loved or saved.

I press on and shower Scriptures on him to show Him the love of our Mighty Father. And God quietly nudges my soul with a simple thought, “Tell him about your friend.” Santiago begins to retell his story so I will understand fully how awful he is…and I feel movement behind me. Without even turning around I simply state, “You are not alone. I know someone who has been through the same things. And God changed him. Meet my friend…Greg Brown.” I turn to see Greg standing in the middle of the room.

Greg weeps with Santiago and tells his story. God saved him and He can and will save Santiago too.

Fast forward two years. We find ourselves in a home in the same area of Sacjavilla. A mother and father with grown children, all their spouses, and grandchildren running around. The matriarch is closed. Not interested. The patriarch is a Christ-follower. He weeps with the Bible held in his hands like a precious gift. His face is familiar. He begins to tell his story. A group just like this one came to his mother-in-law’s house and share the Gospel. He met a man who told him about God’s love and His ultimate will. While he didn’t choose the way to life that day, he did soon thereafter when God saved his life in a bus-driver-shooting incident.

His name…Santiago.

Full circle.

Gospel shared.

Gospel rejected.

Gospel accepted.

Life changed.

Now, he sits in his own home surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren. Living for God's glory and crying out for the lostness of his family. While he takes his grandchildren to church each week, he longs for the others to join them. He wants them to know Christ and to have eternal life. He weeps for them.

God has brought us to this point. Sitting in another home in Sacjavilla. Crying for the lostness of this family. Praising God for the salvation of Santiago. Longing for the same for the others. The Gospel is presented clearly. The seeds are planted. God is good. Praise His holy name!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Faithfulness in the Beauty Shop

I sit six feet away on a golden Victorian chair.

My eyes fill up with tears as I gaze at her.

She catches my eyes and smiles. The thumb in her mouth, the opposite hand pulling her ear forward. Her hair sticking up in the biggest afro known to mankind. The hairdresser takes her to the shampoo area and she looks over her shoulder at me.

She smiles. And I smile back.

God’s faithfulness and goodness. They are present, and I’ve seen them. God in flesh - so real, I can touch Him.

You see, this little girl was placed in my arms just over three years ago. She was so light, I remember. And sad. VERY sad. Her eyes were big and just glared at me. She was confused. I would have been too. She had no clue. My heart was exploding.

Not a word came from her mouth. Not a sound. For a full hour. Then, she let loose and screamed non-stop for about two hours straight. I had no idea how to calm her except to sing to her and hold her. Her language was not mine, and I couldn’t communicate otherwise. But, the Lord heard my groans and tended to her heart.

I will never forget the next morning. The whole family sat in the living room of a family in Uganda. She came walking down the steps in her new nightgown. Sucking her thumb and pulling on her ear. Her eyes looked all the way around the room totally confused as to what to do. Then, her eyes met mine, and she chose me. She came right to me and climbed up in my lap. My heart melted then and there. She knew I was hooked.

Oh, there have many nights of terrors, screaming and waling. It has been hard and painful. She has grieved. We have held. She has cried. We have wiped away tears. We have discovered her past, and it infuriates us as parents. No child should go through what she did. It is ugly, and it is real. More than anything else, God has comforted all of us. He has been The Father to the fatherless (all of us included). He has shown us His love and His faithfulness.

I watch her get her hair braided, and I can laugh at the days we have had together. An African little girl who has known pain like no other. A Caucasian momma who has become her biggest cheerleader. And, I know that God is our All in All. He is Enough. He is Sufficient. He is good.

Praise His Name!

Monday, March 17, 2014

It Takes A Village

An old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, I say “It takes a community to straighten out an adult.” Fair enough.

The Bible talks about community and friendship over and over. Look and see what God’s Word says:

Proverbs 27:5-6
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

John 15:12-15
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 13:20
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Galatians 6:2
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

And there are more. Many more. Needless to say we are NOT meant to live in isolation. We are made for community - for accountability, discipline, encouragement, rebuke, support, comfort, discipleship, and love.

Getting healthy is no exception to the need for community. It takes a lot of people to whip ME back into shape. And I am one grateful servant.

It takes people asking about my exercise plan. Others who inquire as to what I ate or didn’t eat in a week. My family to push me each morning to run or workout. My son to walk out the door with me. My brothers to encourage me to get moving. Friends who hold me accountable.

If you try to do it alone, you will likely fail. We were made to live in community with others. And community is honest. Sometimes, frighteningly so! But, it is good, and it is from the Lord. Praise Him for the village that surrounds us all as we seek to honor Him with our bodies!

Monday, March 10, 2014

“Lord, please let me sleep a little longer.” (and then I roll over and snuggle up tightly under the covers and sleep for another two hours)

“I think it’s too cold to run outside. I’ll run later when it warms up.” (with no intention of running later or EVER)

“Why do I have to do this? Why don’t I have the ability to eat what I want and not exercise and still look healthy?” (with a list of names of people who seemingly stay fit with no effort)

“It’s raining outside and if I run in the rain, I’ll get sick, and I can’t be sick because I have a family to take of and they do not want me to be sick.” (because water falling from the skies has been shown in numerous studies to cause infectious diseases, right?)

“I don’t wanna go!” (huffy breath and pouty face)

“I’ll do it later. Not now. It’s too early.” (no I will NOT)

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of every excuse under the sun NOT to exercise. Most of them are as lame as these (which are all real ones that I’ve used frequently). Just like Adam and Eve and every person since, I can quickly pass the blame. The only problem is the only person to accept the responsibility is ME. Me alone. Uugh.

This past week, I had two opportunities that could have easily turned into no exercise. Thursday morning was a little cool, and I made a plan to run later while Jett was practicing soccer. I would take my running gear with me and run…yep, I would. That gave me the opportunity to sleep until 6…cue the hallelujah chorus. Don’t you know that the practice got rained out, and I had an easy out. Until Jett said, “Momma, how are you going to run now? You wanna go by the Y on the way home?” Crickets, crickets, crickets. “Sure buddy, let’s go by the Y.” And we did. The rowing machine and elliptical were my friends that day.

Saturday morning came and with an extra three boys at my house, I wanted just a few more minutes of sleep, but alas, the Lord woke me up earlier than any of the kids. There was no excuse not to run and I couldn’t even remember how far I was supposed to go. I got dressed and headed downstairs to see the workout plan on the computer. Four miles. I was hoping for 3. I’m still not back up to running an entire 5K but should be there in the next few weeks. Four miles seemed like an eternity. But out I went. And it was good. The first time in a while where I enjoyed running again.

Progress is slow but it is good. I have exercised six days each of the past three weeks! Woo-hoo!

God alone sustains me. Just as His Word tells us, He holds the breath of every creature in His hand, and my life is no exception. I must honor Him with ALL of my life, and not just the parts that are convenient or easy or acceptable. It is NOT easy and has been a struggle all of my life. But, God is honored most in our struggles when we submit to Him and know that He will receive the glory through our weaknesses.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Slow and Steady

It's how the tortoise won the race...slow and steady. And, it's my mantra these days. It doesn't matter how the workouts get 20 minutes or an hour, with a stinky attitude or a great one, with thoughts of quitting or a full-steam ahead mentality, in the morning or at long as it is completed!

Two weeks ago, after a month long battle with mono, a plan was developed to get me from here to there (there being a marathon in January of 2015). I am scared to death to even suggest that I can complete a marathon without hurting myself or someone else. I am terrified of failure.

But, no one else is going to run these miles for me. I have to do it. There is no alternative. And, because I need to see progress, I use a color coding system to help me remember milestones along the way. Green means I finished the workout and got it done. Blue indicates something extra for the day. Yellow is not a good sign...the fewer the yellows, the better. I can easily have a bad workout or give up too soon and be forced to color that cell yellow. And I will let the sight of that one yellow cell ruin my day and my attitude and my hope. But, when it is encased in a sea of blue or green, I can look at it more rationally. One bad day does NOT equal giving up or stopping or even another bad day. It just means I can do better the next time.

I just learned how to create this table, and I have NO clue how to make the colors appear, but IF you could see them, you would see only green and one blue (I ran 3.25 instead of 3 while we were visiting Liberty). No yellows so far, so that is good for my psyche!

Table heading 1 Table heading 2 Table heading 3 Table heading 4 Table heading 5 Table heading 6
Run 3.1 miles Crossfit Crossfit Row 1 Data 41 Run 3.1 miles Row 4 miles
Run 3.1 miles Crossfit Treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine Treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine Crossfit Run 3.25 miles

The only way to run a marathon is to run. And I must run at least 3 times a week. My mileage for long runs (on Saturdays) will increase beginning this summer. I am eager to get back into running and to be able to run a 5K without huffing and puffing! I know it will come, and it will take time. Slow and steady.