Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What a Difference a Week Makes...

...or Reclaiming the Weekend.

Pictures from the "Adventure" Weekend:

gorgeous scenery
Photobucket Photobucket


getting it home

Last weekend we decided to go back, reclaim the weekend and ride the steam train as originally planned.

The train

The scenery

A perfect little lamb (I'm partial to black sheep)

Thank you Daddy

Mission accomplished--a lovely day out in the Lakes and not a four hour truck ride to get home!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Other Words--Does it Have to Be Feast or Famine?


The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it. ”
Amos 8:11-12

I've experienced times of drought in my life. Times when I've not regularly sought to spend time with God in Bible Study or prayer. I've known periods where I did not have good sound Biblical teaching available. I've become weary of lackluster preaching on cultural topics rather than delving into the difficult passages of God's word. The drought has been there intermittently in my life. Once or twice, that drought has taken hold and famine has set in.

fam·ine (fām'ĭn)
n. A drastic, wide-reaching food shortage.
A drastic shortage; a dearth.
Severe hunger; starvation.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that if there is a drought in my spiritual life, I probably started it.

In this passage, Amos is warning the people that they are going to become desperate for something that they are currently rejecting. The people were self-focused. They had no need for God, and they did not earnestly seek him. Any religious activity was more out of habit and ritual than significant relationship. The previous verses in the chapter paint a picture of not only pursuit of gain and money, but of oppressing those who were in need. God is essentially saying through Amos, "you are going to want me and you won't be able to hear me and you started it."

For the people in Amos' day, the famine was a clear and deliberate punishment for their ingratitude and behaviour. In my life, the famine is the natural consequence of not deliberately, consistently seeking God. Have you experienced this? How do you get back to a land of rain when you've allowed drought to set in? For me, I find at least five things that help me return. Maybe these will also speak into your experience.

First, I must confess that I started it. I must take responsibility that I have, whether consciously or unwittingly, allowed other things to take the space of my daily seeking a relationship with God.
In that confession, I must be specific about the things that are encroaching on that time and enabling the famine. Often the things that crowd out my study time are actually good things that our taken the wrong precedence.
When I've identified the famine causers, I must ask God to help me prioritize to keep those things in their proper place.
Then, I need to just act on it. I need to sit down and study or pray or wait before God. I need to put action behind the desire, recognizing that it may take some time before it becomes easier or natural. Just as the first drops of rain do not end a physical famine but are the hope of the end to come, so it is with my study. Those first "drops" of study are building for the hope of more to come.
Finally, I need to seek a friend who can hold me accountable. In college I had a friend who started letters not with "how are you" but with "how's your quiet time." I often did not want to answer the question, but I always did because he cared enough to seek the hard question. Sometimes that is the question I need to answer. Other times I need to answer "how many blogs about a relationship with God did you read today instead of developing your relationship" or "how many books about God did you read instead of the Bible". These are areas of good things that I can get out of priority.

Those steps can start me on the road back to health instead of starvation. They can keep me thriving in a relationship rather than fading in a famine. They also remind me that in those times of feasting, I need to store away God's word for the more difficult or busy times so I am less likely to become complacent and move away.

I don't know where you are today. Maybe you are feasting. Celebrate it! Enjoy it! But don't forget you are storing God's word in memorization and meditation for days that may not be this easy. You may be in the place I am right now--carving out the time for a relationship although it is not the feast it has been at other times. Let me encourage you (and remind myself) to stick with it, keep developing the relationship and not to become complacent. But maybe these were tough verses for you because you are in the midst of famine. I pray that something in this post encourages you. I would also consider it an honour if I could pray for you in this time. Just leave a comment or drop me an email (see side bar for address) and I will gladly do that for you.

Father I pray today that each reader of this will know a time of intimacy and relationship building with you. I pray that those who are struggling to find the time will take small steps to build that time into their lives. I pray that I will keep my priorities ordered with your priorities and I will not forsake the time of study and prayer. Thank you that even in famines of our own making, you are always willing to draw us back and bring back the rain. May we always seek your rain. Amen.

I am so honoured that you are joining us today for 'In Other Words.' I am looking forward to visiting your sites and reading how you interpreted these verses and how you keep the word of God forefront in your lives. Bless you for joining us. Please leave your link below.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hosting In Other Words


Next Tuesday, I have the honour of hosting In Other Words. I have chosen a passage from Amos that intrigues me and brings me pause. I realize that the passage is a judgment passage of the past, but I wonder how it speaks to us today. Have you felt a famine for God's word? What has that looked like in your life? How did you come back? I would love Tuesday to be a dialogue of how we can keep the word of God alive and well in our lives and in the lives of others. Please come back on Tuesday and join the conversation.

The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it. ”
~Amos 8:11-12~

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Other Words--Trifling Circumstances or Grand Adventure?


Let me tell you about our weekend adventure. Our company car lease had come to an end and we received a new car on Friday. It has a great "sports" mode that makes it feel more "race-car" and German wanted to try it out. So Sunday after church we loaded up and went a couple hours up the road to the "Lake District" which is where the tallest mountains in England are located. Some great winding roads. Totally amazing scenery. Our destination was a little steam train that we planned to travel on through the sheep pastures whilst watching the baby lambs frolic in the fields. It was a perfect day.


Until we stopped at the train depot and in a casual walk around the car, German discovered that the front tire had a tear from end to end and was losing air fast. Did I mention that the train depot was on top of the mountain? Did I mention that there was no phone service up there (and the lady in the depot was not willing to let us use their phone either?) It might also be worth mentioning that these are "run flat" tyres so no spare is included in the car. uh-oh

We did not ride the train. Instead we edged about half way down the mountain to a little village where we found a pay phone. Help was dispersed to collect the car and us on the recovery truck and take us to our home where we could get the tyre fixed on Monday (hopefully). Two and a half hours later the recovery truck arrived. YAY!!! It took almost four hours to drive the eighty miles home in the truck with the car on it. Home hadn't looked so good in a long time!

Whilst we were waiting for the recovery truck, German was apologising for the day being ruined. I wouldn't hear it. I told him we had a choice, we could be frustrated or we could celebrate God in it:
*the day was gorgeous
*there was no rain (a rarity in the Lake District)
*we had seen the tear before the tyre totally came apart, possibly causing an accident or being on a one-track mountain road with nowhere to stop
*there was a pay phone
*there was an actual car park beside the pay phone and not just a lay-by
*there were public toilets beside the car park (which both girls needed during the wait)
*there was a trail leading to the Japanese Gardens leaving from the carpark that allowed the girls to burn energy and use part of the time. We would have never seen it without the tyre trouble
*the lease company has a recovery program so we were not stuck in the middle of nowhere
*the girls were going to get to ride in a truck (which they thought was tremendously exciting--at least for the first hour)

The truth is, I would not have always seen the adventure in the experience. I could have easily been frustrated, irritated and condemning. The day had been about German "playing" in the new car, but it had also been about letting our minds go and not dwelling on things that are frustrating. For the last year, we have found ourselves in the midst of "trifling" circumstances with difficult people. We have seen God lead us on a path that most of our friends, and our church family in particular, criticized, ridiculed and attempted to thwart. We have had many relationships totally severed and others damaged beyond human repair. Yet in all of that, God has repeatedly taught us to lean on his love and wisdom.

"If monotony tries me
and I cannot stand drudgery;
if stupid people fret me and
little ruffles set me on edge;
if I make much of the trifles of life,
then I know nothing of Calvary love."

~If: What Do I Know of Calvary Love?~
~Amy Carmichael~

Through the drudgery of life we have learned to choose God's blessing in it rather than strive against it. That is what we did on Sunday. And because German and I chose that, the girls did not see Sunday as trifling or trying. Instead they stood on the rocky "stage" and sang praise songs for almost an hour. They laughed and ran and giggled as the driver loaded the car. Hopefully our attitudes demonstrated something of God's love to the driver who had to take us four hours to our home and then return at least three hours to his base.

The icing on the cake? Yesterday as Flower and I went for a walk she said, "Mum, I really loved our adventure Sunday. Can we do it again?" I laughed and said probably not any time soon. And I thanked God that she saw joy in the circumstances.

As for the car? Well, there were no tyres that fit the car in the country. It has to be brought across Europe. And since there are no airplanes...hopefully one will arrive by truck on Friday. Until then, the car sits in the garage. But it makes me smile everytime I see it.

Visit Patricia at Typing One-Handed to see her take on this great quote and follow the links to other participants.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Other Words--Giving What We Have


It only takes a few minutes of my time to consider the impact my words may have on someone and adjust the tone.

It only takes a few muscles to smile at someone and perhaps change the course of their day.

It only takes a few coins to take the homeless man a burger or buy the newspaper from the homeless lady trying to get back on her feet.

It only takes a few pounds (or dollars) a month to sponsor that child in a third world country to have clean water and an education.

It only takes a few hours a week to commit to a ministry of calling and choice.

“God can use small ingredients to make big miracles happen: fabric and thread to lift hope in the sick, five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand hungry people, and faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. Shouldn’t we give all that we have to God just to see what He might do with it?”
~~What I Learned From God While Quilting~~
Ruth McHaney Danner and Cristine Bolley

Whether we have an extra few minutes, an extra few hours or even more. Whether it is a few coins in our pockets, some money in our wallet that can be reallocated or even a lot more. Maybe it is just a little energy or a kind word. Whatever we have to give--big or small--God can make it grow to meet the need.

What do you need to share today?

Today's hostess is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures. Come and be blessed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On Being an ExPat and Dealing with Grief

Thank you dear friends for your kind words, prayers, thoughts and emails over the last several weeks. They have been most assuredly felt and appreciated. I'm actually doing much better than my absence would indicate, and have been writing many incredibily insightful and witty posts in my head. Unfortunately, in the busyness of life I have not done well to get them on paper (or screen) and by the time I do get around to thinking about blogging they are neither insightful, witty or timely. *sigh*

But I need to make a start somewhere, and this post seems to be the one bouncing around my head the most.

This grief thing is weird when your life straddles two sides of a great big pond called the Atlantic.
On one side of the pond, this side, life is basically the same. The girls still need to be directed in school (although this has been quite lax honestly), meals still need to be planned and prepared, dishes still have to be washed, Mt. Laundry still needs to be conquered. Everywhere I look things seem *normal*. The only thing that is out of balance is when I reach to make a Friday afternoon phone call and realize that there will not be anyone on the other end of the phone to answer.
On the other side of the pond, life has radically altered. A house sits empty. Court proceedings are making decisions. Attorneys are at work. Decisions need to be made. Relationships are hurting. I know all of this in my head. The problem is, I can't see it. I can't see the empty house or the items that need to be sorted or the bills that need to be paid. And since I can't see it, it all becomes rather theoretic--at least until Friday afternoons when there is not going to be anyone on the other end of the phone line.

So I find myself trying to reconcile my two lives--the altered American life and the status quo British one. And it makes my head hurt. And it makes me tired, mentally and physically. So I stop writing. Even when I know that writing is one way I reconcile my two lives. (Yes, it is this cyclical in my thinking).

It won't always be this way. Some upcoming events will help in the reconciliation. We will be returning to Texas in the nearish future to go through the house and give things away. That will most definitely make this less theoretical and more realitic. I anticipate that is when I will encounter the grief more profoundly as well. I won't have the denial of distance to dampen the grief. After the Texas trip, I will be able to focus on the other big change in our life---moving. German started a new job just as we returned from the funeral (reality was that his first day was supposed to be the day of the funeral and had to be postponed) so he is working away from home Monday through Friday. We have started our house hunting in the area of his new job, but can't realistically plan to move until after the US trip. When we are able to put plans into place to actually live as a family again, and I can stop being a single parent 5 days a week, I should be able to focus more mental energy on moving on and through the grief.

I'm well versed in the techniques of coping with grief. It was one of the areas I focused on in my years as a social worker in nursing homes. That has given me insight into "this is normal" feelings and honestly allowed my head to just kick in and do the things I needed to when I didn't have the mental energy to figure it out. But I will be more content when my two lives stop being parallel and reconnect. Until that happens, chances are I will still remain fairly silent. I promise, I will be back.