Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Update on the "Party"

Here's an update (see below for a change and a few clarifications):

As you may know, October is when bloggers often choose a theme to write about each day of the month (31 Days of Home Decorating, 31 Days of Prayer, or chocolate, or whatever).

I can think of nothing else I'd rather write about for 31 days straight. :)

But rather than doing all the talking (or writing) myself, I'd like to hear from you as well.  Maybe you've been caught off guard by grace.  Maybe you've had a light-bulb moment when you suddenly understood grace the way God intended.  Maybe it's been more like the slow dawn of morning in your soul.  Maybe you've come to realize that it's not a miracle limited to the moment of salvation, but spills over into every moment of everyday life.  Maybe you've had a specific experience that clearly illustrates grace.  Maybe you've recently received a grace-gift from God, something amazing and beautiful and undeserved.

Whatever your story looks like, I'd love to hear it.  Sharing our stories encourages those around us, brings us closer together, and most importantly, waves our Hero's banner.

Let's celebrate together!


I'm extending the deadline (which was originally today, the 30th) until October 25th.  Again, if you have a story to share, you can email me or message me on Facebook.  This doesn't have to be a salvation testimony (although it could be), it could be any experience that showed you what God's grace looks like.  If you have more than one story to share, by all means, don't be shy!  And finally, if you'd rather use a question-and-answer format, let me know I'll send you some questions to get you started.

Looking forward to celebrating with you!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Idol and the Gift

It was one of those "blessings in disguise".

I came home from class one evening absolutely beat.  Like it's-7:00pm-and-I-can-barely-stay-awake.  I woke up the next morning with a fever.  I was loathe to cancel class, but of course I had to.  I stayed home that day and the next.  I didn't hang out with my friends that Saturday like I'd planned.  Or go to church on Sunday.

Four days of forced rest.

I was bummed at first, 'cause, you know...losing two days of sessions meant losing eight hours, and I find a great sense of satisfaction in logging those hours.  (Also, who wants to stay home sick when everyone else is having a grand old time?!)

But it gave me time to think.  Not the planning-what-I-need-to-do-today-and-tomorrow-and-all-of-next-month kind of thinking.  Not busy thinking.  Deep thinking.  Quiet thinking.  Listening to God thinking.

And I was reminded how hard it often is for me to truly rest...

Another four hours on the time sheet, another email written, another project finished, another assignment turned in - it's as much an idol as it is an addiction.

God gently offers the gift of rest, and I push it away because I'm too busy.  Too busy...worshipping.  Chasing an elusive, never-quite-satisfying idol instead of the living God who loves me.

I let the busyness of life crowd in, and the din drowns out His voice.  I strive to be productive, deciding to make that my reputation.  The hard-working girl.  The diligent, conscientious, dependable one.

It's like I forget that my acceptance was never meant to be found in what I do.  My acceptance is found in Christ - alone.  After all, He loved me before I did anything.  Maybe He wants me to stop thinking about all that I'm going to do - for Him, for others, for myself - and start thinking about the work He's already done.

Because the work He did through the cross?  It's finished.  Forever.  Isn't it a contradiction then when His children have such frantically busy hearts?  Isn't that a sign we've forgotten what His work means for our lives?

But relentless love doesn't leave me alone in my forgetfulness.  If I will not rest and remember on my own, He may give me circumstances where I have to rest (and hopefully that rest will be followed by remembrance).

Perhaps rest isn't even the real gift, after all.  Maybe it's just the means of discovering the real gift.

Himself.

- - -

(I mentally "wrote" most of this post last weekend while I was sick, fully intending to type it out that Monday or Tuesday.  I didn't get to it until today, because the week was really full.  The irony does not escape me...  Tell you what, if I could invent a way of getting a blog post or email or story directly from my mind to the computer instantly, without typing, I'd be a wealthy woman!  But who am I kidding?  There's probably already an app for that.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Just For Fun

Sometimes, I sit around and ponder the great mysteries of life.

Like the etymology of the word cheese.

"Why do we call cheese 'cheese' when the Italians call it formaggio, the French call it fromage, and so on?  [Further examples if you want them - formatge in Catalan, fourmaj in Breton, furmo in Provençal.]  I mean, 'cheese' sounds nothing like any of those things."

So I did a little reading.

Apparently, the Germanic languages liked the Latin root caseus [which became cheese in English, kaas in Dutch, käse in German], while the Romance languages took their inspiration from another Latin word, formaticum, meaning "molded/formed".

I know.  Fascinating.  Your existence feels so much brighter and more meaningful now.  You're welcome.

But while you're here, and while I'm feeling cheesy, did you know that...

...the first factory for commercial cheese production was opened in Switzerland in 1815?

...cheese contains the amino acid tryptophan, which relieves stress and induces sleep?

...the average American consumes 32.6 lbs of cheese annually?  We rank 15th in the world's consumption of cheese, behind Greece, France, Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Israel, and Norway.

...the average Greek (number 1 in the ranking) consumes an astonishing 68.5 lbs of cheese every year.  That's it, baby!  I'm moving to Greece.  Give me sun and sea and cheese - I'll be a happy girl.

...the U.S produces 26% of the world's cheese.

...Charles de Gaulle once asked, "How can you govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?"  A stupid question, frankly.  After all, a country with that many kinds of cheese must have really happy citizens, and of course happy citizens should be much easier to govern than disgruntled ones.

Well, that's enough about cheese for now.  Oh grate, you're thinking.  I know, I know.  That was lame.

I'll hopefully be back again this week with some more serious posts.  But until then - may you live long and may your days all be filled with cheese!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's Your Grace Story?

Consider this post an invitation to join a party.

A party to celebrate grace.

As you may know, October is when bloggers often choose a theme to write about each day of the month (31 Days of Home Decorating, 31 Days of Prayer, or chocolate, or whatever).

I can think of nothing else I'd rather write about for 31 days straight. :)

But rather than doing all the talking (or writing) myself, I'd like to hear from you as well.  Maybe you've been caught off guard by grace.  Maybe you've had a light-bulb moment when you suddenly understood grace the way God intended.  Maybe it's been more like the slow dawn of morning in your soul.  Maybe you've come to realize that it's not a miracle limited to the moment of salvation, but spills over into every moment of everyday life.  Maybe you've had a specific experience that clearly illustrates grace.  Maybe you've recently received a grace-gift from God, something amazing and beautiful and undeserved.

Whatever your story looks like, I'd love to hear it.  Sharing our stories encourages those around us, brings us closer together, and most importantly, waves our Hero's banner.

Let's celebrate together!


Now the details:

If you want to share your story, you can email me or send me a message on Facebook.  Please do so by September 30th.

Please try to stick to story/testimony form, rather than a long-winded exposition of grace or something preachy. :)

Also, if writing your story as a blog post sounds too intimidating, I'd be happy to send you some questions to make it more interview-style.

If you have any questions or need clarification, just let me know.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This...

This is bits of random -
 
 
Heat can have dire effects on a girl and her lipstick.
 
 
I'm sure he tweeted about this.
 
 
Here, you can buy olives in cans, jars, or plastic pouches.  Take your pick!
 
 
A can of evaporated milk (for fudge!).  Isn't that little tab thingy odd?  But clever.
 
 
Ruth brought this to class one day - chocolate "with sun-ripened California grapes".  A taste of home.  Literally. :)
 
- - -
 
This is the gecko corner -
 
 
Red (left) and Pinky (right, and blurry)
 
 
Cordelia is kind of camera-shy...
 
 
...but I finally coaxed her inside.
 
 
This is what Pinky decided to do for amusement one night.  I'd left my sifter out on the counter one evening and there she was...
 
 
 
- - -
 
This is a heaping dose of cuteness: four identical kitties that I've considered hiding in my backpack and taking home -
 
 
 
 
- - -
 
This is because of Ebola -
 
 
A hand-washing station at church
 
 
An infographic which has been posted up and distributed (at church)
 
 
Text from the phone company about the importance of hand-washing
 
- - -
 
This is our welcome party for the new arrivals -
 
 
The one-and-only Shawn and Jenn
 
(Actually, there's a lot of Jenns here, but it sounded good that way.)
 
 
 
 
The food was absolutely amazing.  Normally for welcome parties it's a potluck, but this time we ordered food from a Lebanese caterer...chicken, salad, potatoes, pitas, and garlic sauce.  It was all good.  So good.
 
 
Welcome baskets: we all bring household staples and other goodies.  They were really full.  And therefore very heavy. :)
 
 
 
 
Michi did an interpretive dance for us.  (Just kidding.)
 
 
Testimony time.  Ryan (left) sharing his story and Michael translating into French for our guests that didn't speak English.
 
 
Cathren, Ryan's wife, sharing hers
 
 
 
Janel's turn
 
 
 
  
 
Beware the Norbert!
 
 
Presenting the welcome baskets
 
- - -
 
This is the after-party -
 
 
We were trying to get the movie set up.  I'm not sure what was taking so long...
 
 
 
The kids sat on the couch, determined to stay for the movie.  Their parents told them it was time to go home.  I'll leave you to fill in the rest of the details.
 
After the movie, we hung out and talked for a long time.
 
Which made for a late night.
 
 
Like got-back-at-2:00am late.  (I guess that technically means it was an early morning instead of a late night...)
 
But it was good.
 
- - -
 
This is my street on a typical Saturday afternoon -
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
- - -
 
This is family...that I finally got to Skype with for the first time since I've been here -
 
 
 
 
 
They're the best.


And this...is the end. :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pressing On

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  ...Indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death...  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  ...One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - from Philippians 3

Pressing on.

To what?

Was Paul pressing on to get another church planted?  To get more Timothys trained?  To preach the gospel in more cities?

Or was he pressing on...to simply know Christ?

I was reflecting on that this week, as it relates to me.  What am I supposed to be pressing on towards?  Finishing French?  Learning the culture?  Seeing a church planted?  Some other sort of ministry?

Or is there just one thing I need to pursue, one thing I need to be consumed with in this life?

In the grand scheme of things, French is not my goal.

Neither is understanding this culture.

Nor being involved in the work of planting churches.

The goal God has given us is simply to know Christ.  May we always remember that and keep everything else secondary.  May we be faithful in the things He has given us to do today, remembering that they are not the ultimate objective.  May we never give up the amazing privilege of knowing Him better because we're busy in ministry.

Press on.  He alone is a goal worthwhile.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dear _____,

Apple cider candle from Mom...  After burning you for a couple hours (by necessity - the power was out), it smelled like I just walked into Joann's or Michael's when they have all their Fall stuff out.  Oh, Fall and home, I miss you so much.

Flickering lights outside...  Okay.  I didn't notice you at first, 'cause the candle was flickering inside.  But then I was like, "Wait, what's going on outside?"  Ooo, lightning!  My favorite!  (I didn't guess that's what it was, because there wasn't any thunder or rain at that point.)

Bats...  Whenever I'm out at dusk (which granted isn't normally very often) and see you, I can't help but think of a certain friend.  And I laugh inside.  And then laugh some more.

Gecko that looks like Pinky's twin [it's not the same gecko; I've seen them both at the same time]...  You're a rebellious teenager, aren't you?  I saw you right by the door one night, like you were trying to sneak out.  "Excuse me there, little whippersnapper, but it's way past curfew.  Where do you think you're going?"  You responded by turning and running away from me.  Rebel, you.

Guy on the bus...  It was a really bad idea to step on that metal frame [towards the front of the bus; it's like a low rack for luggage].  It wasn't anchored to the floor, so your weight tipped it up, hitting me right in the knee cap.  I have a really ugly bruise now.  Next time...be more careful, please?

Lady I ran into one day...  So, I had met you once at a baby shower.  I remembered you were a teacher.  "You're a...math teacher?"  "English," you corrected.  And just like that, my feeling went from eek-can-I-run-and-hide-under-the-biggest-rock-around to a relieved yeah-we-could-totally-be-best-friends.  Okay.  Not quite.  But you get my drift.

Tuna can...  In absence of a hammer, you made an acceptable substitute when I needed to re-hang a picture.

Neighbors burning mosquito coils in the stairway...  Cough, cough...I understand that you don't want the mosquitoes...cough, cough...but that stuff is really...cough, cough...awful...cough, cough.

Inner bookworm...  I thought sixteen (yes, sixteen!) books in six days would be enough to keep you satisfied for a while, but I can tell you're trying to wiggle your way out of your enforced hibernation.  Sorry about that.  Can you just wait until Christmas break?

Bus drivers...  I don't know why you like to fly down the street like it's a runway.  You're driving a bus, not flying a plane.  There was that one day when I was riding in the very front (standing with my forehead literally inches away from the windshield) and we were barreling down the street.  A dog started to cross the street.  I visibly winced because I knew there was no earthly way you could brake in time.  Thankfully, the dog ran back to the curb.  Whew.

Heat rash...  There's a very a good reason you're also called "prickly heat".  Ugh!

Taxi driver...  Ya know, it's not my fault that you ended up lost (I told you the Shell gas station, not the Total gas station).  I'm not going to pay double our agreed-on price for you to drive me to the other side of the quartier where you should have gone in the first place!

Feet covered with blisters...  Sorry, you had to pay the price for the dispute with the afore-mentioned taxi driver.  (I got out and walked, since he refused to go any further unless I paid him more.)

Girls that showed up at the language center trying to sell stuff...  No, we're not giving away free lunches today.  No, you didn't see my picture in the paper telling about it.  No, that was not a funny joke.  No, I don't need shampoo or perfume or hand sanitizer.  No, you can't have my necklace.  No, I have no intention whatsoever of going to Paris and taking a picture next to the Eiffel Tower and sending it to you.  Good.bye!!

Neighbors throwing a party on the roof...  Shoot. me. please.  Your music would have been tolerable if it wasn't so loud.  But this...this was beyond annoying.  It was downright painful.

Russian-to-French dictionaries in the market...  I don't know why you struck me as so funny.  I mean, do people here actually learn Russian?  (Maybe they do offer classes, but it just seems so unlikely...)