Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm a Pepper, You're a Pepper. . .

I remember vividly telling the Lord about seven years ago that I would do anything he asked of me and go anywhere he wanted, as long as that didn't include being a missionary in a foreign country. Verbatim, that's what I told him. I had a great fear of being called to live the life of a missionary, which in my mind conjured up images of living in a tent in a jungle somewhere, wearing rags for clothing and going to sleep each night with an empty belly.

Before you get upset with me, I should tell you that I realize that this is completely and totally wrong. But when you're a "high maintenance" kind of girl, and when you have melodramatic tendencies, these are the conclusions you tend to jump to. And to be fair, at this time in my life seven years ago I had never really met a "real life missionary" before.

So you can imagine my complete shock and surprise when in a recent conversation with my sister I blurted out that "I AM a missionary!"

Say what??!?!?!

The MOMENT that statement fled my mouth my mind said, "WHOA -- WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?"

During this phone conversation I was doing my best to encourage and uplift my sister, and had been reminding her of a couple of different scriptures in the Bible that spoke directly to her life at that moment. It was at that point that she said, "Jamie, I really think after your kids are grown you and Paul should be missionaries!" And instead of arguing with her about why that would, could, should never happen my big mouth blurted out, "I AM a missionary!"

I must admit to you that I've always felt more than inadequate at witnessing and evangelizing to people. I've never led anyone to Christ, and although I've given my testimony time and again to friends and family, I've never really given it to a stranger. It's not that I don't want to, and it's not that I'm ignorant of The Great Commission, it's just that truly I've never felt adequate to do it. I've stood before crowds of people and said what's on my heart, I've taught different classes in church, I've been a part of different ministries in different capacities, but I've never, ever proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a specific "Great Commission" kind of way.

But something within me has changed in the last seven years. My heart, my thinking -- I don't know -- something. And now I realize just what it means to be a missionary. defines a missionary as: a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities.

So I've come to discover that not only am I a missionary, but in fact we are ALL missionaries. Every one of us. And our mission field doesn't always have to be the far reaches of the Earth. I've been a missionary in Kansas City, Missouri. And I've been a missionary in Wichita, Kansas. And now I'm a missionary in Fort Worth, Texas. And you can be a missionary where you are. We are missionaries in our homes. We are missionaries in our families. We are missionaries to our friends. And we can ALL be missionaries to complete strangers.

It's true that every unbeliever needs to hear the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to know who Jesus is and was and what he wants to do for them. But if there's one thing I've come to know in my own life it is this -- even believers need to hear the Good News from time to time.

So with new determination and an amazing lack of fear, I will gladly accept that I AM a missionary. And someday maybe that will mean that Paul and I will travel to new and far off places, but in this moment I will do my best to be a missionary right where the Lord has put me.

I AM a missionary -- and YOU ARE TOO!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Caller ID necessary. . .

Technology amazes me. Truly. I am baffled by how people can imagine things and then make them come to life. I've had a home computer for years now, but for all I know if you lift the cover of the hard drive you will find a hamster in a wheel. I don't get how it all works.

For the last nine years of my life I've worked with software that records people's voices. It started out with a cassette recorder, then technology advanced and it became CDs, and now those voices get recorded straight to a computer server. For those that aren't familiar with what I did, a brief summary: I contracted with a few of the Court systems, on state and federal levels. Essentially I listened to Court proceedings and turned those recordings into a hard transcript or manuscript.

Over the course of nine years I did literally several hundred proceedings. Over time I began to recognize certain judges' and attorneys' voices. They would begin to speak and I immediately knew who they were.

This technology is also seen in mainstream society. Our cell phones, computer programs, heck, even our cars, are now capable of "recognizing" our voice. How is this possible? I mean, I can't even understand the science behind it.

And another thing that technology has spoiled us with is Caller ID. What did we ever do before it? We know as soon as the phone rings who the caller is. We can screen our calls now and decide when we want to talk to a certain person and when we would rather wait. I must confess that we went years without this modern convenience in our home. Call me a cheapskate, but I didn't want to pay for things like call waiting, Caller ID, long distance, etc., so I opted not to have it on our plan.

The phone would ring at our house and when I said "Hello?" I really had no idea who was on the other end. But I learned this -- we can recognize voices more than we think.

Sometimes when someone calls I know that the voice sounds familiar, but it takes a few moments to figure out who it is. I have to listen carefully to the voice, the tone, the pitch, the way they're speaking, and sometimes the subject matter they're speaking about. We all have characteristics that define us. Our personalities play a part, our dialect, our speaking habits. And when I'm not quite sure who it is I can use these puzzle pieces to figure it out.

When my husband calls I can guarantee you that with or without Caller ID I KNOW that it's him. The same with my mom, my grandma, my sisters, my brother, my children, and my close friends. Why? Because I've spent enough time with them to instantly know who they are. The same way that after time I knew who certain attorneys and judges were. I listened to them for hours, and sometimes days, at a time.

So why, then, is it so difficult for us to hear the Lord's voice when he "calls"? I've struggled with this concept for most of my christian life. I would pray to him, "Lord, I need to know what to do in this situation, so speak to me!" Or "Lord, I can't tell if what I'm hearing or feeling is you or if it's the enemy!"

Why's it so hard to hear Him?

The Bible says in Isaiah 30:21: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

The answer is simple. We can't hear His voice because we don't recognize it. We learn His voice. It comes with time. Time spent with Him. Time spent LISTENING to Him. The more time we spend developing our relationship with Him the more likely we are to KNOW his voice when we hear it. When we come to a point where we know it's the Lord's voice we also gain something else -- the ability to know when it's not. We will no longer be confused by exactly who it is we're hearing. We will know. No Caller ID needed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How do YOU spell beautiful?

When I left the house this morning I wasn't expecting to receive such a blessing. I think that kind of blessing is best -- the completely unexpected one.

This morning was Parkway Elementary's All-School Spelling Bee. Kate had come home a few weeks ago with a letter from her teacher stating that she had "earned the privilege of participating" in the annual event. Attached was a list of 225 words that they would use in the competition. We worked with Kate on the words, but also told her that the majority of the studying would be left to her. (After all, in the end it was only she who could stand up there, right?) We impressed upon her the importance of studying AND the importance of keeping track of the list of words.

Anybody who knows this kid knows that she's uh, well, how to say this? uh, less than careful about keeping track of her things. Okay, the kid is horrible at it. It's almost a weekly occurrence that she loses something of importance and/or value, i.e. her retainer, her ipod, her Nintendo DS, her homework, articles of clothing -- I could go on.

When we left over Christmas break I took the list with, in my handbag, so that she could study on the 18+ hour round-trip. I handed it to her IN THE CAR, on the WAY HOME and guess what? Yep, she lost it. Somewhere in the fifty feet from the car to the house it disappeared into oblivion. So there for a few days she couldn't study. Not that it would have happened anyway, because she's also a procrastinator.

Crunch time came and she kicked it into high gear. She spent hours pouring over that list and having herself quizzed by one of us.

Two days before the competition she came to me crying and confessed that she didn't even WANT to compete. She was afraid of getting up in front of the entire school. She's kind of a shy kid that way. I comforted her and told her that she was under no obligation to compete, and that if she really didn't want to she didn't have to. It was completely up to her. "Think about it," I told her, "and get back to me when you've made a decision."

The next morning she told me she wanted to do it, and so we resumed the studying.

So this morning I drove up to the school, parked the car & found a seat in the cafeteria. I found her on the stage and gave her a smile and a wave. And then it hit me. I was consumed with anxiety for my little girl -- sweaty palms, upset stomach, the works. I wondered if she could do it -- could she really stand on that stage, look out upon the entire audience and keep herself composed and think clearly enough to spell a word correctly?

The Bee commenced and one by one the children stood and spelled their assigned word. I was surprised by the number of children who spelled theirs incorrectly and had to walk off the stage. Kate was number 27 of 29 spellers. When her turn came she marched to the front of the stage with a big smile on her face and spelled trick. T - R - I - C - K. Trick.

Round 2. More children heard the dreaded *Ding* indicating a misspelling. I thought to myself how absolutely heartbreaking it was at that moment when their little faces change from hope to despair. A lot of them would stare blankly as they walked away, I'm sure in disbelief that it was over. Some of them would kind of stomp off in an angry way.

Kate's turn again. Commentator: "The word is Beautiful". Kate, still smiling: "Beautiful. B - E -A - U - T - A - F - U - L. Beautiful. *Ding*

Her eyes locked on mine the entire way down the stairs and across the cafeteria. The smile on her face never faltered. In that moment when I really expected her to tear up or start crying I was almost startled to realize that her facial expression never changed. Wow.

And then suddenly there were two children left on the stage. One of them is Kate's dear friend Jaquelyn. Jaquelyn and Kate are pretty much inseparable during the school day. Academically they're pretty well matched, two of the brightest in their class. They were science fair partners. They also attend tutoring every Wednesday afternoon, as a way to challenge them above and beyond what their classmates are learning.

The next fifteen minutes were a dual between Jacquelyn and a 3rd grade boy. Back and forth they went, but in the end it was Jacquelyn who came out victorious.

As I stood and turned to find Kate I saw once more that the smile hadn't faded from her freckled face. She ran past me to congratulate Jacquelyn with a hug. Returning to find me she said, "Mom, I'm so happy for Jacquelyn!"

Wow. Again. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my friends, but I have to admit that there's also this competitive side to me that gets a little green when they are the winner and I am the -- well, I'm the one who doesn't win.

I've stated in this blog before that I pray for my girls every day. I mostly pray the same repetitive prayer, which goes "Lord, I pray for wisdom for my girls. Wisdom like that of Solomon -- a wisdom that encompasses EVERY part of their life, that will serve them well and lead them through any circumstance. And Lord I pray for a heart like that of David's, a heart that cries out for an intimate relationship with You. A heart that beats to praise you. A heart that is content with NOTHING less. And Father I pray for FRIENDSHIPS like that of David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi. Friendships that are good and strong. I pray that they are the kind of friend that will stand beside their friends no matter what. And I pray for friends who would do the same."

So the blessing came as I drove away, Kate's "Certificate of Participation" lying in the seat next to me. I was in awe of a Lord who hears that repetitive prayer of mine -- that prayer that is formed in less than eloquent words by a less than superior mind. But he hears it. And he listens to it. And he acts upon it. The blessing is found in realizing a prayer that is answered.

She may not have won the Parkway Elementary All-School Spelling Bee, but she is far from being a loser. In my eyes, and in the Lord's eyes, she is beautiful. B -E - A - U - T - I - F - U - L.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Observations from the passenger seat. . .

Well, it's been a really long time since my last blog. So much has happened during that time, things that I yearned to blog about, but lacked the time, energy, or words to express them. The title of this blog kind of says a lot. If I hadn't learned this lesson before now, Jesus has certainly made me learn it in the last couple of months. Let me start at the beginning.

At the end of last year, around Christmas time, I really, truly felt the Lord tell me that we would not be in Wichita by the end of 2009. I did not doubt Him, however I did wonder just how he would accomplish what seemed to me to be one huge feat. While I may have been open to a change in geographical location, I thought my husband may be a little less open. At about the same time Paul was hearing the word "change," which I mentioned in my last entry. Boy, when the Lord speaks sometimes he REALLY speaks!!

December of '08 Cessna started talking layoffs. Big, deep layoffs. It didn't take long for Paul to be affected, even after nearly 12 years on the job. By the end of June he was officially unemployed.

Let me state that during the same first six months of 2009 I was completely and utterly miserable at the job I had just started. I had applied for other jobs, had a couple of interviews and even been offered a position somewhere else, but the pay wasn't great and I knew that once Paul was laid off I was stuck. Stuck. I have to be honest and tell you that during my entire adult life I was spoiled by my husband when it came to work. I was able to stay at home with the kids when they were little, and Paul always gave me the luxury of doing whatever made me happy career-wise, as long as I did something to help us out financially. So to suddenly be stuck was something my whole self rebelled against. I knew it was for the good of my family that I stay where I was, which did help to know (at least a little). But even knowing that could not stop the crushing depression that followed.

So to recap, by the end of June we had lost seventy percent of our household income, I hated my job, and worry consumed me about how we would survive financially. I came to grips with the realization that we could be in real danger of losing some pretty substantial material goods. I went to work everyday knowing that not only did I completely hate my job, but that the money I earned from said hated job was not nearly enough to cover our expenses.

The other huge part of Paul losing his job was that we also lost our health insurance. Sure, COBRA benefits were available, but they were so expensive that it wasn't even an option. With Paul's arthritis needing not only costly daily medications but also the $8,000. injections that he receives every six to eight weeks, you can see where the despair comes into play.

I spent every morning commute either in tears or close to them. My depression soon became desperation.

I had been on my knees for months begging and pleading and praying to the Lord to spare Paul's job and to get me out of my current one. So it was disappointing to feel like the Lord had answered in a way that was contrary to my desires. I wasn't bitter with God, I just wondered what He was doing. I held tight to Jeremiah 29:11, which says "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." But there was a big part of me that felt like maybe we were being punished for something. I didn't have to look far to know that we don't always do the right thing, so maybe he was disciplining us??

I'll never forget the morning that I was driving to work and a vision came to me of my hands being wrapped tightly around the bars of the gates of Heaven. I was shaking the gates with all my might screaming to the Lord "Why don't you care?? Why won't you do something? Lord, DO SOMETHING!"

God is so good. And so faithful. And so holy. A week after that vision Paul was contacted for a job interview from an aircraft company in Texas. He flew out at the beginning of August.

And then we waited. One week. Two weeks. Three weeks.

On August 26th he was offered a position. On August 26th I gave my two week's notice. My last day was September 9th.

We listed our house on September 10th. We had a contract on it on September 16th. We moved to Texas on September 19th. Paul's first day was September 28th.

Suddenly not only was God moving, but he was moving quickly! After months of feeling like there was no movement, it came in like a huge wave crashing to the shore.

So, some of the observations from the passenger's seat include. . .

  • That we really are in the passenger seat. God is in control, which means he's the one driving. I have no steering wheel, I have no accelerator or brakes. And you know what? I prefer it that way. You sure see a lot more out the passenger window then you do the windshield!

  • I saw God's hands in so many different ways during this journey. We didn't go hungry. We didn't lose the house or the cars. He provided for us financially. Completely and totally.

  • He provided for our health. No one has gotten seriously ill. God even led Paul into a situation where he was able to get his injection medication (Remicade) for FREE during the time that we are without insurance. For FREE. What is normally $8,000. a pop --free!!

  • His hand was in our friendships. We had so many people surround us during this time. Great people. Friends that pitched in to help us get the house ready for sale. Friends that picked up our kids and worried about our meals. Friends that threw us a going away party. People that we will forever be connected to -- whether it's in this life or in heaven!

  • His hands were definitely in the sale of our house. It still astounds me and stops me in my tracks to know that in a housing market as bleak as Wichita, where over 10,000 people are without jobs, our house was under contract in 6 days. God even sweetened the deal when he brought us buyers that we personally know!! The couple that is buying our house is a couple that we went to church with!

  • God's hand was even in our move. Paul's new company paid our moving expenses and hired movers to come in and pack us, put our stuff on a truck, drive it to Texas and then help us unpack everything. I almost started laughing when the movers came and introduced themselves to me. One of them stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, my name is Jesus, and I'll be the one driving your things to your new home." No, seriously. His name was Jesus. A wonderful Christian man whom I got the honor of knowing for a couple of days. He told me his favorite Christian artist was Toby Mac. Every time I hear Toby on the radio I think of Jesus.

The best observation I can make for now is that we're still traveling. That is, the car is still moving. Our journey is not over. I know that God has a plan for each one of us here in Texas. He has purposed us to be here, in this location, at this specific time.

And if I needed proof, I think I got it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You say goodbye, but I say hello. . .

Wow. Where to begin? I guess by saying "Hello".

It seems that's the direction my life has taken right now. But in order to have gotten to the "Hello" part, I've had to say A LOT of goodbyes of late. Let's review:

I guess it started by saying "Goodbye" to some wonderful friends. (BTW, "wonderful" does not do them justice. They were very dear friends, who had come into our lives and nearly immediately became part of our tapestry. I once wrote in a little card to my very dear friend a scripture upon which when I stumbled it quite literally took my breath away because it seemed so, well, perfect. It's found at I Samuel 1:18, and though I can't find the particular version right now, it says "There was an immediate bond of love between them, and they became the best of friends." We miss them terribly, but have immense peace for them. They are DIRECTLY and SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE of God's will for their lives. Isn't that what we wish for all our friends?

I also recently said "Goodbye" to the job that I have held for the last eight years, and returned to the "real working world". (And believe me, this simple sentence could not only be a blog of it's own, it could probably be a book of it's own -- but I'll do you all a favor and save that for another day). I still mourn for the end of that chapter of our life, especially when I've had a bad day at work or when the alarm goes off and I have to put on "real" clothes and leave my cozy, quiet home for the day.

And though insignificant, we've recently found out that our doctor of ten years is quitting private practice. I boo and hiss at this, even though since our move four years ago it is kind of inconvenient to drive across town to be seen in her office. (Wichita has gotten us quite spoiled with ten minute trips to anywhere you want/need to be.) Along with our doctor, we're recently made the decision to find a new dentist. He has consolidated his practice and is only working odd hours, which is really inconvenient now that my job isn't as flexible as it used to be. I also "fired" my eye doctor when his office refused to wait a few minutes for me when I was running behind for an appointment. (Uh, excuse me, haven't I waited long waits to be seen by him in the past?! So one-sided!)

Another BIG "Goodbye" has been our decision to leave our "church home". We've attended this particular church for about four, (five?) years. This was a very difficult decision, but one that I must admit had been a long time coming. I can't point to one particular thing that happened, but rather a multitude of circumstances. But most importantly, I had felt for probably over a year that it was time to move on, and spent a lot of time praying about it. Believe me, I kicked and I screamed and I cried (and I cried, and I cried).

So, there's a lot of our goodbyes. I know there are more of them, but they are probably small and insignificant, because they aren't coming to mind just now.

I heard Paul telling someone that the word he's been hearing lately is "Change". Change. I hate the word. I hate what it means even more. But change is one of those things that gives no regard to how one feels, it does as it will. And I hate to admit it, and I'll probably deny it later, but there's a very small part of me that is beginning to embrace it. I guess because I'm starting to see where the "Hello"s are leading. . .

Saying goodbye to dear friends usually means you get to say hello to new ones. Maybe even wonderful ones. Ones that may just become a vibrant new color in your tapestry. I keep my fingers crossed that this will be truth. But for now, I'm learning to let the Lord be my wonderful friend.

And saying goodbye to an old job means you get to say hello to a new one. And even though I've struggled in this new job, I have met some wonderful new people. People that I actually like. And I know that because I've struggled with this new job it has brought me even closer to Jesus, because I've had to depend on him like I have never had to before. And I'm seeking His reasons and His motives, and it's good.

We're still "church shopping", and I don't know where the Lord will take us, but I do know that we've really been in prayer about where that is. This week we visited a new church and I found myself weeping during the message, because it was GOOD. As I sat and listened to the pastor I felt like a starving person stooped over a steaming hot bowl of soup, savoring every drop, feeling my belly get warm and full. It was the best feeling. I don't know if this will be our new home, but I enjoyed it immensely. And even more importantly, I'm enjoying the journey. I get excited to talk to Paul on a Saturday night, "Where should we go tomorrow?" And we'll lean over the computer and look up different websites and talk about what we're looking for. Pour me another bowl.

Another "Hello" has been a very recent addition to our family. His name is Mr. Arbuckle, but we've decided to call him Arnie for short. He's an Italian Greyhound that we adopted from the Kansas Humane Society. He looks like a miniature version of Roadie, (our full-sized greyhound that we adopted a couple of years ago). Arnie had been returned to the pound twice by two different families. He's three years old but is not completely housebroken, which apparently was the straw that broke the camel's back to both prior families. He's done quite well here, although he has had a couple of accidents in the house. He's so timid and scared. I hope and pray that eventually we will see a different side to him, a confident side. I want him to know that he's safe here. I've teased a couple of times that we're becoming the "Island of Misfit Toys", but it brings my heart joy.

It's hard to say goodbye, to let go of so many people and things at one time. People and things that we hold so dear and love so much. But I'm learning in the process. Learning that God is a Mighty God, and that He is in control. That He knows all these fears that I have. I'm learning to let go. To surrender it all. To bide my time and bite my tongue and trust. And that I don't need to know the destination all the time. That it's okay to sit back and be the passenger instead of the driver.

Ecclesiastes 3

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Monday, October 13, 2008

WHA? October already?!

Okay, okay, so I haven't blogged in 5 months -- give a girl a break!!

So much has changed in my life in the last five months, and I have much to say about many things, but it's dinner time and I'm hungry. . .

More blogging to follow - stay tuned!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's all in how you look at it.

** This has been in my draft file for a while. Thought it was time to break it out. Hope you enjoy.***

The Dog's Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat's Diary
Day 983 of My Captivity
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.
The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Idiots!
There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.
Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.
I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now ...

Two animals living in the same house, but with a completely different perspective from one another. Definitely a good reminder for me that life is what you make it.

Charles Swindoll is quoted as saying: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes."