Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in July

Today's forecast: hot.
Its hard to believe Christmas is this week. It doesn't in the least bit feel like it to me. Maybe my mind is blocking it out because the reality that this is the first year away from family I will ever spend is too harsh. But that's dramatic, and I like to think I'm not I will go on thinking its probably a host of other small things. Like the fact I have a tan from going on a safari last weekend. Or that I had to take a cold shower today after sweeping the floor because I was sweating. profusely. (aren't you glad you know that?)
Maybe its because I am busy, or it doesn't feel like a year has gone by yet since I was last celebrating.

Its nice actually, no commercials (no tv), no crazy mall traffic or tension to buy gifts. No holiday binge eating...although MAN I have been craving one of those huge cheapo tins of popcorn with the three flavors in it lately.
The things I miss get weirder and weirder, I swear.

There is no real point, I am realizing, to this post. I have less then 2 weeks left here at the orphanage and I am actually happy I will spend Christmas with them here. If I can't be with my family at home, this is where I would choose to be. In 4 short months I have fully and completely fallen in love with a great family and learned a lot about what it is to give of yourself for others. Christmas isn't 'just a day', it marks one of the most important days there is in a year. Its about the greatest love, in the form of the greatest gift.
I will surely miss Christmas morning at home. I will miss 24 hours of a Christmas Story on TV (although I have a copy and may just put it on repeat starting Christmas eve). I will miss the Chinese food after church on the 24th and then our lazy Christmas morning. I'll miss the eggs benedict and couch time in my pjs. And my family. Ugh, I will miss them most of all. But really and truly, I will be happy on Saturday. I will hold the babies and enjoy the kids. We'll go to church and eat lunch outside in our summer clothes. It won't be the tradition I'm used to, but I'm ok with that. I'll be surrounded by the people I love (one in particular comes to mind) and I'll celebrate the reason I am here, on His birthday.
Merry Christmas!

Just one last note. I am not at all opposed to eating the popcorn from the tin months after Christmas, say May. By January the ugly ones and overstock that never sold should be on sale for a bargain of like 5 or 10 bucks. Just sayin'

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The long and 'short' of it

Lately I have been soaking up every ounce of what surrounds me. I think there is an internal pressure applied every time I realize the date (which is about once a week) and count quickly the weeks left before I leave this place. I can feel my heart start to ache and I can almost predict how I will feel when the time comes to move on. This isn't the first time I have had to tear my heart away from bonds that give me a reason to wake up in the morning, bonds that seem to make my heart beat.
4 months seemed like enough time, this was just a 'filler' until the next thing.
Or so I thought.

For those of you who don't know (sorry bout' that) I left Mercy Ships in September. I originally was going to be on a leave of absence, but the ship sailing and arriving at the next port was almost exactly the same as my end-date of my two year commitment so rather then sail to a country that costs lots and lots of money to get out of only to leave right away, I am staying put for an extra month in South Africa (not too hard a place to be stuck...I promise)
It was actually easier then I thought it would be. I simply was meant to serve for two full outreaches and that's what I did. I won't go into a host of emotions that accompanied this year...ugh, work for another day, I say.

Anyways, it wasn't so hard to leave because I was on to the next thing, something I was so excited for, something I knew God had picked out for me months before.

Here I am. And now I've lost the direction of what I wanted to say...wonder if that will ever change.
Oh, here we go:
I've been thinking about ministry in relations to missions in general, especially now with the upcoming departure from both Sinakekele in January and Africa as a whole as well (don't have to rip off that band aid until February, thankfully). My last day of 'work' (as in the paying kind) was January 1st 2009. I will end this season of ministry on, take a guess...January 1st 2011. Two years. Wow, two years.

What I want to say is that on January 1st 2009 I wasn't totally ready. I wasn't spiritually 'matured' I wasn't well versed in the bible, I hadn't been doing the Christian 'thing' for very long, I wasn't a likely candidate for missions. The list goes on.
And today? I'm still not. Maybe I'm more mature, or I suppose weathered/seasoned/ground up/spit out/trampled on and put through the emotional ringer would be better terms to use.
The point of all of this that I am struggling to make is that none of us are ever 'ready'. Not financially, not physically, not emotionally, not mentally, not spiritually, for what God has in store for us. We may think we are in good shape, we may feel 'ready', but that doesn't actually matter. God looks for our trust in Him to complete us. He looks at our hearts and sees humility of lack thereof. He waits for us, all of us, to say "Here am I, send me", knowing that may mean we need to care for the homeless or the broken in our own community or, go to a foreign land.

We screw it up with our stipulations, friends. We close our eyes and ears to that still small voice, the news around us. We don't respond, we don't listen, we don't act. We say "I'll go this far, I'll do this, but not that" but its only to put our own minds at ease, I think
I've had one prominent thought on my mind for weeks now. I can't stop thinking about how short life is. You see it every where, we are inundated by the world's view of how our lives should look, what it is to be successful. We feel that pressure to succeed, save money, and create a picture of what we think is a good Christian life. Its not enough.
Life is too short.
It is too short not to give until we relieve the burdens of other people. Its too short not to give our time, resources, money, and most importantly our hearts to those in need of it.
Its too short not to consider adopting an orphan. Not you, you say? Why?
What is stopping you?
Why do we hesitate with needs that seem to have such an obvious answer?
There are people hurting everywhere and to you Christians, this is our calling. As long as there are people in need, we are called to help them.
We don't get to decide who is most deserving, we don't get to judge the hearts of men. We simply, plainly, need to just get on with it.
Its not supposed to be comfortable, its not supposed to be easy. And it won't be.

In regards to being ready, I have been thinking this week about just how un-ready (like that new word?) I actually was for these last two years. And my conclusion? God uses the mission He has for our lives to complete us. He "sets eternity in the hearts of men" and oh, its so beautiful. He uses the ones who have nothing to cement bonds to Him in our hearts. He uses the orphaned and abused, the poor and the weak to illustrate His love, His compassion, His joy, His unfailing love.
My soul feels good. Its the kind of good that has no other source. It can't be taught, it isn't found in a book. It comes from a range of things.
Today is was a baby finally calming down from a hysterical cry and sucking in short, quick breaths through his nose in the aftermath of the wailing while he fell asleep in my arms.
Other days its spontaneous dance parties with 7 year old Mary and nearly-2 Thembeka, the little girl who couldn't sit on her own 3 months ago and now wiggles her bum and twirls in circles to the music while squealing out of sheer joy...those kind of dance parties.
Its hearing the soft breathing and sleepy murmers of four of the most beautiful children I have ever seen sleeping in the next room from where I type.
Its crying over them just now as I watched them sleep.

Our lives are too short not to experience God's heart. They are too short not to welcome a baby in His name, one who won't get a chance without us. Why are they less worthy of a loving home then one who hasn't been born yet, or one who biologically belongs to someone? (You can see clearly my current burden)

Maybe we can start by changing our view of people, that seems simple enough (again, I am talking as much to myself as I am to anyone else)
Rather then judge the man asking for money on the corner you go past everyday, or avoid eye contact, lets start a relationship. I'm not telling you to invite him for dinner, but give him a chance to see how God feels towards him. Be the light He won't see unless you are there to bring it. Help him a little everyday, food, a few cents. Build up to a 1 minute conversation. Repeat. Maybe in two weeks, two months, two years, you'll invite him for church, or that dinner.
Go and volunteer at a nursing home or veterans hospital and imagine yourself there with no one to come and see you, let it break your heart and motivate you to show love to those there who are so deserving.
Instead of one time gifts to organizations, commit monthly to them. I know one at the moment who could use regular support, and I could tell you as well exactly where it would go.
Pray about adoption or fostering, and ask God why there is fear or hesitation surrounding a decision like that.
Lets be a physical presence to people in need, wherever we are. Let the burden and weight of the need be just that, a burden on our hearts to help them.

I'm still not well versed in the bible. I still doubt and stumble and lose motivation and wonder what I am doing. I still say "send me...but not there".
At the end of the day I am willing. I trust God, and now I know that I can only find contentment in being in the center of His will for my life.
I don't know it all, I don't know if helping the homeless dude on the corner will work. I just know not trying definitely won't, so we have to at least try.

We all have the capability to do these things inside of us, just please don't wait until you feel 'ready', life is too short to wait.