It’s Just Geography

One week nearly down and it feels like we’ve never stopped. It’s all geography, really. A different classroom for one, a different school for the other, but it’s just location. The rest is the same. 5 lunches into the school year and I’m already sapped. 5 morning drop offs and 10 afternoon pick-ups and I’m limp. The drudgery, the 8:45 pm wake-up call from the daughter who suddenly after hours of play realizes that she has something due in the morning and I’m the mom who loses it first. “I asked you about that! You said you had all your homework done!” Exhaustion sweeps through both of us, a dry, hot wind that sucks rather than breaths life. This getting back into the swing of things. This learning the rules again when the rules haven’t changed, just the geography. Strive, achieve, do your best and then some, fit the mold, break the mold, safety first, safety over community, stand here, single file, hands at your sides, lips locked, little soldiers marching through the sacred halls of institution, a place where God is met internally and the kid next to you may be different but we’re a tribe and we respect others and have the right to pass and share each other’s property but you don’t have the right to use that bathroom right now or to talk to that teacher right now or to even leave your seat right now because their rights are more important than yours. No wonder school is so confusing and frustrating for kids. Tall gates keep the creepies out, but the creepies are right there next to you singing some rap song you’ve never heard. Tall gates keep mommy and daddy out, too, but the teachers beg to have open communication lines. And in this strict, safe environment, controlled and controlled and then controlled again, children grow up, explore ideas they hear outside the tall gates, things like, “I’m not playing with you” and “your friendship is oppressive,” and “you just want to be popular but you’ll never be popular.” They mimic what they see outside the safety and security of the tall gates be it gyrating hips and sassy hair flips or confrontations of he who yells loudest wins or she who glares and switches her hips best wins.

It’s just geography with an ounce of maturity added in. The same daughter that curls my toes at 8:45 with her announcement of needing to read for 30 minutes or her need to study for the weekly spelling test (how long have we followed this same routine?) announces too that there are popular kids, these are the things the popular kids do, and she never wants to be popular because she doesn’t want everyone knowing her business. And I breath in and out a quiet hallelujah because more than anything this is the kind of clarity I want for my children, to look at the world and be in the world but to not smell like the world, to love its people with all their faults but to choose a different path. The popular kids are claiming boyfriends and girlfriends, are sitting together at lunch, are refusing to cooperate in PE because it may mean touching someone who isn’t popular, and are well known for being snotty and aloof… and instead of seeing that as desirable my little lady wants to know what is even remotely attractive about that. Keep wondering, girl, because who is popular today will inevitably fall from grace tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow. And the rules of engagement will change, just as they ever so imperceptibly are changing now for you, girl.

The rules may change or it may just be geography after all. But one rule don’t ever forget… God loves you, yes you. He created you, formed you, laid out plans for you, makes the best out of the bad for you, listens to you, answers you, adores you.

And there are children on the other side of the world, heck right here on our side of the world, who don’t know this. Children like Cosmos: “Cosmos would often isolate himself when he was first moved to the Village of Hope. Which comes as no surprise when we he told us of the haunting visions that still race through his mind of his father being killed before his eyes.”

And Jennifer: “Jennifer is 18 years old. She was abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) Rebels and forced to be a ‘wife’ or sex slave. After she escaped from the Rebels, her family and community rejected her because she was now pregnant with a Rebel’s baby. Men took advantage of her because she had already been raped. She was left alone and rejected by everyone she knew. Some would call her an outcast or a ‘throw away’ girl.”

And Vicky: “My father didn’t like me because I was a girl. All I wanted to do was go to school, but he would not allow me. One day the LRA rebels came to our home. They told my father, if he would give them money, they would not take me. My father had the money, but he said, ‘She is worthless to me, take her.’
I spent the next years with the rebels, where they forced me to do many terrible things. (Most girls are used for sex slaves and are forced to be child soldiers within the first 2 weeks of abduction)
Once I was able to escape from the rebel camps, I had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. I didn’t have money to go to school. I was very sad.
Village of Hope began to provide me with food and paid for me to go to school. In 2010 they brought me to the Village to live. They showed me to my new home called ‘Hope’ and to my new room. I had a real bed to sleep in! I also met several other girls my age that lived in Hope. We quickly became sisters. I was able to attend the Village of Hope Primary School. I love school!
Village of Hope staff love me. I feel like I am worth something and for the first time in my life I feel valued for being a girl. My two favorite things are dancing with all of my friends, and leading worship at church on Sunday.”

And Norbert and his siblings: “His parents were always willing to face risks for their family. They went to cultivate some food from their land since the shortage of food was so great at the IDP camp where they were confined. At this time Norbert was only 8 years old. The rebels abducted him, his mother and father, and two of his sisters. They moved very long distances deep into the bush, spent days without food, and were forced to carry very heavy loads. All this took a toll on his health, leaving him weak and sick.
His father was much weaker than he, unable to walk and at the point of death, so the rebels ordered Norbert to kill his own father. He said he tried to resist but the rebels tortured him so severely that he lost consciousness. When he came to, he was given a machete to cut his father to death, and he had no choice but to cut down both his parents. As if that was not enough, they then ordered him to cut up his parentsbodies and cook the remains for their meal. Though beyond our ability to grasp, he continues to say that this also came to pass.
Early one morning they were ambushed, and Norbert was seriously injured with a deep bullet wound to the head. After collapsing unconscious, he was rescued by the government soldiers at the site of the battle. Unfortunately his two sisters were not to survive the battle. After he alone was brought back home, his brothers and sister who had remained home welcomed him with heavy tears, he says, because he was in a such bad shape.
As his eyes refuse to dry, Norbert begins to relate the extreme problems they have had to face since they lost their parents in such a tragic way. Obviously, life could never be the same. He adds that they lack all the basics, from food to medical care to school fees and other basic needs. His remaining sister Florence was only 13 years old when she was forced to take on the responsibility of the care of all her other siblings, including a one year old baby whom their mother left at the time of her death. The baby is now four years old, though sickly. Florence has managed to take very good care of her despite the lack of basic needs in their house. She has sacrificed everything to make sure her siblings are ok, Norbert tells.
He goes on to explain about the extreme risks Florence takes just to make sure that they have some food in the house. He tells how most of the time they go to peoples gardens to dig in exchange for food, but such contracts are few, so they only get to do this once in a while. They also go and fetch water in exchange for food, but these opportunities are rare. For all of them, their school attendance is irregular due to lack of school dues, and they also have to take some days away from school searching for food. Regardless, life has to go on. Having seen the situation at hand, ruthless men started taking advantage of them.
Some nights this household goes without food, he relates, and seeing the young one go hungry hurts Florence so bad that she offers her entire life to make sure that the siblings have something to eat. The men started forcing her to exchange sex for food, and indeed seeing her siblings go hungry, she sacrificed this much, he continues amidst tears. As we speak she is pregnant with the child of a man she doesnt even know. Norbert’s heart is crushed under the weight of her burdens.
Norbert says he respects this sister, his very great hero, for the love, sacrifice and care she is giving them. He says that he is crying out to anybody, to any heart who will have compassion for his sister the way he does, to come to their rescue.”

These are the stories of children who have found help through the Village of Hope in Uganda. What is more, they’ve found that most important rule. God loves you, yes you. He created you, formed you, laid out plans for you, makes the best out of the bad for you, listens to you, answers you, adores you. The God of the universe has cried with these children, has made a way for them, is weaving ways for the rest, is there cherishing them. Through the bodily care and the spiritual care these children are receiving at Village of Hope, the rules of engagement are changing. Caught in deeper problems, in the middle of wars we can’t even fathom, in the middle of crises that make being popular sound like child’s play, the rules are changing. Children who have been taught to believe that they are nothing are something beloved and cherished, who have been used in ways inconceivable to us are finding purpose and joy in who they are as cherished children of God. For these children, a slight geographic adjustment can mean the world.

To read these stories and more or to learn how to help, please visit http://www.villageofhopeuganda.com. To learn how you can help us help them, visit http://www.compassiontea.com or http://www.compassionow.org.

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More Than Conquerors

More Than Conquerors.

More Than Conquerors

Due to an upcoming visit to the clinic, CompassioNow founder Wendy Bjurstrom has been communicating with the Lily Medical Centre in South Africa. Eager to bring much needed supplies, Wendy has been asking about needs and desires, a sort of medical wish list. The response from Dr. Volker is telling. “We are getting less AIDS orphans and more children who are referred to Lily because of abuse and neglect. There is an epidemic of child abuse in South Africa and resources to deal with abuse are overloaded and not well developed, so we are thinking to rather concentrate on developing services for abused children. In addition, together with the TWO WEEKS teams we will start a screening program for children in community schools to address medical and social problems comprehensively.”

Fewer AIDS orphans is good news! The attempt to treat AIDS patients, to comprehensively teach them better hygiene, preventive care, and lifestyle changes is paying off. Government programs to provide AIDS medicines, though slow and tedious, are reaching greater numbers of AIDS patients.

But then there’s child abuse and neglect. I wish I could offer you a comprehensive list of studies detailing the statistics, the causes, the possible solutions for the rise in child abuse. But I can’t find anything regarding this… not even on the infallible and well-linked Google. I simply have Dr. Volker’s observation and her change of direction. Perhaps this is a response to greater awareness in South African culture. Like in our own country, people talk about the rise in the occurrence of certain diseases and pathologies while others simply attribute the rise to an increase in awareness and diagnosis from the medical community. Or perhaps this is a “natural” reaction to modernization, poverty, war, growing pains… fill in the blank. Perhaps it is something simple… cosmic. The enemy is on the run regarding AIDS. So, he fights back from another corner – child abuse.

Abrupt topic shift. But hold on. There’s a connection.

Recently, I began feeling joy driving over highway overpasses. True, free, uninhibited joy. There was a time in my recent history when driving over bridges, including interstate highway overpasses, created an irrational and overwhelming fear in my body. The mere thought of having to cross one of the many bridges leading from my city to the next felt like leaping into a black, frothing pit of doom. I’m playing light with this, trying to shrug it off, because that pit was so deep and so dark that a few months ago I had pretty much given up on ever climbing out of it. There are few things more depressing than hearing your kids ask to go somewhere simple like Target or the fish store or a favorite restaurant and feeling an all-too-familiar kick-in-the-gut wave of fear grip. Well, maybe, the more depressing part is the way I would try to wiggle my way out of it, fear and tension making me angry, bitter, and self-loathing.

But now, as I head across a familiar overpass that used to bring me to tears, I look at the sky and the mountains in the distance and realize that not only am I not crying, not praying out loud, not visibly shaking, but I am crossing an overpass with a kind of Thelma and Louise scream for joy welling up inside. What changed? Through an amazing counselor and God’s work in my heart, I’ve seen healing, closure, renewal of hope, and a letting go of major worries. The enemy has had to let go his grip on this aspect. Losing this battle, he’s moving on.

And now everything around me is breaking. Clara’s shower, my car, hubby’s car, the washing machine, a pudding cup, the pesticide barricade keeping ants at bay, plants and trees newly planted and long-standing warriors, the fencing keeping the blue jays out of the chicken coop…. Bits and pieces everywhere. The summer has been one big clean up. It’s not all bad. I was able to throw away 5 broken Barbies from Clara’s stash of 40. The ants necessitated a full-scale clean and reorganization of the pantry. I basically have a new car due to all the repairs, and the washing machine we can eek by with for a while longer if I just unplug it for an hour when it acts up. Nothing on this list is life-threatening or life-altering. Just tremendously inconvenient and time-consuming. My summer has been filled with towing cars, conversing with repairmen, and trouble-shooting through the next impending “disaster.” The enemy, who robbed my joy while driving, is trying his utmost to rob my joy in other ways.

I’d have to say, shamefacedly, that he is succeeding at times. Quick to find the dark instead of the silver-lining, I let him rob away. Just recently, I came across a story that Max Lucado learned while living in Brazil. Here is Lucado’s telling:

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”
The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.
I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”3
He should know. He is the author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.
1 Ecclesiastes 7:8
2 Romans 12:12
3 Matthew 6:34

Patience in the storm, not assuming to know more than God, understanding that while horrors happen around us and to us that there is so much more in the backstory, behind the scenes…. It may appear that the enemy is attacking, that he’s fighting from a different corner, that he is even winning sometimes. But he is not. I find myself going to Romans 8 here yet again: “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. This He brought about the change in my driving, this He brought about the change in the AIDS crisis in South Africa. It is this He who is guarding every moment, guiding Dr. Volker as she and her clinic change tactics, as they seek to serve the people around them even more effectively. We can’t see beyond today. We can’t see whether something that looks like a curse truly is because God will take that situation and use it for good. Like a great artist, He can take our sloppy paintings and turn them into masterpieces, He can take our squawkings and screechings and compose a beautiful melody from them. He will take the attacks of the enemy and defeat them… He already has.

Taking It On The Road

“That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something.”

Some day there will not be quiche ground into the carpets. Some day, there won’t be plastic cheese stick wrappers strewn about like so much tinsel. Some day, I won’t move a pile of clothes from the center seat and discover breakfast and last week’s homework. Some day. That day is definitely not today. And yes, I’m describing my car… the mobile city dump that it has become. Hubby keeps telling me I should institute a “no food in the car” policy. After all, it works for him the 2.3 times a week he transports the kids. I keep telling him that is as unrealistic as my asking him to enjoy shopping. Seriously, we live in the car… and I mean LIVE.

(Before you discount me as completely wacky and gross, I do clean the car regularly. Me and the shop vac are tight friends. Should we ever need to replace my car, I think maybe procuring a used mail truck, outfitting it with a microwave and a sink, and a few places to strap children would be ultimately practical and preferable.)

This morning when I woke up, like so many mornings lately, I struggled to discern which day of the week it was. The days all seem to gel like yesterday’s gravy into an amorphous state of repetition.  Yet, what was more important than the day was where I needed to point the car. Because direction is most important and logistics are a close second.

As we get ramped up for school and the daily grind, as we round out the summer with last minute camps and play dates, as we try to wring the last elements of freedom from a jam-packed summer as though once school starts there won’t be time for freedom, I am faced with a realization. My days of stay-at-home mom are essentially over. I am now mobile mama, taking the act on the road. The quiet afternoons at home for nap time, the leisurely time at the park playing, the let’s-stay-home-today kind of days that work for toddlers and preschoolers… they are a thing of the past. My role has morphed into a sort of food truck purveyor/ taxi driver/ U-Haul schleper of gear, snacks, a change of clothes, a kind smile, and a fresh water bottle. I should just hook up the trailer and drive that around town because our lives together are now spent traveling from event to event and my time with my kids is the 15 minutes between when one event ends and the next begins.

That isn’t much time to undo/redo/balance the messages each child receives outside of my influence. And yet, that remains my most important role… to shape my children, with God’s grace and guidance, into children who share His light wherever they go. Filtering and vetting are more important now than ever as I spend less time with them. My role is on the sidelines, backstage, behind the steering wheel. I’m trying to keep pertinent by joining in when I can… hopping on the horse for my own lesson, managing and volunteering. But coaches, teachers, the world outside my walls are the heavy influencers these days. And I must be intentional in what and who I allow to influence.

I must also be intentional in using those precious moments in the mommy mobile to mold and shape my kiddos. Glennon over at Momastery recently shared this letter to her kids, a letter she reads every night before school starts. I think it’s brilliant, intentional, and such a spot-on definition of compassion. Because this is where it counts most.

Dear Chase,
Hey, baby.
Tomorrow is a big day. Third grade – wow.
Chase – When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.
Adam looked a little different and he wore funny clothes and sometimes he even smelled a little bit. Adam didn’t smile. He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all. Adam never did his homework. I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do. The other kids teased Adam a lot. Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased him, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.
And I never talked to Adam, not once. I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, he sat and played by himself. He must have been very lonely.
I still think about Adam every day. I wonder if Adam remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked him to play, just once, he’d still remember me.
I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.
So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.
Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.
Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.
Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.
Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’s team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby. We will make a plan to help together.
When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.
Chase – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.
Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.
Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.
Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.
Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are one lucky boy . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.
I love you so much that my heart might explode.
Enjoy and cherish your gifts.
And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.
Love,
Mama

I think I’m going to print this out and mount it to the front of the glove box or hang it from the moon roof. Maybe make stickers out of it to paste on windows. Wonder if I could paint some interior part of the car with chalkboard paint or mount a magnet board somewhere? Intentional. It’s a short period of time, but the world depends on it. I can’t let the days slip by, the world influence in ways I wouldn’t agree to; I can’t let compassion and goodness and kindness and God-centered living go untaught. I’ve got 15 minutes and 15 minutes and 15 minutes. Go!

Limping Toward the Start of School

I’m limping toward the start of school. Some moments it even feels like crawling, on shards of glass, uphill. Every spring, I anticipate the lazy days of summer, thinking summer is going to be the oasis of peace and joy so lacking from the insanity of the school year, from the incessant packing of lunches, picking up and dropping off, helping with homework, requests for volunteer help, juggling of school time and activity time and homework time and play time. In the spring, I see summer as a beach chair under a palm tree next to a pool of clear blue water. A beautiful mirage, shimmering in its utopian glory. And once again I’ve gotten to the end of summer, nearly, and feel like not once have I dipped my toes in the pool, not really sat down even to absorb the peace. I’ve swept the pool, arranged for its filter to get cleaned, provided pool toys, trimmed the bushes around it, wiped the spiders from the deck chairs, made the ice cream, invited the friends….

Apparently there’s a name for this. I’m a member of the sandwich generation. I’m stuck in the middle of taking care of aging parents and my own young children. Well, maybe. I kind of feel like they’re the peanut butter and I’m the bread and they’re on the outside and I’m in the middle and really it is all a giant mess of sticky fingers, soggy bread, and nothing really being effective and palatable and successful. “Taking care of” is a loose term here, one with lofty expectations and in my case poor execution. It’s hard to take care of parents halfway across the country. I can offer a listening ear, words of encouragement, simple advice, and an occasional insight. That’s about it. And as taxi mom, I offer a listening ear, a shoulder to snuggle against at night, clean clothes, relatively decent food, an occasionally clean house, an occasional reminder that God, Mom and Dad, and Jesus love you, and answers to the endless pleas for playdates, treats, special events, special favors, TV time. I’m the word No and the answer for Why Not. The Grinch and I must be soul-mates… with shoes too tight and a heart too small, standing from the cold heights of my mommy cave ruling over what is and isn’t good for my kids. After all, they know better than I do. They all do.

Two things ache right now. One is this feeling of inadequacy. But I think this one would feel less suffocating if I could deal with the other ache… my need for deep reflection, mediation, prayer, time with God to be in His presence, drink in His peace, rest. This summer, I decided not to do the women’s Bible study at church, a scaled back version of the Bible study offered during the school year. The lack of childcare was my excuse. But my lack of mandatory, disciplined time to hear God’s word speak to me has taken a spiritual toll. Instead of standing on the mountaintop with Him, I’m mired in a mucky swamp of summer activities and it stinks down here. I created this swamp. I get that. In my own understanding and capabilities, I’ve tackled the summer, prideful perhaps, but certainly not with a disciplined plan for relationship time with God. And any relationship suffers when one part is distracted, unavailable, preoccupied, a date-canceler.

Last week sometime, I had gone out to tuck in the chickens, check on the grounds, potty the dog. The stars were sparkling their special way and the cloak of night was softly resting over the ridgeline. A meteor streaked across the sky, a long tail following, a finger tap from God. Come back to me daughter. Bring those heavy burdens to me and lay them at my feet. God’s fireworks in the sky. He hasn’t forgotten me. And I yearn to get back to studying His word, to fellowshipping with His daughters, to finding rest. I yearn for more of Him.

Over the weekend, Lee and Anne Kennedy were visiting and sharing more about their recent trip to East Africa. They talked about their Sunday experiences, visiting a number of churches, participating in the praise and worship and study. They talked about the sacredness of the Sabbath day, of how the Christian believers in these churches spend their whole day in worship, praise, fellowship and communion with each other. Hours of praise, hours of study, hours of community, hours of basking in God’s presence. Together, one church visits neighbors, shack by shack, house by house, sharing the Gospel of Jesus. When the humble church building can’t hold one more body, it’s time to start a new church. A new community of saved, grace-lovers, spending the day with their Father God, dancing in His fields of love. The Kennedys talked about visiting Tanzania Christian Clinic where the whole person is healed, physical and spiritual, where Bible study accompanies medical study, where churches are built and medicines are dispensed, where a person is introduced to God while bandages are changed and nutritional advice is given. Worship and study are a way of life, intentional, disciplined, breathe of life. In the midst of nothing, these people have more.

I’ve heard our pastor say that we are in grave spiritual jeopardy in our country. We’re too busy to bask in, to listen to, to dance with, and to ultimately obey our Father God. I feel it so acutely this summer. So, I’m limping toward school starting. Because when school starts, Bible study won’t be far behind.

Compassion Tea Giveaway! (Ends Aug 20th)

Thanks Kellie!

Tea Lovers- here’s your chance to score some fabulous tea products from a tea company that’s always giving, Compassion Tea Co.!

ctea

“At Compassion Tea Company, we strive to share tea and save lives. By donating 100% of our after-tax profits to our parent organization, CompassioNow, we cooperate in the life-saving work of medical clinics in rural parts of Africa. The clinics we partner with offer quality healthcare, basic good-health practices and preventive medicine training, nutritional support, and education. Through our sale of tea and tea memberships, we are able to provide these clinics with medicines, medical supplies, and financial support. “

This company rocks and I’m so honored to be a part of this mission to help spread the word. 

This giveaway includes:

tea maker giveaway

Bourbon tea giveawaymonks blend giveaway

YES! One lucky winner will grab ALL THREE of the products above!

GIVEAWAY ENTRY GUIDELINES:

1. Be a follower of LZM and like LZM on Facebook

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Screaming for Ice Cream?

Screaming for Ice Cream?.

Screaming for Ice Cream?

At Compassion Tea, we’re always looking for ways to highlight and utilize our delicious teas in new and creative ways. It may be an inspired mixing of flavors or an inclusion of tea in a recipe. It may be a home-remedy or a DIY beauty product like our friend Kellie at Le Zoe Musings created.
When a new idea crops up, we take it to our tasting kitchen and go for it. Recently, Wendy found a recipe for an Earl Grey Gelato. It is summer after all, at least for a few more weeks, and homemade gelato is right up our alley! Of course, we had to try it.

Earl Grey and Lavender Sage Rooibos teas add a gentle flavoring to homemade gelato.

Earl Grey and Lavender Sage Rooibos teas add a gentle flavoring to homemade gelato.

The Earl Grey was deliciously refreshing, but then we got wild. We tried Blueberry Black and added a blueberry fruit swirl to that. YUM!

Blueberry Black tea gelato with a fruit swirl is blueberry happiness!

Blueberry Black tea gelato with a fruit swirl is blueberry happiness!

Lavender Sage Rooibos had a subtle flavor of lavender that always takes me back to a boating holiday in the Greek Isles several years ago. Nothing like sun-baked hills of wild sage and lavender greeting you after a day at sea. Then, true inspiration struck. What about our Caramel Rooibos? The Compassion Tea directors team was at my house over the weekend and we served Caramel Rooibos Gelato over a peach cake. If we hadn’t already gorged on salmon and salad, we probably would have all had seconds and thirds! It was fabulous! The taste of the tea really comes through… decadent and delicious! We’re pretty sure there are more flavors for us to try… like Coconut Delight perhaps! And you can make your own too. Here’s how!

1 ¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1 ½ to 2 tbsp of loose tea or 2 to 3 tea bags

(This recipe makes a modest 4 servings. I double the recipe for more deliciousness and because my ice cream maker can hold more. Check your ice cream maker specifications before doubling.)

Pour 1 ¼ cup whole milk and ¼ cup of cream into a saucepan. Add sugar and heat over medium heat until near boiling. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, and steep for 6 or so minutes. Strain out the tea leaves or remove tea bags. (When you use a rooibos tea, you will need to strain out the leaves several times.)

Straining the tea out of the creamy mixture

Straining the tea out of the creamy mixture

Add corn starch to remaining ½ cup of milk and whisk to combine. Pour this into saucepan, stir to combine, and return to heat. Stir over medium heat with wooden spoon to make sure it doesn’t burn. Continue until mixture is consistency of thin gravy.

Flecks of Earl Grey tea are flavoring this gelato mixture.

Flecks of Earl Grey tea are flavoring this gelato mixture.

Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until completely cool. Pour into ice cream maker and follow directions. Dig in and enjoy!

And, if you try a tea gelato and want to share, please email your experience to Linda@compassiontea.com.
(adapted from http://www.theteaspot.com)

Homemade tea-flavored gelato is the perfect treat for the dog days of summer!

Homemade tea-flavored gelato is the perfect treat for the dog days of summer!

Five Minute Friday — Story

Story
In the middle or maybe the beginning. Story that started 10 years ago in a promise come true, heralded by shooting stars. But waiting today to find out if she is wanted. Will she make the cast? Will today write the lines for the next several months, years, decades? Will defeat close this chapter? She is a sweet song lilting through my story, drifting through the stories of friends, family, the greater story of God’s plan. The plot carries her, God’s plot, and watching is sweet and sorrowful and blessing repeatedly.

Juxtapose with orphans in Uganda. Not wanted, reviled, rebuked, forsaken, denied; their plots stunted, dead-ending. Enter Village of Hope, Compassion Tea, CompassioNow. Our story mingles, twists, intertwines, changes the ending. Wanted.

Cosmic story.