Category Archives: Summer

Meredith is going to Honduras

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hnOne of the great joys of raising our daughter, Meredith, is watching the social-justice vein within her grow. Ever since she was very young, she has been concerned with and tested many venues for helping the disadvantaged. Her father and I are often caught in the balance between lending a hand to her “charity work” and reining her in when she tries to help a little too much.

“You’re right. All girls should be allowed to attend school! But, no, we cannot spend the summer after Kindergarten traveling to all the countries and speaking to the leaders. Not this year.”

“Yes, feel free to make bags of toiletries and snacks for homeless people, but no you cannot walk through the city alone to distribute them.”

“Thank you for helping collect clothing and school supplies for the orphanage we support in Honduras, but no you can’t travel there…  Or can you?”

This last request, one of dozens, sat differently on our hearts. Could she go to Honduras with one of us, meet the children she has supported for more than five years, work alongside us, build relationships, play games with kids her own age but vastly different backgrounds, be forever changed? Why yes, this time we can say with resounding clarity – YES.

Honduras

Meredith and I are headed to Honduras in less than six weeks with a small team of parents and teens. At age 10, Meredith is by far the youngest member, but we believe ready. She is excited to meet the kids, teach crafts, and play games. Our team will host a week of summer camp activities with sports, music, games, crafts, and devotions. We are raising money to take all 100+ kids to a local water park. We will share dinner with the older teens and worship at church alongside the whole community. But the most important “work” will be to spend time and build relationships with the kids who don’t benefit from regular attention, hugs, and quality time.

For Frank and me, our prayers for Meredith are many. Among them, that her innocence will be protected in a place where the harshness of life isn’t hidden away. She will come face to face with much of what we in America shield from our children’s eyes: poverty, greed, desertion, immoral life choices, animal cruelty, physical and emotional abuse, desperation. When I consider all the awfulness and danger of a third country as poor as Honduras, I question our decision. Why expose her to this at all?

Because she will also get to see God show up in a place that seems so void of His love. She will meet children who have nothing yet are filled with a knowledge they have everything simply because He holds them in His hands. She will learn family is everything, even if it consists of 100 brothers and sisters without a single biological connection. She’ll perhaps realize taking the top bunk above her little sister isn’t quite as bothersome as sharing a bedroom with seven other girls and no air conditioning. Working alongside half a dozen women who cook, clean, do laundry, bathe, and care for more than one hundred kids, she might learn a heavenly perspective on housework – theirs and ours.

Above all, I pray Meredith will experience the uninhibited joy of childhood! No matter on what continent a child has been born, no matter what advantages a child’s family can or cannot provide, no matter what horrors a child has seen or experienced, when all the distractions of life are stripped away, each child on this planet is entitled to joy and unconditional love. Despite all we give our children in our affluence, our children are left unfulfilled, hungry, wanting. Yet, these kids who bring no material possessions as they escape lives of abuse and neglect, find their security in others who care for them, hope from the opportunity to be educated, and wealth in being loved by God. The first time I ever looked into the eyes of pure, overflowing joy was 4 years ago when I met the children of Heart 2 Heart Children’s Village. I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to them!


We are working with the team to raise about $1,000 to take the kids to a waterpark. If you would like to help us make that happen, feel free to make a donation here www.h2hcv.org (please mention Meredith or me in the subject line).

To learn more about the amazing work happening at the Worldwide Heart to Heart Children’s Village, visit the homepage at www.h2hcv.org. H2H is a home and school to over 100 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come undernourished, abused, and unloved, but H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere and educates them at a bilingual school.

Read more about my experiences before, during, and after my first trip to Honduras under the Missions tab. Meredith and I both hope to catalog our trip via this blog.

Above all, please keep us in your prayers!

 

 

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His Love Never Fails

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“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:
‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?’”
Job 38:1-7

Most of us are familiar with poor, righteous Job, whom God allowed to be tested. Tested far beyond what most humans could suffer. We also know Job’s faithfulness in God won out and, eventually, after losing all of his belongings, his family, even his health, he was restored. The Lord blessed him with twice as much as he had before and he lived, as our children might say, “happily ever after.”

This story is often hung over our heads and our hearts when we face trials of many kinds. Whether in our own lives or in the world beyond us, we are never far from suffering. So we are reminded that, though Job suffered near to the point of death, he did not lose sight of God. He was faithful to the end, as an example to us.

But do you know the whole story? Have you read the book of Job? I usually stop with the suffering because it’s just too painful, but I explored it a bit more recently in preparation for a preaching opportunity at church: including an ugly little part in the middle when Job questioned God, when he demanded an audience, demanded an opportunity to speak up and ask God whyyyyyyy? And who can blame him? Haven’t we all faced a low time in life when we finally broke down to say “Where are you, God?” or “How could God let this happen?” or “Please tell me, God, that you are still in this because it feels so far from what You would create.”

This past summer, I was in one of those low places. Although I had not lost hold of my faith, I questioned God. I had definitely lost hope. And I told Him that, point blank. “God, I have such faith in You, in the truth that I sit in the palm of Your Hand.” I had faith that He would be there all along, but I had lost my hope He would pull me through. I had let go of my ability to believe my prayers would be answered for the good. And let me tell you, this was a hard place to be. I was questioning God, the One who has held me and my family through trials and celebrations, through the worst and the best. But my finite human mind could no longer grasp His goodness. I empathized with Job. I needed to speak to God and I needed God to respond to me.

Hope is such an elusive sensation, isn’t it? When we have it, we love it. Makes me think of the song by the Carpenters “I’m on top of the world, looking down on creation…” But when we lack it, we feel desperate, desolate, despondent. Yet we crave hope, we keep searching for it. Why? Because it is the promise of goodness. We crave what our hearts were created for – God’s goodness, His promises for our lives, His promise of life itself.

God’s response to Job’s demands sounded almost harsh, as we would expect of a great judge. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Does this remind you of the “Great and Terrible Oz”? But perhaps this wasn’t God’s intent, to berate a mere mortal; perhaps God’s reply was more gentle, more loving. God took the opportunity to express to Job, to express to all of us, His great works. Job’s encounter with God continues after verses 1-7 above. For 4 long chapters, God responds to Job with an account of all He has created, all He is capable of doing, far beyond the works or imagination of man. He reminds Job who created the world and all the functioning of it.

38:16-17 – “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?”

38:34, 40:9 – “Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” “Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His?”

39:1 – “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they will give birth?”

39:19-20 – “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?

God shares with Job not only what He has created, but His continued Hand in all of it. He is present in the stars, He knows the weather better than Jim Cantore, He even pays close attention to the animals, when they will give birth, where they eat, where they will build their homes. He knows it all. And He knows us.

He offered to Job … hope. When Job finally gave up, God reminding him, gently chided His child. “I have done all these things. You don’t need to question me. I’ve got this.”

This summer, as I sat on the deck of our beach house, I cried out to my heavenly Father. I begged Him to show Himself to me, to show up and prove my questions were fruitless, that He was/is still in control. As I struggled with my remaining faith and my dried up hope, I Corinthians 13:13 kept repeating in my heart, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” That threw me for a loop. I had a thin grasp on my faith, I admitted I had lost hope, and trust me, there was precious little love in my lamentations that evening. I wasn’t coming from a place of patience, kindness, or trust. I was perhaps being a tad rude with the God of the universe, certainly self-seeking and angry. Have you been there, too?

Yet, there was that still small voice, “But the greatest of these is love.”

As evening closed around me and my prayers, I knew that God’s answer to my “prayer request” wasn’t as important as His response to me. My prayer, my needs were honestly rather insignificant in light of what so many people face, certainly in light of the troubles of this world. I was not facing a health concern or family breakdown. Everyone I know was safe and sound, our homes and nation were not under attack. But yet I felt desolation, the absence of hope, and I needed the hole to be filled.

When I consider the refugees pouring from their homes in Syria, or children trapped by gang warfare and human trafficking, or lives ripped apart by addictions to drugs, alcohol, abuse, my ears ring with the cries of anguish, of desolation, of desperate need for hope. How much more are others crying out for something, just grasping for an answer, a promise that there is more. There is someone who can save them, someone who cares. That’s what we hold on to, right? Just the idea of it. Hope.

I fell asleep with the windows open so we could enjoy the sound of the wind and the ocean. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke and was, frankly, a little irritated at the sound of the surf hitting the sand, over and over. As a mother of little kids, sometimes I just need a break in the noise. But this didn’t stop. It was more pervasive than “Why, Mommy, whyyyy?” Crash, crash, crash. The waves hit again and again. God spoke to me then as directly as He spoke to Job: This is my love. As relentlessly as the waves hit the shore, My love for you never stops. Nothing can stop my love. Not your waining faith, not your lost hope. The greatest of these is love because My love never, ever ends.

I questioned Him. I sought Him. He came to me and answered. In my desperation, in Job’s desperation, in your own desperation, we seek Him and He promises we will find Him. And that’s why we have hope. Somewhere in the pit, our souls that were created to be with our Creator are always reaching and searching for Him. In the darkest of days, no matter what our world can throw at us, we have hope that when we seek we will find. The very lack of hope, faith, and love are reminders of their existence, that we were made to crave them. When you feel that desperation, and the craving, as we all are wont to do, allow your heart to cry out. God will answer you.

Job sought an answer to his suffering and was met with a God who was willing to answer, to remind his child of what He had created. We seek answers and God meets us where we are, not necessarily with the answers we want. And just as He reminded Job, allow His creation to be a connection to His love. They are intertwined to daily remind us of all He has given.

Allow your Father to breathe His truth into you, My love, my love, my love never fails. It never stops. It never gives up. My love is for you.

 

Back To School Makes Me Cry

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Am I the only one who hates back to school day? All the hubbub and excitement as the long summer winds down and the house is suddenly too quiet. I was weepy for two weeks before the yellow bus arrived, knowing my daughter would be gone. all day. every day. for nine months. I’m glad her little sister didn’t know what was coming because she would have been crushed with disappointment. As it is, whenever Meredith isn’t at home, Audrey goes on auto-repeat, “Where’s Meme? Where did Meme go?”

Sure, we had our bouts of give-me-my-space during summer. And maybe, just maybe I told my husband I want half-day Fridays next year. But that means I want a few hours to myself, not all of them, every weekday, for the majority of the year.

School is necessary. And I realize one day these baby birds of mine must fly from my nest. But you won’t find me doing a happy dance about it then or now.

Names, Relevance, and Celebrity Status

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My oldest daughter loves her name. And with good reason. It is also my mother’s name. A lady who plants miniature gardens for fairies, exudes the love of God in every breath, and goes by the self-proclaimed nickname “The Present Lady.” Yep, around here, it’s good to be a Meredith.

Coincidentally, our daughter’s kindergarten teacher also shares the same name. With long beautiful hair, a radiant smile, and overflowing joy that finds her skipping through fields with her class, this teacher wove her love into our hearts. At the end of the school year, she promised my daughter they could get together during the summer. A promise of which my daughter has sternly reminded me.

Tonight’s the night. Mrs. C and her husband are coming for dinner. My Meredith suggested the teacher might not want to wear her “dressy dressy dressy dressiest clothes” because they could impede her ability to get on the floor and play. My daughter is also hoping the teacher will suddenly remember she needs to go to the grocery store, invite my daughter to go along, then keep driving a few more miles directly to the school playground where they will play games together. These comments, along with a hundred other this week, let me know how firmly our daughter planted this teacher on a pedestal. She is nothing short of a celebrity.

Those who know me well know I have very little patience or respect for superstar celebrities and the attention they garner. I don’t care about red carpets, who is dating whom, or what restaurants someone favors. The money spent to style, promote, and entertain people based on their social status frustrates me, particularly in a world where children are uneducated and starving. Show me a person who is making a difference in the world, a real “celebrity,” and I’ll give them my respect. Mrs. C is doing just that: teaching, nurturing, and loving our children. She taught my daughter grace, respect, and kindness. She has worked with schools in Africa, coaches fourth-grade girls track, and is married to a fireman. This woman certainly didn’t sign up to be a celebrity! But through her own goodness, she is relevant.

According to Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, being a relevant writer takes salesmanship. Unless one is powerful or famous, simply being interesting will not to encourage readers. Fine. Probably good advice. (If you’ve read this far, you’re either doing so out of kindness or boredom. Obviously, I’m no salesperson.) This article was sent to me at a time I was already questioning my own relevance: as one person wanting to change the world for good, as the only daughter of three who doesn’t live close enough to help if our parents needed it, as a homemaker who can’t seem to clean or keep things organized, as… Well, you get my point. I feel ineffective and irrelevant. Now I hear my writing also lacks relevance because it doesn’t have a “hook.”

Am I okay with that? I admit, I loved the buzz when a few hundred people read one of my posts. I started off sharing my heart and ended up blessing people I’ve never met. But I didn’t set out to become a famous writer. I just wanted to write for the pleasure of it. If one person walks away from a moment with me and feels uplifted, I’ve done something. Something relevant, perhaps?

With a new school year approaching, my daughter has been expressing concerns. She worries that people will make fun of her for a myriad of tiny concerns: there is a dancer on her shirt, she doesn’t run the fastest, she might have an “accident,” someone will know she sleeps with stuffed animals (coming from a girl whose mom still sleeps with a baby blanket, this is hardly a concern!). We spend a lot of time encouraging Meredith to ignore what people think, that what matters at the end of the day is that people remember Meredith is kind, she does nice things for others, and sticks up for anyone being picked on. Perhaps I need to swallow a bit of my own advice. I don’t need to be famous, Mr. Krugman. My blog simply needs to bless others.

Tow Truck Date Night

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My husband and I went on a date last week! With little ones at home, we use up most of our “date nights” at required functions for business, school, and church. A night on the town for just the two of us is a rare treat. This night was no exception. We drove through the city, felt the late night urban buzz, and saw the monuments by moonlight. Odd that this evening, like many of the special times he and I have shared, also included a tow truck driver.

Earlier in the day, my husband’s beloved 10 year old Jag overheated. Summers on the East coast are brutal, with the regular forecast being “hazy, hot, and humid.” It’s all a person can do to not melt into a puddle of sweat by 9:00 am. The 100+ degree heat indices take their toll on everyone and everything, including cars. Especially older cars, something for which my guy has a fondness. Like a child who reaches out to wounded animals, he is drawn to cars that need TLC. At least this Jaguar, his “impractical sculpture,” is in far batter condition and looks nice compared to some of the others he has loved.

When we met in college, he parked his old grey Cougar next to my shiny red Honda with its stick shift and bucket seats. He loved to whip around our little university town in his automatic car with the American engineering. I loathed that boat and offered to drive my zippy little Japanese car at every opportunity.

By the time we made the crazy love-fool decision to spend a summer driving cross-country, we “upgraded” to his father’s ’84 Grand Marquis. This twenty-year old monstrosity bore the scars from the acid rain crisis, with peeling grey paint across the hood, roof, and trunk. But it worked and had a cavernous trunk to hold all our belongings for an 8-week adventure. In fact, it worked quite well until we hit the Pacific Coast Highway 40 miles south of Tijuana, Mexico. That’s when it just kind-of stopped along the highway. Well, not kind-of. It stopped. Dead. We flagged down a tow truck driver who, though already burdened with another couple of unprepared gringos, jump-started the “Merc” and suggested we head back north to the US border. We heeded his advice and drove away, laughing at the silly Americans who needed a tow truck in Mexico!

Yes, those silly Americans. Just. Like. Us. We spent a long, terrifying day fighting a dead alternator in a foreign country. Every time we used power in the car, the battery died hard and fast. Turn signals. Power window controls. Brake lights. It all drained the battery, requiring us to throw the car in neutral and rev the engine, hoping to restart the car without requiring a jump. Soon enough, all that revving also drained the gasoline, causing the gas level indicator to light up. Lights, power, dead battery again. After more than 16 kindly folks along the highway jump-started our dead battery, we limped to the US border, but not before the Merc gave one last shudder and died. In Mexico. We literally pushed the car across the border into our homeland where we could call AAA and a tow truck driver.

Fast forward many years (and several more tow trucks) to a Jag on the outskirts of the city, waiting for its own ride. I headed downtown to retrieve my husband from a very long, frustrating day. The tow truck driver didn’t know his way around the city, so we had to meet in a nearby town and lead him back, caravan-style. As he carefully pulled the Jag onto the flatbed, I watched my husband in amazement. Exhausted, disappointed, beaten, but never defeated or cross, he amicably chatted with his new pal, one of dozens over the years. Then he climbed into my trusty Japanese minivan. We drove home from our impromptu date night, laughing and retelling our many car stories. One more adventure under our belts, one more tow truck story for the rosters, one more evening spent with my best friend, learning to face life with grace and laughter. Now that was a great date!

Routine of Togetherness

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Summer is in full swing! Time to shake off those burdensome, tight schedules. Put on our bright, loose-fitting agenda-free days. School is out, kids’ activities are wrapping up for the season, obligations and meetings will finally give us that much needed break. Hooray, right?

As each last day arrived this year, I found myself feeling drained rather than rejuvenated. Not exhausted-drained. More like my cup was being emptied, like I was no longer able to replenish myself.

The first agenda item to go was my weekly Bible study. It started in September and ran throughout the school year. For two hours each week, I was able to fellowship with other women, pour into the scriptures, and make new, lasting friendships. Together we studied the book of John and learned more about the ministry and legacy of Jesus. The nursery attendants watched my little one grow from a itty baby into a mobile, playful toddler. Most Tuesdays this year, I was blessed to study alongside my sister-in-law, an extra treat before she moves overseas for two years.

In short order, Wednesday evenings also became free when our church children’s choir finished for the summer. On the drive home that fateful Wednesday, my daughter cried, sad that this weekly ritual ended too soon. When I reassured her we could connect with our friends all summer, she responded that she wouldn’t miss the socializing, group dinners, or play time so much. It was the opportunity to be with her friends, singing to God.

Next, the small prayer group from my daughter’s school held its last meeting. Whether I attended or not each month, I had relied on these mothers meeting regularly, powerfully praying over our children, their teachers, and one another’s families. The local chapter of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) wrapped up the same week. Soon thereafter, we said goodbye to church Sunday School classes, our daughter’s weekly Bible class (AWANA), and other obligations.

Finally! We were free! Our schedule was clear and the summer lay before us open, wide open. Almost desolate. Very quickly I found myself longing for something more. I missed my friends, my Sisters, and the inspiration I drew from them.

My daughter, with her 6-year old wisdom, had understood early what would take me several weeks to grasp. When we no longer fellowship with one another, spend time in community, study God’s Word, or pray out loud, we become drained. Dry. Our souls become parched, a place weeds choke out the flowers of truth and living water stops flowing.

Without those school-year routines, how can you and I make time to be together? To encourage one another, like we do the other nine months of the year? To study, learn, and grow through each other’s wisdom? To pray for one another, pour out God’s blessings, speak His promises into each other’s lives?

Can we maintain the routine of togetherness, despite the lack of routine? Can we retain our community without being physically present?

I believe we can! If you’d like to join me, please let me know. I long for communion with you, my friends, my Family.
If you’re local to me, let’s get together a few times this summer to talk about what God has shown us this year, how He is moving in our lives. Let’s pray with one another. How about my house, Sunday evenings at 5:00?
If you’re not local, distance will not keep us apart! Perhaps we’ll read a book of the Bible together? We can email, talk, text, FaceTime, message, whatever.

Let’s find time to be together without the pressure of schedule, agenda, or obligation. Because no amount of summertime freedom is as liberating as simply being together in Christ’s love.