Breakdown

The thought of leaving my world and my children for five days and heading to a foreign country stirred up a whole lot of emotion in this Mama.  There was so much to do to get ready for the trip (not including the mountain of laundry and a majorly backed up to-do list) and, after already being away for multiple weekends this fall, I questioned why I even said “Yes” to this in the first place.  On top of it all, our normal separation anxiety issues, school struggles, and behavior ‘challenges’ seemed to be at an all-time high.  As our departure day approached, so did an emotional breakdown.

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One aspect of trip preparation I was too overwhelmed to even touch was language learning. This was going to be a short trip, mostly consisting of meetings where a translator would be present to help us communicate. I was sure I could learn the few basic phrases I needed once we got there.

The two major languages spoken in Haiti are Haitian Creole and French. Since Haitian Creole is derived primarily from French, I wondered if any of my three years of that in high school would come back. Unlikely, I thought, since that was 20 (yikes!) years ago.

My first 24-hours in Haiti left me feeling very overwhelmed in terms of the language. So many signs and so much conversation happening all around me that I didn’t understand. Even with our amazing translators helping us out, I still felt lost.

So when we walked into the church in Cherette and I saw this verse (in French) painted on the wall, I immediately just asked someone what it meant.

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Our NIV translates it like this:
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I looked at it again and the light bulbs started to come on.

Oh – fatigues! That looks like our word “fatigued” which means tired or weary.

Oh – moi! That means “me”.

And a moi – that would be “to me”.

And venez. I remember that – it means “come”.

Yep, and vous – that’s a plural “you”.

Qui means “who”.

Oh, and I bet donnerai is like our word “donate”, which is like “give”.

It turns out I could have translated it myself – all I had to do was break it down. Break it down into pieces and filter it through what I already knew.

We all face situations that overwhelm us. Sometimes they build over a long period of time. Others seem to appear out of nowhere. Regardless, we often lump them together as one big mess of stuff that we don’t want to (or don’t think we can) deal with.

But I’ve found that the solution to the breakdown can be found in the break down. All I need to do is take the overwhelming situation and break it into smaller pieces, figuring out exactly what it is that I’m worried, scared, frustrated, or upset about. And then I just need to filter each of those things through the lens of what I already know about God and how He has worked in my life.

“But my to do list is SO long!”
Translation: God has proven that His hand is in all the details. How many times have I not gotten to something – and then it turns out that I didn’t need to do it in the first place or that waiting on it actually turned out better?

“And my laundry pile is huge!”
Translation: God has called me to be a balanced mom, not a “Supermom”. There are times when what He is calling me to do (whether it’s spending daily time in His Word or traveling to Haiti) needs to take priority. And when I say “Yes” to Him, I feel like He then works ‘fishes and loaves’ with the rest of my time.

“Can I really leave my kids right now?”
Translation: My Heavenly Father is an infinitely greater parent to my children than I will ever be and my illusions of control are exactly that. And who knows? Maybe the time away from me will actually help them.

By the end of our few days in Haiti, my confidence had grown, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, I found myself (very) roughly translating any words I could figure out from signs, posters, menus – you name it! (Madame Marquis would be so proud!)

Maybe you’re facing an overwhelming situation today – or maybe one is just around the corner. An emotional breakdown may seem imminent, but in Christ you can face whatever it is with confidence – if you’ll just take a few moments to break it down.

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Room

When I took my driver’s test in 1994, I received two point deductions. The first was for stopping at a yellow light (go figure!) and the second was for leaving too much space between my car and the car in front of me at a traffic light. Yes, believe it or not, too much room can actually be a problem.

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Last week I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Haiti with Tim and another couple from our church. From the moment of our first boarding call at JFK, it became clear that this trip was going to be quite a challenge for this introverted highly-sensitive-person. In other words, my personal space bubble was about to get popped.

As we left the Port-au-Prince airport parking lot, drove through the city, and visited several places throughout the southern part of the country, I learned something from the Haitian people that I won’t soon forget: You have more room than you think.

When we got into our rental car, it was parked in a spot that seemed mathematically impossible to exit. If it was up to us, we would have sat around and waited until some other cars moved. But our friend Almando, who was driving, knew better – he knew we had plenty of space (and he used every centimeter of it) to maneuver the vehicle out of the spot. We couldn’t believe it!

After leaving the airport, we spent an expected couple of hours in Port-au-Prince traffic. At first I was kind of freaking out – the absence of lane lines, traffic lights and stop signs was making me feel a little uneasy! There were cars, vans, buses, trucks – and pedestrians everywhere and I was sure we were going to see accidents all around us.

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But we didn’t. Because drivers in Haiti know: You have more room than you think. Being in traffic like this on a regular basis has caused them to come to a greater spatial understanding. They know exactly how much space their vehicle takes up and exactly how much space they will need in order to merge or pass. They know that there is room – even if it doesn’t look like it.

A couple days later, we had the opportunity to attend a church service in Cherette, a smaller village about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince. Before the service started, Tim, who had been there before, told me that this fairly small church sanctuary would soon be filled with about 300 people!

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And he was right – those benches filled right up and even though it was crowded and hot, we worshiped God together. We were greeted over and over again and welcomed with so much love as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Although as guests we were given chairs to sit in that day, I couldn’t help but notice the benefit of the benches – because in the space where three people might sit in chairs, six or even seven might fit on a bench. Therefore, there’s always room for more.

So maybe that closeness, maybe what seems like a lack of personal space, is actually more “roomy” than we think. Maybe our “chairs” and “lanes” and all of the “space” we seem to have here is doing us a disservice – maybe it’s actually causing the room for others in our hearts to shrink. Maybe too much room can be a problem.

I’m a big fan of my bubble. I like to stay in there and do my own thing and live my own life and only let in the people that I want to let in. But as I know Jesus more and more, I see that He was constantly making room for others – especially the others that no one else wanted to let in. He poured out His love and mercy on them so that they would know that there was space for them in His kingdom.

I’ve got plenty of room. It may not look like it at first glance, but the truth is that I have more room than I think. And even though the closeness of that “bench” style life could get awkward and uncomfortable, if it means I’ll have the opportunity to slide over and show someone that there’s room for them in God’s family, I’ll take that over the chairs any day!

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Gift

I’m not gifted at gifting.  The birthday parties my girls get invited to always sneak up on me and we end up rushing around at the last minute to find an “affordable but unique” present to bring.

I’m especially not gifted at gift wrapping.  I can’t ever get seem to get it right and, because we’re always in a rush, my motivation to improve in this area is low – especially since I can always let people assume that I let the kid wrap the gift, right?

Last Sunday my oldest daughter, Ada, decided to take the job of wrapping that day’s last-minute purchase in preparation for the party that afternoon.  After gathering her supplies, Ada got to work, and within a few minutes, the inevitable happened and the tears ensued.  The paper had ripped, the folds weren’t perfect, and one whole side was all bunched up.

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Having lots of experience in this exact situation, I told Ada not to worry!  There was an easy solution: ribbon.  Lots of ribbon.  Ribbon is a great way to cover up all those imperfections and distract any gift-viewers from even noticing them.

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I quickly tied a ribbon around the package and walked away to continue in whatever else I was doing, leaving Ada to make the finishing touches.

A few minutes later, I looked over and saw this:

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My creative little engineer of a child had used her gift of creative engineering to add her own “personal touch” to this gift.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that all believers in Christ have been “gifted” simply because we have God’s Spirit dwelling within us. He makes His presence in our lives known by giving us certain abilities and strengths. But these gifts were never meant to be kept to ourselves, they were given to us “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

If you’re like me, you’ve used to the “I’m just not good at that kind of thing” excuse to avoid and procrastinate giving your time and energy to serving in the church. Because when we go to the “birthday parties,” everyone else’s “gifts” seem to be so “perfectly packaged”. And we’re afraid that if we even try, we’ll just turn it into a botched up mess and be left scrambling for some “ribbon” to try and cover it up.

But the truth is that we were not created to be Pinterest-perfect servants. We’ve all been given gifts, but they come in very human packages – complete with quirks and flaws and personality. My gifts – and yours – are a work in progress, and there’s no need to try to cover them up with ribbon or avoid using them altogether!

I love how Paul says in verse 27: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” He doesn’t say “Your gifts make up the body of Christ” – he says you are the body of Christ! You – with your gifts and with all your quirks and flaws and personality – are an extremely important part of “the common good”.

Your personal touch – no matter how imperfectly packaged it may seem – is exactly what God intended and is exactly what is needed.

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When Ada added her origami creations to her friend’s gift, she gave more than just a personal touch, she gave a piece of herself! And every time you use your gifts, you become a gift to your church and to the body of Christ as a whole.

You probably won’t find me signing up for a gift-wrapping ministry anytime soon, but I do have a lot to offer, just by being me – rips, crinkles, bunches and all.

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Now

Time is all relative to me.  Seriously, showing up late is my norm and the approximately seven times I have been early for something (in my entire life) only resulted in a “What am I supposed to do now?” feeling of panic.

The truth is that I actually hate being late! My problem, though, stems from a classic case of underestimation.  I constantly fail to accurately predict how much time it will take to get myself (and three kids) ready and headed out the door. 

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One day a couple years ago, I agreed at the last minute to meet another mom at a local park for a walk.  When I told her I would meet her there in a “few minutes,” the fact that I still had to walk a mile home from where I was, pack up the stroller, the baby, and everything else I needed for the outing, and then drive the 10 minutes there was obviously not calculating.

By the time I got home, I was in panic mode, running around like crazy trying to get everything ready. I didn’t even have this mom’s phone number to tell her I would be late! I buckled Anna into her carseat, grabbed the diaper bag and some snacks, folded up the stroller, jammed it into the back of the van, slammed the door, got in and started driving.

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

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Yep, that was my van letting me know that my door-slamming attempt was a failure. I should really pull over and try again.

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

But I was so late. And taking the time to stop and repeat the jam and slam process would only make me more late.

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

But could I really handle the incessant dinging the whole way there?

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

But I was SO late!

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

So I did it.

I hit the “lock all doors” button, hoping that would be good enough, and drove.

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

All the way there.

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

With each Ding my stress level grew.

And grew. And grew. And grew. And grew. And grew.

“God, You’re obviously trying to teach me something, but what in the world is it? Because this is really annoying.”

I expected the answer to be something like, “You really need to do a better job thinking ahead!” or “Why are you freaking out instead of trusting Me?” (or “Just pull over and fix it!”)

But He said this instead:

“I’m with you. And I’m not just with you, I’m with you NOW. And I’m not just with you NOW, I’m with you NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW.

…And NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW.”

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” And when He said always, He meant exactly that – always!

As believers, we never, for a single moment, experience life alone. There isn’t a circumstance or situation we find ourselves in where He’s not presently present. He doesn’t miss a thing because time isn’t relative to Him – He’s ordained our moments, so every single one of those moments is important to Him. We never have to worry that He won’t show up, because He’s never late. His presence is a promise and even in my worst seconds, I can be helped, just by being aware that He’s there.

With three young children, the Ding Ding Ding of slightly open doors rings in my ears more often than I would like. And so many times it feels like it’s happening at the exact wrong time!

But, actually, maybe it’s the exact right time.

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