The Stomach Saga

Today I sat by a beautiful pool pondering life, gazing at the palm trees swaying in the sunshine, and listening to water cascade over rocks.

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About a year ago, I was struck with a bad case of cellulitis and spent 3 long weeks healing, resting, and wrestling. Here’s a link to that blog: Infectious Rest

Here I am a year later in a similar position, but this time it’s been longer and harder and more mysterious. My body is battling again and so is that lie: failure. This mystery illness meant I basically couldn’t do anything that required me to be actively moving without tremendous effort and pain. Not being able to do the jobs God called me to do made me feel pathetic and discouraged once again… and the hardest part was not knowing what was wrong with me and not getting better despite trials of treatments / tons of prayer. I knew it was all outside of my control, but I still felt like I was somehow failing God. So I waited and cried and read these words over and over again…

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.                           He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.                   Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:1-3

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Here’s some nice rock imagery for Psalm 40

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I remember reading these words for the first time as a teenager. I clung to them and desperately trusted in them as they pierced my soul in a way that words can’t express. These words breathe life and comfort and encouragement – especially when trouble comes. They remind me that Jesus has redeemed me, that He is with me and loves me and has a plan for me… even when life gets hard… especially when life gets hard. For whatever reason, God tends to use these times in my life to teach me deeper layers of truths about Himself.

Today I’m not fully healed, but I feel refreshed by God’s words and images of life. Today I can finally (honestly) say, “It is well with my soul.”

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Middle School Retreat

I had the blessing of helping coordinate the middle school retreat. It was a joy to witness a lot of spiritual growth throughout the weekend and get to know my students in a deeper way.

Here is a glimpse of what we did in picture version:

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Group Photo

I coordinated and led a worship team made up of middle schoolers and another adult leader for the weekend. We had a few practices on the weekends proceeding the retreat to learn songs and form a cohesive band. It was such a blessing to see them lead their peers in worship.

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A speaker talked about identity in Christ and challenged the students to commit their whole lives to Jesus. There were a bunch of activities and object lessons to help visualize what it means to be “in Christ.” There were also small discussion groups to dig deeper into the messages we were hearing.

And, of course, there were games and super fun / random things, too…

 

This is what we did when it rained and our river trip was cancelled… splash and chill out in the ditch.

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And here is the most epic picture sequence of the retreat! Enjoy a laugh. We sure did. We’re amazed that the camera caught it! And just so you know… I won this round 🙂

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Thank you for praying for this ministry!

The Land of the Unexpected

Papua New Guinea is known as “The Land of the Unexpected.” I suppose this tag line comes from the relaxed island culture and I’ve experienced it ringing true in daily life… Sudden down pours of rain and your umbrella doesn’t even keep you semi-dry. Simply existing in a place where there are so many cultures and countries represented. Friends becoming family. And about 10 billion other things 🙂

A couple months ago I was walking to the market for all of my fresh produce needs. As I was making my way past the coffee shack, I noticed a large group of people crowding around something. I curiously poked my head around the people to see what the big deal was and saw this weird looking creature…

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(Photo Credit: Susan Frey)

It’s a long-beaked echidna! Someone caught it out in the jungle and brought it to try selling at the market. I’d never heard of them before, let alone seen one. Certainly an unexpected sight for me. Welcome to a piece of my life in “The Land of the Unexpected!”

Surrender

What does it mean to surrender? This past week, God gave me an interesting experience to teach me more about surrendering to Him.

I was dealing with the ever-looming pressure I put on myself to be a super awesome teacher/missionary/human being. I had also developed a pretty bad head / chest cold, my feet had some sort of itchy fungus thing, and to top it off… I slipped on the muddy road and scraped up my knee.

Feeling pretty disheartened at this point, I got up from the ground and looked around to see if anyone was nearby. Luckily, there wasn’t 😉 I quickly tried to wipe the mud off my legs and hands, but it relentlessly spread everywhere… you can’t clean up mud with mud… I assessed the bleeding. The blood was patched up by the mud, so I decided I could “suck it up” and keep going. I could hold in the pain until I returned home, but I couldn’t hide it. I was covered in mud, so it was blatantly obvious that I had fallen. At this point, I just had to relinquish control over looking like I’m all put together… and extend myself grace to laugh at myself… and be laughed at by others. I didn’t walk very much further before someone offered me a ride, which I graciously accepted.

Connection time…

Sometimes my spiritual walk is like this. Sometimes I “fall in the mud” and try to hide my struggles or pretend like everything is fine. I’ll ask God to heal so that it shows He answered my prayers (the way I wanted Him to answer them). Or sometimes I’ll try to just work it out myself because maybe I’ve messed everything up and if I fix it, somehow I’ll be clean again and then God can use me for something awesome.

That’s when it hit me… My motive for surrender shouldn’t be for my personal gain. Just because I pour out my struggles / concerns to God doesn’t mean He is going to automatically take them away. There is a purpose for them. Just because God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I think He should doesn’t mean that He loves me any less. He has a better way. Just because God gives rewards for following Him doesn’t necessarily mean that the journey will be painless. In fact, surrendering is kind of like a wound – it gets painful before it heals.

Real surrender is hard.

Real surrender means trusting completely. Real surrender means laying down my will and allowing God’s will to be done. Real surrender means engaging in a deep and personal relationship with God for the sake of God Himself.

Vacation Bible School 2017

I helped with Vacation Bible School last week!  There were 2 different locations that held a Bible School this year and children from about 12 different villages were able to come. We had about 135 kids come to our location!

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This is how we got to the village most days! We forged a river!  It took about 15 minutes to get to the village when we went through the river.

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Some days the river was too high to cross because of the amount of rain the previous night, so then we had to take the long way. We crammed into a couple vehicles and drove down the bumpy dirt roads, then got out to hike and cross some log bridges. Going to VBS this way took us about 40 minutes.

It was a typical Bible school with songs, Bible lessons, memory verses, and games.  This year the theme was “Stand Up Like Daniel” so kids learned lessons from the life of Daniel.

I led one of the 2nd-4th grade groups. That means I took them around to the stations and taught the small group time. One of the Papua New Guinean girls from my 8th grade community group co-led with me. It was such a blessing to work alongside her!

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We played a lot of games in the mud!

Thank you for your prayers! Praise God for a successful VBS and continue to pray for the people in this valley of Papua New Guinea to know Christ and make Him known.

Music Ministry Trip

We took a small group of students on a music ministry trip to Port Moresby. Here is what we did in picture version:

Boarding the plane for our flight to Port Moresby (the capital of Papua New Guinea).

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There is a group of Papua New Guineans that have a vision to build a band / orchestra program in Port Moresby. We were invited to play in a fundraising concert and teach lessons to the beginning band students in Port Moresby. It was such a joy to be part of the grassroots of the music program that is starting here. We were grateful for the opportunity to share the gift of music that God has given us.

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There is a Police Band in Papua New Guinea! We were blessed to play a couple songs with them for the concert. Pictured below is one of our rehearsals. Check out the gorgeous ocean view! It was hard to concentrate on the music 😉

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“This is what happens when you play wrong notes…”

Everyone split up by instrument to teach lessons. The clarinets, trumpets, trombones, saxes, and flutes all went to different places within the same room. Since we didn’t bring a flute player, I taught the flute lessons… 8 beginning flute players!

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Here is a group picture of the beginning band with their teacher.

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We also did some sight-seeing! A visit to the PNG Parliament!

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Going out to eat… several times! This is not a common occurrence for us in Ukarumpa.

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There is an amusement park, complete with a waterslide, ferris wheel (that takes 10 minutes to go all the way around once), merry go round, and botanical garden.

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There were also stoplights! Also not a common sight for us in the Highlands. 😉

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A big highlight of the trip was eating grapes! I hadn’t eaten them since coming to PNG (two years grapeless!). What a blessing to enjoy a special treat 🙂

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Come

I’ve been serving as a missionary in Papua New Guinea for about 2 years now. Since my arrival here, I’ve come to the end of myself more times than I can count. I tried the routine spiritual disciplines to get back on track… praying, reading Scripture, singing familiar worship songs… but my soul desperately longed for more of God. I asked Him to give me a new song, to speak to me, to fill me, to bring healing, and to just be with me. And He met me while I sat with a guitar, strumming chords. That’s where this song comes from. “Come” is an original song of my own inner struggle, a longing for a deeper relationship with God, and an invitation for Him to come in.

Here is a link to listen: https://clyp.it/ohwwlnei

Lyrics to Come:

Verse 1:

I have no words                 stuck in this place again

I’m so empty                      and lost without You

Half Chorus:

Come in this room           I’m waiting for You

Come fill me up                I’m hungry for You

Verse 2:

Lord meet me here         I long to hear Your voice

to feel Your touch            be in Your presence

Chorus:

Come in this room           I’m waiting for You

Come fill me up                I’m hungry for You

Come heal my soul          I’m longing for You

Invade my life                   I need more of You

Verse 3:

You hear my cry                 You pick me up again

I cling to You                       You are my rock

Bridge:

You are enough for me…              You are my everything

Oh, You are all I need…                  (3x)

(tag)  Lord, have Your way

Chorus:

Come in this room           I’m waiting for You

Come fill me up                I’m hungry for You

Come heal my soul          I’m longing for You

Invade my life                   I need more of You

Chronic Over-Doer-Itis

This morning, I read these words from Isaiah 30:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,

in quietness and trust is your strength,

but you would have none of it.”

Ouch. The power of holy conviction.

The past couple weeks have been extremely difficult. But, in the midst of sickness and infection… I rested. God brought me sweet time in His presence and refilled my spirit. I thought I had rested enough and healed enough to be able to do life again. After all, the doctor said I could go back to work if I felt up to it. I took that as, “You’re good to do everything as normal… just don’t run and jump and be stupid.”

  • Wednesday was my first (very!) full day back to school and I made it through the entire day.
  • Thursday I decided to coach volleyball practice after school.
  • Friday I was in pain and felt sick all day, but went to school anyways. I made it through the morning and couldn’t continue…

The next two verses of Isaiah 30 talk about the military strategy of the Israelites. Here is my paraphrased interpretation:

“Instead, you go and do what you want. You run yourself ragged and don’t trust Me to provide for your needs.”

I was wrong. I hadn’t let myself heal and rest enough. I wanted to be well… to be back in the classroom… to be able to walk myself to and from school and everywhere in between… to be able to coach my volleyball team. I wanted my life to be back to “normal.”

So, I pushed myself and expected myself to do all of this stuff… and for some mysterious reason, God didn’t give my body the energy to maintain them. The chronic over-doer overdid it and is stuck in bed once again.

The end of the passage sums up this experience well:

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;

he rises to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

And today God is graciously reminding me to rest in Him… to trust in Him… and to wait for Him.

Infectious Rest

Thursday afternoon I went to the clinic with a very infected bug bite on my leg and came out with the diagnosis of cellulitis accompanied by an abscess. I followed the doctor’s orders by taking antibiotics, elevating / soaking my leg, and resting. It hurt to sit up for very long and the pain throbbed when I stood or walked. Optimistic me thought I’d heal over the weekend and be back to work by Monday.

God had other plans. Now it’s Monday and I’m still in bed. I still can’t stand without pain.

Over the past few days I’ve felt miserable. Not only is my body battling infection… There is this inner battle happening simultaneously. I’ve felt like somehow I’ve failed. I couldn’t teach my lessons, direct band rehearsals, coach volleyball, support my students at their talent night, help my roommate cook or clean… do anything that requires me to be upright. I felt pathetic and discouraged that I wasn’t meeting the mark of my own expectations. And even more so that I couldn’t do the jobs God called me to do here.

I’ve always had the older child syndrome of being ultra responsible, independent, and self-sufficient. I’m one to push hard through the pain, the “go, go, go” type of person. I get the job done and do it well without a hint of being tired.

Well, God stopped this “super-missionary” in her tracks this week. He put a “thorn in my flesh to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7 paraphrase). I wanted to be in control of my leg healing. Having a bum leg is holding me back from my ministry. Or is it? As I read these next Words, I realized I was wrong.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He reminded me of how weak I truly am. I couldn’t keep up the façade anymore. My works and drive for perfection aren’t going to get me through this time. His grace will win as He shows me how incredibly strong He is. He’s been trying to get my attention for a while now. He’s been trying to tell me to slow down… to rest… to depend on Him in a deeper way… to let Him be in control. He has my full attention while I lay in bed with this thorn in my flesh, listening to Him whisper,

“Wait. Rest. Be. My grace is sufficient for you.”

Broken and Beautiful

Butterfly

picture from google image search

I was walking to school and as I turned the corner leading to the music building door, I stopped in my tracks… a big butterfly was sprawled out on the sidewalk, blocking my path. (Sorry, didn’t have a camera, so no picture… just a pseudo picture from google images to catch your attention). Like my nature-y self, I thanked and praised God as I gazed at the uniqueness of its large size, black and white coloring, and simple beauty.

But what really struck me was the fact that a big chunk of its wing was missing! It was broken and that was the most beautiful part. It just stood there on the sidewalk in the midst of brokenness. It didn’t move. It didn’t do anything. It just was.

That’s when I realized that God was speaking to me…

I had been asking God to speak to me and give me guidance regarding specific parts of my life. Sleepless nights were exhausting me. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d ask God what He wanted me to do. I’d open my Bible and search for truth. I’d turn on the worship music, hoping it would calm my racing thoughts. I’d ask Him to speak. I’d sit there and listen. I’d ask Him to give me rest.

I waited.

And waited.

And… waited.

Silence. The silence was deafening.

I just wanted to hear from Him. I wanted the heavens to open and hear God’s thundering voice tell me exactly what to do and how to do it. I wanted an email to show up in my inbox giving me the details. I wanted clarity and I wanted it instantly.

Here’s where the broken butterfly comes in:

God wanted me to wait on Him in my brokenness. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” -Psalm 27:14. Phrases like, “listen to Me,” “look to Me,” “trust in Me,” were popping out in my Bible readings on a regular basis. So I responded by trying to do those things, but…

He didn’t want me to do anything. This is the really hard part for me. I want to be actively involved and go get things done. Waiting for God was exhausting to me. It seemed like He was taking His sweet time while I was relentlessly pursuing Him for answers. I thought I was listening, looking, and trusting in Him… but my thoughts always went to: what should I do?! I was doing the best I could to hear from Him, but felt like a failure every time I didn’t hear anything. **Check out the lyrics from the song “Fix You” at the bottom of this blog. This has been a go-to song for me and articulates my circumstances pretty well.** Jesus gave His life to fix my brokenness. He doesn’t need me to do anything. Realizing that this was the point continues to bring me freedom daily.

He wanted me to be with Him. The Creator of the universe loves me and wants to be in relationship with me. Nothing more and nothing less. How humbling. He was speaking to me all along. When I gazed at that broken and beautiful butterfly and soaked in the depth of its significance to my broken and beautiful life, I heard the still small voice whispering… “Just be.”

 

Fix You
– by Coldplay (adapted and recorded by WorshipMob)

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
He gave His life to fix you,

High up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

He can guide you home
And ignite your bones
He gave His life to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
When you can’t learn from your mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

He will guide you home
And ignite your bones
He gave His life to fix you