A Journey Back in Song

We are leaving the UAE in 3 days. For almost 3 years, this country has been our home. Father brought us here, brought me here, to continue remaking me after Christ. He has used so much – people, conversations, trials, disappointment, joy, temptation, the birth of our son – to reveal my heart, to feed my hope on the Resurrection, to delight in being one with Jesus… to give me more of Christ.

Something this week made me want to look back on the songs that God used at key points to minister to me these past 3 years. Re-listening to them this morning brought back such strong memories of specific moments in this journey. Through them I can see where I was on the journey at different times: excited and hopeful, weary and broken, rested and comforted, tempted and failing, steadfast and full of faith. They remind me what I needed from the Lord and how He was so faithful to comfort, encourage and strengthen my faith every step of the way.

I tend to listen to songs over and over again. These are my most-listened songs during our time in the UAE.  I thought it’d be fun to collect them all in one place.

 

 

 

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What We Gained from Losing a Bike

Today we are starting to sell/get rid of all our things, getting ready for our move next month. So yesterday, we went around the house saying goodbye to the things we love. At first it seemed like a funny thing we were doing. The girls were very amused by the exercise.

“Bye, couch…!” Giggles.

“Mom, that’s so funny! Couches can’t talk!”

“Bye fridge!!” More laughter.

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But then, we got to their bikes. Our four year old melted in my arms, completely devastated. “I can’t keep my bike?!” Her voice broke down. “But I LOVE my bike! It’s my birthday bike. I really wish I could bring it on the airplane….” All this between sobs. It was one of the hardest moments we have had as parents. We knew it would be hard. Ethan and I had already pre-grieved this loss earlier this week. But seeing her walk through it was heart-breaking. We sobbed with her.

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At the same time, beauty blossomed in front of my eyes. My husband held her for a long time. And she spontaneously prayed, “thank you, Father for giving me my bike…”

It’s funny how God knows the ways I need to grow up as a mom. I have been dreading these last moments here in this city. I wish I could keep my kids from hurting, but if I did, I wouldn’t see this: their child – like trust in God or the beautiful picture of a Father that embraces us and hold us in our grief.

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I wouldn’t hear my oldest daughter say, “We get to stay together as a family. It’s like we get to bring our house with us wherever we go.”

I wouldn’t see God giving them the faith to say, “I’ll have more adventures on another cool bike.”

Yesterday, God grew my faith for this new transition. He’s not only asking us to walk through it, but He is really carrying us into it. He is creating something beautiful in us as a family in the midst of loss. And He is giving us something far better than bikes, and friends forever and a grief-less childhood:

My girls are tasting the comfort of the Father.

I am seeing Jesus living His life in me, giving me His own child-like trust to entrust our family to my Papa in Heaven.

Our whole family is learning to live inside the much bigger Story we are part of.

After all, He is worthy.

Joy-sharing, Vol. 2 – My favorite reads in 2017

Full disclosure: This year was the first in a while that I read so consistently.

The first part of the year I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and I felt like I had no capacity to read or process. I watched lots of Hallmark Christmas movies posted on YouTube. But at some point, I don’t remember how, the Lord nudged me to begin reading again. And once I started, I couldn’t quite stop.

I am so thankful for my Kindle (maybe possibly my favorite toy?) for a few reasons:

  1. The built-in light allows me to read at night without bothering my  husband. So when I was awake during those sleepless 3rd trimester nights, and later nursing, I would read.
  2. I can get books either on Amazon or through my library in the States. I don’t feel as limited by the fact that I don’t have as many options available here as I did back home.
  3. I can carry it with me easily and read while I am waiting in different places.

Now on to my picks! If you are my friend and have a kindle, I would be so happy to loan any of these books to you!

First pick – Love that it is written by an Anglican. She has a different framework than mine to think about life. I welcome that. I don’t usually reread books and yet found myself with this one going back to think through some of her insights.
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My second pick. And quite honestly could have easily been my first. This book was thought provoking and gave me insights into our homemaking God that I had never considered. Jen melted my heart with beautiful pictures of a servant, homemaking, feast-preparing God.
I really enjoyed reading this book memoir by these two ladies and again – a framework different than mine enriches my perspective.
A writing Memoir – Need I say more?
I really loved how this book is part memoir. But my favorite thing about it is how Anderson kept fixing my gaze on Christ and his humility. I journalled through some of the chapters as it helped me process my life. It is beautifully and honestly written. Probably my 3rd pick 🙂
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I really enjoyed reading this book about this traveling family. Now I want to go to New Zealand.
I am not quite done with this book but have been savouring every single chapter. There is no truth that buoys my hope as this one: I am one with Christ. Wilbourne’s writing is compelling, clear and what he shares thrills my heart again and again.

This year I am hoping to double the amount of books I read – sharing this because accountability. I am hoping to do that by trying different things:

  1. Read two books at the same time: non-fiction and fiction.
  2. I deleted a few apps from my phone that I use too much and can distract me from reading.
  3. I am planning to listen to more books on audio – especially fiction books. (Listening to non-fiction doesn’t work as well for me).

What are some books you read in 2017? What do you do to make time for reading? 

 

A Fall Poem

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I am delighted by how much Maia loves to write. She loves writing stories, letters, lists… and recently she suggested writing a fall poem. It reflects the two realities she knows about life both in the US and here…especially the last two lines. Everyone here knows that the mall is where you go to eat donuts! Here is her poem. She is my favorite guest poster so far 🙂

UAE fall and USA fall

by Maia Merck

I love the fall

I can cuddle my doll

I can buy a cat or play with a bat

Or put on my orange leaf hat.

What do you want to do?

I want to jump in the leaves

And get donuts at the mall too.

Picture by Autumn Mott (Unsplash)

What I am Learning That Matters to Me in Homemaking

It has taken me years to sharpen my sense of style in homemaking. Moving around has helped me to clarify what things I want and love in a house. It has also helped me to appreciate what God gives, even when it isn’t my first choice. Tonight, as I talked to my husband about a particular strong preference of mine (that is actually not a reality in the place we live now), I thought about what I have learned over the years about my likes and dislikes, not only in the layout of a house but also about the kind of space I want to create where we live.

Here are some of the things I have discovered:

1. I prefer tile floors over carpet…but I love area rugs.

2. I need big windows in my life that let in natural light and that connect me to the world outside. 

3. We love houses with run-thru-ability. Houses here tend to have rooms separate from each other. We prefer open layouts or at least well connected spaces. Our living room and dining room right now are connected through big double doors, making it easy to flow from one room to the next. 

4. Villas (or stand alone houses) provide space for the kids to run around safely; on the other hand, apartments seem to facilitate getting to know our neighbors better than villas do. I am torn between the two options. 

5. Real plants and fresh flowers are very life – giving to me. Living in the desert has made this crystal clear.

6. Over time I have discovered that these words define my taste in decor: eclectic, indie, rustic, minimalist

7. Having a dedicated guest room brings me great joy. (Please come visit! We are ready.)
8. A big dining table around which a crowd can gather thrills my soul.

9. We love a living room that is big enough to gather lots of friends.

10. Counter space in the kitchen is really not overrated.

11. A house with a green kitchen and pink  and blue bathrooms is a house with great personality. I am learning to embrace it.

12. Scents matter to me in creating a welcoming ambience.

13. I like having a space that my kids feel is their own (other than their bedroom).

14. It is important to me that our decor reflects the places we have lived in (both as singles & married) and that shape who we are becoming.

15. Mood lighting helps create a cozy inviting atmosphere. I need more lamps in my life!
If you come to my house today, you will see it is very much a work in progress and that not all these preferences are evident here. But I am slowly working towards that goal. 

Homemaking in itself is not a frivolous act. It is actually quite the opposite. The Son of Man didn’t have a place to lay his head here on earth – his willingness to be homeless so I could be home with God is incredibly humbling. But that does not mean that He doesnt care about the work of the home.

Jen P. Michel, in her book Keeping Place, does a beautiful job in showing how God is not beneath housework. It moved me to tears more than once for all the glimpses it gives into the heart of God as a humble servant, host par excellence, labouring housekeeper and generous Father.

Christ is the radiant image of the invisible God and in Him we see most clearly God’s heart and his intent to make a home for His children. Michel puts it this way,

“Jesus appears in the midday gloom of Israel, just when the people of God despair of ever being home. God – made flesh pitches his tent in their neighborhood, he tabernacles among them (John 1: 14). He declares an end to exile. He signals the beginning of a long-awaited homecoming. He travels proclaiming the good news of home. Eventually Christ is killed. He is raised up and Jesus insists on the permanence of his presence in the language of home: ‘I will not leave you as orphans… If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him…’ The story of the Bible witnesses to the happy ending called home. Our anxiety to belong, our desire to be received, our hope for intimate embrace: these are met in the homemaking God of Abraham, who speaks the yes of his promises in Jesus Christ.” 

God is a home-making God and He is re-creating me to be like Him. Once upon a time I almost despised the work of the home. But God has turned my heart. The labor of love that goes into making our house a place of welcome, a place for feasting, and a place of rest- not only for my family but for all who come visit- is becoming one of the biggest joys of my life.

What about you? I would really love to hear what matters to you in home making.

Thoughts From The Back Row

Yesterday morning we made it to church – Wes’ first time since he was born. It was sweet to be back! At one point I had to sit in the lobby to nurse him. I couldnt hear the sermon very well. The thought came to mind, “is it worth it to come if I wont be able to participate fully in the service, nor sit through a whole sermon?” And the Spirit in me answered with a resounding YES. 

Here’s why: 

1) I heard my brothers and sisters lifting their voices with joy, and saw them gratefully raising their hands. What a testimony to God’s power who has made His light shine in our hearts (2 Co. 4: 6), and given us eyes to see the beauty of His Son. How else can I explain the delight and affection I saw on their faces as they proclaimed Jesus is King?

2) When I looked at the gathered body of Christ from Ghana, Nigeria, Philippines, India, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, United States, South Africa (I may be missing other countries), Jesus reassured me that He is indeed saving people from every tongue and tribe & nation.

3) Christ served me humbly through my pastor and friend @andrewremke, who took my baby and said, “Go, enjoy the service; I will hold him for you.”

4) The Spirit strengthened my faith when I saw the faith of my sister who in the midst of difficulty and sorrow still went to church: worshipping Jesus and adoring His goodness toward her. Through her he deepened the conviction: Jesus is worthy of all of my praise at all times (Psalm 145: 3; 34:1).

5) Through the breaking of the bread and wine, my Savior gently and powerfully spoke of His faithfulness to me – his body given for me, his blood poured out for me (Matthew 26: 26-27). He knows my faith is weak. He tangibly and tastefully reminds me: “I am for you.”

6) He is not just for me. He is for all of us gathered at the table. He gave His blood to bind me not only to Himself but to all those brothers and sisters who are also feasting on Christ.

7) I saw the heart of Christ when my sisters lovingly embraced my children, sat down with them, asked them questions and cared for their needs.

8) Our joy over our newborn son is our church’s joy. Only through Jesus can others truly rejoice with those who rejoice.

9) I attended a meeting for children’s ministry and was so encouraged: he answers prayer and has provided volunteers for children’s ministry. 

10) Christ has given my friend and sister love for His church and faith to rely on His strength to lead Children’s ministry while I am on maternity leave. Through her, Christ is providing unexpected rest.

11) Jesus is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 48:1). We are a young church; we all come from many different backgrounds, countries, denominations. We may not all believe exactly the same doctrinally – but Christ is our treasure. He is far above every ruler and authority. His name is precious. Truly, who is like our God?

12) Jesus dwells in the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). He Himself was there yesterday- holy and enthroned in our worship. What an awe-inspiring truth. I got to be with Christ in a way that only happens when we are gathered as his people.

My husband once challenged my reluctance to attend church, “If you knew there would be a gathering of people from the age to come, what would you give to be there?” Yesterday I tasted once again the unspeakable privilege we have to be there. The Risen Christ has created a new people whose hope is in the age that is to come. Through them He is doing the work of uniting all things to Himself (Eph. 1: 21). All my brothers and sisters live and love in ways that only make sense because of Christ’s death & resurrection. 

At church, seen realities like bread, wine, raised hands and community link hands with unseen realities of covenant, love, eternity and Resurrection life to feed our faith. What a merciful Savior we have! He knows that we forget and that we wander. So He invites us week after week to feast: to come and taste and see and hear through His Word and through His people that He is indeed good.

So friend – when people from the age to come gather to worship, Jesus their Maker & Redeemer is there. What will you give to be there?


10 Things I Learned This Summer

 

Recently I went to Emily Freeman’s blog – it had been a while since I last visited it. I found her reflection of the things she learned this summer and her invitation to her readers to also share what they had learned. At first I didn’t think I could come up with an actual list, since I hadn’t really been thinking about it intentionally this summer. But when I sat down to jot down a few, I quickly came up with the list below. I wrote them down as they came to mind – nothing significant about the order.

jan-kahanek-184675 (1)1. In the Myers Brigg Personality test, I am very close to the middle in the P and J but when I go through transition and change, I default to J. Structure helps me to have a sense of where I am headed. So even if it is a very simple plan, it really helps me to think through it, talk about it with my husband and stick to it.

2. Being off Instagram on the weekends made me realize how mindlessly I turn to it and how much time I waste on it! I have been fasting off IG during the weekends. I uninstall it late Thursday or early Friday (since Fridays are the day of worship in the country we live in, and thus the first day of the weekend) and install it back up again on Monday. I use that time to focus on other things: reading, praying, memorizing the Scriptures or simply just enjoying those right in front of me. It is a weekly rhythm that is helping me realign my life and heart. 

3. Sons are the sweetest gift. We just had a son 12 days ago. Before he was born I was so scared of not loving him as much as I have loved my daughters. I had no vision for being a mom of a boy. But oh, my son melts my heart. In some ways I find myself bonding more quickly than I did with the girls (even though I adored my girls when they were tiny).

4. I enjoy learning language with my husband. We spent 100 hours studying the local language this Summer and I am thankful that we really liked being in class together.

5. I can DIY! I have always thought of myself more of a DIFM person – Do It For Me. I love the DIY style but I am not super gifted with my hands. But getting ready for baby I embarked on a few projects and I am super excited how they have been turning out!

6. My girls are awesome big sisters. They have been so helpful – bringing me water when I am nursing, throwing out diapers, holding their sweet baby brother.

7. I love memoirs. My go to reading books are usually on theology, but this summer I read memoirs by Madeleine L’Engle, Tsh Oxenreider and Jen Pollock Michel (her book is a part memoir, part theology)… and couldn’t really put them down. Memoirs might be very close to my favorite genre.

8. Sleeping with the phone outside my bedroom has helped me to unplug. It is so nice not to have the phone to reach for when I can’t sleep at night or to be the first thing I grab when I wake up. Having it physically out of reach exposed how addicted I can be to it.

9. I am often tempted to fear not being enough for people around me – instead of embracing it and resting that He is enough for them.

10. Nothing will take away the joy of holding an actual book – but during my sleepless nights of pregnancy and now while nursing, it is so nice to have a kindle that allows me to read while the lights are off in our room and my husband sleeps next to me.

 

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash