Monday, March 16, 2020

Encouragement from Haggai

I was enjoying a lazy morning studying when the news came. Our country had its first confirmed case of COVID 19. It wasn't a surprise. We knew it wasn't a matter of "if" but "when" especially since bordering countries had confirmed cases. Even before the first case, precautions were set in place with extra hand washing and social distancing.  But still I found myself asking the question, now what? 

I don't know what circumstances surround you.  Whether you are alone or with others.  Whether you are sick or know someone who is. Whether this has you freaked out or you are calm. I do know that the words that Haggai spoke to the remanent of God's people so long ago are ones that can encourage you as they did me no matter where you find yourself.

It was during the time of the Persian empire and the remnant led by Zerubbabel and Joshua was working on rebuilding the temple after a 15 year break. They were less than two months into the project, but already they were discouraged. The task was daunting. Their enemies surrounded them.  And on this holy day during the Feast of Tabernacles, they were even more aware that this temple would not compare with Solomon's temple. 

Then Haggai as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts spoke. He reminded them that God knew their situation. He understood their discouragement.  Then came these words..."But now..."

"But now take courage, Zerubbabel,"declares the Lord, 'take courage also Joshua... and all you people of the land take courage," declares the word fo the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,'says the Lord of hosts. "As for the promise which I made when coming out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear.'  (Haggai 2:4-5)
They were instructed to take courage, work, and not to fear. This was not a kick in the pants and get back to work kind of reprimand.  Instead it was a reminder to the people that they were not alone. The task was too big for them. But they were not on their own. God says, "I am with you" so you can take courage; you can work; you can not fear. 

These words were not isolated to this people and this time. They echoed the words of Joshua 1 where Joshua was encouraged to "Be strong and courageous."  In verse 9, God also told Joshua to not be afraid for God would be with him.  Joshua's task was to lead the people into the Promised Land and conquer it. 

Again similar words were shared between father and son as David encouraged his son in the task of building God's house.
Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God, is with you. (I Chron. 28:20a)

These words were not isolated to the Old Testament.  Paul introduced the armor of God to the Ephesians with the words "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." 

So today I am taking these words to heart. Take courage. Work (do the task God has for me today.) Do not fear.  Read  God's Word.  Pray. Do the next right thing. Be a light in my little space here in West Africa.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Ugly Mess

My husband and I were on our evening walk when I noticed I could see the beach and downtown in the distance. It was a beautiful view, but something did not feel right. As we neared the bridge, I was devastated to see the trees and vegetation had been hacked away. The debris left to rot. On the other side of the bridge were most of the trees and vegetation remained, the Weavers birds chirped away in a tree agitated that their habitat had been messed with. (At least that is what I imagined they were chirping about.) 

I am sure there was a good reason for this pruning, but at the moment all I could see was that this favorite spot was an ugly mess. I was surprised at the grief that came. No one had died or been injured. In the scope of things, it really shouldn't have been that big of a deal. But for me, it was a trigger to grief that I had been holding in. 

I was missing my kids, tired of being sick, and sad over a friend moving to another country.  I am the type of person that likes to ignore the uncomfortable. But this time, I decided not to run away. First, I had to admit how I was feeling. This meant writing about it in my journal but also acknowledging to my husband my feelings of melancholy.  Crying was involved and much needed.  As I recorded my thoughts and feelings, things came into better focus. I was able to get perspective and be reminded of some truths. I am loved. I will not always feel this way.  But most of all, I have a God who understands my ups and downs, my highs and lows.

I think the vegetation devastation was also a reminder to me how one day life can seem so normal and the next day everything changes. Sometimes we see it coming and sometimes we don't.  If I am devastated by some trees and plants being cut down, I can't imagine what those affected by the tornado in Tennessee are feeling. Lives have been changed. Dreams have been crushed. Grief is a given.  My prayer is that in the midst of the chaos that they will feel God's presence and know they are in good hands.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Things Learned This Dry Season (2020 Edition)

In West Africa, we only have two seasons-rainy and dry.  No winter-not even close.  Currently, we have two more months of dry season, but I miss out linking up with those writing about what they learned this winter over at Emily P. Freeman.  For me, it is taking time to see how God has been working, how life has been changing, and hopefully how I am getting a better grip on my life.

So here are a few things I have learned this dry season.

1.  I still like an adventure

Most days are pretty much the same. I get up, exercise, go to work, come home, fix supper and watch a TV show with my honey, walk, then read and go to bed.  I don't mind my boring life but once in a while it is good to mix it up.

                                         (photo credit: me)

The first weekend in February we had a chance to go camping with some friends.  It was a three hour drive over some crazy roads to the beach where we would stay. Our friends tent camped, and we stayed in a lodge.  We spent the weekend swimming, talking, and eating food cooked over a fire.  It was also a good time for some time together before two of the couples leave to go to other places.

My favorite part of the weekend was a hike that my husband and I took to an abandoned ship.  It was fun climbing over the rocks, going barefoot through the sand, and hoping we were going the right direction. It took us about an hour to get there, and we were glad that we started early.  We took pictures, explored, and then headed back to the place we were staying.

(photo credit: my husband)

                                     (photo credit: me)

It was a great reminder of how much we enjoy being outdoors and especially hiking.

2.  I Read Nonfiction Better in the Morning

My husband's alarm goes off at 5:00 am every morning. I am not ready to get up at that time and sometimes can sleep through it or drift back to sleep. Other mornings I am awake but not ready to get up. I have found that is the perfect time for me to read. My mind is less cluttered and able to focus. Reading a chapter before getting up has been a great, slow way to begin my day. 

I am still tweaking my morning routine but so far I am liking getting in some nonfiction reading first thing. I must confess that there are mornings it gets hijacked if I am really close to finishing a good novel. 

3. I Don't Like Silence

In December, my husband and I read Sacred Enneagram.  This book dives into the spiritual aspects of the enneagram and which spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, and stillness best help your type reach wholeness.  Fives (that's me) need time in silence. It is often what we struggle the most with that we need the most. As I get older, I find that I am getting better at turning off the noise or choosing to walk with out headphones but silence doesn't come easily.  It is something that I am slowly working on. 

4. Creative Outlets Makes Life Better

After spending my days working with students, my brain is tired from keeping everyone on track,  The best remedy is doing something creative.  It could be as simple as trying a new recipe in the kitchen or working on our digital family album for the current year.  This past month I did branch out trying to make some sea glass gifts for friends.

This month I am hoping to work on some sewing projects.  I have been collecting lots of lappa (what they call the fabric here) and need to put it to good use.  Any ideas on what to sew?

6. It's Time But Not Time

                                      (photo credit: my husband)
My husband and I will be transitioning back to the states this summer.  Since it takes a while to hire pilots, we needed to put in our notice early.  Summer is a few months away so for now, we are staying present in the here and now. I have kids to teach and get ready for their next grade.  My husband has flights that need to be flown and a team to lead. It is important to be present-to finish well.  We are not ready to leave yet.  

We don't know what is next for us.  Our walks are filled with what if's and what do you think about this? questions. We are listening to podcasts and reading books that will help us make good decision and leave well.  We are excited to see where God will lead.  But for now, we are planted here in this beautiful place that can stretch us and exasperate but is clearly where we are meant to be in this season.

What are some things you have learned this seasons whether it is winter, summer, dry, or rainy?