Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What I Learned in November (2016 edition)

Today is a holiday here in West Africa.  It is a refreshing break to the rhythm of my days to have a day to catch up, read, and now blog.  Who knows?  Maybe we will head out to the beach later when my honey gets home.  It has been a while since I have taken the time to reflect and think about life and what I am learning.  So here are my lessons for this past month.  

1. It is hard to get excited about Christmas when the weather feels like summer.

We have finished rainy season and are heading into dry season.  The days are warm and the water beckons.  This Iowa girl misses her cold weather and snow which signal that Christmas is near.   Between the Christmas tree we put up and a Christmas music playing on the computer, the Christmas spirit is slowly creeping in.  

Here is our tree. 
It was a treat to decorate it with ornaments we have collected over the years.  Some of the ornaments come from Central Asia or Europe.  Some were gifts or handmade.   The tree is just right for my honey and I.  Now all I need are a few ornaments from here.

2. It is really good to be in a ladies' bible study.

The ladies on our team are gathering once a week to go through the book When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.   Those evenings are full of good discussions, laughter and connecting in the midst of busy weeks.  This study helps me get out of my school bubble and interact with the ladies on our team.  

The study has also been valuable in helping me process our time in Central Asia.  The subtitle of the book is "Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty."   It was almost exactly two years ago when two of my kids' friends were killed in an attack.  Even though we stayed for over a year after that, that event was the beginning of the end of our time there.   Our school closed a month later followed by trouble getting our flight permissions.  Memories from that time continue to bring tears to my eyes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  It keeps my heart tender towards our friends and others there.   Many of the ladies here are processing a time of crisis here from two years ago.  As I hear their stories, I am better able to understand life here and also see their hearts for people all over the world. 

3. To be comfortable in this season.

I think the challenge in each season is to figure out what does God want from me.  What are my expectations?  Are they realistic?  Is this guilt talking or is this something I really need to be doing?  Another challenge is finding the balance between work and the rest of life.  Am I taking care of all of me?

I love my job as a teacher, but it is draining.  By the end of the day, my brain is tired, and I am ready for some time alone or with my honey.  Sometimes I struggle with knowing how much to reach out to others since I am still in the getting to know people stage.  What do I need?  What do they need in a friend?   Since I am right in the middle between introvert and extrovert, the two sides often conflict.   One side asks, "Do you really want to call someone? " While the other side says, "Wouldn't it be nice to just hang out with friends?  You need to connect more." 

So for now, I know my job will take a lot out of me.  That is a given.  Each day I enjoy engaging and keeping those dear students learning.  I treasure the evenings and weekends with my honey-cooking together, reading,taking walks.  But I also need to remember that I need to connect.  It is part of me.  The ladies bible study helps, but is that enough?  My prayer is that I will find a good balance that is right for me but also right for those who need another friend.  It is a lesson still in process.

What have you learned this month?  Interested in what others have learned this fall? Check out Emily at Chatting at the Sky and her link up. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Non-Fiction November

Okay, I know Non-fiction November is not real thing.  You have to admit that it is a catchy title for a month where people write full length novels and men don't shave their beards.   Truthfully, I didn't just read nonfiction this month, but those books are the ones that stood out.  Once again, I am writing short reviews on books I have read this month and linking up with Modern Ms Darcy and others as they highlight books they have read.

Nonfiction is always harder for me to read.  First of all, I have to read just a chapter at a time if I want it all to sink in.  Then the subject matter needs to be timely otherwise I get distracted.  Lastly I am guilty of getting caught up in a fictional series and promising myself that I will finish or continue my non fiction book after I have completed the series.  

The best time of day for me to read nonfiction is in the morning.  My mind is clear and ready to absorb what I am reading.  If it is later in the day, I bribe myself with a fiction book for after I have read one or two chapters of nonfiction.  

Here are my nonfiction reads for the past month.  There are only two, but two is better than none.

1. When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore

In this book, Beth talks about spiritual warfare.  She gives clear teaching on how to seduce proof your life as well as how to deal with your past failings.  I like how the book was practical but steeped in scripture.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes...
Satan knows that the nature of humankind is to act out of how we feel rather than what we know.  One of our most important defenses against satanic influence will be learning how to behave out of what we know is truth rather than what we feel. (p.22)
Many times we don't have a knowledge problem; we have an obedience problem. (p.110)
Much too often we have adopted a relative standard based on the wickedness of the world rather than the holiness of God.  Because we don't do and watch most of the stuff out there, our minds are clean.  One of the seductive lies of Satan is to name things harmless that are anything but. (p. 194)
The theme of the book is that we as Christians would be sanctified through and through so that we will not give in to Satan's schemes.

2.  Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman

There is a lot of misinformation about refugees floating around in the news, Facebook, and in face to face conversations.  The book describes the refugee process and what is involved in a refugee getting settled in the United States.  Using facts and real life stories, the author makes a case for the church getting involved with refugees.  The author also addresses the fears that many have concerning refugees and does not shy away from it being a hard process.  The book was well documented with the actual book taking up 67% of the book and the documentation the other 33%.  I was actually able to read more than just two chapters in one sitting since it was such an easy read.

What nonfiction have you read in the last few months that you consider a must read?  Any advice on doing a better job of reading nonfiction? 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Invitation

This week my daddy would have turned 70 years old.  I miss talking to him about life.  He thrived on conversations that made challenged your thinking.  These days he has been on my mind more often.  Maybe it is my age, or maybe I wonder what he would say about the election and all that goes with it.  My best memories are big, enveloping hugs from my dad and cuddling up beside him to discuss what was going on in my life.  

This week as I read Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), I had to stop and read it again.  
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
What an invitation!  Come to me... As I read those words, I pictured Jesus standing there with arms open wide ready to give a big, enveloping hug just like my dad use to do. Everywhere I turn people are weary and burdened.  I live in a country where many are weary from the emotional trauma left over from civil war and disease.  I read on Facebook of friends who are burdened for refugees and other issues of our day.  Others are burdened by family problems and not sure how to navigate what life has brought their way.   Many are burdened by what the future holds.  To all of these... Jesus says, "Come to Me... I will give you rest."

We have to take the first step.  We have to come.  It is only then that Jesus can give us rest.  How does He give us rest? The next sentence gives the answer.  We are to take his yoke upon us and learn from him.  In order for us to take his yoke upon us, we need to take off the yoke that has wearied and burdened us.  We need to give him those expectations, hurts, sins, and burdens. When we come to Him, we need to come ready for Him to replace our yoke with His.  

Yoke is not a word you hear much.  Often it is used in phrases such as the yoke of slavery.  According to the dictionary, a yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to the plow or cart to pull.  It is a term that those listening to Jesus's words would have been familiar with.  A yoke also refers to the bonding between two people or parties.  It is often a symbol of oppression or something burdensome.  Wait...  Isn't this yoke suppose to be a good thing? Doesn't it lead to rest?  

By taking up the yoke that Jesus offers, I give up control of my life and my agenda.  I surrender to his will and way and let Him guide me.  It is no longer  about me but all about HIM.   It is not oppressive.  It is freedom.  A word used by Paul and James that describes this yoke would be bond servant.  We are bonded to Christ.  

We are not only to take on His yoke but learn from Him for He is gentle and humble of heart.  I don't know about you, but I sure could use some more gentleness and humility in my life and that is just the beginning of the learning process.

Lastly, Jesus's yoke is easy, and His burden is light.  This does mean that life is easy.  John Ortberg says, "Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word.  The soul was to made for an easy life.  The soul was made for an easy yoke."  The soul was made to navigate life with the guidance of the one who knows all things.  The soul is so easily burdened when we try to do things on our own and in our own way.  We need the yoke that Jesus offers.  Our souls need the rest that He offers.  Rest is more a state of mind than a circumstance.  It is peace that passes understanding.  It is knowing that I am not alone; He is always with me.

So today I am going to COME.  I am going to TAKE HIS YOKE UPON ME.  I am going to LEARN FROM HIM.  I don't know about you, but I need HIS REST.  I have no idea what that looks like on a daily level.  For now, I know it means acknowledging that I can't do this life on my own.  I have to come in faith and give up those daily burdens.  Then I have to trust that his leading-His yoke will guide me as I go through my days.  I won't always get it right but my teacher is gentle and humble in heart.  He will not give up on me.  

What about you?  Are you experiencing His rest?  Do you need to come to Him?