Gathering Delight

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Bedtime. Let me set the scene for you.  Dinner is over.  Hopefully dishes are done.  There may or may not have been arguments about a certain 9-year-old practicing violin.  There may or may not have been screaming about a certain 3-year-old not wanting to get out of the bath.  Homework is done, sometimes after much complaining.  Mom is tired.  Dad just wants to sit down.  After bathroom trips, teeth-brushing, picking out clothes for the next day, another bathroom trip, and searching for the perfect stuffed animal or book for the night, we tuck them in, say prayers or play our thank-you-God game, and lights are out.  Okay, okay.  There may or may not be a threat about what will happen if either of those girls gets up.

Currently Isabel is in a stage where she is testing my bedtime limits.  She shares a room with Ava, so many nights she keeps Ava up for an hour or more.  She sings, talks, gets up, hits Ava, tickles Ava, climbs into bed with Ava.  Now that she is potty-trained, she comes in our room, having to go potty.  Again.  She slams the closet door, plays with her toys.  She makes messes, then opens and closes her bedroom door just to see if we are outside.  She.  Tests.  My.  Patience.

Ava knows that Mom has enough drama at bedtime and is usually pretty good about staying in her bed.  She knows getting out of bed means grounding from her Kindle.

I hope I have set the stage adequately for the happenings of Thursday night past.  This particular night we tried to get the girls in bed early because Ava had ISTEP testing the next morning.  I had told Ava that the next day I would not be home when she got off the bus and she would walk to Tasha’s house.  She was nervous about it, but we talked it though.  Tasha’s house is only a block or two away and Ava walks and rides her bike there from time to time.

About 30 minutes later, Ava was in our room.  I didn’t look up.  I didn’t want to lose my temper or get into a discussion.  It had been settled.  Ava would go to Tasha’s.  Jimmie walked her back in her room and was in there for a long time.  When he came back in our room, the discussion went something like this.

Jimmie:  Ava is sobbing.  She wants to see you.  She is nervous about tomorrow.

Rachael:  She has walked to her house before.  She goes to Kristi’s house, that is even farther.  She is being dramatic.

Jimmie:  She said she had a dream that someone kidnapped her by the park.  She is scared.

Rachael: (still relatively unmoved) Jimmie, she is just looking for reasons not to go to sleep.  This isn’t a big deal at all.

Jimmie:  RACHAEL, YOUR DAUGHTER IS IN HER BEDROOM.  SOBBING.  TERRIFIED.  SHE WANTS TO TALK TO HER MOM.

I believe that often when Jimmie raises his voice, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

I walk into the room.  My baby is looking up at me, tears streaming down her face.  She reaches up, wraps her arms around me and holds on for dear life.  She is scared.  I finally come to my senses.  I speak soothing words.  I make other arrangements.  We make up.  I hold her, hug her.  I speak of Jesus as our protector.  I speak of fear and how it has no place in us when we know Jesus.  I pray over her.  I stroke her hair and watch her in wonder as she sleeps easily, comforted by my words and her Jesus.  I am so overwhelmed with love for this child, I think I may burst.

I hear the voice, somewhere deep inside, speaking truth I have avoided.  This is your child.  Take delight in her.  She is wondrous.  She is not an inconvenience, she is a delight.  Find joy in her.  Speak gently.  Show her grace.  Be a soft place to fall.  I delight in you, my child.  Now delight in her.  Your child.

I don’t know when it happened.  I always have moments of delight in Ava.  She is so smart and confident.  She is caring and strong.  She leads, she loves.  She has PASSION.  My head knows this, but for a while now I have been so consumed with myself, my problems  and my struggles that my heart wasn’t in it.  It may have been that way for a week.  Maybe a month.  I pray it wasn’t longer than that.  I was so grateful that God woke me up Thursday past.  It is easy for me to take delight in the 3-year-old who hugs mama all the time, says the cutest things, cuddles and kisses.  I thank Jesus that He reminded me that I must wonder at Ava.  She is a glorious gift.  If I look, I can see Jesus in her.  I can see the beauty of creation.  I can see His love in the way she loves.  I am delighting in her again.

He delights in me, after all.  The Bible tells me so.  Even when I fall terribly short as a mom.  Even though I am willful and resistant to His prompting.  Even if I get up when I’m supposed to stay put.  Even though I make messes.  Even if I pretend I need something when He has given me everything I need to rest.  Even when I talk when He wants me to be quiet and still.  Even if I slam doors He has opened so I can see the light.  Even if I annoy and hinder my brothers and sisters on this journey with me.  Even if I’m afraid when there is nothing to fear.  Even if I cry even though He has assured me everything will be okay.  In spite of myself, He delights in me after all.

Do you delight in your children?  Do you ever consider that God takes delight in you?  What obstacles keep you from delighting in your children?  I would love to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle!  This wasn’t a mom-moment I am proud of, but I thank God for the lesson that followed.

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What I Gather About Women of Valor

Sarah Bessey is hosting a synchroblog in honor of International Women’s Day this Friday, March 8th.  Read here for her post on Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives.

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I love the idea of celebrating the women who have helped give me spiritual life along the way.  May I always pay respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed (Romans 13:7).  There are countless women who have poured themselves into me, supported me, encouraged me.  These women have been my friends, my family, my mentors, my inspiration.  They have taught me by example, spoken words of life, prophesied, transmitted spiritual wisdom and giftings.  They have defended me, stood in the gap for me, cried out to God on my behalf.  They have rejoiced in my joy, wept with me in my grief.  They have given spiritual life time and time again.  For that I honor them now.

To my mother, who has been my lifelong example of grace, wisdom and service.  No woman, no human being has taught me more.

To my grandmothers, one a fierce and fearless missionary, the other a gentle and enduring lover of Jesus.

To Chelsea, who brings joy and asks hard questions, the kind that make me run to my Savior for answers.

To the FAC spiritual giants, Judy Oliver, Jula Crider, Jamie Ball, Amy Beck, Sherri Palmer, Maria Kleiman, Billie Riley.  Mindy Whipple, I see Jesus in her eyes.  Shelly, a mentor despite her youth.  And Linda, who has believed in me, spoken encouragement and stood by my side in the most trying of times.  Who would I be without the influence of these women of valor?

I honor my friends along the way.  We learned together, made mistakes together, grew together.  And I will never forget.  Leah, Tania, Jodie, Mindy (quite a road we have walked!), Shanda, Whitney, Heather, Pashen, Haley, Erica… so many more.

The worship leaders I have never met…. they make me want to lock myself in a room alone with Jesus.  Darlene Zschech, Brook Fraser, Crystal Lewis, Ginny Owens, Kari Jobe, Kim Walker…so many more. I thank them.

The bloggers who get me on my knees and into scripture, searching for truth, searching for Jesus.  Sarah BesseyKathy EscobarJen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, Jennie Allen.

To those women of the faith who I admire mostly from afar.  Vickie Oliver, her ministry changed me, set a fire inside me.  Her words were like salve on an open wound of grief.  Dorothy Roca, Kim Sciscoe, Deborah Tisdale (who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself), Faythe Gill, Judith St.Clair.  God bless them for their lives spent for Him.

Women of Gathering… Tasha, the Proverbs friend who loves at all times… turned sister in times of adversity (17:17).  Sara, whose faith astounds me and is my motherly role-model.  Heidi, whose prophetic voice calls me to the deep places.  Chellee, Andrea, Nichole, Beth, Norma, Marty.  My co-laborers, my heart is full to be on this journey with these women of valor, my friends.

Estrella of Cuba, she died as a Christian should die, with joy and anticipation of the future.  Just as she lived.  Zulema of Cuba… no-one has loved me as fiercely.  She lives and breathes Jesus.

The ones to whom I am accountable… Tanya, a warrior.  Her strength makes me strong.  Her passion is infectious.  Lori, she sees me so clearly and speaks so honestly.  What would I do without her voice, the scriptures she speaks in the moment they are needed most.

So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, I honor these women.  I pray that God reward them for their investment into me and into His kingdom.  My only hope is I am able to do the same for someone else and that women of this caliber come along to help birth my girls in the Spirit.

Finally, for two things I ask your forgiveness.  First, forgive me if I forgot your name.  I know there are people I left out and rest assured, I thank God for you and the oversight wasn’t intentional in the least.  Second, please forgive me for all of the incomplete sentences in this post :)  I was in a flow and sentence structure didn’t seem to matter.

How about you?  Who are your spiritual midwives?  Who deserves to be honored in your life as a woman of valor?  I would love to hear about it and feel free to link up with Sarah’s synchroblog as well!

 

Cuba Gathers

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I learned the hard way just how much Cuba gathers.  During our time in Cuba, I didn’t experience the traditional culture shock.  I embraced the new and different food with open heart and mouth.  I adored the simplistic lifestyle.  Lack of technology was the breath of fresh air I desperately needed after years of technology overload.  The absence of my native language was exhilarating.  It fueled my desire to perfect Spanish and was a beautiful cadence in my ears.

The gathering of Cubans was the biggest culture shock for me.  Cuban life revolves around gathering, but their idea of gathering is above and beyond anything I had ever witnessed.  Need some examples?  I have plenty.

Hundreds of people gathering in groups on any given street, chatting and laughing.

Neighbors gathering on the front porch of someone’s house, sipping cafe.

Church members gathering nearly every night for some type of activity.

Kids gathering on the streets or in an open field, playing futbol.

The friendly gathering at the bus stops.

The routine gathering of people just stopping by for a visit.

On our first three-month stay as appointed missionaries to Cuba, I was on gathering overload.  Did they really want me to be in 90 degree conference center ALL DAY for a conference?  Was it REALLY okay for pastors and leaders to stop by our home WHENEVER THEY WANTED?  Was it necessary to sit around and chat for an hour after Bible study on a weeknight and not get home until 11?  I’m sad to say that my heart was closed up to this type of gathering.  I wanted gathering to take place on my terms, in a way I understood, in a way I could maintain my comfort level.

Of course, this is major missionary fail.  My grandfather, a career missionary, gave me one piece of advice.

Don’t try to change them, Rachael.

I thought he was talking about the way they did church.  Turns out, I was resisting the way Cubans gather…. selflessly, whole-heartedly, without hesitation, lovingly, joyfully…

I can’t pinpoint when I started to open myself up to this Cuban lifestyle of gathering.  Perhaps it was watching our pastor friend Juan come by to check on us EVERY DAY.  He cooked for us.  He showed us where to buy our food at the best prices.  He was our bodyguard, even when we didn’t need one.  He sat in our home, filling it with the sound of guitar and voice, singing for us the songs God had given him in the middle of the night.

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Perhaps it was the literal interpretation of greeting each other with a holy kiss, those moments when young and old, male and female kissed my cheek simply wanting to display their love for their sister in Christ.

Perhaps it was the day I went into a home where no-one should live, let alone two beautiful children, obviously hungry.  Perhaps it was the moment that little girl brought me bread.  Perhaps it was the way she gobbled it up after I had taken an obligatory bite and then passed it on to her.

Perhaps it was the four days I spent in the home of my sister in Christ with her husband and four children.  Perhaps it was seeing how they open their home EVERY DAY to anyone and everyone who needs prayer, support, food…. in spite of their obvious need for food for themselves.  Perhaps it was the way they gathered together for a church service inside their ever-so-mosest home… and yet I felt the presence of God sweep over us in a way I had never quite experienced.

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I still struggle to carry this practice of gathering into my life here in Indiana.  It is hard when neighbors pull into their garages, not to be seen again until morning.  It is hard when my schedule and my needs seem to always become the priority.  It is hard when I close my heart, not wanting to be exposed and raw, especially after the rejection I have felt from doing just that.  It is hard when our culture tells us “church” happens on Sunday or Bible study night.  Lots of circumstances, ideals and selfish desires make this lifestyle of gathering hard.  Yet I have determined after my time in Cuba that it is worth fighting for.  The beauty of this lifestyle of community pulls at my heart and I can’t help but remember that Jesus gathered.  He gathered with thousands, with 12, with one at times.  He opened himself up to ridicule and judgement, even death, in order to show forth his extravagant love and gather us to Him.  Cuba gathers.  Jesus gathered and still gathers.  Therefore, Rachael gathers… or at least is learning to gather.

What gatherings are the most meaningful to you?  Where in your life do you experience community?  Do you struggle opening your home to others?  Do you long for this lifestyle of community or resist it?  I would love to get a conversation started!

A Gathering of Links II

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This has been a great week in the blogosphere!  I have to really limit the amount of time I spend reading blogs.  My obsessions move in waves… Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (<- big one), books, games on my iPhone, etc.  Now I have moved to blogs and I will say that if I allowed myself, I could spend hours every day reading posts about lives, journeys, families, recipes, homes and conversations with God.  So, for those of you who enjoy blogs as much as I do, or for those of you who need someone to sift through the bad to find the good…. this list is for you!

Fun projects for the crafty or those who aspire to BE crafty:

I love this adorable gold glitter bowl from A Beautiful Mess and want to try it out as a mother-daughter project with Ava.

This party closet idea from Oh Happy Day is brilliant!  I would totally do it if I had space.  And here is a link to what she accomplished using supplies from her party closet. I love the yellow.  It makes me smile.

I would put this pillow from Becoming Whitney on my couch right now… if I had a sewing machine…. and any clue how to sew!

If you are looking for some spiritual inspiration or something that makes you think about God and/or His people a little differently, the following links are for you:

In Living with Power, I love how honest she is about it being time to regroup.

From Preston Yancey, this is a beautiful reminder that people show you who they are

From Rachael Held Evans, a question and answer with ordinary radical Shane Claiborne

It is hard to choose one post from A Holy Experience, but I did…. this one.

Advancing Ministries discusses a cure for the common Christian.

My friend Mindy from How to Mend a Broken Life beautifully dispels a myth.

Need inspiration for your home?  Check these out:

I love practically everything about this church converted into a house from Houzz.

Houzz also delivers ways to declutter your library.

Some interesting perspectives on motherhood:

Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering.

From A Deeper Story.

And a few that just make me smile:

Shepherd’s pie from A Cozy Kitchen.

Homemade corn tortillas from Miller Musings.

The Pioneer Woman always makes me laugh

And finally, from Yellow Bird, Yellow Beard, a few beautiful things to make us think of spring.

I would love to know if you loved any of these links as much as I do!  What else are you reading these days?  Any good books or blogs?