A Gathering of Links XII

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It’s that time again!  I love linking you up to my favorite posts of the week and this week there are a LOT!  First, some highlights from my week…

We had a relaxing three-day weekend, spent mostly at home.

Some exciting things are on the horizon for Gathering!

Ava had her last day of school and is home for the summer!

A long-time friend was married, seemed incredibly happy and had a gorgeous wedding.  Here we are, getting ready to leave for the celebration:

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We actually planted at the community garden!  All of my husband’s hard work is finally paying off.  The garden is looking fantastic and we are all eager to taste the (literal) fruits of our labor!

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Now let’s get to it and link you up!

My most read post of the week was Gathering Self-Control (and an announcement).  Thanks for all of the positive feedback!  We now have at least 10 adults committing to all or part of this challenge.  Day 1 down.  Lots to go.

Marriage and Family:

On Loving Well from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.  I can’t tell you how much this post resonated with me.  My love language is also acts of service, and I found myself relating to so much of what she discussed, especially after having just written What I Gather About Myself as Mom!  Love this post!

At A Holy Experience, When strong mamas feel quite weak.  This was so insightful.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, How to Fall in Love.  Again.  Because we all must choose to fall in love over and over again.

Spiritual Reflection:

At A Deeper Story, Lessons from a Fundamental Baptist on Memorial Day.  I enjoyed this perspective.

Food Love:

Info about the paleo diet at Simple Mom.  Our family is attempting to transition to a more paleo-friendly diet and I found this really helpful.

Fried pickles at A Beautiful Mess, because who doesn’t love fried pickles??

Also at A Beautiful Mess, Three Super Healthy Salads.  Because months and months of no sweets = new food choices necessary.

For Fun:

I’m going to make these Washi Wildflowers from Girl in the Garage with Ava.  They are so cheerful and I love that they won’t ever wilt.

So.  Funny.  From Jen Hatmaker, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.  This made me laugh out loud.  Truly.

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So there you have it!  Those were my favorite blog posts from the week.  What are you reading these days?  Have you discovered any new blogs I need to check out?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope your weekend was fantastic and that the coming week is full of sunshine and joy!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to Rachael Gathers and get posts delivered right to your inbox!  You can do that HERE!

 

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Gathering Self Control (and an announcement)

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It was one of those rare days when I went to bed having accomplished all I wanted to accomplish during my day.  I spent time with an old friend, played with my kids, read scripture, spent time in prayer, connected with my husband, cooked a healthy dinner and walked/jogged over three miles.  I felt healthy, happy and connected to God and his purpose for me.

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When I gave up sweets for Lent, I lost 9 lbs.  After a few days of serious withdraws, it was smooth sailing.  I didn’t crave sweets anymore, and I naturally started making healthier food choices.  My head felt clearer, my body lighter and my spirit edified.

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Yesterday I had a talk with Ava about spiritual growth.  We discussed how once you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, it is our responsibility to nurture the spiritual man in order to experience spiritual growth.  We talked about the fruit of the Spirit being evidence of that growth.  We pulled out a list of the fruits of the Spirit and I asked her to mark the three she felt she needed to work on developing with the help of God.  #1?  Self-control.

Join the club, sister.

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Last year I was talking with my pastor-brother about how I struggle with discipline.  His response was basically something along these lines….. “Rachael, the root of the majority of our problems is lack of discipline and self-control.  Join the club.”

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I think of Paul’s words to the Romans…..

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.  For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate……. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members…..”

I highly recommend studying Romans chapter 7.

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So, here I am, making a declaration.  I know that my works do not save me, as I know that my righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy Savior.  However, I also know that there is something powerful in denying the flesh and feeding the spiritual man.

I am cutting out sweets and soda for the remainder of the year as a small part of my plan to deny my flesh and feed my spirit.  

I am doing this for many reasons.  I am a sugar-addict.  I want to be healthier and I want my family to be healthier.  Cutting out sweets has proven to radically change my diet for the better.  Cancer and heart disease run in my family.  Diabetes runs in Jimmie’s family.  I am reading more and more about the long-term dangers of drinking soda.  My friend just had a baby and is attempting to lose the extra baby weight and I want to be supportive.

Mostly, I am doing this to deny my flesh, making room for my spiritual man to grow.  Through prayer and fasting, I want to be an example to my daughter of what the fruit of self-control looks like when developed.  I fear I have been a poor example to her.

So far I have five other adults joining me.

I am making a little wiggle room, in order to remain flexible.  I will allow myself one day a month to eat sweets if I so desire, mainly for the purpose of enjoying holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas).  I will occasionally use sugar in my coffee, I will allow myself to occasionally eat Nutella and syrup on my pancakes and I will use honey to sweeten smoothies and such on occasion.  Otherwise, no soda, cookies, candy, cakes, shakes, pies, ice-cream (yikes!), cupcakes, and anything else obviously considered to be dessert.

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Does anyone want to join me?  Maybe for you giving up sweets wouldn’t be difficult or meaningful.  Maybe it is television, social media time, potato chips, smoking, alcohol, inactivity, or something else entirely.  But maybe you feel a nudge to deny the flesh and feed the spirit?  I would love to have others on this journey with me.

Even if you don’t join, would you mind sharing what you would give up IF you participated?  I think it would be a positive activity for me and all of my readers to identify some of the areas in our lives where we lack self-control.

And forgive me in advance if you cross my path in the next week or two.  This fast starts tomorrow.

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Recent Posts:

What I Gather About Roads

I Gather A Prayer for Zion

A Gathering of Links XI

What I Gather About Roads

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I’m one of those people who allows my mind to wander when I’m alone.  I sometimes spend an excessive amount of time pondering some kind of meaningless topic.

This happened yesterday in the car.  I was driving to Castleton to pick up something at a craft store.  I was flying down I-69 and started thinking about how the roads I use most have drastically changed since I moved.

When I lived in Castleton, 96th Street and Allisonville were my lifelines.  They got me everywhere.  When we lived in Westfield, I traveled by US 31, Keystone, and Rangeline.  Now that we live in Noblesville, I find myself using SR 37, I-69 and 146th street to get me nearly everywhere.

As I thought about this, I realized that many of my destinations are still the same.  I still visit Mom or the in-laws in Westfield.  I have been driving into Carmel to tutor at the library.  I am in Castleton at least once a week for Ava’s violin lesson.  I sometimes visit the malls in either Castleton, Keystone, or downtown.  I shop at Goodwills all over north Indy.

Can you see what I’m talking about?  Spending so much time pondering a useless subject?

Then I had my come-to-Jesus moment, right there in the car.  His presence swept over me, tears filled my eyes, and I was overwhelmed to have one of those moments when you feel God is giving you just-a-little-glimpse into what his plan is for your life….

God has transplanted me.

Hear me out.  I’m not talking about moving away from Christ Jesus as the rock on which I stand, abandoning all of the old paths, or compromising on unchanging truths.  In that regard, I pray I am a tree, planted by the water that shall not be moved.

Yet in a spiritual sense, I have been uprooted and planted someplace new.  Therefore the roads I travel have changed as well.

The simple revelation that swept over me in the car was that while the roads I travel have changed, MY DESTINATION IS THE SAME! I haven’t taken some detour resulting from my own poor navigational skills.  God prodded and poked, made the nest uncomfortable and practically pushed me over the edge until I complied and made my home in a new place.

The roads I travel look a bit different.  The scenery is unfamiliar and I’m learning my way around.  However, some things are recognizable.  I see God’s beauty and hand at work everywhere I look, just as I did before.  Jesus is still the rock on which I stand, my firm foundation in my new home.  My ultimate purpose, the Great Commission, has not changed…. although the roads getting me there are a bit new to me.

Some days I miss my old home, that place of comfort where I learned and thrived.  I miss the old roads I traveled to arrive at my destination.  They were familiar and beautiful and holy.  Yet I feel a sense of adventure in this moment, knowing my new home was not a place of my choosing, nevertheless is exactly where I am meant to dwell.

So I move forward, praying to my navigator, determined not to get lost, and anticipating the final destination with great joy.

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Tell me about times in your life God has transplanted you?  What was difficult about those times?  What was exciting?  How did you know you were in the place God wanted you?  Did it take prodding to get you there?  I would love to hear your feedback!

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Recent Posts:

I Gather a Prayer for Zion

A Gathering of Links XI

What I Gather About the View 

 

I Gather a Prayer for Zion

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Our friends and neighbors, Norma and Fidelis, just had a beautiful baby boy.  His name is Zion.  My new practice is to write a prayer for any baby born to a friend of mine.  I base the prayer off of a name or something felt in prayer.  In this instance, my prayer is based off of Zion’s name.  And I have to tell you, I felt the power of God so strongly as I researched scripture for this prayer.  I can’t wait to see what ministry this precious baby boy turns out to have in the kingdom of God.  So, Zion Jude, this is the prayer I gathered for you.

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May you be a holy foundation from which others may rise up (Psalms 2:6)

May the Lord forever sit enthroned upon your heart (Psalms 9:11)

May you always rejoice in the salvation of the Lord and recount all of his praises (Psalms 9:14)

May the salvation of many be birthed out of your ministry (Psalms 14:7)

May your life and ministry always be a support to other believers (Psalms 20:2)

May the great king dwell in your heart and bring joy to all the earth (Psalms 48:2)

May you always be glad (Psalms 48:11)

May God always shine forth out of you, the perfection of beauty (Psalms 50:2)

May the vows you make to God always be performed (Psalms 65:1)

May God’s residence be established in you (Psalms 76:2)

May God always choose you and love you (Psalms 78:68)

May you hear the judgments of God and be glad (Psalms 97:8)

May you forever declare the name of the Lord and his praise (Psalms 102:21)

May you trust in the Lord and not be moved (Psalms 125:1)

May you be glad in your maker and rejoice in your king (Psalms 149:2)

May the word of the Lord and the law be proclaimed from your mouth (Isaiah 2:3)

May you shout and sing for joy, recognizing the Holy One of Israel is in your midst (Isaiah 12:6)

May the fear of the Lord be your treasure (Isaiah 33:6)

May the voice of the Lord roar from you, that the heavens and the earth quake (Joel 3:16)

And finally, Zion…..

GO ON UP TO A HIGH MOUNTAIN, O ZION, HERALD OF GOOD NEWS; LIFT IT UP, FEAR NOT; SAY TO THE CITIES OF JUDAH, “BEHOLD YOUR GOD! BEHOLD THE LORD COMES WITH MIGHT, AND HIS ARM RULES FOR HIM; BEHOLD, HIS REWARD IS WITH HIM, AND HIS RECOMPENSE BEFORE HIM. HE WILL TEND HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD; HE WILL GATHER THE LAMBS IN HIS ARMS; HE WILL CARRY THEM IN HIS BOSOM, AND GENTLY LEAD THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOUNG.” (Isaiah 40:9-11)

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

What I Gather About…. the View

Five Minute Friday

It’s that time again… time for Five Minute Friday. I am joining with lots of other bloggers who will write for five minutes about one word. Today’s word… VIEW. For more information, to participate, or to read lots of great writing, check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s site.

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The view from the roof was always my favorite.  I loved sitting up there on our plastic chairs, seeing the Cuban countryside and the rooftops of my temporary neighbors.  I loved the sun shining down on my as I hung the clothes on the line to dry in the bright, hot sun.

That view meant the world to me.

Especially the day I spoke a new language.  Oh yes, I had been learning and practicing Spanish for years… but on that day, with a rooftop view, I had the conversation that would change my life.

I spoke with my Cuban brother, Pastor Juan.  I can’t remember what we spoke about.  All I remember is that after 15 minutes or so of conversation in Spanish, I realized not one English word had passed through my head.

It was the first conversation in Spanish that flowed… no interruptions to translate from English to Spanish.

I remember being astounded.

Looking out, over this land… this country that I loved, I lifted my face to the sky and praised God.  For I had all I desired in that moment.  I was in Cuba.  I was with my Cuban friend in our Cuban home.  And finally, after so many years of books and teachers and studying and class, I spoke the language of my heart freely and without hesitation.

In that moment, I was home.  And the view was spectacular.

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What I Gather About Myself as Mom

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I laughed a little as I wrote that title, for several reasons.  Do any of us really have all of the answers about motherhood?  And if anyone does have all of the answers, surely it isn’t this 32-year-old with two children under the age of ten.

And yet the subject of motherhood has been on my mind a lot lately.  I recently spent a week away from my family, returning just in time for Mother’s Day.  I must confess, I felt a little torn while I was away.  I missed my girls every day, but I also felt an overwhelming peace, just having some time to myself, some time to breathe.  And that feeling of peace, having space and time to breathe?  It made me feel a little guilty.  Upon some self-reflection, I came to two conclusions about Rachael as mom that I will reluctantly joyfully share with you.

1.  Rachael is selfish.  Motherhood has a way of showing me 1,000 times a day, in ways both small and large, just how selfish I am.  Many days, my first thought is of how I wish my kids had slept longer so I could sleep myself.

When I want to write, Isabel wants to play with me.  When I am reading, Isabel needs her 13th drink of the day.  When I am taking a bath, Ava bangs on the door.  When I want to go out on a date with Jimmie, I can’t because there isn’t anyone to watch the kids.  I want to go hang out with friends but Isabel has to get in bed.  And on and on and on and on it goes.  

Let me just be straight with you.  My kids are six years apart for a reason!  I loved being a mom from the start, but I also daily got a glimpse into my own selfishness when I had Ava.  I was young, clueless and ALWAYS FELT INCONVENIENCED.  That’s not easy to admit, but it is the truth.  So I waited until Ava was fairly self-sufficient before I considered bringing another demanding human being into the world.

Let me try to make that last sentence sound better…. Because of my awareness of my own selfish inclinations, I felt it would be best for any future children to not have my attention constantly pulled in two directions.  Better?

Before I draw some conclusions about my selfish nature, let me get into the second conclusion about myself as mother…..

2. Rachael loves fiercely.I fell in love with both of my babies the moment I laid eyes on them.

With Ava, I have always been amazed at her outgoing nature, leadership abilities and her brain.  I stare in wonder at her face, amazed that God allowed us to be the parents of such an exceptional human being.

Isabel has always been my baby, my baby, my baby.  I hold her close, remembering that God promised her to me.  She is a gift, heaven-sent, to bring joy and love into our home and the world.

They are my girls and I love them the way only a mother can.  You better believe that if someone tries to hurt them I will throw rocks at them show up to defend my babies.  My love for them is constant.  It surges in unexpected ways that astound me.

And so I am confronted with this dichotomy of selfish Rachael and loving Rachael on a daily basis.

Until I realize that God is in it all.

God knows my innermost being.  There is no character flaw that is hidden from his probing gaze.  He knows the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  And yet…. he sent these children into my life, knowing that in spite of my humanity and selfishness, I would love them unconditionally.  This very combination of selfishness and love is what transforms me into a better mom and ultimately a better person.

I am selfish but I love my children.  In order for me to demonstrate that love effectively, I must confront my selfish nature daily.  I must allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the darkest places of my heart so that the heart I show my girls is full of love and the light of a savior.

Jesus uses me as an instrument to point my girls to him.  Jesus also uses my girls as an instrument to point ME to him.

There are days motherhood brings out the worst in me.  I find myself yelling or grumpy or angry or resentful.  I’m sorry to say these days happen in my house.  However, I see how over time, God has chipped away at my selfishness and I am transforming into a more giving, generous, loving, forgiving, graceful and compassionate person.  Motherhood has been that vehicle of transformation and I thank God that in his grace, I am slowly becoming the kind of mother my girls deserve.

Maybe I will get there before they move out.

What about you?  What has motherhood taught you about yourself?  If you don’t have children yet, what scares you about motherhood? What vehicle, other than motherhood, has God used to transform you?  I welcome your feedback and HOPE I’m not alone here!

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Have you missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Links X

Langstons Gather

Gathering my Thoughts on Man in 8D

A Gathering of Links X

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I haven’t compiled a link list for a couple of weeks, so today you are getting the best of the best!

Thanks to all of you, my top posts from the last few weeks were…..

Langstons Gather

What I Gather about $5,200 and Braces and

What I Gather about Chelsea

I really love being able to share my heart and experiences with all of you, and I especially love the feedback I get from my posts.

Now, for the best of the best.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Rachel Held Evans - Is God’s Presence Limited to Scripture? and Ask a Pentecostal

From Jen Hatmaker at A Deeper Story – Wherever it Rises

From Nish Weiseth – A Personal Revival

When Our Exceptions Cannot Be Our Rules at See Preston Blog

Friendship:

At A Deeper Story – The Friendship Divorce

Love and Marriage:

A must-read from Sarah Bessey.

Parenting:

You Are Not My Work of Art at A Deeper Story.

From  A Bowl Full of Lemons – Snack Ideas for Summer

I’m also excited to share a couple of books I’m currently reading.

Follow Me by David Platt.  If you haven’t read David Platt’s books, I would highly recommend them to you.  Also, find some of his sermons online!  He is a passionate and dynamic speaker.

I recently heard of Jonathan Martin and ordered his new book, Prototype.  There is also a lot of buzz about one of his recent sermons.  I am halfway through the sermon and now understand what all the buzz is about.  You can listen to his sermon, Obscurity, here along with many other sermons.

I will leave you with some of my favorite Instagrams from the last few weeks.

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Langstons Gather

I spent last week in New Jersey with my cousins who pastor a pretty awesome inner-city church.  They started it about ten years ago with little outside support and the help of only one nephew.  The church is growing and thriving now, with over 250 in weekly attendance.  I love receiving updates from Tanya about how many were in service or how many were baptized.  My intention was to write a blog about how fantastic Tapestry Church is.  I have been there a few times, and love the authenticity of the people and the pulse I sense.  It tells me the church is alive and tuned in to the presence of God and the purpose of God.  They have a great team of leaders working with them, supporting and inspiring the Langstons and devoting themselves to the mission and vision of the church.

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Image Source: Joy Langston Photography

But that is all I’m going to say about Tapestry Church.  That is another post for another day.  Instead, I am going to brag about Tony and Tanya…. because sometimes you just have to give honor where honor is due.  Sometimes when you are moved and challenged by someone doing the work of the kingdom, you have to say so.  This is me saying so.

This is how the Langstons gather.

1.  The Langstons gather people together in their home.  I have never met anyone with an open-door policy like that of the Langstons.  Their home is the hub for meetings, dinners, social activities and weddings.  They have hosted countless services, prayer meetings, counseling sessions and leadership meetings.  Their furniture, refrigerator and carpet pay the toll.  They have had NINE people live in their spare room in the last ten years (including my niece currently).  Their neighbors drop by and are welcomed.  Young people from the church show up and are greeted with open arms.  And you know what?  I have never heard them complain about it.

I long for this type of community.  Here in the suburbs, it seems like a miracle if I can get to know the names of my neighbors.  Yet the Langstons have shared the love and gospel of Jesus with countless neighbors and a large number of their church members have come from their genuine connections with these very neighbors.

2.  The Langstons gather ideas, knowledge and experiences.  My brain spins when I am around them.  They are constantly discussing how to improve their effectiveness.  They have a mission and they gather every possible resource to help them accomplish that mission.  They attend conferences, read books, listen to sermons and push one another to grow as leaders.  Tony and Tanya have been successful in seeing their church grow by many standards, but they are not satisfied.  They celebrate the growth, but are always quick to say how far they have to go, how many they have to reach.

3.  The Langstons gather people to Jesus.  I am so moved by their genuine love for people.  Tony and Tanya aren’t doing this exhausting work to make money, build an impressive church or gather accolades from their Christian counterparts.  They are in it because they desire to gather people UNTO Jesus.  Their mission field is saturated with real people who have real, heartbreaking stories.  The people they gather tell stories of abuse, drug-addiction, prostitution, violence, divorce, abandonment, depression and hopelessness.

Yet because of the persistence, compassion and love the Langstons have for their city, and by the faithfulness and power of God, these stories have turned into lives full of hope, healing, restoration, deliverance, peace, unity, commitment and freedom in Christ Jesus.
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Image Source: Joy Langston Photography

Their job is messy.  Many of the people they love and reach have issues I may never witness in my privileged suburb.  It is often a thankless job.  It is a job that faces much scrutiny and criticism from the Christian world.  Their methods are questioned.  Their dedication and commitment to doctrine are questioned.  Their job is all-consuming and never-ending.

This is the work of Jesus, my friends.  They are carrying a heavy cross to walk this path with Jesus.  When I see their ministry, I see the Great Commission being carried out with grace, compassion and an abiding love.  And while their job isn’t easy by any means, it is rewarding.

They are seeing lives transformed by the power of God.  They are experiencing tangible, sustained growth.  They live with an authentic community of believers.  They are seeing their purpose fulfilled.  They are reaching a FIRST-GENERATION of disciples.

Their passion is exhausting, yet I am inspired.  I feel like I received a holy gift last week.  I saw a glimpse into the lives of people who are truly gathering people to Jesus.  I am changed by it and I thank you, Tony and Tanya, for your unyielding commitment to the purpose God has laid before you.  I thank you for being a shining example to me of what it means to spend a life for the cause of Christ.

Gathering My Thoughts on Man in 8D

I have been absent from the blog world for over a week now and have MISSED IT!  I drove my niece to New Jersey and spent the week getting her settled in her new home.  You will hear more about my trip when I have more time, but for now, I want to share with you a letter to the man I sat next to on my flight home.  Do you ever have a simple interaction with someone and leave feeling you somehow had an interaction with Jesus?  That happened to me on the plane and I wanted to share my experience with you.

Dear Man in 8D,

I must admit that I smirked at your visor.  Who wears visors anymore, anyway?  It made me smile.  You were all distinguished looking, all business in your khakis, pressed dress shirt, well-groomed hair…. then… visor.

You make the customary small talk.  “Travels going well today?” or something of the sort.

I see you, 8D.

Maybe you are tired from your long business trip, but you help me with my bags, smile genuinely and ask where I am headed.

“You like Francis Chan?” you ask when you see his name on my book.

I see you, 8D, the way you perk up, the way the light turns on when you have an open door to talk about your faith.

8D, you travel the world.  You seem to have an important job and money, but I see Jesus in your eyes.

I see Jesus in your eyes when you tell me about the sunrise over Jerusalem.  How you only had a few hours, but you rented that car, watched the sun shine its light over the city that changed our destinies.  I see how moved you were at that holy place, that sacred moment.

You seem important, 8D, but you humbly tell me about serving on the board at an inner-city mission.

I see you, 8D.

I see you when we talk of Cuba and you tell me, ever so concerned, about your friend’s daughter.  How she struggles, how she is going to Barbados on a mission and I see your hope that she will return forever changed.

You ask what I do and you respond something about “important work.’  We both work at things.

We both know which of those things are the important ones, 8D.

You tell me about Tim Keller, an author who changed your life.  I see your hunger.  I see that you are a seeker.

As the plane descends, I look out in wonder at such beauty.

I see you., 8D.

You help me with my bag again and wish me safe travels.  I wish you safe travels, too, and I like to think we both mean it in a way that goes beyond our journeys today on this plane.

I see you, 8D.

I see you and I am reminded that you are my brother.  I am reminded that you and I are just two in a kingdom full of 8Ds or 8Fs.  I forget sometimes, but you remind me that people everywhere are going through their lives, doing their best to help others with their bags, lighten the loads of others…. follow Jesus.  Thank you for that reminder, 8D.  I needed it today.

Sincerely,

Woman in 8F

What I Gather About $5,200 and Braces

I am ruined.

I think that phrase probably merits an explanation, so here goes.

A few months ago we took Ava to the orthodontist for a free consultation, knowing braces were in her future.  Sure enough, we were told Ava has a particularly serious lack of space in her mouth, not to mention a major cross-bite.  The cost for an expander and two years of braces?  $5,200.

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I am ruined because in the months since realizing we would spend $5,200 on braces, my brain has been thinking of all the things we could do with $5,200.

We could buy a church in Cuba.

We could sponsor 12.38 orphans in Uganda for a year.

We could sponsor one orphan in Uganda for 12 years.

We could help our friends in Cuba improve their home, or just buy them a new one.

We could pay for a family we know to get caught up on their house payment and not lose their home.

We could buy 346 chairs for churches in Cuba in need of seating.

We could surprise my cousin’s church in Jersey City with an offering.

We could buy a couple mopeds for pastors in Cuba without transportation.

I could give an offering to a friend wanting to adopt.

My friends, I am ruined.

It has been a process getting to this place of ruin.  My dad was always generous with his money, supporting missionaries all over the world.  I have seen poverty in Cuba.  I know how $5,200 can bless a Cuban church.  I have talked to my friend Linda about the starvation of kids in Uganda.  I gave up shopping for a year.  The Holy Spirit nudges me nearly every time I find myself thinking I “need” something.  I am ruined.

On top of all of that, I am uncomfortable with the societal pressure to look perfect.  I don’t want to send the message to Ava that she isn’t good enough, that her appearance is so important to us that we will spend more money than we spend on practically anything on “fixing” it.

And yet… I don’t want her to go through life judged negatively because of a not-perfect smile.  Girls and especially teenage girls in the U.S. face enough pressure as it is.  I certainly don’t want to contribute to what will surely be feelings of inadequacy in her teenage years by not getting her braces.

Then I think of Sarai, Ava’s friend in Cuba.  She is one month older than Ava and just as precious to God and almost as precious to me.  I think of what Sarai worries about.  Sarai deals with an empty belly when her parents are low on money.  Sarai has a lymphatic problem in her leg which causes it to swell 2-3 times the normal size.  Sarai rarely has shoes that are comfortable for her to wear on her long walk to and from school.  Should Sarai have a severe toothache, her tooth would most likely be pulled.  She has no hope of a perfectly straight, gleaming white smile.  Yet Sarai is happy, content, loved and secure.  Sarai loves and is loved by God.  For Sarai, perhaps that is enough.

Sarai

Yes, I am ruined, but I don’t want to be any other way.  I never want to go back to my calloused indifference.  I never want to go back to thinking that where my money goes doesn’t represent where my heart is.  It matters how our family spends $5,200, and at the end of the day, I have to give an account to God in prayer for the kind of steward I am.  If I want to be held accountable for every dollar I spend, I certainly must be held accountable for spending 5,200 of them.  Ava has her braces, but the money was not spent lightly.

Oh, I recognize the risk I take saying this out loud.  It is a risk because I am setting myself up to be judged.  Every new outfit, every car, every home, every purchase I make has the potential to be judged by those around me.  Yes, this makes me uncomfortable.  But surely I must recognize that God sees every purchase I make, whether you do or not.  His opinion matters and let me just say it, matters more than yours.

I am ruined and that is because children are dying of starvation.  I am ruined because all people do not have access to clean water and medical treatment.  I am ruined because my brothers and sisters in Christ suffer.  I am ruined because people are dying without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.  I am ruined because people in my own city are going to bed hungry.  I am ruined because someone I know may lose their home.  I am ruined because a friend lost their job and doesn’t know how they will pay their bills.  I am ruined because the gospel message has not been preached to every tribe and tongue.

And ruined I will remain.

What about you?  Have you had any experiences that have left you more aware of how you spend your money?  What process do you go through when spending large amounts of money?  Is prayer involved?  What is the most rewarding thing you have done with your money?  I would love to hear your feedback!

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