It’s Whatever, Man

December 31, 2015.  The years just move along a little faster with each passing one. Gracious!  It’s always a day of at least some reflection.

I never declared “One Word” for 2015.  In fact, if I would have it probably would’ve been “It’s Whatever Man”.  Ok – that’s not a word, it’s a phrase so it wouldn’t even be a “One Word”, it would be a “One Phrase” (because just “Whatever” doesn’t quite encompass it all). Ha!

I mean – look at this blog.  This is only the 4th post in 2015!  It’s whatever, man.

At the end of 2014 we made a difficult decision to stay in the States as God began to show us it wasn’t His timing for another overseas ministry appointment. It’s whatever, man.

We began 2015 still picking up the financial pieces of the previous years where Kevin and I took turns being unemployed or going without a paycheck.  Starting over in your early 40s is not exactly delightful and we’re not where we want to be… but it’s whatever, man. 

On one hand it’s whatever, man, can be a cynical place, a white flag or a time to just go through the motions.  And there has definitely been some of that in 2015.  But it can also be a quiet surrender; trusting a Sovereign God in His timing, in doors that He opens and shuts and a season of patience and waiting and healing and refueling.

As I glance back over 2015 with some of the hindsight the Lord gives us, I can see some of the whatevers as blessings.  I only wrote three other blogs posts because I was so busy GOING BACK TO SCHOOL to renew my license for my NEW TEACHING JOB!  God has opened doors for each of us Grubbies for new opportunities and different communities to be a part of – strategic placements for His glory, we pray.  We still have a long way to go but Kevin and I are both EMPLOYED, have steady incomes and are on a financial plan.

In Job 2:10, Job asks, “Should we only accept good from God and not adversity?”  Great question. Sometimes the challenges that come along life’s path are just whatever to us, but maybe, just maybe, they are a part of His greater plan, a part of His refining work IN us and stuff He will use for His glory.

It’s all about PERSPECTIVE.

Perspective can mean the difference in wallowing in self-pity and trusting in a Sovereign God.  Perspective can mean the difference in fear (of the future, of the unknown, of failure, of lack, of __________) and walking by faith.  Perspective can mean the difference in despair and hope.

With 2016 just hours away, that’s my word for this year:

PERSPECTIVE

Will I fix my eyes on my circumstances or will I keep my “eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our (my) faith?” Heb. 12:2

Will I freak out at the not so wonderful things that will happen this year or will I “hold on to the confession of our (my) hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  Heb. 10:23

Will my life answer the question that the enemy posed to God regarding Job (Job 1:9) – “Does Kendra fear God for nothing?”  Which is basically asking will Kendra be devoted to God only throughout good things in life? Or will she, will I, be devoted and bless God through EVERYTHING that comes across my path in 2016?

It’s all about perspective.

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Follow ~ a #OneWord365 October Update

Follow. That’s my 2014 #OneWord365.   Seemed easy enough ~ we had recently decided to rejoin a mission organization that we worked with.   Woohoo! We’ll sell everything. Head back to the overseas Mission Field.

We finally got notice that we were approved (by said Mission Organization) in February and shortly after that were asked to go down to the DR for the summer to help with the busy months with lots of short-term mission teams! God worked that out and we followed Him down there.

Not all went as planned while we were there, but regardless, we returned to the States ready to make preparations to get back ASAP. While we were gone the house sold. Our cars sold. Other than paying off some previous debt and raising support we were ready to go. Ready to follow Him anywhere He would lead.

And then the pause button was hit. When we got back to Ohio in early August, we had about 30-35% of promised support raised. Two months later, we have about 41%. Yes, praise the Lord for that ~ but we really thought we’d be further along by now. See, we planned on attending Language School in January for about 2 tri-mesters and then be ready to head back to the DR late 2015.

And here we are. Anything can happen between now and December, but if we keep rolling at this pace, we’re not going anywhere in January.   And the question becomes:

Are we wiling to FOLLOW, even if it doesn’t mean going (for now)?

Am I willing? Are we willing? Are our kids? We’ve made some drastic life changes to accommodate leaving ~ moved out of the school district, the kids started online school (to provide schooling continuity for the anticipated upcoming location changes), they have pulled out of sports/activities they enjoyed, we didn’t rent a new house, still selling e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g., I’m working full-time to get ahead financially, Kevin’s working (almost full-time) AND having support meetings… and on and on. We’re doing what needs to be done on our end according to the plan.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Prov. 16:9 Yes – yes He does.

Are we willing to trust that “As heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts”? (Isaiah 55:8)

James packs a punch at the end chapter 4: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.“ So if we say/”boast” that we’re heading to Costa Rica in January for Language School and then the Dominican after that…we are boasting in our arrogance? Yikes! The truth is we don’t know what’s up. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. And so we’re left with if the Lord wills…   Which, of course, is a fabulous place to start.

We will follow.  In the word of Chris Tomlin:

Where you go, I’ll go

Where you stay, I’ll stay

When you move, I’ll move

I will follow…

Follow seemed like a great word. Totally doable. Follow Christ’s lead to the ends of the earth. Yes! Here we are, send US! But what about when follow means stay.  When follow doesn’t go according to ‘plan’. When follow takes longer than you thought. When follow isn’t clear… It is not so cut and dry. Not so black and white. Not so easy.

Jen Hatmaker knew this struggle well when God had her and her husband leave the church they were serving in without a plan of what was next. In her book, “Interrupted”, when faced with questions of who, what, where, when, WHY ~ she says, “Why does it matter? It is not your responsibility to explain what God is doing with your life. He has not provided enough information to figure it out. Instead, you are asked to turn loose and LET GOD BE GOD. Therein lies the secret to the ‘peace that transcends understanding.’”

Right now follow means trust. Trust today. Follow today. He determines our steps. His ways are higher than ours. His timing, sovereign. And as the Lord wills, we will follow Him through it all.

The Hard Stuff

Sugar-coating is not my thing… especially when it comes to my kiddos and teaching them about some of the “hard” realities of life. For example, when they were toddlers and prone to wander off at the grocery store, I would tell them in a firm voice that if they wander, someone (who even looks nice) could “steal you away and you would never see Mama or Daddy again and they could hurt you and give you “boo boos”.   Or when they were given some freedom to ride their bikes throughout the neighborhood, if they didn’t look both ways when crossing the street a car could come and “squish. you. like. a. bug.”

Now they’re older (almost all teenagers) and the hard stuff has changed due to their ages and what’s happening around the world… This weekend, after several recent ISIS beheadings in the Middle East and the beheading that happened in Oklahoma on Thursday, our “hard stuff” conversation with our kiddos shifted to what would you do if you were threatened with death over your faith? If there was a gun to your head or a knife to your throat? What would you do? Would you deny Christ and live, or would you stand firm in Christ Jesus (and LIVE!)?

Interestingly this Sunday at church, the message was on RESOLVE and the message opened with a clip from the movie “God’s Not Dead” where the Muslim father finds out his daughter is a Christian, listens to Christian teaching etc. and proceeds to throw her out of his house.  This happens across the world every day. And in America, where the word “persecution” has meant getting mocked/made fun of/discriminated against, we may be about to find out what persecution really means.

Have you thought about what you would do? Have you thought about what your kids would do? Do they have a personal relationship with Christ that they would stand up and say, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I will NOT deny Him”? Do they know why they believe what they believe? What your family believes? Do you?

The scariness is not that we could be entering a season where we may begin to see real persecution. The scariness is that we’ve brought our kiddos to church on Sunday and feel that we’ve done our job to “get them to be Christians”. We say a quick prayer before dinner and consider that leading our families. We spend hours and hours and hundreds (thousands) of dollars to make sure our kids get the best lessons to improve their swing, strength training to be stronger than the next kid, have practice several times a week, join the best travel teams and inundate them with activities that they are busy every. single. minute. of their lives. We involve them in the arts, music, youth group, school activities etc. so they will be well rounded. And with all of that ~ how can we possibly prepare our children for the question, “What would you do if…”? There are only 24 hours in a day… How can we expect them to have any resolve if time has not been taken to teach them the bible, disciple them in the word and show them how to go to the Father in prayer?

Listen, we are just as guilty as the next family in all of this. Because our lives are in transition, we are not over-committed right now with all sorts of kids’ activities and it has given me a glimpse that we may have had it all wrong. Well, maybe not all, but what if we had been more diligent to protect family bible time as we did the sports schedule on the fridge?   What if we would spend hours teaching the Bible to our children, or better yet, teaching our children to read and hear from God’s word for themselves? What if we discipled our kids to know why they believe what they believe (if they believe)?   What if we were as disciplined about discipleship as we were about producing the world’s next Michael Jordan, Jenny Finch, MichaelAngelo or Liberace?

We must prepare this next generation with the word of God and the shield of faith. Parents, we must disciple our children and it must take precedence over all the other stuff. CHURCH, we must be intentional about discipling new or young or never-been-taught believers to prepare them for battle on a one-on-one or very small group oriented basis. We must TEACH, not only the word of GOD, but HOW to study the WORD OF GOD on your own, not just in a “Bible Study.”

This post is breaking all the rules (word count, not touchy feely), but this is a message burning in my spirit. We have only scratched the surface of what persecution could look like in the United States of America, but the Bible is clear that it’s-a-coming.  If you’re a believer, and you can’t answer why you believe what you believe or why someone should be a Christian and not another religion – then you need to be discipled. Seek someone out, an older (in the faith) believer. Shoot, if you’re local, message me. I’d love to meet with you regularly. Double shoot, if you’re not local, we can meet with technology. Find a church leader to point you in the right direction. Ask your neighbor who’s always sharing wisdom from God’s word if they would meet with you.   And believer, if you know why you believe what you believe and could disciple someone ~ pray for God to show you who and then do it. We are called/commanded to. Let’s link arm and arm in this battle strengthened in FAITH, prepared through the WORD and filled with RESOLVE from the Holy Spirit.

That is all. Amen.

Broken Surrender

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:19-20

Have you ever faced any resistance when taking a step to do something in obedience to the Lord? Maybe when you committed to be baptized, to join a Bible study group to grow in your relationship with Christ, or even to begin tithing? Ever experience any opposition when you are preparing to take a mission trip/planning an outreach event/or committing to disciple someone?

Any time we step out in faith to do what God has called us to, there is sacrifice. There is inconvenience. There is opposition. There is heartache, pain, blood/sweat/tears. Anytime you invest in the kingdom, there is a juxtaposition (one comes with the other) of Gal. 2:19-20 in our lives. Anything we surrender comes at a cost ~ just like Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption came at a cost. He was crucified so we could live, so we could have a bridge to the Father, so we could be saved. So we would have hope.

And it is worth it.

Something beautiful is born because of something being broken.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book, “Interrupted,” she put it this way: “Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say, “That fed me, that nourished me,” someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment.”

Funny, the same day our fam read/studied Galatians 2, I read this section from Jen’s book… and this quote from my YouVersion devotional plan, “My Utmost For His Highest” based on Gal. 2:19-20: “If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

Surrender. Be broken. See Christ alive and working (in you, in others, for His kingdom, for His glory).

I can honestly tell you that over the 13 years of full-time ministry, I have repeatedly cried out to the Lord and asked if it was worth it.   And every time, in His precious mercy, He faithfully showed me how He was working ~ through the brokenness, through the heartache, through the difficulties, through the inconveniences, through the impossibilities.  That somehow through surrender and brokenness, Christ’s mission is accomplished. Someone comes to know Him. Someone is encouraged and strengthened by His word. Someone moves from darkness into the light. Someone is physically helped or blessed. Someone surrenders his or her life to Him.  Someone has hope. 

And that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what keeps us going.   And that’s what makes it worth it.

Crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in/through me. Christ’s sacrifice/brokenness for my redemption. My surrender for Christ’s purpose/mission.   God will equip. He gives the strength. He will bless.

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:19-20

Home…

photoMonday ventured back ‘home’.   Well, we returned to what was our home for the past 8.5 years, but when we got here it actually was not our home as we closed on the sale of it on the 31st. We caught 2 sleeps there and then were off to our next ‘temporary home.’ Technically, we slept in a stranger’s home those 2 nights… CREEPY 🙂. Just kidding.

Sometimes the word ‘home’ confounds us a little. A lot of people experience this disassociation from the word ‘home:’

Missionaries who leave the country they serve in (home) to return to their homeland (home)

Military families who are not in one place for any long stretch of time

Marathon families (right, Findlay, OH?) or other families that move a lot for work

Many others who lose a house to a natural disaster, fire or even foreclosure

Life has redefined ‘home’ to me over the years. Having grown up in a very traditional family where we went to the same school, same church, same house etc., my life and that of my kiddos looks very different. They have been in five homes so far, plus our home of the past two months ~ six. And are about to be in #7 here shortly which is a temporary hop until we get back to the mission field (to find #8) (with a stint at language school so technically that will be #8, HA!). We have traveled many miles, stayed in people’s homes and hotels along the way and even with all of that get up and go, home is wherever we are.

The five of us. Our family. The roof looks different. The walls have distinctive colors. The climate varies… but (cliché) home is where the heart is. Take a look at our Nala girl. Since our move didn’t take us very far from our previous house, she followed us back and forth. She really didn’t care which house we stayed at, as long as she was with us. Home is where we are together.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but since I’m just now getting around to posting it, I’ll add the insight that our missionary partner/friend, Erica Jude, posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago… Home is where Jesus sends me. This is so true. Please don’t be offended that we feel a little “eh” being here ~ because it’s not that we don’t love our family/friends here ~ it’s because we want to go where God is sending us. And we’re ready (just waiting on that support thangggg 🙂 ).

Finally, THIS WORLD is not our home. We have a home awaiting us in heaven one day as we have trusted CHRIST as our Savior. In the meantime, may we be faithful on these temporary home-stops along the way.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.  And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”  Hebrews 13:14-16

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

Knees and Toes.  And ankles and wrists and fingers and back!  Wait… That’s not how the song goes?  Well, that’s how my song goes this week as the Caribbean’s latest victim of the notorious Chikungunya.

Oh. My. Land.  Thursday night as I went to bed, I mentioned to Kevin that my middle finger hurt (no middle finger jokes… 🙂 ).  Then, I woke up about 2am and my ankles and knees were a little achy.  I was trying to talk myself out of the fact that I may have the Chik, thinking I worked with a group this week, was on the go a lot, my old body is probably just tired from the long week.  But no, as the night went on it started to become clear that I did, in fact, have the beginnings of Chikungunya.  Blerg.

So, Friday I began the ritual of alternating Tylonel and Ibuprofen throughout the day.  I was achy and had a mild fever, but it was manageable.  I thought, “Hmmmm, I don’t seem to have it as bad as some of the others that have had it.”  Then Saturday came.  Saturday I couldn’t get my fever below 101, even with the alternating pain-killers/fever-reducers.  And the pain… YIKES.  My knees felt like they were going to buckle and my ankles ~ oooo-eeeee.  You never realize how much you use different body parts until they are unusable.  Like the middle finger.  Try opening a water bottle without touching the middle finger or any of its tendons etc.  Who knew I took “tall man” (middle finger) for granted?

anklepain2And it got me thinking.  The Bible actually talks about this.  Like we may think the middle finger is just another one of the fingers, or the ankles, they’re a nice bodily feature to connect the feet to the legs.  Check out this passage from 1 Cor. 12:12-31.  “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”  One body part can’t say to the other, “I don’t need you”.  God places us in “bodies”, whether in our churches, communities, ministries and maybe even businesses. And each person in the “body” plays a role.  And that role is a vital part of the operation of the whole body.  Whether you take out the garbage or make a multi-million business deal ~ your role is important.  In ministry, maybe you’re not the “one out front” but the stuff you do in the background helps the body function as a whole.  The body is not one person, but a group of people that God brings together, with different gifts and abilities, different interests and desires, different ways to add value and productivity to the body.  If the middle finger is out of commission it affects the hand and the arm and the whole body.  If the ankle is stricken with pain, the body walks with a limp, is slower, less effective.

Two things we can pull from this:

1) Do not think what you do or can contribute doesn’t matter to the body.  “God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” “…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”  You matter.  God has gifted you in a very specific way for you to serve at your church/ministry, in your community and maybe even at your job. You are valued and needed.

2) Do not think that you don’t need the rest of the body. “And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?” If we were a bunch of elbows walking around, all that would get accomplished is a bunch of rib nudging. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”  Work together, with all the parts of the body, to function (in the case of ministry) for God’s glory.

Driving in the DR

IMG_3313Many of you have been to the DR so you know what I’m talking about when I say the driving down here is a bit “loco” (crazy!!). I must admit, things have greatly improved since we were here last in that (most) people now actually follow the traffic lights (actually stopping if the light is red), yield to other traffic and drive in the correct direction. Like I said, most. The unwritten rule of thumb is “the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the right of way.”  Especially in the capital, There are traffic jams like nobody’s business and if you want out of it, you have to be bold and maneuver your way through it around semi trucks, buses and the motorcycle! Oh, the motorcycles!
I actually prefer to drive in the DR than be a passenger. When I’m driving I feel some semblance of control. I can scan the crossroads for motos, navigate around trucks and buses and wiggle my way into parking spaces… like a boss :). Ha!
Maybe part of liking to drive in the DR has more to do with just being “in control” while driving. Maybe I would like to be in control over a LOT of things in my life right now that are not in control…
Like our house.  It has sold (well it is under contract), but there are a few things the buyers want done before we close. Those things were supposed to be done by the appraisal (today) but weren’t. We lined up someone to do it, but that fell through.  In that moment there is absolutely nothing we could do to “control” the situation. The work wasn’t done.  The appraisal was today.
And, with the house being sold(ish), we need to secure housing for when we return to Findlay (two weeks from MONDAY!). As of today, we have no idea where we will be living.  We will not be homeless as we have friends who have offered us to stay, but for the long term, we don’t know of we’ll rent a house/apartment, buy a camper :))), or stay at the city mission. (Hey, it’s a nice place!).
And schooling ~ this fall and when we get to the DR. And where we’ll live when we get here. And when we’ll get here. And when we’ll have our support. And when we’ll have our debt paid off. And what exactly will be be doing when we DO get here.  And what that all looks like. And…
Completely out of our control in this moment.
But, like a passenger in a Dominican guagua (bus), we are not in control. The Driver sees in front and behind. He scans the next corner before we can even see it. He knows the bumps and potholes of the road and navigates them perfectly. He rides out the traffic jams and the narrow stretches of road in the remotest of places. We just have to trust. Go along for the ride in anticipation of each next destination and the view of the journey.  Just like we have to trust our loving and sovereign God ~ who is already around whatever corners/potholes/traffic jams are in our near (and distant) future.
Well known verses, but full of powerful truths that I am holding on today.  Maybe they will be an encouragement to you also!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭5-6‬ HCSB)
“For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29‬:‭11‬ HCSB)
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭33‬ HCSB)
Do you feel like some things are out of your control in your life?
Trust. Believe. Seek.  God is in control.