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.

Vitamins… For Your Soul :)

Image

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 10.14.14 AMVitamins. I’ve been a regular vitamin taker since 2011. I take a good quality, effective vitamin pack that includes a multi-vitamin with maximum mineral absorption (so much better than over-the-counter brands – and no this isn’t a commercial 😉 ), antioxidant support to fight off free-radicals, probiotic with 10 billion colonies of flora to fight off the bad bacteria and enhance overall digestive health and Omega 3 fish oils to support cardiovascular health and decrease inflammation. The great thing about these vitamins, is when I’m consistent with taking them daily, I. Do. Not. Get. Sick. I really don’t. I have energy. I feel GOOD! However when I don’t take them, I can feel myself start to get run down (life is busy!), start the beginnings of a cold or sore throat, and feel really tired (and with tired comes cranky, moody, irritable – you get the point). When that happens I get back on track and take my vitamins. I try to encourage my family to take them… but they don’t… and they get sick. I try to get my friends to take them but they insist on the over-the-counter stuff or other natural remedies… and still get sick.

This is the same thing that happens in my spiritual life, my relationship with God. To be healthy spiritually there’s things we can do – draw near to Him and He draws near to you (us) James 4:8. Just like my vitamins, it’s the basics… spend time in the Word (sword of the Spirit Eph. 6:17), pray and talk with (and listen to) my Savior (fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power James 5:16), fellowship with other believers (not staying away from worship meetings... Heb. 10:25) and pray for faith (take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one Eph. 6:16). And just like when I don’t take my physical vitamins, when I don’t take my spiritual vitamins I get grouchy, edgy and irritable. I may have a lack of faith or be anxious. Again, I try to encourage family and friends (and you reading this) to take their spiritual vitamins as well – so they won’t get sick. Taking these spiritual vitamins make us better equipped to fight off the bad bacteria, attack the free radicals that invade our lives, reduce the inflammations that rise up and encourage overall spiritual health.

Are you off track like I’ve been before in both my physical and spiritual vitamin routine? Are you worn down, on the verge or within the throws of sickness and germs? Start today. Take those vitamins. Not only will you be healthier spiritually, but the goal is to know Him (God)… (Phil 3:10) and glorify Him. These vitamins get you on that right track to know Him, for your spiritual health, for your relationship with God and equip you to walk in the purposes He has for your life.

Tear That Baby Down!

God is gracious to reveal idols to us. What is any idol?  “A picture or object that is worshipped as a god,” anything that takes priority before God.  It can be anything from food to work, your kids, entertainment, your hobbies (music, sports, hunting, fitness…), your new puppy (wait what?), politics, even serving, status or recognition.  Maybe for you it’s money, success, things?  Or contrarily it could be our struggles?  Maybe it’s social media, electronics, gadgets, gizmos and more? Could it even be your friends?

For me, God shows me when something is creeping into idolatry when:

  • It gets me all worked up
  • It is my main topic of conversation
  • It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up or keeps me up at night
  • It lures me from my quiet time with the Lord
  • I get all obsessed with it
When God shows us idols in our lives, our response should be:
Thankfulness – that He cares enough to show us when/if we have something that comes before Him because He desires an intimate, personal relationship with us – let that sink in… the Creator of the Universe wants a personal relationship with us! Wow.
Repentance – an urgency to tear down any idols and turn to God.  Confess what has been taking His place and ask for forgiveness and for Him to work in your life and heart to tear that baby down.
Renewal – that He will again be your first love. Spend time in worship and adoration of our loving Father and His Precious Son. Hold that idol in the light of a Holy God and focus on what really matters in this life. Place your attention and your energy into your relationship with the Lord, replacing the energy and attention that was put on the idol.
Nothing on that list above is bad in and of itself, but only one thing can have first place. What (or who) do you want to have first place in your life?
Nothing satisfies like a personal relationship with God.
For further study:
1 John 5:20-21
2 Kings 17:15
Isaiah 45:5
Matt. 6:33
Deut. 12:32-13:18

Photocred: klove

The Truth Is…

People are sometimes shocked at honesty.   For example, on my recent trip to Haiti, it was a medical trip and um, I’m not medical. Sure, I’ve worked several medical mission clinics over the years and am willing to do whatever, however my main job was keeping the (people) traffic moving, praying with people and sharing the gospel. But on Thursday, I was needed to be the “p-p nurse.” What is a p-p nurse, you ask? Well, it is the person who takes the PP, ahem urine, from the patients, dips the diagnostic stick into said PP and then reads and records the results. Let me reiterate, I will do anything that needed done, but I do not like PP. I was sure I would spill someone’s urine all.over.me. Yuck!   So when the actual nurse stopped by to see how it was going and asked, “Do you like being the ‘p-p nurse?’” I exclaimed, “NO!” Ha ha. No, I did not like being the p-p nurse. I think she was a little shocked that I was so honest. She quickly replied that she would find me a replacement which I told her wasn’t necessary. I would be the p-p nurse and I was fine with it, but it never was going to be my favorite thing to do. 😉

Another example is in our LifeGroup. At the first LG of the year, we were filling out informational forms (name/address…) and apparently while I was engrossed in filling out my papers, we were given instructions for the next “get to know you” activity. The leader asked, “What would you like to get out of this group?” What I didn’t know was the instructions were to write down your answers. However since I missed the initial instructions, I blurted out, “Ok, I’ll start. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m looking to make new friendships. More than just LG, I’d love new friends to be social with. I looking for a group where we can grow together, be there for each other, rejoice together, bear each other’s burdens…” At the end of my needy dissertation, I felt like I was receiving a bunch of blank stares… The silence was broken when the leader thanked me for sharing, and that we were supposed to write down our answers 🙂. But people nodded in agreement. I think there was some shock at my honesty and transparency. But I wasn’t alone. Others were looking for the same thing. I broke the ice, with a jack-hammer, HA!

It’s weird when I meet people now for the first time and they just know the “Kendra of now”. However the “Kendra of now” has dealt with and experienced a lot, especially over the past three years. The negative things, the hard things are part of my story… part of who I am. And throughout it all, when “stuff” comes up, I pray I am communicating God’s faithfulness throughout it all. However, I can’t help but notice the awkwardness or surprise when I answer honestly simple questions about what I “do” for a living, or where we live, or future plans. Because our story is complicated it doesn’t take too long into the story that some of the back-story comes into play. Nobody wants to hear your non-warm-fuzzy-peach-keen stuff.   Somewhere along the line, it’s become awkward and unexpected to be real, authentic or honest.

My friends, it shouldn’t be this way. No, we don’t have to unload all of life’s baggage into one introductory conversation, but life is hard. And God is faithful. We don’t have to gloss over the hard stuff.  2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all of our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves received from God.” If we never honestly share some of the hard stuff, then we won’t have the opportunity to share how God was faithful and got us through the hard stuff.   God works all things for GOOD, so even in the hard stuff, God can be glorified. Our rough patches are not for nothing. God desires us to rely on Him, depend on Him and know that He is faithful in good and bad times.

Instead of honesty, authenticity or transparency, we throw out, “Oh, I’m fine” – in a martyr-like sigh.   Why do we do that? When our two-year-olds are having a tantrum, we talk to them gently and tell them to “use your words.” Why? Because it is important to communicate what is bothering you, what you want, what you’re feeling. Let’s take a step towards honesty, authenticity and transparency – even in the hard times. Use your words:

I’m struggling with anger lately.

My debt is strangling me.

I’ve been having impure thoughts.

I’m really missing my mom.

I’m not bonding with my baby.

My marriage is not what it should be.

I feel stuck in my job.

My teenager hates me.

I feel like a failure.

Life feels unfair.

Honesty opens the door for others to bear your burdens and bridges your heart to others where you find out you’re not alone. Honesty brings LIGHT to stuff the enemy would rather you stew on in the dark. Honesty brings glory to God when we can say, “This is hard. God is faithful.”

Next time a fork in the road comes up in a conversation where you have to choose, do I want to get into this or not, trust God and be honest. He is faithful and may just use what you’ve been through to encourage someone else.

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.

Joey’s “Belt” Prayer

beltWhen our cute, little, 4-year-old-preschooler needed a belt, he mentioned it to us a few times over the course of a few days. He did need a belt. His pants were falling down his skinny little frame. However, being the stellar parents that we are ~ we pretty much never remembered it while we were at the store. Until one night he prayed. He prayed with the sweetest intensity, taking his ‘need of a new belt’ to the Father in heaven who lovingly hears our prayers. My ears perked and I knew in my heart what I needed to do. 9pm Walmart run.

The next morning, as Joey foggily woke up, rubbing his eyes, he noticed something on his bed. Not a toy he had left out or yesterday’s clothes, something different. Something new.   A belt. The belt he had prayed for.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matt. 7:11

“Mom! Did you see this?!?” he asked excitedly! “GOD ANSWERED MY PRAYER! He gave me a BELT!”

I didn’t disagree with him. God had provided the belt for him. Our girlies, being a little bit older (and a bit more skeptical) asked quietly away from their brother, “Mom, did you get the belt?!? How did this belt get here? You got this for him, didn’t you?” I simply replied that God had provided the belt for him.

It was true. God provided the belt for Joey that night, but He used his people to do it. No, God doesn’t answer every request in a Santa Claus like response, but He does often use His children to meet those needs, answer those requests.

In July, we arrived in Tampa, FL after being in the Dominican Republic for 6/8 weeks. After we landed, we had to print our closing papers, sign them, get them notarized and overnighted by 5pm. That was a little crazy, but we got ‘er done!   Then, the next morning we got an email with instructions on how to wire the money due at closing. Wait, what? We weren’t supposed to owe anything at closing, but with how the timing of insurance/tax/escrows worked out, we ended up owing at closing. And we just finished up 2 months of mission work, NOT working, no income outside of the support to get us to the DR. So we gathered as a family and we prayed. And God used one of His kiddos to help us with that need at the time.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

Once we got back to Ohio and had to pack up our house in two days after being gone for two months, we had a last minute change to our living arrangements… and we were to move out the next day. So we gathered as a family to pray. And God used one of His kiddos to meet that need.

I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears. Psalm 18:6

After a few weeks in our new place, I had some really bad Chikungunya days (ongoing joint pain). I cried out to the Lord, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And by cried out I mean crying… real tears. Although very thankful for the Lord providing this place for us to stay, we were living in a basement and everything else in the house was upstairs (bathroom, kitchen…), and stairs can be a challenge when your joints (knees, ankles, wrists, elbows, fingers) hurt :(.  A few days later we got a phone call. One of God’s kiddos had been praying and the Lord impressed on her heart to offer their house for us to use until we go to Language School. Wait, what? We had prayed, and He used His children to answer that prayer.

Even before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

These examples are all of prayers we’ve prayed and how God used His children to meet a need in our lives, and that is amazing. But it is also incredible when God impresses something on our hearts and used us to meet a need/provide encouragement/answer a prayer in someone else’s life.

As a missionary, it is humbling and an honor when people “show faithfulness” to the Lord by letting Him use them to be a blessing. The housing, the “loan”, the missionary vehicle, the prayers, the support… John summed it up best:

Dear friend, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers, especially when they are strangers. They have testified to your love in front of the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God, since they set out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we can be coworkers with the truth. 3 John 5-8

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.