Friday, February 17, 2017

Girl on a Mission


Only half of the crew here ready to pick up the rest of the team in Boston.
On our drive to Northborough to meet up with her team, she asked me if I was nervous about her trip to Scotland. "Not really," was my answer. It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and I was more excited for her opportunity to serve God and others than I was scared for her safety.

That casual sentiment only lasted until about 9:30pm when I realized she had been flying over the North Atlantic for about an hour. Then I panicked and began picturing all kinds of awful scenarios in my mind, the most hopeful of which involved inflatable slides and flotation devices near the coast of Iceland. She must be so cold and scared, I thought.

Thankfully, hardly any of my irrational fears ever actually happen, but you can imagine how relieved I was when I saw this photo on the Quest blog the next morning:

Double decker busses, coffees in hand, smiling faces, and a cute little redhead in the back. Whew. They made it safe and sound, and I'm so thankful.

Here's another photo of the Scotland team, and there are three other teams of teens and adults traveling to South Africa, Hawaii, and The Dominican Republic on mission trips that are part of a leadership and discipleship program (called Quest) for juniors in high school offered through the Baptist Convention of New England.

Tommy is one of the adult leaders on Kayla's Scotland trip.
Our church sent out two teens and one adult on Quest mission trips last Sunday. They each shared what they had learned through the program and a prayer request for their trip.

Each teen was required to meet with a mentor once a month, and our teens pretty much had the dream team of mentors.  (Thanks so much, Sarah M. and Chris G.!) They worked through a two Bible studies: Chasing Last and Jesus on Leadership. Really wonderful learning and equipping tools.

Sarah, Kayla. Finn, and Chris
Our Classical Conversations community also gathered to pray for the four young ladies from our campus who left on mission trips. Three with Quest and one with Young Life.

Jessica (Hawaii), Maddie (The Dominican Republic), Kayla (Scotland), and Carol (Ecuador)
And just like that, this little baby-doll-mama grew into a young woman who travels to far off places without her own mama.
And in the blink of an eye she also became a critical thinker, a fierce debater, a lover of Christ, and a defender of people. She became a loyal friend, a loving sister, and a witty one, too.
Should the U.S. Government Significantly Alter its Entitlement Programs?
She had a lot to do leading up to this trip. Not only did she have to memorize Shakespeare lines, write a thousand word history essay (in advance), complete her logic, math, chemistry, Spanish, and prepare for a policy debate, but she also had to babysit, volunteer at church, catch up on thank you notes, shop, and pack.
Tough Cross-Examination by fellow Questie (and another fierce debater!), Jessica.
She handled it all with diligence and grace, and hardly needed her Mom or Dad at all.
Notice the game, Catch Phrase? Kayla always brings the fun. Always.
"Hey, Kory! Our Quest backpacks are exactly the same! It's like we're related or something."

Those left-handed check marks are also marks of her independence and initiative. She did her packing. Not me. She made sure the list was complete. There was no prodding and reminding on my end. I've actually always been impressed with her self-motivation and overall responsibility. She is so much more mature and tuned in to what life requires than I was at that age. In many ways, I still trail behind her.

But don't worry, she does have a few glaring issues that we're still working on. Last week I counted 13 empty mugs and glasses in her bedroom. THIRTEEN. Many of them had dried up tea bags inside. She balked at my counting of her empty-mug sins, but I stood my ground and insisted upon repentance. After the mug issue improves, maybe we can work on the knee deep layer of clothing that typically covers every square inch of her room.๐Ÿ˜‰

But I've heard that semi-chaotic, less than organized living conditions are signs of creativity, and let me tell you, Kayla's got  many more signs than that.  The girl is truly an artist. Here are just a couple of examples. (There are so many more, but these were easy to access!)
She recently painted this. It's a beautiful (and very realistic right now!) rendition of our little house.

I was pretty stunned by this chalk unicorn that she and Mary just whipped out one summer day.
And while I don't have any examples of her photography skills, I do have a picture of her with her 16th birthday gift. She has a great eye and is being given real opportunities to hone her skills. (Thanks, Shannon S.!)
I can just hardly believe that this precious, toothless first grader...
...is now a capable, intelligent, beautiful, and still very precious 16 year old woman. I can hardly take in the privilege it is to be her mom. I loved having my boys first. Raising and enjoying this little sister has been icing on the cake. So sweet and necessary, in my opinion! She is truly a gift from God to us.
And while I'm bragging on my girl, I just have to tell you how natural she is with kids. She's a sought after babysitter, and she loves it. Recently, she told me and another mom's she sits for (Hi, Ashleigh!) that one of the reasons she loves babysitting is because it gets her mind totally off of herself and her own struggles. It forces her to be truly selfless, and she's really grateful for that.

And isn't that true of any service we engage in on behalf of others. It's always a remedy for selfishness, and she's catching on at an early age.

(But she does get paid for all of her kidsitting, and to this date she's saved nearly enough to purchase her first car. She'll have her license next month, and buying her own car has been a goal for quite some time. Diligent and determined, this girl. We've loved watching her meet her goal.)
Reading to cousin Uriah.
Science experiment fun with Cohen.

Serendipitous find in my local grocery store's greeting card section. ๐Ÿ˜„
So, we weighed her suitcase and found the all-important airplane neck pillow on Tuesday morning. We made a couple of stops in town...CVS for an ID photo, Old Navy and Marshalls for a new Sunday dress, Whole Foods to grab lunch, and Starbucks to get a drink for our drive. We took a quick mudroom selfie with Dad, who could not make the drive with us, and were off to meet her team.
A couple of years ago, after she'd watched her brothers go on Quest mission trips to Africa and Asia, she told us she did NOT want to follow in their footsteps. She was NOT going to do Quest. She did NOT want to travel out of the country without her family.

Though we probably would have required it, she decided on her own to go through this year long process. She faced fears and persevered in spite of the many hesitations of her own heart and mind. In the end, she trusted God, and I could not be more proud of her or excited for all that He will do to change her life forever in the coming week.

She has been out of the country before. She traveled to the Dominican Republic with Robert a few years ago to work in a small, impoverished community.  That her dad was there made all the difference in deciding to go. This was the scene in our living room upon her return...
I'm expecting a similar scene when she gets home a week from tomorrow, and I can hardly wait...to see her precious face and to hear the precious stories of a girl who trusted her God and went on a mission. And I pray it is only the beginning of a life on mission for Him.

P.S. Here's a link to the Quest blog.  You can keep up with Kayla and the other Quest trips here if you like. Your prayers are very much appreciated, too. She does have to fly home over the Atlantic again, you know.

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Year, New Mercies (and a tiny follow-up)

We sang the song regularly at our weekly Cru gatherings. The University of Texas circa 1990. (We called it Campus Crusade for Christ back then.) Sometimes there were two or three hundred of us singing this...

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning 
Great is your faithfulness, O God.
Great is your faithfulness.

That weekly worship gathering is still a powerful memory, and that song was one of my favorites. I'm pretty sure the name of it was simply Lamentations 3:22-23, because those lyrics are straight from Jeremiah's song of lament.

Without really being intentional about it, I have found myself beginning many prayers lately with a combination of those Lamentations verses and Psalm 118:24...

This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Something like this before I even get out of bed...

Thank you, Lord, for this new day that you have made and given to me. Thank you for new mercies every morning. Help me to rejoice in this day and rest in your faithfulness.

And then I got to thinking about that word...mercy.
Baby Cooper...and drugged, post C-section mama.
What does it mean that His mercies toward me are new every morning? Is He really having to withhold punishment and deserved consequences or wrath before I even put my feet on the floor? Isn't "mercy" something you cry out in order to be released from some painful, torturous circumstance? Didn't the cross take care of me needing mercy today?

So, last month, as I was pondering and praying about the new year and the coming 365 days of new mercies, I looked up the Hebrew word.

The word is racham.  It means womb.

Womb.

Wow.

Every time the word racham is found in the Old Testament, it is translated "mercy" or "compassion", because of the tender relationship between a mother and the child in her womb - or later, the child from her womb. It is also used to refer to a father's love for his child...the child who came from his wife's womb. It even makes me think of my friends who long to know the feeling of a child in their womb. They hope for, love, and grieve the child who is not even there yet.
From Blue Letter Bible
And "cherishing the fetus"? Well...that's another blog post, I suppose, but noteworthy in light
of the current culture, to say the least.
Robert (with no white hair), Kory (with red hair), and Coop (bald).
Maybe this has been written about extensively somewhere, but it was totally new to me, and such a sweet, sweet revelation. Sadly, this is partly due to my tendency to still think I'm undeserving of His mercy, unworthy of His love, expected to work to earn His approval, and falling just short most of the time. Thankfully, He used my curiosity (actually, He gave me the curiosity) to discover the same truth one more time: He loves me. His love for me is like a mother's toward the child in her womb, but even more so. Incomprehensibly more so. The use of the word womb is just the closest He could get to communicating His love to us in human terms.

(Sadly, we're growing cold in our love for the child in the womb, though, so the image is a bit tainted.)

It made me think of missing my oldest son's phone call yesterday afternoon. He's 2000 miles away and in his senior year of college. But, we were in the middle of our afternoon church small group, so I couldn't pick up. The last person left around 4:30pm. The house was back in order by 5:30pm. I had a seminary quiz due at 11:55pm and still many pages of reading to do before taking it.

(And the Superbowl was on at 6:30pm. I ended up making a 100 on my quiz during the 4th quarter, and I'm just gonna go ahead and give the credit to Tom Brady, because...wow. I did have to Google GOAT, though, and yeah...I suppose he is. ๐Ÿ˜Š Incredible.)

Anyway, this morning Robert and I did our usual work-out-at-Planet-Fitness-eat-breakfast-at-Whole-Foods-Monday-morning-thing and I kept seeing Kory's call notification on my phone. It made me miss him. It made me regret the busyness of Sunday and missing our weekly conversation. It made me want to talk to him as soon as possible. He's got a torn meniscus (most likely), and I wanted to see how he's feeling. Wanted to hear about his weekend. Wanted to talk Superbowl. Wanted to hear about his classes. His girlfriend. How his job interview went. I just longed to hear his chipper voice.

Needless to say, my "mercies" and "compassions" toward Kory this morning (and toward all of my kiddos... most of the time) were new, abundant, and overflowing, and God used it all to help me understand again His mercies toward me.

The sonogram pic above was emailed to me last week from dear friends expecting their first child. They are in love already, and so am I. Another sweet reminder of racham...His new mercies and love for me, His child, and for all of His kids.

So when I prayed about how to rehearse and recall His racham this year (that's what Jeremiah was doing), I got the idea/prompt to read the gospels over and over. Each gospel each month. One a week. The life of Jesus. His words. His actions. His parables. His miracles. His death. His resurrection. His commands. His love.

I managed to make it through all four last month. Listening through the Bible App helped - combined with lots of time running and driving. I'm a visual learner, but I've found that listening forces me to pay attention differently. I'll switch it up each month, though. I'm reading from actual pages this month, but from a Bible that presents the text in one column rather than two. That also causes me to read the stories with more attentiveness, since I'm used to my two-column format.

After one month, I'm in awe of Jesus all over again. It's such a gift and answer to prayer. It's not something I can produce on my own.

The curiosity He gave to research racham.
The prompting He gave to read His gospels.

It's His way of giving me exactly what I need: the assurance of His love.

I can rest in that. I can serve freely out of that. I'm rehearsing it every morning.

____________________________________________________________________

It's been two weeks since I wrote about the Women's March. I think I'm finally sleeping through the night without cold sweats and heart palpitations. I really had no idea the response it would elicit. I never post anything controversial or extremely personal without Robert's approval. He agreed with my confusion over the participation of Christian women, but he warned me that some would not like it. Still, I was naive in my expectations...as usual, but sometimes I wonder if it's a God-given naivety. I don't know...

I wanted to say thank you to those of you who reached out in encouragement. For two weeks now you've sent text messages, emails, Facebook messages, or posted your thanks here in the comments or on the Facebook post. Thank you so much. It's always helpful to hear that you are not alone in your concerns. And thank you for praying. As I heard from you (and as you well know), I recruited you to pray - for God to use the post for good, and for the enemy to be prevented from twisting, dividing, and stirring up anger. I'm still praying that on a daily basis. It was not my intention to hurt or cause offense. As I sat down to pray about why my heart was so heavy that Saturday of the March, the stories of those biblical women came to mind immediately. The words just flowed. They required no research except for the actual verses from each story. It truly felt like I was being led, but I cannot claim that with absolute certainty.

Though it is a very unpopular view, the Bible teaches that Eve was deceived. Adam was passive (and other "Adams" were dominant and abusive, I know), but Eve was deceived. The New Testament restates it. But Paul is unpopular, too. I am not unaware of this. It's just that as Christian women, we don't have liberty to avoid the Scriptures we do not like. We've got to take God at His Word, and know this tendency we have to believe the wrong thing for all the right reasons. It's a liability of the nurturing, compassionate, life giving natures the Lord gave us.

And no, I'm not claiming that every Christian woman who marched was deceived, but I do think it's worth considering and praying about.

I came across a few interesting articles and sermons regarding the March (and our possible deception) and also the relationship between the gospel and social justice. I'll post them below in case you are interested. The only one I can truly and personally vouch for is Matt Carter who is a pastor in Austin, TX and whose church we attended while on sabbatical there five years ago. The other two are women whom I've only done minimal Googling about. While I think they have very important things to say, please keep that in mind.

I listened to Matt Carter's sermon twice and was in tears both times - once on the treadmill at Planet Fitness! His is a picture of how the gospel fuels social justice and how his church has been used by God to transform a city. I "made" all of my kids listen to it, by which I mean, I sent my boys the link and a mother's plea, and forced Kayla to listen to it with me as we drove to our ski program in Vermont two Thursdays ago. She was affected by it almost as much as I was, I think. Here's the link.

How To Live in the Tension of Gospel and Social Justice

And here are two articles specifically about the Women's March:

Dear Daughter: Here's Why I Didn't March For You

Women's March Toward Islam?

I'm a little nervous about facing a couple of more weeks of restless nights over lots of comments negative and positive. I am willing to talk to you personally if you like, or via text/FB message/phone. Would you keep that in mind if you choose to respond?  I'd appreciate it so much. But I also understand that if I'm posting publicly, you should have the freedom to comment publicly, so if you must voice your disagreement (or your approval), please go ahead.  I just might respond to you in private this time around.