Angel Knees

You’ve heard the stories.  They most commonly appear in flowing white robes and dazzling light.  Angels.  Who doesn’t love the thought of catching a glimpse?  Of receiving a blessing from heaven?

Saturday, the Lord sent us four.

Last week, I was asking for a miracle.  You see, when it comes to do-it-yourself projects, I dream big.  Beginning a 4-year contract on our rental house in Atenas, I long for every bit of the 1,050 square feet to feel like home.   To me, color plays a big part in achieving “cozy.”  The well-loved walls were beyond the help of a magic eraser intervention, so we made friends with the rep at the paint store.  And Phase 1 was born: the 3 bedrooms, the living room, the dinette, and I just couldn’t leave out the hallway and the laundry space.  Bringing home 12 gallons of liquid latex in dreamy colors made me feel like I won the lottery.  The feeling of “home” was just brushstrokes away. A lot of brushstrokes.

Painting became the ultimate focus of the two open weekends before June 7th, the day our furniture crosses the threshold.  The first weekend went great.  Only who knew how much primer it takes to cover up royal blue trim stripes?  Two full days of prepping, taping, and priming gained us a lot of ground, but not much change in ambiance.   Coming into the second weekend, we had 11 gallons to go.  I knew we weren’t going to make it.  Priority and strategy were rumbling around my mind all week.  Which rooms were going to be filled with the most furniture?  Which walls would speak the most to our hearts?

Then, hope sprung up, in a message from a friend.  She was hosting a team of  volunteers connected with College of the Ozarks.  Hard Work U, where students have the opportunity to serve in lieu of paying tuition, room, and board—how fantastic is that?  Our friend offered to share these 4 young women with us for a whole day of house transformation.  We didn’t have to pray very long to know we should leap to accept the huge blessing.

Matt and I spent Friday working all-out to get first-coats up in the 3 bedrooms, but Saturday dawned with a mountain left to scale.  Amanda, Morgan, Ashley, and Hannah arrived bright and early to dig in.  With 6 different colors in play and 5 painters, Matt spent the whole day coordinating everyone’s effort, as well as cleaning brushes and paint pans.  The girls and I trimmed, rolled, and shared our stories as the house received its new look.  Together, we did it all.  The 3 bedrooms, living room, dinette, hallway, and laundry space are now all fresh and bright, ready to welcome in our family and friends.

Bird of ParadiseOur angels didn’t bother with robes, but looked dearly beautiful splattered with paint.  Their knees were blackened with newsprint from the papers protecting the floor, but that didn’t stop them from sharing joy and their hard work.  We will always remember the blessing that the Lord sent to us through them, as we savor the colors of our new life in Atenas.

Whether sporting robes and wings, or dirty knees, God’s grace to us is truly incredible.

One Thing Remains

Language.  Culture.  Climate.  Currency.  Source of provision.  Available products and prices thereof.  Food.  Church.  Profession.  With our upcoming launch to serve at The Home of Life children’s home in Costa Rica, so much is going to change in our lives over the next year.  In a moment of humorous inspiration, I sat down and made a list of what will stay the same (mostly).  It brings me comfort to recognize some stability and makes me smile over what my heart values.  Here’s a non-exhaustive, unordered peek.

1.) Our family being together.  When the Lord called us to homeschool 5 1/2 years ago, I had a sinking feeling that He was setting us up for the mission field.  Turns out I was right.  Only now I don’t feel so sinking about it.  What a comfort to already have a good familiarity with how to do school as a family before we venture out into the nations.  The kids will attend one year of traditional school while Matt and I are up to our eardrums in Spanish immersion classes, then it will be back to the kitchen table for lessons together.  We know that this call to go and serve is for our children just as much as us grown-ups.  We have seen the impact of their smiles and Spanish phrases on Tico hearts.  They have a unique anointing that’s an essential part of what the Lord is doing.  I’m so thankful to be able to walk this path as a family.

2.) God.  Life serving the Lord in Costa Rica won’t be any more spiritual than serving Him in the Midwest  but the change is certainly pressing us into His arms.  As He meets us here, we know He will meet us there.  Perhaps even more so, because we will be so much more aware of our need for Him.

3.) Rice and beans.  It’s like a Dr. Seuss book.  We eat them here, we’ll eat them there.  We’d probably eat them anywhere.  After our first global journey to Guatemala in 2006, I started our family’s exploration into the land of legumes.  Toss a rice cooker into the mix and we had some yummy dinners afoot.  Matt is no longer dubious when I come home with a 20 lb. bag of rice.  Gallo Pinto, anyone?

4.) Books, worship, and working out.  How awesome that some of my very favorite things are completely portable.  We may not be able to drive to a public library full of material in English, but modern technology can still keep us learning, recreating, and soaking in the Lord’s presence.  It’s on our heart to start a small group that gathers for contemporary worship (courtesy of mp3 files– none of our family plays an instrument).  Thank you, Lord, for Kindles, the internet, iPods, laptops, and Jillian Michaels’ dvds.  And while the sidewalks may be more of a challenge in Costa Rica, the weather certainly won’t be, so I’ll have little excuse not to lace up my running shoes.

5.) Making things from scratch.  I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a do-it-yourself-er.    If you can make something cheaper or better (preferably both) than you can buy it, then I’m game to try it.  This especially goes for food.  Lately I’ve been aflutter to learn to make the things that we love to eat here, but probably won’t be able to get there.  Chicken Tikka Masala.  Naan.  Auntie Anne’s pretzels.  You should really come over.  Company motivates me to cook.  Part of my role at the Home of Life will be to prepare meals for visiting teams, and there couldn’t be a better spot for my heart to sing.  Penzeys Spices’ motto says it perfectly: “Love People.  Cook them tasty food.”

But where there are lessons, they will be handed in (and possibly forgotten).  Where Jillian is pounding you with reps, cool down time will eventually begin.  Intriguing plots will conclude.  Recipes will be enjoyed and cleared from the table.  But one thing will remain:  Love.  The love we share with the Lord, with each other, and with the people He puts into our lives on the journey.

Homespun

I did the dance of joy in the laundry aisle at HyVee the other day. What was the occasion? I found the ingredients for a make-your-own laundry detergent recipe. I am a devout do-it-yourself-er. I love to figure out how to make things, grow things & organize things. Okay, I love doing things with things! The Lord has given us a lot of things to work with. Some of it I do to save money. Some of it I do because I just like to.

I was delighting in my new financial prowess when I decided to calculate up how much money this new craft was going to save me. I haven’t measured out the exact yields I’m going to get from the boxes of supplies, but I’ve heard an estimate of 2 cents a load for this new laundry magic. Let’s see, cheap detergent (which I buy) is about 10 cents a load, and if I do 5 loads a week, that will save me about. . .$20.80 a year. $20 a year? That’s it? I’m totally deflated. Now, it will take me about two hours to make a year’s worth of laundry detergent, so that’s 10 bucks an hour, but somehow I expected it to come up to more.

I sank down into my prayer chair to wrestle this out with the Lord. Lord, I make my own bread, I grow my own vegetables, I’m going to make my own laundry detergent. Why do I want to do all this stuff? I hear his question on my heart: Does doing these things make you more worthy? I know the answer there. NO. My Sara Lee chomping friends are just as important to you, Lord, as I am. Next round: Does doing all this stuff make you less worthy? Ooh, a tough one. I’ve often wondered if I should be doing other things with my time. Planning intricate activities to do with my kids, perhaps. Being more creative with my homeschool curriculum. Maybe just sitting for hours in the Lord’s presence. But I still know the right answer. Umm, No, Lord, it doesn’t make me less worthy.

And so the Lord gently revealed to me that it’s good for me to do life this way because it’s the way He made my heart. It brings me joy to do things from scratch, and it blesses my family and those around me. I spent a lot of time thinking about the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The master gave each servant an amount of talents (actually a sum of money) to put to use during his absence. He didn’t tell them how to use it, and I’m sure that each of the faithful servants multiplied his talents in a unique way. The lazy servant buried his talent in the ground because he was afraid to use it, lest he lose it. In the end, he lost it anyway. So I feel encouraged to keep living out my do-it-yourself life with joy, as unto the Lord. And I smile to myself as I think that the lazy servant absolutely could not have been a gardener.