Embracing Life From the Second Row

I was not just upset;  I was upset with myself for being upset.

After years of “maybe someday,” I had finally auditioned for worship choir.  Kick your thoughts of robes and high sopranos to the curb.  This group was cool.

I stepped onto the risers that first Sunday, trembly with nerves.  My heart was full of prayers to open the heavens.  My head was running harmonies, timing changes, and bridge lyrics.  My pride, the tricky beast, was bumped by my spot in the second row.

Until that moment, I hadn’t known how much I wanted to be seen

The leadership wisely put anchor people in the most visible places.  When the spiritual climate of a thousand is at stake, holiness trumps height.  My 5’2″ stature had always placed me front, if not also center.  This group was different, arranged by experience and anointing.

The veterans in front of me topped my height by inches, even with the riser’s help.  I could still open the heavens—through the small window between two heads and their nearly touching shoulders.  My expectations had been widescreen.  Bump.

IMG_9016 fiHow could my compass be so stuck on me when I was there specifically to point heavenward?  I muscled my attitude back in line with devotion and invited the Lord’s presence into the morning.

It was glorious.

Moving to our mission country provided a similar bump to second row.  We were shocked to hear children must be 18 years old to be left unattended.  Our uber-responsible, babysitting-aged daughter could not legally watch her younger brothers here.  A family four houses down was reported to child protective services for the latchkey schedule of their son.  Our neighbor had to choose between employment and motherhood.

My window to serve went from panoramic to porthole.

Gently, the Lord drew me back from widescreen expectations of work projects alongside teams and cradling each child at the home.  My ministry GPS reconfigured, abandoning the scenic route but not the destination.  I point heavenward through food and words shared, prayers on my balcony, and databases current with ways to connect.  I wrestle our daily routine in line with devotion through the frame of homeschool and cross-cultural living.

I have learned anew the simple beauty of well-sung backup harmony.

It’s still glorious.

I will probably always want to be seen.  More than I like to admit.  Yet, this is holy ground here in the second row.  The heavens are open.

He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.    Psalm 40:3 NLT


Have you ever spent time in the second row?  What was your experience like?

Remembering to Breathe

I’ve been flopping around like a fish on the sand the last few weeks.  Motivationally bipolar, I’ve alternated between feverish bouts of productivity and crawling into a mental hidey-hole with a good book and better chocolate.  There’s been a lot to celebrate.  About two-thirds of our house interior was treated to a hip new shade of paint thanks to a slew of hard work and helpers.  Two trunk loads were surrendered to Goodwill along with my best intentions to hold a garage sale.  An entire van load (seats removed) of treasure was packaged and priced for a kids’ consignment sale.  Ezekiel’s 4th birthday was ushered in with much rejoicing, brownie sundaes, and the humorously needful instructions, “Swallow your spit before you blow out the candles, sweetheart.”  But my spirit has been stifled for want of water and fresh air.

There’s no excuse for it, really.  Bibles outnumber the people in our household by at least 3 to 1, a different translation available for every day of the week.  My iPod is loaded with anointed worship waiting for me to push play.  I have a full stable of my favorite blue Papermates and open country in my journal.

Why do I make time to sort out the laundry but neglect my heart?  Then why am I surprised when my attitude becomes brittle and my downtime fails to refresh?  I know better.  So why do I suffocate myself, thinking that my to-do list enables me to defy spiritual gravity until I find myself gasping and coated with sand again?

My mother-in-law showed me her name engraved in silver the other day, eyes lit up with new-bible excitement.  I caught a whiff of something sweet in the air:  my first love.  I remembered the joy of opening the word and diving into His promises, His love for me in histories, His presence hovering over phrases.

I knew it was time to put the schedule back in God’s capable hands and gaze upon His beauty.  Time to take Jesus up on His offer to be rest for my soul when I’m weary and burdened.  Time to soak off the sand in living water and inhale the fragrance of His grace, to quit pushing out leaves and let Him grow some blossoms within me.

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Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5,6

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

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.