Life is full. Full of to do’s. Full of love. Full of people. Full of moments. Full. Just plain full. Sometimes it can be hard to keep your head about you. Here’s the secret – keep your focus on things above. When we are looking above, we don’t notice the flood around us; we keep our head above water and get to take in the sky.
This year the Bible Study I attend (BSF – if you’re looking for something in dept I highly suggest it!) is studying the book of John. The message of John is so singular. Time and time again Jesus’ teachings and his actions boil down to this truth – keep your focus on God, or you’ll miss His better, bigger picture.
Will likes to quote Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Jesus is all of those things.
So often I go through my day focused on the flood. I am thinking about what to make for dinner, trying to remember to put the laundry in the dryer (that struggle is real – not as real as the struggle to fold it is), being mesmerized by Charlie’s smile, and wondering how Izzy Pup can possibly shed any more. I also work from home, so I juggle that in there as well.
Life is full.
But the message of the Gospel of John has challenged me. Jesus came so that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:10). More abundantly does not equal more full. It means truly satisfying and overflowing with joy. Jesus wants to take my full life and make it abundant. He wants to take my good life and make it great. He wants to be at the center, in relationship with me, helping me, and being glorified through my life. This happens by shifting my focus to things above.
So I challenge you this week to find something practical that you can do to shift your focus to things above. For me it was changing the lock screen on my phone to something that would be a quick reminder to refocus. So what will you do?
Somethings in life happen without us noticing. Somethings come and go with minimal impact on our daily autopilot. But there are other things that mess with our equilibrium, speedbumps that throw off our current rhythm, striking moments that you not only notice, but that stick with you.
For us, our recent week in Haiti was the latter. In fact, adjusting to Haiti was as easy as going to sleep the first night and waking up in the morning, but adjusting back… that has been a very different process.
I have been waiting to write this post because I was not sure how to verbalize what we learned, how it changed us, and why coming back has been so difficult.
Haiti was very different from America (except for the fact that most people had smart phones). There it is normal to only have electricity at night, it’s very odd to have air conditioning, houses are not what we are used to, jobs are rare, and to do lists are minute. It was not cushy, customizable, and programmable to meet our every desire like America, BUT it was beautiful, bursting with opportunity for relationships, and full of time to savor life.
While we were in Haiti it was obvious that what we were doing was important. Our daily lives were making an impact. I think pretty much everyone wants their life to make an impact in some way. Will and I are no exclusion – it’s something we crave. Nearly every morning we send each other off to work with the exhortation to “go make someone’s day better.” For us and all the members of our team in Haiti it was obvious that we were doing just that.
Maybe adjusting back (reverse culture shock) was so much more difficult than adjusting to Haiti because America is so fast and bursting at the seams with things to have, things to eat, and things to do. Consequently, our culture leaves little room for intentional relationships and investing in and helping those around us.
Before Haiti I was nervous about having “down time.” But down time there was good. It was spent getting to know the people around you, taking your time to eat and talk with the people at the table. After Haiti, it has taken me two weeks to feel like I am catching up to the pace of my American life.
Coming back from Haiti I realized that I have so much even when I feel like I don’t. Coming back from Haiti I realized that I want a slower pace in my life. I want to be able to invest in my friends and community. Coming back from Haiti, I have had a hard time reconciling with the lack of an impact I feel like I make here.
But perhaps the biggest thing that I still don’t know what to do about is that in Haiti I felt like I was 100% myself. 100% who God made me to be. 100% alive. And when I went to work 24 hours after getting back – I didn’t know who I was.
So where do we find the balance between our beautiful, impactful life for a week in Haiti and our “normal” lives here in America. Where’s the compromise? Where’s the marriage of the two?
I think the answer is in prioritizing properly. Make sure the things that truly matter come first and the other things fall in line accordingly. Know that making time for friends and family and ministry might come at the price of late nights and tired next days because I need to finish my homework. In the ungrateful moments remember how good and cushy we have it. In the lack luster moments, remember the luster of the God who we serve no matter what country, culture, or job we are in.
Bottom line – if you have been contemplating a short term mission trip; take the risk. Even if it requires a sacrifice of vacation days. I promise you; it’s 100% worth it.
Friday was our last full day in Haiti. It was another day full of the complete gamut of emotions. So much joy watching the primary school kids laugh and get excited in their assembly, playing with the preschoolers, visiting another elderly home in a very destitute area, going out for ice cream, and saying goodbyes.
The day started off with the rooster crowing and the customary coffee delivery. We got to play with the preschool and kindergarten kids for a little while until we terrified the 3 year olds with the color of our skin – there was a chain reaction of screaming and crying. Lol. After that we had several classes and then a little road trip. We went to a very poor town in the middle of nowhere called Derak.
We went to a new Bon Samaritan that is being started in this town. While we were there we painted several women’s nails, met a pregnant 20 year old and prayed for her, and I was told by the elderly women that they would be praying for us to have children… Maybe two. That same woman also took a selfie with me. She was do excited when she could see herself on the screen of the phone. She started reaching out and touching her face on the screen like a little kid. 🙂
We went to a French fort, Fort Liberty, that was built in the 1600’s. The fort was built on the coast to keep pirates out.
After our road trip we made it home just in time for dinner…. And it was pouring. But we didn’t let the rain stop us from going back out for ice cream. One last hurrah with each other and our translators. One of our translators gave us the sweetest, most encouraging letter.
It was a bitter sweet day, but a good note to end this trip on.
Saturday we had an extra hour before breakfast, but the coffee still came at the normal time. Will tried to teach Adrienne some English, and he tried to teach Will some Creole. The rest of the morning was spent dragging our feet packing, cleaning up, and chatting. Eventually we had to load our bags onto the bus and ride for hour and a half to the airport….
While I am glad to not be sweating constantly, I am not sure that I was ready to leave. I am sure I will be processing and responding to this trip for the next few days.
Today has been filled with a lot of emotions. Exhaustion that is setting in for most people,and Will’s been sick since Tuesday. Despite this, today overflowed with moments of joy and laughter. Mixed in there were moments of astonishment, empathy, worship, and heartbreak.
I sang worship songs with some of the students in English classes, and was so encouraged and filled with pride when our 18 year old interpreter Jaccine gave away her food to a hungry little boy in the hallway.
During our upper level English classes we had the opportunity to hear more of the stories and dreams of the students. There are many students here with big dreams and big enough hearts to make them happen. #hopeforhaiti
After school we went to a nursing home for the elderly who have no family to care for them. Many of them are deaf or blind. Some of them were brought in off of the streets. We were told these are the people who are considered to be “the poor.” At Bon Samaritan they are given food, a roof, a bed (if there are enough), and community. The goal is to provide the cast aside and forgotten with a semblance of dignity for their last days. The man who runs it is a sweet by a sweet, Christ-loving, Indian man.
Bon Samaritan is one of the most heartbreaking things I have seen in my life. We spent about am hour and a half there talking with them, painting the women’s nails, singing with them, and praying for them. There are few things more beautiful than singing in hymns in two different languages at the same time. Despite their situation, you could hear the gratitude in the elderly women’s voices when we were singing Amazing Grace with them.
After that we walked back to school and ate some really good goat for dinner. Will and I got to talk with one of the teachers here who went to school in Kentucky (his English is phenomenal). He has many passions that line up with ours. Hearing his story and his dreams was great! He has so much faith. I have no doubt God will use him in big ways!
Looking back I realize that today came full circle for me. In morning devotions I read 1 Timothy 6:6-8
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
With God comes contentment,not matter your situation. With God comes a focus on something more than what you have, where you are, how the pigs outside your room smell, how hot it is, how you feel, how old you are, how ratty your sheets are…. The list goes on. With God comes assurance that this world is temporary and something bigger is at work.
We had quite the busy day today. We started at 7 with breakfast. We started the day with an hour long sign language class which is so fun! We taught English classes the rest of the day.
We had a pretty crazy English class with the 12th graders (that’s junior year here). In that class we were guests so we just walked around and answered questions. One of the boys told us it was nice to see such beautiful women. When they found out I was married, they froze for a second and started apologizing. I pointed at Will and had him wave at them. They were so embarrassed. After I went back to my seat they asked Will to come back and talk to them. They wanted to apologize and ask if he was angry with them. So hilarious!!!
Will did great teaching today! He even taught a few of the older girls some Chinese.
Several things happen after school today. First, a man from the Dominican came and fixed the air conditioner in our bedroom. For the win. In the meantime one of our teammates and I got the chance to play soccer with a bunch of 7th grade boys. We had taught sign language to some of them, and they remembered my name.
The third thing was a little heartbreaking… There are a lot of kids who play in the field on the other side of the school’s wall. We can see them from our porch. They play and pick through the trash.
Today they spotted us sitting on the porch, came up to the wall, and started shouting “Blanc! Blanc!” at us. When I walked over they rubbed their swollen bellies and were putting their hand to their mouths asking for food….. We aren’t allowed to give them anything because it would cause trouble for the school if all the neighborhood kids were always begging when teams come to help. We wanted to, but we had no way of explaining that we wanted to help but couldn’t.
Lastly, we went on a walking tour of Ouanaminthe. We saw to the market, the clinic the school runs, and the bakery here at the school (it smelled sooo good!).
For tonight I will leave you with this:
Haiti is a beautiful place full of beautiful people made by the same God who made you and I. And it’s even more beautiful to hear them talk about God.
There was once a young guy, and as is the case with most young men, a certain girl caught his eye. She was his opposite in most every way. Before this turns into a fairy tale or is mistaken for Will and I (because we are most definitely opposites), let me clarify – I am talking about my parents.
Last month my wonderful parents reached 40 years of marriage!
(And right now they are on their celebratory cruise so I won’t get in trouble for singing their praises for a few days)
Will and I have been married for 2 years and 10 months. We have hardly put the full scope of our marriage vows to the test yet. I say that because I know I am blessed to have the longevity and richness of my parents’ exemplary marriage to look up to, but I also know that I have absolutely no clue just how valuable that example may prove to be as life goes on for Will and I.
However, I already know a few key things that I have learned from my Moms and Pops.
Keep God first – in your relationship with each other, in your goals, in your finances, in your parenting, in the battles you pick… Basically in everything.
Never stop acting like moony teenagers – flirt with each other, hold hands in public, laugh, don’t take yourselves too seriously, etc.
Embrace each other’s families.
Support each other’s interests and endeavors.
Their lives are not filled with pinterest perfect decor or instagramable date nights. They aren’t caught up with any of that. They are content to live below their means and find value in the simple things – like how my dad brings my mom a weekly Sonic drink, or how my mom would always keep Dara and I (mostly me) quiet after my dad would go to sleep since he had to be up at 4:30 every morning.
My parents grew up in their church. My dad asked my mom out for their first date at church. He proposed to her at church. They got married at church. They raised us as a part of that church. And they have never stopped serving people at and through the church. It’s not really the church part that matters, it’s the fact that my parents were actively seeking to have a marriage that focuses on making an eternal impact. They have opened their hearts to so many people. I know from experience serving with Will, that sometimes you can serve more fully when you are serving with your spouse. As a team you can bring out the best in each other and love others more completely.
This is what I see in my parents. They are a team. They push each other to love those around them more completely, because that is how Christ loves us and calls us to love others. Sure they also push each other’s buttons too, but they know how to laugh about it, give grace, and pick the battles that really matter because they both have their eyes on the love of Jesus.
I hope you guys are enjoying your cruise! Thank you for being there for me with advice, wisdom, and the lifelong stockpile of actions to back it up. My gratitude for the two of you and your marriage only continues to grow.
ps… if you are in Lexington and looking for a good photographer, check out Jenny with Rugged Joy Photography. She was wonderful to work with!
Lately something that Will and I have been talking about a lot is the concept of running our own race. Before you confuse this with another Saturday Sweat post about half marathon training and the like – I am talking about the race of life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:1-2
Disclaimer: 1) sorry this post got long. 2) These thoughts that I am about outline are not necessarily based on a study of doctrine or even that much experiential support as I am not that old and have only been married 2 years. These are just my thoughts. Those of you with more wisdom and knowledge of biblical truth, please comment and steer in the right direction if I am on the wrong one.
I run a lot, and when you run you have to remember to go at your own pace, run your own race. It doesn’t matter who’s whizzing past you or how many people you pass. All that matters is you do what you can; if you try to run someone else’s race it won’t go that well for you.
I think that the same thing applies to life. You can’t compare your race to everyone else’s. It doesn’t matter what the people around you are involved in or accomplishing. If that’s not your race then don’t run it. Let go of comparison and find contentment. Let go of your plans and find God’s.
There are several areas of life I have seen the need to abide by this principle in. For starters, I have been learning that I can’t even compare my race to what it used to be. Our first year and a half of marriage I had time to cook dinner most evenings. I had time to make healthy, less processed granola bars for me and toaster strudel for Will (yes, HOMEMADE toaster strudel). Not this fall. Sometimes I let that get to me – like I am not being as amazing of a wife as I should be. But that’s not true. The truth is the laps of our race aren’t identical.
Even in marriage you have to run your own race. Please don’t take that wrong. I am not telling anyone to say “see ya later-ville” to their spouse. Will and I will always run our races together, but we that doesn’t mean they are the same. Take school for example. Our entire relationship one of us has always been in school, but we haven’t always been in school at the same times. I can’t write Will’s thesis for him, and he can’t do all of my Dietetics homework for me. But we can support each other. I can edit his papers. He can help me when I need it. He cooks and cleans for me sometimes when I am bogged down, and I mow the lawn for him (when I can get the mower started). He can’t run my race for me and vice versa, but we can run our races together.
I think this ties in some with entitlement. Sometimes we see someone get a promotion or buy a house, we compare, we wonder why we aren’t doing that, don’t we deserve it? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. But life isn’t always about what we deserve (thank the Lord! …no seriously, thank Him. Jesus dying on the cross for me was not what I deserved). Sometimes life is about simply being where you are supposed to be not necessarily where you deserve to be or even where it’s popular to be.
We grow up being told to be ourselves, be an individual, and chase our dreams. As adults of all ages I think we need to take that to heart still. Be yourself. Don’t compare. Don’t let yourself get caught up chasing people in their race, playing an expensive game of tag trying to keep up with the Jones, or even getting ahead of yourself in your own race.
Be yourself. Run your race. And Trust that God’s got the rest.
Live in the moment. Live in the season that God has you in; He has you there for a reason.
What about you? Is there a comparison game you are playing? or a part of your race that you are struggling with?
I hope that something in here resonated with you and/or encouraged you!
One of the blogs that I have been following lately, the Wetherills Say I Do, launched a 31 day prayer challenge a week ago. Our schedules are a little bumpy so goals like building a bedframe are hard to realize, but taking a few moments to pray together before bed – that is something we can realistically implement.
We talked it over on the way to work this morning and decided that it was something we wanted to go for, a discipline that we want to and need to nurture in our lives. (We went in to work early this morning, so the fact that either of us remembers the conversation is impressive.) To help make it real, give it some accountability, we are putting it up on the blog.
Right now it’s like I have a coffee date with God penciled in every day. Some days I make it; some days I don’t. Most of the days when I do it’s like I sit there more concerned with my coffee than with God – no meaningful exchanges, nothing but small talk to make it not seem awkward.
The idea of this 31 day prayer challenge for Will and I is to have it mapped out, already know at least one thing to be praying for that day. That way we will be more likely to stick with it, and on days when our minds are blank or overwhelmed, the list will provide guidance for a deeper, more meaningful prayer time. It’s like brainstorming topics to talk about with someone before a first date.
Please, join in with your own prayer challenge! Our list is down below, and you can find the original inspiration in this post on the Wetherills Say I Do here. Some of the items on our list are ones she suggested in her post, others are specific to an event we have that day, or personal concerns/passions that we added to the list.
July 8th: Discipline for the next 31 days resulting in a deeper/more
constant prayer life
July 9th: Our Moms
July 10th: Our Friends’ new Babies
July 11th: Siblings
July 12th: the Homeless in Lexington
July 13th: Our Community of Friends
July 14th: Will’s Thesis
July 15th: Generosity
July 16th: Random Reminders of God throughout the Day
July 17th: Extended Family
July 18th: Serve the City
July 19th: A Random Person from Your Day
July 20th: Courage/Desire to share the Gospel
July 21st: Your President/Country's Leader
July 22nd: China
July 23rd: Work/Work Ethic
July 24th: A lost friend (spiritually)
July 25th: Grandparents
July 26th: My Dad
July 27th: Future Kiddos
July 28th: Our Marriage
July 29th: A Better View of People who Rub You the Wrong Way
July 30th: Yourself presently
July 31st: Your future self + family
August 1st: Spouse
August 2nd: Jared & Ruthann
August 3rd: Neighbors
August 4th: Courage to Take Risks
August 5th: Co-worker (specific person)
August 6th: Boss
August 7th: School
We are joining in this challenge with Madison and her blog; would you join in with us? Near or far you are our friends, and we would love to have some extra accountability and encouragement in this effort.
Or Tweet, Instagram, or Facebook about your own prayer challenge with#thirtyonedaysofprayer.
Lastly, share any tips you have for developing a better prayer life. It’s definitely something that I need help with. The place I always have to start is with creating a time and space for it (generally the morning before Will’s up). For the next 31 days the time and place is with Will right before bed, so I have the starting block covered, but I would loves some tips and hints to help carry me through these 31 appointments.