Posted in Around the World, Christianity and the Church

#GivingTuesday 2016

Yesterday was #GivingTuesday — a great reminder to all of us to both plan for our monthly, regular giving throughout the year as well as an opportunity to give spontaneously.

Some of you may know that my background is in nonprofit management and fundraising. If you haven’t made your giving plans for next year, touch base with me and let me know what brings out your passion — missions, arts, children, health. . . I’m happy to steer you in the direction of organizations which may help put feet to your passions!

(I’m not currently working with or consulting with any nonprofits. . . I just really find fulfillment in connecting caring people with organizations that are a good fit for their giving.)

St. Andrew's Kirk hurricane relief efforts have been greatly helped by our ministry partners. Mission to The World visited Nassau today and brought by another generous contribution.
St. Andrew’s Kirk hurricane relief efforts have been greatly helped by our ministry partners. Mission to The World visited Nassau today and brought by another generous contribution.

“[E]very career and calling has bad days, and you have to decide if you’re committed to this career and calling enough to endure those bad days.” -Ed Cyzewski, p. 66, “Write Without Crushing Your Soul”

One of these days I’m going to have to write up the story of the worst. Thanksgiving. dinner. ever. — from 2004.

I made it and the company was gracious, but there are Ukrainians who now think U.S. traditional foods are horrible.

Psalm for Thanksgiving

 

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

(Psalm 107:1-9 ESV)

Posted in On The Bookshelf

What Love Can Do

I referenced the sermon What Love Can Do earlier this week in a post.   Besides being a sermon from CPC Oveido, which is in my podcast feed, the title caught my eye because it reminded me of a book by the same name.

What Love Can Do the book was brought to publication by a great deal of effort by my aunt Gayle Nolan.  She taught college for many years in New Orleans, and the manuscript was brought to her by one of her students.  It had been written by her father, Arthur Miller,  during the 15 minute breaks he had at work at the Cabildo.  Aunt Gayle had a copy of the original manuscript, which was providential — the original hand-written memoir was lost when Hurricane Katrina flooded Arthur Mitchell’s home in the lower ninth ward.  This book is a collection of stories passed down through his family, from capture by slavers in Africa, through years on a plantation in Louisiana, and then after emancipation.

We share our stories — to understand one another and to be understood.  This book is worth reading, to get a glimpse of what love really can do.

 

What Love Can Do

 

Posted in Heart, Mind and Soul, Theology for Girls

Love and Resistance and Carl Rogers

Yesterday I was listening to a sermon from John 15:9-13 titled “What Love Can Do.”  (Pastor Rob Edenfield, Covenant Presbyterian Church Oveido, 13 Nov 2016.)

 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

(John 15:9-14 ESV)

 

Among the many thoughts sparked by the sermon, was was some very discomforting thoughts about loving my family members and laying down my life for them.  It’s not a new thought for me, but laying down my life for my family is wider than dying for another.

Laying down my life is laying down my time, my energy, my physical body, my resistance in the moment. . . to love my family.

I remember in years past being inspired by this idea, embracing it as part of my calling.  “Greater love has no mom than this. . .”

But quite frankly, I don’t like it.  I struggle with it.

My resistance is not because there is something else I would rather be doing.   It is not because I don’t value  pouring myself in to this vocation, where I am, with my family.   In the big picture, I really DO want to nurture and encourage and prioritize them.

But the laying down of my life in the moment-by-moment parts of the day?  It feels like an imposition.  I’m resistant to it.  This attitude comes out in so many situations, and I know my family picks up on it.

When I allow myself to feel those feelings of being imposed upon and the feelings of guilt for those feelings, I stop running away from those feelings.  I can see that part of what feeds into this is my own struggles of feeling like I’m failing.

So where does this lead me?

Going back to the sermon on God’s love. . . He first loved us.  He loves me.  He loves my kids.  He loves my children.

Biblical love is often summarized by referring to I Corinthians 13.  Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. . . and all the things I am not feeling from God towards me nor living out with my family and neighbors.  These words are familiar to me and so unattainable, and so sometimes I tune the familiar out.

When listening to the sermon, and considering God’s love for us, I thought about God’s “unconditional positive regard” towards me.  That is a phrase coined by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers.  While “unconditional positive regard” is not a full-orbed definition of Biblical love, it does capture such a sweet part of God’s love  in that phrase.

In spite of my failures, in spite of my resistance to “lay down my life,” God has shown me His unconditional love, His positive regard.

We love because he first loved us. . . (1 John 4)

Can I rest in that?  Can I let that unconditional positive regard from the Most Holy God be something in which I rest?

He already laid down His life for me.  He’s already shown my boundless love.

Can I let that love flow in to me?  Flow out of me?

I know my kids feel more criticism from me that I even want to admit.  But can I pray that the Holy Spirit fill me with His love, and let unconditional positive regard flow out of me to my children?  Can I lay down my resistance before the Lord and accept His love for my kids is even greater than my love for them?

Posted in Heart, Mind and Soul

Reminders to Myself, When Struggling

A friend who homeschools her  kids was sharing her struggles the other day.  I heard in her words such self-condemnation, such self-blame.

When I read it, it reminded me of the downward spiral of thoughts I’ve had at times. . .  “I’m a terrible mother… I’m a terrible wife… I’m a terrible Christian…” These thoughts take hold and have such sway over me, because they are key elements of my calling in life.  Feeling like a failure in areas that are so important to me go swirling in my head.

More often than not, when these feelings take hold in my heart, they have been amplified by hormones.  My post-partum depression felt like PMS on steroids.  Identifying that connection has helped me observe these thoughts and feelings for what they are — thoughts and feelings that are not the full sum of reality.

Do you ever feel that way?  Like the things you value most as a mother are the things you struggle in the most?

Remember, YOU are just the right mother for your children.  God has chosen YOUR children to be nurtured by you.  Regardless of what you are or aren’t doing, YOU are JUST the right mother for your children. THEY are the children God has given to you.

Your strengths and weaknesses are being used by God, in His sovereignty, as they grow in to the people God has created them to be.

I heard my friend share words of frustration — and wanting encouragement to really press in to the effort needed each day.

And I heard her say words  of condemnation — which is not what needs to be taking hold in our hearts.

In the context of struggling to do what we want to do, and the struggle not to sin, Romans 8 reminds me, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Jesus calls us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

And for me, with all the failures (and good things) through the years, I keep meditating upon the the comfort,

“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)

This is the encouragement I need to hear each day.

Please be gentle on yourself, as you accept God’s gentleness. . .

 

Posted in Heart, Mind and Soul, On The Bookshelf

So Many Books

Years ago I remember Pastor Randy saying something along the lines of “buying a book is like buying myself time/permission to read it.”

That is true for me. . . Except sometimes buying the book is symbolic of wanting the permission/promise to read it, and the reality doesn’t always follow.

And, maybe you’ll laugh at this, but I’ve had a crisis of getting older this year. I realized the obvious, but it was a gut-wrenching realization. I don’t have enough time or years left to read what I really want to read, to read all the good books.

I don’t have the same emotional reaction to the infinite info on the internet. People already “curate” content online. I don’t have a problem with more “good” stuff online than I can get to.

But I do struggle with knowing I can’t read all the good books I want to read.

(Thoughts, after reading this book recommendation.)

Posted in Around the World, It's the FS Life for Me

Home, In The Bahamas

We evacuated Nassau to the Florida Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew. We came home Sunday.

The short version? Nassau and New Providence were greatly spared. No deaths related to the storm were reported. So much worse was expected. We thank God.

The long version? Wow. It’s so much worse than I expected, based on the positive reports I had when gone.

It’s all about expectations.

We expected devastation from Hurricane Matthew. So we are thankful it wasn’t. I expected to come home to “not so bad,” but it is bad. Friends have it worse than we do. And it landlord is taking care of repairing the damages to our home and yard.

Much of our fencing is down. Some parts just torn off, others have wooden posts split in half.

Shingles litter the yard. That’s expected — they’ve been coming off even in normal rain storms.

Broken glass of a type and color I didn’t even realize were on our windows are on the back patio. Lots of damage to the roof and attic dormer windows — I think that’s where the glass is from.

Splintered wood is piled up in the yard from the initial clean up. The biggest tree in front of the house has already been taken away. The royal palms in the front are fine. The avocado tree is down.

Two ficus trees flanked the entrance sidewalk. One is gone and the other use on its side, roots in the air. I assume that means the landlord thinks it can be salvaged and replanted.

The white rose bush which always looked scraggly but grew beautiful roses is gone.

I can see in my neighbor’s backyard, for the first time. The vegetation on both sides and privacy fence are down.

There are workmen on our roof and in the attic, whether we are home or not. They have ladders from the roof to the balcony to the ground. They haven’t asked to come in, but they could come in even without asking if they wanted to.

Part of the wall along the stairs to the attic has tumbled down completely. The ceiling in an upstairs bathroom crumbled down completely.

And yet, it really isn’t so bad.

I have family in New Orleans. When we visited a year after Hurricane Katrina, I was shocked at how bad things were driving through the city. My grandparents had to replace everything on the first floor, and the walls were still torn out downstairs when we visited. A full year later, and he was still washing dishes in the laundry sink and had card tables set up as counters because the kitchen wasn’t completed. We stayed in my brother’s FEMA trailer. I know it really isn’t so bad here.

But it is hard coming back to the chaos after the storm. It is hard knowing that we have it easy, when so many others have it much harder.