Thursday, December 13, 2012

Not of this world

Photo Credit:  Rachel Stout

Sitting on the shore looking out at the water, I often see beautiful green sea turtles.  They pop their heads up every so often for a breath of fresh air, then dive down again returning to their world.

What a strange existence they live.  They are primarily sea creatures, but must breathe air to live. They come to land only occasionally to rest or reproduce.  I tried to think of another land animal that was dependent on life support outside it's habitat and couldn't think of one.  (Marine mammals are the same way. They never step foot - or flipper - on land, and yet their very life depends on crossing over into the land of the air-breathers.)

Why would God create an animal that was so dependent on a world outside their own. Maybe that is a picture of what our spiritual life should be.  Maybe it could remind us that we are not of this world and that our life support is outside our natural habitat.  We need to remain close to the "surface" of the Kingdom in order to get our life-giving breath.

Of course this is not a perfect analogy, but I'm a simple girl, and these are my simple observations:

1.  Green sea turtles are hatched on land.  They are not of the sea, but live in the sea. When they emerge from the nest, they are drawn to the water by light, usually the moon reflecting off the sea. We too are born again in the Kingdom of God.  We venture back into the world, but are called not to be of it.  (The most dangerous time in a turtles life is the short journey from the nest to the sea.)

2.  Green sea turtles must breathe air to survive.  A turtle at rest can hold their breath for 4-7 hours, but when stressed or if caught in a net, they may drowned in just a few minutes if they can't reach the surface.  We too depend on our contact with Jesus in order to live without being overcome by the world.  When we're stressed, our contact needs to be constant.

3.  Hawaii's green sea turtles' greatest predator is the shark.  The turtles venture out of the water to rest and retreat from them.  The beach is a safe haven.  The Kingdom is a safe haven for us as well.  We need to take time in the sun to rest and recuperate.  Then we can return to the water refreshed.

This isn't anything too deep.  It's just something I was thinking about while watching one of God's beautiful creatures.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Psalm 96:11 NLT


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November Happenings - Opportunities to Love

I love November.  It's a month full of anticipation.  It really starts with our Halloween event at church.  We fill the parking lot with game booths and fun for the neighborhood kids.  The laughter and candy flow freely!  This year we had our first ever Blessing Booth.  We invited our guests to come and receive a blessing over them and their families.  We offered prayer for those who wanted it.  I really had no idea how it would be received, but was pleasantly surprised that several families took us up on it!  It stretched me out of my comfort zone and that's always good!

Then, at midnight our monthly 24 hour prayer started.  We were able to take those prayer requests from the community into our vigil.  It was such a wonderful honor.  The prayers for those around us were much more real with faces to put to the words.

Being in this house has been great.  I love being close to the happenings at church.  Our family has expanded to include everyone on the block.  My son, Andrew is often missing from our house.  At first I wondered where he was, but soon realized he was just hanging out at the other houses.  My once shy and reserved kid has now come out of his cocoon and has become a social butterfly.  He's even been seen talking to adults at church - of is own initiative.  I am amazed.

Thanksgiving was a community event.  We started the day meeting at a rocky outcropping that overlooks Kailua.  A small group of us have been meeting there to pray over Kailua. (Sunrise picture at the top of the page.) We gathered our churches together for a sunrise Thanksgiving service.  Three churches joined in unity to praise and thank The Lord of Heaven!  It was glorious.  The weather was perfect (although heavy rain was predicted) and all where blessed.

Next on the agenda was our annual Turkey Bowl football game.  What started out as a couple of families playing ball with their kids has turned into a 20 on 20 flag football free for all!  So much fun.

After a couple of hours at home to start the cooking, we headed off to Mark's folks house.  We had a wonderful visit with his parents.  Mark's dad is home-bound and often unresponsive but was having a good day.  We brought pie to share and the girls shared songs with Rebecca playing guitar.  Hearing Grandpa James singing hymns with all his heart brought me to tears.  A precious family time.  We don't know how many of those days we'll have so we tried to savor it.

Then it was time to head back home again to cook in earnest before the house filled with family and friends.  I resisted the urge to get stressed about the time and decided that we'd eat when it was ready!  Sometimes you can't see how much you've grown until you realize you are in a situation that previously would  have made you crazy...  Everyone pitched in and soon the table was set and the food was prepared.  We spread tables out under the new lanai roof.  It was beautiful.  Conversation and laughter filled the air.  We shared our blessings from the last year.  Several of us shared how becoming a part of this community was the high light.  God inhabits the praises of His people, and we felt Him that night.

And now the Christmas tree is up and the house is decorated.  It's so different from when we lived in this house before.  I had to find new places to decorate.  Simplicity.  That's what I'm going for.

The anticipation continues.  We anticipate the Christmas season.  We anticipate the coming new year.  But more than that, I find myself anticipating what the Lord will do among us in this community.  We don't have any grand programs or events on the agenda.  We are just learning to be a family with those around us, extending and receiving grace.  The wonderful missionary to Mozambique, Heidi Baker, says it so beautifully, "Love the one in front of you."  Simple.  That's my plan and I'm sticking with it!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Transformation so far

Thought I'd better update you with how the house looks now.  We've come so far! 

But we're not done yet.  Mark began the work to cover our lanai on the Manono Street side of the house.  We'll have another space to spread out and enjoy the cool breeze.

What does the worker get for his work?  
I have seen the work which God has given the sons of men to do.   He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has put thoughts of the forever in man’s mind,
yet man cannot understand the work God has done
from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Transformation begins

We started renovating the Kailua house with a group of friends. That made it much easier to take. Here we were in the house we lived in 15 years earlier, doing all the stuff you dream about doing to a house. We tore out the old carpet, removed a partition wall from the kitchen, and added a new room to the large living room that would be our son's bedroom. Even in this smaller house, each kid would have their own room. We added a french door that opens to the lanai (patio). It was so exciting.

Then it was time to put things back into the house. We painted every wall and laid 1600 square feet of laminate flooring. We could not have done it alone. Folks showed up and helped just when we needed them. We had friends do the electrical, plumbing, framing and the drywall mudding. 

 They spent their weekends on us. It was so humbling. In record time, we were ready to move in. The place was transformed.

"Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches.  
Those who remain in me, and I in them, 
will produce much fruit.  
For apart from me you can do nothing." 
                                          - Jesus,  John 15:5

I'd like to name this house The Branch House. I love the imagery of a tree. A tree gives life, it gives cool shade on a hot day.  It even makes the air we breath. Jesus said, I am the Vine and you are the branches. This house is to be an extension of the Vine. It sits on the corner of our church property. It's like the branch office of the church. It's the place that can bring life and refreshing. I'm looking for the fruit this tree will produce in our family, our faith community, and our neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A change in perspective

World English Dictionary
perspective (pəˈspɛktɪv)
1. a way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance
2. the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity: try to get some perspective on your troubles

There's a saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."  I can relate to this. 

Fifteen years ago, our family moved from Kailua to the neighboring town of Kaneohe.  It was a good move.  Our girls where five, three, and one year old.  I was just entering the world of homeschooling and working from home as a bookkeeper.  God blessed us in that home with the birth of our son.  Our family of six got busy living life.  All through that time, God was growing us and changing us.  We learned to live not only for ourselves, but to see those around us and reach out to them.  We learned that generosity was the path to true freedom.  Day by day, over the course of those 15 years, Mark and I learned to become a team.  We learned to stop picking at each other's weaknesses and instead, rely on and encourage each other's strengths.  The kids continued to grow, as they all do.  Two daughters graduated from our little home school.  The first-born even ventured off to the mainland.  Life was good.  And God had a plan.  He began to plant in us a vision for more.  A desire to be part of a community of Jesus followers who lived out what they believed.  God also put in our hearts a desire to return to Kailua. 

This past summer has seen the seed of that dream start to germinate.  In a matter of weeks, God opened the door for us to return to Kailua - to the very house we lived in before.  But this house was not as we left it.  Owned by our church, we joined in a renovation project that turned the hot, stuffy box of a house, to the most beautiful, functional house I've ever lived in... and I'd lived there before!  (God has a sense of humor!) 

Fifteen years is a lot of time to accumulate stuff.  We had spent those years acquiring more than we needed.  The kids had grown up and out of so many things.  I had years of homeschool books and gadgets that we didn't need or use anymore.  I had remnants of hold hobbies that had gone by the way side.  The Kailua house, as lovely as it had become, still had no storage.  That meant a drastic purging of our belongings.  And purge we did!  I believe we left that house with about half of what we previously owned.  So freeing, but also gut wrenching. (We practically stocked our church rummage sale single handedly.)  But even in this, the Lord had been preparing me.  I had been reading minimalist and simplicity blogs for about a year.  I knew I could do the purging, and was very grateful for the push to do it now.

So literally, in about 8 weeks time, we went from blissfully living in Kaneohe, to renovating a house, purging half our possessions and moved back into the house where our three girls were born.  My head is still spinning!

But this house is special.  We have a studio space that can accommodate young adults.  We currently have two sweet young ladies living there that bless our lives so much.  We are becoming family.  Not only is this house special, our whole block is special.  Like I mentioned, this house is on our church property.  We join a community with our pastor and family as well as another house that has two church members living on the property.  Our dream of living in community is happening before our eyes. 

So what is life like now? 

There are always people coming and going.  We have a steady stream of extended family around.  I love it.  There is always someone to join us at our table, someone to sit and chat with, and someone to throw a football or play xbox with our son. 

Would I have been able to live this way 15 years ago?  No way.  I would have resisted the intrusions.  I would have resented the interruptions.  God grew us into this life.  I am so grateful.  Mark and I are feeling useful and happy.  God is good.

So I continue to enjoy the view that God has given.  God has changed our perspective on so many things.  He is renewing our minds.  He is faithful to bring us to the point of surrender, then fill us with good things.  Our cup overflows.

Psalm 16

A psalm of David.

1 Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
3 The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.
5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
7 I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
    My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
    or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.