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PERSEVERING UNDER PRESSURE

Insistent ringing woke me from a deep sleep.  Stumbling out of bed, I answered the phone and heard my friend Jennifer’s voice, calling from the U.S.  Shaking my head to clear the grogginess, I tried to take in what she was telling me.  There had been a car accident.  Her sister’s husband had been driving.  The family was called to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Her sister, who had been seven months pregnant with her first baby, was killed instantly.

This must be a bad dream, I thought.  I kept praying that I would wake up and it would be over.

Less than a month earlier, I had packed up everything and moved to East Asia as an English teacher.  My roommate and I were just starting to find our way around town, getting to know our students, and beginning friendships with the local teachers at our school.  Our little northeastern town was starting to feel like home.

But after Jennifer’s phone call, I was ready to jump on the first plane back to the U.S.  My heart ached for Jennifer and her family, who seemed a million miles away.  In that moment, I doubted God’s  plan for me. I wondered if I’d made a mistake in coming to Asia.

Soon after, I received an email from a friend that addressed exactly what I was dealing with.  He described how his family had moved from Australia to Hong Kong when he was young to begin a new ministry.  Almost immediately after they arrived, however, news came of a family emergency in Australia, tempting his parents to give up their calling and move back home.

“The enemy loves to end things before they’ve even begun,” he wrote.  Though it was difficult, his family decided to stay in Hong Kong, and God greatly blessed their work in the years to come.  “It’s not a coincidence that this tragedy occurred right at the beginning of your time in Asia,” he continued, “but I’m praying for you to persevere.”

With God’s grace sustaining me, I stayed in Asia.
I talked and cried with Jennifer, my family prayed with me over the phone, and my roommate covered classes for me when I needed a break.  As I shared openly about my own loss, a local co-worker confided in me the pain of her father’s death in a car accident many years ago, and I had the opportunity to share with her the hope I have in Jesus.

That was just the beginning!  If I had left that first year, I would have allowed the enemy to rob me of all God had in store in the following four years in Asia.  Even in pain and loss, Jesus brings life and hope!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble (pressure).   But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Emphasis mine)

John 16:33 (NIV)

Going Vertical!

MJ

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MY INTERNAL G.P.S. (Guilt Positioning System)

directionsGuilt took me on a walk around the block the other night.  It was a perfect summer evening.  The sun was setting, and there was a light breeze, a welcome relief from the intense heat of the day.  Taking a deep breath, I tried to relax.  But my route was dictated by my internal G.P.S. – Guilt Positioning System.

Taking an immediate left out of my driveway led me in the opposite direction of our 97-year-old neighbor of more than twenty years.  I tried not to think of how long it had been since I had seen her.  She must get lonely, at home all day with her cat.  I really should visit her…

Crossing over the street, I chose to avoid the block where my Chinese friends with the adorable baby girl lived.  Months ago, I had promised to invite them over for dinner with my family, but my schedule always seemed too full.  Passing their street reminded me of my unfulfilled promise, and I felt the nagging shame of not being a faithful friend.

At the end of the street, I turned towards the lake, carefully steering away from the house of my childhood friend from India.  We had been best friends in 5th grade, but we lost touch when I moved out of the country for a year.  When I got back, I tried to contact her, but she was hurt and angry, and didn’t want to talk to me.  More than 20 years later, I’m still flooded with painful regrets whenever I pass her house.

My shoulders weighed down with condemning thoughts, I didn’t even notice the ducks on the lake or the pink crepe myrtles as I passed them.  Guilt and shame threatened to overwhelm me, and I had to remind myself of the promise in Romans 8:1-2“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (N.A.S.)

I began to breathe the truths deeply, taking big gulps of the fresh air of freedom.  I don’t have to believe the lies of the enemy that I am responsible for others’ feelings or reactions.  My neighbors have probably forgiven me and moved on, so why do I keep beating myself up about these things?  But even if others still hold onto grudges against me, if I repent for my part and surrender these concerns to God, He forgives me and gives me His peace.

Once again I was aware of the beauty around me – the sparkling lake in the fading sunlight, the geese flying in a V overhead.  There is no condemnation.  I can really be free of guilt and shame!

The next time guilt starts to lead me on a walk around the block, I’ll choose to walk in the truths of God’s Word instead!

GOING VERTICAL!

MJ

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THE SPOILING OF YOUR GOODS…

1129126_preacher_of_clothesOn a warm afternoon last week, I took advantage of the bright summer sunshine to dry a load of laundry on the clothesline in our backyard.  Working on my computer in the living room, I didn’t pay attention to the sound of our next-door neighbors power-washing the back of their house, until the smell of chlorine alerted me to a looming disaster.

Unbeknown by the neighbors, chemicals from their power-washing had sprayed over the fence and onto my clothes on the line.  To my horror, I discovered huge ugly bleach stains on several articles of clothing, including my favorite blue flowered sundress, a staple of my summer wardrobe.

“They’re just clothes, they’re just clothes”,  I reminded myself over and over, struggling to compose the rising feelings of indignation. And it didn’t help matters that our neighbor was not very sympathetic.

“Well, it’s not really my fault,” she quickly defended herself when confronted with the ruined clothing.  “Your clothesline is too close to the fence.  Maybe you should move it.”

I stewed inwardly the rest of the day.  She’s not even sorry about it!  She could at least apologize!  It can’t undo the damage, but she at least owes me that much!

As I was feeling sorry for myself, I remembered stories from my Italian grandma’s years as a missionary in Mexico.  Their small house was always crowded with lively teenagers from the church, or extra guests around the table, sharing plentiful dishes of lasagna and home-made meatballs.  My grandparents’ hospitality and generosity was often put to the test, as when one of the teens broke a valuable vase, or when a friend borrowed their car and accidentally drove it off a cliff! (The friend survived, miraculously, but the car did not.)

I can still see the twinkle in my grandma’s eyes as she told me, “Well, doll, all the things we have belong to the Lord, anyway.  He’s just letting us borrow them!”

And then she would quote Hebrews 10:34, “You joyfully accepted the spoiling of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”

Remembering my grandma’s words, I realized I needed to release my neighbors from any claim I felt I had for an apology or restitution. Asking the Lord to change my heart, I prayed for the grace to forgive.  And the next time I saw my neighbors, I was able to greet them with a smile, without any lingering resentment!

As an added blessing, my mother was able to work a miracle with dye and permanent markers to restore my blue flowered dress!  I wore it the very next day, and unless you knew what had happened, you couldn’t tell where the bleach spots had been!  Now every time I wear that dress, I’m reminded to forgive in the little things, and to “accept the spoiling of my goods with joy!”

GOING VERTICAL!

MJ