I went for a walk this morning- going out early to avoid the blackflies that have been taunting me when the sun shines. The trees were heavy with drops from the rain last night and the world glowed emerald. Breaths of cool, fresh, forest-scented air filled my lungs. Beauty like this always makes my heart ache because I know it taps into a part of my heart that is only satisfied in the beauty of its Creator.
In less than one week we will be winging our way once again across the vast world to the very different, yet beautiful land of the Philippines. I have mixed feelings and find myself in tears a lot. We were here in Canada long enough that I believe my heart started tricking me into thinking I was going to be here forever. And with that came a lot of comfort.
Comfort. Such a difficult word for me. Almost everything in my being craves comfort. But the really good things rarely come when I’m completely comfortable. And too much comfort usually ends up with me discomforted. All things to point me to the fact that this is not my forever home; this world, this body are not my final resting place.
So with the desire for more, for a greater purpose than comfort alone, we move on.
Our family traveled this weekend and stayed with a very special family for two nights. They offered to host us and from the moment we walked in their door on Friday night we were welcomed with open arms. It is no easy thing to host a family whom you’ve never met with four little kids. The kids immediately dove into the totes of toys they had waiting for them and spent every free moment playing with little playmoblie people in a four story play house they had.
They spoiled us rotten with delicious meals, gifted us with boxes of classic books and school supplies, loaned us their GPS for the rest of our time here in Canada and listened patiently as we rambled on and on about ourselves ad nauseum.
After we got back home tonight the girls discovered a bag of playmobile people and furniture that they sent home with us.
“They are sooooooooooooooooooo sweet!” Winnie exclaimed over and over. “I want to be like that,” she said.
So do I, Winnie. So do I.
At breakfast this morning our family was talking about joy. I’ve been struggling this week with being in a sort of mental funk- wanting to complain about everything and definitely not exhibiting joy. It came in handy as I was able to use myself as the example to the kids of what happens when a person lacks gratitude. Ha.
Anyway (moving on), it was a good conversation to have today because an hour or so later I found myself at our local government office inquiring about what is available for those who weren’t able to graduate from high school and want to finish their high school education. Even remedial jobs like janitorial, fast food, etc. require the employee to have completed high school and in most cases they must be working on secondary education to be employed in these jobs.
Education is highly valued here. Most people cannot expect to get far with anything short of a bachelor’s degree and in many cases, a master’s degree. And for the many who are unable to finish even their high school education due to lack of finances or other circumstances it is difficult to find the resources to complete their schooling even as adults.
I’ve discovered a program that will assist those in this category, however it is proving very difficult to find the right information from an individual who is willing to divulge it and I feel so sorry for anyone trying to do this without the resources I have available to me. My heart aches for a friend who I’m trying to assist. How would they ever be able to do this on their own?
It was the swift kick in the seat of the pants that I needed after my week of malcontent.
How dare I refuse to count blessings or turn a blind eye to those I could bless?
“Give me back the joy that comes from being saved by you.
Give me a spirit that obeys you. That will keep me going.”
How can I possibly sum up a week and a half in our new home in one blog entry? I think it is impossible, and most likely the things I think I’m learning about Filipino culture are skewed because of my own worldview.
This city is incredible. It assaults all of our senses.
The noise: honks, beeps, whistles, birds, roosters, screeching brakes, vehicles, vendors ringing bells or yelling out to get your attention. “Hey, Joe!” they yell out to any “Americano” male- a title that harkens back to World War II.
The tastes: juicy, ripe mangos (delicious and not anything like what you can buy back at home), wonderful Western guest house food, eating at the malls for a pittance compared to Western prices ($8 feeds our family at Sbarros, McDonald’s or Wendy’s), interesting foods that we haven’t been brave enough to try yet.
The smells: piles of garbage, open markets, smog, exhaust fumes, beautiful flowering trees, the stench of the meat section in most grocery stores, food, baby powder, perfumes and lotions. There is a great emphasis on personal hygiene and very little emphasis on public sanitation.
The feelings: the weight of the heat at noon, the filthy cloud of diesel smoke that speckles our face and rolls over our heads as a bus rumbles by, the endless stickiness that is only appeased by a shower and spreading baby powder over our arms, the breeze while sitting in front of a fan, sweat trickling down my cheek, and the best part of the day- 6:30pm when we go outside and the relief from the sun and the soft evening breeze makes me love it here.
The sights: the trickle of discolored liquid pooling into a hole in the pavement, a man scooping up polluted street water from a puddle into his water bottle, people going through garbage at the end of our lane, the cutest little dark eyed babies you’ve ever seen, immaculately dressed people riding colorful jeepneys, lush greenery in wealthier areas of town, colorful and busy market areas littered with garbage, roaming diseased dogs, and full of precious people who are crammed in the smallest of spaces.
On December 30th I turned 30. I can clearly remember thinking that 30 was old in my childhood. Thirty is right up there with “maybe 55? 80? 103?” in those guess-my-age games that adults like to play with kids. Birthdays like that make you think. What have I done in the past thirty years? What do the coming years hold?
By God’s grace, the past decade has been a time of incredible growth in my life. I’ve seen the brevity of life
and the faithfulness of God in a whole new light. I’ve learned a lot about my own sinful heart and the process of santification. I got married, had three children, two miscarriages, moved 9 times, lived in 4 towns, made many new friends and lost a few.
God is faithful. The Psalms include many reflections on the past and the evident faithfulness of God. Psalm 107 offers a synopsis of God’s work on the behalf of men in the past.
Verse 43 sums it all up:
“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things
and consider the great love of the LORD.”
So I’ve been spending a little time thinking about God’s faithfulness in the past and the surety of His faithfulness in the future.
I’m not scared of being thirty!
Lots of things lately have been pointing us to the Lord. I’m realizing more and more that on my own I am nothing. Only through Him do we do anything at all. Anything.
“But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.”
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, 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.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
I’ve been reading through Hebrews and got caught up with the first 17 verses of chapter 12.
-the race is not of our own choosing, but God’s (set before us)
-in order to run properly, we must lay aside that which hinders us…
I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down all the things that hinder me, but I can’t answer that question for you.
What hinders you? What is the race that God has you running with endurance? What does looking to Jesus look like for you today?
We need a clear picture of who God is and what He is like because what we think about God affects every area of our lives.