Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Power of the Tiny

I am small... by myself, I am insignificant, unnoticeable, powerless... but when you put me with others like, or similar to me, I can hold the power of life and death.

Think for a minute about the power of the tiny... a small seed grows into a giant oak tree... a raindrop by itself cannot water a flower, but trillions of raindrops can flood and destroy the very things that need it for life... A snowflake is harmless, but billions of snowflakes can become an avalanche and cause massive destruction... I could go on an on, all around us the tiny, the insignificant have great power and the tremendous potential for destruction when combined with each other.

So now, think about a letter... by itself, harmless (except for maybe the letter I, it has plenty of destructive power on its own)... but back to my thought... letters form words, words form sentences and sentences can change lives. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

Words have power... think of the gossip, the bully, the words most of us have probably spoken in anger and wished we could somehow stuff back into our mouths. Words can be like a sword, when thrust into the heart of another, they can cause tremendous damage. Healing can come, but rarely is the scar completely wiped away.

Recently I have watched the destruction of gossip and my heart is deeply convicted of the times when I know I have gossiped or listened to gossip. My wise friend said, "Gossip is power." Funny, but it made me think of the candy Pop Rocks.

Pop rocks are tiny pieces of sugar and corn syrup infused with carbon dioxide and when you put them in your mouth, they explode. They're fun for a minute, you might even think they taste good, but to continue the enjoyment, you have to keep putting them in your mouth.

Gossip (and bullying) are like Pop Rocks... it's fun, it's powerful because the gossiper knows something that others don't, but it only lasts for a moment and to feed the enjoyment and power of it, you have to keep doing it. (Thankfully Pop Rocks can't hurt us or our kids, I ate a ton of them growing up!)

But gossip can hurt. It betrays trust. It can bring pain to another who is probably already hurting. There is nothing... NOTHING... beneficial about gossip. I don't think all gossip is malicious, I do think sometimes we share something out of concern, but no matter what the motivation, gossip can cause great harm.

In 2015, I resolve to be careful of my words. If it's not my story to share, then I won't talk about it unless I have permission. That's the easier part (Keeping my mouth closed)... but I also resolve to not listen to gossip (that's where I'll need the courage to stand up and call it what it is). And if you hear me starting to gossip, please call me on it! The satisfaction those few moments might bring are just not worth the sour taste that gets left in my mouth and it's DEFINITELY not worth the pain I have seen it cause another.

And just so I could be sure I understood what gossip is, here is a definition from Merriam-Webster online, "Information about the behavior and personal lives of other people."  Pretty simple and it's definitely things I have NO business talking about.

Proverbs 16:24, "Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." May my words be seasoned with grace this year.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Out Of My "Comfort" Zone

I hesitated to tell this story because I was afraid anyone considering a trip to Africa might be 'scared' off if you thought you had to do this, but let me just say, you are free to say 'no' to anything you just can't stand the idea of doing...  So I could have said 'no'...  But...

It was the day we were out in the community around Project Canaan (PC), serving the families of the people who work at PC, and others in their community who were in need.  We had planted the garden of the sister I told you about earlier, A Hug From Heaven, and now we were going to work at the home of a single mom.

Her home was in a pretty remote location, so we reached a point in our journey when we had to get out of our nice comfortable Quantam, it's a van, and all pile into the back of a pick-up truck to go off-roading!  I think a vehicle had passed that way before, but it was the bumpiest ride I've ever taken...  and the most fun too!  (There is a country girl just bustin' to get out of this southern city girl!)

So we arrived at the home to find we had a lot of prep work to finish before we could plant the garden.  We grabbed our rakes and the guys grabbed the pick axes (I think that's what you call them) and we got to work.  At one point I stopped to rest for a minute (big mistake) and A. from PC, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet said, "You need to go into the manure pen and get some cow dung."

Now I have a history of misunderstanding what people say to me whose first language is not English (I am NOT good with language), so I smiled, pretended to misunderstand him, and got back to work...  ASAP!!  I was really hoping he'd mysteriously forget (or find someone else) and I'd be off the hook.

But no...  a little bit later my friend S and I took a break and we were chatting (silly girls)...  A. came over to us and said, "Take the seedlings out of the tub and go into the manure pen and fill it with cow dung."  I said, "A., is there a shovel?"  He said, "No, use your arms, scoop it, scoop it!"  S. and I looked at each other, our eyes big as wagon wheels, shrugged and said 'ok'.  I think we were in shock...  surely we had entered another dimension...  two southern city girls were going to scoop cow dung?!  And then we started laughing...  and we couldn't stop!

Thankfully A. must have realized he had asked the wrong girls and he sent another one of the PC guys to help us.  We raked (ok, I raked and S. who had gloves, scooped with something we found laying on the ground) and the PC guy scooped it into the tub with his hands!  For those who will know to ask the question, "Was it dried or fresh?"  It was both!

Of course I yelled for my mom to come get a picture...  I needed proof for Scott, and for myself too, for when I emerged through the rabbit hole...  or the wardrobe...  or whatever would take me back to my comforts I've become far too accustomed to...

We filled the tub and even managed to spread it in the garden, but I have to admit, I was a little ashamed a few minutes later...  A. didn't send us back to refill the tub, instead a child, probably not more than 10-12, came walking up with a big flour sack that they had filled with cow dung, and emptied it into our tub for us.

I am such a soft woman...  I know it's 'city life'...  the culture I live in...  but I can't stand that doing things their way...  is such a novelty to me...  I hate that bugs scare me...  I hate that the thought of a snake freaks me out...  and I hate that standing in a manure pen (with all of its smells) grosses me out.

A friend of mine (another S.) wrote last year that his comforts are an idol to him...  I have thought about that all year...  and it was so real to me on this trip.  I did my best to 'suck it up' and experience everything, but I really did feel like a visitor from another dimension.  And there were things I couldn't let myself fully enjoy because of the things I was afraid of...

I am thankful for my comforts and I am blessed to have them...  But I need to find a way to stop letting the absence of them limit me (like what to do when you're in a country that has no Orkin man)...  I have no idea how to make that happen, so I'll just start with praying about it... (Ugh...  I wonder if that will turn out to be like praying for patience?!)

I guess we'll just have to see what happens... Who knows, maybe I'll find that country girl in me yet and learn to be a little more like the women who are quickly becoming my heroes... some of the women of Swaziland who are fearlessly, hard workers.  Women who don't complain, but just do...  Women whose joy overflows, and their trust in God is unshakeable, no matter what the circumstances are...  Maybe in part because comfort is not an idol to them!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Still Pondering...

My dad called me yesterday and wondered what happened to the rest of my stories (yes, I love that he was still looking for them!)...  I didn't mean to drop off the face of the planet, but I got really sick when I got home.  I thought I was getting better, but then fever and a nasty respiratory infection hit me like a truck and I just haven't felt like doing much of anything...

That...  And, for some reason, this trip is sitting really close to my heart...  I've always loved Luke 2:19...  It's after Jesus is born, the shepherds have come and Mary must be caught in a whirlwind of emotions, it says, "But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."  Everyone is talking about what has happened, but Mary is keeping everything close.  I wonder if she was turning the events over and over in her mind, letting the fullness of them touch the deep places of her soul?  When I let things touch me that deeply, those are the things that change me...

And that was this trip for me...  There are memories...  pictures that are permanently etched in my mind... on my heart...  To some they might not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was God in the whispers...  I still want to tell some stories...  but I think I still need a few more days to ponder them...

I'll say this, there is one word that characterized this trip for me...  Relationship...  It was one of the sweetest trips I've ever made there...  I love the people there more than ever and I can't wait for next year...  If you're still waiting for more stories, like my dad, thank you!  It's a gift when people want to know your stories!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Even When We Think It's Wrong, Part 2

I have to say, God had a lesson for me on this trip, one that I won't soon forget!  Yesterday, I was so disappointed with how it seemed things were turning out...  And not completely out of selfishness, Zack's really close friend and a sweet friend of mine from church and her son came on this trip and I just wanted it to be perfect...  granted, my idea of perfect...  And as usual, God's plan is FAR better than we ever imagine!

Today was one of the sweetest, most incredible days I've ever spent in Swaziland.  It started with a great devotion to look for God in the small moments...  the whispers...  And that's where I found Him all day long!!

Since we couldn't do the TOMS shoe distribution today, and we finished our planting yesterday, all we could do was play and talk to the men and women in the community all day!  Wow...  WOw...  WOW!!

Here are just some of the highlights of the day...  Zack's friend, C., playing guitar and singing How Great Is Our God...  Oh Happy Day...  And so much more!  And them singing with us!!  Children running to hold your hand or giving you a great big smile because you stopped to 'see' them!  Sweet conversations with the women in the community, spending special time with my Swazi sister, M.J. and getting to know the other women even better too...  Watching the young people on our team love on the children and youth of the community...  literally pouring themselves out and shining the love of Jesus!  A visit to a woman who has become very dear to me over the last 3 trips and who is very ill...

That story deserves some special attention...  I have grown to love this gogo SO much...  Her hugs engulf you, she dances with me when we worship, and during church, she pulls me onto the bench right among the other women of the church...  I just love her!

But today, as I watched and watched for her, she never came...  So I asked MJ about her and found out she is very sick.  And then we learned she is home from the hospital and we went to visit her...  Words will never express the sweetness of what we experienced...  The Swazi women walking in the door singing to her, beautiful praises to Jesus...  And then praying for her...  Praying like I don't hear at home...  Pouring themselves out on behalf of their sweet sister...   And then getting to wrap my arms around her and pray for her also...  If we had done the TOMS shoes today, that never would have happened.  Even when we think it's wrong, it may be PERFECT!!  And it was!!  But please, if you think of E., say a prayer for her healing.

I can't believe this trip is coming to an end... The time here just grows sweeter each time, their love is so tangible, Jesus is so evident in them...  They are just so special.  Tomorrow is our last day here, we leave on Monday...  I am not ready!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Even When We Think It's Wrong...

Just yesterday, our VERY wise friend, E., said, "Even when we think it's wrong, it may be right."  It's almost like God left those words ringing in my heart to prepare me for today.  It's not that today was bad, it was actually a really sweet day, but it just didn't go as planned.

When we arrived, we received some sad news, the pastor's sister-in-law passed away and Pastor and his wife had to leave to go to the funeral.  They had to leave early today and they won't be there tomorrow at all.  I love spending time with them and now it will be such a short time.  But more than that, I had an idea of what this trip would look like...

I thought today we would get to go into the community and meet some families... I thought tomorrow we would do the TOMS shoes distribution...  And I thought Sunday would just be a sweet day of worship and feeding many of the children from the community...  I... I... I... thought...  Many are the plans of a man's heart BUT God directs our paths! 

Today one of the women from the church brought her young son who was so sick.  He's been throwing up and diarrhea for over a week.  But she didn't have the money to take him to the hospital.  Do you know how much she needed for the bus ride and the hospital?  70 Rand...  that's a little over $10!!  $10!!  Yes, she's at the hospital tonight with her son!  Do you know if we had followed my plan, we would have been out in the community at a home?  We would not have been where God needed S, one of our team members, to see this sick child.

I have no idea what these next two days hold...  Tomorrow we will play with the children all day!  And Sunday we will worship, put shoes on possibly more than 400 children and feed them.  I have no idea how ALL of that will happen in the few hours that we have, but God is the author of time, so He can stretch the minutes!  

I am thankful that God sees so much more of the picture than I do and that even when I think it's wrong, it's really just perfect!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I'm not even sure how to describe today...  In many ways I was a spectator, in the right place at the right time to see the hand of God...  But I was a participant too and it's one of those days I never want to forget...

The morning began with a devotion and time of prayer.  As we circled up for prayer, I wrestled with the idea of asking that God would put someone in our path that needed to be seen by Him.  I wrestled because those are the things I read about in books, or on other blogs, but I honestly didn't think God would answer a prayer like that for me...  But I stepped out in faith and that was my prayer request for the day.

Backtrack...  8 years ago, mom and another member of our team, Stan, made their first trip to Swaziland.  On that trip, they met a lady, I'll call her B...  my mom has never forgotten her.  Every time we visit her village, my mom asks about her.  She even has our friend E. call and ask about her from time to time.  But she has never seen her again.

Fast forward...  today we were so blessed to pick up the son and daughter of the family we were visiting so they could go with us.  And as we neared their home, mom and Stan saw a woman who had fallen by the side of the road.  As Stan was about to ask the driver to back up to help her, my mom asked the son about B and he said, "that was her."

After 8 years, God literally put her in our path!  I never imagined that God's answer to my prayer and heaven's bear hug for my mom would be one and the same!  He truly does work in wonderful ways!  The coolest part, when mom got out of the van, she squinted up at my mom and said, "I remember you!"  She is 100 years old!

My faith is so small far too often!  I am so thankful for days like today when God leaves me speechless with wonder!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Hug From Heaven!

The God who sees...  The God who provides...  The God who loves...  The God who laughs...  I have experienced so many facets of God's character today and what a GRAND adventure it was!!

This is my favorite story though...  Today we visited two homesteads in the community surrounding Heart For Africa's Project Canaan.  When we do the visits, one of the many things we do is to take a couple of items of clothing for each family member.  You'd think I'd learn by now, but I'm always concerned that we'll have the right size items for the children there, we never want one to leave empty handed, and they never do.

But today was really special...  Our list said that one of the children was a 7 year old girl, but in reality, the child was a 7 year old boy instead.  Most of the children's clothing our team had brought was for babies and toddlers, so we were really short on school children's clothing.  But last night, a member of another team gave us a couple of extra items (just in case)...  Yep, you guessed it, the items were shirts that perfectly fit a 7 year old boy!

But the moment that just made my heart sing was when I realized that we had the greatest jacket and t-shirt for the young woman who was caring for her mentally disabled brother and the children in the home.  She had the most beautiful heart.  She was such a GREAT caretaker for him and it was one of those times when you just wish you could give someone the moon because they are so special...  That was this young woman. She didn't ask for anything for herself, but when I handed her an aqua blue jacket and coral t-shirt, you would have thought she won the lottery!  She was SO excited and SO grateful!  And it hit me...  my mom brought that jacket and when she packed it, she had no idea what joy it would bring to a young woman, but God did!

He saw...  He loved...  He gave her a hug from heaven!  And we just got to stand by and watch it all unfold!