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Thank You and Shalom


Tonight, I need to say thank you.

Our dear friends from across the world leave in the morning. They board a bus and head out for American dreams in Columbus, Ohio. They take bags that look and smell so much like the ones we helped them to pull off of the carousel at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport nearly three years ago. They will hold a coffee urn, several china espresso cups, spices, and a coffee serving set. They will hold children’s clothing and a few beautiful outfits that will be worn on special occasions – birthdays, Christmas celebrations, etc . They will hold some American mementos picked up along the way, hopefully, too…maybe a book, probably a DVD, and likely a few pictures that they’ve taken during their time in Clarkston. I imagine they will hold the plastic sheets with images of Mary and baby Jesus that were their main apartment décor over the time we’ve known them.

I need to tell them Thank You, but our communication is still not clear enough for them to read this note. I weep because I cannot tell them the whole Thank You. A hug had to do. The small words “Thank You” had to be enough when we left them last week.

I need to tell them Thank You for their hearts – for their bravery and their fortitude and most of all for their sense of humor. The smiles and laughter that always embraced any mishap. Those are true gifts…ones I possess scarcely, but hope to possess more strongly.

I need to tell them Thank You for their children – for each precious soul who eagerly opened up their hearts to our own kids and helped to teach us all that communication is 99% not dependent on the spoken word.

I need to tell them Thank You for inviting us – for inviting us into their vulnerable spaces of child bearing and job searching and driving tests and school problems and neighbor love and pest control issues and acclimation to cold weather and semi-urban life.

I need to tell them Thank You for loving us – in their way. For continuing to offer us the third cup of coffee, even when our American selves were too busy to drink it, time and again. We seemed to always have to go – two hours in – after only two cups of artistic love.

I need to tell them Thank You for being our friends – for looking past our foibles and our pride and for welcoming us into their hearts as much as we hoped to welcome them into ours.

I need to tell them how much we will miss them. Not the idea of a refugee friend, not the “chance to serve,” not the family opportunity. THEM. We will miss them. We love them so much. They are our friends. We will miss them.

I need to tell them goodbye.

But I don’t want to.

Shalom, dear friends. May His peace be upon you.

The first coffee ceremony we had in 2010.

The first coffee ceremony we had in 2010.

Until we meet again…


Goings on


Highlights in Clarkston

As I mentioned in “Returning to Say Thank You,” we are beginning to see life and opportunity for more connection in Clarkston. 

A few points of update…

Our friend “G” is still looking for a job.  We have been able to use his help on some of the landscaping needs at the bungalow and in the subdivision, but we’d love leads for him or prayers for his work.  He is a very intelligent, very hard worker.

As of the end of this week, all three of the subdivision houses will have closed!  This is huge – it is an answer to so much prayer and so much faith on the part of the owners of the homes.  I’m so grateful to each family for waiting and praying and patiently overlooking our fumblings and for being willing to move into community there!

Our house building is creeping forward.  We wish for great leaps, but know God’s hand is in the small shuffles.  We are meeting with the city this week to try to answer some questions pertinent to us getting a permit.  Prayers are welcome!

We had a meeting at church last week, where two (and possibly three) families stepped forward to want to become friendship partners with newly arriving refugee families.  Yeah!  We are very excited for this next phase of church involvement and of building community that will facilitate transformational relationship.

We would like to have a work day in Clarkston on August 3rd.  You can pray that God will facilitate that process and give us creativity for what it can look like.

Some youth from church are supposed to be serving in an apartment community in Clarkston mid July.  Please pray that God will open doors for that to take place and to be meaningful.

That’s just about it for now…


Yeast and Salt


The end of the school year and the start of summer always expose the hard mommy-places for me.  Our blended family forces become stronger as we work out custody arrangements and ask the perennial questions like, “who will pay for that?” or, “whose time will that camp fall on?”  And, my work / home balance becomes more acute, as finding childcare in the summer is expensive and a balancing act.

As a woman and a mom, I know I hold to certain ideals fairly strongly.  Seasonally, I think summer is one of those mommy-times that begs me to reach for the attainment of the ideal.  Lazy pool days, burgers on the grill, trips to the library, a week at the beach, and bored children playing card games in the rain.  These things capture what I think summer ought to look like.  Bummer, though, that I feel like I have to steal those moments from my own life.  This year, our summer as a family will consist of a grand total of one week at home with all five of us present.  One week is hardly enough space to fit a summer’s worth of life.

Expectation/reality clashes are where I reach toward control…toward careful design of my own destiny to avoid disappointment.  I am tempted to drill down on all of the corners of the uncertainty, leaving very little room for anything that is not planned or choreographed.  This summer feels more likely to catch me off guard since the move to Clarkston is nebulous and pending. So, I’m really fighting hard against the urge to allow hyper-urgent mommy or, on the flip side, throw-her-hands-up-depressed mommy to win the day.

Lately, as I’ve been asking God to open my heart more to His gospel and His Jesus, I have been finding the word “trust.”  Every time I turn around in Scripture, I see that word and her sister word, “believe.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in Him.” Psalm 34:8 (Trust involves believing in God’s goodness.)

“Then they despised the pleasant land, they did not believe His word.” Psalm 106:24 (Believing God’s word is the anti-venom for despising our “pleasant lands.”)

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25 (Fear of man is misplaced trust – wanting man to come through when God is the only one who can.)

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.'” Mark 9:23-24 (Wow.  The tension of my mother’s heart.)

Summer comes.  Every year. Every year, I must stare the expectation / reality gap in the face and decide whether I am going to control or trust.  When I control, I grab as much of my life as I can and hold it tightly.  By the end of the exercise, I find that my life has become very small, and my big plans have become subject to my own inadequacies. This type of life is like having a breath-holding contest with myself every day.  I turn purple and nearly pass out every time!

Or, I can trust.  Trust feels small to start with.  Trust God to continue to redeem our family.  Trust Jesus to cover both my striving and my lack.  Trust that the Holy Spirit is present, and that the Word of God is living and active. When I trust, I taste and see God’s goodness even in the 10 weeks of summer that aren’t up to my ideal…I experience confidence in the “pleasant lands” because He is trustworthy…I lay down my comparisons with other summer-mommies (fear of man) and find safety in being His daughter…I sense Christ’s regard for my mother’s tears and His encouragement that, “all things are possible to Him who believes.”

Bottom line, trusting God allows me to walk in the unknown places without fear.

Salt and yeast – small things with big impact.

Last fall, I put two jars in my windowsill.  They hold yeast and salt.  They remind me that, when we move to Clarkston, we go as bearers of His leaven and His savory presence.  It only takes the tiniest bit of yeast and salt to change the composition of a recipe.  It only takes a tiny bit of trusting for God to “show up big” and open up the wide places. The jars remind me that I only need to trust, I don’t need to understand or to control.

This summer, I pray to lay hold of small trust so that I can move into the big places of grace.

“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through all of it.'” Matthew 13:33

“Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you make it salty? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50