Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why We Keep On Singing

Bonjour!
We made it (more on that another day).

Now that I am in France I find myself disconnected.  Disconnected from friends and family and disconnected spiritually.  The spiritual food was free and free flowing in the land that I come from.  Now I have to forage for my own food because even the places serving here are speaking a tongue my heart can't recognize (YET).

So this new situation finds me a little more frequently in the land of social media.  I am a little more inclined to read the articles that circulate on Facebook if they are posted from a trusted friend.

The other day I found myself in just such a situation, reading a blog that was entitled Stop Singing Oceans or something to that effect.  I have sung that song so I opened it up for a read.

The author makes a good point that many people sing words in songs at church that they do not mean and that they never intend to follow through with.  This is her main point and I have no argument with the need to search our own hearts as we come to worship and that the words we sing should mean something.  (What follows is not an argument against her thoughts but where my heart has taken me since reading. )

Today I found myself thinking as I hiked back from class with my favorite Sojourn tunes blaring in my ears... what if I stopped singing every song that made me a hypocrite?  What if I stopped singing the songs that were hard for me or that I had blatantly contradicted with my thoughts or actions?  What if my struggle with fear and unbelief were put on a scale and weighed with the strength and passion of the words I sing?

I would have nothing to sing.
Sunday mornings would be mute.
People with their heads bowed low in shame... or no people at all because their half hearted attempt was exposed... why waste time faking it if you can't do it right?

We cannot do anything for God that He cannot do himself.
We have nothing to offer.

One thing I loved about Sunday gatherings is the idea that it is a time to remind ourselves of who we truly are.  
During the week you might do any manner of things that make you believe something about yourself... failure, weak, ugly, disappointment, selfish etc...
You and I are people with acute amnesia.
We need to meet together and remind each other of who we really are.

We are children of the one and only God.
We have been called and justified and LOVED.
We are being sanctified, renewed day by day, forgiven.

No matter how messed up you are, even if you can't muster up the strength to pretend you care, if you have been saved by the blood of Christ you can sing out.

Maybe for only a millisecond you truly mean with your heart what you sing... God can.
God can move you... even if you don't mean it!
God is bigger than your passion or lack thereof.
God is stronger than the clutch you have on your wallet, unbelieving boyfriend, identity.

I can say this with confidence b/c look at where I am!!
I prayed hundreds of times growing up that God WOULD NOT call me to overseas missions.  Maybe this is because I felt the nudge or just b/c I was terrified to be taken so far out of my comfort zone... As I grew up I felt I had a say in my destiny and so I no longer felt the need to pray against such a calling.
Then after years of struggling and uncertainty I opened my hands and in a short and simple prayer (not really even for myself as much as my hubs) I told God I was completely open, asked Him to reveal his will and I would go or do whatever.
Ummmm... two years later I was moving out of my house and waiting for Visas to move to France.
What the what?!

So brother.  Sister.  Raise your hands and sing out.  Open your heart as much as you can to your God. Ask the Spirit to help you.

You won't do it perfectly.
You will struggle to stay focused.  You will be distracted by that girl's super cute cardigan or that guy's awesome voice or that missed keyboard note or the cold or the hot or your whatever....
You can't worship right.
You can't make yourself holy or presentable before the sovereign God.
You just get to come in your rags and allow some one else to cloth you with their righteousness.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Counting Down...For Real

We have a date!
Not the same kind of date we have had in the past... where we were hoping that by a certain day we would be able to go.
More like we are actually leaving on this specific day!  (Lord willing, of course)

Our visas have arrived at the French Consulate in Chicago!
This is the movement we have been waiting on for MONTHS!!
Now, we will have to travel to Chicago to have a final interview and turn in the last bit of paperwork and then we should receive our Visas!

Our teammates in Louisville are actually interviewing tomorrow and we should interview some time next week!
Thus, they hope to leave by the 10th of March and we will follow on the 18th!

It is hard to believe that this is real after so many delays and bumps in the road.
It's hard to believe we are going to begin living in France in just a few short weeks.
It's extra hard to believe our little SJ will begin French school only a week after we arrive!

Our lives are about to be turned upside down and inside out!

AND WE ARE SO THANKFUL!

We are ready to jump in with both feet.

Just as having a baby/child is WAY harder than being pregnant and yet you still yearn to deliver that baby after 40 weeks... we have been waiting and praying and looking forward to this new step even though we know it will be harder than we can imagine or prepare for.

Please join us in praying for the weeks ahead and our transition!



Monday, January 20, 2014

At the RIGHT Time.

Guess where I am?
In Texas.

Were you getting excited, did your heart start to race thinking about us finally in France?  We know how you feel, it's sort of disappointing right?

At this point, our departure has been delayed at least four times.
Four times we have begun to pack and say goodbye and four times delayed.

Some times the delays are frustrating.  For me, the first delay was the worst but once my expectations were broken down, each new hurdle is less and less surprising and therefore less upsetting.
However, as the days tick on, though I am not distraught or frustrated, I am beginning to feel worn down and a little blah.

Fundraising is a trial as well.  We got off to a great start with very faithful family and friends.  Then there was a lull and then another big push.  Then, things seemed to come to a screeching halt.  We would check our account and there would be no change again and again.  We began to wonder what God was doing and how the rest of the funds would be raised but we also knew, there was basically nothing else we could do but wait on the Lord to provide.  When you've asked every one you know, and every one they know and some people you don't even know... there's not much else to do.

So we have been waiting.

My sweet and godly Nana has reminded me over the last year that God ALWAYS provides but that often it is at the last minute, when we've stopped trying to do it ourselves, when we've almost given up.

I know this is true but it's hard to grasp when you approach the end again and again only to get an extended stay.  So when exactly is that "last minute" when God will act.

So we have been waiting and praying.

Oh man that sounds so godly and missionary-like... ha.  And we have waited and prayed but we've also cried and gotten mad and stomped our feet and thrown up our hands.  But after the tantrum, we still have to wait and what better to do when desperately waiting, than pray?

Today the clouds seemed to part and God brought in some last minute hope!
We found out that our remaining financial need is lower than we previously thought.
We have made some amazing community here in TX and they have faithfully prayed for us and one of these couples is using their frequent flier miles to book all three of our tickets to France... saving us thousands of dollars.
We also had word from the people who have our Visas that they will hopefully/probably/maybe be sent to the states THIS WEEK, which will enable the rest of our team to pack up and book tickets!
We are anticipating a new launch around the end of the third week of February!
We will be official leasers of a French apartment THIS WEEK!
My health is slowly but surely improving.  I am actually breathing out of at least half my nose right now!  (chapped lips rejoice!)

And to top off all of this wonderful news, it is 70+ degrees and sunny today and it's our first tantrum free day with the little one in over a week!

As I have been reflecting on the lessons all of this delay has brought, a verse pops into my head...

Romans 5:6   While we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.

I am so thankful to God for his saving grace and again and again He is showing me that I am still helpless and weak and that He does things at just the right time... His timing.

So even though I am sure there are more bumps in the road ahead and more tantrums and delays... Christ died for me at the right time and continues to work out His plan for His glory in His timing.

Praise be to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When It Rains It...

Pours.

As I grew up I heard this phrase a lot.  My "bad luck" was infamous among family and friends and still comes up as a joke quite a lot.
When I married Drew he disliked this jargon.  He was quick (and right) to point out that our lives are not marked by luck and bad luck and that God's hand is not to short to ordain each moment and day.

Then in a class it came up again when the prof talked about how God will do everything and anything it takes to conform you into the image of Christ.

I latched on to this idea and has brought me comfort in hard times again and again
.
This sucks... but am I looking more like Christ?
This suck... but there is a loving plan.

However, there are times when trial after trial comes and my faith begins to quiver.  I begin to compare and complain in my heart.

I struggle to see people who seem to have a charmed life with out bump or bruise (I know it's not pretty!).  Things just go right for them.  I can't understand why this seems to be true based on the every day evidence and yet doesn't seemed confirmed in Scripture that talks about God's love for all people and his plan in my personal formation.

I want to feel his gentle love flowing over me in every moment but sometimes I don't.
It doesn't mean it's not there... but I'm numb.

So what now?

I retrace my steps... back to the Bible and in an instant my heart is humble again, soft again, refocused on what truly matters... not others... but Christ.

I am thankful that this season is all about focusing on Christ.
It truly is a wonder to think about GOD coming as an embryo and then tiny babe in the womb and then born in a manger and raised by humans... WHY WOULD HE DO THIS?!?
The only thing I can think of is love.

Not because some one told me the answer is love but because it makes no sense otherwise.

Why would he go to such lengths to save a hardened and sinful world.
Why would he sacrifice himself for some one like me that struggles and sins in the same ways again and again?

Love.

And in that word, in that truth, there is a sigh of relief...


____

Please pray for us this season!  We are on the cusp of leaving for France and many days it seems like if it can go wrong, it does!
We need financial support, health, and a place to live in FR and the patience to wait for each of those things to unfold in their time.

Blessings this Christmas.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sorting

When we arrived in Dallas, a day later than planned, we dumped everything from the truck into the "front room".  Boxes and bags hang over arms of chairs and lean on each other, creating a maze of chaos.
We were able to extract the boxes full of kitchen spices, pans and food and load them up in the kitchen.  (Yes, my mother in law is a patient patient woman... and I cook her dinner =)  )
Then you have our room, clothes and blankets and pillows spilling over and under every surface.

Chaos.

It is often said that the way we respond to those we love or events in life reflect our relationship with our Lord and Savior... they reflect where our heart is.

"For out of the abundance ofthe heart the mouth speaks."  (Matthew 12:34)

As I began to see emotions bubbling out of my soul I started to try to look deeper and met with static.
You know that fuzzy screen you got back when TV channels were turned manually and most of them didn't work?

Just as my stuff is mixed and jumbled, so is my heart.

Away from my rhythms and routine, away from all the things that make me feel like me, who am I?
When I am not feeling on my mark and ready to sprint across the ocean, am I qualified to be a missionary?
When my child doesn't like me and is struggling and my husband is stressed and overworked and I still respond poorly, how can I call myself a Christian wife and mother?

Grace.

Ah, breathe a sigh of relief here.

When an angry mob, full of adrenaline and blood-lust rushed to Jesus and threw a woman at his feet, ready... wanting to kill her and trap him at the same time... what did he do?

Pause.

Grace.

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7)

Where are the accusers? Gone.

Gone.

I am not accused.
I am loved.

Just thinking about the peace and calm Jesus had during this exchange brings peace and confidence to my heart.
This is the Jesus I am following and trusting.
This is the Jesus I want others to know!

I am blessed beyond words.

I am so thankful for all of the blessings I have had in Louisville (and still have).
I am thankful for a wonderful place to stay in the meantime and time to spend with family.
I am thankful that even when life turns upside down, my Savior is there with peace and grace for my wayward heart.

Today I sorted through some boxes, literally and spiritually and am feeling a little less chaotic.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Little Bruise




The day after driving from Louisville to Texas I bumped my knee and fell to the floor sobbing.
Granted, I did bump it very hard and there is already a bruise, but I have a feeling the tears were not about the bump.
I barely slept the night before, waiting for my daughter to wake up crying in the night, sweating through my clothes and not knowing where I was.
I never sleep well the first night away from home.
Then I woke up to a very needy and moody preschooler, who was ready for the day long before the sun.  And despite this wake up call, I was still managing to run late for our new preschool appointment.  It is twenty degrees warmer here than the home we left and thus I have nothing to wear... nothing that isn't packed in random, unlabeled bags and rashly packed boxes.
So, it was sorting through just such a bag or box that I managed to totally abuse my knee and fall into sobs.
Up to the day of our departure I shed nary a tear.  I was happy, excited about our new journey.  I was confident each of my amazing friends would stay in touch and continue our friendship (and still hope).  I was amazed at the opportunities already being presented for us to meet people and get SJ into school.  I was too busy to bother with tears.  It was obviously the Lord!
However, packing up our truck on that gray day was more sorrow-filled than I was ready for.  But even then, in the hustle and bustle I only shed a few quick tears and then was forced to carry on.  So, bumping that dreadfully boney knee was my first chance to let the flood gates open.
In those five minutes of tears I mourned not seeing my fellow mom friend every day as we take our daughters to the same quirky preschool class.  I mourned our fabulous fridays filled with other moms and their kids and the amazing fall weather of Louisville.  I mourned my home with my kitchen and my room and my stuff organized my way.   I mourned our amazing community church where we had been served and served.
Then I got up, changed clothes...again, and headed out the door to begin our life for the next two months.  Our life in-between two worlds.  That weird blank page after the last page of your favorite novel that is between you and your next story.
Despite all the bruises, I am actually relieved to cry and let it out and admit that there is sorrow amidst the joy and excitement.  I am praying we fill this blank page with meaning and memories and that there will not be a single page wasted.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

Four Weeks

We have four weeks left in Louisville.
When I turned my calendar from September to October I just stood still in the kitchen and stared at the page.  Black numbers with bright pink words dashed all around.  How did we get to October and how is my calendar already full?

October is one of my favorite months.

Yes, I am weird and have favorite months and favorite days and favorite times of day etc.
So, October is one of my favorite months because it represents all things fall.  Pumpkins and apples are ripe for picking.  Pumpkin Spice Lattes are everywhere.  The wind is cool and the sun is warm.  The days are shorter but still long.  You may need a jacket and you can wear boots.
We were married Sept. 30, which is basically October too!  (Happy 7 to us! 7 is one of my favorite numbers!)
October is also when SJ was born!  So we will have a house full of wild princesses very soon.

This October is special because it is our last month in Louisville for a long while.
We are having a dance party to raise support for our mission.
We are going to farms and fall festivals.
We are having a going away party.
We are having a birthday party.
And in the mix, we are packing up our lives and moving.

Random Praise Story:
Friday I was having a hard day being a mom (I had no clue four year olds could argue and act sullen like 14 year olds!)
So I was just about to call Drew and let him know about my day and ask for prayer and encouragement ... but first I needed to go to the bathroom and I could talk to him on my way to pick up SJ from school.  Then PLUNK... phone into the toilet.  SERIOUSLY?!?!  What timing!
I shot D an email and we both posted on Facebook that we needed a phone for the next two months.
This quickly turned into a praise because 1. when I picked up SJ we were able to have a heart to heart moment and I was able to reverse my own attitude and enjoy some time with her and 2. had to rely on God more than others to comfort me in my need and 3. a friend of ours offered me her old iphone on loan!
So after many years with only the most basic phone I am in the iphone world and what a world it is!
----
The reason this story is relevant is that one of the hard things about having so much going on is it is hard for me to keep up on the day to day.  Last week alone I missed two appointments just because I forgot and was busy with other things.
So now I can keep my calendar with me and add to it as things strike me... b/c they rarely strike me at home but weird places like pick up line or highway or line at the grocery!


Quick Update on France and Funding:

HUGE PRAISE!!!  We are very close to reaching our full goal for our $45,000 launch fund!
We still need $2000 in monthly support, which can also be viewed as approximately $24,000 in one-time gifts for the next year.

To give:  bit.ly/sojournlyon-lewis

Another praise is that we have several options open to us for SJs preschool in the DFW area.  This was something I had almost given up on and then all of the sudden several opportunities arose!  I am happy we can keep up that routine for her.

Please continue to pray for our financial support to come in.  We are planning to leave by the end of the year.
Please also pray for our team leaders who are already in France and recently found out a family member here in the States has terminal cancer.
Pray for our other team members who are also raising support and raising two little boys at the same time!
Pray for us as we move and pray for SJ as she makes several hard transitions.
Pray for us as we parent her, we need constant guidance and grace.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!