Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

Chapter 3 - The Shadow of a Tree

"Sin: she knew there was such a thing as plain sin, not something any psychiatrist could absolve or explain away. Even worse, the sins of omission. She quoted some poet whose name she did not know: 'O unattempted loveliness! / O costly valour never won!' "

Review of Important Highlights

Beyond the continued development of the story of Van and Davy’s love, The Shining Barrier that is, Chapter 3 introduces the second major story line of the book: their experience with Christianity. Both characters are confronted with the issue of Christianity, but at separate times and places. After a terrifying night when her sins “had come out and paraded before her, ghastly in appearance and mocking in demeanor,” the awareness of her own depravity weighs heavily upon Davy.

Several major elements of Van and Davy’s quest for “eternal springtime inloveness” are carried forward in this chapter, most notably the realization of their dream to sail the open waters together in their ship, Grey Goose. As Amy noted in last week’s discussion, Vanauken continues to remind us that they were pagans, though ironically their growing realization of this truth comes through individual, separate experiences – not in relation to their exclusive commitments of love to one another.

After a safe ending to a potentially dangerous situation is established, the shuddering fright “at the thought that we might have lost each other” further reinforces Van and Davy’s exclusive and absolute focus on one another. While their fright in response to the possibility of losing one another is quite natural, it recalls their previous commitment to take their own life if ever faced with losing one another in a tragedy. As the chapter draws to a close, a brief mention is made of an ultimately inaccurate diagnosis of an obscure ailment that prescribed a restful life for a few years. So after a season of sailing, followed by a season of studying and sailing, Van and Davy are now headed to England to fulfill a dream of studying at Oxford.

Points of Reflection

There are two primary passages in this chapter that stuck out to me. The first is Vanauken’s reflection in connection to his uneasiness with Davy’s awareness of her sinful nature. He writes, “But the truth was that I was far too remote from Christianity to judge anyone else’s distance from it…but I did not know the place from which all distances are measured.” Having grown up in a home centered on Christian truths and values, I often feel that my primary evaluation of things is their relation to Christianity. Vanauken’s statement really helped me to consider the abstract nature of Christianity for those who have regarded it as “a mere local religion of earth, quite inadequate for the immensities of the farflung galaxies.” His initial reflections on the oddity of highly intentional people believing in it, people who were previously atheists and agnostics, made me smile because I often find myself musing over the same thing.

The second passage I’ll comment on is one that I have always loved – the night of the sea-fire. Vanauken’s descriptive writing drew me in and nearly convinced me that I could feel the cool, fresh air around me and see the beauty of waters illuminated by glowing of the phosphorescence. My favorite part of the description, however, is the moment being “utterly timeless … contain[ing] therefore, some foretaste, it may be, of eternity.” The significance of this concept will be drawn out again in coming chapters, but for now the description of the moment is what has captured my thoughts.

What about you? How do you relate to the descriptions of recognizing spiritual truths in what appear to be momentary experiences? I’m curious to hear how your own spiritual journeys might be resonating with this account, or how they are different, as mine is. Let’s hear what you liked most and least about this chapter. I’ll be jumping back into the conversation this weekend – see you then!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coffeegirl, Come On Down...

[what's brewing: a showcase showdown]

I’ve always loved watching game shows, and I was particularly excited when computer based versions came out and I could compete against my siblings on Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. I’m a fairly competitive person and take all games very seriously. I even compete against myself to make everyday situations more interesting.

It is therefore no surprise that I have created my own version of The Price is Right here in my new city. Take away the lights, the glitter, the blonde assistants and the iconic host, and you’re left with a fairly accurate depiction of my market experiences. It took me awhile to realize this, but now that I have, shopping is much more interesting for me.

As the next contestant in the competition, I exit my taxi and put my game face on – a far more serious and calm game face than the screaming, jumping, arm waving contestants that step up to compete on the game show. The settings couldn’t be more different, but the task is the same: determine the correct price of a common household item.

While surveying the item I wish to purchase, I am mentally trying to determine the correct price for the item. Knowing that my version of the game will most likely go on for several rounds, I survey the item and try to determine not only the correct price for the item, but what to expect for the initial asking price, which arguments will be most persuasive in convincing the shopkeeper to accept my bid, and finally, what price am I ultimately willing to pay even if I don’t believe it is the correct price.

There are several factors that affect the outcome of this game.

I am competing against:

-The color of my skin
-The assumption that I have money to spare
-My imperfect language skills that betray my confidence at times

However, I am supported by:

  • My better-than-average language skills for a foreigner in a marketplace, imperfect though they may be
  • Being able to demonstrate that I live here and am not just a tourist – this basic level of rapport usually drops the initial asking price by about 10 -20%
  • Having honest feedback to give about prices I’ve previously paid to use in my negotiations

I frequent many of the same vendors to start building relationships with them, but also to help eliminate some of the guess work. I love coming back time and again to the smiling faces of the market vendors and building relationships with them while the produce takes backseat to my concern and purpose for being there.

When shopping for gifts or searching for a new item however, I must start from scratch. Thinking of the experience as a version of The Price is Right truly helps me to shift my focus from the elements of discrimination I am competing against to the resources I have to support my performance.

Whether I “win” or “lose” based upon my initial estimations, my favorite part of the game is talking with my friend when she comes each Tuesday to help me clean and wax my floors. I pull out my recently purchased items and ask her what she thinks a fair price for each item would have been. After receiving her bid, I reveal the final price that I paid and we either celebrate together that my negotiations that surpassed even her expectations, or smile and shrug our shoulders, hoping for better luck next time.

I get such joy out of this – I love the sense of accomplishment when I know I’ve paid a good and fair price for something. I love the connection it allows me to build with my friend as we examine the quality and content of each item – two women from difficult cultures, connecting on a level that is almost inherently feminine. I invited her to come shopping with me one day and she said, “But it will ruin our game – I will know what you paid! I think I’ll get started and wait for you to come home. Good luck!”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

Chapter 2 - The Shining Barrier

"As you can tell, I would probably be the overzealous talker in our book club if we were face to face, so I hope you’ll step in and keep the conversation balanced with your own opinions and perspectives."
-- a Coffeegirl confession

Review of Important Highlights

Chapter 1 managed to lay the foundation for much of the book, so the major characters in Chapter 2 have already been presented – Van and Davy (or Sheldon Vanauken and Jean Davis, properly). We are exposed to several thematic elements which contribute to the establishment of their relationship, which will prove to be important in the coming chapters: the shared love of poetry, music, flying, and sailing.

As he recounts the values that were embraced to sustain the depth and passion of their early love throughout their lifetime, Vanauken acknowledges that their love was a pagan love, which interestingly resulted in not a selfish love, but rather an entirely selfless love with the utmost and highest devotion to the other. The Shining Barrier – the shield of our love – is raised, guarding against creeping separateness between two lovers, against the self interest that can tear love apart. Based on their value of absolute sharing, Van and Davy sought to “…create a thousand strands, great and small, that will link us together. Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible – unthinkable – for either of us to suppose that we could recreate such closeness with anyone else.”

Points of Reflection

The recounting of certain stories in this chapter just makes me smile as it reflects familiar aspects of the human experience. His account of new love, spring-time love, is exactly what makes us now smile happily when we listen to new lovers describe the “miracle” of their love. Many aspects of new love that are believed to be unique are in fact experiences that most can nod their heads in agreement with, recalling identical feelings in the early stages of falling in love. Having been teased for many years about the number of boyfriends I had before meeting and marrying Jason, Vanauken’s retelling of “a man in the jungle at night…may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows damn’ well it’s a lion. So it is with genuine inloveness” resonated so clearly with me that I had to laugh. And I laughed as well at his description of Davy’s suppressed “yelp” that was produced by her distress over their disagreement that caused him to break the silence. I’ve watched that very scene play out between myself and Jason on more than one occasion.

Since my first reading of this book, I have been inspired by the intentionality that was put forth to not just dream of, but to actually build, a relationship based on values deemed essential for building a lasting and loving relationship. As much as I love the ideas that are presented, I admit that I am critical of certain aspects – not of their nature but of the degree to which they are applied, such as not simply appreciating the interests of the other, but to take up the interest personally and learn to love it as well.

What did you think of the values they established for their relationship and how they were applied? Which ones did you like, and to what degree would you apply them?

Overall, what I love most about this chapter is the practical portrayal of mutual submission, thinking not first of the self nor the other, but what is best for the relationship. While void of any allegiance to God or consideration of His truth, their pagan love still depicts many aspects of a love marked not by submission of woman to man, nor man to woman, but one unto another. No matter your convictions about the role or manner of submission in marriage, it is clear that Paul calls both men and women to submit to one another in marriage when he writes, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” I am inspired by the depiction of this mentality – utmost sharing, striving toward selflessness, standing guard against the creeping separation between two lovers, never laying down the law and expecting compliance, learning to appreciate the other’s interests, encouraging the creative and spontaneous moments of the other, complying with courtesy to requests (and courteously considering a request before making it), being willing to change for the good of the relationship, and appealing to love when conflicts between the willful self and love arise. I am encouraged by these examples and reminded of the absolute contrast between the fleshly nature of selfish existence and the selfless nature of love. I marvel that Van and Davy were driven by such selfless love without a belief or understanding of God’s love.

I can’t wait to hear what stuck out to you this week – what made you laugh, what inspired you, what may have rubbed you the wrong way. As you can tell, I would probably be the overzealous talker in our book club if we were face to face, so I hope you’ll step in and keep the conversation balanced with your own opinions and perspectives. Remember, if you don’t have the book but are intrigued by something you read here, please feel free to join the conversation as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Group Lessons

[what's brewing: boy-oh-Boyardee!]

Last week our first short-term missions team arrived to spend two weeks working at the Children’s Home – work meaning anything from laborious work like repairing roofing issues that developed from the recent heavy rains, to spending hours doing crafts, playing hopscotch, swinging, singing songs and sharing an endless amount of hugs and laughter with the kids.

My interactions with the group this week has led me to a number of realizations:

- I have gained a lot more knowledge about the city, the language and the culture here than I ever realized. Until now, I have been the one asking questions and learning things. Over the past few days I’ve been able to respond to many questions for the group members with answers that come surprisingly naturally to me. Having the group here has allowed me to take a step back and realize how much I truly have adapted to my new home, my “adopted culture” as it has been insightfully named by a CG reader awhile back.

- Life on the field requires a lot of flexibility and adaptability. I am obviously aware of this on many levels as I face the challenges of life in a different culture, but I believe I am generally drawing upon a reserve of flexibility that I know is available in those moments. Having the group here has raised my awareness of just how flexible and adaptable I’ve been in order to keep my sanity. In some strange way, I have been relishing the feedback from our group members as they say, “I can’t believe you deal with this all the time!” What makes this feel good? Affirming that I am dealing with unexpected things all the time, and yet somehow those experiences have become normal to me. I’m adapting.

- Living far from my home culture has developed a strange reaction within me towards products from the US. Naturally I was quite overjoyed to see the instant pancake mix and bottles of Mrs. Buttersworth maple syrup that the team brought along. But beyond that, items that I didn’t realized I even missed, but most peculiarly even things that I never purchased or consumed while living there have a sudden appeal simply because it is familiar. Several cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli showed up in the donations the group had received and brought along with them. I have never purchased this item in my life and I don’t think I’ve even tasted it since I was a child, but upon seeing that familiar label, Jason and I both had a sudden craving for it. We opened a can and somehow, even though the taste was just as metallic and tangy as I remembered it to be, we savored the taste and convenience of readymade pasta that is simply unheard of here. Strange.

- My heart longs to worship with likeminded believers in my heart language. Some of the sweetest moments of this trip for me have been sharing the evenings of reflection, prayer and worship with the group. The sound of voices singing on key and blending beautifully as we sing familiar songs has tapped into an area of my heart that I believe I have unknowingly shut off since my weekly worship experience changed so drastically when we arrived. I am living here because I dream of the glory that will be revealed the day that people of every tribe, tongue and nation will worship before His throne together. But I now know, and can appreciate, the sweetness of worshipping with people from my mother tongue and nation.

Do you host short-term teams? What have you learned about yourself as a result of working alongside them?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

Chapter 1: Glenmerle Revisited

Brief Synopsis and Review of Important Figures

Chapter 1 has already provided several bits of key information for us and has cast some foreboding tones on what is to come. We learn here that Vanauken is revisiting his beloved Glenmerle, the estate which he and his family inhabited during his younger years, “a place of magic, unearthly in its serene beauty.” His description of the midnight visit, which Chapter 1 is recounting, indicates that this place holds treasured memories of events that were significant in his development – a love of reading, classical music, poetry, sailing on the open seas, a year in England that rooted it in his heart, and an articulate awareness of the presence of beauty in the world. He tells us that this place “had been, beyond doubt, a place of accepted security. And a house of peace, peaceful and gay at the same time.”

We get glimpses into the significant relationships tied in memory to this place: his father – “quiet and relaxed and amused – though capable of fearful sternness,” and his mother – “quick to praise and admire” while “his father’s rare ‘Well done!’ had been a thing to treasure for days.” We learn of beloved house servants, frequent visitors and playmates of childhood. But most importantly, we learn of Davy, his “dearling.” Davy, “…so dearly loved, so dear, and now a sixmonth dead.” It becomes clear that the memories of his time with Davy at Glenmerle in years gone by is a significant thread in the fabric of their love – the long summer days of walking the expanse of the countryside, swimming, reading aloud under the shade of a tree, night walks by the pond. His love for Davy runs deep, and the immensity of his grief over her death is exposed throughout the chapter.

We get glimpses as well into the friendship between Vanauken and C.S. Lewis – a deep and personal friendship which bore, among many things, the heaviness of trying to make sense of a premature death. Vanauken tells us it is Lewis “who had said that Davy’s death was a severe mercy. A severe mercy – the phrase haunted him: a mercy that was as severe as death, a death that was as merciful as love. For it had been death in love, not death of love. Love can die in many ways, most of them more terrible than physical death; and if all natural love must die in one way or another, Davy’s death – he and she in love – was the death that hinted at springtime and rebirth…She had not ceased with that last light breath. She and he would meet again: ‘And with God be the rest!’”

Points of Reflection

I have chosen a few points of particular interest to bring to the discussion, but as stated last week, please feel free to add on and expand the conversation to the points that were of particular interest to you.

1. As noted above, Vanauken reflects upon many of the significant influences of his childhood that shaped his adult life. I was struck by his statement after reflecting upon his memories of a year spent in England and the way it parallels my feelings of having arrived at this place in my life. He writes, “And even as a boy he had wanted to go to Oxford. When in the end he had gone up, it had seemed both right and inevitable.”

As I look back over the course of my life, I can identify certain life experiences that were so deep and so real that when I look around and consider where I am today, it seems both right and inevitable. It is as if my life experiences were a beautifully-crafted foreshadowing of what was to come, and only now can I see it.

2. In thinking of the time he had left Davy and his family to join the service, he notes that he didn’t know then that he was also saying goodbye to Glenmerle. He did not know that his father would die, the estate would be sold and he would not return again until the midnight visit over a decade later that we are currently reading about. He writes, “The real farewell, not even dreamt of then, had been farewell to Glenmerle…”

This struck me because it seems that one of the hazards of cross-cultural ministry is the risk of these unknown farewells – things change and tragedies occur without even a chance to say farewell or get a taste of closure. The sting of the farewell “not even dreamt of then” really resonated with me.

3. I found myself wanting to stop and resolve along with Vanauken to again choose the heights and depths of the human experience; resolving equally against the safe, cautious middle way. For those without the book, I think it is important to include a portion of this text as it sets the stage for the rest of the book:

But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it seemed to be found in love –a great love –though maybe for the saints there was joy in the love of God. He didn’t aspire to that, though: he didn’t even believe in God. Certainly not! So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain – if, indeed, they went together. If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.

4. We learn early on, the third page of the book in fact, that Vanauken is grieving the death of his beloved wife, Davy. The mixture of joy and pain brought on by treasured memories is depicted so well, and his description of grief caught my attention particularly. He writes, “He chuckled at the memory, and then, in the instant, tears were burning in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. That was always the way of grief: laughter and tears, joy and sorrow.”

My experience of grief has not been rooted in a loss so close as a spouse or family member, but as I have grieved the loss of loved ones, personal wounds, and the intangible losses of my life I have experienced this same phenomenon of the strange way that grief displays itself in life. Even here, as I have grieved the separation from my family, I have been caught up in laughter over the phone and then struggling to speak as I am reminded of the distance that separates us. Grief has its own way, and with Vanauken I agree that we must allow ourselves to feel each emotion deeply, which leads me to my next favorite point.

5. I must mention the paragraph that, upon first reading, left me shocked that someone had captured so perfectly my own thoughts and experiences. I had struggled to articulate my thoughts of the matter of beauty for years before I read this, and I am still unable to articulate the point effectively to anyone who has not read this book. Upon viewing the “delicate tracery of bare black branches against the icy glittering stars,” Vanauken describes his experience of being gripped by the power of beauty in the natural world. He describes the experience, saying, “Suddenly something that was, all at once, pain and longing and adoring had welled up in him, almost choking him. He had wanted to tell someone, but he had no words, inarticulate in the pain and glory. It was long afterwards that he realized that it had been his first aesthetic experience. That nameless something that had stopped his heart was Beauty.”

I remember clearly the first time I felt this way upon viewing a painting, nearly moved to tears by the longing within to somehow enter into the picture and take up existence within it. I am not moved by beauty to this extent frequently, but the times that I have experienced it have been etched into my memory as clearly as Vanauken’s childhood memory of the bare branches against the starry sky.

So tell us, what do you think of these things? What portions of this chapter resonated with you? Have you found portions of your own thoughts and experiences here? I’ll be here, sipping on my coffee, looking forward to your contributions and chattering back with you over the coming week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Real Coffeegirl

[what's brewing: fully-caffeinated, you know, the real deal]

On New Year’s Day, I received the following comment from a Coffeegirl regular:

I was wondering if I might ask you to fill in some blanks for me. If you have a profile on Facebook or something like that where these questions are answered then I could go there if you point me in the right direction. On the other hand, if you are choosing not to reveal this information I am curious as to why; I'd really like to understand.Forgive me, please, if I am being to forward. OK, so here go my questions: We know that your husband is Jason; what is your first name? We know that you are learning Spanish (if I am not mistaken); what country are you serving in? We know that you are fairly newly married; how old are you? Do you have a personal blog that we could follow outside of this one?

I wondered how long CG Confessions would run before someone asked these questions and I got my answer that day, 6 months and 29 days since my first posting. Perhaps you have had similar questions as you’ve been reading along – I know I would have. So what’s the story?

Through my own series of fortunate events, I came to know of Women of the Harvest as an excellent resource for women in cross-cultural service. Just as my life’s journey was leading me to the doorstep of missions, an idea was birthed in the WOTH office of documenting the first year of missionary life from a woman's point of view and sharing them through an online forum that would allow interaction from the WOTH readers. I was eventually drawn into discussions about the project and was selected to be the voice of the project. Before I began, a few guidelines were established to help ensure that the intention of the vision of the project would remain clear and connected to the WOTH mission.

Many times missionaries are defined by their demographics – where they live, which agency they serve with, single or married, children or no children, language abilities, etc. It can become easy to define missionaries by these factors, rather than the true experiences of their cross-cultural life (and many of you can probably attest to this after making a long tour on home assignment!). While there is often a camaraderie among missionaries based upon their shared experiences, points of dissimilarity can create subtle divisions:

Oh, well she’s single – she wouldn’t understand.
That family doesn’t look at things the way I do – they work in Europe.
Her agency allows for more frequent furloughs.
She doesn’t have children to manage on top of ministry responsibilities.
They live in a nicer area – they don’t understand people the way we do.

In an attempt to bypass these issues and focus on the heart of the writing, it was decided that the author would remain anonymous. The hope was that women would then be able to connect with the real issues at hand, to unite in their shared experiences, find freedom to voice their own experiences and not be divided by points of differentiation. The writing is meant to reflect the heart of a woman in cross-cultural service – she could be me, she could be you. Certainly there are details and personal struggles included here that are unique to me, but hopefully as you read along you’re able to see a reflection of yourself, your predecessors, your field leaders, your teammates, maybe even your enemies between the lines.

So while my “real” identity remains undisclosed, I assure you that I am real. I am Coffeegirl. Every bit of this blog is authentic and personal. You can confide in me, just as I confide in all of you each week. And as you do so, think of the women in your life who have been called to serve alongside you, for better or worse. As the blog description says,

Any woman who has embarked on the cross-cultural adventure of sharing the love of Christ outside her home culture has a piece of Coffeegirl within her.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

User Guide: Coffeegirl Book Club

Welcome to the first meeting of the CG Book Club! As stated in the invitation, I have never been part of a book club before, so this will be a learning experience for me – but it is also the fulfillment of a desire I’ve had for several years and for that I am very excited. I was delighted to hear that several of you have the book in hand, some were hoping to order it and others will be following along through the portions of text that I will include with each posting. (If anyone has been able to find this book as an audio or e-book download, please let us know.)

I thrive on details and clear understandings, so I am taking the liberty of laying out some general guidelines to help you know what to expect from this book club. This is a no-obligation group, so don’t hesitate to contribute to the weekly discussions even if you’ve missed a few weeks or are visiting for the first time. I am looking forward to the discussions that await us as we convene from locations around the world with diverse experiences, opinions and perspectives.

What to expect from the CG Book Club:

- A Severe Mercy is set out in 10 chapters and we’ll be discussing one chapter each week. If you get pulled into the book and choose to read ahead, support me in keeping the weekly discussions based only on the information that has been revealed through the weekly reading.

- Weekly postings will appear on Thursdays and the discussion will remain open (and hopefully active!) throughout the week. Be sure to sign up to receive further comments by email, or check back occasionally to follow the discussion as it develops.

- I’ll be preparing a few thoughts on the reading to begin our weekly discussions, but this need not be the parameter for our discussion. For me, the joy of reading is discovering the ways in which an author’s words meet or conflict with my own experience and letting myself be drawn in and affected by the content, and I hope you will share those experiences with the group as we go along. I will moderate the conversation as needed to keep us on track with the content of the book, but you are both free and encouraged to expand the conversation beyond the points I initiate for discussion.

We’ll start our discussion next Thursday over Chapter 1 – Prologue: Glenmerle Revisited. In the meantime, let’s get to know our fellow group members. If you’re planning to participate in the weekly discussion (with or without the book in hand) please take a minute to tell us a few things about yourself:

1 – How long you’ve been in the blogosphere
2 – Your favorite candy
2 – The title of the last book you read and your opinion of it
3 – What you are hoping to get out of the CG Book Club

I’ll get us started…

1 – I have been a blog-follower for 4 years and a blog author for 2 years
2 – I have a deep love for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Swedish Fish (all things gummy, really…)
3 – There Is No Me Without You – a fantastic and educational book about the AIDS crisis and its impact on the children of Africa (specifically Ethiopia)
4 – I am hoping to engage my mind by reading a favorite book through a lens of learning and discussion, and to engage my heart by interacting with other women on the content that is most meaningful to them at this time in their lives.

Who’s next?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Best Medicine -- Another CG Challenge!

[what's brewing: a break from the usual]

Jason often includes some photos in his PowerPoint presentation that supplements our midweek Bible study. Our church members love the visuals that he includes and it seems to help cement the concept in their mind more effectively than teaching alone. (Somehow it seems funny to me that we have PowerPoint capabilities in our church when the building is unfinished, the floor is a layer of rough cement and the bathroom hosts one toilet without a seat that must be flushed with a bucket of water. But I digress.)

While preparing his lesson this week, he was sorting through a number of pictures online and came across this photo. I know I’ve been feeling the need for lighthearted laughter after the chaos of the last two weeks of holiday, so I thought I’d introduce a little game here on CG Confessions this week called:


I hope you’ll join in and share a dose of laughter with us!

Just submit your pithy caption for the photo below in your comment this week and I’ll post the winner with the photo in the sidebar next Tuesday. (Winner receives a $15 iTunes gift card!)

[your caption here]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Here they resolutions for 2009!!

[what's brewing: too much steam]

I often feel that the demands of ministry here draw out every ounce of emotional strength that I have. This turns me into a very emotionally volatile and easily angered woman at the end of the day when I reach the privacy of my own home. I have been shocked by my own capacity for anger and some of the hurtful responses (usually directed toward Jason) that come out of me when I'm feeling so depleted. This year, I am resolving to address this issue in the following ways:

1 – To develop new skills for managing my emotions when I’m feeling so depleted. I know that this requires finding new ways of drawing upon God’s strength to respond in ways that don't come naturally to my sinful nature.

2 – To spend some time each week doing things that fill my emotional tank up so that I can take the edge off of the depleted state that almost always precedes my unwarranted responses.

3 – To address the negativity that lurks within my heart throughout the day by developing a habit of thanking God for his grace and patience with me when I am critical and impatient of things going wrong differently than I had expected or desired.

Earlier this week Grammy commented on the need for accountability with goals and resolutions, and I think she’s absolutely right. Declaring these things publicly to you all feels like a significant step towards addressing this area of my life, and you can expect progress reports from me as we go along. If any of you could use the support and encouragement of sharing your focus for 2009 and giving updates as we go along, please let us know what you’re working on and then jump in with your progress updates as I post mine.

May this be a year of great learning as we rely upon the Lord to carry us through, not to 2010, but through each moment of each day that we are given. His mercies truly are new every morning and I am confident that He will carry us safely through the deep and difficult waters that may lie ahead as we seek to understand who we are in Him.


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