Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OPEN MIKE: He's My Home

[what's brewing: longing for the everlasting cup]

We had just moved again. Tearfully saying goodbye to a beautiful season of ministry, I was propelled into another unwelcomed one. For the first time in my life, I was somewhere I didn’t want to be. I was hanging onto my calling to missions, but only loosely. My hand limp, I cried weakly, “God, I can’t do this. It’s too much, this missionary life; this inevitable, unstoppable series of moves from one place to another.”

In the darkest and loneliest season of my life, I wanted only one thing. I wanted to go home. Except we couldn’t. So my cries of inadequacy were quieted only when I sat down with my Bible. One day in that fleeting quietness, I reached Psalm 90: 1, “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!” Tears streaming down my face, dotting the page, I could not move my eyes from that word. Home. It wasn’t a place 3,000 miles away, it was a person. It was Him.

Slowly over the course of the next few days, I was able to identify what home meant to me, release it and delight in the perfection of my new Home.

I started out by declaring that I wanted to live in the same house on the same street for the rest of my life. No more moves. No more suitcases.

He gently corrected me.

What I really wanted wasn’t a white house on Main Street, but Him. “Child, the stability you crave is only found in me! I am the eternal, incorruptible Lord. I do not change! I’m the same yesterday, today and forever. I am your home.”

Then I explained that I wanted to be one of the belongers, to have my name written in the collective story, the shared history of a people. No more wondering how I fit. No more being an outsider.

He spoke back, “Have you forgotten? You are already one of the belongers. I chose you before the foundation of the earth. I wrote your name in the epic of the redeemed with My own Son’s blood. You’re not an outsider! You’re accepted in the Beloved and seated at My right hand forever. I am your home.”

Finally, I confessed my longing for deep, meaningful relationships. Friendships that would allow me to barge through the front door with barely a knock, plop down on the couch and tell my truth without fear. Ties unthreatened by the brokenness of my humanity, ties unadulterated by judgment. No more being weighed in the balance. No more exhausting guardedness.

This time He whispered. “Child,” he said, “this freedom to barge into an earthly den and be met with open arms? It’s only a shadow. I am the fulfillment, the One casting that shadow. You have free access to Me through the Spirit! I welcome you to pour out your heart boldly and frankly, though you are broken and naked and lacking. There is no condemnation for you at this throne. Only grace. I am your home.”

It’s been seven years (and as many moves) since the light of Home shined hope into that dark season of my life. Still, I have much to learn about this exchange of temporal for eternal, of seen for unseen, of the shadow for the fulfillment. How thankful I am that the Spirit faithfully directs me Home to the One who satisfies my every longing.

“That something we long for, whether it be an island in the west or the other side of a mountain or perhaps a schooner yacht, long for it in the belief that it will mean joy, which it never fully does, because what we are really longing for is God.” --Sheldon VanAuken, A Severe Mercy

[Editor's note: Thanks, Shilo! Connect with Shilo on her blog: myplaceofpeace.blogspot.com What's brewing with you? "Open Mike" will go through the end of December; please submit your post to editor@womenoftheharvest.com]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

OPEN MIKE: from Laura in Mexico

[what's brewing: a nice blend from Mexico]

We are anticipating a possible furlough of about 3 months during which I’ll be working part time as a temporary in my old profession (Medical Physicist). While we are at it, if it works out, we are hoping for time to take care of some other “stuff”–detox, training, raise support, clarify our ministry focus, and simply be with the Father. I’ve been thinking about what I’ll miss and not miss about this place. I’ve decided I’ll miss the “everyday people” the most:

The little guy who comes by every day selling squash seeds to my husband.

The store owner across the street.

The little kids in my English “story hour” class.

I’ll miss the “church people” too, but I think I’ll miss the “everyday people” even more.

Re-entry is never easy – sometimes I think it’s tougher than the culture stress of acclimating to a new environment. This is especially tough when we know we are going to be rubber-banding back into our “new” culture, so we don’t want to fully embrace everything about our country of origin.

I’ve recently realized that one thing that has slowed me down from fully acclimating to our “new” culture is that we live pretty close to the border (about an 8 hour drive). We have reasons to travel back and forth fairly frequently – 4 or more times a year. We HAVE to go back twice a year to deal with visas (arrgggghhh).

This yo-yo is becoming more common with all of us (or most of us) since we have Internet access and therefore “on the spot” (or nearly) communication with everyone and exposure to the many things we left behind. Take this blog for instance! What a treat to share a cup-o-joe with you, me here in the bookstore we run while you are ???. I wouldn’t trade for it – but I think it does change the dynamics of assimilating into a new culture.

What is your experience with re-entry?

Some of you have been out there a lot longer than I; what have you observed about our “information” age and how living in this time is different from the ancient days before the Internet? (Ouch, burned my tongue on that sip of coffee - ancient being oh, what, 15-20 years?) I know there are others out there who have to spend months in the US between visas. What about you? Do you feel like you are always a stranger in either world, or is it just me?

How do you handle the constant interruption of your ministry focus – in either place – not to mention the every-day life adjustments?

Thanks for sharing a cup with me. If you like, next time I’ll make us some cappuccinos – do you want vanilla in that?

Laura in the central mountains of Mexico

[Editor's note: Thanks, Laura!]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Open Mike

[what's brewing: a cup needing to be filled]

I miss Coffeegirl already. This is Cindy, editor for WOTH and overseer of this blogspot. What happens here every week is so exciting--an average of 250 readers click in from over 88 countries, one of which is you.

Between now and the end of the year, I'd like to fill the every Tuesday post with some of your musings. I call it "OPEN MIKE." Here's how it would work:

1. Submit a post to editor@womenoftheharvest.com that is 300-500 words in length on what is on y0ur heart as you serve cross-culturally. OR you can simply ask a provocative question for all your fellow CGs to answer.

2. You must be currently serving cross-culturally.

3. The post must be universal in scope, appealing to any woman whether single or married, with or without kids, youngish or oldish...

And may I suggest heading over to the WOTH Writer's Blog today. Our guest host and author, Taryn Hutchison has some inspiring ideas on writing!

Other blog news: WOTH will be debuting a new blog, similar in style and scope to Coffeegirl, on Wednesday, January 6.

Have a great week, Cindy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So long, farewell

[what's brewing: Coffeegirl, good to the last drop!]

The thought of composing my last Coffeegirl Confessions post has brought a multitude of thoughts and emotions to the surface. I’ve faced a jumbled lot of emotions, knowing that this is indeed a necessary change but knowing that nonetheless, it brings with it elements of loss. Physical loss is often far easier to deal with because there are tangible representations of the change, but the intangible losses in life are many times just as, if not more significant than tangible losses.

It is the sting of those intangible losses that I am feeling the most in the midst of this change.

Looking back at where this journey started , I am reminded of the intangible losses that made saying goodbye to our first house so difficult – memories of our first Christmas, the process of making the decision to come here, lazy Saturday morning breakfasts, and the crazy ways we tried to stay cool during the blistering summer heat with no air conditioning. It was hard to leave that tangible space because of all the intangible yet treasured memories that had been created there.

So it is with this goodbye. Coffeegirl Confessions has been a place to share my journey in a way that I couldn’t have done in any other way. It’s been an endeavor of processing my experiences in ways I likely would have missed otherwise, and sharing them with other people on a weekly basis (well, almost).

It’s been a place of connecting with other women who understand the complexities of cross-cultural living – a place of hearing, “I know exactly what you mean!” even when I wrote about things I was sure would reveal my true neurosis. It’s been a place of seeing women from different cultures, backgrounds, denominations, fields of service and life circumstances come together on common ground to share their experiences and encourage one another.

If you’ve never noticed the CG’s Global Friends map on the sidebar before, take a look at see all the places where readers are located around the world. That map provides a profound visual representation of the experience of Coffeegirl Confessions – a global community of readers who come together to connect on common ground, setting aside the matters that so often lead to division rather than unity within the family of believers.

When Cindy Blomquist, Editor of Women of the Harvest, and I first started talking about the idea of starting a blog like this we were really unsure what would come of it. We agreed to run it for 6 months and see what happened. We hoped for the best but braced ourselves for the real possibility of a low reader turnout. When the first post went up I was hoping for just one comment from someone, anyone out there. I was delighted when I checked in and found 7 comments, and was amazed when the comments continued to come not just that day, but in the weeks and months to follow.

And it is there, in your comments and your weekly visits to read along, that the real value of this blog resides. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share my thoughts, but you have turned the ramblings of a lone Coffeegirl into a community. And therein lies my reassurance to each of you that despite the ending of my weekly posts, the community and connection that has been built here can be sustained.

I have learned many things through my experience as Coffeegirl, but if I leave you with just one last thought it would be this:

The experiences that make you feel alone wherever you are living are the same experiences that can unite you with others who are living this cross-cultural adventure. Hiding our fears, failures and honest emotions only isolates us from the community of believers that God has intended for us to rely upon. There is no place for competition or comparison among us. Whether it be a language disaster, a cultural mishap or a deep disappointment in your ministry or personal life, sharing the experience leads us to dwell in the unity we are called to.

How about you? What have you learned along this journey together?

And now with a very thankful heart, I bid you farewell. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing yourselves in this Coffeegirl Confessions community. There are many more good things to come…so ya’ll come back now!!

[Editor’s Note: OK, all you cyber lookie-lou’s and loyal CG comment post-ers, I have one HUGE request: please post a comment to our dear Coffeegirl and let her know how she has impacted you!

This site will remain intact and will guide you to new blogs—one is being launched today: WOTH Writer’s Blog-- and resources hosted by WOTH.

The blog roll of Coffeegirl Regulars will keep you connected to one another through the experiences you’re sharing in your own words.

Updates--including the arrival of CG's little coffee bean--and highlights will be posted here to keep you connected to the global community that has been established over the last year and a half. Follow WOTH Editor on TwitterI promise not to post frivolous tweets!]


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