I don't know about you but sometimes I wonder if what I do matters. At the end of the day did anything I do make a difference at all? You too? It's funny how the Lord can speak to us through the smallest of things if we are open to hearing from Him. Today, as I was sitting in my car at a light I saw a soda cup lid go bouncing down the road. It started at SAM's Club and crossed through the intersection. I know this sounds strange but that lid looked so happy and free. As I watched it enter traffic I was sure it would be crushed as car after car drove over it. This little lid would emerge from under the cars as though it never knew that it had been run over. In the few minutes that I watched this lid my attitude changed. I found myself cheering this little lid on and encouraging my 17 year old daughter to do the same. As a semi-truck approached we just knew the lid was a gonner...the truck drove over it and sadly it did not get up. We watched and encouraged it and all of a sudden it hopped up and skipped across the road! The light turned green and we entered the intersection still watching the little lid skip down the road, both finding ourselves wanting to rescue it. My daughter commented that she wished she could save it but she did not want to end its adventure.
Because of this little lid I realized that even the small insignificant things that we do make a difference in someones life. The smile we give to the checkout teller, the tip that we leave at Starbucks, the door that we hold open, even the way that we walk. We are representing Christ and because of that we can't help but make a difference.
Smile more, laugh out loud, share who you are with those around you. Be that little lid and rise up when you feel knocked down and realize that you are chosen, you are loved, and you matter.
I never realized how much I take yoga and the knowlegde of it for granted. I teach it many time each week to people wanting to get in shape, loose weight or reduce stress. I have taught at workshops, retreats, breweries, gyms and churches, but nothing has ever prepared me for teaching it on the mission field. A place where trauma abounds, love overflows, and gratitude and praise is given so lavishly through smiles and hugs that transend all launguage barriors. I am forever undone...
I would love to tell you all that happened, all that we saw and participated in but it feels like to do so would, in a small way, remove it from the deep place in my heart that I have yet to examine. A place so full of love and heartache, hope and fear. A place where faces are too numerous and prayers not yet said wait for me to offer them up to a God who sees and already knows. I cry when I think of it and I am not sure what 'it' is. A experience, a longing, a person, a place? I don't know...all I know is that 'It takes a village' is no longer a phrase from a storybook-it is a true lifestlye in a place so far away where, if you do not have food you go to your neighbor who welcomes you in and feeds you what little they have, knowing that if they are hungry tomorrow you might welcome them into your family as well. Where what little you have can be brought together and shared with the little that your neighbor has to create something nourishing and where acts such as abuse and neglect are brought out in the open so that everyone can help you to cope.
I thought we were bringing yoga, but what I found was that we brought a tool that connects people to God, to each other and to the internal voices that say that we are alone, not worthy, and somehow there is something wrong with us. What I found was that even in such far away and remote communities like these there are still the lies of the enemy that threaten to take us out and to quite our voice and effectiveness. The lies that tell us that we are unseen, unloved, and unwanted. I learned that everywhere people need to know that God loves them, that He sees them, that He came for them and that there is NOTHING that they can do to make Him stop loving, seeing, pursuing, and cherishing them.
John 14:18 says “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back." Leaving Africa those words kept echoing in my mind. I want to go back....I want to tell them again and again how much they are loved. I want to look into their eyes and assure them that they are never alone and the they have value even when they don't have anything else. I want to assure them that God has chosen them and that He pursues them and that He hears their cries and collects their tears. That I love them, that they have forever changed me and that they are written on my heart....but, for now, I am called to pray for them. I am called to share their stories with you so that you can pray for them too. And I will...I promise. But not today. Today my heart is overwhelmed and their stories are burried under unshed tears...But soon. And I can't wait because you are going to love them!
Thank you so much for all that you did and prayed to get us there....
Ephesians 3:16-19 says, "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
One of my daughters recently came to me with a heavy heart telling me about a friend of hers that was having a very tough time in her marriage. Another daughter told me of a friend whose child had been hurt. Family heart ache, loss and struggles are all around us and sometimes it can get overwhelming-as in the case of my daughter who feels so deeply for others. She asked me how to go about her 'normal' life with the knowledge of her friends struggles. That is a question that we all must face, especially when we are in the business of ministering to others. Over the years I have taken that question to God many times. Here is what I think He has told me..."LET GO".
When someone comes to us with their pain and suffering we are called to listen and to be there for them, and to pray for them. All good things. But the struggle comes when we try to hold onto their pain as if our holding it close to us is somehow releaving them of their pain. I think, when we allow other people challenges to paralize us it can make us ineffective in God's kingdom. What if, instead, we were to pray the prayer in Ephesians, trust God to take care of them and then release ourselves from playing God and trying to 'fix' everything? I'm not saying that we shouldn't be there for them and do everything within our power to help-we absolutely should. What I am saying is that I cannot strenthen them, I cannot give them power or fill them with the Holy Spirit-only God can. What I can do is pray and encourage and love them, then let go. God is so good at being God and I make a pretty lousy one.
I pray the prayer of Ephesians for you this Holiday season-That you will know the love that surpasses all understanding.
Merry Christmas Friend!
It started with a simple question from my 16 year old daugther, "Mom, will you promise me that before I turn 30 you will go on an 'Eat, Pray, Love" adventure with me?" (Taken from the movie "Eat, Pray, Love".) "Sure" came my immediate and honored reply, followed quickly with "But I don't like pasta", as if that had anything to do with it at all. She smiled, mentioned that I didn't have to JUST eat pasta and went on her way.
For days I have not stopped thinking about her question. Not the eating part, or even the praying part. It is the 'Loving' part that has me so deep in thought.
You see, lately I have been struggling with knowing what love is. I LOVE my family, I LOVE God, I LOVE friends, and yoga, and my puppy...I LOVE so many things. But my heart is such a mess when it comes to my husband. I can be so incredibly mean sometimes. It's like the old "Wack-a-mole" game. We will be having a nice time when all of a sudden, out of my mouth comes this mean comment. I wont see it comming and before I can stop it from popping up-there it is! So my struggle is this: What is love when you don't feel loving? Can love go away? How do you know if I love someone when I am feeling so mean towards them?
My daughters question has sent me on my own "Eat, Pray, Love" journey. Only the 'eat' is reading, studying, and ingesting Scripture. The 'pray' is "Lord, show me how to do this and what it means". And the 'love' is taking the prayers, and the Scripture and applying it to my life.
What I have learned so far is that 'Love' is not passive. It is active and to be "pursued". (1 Corinthians 14:1) Love is to be "put on" every single day just as 'compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience' are to be put on, as well as "accepting and forgiving one another" (Colossians 3:12-14) I have learned that love is not a feeling, it is a state of being "Love IS patient, love IS kind..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Most of all, I have learned that I am called, and therefore totally equipped to "Let the peace of God...control my heart." All this to say that I choose when I love, I choose when I am loving. The 'wack-a-mole' comments that come out of my mouth come out because I am not 'putting on love'. I am not 'choosing' the greatest gift, the gift that is the "perfect bond of unity".
As I travel this new 'journey' I pray for peace. The peace of God that comes when I 'put on love' even if I don't feel like it. I pray for the peace of God to rule my heart, my mind and my mouth, and that someday, way before my daughter turns 30, that I will have learned to love the way that I am called to love-without hesitation, with joy and with all of my heart!
Did you ever notice how life seems to have 'themes'? I guess that is part of what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant when He wrote Ecclesiastes 3:1 "There is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under heaven." As I look back (I seem to be doing a lot of that lately) I can see seasons of confusion, joy, sadness, overwhelm, anticipation...so many different clumps of time when I was just waiting, and praying, and seeking advice from others through conversations and books. And as I reflect on these times I can see the Lords hand in every situation. I can see Him molding me and changing me. I can look back and see the tough times and where He has carried me and made me more compassionate, understanding and stronger. I can look at the exciting times and see His favor and His leading me, and the opportunities where I was able to share that time with others. Sometimes it is harder to find Him in those times than in other times, but He was there and will continue to use my experiences-if I let Him.
Last week I had the opportunity to go back to Pennsylvania where we lived for quite awhile before coming to Texas. While there I visited our old church and saw so many familiar faces. Faces that had known my family 'before'. 'Before' teen rebellion, 'before' integrity issues, 'before' yoga, and healing, and growth. One woman came up to me and sadly said "Tina, your book is being passed around the church. Everyone loves it. I am in the middle of it and I AM SO SORRY. I never knew. How are you doing?" I was blown away. Yes, I wrote a book. Yes, it is about the struggles of my family and the life that we led. BUT it is about healing and redemption and growth and empowerment. It is about joy and humbleness and GRACE. But then her sentence came back to me "I am in the middle of your book...." She didn't know the rest of the story. She was in the middle where things were hard and overwhelming....
Friends, what if we stopped there? What if we didn't allow the Lord into our story to finish it and to make it beautiful? God is in the business of healing and when we hold our 'seasons' too tightly and don't let Him in we can get stuck in that part of our story. Later in Ecclesiastes, it says "A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance," Regardless of where you are in your story, no matter what season of life you are in, I pray you can give it to Him. Allow Him to show you how far He has taken you, where He has shown up in your past, and offer hope and comfort for your future.
So, what did I say to the dear, old friend of mine? "Just keep reading. It gets beautiful near then end." Have a great day!