2014. So far, so good.

2104

Wow, the first month of 2014 is now just a memory! It can be difficult to comprehend how quickly days turn into weeks and the weeks into months…. And I’m constantly aware of how badly I need to pay attention to this because I fear that I might blink and just like that be facing empty nest syndrome, these days with my precious little ones gone in a blur.

I am so grateful for my personal challenge to first and fore-mostly live more intentionally, to be more attentive and more available. I’m thankful for the “fruit” I already see as an outflow to this commitment. Along with the goals I set for myself for this year (and I’ll write more specifically how those are shaping up next), I have had a good start to 2014.

Dreaming big, living little

At a recent gathering I asked those present about their goals and plans for the year ahead and was quickly shot down and chided to dream and trust God for big things instead of “setting goals for ourselves”. I understand how utterly useless New Years Resolutions are, and also see how the area of goal setting can be high-minded and ungrounded. But for me, and others I know, the process of planning and goals is done prayerfully, yielding to what we believe God wants to teach us and following where we believe God is leading us. I believe God honours this. Actually, I know deeply and personally that God honours this. To trust God for bigger and better is good and right, but not in place of seeking His will for our lives with purpose and dedication.

Quite contrary to big, dream-worthy things, I’m finding this plan to live intentionally is being worked out in the small, quiet, almost insignificant things. But the results, or fruit if you will, are anything but small. It can be hard to understand just how much can overflow from very small, simple acts of paying attention and making the most of every opportunity.

What “intentional” has looked like for me, so far

In the past few weeks it’s been things like a phone call to a friend just to say “Hi” and find out how they are. It’s telling a friend I’ll pray for her, and actually praying daily until the situation is resolved, and then giving thanks with her. It’s sitting with another friend at the hospital so she isn’t alone while her dad undergoes risky surgery. It’s inviting a single young person to hang out with us on the weekends because he doesn’t have family nearby and lives alone. It’s a 5pm call to invite a friend to stop by after work to enjoy a drink on the patio on a beautiful evening. It’s taking out our calendar and scheduling a long weekend to visit with faraway friends we don’t often see. It’s calling neighbours when we hear their burglar alarm sounding as we had a break-in in our street in December.

It’s seeking out and and asking others about themselves and listening carefully to find out what we can learn from them. It’s arranging meals or coffee with them to ask questions about a road they have walked already that we are just embarking on. It’s showing up at events even when we’re not sure we have anything to offer or gain but know our presence is appreciated.

It’s the conversations with my daughters while we prepare meals and go about other very menial tasks such as grocery shopping, bathing babies, hanging up laundry and watering the garden together, where time allows for our subjects to take twists and turns and arrive at surprisingly deep places. It’s scouring charity shops and online stores to find the kind of clothes one daughter really loves and some very special gifts for upcoming birthdays when the budget doesn’t allow for much. It’s “face time”, setting aside the holy grail of multi-tasking and listening more closely to what they have to say without simultaneously paying attention to the TV, radio, computer, babies or anything else.

It’s running more warm water into the tub for a 4th or 5th time because the babies are enjoying their bath so much. It’s doing things at a slower pace so a toddler can “help” and cuddling the baby extra long because she won’t be so tiny, cute and cuddly forever.

This morning, it was getting up early and sneaking the babies off to the lounge behind closed doors so that Andrew can sleep in after a week of midnight oil to complete assignments and prepare a teaching for the youth group.

It’s been taking note of the ways God works in my life personally but also all around me all the time. Going beyond coincidence and synchronicity, I’ve seen and marvelled at the clear evidence of the hand of a loving God over my every day life. I’ve only noticed this because of my resolve to be attentive, my good intentions to be more intentional.

Yawn….

These things are all quite ordinary. But they have changed my life, and the pace of our family and tone of our home. In an unexpected way, this has ‘rubbed off’ onto the rest of the family, and I see them all being more patient and intentional with one another too. This has surprised me as I never asked them to share my goal or consider it for themselves, or even spoken of it with them (the children at least).

And it’s not that life has been peaceful and uneventful, quite the opposite actually. We have had a very full month and my convictions have had to play out in moments of chance and be carved into the daily routine of, well, routine. It’s been the choice to linger longer, to sit beside a child and play a few more minutes or chat longer over a cup of tea instead of checking my email, or Facebook, or WhatsApp, or read/write a blog post (smile). As such, intentionality has largely been lived out in my home and with those closest to me. In the weeks and months ahead I hope for this to extend to others not on my everyday “radar”. This takes more time and forward planning, of course, which makes it both easier and harder, depending on how you look at it.

As I’ve lived out my conviction, admittedly some days better than others, I wondered in response to the comments I mentioned above if I was short-changing myself, and worse, God Himself in settling for the joy and accomplishments in these small things. But if I waited for the occasional big moment to experience purpose and life-changing growth, I don’t think I’d experience full depth and fulfilment from the life I’m living right now. All the more, I’m grateful to experience the hand of God daily, to relish His presence and grow in it moment by moment rather than wait for a rare miracle. Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or, and I know big things do happen and dreams do come true. Of that, there is no doubt.

So I’m living a small life in small ways but with huge purpose. And the blessings are anything but small. 2014 has settled in. If the year continues as it has begun, it will be a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

What am I here to do?

Take a look at this

Powerful, isn’t it? It is just one of several powerful things I have watched or read or listened to or thought about….. I’ve read Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” and Jeff Goin’s “Wrecked” and “Banker to the poor” by Muhammad Yunus. I’ve read the accounts of people who work in orphanages in deepest, darkest Africa and the stories of those who have made short trips with organisations like Compassion International. I’ve longingly read about the work of groups like Heifer and Soil For Life, changing lives, saving lives by teaching people to grow food or care for animals. I’ve been inspired by blog posts like this one: 7 ideas for a Stay at Home Summer Mission Trip.

Food Gardens

All left me feeling “Yes! I want to do more! Make a difference! Make my life count!” As a Christ-follower, I especially seek to make this difference in a way that brings God glory. I want to work for Him. I admire anyone who desires to and works towards making this world a better place. I honour and respect all humanitarian efforts. But my personal driving force are the words and works of Jesus and His commands to love and defend the poor, helpless, defenseless, sick, the orphan and the widow.

Knit A Square

So Eric’s video above challenged me, again. And it also frustrated me. I’ve felt like this for a very long time. This drive to get out there and work – to care for people, to clothe them, feed them, give them shelter and uplift them – spiritually (by sharing with them the God who has not deserted them and loves them and in Whose name I’d be there serving) and physically by meeting practical need and teaching skills, equipping lives to be better lived.

I’ve prayed “Lord, use me. Show me where. Show me how. Send me.”. I’ve dreamed, out loud and silently. I’ve lain awake at night in deep and sincere thought about the multitude of things I could do.

But nothing. No answers. I have NO idea what to do. Where to go. And so I vacillate between longing and inspiration and frustrated indifference, the desire to go and do becomes a resolution to stay and be.

I’ve dabbled in various things: participated in short-term missions, worked with charities, raised and donated money, raised awareness to try inspire others to give and serve. For several years we bought/made blankets (as a family) and distributed them among needy and deserving people every winter. We’ve worked at soup kitchens. We’ve worked at an orphanage. We’ve fed hungry people who come to our gate.

But none of these activities have led to a lasting involvement. Or a life calling. Or a mission.  And I’m just left wondering: is this it? Is it enough?

I’m quick to draw comfort from Mother Theresa who said “We can do no great things. Only small things with great love”. Great love I have! Small things I’ve done, and do. But is it enough?

I have no answer. I’m just putting my thoughts down here.

Orphans

Orphan Care