Thursday, July 25, 2013

40 by 40

A friend of mine recently posted about her list of 40 things to do before the age of 40. At first I thought, "Hey, that's a great idea!" and then I thought, "I have seven hours." Oh well.

Instead, I thought I'd make a list of things I'm glad I did before the age of 40. Maybe things I'm glad I've learned. I'm not sure. Suddenly 40 seems like a lot and until I actually make this list I'm not sure what it will contain. So here goes:

40 Things I'm Glad I've Done/Learned: 

1.     I've followed God

2.     Learned that God loves me. A lot.

3.     Married a great man

4.     Became a mom

5.     Learned that you can’t be a perfect mom, but you can be a great one with God’s help.

6.     Lived in other countries

7.     Learned that God is bigger and stronger and wiser and basically more of everything than we believe He is. And the more you trust that, the better off you are

8.     Climbed the Great Wall (and therefore am now a true Han Chinese)

9.     Wrote a book (wait, what? Yes, but it's for a limited audience)

10.   Ran two half-marathons

11.   Learned that when taking up running you should have good shoes and take extra iron or you will hurt your feet and get anemic

12.   Preached in a church in Trinidad ("preach it sista!")

13.   Learned another language

14.   Used my degree – take that all you humanities haters.

15.   Learned how to take good photos

16.   Homeschooled my kids

17.   Rode a unicycle

18.   Played several musical instruments with varying degrees of competency

19.   Learned that as much as I don't like trials, I need them to be who God wants me to be (and who I want to be)

20.   Had cheap massages on the beach in Thailand, which is the best way to get a massage in the world

21.   Stayed healthy

22.   Learned that being healthy is as much about giving yourself grace as it is about eating well and exercising

23.   Had hard conversations where I had to be vulnerable and saw how it deepened my relationships

24.   Wrote a blog

25.   Consistently sought opportunities to share with others what God is doing in my life (i.e. through this blog)

26.   Tried to be as generous as possible with my resources

27.   Read extensively

28.   Made friendships a priority

29.   Learned to apologize often

30.   Went to LEAF (leadership development time) and purposed to apply what I learned there

31.   Became a LEAF coach

32.   Prayed. A lot.

33.   Learned that my value comes solely from my position as a child of God

34.   Kept my sense of humor

35.   Made keeping tabs on my own heart a value

36.   Learned that to keep an open, soft heart requires a willingness to bear pain

37.   Learned that my depravity is deeper than I could have imagined, but His redemption is far deeper

38.   Learned that our parents are a lot smarter than we give them credit for (and so are kids)

39.   Made mistakes

40.   Learned that I still have a lot more to learn

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cease Striving

I've never been one for being quiet or still. My mom loves to tell stories of my propensity to crawl, climb, walk, at an early age, and of a 2-year-old Gina marching into Sunday School singing, "Have faith, hope and charity, that's the way to live successfully!" One memorable report card from 2nd grade lauds my sociability with other kids, my willingness to participate in class discussions. It ends, though, with the downside, "Gina needs to learn to be quiet in class."

No, I'm much for quiet and still. I like to be on the move. I like to communicate. I tend to live my life at high speeds of taking in information, accomplishing all that I can, seeking opportunities to express myself.

Cease striving, and know that I am God might have been written just for me.

I need to have it phrased that way, "Cease striving." It packs more of a divine reprimand for me that just "be still." When I think of "be still" I imagine something that is already at rest and is being asked to just stay. "Cease striving" speaks more to my MO. I strive. Oh how I strive.

Don't get me wrong. I believe it's part of how God made me, this inclination toward activity. It's something I like about myself, the high capacity to do the things that interest me. The danger comes when my activity and my own chatter silence the voice of God, when I use my actions and my voice to try to find life apart from God, to make things happen in my ways and in my time.

Lately, I've been doing that. In my desire to find my place in this new chapter of life, I want to run ahead of God. I want to make noise so that I am seen and heard, recognized and approved. I don't want to rest in His ways or His timing, but that is exactly what He is asking me to do. He's asking me to cease trying to make life happen according my ideas, to stop looking for life apart from Him.

There's actually a great relief that comes in being reminded of that. I am His. He knows what He's doing with me. I just need to cease striving and let Him be God in my life.

What about you? Are you striving today?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Running from God

Well, here I thought I'd posted something a few days ago and I came to write another post and realized I hadn't! If you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you might have missed my guest post on Judy Douglass' blog a couple days ago.

Judy is the wife of Steve Douglass, the president of Campus Crusade for Christ, International. We have met them in our time in Orlando and found them to be a humble couple who love God wholeheartedly.

Judy herself is full of passion and fire, and I am learning a great deal from her about how to be a godly woman who engages and loves the people around her. She's a prolific writer, and while you read my blog post at her blog, stay and read her posts as well. She's amazing!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't blame location

When Erik first told me we were moving to Singapore in 2004, I had to look it up on a map. I had an idea that it was near Fiji.

It is not near Fiji.

I quickly learned more about our new tropical island home than its location, just short of the equator and connected by bridges to Malaysia. I learned that it was the cleanest, safest, most efficient, most affluent, and most beautiful place I've ever been. What's not to love about Singapore?

And yet, through our time there, I met plenty of women who hated Singapore. Couldn't find a thing to like about it. Really? How is that possible? It's a tropical island for Pete's sake. You live where people dream of vacationing.

The reason was that it wasn't Singapore they hated. It was their circumstances. Singapore just happened to be the unlucky backdrop. These women generally were expat women in transition, uprooted from all they loved, their homes, their families, and dropped into a lifestyle quite unlike what they'd ever known. They were lost, lonely, bored. They probably would have been lost, lonely, and bored in whatever country God dropped them, but they happened to be in Singapore and so it was at fault.

I learned two things from those women - first, that every place has its ups and downs, and you have to make a choice to focus on the ups. Second, and more importantly (because truthfully, some places do have fewer ups) I have to separate how I'm doing internally from where I am or I will miss growth.

People have started asking me how we like living in Orlando, and I have to remind myself to stop and take away the lens of transition that colors our first six months there. Though Orlando has been the context for some tough moments, it is not the cause of them. When I do that, I can say that yes, we really do enjoy living there.

Blaming location misses the real issues. It's easy to say "I just don't like this place. Life would be better somewhere else" rather than to acknowledge and deal with what our circumstances are doing to our hearts. The great news is that sometimes we can't change location, but we can always change how we look at them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tell Me

"I'm a terrible sister." Our sweet girl told me this the other day, after a few days of too much time with her brother coupled with not enough activity in their days had resulted in unpleasant interactions between the two. 

I'm so glad she said it out loud. Too often those accusations from the enemy go unsaid in our hearts, and we continue to believe them. But spoken out, we can call them the lies they are. It's hard to do that alone, which is why I was glad I was there to remind her that it is not God who says those things to her. I could tell her what He would say - that He knows how hard it is to love, that He can and wants to help her, that He loves and has compassion on her. It was a good moment.

Lately I've been reminded how important it is to tell myself often, daily even, these things as well. I need to tell myself who I am in Christ, how He sees me, who He is. It's too easy to start listening to the voices of the world, to the voice of the enemy. 

But sometime it's hard. It's a hard battle to keep fighting day after day. Sometimes it feels like too much, and that's when we need others to stand with us. I wrote a poem years ago about this: 

Tell Me

Tell me the truth
about myself

Tell me things that free me
from the worry cage I've built

Tell me the upside-down things
that correct the world's twisted weavings

Tell me there are rocks to rest on
so I can come in from the storm

Tell me things that breathe new life
into this valley of dry bones

Tell me again to draw my sword
to cut through the enemy attacks on my soul

They say there are no easy answers
I know 
But there is One who answers still
Tell me what He would say
when I'm weak and lonely and tired

Tell me to listen to Him
Tell me
because sometimes I forget. 

What about you? Are you telling yourself the truth? Do you need others to help you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The great table adventure

I have this idea that refinishing furniture isn't that hard, and also that I'm good at DIY projects. The first of these ideas I'm realizing isn't nearly as true as I want to believe. I'm still holding on to the second.

For awhile I've wanted to refinish our dining room table because the finish has dulled and there was some water damage. I should qualify this and all previous furniture refinishing attempts by stating that none of our Chinese made furniture was expensive. It was ridiculously not expensive, in fact, which is why I seem to willy nilly throw my amateur furniture skillz at it. I don't have much to lose.

I did decide though that it would be best to attempt only to redo the top part of our table. I'm ambitious, but I'm not dumb.

This is our table as it was:

 This was right when we bought. Before the dulling and the water damaging. But it was always a little darker than I wanted, which is what happens when you pay a guy $200 to custom build a table. It won't be exactly like that Pottery Barn table.

My first order of business was to strip it with my handy dandy Citristrip. It's this neon peach gel that takes most of the stain right off. Then I sanded it, and put down one coat of dark walnut. It looked really cool. I put down another coat. It looked even cooler. Erik said it was good. I thought it could be a little better, so I put down one more coat. Not cool.

 So it was back to this. Stripped it down again. Thank God for Citristrip! But it didn't seem to get the stain off quite as well as the first time.

 Consequently the stain didn't go down as evenly this time either. But I was happy to be able to see the grain of the wood, something I'd always wanted. This time I quit while I was ahead.

 Then came sealing it. A friend recommended using lacquer instead of polyurethane. I started with 2 cans. By the end I'd bought 10. It still continued to have this uneven shine. Argh.

So I sanded off the shine, and pulled out a can of finishing wax. I threw on two coats and called it good. It looks better in person, actually. But there it is. My great table adventure.