There’s been a lot more music around our house lately. We’ve found in our home that a good choice of music keeps things centered, even if the music is only in the background, and the lyrics are absorbed through the subconscious -it helps keep peace and focus when silence (or the noise of the radio or television) would be too much. I used to have a tape that I still am amazed didn’t wear out or break for playing it every single morning when I was getting ready for school. I missed that tape dearly when I spent a summer in England, and personal music was forbidden -too difficult to wade through the myriad of different families’ and personal convictions on which music was appropriate, so they took the route of simplicity and only allowed music that was sung, and then, only ones pre-approved. It was a little like living in a desert for the first few weeks. I missed my music.
So, digging out the CD’s that haven’t been played in who knows how long, or, more often now, calling up something on the computer is making me realize how much I didn’t know I missed it. I’m also finding some I’d missed along the way, one being Rich Mullins. You can find his bio on wikipedia or elsewhere online. He has a great story, and that story on this earth ended in his life being lost in a car accident. When I first heard the news, even though I wasn’t really a real fan at the time, I was angry. Angry that another gifted person who walked closely with God was taken, much as Keith Green was, at what seemed to be the edge of some of his best work. It didn’t make sense. Well, it took a trip through the book of Job a few years later to help me see that my anger was unjustified (who can know the mind of God?), and I see now that sometimes it takes a life cut short to truly appreciate someone’s work.
And what was I getting at, anyway… I ramble (again). Yes. I was listening to this song today and realized just how much it would be a good theme for this past year. Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve seen Him at work, seen Him in our neighbors and friends. We have seen Him. I haven’t really done a year-in-review post for a long time now, and this year has been relatively uneventful, but it would be a good exercise to take a few minutes and recount His faithfulness to our family this year. So, here goes.
If you’d have asked Sam and me ten years ago where we hoped to be in the year 2011, we’d have told you somewhere far from here. We hoped to be serving in another country, raising our children and living in another culture. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose, of course, that prevails. So, we are here, in the southwest corner of Minnnesota, finding our ministry not so far from where we were ten years ago. We are learning to see God where we are. And, as Rich Mullins said, everywhere we go, we see Him. It didn’t make much sense to us at all two years ago when we moved out here after a summer serving in British Columbia, feeling very much like we were finally doing what we were made to do. Why here, Lord? It took an offhand comment by someone (I think my dad?) to remember that there is a rich Native heritage right in our backyard here. We quickly found that we didn’t have to go far at all to find places to be put to work.
Sam, of course, spends the bulk of his time serving families and students through his job, teaching Spanish (and occasionally other things) behind a phone and a computer. He’s done an amazing job of closing the distance between him and his students from all over the world and has developed a reputation as a favorite teacher in the academy. My prayer that he would be not only healed from the hurts and discouragement of some of his former experiences but fully utilized for the gifts he possesses as a teacher has been more than answered. His confidence about his gifting is reassured over and over through this job.
We’ve been quietly watching since we moved here to find places where God is at work and where we felt we could join that work -one of those places is in Sioux Falls. Our family is a part of what has become an infant congregation of an assortment of people, mostly with health or economic challenges, the majority being of Native American heritage, meeting Sunday evenings for worship, meditation on the Word, and a meal together. Our “official” church membership is here in Luverne, and we are increasingly enjoying becoming a part of our local congregation, but our Sunday nights have been a great experience of watching God at work, weaving us in with this family of people, most completely new to the family of God. Our Sunday mornings and evenings are often a beautiful contrast of not only worship styles, but gives us a new way of seeing the many ways God is working in our community. That contrast is a wonderful way to be stirred to pay attention to the things we miss when it all becomes routine and ordinary. I find I’m learning to appreciate the steady-hearted quiet faith of our Luverne congregation as well as the childlike newness and authenticity that our friends in our Sioux Falls evening family bring. The body works better with many differently gifted people -we see that in action every week. We aren’t sure what God has planned for our involvement with this congregation, but for now, we’re waiting and moving one step at a time. We’ve found going into something with our own agenda rather than waiting, watching, and listening ends in failure rather than something that would bring Him pleasure. The waiting, watching, and listening helps us remember Who is truly doing the work, and when we wait for Him to come behind us and direct our hands to the work, it results in something far greater than what we’d have made on our own. That’s not been a lesson easily learned, for what it’s worth, but it’s certainly been worth learning.
The kids and I have had some adjustments this year. We had been doing school at home through the academy for which Sam works for the past two years, but felt it was time to have them back in classroom school to benefit from being around more kids their own age and work on relational skills. I’d tried to find a homeschooling group or co-op here with no success, and Sam and I could see that it would benefit them to not only learn about loving their neighbor, but to have more opportunity to do so. It was simply too easy for us to remain in our own family mini-community and get too comfortable with the kids at home doing school. Being part of a Christian school community has helped us branch out and get to know our church family better, as well.
I had a far more difficult time adjusting to that change than the kids did. I had wanted for years to be a homeschool mom, to be able to spend that time with the kids, to be in control of what they were learning and how, to pass on an enthusiasm for reading and learning (something I am convinced that doesn’t come naturally in the classroom setting -at least in my experience), to protect them from the negative experiences I had in school. I loved being a homeschool mom. Homeschooling, however… well, the ideal didn’t always match up to the reality. Few things will teach a person about their own tendencies to selfishness and irritability more quickly than living in a family setting in close quarters and with long hours. Many days I found I enjoyed the idea of having my kids around all the time more than I enjoyed it in actuality (go ahead, laugh -I am laughing myself). I’d do it again without hesitation, given the call to do so, but I have to admit, I’m a better mom, given the time to develop my other gifts and have some time to recharge my batteries so to speak. And this year, I’ve had plenty of time to do that. I still consider home to be the kids’ primary place of learning, but it’s a wonderful thing right now to have the support of a good Christian school with teachers that see their work as a calling and go to school each day ready to love my kids and teach them well.
That’s also given me time to develop my own gifts here at home. I’m learning not to feel guilty or resent the quiet any more, but to see it as a blessing and a gift that I get to have an entire day to write, to read, to equip myself for service, and to do that as the opportunity arises. God has faithfully provided for us enough that, while we aren’t always living in material abundance, we have what we need and I don’t need to seek employment outside my home at this point to pay the bills or put food on the table. Many of the things I have time to do here at home the “hard way” make it easier for us to live on less income. It took me a while to see that there is worth in what I’m doing and that I don’t need to, as my friend in college said, feel as if I need to look busy enough to run for Homecoming queen. When people ask, I tell them I work at home, and I’ve finally gotten to a place where I feel the truth in that.
We’ve had some moments of trial -Amaryah had her appendix removed in May, and I got to do one thing I hoped I’d never have to do -sent her down the hall to surgery with a hug and a kiss and a reassurance that so many people loved her and were praying, that God was with her and taking care of her and she didn’t need to be afraid. I think I saw the nurse tear up when I told my little girl that as she was being wheeled off to surgery. I felt a reassurance the whole time that she would be fine, and that God would provide the finances to pay for the bills when we needed it -and He was faithful to do just that. Corwin lost his front two teeth this summer as a result of a game he and his sister invented. That game was banned after Corwin landed face-first into the coffee table and had to visit the E.R. and the dentist the next morning. Fortunately the teeth he had removed were baby teeth, and fortunately we have very good dental insurance. And this year, all three kids got glasses, owing to their parents’ genetic contribution of crummy vision. I’m hoping we use a whole lot less of our medical deductible this year.
So, that’s where we are at the end of 2011. Lots of growth, relative peace and stability this year compared to the last few. It’s a relief to finally have a break from the moving and resettling and chaos, as if our whole family has spent most of this year letting our breath out. There are probably details I’ve missed, but that’s the story of our year past, as best I can recall for now. Looking forward to seeing where God leads in the next year!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him,
and He will make your paths straight.”