These lilies are just beautiful and we have quite a few plants by the house here in Gembu. Because our dogs Lady and Tramp think that flowers are better than bones to chew on, we have to put the fences up to keep the dogs out. For some reason these lilies are always poking out of the fences and because of that they get fairly mauled by the dastardly duo.
As I see these lilies frequently around the house this time of year, I have started to think about how much I have been like these beautiful, silly flowers. I have been thinking about it a lot this week. When you have 34 hours in the car with things packed all around you and reading or playing solitaire make you nautious, you think.
When I was a child, I was a pleaser. My designated role in the household was caretaker, and I embraced that role. Being the oldest child, I believed that everything I did had to be perfect and there was no alternative. If anything was less than perfect, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself ALOT! I also believed that as long as everyone thought I was perfect and I could be sneaky about my non-perfect ways, it was permissible.
Well, as I grew into a young woman, wife, and mother I tried my best to be the perfect homemaker, mother, apartment manager, daycare provider, president of the womens group, etc. but I also thought that if I walk that line as close as I could to the edge between what I wanted and what God wanted of me and for me I would be okay. You see I was judgmental of those “less perfect” beings out there in the world. Moping around without a plan, the poor slobs just couldn’t help themselves! Of course, I thought they needed my “perfect, inexperienced, judgmental” advice! Guess how that worked? I think you know!
It has taken me so long to realize that the biggest change in my life has happened when I realized in my heart, not just my head, that I was not going to be perfect. Perfect is a lie! I was going to have to accept the fact that this lie that I have been deceived into believing was just that. A lie! I did not need a huge house, the perfect car, preppy looking children with adorable manners. I needed Jesus. Only Jesus.
The more I get to know Jesus and the God of the Bible, the more I realize that I want to be as far away from that fence as possible. Why would I want to be so close to things that tempt me or cause me to stumble, or people that bring out the gossip, hate-monger in me? I don’t. Not anymore.
You may be thinking, “that’s easy for you to say, Tina, you live in the middle of nowhere and are not in this real, dog-eat-dog world”. That is true, but here in Nigeria many times a day it seems there are so many things here that I have to look at through my father’s eyes, because to me it is just bizarre, evil, and weird!
This relationship with Jesus started 41 years ago and it is a day by day, minute by minute thing. Each morning and through the day I need to pray that I can see what He wants me to see and do what He wants me to do. No more, no less. I do have my own agenda of things I would like to get done, but I now hold that a lot looser than I used to. I am choosing to fully embrace and live in His strength and not my own. I can not do that anymore, living on my own strength has gotten me hurt, disappointment, and pain. I have found that living in His strength has given me such freedom and joy that it is really hard to describe. At this point of my life I am just trying to keep up with what He is doing through the ministry and the wonderful people He has placed in our lives and take it one day, one minute at a time.
Sorry for the rambling (remember long car ride). I do have a point for this week: My point is this. When you walk that tight rope between the world and God’s plan for your life there is a danger. The danger is that it is easier to fall into the world and you spend valuable time and energy trying to stay on that line. Stay away from the line. Get as far away as you can and embrace what He has for you this minute, this day, spend your energy and time on these things.
I know it is not Thanksgiving yet, but we will be traveling and will not have much computer access so I decided to post about one of the things that has helped me immensely through my life and is relevant with Thanksgiving approaching.
Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s I was a HUGE Oprah fan. I made sure every day when she came on I was there, the kids were napping and I learned. One of the things I learned about was an “Attitude of Gratitude”. I know, this concept was not a new thing to planet Earth, but it was new to me as a young woman, wife, and mother.
My mother used to tell me to eat my food because there were people starving in other countries. This SHOULD have made me grateful, instead my ungrateful, chubby heart said, “Send it to them, they must like raisins in their oatmeal or rice pudding”. Not very grateful! Well as I have now spent 30 years of trying to cultivate a grateful heart I see so much clearer now that it has colored and still colors my life in beautiful ways!
We as Christians should be the shiniest, happiest, most joyful people on the planet. We should utterly be exploding with LOVE! Jesus died for me, He has given me freedom to do so much more than I can imagine, and freedom from the things that harm me most. He is there, always there. He gives me wisdom, insight beyond myself. He had a purpose for my life even before I was born. Each day I work on making sure that I am doing that and only that. I have the freedom to put my wishes, wants, and problems aside. THEY ARE HANDLED. HE HAS IT COVERED!
Friends, this is the core of my being at this stage of my life. I am His and He is mine! On top of this I was born American. I am very proud to be an American and I know that I have been very privileged to have been raised in a low to middle class family with Christian values. I have had education, I have been able to voraciously read books. Books at my disposal since before I could even read. I am privileged to be here in Nigeria serving people that have not been as privileged as I have been with Earthly things as well as Spiritual leadership. I get to be here on the ground and see their faces, interact with, teach, and provide things that help people, hopefully generations of people that are created in God’s image will be affected. I get to see that with my own eyes. Dan and I have a very large team of supporters and we are privileged that we get THAT job.
I am grateful for the very hard times of learning. I have found as I look back at areas of my life, that the growth in all areas, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally have been after making big mistakes, stupid choices, and then learning tools to improve in those areas. I have learned to apologize first, and that my pride can be one of my biggest obstacles to me being a healthy person.
My point for today is this: In looking at your day to day life how can you cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your daily walk? How can you make it an integral part of YOU?
Today, November 11 is Dan’s 56th birthday. My birthday had me reminiscing and now it’s time to tell you about this man that I married so very long ago and how I have seen God shape him into the person he is now.
The first birthday I celebrated with Dan was his 19th birthday. I wish I had a picture to post on here about what he looked like at 19! He was the cutest boy I had ever met and really had gotten to know him when I was 11 and he was 14. I was not really shy after I got to know him and used to tell him he had a cute “baby face”. That might have been my 11 year old self flirting with him lol!
There have been many birthdays since then, and a lot of good times and a lot of bad times too. But to tell you the truth, the bad times were made better most of the time with his positive outlook of most situations and his strength of character. His favorite saying is, “It is what it is”. That is about as negative as he gets.
Dan is consistent. He is the first person I ever knew who was the same if he was at church, at work, home, with children, with CEO’s or with truck drivers. He was consistent and did not change. Growing up I didn’t really experience that. It seemed that you had “faces” for who you were with and what the situation was. It took me many years to trust that Dan WAS and WOULD BE the same in any situation. He wasn’t hiding anything. His value system and actions were consistent. He has taught me this.
Dan is a “Learner”. Here he is this past week at the Global Leadership Summit that we held for 64 Nigerian leaders from our area. He has always loved self-improvement and that is one thing that I have learned from him. A good leadership book or training can always help you self-evaluate and see how you can be better in daily life and leadership roles. I have watched him lead and lead well in good and heart-breaking circumstances.
Dan is a family man. He loves his family. There is nothing that he would not do for any of his family. Our family is very broad. Starting with me and our two sons and daughter in law, Katie. Then we have his biological family, my biological family, teenagers that lived with us, good friends, friends of our boys, our church family. NOTHING that he would not do to help his church, friends, or family. I have seen him sacrifice many things to help someone in need or do something that he saw that needed to be done for someone. He is that man.
Dan is a strategic planner. He sees things that amaze me. Over a year ago he told me that when he looks around our compound here in Nigeria he sees buildings where the trees are, ministry buildings to further our scope of ministry here in Gembu. He did not start doing anything about these buildings physically until we got the go-ahead from God to start clearing land, and preparing. Two of those buildings are underway right now. He has taught me that just because God has given you a dream, does not mean that you run right out and do that without first doing your homework and planning.
Dan is a “nerd”. I hate to say this but in 1981 Dan drug me to a college class on Basic Computer Programming. I really did not see the “potential” of computers and really only went because he wanted me to go with him and we were dating lol. Well, he has continued to research and explore opportunities, new ideas and technology that can further work, whether it be for God or in a business application. For a couple of years we thought God might be calling us into a ministry to use his IT and technical brain. We were right, we just didn’t know it was going to be in Nigeria.
Dan is a hard worker. Okay he is a workaholic! He has taught me that if you have a dream, if God has given you a vision, it is not going to come easy. At one time in our marriage he was working five part-time jobs. This was very hard on him physically, but with God’s help we were able to dig out of the financial situation we were in. Whatever he does he does with his whole heart. We are both like that. But I have to say, he has pulled me up, rather then pushed me from behind in this. We are still working on the how to take a break to recover and rejuvenate. In our missionary location there is no place to have “dates”, no place to “get away”. We are here on the compound, and there are a lot of things to do to move forward. This is one thing we are still working on, but we will get it figured out. We had a good plan while we lived in the States, we just need to get it figured out for our life now.
I am with Dan 24 hours a day now, all day, every day. I love him more then I did at his 19th birthday and am excited to see how the Lord will use him during this coming year of ministry.
My point for today is this: If you are married, really get to know your spouse. The best gift you can ever give your husband is your consistent prayers, your time, love, and your respect. We have used many resources over the years to help us with that. I have not used them, WE have used them together.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
We stayed at the State Park in Geshacka where I took this picture of these tree roots. I was amazed and unable to capture the massive amount of root system around these trees. It really got me thinking about where am I rooted? What do I really believe? Lately more and more I am repeating the words to this song I learned in childhood and sang frequently through the years and again this week at staff devotions.
Think about this, day by day, minute by minute am I ONLY leaning on Jesus? It is a sobering thought. When things are going great and everyone loves you it is easy to think that is the case. Life is good, Yay God! When nothing seems to go right and it seems like everyone and everything is attacking you and/or your family it comes down to who you really ARE. Who are you in your being? Are you Jesus’ precious child? If you are, then Satan wants us to believe a lie that we are out there all on our own in this World. If we believe this lie it makes us ineffective as Christians and causes pain and frustration and hurt that Jesus has already taken for us on the cross. Do you trust that He has it handled? He does, all we need to do is TRUST. Trust that YOU ARE HIS. He knows the outcome. We do not. He sees the whole picture and we only see the tiny piece that affects us at this moment.
My point for today is this: Do you really know your Abba Father? Can you hear His voice? Are you obeying? If you don’t, that is the first place to start. Search the scriptures and find out just how very much YOU are loved. God has a plan, are you going to do it your way or His way?