Being held…

Sonna Evans
Sonna Evans (r)

I love roller coasters; the adrenaline, the twists and turns, the clink, clink, clink, as you are pulled higher and higher only to reach the summit and plummet back down in a nanosecond! This is fun to me.

My sister on the other hand would prefer to keep her feet on the ground. When I was 12, we went to a carnival and I begged and pleaded with her to go on the Zipper with me. You know the one. You are locked in to this metal cage and then zipped around an oblong shaped track while the cage does 360° turns.

My begging finally wore her down and she relented, reluctantly climbing into the metal cage with me.  It only took a moment for my sister to panic, holding on for dear life, and  screaming bloody murder as if she were about to die. Seeing the sheer terror on her face, I started screaming for the operator to stop the ride and let us out. That was NOT a fun experience!

Sometimes it feels as if this is the way we walk through life; using action phrases like white-knuckling it, holding on for dear life, and hanging on by a thread.  We always have to be doing something. If you aren’t white-knuckling it, you’re not trying hard enough.  If you don’t hold on, something tragic might happen. So, we have to do something, even if we’re completely exhausted, barely hanging on by a thread, and at the end of our strength and endurance. On the other hand when we are being held, it’s a totally different feeling.

When my first child was born I remember wrapping him up in my arms and just holding him. He was not required to do a thing but be held. He did not leave my side for the first 24 hours, as I snuggled close and just held him. He was safe, he was secure, and he was at peace.

One of my favorite Casting Crowns song says,

“You’re not alone, stop holding on, and just be held.”

If I could just let go. If only I could just be.

Sometimes life goes so fast we feel that we need to hang on or we will be swept away. But that is not how God intended us to live. He wants to hold us, to make us feel safe, secure, and at peace. We don’t have to hold on, but rather let go. God wants to take our burdens, cares, and concerns.  He wants to hold us in His arms and,

“…hide us in the shadow of His wings.” Psalm 17:8.

“Father God, I am so concerned with what is going on all around me that I get caught up and find myself holding on out of fear, worry, and my need for control. I want to give everything to you with palms uplifted. Would you take them? Teach me how to let myself be held as I amjust living the thing.”

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‘Tis The Season…

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

I got overwhelmed this afternoon. I was sitting at my desk thinking about my plans for the upcoming weekend, and as one who suffers from “planner-itis” I started listing all the things I needed to do.  Mayday!

Please know that I originally listed all the things I had to do so you would be overwhelmed with me, for camaraderie’s sake, but then I thought you might appreciate it more if I didn’t. Trust me, this weekend and next week are going to be busy.

Normally, I love being busy, but the holiday kind of busy is different. It means as an adult I must participate in the crafting, cooking, cleaning and prep work. Not my kind of busy. I want to be busy because I’m traveling from party to party.  Do you feel me?

I get stressed quickly with things that make me feel inadequate. For instance, I love cooking for myself, but to prepare something that real people will have to eat, um, no way. And who enjoys the pressure of picking out the perfect gift that conveys every sentiment you feel for every person you know?

But we have reached THAT season. And although I am tempted to say we are in the busy hustle and bustle of the holidays, I prefer to acknowledge that this is a time we get to corporately give thanks. I am oddly reminded of this story:

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17:11-17

I could never understand how men whose lives were changed forever,… FOREVER, didn’t return to thank the One that gave them a new beginning, a chance at fulfillment, a chance to live with dignity.  However, I am convicted at how easily and often my knees fall to the ground begging God with tearful prayers for something or the other. But it is not as often that they fall to the ground with gratitude or thankfulness for how he answered that prayer. Ouch!

I don’t want to be one of those nine men.  I want to be that one that came back and acknowledged God’s grace and kindness. During this season, I am reminded that just living the thing is seen in the beauty of a thankful heart.

Transformation does not happen on autopilot…

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

After almost thirty years of scrimping and saving to introduce my Italian husband to his homeland, we determined this would be the year for our pilgrimage. In preparation, my daughter attempted to teach me simple Italian phrases so I would not embarrass the family with the conglomeration of words and phrases I picked up in high school Cultural Studies.

A week before our launch into all things Italian, she handed me a cup of coffee followed by, “What do you say?”

“Danke! Bien! De nada! Merci!”

She gave me that authoritative look that said: “You know better than that”, which of course forced me to actually engage my brain to come up with the correct response, “Grazie!”

Generally I function on autopilot; flying by pre-programmed information my brain has picked up here and there. I know enough Spanish and French to be dangerous if questioned by any border patrols. I call my Bible “Biblioteca” which actually means library. I like German words like schnitzel and strudel and “Nein!”, which from me means, “Hands off my pastry!”

For the last three decades I’ve heard my in-laws’ thick Italian accents, with vowels added to ends of words, yet I know nothing of the true language of Italy. Legitimate words and their meanings hold no fluent place in my head. So I’m forced to resort to doggedly determined practice.

I’m not sure where I got the idea that anything worth knowing or doing will come to me naturally, but it takes hard work to think differently.  Truth be told, I think I value the easy over the good I can obtain by working hard at something. And if I must work at it, I want to do it my way, on my terms. Like picking up random slang and nonsensical words without committing to learn the actual language of the culture. The hardest thing for me to do is immerse myself completely and intentionally in the discipline of learning.

It’s that way with God, too. I think pursuing Him should be the easiest part of my day when it is often the hardest. Not unpleasant, but hard, like the musician who must rehearse over and over to get it right.  Naturally I want Him to come and bestow all goodness upon me without any effort on my part.  Or, I get so tired from the things I’m doing FOR Him, I’m too lazy to actually learn FROM Him.

Romans. 12:1-2 says that offering myself to God is a sacrifice. It isn’t passive or lazy, and it certainly won’t happen on autopilot. It’s active and engaging requiring me to participate by presenting myself to Him in full surrender. Engaging with Him means I leave the piecemeal fabric of my brain behind and purposefully weave it with truth.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

…just living the thing.

The Power of ONE…

Tek mi pickcha!
Tek mi pickcha!

Imagine waking up after a restless night in what sounds like a war zone instead of a neighborhood on a beautiful tropical island.  With daylight the continual hunger returns, but today if your mother can afford it, breakfast from the corner shop will be ONE slice of bread, and ONE sausage from a can of Vienna Sausages…that’s right, ONE.

My recent vacation home to Jamaica was just fabulous; reconnecting with some of the people I love most in this world, celebrating the 45th anniversary of Swallowfield Chapel, the church where I grew up, watching my old high school’s soccer team beat forever rivals, and eating Jamaican food exclusively for two weeks!  Jerk pork, yellow yam, curried goat, mackerel run-down, hard dough bread, spiced bun, coconut drops… yum!

What was unexpected was the opportunity to come face to face with a reality that reminded me of the poverty that marked my early years growing up in “tenement yards’ in the inner city.  One glaring difference however is the frightening amount of violence, in addition to perpetual poverty, that now marks the life of the children forced to become tough, hardened, and desensitized just to survive being raised in these communities.  This has left me wrestling with the questions,

“What exactly is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ for these children, and who will tell them?”

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor…” Luke 4:18

“…As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

Every Friday night approximately 120 boys from the Swallowfield neighborhood show up for Boys’ Club, lured by ‘scrimmage’ soccer games and a meal.  In between there are Bible lessons, question and answer sessions, or prayer depending on their ages and immediate needs.  At the end of the evening they walk back up the road into the hell on earth that is their daily life.

One of my “friend who sticks closer than a brother” is Dr. John Royes, one of the Caribbean’s leading pediatricians, and a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. He and his small but faithful group of mentors have been working for years to establish authentic, credible relationships with these boys to earn the right to speak into their lives.  More often than not he feeds them out of his own pocket and works with the team to place, and keep them in schools, skills training centers, and jobs.

Now the mission, (and we chose to accept it), is a 2016 residential summer camp for 120 boys, their mentors, and a team of surrogate mentors from this country, willing to come alongside and share the ONE message of the gospel that could change their lives forever…HOPE.

JUST ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS SENDS ONE BOY TO CAMP FOR ONE WEEK!

So, next month I will write my $300 check payable to Swallowfield Chapel to sponsor three boys.  The love of Christ, and my love for Christ compels me.

Hands down, best vacation ever!  …just living the thing.

 

If you would like to be a sponsor, or a surrogate mentor, please email me at ankinaerc@gmail.com for details on how you can help.

 

Just Show Up…

WendyShowing up!  That is what people have been doing for my family for the past sixteen months. These amazing people have taught me about love, humility, and the blessing of serving others.

Before my cancer diagnosis I never fully appreciated the value of just showing up. I had many opportunities to show up for other people, but I put so much pressure on myself to do everything perfectly, that I invariably talked myself into believing it was too risky to even try.

I really wanted to help, but my focus was stuck on me and my insecurities instead of the people I could have blessed. What if they didn’t like the meal I brought? What if I said the wrong thing? Should I stay and visit, or hand over the food and beat a hasty retreat? Now I’ve learned that serving means more than just bringing a meal, which is a good thing because that obviously causes me a little bit of stress.

Thankfully, because of the graciousness of those who have come alongside us throughout my treatment, I have come to realize that this is NOT a journey we were meant to walk alone. Truth is, it is a privilege and blessing to be allowed to enter into someone’s pain and when we show up, even with our fears and insecurities, God meets us there with exactly what we need.

Just showing up says “I see you”, “I’m here for you”, and “You are loved”.  It’s not about doing it perfectly, but about doing it together. Showing up requires sacrifice and it is costly but it is possibly the greatest gift anyone could give or receive.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1John 4:11

When I think back over the last year I am amazed at the ways people have demonstrated their love for us, and by them just showing up how perfectly God has met our needs. So many friends have delivered wonderful, delicious dinners. One family gave us $200 to help with our bills.  Another friend paid to board my horse because she knew hope is so important in healing, and her gift brought us hope.

Others stayed with my family during my surgeries, and some sat with me through chemo so I wouldn’t be alone.  One friend shows up to play cards just to make me feel better. You’d think she’d let me win every once in a while, but I guess my need to win is a completely different blog.

Someone planted flowers, another sent an overflowing care package, and many still send cards to let me know they are thinking of me. Then there are the many who continually pray for us. Oh what strength all this “showing up” has brought us!

So, the next time the Holy Spirit nudges me I will be ready, armed with the  examples of this amazing body of Christ that I get to call “sisters” who, like me, are…just living the thing.                                           

Reference:  “Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together” – Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn