Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is it OK to be Ordinary?

During a discussion with a friend yesterday, she posed this question to herself. As she reflected on her upbringing: to strive for greatness, to be the best, to reach for the top, she wondered about the “ordinary” people she knew who lived very simple lives of faithfulness to God. Wouldn't each of them hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant” at the end of their lives, just like the spiritual giants?

So how does God want me to live in the relatively brief time He has given me on this earth? What is His view of the ordinary?

I know how tempting it can be to get caught up in the lives of those in the headlines and to compare ourselves. I wish I could be like that. My life doesn't feel very significant. God might perform a miracle or do great and mighty things through that person, but not through me. Do I even count in the big picture of what He's doing? Does my pebble make a ripple in the surface of the water or does it simply sink to the bottom without leaving a mark?

I love the way ordinariness is highlighted in the description of Peter and John. When the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law “saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

Just to be with Jesus. That's what made these ordinary men stand out in stark contrast to the learned leaders of high position. Unschooled ordinary people made extraordinary by Who they knew. By the Great One they worshiped.

If we strive for greatness we can easily switch our focus from the One who is truly great, to ourselves...and mistakenly think that we are great.

So I believe that embracing our ordinariness is good and right. Who cares what level of status we reach? How many people remember our names after we're gone? What really matters is did we love well? Were we faithful? Did our ordinary lives point others to the One who is Extraordinary?

"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest." (Thomas Moore)

I haven't written my own epitaph, and I'm not sure I should. Whatever it is, I hope it will be simple, and that it will point people not to me, but to the One I served.” (Billy Graham)

This is a link to a great video (called A Shining School) about honoring a joy-filled janitor, whose love for his job and for the people he served had an impact on every single life there. I love how this school chose to celebrate the ordinary and to honor what's really important in life.

Let's celebrate our ordinary lives. And let's "just be with Jesus" today.


Linking up with Velvet Ashes on the theme of Small

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Monkey Bars

Mommy!” Daniel called loudly from the monkey bars. He wanted me to see him in all of his bravery. But then fear crept in again, and both of his hands became frozen on the same bar for several moments before he dropped to the ground.

As I've watched Daniel struggle on the monkey bars, I've been reminded of how hard it can be to let go of what feels safe. In order to take a risk and move forward.

What if I fall?

But choosing to let go and move forward is the only way to conquer the monkey bars.

David has been working on the monkey bars this summer too. Overcoming his fear and developing confidence.

And now he's become Daniel's coach in the backyard. I love to hear him cheering Daniel on.

How wonderful it is to have people in our lives who are for us.

You can do it.

Don't give up.

You've got this.

A few months ago I wondered what it would be like for us making this big move from China to the US. Would we fit in here? Find friends?

Amazingly, Jordan was welcomed by the high school cross country team from the very first day of practice. What a great group of kids and wonderful team of coaches! Challenging and encouraging each other to do their best and to reach each of their personal goals this season.

Two weeks ago I took Daniel into a Sunday School class for the first time. As I was introducing him to the teacher, he decided to lay on the floor (I guess because the carpet looked soft). So I was trying to get him to stand back up in order to shake her hand and say hello. Then a little boy in the class with the cutest little bow tie appeared beside the teacher and stuck out his hand. “Hi Daniel. I'm Elijah.” And my heart melted at his welcoming spirit.

David and Daniel have been running in the cross country club at their school on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and last Friday was their first practice cross country meet. Charly ran the second half of the race with Daniel to encourage him along.

And as I was waiting for them to come up out of the woods, a few 2nd grade boys who had already finished yelled out to me, “Where's Daniel?”

“I'm not sure.” I answered. “I just saw him on the trail, but I don't know where he's supposed to come out.”

“OK,” they called back. “We'll wait for him.” And I marveled at little boys who care about the last one to finish the race.

I asked David if any kids at school have made fun of his club feet or asked him about it, and he said no. That had been a real struggle for him in Chinese school last year. And I'm so glad he is not facing the same kind of teasing here. 

What a blessing to have friends.

Charly and I were invited to join a small group last month with three other couples. And over dinner they asked us heart-level questions about our adoption. About living in the village. About Charly's PhD dissertation. They really listened to our stories. Giving value to our past and where we've come from.

We see you and we care. We hear you and we know how hard these struggles must be. We're here for you. You don't have to put on a mask and pretend to be someone you're not.

And so, with all of us on the monkey bars of life. We have to let go of the safety of where we are and take a risk to reach out to the new and unknown. But we have people who are cheering for us. And that makes all the difference.

What if I fall?

You can do it.

Don't give up.

You've got this.

God is with you. And so are we.

Friday, September 11, 2015

When I Failed My Driving Test

Let's go inside and talk about your test.” He wasn't smiling. That should have been my clue. But I was patting myself on the back about my parking job. Surprisingly, I had judged the distance correctly and pulled straight in between two already parked cars. And I was feeling good about the whole driving test, as it hadn't been as difficult as I had feared. It was in a neighborhood with very little traffic. Just a lot of lane changes and stops and turns. Except for turning on the windshield wipers when he said he wanted to check the right turn signal I thought I had done pretty well.

The two of us squeezed past the long line of people that still wrapped around outside the DMV building and stepped inside where he gave me some feedback. He referred to his clipboard and said I needed to work on my hand placement on the steering wheel and that I needed to be sure to come to a complete stop before reaching a stop sign. Then he asked me if I knew what the speed limit was in the school zone. “20 mph,” I remembered that sign clearly and had been wondering as I drove by it if 20 mph was supposed to be all the time or just when it was flashing. I did slow down, but it wasn't enough.

“Do you know how fast you were going?”


“You were going 30.” He told me in a flat voice. “The speed limit between 7 am and 4 pm is 20 mph. Speeding in a school zone is an automatic fail.”

His words took a little while to sink in. He wasn't saying “Be careful about that and go to window 4 to get your license.”

“You mean I have to take the test again?”

“Yes,” he replied with no change at all in his expression. “And it can't be today.” He took my driver's permit and wrote with his black marker “FAIL” on the back with the date.

I didn't think that seemed very necessary.

So instead of moving to the front of the room to get my picture taken, I found Charly reading his book in the waiting area (with all the 16 year olds accompanied by their parents and all the internationals) and we slipped out the back door. It was like I was finally one step away from the finish of the driver's license board game, and instead I landed on the long chute that sent me all the way back to start.

After we pulled up the driveway and opened the garage door, I could hear Jordan, David and Daniel clapping for me. They were so confident that I had passed the test. And I couldn't hold back the tears. I was kind of laughing and kind of crying. The way that I do when I haven't had enough sleep and my emotions are kind of fragile.

Later Jordan told me it was a good thing they hadn't done more to celebrate my “sure success.” I agreed. A bright banner and balloons would have just made it worse.

Thankful that while my driving test was strictly “by the book” and no grace was given to me, God doesn't evaluate me that way.

I had joked with my family last Sunday while I was practice driving home from church that I needed a bumper sticker that said, “Give Me Grace.” And maybe another one that said, “Don't Honk at Me, It Makes Me Nervous.”

Just give me grace.

And I'll show up and try my best to get my license again.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Two Years

Two years ago today Daniel began having seizures and was rushed by the orphanage staff to the hospital. After he arrived, he developed a high fever and slipped into a 6 day coma. The diagnosis that the doctors eventually wrote in his chart was viral encephalitis. Our apartment was just a 20 minute bus ride away from the hospital, but we didn't find out about his sickness until after he came out of the coma. This difficult news reached us just two days after we had gotten the exciting news that we were finally matched with David and Daniel, and we were rejoicing that the two month battle to bring them into our family was over. 

A different kind of battle had begun.

I came across this picture of Daniel as we were unpacking last month. It was taken on David and Daniel's first full day with our family, when we took them to get their Chinese passports, on October 15. What a different little boy he was then. He couldn't talk, he couldn't walk, he didn't smile, his eyes were vacant, he was in diapers, he had to be spoon-fed, and he had a movement disorder so that he was always in motion...

I posted some video clips of Daniel's Two Months of Change that show the remarkable ways that God brought him back to life again and miraculously healed him of his movement disorder..

The physical abilities that Daniel lost as a result of his brain infection have mostly come back, but his developmental delays remain. We are so thankful to be in a place now where he is getting lots of individualized help for his special needs, through some wonderful teachers in the public school system. 

And on this two year anniversary when Daniel's life (and our lives) took a radical change, I am reminded of God's goodness in His sovereignty. Daniel's ongoing special needs are a part of God's unique plan not only for him, but for each one in our family and for all of the lives he touches outside of our home (and because he is such a friendly little guy he is touching lots of people's lives!) He helps us to see and to experience life in a different way than we would have if he hadn't gotten sick. And that's good. Even when it can still be hard to deal with some of his issues.

My Mom recorded Daniel singing Jesus Loves Me this summer

He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak. The people who trust the Lord will become strong again. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.” (Isaiah 40:29,31)

God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. The Lord All-Powerful is with us; the God of Jacob is our defender.” (Psalm 46:1,11)

The Lord will always lead you. He will satisfy your needs in dry lands and give strength to your bones. You will be like a garden that has much water, like a spring that never runs dry.” (Isaiah 58:11)

Yesterday I went to school with the boys for Morning with Mom. Daniel made this for me, and while I know he must have had lots of help to make it, I see it as such a special gift from my special little boy. 

He is a special gift.


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