Friday, September 4, 2015

Always Saying Good-bye



I look back on thirty-three years of missionary life. We’ve said more good-byes than I could ever count. After every deputation meeting, we said good-bye to the pastors and their families, to new friends we’d made, to sweet people who provided food and hosted us in their homes. We said good-bye to the churches, not usually knowing whether or not they would support us financially. We appreciated their prayers as we drove away.

In 1984 on the worst day of my life, we said good-bye to our families and our country. We boarded a plane with our baby girl. My husband and I were excited about going to Spain, but we felt like heels for leaving our weeping families and taking the only grandchild on both sides with us. It was a tearing away that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Yet, every missionary says good-bye. Over and over again.

We arrived in Spain, not knowing one word of Spanish. We stayed for more than five years that first term. In the old days, letters were the only way to communicate besides very expensive phone calls. At first, we heard regularly from some friends and family, but little by little, people forgot about us. Out of sight, out of mind.

Our first furlough, we said good-bye to our new Spanish friends and our co-workers. We didn’t know to prepare for reverse culture shock. We got back to the U.S. and were surprised to hear everyone speaking in English! We felt zombified after the long trip with two little ones, and I remember trying to stay awake while family members visited. Hello!

Months later, we said tearful good-byes again, taking two grandchildren away this time. Again.

We’re always saying good-bye.

It rips our hearts out!

I'll never forget leaving our daughter at college. She walked into her dorm with a girlfriend and didn’t look back. A huge part of our world walked into that dorm. It was time for her to spread her wings, but we were saying good-bye yet again, and this one was going to change our family forever.

Back in Spain, we enjoyed our son as the “only child.” The dinner conversation changed drastically. I soon found out how much men can talk about gadgets, how to fix things, motors, and other mechanical subjects. My shopping partner was in the States, and I quickly discovered that the world of men is much different from what I was used to. I also learned to appreciate motor sports. (It’s amazing what you'll do to spend time with your teenage son!)

Before we turned around, we said good-bye to our son. He, too, went to college. Each time, we said hello and good-bye to our families—always wishing we’d had more time with them, always thinking later of some of the experiences we would have liked to share with them.

One of our nephews expressed that he’d really missed growing up with his cousins—our kids. Indeed, they were probably together only around five times before they matured and married.  (We weren’t even there for his wedding.)

We missed almost everyone’s weddings and everyone’s graduations. We missed surgeries, sicknesses, births, funerals, and family get-togethers.

Four thousand miles are four thousand miles. You can't just “pop over the pond,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be there. It doesn't mean we don't mourn missing out.


We’re always saying good-bye.




But, there’s a reason for doing what we do. It’s the best reason in the world: God’s call. We’re reaching people who would probably otherwise not know of God and His love for them. Missions has absolutely nothing to do with loving our field people more than our families! It just means we obeyed God when He called us to ministry.
  • We’re fishers of men, women, and children.
  • We’re foot soldiers in the Lord’s army.
  • We’re the sent ones—extending our supporting churches back home.
  • We’re lights in dark places.
  • We’re fulfilling the Acts 1:8 call to spread the gospel unto the uttermost part of the earth.
  • We’re doing the Great Commission work of discipling people all over the world. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).

Are there sacrifices? You’d better believe it!

Do missionaries suffer from the separation and sometimes from being forgotten? Oh, yes.

Is saying good-bye difficult? "Heart-wrenching" is a better term. We never know when this good-bye is the last.

Do missionaries care about their families? You can hardly imagine how much missionaries would like to be in both places at once, how many times they think of their folks back home, how much they would love to be there for holidays, birthdays, celebrations, funerals, weddings, and to lead parallel lives along with their families—but they can’t.

We can’t.

So, how do missionaries do it? How do we do it?

Only by relying on God’s strength. He supplies it freely and daily. We lean on Him.

Pray for your missionaries. They're your family.

If any man serve me, let him follow me;
and where I am, there shall also my servant be:
if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
 (John 12:26)


Thursday, September 3, 2015

No Podium Needed

On Saturday, it will have been nine years...

Nine years ago I said goodbye to my hero. She wasn't anyone famous or someone that the majority of you would recognize. But I watched her. I learned from her. And I was the better for it.

Her name was Sharon. I never called her that. I always called her Ma. (Sharon seemed too formal, and I loved her dearly.)



From the very first day I met her, I observed her every move, her every word. Ma was the first woman I had ever seen so closely that demonstrated the beauty of living the Biblical role of a wife and mother. I grew up in a non-Christian home, so it intrigued me. Oh, my family sometimes went to church and things, but this woman lived her Christianity every day. The more I saw Christ in her, the more closely I watched. It put a hunger in me because I saw the joy her family had. I wanted that.

I remember her cooking. She wasn't the greatest cook, but I never... ever... remember hearing her complain about having to cook for her family. (Oh, how I hate to cook!) She would even make special treats to surprise her family. Her chocolate chip cookies were amazing! And she would sit with her family and play games and laugh and joke. When I was younger, my family played games together once in a while. There were happy moments, but the majority of what I remember was tension and arguments and disagreements. I remember causing quite a bit of it, too. But this family was different. And Ma seemed to be right in the center of it all. I longed for that.



I remember a time when my Mom and I had a really strained relationship. I would smart off to my Mom on the phone, and I would turn to Ma looking for sympathy... only to find firm but loving rebuke and correction. Ma didn't take sides. She stood for what was right. I wanted a close relationship with my Mom, but I couldn't see the destructive behaviors I was displaying that kept my Mom at a distance. I remember Ma hugging me as I cried and hearing her say, "I love you. I am sorry you are hurting, but I don't ever want to hear you speak to your mother that way again. You must honor your mother." I hated those words... but I loved those words. I knew she was right. Now every time my Mom and I talk on the phone, laugh, and enjoy the fellowship a mother and daughter should, I think of the great deal of gratitude we both owe Ma.

I remember watching her gentleness with her boys. (Gentleness... with boys. Really? How is that possible?!) She didn't have to yell and scream. She didn't have to lose her temper. I remember how she loved her husband and served him. And I most of all remember how it brought her so much joy to do it! While I grumbled... she hummed or sang, smiled or laughed.



I remember as she went through cancer treatments. She was always thinking of others. Here was a woman... sick, tired, suffering... and she was focused on others. She would look for people in the waiting room at the cancer doctor's office to minister to and share Christ with.

So... what exactly was she doing?

Titus 2:3-5 "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." 

She didn't need a classroom or ladies fellowship or a podium and whiteboard. She didn't need a blog or Facebook... she LIVED it. It wasn't what she did. It wasn't what she just talked about. It was who she was. Christ had transformed her and she blossomed with joy because of it.

As I think about the sweet little brown faces and beautiful dark eyes that look at me during Sunday school class... as I think about the Bible college students who listen to me during my English class... as I think about the fish bowl we live in, where people are constantly staring and watching our every move... What do they see? What do they hear? Does my life give them a hunger for a Christ-centered home and life? Does my life build and restore relationships? Does my life teach people how to love and have joy?

Sometimes I get so caught up in teaching that I forget the greatest teaching I do isn't always from a podium or with flannelgraph. The greatest teaching I do is walking in the Spirit and letting my life shine Christ... abiding in Him.


John 15:4" Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." 

by Charity, Southern Asia


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thou Knowest...



Psalm 139:1-18

  O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. 

He knew what He was getting before He saved me... and before He called me to the field.

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,
thou understandest my thought afar off. 

Some people think that because I am a missionary that I do all things well, but He knows differently. He knew my faults, failures, and weaknesses as well as my strengths before He called me.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

He promised to go with me each step of the way... to protect me, strengthen me, correct me, guide me... Because He knew I would need help. He didn't call me because I had something great to offer Him or the people I work with. He called me because He wants to do something great through me in spite of my weaknesses.

For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether

I am so glad this applies to when I am learning a new language, too. Sometimes I struggle... sometimes all the wrong words come out. Sometimes even in English the wrong words come out by choice. Sometimes I don't know what to teach, or if what I am teaching is making sense. But You know, Lord...

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 

Lord, I can't do this without your favor... with out your help. I need You! Thank you for preparing the path before me and for going behind me and cleaning up the messes I make in life and ministry.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 

Things are just too big for me, but they are not too big for You.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 

There is nowhere I can go that you are not there.

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 

In my darkest, most frustrating days, You are there comforting me. In my brightest and happiest moments, I have You to thank.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 

Sometimes I feel like I am swimming and just barely keeping my head above water. I am glad You are there, too.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

When I feel like I cannot tell anyone... You already know.

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. 

You see the tears I shed when no one is looking.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

You have known me from the beginning.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 

You designed me... given me the talents I have as well as withheld the talents I don't have. All for a specific purpose and plan.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 

Planned... designed... not an accident.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 

So it doesn't shock you that I cannot do certain things well. You knew exactly who I would be even as I was forming in my mother's belly.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 

Knowing all that, and you still love me and want to use me.

If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. 

Oh, to think that You spend time thinking of me! 

by Charity, Southern Asia





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Banana Bread

I don't know if you are like me or not but, when I have made a basic recipe several times I like to try to find a way to make it better. Just about the time I was wondering if there was a better recipe for banana bread, one of my friends posted the recipe I had been searching for. I was reminded about this recipe just the other day as I made a loaf of banana bread but had forgotten about this recipe.So,  I just used one from my Betty Crocker cookbook. As I was taking it out of the oven I thought to myself, this is not the recipe I used before. Our youngest son immediately asked, "Mom, where is the crumby stuff on top like the last time?" Oops, Mom messed up! :) Looks like we need to buy some more bananas and try not to eat them until they are ripe enough to make banana bread with crumby stuff! :)

This recipe does not call for a glaze, this is a stock photo that was as close
 as I could find to what this bread looks like fresh out of the oven. :)


Ingredients:

FOR THE BATTER:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 5 medium)
FOR THE TOPPING:
1/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced


Directions:

FOR THE BREAD:
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350°F). Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cake spice.
In another large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes.
Stir in eggs, vanilla and mashed bananas until well blended.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently stir banana mixture into flour mixture - stirring until ingredients are just combined.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

FOR THE TOPPING:
In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cake spice and salt.
With your hands, work in butter pieces, until small clumps form.
Spread topping evenly over batter.

TO BAKE:
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack.


Notes:

Banana bread is better served after it has had time to sit overnight at room temperature.
Banana bread will keep wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for up to 3 days.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Look for Laughter... Look for Beauty

God didn't promise this would be easy.
Actually, He guaranteed it would be quite the opposite.
Things will get hard. And then sometimes things will get harder.
But through it all, if you look closely, you can see Him sending little love notes... a little laughter here. A little beauty there. He is there... walking with us, strengthening... carrying.

Such intense beauty...


Psalm 19:1  "The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament sheweth his handywork." 

And such needed laughter...


Proverbs 17:22  "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..."


When the road is long... look for beauty.


Stuck in traffic... Look for laughter.






When the road is hard to see... look for beauty.



When the wait is long... look for laughter.

(Waiting at the Visa office)

(Waiting on the roadside for paperwork at language school)


When the work piles up... look for beauty.



When the work is hard... look for laughter.


(Maybe this should actually be under "When the work piles up!" Ha!)

When it gets steep... look for beauty.


When it gets deep... look for laughter.


The question isn't, Will the monsoon rains of life come?
The question is, WHEN the rains come, will I trust God's sovereignty and love for me,
see the beauty, laugh out loud,
and learn to play in the rain?


Psalm 118:24  "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." 

by Charity, Southern Asia



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken Pillows





Last week I posted a recipe for crescent roll dough. 
This week I am posting a way to use that recipe to make a complete meal.
I originally discovered this recipe through Pinterest on this blog.


Ingredients:

1 (8oz) can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (or recipe to make the dough from scratch)
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
2-3 cups cooked chicken
1 egg
1 sleeve saltine crackers crushed
1 can cream of chicken soup (see recipe)
1/4 cup milk (**IF you are making homemade cream of chicken soup you will not need to add this milk)
2 spoonfuls sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Instructions:

Cook chicken ahead of time so it can cool. Once cool, pull apart so that it has a shredded texture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 Celsius)

 Soften butter and cream cheese. Stir to a smooth consistency. Add cooked or shredded chicken to the bowl.

Divide crescent dough apart into small balls and roll them out into circles as needed.

Place a couple spoonfuls of the creamy chicken mixture into the center of the crescent to fill it. Then fold the crescent around the mixture so that none of it is showing, forming it into a "pillow".

In a separate smaller bowl, put the egg and a little bit of water, maybe a couple tablespoons worth and beat together. Dip the "pillow" into the blended egg. After dipping into the blended egg, proceed to dip it into the crushed saltine crackers and place on cookie sheet. Repeat for the remaining crescents.

Cook the pillows at 400 F (200 Celsius) for 20 minutes keeping an eye on them to avoid overcooking them.

For the sauce topping:
If you are making cream of chicken soup from scratch your mixture will already be warm. Add the two spoonfuls of sour cream and cheese to your liking. 
If you are using canned cream of chicken soup, combine the soup with the milk in a sauce pan. Add the two spoonfuls of sour cream and cheese to your liking. 

***Based on the amount of canned crescent roll dough, this recipe makes eight chicken pillows. I usually double this recipe. Making the homemade crescent roll recipe allows you enough dough to double this recipe.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Homemade Crescent Roll Dough Recipe


Recipe originally found here


This recipe makes 32 rolls, more dough is used if you are not shaping them into rolls.

Ingredients:

2 pkgs. active dry yeast
3/4 cup of warm water (105 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 lg. eggs
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups unbleached flour
Butter or margarine, softened

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the sugar, salt, eggs, shortening and half of the flour into the yeast mixture.

Add the remaining flour blending until smooth. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and cover with a cloth dampened in warm water. (The cloth should feel wet, but not be so wet that water drips onto the dough.) Let rise in a warm place (85 degrees F.), until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. 

**At this point you can use the dough for other recipes if you are not baking them as rolls.
Divide the dough in half, rolling each half into a 12-inch circle 1/4 inch thick. Spread with the soft butter and cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll up each wedge beginning at the largest end. Place, point side down, on a greased baking sheet. Curve to form crescents. Cover and let rise until double, 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C) and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are a rich golden brown. Brush with soft butter.