Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Time = Opportunity

Ever find yourself sounding like this at 11pm???

"Ahhh! Where did the time go?
-I still have dishes to put away.
Laundry to do.
....The kitchen floor needs mopped,
And the bathroom is a mess!
Oh well, guess it will wait until tomorrow."
Yes? Well, me too. Way too often.

Now, I know it's true. I have toddlers. They are like having two miniature hurricanes constantly whirling around the house. They always seem to need me, and I like being needed. I like sitting down to read books and play legos.

But not always.

Sometimes, I just wish I could have a clean and spotless house for just an hour. Sometimes, I just want to be by myself to study, work, or practice violin without two little people bursting in on every instant. Sometimes, I wish I could cook a meal without tripping over two bodies clinging to my legs. Sometimes, I wish I could just take a shower or use the restroom uninterrupted.

And that's when I have to remember, time equals opportunity. This has perhaps been a theme God's been teaching me this year, as several posts have talked about it. It's easy to fall prey to Satan's lie that I don't have enough time, that time is my enemy.

No no! Time is opportunity. It must be spent in some way. I MUST plan. Time, like money, is easily wasted if there is no budget, no schedule, no boundaries to keep me aware and in charge.  God gives 24 hours (that's 1,440 minutes!) every day. Time that I MUST account for.

-  God is my number one priority. I must remember throughout my day that spending time in His Word and in His presence through prayer is NEVER wasted.
-  I am a wife. My husband needs a wife that is refreshed and ready to greet him with an excited smile and a kiss when he comes home. He needs me to maintain a home that is conducive to ministry and yet comfortable to live in. He needs me to not be exhausted at night so that we can spend quality time together.
-  I am a mother. My boys need me. All. the. time. Yet, I need to teach them to play on their own, to be independent and responsible. To be kind to each other and know how to interact without an umpire. They need hugs, kisses, relationship, routine, and discipline.
-  Also, I am a student. I'm investing in future ministry by the time I spend in language study now. I must remember that my learning is directly correlated with how much studying I do. And, my ministry later is dependent on me knowing the language!
-  Oh yes, and I have a home to keep. Yes. It needs attention too.

Therefore, I have begun to think of the time in my day as opportunity. Opportunity given from the Lord to invest in my above listed priorities. When I give account to God, I don't want to be ashamed. How can I accomplish budgeting my time? Unfortunately, both our home and Georgian culture don't really lend themselves to a schedule. But, I can:

-  Make a list. Even if it's only mentally. Then, throughout the day, when I have time, I pick something off the list to accomplish.
-  Clean as you go. Examples: I put away dishes while lunch is warming up on the stove. I sweep the porch while supervising the boy's outside play time. I wipe off Z's tray and chair before letting him out of his seat.
-  Set timers! I don't know how many times I have left the laundry until bedtime simply because I put it in the washer and totally forgot about it. This helps with the boys' playtimes as well.
-  Get out of the house to recharge. Sometimes this is just to the grocery store. Other times, I make it to a coffee shop to study or to a friends' house to visit (by myself!). Outings also make great relationship builders with my boys and give great opportunity for one-on-one time.
-  Limit computer/electronic time until I have done _____________.
-  What are some ways you have found to claim the time?

I have found great freedom as I have attempted to take back my time by viewing it as an opportunity. I'm not stressed by what I don't get done, but rather can celebrate what I DID do that invested in my priorities. When I'm not stressed, but have clear goals, I am a happier person, which makes the day get better and better. My boys don't become bothers and inconveniences, but bolsters and investments. Yay for claiming back for God that time that God has given me!

"Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."  
Ephesians 5:14-17

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A People Person

Neither Michael or I love crowds or big cities. There's traffic, noise, smoggy air, and people everywhere! We aren't really the type of people who love being jostled on a busy subway or bus. We don't particularly enjoy crazy traffic with cars and people on foot going wherever they happen to find a way. Yet, this is where we live. We have to remember that trees make up a forest and people make a city. People. That is why we are here.

We cannot yet speak the language, and we are endeavoring to wait and train for at least a year before jumping into ministry. So, I could just live my life, and it's easy to do with our small family. I can easily get caught up in trips to the grocery store, keeping the yard clean (this means keeping the neighborhood children out), and raising my boys. -But we are here for the people. People for whom Christ died. Seeing the people around us in bondage feeds our burden and heart for reaching Georgians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

-A sad, empty face sitting in the corner of the subway, devouring an orthodox doctrinal book, just hungry for truth and answers.
-A young man who will not pass a church or a Nino's cross without crossing himself.

-An elderly woman who has no one to care for her and is left to beg on the streets, only to use the money to buy candles to pray for her loved ones instead of paying bills or buying food.
-Children who always have a cross, saint, or other orthodox sign hanging around their neck or attached to their clothing, hoping to ward off the evils of the world, sickness, and injury.

-An orthodox family that prays for their meal, after we bless ours, with a long ritualistic prayer that has been rehearsed so many times that it lacks meaning or intimacy. It is not that they are insincere, but that there is no communion between the Holy Spirit in us and their spirit.

-People who are superstitious to the point of not buying a certain house or making some business deal simply because it would violate superstition. They wouldn't tell you that they believe it, but they won't dishonor or disobey it either.

This is why I strive to become a people person, and to see them as Christ does. These people heighten my burden, my desire to learn the language, and my heart to know God more intimately. I'm so glad I know who Jesus is and how that relates to my life! Oh, how I long to share this real, caring, and personal Jesus with these people!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

To Clean a Rug....

When on the mission field, one has to be prepared for anything. God trains you in all kinds of random things before hand, and you wonder... how are all these things going to possibly be useful??? Never doubt again! Rest assured. God's plans are not wasted.

This morning, as my husband left to help another missionary, I decided it was time. I have looked at it long enough. And, today was a cool, crisp morning that announced the cold weather to follow. If not today, then, when? So, after the baby went down for a nap, I told Jude it was time to get wet. (He instantly is excited, of course!)

The simplest tasks in the USA, become ever so much longer here. Just a couple of weeks ago, I set off to buy a set of wooden blocks for Zachary, as we don't have toys for his age, and he's ready. Now, in America, it's a simple run to Walmart or wherever, and run home; and there are oodles of choices. Here, I ran up and down 6 flights of stairs in the mall, end to end, just to end up back where I started. Apparently, wooden blocks aren't common here. The only set is shipped in from the States, and they are in the expensive toy store of course.

Now, I set off to wash a rug. Most of our floor is wood or stone tile, but I have a large area rug in the living room. We have a small vacuum cleaner (that's not really designed for carpet), and I vacuum the carpet when I can get away with it. Being as the living room carpet is between the kitchen and the dining room, and I have toddlers, and and and... it looks in bad need of a bath. In Chattanooga, I would have just rented Rug Doctor from the local Walmart for a few hours; here, no such help.

First, we roll up the rug, take it outside, and I attempt to hang it over the entry gate. It's heavy. I struggle and pull, and decide I need a boost. I pull the bench to the gate, and s l o w l y work the rug over the top. This would allow me to power wash the rug easily enough, I'm thinking, (the Georgian way) and work well for drying. Ha ha. Nope! First of all, I should have checked the length of the hose. It didn't reach; short about a meter. So, I figure, I'll just spray it from where it reaches and see if that isn't good enough. Nope! I forgot that pressure washing puts strain on the connections, and, well, a picture would suffice. Screw on connectors aren't common here.

(I should say, about now, the neighbor was looking on and shaking his head and waving his arms. Trying to tell me something? I can't understand. )

So, Jude and I pull the carpet back down and start to lay it out on our slowly slanting driveway, which is thankfully paved and probably designed to wash things on it. Jude had great fun hosing the rug down, then we made buckets of soapy water to dump over the top, and I began the slow task of scrubbing every centimeter of that rug with a scrub brush. Totally NOT what I had in mind to start with, but I rolled with it. By now, Jude has totally soaked the rug with water, so it's not going to be dry for a few days, no matter how it is hung.

Knowing my back will be sore the next day, but truly having fun getting the job done, Jude and I began to clean up. Now, how to dry that rug. I can't leave it on the ground, as it would get run over by a multitude of feet (both people and animals) before my husband gets home to help me hang it somewhere. It is WAY too heavy soaking wet for me to tote it over the gate now. Finally, Jude blurts out "make a tent!" Yes. That would do. So, looking very rookie-ish, I slowly worked the rug over two benches, and put a pole in the middle to keep the water from pooling.

Satisfied that it would have to do, I headed inside. Zachary is awake, so I go to rescue him from his crib (not sure how long he was awake), and sent Jude to his room for clean clothes. Then, sweep the living room floor, as somehow dirt gets under rugs, and DONE!

It took an hour and a half. -And it will be days until it is dry again.

Not bad for a first time. Next time I plan to try the Georgian way of power-washing it. (I just have to figure out how to get a wet rug home from the car wash hangar!) Oh, the joys of living and learning in a new country. I'm loving it!

I hope you have enjoyed this humorous take on a moment from our life here in Georgia. Please take a moment to pray for us as we learn the language and culture, so we can share the love of Christ as soon as possible.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Housekeeping With Little Ones

Household chores are made at least 3 times more difficult with babies and toddlers following your every move. Wow! It's a workout. What's more, they often make a bigger mess while they are "occupying themselves" than the one you are trying to clean. Now, they ought to learn to help, yes; but it takes some real work. My two year old son can wield a small sweeper and dustpan fairly well, but that did NOT happen overnight. I have swept, then re-swept while he "did it", and swept again after he tried to "help".

Do you know this craziness?

Well, hopefully this post can be a breath of fresh air.

If you knew me as a single woman, you would probably be appalled at my current house-keeping skills. Before I had kids, everything was in pristine order. There were pretty tablecloths, lace, and decorative (glass) items everywhere. The baseboards were clean. The walls were clean. Even the couch pillows were in order.

That all went out the window with the entrance of my first son into the world. Actually, even before he was born, due to how sick I was the entire pregnancy, I couldn't do much. Some days, I was in bed all day, unable to do anything at all. The first time I noticed dust on the bathroom sink, I was shocked and had to find a rag to wipe it off. But in time.... that didn't bother me. It's only dust, after all. Other things were much more important.

For obvious reasons, when you have a baby on the floor, the floor has to be kept clean. However, I would be the first to tell you that mine is not; at least not all the time. Have I found cockroaches in my son's hand? Oh yes, I have. (I still don't know where he found it, but it doesn't really matter.) Have my children smeared the baking soda that was soaking up a mess on the couch, all over the living room? Most definitely. Has my year old explorer somehow gotten in the bathroom and used the cat's litter for a sand box. -Today, actually!

Perhaps this makes your skin crawl. Perhaps you're thinking- wow, her house must be a mess! Perhaps you're wondering how I was raised, surely I know better.

Actually, I had a wonderful home growing up. My mom was a fabulous woman. She somehow kept the house clean, us children occupied- even learning, and made healthy meals. Sometimes I feel guilty, knowing how I was raised; but then I remind myself I don't have that kind of energy- I'm a different person. Other times, I know my mom would smile approvingly.

If you looked in my house, you might see:
My year old baby, sitting amongst a circle of toys, reaching in the toy box for another toy, just to set it down around him and reach for another. You would see me reading to the boys on the couch, or playing trains with them on the floor. Or, you would see me trying to concentrate and study outside on the porch, while the boys are dumping sand on each other's heads in the sand box. You would see the boys "helping" me make a hasty lunch of sandwiches or mac'n'cheese, because I forgot (again) while we were busy on the swings. You would see the boys jumping on the bed while I'm trying to rest. My toddler climbing to "jump on daddy" while daddy is trying to study language. They both love the game. You would see us cuddling as a family on the couch to play angry birds together, watch a movie, or just hang out.

Z, getting ready to unload the bookshelf.

Or you might see:
Dishes piled in the sink, and crumbs on the counter. Laundry that's been on the line for two days already. Toys scattered on the floor. Papers (that were our homework) lying haphazardly because my crawler discovered he could reach them. Rumpled couches. Dirty floors that only get mopped once a month. Shoes that are supposed to be lined up under the couch, are shoved randomly under the couch in every imaginable angle. Dust on the bathroom sink. A pile of dirty clothes on the floor in the bathroom where my son dropped them after getting dirty outside. Maybe the beds are made, but more likely, they are not.

It's your choice what you see. I made a choice with my boys, that I would spend time with them over cleaning house. Yes, the house WILL crawl if I don't get to it, but only after several days of neglect. Straightening the shoes can wait... my son won't need me to push his swing much longer. Laundry will be there tomorrow... but the boys won't want to snuggle for a story for ever.

If you're burdened or discouraged trying to keep house with little ones, relax. It will pass. They won't need mom someday.  Today, take time to enjoy their hugs, smiles, and tears. And really, if the house isn't perfect, it's okay. It's more important that your home is filled with love and joy.

"...teach the young women... to love their husbands, to love their children, to be.... keepers at home." Titus 2:4&5

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Cat in the Hat Teaches That

Jude pleading for a story!
More and more, I realize that I must be intentional about my time with my toddler. I cannot just let movies and books teach him. I must teach Him Biblical character all the time. "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

You know the books. The whimsical, nonsensical stories filled with rhythm, rhyme, and easy-read words for beginner readers. The simple yet outlandishly imaginative artistry. What's not to love? And my favorite is The Grinch... Yes. We have THOSE books.

My son loves them. And I do too; because reading (any book) gives opportunity to teach. I try to remember, as I read my son his favorite book of the day for the tenth time, that this is a precious time to teach and train and nourish my son's character. He knows the stories so well, he can "read" the books to himself. And, he remembers what we've talked about and reiterates the lessons to himself or his brother when he "reads" the book himself.

The basic classic, The Cat in the Hat, provides several opportunities to sharpen my son into a discerning young man:

"'I know some new tricks... I will show them to you. Your mother will not mind at all if I do.'
Then Sally and I did not know what to say. Our mother was out of the house for the day."
Here, I ask Jude if it is wise to have friends over when your parents are not home. He shakes his head and gives an exaggerated "nooooo". This book continues to teach why.

The fish in the story gives a fine example of one's conscience, for though he voices his opinion loudly, it isn't until the boy listens and commands the Cat by himself that the Cat heeds the words. When our Spirit or a friend speaks wise words, we have a choice to ignore or to listen. (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

When the Cat falls after balancing all his toys, and the fish mentions leaving, he says: "But I like to be here... I will NOT go away, I do NOT wish to go. And so, so, so,.... I will show you another good game that I know." Some friends have a strong influence over us, even though the influence is bad. When they are offended or confronted with their wrong actions, they recover by inviting us to do wrong. It makes sinful people feel better when they see others sinning too. Make sure to choose good friends that help you do right, not sin. (Proverbs 13:20)

And then we are introduced to Thing One and Thing Two who have "all kinds of bad tricks". At this point, the boy in our story begins to see a problem. "I do not like the way that they play! If Mother could see this, oh, what would she say!" Fearing our parents' loving reproach is good, and someday, I hope it transfers to fearing the loving and just Lord. Remembering what your (wise) parents might think is a great way to make wise choices. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

After the Cat and his Things leave, we are faced with a mess "So deep and so tall, we can not pick it up. There is no way at all." Sin is fun for a season, but it ALWAYS has consequences. And those consequences will be bigger than the sin- more than we want to handle. The biggest consequence of sin is death. "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ" Amen! (Romans 6:23)

Before he was banished forever, the Cat comes back to pick up his play things. Sometimes, here, we talk about picking up toys after play. Mostly though, I find myself explaining that some friends do wrong but never seem to get into trouble. They are able to "look good" when it counts. But we know that someday, everyone WILL die. That is when it REALLY counts. What will they say to God?

The book ends open-ended asking what the reader would do if their mother asked about their day. "What would you say if your mother asked you?" "Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?" Always tell the truth, even if it's hard. It may get you into trouble (i.e. consequences for the action). But, you must always tell the truth because that's what God wants us to do. (Ex. 20)

And these are just a few examples of how we use reading books as teachable moments.

"Tell me, what would you do?"

*Disclaimer: I am not against Dr Seuss! I love the books! -Just using this as one example on how I teach a two year old while reading stories. Story quotes are from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, published by Random House, copyright 1957 and 1985.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Things You Might See in Georgia, part 2

Used to American safety and building requirements, we were a bit startled to find Georgian apartment buildings looking dilapidated and like they should be condemned on the outside, yet furbished beautifully on the inside:

This is because, the apartments are sold, not rented, so the building is owned by lots of different people. So, the stairs get rundown because they belong to no one, the outside paint is horrendous, and the roof may leak. As long as no one is actively encumbered by it (and sometimes even if they are), it is not fixed. It is often fixed on an as-needed basis, as you can see, giving it a mottled look.

Therefore, apartment buildings pay for an (very small, think 2 person) elevator by a small coin box that operates the car. It usually costs around 10 tetri (like their 10 cent piece) to go up, but is free to come down. This pays for maintenence. Other apartment owners pay a fee each month to use the elevator.

Windows are not barred higher than the first or second floor. (They are trying to keep burglars out, but are not worried about keeping toddlers in.)  I was startled to find that Jude could just crawl out the window seven stories off the ground! This is partly because they need access to hang their clothes on the line outside the window. If you look carefully at the above picture, you will see this.

Electric and telephone wires run above ground, and are not particularly minded. I've seen posts overrun with grape vines (those grow like weeds here), yet that is not seen as needing attention. Gas lines also run above the ground, in pipes right next to the road. We think it would be a problem if you hit one? Haven't seen that experience yet. This one is not terribly clear, but there is actually a wire hanging down far enough to hit my face when I walk under it. Fortunately, it's not a hot wire.

Also in the above picture, you see a common construction site, with the metal fencing. Sometimes they put up fencing, but the one down the road from us does not have any kind of barrier. Since they build with cement, they need a crane to bring up the supplies and/or pre-made blocks. Unfortunately, they aren't very cautious. We have seen them drop a load right on the street! Police sometimes will park there to regulate when cars should go by safely, but not always. People do, but I wouldn't advise parking across the street, even if it IS shady.

It seems, as crazy as the Georgians drive, that seat belts would be a necessity. In actuality, taxis don't have seat belts in the back seat, and infant car seats are VERY uncommon. -So is vehicle insurance. Safety is up to the individual and not regulated.

Due to regulation, I cannot take a picture of the metro, but:
To ride the metro, you MUST take the escalator. It goes down about three floors. There isn't anything for a child to hold except your hand. It is very steep and usually crowded. Please, please, don't fall! You could seriously injure yourself/others or be killed.

Stairs are everywhere, especially on sidewalks, and of course, are not even. Hence, most folks walk on the street. A stroller or wheelchair is almost impossible to maneuver around town. Even the nicer, bigger streets that do put in ramps, make it even with the stairs, like the picture below. Perhaps that is why most people who are wheelchair bound here, stay home. We do see lots of strollers. People just are used to lifting them over stairs, and quite commonly, any man standing nearby will help.

That's enough on the safety and regulations here. More to come with random and other interesting culture difference facts later.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Moments of Intention

Sometimes it seems I am simply going through the motions: I read my Bible, but can't concentrate with the many interruptions. Does it really make a difference? I think so. (Matthew 6:23) It is the heart that chooses to read God's Word, despite distractions, that God desires. The moments of prayer throughout the day- they seem to lack intimacy; yet at the same time, they reveal an awareness of the Presence of God in my life.

As a mom of two toddlers, I am busy full time. Some days its seems my time is ruled by the immediate necessities that crop up having babies: picking up toys, cleaning messes, dealing with attitudes, playing cop/umpire, and so forth. Yet, even those days I have moments.

Being a mom makes serving God manifest in different ways. I must still be first and foremost, a daughter of the King. The children may seem to need my constant attention in this physical world, and yet, there are moments at my disposal throughout the day.

A moment when I can choose to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and quote verses while swinging the boys.

A moment to read God's Word instead of reaching for my phone when my children lay down to nap or in that rare occasion they play quietly together on the floor.

A moment to pray while rocking Zachary or when sneaking in that trip to the bathroom.

A moment to teach when I read Jude his story Bible, explaining the pictures, and talking about choosing God's way.

A moment to greet my husband when he comes in the door; to teach my children to greet daddy enthusiastically at the door as well.

A moment to choose to show love and grace to my son when he spills crackers all over the floor.

My life is defined by moments, because those moments reveal my heart.  When I only seem have moments at my own disposal, what do I do with those moments? I must be intentional: ever, only, all for my King.

"Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3