Monday, January 22, 2018

Fearless

I remember distinctly the first time I felt overwhelming, paralyzing fear.

I was 6 years old. I will spare you the details, which included sleeping in my parents floor that night, and going to the altar at church to ask for prayer. (I couldn't even get the words out, because I was so young I didn't understand what was going on, only that I was afraid, all the time, and I needed to be prayed for by as many people as possible.)

I haven't spent the 31 years since then in a constant state of terror, but I have consistently battled fear in one form or another throughout my entire life.

As a teenager, I turned on every light in the house on my way to the bathroom at night.

As a newlywed, I was petrified that people in my new hometown wouldn't like me. I laid awake at night, so consumed with fear over it that I couldn't even sleep. That same fear, that I was unliked or unaccepted or too polarizing a personality to really have friends, has plagued me for many years.

Motherhood added to the focus of the fear-vise. Raising children is terrifying. What will I forget to teach them? How will they know what to do in a situation? Are they safe? Do they feel loved?

Some of those are rational concerns, and can lead us to set our minds to being better parents, and that, in and of itself, is not bad.

This is not that, not for me. I have obsessively feared, for 15 years, that one of my children would drown. The ocean, and lakes, are especially terror-inducing for me. The thought that they might fall, or be dragged, in over their heads, and I wouldn't be able to find them and save them because the water is deep and dark and swirling...I have woken up from a dead sleep, sweating and gasping and shaking and sobbing, just thinking about it.

I am aware, trust me, that fear is not from God, and is, in fact, a tactic of the devil. I have scriptures written and memorized and strategically place all over my house, reminding me of Who overcomes fear, and Who is victorious, and to Whom I belong. I KNOW my fears are irrational. I know they are the enemy attacking me, distracting me, trying to keep me cowering in a corner instead of fighting him.

Last week, I dropped my 15-year-old daughter off for the driving portion of drivers education. Her instructor was the cranky little old man who had taught the classroom portion. But unlike the class time, where there were 15 other students, the driving portion was one-on-one. And as I drove away...I was gripped with fear.

"She's innocent, and young, and trusting. She's a little bitty girl. What if she's so focused on driving that this cranky old man tries to attack her?"

That's all it started out as. A twinge of worry for my sweet daughter alone in a car with a man she barely knows.

Rational thoughts tried to intervene (all said in my head in the voice of my husband and father.)

"He's super old, and he's been doing this job for 30 years, and surely if he was a creepy man, he would've been reported by now. I'm sure its fine."

"How can anyone attack anyone while driving? That's not safe. He wouldn't try anything like that."

"Faith is a highly trained martial artist. She has learned to defend herself. She's strong and fast and has excellent situational awareness. I dare that little cranky man to try anything. She will break his nose." (This one gave me the most momentary comfort, because its true, my little bitty girl is a BEAST. I've seen her fend off attacks from 6'3" police officers and soldiers in her Krav Maga class. She can absolutely defend herself.)

But the fear continued to swirl. "She shouldn't have to go through that. It will scar her forever to have to defend herself against a physical attack. How can I get ahold of her? Why didn't I ask to ride along? I don't even know where they are going for the driving lesson. How can I find her? How can I keep her safe from this?"

By the time I was halfway home, I was so twisted up with terror that I was convinced I would return to pick her up and she would've been forced to fight off the cranky old man who was trying to attack her.

I stopped at a stoplight, with my sweaty palms gripping the steering wheel, gasping for breath trying to force myself to calm down. And then...then the Spirit rose up within me. And I began to shout.

"I know that You love her more than I do, Lord. I know that You see her. I know that You are the only one who can really protect her. Thank You that You are the one who arms her with strength. Thank You that You are the preserver of her life. Thank You that she hears Your voice, and feels the power of Your presence. Send You angels to surround her, God. Set a guard between her and any evil. Thank You that only You can truly heal us from hurt and tragedy and wrong doing done to us. I choose to trust You, Lord. I believe that You are the Redeemer of all things.

Devil, even if all that I fear comes true, I still trust my God. Do you hear me, you stupid fear? Even if all that makes me afraid comes to pass, even that isn't reason to be afraid. Because my GOD is the restorer and redeemer and healer of every single thing. Even when you think you win, you don't win."

And anyone who saw me on the road would've thought I was CRAZY. Because I was pounding the steering wheel, and pointing my finger into the air, and yelling, and laughing, and crying.

Two hours later, when I picked her up, she was none-the-worse for wear. Of course. Because it had been an entirely irrational spiral on my part.

I took that drive time, and my total meltdown, and filed it under "another time the enemy attacked me with fear, and the Spirit drove him back with the Word."

And I thanked Him for always, my whole life, being faithful to help me fight this battle. A fight against an old foe that I have become familiar with.

But something happened this morning, something that inspired me to share this little piece of my struggle.

My sweet, innocent, little bitty 15-year-old daughter is leaving in 2 days. For the mission field. She will be gone 13 days. This will be her 3rd mission, but her FIRST without either myself or her father along on the trip.

There is so much planning and packing and preparing that goes into missions work. We've been totally consumed with that for weeks now, going over the mental catalog of every possible thing she might need or want while she's in a third world country with no Target nearby. She doubled down on 10th grade to get ahead, so that she didn't miss any assignments while she was gone. It's been busy.

People, friends, have been asking me if I'm okay, and how I'm feeling about my little girl going across the WORLD without me. I keep answering "I don't know. I'm just putting one foot in front of another, and hoping that I don't lose it when she actually leaves." "I'm trying not to think about it. I'm just in denial."

This morning, though...this morning I sat down to pray, and, while there are a million things to pray about on my list...the only thing I had in my heart was the team leaving in 2 days, with my sweet little girl among them.

And so I prayed. For protection. For divine appointments. For attitudes of humility and kindness. For teamwork. For health. For hearts that prefer each other, and eyes that see the spiritual needs around them. I asked the Lord to refine them, as only a trip outside one's comfort zone truly can, and I prayed that they would bear with one another in the refining.

And when I prayed "Lord, be with my girl. Let her see You in a new way, and hear You more and more, and as she says 'Yes, Lord' on this trip, will You give her a new revelation of Your glory?"

And then I stopped. Almost as if the Lord said "Shhh" to me. The house was dark, and until that moment the only sound had been my whispered conversation with the Lord.

I sat. I waited a beat. And then I realized what He wanted me to know.

And I started laughing. And weeping. And my arms went straight up in the air. And if there hadn't been 5 sleeping people in the house, I would've shouted.

I am not afraid.

I. Am. Not. Afraid.

I AM NOT AFRAID.

Arguably a motherhood moment where a little bit of worry and fear for a child is acceptable, and I am not consumed with terror. Not only am I not consumed...

I.

AM.

NOT.

AFRAID.



Can it be that He wants to use all our moments to make us more like Himself? That giving me children isn't only about me teaching them to love the Lord, but its about teaching me to trust Him more? And when they begin to say "Yes, Lord" to whatever He asks of them, we also have an opportunity to say "Yes, Lord," too?

"The Lord is calling me to Bangladesh. Will you pray about letting me go?" One little request. One little girl, willing to say "YES."

And then a month of my husband and I praying, and finally, around the lump in our throats, saying "Yes, Lord," but really not wanting to be obedient to Him. Really wanting to keep her close.

If not for that "yes," there never would've been this morning, where I saw His hand at work in me, new and miraculous and so awe-inspiring that I just said "GLORY" as I typed the words.

I don't know if I'll still feel this excited at 5:30 on Wednesday morning, when all our planning and preparing and praying and packing turns to waving goodbye...

But I am now altogether elated with the idea of saying YES to Him so that I might be flooded again with the goodness of the ONE Who loves me so dearly, and calls me into deeper waters.

This morning, this day...God Almighty has done a miracle.

I am FEARLESS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Humiliation and Holiness

Have you ever had a time in your life where so much was happening internally that you simply couldn't give it proper voice? And if you were asked the question "what's been going on" by someone you hadn't talked to in a while, you would either respond with a two hour download of every single thing, or (much more likely) you would look at them with your head very near to overheating, and say "I can't talk about it. It's too much."

That is how the last several month have been for me.

I've been asked a few times why I haven't been blogging, and my response has been, every time, "Because I can't give it all words. There's not enough space on my laptop, or in my head, for everything. It's all just too much."

There has been the forward march of time, and all the physical things that come with it. My 15 year old daughter started driver's education (dear God, help me) and will hopefully have her permit by the end of this week.

My 13 year old son became too tall for me to rest my chin on top of his head when he hugs me. (Not that he hugs me very often...or ever without proper incentive...incentive like he wants to go to a friend's house or play a video game or eat some of my remaining Christmas candy or is trying to get out of trouble for calling me old or uncool.)

The 10 and 7 year-old boys continue to make my life a crazy conglomeration of hilarity.

All around me, externally, things change, as they always do, but to me it seems that all of it is the same, exactly the same, compared to the changes going on in my heart.

I can't explain it all. It would take forever. It would overheat my laptop, my brain, and the whole WORLD.

I have gone through, and am continuing to go through, a rather miraculous awakening in my spirit.

And rather than try and tell you all about it, I have finally decided to take a minute and tell you why it started. Not because this story speaks highly of me at all, but because this awakening is so all consuming to my very BONES that I want all the people I come in contact with to want it too.

It started with humiliation.

I'm totally serious.

It began with a conversation with someone, someone who pointed out to me, clearly and boldly, an area in which I was really screwing up.

The inner shriveling of my pride had to be externally visible, I swear.

It stings a lot more than we care to admit, having our faults and failures pointed out to us. Sometimes people aren't even aware of how much we feel like we've just been punched in the throat by their words. That was certainly the case for me. I swallowed and I blinked and I nodded and I cleared my throat and I took the reproof...and then I HOBBLED away, not wanting it to be known that I had just had my legs all but cut from my body.

I sat with that sting for a solid day, quietly mulling it over.

And then...then I told someone else about it.

"Yesterday someone said something to me and its sitting inside me like a weight. I need to confess this ugliness to someone." And so I did. And it felt like I was talking with KNIVES in my throat.

It is HARD for me to admit when I am wrong. I don't like to be weak. I don't want to be a failure.

And that is what started it all.

Because after that, a slow, steady pattern began to emerge. I would be going about my life as normally as anyone with a house full of wild kids and a life full of activities can, and suddenly, a person, or in several cases, the voice of the Lord in my heart, would directly shine light on a fault, flaw, sin, error, weakness, etc. in my life.

R. U. D. E.

At first I was getting pretty pissed off. "Come ON, I know I'm not perfect or even close to it, but I am tired of getting picked on."

But, something else began to happen at the same time. That first humiliation that led to confession and prayer and forgiveness and heart change...that area of my life had altered so dramatically and noticeably that I felt THANKFUL for that moment of utter, breathlessly horrifying rebuke.

And as I realized that it had been a good thing to have my failure pointed out to me, and an even better thing to confess the failure to someone else...a change took place (and continues to take place) in my heart.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out any offensive way in me, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

This verse has become a constant prayer in me. And BOY has God been pointing out the offensive ways in me. Sometimes through people, more often through His Word and His voice.

And, if I'm brutally honest, I am always relieved it is just the Lord who is fussing at me, and people don't know my junk...until the Lord follows up His gentle reprimand with a reminder of this verse: "Therefore, confess your sin to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed."(James 5:16)

R. U. D. E.

And, lest you feel this is a blog post about how I have arrived at...anywhere...its not.

I am just walking the path...

And the Lord continues to point out offensive ways in me...and you know what else is happening, as I repent of my sin and confess it and get prayer and am delivered?

I am hearing His voice more clearly than I ever have before.

He prompts me to be obedient, and then, as I am, I see Him in a whole new, miraculous light. And when I fail to be obedient, He is gentle in His reprimand...and I repent again, and somehow, in His great mercy, He leads me further along the path of everlasting life.

I feel like this is a vague, detail-deficient explanation of the total heart transformation I am currently undergoing...but maybe that's the point.

My details wouldn't be the same as yours, and probably wouldn't resonate with you. If you want to hear specifics, ask me. I will share them. I will tell you my failures. Even though I'll be pushing out the words around metaphorical throat-knives.

I am eager to receive reproof (or at least I want to be), and I desire to practice humiliation, because I HAVE SEEN AND AM SEEING THE EVIDENCE of those things working in my life for my good!

Being rebuked is horrible. Confessing sin is humiliating.

We run away from it. We fake our spiritual status in order to avoid it. We pretend our failures aren't really there. And when we can't pretend, we make excuses for them, or justify them.

Y'all. We are missing out on more of the Lord when we do these things.

WE ARE MISSING OUT ON MORE.

"He forever made perfect those who are BEING MADE HOLY" (Hebrews 10:14)

 And that's what I wanted to share from the past several months of my journey. I don't want to miss what He has for me next. He sees me as perfect because of His Son's blood, and He's making me holy, through the work of the Spirit in my heart. It's an ongoing process. Its a path.

You don't want to miss what He has for you. And, terror-inducing as it may be, a journey toward holiness is often on the other side of a little humiliation.

More and more, Lord. Lead me along the path of everlasting life. Make me holy, for Your glory.

Humiliation and all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Carried

I am always prepared, and yet never really ready, for how this week and this day affect me, for all the emotions I carry around and how they spring up at random and unexpected times.

It's strange, because nothing can be harder than this day 7 years ago, so I don't know why I approach the anniversary with such dread. But I do, every single year.

It's been such a long time that my sister has been in heaven.

It FEELS like a long time most days.

This week it always feels like it just happened yesterday.

I had several new emotions this year, in the days leading up to this one. For example: I was so mad at myself on Wednesday. I kept thinking, "Why didn't you try harder to get there? If you had left on August 16th, 2010, when we all still thought it was dehydration or exhaustion or something, you would have made it before she died. Why were you trying to be optimistic? Why didn't you just GO?"

All week I have been so tired. A bone-deep exhaustion, sapping me of the desire to do anything. I'm used to that feeling, though, as the years pass, and I've gotten decent at letting myself off the hook for just a couple days.

"Yes, kids, I do know that we had frozen pizza for lunch and we are having Little Caesars for supper. I'm sorry. I'll do better next week." 

Seven years is a long time to spend walking through grief. But by the time I reach the end of my life, it will have been even longer. It seems like, in my logical brain, that I should be all better by now. That I should have figured out how to compensate, adjust, and keep on moving, without feeding my children the same meal 6 times in a 3 day span, without giving myself a stomach ache from crying.

I told that to the Lord this week, during my prayer time. "I'm sorry I keep bring this to You every year, Lord. I should be getting better at it by now."

I don't know if I can accurately explain what happened next, but I will try.

I pray in my closet. Because it's quiet, and if my kids come looking for me, they will look in my room and bathroom, but seldom come all the way into my closet to search. And usually I pray after my workout, because I'm going to be sitting down and gasping for air for a while anyway, and might as well kill two birds with one stone.

So, picture me in sweaty workout gear, face flushed and soaked in sweat, sitting in the floor of a relatively clean closet.

"Good morning, Lord. I know there are things for me to pray about. I just need to get my head in the game. Help me."

I sat and looked at the list of scriptures and prayer requests in front of me, and even though I WANTED to pray...I had no words.

"I'm tired, Lord. I want to praise You and worship You and pray for my fellow believers...but right now I'm sad. And sadness makes me tired."

And then I had the strangest string of memories and thoughts, flooding my brain in a row, like a reel of a movie.

A baby monkey at the zoo, walking along beside its parents, until it gets too tired and the mom slings the little one up on her back to ride for a few minutes.

A movie where the battle is raging and the soldier is surrounded, and suddenly a friend appears on a horse, his arm reaching out, and jerks his companion up to ride behind him through the fighting.

A toddler who walks and walks, and then suddenly can't anymore, so the daddy hauls them up onto his shoulders for a bit.

A poem about footprints, overused and cliche, but resonating nonetheless.

My 10-year-old with a broken foot, the day before we got him crutches, riding on my back from the car to the house.

My 7-year-old, toe busted and bleeding, being carried in his daddy's arms.

It took several minutes before I realized I had curled up onto the floor, in a ball, as the thoughts rushed over and over through my brain. And I was crying. And the Lord was talking to me.

"It's okay, little girl. Take a break. I'll do the moving forward for a while, and you can ride on my back. Just sit and breathe for a minute."

Relief is a sweet, precious gift this morning.

Because I am NOT advancing today. I'm sitting. I'm remembering my sister. I'm wishing I could tell her one more time that I love her. I'm missing her.

But I'm sitting on the back of a strong, swift, galloping horse. Because the rider reached out His hand and jerked me from the battle, and is carrying me forward for a while, while I catch my breath.

I'm bleeding and broken, but my Daddy has scooped me into His arms and is bandaging my wounds with His presence.

There were two sets of footprints last week, and this week there is one set. And I don't even care that it sounds cheesy.

He doesn't begrudge me the need to rest, and be sad, and need comfort. When my heart's greatest desire is shelter from the storm, relief from the battle, protection during the pain...He scoops me into His arms.

And so, spiritually, I've been curled in a ball, on the floor of my closet, all week. Still going through the days. Still having to face this one, the day my sister died...but not facing it standing up, or laying down, or alone.

He's carrying me.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest..." Matthew 11:28

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Days 10 and 11. The wrap up.


It helps to try and look at the uncomfortable parts of any given situation as a chance to bond with the people around you, as well as grow stronger and more patient

Let me tell you…we did some SERIOUS bonding on the bus ride home from our team day outing.

Referring to my previous mention of the heat, and the lack of air conditioning…we took a large bus on our excursion, and it didn’t have windows that opened OR air inside.

AND we got stuck in a traffic jam.

For 3 hours.

With no air, conditioned or otherwise.

For 3 hours.

About halfway through the torture, we began to sing. Half Americans, half Kazakhs, all praising the name of Jesus to help us cope with the situation. It really was a special bonding experience.

The next day was labeled, on our itinerary, as “packing and goodbyes.” And that’s pretty much exactly what we did. Everyone began to throw dirty clothes into luggage, and strip sheets off beds, and pause periodically to play cards with friends who stopped by, and share songs and stories, and just be together for as long as possible.

Every friend we had connected with over the course of our trip made a smiling appearance, and they all came bearing food of one kind or another.

Because Kazakhs say “I love you” with food.

It was loud and cramped and there was always someone in the bathroom or waiting in line for it…and it was completely wonderful.

Some people slept, some people didn’t, and at 3 am we departed for the airport.

I will spare you the details of customs and security and all of the horror that those words imply. (Especially the part where 4 members of the team boarded the plane almost as late as its allowed to be boarded, thanks to the customs process.)

The crowd of Kazakh believers/friends who got up out of a dead sleep to drive with us or meet us at the airport, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, was overwhelming. There were as many people there to see us off as there were Americans leaving.

So many hugs.

And tears.

And hopes for reunions next year or sometime in the future.

We left a part of ourselves behind when we took off from the ground.

How fast my heart and soul bonded with the people around me. And that surprised me the most.

I LOVE them. I miss them. We all do.

We are headed home now, entrenched in the exhaustion of airplanes and airports and gross food and bad sleep and all the wear and tear of all that is behind us.

But I am excited, because we aren’t finishing a missions trip. We are continuing one. The mission now is to bring back all that God has done in us, and share it.

It is my prayer that I can take out a little bit of Kazakhstan church family love from my heart and shower it on my North Carolina church family.

Because we have been in a pressure cooker together (and by that, I mean the world’s hottest bus in the world’s worst traffic jam), and now we are bonded for life.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 9

A day of ups and downs, that's what I took away from yesterday.

The enemy was hard at work, as he always is, but it's much more obvious in us when we are tired and hot and lost in the city and riding on a public bus and eating every hour (with a grateful smile to keep from offending our hosts)

But the good far outweighed the bad.

Because the enemy has territory here, but we are fighting him for it. And not just for territory in Kazakhstan, but in each of our hearts and minds and spirits.

We prayed for people, and we prayed for each other, and we set our faces resolutely to do the day.

And then we arrived at the house we were eating dinner at.

The woman was shaking her head and in a flurry, trying to figure out how to seat us all around her small table. She had gone to every apartment in the building to ask for a bigger one, but nobody had one she could use.

Her son assured her that it was fine if we laid out a table cloth on the floor and sat around it. She continued to shake her head and cover her face, but eventually we convinced her that we were thrilled just to spend time with her, and we didn't care at all to sit on the floor.

She served us plates of all our favorite things. I was so surprised that every single one of my most especially loved dishes was on the table.

She told us that she had called everyone else whose house we had been to, and asked what dishes we had liked the most, and she made them all.

We were stunned speechless.

And then she began to share her testimony with us.

Her son, who was sitting beside her, wept as she spoke.

"My husband and I divorced when our children were small. My son stayed with his father, and my daughter came with me.

I didn't know how badly my son was being treated. His father drank, and beat him.

And then one night his father tried to attack him, and my son killed his father. He was sent to prison.

Last year your team prayed for my son and our situation, and two months later, he was released for good behavior.

I wanted to have you here today to thank you for praying, to thank you for the miracle of my son coming back to me.

I wanted to make the most beautiful table for you. I wanted it to be such a special meal."

I wish I could describe the feeling we all had in that moment. Only 4 people on our team had been there to pray for her the year before, but she was thanking us ALL. And not only thanking us, but yearning to thank us so desperately that she called around to find out our favorite dishes and tried to borrow a table from her whole building.

We wept.

It was the most humbling experience of my life.

GOD did that miracle for her and her son. And she was so grateful to Him that it spilled over onto us.

I will never, ever forget her face, her tears, the way she spoke lovingly of and to her son.

Thank you, Lord, for reminders of Your mercy, and for allowing us to witness Your miracles and be partakers of Your great love and grace. We can never, ever thank you enough.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me. Because He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come." Luke 4:8-19

Monday, June 19, 2017

Day 8

I wish that I could take out my eyes and ears and heart and lend them to you for a minute. I feel that there is no way to explain with words all that we are experiencing here.

But I'm going to try. Because I've had a shower (since the water is back on for at least a few hours) and I'm feeling spunky rather than caked in sweat for the first time in 3 days.

Imagine a place where you had no access to online preachers, or devotional books, and where you were required, for the sake of your safety, to be quiet about your prayer and worship and belief in the Lord.

Imagine having minimal contact with other believers, and almost no way to get advice on spiritual struggles.

Imagine keeping a list of prayer requests and questions, and adding to it often, and then walking to a place where you heard Americans had come, and bringing that list with you.

Imagine sitting down in a circle of people who don't speak your language, and listening to them sing songs you don't understand, and feeling, for perhaps the first time in a year, the presence of the Lord in a group of believers. And you weep in the midst of it, because your soul has been lonely.

And then you are asked to share your prayer requests...and you pull out your tattered list, worn with the worry of your fingers, crinkled from being carried in a pocket or purse, damp from sweat and tears, and you share with the strangers in front of you. All the things in your heart pour out, without hesitation, without shame or pride, with only a desire for a touch from the Lord.

I can't explain it well enough. It is more than I can even bear. Their hearts are in their eyes. Their hands tremble as they share their burdens with us, because they haven't been able to share them for so long.

And then we pray.

Us, these selfish, entitled, comfortable, free Americans...we bow our heads and close our eyes and lay our sweat soaked hands on theirs, and we start out...

"Lord..."

And the Lord is in our midst. And we weep. And they weep. And our hearts become one.

And when we finish, there is laughter among us, because how can we do anything else in the presence of the God of the world?

"Who am I, O Lord...that you have brought me this far? What can I say about the way You have honored me? You know what Your servant is really like. For the sake of Your servants, O Lord, and according to YOUR WILL, You have done all these great things and made them known. O Lord, there is no one like You. We have never even heard of another God like You." First Chronicles 17:16-20

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Day 7

So, how about some humor for a minute?

Y'all, it is HOT here right now. Really, in the grand scheme of things, its not so bad, but take a minute and digest these words...

No. Air. Conditioning. In. The. Bus.

Picture sitting for an hour, and then standing up...and leaving a butt-shaped puddle in the seat.

Yuck. (Or "Foo" in Russian.)

Also, the inability to flush the toilet paper, while not a terribly tragic hardship, is proving a challenge for the habitual among us. As in...at least one member of our team has had to fish TP out of the toilet no less than 6 times.

Foo.

The water goes on and off randomly in our apartment, and that makes it even more interesting. Imagine eating a GIGANTIC meal, which you have to eat all of because the faces of the cooks are expectantly wondering what your thoughts are, and then returning to your apartment to find that, regardless of how badly you need to "take care of business" ...there is no water to flush the business.

We have all become very familiar with each other's 'I need to poop' faces.

Foo.

Yesterday we drove two hours to have lunch in homes of church members, and we once again experienced the overwhelming love of the Kazakh people. The table was so crammed with plates of food, and surrounded by so many chairs we were encouraged to occupy, that we could barely move.

And, may I refer you once again to the opening line.

It. Is. Hot. And. There. Is. No. AC.

Todd was honored with the gift of a traditional Kazakh robe and hat, which he had to put on immediately, our translator informed us, so as not to offend.

Sweat was rolling from his brow. He was poised and grateful, and DRENCHED in sweat.

I'm giggling right now, just thinking about it.

The Lord continues to move, and we continue to struggle with our selfishness in the face of it. The heat and the discomfort and the long days and short hours of rest take their toll, and we get on each others' nerves and bite each others' heads off and then we go and stand in front of people who ask us to pray for them.

I can't describe how humbling that is, and how convicting.

Tomorrow begins prayer meetings, where I am told that people will walk for miles to have us lay hands on them, and wait all year to have us pray again.

There are tears among us as we anticipate what the Lord is asking of us, and knowing our failures in light of it. Please lift us up. We are only lumps of clay, as my mama says, and we are unworthy of all the Lord is asking of us.

But we are here. And we are blessed that you pray for us.

"Lord,

You are great, and merciful, and powerful, and holy, and righteous, and WORTHY of the light and momentary discomfort of our days. We are so unworthy to be used by You, but we offer what we have, and we thank You in advance that you will hear us. We are EXCITED to be used by You.

Amen."