...be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord.

13 January 2015

Competing, contrasting or complimentary?

Our last January in West Africa, we took the family camping at a nearby game park.

We camp a lot in the States – sometimes even in some pretty out-of-the-way places, but that was the first time I’d ever camped in Africa, under an African sky, in a really remote location. No city lights. No electricity. No paved roads. No leaving the campsite without a guide in a vehicle or with an armed guard when on foot. Hippos and elephants nearby in the river. Lions hunting on the other side of the rocky ridge that sheltered the campsite.

elephant

In some ways, it was surreal, like something I’d only see on a television show on one of those nature or documentary type channels back in the States; I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was really real. Yet in other ways, it really felt a whole lot like “regular” camping with our gang back in Michigan.

Except for one thing.

Want to know the one thing that was totally, vastly, drastically different?

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To read the rest, please head over to a life overseas: the missions conversation
where I'm posting today.

09 January 2015

Five Minute Friday ~ a South Carolina welcome

It was a bit of an impromptu, impulsive decision...

We'd had such a great time last year, we missed our friends, we really didn't need any excuse to head back.

We just had to decide to do it.

And we did...
















All of those miles?

They were definitely worth it!

It is such a gift to have friends where the welcome is always warm (especially when you live in Michigan and it is wintertime!) and the simple delight in another's presence is easy and comfortable.

It was a welcome too short-lived... at least from our perspective!

30 December 2014

Top 14 Posts of 2014 (Part 2)

#5 Encountering Jesus ~ and His traumatic love


This was one of my personal favorite posts of the year... a lesson God's still teaching me... and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that others resonated with these thoughts as well!"

"...When I'm following Jesus - I can count on the fact that I'll never be walking in total darkness. That guarantee isn't there when I take off on my own and the guarantee isn't that it won't be dark or shadowy or obscure... just that the darkness won't be complete. But that when caveat can be huge. I will have light because we're talking about Jesus as the provider, the source, of that light. It is true because Jesus is true and never lies. Jesus cannot be less than Who He is. His very nature will never allow Him to do less than what He has promised. This truth depends on His desire and ability to act, and that is unquestionable as He's proven it so over and over and over and... It depends on the fact that He loves, that He IS... love ~ 

But, as RC Sproul wrote in The Holiness of God:  "No man was ever more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet even His love made people angry. His love was a perfect love, a transcendent and holy love, but His very love brought trauma to people. This kind of love is so majestic we can't stand it." The Pharisees run headlong into this reality in this Jesus encounter.

His love seeks always and only the best for its recipients. 

That means His love is often incomprehensible, confusing, painful, frustrating, and even terrifying...."

#4 Encountering Jesus ~ Divine Makeovers

The photo that went along with this post was part of what made it a favorite - of mine as well as of many readers! 

"Every time we come back from four years overseas, we see in an instant how people have changed (and know that people can see those same changes in us as well). Sometimes, it is just the effect of time passing and life moving on - more gray hair than before, more wrinkles, moving a little slower, weight gain/loss, additional children... Other times it goes much deeper - now-suddenly-to-us spouseless... or remarried to a different spouse. Other friends have walked away from Jesus and following the faith that united us. Some have come to know the Lord and we can relate on a level we never could before. Some have experienced deep sorrow or life-threatening illness or accident - and even though they are the same, they are unmistakably different as well. 

Ever had a friend who experienced a change and one result was that they became someone almost unrecognizable? One furlough we came home and my mom, who'd had short hair all of my life, had let her hair grow long - well below shoulder length. It was a beautiful gray and she took the time to curl and style it. It really was lovely, but she looked like someone who resembled my mom... not my real mom. I'd continually kick myself because instead of telling her how nice she looked, all I could do was sputter about how different it was. She just didn't look like the mother I remembered for 40ish years... she wasn't the person-on-the-outside I expected to see and it took some getting used to. I'd just about made it to that point when she cut her hair short again!

Imagine that same sort of change - but much more significant because it wasn't/isn't simply external, but was/is a change that affected/affects every aspect of who that person was/is.

Yikes!

That's what happened to this blind guy. 

His story is rapidly becoming another Scripture favorite. I guess it is okay to have lots of favorite places in God's Word?..."

#3 Trusting in the Sufficiency and Sovereignty of God

This post addresses some of the real and nitty gritty of not just missionary life, but life following Jesus...

"Two weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending church. Before delving into my notes, however, I'd like to share a story of one of our scariest moments overseas... one of those times when our only hope was to trust in God, His sovereignty and particularly?  In His sufficiency.

The story centers around our precious Anna...

She was six years old, in her first full year of school at a local French language school, still young enough that we called her by her baby nickname (Anna-lu) and that she still cried when we dropped her off at school - before bravely trudging on in through the gate. Elsie Mae had recently joined the family... she was only a few weeks old... 

One afternoon, Anna came home from school's morning session telling us she didn't feel well. Over the course of our sieste that day, she continued to wilt. I was pretty sure she was running a fever and so we took her to the recording studio where Tim was working (and the air conditioner was running) to see if we could cool her down. She only ended up chilled and uncomfortable, curled up by her daddy's feet under the production desk, as far away from the AC as she could be.

I decided to take her to the doctor.

Once there, she promptly threw up all over the waiting room... which sent us to the front of the line. A blood test confirmed that she had malaria and our doctor immediately prescribed medication. I think it took three pharmacies to find it. Three days later, her prescription had run its course, but Anna wasn't acting as if she felt any better..."

#2 When a Colleague Fails

This was a convicting and hard post to write...


"How are we supposed to act when a colleague sins?

It happens, and I’m not talking about the respectable sins with which we all struggle. I’m talking about the big ones – the ones that result in missionaries sent home from the field or pastors asked to leave their churches…

What are we to do? How are we supposed to act?

I know what sorts of behaviors and attitudes surface most naturally in me.

I criticize. Blame. Ostracize. Shame.

I want to gossip – even though I usually manage to restrain myself. I convince myself I could NEVER sin that sin – at least not the same way nor as sordidly as my colleague did… I sigh as I wonder how the ministry will ever weather the repercussions.

I want to disqualify that person from ever being part of “my team,” again. I might thank God for protecting me from such a wretched mistake, possibly praying, “Thank You, God, that I am not like those those who are unrighteous, who steal, those who commit <that really bad sin>… and Lord, especially that I’m not like____________” filling in the blank with the name of my “fallen” colleague.

Jesus had some pretty strong words for such an attitude..."

#1 "The cold never bothered me anyways!"

It makes me smile that this was the most popular post this past year. But since the original goal of this online space was to keep people updated with our family and to let them feel like they "know" our kids, it is fitting...!


People always ask us how her adaptation to life in America is going... since prior to touching foot in this strange place last summer, she had no memories of her passport country.

She seems to be adjusting better than her older siblings... at least to weather related aspects... Don't you think?



Never would've suspected this.

Just a few months ago, all she really knew was life on the backside of the Sahara.


29 December 2014

Top 14 Posts of 2014 (Part 1)

Since beginning blogging and as one year slides into the past making way for a new one, I've made it a habit to look back through the blog posts I've written and to share, once again, links to those posts that have generated the most response in readers. Response can refer to the number of "hits" on a particular post. It can reflect a larger than normal number of comments when I shared the post on Facebook or Google. It can reflect a surprising number of "reaches" as defined by social networking sites. Or, it may simply be that it is one of those posts in which the writing and reflecting has changed me.

Thus, response - as I'm defining it here - is not a hard and fast scientific number, but more my intuitive feeling which then appears to be backed up by the numbers and stats. 

Given that definition, here's a glimpse of some of what has happened on Our Wright-ing Pad in 2014.


A book review of the Divergent Trilogy, I discuss what I appreciated about this particular set of young adult fiction and share why I've encouraged my children (and as and where appropriate, other teens) to consider reading it.


"I love the truth of this quote. We are all unique and different, with different strengths and talents and abilities. But one thing we have in common is failure. Everyone fails. And everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and become someone new as a result of those failures... and when we recognize, confess and move on, allowing our failures to unite us and to spur us on to something better, something powerful happens. That is a large part of the story of this book... " 


Almost every Friday, I participate in a five minute free write, given a word prompt. This was one of those five-minute writes (although, I think if you read to the end, I confess I went a bit overtime to actually complete my thoughts). Here's a bit of an excerpt...

That doesn't change the fact that it is hard when I've got a vision for something... when I feel convicted about something... when I'm sure I'm willing and I should be... and he says "No."

It's even harder when God says "No."
No - I don't want you to serve there right now.
No - Another child is not part of my plan for your family.
No - That job was not for you.
No - You think you need _____________________, but what you really need is _________________.
Or just plain "No," and no explanations, no reasons or even good explanatory hypotheses, no thank-yous for your willingness, no understandings of why.


That this post made the list surprises me. It was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, excusing myself for a kinda-semi-absence from the blog, or, for not writing nearly as prolifically as I had been... But, if you take the time to click over and read... you do get a tiny glimpse of life in our home with four very busy and involved teenage girlies!

"I hope to be up and running again next week.


Of course, I say hope not in the Hebrews 11.1 sense of the word.

I say it more in the sense of my little "hope basket" I keep in my bathroom...
that is there "in the hope that" at least one or two of my girlies will remember to replace the brush after getting ready for school...

So I can find it when I need to use it later!"

I write for a couple of collective blogs designed to encourage and challenge missionaries (since I am one...). This post was written for a life overseas, and I'm really honored that they let me be a part of their group. I mean, this group of people really write - as in publish their own books... as in make money off of their pixelated and penned words. I write once each month, and this post just might be my favorite among all of the posts I wrote last year. 


Here's an excerpt...
"...I learned something that day. It doesn’t matter what sort of troopers kids may be – when their carryon weighs at best their own body weight and at worse, even more, little tykes aren’t going to be able to manhandle them through the airplane aisle to seat 46E… or drag them along on a mile hike through the airport up and down escalators only found in your nightmares. Adding insult to injury, our kids hardly even opened those carryons. Instead they played with the masks and socks the airline stewardess handed out once seated on the plane.
Just like once we’d unpacked the bags and moved into our new home…
There, they threw almost all of the fancy toy gadgets from their carryons into an action packer, fastened the lid tight and shoved it into the closet so they’d have more room on the floor to play. Only a few things remained out, visible and accessible. Those last minute gifts from grandparents sat near their pillows, ready for bed every night. The girls kept out a few of their Polly Pocket dolls and clothing. Our boy kept out his Fisher Price knights and horses. And they discovered baby lizards… everywhere!
They started catching them, dressing them in Polly Pocket clothing, making intricate mazes and dwellings out of branches, muddy sand and mango leaves. Squeals of delight erupted when they observed that gently rubbing a lizard’s chin “hypnotized” it; that made dressing without hurting… or losing part of a tail… a lot easier. Our son, wanting to get in on the fun but not wanting to demean himself by actually playing with Polly Pockets… even if it was just their clothing… sat lizards on tiny little medieval horses and began jousting competitions.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty sure some lizards were mildly harmed, i.e. tails lost, in the carrying out of these particular activities…)" 

#10 big changes, and our latest prayer letter
Our prayer letter, where we announced a change in direction for our family. Instead of returning to Niger, God is now leading us to work in Quebec City, Canada - still involved in broadcasting and audio-visual production as well as teaching. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of that letter...

“And God Wrought Special Miracles By The Hands Of Paul…”
Other versions/translations say “unusual miracles…” “extraordinary miracles…” “no ordinary miracles…” and “not common mighty works…” if we list a few of the other renditions of this verse. At first that seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it? After all, the definition of miracle is:
  • an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
  • such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
  • a wonder; marvel.
  • a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality.
  • Yet we know God’s Word is not redundant and that “all Scripture is inspired.”
So why the seemingly repetitive adjective before the word miracle?
Perhaps both words together remind that an abundance of miracles surrounds, every moment, day in and day out, without fail. Most of the miraculous we forget because it has become common. We simply take for granted a beating heart, a deep breath, the gift of sight, the sun rising and setting, tides coming in and then out again, thorny soil producing fruit… too many miracles happen each day to try and count them all, and we forget about them because they are every day, dependent upon the Creator and Sustainer of this universe. The miracles God did through Paul were icing on the cake miracles – the unusual, extraordinary and not common ones. It’s that genre of supernatural that people demand of God.
Yet why should we expect… why do we demand… extravagant extravagance when every day we look right past His every day lavishness?

#9 When it rains, it pours
If our extended families ever doubted whether or not people read our blogs to keep up with them, sometimes, the response to this post should erase all doubt! 

When it lightenings, it thunders...

When it snows, it blizzards...

AND in the Midwest... when it blows, it tornadoes...

We actually drove through some pretty wild weather last week as we were traveling... but cliché-ish statements like these describe how I've been feeling the past few days... weeks...

...those clichés CAN and, at this moment, DO imply a breathless "What's next?" questioning that I'm whispering after the past three weeks, which have included 

  • flurries to blizzards of activity, 
  • showers of obligations with downpours of miles in the van, 
  • whirlwinds of friends, faces and places... 
  • and too many thunderous strikes of loved ones seriously sick way too close for comfort... and seemingly all at once....



[Then] While we were traveling, we received word that both Tim's dad and Richelle's dad were quite seriously ill and hospitalized....


#8 "I'm sorry. We aren't serving eggs today." 
I'm always surprised when I discover a new blog reader - but usually that happens via the computer - email, the blog itself, Facebook. After I wrote this post, I actually had several people (including my kids'  oral surgeon as we were in for a consult regarding wisdom teeth extraction) mention this blog post... in person, face to face! For what it's worth, this is another one of my personal favorite post from this past year.


One of the last times my friend and I were at the café together, we sat down at our normal corner table where we didn't have to see the large flat screen TV on the wall above us and to my right, even though it usually featured a soccer game or some sort of documentary I'd usually find interesting... and ...we waited for our server to arrive with the menus that I practically knew by heart but still took the time to read... every single time. Not sure if that is because I'm a creature of habit or if I was simply trying to make my little weekly escape last as long as possible before entering back into the fray... but I did. That week, I settled on my regular - l'omelette française... or an omelette chock full of ham and and even more cheese - usually Gouda. 

When our server came to get our order, we'd already exchanged a few pleasantries with our greetings when he brought the menu, so I immediately said, "Je voudrais avoir l'omelette française, s'il vous plaît." I instantly knew that something was up... he had that same smile plastered on his face that he always had when he told me they weren't serving my favorite coffee.

"I'm sorry. We aren't serving eggs today," he replied.

"Oh... um... well, then - a plate of french fries would be delightful. Instead of cheese this time, can you be sure and bring me some mayonnaise on the side?"

There was that awkward smile, again.

"Oh... you aren't serving those either?" Wanting to avoid further awkwardness for our server, I tried a different tactic. "Please, sir, tell me what you'd recommend that I try for breakfast this morning?"

I actually don't remember what he said after that... because as he was talking to me, I was looking out the window of the café, at the market that lined the sides of road, across the street from the small parking lot in front of the café. There, vendeurs had piles of eggs stacked... some of them at least a meter high... 


#7 Sobering, Scary... and Rings SO True
 Another book review (because I read a lot); this one prompted lots of discussion and inspired at least a few - that I know of - to want to read this book!

"I don't remember where I first saw this title, exactly what prompted me to get a copy of this book, or how long I've been slowly working my way through it,

...but doing so has taken me on a HUGE learning curve.


NARCISSISM ~

inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
also: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.

There's even something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), or a condition in which people have 

  • an excessive sense of self-importance, 
  • an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and 
  • a lack of empathy for others.

It was one of those words I'd heard, and certainly understood when I read it in context, but not one that I'd spent much time thinking about, until recently... until reading this book."


#6 of bugs and maple buds 
This was just a cute post about one of our kiddos - kids who've been bounced all over the country and across three continents - and something she said.


When I told her that they weren't the rainy season red bugs, she asked for the seemingly billioneth time this year, "Why can't we go back to Niger?" 

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Oh... the things that make us homesick for our Niger home...

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Pop back in tomorrow for the top five posts last year...

and links to a couple of series that I've written/worked on over the past year.

19 December 2014

Tempted to Tell ALL

“Mama, when we were at the library the other day, I was tempted to tell someone about Jesus and how He was born to save us. Is that wrong?”


I couldn’t help but smile.

Funny question for a missionary kid to be asking…

After all, isn’t that what missionaries do? Isn’t that what we teach kids that missionaries do?

Missionaries go, into ALL the world for this reason: telling ALL who have never heard or who have never believed or who just need to be reminded - ALL about Jesus.

The message is first one of confrontation - the horribly bad news that ALL, are sinners and that as sinners, we are unable - in and of ourselves - to DO ANYTHING to remedy our sin problem. Which brings us to the second part of the bad news: the required punishment for our sin is death.

Grasping that part of the message is necessary; thankfully it doesn’t stop there or we would ALL be without hope.

The second half of the missionary message tells of reconciliation and restoration. It’s the hopeful part… the better part.

ALL men need someone to save them...

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