Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday afternoons are great for writing

“If you say the ‘F’ word ONE more time, Hannah Vincent, I WILL push The Button!” Connie threatened. To come into the room on this note, one would suspect that I’d said a horrible word, and was about to receive due punishment by the ever patient Connie Chandler.
My reaction to her fearsome claim was to nearly spew my mouthful of water all over my laptop-she should realize she is a very blessed individual because this did not actually end up happening. But it almost did. And therefore she should be more careful in her outpouring of witty remarks.
Fractions. That is the word which pushes Connie to pressing The Button, lately. Or prime numbers, or anything math related for that matter. Kelsey drove her to it the other night, by watching one too many online videos for help in tutoring 6th grade math. Every time Kelsey mentioned it, no matter how much we begged and pleaded, Connie faithfully fulfilled her promise and pushed The Button.
Play. That is The Button that Connie pushes in response to our “delinquent behavior.” But I suppose the more important information that you should know is exactly what pushing Play means. It means we have to listen to Justin Bieber’s “Baby” yet again-out of the three of us, Connie has Bieber Fever the worst, and “Baby” is her favorite go-to at the moment.
Back to the scene of the crime-after coming very close to soaking my (not so) very expensive electronic device, I caved and said the ‘F’ word on accident…and while listening to “Baby” sung by a cutesy 16 year old kid, exclaimed that I was going to blog about this painful moment. And now I have. So there.

On a more serious note, this past week has been one in which God reminded me in a big way that He is my provider, the one with the money in the first place. After hearing of three close friends receiving large gifts that will help them financially in their various ministries, I spent a day having a spiritual pity-party, reminding God over and over of my own financial needs (which really haven’t been so very pressing as they might be). On Tuesday at Women’s Club, Mama Odette helps downstairs with the kids, and she always asks me what I’ve read in my Bible for the day. Most days I wait ‘til the afternoon to do my reading, or whatever free moment pops up, but Tuesdays I’ve learned that I’d better do it in the morning. ;) And this Tuesday I read 2 Timothy. Yeah, the whole book. It’s pretty short, and I’ve been reading it over and over lately, soaking it all in. But 4:5 really stuck out to me this time, as it says, “But you should control yourself at all times, accept troubles, do the work of telling the Good News and complete all the duties of a servant of God.” It was as if God was telling me, “Hel-lo! Don’t you trust me? Get ahold of yourself, girl, and let me take care of this-you just focus on the work I’ve given you to do here.” I committed my pathetic little “problem” of finances to God, and my heart was light and ready for an afternoon caring for little ones. Mama Odette further encouraged me when she shared Ephesians 6:10, which says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His great power.”
To make a long story short and keep details out, things happened that Tuesday afternoon, and I now have enough funds to cover 2/3 of my Uganda trip! God’s timing is perfect, and my head has known this my whole life…my heart, on the other hand, is a little slow in catching up. I’m so glad He is patient and willing to teach the same lessons over and over to such a slow learner as I. And I’m also glad He likes crazy people, like Amy and me.

Speaking of crazy people, on Thursday, Connie and I leave for a 5 day weekend at home! I get to have my friend Hannah Fodrey come along to stay with my family and I, and when I get home I have my new camera waiting for me-I can’t wait to get back to taking pictures to share more of my life here with you all. I’m better at communicating through writing when I have pictures to go along with my posts! A cell phone camera is so depressingly incapable of doing the job.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The whole world in His hands...

God is my shepherd
I won't be wanting
I won't be wanting
He makes me rest
In fields of green
With quiet streams

Even though I walk
Through the valley
Of death and dying
I will not fear
Cause you are with me
You are with me

Your shepherd's staff
Comforts me
You are my feast
In the presence of enemies
Surely goodness
Will follow me
Follow me
In the house of God forever.

Kelsey introduced Connie and I to this song several weeks ago, and as we sang our favorite praise songs together this afternoon, we ended with this one. It's such a peaceful and comforting reassurance of Whom we have put our trust in-and with all that is going on in our world today, that's a much needed thing! I talk with my international friends, and hear of how they've not seen their families in years-and many of their families are seriously ill, and separated from them by thousands of miles. I hear of the strife in Africa, and think of how in two and a half months, I will be entering that region. I hear of the suffering in Japan and Haiti,and think of the friends and acquaintances I have there. I hear of the unrest in so many other parts of the earth, and grieve for the lost there who are enduring such hardships as I will only ever have to imagine. My heart is bleeding for the hurting, the sick, the dying, the grieving, the lost...and yet we're all held in the same Hands. The Hands which made every particle of this fallen planet in which we dwell, and the Hands that keep it from crumbling into nothingness. The Hands which will one day (very soon!) wipe all the tears from our eyes, will banish suffering and pain, will heal all wounds, and will make all things new. And knowing this gives me such joy-I want to dance and sing and shout and tell the whole world of the hope which we can all have, for I know that,
"The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us." Rom. 8:18

He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got my brothers and my sisters in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the sun and the rain in His hands,
He's got the moon and the stars in His hands,
He's got the wind and the clouds in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got the rivers and the mountains in His hands,
He's got the oceans and the seas in His hands,
He's got you and he's got me in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

He's got everybody here in His hands,
He's got everybody there in His hands,
He's got everybody everywhere in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The joy of spring

"For everything can be redeemed, we can be redeemed, oh all of us-oh happiness!"

I don't care that it's not "officially" spring until tomorrow-I'm standing on the idea that spring has already arrived! Wednesday started the streak of beautiful, warmer weather here in Fort Wayne, and so far each day has been warm, sunny, and full of the promises of Spring. It couldn't have been better timed-not just myself, but so many people around me I'd noticed were beginning to be depressed and down-trodden, weighed down by worldly cares. I know such menial things as the weather should have no play on our outlook on life, but the human soul can only take so much before it gives in to it's surroundings. And when those surroundings are grey and lifeless...I think everyone has experienced the kind of dull feelings that winter deadness can bring on.

So, as soon as the weather turned cheery, what did Connie and I do? We blasted David Crowder's "Oh Happiness" as loud as we could with the van windows rolled down, singing along at the top of our lungs-full of joy and happiness to be alive and under God's grace! The song makes you want to jump and shout and scream and dance and cry and just praise God for his grace-'cause "there's enough for us and the whole human race!"

Have you ever really thought about that? How deep and wide and never-ending is the love and grace of God? There are almost 7 billion people on this planet at this moment in time, and countless others who have lived before us. We are all such fallen, sinful creatures, and yet God's grace is greater than all of our sin. Even if all 7 billion of us repented and allowed Him to redeem us, He would eagerly welcome us all in with open arms. I don't know about you, but forgiving 7 billion people who have wronged me, and eagerly entering into relationship with each one doesn't sound so appealing to me. Realizing how great is God's love for mankind just makes me want to sing!

Connie, Kelsey, and I went on an adventure to the Botanical Conservatory this morning, and soaked in the warmth and sunshine while surrounded by all kinds of exotic and beautiful (and some rather creepy) plants. I think that growth, and the sign of things actually happening is part of what I really love about spring. I like to get things done and see progress being made-spring is my season. But even as I rejoice in the beauty of the turn of seasons to brighter days, I'm reminded all over again how equally important the dormancy of winter is to the cycle of life. Without the dark days of Winter, how can we truly appreciate the wonders of Spring? And to parallel that, without the hard and frustrating situations in life, how can we truly praise God for the blessings He gives us? If life was all roses, it'd be nice-but there wouldn't be much meaning in that. To have this constant reminder of redemption, whether you see it in the annual change from winter to spring, or in the daily changes from frustration to little or big blessings, should make us all the more excited to see others around us enter into this great roller coaster ride adventure called faith in Jesus Christ!
I pray that He will open my eyes to opportunities to share my ride with others, and that somehow He will use this broken and incapable vessel to excite at least one person about the Gospel-for we can all be redeemed, all of us-oh happiness!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Mousy

The big white van pulled into the parking lot behind 711 house, and I braced myself to be run over by 4 preteen boys, 15 year old Rahmo, and Hawa and her brood of six young'uns. It's this way every Monday night at Computer Cafe, where we help students with homework, their parents with English, and the little ones are loved downstairs by Mama Linda or I (or both).
But not tonight! Tonight I was prepared-I had the sign in sheet all prepared to check each of the boys off quickly as they would dash past me up the stairs to snag a laptop before the rest of them could get up there, and had all Hawa's children's nametags ready to stick on their backs.
Imagine my surprise, then, when each of the boys stopped politefully and made sure I checked them off the list, "You know I'm Ahmed, right?" "What's MY name, Hannah?"
"Wow, that was easy!" I thought to myself. "What's got into them?"
Eldon explained when he came in and asked, "Did they give you a hard time with check-in, Hannah?" Ahhh...no wonder they were easy-Eldon had commanded politeness towards "Miss Hannah" this Monday. Thanks Eldon. :)
Hawa's kids all helped each other with their stickers and headed themselves down to the basement to play with "Linda."
Usually I find myself helping three elementary school-aged girls with their homework on Monday nights, but tonight they finished it super fast. Then word reached them that Linda was having a cookie-decorating party downstairs, so we dashed downstairs to join in the fun. As soon as I came in view, sweet little Hamdi (1 year) got a huge grin on her face and ran to me, arms outstretched. I swung her around and around while she giggled and clapped her hands. Dahabo, Hamdi's 4 year old sister, with hands covered in frosting and sugary sprinkles, noticed us, and ran over to grab my legs in a tight hug as she exclaimed, "I love you, Sweet Mousy!"
Awww. I don't know where the nickname came from, but in that moment I felt incredibly loved. :) Dahabo and Hamdi, I love you both, too!
Some moments on Monday nights, when it feels like we could really use an extra pair of hands or an extra brain much better at math, it's easy to feel like no progress is being made. But then God sends moments like these-boys shaping up at the request of their elder, and little girls overflowing with love-and it wipes away all doubts of His hand at work in each and every life that comes through these doors.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday afternoon ponderings which are keeping me from taking a nap

This year is just flying by-so much has already happened in my life, and there is still much more ahead of me. This afternoon I was reading in Proverbs 20 for my bible study with Amy, and verse 24 resonated with the theme that has been weaving it's way through my thoughts lately-
'The Lord decides what a person will do; no one understands what his life is all about.'
I don't understand all of the things God has led me through or why He is leading me where He is. But He is teaching me to trust Him for all my needs, and to realize the lack of true value in most of my wants. He is showing me how perfect His timing is, and that His answers to my prayers aren't always what I want but exactly what I need. He is leading my heart away from it's fearfulness and into a place of trusting Him as my only true safe refuge. He is my closest friend, my comfort, my peace, my guide, my discipline, my counsel, my advocate, my reward, my reality, my savior, my wealth, my all-waking up each day and getting to serve such an amazing God is an honor I am humbled to have! My life is nothing without Him, and my life is His to use as He will.
Sometimes I feel so frustrated not knowing more of God's plan for my life-I love to imagine all these grandiose scenarios, and it'd be great to know ahead of time exactly which (or if any) of these will actually come to be reality. I'd be able to prepare better, right?
But I also somehow feel that if I truly knew every step that God is going to guide my feet through, I'd give up and run the other way! And I'm learning to be content with that-with only knowing just as much as I need to know for the moment. It's truly better to simply "trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey!"