The Hard Stuff

Peace -Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes Peace as 2- freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

Sitting in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), knowing my brother was struggling greatly for the past few months, I have had that peace. Sure there have been times of tears as I cry out to God for healing and help, but up until Wednesday morning January 31st I had a peace about staying in the Highlands. The work that God has lead us to there with MAF, helping to reach isolated people to see physical and spiritual transformation has been a very challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. The ladies prayer group on Tuesday mornings and the team prayer group Friday at lunchtime has been a great encouragement to me as they pray with me for my brother, and for that peace that I needed to be able to continue the work that was needed to be done.

Our dear friends and colleagues from our time with Nazarene Mission Aviation in West Africa, John and Linda Seaman, shared with us about “Weird Peace” during our time in Africa with the War, and being evacuated etc… They had learned about that “Weird Peace” when their eldest daughter had been in a traumatic car accident and was in a coma for some time and then through her recovery. I really like to use that phrase because it is weird to our human brains. It really doesn’t make sense that at such a difficult time we can be, as the dictionary definition above states, free from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. What the dictionary fails to tell us, is that peace can only come from above.

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me tell the story of our youngest daughters birth on the Island of Yap in Micronesia. That is where I learned that God gives us what we need when we need it and not 5 seconds before. Our time in Africa confirmed that lesson as we saw God giving us what we needed through the war, the evacuations, the separations and all.

Through our time in PNG, I have learned that yes, God does indeed give us what we need, when we need it, and He also gives us Peace in the midst of the storms of life.

But how does that come about you ask? I have found that it comes through daily spending time in the Word of God and prayer. It is not enough to just read a chapter in the Bible or read a devotional book and check off the box indicating that I have done my good deed for the day. I need to read for understanding and also wait upon the Lord, listening, ready to accept what the Lord wants me to receive at that time.

Just last night I got some new insights as I attended the Ladies Bibles Study at Karcher Church of the Nazarene led by my good friend Lorraine Doramus. They are studying the book Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, and last nights chapter was on Peace. As we discussed the idea of peace, it occurred to me that peace is not superficial. It is deep and tied to every area of our lives. We have to take an inward look before we can truly reflect the outward presence of peace. We need to look at our relationship with the Lord first of all, then look at ourselves, and how we feel about who we are. Next comes our relationship with our spouse, kids, coworkers, community and so on.

I sat next to my brother talking with (to) him, on the hospital bed in the living room of his home in Kuna, Idaho, with the back raised to help him breathe, watching his labored breathing knowing that the end was near. Through the tears that fell from my eyes and moistened my shirt, I felt that weird peace. My daughters have been telling me for the past few weeks “Uncle Curt is ready.” Curt has been ready to go see Jesus for quite a while. And anyone who knows him knows that. He really didn’t want to leave his precious wife, or his children and it was especially hard to leave the grandchildren, but he was ready. He knew where he was going. He told his daughter and daughter-in-laws that he would get to see their babies before they did, (all 3 of them are pregnant right now), and he would tell them what a great family they would have.

Tears flowed for all of us as we thought of the separation that would happen and after his final breath here on earth we continued to grieve, and yet hope at the same time. That peace gave us hope of seeing him again on that great reunion day in heaven. He is not gone, he has just gone on ahead.

Our ministry partner in the Philippines wrote a great song after his father passed away when he was a teen See You Tomorrow the words are great reminder that we will again be with our loved ones, that have gone on ahead of us, to heaven. The song takes on new meaning for me as I think about my precious Nieces and Nephews and my amazing Sister-in-law. But I rejoice that they will walk hand in hand in Paradise.

It is hard… but it is not the end.

As Curt passed from this life, surrounded by his precious family, the song I Can Only Imagine came on the internet radio they were listening to. The whole family sang him into glory with the words I can only imagine as they knew Curt was not only imagining, but experiencing it for himself!

I shared with my family that every emotion I have ever had towards my brother Curtis welled up within me and knocked me to my knees like a giant wave when I arrived at his house after 40+ hours of travel, but as the water settled, the love and respect came to the surface. I deeply love and respect Curtis. He has grown to be a pretty amazing man and I am proud to say I am his sister.

It is still hard… not having Todd by my side as I wade through the emotions and try to be a support to my family is more difficult than I thought it would be. Knowing how busy he is with all the different responsibilities he has and I am not there to make sure he starts his day with a good breakfast, or to pack his lunch or have a nice hot dinner ready when he gets home at night is hard for me to deal with as well. But I now that God is giving him what he needs to get through this, just as God is giving me what I need and Curt’s family’s what they need.

I am so very thankful for that peace, that weird peace. I face each new day afresh, spending time with the Lord to get what I need to face what I need to.

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Positivity – not just a nice idea!

Positivity, although this is one of my top 5 strength according to the Strengthsfinder Survey, I believe that it is something that every Christian needs to cultivate and nurture within themselves. It is not just about being happy, but rather about looking for the good in things and not letting our frustrations spoil our attitude and outlook.

As we start a new year, I have been feeling led to work towards having a positive outlook in everything I can. That means, when the internet is too slow to load a picture, instead of being frustrated and saying things under my breath about how good the internet was in our last ministry assignment, I look for something that the Lord might be directing me towards as I wait for the picture to load. And when I did just that this morning, I was blessed by an email that came in while I waited, inviting Todd and I into a prayer partnership with another MAF couple in a similar leadership position. Had I just had a bad attitude, I would have missed seeing this until the next day most likely (I just check email once in the morning and once in the evening due to expense) and would not have been able to give my enthusiastic response that I am sure was an encouragement to them as well.

John 15:1-4This is not something that I am just doing flippantly, I am prayerfully reflecting on my attitude each morning as I read my Bible and spend time with the Lord in prayer. This year I am planning to read the Bible through in the Tok Pisin Bible. Reading in another language really helps me to reflect on the meaning, and helps me learn the language faster as well! I started a couple of weeks ago and am now in Acts or Buk Aposel in Tok Pisin. In John 15:1-8 I was reading about the vine and the branches, and reflecting on the idea of positivity and how that looks within these verses. I looked at one possible aspect of bearing fruit as being positive in all circumstances. Could it be that pruning comes to remove the bad attitudes, so that we can get back to what is important and grow “positively”? And then in verses 9-17 as it talks about how we are to love each other, again I reflected on the idea of positivity in how we show love for each other, in our attitudes and actions. Do others know we are Christians by our love for each other? Or do we allow the frustrations of life to give us a bitter attitude?

Beauty Outside My DoorI am choosing to look past the hurts of being away from family and friends, and look at the beauty right outside my doors. To look past the frustrations of not having a work permit, and look at the opportunities I have to encourage others and spend time reading to help get a better grasp on what my role involves before I have to go to the office every day.

Noortje talking to MiMi

The internet is still slow, and very expensive….. but I am thankful that we do have the ability to communicate with our kids and our precious 3 year old grand daughter (They call that a Bubu here) and with my brother Curt, struggling with Cancer.

Curt and Fam at Christmas

To keep in contact with friends in other areas of the world that we have come to love like family. And I will try to keep looking for those other things that the Lord might be directing me to, that will be a blessing not just for me, but for others, so that they will know that I am a Christian – by my love and positive outlook!

Will you join me in this endeavor, to look for the positive and show we are Christians by our love?  If so, drop me a note, I would love to be able to encourage you along the way!