Friendship

A small pier extended out over a getty that extended into the ocean water surrounding a little small island called Managaha. It was the summer of 1999. Just a few months earlier, I had found what it meant to have a relationship with God before graduating from Bob Jones University. Providence had carried me far away from my homeland, I was now living in Saipan working in a small school called Eucon International School. It was the weekend, and with the weekend came the opportunity to do things like explore the tropical island we were privileged to be living on and camp out on this little neighboring smaller island called Managaha. Together with some of the teachers that summer, I had gone camping. I remember it very well. It would be one of many times we had the privilege to have such an outing while I stayed in Saipan over the next four years. This particular night, I had not been on island so long and was a bit homesick for my family and friends back home in the states. I walked to the pier where the little boat had dropped us off earlier with all our camping stuff, and for a time sat down together with another co-teacher and watched the stars, and listened to the ocean water. I remember thinking that night and it was really the first time I recall realizing it or thinking of it – I thought of how precious Jesus and the Father, the Spirit are and all the redeemed souls of His and how really it was these that made the thought of heaven so longed for. Growing up, I can remember being told stories about heaven – the streets of gold, the mansion He is preparing. I remember dreaming what it might be like. But until that night when I was so separated from the ones I was so close to, I didn’t realize how the souls in heaven – the souls, that would be what would make heaven so precious to me.

Time has ellapsed, now it is 2014. Since that time of living in Saipan and those first days in Christ, I have gotten married. I have had three children. We have bought our first house. I’ve homeschooled for six years. Time has marched on…. My life is not as simple as it was as a single girl living on Saipan in the South Pacific Ocean.

My life’s changed not just by means of marriage and children, I have also lost loved ones. Sitting on the dock in Saipan in 1999, I had only lost an aunt , a cousin, and a great grandmother. Now, there awaits me my sweet Grandmother and Grandfather, and my husband’s father. Heaven’s getting sweeter and dearer with every passing day.

Friendships are not as easily maintained with three small children, nor are family relationship, frankly, especially as a homeschool mother.
A few weeks ago, much out of no where, a friend of mine from my college days came by to visit with me and we met together at a park. She has three boys, and I have two boys and a little girl. We shared how God had used some circumstances of suffering to really teach us and draw us to Himself.
For a brief moment, it was like time stood still and that same heart of mine that was just so zealous and vibrant as a college girl revived for a little bit of an afternoon. The old friend blessed my heart so much just by her fellowship. As I left the park, I was singing an old negro spiritual song called “Oh! Happy Day!” The last year has been tremendously difficult for me, and in an afternoon this old friendship and the fellowship brought together through it with the Best Friend to my heart was so refreshing. As I drove home, I realized and I thought of how our friends in Christ, our closest brothers and sisters in the LORD are like little springs of HOPE that GOD allows to flow into our lives. They whisper to our hearts of a better time and a better day coming.

God has blessed my life with so many sweet, sweet friends. Jesus said “I have called you Friends, because whatsoever the Father has told unto me, I have shared it with you…” Have you found the very closest best Friend? He is the source of all our love and all our affection.
Christ is the reason that we can befriend another. Christ is the reason why we should love and care for others. My life has gone and progressed since 1999, and the body of Christ has not always been without offense. My heart has been broken and wounded, and without doubt I have hurt and offended other people. Christ’s love and His very life are the healing bond and within Him lies a reservoir of Hope that one can turn to with these broken wounded hearts.

Here, every gathering eventually must come to a close. But there, there is coming a day where we will bask in His presence and we will fellowship perfectly. What joys await us there!

So, Friendship. Friendship is a ray of HOPE for me. God put within all of us a longing that this world cannot satisfy. “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” – Augustine.

A Family Table.

My childhood is not interlaced with memories that include family meals. I remember family get togethers, Sunday lunches at Grandma’s. I am an only child. As I remember it, I cannot recall too many times where my father and mother and I sat around the table together at dinnertime. When I was about nine years old, my parents divorced. My mother remarried shortly thereafter. I never went to visit my father in his new residence until after I myself had gotten married in my mid-twenties. We would meet once in a while at a restaurant throughout my growing up years. I cannot remember one family style, sit down dinner with him in our home. Maybe it’s because I am repressing memories in some part of my brain, or maybe it just wasn’t very common. The home I grew up in after my parent’s divorced was plagued with a very, very critical palate. My stepfather doesn’t appreciate any sort of spice, and eats a very bland diet. I can remember one meal that my mom cooked and he got up from the table and went to the sink and actually ran water over whatever she’d cooked then proceeded to eat it. If I had married a man that was so overbearing and non-accepting of my attempts in the kitchen, there probably wouldn’t be too many attempts made at creating delicious meals or memories involving a family table.

Never having been led to see the importance of nutrition, it really wasn’t until my early twenties that I had any inkling at towards the value of nutritional intake. I was living as a single on an island in the South Pacific called Saipan. In this culture, I was surrounded by a lot of asian cuisine, and less of American influence. I lived for a little more than a year with a Singaporean roomate. My favorite people to spend time with were Chinese people that were working on the island in garment factories. That’s a whole different story, and maybe it can be shared another day. I was working as a kindergarten teacher in an international mission school. Because of my mismanagement of my body, I was getting pretty run down, weak and very susceptible to illness. I had made a friend there who became very dear and he taught me how important the nutrients are that we take into our bodies. I began to learn, and I think this was the real beginning of my interest in cooking. Beyond making cookies, frosting a cake and whipping up some deviled eggs, I cannot remember cooking much with my mom in our home kitchen. In Saipan, there came a time when I lived on my own without any roomates. By this time, I was so homesick and hungry for foods (comfort foods) that I would cook for myself. My friend cooked with me sometimes, and it was the beginning of my first and best memories made around a home table. In our mission school, there were other single teachers, I loved to cook for them and loved having us all enjoy a meal together around the table, or barbecuing at the beach and enjoying the outdoors together. I met my husband in relationship to this teaching job. I can remember on our trip home to the island from getting married on the mainland, I had bought a cookbook and was reading it in flight. As we have been married (now approaching 13 years), I have cooked so many meals. I have come to see and believe that what we eat has much to do with how we feel and our health. I approach my own health and wellness and that of our entire family’s through the lens of nutrition. Twelve years of marriage and three kids has not always made it possible to sit around a table and fellowship as we did in our first days of getting to know each other in Saipan, almost 15 years ago. But I think I can say that still one of our favorite things to do is cook and share a meal together as a family or with another family, or a single or children.

This last year, a family came into our lives and had I known what was ahead of me, maybe I’d not known the precious treasure of this that I am about to share with you.

It was a spring afternoon, Sunday after church. We walked out to our churches playground and found a couple that we had recently been acquainted with from our church’s small group. My husband and I sat and talked with them a few minutes at a picnic table there by the church’s playground area. We were hungry, and we were enjoying their fellowship, so we invited them home with us. I had some left overs from a lamb roast, and they brought some stuff they picked up along the way. That afternoon was the sweet beginning of a very precious set of relationships that will no doubt have indelibly touched our lives for eternity. In the last year, with that same family, we have spent more time around the table than I can count. I have never cooked or shared a kitchen alongside of or with any woman like this lady. It was almost like a very kindred heart entered our home and unlocked so many doors of my heart that I never even knew were there, that they were shut, and really almost like they’d never been visited.
In addition to ordinary everyday meals, we were blessed to have been able to share some holiday meals, family celebratory meals together, and most recently, we were introduced to an Easter meal called Sedar which we enjoyed together with this family. This lady passed to me her family’s recipe collection of favorite recipes, and I worked through it and found comfort foods to treasure. I taught her how to make bread! I shared with her all that I had learned about wheat, grains, dairy, nutritional healing. It was the most precious exchange…

I cannot remember where I read it, it may have been something that
C.S. Lewis wrote, or it may have been from a book I recently read by Tim Keller. There are these little tastes or little small glimpses we experience in this life in this terrestrial realm that really are just a small piece of the glory awaiting us ahead. In my childhood, I never knew the familial treasure of the home table. As I grow in my adulthood and in my marriage, I am beginning to see the wonder of the family life surrounding the kitchen, cooking, and the dinnertable. As I meet God’s people and have the opportunity to feel within my heart that kindred resonating love of GOD and His presence between us, I am filled with awe and HOPE eagerly anticipating what His place will be. He said “I am going to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.” He’s there ahead of us now, making the preparations just like we do when our guests are coming. He said to the disciples that He would not drink of the wine any more until the day when He would drink it together with us. In Revelation 19, and in Matthew 22 there is a banqueting table. Can you hardly even imagine what it will be like not to just have one family that your heart was knit with there with you, but every one of His children from your whole sacred history that indelibly He used to touch your life eternally. Those sweet souls, coupled with the saints of old you never had ever even gotten to know before. Add in the blessed fellowship of your loved ones that have gone on ahead of you into His eternal day. I can almost imagine it, but not completely. It’s going to be so wonderful. Our best memories and most blessed times of fellowship here are whispers of HOPE calling our attention to a greater Day coming, one in which there will never be a goodbye. There’ll never have to be an end, then. There’ll be no sorrow. No conflicts. No hindrances. No sin. All will be like new. HOPE. This sparrowcry is singing that HOPE.

Goodnight.

God hears….

HOPE#2. “God hears me when I pray.”
My little girl brought home from her Sunday school class a little sign with a little picture of herself she’d drawn. Above it, neatly typed “God hears me when I pray.” I don’t keep everything my children create or draw. But that day, I kept her art drawing and it hangs just inside my closet door. It’s humble, but it’s a mighty reminder to my soul. Soul, God hears you when you pray! Do you believe that? The sparrows sing. Constantly, nature sings its songs, but I can’t always listen. I can’t always hear their voices. Sometimes, my doors are shut. My windows may be drawn shut. The inner noises of my home may drown out the melodies the sparrows are singing. God hears, always. Always. He hears each sparrow’s song. He discerns their tones, He understands their melodies, and He knows them individually while caring for them omnipotently. There is no other like Him. When I was a little girl, my daughter’s age, I can remember riding in the car for miles and miles and not talking to my Mom while she drove. I cannot remember pelting her with questions as my children often do to me :). I certainly don’t remember having things explained to me as we have endeavored to answer our children’s questions and respond to their ideas. What my experience had been as a child communicating with my parents, for quite some time influenced my conversation with God. In the shadow of believing God is sovereign, and I still do believe He is omnipotently absolutely in control, I did not so readily come to him to pray and give to Him my concerns, my questions, my requests or my hurts. God has been teaching me. Unlike my earthly father, whom I rarely ever extended conversation with, my Heavenly Father hears my prayer at any time, every word, every whisper and even the unspoken “groanings that cannot be uttered”. He hears. I believe that is true because His word says it’s true. My earthly father, I don’t know if he knows the name of my third child. He doesn’t know what my days are like, what responsibilities I carry, what things make me laugh, what burdens or griefs have made me cry. He doesn’t know my struggles. My heavenly Father, He knows every thought I think, every word I say. He knows everything about me wholly. He cares for everything that concerns me. He tells me to bring Him my burdens and cares. He calls me to come. No human can hear our sparrowcries like God can. Just as I am limited to hear the sparrows outside my window at times, so also are the souls in closest proximity to our hearts. There are cries and songs that only God can hear. Soul, sing to Jesus. Sing to the Father. Sing through the Spirit. “Cast your cares on the Lord, He will sustain you.”

morningsong….

My husband snores, loudly. This morning the first thing upon waking, I removed the earplugs from my ears. The first thing I heard was a bird singing clearly, lovely, sweetly, just outside my window… the morning song. Last night, I heard no birds tweeting, no nature melodies rung outside my window all was quiet. Then came the morning.
In Romans 8:22, Paul wrote that all of creation has been groaning…. we believers also groan… because we long to be released from sin and suffering. Two nights ago, the words “wait with eager hope” whispered in my mind. I looked it up, and found it in Romans 8:23,

“… We wait with eager hope for the day when GOD will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) …”

Groans. Groaning. Wait. Waiting. Songs. Singing. Eagerness. Anticipation. Hope.

Soul, what comes from your heart? Where is your heart? Where does this morning find you? I think like that bird that christened my window with song, we all have a song within us. No matter where we are, what that song’s melody sounds like, we who are in Christ have a powerful common refrain: Hope. The full story has not been written, or told. He is not finished. It is going to be a glorious unfolding! there is a song of Hope. Soul, find that refrain today, and sing it confidently and loudly and let all the demons and the enemies of our Emmanuel cringe. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

HOPE.