Monday, May 18, 2015

Today

In her book, "Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families," Ann Kroeger relates a story that I had not heard. In 2007 a Grammy-winning violinist, wearing a baseball cap posed as a street performer playing for change in the Metro Subway. It was a social experiment for a magazine article. The world-famous musician and his four million dollar Stradivarius fiddle, played during rush-hour to see if busy people would stop and listen to a master artist who drew sell out crowds in well known venues. 1,070 people passed Joshua Bell without paying any attention to him in the course of a little over forty minutes.  It was recorded that only a handful of people even took notice. It is not surprising that one of those who heard the music and wanted to stop was a three year old child, but his parents hurried him along. The story illustrates so well, how easily we can miss "the best things in life with our high-speed, high-pressured, highly-scheduled lives.
As Ann read that excerpt from her book aloud at Open Mic night, during the Jumping Tandem Retreat, her words stung. Thoughts rushed in, of a recent time I had pushed past an important moment to hurry on to something that won't matter in the larger story of life.

That regrettable, missed opportunity was seeing a neighbor at the mailbox.

Profound right?

Well, I hadn't seen Eva for months. And then twice in one week, I saw her and both times there was a prompt in my heart to stop and talk to her. Both times I pushed on by. Shortly following that, my neighbor who lived only four houses down, died suddenly in her home.

There is a sense that I missed an important conversation and probably a blessing.

Obligations, over-commitments and self-imposed schedules keep me running weary too often.

Do you do it too? 

Not only do I over commit, but too often I find myself rushing ahead of God and living outside the boundaries of to-day.  

Each of us have choices every single day that are unique to our own set of responsibilities, privileges, and identities. Often I am asked to be involved in good things, even great things, but the constant battle is to choose the things that are the best use of my time, resources and giftings. 

We have so much freedom and choice, but those things come with great responsibility as well. I always know when I'm operating outside of where I need to be, because my time alone with Jesus suffers and life gets exhausting.

Another thing that steals from living well today, is hanging on to past hurts or worrying about tomorrow. Bitterness, worry and fear will steal from our today life every time. It's worth the effort it takes to get free of those things so we can see the stuff in front of us that is truly amazing and worth our energy. 

In his book, "The Art of Work," Jeff Goins has a chapter called, Listening To Your Life. Jeff states that to really listen to our life, "we have to do what no one wants to do."

He says we need to imagine our own death. Stay with me here. 

The question he asks is this: "What will you wish you had more time to do, and what will have seemed trivial?"

I doubt that I will wish I had spent more time on social media and less time with the people in my physical world. 

I doubt that I'll wish I had used more time and energy being mad or sad or unhappy. 

I really, really doubt that I will wish I had amassed more things to dust and step over and clutter up my life. 

And the last thing on earth I ever want to do is simply push publish on another blog post. 

I'm desperate to have God infuse His power into all that He gives me to do.

Jeff Goins says, the best way to figure out what we are missing, is to watch people that we admire and see what they do that we don't. 

The people I most admire don't have large homes with garages full of big toys, who take lots of amazing vacations. They are actually folks who live life with abandon, deeply honor their spouse and who give themselves away to love on the people around them. The people I admire most aren't out of breath from running on empty or stressed out over being extended financially, emotionally or physically. 

I think it comes down to how they live well, and how well they love. 

If things go good, we have today. We can only bear the weight of on twenty four hour segment at a time.

I know first hand how a few seconds can change everything that defines you. 

How life can look one way when the sun comes up and how nothing will ever be the same, –ever– when the sun sinks into the horizon and becomes yesterday. 

So much of life and death we have no control over, but –today– we have choices to make. 

I believe that there is a place where routine is power and freedom and I believe there are at least as many times when we should take our preconceived notions of what life should look like, and throw it out the car window at 75 miles per hour. 

What messes with our today, is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to look.

There is great freedom and joy and abandon in the times when we eat ice cream for breakfast and waffles for supper drenched with extra butter and real maple syrup. And we need to stop the speeding car to take pictures of the baby squirrels playing in a strangers yard and pick up the phone and call the person who is randomly weighing heavy on our heart. Or better yet, skip the meeting and go to their house and just be present in their situation. 

It isn't trying to muster up good thoughts, so you can send positive vibes, to bring someone a happy life.

It is embracing the messy, hard, everyday, out of the ordinary, radical love, kind of stuff.

What if today we all packed up our pride and gathered our only strand of courage and did what really matters? 

Such as:

Pray.

Listen.

Forgive.

Choose truth over the lie.

Speak life into someones day.

Take one tiny step out of your routine.

Own our own stuff and stop blaming others.

Gather a bunch of dandelions because they are abundant.

Know that God hasn't missed a thing and is always working ahead of our today's.

Believe in Jesus and the price He paid for this day and all of eternity. 

Living our today's well, should make us want to stop waiting for tomorrow, or for the weekend, the next trip or counting how many days until we retire. We need to stop thinking that we will do 'that thing' when our husband changes or the kids are older, or….you-fill-in-the blank.

Francis Chan in his book, "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God," said it well. We all need to be afraid of succeeding at what doesn't matter, instead of living today for what does.

Today. 

It's all we may have and honestly if we live it right, its all we need.

If this were the last day you had on earth, what would you regret not doing?

What do you really need to do today?





Monday, May 11, 2015

Bread Crumbs

Trena Ivy is a women who quietly lives a big life of real faith. She resides full time in Kenya where she is a mama to many, since she established His Cherished Ones ministry and oversees the daily operations of it. I asked her to share a little about her story and how she has allowed God to have His way in her life. Today just happens to be her birthday! And this picture – classic isn't it? Smile everyone!
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Breadcrumbs
By Trena Ivy

Breadcrumbs. Small, seemingly insignificant little pieces left behind from something greater, tiny morsels intentionally leading to a specific place.

When God first brought me to Kenya full time, almost eight years ago, I was not sure where it all would lead. But God was leaving little breadcrumbs, dropped for me along the path of my daily journeys.

Where were these breadcrumbs leading? I had no idea at the time. Although, I thought I knew where I was going. But God had different plans, and they included doing exactly what I said I was not going to do in Kenya.

Instead, these breadcrumbs were leading me to the sweetspot of God’s will.  To a place where He would show Himself to me in new and real ways, showing His heart for His children. To a passion hidden inside my heart.

Family. God is passionate about His family. He created family for a reason. He modeled His entire relationship to us after family.

I learned something after living here for almost a year, a surprising, enlightening fact at the time. A breadcrumb. I learned that the majority of children living in children’s homes in Kenya actually have relatives, many of them being parents of the children. These children have family. And thus began the journey of His Cherished Ones that I am still walking.

My question became...if all these children have families, why are they not with them, and how can we get them back together?

I won’t begin to go into all the millions of thoughts and questions and answers from the millions of different views, but ultimately, we know a child is, in most cases, better with a family than in an “orphanage.” Granted, there are reasons why the child is not with their family....but that became the question. Why not? And was there something we could do to strengthen this family? Is there something we can do to help this family be able to care for their own child? Is there something we can do to help reunite the child with the family so that he doesn't have to grow up in a children’s home?

But I realized something else during this journey. (Breadcrumbs.) So many small babies are initially abandoned out of desperation.  A teen mom who sees her future stalemated with the ‘burden’ of a baby. A woman taken advantage of, fearing rejection from her community. A father who has no means to care for a newborn after its mother died in childbirth. An HIV+ mother who knows she cannot handle the physical strain of keeping herself and a child healthy. So many reasons why babies are abandoned.

And I also learned something else as I began exploring this situation. (More breadcrumbs.) In looking to move the infants in a struggling children’s home I was working with to a more suitable, capable place, I found that there are very few places in our area which will take in infants. The high cost of care, intensive physical care required, healthcare, feeding, leaves most children’s home in a restrictive state, unable to afford to take in babies.

Where were these breadcrumbs leading? I was still unsure. Yet, I knew I was getting closer to a part of God’s heart that I had not felt before.

I had come from the Evangelical Church of the Western World. I knew that “caring for orphans” was a good thing. Yet, I saw thousands of people, churches, ministries doing this...through opening orphanages, supporting orphanages, adopting orphans. But I still saw a gap. I wasn't even sure what the gap was, but I knew there was something. Something missing. Or something different. Or something else.

I saw breadcrumbs of things God had laid on my heart. The orphaned and abandoned. Babies. Families.

Over a period of time, God began to reveal the bigger picture, the bread from which some breadcrumbs had dropped. Placing orphaned and abandoned babies into families.

As I had been following breadcrumbs, God was leading me deeper into His will for my life. Finding the sweetspot of serving Him through a passion I never knew I had. Until I felt it. Until I saw it. Placing babies into families.

Suddenly, at a specific time in early 2009, it seemed so obvious to me, so clear. Why have we not been working to reunite families, rather than taking the children or providing a place for children outside of the family home? Granted, there is a place where children’s homes meet a need and are the right choice. There is a place where adoption might be right for a child. But God was laying a different plan on my heart, and that was to put babies back into local families, families from their own culture, their own home, perhaps even their own family.

Thus, began Haven of Hope Baby Center where are goal and vision is to promote the value of family and to offer the hope of a future to those in need, specifically the smallest, most vulnerable babies. We now take in orphaned and abandoned babies and work to place them into families. We take them in, offering them a family in our home, keeping low numbers and making sure our home is a home, rather than an institution as we work to find their families.  Our first goal is to reunite them with their biological families whenever possible. We work with families to ensure they have the ability to care for their child. We can see that a father has means to feed his child, or that a mother is well enough to care for her child, or that the family has a means of income to support their child. We work, first, through the biological family. Then, if that is not possible, adoption or long term foster care is an option.

Since we began, we have placed almost 40 babies into families. Seeing a child in a family is such an awesome picture of God’s grace and redemption! Taking them from a place of aloneness and placing them in the midst of a loving, caring, supportive family is an awesome privilege that God allows us to be a part of. Watching God’s handiwork of knitting a family together as one unit is indeed a miracle! It is the earthly personification of who we are in Christ. God takes us in, after we have been alone, and wraps his arms around us and loves us unconditionally. Isn't that what every child deserves?

I am eternally grateful to the Lord for laying out breadcrumbs for me to follow. What a humbling place it is, to sit in the midst of His work, soaking in the sweetness of being in His will.

Breadcrumbs are all around us. Look for them. Pick them up. Piece them together. And rest in the beauty of finding and doing His perfect will for your life.

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If you would like to find out more about this beautiful ministry,
here are some links.

Blog 

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Trena and her daughters Julia and Josie  
I  love how God builds families. 
Thank you Trena for your beautiful life!
 
© Rhonda Quaney