Plane Coffee Mom

Chatting about Mission Aviation over coffee

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Woman at War

I’ve been a woman at war. Fighting deadlines and expectations, arguing with myself, and generally conflictive. Wanting to do the right thing, so unsure what the right thing is. I want to do more, be more, see more, and rest more. I’ve been reminded that in this world we live within the constraints of time and energy.

I took a step back, or at least I tried. I decided I needed to feed different things, fill my mind with better thoughts. So I started reading The Imitation of Christ a couple of weeks ago. It has been, in fact, a different thing. There is a stark simplicity and clear direction in Kempis’s writings that is unusual today. He tells things as he sees them. He admonishes. He tells us to judge ourselves. He leaves little room for disagreement or insincerity.

Strangely enough, it is regenerative. It brings me back to places of peace and rest, the search for the eternal and the good. It reminds me that this life is very short, and what will last is often what is unseen. It takes me out of my little circle of hurry and slows my mind. And the war diminishes.

In fact, from this distance the war becomes more clear. I am not a little individual fighting a little battle. I am in the middle of a war that spans all time, the war for the hearts and lives of men and women. The war isn’t about my priorities or ideas, the war is about eternity. It’s about God’s priority in our lives and the spaces and times the enemy is trying to wrest control of. And as each of us chose priorities and worship, the battlefield is changed.

I should have known this long ago. And maybe I did. I first reacted as a baby that cried when the witch doctor next door chanted. I saw it as a young teenager who was afraid of the dark. I faced it when we were newly married and the street by our apartment was turned into a bad party scene. I experienced it living in suburbia and becoming aware of the spirits that drive us. These experiences have increasingly been realizations of the strength and power of God and the importance of prayer and obedience.

Kempis encourages us to imitate Christ in total humility. He reminds us that what matters is our hearts. He calls us to deep surrender and constant obedience. And he explains how God promises that these are the paths that lead to peace and joy. And I find that the war inside subsides when I take time to read the Word of God and ask Him how it applies to my day and how it answers my questions. Amazingly, it is always applicable, always helpful. Sometimes it replies to my questions, and sometimes it answers the questions I didn’t know to ask. But always, it stills the war inside.

Ideal Friday evening

It’s quiet right now, an ideal Friday evening. We’re reading and writing, chatting a little about life between the silences, and simply being.  It’s strange how seldom this happens. Life is busy. We’re running, we’re doing, we’re busy. We have people over and we go out. We are involved and engaged.

And then suddenly, quiet. We value this because we’ve learned the hard way that we need it. All four of us. Parents, grown son, and nearly grown son. We have lived many different ways and survived deep changes. The process has been amazing and beautiful, terrible and painful.

Some of my best family memories are  of  a Sunday morning spent listening to songs chosen by our sons, sometimes crazy songs with round-about lyrics and sometimes straightforward worship music. Terere, a Paraguayan ritual we’d carried with us to Philippines, made its way around our small circle as we sat together. We discussed the music. After a while we’d turn on a podcast we were interested in. When it finished we’d chat about what we’d heard and the week just passed. There was wood carving and drawing and painting in the circle. For a while friends joined our circle and we enjoyed the quiet together.  About the only thing we tried to keep outside the circle was hurry, though it sometimes crept in also.

Sometimes we planned a day of rest only to interrupted by an emergency. Sometimes we’d get a text, or turn on the radio at noon, and find our plans meaningless in the face of urgent need. Each of us had our job in those times– food, overnight bag, phone calls, and weather checks were the norm as we went methodically about the business of doing our best to get Garry out the door to do a medical flight or an evacuation. Our plans were soon forgotten in the rush and noise of interruption. The radio always crackled in the background during those times, its static somehow friendly because we knew it was what allowed us to stay in touch.

There were times we survived too long without quiet, getting by on too little sleep and driven by seemingly endless needs. Conversations and tempers both got shorter. We questioned one another’s motives and wished for more hours in a day and more energy in our bodies. Non-essentials were left undone and efficiency became king. If we didn’t choose to stop, it was chosen for us. Paperwork, sickness, or unavoidable obstacles would put us out of commission and we’d find it was a good place to regroup and get back to basics.

As I sit here writing I ponder the path that has brought us here and I am deeply grateful. I’m thankful we value this, and I’m thankful we do it. And I’m just a bit surprised still at how ideal this evening feels.

February Reflections on Success

At this time of year there is a huge focus on celebrating love, relationships, dating, and “successful” marriages. Since I get to celebrate my birthday in February, I get a big dose of spoiled this month. I enjoy every moment of it! Sometimes, though, when I tell my friends the latest amazing thing Garry has done for me, the response is a look of sadness. I wonder if they’re missing the kinds of things I am privileged to enjoy, but that’s seldom an appropriate question. Still it makes me think.

The other day it crossed my mind that I love Garry because he buys me coffee. Ok, not really.
It’s the fact that though he doesn’t enjoy the stuff, he goes to great lengths to get me good coffee. He goes out of his way when we’re headed to stressful meetings to make sure I have my favorite brew on the way. He takes me out for coffee sometimes, and while he may have a cup of tea or a snack, basically he is there just because I love having coffee with him. So, maybe it isn’t the coffee. Maybe it’s the way he lays his life down for me in a million small ways, in so many seasons and so many ways.

Really, I think this sacrifice is what every successful relationship is built on. It goes both ways, hopefully. It happens often. And maybe as much as either of those, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Because unnoticed acts of kindness and sacrifice are not appreciated. And every relationship has plenty of reasons for more negative emotions, so if we don’t take the time to notice the good things, the hard things can swallow us up.

Appreciating the good is not just for marriage either. It’s every relationship, including our relationship with God. It’s not whether God does good things for us, it’s whether we notice it. It’s not a question of God’s goodness, but of our perception of it. It isn’t about whether God answers prayer, but whether we notice when He does.

Experience tells me it is easy to expect and hard to appreciate. So I am practicing appreciating. And so far, it’s been a good and profitable journey!

The Story that Pushes and Pulls

It’s the thrill of the story, the terror of suspense, the hope of resolution that often keeps me going. Whether we’re talking about turning pages in a book or the story of life, the reality is often the same– the story, the suspense, and the hope of resolution keep me pressing on.

While reading a novel, it’s the author that writes the story. When opening our eyes to a new day, it’s our job to create the story. And living the story means we must first see the story. Some days I’m very tempted to give up. Honestly, I’ve decided to give up multiple times, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. If I stayed in bed, life would keep going anyway and I’d have other problems to deal with. If I quit doing the things that I didn’t want to do, they would come back to haunt me.

Several years ago I was alone with our two sons in a guesthouse in Manila. Garry was gone overnight with a young friend who was visiting. My older son was busy training for badminton and I was trying to do school with my youngest. The room we were in was nice, but it was distracting trying to study in the midst of all our things. Downstairs there was space, but there were often other people sharing the space, and it was hot. Besides school I was trying to unravel business financial issues and make plans to return to Canada. It wasn’t the most fun.

Except it was part of a bigger story. Those days we were helping with relief work after a typhoon had ravaged huge parts of the Philippines. Garry’s trip was to facilitate the delivery of seaweed to a devastated island, hopefully restoring the livelihood of the area. So the inconveniences were just that– inconveniences. Disconnected from the story, though, the situation would have been overwhelming.

In the everydayness of living, the thrill and hope often get buried beneath the terror. The story gets lost in today, the things to do and the places to go become the focus. So often it is a matter of perspective, and when I lose it I just have to go back to where I started– with the story.

To keep good perspective, I have to constantly remember that I’m going somewhere, and what I hope the climax of the story will be. I often remember Donald Miller’s note at the beginning of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, where he talks about how we often live our lives for an outcome that wouldn’t even satisfy our longing for a happy ending to a  movie. And when we start doing that, we are missing our chance for something so much better.

Sometimes, “I just needed to say it!”  Garry teases me that I have no clue what I actually think until I say it: it might be true. The effort it takes to put my thoughts into words often clarifies what I am thinking. Talking life through with someone who gives feedback is even more helpful: their response to my story either reinforces where I am trying to go or changes where I am going to somewhere I’d rather end up.

Sometimes talking isn’t enough, then it helps me to literally write the story so I can remember it. What am I trying to accomplish today, this week, this year, this decade? What is the hoped-for  outcome that is worth today’s energy? Taking the time to actually write a page or two in a journal often unravels the pressures I feel into categories of  worthwhile or a waste of time.

In the end, my story is but a small part of the story of my family and my community. It’s an even smaller part of the story of the world, but it is part of that bigger story, the story that God is writing. This bigger perspective helps me not take myself too seriously and keeps me involved in life outside my head. It reminds me that today and the ability to write the next part of my story is an incredible privilege.

Sometimes, the reality is that I forget I am living a story, and that is the biggest loss of all. What’s your story that is pushing you forward, pulling you onward?

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