Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Charlie Brown Christmas

Our family follows my husband's tradition of decorating our Christmas tree on Christmas eve. We usually purchase a live tree just a day or two before Christmas. In recent years, we've managed to find great buys on full, gorgeous, 10-11 foot trees that would normally be far out of our price range earlier in the season.

But this year we sold our home with its spacious and vaulted living room and moved into a small duplex while my husband's back in school full time. We knew we would have to go with a much smaller tree this holiday.

As timing would have it, our first-born son was married in a city ten hours away ten days ago, and the past week was hectic with end of semester demands on my time as a teacher, and we still had most of our Christmas shopping to do, and then we had a bitterly cold and snowy Saturday, and well . . . we forgot to shop for the tree until Christmas eve day. Our local nurseries were closed. By the time we found a dead tree at WalMart and another pitiful casualty at Lowes Hardware, we had decided to finish our other shopping and just pull out the old artificial standby from the garage later.

Of course, that would be the single-car-garage-turned-storage-unit that holds everything we didn't sell or give away during the down-sizing last August. Turns out the Christmas tree box is THE foundation upon which sits every other box, mattress, or piece of furniture in our garage. If we could somehow manage to pull it out--most likely a physical impossibility--the whole Jenga tower would come crashing down.

We discovered this at 6 pm. My husband and youngest son made a mad dash to the stores for another artificial tree. They were all closed except for a grocery store with a small floral department--and they were pulling the gates shut on even that. Bob grabbed a holiday decoration that most closely resembles a two-by-four with green fuzzies on it, but--for the uneducated--is really a four-foot-tall Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Our college-aged daughter laughed/cried when she got home from her job at the mall. Then she and our sulking thirteen-year-old Caleb strung it with a very short strand of lights. We apologized profusely to the kids--the tree playing such a key role in our Christmas eve tradition. Then we turned on the Christmas music, poured up the non-alcoholic eggnog, began to laugh together, decked the thing out with this year's ornaments and Caleb's keepsakes, loaded it with tinsel, and realized it didn't matter too much after all. Took us two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, total.

Family, love, laughter, and forgiveness triumphed. And, therefore, so did the spirit of this holiday season.

God bless you, loved ones!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Unlearning Curve

For those of you who don’t know it, Bob and I have moved. We’re living in a foreign country, learning a new language, immersing ourselves in an unfamiliar culture, dealing with culture-shock at times, starting from scratch as we build relationships with the strangers that surround us, trying to find our way among a people whose mores and unwritten rules are confusing and awkward for us at best.

Oh, we’re still in Amarillo. We’ve simply stepped out of traditional Christian culture and fulltime ministry, and into the realm of the unreached. At the very least, it’s been mindboggling. In fact, one of my friends who’s experiencing something similar calls it the “unlearning curve.”

In essence, God has stripped away what I thought I knew about ministry, my own heart, those outside of Christ, Christian culture and its place in the world, missions, and church. Just yesterday I told our small home fellowship that I feel like I have nothing to hold onto anymore except God.

I suspect that’s where He wants me.

And to be sure, one of the only things He hasn’t “undone” has been the truths I know about Him.

Yes, the weak, human side of me would love to tell my family and friends about the wild success the Lord has given us in reaching the lost for Christ. But the truth of the matter is that while we still feel confident we’ve been called to serve as missionaries in our own culture, we’re realizing that the Father has some serious work to do in our own hearts and minds first. Honestly, we had no idea what He was calling us to and the depth to which He would ask us to invest in His mission. We just knew there was a fire in our bones, and that we had to answer the call.

Don’t get me wrong--we’re not miserable or even unhappy. We’re certainly humbled. Impatient. Stretched. Oddly experiencing a level of peace in the midst of all this. Constantly asking the Lord, “Well, okay. If not this or that, then what? If not yet, when? If not them, who? If not here, where?” We probably just need to shut up and listen.

Please pray we’ll keep our hearts and minds open to what God wants to tear down and build up in us. Pray that we’ll not grow weary or discouraged before His work is finished. That we’ll pursue Him single-mindedly, not worrying about what people think of us or “where we should be by now.” That we’ll trust Him whether He moves us forward or back; whether we’re in the process of learning or unlearning.