The View from the Back Seat

In recent weeks, I’ve gone on two quick trips with a couple of my seeJesus Bethesda teammates. One to eastern Ohio and one to Norfolk, Virginia. On both we spent as much time in the car as we did at the events. Preparing for the trips we talked about who would drive. It turns out that all three of us like to drive and were more than willing to do so. Trusting the others, I felt completely free to say that I would be fine to not drive, and in fact to sit in the back seat. While the others offered to trade seats with me at any point in the trips, I was quite content back there.

Not driving, for the first time in what feels like ages, reinforced the fact that I was not in control. I did not have to focus on directions, road conditions, traffic, or timing. I also had the whole back seat as my little kingdom (perhaps using that word “kingdom” means I still needed a bit of control – ha!). I had my thermal bag with my drinks, a book, my phone and charger, a blanket, sweater and other assorted sundries.

As I enjoyed the journeys, I found that these trips are a good analogy for this last year of my life. Most of my years of work and ministry had focused on creating, developing and

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Sometimes over the last year I felt like I was traveling in the dark to a destination I did not know.

leading various aspects of ministry and teams. I enjoyed that work and found it was a good fit for my gifts, passions, and stage of life. When that work came to an abrupt stop, life seemed to turn upside down.

Several months later when I joined the seeJesus Bethesda team I found myself in a position of being a learner. I knew some about the ministry, but not enough yet to represent it well. While I wasn’t sitting back doing nothing, I was now the one asking questions, seeking clarification and learning to skillfully use the tools in our ministry tool box.

In my other part-time job at a financial planner’s office I have a support role. I copy, scan, index, confirm appointments and transactions, and assemble mailings. And it is good. Most of the people I work with are significantly younger than me. Many are on track for future promotions and career growth. Not me. I am content to do what I can to let them shine.

When my mind whirs with details of to do lists, projects to be completed, etc. I can recall that I am not the bottom line. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I never try to step into the position of leader or controller (long ingrained habits change slowly). This new outlook has even carried over to my marriage.

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Sitting in the backseat lets me take in the beauty around me.

Perhaps it is my age or my current place in this journey of life, but I am enjoying the view from the back seat and not anxious to change that any time soon. If a year ago you would have told me that I would find joy and fulfillment in “the back seat” both figuratively and literally I would have scoffed and disregarded your statements. Now after nearly a year as a supporting player on the teams God has placed me in, I find it refreshing.

arrow-1538686_1920What about you?  At this stage in your life do you prefer the driver’s seat, the co-pilot or the back seat?  What have you learned from your view?

And Tonight’s Guest Is . . .

Less than 3 weeks ago we took hospitality and hosting to a new level when we started to share our guest room on Airbnb.  Our listing went live late on a Wednesday evening.  Living in a small borough we thought it would be weeks before we’d get a hit.  We were wrong.  Thursday afternoon we received our first reservation for four nights.  From that point on we have had steady traffic.  We have now hosted four guests over 12 nights and have two more guests booked this week.

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Eighteen days after opening our home, we have learned:

  • There is a greater demand for overnight accommodations in our little town than we would have ever guessed.
  • Travelers don’t make reservations too far in advance. Some requests come in for the very same day. None of our guests have reserved more than a week in advance.

Our first guests were a pleasant young couple from the Washington DC area.  They made a same day reservation.  While chatting after check in we learned the husband was from Bethlehem, “PA.”  Not Pennsylvania, but Palestine.  The irony was not lost on us that one of the first people we had room for was from a place where there was no room in the inn for Jesus.

Two gentlemen, while only booking short term rentals, were in need of transitional housing while they fulfill contracts with nearby businesses.  Both of these gentlemen were a pleasure to host and each asked if we would consider a long-term rental agreement with them (30 days or more).   They commented on how they visited other possible hosts and preferred our home.  We offer a private guest room with access to 1/3 of the closet. They share the bathroom with our long term tenant and friend, Scott.  Guests can make use of our kitchen and share the living room with us.  I am certain it is not the most spacious, or fanciest place they’ve stayed, yet they have stated they felt most comfortable here.

Jerry noted that some of our guests seem to have many more resources (financially) than we have, yet they are restless and searching.  We have less in the way of financial resources, but share joy and peace in our humble home. Our hope is that what guests are experiencing is the presence of the Spirit of God.

We started hosting for the income, it is an “easy” way to supplement our budget.  We have quickly learned that this type of hospitality is about so much more.  As we consider reservation requests, prepare the room, and engage with each person for who will occupy it, we pray for them.  Interacting with those who pass through our home is broadening our understanding of other cultures. We pray it has also planted a seed in their heart of the eternal home that can be theirs with Jesus.

Stay tuned and see how God continues to use this venture for His glory.

feedback.jpg                                                                                                                       Have you stayed in a host home or Airbnb while traveling?  If so we’ll love to hear your experiences.  Please comment below, or on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you are reading this.

Thank You Brother

The sermon being preached from the stage was full of truth.  Yet in the back row of the auditorium a very different sermon was reaching deep into my heart.

I find it difficult to go to church alone, and this was one of those days when I had to do just that.  Strike 1 against my emotional fortitude.

Strike 2 came before I left home.  It happened when I asked God to open my heart and mind to worship Him fully.  He reminded me of some confession needed first.  As I sat before Him asking forgiveness the tears began to flow.  I want to repent, yet sometimes I don’t really want to. Help me Lord to live the words I say.

The final strike came while walking through the lobby at church and talking with friends who know me well.  They knew the right questions to ask to get to the point of how I was REALLY doing, not accepting the “I am ok” or “fine thank you, and you?”

By the time I walked into the sanctuary tears were gushing from my eyes.  I purposely sat alone in the back row as I tried to direct my heart and mind to worship. Another friend walked past and shared a  hug before going to find his family.  A few minutes later he was back and took the seat along side of me. I thanked him for being a good “little brother” to me when I needed one most.

If the story ended there it would be enough for me to experience Gods care through my brother in Christ.  But it doesn’t.

Last night I read a Facebook post from the wife of my “little brother friend” which I think put their names in my head as I fell asleep.  I remember a dream in which I was in a different location, walking on a country road to find a church.  This brother passed me in his van, and asked if he could give me a ride as he was also headed to this little church.  Once we got to the building looked like it fit more in the country side of Africa than the US.  My friend encouraged me to wait in the van while he would go in and check out the church.

Being the independent woman I am I did not heed my friend’s words but instead stepped out of the van right into a deep mud puddle.  My friend came out of church to see me literally wallowing in a mud puddle.  He lifted me out of the mud and set me on a rock.mud and rock  As I sat there drying off people with all kinds of disabilities came out of the church to check on me.

I don’t often put a lot of stock in my dreams. I do love how God gave me a foretaste of  today – when I needed to be figuratively lifted out of my emotional mud puddle and set back on the Rock of Jesus Christ.  When I shared my dream and got to the part about all the people with disabilities who were at the church he replied, “then we were at the right church weren’t we?”

Thank you God for my brothers and sisters. in Your family.  Thank you for Your Word that was fulfilled just a few short hours after I read it this morning.  “In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.  May he send you help from his sanctuary (italics added) . . . ”  Psalm 29:1-2a NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowding Out Jesus

I see it so much clearer now.  I have heard countless messages and read scores of devotionals about keeping Jesus first in our lives.  It wasn’t until i sat down to my Breakfast with Jesus that I saw how subtlety I displace Him.

The morning started as each day does.  I gathered my breakfast, Bible and journal while taking my seat at one end of the table.  Then I looked to the place setting at the opposite end of the table and began to talk to Jesus.  As I did, this was what I saw:

Overcrowding Jesus

I apologized to Jesus for the stuff that was filling up His place.  Even as I spoke those words to Him, I knew His response.

“This is just a picture of what it is like for me in your life, Joan.”  He reminded me that sometimes the crowding can come from things that are good for me (like the fruit) – helping others, supporting my husband, loving our family, etc.  But if those actions replace Jesus, they need to change.

He went on to point out some of the rubbish that crowds Him out. (Please no calls from the Domino’s people – I am not saying their pizza is trash, it was just an empty box that needed to be thrown away.)  My garbage may be too much time on social media, finding my satisfaction in anything other than Jesus, ignoring a call I know He gave me, giving into fear and lies from the enemy, and on and on.

Yes, I know I can still have breakfast with Jesus when there are things at His place on the table, but it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  Having that tangible spot has provided a visual check when I set something down there to consider how I am doing keeping His place inside my life clear and focused.

 

 

 

When God Breaks His Silence

For several months Jerry and I have been feeling a bit restless and asking God what this might be about.  We asked Him to let us know if there was something that we needed to change in our lives, or if there is something He has been trying to tell us that we were missing.  We waited, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much.

What do you do when God seems silent?  For me  . . .

  • I try to spend more time in God’s Word to become as familiar as possible with His voice so I know it when He breaks His silence.
  • I heighten my awareness of where I do see God – in the colors of the autumn leaves, in the beauty of the sunset, in the joy of a child, in the grace my husband extends to me, in the hug of a friend, etc.
  • Jerry and I check in with one another more, we review what we know to be true and pray and wait together.  We follow what has been revealed to us thus far and check in on how we are doing.

nextstepA few weeks ago God broke His silence toward us.  I have to say He didn’t reveal everything we have asked of Him, but He did make it very clear that we both knew what our next step of obedience needed to be.

And so, though it was one of the hardest things we’ve done to date, we submitted our resignations from the ministry we deeply love, Joni and Friends.  We don’t know what God has next for us, but we have full confidence that He is not finished with us.  In His time He revealed this step.  In HIs time He will let us know the next one.

It is not my nature to to rest in peace when “big things” are on the horizon.  While I wish I knew the next steps, I am resting in peace that we heard and responded to God’s leading.

I am excited to see how God will continue to grow and bless the wonderful ministry of Joni and Friends and our local team Candy, Kristin and Alyssa.  They are skilled, compassionate and wise women.  They and the terrific volunteers will soar!

I am also excited to see how God will take the experiences we gained from our 10 years on staff with Joni and Friends and our twenty years of volunteer service prior to that and use them in our next season of life and ministry.

Stay tuned for the new Ebenezers I find along this journey.  In fact, click this link to hear a song that has become my theme through the waiting for the next step.  Please feel free to pray with us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a  NIV

In His Rightful Place

Recently we enjoyed another visit with most of our nieces and one grand niece.  The little one, “V” is about 19 months old.  Each visit she has become a little more comfortable with her UJ (Uncle Jerry, who she currently calls “UUUUh”).  Over her life we’ve seen her grow from cautiously watching him from a distance, to toddling near his wheelchair, to sitting on the back of it (where she thinks he can’t see her) to now stepping up on it and high fiving UJ,and of course admiring the “lights.”.

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V checks out UJ and his chair on an earlier visit this year. 

What was particularly intriguing this visit is that her seemingly warm feelings toward UJ only happened when he was “in his rightful place” – in the corner of the living room by his table.  When he is there “all is right in her world.”  When we tried to have her interact with UJ in another room or outside, she was adamant (as an almost two year old can be) that life was off kilter.

My propensity to ponder these moments of life showed me a corollary to God.  When I allow God His rightful place in my life (on the throne) all is right with my world (even when it may seem on the surface that it is not).  When I displace Him from my heart’s throne and put something else there God is not “where He belongs” and my life shows it.

So very thankful for the “littles” (of all ages) in my life who bring me wonderful times of reflection with great joy.

Peace, Joy and Abundant Supply

A bit over a week ago our third and final week of Family Retreat ended.  It feels like just yesterday and other times it seems like camp was ages ago.  It was a tough summer for me in many ways, so getting to Family Retreat  (FR) was a relief!

Our final week of FR began with rain on the day we were unpacking, then rain on the day the STMs (Short Term Missionaries) arrived, and still more rain on the day our families arrived and unpacked.

The day the STMs arrived for training the volunteers who were serving as the STM Coordinators had to leave suddenly due to a family emergency.  God had it all covered . . .  Maureen stepped up to join me in this role for the week.  We had both served in this role in the past, but not together, and it had been some time ago.

So Tuesday morning, as programming was in full swing I went to the gazebo to observe all that was happening.  As I turned my head I saw a puddle.  That would be expected with all the rain we had.  But this puddle was different.  From where I sat, the puddle was the shape of the dove of peace!

Dove puddleI felt like it was my own personal “sign from God.”  I had weathered many storms in the recent months (and a couple I am still weathering), but amidst it all God was reminding me of His peace that passes all understanding.

As the week wrapped up full of joy (our theme), it was time to pack up and head home.  Road construction sent me on a different route.  At a stop sign tI looked to my left and saw a church sign board.  There was the verse that has been chosen as our theme for the 2017 Family Retreats!  (I am not sharing the specific verse here because I need to practice living in the present, which for me means living in and living out the Joy theme from Nehemiah 8:10 through this year).  Suffice it to say that it is a promise that in God I have everything I need in abundant supply!

How sweet to end the season with assurances of peace, joy and God’s abiding presence and supply.  Indeed – it has been a wonderful Family Retreat season 2016!