Monday, November 12, 2012

When God Changes Your Plans

"You can make many plans, but the LORD'S purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)

I'm a planner by nature. I like my little purse-sized calendar and mapping out the foreseeable future in those little squares. I particularly love the end of the year, when I can go calendar shopping and spend an entire afternoon writing in a new year's worth of birthdays and events.

I know. I know. Some of you just don't understand. But keeping a calendar and making plans does something for me - someone who craves order and consistency and being prepared.

I believe there is value in having plans and giving some thought to tomorrow (Proverbs 6), but as the verse above also reminds me, sometimes God has purposes which are different than my plans. So, while I make those plans, I have to hold them loosely.

God has certainly been teaching me this lately.

Mostly because of this.

I'm currently recovering slowly from my second surgery in two months time - two rather unexpected surgeries. The second, which was definitely NOT on my calendar.

According to the well-thought-out plans our family had made for this home assignment time, instead of being in the hospital or laid up in bed, during the past few months I should have gone to the symphony to celebrate my birthday, attended parent/teacher conferences at my kids' schools, visited the pumpkin patch, and taken part in our sending church's missions conference (which I had been looking forward to for months and months).

But most of all, if I hadn't developed a severe infection that required a second surgery, right now, I should be a typesetter. You see, for months and months I had been planning and preparing and studying to spend the past three weeks in Dallas, Texas, receiving training to becoming a typesetter for our branch. With both my kids now in school for full days, I've been looking for a role within our organization that would be a good fit for my skills and personality. Typesetting kept coming up, and an opportunity arose for me to get training while we were back in the States, so we wrote it into our home assignment plans.

God, however, had a different purpose for me, for my family. God said, "No" or "Not yet," to all of those aforementioned plans. I didn't celebrate my birthday like I had planned. I didn't take part in missions conference. I'm not trained to be a typesetter.

Though missing out on all of those experiences has been difficult on different levels, God has brought me to a place of peace where I can say, "It's okay." And I praise Him for that!

I have learned through this ongoing trial that often I do hold my plans with too tight of a fist. I'm often wound too tight, letting myself get stressed when I simply need to release it all to Christ's capable, All-Knowing Hands.

Sometimes God uses trials like the one my family and I have experienced to teach us to trust Him even when we don't know why we're experiencing a difficult season. He wants us to lay down our plans on the altar, believing that His purposes are best and that He WILL work everything out for our good.

So, today, even though it's uncertain whether or not I will realize my goal of becoming a typesetter for our next term and even though I won't be able to "get back" some of the furlough experiences I had hoped to have, I can rejoice. Though there has been pain and disappointment, I have received so many other blessings from the Lord that I wouldn't have received without walking this path.

I have felt the Lord's presence and His peace in such a new and fresh way lately. I have learned to appreciate resting and "being" even more than I did before. I have seen an outpouring of prayers and support from family and friends around the world, which blesses me to the core. I have seen the body of Christ in action as people have cared for our family in various practical ways. I have so much for which to thank God!

I still love my little calendar, and I'm still looking forward to buying a new one here in a few weeks, but I've learned a valuable lesson on trusting and holding loosely to all my plans and desires. His plans are always perfect. His purposes will prevail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jumping for Joy

There's something about a trampoline. You can't help but feel a surge of joy as you launch yourself into the air and fall back again to the springy, black surface beneath and then do it all again.

As I child, one of the highlights of visiting my cousins in rural northern Missouri was jumping on their big trampoline in the backyard. Seven or eight or nine of us would pile on at the same time and bound together in wild abandon. We'd do flips and knee jumps. One person would curl up in a ball in the middle, and we'd all jump together to try and bounce them as high as possible before they freaked out and uncurled. We'd lay out on the trampoline under the stars and talk until our parents made us go to bed. So. Much. Fun.

A couple of months ago, Paul found a good deal on a 10-foot trampoline in Dar that he couldn't pass up. Even though our furlough was only months away at that point, the price was so good that we decided to "spring" for it now instead of waiting until next term like we had been discussing.

It has proved to be a good choice.

Our kids have spent many hours jumping together, giggling and screeching with joy.

It's also been fun to share our trampoline with some of our Tanzanian friends. Most of them had never jumped on a trampoline before, so it was great fun to watch the joy on their faces as they experienced jumping on one for the first time.

Margaret didn't think that the trampoline would hold an adult. She found out it could!

Mama Ruth was terrified, but we coaxed her on, and her experience ended with side-splitting laughter.

Nearly every one of our co-workers took a turn, all of us cackling with laughter and having a blast.

Like I said, there's something about a trampoline.

It makes you feel like a kid again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Here and Now

When transition is coming, sometimes it's hard to focus on the here and now. Or at least that's how it is for me.

Our departure date for our one-year home assignment is looming on the horizon. It's just 45 days away to be exact. So right now, I often find myself living in the future.

My mind is constantly running to things I need to do before we leave and stuff we'll get to do when we get back to the United States. I have been making packing lists of what to take from here and purchase lists of what to buy when we get there. I've been communicating with friends, family, and partners about visits and road trips and speaking engagements. I've been dreaming about what it will be like to step off the final plane of our journey and get to hug family and friends that I haven't seen in three years and nieces and nephews who were just babies (or not even born!) when we left.

There isn't anything wrong with making plans and getting excited about what's to come, but it can also be a little dangerous to live in the future. Because sometimes focusing on the future can make you impatient - or even dissatisfied - with the present. And, at least for me, the present has a lot going for it.

I sat down to think about what I love about the present, living and working in Tanzania. A few random things came to mind.

Tropical Fruit

The fruit I buy on the cheap here, is not always so cheap in America. And come on...I have a mango tree, lemon tree, avocado tree, nearly 100 banana plants, and passion fruit growing in my yard!

Friends from Around the World

Not only has my life been enriched by the wonderful people and cultures of Tanzania during the past three years, but I have also had the opportunity to get to know people working here from all over the world: England, Northern Ireland, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and more. I've learned a lot about different cultures and truly feel more like an international citizen these days than just an American. And I love that that goes for my kids too.

Warm Weather and Sunshine

I am NOT a winter weather girl, so living in a climate where I can wear flip flops year round and go swimming on Christmas Day makes me very happy. Also, here in Dodoma, most of the year it's bright and sunny, which makes me even more happy. Dreary days get me down.


I'm the daughter of a master gardener, so there's just something inside me that loves trees. And Tanzania has some nice trees that you don't see growing in America...acacia, baobabs, and flame trees are some of my favorites.

I LIVE Here!

Sure, I'm not "from" this wonderful country, this amazing continent (my daughter, however, claims that she is), but we have been residents here for three years now and it's become our home. If the Lord wills, after our year back in the States, we hope to return to our friends and the work that we love. I'm thankful for that. Even though I'm excited about a year back in America with friends and family and a culture that I understand instinctively, I know I will miss lots of things about Africa while I'm away.

Thank you, Lord, for this blessed here and now!