Roots & Jaguars

We took the kids to the zoo earlier this week. It is one of our favorite places to go spend a few hours together as a family. It’s just the right size for our small children and has a fairly wide range of animal species for being a smaller zoo. David and I agreed that day was by far the most active we’d seen the animals out of all our visits. David suggested it could have been due to the slightly cooler temps we had that day. Whatever the reason, it made for a livelier walk through the zoo than normal. (I’ll share my story about the bird who was trying to attack me through the fence for another time.)

 

Not only were the animals more active, but some of the animals who usually keep themselves hidden away were out for us to see. We saw the grizzly bear, another bear that I didn’t catch the name of, these dogs from South America, some really cool monkeys with long white hair, and the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen… a jaguar.

IMG_2675-1

It was the most beautiful creature I think I’ve ever seen. I even walked back to his exhibit after we left, so I could take a picture. While I was doing so, David walked up behind me with the kids and said, “You know, that right there is what you were probably running around with that one time.”

My eyes got big, and I cringed. I knew exactly what he was referring to.

“You could have had one of those up in the trees while you were running and you never would have known it.”

And now it’s time for a story to put his statements into context…

Several years ago I served as a team nurse on a short term mission trip to Ecuador. It was my second time to go there and serve with this particular ministry. I’d gone several years prior as a teenager with my youth group, so I thought I knew what I was signing up for.

I had no clue.

This trip was unlike any I’d been on before. (And that’s saying something if you know much about my history.) I could tell you story after story about the things we experienced- it’s almost mind boggling that we were only down there for 10 days.

But, one experience that stands out, which David was referring to, was the trip we took via one engine aircraft to a remote jungle village. I honestly don’t remember the name of the village. I wish I did. But, it was located just a short walk from the Curaray River and 15 minutes upstream from Palms Beach, where Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were killed by natives in 1956.

Our plan for the day was to fly in, hold an open air meeting at the village, and then if time permitted, travel by boat to see the beach where this tragedy occurred, sail back, hop on our planes, and fly back to the city.

Upon landing we were greeted by a swarm of warm smiles including that of an old wrinkly gentleman holding the skull of a jaguar, whom he’d killed a few days prior after it tried to get inside his hut. Then someone mentioned something about a small child being snatched out of a canoe by an anaconda the previous week.

I considered climbing back into the plane and staying there all day. But, the planes were leaving. Although we had chartered them for this trip, these weren’t private jets. They were Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) planes that delivered medical and food supplies to remote villages. These pilots had a full schedule to get to, and I had a team of teenagers to help look after, so I swallowed hard and just focused on keeping an eye on our surroundings.

I heard a pilot mention to our host missionary that we had to be back at the airfield (which was just a giant clearing in the jungle forest) by 2:30pm, and if we weren’t there, they’d have to come back for us the next day, because they had a schedule and couldn’t wait. Our host missionary told me as the pilots were getting ready to leave that if it rained and the field was too wet, the planes wouldn’t be able to land, so again, they’d come back for us the next day.

And so I started praying against the rain while the little old man walked by with that jaguar skull and burned 2:30pm into my memory bank. We would not be sleeping in the jungle that night.

A couple hours later I found myself looking at a very skinny wooden canoe with a motor on the end of it. This, we were told, would be the vessel that would take us to Palms Beach. There was just one little problem… It only fit half our team! The captain apparently had it all worked out, so half of us climbed in, and motored off.

I assumed another canoe was going to pick up the other half of the team, but when we got to Palms Beach, our captain told us to hop out, so he could go back and get the rest of the team. We scratched our heads, as there was just one more little problem…

There was NO BEACH.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

The beach had eroded away. So, there we stood, IN THE RIVER praying an anaconda wasn’t swimming nearby. It was at that moment that I remembered the faces of the parents when they dropped their teenagers off with me and the other leaders before we left on this trip and their asking me to take care of them and my promising to bring them home. (Cue internal sobbing.)

After the rest of our team made it to the “beach” we spent about 20 minutes hearing the martyrs’ story (and praying the anacondas would stay away). And then we, as respectfully as we could, scrambled back into the canoe- well half of us at least.

But, there was just one more little problem….

The canoe pulled over to the side of the river about halfway to where we had initially boarded. The canoe was out of gas. So there we stood without our translators (who we’d left with the other half of our team in the middle of the river) by a little hut with a few chickens running around on the banks of the Curaray River… where anacondas apparently reside. It never even occurred to me from where or how the captain would acquire gasoline in the middle of the jungle. There was a woman and a few children outside the hut, but they didn’t appear to have that kind of resource.

Our team leader, Michael, and I were starting to get very nervous as we knew 2pm was approaching, and he didn’t want to sleep in the jungle any less than I did. I noticed there was a trail leading upstream that appeared to be parallel to the river. So, I asked, in very broken Spanish, if one of the little boys by the hut knew how to get to the airfield. He nodded and then started walking up the trail.

I grabbed two of the girls on our team. We followed the kid in hopes of making it to the airfield before the planes landed, so we could stall the pilots until the canoe got gassed up and the rest of our team transported up the river.

That kid walked as fast as the speed walkers do in the Olympics! We had to run to keep up with him. But we were desperate to get to the airfield by 2:30pm, so we ran as fast as we could, jumping over thick, twisty roots along the trail.

Eventually, dripping with sweat, we emerged from the jungle into a clearing, which just so happened to be the airfield. And no sooner had we run across the “runway” did we hear the little boy shout, “Avion! Avion!” and point to the sky.

The MAF planes were preparing to land.

Praise the Lord, by the time all the planes had landed, our entire team had made it back to the village, and therefore, none of us had to sleep in the jungle that night.

Fast forward to this morning, where I stood looking at that jaguar while I chewed on David’s words.

He was right. There very well could have been a jaguar up in one of those trees as I ran through the jungle towards the airfield- and I would have never known it.

Sure, a jaguar would be hard to spot even if you were looking for it. But, if you’re focused on something else, like not tripping on twisty roots on the trail, you’re definitely not going to notice the large cat perched over head.

How much is this like many of us , focusing on all these things that make our day harder, like hitting all the red lights on our way to work, the baby spitting up all over your new shirt RIGHT before you have to leave the house, the toddler needing to go to the pediatrician AGAIN for a suspect ear infection, the co-worker’s passive aggressive comments, the spouse forgetting to do that one thing you ask them to every day, the slow internet speed (or worse, slow computer) that makes you late turning in that report to your boss…

At some point all you want is a coffee and for someone to bring it to you while you cry out to God, “Can’t you cut me a break?!”

Meanwhile He’s keeping a jaguar from jumping on your head, which in the non-jungle-parts-of-the-world means any zillion number of things.

The twisty roots really hurt when you trip over them. They do. Especially when you don’t see them coming and you land on your face and scratch up your hands and your knees. I’m not belittling them. They beat me up some days.

But man oh man, am I sure grateful I’m not having to keep that jaguar off my back too.

So, I took a picture of the jaguar at our zoo, and he’s my new wallpaper on my phone. When my days are extra rooty, I hope the picture will remind me that while I run this race where God is calling me to run and try not to get tripped up on the roots along the way, He’ll be keeping a sovereign eye (and hand) on all the things I can’t see.

And in case you were wondering how much Spanish I speak, I speak enough to get to an airport.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

 

One for the “Weeds” of the World

weedquote1

In the 1950’s, “the American Dream” included 5 elements: a husband with a salary, a stay-at-home wife, children, a nice house, and a dog. While the times have changed significantly, the majority of these elements are still popular for the average family unit. But what about those women who want all those things… except the children? Yes, I said it. I just heard the gasp of horror coming from potential grandmothers from sea to shining sea! I am, for the most part, completely happy and content without children. My husband and I discuss this often, and for now we are on the same page. Neither of us necessarily consider it a permanent decision, but it brings me peace, despite the nagging pressure to build an exact replica of “the American Dream”.

Even after making the decision to not have children (for now), that “dream” can sometimes muddle the emotions of a 30-year-old woman who is childfree by choice. For the most part, the driving force to become a mother is biological, but even so, we will each have different lives, different minds, different dreams, and different needs. I always thought I would want children. I never thought I would be “just a housewife”. Being raised in the South, it’s not uncommon to believe that either college or a job follows high school, and a spouse and a child come soon after. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that mindset if it works for you. Most of my friends already have at least one child, if not several, and I have a clowder of nieces and nephews. I love them all with a very generous portion of my heart.

Leadville_1

A common dandelion: weed to most, summer fun for those who possess a bit of imagination. (Kristina)

I’ll admit, sometimes that leaves me feeling empty. Other times, I am beyond thankful— Don’t even get me started on some of the drama that goes on in the mom groups of social media, but that’s beside the point. Yes, I do have tiny twinges of jealousy when I wish I had a child just so I could have something to talk about with the “cool” moms… I mean, I try, but I must not be doing something right… “Your baby is adorable! Want to see a really cute picture of my cat? Seriously…she’s super awesome… Oh. Not the same? Roger that.” Hashtag: mom group reject.

So what about when I step away from the baby powder fog for a moment? I ask myself, “Is that what you really want?” Enter: complete clarity. While I’m also not opposed to God choosing me to be a mom, I see the word ‘no’ flash before my eyes in big neon lights. The hardest moments come after realizing that your desires for your life do not match those around you. It can make you feel as though your brain isn’t wired correctly. Something must be wrong with you since that’s your purpose as a woman, right? It makes you question whether or not you heard God correctly when he answered that prayer. In fact, people may sometimes tell you that very thing, as if they were listening in on the line between you and the Man Upstairs. Luckily for me, my closest family and friends (a.k.a. “the ones who matter most”) support our current decision, but I know there are some women who aren’t as lucky… “Why wouldn’t you want children? Do it while you’re young, or you’ll regret it! It’ll be so different when they’re your own.” As far as my current situation goes, I have even heard the, “Your life must be so easy,” and, “I could keep my house clean like that too if I got to sit at home without kids all day.” Which brings me to my point…

“I do not believe in weeds. A weed is simply a flower that someone decides is in the wrong place.” -Sister Monica Joan, Call the Midwife

That’s a great quote, isn’t it? Sure, I do get extra time to read or *cough* accidentally fall asleep in my favorite chair, but I don’t render myself useless by any means. I take my job as a housewife very seriously, something I had to teach myself as I realized my role in this stage of life. My husband supports me, I support him, and we made this decision together (with some Divine guidance). Even so, it’s been suggested by the standards of society that I’m a weed, awkwardly planted in the wrong stage of life. Perhaps a late bloomer that just needs encouragement. Soon, I will wilt. My purpose as a woman is not bound by the productivity of my womb. What people haven’t realized, that after months, possibly years, of thoughtful prayer, I am blooming where I have been firmly planted by the hand of God. He will make different uses of different women, and this particular story is about my garden.

There are many types of flowers and blooms in this world, each with their own beauty and requirements to thrive. Who are we to decide their purpose when their Creator had a use for every single root, petal, stem, and thorn? If you find your heart tugging at a desire you are confused about, take that desire to God. Specifically ask him the questions you need answered. Most importantly, listen with your mind open to Him, strongly plant your roots, and be prepared to bloom in ways and places you had never expected. 

xoxo,

Kristina

Live Generously

Confession- I have a Bible app that gives you a verse every morning to look at on your locked screen before you open it, but I never read the verse. Usually I’m hearing my youngest child singing through his baby monitor at 5:45am, grabbing my phone to see what time it is, and opening my phone before I even notice what notifications have popped up over night- including that day’s Bible verse.

But one day when I actually did read the verse, I had to look it up in my hard copy Bible because I’d never heard it before!

At least, I’d never heard it translated this way before.

“Live generously.” Matthew 5:42b (MSG)

It’s basically Christian common sense, one would think. But, it shook me to read! Because honestly, I can’t say that’s what my lifestyle looked like prior to reading it that morning.

I wear a lot of hats: I have two toddlers, work a part-time from-home job, and have a small biz side hustle. And in the deep mommy-trenches season that I was in when I read that verse, I was drowning. How could I live generously? I mean, for almost 4 years straight my body was either growing or nursing a small human being and functioning on very little sleep. Some days, just staying and keeping my babies alive was an accomplishment. Live generously? How? And from where would I give?

So, I started paying attention to opportunities where I could be generous. In a season where the word “No” came out of my mouth 200 times a day, I looked for where I could say, “Yes.”

And that’s what I did. But, if I couldn’t say “Yes,” I didn’t. (And I tried not to beat myself up about it.)

I go to Bible study every Wednesday morning. I couldn’t help watch kids for the Bible study leaders when they’d meet on Mondays, but I could watch their kids for the 15 minutes before Bible study started on Wednesdays. So, I said, “Yes” to that.

We were in no place to take in a foster child. But, I had piles of beautiful baby clothes my children had outgrown. So anytime a family we know takes in a new foster baby, I bring them a bin of beautiful clothes in that baby’s size.

I make dinner most nights. It’s not hard to double a recipe. So when someone I know is sick, I double the recipe and bring them a meal.

When a friend is going through a hard time, I don’t just say, “I’m sorry; I’ll pray for you.” I ask them what I can DO for them. And if I can DO it, I do it. (And if I can’t, I can’t.)

Our family has been so blessed by the generosity of others. I couldn’t even begin to write out a list of examples, but some days I actually feel a little guilty- like we don’t deserve the generosity we receive. And in those moments God reminds me that those people who are blessing our family with their generosity are doing the same thing I’m doing when I say “Yes” where I can.

I love how the Message translation states this entire section (Matthew 5:42-48). It is totally worth a read if you aren’t familiar with it. At the end Jesus says, “You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

So, friend, I pray you will walk in this truth today. If you haven’t been able to spend some daily time in the word with God yet, or even in a while, lean into this passage over your lunch break.

I know it encourages and challenges me every time I read it.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay