Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ode to Cleaning

Warning:  If you enjoy meticulous house cleaning practices - Do Not Read This Post!!  It will cause you great alarm and might even make you lose sleep due to its graphic descriptions!  On second thought, if you are like my Kristin (a cleaning whirlwind) read on.  It will probably serve to delight you with your own abilities by comparison!

Happy Thanksgiving!! 

(If you're reading from another country or culture, please ignore that opening!)

I'm aware that I should probably write a lovely post about gratitude and counting our blessings and choosing to be thankful.  Hopefully, you're already doing all of these as part of preparing for the Christmas season.   But that's not today's topic.

Today I would like to confess to you that I hate cleaning my bathroom!

There.  I said it.  Plain and simple.  I've always hated cleaning my bathroom.

I've worked multiple jobs that required me to clean the bathrooms of others.  A restaurant bathroom.  And even a public bathroom once.  (Cleaning the church bathroom occasionally is just part of being in church leadership.) Those tasks never really bothered me.

But cleaning my own bathroom takes the determination of a Himalayan mountain climber!  You've set out to conquer this monster and conquer it you will!

Now, some of you may be envisioning a large en suite sporting double sinks, a garden tub and perhaps even a bedette.  Nope.

The bathroom I'm referencing is rather small by American standards.  One sink, one toilet, one stand-up shower.  More like the English-style water closet.  Not much square footage at all.  And it took me an hour and a half to clean it today!

During those ninety minutes of grueling effort, I made a few discoveries.  (If you are squeamish, please remember that I tried to warn you!)

Bathroom Discoveries:

1.  The counter is two shades lighter than I thought.  It only appeared that dark because of the thick layers of hair spray accumulated there.

2.  The grout in my shower is white, not gray.

3.  The shower door does NOT have a decorative, cloudy effect as I had supposed.

4.  The rubber stripping is light gray, not dark gray.  And when you use a cloth to wipe away that much mold, the cloth is rendered useless and must be thrown into the trash.

5.  The "shadow" under my bathroom cabinet was actually a pair of dust bunnies hopping around joyfully anytime the door opened or closed.

6.  My toilet has multiple nooks and crannies that can only be conquered by a cleaner's willingness to assume the "hugging" position.

7.  Hairspray also compromises the cleanliness of the wall and floor tiles directly opposite the mirror.  "Swiping" with a clean cloth isn't sufficient - scraping is necessary for its removal.

8.  Speaking of hair.......  I kept finding and kept finding and kept finding strands of my dark brown locks.  So much hair that I'm sure it would have qualified for a small wig!  I couldn't see the gray hairs but I could sense them mocking me as they lurked just beyond the brown ones.

9.  The shower stall is a place I only ever "see" without appropriate eye wear.  Who wears glasses or contact lenses in the shower?  Not me!  (Refer back to point 2.)

10.  It's a miracle that spontaneous combustion had not already taken place due to the excessive amounts of dust clinging to the coverings of my light bulbs.

Because some of you are empathetic, you're thinking, "Oh, Sheri!  It couldn't have been that bad."  It was worse!

A couple of readers are shaking their heads in total disbelief.  Believe it, my friend!

Some of you (who love to clean) are just aching for an opportunity to come teach me the finer art of "staying ahead" of the project.  Won't work!

I've read countless articles and books.  Compiled extensive check lists. Even created a "cleaning box" filled with 3X5 cards that rotated projects monthly in an effort to keep the uninspired cleaner interested.  Lost the box!

The only consolation of the day is this - the bathroom should hopefully stay clean long enough for my dad and his wife to come for a visit this week.  And that causes a deep sigh of contentment.

Of course, I gleaned several object lessons while working on my project today.

1.  Proper evaluation takes place only when we see the situation clearly!  I look at my shower and counters multiple times each day.  But without the help of my glasses, everything appeared just fine to me.  We all need the help of an objective friend from time to time.  Or a clear look through the perspective of Scripture occasionally.  Those who think they need no help are probably a couple of shades from true.

2.  No one likes exposing their faults!  I would much rather tell you I learned these lessons while gardening or while caring for my practically perfect grandchildren.  Having to admit that I don't clean my bathroom as often as I should is humbling; embarrassing.  I don't mind admitting that I even feel a little vulnerable.  But if honestly admitting my faults encourages someone else to get up and try again, then it's worth my discomfort.  Others relate more easily to our failures than to our successes. 

3.  After we "address our issues" there comes a wonderful flood of peace and contentment.  I always waste energy dreading the day that my bathroom must be attacked with scrub brush and cleansers.  But once tackled, it seldom ever is as difficult as I imagined.  And when the task is finished, I feel such relief and accomplishment. Mary Poppins says, "The job begun is half done!"  Is there a task that you've been dreading?  May I encourage you to get to it?!  Clean that clutter.  Make that phone call.  Offer that forgiveness.  Then sit back and wait for the flood of contentment that surely follows.

Well, I have a Christmas tree lying in my living room floor.  Ornament boxes litter every open space.  And a half dozen nativity scenes need unpacking.

With company due to arrive tomorrow, I'd better get to it!  Whew!  Sure glad I've already cleaned the bathroom!



Monday, November 16, 2015

Village of Missionaries

Twenty-four hours!

That's all it takes for a phone call; a bit of news; a choice; a life change!  Just twenty-four short hours!

Last week, that's about what happened in our family village.  On Tuesday evening, we got the call that a member of our church missions team was no longer able to make the upcoming trip.  We needed a replacement - quickly!

Details?  The trip was for ten days to work with our sister church in El Salvador.  We needed someone with a passport; strength and inclination to work hard; a flexible spirit and the ability to decide right now.

As I headed out the door for another meeting, I passed by Nathan.  "Hey, Nathan!  Want to go to El Salvador?"  My question dripped with sarcasm.

"You mean the trip starting Thursday morning?!"  He chuckled.

"That's the one,"  I answered.  "They leave in a little over twenty-four hours and we've just had someone drop out."

"What would it cost?"  His curiosity got the better of him.

"Nothing.  It's already been paid for.  These trips are set up on such a tight budget that everyone knows their trip is transferable but not refundable."  I reached for the door, then casually added, "If you think you'd be interested call me right away.  We're working to compile a short list of people who might be able to make it happen."

That's how it started.

And in just over twenty-four hours, Meagan and Nathan were standing in the predawn darkness with all the other team members and their families as Pastor prayed over them.

However, that certainly isn't all the story.

Nathan had a serious desire to go and work with the team.  Actually, he and Meagan have prayed about him going for a couple of years now.  It just never seemed to be the right time - what with pregnancies and deliveries and such.  Massively important moments for dads not to miss!

Meagan was well aware that this trip was a heart desire for her husband.  And although she had one little boy hanging onto her leg and one little girl clinging to her shoulder as they discussed it, Meagan knew this wasn't something to pass over lightly.

The financial expense of the trip was covered.  But that isn't all that's involved in travel.  They had to look realistically at what it would cost them in time and schedule changes and missed events.

Meagan and Kristin teach music at their school, too.  The first big performance will take place while Nathan is away.  There was a fall festival.  Nathan plays drums for church.  A little boy looks for Daddy to play 'frih-bee' every afternoon.

They started making calls to his work, cancelling appointments, re-arranging commitments - all the while praying the pieces would fall in to place.

"Sure, that's totally possible!"  Work.

"No problem!  I'll be happy to do that in your place."  Brothers.

"Yes, I'll cover for you and help Meagan with the children."  Sisters.

"We can switch our schedule around and help with delivery, pick-up and play time." Grandparents

Meagan shed some tears as Nathan drove away Thursday morning.  But he left with her complete backing.  He also had the assurance that an entire village of "home missionaries" are carrying on with his little family in his absence.

The work Nathan and the team are doing in El Salvador is demanding both physically and emotionally.  I know, I've been there.  A totally different culture and schedule.  Unusual foods, primitive living conditions, inability to communicate.

It can get overwhelming rather quickly if you don't keep the end result in mind.  Our team is there to help equip our sister church in sharing God's love with children who need to know Someone cares!

Meagan and the rest of us are serving here at home to make it possible for them to be there.  (In fact, I'll send Frank off to join them tomorrow.)  Other missionaries of the village gave financially so the team could be there to equip the church in sharing God's love.

As we've watched reports about the horrors in Paris this week.  It's given us greater resolve.  I guess some might say we're radical.  But our mission brings life!  

When our team leaves El Salvador on Saturday, people will be sad to say good-bye.  And the community will be left richer than when they first arrived.   Our intention is to Give; not to Take.  Our Heavenly Father loves and cares for each precious child the world overlooks!

And when you put Nathan's trip into that picture frame, it's easier to see why Meagan said, "Yes!  You go.  We'll be fine until you get home!"

Proud of Nathan!  Proud of the village of home missionaries supporting him!  Thankful that we have such Good News and so much Love to share with our world!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Daily Direction

"Noni, what was your fahvrot paht of the festibol?"  Spencer, Abby and I were walking down the hallway at church yesterday morning.  He already has the confident stride of his dad; just with shorter legs.

He was monitoring Abby's progress; pushing open doors; casually conversing like any forty-year-old would have.  How did you like the fall festival we all worked so diligently to provide for our community yesterday?  What was your favorite part?  Did you meet anyone new?  Me?  Oh, I loved the bounce house myself!

These kids absolutely amaze me.  And their parents amaze me even more! When did they all become so intuitive; so smart; so kind; so.....    Oh, wait a minute.  Someone just experienced a full-blown toddler melt down; reality remains.  But they still amaze me!

I was remembering the conversation with Spencer this morning and a huge smile came on my face.  What a sweet way to begin my work!  And joy was needed for the tasks I had mapped out.

First on the list was to work on a vine that's gotten out of control.  We have a lovely passion flower growing on our new trellis that I wrote about several weeks ago.  (Yes, things are still growing in central FL.  In fact, while the rest of the country is enjoying cold snaps and sipping hot chocolate, we're sweltering with temperatures well into the 90's.)

Frank started training the vine as soon as he planted it.  Carefully weaving new growth in and out on the cross bars of the trellis.  Lack of rain and lack of time to water it had slowed the growth.  I only noticed last night that several shoots were waving about in an unruly manner.  Note to self: take care of that first thing in the morning.

The passion vine produces a lovely flower with various petals that have been used since the 1500's to illustrate the crucifixion of Christ. In some regions, it grows as a wild vine.

It was my mom who first introduced me to the fragrant beauty.  The one she carefully cultivated in her flower box nearest the front door was greatly prized.  It brought her joy just in its existence.

As I worked with our vine on the trellis, I quickly realized how ingeniously it's designed for wandering.  Tendrils shoot out reaching for a new location.  Equipped with a slightly sticky residue, they tap a new spot and immediately begin forming a tight coil. 

This works great until we miss a few days of training and allow them to grow any way they want.

Some of the tendrils had to be broken off.  One large portion of the vine had even been "captured" by a downward tendril and was actually growing back toward the ground!  The more I tugged, snapped and re-positioned the vine, the more I realized this work needs to be done almost daily!

It would have been much easier if I hadn't waited so long.

And in that moment, I thought again of my precious Spencer, Abby, Noah.  Those babies are in a critical training stage of life.  Just like the passion flower, they bring great joy just by being here.  But training is still vital.

Children are ingeniously designed for growth and exploration.  It's in their DNA!  They reach out testing first one experience then another.  And just like the tendrils on my vine, things often "stick" to our children before we realize it.

One of my favorite stories is about the frazzled mom who had hustled around all day preparing her home and a meal for several dinner guests.  When everyone (including the guests) had finally been seated around the table, the mom invited her five year old to say grace.

"I'm not sure what to say," the little boy responded with wide eyes.

"Just say what you've heard mom pray, Sweetheart."  Mom patted her darling and everyone bowed their heads.

They all smiled as the angelic voice began softly at first but finished strong, "Dear Lord............ WHY DID I INVITE ALL THESE PEOPLE TO DINNER?!" 

Don't be fooled; the little ones around you hear and see everything!

Changes come to them so quickly that the easiest way to direct their growth is to work with them daily.  How easily a life can be turned in the wrong direction if we aren't keeping a diligent eye open!  How easily children get coiled into relationships or behaviors that never would have had a chance if only someone had caught it early!  They need daily direction.

My vine will quickly change into a wandering weed without proper training and intervention.  But given careful and intentional cultivation, it will produce fragrant blooms that we'll enjoy for years to come.

May that be so of our children and yours as well!