Thursday, February 2, 2012

Challenging Changes

In case it wasn't enough to move across an ocean to another continent with 30 days notice, let's jumble up the adjustment process by going on a two week trip after only two weeks AND a three week trip after only two and a half months, with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the middle. That ought to stall the process!

I chronicled a bit of the settling in process in my last entry so I trust you realize that I'm reporting and not complaining. I'll do my best not to go over old ground this time and trust you'll go back and read that entry should you desire more insights into that phase. Now we're into the nitty gritty so let's get down to it.

It's clear that Prague is the place God has chosen for us to call home. There would be no point in arguing about that and who would want to anyway? I mean it's a gorgeous city and the people are wonderful. We were sharing with a fellow worshiper on Sunday about our delight at how people give up their seats to us on public transport here. Being of the gray-haired persuasion and having spent the early years of his life in the USA, he shared our happy response to this most civil acknowledgement of our age.

Okay, so there are things to which we need to adjust. That would be true no matter where we moved. The language is a bit of a hurdle, but we're managing so far. Just yesterday we found "baby soap" on the shelf as American music played over the sound system. Of course our Czech vocabulary and fluency suffered a bit as we did our best to pick up basic swahili to be gracious to our Kenyan friends. So here we are at the topic.

What is there about this new life that God is unfolding before us that speaks of Him and can therefore guide our steps?

We've had two opportunities so far to undertake the travel portion of this new assignment and both trips were rich blessings. We learned a lot and God blessed our efforts to encourage those we met. That's a combination that can't be beat AND inspires our hearts. We're back at home for the moment, though we leave tomorrow for a quick over night trip - more on that later. Part of our adjustment process needs to be making the most of the in and out format of this new life.

I noticed while we were in Kenya that we really need to 'suspend' our normal approach to our days when we travel. Oh, we can begin with our individual quiet times and joint devotions. It just makes no sense to follow that with our usual discussion about what tasks we'd like to undertake. After all, our schedules have been set by the people we've come to serve. Besides, we don't know our way around, we don't have a way to get anywhere, and usually we don't speak the national language. We'd be pretty useless even if we did try to take matters into our own hands.

So instead we practice submitting to God's plan totally; lock, stock, and old people bodies. We're learning that we need to prioritize our needs which are way above wants when we're on the field. As a matter of fact, those wants pretty well fade into the background. We're coming to understand that spiritual needs are the highest, even above the physical. We can be well-rested and still not fit to serve. To be fair, the physical plays a close second though because we've had days where we're bubbling over to share, but fatigue and illness threaten to keep us on the sidelines.

There are times when we're shuttled from place to place and group to group until we start to feel like cardboard boxes instead of human beings created in the image of God. That's when we need to step back and take stock of our emotional levels. We need to be sure they're being wisely informed and greatly influenced by Truth. When it feels like we're out of control it's probably because we are. We just need to figure out to what degree and if there's anything reasonable we can and should do about it beyond communicating, resting and trusting.

The ups and downs can seem quite monstrous in the circumstances and yet time tends to bring perspective. God finds a way to intervene and interpose an incredible treat right on the heels of an unselfish offering. It was a six day a week, 24 hour a day service schedule, but we'll always remember opening the shutters of the chalet to be breathless once again at the sight of the Swiss Alps. More recently it was a last minute run to care for an injured child in a distant village in the African bush. We'll never forget the stop on the way back to take in a completely unobstructed view of all the starry host. Glorious!

Then we return to Prague. The natural reaction to being home from the field might be to clamp down and exercise every ounce of control available to offset the recent experience. A major hindrance to that tactic is that there's usually barely enough energy left to do more than the basics; unpack, start laundry, get groceries, etc. In situations like this I'm actually very thankful for those limitations of the physical body. They can keep me from falling into major pits. For example -

There was only a two hour time difference on this last trip so the tiredness I was feeling didn't seem to make sense. Then again it was an all night flight during which I barely slept so I figured a nap would do the trick. By the third day I realized my napping was only leading to confusing my body between day and night so I weaned myself from them. It was necessary and realistic to get things back in order around our home. It was even important to reconnect with the whole aspect of making future plans. It took a while to come to me, but I do realize that I have to be careful to avoid thinking I'm in control.

Sure, when we're in own Prague 'castle' we can make our way to Billa, the grocery store chain we frequent, without a second thought. We can fill our basket with items that meet our needs with more confidence and fewer on-the-spot iPhone research projects. Yesterday we were even able to keep the volume within hand-carrying ease. Hurray for us! By the way, they're carrying the brand of milk with the little screw cap again. It's only in .5%, but we're delighted. (Read the last entry to get the full impact of that detail.) I'm delighted to say that there's a sense of ease and facility that's making itself known to us here.

I'd like to close this entry with some basic truths that are threatening to burst out of my head.

In some sort of crazy, apparently backward yet totally divine way God is orchestrating our exact situation to cause me to relax in this new place. It could have taken years for me/us to settle in by some other process I suppose - learning the language, building relationships, orienting to the environs. Instead, in less than six months on the Father's plan, there's an awareness of His presence that causes my heart and brain and soul to rest. It's not a laid back "Oh well, God'll work it out" reaction. It's an authentic, enthusiastic "Wow, God's in total control and He's got my back" response.   Romans 8:31,32

I know that one of the main weapons the enemy likes to use is the element of surprise. If he can keep us off balance he has a better chance of running his other scams on us. That's why Paul's words in 1 Peter 4:12,13 mean so much to me. Every time God brings one of these mysteriously unsettling events into my life I'm reminded of it again. It's one of those truths that I need implanted in my daily life. Actually, this whole blog is about more than just my life. It's about daily life, regular life, REAL LIFE.

The Lord is gracious. That's who He is. He takes His people where they need to be to grow in and through His grace. That's why we're in Prague and why you are where you are.  Acts 17:26, 27  Of course related growth develops along with the areas of faith and trust. God's chosen are adopted as true sons and daughters to be prepared to live with Him eternally.  Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4-8, 2:6-10  We're receiving exactly what we need not only for the future but for the present, to glorify and enjoy God now. I'm beginning to see, through the help of our friends, that the more we do that the more others see Him.

Thank you for allowing Christ to use you so mightily in our lives. You fitted in so well and took us just as we were. We met Jesus in you.  Stella, Chauffeuse Extraordinaire

May our glorious and gracious God fill your heart and life with His power and peace, right where you are. Amen

PS  We have to get to Bratislava, Slovakia tomorrow for an interview at the Czech embassy relative to our visa application process. We only had two days' notice and there's loads of stuff to do to get ready for what is most reasonably a two-day trip. It's another opportunity to practice the 'on the field/back at home' dynamic of our new life. I'll let you know how this round goes.