Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Living the Liturgy

I hear and see "Be the blessing" quite often.  And as it is with thoughts or phrases that are over-used, I don't even stop to think what that means.  To me it sounds like one more thing I have to remember to be or to do.  But what if it means I am so overflowing with being blessed by God that it spills over to others, like a cup filled and overflowing?

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes, "Grace is alive, living waters.  If I dam up the grace, hold the blessings tight, joy within dies...waters that have no life.
  "I turn my hand over, spread my fingers open.  I receive grace.  And through me, grace could flow on.  Like a cycle of water in continuous movement, grace is meant to fall, a rain...again, again, again.  I could share the grace, multiply the joy, extend the table of the feat, enlarge the paradise of His presence.  I am blessed.  I can bless.  A life contemplating  the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ."

Monday -- The internet lately has been terrible.  I don't know why it's not been working well at the office, but it hasn't.  I'm so thankful for this thumb-drive internet that I have.  It's enabled me to get work done when the office internet doesn't work.  But the question is, if this works, why does whatever we have at the office NOT work?

Tuesday -- I've been blessed to be given the task of sending out thank you notes to everybody who has donated to the Persecution Relief Project.  This is a really good example of "being the blessing".  Knowing that people around the world care about the church in Niger has been a huge blessing to me!

"At the last, this is what will determine a fulfilling, meaningful life, a life that, behind all the facades, every one of us longs to live:  gratitude for the blessings that expresses itself by becoming the blessing.

"Eucharisteo is giving thanks for grace.  But in the breaking and giving of bread, in the washing of feet, Jesus makes it clear that eucharisteo is yes, more:  it is giving grace away.  Eucharisteo is the hand that opens to receive grace, then, with thanks breaks the bread; that moves out into the larger circle of life and washes the feet of the world with that grace.  Without the breaking and giving, without the washing of feet, eucharisteo isn't complete.  The Communion service is only complete in service.  Communion, by necessity, always leads us into community.

"...Eucharisteo means "to give thanks" and give is a verb, something that we do.  God calls me to do thanks.  To give thanks away.  That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living.  That our lives become the very blessings we have received.

"I am blessed.  I can bless.  Imagine!  I could let Him make me the gift!

"I could be the joy!"  --Ann Voskamp

Wednesday -- Wednesday afternoon I was on my way to a meeting.  I was going to turn left onto the road that goes to Sahel Academy, but there was on-coming traffic, so I stopped and waited....with my left turn signal on.  There was a pick-up truck behind me.  Just as I began to turn left I heard a terrible metal-on-metal sound and saw a motorcycle to my left.  He had come hurtling down the road going left around the cars that were stopped in the road and slammed right into me.  My first thought was that I had hit him and then run over him.  I was shaking when I got out of the car.  By then he had picked himself up.  He was not hurt but something plastic had fallen off his bike.  I asked him if he was ok.  He seemed very sheepish and said, yes, he was fine.  I kind of waited for him to demand that I pay for his bike repairs, but he didn't.  So I asked him if he had seen my turn signal and he said no, there was a truck behind you.  I asked again if he was ok and he said yes.  I said I was really sorry I had hit him....even though I think it was him who hit me.  I mean, since when do you pass a line of stopped vehicles on the left?  Well, in Niamey, drivers do whatever they want.  And the scariest of all the drivers are the young under-21 male motorcycle drivers.  They have absolutely no fear and little understanding of the rules of the road.  I am so thankful that the motorcyclist wasn't killed and the worst thing that happened were a few dents to my car.  Pray for us as we drive on these crazy roads!!

 Thursday -- I've lived most of my life in Africa....but strangely I don't like mangoes.  At all.  Which is too bad because we have mango trees in our yard that produce prolifically.  Mangoes really are a gift from God because they come out during the time of year when the weather is the hottest and people are running out of food and good nutrition.  Then suddenly God causes the mangoes to come out and people have a good source of vitamins, something they are lacking in their diets.  So, even though I don't like mangoes, I'm happy to be the blessing and pass these on to others.  I'm content to see how much other people enjoy them!

"...liturgy has its roots in the Greek word leitourgia meaning "public work" or "public servant".  The meaning!  This life of washing dishes, of domestic routine, it can be something wholly different.  This life of rote work, it is itself public work, a public serving - even this scrubbing of pans -- and thus, if done unto God, the mundane work can become the living liturgy of the Last Supper.  I could become the blessing, live the liturgy!" --Ann Voskamp

Friday -- The last Friday of the month is Day of Prayer and we spend the morning praying together.  This month we did something different.  We have three families who are in the process of adopting children, so we went to each of their homes and prayed for them there.  We praised God for the way they have brought these children into their homes and prayed that He would move the adoption process along quickly.  It was a blessing to be able to pray with them and I think they were blessed by the fact that we came to them as a family to share in their joy and in the stressful time that the process can be.

"...when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all.  When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone -- the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state:  eucharisteo.  The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness." --Ann Voskamp

Saturday -- A few weeks ago John and I had done a lot of work to cut back a bougainvillea bush that had grown out of control.  However, we couldn't do it all in one day, especially since it had gotten tangled in our neighbor's concertina wire.  Saturday morning was fairly cool and a great day for yard work, so I got the ladder, a small axe, and hedge clippers and went at it.  Our friend, M. walked in the yard just then (he also disposes of our trash).  He asked how I was doing and I said fine, but it's really hard to cut back this bush.  He said, "Let me do it!"  Well, no, really, ok, sure!  So he worked on the bougainvillea and I trimmed back some other bushes.  I'm thankful God sent him along at just the right time to help me!

Sunday -- The ladies' group at church honored the pastor for his birthday.  I'm so thankful for our church (even when the services go on extra long!) and for our pastor.
"In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world." --Ann Voskamp

Be the blessing!

Live the liturgy!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Connection between Humbleness and Joy

The chapter I read this week in Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts  was called Go Lower.  She started the chapter with a story of seeing the world the way a small child does. Everything is fresh and fun and kids get excited about things we adults take for granted.  But to see things as a child, we need to get down to their level....to humble ourselves.  She goes on to talk about how our peace and our joy can be shattered like glass in a matter of seconds when we lay aside humility and revert to pride.  "And my knees are stiff and it's jarring, how peace can shatter faster than glass, the breakneck speeds at which I can fall -- and refuse to bend the knees at all."

Monday -- John planted an herb garden for me and waters and tends to it every night.  I love going out to pick basil, oregano, dill, parsley, cilantro, or mint.  I use the herbs in so many dishes and love the smell of them freshly picked.

Tuesday -- I usually do all the laundry, but I often come home in the evening to find this....John has taken the laundry off the line and folded it neatly in the basket.  Wow! I'm thankful for a husband who sees something he can do for me and does it in spite of his own long to-do list.

So, when life's hard and broken and we want to cry out to God, is that ok?  Ann Voskamp shows the difference before lamenting to God and complaining.  "Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart.  God's anger kindles hot when the essence of the complaint implies doubt in His love.... the more I learn eucharisteo, the more I learn His love, the less likely I am to Israelite complain and the more I genuinely lament, complaint that trusts His heart." --Ann Voskamp
So yes, I can cry out to God with an open heart, but trust Him to be there.  I can be honest with my feelings while waiting for Him to work.  But I shouldn't complain which shows ingratitude, lack of humbleness, and a desire for control.  And guess which is the most natural and easiest for me to do? Complaining, of course!

"True lament is the bold faith that trusts Perfect Love enough to feel and cry authentic." --Ann Voskamp

Wednesday -- Our Director asked me to run an errand for him.  I was happy to do it, but on the way back the traffic was crazy and it was a long ride home.  I'm so thankful for a CD player and great music that helps me focus on God instead of on the lunatics on the road.  I mean....I stay focused on my driving, but it helps keep me from losing my temper at the crazies.  And I'm thankful that I could help out our Director in this small way.

Thursday -- Thursday mornings I stay home and help John with his doctoral work.  I was working at the dining room table when he came out of his office with a "the-world-is-ending" look on his face.  He told me that the chapter he's been working on for months, the hardest one he's done so far, had completely disappeared from his computer.  No trace of it anywhere.  The link to it said, "This document has been removed."  He KNEW he had saved it the night before.  He always saves it in DropBox so that it's saved even if there's a computer crash, but it wasn't even in DropBox.  By this time we're both in pretty much of a stunned panic.  I knew he had it saved in DropBox and backed up on Mozy, so we had to be able to retrieve it.  I googled "Lost a document in DropBox" and it told us what to do to get it back.  Of course, it required an internet connection.  We technically had a connection, but it wasn't loading anything, so John went to the office to try on my computer as the office usually has a better connection.  Last week the office internet was really bad, though, and after over an hour, he gave up and came back home.  He tried my computer here and finally got on and retrieved the document. (This literally took all morning.)  He found out that his doctoral supervisor was the one who had deleted it.  Woops.  (He was mortified when John told him what happened!)  Unfortunately, it got deleted on Monday, but it took until Wednesday night to sync with John's computer.  That, my friends, is how slow our internet is here.  Imagine....John has his computer on every day, all day, and it took over two days to sync one average size document!  So, in the meantime John was working on a document that didn't really exist.  He lost two days' of work, which is huge, but not as bad as four months of work which is what we feared!  We were both hugely thankful to get that document back!

"I may feel disappointment and the despair may flood high, but to give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions.  While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.
"True saints know that the place where all joy comes from is far deeper than that of feelings:  joy comes from the place of the very presence of God.  Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn't negate all other emotions -- joy transcends all other emotions." --Ann Voskamp
Our floor isn't really brown.

You can see the places where things had been on the table.  The lighter color is dust.

Our terrace.  The house pretty much looked the same minus the leaves!

Friday -- In the night I was vaguely aware of wind, but the wind blows a lot in March, so I slept on.  We had our bedroom windows closed with the air conditioner running and the fan on helicopter speed, so I really didn't hear much.  The windows in the rest of the house were open.  I woke up in the morning to discover that it had been a full-fledged dust storm and our house looked like the Sahara Desert had swept through.  I am VERY thankful that Friday was the day for our house helper to come!  It was so nice to come home Friday afternoon and find the house clean again.  Otherwise I am not sure when I would have had time to clean up the mess.

Saturday -- I got my hair cut.  Yeah!  I feel a little lighter and a whole lot cooler.  (I hate putting up selfies, but, this is what I'm thankful for.)

"Only self can kill joy.
"I'm the one doing this to me."

"Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the open and humble hand.  In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out.  Anger is the lid that suffocates joy until she lies limp and lifeless....  The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy -- nothing else."

Sunday -- John preached on missions in the Old Testament today.  He did a great job and I had several people tell me how good it was to hear a positive and encouraging message on missions.  It's amazing how motivating a positive approach can be!

Ann Voskamp quotes from Henry Ward Beecher:  "Pride slays thanksgiving...A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."  
Then she writes:  "Dare I ask what I think I deserve? ... Are there times that a sense of entitlement -- expectations -- is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?

"And what do I really deserve?  Thankfully God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.  God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities -- response-abilities -- inviting us to respond to His love gifts."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Most Embarrassing Moment

I've been enjoying linking up with momfessionals for Show and Tell Tuesdays.  This week's prompt is "My Most Embarrassing Moment".

My most embarrassing moment was definitely one I'd rather forget and that hopefully I learned from.  Of course, it has to do with something I said.  Hopefully I've learned to be more careful in what I say, but I have to admit, it's usually my mouth that gets me in trouble....still.

It was summer vacation from college.  I was at my parent's house for the summer and my mom had volunteered gently suggested to me to help at a garage sale.  The proceeds of the garage sale were going to benefit a charity that I thought was a good cause, so I was happy to help out.  People had brought all sorts of donated goods to this lady's house and it was my job to help her and others organize the stuff on tables and in the lawn ahead of time. You know how it is at garage sales....lots of strange, outdated, truly bizarre stuff...no wonder they donated it to a garage sale! I grabbed a box and there were a lot of little ceramic figurines in the box.  I'm not a fan of that kind of thing and these were particularly not to my taste. Thinking it was yet another strange box of donated items and assuming everybody else would agree with my opinion, I blurted out, "These are uglier than sin!"  I was met with a shocked look and silence.  Then, "I made those and donated them to raise money."  Woops.  Believe me, I wish I could have crawled under the table right then and there.  I'm sure I apologized and I'm still in touch with that lady, so I think she's forgiven me.  I surely hope she has.

And since we're talking about embarrassing moments, here's an embarrassing picture of me from that epoch.  (Time to embarrass my dad and my sister, too.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Stress, Worry, and Joy

Chapter 8 in Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, she talks a lot about stress, worry, trust, and joy.

It got me thinking, and please feel free to let me know what you think (just don't preach sermons, LOL).  So I've wondered, is there any time that stress is sin?  Or is stress neutral and our reaction to stress could be, but isn't always, sinful?   Sometimes I have stress because I've made poor choices, such as by taking on too much.  But sometimes I have stress because of things outside of myself....such as church burnings, a loved one falling sick, a sticky situation arising at work, or kids going through a difficult time.  

But how do I react when I'm going through stress?  Can my reaction be sinful:  worry, lashing out at others, cutting myself off from others rather than living in community, and retaliation are all things the Bible clearly tells us to not do. I saw an article on the internet called Be Stressed Out and Do Not Sin. I like that!  (It's a good article and I encourage you to read it.)

Whew, it's a complicated subject for sure.  For me, it comes down to whether or not I am fully trusting God in the circumstance.  Do I believe He is faithful?  Do I believe He is in control?  Do I believe He gives me what I need to handle the stress?  I think when I can honestly answer "yes" to those questions, the effect of the stress on me diminishes.

"I know an untroubled heart relaxes, trusts, leans assured into His ever-dependable arms.  Trust, it's the antithesis of stress....  I've got to get this thing, what it means to trust, to gut-believe in the good touch of God toward me because it's true:  I can't fill with joy until I learn how to trust."  --Ann Voskamp

Monday -- We traveled to Galmi for Orientation and for another meeting I needed to attend.  We are always thankful for big shady trees where we can get out and stretch our legs and have a picnic.  I couldn't help but remark what a perfect climbing tree this was and how Daniel and Suzanne would have been up in it.

Tuesday -- I'm thankful for our mission planes that transport people from one place to another, especially when they can't go by road for whatever reason.  Also, the plane buzzing the station, friends going to the airstrip to say hello or good-bye, and the sand blowing on take-off are all nostalgic of my childhood.

"All anxiety is not spiritual.  And yet I know and haltingly confess:  Much of the worry in my own life has been a failure to believe...a wariness to thank and trust the love hand of God." --Ann Voskamp

Wednesday -- There are a lot of missionaries living on the compound in Galmi, so there is a one-room school house for the kids K-6.  Last year there was one teacher and she was so stressed by the work-load.  We prayed for help and the 2nd half of this year she has TWO qualified teacher's assistants.  Another teacher arrived tonight to cover for her while she takes a short home assignment.  And we have a 2nd teacher lined up for next year.  The school had an open house while we were there and we got to see all of their art work on display.  Wow!  What a creative bunch.  It was fun to see how much the kids love their teacher, "Auntie Janet", and how they thrive under her direction.  The kids were so excited about their projects, explaining to anybody who would listen which projects were theirs and how they made them.  I'm thankful for this glimpse into daily life at the Galmi MK School.

Thursday -- Somehow I neglected to take photos of our orientation.  But Thursday night, to end our time together, we had a potluck supper.  It was good to get to know some of the new arrivals a bit better.  Our group this time was a bit smaller and was unusual in that all the attendees are short-termers (less than two years).  We enjoyed our time with them.  (This is not the full group.)

"Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren't I advertising the unreliability of God?  That I really don't believe?"  --Ann Voskamp

Friday -- Stopping by a bush on a blistering afternoon....  This photo may look a little over-exposed, but that's just how bright the sun really is here!  I'm so thankful John got the mechanic to fix the air-conditioner before our trip!!

"We take the moments as bread and give thanks and the thanks itself becomes bread.  The thanks itself nourishes.  Thanks feeds our trust."  --Ann Voskamp

Saturday -- OK, technically I took this photo on Sunday, but henna on hands and feet is a common sight here.  I love the creativity that goes into this beauty ritual.  It kind of looks like a melange of languages here:  mari love.  Mari is husband in French, so husband love??  

Sunday -- I'm glad I can help John with his research.  I just wish I could help him more.  Today he interviewed the women and I recorded some of the answers.  And took pictures, of course.

I think the problem with stress is that my reaction to it is most often fear and worry.  Ann Voskamp recounts sitting with her child on her lap and her deep love for her child and imagines herself then sitting on the Father's lap and the Father saying to her, "All fear is but the notion that God's love ends.  Did you think that I end, that My bread warehouses are limited, that I will not be enough?  But I am infinite, child.  What can end in Me?  Can life end in Me?  Can happiness?  Or peace?  Or anything you need?  Doesn't your Father always give you what you need?  I am the Bread of Life and My bread for you will never end.  Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough and hasn't counting one thousand gifts, endlessly counting gifts, exposed the lie at the heart of all fear?  In Me, blessings never end because My love for you never ends.  If My goodnesses toward you end, I will cease to exist, child.  As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-grace."  --Ann Voskamp

The best thing to do when stressed?  "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  --Jesus  

Crawl up into His lap and let Him handle the situation!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Choosing Joy

I've been thinking more about the events of January 16 and 17 and of how giving thanks is not my natural response in circumstances like this.  (In case you missed the news, churches in three towns in Niger were attacked and burnt.)  I've been studying through Philippians and am amazed that Paul, who experienced persecution in a very personal way and was imprisoned for his faith, talks so much about joy.  I'm not sure if I were in prison, even under house arrest, that I would speak about joy.  I'd more likely speak about my rights (Paul did mention that, too!) and my demands than about joy.

Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts writes, "How do I have the holy vision in this mess?  How do I see grace, give thanks, find joy in this sin-stinking place?"
And then later:  "Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan's way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus' way? ... When I choose -- and it is a choice -- to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness?  Choosing the angry way of Lucifer because I think it is more effective -- more expedient -- than giving thanks?"

Monday -- For Christmas John bought me a rose bush for in the garden.  When I came home on Monday, he had picked a rose and put it in a vase for me.  It was so sweet and an encouragement to me!

Tuesday -- Woops.  I kind of forgot to take a picture.

"Eucharisteo, wholesale worship, is redemptive work wiping away the soot of days cindered." -- Ann Voskamp

Wednesday -- This gal is the only lady student who comes to our Bible study.  She's done well in her studies in a male-dominated field (meteorology in the air-traffic domain).  She has been with us over a year, but finished her program and will be leaving us soon.  We had a special time of prayer for her Wednesday night.  I'll miss her a lot, but I'm thankful for the short time we had with her.

Thursday -- I'm thankful for this new ambulance for one of our medical centers.  They are not a full hospital and often have to transport patients to a bigger medical center.  I thought we were going to get to drive it part way to its end destination, but that didn't work out.

Friday -- Some of us had a pie party.  I tried a new recipe for a strawberry pie and it turned out to be delicious!  It was quite popular at the party and unfortunately for us there were no pieces left to take home.  I ate myself almost sick on pie (that was also my supper!).  Poor John had another commitment and couldn't come, but I saved him a piece of each kind of his favorites.

"For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy -- is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark?  Prefer drama?  Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? ... If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment -- am I not ultimately rejecting God?" --Ann Voskamp

Saturday -- This is just a fun picture because I loved the colors of the pencil shavings from the colored pencils I've been using in my Bible study.

Sunday -- John and I have been visiting a church outside of Niamey as a case study for his doctorate.  We've really enjoyed going there.  Today he interviewed the youth.  I love watching John work when he's in his element, such as today.  One of the members made a casual observation today that is exactly the conclusion that John is coming to in his doctorate!

 "The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is."

Ann Voskamp's question, "Do I want control or do I want joy?" is very convicting to me!  Paul was chained to a guard and was on trial for his faith.  Some people were preaching Christ for good reasons, but others were preaching to cause him more trouble.  But Paul's response to all of these circumstances was, "And because of this I rejoice.  Yes, and I will continue to rejoice." (Philippians 1:18)

I choose to rejoice!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Show and Tell Tuesday -- Favorite Room

Suzanne at The Glorious Mundane did a link blog with the Momfessionals blog on Tuesday:  Show and Tell Tuesday -- Favorite Room.   I thought I'd join in the fun.  Yes, I know, it is no longer Tuesday.  But at least Thursday starts with a "T". :)  And at the speed of our internet, it might be Saturday before this actually gets posted!

 My favorite room is our bedroom.  Our house is fairly simple, sitting here on the edge of the Sahara Desert.  But compared to the housing of the majority of the population of this sub-Saharan country, it’s really very luxurious. 

I made this quilt from African fabrics….but we had the walls painted before I started working on the quilt, so the blue and orange walls are quite the right colors for the quilt.  This summer we will need to have our house painted (the paint is coming off the walls in some of the rooms), so maybe we can get a closer match next time around.

Our room is only big enough for a double bed, two bedside tables, a wardrobe, and a dresser.   I’d love to have an easy chair in our room, but there’s no place to put one in here.

We sleep under a mosquito net to keep the little critters from giving us malaria.  

This is a view of our room looking over the net, which you can tell is quite dirty.  With the constant dust in the air (we do live close to the Sahara, after all!), it’s impossible to keep it clean.  You can see our dresser and our wardrobe.  Yep, those hold all of our clothes!

Even though nine months of the year the temperatures are over 90 degrees, we only have air conditioners in the bedrooms.  So when it’s really hot, especially on a Sunday afternoon, we’ll  hole up in the bedroom.  

We also have an en suite bathroom, which is nice.

Our room may be small, but we love it!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

"The Art of Deep Seeing"

"How we behold determines if we hold joy.  Behold glory and be held by God."  --Ann Voskamp

This has been a busy week.  Since I wasn't in the office at all last week, I had some catching up to do.  I don't know about you, but I find myself complaining more than giving thanks.  In the chapter in One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, that I've been reading this week, she talks about how learning to see God in all around us (she's not talking about pantheism here, but rather recognizing Who is the Creator) enables us to give thanks and to receive His joy.  I need to keep consciously working on recognizing God in the gifts around me that He gives.

Monday -- I love pens...pens that write well, colored pens, markers, etc.  I'm thankful for my purple highlighter.

Tuesday -- I got a new notebook for my Bible study on Philippians and am enjoying filling it up.  (I love notebooks, too!)

"...faith is not a once-in-the-past action, but faith is always a way of seeing, a seeking for God in everything.  And if the eyes gaze long enough to see God lifted in a thing, how can the lips not offer eucharisteo?  The truly saved have eyes of faith and lips of thanks.  Faith is in the gaze of a soul." --Ann Voskamp

Wednesday -- This is some kind of lily on our terrace that seems to bloom once a year, usually right at the beginning of the hot season.  Right now it has four flowers on it and more buds coming. Amazing the flowers that God makes for us to enjoy!

Thursday -- Often in the evenings or early mornings we hear rustling in the leaves on our back terrace.  If you look carefully, you'll find one of these guys...a cute little hedgehog.  Isn't he adorable?!

Friday -- Walking through sand (this is a desert country, after all!) leaves one's feet and shoes filthy.  I threw all my shoes in the washing machine and gave them a good cleaning.  Wow!  They are no longer brown....well, at least until the next time I wear them!

"I've got only one pure thing to wear an it's got Made by Jesus on the tag and the purity of Jesus lies over a heart and His transparency burns the cataracts off the soul.  The only way to see God manifested in the world around is with the eyes of Jesus within." --Ann Voskamp

Saturday -- We have several bushes in our yard that have grown out of control.  There was also a row of hedges that seemed to have died and our neighbor lady removed those all by herself.  That motivated us to go out and cut back the bougainvillea that has been encroaching on our clothes line.  It's so tangled in the neighbor's concertina wire that it's going to take even more work, but we removed stems that were about six feet in length.  John also cut back another bougainvillea that was growing into the path and I cut back the bushes along the side of the driveway.  I'm thankful we had a cool morning to do this yard work and that we were able to work together on it.

Sunday -- And Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave thanks (eucharisteo) for it.  I love how this church used little tea cups for communion instead of a traditional western style communion set.  And you can see the joy on the pastor's face. :)

"How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter His gates.  I can only do so with thanksgiving.  If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can't I give thanks for anything?  And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory.  Living in His presence is fullness of joy -- and seeing shows the way in.

"The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible.  And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible.  Isn't joy the art of God?" --Ann Voskamp