I Accidentally Bought a Crop Top

Mom of three. Missionary. Owner of a crop top. Thank you, Target for making me an anomaly.

I’m not knocking your love of shortened blouses if that’s your thing. It’s not mine, yet here I am with a midriff baring t-shirt I have no use for. “Well, why did you buy it, Amber?” I’m glad you asked.

I was shopping with a friend who graciously took me on a fully-funded Target run when we landed Stateside. Our needs at the time were overwhelming. I had been sharing with my family that we were “unraveling.” Our daughter landed in America wearing socks provided by the airline because she was in possession of no pair of her own. The sandals she stuffed them in were no better as sequins dangled on loosened threads, the pink pleather straps barely hanging on. Our clothes were golden evidences of curries consumed long ago and the muddy waters which fled rusty pipes and flowed into our washing machine dying threads to match our surroundings.

I chose bedding for each of our three children to make our temporary living arrangement feel more like home and also because I was not yet in the emotional state necessary to navigate shopping for children’s clothing in this unknown territory. I tossed some makeup, shampoo, and a LEGO puzzle into my cart — because what is a Target run without an impulse purchase? We circled around to the women’s section where I passed flowing skirts and trendy tie-dyed sets in search for the perfect pair of sweatpants. I thumbed my way through stacked hangers to find my size which had become considerably smaller since the last time I lived in the US (I trust my time here will send my hips back in the other direction). I began looking for a tee to match the joggers in which I had no intention of exercising.

I pushed my cart from table to table, pulling out t-shirts and holding them up to examine. 1/3 of each shirt was mysteriously missing. Emerging from my jet-lagged stupor, I understood the 2/3 length t-shirts were actually crop-tops as images of Pinterest #ootds flooded my memory. Fashion trends were of no relevance to me when we lived a world away, but now I felt particularly victimized by them. I just wanted a whole t-shirt. By this time, exhaustion and confusion had taken over, and I added a boxy black tee to my commercial collection. Maybe it’s longer than it looks, I thought. It wasn’t.

I wore this top for the first time in two months of ownership with a camisole tucked in at the waist. While I’m certainly fond of the marks that represent the children I’ve brought into this world, I have no interest in sharing them with the general public. My look isn’t worthy of imitation, but I remain thankful to be wearing clothes fully raveled. I looked in the mirror and shrugged, grabbing my keys to jump in the van to commence my next crazed shopping experience.

I’ve come to terms with my life in the States or in my host country never being a perfect fit. It almost feels normal and right. I almost belong in Nepal when I am there, and I almost sense that I fit in the States when I am here. Yet, there is always that last little bit that doesn’t feel quite comfortable, forever a nagging notion that I’ve changed too much to truly find something that wholly suits me. The moments are many when I am vulnerable and exposed like the flab of flesh at my waistline my kids like to grab and squish around.

Any sense of belonging is an illusion at best and at worst a red flag that I have become too close a companion to the world. Here or there, an ill-fitting life is a good sign that I am mimicking the life of Jesus who I so long to be like. Jesus left a royal throne to walk dusty streets among humans who did not care to His message. He shed His divine beauty as He wrapped Himself in human flesh, reported to be of no particular physical appeal — no doubt a poor fit. That did not stop Him from carrying out His mission, stretching shaking arms to become a banner of love nailed to a sinner’s cross.

A Savior who is willing to do that for me is also eager to help me as I cope with the parts of life and ministry that do not suit me. I can depend on Him to mold me into His image as I seek to do His work of reconciliation wherever I am. When I feel vulnerable, exposed, and lost I can trust Him to pull me in, covering me with His perfect love. Even when I am just lost on a Target run, suffering the particular persecution of material overwhelm, I can count on His comfort and peace.

He has used an accidental crop-top purchase to remind me of my need of Him, and that’s what I need most of all.

The Gift of Closeness with God [Day 31: CLOSE]

My husband/our pastor recently preached through has preached through both Romans and Hebrews in the two years of our little church plant’s existence. It seems he is forever drawing parallels between the believer’s relationship to God and the union between a man and a woman in marriage. In some ways, it’s sort of humorous because the majority of our congregants are unmarried. But I think it’s safe to say that we all have an innate idea of how a healthy marriage should look and operate.

For instance, I think we would agree that it would be a tragedy for me to tell everyone how great my husband is but not experience true intimacy with him. I could work myself to death in efforts to please him, but if I do not take the same efforts to know his heart, I have failed in my marriage. If there is no love in my marriage, my efforts are in vain. I am failing my husband and myself because we don’t get to experience the fullness of what marriage is intended to be.

In Romans 10:1-4 the apostle Paul expresses his longing for certain Jewish people to be saved. He says they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. They work for God and even strive to make His name known — but the tragedy is, they do not know Him. They do not experience closeness and intimacy with God. Their hearts remain far from Him even as their lips proclaim His name.

I fear that, too often, something like this could be said of me. Efforts to teach and disciple are acts worthy of devotion, but if my devotion is misplaced then my service is meaningless. My devotion first and foremost must be to the Lord. I must devote myself to drawing close to Him each and every day of my life — even moment to moment. I can do this because of the work of Christ that abolished my sin and made a way for me to experience closeness with God. It is the most precious of gifts yet one I take for granted to much of the time.

I’ve said it throughout this series — He wants my heart. He has proven it. With the same zeal I serve Him, I must express thankfulness for the opportunity to be close to God by taking advantage of it. I can approach each day with the goal to know God more and draw ever more near to Him.

I want that closeness. I don’t want to suffer the tragedy of a lost opportunity to experience the relationship God longs to have with me. So, I will work at knowing Him for the rest of my days.

I “make” God big in my life when I practice more zeal to know Him than I do to serve Him. He wants my heart.

How do you practice zeal to know God?

Talk to me in the comment section below?

 

The Perks of Serving a Living God [Day 30: VOICE]

The nights and mornings have turned cold. We’ve retired our ceiling fan for the season, but we let a little stand fan run pointed at a wall that it may drown out the sounds of barking dogs. Our headboard lies against a large single-paned window. Across our driveway and outside our gate lies a small Hindu temple. The bells starting ringing a few minutes before 5 a.m. each morning. The ceiling fan drowned it out all summer so its significance feels new to me as the peals break the through the crisp morning air and past my unfortunately thin window panes. These attempts to wake sleeping gods and gain favor or riches are all vain — they only wake up light sleepers like me. Each time I hear the bells ring, I have an opportunity to pray that the souls that stoop before idols would one day bow before the living God.

I also have an opportunity to express thankfulness for our living God. I don’t have to ring bells or blow into seashells to get God’s attention. His eyes are ever watching me, and the Holy Spirit is deciphering every sigh of my heart in communication with the Father. He is actively seeking me, vying to capture my heart and drawing me into intimacy with Him. Not a moment of my little life goes unseen by Him and not a detail of my days are missed. In contrast with the idolatry I witness every day, I appreciate the vastness of this gift.

But not only does He hear and see me — He speaks to me. God invites me into community through the local church and speaks to a gathered body through the exposition of His word. Beyond that, every time I open my Bible I can hear His voice. The words held within have been preserved for me. As I give my attention to its truths, the Holy Spirit works within me to grant understanding and truly help me hear the voice of God.

As my daily duties pull me away from corporate worship and quiet time, I can still hear the voice of God. I can speak with Him when I am folding laundry or walking to the fruit shop, and I can expect to hear from Him as I do. The Spirit brings discovered truths from communal worship and personal Bible study and plants it as new on my heart.

I’ll never forget that when we lost our son Ezra, and I couldn’t bring myself to open my Bible that God still spoke to me. I daily heard His voice even though though words from the pulpit were drowned out by louder voices of grief and guilt. The Spirit brought years of Sunday school lessons and simple learned truths before me every single day of that grieving period. He heard my unintelligible groans, and I heard His loving assurance each and every day.

At the same time my heart breaks for those just outside my gate who have no such experience, I am thankful that I have been introduced to a God who hears me, sees me, and speaks to me every moment of every day.

I “make” God big in my life when I remain thankful for His care in my life and remain perceptive to His voice as He exercises authority in it. 

What is sweetest to you about serving a living God?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

Serving God Together [Day 29: TOGETHER]

I’ve mentioned earlier in this series that God has not granted us a ministry full of women for me to work with. In fact, this past Saturday we had a great attendance, but of the 45 people that showed up for service 2 were little girls and 3 were women. I guess I had these expectations because we had been told so many times that most often in overseas ministry, women are the ones who are faithful to church. In our little church plant, we have not found that to be true. I praise God for all the men God has brought into our ministry and for the young guys my husband is able to train — but where are all the women at?!?

Envy

I see other ladies in ministry who don’t have to look too far to find young women to work with in ministry. Selfies of coffee and open Bibles as they study together make me self-conscious of my lack-luster ladies’ ministry. I am about to finish discipleship lessons with the young lady I have been working with, and we are looking for someone else to study with. One girl we talked to said she has no interest in studying the Bible. The other mysteriously stopped answering my calls. I plan to continue working with this girl. She has grown so much, but I still long to see our influence grow as we grow together in the word of God. I know it will happen some day, but while I’m waiting it is hard to “stay in my lane” and not doubt what God will do.

Encouragement

Rather than envy my sisters in ministry that have at hand what I long for, I can rejoice with them in what God is doing and encourage them in faithfulness. The Bible teaches that we are one body in Christ (Romans 12:4). We all have our specific service to do and our parts to play in the great work of God. While my piece of the puzzle may feel small when held up against what another holds, the truth is it really is all in His hands.

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

Perspective

God calls me to faithfulness with what I’ve been given right now — no matter whether it fits my idea of all it should be. As I remain faithful with what I’m given and cheer on my sisters in their respective ministries, we can all rejoice together in the mysterious work of God. What a wonder that He uses each one of us in our little corners of the world and our small spheres of influence to accomplish His mission in the world!

God gives different gifts. He grants unique graces to each one of us. He gives some thriving ministries and others fledgling flocks that need constant tending. But He gives all of us Himself, and in Him we have relationship with one another. May I always be found faithful in my little work while encouraging my fellow kingdom workers in their own service to Him.

Eternal joy

We can rejoice together right now in what we see God doing. but just think of all we can praise God for when we reach our eternal home. We will see all the pieces of the puzzle perfectly pieced together and praise Him together forevermore.

I “make” God big in my life when I remain faithful in the work He he has given me to do while also supporting and encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ in their service to the Lord. 

How can you encouraging a brother or sister in their ministry today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

There Really Were Songs Yet to Sing [Day 28: SONG]

My dad wrote me a poem called Still Yet Songs to Sing when we lost our second child, Ezra Coleman to miscarriage late in my pregnancy in 2013. It was such a sweet gesture and encouragement to me. It showed a father’s heart moved with grief for daughter’s pain, and I know it mirrored my heavenly Father’s heart in that way.

I was so broken at that time, completely wrecked with this great loss. I hadn’t asked for a second child, yet God granted me the precious gift of life far earlier than we would have planned. We welcomed the gift and spent those 5 months planning and dreaming for our little one. It was a dark year as we reeled from the sudden tragedy, and during that year, we had to continue traveling around the US raising support for our future ministry. I sobbed in many a church bathroom and pasted a smile on when someone asked how many children I had and I replied that I only had one. A few times, a well-meaning soul would say, “She needs a little brother!” And I would think, “She had one, ” or “We tried to give her one.”

There really were still yet songs to sing. There were still ways we were gonna get up and work for the Lord just how we dreamed we would, but we had to walk through that dark valley first. What’s funny about these types of thorns in the flesh is that they can be so healing if we are submissive to the Father’s hand at work to bring restoration. I could barely stand up on my own two feet so I had no other choice than to lean on Christ. That time of immense pain shaped me into the wife, mom, and lady in ministry that I am today. At the time I think I said I was grateful, but I wasn’t quite feeling it yet. I’m feeling it now.

Sometimes God allows great pain to enter into our lives. Knowing that death and loss were not a part of His perfect plan from the beginning, we know He does not delight in doing this. However, because of His display of love on the Cross and His daily graces in our lives, we can trust He will work all things — even the hardest things — for our good when we come out on the other side.

And we will… come out on the other side. Even though it feels like we’ll never make it there. We will come out grateful. We will come out singing, praising God for all He has done. Broken but healing hearts crying out, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I’m singing now and, by His grace, I am serving Him on the other side of the world. We have two precious children now and are perfectly content with the life we have been given. But we will never forget that little boy we held for just a few moments. His memory will forever impact the songs I sing and the way I fall into the Father’s arms — because Ezra taught me how.

I “make” God big in my life when I accept hurt from His hand and trust Him to heal me. Knowing He will give me songs to sing, I can walk first through the dark valley as He guides me to the other side.

What trials has God brought you out of to sing His praise?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

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