Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Mama's Thoughts on Short-Term Missions

My husband took our second son to Guatemala for 10 days.  It's a rite of passage in our home, a mission trip with dad.  We had waited a while for this one, wanting the right trip at the right time.  And we knew when this trip came along that it was the one for our fifteen year old.  Sometimes, when you're listening for the still, small voice of God, you struggle to hear it.  Sometimes, you hear it so deeply, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God is communicating.  This was a "beyond a shadow" kind of knowing.  The right trip at the right time.

The first day, they landed in Guatemala City and then drove 12 hours up into the mountains, along the Guatemalan-Mexican border.  The next two days were spent constructing a home for a family who was in need.

A home.  My son just helped build someone a home.  With a machete.

And that's why I love world missions.  Because a fifteen year old just got his world rocked when he watched a family of five beam with pride over their new home of wood and tin that could fit inside his bedroom.  And he now knows that the home he helped build with his own two hands is a vast improvement over their previous house, a mud hut that dissolved every time it rained.  A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

I know because I've been there.  When I was 18, I spent two months in the jungles of Peru, doing my best to minister to the people there who poked at my freckles and called me "leopardo" with eyes filled with wonder. 

I slept in a mosquito tent on the ground.  I washed my hair in the Amazon.  I bought a machete (a South American staple, I assure you).  I used an outhouse in the dark.

And then one day, I ate something unrecognizable in the home of a local pastor.  Something that was so tough and greasy, I couldn't imagine what it might be.  I finally turned it over with my fork and realized the truth.  I was eating a rodent.

And I thought I couldn't do it.  I thought I was done.  Done with my dinner and done with missions.

Until I looked up and saw the pastor, his wife, and their ten children had circled the dinner table in the one room hut.  Their faces were beaming, so proud that they could share their food with the missionaries.

And that's when I realized that those children would probably not be eating that night.  It was their dinner my mind was rejecting.

So, I closed my eyes, asked the Lord to help me, and I ate it.

A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

Because there have been a lot of times in life that I thought I needed something, but then remembered I already have everything I need.  And there have been a lot of times in life when I thought I was done, but then remembered that the Christ who lives in me is never done. 

I have heard some people question whether short term mission teams, particularly teenagers, are an effective use of resources.  They wonder if it would just be better to send money, instead of people.  My answer to that is, send both.  The money will get used once, and be a blessing.  The missionary will get changed, and be an instrument of blessing for the rest of his life.

My own missionary will be home in three days.  I look forward to wrapping my arms around him (and his dad), but more than that, I look forward to watching what happens next.  Because a man who knows how to build a house with a machete and obey God?  That can only be a recipe for greatness.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hold That Baby Tight

A friend had a baby today.  The picture she posted was precious, and made this mama do what I always do when I see a newborn.  I closed my eyes and remembered what it felt like to hold one of my babies for the first time. 

The relief. 

The joy. 

The fear.

The fear that I wouldn't get it right.

And those memories drove me to finish a song I started writing a few months ago.  My kids and I had taken an impromptu trip to the park at the lake, a favorite place to go to just be by ourselves and enjoy each other.  My oldest had brought his guitar that day.  He started strumming, and I started humming, and before long, a song was birthed.

I finished it today, remembering that beautifully terrifying moment when you hold a perfect bundle of newborness in your arms and realize you are responsible for so very much that is important.

And so this song, still in a raw recorded version and done in just a few moments today when I could get the kids quiet enough to be able to press record, is my gift to the mama who holds her newborn tonight.  It's also a future gift to my daughter, as it's something I want her to know someday when she holds her own little one and experiences the fear that she won't get it all right.

Because the truth is, you won't. 

But, you'll get a lot of things right. 

Like loving.  And loving again when it's hard.  And loving some more. 

And that goes a long way in this thing called motherhood.

To listen, click here.

"Hold Those Babies Tight"
Mindy von Atzigen copyright 2014

My little girl became a mom today,
The baby I held is holding her own.

And if there's one thing I could give,
If there's one thing I could say,  I'd say

Honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do tonight,
Just hold that baby tight.

You're gonna sing a lot of songs,
Teach a lot of lessons,
Cook a lot of meals,
And clean a lot of messes.

And honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do each night,
Just hold those babies tight.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Does the Bible Say About Fear?

Fear is the most crippling enemy a soul can ever face.  If it is trying to overtake you today, let your heart meditate on the words of Scripture, the best tool for combatting any enemy. 

Even as a follower of Jesus, there may be many things in this life that cause rocks of fear to be hurled at you.  Some are pebbles.  Others are boulders.  The key is to never pick up the rocks. 

Instead, build your house with the cornerstone of who God is, your hope and your defense.

Here are ten verses that will shore up your house today, all from the Message Bible (because sometimes it's good to shake up familiar words with a fresh understanding).  Let your heart take delight in the Mightiness of your God...

  • “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”  - Deuteronomy 31:6

  • "Hezekiah rallied the people, saying, 'Be strong! Take courage! Don’t be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops—there are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!'  Morale surged. Hezekiah’s words put steel in their spines."  - 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

  • "Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.  Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure."  - Psalm 23:4

  • "Light, space, zest—that’s GodSo, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing."  - Psalm 27:1

  • When I get really afraid I come to you in trust.  I’m proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God.  What can mere mortals do?"  - Psalm 56:3-4

  • “But you, Israel, are my servant.  You’re Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham.  I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.  I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’  Don’t panic. I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."  - Isaiah 41:8-12

  • “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.  Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.  What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries."  - Matthew 10:26-31

  • "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike 'What’s next, Papa?'  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!"  - Romans 8:15-17

  • "Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, 'God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?'"  - Hebrews 13:5-6

  • "God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.  We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first."  - I John 4:17-19

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trading Stress for Peace

A couple of months ago,  my pastor husband asked if I would mind letting a traveling band of musicians stay in our home for a night.  We were scheduled to be out of town that evening, the church was needing to find them a place to stay after they performed a concert for the congregation, and it seemed like an all-around easy solution.  I said sure, it would be no problem.

Fast forward to T minus 6 days, and it was no longer an easy solution and was in fact a huge problem.  What had I been thinking?  A group of people I didn't know staying in my home without us there?  This called for some SERIOUS CLEANING!

I've always thought of myself as a clean person.  (Almost) everything has a place, and (almost) everything can be put it in its place in pretty quick order in my house.  But, this was not the usual scenario for company.  These people weren't just coming over for dinner or coffee, they were going to shower, sleep, prepare their own breakfast, and possibly do laundry here.  They were going to see into closets, cabinets, bathtubs (shriek!), and who knows, maybe behind couches?

So, I spent the better part of two days cleaning from top to bottom. 


Couch cushions.


Ceiling fans.

The works.

And what should have been a natural display of hospitality turned into an exhausting ordeal.

All because I was worried what someone I didn't even know would think if they saw dust on the baseboards or dog hair on the couch.

Until I finally realized, enough was enough.  The house was cleaner than it ever is for the people who LIVE here, so it was just going to have to be enough for those who were visiting. 
My tired family was thrilled to hear this decision as it meant they were spared the deep cleaning of their closets. 

The last thing I did before we left town was shut every single closet door and hoped no one would have a desire to see if I know how to fold fitted sheets (I don't) or if all the pieces of our board games have made it back into their boxes.  And then I walked out, and tried not to think about it anymore.

But, now, two weeks later, I've been thinking about it.  And I wonder why I allowed myself to get stressed out when our home is a lovely, homey place.  It's not perfect and its furniture is showing signs of being well loved by a family of six, but it's full of peace and comfort and joy and life.  It's a beautiful place to relax and be yourself.  And maybe the imperfections around the house are a lot like the people who live here, the people who aren't perfect, but are growing up and changing for the better and not ever staying the same. 

And maybe there are just a lot of things more important in life than correctly folded sheets.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Prayers for the First Day of School

Author's Note:  Four years into blogging "Treasure the Ordinary," and these posts are still the ones that are accessed the most by readers.  So, here they are together in one place, making it easy to print out and post them in a place you'll see often and be reminded of the power of blessing...

First Day of School Blessings for Children
All the backpacks are lined up by the front door.  The first day of school clothes are waiting on their hangers.  The crayons are pointed and unbroken.

My birds are asleep in the nest, ready to fly away tomorrow.  And it's this hour that a Mama kneels and prays.  She prays that the small wings will be strong as they carry her precious ones into a world not always hospitable to young things.  She prays that His breath will blow, lifting them higher, above the reach of that which would entangle. 

And she prays that they will fly safely home again.

Mama bird blessings:
  • I Bless You with courage. (Joshua 1:3-9)
  • I Bless You with the Father's protection. (Ps. 91)
  • I Bless You with a Godly child’s heart that respects and honors his parents and authority.
  • I Bless You with the Holy Spirit’s marking your life so that you stand out in a crowd.
  • I Bless You with the favor of God on your life so that others want to go out of their way to do you good.
  • I Bless You that people speak to you with kindness and honor.
  • I Bless You with confidence in your looks and abilities: you will like who God made you to be.
  • I Bless You with strategies of the Lord for your future.
  • I Bless You with purity in thought, speech, and action.
  • I Bless You with confidence and a complete lack of fear of man.
  • I Bless You with the ability to be a good friend.
  • I Bless You with the ability to be grieved by sin and the desire to make all things right with the Father.
  • I Bless You with truthful lips.
  • I Bless You with the ability to honor those around you, even when it costs you.
  • I Bless You with the knowledge that you are a joy to your parents and that they are proud of you.
  • I Bless You with the knowledge of the Father’s unconditional love for you and your parents’ unconditional love for you.
  • I Bless You with the desire to pray at all times, with all kinds of prayers.
  • I Bless You with the spirit of a warrior, a Godly warrior.
  • I Bless You to be a blessing to everyone you meet.

First Day of School Blessings for Teachers
This morning, my husband and I stood on the front porch and watched our sixteen year old drive himself to school.  You would think as many years as we've been sending kids off on their first day of school, we wouldn't have "first day jitters" anymore.  But, they're still there. 

New year.  New grade levels.  New friends.  New habits.  New teachers.

We are sending our most valuable treasures out into the world to be taught and shaped and mentored by teachers who didn't bring them into the world, wash their clothes this weekend, or put the breakfast on the table this morning.  Teachers who care about them, but aren't their parents.  Teachers who want to see them succeed, but don't have a lifetime of equity built with them.  Teachers who can't focus on four children like we do at our house, but have an entire classroom to take care of.

And that's why I take a few minutes today to bless my children on the first day of school, but also the teachers who are entering my children's lives today:

I bless you to see the value in each of your students, the God-given gifts in each one.

I bless you with patience in your heart today, and that it will be expressed in your face and in your voice.

I bless you with joy today, the kind of joy that can laugh at the moments that didn't go your way and exalt in the moments of success.

I bless you with peace in your classroom today, the kind that can be felt when students walk in the door.

I bless you with the ability to make learning a contagious source of wonder.

I bless you with the skills to communicate well with your students, their parents,  and your peers.

I bless you with renewed vigor and energy, enough to go home and still have an enjoyable evening with your family.

I bless you with wisdom and creativity to solve the problems that come your way.

I bless you with conversations around school that encourage you and lift up your spirit.

And I bless you with a new-found passion for your job, the job that is shaping the next generation.


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Story I Love to Read

I recently loaded up my kids and went to visit my grandmother.  She gets tired pretty easily, so we don't ever stay a long time, but it was a sweet visit.  All the children took turns sharing their latest accomplishments with her, we ate together, and we heard a few more stories from the treasure box of her memories.

And somewhere in there, I slipped away to my Papaw's study to do what I always do when I visit.  I plucked one of his notebooks off the shelf and read through it for a moment.

My grandfather was a preacher.  My earliest memories of him involve pulpits and Vacation Bible Schools, where he would let the children who brought guests snip a piece off his necktie.  I loved visiting him at the church, getting candy from his secretary and even more candy from the janitor.  I loved that he was always willing to travel good distances to witness the important events in my life, always being the one who gave the biggest hug and told me how proud he was of me.

I was the oldest grandchild in the family and the first to marry.  It was Papaw who conducted our ceremony, and it was Papaw who sat us down for pre-marital counseling.  I remember blushing furiously when my aging grandfather talked about the honeymoon with me and my future groom, but I have always been grateful for the wonderful foundation he helped us build in so many facets of our communication with each other.

I had only been married two short months when Papaw had a stroke.  He would eventually recover completely physically, but would never fully recover in his ability to speak.  For the next ten years, it would be a struggle to communicate with him.  He was always able to convey love, but gone were the eloquent sermons, the heart to heart conversations, and the huge words he loved to use. 

And then he was gone.  Suddenly, and without a chance for many of us to say goodbye.

And that's why I love to slip away into his study and pick up a notebook.  There are quite a few to choose from because he was a preacher in the days before computers.  His sermon files aren't on a hard drive.  They're all in notebooks, on the top shelf of the study. 

A lifetime of sermons.  A treasure of words.

When I read his writings, mostly typed, but with many handwritten notes in the margins, I can listen to his voice again.  I can hear a heart that loved his God.  I can recall his wisdom, the kind that's earned the hard way.  I can remember his love for me.

And this last time, as I held a notebook entitled "Philippians" in my hand, I wondered what my legacy would be.  What treasure do my notebooks hold?  What am I leaving for those who come after me to remember and ponder? 

My life is telling a story.  I pray it's as beautiful as the one on the top shelf.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Still In It

Today is the last day our house will have a child in the single digits.  Tomorrow, the youngest turns 10. 

She is thrilled. 

Her mama is trying to be thrilled.

I love this season we are in, with children getting older, able to do things we've never done before, having conversations we've never had before, laughing together at things they've never understood before.  The most enjoyment I've ever had as a parent has been this last year or so, seeing each of them beginning to embrace the individuality of who God has created them to be.

And yet, a pause is necessary to reflect on what will happen tomorrow.

A page will be turned.

A new chapter will begin.

There are no little ones in our house any longer.  They are big people, dreaming big dreams, doing big things.

But, I know it's not over.  We are in this parenting thing for awhile. 

Because they are also still making big piles of laundry.

So, tonight, as I tuck in a nine year old for the very last time, I will hold her close and do my best not to cry until I close the door. 

And then I'll go start another load of laundry.

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