There comes a point in every bloggers life where you just have to give up and say, I am not going to be able to update you on everything that has happened since I last wrote. It is like that email that someone sent you, or the text, or the phone call that you meant to return, but then life, and all of a sudden it has been two months and it is just so awkward. So I have been stuck in the mental loop….it has been too long since I wrote a blog….how do I break the silence…..now it has REALLY been too long….what do I even say….and on and on.
Here is the truth, it has been two months since I have written a blog post. We have been so BUSY every day. Things are going well and I would love to sit down at a table with you, sip good coffee and talk about the ins and outs of the last two months, but if you were to read it, you would beg for mercy.
Also there is this, the longer we live here, the harder it is to write about our life. A wise person (hi, Susan) once told me: go to Africa for a week and you can write a novel, for a month and you write an essay, for a year and write a paragraph, and so on. We are approaching our 18 month anniversary of living here in Arusha and life just…is. Much of the novelty has been replaced by a deeper complexity and easy blogging material took novelty’s cue and hit the road. I am left with writing about the stuff that leaves me more vulnerable. Topics like my feelings about our ministry at this time, deeper understanding of this culture that I now respect too much to be able to attempt to sum up in neat little words, the changes I see in my kids that I know will last (scar?) forever, and the disappointments and hopes that have evolved past what we ever thought possible. I will admit that the more people who have told me they read my blog, many of them strangers, have made me wonder about what to say or even how much. Do you strangers, people reading this because you know me as the director of Neema House, do you want to hear how I struggle with living my faith in this context?
I have been wrestling with these feelings for a while (obviously) and have come to the conclusion that I am going to try to write about the heart things, regardless of vulnerability or readers.
Over the last few months I have been dwelling in the book of James. Not doing any formal study, just chewing on small bits over and over and allowing the Spirit to lead where It will. Yahweh has been so gracious in revealing truth through this. The truth that has been sustaining. After reading the book through several times, I kept coming back to the following passage:
13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits,unwavering, without hypocrisy.18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3: 13-18.
I wrote this verse in my best handwriting and hung it on my wall. I knew that I was struggling with our ministry. Not because I felt like we were in the wrong place, because I feel with ever fiber of my being that we are where Yahweh wants us to be. I was struggling with understanding how to make lasting change. I know that providing a safe haven to orphaned children aligns with the heart of the Father, and I am excited to be a part of His work here. But my spirit knew that something was off. I knew James was where I was supposed to linger, so honestly, I read this paragraph over and over trying to figure out what kept drawing me back. Then I did a dangerous thing. I started to pray that Yahweh would reveal in me my bitter jealous and selfish ambition. My friends, this is what I assume happens when one prays for patience, I warn you. It is risky when you willingly open yourself up and ask for the spirit to pinpoint those things that are keeping you from wisdom.
It was slow, because the spirit is gentle, and I came to realize that my true desire is to be Kelly full of peace, Kelly full of mercy, Kelly who is unwavering. Once this new truth hit, I was given so many opportunities to test this out. I realized I normally ended up at a version of mercy, after I went through anger and frustration and accusation. This should not be. The anger and frustration and accusation were seated strongly in my bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Even if it was just that I had a plan, which I wanted to selfishly hold on to, and when it was disrupted my immediate response was not mercy and peace. How many words have I said in anger, when peace and mercy were the better option. I am still, and will probably always be, trying to live this out in my life. There have been times in the last 18 months where I have wondered if the level of stress and frustration I felt would have lasting implications on my health. That sounds crazy, but we would take hit after hit, this change and that change, this cultural clash and that cultural clash, and the anger and frustration at things being so difficult was giving me frequent stomach aches. I had the mindset, especially with raising my kids and working at Neema House, that I carried the burden of deciphering and leading us on the path that we should go. I was the leader, the decid-i-maker, the burden carrier, the one responsible for the success or failure of each endeavor. If this thinking was not a stronghold of demonic wisdom, I do not know what is! I started praying against earthly wisdom and for wisdom from above. I started wondering what it would look like if I was full of mercy first, and if I was gentle always. Then an amazing thing happened, the Spirit gave me a life verse. A verse to be the foundation of myself, my family and my ministry, here it is:
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Read it again and again, I know I had to. Think about who you are in this verse. How you live your life. How you conduct your ministry and your family interactions. I just want the spirit to settle these words in your heart like he did mine. The seed….whose fruit is righteousness…..is sown in PEACE…..by those who make PEACE. It became so clear to me, I wept for all my ridiculous striving. What do we want in our selves, but righteousness. What do we want in our children, but righteousness. What do we want in our spouses, but righteousness. What do we want in the people we minister to, but righteousness. What do we want in the world at large, but righteousness! And how do we get that, but by being PEACEMAKERS! The seed of righteousness is sown in peace by the peaceful farmer, not by the wrathful farmer. It’sot even by the farmer with sound doctrine, certainly not by best laid plans, not even by those of use living and working for justice. Righteousness is sown in peace by those who MAKE peace. This changed everything for me. What am I doing here? I am raising my kids, loving my husband, working at Neema House, but what I am really doing, or supposed to be doing, is sowing righteousness through peace.
If you know me, you would not use peacemaker as one of my top character traits. You might say passionate, loud, a good leader….but not one of you would have listed peacemaker. I will admit that living in Tanzania has made me even less of a peacemaker. Mostly because I see so much injustice everyday and my natural inclination is to take those who are perpetuating that injustice by the throat and shake them to repentance. Effective, that. The trick of the Kingdom of Heaven is that righteousness comes through peace. True righteousness, not self-righteousness. It is the righteousness of the Father, the righteousness that encompass all that Yeshua was when He walked this earth. So here is the thing….how?? How do I take my un-peacemaker like self and transform into a maker of peace?? I desperately want this fruit in my life, in my family and in my ministry. The answer was surprising to me. Here it is: forgiveness. Maybe that answer is different for you. I do not have any neat scripture to link forgiveness to becoming a peacemaker. However, I do know that in my own life I can link my lack of forgiveness, given and received, to my inability to extend peace, therefore crippling my effectiveness in sowing righteousness. To me, forgiveness and peace have to be two sides of the same coin. My plan is disrupted, instead of striving and anger, forgiveness and peace. I am disappointed in myself, instead of guilt, forgiveness and peace. I am selfish with my husband, instead of denial, admission, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. I have a promise from scripture that the fruit of being a peacemaker, is righteousness.
In a way, this actually took you through the last two months of my spiritual growth, totally did not intend to do that, but it turned into just that thing. This is where I am at. I trust that Yahweh has called me to righteousness, to a ministry of righteousness, so I trust that He will lead me on this path. I always have seen myself as a vengeance kind of girl, so thinking of myself as a peacemaker is taking a bit of getting used to. I know that these truths have totally reoriented the way I think about myself, my marriage, my kids and my ministry. Maybe next time I will post pictures and tell you all about the normal life things that are happening on this side of the globe. For now, let us strive to be peaceful farmers as we sow righteousness in our daily lives.