Tuesday, April 26, 2016

10 Years

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of Bets' accident.

While it's hard for me to linger on the memories of this day, I am challenged as I remember my dear friend and the beliefs that she actually lived out in her life.  Anyone that knew her can vouch for me when I say that she was one of those people that reminded you of Jesus - Even if you didn't know Him, you knew there was something about her that was different, something counter-cultural, fresh and inviting.  She overflowed with compassion and hospitality.  She always looked for the outsiders, the ones with no one to talk to, and went there.  She loved people in ways that have the world still talking after 10 years...

Our society, growing more so in the last 10 years, is one that pushes to know stances over character; how you feel and what you think about issues is more important than how you live out those beliefs in your daily life.  

With Betsy, we learned her beliefs the opposite way - We saw her values, passions and convictions lived out in her daily life, and then we found the words behind her character after she passed away.  I am challenged by her model of talking less and being more, of living our your beliefs in a way that no one needs to really ask you where you stand.    

I hope her words challenge and inspire you as they continue to do for me.

Mission Statement
Written by Betsy Smith, 2002
People are my passion. 

I believe that people are my ministry. Working with the needs of people is my mission field. This must be my focus. 

I am supposed to love them with God's love, not my own; when I get hurt by sharing that love, it is hurting God even more than it hurts me.
Working with people is draining, therefore I must rely on God and not myself. I cannot, absolutely cannot, help others without the wisdom and strength that God gives. Therefore God must be my first passion. When I am a failure and weak, it allows God to get bigger and Him to do more. God's power is made perfect in my weakness. II Corinthians 12:9. It will cost more to give more, but it will affect more. 

I must give all. 

My life should be a living sacrifice and a drink offering poured out to God. It cannot be me though because then it won't really be a ministry. 
Expect to get hurt,because the more I love, the more I will get hurt, BUT it is better to love and get hurt than never love and never get hurt. This is the cross I must bear. I cannot keep God's love to myself. I must share it. Is God's love truly overflowing in my life?

I need to learn to forgive and let go, I cannot hold grudges, and be fulfilling God's calling for my life. There is no room for an attitude. 
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  To me, this means giving my life away, because it is not mine to keep. It means spreading God's love for others to them, because that is not something I can keep to myself. By doing this, I am gaining an indescribable blessing and fulfilment. It gives my own life purpose and meaning. 
At the end of my rope, God's rope just begins, I must give my life away to truly find it. Always remember that I'm only working for an audience of one. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Life as a Sojourner

As a large part of this blog is about being grateful for the journey of our past, present, and future, I wanted to share some pre-blog/pre-Chile thoughts with you today.  I found this as I was digging through grad school documents for a class I'm teaching tomorrow - written by me on December 6, 2009. 
2009: Before selfies were invented

My Life as a Sojourner

By Christine Reeve 

            I don’t remember when it all started.  I guess that’s what happens when something’s ingrained in you- like when I asked for violin lessons at age three, or forced my younger sister to play school and complete fake homework assignments for me on our beat up chalk board in the basement.  You don’t recognize your own desire until it has become a part of you, before you ever knew to ask for it. 
            Part of this ingraining started with a love of language.  I remember going to the library before family vacations to get books on tape and every “First Dictionary” of Spanish and French I could find.  (It stopped abruptly after realizing its ineffectiveness when I first heard “au revoir” recorded compared to my “our-rev-ore” attempted pronunciation from pictures alone.)  I took every Spanish class available from middle school on.  No one would say I have a natural aptitude for language acquisition, but my high interest alongside my intrinsically motivated dorky-ness in school resulted in good grades and high placement in high school and college.  I actually hated my higher-level courses and wasn’t nearly as successful as I could have been.  Conjugating verbs was not then and never will be a passion of mine.  But in the midst of mundane grammar drills and what were then meaningless lessons on cultures around the world, something in me still knew there was a deeper purpose to learning this alternative form of communication.  It was ingrained.
            I count myself very fortunate to have had all of my major, life changing decisions made before I really knew what was going on.  When God wants me to do something or go somewhere, He makes it very clear!  My decision to change high schools, where to go to college, being a teacher, what kind of school to teach in, even who to marry were made without a second thought.  (If you know me, you know this is not typical and very out of character for my analytic and indecisive self.)  I had of course thought about studying abroad when I was in high school, but as a college freshman I found myself happily wrapped up in the campus life and building an entire new community of friends.  It wasn’t time to leave again yet, and in my mind I had all the time in the world anyway.  But a providential moment occurred while I was cashiering at my part time job one day.  I don’t know what it was, but I knew I just had to do it.  A whole semester.  Away.  Alone.   I knew it had to happen and I discovered the next day that it was barely but absolutely possible to go the next spring.  I finally knew that it was happening, I knew when, and it was never a question of where.
            Latin America captured me since my first encounter at age fourteen.  After two weeks in the communities of the Dominican Republic, I was hooked.  Maybe it was the adventure of leaving the country for the first time.  Maybe it was the welcoming hospitality of a warm climate culture.  Maybe it was the relaxed (nonexistent) perception of time everyone there seemed to maintain.  Either way, I came home fully believing that I had somehow missed my calling to have been born Latina.  And that belief only became more and more true each time I returned.
            So I always knew I’d live in Latin America if I ever got the chance.  Seizing the opportunity, I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year living with a host family in Costa Rica and taking classes through the Latin American Studies Program.  There is nothing more powerful than viewing yourself, your life, your country, from outside of it.  I spent 4 months living with a family that didn’t speak my language, (talk about humility, when your 5 year old host sister speaks better Spanish than you), in a country that was not my own, with a group of students and professors that did not know me or the background in which I was bringing.  It was absolutely refreshing.  Gaining perspective doesn’t even begin to cover it.  I felt like I had been given another form of vision, another completely different way of thinking that I’d never been capable of possessing prior.  I saw how much bigger the world is than how we see it, how many people are affected by our neglect for social justice when we choose to see only what’s right in front of us.  I saw that my country, even my own religion, didn’t always make the right choices when it came to taking a stand for these issues.  It made for the most challenging and life-altering events I had ever experienced, ones that if I had known what they would entail before hand, I may not have chosen voluntarily.  But I know that is what makes them so valuable.  It’s addicting to feel that passionate, that intentional, that alive.  I knew my life would be drastically different from that point forward.  I also knew that that trip would not be the last…      
            No matter how many times I tried to “branch out,” I somehow always managed to find myself buying similar plane tickets, all to various places in Central America.  Thanks to a budget dedicated mostly to “rent, food, and travel,” I was able to spend almost an entire year living in Latin America.  I returned to Costa Rica for a summer to visit my host family and do volunteer work.  I completed half of my student teaching at a school in the Dominican Republic.  I spent another summer backpacking through Central America with nothing but a return flight and a tour book.   I often wonder if I would love another new culture as much as I love Latin America.  If my pattern in plane tickets continues, I may never find out. :)   
            While I still believe that I am a Latina at heart, I think it is more the life of a sojourner that is ingrained in me.  I love the adventure of seeing new places and not knowing what to expect.  I love the growth I experience after being pushed out of my comfort zone.  I love the beauty of other languages, other cultures, other customs and ways of looking at the same world.  I love the perspective and never-ending questions that come from new journeys.  And like any deep love, it feels completely natural, like I was created for this.  From all of this I have learned to always trust that whatever country or culture I find myself in, whether familiar or foreign, I’ll know I was meant to be there.  And like every natural sojourner, I constantly look forward for the next new adventure, never forgetting the path behind me. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hope for a Weary World (Merry Christmas)

For as many years as I have listened to my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night, I heard one of the lines more clearly than ever before this year.  I'm always intrigued when this happens, how we can listen to something hundreds of times and then all of a sudden hear it a different way.  Maybe it was because I was listening to John Legend belt it out :)  but it was truly like hearing it for the first time:

And in His name, all OPPRESSION shall CEASE...

After a year of news screens plastered with injustice, I cling to this promise of a new world someday.  It's something I can't imagine, as it is so far from our current reality, and that makes it even more mysterious and praiseworthy.    

A thrill of HOPE... 
                     the WEARY WORLD rejoices...

To you and your loved ones, 
may this season be a season of deepened HOPE and JOY 
in the promises of a redeemed world! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Be Careful How You Pray

My heart is so heavy watching two good friends watch their newborn baby fight for her life.  People are praying for their sweet daughter all over the world, for God to intervene in what would at this point be a miraculous way.  

Meanwhile a friend from college posts that "prayer works" because they were able to sell their house in less than a day.

I feel sick.

How is it that we pretend to know the workings of God?  That if a "prayer" is answered in our favor, God is faithful... and if it's not, then what is God?  Where is God?  

I do believe there is a deeper purpose to prayer than God merely changing us.  I believe as co-laborers with Christ, we have a responsibility to pray for God to change things (and us) and that the Bible does show God intervening differently due to man's petition: Abraham asking God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses asking Him not to destroy the Israelites, Hezekiah being healed and getting to live another 15 years. 

I believe we should pray with faith, ask God for what we want, be honest about where we're at.  But when the answer, or lack thereof, comes back, let's please not attribute it to God being a certain way, as if His character can change dependent upon our circumstances.  Our faith cannot be defined by seeing the results we want in this world. 

Pray doesn't "work" or "not work."  We are not kids putting coins into candy machines and waiting for a favorable result; we are partnering with the Creator of the universe in a purpose far beyond what we are capable of perceiving.  And yes, that is crazy, and doesn't make sense when you try to figure it out with our own limited knowledge, but that is the point.  It is faith.  

If your prayers are answered the way you want, praise God.  If they aren't, praise God.  If we are truly praying prayers of faith, our response can only ever be gratitude to the God that hears our prayers and has the power to use every response, or lack thereof, for our good

Please continue to pray, to believe in prayer, to lean on a fellow believer when you start to doubt the power of it (This is why we were made for community....), to ask God for the miracles and mundane, and to grow your faith and relationship with Him through the interaction and events that take place because of that prayer.  I pray, for you and for me, that our prayers for others and all the good, bad, and ugly things in our lives that we are lifting up would only impel us to live more grateful lives of true faith in our Father.   


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Just had an 7.9 (or 8.3?  Still seeing 2 readings) earthquake hit about 70 miles from our house here in Santiago.  We are all fine!  They are evacuating the west coast with a tsunami warning so please pray for everyone to evacuate in time.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life as a Toddler

One of the things I love about being a parent is gaining such a deeper understanding of God's relationship to me through the interactions I have with my boys.  Throughout these interactions, I have come to realize that I am very much a toddler in God's eyes:

I long for independence, when that's just not my role. How many times do I try to live my life by my own strength and wisdom?  I get so used to my job, the season, the routines that get the things checked off the list, that I subconsciously believe I can do it on my own.  

I have irrational fears when I don't need to be afraid. As frustrating as it is to explain x amount of times that you don't need to be afraid of the garbage truck or the barking dog, Coen often remains unconvinced.  But I have to remind myself that small fears overwhelm a small world, and as large as I feel my world is, it's still so tiny in the eyes of God.  He tells me not to fear, and I often remain unconvinced. 

I think I'm pretty mature.  I think there's a reason that Jesus loved kids so much.  Probably the same reason I enjoy teaching kids (in general) more than adults - While I do know that more years and life experiences can bring wisdom, it often brings an overconfidence that inhibits learning.  I want to share the wisdom God has given me, but never become so sure of myself that I miss out on the infinite amount of learning opportunities that await. 

I want to be noticed.  We haven't quite mastered the difference between "thank you" and "you're welcome" around here, so Coen will tell you "Thank you Coen" whenever he does something you ask him to do.  His lack of language knowledge is cute and innocent, but I always humorously see myself in the gesture to be acknowledged and appreciated for the things I do.   

I long to be understood and communicate clearly. Because, who doesn't?  If you ever want to empathize with your nonverbal child, go live in your second language.  There are few things more frustrating than not being able to connect to someone you love because of your inability to communicate.  So many times my prayers end up being more felt than spoken somehow; I am so grateful my connection to God doesn't depend on my ability to articulate. 

I require so much patience.  Everything is baby steps, practicing, redoing, trying again... and repeat.  As often as I have to remind myself that Coen is only 2 1/2, I am humbled by the thought that God has been dealing with my practice/redo/repeat for almost 32 years.  And His patience is perfect!  Mine entirely limited.     

I need so much grace.  I imagine this lesson will become much more profoundly dear to me as my kids become old enough to "fall short" beyond temper tantrums and misdirected emotions, but it is already such a powerful realization for me.  No matter how great my kids are, they will never be perfect.  I have already proven to be an imperfect parent.  This whole business of being a mom has shown me that even the deepest human love will fall short.  

I couldn't possibly be loved any more than I am right now.  This is the one that overwhelms the deepest part of me - I think about my boys, the way I love them, and then remember that this love doesn't even compare to the love God has for me.  It overwhelms me because it's truly unfathomable...  And yet somehow so easy to forget, easy to feel distant, easy to feel like I am disappointing God by my actions or lack thereof, as if His love for me was conditional upon my character...  

And then I look at my boys.  And I remember the kind of love He has for me.   

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for such profound love!  And thankful He uses my 2 year old to keep me in check.


Monday, June 22, 2015

An Exercise in Receiving Grace

It's so much easier for me to give than receive.  

Giving makes you feel good about yourself.  You are the one in control.  You get the praise and recognition.  

Receiving is just that: receiving.  You can't control it.  You don't get the credit.  You are the one in a vulnerable position.  And if you're prideful like me, you will feel indebted no matter how small the gesture and/or how many times you say thanks. 

It's for these reasons I try not to put myself in situations where I have to ask for help.  This may be disguised as independence, strength, or self-sufficiency, but really it is just sin.  A.W. Tozer refers to them as "self-sins": self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-admiration, etc.  I experience all of these and more when I do things on my own and start to believe that I don't ever need help from anyone else.

This morning I had to take Makai to the other side of the city for his 4-month vaccinations, which involved a bus and a metro ride in rush hour traffic.  I always have to psych myself up for public transportation with babies and/or a toddler because it will most likely involve awkward moments of waiting for someone to help me find a seat, carry a stroller up stairs, or help me lift the stroller from the bus down to the pavement of the bus stop.  I remember the first time I learned that not all metro stations have elevators; Coen was too small to walk up the steps on his own and too big for me to carry him in the stroller.  So I waited at the bottom of the steps, feeling powerless and pitiful, until a charitable stranger offered to help me carry him up.    

In spite of my prideful aversion to asking for help, it always leaves me a better person.  Anything that produces humility and gratitude in me is something I always need more of.

This morning I watched a FULL i08 bus fly by the bus stop, crammed too tightly to offer any more commuters an open door.  Right around the time I began wondering what I should do since we clearly were not going to fit on one anytime soon (not to mention without squishing Makai in the Ergo) a smiling woman helped me up the back door of the next one.  I was immediately offered a seat (this is a luxury on a packed bus) by a boy in a high school uniform.  The woman continued to hold my diaper bag for me because it is livianita, even though I was the one with extra space.  

An older man held my arm to help me off the bus and I made my way down to the metro.  I thought that since we were so far outside of the city that the crowd wouldn't be so bad, but I was wrong.  I stumbled to find a hanging loop to grab on to when I heard an old man shout "Can anyone please give up their seat?  There is a woman with a baby."  (Side note: This kind of thing used to embarrass me; now after 2 pregnancies and 2 babies I am way used to it and so thankful!)  A woman offered me her seat as another helped me keep my balance on the moving train.

I don't know any of these people, but I am grateful for their kindness and the truths God speaks to me through their actions.

It reminds me that people are good.  That in a world full of evil actions, we are all still made in the image of God.  That people do want to help.  And if they don't, they must be going through something on their own.   

It reminds me that I am not supposed to do it on my own.  We were created for community, for leaning on another, for needing God and having that need met through the actions of friends and strangers.  

How is it possible to give grace to others when we refuse to receive it ourselves?

How can we feel deep, life-changing good gratitude when we never put ourselves in a position to need grace?  

Years of self-sufficiency and independence can lead to a scary facade that we can do it all on our own.  It can make us calloused to the grace God gives us.  It will lead us further from gratitude and humility, the very things of Jesus. 

As any other discipline, it must be an intentional practice.  Are you living your life in a way that allows you to remember that you need God?  That you need others?  It can be a small thing like taking your children on public transportation, or something bigger like quitting your job and raising support to serve as missionaries; God shows up in both the big and the small, we only have be intentional about it and look for Him, expect Him to show up, because He will.