…I’m trading my shame, I’m laying ’em down for the joy of the Lord…”
I don’t know about you, but when I sang this song on Sunday mornings, the joy didn’t last very long (as if singing a 3-minute song would heal our deep-seated issues!) But these lyrics suddenly work as I write a follow-up on open heavens, and I thought the verb “trading” was very appropriate for the economic shaking that we’re living right now.
After 4 years, Olivia had had enough piano sorrows to take last year off. Over the summer a girlfriend reminded her of the pleasures to be found within, and she traded her old teacher for a new one at the music school last month. Her joy (and desire to practice) has definitely returned, and I think it symbolizes what is going on in her heart as well. Last year, we were praying that God would make himself known to her, and that she would walk in more joy, (since that is her middle name) while she mourned that her Bible was just ink on paper and her prayers bounced off her ceiling. Then a few months ago during a youth worship time, He answered! She got a powerful vision of her future, and she has been “on fire” ever since: writing love letters to Jesus, reading her Bible at the kitchen table over breakfast, counseling her troubled friends, correcting my negativity, and asking forgiveness even before being confronted with her own faults. To celebrate this blessing, I’m starting to write a 7-week curriculum to prepare her and her closest friends for her 13th birthday purity ceremony. (True Love Waits is unheard of here!)
Noah traded in his French school sorrows last month for Black Forest Academy: a French ninth-grader is the “big man on campus” in junior high, but with it comes the pressure to decide your future and choose the appropriate high school (literature-focused, science/math, agriculture, technical?) Back in the American system, he is now just a lowly freshman with no worries about the future for a couple more years. His current passion is photography and he was getting frustrated with no outlet here at home with an average camera and limited subjects. (Me to Noah: “I am not downloading another picture of the cats!!”) But at BFA they put out a yearbook, which means they have really nice cameras available to use to record the year’s school activities. Needless to say, Noah has found his calling. He has more fun behind the lens than actually participating in the events, but at least he is present and engaged in a variety of settings. Add a daily dreaded gym class (and I quote: “Flag football is so pointless!”) and he is suddenly leading a much more balanced life than his relatively sedentary and rather solitary existence with us. It is a relief to see his joy returning + his high grades posted on the Internet with no supervision or help from us. (We tore our hair out trying to produce 6 lengthy book reports in French every year!)
To keep up with Rachel’s joys, sorrows, and current projects, go to her beautiful blog: https://rachel.leighweb.com/
David recently traded in his workaholic tendencies for the joy that only comes by slowing down.
In the last couple of years, God has allowed him to struggle with a mysterious physical weakness exacerbated by stress.
David is learning with St. Paul to delight in weakness that leads to spiritual strength. (2 Cor. 12:9) Our marital relationship was positively impacted as soon as he took the practical step of working at school only till lunch, then turning work “off” and being engaged with God and me in the afternoons, and Olivia in the evenings. He has morphed into the man I fell in love with 23 years ago, and he claims he’s not even trying!
David has been involved with a European intercession initiative that met together off the coast of Spain for recently. Thanks to some generous gifts over the summer, I got to tag along, allowing us to celebrate our anniversary properly for the first time in a long time! All the same, the weather forecast for Palma de Majorca was “stormy,” the organizers picked a 3-star hotel, we didn’t speak the local language, and we would be depending on public transportation. This is a recipe for high stress in David’s cookbook and it does not go well with the wine of romance! But we had a great time together, even while watching the non-stop angst-ridden news coverage of the economic bailout on the hotel room TV!
While the hotel was a disappointment, the storms never materialized, and I basked in the sunshine with a good book during the meetings, while taking authority over the yippy Pomeranians next door. Having my emotional and physical cup filled up on a daily basis by a relaxed and loving man meant that I wasn’t coming into the trip empty, and demanding that he fill all my pent-up needs in a single weekend. And wasn’t he relieved! The undercurrent of negative emotions that I carried for so long and felt so guilty about have all but disappeared, just like that. This feels like “open heaven” stuff to me and it can only be the beginning. God heals us for a greater purpose than just to make us happy, esp. living in a country where a healthy marriage is so rare that kissing in public could be considered spiritual warfare! When a man walks as a prophetic image of Jesus as the faithful and passionate bridegroom coming for his bride, he is not just being a good role model for the French – he is also reminding the enemy that the real King is coming and he is a defeated liar.
And finally, I traded the sorrows of last year’s burdensome schedule (of monitoring 50 kids for lunch duty and teaching 2 difficult classes without any support) for the joy of working one-on-one. As a former home-schooling mom, this is what I believe in, esp. after seeing so many kids struggle in the distraction of a classroom setting. Meet Victor and Jean-Baptiste – yes, the English translation is “John the Baptist.” They are loving 12 yr olds in clumsy bodies with 7 yr old minds who can no longer integrate well with the primary school kids in the afternoons (after working on core subjects with their own teacher in the mornings.) So I was asked to keep them busy 6 hrs/week. This is twice the hours I put in last year, but it has been so much lighter! Legos, computer games, field trips, and Bible crafts fill up our time together. John the Baptist (on the left) was pretty autistic when he arrived here a few years ago and has since completely come out of his shell. Even better, he has the joy of the Lord, singing worship songs all day long, though his family remains unbelievers. (I know, you saying, “So why did they name him…?” France is like that – Catholic traditions are so rooted in the culture that they are used without any understanding by secular society.)
So along with David, these boys are walking in another facet of “strength in weakness,” blessing not only God’s heart, but mine as well.
“…yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord, AMEN!”