44 and Counting

You know what that means.  Forty-four days until I leave for Belize.

I’m so excited.  In fact, it seems that everything has been reminding me of Belize.  The birds here have been getting up earlier, which means they are already singing and fluttering about when I wake up in the morning.  The weather has been unusually warm; yesterday it was only a few degrees cooler here than in Belize.  I love it.  The smells, too…  I’m pretty nosy, in the literal sense.  My nose is especially sensitive and lets me know just about everything that’s going on.  The flowers that are being pollenated, the cars that are starting, the showers that are running…  The flowers here are not quite like the ones in Belize.  But their scents remind me of the abundance of fragrances that come with Belizean flowers and trees (allspice, anyone?).  Every time I smell diesel, I think of the pickup trucks and buses.  When I opened my door this morning, I was greeted with the smell of someone’s fruity shampoo–exactly what I got last summer as the people at the compound started taking their showers.

Even the sights and sounds.  Yesterday and today the town rooster crowed to let the world know it needs to wake up–there was one of those in Belize, too.  I hear the neighborhood kids laughing and playing, with the birds chirping and squawking, and think of the recess times I had outside with the kids last summer.  The school bus comes around our circle at 2:36pm every school day, full of kids; I can hear the ministry’s buses starting up and getting ready to go pick up the children and families for church.

The tastes, though, are not all the same.  The fruit up here is not like the fruit down there.  Man their fruit is good!  Ours is too, of course, though each country grows different things.  We have apples and peaches to perfection, while they have coconuts and mangoes to perfection.  You won’t find a very decent apple down in Belize, but the other fruit will more than make up for it.  Their bananas and oranges are simply amazing–I don’t know what it is, but they’re just better.  Maybe they’re actually picked at their peak?

I’m getting ready.  And I’m overly excited to be back.  Back with the smells, sights, sounds, and tastes.  But really, I’m most excited to be back with the kids.  To play tag in the mud, to kick the soccer ball around, to read to them and tell them stories, to play skipping rope (jump rope) and do puzzles and push each other on the swings.  To ride with them in the bus as they get dropped off at home, to sing with them in church and praise our Father together.  There’s not much that can beat that.  :)

Living on the Cross

A friend of mine drew a vivid picture for me not too long ago.  We were talking about deep desires to do the things the Lord calls us to do, and how sometimes those desires become slightly hushed by the pain they could cause us.  It’s bittersweet in its entirety; some aspects are so delightful and some are so painful.  Take, for instance, the call to be a missionary in another country.  It’s a lovely call, one that’s humbling and awe-inspiring.  To be a tool in God’s hand like that?  To go serve Him by loving on a foreign people?  There are so many benefits and exciting parts to it.  But it’s also a call that requires the leaving of family, friends, pets, routine… everything.  Leaving what you know and instantly being immersed in everything you don’t know.

It is, as my friend said, living on the cross.  As Jesus was hanging on that tree, it must have been bittersweet.  So delightful, yet so painful.  So delightful to know that He was providing salvation for all of humanity, so that He could be with His children for eternity.  So delightful even to see the dedication of His disciples as they wept and mourned for Him.  Yet so painful, hanging by nails through the wrists and feet.  So painful with the crown of thorns pressed in His head and the open stripes on His back.  So painful to know that some of His creation would say no to what He willingly gave them.

Life as a Christian is living on the cross.  Of course, we cannot ever endure what our Lord endured.  (And for that, we should be ever more grateful that He took it upon Himself!)  But we can endure hardship and trials for His Name’s sake.  In fact, we will.  But, we always have encouragement:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”  James 1:2-3

“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. ‘”  Luke 9:23-24

We live on the cross because our Lord lived on the cross.  In our trials, we remember His incredible sacrifice.  We remember that HE is GOOD, and that our hardships are nothing in light of what He did for us.  To suffer for His Name and endure trials and pain on His behalf?  What a blessing!

“…Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28