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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Walking About On My Own

Posted by admin in May 11th, 2013 | 5 comments 
Published in Uncategorized

I hate being a hateful person who hates people. A good friend of mine wrote to me today, “You know one of the reasons I want to be in heaven is I want to see what it feels like to have no sin in my life—I am not sure how we get rid of the hate and frustration…and I am sure my sin clouds my view of things. So I would love to know what it feels like to have no sin.”

It was the first time I’d ever thought of Heaven in those terms—as being sin-free living. To me Heaven always has meant seeing Jesus (yay), being healed of all of our diseases, getting along well with others, and being able to live in peace. But being completely free of sin hadn’t really entered my mind; not like that. I read my friend’s words and just started to weep. Yes. I want to be free from sin. I know I’m forgiven each time I ask God to cleanse me of my sin. And I know the Holy Spirit works in me to convict me of sin and help me to overcome it, but I can honestly say that I sin every day in word, thought, or deed. For example: I want my way above others’. I get my feelings hurt easily. I get angry. I exaggerate—which is really lying. And those are just a few of my sins of commission. I have hundreds of sins that are the sins of omission—not praying as I should, not reading the Word as I should, neglecting those I love in order to do something I want to do. But I struggle with frustration that leads to unforgiveness that can eventually lead to hate.

I know it’s wrong. I know it is as sinful as murder. Jesus said, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them” I John 3:15. Yikes!

It is very clear to me that I am NOT to hate people. My Mom wouldn’t even let us say it when we were growing up. If my sister and I fought we’d get in so much trouble if we said, “I hate you!” It was absolutely forbidden. My Mom didn’t even let me say “I hate lima beans.” Because she said that if you get in the habit of saying the word, it’s easier to say about people. So yes, I should know better. I should be better. Larry Crabb writes, “True morality is loving as God does; it’s the freedom to love people I think I have reason to hate.” I really, really want that kind of true morality.

Corrie and Betsy ten Boom were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp for helping Jews in German-occupied Holland. The women, well into their 50s, suffered unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the SS guards. Betsy was once severely beaten by a prison guard for daring to speak to the guard while working. The beating eventually led to Betsy’s death. Betsy’s words to Corrie after the beating, “Don’t hate, Corrie, never hate.” If Corrie ten Boom wasn’t allowed to hate a Nazi prison guard who beat her sister to death, then why do I think I have the right to hate a brother or sister? I don’t. The simple truth is that God asks me to forgive others just as He has forgiven me. And then He tells me that He will give me a Helper—the Holy Spirit—to do the things that bring freedom from this hate; things that bring freedom to my life. I love Corrie’s prayer as she struggled with the hatred in her heart, “Lord I can’t let go of it. Take this hate out of my life and put a love in its place. Jesus there are many things I do not understand. Please do not let me go mad in this place walking about on my own. You know what I am Savior. Please hide me in the center of Your will.”

You know what I am Savior. I love these words. Jesus knows me in all my weakness and in all my sin. He knows me and He promises to cleanse me, free me; Jesus will take hate out of my heart and put His love in its place and He will keep me from walking about on my own and hide me in the center of His will. All I have to do is ask and surrender. Peace.

A Postcard from the Ledge

Posted by admin in December 4th, 2012 | 9 comments 
Published in faith, Lithuania, obedience

I love being in Lithuania. Especially on days like today when the sun is shining and there is fresh snow on the ground. A delicious 21 degrees Fahrenheit is for me a perfect temperature. But not all days are like this…some days it’s a struggle. Not because of Lithuania, but because of homesickness, missing family and friends. I often wonder what am I missing in the lives and events of those I love back home in America?

Obedience means different things to different people. For some it is raising a family; for others it is starting a small business or keeping financial records at an organization that provides humanitarian aid. For Daryl and me it has meant to travel 5,057 miles away from home to live as strangers in a foreign land. We are deaf—we have no idea what is being said around us. If someone was to call out, “FIRE”, we’d have no idea what was going on. We are illiterate: as academics it is a difficult struggle to not be able to read or write; not to comprehend something as simple as a label on a jar. We are mute: we can’t answer when people speak to us. Yesterday a girl in the market asked me a question and I simply could not answer her. (I know you are thinking, “Hey! Learn the language weirdos!” We want to, but we have been so busy and Lithuanian is a really difficult language. We keep falling back on my so-so Russian and that’s been a bad habit to break!).

People ask us how many souls have we won to Christ? Well, none. How many people have made a decision to follow Jesus? None. Are you hosting Bible studies? No. What are you guys doing over there?!? Uh…good question. I guess we’re trying to simply obey Jesus and perhaps we are not doing a very good job of it.

Daryl preaches at local churches occasionally and is well-received. We invite all of my students to come hear him preach. He does a really good job of presenting the Good News clearly. He mentors local Christian leaders. He gives guest lectures at our university and he meets with leaders of other universities around the city to place more IICS professors here. He prays.

I teach my classes and I try to do a good job. I ask the Lord to help me prepare and to help me deliver a lesson of value and significance. I try to love each and every one of my students and my coworkers. I bake chocolate chip cookies. I try to listen to my students. I visit those that are sick in the hospital. I hold those in my arms who are mourning the death of a family member. I try to encourage those who are struggling with discouragement. I host parties at our apartment and fill them with chai latte and pumpkin bread. I pray for each one by name every day. Is it enough? I don’t know. This is a question I ask myself daily.

Maybe others feel this way too, but I have a constant nagging sense that I am letting everyone in my world down: my sister for not being there for her during a time of need; our daughter who is getting ready to give birth to her first child; our daughter-in-law who could use some help with three very active, very bright and beautiful kids. My Mom is struggling with her memory and I wonder if I am missing out on the last clear moments of her life. Daryl’s Mom is lonesome and misses her son dearly. And yet I can’t quench this thing in my soul…this indescribable pull to be here in our much-loved Lithuania.

We love this nation so very much and we are burdened for it. It has the highest suicide rate in the world. There is a mass emigration and it is having a profound effect on society—especially in the intellectual community. And there is this sense among the Lithuanians (at least the ones I know) that to be Lithuanian is to be Catholic and therefore Christian. But most of the people I know and speak to don’t know anything about the Bible or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ones I know do not understand God’s personal love for them. And so we stay…and some days it is painful. Some days it is a struggle. Some days it seems the most ridiculous thing to do.

Are we missing out on things back home? Yes. But maybe that is what God has asked of us. Our hearts break for the 3 million Lithuanians who need to know our Redeemer lives and that He knows each one of them by name and He loves them with an Eternal Love.

Hudson Taylor used to say, “We go forth on our knees.” But honestly, some days it feels more like on our bellies crawling through enemy lines, landmines, trying to avoid barbed wire and pitfalls…but through faith and hope in Jesus Christ—the Lord and Savior of all—we do at least try to move forward…little by little…bit by bit and always…only in His Name. Peace.

Patches of Godlight

Posted by admin in October 1st, 2012 | 5 comments 
Published in faith, Lithuania, obedience

In our apartment building here in Vilnius we are required to clean the common areas/entry areas of our building every third month. There’s a list on the door as you leave the building reminding all the tenants which month is their month to clean. Welcome to the cooperative neighborhood of a former Soviet State. September was our month.

It’s not that I mind this duty so much, it’s more of a hassle than anything else. Daryl and I do clean the area together, sweeping, dusting and mopping. We also shake the welcome mats and clean off the sidewalk leading up to the building. But to be perfectly honest, it’s not my favorite thing to do. Once I just half-heartedly swept and didn’t even mop! There are times when it is our turn that we take a paper towel and spot clean. Not really the right way to do this job. Argh! (Not the pirate argh, more like the ugh argh).

But recently Colossians 3:23 kept rolling around in my head, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Not just when you get paid? Not just when people are watching? Not just when you feel like it? Not just stuff you’re qualified to do? WHATEVER…hmmm…that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Then I read this story by Os Guinness. In a nation with the highest suicide rate in the world (yes, Lithuania) I realized that what I do is more important than ever—even cleaning the building hallways.

“Patches of Godlight” from Os Guinness’s’ book, The Call:

“I have heard of many reasons why people step back from the verge of suicide, but the one that has meant the most to my family is also the most unusual—the fascination of seeing work well done.

“The young woman was eighteen years old, with two small children, and evidently vivacious, talented, and beautiful. But she was also orphaned, penniless, completely alone, away from home, and recently widowed in a duel that rocked her country and drove her into voluntary exile.

“So Jane Lucretia D’Esterre could be forgiven for her dark thoughts as she pondered the waters of the little river in Ecclefechan, Scotland. Pain ran through every fiber of her being. Despair filled her horizon. Death beckoned her with an offer of peace as alluring as the still depths of the water in front of her.

“The year was 1815. Dueling was still legal in England and Ireland. Jane Lucretia first heard of the duel that shattered her life when friends carried her dying husband into the house.

“On the day Jane D’Esterre gazed into the dark depths of the river, for some reason, she looked up and saw a young plowman setting to work in a field on the other bank of the river. He was whistling hymns; he was about her age but quite oblivious to her and to anything but his work. Meticulous, absorbed, skilled, he displayed such care in his work that the newly turned rows of earth looked as finely executed as the paint strokes on an artist’s canvas.

“Despite herself Jane Lucretia was fascinated. Slowly she was drawn into the plowman’s care until admiration for him turned into wonder and wonder into rebuke. What was she doing collapsing into self-pity? How could she be so wrapped up in herself when two small children were dependent on her? Rebuked and braced, she got up, returned home saved from suicide and reinvigorated by seeing the simple work of a young farmer well-done.

“I said earlier that such a reason was unusual. I also said that of all the reasons I know it meant the most to my family. The explanation is simple: Jane D’Esterre was my great-great-grandmother.

“A few weeks after this near brush with death, she came to faith. A few years later she met and married my great-great-grandfather John Grattan Guinness.

“If it had not been for the young, meticulous plowman, the tragedy of the dueling husband would have been followed by the tragedy of the duelist’s widow. She had been taken by work done in a special and careful way.

“My great-great-grandmother was unusual for several reasons—including the fact that she conscientiously prayed for her descendants down through a dozen generations. Ours is a heritage of faith for which I am deeply grateful.”

I seriously doubt doing a good job on the hallway will save anyone’s life, but still I am told in Scripture, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I’d like to think that patches of God-light will shine through my life even when no one is watching. Peace.

Who Remembers Second Place?

Posted by admin in May 23rd, 2012 | 9 comments 
Published in Lithuania

Okay, I gotta start out telling you how all this came about. I wanted to read the Book of Acts this year and remind myself of the life and times of the early Church. This has to be at least my 20th reading of this book, but for the first time EVER something hit me. Let’s look at these verses then I’ll explain.

Acts 1:21-26: “‘Judas must now be replaced. The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection.’”

(Insert: So we’re talking about 120 people. And out of that band of Jesus’s followers they selected two…)

“They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘You, O God, know every one of us inside and out. Make plain which of these two men you choose to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way.’ They then drew straws. Matthias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles.”

For me, this story illustrates perfectly how guys think. Jesus told the disciples “Go to Jerusalem and WAIT…WAIT for the Holy Spirit…”

But apparently they got a little bored and decided to replace Judas Iscariot, who took his own life. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus told them to go and select a replacement. I think that if Jesus had spoken that to them, Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts would have put that in there, right?

Now, the Holy Spirit had not yet come. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, our Helper, our Counselor, our Comforter—the One Who convicts us of sin; the One Who reveals things to us as mere mortals. He had not been given yet.

Here we see in this story a perfect illustration of how choices can affect our lives. And sometimes people, men, human beings make choices—choices that leave us with difficult consequences. It happens.

I personally believe God had it all planned to replace Judas with Saul of Tarsus, you know–Paul.So it looks a little like (at least to me), men were deciding to do something God hadn’t instructed them to do.

So, Justus – the disciple NOT chosen — what must that have been like? There are not enough words for awkward.

Did Justus experience rejection? I mean it wasn’t just his peers that saw he wasn’t chosen, but the act itself was thought to be determined by God. So in a way it may have felt like God had rejected Justus.

We never hear of Justus again, (nor of Matthias for that matter). Neither of these men are ever mentioned again in the writings and detailed accounts of the Apostles’ lives found in the New Testament.

And, as in most cases, no one ever remembers second place. Let’s be honest: There’s just no real rejoicing in second place.

“I’m #2! I’m #2!” Who chants that? Who cheers that?

But I personally have been #2 all my life:
I am a second daughter to a firstborn genius! My sister can do anything. She’s dependable, smart, and funny—in charge of all of us. She’s creative.

I’m a #2 wife!

I’m a co-author of a book and my name appears SECOND on the cover. People look at the book and think, oh Mike wrote that book and the other lady must of helped him.

Even in my work at the university—I’m a fill in for a lady who had a baby. I’m a maternity leave substitute. Yup! I’m #2! And recently, when I was asked to speak at the International Church here in Vilnius where I delivered this message, even then Daryl was the one first asked to speak at the church, but when he couldn’t they asked me! So even sharing this message I was the second choice.

But I have to ask myself, “Are there second place people in God’s Kingdom?”

Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship—His poema—masterpiece…” That doesn’t sound like second place to me. And I have to think that God’s view of us, His creation, His poems, none of us are second rate or second place in His heart.

Let me share a bit of my story. I am a big, loud, white woman! I’ve been big and loud and white all my life. When I was a little girl I used to get in trouble all the time in school as a result of sheer volume. My Mom went to ask one of my elementary school teachers why I was always in trouble. She asked her, “Is Teri really that bad?”

“No,” the teacher replied. “But she is always the first one I hear and so she gets punished.”

It was awful during high school because I so struggled to be quiet and demure. But if I got too excited or had one unguarded moment, the loudness took over. It was terrible.

My poor husband Daryl. He’s so reserved and gentle. On our first date we went to a really nice restaurant. I got too excited over the menu and when the waiter came to our table I got too loud. When the waiter left Daryl looked and me and whispered, “Teri, do you think you could use your inside voice?”

Sadly, I thought I was.

Loudness was one of those things in my life that embarrassed me. Frustrated me. Made me feel inferior to everyone else. I just kept thinking that if I could conquer this thing, this weakness, this flaw, I could be better somehow, more improved.

In 1983 at 24 years of age and still struggling with loudness, I went to teach in China. Now, this might surprise most people who know me, but no one has ever mistaken me for a Chinese person. I have never, ever been asked, “Hey, are you Chinese?” Nope. Never. And one characteristic, or I’d say quality, of the Chinese people is their respect for quiet and gentle manners. I knew I wouldn’t fit in.

After a few weeks on the university campus the Communist Party Secretary came to visit me in my dorm room. His name was Lao Seung.

“Huo Chi! (that’s my Chinese name) Everyone on campus have English feveh! Everyone want to learn English from native English speaka! We no have enough teachers for everyone. So, will you give all-campus lecture each week in English language? We will invite everyone on campus to come and they can hear native-English lecture. Will you do it?”

Wow. All-campus lectures. He told me everyone would be invited from the university’s president to the cleaning ladies. Professors and students. And their families.

Well…what could I say?

“I’d be happy to Lao Seung. But what do you want me to lecture on each week?”I asked.

“It doesn’t matter! We no pay you for this, so you pick topic,” he smiled.

You see at this time in China, Communist officials were cracking down on “spiritual pollution.” Spiritual pollutants were anything that contradicted basic communist philosophy. On the top of the pollutant list was Christianity. American English teachers were told not to speak of faith. We were not allowed to speak of Jesus or the Bible or pass out the Four Spiritual Laws tracks. If we had broken these laws we would have been tossed out of the country.

“You don’t care what I lecture on?” I asked just to make sure.

He nodded, “No care. You decide.”

“Well Lao Seung I’d like to lecture on Heroes of Hebrew literature. You know, tell stories of heroic men and women of old.” I was testing the waters.

Old Lao Seung thought about it for a moment, scratching his chin. Then he smiled and held both thumbs up, “Yes! Very good. Heroes of Hebrew literature. I no know what it is, but it sounds very interesting!”

These are the stories of Abraham, David, Daniel, Esther, Ruth and Moses. I was thankful that for years I had taught children’s Sunday School for three year olds. I knew the stories in simple English and I knew them by heart. I may not have had a flannel-graph board, but I can be quite animated.

Well, the first week of the Thursday night lecture series, Lao Seung came to escort me over to the lecture hall. It was one of those lecture halls that was built like a theater with the seating stacked to the ceiling and the platform and the bottom of the classroom. Lao Seung and I walked in and the room, which was built for about 300 or 350 people, was packed with over 600 Chinese. There were old and young and educated and not educated. There was the best professor on campus and the guy who swept the sidewalks. Children of instructors and lots and lots of students. I was amazed. I was struck. There really was English fever on campus.

Before the lecture began and everyone was getting settled in I started getting a little nervous. Lao Seung and I were sitting on the low-lying platform and I leaned over to ask him, “Lao Seung, why did you choose me to give the all-campus lectures? Why not Irma or Deborah?” My teammates were much better qualified than I.

Lao Seung cocked his head back a little surprised and shocked, “Are you kidding? We have no PA system and you only one loud enough!”

And that is when it hit me: God had designed me loud for a reason. He had actually created my DNA with a loud gene for this very time and this very day. The thing that I hated about myself, the thing that I thought was my biggest weakness, my biggest shame, was actually part of the reason God had designed me. Because He knew one day He would send a big, loud girl to China and each week He would make a way for her to tell 600 spiritually hungry Chinese about a God Who is personal, loving, faithful, and Who keeps His promises. Those Chinese heard of God’s faithfulness to Abraham in giving him a son long after it was physically possible. They learned of a young shepherd boy who slew a giant and became a king. They heard of Daniel in the lion’s den and how God parted the Red Sea and Moses led his people across on dry land.

My weakness, my flaw, my shameful trait, was in truth the very way God had created me because in my weakness, He showed Himself mighty. He used my weakness to confound the strong. I realized God made me loud. And when I’m loud I feel His good pleasure.

What has God made you for? What is the thing in your life you believe is your biggest weakness and flaw? We serve a God Who takes those things in our lives we may hate the most and He turns them for good and oftentimes we discover they weren’t really flaws at all. They are our greatest strengths.

For two years every Thursday night at the all-campus lecture, a big, loud girl from Kansas was privileged to tell a packed lecture room of God’s mercy and love and faithfulness. They heard of a compassionate God who longs to be in fellowship with His peole. And I know they heard me even way up near the rafters.

But that is what God does, isn’t it? Takes our flaws and our weaknesses and all of our broken bits and He, the Creator of all things, becomes the Great Recycler. He takes everything in us that makes us Second Place and He puts it all right.

Here in Vilnius we have bins around town–white, blue and yellow–these recycling bins are where we put our trash so that recycling geniuses can take our trash, our cast-offs, and make something useful out of them.

God works in this same way. We bring our 2nd place lives, our mistakes, our birth defects, all of our foolishness and we lay them at the feet of Jesus and say,

“I’m so flawed and broken but here I am Beautiful Jesus, here I am and if you can do anything with this 2nd place life of mine I am willing. I give myself to you.”

And Jesus, full of mercy and grace and power and love takes these 2nd place lives of ours and He uses them for His glory.

He uses the weak things of this world to show Himself mighty.
He uses the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise.
He uses the broken things of this world to shine forth His light and love.
Because that’s what God does. And He never looks at you and me as no. 2 because in Christ Jesus He has made all of us, each one of us first in His Kingdom.

Let me close with this true story about one of the most “unfamous” Lithuanians ever NOT known.

Corrie ten Boom tells a story about her first visit to the USSR…

“We arrived at her apartment by night in order to escape detection. We were in the USSR (in the region of Vilnius, Lithuania, on the Baltic Sea). Ellen and I had climbed the steep stairs, coming through a small back door into the one-room apartment. It was jammed with furniture, evidence that the old couple had once lived in a much larger and much finer house.

“The old woman was lying on a small sofa, propped up by pillows. Her body was bent and twisted almost beyond recognition by the dread disease of multiple sclerosis. Her aged husband spent all his time caring for her since she was unable to move off the sofa.

“I walked across the room and kissed her wrinkled cheek. She tried to look up but the muscles in her neck were atrophied so she could only roll her eyes upward and smile. She raised her right hand, slowly, in jerks. It was the only part of her body she could control and with her gnarled and deformed knuckles she caressed my face. I reached over and kissed the index finger of that hand, for it was with this one finger that she had so long glorified God.

“Beside her couch was a vintage typewriter. Each morning her faithful husband would rise, praising the Lord. After caring for his wife’s need and feeding her a simple breakfast, he would prop her into a sitting position on the couch, placing pillows all around her so she wouldn’t topple over. Then he would move that ancient black typewriter in front of her on a small table. From an old cupboard he would remove a stack of cheap yellow paper. Then, with that blessed one finger, she would begin to type.

“All day and far into the night she would type. She translated Christian books into Russian, Latvian, and Lithuanian—the language of her people. Always using just that one finger – peck… peck… peck – she typed out the pages. Portions of the Bible, the books of Billy Graham, Watchman Nee, and Corrie ten Boom – all came from her typewriter. That was why I was there – to thank her.

“She was hungry to hear news about these men of God she had never met, yet whose books she had so faithfully translated. We talked about Watchman Nee, who was then in a prison in China, and I told her all I knew of his life and ministry. I also told her of the wonderful ministry of Billy Graham and of the many people who were giving their lives to the Lord.

“’Not only does she translate their books,’ her husband said as he hovered close by during our conversation, ‘but she prays for these men every day while she types. Sometimes it takes a long time for her finger to hit the key, or for her to get the paper in the machine, but all the time she is praying for those whose books she is working on.’”

I believe, we should live our lives in reckless abandonment to a redemptive God yielding our gifts and our weaknesses, our strengths and our flaws, our talents and our imperfections—our second place lives to Jesus and watch as He alone recreates us into something beautiful, useful and never second place. Peace.

Waiting…

Posted by admin in November 21st, 2011 | 5 comments 
Published in Waiting

I spend a lot of time waiting these days. Waiting for the bus. Waiting for FedEx. Waiting for OTR carpools. Waiting for water delivery. Waiting for laundry to dry. Waiting for translation. Waiting for Daryl. Waiting in line for groceries. Waiting.

Funny thing about waiting in a foreign land–it’s not like waiting for a checkup in the doctor’s office back home or teeth cleaning at my dentist’s. For those things I usually take a book, a favorite magazine and a nice cup of coffee and actually enjoy the wait. Waiting in that way is different. No real worries like, “Did I misunderstand my appointment?” “Am I sure I’m waiting in the right place?” “What’s holding things up?” “What am I missing here?”

Waiting in a foreign land is more difficult than in one’s native country. Why? Well there are two main reasons: one, if you don’t speak the language you are a deaf, illiterate mute. Secondly, you can never rest while waiting in a foreign land because you are constantly looking for cues, clues, watching others, ‘on alert’ in case an announcement is made and the crowd moves. In a foreign land you are always defining, redefining, interpreting and most of all guessing about what is happening. And thus waiting becomes a bit of a…well…uh…a stressful thing!

For example, waiting for the bus. Is it supposed to come on time? Yes. But it doesn’t always. That’s okay because everyone else is waiting too. But when you are used to having your own car and getting in and going—well, let’s just say… it’s an adjustment.

Next, there’s waiting for FedEx. At home your cousin ships you a package from Dallas to Kansas City. You track it online; it’s get there on time; it’s delivered; you sign and voila you got your package. But in a distant land, things might be a little different. Say, the FedEx tells you that you cannot have your package because they don’t know exactly what’s inside it. Okay. You’ll need to come to the FedEx office (by taxi because no bus goes that way) and sign some papers, pay some cash and then they’ll give you the next directions. In some ways it is very similar to a kidnapping situation. Kidnapper: “Bring the cash, don’t call the police, come in a disguise to a specific location we’ll disclose later and then wait and we’ll give you your next directions.” Hmmm…

So FedEx location found; paperwork signed; payment made, but wait a minute! “What? I have to go to the airport? Why? Oh to pay another fine at the Medicine Bank and get a receipt and then, bring it back to you (is someone Punking me? Where’s Ashton Kusher?)”.

So ya go to the airport (walking is a great way to get to the airport when you don’t have luggage). Ya go to the Medicine Bank where, well there’s a line. Uh huh. And then you pay and get a nice green stamp on your receipt and ya walk back to the FedEx building (still in a disguise) and give them your nice stamped receipt and they say, “We’ll deliver your packages on Monday between 11:00 and 5:00 and we need you to be home to sign for them.” So guess what? Yes. More waiting. (It’s here that the kind FedEx employee Lena went into a bit of a frozen shock when I asked her if I could catch a ride home in one of the FedEx trucks making deliveries). “Umm no I don’t think that is okay, ” Lena stuttered. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied and I went outside and yes, waited for a taxi.

While in Klaipeda teaching my class for LCC this weekend (I do this once a month) I hear about a minivan that takes passengers to Vilnius for just a little more mula than the regular bus and it only takes three hours compared to the regular four and half to five on the big bus or train. “Three HOURS!” I’m thrilled and say, “Get me on one of those.” So I go and I get on a minivan heading to Vilnius. It’s supposed to leave at 12:00 NOON. But I’m there a quarter ‘til 12:00 and they say I have to wait because they need more passengers and we’ll leave at 12:30 at the latest. Still faster than the slow bus or train, so I say, sure no problem. I’ve got a good book. I read my book on the minivan. The driver gives me an apple. I eat it. I’m reading thinking of all the things I’m going to do at home because I’m saving nearly two hours using this minivan. Yippee!

And then it’s 12:25 and no one is on the van. No one says anything to me of course because I don’t speak the language. Then it’s 12:35, 12:40, 12:45—now it’s too late to catch the big bus or even the train. It’s 12:50. Who can read and get lost in a book now? I’m having to watch every single movement of the driver or anyone passing by the minivan.

I’m wondering if that apple might be dirty or something because my stomach is churning and I really am not feeling too well. And I’m thinking if I had taken the big bus I’d be on my way by now.

Waiting and watching and wondering and yes, a little bit of worrying.

Finally at 1:10, a nice gentleman comes to the minivan (not the driver) and tells me that he wants me to go in his station wagon. He’s waiting for two women who will go to Vilnius and I can ride with them. He says all of this in German because it’s the only foreign language he speaks. Do I understand him? No. But I follow and I get in the station wagon and I wait. And finally the two women come and it’s 1:20 and we’re on our way out of Klaipeda. If it takes 3 hours I’ll arrive in Vilnius at the same time as the big bus! Okay. I’m okay. We head out of town and about five minutes into the drive, the station wagon pulls over. Seems there’s a kid of a friend of a neighbor who wants to ride with us. We pull off the side of the highway and wait and finally the young college student arrives with his Dad. They kiss good-bye (tearfully). The kid climbs in the back of the wagon. We start off (it’s now 1:35) and we’re driving and driving and no one is talking because well, no one knows each other, and then the driver asks, “Anyone want to stop for coffee?”

And we do.

I make it home 30 minutes later than if I’d taken the big bus. I do a load of laundry because I don’t have a dryer and I need the sheets to dry before Daryl comes home on Tuesday. No I’m not kidding. I’m literally waiting for laundry to dry as I am writing this.

But here’s the thing. The Bible says a whole lot about waiting. For example, “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength and they will mount up on wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint.” Teach me Lord to wait.

Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

Waiting has become a good thing for me. I’ve learned to pray over the people around me; to take notice of the woman at the bus stop, the taxi driver on the way to FedEx, the young man in the back of the station wagon. In the U.S. my life is filled with busyness and I drive myself to and fro; I plan this thing or that, but here in our precious land of calling Lithuania I have no control over bus schedules, FedEx packages or even my laundry. I am totally and completely in the Lord’s hands and if I believe in Ephesians 2:10, which I do, then I’m waiting (and walking) in some kind of good works that God prepared for me before the foundations of the world were laid. So, my waiting is part of His plans for me. I find myself praying over people I would never have known without the long line. I find myself praying in the Spirit over the neighborhood, the building, or even the bus station where I’m waiting. And in some strange way I’ve found a peace in the waiting—a release that there’s nothing I can do to speed things up. Also I have the privilege of trusting in God every day for every need and every unexpected moment. Waiting has helped me live out Psalm 131:2, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Efficiency of time, control over my schedule, ability to make things happen—all of these things are gone for me, but there in place of those things I find grace, mercy and an overwhelming peace in the waiting.

This is why those that wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed.

So life in Lithuania is a lot about waiting. But it’s also about a minivan driver sharing his lunch with me, a FedEx employee emailing me and thanking me for being kind to her. It’s about choosing to take the train (which is five hours long) and finding out on a packed Friday train to Klaipeda, the young woman sitting next to me is the best friend of one of my students! And both of them seeing the miraculous in that.

No Car. No Conveniences. No Control. But ample opportunities to see Jesus move and to experience the Lord God Creator holding my hand while waiting and giving me His peace. Peace.

I’m Simply Not Good Enough

Posted by admin in August 10th, 2011 | 8 comments 
Published in Lithuania, missions, obedience, teaching

We are one week from leaving for Lithuania and we still don’t have a place to live. But I keep humming the Christmas carol, “No crib for a bed…” Even the Son of God on His advent to earth didn’t have a place to live. That strikes me as so strange. It wasn’t like God didn’t know He was sending Jesus to earth during a census. That’s so odd to me. Is there a lesson in that? Probably.

I’m still struggling with certain aspects of leaving the U.S. We kept our grandsons for several days last week and I found myself crying at every funny phrase, every hysterical expression, every tender moment. How can we leave such precious ones behind? Will they forget us?

I found myself saying a bad word on Monday when I dropped something on the floor. What a mouth I have! And yet I want to use this same mouth to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the lost. I’m such a weirdo.

We’re trying to get packed and I am fretting over what to take, what not to take, what we’ll need, what we don’t know we’ll need and over and over in my head like a loop tape I hear the scripture, “…think nothing for what you shall eat or wear for your Heavenly Father knows what you need….”

My heart rehearses wrongs that have been done to me and wrongs that I have done and a darkness starts creeping into my life. Worry takes the place where rejoicing should be. Fatigue takes the place of where rest should be. Sorrow takes the place where joy should be. I begin doubting myself and what I am doing; who I am and where I am going. And it all makes me wonder why on earth I ever thought I could be a missionary! What on earth do I have to offer anyone? And the honest answer is: nothing—in and of myself.

And then I remember…missions isn’t about me. It isn’t about who I am or what I can or cannot do. Missions is about Jesus and His grace working through my life. His truth overcoming my doubt and fear. It’s never been about me. It should always be about Him and His power working in me and through me. The Bible is full of imperfect men and women being used by a perfect God to fulfill His will here on earth. And so I fall toward the cross and I ask once again, maybe for the 10, 950th time, for forgiveness and for the blood of Jesus to wash me clean. I ask once again to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be filled with the love of God. I ask for grace.

Missions isn’t about me feeling good; it isn’t even about me fulfilling some plan of God for my life. Missions is about obedience to Scripture to take the love of Jesus to a hurt and dying world. It is about me asking God to love my city of Vilnius through me; praying over the little country of Lithuania. It is about me asking God to touch my students’ lives, doing the best job for them I know how to do and trusting God to do everything else. It’s not about me having a place to live, the right clothes to wear, whether or not my hair looks good, my weight is right, or even if I’m happy. Missions is allowing God to use us, simple jars of clay, to show forth His glory; to be His hands and His feet and to allow the mysterious transubstantiation of Christ living in us–Christ the only hope for humankind.

And so we go, even without a place to live. We ask that you pray for us to be found faithful. We leave Wednesday, August 17th. We go in our weaknesses, crying out to our Heavenly Father to show Himself mighty because when we are weak, then He is strong.

Thank you for all your love, support, gifts, prayers and kind emails. I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening. In the meantime, we rejoice because we know our Redeemer lives! Peace.

Heading Back to Lithuania

Posted by admin in June 5th, 2011 | 3 comments 
Published in Blessings, Lithuania, prayer

Sorry guys. I think I promised not to use my blog for newsletters and self-promotion! Ugh. But again, I’m up against a timeline and so wanted to let everyone know how God has answered prayers and opened doors. Please forgive the format.

Abraham heard from God at Ur. God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. Paul had that Damascus Road experience. And Teri McCarthy? Well I heard God as I was coming out of the ladies’ room at Vilnius Pedagogical University. (Of course you did!) It was May 12, 2009. Daryl and I had just met with university officials working to place IICS professors in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania.

After our meeting, I went to the ladies’ room. When I came out, the bell rang dismissing classes. Suddenly I was caught in the helter-skelter of students running to and for; from one class to the next. As I stood there everything went kind of slow motion. I started hearing students’ voices clearly and distinctly. My heart started racing. I stood there for what seemed like minutes, but was actually just seconds. But something happened to me in those brief moments in that crowed hallway and I was deeply moved; forever changed.

I stumbled through the crowded hallway and fumbled around until I found Daryl waiting for me at the top of the stairs. I was crying (big surprise). He took my hands and asked if I was okay.

“These are my students, Daryl. This is where I belong. I have to teach here.”

When I spoke those words to Daryl it seemed an incredible impossibility. We had no executive vice president at IICS at that time to manage the office and general operations. We didn’t know how we could uproot our lives in Kansas City and move overseas. And yet the pull on my heart was so strong, it was almost physical.

That was two years ago. And on May 14, 2011, I received a contract from Vilnius Pedagogical University’s Department of Philology to start teaching September 1st— this fall!

I wish I could adequately communicate my excitement! God is faithful; He answers prayers; He still directs us and guides us; He still upholds us with His victorious right hand (Isa. 41:10)!

As many of you know, Daryl and I moved to Klaipeda, Lithuania, last August to teach at LCC International University. It was Daryl’s first time to live overseas and he did very well. We loved it there. Klaipeda is a great place to live. Our students were talented and they represented 24 nations! But I started having health issues. Eventually, we realized we had to come back to the States for surgery. On our flight out of Lithuania, my Dad passed away. We got news of his death while waiting for our connection in Copenhagen.

Immediately upon arrival in the States, we had to prepare for my Dad’s funeral. After the funeral, I stayed with my Mom three weeks. These events postponed my surgery, but during that time an OB/GYN—a good friend and an IICS board member—recommended a new type of surgery that was less invasive and required less recovery time, but required me finding a new surgeon. Again, another delay. Finally, on February 22, I had surgery and it went very well. I was up and running within days. I praise God for good counsel from a great friend and for an excellent surgeon.

While home, Daryl and I started talking about our long-term plans in Lithuania. As much as we love Klaipeda and LCC, infrequent flights from there added several hours each way to Daryl’s travel back and forth to the U.S. There are more flights in and out of Vilnius. Add to that an IICS professor, Dr. Steve Garrett and his family, lives in Vilnius. We liked the idea of an IICS team in the capital city. Steve is starting a center for Christian Studies that will serve all the universities in the area. That is a project we’d both like to be a part of. After much prayer and deliberation, we decided to try and find work in Vilnius. Of course, my experience at VPU in May of 2009 gave me a strong sense of calling there.

I asked Steve Garrett to walk my CV over to the English department at VPU and ask if they’d be interested in hiring me for the fall. After the meeting, Steve emailed me that it didn’t look too promising. The powers that be needed to have a meeting and then they’d decide if they could use me. Their last words to Steve, “We’ll be in touch.” Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

Honestly, I struggled with the news but said to the Lord, “Not my will Lord, but Your will be done.” Within 24 hours I heard directly from the dean of the philology department asking me if I’d be interested in teaching starting in September. By May 14—two years almost to the day of my hallway experience—I received my contract in the mail to teach at VPU! Somebody say “AMEN!” God opened doors.

So yes! We are heading back to Lithuania this August. Vilnius Pedagogical University is a major state-run, teacher-training institution. There are 12,500 students enrolled—the majority from Lithuania.

I’ll be teaching two master’s level classes and one undergrad class of seniors. Philology comes from Greek, meaning the love of language. My department is part historical linguistics and part literary text analysis. My students will be future English teachers, translators/interpreters, as well as future linguistics professors. In addition, the university has invited Daryl to be a guest lecturer and present a lecture to the English department each month. I think that’s good for him and good for the university.

We thank you all for your prayers and amazing support! Thank you for all the lovely cards and emails while we’ve been back! Each gift, each prayer and each kind word really ministered to our hearts. Thank you. God has been good to direct our paths, open doors we only could have dreamed of, and to provide us time back in the States with our Moms, kids, grandkids and extended family. We are grateful. God always makes a way!

The university pays me a stipend of $600 a month, but none for poor Daryl. They also don’t provide housing or airfare. But we trust God and are willing to do whatever it takes to serve Him in Lithuania. We ask that you pray for us to be powerfully anointed to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with our students at VPU. Thank you so very much for standing with us through your prayers and support. We are very grateful.

Vilnius Pedagogical University

Am I Free or Just Loose?

Posted by admin in March 3rd, 2011 | 3 comments 
Published in freedom, obedience

Annie Dillard makes a very interesting distinction between freedom and just being loose in her book An American Childhood. Daryl is reading this book to me as part of our evening ritual. Dillard’s phrase, (used to describe her father that quit his job to travel the river), keeps rolling around in my head, “He wasn’t free so much as loose.”

So I have to ask, what’s the difference between free and loose? I think it’s a very important question. It makes me think of the Chinese legend about the Jealous Empress and the Favored Concubine.

The Empress hated the Concubine because she was the Emperor’s favorite. The Concubine was always happy and singing and she was a beautiful dancer. Every night the Emperor would ask the Concubine to dance and sing for him. She was doted on by all of the Palace because she was pleasant and kind and happy and beautiful. The Empress was beautiful too, and of excellent royal breeding, but people didn’t dote on her. So in a fit of jealousy and anger she had the Concubine kidnapped and hidden away in a prison-like fortress many days’ journey from the Capital. On occasion the Empress would secretly venture out to visit the Concubine, but she would always find her singing and she noticed that the guards and keepers had become tender-hearted toward their charge. Here in the prison the Concubine was once again doted on and loved. This enraged the Empress and she commanded all the personnel to ignore the Concubine and not to speak to her. She hired spies to insure that the Concubine was kept in total isolation. But even then, when the Empress would go to check on the Concubine, she found the woman happy, pleasant and always singing. The jealousy and anger so ate away at the Empress that she cruelly ordered the beautiful Concubine to have her arms and legs removed and her torso placed in a plain clay jar. Once the horrible deed had been performed, the Empress could not restrain herself but had to see the Concubine. The Empress was certain she would find the Concubine fearful, grief stricken and miserable, but instead she found the Concubine jarred up, her head the only thing exposed, singing more beautifully and sweetly than ever. The Empress flew into an outrage. She shouted at the jarred Concubine, “How can you sing? How can you be happy? I’ve cut off your arms and legs and you are in a jar! You are imprisoned and bound. Your freedom is forever gone! Your beauty is forever gone! Your life is over! How can you sing?” And the Concubine replied, “Which of us is imprisoned? Your anger and jealousy have made much more of a prisoner out of you than me.”

One was free and the other was just loose.

Scripture tells us that “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” Jesus told the woman who was bent over with an infirmity, “Woman thou art loosed…” (Luke 13, KJV). TD Jakes wrote a book by that title. Here I guess free and loose are synonyms. But in everyday English I think there’s a difference. A very big difference. One is a state of mind; the other a state of being.

Freedom is a funny thing. Some theologians believe we can be free from sin. I’ve yet to experience that here on earth (nor have I met anyone who is really free from sinning).

We talk a lot about freedom in America—Freedom Fighters, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Young Americans for Freedom, Freedom of Information Act. Yup, we like our freedom.

But what does it mean to be free? Can we be free without responsibility? Is freedom a mindset, or is it a condition? Maybe a little of both. I know for me personally it’s not permanent. I can be free one day and in total bondage the next. I refer to bondage as addictions, unforgiveness, memories we can’t get rid of, attitudes and habits we just can’t seem to change. I think freedom is more of a state of mind than a state of being. I’ve been to churches in countries where the government took away individual freedoms—no human rights—and yet the congregation was freer than any I’ve ever seen here in the States.

Freedom is a choice we make. A choice to forgive. A choice to forget. A choice to do the right thing and those choices sometimes must come daily. Freedom isn’t as much about where I am as who I am. Freedom isn’t about governments or human rights or the ability to come and go as I please. Freedom is about doing the right thing even when it’s hard; freedom is about making choices that are hard and complex and often costly. Freedom is about dying to the flesh and the old carnal nature. It’s about decreasing that Christ might increase. It’s about giving over control to the Holy Spirit and asking Him to sanctify me, purify me and to search my heart. This kind of freedom makes me think of Jesus’ words when He is quoting Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18).

And even though it’s hard and perhaps complicated I do want to be free–really free and not just loose. Peace.

Epaphroditus and Fibroid Tumors

Posted by admin in February 18th, 2011 | 2 comments 
Published in Blessings, faith, gratitude, missions, prayer, Uncategorized

Some things I’ll just never understand this side of heaven. A friend said to me recently, “I don’t want to go to hell over a mystery.” I know exactly what he was saying even though I believe once saved always saved. If I edited that statement and made it mine it’d go like this: “I don’t want to lose my love relationship with Abba Father and His peace that passes understanding just because I can’t figure out why He said no to something I earnestly asked Him for.” Yeah. That’s more my take on it.

Daryl and I love Lithuania. I can’t explain loving a piece of land. We love the people too, even though we don’t know each and every one of the three million there personally. But I can definitely say I love the ones we met. I love teaching and my students carried me away into one of the sweetest dreams I’ve ever known. But…and in my life there are some pretty big buts…

My body started going through a process that every woman in the world can relate to in one way or another. I thought my process was pretty well complete and I was on the road to freedom. But no! Things got worse in Lithuania. My body went out of control and I had to miss classes, didn’t have the energy to get involved in off-campus activities and some days I couldn’t even leave the apartment. Migraines set in. Some days I felt the gates of hell were trying to prevail against me. Sound melodramatic? Maybe. But no matter what I tried I couldn’t get on top of the problem. Every day I would read the Bible story about the woman who said of Jesus, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment (Luke 8:43-48).” I prayed. I fasted. I cried out to God. I asked my closest friends to pray with me and of course my family and things just got worse. By November 1st, I knew I was going to have to return to the States for surgery. I couldn’t see any other way out.

So, on December 11, 2010, Daryl and I headed back to Kansas. We lifted off the tarmac at Palanga airport by 2:35 in the afternoon. What we didn’t know was that my Dad went to be with the Lord at that very moment. My Dad died as we were leaving Lithuania. Nothing prepares one for that. My Dad and I had talked through all the possible scenarios before I left. He assured me that Daryl and I needed to be on the mission field. I assured him that I loved him and we said the Big Good-Bye before we left in August because we knew his health was failing and that “theoretically” it might be the last time we saw each other. But theory and reality are two different animals. My Dad’s dying without me being able to say one last good-bye was difficult beyond my wildest imagination. It cost and it was painful.

Sometimes I struggle with what has happened to us these last few weeks. Have you ever seen those reptiles on nature shows that thrust their tongues to ridiculously long distances and zap a fly? With lightening speed they bring their victims back to their mouths and the little fly has no idea what hit him. I feel a little like that lately—pulled from the students and country I love.

Please keep us in prayer. I’m scheduled for surgery on February 22. I’ll only have an overnight stay in the hospital and should be back to normal in two weeks. No biggy. I’ll be glad when it’s all over.

So what have we learned? What are the deep and life-changing spiritual lessons we learned in all of this?

1. It’s been good to be back home with my Mom and family. I had the luxury of staying with my Mom three weeks after Dad’s funeral. A miraculous and beautiful healing took place between my Mom and Dad before he died. My Mom radiates from that healing—a choice to forgive and a choice to ask for forgiveness. It was a great three weeks and I am so thankful I could be with her and my sister immediately after my Dad’s death.
2. Our house didn’t sell, so it’s good to be back getting the house ready to sell and finding a new, smaller place to move. We are literally getting our house in order. That’s good.
3. It was more important than either Daryl and I realized that he be onsite to help with the transition in leadership at IICS. The new EVP started on November 8, 2010, and transitioning leadership in an organization isn’t an overnight task. So, it’s good for Daryl and the new guy to be able to do whatever is necessary to make the transition a smooth and successful one.
4. And probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I feel more called to the overseas classroom than ever before. My heart aches to be back with the students and life in Lithuania. I grieve not being there every single day. This time back in the States has just convinced me more than ever that I am called to be an overseas missionary—plain and simple.

SO WE ARE HEADING BACK IN AUGUST! This is very important to take note of. We are going back and we’ll go back better than ever—healthy, house in order, obligations met and ready to love Lithuania for Jesus more passionately and more intensely than ever before.

Until then though we have lots to do. I was asked to write a chapter in a big ol’ book on teaching English from a Christian perspective. I am thrilled with that invitation! Also, I’ll be helping with the IICS orientation of new professors in July. I’m speaking at Oklahoma Baptist University the end of April and East Texas Baptist University the first week of April. Those are all good things that I really look forward to. I’m also trying to edit and clean up a manuscript I’ve written. It’s a collection of all my old-maid missionary stories called The Adventures of a Dandelion Gatherer. We are eager to head back to Lithuania. Thank you all for your prayers, letters, notes of encouragement and the financial support. I am so blessed and encouraged by the financial support we’ve received. Those funds have been placed in my IICS Lithuania account and are there waiting for me until we head back. We are so grateful and blessed.

And finally, please forgive the long delay in writing this update. Some days I just couldn’t think about putting down the words. Now I have. If you have any questions or concerns or you need more information, please call me or email me.

Life is strange. It makes me think of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2). He raised all his support, sent out his newsletter, had the big commissioning event at his church and went to minister with super missionary Paul. But poor Epaphroditus had to go home due to illness. The poor bloke had to go back home. Maaaan. Do I ever know how he felt. Thanks again for your prayers. Thanks for your support and most of all thanks for your grace concerning my very late update. Peace.

They Shall Be Comforted (Rerun)

Posted by admin in December 27th, 2010 | 5 comments 
Published in Uncategorized

On December 11, 2010, my Dad went to be with the Lord. His time of death is estimated at 6:35 AM (CST) on that Saturday morning, the exact moment that my and Daryl’s airplane was lifting off from the Palanga Airport in Lithuania heading back to the States to see him. He was 77 years old.

I am rerunning this blog post from February of this year in honor of my Dad. But with an important postscript: My Dad made things right with his family before he died. He found peace, love and forgiveness. My sister said his face changed, his spirit sweetened and his words of affirmation were like honey poured forth. He and my Mom experienced true healing in their marriage those final weeks of his life. His last day on earth he couldn’t take his eyes off of her and could only mouth the words, “I love you” to her. We thank God for Dad’s life, his healing and now his perfect renewal. Daryl said that when my Dad looked upon Heaven he said, “Finally, a city that’s built right!” Amen to that.

Mourning isn’t just about loss of life. We can also mourn the loss of a dream, the realization that a situation isn’t going to get any better. I realized lately that I’ve been in a state of mourning—grieving actually over something that simply isn’t going to happen.

We as human beings are pretty much who we will always be by the age of five. I’m basically who I was then—bigger, literate, with more experience, but I’m not that much different from when I was five years old. I still get very impatient waiting in line; I still like to get my own way and I still struggle to keep my finger out of my nose, my nose out of other people’s business and my hands to myself. Yup. Pretty much the same.

Also, I keep hoping and believing with the bright-eyed, unrealistic optimism of a five year old that things will get better in my relationship with my Dad. I have just recently come to see, now nearing 51 years of age, that things with my Dad aren’t gonna get better. I’ve had to die to the dream that my Dad is going to be joyful and loving and affectionate and full of affirmation. My Dad is aging, rapidly. Mini strokes have left him struggling to make connections and unable to care for himself. Sometimes when I visit him he’s clear as a bell. Others, not so much. This is the final chapter of my Dad’s life. He falls frequently so he’s in a wheelchair. He’s angry and frustrated and wants to go home and who can blame him? I see him fading, slipping away and along with him goes the too idealized, warm and fuzzy daddy/daughter relationship I’ve always longed for and yes, craved. This is simply out of the question. There’s no funeral for unfulfilled dreams. Just the harsh emptiness they leave behind when they’ve evaporated. Gone. Done. And then mourning begins.

So, what remains? Well, I have a Dad I can be very proud of. For the most part my Dad was a genius. Glimpses of that still break through on occasion. (He recently named every airplane, gave its year of manufacture and its purpose. Didn’t miss a one simply by looking at their photos). Every Boeing 700 series you get on my Dad designed the air conditioning systems and the emergency inflatable slide (something he designed for the Apollo spacecraft after the Apollo 1 tragedy in 1967). My Dad was a part of the design team for all the Air Force Ones up through Bill Clinton. He was once ranked the most sought after aeronautical engineer in the country in 1969. He could build anything and he did all things with great perfection. He did things with excellence. My Dad was hard working. In all his professional life I knew him to take only one vacation. It was not unusual for him to work 80 to100 hours each week.

I got an email a few years ago from a retired US Navy admiral in Florida wanting to know if I was related to Troy I. Hodges who served in the Korean War. “He was the best damn cartographer I’ve ever worked with!” He wanted to know if Dad was available for a project he was working on off the coast of Florida.

Dad was brilliant. He was tireless. He didn’t hug. He did punch me in the arm occasionally. He never said congratulations, good job or I’m proud of you. He did ask me to always try harder and to not bask in successes but move on to the next thing. He taught me how to tie a knot, ride a horse, wallpaper flawlessly, drive a stick shift, really wash a car, make the perfect sandwich, write left handed without smearing the page. Everything I learned from him I learned to do well. He didn’t tolerate slackers!

But I mourn a warm, fuzzy, cuddly, affectionate teddy bear of a Dad. I wish he and I could have been closer—bonded. I wish he could have been kinder, more affirming, but he did provide for me. He kept lovely roofs over my head and beautiful clothing on my back. He helped me buy my first car and took me on my first flight in a small airplane. (He was a licensed pilot). He also did something incredible—he always financially supported me year-after-year while I was on the foreign mission field. “Teri, you do what you believe God has spoken for you to do and I’ll take care of the rest.” And he did.

Did I get the Dad I always wanted? No. My Dad was distant and harsh and sometimes even violent. He had his own demons to battle. Even now as he sits in the wheelchair at the VA Center, weak and thin, he can still be very intimidating. His mind works more accurately than not. His piercing blue eyes still shine brightly. He still has his Paul Newman good looks and his stubborn personality. Same prejudices, same opinions, same strong will—after all, those are the very things that make him…well…him.

But here’s what I have, this is his legacy to me: God has used my Dad in my life. God has actually spoken through him. Which is a curious thing. My Dad drank, too much at times. He smoked and still sneaks a cig every chance he gets. He cursed like, well like the sailor he truly was. (He was a member of the elite Navy SEALS during the Korean War). But once when I was preparing to move to Moscow something amazing happened. War broke out in the capital city in August 1991. I was holding a ticket in my hand to fly out on August 26th. I was packed. I had a teaching contract. I was ready to go. But the news coverage of this upheaval in the USSR looked ghastly. There were tanks on the streets. The Russian White House was burning. Gorbachev was out. Yeltsin was in. The city was in total chaos and I was scheduled to be there in four days. I was in my room rethinking my suitcase when my Dad came in. He burst through the door and was shouting, “I forbid you to go to Moscow! It’s too dangerous. It’s a battle field there. It’s not necessary for you to take such a risk. You’re not going!”

I didn’t know what to say. I believed with my whole heart I was to go to Moscow. I also believed that as a single woman (I was 31) my Dad was the authority over me. (Too much Bill Gothard? Maybe.) I always tried to obey him or at least comply. I stood there in my room that day conflicted, dumbfounded. So I said, “Okay Dad. I won’t go. But one day you and I will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He’s going to ask me, ‘Teri, why didn’t you go to Moscow?’ and I’ll answer, ‘Because Lord, You said I should honor my father. And I did. He told me not to go.’

“What will you say Dad? ‘Cause if you’re gonna make a big decision like this, you’d better be prayed up and know for certain God’s will for my life.”

He started to say something. Then he stopped. And he left the room.

Four hours later my Dad came back in my room. His face was covered with tears. (Quite unusual. I didn’t remember seeing my Dad cry before). He struggled a little to speak. Then he said words I will never forget, “Teri I’ve been praying and I’d rather you die in the center of God’s will than to live safely outside it. You can go to Moscow. I give you my blessing.” And I went.

When I was a little girl my Dad had a supernatural experience with God. He was on the way home from work and God spoke to him. Very clearly God told my Dad to commit our entire family to missions. (My parents never told us this story when we were kids. I heard it from my Mom the day before I left for Moscow). He got home and told my Mom what had happened. That very day God had also spoken the same word to her. The very next Sunday, my parents and we three daughters walked the aisle of our small country Bible Baptist church and my Dad dedicated us as a family to the foreign mission field. Cindy was nine. Denise was eight and I was five. That was Sunday. By Wednesday night Denise had died as a result of inoculations.

My Dad never mentioned it again. It was never talked about and something inside him was forever changed.

So I mourn. I mourn the loss of ever having a warm, cuddly, papa bear of a Dad. I mourn the affirmation and praise only a Dad can give his daughter. I long for the closeness and the comfort only daddies can give to their little girls. But we who follow Christ are not like those without hope. My hope and joy-filled expectation is centered on this one truth: my Dad and I will have a perfect, blessed and wonderful relationship in Heaven! He’ll be whole and new and healed from all of his hurts and frustrations. He’ll be free to love and to receive love. He’ll be shiny, bright and he’ll be everything God intended him to be in the first place. And so will I. So, there it is. And in the meantime I have a Heavenly Father who has promised to meet my every need and lovingly allows me to call Him Abba. Daddy. Peace

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