Saturday, February 19, 2011

..the weather report...

In Jamaica we live in "forever summer"....with just a little spring as Denny is quick to remind me. He likes to remember those plummeting temperatures into the seventies! And not to mention the hurricane and tropical storm season!

I love the weather. I love the seasons. I love the changes the weather brings, not only to the sky, and to the land, and to my feelings, but the fact that it is something beyond my control. When there is an element in life that I absolutely have no control over and I don't have to worry about the way it is going, that gives me freedom. That is a good thing! The weather just reminds me of control!

Funny how in one day the weather can go from bad to worse, or from good to bad, or from bad to better or even simply be delightful all day long. The other day I took these pictures from my yard at the same time! On one side of the house the sky was gorgeous and blue, on the other side of the house the storm was brewing hard and in just a couple of minutes the dark storm clouds were going to take over the entire area and begin to bring rain.

It reminds me that I can wake up in the morning and never imagine the weather patterns that are going to dictate my day! It sometimes goes from puffy clouds and blue skies to even puffier clouds and blue-er skies and you hear yourself humming the old song...if it keeps gettin' better and better, if He keeps on pourin' it on....

But then there are other days when the blackest clouds turn blacker and you wonder how am I ever going to get through this one? All I know and what I am learning is God allows the weather to be what it is and many things indeed are out of my control. That is when I begin to won't rain always...or hear the saying in my head..this too shall pass.

It is hard to stay consistently faith-centered when life's rain is peltering on your head. It is so easy to slip and fall when you are running for cover without an unbrella. When life's car starts to slide on the wintry mix and goes out of control and panic sets in you realize you are not in control, but somebody is.

Every weather pattern God brings into my life is for my good and for His glory. This week Ryan sent me a song that has grabbed my attention.

"It may not be all that I had hoped for, and every dream has not yet been realized, but to see your face one day God I know,it's all going to be worth it."

Friday, February 11, 2011

valentines early.....

Valentine's day is focused on using cards, candy, flowers, and gifts to tell the people in your life that you love them. To tell a stranger...well that's not supposed to be the plan. I haven't seen Valentines Day to be a big deal here in Mandeville, Jamaica. Many holidays are American generated and sustained. Since this isn't little America we don't see the commercialism. Denny and I can handle an American holiday to not exist but when you have children, well that is a different story. I can't just run to the local store and plan to find something on Monday morning for Renee. When you live in a different country you have to start thinking way ahead! Fun Fun!

We know that we are in Jamaica according to God's plan. We know that 4 years is a long time, but not so long that when discouraged you know just around the corner of another year you will be home itinerating all over again. Missionaries are an unusual bunch! A missionary can pack their bags and leave comforts and conveniences of home and plunge forward to the unknown. Missionaries can survive not having healthy budgets, they can live on a shoestring in a country that is very expensive. Missionaries don't have to use electricity and even have water every day. Missionaries can wear the same clothes and shoes for 4 years and not be bothered. Missionaries don't expect much in return, except that the burden to minister cross-culturally never lessens. Missionaries are an unusual bunch! A missionary can plug along without praise and "stuff" for a pretty long time.

So when a call comes out of the blue like the one we had it was pretty amazing! Let me tell you about it!

A week ago Den received an email from missionary friends in Springfield, MO. They said that their friends were going on a cruise and would port in Jamaica for one day and would like to spend $50. and bring a missionary something. "Would you have something in mind that they could bring you?" We were very surprised and wondered what it was all about. We were kind of perplexed as the missionary friends gave us the information. How do you call a stranger and say, could you bring me a can of shortening! There are just so many things that we cannot find here and our list could have been...well should I say interesting. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like we should focus on Renee who never complains and goes without so many things and happenings like Youth group, camps, or regular teen-age things as a missionary kid.

Time was of the essence as this couple was going to be leaving their home in a couple of days to begin their vacation. So we began to toss things out there and thought of some things that would be nice to receive unexpectedly! The second evening after having this information I wondered, "what would make Renee smile?"

I thought of a valentine "Build a Bear" for Renee, a walmart box of candy for me and maybe a dvd for Den. We didn't expect all those things, just whatever they could find under $50. Things that we can't get here but things that would make us all giddy! Den called the couple the next day and because of the ice and snow in Dallas they were going to start their journey that day to get to Galveston. The wife said that they would do their best to find the items. I really wondered if they would be able to find a Build a Bear store enroute so I didn't say anything to Renee. I hate to dash expectations!

On Wednesday of this week Den taught till 1:00, Renee went to school till lunch time and we started our journey to the cruise ship!! We were so excited we could hardly stand it! We had no idea who the family was. We had no idea if this was really gonna work. All we knew is that we were to meet them in Montego Bay between 3 and 3:30 at the security area near the ship.

When we arrived we were not sure of where to go. So after asking the guards on duty and explaining why we were there, we planted ourselves in one spot and boy was it hot. Because we came upon an accident we were late. We could see 2 ships from where we were, we just couldn't get through the traffic to get there. We eventually arrived at 3:40 and didn't see anyone nearby waiting for us. So we waited and waited and waited. Unbeknownst to us, the couple was waiting and waiting and waiting in the hot sun somewhere else! At 5:00 one of the security guards came over and said, "there is the couple that is looking for you!" Here they come walking toward us! We were so excited and yet so humiliated that we were the cause of them standing in the hot sun for nearly 2 hours.

Here is the story! David and Carolyn attend Oaks Fellowship in Texas and a couple of months ago their pastor challenged the church with a campaign, ACT NORMAL, An Exercise in Compassion. The promo has this line.."It's moving compassion from niche to norm." The promo also says that ACT NORMAL is not only about opportunities but about action. It is taking compassion to another level in your personal life. Along with the idea of "doing" like raking leaves or volunteering at a pet shelter, the campaign includes spending $50 on someone that would come to mind during the yearlong challenge, such as filling someones gas tank, buying $50 of groceries for someone, investing in a soup kitchen, etc. Little did we ever realize that God had this little Seler family in mind when the pastor introduced the challenge. In the realm of life, such a little thing, but monumental for us at this time.

Missionaries can be very lonely people. They do a lot of cross cultural things and ministry, ministering in many situations, making many acquaintances but not having a "heart" friend, one who understands your culture, your framework, your background, etc. Missionaries can tend to be very guilt ridden. If I do find a Dr. Pepper and consider spending an outrageous amount of money to buy it, compared to how much it would be in America, I am not being a good steward, or like ice cream or something non essential and then compare the price of that soda to what an average person makes here and you wrestle with justifying the expenditure. Missionaries can live in disconnect. Family members just don't understand the dynamic of leaving everything to go somewhere that they have never visited and think that it is any different than America. For example, we don't live on an Army base where everything is shipped in for our comfort or what do you mean it takes a month to get the car inspected, what do you mean, you go to cash a check and the bank doesn't have sufficient cash, and the list continues with things people just can't understand until they are in the situation.

When something like this Valentine blessing happens, you remember...God does know my name and He knows where I live!

As we watched Dave and Carolyn walk up the road I noticed something in his hand but couldn't tell what it was. He said to Renee (as if he already knew her), "Do you know what this is?" Her eyes got big as he began to unfold that Build a Bear house box! She squealed as Carolyn pulled a valentine bear out of her tote bag! It was a moment to remember! This valentine blessing was just what the doctor ordered!

We then proceeded to a little Island Grill to give our new friends a taste of Jerk Chicken! Over our little snack, they didn't want to eat too much as they would be eating dinner on the ship, Carolyn pulled more goodies out of her bag! A box of candy, oh how I miss Hersheys, a Celine Dion cd and a Narnia DVD. We were silly, we were so excited. Then they began to tell us about the church challenge and how it had changed their lives. As a matter of fact, I don't think I will ever forget Dave saying, "This is our 18th cruise, how I wish I had blessed a missionary in those ports of call before." The next day they were going to port at the Cayman Islands and so guess what? Another missionary family was going to be blessed by Dave's $50 ACT NORMAL gift. We were the receivers of Carolyn's $50. I wonder if the Cayman Islands missionaries asked for something as trivial as we did. Probably not!!

When Dave and Carolyn shopped for us I doubt that she set out to make this our best Valentine's day yet, but she did it!! Another little side note, they were cruising with another couple and they wanted to be in on the blessing so they bought the candy for me!

Den sent an email thanks the next day and when I read it I cried. Den told me that when he wrote it, he cried. Dave and Carolyn had no idea how dry our ground was, how desperately we needed to sit and chat. How they blessed Renee, wow, they were there with her and still they will never realize what they said to speak into her life. Here is an excerpt from Den's email to these wonderful people.

".......I don’t know that I will ever forget the smile and joy on my daughter’s face as you asked her about a simple cardboard box. Her squeal of delight was so obvious. The two of you gave her a very special moment and even more a long-term memory of her experience in Jamaica. Thank you so much. Your speaking into her life the words of encouragement as you referenced your daughter and Quentin and Elizabeth’s girls and their education was equally special. She is in a very significant life formation time as she sorts out her future – your words were so welcomed.David and Carolyn, you will never realize how much your kindness, generosity and presence meant to this missionary family. We will cherish the memory – thank you."

Well... to say that valentine blessing surprised us, encouraged us, and gave us love is an understatement...thanks Dave and Carolyn!

They wanted a photo in front of the STL car!

Renee and Shortcake enjoyed the journey back to Mandeville!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Ryan! You're 21!

Children's birthdays have really special memories especially for moms that have a good pregnancy, are surrounded by a supportive family, have a good delivery, are tended to by wonderful doctors and nurses, moms who see the excitement and tenderness in the eyes of the new daddy....for so many new moms things turn sour and turn into a trial, but for me it was a wonderful day! Today, 21 years, Ryan was born!A great day!

Ryan was always wanted. Denny and I were married in 1978, Ryan came along in 1990. We had experienced many ministry settings to his arrival. We were associate pastors in Illinois, then were youth pastors in Massachusetts. We were missionaries in Spain, then we returned back to Walpole as youth pastors once again, then Ryan came! Little did we realize when he was born in that month of February that God was setting things in motion for us to be asked to be Youth and Christian Education Director for Southern New England A/G come May. But when Ryan arrived, we were youth pastors in Walpole, one of the most dynamic churches that we have ever known even till this day. The people in the church were the welcoming committee for his birth as well as my parents and my sister Janine and her husband.

Ryan wasn't due on Feb.2, but for as long as my fatherinlaw knew I was pregnant, he said that I was going to have a boy and he was going to be born on his birthday! I said, "I don't think so because the people at church say I am carrying a girl and first babies never come early"! I was due closer to Valentine's day so I knew that my fatherinlaw's wishful thinking had to be mistaken!

On February 1 I became quite ill and just didn't feel right. Janine called me from work to see how I was doing and I told her. She called Denny at the church. The day went on, I was feeling pretty rotten all day. That Thursday evening, my parents came to check on me and Dad started timing the contractions. When mom and dad left, probably around 10:00, the contractions were 7 minutes apart. I couldn't rest, I couldn't really lay comfortably, I remember telling Den to go to sleep and that I would wake him if need be. Around 3:00 in the morning I woke him and he called the doctor. The contractions were getting closer and more consistent so off we go to the Norwood Hospital. I remember thinking, could this really be it or will they send me home. I had never gone through this before, how was I to know!

When the admitting nurse finished the paperwork, I was still thinking maybe this was a false alarm, I mean I wasn't even due yet! The only time that it hit me was when the nurse gave me the johnny to change into! As if it were yesterday I remember the exchange! She said, "honey you are going to have a baby" I said,"TODAY???" She said, "oh yes honey that baby is coming today"! I said, "but wait, I can't it's my fatherinlaws bday!!!" and then of course I told her why I said that. I love my fatherinlaw, but I had told him he was wrong for at least 6 months, he couldn't possibly be right!!! Somehow I knew that if he was right on the date, he would be right on the gender! The only problem was, what would we do with the name Brittany Shannon! We had only picked out a girls name!

Today I am looking at Ryan's baby book and reminiscing that wonderful day! Jen Schlosky bought me Ryan's baby book! I can't throw out the box it came in, I have notes written on the box as well! After we came home from the hospital I was in the emergency room 3 times. During those difficult days, Mema and Pop Pop and Aunt Janine helped Denny with Ryan and Jen Schlosky tended to me! She is such a nurse! I will forever be grateful to my family and my friend Jen, there through thick and thin.

So many people to be grateful for. I remember them coming by, bringing food items and care, support for a new little family that had a very sick mommy. People spoke into our lives and prophesied over Ryan. Christian Life Center was a very special place because of all the special people. When I look at the book and see the Shower page, my oh my, so many people with so much love! I still feel overwhelmed 21 years later. I guess this isn't a baby book but rather a mommy book!

Ryan, you and your sister are the joy of our lives. For 21 years and 9 months more we have spoken Jesus into your life. I remember things that we told you when we couldn't see your face. I remember reading the Word to you when you couldn't yet see, I remember playing music for you when you didn't yet know what music was. You were so loved before we even knew you.

I found some really neat things in your book! One of your first Bible crafts, some Christmas wrap from Mrs. Harper, pictures and cards you wrote for your daddy. This book, though small in comparison to other books, holds treasures that can never be replaced. I remember my mom always said, "if there is a fire, grab the baby books". Now I know why she said that. Everything about your birth and growth is worth remembering and keeping! As a matter of fact, I assisted God in making a miracle today 21 years ago and I don't want to forget it!

It is so easy to appreciate you and to love the memories you have given us, Ryan. You grew up to be such a fine man. Of course we have had disappointments, who hasn't? Of course there were times when you could have made better choices, who hasn't? But for every one of those, there have been a hundred wonderful choices and wonderful decisions. I always said to you, "make your daddy proud, both of them"! Today both your earthly father and your heavenly one are proud of who you are and so am I!

The envelope with your hair from your first haircut is also in the box. Why do moms save hair??? It is so light compared to what your hair color is today! Isn't that funny?

I found a letter from the Sturbridge School Bus, telling us what bus you would be on and what time it would be at the bottom of the hill. Boy those were tough times letting you go. I remember crying for most of the morning! silly me. We are so possessive of God's gifts, aren't we! I said I trust God, but did I really? Worrying about the safety of the bus, worrying if you would remember your backpack, worrying about the drivers on the road that would be near the bus, worrying if you would fall asleep and not get off :), worrying about the bullies near you, worrying if you would be the bully :), worrying about YOU, my precious treasure.

I wish you a happy 21 honey. You are a man. You know what is required from being a man, responsibility and all that stuff. I am proud that you graduated from High School. I am proud that you went to Bible College and are soon to graduate, I am proud that you had a paying job when you were a teenager. I am proud that you are a capable driver. I am proud that you work hard at your craft. I am proud that you are your own person, I am proud that you pray. I am proud that you write. I am proud that you want what is best for you. I am proud of your choice in friends. I am proud that you are my Ryan. I am proud that you are a Seler. I am proud of how you treat your sister. I am proud that you want to lead others in worship. I am proud of YOU.