Here & Now

Here & Now

here-and-noww

2016 has been crazy.

I’ve laughed a lot and cried a lot.

(I’m not ashamed to confess the latter. I think crying is healthy and necessary.)

In all the bottoms and peaks, I’ve found myself thinking and saying something along the lines of “Man, I can’t wait till _____.”

Fill in the blank with things from, “I can buy a house,” “My acting career takes off,” “I have enough money to fly and visit my parents frequently,” “I can afford a brand new car,” “I’m married,” etc.

Now anyone over the age 40 who’s accomplished in all the above would probably hit me with, “HAVE YOU TRIED SAVING?!” “SET A TEN YEAR GOAL!” “HAVE YOU HEARD OF GOFUNDME?” “I DRIVE A HONDA!” “I MET MY WIFE IN KINDERGARTEN!”

Cool story, lol.

There is nothing more stressful to me than having whale-sized expectations but reeling in an old shoe.

I found myself, more times than I care to confess, super focused on getting THERE. The craziest part is I didn’t even know where there actually was.

With my pedal to the medal towards my future, I remember being less and less satisfied with the present. Like my current life was this weird, tortious portal to future me who’s a regular on a sitcom, drives an all black Jeep Renegade and fathers 2 LL Bean toddlers.

I was listening to a sermon on my podcast app and I remember hearing the pastor  (whom I can’t credit due to the fact I forgot who because I listen to way too many podcasts) say, “A majority of us care more about God changing our situation than God actually changing US.”

It was like a dagger to the liver. I remember driving by myself, hearing that and looking around wide-eyed like I’d see someone else who was as impacted by what was just said.

“That’s me! He’s talking about me! I want God to change my situation!”

But my desire for God to change me was like, “Meh.”

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. My favorite breakfasts are the ones with my parents. My dad hits the eject button pretty quick but my mom and I stick in it for the long haul with the greatest talks. I remember a post-breakfast conversation I had with mom in Lake City this past summer. My mom looked at me and said, “Shama, God cares about you more than He does your ministry.”

At the time I was heavily involved in ministry and when she said that it threw me for loop. I couldn’t help but continue to think, “Does God care about me more than EVERYTHING I do or plan on doing?” And the answer is yes. God cares about the you that’s here and now. He knows your future. He wrote it. There are these expectations that linger above us post-highschool/college humans that aren’t checked off in the eyes of others until we hit certain “checkpoints.”

2016 has been crazy.

Here recently, I’ve cried less and laughed more because as dumb and cliche as it sounds, I can’t change the past and I have 0 control of the future. (Matthew 6:25-34)

In the bottoms, I have so much to be thankful for and in the tops, I have so much to be thankful for. I’m guaranteed nothing.

Yesterday I was blessed to have car trouble and I called my usual guy for a tow. He  was busy and referred me to another guy. I called him and in 30 minutes, my car was on the back of his truck and we were in the cabin of his 96 Ford small talking it up. He had a sucker in his mouth and he told me he had just turned 80 years old. I brought up some congratulatory phrases on his health and ability to work and he said, “Yeah, they call these the golden ages.” Then he leaned forward, turned down his police scanner and said, “Ain’t nothing golden about it.” I laughed and then realized that I was about to get more than just a $40 tow to my house. He went on to spit mad wisdom on work ethic, U.S politics, and marriage. All while enjoying a LOLLIPOP! I cannot make that up.

Author, pastor, speaker, and my role model, John Piper has a saying that goes, “Life is hard. God is good. Glory is coming.”

Glory is heaven. God’s presence. It is the utmost of magnificence; great beauty, renown, honor, kudos, eminence, acclaim, grandeur, greatness, splendor, etc.

It is so true. You know what’s in the way of glory? Beautiful houses, award-winning careers, family time, new shiny cars, and great marriages.

God’s better than all of that and a bag of chips.

Every opportunity here and now should fuel and propel our longing for there and then. The only peak that matters. The moment I get caught up more about here then there, there’s something wrong.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

We are, my friend. We all are.

The reason that the valleys feel so low and the peaks feel so high is because we were made for greatness! The temptation to put those expectations on anything or anyone on this earth is dangerous, detrimental and disappointing. If you haven’t learned that already, stick around.

We all have a future, some of ours are longer or shorter than others and that’s okay. The truth is that we all have a NOW. A comedian I admire once said, “Sometimes I turn off my music while I’m driving cuz ‘Now’ is playing.” It sounds super meta, but try it sometime.

I no longer just read my Bible for wisdom nuggets or guidance for later. I read it for now. I make plans with friends for later but I’ll try to squeeze them in for something now. I’ll plan a trip to Africa for 2017 but I’ll pick up the phone and blow through a $5 international calling card now. I’m gonna stunt in a drop top Jeep one day, but I’m going to be happy with sliding open the moonroof my 2004 Volvo now. I might minister to bigger crowds later, but I can teach a mini message to some buddies over some chocolate chip waffles, now.

It’s so reassuring to know that I love and know a God who’s big enough to create and manage the universe but yet care for a 24-year-old African-American dude with a couple of talents and a little ambition. The same God who’s very involved with your future is the same God who’s equally involved and cares about you here and now.

His track record? Flawless.

Love? Unconditional.

Blessings? Constant.

Goodness? Perfect.

Yoke? Bearable.

His undeserved, unmerited, unearned grace? New. Every. Day. And it’s beautiful.

“Trust the one who keeps you trusting.”

– John Piper

 

Here’s to the Missionary Kids…

Here’s to the Missionary Kids…

Airport terminal.

If you’ve read my bio then you’ll know that I constantly refer to myself as a Missionary Pastor’s Kid. I’m turning a quarter of a century old in 7 months. I think I should stop calling myself a kid.

It’s Monday, August 16, 2016. The time is 6:54 am. As I type this, my parents are on a plane somewhere between North Carolina and Washington DC. From there, they’ll fly to Ethiopia and then Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Although both of them are American citizens by process of naturalization, they still call Tanzania home.

my-parental-people_27502945560_o

My parents have been full-time missionaries since 2002. I served with them until I graduated in 2010. My brother and I stayed in Greenville for college while they left with my sister, who now lives in Greenville and goes to school.

My friend Josh asked me the other day when my parents plan on coming back. I told him 2 to 3 years if their financial support holds up. “Is that hard? How is it being far from your parents for so long? Do you plan on going to see them soon?”

I’ve been asked these and similar questions a lot. I’ve never really thought about how abnormal my family dynamic actually is. When I was 11 my brother was 13 and my sister was 8. We traveled on planes, shuttles and buses for missions. We toured 3 churches a week in the U.S to raise support at times. We went to conferences together. We slummed in hotels, inns, and resorts while traveling. We prayed and did devotions together. We spent holidays, birthdays and everyday together, thanks to homeschool. That all took an abrupt pause when we moved to attend college, until this past year. Due to some severe health issues with my dad, both of my parents have been stateside for over a year and 8 months. The highs were high and the lows were low. I remember feeling weird knowing that I could finally pick up my phone and just talk to my mom without a phone card from Walmart or enduring 2 minutes worth of dial tones/connection noises. I could finally toss a duffle bag and backpack in the back of my Volvo, drive for 3 hours and spend the weekend with them. My parents were at my graduation. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family of 5 for the first time in half of a decade. My parents attended my brother’s wedding. I finally got birthday and Christmas presents from them. (Not complaining, I know they save and spend sparingly for the sake of living missionally, but it was cool nonetheless.)

Josh really made me realize that my family dynamic was gonna be on pause again for a few years. The craziest part about it was my siblings and I were okay with it. Tears were shed in years past. Not this time around though. I drove up to the United Airlines departure door, hopped out of my Volvo, unloaded their plethora of bags, hugged my dad, hugged my mom, kissed her on the cheek and got into my SUV thinking, “I think I need to be a lot sadder than I am.”

The whole ordeal was/is a sweet and sour.

The sour part is knowing that my parents aren’t a speed dial away.

I can’t randomly drive three hours and eat what my mom throws down.

I can’t sit across from both my parents and talk life, ministry, etc., until late at night. (Which is around 10pm for them. Wild. I know.)

The sweet part is knowing that my parents are 100% in God’s will.

I know they wouldn’t trade serving God for the sake of comfort.

The distance now pales in comparison when I remember that one day we’ll be together forever.

With not only them but with hundreds of people they’ve reached through their leadership.

 

It would be different if my dad worked on an oil rig or something. No offense to people who work on oil rigs, I heard they do pretty well for themselves. They’re not away on business. My dad isn’t trying to build an empire. They’re not working themselves to death to retire in Florida. My mom and dad have found the one thing that makes them beyond joyful. Serving Jesus. I can take a backseat to that.

What is family?

What is distance?

What are holidays?

I was blessed to have a family, be close to it, and make priceless memories 365 days a year for 18 years.

I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s word to his young pastor friend Timothy,  

1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

There are so many facets to these verses but the main one is “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” My parents are called to live this verse out 8,005 miles away from me. Their seasons of life are definitely separate from mine. That’s painful sometimes but the Gospel Jesus preached never guaranteed comfort, ease, closeness and everything in between.

Ecclesiastes 3 really breaks down the idea that there is a time and place for everything. As a missionary kid, I always keep that in mind because I’ve experienced so many different places and times. I’m thankful that I have faithful parents who treasure God far more than normalities. I’m also thankful that I have a God who allows me to get a glimpse of how He sees things and grants me the grace to recline in assurance.

One of my favorite mantras is from John Piper, “Life is hard. God is good. Glory is coming.” I recite, pray and scribble this anywhere and everywhere. They’re the sweetest 9 words to my soul. I have to keep them in mind so that I’m always aware of the hardness of life, family, relationships, illnesses, jobs, homesickness, etc. Then I have to speak to every part of me that God is good and His goodness, mercy, grace, favor, comfort, peace, etc., trumps any hardness that I’m enduring. The best part is that Glory is coming. Heaven awaits all of the faithful believers.

I’ve used this before and I’ll use this again because it’s always relevant. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth these powerful words. We can tell from other parts of his letter that he knew that they missed him. They knew some of the hardships that he endured (i.e stonings, beatings, imprisonments, being shipwrecked).

He still made it a point to encourage them and remind them in II Corinthians 4:16-18

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

It’s thanks to grace and the unseen that I can endure the seen. Family time, closeness, holidays, birthday presents are temporary. The author of Ecclesiastes refers to life and all the above as a “vapor.” But the unseen though. The mission, the souls that are saved, the lives that are restored, the wins they get to be a part of and the ones I have living and serving God in Greenville are forever.

SO HERE’S TO THE MISSIONARY KIDS (and adults),  

who have friends in different time zones, a memorized spiel in the chamber about where their parents are, a portion of their heart on a different continent(s), are the only humans who still use skype,  and have waved from both sides of airport terminal windows more times than they can remember.

Life is Hard. It’s not in vain. The unseen > seen. I’m in the same boat. I’m still not 100% used to it. I miss my parents. I’ve cried more times than I can remember in the past. I’m a momma’s boy. I’m not good at adulting by myself. Ministry is costly. We in particular chip in every day.

God is good. Low key, I cried for a couple of seconds earlier today while on 85 South to Greenville at 4am. The tears were followed by prayer, screaming, steering wheel punching and ended with a peaceful resolve that I can’t explain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put myself up for temporary adoption because I don’t have anyone to watch me 1 weekend a month.

Glory is coming. Luckily I’m not alone. I’m complete because He is complete, He is in me, and I am in Him. And when my “outward man is perishing (hurting, aching, longing, etc).” I know without a shadow of a doubt that my “inward man is being renewed day by day.” So I don’t trust what I see in the mirror or the pain I feel in an instant. I’m moody. We all are. The difference is that I’m looking to Jesus though. His plan is better than mine even when it intersects with mine.

It’s not a straight line.

Eternity is close.

Shame, pain, heartache will be no more.

That’s what we’re told to live for. (I Peter 4:12-19.)

Better days are ahead, friend… and tThey’re beautiful.

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to know more about my parents and what they’re doing in Central Africa, click on this link. If you’d like to make a one-time or even better, recurring gift to keep them on the mission field and far from me, please, please, please do so. I support them financially every month. I love them. They’re on the front lines. I’m proud of them. They mean the world to me. Regardless of amount every little bit counts 🙂

https://donations.iphc.org/missionaries/kundael-mrema-support-account

When my mom is given an opportunity to share a word in churches in the U.S she always says, “Let’s go together. You can do so with your prayer and your finances. I believe on that day in heaven, we will receive the same crown. Those of us who went and those of you who sent us.”

 

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here’s a picture of my and parents after eating some fire Japanese food in Lake City, SC
If you read and enjoyed this, share it with a kid (or adult) whose parents are in ministry.

Got Plans? 

Got Plans? 

I’m tad bit OCD.

So to me, plans are a tad bit attractive.

I don’t just love planning; I love planning plans. Heck, I love planning plans to plan plans.

I see some nice plans and have to use my index finger to lower my shades to my nose and wink at them real quick. Dat plan. So organized, dotted points, crisp border, slick font, arrows, boxes and circles. I like all of dat.

Continue reading “Got Plans? “

wasted.

wasted.

 

Whenever someone prefaces a conversation with “I was playing video games for like 8 hours this Saturday,” or “I binged watched the whole first season of (insert favorite show here) on Netflix last night,” I normally ask them one thing.

Do you know what opportunity cost is?

Continue reading “wasted.”

IS THIS IT?

IS THIS IT?

Is This It?

Milestones.

I live for them.

Ever since I can remember, I labeled the value of my days, months, summers and holidays by what amazing thing was gonna happen.

The anticipation paired with the unknown sprinkled with ignorance always made for enjoyment.

Somewhere along the way, it would always dawn on me. Continue reading “IS THIS IT?”