Sunday, November 21, 2010


Where does the time go? It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a few days away, that Christmas is just around the corner, and that another year is quickly drawing to a close. Yet once again it is that time of year when we pause to count our blessings. As I begin my 2010 list of thanks, I find myself pondering exactly what it means to be grateful. After looking up the word in the dictionary and tossing around ideas of how others might define it, I'm going to function from the following definition that I have crafted from my brainstorming and research:

grateful - adj. - deeply and abidingly appreciative and thankful to God for His deliverance and His blessing

God has abundantly and extravagantly blessed me:
  • With a biological family that loves and supports me - my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the precious grandparents who touched my life for such a very short time before they went home ahead of me. In some shape or fashion they all helped raise me in the way that I should go, then they set me free to wander, to stray, to struggle, and to return, rejoicing and suffering with me, all the while understanding that I belong to God and His plan for my life is perfect.
  • With a spiritual family that was in place before I ever knew I needed one or cared whether or not I had one, and remains in place, lifting me up at times and in ways of which I am totally unaware - First Presbyterian, Calvary Baptist, and First Baptist Churches, Ware Shoals, SC; the Baptist Student Union at Wofford College; Westminster Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC; First Presbyterian Churches of Huntington, WV, Jefferson City, MO, and Sumter, SC, First Scots Presbyterian Church, Charleston, SC, Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church, Quarryville, PA; the Presbyterian Churches of Peru in Iquitos, Santa Clara, Nuevo Valentin, Gallito, Quistacocha, Santo Tomas, Tamshiyacu, and Santa Maria. These individual fellowships, for me, form one body that, past, present, and future, surround me with grace and mercy.
  • With an opportunity to work and serve on two continents, in two countries, using two languages, living in two cultures, thus multiplying both my trials and my rewards. But without the first, what good, really, is the latter?
  • With a foreign family - Edgardo Villa, Margarita Diaz, Ina Lopez, Maria Lopez, Maria Helmi, Jorge and Martha Foinquinos, German and Enith Rios, Clever and Reina Rengifo, Guillermo and Graciela Flores, Edward and Soila Huaman, Rony and Maria Pilco, Ricardo and Lupe Jara. These and countless other Peruvians open their hearts, homes, and respective families to me, taking me in as the lone white person among the brown people, and loving me as one of their own, proving day after day, minute by minute that genuine love is blind and in Christ we are all one.
  • With one man - Collins McCraw - who loves me more than I deserve to be loved by another human being. He turned my life upside down back in January and started us down a path toward unconditional love and lifetime commitment. He comes alongside me and joins me in a mutual pursuit of the God who made us and saves us. God has chosen him to be the answer to and ultimate fulfillment of thirteen years of my heart's cry for a mate. This relationship has not been easy and has come with a great price and significant sacrifice, making it all the more valuable. It is not difficult to submit myself to the man who has already, in so many ways, laid down his life for mine.

    I thank God for all of this and so much more. I am especially grateful for the many trials and tribulations of this year, and 2010 has had more than its fair share of them. Yes, I know it sounds strange to make such a statement and I even find myself looking at the previous sentence and wondering who in their right mind could say that. Yet it's only in the tough times that deliverance can be experienced. I have learned so much more about who I am, but more importantly about who God is. The refiner's fire is painful, no doubt, but there is also no denying the beauty that is a result of the burn.

    I have been delivered and I have been blessed, and for this I am deeply and abidingly appreciative and thankful to God.

Recommended Reading

  • The Bible
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open - Doing Short Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence - David A. Livermore
  • Cross-Cultural Servanthood - Serving the World in Christlike Humility - Duane Elmer
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) - Robert D. Lupton
  • When Helping Hurts-Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself - Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
  • Shadow of the Almighty - Elizabeth Elliot
  • Messy Spirituality - Michael Yaconelli
  • The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
  • Peace Child - Don Richardson
  • If God Should Choose - Kristen Stagg
  • In the Presence of My Enemies - Gracia Burnham
  • Inside Afghanistan - John Weaver
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore
  • Through Gates of Splendor - Elizabeth Elliot
  • End of the Spear - Steve Saint