Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

This past week my friend, Lilibeth, and I sat at the kitchen table. It was Monday morning and we  lingered a little longer over our oatmeal cookies and cups of strong black coffee as we chatted about our weekend. It is often during these times that I realize how different our lives are in so many ways. I told her about a Skype conversation I had with my mum in N.Ireland. She, on the other hand, shared with me her concern over the two rivers getting deeper. These are rivers she has to cross each day to get to her house. Rainy season has arrived and she wondered if her kids would be able to walk to school the next day or if they would get too wet. We topped up our cups and her eyes brightened as she remembered something else she wanted to tell me. That weekend, she explains, her husband, kids and some other families had gone to the beach to look for “ulam” – something to eat with their rice for dinner. Instead of getting just a few fish, as is often the case, they had pulled in a large catch of fish. Enough for her family, the other families with them, and even she added, enough for her husband to dry some and possibly sell it in the next town! Her eyes were dancing as she told me in great detail how the whole afternoon had played out and I felt like I was standing there beside her, on the beach, feeling all her excitement to see so many fish in the net. Then she quietly set her cup down on the table and I noticed her eyes had welled with tears. She cleared her throat and told me that actually the most memorable moment for her that afternoon was due to one young teenage boy who had come with them. She blinked back the tears as she recalled that as the rest of the group were planning how they would cook the fish, he had stood in the middle of them saying; “It is the grace of God, only for the grace of God that we have anything, He is so good to us.”  She confessed that immediately it had touched her heart as she listened to his declaration of gratitude to God for meeting their needs.  It convicted her instantly because it hadn’t been her first reaction to the fish that day, but in response to the young man’s words she, too, had stopped to thank the Lord for His grace and His daily provision for each of them. As she wiped away a tear (and I soon followed suit) our lives were once again intertwined with the grace of God. We sat together as two sisters in Christ, humbled and grateful, as we realized (yet again) how good our Heavenly Father is to us, day in and day out. We also recognized instantly our own weaknesses in that too often we forget to pay attention to His grace and all His many gifts. We are more inclined at times to stare at the needs, glare at the wants, the struggles, the fears and we let our minds dwell there, instead of gazing into the face of Jesus.

Lilibeth in front of her house. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” 

It has been over a week since our conversation that morning and yet I have thought about it many times since. It brings a certain clarity to my mind, hope to my heart and a renewed vision for what our purpose is while we minister to the people around us and all over the world. Jesus. Making the name of Jesus known to the nations, to the community, to our neighbors and our families. Sure, we can (and should) provide for certain needs, help families in crisis and make ourselves available to how the Lord would use our lives in any practical way, for the sake of the gospel. Not to help me feel better about myself by being seen as useful, not even for the sake of the one who needs the help necessarily, but for our dear Lord Jesus Christ; the One who died for this world to bring reconciliation between a sinful soul (like me) and a righteous God, our Creator.
There have been times here in the village that I have fallen flat on my face in responding to the needs around me. Sometimes I have stepped back altogether just because I felt overwhelmed with not knowing the right thing to do. The “right thing to do” in the light of pleasing people, can be an exhausting thing to chase (believe me I have chased this target one too many times.) But, in moments like listening to my friend, Lilibeth, share this simple story, the ultimate target is so clear; lead people to the Source. The Only One who can ever meet any and every need as He so desires and wills; our dear Lord Jesus.
Our all-knowing God saw those families gathered on the beach last week. I don’t know if even one of them prayed for their needs that day, but either way God filled their bags with fish. However, due to one teenager giving thanks to His Heavenly Father, God filled their hearts with His grace and their mouths with His praise. He turned a moment of need into a day of celebration and thanksgiving. Living our days out in light of the gospel transforms our everyday lives into scared moments of fellowship with the God of this world. Amazing!

I have read these lines from a poem by Mary Oliver a few times in the past month.
“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

Psalm 71:8
‘Let my mouth be filled with Thy praise and with Thy honor all the day long.”

My conversation with Lilibeth has reminded me, afresh, this week, (and boy did I need it) to simply pay attention to all that God is doing, and not just in my life, but in the lives of others, too. There is much we will be astonished about when we seek Him with all our hearts. The events of our days are not just coincidences, luck, or the outcome of “being fortunate.”  No, each day and moment of our lives are held in the loving Hands of our Heavenly Father who daily bestows gifts on His children. These are not always gifts this world may cherish, but gifts of love, joy and peace give us the opportunity to turn any of our circumstances into days of celebration and thanksgiving. When we pay attention to Him and seek to make the name of Jesus known to those around us, we will see His grace upon grace over and over again. It has come as a timely reminder to me this month (when I have probably grumbled my fair share over broken generators and murky tap water) that when we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in the goodness of God; it protects us from getting so wrapped up in ourselves, our problems, our wants, and our lives.

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…”

The young man on the beach last week was paying attention to his Maker. He was astonished at all that God had done for him as he held a bag of fish, and then he told others about it. I know his faithful example drew my heart to dwell on the goodness of God, and so naturally, I had to tell about it too.

Grateful for His Grace,
Philippa.

Picnic in the jungle. 
Lilibeth and I. 
Danny bought me some new plants. 🙂
Teacups in the jungle.

2 thoughts on “"All is Grace."

  1. Deb says:

    I am continually amazed at how God uses your writings in my own life in such a timely fashion. I have allowed myself to become burdened down with life's concerns – many are legitimate and heavy – but they narrow my focus down to me and take my focus completely off of the Lord. It's a delicate balance, I think, to want to care for others, serve them, minister to them, and yet not get sucked into the sin of worry and anxiety over their situations (or our own, for that matter). I do not praise God for my “bag of fish”. Philippa, you have a way of distilling things down to their simplest form and once again, I am grateful that God has gifted you in this way.

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  2. Dear Debbie, you are a constant encourager to me here on my little blog. I often fail to publish the posts I write because I feel they are too simple or stuff everybody already knows so why write it out. But, for myself, I know I need constant reminders and the Lord often uses small everyday things to remind me of the truths He is teaching me from in His Word. Thank you for your words here today. Miss you all. Love Philippa.

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