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Category Archives: 40

When God Makes You Small To Show You His Grace

I dove into last Tuesday morning with a plan. I would think through my blogging. Take three hours the day my kids started school and fill in my Blog Planning Kit with the purposes I’ve been asking God to clarify for me.

But God had different plans. Same purpose. Different methods.

He wanted to remind me that small steps lead to huge purpose when it comes to His ways.

So I followed Him to the hospital where my grandpa-in-law would spend his last few days. He showed me through the Emergency Room and then up to Floor Two. Then down to Floor One. Then to the big, beautiful room reserved for Hospice and goodbyeing.

I followed God later to my grandma-in-law’s side. To my father- and mother-in-laws’ embrace. To my husband’s hand.

He showed me what love looks like for a couple married more than 70 years. The faithful hand stroking. The grieving concern.

The pain of life’s end.

God took me from my own plans and led me into His. He let me be part of the sacred moments and difficult doctor visits.Red heart leaf with grace

I am certain it was God’s grace alone that led me into that family. To know and love a grandpa who was not mine by blood. To play a relative’s role in the lives now mine by virtue of marriage.

Because I don’t know what to say and I talk when I’m nervous and I often ruin quiet moments with stupid things like, “Do you want some coffee?” and “Where’s the bathroom?”

And I know all I can do is just offer my presence, but it feels so small in the midst of this great big moment. The one that takes two days to sum up a 91-year-old man’s life, a 70 year marriage, a legacy of life and love and Navy stories and hand-carved walking sticks.

Even though I know it, my mouth won’t let it be and I talk when I shouldn’t and I say more stupid stuff.

And still they want me there.

And I am humbled because we all know I don’t deserve the honor.

Truth is, I don’t deserve this family God has blessed me with in my in-laws. Or the love we share even when nobody’s saying a word.

It’s all grace, Ann Voskamp is teaching me to sayEvery last ounce of everything I have is grace straight from God’s hand.

God’s undeserved gift in the form of a family with whom I share no genes. A family by whom I am amazingly loved.

 

p.s. I’m an affiliate for The Blog Planning Kit, so if you click on that link and decide you want to buy it, I’ll get to go to Starbucks. 🙂

The Call to Stay Small

I hadn’t planned it to be this way. But it seems I have for the most part taken the summer off from this cyber place. As it turned out, adjusting to life here in the land of excessive ease and beautiful muffins required more than I’d planned for. So I left the writing in this place take a sort of backseat while I loved on my kids and helped them re-acquaint themselves with friends and grandparents and the new kittens that live next door.

All the while, I’ve been praying about this space right here. The one I call home when I turn on my computer. Seeking God’s advice about where He might want it to go. How He might want to use it to help make Himself famous.

And I’ve been trying to figure out how to return. When to do it. What to write to re-introduce my writing, God’s prompting in my heart, the dreams I have for this small place I call home here in cyberland.

I mean, I haven’t written here in more than a month. It’s time to return.

So today when I saw Lisa-Jo’s 5-minute-Friday prompt word, it seemed like a perfect place to jump back in. I’ll write more next week, but today, I ask you to bear with me as I contemplate SMALL, in (a little more than) five small minutes.

Go:

I thought I wanted to be big. So I started this blog. Started writing and thinking and dreaming all big.

I chased dreams for the sake of their bigness, thinking huge and fame and glory.

But God wanted me small. So He could prove Himself big. He wanted to use me in small ways.

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I called it trying to make Him famous. And really that’s what I wanted. His glory. His Kingdom. Only by way of me.

I wanted to be a big part of His glory. He just wanted me to take the next small step.

He wanted to keep me small so I’d keep looking to Him.

I wanted to be like the famous bloggers who’ve made it big. The ones with the big platform and all the friends and the thousands of commenters every week.

Then it occurred to me I’d not really asked God. What was it He saw as big for me? What kinds of big things could I do.

So I started asking Him daily. On my face praying.

And I found out what He wanted. What He wants. For me. For my blog. For my every ounce of everything I do in the name of His fame and His glory.

Whether through a post on my blog or a conversation with the Walmart cashier.

He wants me small so I can show off His big.

He wants nothing more from me than to remember that He’s the One worth all the fame. He wants me to take the next step, however small it might be. And He wants me to do it really, really well.

Small blog? Do it well.

Tiny platform? Use it for Him.

Two commenters? Love them like He does.

He wants me to show Him to anyone. Everyone. By way of whoever He might put in my path.

To let my smallness point to Him in whatever ways He chooses.

STOP

 

*Over the next few weeks, you might notice some changes around here. Some will be big. Others will be small. But each one will be intentional. The main difference will be the focus of my writing. I want to do it well. I want to love you well. I want to encourage you and cheer you towards Jesus and the real life He gives. Might I ask you to pray? For this new focus. That God will use my small words for His huge fame. To encourage and love and help everyone who visits to live more fully.

Thank you so much!

See you next week.

Bria

 

In Which I Confess I’ve Not Yet Found My Footing

I wake up around 9am. It’s Thursday, July 4th, and I am home in my bed in Ohio.

A year has passed since my family and I spent our first holiday away from the normal of family surrounding us, cooking out with friends, watching fireworks, grilling hot dogs, eating watermelon and red-white-and-blue Jell-o molds.

It was on a Wednesday last year. My husband had to work. Because, strangely enough, Germans don’t call the 4th of July a holiday. They just treat it like any other day.

I felt a bit lost last year in the newness of that strange-to-us place, celebrating the birthday of my homeland from the other side of  the ocean.

But that pushed me into a plan. We made the most of our Americanness and celebrated with paper-made fireworks displays and a parade in our tiny German living room.

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Somehow, though, I feel lost this year too. Even though I am now safely Stateside. And the 4th of July has now passed in all its glory. Fireworks, friends, bbq’s and all.

It’s not that I don’t want to be here. I do.

I am so happy to be home. Continually amazed at the growth I’ve been able to see in both of my kids. Deep-in-my-heart encouraged by the mere gathering I get to do with other Jesus-followers now on a weekly basis. Sleeping on my own long-lost pillow in my very comfy king-sized bed.

I do want to be here. Right here at home.

But something is amiss. I can’t seem to find my footing. Can’t grab hold of the comfort and relief I thought I would feel the minute we stepped back into our home. Or at least by now, a whole month later.

We go shopping for a few things, and it hits me just how grumpy I am. How unsettled I still feel.

And I realize I am angry.

Angry at myself for taking so long to re-enter life here.

I try to figure the depth of the issues. The anger. The grumpy. I can think of only one solution.

The one I am fairly sure will not bring instant relief.

I pray.

I go back to this morning, and every one of the last 71 mornings, when I laid on my face and begged God to help me remember He’s Who is in charge. Plead with Him to help me trust His ways again today. Tell Him again I will follow if He will lead.

It’s become more than habit for me. More than just discipline.

Laying myself out before the God of my life has become my foundation.

The only piece of Rock my feet can seem to find. The only solid piece of anything from which I can find enough balance to even sort of stand up in this midst of the unexpected wobbling caused by this whole re-entry thing.

It sometimes feels like the only place that hasn’t changed since walking back into life over here is the laying on my face, wholeheartedly confessing my absolute need for God to walk me through the day that awaits me on other side of my bedroom door.

So many of you ask “Are you all settled in?” I love seeing you. And chatting. And hugging you.

I want to say “yes! We are so glad to be back. I so badly want to tell you how our lives are changed forever. I want to invite you over to my completely settled home, free of all the clutter we threw out after our year of not needing any of it.

But the truth – oh the truth — holds me back.

Because I am nowhere near being settled. My heart is stuck somewhere between Bayreuth, Germany and Northeast Ohio. Iceland, perhaps?

And I feel like a total Drama Queen for it.

Because, really, isn’t a year long enough? Isn’t twelve months an ample amount of time for unsettled and moving and figuring out how to be and who to be? Honestly, nobody wants to hear more drama.

Not even me.

So here is where I tell you how dear you are to me. And I ask you for even more grace than you all have already given as I figure out how to be me, all changed and upgraded by the uncomfortable and awesome or our year abroad.

In the meantime, I will keep waiting for the God of all I am and all I know to show up and point me in the way I should go.

 

 

 

 

Random Thoughts and Twenty-Four Days

I haven’t been here in exactly one week. I’m back today with a few quick thoughts that don’t feel quick because of the overwhelmed they make me feel.

  • I counted the days again yesterday. In 24 days we will be ready to land in our home country on the other side of the great Atlantic Ocean. Ten of those days will not be here. Next week we’ll be at the beach in Italy (!!) and (:>). The week after that I will travel with my kids for two days to another part of Germany to visit a friend.
  • Suddenly I’m faced with the reality of fifteen days left in this beautiful place we’ve called home for a year, and I don’t quite know how to process that fact.
  • I want to buy gifts for all of my friends. Both here and there. And for everyone I know at home who has any connection to this Land of the Deutsch, because they’ve been here with me in my spirit all year.
  • Shopping feels like therapy.
  • You might think the two previous facts combined would lead to some sort of resolution. However, the overwhelmed saturated brain waves will not allow it. Thus, I am faced with a constant feeling of nausea every time I find something I might want to get for — well, anyone — and try to think if it’s good enough, if they’ll like it, if I should buy it. The answer is always “I don’t know.” So it ends with me returning the thing to the rack before finding something for myself, like the ten Euro shirt I just found. Because I know I will like that. And I don’t have to worry if it’s special enough. Even though I probably don’t need it. And my eleven-year-old will no doubt point that out. And I know I’m teaching her bad habits when I lose myself in such pointless retail-therapy. So I pay and walk out and feel even more overwhelmed because I still want to buy gifts for those special people at home. But I don’t know what to get. So I go find a croissant and a cappuccino and sit down with my notepad so I can make a list. Only the list turns into doodles of overwhelmed.
  • I cleaned out my closet and filled a huge bag with clothes I don’t wear. Now I need to figure out where to take it. so we don’t have to pay to move it back home.
  • Yesterday, I started an 8-week Bible study by Katie Orr and Lara Williams called Love Like Him. Because I’ve been realizing lately how much I don’t really do that — love like Jesus. And how much I need Him to love through all my ugly cracks that make me oh-so-weak.
  • I believe God is using His Word to make me more like Him. More of the loving like He does. Less self-absorbed.
  • God used my friend, Sundi-Jo to help me realize how much I need to learn what it means to walk in the Spirit if I have any chance at all of loving like that.
  • She wrote a book about how God took all her horrible brokenness and turned into this beautiful masterpiece of a woman who loves just like He does. It’s called Dear Dad: Did You Know I was a Princess. I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for the last week. It’s totally worth the read. You will not be disappointed.
  • Last night we went to our oldest daughter’s goodbye-party, which her class gave her. We wandered through the mountains. Literally, over two mountains. For two-and-a-half hours. And ended up at a restaurant/brewery in the middle of nowhere, Germany where we ate some really amazing Bavarian food. I took some video footage. Look for it soon on my facebook page.
  • I have many, many thoughts flying aimlessly through my head. (I’m guessing you can sense that?)
  • I am finding it difficult to express those thoughts. Thus the randomness of this post.
  • I could use a little help getting out of this tunnel of swarming randomness. Can you help? Just answer me this:m How are things in your world? 

How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work (Pt 2)

Yesterday I started to tell you the story of the landlords who turned into our friends. Even though we shared very few of the same kinds of words. One word we did understand was “Scheist.” Only, I’ve since learned, thanks to one of my beautifully awesome German friends, that I can’t even cuss correctly in German. For the word is actually “Scheisse.” But, well, you get the drift. You can read that post here to catch up.

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We showed up at 3, because I did my math and figured out what 15:00 meant in German. (Who knew Germany would help strengthen my math skills?)

We brought gifts for each of them. So they would remember. So they could know how special they will always be to our family. What an integral part of our time here they were. Even if only for those first few months.

She made two cakes and coffee. I learned the name of the bundt-cake looking thing, but I’ve forgotten already. So you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it was beautiful.  But the one with the strawberries and the cream and the almonds – that’s the one I chose.

They offered coffee and tea and water and beer. We offered our friendship and support in the form of sitting with them at their outside table, on the top of a mountain in Northern Bavaria. Our Deutsch a bit better, we conversed a little and laughed a lot.

Still, there was so much we could not say. So many words I wanted to share. So many questions like how long? What happened? When did they find the tumor that now grows inside of her brain?

I honestly did not expect her to look so good. I had even prepared my children for the way she might look. The sick she might portray.

We had prayed before we went there. Prayed for healing, of course. And for Jesus to shine through the words we did not know.

Somehow not knowing the language freed us up to just sit and not feel like we had to say things we wouldn’t have known how to express anyway.

I’ve been with dying people before and felt this guilt for not saying what I think they need to hear. Because I have no idea what they need. No idea what I could possibly say that might help them as they deal with inoperable cancer, impending death.

But this time, my reason for silence had nothing to do with choice. I literally did not know the words.

And somehow that helped me just enjoy our German friends’ company. Just talk about what we could. Say words we could actually communicate. Laugh with them and enjoy the sunshine we sat under.

When we gave her the scarf, she broke down and cried. I wanted so badly to let her know we were praying. To talk about her fears. To say something profound that would point her to Jesus and let her know death doesn’t have to be scary.

But all I could do was sit there. Pray silently that somehow in the void of my word-less company, God would speak. That He might point to Himself. Pull her into His peace.

We sat there and watched. And she cried. And our hearts poured out in the form of love we could not put into words. We didn’t even try to put it into words.

I did say what likely sounded something like “You so special us to. We pray.”

Then I shut my mouth because, really my wordlessness was better.

And what’s the difference between a foreign-speaking German who is dying and a native American who understands my every word? I mean, what do you say to anyone who faces such numbered days? Even if I spoke fluent German, what the heck would I say?

I tend to believe words would not have worked whether in English or Deutsch or Mandarin Chinese.

The conversation turned to kangaroos. (Because, really, doesn’t every afternoon Sunday visit include such topics?) And we decided together to take a drive to find the kangaroos that live in the middle of Bavaria. “Only 10 minutes’ drive.” He assured us.

The adventure that ensued will someday be another blog post, no doubt.

But love grew more clear as we drove those back German roads to Pottenstein and Gossweinstein, me in the driver’s seat, our German-speaking friend driving from the back shouting “left, no right” in his Franconian-dialected German. Our friendship no doubt deepened in those hours together. The words left unsaid spoke more clearly than the thousands of German words I do not know.

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When we said goodbye later, she broke down again. I hugged her and told her “We pray. You special.” And she spoke about the living she will do in these days. I did not understand any but one of the words.

“Schwer.”

It means heavy. Difficult. Hard.

I agreed.

So, so schwer. In so many ways.

How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work

Eleven months ago, we landed in Germany and set up camp in a local hotel.  No place to call home, we quickly found a place, but it was occupied until the end of August. We needed a summer dwelling.

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That’s how we ended up on top of the mountain in a tiny place called Heroldsburg. Population approximately 100. That grew to 104 the day we moved in.

We lived in an apartment above an amazing couple who took us in like family.

She spoke no English. He knew a little. So when they invited us to the Johannis Feuer approximately six days after we arrived, we figured that would be the end of a short-lived friendship. We thought the language-barrier would necessitate a mere landlord/tenant kind of deal.

We were wrong.

All summer long, they kept inviting our company. Kaffee und Kuchen at least once a week. Grillen und Trinken more than a few times. (Translation: amazing grilled brats and steaks and drinks — water, beer, apple juice, lemonade, whatever you want.)

When my youngest turned eight on the first of August, we invited them up for her birthday meal. They gave her a gift and a card and a hug.

They treated us like family, even though different languages forces us to  leave so much unsaid. We could use our words to communicate little.

Our lives became our voices.

We learned that he had an older son who lived far away.

We found out she’d had a brain tumor that had been removed several years ago. It rendered her unable to drive. So she took the one-hour bus-ride to the city for work.

We met their extended family who lived atop the little mountain as well. They shared their garden and didn’t let me only take a little when I helped tend it one evening. Zucchini. Black green beans. (They were green beans, only black.) Potatoes. Oh, the potatoes!

We called each other friends. Then we moved to the city after three months’ time.

We exchanged phone numbers, birthday dates (birthdays in Germany are a really big deal), and email addresses. But, really, how do you call someone whose words you can’t really understand?

So when I passed him in the city-center last week, I greeted him with a huge hug. We had lost touch by virtue of the language-barrier that rendered us un-phonable.

“We must visit you before we leave!” I said in my thick American accent.

“Sunday!” He said. “Fifteen o’clock.” (Because they keep time like the army here in this land of the Deutsch. It means math in my head, but I’m starting to get it.)

“And how are you?” I wanted to know.

He answered with news that made my heart sink down low. Karin has another tumor. This one’s inoperable. They can only try with radiation to make it go away. He told all about it. Details I did not understand. And not just because he delivered them in German.

And then he said the word we knew was one of his favorites. He’d said it a lot when we lived near.

“Sheist!”

And all I could do was say the same. Because sometimes the only word you can say is the one you never do.

There is more to this story. So much more I have to tell you. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow. For I fear this post is turning into a book. See you then!

40

I got to chat with one of my favorite friends last night on facebook. She asked me how many days now. How many days until I’m home sitting in her house eating tacos and drinking coffee. (First tacos. Then coffee. Or vice-versa. But not tacos with coffee. Just to be clear.)

I knew it was two days less than six weeks. So I did the math. It took a minute. Math has never been my strong point.

Forty. I realized last night that I have forty days left.

So I typed it out for her and we both said how spiritual that sounds. And Third Day started singing in my head, and now I can’t get it out.

I did a quick google on the significance of forty, and learned some interesting things. For example, forty is the only number word in which the letters are presented alphabetically. How cool is that? Also, how crazy is it that someone figured that out?

But I was thinking more along the lines of 40 days in the Bible. Like how Jesus was in the desert, fasting for 40 days. Or how it rained on Noah and his family in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights.

So I narrowed my search a bit and found this list that reminded me of so many different times the number shows up all through Scripture. I learned that God used the number to represent periods of judgment or testing.

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But I was kind of looking for stories that took forty days to unfold.

Then I saw Exodus 24 on the list and learned that it took God forty days to give Moses the plans for His tabernacle. Moses was up on top of a mountain alone with God for 40 days, learning how to build God’s home for, you guessed it, the 40 years it would take them to get to the Promised Land.

So, I was thinking, what if these next 40 days are like my mountain time alone with God? No, I’m not gonna’ go find Maria and camp out on top of an Alp until June 6. (As awesome as that would be.)

But what if God wants to get me alone and teach me more of Him for the next 40 days? What if He just wants me to shut up and listen to Him in the quiet of rightnow before I get back to my life on the other side of the world?

What if, for the next forty days, I just shut up and look for what He might be using to prepare me for whatever’s next. What if I give up the platform-building and the seeking fame as a writer and the doing my best to present myself as a social-media performer? And what if I just listen. For forty straight days?

It’s a little bit scary because what if my blog falls apart in my focus switch? Or what if you all get bored with whatever it is that shows up here in this little land called briannaRwasson(dot)com?

I’m gonna’ try it anyway.

And, while I realize that you are probably not at the end of some across-the-world journey that has a mere 40 days left, I invite you to join me in the quiet. Forty days of zero fame-seeking, platform-building, plan-making or jumping ahead of God trying to figure out on my own what’s best for this thing called my life. And I’m going to just listen.

I’ve started by looking for what might be hiding inside a certain Psalm I’ve been recently intrigued with. I’m going to ask Him to show me all its treasures. Gonna’ beg Him to help me know Him so well I can’t help but be madly in love with Him.  Pray for Him to prepare me for whatever waits for me at home.

And I’ll check in here time and again. I hope you will too.  It’s kind of weird because I don’t know exactly what it will look like. If you subscribe, though, you won’t miss any updates.

Happy 40 days, my friends.