Category Archives: Love Where You ARE <3

Wide open spaces <3

One of the things I love about the Midwest is way the land spreads out wide and far.

Russ and I talk from time to time about what it would be like to live in other parts of the country and the other day he asked me if I would like to live in the mountains.

I told him I would probably enjoy living where I could see mountains…but in them…not so much.

I don’t like feeling crowded and closed in.

So today when I was working on my Psalm 34 material, I was delighted to hear in the video portion about how the word “troubles” has a meaning beyond what I would characterize the word to connote.

In verse 5 David describes a poor man who cries out to God and He listened to Him and delivered this one from all of his troubles.

Lisa Wagner explained in her video how this word troubles can mean situations and circumstances that are trials, but also means in a tight and narrow place.

Kind of like you are squeezed and confined.

Oh…I get that.

For me, I feel it mostly in my schedule.

I have way more ideas of things I want to do…tasks I need to do…and demands and requests and service to others…than an ordinary 24 hour day will accommodate.

I have a Disney World wish list of accomplishments and a trip to the grocery store amount of time to complete them.

On the daily.

And it hems me in and pinches me and makes me cranky.

Because no matter how much I get done, there was so much more I wanted to do.

Even as I type that, my throat is constricting like it does when I want to have a big old, melt down, ranting cry.

All the things I do are for the good of the Kingdom…but so were all the dreams I didn’t get to.

And in that tension of restricted time and space…I often err on the side of just crying…instead of crying out to God.

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I can’t say no to most of what I do.

I can’t add hours to my day.

But I can cry out to the God who both hears AND listens…and who has the power to deliver ME and my meltdown tendencies from going off on someone or self-talking myself into a state of depression or whatever else ungodly behaviors can crop up when I am stressed out…and He can deliver me through it to accomplish in peace and contentment whatever was the dream of His for my day…and then….

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He pours into me what I will need for tomorrow.

How about you?

What is your tight and narrow place today?

Will you cry out to your Abba Father and ask Him to help you get through it with grace and peace and fruit?

 

Commemoration Week 2018 Tuesday <3

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Our move up north of town has put us on the edge of the fields that surround our city and I don’t mind one little bit. 

I love watching the seasons change the landscape as we drive or walk or bike around the area. 

I also love the fact that the crops and the weather give me half a shot at making small talk because as many words as I manage to tap out on these keys or yak at family and close friends, I pretty much stink at small talk. 

So I can talk about the heat and humidity or the cold and humidity…and make some lame observation about the condition of the crops and I’m good for a few minutes of chit chat. 

Recently I was talking to a close friend who happens to also be a farmer and so even though I don’t struggle with small talk with him, I do try to mention something I have noticed about the corn and soy beans or harvest during those seasons because I know that is his passion.

I mentioned to him how we had been noticing the beans were crazy tall this year and I wondered if this was something new. 

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He said they do it some years, depending on the conditions and I asked if that was good and he responded not necessarily. 

And then he said this ….

We aren’t trying to grow leaves, we are trying to grow beans. 

He pointed out that sometimes the plants can put all their energy into the foliage and the beans suffer. 

Wow. 

I have mulled that over for a couple of weeks now because it preaches. 

It’s what Commemoration Week is all about. 

Because I can get pretty caught up in spending a fair amount of energy on stuff that boils down to producing a lot of green leaves…and neglect the nourishment needed for the beans..the fruit…the outcome…the whole point of why I follow Christ. 

He has called me out of the darkness and into His Light and sometimes I forget that all that I have is because of Him.

Last night I did my first deep read through of Exodus 12-14, just like I do every year at this time. 

I read it in my old pink flowered Women’s Devotional Bible that Russ gave me back on March 28, 1996.

The one that is marked up from front to back and stained with tears and coffee and notes and pictures of our three…and the children of two dear friends who prayed for ours as I prayed for theirs. 

Happens one of those families and one of those pictures is our son-in-law Zach’s. 

So today a prayer of gratitude for the remembrance of what God has given us over these years here in our community.

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Heavenly Father, as I read through the notes from sermons or things You showed me in my quiet time, I thank You for Your faithfulness.

All my childhood, I wanted roots that went deep. 

I wanted to know people for longer than a few years before we moved on. And here I hold in my hands the legacy of Your Word woven into the gift of longevity in our journey.

You have let us grow up and grow older with a group of people who love You and have shaped the story of our lives. 

I have learned (and I sense You may have chuckled a time or two over this) that there is a different kind of challenge that comes with lifelong friendships held fast by a shared community.

I have learned that some of those friendships don’t survive, because a distance can grow that doesn’t involve moving physically. 

And I have learned how painful that is. But I have also learned that You were serious about that pruning parable and You know best what is spent too much on leaves when You are in the business of helping us bear fruit.

So I thank You, Father God, for the history of love  and the gift of so many friends who are family and then family who are friends. 

You have done well for us and given us great joy and I am so thankful. 

Help us to live with wide-open hands and hearts as we move farther along. 

Your faithfulness and kindness are a testimony of Your goodness and love for us and we are so grateful. 

Amen <3

Day 4: Souvenirs from the Journey….Cuba 2018 <3

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Yesterday I ran errands, stopping at the grocery and Target to pick up a prescription and purchase some ingredients for a special birthday snack for Sweet Caroline’s party on Sunday. 

If you think that is all I walked out of the stores with, you would be sadly mistaken. 

I also picked up a patriotic romper set for little Miss Thing…in two sizes just to make sure.

Plus I got some Dove dark chocolate, several options for the snack, colorful plastic spoons for the guests to use, a new color of nail polish, some sunscreen and a little something for John’s birthday bag. 

And even as I did this pretty normal running of errands, I had another image of our time in Cuba superimposed on my life.

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Because daily life for our new friends…just like for the Maasai…and the people we met years ago outside Monterey, Mexico…is so very different from the paths I walk every day. 

And often in my every day, their shadows are cast across the places my well cared for feet take me.

With all that we vocally rant about that is wrong with this country we call home, we really have no idea how much freedom we have grown accustomed to. 

Freedom that fosters a sense of entitlement. 

Because you can pretty much believe if I couldn’t have found the miniature Swedish fish and blue raspberry jello I need to make my creations, I would have been extremely vexed. 

And I may as well confess, I was kind of bummed they didn’t have the large size boxes of jello and I had to buy four small. 

Because I am spoiled. 

I am privileged and I am rarely even aware of it.

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I take for granted that if I can’t find what I want in a store, I can order it online and have it here in a matter of days.

Without getting all political and showing my ignorance, I am going to make an observation of what I saw on our trip.

I saw that under the governing bodies of Cuba, no one goes without food…but choices are limited and sometimes unavailable or off limits. 

For instance, we were told that all cattle is government owned and the meat cannot be purchased or taken by citizens except when made available and served in the restaurants. 

Which are also government owned.

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And so I had a tactful conversation with one of our translators one day about acquiring food and such and he gave me an example of eggs. 

He said his three sons love eggs, but sometimes it is weeks before his wife is able to find a place that has them for sale. 

Yes, they have other things to eat. 

But imagine going to the store day after day to purchase something as basic as eggs and being told there are none. 

As God would have it to drive the point home for me, the morning we were scheduled for an early bus pickup to head to the beach…the kitchen at our bed and breakfast was running a little behind on getting the food out. 

She asked if we had time for them to scramble our eggs…which we had eaten every morning…and it was decided we would skip the eggs. 

Because we can eat eggs anytime, right?

My internal flesh nature may have died a slow and agonizing death as I thought of how much we have and of a family of boys who would have been in poultry heaven if they could have partaken of what we took a pass on that day. 

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And of course, us eating those eggs wouldn’t have helped them at all.

It is this helpless watching that pierces the heart.

With privilege comes responsibility. 

To use the spheres of influence and resources we have been given to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

It is our burden to remain unaffected by our plenty and to echo Paul…I have learned to be content … with much or little…whether hungry or well-fed.

It is only with Christ that we can know true contentment. 

It is only with Christ we can remain unspoiled by the excess we have available to us.

In plenty, in want.

Under whatever government system …

in persecution or in freedom…

under the thumb of a government or the stranglehold of a culture…

to know…

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That He alone is our all in all. 

Day 3: Souvenirs from the Journey… Cuba 2018

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Good morning! 

I am so glad you came back <3

Today I am hoping to use my words to share about the dinner we got to eat in the home of royalty in Cuba.

Two of the nights, our people from First Christian were divided into smaller groups of four or five and assigned a home for dinner and fellowship. 

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Our hostess the first night couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen.

And yes…she was of the royal line of King David…assuredly a daughter of the King. 

Dressed in a t-shirt and gathered skirt, her sandaled feet led us down the narrow streets and sidewalks for the long trek to her home.

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She was constantly checking on us to make sure we were aware of puddles or muck since it had just rained. 

At one of the zillion look-a-like doors in this city, she motioned us in to the home she shares with her grandparents and parents. 

After introductions and the inevitable cheek kissing from her abuela, Melissa led us through a labyrinth of halls and courtyards until finally we entered a kitchen about the size of one found in a small apartment.

Tables had been squeezed into the small space and yet as her own youth group began showing up, it became evident we would need more place settings. 

Her fiancee and one of the young men from the church went in search of another table and soon we were all pressing against the walls as they attempted to absorb more furniture into this already packed area. 

Imagine one of those large corner banquet tables in a restaurant except you are eating in an elevator and you might get the picture. 

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As more plates were gathered, our hostess stood at the head of the table and asked a question I am quite certain I have never been asked at any dinner party.

Ever.

She wanted to know if we wanted to share our testimonies before we ate or after.

What?

Considering the language barrier with only three bi-lingual attendees to help us with this task, let alone I am not even sure I have shared my testimony with some of my closest friends, I looked around the table to see if anyone else was in shock…only to see the eager faces of five teenaged Cubans nodding their heads in excitement to share testimonies. 

And so we began. 

One by one…alternating Americans and Cubans…and we shared our testimonies. 

The deepest and most sacred story for each of us…shared openly around this table. 

After dinner, it was suggested we sing one of our praise songs. 

Note to self…learn some praise songs by heart, Laura.

You would have thought I had learned my lesson several years ago in Kenya when we were asked to sing one of our favorite songs and the only one we could come with was “Jesus Loves Me’ …. and not the cool new version, by the way.

Our lack of musical ability proved no deterrent to our princess tho, as she and her fiancee had prepared a couple of songs for us. 

And so we sat, humbled beyond words, in the stifling small kitchen that had turned into a holy sanctuary as he strummed a Fender and she worshipped the Lord on our behalf. 

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The next day she found me at the church and wanted me to know she had left gifts for us at one of the houses. 

A handmade bracelet of white thread…carefully wrapped with a loving personal note. 

Russ..me…all those in our group…received one. 

She who gave so much…gave one more gift of love….thanking US for coming to her home <3

This is one of those times I feel my words have failed me.

Like my ineptness to offer a song that night, I find it difficult to capture the simple gift of hospitality we received on our trip. 

I love to have friends in our home, but I fuss over the menu…the place settings…everything matching…fretting over the mismatched chairs around the table. 

I hang my head as I type and I ask God to give me the kind of heart that was given so freely and lovingly to us that night. 

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Day 2: Souvenirs from the Journey….Cuba 2018

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A common question on our return has been about what we did in Cuba. What our “ministry” focus was. 

I typically answer this with more of a deer in the headlight look than normal. 

The question catches me off guard. It probably has to do with my own expectations about mission trips. In my mind, missions and missionaries are going out into unchurched areas and spreading the Gospel…the Good News. 

And that would be an unmerited narrow view of missions. 

Paul went on missionary journeys that sometimes were just to visit churches and encourage them. 

And that is what we did. 

Oh yes, we took all manner of equipment. 

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Our bubbly director of children’s ministry at First Christian loaded a couple of suitcases full of all that was needed to resource a full-fledged American VBS.

The men took a micro version of Lowe’s in their luggage.

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By day we checked off some needed repairs and maintenance around the church and by night we ran a couple of programs for the children. 

But overall we sat alongside our brothers and sisters and worshipped Jesus. 

We got fed full of the Gospel ourselves.

We got loved on and prayed over…renewed…refreshed. 

And we love and prayed and gave back. 

Like Paul and his beloved Thessalonians, we came from a country where it isn’t cool to be a Christ-follower to a place where it is dangerous to be so to visit our family. 

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We gathered together in the church and in homes and we experienced that beautiful truth that the Church is governed by One God…who died for us. 

Who took our place. 

Who bore our sins. 

Who will come again one day and make all things right. 

“But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.”   1 Thessalonians 3: 6-8

We got to be a Timothy and we are forever grateful. 

Dear friends, the Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well in Cuba and our joy overflows. 

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So where are you feeling discouraged today in your faith? 

Stand firm. 

Hold fast.

YOU remaining faithful under hardship and trial is an encouragement to others. 

My prayer today is…

Heavenly Father,

 Your word assures us that we are not going through any furnace of trial without your loving Presence near us.

No matter the circumstances surrounding us, we have Immanuel…God WITH us.

Oh Father, would you make Your Presence known in tangible ways to Your dear children today in the signs and  language they each understand.

Thank you Jesus for being our constant companion and for going before us and making the way for us through Your own suffering in our place.

Padre te adoramos.

Jesus te adoramos

Espíritu Santo te adoramos

Amen <3