Thursday, January 27, 2011

Patience: It's a Fruit!

I have this friend from Bible college who is sweet and cute and an all-around godly woman.  I can't really picture her in a fit of impatience that wouldn't in some way still leave you feeling that the encounter was generally pleasant.  One day, I don't remember the occasion, she exclaimed in a playful admonition, "Patience: It's a fruit!"  After so many years I can't remember if that was something she regularly said or if it was a single moment of witty wisdom, but it has stuck with me ever since.  Quite often when I am pondering patience, or my lack of it, or if I have encountered a particularly frustrating moment, her clear, bubbly voice interjects..."Patience: It's a fruit!"

As far as the fruits of the Spirit go, patience is not at the top of the list of things I'm particularly good at.  I told Andrew the other day in a fit of frustration towards him (um, yeah, we don't have a perfect marriage, but don't tell anyone :)) "You have squeezed my patience fruit dry today!"  But the truth is that I let a lot of people and too many situations juice my patience fruit. 

Recently when I was checking out at Sam's Club with Andrew we slipped into what appeared to be the shortest line feeling the sort of secret victory you feel when you find these sorts of lines, but, appearances are deceiving and we were there for awhile. Somehow I have a knack for choosing the checkout lines that take the longest amount of time with the fewest people!  I've come to the conclusion that it must be one of the many tactics that God is using to work out patience in my always frustrates me (I'm obviously not taking the fast-track to sanctification).

Some other areas in which my patience fruit is put through the wringer: dealing with sales people and some city employees, when things don't go according to my plans, any situation that does not make logical sense, when people walk slowly in front of me or stop in the middle of the isle at the store and block the path, people who drive like they are dumb or drunk, when I have to repeat myself, anything that wastes my time, people who talk and talk and say nothing meaningful, Subway workers who try to get ahead on sandwiches and ask you what you want on your sandwich before you even reach their section...this list goes on.

Today I gave a friend some advice and before I knew it words tumbled out of my mouth, "It's like if I were to ask God to give me patience towards someone. I can't just expect that He's going to give me warm fuzzy feelings all of a sudden.  He's probably going to give me a situation that will require patience of me and see if I'm really serious about my desire for it."  And while I was saying those words I thought "Dang it!  Now I have to work on my patience so I'm not a hypocrite!!"  Note to self: never make illustrations meant to gently rebuke someone with one of your areas of weakness. 

If I'm honest with myself, when I'm impatient I'm telling someone that I am most important, my time is more valuable than their's, or I have all the answers.  That's not really what I want to tell people (usually).

So I'm working on it, but be kind--my patience looks a little like a prune right now.  But, I'm hoping that one day it will be big and plump and juicy and even if I encounter a particularly vexing sales person who is manning a checkout line that is taking forever and who is not paying attention so I have to repeat myself over and over but they are really just talking and talking and saying nothing of meaning, I will just smile a peaceful sort of smile that remembers the days when I was less mature and more impatient. 

Patience: It's a Fruit!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Turned Upside Down

We don't even have kids yet and they're already turning our life upside down.

Two weeks ago Andrew and I got our first foster placement call.  We were on our way to the AT&T store to buy a replacement cord for our router when our licensing worker called.  At first I felt very calm; I got all the information and asked how long we had to decide.  We had about 45 minutes. 

OK, we can do this, I thought.  As we drove on we verbalized the pros and cons, trying to mull over all the implications we could think of with about a teaspoon of information.  Because we've decided to pursue adoption through the foster care system it adds a bit more gravity to a decision about taking in children.  Ultimately the goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families...which can be a little counter-productive for our desire to adopt.  So, we've been praying that God would make clear to us what He would have us do, try to be open to any opportunities He might lead us in, and, yet, still stay true to our desire to adopt.

The next 45 minutes included about a hundred "Lord, what should we do?s" thrown in the direction of heaven while our emotions flew all over the map.  For awhile it seemed that perhaps we would be bringing home two kids that very day.   THAT was terrifying.

I kept asking God for an answer but kept getting back "trust."  Since that wasn't an answer that I could give our licensing worker I didn't know what to do with that.  We thought through a little more and asked a few more questions and ultimately came to the conclusion that this was not the right fit for our family.  But, I was a wreck the rest of the day (a day in which I also almost hit a homeless man who ran out into the street in the dark AND drove home just in time to witness a drunk driver driving back and forth all over our neighbor's yard after screeching around the corner and ploughing past the street sign and large planter...I felt like we were running on adrenaline all day!).

Both Andrew and I felt some guilt about the decision as we thought about those kids having to experience all that they had, but ultimately we had peace about it and prayed for those little boys to be welcomed into a loving home until they could be reunited with their family.

With some distance the response "trust" has made more sense.  Ultimately we just had to make the best decision from the information we had and trust that God would honor our willingness to follow Him.

That experience was also a little bit life-changing.  The reality that we could have kids in our home at ANY time hit me.  Life has been all of a blur for the past year and I've kept telling myself that we would just deal with all the necessary changes when the time came, that I was too busy to think about it now.  How stupid.  Like I could completely alter my life within the span of 45 minutes and not expect there to be some serious casualties. 

Ultimately I know that whatever plans that we make now, that seem like they are completely life-altering, will probably pale in comparison to what will occur on the day that God brings a child or children into our home.  But God has used that call to help us make some necessary changes in the way we live and do ministry and rank our priorities...which has been both a challenging and wonderful thing.

It's not an easy process but in my heart I do trust that God is unfolding something great and will lead us in the direction we should go...even if it turns us upside down.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meaningful and Perfect

I feel the need to be perfect and deep.  All the time.  I don't know where or when I decided this was even possible but those are the standards that I hold high above my head and then spend the rest of my time leaping and jumping and falling and tripping to achieve. 

Or, I eye my standards and, acknowledging that they are out of my reach, I just sit down and pass on that particular's not worth doing if I don't know that I can do it The Best.

I like having high standards, I think that's biblical...but unrealistically high?  I can never be perfect and not everything I say can be earth-shatteringly deep--even if I'd love for that to be true. 

More often than not, I wear myself out pursuing perfection in all the things I feel are put on my shoulders by others and by life's circumstances and I let the things I love and have a passion for slip past me because I fear failure in those things the most.  I end up burned out and feeling empty and useless

One thing I love about the city is that everything is very real here.  There aren't many facades that survive.  I can learn a lot from that.  I can easily get in the way of the truth:  Jesus is my only meaning and perfection. 

I recently resurrected an old writing of mine from college where I wrote:
One night when I was walking skid row with a friend, handing out food and talking to people, I met Alex--who had just been released from prison that morning for drug and gang related activities.  He gave me the best compliment I think I'll ever receive and added some perspective to my life aspirations.  He said he didn't understand it but when I talked about Jesus Christ my face lit up, my eyes were bright, I was smiling from ear to ear, and it was beautiful.  I have never felt more excited, more fulfilled, or more sure in my life, than right then when I knew I was accomplishing God's plan for my life--to live so transparently that everyone could see the reason I lived at all.
Apparently, this is a lesson I must keep re-learning.  Most of the time I subconsciously feel that I can best represent God when I am "together,"  but too often that leaves people seeing ME and my desperate attempts to be meaningful and perfect.  Instead I just want them to see Jesus...which, heaven help me, will require me to put a little more failure on the line and relinquish the idea that I could ever be The Best...that title has already been won, and it wasn't by me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I get so irritated when I push the refresh button on my internet browser and the page whites out and the little green bar at the bottom of the screen freezes a third of the way to complete.  I don't have the patience to wait. So, I push it again, and again, and sometimes, again, which results in...a blank screen and irritation. 

I feel like I've been doing that with my life.  I'm tired and discouraged and run down and I keep trying to quickly hit the Refresh button, hoping that one day spent relaxing or a weekend away from "life" and ministry will fill me back up.  But, I only get more frustrated and feel like change will never come.

Today I've been thinking a lot about change.  There's a lot of change that happens to us, and then there's the change we have to make happen.  I'm in a season of both.

The hardest part is learning to make time to be refreshed in all the challenges of life.  The depletion didn't happen overnight.  It was a result of not prioritizing my time with God one day, facing questions with no earthly answers another, feeling other's responsibility as my own yet another day, and on and on. 

And so, the refreshment will not happen overnight either.  I'm working on making space to just sit and listen to the words of songs that touch me or to bring clarity to the thoughts in my head by coaxing them out on paper.  I'm trying to bring perspective to which responsibilities are mine and which are not.  I'm working on listening to God's voice.  I'm trying to evaluate priorities and expectations.  I'm trying to be at peace with the little increments of improvement and not keep trying for instant fixes.  Then, like the green bar at the bottom of my browser, with patience and God's timing, refreshment will come.

One day at a time. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside still waters. 
He restores my soul...
Psalm 23

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love & Marriage

I can hardly believe that it has been three years since Andrew and I were married.  Today it is bitingly cold with snow on the ground, but three years ago on January 12th it was sunny and dry and in the mid 50s.  A beautiful day to get married at the Jewel Box atrium in Forest Park.  I thought it only appropriate to take some time to reflect on love and marriage and the lessons I have learned in the past 3 years. 

Here's a few things people don't tell you before you get married or they tell you and you ignore because you think they're crazy:
  1. When you get home from the honeymoon you may all of a sudden realize that your husband or wife has some of the most annoying daily habits of anyone you know.  It's true, you never thought you'd be that couple arguing over what temperature the thermostat should be set on or how to organize your refrigerator or who sleeps with whose face breathing in the others...but you will.  Give it a while and you'll narrow those arguments down to a top five and the rest work themselves out.
  2. You don't have to feel like the world is over if when people ask you "Don't you just LOVE being married?" you want to punch them in the face.  You're not alone if the first couple years feels closer to the sickness/poorer/death part of the vows.  It gets better.
  3. Love (said with a sickeningly sweet tone) is totally different from Love.  Love is less of a feeling and more of a state of mind that requires daily self-sacrifice; it's love modeled by Christ and is the hardest part of the marriage commitment.  Enjoy the moments of love but cherish the times you feel Loved...those required true sacrifice on the part of your husband or wife.
  4. Not everything works out just like it does in the movies.  Don't model your expectations based on's sure to disappoint.
  5. God didn't promise you would be happy, and despite what society tells you, that's not what you deserve either.  God promised you peace, sanctification, and joy when you pursue Him through marriage and more times than not those are found most intensely in the challenges.  Happiness can come and go but holiness lasts forever.
  6. "Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up." -Joseph Barth
Marriage is more challenging than most people let on, but there are joys in it as well.  No one but God experiences more of life with you than your spouse and with that comes understanding, love, equality, joy, and best of all the inside jokes :)!
A final note: From my Dad on our anniversary...He is longer married than I, definitely older and most likely wiser ;)
  1. Marriage is good, but hard
  2. Divorce is bad, and harder
  3. Murder means jail and you will get caught. There is a reason they always look at the spouse first.
Love you, Andrew.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"In spite of it all...Hallelujah"

It's cold and snowing outside today, I don't feel well, and I've let cold feet and snowflakes flying in my face--among other things--make me irritable. 

The past year has been fraught with struggles and stress and I'm wrestling the weight of it into the new year. 

And if the stress itself wasn't bad enough, I once heard that stress helps cause belly fat, which, on occasion, taunts me during particularly stressful days...Today's not a good day for belly fat, Adria.   As I reach for the nearest chocolate something I respond, No, no it is not.

I have a tendency to push through life's disappointments and struggles up to a point and then I hit a wall and there's nothing positive in the whole world, and there I sit.  Of course it isn't so, but I feel the burden of it none-the-less.

One thing I've come to love about the Psalms is that often in the writings of David a depth of grief and despair and anger flows freely.  Yet, he always concludes with an assertion of God's goodness as he wills his heart to believe its truth.

This week two songs have been for me an assertion of God's goodness: Hope Now by Addison Road and Halleljah by Heather Williams.

Even now, my thoughts and feelings teeter on the edge of letting the frustration and exhaustion overwhelm.  Life isn't easy.  God never promised it would be. But I am trying to train my heart to sing:

"In spite of it all/your love stays the same/Hallelujah."  (Hallelujah)

"Everything rides on faith now/when the world has broken me down/your love sets me free." (Hope Now)

There is freedom in God's unwavering love.  That is all the goodness I need to walk through the troubles of life.  Even that I do not deserve.


January Update

January 1, 2011

Dear Team,

We hope the new year is treating each of you well! We are strengthened by your words of encouragement and prayers during this season of ministry. As some of you have probably heard through the media, St. Louis has again been announced as America’s most dangerous city. This is not the kind of recognition for being number one that we want!

Since receiving this distinction, our neighborhood has experienced a great deal of violence. Shootings are heard more than usual, and police officers have been shot at more frequently. Many of our neighbors are dealing with fear and grief because everyone knows someone who has been shot or otherwise involved in the violence.

I do not tell you this to receive pity. I tell you this because we are asking for extra prayer. Through all of the violence, God has still been opening doors to many more conversations and deepening of relationships with our neighbors. I finally feel like my neighbors fully trust us after moving into this house a little over a year ago. If we were not here during the rough times, that trust would take so much longer to develop. Praise the Lord that we serve a God who can take terrible situations and use them to build His Kingdom!

We are also asking that you will pray for more staff to join our team. The harvest is ripe, but we simply do not have enough staff to do as much as we would like to do. We are praying that God would send us people who have a passion and calling to live and serve in the inner city of St. Louis.

In all of the violence, I see the hurt and discouragement that our neighborhood is going through. It affects us all in various ways. But through it all God has been faithful to keep His promises. He always protects and provides for us. God has given us extra energy and wisdom to endure. We pray that God will start to develop godly men and women to take a stand for Him--that they will be serious about this relationship and be passionate about being a part of a church-planting movement right here in the inner city led by our neighbors! For only the church will true authentic change come to our city. Thank you for standing with us in this battle. The battle is His, and we feel honored to be on the front lines serving for Him!

Let’s take this city for God!

Andrew & Adria Medlen