a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Guest Post About Cancer Lessons October 13, 2011

Filed under: cancer,post cancer,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 11:48 am

The transition over to the new website www.vivianmabuni.com has gone smoothly. Thank you for all of your encouragement and love. For those of you who receive these posts via email and haven’t re-subscribed yet, feel free to click on over and enter your email in the top right hand box. For those of you who already re-subscribed to receive email posts, my apologies for the overlap.

My friend, Natasha, invited me to write a guest blog on her website: www.asistasjourney.com about some lessons I learned through my cancer journey. Please feel free to click on over and check it out.

Also, for those of you on Facebook. I have a writer page now. It’s Vivian Mabuni (how creative!) but if you look closely there is a place that says “writer” under my name (as I bite my knuckles and squeeze my eyes closed). Anyway, please feel free to “like” the page. I will update with prayer requests, book writing updates, post blogs and share blogs and other writing related stuff there.

Thanks for your encouragement. I go back and reread many of your comments when I get discouraged. Grateful for your support and care.


Lessons on Learning Contentment July 16, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 4:43 pm

This happens to me more often than not.

Whenever invited to lead a Bible study, teach a Sunday school class or speak at a retreat or conference, the person who most needs the lesson is me.

This time it was Helina, asking if I could teach our Discoveryland Sunday school class the first two Sundays this month. Thirty plus kids ranging from first to fifth grade. Different levels of reading comprehension, attention span and interest.

The theme: contentment.

The verses: Philippians 4:11-12a

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (New International Version)

So twirling around my little mind lately are thoughts about contentment.

The first week we watched my all time favorite Veggie Tale DVD “Madame Blueberry.” The lesson/song that summed things up (sing with me): “…because a thankful heart is a happy heart, I’m glad for what I have, it’s an easy way to start.”

Gratitude. A key ingredient in learning contentment. This fit perfectly with a book I read this spring, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp. We brainstormed and listed out things we were thankful for. Filled out an acrostic CONTENTMENT, each letter representing something we were grateful for. One girl wrote O-ostriches. I think that one girl was my daughter. A promise for candy for the return of a filled out list and more candy if the verse was committed to memory.

While preparing for week two, I read and reread the lesson plan and something seemed to go missing. The definition for contentment according to the curriculum read, “deciding to be happy with what you’ve got.” Surely there was more to contentment than a choice or decision to be happy. “Happy” evoked in me my disdain for Orange County, Southern California entitlement living. It reminded me of Pollyanna and her “glass half full” optimism. What made us different from a YMCA kids club or a summer camp teaching positive thinking? How did the Bible relate to their lives? With so many wrongs in this world, how did this truth fit without settling or going limp and passive. “Bummer those villages don’t have water, but they can be thankful for the sun.”

So I had each kid open the Bible, the very Word of God, thumb through the pages and find the book of Philippians. I wanted them to see and read for themselves these verses and find the big four and the little eleven. I wanted them to read from the source, not off a worksheet or a white board.

I had them do a mini Bible study: Observation, interpretation, application. They enthusiastically called out repeated words. I wanted them to read deeper than just skimming over the familiar, “Yeah, yeah, I read that before.” Such a danger for kids who grow up going to church.

I shared some definitions of the repeated words content and learned:

content: satisfied, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed, literally contained. Resources are within the person so that he does not have to depend on substitutes without

learned: learn by experience, not just hearing, but have learned is an entrance into a new condition, involves a spiritual sense of surrender.

Then I shared from our lives:

Last week the power went out during the heat wave. Too many people trying to cool themselves and what resulted was several electrical grids across southern California frying out. We had to use candles and flashlights. I kept forgetting and repeatedly flipped the switches when I walked into the dark rooms.

Several months ago our air conditioner stopped working. We had a few weeks of hot weather (including when the power went out) without air conditioning. My amazing husband fixed the air conditioner and we are grateful.

Sometimes we learn contentment through having something we take for granted no longer available. Our family appreciates electricity and air conditioning in an experiential way, not just in theory.

I shared about how my daughter, Julia, has taught me about God through her challenges with having food allergies. I admire the character that formed in her life through this ongoing trial. She struggles at times, but I see that the hardship has helped her be stronger and more compassionate toward others.

I looked around the room and into their eyes and said,

“Each of you will go through different challenges, trials, circumstances in your life. You will have both times of being in need and having plenty. Some of you will struggle with your health, or you might walk through the death of someone close to you. Some of you will go through divorce or unemployment. We don’t know what those trials will be. The hard things you go through God can use as bridges into other people’s lives. Content does not mean settling. God has gifted you, prepared good works beforehand for you to walk in, be part of righting the wrongs.”

Good Bible study involves reading verses in context. And verse right after their memory verse held the key:

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

This is what separated us from the YMCA and kids camps. It centers on Jesus. Our circumstances will fluctuate throughout our lifetime. He remains unchanging, steadfast and true. Leaning into Him, relying on Him, trusting Him, walking with Him requires KNOWING Him.

So, day by day, through the ups and downs, I can learn contentment through a heart surrendered to the One who loves me most. Connection, gratitude, perspective, His presence, His Word, mold and shape my heart to rest in Him. To rest in contentment.


Dog Days of Summer July 13, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 12:25 am

Hi again, Max here. Viv is slowly drinking the kool-aid. The Apple kool-aid. Now she’s all about figuring out the iPhone. I overheard her talking about how the Chinese in her decided to jump in and get one since unlimited data with Verizon would no longer be available after this month–and you know how those Chinese are when it comes to good deals. She still uses this computer for her writing. I guess it’s hard to type a lot with thumbs on a tiny screen. Well it certainly is no picnic trying to type with my long claws. Gotta get them clipped but I shudder at the thought.

So, here I am enjoying my first summer with the family. It’s pretty awesome having all five of them around. There’s lots of coming and going. Two big news items: first, Viv has started working on her official book proposal for the cancer book. Apparently it’s a big deal because the day she started I would see her get up from the computer now and then and dance in little circles around the kitchen. She would type something, mutter to herself, scratch me behind the ears and exclaim, “Max, it’s actually happening!” The other thing is that Michael has this enormous hard cocoon casing around his arm and only his fingers stick out. Something about football camp, broken wrist, surgery, three screws, elevate, take white happy pills. He’s sleeping in the TV room and I enjoy keeping him company.

The rhythm of daily life is kind of off with the days getting hot and all of this and that happening around me, so I never know when I’m going to get out for a walk. Walks are still one of my favorite things. Walks and ham. I get so excited when the shoes go on and the leash gets taken off the hook. I spin in circles and opera sing my howl bark. It takes everything in me to follow their command to sit so they can clip on my leash.

I usually spend the first chunk of our walk pulling on my leash. I want to get in every whiff of every bush and pole. Sometimes I get fearful and jumpy with the smells and sounds. So over and over Viv (usually Viv, but sometimes the boys, but really mostly Viv) has to pull me back next to her side. She has this leash that has two handles so she can keep the leash short during that first part of our walk. Sometimes I can hear her singing songs with those white ear buds stuck in her head or she gets in some conversation with a friend on the phone. Sometimes I can tell she is deep in thought, or maybe praying. I never know exactly where we are going or how long we will be out. But after a while, I fall into step with her, and I feel the leash loosen. And the looser the leash, the wider her smile. It’s at those times when I will briefly place my head in her hand as we walk. It’s my way of saying, “Hey, thanks. I love being with you.” And I look up to her and our eyes will meet and the smile I see shows her teeth.

Reminds me of those verses in Psalm 123

To You I lift my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us. (v. 1-2)

How often I stress and strain, trying not to miss anything. I become fearful and I struggle with trusting in the pace being set and the course that is laid out for me. And much like our walk with God, I miss out on enjoying walking in step, looking to His eyes, experiencing His presence, His smile, His pleasure in me. I see older dogs on my walks who lumber along enjoying their walks. The mellowing that comes with time. Confident from the consistent care provided. A faithful track record. A knowing that comes through experience. I enjoy being around them. They are not in a hurry, they are not afraid and they are secure in who they are and their relationship with their master. Perhaps in time I will be like them.


Beautiful Things July 2, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 9:48 am

Here’s the song I mentioned at the end of my last post, Compost Redemption.

My friend, Lisa, introduced the song to me a few months ago. It has brought encouragement and hope.

Only God can:

  • create something out of nothing….fiat
  • bring dead things back to life….resurrection
  • take bad things and turn it to blessing….redemption


Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!


Compost Redemption June 29, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 8:58 pm

I grew up in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. It was part granola, part college town, part triathlete mecca, and very cause-oriented. The same spirit that cities like Berkeley, CA and Madison, WI share. I remember in 6th grade watching my classmate, Leslie, make a tear-filled plea on the six o’clock news for the plight of the prairie dogs.  Bulldozers were clearing an abandoned field, their home, away to build a gas station. “Prairie dogs have rights, too!” she said with deep resolve and eyes and nose running with raw emotion. We were ecologically minded in Boulder before the term “green” became a household word.

Fast forward several (and I do mean several) decades and now I find myself as a mom of three, and woven into my make up are threads of cause-oriented, save the earth passion. I am, however, a self-proclaimed “light green” member of earth. Our recycling trashcan gets filled twice as fast as regular trash, I use cloth dinner napkins, Tupperware instead of plastic baggies for Julia’s lunches, I bring a personal travel mug and water cup to Starbucks and I faithfully use my reusable grocery bags (thanks Abby and Simone) everywhere I shop. But that’s about the extent of my “greenness.” So when an opportunity came to accompany Julia on her third grade field trip to Mission Viejo city hall to learn about taking care of the environment I was all in.

My favorite station was learning how to make compost. Combine and mix green waste, brown waste, water and scraps of fruit and vegetable discards from daily food prep at home and lots of coffee grounds. Lots from our kitchen. Lots. Seemed easy enough. It was worth a try.

Julia and I returned home and emptied out a large plastic pot and followed the directions in the pamphlet they gave us. Grass clippings, dried leaves, water and then what ended up being a large bowl of bruised fruit, onion skin, wilty lettuce, and coffee grounds–all stuff I would have normally thrown out. We placed the top of the unused plastic green turtle sandbox cover over our magic mixture. The next day we added another full bowl of kitchen discards, mixed it up, recovered it.

And now it sits. Each day another bowl full of discards gets mixed into the muck.

And over time the stuff that would have normally been thrown away turns into an amazing source of nutrients for whatever trees or plants I chose to bestow the amazing black gold (the term the compost lady called it).

This process of compost redemption reminds me of a quote I read a few months back:

“When we grow, in contrast to merely change, we venture into new territory and include more people in our lives–serve more and love more. Our culture is filled with change; it’s poor in growth. New things, models, developments, opportunities are announced, breathlessly, every hour. But instead of becoming ingredients in a long and wise growth, they simply replace. The previous is discarded and the immediate stuck in until, bored by the novelty, we run after the next fad. Men and women drawn always to the new never grow up. God’s way is growth, not change. Organic is a key image. Nothing in our past is thrown out with the garbage; it’s all composted and assimilated into a growing life. And nothing–no “moral, no “principle”–is tacked on from the outside. David at thirty-seven was more than he was at seventeen–more praise, saner counsel, deeper love. More himself. More his God-given and God-glorifying humanity. A longer stride, a larger embrace.”

P. 136-147 Leap
Over A Wall–Eugene Peterson 

So day after day I am finding hope as I think about that compost pile and my life. All those things that I would have deemed discards–poor choices, immature attitudes, blatant sin, disappointments, the years the locust have eaten, character defects, all those things I would rather toss out in shame, my loving Father is able to Romans 8:28 * them into something useful, rich, beneficial. Nothing wasted. Amazing grace.

I have just the perfect song to share, but still need to learn how to add a you tube clip to a blog post. Will post it as soon as I learn.

* Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.


One Glimpse April 29, 2011

Filed under: perspective,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 12:30 pm

A few days ago my dear friend, Danielle, paid a surprise visit and stopped by after a home schoolers field trip in our neck of the woods. I had not seen her in over a year. I had just finished picking Jonathan up from school. Max, our dog, was still in the car and the garage door was up. I caught sight of a familiar face that I couldn’t place as her middle daughter walked  around the far edge of the driveway. I finally walked out the front door and saw Danielle. “Yippee’s” and squeals as I excitedly raced to her minivan and greeted her crew of three kids, six and under. In my mind’s eye, I saw snap shots of memories with Danielle: meeting her as a freshman at UCLA, talking in the dorms on summer project in East Asia, hearing her voice singing worship songs to Jonathan when she would babysit, laughing at her fun dance routines from high school, the Pledgewagon, hearing stories of her adventures on Stint in France… Ah, Danielle, always a special place in my heart reserved for her.

Her youngest had fallen asleep in the car seat and her two older ones wanted to play on the swing set in the back yard. We decided to open the front door and sit inside the house so we could keep an eye on the front and back simultaneously. I welcomed her into our house. Dog hair on the ground, sticky kitchen floor, BUT for some reason I had decided to straighten up the living room and clean up the kitchen earlier in the day. I also had pulled out the bread maker and was baking bread (uh, it’s been maybe a year since the last time I did that), had a beef stew going in the crock pot, had gone to the market so I was able to offer her kids juice boxes and brownies, bananas and other snacks. Jonathan went and picked up his siblings for me to give us more time to catch up. Julia returned home and willingly shared her toys and played with the kids.

And after they left I laughed.

It occurred to me how quickly I make judgements about others based on a glimpse. Danielle, could (I hope not) conclude that I was a wizard-super-organized, got it together mom because my kitchen was on the cleaner side and I had dinner going and it was only two and my kids were polite and helpful. Oh, BUT, if she had come the day BEFORE, it would have been a whole different story. Dishes filling the sinks and counters, no food, newspapers and junk strewn about the house…or even, like, RIGHT NOW (same EXACT description except the kitchen floor is now even stickier). But she happened to catch a glimpse at just the right moment between order and chaos, peace and conflict, helpfulness and complaining. I live in both and to conclude that I am doing either a good or bad job based on a glimpse is just not an accurate portrayal of the whole story.

Lots of times I read of great heroes and of people I want to emulate. But unfortunately, I only catch a glimpse of their lives. Susanna Wesley bore nineteen babies and ten reached adulthood. She was the mother of John and Charles Wesley, who are on many “Christian heroes” lists. John is the founder of the Methodist church, Charles wrote most of the most famous hymns. She homeschooled them all in theology, Latin, Greek, and often from a sick-bed. She was rigid, orderly methodical (ala Methodism) and her husband, Samuel Wesley, described as an easygoing, spend thrift was away for months on end. One book I read described that her strict ways drove him away. There was no money for decent clothing. Everything went to feeding the family and funding their dad’s get-rich schemes.  Their oldest daughter, Emilia, picked up the slack when her mother was too weak physically and helped with the children and housework all of her childhood. She married a man she didn’t love because she was sick of working and wanted to rest, be treated well and taken care after always caring for others. Unfortunately, her husband, Rob Harper, wanted to quit work, take it easy and be kept by a successful woman. He left Emilia after their baby was born, taking her savings and leaving her his debts. Now, I know that Susanna did have qualities that were admirable, but until I read about her daughter, I had always held her on a pedestal. Clearly, there were also some major misses. And without actually being there, I cannot play judge on either side because I only have a glimpse.

Before Danielle arrived I was out walking Max. An older lady in our neighborhood watched from her driveway as Max and I rounded the corner. I waved and she said, “What a beautiful dog! He sure walks well.” Max was loose leash, walking obediently beside me. I welled up with Dog Whisperer pride and replied, “We have loved having him.” And just then, across the street another lady was walking her little dog. One whiff, and Max was yanking me along, trying to cross the street, whimpering at the little ball of white fluff trotting along the sidewalk.

One glimpse.

I’m still laughing.


Monday Musing from Max March 21, 2011

Filed under: encouragement,spiritual life — vivmabuni @ 8:34 am

Viv has her nose stuck in her iPad. You know how she loves that iPad. She’s still logged in her laptop though–it has one of those face recognition features, so I thought I’d take advantage of the situation, jump on and post some thoughts of my own…

As many of you know, right before Thanksgiving the Mabuni family adopted me. Four months hanging out around here and I’m doing really well. I’ve met a lot of you in these past few months, and I’m not as jumpy and fearful as I was when I first arrived.  I’m settling into a nice rhythm and spend my days guarding the house and letting everyone love on me. The little girl with the sparkly eyes that dance when she laughs spends most of her waking moments at home draped around me. She would sleep on my dog bed with me if her mom let her. Yeah, all five of them, they all love me. When everyone is gone I pass the time resting up for the over-the-top greeting I give when the door to the garage opens and I also read and soak up life lessons from the Good Book. Betcha didn’t know I could read.

I fully believe that God has a plan for my life. I’m a survivor, you know. Rescued the first time from an abandoned car dealership in South Central L.A. when I was a puppy. I also had Parvo and survived that ordeal. I know God was doing what He does best when He answered numerous prayers spoken and unspoken and I ended up here.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my dog bowl. It gets filled up by that little girl twice a day. Matthew 6 is full of great truths all in red ink. It’s a worthwhile investment of time to read that chapter slowly and thoughtfully. I love the parts in the Bible that are in red. Those were the words that Jesus spoke so long ago, but still speak to me today. Betcha thought I was color blind, but I can see the difference between black and red ink.

The Lord’s prayer is found in Matthew 6. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Just like my dog bowl, I can rest in His daily provision. Physically, spiritually, emotionally…Jesus reminds me that I don’t need to worry over and over in this chapter. It occurs to me that food is a non-issue for me now that I belong in this family. No longer do I need to fend for myself like in that abandoned car lot. There is great security now being adopted and loved deeply. It is from this solid and secure place I am able to do things in secret like give, pray, forgive, fast, serve and not need others to notice me.

So hey, thanks for letting me share. And let me know if you’d like to hear from me again. 🙂




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