Another Aspect of Culture Shock: Disillusionment

Last week while hiking, my husband and I saw a man in black speedo-like underwear and a straw hat walking through a cactus field, tapping with a slender stick the almost ripe napoles, three scraggly dogs marching in a line behind him. We hardly blinked.

This morning I passed a stately white horse–the tallest horse I have ever seen– riding on the side of the road, cantering along carrying a man who held in one arm what seemed to be a six-month old baby boy. That’s right, a baby.  I nodded as they passed and drove on, over yet another steep tope.

I stopped at my favorite little juice stand to get fresh jugo de zanahoria.  The young woman promised me she would make it right up and that yes, they indeed had zanahorias this morning.  They did not and she brought me jugo de betebel with a smile.  I took it with a gracious and handed her my 10 pesos.  Here, it was not a lie she told, it was a kindness she extended not to trouble my mind over what was not and then quickly replace it with something else.

This afternoon I biked next to a truck that had randomly stopped on a local street and proceeded to shovel out mounds of debris and garbage into the ditch and drive off.  I crinkled my nose to avoid the smell and rode on to get my daughter from pre-school.  A motorcycle holding an entire family, complete with another infant passed me, a herd of goats wandering around bleated and a man on a bike–with tires on his neck, arms and legs–struggled to get to the nearby auto mechanic to make a delivery.

I didn’t even smile.  The sights and smells have become normal.

Evidently, I am proceeding right along on the trail of culture shock.  Coming into the realm of acceptance and negotiation and all that jazz. However, an important stop I’ve made along the way is the little rest area marked with a hazy sign that reads, “disillusionment”.  I’ve unintentionally camped out there for the last couple of months; it has caused me to be rather frozen and unsure, both slow and wild in my thinking at the same time. But soon I think, I’ll be on my way again.  On my way, but not without being undone.  Yet again.

Disillusionment: Untrue ideas and beliefs one has acquired along the way; a false way of seeing things.

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Disillusionment is an important work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It wakes us up to see things as they really are and to recognize more clearly how to take a humble role in the midst.  All the great thinkers I have read who have wanted more of God in their lives recognize this and with it, cooperate fully.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that when we live with illusions we come to whatever it is God has brought us to as consumers and demanders (ouch!), often not noticing our posture.  CS Lewis said it drives us to deeper reliance on God for it makes us painfully aware that all, including ourselves, is not as it should be and we are at the mercy of a merciful and forgiving Savior.  St. John of the Cross wrote something to the effect of that when we draw nearer to God, we pull closer to His truth about all things, not ours.  Disillusionment is a hard acceptance of sorts, a relinquishment, an understanding.

So, disillusionment in culture shock, what role does it play?

I have found that when recognized it opens up space for grieving.  Grieving all the things, the places and the people you said farewell to when you yielded to a particular call in a particular place.  Grieving that all is not what you couldn’t help but envision from scraps of your memories and research, tidbits of hearsay and others experiences, understandings of what it would really look like, on a daily basis. Yes, those dreams that kept you up at night while you planned the details in your mind all nice and tidy with a certain excited anticipation.  It’s almost like falling in love and then encountering the un-beautiful parts of a committed marriage.  But the unavoidable grief– it is a holy and slow lament, often hard to even articulate, especially when one knows the deep joy in being right where they are to be–for me, here in Mexico.

Leaning into disillusionment also gives opportunity as you live day in and day out to see afresh that even here, things are not as they should be and not as you had hoped. The world is cracked everywhere, with as much severity, and aching for the day when all will be made right.

You knew that, of course your logical head knew that, but it hurts the heart to learn it again in another time and another place.  It makes your soul sigh and dig in for the long, long haul.  It can’t help but make your shoulders sag from time to time with the understanding again that we Christ-followers can be something else, even those here…perhaps, especially those here:)

Not only does it give the tickets to grief and the revelation to truly see things, it asks some hard and often plain annoying questions:  Are you willing to still be teachable?  Are you willing to keep observing?  Are you willing to speak when you know it is the zeal of the Spirit and not your own passion?  Are you willing to walk so in step with the Spirit that you know when to just accept that is how things work in this culture or say “no” and rise up in holy and defiant prayer and action?  Are you willing to keep on with trying to decipher another language, even when it seems futile and though your ear is advancing your response is often tongue-tied?  Are you willing to submit to the snail pace, it seems, of vision and communication?  Are you willing to give, to love, to rest when you need to and to keep on and keep on even with no “quantitative results”?  And the questions really, they just keep continuing.  Thankfully, Jesus showed the answer to every single one of them.

Normal?  What’s your daily normal?

Here in this place, mine is becoming more and more the truth of the Gospel.  The story that haunts me and never can seem to get enough of me nor I it:  I am more needy, more desperate, more sinful that I can fathom yet more loved, delighted in, more filled and sustained that I can imagine.

Thank God for the gift of disillusionment.

*If  you happen to read Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” turn to the entry for July 30th.  

 

 

LIGHT.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us all from sin (When I live in the light I am aware of my own frailty and avail myself to His cleansing  power again and again. The light and the cleansing are what give me intimacy with God and with others).”   – 1 John 1:5-7

Stars

Light reveals reality. You can see me; I can see you.  Darkness however conceals.  Light enables us to see things that have been there all the time but that we could never see until the lights were finally turned on. Light brings things into focus. Things can be seen for what they are; mysteries we cannot understand will gradually become clearer.  God is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the creator of true reality.  Everything else is an illusion.

Is there anything I need the light of God to reveal in my life? 

Light measures.  Surveyors use light to measure distances and angels.  Carpenters  measure a piece of wood against a ray of light.  Light is always straight; it provides a point of reference. We don’t set the standard of the light or of our walk; the nature of God does. Artists know that if you don’t train your eyes to see first the light source and what it is touching you can’t understand the dark or the grey areas.

Is there anything I need the light of God to set the standard for in my life, to give me a point of reference to go back to again and again?

Light energizes. This is the most dramatic quality of light!  It imparts life, it activates, it quickens! When the sun rose this morning, it summoned the world to action.  Light intensifies, fulfills, and glorifies the world out of darkness. This is what God does. He takes it and leads it on through the darkness into an ever-growing experience of life and vitality and productivity. Many all over the earth have lost this vision, and for them life has become dead and dull and meaningless, filled with increasing despair and boredom settling for less than what they were created for.

Is there anything I need the light of God to activate to life in me?  

A Letter to My Girl on Becoming a Woman.

You, my effervescent beautiful little girl, are appointed to become a woman one day.  I think on this often and there are some things I want you to know.  Really know.   They have been my revelations.  May they become your declarations. 

Kiersta in the Angel Dress

You were first imagined in the mind of God and thrust into human history within my womb. When He spoke you into existence, He spoke a word.  And that word will never be spoken again.  So my girl, let your life speak the word He intended.

He chose the times and places of your life. Yes, He chose the generation you would be born into and even what ancestral line from which you would emerge–all so that you call out to Him the loudest and the clearest. This is the same God who spoke into existence water and the way a bird sings and a flower smells and the sun burns.  He, being all generous and good–the very meaning of love itself–longs for you as a groom longs for his own bride.  You were always meant to belong to Him.  You can trust Him.  Wholly.

You were created to know Him, your one true Hero.  To be His image-bearer, aligning yourself with Him at every possible level.  His heart is to be your heart; His mind–your mind; His will–your will.  You were made for complete consecration if you are to be all that He dreams and intends you to become.

You are a warrior, a helper of power and strength corresponding in every way with men and in every way their equal.  You and your sisters in the Kingdom that will never end are their greatest allies in the life of faith, advancing the Kingdom of God within and without, doing front-line battle with the forces of darkness.  You are to labor together in beneficial alliance.   You are in a hierarchy of responsibility, not domination. Lovingly and selflessly, use every ounce of all that you are to build up His beloved church with the confidence that the Holy Spirit made no mistakes when your gifts were bestowed.

And if you are called into the covenant of marriage, you and your husband are to become like one body that should never be decapitated through the severing of what God has mysteriously made one. You are to nurture one another through mutual love and honor, laying down your lives in humility out of reverence for your God.  The picture of your union is meant to leave the world breathless.

You are a culture-maker, a co-creator and cultivator on earth, to work with all you have and will be given.  You are made to be a learner with an insatiable curiosity.  Through your very body, yes, the eternal souls you may birth and through your mentoring of others as you make disciples you are a recipient and conduit of the Gospel of Grace.  Imagine.  Be in awe.  These are no small things and they will require much prayer and intention. You are to be a passionate and wise woman of prayer, the floor of your prayer closet worn out from your bowed position.

The externals of being a woman? Your beauty comes from the fact that you know you are beloved.  Don’t waste your energy trying to impress.  Stay in simplicity and ignore the fads.  After all, the verdict is already in and it will not change.  Run along unhindered, with delight in your lovely long limbs and strings of blonde hair accentuated by your Daddy’s eyes.

Your unique, once-in-history voice is not to be silenced by timidity or intimidation.  It is to proclaim hope, even in suffering, to the broken beauty all around you.  We are all only in the first story, but the second one is coming.  Long for His appearing!  And you can be sure that your voice is to speak His praises in the ages to come, for you are made for eternity.

Yes, proclaim the love that never ends, for you and for the world.  And if that means you must go, then go for you serve a God who travels.  He left His home for you, go and do likewise for a people He loves if that is what He asks.

Know this: Everything that ever has been or ever will be expected of you was done on the Cross by Jesus Christ when your Father got his daughter back. Your response is gratitude. Not earning, not owing, not proving.  Loving. Remember, you were once lost, alienated, fearful and full of shame.  You hid.  But you are not to stay in hiding.  You are free and you are not a slave to sin and all its residue of bondage.  You are to become ever more whole, going from glory to glory.   Shalom is your blood-bought birthright.

Live out of a grateful heart.  You have done nothing to earn or deserve the standing you have in Jesus and in this one eternal fairy tale.

Your Hero, let Him have your heart.

It is all because of Him you are truly empowered.  And my girl, all because of His grace, you’ll become a woman.

And be ever-loved by your Mama.

Hitting Culture Shock

After seven months of living here in Mexico, I finally hit culture shock.  Slammed right into it. Literally.

Being a mother and a wife with the inner compulsion to tend to my family and walk them well through their phases of adjustment, I came in last place to the inevitable.  We know the textbook definition of culture shock, right?  It goes something like this: “feelings of confusion, doubt or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to and can be described as consisting of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery.”

A die-hard idealist and creative, I recoil at conforming generalizations and believe there is always a way around or over what most folks think is routine. Apparently when it comes to adjusting to a new culture, the studies are fairly accurate and there are little responsive alternatives. Ehh, I hate admitting that.

Apparently my honeymoon ended last week.

I had not been feeling well for days (these darn parasites).  Our roof was leaking. Our water flow from our rooftop cistern was intermittent. The cold here in our cement ice-box home with no central heat was seeping into my Floridian heat-loving bones and evoking me to plain grumpiness. There was a discrepancy over a payment to our little neighborhood gate service, so our guards were not letting me in our out without me having to do it myself, multiple times a day.  In the cold, mind you.  The workman who have been building multiple houses against the back of ours were unrelentingly in their last four months of banging and drilling into our walls from dawn until dusk.  And my Spanish studies? Well, I was doing as good in those as I did in high school math. Oh wait, I never made it to high school math.

Knowing I crave nature and the life it breathes back into me, I packed a snack and water for the kiddos and loaded our girl and our two dogs into our Pilot.  I would fight speed bumps and crazy traffic again to pick up the boys from school and we would go directly to hike through the hills near our home and sit in the quiet.

I could not wait.

We retrieved the boys and got back on the road.  All was calm and quiet as we drove.  Rounding a corner, there was a line-up of cars that stopped and started.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a chalky-blue old VW bug serve in front of the car ahead of me clear across the street into a gate which shut behind it.  The fancy little tan pearly car stopped abruptly and I slammed into it.  Full force.

The dogs yipped.  I pulled over into a little area in front of a taco stand, a mechanic, a teinda, and a tortilleria and got out.  The two young women, obviously more Spaniard and upper-class, in the pearly ride also pulled in and we began to talk.  Thankfully the passenger spoke good English.  We inspected their car and saw a slight indentation and a long scratch on their bumper.  You would have thought the whole back end of the car was smashed in the way they carried on.  They hemmed and hawed, calling the driver’s father and insurance.  My cell was not operating (I hate cell phones and had forgotten I needed to put more minutes on it), so I borrowed theirs and tried to call my husband’s cell, multiple times with no answer.  We have insurance, but I already experienced having to wait 3 hours before for an adjuster to come and remember all the paperwork, in Spanish, and there was no way I had the energy or the clarity for that process.

I wish I could tell you that I looked on these ladies with compassion and saw this as a divine “ministry opportunity”.  I was praying in my mind for wisdom and calm.  But not for them.

As I stood there, the accumulation of all I have seen, felt and experienced that has not been enchanting, exotic or wonderfully curious rose up out of me, “Look around you girls!  See that old woman with braids walking just down the way carrying a basket?  She doesn’t even have shoes on and it looks like her feet have blisters!  And look the other way, see the garbage strewn all over the side of the road and the wild dogs so skinny you can see their hip bones picking through it? See the little girl selling candies looking like she has not had a bath in two weeks?  Now look at your fancy little car with the little dent and scratch.  Hello!?  Could we bring in a little perspective here, please?  I mean, big deal.  How can you ignore real issues? What is up with the contradictions of this culture?  You realize I am still standing here and I could have driven off, like I see most of you people do multiple times a week, taking no responsibility or care.  And don’t you even try to squeeze tons of money out of me because I am a tall, white gringo who you assume has money.  I don’t!  So stop taking advantage of me, even if you know I can’t understand everything you say! I may often feel like a kinder-gardener here, but I am a grown woman!  There are bigger stories all around you than this little dent that happened because of another crazy driver.  You all drive crazy so why don’t you just get used to all the dents! And no, I will not give you a copy of my ID and my papers like you keep asking, absolutely not!  Here, take the last of my grocery money, my household money and my gas money from my categorized envelopes.  And I don’t have anymore in my bank account.  I am doing this because the One I follow says that when someone asks you for something you give him even more and I may be really upset right now but I am going to do something right because I feel He is telling me to. “

The poor women just stared at me.  They took the money that would cover their repair according to the mechanic (I heard him give the estimate and understood what he said, and told the girls so when they tried to triple the figure on me).

Yep, no salvation story here.  Just the guts of humanness. Ick.  And I hated, HATED that I spoke down to and referred to the people here, the people I love for heaven’s sake as “you people”.  I have heard other expats do this and I abhorred it.

I got in the car and my wise oldest son patted my leg and said, “Mom, I think you just hit culture shock.  You are kinda slow at coming to these things. You didn’t yell at them.  You spoke like Jesus in Matthew when he called the Pharisees a brood of vipers.  So maybe it was not so bad.  Why don’t you drive home slow and I’ll give the little ones their snacks and we’ll walk the dogs around the neighborhood.  And what is that black stuff running off your eyes with your tears? You look terrible.”

Great Mom moment.  I came home and sobbed. I hardly ever sob.  Where was my husband in all of this?  I later learned he was in a dentist chair getting 3 wisdom teeth pulled and four fillings replaced. It was a last moment decision, or as he called it an “opportunity”. No wonder he could not answer the phone.  The week didn’t perk up from there but those are other stories.

I have been processing this whole issue of culture shock (which can be so ambiguous and hard to define when you are living it) and these are some of my thoughts:

  • Jesus experienced culture shock.  When I was driving home with my kids, I heard His voice say to my heart, “I did this too, I know. I have never asked you to follow me where I have not already been.”  He gave up his dignity to come to us.  Yes, this was probably the most humbling aspect of Jesus’ appearance on earth as a full human being.  In the heavenly realms Jesus is all-loved and all-worshiped and all-respected. However, on earth Jesus intentionally put himself into the hands of his own creation (what a God!).  He knows and I can rest in this.  He is tender towards me when I am not often like that towards myself.  And He, well is the Savior of Mexico. I am not. Psalm 47
  • It is a privilege to experience the humility of adjusting to another culture because it is another means of sanctification.  Really, how many of us get to experience this particular way of being utterly undone? It is well-known fact that anything that lies beneath in your own soul or that already are issues in your home culture, will be surface and be magnified in your new culture.  For me, hitting the wall meant hitting my knees.  “Undo my pride as I confess it and replace it with humility, Abba.  Apart from You I don’t have the power to not become apathetic towards the people and the issues here.  My sense of isolation is  a call to lean deeper into you.  Fill me afresh with so much of You that I am full.  I avail myself to You in all my inadequacies.  And when things rise up in me that may be my flesh, that dead man walking, I might see just failure, but you see your blood.  You see more pages I am giving you to write more chapters on redemption. Give me eyes to see the way You see or my perspective will keep me in bondage.”  
  • I have to accept that I will never be Mexican.   I have a pile of books near my reading chair on Mexican culture, I ask as many questions as occur to me, I listen and observe closely the mannerisms and ways of communicating of the people here, but I cannot be incarnational, not really (which goes against all my missions training, I know).  The Jesus in me can rise forward and supersede culture when those encounters are needed, but my culture is deeply embedded into who I am.  And God celebrates this.  The greatest thing which bind the cultures together is the love of Jesus and I can express that love by the sharing of who I am, where I have come from and what I have.  I don’t hold onto it all as if it is of no value here, nor do I hide away fearing rejection. But I have in some ways.  Even in regards to the other expats here, which can also be a temptation.  I can give to those who want to partake.  And it will not be everybody, just those God has sent me to and them to me.  I am who God has created me to be and I am here because He has ordained it and I have obeyed with a full heart.  And another thing: it all takes time. Urgh!
  • I have to engage in that which is life-giving to me; these are gifts from God and if I don’t freely receive I cannot freely give.  It has taken me seven months to set up my art studio here and I have still not opened my paints.  I have not planted flowers or vegetables in pots.  I longingly look at my ideas for the next books I want to write. Strolling through nature outside the city beckons me more times than I answer.   Why?  I have believed the lie that these things are selfish and that we are not being sacrificially financially supported to engage in personal pursuits.  There is too much “real ministry to do”– just look at the needs all around us!  And, after all we live nicer than so many others here, how could I ever add even more beauty to my life?  Most missionaries wrestle through these same thoughts, at least the majority I have spoken to; we can be afraid to show you how human we are and how North American we live within our own walls as if suffering and scarcity are the true marks of a called servant.  But when I don’t do those things in which I feel God’s pleasure, those ways in which I am taking part in creating culture and in exercising godly dominion, I begin to wilt.  And then it all compounds and seems to much. Then I am especially susceptible to the pitfalls of culture shock and I may stunt the necessary process of full enculteration.  I feel heavy and wooden, ineffective and even lost.  I am not in a posture to listen and be, but to do and go.  As if it all depended on me, as if the fruit in my life is all my prerogative and not the Gardeners. Forgive me Yeshua.  How I wish I could have watched you in your carpenter’s shop all those years and seen what it all meant.
  • It is easier to move forward in the process when you know you have the blessing.   Our pastor here preached yesterday on John’s baptism.  I love the imagery he gave of describing the humanity of Jesus and how hard it is for any of us to embark on a new path in our pilgrimage.  We see all the obstacles ahead of us and the hardness which we know we are being called to walk through, and without the blessing of our Father we cannot do it, we cannot go.  Here the Father God spoke His pleasure and made the Son feel His belovedness, empowering Him with the gifts of the Spirit.  If Jesus Himself could not go forward into His ministry of rescuing the whole world without this profound blessing, how can we go it alone?  How can we not hear and receive these same things from Him, through one another?  We cannot. Oh we do not bless each other enough! On my weary days I read the notes of blessing folks post on our family fb page, I read the prayers people have sent us and the words of encouragement I don’t always have the time to respond to. I almost feel unworthy of all the time and attention people have taken with these, but then I remember this is the function of the Body and I have to receive.  It is humbling. And most often, I take out a letter our missions pastor gave us on our leaving.  He wrote on behalf of our church, “We bless you and say a genuine “amen ” to the Blycker family answering the call to serve in Mexico.  We ask and will continue to ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for smooth transitions, effective ministries, and every possible need to be met.  With confidence in the power of the resurrected Jesus, we know there will be huge success for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the expansion of His kingdom on earth because of this act of obedience.  We much love and respect, go with our blessing and make disciples.  We love you!” Brings tears to my eyes every time.  We just see these little seeds of our often nutty lives here, but they see a harvest.

And so does God.  No matter what “walls”, or cars we hit.

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I Am Here.

Written four years ago, this Christmas post. The years have changed us and now I write from Mexico. But still, He is Here.

My new daughter cries in the middle of the night; she is hungry and needs the nourishment only I, her mother can give.  My presence always comes to her before the milk as I whisper “Mama is here, Mama’s here”.  She screams in the car seat the entire time we go from point A to point B; she feels alone and to her it seems as if we are going nowhere.  She knows not my presence in the driver’s seat.  If only she would hush her wails she would hear me saying, “Mama’s here. I am here.” 

 My preschooler does not know how proudly I peer out of the kitchen window as I cook, watching him riding his bike around and around the driveway.  I see that his curve was too sharp and I know he will fall, so I turn to run before he knows how much I am needed.  He falls…

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What Life is Like, Here.

It is time I write down some of my observations of living in Mexico as my fresh eyes are becoming more accustomed to the culture around me.  So, this is for my own records and for many of my friends who have asked me what life is like here. For many of you with young children, you understand that sometimes things in our lives must be reduced to bullet points:

  • The smell.  Mexico has a definite scent I noticed as a girl when I first came to this land. It is a mixture of fresh tortillas and lime, terracotta tile, dusty roads, floral-scented ajax, arroz con leche and cheaply floral infused detergent. Its a strange mixture of earthy and chemical.  I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I walk the streets here and I am 15 again with adolescent optimism and curiosity.  The smell makes me feel that the whole world lies before me.
  • The driving. Well. It is different.  My first experience driving on my own, I heard the strange squeal of an ambulance several cars behind me on the highway. Instinct told me to pull over, but then I noticed the cars around me were actually racing the ambulance.  If I did not join in the race, I would be smashed, so race I did. Like a crazy woman.  I beat the ambulance and eventually it turned off behind me in the direction of the hospital.  Then I did pull over just to ponder if that really happened.  And the police?  Well, thanks to my heavily tinted windows and Mexico plates I have never been pulled over.  But I thought I would be many times until I realized that the cops here just like to drive with their lights and sirens on for no particular reason than to feel high and mighty.  Yesterday I drove down a road that had four cops on each side pointing guns at each other. No one seemed alarmed.  So I sat at a red light between them and reviewed my Spanish flashcards, the one that said “I have moved to a strange planet.”
  • The grocery stores.  My first time in one alone I was approached every several feet by a smartly dressed representative of a particular brand of milk or yogurt, holding out a tray for me to sample their product.  Who knew Mexico has like 50 brands of milk and 80 brands of yogurt and that one store will actually carry them all? I should get a t-shirt that says “I don’t do dairy”  They don’t, however, carry things like lemons or natural peanut butter or imported ice-cream for less than $13. Who knew it takes so many people doing so many little jobs to run a grocery store?  And who knew the Holy Water of Mexico is Coca-Cola?  And who knew that man can live by bread alone, here in Mexico?
  • Roads.  I expected the potholes and topes (speed bumps).  I expected every car for itself and that a speed limit is a nice suggestion.  I even expected the crosses and flowers and shrines on the sides of the road to mark where someone met their death, but I did not expect the little men.  That is the little men (the ones I have seen are all little) who wake up in the morning and decide, “Today I will buy a small can of paint and a brush and paint bright lines on a tope so my fellow countrymen do not fly over the bump and damage their car.  I will then stand there and hold out a tin can so they can contribute to my kind act.  In fact I may not let them pass until they do, unless they put the medal to the pedal and I must leap out of the way for dear life. Yes, this is how I will spend my day!  Tomorrow I shall buy some cement and go around filling potholes.”  I confess I have hit the pedal hard more than once…
  • The unconventional ingenuity and nonchalance.  Unlike the US, this is not a crisis-oriented culture. At all.  Most people live fully in the present (why think forward when survival is at hand and hey, there is enough joy for today!) thus they make things work. Now.  Like hitching a ride in the back of a garbage truck.  Last week I was behind 4 men who were taking a snooze and getting a ride on a pile of trash. Yesterday about four kids were riding on top of a truckload (like 9 feet up) of cilantro.  The man down the street just ties his damaged bumper on with rope.  Black and white TVs?  Keep ’em working and open up your own shop to fix ’em!  Hang stiff underwear on special hangers and set them outside your store; the colors and shapes and variety of sizes are bound to attract! Upholster furniture on the side of the road, within inches of buses passing by because your little shop just doesn’t provide enough work room.  And car seats?  Just put the baby on your lap and when they get jittery have them crawl around on the floor in the backseat.  Mop with a stick and a rag at the end and just push it around.  Use Styrofoam to put in the walls for insulation when you are constructing a house.  Build the walls and then bang holes in them to install the pipes for plumbing.  Stick shards of glass on the tops of your walls to prevent robbers from jumping over.  Sleep late and stay up late and who says kids need bedtimes? Don’t have a car?  Then get a bike and stick your whole family on it!  You want your donkey to stop being distracted by the stray dogs when you are trying to plow the field with it?  Then stick a sack over its head so it can’t see them.  Don’t want to pay taxes on the house you are building?  Then leave some of it unfinished and dilapidated looking; it will save you money! Don’t give folks a menu in your little restaurant, just plop some food in front of them with a smile or go next door and see what produce just came in.  And should not every bank have a very armed guard pacing back and forth in front of it?
  • Contradictions.  Everywhere.  I often have on one side of me a new 2013 car, the driver looking like they are out of Vogue magazine and on the other side of me a donkey cart with a husband and wife in straw hats with no shoes or teeth.  It boggles the mind, the sharp distinction between the rich and poor with me sitting in between grieved over both sides and their obvious poverty. The same element is seen within housing and stores and it is all finely accepted.  The classes do not mix or hold out a hand to pull out or pull up.  Oh, it has been shocking to see how news is reported on the TV and in print media.  Dead bodies are shown, fully and all gory details right out there with no prudence or discretion.  Gulp.
  • People.  They are warm and accepting (and just beautiful), but do not easily trust and often speak what you want to hear.  Confrontation is not comfortable unless the venue (like a neighborhood meeting) is right, then it is like a soap opera drama.  Americans are loud, Mexicans are much more calm and reserved. They take things as they come with an element of fatalism yet contentedness. Yelling for my kids down the road is not kosher.  The more white, Spanish Mexicans and leery of the darker, more Indian looking Mexicans.  All these years I wanted to be tanner and they want to be whiter! The culture is quiet unless yet another fiesta is happening. There is pain, but it is inflicted behind closed doors.  Tradition here is paramount to the people, even if they don’t understand the significance of all that they do, they are doing what has always been done. They are proud of their history and culture.  Generosity?  I think this culture has a corner on that virtue, especially, ironically enough, among the poorest.  And clowns, how they love clowns and storytellers!  One can dress up even with just a red nose and painted smile, grab a mic and little amp and within 15 minutes have a large crowd hanging on their every word. They love oral transmission so puppets, still very cool here for all ages. The little ladies and men probably my parents age, they stand on curbs selling bits of fruits or vegetables to get by.  And when they are sick?  Well, they go to the low-end more normal hospital here but they must be accompanied by a family member or friend to change their bedpan and give them food and if there are no beds left, then roll out their IV and sleep on the sidewalk with them outside of the hospital.  Down the street are some of the best hospitals in Mexico. The ones that take our insurance card should we get ill.  Can hardly handle that fact.
  • Work.  Stats say that Mexico has the largest and hardest working work force in the world. Living here, I don’t doubt it.  But, certainly not the best paid for all their efforts. These are not lazy folks and they are not too proud to do whatever to make a peso.  Even if that means painting your body with silver paint, standing on top of a ladder at the end of a row of traffic waiting at a red light, taking a swig of gasoline and blowing a breath of real fire, while juggling.  One does not know whether to laugh or cry.  I opt for cry as I look at the slow death.  And then there is the lady selling green chicklet gum at the red lights, the children selling socks and nuts, the old man selling rags to wash your car with, the young man selling trays he made from pine.  Everywhere you go, someone is selling something. Handmade, bought in surplus or off the black market–its all around.  Folks even work at going through the garbage to take out the recyclables. No efficient (I don’t think they have that word!) recycle bins here, just more jobs for more folks to pick through more garbage. Meanwhile the CEO executives go to their jobs just around the corner from the heap of garbage and the “have everythings” go to the prestigious university just 15 minutes from our house.
  • The weather and altitude.  Granted, we moved from Florida. Zero elevation, 100% humidity, ocean air, shorts worn almost all year around, red ants, sand, alligators, scrubby pine trees.  You know.  Here we went up in the world to 7,000 feet.  The nights and mornings are cool, okay they are incredibly cold.  And the mountains, okay they are actually volcanoes we see on clear days surround us.  Majestic is barely the best word to describe the site. Ahhh…  There is no such thing as heat in these brick and/or cement made houses.  No such thing as screens in the windows.  Cracks around the windows and doors abound; things are not exactly an airtight fit.  At least in our house.  The wind often blows out of pilot light on the roof which heats our water tank, so sometimes I skip the shower.  In our home though, we always can count on having water! No dishwasher, just mounds of dishes that can be quite challenging to keep on top of.  And  don’t forget they must dry completely or the risk of parasites from the water.  Don’t stick your toothbrush in the water!  Some do, we tried and got sick.  Folks here do a parasite cleanse every six months, killing everything in their guts.  Its a normal part of life here, just like the wild dogs and the poop on the sidewalks and the scarcity of cats (they poison them).  Keeping house here is much harder because of the dust and the flies (we have sticky fly traps hanging from our ceilings).  Not to mention the lovely wolf spiders and the cara de ninos (giant ants; look them up and you’ll squeal).  We caught seven mice in our kitchen and pantry last week. Could be worse; we don’t have scorpions here!  We are getting used to the attitude though at times we still run out of breath and get tired. Perhaps we’ll be able to run a marathon when we visit Florida again!
  • Slower Pace and Lower Expectations.  There is not such stress in the air like I felt in the states.  Things are expected to take forever.  And they do.  Maybe if you pay and pay well a service will speed up.  Doubtful still.  Most places don’t even post store hours, especially family owned places (which is the majority of how families make it here). Timeliness is important in certain contexts, but lingering always happens.  Manana forever indeed! Expectations are much lower than in the states.  Things overall (except for the wealthy class and even then…) are not expected to be as sleek, progressive (c’mon the most common music we hear played here is from the 80’s) and put together. Folks are more accommodating, simple and patient.  Bathrooms don’t really need to provide toilet paper now do they? Another job can be provided for a woman if you pay her for a few squares.  And why should toilets be able to handling flushing the paper anyways?
  • Hand gestures.  They don’t mean the same things here.  If I motion for you to come, I am actually telling you to go. This one is very useful here: Bring your middle finger and your thumb together while extending your forefinger, then waggle your forefinger back and forth, like you are shaking your finger no. I use it at stop lights to prevent the windshield washing guys from smearing my windows. Now all I have to do is a very casual finger no and my car is skipped without comment.  And to say thank you, just put all your fingers together and hold up your hand, palm towards you and move it ever so slightly. There are more I am still learning.  But I do know you don’t point here. No, no!
  • Food.  Yep, it’s spicy!  And they eat breakfast twice, lunch late and supper way late.  Have not adjusted to that all the way.  You know what they sell by the gallons and smear on most things?  Mayonnaise!  Which  our whole family hates.  Food is a big deal here, they sell it on every corner and they love to snack.  The Mole Poblano is incredible as are several other common dishes I am growing to love but cannot remember.  Cannot however, do chicken feet, cow tongue, brains or intestines.  Cannot stand to walk by the butcher because everything is just out. And limes and chili–they are the spice of life here!  It has been a challenge to rethink how I feed my family and how to do it in an affordable and easy way.  All produce must be soaked in a bucket for 15 minutes in microderm, an iodine solution that kills parasites.  It can be a big job for folks like us who go through allot of produce.  But the fresh stuff is amazing tasting! And to boil water takes much longer, as does baking with my Celsius reading oven that I must hand light.   Oh my, I did not even mention that things here are weighed only in kilos, miles are measured in meters and all the like.  Still confused.
  • Followers of Jesus.  You know, this is getting long and this category I have much to say about.  I’ll save that for another post.

I like it here.  Really like it.  Wouldn’t you?

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Take Your Place.

The plight of women and children here in Mexico and specifically where we live in the Puebla/Cholula area breaks my heart.

Yesterday alone I was approached in my vehicle by 3 women and 4 children (under about the age of 8). One woman was about 8 months pregnant with three beautiful brown snotty-nosed children trailing her through traffic as she sold small handbags and chewing gum. Most likely she has more children at home and her husband is an alcoholic who beats her. Perhaps he has three other wives and their children he does not support. Maybe not, but that is how it goes here for so many women.

Another woman, thin and weary-looking, carried a sleeping child in her arms while she held up a doctor’s script, trying to get donations to purchase medicine.  And yet another woman with heavy eye-liner pounded on my window to hand out an advertisement for the local porn night-club. A boy dressed in pressed slacks and a collared shirt about the age of my 2nd grade son tried to hand me a business card to a local store for a discount on exotic sex toys. The other children were dodging traffic to sell flowers, fly swatters and and fresh-squeezed orange juice.  The children may or may not have a home and a family.  I kept driving, stopping at the red lights and distracting my 4-year old daughter from looking out the window to see rows of Playboy magazine displayed for sale on the grassy median.

Can you imagine your children out in the streets?

Or your pregnant daughter selling gum by knocking on car windows?

Many of these “stories” are not “legit” and others are; there is little way of knowing as you drive through the streets. It has all become our daily norm and most people become immune to the sights, just part of the local landscape.

Recent stats in Puebla state that 283,236 children between the ages of 5 and 17 work. Some 106,295 of them do not attend school. These children and their mamas who are out working in the streets in this urban area and then more so in the rural areas are open targets for human-trafficking.

There is a “hotel” I pass often with high brown metal gates and castle-like towers in which late at night or in the early morning hours van-loads of women and children are brought in, assumed to be forced into slavery. It is a known and accepted fact, even to the police. But nothing is done.

I weep. And sometimes I pull over near it in an inconspicuous place and pray so loud the windows in my Pilot almost rattle. There are times when our prayers are like a soft wind, a weeping prophet or a tenacious bulldog.  This gringo cannot storm the gates, but the armies of heaven can.

It was publicized that Mexico finally passed human-rights laws to protect women and children. Yet, bribes prevail and apathy ensues. The Government of Mexico does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it “says” it is making significant efforts to do so.

I spent time with a woman Monday night whom has worked for the last 20 years with her family in the villages rescuing women and children. She is a mother and a wife, just one year my elder. Her stories were horrific. Last week she had to take a 9-month old baby girl in for a hysterectomy as she had been so badly damaged by rape since her birth.

Yes, go ahead and vomit. I nearly did.

But then get on your knees with me.

Oh church, would you please walk away from all that distracts you and competes for your time and all your pettiness and get into your prayer closets?  Turn off your TVs and movies that mock the beauty of human sexuality and the covenant of marriage. Women, stop flaunting yourselves and wearing bikinis  and see-through blouses in front of your teenage sons. Save it for the bedroom.  Throw out your Victoria Secret magazines.

Call a spade a spade. You are called to live holy lives. Holy. Pure. Intentional. Disciples. Grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that declares you are more sinful than you could ever imagine, yet more loved than you dare to hope.

And you want to change the world you say? Then pray.

I am convinced that history belongs to the intercessors.

This woman I spoke with, begged me with tears in her eyes to pray. I hope to visit her and these rescued women and children (who often deny anything has been done to them though the damage and evidence is obvious) and pray over them, for this obscene mess of sin takes the power of a Savior. It is too big for me and you.

Yes, the more I live and the more I see, the more I am compelled to believe that prayer and living out of a prayerful life is the only real thing that changes the world.

I have been studying more about prayer and I see that God has indicated His desire to release His power in our world when we request it from His throne.   Jesus taught us how to pray when He said: “Our father who is in heaven, holy is Your name.” Then He gave is the “partnership phrase” as key: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God has basically said, “What you ask Me to do as we partner on earth, I’ll answer with My love, My power, My wisdom and in My time with all the force of heaven’s throne engaging whom and what you ask Me to engage.” 1

There is little time to dance around this theologically and debate together about the sovereignty of God and the place of prayer and such. I have spent years trying to work through all of that and I have no pat answers. But what I do know is God works through the prayers of His people and this He has ordained.  I am walking in the prayers of intercessors here and right now before the throne.  Most likely, so are you.

Most Christians I have met do not take this seriously; they prayer-whine or pansy pray or tag on to everything as if a disclaimer, “if it be thy will” or run ahead and make their plans and programs.  I spent my time doing this and then confessed it as sin.

You see, when we pray as individuals and corporately, when we seek His face in Scripture and when we worship, we WILL pray according to His will, for we WILL come to know His heart!   And He will throw up His arms in relief that we have finally ceased to be afraid of presumption.  We have learned to discern His heart and taken Him at His word to come boldly in His presence, in awe at His mighty power and holiness.   Taking up our place as intercessors, we are covered by the blood of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit.

Can I get an “amen”? Let it be so.

Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. He has sent us as His representatives, His redeemed image-bearers to set the captives free. That means we have to take notice of the captives and what it is that binds them. The root is often hopelessness. Which goes far, far back to the garden where the first relationships were broken and the DNA of the sin-seed began to be transmitted.

Only by prayer can those shackles begin to loosen and the Spirit of the Almighty breathe in hope. And if you have one ounce of disdain, a critical spirit, a tinge of unforgiveness, or a belief that your prayers are not effectual then let the Spirit deal with you or your prayers do not come from a heart that speaks truth (Psalm 15).  God cannot hear you when you cherish sin in your heart.

I am pleading with you that you invoke the name of Jesus with me for the women and children here in Puebla/Cholula and the surrounding villages. Through intentional intercession, take your role on the earth-side and God will answer with His works and His wisdom from His heaven-side throne.

Let it never be said that for the sake of the thousands of women and children He so loves that we never took our place this side of heaven.

Don’t Waste Your Motherhood.

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Mothering is all about disciple-making.  Take that element out of the equation and what you have left is at its best is ooey-goey nurturing and perhaps the production of good citizens and a relatively healthy family environment where you’ve kissed boo-boos, kept them fed and clothed and ensured their academic potential and even cultural savvy-ness, but still it is essentially void of life’s greatest purpose: to know Jesus and make Him known.

We are all preparing for eternity.  This is not all there is and if a day goes by that I don’t remind myself and my children that at the end of all our work and words is Home, my eyes are not fixed high enough.

I know of no greater way as a mother to maintain a supernatural vision of earthly realities than being consistently intentional in discipling my own children. But what does it look like to make disciples as a mother?  Let me offer some insights:

1.     In order to make disciples, you have to first be a disciple (a learner; one who adheres to the principles and instructions provided by another. There is a whole chapter on this concept here).  If I as a mother lose a vision of my own sin and my desperate need for the Gospel daily I fall into pride and legalism.  Which in mothering often takes the form of control, nagging and perfectionism. That all makes me tightly wound.  And in that case I need deliverance for in that there is no gentleness, no grace, no quiet spirit, no leaving a trail of peace behind me, no trust and I need the Gospel. Again.  I need to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in absolute surrender or I am lost.  The Spirit is my counselor, my teacher, my wisdom, the One who is ever leading me.

Unless my children SEE and HEAR this (talk about your walk with Him–it ought to be as natural as breathing, not something privatized and strange to their ears and eyes! And yes, that includes letting them hear you pray and I mean really pray!) they do not know that you too are a disciple!  Yes, to live as a disciple means addressing the brokenness in my own soul that has and does come up so I might come into greater healing and minister more effectively.  It means confessing my sins to one another that I might be healed.  It means my children seeing me do this and hearing that I seek out counselor and mentors. A mother disciple-maker lives out her own constant apprenticeship. 

2.  Disciple out of who God designed you to be: your personality, strengths, interests and spiritual gifts.  If you chose not to, you will fall into exhaustion deep in your soul, fall into the comparison trap and sabotage all your best efforts. Here is a good resource for this if you are not sure who you are.

You do not have to become someone different and new to make disciples;  you do have to become more of you in the fullness and wholeness God designed.

For me this means playing basketball, soccer and baseball with my boys.  It means handing off math and science questions to Dad.  It means making simple and healthy meals not spending hours trying something new to wow my crowd. It means serving kale/spinach/pineapple/coconut oil/lemon protein smoothies for breakfast 🙂  It means not watching TV and reading mounds of books to my kids.  It means using my spiritual gifts of prophecy, knowledge, discernment, teaching and exhortation to cast vision, to speak truth into their lives, to illuminate Scripture, to instruct them on spiritual warfare, to educate them on global needs and affairs, to intercede with them on behalf of others.  It means teaching them about beauty and order in our home and to observe it in nature.

It means taking care of myself and expressing my own needs (and teaching them to do the same).  It means I don’t sew or scrapbook or know the latest technology or lead a PTA group or have my own home business or rush off to corporate meetings or remember that someone might need a meal or sing and play guitar or act in the local theater ..that list could go on.  And I am okay with that fact.

The more your children see your growth and acceptance in who you are in Jesus–mind, body and soul, the more they will feel their beloved-ness by God.

And oh, isn’t one of our goals in disciple-making, for others, for our children to know the deep, deep love of Jesus?  That He longs for them, that He rubs His hands in delight every time He hears their voices calling His name, that He expects nothing of them but what He already did for them on the cross?  That all the rest that we can do and say is gratitude, intentional and joyous gratitude?

3.  Discipling your children, or anyone else for that matter, does not mean you have to know everything.  About the Word, ethics, science, social behavior, relationship issues, politics and how it all relates to God.  If we all waited until we were 100% prepared to be mothers we would all still be pregnant. Can you imagine?  None of us were ready when those babies were placed in our arms.  But God had this ingenious plan; as they grew we would grow, going from glory to glory. It’s called synergy.  Nothing grows in utter isolation.  When we agree to mother, to disciple, we agree to depend wholly on a miraculous God to show Himself mighty because we are not enough.

Our pastor recently spoke about discipleship, pointing to the story of Zacchaeus.  He noted how Jesus did not wait to be invited by the wee little man.  He initiated.  He pursued.  He built a relationship in 10 seconds just by knowing his name.  I get frustrated with women who wait for their children to show interest in Jesus or church or other things they deem holy.  They don’t push, they don’t expect, they don’t teach, they don’t talk, they wait.  Sometimes for a lifetime and then wonder why their kids are so far away in every sense of the word.  Discipleship takes proactive tenacity and though you must inquire of the Holy Spirit who He would have you disciple this year, you never have to pray that prayer about your children or grandchildren.  They are your disciples   So, get on with it!

Let them ask their questions and find the answers together.  Most of disciple-making is getting on someone else’s turf and letting them ask questions.  It is not time for motivational pep-talks or preaching, but of mutual sharing and learning.   Search the Scriptures together.   Memorize and meditate on Scripture. We do this very slowly, no verse a week in this house; we “chew” too much!

If you need a fantastic structure to start moving through with your children check out my personal favorite here.  Again, after five years we are still not done with book two because we don’t rush.  Scripture is more than often something to linger in, not to accumulate. Worship together and for heaven’s sake get out of any stiff religious or cultural boxes and lift your hands and dance with them (sorry, it’s biblical!).

There is no true discipleship without a love-affair with the Word of God and worship, hungering for His manifest presence. 

4.  Discipling our children builds within them the true skills to live and love well. Remember the two greatest commandments–to love God and love each other? God actually gave these to us for our benefit because He knew that to walk in these is to live in the two greatest blessings in life; true relational intimacy with Him and others.  Obviously then, these should be the focus of our mothering as we raise disciples of Jesus.  This boils down to teaching our children then, relational skills.

I once read that the quality of our earthly relationships determines the quality of our heavenly ones.  That would make sense that the foundation we are building now will be that which we add to for all eternity!  So, let’s get practical about this, discipling our children how to:

  •      Listen to others–teach them to ask good questions, to make themselves students of others, to truly hear hearts.
  •      To settle conflicts–teach them the goal is not to avoid them for they actually help us grow, but to figure out how to bring two opposing opinions together as close         as possible for good resolution.
  •      To put others interests before their own–an attitude of humility, service and care for others.
  •      To co-operate–how to work with and not against others, to “ark” together as a family in a common goal or vision not live separate lives.
  •      To function appropriately in various specific relationships–friendships, siblings, marriage, boss/employee.

Relational dynamics centered on Jesus produces love and service.  When my children are in the thick of it I sit them down and without any other words start reading the book of First John to them. We linger there for quite awhile and the Word is enough.

I’ve mothered now for almost thirteen years.  We have three children here and we sent one on up ahead.  I know each one of my children are miracles for I was not supposed to be able to have them.  But that was before God healed my body and every other part of me.  I  greet my children each morning with a joy that we are alive together in the here and now.  This is our time in history ordained by God before the foundations of the world.  And this is your time.

I know there is a cost to being a mother disciple-maker. Believe me, I know.  There is always a cost for that which is noble and lasting.

But if you commit to discipling just one of your children and they in turn this year disciple another (and even my seven year old can do this) and their disciples do the same, then at the end of 10 years there will be 1,024 disciples!  At the end of 15 years, 32,768 disciples!   At the end of 20 years, 1, 4800,576 disciples and in 30 years over one billion people made disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I don’t know about you, but I am aiming for 3 billion.

Yes, three billion worshipers of Jesus that know Him and make Him known.  I want to stand with them and my sweet husband and our children before the Throne one day and together cry, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever!”

I’m counting on seeing you and your gang there among the billions.

So don’t waste your motherhood.

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A Child Shall Lead Them.

Because these are the things I want to remember.  The little things that might actually be the big things…

Anders and Angel

Me:  C’mon with me Doctor Anders to the hand doctor.  Brush your teeth, change the shirt you have now worn for three days in a row, tie your shoes, make sure you have underwear on and buckle into Ebeneezer (so we name our vehicles),

Anders (age 7): Alright!  Let me grab Larsen’s camera so I can get some close-ups of the stitches on your hand. We’ll just call this a date. Let’s hope it involves food.

So we drive 25 minutes, on the way singing together every worship song we can think of with him really wishing he was strumming his guitar (not that he knows any chords yet but the feel makes him glad).  Enter into the waiting room where he reads a read-aloud booklet to me.  His reading is coming along, but I am still waiting for the “click”.  I love the clicks in parenting.  I am sure God must love the clicks in me, slow as they come.

Me (while the doc examines my hand):  So, the pain and slight swelling is still there but it is coming along.  When can I swim and when can I play basketball with my boys?

Doc:  You know, I cut down quite far through several layers almost down to your bone to get to the root of the cyst.  Because I went so deep the healing will take longer.  Ten days until you can immerse it in water and four weeks at least until you are throwing any balls.  Healing does not happen with speed.

Me (thinking):  I know this truth and as long as I can remember I have been impatient with this truth yet without the process, healing remains incomplete and full function never returns.  He binds us the broken-hearted like the bandage around my hand not to cover it but to heal it, intending wholeness.   Thank you sweet Jesus that you use all things to instruct me about who You are.

Anders:  Hmmm…be still Mom for the camera.  This is interesting.

Me: Doesn’t it make you feel faint?

Anders:  Pain that is not on me doesn’t bother me as much for some reason.  But when it comes to me, oh boy I really feel it!!  So where are we going now?

Me:  A library. I need a few good hours with you to go over your schoolwork.  You take the Stanford next week for the first time and I want you to feel prepared.

So we drive to a library we have never been too and get giddy at the sight of all the books, the quiet, the sunlight.  Call us weird.  Books with my kids is to me one of life’s sweetest things.

Me:  Okay, let’s sprawl out on this couch-type things and get started.

First we read biographies.  He loves a good biography.  This time around we delve into Louis Braille, George Washington and Harriet Tubman.  We spend a lot of time on Tubman and the Civil War.  He is listening like a laser would point.   Then we go into reading flashcards, onto his phonics workbooks, a review of spelling words, then into double and triple digit addition and subtraction to finish it all up with a review of how to tell time.  He’s a quiet learner, usually co-operative if there are no interruptions and focused if there is not activity around him. We stay until the library closes, happy together.  Then we get hungry.

Me: What are you hungry for?  Let’s imagine what would taste really good to us right now.

Anders:  Chinese.  They have the white rice you never buy with sweet and sour chicken.  Or a nice cafe or coffee shop because you know I really like those sort of places. they feel nice and cozy inside.

So we drive with no luck in finding any sort of these places that are appealing enough to walk into and sit.  We come upon a Wal-Mart which always reminds us of Grandma Blycker.  She loves Wal-Marts Anders quips.  Let’s just wander around and pick out some food.  Sure. I say, nothing wrong with “seeking our fortune” sometimes.

He picks out raspberry Greek yogurts, pretzel crackers, strawberries, mango sorbet and orange juice for us.  I have a fruit fly for a son.

We pay for our funny dinner and sit in Ebeneezer together in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  He is smiling quiet-like as if this is a night to remember and I give him a big kiss on his head and tell him maybe tonight will be the night he’ll loose those two loose front teeth that are flapping back and forth like a trap door.

Me:  So, how are doing Zeker (his middle name is Ezekiel and sometimes we call him Zeke) with us almost being ready to move to Mexico?  Anything about that you want to chat about now we have some time?

Anders:  He leans back and looks at the stars and says kinda slow -I have not thought about all of it at all until a couple days ago.  I lay on my bed and stared up at the ceiling and told myself that now I would put some thought into it all.  So I did.  And the more I thought about it the bigger it got.  This is all big, really big.  I’m small and I don’t think I even understand how big it all is, but that is okay.  I know God is with us.

Can’t we all say that about the world we find ourselves in?

His biggest concern is about the school he will attend in Mexico–can he sit still that long?  Will he have a good friend?  Will the teacher be kind and warm?  Will the work be too hard?  Will he miss me too much?

Me:  We’ve been talking and praying about your relationship with your brother and sister.  And so have they.  How do you think your friendships with them are going?  Any thoughts, concerns, victories?

Anders:  Well, I’ll tell ya the reason Lars and I are doing so much better as brothers lately is because of me (I try not to smirk at this point). I’m holding back real hard on not seeking revenge when he makes me mad or annoys me.  The self-control thing and giving a gentle answer is killing me sometimes.  I gotta give Jesus my thoughts right away when I just wanna grab his neck and pin him to the ground.  He did not used to be so feisty as he is now and I know is must have to do with those hormone things I hear about that happen when you are almost a teenager.  He didn’t used to be like that at all.  It’s like I started growing up and he started growing down.  I tell ya its hard work but I really want us to be good friends.  We are still praying together at night in our room, but sometimes when I pray aloud for him I am actually telling God what to tell him. I suppose that isn’t really praying but then Lars has to listen to me.

Me: (the hormone part about had me choking on my fruit…he’s right!)  You know, when you grow up you have these same feelings about others and sometimes do these same things.  It’s called being human but as the Spirit controls your life more and more you become the real idea of what God meant when He made us to be human and reflect who He is.  But I sure hear you and I want to encourage you to keep on and try to notice the ways Lars is helping your friendship grow too and don’t get too puffed up about yourself and what you are doing–that is not very humble if you know what I mean.  Am I talking too adult or do you get what I am saying Zeke?

Anders:  Yea, I think you mean I should think about him more than me.  It is just so much easier to think all about me.  Sigh….

Me:  So how are things going with Kiersta?  I think I can guess, but you tell me.

Anders:  Well, you know, you hear her everyday!  She never stops talking and she screams and yells so much.  She is even daring to dis-respect you and Dad and that is not right.  You would think for all the times she is disciplined she would stop those annoying tantrums.  I mean I want to be her friend but she always yelling “AAAANNNNDDDEEERRRSSS!”.  It makes me nuts!  She is gonna have one hard life is she doesn’t cut it out.

Me:  I understand completely.  But you know how you and I are talking everything out here together and you can tell me your thoughts and feelings?  Well, she can’t yet and she is feeling some “transitional stress” which just means she knows things are a little different, she knows we are moving and the only way she knows to deal with it is to act like she is.  I am not saying it is right or we will let her, but we do have to answer with a gentle word and pray for her.  Sometimes it is okay if you need a break from her too.  We all do.

Anders:  Yea, that’s the truth.  I am just smack in the middle.

Me:  You know I was too.  I get it.  But God planned it for a reason and our family would be lonely without you right there in the middle.

Anders:  So they have pet stores in Mexico, huh?  Hard to believe for some reason.  I hope they have finches.  I want a finch room.  One wall I want to cover with my paintings of finches and the other walls hang Indian stuff and set up my guitar and keyboard.  I’ve been thinking about that.  And in my times with Jesus in the morning, I have been talking with him about a new home for my finch-bird Calvin because I know we can’t take him.  He has to go to someone who has a cage and would really love him because I am taking my cage for Calvin II.  I just don’t know who that would be and I am getting concerned.

So we pause to pray about his beloved bird.

Me:  What else have you been talking with Jesus about?  What He been speaking to you?

Anders:  Oh I mostly thank Him for life.  To be alive is so amazing, you know?  He tells me I am His.

Yea, son I know.  I know.  But I needed to be reminded again.

Anders:  Okay, I have to ask you something really serious.  The God of the Universe is sitting right next to you so you have to tell me the truth.  Does the tooth-fairy really exist?

Me:  Well, what if I told you I became the tooth-fairy?

Anders starts laughing so hard he can hardly breathe.  Between his howling I manage to understand that he is imagining me in a tu-tu with wings, a wand and fairy dust.  The vision of this for some reason is hilarious.  I suppose it doesn’t exactly fit my personality.

Anders:  So you are telling me it is you.  And if it is you or Dad then sometimes you must forget, huh?  I mean one time I had a tooth under my pillow until it rotted away!  That got me thinking!  That just was wrong!

Me: Opps.  Sometimes we forget or we don’t happen to have cash or coins.  You know, the tooth-fairy needs to get more work or she’s on vacation.

Anders:  Hhmp.  It wouldn’t hurt to make a note to herself.  So, it’s you but I still like to pretend.  Is it okay to pretend this?

Me:  I think so.  I think when we imagine things like this when we are children it helps us to believe more as we grow older in a God we can’t see though we see the effects all around us of His presence.

Anders:  So believing in the tooth-fairy builds your faith!

Me: ( laughing) You might say that, but you know what I mean.  Remember I told you before how the older CS Lewis got the more he read fairy tales   The beauty, the mystery, the battles of good and evil led him more and more to the greatest most truest tale, the story of God.  All good stories are His and our imaginations are holy.

Anders:  I like that.  I still think I’d like to see you in wings with a wand!

And he laughs again hysterically all the way home and when we arrive there he runs out and around to open my door and gives me a hug and a kiss on my cheek.

Then he takes my hand and leads me into the house.

Even In A Grocery Store.

Last week, I did a bit of grocery shopping alone.  If you are/have ever been a mother of young children, you understand how delicious this is to linger in the car with your own uninterrupted thoughts and then emerge to be able to actually acknowledge the world around you.  It makes a parent feel rather grown-up and human-like.   Not to mention the satisfaction of paying for your items and discovering nothing odd in the line-up like another bottle of glitter neon glue or a gallon of Superman ice-cream full of horrid food coloring and other unmentionables. The most embarrassing was a bright satin pink D-size bra hidden under a giant bag of frozen green beans. No kidding.  Our daughter is fanatical about pink, no matter what it is or if it will ever fit her mother.

Anyhow, this shopping took me to the local Liquidation Outlet which is a thrifty hole-in-the-wall grocery store on the wrong side of the tracks selling items the local stores were not able to.  At an often 75% discount, expiration dates or damaged boxes are not a big deal for this family, especially when I can get items I would normally only be able to find in the health food section.  I stock up 1-2 times a month, so the girls that work there have come to recognize this 6″ foot blonde.

Feeling unusually extroverted that morning and directed by the Spirit during my quiet time in the car that was I was to speak hope within the store, I greeted one of the little ladies with a smile and an inquiry of how she was doing that day.  Her snappy eyes darted to and fro as she stopped loading the shelves and began to tell me about how her church was allowing her to do another bake sale. “I have already made $6,000 through selling my baked goods and my goal is to get to $10,000!”  I listened as she told me how cupcake makers make the perfect cakes (who knew these even existed?), and how Oreos can be made into pops when dipped in icing with a stick shoved between the filling and how cookies should always be over-sized if they are to sell well.

“Can I tell you my dream?” she asked.  She surprised herself, not counting on this momentary vulnerability.  I smiled, telling her that would be a real “treat”.   These are golden moments for me when I get to perch on the edge of someone’s soul and peer in, seeing just what the Father is up to beyond myself. Thrilling!

“I want to lease the place next door and make it my own soup, sandwich and bake shop. Like a cafe!  That way I could do what I love all day long!  My husband, he is sick a lot and can only work-part time so maybe he could be with me.  We could play Christian music and put tracks on the tables; I could do anything I wanted in my own place!”

I told her that was a beautiful, beautiful dream.

“So, I just need to go out and remember to buy my weekly ticket today!” she quipped.

“For what?” I asked, perplexed to go quickly go from the abstract to the concrete.

“For the lottery, of course.  There is no way I can come up with enough money to make this dream happen,”  she replied.

Something rose up inside of me like a lion and I pounced in the way perhaps Aslan would have, so good but firm,  “No! You cannot come up with enough resources for this dream on your own.  Why would God give you dream that You did not desperately need Him to make it happen?  He wants all of your trust and all of your hope to be in Him, nothing and no one else.  Don’t you dare go out and waste anymore money on a lottery ticket.  Look to Him only and He will astonish you.  It is all His and you are the daughter of a King!  Give Him back the dream He gave you.”

I shocked her.

A tiny tear trickled down her face.

She went and sat down at her cashier’s perch, staring at the keys on her old register.

I returned to my shopping. If I had said something insensitive I would have known it, for the words that burst out of me felt like they came from a place bigger than my opinion.

When it was time to check out, another young lady served me.  I paid for my cartload and before I stuffed the change back into my purse, the Holy Spirit told me to give it all to the Dreamer of the Cafe.  He wanted her to know that she was loved and what it was like to receive from His hand.  So I reached across and gave it all to her and told her just that and to use it for supplies for her next bake sale.

She gasped. It was not much. “You don’t have to do this!  No one has ever just given me money!”  I smiled and urged her to keep trusting Him and praying with boldness.

I have been praying for her daily, this beautiful Dreamer of the Cafe. Would you pray for her (I don’t even know her name!) after you’ve finished reading? And if you desire, would you stick $5 in an envelope and mail it to “The Lady Who Does Bake Sales” c/o The Liquidation Outlet at 3853F  Cleveland Ave. Fort Myers, FL 33901.  DON’T mention me or this blog, please.  Just slip in an encouraging note or scripture.

I don’t make it a practice to tell anyone these little happenings, especially when they involve giving, but I felt an urge to write it down.  To remind you, dear reader, that you are a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel that makes peace, that offers hope, that multiplies our little fish and bread, that points it all back to Him.

Even in a grocery store.

Silly Little Cyst.

On Monday I went to a local para-church ministry to meet with the special health program administer.  This is a service that helps non-insured, low income people not eligible for Medicaid (such as myself) get coverage for medical care such as surgeries.  For the several months I have had a ganglion cyst growing on my left wrist, the root enmeshed in ligaments and tendons causing pain in my hand and fingers.  Quite lovely.

Convinced God can heal–I believe in the cases He does not it is for the sake of his great yet oft mysterious glory.  I saw a bit of that glory Monday morning.  On arrival I sensed I was to listen to “hear and see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” and I was to speak a word.

So much for my Monday morning plans.  Again.

The gentleman I sat down with, in his thick British accent, related to me how the manifest presence of Jesus transformed his life five years ago. In spite of his lucrative career in the medical field, he was a drug addict and an alcoholic.  He went under a bridge to take his life. Holding a gun to his head he pulled the trigger. Three times.  Nothing happened.  In disgust he threw it down and then it went off.  In that moment he felt a hand on his shoulder and warmth flood his body.  He said the name of Jesus and was delivered from his addictions and called out of his present work and into this present ministry.

The program, his brainchild, now is in partnership with over 400 doctors and surgeons in the area, has garnered national attention and provided over 80 million dollars of medical care to the needy this past year alone.  It is complex yet brilliant.  I will not even attempt to explain it.

Last year he spoke to the House of Representatives in DC about such and shortly after had a massive heart attack of the “widow makers” sort of which only 2% people survive. Rushed to the hospital he flat-lined and was in essence, dead.  He “saw” his body being worked on, watched and listened to nurses in the corner praying for him, and witnessed Jesus in all His light standing in the doorway giving the thumbs up sign and with his penetrating eyes assuring him his assignment was indeed not finished.  As the prayers went up, he was placed “back” into his body and much to the astonishment of the doctors sat up and exclaimed, “thank you Jesus”!  His heart is in perfect condition.

A rather quirky and tattooed British gent I’ll call “Oliver”, with a simple and bold faith, has led multitudes to Jesus in that little office.  And prayed for healing over those the “system” did not give the time of day to.  One Hispanic lady weighing 80 lbs. came in with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She had given up on God and was angry. He and his wife laid hands on her and now she is cancer-free and leading a healing prayer ministry in the hospitals.

Oliver brought in his wife Elaine and we joined hands. He began to pray for me and our future ministry in Mexico (our move is a mere six weeks away. six.) I was honored to then pray for them and God was good to give immediate prophetic words about some deep issues related to the ministry as a whole.  Apparently, they have not had in intercessors and felt very alone and battling hard things without a prayer shield.  They wept and could not believe the words of knowledge the Spirit gave.  Praise God.  There is much happening in local missions and too often these para-church ministries are left vulnerable and alone.

Through this wondrous program all of my surgery (which happened uneventfully this past Friday) and post-op is 100% covered!  Oliver called me on Thursday to thank me (hello, thank me? Uh God provided through you!), and would I be willing to come in and speak to a gathering of women there?  Of course.  He said they rarely, if ever, have in outside women to minster to them.  What an honor.

All of it.

Silly little cyst.

How Writing a Book Beats You Up (in a good way).

My first book came out over three years ago. I have been thinking about the life of this book and how it has formed mine.

I turned in last minute edits for Running a week before I went into labor with our girl.  I finished writing it the year I started homeschooling our boys. I look back and see I might have been a might wee bit crazy. But that is usually how I roll.  Ask my poor family. So the boys and I  sat on the couch everyday in the midst of unpacked boxes from our recent move.  We lived out of suitcases in our rented duplex until the book was done. I had one boy and their respective pile of home-school books on either side of me.  Before I would begin my work, those little hands would rest upon my aging laptop and pray for the words that would come forth and all those around the world that might receive them.  One day they even rested actual seeds about my keyboard and told me their faith that this book would bring many to Jesus was bigger than those little seeds.   Meanwhile, my hard-working  husband of endless ingenuity was out searching for work as an independent contractor and fighting depression from years of doing the same in a tough economy.  He was born a glass-half-full sort of man, so women I know how hard this is to witness.

Those years and all the ones before it where I began the stages of the book were lean and mean.  Ravaging.  We never knew how we would pay rent or eat from week to week (which wasn’t bad because we spent so many days fasting and praying).  Our only vehicle caught on fire.  Our duplex became infested with German roaches and then wasps. Our renter of the house we could not sell at the time in Michigan died in the living room.  A myriad of other strange things occurred. Yes, this was intense spiritual warfare.

But the writing, in a way, saved me, saved us. It became our family’s mission call at the time. And boy is this family made for a call or we wilt away.  My soul was about bursting at the seams from all the years of thinking and praying, researching and dreaming. I needed a place to put it all and we needed, like Noah and his family, to “build a boat”.  So we did, with all our might.

I pick up that “boat” now once and awhile and thumb through it.   Hmmm…I think like any self-respecting perfectionist, I would have deleted this, re-worded this, yada-yada.  But all artists have to accept their performance as is, in the then that was the now. Overall, I am proud of the work. I know the cost.

It certainly has not been a best-seller or marketed well (it was with Biblica/Authentic and then sold to IVP). I doubt is has even sold over 1,500 copies.  I’ve got about 200 sitting in my closet (so hit me up).  It has gotten into the hands of “influential” people from the wife of a supreme court judge, to a vast array of Christian artists, to radio producers and members of senate, to college professors, visual artists and journalists, to the Dobsons, MOPS founder, Grahams and leaders in foreign countries.  Many of these I have personally met  in these last three years, albeit briefly.  Those experiences I have never written about, mainly because I have found some puzzling and others just natural, flowing in the Spirit.

I have gotten emails now and then from women in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America who have read it and applied it personally in their own lives and ministries.  I have spoken overseas and with women stateside at various conferences. The book is in pregnancy resource centers and counseling offices, hospitals and orphanages.   It has taken on a life of its own; I really had little to do with any of its travels.   My all-time favorite has been sitting down with women like you and I, as they tell me about how the book gave them a voice for all the sensations and questions they could never put to words.  This has brought me to tears because everything they spoke about has everything to do with Jesus and nothing about me.  I love that.  Some of those women have become my dear friends.   All because of a little book that God used to open doors.  Our obedience is never just about us; it’s that domino effect I am always preaching about to my children.

So I have been thinking about this whole book-thing. I dreamed since I was a little girl of writing books (and preaching, being an artist and a missionary).  I did not know the aftermath of a book’s release is harder than the actual writing, at least for me. You can stay in the cave while you write, but you know the day to emerge will eventually come. And then you become not only a writer, but a speaker, a preacher, an advocate, an activist.  Ready or not.

There have been some nasty rejections and interestingly enough, as any author will tell you usually those you would expect to embrace it the most, receive it the least.  There have been stupid (very stupid) questions and blank (painfully blank) stares.  Even confessions that they donated your book to Goodwill. Asking people you know who have read it to write a review on Amazon is excruciating  The worst feeling, which I have only done twice, is asking someone, especially a friend, what they thought of your book.  It is like asking someone if you have a wad of spinach in your teeth.  Some people get the idea that you are super-intelligent and feel inferior around you or wonder why you are not as impressive as they thought you might be.  The cave looks tempting at this point. As does questioning if you are cut out for this author-thing.  If they only knew that although you can outline the skeleton of a future book in five minutes, you still could not give the proper definition of an adverb.

You learn to get over yourself and come to terms with your own person hood.   You see, although the work is an expression of your soul, it is not your soul. The Spirit begins to unveil your horrid sin of pride and undoes you to your core.  You find that you are more free than ever before, untouched by what others may or may not think about you and your work.  You wonder if you have become uncaring and unprofessional but then you see that this might be what true rest and an easy yoke  might feel like.  And you would be crazy not to remain in that good place, regardless of book sales.   After all, at least to me, the writing was all done out of praise and obedience, faith and worship.  God would give me dreams as I wrote of women running, swimming, diving into Him.  More so dreams of Himself and a longing after Him that simply will not diminish.  Yes, I would have rather written than not.

Although I finally got the courage to believe I could speak before an audience (it feels natural now and I love it), I am still a fairly quiet person. I’ve grown more so.  I have a hard time talking about “my work” because I am honestly more interested in hearing the hearts of others.  Are not all writers?  I think people are astonishing and sacred.  It feels I am on a quest to hear and observe from others what I might not already know about God and this wondrous thing called living. If I am so busy spouting off, I just might miss it!  My husband says I have a hard time understanding that my thoughts and impressions are not as common to others as I assume.  Perhaps.

The book’s release and it’s aftermath has formed in me greater compassion, quickened my ears to listen, grown in me deeper sensitivity and made me less confident that I can really change the world and start and sustain a movement of women running hard into God. I think that is a good thing.   I trust more than ever before in the power of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of women.  I want to live and write and speak out of this power.  There is nothing in me that is interested in calculating or ensuring my fruitfulness; that is the gardener’s prerogative.   My desire is to abide.

Since the birth of a book, there was the birth of a girl, another few moves, living at a missions sending agency serving global missionaries, plenty of travels, homeschooling the gang and now in just over 100 days a move to Mexico. Where– glory be– I will not continue to home school.  The boys will go to the same school my husband went to as a boy! You know the water crisis I wrote about in the back of the book?  Little did we know the next call God would give our family would be to go and physically help bring villages clean water.  I get to sit down with those women and write their stories.

Imagine!  Those little seeds sure did grow.

When the dust settles I think it will be time to build another boat. Don’t think I can help it.  There are a few blueprints drawn up.

Your prayers can help me hammer.

Lars Launches a Prayer Attack!

Our son Larsen spoke at all three services in our church last Sunday for Youth Sunday.  The Thursday before he came to me after his personal prayer time and said, “Mom, let’s have Dad text Pastor Tom.  God wants me to speak this Sunday.  I want to launch a prayer attack!”  

We and so many others were blessed by the obedience, courage and faith of all the young men and women of this generation who spoke.    What an honor to call this church home and how we will miss them when we move to Mexico in seven months!  A special thank you to Pastor Tom and Sara as well as all the leaders for their diligence in teaching the Word, sensitivity to the Spirit and loving all these kids so well.

 It brought us joy for so many to hear our son’s heart which we know so well, all to His glory!  Be blessed!  

My Notes to speak on Youth Sunday  October 26, 2012

Q.  Larsen, tell us about yourself:

A.  I am 12 years old and in sixth grade.  I like fencing, soccer, reading, building things, history and someday I’d like to be an architect.  My parents and my little brother and sister are preparing to move to Mexico this summer.  We’ll be helping villages get clean water and hear the Gospel, building a hospital and dental clinic and probably many other things.  If you meet me in the courtyard after the services I can tell you more and give you one of our prayer cards.

Q.  Tell us about the kids in your community you’ve been praying for:

A.  Well, there are four kids in our cul-de-sac around my age that I like to play with (names withheld online here).  I have been really concerned that they know Jesus and I’ve had several conversations with them about faith, but their hearts are really resistant.

I’ve gotten to know Mr. Kent Yoder from church here who has a passion for evangelism.  I wrote him about my concerns and he wrote back an amazing letter.  I think the hardest thing for me is when people like my neighbors do not want to hear about Jesus.  I read a lot of books about Christians all over the world who don’t live in free country like we do, yet still they preach the Gospel with boldness.  Here I am in a free country where I can preach without persecution so I would be crazy not to! That is very hard for me, to rest in the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who must make hearts soft and willing.  But I am learning that I can only do what God asks me to do.  So I always have to be listening to Him. It is so important to be listening.

I have been thinking so much about how much my neighbors need Jesus that it has really reminded me how much I need Him, everyday!  I am blessed to be born in the family I came into that shows me God; I didn’t chose it and I have not deserved it.  My neighbors think I am perfect but I know the nastiness of my own heart.  I know how prone I am to wander away; I know how sometimes I try to save myself by doing better; I know how much I have been forgiven; I know I’m loved more than I understand; I know it is all grace. I know if I were in their families I too would have a hard time understanding my need because I would not know any different.

So I am blessed to be in the Light.  Jesus just makes sense!  He is the easiest thing to understand when you feel how lost you are without Him.  I can’t fully explain how He is with me and why He is my God.  But I can’t remember not knowing Him; He’s embedded into me or rather I am embedded into Him.

Please pray for my neighbors!  That is one reason I wanted to speak today because I want to launch a prayer attack for them!  It seems impossible that they know God, but I know it is not.  Even if I never see them come to Christ.  I’m planting seeds.  And I know prayer is powerful.  I have to trust the Holy Spirit is working.

Q.  Tell us how God is preparing you for Mexico and how you feel about moving there:

A.  I feel that through the experience with my neighbors that God is teaching me how to really see people and still love them and care about them. Light and dark are more different than I’ve realized; the light just gets brighter and the darkness more thick.  I am learning that I am not the answer or the hope for people but Jesus is.  I just get to be a part of what He wants to do in the world!

I feel like going to Mexico as missionaries is what I was always meant to do and I’m just going with it.  It is a big deal to move to another country and leave everything I know, but if I think about that it will just slow me down and I’ll lose my peace and focus.  I know it will be challenging but God has called me to go, not just my parents. He told me before He told my parents. He’s got a lot to show me there.

I want to walk through the villages with my uncle and my Dad and preach Jesus.  Hopefully by some miracle I’ll be able to learn the language quickly and do this in Spanish!  I want to plant seeds.  Like Jesus said, some might be on rocky places with not much soil, some the sun will burn away because they don’t have roots, others will get chocked by thorns and still other seed will fall on good soil.  I am not in charge of the condition of the soil, but I am praying for good soil.  I want the seeds to sprout and grow and maybe long after I am gone be an incredible harvest.  I hope I see that harvest in heaven someday.

 Please pray for my family as we keep raising support so we can get to Mexico this summer.  We need people to pray and people to give. It is not about us.  And I want you to remember that every Christian is a missionary, so please tell others about Christ.  Even if in your natural flesh it feels embarrassing, wouldn’t you be glad if someone told you the Gospel? It’s not about if you have an incredible testimony or not; it is God’s story of how God gets His children back.  He wants us to know we are beloved and forgiven and set free.  He gives purpose and hope to our lives now and all eternity with Him.

Mr. Kent shared with me his favorite verse and I want to share it with you from Philemon 1:6, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

*any comments you write here I’ll share with Larsen:)

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE LAST SERVICE:  http://www.sanibelchurch.com/pages/page.asp?page_id=141813&programId=137327

Jealous.

I don’t often have time to sit down at any screen for any length of time.  My emails pile up, facebook  drains me in about 2 minutes and I don’t watch any TV. I posses a geriatric phone that takes a good five minutes to compose a text and blogging well, I feel with my  book out and all our travels meeting with so many people I have become quiet and rather guarded here. We are all loud all the time in our efforts to connect and express.  We call it communication.  But does communication equal relationship?  I question if our volume amounts to any real soul transformation and if our quest to be influencers and image-makers through our small screens is as powerful and affirming as we like to think.

So most times in the land of screens I am hushed and resistant because it is not where I live and move and have my being.  I do not call that strange new land home.  Home?  Let me open up the screen door wide here and invite you into where I truly dwell…

Today is Thursday and Thursdays are when I take a deep breath and slow down the hurried pace of the previous days and their commitments.  I took Lars  to his yearly check up today.  No surprise he is tall for his age and slender.  Just like his daddy (now if you know us you are smirking).  His elbow was infected from the 3rd fall from this past month.  The boy is a walking scar.  Last month his brother slammed his arm in the van door and fractured his wrist bone.  He and I talked all the way there about his history reading and the wonders of the ancient world.    All the way back we talked about what he wants to say this week in church when he has opportunity to speak in the services for youth Sunday.  “If you are doing this out of obedience to the Spirit’s beckoning, then you’ll have words and they will be good and true.  The Jesus in us always has a word, ” I told him.  He looked out the window for many blocks, pondering.  I love to watch my children ponder when they don’t know that I can see.

And then back at home there was the rush of lunch and chores.  Opps!  Kiersta knocked over the bird cage on the lanai again. Another pile of bird pee mixed with seed and water to clean up.  And Mama, did you know I’d like to ride an elephant and that the reason the cloud moved for the Irealites to follow is because there were huge batteries inside?  She squeals all of this in seriousness.  My word the child never stops talking and moving.

Anders is making paper airplanes when he should be doing phonics.  Then he disappears to shoot squirrels and lizards with his slingshot.  So I sit next to him and we work for a good two hours while keeping the little lady’s hands busy with projects and the tall boy engaged with his math and writing through the occasional holler to the other side of the house.  Then on to read about animals and plants, Elisha and the the disappearing cities in India.

Hamburgers and veggies to grill for dinner, the little garden to weed and water, a short explanation about Presidential debates, bathrooms to clean, showers and baths to be had and more stories to be read.  No room for much screens except to look up the famines of the last 100 years and the history of the China dynasties.   The princess is in bed after we sing songs together and pray about her “naughty dreams of buffaloes with the shiny eyes.”  The husband steals away to his favorite IKEA chair in our room to get on the phone again and connect with people in faith, raising the rest of our monthly support.  Our goal is to have this raised by Thanksgiving.  After that there are one time costs to consider  as well as all the logistics of moving a family to another country.

I squeeze in some time to read a bit about current world events and this delicious memoir of how a young woman came to Jesus (or rather how He came to here) while studying at Harvard.  I sometimes envy people who get to study at such places and have such lofty personal experiences.  I think this again as my boy streaks by in his underwear and towel cape on the way to the shower, his grin reminding me I’d rather have him than experiences that were never ordained for me.  I throw a pillow at him across the living room and it smacks him on the back of the head.  He thinks I throw good for a girl.  I do.

Later the boys and I lay on the rug out in the lanai and listen to the night sounds while we lift our hands in prayer.  Our missionaries in China!  Our neighbor who had surgery today!  The four children the boys are longing for their names to be written in the Lamb’s book of Life who live across the street!  The elections!  The cousins in California!  The people in Mexico we are going to live among! Our present team of supporters and their lives!  Larsen and Mom’s Tuesday Spanish classes at the local state college!  Mom’s art classes!  Dad’s hard work to raise the rest of the support, train and work on all the myriad of details!  Kiersta’s need to obey all the way, right away and with a happy heart!  Our daily provision!  The boys schooling and all their growth! More revelation!

So much to pray about.  We go on and on.  We did it again, staying up too late, urgh!  But in those time together sometimes I almost feel the fluttering edges of that curtain  that was torn in two so we might go boldly into the Holy of Holies and talk to the One who made us and I cannot help but take full advantage.

“Hey,”  the husband pokes his head out the side door at us, “great conversation with Tom in Mexico!” And he details all that is happening with a church plant, the dental clinic and the water projects.  Our excitement to get there is growing but like Lars said we are happy, excited, nervous, eager and sad all in the same moment about it all.  It is normal we say.  But God is a forward-moving God and we are swept up in the movement.

This is just one of the days of my life and not even all of it.  Simple, full, good and yes a little crazy and unconventional.   And I hope well-planned but not so planned it cannot be interrupted by a better one. The house is a mess but  my soul is at rest.  It has been a grueling journey all these many years  learning to lean back in trust and obedience, but I’m finding my soul fits there nicely in Who He Is.  There is much we are preparing for, but it is one day at a time.  One conversation.  One prayer.  One ah-hah moment.  One story.  One lesson.  One painting.  One class. One attempt to roll an R.  One firm correction.  One kiss.  One face-to-face conversation.  One seed to drop. One phone call.  One more “yes”.  One more page to read.

One more.  It all adds up and has a way of shaping who we are and who we’ll become.  He is good to make us in this way I think now as I see the moonlight cracking through the blur of clouds. There is  nothing better than knowing He is more committed to me than I will ever be capable of being to Him.  Yes, He is my home.  Where I live and move and have my being.

He is jealous for me.  And you.  So close the screen now and go Home.

-Angela

6,000 Miles and the Lessons of Presence.

 From mid-June till almost the end of August our little family spent over 140 hours in a mini-van together, traveling 6,000 miles through fourteen states and even up into Canada.  We slept in cabins, cheap hotels, trailers, apartments, farmhouses and urban neighborhoods.  Three days before our scheduled departure date, we still had no money to go.  But we keep re-learning that trustful obedience always precedes provision.  Just in time, a check came to us from a couple we do not recall meeting, covering the amount anticipated we would need.  And as we drove, the generous hands of many filled our tank, offered the use of their washing machine or fed us a warm meal. 

We began the trip excited to tell people about our vision to serve the thirsty, but already exhausted on many levels.   Could we handle more blank stares or perplexed comments about what it means to go out as a “missionary”? Could we go where sometimes there were open arms and other times drilling questions?  Could we set up gatherings where we knew from experience many would be called, but few would come?  Could we tell the stories again and again, each time with the same enthusiasm?  Could we love and serve with no reserve, resolved to place all our hope in the One who does not disappoint?

The reality is that none of these questions will go away when we move to Puebla, Mexico in ten months.  They actually are mirrors to our own faltering hearts and as a Puritan prayer reads, “It is a good day when Thou givest me a glimpse of myself.”  Helping bring water to the thirsty in Mexico, this we know is too large of a task for one small family.  We are simply joining what God is already doing, for He has made a place holder for Himself already in every culture. We know that when you enter deep humanitarian and spiritual issues you agree to enter a journey with others that at times has great pinnacles of transformation but at most times are simply ordinary and faithful days.  

But we go because our God is a traveling God, bent on being with His people among them and as one of them.  He knew this was the only way to launch a rescue mission.  Presence transcends language and cultural traditions; it’s the definitive language of humanity. 

And that’s why we traveled all these miles this summer.  Sitting evening after evening with a man whose wife has left him for a time, filling his quiet walls with the squeal of children again. Listening to the story of a man who came out of atheism and into Christ only to find that on his first mission trip to Mexico he could miraculously understand the foreign words of a peanut farmer longing to come to Jesus.  Holding the newborn baby of a couple who served 8 hard years in Russian, now called to shine light in a forgotten Niagara Falls neighborhood.

Running with our own children up the edges of waterfalls to lie with them in the grass under the stars, loving who they are now.  Receiving the anointing oil placed upon our foreheads by a band of women who are sure that God cannot be kept in safe and tidy boxes.  Sharing a simple taco lunch with a retired Pastor who lost his first wife to cancer and with pensive eyes told us that everything you can know about God is “proved” not only in joy, but also in suffering.  Eating picnics with my father with whom Parkinson’s is making him seem so much less than what I remember about him; it was time to grieve the new reality without doubting the power of God to heal.  Walking the streets of Chicago and telling our children that their stories began in that arch at Moody Bible Institute when a short boy eyed a tall girl and they set out together to change the world. 

And there is more, so much more to the places and about the people with whom we found ourselves with. The funny thing is after all those miles–in spite of all the beds, the van repair, the stolen GPS, the ER visit, the destroyed cell phones and the screaming 2 year-old– we came home with rested souls. 

You see God is not always there in the form we want to see, but He is there in the form of human touch and presence.  A face book message or endless “show and tell” postings cannot begin to put flesh on this truth. A text cannot stare in the eyes of another.  A blog post, as much as I love the written word, cannot hear. An email is not multi-dimensional.  A Skype meeting cannot experience beauty together and even a phone call cannot stretch out a hand.

Only physical presence can give true access to the heart.  In John 15, Jesus called us friends.  He shifted from commandments to the presence, from the assignment to the relationship.  I think He was urging us not to neglect presence with each other, no matter the cost.  For only we, indwelt by the Spirit of the living God working from His favor and with Him, are Christ to one another in human form.  

So we keep writing to you about preparing to go to Mexico, not because we believe any longer that we can change the world.  We’ve tried.  Boy, have I tried.  But it is too big, too broken, and too complex.  We are not enough for that and the Maker, the Storyteller, He’s got it all in His hands.  No, we are going because He beckoned us to follow Him there and where He leads, we’ll follow.  We are willing to give the gift of presence.  My new Spanish teacher tells me we must be crazy. Maybe we are, but we want to witness more of His Great Rescue Plan.  Don’t you?

Each of us, we are a player in the larger world whether we receive that truth, or not.  I tell our boys that our lives, and namely our trust and obedience, has a “domino effect” on the lives around us and into the generations.  And I tell them that the Great Storyteller has been writing each of our stories to equip us to play a significant role in the now and into the days that lay far beyond our own.  Those of you who support us with your sacrificial prayers and finances, your stories intersect with ours.  This is more precious to us that you probably know for you make our strand stronger and longer.  Someday we’ll see the full glory of the beauty He is weaving.  And some of you, He wants to weave our threads together.  If you are sensing this, join our team!  

Our monthly support level is now at 78%!  We are praying and waiting for 25 more partners to join with us at $50 a month or 50 more at $25 a month.  You can go HERE to sign up for automatic electronic monthly giving if you wish, or send your check HERE.

We know we all live busy North American lives, but if our names come to mind while you are sitting at a red light or tossing in a load of laundry, then please pray for us.

  • Pray for the full increase of our monthly support to flow in.
  • Pray for Ben as he attends training in well drilling and pump maintenance at Living Water International in Houston 9/17-10/2.
  • Pray for Angela  and the group of women she’ll speak to in Texas on 9/27 and then as  both Ben and Angela meet with small groups in Texas.
  • Pray for Larsen and Angela as they study Spanish at the local state college.
  • Pray for the demands of homeschooling three children, language learning, support-raising and further training.
  • Pray for rest and stillness.  Pray for laughter and protection.
  • Pray for provision. Pray for odd jobs for Ben to help make ends meet.
  • Pray for our neighbors (Casey, Stephen, Joshua and Hannah and their parents) that their names might be written in the Lambs Book of Life. Our boys are longing for this!
  • Pray we receive and live out ALL the benefits of our salvation.

Thank you for your prayers and continued love and support! 

 You are abundantly blessed and highly favored.  You’ve been delivered from darkness and transferred into light.  You’ve been saved from yourself and Christ is your righteousness. You are part of an eternal Kingdom.  You are redeemed, forgiven and qualified.  He calls you His beloved one.  

Grace and Peace,

Angela (and Ben, Larsen (12), Anders (6) and Kiersta (3) too!)