Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Dangers of De-Cluttering

After New Year’s I began a frenzy of de-cluttering. Before the weather turns hot again, I am taking advantage of a spurt of energy and motivation to clear out all the unnecessary stuff lurking in my closets, cabinets and dressers. The question is what to do with it all? I can have a garage sale, but why should I strap some other missionary with junk I have accumulated after 16 years living in the same house?

Who would want it?

In the same way, I’m attempting to start the new year straightening up things lurking in my heart and mind. Journaling is a good exercise that allows me the luxury of examining my faulty thinking and trashy attitudes without the risk of strapping someone else with them.

There’s an inherent danger in “venting” and “unloading” on husbands, older children, coworkers, and friends near and far away. When I do that, my brain is de-cluttered and my thoughts become clear, but as I am freed from baggage, my listener becomes stuck with it.

A short while back, I shamefully found myself on autopilot, rehearsing a past grievance until my listening coworker finally stopped me, saying, “This is not helpful to me. I am so sorry you were hurt like that, but what am I supposed to do with this information? It just makes me mad. Can we change the subject?”

That was a wake-up call for me. By the grace and healing touch of God, that subject is now forever closed. How I regret my sin of smearing the garbage on my unsuspecting friend.

De-cluttering, unfortunately, is like dieting. You can’t simply say, “Oh, I did that once.” It’s a life-long battle to keep the junk from accumulating in your house and life. I challenge you to check your heart for unseen or maybe more obvious messes that need a clean-up, too.

Trust me, resentment only breeds and multiplies when left alone, and it’s not a pretty sight. It hinders ministry that can only come from a clean heart.

IRL* de-cluttering junk, trashy attitudes, faulty thinking…Who would want it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Virtual Obscurity

For many years, the theme of my life was "obscurity." While some of you are in the limelight way beyond your public comfort zone, I spent over twenty years in virtual obscurity*. (Obscure means "little-known." Synonyms I like: hidden, inglorious, invisible, lonesome, nameless, odd :-) , and secluded.)

Each trip to the States, I would long to share my adventures and misadventures, but alas, no one asked to hear them. My husband was the designated speaker, and only very seldom was I invited to say a few words to a small women's group. Some of you might be murmuring, "Must be nice!" - but for a storyteller like me, it was frustrating to the core.

Instead of telling my stories, I began to write them. My journal is full of life lessons learned on the mission field. Someday I hope to craft those stories into an unforgettable novel more true-to-life than any missionary biography, including those deleted scenes that are too real even for this blog.

Obscurity forced me to develop a quiet heart before the Lord, and also forced me to develop a voice in my writing. The result is that now I am in a new season of life, stepping into the public eye to tell my stories. To tell you the truth, it's a bit scary to suddenly shift gears from invisibility to notoriety. At least now I know that it is God who has brought me here, and not just my own natural tendency to blab my heart's stories.

How about you? Can you find a word or phrase to sum up your life outside your home country? (For fun and added clarity, you might consult a good thesaurus like I did.) What has God taught you or enabled you to learn through this experience?

IRL*obscure to some...but not to Him.

*please refer to sidebar dictionary [Jamie Jo-speak] for the definitions of starred words!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keeping It Real

In the spirit of the honesty I promised in my first post, let me just admit up front: I am a fraud. This came to light over the holidays as I shared this little secret with my ddil* (dear daughter-in-law), who was visiting.

We were laughing over the discrepancy between my written prayer letters and the reality of the scenes that inspired them. Some of you know exactly what I mean! Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days- slash-weeks-slash-events somehow enter the supporters’ mailboxes as simply “…unique challenges”* for which we appreciate prayer.

Right now I am facing the challenge of sending an email re-cap of the last month to our prayer partners. Just how much can I afford to admit? Wow, prayers were answered, and it was a joy to have the whole family together for Christmas. That’s true. But the rest of the story is that adding seven extra bodies (two college kids, two college graduates and my mom, plus a ddil* and a future ddil*!) to the mix provided some less than joyous interactions at times.

There, I said it. Sometimes the dream became a nightmare. We all survived, we all still love each other, and there were genuine tears when they all left. Now I’ll go write the anesthetized version to the folks back home. Only you and my closest friends (and family, of course) will ever be the wiser.

IRL*Anesthetized version-slash-unique challenges-slash-keeping it real-slash-trying...

*please refer to sidebar dictionary [Jamie Jo-speak] for the definitions of starred items!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Me?

Is there any missionary who hasn't asked this question? Most often, I’m afraid I grumble “Why me?” out of frustration, like those days when everything goes wrong. Days when the kids are throwing up from both ends, days when the cistern runs dry, the electricity glitches, and dinner burns. Days like my favorite children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

On better days, though, I ask with a heart of gratitude, humility, and wonder: “Why me?” Of all the spiritually qualified and talented women out there, why am I so blessed to live out this life of service to God? A casual glance at Scripture shows that God delights in using "cracked pots" to accomplish His will. He chose me on purpose. Why? So people will recognize that God is the true source of any good I can possibly do.

Some of you may be seriously wondering what WOTH was thinking when they picked me of all people to be the new “Coffeegirl.” As I prayed about this opportunity, I had to ask the “Why me?” question. I suspect the reason I was selected has to do with who I am. I’m no super missionary, no super mom, no super anything. In fact there is nothing exceptional about me. I’ve lived the majority of my life in virtual obscurity. While I admit this, in no way do I think of myself as a “nobody.”

Instead I think of myself as “anybody” and “everybody.” When you hear of a weird flook or embarrassing situation that happens to someone, or some horrible mistake a friend makes when she totally means well but lets you down anyway, and you graciously say, “It could happen to anybody.”

That’s me.

When you say, “Everybody goes through that on the mission field.”

That’s me, too. I’m anybody and everybody.

Although I have been on the field a bit longer than some of you, I do not pretend to have experienced as much as you have. I have learned a lot, but I am an expert at nothing. Although I am older than many of you (egads, I’m almost 50!), I would be foolish to imply that I am more mature or even one step ahead of you in your walk with Jesus.

My idea is to come alongside you, bring in some humor, and help us laugh at ourselves as we live out these impossible stories God has written for us. I will strive to always be very transparent, authentic, candid, open, and real. I don’t ever want to be a fake. According to, “A fake is a work of art that is deliberately made or altered to appear better, older, or other than what it is.” Yikes! No thanks. If anything, I would rather be genuine and appear younger.

People who know me IRL (in real life) should be able to laugh and say, “Yes, that’s true!” No pretense. No image to protect. Simply me, walking hand in hand with you, my sisters and fellow laborers and sometime blunderers.

IRL*I'm there in the photo (really), one of a whole bunch of women at the WOTH Furlough Retreat, unrecognizable from all the rest....anybody and everybody.


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