Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hall of Shame

Now that we have partially explored the idea of a "Missionary Hall of Fame," let’s very carefully and humbly consider the opposite. Without naming names or being too specific, let’s simply describe those we would mentally nominate for the "Missionary Hall of Shame."

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? This one is tricky, because of course we should all look at our own shortcomings first. For me with my weird grasp of time and inability to remain entirely in the present (remember the post on time travel?), I not only face my current sins, (thankfully my past sins are washed away!), but also my potential sins in the future. Hopefully y’all will also find it fun and even beneficial to consider the missionary you don’t want to become.

I’ll start us off by nominating one I must be oh-so-careful not to resemble. Let’s call her Miss You-Think-You-Have-It-Bad. Rather than commiserating with my suffering and offering a word of wise counsel from Scripture or from her own experience, she would respond with a predictable one-upper. “You think you have it bad?! Well let me tell you how it was when we real missionaries were starting out forty years ago….” Blah, blah, blah.

Now that I have returned to Mexico, celebrating the beginning of our 25th year of being overseas, I want to follow Christ and become more like Him so that those following me will have a good example. I seriously don’t want to become a joke like Miss You-Think-You-Have-It-Bad or worse – like Penelope on the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit I saw this week on Facebook.

IRL* Strongly preferring to become like the Hall of Famers I admire, and examining my heart for bad habits that might land me in the Hall of Shame.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Women Who Defy...

Jamie Jo is on her way back to Mexico this week. In order to give her a break, this week's content is provided by the sole respondent (thanks, Karin!) to her request last week to submit their nomination for a woman working cross-culturally that defied the missionary stereotype. Thank you, Diane, for nominating Lil in the comment section of last week's blog--she sounded like an amazing woman!

Here's Karin's nominee:

"Dear Lady"

Our years living in the village in Central Asia were not a beautifying experience for me physically. The water was scarce and hard, the weather had no grace. Summers were baking hot and winters freezing cold with very little heating. Life was primitive with not many body products for sale to smooth rough skin and quench dry brittle hair. If you were willing to haul some beauty products in your suitcase from abroad it could come...if you had the weight allowance.
I still smile at my interesting observation. When we ladies living and working there would come back from our trips from our home countries we would have the newest haircuts, cute clothes and shoes. We even put make-up on daily. Then as time passed, our beauty routines would slowly fade. The hairstyles would become a daily ponytail, the make-up lessened and the clothes would fade. It was the more natural look—at times even leaning towards looking somewhat neglected.

One day a dear lady came to our town. She gathered the women together for a time of visiting and sharing. I vividly remember us sitting in a circle around the typical low table with flat mattresses on the floor with green tea being served in round Chinese printed cups on a brightly printed plastic tablecloth.

She shared from her heart about her personal experiences and difficulties. Then she hit our hearts full on with these words; "In twenty years time you ladies are not going to be the beauties in the world. Your skin is going to be telling a story of many hot summers and cold winters. You would have probably suffered diseases and hardships. Life would have taken its toll on your age." We did not need to hear much more than this. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. The lump in my throat testified to the truth of what she was saying, as I looked across the table, I did not see one person whose eyes were not full of tears. Life felt harsh, I did feel run down and the mirror did not lie. Yes, when last did I have a good haircut?

She continued: ”But God says you are going to be beautiful to Him in your hearts and souls. You would have walked a life of suffering and faith. You would have endured much. You would be strong in Him. You would be the spiritual giants of this world.” Some of us were wailing now. We were touched to the core. What a beautiful opportunity we had to share our hearts and longings that day to understand one another's needs. We prayed together and were comforted by the beautiful truth of this message.

She then played this song by a group called Delirious:

"FIND ME IN THE RIVER...find me in the river find me on my knees. I've walked against the water now I'm waiting if you please. We've long to see the roses but never felt the thorns and bought our pretty crowns but never paid the price.

Find me in the river; find me on my knees with my soul laid bare. Even though you are gone and I'm cracked and dry...

Find me in the river...I'm waiting here.

We didn't count on suffering we didn't count on pain but if the blessing is in the valley then in the river I will wait."

...see sidebar to click on the YouTube screen to hear it.

Looking back, now almost twelve years ago, I fondly but thoughtfully carry this message in my heart. I do think the weather and difficulties of life have taken its toll on my age and physique. But I do hope that one day I can look into the mirror of my heart and see myself as He sees me. It is true: physical beauty fades with time. But I do believe what lasts are those beauties in our hearts: the choice we make to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to do without some things so someone else can have, giving to others from ourselves more than what we hoped or planned.

These things then would be the true jewels in our hearts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


“They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.
You can lose your mind!”

This silly song has been running through my head for days. If you were born before 1970, you might recognize it from watching reruns of the black and white TV series called “The Patty Duke Show” about two identical cousins. Yeah, like that is even possible, right?

What triggered this endless tune was a comment I saw on the WOTH Writer’s Blog where one of the readers coined the term “Missionaryesque” in her comment. She inspired a topic that could be a future book title: Missionary Stereotypes and the Women Who Defy Them.

When I first landed in Guatemala in August 1986, my mental image of a true missionary was pretty much everything I wasn’t. She was quiet, even bordering on mousey, very subservient and a bit plain, with no trace of make-up or styled hair. I also had vivid impressions of the taboos—things she would never think, say, or do. Where exactly these ideas came from, I have no idea, but it didn’t take me 24 years to figure out that a “typical” missionary is as fictional as identical cousins.

One of the greatest blessings of attending the WOTH Furlough Retreat last summer was getting to meet 99 unique women with diverse talents and personalities. If you look at the photo from my very first IRL blog, you can see that each one was a true beauty from the inside out. Some were enduring epic battles, and still managed to glow as we worshiped God together. I noticed that same quality at the infamous women’s retreat I helped organized this past spring. A group the world might not glance twice at, but who possess a deep inexplicable beauty and charm.

What I propose this week is a “Women Who Defy” Hall of Fame.

I want you to nominate a woman missionary and tell us how she has touched your life, how she is different from any other “woman of the harvest,” and how she does and says things that defy your earlier impressions of how a missionary should act. (For security reasons you might not want to include their full name or country of service.)

As I’m cleaning house, packing bags, saying goodbye to my two college kids again, and then returning to Mexico on the 16th, I look forward to taking a break from the blog and reading your nominations. Please submit them to and we’ll start posting them next week. I’m counting on you to provide the content for next week…so please defy the stereotype and contribute!

IRL* Debunking Missionaryesqueness

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Malibu Jamie

Since the day I arrived in California, I’ve been getting more and more tan. This is very puzzling, considering I haven’t even been trying. Back when vanity had full reign in my life (even though I was young, thin, and cute), I always regretted my pale red-head-type complexion. Every now and then I would attempt the boring art of sunbathing, which consistently resulted in sun burning, peeling, and freckled skin.

In Mexico I cautiously avoid the sun at peak hours, and still occasionally burn if I hang too much laundry too late in the morning. So you can see why it surprised me to inexplicably turn brown by merely going for a late afternoon or early morning swim.

It became almost a joke, as I would ponder what on earth had caused this strange phenomenon. I even suggested to my daughter that maybe Californians spray something in the atmosphere to force the “Malibu Barbie” effect on unsuspecting newcomers so we can blend in. She would humor me, probably rolling her eyes behind my back, but could offer no alternate explanation.

Clearly I was growing darker by the day.

While in Wisconsin for the wedding (see photo in sidebar), a casual chat with my 1st ddil* revealed the source of my tan. As I was sharing with her some of my latest cheap natural skin care tricks, I mentioned using coconut oil in place of antiperspirant (it really works!) and body creams for my desert dry skin. That’s when she added that her mom uses coconut oil for tanning. Ding-ding-ding! Light bulbs flipped on like in the cartoons.

Mystery solved. The irony is that I never could tan when I desperately wanted one, but once I stopped caring about such vain trivialities, voila! Instant California-bronzed arms and legs. It also explains why the only place I have burned is on my back, where I can’t reach with the coconut oil.

Here’s another mystery, as yet unsolved. Maybe you can help me with this one. Why is it that we all meticulously study photos to find our own flaws exposed, so focused that we honestly don’t notice other people’s bad hair, double chins, flabby arms, or whatever… and yet when we read certain books and hear convicting sermons, we quickly remember others’ imperfections (sins) and not our own?

Admit it. How many times have you read a book only to think, “My coworker So-and-So should read this.”?

I guess I am coming full cycle. Caring too much what others think, to not caring at all what others think, to finally caring only as it might help me in my quest to become Christ-like.

IRL* Wondering what books my husband and friends wish I would read…


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