Wednesday, December 28, 2011

See You Next Year: January 11, 2012


After writing 51 amazing posts this year,
Jamie Jo is taking a much deserved break.

You can look forward to her next post on January 11,2012.

See you then!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Losing My Moxie

This whole blogging thing is catching up to me. After years of writing for a limited audience, presuming that friends who don’t comment don’t actually read my blogs, I’m gradually realizing that my words are permanently out in cyberspace for all to see, today, tomorrow, and maybe years down the road.

I think I’m losing my moxie. Maybe this makes no sense unless you are a blogger, but suddenly I am self-conscious. Not only that, but family and friends are starting to cringe when something happens, wondering how long before some family affair or mutual embarrassment hits the Internet.

In its infancy my writing was a private affair in my own room with no audience but Jesus and my journal. Now my writing has hit puberty. Hopefully that means someday I will be a real grownup writer. For now, though, I’m going through an awkward stage.

Did you ever go through this in junior high? I distinctly remember waking up one morning in the seventh grade having no clue how to walk. Honest to Pete, I had been walking since toddlerhood, but all of a sudden I couldn’t do it without looking dorky. Before a full-length mirror, I tried different ways of holding my head, swinging my arms, and trying to look natural.

As far as I know, I got it figured out eventually. Walking, I mean. At this point I’m doing the same process with my writing, looking in the mirror, and trying to figure out how to continue without compromising my family and friends’ privacy or unnecessarily exposing my own goofiness.

According to About.com, adolescents go through a phase of egocentrism that sounds strangely like what I am going through. Definition: The" imaginary audience" is a label for teens' and older tweens' belief that a group of followers exist who constantly watch and judge their every move. The belief arises from the larger concept of adolescent egocentrism. An egocentric adolescent believes that wherever he goes, everyone around him is as interested in him as he is in himself. He also believes his "audience" is continually commenting on his actions and appearance. It's like being a celebrity...except no one is actually watching.

Only I know for a fact that my e-maginary friends are watching and reading, though I usually suspect no one will be interested in what I write. I need to grow up and be bold in my writing when necessary while maintaining sensitivity to my readers and my loved ones.It’s a delicate balance for someone in the pimply stage of writing publicly.

For now I am taking a break for Christmas and New Year’s, enjoying some marriage and family time free of any writing goals or aspirations. Maybe I will hit a growth spurt during my break.We’ll see.

IRL* One thing I plan to do is spend more time reading your blogs that I have discovered on the WOTH Writer’s Blog. You inspire me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Feeling a Bit Shy

Amid some speculation that I will not be able to put a coherent sentence together without mentioning my precious grandbaby, let me just reassure you that if anything I am feeling shy about the whole thing.

Yes, the trip was glorious, and yes I am totally and completely smitten with the new family member, and yes I cried more than a few tears saying goodbye. In fact I had a mini-meltdown in Stuff Mart as I bought her Christmas present – a Hallmark book I had to read and record several times until my voice stopped cracking with emotion.

With that said, I know that others would love to be parents or grandparents and simply aren’t. For one reason or another God has not chosen to bless them in the same way. The same goes with my big family. Most people think we are nuts to have had seven children, but others are envious that God did not bless them with a healthy child for as many pregnancies.

Back when I lost a baby in my second trimester of pregnancy, the hardest thing I had to do was assist a friend in labor and childbirth. It was a bittersweet time.

My instinct is always to downplay my blessings to avoid hurting others unnecessarily. Is that weird? Maybe it’s the old people-pleasing gene coming back to haunt me. I’m not sure. All I know is that everyone I meet is facing some battle, and I hate to be the one to inflict injury by boasting of my bliss.

Meanwhile dh and I are planning to leave on Friday for three amazing days on the beach to celebrate our anniversary. We never did take a honeymoon, always intending to do that “someday.” Seven children later, someday never came. Finally we are ignoring the pocketbook and just going to seize the moment.

This, too, makes me feel a bit shy. I shared with our supporters our plan to escape on this hopefully romantic getaway, but now I worry about how people perceive it. Finances are tight, and this seems like a foolishly extravagant expense right at the end of the year.

What will people think? Just when I think I am free from this worry, it plagues me once again. What about my single friends, and those who are not-so-happily married? What about those who don’t live anywhere near a lovely but cheap vacation spot?

The world says to pursue and embrace pleasure and forget what people think. I don’t want to do that, but nor do I want to pretend it is a virtue to care too much what others think. Most friends are thinking nothing whatsoever. Probably they are rejoicing with me in my various celebrations this month.

Keeping it real, this is my story right now. I’m going from joy to bliss and back again. I am truly blessed.

My prayer is that you are experiencing God’s grace and peace, whether you are enduring heavy trials or a lovely reprieve.

IRL* My new name is GJ for Grandma Jamie, a title I am proud but shy to bear.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knock, Knock. Who's There?

“Oh, no you’re not, young lady!” seems to be the theme of my week, only minus the young part. It’s not me the mother talking, but me the daughter hearing these words. Ack. Just when I thought I was grown up enough to make my own decisions and do my own thing…
Thwarted. Repeatedly. Every time I turn around, Dad seems to be saying, “Oh, no you don’t.” Again I am out of control. He’s calling the shots.
This morning at breakfast my ds told an old knock-knock joke that I once told a friend, thinking she might see herself in it, but she didn’t. Today it hit dangerously close to home.
Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Control Freak…. Now this is the part where you say ‘Control Freak who?’
Ack. I never thought this was particularly my problem, but suddenly nothing is going my way, and I realize again that I must lay down the reins all day long, every day of my life.
And you know what? When I do, I invariably find that God’s ways are better than my original plans.
The weekend retreat was lovely, and the messages were exactly what I needed. It was only behind the scenes that any power struggles occurred between the Trail Guide and myself.
Day one, we had planned a lovely 5-plus hour drive to the retreat center, just our family and the conference speaker and his wife, who have been dear friends for over twenty years. Then dh informed me we were caravanning with another family. Then the family informed us they were taking another family in their van, and yet a third vehicle was following them with another family of six.
First stop was McDonald’s. I thought we would drive through very quickly before leaving the city and take some burgers for lunch. Thwarted. It wasn’t yet noon, so all we could get was breakfast. Then the three other families decided they would go into McDonald’s to order. Forty minutes later we were finally on the road.
My plan was to arrive in plenty of time to get registered and settled before the first session, but due to a string of complications (road work, long potty stops, etc.), our 5-plus hour trip took a full 8 hours. It wasn’t bad, mind you, just not what I had envisioned. The poor speaker had to literally climb out of the car and walk straight to the podium and start speaking.
And so it went for the rest of the weekend. It’s like we remind the newbie missionaries, “Not bad, just different.” That’s my new mantra of the week. Surely I will soon stop trying to micromanage and allow the King of the universe to dictate what each day will hold.
IRL*Meanwhile, I am awaiting the imminent birth of my first granddaughter, which I had hoped (and planned) to announce today. ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How's Thanksgiving Looking for You This Year?

How does Thanksgiving look this year in your country of service? If we were in the States, it would be all about stuffing our faces, watching football, raking or playing in the leaves, and maybe shopping for bargains on Friday. Best of all, it would be about family. That’s what I miss the most. Thanksgiving with extended family. How about you?

Normally we go through the motions of roasting a turkey with all the fixings, including imported cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies with cans we bring from the U.S. This year we are going away for a long weekend retreat with other ex-pat families from other countries, and we won’t be having a special feast tomorrow.

It’s like the Grinch who stole Christmas, only no one has maliciously taken anything from us. I’m thinking of the scene at the end of the book, where the Whos from Whoville are standing around the tree with no gifts, no Christmas lights, no roast beast. The Grinch, who had assumed they would give it all up, was shocked to hear the townspeople begin singing joyfully around the tree.

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought...
doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!”

That’s what Thanksgiving is really all about. Being grateful for what we do have. Tomorrow we’ll be singing praises to the Lord, each quietly remembering our long lists of blessings. This year I am blessed to spend the holiday weekend with true family, even though my flesh and blood relatives are scattered from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I’m thankful that we’ve all been adopted into one big family, and for the blessing of calling each of you my sisters.

IRL*
Happy Thanksgiving, however you choose to recognize it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Potholes, Roadblocks, Traffic Jams and Tummy Aches

Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. How many of you remember the old Chevy commercial (circa 1975) about things that go together in the “good old USA”?



I’ve been toying with the idea of a local version that would include soccer, tacos, Mexican Coke, and VW bugs.

How would the commercial sound in your country?

To be truthful, the first four words that popped into my head were potholes, roadblocks, traffic jams, and tummy aches. Can you see what kind of week I’ve been having? Somehow these just don’t make for a very snappy jingle, though.

On Saturday we drove some guests out to a Zapotec village for the presentation of a newly printed New Testament translation that our ministry has provided in audio format. The journey only took us about three hours, but we didn’t travel as far as you might imagine in that time. Not only were there many curves in the road limiting our speed, but also in every populated area we were slowed by a series of “sleeping policemen” or speed bumps.

One of our guests sympathized with my poor dh, who forever seems to be taking vehicles to the mechanic to replace brake pads or some other problem caused by the brutal roads we have. The sad truth, though, is that without speed bumps and potholes, people simply would not honor the suggested speed limits.

A number of years ago, my eldest daughter witnessed a fatal accident when a dump truck attempted to race around a stopped bus. Normally a speed bump would have slowed the traffic, but that day it had been worn down to the point of being useless. What made the incident even more tragic was that the careless driver was the godfather of the child he killed.

As we related this story to our guests, I began to consider what a blessing certain
“inconveniences” can be, just like speed bumps, even though we don’t always appreciate them.

Not having any TV reception for all these years might be considered an unnecessary inconvenience, but because of that “speed bump” I am convinced our family is healthier and happier. I wouldn’t trade all those long evenings of reading aloud for anything. Unpaved roads that are faster to walk than drive also serve to benefit and enrich our lives, though many people might not prefer such a blessing.

Being sick is another kind of speed bump. Just since Women of the Harvest started this blog in 2010, I’ve complained of high blood pressure/headaches, an E.Coli infection, and Dengue Fever. Each time I was forced to slow down. Each time I became more empathetic of friends who truly suffer with debilitating chronic illnesses.

How about you? What speed bumps are you thankful for?

IRL* Potholes, roadblocks, traffic jams, and tummy aches ... happen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Teen Years: Comedy? Mystery? Or
Terrifying Suspense Novel?

In a perfect world…
Fill in the blank. The past few days these words keep repeating themselves in my head, and I can’t decide if it’s an altogether healthy exercise to imagine such a place.

On the one hand, it’s always good to be reminded, as we said a couple of weeks ago, that this is not our home. On the other hand it’s disconcerting to realize that even among the body of Christ we are still so far from what we should be. Will the world ever know us by our love?

For the past thirteen years I have had the dubious distinction of being the mother of anywhere from one to four teens at a time. In June it went from three back down to two as my dd turned twenty. This month it goes back up to three as my youngest turns thirteen. Whoopee! (The finish line is in sight.)

Facing the teen years with the seventh is no less daunting than the first time around. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those doom-and-gloom “just wait till you have a teenager” kind of moms. The truth is that I love, enjoy, and appreciate my children more at this stage than I did when they were so little and needy.

What makes parenting older kids challenging is that their struggles are bigger and deeper, and somehow more is at stake. As a mom, I see their unique gifts and personalities when others seemingly don’t. Nothing in life pains me quite like watching my children blunder through the social maze of a supposedly Christian circle.

Seeing how they apply the Word of God (or not) in each situation, holding my breath to see if they even attempt to respond in a Christ-like manner, I don’t know - the drama is like a comedy, a mystery, and a terrifying suspense novel all wrapped up in one. So far the older four have all made it through relatively unscathed, still loving their parents, each other, and God.

The jury is still out on the youngest three. Sadly this is the time they become acutely aware that this is anything but a perfect world.

As a mom, I know what they might expect. Nothing less than what Jesus experienced – people misunderstanding him, rejecting him, pretending to be friends while plotting against him, mocking him, and using him for their own benefit. At the same time teens have a villain whispering lies in their ears that they are not smart enough, attractive enough, or good enough.

At first glance, this may not seem like a unique dilemma to raising kids on the field, but the stakes are so much higher. We’ve seen several families who have had to go back to the States for the sake of their teenagers who were making poor decisions or who had been hurt in some way. None of us would be so foolish or bold as to say that could never happen to us.

It’s a scary place out there for our teens, spiritually and emotionally if not physically. It’s enough to keep me humbly on my knees and in the Word. Our MKs don’t have to be casualties in the battle we have waged with the enemy.

IRL* Let’s keep them covered in prayer, shall we?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do You Have the Gift of Giving Gifts?

With the holiday season coming up, but still far enough away to plan, let’s talk about gifts. I am such a hypocrite when it comes to gifts. If you are familiar with the five love languages, I’ve always said that gift giving is not my strongest love language. It is a chore for me to think up appropriate presents for even my closest friends and family members, and even worse with local Mexican friends.

However, I am extremely blessed by the amazingly perfect tokens that others have given to me. I enjoy having little reminders of loved ones scattered throughout my house. Even non-sentimental gifts like Tupperware and cars make me remember fondly the people who gave them.

This past Sunday dh and I took the kids to a pastor’s house in the city, taking a tiny edible offering (some homemade cranberry bars that took me all of ten minutes to throw together before baking). In return, we were served a lovely chicken dinner with a special “Oaxacan black mole” sauce made from seven chilies (that requires at least six hours to prepare from scratch). When we left, they gave the kids a glass candy dish full of candy, my husband a framed map of Oaxaca, and me a decorative clay vase. It was almost embarrassing.

These things happen to me on a regular basis. People love to give presents. Even when I visit a friend in the prison here, she blesses me with gorgeous painted tin art that she makes. While I may never out-give either the pastor or my inmate –not to mention all our stateside friends—their tokens of friendship do prompt me to pray for them, and I do feel loved.

With that said, I really wish I could think of a gift that would help friends back home remember me, that would trigger a smile and a prayer occasionally. While waiting for inspiration, I do nothing. That’s terrible, I know. Good intentions are worthless.

What I want to know is what you do for your family, friends, and supporters. Do you send them something at Christmas time? Take souvenirs from your host country when you visit them? Or do you order books or other things from the Internet to be shipped to them?

Have you ever given a gift that was not a hit? Dh once gave some friends a wooden tray with colorful wooden fruit, back when he was single and returned from his first mission trip to Guatemala. The recipients treated it like a gag gift and returned it to him as a joke after we got married. Ouch. That makes us want to stick with safe presents like coffee and chocolate.

However, consumable presents don’t leave a lasting reminder that says “We love you” or “Please pray for us” or “Thanks again for your support.”

What do you suggest?

IRL* I’m open to new ideas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ask Jamie Jo: Reverse-Reverse Culture Shocker

Earlier this month a reader sent an email that deserves a serious and thoughtful response. I have written three entire posts attempting to address the issue of reverse culture shock in reverse--I kept starting over, feeling each time that it wasn't adequate. None of the three did it justice. I am counting on you to flesh it out with personal experiences in the comment section.
Nicolette spent the summer in the States after her first three years on the field. She had been warned to expect reverse culture shock back in the home country, and wasn’t surprised when it happened. What she wasn’t expecting was the wave of culture shock that hit when she returned to the field.
You can read her blog post “The Culture Shock that No One Tells You About” here. Basically she poses more questions than I can answer in one short post, but I will say truthfully that, yes, I still go through that shock of re-entry both coming and going. It does get easier, and the transition happens more quickly each time around, but muddling through the discomfort of a major change is inevitable.
My first random thought is that flying has a lot to do with it. In the early years we used to drive back and forth from Guatemala to the States. In that way, we could ease ourselves in and out of cultures gradually. Flying makes the re-entry so abrupt at both ends of the trip. That could be a factor. Think of the old-time missionaries literally taking the slow boat to China. By the time they got there, they were ready to be there. This isn’t necessarily true with air travel.
Secondly, I think we tend to idolize our adopted country while we are stateside. We paint such a rosy portrait of life overseas that we start to believe it ourselves. Returning to the nitty gritty of reality can be a bit of a shock and disappointment just as intense as the disgruntled feelings we experience in the U.S. Neither place seems quite right any more.
I could hang my head in shame having to admit that I haven’t arrived, but the truth is that I am not home yet. It is only natural that I will feel out of place both here and in the U.S. Neither place is my home. The unsettling discomfort of homesickness and culture shock is a wonderful reminder that I will always be in transition until the day I land in heaven. That’s the good news, my friends.
Meanwhile, culture and language learning is a lifelong process. It’s never finished.
And lastly, may we never be so naïve as to forget that there is still a villain in our story who wants to rob us of our joy and replace it with confusion and misunderstanding. Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to document and analyze the wild swings of emotion we experience on the field. I mention it often, but a great tool and weapon is to make a list of things that make you thankful.
IRL* I am thankful most of all that this is not my home!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mixed Blessing

“A picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand pictures.” Our mission sometimes uses this quote to encourage short-term missions. Another quote only whispered jokingly among those of us behind the scenes is that “All work teams are a blessing – some in their coming, and some in their leaving.”
Most of our teams have been enormous blessings to us personally, but today I share a story about one individual who was a mixed blessing. Maybe you can appreciate the ironic humor of this scene involving the poor housing coordinator of the mission base and some short-term "helpers."
A group had just arrived from an American church to minister in Guatemala for the week. One lady in particular was making demands, grumbling complaints, and firing questions at my friend Kala, who had the misfortune to be the temporary hostess at the time.
"Isn't there some other bathroom we could use? Borrow? RENT? This is absurd! Surely you can't expect all six of us to share one bathroom! And the beds... really - bunk beds for adults? You've got to be kidding... and isn't there a single box of Kleenex in this apartment?" On and on she ranted.

Kala was doing her best to conceal her exasperation with this in-your-face guest. While she was on one of her many errands, attempting to please the newcomer as much as humanly possible, I tried to calmly distract the lady with small talk: "So, what do you hope to do while you're in Guatemala?"
Instantly the furrowed brows were replaced with a saccharine sweet expression, and her tone softened to almost a whisper as she righteously declared,
"Oh, I'm just here to b-less and encourage the missionaries!"
How often have I done the same thing - attempted some worthwhile task in my own strength, on my own terms, and in the process totally sabotaged the effort? By not relying on the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, my results are no godlier than those of the snarky woman who unwittingly ran ragged the very one she came to "b-less."
With my limited energy in the wake of Dengue (are you sick of hearing about this now?), I’m finding I can do much less in my own strength, but maybe that’s a good thing.
IRL*In my weakness, He is strong.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who's that in the Mirror?

Who are you making fun of? I feel obligated to warn you that you are systematically being transformed into the very characters you used to mock. At least I am.
Back in Guatemala when I was the new kid on the block, a young 20-something with few enough children to call each one by the right name most of the time, I used to snicker at Mrs. (you-think-you-have-it-bad) Missionary Mighty Woman with her eight (what was she thinking?) children. She was notorious for publicly correcting her husband, saying, “No, dear. I’m sure you are mistaken. It couldn’t have possibly been 1950-whatever when that happened, because I distinctly remember that I was pregnant with such-and-such a baby that summer….”
Ha! How I used to laugh over that, until I stopped finding it funny. In fact now I find myself (horrors!), not saying it outright (usually), but often mentally correcting my own dh’s faulty time lines. I now calculate dates and events based on how many children we had at any time in question.
Once upon a time I vowed to never evolve into that Mighty Missionary Woman for another reason, but darn if I don’t see glimpses of “You-think-you-have-it-bad” staring at me in the mirror. Maybe it was inevitable, I don’t know, but it does seem that you fresh young 20-somethings have a much easier go of things than we did back in my day, and certainly have things easier than the generation before me. But I will keep my mouth closed and try hard not to say it out loud, though my pen might get careless at times.
When you turn into me someday (just you wait!), or worse, into your mother, which we all seem to do for better or for worse, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Oh, and another confession, while I’m on a roll. I used to secretly and sometimes openly tease a missionary friend who suffers from something akin to narcolepsy. Poor thing. She randomly drops off to sleep whenever she is in a comfortable chair (which of course is not a daily occurrence in this prickly land of rustic and hard furniture). Ha, ha, ha. How I used to laugh, until I had Dengue, and now it’s Jamie Jo sitting in the chair falling asleep without notice.
I’m telling you, beware! Watch whom you tease. She’s lurking in your mirror even now.
IRL* Maybe if I intentionally mock all the skinny ladies….

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October's Alarm

October. What’s so good about it? For me, it’s a love-hate relationship. Living in the high desert, October holds no promise of autumn, but it does offer the promise of ending Daylight Savings Time.
If anyone is keeping tally of my random pet peeves, feel free to add Daylight Savings to the list. In my way of thinking, it makes no sense to enforce a time change in a region so close to the equator. The days and nights are already fairly equally distributed year-round.
As it stands, many indigenous people boycott the time change, if they even know it exists. This causes all sorts of misunderstandings, like we don’t have enough confusion as it is. We plan an event or a meeting with people, never entirely sure what time they will show up. Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
These early days of October, the clock daily alarms me out of a deep and sometimes lovely dream. However last week I was relieved to hear that awful clanging on two consecutive mornings when the alarm delivered me from a newly recurring nightmare. Do you ever have those?
As a child, did you ever have that nightmare where you were out in public only to discover you were practically naked? My grown up, missionary version of this nightmare goes like this: Dh and I are hiking out to an Indian village, where I try to discretely photograph all the colorful and interesting people. No matter what I do, people gawk at me.
In this crazy dream that won’t end without the alarm clock, dh is happily engaged in conversation with the men of the village while I am being overtly shunned and ostracized by the women. Always I realize too late that I am wearing shorts – a huge cultural taboo, particularly among Christians. Then I try frantically to wrap a rebozo (Indian shawl) like Miss Wear-it-on-My-Sleeves, to make it look like a skirt of some sort.
Not to defy Miss What- to-Wear-Wednesdays, who recently condemned the use of the ugly but ever so practical granny gown (sigh), however, it seems coincidental that these nightmares only return on the nights when I sleep in shorty little PJ shorts, and never when I wear my ever so comfy, though undeniably homely, granny gown. Just saying….
So, back to October.
What do you love/hate about October in your corner of the world?
Seldom ambivalent about anything, as you have noticed, here is my short list:
  • I love that the countryside is still green, yet it is sunny enough to dry clothes on the line
  • I hate the prospect of facing another long, dry, dusty season ahead
  • I love that I can soon sleep that extra hour every morning
  • I hate Mexico’s fascination with Day of the Dead
  • I love that Halloween brings neighbors right to my doorstep
  • I hate that they are all masked and I have no idea who they are
Your turn. Do tell.
IRL* Again my past posts are coming back to haunt me – even in my sleep!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Kind of Apology is That?

Suddenly several past blog posts are returning to haunt me. Was I really the author of that ridiculous post about forgiveness?
Just last Saturday, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Again. I sinned against many, and many sinned against me. Basically it was one of my excruciating headache days where frankly no one in my family had a hope of pleasing me -- short of disappearing altogether, but no one took the hint.
The next day, one person bravely approached me and said, “I’m sorry.” (Expectant look accompanied my continued silent treatment.) “For everything,” he added. (Accusing look replaced the expectant one.) “All day yesterday.” (Disgusted look inserted.)
WHAT KIND OF APOLOGY IS THAT? Most of us would agree that a general apology of that sort just does not cut it. I want him to itemize precisely how he hurt, neglected, and offended me, and to express his sorrow and regret with evidence of a repentant heart. I mean really! Does he think I will just erase the whole day for he asking? Without making him suffer?
Thankfully guilt flooded my heart before any snarky words escaped my lips. The Holy Spirit practically shouted at me how often I do the exact same thing. I simply give a quick oops-I’m-sorry-I-sinned type confession just to maintain a position of intimacy with the Lord. It just hit me over the head that maybe God wants me to actually itemize my sin sometime, not so that I will suffer with the weight of it, but so that I will experience the relief of having it lifted. Without confessing my sin, am I really turning from it?
This past week has been a continual battle with more than a fair share of difficulties and trials. Within 24 hours, my beloved MacBook began to fail (with no handy dandy Apple store to run to for help), the car battery died while I was in the city with a granddaddy migraine, and finally my Kindle died, too (but has been resuscitated, thankfully). The only way I could possibly hope to experience victory was through warfare prayer against despair, but I didn’t dare enter that level of prayer without being fully cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness.
The problem with my MacBook is largely because I had overloaded it with too many programs without deleting all the garbage that had accumulated on the hard drive. It didn’t have nearly enough space for all the processes I was requiring of it.
Spiritually I am in the same boat as my computer, running way too many applications with way too much garbage (and sin?) cluttering my heart, mind, and daily agenda. With one simple step, I can have unlimited gigabytes of spiritual, mental, and physical power available to me. Without oversimplifying or belaboring the point, I just want to admit that I am returning to the Power source, and trying to set things right.
Meanwhile I commiserate with those of you who battle with long-term, debilitating illness. I guess you just learn to compensate for your lack of energy by doing a lot less. How you stay sweet with your loved ones I will never understand.
Oh, and I did forgive him-who-shall-not-be-named for all his many offenses. Bless his heart. Why should I expect him to remember what he did? I can’t remember myself any more.
IRL* For now I am trying to clear my foggy irrational brain and figure out where to address all my apologies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Jumpers and Tennies

Whether you are a Fashionista or not, you have to admit that we women of the harvest do have style! This week I want to introduce you to a couple of blogs I have recently discovered. The first is called What to Wear Wednesdays by the author of a book on my shelf titled Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad.
Another is by a young, chic college student who reminds me of our own Yellow Dress Girl, Sarah. This Sarah’s blog is called Wearing it on My Sleeves and is full of fabulous thrift store finds she has made over to suit her. All I can say is that she would go nuts over the treasures in most missionary closets.
With that in mind, I have a trivial question for you. Everyone wants to know…. What is in your closet and why?
We’re not talking about skeletons in your closet or anything serious like that (unless of course there is something urgent you feel like getting off your chest, and then we’ll all politely listen), but simply your wardrobe.
‘Fess up.
What is the oldest item of clothing you still wear?
When did you get it, and
what’s the story behind it?
My daughters laughed over a photo of a missionary friend at a birthday party fifteen years ago. The woman was wearing a red dress identical to the sun-faded pink dress she still wears today. The kids thought this hilarious.
It wasn’t so funny when a lady in the US commented on my favorite Coldwater Creek jacket, saying she used to have the same one. The emphasis was on “used to” and I was embarrassed. However, I still wear that same blazer, and six more years have passed. Why? I like it, it still fits, and it’s comfortable.
I have many theories on why we women of the harvest don’t care so much about what we wear. Mostly it boils down to finances, lack of thrift stores overseas, and cultural restraints. What is acceptable and modest in one place does not cut it in a different setting. Mostly, though, I think we are far enough outside of mainstream USA and Hollywood that we simply don’t care to play the game any more.
Back in 1988, my sister and her children came to visit us in Guatemala. I’ll never forget the look on my dh’s face as we saw Marsha’s attire when she got off the plane. She was wearing a drop-waist jumper-like dress (ew!) and (are you ready for this?) tennies with bobby socks! Anyone living in the US at that particular time would have thought nothing of it; in fact she was quite stylish by American standards. We, however, had never seen such a combination in our corner of the world.
What cracks me up is the number of missionaries we see today dressed just like my sister in 1988. Why do they do that? I suppose it’s comfortable and they like it.
IRL* No kidding, I’m typing this while wearing a cozy cardigan I got from Land’s End at least ten years ago.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We All Possess This

Hard as I try to foster an attitude of gratitude by daily or at least weekly recounting all my blessings, somehow I slip into the old habit of taking things for granted until they are gone.
Time, health, and finances are the top three that tend to be overlooked until they are in short supply. Returning from my recent fog of Dengue Fever, I’m particularly aware of the blessing of good health, but this week I want to talk about time.
While each of us can claim varying degrees of youth, beauty, fame, fortune, and anything else Hollywood might deem important, the one blessing we all possess in equal quantity is time. We are guaranteed 24 hours in each day.
Whenever we run out of time, it just reveals that we are either overly ambitious, or else maybe we are slow learners, still struggling over the basics of life on the field. The trouble is that we continue filling our calendars and daily agendas to the max, forgetting that we are powerless to accomplish anything apart from the grace of God. We are dismayed and actually surprised when the unexpected happens (the electricity goes off, people stop by needing a meal, a child gets sick), and we finish none of the tasks we set out to do. List-checkers are particularly annoyed when their day doesn't play out according to the plan. Am I right?
As the years go by, if we don't go crazy first, we learn the art of sculpting our plans in Jello instead of concrete. Even still it is a struggle. Ideally I start each day in prayer, asking God to take my time and use it for His glory. When I do this, I never have that frantic feeling that time is too short. Then and only then can I view interruptions in proper perspective. People are the reason we are here. When people start becoming intrusions, I know something is wrong. It proves I'm holding my to-do list too possessively. Again.
It's ironic that I had this particular post outlined in my mind, but every time I tried to type it up, someone else was on the computer. My whole Monday was one thwarted plan after another. I wish I could say I handled it gracefully because the day belonged to God, not me. Instead I was a snarky mom all day, griping about how behind we are with school, and how I wanted to finish this post and check it off my list. Normally I love writing, but this week I was too busy fretting over lost time to ever write about time.
Two weeks ago, my daughter, Debbie, was sick for two days, and we got behind in school. Last week we lost two days due to the ministry team being here. This week is a four-day week because of Independence Day on Friday. In three weeks, we have slipped a whole week behind in our school work. With my other children, I would have pushed them to make it up, and somehow we would catch up. With Debbie, it is impossible. She has Apraxia and some language-related learning disabilities that cause her to work double or triple hard on a daily basis. Speeding up the learning process is just not an option. Apparently God has another solution. I just need to give our time to Him, not just every school year, but every week, every day, every hour.
Having a daughter who struggles with speech, reading, and anything language-related (which is just about every academic subject) should teach me patience. If only I could let go of my lesson plans when they don't work out.
On a positive note, I am no longer teaching the ladies Bible study at the local church. On a not-so-positive note, I filled the time I "found" by agreeing to teach an elective at the Christian school, where my son Jonny attends. I gave up a one-day class in town, and committed to a two-day class in the city. Does anyone else see a problem here?
IRL* I just need to give my time to Him, not just every school year, but every week, every day, every hour.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just Tapping In

video

IRL*This is Jamie Jo's 89th blog post...amazing! Get some rest, dear friend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Was it Something I Said?

"Was it something I said? "

My “Ask Jamie Jo” question in reverse (since you have no questions for me, then I’ll ask one of you!) is: How do you live with the consequences of hurtful words once spoken but never forgotten by those who took offense?

Particularly, how do you hold your head up and continue in fellowship with loved ones and/or coworkers, who choose to hold a grudge, yet may never let you know what it was you did or said that was so unforgiveable?

The thing about being imperfect is that I can freely forgive those around me, at least for insignificant little offenses. One of my virtues is that I really truly “get” what it means to be loved unconditionally and to be completely and forever forgiven. Thank You, Jesus!

Because of that (and a very forgetful nature in general, which in other contexts is anything but a virtue), I can forgive myself when I blow it. I hate my sin, but I know where to take it for daily/hourly/ continual washing. That’s the greatest blessing in this life as a Christian – being bathed in love and forgiveness.

Being forgiven, I can then forgive myself, and being aware of my constant struggle against this sin nature (and careless tongue), I can easily extend grace to others when they sin against me. Usually.

Ironically the one sin I hate the most is the sin of unforgiveness. I just don’t get it.

How can Christian workers and family members grow old and bitter, daily revising a long and ready list of offenses people have ignorantly committed against them? Maybe they really don’t “get” it – the whole gospel message of forgiveness, redemption, setting the captives free, healing the broken-hearted and all that. In that case, what is the point of their missionary zeal?

What message are we conveying if we don’t demonstrate love and forgiveness?

Help me out here. I want to understand. You see, lately I have been convicted of my role in some broken relationships. When I’ve asked, “Was it something I said?” more often than not, I’ve discovered that yes, in fact, it was. Sometimes the offense was so long ago, I can’t even recreate the scene of my crime to possibly untangle or rectify the damage of my careless words.

All I can say is “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Mostly I just carry on, making new friends, hoping and praying that they are the forgiving type, knowing that eventually I will likely offend them in some way, too. I choose to embrace my friends’ humanity along with all their oddities, and to forgive when they fail to love like Christ.

If only I could more easily forgive when they refuse to forgive me….

Tell me honestly now: What do you do in these situations? Become a paranoid people-pleaser, and keep everyone at a pseudo-happy distance, never saying much for fear of causing offense? Or...?
IRL* Tempting though it is, this seems like a lonely road to becoming un-real.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Obsession: Hospitality

Surely there is some happy zone that lies between boredom and fatigue, but I’m having trouble locating it. Instead I am swinging from one extreme to the other. During the summer exodus, things were quiet to the point of boredom (except for 4th of July, when the English-speaking community came out of the woodwork).

Now the rest of the “family” is returning, and I am exhausted.

After a week in the U.S being spoiled with hospitality and meals by my new ddil’s family and friends, I was inspired to more fully use what I have to bless others.

Last Thursday I hosted a dinner party for a couple who recently returned from furlough. Included were the couple they are staying with while they are house hunting. Before I knew it, the kids insisted we also invite their youth leaders (plus their two babies). The husband’s mom was visiting from the States, so of course, we included her, too.

That’s how it happened that amid my 3-hour naps to conquer the effects of Dengue, we ended up with eleven plus a high chair and an infant around our table. It was great catching up with those three couples, especially since my dishwashers (aka “dc”) were working.

Two days later, my heart went out to two families who had just arrived after a summer in the U.S. and hadn’t possibly had time to drive to the city for groceries; so yes, we had another dinner party on Saturday night. Believe me, this is not typical for me, but a new obsession with hospitality.

Monday was our first day of school. Jonny (his real name, by the way), my ds, left at 7:00 AM for the MK school in the city, and I started our official year of home schooling the two remaining girls at home. All was fine until dh reminded me that Monday was the day the missions pastor from our kids’ church in California was coming with his wife and a local pastor. You guessed it. They stayed for lunch.

Be patient with me; I’m not quite done.

Then finally there is another family heading out to do their translation and linguistic work in a village, so we agreed to keep their son for six weeks since he is attending the same school as ds. Remembering how hard it was to clean and close down an apartment before going back to the village, I, of course, offered to have their family for supper before they leave.

I think I have possibly gone a wee bit overboard. What do you think?

It all goes to show how one family’s willingness to host and feed my family, extending hospitality during the week of their daughter’s wedding, has drawn out the good in me, causing me to strive to be more generous with my own heart and home. Who knows but maybe their kindness will trigger a whole movement of people blessing others even when it’s not the most optimal time?

And maybe, just maybe, moderation is overrated when it comes to hospitality.

IRL* If I can’t have my own twelve family members around my big ol’ table, it’s still fun to fill it with other people we love.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Emotional Spin Cycle


The df* Darling [and Dear] Loker Family

This past week was an amazing outpouring of love and family fellowship. A year ago I was bawling my eyes out, not knowing when, if ever, my whole family would be together again after my son’s wedding. Who would have imagined that this summer another wedding would be the happy excuse for another reunion?

As my firstborn and his expectant wife drove away from the hotel on Sunday, I pointed out rather proudly that I was not crying. The simple fact is that I can handle good-byes when I know when I am going to see that person again. Just after I explained this (rather boastfully), my other son said, “Yeah, but when are you going to see Mike and Amy again?” True, the bride and groom were leaving for their honeymoon in Mexico before moving to California, with plans to go to the Middle East in the future.

On that note, it was as though the faucet was turned on. I cried for real with that one. To quote a df, I feel like I am on the emotional spin cycle this week.

One thing that really struck me was how relaxed things were at the beginning of the week, and how progressively complicated they became as more family members arrived on the scene. I had to consciously allow myself the freedom to live and talk and risk offending people.

It was crazy how I struggled to not hurt anyone’s feelings. By praising one person’s wedding, maybe the others would feel I didn’t like their ceremonies. By hanging out with my kids, maybe my dmil or dmom or dsis felt neglected. By caring for my dmil, dmom, and dsis, I ran the risk of ignoring my own children who would only be together a few short days. By doing one thing, I was forever making a conscious or subconscious choice to NOT do something else.

In the midst of all of it, I was still fatigued with the lingering effects of dengue fever, and rather wishing I could withdraw from the whole crowd and just relax for a few minutes. With prayer warriors lifting this particular need for my daily strength and energy, I just kept pushing ahead, trying to stay medicated enough with Tylenol so that I could continue to function.

When it was all said and done, I have to say that I have a deeper appreciation for the way God cares for the entire universe all at the same time. By my over-concern for each person’s feelings, you’d have thought the Creator had suddenly stepped down from the throne and delegated to me personally the responsibility of assuring the happiness of each and every loved one. Let me just say that it was a useless and exhausting experiment to try to keep everyone content when there was plenty of joy and fun to go around without my help. It was a wonderful, fabulous, beautiful, joy-filled, magical week. I am so thankful for every minute spent with my family, and getting to know our new extended family.

IRL* Once I gave up trying to make sure everyone was happy, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. I even danced at the reception.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cookie-Cutter Missionary, a Tale

by Ilona Hadinger, guest blogger
www.inkyspot.wordpress.com
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then he formed man in his image; male and female he created them.
In the middle God birthed His New Testament church. Then he commissioned them to go into all the world; anointed with his Spirit he sent them.
Near the end, God hastened his task. Then he formed a cookie-cutter shaped missionary; identical he produced them, for the harvest was great and the workers were few.
And they rarely lived happily ever after.
The end.
Written by Lax N. Site for the “Myths, Lies, and Twisted Truths” anthology.
You’ve never read that? Oh, but many of us have believed it – or live surrounded by those who do.
Like me.
It began with the “I do” to a minister on my wedding day. I felt I had to be that cookie-cutter pastor’s wife. I did love people, but I couldn’t sing, wasn’t a social butterfly, and the only songs I knew on the piano were 70‘s hits like “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.
Was I the wrong cookie for that post?
In time came the call to missions. With itineration came invitations to be the engaging speaker for the women’s event in There-ville. “Come, share your vision with passion!” Except that I hated public speaking and was still recovering from the shock of the call.
Was I the wrong cookie for that plate?
On the field, most national’s have received us warmly with invitations to preach. In my case, again to women in conferences or other large gatherings. Often I sense their disappointment that I am not the Patsy Clairmont or Beth Moore they expected...or hoped for.
Am I the wrong cookie for this place?
I used to think so, but not anymore. Sweeping the crumbs aside, a dormant truth in my heart awoke to active belief: I am uniquely created by my Maker! My talents and abilities are to be used for His glory, for the calling of His choosing.
As a missionary, I can serve Him with what He’s given me, though others try rolling me, cutting me out and baking me into what they think I should be. If I like to write, paint, bake, or to raise my kids well and be the best help-meet for my husband, I can do any of those as faithful ministry, creatively using my desires, abilities and talents for God’s glory.
Have you ever read about Bezalel in Exodus 31:3,4? God uniquely used him to help build the Tabernacle: “I have filled him with the Spirit, with skill...to make artistic designs.” Or you may recall the Levites in I Chronicles 23-26 who each had a specific work to do, “...they were to serve the Lord...in the way prescribed for them...and so they carried out their responsibilites.” And let’s not forget Tabitha in Acts 9 who served the Lord by sewing for widows.
This is cookie-cutter freedom!
You know both your calling and your talents. May God continually roll you, shape you, and make you into what He wills. His house will fill with a wonderful aroma and your life will be a trail of delicious crumbs for others to taste and see how good He is.
IRL*Thank God for making you the right cookie for the right place!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tapering Off: Does that have to be the norm?

This summer is all about family. I am consumed with travel itineraries. Dh is attending a family reunion with his mom in Wisconsin this week. Tomorrow, 16-year-old dd is visiting her big sister in Colorado before we all meet up in Illinois. Next week I will leave with the remaining two children, ages 12 and 14, to spend a week with ds and his fiancé before the wedding (!). Ds from Canada will join us for that week, too. The following week I’ll see the eldest ds and his wife, who are expecting my first granddaughter!

With the anticipation of many joy-filled reunions coming up, I’ve been on the Lingo phone and Skype a lot more than usual. Suddenly we can’t wait to see each other, so we are chatting almost daily. After the wedding, I’m sure the visiting will continue at a higher pace than usual, until it gradually tapers off to our norm, which is a couple of weeks between communication. Eventually real life consumes us all.

It’s like going to see the dentist. Before a check-up, I tend to pay a lot of attention to my teeth, trying to get them cleaned up before getting them cleaned. (How dumb is that?) Then after they are professionally cleaned, I am super diligent to brush and floss for the first few months, but when it’s time for my next appointment, I find myself digging out the floss again.

It’s inexcusable how neglectful I get the more time that passes between visits, whether with friends, family, or dentists. I might even argue the same applies to household help. We dash around tidying up the house if a maid is coming to clean, and then we work hard to try to preserve the clean house once she leaves. That never lasts long, though, unless we are expecting company. Clutter eventually reigns (or rains?).

Unfortunately, the same principle also applies to my times with God. The more I hang out with Him, the more I want to. Then if I am not super careful, I can easily fall back into bad habits of rushing through “mandatory” conversations with Him each day, allowing clutter to take over my daily agenda.

This summer I took the 90-day challenge with one of my readers I am blessed to know IRL. (Thanks, Inky’Spot!) We’ve been reading through the whole Bible since June. It takes me over an hour most days, and even longer if I journal, pray, and think over what I have read. It’s been a fabulous experience. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more time I want to spend with Him, just like with my family and friends.

Today is day 57, and I up to Jeremiah. I have no idea how I will carve out time for this luxury once I fly up to be with my family next week, but for now I am hooked.

IRL*
Keeping up with adult children, cleaning house, flossing teeth, diet, exercise, daily Bible reading, and warfare prayer…. Discipline is such a virtue worth pursuing and maintaining.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Canned Salmon: The Thrill of the Hunt

Canned salmon for me, seedless black olives for dh, Mountain Dew for the kiddos, and we’re talking one happy family. It’s funny how little it takes to turn a simple grocery excursion to the city into a big thrill. I mean, canned salmon! Did you catch that?
Disclaimer: Let me apologize in advance to anyone suffering from a true craving that can’t be satisfied right now. Some of you have much more limited shopping than I do. Here’s a (((hug))) for you.
When we first starting living here, we were on temporary visas, requiring a “border run” to the U.S. (900 miles / 24 + hours in the car) every six months. Those were tedious, but at least I could fill the back of the van with non-essentials like cream style corn, cheddar cheese, and some American cereals.
One time I got so desperate for cheddar in between visa renewals that we piled all seven kids in the van and drove five hours - one way - to the Sam’s Club in Puebla to buy cheese. Then we got in the car and drove all the way back. In case you ever wondered if I really am nuts, this should confirm your suspicions. Other things were going on at the time, making a day trip well worth the time and expense, but still….
Nowadays there are very few things we cannot find down here. I am thankful for our very own Sam’s Club, only an hour away, with at least a few American brands and luxuries when we choose to splurge. What keeps it interesting is that the stock is forever changing. Sometimes they have an item for a very limited time, and all the gringos go overboard buying whatever it is.
Whenever I have used moderation in buying a new treasure, I have regretted it when I return a few weeks later to find it sold out, never to return. Once, for instance, I found Triscuits. Never saw them after that day. Another time they had Frosted Mini-Wheats, and having learned my lesson, I bought more than one. Now they seem to stock them regularly, and I don’t have to risk hoarding stale boxes of cereal.
The exciting bonus about the salmon and olives is that they are manufactured in Mexico, and the cans are in Spanish. Now we can add that to the long list of things to take for granted. As for the Mountain Dew? I’m afraid it will go the way of Root Beer and Dr. Pepper, just making an occasional appearance to tease us.
So, what kind of treasures have you found lately? What do you ask visitors to bring you from the U.S.? My list is shorter all the time.
Tomorrow I leave for the U.S. with plans to return August 15. My suitcase will have canned pumpkin, Triscuits, chocolate chips, schoolbooks, vitamins and nutritional supplements, and mineral makeup. The kids will each have a new pair of shoes and jeans that we can’t find to fit down here. No need to pack a pantry any more like the old days.
IRL* A few more days, and I’ll be at Stuff Mart; no big thrill there, but everything on the shelf where it belongs. (Not that I’m complaining!)
Next Week: I have invited a Guest Blogger to take my place while I too busy being a MOG to blog! Please welcome my df, visit her blog, and leave her lots of comments.

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