Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jamie Jo Picks a Winner!

Utterly Defiled and Contaminated

I seem to be on a roll. The toilet roll, that is. After last week’s post I had another incident. Of course I learned my lesson to check carefully which restroom I entered, but I’m figuring maybe I should give up using public facilities altogether.

On Sunday I got locked inside a nasty bathroom stall. I could NOT get out, and to my hyperactive nose, it smelled bad. Thankfully a df* was there to patiently talk me through the process of sliding backwards under the door face first. Even though she was laughing at me, her presence was nonetheless reassuring in a humiliating sort of way. Thankfully no one else witnessed my wallowing on the filthy floor.

Utterly defiled and contaminated, I rushed to the sink to wash as much of my arms as possible, only to realize why the toilet was not flushing properly: there was no water! If laughter is good medicine, surely I laughed enough to counter any icky germs I encountered on my way under and out before I found and slathered the hand sanitizer all over myself.

After all these years of meticulously instructing my children the art of flushing, opening doors, and doing all manner of business in public bathrooms without touching ANYTHING, this whole episode strikes me as extremely ironic.

Plumbing problems and bathroom scenes seem to be a recurring theme for 2011. Dh* is still pulling up muck from a hole in our bathroom floor, bucket by bucket, to clean it out every week or so. Someday soon, hopefully, it will be running and draining properly, but for now it remains a stinky issue.

Meanwhile I am occupied with a semiannual prayer letter announcing all our happy news, and trying to minimize all the pesky problems. Two biggest personal items are the grandchild we are expecting in November (yee-haw!) and the upcoming wedding in August. Yes, it looks like I am to be a MOG* again for the third time in four years. That’s another recurring theme. A future theme will hopefully involve the arrival of many grandchildren. Life is sweet.

Since no “Ask Jamie Jo” questions were submitted this month, I’ll ask one of my own. My question for you is regarding prayer updates, newsletters, and websites:

Do you ever wonder if anyone reads them?

What do people prefer, electronic letters or ones with a postage stamp?

I seem to get a lot of traffic on my Facebook page (friends wondering what silly predicament I will face next), but my ministry blog gets little to no traffic. Monthly prayer updates generate almost no response unless there is a crisis of some sort. In fact, I skipped two months of writing, and no one seemed to notice. I’m sure correspondence is important, but I wonder if people aren’t bombarded with too many emails these days. What do you think?

IRL* The times are changing, but I don’t know which way the winds are blowing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Contest Ends Today @ 7 PM MST

Jamie will be picking the winner tonight, so please get your "entries" in the comment section by 7 PM (MST) so we can count you in!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Play with Me

To shake things up a bit during a sluggish time of year, I thought I’d host a summer contest to reward those who are still reading. (Thanks to some fellow bloggers who inspired this non-original idea!)

Here’s how it will work: You can have your name entered more than once by doing any or all of the following:

1. Leave a comment telling which Jamie Jo post or article is your favorite or most memorable story.

2. “Tweet” your preference.

3. Link your favorite post on Facebook.

4. “Follow” this IRL blog by Google and/or through Networked blogs.

5. We’ll also put your name in twice if you leave a comment with an embarrassing incident that happened to you in the country where you serve.

To possibly trigger a memory, here’s my most recent humiliation on the field.

Earlier this month, dh and I took the kids to a movie in the city, one of the few that was actually in English with Spanish subtitles. After it was over, dh made a trip to the restroom. Thinking that was a good idea before the drive home, I mindlessly followed him into the men's room! Two little boys started waving frantically at me before I got all the way in, and still it didn't click. I smiled, thinking they must have known me, and tried to think where I might have seen them before. Realizing they were in serious distress, I leaned down to hear what in the world was the matter.

By then they were practically jumping up and down trying to communicate non-verbally to this spacey American lady, frightening me into thinking some bad person was after them. (Remember I had just come out of a very action-packed movie.)

Eventually they resorted to speaking in Spanish to me, "You can't go in there!"

When I realized my error, I thanked them quickly and spun around to face my audience. If I had to make such a silly mistake once in my whole life, why did it have to be on a crowded Saturday in the big city?

IRL*Your prize for participating…$15 iTunes card!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If You're Waiting for Me to Be Just Like You

As some of you know, I am not the kind of person who can fully enjoy a book without savoring it orally. I simply must share it with someone to complete the experience.

Owning a Kindle and downloading/ devouring free books almost daily has proven to be a character building exercise for me. So far I have resisted the urge to regale my friends, both IRL and in Cyberland with one of my long-winded book reviews. Until now.

Letters Missionaries Never Write* is an amazing book that every one of us can appreciate. It exposes us all, from singles to marrieds, veterans to newbies, short-term to long-term, home-schoolers to boarding-schoolers. The writer managed to nail each one. What a difference it would make if we could see each other’s hearts and the underlying frustrations that cause so much hurt and misunderstandings. I highly recommend this book!

Reading these hypothetical letters spotlighted for me again how diverse we are, and how vital it is that we embrace our differing viewpoints and backgrounds rather than fighting over them. I can’t imagine how uninteresting it would be to only relate with people exactly like me, supposing there were such a thing. We are all unique, and that’s a good thing.

The trouble comes when we think we know what people are like, and we start categorizing people and putting them in their proper boxes where we assume they belong. As much as I try to put my “people-pleasing god” behind me and to only care whether my ways are pleasing to God, I’m still aware that people misconstrue my words, appearance, and convictions.

Home schooling – Oh! One of THOSE! (So, Jamie Jo, do you think ill of me for sending my children to public school or – horrors! – boarding school?)
Big family – Oh! One of those! (So you must think I’m horrible for only having two children…)
Missionary – Oh! One of those! (Don’t you know there is plenty of needs right here in the U.S.?)
Sadly, I’m just as bad.

When I’m with ladies who wear a head covering or dresses-only, or have long hair and no make-up or jewelry, I automatically assume they are judging me for not sharing their convictions. Hopefully the ladies in the ultra- not-of-this-world group think nothing of my short hairstyle, dangly coconut shell earrings, and (gasp!) shorts on a hot summer day in Texas—any more than I would judge someone choosing to not home school, not to have a big family, or not to become a missionary. We’re all just different, which is a good thing. (Oh, I said that already.)

Sometimes it’s not only appearances that cause division, but our ministry focus.

In many cases we will never see eye-to-eye, but it is so helpful to consider the other person’s perspective. Last month I posted an article on my ministry blog about the pitfalls of literacy-based evangelism in the third world. I hoped perhaps it might provide some insight for those who are struggling to reach the unreached with the standard literate approach, as well as to explain again to our supporters why we do what we do (providing audio and video evangelistic materials for non-literates).

Inevitably it caused discomfort for some who connected the dots differently, who came to a different conclusion than the author of the article. That’s okay. We have to live with the constant tension of differing vantage points on many subjects. That’s just how it is. We’re all different. (yada, yada, said that!)

For those who are uncomfortable until peace is restored, I’ve got news for you. As long as you define “peace” as everyone being in unanimous agreement, it’s never going to happen this side of heaven, so just dream on.

IRL* Embracing the differences, and agreeing to sometimes disagree while still remaining friends.
*This book was sent to me by a df, and is not yet available in digital form.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designated [just-for-me] Gifts

After last week’s negative post, let me admit today that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE designated gifts! If only everything we need or want would be provided through tangible or designated gifts, we wouldn’t have to worry about how we spend our money, or more accurately, God’s money.

For example, a dear friend (df) blessed me with a gift card to a swanky spa before my son’s wedding last summer. I never would have splurged on a manicure and pedicure at California prices without someone giving me a tangible nudge. Another df designated a gift for use on something personal for the wedding. I bought some underclothing that will last a lot longer than anything Walmart has to offer.

The best haircut I have ever gotten in my life (the one in my profile picture) was a free cut and color (ahem) by a df/supporter in Ohio. Some of my favorite clothes came directly from a df’s closet. There’s nothing like looking good free of guilt.

Maybe we could delve into the “why do I always feel guilty spending money on something personal that I want or need?” issue, but that’s no fun. Feel free to leave comments on this topic if you want. For now I just want to admit that I am a chicken when it comes to buying things, and I am thankful for friends who give me a prod when I need it.

Early in my career, I started to play that dangerous game of comparing myself to the other missionary women, and trying to make adjustments to fit the “image.” Consequently I grew my hair longer, feeling it was a waste to spend money on frequent haircuts. After a couple of years of trying to not appear excessively frumpy, I changed to a short style again. My dmil, bless her heart, advised me never to grow it out again. According to her, long hair wasn’t a good look for me with my non-prominent facial features.

Likewise I went through a phase of minimalizing cosmetics, trying to do without make-up like so many of my colleagues. My mom started discretely giving me Clinique for Christmas, and my dmil offered me Mary Kay cosmetics along with this nugget of wisdom: “Honey, some people can afford to go without make-up… but you are not one of them!”

(I’m not making this up. She honestly verbalized that. Don’t you wish you had a sweet dmil to speak the truth in love when you need it?)

So now I get my hair cut regularly and splurge on make-up to keep from embarrassing the family, but I still agonize over non-thrift store purchases, and greatly prefer when someone gives me a designated “personal” gift so I don’t have to mentally calculate how many audio Bibles that amount of money could have purchased.

Anyone else struggle with the old “Should I - or shouldn’t I?” question when it comes to spending money? Maybe all Christians have an acute sense of stewardship and responsibility, but for missionaries on a limited budget, it’s always an added challenge to spend wisely and to be accountable—without the guilt.

IRL* Clothes, toes and hair aside, all of life is a designated gift when you get right down to it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Trust and/or Obey

Trust and Obey. This is the latest song running through my head. If only it were so simple.

Sometimes I think it might be easier if we were on a regular furlough schedule with four mandatory years on the field followed by a year of “stateside ministry.” Instead, we live in a place where many families go to the US or Canada every summer. We would drive up every other summer to maintain our support base without having to set up housekeeping long term.

Our policy was always to raise support little by little before it became a dire need. However, like many of you, we have found ourselves slipping further and further behind with the economy downturn. Faithful supporters discontinued their giving just as we began to face an increase in the cost of living.

The added conflict is that it’s no longer so simple to drive up to the States from southern Mexico due to all the problems along the border. The cost of flying is prohibitive, as is purchasing or renting a car each time we make a trip. Then there are the gas prices for all the travel. We used to cover about 15,000 miles each mini-furlough.

Sorry if I’m depressing you. Many of you are in similar situations, I’m sure. Dh and I are contemplating spending a few months in the US this fall for the express purpose of raising some additional support. However we are indecisive. Can we really afford the time away? Dh would need to fly down here at least two or three times to honor prior commitments. And how would I manage to home school a 7th, 9th, and 11th grader while juggling extra stateside activities for a semester?

Then again can we afford not to go?

These kinds of decisions make me nuts. The past few attempts at “support discovery”—or whatever euphemism you want to call it—were unsuccessful. We returned to the field with credit card debt, and no additional monthly support to make up for what was lost.

Meanwhile friends and acquaintances at church are all tapped out. Their mailboxes are filled with pleas for financial assistance from every ministry and missionary they know. Maybe they don’t even want to see us. I can’t say I blame them.

All I can manage now is to trust or obey, but not exactly both. I’ll go where He wants me to go, but will He really provide? Then again, I’ll gladly trust Him to provide if only He’ll let me stay home in Mexico. Do I really have to do both?

IRL* To go or not to go? That is the question.


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