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.
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.

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.


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