Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not Good-bye, But....

Change.  Why do I always resist change, even when I know something good is up ahead?  I think my dh is right when he accuses me of thinking too much.

2012 was a year of changes.  Most recently we changed mission organizations.  After twenty years with the same group, we have joined another one that more closely fits who we are and what we do.  It is a good change, and God has confirmed that we have made the right decision.  Now we ask ourselves why we resisted this change for so long.

Our recording studio is now in the process of getting a face-lift after almost nineteen years of neglect.  This is not a change I resisted, but one I have delayed due to lack of time, energy, finances, and vision.  Now the time has come, and it’s been a welcome change for all who work there.

Another change is in our Christmas traditions.  With only two of the seven children home with us for the holidays, we are free to think outside the box and do things differently.  In some ways we might look back on this as one of our best Christmases ever.  I hope so. 

After way too many years of hosting a caroling party that had gotten way too big for comfort or even fun for me, I have given it up, at least for now.  Someone else is hosting the big event, and I plan to go as a guest.  Tradition is broken, and truthfully it hurts a little if I start thinking too much again, but overall, it’s a relief. 

Instead of feeding a huge family this season, I can extend hospitality and invite friends over for meals.  The holidays are the perfect time for this.  I’m not exhausted from throwing a massive party, and I’m not battling with selfishness in trying to get enough time with each of my adult children like I usually do.

I could go on and on about the areas of my life undergoing changes.  It’s a whole season, really, not just a year.  I’m letting go of things I was always afraid to release, and finding richer, more rewarding things that take their places.

On a related note, maybe some of you have struggled with the changes that Women of the Harvest is undergoing.  I know I was saddened by the loss of Cindy as our editor, and I really miss the WOTH Writer’s blog and the old online magazine as it was.  However, there are exciting changes in the works that we should all enjoy. 

Before long, WOTH will cease to be Women of the Harvest as we’ve known it, and they will be disclosing their new name and new branding.  With it will come a new interactive web site and all sorts of goodies that will make us forget anything we might have lost in the process.  I can’t wait to see what all they are developing for our benefit!

Sadly, now I must confess one more change.  At least for now, I am going to cut way back on my blogging here.  I need to spend more time focusing on my REAL LIFE and some other writing that has been pushed too low on my priority list these past three years.

This is not good-bye.  Lord willing, I'll still pop in every month or so.  Maybe you will see me as an occasional guest writer for the new Women of the Harvest with its new name.  I will be looking to stay connected one way or another.  You've become a vital part of my life, and I don't want to lose you!

IRL* This is not a good-bye, but it is a change, and I would by lying if I didn't admit that it hurts a bit to not keep my weekly habit of meeting you here.

The best way to keep in touch with me for now is through my personal blog, Memories and Musings from Mexico.  You can always write to me at, and I will try to reply and also read your blogs when I can, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Is anyone else struggling with the reality of another Christmas that doesn't feel so jolly and ho-ho-ho like you might prefer? Believe me, I tried hard to find something uplifting to write about this week.  The songs keep telling me this is the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"  It's tempting to be shallow and cheerful, offering pithy advice for celebrating the season far from family and friends.  I just can't.
Lacking any eloquence at all, I will just acknowledge that Christmas is hard.  Whether you are brand new to the field or like me, having spent more than half of your Christmases outside the U.S., it's not easy.  We can beat ourselves up for not being spiritual enough, for not focusing on the real reason for the season, but maybe it's okay to simply acknowledge that for us, this is a time when we feel the pain of the sacrifice we have made.
If you haven't discovered "A Life Overseas Mission Discussion" blog, I highly recommend it.  A recent post talks about this very idea of sacrifice.  It's called "Why I Will Not Say I Never Made a Sacrifice" and the author ends on a positive note that our sacrifices are never made in vain.  I liked the way she said it.  It validated the ache in my heart, but helped me to focus on the reward that lies ahead.
It's not like I don't have anything to be grateful for. Last week I had the blessing of visiting my son and his family, including my little granddaughter.  My husband booked our flights using frequent flyer miles, and we even got to be there for Aria's first birthday party.  Every bit of the weekend was fun.  Well, truthfully it was a bit of a struggle to reconcile the reality of being the second favorite grandma in the room, but even that went okay.
After that, dh flew to Ohio to visit his mom, while I flew to Texas to visit my mom.  I had a wonderful time playing Christmas duets on the piano with Mom, and later both my sisters came, and we all celebrated just being together.  No conflicts, no complaints.  Oh, and between trips, dh and I went to dinner with a childhood friend of mine and her husband.  That, too, was pure pleasure.  It's like I've already had my Christmas!
Leaving my son and daughter-in-law with their precious little toddler was sheer anguish.  At least I had a trip to Dallas to look forward to.  Then I had to say goodbye again to my mom and sisters.  That, too, was tough.  Life is uncertain, and I have no guarantee of seeing any of them again this side of heaven.  Nevertheless, it's always good to be home.
Now I am enjoying the quiet reality of home life with our annual viewing of different Christmas movies, baking lots of treats, and planning a party (maybe).  Like my "Mixed Bag" post a few weeks ago, I am accepting the good with the bad, and trying to focus on the good.   Still, you won't ever hear me say to you that it's easy to find joy this time of year.

IRL*  Faithful friends who are dear to us may not be near to us like the song says, but I AM thankful to have so many dear people to call my friends.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quick note from Jamie Jo

Hi, y'all.  I'm taking a bit of a break to go see family in the U.S. for about a week.  Lord willing, I'll connect with you here again on December 12th.

In the meantime, you can go to the old Writer's Blog and visit some of the other WOTH writers on their blogs listed in the side bar.  I plan to do the same once life settles down a bit.

Feel free to write me at if you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints. 

Jamie Jo

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Mixed Bag

Topping my thanksgiving list every year is family and, I'm ashamed to say, food.  There is nothing like sitting around a big old table with family and friends enjoying a big feast together.  That is one of my favorite occasions of the whole year, when true communion and fellowship happen in the home.

At the same time, I know for many of us the holidays come with a mixed bag of joy and melancholy.  Thanksgiving brings the annual "Why, oh, why can I not find cranberry sauce or canned pumpkin?" and "Why do turkeys have to be so expensive?" all the while anticipating the delight of sharing whatever we can find to serve.

But beyond that, a big family dinner only emphasizes the absence of other loved ones who are dear to us, but not near at all.  I'll be praying for each of you over these next few weeks as you sort through what's most important, and as you enjoy the family (or adopted family) you have, while trying not to excessively miss the ones who live far away.

For me, it's either feast or famine.  This week my son and ddil, who are teaching at the local MK school, are with us, along with ddil's parents who are visiting from Illinois, plus our three teens.  That brings us up to nine, which in the good old days is the number we used to have around our table on a daily basis.  Then of course we have a few other friends who will join us, including the surrogate grandparents next door who will be missing their own family.

Christmas, however, is going to be our time of famine.  None of our married children will be with us, and our two older girls are making an enviable trip to Great Britain over the holidays, leaving us with only the 14- and the almost-16-year-olds at home.  Four people sitting around a table for Christmas dinner seems a bit lonesome to me.  We'll have to come up with an alternative somehow.

My challenge is to focus on the blessings in front of me without being distracted by the if-onlies, and to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast without thinking ahead to the Christmas famine.  Staying in the present is an ongoing struggle of mine.  I am purposing in my heart to live for the moment.  I hope you will, too.

IRL* Surely I am not the only one.... How are you handling the mixed bag the holiday delivers?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thriving With Beauty and Grace

Don't you just love the term Global Nomad?  Usually we hear it in reference to third culture kids, but it's also an appropriate picture of what it means to be a “woman of the harvest.”  A nomad moves around a lot rather than settling in one place.  Does this describe your life?
You do your best to bloom where you’re planted only to be uprooted AGAIN.  This is a recurring theme for many global workers.  How do we make a “place where we temporarily reside” into a home, knowing that we might have to pull up stakes at a moment’s notice?

In my first year of marriage we lived in a mobile home before moving to an apartment that we managed in exchange for free rent.  The second year we were at Jungle Camp (six weeks at base camp in Texas and six weeks in Mexico, or something like that), then in Ohio at dmil’s condo for five months, and then to Antigua where we lived with a Guatemalan family during language school until we moved to missionary housing in Guatemala City.   

Count them: five moves in one year.  I'm not sure we ever fully unpacked suitcases that whole time.

The next several years we averaged one move every nine or ten months until finally relocating to Oaxaca, where we persuaded our landlords to sell us the house they would no longer need for themselves.  What a blessing to call a place our own, to fix up the yard, put in a swing set, add a bedroom and second bathroom, and periodically throw out some seeds and hope for a garden.

I say this not to make you envious, but to hopefully demonstrate that I’ve been on both ends – of uncertainty and being settled.

Looking back I often wonder what I might have done differently to make those temporary dwellings feel more like home.  What could I suggest to help women quickly and inexpensively bloom where they are planted?  Then I decided I would open it up to the WOTH forum of readers here.  Some of you can answer with a lot more authority since you are living this out currently, not looking back twenty years through rose colored glasses.

You know how it goes.   You rent a house, fix it up, and the landlord either raises the rent where you can't afford it, or he decides to let his son and daughter-in-law live there.  You have weeks to pack up and move out.  Or you move into a flat, get curtains made, put a few pictures on the wall, and your visas are denied and you have to leave the country for an indefinite period of time.  The possible scenarios are endless and varied, but the result is always the same – you have to leave much sooner than expected or hoped.

What do you do differently the next time around?  Is it worth putting any time, effort, or money into landscaping or beautifying a place you can’t call your own?  Is it possible to make a rental property home even though you might get evicted on short notice

Again, it's always comforting to know that we are strangers and aliens and that our true home is in heaven, but in the here and now we still need some practical suggestions on surviving and thriving with beauty and grace.

IRL* I'm looking forward to hearing what advice you might offer each other. Please leave your comments below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fruity Chewy Candy and other Blessings

Living outside the U.S. we get accustomed to that inconvenient truism that you can’t always get what you want.  Every trip to the grocery store demonstrates this.  You may want canned pumpkin, molasses, and apple cider now that it is autumn, but it’s not likely you will find them in your particular corner of the world.  Am I right?

Last week I was in an afternoon slump, and for some reason I had a hankering for something sweet that wasn’t chocolate.  I know, weird, huh?  Starbursts or Laffy Taffy or Skittles would be just the thing, as I told my husband.  Too bad those are not available here.

Would you believe that just two days later, my dh* returned from a trip to Sam’s Club in the city with all of the above?  It was so unexpected!  In twenty-six years, I have never seen a miraculous appearance of Laffy Taffy outside the U.S., but there they were.

Do you think God might surprise us like this just so we will praise and glorify Him?  I wonder.  Of course I wouldn't think to pray for something so frivolous as fruity chewy candy, but God knew of my desire and blessed me without my having to ask.  I love that.  It doesn't always work that way, though, does it?

One of the lesser dangers in living so far away from family and friends back home is that we become too self-sufficient. God could easily choose to meet our needs and desires (care packages, anyone?) through the body of Christ, but we are too proud to ask.

It goes back to the old support-raising dilemma.  Do we tell people of our need, or do we make our needs only known to God?  That’s a whole ‘nuther topic, but I wonder if it doesn’t hold the key to our reluctance to ask for things.  If you’re like me, you’d rather be surprised by God’s blessings than to expect them.

Last month I agonized for days over a box of prayer cards that were stored in my dmil’s attic in Ohio.  I needed someone to go over, visit with my dmil* a while, and then climb to the attic to find the box to deliver to a local church.  I’ve always wanted someone to go visit my elderly mother-in-law, but this was now escalated to a need with the added errand. 

Oh how I fretted over this before deciding to ask a very sweet but busy friend if she would mind doing this for me.  She was more than happy to do it.  She loved meeting my dmil, who is a fun but lonely person.  It worked out nicely all around after I finally asked.

People are not mind readers.  You can quote me on this.  They aren’t always good at taking hints either.  Sometimes we have to come right out and ask for favors.  Then again, God knows our heart and mind and motives. 

That can be comforting thought – or not, depending on what kind of day I am having.

IRL* If only I could recall who all has told me, “Let me know if there is ever anything you need….” I'd send someone else over to love on Jim's mother.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is It Worth It All?

Many years ago dh* and I mastered a pithy formula for those occasions when someone suddenly says, “Come up and give us a ten-minute summary of your mission work.”  We were always prepared to give a spontaneous presentation broken down into various 2-minute story segments.

 Usually my husband would start by presenting the concise nuts-and-bolts module – who were are and what we do.  Then I would give a thank-you module, followed by a prayer module or a miracle module.  Oh, how people love to hear the amazing way God works on the field! 

Toward the end of our rehearsed/impromptu talk (how's that for an oxymoron?), one of us would give a slightly longer module we call the is-it-worth-it-all module.

In that portion of our presentation, we would talk about some particular challenge we had faced or some enormous trial we had endured, and we'd conclude with a story of what God has done in our hearts and in the lives of the people we serve, causing us to marvel and say, “In spite of everything, it has certainly been worth whatever small sacrifices we have made.”

This past week I’ve been thinking about the “Is it worth it all?” part, and I still come to the indisputable conclusion that, of course, it’s been worth it to live and raise a family on the mission field.  No regrets.  Well, not many.  Okay, I’m not altogether sure, but I think it’s worth it for me, but not so sure if the children would agree.

My one area of insecurity is home schooling.  I know without a doubt that God gave me the grace and desire to teach my kids at home.  In 1990 it was a no-brainer.  I had to teach my own kids because we lived in remote locations without any other educational options. 

In the spring I will boast (by God’s grace) of having five home school graduates.  That leaves just two kids at home.  Thankfully my son is attending high school in the city full-time, leaving me more time and energy to focus on my soon-to-be 14-year-old.  Unfortunately, the MK school does not have the needed support to handle her language disability/ Apraxia.

Without divulging details, let me just acknowledge that I am weary.  It’s one thing to home school by choice, and a whole 'nuther thing to home school by necessity.  I know in my head that “God’s grace is sufficient” for each day and each challenge, but in reality, it sure doesn’t feel like it some days.  Teaching has become a chore, and I don’t feel very creative, loving, or grace-filled like before.

I’m asking myself hard questions like “Is it worth it?” - but I’m not coming up with any automatic response like “Of course it is!”  I’m just not convinced.  Maybe this youngest daughter would have fared better in the U.S. under capable teachers more equipped to instruct her.  I don’t know.   

This seems to be the road God has taken us, but I’m pretty intimidated approaching four years of high school when I don’t think I’m doing such a stellar job any more.  This sounds terrible, but (whispered) I'm secretly ready to move on to ministries outside the home where I don't feel so inadequate all the time.

How about you?  Do you have an instant affirmative answer to the “Is it worth it all” question?  Any areas of insecurity you’d change if you could?  Are you ever ready to jump ahead to the next season of life?  

IRL* Maybe we all need to be infused with power and hope again, especially when the cost seems high, and we're not sure it's worth the struggle.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning Contentment - again!

After 4 days without a proper shower
This past week I experienced one of those “fish out of water” moments at the same time I was very obviously still peering out from a very transparent fish bowl.  Ever had that happen?  Maybe I wasn’t exactly out of the water, but just in the wrong bowl.  I kept finding myself thinking, “What’s a girl like me doing in a place like this?”

I’m the girl who never enjoyed camping.  I don’t prefer sleeping on the ground – ever.  I dislike all manner of creepy crawlies.  I’ve learned to limit showers when we have water shortages, but I still expect to wash my face and brush my teeth in a proper sink.  I can navigate without a toilet seat and even manage over a squatty potty when need be, but … you get the picture. 

I’m not the rugged outdoorsy type in the least.  Hiking is not in my top ten favorite things to do.  Last week I did all of these things.  It was a stretch.

All these years people have patted me on the back for my “sacrifice” in staying home with young children while my husband got all the glory (ha!) and adventure of visiting remote Indian villages with teams from the U.S.  Now that the kids are old enough to be more or less on their own for several days at a time, my dh* has started including me in his village adventures with short-termers.

The irony is that we were never together all week.  I drove a separate car, I stayed in the women’s lodging, I took a separate visitation team out as a translator.  We more or less shared the experience, but not exactly.  This past week was one of those rugged trips where I would have enjoyed leaning on dh instead of pretending to be the strong one leading my own little group.

Do I dare admit that I killed my very first scorpion?  After all these years of relying on dh and dc (what are boys good for if not squashing scary bugs for their mothers?), I was forced to act brave and do the nasty deed myself.

That was the least of my concerns.  It was a physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting week.  No matter how much my flesh whined and tried to rebel, it was forced into submission.  I can see why short-term teams enjoy these types of adventure trips.  It’s gratifying to see what you can do when you must.

It's a shame that the effect wears off so quickly.  Now I'm back to (relative) civilization, but instead of being grateful for all the blessings, I'm just as frustrated with pesky little things like our bumpy dirt road and daily inconveniences as I was before I left.  I did fine with all the challenges last week, so why is it the little things that make me grumble?

IRL*  I'm learning again how to be content with much or little, a la Philippians 4.  

How about you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Chicken Rut

Do you ever get in an absolute rut with meal planning?  My most nutritious creations are rejected by my Mexican-born children, and we end up with the same ol’  same ol’.  I could use some inspiration.  Give me non-chicken, non-Mexican recipes, please.

My one daughter-in-law figured it out right away.  Her definition of Mexican food:  the exact same ingredients rearranged and called something different.  Give me these staples and we can eat for a month:  black beans, tortillas, chicken, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, onions, cilantro, salsa, and sometimes corn, lettuce, or sour cream. 

Wrap it all in a flour tortilla and call it a burrito. 

Wrap some of it in a corn tortilla, cover with a sauce made of the other ingredients, cook it, and call it an enchilada. 

Spread beans on a tostada, add lettuce and rest of ingredients and call it a tostada.

Mix it all with rice and add olive oil and lime juice, and call it Fiesta Rice.

Put the chicken and cheese in a flour tortilla, fold it in half, cook it on a griddle, add avocado and pico de gallo (diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and sea salt), and call it a quesadilla.

Beans, cheese, and chicken on tortilla chips with chilies and ya – we have nachos.

Add a tomato based broth, add chicken, cheese, sour cream, avocados, and fried corn tortilla strips, and call it Tortilla SoupUse a chicken broth with lots of seasoning and pureed beans, and you've got bean soup.

My latest craze is Southwest Chopped Chicken Salad, a recipe I found on Pinterest, with mostly the same ingredients (diced chicken, tomatoes, corn, rinsed black beans, green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, avocado, and lettuce, mixed with a dressing of ½ cup mayonnaise, 2/3 cup plain (Greek) yogurt, 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning, and 1 tablespoon taco seasoning.  Top with crushed tortilla chips, and yum!

Have I made my point?  We seriously eat the same thing ALL THE TIME.  The only thing missing from the list is tacos, which may involve some of the same ingredients, but we generally go out for tacos when we have a hankering for them, so we can get out of the chicken rut and have pork or beef.

I’m probably making some of you salivate thinking of Mexican food.  Hopefully (surely?) you can get these ingredients, except maybe the corn tortillas.  Feel free to incorporate my boring menu plans into your own – on one condition:  please give me some new ideas!  I am desperate to get out of this rut.

What are your stand-by menus?  Have you incorporated local spices and recipes into your daily fare?  Can you share some ideas for those of us craving something new and different?  Variety that doesn’t involve spinach would be greatly appreciated by my family.

IRL* Yes, ladies, it really is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Note:  I'll be out in a village without internet access when this is published, but I will respond to your comments later on.  Thanks in advance for your inspiring recipes!  Jamie Jo

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stifling ... Contradictions

Ah, the satisfaction of a good healthy sneeze.  My mom, bless her heart,  tends to sneeze embarrassingly loud with a lusty WA-HOO! And consequently I've spent a lifetime trying to stifle mine. 

In case you’ve never tried this, it’s painful to swallow a sneeze, and inevitably it results in a high-pitched hiccuppy squeak that sound more like "tee-ew" than "kerchoo," which is equally embarrassing to offspring.  (Ask how I know.)

One day not so long ago, I was home alone when I felt that urge to sneeze.  Instead of my usual attempt at a silent execution, I let it out.  I mean, I gave a  big ugly ol’ kabptlowzhooy that would put my mama to shame.  And you know what?  It felt good.  I never knew a sneeze could be so satisfying.

In her defense, Mom had no clue she was inadvertently teaching me that sneezes were bad, no clue that her unladylike blasts had turned me off to the point of permanent avoidance of sneezing and the perpetual pursuit of a dainty sneeze when absolutely unavoidable.  

Now - again - I am on the other side of the equation.  Having older children highlights many interesting revelations.  I pray that each child will find ways to overcome personal oddities caused by overreactions to what they perceived to be truth when they were younger.  In the meantime may they own up to their misunderstandings and not blame them all on me.

Any way you look at it, kids jump to the wrong conclusions.  Case in point: if you and your husband kiss and show affection in front of them, one child might say “Ew, gross” and vow to never do that when he grows up.  If you choose to only embrace in the privacy of your bedroom, another child may battle an irrational fear that his parents are on the verge of divorce.  You cannot win.

Contradictions abound.  Based on what they see and hear,  I fear my children might grow up to be stingy and selfish.  I mean, what are we teaching our kids when we say things like...  “...don’t share your hairbrush or baseball cap; you might get head lice,”  “...don’t let friends eat after you or drink out of your water bottle; you might get the flu or hepatitis, ” and “...don’t give to (that) beggar or he will just use it for drugs or alcohol.” It sounds so ungenerous and un-Christian.

Oh, the conflicting messages of childhood. 

Then there are the many cultural contradictions we convey.  At times I hear my own voice planting negative seeds with exclamations like “Hurry up!  You don’t have to be so Mexican that we are always late.” 

Okay, it's your turn now.  Which of your oddities do you contend are your parents' fault?  For those of you with children, do you feel like confessing how your kids have come to mistaken conclusions from lessons you never meant to teach?

Can we undo the damage we've already caused?  More importantly, is it worth hashing it out with our grown kids, at the risk of letting the proverbially suppressed sneezes explode?  I wonder....

IRL*  Is there any such thing as a happy balance between kerchoo and kabptlowzhooy?  

Just for fun, I've compiled a list of sneezy sounds from other languages that I found on the internet.  Feel free to add to the list.
ah-choo (English)
ap chkii (Russian)
atchim (Brazilian Portuguese)
hatschi (German)
hakushon (Japanese)
achís (Spanish)
aak-chheen or aak-chhoon (Hindi)
a-psik (Polish)
Han-chee (Chinese)
Itush (Hebrew)
Kychnut (Czech)
Wa-hing (Indonesian)
A-tchouin (French)
ha tsjoe (Dutch)
Hatsing," pronounced "hut-CHEENG" (Tagalog)
Ecciù (Italian)
Atsjo! (Norwegian)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Scatterbrained Sidetracking

WOTH named this blog IRL* In Real Life with Jamie Jo, but a reader recently commented that I’ve never devoted a post to what “real life” actually looks like for me.  At the risk of boring you to bits, I’ve decided to lay it out here and describe a typical weekday for me in Mexico.  (You’ve been warned.)

By 7:00 A.M. my day is well underway.  I am generally up and at 'em, a load of laundry started, with breakfast, personal and family devotions behind me, and one or two kids rushed out the door to catch the carpool to the MK school in the city.  (Hey, speaking of which, do any of you know of teachers or a principal who might want to come to Oaxaca in the near future?)

Just like that last paragraph, my day is full of rabbit trails and scatterbrained sidetracking.  Multitasking is not my strong suit.  My goal is to devote the full morning to instructing my youngest daughter who is way too much like me (except for talking too much) to ever accomplish this.  She has Apraxia in addition to, ahem, ADD tendencies, and school requires a heap of personal attention and direction.  Every history and science text must be read aloud to her, along with other books we read aloud together just for fun.

For a couple of hours, a home-schooled friend of Miss Will-You-Please-Hurry-Up comes for English, science, and P.E.  That helps us get back on track.  P.E. is worth mentioning because we close all the drapes and doors and turn the volume down low while we sweat to Wii Dance.  (The neighbors would not understand.That is the highlight of our morning, enabling us to stay awake to finish our morning studies.  No promises after lunch at 1:00 or 1:30.

Any typical day I might be interrupted with home deliveries of drinking water or gas tanks, neighbors needing to borrow something (until the lawn mower finally broke – what on earth are we going to do now?), one of the three phones ringing (Lingo phone from the U.S., local phone, or Skype – since now pastors in the villages have internet and think every time they see that Jim-Jamie are online they should ring us up to bless our day, and then once I’m on the computer, well, I really should check email, Facebook, and Pinterest. 

When dh is not traveling (this week he is in Mozambique for the dedication of a friend’s recording studio like ours), he is working mostly from home, in and out between here and the office next door.  That can provide a distraction, too, as we stop to discuss the day’s/week’s events, emails (will you answer that one or should I?), and challenges.  Did I mention we are both talkers?

Several times a week I am blessed to have a local gal (not a maid, but more of a housekeeper we have sort of adopted) come to fix lunch, do some light cleaning, and (thank you, Lord!) run interference with the phone and door while I teach.  She is my right hand and my sanity saver.  Whatever I start but don’t finish, she discovers and completes (hanging laundry, ironing, breakfast dishes, etc.)  When the babies were little, and I was home educating four children, she was indispensable.  Now she is just a blessing.  I can even send her a text message to pick up eggs, milk, or tortillas when needed.  Yes, I am spoiled.

Afternoon activities vary, but are boring to recount (housework, lesson plans, etc).   My favorite things are prayer with the other missionary moms on Monday, writing in my journal, blogging, talking to my adult dc*, playing the piano, or reading for pleasure.  Then there are those city days when I take teens to the orthodontist, do grocery shopping, get a haircut, or attend meetings at the school.  Those are tiring days for sure.  

No matter what a day brings, I'm always ready to crash by 9:00 or so.  Getting distracted and not completing tasks is exhausting!

IRL* Now I’m wondering how your day compares to mine…. Do tell!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Love 'em, Dread 'em, or ...?

What do you do about Sundays?  I remember the conflict dh* and I had back in our infamous “Jungle Camp” training, when the leaders disallowed Sunday services as a group.  The intent was to train us to find our own ways of worshiping and self-feeding, considering most of us would be allocated to places without the option of an English church service.

There we sat with open Bible and a tiny baby in our arms, trying to “do church” by ourselves.  Of course the luggage restriction (one suitcase and one apple box apiece) had been filled with cloth diapers and baby things, so we had failed to bring even a small hymnal.  It was an awkward and unrewarding experience each Sunday of “camp.”

Sure enough, once we arrived in our Guatemalan village assignment, we were faced with the reality of no viable church options.  Often we attempted “church” by ourselves at home.  Sometimes we were blessed to receive sermon tapes from supporting churches.  Then the post office went on strike and we received nothing for many weeks and months, forcing our return to sleeping in on Sundays self-feeding again.

Other times we attempted to join local indigenous church services.  Those were always educational for learning about the people and culture, but rather disappointing if we had hoped to actually worship.  For me, it was the slow torture of sitting on a hard bench with no backrest, trying to keep a one-year-old quiet in the women’s section, while Jim sat across the room with the men, unable to help me out.

Being pregnant at the time, those long services always meant at least one trip to the outhouse with a toddler in tow, and then convincing him (and myself) to go back into the tightly packed pew reeking of the same cook-fire smoke and sweaty feet that sent me to the outhouse in the first place.

Then there was the Sunday we were in the Mam-speaking church, and my baby suddenly decided it would be fun to start showing off his “what-does-the-Indian-say?” trick, patting his little hand over his mouth while making LOUD woo-woo-woo-woo noises.  One by one the other toddlers and babies started copying him. 

Watching to see how the other mothers handled it, I saw them give their papoose (colorfully typical “Mobi” wrap) a tight yank, whereupon each child became quiet instantly.  Not mine.  I had to waddle out into the dirt yard, sit on a stone, and wait out the service with my incorrigible (though amusing) baby.

Those were the days…. Since then we have tried Union Church, home church, local church, Mexican church in the city, and everything in between.  Currently we are back to another “union church” of sorts, using podcast sermons from the Internet, which we watch and discuss with other ex-pats in our community. 

At one point we recognized the irony that we had come to this country so indigenous people could worship in their own language – yet we were requiring our own dc* to worship in their second language.

How about you?  How do you feel about Sundays?  Love ‘em?  Dread ‘em?  Or are they just one more painful reminder that “We’re not in Kansas any more”?

IRL:  For me, “sleeping in on Sunday” is still a weekly temptation no matter where we live.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Speaking of Missy's OVARIES.... (a.k.a. "How Annoying is Your Fish Bowl?")

Once I heard an American complain about all the rude foreigners at Disney World who pushed right into him as he patiently waited in line for the rides.  North Americans have an enormous bubble surrounding them, which they fully expect strangers to respect. 

Touching is perceived as pushing. 

Most global workers eventually adapt our concept of “personal space” so we can survive without being so prickly with those we came to reach, where personal space is an almost non-existent concept.  However, what about emotional space?  Have any of you experienced the trauma of having a very personal issue treated rudely?

Today I am calling on the collective wisdom of our WOTH readers to address a tender subject: how do you handle infertility cross-culturally?  Short of wearing a t-shirt saying “Please stop talking about my ovaries!” what can be done to get the message across that this is a private matter American women do not want discussed publicly?

Missy (not her real name),  a global worker in her early 30’s, works here in Mexico and has been married for almost five years with no children.  She is a private person who struggles with the fishbowl effect of living in the public eye, where everyone seems preoccupied with her apparent inability to give her Mexican husband offspring.  Mind you she has never seen a doctor or had any “problem” diagnosed, but since her sister-in-law seems to be “Fertile Myrtle” it is presumed there is a “problem,” and that the "problem" is hers and not her husband’s.

The humiliation she has endured is unbelievable.  Can you imagine having people actually touch your belly and weep aloud over the death of your ovaries?  What’s worse, people say hurtful things about how Missy is selfish for not caring that her poor husband has the embarrassment of having an infertile wife.  One woman told her she should stop focusing her attention on helping other people's children (which is her ministry), and then God might consider giving her a child of her own.  Really?

Almost comical (if it weren't true), meddlers regularly offer Missy home remedies like powders in her drinking water, special teas, and fermented pineapple cores.  Once she was given a foot massage to stimulate her reproductive organs.  The very worst are men who make public prophesies and suggestions too graphic to print here, and tell of visions they have had of Missy’s birth canal.  Really!

Missy herself would be at peace with God opening and closing her womb according to His will and purposes.  She would be content to wait several more years to start a family or to adopt children if that’s what God wants.  Her husband and dmil* (see side bar) are supportive, though probably clueless as to her predicament.  If and when she does get pregnant, she would like the glory to go to God, not to the "friends" who offered advice and potions.

Her question to you is this:  How can she communicate to her adversaries that she is a private person who is quietly trusting God?  How can she be gracious, while calmly but strongly telling people to shut up stop meddling and leave her alone?

Is it possible to relay this message without offending people cross-culturally?  How would this scene play out in your part of the world?

IRL:  Living in a fish bowl can be pretty annoying sometimes.

P.S.  I voted against the "Stop Talking About My Ovaries" t-shirt, but I did find this one at
that says "mom-to-be:  Just waiting to find out WHEN." 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Earthquakes and Hurricanes and Drug Wars! Oh, My!

…And what they “think” they know, they know very little about.  Pardon me for jumping in the middle of an unfinished thought from last week’s post.  (That's a risk you take when you let a writer publish minus an editor.)  We were talking about our loved ones who cannot relate to our lives because they have never seen where and how we live.

What they do know about our host countries often has nothing to do with us personally.  How often have you gotten frantic phone calls and emails about some disaster that made the news, but that didn’t affect you in the least?

The first time I heard about an attempted coup in Guatemala was when the letters started coming (back in the pre-computer age).  We lived within a few miles of where the incident occurred, but it didn’t touch our lives at all.

Here in Oaxaca we are seldom affected by hurricanes, since we live in the high desert.  We might get a lot of rain, and some bridges might collapse, but very rarely.  Still people hear about flooding in Oaxaca and envision us floating away in a makeshift boat with our few belongings.

Most times the “earthquakes” people read about are only “tremors” in reality.  Even the earth shaking, truly frightening quakes we have experienced have never caused any personal harm or damage to our house or recording studio.  If people only understood, they would not be so impressed.*

Back in 2006 Oaxaca was in the news due to ongoing riots in the capital city.  Short-term teams saw the news and cancelled their trips even though we live an hour away from the airport.  Nowadays it’s kidnapping and drug-related violence that grab attention, even though most of the trouble is far away from our southern state.

But what does it say to people when they perceive that we live in these hotbeds of danger and unrest?  Are we fools to live and raise children in such unsafe places?

My policy is not to judge people based on the news and crime in their cities.  If I were to focus only on the Associated Press for my information, I might question anyone’s sanity for wanting to live in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. (Shivers!)

The truth is that MOST people live in those places and are safe.  Most people can eat at a Cracker Barrel, attend public (or Amish) school or college, and visit the Empire State Building without witnessing a single shooting. 

The sad fact is that most people in the world have no option to pack up and go someplace safer even when danger is imminent and real.  I consider this when loved ones imply we should move “home” and be safe.  We are where God has placed us, and we will stay until He moves us on.

Even when the news stories affect us directly, we are better off in the will of God than in the safest town in America outside of God’s protection.

IRL:  If they only knew…..  Then again, maybe they wouldn’t pray so fervently if they knew how safe we are, so let’s leave them to assume what they want.

*On a serious note, were any of you adversely affected by the earthquakes in Costa Rica or China last week? I don't mean to make light of earthquakes just based on my limited experience.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

That Disconnect with our Dearest

"The last few weeks I was blessed to have my little brother visit and experience my life here in Mexico.  Often for single missionaries the people that we love most never know what our lives are truly like.  We try to explain, send pictures and tell the stories, but it is not the same, and in reality attention spans of those listening are relatively short since they have no way to connect with the realities described. 

This is not a lack of concern or caring, but simply a reflection of an absence of shared experiences that would allow one to connect with another’s life.  It was truly a joy to share my life with my brother for those three weeks, introduce him to the people I care for, places where I live and work, and travel with him through the mountains, coasts and valleys of Oaxaca.  I should have been thankful, joyful, but when I left him at the airport for his trip home, I couldn’t stop the tears."

I would say to Chariti, the writer of this blog post excerpt, that being single has its definite challenges and unique sorrows, but the longing for loved ones to “get” our life is common to us all, newbies and old-timers, single and married alike.

This summer I once again experienced that disconnect with some of my dearest family members and friends.  How can they relate to my life when they have never seen where and how I live?  Why do I even bother rambling on about what they cannot possibly envision?  I can enter back into their lives fairly easily, but very few loved ones have imaginations that enable them to enter into mine.

What I love about short-term teams is that blessing of having people from “home” in my real home, sharing a meal around my table, gradually “connecting with the realities” that I’ve been trying to describe in blogs and prayer letters for all these years.  I love it when they reach that “aha” moment of realization that my life is not to be pitied, but envied.

When people say, “I could never do what you do, “ I suspect that they have no idea what my real life is all about.  How could they say that, when I lead such a fulfilling and happy life?  When they ask, “When are you going to retire, move ‘back home’ and settle into living in the U.S.?” I know that they are missing some vital piece of information I haven’t been able to communicate adequately.

Once again, I am thankful for my IRL (real life) friends who share my life on the field.  I’m also thankful for each of you who are living parallel lives in your dots on the map.  It brings me great cheer to be reminded continually that I am not alone.

IRL:  Chariti, you are not alone, either, and I’m sure I am not alone in saying you will be missed when you move on from this particular field of service.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All Over the Map

If you will kindly indulge me, I want to point out a couple of features in the side bar.  First of all, if you scroll down and click on the world map, you can see where all the IRL readers live: 139 different countries (if I counted correctly), and all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Armed forces of the Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Canada. 

This is more fun than collecting states on license plates in a National Park.  I am humbled and honored that so many of you actually read what I write. I have to agree with the gal who left me a comment declaring that I have "The Coolest ClustrMap in Blogosphere!” 

Thanks, y’all, for putting dots all over the map.

Secondly, do you see how many different topics I have discussed over the past couple of years?  Those labels are almost embarrassing; I’m all over the map from A to Z.  Man!  (Can you find the new letter I added today?)

Each week I ask myself what on earth I can possibly share with such a diverse group of readers who literally live all over the world.  Usually an idea pops into my head, but sometimes not.  Those are the posts I dutifully and apologetically send to the WOTH editor, and then you amaze me with your comments that are better than what I wrote myself.

This month I am grieving the absence of my dear friend, Cindy, who has stepped down from her position as the editor at Women of the Harvest.  She was the brain behind this blog, my motivator, and creative genius behind all the fun graphics and titles.  Now I am on my own with Cindy on the sidelines providing a dot in Colorado for my ClustrMap.

(In case you missed it, click here to read Cindy’s last “Letter from the Editor.”  You can leave her a note of appreciation there, too, if you like.)

Because this blog takes a bit more time and effort when I can’t fall back on Cindy’s creative juices to pull it together for me and find any grammatical errors, I’d like to appeal to you to provide my occasional blog fodder.  Please?  Is there anything you would like to hear about?  Questions you’d like to pose to this global audience?

I would love to hear from you.  Either leave me a comment below, or feel free to send an email to me at with your “Ask Jamie Jo” type questions.

IRL:  Usually seeing red is an indication of an anger issue, but here “seeing red” brings me great joy.  Thanks again!

In case you ever wondered, this is where I am IRL


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