Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fiery Darts

Awareness of sin, repentance, walking with God, smooth sailing, suffering, God’s grace, spiritual growth – and the beat goes on, as they say. Throw in a few fiery darts from the enemy during the suffering chapters, and that about covers it. The story of my life.
When am I going to wake up and smell the coffee Kombucha? It’s the same little pesky attacks that trip me up every time. Why can’t I anticipate them and prepare myself for the battle? Instead I freak out at the slightest hint of discomfort and revert to a whiney baby who begs for someone to deliver me out of my troubles.
It’s the continuing saga of the summer furlough (not a vacation) that launched my latest kerfuffle. I’ve become a melodramatic teenager again – on cloud nine one day and in the depths of despair the next, sighing like one of my daughter’s Facebook statuses “I hate my life!” or “Oh, good – Leap Year – one more day of problems this year.” (Actually I made that one up myself.)
Finally I’ve decided it’s time to grow up and move on.
What happened last week was this: I decided all my fretting and finagling was getting me nowhere, so I repented and put my worries back in God’s hands. Within twenty-four hours, we found affordable airline tickets to the U.S. in June, a car to borrow, and an ideal place to live. All was well on cloud nine.
The very next morning we got an early phone call saying no, actually the rental house is not available after all. We’ll have to keep looking for a place to stay this summer. Are you kidding, Lord? What’s this all about?
Way too immediately I welcomed back my former enemy/companion/burden, and spent the next twenty-four hours worrying again. “Woe is me.” Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a littler bit worse.
Just as quickly I realized that:
1. Life is still really, really good, and
2. God has it all in control, and
3. Occasional suffering is good, forcing me further along the road to spiritual growth, and lastly
4. There is an enemy lurking in my head planting incredibly stupid lies.
When I am down (particularly when I am sick), it happens every time. Suffering leads to immediate attack. When I get too busy fretting to analyze the thoughts that ricochet in my brain, I am in trouble. When I sit still and listen to my Father’s voice, the lies become clear.
“He doesn’t care for you.” That’s the biggest one of all. It’s not true! He does care, and He is providing everything I need. Satan is a liar.
I’m simply going to have to trust Him (at least for today). How about you?
IRL* Summer plans are still a bit hazy, but God has it under control.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is There Some Hip New Way?

Does anybody really care? Ha! Now I’ve got you oldie fans singing the Chicago song I’ve had stuck in my head all morning. Seriously, though, do you ever wonder if anyone really does care about where you live and what you are doing?

It’s been three years since I’ve been to Ohio, which is where our support base is centered. This June will be my first time to return since I’ve been more connected via Facebook and blogging. I wonder if it will make any difference. Do people know me better? Will that be a help or a hindrance?

For me, I enjoy seeing who’s gotten married, who’s become a grandparent, who’s made fabulous trips I have enjoyed vicariously by seeing online photos. It’s been fun “liking” these events on Facebook and leaving quick comments occasionally. I’ve been in touch when tragedy has hit certain friends, and I’ve been blessed to pray for them during the dark nights of loss.

But how will this affect my re-entry into their real lives?

Before this season of re-acquaintance via the computer, I noticed that friends’ lives are busier each time we visit the States. Even being in the neighborhood for a whole summer, I have little hope of seeing people more than once or twice. That’s just how it is nowadays. I get it—sort of—but it still hurts a little bit.

Don’t you ever long to see your friends and family, and secretly imagine a wonderful happy reunion where everyone embraces you, welcomes you back, and then honestly cares that you are there? I know I sure do. Deep down, though, I realize that friends are overwhelmed enough as it is. Their lives have very little margin to allow for free time to hang out with their missionary friend, even if they wanted to.

The nagging question is “Do they really want to spend time with me anyway?” Maybe they view me as a persistent Amway salesman who only wants to entice them to spend an evening so I can try to gain their support. Maybe deep down I really do wish they would get on board, even if I’m too chicken to ever mention finances.

Anyway, it’s funny that just as I have developed my “voice” in writing, and have met so many new e-maginary friends, all of a sudden I feel insecure with the whole “being in the States for a mini-furlough” business this summer. People know that the main reason we are there is to try to raise more support. Will they just try to avoid us? Will they even care? Will we have anything in common with our former friends and acquaintances?

Have you been there, done this recently? Can you talk me through the process again? What works? It’s not that I have forgotten, but I wonder if what I used to know is even relevant any more. Is there some new hip way to relate to others and still share needs from the mission field?

IRL* Help!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Can of Worms

There I go getting myself in trouble for thinking too much again. Not that I am blaming anyone, but it is a fact that my dh’s casual remark about possibly buying a house in the U.S. is what triggered my latest conundrum.

First of all, we have never considered such a thing. We are completely settled in Mexico, and with very few exceptions, everything we own is right here under our roof. We live simply and we like it just fine. There are plenty of ministry opportunities to last a lifetime, so retirement has never been a serious option. Once upon a time we half-jokingly promised to die down here so we could keep things affordable and not be a burden on anyone in the States.

Retirement still is not something we consider. What made us think about buying a house is the reality that we are in fact needing to be in the US more often now – possibly every summer – to help care for aging parents, keep in better contact with our supporting churches, see our grown children, and provide stateside job experiences for our three teens before they transition to college and adult life.

With the housing market the way it is, we could conceivably take some inheritance/retirement funds and buy an affordable house or condo. That would remove the agony of finding a place to live each time we take a summer furlough. That would be the biggest blessing of all.

However it also opens all sorts of cans of worms. What kind of place? Where? Everything in me cries out for simplicity. (Read: small and easy to care for) The last thing I want is a big old empty house that needs to be filled and repaired and painted. (We have enough fix-it challenges in our house down here!)

Up until now I have only admired houses from afar. Pinterest has brought it closer to home, but honestly I have never coveted other people’s homes. I figure any discontent over where I live just encourages godly thinking; it makes me long for my heavenly home. Any suffering that makes me look heavenward is a good thing. I can handle a relative lack of beauty and convenience here on earth in this dry old desert home knowing that somehow I have a mansion in the future that is forever – and it will be filled with beauty that eludes me here on earth.

Now suddenly I am approached with a remote possibility of house-hunting, and all sorts of worldly ideas pop into my head. I don’t want just any affordable housing. I want a lovely Pinterestingly decorated place with a lovely garden that I never dreamed of having this side of heaven. Ack. Then I feel guilty for such shallow and selfish ambitions.

Years ago I remember reading that only three things touch the human soul: beauty, pain, and stories. Beauty can’t be a sinful pursuit, then, can it? Somehow through the years I have developed an unhealthy theology that says it is godlier to suffer than to be surrounded by beauty. It’s almost like I fear to be blessed in a material way, lest it draw my heart away from missions and back to the comforts of the U.S.

Any suggestions? How do I keep my eye on the finish line while simultaneously entertaining thoughts of buying into U.S. real estate? Can it be done?

IRL* My can of worms is a sweet dilemma.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Magnified and Scrutinized

Something weird happens whenever my grown kids visit. It’s taken me years to pinpoint the short-circuiting in my brain, so bear with me while I attempt to articulate this discovery. Even if you have no adult children, you might experience this with other visitors from the U.S. I know do.

Normally I live my life in a state of acceptance of things-as-they-are. Not everything about my marriage, family, and home is ideal—not by a long shot; but I somehow arrive at a position where I simply overlook the bad and focus on the good. It’s called survival. Or like the motto in my mom’s kitchen that sums it up in another word: “whatever!”
Then these adults-I-used-to-call-children come home, or in the old days, my dmil would come to visit. Suddenly every flaw becomes magnified. It’s not that these people are necessarily criticizing (sometimes they do), but something in my head shifts gears, and like the emperor in the fairy tale who suddenly realizes he is wearing no clothes, all of a sudden I feel ashamed of myself, the people closest to me, and most of all, my (can I say crappy on a Christian blog?) house.
This has been going on for years, but it wasn’t until I was talking to a friend who experienced the same phenomenon this Christmas that I began to see the pattern. Love overlooks a multitude of sins. Peace in the home for the long haul requires large doses of selective blindness, don’t you think?
It’s not until others are watching that it starts to bug me.
Why do I put up with this? Why have we never painted that? Why, oh why can we not fix that crazy drawer that has never opened properly? Why have we allowed this child to get away with such-and-such a habit? Why does my dh… Nope, I’m not going there. Worst of all, why do I always….
You get my drift.
Again, it’s not that our visitors necessarily say anything about anyone or anything. Just seeing things through a different lens is what I don’t like. Our marriage, family, and home are fine most of the time, as long as no one is looking too closely. I guess that’s why having guests can be so stressful. Suddenly all our oddities, imperfections, and interactions are under scrutiny.
After a month of having dd here, and two weeks with ds and ddil, we are settling back into life-as-it-was. I want to make some changes so that we don’t settle for mediocrity when we should be striving to be the kind of people and have the kind of home that can be scrutinized and found godly in most respects.
This week I splurged on four new pillows to replace the ratty ones I subjected my adult children to over the holidays, hoping that will help future guests overlook all the other quirky things about my home and family. Next we need new mattresses, some better sheets that don’t come from K-mart, and towels that aren’t all shredding and sun-rotted. And then…. Where does this all end?
IRL* Praying for grace to accept what cannot be changed (others), and strength to change what I can change (myself), also patience to accept what I cannot afford to change, and finances to pay for what needs to be changed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Year of the Dragon... & teeth & passports

In honor of our friends in the Far East, let me wish you all a very lovely Year of the Dragon, which apparently started on January 23. (How do you keep track of New Year’s when it always falls on a different day? Chinese New Year is not always even in January. Usually it’s February, right? Just wondering….)
So far 2012 is looking more like the Year of the Teeth. This year my dc need a total of ten teeth surgically extracted. How can that be? I have no idea. Sometimes things all happen at once like that. Last week was a bugger of a week for my poor dd who had to have oral surgery just before returning to college.
2012 is also the year of passport renewals for the dc. Both American and Mexican passports are expiring this year for our three youngest dc. Between that and orthodontist and oral surgeon visits, it looks like I may spend a crazy amount of time running back and forth to the city, waiting in lines, and filling out paperwork. I’m not going to even think about the finances for all these extras.
Who knows what else this year might represent. Both our vehicles are getting up there on mileage, so 2012 might end up being the Year of the Car for all I know. 2011 was the Year of the Plumbing, among other more fun memories.
How about you? Any glimpses of what the New Year is looking like?
One annual task I failed to do in January is to type up a list of the year’s highlights. Usually I don’t know what to call a year until after it is past. Recent years are easy to recall because of weddings, and of course 2011 will be the year I became GJ. As I get older, though, I am thankful to have my handy file of yearly bullet points to help jog my memory. I can’t recommend this enough to you younger women with your minds still intact.
If I ever get around to writing my memoirs, it would be a nightmare to find stories in all my journals. Now when was that…? You think you will never forget, but trust me; it all gets jumbled together after a while. My “cheat sheet” is a folder of yearly highlights. I can flip through that pretty quickly and then find what I seek in my stack of journals. When random photos show up in a drawer or a packing box, my little file folder helps me pinpoint dates. (Why, or why did I not put dates on photos in the first place is another issue.)
Each year I make a list not only of what I did, where I went, and significant news items, but I also list new friends who have come into my life. Sometimes friends come and go so quickly, I only vaguely remember them when I look back on a particular year, but other times it is fun to look back and mentally celebrate how many years I have known a particular person.
2009 was the year I “met” WOTH. 2010 was the year I “met” many of you! Now I am enjoying my third year of blogging with WOTH.
IRL* I’m vowing to carve out more Real Life time for the people God puts before me this year (besides the orthodontist, oral surgeon and immigration agents).


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