Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cheap Lumpy Mattresses

“What’s one thing you wish you had known when you first started out?”  That was the question I had to address recently at a ladies’ tea.  Maybe some of you youngsters could come up with a quick easy answer for this, but for me, “starting out” was literally half a lifetime ago.

Truth be told, maybe people did try to tell me certain things back then, but it never sank in until I learned them by experience.  How many people used to say, “Enjoy those children while they’re young; they grow up so fast!”  Did I learn it just hearing it from some older, wiser woman?  No way, Jose.

Viewing it from this side of fifty, it’s humbling on the one hand how much I still have to learn, and at the same time I find it challenging to take my own life lessons and make anything but a lame attempt to pack them into a neat little lesson to teach women coming behind me. 

One thing I wish I had understood better starting out 26 years ago is the nature of spiritual warfare.  I wish I had been more aware that there is an enemy out there who wants to destroy my marriage, ministry, family, and me.  I wish I had known that the enemy is not my husband, coworkers, or children.

What did I answer these kind women who so eagerly wanted to hear about my experiences?  Nothing very profound, to be sure.  In fact, I’m sure they were disappointed.  I said that I wished I had known then how much God truly loves me and cares for me apart from anything I might accomplish in this life, that He doesn’t mind if I am comfortable occasionally.

For years I used to feel a pang of guilt for even wishing for creature comforts.  Now I embrace them when they come my way, though I struggle against purposely seeking them out for myself.  I’ve learned that there is nothing more spiritual about sleeping on the ground or on a cheap, lumpy bed, and there is nothing sinful about being color coordinated or wearing makeup.

While there are certain products I need to stay physically attractive to my husband, there are also helps I need to stay physically healthy.

I’ve also learned that there are certain things I must do in order to stay sweet and productive.  I do require a certain amount of sleep, preferably on a firm mattress, and I function better with daily exercise and good nutrition.  This summer after gaining back about 15 pounds, I learned again the danger of giving in to every craving and eating every dessert offered.

Didn’t I know that before we left Mexico for our summer in the U.S.?  I did.  Yet I still had to learn that hard lesson again, experientially.  Thankfully we were able to join a gym for just two months, which helps a lot to feel better even though the rest of my lifestyle is temporarily out of balance.

So back to the original question:  What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

IRL*Most of us learn the hard way by sleeping on cheap, lumpy mattresses.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The In-Between

One of my most memorable prayer letters started out with the shocking announcement that Jim and I were splitting up and leaving the children at the orphanage.  The truth is that while I was going to Canada for a son’s graduation, Jim was making a trip to South America, and a friend in Mexico was keeping the youngest kids for a few nights in the children’s home where she worked.

This summer is sort of like that.  The family is split up and all over the place.  I’m getting a small preview of the empty nest, which has its benefits to be sure, but it feels so unnatural.  The girls have been visiting their niece and older siblings for a few weeks, and Jonny, our youngest son, has been working with an older brother in another state.  We are all over the place geographically.

Meanwhile I am spending four consecutive weekends in four different states during this whirlwind summer tour – slash- “home assignment.”  Jim and I welcome the simplicity of traveling together, just the two of us, but it still just feels odd.  When I think of it, nothing feels right any more.

Next week is our designated time to have all the kids “home” again, although we aren’t really going to be home, but in at our temporary home base in Ohio.  Even having all our adult kids back together isn’t exactly natural.  I trust it will be wonderfully fun, but it’s just not the norm any more.

After that I will be in Dallas for a long weekend visiting with my mom and siblings in the house where we grow up.  We can’t wait to be together again like old times, but nothing about it will seem normal either.

A side of me just wants to fast forward and be home, at my own house in Mexico, looking at photos of the summer, sorting it all out in quiet devotional times.  Right now I am getting weary of too much food, too little exercise, too many thoughts and too little solitude.  Summer trips to the U.S. are like that. 

My heart cries out for normal, but as my international friends keep reminding me, “Normal is just a setting on the dryer, and most of us don’t even have a dryer.”  There is no such thing as normal.  Not until much, much later.

What I am experiencing this summer is sort of the in-between phase between big family and empty nest.  What I am living here on earth is this unnatural in-between thing between earth and heaven.  I feel it strongly.  My heart yearns for a normal that doesn’t exist outside of heaven.  For now I only get glimpses every now and then.

Scripture says that all nations will hear the good news, “… and then finally the end will come.”  I’m clinging to that truth.  That’s what keeps me going when the kids are scattered all over the globe and home doesn’t feel like home any more.  That’s what gives me strength to be so far away from my precious grandbaby and aging mom and dmil.

Like you, I desperately long for the end to come, but at the same time, I want our loved ones overseas to hear the good news before He returns.  Until then, I keep striving ahead, muddling through the unnatural junctures of life, and embracing the reality that I am doing something worthwhile.

One lie saying I keep hearing this summer is “It’s all good.”  It’s not true yet, but it will be someday.  No one can convince me that “it’s all good” to be so far away from so many loved ones.

IRL*My diet this summer is like my life, it’s not all good, and it’s not all normal or natural, but it’s all for a good purpose.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's Your [Furlough] Blessing?

People genuinely do want to “bless the missionaries” while we are stateside.  Really they do.  Okay, at least some do.  Churches who regularly pray for us are the first to find tangible ways to bless us while we are here.

Hopefully all of us could share a long list of blessings we have received, and maybe we can even rejoice with our colleagues (without jealousy) in the provision of things we have personally never received.  I  once struggled with envy when I heard of other global workers returning home to free dental work, car mechanics, restaurant and gas cards, and trips to amusement parks as a family.

It’s taken 26 years to accumulate quite a list of lovely tokens of love and appreciation from friends and partners in our work.  But let’s face it, what is a tremendous blessing to me might fall short of that objective in your case.

For example, a friend gifted me with kefir grains, fresh raw milk, subsidized nutritional supplements, and even a kombucha starter!  All of my hippy, happy, just-a-bit-out-there friends will say “Cool”!  The rest of you are scratching your heads saying, “Huh”?

With this said, let me share some “blessings” my kids have experienced in real life on summer furloughs.  My oldest daughter remembers being in a supporting church at age six or seven, and being forced to stand up in front of about fifty children she didn’t know and share about life in Oaxaca.  (Don’t your children hate that?)

To make it worse, the teacher then said, “Because you are our special guest we will let you take our offering this morning … but first you can start us off by praying in Spanish!”  Now whoever thought that would be a treat for a shy little visitor?

Another story happened to one of my boys who was too young at the time to remember it.  One of our supporting churches is a lively little church, very different from the denominations we usually attend.  We were sitting on the front row, all however-many-of-us-there-were at the time. 

The pastor had asked people to come up for special prayer. He proceeded to holler at the devil, until one person after another fell at our feet, slain in the spirit.  When the pastor ran out of standing people to pray for, he came over to pray for us. 

My youngest son began crying loudly, “Don’t let him pray for me!  Don’t let him pray for me!” until I shushed him and rushed him out as though he needed a sudden diaper change.

Sometimes blessings fall a bit shy of their goal. 

What amazes me about WOTH is how they truly minister to such a diverse group of women, touching mind, body, and soul.  They “get” our lives in a way few people do.  It was a blessing to be a co-presenter at the Writer’s Workshop last week at the WOTH Furlough Retreat in Denver, and a pleasure to introduce many new readers to this blog! 

Now it’s your turn to share.  Please share with us some of the greatest blessings of your current or past furloughs.  I promise to rejoice without (much) envy, even if your list trumps my kefir, kombucha, and raw milk.  Feel free to add your own stories of things your kids have had to endure on furlough.

No pressure to comment, but I did tell lots of the women at the retreat that the stories in the comments are the best part about this blog, so don’t let me down! 

IRL* Blessed.


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