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!


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