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.


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