Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Full House

We've got a full house again.  Family came by!  Wow!  I have cousins who live about a day's trip from where we are.  We haven't seen each other in two years, though.  I think our furlough and holiday times just never coincided.  They came up for the New Year's holiday.  Wonderful!

And - I managed to get the house completely cleaned first.  All Christmas stuff put away.  All ironing done.  Even the socks matched.  Ah, peace!

Now there are twelve of us here.  Wonder how long we can keep it clean?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Only On A Sunday - it's easy!

I was dressing for Christmas eve service, and I wanted to wear one black skirt.  (Ok, I can't believe I am admitting this on a public blog!)  With this skirt, I wear control top tights... well... because my tummy just ain't the way it used to be before it carried five babies.  So, I wear this.

Well, this night I couldn't find them.  Likely because my room was a mess! :)  So my daughter watched me search.  Finally she asked, "mommy, why do you wear your tight tights?"

"Oh, honey, they just make my tummy look a little smaller."

She tried to comfort me, "Mommy, you look really beautiful the way you are.  It will be ok."

I know.  It is just that my tummy looks better in jeans... so I muttered a "I know, thanks" as I continued to hunt.

She watched for a little bit more and then said, "But mommy, I know a way to make your tummy look smaller without your tight tights!"


"Easy mommy, just run."

Thanks child.  Thanks.  That made me feel really good.

Feeling Overwhelmed

That is how I feel today.  Partly because my house is a mess, and I don't deal well with messes.  (No "I told you so" from people who might be tempted to say that! You know who you are, and no laughing here!)  Messes make me feel on edge.  Now, mess is normal at my house.  I am not a clean freak.  I enjoy clean - just wish the house would find a way to stay that way on its own!

Partly because my house has had a continuous revolving door recently.  I like people.  Really.  But I am built so I need my down time, my alone time.  When I don't have it, I get.... think of a word that starts with B, but don't say it!  We don't talk like that.

Partly because life is going at such a speed, and big things are happening in my life at a high speed, and I need time to think about them.  I am not getting that time.  My life is filling up with people and people have problems and needs and questions.  I feel like I am on constant giving right now, and I need some time to sit quietly and take again.

But I am lazy - yeah, that is why I get a messy house.  I am also lazy with my time with God.  Taking time to sit and listen to Him.  I don't do that well when people are around.  Not when I've been staying up late.  Not when I'm exhausted.  Then I get grouchy... like when I don't get time with my husband.  I get pretty miserable then, too.  I need time alone with him, too.  It recharges me just to be with him - to have his attention, to be held.  I can be with him all day in a group, and it is not the same.  I want time alone with him.

That is how I feel with God right now.  I am not far from Him.  I'm with Him, been ok, but I miss that time alone.  The time just to curl up and rest against Him and pour out my heart.  That is what I am without right now, and I am feeling overwhelmed... no time, and that leads to me being pretty... well, we won't say that word, will we?

I'm going to bargain for some time off tomorrow.  My husband has been really nice - it is not that he wouldn't give it to me.  He gave me a morning to sleep in.  He's been helping out.  It is just that I've ben sick, and the type of sick where you are better if you just close your eyes and sleep.  And I am lonely.  Lonely for spending time just curled up in the mornings resting my heart against God's and listening.

I'll be happy to be back in routines again in a week.  I do better with routines.  In the meantime, I got  call that more guests are on the way.  This time a family of six.  But, on the cheerful side, these people are ones who give into my life instead of taking.  So it could be a blessing.  I'm optomistic.

In the meantime, pray for peace.  Peace may not rule in the events happening in our lives right now, but peace can rule in my heart.  Let's pray for that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Do You Comfort?

I'm beginning to think that one of the toughest things in a first generation church is death.  How do you give comfort?  I've been dreading this in our own family.  My husband's parents are getting old and we have plans in place, funds laid aside so he could go at any minute.  The plans are easy, but the comfort is impossible.

We had a guest, a new member of our team - well, she's only partly with us.  I hope she joins us full-time soon.  Anyway, she was at our house and told us her dad is very sick, but she doesn't think she could go see him.  Remember those funds laid aside?  We thought that perhaps she could go.  She could use those, and later on we'll worry about repayment.  So we searched and found a way to get there, and phoned the family to see how he was doing.  He had just died.  Only hours before....

She sat in our living room crying.  She phoned other relatives around the world to let them know.  We sat with her.  There is nothing more we can do, just to be there.  We prayed with her.  We cried together.  She's been through six deaths in her extended family in the last three months.  It's been tough.  She's at the end of her emotions right now.

But as we sat, I thought this is the hardest thing to deal with in a first generation church.  When we lose a family member, even one we don't think was a believer, we try to hold out some hope.  We hope that at the last minute, they might have called out to God.  Of course they knew of the gospel, so we hope.  We hope even when we don't know.  But to these believers, it is totally different.  They face the deaths of their families knowing that there was little chance they even heard the gospel.  And the face of that grief is different.  Very different.  I grew up in a family where most of us are believers.  When we die, we mourn the loss of the person in our lives right now and we look forward to seeing them again.  To the first generation church, death is very different.  It is so final.  I dread the deaths of my husband's parents.  He lost an uncle and cousin last year in an accident, and that was tough.

So this Christmas, we have a mixed crowd in my house.  Part of our family here - the three new ones.  The family which just moved here.  Our friend who just lost her family.  And a new believer from nearby who dropped in and is staying for Christmas.  We have both joy in being together, and pain in facing death.  I am at loss as to how to comfort here.  All I can do is listen and learn from them.

Pray for me, too.  I've got a severe UTI and am in a reasonable amount of pain right now.  Trying to manage hosting Christmas through all this.  I've got help and it's going ok.  I'm on antibiotics and cranberry extract, and it is resolving, but it will take a day or two, and I am in pain.  Was up last night crying half the night, and am exhausted today.  I've got a great husband who took the kids out so I can rest and who helped clean, so I'm going to be ok.  Just I am really, really sore right now.

From last year to this year, I am amazed at the changes in our family.  Even from three months ago.  Something to give God thanks for.

Have a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stepping into the Mess

It's Christmas, and my brain is kicking in with messages that it should be a relaxed time.  Time to play games, eat wonderful cookies and foods, do shopping and planning for gifts, enjoy life...

I think that is my child's view of Christmas.  It's coming into stark contrast with reality recently.  I think my Christmas blues have nothing to do with anything serious in my life right now.  Just with the awful reality that I am now the grown-up.  All those wonderful things that are supposed to happen at Christmas.... the food, the candy, the cookies, the presents.... they all mean WORK for the mommy!

I feel like I'm running all the time and am always running behind.  Every party, every event, every request for one more goodie for school, work, or minstry party... it is all one more thing to do.  And I am the mommy who doesn't buy store bought cookies.  At least my kids expect that.  Today, I told them that there is too much sugar and they should bring chips instead.  No one makes home-made chips, and the arguement saved face for me.

It hasn't helped that a friend is having a rough time.  I don't know what it is because I was gone today and not able to be there for her to talk.  But I have three extra kids.  Caring for them for her right now.  She can't.  She can't pull the energy together right now, and it is almost Christmas.  Kids should have memories of making homemade cookies, hanging out by the fire giggling at cartoons while eating cookies and chocolate milk, not memories of mommy crying and being too overwhelmed to play.  So, I have three extra kids right now.  I love them.  They are cute.  Oh, and then I have another extra because I had already promised my daughter and a friend that she could have a sleep over.  So that makes eight.  Not to mention the other five that I took home from school today, too.  Thankfully, I had not agreed to keep them, only give them a ride home.

So I feel like I am getting behind.  I'm not getting that perfect picture done.  My house is not vacuumed.  The laundry is not all done.... I'm only hoping I find clean uniforms for all these kids tomorrow.  I made batches of cookies, but they all went to carefully boxed gifts for the team.  I have to start again for our family baking.  And I'm tired.  I'm sitting at midnight waiting for the washing machine to finish so I can get the clothes to dry before morning so I am ready.  Six lunches sit laid out on the counter, and backpacks and jackets and boots and lined up in a row.  It will be an early morning tomorrow.  Two are not finished their homework, but we had a church program.  I'll have to get them up and get them focused.

I'm getting behind the perfect picture of Christmas, but this is Christmas.  It is about getting involved in other people's messes.  That is what Jesus did.  He got deeply involved in our mess.  So, I smiled at my friend and told her to hang in there, told her I enjoy her kids (I do).  That they giggled all afternoon while mixing cookies with me.  Three little girls sat lined up on my kitchen counter and I had to referee who got to stir for how long to keep it fair.  They had fun.  I hugged my friend and told her that she saw me go through last year, and that when she is ready to talk, I am here to listen.  If she doesn't want to talk, I am here to help her with the kids or anything else without needing answers.

And my house is full of children - children who likely will only remember playing games, watching cartoons, giggling, and eating cookies.  They don't see the midnight cleaning of the kitchen, the tired laying out of the clothes and lunches, the double checking sleeping heads, and the constant feeling of running behind.  For them, it is Christmas.  They're full of surprise and excitement.  They're looking forward to class parties, sledding, and fun.  I'm the one trying to locate 8 pair of gloves at midnight and make sure they all get dried for the next day.

It likely won't be picture perfect around here this year.  But, if we can keep some kids giggling and give some parents hope to keep going, it will be worth it.  There were people who stepped into my mess.  There still are.

Just heard the washer quit... got to go get six uniforms out to dry!

Monday, December 14, 2009

There's Froggies on My Gown!

Part of our family traditions involve some sort of gifts for others.  My kids really do not need any more toys.  They prefer playing with rocks and sticks anyway!  So we spend time to make gifts for other people.  Where we live, they have their own version of "gifts for poor children", but the problem is that the "poor" are not poor here.  I got fed up this year when our church was given suggestions for the families we chose to givve gifts to and one suggestions was "games for his X-box"!  He has an X-box, and you're so poor that you are on a charity gift list?!

I am sort of burned out on giving to those who don't have because they chose not to work and then have little to no idea of how to spend the money they are given.  So we look outside the box for who to give for.

Last year, we shopped for second hand dresses for a few ladies in a nursing home whose clothes were falling apart.  I altered them to make them easier to put on, and we gave that with some warm socks.  This year, i noticed that most of the nightgowns that these ladies were wearing were threadbare and ripped.  I found some bright, fun flannel, and last night sewed some hospital style gowns out of flannel.

They are a bit different than your traditional blue backless gown.  There is the blue one with kittens and hearts.  The pink one with cows jumping over the moon, and my favorite, a green with froggies on it.  I can't wait to see what the ladies think of them!  Their minds are too far gone to know it is Christmas, but they still love to look at bright colors and pictures of animals, so I am hoping these cheer them up!

They were so easy to make out of only a yard and a half of material that I think I might make some more and use up some of my fabric stash that just uses up space.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Christmas Party

We had our big team Christmas party recently.  That second time in a year when we all get together and smile and spend some time.  Actually, there is an improvement.  One couple who are friendly and care about people came.  We invited them home for the night, and they came.  That was fun.  I like people.  I really do.  I like people in my home.  I like to have people with me.  Formal visiting bores me, but I love having people in my home.

We gave them our bed, and we bunked down by the fire in the living room.  I think we figured something out - going to do that again.  Soft firelight dancing on the room, a very warm head by the fire... we slept so well!  I think we'll have a family sleepover there over Christmas break.  #2 has already put dibs out for the place farthest from the fire.  The kid sleeps in shorts with a light blanket only in the middle of winter when snow is piled up outside out house!

But... this team...  I had a hard time seeing them all again.  The first time since the summer conference where we studied transperancy, relationships, and care... this team who did not even bother to contact us during that awful last year.... I still struggle with that.

But today, my husband said something and light went off in my head and I feel .... what?  Better? No, not really.  More understanding?  Not quite. Perhaps more able to grasp and put the whole thing in some perspective.

He said today that our field leader (who did nothing) and our team leader (who has a serious problem with his vision) grew up together and are from the same community. 

Ah!  Light goes on....  I always wondered.  One or the other's reactions I could better pass off as, well, as not everyone is skilled at everything.  People have blind spots.  But both of them.....?  I begged for help for four years, and my own field office did not so much as write an e-mail to see how we were.

But, tonight when I understood the connections there, I can see where the issue of one accepting another's opinion as fact without checking for themselves would come in.  Not that it is right, but I can see it happening.  A high level of trust between the two, so they take each other's word, and neither were here to see, just to hear.  (Oh, it would have been so easy to come here to see, but it was, after all, two hours drive.)

Honestly, for me, I'd be delighted if we had no "team events".  It seems like an contradiction to me to say that word "team".  Now, we've got a great team here, our small team.  Very, very thankful for them.  Yeah, we have one who causes problems, but we still like each other and keep in contact with each other.  But the bigger team events, I think I would be just as happy skipping.

But, God gives us reason to smile.  Our new family was there, and she came up to me and stayed with me.  She said, "I feel like a stranger here, and I don't know anyone, and I feel awkward just smiling and pretending to talk."  Yeah, me too.  So we hung out together, and we visited with our small team and with the one family in our big team who has ever made an effort to be friendly with us.  Ok, I get it that we are foreigners here, a bubble contained in their larger team working for somewhere else, but we are people, too.

And the evening ended with our small team's children singing happily sitting on the floor at the front of the meetings, arms around each other and swaying in unison to carols.  A reason to smile.  We can not change how they act, but we can try to build a family in our own team.  And we can continue to invite others to get to know us.  How wonderful to have this one couple who took advantage of the offer to stay the night.  This morning, we had coffee and breakfast with them and another of our small team's families dropped in, too.  A great relaxed morning.  We thought it was such a great idea that we might make Friday's breakfast days for the group living on this end of town.  Drop the kids at school, and come over for a relaxed breakfast and coffee altogether.

So, I left happy.  But also sad as this lady shared with me quietly about struggles she is having, and I see her not getting the support she needs in her team.  I've asked myself many times since this spring's meetings, "How many will we lose until we get this member care figured out?"

Missions is not all about getting the work done.  It is about caring for people.  After all, isn't that what is supposed to be attractive about us?  The mark of us belonging to Christ?  Then let's get this one skill down then!

Odds and Ends

My husband got me a little heater for my feet in my office.  I like it, and it warms my heart.  I'm struggling more with cold this year than last and wonder if it means I need to get some bloodwork done.  After years of struggling with low iron levels, it was nice to be healthy for awhile, but I am wondering.  It's been a few years since I was checked.

One of my friends just lost their baby at 20 weeks.  Also a daughter.  My heart hurts for her.  I'm beginning to think heaven is going to be bursting with babbling babies bouncing off each other.  This friend and I had our babies together - they shared pacifiers, toys, blankets, and beds.  Now our daughters play together in heaven.  I'm sad.

I had a bad driving experience today in the snow and am still tired from it.  My husband put better tires on, so I will be fine now.  (See, he is taking good care of me!)

I don't know why people have more than one cat!  (I love cats, really do, and if it were culturally appropriate to have animals in my house, I might have a cat again.)  I helped someone pack who had two dogs and two cats, and my allergies acted up awfully.  Didn't even know I was allergic to animals.

I finally got my tree up.  (I did, Angela - now it is your turn!)  I don't feel like Christmas this year.  Too tired maybe?  Too cold.

I really want to be a bear in my next life.  Reasons:

1. They get to growl when they are unhappy.
2. They get to swat their kids when they misbehave.
3. They get to eat all they want all summer and put on lots of weight and they feel good about it.
4. They get to hibernate all winter and sleep it off.
5. When they wake up, they get to be all beautifully skinny again, and start eating all over again.
6. They get to give birth to their babies when the babies are not much bigger than a walnut.
7. Those first few months of nursing and tiny babies, they get to sleep right through.
8. They look good in fur.  Even uncombed fur.

Yup, I want to come back as a bear.

I think I am on a down after all the emotional energy last week.  We were so busy with speaking and meeting people, and then squeezing in a visit to "that place"... I'm just tired.  I'm doing ok, really, but I am just tired.  Wishing it wasn't Christmas so I could take it easy for a few days.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Cookies!

I am.  Yummy!  Making cookies to give away.  I'm trying to stick to simple things this year, but since I seem to be the only member of our team who knows how to bake, I have been assigned cookie duty.

I have a suspicion that pie duty is going to be assigned next.

We had one Christmas party, and what fun to watch about ten of our team's kids with some from farther away all sitting with their arms around each other's necks swaying and singing loudly with the music.  Ok, they did sing loudly and about a half note ahead of  the music, but they were cute!  I looked at them and thought that we had pretty much every color and design represented in those kids, and not one of them cared.  They are family.

Time to make cookies!  What is your favorite simple Christmas cookie?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cat in the Hat

Despite my strong objections to posting photos of my kids and my belief that I should not post photos of other people's kids without their permission, I had to post this.  It was just that cute.

My daughter and her best friend - the two have been inseperable since kindergarten - had a dress-up day at school.  Their teacher often dresses as the Cat, and when I had been looking through that book, I came up with a perfect idea for two best friends.  They dressed as Thing #1 and Thing #2.  Mine is Thing #2.

It was too cute not to post.  Excuse the fake smileys on the faces... I still have a problem posting photos on a public site.  But you can at least see the costumes.

Easy to make, but so funny as a combo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

He Made All Things Beautiful In His Time

We're back.  Thankfully, we walked into a quiet clean house.  We only picked up our daughter tonight and left the boys where they were.  I'll see them at school tomorrow.  We're back to the cold...brrr...

Back to picking up the pieces and going on with life.  There is homework, work, Christmas, paperwork, stuff to deal with.  It was a good trip.  It really was.  Crazy busy, but good.

Oh, and thanks to finding a good resturant, I got to eat some of my favorite food.  Stuffed myself on it - twice.  Ahh... mmmm....  My poor husband was shocked with how much I can eat!  I'm this odd mix as an MK, having grown up in two countries and served in three... I have widely different  tastes in food, and rarely get to have some of them.  Now... I am a little frightened to step on the scale.... but it was worth it!

I have to pick up a situation tomorrow that baffles me.  I stand back and watch it and scratch my head puzzled.  I can't figure it out.  But tomorrow, I will again walk into this situation and pick up pieces.  What I will have to say is not what I wanted to have to say for it.  I wanted a different solution, a better choice, but it is not going to work.  So I need to be very careful now not to offend, not to hurt, while sharing the solution that now stares us in the face.  I guess, too, I am disappointed in people's responses, and would love to change it... but I can't.  A part of peace comes when we realize that we can not change people's responses.  We can try to influence, but we can not change others.  We can only make our own choices.  So tomorrow, we begin to talk about our own choices, and sometimes that can sound very harsh.  And yet, I am not harsh... I feel... deeply... but I also know this path.

Yes, work hits tomorrow morning... but tonight the memories still linger... beautiful memories, actually.  I feel a sense of completeness.  Maybe what Alece talks about when she talks about shalom.  Complete, whole.

I'll still sit down and write - maybe tomorrow, maybe later.  I stood there and faced the wall, and many of you stood with me.  And I think the wall has crumbled.  I feel a sense of deep peace.  No longer the shadowy questions.  No longer the frightening dreams.  Substance to nightmares, and they crumble.  They are past, not now.  A deep peace replaces the questions I had about God.  I still have no answers, but a peace.  Isn't there a verse somewhere that talks about when we finally see the one who has terrorized the nations, we will shake our heads and say, "that's it?!  That scrawny, puny, miserable excuse for a person frightened us so badly?!"  I feel like that now in a small way.

"That's it?!"  I don't have to live my whole life in fear of that, in reaction to that... That is it.  And I have been made whole... given peace.

I think when I first talked about it, I drew boundaries around the nightmare.  "This is what happened."  It then changed my feelings to "This is what happened and only this."  The big made small.  Defined like black coloring lines.  Now, when I've been there and walked away, I defined myself.  "I am not just this.  It is a part of me, leaving a scar, but I am so much more than this."  I am.  More than this.  Even this that is part of me is not carrying shame... it is not awful... it is not devaluing me.  It is part of me, and God has made me beautiful - even this.  He has made all things beautiful in His time.

Now was His time.

And I feel whole, happy, content, like Cinderella walking into the ball - the ashes have been washed off, the tears wiped away, and I am dressed in beauty.  Except, unlike Cinderella, when the clock strikes, this dim beauty will fall off and even more unbelievable will be given to me - to us all.  Until then....

Until then... until then, I'll go diving back into that muck at a moment's notice because, unlike Cinderella, I do not want to be the only one chosen.  I want a whole contingent of us washed, whole, and delighted in being loved so deeply.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We Went There

Today, I went back there.  It poured rain.  The skies opened and poured rain.  Fitting.  It was raining that day my world went from sunshine to shadows.

We went back.  We walked around.  We saw.  We went in to that place.  Everything was exactly like I remember.  The one detail that always puzzled me confirmed.  How could that be?  I've never seen a room like that before - no closet there.  But there it was.  Exactly like my memory said it was.

I wasn't sure how I would react, but it was ok.  I went in.  I walked around.  I saw.  I looked.  Yes, I was slightly trembling, but only slightly.  I'm sure I didn't look anything more than like I was a little chilled in the pouring rain.

Then I walked out again.  Shut the gate behind me.  It was a feeling of peace, a quiet conquering.  But more than that, something surprised me.... surprised me even more when my husband prayed for it, too... because I wanted to pray that also, but didn't know what he would think...

forgiveness...  we both prayed for it... forgiveness for that woman who handed me over....

We talked about it later.  But we both wanted to pray that.  Compassion on her.  Yes, it was bad.  Yes, it scarred me.  But... God walked me through it, and He bears scars, so mine do not bother Him.  But I felt compassion for her... I'm NOT a compassionate person in regards to this...not at all.  But I know God... and to not know Him... and to be in such darkness....

Then we sat together and prayed - for blessing on that place.  That the former things would be gone and that from there, blessings would be.

Ah, it is hard to explain it all right now.  I'll process it and write again when I've had time.

Thanks for all your prayers.  I actually feel stronger, more whole, less frightened by the whole events than I did before.  I've faced it and walked away whole.  Perhaps scarred, but I'm even learning to love my scars... who I am now because of them is someone I like...

I downloaded my pictures this evening, pictures of that place, too, and then looked at them on a slideshow.  Was it any coincidence that the photo that the computer circled around to when it got to the end of those photos was one of this child of our coworkers who was abused/bullied in his school?... it was a photo of him in his new school smiling in his desk... yes, I like my scars.... they make me quick to react to protect and care.  This is who I am, and I am at peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Not Today

Life is always full of changes, isn't it?  Today didn't work out after all.  So we will go on Sunday afternoon.  That is fine, too.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Today is the day

I'm going there today.  Actually, I'm sitting here this morning only a short distance from this place.  My husband and I prayed together this morning, right now we have some business from what brought us here, and then we will go there today.

I was expecting to go there on Monday when we had time off, but the schedules change - as schedules so often do - and we are going there today.  I'm doing ok, sort of a settled peace.  A little tense awareness, but a settled peace.  I feel that God has brought me full circle again, to close up this chapter.  And as I sit here this morning waiting to go there, I am at peace.  I see what God has brought in my life - yes, even through this - and I am content.  Content to rest in His arms, knowing that even the pain He brought me through is only temporary and that He is and will use it for His glory.  Like Joseph.  I think that is the ultimate defeat of the destroyer: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."  You may have thrown your best at me to warp and detroy me, but God did not only save me through it - He is using that very pain you inflicted to reach out to snatch others from your grasp.  You DID NOT WIN!

So, I'm resting comfortably in the arms of the One who held me through all this.  And I'm grateful for all of you who are praying around this big world for me.  Ah, the stories we will all get to tell when we are all together in the end!  When we see what God has done.

Until then, I'm resting.  Calmly waiting to face this and be brought full circle again.  To stand there with my husband and to be able to say who I am.  I am a daughter of the King.  He delights in me and sings over me in love.  That is who I am.  And I am resting in His arms, trusting even though He let me go through some awful things.

.... if I remember correctly, He went through some pretty awful things for me...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Going Back There

I said I'd never go there again.  Flat out told God that He can cross it off His list.  If He tries to send our family there, I will not go.

Never again.

But... over the last years, as I've walked through the process to healing, I've had small conversations with God about this topic.  Still told Him I will not go live there, not with my family, never.  But I've discussed with Him the thought of going back one day.  I hadn't talked about it with anyone else at all, not yet.  Just God and I discussed this, hesitantly.

See, I've not been sure I could do it.  Unsure if I could face these memories.  Then - it is a long ways away.  We have no ties there, no reason to go there - so it was out of even being a question. Until recently.

We're going.  Without the kids.  I hadn't thought about it much when I knew we were going to that area because there were two different ways to fly in to our destination.  We're going that way.

I wondered about it.  Looked it up to see if it was still there, if things were like I remembered them.  Ah, the marvels of modern technology - it is there - like I remembered it.  Exactly like I remembered it.

It is both reassuring and terrifying.  Reassuring because it is exactly what I remember.  There was one, our team leader (that one who had vision problems) who had said I was making it up, that I was too young to remember, that I would have told my parents if that had really happened.  (I did tell you he has some problems with seeing clearly, didn't I?)  But it is there, the place exactly as I had described it, every detail correct.

And terrifying.  It is exactly as I remember it and I sat staring at the computer image stunned and began to shiver.  There it is, the beginning of my nightmares clearly there.  I went to school to pick up my kids still shaky.  Needing a few minutes to grab someone and talk.  Yeah, it is embarrassing to let people see me like that, what I usually don't let be seen, but I was shaking.  Because I am going there.  I had asked God quietly, just between Him and me, for a chance to go there again, to face it.  I just am a little unprepared for it to happen.

I'm going back there.  I want to go stand there again, perhaps walk in and look around.  To take it back.  To stand, look at that place, and say, "You did not win.  You lied.  You did not win.  God was with me, is with me, and has been with me.  He has brought me out, and I am whole in Him.  You do not own me, you did not define me, and you have no hold on my life.  In fact, what you wanted to use to destroy me, God is using to make me more able to bring His comfort and peace.  God had His hand on me the whole time, and He never gave me over to you."  I want to say that.  I want to face that place, defy it, and move on.  Take it from out of my thoughts, see it in front of me, and leave it there and walk away.

And I'm terrified.  Alternating between deep peace, gratitude for all that God has done, and the sheer terror of facing those gates one more time.

I write this and I paused to think.  I've been struggling recently with trusting God.  I do trust Him.  Really.  But I want to learn more.  I want to grow.  I have this restless discontent with my relationship with God - I want to go on, to know Him more.  And I keep banging into a wall.  It's that wall where I say to God, "I trust You, but up to a point.  I don't understand why You let me face so much hurt."  It is hard to get past that wall.  I don't want to just climb over it - I want the wall gone.  Destroy the wall.  Knocked down to rubble.  To freedom.

I asked Him to do that.  I've talked with three people and we've asked Him together.  I believed He would do it.  I did not expect that He would take me to that city... to where I can stand in front of those gates one more time.  Maybe we have to face that together, God and I.  To go there again and see His presence with me.  To walk away together one more time.

I'm going back there.  Will you be praying with me this next week?  Let's make it a group effort.  I'll stand there and face it again; you stand behind me.

I'm not sure what to expect from myself this week.  I just know that I'll be appreciating prayers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rumors in the Wind

They are there again.  Those little rumors.  We've heard them before.  Lived with them swirling around us.

I don't like those rumors.  They leave me very unsettled.  Last time, they got so bad that I asked our director to stop talking about it.  I mean, he left me not knowing whether I should paint the walls and hang up pictures or begin to put things in boxes.  When a friend came, I didn't know whether to ask her to bring stuff with her or take stuff back for me.  Those awful rumors.

I think I dislike moving less than I dislike the rumors.  The unsettledness long before a move comes.

I have no idea if we are moving any time soon.  We may.  We may not.  We could still be here for another five years.  But... as I look at that number - 5 - I think... that is what we had talked about when we came here.  Hmm.....

I have no idea if we are moving.  Honestly, I am not jumping at the chance.  I've begun to be settled here.  Found good friends.  Connected.  It isn't home, but it's beginning to feel like it.

I have no idea if we are moving.  I can't see it happening any time soon, but then again, I've been there before in my life and it happened.

Right now, it is only rumors floating on the wind.  Last time the air was filled with rumors, every visit brought a change.  "Yes, you are."  "No, you definitly are not."  "I think you are." "No, no way we will move you."  I finaly decided to paint my kids room.  I did not just paint it - I painted a huge mural on all four walls of their room.  The very next month, we got the decision and we packed our bags.

I have pictures stacked against the wall in my bedroom.  Waiting to be hung.  Now rumors again float on the wind and I am afraid to hang them.  I don't want to take them right back down again.

Why I Had So Many Kids

I was at work last night and took care of a dear old lady.  She talks non-stop.  It is irritating.  Sometimes we have had all we can take and try to ask her to be quiet.

She is only too happy to comply, "Of course.  I can be quiet.  If I know you want me to be quiet, I will not talk.  I can do that.  All you have to do is tell me and I will stop talking.  There is no problem with that.  If you ask me not to talk, I will be quiet.  I can not talk.  I would not want to talk when you ask me to be quiet.  All you have to do is ask me, and I will be quiet....."

Last night, I heard yelling and went to investigate.  She was shaking the bed and yelling, so I asked what was wrong.  She looked at me blankly and said, "I have no idea."

Ok.  Why are you yelling?

"I need to use the bathroom.  I don't know why I need to use the bathroom.  Usually I do not have to use the bathroom, but right now I have to use the bathroom.  I wonder why?"

Maybe it is because you drank that coffee with your family when they visited.

"I don't know.  Would that do it?  But I wonder why?  I don't have any pain, but I have to use the bathroom.  There must be something wrong.  Oh, I wonder what could be wrong!"

I decided I had better distract her, so I asked about her family.  She had been the oldest, so I asked how many kids her mom had.

"Well, there were the four boys, and there were three of us girls."

So seven.  I guess you did a lot of helping.

"Yes, I always was working."

So I asked her how many kids she had.

She looked at me blankly. "Oh, I don't know.  More than the usual amount, I think.  I just don't know.  I mean, how would one figure that out?  I am not sure how many there were, but there were a lot of them running around."

Thankfully, I got her settled back into bed before I started giggling with thoughts of the old woman and the shoe filling my head.

Tomorrow, I have to cook for a family in our church who just had a baby.  #2 was asking me why I cooked for them.  I explained that having a baby is tiring, so that we all cook meals for them to give them a little break in the beginning.

Comprehension dawned on his face and he said, "Ahh... now I know why you had so many kids; you wanted the break!"

yup, that's it.

Only On a Sunday - editing needed!

This Sunday was a potluck, and after the meal, I was gathering up the various books, papers, and pens my family collects.  My eye landed on a notice handed out with the bulletin.  It was about some Christmas gift boxes we are gathering to share.  I had wanted to do these with my kids, but ust hadn't gotten to it yet, so I skimmed it to see if there was still time, and I read this last sentence:

"There are empty boxes still at the church in the entry if you are still wanting to fill one with your child."

I giggled.  I passed it to a lady nearby me, and she read it and snorted.  We decided we had better choose a bigger box if it was going to fit the kids that had been misbehaving after chuch.

"Merry Christmas!  Here's a teenager!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Mixed Up Family

Where we live now is not home to any of us.  Don't get me wrong; it is a nice place to live.  But there is no one on our team who is from here.  So we lead a team of strangers in a strange country.  There are times that it gets interesting.  While most of us are from our "over there" country, there are a few of us from other places.  Our new family is a totally different culture to any we've had before.  Oh, we like them.... but it is new and interesting.

We're learning words and phrases in a language I'd never thought I'd have to learn.  We're eating food that I would have been thankful I never had to taste.  But now that food is "home" to some of our family, so I can no longer turn my nose up at it, but have to learn to try it with a smile.  It is actually not that bad.

At times it gets interesting.  One of my jobs is to help deal with it all.  To help our team adjust, to learn the language, to relate to people, to step in in situations like the problems with the school, to go with people to doctor's appointments to hear, understand, and translate later on.  With the famies we had who had been here for awhile, that part of my job description was not so busy.

Now, I am busy again.  Not only do I have to help our new family adjust, but I have to help us adjust to our new family.  Then there are always problems in teams.  Two families hit it off really well together.  That is normal.  But they tend to gravitate towards each other and exclude another family.  Likely they don't mean to, but they ignore her.  I have to keep tactfully involving her, bringing her in, insisting that we don't plan things when she is not available.  There are times this clique even in the ministry team irritates me.  We're not all that big that we can't just work together.

I like our team.  I like helping.  But there are weeks that it demands a lot from me.  In two weeks, there will be another event that takes a lot of my time.  In between now and then, I hope to get some normalness at home.

I like our team.  These kids grew up together.  Now they are assimilating the new family's kids.  Honestly, the kids do better than the adults.  They've taken to calling each other their "cousins".  It works.  What else would Auntie So-and-so's kids be called?  It differentiates them from all other people in their world, and none of us have family here.  But I wonder what people at school think when my kids showed up with a new set of cousins who were a totally different nationality than their other cousins.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Office Space

I'm sitting in my new office.  Ahh....

It's not new.  We built it in a corner of the house for my husband two years ago, but he's never used it.  He prefers to work at work, and when he is home, he stretches out on the couch with his laptop on his lap and his feet on the coffee table watching a game while working.

I used to work off the kitchen table in a space cluttered with homework assignments, tutoring materials, dumped stuff, odds and ends of kitchen things, and kid's mittens and toys.  It was hard to keep clean and hard to concentrate.

So I requisitioned the office space.  It was cluttered with various assundry items of a family who used it as a ""quick, guests are coming!  Throw it in the office!" space.  I dreaded cleaning it.  But yesterday, I attacked, and today won victory.

I'm sitting in MY office right now.  Neat rows of books in three shelves behind me.  Files with bills and papers beside me on other shelves.  Dusted off shelves and desk.  A nice light right over me on the slanted ceiling.   I like this space.  Space to think.  Space to work.  Space to lay out my papers and no one messes with them.

Now, just so you don't think too rosily... there is a neat box beside me and a small pile on the desk of "papers to file".  I hate paperwork and filing paperwork.  But it is neat, and in a neat space, I will file things faster because I can think.

My office is green.  A light green.  Not a yellowish green or a bright green, not a baby green, but a nice forest type of green, but light with white trim.  I like it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grocery Store Hero

I stood in line at the store today.  There was a confusion with a price, so the girl working at that register called the manager.  He didn't come.  There was a line up behind her getting impatient.

Now most if us in a line might be impatient, but usually we will control ourselves.  We might mutter under our breathe, but we will wait.

Not this man!  He and his wife complained, critizised, and badgered the girl about why the manager wasn't coming.  After a few minutes, the man began mocking her and pushing forward through the line to get closer to her to complain more.  He was obnoxious.

I was in a different line, so people in my line could have walked away gleeful that they had picked the right line.  In front of me was a young man with a stocking cap on shopping with his wife.  He kept looking over his shoulder at the rude man, obviously irritated.  But as the rude man pushed his way forward through the line  towards the checker complaining loudly, the stocking cap man won my heart.  With one move, he completely won my heart.

He took one step closer to the rude guy, looked him in the eye, and said, "Why don't you just leave her alone?"

Ah....  I don't often see that out in public anymore.  It seems like basic decency and sticking up for people that you are not related to has slipped away.  But it hasn't.  It still exists in people like stocking cap guy.

Then there followed several loud, angry retorts by the rude man and calm, firm replies by stocking cap guy, but with his attention firmly caught, the rude man was no longer focused on the poor checker.  He had a different opponent.

Now I am a crowd watcher, so I've learned how people respond and communicate nonverbally in situations.  I smiled, turned around so that I was side by side with stocking cap man facing rude guy face on, leaned back on the counter, smiled, and crossed my arms across my chest.  Sure enough, the guy beside me turned to a position that was clear that he had sided with us.  Stocking cap man's wife sided up to him on the other side.  Not one of us said a word.  We all smiled.  And stared at the rude guy.

He began to sweat.  He moved behind his wife.  Stocking cap guy laughed and said, "So you are going to hide behind your wife?"

He said, "It was just an opinion, and everyone is entitled to their opinion."

Stocking cap guy said, "and some of us know to keep them to ourselves."

Rude guy began to wipe off the sweat pouring off his face.  His poor wife spoke up and said, "He's sick, you know...."

He jumped on that excuse, "I'm sick....." and muttered something.

Stocking cap guy just smiled and stared at him.  Rude guy kept trickling sweat and his eyes jumped to all four of us lined up behind the cowering checker's back.  We all stared back.  He shut up, looked down, and began to fiddle with his purchases.

The line started up again, and we all moved on.  I whispered "good job" to stocking cap guy as he walked away with his wife.

It is so rare, but when I see it, it wins my heart.  I wish I could have found stocking cap guy's mom and thanked her for raising him to stick up for women.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Raining Blessings

It keeps raining.

We got news that the old landlord decided to let them out no strings attached, no fee, no nothing.  They will get their last month's rent check returned.  Praise God!  (Keep praying for a renter for the landlord - let God bless him for blessing this family.)

With the old apartment, went the beds.  They were a gift from that landlord which he requested back.  Ok...

Today, a friend heard that, and off she went to buy new beds for these kids.  Wow!

We got the house all moved and set up in one day.  Helps when you don't have much, you know.

Now... we need a vehicle.  Either they need a vehicle or we need a small car.  We can give them our second vehicle - it is big enough - but then we need to buy a small car for my husband to drive.  That would give them the time to save money for a better car than they could buy right now.

Off to clean up and help her unpack... but the smiles are staring to stay on their faces and the kids are settling well in the school and enjoying it and being enjoyed by our community.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The First Day

I wish I could post photos. Really wish I could, since this little kindergartner is the cutest thing going! But no photos.

Today we took them for their first day of school. Yeah, and since the staff had been away at a conference, they had little to no forwarning. But they managed. The kids settled in quite well and seem to enjoy their classes. The parents visibly relaxed as they watched the kids and the families come in the school, greet each other by name, and hang out to talk. To watch other adults address kids by their name and the kids know the adults and respond to them.

They relaxed. And said, "finally, we feel stable again." It's been a rough entry to this country for them, and now they are at peace.

Tomorrow, we move them to new housing which will be much better. Where they are, the other renters had been angry at the noise of footsteps (what do you expect with no insulation between floors!!) and would come up to yell and swear at the wife when her husband was not there.

It's time for a new home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Funding!! Now for a renter....

Wow! Got a call today that the remaining funding for the part of the tuition that they do need to pay has come in from a donor. Wow!

Now we need to pray that someone rents their old apartment before the end of the month so there is no fee.

And pray for me... I'm achy and sore... maybe getting a flu? I hope not. Hoping to just be tired...

Friday, November 6, 2009

When God Steps In

We know He does, but then there are days that He does all at once and wows us.

It is not all over, not all fixed, but it is amazing what happened in one day.

We met for breakfast solemn and worried. We ate, we talked, and we prayed. I phoned to school principal to inform her that the kids were being withdrawn from the school. I was absolutely shocked by the animosity in her voice even though I was being very polite. She tried to tell me that according to the law, the kids must remain in her school while they lived there.

Now, I serve on a ed committee in a school here, so I was tempted to set her facts straight, but I resisted. There are four other legal options open to us I could have told her about. I am not ignorant and you can not bully me into silence and cooperation.

But I didn't. I sweetly informed her that the family will be relocating and we will inform her where to send the records as soon as they are re-enrolled in a school.

Then I accompanied the father to retrieve the kid's belongings. The principal called the teachers who walked in, plunked the items down without a word, and walked out. The principal herself could barely manage to shake my hand before she turned around and stormed out.


But we did not know what to do. We had no extra funds, were in a one year lease, and had no place to move them to. The view out of their window was this school. We could not keep the kids there.

So a friend walked in with news of an ideal, ideal housing solution - for less money. As soon as she said that, my husband phoned with news that our school was going to reduce the tuition to a level this family could afford. We three sat on the floor and cried. And prayed.

Then we got up, went to see the house, and wrote requesting given the circumstances that they be released from their one year contract. So far, all is falling in place. We do need to pray that a new renter is found for the old place so they do not face a penalty. Then it is the transition, and praying for the funding to be raised for these kids new school.

But on Monday, they will start in a school where the day will begin with prayer and where issues will be addressed in a Christ-like manner. The kids are visibly more relaxed, and my kids are delighted to help them settle in Monday morning.

Wow. God worked fast. I'm still worn out from it all!

Today, I had a meeting with the school board to lodge a formal complaint. I must say I was impressed with the way the board reacted and am fairly confident that there will be action taken. But even with the action, we can not keep the kids in that school.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More School Trouble

We had another incident with our team member's kid in school. He is being removed from the school this time. Once and they gave it another chance. Twice and that is it. Also, the principal got upset at the kid (who was attacked with a knife) for running home instead of running to her office.

It is enough.

What we will do, we don't know. Not yet. But pray for us as we meet with the parents and attempt to come up with a solution.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Connecting - what a blessing!

I went away last weekend. A reunion of sorts somewhere where I used to be for three years.

I will admit I was nervous. I was always shy. I struggled with interacting with people, not knowing if they really liked me or simply felt sorry for me. Didn't help that I was at least ten years younger than the average age of the others. So I was nervous. I was a mess when I was there. Don't know that I am not a mess right now, either.

But reconnecting with this place has been a big plus in our lives. Real support. Real encouragement. Real prayer. Realness.

Still, I was nervous. I was going without my husband, and he is the outgoing one.

But it was amazing. Wonderful. Fun. Thankfully, my favorite people showed up. And hmm... ten years made a big difference at 16, but is almost nothing at 37.

Oh we had fun! Stayed up way, way too late eating cookies and drinking coffee. Laughing at old jokes and new. Crying together. Sharing. Doing dishes. Admiring ourselves all dressed up. Laughing over what it takes to get "all dressed up". Praying. Singing. Listening to awesome messages. Playing volleyball in the worst torrential downpour ever. Rolling in the mud after volleyball since it really didn't make any difference anyway. Fun.

I thought it would be a rest and I'd come home refreshed.

I came home refreshed spiritually and emotionally, but wiped physically!

But what a gift! I still smile.

What made me smile the most, though, was not all the fun. Not even all the connecting, although that was a blessing.

It was the ministering. See, I was messed up when I first went there. Really messed up. I still am. But I am learning about God as He walks me through my mess.

It was the chances to minister.

I took the blogs I'd written about losing my daughter to the friend who just lost hers. She's passing them on to others she knows.

I took my article about living through abuse and gave it to one woman who knew me - just to let her celebrate what God has done. She came running to see me before I left wondering if she can share this. She works with the new girls, and she needed something like that. She wondered if she could tell one girl it was me.

I took my pain of the silence of the mission team near me here and shared it with a seasoned missionary who works in an area like ours. To hear her assessment, to hear her listening... it was healing. She left me with her contact information, an ear to listen.

To hear the women who had it all together - or so I thought when I was sixteen! - stand up and talk about how hard it has been to be wives of the leaders. That it was most often in their homes that the attacks have come - physical, emotional, spiritual... all sorts. A sudden clarity and a feeling of being a part of others... life for us got so much worse when my husband became the team leader. And worse when we stepped into finishing a Bible for a country that did not have one.

I know that I still stand responsible to God for my sins. I do.

But I also know that we are under attack.

And the last years were tough to deal with. Silence from our mission base only hours away. Concern, but condemnation from our "here" pastor who was appalled that we would even suggest any of this was anything more or less than personal sins which we needed to search our hearts and confess. He was actually horrified when we said that we feel like we are under attack right now since we have taken on finishing the Bible project. Horrified that we would blame it on anything but our own sins.

I sin. I know that. I do. I am responsible for them, too.

But, we are also under attack. The devil is doing more than roasting marshmallows on the end of his spiked tail over the fires of hell. He's alive and active in this world and decidedly ticked about what we all do.

It was good to have that acknowledged. To be reminded that we all need to be praying for each other.

But what has me dancing with delight after years of silence and condemnation is that with reconnecting to this place, we have support, prayer, support, love, connection, and a knowledge of what we are going through.

If I wasn't drifting off to sleep from a few days of acting like I was still sixteen, I'd be dancing!

As it is, I have bruises up and down the insides of my arms from playing volleyball with all my heart.

(and I made the flights home without much fear! Yay!)

If you've joined since I made that offer a year ago to let you see my story, an article I wrote, you can still ask. I'll send it to askers, but won't post it here.

He's Home!

He is! Yay!

So nice to have him back, but all the adrenaline of the last month goes, and we are sleeping on and off all day. Exhausted.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stepping Into Trust

When I was flying yesterday, I was reading a book, Walking Taylor Home. It is a book I blogged about before. I’m taking it to give it away, but I wanted to read it one more time. It is a book that deeply touched me.

About an 11 year old boy and his fight with cancer.

I read it while I flew. When the first attack of fear hit as the plane lifted off, it was Taylor who caught my heart. He lived in the face of death. He trusted through the fear. Through the pain. And he died. Trusting, he died.

I was not going to be whupped by an eleven year old boy!

I have the same God.

I learned something from Taylor as I reread this book again today. Trust is not “trusting God to keep us safe”. We all learned it was in Sunday School. But it isn’t. Trust is trusting God to keep us, to walk us through. Sometimes walk us home. Not about the end result. Not about safety. Not about that at all. It is about the process. About the whole process, each step. Trusting Him to take us in, to be in it with us, to order what comes, to hold us, and to bring us out or bring us home. Trusting God means trusting Him to allow pain, awful, gut-punching, undeserved, raw pain. Pain that devalues us. Pain that misunderstands us. Pain that can never be completely healed from. Pain. Not “stick a bandaid on it” type of pain. Real pain. Trusting that even this comes from Him.

I look back at some pain and don’t know why He allowed it to happen. Again and again. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been badly hurt. I’ve had people who were supposed to protect and care for me hurt me. I’ve had people who were supposed to be there for me turn and call me horrific names. Smear my name with false accusations that would take your breath away. I’ve lost ones dear to me. Even my own baby. God has allowed hurt that I would have run screaming from.

I don’t understand this. Tears still pool in my eyes when I look up at Him. I want to believe that now that I am “better”, He won’t allow these things to happen again.

But I can’t. He’s never guaranteed me that. In fact, all He’s promised me is that there will be more. In this world, you will have trouble.”

Thanks. I wanted a God who would keep me safe. He wants me to be willing to walk into pain.

I don’t understand.

Actually, I may understand just a little now. Maybe. It is something God has been quietly whispering to me over the last months. Calling me up to stand by Him and get a glimpse of His view.

It is not all about my safety. Not about me feeling secure. Not at all.

It is about Him. He looks at a wider view than I do. He sees other people in pain. His response to that was to come and experience it with us. Even death.

For by the grace of God He might taste death for every man.

He tasted death for me. In fact, I think it wasn’t just a small sip of a taste. It looks like He took a pretty big gulp.

And, perhaps, in ordering my life to be full of pain, He has allowed me to taste just a sip, just a tiny sip of pain so that I will be able to know. He’s called me to minister to a hurting world. The women He’s called me to suffer unbelievably. He’s let me taste their cup.

It’s awful. Raw, ripping, shameful, degrading pain. Wounds with no healing.

It is really not about me. The view changes when He calls me to stand beside Him and look out.

Light and momentary afflictions. That is all they are. For a moment. And He never abandoned me in the middle of them. God abandoned Him, but He did not abandon me.

He’s called me to share His cup. To taste. Trust is not about keeping me from pain, not about delivering me out of pain. It is about walking me through it.

Today, I met someone I had spent time with over the summer. We had sat in her living room and laughed at our babies, now growing big. I told her the story of Lydia, and she honoured me by listening. She listened to the lessons God had taught me about Himself with one hand resting on her pregnant belly. What she did not know that night was that that baby that her hand rested on had already died. She didn’t find that out until the next day.

She told me that today. Chills ran down my spine and my heart broke for her. But then, through the tears, she looked up at me and said, “God had you there that night telling me your story. When the storm broke the next day, you had already shown me the path I would have to walk. It is still hard, but that was a blessing that God knew I needed. No one else understands unless they have gone through it themselves.”

Let’s not be afraid to trust. To taste the cups God hands us. He will be with us through them. He may break our hearts, but His was broken. Do we not celebrate the broken bread so that we might remember? God has called us to brokenness and pain because He wants to reach into brokenness and pain.

I begin this year more broken than I was two years ago when God put a job into my hands – to reach women whose stories are hard to even imagine. During last year, I thought that I was a failure, that I was worth only to be thrown away, unable to minister. God is whispering to me now that that is not true. I just wasn’t hurt enough to have tasted their cup yet.

I worry when I write this. Worrying that I should be careful. That I should not say it. You see, when I was raw with my own pain at different times in my life, having been used and abused, desperately seeking comfort and hope; well-meaning people would say to me things like this: “Maybe God let this happen to you so you can comfort others.”

I felt like punching them. Screaming and hitting them. Now, not only had people used me, now even God Himself was “using me”. Not caring about me at all, but just using me. Hurting me because He wanted to help others. I wasn’t important enough to Him to protect, but simply a thing to be used. It took years to get past that.

The conclusion I’ve come to, twenty years later is the same. But oh, so different! You see, now I know Him. I know His heart.

This is a point I needed to come to on my own. It is maybe nearer the end of the road of trust, not the beginning point. So don’t tell this to hurting people standing at the beginning of that road. If you do, I’ll punch you for them!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't Tell

I hate flying. I tell people that I hate flying because I hate to be confined to a small seat for so long.

That is a lie.

I hate flying because I am terrified of flying. Just don't tell, ok? Missionaries are not supposed to be terrified of flying. We do it all the time. It is supposed to be no big deal.

I'm afraid of it.

You'd never know if you see me in a plane. I never grip the handles, never look scared. That's because I'm afraid of embarrassing myself.

Even more afraid of that than flying.

I know I shouldn't be afraid of flying. I've done it so much. I've been taught how an airplane works. My dad flew, so he taught us. I know that it is so much safer than driving to the grocery store. I know all this.

But I am afraid.

I think part of it was reading a book with graphic detail about a particularly horrific airline disaster. Part of it is that I am simply terrified of heights. Planes fly pretty high up, you know. I also struggle with balance problems and easily get dizzy.

So they put me way up high in a tube that hums and messes up my ears and it turns, wiggles, bumps, and moves - throwing me way off balance. What's not to be afraid of?

Then today, I flew out of an airport where not too long ago, on a same flight that I had taken only weeks before, a big plane just suddenly fell from the sky, exploded, burned, and all were killed. The thought of falling paralyzes me with fear. My second biggest fear is burning alive. I joke about it often saying that if I burn to death, at least people can be assured that for once in my life I was FINALLY warm enough!

But I am afraid.

So we got up, high up, in the air this morning and hit turbulence right over where that plane went down. I smiled and relaxed - more afraid of looking stupid, but my insides tightened down. I'm good at hiding pain and fear. I resigned myself to a few hours of being frightened.

But wait.

I know God. I do. I know Him. He called quietly to me. See, He's been working on my handicap - the trust issue. And I stopped, right there in that plane, and spoke aloud to myself in my mind, "Wait." and then "God, I am going to relax and put myself in Your hands and relax. You've got Your hands underneath me, and in You I am safe. Even if the plane falls from the sky, I'm in Your hands. You've held me all through my life - the good and the horrible both. I choose to rest in Your hands. I know You."

And I did. Relaxed. Reveled in the conscious presence of God, in His arms holding me.

Still afraid of flying. (please don't tell!) But not afraid of being in God's arms. I'm learning this trust issue step by step. I used to tell God I trusted Him, but only up to a point because He did let me get hurt and I didn't understand that. I'm learning to trust Him through the hurt now, not just up to the hurt.

I had a relaxed flight - both of them. Sure, I reminded God that He was holding me a few times, but I was relaxed. Sure, I still had to sit down in the walkway for a few minutes after the plane landed to regain my balance, but I trusted. I trusted! And I relaxed while trusting.

I know this might sound strange to you - especially when you think about that I am ok with trusting God for some pretty big things, like the recent traveling my husband did and other things, but that I cramp up in fear about flying. Ok, I am strange. I know that.

But I am learning to rest in His arms. He's been there, yes, even through the pain He's asked me to walk in. He's always been there.

I know His heart.

I'm Going!

Hard to believe, but I'm doing it! Going off on a trip without husband, without kids... really just for me. Yeah, sure, I'll see people, and some of those support us, but no speaking, no presentations, no kids to watch... just meeting old friends.

I am still surprised I am doing it.

Today... I'm thankful for friends. Sat with one for an hour this morning talking, and as she left the parking lot, she rolled down her window, poked her head out and called, "bye friend!"

She was one of the few here who I have talked to about my struggling to have friends, to fit in. And she said that very deliberately, on purpose. It started my day with a smile, and I have continued to be blessed by friends throughout the day.

Still smiling.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finally the Tears Fall

I still cry. Not always. Not even every month anymore. There have actually been one or two years when I made it through without tears.

But I still cry.

I still miss her. Today I missed her on the playground when my daughter laughed and said we had to bring her best friend home because, "no, mommy, we have five kids!"

We do. And my heart caught in a sob. Then my daughter with the simpleness of children turned to her best friend (without any comment from me) and said, "actually, we do, but my sister is up in heaven. So can my friend come over to play?"

I think one of the biggest comforts in my life are my children. They seem to be the only people not afraid to speak of my daughter I lost.

Adults don't. My husband doesn't. My family doesn't.

I think people are afraid they will remind me of her and make me sad.

As if I could ever forget.

I see her laughing face flitting between my kids while they run giggling up the hill to meet me after school.

I miss her. I still do. There are days I still look for her, wanting to count to five, not four.

And I delight in the simplicity that her brothers and sister talk about her. They are not afraid of her death. She is alive, and they know that. So we talk about her.

Not always. But when she comes to mind. We smile. We talk about her. We mention, "actually, I have a sister, but she is in heaven."

Ah, the comfort in those simple words... she exists. Someone else remembers her. And we miss her.

We will see her again. Run to hold her. Collapse into a giggling heap of siblings who all talk at once wanting to share all that they missed just like they do after being separated for week at camp or somewhere. We'll all lie down together like kittens draped over each other and be silent at last. We'll be together.

There are days I don't cry. I think I shouldn't. Not still. Not twelve years later. My heart fills up with unshed tears that I try to keep in. Waiting until I am alone.

Then, finally the tears fall.

Daughter of mine, I miss you.

A Child's Wisdom

My kids were asking me questions about some families they know. We were/are hunting for someone to come stay with them for a week, and it is not looking good. So I suggested one older couple, grandparents to a friend of theirs. The kids wondered why the last name was different.

I decided to answer honestly. After all, they are getting older. This child has a different last name and a different daddy because he was born before marriage. I explained that people sometimes make choices that were not the best, but that I know his mother and I know that she has dealt with anything with God years ago, and she deeply loves God and He loves her. The kid is loved by us all. They know he goes back and forth between homes, and they know the other kids in the family don't. There is a time for honestly.

So they asked about a different family with a mix up in names. No, that one is different. That is the result of a divorce and then a remarriage. Simple explanation.

I believe, now that they are older, in speaking the truth to my kids. I also believe in grace and forgiveness. I want to be the one who explains these concepts to them simply and easily. Yes, they are things we don't want to face. But it is not the end of the world. There is grace. I want my kids to know that no matter how badly they mess up, they haven't run so far that they are out of God's loving welcome.

Trying to communicate a healthy fear of sin and a healthy realization of grace. Both are needed.

My daughter thought about it for awhile. Then she showed her wisdom, her simple wisdom.

"So mommy, it is like if you take two pieces of construction paper, like one pink and one blue, and you rip them each in two. Then you try to stick two halves together so you have a half pink and half blue paper. That is what those families are like."

Yup. That is it. That, and well loved by a God who both mourned the ripping and still delights in His children even when there has been damage and pain in their lives.

I want my kids to know about God's love. I grew up in a "sin one of these big sins and you're out" type of religion. I want them to know that they live as damaged people in a damaged world and the reason God came into this world was to interact with damaged people and spoil them with His lavish grace, not to judge them and proclaim them fit only to be second class Christians.

And I want them to have a healthy fear of sin.

I want them to know God - in all of who He is - holy, merciful, just, full of grace, loving,.... there is so much to tell them....

I want them to know that the Creator of the world sings over them in His love. Even when they mess up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News of Travelers

My big news today is that I heard from my husband. He is still gone for one more week, but he is out of the country (and situation) that he had been in and it in a different location altogether.

I'm so happy to have him out and that much closer to us already. Thanks for all your prayers for him. It had to be one of the more stressful of his trips recently!

Maybe It Is Us Who Need To Learn

Becky wrote and said there is a time for everything. She's right. There is a time for everything.

And my years of working with dementia patients have only cemented in my mind that when it is my time to die, let me go gently with dignity and love when I begin to go naturally. I'll fight with everything in me for life if I am young and my kids and grandkids need me, but if I have dementia, let me go when I first begin to go. Give me that much dignity.

That saying, I love caring for dementia patients. I see in them God's image, and I value and respect them for building the world I live in. I minister to their needs with as much gentleness and love as I can in the time they have. That love may just show itself in a hug, a goodnight kiss, in dignity while helping them in the bathroom, or singing to them while I shower them. I may laugh at what they say when I am not with them, but with them I show them the respect and gentleness that I would love to be shown even if I can't remember that toothpaste goes in my mouth and not on my hair.

My grandma died of Alzhiemers, and I was impressed by the love my grandfather showed her even until the day she died. He was there every day, all day. When the nurses told him one day to take more time off and don't come in because she doesn't remember you anyway, he looked them in the eyes and gently but firmly told them, "She may not remember me, but I remember her."

It is these families who never visit until someone is dying and then are horrified and insist on fighting hard only to go back to never visiting again once the person has pulled through it that bother me!

But I have been sickened also by watching families, even Christian families, drop off a parent and stop visiting once dementia sets in to a certain stage. Even to the point that we can't get them to respond when their parent needs new clothes. Many of our patients would have no clothes if we, the workers, did not buy them clothes from our own money because there is no one there and we get tired of dressing people in rags! We do it because we care about them, but we fume over families who don't.

It is one area that I wonder if the "over there" people have it much better that we do "over here". They may lack skills, but generally they hold on to respect and care even when their family member is old.

So this is a place God has me working temporarily while we are "here, not there". Where He puts me, I seek to be a blessing. And very soon, I get to take a trip "over there" to teach some of the same caring skills I use over here. I may teach skills, but I suspect I could learn from their attitude.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Saved A Life - and wondered why

I did, you know. Last night. I saved a life.

He was old. He's been confined to a chair eating pureed food for almost a year now. Unable to move himself. Just sitting.

Last week, he stopped eating. Then he stopped drinking. This is more common earlier on with men than with women for some reason. Usually, they stop. Then they become weak. Then they get weaker. Then they die.

He had stopped eating. Then drinking. He was at that slipping point - beyond where he would no longer respond. We who work there were ok with it. It has happened so many times before. But his family came in. Here is where I simply wonder - who are they thinking of?

I am not pro-euthanasia. Not at all. But I am for death, just as much as I am for life. When I come to die, if I am old and losing ability to do anything, let me die. I am going into the arms of my Father. Into life, not death. To see and hold my Lydia. To live. Let me die so I can live.

But it is a subject families grapple with. Some see it, and come and sit and keep someone company while they go. Others know it is coming and "can't bear to watch and to remember him like that", so they ask us to phone when it is over. These irritate me. I want to shake them and tell them that it is not about them and what they want - it is about the one whose trip through death into life it is. They can do what they want next week, but their father or mother might want them this week.

Then there are those who panic and fight it. At the last minute, they want us to pull out all the stops, transfer to hospitals, aggressively fight, and stop the inevitable. We can. In fact, we often have to when families insist. But for what? So he can sit in that chair eating pureed food for another two years and you stop by every two weeks for twenty minutes? For that?

It is not my call, though. I can only do what is requested. I may share my views if asked, but that is all. Last night, I was asked to save a life.

So I did. I spent hours coaxing liquid down a throat. Slowly pouring in thickened juice, talking, sweet talking, rubbing the neck under the chin to induce a swallowing reflex. As the evening went on, he became more alert. The liquid and the sugar giving him a boost. I worked hard at it, getting yogurt and then a meal replacement to just the right consistency and carefully getting it down him. He was already cold and mottling, but he perked up, and he will pull out of it.

I can do it. I am one of the better ones for doing that, having patience and skill. But why?

I think the answer to the why was simple. It is what I told him last night, "You need to drink. You need to get some energy back. Your daughter is not ready for you to go yet."

It is what she is ready for, not what he is. He will fight, hang on, and suffer more until she is ready. He was ready this week, but she wasn't.

When I am ready, let me die. Let me die, so I can live. So I can see face to face. So I can throw off suffering once and for all. So I can run and scoop up my daughter and give her the hug I've been longing to give her. Let me live.

I ate enough pureed food when I was a baby. Wore enough diapers then, too.

Telephones and Fingernails

Telephones - I grew up part of my life without one. I still am not that fond of talking on them unless I know someone really well. But there was once that I got my own phone. I had my own little apartment, and I got my own phone. That was even before the cordless phones were common (read cheap) so I had this extra long phone cord. It could reach everywhere in my apartment.

Suddenly communication was no longer something that tied me down, but something I could do while doing anything else. Yeah, I had a pretty good dance figured out around the apartment with the phone cord! My best friends and I would phone and talk for hours. While we talked, I cleaned the kitchen, ironed my clothes, swept the living room, folded laundry, cooked dinner.... all with a phone attached.

Now the phone is not my main source of communication. Now it is my computer sitting on my lap spilling the world out at the touch of my fingertips. So much simpler, so much wider ability. The one thing it can't do, though, is move about the house with me as I do housework. No more chatting with best friend as we each scrub out our toilets or wash our windows. No. The computer has made me a messier housewife.

I think it is time to move back to the telephone with the long cord.

Fingernails - I am going somewhere special this weekend. Yay! All by myself! I still can hardly believe it. I'm off to see old friends and meet up with people I used to know. So of course, I am trying to make myself slightly more beautiful - like all of us would. I wouldn't want people to know that at the grand old age of 37, I still bite my fingernails.

No. Not me.

So I stopped. I can do that, I think. For two weeks. I am not the chew on fingernails type - I just bite them cleanly off. So they looked ok, just really short. But I stopped. It's been a week.

They are driving me nuts! Why in the world do people do this? I feel like I have foreign objects attached to my fingers! They are in the way. They catch on things. They make it hard to type. They hurt when I scratch my eye.

It is not the not biting that I miss - it is the having useful fingers that are like I am used to!

But I am determined. At times, my finger slips up there, and I run the edge along my tooth, dreaming about taking it off, but no. I pull it away. Not even going near.

I'm learning about temptation. The easiest way to stay away is perhaps to stay away. Getting as close as possible to it only makes you think about it more. There is no discussion on my nails. My mind is made up. I don't like them, but my mind is made up. I think I discuss sin too much at times, playing too close, thinking about it. Not a simple - no. My mind is made up.

But they do make typing a pain. So I am sure they will come off after the weekend. Maybe I will leave them for my husband to see. Then off they come! I need my fingers back.

So now, off to do housework with these weird things on my fingers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That's My Kid!

My oldest came home today with a MVP medal for his school's soccer team. He played goalie, and believe me, the kid earned it!

What was much, much harder work for him was the second thing he came home with - all the words on his spelling test spelled correctly! Wow! (If it gives you any hint, he carefully labeled his notebook "Speling") Spelling, as well as reading and writing, have been this kid's hardest battle. He used to get in the range of 2-7 out of 20 right. So this is a big deal!

We're proud of him.

I've worked with him over the year to get him to say the word, say the syllable, listen to the syllable, write it, read it, and progress to the next syllable - then back to reread the word. We work orally most of the time letting him move while he spells. I also write the words on colored paper with some organization to the color - on blue, all the "er" sounds are using the "or" ending like professor. On yellow, all the "er" sounds have an "ar" like dollar. We try logic, the meanings of roots (he is a logic kid and hates the irregularity of our words). We find patterns and "building blocks" that repeat. We pull our hair out, but we work at it. Trust me, when you work with words, if can get frustrating when your child can't see the sense in words! So we just keep trying - both of us, and this week, he surpassed even what I imagined!

The problem now... I told him if he got a 100 on a spelling test, that I would run a mile. He is smart - he clarified my requirements. I have to run (or work up to running) twenty minutes a day until I can run a mile.

Off to lace up my shoes....

Time to Pray

I've often thought as we went through the awfulness of the last year or two that while it was our own sins at times that got us in that mess, I often thought that also we were under severe attack.

See, we had just helped to complete a Bible, and we were doing other things that were going deep into enemy territory.

Now our marriage is much better. All better? I don't know. We'll see.

But now that our marriage is much better, we are heading back deep into enemy territory. I told you that we were definitely up to something. Actually, about three big somethings.

And now that our marriage is much better, we are still under attack. It is hitting in a different area today, but we are under attack nonetheless. Today, I feel like radioing back to base for more cover.

Prayer cover.

See, this battle is not fought where we are. Not really. It is fought where people pray. And now is a time to pray.

And I am at peace. Aware of what is or could be going on, but at peace. You see, I've seen God take us through other attacks. They have not weakened me, but made me stronger because they have shown me who my God is.