Friday, February 25, 2011

A Headache

Last night, we curled up with our noodles and sauce in front of the computer to watch something.  The kids wanted to watch Survivorman, so we started with the first episode of the first season.

Who jumps through the ice into water - even if he was being paid?!  Anyway...

He was up in the French Alps demonstrating how to survive if you are lost or stranded in the mountains.  He said you have to watch for signs of altitude sickness.  One of those signs was a headache.

My daughter was curled up on my lap watching.  She turned to look at me totally bewildered.

"How can he get a headache up there?  There is no one talking!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why The Story on Rejection?

I work with women who are rejected.  They are rejected from the moment they are born.  Simply for who they are.  I need to know how to reach them.  I think it is harder for many of us to understand the depths of their rejection, of not being wanted.  I could tell you their stories, but they would be foreign to us.  We would shake our heads and say, "can not imagine".  But we have to.  We have to try to feel their hearts.  I need to.  I need to write for them, to write so that they even begin to listen.

I can't start with their stories.  I can start with stories I know - closer to home.  Times I have seen or experienced rejection up close and personal.  The story of this one baby - a true story - shocks us and hits us in the gut.  We shake our heads in horror... how could someone say that?!  They did... that is what is so abysmally sad.

Now imagine a whole nation like that.  I met a family who had a baby when I went to visit them.  Lots of people have babies - what made this one so unusual?  Well...

Their age for one.  They are at least 60 years old.

How the baby came to be in the family.  Talk about surprise pregnancies!  At least they give you nine months, perhaps less if you didn't know your were pregnant right away.  This baby was even more surprising.  This is her story:

The older man went to the hospital for some tests.  On his way out, he saw a woman sitting alone sobbing.  Being old enough to do so without a problem, he walked up to her and asked, "Daughter, what is wrong?"  She said, "I have just had a child.  It is the fifth girl.  My husband came and when he saw it was another girl he said, 'Don't even think about coming home with that child.  If you don't leave her in the hospital, you are not welcome in the house.  We do not need another girl.'  What am I to do?"

The old man thought.  He looked at the woman.  Then he said, "I already have three grown daughters.  What is one more?  Give her to me."  So the mother handed him the newborn, and he went home.

When he arrived, his wife was out shopping, so he lay the baby on a blanket in the one room.  The baby was sleeping, so he went to the other room to rest.  While he was resting, his wife walked in the house to find a newborn asleep on her living room floor.  Very shocked, she woke her husband to ask, "What in the world?!"

He yawned and calmly told her, "Oh, that is your new daughter."

Once over the shock, she was happy enough to raise the child and when I met them, the baby was an adorable nine month old.

You'd think this was a happy ending, and it is a happier ending than it could have been.  But there is a sadness to it, too, when the couple explain why they adopted the girl.

"We are getting old, you see, and in a few years, we will need someone to take care of us."

I smiled with them at their good deed and their good luck.  I was truly thankful for the old man's actions.  But my heart broke for this child, too.  Rejected, ripped from her sobbing mother, now raised as a quasi-daughter, quasi-servant.

And I want to tell these women that there is a Father who loves them.  Honestly, it is hard for them not to reject that news with a snort of disbelief.

Seeing the Doctor

#3 is a charmer.  He just is.  He charms everyone he meets.  Thankfully, he can even charm a lab tech into giving us a copy of lab tests right there.  Now I can send them to my doctor's at home. :)

We had our visit.  I am impressed with the doctor.  The bad news is that #3 has a heart defect.  The good news is that it doesn't seem serious.  They will run more tests.  It is also correctable if it is causing problems.  For that I am thankful.  There is another issue going on with his heart, too, and he has a battery of new tests to determine what that is.

I feel a sense of relief today - at least he is being seen to.  I am also relieved to hear about this heart defect... as strange as that may seem.  You see, for this child's whole life, when doctors listened to his chest, they would get a funny look on their face.  Something was different - a murmur?  maybe not a murmur?  Didn't seem to be an issue.  Maybe he will outgrow it.  At least now we know what it is.  We still don't know why the heart is showing signs of stress, but we will be finding out here soon.

For that I am thankful.  He's such a cute creature.  He took the news with little or no worry.  The doctor and I were careful to use calm voices and stay away from scary words.  She's a good doctor and is good with kids.  He charmed her, too.  :)

Pray now that the new tests reveal the cause of the stress, and that it is able to be fixed soon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Appointment!

Yay!  My third son needed an appointment with a specialist.  Those are hard to get where we are.  We were given one - in June.  We leave here for our home leave at the end of June, so it would hardly help to have the first visit then.

 I begged and pleaded.  The best they could do was put me on a cancellation list.  Ok.

Today my phone rang.  There is an opening tomorrow!!!  We've got an appointment!!!  Huge sigh of relief.

It was hard to know what to do with this son for the summer.  This year we had planned a long waited for hike with the family.  They are all old enough to do it, but it will be grueling.  #3's heart was showing signs of trouble....  do we go ahead or do we not?  What do we do?  What the doctors were saying was hard to absorb...  he's healthy, but he could be not, too.  We need a few more tests...  He needs a specialist.

Tomorrow, we start the journey to find answers.  Tomorrow, I take my way too talkative, over friendly, happy child in to the doctor.  It is only the beginning, but it IS a beginning!  I'm so thankful.

Pray for wisdom for this doctor.  She is good.  Pray for peace for me.  Pray for answers.  That what can be done about this will be done and what can't, that we will leave in God's hands.  Pray for me as I talk to the doctor with him there that he would not be frightened by the questions that have to be asked and told.

But today, I'm thrilled.  We have an appointment!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


There are few things that stick with such absolute clarity in my mind, but this visit was one of them.  I was only a teen, so kept my mouth shut, but my heart broke.

We went to visit a family on the occasion of the birth of their third child.  This was not a local family, but a missionary family.  We were dropping off some baby clothes we were finished with to this family.

We stood over the little bed where a small bundle slept.  Above my head came the sound of adult voices.

"Well, she's here.  We really didn't want another child."

I waited.  I had heard that a few times.  I always cringe when I hear it, but I realize that at times a pregnancy takes people by surprise.  What dropped my jaw was the words that came out of her mother's mouth next.

"We still aren't that happy about it.  We just did not want more kids.  Two was really enough."

The adult voices moved out of the room and on to have a cup of tea, and I stood there staring down at an adorable little face sleeping.  On the other side of the room, the two other children, around kindergarten ages, played with their puzzles.  I stood staring at this baby.

That moment was burned in my memory.  I have a deep gut reaction even now to the thought of it.  Just wait until that poor child breaks her sibling's toy.... "Mom didn't even want you!"  Or until she get in the way.... Or....

So often over the twenty something years since I heard that statement made over that sleeping baby have I prayed for this child.  A child so wanted by God.  Given to be a blessing.  I continue to pray for her - that God will let her know of His delight in her.

Rejection.  Sometimes it comes before we are even born.  Other times it comes because of who we are.  My kids will have to walk that line at times simply because of who their parents are.  Sometimes it happens because of what we believe.  Every time it hurts. 

There is the rejection of always being on the outside.  Never fitting in.  Of being more like an unliked group, of belonging to the wrong family.  Of being born the wrong sex.

I am aware that I work among people who have faced continual rejection for one reason or another.  I want to communicate the acceptance there is in God.  But I am also aware that I work alongside people who have also been wounded by rejection.  Wounds are powerful. 

The problem with repeated or continuous rejection is that it creates a fear, a gut fear.  Fear of further rejection can push people into a corner where they try everything they can to protect themselves.  Often the first line of a defense is that infamous good offense.  Rejected people will often reject love.  They reject people so that they themselves can not be rejected.

It does take away the risk.  It removes the unknown.  But it replaces it with a known - a sure loneliness and isolation.  Not the best of trades.

I am growing more and more convinced that God is asking us to work on our wounded areas - that in our healing, we are able to spread healing.  If we hide our weaknesses, our wounding, and pretend to be whole, we are not displaying God's healing.  We are only showing our patching - perhaps better than other's patching, but still patching all the same.  But there is little that is as beautiful as real healing.

It involves risk.  Risking again. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Parental "Snooping"

My kids are getting older.  Old enough to have e-mail accounts and facebook pages.  With our family's unique working situation, that has proven to be interesting, but we have somehow navigated around it without using our family name on the internet.

My oldest got his facebook account as a gift when he finished eighth grade.  His brother is nagging for one now.  Actually, the older one wants the next one to have one of his own so he quits using his!  I started them e-mail accounts since they frequently e-mail assignments to their teachers.

But the whole issue of parental control and parental "snooping" comes up.  I sat this morning having coffee with one of my friends - likely the only person who I would trust with my kids if I had to leave them long term.  We have now raised these kids from little boys who had to learn to wash their faces after eating peanut butter and jam to bigger boys who compete hard, play hard, study well, ... and yes, still need to learn to wash their faces after eating!

As moms, we have retained the right to "snoop" on our kids.  We hold the passwords to their accounts and their facebook.  We could at any time, open them and look at what they are saying.  The kids know that. (And, yes, we also know that at any time they could get around our controls since they know more than we do about computers.)  But do we?  Is it a good thing for a parent to be reading their kid's private stuff?

We generally do not.  I do not build trust in my child by snooping into their discussions that were not meant to include me.  I communicate to my child that I love them by respecting their privacy.  Of course, if there was a problem, that may change.  If we were seeing that our kid were rebellious or choosing wrong friends, we would look, for sure.  There was a case, not with my boy, but with my friend's older children's friends a few years ago.  She then read through many things carefully.  She discussed the issues with a trusted teacher who also kept his eyes out.  They worked to protect these kids.  It worked.

But she does not read them unless there is a problem.  It is an invasion of their privacy and takes away from their dignity.  We actually learn just as much from our boys from being with them, listening to them play together, being there for them, and yes, having coffee occasionally with each other and seeing how things are going.

This is what I think now - with a son who talks to me, who knows I trust him and give him room to grow, but am watching him, too.  Perhaps my views will change with my other kids, but I doubt it.  Snooping on your kids when it is not needed does not grow trust.  Without trust, there is little room for love.  I would rather at this point communicate to my son that I respect him as a human being than know everything that he is thinking and talking about.

It helps when I know and trust my child's friend's parents.  How have you addressed this dual issue of parental control and a growing teen's right to privacy?  Do you think a child whose parents are constantly "snooping" behind a child's back are being responsible or disrespectful?  I think one thing that is vitally important to me as my son grows is for him to know he can trust me.  I don't think I will earn his trust by going behind his back.  I think he would feel trespassed against.  As it is now, I have a son who will talk to me - if I give him the opportunity and I listen.  I worry that if I "snoop" in his stuff, I may lose that right.  That is my feelings now.  If his mood or personality changed dramatically, I would likely take a look and see if there is something we need to talk about, but until then, I want to respect his right to communicate with his friends without me standing over listening to or reading those conversations or thoughts.

But I am young at starting this journey into the teens.  What have those of you who have been down this path found?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Face to Face with Racism

We live in a community of immigrants.  It is perfect for us, and we enjoy the different nationalities that our kids get to interact with on a daily basis.

Our kids are from a mixed marriage.  At first glance, they don't look "foreign".  If you take a closer look at the dark eyes on my lighter boys, or take a second look at them, you might notice.  Most of the time, they could pass for white, or they could pass for my husband's nationality.  They are well-blended.

In their small Christian school full of kids from all over the world, my kids never even mentioned who they were - if they did, it was just a passing, "Yeah, I'm half ______ and half ______".   They were more interested in counting how many races they had in one place and learning about where people were from than anything else.

It wasn't until my oldest graduated to a high school nearby that he came home a few times with interesting comments.  "That school is all from one place!"  and "Besides the ten ________, I am the darkest person there."  and "There is no one like me.  They are all white."

I found it interesting.  It was the first time my son had identified himself, and he identified as non-white.  I am interested to see how they continue to identify themselves as they grow.

But it was recently, in our family's attempts to get in shape, that my kids came face to face with their first real racism.  I hope they did not notice, but I did.  I was shocked.

We bought a membership to a local community pool.  The kids are taking swimming classes and my husband and I are doing some exercises in the workout room attached.  We enjoy the times to swim as a family, but we've noticed that our kid's eyes burn and the two who have excema were itching horribly after swims.  I went to the pool office to ask why the chlorine was so high.  Thankfully only my two younger ones were with me, and I think they were distracted by all the noise of the pool deck.

The lady kindly explained to me that yes, this pool is a bit highly chlorinated and that it can cause problems with their skin while they are getting used to it, but that they will usually get used to it after a few weeks.  I asked why it was that high.  The lady turned, gestured to the pool, and said, "Well, as you can see, we get a lot of immigrants here at this pool, and well, you know....  We chlorinate it higher, but it is really for your protection since we have so many newcomers. It is to keep you safe."

I just walked away.  I should have said something, but I was just stunned.  My protection against what?  Immigrants?  Hey, I'm married to one!  What are foreigner germs more dirty than white people germs?  Keep me safe?  From what?  Foreign cooties?

I was angry.  Angry that my kids had to hear that... but I said nothing.  I think the two were not listening, thankfully.

We chose to still go.  Not because of the pool's staff, but because of the very immigrants who swim there.  I enjoy sitting in the parent's section and hearing six different languages going on around me.  I smile at the chance to share with those covered in head scarves when they ask about my husband and my faith.

But there is a part of my heart that is sad as I encounter racism in the world my children are growing up in.  They will meet it in a few people.  I only hope that they know that it is those who look down on others who are smaller - not those who are simply from another location in the world.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Death and First Generation Believers

Death.  It's been a subject of conversation in our house and within our team.  My husband's aunt died this year.  He was never close to this aunt, as she had a tongue about as sharp as a flaying knife.  He is now with his family, and they are remembering the aunt.

One of our good friends here also passed away.  He was in his late eighties, and ready to go.  Ready to join his wife, siblings, and parents in heaven.  We went to the funeral.  Later on, one of my team members questioned me about funerals.  "Is it a different culture here that no one cries at funerals?"

I knew what she meant.  Back there, the grieving at funerals is so intense that it was not uncommon to see people scream to the point of passing out over the dead body as they wailed in grief.

She found these funerals confusing.  People did not cry.

I explained that because we have hope, we do not grieve the same.  She could mentally understand this, but she could not totally grasp it.  She said, "but we still cry... we miss them so!"  I agreed that we missed people, but in cases like this where one has died after a long, faithful life - especially where the spouse has already died - we often do not cry.  That "uncle" is so happy now.  He is with Jesus.  There is no grief.  Even if we could, we would not want him back - his suffering is over.  It would be selfish to grieve so much for our own sadness and not be thrilled for him.  We are sad, yes, but we are also so happy for him.

I did tell her that she will see more tears at a younger person's funeral.  Then we do cry - not so much for the one who had died, but for the pain of those left behind.  Then she will see tears... but they will also be mixed in with a quiet, unshakable hope.  This life is not the end.

She could understand.  I could see it in her face that she mentally agreed with all we said.  But her heart could not wrap around it.  I told myself to be patient.  She has not grown up with death as we have.  We grew up knowing this life is temporary.  We grew up hearing of heaven and how wonderful it was.  For my friend, a first generation believer, death is a whole different thing.

She was trained to fear it.  There was no happy ending.  In her family, like in my husband's, there was no one who has died with hope.  She has not seen that.  When she thinks of her family dying, it is only without hope.  While her mind understands the hope believers have, her gut reaction to death is still intense grief.  Learning to approach something with a complete change of thinking takes time.

I believe she will one day view death of believers as we do... as this family did when they spoke of their grandfather's "promotion" into the next life.  It will just take time.  Time and the slow renewing of her mind.

I'm glad she felt free to question and bring her fears out.  I'm thankful for my family who taught me both with their words and their lives not to fear death.  I'm thankful that on the other side is a big reunion.

But in the middle of my peace, I need to remember to let my heart break for those first generation believers like my husband to whom a death in the family is going to mean eternal separation.  I've never faced a death like that yet in my life... the thought is horrifying.  And when my friend questions me because she can't understand all the joy we have, I need to hear her fears.  She has to cut a new trail into the difficult confusion of dealing with death.  I get to walk one already laid out for me by those who have lived and died in front of me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Was That Again?

My oldest was very excited about something he had learned in school recently.  They were talking about guide dogs and service dogs.  One of his friends back home has one, so he was quite interested in the process.  He came to tell me that kids get to raise these dogs sometimes as foster puppies before they go into service, and "Mom, they like kids best to raise them since some of the dogs go to kids with autopsies!"

Um... don't you mean "autism"?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


There are times I look back on my life and smile when I see that God was preparing me for something before it hit.

Last week, when my husband was preparing to leave, we had our last Sunday in our church before he left.  We were not stressed out about his trip, but the people in our church were.  (I'm actually too busy reassuring others right now to be nervous myself!)  They were very worried.  I know where my husband is headed, and the difficulties he encountered last time are not going to play into this trip at all.  This is no more of a danger than any normal trip... ok, so all trips carry some risk, but it is the way it is.

That Sunday in church, people were worried.  A few even asked the questions that have no answers. 'How will you spend tomorrow  - if you know that he is leaving and things could happen?"

Well, we spent it cleaning the house, ironing some shirts, and getting him ready to go.  Not exactly what you would write home about if it were our last days. :)

I got upset at that question later in my blog and said there is no way to answer it.  If you knew that tomorrow someone you loved would drop dead, how would you live?  You would just live, hopefully, the way you are living now.  If you wouldn't, then something is wrong with the way you are living now.

Then I went for a routine visit to the doctor.  I took in #3, too, since he had been having some "nothing" symptoms....  It turns out that he is going to be tested for something that has a chance of dropping him dead at any moment.  It is genetic, so if he tests positive, it means that I and any of my children have the remote chance of dropping dead at any moment in the middle of an active day.

Whew!  That hit like a punch to the gut...

Over the next few days, I struggled with the question, "How then do we live?".  How do we raise our kids with this knowledge?  Do we restrict every minute of their lives?  Do we panic?  Do we.....?  It was then that the question asked of me the day before came back to me: "How would you live if you knew that this was your last day?"

The answer is simple.  Live normally.  If I am living today with things unsaid, with things unforgiven, with things undone - there is a problem with how I am living today.   Live normally.

Simple answers are not always easy battles to get to, and it took me a few days of tears before God before I was able to set it all back into His hands.  In reality, all of us live like that.  Tomorrow, my gas line could explode.  Tonight my kid could slip on the sidewalk again and hit his head just so, and be gone.  I can't live in fear of those things, and I refuse to live in fear of this, either.

God has written the days of each of my children.  My first daughter's days were short, but she is not dead.  She is very much alive - just not here with us.  If one of my children drops dead, they will only be alive with God, not gone forever, but gone ahead of us.  We can't imagine walking that path now, but I am convinced that if God calls us to walk it, He will walk it with us, with each and every one of us.  I will not live in fear.

Realistically - we could all live a long happy life.  It is true that #3 is showing signs of concern, but we go on.  We do what can be done, we take what safety steps can be taken, and then we go on.

But as annoying as that question was last Sunday morning, God was asking me to think it over in preparation for the news of Monday afternoon.  I'm sure if He brings other difficult things into our lives that He will prepare us for that also.

I am no longer annoyed at that person who asked that crazy question.  God was using her weakness and fear to strengthen and comfort me for what was ahead.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Rest of the Story

I heard it last night.  I heard it again tonight in a different story.  I don't know why in two places I was that people were watching these stories, but I listened with interest.

The first was a story about a sailing boat that sank.  There were over fifty people on the vessel at the time, and there was great confusion and chaos and a long wait for  rescue.  Not all knew until the rescue if all had made it off or not.  In the end, all were rescued without one life lost and no serious injuries.  An incredible miracle.  (I missed the beginning of the show, so I don't know the details.)

What caught my attention was the people talking about what happened after - after the crisis.  A few said, "It has been a year, and I am still not always sleeping.  I still have dreams that I step on a boat and it immediately sinks.  I still am having dreams."  I nodded my head in understanding.  Those dreams.  It took me months to sleep without dreams of trauma.  Even now, I will sometimes dream and wake up with my heart pounding.  It is not completely over.

But as I listened, I heard even more interesting things.  A girl said, "When I first walked back into my own house after we got back, I went to my room, and I just lay on my bed.  I did not come out of my house for a week.  I just lay in bed and slept a lot and just stayed in bed.  I was so depressed and crying all the time."

I stopped stock still.  I think if I had seen this same show a year ago, I would have been puzzled by her response.  Depressed?!  Crying?!  She should be feeling so _________ (relieved, happy, thankful, amazed)!

The second story was a follow up on the Chilean miners.  They talked about depression, about fears, about wanting to hide, about not sleeping, being on medication.

This year, I understood them all.  I have been on this journey - from trauma towards recovery.  It is not the trip you expect.

After the crisis, during the initial days of recovery, I mentioned that I was not sleeping, that I was having dreams.  I mentioned that I was just not tired, even though I was exhausted.  I mentioned a few other things, too.  The people with me at the time actually handed me a piece of paper and said, "Here read this.  I think you will recognize a lot of your symptoms as being on here."

It was a list of common reactions to trauma.    Hmm....

Except that I was not doing a case study to present to the class for a mark.  I was living it.  My logical brain, usually quite capable of dissecting  a list and applying it to a situation was completely frozen.  My will which usually can kick in and make me focus was numb.  My emotions were the only thing left, and even they were making no sense at the time.

A list did nothing for me.  I stared at it and the pieces of letters broke off and formed chaos on the page.  I blinked and read the words, but they made no connection to thoughts in my brain.

I didn't need a list.  A list could not touch my heart.  I needed a story.  Stories can pass through our muddle and stick.  When I hear a story, my heart responds.  When I heard this girl's story of crawling in bed depressed after an amazing rescue, my heart connected to her story.  I got it.

The problem is that we don't often tell the rest of the story.  We tell the amazing rescues, the miraculous stepping in of God, the ability He has to carry us through the darkest days.... but we pass over the parts that don't seem to fit.  We end the story at the rescue and the hugs of the family again.  We just don't tell of the week in bed in a depressed fog.  It doesn't show off God in a good light, we think.  It doesn't really glorify God.  It was a momentary weakness, we say, not really a part of the story.

So when we face our own trauma, we expect to go on like those stories we have heard.  We expect the "happily ever after" ending.  And when people come to us and say, "You must be feeling so incredibly happy!", we paste on a smile and nod, yet feel incredibly confused and guilty by our failure to even enjoy the miracle we were given.

No one had ever told me the rest of the story.  No one ever told me what the valley between trauma and healing looked like.  I was not prepared for the trip.  Today, as I am climbing back out the other side, I hear others talking of that trip.  It seems, though, that I don't hear it much among believers.... are we worried about appearing weak?

I'm willing to be weak.  I'm even willing to be wrong, to have reacted wrongly.  I'm willing to have failed at some things.  I'll be all that if I can speak honestly about this valley.  Others will walk it after me, and let me be weak if it means someone will hear and remember that this trip is not the one you expect.

We need to hear these stories before we hit trauma.  When we face trauma, it is a bit late to begin learning.  We need to hear these stories so when we go through it, we are calmed by knowing it is normal.  We need to know these stories so that when our friends and coworkers go through it, we can walk with them instead of fearing that they may be losing it, having a breakdown, or not walking with God as they should be.  We need to hear of the deepness, the ruggedness, and the loneliness of the ravine that has to be crossed.

Then, perhaps instead of saying "You must be feeling so __________!", we will stop to ask, "What are you feeling today?  Do you want to sit on the bridge with me and throw sticks in the water and just watch them float?  I'm hear to listen."

Instead of saying, "So tell me the story - I want to hear all the exciting things!  I just can't believe how wonderful it all is!", we will listen to whatever is wanted to be shared that day.  There is a line between wanting to hear details for our own enjoyment and interest, and wanting to hear what a person needs to share.  Who are we thinking of - our interested ears or their bruised heart?  Our listening will reflect that.

Most, most, most of all... if we know of that valley, we will avoid criticizing or correcting those who are down in it.  That only adds guilt on top of their burden.

There is a road out.  I just don't think there are any short cuts.  At least, I didn't find any.  But the road will lead out of the valley again, and we will be changed for our experiences struggling through it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"You Must Feel So ________________ "

Ever heard that phrase before?  "You must feel so excited!"  "You must feel so happy."  "You must just be on cloud nine."

We say that to each other when we try to put ourselves in their shoes.

I am growing more convinced of our need for some training in dealing with trauma.  I think we (ourselves, our mission agencies, our groups) think that when trauma happens, then we will deal with it and we will teach people how to recover.  The problem is that in a crisis, it is very hard to learn anything.  I think we need to talk about it more now - before we hit a crisis.

The problem is not that we do not share about crisis and about how God stepped in or how God carried us through them.  We do that.  I've read countless books about God stepping in, saving people from awful situations, carrying them through things none of us want to face.  I've read centuries of biographies and autobiographies of missionaries and their stories.  I've read Reader's Digest stories of people surviving cataclysmic events and horrific personal trauma.

I've pulled people out of car wrecks that no one should live through, visited someone in the hospital who not only survived his car going off a cliff and breaking into bits, but who hiked back up the cliff in the dark with a broken back in order to be able to flag down a passing car.  I was the first one to be handed a flashlight and examine what I thought was was a man in paint spattered clothes with saggy cheeks and rolls under his neck.  Instead it was a man covered in blood whose scalp was sliced in so many places across the top that it hung in folds around his neck.  I listened the next day in the hospital to him telling his story.

I had read about trauma.  I had felt prepared for it.

But I had never heard the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say.

So when we went through a traumatic event and ended with our own miraculous ending, and people were incredibly happy and came to us and said, "You must feel so _______" (happy, excited, grateful, amazed, thrilled... ), I was not prepared for how I felt.  In reality it was more a choice of one of these: confused, depressed, sad, disoriented, hurt, tired, fearful.

So I felt guilty for my feelings.  For my lack of joy.  For the very pain that inhabited my heart where there should be joy.

If only I had heard the rest of the story before this!

How Much Longer?

The journey is longer than I thought it would be.  I thought it would be a simple walk.  I wasn't prepared for the twists, turns, drops, and climbs of this journey.  I've struggled with guilt and confusion at the length of the journey.  I've wondered at times if I had taken a wrong turn and got hopelessly lost.

I don't think I have.  I think we just never had any clue what this trip entailed.  No one told us.  Few really like to take a good look at this path, so I had just never studied it.  I thought it was a short, fairly easy trip.

It was never meant to be.  I think now I am climbing out of the valley, and there are moments that I can pause and look behind me.  I'm gaining some insight into it now.

This trip into trauma and out again.  It is quite the journey!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Now?

I wish my husband was home.  Why do these thing happen while he is gone?  I need his bulk right now - to lean against, to rest on, to share with.

Right now I don't know very much.  What I do know is not easy to carry.  As I look for answers to some of my questions, the answers are there staring at me.  They've always been there... we just never knew the questions to ask.  We just never thought to ask.

One of my kids, #3, the too talkative,  cheerful, little guy is having some health issues.  Something we thought was nothing... but that we should get checked.  That nothing may not be nothing... and the farther we dig into our family history to answer the questions the doctor has, the more the nothing looks like something.

The problem is that if #3 has it, then #1 probably has it too.  Likely I do also.  We just never pieced it together.  We still have testing ahead of us, lots of testing.  We won't have any answers until then.

Right now.... I just want my husband to be home.  To face these things with me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Nope, not talking about that little number that you get every month... :)  (although it IS very important!)

Support is one of those things that makes life possible.  It makes the unthinkable doable.

I know that.  For years, I dreamed about running, even jogging, a mile... ok, there is a dream to do a 5K, too, but let's stick to little steps.  Running, however, proves difficult for, um, people who, um, well, can't run in your average elastic and cloth sports bra without it looking like they are trying to homogenize milk before it is produced.  So I have never gotten much farther than the thought of running.

The last time I was in the US, I went looking to find a sports bra with real support.  I found one.  Ok, it takes some gymnastics to get into it, but it works!  Our family gift to ourselves this year was a membership to a place where our family can workout together.  There is a little track there.  Fifteen laps around this track gets me to a mile.

I'm not there yet.

However, today, I ran two-thirds of the mile.  I run two laps and walk one right now.  When I started, I ran one lap and then walked two.  I'm getting there.

Support helps. :)

Today, my husband flew out.  I was thinking back to his first six week trip six years ago.  I was pretty alone in a new city with four young kids.  At that point, homeschooling.  It meant six weeks of no break.  I was pretty tired by the end of it.  When my husband got home, I just wanted to go out for a long walk alone.

Today, he flew out again.  Six years makes a difference in parenting.  No longer am I facing diapers, carseats, tying shoes, crying babies at night.  Now I can leave them alone with a list of chores and have a reasonable expectation that some of them are done when I get back.  They are all in school.  That helps.

But more than those things, today I have support.  I have a network of friends in church, in school, and some in our team (half are traveling, too, so not too helpful) that are there for me.  I have adults to talk to, friends for my kids to go play a day with, people who will come if the heater shuts off.

Support.  It helps.

Like always, when my husband leaves, things happen.  My oldest slipped and hit his head on concrete and has a concussion.  My daughter is sick again.  I fell and hurt my knees.  This is just the first day...

Pray for them.  I think my biggest struggle will be their memories and fears of a repeat of last year.  They show stress in different ways.  Some cry.  Some fight with others.  Some have tummy aches and headaches.  I need more patience this time.  Patience and creativity to keep them occupied, ordered, and safe.

Prayer support is important, too.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Over the last few years, we have known that we needed something to happen in order for us to go on well.  Work changes, and there are new areas to reach out into and new directions to go in.  New possibilities come with new needs.

We've grown over the years, added to our team.  Some of that has been good.  Some of it has brought more headache.  But our biggest holes remained unfilled.

Going back even before that, I have been praying for something, for a direction that I thought we should head in.  When I began to pray for this, it was comical, unthinkable, impossible.  The capacity of who we were was already stretched.  It would not work.  People would not even think about it.

There are also time that I feel strongly about people joining us or not joining us.  I have no say in the matter, but I am very aware of the discussions going on in the background when we discuss these things.  I prayed once for four years that one couple would join us.  Now they will be, not quite yet, but soon.  There are two others that I am praying for, and then another yet who I do not know, but a position that I would like to see filled.  It is something that requires patience.  God is not answering those prayers quickly.

I honestly think that God has been sifting, settling, and growing our team to prepare us for what is ahead.  I do not know what is ahead, but I know that we needed growth first.  My daughter has been crying in her bed several nights this last week because her legs hurt.  Growing pains.  Our team has been going through them, too.

But I feel the quiet, tingling excitement.  I know one prayer of mine is being answered soon, and I am confident that another will be, too.  In these people I am praying that will join us, I am praying for a few particular qualities, and these potential new people have them in abundance.

I think God is going to do great things soon.  I get excited when I see that happening.  Hidden inside me today is a grin that refuses to go away.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Facing Tomorrows

So my husband leaves soon.  It is an interesting feeling.  So much the same as a year before.  Winter is still here, packing suitcases are out, a family holiday (the one that got canceled last year) planned for when he arrives back.  Even back to spring and the inevitable push to get in shape.  Memories come trickling back. 

I'm not worried.  Not totally at peace either.  Dreading not so much what could happen (things could always happen) as much as how well we will cope.  How well will the kids cope?  How much energy will I have to deal with kids who are stressed out when I am tired, too.  Today it started with my daughter hearing about the trip in church - suddenly it dawned on her how long daddy is gone for and she buried her head in my tummy and cried.

Honestly, one of the more difficult things for me to deal with facing a trip or in the middle of one is all the well-meaning people.  "How are you doing?" asked one too many times.  "Are you worried?"  "Oh my goodness, I don't think I could face that!"  Enough already.  It is not helpful even though I know you mean well.

There are possibilities.  There always are.  I just can not think about them.  I chose to live today.  Today only.  Trust comes not in the big things, but in the quiet ability to live in today with the strength God gives for the moment.  In reality, we can't live in the "what if?".  What if this was the last day you would spend with a loved one?  How would you act?  These are questions we discuss in sociology classes, ponder when we read stories of disasters, but questions without answers. 

If we live today in the small steps with God, we are ok if we face the "what ifs".  There will be no regrets then.  Sadness, yes, but no regrets.  That is the only assurance I have right now - live today in the quiet trust and peace in all my relationships, and I can face whatever tomorrow brings - if I have lived in obedience today.  I will not carry tomorrow's burden today.  I can't.  It is that simple.

It comes back to the question of if I know what is best for me or if God does.  If I subscribe to the lie that only I know what is best for me, I will work to defend myself, to protect myself.  If I refuse that lie, I will rest.  Even the evil that is done - while still evil - is, in God's hands, what is best for me. 

Like cocky, fearful Jacob who wrestled God and was wounded - taking away from him his cocky attitude that he could outwit, out-manipulate, and outmaneuver everything in order to get where he believed God wanted him.  It was when he was wounded and limping that God changed his name from supplanter to Israel.  It was through a blessing which came with a wound.

When God allows us to be deeply wounded, perhaps we are to watch for the blessing - or perhaps the character change that changes our very name.

I am not worried.  I chose to live today.  Only today.  With no regrets.  Learning trust step by painful step.

Whose Best?

I've been thinking a lot recently.  There is a book or two that I was handed that have been helping my thinking, but I've been thinking.  I struggle to decide what to share on this blog about what I am thinking.  I know some of you who read my blog and comment and nothing would make me happier than to share what I am learning with you, as you also share your lives with me.  But a blog, is by nature public, and subject to many people reading it.  It is those who hide who cause me to pause before I write.

But another train of thought that goes through my head is transparency.  I grew up, like a few of you, as an MK, in a conservative church.  The idea of constantly being on display, especially on furlough, and even when out on the field - people are always watching... it affected us.  We were to project an image.  I still see that in some churches and people.  But over the last years, my husband and I have been mentored by some pretty great people.  The biggest thing we have been both shown and taught is transparency.  The ability or the choice to be honest and clear.  It takes away the fear of hiding.  It takes away the fear of not being accepted if we were known.  It shows sins, but gives the room for grace and forgiveness.  It completely removes the possibility of manipulation.

We've grown to love this new thing.  Being transparent.  It is something we model in our team, hoping that as we demonstrate it, that others will pick it up and show it to even others.

So part of me thinks, "Ignore those who should not be reading, and just talk."  I may.  I may not.  I may continue to edit carefully to be able to say what I am learning without setting it into its frame.  Difficult.

Anyway, let's try for today.  I'll start with a small tidbit that I learned from one of these books.  It is about dealing with rejection.  Rejection is what hit me hardest this last spring - we felt rejected by our own, intensified by our weakness after a time of intense stress.  When we should have been cared for, we were not.  Rejection is not a feeling unfamiliar to my husband or I.  In different degrees we have both felt it often as we grew up.  Circumstances, moves, trauma, misunderstandings, people's weaknesses - all these things have left us with wounds.  We struggle through those, and when trauma hits, feelings we have carried come rolling back.

I don't have this book now, but when I get it, I will write some more from it.  What I want to share right now is just one piece of it.  It was talking about our fear of rejection will cause us to reject the very love that God has for us.  Adam and Eve did this in the garden.  When they were ashamed, they hid.  They lied.  They did not trust God anymore.  The book says it so much better than I can without it here, but it talks about from that point on, we had a new inner belief.  We began to believe that "I know what is best for me".  So we attempt to protect ourselves.  Self-protection leads to all sorts of messes.

I don't know why that particular phrase hit me right then, except that we were in team meetings and team meeting are difficult for me.  I've struggled through why God allowed some of what He allowed this last year and also during the years before that.  Why He did not step in and protect me from some pain?

When I read that line about our new inner belief, I paused.  I honestly struggled with that one a little.  I saw the truth in it - undoubtedly.  But transferring that truth into the day to day was difficult.  My mind immediately popped the question, "How could what happened during the shark attack be the best for me?!"  That was painful, awful, so wrong...

But truth has a way of quietly standing in the face of opposition, and I agreed with it.  I've learned when my whole being butts up against truth full force to wait quietly and listen.  God is not in the habit of defending Himself to my angry accusations, nor is He in the habit of railroading me down with His thinking.  He sits quietly, until I have quieted myself and am ready to listen and question Him honestly.  Then He speaks.  In that quiet, still voice.

As I sat there questioning out the practicality of this truth... "well, if that is true, then what happened in those meetings was Your best?... How exactly does that work?  It hurt me."  God, I have learned, is also not one who belittles my pain.  The devil does that.  He will either blow up my pain so it fills my vision or berate me for pain and belittle it - or likely both at once.  God does not belittle His children's pain, nor does He scold us for feeling it.

I questioned God on that point late that evening.  "Tell me how that works, please.  I don't get it.  You know I was weak there already, a sore spot, and hurting place, and in the middle of our weakest point, You let them hurt us there!"  I sat quietly thinking over those meetings, those days after the trauma and all that had gone down.  There was no positive spin that could be put on them - only the very wrong actions of one or two others that caused deep pain for those already wounded.

A question for myself, "Am I willing to say that God knew what was best for me?  For all my life? Even when it led places I did not want to go?"  Not just that it was ok, that He would bring me through it, that He would bring good out of it... but that in His knowledge, it was the best.  James that says that God's will is good, acceptable, and perfect.  The first one, good,  is a little struggle to get through, ok, it is good.  The next, acceptable, harder.  But it is when you hit "perfect" and it means that nothing else would have been better... that is a tough one to swallow!

I will not say that what people did was right.  It wasn't.  But can I trust that at that moment, that this was God's best for me - not the most comfortable, not the most just, but His best... for reasons I do not know... but His best for me right then?

Hmmpf, that made me take a deep breath and gather some determination before I was willing to face that one head on... but my rational mind says, "this, too, is true."

 Then came the quiet, still voice that I have learned to listen to.  "Would you have been pushed to deal with this issue of rejection without that hurt right in the epicenter of that wound?"

You could not have got my attention more quickly.  Little chills ran down my back.  I was wounded, yes.  Right in the middle of a very tender spot.  But it was a glimpse into a wisdom deeper than mine.
Most of my kicking against God and most of my fighting and most of my pain lies right here - I am pretty determined to hang on to the thought that God obviously does not know what is best for me - look at all that He has allowed! - and that I need to protect myself.  And as I write this, another thought comes in my head... look at all the pain you cause while trying to protect yourself.  I wonder if I hurt myself more than people hurt me simply by my reactions and my attempts to protect.  And then, in the middle of all those attempts to keep myself safe, I ache that I feel isolated.

My thoughts went back to Jacob.  He was also a an wounded by God.  Yet with that wounding came a blessing.

I've been sitting on these thoughts this week, quietly listening to God's voice.  My heart quiet, listening to the call to trust even deeper - to trust that God has my best in mind even in the face of man's sins against me.  That even pain is what is best at times - not only that God will bring good out of it, but that there was nothing better for me than to walk the difficult road.

I would have chosen an easier one.  But I have such a limited view and still prefer comfort over growth any given day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Going on a Date

My husband is going to travel again.  Spring is a time he often goes.  This time he will be gone a little over a month.  I was hoping it would be for less time.  I was hoping we'd have a few weeks after the end of the big meetings before he was going.

But mixing his plans in with other's schedules means that we can't always chose what we want.  I told him that at least I want to go for a date before he leaves.  Tonight we went out.  Last date before he flies again.

I'm not nervous, not really.  Just missing him before he leaves.  It will be a long time.  Trying to think of everything I need to do for him before he leaves.  Trying to make sure the house, bills, and repairs are all done before he goes.  Being busy.

But when we were talking about going on a date, our kids had some advice.  #3 and my daughter were discussing it.

"Mom, you could sit on a date."

"Yeah, we have dates.  You could sit on one and Daddy could sit on another."

Here I was thinking, "Is that what you call a double date?", but they came up with,

"It would be a little mushy, but then you would be on a date!"

We decided to go out for dinner instead.  Less mushy.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Many Tongues

Friday is our prayer meeting in the community my kids go to school in.  We are a widely diverse group, and after a year or two of struggle to get the mothers who did not speak English well into our group, we have succeeded.

Fridays now mean a prayer meeting with many different ethnic backgrounds and languages.

Some pray quietly.  Some pray all at once.  Some sing songs while another prays.  Others just hum.  Others walk the room shouting "Hallelujah!"  Still others cry every time they pray.  Others, I think, are a little uncomfortable with the tears. Some kneel.  Some stand.  Anywhere from four to ten different languages inhabit the room at one time.

It is fun.  :)

I sat there today listening to the prayer ascending from many tongues and languages - all of us praying for our kids, for each other's kids, for our teachers, for the health and safety of those out on an activity that day.  Some languages flow gently.  Others have an unusual clicking noise as they speak.  There are the guttural, the tonal, the variety.  As I listened, the age old question of what language we will speak in heaven popped into my mind.

I know what I want.

I want to sit in heaven listening to the beauty of these different languages and cultures, but completely understanding them all.

(What is the typical style of praying in your culture group?)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Things They Say - Chose Your Language

We were in a meeting recently with at least four languages involved.  They asked people to pray and stated that they could pray in whichever language they chose.

Very clearly from the corner, I heard #3's exclamation to himself, "Good, I'll do it in gibberish!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cooking Adventures

I got some questions this weekend on how I learned to cook for a crowd.  For me, it is simple - I was raised that way.  Being raised in many different countries, I picked up different ideas and learned to play with food.  I was asked for a recipe, and I laughed!  I don't think I have used a recipe for a main dish in years.  Desserts, perhaps, but food? No.

I think the time I was most stumped about cooking was when I was a teen.  We were back in the US for a season, and I used to babysit.  I would often cook dinner for the kids I babysat.  One afternoon, the mom was having a frantic day.  She had some appointments and events, and then that evening she was supposed to bring a cake to a Bible study.  She asked if I would mind cooking a cake for her.

No problem.

She handed me a box, and then hurriedly grabbed her keys and walked out the door.
A box?!

I was absolutely bewildered.  Confused.  Totally taken off guard by a cake mix.  I had no idea what to do with it.  A foreign concept.  Turn a box into a cake?!

It took me a few minutes before I was even brave enough to read the instructions and gingerly begin.  I could have whipped two different types of cake off by memory at that point in my life, but a box confused me!

I remember that confusion now and laugh.  I have made some boxed cakes since then, but still prefer to make my own, just as I prefer to cook a meal without packaged ingredients.  It has made living in different places simpler for me - the fact that I was raised not to be used to things you buy in a package.  Home to me tastes like things I can make, not something I buy in a store.

I've love trying new dishes, new flavors from different parts of the world, and mixing them.  I love cooking now.  I am not, nor will ever be, and have no desire to attempt to be a fancy cook.  I like to cook food that fills people up, that warms bellies, that satisfies.  If you are wanting a beautifully displayed table with fancily cut vegetables, look elsewhere.  That is not me.

Got any good favorites you cook for a crowd where you are?  I'm always interested in trying new things.

Come and Gone

The last of the guests has left.  The house is returning to its original quiet.  We are still eating our way through leftovers, so no need to cook for  few days yet.  Sleeping mats are being cleaned up, sheets washed and stored back in the linen closet.  The long weekend retreat is over.

We did something that we have not been done before, and it went well.  There is a sense of quiet joy about that.  In a difficult people group, we gathered together mature believers from many places along with wives and some families.  We gathered, not for business, but simply to be together, to worship, to learn.  We started with our team's meeting for one day, and then the others arrived.

It was peaceful.  There was not one fight, not one hurt feeling, not one person trying to boast at another's expense.  It was a wonderful time.  Connections built; friendships deepened; time for new ideas to be sown.

It was a time also for me to begin to build relationships with other women like myself: married cross-culturally in this culture.  Years ago, I was one of the first, perhaps two of us existed.  Now there are more.  It is a something special to build relationships with them - these women who will face life as I face it with our different challenges, risks, and joys.

I was not in many of the meetings.  I cooked.  What was originally told to me at 15-25 people ended up to be more like 25-35 at times, but it was possible.  My oldest son had some days off school and he was able to help me.

Now they are gone.  I did today what I always do after a meeting that I help to organize and cook for - I slept.  I slept on and off most of the day and have not written off the possibility of curling up in bed again.

Sleep is also a gift.  Today, my dreams, for the first time in months, have been relaxing.  Dreams of freedom and grace.  Those are also a gift.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Things They Say - Odds and Ends

My husband and I have been working at getting more fit.  I've been worried about getting my husband more active for several years as he has family history of too many problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and others.  His job is more sedentary, and getting fit is harder to do without focusing on it.  This year, we included the whole family with activities and exercising together.  It has been fun.

Last week we were doing our weigh ins and discussing how much we are losing and what our goals are.  We're not aiming for the moon, just for a consistent loss and getting in shape.  My husband is losing about one to two pounds a week.  My goal is one pound a week as I do not have as much to lose and am in slightly better shape than him to start with.  So far, I have only lost two pounds in a month, but... oh well.  My main goal is to get in shape and stay active.  Got to keep up with those kids of mine!  My other main goal is to one day be able to run a 5K with my son.... with as in on the same day, not as in at the same pace!  I can now run much farther than I could at the beginning of last month and without so much stress.

Well, we were weighing in and discussing our pound a week plan, and #3 piped up.  Now, #3 is the world's smallest 10 year old.  He is just petite.  (I was like him as a child - not now..)  He actually wears a smaller size than his eight year old sister.  So he was thinking about the goals and said, "Daddy, if I lose a pound a week, after a year, I will just disappear!"

On Sunday, my daughter came in the church meeting we were having doing that urgent wiggle dance that meant she needed to find a toilet.  I was puzzled as she knows where it is and is big.  She came over to me, turned her back to me and said, "Mom, mom, can you unbutton my dress?  I need to pee!"

What?  I said, "Just pull it up - you are in a dress!"  She looked puzzled until I pulled her skirt up a little to show.  Then it dawned on her.  I just thought it was funny that she didn't know.  Obviously, she doesn't wear enough skirts!