12.30.2009

Can you smell that? That's 2009 coming to an end...Thank God.

I'd like to pretend that I'm doing this because I was sitting here with a glass of wine, in front of a glowing fire, pondering the year as it comes to a close, thoughtfully perusing a bank of warm memories with a smile on my lips and a heavy sigh of satisfaction for a year well-lived.

I mean, I was sitting here (by "here" I mean "in the Thunder Valley Casino", and by "Thunder Valley Casino", I mean "smoke-filled, love-child of a trailer-park and a Filipino tour-bus, complete with all-you-can-eat buffet where I just ate my weight in fried cat-fish and lemon-meringue pie), and it was with a glass of wine (okay, it was a $4 bottle of beer), and my face was bathed in a soft glow (you know, from the penny slots). But, I have to say, I really wasn't reminiscing, like, at all. Mostly I was just watching lucky number 7 go round again and again (perhaps a little too hopeful that the complimentary $5 in slot-play they gave me for eating in the buffet would allow me to change the title of this blog to "Jamie the Very Richest Missionary"), and taking it all in.... It reminded me that I'm pretty relieved to see this year...just...end.

It's been a tough one for me.

It wasn't a complete loss, but it was a doozie of a year. It's like, Yes, It does bite ass when someone steals your car and then tries to extort you for it's return, but then, by some crazyness, you get it back, and through the whole ugly mess (which you should have blogged but didn't because you're not allowed to use the "F" word on your blog and you couldn't even touch that story without it) you learned that your values have changed immensely and that you're not just learning about what's important, but you're actually living it without really having to try that hard any more and that's kinda cool. So it was hard, but also good.

Or, it's like this. On my top ten list of shitty things that happened this year, is the time I took the bus home from work after cleaning rooms and making beds up for an incoming group, and I looked really nasty (a big no-no for girls riding the bus in Costa Rica) and some diptard teenagers started loudly joking around that I was gross (which, admittedly, was true) and that I was probably a transvestite prostitute (let's just say that a sports-bra is not exactly a flattering look for me). So, I got off the bus and cried the whole walk home. Which, naturally, made me even uglier. But, while it sucked to be called out on my physical short-comings...loudly....on crowded public transit....that wasn't really why I was crying. I was really crying because that morning El Chupacabra and I had had one of those whacked-out screaming matches that I'm pretty sure other missionaries don't have (or don't admit to having) so I was already feeling kind of disliked before I got on the bus, and then those guys just kinda pushed me over the edge. But the thing with my husband, and then on the bus, and the crying thing afterward, helped me remember who's love I really need, who's attention I should be seeking, who is jealous for me, who values me because he knows me intimately and perfectly and he has chosen to love me anyway. So again, really freakin lame, but good in the end.

Does that make sense?

This year has been so incredibly full of moments like those. Lot's of drama. Lot's of learning. And, to be honest, I'm just really tired of it all. Worn down, I guess, is a better choice of words. I'd like the drama to stop, and I'd like to apply some of the learning. I'm just too beat to do both at once, and I don't even have it bad. I mean, there was this, and then of course there was this this. And who could forget this? But, I'm grateful that that's as bad as it's been. Okay - There have been worse things....like a couple of things, either too painful or too private to write about here...but overall, I feel like I can chalk up the last 12 months as a big fat success. A bitter, anxiety filled, financially devastating, ridiculously ill-fated success.

So basically what I'm getting at is that I really sucked at life this year. And then God redeemed it.


I've always thought of God as, like, a super hero, to swoop in and save the day when we are on the brink of absolute ruin. And I've always heard Christians say things like "I hit rock-bottom and then God came to my rescue." But, I've never really given much thought to the fact that He's also there, cleaning up our messes (our our messiness) when stuff is just sorta crappy. That is, until I had a sorta generally crappy year. This year. Crappy 2009, I like to call it. I've realized that, at least right now, I don't need a God that can "save" cause I don't really need to be "rescued", and I don't need to be "found" either, cause I haven't been "lost" in years. Mostly, I just need to not suck so much.

If you're ever in the mood to see the pure face of humanity, I highly suggest that you go hang out in a Casino. This is the place where excess looks desperation square in the face and smiles, where gluttony mingles with starvation, where gratification hitches arms with depression. And this is not a cancer ward. This is no concentration camp. What you will see, after your senses adjust to the sour boozy smell and these stupid bells and lights, and then through the swirling haze of Marlboro and Camel and American Spirit, you will see a bunch of people that just generally...suck. They need Him, too, the God that redeems those who just kinda suck. Have you met this God? I have. In fact, I think I can say I've gotten to know him pretty well in 2009.

So anyway, this was a really long, and dumb way to say Happy New Year. Welcome to the world Twenty-Ten. I'm excited to see what aspect of God you'll be introducing to me this year. Ooh, ooh, but if my opinion counts at all, I think I'd like to get to know God as, like, a "generous provider"....Whaddaya think 2010? Can you hook a missionary up??




12.22.2009

Notes from the States

Notes from the States:

Starbucks? Um, yeah,...it has crack in it.

Dry, brown, land and cold, gray skies are exceptionally beautiful. And they feel like Christmas.

Nobody stares at El Chupacabra. Nobody. (Although an old lady in a bookstore, stopped him to tell him that he has "a great beard". (I think she was hitting on him, but he said that he's not down with the ladies that bear a strong resemblance to shrunken apple head dolls, so no worries. What a relief...)

When I get out of the car and am walking up to the entrance of Target, it makes me physically happy. Like, I get this full feeling in my chest, and I get a little pep in my step, and by the time I get to the door a smile has spread across my face.

"Patience" is a relative term.

There is no garbage here. None. No garbage on the sidewalk. No garbage in the parking lots, gutters, rivers, and, I'm pretty sure, no garbage in the garbage cans, which explains this; There is no garbage smell here.

According to my oldest child (who is, if I may I remind him, still a child) "All the girls here are way hotter!"

People will think you are that chick that got kidnapped and held in a back-yard tent city for practically her whole life if:
A) Your kid yells across a crowded bookstore "Mom! ALL these books are in ENGLISH!"
B) If you lean in to the girl taking your order for a Caramel Brule Latte at Starbucks and say something like "I am SO excited - I've only heard about this!"
C) Your blue-eyed blond kid speaks perfect Spanish to the guy bringing you chips in a Mexican restaurant.
D) You scoff loudly at the 90 cent price tag on a banana from Ecuador.

Trying to plan a "getaway" for 11 people ranging in age from 65 to 9 is impossible. It takes an act of God. For real. An act of GOD...

There is so much to choose from here, it's overwhelming really. I'm overwhelmed. On oh so many levels...

12.17.2009

God is not a craps dealer.

I'm alive! My plane did not crash. I know...I'm surprised, too...

When our plane was still over the gulf of Mexico, a steward keyed the mic and said, "Ladies and Gentleman, we've decided to land on the water. Hahaha..." He said that. I'm not even kidding. Now, maybe you think that's just hil-AR-ious, but I think it's very nearly the single most horrible thing a flight attendant can say. On the scale of things-you-never-want-to-hear-over-the-PA-on-a-plane (with 1 being "Ladies and Gentleman we're out of Diet Coke." and 10 being "Kaboom!") it ranks lower than "We're all going to die!", and higher than "Ma'am, we'll need to charge you for an extra seat because your butt is so incredibly large".

My heart was already pounding because of the turbulence. Ok, and also because I had convinced myself that I smelled burning plastic, like wires, or something. But no one else seemed concerned that some very important part of the plane was obviously on fire, so I kept my mouth shut. And besides, I'm pretty sure that if you jump up on your seat and scream "Do you smell that?!?! We're going down!!!", they take your kids away as soon as you exit the aircraft. And, the thing is, I had already canceled Christmas (because my kids got into a slap-fight when one tried to (gasp!) look out the other's window), and I knew I couldn't make good on that threat from an 8x10 prison cell, so I had to hold it together. (*Note to kids* Slap-fighting on a plane is really bad idea, but slap fighting on a plane when one kid has the aisle and one kid has the window and Mom is in the middle WILL cause the immediate cancellation of Christmas.) So, basically, the stewards little joke came at a really bad time for me. Don't get me wrong, I have a sense of humor! I can joke about, like...anything. I make fun of babies. So I'm down with the well timed, off-humor, inappropriate joke. Bring it on. I can take it.

But, do not make a joke about the plane that I am hurtling through the sky in. Just don't. It's not funny.

One of the things I notice about myself (and my faith, I guess) when I fly, is that even after so many years of learning who God is, and our two roles in this world, when it comes down to it, some part of me still wants to believe that God is like a giant used car salesman. That, rather than live like God has a plan - and that it is good and trustworthy - I live like God is ready to negotiate, change the plan, swap my ending with someone elses, if I make the right offer. You know what I mean? Like every sweaty heartbeat on that plane was an episode of "Let's Make-a-Deal!":

God? If I survive this, I'm totally gonna pray more. I'll even crack open the Bible...if you want.

Um, hey God? If we live, I'm gonna read to my kids
every night. Maybe even from the Bible. So, whaddaya say...? Just look at thier innocent faces. Please let these cherubs survive. Oh, and forgive them for that slap-fight thingy. They didn't mean it.

Look, God, I know I haven't always done right by you. I haven't always done the most "pleasing" stuff, but I can do better. I just know it. Gimme one more shot. You won't regret it!


It's sad isn't it? How easily I fall into the simplicity of my own humanity. As if any possible scenario that I could come up with could be better than whatever God has in store for me. If I've learned anything from the life that He has provided me, it is that I seriously suck at imagination. I mean, I live in a little house tucked into the coffee and bananas growing at the bottom of a freakin' volcano in ever-lovin' Costa Rica! Costa Rica!! My kids are bilingual. My dogs are bilingual. My full-time job is to share faith, hope and love. Like, that's what I'm supposed to do with my day. And, yet, when I start to get the feeling that my path isn't headed in the direction I'd like, when it feels like I'm not in control, I immediately turn into a Law-and-Order lawyer (that hot blond one, please) offering God a plea-bargain for a better future. I know. Dumb. I'm slow like that...

Okay, so now I have a problem. See, remember all those "if I live" promises I made? Well...I lived. And so far, I haven't really made good on my end of any of those bargains. If God were in the business of making deals, I would be so screwed. But, lucky for me, He's not. Or I would have negotiated myself into a very safe, very comfortable, very boring life. And I would have missed out on this scary, thrilling, adventure, with bi-lingual kids and dogs and everything! In that sense, I would have written myself, and my family, into a tragedy. A life without depending on Him, without looking for Him all the time, maybe even without seeing Him, knowing Him, needing Him....

But here I am, taking a break from this unusual extraordinary life that God has dreamed up for me, to spend the holidays stateside with family. And, God? If I survive this....

12.15.2009

The Death Defying Adventures of the VWM

Today, I’m flying to California with my two younger sons (El Chupacabra and the oldest will fly out on Saturday after camp) where we will celebrate Christmas and New Years, as well as, five family birthdays! Mmmm, good times...

Our flight is delayed. But I don’t mind at all! Really, I don’t. I hate flying so much that every time they announce another 5 minute delay, I feel like my life has been extended by God...like as a personal favor...and I give him a little “thanks for letting me live” nod. I seriously hate flying. Hate it. It fills me with dread so that every time I buy airfare, I think to my self, “This can’t end well...”

So here I am, in our little Juan Santa Maria International airport...waiting to die. I totally understand the statistics behind it and everything, I know that I have a much greater chance being killed in a car accident than a plane crash. That’s totally fine with me - I’m not afraid of dying. I am, however, afraid of falling out of the sky. The idea of...

You have GOT to be kidding me! ....I’m sorry, can you hold on a sec?

Um, hey Slappy! Yeah, you and your leathery friend. *Pointing*, YOU, the two guys shouting about your skanky Costa Rican sexploits. Um, could you please, please, PLEASE shut the hell up?? Pretty please? I mean, it’s cool and all, how you “got busy” with the fat chick in red boots, and also that hot blond that stupidly asked you for taxi money afterward. And I’m real happy that the dirty hooker only charged you 40 bucks. That’s just great! No, really...it’s awesome. I mean, I can’t get enough of your sleazy, morning-after voices, loudly recounting how you left your wife and kid at home and found your way here, where you, apparently, porked one third of the female population. Good for you. But, if you could just, you know, like, tone it down a little? No, no, not for me, I mean, I am a prudish missionary and everything, but I’m asking for the sake of my 9 and 11 year old sons who don’t yet appreciate terms like “delicious piece of snake bait“ or,...what was that other one? Oh, yes, I think you actually used the words “bar-fly-macaroni-muncher”. Mmm, yeah. So maybe, take it down a notch? or six? That would be super. Thanks. And, by the way, I’m not exactly sure what “making a splash landing” means, but I’m pretty sure that whatever you “splashed” into was just brimming with gonorrhea. Oh, and, I hope your wiener rots off. And that your poor wife leaves your old, leathery ass and finds herself a young, rich, male-supermodel that values her as a human being while simultaneously filling you with feelings of inadequacy. I say that with love. And grace. I’m a missionary, you know....Oh, and Jesus loves you!

And now, they’re calling us to board, so I didn’t even get to finish my rant about my fear of going splat...which I’m pretty sure I’m about to do....

If I never blog again, I want you to know, this has been cool. Thanks for reading, friends.

12.13.2009

The Dreaded Prayer Card. I'm sorry you have to see this.

One of the very worst things about being a missionary is that you have to have this thing called a "prayer card". It's kind of like a rule...

The rule says that you have to have your picture taken with your whole family, and you all have to be smiling and matching and stuff. Somewhere on this perfect happy family picture, you have to print junk like your name and where to send "gifts". Then you have to give this picture to everyone you've ever known. After that, you carry a stash around with you and give them to every one you meet. It's like a business card, only bigger...and more obnoxious.

Two things about Prayer Cards; They are generally lame. ~ and ~ They are generally a lie.

I mean come on. Are we really supposed to believe that you all like each other that much? Is your color scheme trying to convince us of some kind of peaceful and balanced harmony that surrounds you because you serve the Lord by vocation? Is this single frame, this fraction of a smiling second, a fair representation of your family? Because, dang, if it is? That's just....scary... And, I don't buy the whole "we're so happy because Jesus gave us these matching denim shirts" scenario. No. Just..no.

But, the thing is, if you wanna do this missions thing, you gotta have a Prayer Card. You just have to, there's no getting around it...believe me. So a couple of weeks ago, my family headed out to a secluded spot with a talented photographer to pretend for five minutes the we can stand each other. Originally, the plan was to just do a Christmas card. It was supposed to be just the kids and I told them they could wear whatever they want (totally against the rules, but whatever). I just wanted one fake smiling picture of my kids pretending to love each other to send to all the people that support us and pray for us. That doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?

The photographer took over 200 shots. Today she gave me a disk with like 30 pictures on it. "The good ones." Thirty! Thirty that include, um, this one:
Nothing says "Merry Christmas from your favorite missionaries" like (from front to back) duck-lips!, pre-teen skeezer in a Santa hat, and OMG-my-brothers-are-retards.

And then there's this one:
Yeah, there's kind of a lot going on here; A) Santa kid looks like he's been huffing industrial adhesive. B) The big guy is either swearing a blue streak, or saying the word "Rawk" - neither of which is ok. Aaand, C) I'm pretty sure the little creeper on the right needs an exorcism...
Um, for real kid? Why do you have to look like a pshyco right now?

So, then I flipped my lid and started screaming and yelling about just wanting one decent picture of my children before I die, and could they PLEASE? Just for ONE. FREAKING. SECOND. pretend like we are a NORMAL. FREAKING. FAMILY....PLEASE?!

Which resulted in this:
"Screw you, Mom! We're so outta here...."

When they came back, the photographer suggested that we try to grab a couple of shots with the whole family!
"Wait...Like this? Where are we looking? Should I stop talking so you can take a picture? Smile, kids, smile!"

In the end, we got the shot. The perfect picture for our 2010 Prayer Card. A picture that says, "Oh, Yes! These are the people I want representing Christ in Latin America!" Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the most awesome Prayer Card pic in the history of the world!:

It's a thing of beauty, is it not? Ok, it's true that it breaks all the rules of Prayer Card etiquette. But, seriously, how could we not use this? Everybody is gonna want a copy of this stuck to their stainless steel fridge! Right?

The only thing missing is the caption, and the names and crap. I am totally open to suggestions, but I'm thinking something like:
These are No Ordinary Missionaries - Pray for Costa Rica!

But, what do you think? Any ideas?

12.12.2009

Lemmings

I learned something today. And it rocked my world.

You know lemmings? Those little Scandinavian doodads that pile up at the edge of a sea cliff and jump to their cute, little, critter deaths in the churning, cold waters of the north Atlantic? Of course you do. Everybody knows about lemmings and their follow-the-leader-ritual-march-to-mass suicide. It's just a fact. We've seen it with our own two eyes on the Discovery Channel. Discovery Channel = Fact. Duh! I mean, everyone - in the world - knows that lemmings are little round furballs with big sad eyes that throw themselves off a cliff in some kind of anthropomorphic tribute to Sylvia Plath.

Today, El Chupacabra tried to tell me that the FACTS about lemming behavior are, in fact, a lie. I looked up from my coffee and said, "No, they are not. Now stop being an idiot." But he insisted that no, our little lemming friends are not the depressed death cult that we all know and love. He said that on occasion, lemmings, in their instinctive plight to migrate, will find themselves stopped by a tall cliff, but that because they move in large numbers, the guys at the front get pushed off by the pressing crowd which starts a chain reaction of lemmings either falling or jumping to the water where, with no exit plan, they swim to exhaustion, and eventually death. And then he tried to tell me that the whole "suicidal lemming" thing was perpetrated by Disney. Ridiculous, right? I know. So I immediately turned to the source of undisputed truth in this broken world...Wikipedia. And guess what? Wiki told me El Chupacabra was....right...

"Even more influential was the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness, which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, in which footage was shown that seems to show the mass suicide of lemmings.[10] ...A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, Cruel Camera, found that the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where they did not jump off the cliff, but in fact were launched off the cliff using a turntable.[11]"

Can you believe that? I'm kinda pissed.

Mostly, I'm mad at myself, for buying the lie. But I'm super mad at Disney, too, because they built a giant lazy-susan and used it to fling those little fuzz-balls off a cliff, but they never made it into a ride at Disneyland and that would have been awesome. (Ok, and also, I'm peeved because El Chupacabra was right. Again. And, frankly, I'm just sick and tired of it.)

I believed it. I never questioned it for even one second. But, today, as Wiki revealed the truth, I just sat there shaking my head, like, "No way. No freaking way....Everything I've ever believed about lemmings was...false."

A few months ago, one of my pastors said that maybe my spiritual gift was "crap detecting" (which I took as a huge compliment until I realized his point was that, perhaps, I should try focusing on finding the good in people. Which, by the way, I tried, and it's like WAY harder than it sounds...). It's just that, I'm not a huge fan of being manipulated. I don't believe in flattery. And I tend to call BS where I think I see it. The super down-side of this, is that I also tend to question peoples motives too harshly, I'm always looking for the "angle", and I am overly skeptical of programs, numbers, and formats. And sometimes, you know like once in a while, people are actually being genuine, or even *gasp* kind. And also, programs can be good, and numbers can be helpful, and formats can be reliable. The thing is, I'm not much of a follower, which in itself, is neither good nor bad. But, I can be...*ahem*...a bit hyper-critical of people that do stuff because "that's how it's always been done" or whatever. I've sort of prided myself on not being...well...a lemming. Not jumping off a cliff, or on a bandwagon, just because that's what I saw everybody else doing (she blogged! sheesh, I just get lamer and lamer...).

Today, I realized (besides the fact that lemmings are not the cute, round, death-daring chubsters that I had in my head, but instead are giant, oogy, wet rats that deserve to die) that I am a lemming. I'm a lemming when I want to be, a follower when I feel like it. Maybe my "crap detector" isn't as finely tuned as I like to pretend. Maybe, I'm no different than the corny suburban Christianites, declaring "a God thing" when they find a parking spot in the shade, or when they run into their best friend from high-school at Target. And maybe I fall right into line with the hip urban Christ-followers "doing life" with their dope friends in rad clothes at epic parties. The fact that I blindly believed that lemmings were cliff-diving harikiri specialists, in itself, makes me a lemming.

I don't really have a point. Except that maybe, the only difference between me and the lemmings (besides the fact that I have Wiki and they don't, which sucks for them) is that I get to choose who I follow, or even if I will follow. I get to choose if I want to wear capris and have a fish symbol stuck to the back of my SUV. Or, I can, if I want, wear vintage and thrift, and stretch my earlobes and tattoo three words of my favorite scripture on the inside of my wrist, or whatever. Or, I can choose none of that. I can choose not to follow at all. It's up to me. A word of warning for non-conformists: Sometimes, your choice, will make people uncomfortable, and they will want to throw you off a cliff using a giant turn-table because you refuse to cooperate with their idea of what a lemming...er...a Christian should do, or be, or look like, or talk like, or whatever. And other times, you may choose a path which you later decide was the wrong direction, and where you find yourself at the edge of a cliff, wanting to turn back, but being pushed forward by the rest of the group. So tread quietly lest you inflame the powerful masses, and tread carefully lest you lead others in the wrong direction, but tread, none the less.

So, I guess that I was wrong about you, lemmings. Sorry. And if you are a Christian that I may have happened to call a lemming because I assumed you never chose and that you simply did what you saw everybody else doing, I'm sorry about that, too. Wiki told me that sometimes I'm wrong (which El Chupacabra points out all the time, but he's not Wiki, sooo, you know...I just don't really believe him). But, I might have been wrong about you, lady with the mom jeans and pink t-shirt that says "Modest is the New Sexy" in rhinestones. And maybe I was wrong about you, too, hipster with streaked hair covering one eye and that cool scarf thingy around your neck. And all you others, that I might have wrongly accused of falling into line before you asked "why" - I'm sorry. I'm a jerk.

I think that maybe it's time for me to get serious about my pastors suggestion. You know, that thing about finding the good in everyone?

Pshhhh....who am I kidding?...

12.08.2009

Sometimes, someone makes a difference...

Most of the time, the world is funny to me. Funny how we all go about our business - self-absorbed, oblivious, indifferent - it makes me laugh. Funny how it seems like everybody has a "cause" these days. Funny how everyone wants to do something, save Africa, Indonesia, Inner-City New Jersey, or Costa Rica, end hunger, dig a well, cure AIDS. And funny how once in while, something really and truly good comes out of it, despite us. Occasionally - after tons of people talk about it and then a bunch of people give toward it, and because a few organized it and a handful erected it - a well is built, or a vaccine is given, or whatever. Someone's life is changed because someone else decided it was important enough. I think it's funny to me, because it's easier to say "it's funny, isn't it", than it is for me to change. I know that might sound weird since I actually live in an emerging country and my job is supposed to "make an impact" or something. But, it's funny to me that, I'm one of the most screwed up people I know, and I'm here "making an impact", while all the normal people are, like,...at Starbucks.

Ok, not ALL of the normal people are at Starbucks (but a butt-ton of them are!). Today, I want to introduce you to Mark. He's a normal guy, with a cause. But he's not just talking about his cause, or giving toward it. And he's not just organizing it, or even just doing it (sorry Nike®). He's actually doing all of those things at once, by recruiting and mobilizing others to engage in the plight of refugees worldwide.

Please check out RedBrown.org

Find out what's really happening in the world. Your world. Yes, there are refugees hidden in your own back yard. Maybe if you know about what is happening to these men, women and children, you will make refugees your cause. Maybe, because you talk about it, or give toward it, or help to organize the effort to do something, an impact will be made.
Maybe if you do something, a life will be changed.
Maybe that life will be a young woman's. Maybe it will be a young child's. Maybe it will be yours... RedBrown.org

12.07.2009

Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do IT: Toilet floods and pissy neighbors! Calgon take me away...

Oh my gosh...I know, I know already! You've been just dying for the second installment of Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do IT. So has the girl with the latest question. Actually, I feel kinda bad, because I got this email, like, a month ago, and it's one of those "I'm having the worst day of my life and I don't know what to do!" kinds of questions, and I was totally gonna reply that day, but...I dunno,...I got busy and stuff, and then I just...like...forgot...
So anyway, here's the Very Worst Missionaries response to your disastrous emergency/highly distressed email. Hope it helps:

Dear J the VWM,
Okay - So what DOES one do when the downstairs toilet floods, the next door property owner comes and yells because my tree branch is hanging over his totally ugly, unoccupied property, 5 people yell at me during a totally free health clinic, my clothes on the line get SOAKED because the TORRENTIAL downpour of one of the worst storms this season, lose 3 hours of sleep because of said storm, husband is out of country, house invaded by a scorpion and multiple millipedes ALL IN ONE DAY?! anxiously awaiting your "sound advice" :-)
Erin

Well Erin,
I'm glad you asked.

So, I hate to answer your question with a question (especially this late in the game!) but when you say "toilet floods"...um...what exactly are we talking about? I only ask because if it means that, like, clear tap water was overflowing from the the square tank-dealy in the back? Then, you know, no worries, throw down a couple of towels, grab a glass of wine, and call the land lord. You're a missionary, you don't have time to for this kind of crap.
-BUT-
If we're talking about some other kind of "toilet flood", I mean, if there are, like, turds motor boating around your coffee table? Then, you need to take action. Now! And there's only one thing to do; Okay. Do you know how to make a Molotov Cocktail? Cause you're going to need one. Yes. I am serious. There are some occasions - very few occasions - when it is simply better to just burn the whole house down and start over. I'm afraid this is one of them. Trust me...

The thing with the neighbor is a no brainer: "I no espeaky espanish."
Who cares if you've talked to him in Spanish twice a week for a year. Believe me, when you start looking at him with wide eyes, saying "I no understando." He'll give up pretty quick.
This tactic should also work in your Med Clinic, but sometimes sick people can be all like...pushy. Ya know? So, if they continue to harass you after you've said loudly "You no needo medicino!" a bunch of times, give them each a handfull of laxatives and tell them they are "happy pills". *Important note* Only do this IF the ingrates live down-sewer from the poo-geyser filling up your downstairs bathroom!

As for the rest of it, you need to RE-lax, girl! Calm down! You're talking funny. Storms happen, husbands go places, and creepy sh*t is constantly squirming it's way under our door frames, scrambling in through our windows, hiding in virtually every dark corner of our houses. We're missionaries for God's sake!...oh, ahem....I meeeant...We are missionaries, for the sake of God...
And, just between you and me, I totally feel your pain. I've had a few of those days myself, in fact. But the cool thing is, I have this friend, she's a nurse who runs a free health clinic in Honduras, and she's AMAZING! This girl knows how to handle her business. Once, while her husband was traveling, and in the middle of one mother of a storm, she managed to take care of like a million crazy things in one day, still cared for her patients at the clinic, still acted kindly toward her wanker of a neighbor, and also, I heard somewhere, that in all that chaos, she carved out some time for her beautiful daughter because it was just the two of them at home that week, and she wasn't going to let a little thing like a lack of sleep or a fecal matter flood keep her from her mission. Pretty cool, huh.
So, while I hope this never happens again (especially the part about poop everywhere), you and I both know, it probably will. Yeah. That's just the nature of the beast. I mean, I currently have some sort of scaly growth on the back of my head and I'm pretty sure it's trying to burrow it's way into my delicious brain, so, you know...this kind of stuff just....happens. But, I hope you'll think of my friends example, and take heart, because she's pretty inspirational, isn't she? She's basically a kick-ass missionary, and I want to be more like her. It's funny, her name is Erin, too.

It's incredible, isn't it? How good I am at this? Like I've finally found my calling...

Happy Scorpion Smashing!
The VWM

(um, for a while now, I've been thinking that VWM sounded like some kind of sexually transmitted disease, and I just now realized that that's because IT IS!! VW. Jeez, how embarrassing! Here I thought I was being all freakin cutesy and instead I've managed to identify myself as the "Venereal Warts Missionary". Awesome.)

12.05.2009

Top 10 Reasons El Chupacabra wins for "Sexiest Mythical Creature"

Today was amazing.

Seriously? It was like my favorite day in a really long time. And that's saying a lot because last night El Chupacabra and I went out to dinner with our friends, Brian and Theo, and we laughed so hard and so loud that people were staring at us, and some were pointing and whispering. But in defense of the pointer/whisperers, and with great apology to other North Americans who live around here, we were being a bunch of obnoxious Gringos, and we did take pictures of other patrons with our phones (ok, that was just me), and, worst of all, Brian and Theo absolutely wore matching Chacos. Oh, and at one point I earned the title of "just one of the guys" (later recanted when I said something about slitting my wrists if I had to hear one more "that's what she said" joke). So anyway, very fun night with two really cool guys who inexplicably left their even cooler wives at home for this trip. But I forgive them, cause I'm just good like that.

So, today!: The football team that El Chupacabra is coaching had their first game!
It wasn't like a real game, just an exhibition fund raiser for the Costa Rican Children's Hospital, but the guys actually took the field in their uniforms and helmets, and there were refs there - with striped shirts and whistles and flags and everything. And, just so we're clear, I'm talking about North American style football. Yes, here, in Central America. So basically, my husband has taken on the role of coaching guys (over 18) to play a sport that most of them have never played, never learned, and rarely seen on TV. That's awesome, right? They seriously have NO IDEA what they're getting themselves into. And they got ~crushed~ today. But that's not why I'm happy. I'm happy because I love watching El Chupacabra work it. I LOVE IT. And today I got to see him at his best, engaging in something he loves, investing in a group of guys, analyzing, processing, teaching, encouraging, and leading in a way that I've never seen any other man do with such exceptional grace, and exemplary skill. Oh, and then there's this:

Listen, I'm not here to brag or anything...but see that big guy there? The one with the extra-large "Jaguars" t-shirt stretched over his massive frame? That's him, El Chupacabra... and HOT DAMN! That's mine!

I spent hours, today, just watching him. It reminded me of sitting in the bleachers at his college games. Of course, back then I had a squirming baby in my arms (And today, as I choked on my heart, that very same baby left me alone in the bleachers to sit somewhere else with a very pretty girl...Teenagers suck). Speaking of teenagers - the first years of our marriage probably could have been studied and used by the military to enhance psychological warfare tactics. It was that messed up. But, when I sat in the stands at his football games I felt nothing but pride. When he took the field, nothing but concern. When his team lost, nothing but compassion. When they won? Pure, blissful, JOY. I'm pretty sure that game nights were, like, the only "healthy" nights our early marriage enjoyed.

So to sit behind him at the game today (now that I actually like him) was pretty cool. Except that this time I was the proud coaches wife, which, in my opinion, is like a step up from being a college football player's "baby momma". So that was nice, too. But, mostly, today reminded me of how lucky I am to be on El Chupacabra's team. So I made this:

Top 10 Reasons El Chupacabra wins for "Sexiest Mythical Creature" (in no particular order)

1. Um, did you see that picture? You might wanna go back and look again.... Yeah, that's what I thought.

2. El Chupacabra can do anything. I'm not even kidding. I've seen it with my own two eyes. The other day, when my Mac charger petered out, he took the thing apart, snipped off the end (yes - I had a freaking heart attack!!) and made a new one. And I was like "What. the. hell. Who does that? Who knows how to do that?" And he can braid hair. And sew. And he can weld. He can run fiber optics cables. He can fix car junk. And he can do math. Look, I cannot even begin to get across how much of anything he can do. He can do, like...all of it.

3. Go on, look at their faces... ...a lot of guys look at him like this. I'm not sure if it's admiration or if they are actually kind of crushing on him, but that look in their eyes...that's it. That's reason number three.

4. El Chupacabra is huge. Huge. HUGE. And that makes me look really teeny tiny in pics. And also, it makes me feel safe - well, actually - it makes me safe. Because nobody effs with a giant.

5. This mythical creature rocks a beard of mythical proportions...in the tropics. (He said to me the other day, "Hey babe? If I get the swine flu and go into a coma - DO NOT let them shave me! I mean, like, my beard, cause that would be some quality undisturbed growth time right there.")

6. His arms don't even hang down at his sides like a normal man because his lats won't let them. And he's not even working out right now.

7. Um...

8. You know what....?

9. I'm just gonna say this; 7, 8, and 9 are a secret. And. They are incredible.

10. This is my absolute favorite thing about him: Everything El Chupacabra does - in his home, in his work, on the football field, in Costa Rica or in the U.S., at church and on the street, in front of people and in private - he does in obedience to God. He moves through the world, all six and a half feet of him (!), with easy Grace. With loads of patience. With a clear purpose and a high calling. And he requires no thanks, hoping only one day to hear, "Well done. Well done...My good and faithful servant."

I saw it out there, today. He stood in the blazing sun for hours with a bunch of guys who will probably never be very good football players. He patted them on the back, he slapped them on their helmets, he ran them on and off the field. He put his long arm around them when he told them how they were royally screwing up. And when one of his players dislocated his elbow, El Chupacabra protected him - literally - picking up grown men by the backs of their jerseys, and tossing them away like midgets (which may have something to do with #8, but i'm not saying). And, then he stayed til long after the game ended, to make sure that all of his guys were taken care of, even though he was tired and hungry, and even though his wife and kids were bored and ready to leave. He stayed until the job was done. Not until the coaching was done, but the whole job. His job of loving and caring for these guys, of building relationships with them, learning about them, meeting their girlfriends, their parents, shaking their hands, saying a million times, "Good work out there today. Good work!"

When El Chupacabra steps out there with his team, he isn't just showing up as a coach. He's bringing so much more to the field. It's almost like it's not about football at all. It's almost like he's using the football field to point out the One who put it under our feet. It's almost like...I dunno....like he's a missionary....

His team has won, and they don't even know it yet.


12.04.2009

The price of doing business.

Ok, listen. I'm gonna tell you something, and I hope we can still be friends, but I will totally understand if you need to be like, "Hey Jamie, I like you and all, but this is just too much, ya know?". And I mean that. Truly. But I'll let you decide...
Oh. And also, just so you know, this is going to give you the heeby-jeebies. Big time. So sorry about that:

Um, for a while now, I've been growing a third eye on the back of my head. (
I know, I know, just stay with me here...) It's not like an awesome Shiva style third eye. No, nooo, nohohoho...*sigh*. This is no third eye of enlightenment, no third eye of consciousness. There is nothing sexy about it at all. In fact, it's not even really an "eye". That's just what we've been calling it ever since I asked El Chupacabra to look at the back of my head bacause something was just, I dunno...not right...,and when he did, he sceamed, "GAH!! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT NASTY THIRD EYE!" So, "third eye" is kind of like a nick-name for "lumpy patch of itchy crust". I warned you about the heeby-jeebies (jeez, why did you keep reading?!).

One of the sweetest things that happens when we work with our kiddos in the precario is that the girls play with our hair. The bigger girls usually braid it. The littler ones pretend to braid it by twisting two peices together until they are painfully knotted against your scalp. It's pretty much guaranteed that if I scoop up one of the little ones to sit on my lap during the story, her tiny fingers will gravitate north to my messy ponytail and the whisps of hair floating around my face. And I love it. It's a very tender and affectionate thing when a 3 year old tucks a wayward piece of hair behind your ear so they can see your face better from 2 inches away.
There is just one problem. It's those tiny fragile fingers and the children they are attached to. They're dirty. And I don't mean like "wash up before supper" kind of dirty. These kids live and play in..well, basically poop. So naturally, they are teaming with all kinds of poop germs and other stuff. Which brings me back to the third eye on the back of my head, because I think that's where it came from. Precario poop fingers. That's the medical term for it, I'm pretty sure. No, but really, it's like some kind of fungal thing.

And it's really
----------> *fml side-note* A second ago, I got hungry, so I grabbed the Nesquik Duo out of the pantry which is also the laundry room. And I don't know if you have Nesquik Duo in English, but I hope you do cause it's THE BEST cereal to eat dry, straight out of the box, by the handful. The best. So that's what I was doing, ya know, typing with one hand, and hauling loads of chocolate cereal to my mouth with the other, and switching hands occasionally. And then an itty bitty ant appeared on my keyboard. Which is not all that unusual, except that I'm in bed and there are usually NOT ants in my bed. And then there was one on my arm...and my neck...and then other arm... And I just now realized that this box of cereal is full of ants. And now so is my bed. And my belly. *shudder*
...grossing me out. (Ironic?)

And you wanna know how to fix it? I love this; Head & Shoulders. Like the shampoo from the 80's for people that only wear black turtle neck with white flakes of dandruff on the shoulders. Yup - one month of Head & Shoulders and I'll be good as new (God, please please please - let that be true!). And, guess what. The good, flake-free, people over there at Head & Shoulders now offer an anti-frizz conditioner so that you hair will look and feel great while you kill the crusty third eye inhabiting the back of your head! Win.

"Now I'm free to let my beloved babies dig around in my hair with their grubby poop fingers - Head & Shoulders will take care of the rest!"
- Mother Theresa
(ok, I made that up. But I bet she would agree.)

So, please pray for my "condition" and for my "conditioner". Thank you.

And again, I understand if this crossed the friendship line for you. I mean, Jesus hung out with Lepers and everything...but He was Jesus, so you know...whatever...

12.02.2009

Crappy stuff, part 2

First off, I received a good amount of mail regarding yesterdays post. Many funny/sad/terrifying accounts of douchebaggery in the name of Jesus, and a couple of Bible-beater antics that made my hands clammy. You were all super cool about it, too, the way you kept it on the DL and sent your stories in private messages. I mean, what kind of person would call somebody out, like, publicly, on the Internet?...

I'm sort of (completely) picking up in the middle here so you might need to read this first... Go ahead. We'll wait...Ok, all caught up? Good.
Anyway, sorry about yesterday...I was a jerk and I left you hanging. But I had stuff to do - you know how it is. So, um, I'm just gonna go ahead and pick up pretty much exactly where we left off....Okay, sooo:

You know when someone does or says something to you and then you spend like the rest of the day thinking of all the things you shoulda said and what your gonna do next time - even though you know that there will never actually be a next time and that the moment will never ever come for you to use that snarky come-back or clever quip? This was like that, except that there was gonna be a next time. A definitive next time. A next time that I was in complete control of. The Grand Daddy of all next times. And I was not gonna to screw it up.
I had 20 minutes at my disposal. And one week to prepare. What.to.do...became the question of the hour.

News of nose-ring persecution travels fast. So when I finally escaped his presence after our second hour of class, I was met by a group of friends who had already heard what happened. Friends with tattoos and piercings. They were, needless to say, sympathetic. But the best part is that this one guy came up to us, and I didn't really know him very well, but he was this big guy, from the waaay deep south, who, I sweeear, wore bibbed denim overalls. So he comes up and - ok, it is really, really important that you read this with the greatest podunk, backwoods, hill-billy accent you can muster -he goes "Aaw girl? I heard! An I 'as thinkin'bout it. An I think me and Mikey here, we need'a go have us a chat with yer frien! 'Chat' means Mike's gonna hold'em down, an I'n gonna kick his ass (pronounced Aye-yass)!" And then he laughed like an inbred redneck while a little part of me fell in love...

And then everyone was like "What are you gonna do?"
Here is a sampling of some of the low-down-dirty-rotten things that I considered speaking on as a rebuttal to what I like to refer to as the anti-Jamie-hate-study:

Defining "the WORLD": Why India and Africa still count.

Social Economics: The Value of NOT being an Unrelateble Ass-hat.

Fashion IS a statement: and your spongy Reebok's are saying you have wicked hemorrhoids.

Out of Context: The Dangers of Using Scripture to Say what WE want, Rather Than what GOD wants. (Complete with out-of-context study guide showing why you are going to hell.)

Calvinism vs Arminianism: Are you, sir - in the Reebok's - yes you, are you totally depraved or only partially depraved? Let's take a vote.

and,

101 Ways that Proverbs 11:22 has absolutely nothing to do with "nasal piercings", thankyouverymuch.

So, I guess it's kind of obvious why I couldn't use any of these ideas. You got it. It's cause "ass-hat" doesn't translate very well. So I had to take it a different direction...

No, the truth is, I spent a whole lot of time thinking about this and praying about it that week. And I didn't really know what to do. In the end, I decided not to pursue the idea of hurting, shaming, or otherwise embarrassing the guy. Instead, the morning of my assignment I scribbled out a very rough outline and went with the passage from Ezekiel 16, not because I wanted to prove anything, but because Ezekiel 16 1:14 is my story, and the rest is my warning.

I have been rescued, a starving and undesired child, from the fields of the compassionless. It was God who said to me "Live", and who grew me up. Who covered me with his own garment, and made me His. He cleaned me and salved my wounds. God put a crown on my head. It was Him who perfected any hope I ever had for beauty...

I don't wear a nose ring because I think it's cool. Although..ahem...it is. I wear a ring in my nose because the last thing I see before I close my eyes to pray is a tiny glint of sliver reminding me to whom I belong. We have a covenant, God and I. My nose ring reminds me not to be like Israel who betrayed Him with her beauty and made idols with His gifts, who was weak-willed, and unfaithful.
I wear a ring in my nose because God has given me his solid oath and He is jealous for me to keep it. I am His. I want to honor that. That's all. That's it.

It's not a very glamorous ending, is it?

But I played out all those scenarios in my head that week, all possible"You know what I'm gonna say?!" moments, and I finally remembered that I didn't give a rip what that guy thought of me. Balls to him! If he wants to use a Bible study as an opportunity to bash somebody, let him. I could not, in good conscience, do the same. So I just told my story. And I'm pretty sure God loved it...

Oh, I just have to tell you this, though; When I began speaking, the guy tipped his head back against the wall, took off his glasses and went to sleep, thereby missing out on one hell of a redemption tale. When he woke up (or pretended to wake up?) and everyone was crying and snotting all over the place - because that's what redemption stories do to people - he stretched and yawned and said, "Sorry about that... I just couldn't stay with you..." What did I tell you? Douche-canoe!

12.01.2009

If you do crappy stuff that people blog about years later, you should probably not be a missionary.

I wear a ring in my nose. It's freaking adorable. At least, that's what I hear. Sometimes.
The thing about stuff like nose-rings and tattoos, and all that junk, is that people only mention them to tell you how rad they think they are. If they hate it, if it grosses them out, even if they think it flies in the face of Biblical truth and principle, they'll keep their mouths shut. Sometimes.

I've had 3 people say crappy things to my face about the tiny ring looped through my left nostril. One was a relative. The other 2 were pastors.

When I walked into church with my nose pierced (this was, like, 9 years ago) one pastor (who had a booming, baritone voice) greeted me and said very, very loudly, "HI there JAMIE! Oh. Look at that. Well, LIKE A GOLD RING IN A PIG'S SNOUT IS a beautiful woman WHO SHOWS NO DISCRETION! THAT's from PROVERBS. HEH HEH HEH!"
I was like "Ok, so I'm not sure if you're calling me a pig, or if you're implying that I lack discretion...or what?" And then I just stood there looking at him, and when it was sufficiently awkward, I left. So that was fun.

And then, last year, when I was studying Spanish with a mixed bag of Christian hipsters, social retards, and suburban pastors gone global, I met the biggest, most pompous bunghole that God has ever breathed life into. It got pretty bad between me and this guy because he was constantly spewing bullsh...stuff, and I was constantly (and not very lovingly) calling him on it. If you haven't noticed, I don't really hold a lot back, and also, I tend to wear my heart on my face, to the degree that the very worst things that I say, I say completely without words.

This guy was a self-proclaimed "expert in missions"
... I think he also considered himself a leading authority in Jesus, and Truth, and the Bible, among other Christian things. Yeah, he was that guy. And I got to spend 4 hours a day, 5 days a week with him. For one of our classes we had to prepare and give a 20 minute Bible study in Spanish once a week. The teacher assigned the subject ahead of time, like, culture or food or something, and then we could prepare and present our own thoughts on the matter and lead a discussion. This guy just did whatever he wanted, though. Talked about whatever, blew-off our professor with an "I think I know better than you" shrug of the shoulders. We're talking royal prig.

We had had a few verbal jousting matches before, so I should not have been the least bit surprised the day he launched his Bible study as an assault against me personally, my character, my ability to serve God as a missionary, and of all things, my nose ring. For real. He sat down, looked me right in the eye, and using the same pig snout/bad lady line from Proverbs that I had heard years earlier, he ranted about how worried he was that there are people going into missions that lack the "discretion" to understand that having something like a nose ring would be considered offensive to "the majority of the world". That's a quote. That's why I used those little " " thingys...cause he actually said that!

UM, THE MAJORITY OF THE WORLD? MY ASS!! APPARENTLY WE DON'T COUNT INDIA, AFRICA, or THE FREAKIN SOUTH PACIFIC in the MAJORITY of the WORLD!!

Whooo, sorry. Thanks for letting me get that out...

Anyhoo...The bell for our 5 minute break sounded just as he was wrapping up the 40th minute of his 20 minute Bible study. And, not even kidding, everyone, all the people that had been watching the blood boil up the sides of my neck, literally ran out the door, the teacher, and everybody. Leaving just the 2 of us. Alone. Together. What a bunch of dirty sadists.

So the guy closes his Bible, and says to me, like a smug s.o.b., "I thought you might find that scripture on nasal piercings interesting."

My mouth said, "Yes. Interesting."
But my face said, "I'm about to punch you in your ear."
(Or, it might have been, "I hope you double over from some bloody poop disease." Whatever it said, it was bad. And that guy turned kinda greyish, and I could see his Adam's apple going up and down as he swallowed hard like the guys in old western movies...right before they eat it.)
I snarled "You missed something in your 'studies'. You should take a look at Ezekiel 16. You might find it...interesting." Then I gave him a big forced smile, which I can totally admit was a super creepy thing to do, but at the same time, it was better then giving him the finger, right?

So right then, as if God himself was like, "Go get em' Baby Girl!", the break ended and my teacher announced that I would be responsible for next weeks study, and, I could choose my own topic. (Look, I'm not the only one that saw this guy as a total douche-canoe.) I like to think that our dear, sweet little professor wanted me to crush him like an ant. Using the Bible. I think she may have even winked at me, "He's all yours tiger. Tear him a new one." So basically, I had God, and the professor, and the other students, and pretty much all of the faculty, and all of my family and friends with whom I had been relaying stories of this guys never ending douchiness, and they were all on my side. Vengeance is sweet.

So, you wanna know what I did?

Wait...What would you have done? Have you ever been the recipient of someone's reckless use of scripture to make a point? Have you done this to someone, and maybe realized later that you were wrong? How would you rebuff someone that made a personal and public attack against you?

I'll tell you how I used my 20 minutes and the week leading up to it....tomorrow...