1.25.2010

Sabotage.

Before we could call ourselves missionaries, we had to jump through some hoops. Like circus dogs, leaping through rings of fire. We were reluctant, we hesitated, then jumped as far and as fast as we could, eyes squeezed shut. Terrified. Each time we got to the other side unharmed, hair smoking, we celebrated for a second and then said to each other, “Ok, Let’s NEVER do that again.” But then the prodding came back, the poking, cajoling, the constant urging from God; move forward, jump through the next hoop. So we did, again and again, until there were no more hoops to jump through. And then one day we were sitting on a plane in the sky over Guatemala with our entire lives zipped up in 10 bags and 5 backpacks. When I looked at El Chupacabra from across the aisle his tired face said the same thing as mine:


How the hell did this happen?!


It’s funny, because, not even kidding, the whole time we were going through the process of becoming missionaries - receiving the churches blessing, applying, raising support, training, saying goodbye, driving to the airport - we just knew that God couldn’t possibly want us on the mission field. We were fully anticipating that God would end the shenanigans. Pull the plug. Put the kibosh on it. Yank the carpet out from under us.


So we tried to help Him along at every opportunity.


We told ourselves that all God really wanted was for us to be obedient, for us to be “willing”. We agreed that God would have to be either crazy or stupid to send us out into the world to make a claim for Him. And since we knew he was neither of those things, we knew He would never actually send us. We’d proven our “willingness”, we’d said “Yes!”. Now it was God’s turn to say “Thanks, now go back to what you were doing.” We didn’t want to rest on our laurels while God did all the work, so we actively participated in every way we knew how to bring this missions train to a screeching halt. We were certain that we weren’t ever actually going to be missionaries. And we were 100% okay with that.


We were counting on our church to be the first to say, “No.” We thought, because they knew us so well (and we made sure to remind them of all of our dirty...you know....dirtiness) that they would graciously let us know that we just weren’t a good fit for missions, we were too fragile, too immature, too...lame for this path.


Then they said, “Go for it. We think it’s a great fit. We think you’re ready.” And when we got home I cried.


The same thing happened when we applied with our agency. We filled out the strengths and weaknesses section, paying particular attention to our weaknesses. Then we put them in the mail and prepared ourselves for rejection, patting each other on the back for being willing to follow God’s leading. Then we got the email that said “You’re in.” And we were stunned. And I cried.


It was obvious that God wanted us to try harder to not be missionaries. So we filled out our psych evaluations in painstaking detail. We practically submitted an itemized statement showing every malicious thought, every pornographic binge, every bulimic barf-fest, every parenting disaster, every drunken night out, every socially smoked cigarette, every dirty little secret we could drag out of the closet, every wound - inflicted or received - in our entire lives. We told ourselves we were doing this in the name of being “fair” and “honest”.


But, really, this was an act of sabotage.


We were desperate for someone, anyone, to tell us, “Sorry. You tried, and we really like you, but it’s just not a good idea, you and missions.” Then we could die happy, knowing that God asked and we responded, but that it just didn’t work out.


When the Psychiatrist working with the missionaries in training for our agency called and left us a message saying she needed to talk with us individually, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Finally. This whole cruel joke could come to an end. She would be the one, the voice of reason, she would say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” We scheduled our phone conferences for as soon as possible, anxious to be done with it all. She talked to us both, for a long, long time, told us how we scored, who we look like on paper, explained out personality profiles. It was all very fascinating stuff. And then she got to the part called “Red Flags”. “They’re all true!”, I blurted out before she could even say what they were. She laughed, but she didn’t add, “And these things will prevent you from being a missionary.”


Instead, she thanked us for submitting one of the most honest and forthcoming evaluations she had ever received, that it had helped her to see that we would be fine missionaries, that we were exactly the kind of people that should go. “Real people, with real problems, who have really turned to God.” That’s what she called us.


She said that what she read in our two separate profiles showed her a picture of a couple that knew how to fail in front of each other, but also who knew how to lift each other up to the only One who could heal our hurts. Then she said, we needed to quit trying to sabotage God’s work in our lives, and let Him direct our paths.


And I thought to myself, “This lady knows what she’s talking about.”


We need to quit trying to sabotage God’s work in our lives, and let Him direct our paths.


Um...Ouch. Nearly three years later, those words still resonate somewhere deep in my soul. I still find myself doing it, sabotaging God’s good work. Thankfully, I am, apparently, not very good at it. I mean, my kids are amazing, even though I’ve done my absolute best to screw them up. My marriage is still in one piece, while I have tried again and again to ruin it. God still loves me, in the face of my unfaithfulness. I’m even a missionary, by some miracle, despite the fact that I’m completely unqualified, unlikely, undeserving, and occasionally unpleasant.


Sheesh, I am, like, the worst saboteur that ever lived. So why do I still keep trying so hard?


30 comments:

  1. You should change the name of this blog to Very Worst Saboteur. Scratch that (we should get rid of the STD references haha), Really Alful Saboteur!

    On a more serious note, thank you again for your transparancy. Not sure how many other missionaries would openly admit they didn't feel qualified and thought for sure they would get the rejection notice. I have a feeling I will be in your shoes someday, but until I read your blog, and especially your post, I definitely expected to be turned down or passed over.

    Here's hoping you keep failing at sabotage!

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  2. Yikes... spelling fail. I meant Really Awful Saboteur!

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  3. why do you still keep trying so hard? well, because your sin is so TASTY. right? well, that's why i keep trying so hard to sabotage God's work and plans. a really wise friend told me once that i had to come to a place where i hate my sin. i have been trying to do that ever since. but its so hard. so hard to hate something that--ashamedly--i think is so great at times. why would i want to give up my comfortable life to go share Jesus (someone i do not reflect so well) with people who i can hardly communicate with? hmmmmm. same reason you guys didn't want to. but someday i will. well, we will. and we're going to need your help!!! :) LOL. but seriously.

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  4. Brutal honesty compels me to give my view of this blog.

    Your "God" did NOT care about my feelings...about "losing" my only grandsons to only see them grow in one year growth leaps...about fear of my daughter living with the dangers inherent in third world environments. I love you...despite your choice, but I will never forgive your God for this happening. But then, my opinion isn't important...that was obvious when you left.

    Sorry for being truthful...this blog simply slapped me in the face with my loss. Here's a question for all you missionaries...Do missionaries really care about the feelings of family they abandon or only those to whom they hope to minister?

    Love, Dad

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  5. Dad, I will email my response to you privately. This is NOT the appropriate venue for such a conversation.

    However, other readers are free to respond to your question, should they so desire.

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  6. Jamie's Dad:

    I like you. I think you're very interesting and you have lovely offspring which begs me to think that you're lovely. I don't want to be a bitch. Especially because I think you're in actual pain over it.

    But, alas, I have to wonder, do you believe in the God that you won't forgive? Just curious. I think that was an interesting statement.

    Also, I think that anyone who isn't a sociopath cares about the feelings of their family. Of course, if children loved their parents as much as parents love their children, the children would never even leave their homes and the human race would cease to exist. It sucks to miss your family but so many people find themselves in that situation.

    I know, it's none of my damn business really. Only, I'm pretty convinced I'm right.

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  7. Jamie's Dad,
    I am not a missionary (yet), but I believe I can answer your question with a question (or several):

    Do you think it is not equally as challenging for missionaries to leave their friends, family, comforts of home, etc.?

    I can sympathize with your sentiments of missing out on your Grandkids lives. I have a 3 year old son that I miss if he spends the night at his grandma's house. I am sure it is hard. However, do you not think it is equally hard for them?

    Here on this blog, your daughter bears her soul and this very post states that she was intentionally attempting to sabotage this mission she was called to do. She tried several times to get rejected. I am sure letting you see your grandchildren grow up may have had some influence on her feelings.

    However, you are looking at this from your own perspective and pointing out what you are missing. I respect you and enjoy your comments on this blog, but it doesn't seem fair to Jamie for you to guilt trip her when she is already admitting she struggles with guilt.

    Like Alex said, this is really none of my business, but I just thought you might want to look at this from the other side.

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  8. Jamie - I thought long and hard before posting my honest feelings. My point was to emphasize that becoming a missionary affects more than just the person(s) who feel "called" to serve. I'm sure you honestly endured the trials that you posted, and you painted an amusing picture of your deliberations, but you left out the devastating impact on some that your choice left behind. You never once mentioned that.

    Zac and Alex - I apologize for bringing up the other side of the missionary decision. I have a bad habit of speaking my mind, openly and honestly, without much internal censor.

    Alex - no, I do not believe God exists. I did believe until I was in Vietnam in '69. I prayed, begged and demanded answers from the God I trusted. Even tried Judaism looking for an answer. There was no reply. While I really wish there was a God (life would be so much better if He existed), I have yet to see anything in my life to change my heart.

    In answer to your question, Zac, I'm sure missionaries "miss" home, but I am a bit offended by the subject being treated like a joke. Some people affected by this decision are hurting. I simply hope that my comment will make others who consider missionary work be a bit more thoughtful about the struggles their decision imposes on others.

    Jamie, I promise to stop commenting on your blogs. I'm sorry for sharing my angst this time, and it won't happen again.

    I DO love you, and your family very much...and I deeply miss all of you...Luvya, Dad

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  9. There comes a time in every man's life when he must speak up. Now is that time.

    El Chupacabras Writes a Blog!

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  10. I think Jamie's Dad brings up a very valid point, though I am very sad for him that he has not heard the answer from Heaven that he desperately craves.

    I'll be completely honest and say that I didn't give much thought to my family. While that sounds completely calloused, Jesus gave all for me and this was the little He asked me to do, so I went.

    And in my case, my family isn't all that close anyway, though they (most of them anyway) do seem to support my decision. I make sure I send out DVDs of the kiddos on a regular basis. I also make sure I email pictures and updates regularly. And I call as often as I can. I miss my Mom and sister especially around the holidays. I hold them tightly in my heart. But I appreciate their understanding that I am doing what God has called me to do and haven't forsaken them.

    As for the original post, I'm sitting here thinking about what our evaluation would have revealed. Probably good we didn't have one. It might have said, "Kids with bowl cuts in two years, divorced in five years, commited in six years..."

    But, hey, so far so good. Only the bowl cuts have come to pass...

    Chin up, Jamie :)

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  11. Good grief, Dad, no one has asked or implied that you should stop commenting. You are welcome here, as is your opinion.

    Carrie, I'm with you. We didn't base our decision upon what our family members would think. We predicted how each would feel about it, and we were pretty much dead on. Other than that, it wasn't part of the decision making process.

    But, this blog isn't even about any of that. This post was about what we do, as humans (not just Christians), to stall our lives, to keep ourselves from moving forward to bigger and better things. Whether out of fear, or shame, or because we feel undeserving, or whatever. At least that's all it was meant to be about.... :/

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  12. Did you have trouble eventually calling yourself a missionary? I find that many missionaries I know (myself included) struggle with this.

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  13. Ha! Jeff, I STILL have trouble calling myself a missionary!! If I meet a total stranger, like in the airport or something, I'll tell them we work for an NGO, or a non-profit, and if the converstion continues I'll spill the beans on my "true identity". I'm horrible.

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  14. I'm the opposite. I'm quick to tell people that I'm a missionary. Too quick, actually. Because after I spill, it's either kiss or duck.

    First question is always about the mission board. The conversation following depends on whether or not the person I'm talking to finds mission boards scriptural or not. And if I'm talking to a complete stranger, the conversation may turn into something along these lines..."Well, I'm not for religious missionaries going about trying to Americanize the world." The reply in my head is always something like this, "Honey, McDonalds is doing a better job Americanizing the world than I ever could."

    But I'm too nice. :)

    Upon reflection, I really should keep my mouth shut a little (LOT) more than I do...

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  15. Jamie's dad, i totally get your point. I have 6 daughters, and I love them dearly. They are funny, smart, and all love Christ with their hearts. Its one the best gifts I ever gave them.

    At some point I know they have to move on and embark on their life's journey. I am really excited for them, but a selfish part of me wants them to stay around. I enjoy their company, and they are funny kids.

    Ignoring the God thing, everyone has a path they have to take, and no matter what it is, it sucks when they leave. Its a Daddy's heart.

    Kind of like our father God, when we are estranged from him, or in Jamie's dad's case, if someone decides to not believe in him. Its just heart breaking to the dad.

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  16. "There are two things we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings."

    Hodding Carter, Jr.

    How easy to forget that what made us into who we are would probably do the same for our children. While our job as parents is to guide our kids, our goal is to set them free.

    For those poets amongst you see: Caged Bird by Maya Angelou. I think it may apply.

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  17. deemus, you have 6 daughters? as in SIX??? no freaking way! You have just earned so much respect from me, sir. Statistically speaking, you shouldn't even be alive right now! You should write a book or something!!!


    Why it's El Chupacabra, himself! As always with a wise word. Love that quote! Love mythical creatures that blog. I will be shamelessly, and publicly, flirting with you from here on out!

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  18. okay I'm crying - oh wait I never cry - crap I cried!!!

    it is so weird how it is such a struggle to "give it up to God" even though we know that His plan always works out beautifully!

    Loved this blog Jamie!

    God Bless - with love from Aunt Nita, Audrey and Timmy

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  19. My daughter and son (ages 14 and 15) would love to travel down to Costa Rica for a summer mission with Jamie, Steve and boys....

    so I told them when they can drive, afford a sattelite phone, finished karate and self defense lessons and completed a Spanish lesson then I would consider it. All parents have that protective nature. It cant be avoided! and I do admit that Jamie and Steve's decision is worrisome for all of us as we see the danger and not the joy.

    My children still need to convince me that it would be more than a fun vacation to them - that they understood in their head and heart that theirs would be a mission not a vacation. That they would know that they were to be a help not a hinderance and that they really understood the seriousness and hopelessness of poverty.

    But above all else ... that they did not "want" to go on a mission but that they "have" to go.

    So as a Mommy I have so much fear for my children to be in a place I deem very unsafe. That is natural.

    But I would be so proud if they were called to think of others before themselves that my pride, and my concerns would be diminished. That they did not "consult" me or consider my feelings.

    Life is so short and most people live a vapid, superficial, meaningless existence that it would be a blessing to have ones children lead a deep and meaningful life.

    Jamie Steve and boys you are leading a wonderful life and if and when you return to the United States their will be so much work for you to do here as , despite our wealth, infrastucture, ability of food and a free education - we have in our country a great deal of moral poverty and many lost souls!

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  20. ... and I hadn't even read the comments.

    I thank my God for Jamie’s dad and the fact that he speaks his mind openly and honestly… a wonderful trait he has instilled in his daughter and so refreshing among all the pretending that goes on. I am thankful that I found this blog because sometimes I wonder if ANYONE can be real as we fall all over ourselves trying to follow Christ. My heart breaks for all the pain Jamie’s Dad is experiencing… for the horror of Viet Nam and for his heartache over Jamie’s choices and for the wall that has come between him and his God. It is my prayer that our God will step in as only he can and speak healing to your wounded heart.

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  21. I found this blog via another blog that you visit Jamie. I'm blog stalking! I think this has been my favorite blog moment of my budding stalking career.

    While I loved what you actually put, Jamie, I valued what your dad said.

    Sometimes the sacrifices to serve are high. And sometimes the sacrifices aren't even ours...but of those we love. I think anyone and everyone who is thinking of being on a church staff or becoming a missionary should think about the sacrifices. It's a brutal job for everyone.

    And for Dad, I know there's a way for healing for what happened in Nam. I have 3 relatives that served. 1 won't talk about it to this day. He holds the same view as you. One day I was working on kneeling on the floor working and he told me to stop praying..he tried that years ago and it didn't work. Another relative talks openly about what he saw and did. Horrific stories. But I know there's shame there. He still holds it in. The third actually became a pastor. He shares his stories, but being in confided spaces still gives him flashbacks from being a tunnel rat. He can still hear the screams and smell the burning. It's not something he'll ever get over. I just think it's something he learns to cope with, to forgive, and to live on. It's from him that I've learned the most. If he can hold his head up after what he's seen and been a part of, then I think there's hope for anyone that was a part of Nam.

    And now I'm off to do some more blog stalking...

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  22. Jamie, I am literally swimming in a sea of estrogen here in Dallas. My son (the only boy) and I make special "testosterone trips" to make sure we don't start liking boy bands and other girlie stuff.

    We shoot guns, we kill helpless animals (its ok, we eat them after we kill them), we play sports, work on cars, etc. Anything to help us not want to paint our nails.

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  23. Jamie's dad-
    Jami and Steve are two of the most honest people I have ever met. I had the privilege of studying Spanish with them both and shared many enjoyable afternoons sitting through our son's soccer practices with Jamie. During those afternoons, I learned more about Jamie, like how it pained her to be so far away from her family, her sister, her niece. I heard their 'story' in those first few weeks, when they were still in the days of it being just plain 'hard' and not so much feeling it a 'blessing' to be away.

    You should be so proud of her for living out her convictions, whether or not you share the same love for her God. She has went for it, left all that she loves, because of the One who gave her to you, grew in her the three boys you love so much- your grandsons.
    Here is my personal perspective on your question:
    'Do missionaries really care about the feelings of family they abandon or only those to whom they hope to minister?'

    Ironically, my situation is very similar to that of Jamie's in that my dad also served in Viet Nam and he did not understand nor could he accept our 'choice' to 'take away' our three children. He spoke to me only three times in the first six months of my time in Costa Rica. My mother, my mother-in-law, nor my father-in-law could understand why we were doing what we were doing or how we could do it. All four of our parents were completely not supportive of our decision.
    I fully understand the consequences of choosing to be obedient to this call on our lives because I lived on the opposite side of the country as my paternal grandparents and only saw them a few times in my life. I never wanted a life where my kids did not live more than a 30 minute drive from their grandparents.

    But my life is not my own. I was bought with a price. My God sent His Son to die on a cross for ME in such a brutal manner - for things he so did not deserve, yet chose to take upon himself so that I could know Him forever and so He could give me eternal life.
    Therefore, I felt I really had no choice but to be obedient to God my Father and to go and do what He had clearly asked my husband and I to do. Which meant moving my kids more than 2000 miles away from their grandparents- something I said I would never do.
    So, in answer to your question, I did think about my family and those we were leaving. I thought about those we were coming to minister to as well. But neither of those groups of people could be the determining factor in our decision.
    We left because He called. We stay because He's here with us, He has not left us...and He's there with them, too. Even the ones that do not know (believe in)Him are being made more aware of him through our lives here. Just like you.
    That's it. And to His glory, my relationship has been restored with my dad and He has actually grown in His faith and now has not only accepted our life here, he has recognized that God created in me the same passion for going for what I believe in that He created in himself. The very same passion in him that he so aggressively used to fight against our life here is what keeps me staying here. God has restored in my mom a vital and exciting faith. God has been stirring in the heart of my mother-in-law for some time now what He has planned for her life, too, although she does not yet believe in Him.
    All of this has happened because of our decision to be here and I will gladly be here if it means those I love most will allow the same deep heart-wrenching pains that you describe to bring them to the feet of Christ.
    That may seem harsh to you, being Jamie's dad. I do not intend it to be. But, man what a blog it will be if in the midst of your pain, you, one day, meet Christ.
    Please don't stop commenting. You've got the waters stirred and your comments and questions are an awesome way to find the Truth!

    Brooke

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  24. Jamie!! I just found this blog today, and have read through like 20 postings while I was all but completely ignoring my three kids (toddlers) who were, literally, climbing on my back, trying to get my attention. I have loved each post, but laughed out-loud on this one about sabotage because my husband and I went through a very similar experience. We've been "on the field" for two and a half years, too, and we still look at each other, periodically and say, "How the hell did this happen?!!" Man, I can relate to so many of your posts: homeschooling?, Spanish *ugh*, parenting, poverty...I can't tell you how encouraging it is to glean from your honesty and your wisdom. Yes, you are very wise to be able to learn from the things in this life that suck balls.
    So grateful to your voice,
    Jen

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  25. So nice to meet you, Jen. Thanks for popping in to leave a comment! It's always nice knowing that none of us is alone in this mess!! :)

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  26. Jamie's Dad said, "While I really wish there was a God (life would be so much better if He existed), I have yet to see anything in my life to change my heart."

    It broke my heart to read that. Jamie's Dad--you just need to look at your daughter to see God. He's sticking out all over.

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  27. I just want to thank Jamie's dad for his comments. Today, I cuddled on the bed with the 16 month old baby who will not remember me in a year. I had to go to Peru for a month, and she climbed the stairs to the room her parents let us stay in for the first day, to search for me...and then she quit. I will be moving to Peru with my beloved hubby, and leaving my kids and grandkids is the hardest thing that I do. Your sharp and truthful comments stung, but they also brought clarity - for me anyway. Everyone has to come to their own conclusions before they leave or let go of a loved one for such as endeavor as being a missionary (or a diplomat, or a soldier, or whatever of the zillions of jobs which take people away from their families), but for me, these are the very same questions with which I grapple. How can I say that I'm going to go minister to those "over there" and leave what I call "My First Ministry" (my family) "over here"? Here are my answers:
    Number One: Who made the rule that all kids and grandkids are supposed to live near their families? My great-grandparents (and most of yours too, who read this) left their families, home and country to come to the USA. It's not a promise or even a responsibility. We raise our kids to live their own independent lives. If we hang onto them (and especially if we attempt to clutch them to us by manipulation and coercion), we stunt their growth...and if they hang onto me, they will stunt themselves!
    Number Two: I choose to live out my faith in such a way as to teach my grandchildren something important to me - to follow what I feel is correct in my heart no matter the cost is of higher priority than doing what makes everyone feel good.

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  28. I am the daughter of the most recent comment-er, and I know this is an old blog post and I know the comments have stopped, and I know that I don't need to say anything at all, and I KNOW that so much has happened in your family since... January 2010, BUUUUUUUUUUUT I have to say... I told my mom about this particular post because I feel the pain of... "Jamie's dad".

    When I was a kid, my parents wanted to be missionaries, and they started out by being chaplains at a school 45 min away. They left me alone with my big, bossy sister, every week to go be with the other kids. They proudly told of the week they drove through a snow storm to get to the kids who didn't expect them to come, and were so grateful that some one cared enough to brave that weather. And since that time, I've wondered who was more important.

    Now, I'm grown. I've been in church my whole life, and seen plenty to cause me to believe in God. I still ask myself the big questions, but in the end... I'm still a Christian. However, despite my faith, I'm still bitter when my parents leave their grandchildren to go to Peru. I STILL think to myself "Well if it hurts you so much DON'T DO IT! Let those people down in America's basement take care of themselves."
    Did I mention my husband was a pastor? And I'm STILL that nasty when my parents are trying to help others (or ARE HELPING others). I have issues with the God who would take my kid's grandparents away. "Who is more important?"
    The fact is that the answer is "God" so... if I was already *mad at* or *didn't believe in* God, I can't imagine the rage I would feel when my parents chose that over me... over my children.
    My whole point is that I feel for "dad". I'm not offering any platitudes, or even any advice for how to make it all better cause there is nothing to make it better! I'm not even going to tie this up with a pretty "God SHOULD be the most important" bow. It kida sucks that God is more important than me! I don't like it sometimes...

    I'll just leave it there.

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C'mon leave a comment. Don't make me beg...just do it. Please?...c'mon, pleeease?...PLEEASE???