2.26.2010

The Warm Fuzzies: Love?... or Parasites?

I love that even though I live overseas (Ok, technically I don't live "overseas". I mean, you could drive to Costa Rica from the U.S. if you were so inclined. But if you do, let me suggest that you carry a gun...and some throw-down drugs...and stash all your cash in a body cavity...and learn to say "Please, sir, don't take me to jail, I'll do whatever you want." in Spanish - then you should be alright. But anyway, "overseas" just sounds cool.) ...sooo... wait, what was I saying?... oh yeah, I love that even though I live far, far, far from my home church, and don't get to be there often, I still manage to get in on the action every now and again.

Check this out.

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor asked this question on Facebook;

How do you get to be poor in spirit?

And I commented;

And then - here's the cool part - when he spoke that Sunday, he used my response in his sermon! Ha!

I know. You're like ".....And?"

It's not really that big a deal, but this church is like home to me. It truly blessed me to be reminded that we are still connected.... via Facebook... and Vimeo... Man, the world has grown very small, hasn't it? Anyway, when I watched the video, it made me smile.

It's a great message in a series from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount...

And it's totally worth watching the whole thing, but the best part is definitely 12:35 - 14:20. It's pure genius, really. *wink, wink*

Oh, and two things;

He is very careful to call me his "Facebook friend" and not his real life friend... To which I say, "Pshh - Whatever! I've washed my family's dirty socks at your house. That makes us tight."

And also, Yes, I am aware that I said "crap" but he said "stuff". So goes the way of the VWM. The truth is, I wouldn't say "crap" from the pulpit either. Maybe. Ok, probably. Oh, who am I kidding? I totally would. But I have no expectation that anyone else should. So I'm cool with it.

Anyway. I just thought it was pretty awesome to see that my little family in Costa Rica is still a part of that big family in California.

It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. ...Actually, that's probably because my tap water looks like someone took a leak in it...

2.24.2010

..so that's why I'm tired.

I’m super tired. And it’s only Wednesday.


I blame NBC.


Seriously, why are the Olympics on so late? Ok, maybe NBC isn’t entirely at fault. But they are definitely mostly at fault.


I guess my stupid dog, Osita, is also partly to blame because, hmm...how to put this delicately... the bitch is in heat. I know, I know. I’m the worst dog pimp in the world! She should be fixed. I agree whole whole whole heartedly. But, I’ve never raised puppy’s before, and I thought I had, like, a year to get that done! So now her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. And sometimes it brings the boys that can squeeze their mangy butts through the gate into the house and then I have to chase them away with a broom and they growl at me and it’s kinda scary. Needless to say, I’ve been up throughout the night because every time I hear a noise I’m simply positive that it’s my trashy dog bumpin’ uglies with one of the neighborhood tramps. And we do not want more puppies. That would be baaad. The obvious plus-side to this mess is that between various family members belting out the Milkshake song or Neil Diamonds, Girl, you’ll be a woman soon, and the never ending quips about “Ho-sita the floozy dog with loose morals.”, laughter and song reign once again in the home of the VWM.


Oh, and the other thing is that we’ve been under nightly attack by mosquitos the size of my thumb. They wait until the lights go out and then they buzz right past your ear to let you know that you are about to be feasted upon. We tried to sleep through it the first night, the buzzing and the biting, the itching and scratching. But the constant slapping at the air, and the twitching and flinging of arms and legs proved too much. At 2 am, El Chupacabra and I jumped out of bed and waged all out war until nothing remained but guts and wings and our pj’s were marked with blood. True. It was our blood. And I do have bites where no one should ever be bitten by anything. Ever. But as we were leaping and diving and jabbing at mosquitos like Samurai warriors, but in slow motion like in the Matrix, it was obvious to me that John Eldredge was right and that I was created for an adventure of epic proportions. (Um..Ok, maybe I was the only one doing that and maybe El Chupacabra was like, “What the hell are you doing?!” and maybe Eldredge thinks I’m supposed to be more princess than bad-ass mosquito killer. But, whatever. I’m pretty sure my “moves” looked super cool. *shakes head emphatically No, they did not*)


So that’s why I’m tired.


Oh, and then, yesterday, I was holding a little girl at the precario while the bigger kids played games, and she full-out peed on me. So that’s why I have Hepatitis. ...Or Dengue Fever. Or some other horrible communicable disease that is transmitted from urine through skinny jeans to flesh and then goes straight to the kidneys. My organs are probably failing as I write this.


*sniff, cough, sniffle, hupchoooo*


Oh dear.


So, are you tired? (That’s a funny question, cause everyone I know is pretty much always tired. Have you ever said “I’m tired.” and had the response be “Not me! I feel GREAT!”? Huh. Me neither.) Here’s a better question: WHY are you tired?

2.22.2010

The secret to driving in Costa Rica.


Driving in Costa Rica is pretty much the most nerve racking thing I’ve ever done.


If you’ve never driven in a developing country, simply imagine any action movie’s violent, high-speed car chase - one that includes speeding the wrong way down a one way street, splitting the difference between two cars and zipping between them, playing chicken with an oncoming bus, and every other moment where you thought to yourself “That is so stupid!” or “That would never happen!”. Seriously, imagine that... Ok, now take away all road signs and street names, add a bunch of motorcycles, dirt bikes, ox drawn carts, heavy machinery, and stray dogs. And that is what it’s like to drive here.


In the beginning, it was kinda scary for me. Without street names or addresses, I was sure that I would get myself lost, to such a degree that I would never return. Whacky directions are kind of a thing here. Take our home “address”, for example, which looks like this:


2 Kilometers from Heredia, 250 meters East of where Mabe used to be, 200 meters North from the old bar (which is now a chinese/pizza place - weird!) East to the first entrance of the neighborhood called Cozumel. From the guard shack, 100 meters North, 100 meters East, to the clay colored house on the far corner.


Not. Even. Kidding. (Have at it, stalkers, I’m pretty sure you’ll never find me.)


So, the obvious and inherent problems are, duh, I’m from the U.S., I deal in miles, yards and feet, not kilometers, or meters, or any of the measurements that go with them. And even more duh, I have NO IDEA which way is North, or which way any other way is, for that matter. I know right and I know left. And sometimes I get those mixed up. So there’s that.


But even worse than figuring out where I'm going, is the actual being on the road part of driving. Everybody drives so freaking close to each other here. Most of the time, I can easily put my hand on the car next to me. Or on the bus. Or the ox.


Now, it’s taken me awhile, but I’ve actually gotten pretty comfortable on the roads here. I don’t even really think about it anymore. The secret to driving in crazy town is - are you ready for the this? - It's swearing under your breath....No wait, that's not it. That's the secret to driving your husband bonkers.... no, no, the secret to driving around here is knowing your limits (ok, and sometimes swearing under your breath, but you did not hear that from me!)


Ok so, I know - You really could've come up with that without me.


But, as simple as that may sound, it's true; the key to driving very, very close to other cars, the trick to navigating through an itty bitty opening in traffic, is to be keenly aware of the sides of your vehicle, and to have a clear understanding of your car’s capacity. You need to know exactly how far you extend in every direction, how fast you can pick up speed, what you can carry, and how your load impacts your cars performance, and then - this is the important part - you need to move only within those specifications.



If you aren’t clear on these things, you will - for sure - end up getting t-boned by a bus. And then they’ll show your bloody carcass on the evening news without even blurring anything out and your gory accident will cause four hours of grid-lock and non-stop honking which will give the blonde missionary, now stuck in her car somewhere behind your wreck, a head ache and might make her pound on her steering wheel while shouting something like “Let’s go people! There are dead bodies on the road here ALL THE TIME - this is NOTHING new!! Come on now you bunch a sleazy rubber neckers, GET MOVING!!” which, yes, is reeeally insensitive.


So, basically, this is super good advice. Especially if you don't want to cause a missionary, who is working hard to bear the spiritual fruit of patience, to stumble.


Last week we invited two friends/coworkers over for lunch to tell them that we are taking a step back from their ministry (one which we love). It’s a decision I’ve been struggling with for a year. Or maybe it’s better to say that I’ve been struggling to figure out my limits for a year, struggling to understand my capacity to serve, here, in this foreign context, and how the load I carry impacts the way I bear other things. I’ve been feeling sort of crushed by it. Like my inability to clearly see how far I extend, has been t-boned by an awesome ministry that is chugging along, full-steam ahead. The result has been a disappointing show in ministry and added chaos at home.


The truth is, as a family, we’ve just been carrying too much weight - certainly not that I have - but, as a whole, our family has. So, we told our friends that we are taking a step back, which will allow us one entire day each week to spend together, free of other obligations (or the guilt of flaking out on other obligations). After a very full work week for El Chupacabra, an exhausting school schedule for our sons, and me, ya know, doin' whatever I do, and then Saturdays spoken for by Football, and Youth Group, and about a million other things - We now have Sundays all to ourselves! Sundays to love and invest in each other, and to refocus on living out our values in our own home. (Which kinda seems like a pretty good thing for a family of Christian missionaries to do. But, whatever...)


Learning my limits has been a lot like learning to drive here. The rules of engagement are different, and if you don’t respect them, you will crash and burn. But I think I've got the driving thing pretty much figured out, so I’m hopeful that I’m on the right path here, too. I guess time will tell.


Now,...if I could only figure out which way is North...


2.17.2010

I meet with Poverty on Tuesdays.

I walk across a threshold of sewage and starvation to meet Poverty where she lives.


Her house is full of children that ought to be in school on a Tuesday morning. They should be wearing uniforms, holding pencils, and writing in notebooks. But Poverty won't allow it.


They should be in 3rd grade, and 5th grade, and all the other grades, or they should be starting Kindergarten.
If Poverty's kids get an education, they will leave her.


Poverty tells her children that they have no hope.


She tells them they have no worth.

She never calls them by name. Instead she calls them all Poor.

She leads them to believe that they are weak, because they are so very, very small.

Sometimes even I believe her because of how she towers over them.

It can be hard to see that Poor has another name.

But when I feel that one of Poverty's children has wrapped his little arms around my legs, and when I look down onto his smiling face, I am reminded that Poor is actually Josue...

...and ten minutes later it's Daniela.

Poverty's poor daughter is Alondra who likes candy...alot...

... and her poor son is Cristian who always wants please, please, please just one more banana.

All of her children have real names... and real faces... and real dreams for a future.

What Poverty doesn't know, when I come to her door on Tuesdays, is that it is to fill her children not just with food, but with ideas.

To offer them hope because I know where they can find the strength to do all things.


To show them that they are worthy recipients of the greatest Love that has ever existed.

To bring Faith to a place where there was once only desperation.

We must be the light in Poverty's shadow so that her poor children can know Faith, Hope, and Love.
On Tuesdays, I get to bring "the greatest of these" to "the least", just by showing up on Poverty's doorstep and looking her in the eye.

2.16.2010

I have an ongoing case of the heebie-jeebies.

This morning as I was reaching for the coffeepot, I came across a big, fat, black cockroach trying to squeeze itself under a cupboard door in the kitchen. I poked at it with a broom, and it turned around and I’m pretty sure it gave me the finger.


There was a time when this kind of stuff made me scream and howl and jump around, arms and legs flying, hands wringing, until somebody came to my rescue. The problem with this is that A) none of the men in my family are really all that interested in coming to the aid of a damsel in distress, and B) a few of those same men are terrified by all manner of insect, including, but not limited to, rolly-pollys, fuzzy caterpillars, ladybugs, and butterflies. Not. even. kidding.


When I asked my oldest how it was even possible to be frightened by a butterfly, his response was, “Have you SEEN a butterfly’s FACE?!”, and then his whole body shuddered like a little chihuahua. And I was like, “That’s retarded.”, but that didn’t change his mind.


Needless to say, I learned not to even bother with doing an impression of a Native American rain dance every time a creepy crawly crossed my path, cause nobody in my house cares if I am being mauled to death by a June-bug (which I’m almost positive could happen). Instead, I learned to just kill the little ba...ug...bug. I mean, somebody’s got to do it, right? Might as well be me.


I guess you could say that I’ve grown accustomed to doing battle with all manner of invader. There was a sewer rat once. One night a bat swooped on into the livingroom. There have been scorpions, and these other things that look like a giant ant with scorpion arms and a pincher head that are poisonous like scorpions. And there are always tarantulas. And every kind of beetle. And I’ve noticed the word “infestation” comes up in our everyday conversations more than it used to. Ants, fleas, moths, centipedes, millipedes, termites, spiders, roaches, giant mosquitoes. It’s like they all take turns “infesting”, finding their way into every dark recess, and then laying in wait to scare the bajeezus out of you when you flip on the lights. It happens all the time. I’m kind of used to it at this point.


This morning, I laughed in the face of my uninvited guest, then, with forethought of malice, I called my loyal canine companion, who, in a flurry of fur and teeth, dispatched the buggar promptly. I felt like Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts as she shouted, “Off with their heads!” ...or at least, I would have, had the oogyness of going toe to toe with a cockroach not trumped the glory of the win.


As I sipped my coffee, I considered whether or not my fortitude for things of a spine tingling nature had actually increased. Had I grown braver? Was I less afraid of this cockroach than I had been of the first, the thirtieth, the hundred and seventieth?


See, I really wanted to feel proud of myself for not freaking out, for not acting like a total girl, for not crawling out of my skin, and shrieking in terror. Like I said, I wanted to be proud, but mostly, I just had the heebie-jeebies.


The willies. The jitters. The creeps.


But there wasn’t one single moment where the feeling showed up and then nother where it left. The heebie-jeebies were just there. With me. The roach didn’t shock or surprise me. It didn’t scare me. It didn’t startle me. It was like I was ready for it. Like I was already on high alert, on the look-out for nasty crap that you would never, in a million years, want to be coexisting with under the same roof.


And then it hit me; I have had the heebie-jeebies, nonstop, for two and a half years.

Two and a half years.


Like, being creeped out is just part of who I am. And I can’t decide if that sucks or not, but I think probably not - Like, in the whole grand scheme of things, is consistently being ready to karate chop a flying insect out of the air such a bad thing?


Nah, I didn’t think so either.


I’m, basically, like some kind of badass ninja bug annihilator. One that carries a lot of tension in her shoulders cause she always, and I mean always, has the heebie-jeebies.


I can handle that. *shudder*


PS - Dear Reader,

If there is any message of significance here, I fail to see it - Your non creeped out ideas are totally welcome; we can call this segment "Pin the Bible verse on the Very Worst Missionary".

2.15.2010

Fighting Dirty.



We fight dirty. And, lately, we’ve been doing a whole lot of fighting.


Sometimes, El Chupacabra and I forget that we’re on the same team. We forget that we have a common enemy, and that if we aren’t united against it, we’ll fall prey to each other because of it.


Our enemy comes in the name of Fear and of Failure. It comes in the name of Inadequacy and Uncertainty and Rejection. It comes in the name of Hypocrisy, Judgement, Impatience, Insecurity, and Adultery. It sits on our shoulder and whispers all kinds of terrible things in our ears. And, foolishly, we listen, we react, we forget who the real enemy is, and we turn on each other. We blame each other, we accuse each other, we hate each other because of the painful things the enemy has told us, not about each other, but about ourselves.

Then we fight dirty.


We are both thick skinned and tender hearted, El Chupacabra and me. We have learned though the years how to get under each others skin and go straight for the heart. We learned this from our enemy, and we learned it very well. We hardly need any prompting anymore. Our words are like guided missiles, we destroy each other with them.


We’ve been fighting dirty. A lot.


This weekend, we spent a night away because we wanted to “get on the same page”. We wanted one day to ourselves, to pray, and talk, and map out our goals for this year. It started off horribly.


I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure missionaries aren’t supposed to say things like “I give up.” or “This is all for nothing.” We’re not supposed to entertain thoughts of “divorce” or “separation”. But, this kind of stuff has found it’s way into our minds and into our conversations on occasion. And the one thing I do know is that it’s not coming from us. Those are the whisperings of our enemy.


This weekend, as we finally sat and talked (like normal human beings and not like hyenas on crack, circling each other, teeth bared, and yapping out insults), it was like we finally remembered that we’re on the same team. Our marriage is a stronghold of God. It’s not impenetrable, but it’s pretty damn well reinforced.


We have been engaged in our enemies battle, like we were both pulling for the wrong team. But on Saturday night, we realigned ourselves, checked our loyalties for the first time in a long time. We reunited ourselves against our common enemy.

And we won. It was a glorious victory.


As far as I'm concerned, the enemy can piss off. Cause, guess what? We’ll fight back....and we fight dirty.

2.11.2010

Wait a minute. We have to become what?...for WHO???

So, I'm not gonna lie, I’ve totally lost my mojo for this story. I’m just over it. Sorry.


It’s just that last week was weird. There was the whole “your blog is too dirty” thing, and we had not one, but two, of our perfect, angelic kids birthdays to celebrate, and things between El Chupacabra and I were just...funky, and I was reading Sylvia Plath (and that just messes with my head). The whole week was weird and long and I just wanted it to end.


But what kind of person tells half of a story and then just leaves the rest hanging, right? That’s just a lame thing to do...


So, when we left off, I was getting ~ yet another ~ lecture from a well-meaning, but socially boxed Christian. So an ordinary parent/teacher conference turned into a lecture about personal style from a guy in pressed dockers and loafers, and a tie (she says with disgust). While he discoursed the “origens of ‘sagging’”, I was putting together an ugly little diatribe in my head (jeez, my life is starting to feel like Groundhog Day). When he was finished, I gathered my things, thanked him for his time, and then...


...I said nothing. Well, actually, I told him thank you again, and said that I would “speak with my son”. (I use phrases like that when I want to seem really, like, parental and stuff.) And then I left.


Do you feel like I rolled over? Are you disappointed?


Here’s the thing, I 100% disagree with EVERYTHING he said. While he was talking, I adjusted my nose ring a couple of times. It was my subtle way of reminding him of exactly who he was talking to. I mean, who does he think suggested the multi-colored hair, who does he think bought the gauges and the skinny jeans and the boxers that show? Who does he think explained the concept of the asymmetrical mullet in Spanish to our hair stylist? Duh. I’m the Mom. If I disapprove of something my kid is wearing, it’s gonna change. Real quick. So obviously, I approve.


Honestly? I love my son’s style. I love that he has the huevos to wear what he wants, to be himself, to expose himself to the criticism of kids, and adults, who are uncomfortable with others, or other Christians, who are different.


But.


There are two principals we’ve tried to instill in our kids, two things we want them to bring to the forefront of the Church as they step into their roles as leaders. They are the two things we believe will help to bring unity to a body that is disjointed and divided.


One is the principal found in Romans 12, which we find summarized in verse 18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


I wrote about this a looong time ago, here. And I believe it holds true to this circumstance.


When I “spoke with my son”, I tried to remind him that “everyone” means every one. Even the ones who can’t see past your pants. If he wants to be an ironic hipster, fine, but his responsibility, when he walks into his conservative teacher’s classroom, is to live at peace with that guy. And to do so respectfully. If he can do that, he gets to be the one that breaks down a barrier, the one that destroys the wall dividing the “good” Christians from the “bad”. He gets to do what his teacher can’t, and that is to say, “I value you, even though I disagree with you.”


And the other is from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he writes: I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”


The truth is, If I were in the business of changing peoples minds, I would use this same verse to defend my son’s position to his teacher. A guy for whom, it would seem, there is zero chance of connecting with the tattooed, pierced, bed-headed fashionistas that God, Himself, is jealous for. But that is not my business. My business is to raise kids who understand that sometimes, we have to cast off our personal preferences, in order that others might see Jesus in us. And sometimes, we have to do that for other Christians, because when the Bible says “everyone” it means “everyone” and when it says “all” it means “all”.


So, here’s what we did. Flesh plugs for the ears during the school day. A hoodie around the waist (and over the boxers) during this particular class. And, with the approval of the school principal, the hair went from purple and teal to a shockingly dark, and perfectly emo, black (which is allowed because black is a “natural” hair color). But, above all, he should be carrying himself with respectful submission to those in authority over him. You know, like Jesus.


And hopefully, by doing so, those in authority will begin to see that Jesus is residing under that black hair and inside those skinny jeans. Maybe they’ll see that there is a place in the Body of Christ for different types of followers, so that WE, the Church, can be all things to all people so that WE might save some.


Oh, and by the way, my kid looks pretty cool with black hair, and the excessive chemical treatments have given it the coarseness to really stand up like crazy. So there's that. FTW!


Wow. I’m really glad I finished this. I feel better. :)