9.26.2010

I’m writing this so you won’t judge me.

There’s this funny thing that happens when you go from being an ordinary citizen to one who is in the direct employ of God. Here it is:

All of a sudden, things like what kind of TV you own, or what kind of car you drive become fodder for public scrutiny and an invitation for the type of Christian on Christian judgmentalism otherwise reserved for pastors who get caught having gay sex in airport bathrooms.

“What will people think?” becomes the litmus test for every dollar spent by those of us who work in fulltime ministry.

I can honestly say that before we became missionaries I never worried about what people thought of our big plasma TV. It didn’t really matter to anybody whether or not we had a gym membership or if we had HBO. Talk of a family vacation was celebrated with a pat-on-the-back mentality, “You deserve this, You’ve worked for it – Have Fun!” But then, you go and become a pastor, or a worship leader, or a missionary, and you find yourself at the mercy of good people who give generously so that you can survive, and everything sort of changes.

I’m telling you all of this because….well….because….. oh jeez, this is kind of hard to say out loud...

Ok.

We’re going to Disney World. On Thursday.

BUT, BEFORE YOU JUDGE ME, HEAR ME OUT.

Shut up. Calm down. Just....listen.

Ok. Yes. We are going to Disney World, but, we’re only doing this because it turned out to be the cheapest way for us to renew our Visas. And I know you think I’m lying but this is true.

You know how we have to leave the country every 90 days so that we aren’t illegal aliens? Yeah, so it’s been three months and we have to leave again. We looked at all of our usual cheapskate border crossing adventures, including 20 million hour bus rides and creepy hostels. But then we remembered that we had this big fat credit on Spirit Air because Spirit Air is a dirty liar and when they say “Fully Refundable” what they really mean is “Fully Creditable” so when you buy a very expensive ticket from them thinking that you’ll cancel it and get your money back, what you’ll really get is a big, fat credit to use on an airline that doesn’t fly anywhere near anyplace you’d ever actually want to go. Except for Orlando. And then we remembered that we have a Disney Rewards credit card which we have used for all of our expenses for the past 15 years, so we’ve accrued quite a lot of “points” to be used on Disney junk, including but not limited to theme park tickets.

So, I booked a flight on Spirit using that stupid credit, I acquired park passes for free, and I reserved a room in a dirtbag motel for $32 a night. This is officially our cheapest Visa renewal trip ever. Seriously. Besides food and a disgusting, filthy, cheap place to sleep, this trip is practically free.

I just wanted you to know all of that so you won’t be like “What the hell is wrong with this picture?! Why is this missionary family at freaking Disney World???”

So there it is. We’re going to Disney World, and we’re going to enjoy the crap out of it. Also? We’re going to continue to be extraordinarily grateful for the gifts that make our service as missionaries possible. We hope to honor God, but we also hope to honor our supporters in all of the financial decisions we make.

El Chupacabra and I thank you. Our children thank you. Mickey Mouse thanks you.

9.17.2010

Thirty-freakin-five.

So.

I had a birthday.

It was cool.

I got presents.

And I ate a cupcake.

I am a huge fan of cupcakes, so that was a real treat for me…

Anyway.

I’m 35 now. Not gonna lie – That sounds hella old to me. Thirty-freakin-five. The other day I read something about how Oprah got started 25 years ago, and I was like “Oh, I remember that” and then I was all, “HolyPooBalls! I remember that!!”

I have actual memories of things that happened a quarter of a century ago.

I officially have two years more earthly life experience than Jesus. Granted, I think He was a faster learner than me. But still, that’s crazy.

So yesterday, while I was whipping up some cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes, I started planning a spectacular mid-life crisis. It’s just one of those things that, if you’re gonna do it, you should make it a real doozie. Everyone knows that the absolute best way to prepare yourself for a midlife crisis is to start thinking about all the stuff in your life that you have to be really, super bitter about.

I started with my marriage. I said to myself “My marriage sucks! El Chupacabra can be such a dick, sometimes. He’s always telling me what to do. ‘Write a book! Write a book! You should really write a book!’ all the freaking time, like he knows what I should be doing with myself. He’s impatient. He doesn’t understand me. We don’t even like the same things. And? He leaves ‘beard hair’ all over the place. I shouldn’t have to deal with this crap anymore.”

Once I was sufficiently pissed about my marriage, I moved on to ponder exactly how disappointed I am with my ungrateful and disrespectful children. “Man, those kids bug me, sometimes. When they aren’t being the funniest, coolest, most adaptable people on the planet, they’re driving me plain bonkers. I can hardly stand to be around them. I need a break, is what I need.”

And this tiny house! And these dirty dogs! And the piles of laundry! And, of course, the sink is full of dishes, again! And these damned cupcakes are headed straight to my ass!

Oh poor me. Poor, poor me, with all this stuff to take care of, and a blog to write. Poor me, married to this imperfect but grace-filled guy. Poor me, the mother of these three healthy kids with giant appetites, always wanting me to feed them.

Poor me. 35 years old and nothing to show for it but a nuclear family, a calling to full-time ministry, and this stupid blog.

*sigh*

Then I ate a cinnamon spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting and I was like, “Screw that. Poor anyone who has ever been a complete and total, self-centered a-hole and claimed it as a midlife crisis!”

I can spin it however I want, but the reality is that I am abundantly, ridiculously, outrageously Blessed.

And 35 is the new 28, or something. So there’s that.

Happy Birthday, me.


This reminds me, I've been meaning to ask: How old are you? And do you pee sitting down or standing up?...ya know...demographically speaking.

9.10.2010

The rest of the last post.

This is the rest of the last post.

So I was laying in the back yard, reading a book, and completely freaking out, thinking that at any moment an angry crab was going to surface from some mysterious place and snip my big toe off with its razor sharp claws, and that’s when it hit me, the moral to this morning’s post.

See. I just can’t get my head around where these crabs come from. Ya know? Crabs belong on the beach, they belong in the sun, they live in little sand caves and they hang out with mermaids. Everybody knows this.

So why are they here?!....in the mountains…sneaking into our friends house when it rains… skittering across our tile floors… kidnapping our children? (ok. I made that last part up.)

I’ve read about some phenomenon where it can rain fish, or frogs, or other creepy aquatic creatures. It said that sometimes critters get sucked up by a funnel cloud as it rushes over a body of water and later drops them from the sky like some kind of Biblical plague. But I don’t think that’s how Costa Rica got crabs everywhere. I mean, maybe. I guess it could have happened like that. But, honestly, I have no idea why there are crabs in our mountain town, far from the sea. Not even an inkling of how or why or what they’re doing here.

And its bugging the crap out of me.

I want to know.

I want to understand.

I want a reason.

Reasons make me feel better about the weird ways in which the world works. It’s like if I can know that there’s a good reason for why we have mountain crabs, then I can trust that other seemingly unexplainable things, disturbing things, horrible things, even straight up bizarre things have good reasons, too.

But I’m learning that I don’t always get to have the answers that I’m looking for. Sometimes I feel like my incessant “Why?” is being answered by a cosmic, “Because I said so.”

So, like the spiritual baby I am, I tend to throw a whiny, that’s-not-fair! kind of fit ending with me turning my back and crossing my arms, and declaring that I’m never talking to God again. And He’s like, “Ok.”

Because He already knows what I fail to grasp, and that is that my understanding of His truth isn’t what makes it true, and that having Faith means trusting Him even though I don’t always “get it”.

Sometimes you just have to say,

“I have crabs. And I’m okay with it.”

And, yeah, I’ll be adding that to my growing list of VWM t-shirt slogans.

Great. Now I have crabs.

So the other day El Chupacabra came in carrying a Tupperware container with the lid taped shut and he set it on the kitchen counter and said “Our friend gets these in his house when it rains.”

And because of the way he was acting, I thought he might have caught a leprechaun, but I peeled back the tape and was completely horrified to find that it was not a little tiny man holding a tennis bracelet for me. Instead, it was a big, fat crab.

A crab.

A pinchy-clawed, clackety-toed, beedy-eyed, throw-it-in-a-pot-of-boiling-water-and-then-sucks-its-guts-out kind of crab.

You guys…we live in the mountains. Like, 4,000 feet above sea level. Like, surrounded by volcanoes and millions of coffee plants. Like, the mountains mountains.

And every time it rains hard, which is every day, our friend gets crabs. Can you imagine?

So my husband left the crab on the counter and went of to work, and all day long I had to listen to it scratching at the plastic box, or hunkering down, getting ready to attack me every time I walked by.

At some point it occurred to me that if our friend has crabs, we probably do, too. And I was like “Great. Now I have crabs. Thank you very much Costa Rica for yet another unexpected surprise.”

*____________________*insert expected moral of the story here. (I’m tired and I’ve got other stuff to do.)

Here’s one option from El Chupacabra.

Or

I might also suggest Acts 10 (All of it, though. Not just the stuff about unclean food).

Or

Here is a crab recipe for Cioppino.

Or

Here’s an old post about lobsters.

Or

Here's a crab from Natalie Dee.

You decide.

Hey. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure blog. You know? Like the books? Remember those books where if you choose the wrong path you die? Well, if you choose wrong now, you’ll…. get bored…

9.07.2010

Feeding the ducks.

I'm gonna go fight poverty for two and a half hours.

2.5 hours on a Tuesday morning to solve the biggest problem in the world. What a joke.

We will show up with a bag full of bread and an armload of bananas, and the children will clamber around us like ducks at a pond. A bunch of little ducklings, falling all over each other for a bit of bread and a soft pat on the head.

And for 2 and a half hours we will laugh and play and eat, and we will talk about Jesus. And when we leave, they will be just as poor as when we arrived. Poverty taunts us as we drive away.

It's overwhelming.

The problem is so big, and we are so small. It feels ridiculous... showing up to war wielding a loaf of bread.

Of course that's how David showed up. Just a shepherd boy with some bread for his brothers, a kid who was quick with a sling shot. He chose for battle against a giant, not a sword, or the kings armor, but five smooth stones. And he won.

He said to the giant:
"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

I kind of love that.

I'm going to feed the ducks, now.

And then, with all my might, I will hurl a tiny pebble at their giant enemy. And I hope it hurts like hell.





9.02.2010

A Letter to the Very Worst Missionary...from the Very Best

A few months ago I set up an email account for the VWM, and, I gotta admit, checking it gives me butterflies in my stomach. I just never know what I'm gonna get - sometimes it's awesome, sometimes it sucks. This week I got... this:


Dear Jamie the Very Worst Missionary,

I was so glad to read your blog. I never read blogs. I think they are a waste of time.

But I was happy to read yours. I always thought I was bad missionary. But you are way worse than me. Just the fact that I never use the words: “bitches, big-ass, and shitload” in my newsletters makes me automatically better than you.

I wasn’t knocked up at 17. Heck, I’ve never even been…knocked. I’ve always played by the rules and I’m waiting until I’m married. I’m 36 years old so it’s looking like I might be celibate my whole life. Hollywood wants the movie rights, but I would never give it to them. Since they are all going to hell.

I’ve never been drunk and wouldn’t even think about making my own beer. (I’m gaining heap-loads of points on you by the minute).

I’ve been to seminary. Where have you been? Besides around the block.

I have no unusual piercings or tattoos. What are you…in a gang or something?

I’m a missionary in a country that is poor-er than yours. Costa Rica is the Beverly Hills of Central America. Don’t you know that? Honduras is like the Cabrini Green.

(I am soooo winning this.)

My Spanish is really good. Some people say that I don’t even sound like a gringa when I talk.

Don’t you wish you were more like me?

My name is Michelle. The very good missionary.

Funny thing though…

As near-perfect as I have always been something strange has come out since becoming a missionary, nearly 9 years ago. I’ve always been so extremely…good. I’ve always been very…nice.

But the truth is…I’m not very nice anymore.

I never knew what it meant to hate someone…really hate someone…until a few years ago. While being a missionary.

I never knew bitterness…real soul-disturbing, I-desire-bad-things-for-your-life bitterness until becoming a missionary.

I’ve never known real anger, the kind that has me thinking, albeit never saying (that would ruin my Pollyanna reputation) those words you so easily throw out. Though you will never hear me say it, I curse people in my heart. Ever since being a missionary.

I’m also jealous and envious. Both of them. At.the.same.time. Never realized it…until becoming a missionary.

I’ve also been known to be quite judgmental. I’m not really sure why everyone around me is so immature. Obviously, they can’t hear from God living the way they do. (It’s been awhile since I’ve heard from God too. Even being a missionary.)

I used to love spending time in prayer and going to church. Now on Sundays, I have to drag myself out of bed and force myself to go to church. And I struggle immensely trying to pray. Once I said “I hate praying” in front of my missionary advisor. (I hope he didn’t hear me. That would not be good.) Sometimes in prayer meetings I find myself wishing in my mind that the people around me would just shut up and say ‘amen’ already to their long, pious, stupid prayers so that I can go home and go to sleep. I never used to be this way…not until becoming a missionary.

And pride, well, you may not have noticed this yet, but sometimes I think I’m better than other people. Sometimes I think I know more than other people. Especially when they are really poor and don’t know how to read or write. And I think I can teach them something, since I know things. I know a lot of things. A lot of good it does me since I can’t seem to live it out…since becoming a missionary.

Being a missionary does weird things to you.

I know. I’ve been one longer than you.

So, see. I’m still winning.

Michelle

Tegucigalpa, Honduras



So, what do you think?


I'll tell you that by "Don't you wish you were more like me?", my blood was boiling. I was getting ready to break somethin' off. (Sorry, condescension and insults make me go all ghetto.) I was like, "Is this a joke? What the hell? Seriously, what. the. hell...." But I kept reading and I'm so glad, because when Michelle pulled back the facade on her seemingly perfect exterior, I really liked who I saw. I liked her humanness and I felt connected to her in a way that maybe only two bitter, judgmental missionaries can connect. And my heart hurt for her, and for the ugly things that being a missionary has taught her. And my soul ached a little for me, too, and for the 'good' life I could have lived. And then it rejoiced for where we both are today, for who we both are.... and, mostly, for how God is still present with us in this wilderness.


Thank you, Michelle the Very Best Missionary, for your letter. Thank you for pointing a clever finger at the absurdities of this world, the ridiculousness of our own perceived better-ness, and the weird things being a missionary does to you. I love you, sister!


Also? It seems I've found my Bizarro Missionary. (Michelle probably doesn't even know what that is because I bet she's too good for Seinfeld....and Superman. So I linked it. Twice. Not that I feel any insane need to corrupt her and bring her over to the dark side, but if I did, I would start with Seinfeld. It's like the gateway drug into questionable humor and pop-culture.)