There’s this beach way up in Northern California, where they used to dump all the city garbage and crap right into the water. Like, they would literally back the garbage trucks up to the bluffs and launch their shit into the sea. Household trash, appliances, logging refuse, old cars, everything…. So messed up, right?! It got so polluted that they finally closed the area in the 60’s - just roped the whole place off because it was too dang gross to be out there.

The first time I hiked down to that same beach with El Chupacabra was more than 40 years after its closure, after it had been reopened as a state park. We had to pass by piles of rotting kelp, and beyond the smelly, high tide deposits of dead fish and empty beer cans and layers of mucky brown foam. Really, everything about the trip toward the water screamed, “Um. Dump! You’re visiting a dump!!” And I felt more and more skeptical about the sand filling my shoes, thinking, “Is this toxic sand?...It smells toxic….Great. Now I have Chernobyl feet. My toes are gonna fall off….Welcome to Mendocino County, everybody! Where a Great White shark will eat your head and toxic beaches will kill the rest of you!…. God, oh, God, why are we here? Why are we heeeere....Crap….” And so on, and so forth.

We finally slid down the (toxic!) sand embankment, to where the water was swishing against the shore, and the sun glistened and danced across the wet surfaces of the rocks. And that’s when I realized that the beach was covered, like covered, in glass. Green and brown and red, with flecks of blue and bits of turquoise nestled among what looked like billions of white diamonds. All of it rounded off into smooth stones from so many years of tumbling along in the surf. It was a stunning sight - One of those crazy beautiful moments in life that catches you off guard and takes your breath away, because you never ever expected it to be just…so…. perfect… Ya know?

Anyway. We stayed the day there, looking for treats in what used to be trash. Imagining if this had been the handle of a teacup, or if that was the rim of a medicine bottle. Sincerely amazed at how the sea could turn our error around on us, and delight us by taking what was a recipe for disaster and, instead, serving up a national treasure.

Since that day, I’ve kept a wooden tray full of “Glass Beach” on the dining room table. I guess it’s a centerpiece of sorts. Sometimes I scatter a couple of tea light candles in with the collection of milky colored stones, but I prefer it ‘as is’. Just a few handfuls of beach that El Chupacabra and I scooped up with our bare hands and brought home in an empty McDonald’s bag.

Our centerpiece has become a little bit of a monument to our loved ones over the years. All of our dearest friends have sat with us around the sea glass, at one time or another, sorting it, swirling it, searching through it with distracted fingertips while their souls found the right words to share their stories. That little pile of rocks has been privy to a crap-ton of secrets, as our table became a safe place for our friends to spill their guts. I recently got an email from a friend, stateside, that says with longing, “I need to talk. Can I come over and sort the rocks while I put my whole heart on the table?”

I would swear that these little glass rocks have some sort of therapeutic quality, except that I know they don’t. The truth is, it’s not the rocks that have drawn us back to the table to talk, again and again. I think it’s an altogether different centerpiece that calls us to sit and talk awhile…

That first time I stood on Glass Beach, I cried - I cried, and I thought, “This is what God does!”… God takes our crap offerings, our messed up lives and all of our garbage, and He turns it around. He makes it Beautiful, somehow. Against all odds and despite our own easy skepticism, He Redeems what seems hopelessly trashed, He Rebuilds what seems irreparably broken. Somewhere along the line, this God - the God who will make all things new - became the centerpiece of our lives.

He is the real centerpiece around which we invite our friends to sit and talk. The glass rocks only serve as a quiet reminder that we should delight in the unexpectedness of what God can do when we give Him our shit and let Him transform it. Because, seriously you guys, this is what God does….


It's weird to think...

This weekend I'm celebrating the fact that, 17 years ago, my BabyDaddy made an honest woman outta me.

If you think I look like a 12 year-old playing dress up, that’s because I got my dress for $99 at an outlet in San Francisco 3 weeks after having a baby. So it fit ~more or less~ when I bought it, but then I shrunk, so I had it refit, and then I shrunk some more. Also? I didn’t know how important it really is for a girl to get a tan and wear hooker makeup on her wedding day. That’s why normal brides look like women, and I look like a child bride from Utah.

Actually? I was kind of a child.

It's weird to think about how young we were... Or maybe it's weird to think about how old we are, now... Ok, either way, it's weird.

It's weird to think that on that day, 17 years ago, I walked down the aisle and promised my last breath to a terribly young man in a terrible white jacket, having no idea what that promise really meant, or whether or not I was really willing to keep it.

it's weird to think that we got married without any idea of what it really meant to Love or be Loved. We were so clueless about the level of sacrifice we were signing on for -- Happily unaware that when we exchanged rings, we may as well have exchanged vital organs. Inextricably linked is what we became, albeit halfheartedly, that day.

It's weird to think that we thought of "two becoming one flesh" as a beautiful and poetic addition to our simple ceremony, but that someday we would learn the depth of those words. That the pain of a broken marriage is as real as the tearing of flesh, the wounds every bit as invasive. It's kinda weird to think that, several years later, when we both thought it was over, I would remember our wedding day, the words spoken - "a man should leave his Father and Mother and cleave unto his wife" - and finally understand why they called it a "meat cleaver"...

It's weird (Ok. And sad... And embarrassing...) to think that I asked the guy who married us to please refrain from including Jesus by name. (Seriously. I did that.) And weirder to think that the same Jesus I denied on my wedding day would ultimately rock my world, transform my life, and save that very same marriage. So stinkin' weird!

And maybe it's weird to think that a terribly young man in a terrible white jacket could bring so much Love and Joy and Goodness to the life of his little baby bride...
...but it's weirder to think of what her long life would look like without him.

I love you, Babe. Happy 17th Anniversary!! (I know, I know. That does make us sound hella old!)

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Are you married? How long???

Here's that link I promised:

A couple of you have asked for this and I told you I would post it, so I am.

Here is the link to the podcast from my interview with Drew Marshall, last week. I'm kind of hard to hear and understand - I think we had a poor connection is all. It's totally not because I was drunk. Scouts honor.

(Ok, Mom [and other granny types]. So, what you do is, you click right where it says, "the link". Yes, put the curser right on top of it and then click it. That will take you to a page that's full of all kinds of colorful, shiny internet things, but all you have to do is scroll down to where you see my little name and picture dealy, and then, at the bottom of the little blurb about the Very Worst Missionary, there's a teeeeeny picture of a speaker. Click it. Click the speaker. You'll hear some music and after a bit, the interview will start. It's ok. You can do this. Enjoy!)

And here's the address for those of you who get this by email, where, apparently, links don't work(?): http://drewmarshall.ca/listen2011.html

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I hate hearing my own voice. It always feels like I'm listening to one of my sisters... mocking me. Man, they have got me pegged.

Have you ever heard yourself on the radio? Did it make you want to give your sister an Indian Burn?


Latin Boys

I walked into town the other day feeling like the strong, classy, independent woman that I occasionally, sometimes, but not very often pretend to be, and I was reminded that, as a female missionary, I bring something really special to the mission field.

Yup, I’m talking about boobs. But, don’t worry - I brought my other lady parts along, too.

It’s really a teeny, tiny detail. One which I’m reminded of daily by taxi drivers, construction workers, convenience store clerks, boy scouts, garbage men, police officers, and gas station attendants. What can I say? These Latin boys are extremely generous with their appreciation for the female body. Like, crazy generous -- to the degree that I feel as though I could be a limbless, one-eyed, drunk transient in a wheelbarrow and the guys here would still make it a priority to roll down their car window and howl their approval of the fact I have a va… erm…well… that I’m a girl.

And you know what?

I totally don’t hate it.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to hate it. As a woman, I’m supposed to feel objectified by the catcalls and horn honking. As a missionary, I’m supposed to feel embarrassed by my own sexuality and particularly horrified by the possibility that I may be causing my brother to stumble, or whatever. As a human being, I should feel degraded by being cajoled like an animal. But if I’m being really honest, and I am here, I have to tell you that -while I’m sort of uncomfortable with the aggressive nature of all these Latin boys – they….um….

…They make me feel pretty.

And I like that.

Granted; This confession comes from a woman who, starting at 12, began to wear makeup at every given opportunity. My Mom would be banging on the bathroom door at 4 in the morning, yelling, “It’s a fishing trip, not a fashion show!” So, I guess that just shows you how long, exactly, I’ve been wrapped up in the superficial business of beauty.

But when I’m being really, really honest, which I’m gonna try to do here, I have to tell you that these Latin boys don’t actually make me feel all that pretty. I mean, they’re not exactly selective with their off the cuff marriage proposals. I’ve seen chubby grannies in mini-skirts get hit on waiting for the bus. So, no, it’s not about being pretty.

It’s more than that.

It’s about being visible. I think. And wanted. Maybe.

It’s about being loved.

Which we all know starts with being lovable in the first place.

So the Latin boys do their thing, and it stirs up some kind of dirt in my soul, a dust cloud of girlish longing that obscures the goodness of what God, Himself, built into me. See, what my heart knows, and what my head screws up, is that I was created to be Loved.

Apart from boobs.

Apart from blogs.

Apart from making the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet.

Loved, apart from every little thing I let define me and apart from how I constantly find myself unworthy.

Loved, apart from the Latin boys and their wily, wily ways.

Loved, because when the Creator of the Universe knit me together, he did it with intent, whispering, You, Baby Girl, you are meant for love.

Now, if I could only leave it to Him to Love me…

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Speaking of love, you're gonna love, love, love Lillian B Photography! Lillian is an amazing photographer and today's sponsor of the VWM. Go check out her stuff!!


(I can't explain this) An interview with Drew Marshall

Do you ever wake up, look at your life, and think, "What the hell is going on around here?!"

Today is one of those days for me.

Because. I'm gonna be on the Drew Marshall show today.

No....For real.

Wanna know who else is on the Drew Marshall show today?.... How about Lee Strobel.... or? Max freaking Lucado.

For. Real.

Lee Strobel, Max Lucado, and Me. Same show, same day. Not making this up.

If you're not impressed, click this link and take a look at some of Drew's other interviews.... What's that?....Why, yes. Yes, that IS Chuck Norris.... and James Brown.... and Larry King...

Seriously. What the hell is going on around here?!

You can listen live, 3:15 Eastern time. TODAY. *not so subtle hint that I'd like you to listen*

Now, I'm gonna go bite my thumbnails til they bleed.


Do you wanna pray for me? I'm feeling all whacked out with nerves and excitement

1) I went on early (pretty sure it's cuz the guy before me got raptured.) - Sorry if you tuned in and missed it!

2) I will post a link to the podcast when it's available.

3) That was SO stinkin' fun! Thanks, Drew!!


Happy Happy Joy Joy

I'm writing this so nobody kicks my gloomy ass off the internet.

It's just that this blog has been coming off a little woe-is-me, lately -- Not that that's not a solid Biblical theme, I mean, David made a career out of it. But, yeesh, who wants to read the angsty ramblings of a bitter self-absorbed missionary every week?

So here's a random list of awesome crap, none of which is worth its own blog post, but all of which brings me joy, so that you can see that I'm not all "crying out to the Lord for absolution" all the time. Ok? Here we go:

~Mango. As big as your face. Sweeter than candy. The kind you eat until you explode. Be jealous.

~Sun and Rain in the same day. I can get a sunburn at 9 in the morning and need an umbrella at 2 in the afternoon. It's kind of awesome.

~Football season is over. That means El Chupacabra is home almost every night. Of course there are pros and cons to this. He's here, which I love, but that means I can't get away with serving Coco Puffs for dinner as often. So.... yeah.

~Coffee. Just coffee.

~My friends and I started up "Kids Club" (pronounced "keeds cloob") for our dirty birds in the precario. We had around 50 kids show up this Tuesday for a bible lesson, craft, food and games. So freaking fun!

~My kids (who, at 17, 13 and 11, are all old enough to really hate me) still follow me around the house. If I'm in the kitchen at least one of them is in there with me, sitting on the counter and talking to me about random junk or pulling up YouTube videos that I just have to see. If I'm in my room folding socks or whatever, they'll come in and hang out with me. And it's somewhere in those distracted moments, when they think I'm not really listening (because I'm busy chopping onions or searching through a mountainous pile of white cotton for the other ankle-length, grey-bottomed sock with blue stitching across the toe) they spill about girls and friends and school drama and bad grades and, sometimes, if I don't ruin it by flapping my jaw, they break into a little chorus about how much they love their Mama. *smile....sigh*

~There's a peacock in my neighborhood. I'm pretty sure it sounds like a pterodactyl. I know I've never heard a pterodactyl but neither have you, so go ahead and tell me I'm wrong - your opinion means as little as mine. Anyway. When it calls, it reminds me of the movie Jurassic Park, which reminds me of Costa Rica, which reminds me that, holy crap!, I live in Costa Rica. And? I have a peacock for a neighbor.

I guess the
real reason I wrote this post is because I was reading the Bible the other day... I do that on occasion.... and I read this, from Philippians (which, I believe whole heartedly, should be spelled with two L's and one P, but I'm not in charge so, whatever):

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

And when I read that, I just felt like Somebody Important was saying "Damn, Girl - You need to smile more!"


What about you - What are you thinking on these days? Which one of life's little goodies has got you smiling?

Oh, and PS - If you read the title of this post and immediately knew the reference off the top of your head, we are officially friends. Just wanted you to know.


Hypocritical much?

I have a friend who has lived an incredible story of depravity and redemption.

Without a doubt, the transformation he has experienced as a result of meeting Jesus is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen or heard of. It’s made even more amazing by his love for humanity and his obvious desire to share the Faith, Hope, and Love that changed his life with others, that they, too, may share in the Peace of a Savior.

I’ve been nothing but impressed by his desire to live for God. And I’ve been truly encouraged by his honesty in talking about the dark places he’s come from. If you met him, you would probably really like him. He’s just a likable, young, kinda good-looking guy, with a heart to help people seek and find Jesus.

And I hung him out like a wet sock the other day.

I flipped him the internet bird by calling out his douchebaggery on my blog.

I treated him not like a brother, but like an enemy. And I regret that. I’ve regretted it since the second I hit ‘post’.

But the best part (you'll love this!) is that on the same day I wrote the post in question, where I threw this kid under the bus, I wrote a guest piece for The Rally to Restore Unity in which I claimed that if we are gonna be the Church, we better learn how to act like a body – one body - respectful of each of its different parts.

And there I was, acting like a shoulder, saying to the neck, “Look at what an asshole the elbow is being? Can you believe this guy?!”

Go ahead and say it: “Hey, Jamie. Hypocritical much?”

It’s ok. I deserve it.

Do I still think what he did is wrong? Um, Yeah. Pretty much!

BUT. I probably shouldn’t have shared the specifics of our falling out in an international forum, to ~let’s face it~ a bunch of my friends. It’s just not fair. But, more importantly, it’s just not Biblical. (Here’s why.) So there’s that.

Basically, I’m a hypocritical douche and a half. And I'm really glad to be learning a better way. Cause, truthfully, I'd rather be a shoulder that says to the neck, "Check out that elbow - Look at all the ways he helps the body!" -- even when the elbow is totally being a prick -- because, ultimately, the whole body looks better that way.


My Most Frequently Asked Question, Today, on Frequently Unasked Questions

Please don't hate me.

This is ANOTHER guest post. I know, I know.... I'm breaking some cardinal rule of blogging that says never, ever guest post on other blogs twice in a row or something really, super bad will happen - like 11 people will unfollow you on the Twitter, or something like that. (If you're like me, you're thinking "NNNnnnnOOOOOoooooooo!!!! Not THAT!!" in a really sarcastic tone.)

Whatever. I guest posted twice in a row. So shoot me. Or go read it. Either one. The truth is, once I've written and sent a guest post, it's sort of out of my hands - and it appears on the interwebs when it appears. And since I follow no blog schedule whatsoever, I can hardly complain when things like this happen. So here we are.


Today, I'm really excited to point you to Matthew Drake's blog, Frequently Unasked Questions - where I did the exact opposite and answered the one question I am asked most frequently. Go check it out. If you want. No pressure. But please!:

And I hope that while you're there you'll take some time to poke around Matt's blog, he's a gifted and interesting writer, making f.u.questions one of my google reader favorites!

**On a side note, Matt made one small but significant error in his intro to my piece. He said I recently signed a book deal, but that's not the case. Actually, what happened is that I recently signed on to be represented by the lovely and well-known WordServe Literary agent, Rachelle Gardner. Which I sort of announced.... but only on Facebook... because the whole thing makes me want to swallow my tongue.

Sooo...I was gonna tell you... eventually.... that I have an agent (ohmygawd), and, Oh!, that I'm writing a book. What?!


There's this thing called "The Rally to Restore Unity"

I have regrets about yesterdays post. I'll share them later.

Today, I have the honor of guest posting as a contributor to the Rally to Restore Unity on Rachel Held Evans' blog.

This is very cool for me for 2 reasons:

A) I dig Rachel.

I've been a fan ever since she sent me her book "Evolving in Monkey Town" and I loved it so much I ended up getting a nasty sunburn on my hiney cause I was reading in the sun and couldn't put it down. But then I never wrote a review about it on my blog because book reviews are the worst and I suspect that people hate reading them, and also because I can't figure out a decent, non-yawn inducing way to tell people that I think a book is clever and well-written, and that it carries intellectual weight without being intimidating or condescending and that they should definitely go buy the book. (...See what I did there?)

B) I am
all about Unity.

Unity is the bees knees.... It may also be the Church's knees. Ooh, ooh! - That makes a whole ton of sense when you think about it, because if we're lacking the knees of Unity, then you can see why we, the Church, appear to be stumbling around so much. (....See what I did there? I'm unstoppable!)

Ok. Please, if you will, go check out my post, "Ask yourself..."

And then do that super encouraging thing you do where you leave a bazillion comments and make me feel all, like, "they like me, they really like me".

Cool. Thanks!


Turf Wars.

Peg your jeans, People. Pull on your leather jacket, cuff your cigarettes, and start snapping - The gangs of New York have got nothing on the turf war escalating in my neck of the rain forest.

It started with a text.

The message was from another missionary who works in the same little ghetto I visit on Tuesdays. He thought it would be better if we asked his permission before heading out there again, “out of respect for his ministry and his authority”.

And I thought that was super weird. …Since, ya know, I’ve been going out there for two and a half years without his permission… oh, and I’m not part of his ministry… and, also?, because, the last time I checked, nobody calls “dibs” on loving poor kids.

But, apparently, I’m wrong. Apparently, these are his poor kids. And he wants us to back off.

I know this because the next text he sent said that he was “concerned” about doing “too much ministry” for these desolate children. And, again, we got a “shame on you for not respecting me” side note.

Then he sucker punched us on Facebook, where he put something in his status about how we should take our pretty blue eyes, and our U.S. dollars, and our ideas about ministry and GO HOME. Which garnered a silent round of “like” applause from his dumb friends, and forced me to make up, like, 8 new swear words.

Our only response to his bizarre request of sovereignty over these impoverished people has been to keep showing up. To keep arriving on Tuesdays, like always.

Turns out, he’s not really cool with that.

But it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know me very well, and, therefore, couldn’t possibly know that I don’t play in to political Church bullshit. He doesn’t know that I don’t care if you’re the Pope – I don’t need your permission to Love. And he doesn’t understand enough about me to know that I don’t give a rat’s ass about “ministry”. I go to the Precario not out of duty, but out of desperate Hope for the future of these children.

I’m not easily intimidated. And I will never stop Loving these kids.

You want a turf war?!

*snap… snap… snap… snap*

You got it.

*snap… snap…snap*

But be warned.

Love is a weapon. And I win wars with it all the time.


But, seriously? Missionaries fighting over poor kids? Tell me you see how messed up that is. Tell me you know, deep down inside, how ridiculous it is. Tell me, please-oh-please, tell me, that this is all a bad joke and that you know that there’s no such thing as too much Jesus… Tell me we’re on the same team, fighting for the same side – tell me we can work together to bring Faith, Hope and Love to the least of these…

Tell me this is not a competition.

Tell me we are the Church.

Then, let's act like it’s true.

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