8.29.2011

Who told you...


My inbox is full.

A quick glance through the subject lines will reveal that Old Navy is having a sale, you can fly from Phoenix to Boston for $188, my kid is missing a math assignment, aaaand.... oh, the world is full of broken people with terrible secrets who are longing for absolution and acceptance.

Somehow my inbox has become the bearer of the world's guilty conscience, a virtual confessional for people who need to get some pretty heavy junk off their chest. I'm humbled by these letters; incredibly honored (if not terribly ill-equipped) to be the recipient of so many sad, beautiful, personal stories. And I will gladly take on this role, the catcher of broken hearts and cradler of spilled guts, if it means giving someone a chance to let go of the shame that's been eating them alive, or keeping them up at night, or making them stress-eat an entire pan of fudgy-super-chocolate-chunk-brownies with half a jar of peanut butter...

The thing that haunts me about my inbox is the sheer volume of people who are aching to know if they're still worthy of love. There are so many people drowning in shame because they're certain they'll lose everything if anyone ever finds out how messed up they are.  It saddens me that there are way too many people who willingly and mistakenly place their worth in the cruel hands of men, when it is God who created them and knows their value.

Sometimes people ask me how I do it, how I lay all my crap out there for the whole world to see, open to  judgement and ridicule. They ask me where I've found the freedom to be myself no matter who's watching. They wonder how I “get away with it”, as if I'm breaking some unspoken law of Christian living that says “Above all, never stop pretending to be perfect.”

My answer is always the same: 
I can be "authentic" or "transparent", or whatever, because I don't give a hot shit what you think of me.

That is to say, I have a very deep sense of where my value really lies. It just isn't that big a deal to me if a few judgmental a-holes deem me "broken" or "unworthy". Think about it - to be found wanting by other people, who in reality are every bit as broken and unworthy as I am, is just... stupid.

I love the story of Adam and Eve, in Genesis. It always gives me pause when I get to the part where it says they were 'naked and unashamed'. Mmhmm, bare-assed and unashamed at the core of our creation. It's not until later that we get all mortified to see that our junk is showing. It's not until after the fall of man that we start hiding in the shrubs and fashioning leaves into underpants. That's where God finds us, shivering in our fig and ivy blend bloomers, and He asks, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Seriously. Who told you to be ashamed?

With everything that's in me, I want my life to be a fulfillment of the person God Created me to be. I understand that because of my brokenness I don't get to spend my days waltzing through Eden. But, in the story of Adam and Eve, I can hear Him whispering my name, saying,

 “Baby Girl, you weren't created to hide in the bushes, you were made to live in the garden... Be who you are. I love you that way.”



I found freedom when I stopped wasting time and energy hiding my junk behind a layer of superficial shrubbery. I'm confident in my messiness because I realize that Jesus doesn't bind me to my shame, He releases me from it...

…. …. ….

It's time to step out from behind the bushes. Who told you to hide your junk, anyway?



8.27.2011

I think this is how 'Jackass' started...

Ever wondered what a good little missionary family does on their day off?... Yeah, me too.
Well, I don't know about them, but WE go to the park and act like idiots.


Then one of us tries to maim and/or kill the children while the other one records it. I'm pretty sure this is how "Jackass" started...





Ok. Yes. We're super dumb. But we really, really love being dumb together! 

I wouldn't trade a sunny Saturday morning with my jackass family for anything on the planet. 

Soooo... What are you doing this weekend (aside from considering a call to Child Protective Services to report a certain irresponsible mother)?

8.23.2011

You'd be Surprised.

...again.
I decided to repost the piece I wrote for POTSC last week. It's a real honor to partner with these guys, and I sincerely hope you'll go check them out and be challenged by their Never Beyond series. Sorry if you've already seen this, but as soon as it hit the interwebz, my inbox began to fill up. Seemed that a lot of people were asking "How do you do that?! How do you put that stuff out there and not want to crawl in a hole and die?" And I really want to answer that question (plus a few more). But first, this, to give some context to those who may have missed it:

You'd be surprised.

The setting sun cast an orangey-pink glow against the dirt-bag SurfWind motel. A couple of hookers and a drunk lingered by the corner of the building and a guy leaned against the flag pole with a cigarette.

Enjoying a happy ending smoke, I suppose.

I joked, “If herpes was a color, it’d be that orangey-pink.” But my friend stayed quiet in the drivers seat. Stupidly, I kept talking, sharing my disgust for the scene outside my window, “You’ve gotta be some kind of desperate to pay for sex. Who does that, anyway? What kind of guy uses a hooker?!”

“You’d be surprised…” is all he said.

And I assumed he was talking about the mayor of San Francisco…or Kevin Bacon, or something.

But that moment in front of the SurfWind motel came back in a flood of understanding a year later, when my friend said he needed to talk and I found him lying on the floor, just a pile of tears and snot, and I heard his confession through his sobs. As it turns out, he was that guy, the kind that uses hookers.

He was married, he was a pastor, and he was right – I was surprised.

Later, I sat talking with a group of women while we sipped coffee and nibbled the ends of crispy cookies like emaciated wannabe super-models. One of the women started a little rant against abortion, and the other ladies clucked and nodded in approval. “Who does that?” she raged, “What kind of person murders an unborn child?”

I glanced from one face to the next, hopeful for signs of Grace and Mercy, when I finally settled on the president of the PTA sitting across from me, her brown eyes rimmed with tears. Very quietly, as if whispering a secret to her steaming latte, she answered, “You’d be surprised.” But the chatter of the soccer moms had already moved on to important things, like who saw the last episode of “The Bachelor”.

I sat in that circle of women, buzzing from the caffeine high and thinking on my own dark secrets; the guys I’d slept with, the drugs I’d played with, the teen pregnancy. I was thinking about how, even now, as a grown woman, a married mother of 3, I was still broken, still doing awful things that I was ashamed of. And then I ate the rest of my cookie, plus two more, because I knew that as soon as I got home I would stick my finger down my throat and barf them up.

As I reached for a fourth, one of the ladies leaned over and put her hand on my knee, saying, “Jamie, how is the whole missionary thing going? That’s just so exciting! I mean, who does that?! Who moves halfway across the world to serve Jesus?!”

And I had to smile. “Oh, you’d be surprised…”

…. …. ….

Do you really want to know who does “that?” Because, honestly, you’d be surprised.

We are the People of the Second Chance. We are anorexic missionaries, pastors with porn habits, and PTA Mom’s with shady pasts. We are “that guy”. Wholly broken and fully redeemed, we no longer wonder “Who does that?!” because we already know the answer.

That kind of person…. needs a Second Chance.

I need a second chance.

And maybe you do, too.

8.22.2011

Keep Going.

You know when someone does something for you that is so awesome you don't even know what to say but you know you need to thank them somehow because dang! it's just so freaking awesome!, but every every time you sit down to write them a thank you note the words just seem... flat? or something? I dunno, not right? Not enough?

I want to...

...I can't....

...but my...

...er, what I'm trying to say is....

Ok.

You guys? Someone bought me a computer.

Actually, someoneS bought me a computer - as in, an eerily quiet, mysterious, anonymous group of people pooled their resources together and replaced my stupid, dead computer with a brand new, smokin' hot laptop.

And I don't even know what to say.

Except... THANK YOU!

Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you what this means to me. I can't even begin to scratch the surface to reveal the depth of my gratitude.
I can't say "thank you" BIG enough or BOLD enough or ITALICIZED enough to show you, through those two little words, that you've given me a gift so much greater than a keyboard and screen and all the nerdy doodads that make them work together.

I was surprised and elated when my son handed me a laptop and said "This is from your friends". But then I opened the card and it said "KEEP GOING." And I cried.

Like, I bawled. And my husband was, like, "Are you okay?"

I was so much more than okay... because....oh man, I'm gonna need a tissue....because, when you feel like a loser a lot of the time, and then somebody goes out of their way (in this case, way way way out of their way) to say"Hey, I love you and I can see God in you, so Keep Going...."
....Well. There simply are no words...

So I'll just say thank you.
And... I will.

.... .... ....

Keep going... Maybe someone near you needs to hear those words as desperately as I did.

And again, I'm so grateful to those of you who contributed to this computer and encouraged me to keep going. Your kindness and generosity inspire me. Seriously. Thanks, guys!

8.16.2011

The VWM is POTSC.

Today I have the great privilege of writing for the People of the Second Chance.

This post was written by memories - the kind that leave you breathless and make your heart ache in your chest.

I hope it has meaning for you...

"You'd be surprised."


8.15.2011

Happy Reunion


I woke up with a crusty eye so I'm forced to wear my wonky, broken glasses all day.

I look so stupid. (But I like to pretend that my husband thinks my white-trash ways are quirky and adorable. So, in a strange twist, this whole crusty eye thing is giving me an imaginary boost in self-esteem.)

My eye is all weepy and gunky and nasty - but I honestly don't care.

My arm could be dangling by a thread and I wouldn't care.

I'm happy.

Actually, I'm ecstatic.

Whatever the happiest word for "happy" is? I'm that.

My son is coming home.

By tomorrow night, he'll be sleeping in his own bed.

*squeals* I can't wait!!!

Today, my crusty eye and I are making preparations; cleaning his room, adding fresh sheets, dusting off his desk.

I've been working all morning and my heart hasn't stopped beating to the tune of a very happy song. I'm overjoyed at the thought of my child coming home.

I know, I know... he's only been gone 2 months. And it's not like he left in an angry huff, or something. I knew he was leaving and understood he would return.

But there's something about being reunited.

Something about being together, then being apart, and then being together again...

Maybe it has a little something to do with sending your most Beloved creation into the world and hoping against hope that it will come back to you after you've relinquished control.

So my heart sings.

I prepare a place.

My son is coming Home.

And can't help but wonder ~ if my twisted heart and crooked soul can feel this much Joy at the happy reunion of a son to his mother ~ How great must be the Joy of our Father when we come back to Him...

That He has happily prepared a place for every one of us, and that His heart beats with Joy at the thought of our return is enough to bring a tear to my crusty eye.

Doors open. Arms wide.... Welcome Home.

8.12.2011

This guy needs a nap... and other stuff about Rest.

My neighbors are in a feud.

One of them has a bunch of dogs that bark all night. The other one has a job and a life that he would love to enjoy, but can't because the neighbor's dogs keep him up.

I only know about this because the sleepy neighbor has taken to writing long emails in the middle of the night, begging the other guy to shut his damn dogs up, and sending them to the entire community. His letters are filled with pleading for the dog-man's cooperation, his help, his attention to the matter, anything. It's obvious from these lengthy emails that he has tried everything he can think of, with no results. Talking to the dog owner privately, going quietly to the little Home Owners Association for assistance, even talking to the dogs, all to know avail. So now he just emails all of us, hoping that someone will take notice and help him get what he needs - rest.

The whole thing is sad.

I've watched his desperation grow. His original messages are polite, but appropriately direct - Now they just sound pissed-off. And hurt. And a little frantic.

I can't blame him for feeling that way. The guy needs some sleep.

Quite frankly, when I don't get enough sleep, I can be a real bitch... Ok. Admittedly, I can be a bitch even when I've had plenty of sleep, but getting no sleep really intensifies the bitch situation at our house. Ya know?

It's funny, because El Chupacabra and I have been talking a lot about this kind of thing, lately -- about making sure that we're each giving the other what we need. Honestly, we've been pretty neglectful of each other, and it's gone on awhile. Things had gotten pretty bad between us because we were both begging the other person to listen, to act, to step up and fill the gap where we needed help. And in our own stupid ways we were each like our poor, tired neighbor saying, "Excuse me. I've had ENOUGH... I need your help. I'm counting on you and you're not there for me." And like our neighbor, our cries fell on deaf ears and our desperation grew.

The problem with desperation is that if you ignore it long enough, it will grow into contempt. And contempt is where the shit hits the fan... *ahem*... So to speak....

I have to admit that I tend to be more like the neighbor with the barking dogs; oblivious to the people around me, ignorant of their needs. I have a tendency to think that if something isn't bothering me, then it's not bothering anyone. I've allowed El Chupacabra to feel neglected and unloved because I lean toward being more concerned with my own agenda than being a wife who plays a pivotal role in the development of her husband. I'm selfish. It's ugly.

When I got to the last line of my neighbor's letter this morning, I actually cried.

"PAZ SEÑOR, PAZ POR FAVOR....necesito dormir.
NECESITO DORMIR:...
HAGA ALGO..."

It says "PEACE, SIR, PEACE PLEASE.... I need to sleep. I NEED TO SLEEP...DO SOMETHING..."

And I felt his desperation for the one thing we all seem to need... Rest.

It pained me that I haven't been a source of peace and rest for my husband. In my self-centeredness, I've let his desperate pleas for love and attendance go unanswered, allowing them to fall into contempt. My tired, hardworking husband was trying everything to get my attention and I had been too wrapped up in my own crap to see it. I know, now, that he hasn't been at rest in our relationship... and that really, really sucks.

I'm not sure what I can do to help my neighbor with the dog situation. But I do know - after some long and hard, but good, conversations - that I can be a better bearer of Peace and Rest to El Chupacabra. I think there's a lesson in there about loving our neighbors, but instead, I'll leave you with this, as this is what I'm praying for all of mine, today:

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”


It's my all-time favorite Bible verse, and my very most basic hope for the world- That you would know, first, that you are beloved, and then, that, even when the rest of us let you down, you can find rest in Him.

.... .... ....
This post is brought to you by musings and inspiration of Rookwood music - You HAVE to check them out at rookwoodmusic.com. I'm completely enchanted by their beautiful, bluesy tunes. And Krista's smoky, smooth voice is, ugh!, to die for! Love you, Rookwood!!
.... .... ....

What about you?
Are you finding rest?... Are you offering it?


8.08.2011

One year.

Today is our fourth anniversary of living the good life, serving Jesus in a jungle paradise. (Of course, if I had written this before my morning coffee, I probably would have said, today is the fourth anniversary of this financially disastrous, lonely, living hell. But I've sipped the good stuff, so we'll go with "jungle paradise".)

It's just crazy to me that we've been here that long!

But what's really insane is that we only have a year left of our commitment here.

One year!

That's like....nothing.

Seriously. Have you experienced the phenomenon of the disappearing year? It's scary.

A year seems long when you're a kid and life appears to be this never-ending monster of weekdays and homework. But, one day down the road, you find out you're pregnant and you say to yourself, "This is good, I have 9 months to prepare!" And then, like, 11 minutes later you're holding a new born baby. And it's yours. You wake up the next morning and that baby is crawling around, sucking on the dog, and by late afternoon you're baking a birthday cake in the shape of the number "1" while that same baby now swings naked from the chandelier with all the manual dexterity of a highly developed chimpanzee - and that is when you realize that a whole... entire... year... has passed in the blink of an eye. Gone. Done. Fin. It just.... disappeared. And you're left standing there, eating frosting out of the tub with your finger in a daze, wondering what the hell just happened?! Where did this giant baby come from?! Wasn't I pregnant, like, a second ago?...

Trust me. That is exactly how it happens.

So you can imagine my panic when I looked at the calendar today and saw that ONE YEAR stands before us, ready to yank the rug out from under our feet, so that we open our eyes and we're flat on our asses and it's August 9th 20TWELVE...

"What happens next?" has become the life-sucking, prayer-devouring, conversation-consuming question in our home.

Everybody is asking us what we're going to do next year, because they're smart and they know that "next year" is really, like, tomorrow: Are we gonna stay in Costa Rica? Are we gonna go back to the states? If we go back to the states, what does that look like? What would we do there? Who would we work for?

The answer is :
We have no freaking idea!

We love life here (ok, not always - but mostly), and we've seen God move in amazing ways through the people and ministries we've invested in, along with our personal lives and family. Yes, we've had our difficulties, but we would be honored to stay and continue that work. In so many ways we would be sad to leave Costa Rica.

But, there's part of us that feels a tugging to head back to the states (and a myriad of reasons to do so). We're just not totally sure what that would look like, or where, exactly, we would go - except to say that if we do end up stateside next year, we'd love to be part of the movement ushering in a new kind of missionary and a new kind of mission to the world. I guess you could say that we have a certain daydream we've been kicking around which we would love to see come true. So, in many ways, we would be happy to return to the U.S.

We've been earnestly seeking God's heart on this, and hoping for a clear direction. But so far, we're still pretty unclear about what it is He'll have us do or where it is He wants us, come next year. So our tactic has been to open as many doors as possible, while narrowing our ministry focus, so that when the time comes, we'll just know. Ya know?

Yesterday, we finalized our decision to go to the Catalyst Conference, coming up in Atlanta in October. We've been going back and forth for months, but it's getting down to the wire, so I made a list of "pros" and "cons". The "pros" said:

much needed time together (without the kids!)
time of learning from leaders in the church
chance to worship in English!
no kids
three consecutive days "off"
chance to chill with wannabe internet friends
networking
Starbucks
"Be Present" = awesome theme which I sincerely need jammed down my throat about now!
beer
getaway without the kids!... What?!

And the "cons" said:

money.


So we're going. *eeep* I'm SO excited!

Along with El Chupacabra finishing his degree in Business Administration, and me working toward a book contract, and in addition to our unceasing prayers, we're making Catalyst part of our "open as many doors as possible and see where God takes you in 2012" tactic. We're hoping to meet a lot of people and we're hoping to have some great conversations. We're hoping to make connections that could matter sometime down the line, either in the coming year or whenever - doesn't really matter - we just want to engage more deeply with the Body of Christ for 3 days in October!

So if you're in Atlanta, or if you're gonna be in Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference in October, and you wanna connect - let's make it happen. We would really LOVE that!

As for the next year, I love being open to the possibilities. I love wondering what our future holds. I love dreaming about what's to come, especially when I'm able to rest in the palm of God's hand because I trust that what He has in store for us is... Good.

We could be one year away from a whole new adventure. And you know how fast a year goes by...

.... .... ....

Ever been on the verge of making a life-altering decision - and hoping God was at the center of it?

or

Going to Catalyst? Wanna hang out?

8.03.2011

I met someone. And I think she's pretty special.

Once, when I was learning Spanish, my teacher asked me what I was going to do after language school. I wanted to give her a good Christian Missionary answer, so I told her I was going to build relationships with other women.

Well, that's what I meant to tell her. What I actually told her was that I was going to “have relations” with other women.

Minor difference.

But I meant what I said... I mean, I meant what I meant.

I really was hoping to get to know other women. I wanted to hang out with other chicks, talking and drinking coffee and doing chick things. And, since I've never really had any shortage of friends, I honestly thought it would be kind of easy to get out there and meet new people.

But it's hasn't been easy at all – In fact, it has been freaking hard.

The whole language thing kills me. My Spanish sucks, which makes taking friendship beyond anything totally surfacey close to impossible. I thought I might befriend some of the Moms at school, but that hasn't exactly been a cultural cake walk. I'm still figuring out a lot of the social cues that make me look like a weirdo, so while it's definitely getting better, I'm pretty sure I'm still “that weird white lady” to most of them. So, it turns out, making friends isn't as easy as I thought it was gonna be. And while I do have a few friends here, these last few years have definitely been the loneliest time of my life.

That's why I'm so excited that... well...I've met someone, you guys. It's true. I met a girl. And I think she's kinda special...

We met on the sidelines of a football game a few weeks ago, when our husbands were both coaches for the Costa Rican National Team. She's cool. And chill. And funny. And she's devoid of that “fake” vibe that totally turns me off. She's basically everything I look for in a friend.

So I gave her my number.

I never really realized how much making friends can be just like dating - until the other night when I sat down to tap out a quick email to my new acquaintance. I wanted to let her know how glad I was to meet her and that I'd love to hang out sometime. No big deal, right?! I am a secure, confident, grown-ass woman! I am not about to labor for ten minutes over two sentences to find just the right tone (one that says interested but not desperate and relaxed but not aloof). …Ok. I did that. But only because I don't wanna screw this up; I like this chick!

I know. It sounds like I want to date her... except that I don't want to get into her pants, I want to get into her heart.

The thing about dating, I mean friending, is that it's kinda risky. You have to be a little vulnerable, a lot honest, and totally willing to be rejected by the person you're trying to connect with. It can be awkward and even a bit painful. And, really, I'm okay with all of that.

The truth is, I love the process of getting to know new people. I love hearing their stories. I love meeting someone in a certain moment, and then hearing about all the ways God worked to bring them to that place in time. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a life-story. And I love the connection that happens when someone risks baring a little bit of their soul and it culminates in a compassionate, “Hey, me too”.

Yes, making the first move can be awkward...

Hello

Hi there, Remember me?

Hi

Hey

Hey, It was so

Hey, Wanna get toget

Hi, It was great meeting you last night. :)

But if you get a friend out of it? I say, suck it up.

Go on and build relationships, or have relations, or however you say it in your language – make friends. You know what they say:

"Friendliness is close to Godliness."

….or something like that. ;)

.... .... ....

Have you ever felt compelled to try and build a friendship with someone? Did it work?

If you're struggling with loneliness, leave me a comment - I'd love to pray for you about that!