1.28.2012

I'm ready for my close up.

This is really strange, but, just one month from today, a filmmaker is going to step off a plane in Costa Rica with his fancy cameras and lights and sound junk, which he will then use to follow us around, ask us probing questions, and (I presume) get close ups of all of the dirt, cobwebs, and shower scum in my house.

I am not making this up.

Scott Brignac is a U.S. based film-maker, and he's making a film about...us!

Weird, huh.

When Scott first approached us with the idea for a short documentary, I warned him that we are positively the most boring people on the face of the planet and that our lives, while occasionally whacky, might seem interesting because we live in a foreign country and hang out with foreign people, but they are, in fact, not the least bit entertaining. Like, at all. In any way imaginable.

But, still, he thinks he sees a story in us.

So, in a month, we're giving him a bed to sleep in and the creative freedom to coax (what we hope will be) a worthy story out of us.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that the impending arrival of cameras has put me in a bit of a tailspin.

I guess you could say I'm not ready for my close up.

It's true that I haven't had a haircut in over a year, and I have flapping old-lady flesh draping the backs of my arms, and my face is aged and wrinkly and icky. Honestly? Getting caught on film will dispel any myth of attractiveness which I may have been able to fake with the help of digital filters and a carefully closed mouth. If Scott Brignac makes this film, you'll soon know that I'm only “Instagram pretty” and that I have teeth like Kirstin Dunst. It's tragic.

But that's not what's freaking me out.

I guess I wonder what you'll see, from the outside looking in. It worries me that you'll see what I already know, which is that things are not as they should be.

I am not the Mom I should be.

I'm not the housekeeper I should be.

I'm not the Christian I should be.

My marriage is not what it should be.

And maybe I'm afraid that you'll see, frame by flicking frame, that the brokenness I've talked about in these pages isn't just some clever imagery, some silly metaphor, but the stuff of real life.

Maybe I'm afraid that you'll see that sometimes we look pretty Godless, El Chupacabra and I. And it's not because we're some hipster Christians who act that way on purpose to be “relevant” or something. It's because we're just not letting God in, to be part of what we're doing here on His Earth. We don't always seek Him, or listen to Him, or obey Him – even when we know we should. We look Godless sometimes because... well, we are Godless sometimes. And it's ugly. And sad.

And maybe I'm afraid that you'll see how this life has taken its toll on El Chupacabra and me, and how we've run short of Love and Grace and Mercy for one another. Having been married since we were children, we carry with us the tenderness of life long friends, but also the familiarity of inbred cousins. When we argue, which is often, we lose our minds – saying the same things again and again, and ending with a venomous chorus of “Screw you!”, “No, screw YOU!”, “NO, SCREW YOU!!” - until we're both just too tired to keep shouting about who ought to be screwed.

Not that we would do that if there were a camera in the room.

No, of course we wouldn't. Because sometimes we're full of shit. Sometimes we play nice when we don't feel like it because we know someone is watching. For the most part, our lies are innocuous and silly things to make us look smarter or harder working or better disciplined than we really are. But sometimes they're just straight bullshit; dangerous, hurtful, self-preserving lies, to cover our sin, to hide our failure, to shadow our most indecent shortcomings.

Maybe I'm afraid that the camera will ferret out our most horrible selves and those who watch this film will be left scratching their heads, thinking, “Wow. She really is the very worst missionary.”

And maybe I should be okay with that.

Maybe split ends and flabby arms and messy houses and the hard stuff of real life are the things that make a great story.

Maybe we can find God there.

I don't know. 

Maybe this broken bullshit world needs more close ups...

....         .....        ....

What would a documentary of your life look like? 

1.24.2012

This is NOT a food blog! But...

...I made a Picaken. 

A "picaken" is a whole entire pie baked into a whole entire cake. And you can't just go and make a Picaken and then not talk about it on your blog. A Picaken is more than food... it's an adventure.

It all started when I was poking around on Pinterest one night and I stumbled upon a Picaken. I thought it was ridiculous and honestly kinda gross looking, so I showed my husband, fully expecting him to agree that, yes, it was absurd and "why would anyone ever do that?!". 

He took one look at it and said, "THAT is what I want, no, demand for my birthday cake!"

And since I'm not the type to let a demand for dessert go unanswered, Picaken happened.

We agreed that a lemon cake with a blackberry pie sounded pretty darn delicious. So using every bit of culinary prowess I could muster, I set about my work, determined to complete the monstrous task of impregnating a cake with a pie.

This is a step-by step guide to the weirdest dessert I have ever made:

Step 1. Bake a pie. Mine was too fat. I should have used less berries.  If you use a fruit pie, you need to really thicken up your filling. If it's too juicy, your Picaken will... um... leak. A leaking cake is not appetizing. But whatever - just bake a pie. 


Step 2. Whip up a cake. Any cake recipe will do. Just whip it up and pour the batter about 1/4 inch thick to cover the bottom of your prepared pan (you need a BIG pan. I used a spring-form).


Step 3. I have no pictures of this because I was FREAKING OUT when I did it. But this is the part where you take that gorgeous pie, the one you just made, and you dump it into the cake batter. And then you pour more batter on top. Bye bye, perfect pie. 

Also? I'm totally not gonna tell you about how, while it was baking, the cake overflowed like lemon flavored lava covering every inch of the inside of my oven and then nearly killed my whole family by smoke inhalation and then took me 2 hours to clean up. It's just too discouraging. 


Step 4. Cool the 9 pound monstrosity on the window sill. (I always cool cakes and pies on the window sill because no matter how big the disaster is inside your house, the people outside will see and smell your creation and think, "That chick has got her crap together.")


Step 5. Release the PICAKEN! Turn that mother out onto a plate. If it starts to leak, you can just swipe the goopy stuff off with your finger and eat it until you have a stomach ache. 

Step 6. While you're waiting for your picaken to quit leaking, make icing. 


Step 7.  Ice that bad boy.


Violá! You've got yourself a PICAKEN!!

Here's a recap - You bake a pie, then you put it in a cake, then you decorate it as if you haven't just done something really bizarre


Of course, even sitting there covered in a half inch of buttercream, I had no idea what to expect when we opened it up. To be honest, I really thought that as soon as I cut into the cake it was gonna, like, barf out the pie... 

But it didn't.

It all stayed put...


...and it tasted really, really, really exceptionally good.

Now everyone in the family wants a Picaken for their birthday. *sigh* Great.

*I will say this; You can easily buy a frozen pie and a box of cake mix and throw this sucker together in 15 minutes flat. But where's the adventure in that? That's like riding Disney's Jungle Cruise and saying you've crossed the Amazon. ....But who's judging?! Not me! Even a half-assed adventure is better than no adventure at all!*

....         .....        .....

Now, I have to come up with new flavor combos for my February birthday boys. I'm look for suggestions.  What pie/cake combo would you want in your Picaken?!

For a vague, confusing, mostly unhelpful list of
Picaken instructions, click HERE

1.20.2012

I finally wrote something, but not here...

Hi. Remember me? I write this blog...

I haven't been around much because 2 of my 3 spawn are still home on summer break. So I'm doing this crazy thing where, instead of keeping them subdued with limitless video game play, I force them to interact with real life by giving them household chores, making them help me cook, and engaging them in good old fashioned conversation. I think it's called "parenting" - and let me tell you, it's a lot of work, it's super time consuming, and it's taking me away from other stuff (like writing this blog). In general, parenting is a huge pain in the ass, but I read somewhere that it keeps your kids from ending up on death row, so that makes it all totally worth it!

They go back to school in 2 weeks. I might miss them.

....     ....    ....

Anyway. I did manage to crank out a few words for my friend, Ed Cyzewski, who is hosting a series called "Women in Ministry"and has graciously allowed me to join in on the fun.

Please check out my post, and then poke around his blog for oodles of other good stuff! Here's a teaser:


"I’m just gonna come out and say this: I never, ever, in a million years, wanted to be a “woman in ministry”. Never. And I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would actually be one.
I grew up far from any church influence, so the very narrow example I had seen of women in ministry came mostly from television, where they were often portrayed in the form of nosy, judgmental, gossip-loving Bible-thumpers. As a teen, when I finally crossed paths with some real live women in ministry, I found them to be…well…nosy, judgmental, gossip-loving, Bible-thumpers.
... click HERE to read the rest on Ed's blog, In a Mirror Dimly".
Thanks! 

1.09.2012

Looking for a kick-ass Missions Pastor?

We like to lay in bed at night and talk about the future.

Our timeline in Costa Rica is quickly drawing to a close, and imagining all the places God might take us this year brings hundreds of scary possibilities to mind. I admit, I find some kind of twisted pleasure in considering the worst. 

I say, “What if we end up somewhere and it gets really super cold in the winter, like below 65°, and my nose freezes solid and falls off. Will you still love me?”

He holds two fingers up, across my face, and looks at me for a minute. “It will be hard,” he sighs, “you're pretty fugly without a nose. But I'll do my best.”

“Ok. What if we end up somewhere in the Middle East and I have to wear a burka and walk behind you?”

The thought of this makes us laugh and laugh, but our laughter is tinged with nerves. 

This is what we do. We surf the internet while we day-dream of our future, saying things like "How do you feel about Toledo?" and "Shoveling snow builds character." Sometimes we're joking, sometimes not. Late nights find us laying there together, our laptops lighting up our faces, wonder aloud where it is that we'll end up. 

We're anxious to know what our future holds, what stories will unfold for each of us and for our children in the coming months. We're feeling excited and impatient.

The truth is, we've begun exploring our options...

Ugh! Fine. I'll say it out loud: The real truth is that we're actively looking at jobs in the U.S. (!!!, Right?!)

“Exploring our options” sounds way less scary to me than the truth, which is that El Chupacabra has already begun sharing his resume with churches. We're committed to the idea that it may be time for us to head back up North. And we're prayerfully seeking guidance to the right job, at the right time, with the right people, in the right place.

Yes. Even if that place gets below 65° in winter. 

So we lay in bed, hashing out our ideals; coaxing our greatest hopes out of the mass of possibilities.

El Chupacabra would be a kick-ass Missions Pastor. This much, I know.

He and I, both, have a passion to see missions redeveloped, executed with integrity and intelligence, and handled with the preservation of dignity for all involved. The hands on experience we've gained in the past five years is invaluable and incomparable. We're unbelievably grateful for what we've learned and anxious to put this knowledge to work, to see it spill into the DNA of a dynamic, engaging, socially responsible community.

So we're praying. A lot. And we're looking around for something along those lines - a place to fit in, a place to grow, and a place to help effect change.

We still don't know what that means, exactly. I guess we could end up on staff at a church. Or maybe as trainers for a missions org. We're truly open to any possibilities. 

Anyway. Here's what's important:

  1. We are fully and happily committed to our ministry in Costa Rica. That hasn't changed and, if it becomes abundantly clear that we're to stay here, we would gladly do so.

  2. We would love your help in spreading the word that we're...*ahem* “exploring our options”. So -if you go to a non-sucky Church- feel free to ask your church leadership if they're looking for a super-cool, radically bearded, amazingly gifted Missions or Discipleship pastor.
  1. Pass along our blogs (The VWM / El Chupacabra) and or twitter feeds (The VWM/ El Chupacabra). The more people who know we're looking, the better.

  2. Pray. No, like, for real. Please pray that our story would unfold with clarity.  
Thanks! 

....

How is your future fleshing out? Can I pray for you somehow?? 


1.02.2012

Be afraid.


At the stroke of midnight, we welcomed 2012 with some of our favorite people on the planet by our side.

We ate and drank and danced a little, and then we piled into 3 cars and drove 5 minutes up the hill to the most perfect vantage point for watching Costa Rica do what she does best – Celebrate!

It would be impossible for me to describe the view as the clock struck 12, so I won't even bother. You either know what it's like to stand on the side of a mountain as the valley beneath you fills with the streaking, pulsing, bursting light of a million fireworks, or you don't. If you don't, let me just say, it's spectacular in the most spectacular way. It's spectacularly spectacular.

We passed around hugs and kisses and pats on the back for an old year, well-lived, and a new year, well-received. And then, as the light show below us waned and finally died off altogether, we said goodnight to our friends, to find that we had locked our keys in the car.

The perfect night, topped off by a minor calamity.

We finally got home around 2 a.m., so (in keeping with my custom of procrasturbation and seeing that I was to leave for the airport in less than 3 hours) I decided I had better finish packing for a last minute trip to the states. My friends are getting married on Friday and her Dad, a commercial pilot, had comped me a flight to the good 'ol U.S.of A. I was so so so excited, still throwing odds and ends in a bag when I got the message that there was a problem with my ticket. Turns out, one airline bought another airline and -effective at Midnight on New Years Eve- my ticket became invalid. My last minute trip was canceled at the last minute.

I crawled in bed, totally defeated before the 5th hour of the new year, thinking "Pssshh. Happy New Year? My ass.

And I lay there for awhile, wondering if this was a sign of things to come. Wondering if 2012 would be a year fraught with struggle and disappointment. Would all of our perfect nights end with a fight just to get home? Would my great anticipations, my wild hopes, be denied life at the last second?

In the dark, I asked God if this was gonna be a good year or a bad year. I asked Him, 
“Should I be afraid?”

And in the deep place, the place that feels like my beating heart, but isn't, right there, in the very core of my soul I heard His gentle whisper...

Yes.

You should be afraid.

Because I AM that I AM.  Both Dangerous and Good.

I am Justice and I am Mercy.

When you follow Me into the darkness, you will suffer the unknown. You will bear the burden of risk. You will get stuck. You will feel stranded. You will step back, fall down, trip up. You will be disappointed, disheartened, disenchanted. You will be exhausted. Sometimes you will be sad.

Because I AM that I AM.

Both Dangerous and Good.

I am Wrath and I am Grace.

When you follow Me into the darkness, you will be witness to what is Spectacularly Spectacular; the unspeakable beauty of this world, my beloved Creation.

Be. Afraid.

Follow Me in fear and trembling. But follow Me.

Be afraid.

And then? Be brave.

For I am Dangerous and Good.

And I am with you...