3.29.2012

Grace. And girl-farts.


I have done a terrible thing.

A shockingly awful, embarrassing thing.

It involves a lie that I told.

Yes, I lie.

(Whatever! You lie, too. If you claim you don't, go away. Your kind isn't welcome here.)

Anyway.

I told a lie to my kids and now that my darling oldest son is 18 and moving out and venturing ahead - particularly into close relationships with women who are not his Mother - I can see how my lie is going to disrupt his life a bit. Possibly cause him some pain. Maybe destroy him completely.

You see, when my giant, burly boy was a wee babe, I taught him a mild untruth about the human race; I told him that...*ahem*... Ok. I told him girls don't fart.

"Girls don't fart."

Ever.

Like, at all.

I may have inferred that it's physically impossible.

Of course, as God poured more boys into our family, with the addition of two more extremely well-endowed sons (you're welcome, guys!), this slight misrepresentation about the feminine form was easy to hold to. So I let it fester.

But as my children have awakened from the innocence of their childhood, transforming from rascally chub-faced angels into the trio of furry, smelly, mouthy young men I currently live with, they have begun to question my teaching. “Maria Laura farted in P.E., Mom. I heard it. I smelled it. She admitted it was her. What do you say about that?”

And I can feel my credibility slipping, sliding toward the agonizing death of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, to take it's place in the sewer of lies-parents-tell, at the right hand of Santa Claus.

"Mom doesn't know what she's talking about. Or? She's a liar."

Either way, I look like a dumbass. A broken, lost soul; hopelessly prideful, and full of her own ideas. An imperfect Mother, clinging to the hope that my children will each, in their own (hopefully not too agonizing) way, come to know true Grace, and in turn, generously impart it to their oh-so-mortal Mom.

I'm sorry. I lied.

I know I should have told them the truth from the very beginning. 

Girls fart!

...but I never have.


WHAT?! Baby steps, people.  

...      ....     ...

Grace, for your silly little heart. And mine. 

3.22.2012

Hugs for Jesus.


A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I had a remarkably awkward interaction with a group of short-term missionaries, right here in Costa Rica. The whole thing reminded me of the ongoing conversation on this blog regarding some of the more glaring failures of short-term missions, and it reaffirmed my conviction that we desperately need to examine missions as a whole.

We had zipped on in to the city so my friend could shoot some footage for a documentary, when we ran across a group of young people playing music in front of a fountain and offering passers-by hugs in the name of Jesus.

Yes. Hugs... For Jesus.

As we moved through the crowded promenade, we could see these Gringos were were out in force, carrying signs (many in English) that said “Free hugs” and “Jesus loves You” and a couple of references to 1Corinthians, the love chapter.

Eventually, one of them found her way over to where we were sitting to offer a Jesus hug. Being a non-toucher, in general, I quickly declined. “No, thank you. I'm....I'm good.” And when my sweet, affection-loving friend finally relented to the poor girl's persistent (insistent?) offer to give her a hug from Jesus, I knew immediately that I had made the right decision. That chick had my poor friend wrapped up like a cage-fighter when I saw how bad she was pitting-out. We're talking pit-stains the size of Rhode Island.... For real. Want a hug? And possibly a communicable disease?...*Shudder*

By the way, Jesus loves you!

We ended up shooting an impromptu interview with this group of college aged youth, who'd come from all over North America and Europe. We asked them simple questions like who they were, what they were doing, and what they hoped to accomplish by giving out hugs on the streets of Costa Rica. I can say they were at least able to tell us their own names with confidence - beyond that, it was obvious that none of them was really sure why they were here or what they were doing. One girl even admitted that she wasn't even a Christian when she arrived in the field, and that her Mom had signed her up (As a missionary! On a missions trip!!) without her knowledge.

We asked them, “If someone accepted a hug and was so moved by said hug (and subsequently knowing that Jesus loved them) and they wanted more information, what would you do?”

And they weren't really sure.

So we helped them out with a suggestion, “Would you, y'know, maybe refer them to a local church?”

“Oh, yes! Yes. For sure. We would refer them to a church.”

Cool. Which church?

“Oh. Costa Rica has tons of great churches.”

Ok. Do you know what any of them are called? Or where they are?

“Well... No. But, they're everywhere around here.”

Oookaaay... Do you go to a church here? Like, a church that you could invite people to attend?

“Um...yeah. Hey, you guys? What's that church we go to? Like, on Sundays. What's it called again?”

So you don't even know where YOU go to church?

And then, a leader came up and tapped her watch and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we've got to go do... a...thing...” And then they split.

To be frank, this was probably the most significant conversation these kids had all week. Perhaps all month. And they had no idea whether or not we were Christians – as we parted, a couple of them shouted “Remember, JESUS LOVES YOU!”, so I'm guessing they assumed we were not in the brotherhood – but they were on a schedule, one which apparently cannot be disrupted by pesky people asking annoying questions about connecting with Jesus.

....    ....    ....

I know, I promised to take this conversation in a new direction, to lay off the complaints and instead offer some helpful suggestions for healthy, useful missions. But I relayed this story because I think it's a great illustration to help us carry this conversation forward, as it raises some really good questions to get us started:

Should anyone at all be allowed on a short-term mission trip? If not, what should the criteria be? What should the vetting process look like?

Does the purpose of a mission trip matter? Does your church choose to partner with world missions that fall in line with its own view of ministry and discipleship? For example: Would your church see “giving hugs for Jesus” as a valuable contribution to the process of making disciples?

Are you willing to do the work to make missions matter? Missions will continue to be crappy as long as we're willing to sign up on a whim, hop on a plane, and do whatever we're told without an ounce of intelligence. For instance: Do you think people in Costa Rica, where even the ER doctor will greet you with a kiss on the cheek, are in dire need of physical connection – Is there a lack of hugs around here? And, do you think that in a country, like saaaay Costa Rica (where people are very sensitive to body odor, cologne is the bread of life, and showering is as important as eating), that hugs from a bunch of greasy, smelly Gringos with pit-stains down to their belly-buttons are a good way to connect and say, “Jesus loves you”? I mean, come on – isn't there a better way?

And that's what it all boils down to, I guess. Is there a better way?

Welcome to the second part of this whole messy series on Short-term missions. I'm really excited about exploring these questions (plus a few more) in depth with you guys over the next few weeks. I would love to hear your thoughts, and I hope that you'll feel comfortable to claim your stake in this important conversation as we talk it out.

As always, I hope and pray that you'll carry these questions off of this page and into the offices of your pastors and onto the sofas of your small group leaders, that this conversation will take wings in the world and effect much needed change.  

.....     ......      .....

Would you have accepted or declined the sweaty Jesus hug? Tell the truth...

3.20.2012

And now I'm giving tips on writing? Ridiculous.

In what I believe is, perhaps, the greatest twist of irony ever to happen to the internet (second only to the whole "Make Kony Famous" thing making poor Jason Russell really, really famous), someone has invited me to write about writing.

That just made me LOL.

But it's true.

Today, I'm honored to be guest posting over at "The Write Practice". A writing blog.

For real.

Joe Bunting is running a series on humor writing and asked me to contribute. And while I can easily admit that my post is nowhere near as good, or as useful, or as funny as Paul Angone's post, prior to mine, it is filled with my most important, hard-learned lessons on writing like a funny person.

So if you're into that kind thing, head on over and check it out. And if you're not into that kinda thing, head on over anyway and pat me on the back so I don't kill myself for lack of false-esteem.... I'm kidding. But, please?

Here's a teaser:

The Very Worst Missionary’s Four Tips of Being Funny
To be fair, I don’t really consider myself a humor writer. I’m more like a half-assed blogger whose personal dysfunction makes people laugh out loud in airports, coffee shops, and cubicles. (Wow. It’s actually kind of sad when you think of it like that.) Whatever. Here I am, contributing to a series on humor writing – so, for today, let’s pretend that I’m a humorous writer, sharing the secret formula to being hilarious.

Get ready for it. Pretty sure I’m about to blow your mind…
....        ....      ....
PS - I HATE writing guest posts.  Every time I do it, I tell myself, "This is the last one. I'm never doing this again."  It's just too stressful. I just know everyone is going to hate it and wonder why I was allowed to contribute. I suck. This was the last one. For sure. Probably. 

3.15.2012

El Chupacabra wears a tiny dress and goes under the knife.

If you and I are not already BFF's on Twitter or Facebook, then you might not know that El Chupacabra had knee surgery yesterday.

Let me tell you, you really missed out. I tweeted the hell out of that surgery.

I tweeted when he went in, and I tweeted when he came out, and I tweeted about a million times in between. Apparently, I tweet when I'm nervous. 

And I was so NERVOUS! 

It was fairly minor surgery, but I couldn't keep from freaking out. The hospital is super clean and modern, but it still maintains enough awkward, third-worldyness to throw me off my game. 

The first weird thing was that they made us give them a $500 deposit before the surgery. This had nothing to do with insurance or deductibles or copays, or anything like that. It was just a "deposit", which they said would be returned after the surgery. I'm still not sure what it was for, exactly, but we paid it at the bank in the hospital. (And I still think it's kinda weird that there's a bank inside the hospital, but ok.)

So we payed the "deposit" and found our way to the surgical ward, where they gave El Chupacabra the biggest gown they could find...

I cropped this photo. You're welcome. 

This gown came down to approximately 3 centimeters below his boys. It was hilARious. So we're both in the changing room, doing that whisper/laugh thingy, where something hysterical is happening but you can't just let it rip, so you wheeze and gasp and hold your breath until the laughter shakes your whole body and eventually explodes out the sides of your cheeks. 

Finally a little, tiny nurse's aid came to the other side of the curtain, "SeƱor, are you ready?"

When he whipped back that curtain, nearly naked, she offered him a fuzzy blanket to wrap around his butt. As I left him in pre-op, I heard him say, "Nadie quiere ver mi culo.", and then I sat in the waiting room for hours, thinking, "Great. If something awful happens in there, the last words I'll have heard from my husband will be 'Nobody wants to see my ass."

The surgery was only supposed to last an hour, and it was supposed to start at 6pm. But it wasn't until 10 (just as I had concluded that El Chupacabra was surely dead) that the nurse came out and told me he was fine. Then she said a whole bunch of other stuff that I didn't understand because it was 10pm and my ability to speak Spanish really ceases somewhere right after 7. 

She pointed down the hall and gave me some instructions and then she left. 

So I walked down in that general direction and stood there for a minute, confused, until I saw a woman sitting at a desk. By this point I was too tired to give a crap about sounding like a total dipshit, so I walked up to the lady and said (and this is an exact quote), "I'm supposed to go somewhere and do something." (Nicely done, Jamie.) And that poor woman just looked at me for a second, like "stupid gringos", but she was really cool and patient, and she helped me understand that I had been sent to get my $500 back, and then she walked me over to the bank and made sure I did it right. Very cool lady. Grateful for her. 

When I finally saw my man, he was in recovery but he couldn't be released because his feet didn't work. They had given him a spinal block, and it was just taking way longer than normal to wear off.  Actually, I think the doctor explained that to me on his way out, but it went right over my head... 


What the doctor didn't tell me was that when they got into El Chupacabra's knee, they confirmed that he had torn his PCL and discovered that his ACL is hanging by a mere thread.

So, basically, he needs more surgery - and if he opts to have the PCL repaired, he'll have to go to the U.S. for it, because nobody here can fix it.

Lame! 

But what are you gonna do, right?!

So as I was processing this sucky information, and they were finally getting El Chupacabra out of his tiny dress and into his clothes, the nurse hands me a bag full of meds and starts going over instructions for post-op care - including GIVING HIM A SHOT, once a day, for the next 5 days. 

Seriously. 

So this morning, I gave my first ever shot. It was awful. But it was also kinda cool. And while I squealed and squirmed and hesitated this morning, as if this was the most barbaric, ass-backwards, unreasonable thing for me to have to do, I know that by day 5 I'll be all, "What, this syringe? Yeah, I'm gonna give you a shot with it! *poke*" And then I'll act, for the rest of my natural life, like I'm a badass who will give you a shot just for the hell of it, because I live in Costa Rica and in Costa Rica this is how we do

Anyway. 

Overall, it has been a good experience, and we feel confident in the care that El Chupacabra is receiving. He is feeling good and his knee is healing well. 

The stitches oog me out, though. They look like two little dead eyes on a puffy cartoon face...

Right?!

Ok. So, all of that to say, THANK YOU for your prayers! And THANK YOU to those who gave generously to help us cover the deductible and other costs associated with this surgery and the next one. This internet community has been a support to us in ways we never could have imagined, and we thank God for you. 

We are super grateful for each of you who follows along with us, on this messy, beautiful journey. At least it's never boring, huh?

:) 

....          .....          ....
I've never had surgery. Have you? 

And more importantly, have you ever given anyone a shot?!  

3.12.2012

What I was doing when I wasn't here.

Hi.

It's been awhile. Life has been crazy, hectic, busy, good, and kinda bad, too. Here's a brief recap:

Part 1: Houston based independent filmmaker, Scott Brignac and his lovely wife/assistant Melissa, came down to Costa Rica to film a short documentary about our family.  

Yes, a documentary. No, not a reality show.

Here are some things I learned from the experience:

 - I hate cameras. They make everyone act like weirdos. 

- All my clothes are old and ugly. And I'm fat. 

- My kids are exactly as awesome as I believe them to be. (I was so impressed by their poise and candor.)

- 96% of my exuded confidence is false. Apparently, I am a frightened child. 

- My husband shores me up. I feel like I can do anything when I'm with him, even make a fool of myself on film. 

- I'm a terrible, terrible actress. The worst, really. 

- It feels good to trust the artistic process of another person, even when they're shedding light on your life.

- A good filmmaker can do stuff with his equipment to make you look not as hideous as you really are. It's pretty cool. 

- If a filmmaker is grabbing footage of your husband playing football, and he leans over and asks you if you ever worry about him getting hurt out there, and you say "Pshhh, No! He's having fun doing something he loves!", then you can expect your husband to rupture his meniscus and tear a ligament in his knee about 5 minutes later.  I think this is like the Christian version of Karma (sometimes called "humility")  - It's either that, or shit happens. I'm not sure which. 


Anyway. Scott and Melissa were super fun, super cool, super professional and super patient. We really loved having them here, and I'm looking forward to sharing the final product of their time here with all y'all. 

So, did you catch the part where El Chupacabra blew out his knee?

That's Part 2 of "What I was doing when I wasn't here": El Chupacabra busted up his knee. 

But then he didn't want to go the doctor because he didn't want to spend the money on an appointment. Finally, after much convincing, he went, and the doctor sent him for an MRI and the MRI said "You are so screwed."

We went back to the doc with the MRI results and he said, "You need surgery. Would you like to do it today?" 

And we were like, "Whoa, whoa! Hold on..."

We had a few questions about the surgery and recovery, and all that, and finally, El Chupacabra asked him, "What are my options?", and the doctor paused for a second to think, then he said, "Your options are surgery."

So now El Chupacabra is having knee surgery on Wednesday. And we are feeling completely freaked out by the $2500 insurance deductible, while trying so hard to feel grateful that we have insurance at all. Y'know? 

*heavy sigh*

I'm gonna be honest. We don't have a spare $2500. A few people have graciously stepped up to give however they could and we are incredibly thankful! - But we're still about $1850 away from the bottom line...

Sooooo? If you're inclined, please feel free to find that PayPal button over there ➔ on the righthand side of my blog and click away.  We could really use your help right about now.

>>> UPDATE: Through the generosity of this community, the deductible was fully covered!!!<<<
THANK YOU!!!

(And if you're wondering why he's out there playing football when he should be doing more missionarying or whatever, read this.  Football has a clear purpose for us. As we've connected with our players, and their wives and girlfriends, we talk a lot of Jesus and we've really been blessed by God's presence among us. It's a thing.)

Also? My youngest son has a mystery fever that comes and goes. It's got me a little stressed out on top of everything else.

...       ....     ...

If you wouldn't mind praying for us (particularly for that messed up knee, steady surgical hands, fast healing, and the finances to pay for it all) we'd be filled with gratitude. 

And hey, if you've got a prayer request, let's have it! I'd love to pray for you, too, my friends.

3.09.2012

Blog fail.

I'm gonna post something here tonight!


Or tomorrow.


Or, possibly...... Monday?


Love,
Jamie, the Very Worst Blogger.