5.28.2012

Love people, not projects.


I’ve never liked the word “missionary”.

It’s a loaded word.

It makes people act funny.

We’ve watched our friends meet other missionaries and noticed that sometimes when they hear that word, something weird happens. We’ve seen couples who are simply living together suddenly become husband and wife, foul mouthed jocks suddenly wax eloquent, beer aficionados become teetotalers for the moment, and raunchy stories about what happened last Friday night get tabled for another time.

In my experience, it seems the only people who feel excited to cross paths with a missionary are other missionaries, and people who feel a religious kinship with missionaries.

Everybody else just feels judged, like they might be at risk of becoming the next missionary project. I don’t blame them.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about loving people in the last five years, it’s that nobody wants to be featured as a prayer point in your newsletter. Nobody wants your unsolicited, but loving Christian counsel. Nobody wants your corny Bible tract.


Indeed, nobody wants to be your pet-project for Jesus.

People aren’t meant to be projects.

Even people who have a desperate need, even people who are achingly afraid, even people who are longing for a Savior will feel the sting of loneliness that comes with being turned into a project for the sake of missions.

Nobody wants to be your project… but everybody wants to be your friend.

Ok, fine, maybe not everybody wants to be your BFF. There are plenty of people I plain old don’t like and don’t want to be friends with. I think that’s allowed. But, the point is, most people would prefer your friendship to your “evangelism”. Of course, friendship requires a lot more of you. Friendship must be nurtured. Friendship must be mutual and reciprocal. Friendship needs time and effort and, eventually, the sort of transparency that allows people not to see through you, but to see Jesus in you.

It’s a lot harder to make someone your friend than to turn them into your project. But, I’ll tell you the truth, if you know how to be a good friend, then you’re more missionary than a lot of missionaries. 

Love people, not projects. 

....        .....       ....

Have you given or received the kind of "Christian good will" that makes people into projects? 

5.23.2012

Five Years; a Farewell


I can't believe it has been five years.

Five years of life and ministry in Costa Rica.

Five years worth of blood, sweat, and tears poured out so that God might be glorified and Jesus might be proclaimed to those who have not yet been restored to the family of Christ.

Five years of learning what it really means to be a “missionary” and examining missions in the context of the church, the neighborhood, the city, and the world at large.

Five years of trying to live out His call to be and to make true disciples.

Five years of heartbreaking failure, overwhelming sadness, silly mistakes and the kind of sweet, holy Redemption that can only wash over you when you're lying flat on your face on the living room floor at three o'clock in the morning, wondering what in the hell you're doing.

Truly, we have lived five of the most Grace-filled years you can imagine, finding that our God is utterly present with us – always – and that without Him we are aimless.

We have been challenged, tested, broken, humbled, and, irrevocably transformed. And now, after five incredible years, we find ourselves bringing our time in Costa Rica to a close.

Yes. It’s time for us to go “home”.

I'm super excited and little bit terrified to announce that in just 7 weeks, on July 10th, we will be returning to our hometown of Folsom, California, where El Chupacabra has taken on a key role in Missions and Outreach at Lakeside Church.

This is a dream come true for us! We get to return to our roots to share out of our experience as missionaries and to continue on our path as learners. We have never stopped loving and feeling connected to Lakeside, so for us this is a true “homecoming”.

We couldn't be happier. And we couldn't be more sure that this was God's hope for us, all along. Five years of preparation. Five years of education. Five years of vision.

We leave behind (though we don’t take an ounce of credit) a country that is thriving for Jesus. Costa Rica boasts a wonderful, growing community of Christ followers and a host of Seminaries where Costa Rican leaders are being trained and equipped to lead the Church. We believe the hand of God is upon this tiny country and her beloved people, and have seen with our own eyes how His spirit dwells here.

Words cannot express how much we will miss this place and the dear friends it has brought us, nor the depth of our gratitude for having had the privilege to live here. Seriously, y'all... Life here has been no less than AMAZING. While we're looking forward to this next chapter, we will dearly miss this place.

Five years is a heartbeat and it's a lifetime; it's just long enough to fall in and out of love approximately one million times. I have.

And it was good.

. …. ….

Through this journey, you have been our faithful supporters, our financial partners, our prayer warriors, and our friends. Without you, these five years would surely have looked different. Your partnership has been invaluable - I will never stop being grateful for the encouragement I've found in these pages.

Of course, I've wondered what will happen in this space, what will become of “The Very Worst Missionary”? And maybe you're wondering, too.

I'll share my thoughts on that another time, very soon, but some other time when I'm not crying so hard I can't see my own words through my tears.

For now I'll just say this;

I told you, recently, how I would happily exchange a life that was interesting for a life that was meaningful, and... well... I think I just did.

....    ....    ....

I'll be posting more on the details of our transition (that's gentle speech for "I'll give you the low down on my rapid spiral toward crazy-town") on Friday. 

Feel free to ask questions... I already know what the #1 question will be: "Will Knives the Cat be applying for a green card?!"

5.14.2012

Stuff they've taught me.


Yesterday wasn't Mother's Day in Costa Rica. It was just Sunday.

I'm cool with that. The truth is, I'm not a very good mom, so Mother's Day always feels kinda weird to me. Like my poor kids are being forced to give undue accolades to their weirdo, manic-depressive, spazzy Mom. “Here's breakfast in bed, Mom! Sooo....will you be getting out of bed today?”

I mean, we're doing fine, but I often feel like I'm learning way more from my loin-fruit than they're gleaning from me. So yesterday, while all y'all brunched on eggs benedict and mimosas in honor of good ol' Mom, I wrote a tribute to my kickass kids, and everything they've taught me:

They taught me to laugh. A lot...
I don't know what it is about having kids, but there are times that if you can't laugh, you'll just want to die. It starts the day they're born, when you inadvertently poop during labor. To poop yourself while 9 people are watching has got to be the #1 thing on my list of “Reasons to Jump off a Bridge”. Of course, #2 would be being pooped on (which each of my children did within 5 minutes of meeting me). #3? Finding a booger in your hair. Yeah. Been there.

When you have kids, your entire life becomes like an episode in a sit-com in which you are not the star. You're the sidekick who's always being pooped on. You're the Steve Urkel, the George Costanza, the Barny Fife. If you can't chuckle about the poop on day 1, you'll be completely miserable by day 4,395. So you've got to learn to laugh this stuff off, otherwise you risk ending up bitter and angry. With boogers in your hair.

They taught me to meet people where they're at...
When they were little, if I wanted to really connect with my kids I had to get on my knees and look them in the eye. Being on the same level helped them hear me and it helped me understand where they were coming from. Eventually, I began to see how this is true of every relationship I've ever had with my friends, family, and coworkers. It also explains my extreme distaste for people who think they're above me.

They taught me that having teenagers isn't a big deal, like, at all...
...unless the parents are still acting like teenagers. Then it suuucks. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience. But when the grownups act as grownups should, it's pretty easy for everyone to manage through all of the unchecked hormones, unwanted acne, and unsolicited boners of teen-angst without anyone committing any form of homicide.

They taught me that high-maintenance is the same as no-fun...
You can't go swimming because you it'll ruin your blow-out? You won't go camping unless there's a hot shower? You'd rather not get your shoes muddy?

Your kids do not give one shit about your hair, your hygiene, or your clothes. Not one shit.

I've noticed the best memories my kids have, the things they talk about the most, come out of our most spirit led adventures. They speak of treks through wet cow pastures and walks in the pouring rain and copious amounts of sand in our butt-cracks. Ant bites and wild animals and encounters with crazy people are the stuff of our dinner conversations. But they never say, “Remember Mom? You were wearing that super cute racerback and your makeup was impeccable.”

My little men (who aren't so little anymore) taught me to relax. And now we have more fun.

They taught me how to share...
It was my babies who taught me what “selfless” means, my littles ones who showed me the joy in giving away the cherry on a sunday. The showed me the beauty to be found in sleepless nights and busy days and a never-ending pile of laundry. They taught me how to love another person by giving myself away to them in increments of sleep and time, and by doing things I hate, like folding socks over and over and over again, a million times - because if you love someone, you have to give yourself to them a hundred different ways. And that's what real sharing is, right? It's not saying, “You may use my stuff until I want it back.” It's saying, “For you, Beloved, I die to myself...”

It was my munchkins who taught me what it really means to say, “I've got a frappuccino. Do you want the whipped-cream?”

I'm telling you, greater love hath no woman than this.

My children taught me there's no such thing as blind faith...
Through a thousand blown kisses, fluttering invisible to my turned cheek, my open hands, my beating heart, three chubby babies showed me that I already believed in what is unseen. I knew their love and it knew me. No explanation required, no proof needed, and nothing blind about it.

Indeed, having Faith means seeing. To have Faith is to see what others can't or don't. And if you've ever caught a fat baby's blown kisses... well, then you know what it means to have faith, too, I guess.

I will never stop being grateful to my kids for making me a Mama, but even more I'm thankful for the person they've helped me become.

Happy Mother's Day, indeed. 

...          .....           ...

What have your children taught you? 

5.08.2012

The least boring review I've ever written: Storyline.


Last week, I went to the Storyline conference in Portland and now I want to tell you about it, but I feel weird asking you to read a review of a conference since I think reviews are some of the worst reading on the internet. Dropping a conference review into somebody's reader/inbox/newsfeed is like asking for their permission to bore the crap out of them.

Whatever. I'm writing a review anyway.

So. I want to tell you everything about Storyline, but I also want to tell you nothing - because I want you to actually go, show up, sit through it for yourself, experience it. That way, when you hear me saying really nondescript things, like “It was AMAAAZING” or “It messed me up. In a good way.”, you'd just know what I mean.


The conference is hosted by Donald Miller and a crew of hard working, well-dressed, incredibly good looking staff. And a dog. Somehow this team has managed to turn 30 consecutive hours of your life into what feels like a brief stay in a top-notch psychiatric facility.

When you check in to the conference they hand you a sharpened pencil and *The Notebook of Doom. *not its actual name The people at check-in are kind; they smile gently and offer you chocolate. Looking back, I can see that they weren't just being nice - They knew. They knew I was a lamb headed for slaughter. They had seen inside the notebook and they knew that before the end of the day, I would either be well on my way to living a better story or I'd be catatonic, curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a hotel closet. The chocolate is to make you... stable. Just a little cocoa to help boost that serotonin, right when you need it most. See? Now I get it: The chocolate is to keep you from stabbing yourself with the pencil.

So, without getting too far into the material (because I really don't want to spoil it for people who attend the conference), the idea is that we only have one life to live, one story to tell, and if we don't invest heavily in our relationships, work ethic, and spirit right now, we will die tomorrow ~or 50 years from tomorrow~ leaving a really boring story behind us. And that would be regretful.

That's where the Notebook of Doom comes in. The conference uses this book to walk you through several different modules relating to your life, using storytelling as a guideline. It takes you through the process of breaking down your history and your present, examining them pretty closely, and then rebuilding with a plan to improve your future. The purpose is to help you walk away with a map of your ambitions, hopes, and inspirations – and the motivation to move toward those goals.

Don Miller leads the charge through some pretty heady material with warmth and a whole lot of humor. The guest interviews were (mostly) engaging and memorable. I was particularly charmed by Bob Goff. This man, whom I had stupidly written off as goofy and overrated, is actually one of the most charismatic, enthusiastic, and seemingly genuine people I've ever been in the same room with. I LOVED him - Yes, capitalized L.O.V.E.D. him, he was that great.

I do have a couple of complaints...

First, the sessions were broken up by long breaks and “homework”. I found myself a little too overwhelmed by the material to want to sit down and scribble out my response in ten minutes. I wanted to think. I wanted to eat my chocolate, stab myself with my pencil, and then think about everything for awhile. My husband filled out the majority of his notebook while we were in Portland, over lunch and in our hotel room - I doodled all over mine, but didn't touch the good stuff until we got home and I'd had some time to process.

The other thing that kind of bugged me was that there seemed to be a lot, I mean a lot, of people who were treating this as a writers conference, like they were there to learn to write a better story – and so they were kind of missing the point. (I get that this is just me, being annoyed – a common occurrence) but it gave the open Q&A sessions a douchey, pseudo-intellectual feel. Answers to questions like “Who are your role models and why?” were exactly what you'd expect to hear from a bunch of wannabe Christian authors; C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nietzsche, crap like that. I wanted so badly for someone to call out “Julia Child” or “Martin Scorsese” or “Scott Hamilton”. I even nudged my husband and told him I was going to shout, “Chelsea Handler! Because she broke away from her odd religious upbringing to pursue a dream - and while she's a total hedonist, at least she's fully committed. Plus, we both like Vodka.” I didn't do it... but I still kind of wish I had.

Overall, the conference was good.

It was like a a partial lobotomy with a gentle massage. It was deep and a little agonizing, but comforting and redeeming.

I give it 5 Stars....2 Thumbs Up....Miss Congeniality...Best in Show...

I dunno. It was just a really good conference. If you can attend, I'd recommend it. 

That concludes this boring review.

You may go about your business.

…. …. ….

Ever been to a conference or read a book that changed your life? Do tell...

5.02.2012

Oh, Portland. You're silly.


This is what I learned about Portland, Oregon over these last couple days.

First? Portland is obsessed with being Portland. No kidding, it's like the only thing Portland talks about. No matter what subject you bring up, Portland will trump your story with how Portland does it better.

“What's that? You saw a documentary about free-range chickens? That's neat. My friend from Portland runs a free-range chicken farm on top of a 13 story building, in Portland.”

Awww, you made a home brew? That's adorable. My cousin in Portland brews a rosie amber pilsner using home-grown yeast scraped from the feet of Portlanders. You should totally try it.”

Oh, you bought a book somewhere? That's awful. Portland has the best bookstore in the Universe. It's so big it has a functional wishing well... and a unicorn...and a secret vortex to another dimension... and socialized medicine. It's amaaaazing. I pretty much only buy books in Portland.”

This odd Portland-centeredness should be annoying, but it's really not. The truth is, in a matter of hours you'll be doing the same thing as you rave about how the soft-shell crab you plucked off a food truck was “the BEST on the PLANET” or the tabouli salad you had for lunch was “like, O.M.G. Fresh”. You will start to believe, as the Portlanders do, that everything is better in Stumptown.

But just as you're on the verge of calling a realtor and a moving company, you'll notice that people in Portland only wear black and dark black. And sometimes grey. If you wear anything other than black or black or maybe gray, everyone will know you're not from these parts. And let me warn you; If you wear red jeans in Portland, waiters in trendy restaurants will ignore you for an extra 10 minutes and then they will speak to you as if you don't know how to read. People will point and stare. A guy will shout “WELCOME TO PORTLAND!” from his car window as he drives past. But you have to remember, these people have never seen the sun. Treat them with Grace. They exist in the gloomy cloud cover of a colorless world. It's not their fault.

Despite their lack of appreciation for the full spectrum of the rainbow, I feel like Portland is the friendliest city I have ever stepped foot in. I don't know what you've heard, but they really won't damn you to hell for eating bologna on non-sprouted white bread. Portlanders struck up conversations with us on the street. They helped us navigate the MAX (light-rail) system. They encouraged us to fit in by gently reminding us that “Um. People don't use umbrellas around here.” And they freely opened doors to welcome us out of the rain.

Oh, yeah. Portland just loves to talk about rain.  And when they did, we were like, “Rain? Oh, Portland. You're silly. In Costa Rica, the rain is like the sky opening up and trying to drown you in a vertical river.” And then we'd chuckle a little, like condescending douchebags, “You call this rain? That is so cute.”

…        …..         ….

It's quirky and clean and easy to navigate, and whether you like a little bit of pretentious hipster with your food-truck burrito, or not, Portland is a charming big, little city. I think it just became one of my top 3 favorite cities. 

What's your favorite city and why?