Friday, September 18, 2009

Dancing Roots

My sister Liz and I getting ready to
head back to school on the mission plane...
Growing up in the jungle like I did, we used a LOT of insect repellent! Sometimes we had to reapply repellent several times a day to keep the gnats and mosquitoes at bay. Eventually, my skin began reacting to the ingredients in the repellent, most likely the DEET. I think after that, I stopped using the repellent so much and just got used to the bites. Once you live there a while, you kind of get immune to some of the bites anyway!

I tried several different natural insect repellents, but most of them had smells that I couldn't stand! Then my sister Kathy, who's husband is from New Hampshire, told me about Dancing Roots. Dancing Roots is a company that makes and sells an all-natural insect repellent that not only works well, but smells great! I really enjoyed reading their story...about how they discovered the recipe for their products and how it was tested. Their Crocodile! line of repellents come in a spray, lotion, cream, and roll-on. They also have Crocodile! Croclight! candles that do not contain petroleum or citronella. A new product they sell now is Crocodile! Afta-Byte, a natural bite-relief cream.

I recently ordered some products and right now they have a special!

Buy One Get One Free
on every product you order!!!! And often, even if they don't have that particular special, they are good about throwing in an extra product if you order several. Every time I have had a question, they are very good to respond quickly and have always been very helpful. So, if you need some repellent and would like to try some natural insect repellent that smells great, give Dancing Roots a try!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

English Class

Pretty much everywhere we go, it is common for people to request that we 'teach them English'. But rarely have we been able to actually conduct an English class simply because it is very hard to fit into our schedule! Recently, though, we've been able to meet somewhat regularly with a group of young people from our church for some English classes.

One night last week, four of our five students came over for an English Night complete with pizza and a rousing game of Apples to are Erick, Pamela, Lili, and Xavier...Raul couldn't make it that night...

It's been a really neat way to connect with these young people
and a great opportunity for discipleship as well!

Pamela getting a little help with her cards...

The whole group...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Family Camp Part VI-Return Trip Home...

On our way home, we went into town to
buy a squash and check it out...

Impressive squash!

This place also sold watermelon and dried rattlesnake skins...
The church on the square.

And, of course, more beautiful scenery!
I love this little ranch tucked under that hill...

Looks like a great place for a cookout and a swim!
Since we live in a pretty dry area, rivers like
this are few and far between!

More rock picturesque...

Family Camp Part V-Fun in the Water...

The water was a wee bit cold first thing in the morning...

Such a cutie!

Jojo in his awesome floatie suit...

All three kids spent a lot of time
going down these water slides...what fun!

Again, I was surprised that Gracia wanted to do
the slide on her own, but she did fine!

Jojo, of course, dived right in to the fun!

And even Miguel tried it several times...

Micah was the only one in our family
brave enough to go down the biggest slide!

Family Camp Part IV-The Zipline...

The older three had a lot of fun on the zipline...
Jkaile stuck to the swings.

Micah tried it first...

I was kind of surprised that Gracia tried it...

And of course, Jojo couldn't be left out of the fun!

Family Camp Part III-Fun in the park...

Conquering the 'rock wall'...

An interesting swing...

Pretty girl!

Jojo and a friend...

Jkaile enjoyed the slides.

Family Camp Part II-Touring the Campsite...

The campsite is called "Los Nogales", which literally means "The Pecan Trees" and is literally a pecan grove. The trees were impressive!

The trees were also full of pecans...

Lots and lots of shade!

The cabins are quaint and picturesque...
this is the one our family stayed in.

Don't think I'd like to stay in that top one!

Family Camp Part I-Getting there...

This last weekend, we had the pleasure of going to Family Camp with our church. Even though the camp was for Saturday/Sunday, we went down to the campsite on Friday night to spend a little extra time there. The campsite is located in a beautiful valley about two hours south of the city and we really enjoyed the scenery on the way there.
During the first part of the trip,
there were lots of fields and flat areas.
Then there were more hills and rocks...

We also enjoyed spotting the rock fences.
This was the straightest rock fence we've ever seen!
It goes straight up that hill!

Another rock fence...

An interesting rock formation.

I think this is one of my favorite pictures from
the drive (except for the van's antenna that got in the way...).

As we were getting close to the campsite,
we caught up to this truck with two dogs
along for the ride...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Word about Roots...

This summer I had the opportunity to 'babysit' a friend's houseplants while they were stateside and I so enjoyed the greenery on the top of the bookshelf in my room...things looked a bit bare when I returned the plants, so the other day I went outside to dig up one of the spider plant shoots to add to the odd assortment of plants I'd scrounged up to replace the other ones. I really like how spider plants reproduce, sending out a long stem and then anchoring the little plantlet out away from the main plant. So I picked one of the little plants to dig up and commenced loosening the roots. When I thought I had them pretty much loosened up, I began to pull a little and was surprised to find that it was still pretty firmly 'attached'! I had to dig deeper and deeper trying to get that little plant out of the dirt! When I finally did get it up and saw the roots, I realized why it had been such a 'tough' job...the root system of that little plant was pretty amazing! They were long and quite thick, perhaps as a way to store moisture? And that reminded me of a recent reading that had really impacted me from the book A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

For much of this year, I have had the opportunity to go to a women's Bible study at our local Mexican church. For the first time ever, I am finding myself in a position to be able to bond closely with these women, mostly due to attending this Bible study. Since Miguel and I have been making an effort to spend more time with Spanish-speaking folks instead of just staying within our mission community, I am very excited about this! Anyway, the book that we studied this year was A Woman After God's Own Heart, although I missed about half of the chapters due to joining the study late. So I bought an English copy of the book and have been reading through to catch up on what I missed.

One of the very first chapters is titled A Heart Abiding in God's Word with the Scripture reference being Jeremiah 17:7-8...

7 But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."
I loved this are some of the highlights...Drawing Life from God's Word...and that's where the reference to roots comes in...our spiritual roots. "Roots make all the difference in the health of a plant, and their presence or absence ultimately becomes known to all. The plant either flourishes or fails, thrives or dies, blossoms or withers. The health of anything--whether a garden plant or a heart devoted to God--reflects what is going on (or not going on!) underground."
Roots are unseen...spiritual roots are 'underground', invisible to others....we want our strength in public to be explained by what goes on in private. The impact of your ministry to people will be in direct proportion to the time you spend away from people and with God.

Roots are for taking in...when we spend time with Christ, He supplies us with strength and encourages us in the pursuit of His ways.

The Great Exchange
Away from the world and
hidden from public view,
I exchange:
my weariness for His strength,
my weakness for His power,
my darkness for His light,
my problems for His solutions,
my burdens for His freedom,
my frustrations for His peace,
my turmoil for His calm,
my hopes for His promises,
my afflictions for His balm of comfort,
my questions for His answers,
my confusion for His knowledge,
my doubt for His assurance,
my nothingness for His awesomeness,
the temporal for the eternal,
and the impossible for the possible.
Roots are for storage...As you and I regularly draw needed refreshment from God's Word, He creates in us a reservoir of hope and strength in Him. Then, when times are rough, we won't be depleted. We won't dry up, disintegrate or die. We won't run out of gas, collapse, exhaust, or give out. Instead, we will simply reach down into our hidden resevoir of refreshment and draw out what we need right now from what God has given us. We will be able to go from "strength to strength" (Ps. 84:7).
Roots are for support...Without a network of strong roots, sooner or later we have to be staked up, tied up, propped up, straightened up--until the next wind comes along and we fall over again. But with firm, healthy roots, no wind can blow us down.
Yes, but how?
1. Develop the habit of drawing near to God...routine, regular exposure to God's Word
2. Design a personal time for drawing near to God...when, where, what aids...
3. Dream of being a woman after God's own heart...describe the woman you want to be spiritually in one year...ten years...
My mom actually gave me a copy of this book several years ago, but I don't think that I was ready at that point to apply it to my life. And God is good to bring it to me now, knowing that the time is right for me to listen. I have always spent some time in the Word through quiet times, but I don't think that I have ever made a serious commitment to daily drawing from God's Word or to strengthening my spiritual root system. So I have made a commitment that during the next year I will focus on creating a habit of drawing near to God and building up my roots. It was exciting to share this focus with Miguel because not only will it benefit him and the family, this will benefit our future ministry as well since I will be much better prepared for whatever God has for us!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Living in Mystery

1 a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand 2 something not understood or beyond understanding: enigma 3 profound, inexplicable, or secretive quality or character
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers... Romans 11:25
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ... Ephesians 1:9

...the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. Colossians 1:26

A book* I recently finished pointed out that the apostle Paul uses the word mystery about 21 times to refer to the hidden purposes of God...that is, that God doesn't always explain the 'whys' to some of life's problems. And that is a mystery to us!

Sometimes God clears up the mystery quickly, in a matter of hours or days...but then other times, mystery can last for years as we wonder what purposes God has for certain situations and/or problems in our lives.

"When walking in a fog the normal clues that orient us are gone. We look for some sign to show us the way, but none appear. Heaven seems silent. We search for meaning in life, but the fog hides it. We plead, "God, why don't you do something?" Our feelings tell us that God must be somewhere else or he doesn't care. The mind, grounded in the Scripture, fires back, "Not true." God has promised to never, not ever, leave us. And so the feelings and the mind thrash about, each submitting evidence for its position.

Sooner or later, often later, the fog slowly lifts. Things begin to make sense. Understanding replaces confusion. Confidence replaces doubt. Belonging replaces a sense of abandonment. Hope returns. God was there all along, working actively, not only on your behalf but in ways that enrich the many other servants he loves. The fog obscures his presence and his purposes, but when it finally clears, we realize that God has kept all his promises to us (see Josh. 21:45). And on those occasions when his people go to the grave with pieces of their past still shrouded in fog, he remains the loving, faithful God worthy of their trust even though the fog never lifted. While not desired, walking in mystery shouldn't be feared; God, though not visible or audible, walks by our side, and the walk is always worthwhile for the patient, faithful servant."

Duane Elmer in Cross-Cultural Servanthood-Serving the World in Christlike Humility, pg 185
It was so encouraging to me to read these words as I considered the mystery that Miguel and I are living with now in regards to our ministry. All we've ever wanted to do was work in tribal ministry in Venezuela...and yet eight months after we arrived in Venezuela back in 2005, the government there basically shut down tribal missions as we knew it and greatly limited tribal ministry opportunities for us. After an exhausting couple of years in limbo, many moves, and attempting to minister to the Yuana people from a near-by town, we returned to the U.S. for a family reunion and for the birth of our fourth child. Once stateside, I quickly realized that I was not in good shape to return to our ministry in Venezuela, or to any ministry, for that matter. I needed time to recuperate my strength, recover from the stress of our time in Venezuela and the depression that plagued me, and work on some weak areas of my life. Miguel and I also needed to work on our marriage, which had been severely strained during that time. God worked tremendously in our lives during that time and I'm ever so grateful for it.
After taking nearly a year and a half of combination medical leave/transition time, we arrived in Mexico to 'get back to work', although not in the ministry of our choice and not really knowing how long we would be here. We would love to return to work in Venezuela, when and if the political situation changes there, but so far that hasn't happened. As we begin our second year of ministry here in Mexico, we have had renewed discussions about ministry once again that haven't always gone as smoothly as we'd hoped. It's hard to live in mystery, not really knowing why we are here instead of there, how long we will be in mystery, and what the purpose is behind all that's happened in Venezuela. We grieve as we remember our Yuana brothers and sisters in Christ that we left behind, even though we knew them but a short time. We grieve the loss of what could have been an exciting, fulfilling ministry among the Yuana and it is so hard to understand why things happened the way they did. It's hard to understand why God would allow me to go through such a difficult time personally in the last few years...although at times I do catch glimpses the work God is doing as He strengthens me in His truth and love through the struggles.
I don't know when this mystery will be revealed or when the fog will lift...I long for the day when we know what our ministry will be and can finally move forward with a purpose and a plan. I think both Miguel and I long for things to make sense and for a true sense of belonging. In the meantime, however, it is reassuring to hear that walking in mystery is not something to be feared and that the walk with God at my side will be worthwhile as I remain His patient, faithful servant.
*Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer...I am also looking forward to reading the companion books of Cross-Cultural Conflict and Cross-Cultural Connections.