Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stepping Out of Denial

**Reader warning...brutal honesty ahead...

I have spent the majority of my life living in denial.  If you want to know what that feels like, read over the following acrostic (courtesy of Celebrate Recovery's Participatory Guide 1, pp 17-19):

Before we can take the first step of our recovery, we must first face and admit our denial...God tells us, "You can't heal a wound by saying it's not there!" (Jeremiah 6:14, TLB).  The acrostic for DENIAL spells out what can happen if we do not face our denial.

D isables our repressing our feelings we freeze our emotions...understanding and feeling our feelings is freedom...(2 Peter 2:19)

E nergy lost...a side effect of our denial is anxiety...anxiety causes us to waste precious energy running from our past and worrying about and dreading the is only in the present, today, where positive change can occur...Psalm 146:7-8)

N egates growth...we are "as sick as our secrets"...we can't grow in recovery until we are ready to step out of our denial into the truth...(Psalm 107:13-14)

I solates us from God...God's light shines on the truth...our denial keeps us in the dark...(I John 1:5-7)

A lienates us from our relationships...denial tells us we are getting away with it...we think no one knows--but they do...the answer is found in Ephesians 4:25, TLB, "stop lying to each other; tell the truth...when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves..."

L engthens the pain...we have the false belief that denial protects us from our reality, denial allows our pain to fester and grow and turn into shame and guilt...God's promise is found in Jeremiah 30:17, TLB..."I will give you back your health again and heal your wounds."

Instead of facing things that happened to me when I was growing up, I stuffed and denied...and then I had no idea why the roots of my self-image were rooted so deep in shame and guilt or why there seemed to be so much darkness growing inside me.  About a year ago, in His mercy, God allowed me to begin the process of stepping out of denial and into God's grace.

The truth is that I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  I knew it happened, it wasn't like I denied that it happened...what I denied is that it had any affect on my life in any way, shape or form.  I was so steeped in the tradition of denial that I could actually hear stories of other people who had been sexually abused as children and feel sorry for them, all the while thinking that I could not relate to them because I had nothing like that in my own background.  Is that crazy or what?! 

One of the major reasons that I lived in denial of the abuse is that it was not perpetrated by some family member or other adult, the abuse came in the form of sexual games played by other children while my family lived in a remote location without other coworkers.  I was allowed to spend time alone with these other children and depravity was rampant in that culture.  So in a way, I didn't see that as abuse because it was something that I willingly participated in (I now know that is a common thing among victims of abuse, minimizing the abuse).  I think I knew that it was wrong, even though I was very young, but I did not have the ability to refuse or I was curious or something.  And yet it was abuse, just the same, and it twisted and warped and damaged something inside of me that I didn't know how to fix.  I didn't even know how to tell anyone what had happened or that I should tell someone. 

So from that time on, I lived with secret shame and guilt over what I had done.  I pushed it into the recesses of my mind, thinking that if I forgot about it then it wouldn't affect me any more...and yet the reality is that sexual abuse seems to permeate the very core of your being and has to be dealt with or it continues to grow in insidious power as it takes over the different parts of your life...I found myself a grown adult, sometimes barely able to look other people in the eyes because of the deep shame I felt about who I was as a person.  I didn't understand myself at all and instead of getting better, felt myself slipping further and further into darkness.  I found myself completely controlled by my coping mechanisms, turning to food and other things in a futile attempt to satisfy and fill the emptiness inside (this is, in fact, the biggest thing that I have repented of...while I was not responsible for the abuse, I am responsible for the ways that I responded to that abuse as an adult and I have repented for trying to find life and satisfaction in anything other than in knowing God). 

I wore a mask for many of those years, just pasting on a smile and hearing myself live and laugh and yet feeling so dead inside...I wondered if this was all there was to life and my only hope became that someday I would spend eternity in heaven, free of the pain and the darkness.  I realize now that I did not have much hope that life on this earth could be fulfilling or even all that enjoyable...I didn't seem to be able to receive much enjoyment from my life, even though there were moments of fleeting happiness. 

One day I realized that I'd become someone who was toxic...highly insecure, deep in despair, unloving and unkind to my children, a hypocrite because the mask that I wore really didn't reflect the truth of who I was inside.  I rarely allowed myself to feel all of the pain that I held inside because I was afraid that if I did, it would be too much for me to bear and I would fall into complete instability.  Afraid of losing control, I kept a tight rein on my emotions and very few people suspected that there was anything wrong...the only problem was that keeping such a tight control over my emotions just numbed me so that while I couldn't feel the painful emotions, I couldn't feel the good, positive emotions either. 

There are other things I have lived in denial over, other issues from my childhood, emotions and feelings that I had never processed and all of these things just kept building up an incredible vacuum of pain and emptiness inside me that have done a lot of damage to my life and those around me. 

But now I can look back and see that in the last few years God has been bringing me to a point where the desire to heal was greater than the desire to hide.  God has done an incredible healing work in me to give me the courage to face the reality of my life and learn how to heal, grow and live for His honor and glory.  Celebrate Recovery has been a place where I have found healing...I have discovered that I am not alone and that my story isn't all that different than so many others.  In fact, God has been gracious to me because I have not experienced the half of what others have gone through...sometimes my heart breaks as I hear others share what they have had to heal from.  How it must break God's heart to see how his creation treats each other sometimes! 

I recently reviewed my healing progress and I was amazed to find out how far I've come...the shame and self-contempt are gone...I no longer battle darkness and despair and depression every day because I have hope in a real, honest and intimate relationship with my heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ.  The roots of my self-image and identity are rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the soil of God's grace, Christ's love and delight in me and the truth of His Word.  I am free from the negative recordings playing in my head telling me that I'm dumb, stupid, bad, inadequate, unspiritual, immature or a bother.  I can hold my head up high and look people in the eyes when I speak to them because I know that I am a valuable child of God...if I mess up, I confess it, make things right and move on.  I have peace with God through my Lord Jesus Christ because I have been justified through faith (Romans 5:1).  This freedom is a powerful thing and as I experience it, I can sense that I am finally enjoying a true, emotional attachment to God.  For some reason, the things that happened to me had given me a sense of abandonment and had not allowed me to form the attachment to God that I needed to experience intimacy with Him or with others, including my family and my children. 

I still struggle with  leftover habits that need reforming and with other issues, such as emotional reactions when I get triggered or with second-guessing myself and my decisions...I still find there are things I need to grieve over...I spent years in denial and it would be unrealistic to think that complete healing will happen overnight.  But even if it does take time, I'm learning to give myself grace and I know that things that will get better with time as I learn how to handle life on this side of healing.  I am learning to respect my limits, how to set healthy boundaries, and how to resolve conflicts in a godly way.  Life is good and I feel clean and free to live out my faith in Christ in a real, honest and transparent way.  My deepest desire is to know God so that His life and grace will trickle out of me to others sometimes.  I am thankful that God loves me so much that He is patiently walking with me through this healing process and I long to see Him face-to-face, thank Him for His grace and experience fully His delight and enjoyment in me, His creation.  For now, however, it feels pretty good to enjoy this new life in Christ right here on earth. 

In Celebrate Recovery, we use the Serenity Prayer a lot and I have grown to love and appreciate the words of this prayer as I apply it to my life.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the widsom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Wash Away

My heart's desire...that all but Christ
in me be washed away...I just
want to know God...

Stepping into the Story

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a retreat for ladies where we listened to a missionary to Thailand share some thoughts about getting more intimate with God.  I wasn't sure what to expect but I certainly wasn't disappointed!  Either I'm listening with new ears or I'd just never heard these particular thoughts before, but it was such a refreshing time to hear this woman speak to my heart in such a meaningful way.  At one point, she handed out journals for some writing time and to take notes...I picked one with pretty floral patterns and went to work, I love to write! 

We were encouraged to gain fresh insight into familiar Bible stories by stepping into the story, putting ourselves in the place of a biblical character to see if we could see anything differently.  This looks like...reading the story, imagining myself there hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, feeling the grass, the dust, the tears on my cheeks...and asking, What are the emotions I feel as I 'see' Jesus?  What is Jesus saying to me in the story? 

The speaker pointed out that all too often we read the Bible with our brains and don't really engage our other senses...but if we don't have an emotional experience with the story and truly enter into it, there will inevitably a disconnect between us and the Word.  And that's how it is, sometimes what I read in the Word is so familiar that it is dry and no longer fresh.  But the speaker pointed out that as we practice stepping into the story, it will become move alive...less about how we 'get it together' and more about how God reaches out to us. 

And right now, I'm all about that emotional connection to God...I've lived too many years with an emotional disconnect from God and I am excited not only about trying this with other passages, but sharing this idea with others as well.  Like with my kids. 

So here's what happened when I stepped into the story of the woman healed by Jesus in Mark 5:21-43.  It was a powerful experience for me, a precious one.  It still is, especially if I read it out loud.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

I am a woman who has suffered for many years...sick, tired and wasted.  I have spent so much time and energy and money in trying to find healing for my body. I have tried so many different ways to be healed and have suffered through so many different treatments from countless doctors.  It just seems so hopeless!  But then I hear about this man Jesus who heals the sick.  Could it be that he could heal me, too?  I go to where he is passing by just to catch a glimpse of him, but there are so many people!  I fight to get closer, but I know that even if I could approach him, I might not have the courage to ask this man to heal me.  Who am I but one poor, weak, insignificant woman?  They say that this man, this Jesus, is The Messiah!  He will never want to bother, then, with someone like me.  And besides, even if I did have the courage to ask him, he might just say no and I couldn't bear that. 

But then the thought occurs to me that maybe I don't need to ask him, maybe if I just touch his clothes, maybe that would be enough.  It might not work, but I have to try.  I'm that desperate to get well.  He'll never know, there are so many people could he possibly know that I've touched his robe?  I press forward in the crowd, but people are pushing on me from every side.  The noise from all the people shouting as they make their way through the street with Jesus is almost unbearable for me.  I use one last burst of my meager strength to surge forward.  I reach out my arm and my hand brushes the hem of his robe for just one second as he passes by.

And that is all it takes.  Time stands still and the world stops moving.  I feel a jolt of energy move up my arm from my fingertips and spread throughout my body.  I feel as light as a feather and I know immediately.  I am healed!  Everything comes back into focus and the sounds of the crowd reach my ears once again.  Full of joy and weeping with thankfulness I turn to go back home.

And then I hear the crowd go silent as Jesus asks, "Who touched me?"  I shrink back, hoping that he will not notice me and give up and move away.  But he doesn't leave and and his eyes keep searching the crowd.  He asks again, "Who touched me?"  What had I been thinking?  Of course Jesus would know that his power had healed me.  Trembling with fear, I push my way through the crowd.  I can't look at him and I just throw myself at his his mercy.  I expect him to rebuke me.  I am so afraid.  Will he take my healing away?

My story pours out of me through my tears, the years of suffering and the loss of my health and my life.  I beg him to forgive me for bothering him, since I know that he is so busy.  His hand on my shoulder stops the flow of words from my mouth and I dare to cast a glance up at him.  Jesus is looking down at me and to my surprise I see that he is not angry.  In fact, I can only see love and compassion in his eyes.  And then he speaks.  His voice rings out through the silence.  He says, "Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." 

Daughter?  He calls me daughter?  And no, that wasn't right, he healed faith is not enough, it is small and weak.  But Jesus said that my faith has healed me!  I don't understand...but I do understand that I am healed.  Jesus said it, too, I am HEALED! 

I don't get a chance to speak to him any more...messengers have come to tell him that Jairus' daughter is already dead.  I turn away in shame, thinking that if I hadn't stopped Jesus on his way to heal the girl then maybe he would have gotten there on time.  I return home sad, even though I am healed.  I weep over the death of that little girl, even wishing that she had been healed instead of me.  But then I hear the news, Jesus did heal that girl, brought her back from the dead!  My heart surges with joy again.  Surely Jesus is The Messiah, the Son of God!  And that means that it was the Son of God that healed me!  The Son of God cares about me!  A simple woman.  Surely he is a great God!  I bow my head in grateful worship. 

I know that I might never see Jesus again, but he will be a part of my life for as long as I live...for it is not my life that I live, but this is the life that Jesus gave to me.  I can do nothing less than live that life for him. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Kids

October 30th was Micah's 10th birthday! 
It didn't work out to have a big party for him
this year, but he did have a couple of friends over
to play and one spent the he
is with his new ripstik.

This last Saturday Gracia and about 30 other girls
 got together for a tea party! 
We shopped together for the Perfect Dress
and found one that we both loved. 

The tea party was in honor of Gracia's friend Allison,
 whose family are also missionaries from our church. 
They are here at the Village for a few more weeks
 and Allison's mom wanted her to have some
special memories to take back with her when they leave.

Jojo...always on the go! 
Here he is learning how to ride a ripstik as well.

Since all of the other kids around here
 were dressing up for Fall Festivals, we dug out our
 costumes...Jkaile was thrilled with the knight costume.   
Of course, then he went around whacking

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I heard this song on the radio and it took my breath away...

Growing Up

Miguel and I have had some serious talks lately.  About us and about a particular time in our lives...a time that neither of us really like to talk about because it was not a good time.  And besides, every time we did try to talk about it, we just ended up fighting.  Yeah, you know, one of those things...a thing that both of you would rather just stuff in a box and put on the back shelf hoping that it will just disappear, except that it doesn't.  It just keeps sneaking back out of the box and popping back up to hurt us when we least expect it.  We would just stuff it back in and shelve it again, only to have it come back to hurt us again and Celebrate Recovery, we're learning that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  Like turning a light switch on and off even though the light bulb is burned out and then getting angry that flipping the switch doesn't turn the light on.  So just a wee bit of insanity there on our part...

Since God's working on both of us and we are desiring truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6) and wanting to deal with our 'stuff', we've been taking this particular box off of the back shelf and opening it up to see if we can work through this thing instead of denying its existence. 

It's not been our favorite thing to do.  We've had to say some hard things to each other...things that are incredibly hard to hear and say.  Turns out, though, that it was worth the pain of working through these issues because we did it and we survived and we conquered.  Turns out that there were some major misunderstandings...turns out Miguel thought I was purposefully being difficult and having a bad attitude and resentment towards him for moving me away from my missionary friends when it was only that I was struggling to handle the heat, the stress of multiple moves, my fourth pregnancy, homeschooling three young children, loneliness from feeling isolated from communication with friends and family...turns out that I felt abandoned and rejected by him when he didn't seem to want to listen when I brought my concerns to him when it was that he was having trouble hearing the way I chose to present those concerns...turns out that he felt uncomfortable with the way I was not acting in culturally appropriate ways and that he felt that it was limiting and negatively affecting his ministry...turns out that we weren't taking our cultural differences into account or talking about those differences and how they were affecting our perception of each others' hearts and motives.  Turns out we each were able to own our part of the problem and repent and ask for forgiveness. 

I don't know that we've taken care of all of the walls we've built between us, but we're well on our way to completing our own little (huge?) DIY demolishing and rebuilding project here and it feels good.  Not like oh goody, we get to dig into some deep hurts, but good in that we're cleaning house, coming to place of understanding and finding new unity.  We're choosing to fall in love with each other all over again and trying to be sensitive to each other's cultural point of view. 

As hard as these last few months have been for us personally and in our ministry, I am totally thanking and praising God for where He's brought us and how He's working.  Instead of obsessing about what went wrong and on the 'if onlys', I am choosing to thank Him for all things, the good, the bad and the ugly because He's redeeming those things and working them out for good.  I am truly finding joy in these trials (James 1:2-8) because James was right, those trials are working to help us grow in character and patience.  We're recognizing our own faults and how we might have contributed to each situation both with each other and in our ministry and being intentional about facing hard things.  We're working to give up the right to be understood and well thought of by others and the right to defend ourselves and we're handing our reputation to God to defend and protect as He sees fit* (that doesn't mean that aren't things we still need to address with other people, just that our attitude is one of a desire for God to make His truth known and reconciliation and not acting out of anger or bitterness).  We know that there may come a point where we will have to walk away still misunderstood and misjudged and while that might be hard to do, we think we're okay with that. 

I think that's called growing up and that's a good thing. 

*I want to give credit to a dear friend who is helping us walk through this process...a lot of these are her words, not ours...isn't it awesome how God provides help in time of need?

Hearing God's Voice

Last weekend my Gracia girl ended up with a straddle injury from jumping onto her bicycle seat a little too quickly and I was afraid we'd have to take her to the hospital to get a catheter or something because she could barely bring herself to pee because of the pain.  I felt so badly and so helpless to help her.  Maybe it wasn't the best decision, but I decided to deal with it at home instead of taking her to the doctor and subjecting her to the process of getting examined by a stranger. 

We made it through one night and another day, but then the next night she woke me up from a pretty deep sleep twice complaining of a tummy ache.  I sent her back to bed both times.  I know that I was half-asleep and pretty out of it, but even so I recognized that I was pushing her away because I just didn't want to deal with it.  I didn't know what to do, so I chose to do nothing.  I felt the pricking of my conscience and recognition of my dysfunction, the way I sometimes push my kids away when I don't know how to deal with their pain.  Even in my stupor, I knew that it was wrong.

I prayed.  I told God that I didn't want to get up at 1 o'clock in the morning when I was so dead tired and that I didn't know what to do to comfort my daughter.  I think I asked Him what to do.  And He answered.  I felt it very strong in my spirit (or wherever it is that God speaks to us) 'go to her'...I think I reminded God that I didn't really want to and I heard it again...'Go to her. Don't leave her alone when she is hurting.'  So I got up and I went to her where she was laying on the couch and we sat together while she moaned in discomfort.  I helped keep her hair out of her face while she threw up and I helped her clean it all up.  And I held her and I tucked her back into bed where she slept for the rest of the night and I am so grateful for God's gentle voice that is teaching me how to be the mother I need to be.  I am grateful that I am coming to the place where I can hear that voice because I'm pretty sure it's been there all along, waiting for me to listen.

The next day I didn't feel so well myself and it was Columbus Day anyway, so we took the day off school.  I determined to make caring for Gracia my priority that day and so we spent hours sitting together on the couch where I helped her keep a frozen water bottle on her injury and got her to drink two glasses of ice tea so that she would not get dehydrated.  I went to the bathroom with her and comforted her through the pain of going potty.  It helped and she got better that day.  To tell the truth, I got better that day, too. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Odds and Ends

What have we been up to lately?  Good question!  I'm so far behind on my blog posting and here you go...odds and ends about our lives these days...

1)  Homeschooling - I could safely say that homeschooling is one of our biggest challenges these days!  Not a bad challenge, in any way, just that it's a huge change in our family and one that's taken a lot of adjustment for all of us.  We are having fun with it, though, and getting more used to the pace and the schedule.  I've really had to get 'tough' with myself, though, because I'm not good at keeping organized and ahead of the game enough to keep us all on track. least I'm learning...

2)  Ministry challenges - as we continue to work through ministry decisions, we've had a lot of questions about the direction that God might be leading us.  To a certain degree, we've seen some of those questions answered and it looks like some things are being more defined...unfortunately, it's not really what we expected or how we expected and it's very likely that some major ministry changes are coming our way.  We are going through a pretty rough time right now with some unfair accusations being made against us and we're confronting some issues right the middle of it all, however, we continue to trust God to strengthen and guide us...we're confident that God has our reputation and testimony in his hands.  We'll keep you posted as we go...

3)  Personal Development - if you read my last post all the way through to the end, congratulations!  I know it was long and perhaps 'dry' for some, but I continue to be challenged as I consider whether I work to communicate acceptance in my relationships and especially in my cross-cultural relationships (including my husband)...I am grateful for how God has worked in my own heart to confront my own ethnocentricity (I know, big word) and whether I am willing and able to set aside my preferences and my rights in order to work towards becoming a true cross-cultural servant. 

During this time that we're back in the States, I've also taken the opportunity to attend a ladies' Bible study at our was hard to choose between so many good ones offered, but then a friend invited me to go to a Significant Woman study where we would be 'peer coaches' for each other.  This study has been a refreshing time of fellowship and growth for me and I've enjoyed getting to know my friend better and making new ones along the way.   

4)  Celebrate Recovery (CR) - To quote the Celebrate Recovery page on our church's website..."Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered program that helps us deal with life’s “hurts, habits and hang-ups.” The purpose of Celebrate Recovery is to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives through the eight recovery principles found in the Beatitudes and the Christ-centered 12 steps. We open the door to healing by sharing our experiences, strengths and hopes with one another. In addition, we become willing to accept God’s grace in solving our life problems. The result: life-change!!"  For more information about CR click here...both Miguel and I are attending CR at our church here and I'm in what they call a 'step-study', too, a group that works through the 12 steps in a small group setting with weekly meetings.  There are issues that each of us are dealing with and we're excited to see opportunities for growth and healing in our lives.  I'll write more about this later...

5)  Another Birthday - This last week we celebrated Jojo's sixth birthday!  Jkaile was convinced that it was his 'dirthday', too, so we kind of allowed him to get in on the action...he probably won't get away with that next year, though...we had cake and home-made vanilla ice cream and presents and games with Miguel.  I think Jojo enjoyed his day and was pretty happy with his gifts, in particular the Lego set that made him quite popular with the rest of the boys! 

Jojo at his birthday table...he had a Lego cake that he helped
decorate himself...

Opening presents...

Happy with the Legos!

Enjoying a game of Capture the Flag

The 'other' birthday boy...

Acceptance: Communicating Respect for Others-Part II

To read Acceptance, Part I, click here...

Trouble in the Church

Differences in the the various churches Rome and Corinth had the effect of making sides...fellow believers were either 'in' or they were 'out' (I Cor. 1:11-13).  Paul labelled these differences as 'disputable matters', or gray areas that should not break fellowship (Romans 14:1)...we should not look down on anyone who believes a bit differently about these 'disputable matters'...and Paul goes on to point out that an accepting Christian should value others so highly that they would rather sacrifice a personal preference or even a right than risk losing the relationship or cause another to have a problem (I Cor. 8:13).

To Accept is to Bless

In the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to bless someone was a way to communicate acceptance.  In fact, the word 'blessing' means 'to highly value someone or something'.  Blessing can be viewed in relationships in the following way...God blesses people, people bless each other, and people bless God.  In a multicultural world, the church is called to 'bless the nations' by valuing persons and cultures in their uniqueness.  God calls us to demonstrate to the world the high value and worth God has placed on each person...and not only each person, but also each family, ethnicity, tribe, tongue and nation. 

Dignity: The Sacred Endowment

God created humans in his image...people bear God's image.  God has shared something unique and of himself with every single person on the face of this earth...God desires that we see his face when we look into the face of one is one is has meaning and each of us has meaning and importance because God's own imprint is upon our humanity.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to see others as God sees them...treat them as he would treat them as he names them...either we treat them with the respect and dignity that God has given them or we profane God's image in that other person by treating them with less value...

Factors Limiting our Acceptance of Others

1) Language - in cross-cultural situations, language limits our ability to verbally communicate acceptance to others...and to make no effort to learn or use another's language is, in itself, a form of rejection.  People don't separate themselves from the language they use because it is how we define ourselves and how we make meaning out of not know my language equates not knowing me....for short-term missionaries, it is important to make an effort to learn some greetings and a farewell in order to communicate that they value others... 

2)  Impatience - impatience limits acceptance of others...we often like to see things happen more quickly than they do...and in many parts of the world, waiting is a nonissue and an integral part of life...meetings don't start 'on time', roads are bad, lines are long, traffic backed up...for a Westerner, all of the waiting can be very frustrating because it is not what we are accustomed is important to find ways to deal with life's frustrations or these frustrations will affect our ability to value and celebrate people...the author points out that if impatience is a problem for you in your home culture, then you will definitely have your patience tested in a cross-cultural situation...he goes on to suggest a few ways to cope...without having strategies to cope with the frustrations, he points out that negative emotions will build and people will sense rejection from you, which can have the effect of damaging your ministry...

          a) become a people watcher - it can be both intriguing and informational
                 -after observing people, try to name the values you see them living out
          b) carry reading material
          c) take Scripture memory cards with you
          d)  start a conversation with someone who does not appear to be too busy
          e) do light aerobics or stretching exercises if possible

3) Ethnocentrism - defined as "the tendency of every person to believe that their own cultural values and traditions are superior to those of other cultures".  Ethnocentrism can be an unconscious hindrance in communicating acceptance...and the more the other culture is different than mine, the more I am inclined to make unfavorable judgments.  Ethnocentrism exists in every culture, but the author points out that perhaps Americans reveal their ethnocentrism more quickly and assertively because they are more direct and forthright with their thoughts and opinions...perhaps for this reason many people from other cultures perceive Americans to be arrogant and controlling...Americans are usually quick to identify a problem, offer a solution and then get on with fixing it...what is seen as virtues in the American culture can be perceived as aggressive and paternalistic in other, making them feel inferior, weak, defective or a result making the good we intend not be seen as 'good' and the blessing we try to give from acceptance not felt. 

One of the typical American responses is to ask "Why didn't they tell us? They should say something if we aren't doing it right."  Many times, people from other cultures are 'saying something' loudly and clearly for their culture...we Americans just can't hear them because of our cultural tradition of speaking more openly and directly.  People from other cultures may use nonverbal communication or tell stories to communicate their attitude or opinion on a is important to learn how people from the local culture communicate so that you can gain insight into their culture and grow in sensitivity and understanding. 

4) Category Width - we all have categories by which we organize the world, make decisions and avoid confusion...these categories help us distinguish between things, such as trucks and chipmunks, telephones and golf balls, people and light bulbs...we name everything around us and those names become the categories by which we think...a person with wider categories can accept a broader range of items in a category and a person with narrower categories would rather create a new category than expand an existing one. 

In a cross-cultural situation, the person with wider categories might put more things in the "cultural differences" category wheras a person with more narrow categories might not be inclined to stretch the existing categories and instead put many of the differences into the 'wrong' category...the person with narrow categories has tighter definitions of 'right', 'wrong' and 'different'...this can cause a lot of conflict between missionaries themselves and between missionaries and nationals...

Both types of people have wonderful strengths...however, the author points out that people with more narrow categories has some tendencies that could hinder relationships because "they tend to be more ethnocentric, more reactionary and seek less information before forming judgments".  People with wider categories tend to look for more information before making judgments and are more likely to put cultural differences into a 'neutral' category before placing it into the 'wrong' is important, then, for some of us to use more caution before making a judgment just so that we can avoid acting or thinking in ways that would be unfair to local people.

5) Dogmatism - refers to "the degree of rigidity with which we hold our beliefs, our cultural traditions, our personal perferences"...the person that holds very firmly to their own beliefs and traditions tends to see differences as things that are wrong and inferior and that need to be corrected...such a person lacks "openness in communication because of rigid boundaries of belief or a culture."  Some things require dogmatism, it's true, especially when we have confidence in the Bible...but we should not be dogmatic about all is important to recognize that there is a subtle tendency in all of us to believe that all of my cultural traditions and beliefs are best and that can cause us to slide into judging others from the perspective of our own culture and our own personal and theological views...

Acceptance over Evaluation

The author points out that social research indicates that the most frequent response that Americans make to a situation is to evaluate what they just saw or heard as 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad'...usually the standard for such a judgment is how similar or dissimilar it is to me and my beliefs...we often use ourselves as the norm by which to measure others...if they measure up, we can accept them, but if not, we try to change them (one form of rejection) or distance ourselves from them (another form of rejection). 

It's a good idea to monitor our thoughts and words to see how often we use evaluative language with those around us...the author throws out a few examples:  "I like or dislike; I approve or disapprove; I am drawn toward or shun; this is right or wrong; it's acceptable or unacceptable, cool or uncool, nice or mean, attractive or unfavorable."  Rather than defaulting to evaluative thoughts and words, it is good to try to affirm, describe, inquire or express empathy instead...

The author uses a quote by anthropologists Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin Mayers speaking of the cross-cultural context: "One of the biggest that we often insist that others think and judge in the same way we do.  We do not accept one another in love, but rather we try to remake those around us into our own image." 

That inclination to remake others in our own image is called 'cultural cloning'...people end up looking more like us than like Christ...but the acceptance of people in their own cultural traditions helps us move from cultural cloning to discipling into the image of Christ...true servanthood means helping people look more like Christ, not more like us...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

We are up to our eyeballs in homeschooling here...we're still getting used to our schedule and routines, but we're getting there.  I ordered the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler to do with Jojo and Jkaile together.  While I'm not doing the entire curriculum with them, I'm using a lot of the print-outs and ideas.  One idea that I loved was to use the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and make your own palm tree to put the letters on each week.  I found the book at the library last week and I think that we'll just have to invest in one of our own because Jkaile absolutely loves this book.  I don't think he'll be wanting to take it back! 

So here is my 'designer' version of the Chicka
turned out a lot better than I'd imagined!  Scrapbooking paper
just makes everything better...each of the pieces are individually
backed with magnets so they can be rearranged.

Isn't that a happy grin?!
It would probably be a good idea to line the rest of the letters
with cardstock or cardboard, though, since it
appears they will be handled a lot!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Acceptance: Communicating Respect for Others-Part I

Acceptance: The Second Step of the Pilgrimage*
Links for previous posts in this series here and here...

Acceptance and rejection are among the most powerful behaviors known to many of your devastating life experiences come from feeling rejected--no longer accepted?  And how many of your cherished experiences come as a result of feeling completely accepted--one of the group, trusted, secure, respected, wanted, valued, desired.  Life feels good when we feel accepted. 

Acceptance is defined as the ability to communicate value, worth and esteem to another person. 

Four Major Points regarding Acceptance:

1)  Acceptance begins with God. 

Romans 15:7..."Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." 
  • Jesus took the initiative in accepting me; he took the first big step toward establishing the relationship with me
  • He accepted me without any conditions, not based on my performance; in spite of my sin and weaknesses, he accepted me just as I was
  • His acceptance of me is forever, no termination point
  • Because he accepts me, I am secure, no fear of exclusion or dismissal
  • He sees me as a person, without ethnicity, gender, nationality or social status labels
  • He valued me enough to give up his life; accepting me cost him dearly
  • "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) expressses God's profound acceptance of us, the degree to which he valued us, and his desire for a relationship with us
2)  The second major point is that we are to "accept one another" with the standard being "as Christ accepted you."  With this standard in mind, accepting one another will look like this...
  • We are to take the initiative in showing acceptance toward others, making them feel valued and respected
  • We unconditiaonlly accept others without considering their external features, lifestyle, decisions, habits and so forth (acceptance does not equal approval)
  • We do not have the option of rejecting any person, though we may, in a culturally appropriate way, address behaviors that the Bible clearly declares as sinful
  • We are to avoid dehumanizing behaviors such as threats, intimidations, power-plays and other ungodly forms of manipulation
  • We accept people, period.  Like Jesus, we must reject labels such as race, generation and gender as defective guides for how to treat another human being
  • We expect that accepting others in these ways may cost us dearly
3)  The third major point "connects acceptance of others with the glory of God.  Something amazing happens when the people of God become accepting people.  It reveals the glory of God.  Here is the lesson for all who work cross-culturally and belong to Christ.  Accepting one another may be among the most powerful acts of love we can offer to each other because it promotes oneness.  Oneness in Christ is so wonderful that the natural expression is to sing the praises of God.  The world notices the healing love and wholeness of the body and sees a great and mighty God.  They see his glory."

4)  The fourth major point  is that accepting each other promotes the mission of God...when we accept one another in spite of our differences, it promotes unity in the body of Christ.  This unity reveals the glory of God and the power of his love...if Satan can create dissension among Christians, then they will not be able to accomplish much of significance...therefore, accepting each other becomes "absolutely central to the mission God has given us!" 

*Notes for this post taken from the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun at the Farm

We had a great time at the farm!
Lots of family, food (too much food, in fact!), fun...the biggest attraction
was definitely the creek and fortunately the weather cooperated
...wasn't too hot or too cool...

Every time we go, we build a dam in the creek for fun...
Jkaile is pointing to where they threw the snake that the boys killed...

One of the most fun things to do at the creek is
to catch crawdads...

Grammy was surprised to find out that her white colander
was actually the main crawdad-catcher
 in her absence...she's been using it in the kitchen
since she got back home from Colombia!  oops.

Jkaile spent hours wading and splashing...

Gracia didn't spend as much time at the creek
 as the boys, but she did her fair share. 

Micah the Model

My sister Liz, my Aunt Helen (my dad's sister), and me

Relaxing in the hammock...Miguel had this hammock
made for me even before we were married. 
It has my name woven into much fun
 to get it out and use it again!

And I just had to throw in this picture of Elisa, my niece. 
What a doll! 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Over the Hills and Through the Woods... Grandmother's house we go!  Literally!  When we're not in the U.S. we rarely even notice when Labor Day weekend comes around, but now that we're here, I guess it is one of the bigger holiday weekends in that most people get Monday's going to get a bit crazy at my Mom's house in Oklahoma with quite a bit of family descending on Mom and Papa John this weekend.  It's going to be fun!  We haven't seen Grammy and Papa John for over two years, so we're looking forward to it (they just returned from serving in Colombia for two Mom is retiring from full-time ministry, the end of a 30+ year career).  I found an old picture of the farmhouse and scanned it in.  This is the house my dad built during the last couple of years before he died. 

And while I was at it, I scanned in this picture, too, of my Mom and Micah and I.  The staircase behind us was the last project my dad worked on...he fashioned the two main supports for the stairs from a tree from the farm property.  This house holds a lot of memories for us...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Remember my friend Sol?  It was such a blessing to spend the weekend with her on our way to Arkansas from Chihuahua.  We missed Ciro and their son, Tona, since they were visiting family in Mexico that week.  

Our first morning there, as Sol busied herself preparing us a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros, she excitedly shared with us how God has been working in her life.  She shared how God had released her from her hatred and resentment for her father and I listened with tears running down my cheeks of how she had led him to the Lord once God had changed her heart and attitude towards him.  I felt extremely humbled to have been used by God in Sol's life and to hear of yet one more person that had been changed because of her testimony.  I don't know how many people Sol has brought to the feet of Jesus, seems like every time I talk to her, she speaks of yet another friend or family member that has been saved because of her testimony.  I guess when God changes people's lives in such a drastic way, people take notice!

Sol still has struggles in her life and areas that she acknowledges that are challenging her, but I could sense a peace about her that she didn't have before.  I wish we lived closer so we could visit more often (besides, she's a really awesome cook and she made us not one, but two different types of flan!).  

Sol and I...

Miguel with his huevos rancheros...

An Afternoon on the Lake

It's good to have a friend with a boat and
a lake nearby...

Great to feel the wind in our hair...

...even if it makes us look funny...

Raft riding...

...what a blast!

Miguel enjoyed a turn at the wheel...

When I posted some of these pictures on Facebook, a friend asked about pictures of me from this day...yeah. right.  Pictures of me in my bathing suit?  Don't think so...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Miguel at Work

We arrived on a Monday night and Miguel was working by Thursday...if you know Miguel, you that's pretty much par for the course...he's a hard-workin' man!  The reason he had a job so quickly is that our church hired him to work with the Buildings and Grounds dept. (a job he's had before); we were very thankful that they had an opening for him.  It's a long commute, he has to walk all the way over to the other side of the campus to get his gear (and coffee, because there's no way I'm up before he leaves at 6 a.m., sorry).  I've been able to snap a few pictures of him when he's come to work around the Village.

As you can see, there's a LOT of grass to be mowed around here...

I think the guys secretly have a lot of fun on those lawn mowers...

We're still tired, though, and we can tell
because this is what happens when we
stop to take a load off of our feet...

Friday, August 20, 2010

On The Other Side

In northern Mexico, one of the ways they refer to the United States is as 'el otro lado', literally 'the other side'.  Say, for example, you show a friend something you brought with you from back home and they ask where you bought it, so you tell them "el otro lado", in the U.S.  Or you say someone is coming from el otro lado, meaning they are coming in to Mexico from the U.S.

We are now in el otro lado, literally and figuratively.  After a very interesting trip from Chihuahua to Arkansas, we're getting settled into our little house in the Village, the missionary housing provided for us by our home church here.  I cannot tell you how refreshing and relaxing it is for us to be here in this haven of be able to walk in the door with only a few personal things and have a fully furnished and beautifully decorated home waiting for you! And not only that, but the grounds are beautiful, too...the Village is not only a peaceful place of rest for Miguel and I, but a very safe place for our kids to play as well.  

Our house in the Village.

We're on the other side of our goodbyes and the journey, too, and I can tell that we're still recovering and processing everything from the last few weeks...the kids, too, are struggling to adjust.  While they are excited to be here and have other missionary kids and friends to play with, they are cranky and crabby (join the club, lol).  Jkaile, especially, has been affected by this move since our apartment in Mexico was the only home he can remember.

As far as our actual trip to el otro lado, I would probably rank it as the worst travel experience we've ever had.  Yeah.  One of the reasons I'm just so glad to be here!  It took us way longer to pack up the van and trailer than we expected, so we got a late start out of Chihuahua at 3 p.m.  We decided to go ahead and leave, however, since we figured we'd either drive through the night or just find a hotel along the way.  Since the plan was to spend the weekend with my friend Sol (her husband Ciro and son Toñito were in Mexico visiting family) in College Station, Texas, we knew we had a long way to go.

After saying goodbye to our dear friends John and Maria (tears flowed there...well, at least for Maria and I...I think John and Miguel probably kept a stiff upper lip...) who had so graciously opened their home to us for our last two weeks in Mexico, we took off for the border. Miguel was able to cancel our visas and car permit without all of us getting out of the van, so that was nice.  On the U.S. side, however, security was tight and they pulled us over for an inspection.  They let us go rather quickly, though, so I guess we convinced them of our innocence.  :)

Other than Miguel missing a turn-off and making a long detour due to the fact that his navigator was sleeping, the trip proceeded rather smoothly until about 1 a.m. when we got pulled over by a city policeman in a little Texas town.  He pulled us over to let us know that the lights on our trailer weren't working, but he also wanted to see license and proof of insurance as well as my driver's license.  This is when we found out we didn't have proof of insurance (we knew we had insurance, just couldn't find the proof).  Fortunately, he was a kind policeman, didn't give us a ticket or make a fuss about the insurance and after telling us we needed to fix the lights, went off into the night.

Miguel fiddled with the lights for a while and they finally came back on, so it must have just been some loose wiring. Since he noticed that one of the trailer tires was a bit low on air, we decided to go back into town to inflate it a bit more.  On the way back out of town, we got pulled over a second time by a state trooper in the exact same spot as the first time we got pulled over!  This time, he said he stopped us because he couldn't see our trailer's license plate because the tarp was covering it a bit.  Again, license and proof of insurance please...and we were like, um....and once again, we were treated with mercy and he let us go with just a citation and an admonishment to get the proof of insurance as soon as we could.  While the state trooper had us pulled over, we overheard a few things on the radio that made us think that security was a bit tight in the area due to the situation with illegal immigrants, so we think that's probably what was going on there...they were probably stopping any suspicious-looking vehicles or ones with out-of-state license plates, which would explain why they weren't so concerned about the insurance papers.

Because of the border crossing and the time lost in the detour and with the lights/getting pulled over, we really lost a lot of time.  Once we got up to the interstate where we would turn east, both Miguel and I were so tired that we just pulled over into a rest area behind a bunch of trucks, locked the doors and slept for a couple of hours!  When we woke up, we went not-so-merrily on our way because we were just so zonked.  I drove for as long as I could to let Miguel sleep more and then Miguel took over again.  As the day went on, we felt a bit better and were able to enjoy the beautiful sights of central Texas...there are some really cute little towns there that would be so much fun to explore...such as the German-Texan town of Fredericksburg.

Anyway, about 30 minutes out from College Station, we stopped at a gas station to call Sol and get directions to her house.  She was excited to hear from us, but then I had to call her right back to let her know we'd be delayed even more because Miguel had noticed a major problem with one of the trailer was terribly deformed and literally about to fall off because all the ball bearings had melted!  yikes.  We were so very thankful to be at a gas station, have a place for the kids and I to sit inside out of the 105 degree heat (even though the lady attending the station was unfortunately less than gracious), and that there was a Tractor Supply Co. literally across the street where Miguel could buy all the parts he needed to replace the tire and tire mount.  He also talked with a Mexican guy who happened to be there who called a friend of his to come help Miguel fix the tire more quickly than Miguel could have done it on his own...the compadre system at work there.  :)

So by the time we made it to Sol's house, we'd been on the road for 26 hours and were completely and utterly wiped out!  While we had an excellent time at Sol's house and it was great to catch up with their lives, I started realizing that I was getting a stomach something.  I am pretty sure it was not a flu, but more like amoebic dysentery or some such thing I'd picked up somewhere along the way.  My stomach was cramping and I kept having to run to the bathroom every hour or so...not good while traveling.  Sol had the right medicine, though, so Sunday night I began that treatment and felt better within about six hours...which was good because I was beginning to wonder if we'd be able to leave that next day after all!

Monday morning, after a good Mexican breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Sol and headed out.  There really are no good ways to get to Northwest Arkansas from College Station, so we mapped out what we felt would be the best route on secondary roads even though it would probably take us a bit longer.  Everything went well until after lunch when Jojo began throwing up.  I felt bad because about all we could do was provide a container for him and just keep going.  He didn't complain a lot and we just kept stopping to empty the container...poor guy.  Nothing like feeling so sick on the road...

Then about 3 p.m. in a town in northeast Texas, we lost the other tire...we were literally riding on the rim and left some nice grooves in the highway for a while.  Miguel had a spare and he and Micah worked to get that tire on so we could go look for a place to buy a new one.

Again, God was good and there was a Tractor Supply Co. just a quarter of a mile back down the highway!  It didn't take long for Miguel to get the new tire on while the rest of us hung out in the air conditioning of Home Depot (which would also probably sold the right tires, too) and then we were back on the road.  We really enjoyed the scenery on the back roads of eastern Oklahoma, but Miguel was pretty stressed at the thought of losing another tire...once it was dark, he kept looking in the mirrors for signs of sparks!  But we made it to Rogers with no more tire troubles...I think we pulled in here around 11:30 p.m. that night.  We were greeted by some welcome signs from our friends, the Rasicos, another missionary family we know who are living here at the Village.

Nothing like a warm welcome to make 
us feel at home!  

So we've been working at getting settled in and getting better...Jojo was sick for the first couple of days we were back and now Gracia and Jkaile might be getting it, too (although I hope not!).  I felt pretty badly, too, with my stomach thing, but am gradually getting better now that the medicine is really taking effect.  We've been able to see a few friends so far and that's been good.  Once we're better, I'm sure we'll be able to get out more.  I will also start homeschooling in a couple of weeks, so need to get organized for the meantime, I'm working on helping the kids learn how to live in this house and set up the daily routines before we tackle school.

I think my final thoughts on this trip, though, are that in spite of it being our 'worst' travel experience ever in terms of sickness, length, problems, etc. it was actually one of the best because I did not freak out.  I was calm, rational, did not say "I told you so" (not even ONCE), in control of my emotions (okay, well, there were a couple of times...), and had peace that God would take care of us no matter what happened.  I have such a thankful heart for the way God is working in me because it made it such a better experience than it would have been if I'd just totally flipped every time something else happened.  So neat to see how God continues to work and how much these changes in me have such a positive effect on my family.