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...