Before and After

Before-

Last week we were in Mexico. As I prepared for the trip I wrote….

I’ve spent every summer in Mexico since 1998 except the summer of 2000; the year when Genesis was born. But this summer, I’m not looking forward to being there. It took a lot of effort, prayers, godly counsel and muscle to get our family of 6 along with two of our dogs to the states and now after being here 2 months, I must return South of the Border. As far as I can remember, this is the first time since September of 2004 that I have not wanted to return.

I remember traveling with Rodney and 3 of the girls. Zion was only 8 weeks old and I did not want to return to Mexico. Life there was difficult, we didn’t know the language, we didn’t have many friends, the house we were renting was moldy. In fact, there was a time when Rodney, Trin and I all had mold growing under our fingernails. We were poor, felt alone and life was tough.

After spending a few extra days at the boarder wrestling with our negative feelings and with God, we decided to return to Mexico. We didn’t want to spend our lives wondering what God would have done through us had we only been faithful.

Over the years the hardships and struggles only served to strengthen our faith and deepen our relationship with each other and our Lord.

This week as I struggled, once again, with my feelings of not wanting to return to Mexico, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It didn’t take long for me to adjust my attitude. I have so many things to be thankful for. And now after all these years I can look back with thankfulness at all that God has accomplished in spite of the difficulties that we faced.

After-

Fast Forward to the end of our trip…..

Lord-I thank you for this trip! I did not want to come, but I’m glad I did. You have blessed us and loved on us while we were here. Thank you to our friends LeAnna and Jerry who have blessed us with their “little house”. Staying here has given us privacy and precious downtime we both desperately need. While here we have gotten to visit friends and loved ones, we have shared laughs and tears. Thank you, Lord, that we were here to be able to comfort our friend Lucinda as L.C. passed into glory. Thanks that I got to sing once again with my friends, who I’ve missed, in the LCBC Choir. Thanks for Hope House! Annel and Ismael are doing a FANTASTIC job, much better than Rodney and I could do at this point. They are standing on our shoulders and advancing God’s Kingdom and changing lives. Investing 15 1/2 years in her life was worth it! Thank you that she and Ismael embrace the vision You Father gave us for Hope House and they are not only maintaining in our absence, but thriving. This trip has reassured me that we are exactly where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing. It has brought much healing to my weary heart. Thank you for blessing me with peace that YOU have got this under control. Thank you for encouraging me to rest in You.

Thought-

There are times when life is difficult and there are times when we just imagine that life will be difficult. I know that God has a plan and purpose in each of them. I pray that God gives us the wisdom to know the difference and to be thankful for both seasons.

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Vunerable

Slowly I’m beginning to write…but the words I pen leave me feeling vulnerable. I’m not sure I have the courage to post them, to let you into my world. It’s not that I have any dark hidden secrets. Anyone who knows me, knows I share my battles freely. I am honest and open, but it’s easier to speak freely when I can look into your eyes…to see your response and when you can look at me too and see my heart which inspires my words.

Sixteen years, almost two decades we have lived in another country. Our girls know it as home, but to me, it will never be home. I will always be a stranger, outsider, foreigner. One day I came to this realization; Mexico will never be home. I will never understand fully their customs, motives or attitudes towards Americans. I won’t understand why they insist on burning trash and brush in March when the winds are at their height, nor why they sprinkle water on the dirt to keep the dust down, all the while making a muddy mess, or why they think that all Americans are rich. I will never think it’s natural to sweep the street in front of my house or throw my trash down on the sidewalk or pick fruit off it trees that don’t belong to me. I will never understand why starting a children’s home automatically means I’m out to take advantage of the children and makes me a suspect of wrong doing.

Oh there are so many more things that I could tell you …more than I want to tell and more than you want to know. It reminds me of a book by Missionary Amy Carmichael entitled, “Things As They Are”, she shared about the struggles she faced being a missionary in India, how people were more interested in her hair and clothes than they were hearing about Jesus.

I feel that way. So many interested in what they could get from us instead of being interested in WHO they could know because of us. Oh there are some who have genuinely been changed by Christ working through us, but others have taken advantage and abused our good nature and it’s left me emotionally exhausted.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time around us, knows that this calling, this mission has taken its toll. Physically I continue to suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. Emotionally, I’m drained. Even last week my back gave way and I am reminded of my frailty. Fortunately spiritually, I’m stable, stronger than when I began this journey. My roots have grown deep in the midst of adversity. And although I’m restless like a fish out of water, I know this season is necessary. This sabbatical that God has called us to, a time of rest and refreshment is necessary for our wellbeing and that of our family and ministry. But rest does not come easy after years of 24/7 work and crisis management. Ironically, it feels like there is something I’m not doing, something I’m forgetting to do. And we’ll that is sort of the point, isn’t it.

Before coming here, as we prepared for this sabbatical, I read that sabbath rest is not easy. That I would be confronted with thoughts, feelings and attitudes that I don’t necessarily enjoy. (And so it is.)

I am no longer enamored with Mexico or Mexicans. Can I say that? Probably not! But I have, and to take it back would not be true to the much needed process. We have been used and taken advantage of and that allows us to understand a slight bit of what it’s like to partake in the sufferings of Jesus. That’s not a bad thing, but it is also not an easy one.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my boys! And I do not regret any part of starting Hope House. It was worth every heartache and tear. Knowing those boys have a safe and loving home and the opportunity to know Jesus as savior, It was worth it! I would do it again knowing the adversity that lie ahead, but that doesn’t change the fact that these 16 years have taken its toll on me and I need a little time to recuperate.

So here we are stateside after nearly two decades of living south of the border. It’s a strange feeling, a strange feeling indeed.

Rain, Hurricanes and a faithful dryer.

Without watching the news nor hearing a weather report we can always tell when there is a hurricane on the coast. Rainy season is characterized by sunny days and afternoon showers or beautiful days and overnight thunder storms that roll along the mountain. But when a hurricane is on the coast the sky is overcast, the weather is dreary and rain constantly drizzles for days at a time.

Our home, although lovely, is made from brick and cement inside and out. We have no insulation, no central heat nor air. At times like these the rain saturates everything. Moisture fills the cement on the houses and homes are cold and moist. The ground fills with water and that water begins to seep up the interior and exterior walls of the house making the cement walls erode in what’s known as salitre. We will need to wait until March when everything dries before repairs can be made. This is just part of the cycle of life that happens here in Mexico.

During the rains bath towels never dry on their own. They are cold and moist after hanging all day. We are fortunate to have a dryer. It will be 14 years old in December, most of its parts have been rebuilt and it runs like a charm. The repair man says I should not run it all day everyday, but with a family of six, it is rarely idle. A church group bought it for us our second Christmas here in Mexico. Before we had it, we strung clothes lines all over the interior of the house during the rains, but often our clothes would turn musty before they dried. I’ll never forget the first week we had our drier, it had been raining for days when the girls got a stomach bug and threw up on every blanket we owned. I was so thankful to the group who had blessed us with that dryer!

Today the rains stopped for a few hours in the afternoon. Years ago I would have ran home to hang out all our wet clothes with hopes that the few hours of sun would have been enough to dry them. And I would have forged the risk of forgetting them on the line as the rains started again tonight. (Something I have done a number of times.)

As the rains pour, our street looks like a river and the briers at the corner have sprouted up with such vigor that they almost form a dam covering the entrance to our street. I’ve asked the town if they would add our street to the list of those needing repairs, but the truth is, come spring when dry season arrives, and the briers die, we will have to cut them down and clean the several inches of mud covering our street which has been left behind from the rains.

Truth be known, these inconveniences hardly compare with the clean up, repairs and devastation my friends living in the hurricane’s path will face. As I see videos and photos of water waist deep in their homes and escapes made in kayaks and Jet Skis, I will gladly face my annual repairs and overcast days and say a prayer for those whose lives are being turned upside down by the storm.

Things You Don’t See in the United States

Over the years of living in a foreign country we have experienced so many cultural differences. Sometimes we become numb to those differences and cease to even notice them. Here are a few things that we have experienced that still seem unusual to us….
A Christmas tree being carried home on the back of a motorcycle. 
Two men and a goat riding in the back of a pickup truck on a main highway at night. 
A baby seat strapped to the back of a four wheeler. 
A man walking down the street carrying a machete. 
A 4-5 person family using a motor scooter as their main form of transportation. 
Shaved ice and chopped fruit being sold out of the trunk of a car. 
A woman selling tamales or tacos carrying them in a large pot pushed through the street with a wheel borrow. 
A sign saying “no camping” posted in the median of a highway. 
Men riding down the highway perched on top of the dirt in the back of a dump truck. 
A store that sells 1- Tylenol, or 1-diaper, or 1- index card. 
A man sitting on a stump cooking over an open fire on the side of the toll road. 
Free range horses and donkeys. 
A public bathroom that only has one roll of toilet paper mounted to the wall near the entrance. (You must get your paper before entering the stall.)
Corn flavored ice cream

Reverse Culture Shock


The mountain is burning, more like smoldering, with a thick stream of smoke that billows to the heavens. And I lie awake. I’m reading and writing when I come across something I wrote a year or two ago,  although it is older, I could have easily written it last week. 
The Sound of Silence

“It is quiet, so quiet. I only hear a faint hum of the air coming out of the ducts in the floor and the ringing in my ears. Life is still. No noise, no breeze, no smoke from the neighbors burning, no smoke from wildfires. 
In March when the temperature begins to warm, all is dry in Ixtlahuacan and the towns people begin to burn. It is not uncommon for them to burn entire fields, yards, piles of sticks or leaves. They burn in the early morning hours and sometimes during the cover of night. It’s so hot that we must sleep with our windows open, but oh…the smoke. As strange as it may sound…today I woke, not because of the smoke, but because of the lack of smoke. 
There is no breeze in this climate controlled room. No birds chirping, dogs barking, air breaks rumbling as the big trucks come down the mountain. It’s still, quiet and unusual. 
When I first traveled as a missionary to Hong Kong and then again in Mexico, I remember being warned about the noise and the smells. I never thought I would need to be warned about the lack of odors and the silence. Oh how the tables turn.”

#reversecultureshock

#missionaryquirks

#wheresthesmoke

#awakenbythesilence

Adjusting courses

I wonder how many times we have made this trip. (So many that we have lost count.) Head north past the Guadalajara International Airport. Once in Guadalajara, turn North East and drive to Lagos de Moreno.

This next stretch is always the most difficult of the trip and most always driven just before daybreak. Today it was driven in the fog. It is a curious section of highway that has been under construction the entire time we have lived in Mexico. And I am certain that in the past 11 years we have never taken exactly the same route twice.

The poorly marked bypass shaves 45 minutes off our drive time and it is always a disappointment when we miss it. Today, unintentionally, we opted for the more scenic route. 😦 While touring Lagos de Morenos the marked highway abruptly ended. We could see our connection about 200 meters in front of us but the bridge over the railroad tracks had yet to be completed. So instead of proceeding, a highway surveyor pointed us down a dirt road. If this “official route” actually connected with the highway we will never know, but we did have a nice tour of a small community.

In the morning light families lined the streets. We passed a small farm where the cattle were enjoying breakfast and soon after we could smell the unmistakable odor of freshly baking bricks. Although an unwanted intrusion in our day, I so enjoyed seeing the people and this little community. And although the intrusion was enjoyable, It did not take us long to realize that we needed to adjust our course.

Tonight as I lie awake it struck me how much today’s trip resembles life. Sometimes because of circumstances, often by no fault of our own, we realize that our current course will not take us where we need to go. We realize we must adjust. Many times we are hesitant to adjust courses. I suppose there are several reasons for not adjusting. Perhaps we feel adjustment is a sign of failure. Maybe we are so intent on going one way that we don’t realize that God has set a massive roadblock in our path. Whatever the reason, if we will just stop and adjust our course we find that there is another way to reach our destination.

Prayer:
Lord I don’t want to miss your best for me. Please help me to recognize the moments in my life when I need to adjust my course and willingly follow You in a new direction.

(Written during a recent trip to the Mexican/United States border.)