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.


Catching Up

Since we’ve been back in the States, I’ve been spending some time with family, catching up. My aunt invited my mom and our family to go to the beach. Rodney stayed behind, so we made it just a girls trip. It was the first time ever that we have gone on vacation together. It was good to share time with family.

After that, I drove 6 hours by myself to visit my dad. I wasn’t sure how I would do driving alone. (Driving in Mexico is much different than in the states, and it’s not something that you do alone.) But the trip proved to be a good opportunity to decompress and enjoy some alone time. It was nice to see the country side, talk with God and just be. (In a family if 6, one rarely gets time alone.) Anyway, I haven’t seen my dad since November of 2016 when he had his first chemo treatment. It’s hard to believe that he’s been through 2 complete cycles of chemotherapy and stem cell replacement all without me around. The Bible says, “…everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29, NLT) I don’t exactly understand what that means, but I feel like I might qualify.

As an only child, I have missed a lot of moments with my family over the last 16 years. I’ve missed weddings and funerals, graduations and holidays, sicknesses and surgeries, years and moments. I don’t begrudge those absences. I know that what I was doing is important. In the eternal scheme of life, we have given children who had no hope, HOPE for a better future. We have given them a home, a safe place, a loving family. I know that the time invested has been worth it. But now that Hope House is established, I am glad to be here…Glad to be able to spend time with my parents as they (and I) grow older.

I’m not sure what the next phase of life will hold. I’m not sure that it is necessary for us to return to Mexico full-time. Our ministry has grown a lot since 2002 when we set off in our truck with all of our belongings packed in the back and a 2 year old and 2 month old sitting in the back seat. A lot has changed indeed. So, as I take time to catch up with my family, I take time to catch up with me too. I’m not the same person I was before Mexico. I’m a much stronger person in many ways and for sure a much gentler version of myself. It’s nice to be able to “catch up”.

Being Stretched

Seems like God is always stretching us, asking us to do what seems impossible. Today I am sitting in Tennessee, in a clean house. I went to church and then ate brunch at Cracker Barrel. I took an afternoon nap and spent time with my family. It was a picture perfect day and yet I am restless. This move has taken more faith than anything I’ve ever done. (Yes, more faith than even moving to Mexico in the first place!)

You know it is easy to work, to stay busy for God’s kingdom, but learning to rest, now that is a different type of work. “Take a sabbatical”, God said! And here we are, trying to rest and all the while feeling like a locomotive derailed. We have run so fast and hard for so long it’s difficult to know how to rest in God’s presence. I thought I would write, but writing has not come easy. It’s not that I don’t have feelings to process, it’s just that sharing leaves you vulnerable and I’m already emotionally exhausted. I’m not ready to hear a barrage of well intended opinions about what others think we should be doing. Mexico, missions, Hope House, Honduras, living in another country with different customs and language, I am left emotionally spent. Those in aid work call it compassion fatigue; and I know I suffer from it. I’ve seen and experienced vicarious trama. The poverty, the pain, the suffering that exists in the world has taken its toll. Now God encourages us to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate, refresh, relax and be revived. But I don’t know how to do that. And so we begin a new phase of this journey called life and I’m being stretched once again by the hand of the almighty.

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.

Practicing Discomfort

“God I trust You. And I know you want my best. But I know that Your best is not easy and most often it is painful…that frightens me.”

A friend posted this quote on Facebook. Im so glad he did, because I have been trying for a while now to put this sentiment into words.

Have you ever been frightened by the path down which God leads you?

It is natural to desire the path of lease resistance, the easy way which will cause you little effort to endure. It is not so natural however to deliberately choose to practice discomfort.

By actively choosing to put yourself in difficult circumstances, you are helping to prepare yourself for those times which you will inevitably experience.

God knows that what is best for us is not necessarily the things which come easily. The best things in our lives are those for which we have had to work, strive and sacrifice.

The next time you are faced with an uncomfortable situation remember that God is molding and preparing you for your future. He is always working things for your good and is not thwarted by your complaints. He loves you too much to allow you to always take the easy road.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4


Make Me Like You

“God, I asked for You to make me more like You. While I was waiting, our baby girl died. It was a difficult time and I was angry with you for allowing that to happen. Then one day I remembered that You also lost a child and I began to realize that through loss, we had something in common. Without me even realizing, You had answered my prayer.”
Kina Dutro-20?? 

Written sometime as I began to come out of the fog…

Our daughter Faith would have been 11 years old today. I am not trying to start a theological debate about God’s perfect will versus His permissive will, by what I wrote above. I just remember it was a great confort to me when I realized that Father God could genuinely identify with my pain and my loss. 
Last year some dear friends of ours also lost their daughter just after birth. As they navigated the pain and bewilderment of the situation, I faced my own memories of giving birth to a still born daughter. One can never imagine the emotional pain that accompanies such an experience, nor can one going through it imagine the pain will ever end. But after 11 years I can promise…the pain does end! It does not last forever. 
In John 16:33 Jesus warns us that in this world we will have trouble. Later in the first chapter of James we are encouraged to count it all joy when we face various trials because they produce in us steadfastness. Rest assured we are never promised an easy life. We will experience difficulties, but through those dark times Christ promises to never leave us nor forsake us. 
As you walk through your own difficulties I pray that you will find hope in knowing that you are not alone. God too has suffered and through your suffering you are becoming more like Him. 
One day as I walked through that dark season a good friend looked at me and said, “Your face is smiling, but your eyes are not.” After 11 years, this I can promise you. You will begin to smile again and it won’t just be superficial. 
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 

Finding the Key

I turned 46 this year. Most likely I am on life’s downhill slope. I don’t expect I will live into my 90’s, most people don’t live that long. One thing I know for sure, I want my last half of my life to be better than the first half. I don’t want to waste the rest of my life in vain pursuits, but instead to be focused and determined in The Lord. There are some things I want to accomplish in this season of life, one of which is scripture memorization. 
I remember years ago my husband and I were studying the book of James. He had taken a group of youth to Bible Camp. On the last night they had a talent show of sorts. During the show, a young man stood alone in front of the crowd and from memory began to quote The Book of James. Oh how I wish I could have been there! Completely from memory the young man quoted the entire book, all five chapters!
This was amazing to me, I guess mostly because I have always struggled to memorize. My earliest memory of scripture memorization is from Sunday School. We must have spent the entire year trying to memorize Psalms 23. I’m not sure I ever memorized it verbatim. Over the years I have continued to struggle with memorization.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t know the Bible. I can paraphrase many verses, but being able to say them word for word with a reference to where they are found has just been something I have not been able to master. 
Until recently- 

“What made the difference?” you ask. Sometime last year I began praying that God would help me to memorize His Word. I wasn’t sure how that would happen but I trusted that this was a worthwhile persuit and that God would honor my request. Then one day, Miss Judy, our pastor’s wife, announced a 4 week study on how to memorize Scripture. I knew immediately that I needed to attend that class. 
In 4 short weeks, I have put to memory more Bible verses than I have been able to do in my entire life. 
The link below is a video of Pastor John Piper as he talks about the importance of scripture memorization. 

There are many techniques which can help with scripture memorization. The key is to find one that works for you. Then you will need to put in some time and effort, combined with prayer. 
After all, It is written, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13″