Sunday, April 25, 2010

Not Exempt

Missionaries are not exempt from suffering. I still remember the young woman who heard that my husband had cancer and was going through surgery and radiation. She was shocked, stating that she thought missionaries would be exempt from cancer. After all, we had left our families and homeland and were serving God in a foreign country. All I could think at that time was, "Wow! What a ridiculous statement." But I've had some time to think about it, a bit over five years. I really didn't know that person; maybe she was a new believer who hadn't read Hebrews yet. Maybe she was simply a church-goer, not a believer. I don't know and I'm rather sorry to say that I never got her contact info or even considered keeping in touch with her. As my students say, "My bad!"

Recently I read a blog written by a couple serving in Haiti. I don't know them but since my husband and I served in Haiti for eighteen years, I tend to read anything I come across that is written by those who are there. This young couple is suffering. Their suffering far exceeds what my husband and I experienced with this adenocarcinoma of the lacrimal gland. Their youngest child, Susana, has neuroblastoma, a deadly form of cancer that seems to uniquely attack children. I have now bookmarked this family's blog so I can follow and pray for them. My heart is extremely heavy for this family. I know the financial package most missionaries live with (read poverty level) and the insurance programs they are a part of (self-insured). It is really tough to experience this kind of personal trauma, especially when it deals with a child.

The truth is that God knows all about this. He knew it was coming, even their level of suffering. I have a very unpopular view of this kind of thing. I don't think Job was a unique character. I believe that all of us are fair game for Satan to attack at any time with hardship, illness, any number of difficulties. The only sense I could make of my husband's experience was that God had called us into that hospital, into that community of suffering people. And now God has called Susana's family. We need to pray for them. This is beyond traumatic! These people lived through one of the worst earthquake's in history, have been ministering to suffering people... probably around the clock. They are exhausted, traumatized themselves, and now they are suffering horribly. We are not exempt. We are called... called to go, to be, to suffer as Christ did.

This is what praying without ceasing is all about - every moment, all day, always.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I was just reading a link within a blog of someone I don't know, but she's a friend of someone I do know and trust so she's probably a really good person. I totally misunderstood a line in her blog, this one:

"Have I mentioned that I think the whole "colorblind to race" theory may not serve us well? Brendesha Tynes has some new research that suggests people who identify as colorblind are less sensitive to racism."

I was shocked! Fortunately I followed up my emotional reaction by reading the link and discovered that we don't mean the same thing when we use the word colorblind. I know the author of the blog is not racist; she is the mother of multi-racial children. And the author of the linked research is African-American so that's a non-starter too. But I believe there is a really good side to being colorblind... it's really, really being colorblind! Let me explain.

My family and I lived in the Caribbean for 25 years. The initial six of those years were in Martinique, a lovely French Caribbean island. Our boys were young when we lived there, four and eight when we arrived. They attended local schools, enjoyed camping, birthday parties, trips to the beach with friends; in general they lived a very normal life in another country. They were seven and eleven when we left for a year back 'home' in the states. We spent much of that year stateside visiting family and friends who supported our ministry in one way or another. I clearly remember a particular question and answer evening. All four of us were on the platform and one dear soul asked our children if they had any white friends or were all their friends black. I will never forget our youngest son's reaction. I wanted to cry! He was so confused. He looked at me and whispered, "Mommy, what does she mean? None of my friends are black." I tried to explain to him that some of his friends had a darker skin color than he did, that they were really, really tan! He was so upset and confused and argued the point, informing me that his friends were just like him! Sigh... he was/is a very light-skinned redhead! We let it go that evening but knew he would be asking questions. At seven, almost eight years old, our son truly did not see anything different about his friends. He was completely colorblind. The best kind of colorblind. When we revisited that conversation later, he was devastated to learn that there were differences that some people thought were a big deal. He specifically said, "I thought all my friends were just like me, that I was just like them." I tried to tell him that he was right and others were wrong. We talked about getting a cut and the blood being just the same. We talked about "white" people who were all different shades of skin color, hair color, eye color. It didn't matter; the lesson had been learned. We were different. It was a sad day, the loss of innocence.

I hate that. I detest bigotry and anything that makes people think that they have the right to act all smug and superior to others based on external anything! I have been appalled at the nasty, ethnic comments made about the president and others like him who are also civil servants. I cringe when I hear people use colloquial terminology denoting people of another race. Where in the world do we get these ideas? Who do we think we are? Why are people who spew this kind of nasty speech condoned even for a moment?

Recently Arizona passed a law giving police officers the right to demand proof of citizenship from anyone that they think might be an illegal alien. Even that word... alien... I think of creatures from Mars not people from Cancun or Acapulco! This new law is going to lead to some serious trouble. I can appreciate the critical financial difficulties that Arizona faces as they deal with so many illegal residents but there has to be a better way! I wish I knew what it was. Maybe we all just need to be a bit more colorblind.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Those of us who lived in Haiti for an extended period of time must deal with certain issues for years and years. We are marked by our experience. Some things that hit us are extremely positive such as the generosity and hospitality of the Haitian people but others nag at our spirit and sometimes make us weep. The one that got to me tonight was the leftovers.

I scraped the food from our dinner plates and serving bowls into the compost bucket. And I swear, the first thought that came into my head was, "I wouldn't be doing this if I still lived in Haiti." We never tossed food. Even moldy bread became chicken food. If there was as much as a tablespoon of mashed potatoes, it went into the fridge. We had people who worked for us who really wanted those leftovers and we gave them willingly. Actually, I never gave them directly to my workers. I would say something like, "Marie, I have this leftover food. I am sure you know someone who might want it. Would you take it for him/her?" And Marie did know someone - her daughter or her two sons for starters! But going through this "back-door" allowed Marie to hold onto a bit of human dignity. Sometimes, when you are quite poor, dignity is your only possession.

Last week was my stress-filled Spring Break and one of my mini-projects was to clean out the fridge. I tossed so many containers with little dabs of food, it wasn't funny. Most spoiled before we could eat them or we never wanted to eat them (again) anyway. So I promised myself that I wouldn't save the dabs anymore. But it is tough! My dad always got after me for not finishing my dinner. He would tell me about the starving children in China... and yes, just like you, I wanted to tell him to send it to them. So rude... But the truth is that once you've lived among starving people, you are changed. I still remember my older son's reaction to his first university food-fight. He absolutely raged at his friends and classmates after that experience. He was horrified that most people just didn't seem to care. We care, my husband, my sons, we care about those who are hungry. We do all we can to make a difference in their lives. And although saving the little dabs after dinner isn't going to help them, it certainly does hurt to throw it away.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nope, I just couldn't do it!

I confess; I went to my classroom late this afternoon and worked for three hours. Today is the last day of Spring Break and I have stayed away more this year than any before. Ostensibly I went to set up the CD player we used to have in our house. Before he moved to France, our younger son gave us his flat screen tv and stereo/dvd/cd/surround sound media thingy that has everything in one unit. They use a totally different system over there. In order to properly "house" our old aiwa stereo, I needed to clear a place. In the process, I not only cleaned off a table that has needed some serious TLC since before Christmas, but also went through two big boxes of junk hidden under the table. I dumped a lot of paper stuff there just to get it out of my way. I sorted, filed, threw away a bunch of stuff, put other stuff into notebooks, and used my clorox wipes on every surface around my desk. I have the wipes sitting out so we can tackle the student desks first thing in the morning.

My white boards were ready to go before Spring Break, all charts were already up to date, my plans and copies were done ahead, so I'm ready. School starts tomorrow - the final countdown. I have nine weeks... 43 actual school days (I never count weekends or holidays). When I look at all I would like to do, I absolutely know I don't have enough time. This particular group of 8th graders never mastered basic grammar. I think it was neglected in earlier years and no matter how hard I have worked with them, they just can't seem to get it. So tomorrow, I'm going to start a project that I used with my very first class... of third graders! We're going to 'make' grammar books. They'll define the part of speech, write three example sentences, and illustrate or cut and paste pictures that represent that particular part of speech. My 7th graders are so far ahead of my 8th graders it's not funny but I bet they'll want to do this too once they hear about it. I may make it a tradition. I'm only spending this week on it. I've devoted more direct time to the parts of speech than I ever have before and I'm not going to do more than this.

I have a stack of WWII novels I want kids reading plus there is a novel based in 12th century Korea, A Single Shard, that we must do! As a private school, we receive several international students for a year or more of study. Most of our guest students come from Korea. I hunted for quite some time to find a book that I felt would not only highlight the antiquity of their country and culture but would teach our American students about the country in a way that would honor our Korean students. I love this book! The main characters are dirt poor and yet extremely ethical in all aspects of their lives. They are a complete contrast to the situational ethics that many countries, including our own, seem to accept. So a week from tomorrow, one 8th grade class will start this novel while the other begins literature circles with WWII novels. I'd prefer to do both at the same time but I'm short a few books. I may beg for more copies; it would make my life so much easier to only have one prep rather than two. And when the year comes to this point, I do want to make my life easier! There's so much 'stuff' that has to be done. We've already received the curriculum order sheets for next year. If we get our orders in early, we save $$$. I really do understand that, especially these days. Any---way--- here we go! The countdown is ON!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Almost Insanity

What a crazy week! This has to be the weirdest Spring Break I've ever had. I've already mentioned my two days with the dentist. That certainly foreshadowed the rest of the week. Wednesday I went to a family lunch with my mother and then to our church's District Assembly. This annual meeting brings delegates and pastors from our denomination in Western Washington together for the purpose of making administrative choices and setting goals and such. This year was a big one. The man who has directed the district for the past 25 years has retired. There has been a ton of speculation as to who would take this job. My husband was his assistant for three years and many thought he was brought in so he would be ready to assume this responsibility. Many thought that but my man and I were not among the many.

With the economic down-turn of the past couple years, it was necessary for my husband to leave his assistant job and find another, which he did. He stayed out of the district business completely. He didn't attend meetings, visit churches, or do anything that might give a whiff that he was still involved in any way. He plunged himself into his new responsibility as high school principal and has done a remarkable job. It is much different from his university work prior to this but it has been a good challenge among wonderful students, as well as a few crazies.

Last night was the farewell service for the former district leader, former boss, and we went. We saw a lot of old friends and visited with many. The meeting that would elect the new leader was held today. All day. We decided it was a good time to stay away and chose to spend the day with our grandchildren instead. We went to the park, out to eat, to a huge amusement hall, and finally back to our house for popcorn and a movie. Sometime during lunch the first phone call came in. Ballots were coming in; the pack was pretty tight but guess who was in the lead? Yeah, my man. We weren't worried. It was just a first ballot; things needed to sort out. About three ballots later we began to sweat. He still had a substantial, now-growing lead. After the next ballot, pastors began to call. Although happy about the way things were going, a few knew this was not necessarily something my man wanted to do. By the time movie and popcorn were happening, we were in trouble. It looked pretty obvious that if my man didn't do something to stop this forward momentum, he was going to have a new job. Could he do the job? Absolutely! In fact, there is no question that he is far better "trained" for that job than the one he is so focused on at this time. But no matter how we looked at it, discussed it, or prayed over it, there was no peace. None, zero, nada, rien! Finally we knew that he either had to make a phone call and stop this or he had to be prepared to take the job. We both agreed that it would not be fair to let it go to the end of the process and then say no. As it was, these people had been voting all day. We really felt horrible. What do we do? What does God want from us? We serve at His pleasure but was this what He wanted? Maybe... but I think there were a few, not many, certainly not most, who didn't want this. Do we force ourselves on the current organizational leadership of the church, even if we're pretty sure it isn't what they want? nah... There was no peace and we have always said, without peace we don't stop what we're doing to go somewhere else. The grass is never greener... So he made that call... and there were some pretty unhappy people. And we didn't go to church again tonight. And yes, they did elect someone, the next guy in the running, but we don't know if he's going to do it or not and I guess that doesn't matter. We've certainly sealed our fate with the church. And that's okay. We are not political animals like some. We don't like that stuff one bit, at least not in the church. And I don't know that there is a job that is more related to the politcal machinations of our church than this one.... except a few in KC.

We took our grandchildren back home then headed to the lake for a walk. Of course it started to rain! So we bopped into a favorite restaurant for an early dinner. As our salads arrived, a leader in our current assignment called and a bunch of dumb stuff was dropped on my man. I sat there, amazed at the timing of the ridiculous. Yet my guy chose to ignore the nonsense and rest in the fact that he had made the right decision. He spoke his mind forcefully but then shook it off. We enjoyed dinner, got in a short walk, and headed home.

And tomorrow's Friday! Nuts! Spring Break is almost over and it's been one crazy day after another. I had much higher expectations for this week than what I got! Such stress! Well, the countdown starts next week and I'm certainly hoping my summer is much calmer or a lot more fun than this Spring Break!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring Break!

I am a teacher and I love Spring Break! I love that it always comes after the third quarter and after report card information is turned in. It's so nice knowing that it's done and doesn't have to be revisited after Break. As much as I try to avoid it, I am always ready to start the countdown after Spring Break. Every year I tell myself that it isn't going to happen this year... and every year, I count the days.

This Spring Break is not starting out well. I scheduled my dental cleaning for today, Monday morning of Spring Break. I happened to break a filling in a front tooth so I made a two-hour appointment, clean and repair tooth. No biggie... except I didn't know I had other cavities. I hate that! Now I have to spend Tuesday morning at the dentist as well! Augh!!! Those cavities (2 little ones that will require my morning to be invaded!) were hiding behind two old fillings, located side-by-side in two different teeth.

Hmmm... are our lives like that? Hiding behind old wounds are older wounds? Does dealing with the sin that I see sometimes lead to another that has been hidden in the depths of my heart for far too long? Does a problem ignored become a life issue that requires serious intervention? I do know this, if I don't sacrifice my Tuesday morning and get those cavities fixed, they'll just grow and spread until they cause me pain. Right now they are small and insignificant. I need to treat my sins, my hurts, my problems in the same way... deal with them while they are small and manageable! I wish it was as easy as sitting an hour in the dentist chair while he works. It certainly takes much longer but I do need to sit, quietly, to rest at the feet of the One who is more than capable of doing the necessary repairs on my life. And quite often, the quiet time together results in a prescription received, something I have to do, change, maybe avoid. I need to just do it. I trust the dentist to fix my teeth; I need to truly trust the Lord to repair and manage my life.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

Our church had a Good Friday service tonight. It was amazing... for me. I was so aware of Christ's sacrifice, more so than any other year I can remember. There are probably a few reasons for this but I'm still processing. Here's my new favorite cross song (you'll probably have to copy and paste for the recording). I know it's been around a while but it became my new favorite this week:

Worthy is the Lamb (Hillsong)

Thank you for the cross, Lord
Thank you for the price You paid
Bearing all my sin and shame
In love You came
And gave amazing grace

Thank you for this love, Lord
Thank you for the nail pierced hands
Washed me in Your cleansing flow
Now all I know
Your forgiveness and embrace

Worthy is the Lamb
Seated on the throne
Crown You now with many crowns
You reign victorious

High and lifted up
Jesus Son of God
The Darling of Heaven crucified
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb