Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Turning 35 or Turning Into My Mom...

For as long as I can remember, my Dad has teased me that when I turned 35, I was going to turn into my mother.  He joked that my mom all of the sudden had my Grandma Lois' quirks once she turned 35.

It used to really bother me.  Mostly because I saw myself as other.  And I still do.  There are a lot of times when I feel like I see the world differently and interact with the world quite differently than anyone else in my family.  I am my own person and I have my own personality... but on the eve of my 35th birthday, I'm thinking about the ways I'm like my mom.  And for the many reasons I'm thankful that there are parts of me that just might be turning into my mom.

My mom loves to make friends.  And so do I.  We used to joke that we literally couldn't go anywhere without running into someone my mom knows.  Or that she'd never met a stranger.  I, myself, have been accused of using the term "friend" a little too liberally.  But I like that I quickly accept others into friendship.  And that I am able to have friends from many different places and life circumstances.  Relationships are important to us.  One of the things I am most grateful for is that my parents are genuinely interested in my life - and want to know my friends.  And, I love that we share so many friends. 

My mom loves our family deeply.  And so do I.  My mom is loyal and cares deeply for each member of our family.  She longs for everyone to know that they are known, loved, and appreciated.  I am so grateful for my parents intentional and significant involvement in my nephews' lives and for the way they help take care of sick family members.  If you are a part of our family, my mom prays for you to know that you are loved most by Jesus.  And so do I. 

My mom invites others in.  Hopefully, so do I.  There's room at the table.  There's a bed to spare.  There's a place for you.  There have been a few seasons in my life when our home was shared with my Great Aunt Jayne or a family from our church.  Those experiences taught me a great deal about how to generously invite others into all of your life. 

My mom is gifted teacher.  And its also a gift I believe I've been given. While my mom's gift is most easily seen in a classroom setting (at school or at church), she also enjoys informally mentoring young teachers and moms.  I mostly prefer to use this skill through modeling and mentoring.

My mom loves children.  And so do I.  My mom has a special gift with small children and I think God gifted me with a special gift for tweens and young teenagers.

My mom loves water.  And so do I.  I love that my mom taught me to swim as a baby and gifted me with so many experiences with water - competitive swimming, boat rides, a backyard with a pool, and "Perrycations" at the ocean.  Being in or by water brings us both great joy. 

My mom has a sweet tooth.  And so do I.   I swear I inherited my inability to pass on any opportunity to eat a cinnamon roll.   

For as long as I can remember, one of my deepest desires has been to become a mom.  I have always known that my mom loves me deeply.  She tells me and shows me all the time that I'm loved.  And I hope that I can be a great momma... just like mine. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

He Said...

He Said…

I’ve been playing ultimate Frisbee as a fun hobby for several years now.  I haven’t improved much – and it’s a little embarrassing that I can no longer call myself a beginner.  However, occasionally it works to my advantage.  Usually, whoever is guarding me isn’t too concerned about the Frisbee being thrown to me.  Because, well…. It doesn’t happen a lot.  Mostly that’s on me, I still haven’t figured out the best routes to run and I’m still really slow.  But it’s also because it’s not guaranteed that I’ll actually catch whatever is thrown my direction.  So mostly ultimate has become a great place for me to run around, getting great exercise and being around a different group of interesting people.  I’m there to have fun, not focused on perfecting my skills.  And I have a lot of fun.

We were halfway through the game; and I slipped away unnoticed from the person guarding me.  I managed to make the right run, clear line from the handler to me in the end zone.  He made eye contact and threw the disc.  And I started repeating in my head…. Just catch it.  Two hands. You got this.  And simultaneously… whatever you do don’t drop this.  Don’t screw this up.  I took a deep breath, and crocodile clapped my hands around the disc and quickly pulled it to my chest. 

He looked at me, laughed, and smiling said, “I believe in you more than you believe in yourself.” 

And it’s true.  He trusted me.  He released the disc and sent it soaring to me.    And for the rest of the game, all I could hear in my head was “I believe in you.” “I believe in you more.”  And I soared with confidence.

And all I kept thinking is how much I want that to be what other people hear in their heads when they are on my team on the field, and in life  Friend – I believe in you!  I believe in you more!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Reading Log for 2018

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Again - I mostly post this for my own benefit - but again the books in bold are the books I recommend from what I read this past year.  My goal this year was to read books that were written mostly by people who were not white males (nothing against them, just they've typically written most of what I read and wanted to expand my experience).  I succeeded.  This challenge led me to find out more about life for North Koreans, explore Latino authors, and pick up a couple of books about race.  I actually read all of these as my current travel entertainment has been changed to podcasts.  

1. Historicas Biblicas de Jesus para Ninos (Jesus Storybook Bible) por Sally Lloyd-Jones
If you haven't read the Story Book Bible, I highly recommend it.  It brings the Bible to life (and shouldn't just be for kids!)  Yes, I read the whole thing in Spanish because I gifted it to my godsons and wanted to be able to say I'd read the whole thing first.  

2. Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
3. Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
4. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
5. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
6. I am not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
7. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
8. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is on the US Supreme Court.  Her autobiography tells her story of adversity and triumph.  She has had to prove herself worthy for most of her life and has a great perspective as she sits on the bench.  There's very little legal talk - its her life story, and I recommend it.

9. Belong to Me: A Novel by Marisa de los Santos
Seriously, just read it.  Incredible characters and great character development.  You keep wondering how all the stories are going to intersect - and its just beautiful.  Thanks Joanna Crossett for recommending it!

10. The Girl With Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee
This is an incredible story of perseverance and will help you appreciate all that you have!

11. Booked by Kwame Alexander
12. The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper
13. It's Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
14. Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
15. Going for Kona by Pamela Fagan Hutchins
16. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
It's a story about a Holocaust Survivor - but its a page turner.  

17. The Giver and the Gift: Principles of Kingdom Fundraising by Peter Greer & David Weekley
18. Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed by Sara Hagerty
19. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward
20. All the News thats Fit to Tell and How to Tell It by Amy Young
21. Let's Get Lost: A Coming of Age Novel by Adi Alsaid
22. Stars Between the Sun and the Moon by Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland
23. Ashley's War: The Untold Story of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
24. The Single's Guide to Thriving by Lina AbuJamra
25. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
26. Scary Close by Donald Miller
27. Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
It's Bob Goff - so seriously do I need to say more?  Be challenged.  Laugh. Enjoy his adventures.

28. Praying for Your Children by Elmer Towns and David Earley
29. She is Free: Learning the Truth about the Lies The Hold You Captive by Andi Andrew
30. Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado
31. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
32. Love in a Torn Land by Jean Sasson
33. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
34. Everything Happens for A Reason and Other Lies I've loved by Kate Bowler
A young mom who is diagnosed with stage four cancer honestly talks about how facing death has changed the way she experiences God and well-meaning people.  It's raw and vulnerable and a great help for anyone who has a friend or family member who has cancer.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Ugly Cry (Part 2)

It was never my intention to go silent.  I knew what I had to write about.  I knew the source of my ugly cry's tears.  But I didn't know how to share what was waging war on my brain and my heart.  

I was afraid I would be misunderstood.  I was afraid I'd be ignored.  I was mostly afraid that those I told wouldn't care.

I can't even tell you how many drafts of this I have written, edited, and erased.  So, I finally decided I would just write and then post.  Because this hasn't left my heart or brain.  It's still important.  It still needs to be talked about.

Watching the stories of immigrant families being separated at the border from my computer while sitting in Costa Rica was extremely difficult for me.  Not only because it is just plain wrong to separate children from loving parents.  We know that separation causes trauma.  We know that detention causes trauma.  We know that being in a place where you cannot clearly communicate with those in authority causes trauma.  And there is plenty of research to explain why detaining asylum seekers, and especially separating families is just wrong.  The US government in their review of immigration two years ago stated, "Detention is neither appropriate nor necessary for families."  I hope I don't need to bother spending time explaining why this was and is (as all children have not been returned to their families) just wrong.  

The thing that broke my heart was the conversations I heard surrounding me.  It's Trump's fault.  No, its Obama's fault.  Well, we can't just open the borders and let everyone who wants to come in walk right on in.  We need order.  We need rules.  They need to go back home.  Us versus them.

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Two MAJOR problems I have here...

US History 101: The United States is made up of immigrants.  The Native American, or FIRST people, community only makes up 2% of the US population, according to the 2015 Census.  That includes people who indicate mixed heritage.  So, 98% of the US population claims a heritage of immigrants.  So it absolutely blows my mind that there is an us versus them mentality.  When did we forget exactly who we are?  Who we were?

Secondly. according to Raices Texas (raicestexas.org), 85% of people in immigration detention centers in Texas are from Central America.  Most commonly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatamala.  I love Central America.  I've lived in Costa Rica for 12 years.  I have traveled quite a bit throughout Central America and I have friends in each country in the region.

Anyone who knows anyone from Central America, knows two things about them.  They are extremely family oriented and they love their country.  I've never known anyone to love their families and countries more.  I can't explain the amount of fear and desperation it would take for a family to choose to leave.  Or for a mother to send her child away.  Or for someone to leave their extended family in hopes that maybe they might be granted asylum in the United States.  The situations these immigrants are leaving are extreme.  

A friend of mine who lives in El Salvador had a gang boss show up on his doorstep one day and tell him that he had two days to leave the city with his family, or they would be killed.  The threat was real.  My friend knew of other families in which no one was spared.  Families where children were tortured and killed in front of the parents before their lives were also taken.

Raices Texas also states that 90% of murders of women committed in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala go un-prosecuted.  Where do you go when the threat on your life is real and the authorities do not care?  Where do you turn when the police and government officials are known for their corruption?  

How desperate do you have to be to pack your bags and make a treacherous journey towards a detention cell in the US while seeking asylum?  

My heart continues to break for this broken world.  I'm glad I'm a part of an organization that is changing the lives and futures of Central Americans.  I believe that Central America is a beautiful place to live and raise a family, but there is also a lot of brokenness and terror.  

I just wish that everyone would take the time to hear some immigrant's stories.  I pray that we would all continue to fight to make each part of this world a better, safer place.  And I pray that we could remember that we are all just humans trying to survive and thrive.  

And that maybe you would take a second to pray for the nearly 3,000 (mostly Central American) children and teenagers being detained in the tent city detention center in Tornillo, Texas - that they might know that there is a God who sees them, knows their names and their stories, and loves them deeply.  They are on my heart tonight.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Ugly Cry (part 1)

I stood in the middle of the worship service this morning and ugly cried.  You can picture it.  Tears streaming down my face; there was snot involved; and I’m sure that my eyes were red and puffy.  There was a time not that long ago in my life that I would have been petrified to ugly cry in a public place.  But today I wasn’t the only one ugly crying and I welcomed the tears. 

My heart was breaking for the things that break the heart of God.  And we were singing of His redemption and restoration.  His promise that He is not through with us, but making something beautiful.  His promise to love us always, to never leave us, to never abandon us.  And Colossians 1:17b rang true, “He holds all things together.”  We don’t completely fall apart.  Brokenness is met with hope and healing in Jesus.

Today was a multi-sensory, experiential service.  We were invited to remove our shoes so that we could symbolically put ourselves “in the shoes” of the vulnerable.  We were invited to open our eyes and hearts to see these people with God’s eyes and God’s love. 

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We walked into the first room.  We were in a small bedroom with a mattress on the floor.  A woman walked in who had just finished working selling herself on the street.  We watched her breakdown, crying out to God for there to be another way.  Crying out for someone to come into her life and really love her.  Then the angry landlord banged on the door reminding her she was late on her rent.  A baby cried in the corner of the room, and the woman loving went to him, comforting him with “momma’s here.  Everything’s going to be ok.” 

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Then we went “outside on the street” where we encountered some homeless people.  We listened as a young man told his story of how he found himself living on the street.  He talked of his desperation for food and a dry place to sleep.  How he sought drugs for comfort and then hated himself for using drugs.  How he felt like he was less than human and ignored by those who passed him by.  Our leader asked if she could hug him and pray for him.  She prayed that he would know that he was seen and known and of great worth.

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We walked into another room where we sat in chairs and were blindfolded so we could really listen and feel.  An 8-year old boy began to share his story.  He talked about how his mom abused alcohol and couldn’t even remember his name some days.  How his father had abused him.  How he wished he could live at school because he never wanted to come home.  How these nice ladies from the government came to his house to ask him about his life.  How they were so kind to him but how their eyes got really wide when he was talking to them.  He didn’t know why.  How a few days later those nice ladies came and took him away.  He didn’t know who they were.  He didn’t know where they were taking him.  But they took his hand, and whispered in his ear that he was going to be okay.  At this point, someone took my hand and whispered in my ear.  He told us how scared he was and we heard his mom screaming and crying and his dad angrily responding to the social workers.  Then we arrived at his foster home.  He was scared by this kind couple who welcomed him and explained to him that he was going to be living with them for a while and he would be safe in their home.  He hadn’t understood that he was going back to his mom and wasn’t sure what to think.  But they gave him a stuffed animal and a blanket and hot chocolate and yummy food that filled his stomach.  And then – the woman hugged him.  He described how he’d never felt so loved and cared for in his life.  Commence the ugly cry.  This small child’s voice describing how other’s brokenness had hurt him, his fear, and his innate need for love broke me.    

And I sobbed.  And I sang with all that I had, grateful for a God who is present in these difficult situations.  Whose love never runs out, never gets tired, never abandons.  Grateful for a God who invites us to walk into the lives of the hurting with Him.  Grateful for the reminder that I need Jesus just as much as everyone else.  Grateful that my life story isn’t over and neither is anyone else’s… and the plan is big and beautiful and healing.  Hold tight to hope.  Hold tight to Jesus.  

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Friday, May 11, 2018

"Happy Un-Birthday"

I walked into the room and tears immediately clouded my view.  

The room was decorated with balloons and banners.  There were cupcakes and candles and sweet women singing “Happy Birthday.”  There were gifts and cards and party hats.  The perfect “un-birthday birthday party.” 

The Azmera Retreat team wanted us to feel special, and they so succeeded. 

It took me several days to even wrap my head around why this simple but overwhelming expression of love moved me instantly to tears.  They celebrated us – me – for being born.  It wasn’t about what we were doing in ministry or in our homes.  It was simply a Kingdom celebration for the daughters of the King. 

And there was dancing (and maybe some cupcakes went flying… but that’s on the down low).  There is something in me that just wants to let loose and dance like crazy.  And I feel like I can when I’m in a dance circle of women who are doing the same.  
I love to celebrate and am often looking for excuses to have a party.  I might be throwing an un-birthday birthday party of my own sometime soon!  Thanks Azmera!

Loved getting to spend the weekend with this amazing small group!  So thankful for each of you opening your hearts and sharing your stories!

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Full Heart, Yet Still Longing 

We spent the afternoon at the park.  The boys had run tirelessly up and down ramps.  Keilor laughed with such pure joy after he finally was able to get up the highest ramp on his own (well maybe my dangling leg helped a little).  They’d conquered their fears after they’d climbed way too high in a tree and had to get make their way back down.  Erick couldn’t stop smiling as he told me he was so convinced that he was going to fall that he still wasn’t sure he hadn’t and he couldn’t make his heart stop.  Joshua squealed on the sea-saw when he was left hanging at the highest point and it was unclear if or when his brother was going to let him down.  They were invited to play soccer with some new friends.  Erick schooled them and then was generous to make sure his brothers scored.  It was a pretty perfect afternoon.

My heart was full and there was a big smile plastered on my face.

On our walk towards their home, Keilor stopped me.  He pulled me down to his level.  Then, he grabbed my ear with both his little hands until his mouth was practically inside my ear.  Then he whispered, “They should tell you that you’re the best godmother ever.”  And my heart broke open.   My heart spilled out joy, love, and pride.  I am so grateful to be a part of these boys’ lives.  I love playing with them, laughing with them, and talking about Jesus.  And I’m so glad that they love me being a part of my life.  

It’s so good.

And yet… 

And yet... my heart also spilled out sadness, longing, and desperation.  It’s hard to accept that these are the extent of relationships with children that God has in my life right now.  The love on you for a few hours and then send you back home kind.  The godmother, friend, leader kind.  These are relationships I cherish and am grateful for… but heading home alone sometimes is just really hard.  I will post these pictures, and I will live off the laughter and joy of this afternoon for days.  I will thank Jesus for letting me be a part of their lives.  And I will remind Jesus again of how my heart aches for a sweet little boy to pull me down to his level, to grab my ear with his hands, and whisper, “Mama”.