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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#Jesus and #Ferguson

Let me begin with the biggest disclaimer ever written:  I am not a sociologist.  I am not a theologian.  I am not a political expert, or judicial expert, an expert on church history, or race relations, or anything of the sort.  I am no kind of expert at any kind of thing.

But that is a good thing.  Because I have no other motivation left in me that might taint my view of the current state of America.

The only motivation I have, the only lens with which to filter what is happening right now, is Jesus.  I am watching what has happened, what is happening, and I am trying to spread it all out next to what I know about Jesus and see it all.  I just look at it, then I look at Jesus.  Then I look back at it, then I look at Jesus some more.  And I just dig deep, deep down in my heart, to the place where there is nothing but the stirring of the Holy Spirit, to try to find the way forward, as the Body of Christ.

Fellow believers in Christ, we have to find a way forward.

Let me tell you what this isn't:  this isn't me picking a 'side.'  Honestly, there are no winning sides here.  Everyone lost. America lost.  You know why?  Because from this incident, hate, and despair, and hopelessness and indifference have been sown in the hearts of Americans.  And that is a tragedy too.  And really, that is what I want to talk about:  not the specific events that took place in Ferguson, but the larger reality.

Ferguson has opened my eyes to something.  I have read twitter feeds and news articles and opinion articles and I saw something that I hadn't seen before.  It's the despair that many black Americans feel today toward our society.  And it really knocked the wind out of me.
I don't know if I never noticed it before because I've lived a somewhat sheltered life, or because I just didn't want to see it.

White friends, listen to me.  I know that when you hear about racism in today's society, or oppression of the black race, you get that twinge in your heart.  I have gotten it.  I didn't want to acknowledge at times that there is still a disparity between whites and minorities because it felt like undeserved persecution to me.  It's that twinge that says, "Well I don't oppress black people.  I didn't do it.  Why should I take responsibility for something that I didn't, and would never do?"

And that is true.  I have never oppressed or tried to be racist toward someone of another race.

But this is the thing--we can't go on acting like there isn't disparity.  There is.  We cannot continue ignoring the pain and the suffering because we feel like we didn't do it.  I KNOW it is uncomfortable to try to come face to face with this thing and figure it out.  But we have to.  Jesus has called us to.  I am not called to try to insert love into the situation because I am the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of someone who could've owned a slave.  I am called to insert love into this situation because I AM A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST.  That is it and that it all.

I could quote you a thousand statistics that talk about the income disparity between whites and blacks, the disparity between black and white people in prisons, in foster care, and in who holds college degrees, but statistics are not really the heart of what I am saying.  A statistic can't tell you the story of a young black girl I met in prison once.  Abused since she could remember, on the streets by eleven, raped and beaten and eventually in a gang.  She lost her baby in a drive-by shooting.  Statistics can't tell you that story, can they?  Yet her story is not unique.

I am not ignoring personal responsibility, friends.  Of course, of course, each and everyone of us makes our own decisions, good and evil.  It's just that many of us have no idea what it's like to make a decision from a place of such hopelessness and hardship.  I sure don't.

What I am saying, friends, is something is broken.  And even if we, ourselves, didn't break it, it IS our responsibility to fix it.  It just is, ya'll.  Do you love Jesus?  Then it is your responsibility.  I love Jesus.  So it is my responsibility.

Being American means that we have more rights and freedoms than probably any other country in the world.  But much of the time, I think our preoccupation with our rights obscures the commands that we have received from Jesus.  We have the right to air our political and social opinions, whether or not those opinions show love.  We have the right to be indifferent.  And OH do we have the right to be offended, always offended.  But friends, when we became Christians, we laid down all our rights, just like Jesus did.  We don't have those rights anymore.  Our only right is to be of the same opinion as Jesus.

This is my point:   That there is still work to be done.  There is social injustice in America.  There is need and there is inequality, and a large portion of it lies within the black community.  Our friends who find themselves in the minority are feeling angry, helpless and oppressed.  What would Jesus ask us to do at this point?

Friends of every color, language and tribe:  The answer is love.  And compassion.  And mercy.  If Christians were truly known for our love there would be a revolution.  If we actually put the well-being of our neighbor ahead of our own, if we made it a point, to always, always extend love and grace--especially to those of a different ethnicity, political party, socio-economic level, whatever?   If we break down barriers, form real community, and be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone?  Every last one?  That is our goal: every, last, one.

If every tweet, every facebook post, every interaction at work, or the grocery store, or wherever was first purified and refined by love and mercy, we could start healing this side of heaven.  No, we won't finish, but we could start.

Let's start.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don't Call it a Comeback! get it??  Comeback??  Okay, sorry, you'll get it when you are done reading this post...

So Cam and I have some rather big news to share.  (No No No NO I'm not pregnant.  Yet.  Give me some time.  Right now I want 4 trillion more children.)  ((Yes I may have had a nervous breakdown down here.  No, I don't think that's a good reason to quit having children.  Hehe))

So through much prayer, many hard times, and counsel from friends who have traveled the missionary journey much longer than we have, we have decided that after our year here in Colima is finished we will be moving to a new post as missionaries.  This decision was not come to quickly or easily, but we are excited about what the future may hold!

We believe God brought us to Colima for many reason, but not as a long-term assignment.  He has been teaching us SO many things.  Difficult things.  Things that well...I really didn't want to learn that much.  Things that most likely, I never would have allowed him to teach me while we lived in Katy.  See, in Katy, I was just so HAPPY.  COMFORTABLE.  I loved life, I loved my friends, I loved my church, I loved my routine.  And sometimes God just has to shake you out of a few of the things that you love to tell you things that he wants you to hear.  Things that you don't want to hear, even.

When we moved to Colima, I came with the expectation that we would be here for the long-haul.  I mean, obviously, since we hauled all our junk down here and almost got killed doing it.  (Well, Cameron anyway.)  So I have been extremely surprised to feel like God is pulling us away already.  He is doing so in a variety of ways, let me tell you about just a couple of them...

Ahem.  So.

These almost-eight months have been hard y'all.  I am not going to lie.  ROUGH.  And you know what's even harder?  Enduring pain when you have no inkling as to why you are in that place.  I can honestly say that I never felt "called" to Colima or Mexico.  (By the way, I abhor that word, called, it's so exclusive and dumb.  We are ALL CALLED so can we please get over it and get on with it???)  But Cameron did.  And I felt like I had two options:  obedience to what God was asking of Cameron, or disobedience.  But I assumed that God would give me the "call" once I got down here.  That's how it works, right?  Because I can assure you, you can not withstand missionary life without the missionary call.  So I waited.  I googled "nervous breakdown."  And waited.  I googled "bipolar."  And waited.  I googled  "panic attack."  (All true.)  I figured I must have been going crazy.  (Cameron also read me lots of true stories about how the wives of missionaries have gone clinically insane alot.  Thanks, hon.)  And sometime in the last month it began to be clear that the call wasn't coming.

Hmmm..... Now what?

What did that mean?? Had we made a mistake?  Were we never supposed to have come to Colima?  No.  We knew that God had brought us here for very specific reasons and to teach us very specific things.  It just turned out that what we thought was The Thing, was just a step in the journey.  Funny how it pretty much always is like that with God and I never catch on.

So then we had some missionaries from YWAM come to Colima for a week to do a variety of things.  One of the missionaries was named Beulah and she was from Zambia.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her about her life, the church, and Christianity in Zambia.  So much of what she told me was heart-breaking though.  She told me of the church in Zambia and how it is sick. ( Most missions organizations are no longer sending to Zambia, as they categorize it as "churched" more or less.)  But the horrible thing she told me is that the church is suffering from bad theology, predatory "preachers" and "prophets," and congregations being mislead and being taken advantage of.  (<--preposition at the end of a sentence.  Sorry not sorry.)

She explained to me that the prosperity gospel of America had come to Africa and was tainting the churches of Nigeria and Zambia at an alarming rate.  That the people now believe that God WANTS them to be wealthy, that they even DESERVE it.  The pastors are becoming greedy and taking the churches money only to improve their own lifestyle.  Because, well, God wants them to be rich, right?  So-called "prophets" are stealing the last cent that believers have to give them "a word" from the Lord.  Just the thought of it infuriates and sickens me.  (Please point to one prophet in the Bible that charged the people to hear from God?? Uh, no.)

Beulah went on to explain to me how America exports everything to the rest of the world.  Not only goods, but also culture.  Even faith.  I knew that there were strong ties between Mexico and America culture-wise, but I thought that was only because of proximity.  But Beulah told me that all over the world, every where she travels, America is there. America's music.  America's movies.  America's celebrities.  Even America's faith.  Even to faraway places like Africa.

So, American church?  Our short-comings?  Are also theirs.  Our selfishness and greed?  Is now theirs.  Our bad theology?  It's now their bad theology.  And I know, I know.  I personally hate the prosperity gospel, and I know many of you do too.  But what are we doing to counteract it?  What are we doing to live in such a way that we are proving it wrong?  What are we doing to have a faith that is WORTHY of being exported all over the world?

Which brings me back to what God is doing in our lives.  I have felt many times before that I was meant to be a catalyst to Christians in America, to help spur others on to authentic Christianity instead of accepting the watered-down, American-dream version of it.  And when I heard about how our faith in America is impacting the whole entire world in a way I had never imagined, I felt like God was confirming part of my purpose to me.

I very much have a heart for ministry.  And I feel like that ministry, oddly enough, is probably somewhere in America.  I want to see American Christians live out an authentic faith, that will in turn, inspire others to do so as well.  I mean, we have been given SO MUCH in America.  SO MUCH.  We have the means to do SO MUCH.  But how much of the time do we live up to all (or even a percentage?) of what we could do with the resources we have been given?

So right now we are praying about what the future holds.  Cameron's call is also being tweaked, molded, clarified. We are not sure where we will end up.  We are open to anywhere in the states.  I am feeling drawn toward the inner city ministries and prison ministries that I have loved being involved with in the past.  We will most likely end up continuing to be faith missionaries that live on support, which, Lord help me is not something I ever envisioned for myself.  Because if you would have asked me a few years ago what the only fate worse than an overseas missionary was?  I would have said a United States missionary.  I just had this image of what that meant...somewhere between weird fanny-packer and the Amish.

And the living on support thing?  Well it has been an adjustment enough learning to live on support in Mexico, but in the U.S. we will have to raise even MORE support, and live on an insanely tight budget.  (Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.)   I'll most likely work to make ends meet. (But hopefully not too much because I still want those 4 trillion babies.)




I want to fulfill my role.  I want to be who Jesus wants me to be, where he wants me to be, doing what he wants me to be doing.

So.  It looks like we will be making "A Comeback."  (You can call it a comeback if you want to ;)  But this is what it's not:  It's not a failure.  It wasn't a mistake.  It is the plan of God working in such unexpected ways that I am in awe.  I am in awe of who He is and how much He loves me.  And honestly whatever the future holds, I am UP for it.  Thanks for reading and traveling this journey with me friends!!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today's Surrender is Tomorrow's Freedom

Today's surrender is tomorrow's freedom.*

This is what I am trying to learn right now.  Because, I don't know if you know this, but my first response is usually not surrender.  I am more of a dig-my-heels-in, insist-on-my-own-way kinda girl.  And if I do get dragged into something, I usually have a lot of dirt under my fingernails from clawing at any last bit of control I think I can grab on the way down.  Paul and I have this in common: we both kick at the goads.  (Maybe the only thing we have in common?)

(Read Paul's conversion story, where he talks about the goads, in Acts 26)

I instinctively knew that I was this, a kicker-at-the-goads, before I even knew what it was.  I read it this morning, and I thought, "Yep God.  That's me.  Your classic kicker-at-the-goads.  Wait....what does that even mean anyway??"  So I did a little research and this is what I found from Chuck Swindoll:

         "Goads were typically made from slender peices of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other.  Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion.  Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad.  The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of it's leg, causing greater pain."

Awesome, God.  Now I'm not only a kicker-at-the-goads, I am also a stubborn ox.  Thanks.  
(Cameron Bettis, this is in no way meant to be brought up while we are arguing.  For reasons of your own safety.)

But, once again, quite true.  I am much more likely to kick at the goads, bloody myself out of pure stubborness just to make a point, than to joyfully surrender to the task that I have been called.

I am TRYING to learn how to surrender.  I am trying people.  But it is hard.  Because right now things are just not what I had envisioned.  I knew that missions would be difficult, but I thought that at the very least, I would have this burning desire to fulfill this specific purpose and that when all else failed, I could fall back on that.  At the end of a hard day, I would be able to fall into bed and say, "Well at least I fulfilled my purpose today."  But God hasn't been too forthcoming with said purpose yet.  Of course, we have our over-arching, Great Commission purpose.  But our more specific purpose, the people to whom we are called, the HOW of our mission, we still are unsure of.  And it feels a LOT like being shipwrecked.  (Yes, two things in common with Paul!!!)

I was writing something along these lines in an emaill to friends to the other day, and my friend Laura responded with somethings that she had learned at HFBC's women's retreat from last weekend.  She told me how the speaker taught on Paul's shipwreck in Malta, and how it all happened even when he was being obedient.  And once again, I began to feel alot like Paul.  

"God, WHAT am I doing here?? I am TRYING to be obedient to you, and I am SHIPWRECKED in COLIMA, MEXICO!!!  And YOU won't even tell me what the heck I am supposed to be DOING!!!"  

Kick kick kick.  Kickin' at those goads.  I hate those things.

So, Paul ended up staying in Malta for three months (wait a sec, I've been here longer than three months, Lord, am I done yet??? No?)  when he was on his way to Rome.  (Read about Paul being shipwrecked in Acts 27)  He ministered to hundreds of people on the island, performed tons of miracles in the name of Jesus, and touched the lives of the islanders, fellow prisoners, soldiers and sailors.  He probably had no idea why this was God's plan, but as Laura relayed to me from the retreat:  It's not what you know, but what you obey.  He obeyed God while he was shipwrecked, and Jesus was glorified.

See, my problem is that I want to KNOW everything before I decide to obey or not.  I want God to reveal his plan first, and I want to know WHY I am here and WHAT my purpose is, and once I have weighed all options, then I will make an informed decision on whether or not to obey. <--sounds reasonable, right?? Apparently not to God.

But this is where that pesky surrender comes in.   Day in and day out, I don't surrender.  I kick.  I bloody myself against God's gracious prodding.  "Surrender, Amy.  Obey. Obey whole-heartedly, joyfully, 100% all-in, no dirt underneath the fingernails."  And just this morning, it occurs to me:  I am not teaching God a lesson by kicking at the goads.  He is not impressed, though he is VERY patient.  All I am doing is hurting myself.  Today's surrender is tomorrow's freedom.   

I could be free.  But I chose not to be.  I could surrender, but I choose to fight.  I could obey, but in an act of unbelievable petulance, I demand for God to give me one good reason.  Or twelve. (I'm probably lucky he hasn't already smited me.  Or smote me. Whatever.)  

So, I want to be free.  And, consequently, I also want to be as un-oxlike as possible.  I am going to give this whole surrender and obey thing a whirl.  (And y'all thought we were kidding when we called ouselves c-minus missionaries. heh heh)  And my hunch is, that if I can surrender and obey long enough, God is going to show me that purpose.  And that I am going to enjoy freedom very much, and I am going to wonder why in the world I didn't do it earlier.  

'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free...."

*lyric from the band All Sons and Daughters

Thursday, September 11, 2014

God BlessED America

Thinking about the significance of today, September 11th.   But also seeing it in a new light, since we are entering into our fifth month here in Mexico.  The horror and the brutality of what was done on 9/11 still makes me catch my breath, and I remember those who died and honor those who died trying to save them.

But it seems that 9/11 has also become a day to remember, reflect, and count the blessings that God has bestowed upon us by allowing to live in the United States of America.  So having lived in Mexico for about five months now, let me help you count your blessings today, because so many have become apparent to me in the time that I have lived here.

Number 1.  Do you know what a blessing it is have law enforcement who want to protect you and help you?  Law enforcement who actually do want to uphold the law and see that those who do not face consequences?  This is not a blessing to take lightly.  In Mexico there are varying degrees of corruption and danger when it comes to law enforcement but the overwhelming reality is that they at best want your money and at worst....well we won't go there.  When we were in Morelia a couple of months ago a special federal task force was sent in to arrest a group of kidnappers who had been responsible for many kidnappings.  Of the 14 who were arrested, 11 were policemen.  When Cameron and I crossed back into the U.S. in July, one of the first cars we saw was a sheriff.  And we both in that moment sighed with relief that he was not going to follow us, stop us without cause, try to extort us or threaten us.  Be thankful for our law enforcement America.

Number 2.  One of the things that has made America so prosperous is the atmosphere of innovation and being nurturing to small-business.  It is a land filled with stories of people opening a restaurant or store in their garage/house/driveway and the business growing, becoming successful, employing and inspiring others.  It is the land where if you work hard, have integrity and ingenuity, you have a great chance at being a success.  That is not the case in Mexico.  Many Mexicans (including some I know very well) have to deal with constant threats to their successful businesses.  In many parts of the country, if you are running a successful business, then the local mafia feel they deserve a piece of your profit.  And if you don't agree, well then they might just burn your business down.  Or they might do worse.  You might be a lime farmer in Michoacan, where the local organized crime group told the farmers, "You pay us a percentage of your profit.  If you don't, don't touch the limes.  You let them rot on the ground or your will pay for it. "  So that's exactly what happened--lime farmers sat there and watched their crops rot on the ground instead of harvesting them because they either didn't agree or couldn't afford to pay the local mafia.  Americans, be thankful that you can be work hard and enjoy success in America.  In many places, that is just not the case.

Number 3.  America enjoys religious freedom.  It was what she was founded upon and the defining and greatest quality she possesses.  Would you believe that in Mexico there is still a large amount of religious persecution?  Christians are persecuted by "traditional Catholics" in many states.  (These traditional Catholics are not Bible-believing Catholics, they are actually a mixture of a few Catholic saints with quite a few indigenous beliefs mixed in.)  Christians have been killed, run out of their homes and off their land, kicked out of their towns, had their water supplies compromised among other things here in Mexico all within the last few years.  My dear friend Ruth is from India, and she would tell me stories of how she would hide her in house in India for days at a time while Muslims came in and slaughtered Hindus in her neighborhood, and vice-versa.  In Iraq, Iran and Syria you can be legally murdered for not being a good enough Muslim, let alone being a Christian.  In America, you get up and attend whichever church/temple/mosque you so desire, and you are not killed for doing so.  Or maybe you don't attend anything at all, and no one condemns you for that either.  Our religious free-will in America mirrors the very free-will bestowed upon us by God.  Think about that people.  That is a luxury that much of the world does not possess.  Be grateful America.

God has already blessed America, y'all.  I am so grateful to have grown up in our country.  But, to whom much is given, much is required.  Are you grateful for what God has given you?  What are you going to do with it?  What are you going to do with the fact that you are probably in the top 1% of the world enjoying material wealth and religious freedoms that much of the world could only dream about?  How is God asking you to be faithful with what he has given you?  Because he IS asking you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Love Letter to my Friends

I have been asked quite a bit in the last months, here in Mexico and while we were in the United States, what I miss most while living in Mexico.  I miss my church so much my heart feels pain. And I miss my family and each time my boys ask when we are going to see Aunt Sara or Mimi and Pawpaw or Aunt Kristan again it almost does me in.  But the more I think about it, the more one answer has surfaced over and over again:  my friends.  

You know, I knew all along I was blessed with amazing friends and friendships, most of whom I met at our amazing church (shout out Houston's First Baptist!) but when you are thrown into a foreign context in which you are unable to communicate in the deep and fulfilling way that you are used to, the knowledge of how amazing your friendships in another country are becomes painfully clear.  So, this is a love letter to my friends, a diagram of our friendships and a how-to on becoming the best friend anyone could ever ask for.

Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

I have a friend named Susan.  We have been together our whole entire lives, since birth.  But the amazing thing about Susan is how much she loves me. (wow I am making myself cry right now....psycho.)  I don't deserve her.  She is the kind of friend who ALWAYS sees the best in me, especially when there is none to be found.  I could go, like, kick a blind kid in the shin and she would defend me.  She would say I had my reasons, and that I wouldn't have done anything like that if the blind kid didn't deserve it.  In our lives together, I have done bad stuff.  Like, stuff that if my own children ever even THINK about doing they will be locked in their rooms for months.  And despite everything I have ever done, Susan has stood by me, loved me through it, supported me.  She took care of me and protected me in my, er, crazier days.  And she was right there to cheer me on when I decided those days should come to an end.  Everyone, everyone should have a Susan.

Proverbs 27:5-6

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Maybe you have a Deb or a Kristen in your life.  (If you don't, go out and get one right now.  Not mine, though, find your own.)  Deb and Kristen are dream friends for women.  Because in so many friendships between women, there is superficiality, drama, depth, no reality.  With Deb and Kristen, what you see is what you get.  They say what they think, they call you on your stuff, and they love you fiercely.  They are the kind of friends where you can go be your slovenly self, walk right in and raid their pantry for Nutella, tell them how many times you yelled at your kids today, and expect zero judgement from them.  They are transparent and they speak their mind BECAUSE they know what it is to love in friendships.  

When we were moving down here, I told Deb that we were simultaneously going to try to get pregnant, (and I laugh now thinking about it) but Deb lost her mind.  She completely forbade me from any procreating and told me in no uncertain terms I was not allowed to get pregnant right now.  Because she is wise and she knew how hard the transition was going to be for me, and because she loves me and didn't want my life to be any harder than it needed to be, she laid down the law.  No babies for at least 6 months-1 year.  (I obeyed. You don't disrespect Deb. )  They are such good friends that when I come over with my whirlwind of crazy boys and mess up their houses and eat all their food and break their stuff and just cause mayhem in general, they only say one thing:  When can y'all come back???  They love us with all of our junk.  And I love them.

Proverbs 27:17 
“Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.”

And then I've got these girls--I call them Erin, Allison and Leti.  Well, actually everyone calls them that because that's their names.  Do have friends that just make you better from being around them?  Do you have friends where you become a better version of yourself when you are with them?  Then you have an Erin, an Allison or a Leti.  We have deep conversations.  We talk about things we don't necessarily agree on. We can go from a conversation about accessories to theology in 10 seconds flat. When they tell you that they will pray for you, they do.  (If it's Leti, right in the middle of wherever you are, be it Sams, the mall, a restaurant, whatever ;)  I am blessed to have them.  They have been encouragers to me in the most meaningful ways.  

First Samuel 18:1 
“The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

Do you ever meet people, and you automatically just want to take care of them as if they were your own little babes?  No?  Is that just me?  Ok, anyway, well Jodie and Tiff are those for me.  When I moved back to Houston a few years ago, they were the first ones who I got to see and start hanging out with, and our friendship just cemented within days.  I feel this intense protectivity over them, I feel like I need to take care of them and make sure they are ok.  We maneuvered through the unsure waters of parenting babies and toddlers together.  We held each other up through truly scary financial and health problems.  Through the deaths of family members.  Through life changes and marital strife and toddler melt-downs.  Our hearts are knit together to like David and Jonathan, and no matter how far away from them I am, I love them and pray for them and want to take care of them.  

John 15:13 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
I have a friend named Brooke.  In the midst of the very scary transition and preparation for moving to Mexico, she asked to meet up at Starbucks one day.  I could tell she wanted to tell me something, I had no  idea what it was, but I could tell she was nervous about it.  Well, when we met, we hung out for a while and then she came out with it:  She felt like God had told her to do something very specific for me while I was in Mexico.  It is scary to do things out of your comfort zone and to do very specific things that God has asked you to do--she equated it to the Beth Moore story of when God told Beth to brush the old man's hair in the airport.  And little did Brooke know that I had been dying to self over those previous weeks about that very thing!  God showed me such a gracious love that day through Brooke. He said, "Amy, your mind is consumed with everything that will be different and hard in Mexico, but I can provide for your every need (or even 'want' sometimes!) however I desire to do so.  Just trust in me."  If Brooke hadn't have been the kind of friend who steps out of her comfort zone, who loves her friends despite the cost, I wouldn't have had the blessing of hearing God speak to me in that way.  She is real and sacrificial and an amazing example of laying down one's life for her friends!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

And last, but certainly not least, I have an Emily, Lizzie and Kat.  (Good thing none of my friends have the same name huh or that would have been confusing ;)  Have you ever met someone and at first, you just didn't know if y'all would grow to be close friends?  Sometimes people are very different from you and you don't anticipate a close relationship until one day BAM!  it surprises you out of nowhere! I remember the first time I met each one of these friends:  I met Emily when we taught VBS together, Kat at a women's event, and Lizzie at my house for bible study.  Each one was different than me, and to tell you the truth, I was intimidated by them!  Kat is this winsome, holistic mama... and me? Well, they day we met I was probably munching on some cheetos or something.  Lizzie is this hilarious, dry-humored girl who loves man movies.  I kid you not.  Man movies.  I once watched The Notebook every night for like two weeks.  Emily is this extremely intelligent, extremely mild-mannered, calm individual (who I have also uncovered a little sass in)  and I am.....well....belligerent.  And not calm.  And not mild-mannered.  And I truly see now the absolute beauty in having friendships with people who are different than yourself.  Especially in the context of christian friendships, studying the Bible together, and working at a church together.  I have learned so many things from these girls, they have made me better and it has been a privilege to get know them in all their quirky glory.

These are some of the friendships God has blessed me with.  I love them more than life itself.  And these are also some great examples of how to be an amazing friend to others.  May each of you be blessed with friendships like this!  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Alright, So Maybe I Have Anger Issues

Sons, daughters, children of God. We are called children of God.  We are the one thing in the world that can cause God the most joy, the most pain, the most anger.  Because that’s what children do, that what’s our children are capable of doing to us.  And not just them, but how other people treat them.  I know with every ounce of my being that I have never been as angry in my life as I have been when someone was ugly to my children or mistreated them.  In fact, I pretty much lose my mind and any court of law would grant me temporary insanity, because I swear to you, my brain shuts down and some kind of crazy primal impulses take over when someone hurts my child.  The funny thing is, that usually my kid is over the issue in 30 seconds (if they even notice it at all) whereas it takes me DAYS, WEEKS, or MONTHS to get over the mistreatment of my child.

Case in point:  many months ago in the Victoria mall (otherwise known as a sad place where people go to look at sad people and be sad about their sad lives….) Hudson and Graham were playing in the (sad) play area for (sad) children.  (Ok I’ll stop now.)  They were just being themselves and running around having a good time when Hudson stepped backward and accidentally knocked over an, oh, I don’t know, maybe like 11-month-old that was toddling around.  The baby’s mom swooped in from where she was sitting on the side of the play area and SCREAMED in Hudson’s face.  SCREAMED.  At this little 5-year-old boy whom she did not know, whom accidentally knocked over her baby (who was FINE by the way) in a play area full of KIDS.  Y’all, she was like inches from his face.  

This unholy rage just started violently rising up inside of me.  First of all, I have NEVER screamed in my child’s face.  Ever.  HOW DARE someone else come scream in my poor, little, baby-child’s face for an accident???  (I just think back to little Huddy’s face with tears streaming down and I just have the urge to hire someone from the mafia  to hunt this miscreant down.)
I really don’t even know what happened next because I kind of blacked out from the rage, but I know I told that woman to never speak to my child again, but what I wanted to do was fight her like one of those horrid videos that people upload to YouTube where some chick is beating down some other chick?  Well I hate those videos and they make me sick to my stomach, but OH. MAN.  I feel like if anyone in the world ever deserved it, it was this lady.  And perhaps Hitler.  But whatev.

I am not kidding you when I say that this was probably six months ago, and I am still not over it.  (As you can tell because I am still considering having the mafia find her.)  Just the fact that I care for my children so much, I try to protect them and do the best for them, and then some random person in a mall could come up and cause them pain--it makes me crazy.  Maybe because I feel so helpless.  Maybe because the fact becomes clear that no matter how much I try to do right for them, the world is still going to wound their little hearts and it causes me despair to realize this.
Or, maybe because I am emotionally unhinged and chemically unbalanced. ( ← true story)

I was reading C.S. Lewis this morning, a passage where he was talking about the Lord’s Prayer.  He was talking about how the Lord’s Prayer shows our relationship to God, and that he has made us his children, even though we are SO unworthy to be called this.  (He calls it “an outrageous piece of cheek” which I love.)  ( I think I am going to start calling people that.)  But anyway, he says that God has ordered us to do this.  He has ordered us in the Lord’s prayer to call him Father.  Because we have put on the righteousness of Christ, and we get to be his kids now.  

And this just makes me think...what does he feel like when he sees people wound us?  We know that he is jealous for us.  I wonder if it is at all like the way I felt when that woman screamed at Hudson?  (Minus all the sinful impulses and injurious thoughts.)  

I betcha it is.  I betcha it is a feeling that I don’t even know anything about.  Because, this is where God and I part ways in our feelings toward our kids:  He sent his SON to die for us.  I would do anything in this world to protect my sons from dying.  I think all the time how God the Father had it worse than Jesus during the crucifixion. Jesus endured the agony in his body, but can you imagine the way God felt it, knowing what he had asked his son to do? What he was refusing to rescue his son from?

So if God loves me that much--so much that he would ask his perfect son to die for me--I’m guessing he gets pretty upset when someone mistreats me.  I’m guessing he gets pretty upset when I mistreat someone else.  (I’m guessing he has a special punishment reserved for the lady that screamed at Hudson.)  

We get to be children of God, that he loves more than we understand, that is he jealous for, that he longs for us to realize the depth of his love for us.  My prayer for myself and my boys is that we will remember that and live like that.  Live like children of God, but also remember that others are children of God that he loves just as much as us.  Maybe some that we think are unlovely.  Maybe some that are really hard for us to love.  Children of God whom he loves fiercely.  Even more fiercely than a hormonal, unbalanced mama protecting her babes in a mall play area.

That’s love, my friends.

P.S.  I realize that my last few posts might be leading you to believe that I have some anger issues.  Talking to Cameron might also lead you to believe this.  I really don’t have any rebuttal for this, I am just acknowledging this so that you know that I know that you know, okay?  It’s my burden to bear.  Well, and Cam’s.  Hehe.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Volcanic Adventures and People That Make Me Angry

We have been living in Mexico for 7 1/2 weeks.  We have been gone from our life in Katy for about 10 weeks.  Oh, how I miss it sometimes.  Sometimes I dream about our house in Katy, and remember the different things the boys learned to do there.  I think about how awesome it was to be able to annoy Deb Turner or Kristen Bradford at a moment's notice (I am a fan of popping in.)  Oh, I just pretend I am back at Houston's First Baptist sometimes, singing at the top of my lungs and seeing so many people in the world that I love. Getting to watch all the babies that I taught in Sunday school, all the babies that came through the MDO program while I directed, grow up. (I hate missing watching my friends' babies grow up!!!)

But then sometimes, I look around Mexico and I think, "I'm good. This is amazing.  Look at this world that God made that I am getting to experience right now, that the boys are getting to experience right now.  Look at all the need here, the people that have no idea that a mega-church in Houston that has thousands of members could even exist."

So far it has been difficult, but it has been good.  One thing that surprises me so far is that loving the PLACE has come so much easier than loving the people so far.  (Stay with me lest you think I just committed an irreversable error of missionary code.)  (Which I probably did, but whatevs.)

For example, the beauty of this part of Mexico is incredible.  We are in the middle of the most beautiful green mountains you have ever seen, we are in volcanic forests, tropical jungles, we are 40 minutes away from the most amazing beaches.  Seeing God revealed through this nature that we have never gotten to experience before has been amazing.  In fact, sometimes we just are completely irresponsible and decide to take time-paid-for-to-baby-sitter and instead of be productive with it, we decide to go do things like, oh, I don't know, find the top of the volcano.

(I feel like maybe our support is going drop steeply after hearing these truths)

Yes, the other day Cam and I decided like it would be a great idea to find the top of the volcano.  So off we went driving up roads in the general direction of the volcano that quickly declined to less and less functionality, just soaking in the creation around us and feeling free for the moment.  On our way up, we found an amazing lake that was all but deserted except for a few guys, who I could only surmise were some sort of grounds-keepers for the nonexistent campers.

These guys were hilarious.  Cam was asking them about what kind of animals lived around there as we were thinking of bringing the boys up to fish or camp, and this (except in Spanish) was one guy's answer:  "Oh, all kind of animals.  Mountain lions, pumas, black and white cat-dogs with weird hook-shaped noses.  Nothing harmful."  In my head I'm thinking, "Black and white cat-dog??? What the crap?  Oh, awesome, only animals that could be featured on Discovery Channel's Monster Quest show.  Oh, oh, and yes mountain lions and pumas are known for just wanting to cuddle all day...."  And then the guy goes, "Oh yeah, and then the six-foot rattle snake that I found yesterday."

Maybe we won't go camping there.

(We later figured out that the black and white cat-dog with the weird nose was an ant-eater.)

So we said goodbye to the lake's official Tourism Officer and continued heading up the road towards the top of the volcano.  The road got less and road-like and the little local indigenous looking people (whom I wanted to all smooch) got fewer and further between.  

 The tall pointy things are rock outcroppings

We passed incredible outcropping of volcanic rock and signs that said "Please take care of the pumas."  I am not freaking kidding you.  So at this point, this was my train of thought:

"Man, I hope a puma doesn't eat my face off."
"Man, I hope our car doesn't break down out here, without cell service nor a tow truck within 546 miles."
"Man, I hope we aren't accidentally wandering onto some narcos' land, never to be heard from again."
"Man, I hope the volcano doesn't erupt right now."

All good fun.  Eventually it became time to turn around because the babysitter would need to leave (or more likely we needed to quit paying a babysitter while we were off just doing shenanigans.)  So this time we didn't make it to the top of volcano, but I feel certain that a time will come when we feel the need to try again.  

A few more pics from the drive home

So, back to what I was saying about it being easier to love the place more than the people at the moment.  Like, I remember when we would go to Cuatro Cienegas with FBC Edna, I would think that I would rather have a non-anesthetized medical procedure than live there, but I LOVED the little people from the church.  They were the sweetest people, and they were so excited to have us there.  (And I was only there for like five days at a time.)  And here, that is definitely the same, I LOVE the people in the church that we are here to help, Pan de Vida.  The problem moreso lies with the clowns outside of the church (I say that in the nicest way possible.)

For instance, one day we were at Home Depot buying a few things and one of the items Cam wanted to buy was out of stock but he had the option to buy the display.  So halfway through the girl ringing him up he said, "Let me just run and make sure the display doesn't have any problems, I'll be right back."  So 45 seconds later Cameron returned to his line and the checkout girl was no where to be seen.  He looked around.  He waited.  He was confused. So he asked someone, "Do you know what happened to the girl who was checking me out?"  And the other employee said, "Yeah, she went to to go eat."  And Cameron said, "No, she was right in the middle of checking me out."  And the employee said, "Yeah, but she left to go eat."  Cameron got in the car like, "Who just LEAVES when I walk away for 45 seconds, and I say that I'll be right back, and in the middle of checkout she just DISAPPEARS???"  Well, apparently that girl.

And then yesterday, I was trying to park my whale of a vehicle in a little parking lot made for smart cars apparently and the parking lot attendant made me re-park FIVE TIMES.  FIVE TIMES.  While Graham was throwing a fit and Hudson was playing in traffic.  I was like, "Ma'am, no matter how many times you make me re-park my car, it will still be approximately 18,000 times bigger than the rest of these cars."  Finally, as she was telling me to move it again I said, "No.  Sorry.  We will be gone for 3 minutes, we are walking to that bakery, and will be right back, and then we will leave never to return."  I wanted to smack her. You know, with the love of Jesus and whatnot.  But I didn't, because I am a missionary you know.

There was also the taxi driver who parked his taxi, like, UP UNDER my monstrosity of a car and then yelled at me for not seeing it after I hit it.  (PS he was blind in one eye wasn't my fault.)

So apparently lost people need Jesus or something.  I mean...I'm kinda shocked.  Not really, but kinda. So your mission, my sweet 12 friends that are reading this, is to pray for me to love people.  Because it's hard.  People got problems and sometimes I don't want to deal with them but I'm a missionary so apparently that's part of my job.  

Who knew?

Love and miss y'all and I will be back in Texas in like THREE WEEKS what what!!!!

                                                                                                   One-half of the c-minus missionary team

P.S. Please don't read this and decide that it's time to withdraw your support from us.  If anything, decide to support us more as we are spending lots of money paying people for hitting their cars/stuff/persons.  Cam is up to four collisions, people.