Thursday, August 18, 2016

Moses and horns

When we visited the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain, I was  almost overwhelmed at the incredible Master painters I saw.  From Degas, the Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso and Bosch, Rembrandt, Dali, and the like...I was in heaven!

In my dream state of seeing artists I could only have imagined, I came across a particular painting by Bosch.  Bosch is most famous for his depiction of the Garden of Earthly Delights.  It shows the Fall with Adam and Eve on the left side, the middle frame depicts all the sin "delights" of life, and the right panel depicts Hell.  It is quite breath taking, and a bit disturbing.  

video
While we were at the museum, the Prado had put his masterpiece to film and audio.  The video is quite disturbing, but incredible at the same time.

While I was looking over his other pieces of work, I noticed one, and in the middle of it I saw this:

Moses has horns?!

What is going on here?!  So I showed it to Mike and he was totally intrigued!  So he did a little research...

The depiction of a horned Moses stems from the description of Moses' face as "cornuta" ("horned") in the Latin Vulgate translation of the passage from Exodus in which Moses returns to the people after receiving the commandments for the second time. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates the Vulgate as, "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." This was Jerome's effort to faithfully translate the difficult, original Hebrew Masoretic text, which uses the term, karan (based on the root, keren, which often means "horn"); the term is now interpreted to mean "shining" or "emitting rays" (somewhat like a horn). Although some historians believe that Jerome made an outright error, Jerome himself appears to have seenkeren as a metaphor for "glorified", based on other commentaries he wrote, including one on Ezekiel, where he wrote that Moses' face had "become 'glorified', or as it says in the Hebrew, 'horned'. "The Greek Septuagint, which Jerome also had available, translated the verse as "Moses knew not that the appearance of the skin of his face was glorified." In general medieval theologians and scholars understood that Jerome had intended to express a glorification of Moses' face, by his use of the Latin word for "horned."[6]:74–90 The understanding that the original Hebrew was difficult and was not likely to literally mean "horns" persisted into and through the Renaissance.

So the bottom line - it sounds like it was a BAD translation, but it persisted in art...one of the most famous is Michelangelo's statue:



And after I took the picture, then we did a little research, we found SO many versions of Moses with his "horns" or showing him being "radiant":


Who knew?!  Anyway - Bosche was incredible/amazing, and I was truly in awe of his incredible art...but still...Moses with horns?!  Hmmm...


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking a Deep Breath

We've been in Africa almost 6 months...I know...hard to believe.  We turned over all our ministry in Honduras, closed out our time there.  We encountered very difficult things when we left both personally and in ministry, and yet another move. I'm still reeling a bit over the hateful/spiteful mail I received, but I'm putting it aside and have forgiven this person in my heart although they have washed their hands of me.

In the time in Africa we've tried to figure out how to live.  Our new team mates said to us, "This country chews up and spits out missionaries..."  It's extremely stressful, hard living, we don't have a car, lose electricity 8-12 hours everyday, haul up well-water for our wash, live under mosquito netting, cook with very limited supplies, the slowest internet we have ever had, live on the equator, make everything from scratch, our kid is SO far away, and we are still trying to figure out our ministry.  I've already had multiple mobile clinics in different parts of the interior of the country, and Mike and I are both going to start teaching classes in a few weeks.  My mother passed away 4 1/2 years ago, and my dad just over 5 months ago.  All of that adds up to living under a constant state of stress!  I've had more head aches in the last 5 months then I've had in a long time.  We live in sweat, in a little 900-square foot brick house.

So...it was time to take a deep breath.

Madison came to spend the summer with us in Africa, and I said to Mike, why don't we leave Africa early, and spend some time together as a family.  There are no direct flights to the U.S. from where we live - most of them fly through Europe - so - that's what we did.  We left Africa 10 days before Madison needed to be back to start up in her third year of college, spending time in Madrid, Spain, and in Lisbon, Portugal.  It's the first family vacation we have had in a very long time.

Some people have said to us - that it must be nice to be able to travel to Europe for a vacation.  Yes, it absolutely is!  We make enough money to live in Africa, and not much more, so vacations are something we plan for WAY in advance to save up to go.

I was talking to Madison on the way to Spain and I wanted to see how many countries she had been to in her 20 years.  We came up with 19 countries!  Before we were missionaries, we were already world travelers!  We took an annual family vacation, and that typically meant out of country.  That, along with our time as missionaries, she's been to a lot of countries!  So, I then started thinking about where I had been and came up with 34 countries:

United States
Germany
Mexico
Guatemala
Nicaragua
Belize
Panama
Costa Rica
Puerto Rico
Honduras
El Salvador
Peru
Germany
Netherlands
Denmark
Belgium
France
England
France
Scotland
Wales
Italy
Spain
Portugal
Austria
Haiti
Dominican Republic
Sri Lanka
Luxenberg
St. Thomas
St. Croix
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Philippines

Now, I'm not talking about lay-overs, I'm talking about spending a night, walking around, eating in a country...spending TIME in a country.  I've actually been to more countries then States in the United States.  My last passport had no space left in it, and I'm already half-way through this one, with new countries coming up including Ethiopia to add to my list.  So, I do live a stressful life, but I also have the opportunity to see some amazing places along the way.  I am grateful for this time to take a deep breath, take a hot shower, enjoy electricity 24/7, fast internet, and some amazing European food.  It gives me a chance to re-group and rejuvenate so I'm able to better do my ministry in Africa where all the stresses will come back as soon as I return.

In addition, I have some AMAZING supporters and friends who just want to love me and care for me.  I have so many gifts waiting for me when I get to the U.S. (Christmas in July!!!!!), gift cards to spoil myself, fun things to help me live life a little easier (frying pan, measuring spoons, etc), and some simply fun things - like movie gift cards to catch a movie (no movie theaters in the entire country of E.G.), and restaurants (Olive Garden) to eat a yummy steak and pampering (Ulta/Sephora).  In addition, I get to stay with some awesome friends who care for me and have a nice evening ride on a lake in my near future.

So taking a deep breath to allow me to continue on in a very difficult season of life, but where God has me to glorify Him and be His hands and feet.

 And...the last thing I want to think about, but know it's in my near future - I won't see Madison for a year and a half!  She won't be coming to see us until Christmas of 2017, and I won't be going to the U.S....this will be the longest time I've not seen her in her entire life...and we will be continents away...so - I'm just not going to think about that right now, while I continue to enjoy the last week with my girl :-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What is God teaching me in this?

About a month ago I received some "hate mail."  Well...I'm not sure you can actually call it that if it doesn't come in the mail - but who sends letters anymore (I LOVE letters by the way)?  But you get the idea...

It all started with a blog.

I blog for many reasons.  I'm actually excited that people actually read them!  My motive started when Mike and I were support raising to first come on to the field almost 11 years ago.  I wanted to guest blog on his blog and he said - "Why don't you start your own?"  Oh!  Now there's a thought.  It really was a way for me to chronicle my own journey.  Some times things happen that just need to be put down on "paper."  Emotional events that need to be spoken.  I've talked about sad things, happy things, crazy things, interesting things, and mundane things.  I like talking about what's going on in our lives.  I talk about what's happening in my ministry.  I talk about things that go on in my family.  I talk about things that are important to me, that I want to share with others.  I am not one to write something that is going to stir the pot.  I don't write political blogs, controversial topics, or anything to incite anyone.  I write them for my edification, God's glory, and to let folks know ways to pray for us and the ministry and to see how God is working.

That's what I thought this blog was...just talking about "stuff" really, nothing important.  Then I got some hate mail...about my blog...

I was stunned.  This came from a person who has known me for a long time, who knows my character, who knows ME.  It was unkind,  and I sat in shock reading the words that were coming my way.  I was called unkind, a slanderer, and that I attacked with my blog.  In the end, that other person ended our friendship - that was it - the end - final words from this person were, "goodbye."

So I sat on that message...re-reading it...for a long time.  Why did I get this message now?  I haven't seen this person in a fair amount of time, I was in Africa, and yet they still felt the need to reach out with this message.  So I looked for God in this...I looked to see what He wanted me to learn, to see how this would be used for His glory.  And then it occurred to me.

Guess what?!  I'm a sinner.  You are a sinner.  We are all sinners.  We work with sinners, we live with sinners.  We are going to sin, and be sinned against.  That's the reality of the Fallen world.  I get that - but this was up close and personal, and I had to look beyond the hateful words for what God wanted me to learn.  I prayed, I studied, I asked for wisdom from my pastor, from my former boss, a dear Christian counselor, and knew what I needed to do with this situation.  And so, I did what I do...I wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and now there will be an addition to my book - and that's all I'll say :-)  Guess you will just have to read it.

People say they hate conflict.  But the reality is - conflict is a way of life.  There is conflict in your family - between spouses, between parents and their children, between adults and other adults, between friends.  It can be a GOOD thing if handled well.  It can be a bad thing if handled poorly.  If you have known me long enough, you know that conflict is not something I pursue - but I'm not afraid to confront it when it comes my way.  The bible is riddled with conflict...and God's directions in how to deal with it.

I'm not sure when conflict became a dirty word?  If anything, in this last year we have seen what conflict has done to people's friendships.  On Facebook - I have seen people unfriend others because of their views on one political party over another.  I have seen people unfriend others because their views on which bathroom to use is different than what your neighbor thinks.  Because guess what...people are going to disagree with you (not possible), won't like you (GASP!?), and even have different opinions (say it isn't so?!).  Voice your opinion - that's the beauty of the world we live in.  By stating your view, and that it in fact may be different, is not being hateful!  I'm not sure when my personal opinion became politically incorrect?  When did my views become hateful because they didn't agree with your views? No one has been convinced to change their opinion about something fundamentally important to them by a Facebook post.  Seriously, people.  Don't give yourself that much credit.

How you choose to respond to this conflict is where things clash.  New denominations have been born because of conflict, directions of churches have changed because of conflict..it's not about the conflict...it's how we as Christians choose to deal with it, how we choose to respond.  We say, "can't we all just get along?!"  The reality is, no - we can't all just get along.  AND THAT's OKAY!  Strive for it?  Absolutely.  Pray to be that way...of course...desire it be one of your characteristics?  Definitely.  However, I am not going to be everyone's best friend...sorry...that title is preciously reserved for a select few.  Humans are passionate people - and I love how colorful our world is - if we all thought the same, did the same thing, were robots in this world, where would the beauty of God's creation be seen in the humans that He created?  It's why our mission agency focuses on the Myers-Briggs so much - understanding how people are so very different can help you work better with them.  I am a type-A, huge planner, meticulous, and focused.  I totally realize that I am going to work with people who are so NOT like me...and I love that...it makes us better...too many of the same type of people can lead to a stagnant ministry.  But understanding that we are all different, find different priorities, think differently is also hugely important.

We can choose to be kind to each other in the midst of not getting along.  We can choose to hold our tongue and not lash out during conflict.  Is it a fight worth fighting for or can it just be overlooked?  Will you want to pull back the words that spewed from your lips, or will you go to bed knowing that you did the best you could do?  

So, how will you, as a believer, confront conflict when it occurs?  Will you flee from it?  Will you confront it?  Will you attack over it?  Will you look for reconciliation, or be forced to shake the dust from your feet?  We don't always do things the right way, but looking at the heart, and for the motive is so important when addressing conflict...be kind...be filled with Grace...love one another in the midst of understanding that we are not all going to always get along...that's not only reality, but truth, and if you think otherwise, then perhaps you've not been in enough conflict.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The hard job of a jungle nurse

A sweet two year old girl was brought to me by her parents and I didn't even have to see much of her to know that much was wrong.


I was sitting under some palm trees, plantain plants, and surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.  We had come to a 2,000 person city to visit a local pastor we knew.  He had asked if I could bring some medical equipment and supplies to help out some of the local community.  Mike was  going to preach, and this is what I do after all.  In Honduras, I started just the same - with a box of medications and supplies, riding a bus an hour out to a small community and set up shop.  I've put on medical clinics on soccer fields, dirt floor houses, under trees, and walking house-to-house.  Eventually I constructed a permanent clinic in the community.  In the almost 8 years I had been in Honduras, I had seen over 10,000 patients.  My little clinic saw more than 2,000 patients a year alone.  So, doing things with little to nothing is nothing new to me.

I've taken out toenails on a kitchen floor, started IV's on dying patients in their hammock of their home, put  in more stitches in more circumstances I don't even remember them all. I can pack a whole lot of "stuff" in a little space.

So...I took a look at this little girl.  I talked sweetly to her and did those silly googly faces that parents just can't help  doing when you look at a little kiddo - come on - you know what I'm talking about :-).  Then I asked the parents for a history.  She had had a traumatic birth, and was born limp, not breathing, and the doctors thought she was not alive.  Bottom line - she had been deprived of oxygen for quite some time.  This little one had severe cerebral palsy.  When I assessed her,  her eyes rolled back in her head, she did not have any grip or muscle control at all, she drooled, and had difficulty with secretions.  She did not respond to voice.  The parents looked at me expectantly then asked me a very difficult question - "When was she going to be 'normal'" (their words).  I asked them what they had been told.  They said that the doctors told them that she would get better and one day be 'normal' (again - their words).  So, they were here,  expectantly waiting for me to tell them the good news.  My heart sank.  My heart beat fast.  What to say?!

I had worked in a pediatric oncology hospital for 13 years, so I was no stranger to difficult situations - being the nurse when the doctor told parents their child was not going to make it.  I've been the nurse of the child who doesn't survive our efforts from CPR, I've held the hand of dying people, and helped bring new life into the world.  One thing that this sweet family was holding on to was hope.  And I was going to be the one to tell them  that their sweet girl was about as good as she was going to get.

So I started with - All things are possible with God.  That they clearly loved her dearly.  That all life is precious.  Then I started with the hard things.  That their life was going to change - that they lived in a country that had zero resources, and they were going to be expected to do everything on their own with very little.  I advised some physical therapy and gave them some ideas of what to do.  I talked about ways to feed her, and to start thinking about a wheel chair so she wouldn't be confined to her house her entire life.  I looked into the faces of the parents...there was profound sadness, grief, and shock.  This was not what they were expecting, and the reality was settling in.  What could I offer?  A touch, comfort, and some love.  That was all I had...And then I prayed.

And then I saw my next patient.  I had many more people waiting for me.  My job is hard.  It's emotionally exhausting working in a country with limited to no resources, where children come to me starving and emaciated, where 1/3rd of the country has malaria, and children are orphaned from the consequences of AIDS.  But I am here to be hands and feet, and try and help just one person at a time in whatever way I can.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fighting with Myself

Once in awhile I take the time to be transparent. I don't want to do this all the time as it gets to be exhausting not only in reading (you guys), but to writing it as well (me).

There are a number of life verses that I try to live by -

1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The verse that I have come to love as a believer is this:

Ephesians 2:8-9 -  for by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But even in the midst of that, I find that the day-to-day struggle between how I want to be and how I am is a challenge.

I have mentioned this before, but it's something I choose to live by...to help me gauge what my feelings are,  my attitude, my life.  I want to finish this race and hear the words of My Savior say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

εὖ ἀγαθός καί πιστός δοῦλος

Truly.  This needs to be my next tattoo, because it is something I long for...that I strive for...

I am so privileged to be a part of His plan.  I wake up every morning and fight with myself.  What is my job?  What am I doing here?  What does He want me to do?

And yet I struggle...I am tired...it's too much just to LIVE some days, much less do what you have asked me to do.  But I am not here in my own strength.  I am here in His.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world - St Teresa of Avila



I reflect on the time I've been in Honduras...been in Equatorial Guinea, Africa...and am humbled.  I am humbled to know that He has chosen ME to be a part of His plan.  I am such a small person in this grand plan of His.  I am "just a nurse" who loves His people, and follows obediently where He would have me go.

I won't deny that at times it seems all too much.  I long for the days of running water, air-conditioning, consistent electricity, and a soft place to lay my head at night free from mosquitoes, lizards, spiders, and any number of things that want to impede my healthy life.

But that's not what I'm here for...not in this season...I am here to follow Him as He guides me where He wants me to go.

The flesh is oh so weak.   But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. "  2 Corinthians 12:9 

And so I fight.  I fight for what I want...and I fight for what is right...and I fight for what He wants...

I fight with myself for "ten more minutes" of sleep; to not answer the calling of a neighbor when I just want to be by myself.  I fight for the balance between giving and receiving.  I fight with myself when I don't want to go to "one more" event that's in a language I don't understand, with a culture that is totally foreign to me, and where I have to be on my "A" game.

And so I fight.  I fight because it's something worth fighting for!  I know I won't always win - this battle against myself - but I will persevere none-the-less.  And in the end, I hope that at my funeral, someone will read these words and that they would apply to me:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." - 2 Timothy 4:7




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Edits...

I've always wanted to play the piano, and so I picked up some self-taught piano books, and can now pound out a mean tune.  However,  I have come to realize (MY definition here) that there is a difference between a piano player and a pianist.  As in my case, a piano player can hack out a pretty cool tune, help lead music, and maybe even play along with the worship band.  However, a pianist really understands the intricacies behind the piano - they understand the Circle of 5ths, can transpose music, and maybe even write their own music.  I fall into the first category - I'm a piano player, not a pianist.

Why do I write this?  I write this because I also believe there is a difference between a story teller and a writer (again - MY definitions here - I'm sure the experts would disagree).  A story teller can write a story - the reader can "see" in their head the story being told to them - a story teller can draw people in, and take them along for the ride.  A writer, however, understands the intricacies of words...how things flow together, can flush out when something is too generic and make it more specific, or when something is too specific to make it more generic.

I am a story teller.  It's what I told my editor.  I'm not a writer.  I think I can learn to be one, (better chance of becoming a writer than a pianist in my case), but for now, that's not my gifting.  I need someone outside of my stories to read what I'm writing.  Help me transform the story that is in my head into a good flowing collection of stories on paper.

Because to me, what I've written down on paper sounds great!  It's got the right depth, or is shallow when it needs to be, it can be challenging to the reader (maybe even make you squirm just a bit), but not offensive...it can be convicting, and maybe make you question some things about yourself.  Sometimes there is a chance for misinterpretation and people draw the wrong conclusions, so, more often than not, Mike and I bounce our ideas off of each other - he will want to send a Tweet out, and will run it by me to make sure that what he is writing makes sense.  I do the same to him.  We want to get it right. It's like what your English college professor said - try to get someone else to read your first draft because you stop "seeing" the paper and it needs an outside person looking in to see where the flaws are.

That's where I am with my book.  I've written my "stories" and my awesome editor is flushing them out.  She's helping me find the flow, re-write some sections, add things in, take things out.  It's a long process because we want to do this right.  To give life to the stories, and allow the reader to accurately "see" them.  My editor is making discerning edits - helping to revise sections so they are  improved...she is making thoughtful edits - to help make my thoughts clearer...and she is making wise edits that allow the flow to be more natural.

Once again, I ask you to come along for the ride.  See the stories for what they are - learn something new - maybe even be a little squirmish in your seat as you are being challenged by what I say - I'm really okay with that.  Be motivated, be inspired, or, if none of those things happen, just read, and take your mind away from what life is throwing at you that day.

So...what DID happen when those termites ate my couch?  I guess you will have to stay tuned to find out.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Maintaining Traditions


Some missionaries don't find maintaining traditions important, and some, like me, do.  Some people in the States don't have family traditions, and some do.  It's not a "bad" thing, it just an "is" thing.  And that's okay.  For me, it was important to maintain tradition so we knew that no matter where we were, there were going to be some things that were always going to be the same.  When we were in Honduras, and we organized summer teams I told Mike that I never wanted teams on the 4th of July week.  It was just too important to me, and I wanted to celebrate.  You may think that having a team there, which means more North-Americans is a great way to celebrate - but for us it involved hosting the team, which is fantastic but takes a lot of work which meant less focus on a chance to celebrate the holiday.

Between the time we spent in Costa Rica in language school, many gatherings of other ex-patriots, I looked around me and realized that a lot of the missionary kids didn't know the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and some basic U.S. History, I wanted to make sure that Madison did.  We were in Honduras, after all,  they teach Honduran history, not U.S. history - so unless I taught it to Madison, she wasn't going to learn it.

I was committed to this date, wanted to make sure that Madison had a good understanding of her U.S. heritage, and so I hosted a BBQ each year - and those that wanted to come could come.  In Honduras, that meant that lots of North-Americans, along with our Honduran friends would celebrate, fire fireworks when we had them, throw a foot ball around, and enjoy the day.

Now we find ourselves in Africa.  Currently, our team mates are on a mini-furlough in the U.S. There are two other, single, North-American missionaries near-by.  In addition, our neighbors consist of Mexicans, a Costa Rican, a Chilean, and of course Equatorial Guineans.  So...looks like our 4th of July luncheon is going to be in international event indeed!  I'm making sliders, apple pie (if I can find enough apples), and we even purchased some party poppers to end the festivities.

Decorating has always been an outlet for me.  It's a way of maintaining some "norms" no matter what country we are in, or what holiday we are celebrating.  Can't find many Thanksgiving decorations outside of the U.S., no Valentine's decorations, and certainly not 4th of July decorations - so I brought a few with me.  Not much, I had to pack light...but a few came with me.  So, it makes me happy, and I will continue on with our family traditions, regardless of what country we currently call home.