Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Just do the best you can

and Learn Something New Every Day, and Make Do With What You've Got - three phrases from my grandmother, who passed away almost 2 decades ago were phrases I heard growing up, and that I've passed on to my own girl.  And sometimes, that's about the only thing that keeps me going, because otherwise I look at what I have and can give in to discouragement.

Clinic today - saw 25 patients, and at least 24 of them I was able to help, in some capacity.  But the one that I ended up thinking about was the one that got me thinking about where I am, what I'm doing, and what has happened to get me here.

I found myself in a community with well water access only (contaminated at that), torn up dirt roads, shack homes, and many many naked children running around - I don't know what it is about sweet little African naked babies - but their innocence and joy for life in the midst of what we would consider a slum, lifts my spirit.

Here I found myself, serving this community, and a little 2 year old boy comes to my clinic in severe respiratory distress.  He was barely moving, offered no concern when I started assessing him, and his eyes were a bit too wide for my liking.  I barely needed my stethoscope to hear his lungs, as the noise coming from his lungs was SO loud.  I knew we were in some immediate need for this little guy, and FAST.  I don't have a nebulizer here, have asked every doctor, nurse and pharmacy where I can buy one and they all tell me the same thing - no where in country.  Okay...well...this little guy was in trouble.  So, I pulled out my "tools" I had learned in Honduras and fashioned a way to get meds to this kiddo.  Cutting the bottom off of a water bottle,  covering that end with gauze (so it's not sharp), and putting my own (unused) personal inhaler on the "mouth" piece of the water bottle - seal it up with tape - and there you have it.  I used this to give my little guy two "breathing treatments."

As I sat there, talking to this mom, and asked her about what her resources were for her kiddo, if he had been hospitalized in the past for his condition, and what was available to her, my heart sank.  Little to no options, and she had never been told about using an inhaler at home, she had NO access to a nebulizer.  So...she got my inhaler, of course.  And I looked at her holding tight to that plastic-rigged/gauze protected "spacer" with taped on-inhaler, and I thought - what is happening here?  I was up against a LOT in Honduras, but at LEAST I could purchase equipment for people who were in desperate need - and here I was - "all" I had to offer was a plastic taped bottle...it just made me sad...I won't deny it.  This kiddo has a LOT of things he is going to have to combat just to make it to 5 (where 95 out of every 1,000 kids dies before the age of 5), I wasn't very hopeful/optimistic.
My awesome volunteer helpers.  Two Guinean nurses, and a church member.  I LOVE having nationals help nationals!

But...then I was reminded....yes, the words of my grandmother came back to me, "Just do the best that you can."  And so I was, and so I did.  They came with nothing, and were leaving with a kiddo who could actually breath, meds for home, some to buy, but with at least a chance...

And so I will continue on...just doing the best that I can.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


I have done on-line bible studies (OBS) since going on the field more than 10 years ago.  I always loved being involved in bible studies with my home church, or attending Bible Study Fellowship.  However, on the field, it's a bit more challenging.  So, I supplement my daily devotions with an on-line bible study.  Some have been great, some have been challenging, others haven't really "fit" with me, and some have been just down-right perfect.  The one I just completed with Proverbs 31 Ministries was called Uninvited, and was written by Lysa TerKeurst.

The subtitle of the book is Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.  On her dedication page, the author writes this:

"And to anyone who has felt the sting of rejection, grieved the deep loss of a relationship that was there one day and gone the next or questioned whether God has any good plans for you at all...I understand.  God made sure to get these words of hope to you.  He loves you and so do I."

This last season of my life has been one of the most challenging in my adult life.

Uninvited:  the last few years have been one of being uninvited from events, uninvited from participating in activities, and outright excluded.

Less Than:  The rejection I have received recently was...difficult...when people you call friends outright reject you, it is an affront that goes deep.

Left Out: (see Uninvited)

Lonely:  When you are kind of out there on your own, even in the midst of a lot of people, it really is a lonely place to be.  Gratefully, my husband and I have grown together as a couple more and more as the years have gone by, and I am so very grateful that he has chosen this path for us to follow.  I maintain contact with some amazing friends back in the States - but electronic mechanisms of reaching out can only reach so far...the comfort of hanging out on the couch of your BFF and chatting the night away seems so long ago...

So, this book came at a great time.  Some things I highlighted in the book:

1.  "Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what's been said to me."

"God is good.
God is good to me.
God is good at being God.
And today is yet another page in our great love story."

2. "Sometimes the equation is make a friend, try your best with that friend, and things go cold.  Really cold.  People who care more about being right than ending right prove just how wrong they were all along."

"God's love isn't based on me.  It's simply placed on me.  And it's the place from which I should live...loved."

3.  "If their absence was caused by death, you would grieve their loss.  But when their absence is caused by rejection, you not only grieve their loss but you also have to wrestle through the fact that they wanted this.  They chose to cut themselves out."

"Relationships don't come in packages of perfection, relationships come in packages of potential."

4.  "Rejection isn't just an emotional feeling.  It's a message that alters what you believe about yourself.  And the minute you sense that happening is the minute you must stop the run-away thinking with truth."

"You aren't set aside.  You are set apart."

5.  "Remember:  like a lion is drawn to a food source, Satan rushes in where he smells emptiness, deprivation, and rejection."

"Truth is the perfect tranquilizer.  The enemy's power is rendered powerless in the presence of God's promises."

So...there are so many great things in this book, and I pray it can be a blessing to you as well.  And if not to you, that you may glean some truth from it to help others out.  Something I've always told my daughter - that I might not like the way that God brought me to this place in my life, but I can't help but see the wisdom in it.  I certainly would have chosen a very different path to get me here,  but then, I wouldn't be the same person that I am today.  I am a sum of my parts - I am God's creation that he has pounded me, molded me and created in me the person I am today...and I like that person :-)  I like that God uses me in all my circumstances, and that because of my past I am able to help others.

So my OBS is done, and I'm getting ready to start another study...we shall see what I glean from this one :-)

Blessings to you all - and LIVE LOVED!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What do I miss?

This is a question that is often asked of us when we are in the States either for furlough or for a missions conference, or some other reason that takes us there.  It's an interesting question, and a good one.  It really helps me evaluate where I've come from and what my priorities are.

If you asked me the first year in Honduras my response would have been:

Double-stuffed Oreos, salt-and vinegar chips, Round Table pizza, Dolby-stereo movie theaters, steak, 24-hour convenience stores, friends, family

If you asked the same questions 5 years into being in Honduras, things would have changed just a bit.  My focus is less about food, and more about cultural things and people:

24-hour convenience stores, constant electricity, dish washer, friends, family

Now, having been out of country for almost 10 years, here is where I stand, and the way I look at things.  My focus has dramatically changed as to what I truly "miss":

Miss:  Family.  First and foremost.  Both my parents passed away while I was on the mission field.  I feel like I am too young to be an orphan.  My parents were what helped make me into the woman I am today.  I still find myself wondering something, and want to pick up the phone to call one of them...and yet I can't.  My little family has become even smaller.  It's pretty much my brother and myself.  The majority of the rest of my family that I had any relationship with have passed away. My kid.  Man do I miss her.  I KNOW every mom goes through the same thing I am, but it doesn't help this hurting mother's heart - we are a continent away and many time zones away.  So there's no just "dropping" in to see her, or her us, or a phone call whenever...

New:  New family.  People have come into my life that wouldn't otherwise have been there if I hadn't experienced the things I have.  I can "speak" to others from a place of understanding when they are mourning for people they have lost - there is a connection that there otherwise wouldn't have been.  I hate the reason I understand them better, but I know that I can use my hurt to help others who are hurting.  My kid - what is our job as parents?  To raise our kids, and send them off into the world to become productive citizens, God-fearing, and independent - then we know we've done a good job.  So I rest in that, knowing that she loves God, and is figuring out what it is to be an adult - I call that success.

Miss:  People.  This is the all-encompassing.  This includes my BFF's - the people who I could show up at their door, know where their spare key is, let myself in, grab a beer out of the frig, sit on the couch, and they would come back home, see me on the couch, and grab a beer and join me on the couch, and think nothing of me "invading" their home.  Where my deepest thoughts, my hurts, my desires, my anguish, my times to rejoice are spent with them - where I know I am loved unconditionally - that I won't be rejected or turned away because I did something stupid, that they will forgive me, and move on.  If my tongue says something unkind, they call me on it, and we move on.  There have been other "friends" in my life that were not so kind, that turned away if offended, who lashed out - those people I don't miss so much - but the ones that see me through the thick and the thin...yeah...I miss them.  Calling on Skype, a quick chat on Facebook just doesn't take the place of the couch time....yeah...I miss that.

New:  new people, new relationships.  Some are good, some are hard, some just don't work out.  But I am meeting people and cultures I would NEVER have met/experienced if I wasn't somewhere else, in a new place, and hopefully touching lives.

Miss:  English worship.  The more and more time we spend on the mission field, serving in areas where Spanish, or a tribal language is the heart language of the people we serve.  We truly have come to understand the importance of worship in your heart language.  It's the language you dream in, you sing in, you read in that speaks to your heart.  I'm not saying I don't dream in Spanish, sing in Spanish, or read in Spanish - but English is what speaks to my heart.  When I go back to the States and hear worship music or a sermon in English for the first time in a long time - don't look my way.  I will be sitting on the chair, in the pew - whatever - and you will see tears in my eyes...because it is so refreshing to my soul.

New:  Hearing God being worshiped in a different tongue, in a different culture, in a different country is an incredible experience!  Knowing that I love a God who knows all tongues, who loves all people - and hearing those people rejoice and sing to Him gives me chills.  I kind of laughed when I was singing Spanish worship songs, and went back to the States for some reason, and heard the same song in an English church - and I realized I didn't know the song in English - so I sang it in Spanish.

Miss:  Conveniences.  This is everything from having a car, stores open all the time (not closed in the middle of the day for 3 hours for siesta, on Sundays, etc), dishwasher (my hands are scrubbed clean from hand washing dishes for almost 10 years), washing machine (hauling water, pouring it into my washer, switching to the spin, hanging clothes) - it's an all day chore.  Potable water.  Collecting rain water, filtering contaminated well-water, running out, conserving, bucket flushing my toilet, camp shower, etc.  I have never thought about water like I have since living in Africa where every drop is a precious commodity. Our "joke" in our family is - if Madison needed something for school we would say - "OH!  I know..we can just run down to Target...or Wal Mart...or the 24-hour store...or Hobby Lobby...or Michael's...or __________ - then laugh...Or NOT!  HA!"  A car...having a car here is simply logistically difficult.  So we take public transportation.

New:  Meeting people at the well - other women who are collecting water as I am - conversations, just "living life" like everyone else.  Giving out our preciously stored water to those without; NEVER taking for granted what I have;  walking down to the tiny stand at the end of the street and getting the tomatoes that have come from Cameroon, and the woman selling them is anxious to make the 20cents on the 5 tomatoes she will sell.  Putting my precious cargo in my little hand-held basket and making the 1/2 mile trek back home...stopping along the way and picking up some bread from the 9 year old who is working to bring home money to her family...then grabbing some sugar from the shack that is selling items.  While there I see the mouse scampering across the food, trying to grab a snack along the way...talking to the little boy who has a basket of sweets he is carrying on his head - passing along the coins to buy a few...these things are precious moments I wouldn't have if I "just" ran into the 24-hour grocery store.  Taxi rides - again - "living life" like everyone else, talking to the children who are getting from place to place, loving the stares of babies and little ones alike as they take in this "blanca" - possibly the first white person they've ever seen, comparing prices and the best places to get vegetables with the other women in the taxi.

Miss:  Steak, fruit, vegetables.  I have to admit it - I never realized what I had when I had it.  In the U.S. you can buy almost anything you want, and if you can't find it, you just order it.  In Costa Rica, we had an amazing local market where you could find lots of yummy things to compliment your food.  Honduras even had a lot of choices - most fruits and vegetables were available - I even got cherries and black berries.  Africa...where we live...get the majority of their fruit and vegetables from their neighbor Cameroon.  So, we get what transports and keeps well - so what that means is typically we find tomatoes, onions, yucca, okra, and a green leafy vegetable, and the one thing they do grow here - lettuce.  Avocados are not as available as I would think, but we can typically find them if you go looking for them, as well as papaya - I'm not a huge fan, but I eat it because it's a fruit that we can occasionally find.  We do occasionally find the random thing like cucumbers, and carrots - but that's a rarity indeed.  Steak - man...do I miss a good, juicy, beefy steak!  I'm a steak and potatoes kind of girl...

New:  We have a mango tree on the property, so when they are in season - we can go collect them off the tree.  Bananas/plantains - not as easily available as in Honduras - but we do have a local "guy" that has them and brings them by once in awhile.  So, being creative in a country where fresh fruit and vegetables are not nearly as plentiful as anywhere else I've lived has required me to be way more creative then I've ever been when it comes to cooking.  Steak? - no...cebu?  Yes...or "fresh meat" (bush meat) - yes, I've experienced bush meat, I don't know what I ate, I don't WANT to know what I ate, but it's an experience indeed.

Miss:  Growing things.  For my entire life I've always had a garden.  Growing up my parents had a small garden in the back yard, and our job was to pull off the tomato worms that tried to overtake it.  When I got married, Mike and I always had a HUGE garden in our back yard wherever we lived.  In Honduras I grew many things from tomatoes, herbs, plantains, flowers, papaya, etc.  Here...the dirt is clay.  It's solid.  There is no aerated soil.  There are also no nurseries to go buy dirt from...I've tried totally unsuccessfully to grow all sorts of things.  I've tried aerating my own soil, have been able to sprout some plants from the seeds I brought, but as soon as I transplant them, they have all died.

New:  Taking satisfaction and enjoyment in what is growing around me.  Knowing that these are some seriously hardy plants that can live in this environment - living on the equator the sun is fierce, and the rains are torrential.  Enjoying the wildlife that teems on our property - yes, even the black cobra and green mamba that have graced us with their presence.  I've set up a seed feeding station, and am graced every morning with the sweet song birds that come and get seed.  I see so many different colorful birds that I have never seen before, and will never see again.

Miss:  Safety.  After living 8 years in the murder-capitol of the world (gratefully that banner has been passed on to another country now...but it's still not "safe"), and now in Africa where we must always be cautious of our surroundings, I miss the ability of walking around without always looking over my shoulder, not having to use 5 keys to get into my house past the high fences, metal door, security door and the primary door, looking through windows encased in bars, walking along the beach at night, hiking through the national forest, taking a break and going "somewhere" to get away - not really any options for those things here.

New:  This isn't really new, but makes it even more "obvious" - my reliance on God.  Living in a state of fear is no way to live - so I live in the knowledge that I am a child of God, and He will never leave me nor forsake me.

So that's it.  That's a collection of the things that I "miss".  Do I still miss double-stuffed Oreos, Dolby stereo theaters, electricity?  Of course.  But pining away for those things is a waste of my emotional energy, so they have become a "fun" thing to experience again when we make trips to the States.  And the things that I do "miss", I have learned how to focus on the things that are new experiences in place of what I had focused on.  It helps me never take things for granted, be content with what I have, live in the here and now, not on the "what if" moments.

So next time I'm in the States, going out for a steak dinner, a movie afterwards, hanging out with friends - yeah - that's on my list...soaking in a sermon in English, and lifting my hands while singing an English song is great...but don't worry about the other things - God's got me...He's given me things to fill my heart, to learn to love the culture I am in, to find the joys of serving Him wherever I am.  To cling to Him and be present in the here and now, not pining away for those things I "miss."