Cutting off the branch you’re standing on

Nov 17 |

I haven’t been writing much. Probably because i have been doing a lot of thinking and struggling. In the end it is a good thing, but where it has left me is a bit in my own mind, working through various issues and seeking answers via prayer and study. Whether it be for distractionary purposes or due to fruitful reflection And here are a few thoughts that have arisen from my time.

On the BBC the other day someone was describing interactive ‘art’. The ‘artist’ was said to have completed a piece where he stood in a tree and began to cut off all the branches. He continued to do so until he cut off the very branch he was resting upon and fell off. I will be honest enough to say I don’t understand art very well, so my simple critique was swift and the same as Erika’s…”how is that art?” Anyway, artfulness or lack thereof aside, it made me think of it as analogous to something else (not that it could be an analogy of itself). When I have thought about the Christian worldview or more generally a theistic worldview many questions remain about how it is reconciled with one’s experiences. However, those questions pale in comparison to the difficulties that arise if one were to posit a world where God doesn’t exist. Much ink is spilt and energy spent arguing for God’s non-existence. In principle I think this is a legitimate endeavor. Wrestling with ideas, challenging ones in particular, is a stimulating activity which in the end, should one be interested, can result in the uncovering or discovery of truth.

Enter the piece of …’art’ (I couldn’t resist). If one spends their energy trying to cut the branches off the tree, at some point they may cut the very branch they are standing on. Where will they be then? In arguing for a solely material world ideas such as reason, meaning, morality and free will disappear. I wonder how many have used such things as these to argue for their position. Maybe the branches have a purpose. If you cut down the branch of reason, which relies on free will, one cannot then use reason to argue or present their views. If you cut down the branch of morality (objective), one cannot then appeal to morality as evidence that another’s worldview is faulty. If we are just the result of atoms running into each other and chemicals reacting, how then does one speak of purpose, love and meaning when discussing their worldview in distinction to another? Have they just cut the branch out from under themselves and still speak as though they have something to stand upon? Can’t have the branch and cut it off too!

Our family watched a noted scientist and philosopher (anti-theist) give his account of free will. In it he says that it doesn’t exist, but is an illusion that arises out of physical states which we have no control over and an inability to perceive. My youngest Gabe asked a good question that illustrates the quandary one could find themselves in. He said (with a fully sarcastic tone), “I guess he didn’t choose his wife or choose to love her or even choose to say the words that he just said.”………….Let us let that sink in for a bit. Ok, Gabe is only 12 and doesn’t hold a Ph.D in anything. Not sure that limits his ability to extrapolate and apply what is being said or taught. If I cut off the branch I am sitting on then I can’t pretend the branch is still there.

Lessons from an empty makeup tube…facing burnout

Nov 8 |

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Living in the US, you get used to the convenience of the drug store nearby and so discard things before they are truly finished, empty, expired. As my makeup struggles to squirt out of my tube one day, I’d simply run down to Target and purhase a new one, failing to realize there may be a bit more left in the tube. Maybe I shouldn’t say failing, but rather I’m not willing to put in the effort beause it’s easier to just go buy a new full one that doesn’t require more of me to get what I need.

Flash forward a couple years and now I’m in Kenya, where those corner drug stores don’t exsist, the local supermarket doesn’t carry my brand of makeup or even one close to my shade! Knowing this prior to moving, I planned ahead and bought several tubes that will hopefully last until the next care package or visitor arrives who can bring me another. ūüôā This seemingly insignificant item has now become all together more important by virtue of its rarity in the place you are at at this very moment.

Life in another country can be difficult at times. Learning new culture, language, routines. You find yourself utterly lost at times, both physically and emotionally and most definitely spiritually. The highs of minsitry life are extreme, but so are the lows. You begin full of hope, full of energy, full of ideas. But naturally over time, things become just plain hard. And you’re tired.

How do you deal with that feeling of exhaustion? Especially when you know relief is a long ways off?

Re-enter the makeup tube.

It’s in this time right now that I stood at my dressing table, makeup tube in hand, shaking it to see if I could get another drop of that liquid to come out and I realized that what I thought was empty still had a little more to give. That tube that back in the US I would have discarded more than two weeks ago, had ALOT more to give. I just had to put in a bit of elbow grease on my part. I had to look for what I needed, instead of expecting it to just be there.

It’s funny how the simple things can reveal a bigger lesson God needs us to learn. The emptiness we can feel at times can be a result of relying too much on ourselves and expecting God to just be there instead of our need to seek Him out. When things are going well and we are “full,” we live off the expectation that it will always be this way, but then when we’ve exhausted us we forget where to look for more. But in reality that hidden extra we find is in fact the foundation where we should have began the process to begin with.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” ¬†Galations 6:9

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. ¬†They will soar with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29,31

It’s The Little Things

Sep 25 |

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I have to admit, it’s been a trying week. ¬†So many little things not going quite right. ¬†And a few big ones too. Really made me start thinking about making some lemonade, but then I took some time to try and see things from our boys point of view.

Since we returned from our time in the States, a time filled with fresh running water, heated water, drinkable tap water, never ceasing running water…constant electricity(and no power surges), fast internet, clothes dryers, whole house air conditioning, and medium rare beef ūüėõ I was given a sweet welcome home as I came back home to deal with a lack of all of the above mentioned conveniences. ¬†As I write this, we are into our second week of only receiving fresh water once a week. ¬†The rest of the week we deal with salty borehole water that rusts out your pipes(and washing machine) and is not kind to our skin and hair. ¬†For me personally, it leaves me with peeling skin on my hands, probably because I wash them so often. ūüôā

Frustrating to say the least. ¬†Although we had already decided to begin looking for a new flat, I still had to deal with these problems that have plagued us for the entire year + we have lived in this particular flat until a new home could be found. ¬†And I only gave you a smattering of the problems we’ve had with this place, going on would be torture for all of us!

And then the boys called me last Thursday to tell me the power in their flats had been turned off. ¬†This was completely my fault because I had forgotten to pay the bill before leaving for the US. ¬†Feeling terrible, I rushed out to the mpesa shop near the supermarket to load money in order to pay the bill thorugh my phone(no online payments by credit card available). ¬†But still no power. ¬†Friday I had to give the boys candles and Saturday I paid a reconnection fee that I didn’t know was necessary. ¬†And no power. ¬†It’s Africa, so I called everyday to the power company and everyday was promised power.

Wednesday came around, which is fellowship night at our house. ¬†The boys came in searching my recycling for bottles. They then informed me that they haven’t been able to get fresh water(for cooking and drinking) for the last 10 days. ¬†During this time many of them had been getting sick, since they were drinking and cooking with their salty borehole water. ¬†I guess many neighborhoods are suffering from lack of fresh water. ¬†I helped them fill every large bottle I had and they also took one of our jerry cans as well.

Thursday found me calling and calling and calling the power company. ¬†I’ll be honest, I lost my cool at 5:30pm when we still had no power. And I am positive that the power company has blocked my number. ¬†God still saw fit to extend grace to me and the last power employee I spoke with gave me some tips to “make sure we would get power by friday, After some more hiccups, by 6:30pm friday evening we had power in both flats!

As a mom, I suffered with our boys as I saw them suffer to cook, study, wash clothes, and shower without electricity. ¬†I was thankful they had a gas cooktop, so at least they could eat. And at the same time I realized that while the little things that can disrupt our lives can be extremley frustrating, those same little things are often taken for granted when they are a constant in our lives. ¬†Little things can be a blessings or a curse depending on how you look at “things.” ¬†In Africa, water is life. ¬†Such a little thing…what is the little thing that is life for you?

An interconnected world…searching for a center.

Sep 18 |

When the World Cup was playing the world seemed to become centered on this one event. When a plane crashes and can’t be found the world focusses its attention once again. Governments ruling, governments being overthrown, riots and brutality, disputes over land, resources and ideology. So many things that capture our attention and then pass out of our minds. The news has a way of blurring our vision with constant crisis, sensationalized and profit driven material, all filling our insatiable desire to be in the ‘know’, to participate in this interconnected world. Three things come to mind quickly; one positive, one negative and the other…well, just an observation.

The interconnectedness allows us to grow in our understanding of the other. The other person, culture, worldview and ideas. This gives us the opportunity to enlarge our experience of the world around us and see how intricately things are tied together. How does the assassination of a leader in Somalia affect the security of the neighboring countries and the future of the region? How does staying or leaving a situation affect the future stability and security of places far removed as well as the well being of those targeted in them? Action and inaction causing ripples beyond what most are privy to see. Maybe living in a place where one’s coming and going is affected by the actions and perceptions of the U.S. has made these things more apparent to me.

I wonder how much of what we read and see actually affects anything other than our fanciful imaginations of the world “out there”. Outside of the price of gas, how much of what we ‘know’ and ‘learn’ about the world affects anything?The negative of such breadth of information is that it dulls our minds to the reality of life, suffering, struggle and death that is so close to so many. Obviously, one can’t react practically to every situation (outside of prayer I suppose). But one does have to wonder (though I guess they don’t really) how we are supposed to allow the information we are inundated with not numb us but sensitize us to the needs of the world and how we are all together in it.

Part of the observation I have made in the past couple of years, as the world has in some ways become very big and in other ways shrunk down considerably, is that everyone in this interconnected world is searching for a center. A center that gives meaning to not only their existence, but a framework that helps to put into perspective all that we see and experience around us. Sometimes I play a mind game of sorts and imagine adopting other worldviews and in so doing try to imagine how they make sense of the world. The lens by which we see things helps us to truly see and understand them. The challenge is that even with such access to knowledge and information our search for that center doesn’t seem to go much farther than the one that was handed down to us by someone else. How sad it would be if either we chose the wrong center because we didn’t like it or perhaps dismissed it because it seemed unbelievable to us. C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in God as I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because by it, I see all things.” As we ingest all of the information available to us, the things that display how connected we are, I thank God (Jesus) that He is the center of it all and whose worldview gives understanding to me about not only my life and experience, but the many events that are brought to the doorway of my mind every day and reality in its entirety.

What do you want most for those you love?

Aug 22 |

When we left the Boys for 5 weeks, it was with a bit of uncertainty. We talked a lot about what it would look like, a couple of people were supposed to look in on them, but we knew that there could be a lot of challenges. In the States we had many praying for them and several would ask how things were going. It made me think about what I want most for them. We made arrangements for the rent, food, and football expenses. I organized the bible study and youth class materials. Most of the logistics were taken care of, but the question of what I want most for them isn’t really addressed in taking care of these kind of things.

When I think of my own kids, we do much of the same. We provide shelter, food, education, activities, church, etc. But what do I want most for them? In the end I think it is the same. I want them all to know who Jesus is and live life in a way that honors Him and blesses others. Leaving the Boys on their own for 5 weeks I was concerned with them going to school, not getting into trouble, attending church, engaging in bible study, taking care of the flats, not doing drugs, and getting along with each other. I discussed with them that this would be a good gauge of how everyone was doing. In the end the decision to follow Jesus, to attend school, work on their character, and improve their lives is theirs. Our role, as spiritual parents, family and community is to model those things we want for them, teach them well, pray for them, and support them. In the end, this difficult and challenging life is theirs to live.

Now I am pretty sure that a little bit of all my concerns were in play. Not everyone has the best interests of all the Boys and the community in mind. Not everyone can put other’s needs above their own. Not everyone respects the responsibility and authority God has given us to take care of them. All that can be done is to make the best decisions we can, encourage the right things, and let everyone else answer for their actions.

We walked into the Flats yesterday to see the Boys for the first time and as I hugged each one, I began to tear up. I knew I missed them, I just didn’t know how much. God has brought us together in His time and in His way. I understand that they are not ‘mine’, though I love them as my own. I parent, counsel, pray for and support them in the same way I do for my own and want the very best for them…to know Jesus and follow Him. It is an incredible privilege to see that happening in their lives and I pray that continues.

Where is home?

Jul 5 |

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After all these years and all the amazing things God has done in my life I am still surprised. ¬†Surprised at how God can so easily change my heart’s desire, change ¬†my focus, change my life by the simple word “yes.”

Since getting married in 1997(wow!), Trenton and I have made two major moves and two major career changes. ¬†It doesn’t sound like much in comparison to my in-laws everchanging zipcodes, but for us they have been life-altering moves. ¬†In 2003, we moved our family from California to Washington(my first move out of my hometown) because we felt God had “called” us to WA state. ¬†In 2008, Trenton made the move from the Mortgage/Escrow corporate world into full-time ministry, working for our beloved Lighthouse Church as the Director of Student Ministries. ¬†Just one year in and two years into seminary, God took us to Kenya along with a few youth for a little missions trip. ¬†We thought pastoral minsitry was the “calling” but we were wrong! ¬†In 2011, we(as a family) said “yes” to the “call” to enter into full-time missions work in Kenya. ¬†Second major move happened in March of 2013, when we finally set foot in our new home. Finally.

Two major moves, two major career changes.  Two homes.

We gave our hearts to Kenya back in 2009 on that very first missions trip. ¬†That is when God revealed just a little of His plan that began way back in California when he began to call us away from the familiar. ¬†Since that first “yes” he has been calling us to many unfamiliar places. ¬†The surprising piece, was that none of those places felt unfamiliar. ¬†Each one felt surprisingly comfortable, like a homecoming. ¬†A home away from home? ¬†What is home anyways?

I believe home is right in the center of God’s will. ¬†Walking the obedient light -filled path into the unknown. ¬†It sounds scary, but in fact we have found it to be the one place where we feel at peace. ¬†We don’t have all the answers, all the directions, or even all the resources necessary. ¬†But I think God planned it that way. It keeps us on our knees, at the foot of the cross. ¬†The safest place I know.

Home is filled with all that I love- my husband, my family, my dearly loved boys, my church family, friends… ¬†It is not a location.

An Alien in a Strange Land

May 26 |

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Growing up in America, Hispanic decent but appearing white to most, means experiencing life through a particular lens. ¬†It also means being treated as the majority race, with all its privilege and social stereotypes. ¬†Easy. Privileged. Rich by most of the world’s standards. ¬†It also translates to me growing up being the “norm” and everyone else being the “different ones.” ¬† I acknowledge not all grew up this way, but this was my experience.

Flash forward a few years. ¬†I get married…to an Asian. ¬†We ¬†have three VERY mixed kids(European, Mexican,Spanish, Native American, Japanese, and Chinese). Our family becomes a little less “normal.” ¬†We attend an predominatley Asian American church. ¬†I immediately become the minority. ¬†My children(and even me at times) think I’m Asian!

A few more years down the road we move to Kenya. ¬†Now I become an alien. ¬†Well, that is my national identification at least. ūüôā ¬†I am the one people stare at, point at, and yell at. ¬†“Mzungu! Mzungu!” ¬†As I shop at the market, kids run by and touch my hair, giggling as they dash back and forth behind me. ¬†Shopowners try their best American accent as they yell, “Jambo!” ¬†And there will always be at least one or two passerby that scowl as they catch sight of me walking along the road.

The most intersting moments for me though occur when I am sitting amongst the younger ones at football(soccer) matches. ¬†With their lack of Engliah and my limited Kiswahili, we spend much of our time staring at one another. ¬†The silence is broken when I begin to snap pictures or make silly faces that they try to copy. ¬†It’s only a matter of time though before the kids begin to carefully study me. ¬†Literally. ¬†They play with my hair, pull my skin, investigate the length of my nails, and marvel at the fact they can see my veins. ¬†I might as well be an alien. ¬†As they discover all my differences, they call over more friends to put on a “Show and Tell” of me.

It’s in these moments that I become increasingly aware of my place in the world I live in now. ¬†And how drastically different it is from the world I grew up in. ¬†But what I also realize, although I am an alien here in Kenya, my color still sends the same message. I am privileged. ¬†But what has changed…how I choose to use that privilege. ¬†For selfish gain or to use the resources available to me for the purpose God gave them to me? ¬†An alien in a strange land, God use me for your glory.

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Fighting for your reputation

May 8 |

Without sharing the details of the situation, I have come to understand something of Jesus’ life and specifically his persecution in a new and humbling way. When Jesus was accused of wrongs He never committed, when He was misunderstood and judged by those who were closest to Him, and the truth of His character was distorted by false views, He responded by saying nothing. It wasn’t like He didn’t speak, but He never fought for His reputation in the eyes of people. When asked, He did clarify who He was. When given the opportunity, He did challenge those who arose against Him. How is it though He could suffer so much and yet not use all at His disposal to vindicate Himself?

When people lie about you, when they speak ill of you, share half truths and lead others to believe the worst about you, how should you respond? How does it make you feel? Maybe you could track down all that have been affected and correct the story. It would feel good to be exonerated wouldn’t it, to go from guilty to innocent, from despised to supported? In looking at Jesus’ life and how he dealt with similar things (different in many ways too) I don’t see this reaction. I see the response of someone who knows who He is and doesn’t need to prove Himself to anyone else. I see someone who is confident that what is true will come to light in due time and it is not His responsibility to make that happen right then. I see my Lord who has the approval of His Father and can thus withstand the disapproval of men (and women, but in His case most were men).

I think when we fight for our reputation we confuse the audience we live for (which in the end is God Himself) and may perhaps be an effort to elevate ourselves to a place in life that is higher than we deserve. Yes, it is true that our reputation affects our ability to serve, minister, and perhaps our effectiveness in life. But is that the reason we fight for it? Or is it that we need to have people’s approval? Perhaps there is a sense that an injustice is taking place and that our response is to correct the wrong being done. It could also be the case that our emotions, the natural response to being wronged, are influencing a desire that is far from godly and more selfish in nature than we want. Back to Jesus…why didn’t He feel the need to vindicate Himself, but endured the suffering, the persecution and slander?

I wonder if part of the answer is that He knew some of the things we would face? Some must have picked up on the facetiousness of the previous sentence. Of course He knows, not just some things, but all things. And as our Lord, Savior and God He has seen fit to provide all that we need during these trying times. Hebrews 12:3 states, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Consider Him? I think He knew the things we would face and how it feels and how it can affect us. We could chase everyone down and try to give our side of the story. We can pray and hope that mature Christians wouldn’t make judgments based on one perspective or on the strength of relationship alone. But in the end the reality is that being maligned and thought wrongly about is going to happen. Consider Him? The Him who didn’t need to fight for his reputation. The Him who allowed God to bring to light, in His time, the truth of what was really going on. The Him who knew that God would use all things for His purposes.

Having experienced some of these things in my life and walked with people who have as well, I have come to see that it is only by ‘considering Him’ and trusting Him that we will not lose heart. I am also reminded that in order to¬†keep¬†the unity which God commands, effort is required to listen well, discern rightly, and judge carefully. Otherwise the Enemy wins, not necessarily by overcoming God’s people but by them turning on themselves.

Why I follow and not lead…trust and the difference

Apr 30 |

The debate is high in the world and in our churches and it is a hot and divisive topic. ¬†I have been on both sides of the fence on this idea of “husband as the head of the home” and “submission.” ¬†The side I am on now was a long, painful, but desired transition full of kicking and screaming, tears, but ultimately peace. ¬†Every Christian couple must discern for themselves where they fall on this issue, this is simply my journey I thought I would share with you.

Background- Growing up in a divorced home, raised primarily by two single women(my mom and my grandmother)-strong, independent women, I early on battled the innate desire to be loved and taken care of with that of being fiercly independent and self-sustaining, not wanting to be reliant on anyone. ¬†I believe that battle was mainly due to fear- fear of losing control and not sure I could trust that I ¬†will not be abandoned. I suspect many children of divorce face these very same fears and it can drastically alter how they see the world and view people. ¬†This resulted in many painful relationship experiences, culminating my strong desire to be loved with constantly being disappointed by those I trusted, fuleing my “independent spirit.”

Now, during this time I went to church, read my bible, and saw a few wonderful examples of truly loving husbands and wives. ¬†I was taught through my hispanic culture and through the bible that the man is to lead his family and when I saw authentic examples of that, I wanted that for my life too. ¬†But more often I experienced the let down of the men in my lfe not leading me well. ¬†So I just became stronger and more opposed to the idea of anyone “ruling over me.”

And then I got married.

I was blessed to marry a man who truly adored me, as my grandmother said was better than marrying a man who just loves you. ¬†There was just one issue- he had no real desire to lead. ¬†He was content to let me lead. ¬†You would think I would be ecstatic, right? ¬†Wrong. ¬†I quickly discovered that my heart’s desire was to have my prince charming rescue me and lead me well. ¬†Especially after we had children and the desire to have them grow up in the church also became very strong in me. ¬†Despite my bad experiences with the men in my life and my liberal convictions I held throughout college, my heart ached to release the burden of leading our family and being responsible to make all the decisions without much input from my husband. ¬†I know this sounds like a bashing of my husband, but trust me, it gets better!

And then my husband met Jesus.

A protective dad…

Apr 16 |

Some people say that I am a protective dad. I might be able to own that handle, both for my boys and for my little girl. The way this typically comes out is in conversation about young fellers that show an interest in Syd. Which reminds me that I should start working out again. If they want to date her at the very least the young man and I are going to have a conversation. As a dad my concern is her physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. As somewhat of a planner I have tried to address most of the potential issues with her and continue to lift her up in prayer.

This morning, as we packed up our things to leave a short game drive, Syd was confronted with one of those situations I did not foresee. She was sitting on her bed and for some reason her room door was open. Erika was right next door, but could not have anticipated what happened next. Syd looked up and before she could react she was looking into the eyes of a huge… baboon! (¬†I don’t know if you could tell that I was trying to build suspense, but I was). The baboon jumped up on the desk, grabbed a handful of sugar packets and scampered out as Sydney screamed. Erika was just coming out of her door and had seen the large animal make its way up the stairs and enter the open door. She thought the room was empty, witnessing both his entry and quick exit from the room (with a handful of sugar). Disoriented, he circled the deck and then made his way down the stairs he had recently ascended. When he found a quiet place, he stuffed the packets in his mouth, while interestingly enough, urinating at the same time.

Sydney emerges from her room, hands clasped over her mouth and eyes stretched wide open. She was so surprised and startled that she had no words other than, “did you see that”!?!?! to describe the moment.

As a protective dad, I am going to have to tap my imagination in order to anticipate stuff like this.