Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's the Little Things....

The North American school schedule brings a lot of newness to what may often become routine by the end of a school year. The return to school brings a few new things here in Costa Rica as well. New Bible studies, new friends, new missionary kids and parents, Costa Rica Independence Day with parades, faroles( a type of lantern shown at bottom) and marching bands and practice for weeks beforehand.

My Bible study reading provided some time to sit,
ponder life and the simple things that bring such pleasure to our individual lives. Obviously, these are not one size fits all, so I'll share a few that appeared in my life this week... a small bag of pretzel M and M's(stale, but here on a shelf here in Costa Rica),  2- for- 1 Diet Dr. Pepper cans(yes, they are usually over $1 each), the joyous news that twins born to a client were discharged from the hospital,and I was able to hold the tiniest one, my youngest child now a pre-adolescent experiencing youth group and Girls Bible Study for the first time, having a date with Brian that consisted of a calzone at Papa John's and a pot of tea at McCafe for less than $20 US, being outside the city at Melissa Putney's baptism with our brand new Costa Rica City Team, and the list could go point is that each day has wonderful gifts in it and even Scripture is new every time we read it! Often times we feel inconsequential in God's plan, but He enables us, in remarkable ways.

"Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves but adequacy is from God, who also  made us as servants of a new covenant,  not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor. 3:4-6 (NASB) 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Art of Storying...

Last week, after putting our youngest son into college, I was fortunate to spend one Sunday in Charlotte and hear a message by Jim Kallam, "Inviting You Into His Story". My mind was full of pictures and videos of the past 17 plus years with Benjamin, and the huge hole didn't seem quite as large when remembering. So right then and there, I made a decision that beginning this week, to be more faithful with inviting you, our friends, families, and strangers into our story which began over seven years ago. You see, God is writing your story, and by reading or hearing the stories of others, your story may be dramatically different!  I wrote this story earlier last year, and it may have been posted elsewhere, but here it is! So, the story that began it all.....

Wooed by God to the Mission Field
The first inkling of change
I remember the television images of 9/11, the household events of that day, and the eventual call by then President Bush to service (not just those in the military, but everyday Americans).
That day was pivotal as I sat on a comfortable couch, recalling the year my husband, Brian, and I spent in Pakistan long ago. I realized that, since returning to the U.S. in 1991, we had accumulated material possessions, put down roots in the beautiful Southeast, and were living a comfortable North American lifestyle. 

I prayed that day that God would use me -- a homeschooling mom and nurse -- in some way to redeem human suffering in the world.
I explained to my three young children, as best I could, the events of 9/11, and we had a fundraiser in our driveway for the Red Cross. We thought we had helped, at least a little. 

Steps toward life change
Brian and I became foster parents in 1996, after realizing our children needed a ministry they could take part in. How better to introduce them to service and the needy of the world by loving and caring for infants as they awaited their permanent placements in other families. Our family served together and learned to love unconditionally and deeply. We sometimes wept as the babies we loved went to less than optimal situations. Then, we decided to adopt, growing our family in a marvelous way as we taught our children that God made us all in His image.

But we still lived the American dream. We moved to a bigger house, and our roots grew even deeper.
God knew what He was doing, though. He was using our everyday lives to prepare our family for what lay ahead.

I went back to graduate school after being led to a website for Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing more than once while answering emails and shopping by internet, way before it was popular! This was during a particularly low point in my life, and when I asked my husband what he thought, he encouraged me to apply and see what transpired. Of course, God’s hand was in it all and less than six weeks later, I was headed for the on-campus, out of state orientation to the community-based,distance learning program. The family cheered me on and stepped up to many of the demands of running the household. We continued to homeschool our children while I was completing coursework and eventually taking 24 hour call on maternity wards in metropolitan Charlotte and coordinating clinic time in metropolitan Charlotte, Greensboro and with a Native American population in Oklahoma.

It was part of God’s plan. I was blessed to welcome 43 new babies into the world, to empower women in one of the most intimate experiences in their life, and to personalize each one with a pink or blue birthday cake. I saw that my world was vastly different than much of society, and that just listening to their struggles provided peace and not being able to fully communicate with all of my clients in the same way was frustrating, though as many were either Hispanic families and spoke Spanish, or Native American with dialects foreign to my ears. I knew simple words of greeting and body parts, a pig Latin sort of Spanish gained on the job in an emergency room in Houston, Texas. Those seven years of French were frustratingly useless in Native American and Hispanic contexts. It left me a little disappointed. Was it possible to cross those language and cultural barriers?
We’d soon find out.

A growing pull towards missions
Individually, members of our immediate family served on short-term teams to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans with EFCA TouchGlobal, and we took a vision trip to Latin America with EFCA ReachGlobal. God was wooing us ever so slowly back into the world of missions.
Only God, the Master Creator, could weave such a unique tapestry through our everyday lives, careers and family life to prepare us to willingly step out in faith to serve cross-culturally -- first in the U.S. with peoples of all nations passing through our workplaces, foster babies of all ethnicities, and hosting a foreign exchange student from France, in New Orleans post-Katrina relief, working as a midwife with Native Americans in Oklahoma, and finally serving overseas in Latin America.  

Who does God use?
When I left North Carolina four years ago (wondering how God could call a family of six from comfortable suburbia to be missionaries in San José, Costa Rica), I was just an average North American woman. I was not a Bible scholar nor a church planter, but a chocolate-craving, Target-loving mother and wife.
And yet, I desired more than anything to alleviate human suffering in the world.
Some days that means serving a friend by providing refuge from culture shock. Other days, that means providing health care to indigent women.
You may be living an ordinary life… but God can use you to accomplish something extraordinary.  A seminary degree and proficiency in a foreign language are not required. A willing heart, a teachable spirit and the placing of one foot in front of the other as He leads will do.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I’ll never forget the Tuesday morning I met Maria. Yes, most Tuesdays and Fridays have at least one “Maria” on my schedule, but this Maria grabbed my heart, mind and soul. She was a petite, golden brown-eyed Latina, dressed modestly and intently interested in things we discussed during her visit. One month shy of her sixteenth birthday, already the mother of a toddler, she asked if I had time to listen to something she needed to talk about.  I knew the women waiting to see me already filled the dust-covered plastic chairs and overflowed into the waiting room, but there was an urgency in her question.  “Sure, what is it?” I asked in Spanish, knowing that this definite connection had been forged by God for some reason.  “I want to finish high school and work in a clinic like this someday—is that too much to imagine, only a dream?”  Having spent over three years in the environment this Maria lives in, I knew that many would think that was an unattainable, ridiculous dream. Tears spilled out of her eyes, and mine misted over. This girl was determined and wanted reassurance. “No, I don’t think that is too big of a dream, and I believe you can do it.” A big smile lit her face and she hugged me. And then I smiled and asked to share my dream with her. Another dream that some might think as ridiculous. A dream I have of not being the one providing care to indigent women, but working myself out of job because someone from an impoverished barrio rose above the poverty and violence, imagined more, and became a provider who remained in the community instilling hope for other Marias, in barrios here in San Jose, and throughout Latin America.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Putting a Face to Domestic Abuse

This morning my bus stopped for several minutes beside an newspaper seller allowing my eyes to scan the front page of a newspaper and immediately focus on a subject I became familiar with first as a pediatric emergency nurse in the U.S., and encounter nearly every day I spend in clinic here in Latin America. Domestic Abuse. The article caught my attention because it stated that an average of 222 cases of domestic abuse occured daily in Costa Rica during the first three months of 2012.

I thought about this for the remainder of the bus ride, and prayed for those who suffer abuse in the home...spouses, children and the elderly. Men and women alike. The article discussed the number of policemen who were injured while attempting to mediate such cases. I inwardly questioned the validity of such statistics, and pondered this as I poured my morning coffee and greeted the clinic staff. Life in a fallen world is messy and tainted.

Several hours later I would come face to face with this dangerous enemy. A client who had removed herself from violence by crossing a border illegally stated that she most likely would be missing her next appointment because she was thinking of returning to her homeland, hoping no further abuse would occur. I pray that I will see her cheerful face next month and that she'll reconsider for not only herself, but for the sake of her unborn child.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Counting the Cost

Settling back into Latin America has been relatively easy-- crystal clear skies, warm breezes, and Costa Rican neighbors greeting us with huge smiles, running to their gates as we stroll the neighborhood.

Going through items we left behind, packed and carefully stored, with dehumidifier packets and all, has been hard. You see, a leak during rainy season allowed some water to reach our things, which went reference books completely damaged, and my medical equipment partially so...a cost counted, as those books and my non-waterpoof doppler wand need replacement.

The cost of time, thoroughly cleaning loads of laundry, hanging it in the sun, only to find another wash is necessary, leading to the cost of electricity and water....

But the hardest hit to my heart thus far? The process of sorting and discarding handcrafted ornaments lovingly made by my four precious children in young childhood, as these were not plastic or metal, they were paper,felt, fabric or plaster ornaments no amount of water, detergent or sun could heal. Thankfully, only about ten were destined to the bags of trash, many were able to be restored and will still grace our Christmas tree next year.

All of us face costs in following Christ. As I sorted last night, and tears fell down my face, I was tempted to blame this temporary setback on this lifestyle that God has led us to. But then I remembered that those in New Orleans post-Katrina had mountains of ruined things and they were living where they always had.

Using our time, money, talents and whole being in investing in others, rather than the temporary trappings of this world are what bring my family contentment. And living life serving others has brought great joy and peace. Thank you to those who allow us to have one foot in each continent. For those who give sacrificially and who pray for us often. I felt those prayers last night when I so desperately needed them.