Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beautiful Ugly Scars

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This is a reblog from a blog I read regularly called Communicating Across Boundaries.  I connected with this on an emotional level because I too have a scar where cancer was cut out of me.  I also have scars on my tummy where babies pushed me beyond my physical limits.  I wouldn’t give a single one of them back in exchange for a tight, smooth stomach.  They are my badges of courage and war and love and sacrifice.

The wound did not heal well. Though it was small with only five stitches, it has healed into an angry red scar with jagged edges. By anyone’s assessment it isn’t pretty.

But to me this angry,red scar is beautiful. This ugly scar is a reminder to me every day that the biopsy was normal – it showed “no residual melanoma”.

Because I recently had the “M” word thrown at me – thrown in my face with a smile and a “you’ll probably be fine”. But is anyone fine when the word “malignant” enters their life? The “malignant” word was the first result of a biopsy of a mole. A  mole that seemed so small. So innocent. So benign.

Only it wasn’t. It was malignant.

And the second visit was to take more skin, find out if the melanoma had spread. It was this visit that produced the ugly scar. I saw the chunk of skin go into a small container, undoubtedly labeled with my name and the source of the tissue. Five stitches closed up the wound. The day the stitches came out was the day I heard the news that this mole had no residual malignancy. The bad tissue was gone, in it’s place an ugly scar.

So this ugly scar is beautiful. Like the scar on the woman’s face that makes her appear slightly deformed – beautiful because it is a survival scar from a fire that could have killed her. Instead every day her husband kisses that scar with all the love a human can possibly feel. Like the scar along the leg of the gentleman, for without it he would have been in the grave six years now. Rather, that angry, ugly scar is a beautiful war wound of survival. Like the ‘bikini’ scar low on a woman’s stomach, a scar that ensured a baby would be born healthy, not deprived of oxygen.

My scar is going to grow in size. They didn’t get enough tissue, and they want to do all they can to make sure the ‘M’ word is gone from my body. It will be long, and red, and initially painful, and beautiful ugly.

And as I lay waiting for a surgeon to look at my skin, to assess that ugly scar, to determine just how much longer and more ugly it needs to be, it comes to me, almost like a physical punch: I can enter eternity because of angry, red scars.

Ugly, brutal, angry, red scars on the hands and feet of the Saviour; the ugly become beautiful offering me a hope. an everyday wonder of grace, an eternity of God.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

 

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The Mailman Rides at Dawn

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We once lived in a neighborhood where our mailman was mugged.  Someone held him up at gun point in broad daylight and stole his mail bag.  That happened in America, in a middle class neighborhood on the East side of St. Paul, Minnesota.  It was shocking and sad that someone was so desperate to steal that they would commit a Federal crime right on our block.  Personally I couldn’t imagine that he would have gotten much out of that crime considering the volume of junk mail we received each day.

When we are overseas, we have our family members fielding our mail.  I feel bad that we have doubled their junk mail load.  Somehow we got on a bunch of political mailing lists.  Finally, my exasperated mother called and asked if we would track down the source of all this junk mail and take our names off the list.  We didn’t even know we were on a list!

Junk mail should be illegal for the only reason that it is a waste of trees.  It should be illegal like solicitor’s phone calls at dinner time at your house should be illegal.  Those people should be ashamed of themselves, interrupting a family’s dinner with a 45-minute phone survey about magazines subscriptions or credit unions.

When we live overseas, we don’t get mail at our house.  Sometimes a bill will be stuck in our front gate, hand delivered from the water company or the electric company.  But on a windy day or a rainy day those bills are easily lost.  We have to go in to the Pharmacy to pay our bills on a regular basis whether we actually see the monthly statement or not.  We’ve forgotten to pay our phone bill and water bill more than once.  It’s a pain in the neck when we are shut off for a day or two.  But we don’t get junk mail like we do in the States.

I kind of forgot about how much mail we receive and how long it takes to go through it each day.  When we came home on furlough the last time I would go for days without checking the mail box.  I would just forget about it.  Then I would be overwhelmed by the amount of junk I had to sort through!   Just when I arrived at the bottom of the pile with a grand sense of accomplishment, another day would dawn with another mailbox full of shoppers coupons and advertisements and sweepstakes entries and neighborhood newsletters and bills and bank statements and magazines I didn’t ask for.  Then I would be buried again under the mindless mountain of mundane messages in the mail.  It made me long for the anonymity of living in a third world country where there is no mail service.

“Frienemies”

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“My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.  His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalm 55:20-21

We tend to think that Frienemies- Enemies disguised as friends- are a new thing come with the arrival of Facebook and text messaging.  But the problem of friends who stab you in the back is as old as dust!  Jesus had his Judas.  David had his Saul.  Moses had his Aaron and Miriam… family.

We expect attacks to come from our known enemies.  But when an attack comes from the person at your side, it’s bitter.  When someone who is supposed to be your ally, your family, your team member attacks you, it’s shocking.  You just don’t expect a blind-side.

The betrayal is even harder to accept when it comes from someone whom you have loved, someone who has been the recipient of the kindness of your heart.  When someone accepts your kindness with a smile and then spits in your face, it’s awful.   It makes you heart-sick.

Rather than jumping right up to defend yourself, pause for a moment.  Remind yourself that when a person complains or accuses another it is usually a smoke screen to hid that they are struggling with that very same thing in their own heart.  If they accuse you of rejecting them, it’s because they fear being rejected.  If they accuse you of hypocrisy, it’s usually they who are the hypocrites.  If they complain that you are intolerant, it is their own rigid beliefs they are trying to conceal.  It’s not you.  It’s them.  You are just the easiest target or the nearest warm body to take a stab at.

Once you realize that you probably are not the real target of this attack, it’s easier to let go of your right to defend yourself.  As a Christian, we are not supposed to seek our own revenge.  We are supposed to let God fight our battles.  Sometimes we see God vindicating us, and sometimes we don’t actually get to see it.  But if we give our hurt heart to God, He will be our hero.  He will fight for us.  And in time, that stab wound in your back will begin to heal.  Rise above the pain and walk on the high road.

When the Heat is On

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I take no credit for this.  I found it on Facebook.  I wanted to share this with the hopes that certain people I know, who are going through trials, would pause and think about their response to the Heat.

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft.She then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked. “What’s the point,grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter.

“When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

—AUTHOR UNKNOWN

When someone loves you…

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Once upon a time, I found this cute list of things little kids said about Love.  I think their simplicity is so precious… and sometimes humorous.  We could benefit from some of these reminders about how to really love someone.  I want to grow old with my husband, and at the end, to feel that I have loved really well.  I don’t believe in keeping regrets.  I leave the past alone.  But taken as a whole, I want to feel that I’ve loved with all my heart and been loved in return.

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.  Billy age 4

Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.  Karl- age 5

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.  Chrissie- age 6

Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.  Terri- age 4

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is right.  Danny- age 7

Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  Emily- age 8

Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  Bobby- age 7

If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.  Nikko- age 6

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.  Noelle- age 7

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.  Tommy- age 6

Mommy loves me more than anybody.  You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.  Clare- age 6

Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.  Elaine- age 5

Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.  Chris- age 7 (This one made me laugh.)

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.  Marianne- age 4

I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.  Lauren- age 4

When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.  Karen- age 6

You really shouldn’t say “I love you” unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget.  Jessica- age 8

This weekend, make a concerted, focused effort to tell someone you love them.  You might think that they should already know, but tell them anyways.  Say it first, don’t wait for them to say it to you.  And while you’re at it Guys, here’s a tip for you:  She wants hear WHY you love her too.  It makes the “I love you” special instead of generic.  Make an effort to love well.

Doing Drugs

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Well, I was going to write today’s blog last night.  But I came home from school with a killer headache that I just couldn’t shake all night long.  So as soon as I put the girls to bed, I took some Advil and went to bed myself.  It’s a cop out, perhaps, but I’ll write something more interesting for Friday.  I promise.

This kind of reminds me of a friend of mine who was a pharmaceutical salesman before he was called to be a missionary.  When I asked him what he used to do for a living he said casually, “I used to sell drugs.”  True and funny.  I guess it’s all in your perspective.  I could complain about having a headache, or I could be thankful for good drugs.  You know me, I’ll choose thankfulness.

Have a happy Thursday everyone.  I’ll write something pretty or entertaining for tomorrow.

The Spider Killer

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I posted this short story on Facebook a week ago, but I wanted to share it with my non-fb friends too.  If the title didn’t act as enough of a Spoiler Alert, I should warn you, if you have heart issues related to the fear of bugs you might not want to read this.

Last night right before bed, my 11-year old Emma came rushing into my room gasping, “Spider! Spider!” as her body convulsed in a cumulative case of the heebie-jeebies.  I went into her room to kill it, but I was unprepared for the size of that monster.

“Holy Shnike!” I exclaimed.  No exaggeration, with its legs splayed out the thing was the diameter of a BAGEL.  I grabbed a can of roach spray, stood on a stool, and fired.  It fell to the ground and didn’t die!

As it scurried under the closet door I thought, “Crap! Now I have to hunt for it among the stuffed animals.  It’s going to jump out at me.”  I wildly started throwing stuffed animals out of the closet.

I found it again on the closet floor and doused it in bug spray, but the thing would not die!  Finally I grabbed a cheer-leading baton and started beating it.  Still the beast would not die! (and not because I have bad aim.) I finally knocked off a leg, and then it curled up into a slow death position.

When I flushed it down the toilet, I slammed the lid down just to punctuate my victory. That was by far the largest spider I have ever seen inside the house.  I won.

Some of you have asked where my husband was on this fateful night.  Well, he was out of the house picking up our son at Youth Group.  God was merciful to him.  He really hates spiders.  For me, spiders hold a kind of terror laced fascination, but it’s the cockroaches that make me scream.  I was raised in a family where, just for kicks, my father regularly chased my sister and I around the house with a Kleenex full of bug guts.  I have tried that on my husband and it usually ends with me collapsed in a hysterical heap of laughter, gasping for breath.  I’m giggling just thinking about it…

Dedicating a Bathroom to God

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Recently we had the pleasure of seeing a task completed here on the mission field.  We don’t always see the immediate fruit of our labors, so this was particularly sweet for us.  This past Sunday we dedicated a bathroom to the service of God’s House.  I know, we’ve reached new heights!  This is our second term as missionaries, so see what all you first term-ers out there have to look forward too?  Not everyone is qualified to do such work.  But in all seriousness, this day was one of those days when I felt like I was doing what I was made to do.

Last year our last team of the summer was from Brandon, Florida.  We brought the team out to a poor little church on the edge of town.  The sanctuary is nothing but 4 concrete block walls and a hot tin roof.  Next to the sanctuary is a dilapidated shack that the congregation was using as a Sunday School room, a make shift kitchen and a single stall bathroom for the whole church.  It was barely standing on its own.  The church had been told that since it was obviously not up to code, they would have to build a bathroom or close their doors.

The heart strings of the team were touched.  When they went back home, they presented this need to their congregation and they raised $5,000 to give to the church for the bathrooms and whatever other renovations were needed to bring it up to code.  The poor little church was beside itself with happiness.  At Christmas time, we brought the money into the country and delivered it to the pastor, who we highly trust.  In 22 days the church members constructed two bathrooms on the back of the property and were working on various projects to make the whole place handicap accessible, by Latin American standards.

But the amazing thing has been the response of the community.  In this past month of working on the building, they have almost doubled in attendance.  One man who lives down the street from the church would never speak to the pastor.  He was recently released from jail again.  With some of the money from the team, the pastor hired this ex-con to help with the construction of the bathroom.  Now his opinion of the pastor and the church is quite different than it had been in the past.  He is open to hearing what the pastor has to say.

This bathroom is more than a place to relieve the call of nature, it has brought dignity and respectability to the church in that community.  It has financially met a felt need of the workers who were hired to demolish the old and build the new, and it has been a source of pride for the church members themselves who now feel that they have worth and dignity.  No longer must they squat in a scary, dirty shack that shakes and shutters with every gust of wind.  Now they have a lovely facility that is even handicap accessible for those in the community with such needs… and there are many.

So we had the privilege of going out to the church to get video and photos for the church in Florida who are excited to see the results of their giving.  But more importantly, we felt the pride of the pastor and the church who built his with their own hands, and it is beautiful.

An Offering of Garlic for God Almighty

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She teetered to the front of the church on arthritic little feet and carefully placed a small blue bundle on the edge of the stage in front of the pulpit.  This little old lady brought her offering to the Lord, and quietly returned to her seat.

The tin roof panels ticked and expanded in the hot sun.  A blanket of heat pressed down on all of us inside the cement block walls of the church.  As the worship leader strummed his guitar and the congregation swayed together in worship, I stared at that little blue bundle.  From where I stood, I could not tell if the bag contained eggs, small onions or garlic.  But whatever it was, it was clear that this little lady brought something precious from her heart.

I thought of the widow who brought her single coin as an offering to the Lord.  Jesus commended her for giving all she had.  She gave what she could not really afford to give.  She needed every cent to survive.  But she gave more than money; she gave her heart.

I teared up looking at that precious yet worthless little blue bag on the step.  I thought about what a humble offering it was.  Imagine bringing a bag of half a dozen heads of garlic as an offering to the God of the Universe.  The difference between the offering and its worth was never greater.  The dignity of God Almighty, King of Kings, The Alpha and Omega was contrasted against a bag of garlic, and yet, I felt that God was very, very pleased with that little blue bag.

When the worship ended, the pastor carefully and reverently collected the offering in a  bundle.  He respectfully nodded his thanks to the little old lady who bowed her head and smiled to herself.  She brought her all and received the blessing of God.  God Almighty smiled on her and her little blue bag of garlic.

Travel covers a multitude of sins

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  said Mark Twain.

Based on this statement I might develop a sudden prejudice against Italians just so I can justify a trip to Florence, Italy.  Yeah, that’s it.  I need to go purge myself of my “Italophobia”.

I am originally from Iowa.  But before you jump to conclusions, you should know that I never even SAW a real live cow until we drove from Des Moines to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I was 6-years old then.

I’m a city girl.  But I am related to people from small towns.  They don’t come up to the Cities very often, and when they do, some of them are “packing heat” the whole time.  (In my wedding pictures, my grandparents were both armed.)  And I would be too if I stayed in the Super 8 Motel on the edge of town.  Apparently they don’t want to go too far into the city in case God rains down fire and brimstone in Sodom and Gomorrah fashion.  They are scared of the city.

But the interesting thing is that several years ago my grandpa asked my dad for a computer.  My dad asked why he wanted it.  He said, “I want to be able to check the weather in Australia.”  Is he ever going to go to Australia?  Not unless they relocate it to the next county over.  He just wants to know.  Go figure.  Maybe if he could have nurtured that spark of natural curiosity when he was younger, he might have one day visited Australia and experienced the weather for himself.  But as it stands, traveling beyond his little world, at this age, is almost too much to handle.

On the other hand, my world spans the globe.  I have friends in nearly every continent.  And yet, sometimes that makes this world feel just as small as my grandpa’s town.  The words that are used to describe the missionary lifestyle are the ones you see in travel magazines: Ex-Pats, International Community, Global Nomads.  That’s my favorite one, Global Nomad.  I like it because I DO feel like a Nomad.  We pick up and move somewhere else every couple of years, sometimes more frequently.  When we are in one place too long, we get the itch to travel somewhere else.  When we are in one place, we long for another.

I feel like it’s just a physical reflection of the spiritual reality that we really are just sojourners here on this planet.  We feel a deep seated longing for our spiritual home, Heaven.  We don’t settle down here.  We don’t get too attached to this old life.  THIS is Temporary.  THEN is Forever.  In the mean time, I hope to cultivate broad, wholesome, and charitable views of men and things by all my global wanderings.