Tag Archives: fear

Taxes and the Rapture

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If there’s any subject 100% certain to cause me stress, it’s money.  When I was a child, my family was in financial distress all the time.  There was always talk of not enough and of the grand-daddy of all money woes:  Taxes.  My parents’ business owed back taxes, so this word was always floating through their conversations.  They didn’t realize it, but I was listening, always listening.  I didn’t know what taxes were, but they sounded so scary!

I had another great fear as a child, also due to a mysterious word floating through the adults’ conversations:  The Rapture.  In the type of church that I grew up in, the preacher often taught about the Second coming of Christ, also called the Rapture, when all the believers would be snatched up to heaven in “the twinkling of an eye”.  There were songs written about it, sermons preached about it, and even movies made about it.  From the movies, I had the idea that we would all fly upwards naked, leaving our pile of clothing as an ominous indicator of whatever activity we were engaged in at that singular moment.  I was OK with flying naked into Heaven, but my major concern lay in the final destination of my blankie.  If we weren’t bringing any fabric to Heaven, then what would become of my beloved blankie?  I wasn’t sure I could enjoy Heaven without it.  This caused me deep anguish.

As an adult, I have out grown my blankie-love and it’s accompanying fear of loss, but I still carry tension where money is concerned.  I have over and over again experienced God’s faithfulness in providing for our financial needs, but it’s a hard lesson for me to retain.  I seem to have to learn it over and over again.  I’m like those block-headed Children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years learning and forgetting how to trust God.  Learning and forgetting, relearning and forgetting again.  So last night when my husband said, “it’s another bad month for us” my heart clenched in my chest.

Our livelihood, every penny we need, comes from supporting churches and individuals back home.  And when times are tough back home, times are tough overseas too.  Month-to-month we are thankful for our faithful supporters who don’t forget that we are still “out there”, who don’t abandon us.  And month-to-month, God stretches the money somehow.  We’ve cut corners, eliminated luxuries (from an American’s perspective), and pinched pennies.  It’s just tight all around.  And it’s tight around my heart too.

We do what we have to do to survive.  This week I accepted a teaching position at my kids’ school.  Due to the kind of visas we have, I can’t actually receive payment, but I worked out a deal with the administration to convert what I would get paid into free tuition for my 3 kids.  This is huge for us!  Schooling isn’t free overseas.

We have made tough choices for our family.  We feel responsible to our supporters and want to respect their sacrifices as well, so we are careful about how we spend our money.  We chose a school that fits within our missionary way of life, yet is not the most expensive school there is.  We don’t have our kids in the expensive sports clubs.  They just have the after school activities that meet in the dusty old barn of a gym at their school.  They don’t get expensive music lessons.  We pay a friend to teach guitar lessons.  We are careful with how we spend our money.

My point is, we do make tough decisions, just like many of you have to make.  We make sacrifices to survive, just like you do.  And I have to remind myself constantly that God has been faithful to us… just like you have to remind yourselves of this.  Ultimately, the style of life that we have chosen is a life of faith.  We believe, though we don’t see it yet.  We believe that God will pull us through at the end of the month, but we don’t see it until the last minute.  Just like we believe that Jesus is coming back for us, though we haven’t seen it yet.

The Christian life is a faith walk… it’s meant to be.  It’s supposed to challenge us.  It’s designed to teach us how to remember- through repetition we remember the lessons of how to Trust in our Faithful God.  These are the faith-building stories that we tell ourselves and tell our children.  God has been faithful, and He will be again.

The Break-In

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Our story part 2, continued from yesterday.

In 2001 we were living in a little house on the East side of St. Paul, MN.  I was 9 months pregnant with our second child.  A girl that we had prayed and cried over for 5 years.  We were nearing the end of the pregnancy when the St. Paul Police started a crack-down operation in the neighborhood south of us.

This flushed bad guys into our normally nice neighborhood all summer long.  Our mail man was held up at gun point.  Our garage was broken into and our bikes stolen, even Taylor’s tricycle!  And one morning we came out to go to church only to discover that our car was stolen.  The police found it later that day, window smashed, hot wired and still running, abandoned in a parking lot.  We dropped it off at the repair shop.  The icing on the cake was that I was over-due to deliver this baby and now we had no car.  We borrowed the church van to go to the hospital.

Baby Emma finally came and it seemed like everything was settling down… then 9/11 occurred.  I remember standing at the television set and screaming when the first building went down.  It felt like the whole world was ripped apart at the seams.  Over the next few weeks, five year old Taylor kept building tall towers with his Legos and knocking them down with toy airplanes and cars.  I had nightmares about being trapped in an elevator and feeling the building swaying then free falling.  Everyone everywhere was tense and on edge.

Trying to move on with our ordinary lives, we planned a baby dedication for Emma on Josh’s birthday, October 7.  Early in the pre dawn hours while the whole family slept, terror was stalking our house.  Coming up suddenly from a deep sleep I heard a loud banging.  In my sleepy mind, I thought it was Taylor turned around in his little bed kicking the headboard in a wild dream.  I was on my feet and running down the steps as fast as only a Mommy can run while still being half asleep.  My husband who normally sleeps through tornado sirens was on his feet and running down the steps behind me without being fully aware of what he was doing.  That surprised me.

At the bottom of the steps, I stopped dead in my tracks and my knees buckled.  I collapsed on the floor.  There was a MAN standing in our living room!  My mind raced to catch up with reality.  Who is this?  What is he doing here?  What’s going on?

“I didn’t want to do it.”  He said, “They made me do it.  I didn’t want to hurt you, but they made me do it.”  He kept saying.  Oh Dear God, we’re going to die.  I looked around within the radius of my arms to see if there was anything to use as a weapon.  There was a piece of paper lying on the steps and the phone on a side table.  We would need the phone to call the police, so we couldn’t fight with that.

Josh just kept calmly saying, “Go, get out of here.  Just leave, get out of here.”  All of my senses were totally alive.  My eyes etched every detail of this man into my memory.  No weapon in his hands.  I smelled.  No alcohol, probably he was strung out on drugs.  I’ve heard that drugs can make people feel no pain and freakishly strong.  I wanted to pray out loud but I didn’t want to draw his attention.  Time was meaningless.  Had we been standing there face to face for years?

My ears were alert to any noise from my kids’ rooms to my right.  Not a peep.  Were they laying in bed scared, too scared to call for me?  I had to get to them.  But maybe the man didn’t know we had kids in the house.  Would he hurt my kids?  A steal rod entered my soul at that thought.  OVER MY DEAD BODY!  This guy will literally have to step over my dead body to get to my children, I determined.  Slowly I stood up and slowly I slid into the hallway were there was a fire extinguisher in the closet.  I was going for it when my Mommy instincts took over.  The second I was out of view, I ran into Taylor’s room.  I scooped up the sleeping child… dead weight, he was out cold… and heavy!  Sleeping through the whole thing, thank God.

By the time I plopped both children safely in my bed upstairs and returned down to the living room the man had fled.  I found Josh standing in a daze in the center of the living room.  Where did he go?  I asked, “I don’t know.”  Josh said.  “He just turned and ran.”

I looked at the door.  Our big, solid wood door with the dead bolt still in locked position lay flat on the floor, hinges torn off the jam, ragged wood all over the place and plaster from the wall snowing down on the carpet.  My jaw dropped.  After the police left, we used the couch to prop the door shut and we sat there for the rest of the night waiting until daylight when we could call our parents without scaring them to death with a middle of the night phone call.

That was the last night we stayed in that house.  We moved into my parents’ basement that day.  When the door was fixed, we put the house up for sale.  I was scared of the dark for months.  As the sun would begin to set I would start to shake.  I refused to leave the house unless I absolutely had to.  I jumped out of my skin at every bump in the night.  We all slept piled together in one tiny bedroom for almost 3 months.  On December 23 we moved into a new house and tried to close the chapter on that horrible experience.

But here’s what I learned:

1.  Bad things happen here in America too.  You don’t have to live over seas to be robbed or attacked or scared out of your mind or to face death.  It happens everywhere.

2.  God is still in control even when it feels like everything is out of control, even when things don’t happen like you thought they would.

3.  And God is still good, even when he allows bad things to happen.

It’s very scary to put your trust in something that is bigger than you and so unpredictable, but no matter what happens, He’s still good.  It’s like what Mr. Tumnus in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” says when Lucy asks if Aslan the Lion will come back.  He says, “He’s not a tame Lion, but he is Good.”  God is not a tame God, but He is good.  Through it all I have arrived at a deeper trust of God.  He may kill me because he’s not tame, but he’s still Good… no matter what.  Yet though He slay me, I will still trust Him.

More of the story tomorrow…

Plan B

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I want to preface this post by saying that this is purely MY experience.  This is not a reflection on my missions organization or my family.  This is not a political commentary on Mexico.  This is a story of my personal experience living in Mexico City, and should not be construed in any other light.

We lived in Mexico City as missionaries for 2 years.  It is a hard city to live in.  But we aren’t complainers and we aren’t quitters.  We made a commitment to God and we were going to stay there until God moved us on.  But living in a place where the bad guys had police badges and guns was stressful.  OK, that’s probably the understatement of the century!  It was super scary sometimes!  Living in a society controlled by corruption meant living with a plan B always in play.

Every time we set foot outside our house, we were vulnerable.  At any moment while driving our car we could be stopped by the police.  Usually they wanted money.  Eventually we learned enough Spanish to be able to argue that we knew the law, we knew our rights, and we knew that they couldn’t do what they are doing.  Sometimes it worked.  A few times we were sure that these guys were not really police and that they were trying to steal our car!  Once a guy said, “I have a gun!  You have to obey me!”  We had our kids in the car.  I went BALLISTIC!  I’m not sure what all I said in Spanish, but the guy gave back our papers and we drove on.  I was shaking with rage.

When I was alone, I worried.  I made a plan B every where I went.  I felt like a spy always scoping out the exits and paying attention to who came and went.  I never let my kids out of my sight.  (While we lived there the US State Department moved Mexico to the #1 spot in the list of countries who kidnap Americans.  We moved ahead of Colombia.)  I always left the “escape hatch” open.  Being stuck in traffic always left me feeling especially vulnerable.  There was very little wiggle room in that plan B.  I decided that if I was ever car-jacked, I would get out of the car and just let them take it.  But if my kids were with me, that complicated the matter since I wasn’t going to leave them.  I was not opposed to running down bad guys with my missionary vehicle if it meant saving my children.  We installed a panic button on our car alarm.  If we hit the button, the car would run for 10 minutes and then automatically shut off.  Plan B was always clear in my mind wherever I went.

Even inside our house we were vulnerable!  Our house was robbed once, fortunately we weren’t home at the time.  After the robbery we installed an alarm system in the house.  It went off sometimes in the night.  Once we heard someone down by the kitchen, the dog went nuts and the alarm went off.  Someone had tried to get in the house while we were sleeping!  Our home alarm had a panic button too.  In case anyone was holding a gun to your head and making you type in the “off” code, you would type in the panic code instead.  The alarm looked like it shut off, but actually it called the police.  That did not make me feel any better.

I was scared of the police.  Sometimes at night the police would come by and siphon gas out of our car, and there was nothing we could do about it aside from installing a lock on our gas cap.  When our house was broken into we called our friends down the street first and asked if they thought we should call the police.  For our insurance company we needed a police report, so we called them.  We had to pay bribes at the police station to get them to do their job and release the report to us.  Even inside the house, I was scared of the police.

When Josh was out alone, I worried too.  If he was ever late, and sometimes he was hours late, he was very likely being held up by the police at some check point.  I had a plan B in my mind in case someday he just didn’t come home.  I knew who I would call, I knew where the passports were, and I knew how I would get my kids back to America safely.  Plan B was always in play.

When we finally returned to America for our furlough year I was still very skittish around the police.  Every time I saw a police car on the side of the road my heart would clench and I would advert my eyes.  I would hold my breath until we passed safely by.  It took me a long, long time to trust the police again.

Back home in America I started noticing symptoms of  Post Traumatic Stress.  Because we were traveling around to churches and talking about our ministry in Mexico I had a portion of our story that I could tell without crying, but push me beyond that point and the tears would well up in my eyes.  I always felt like the tears were very close to the surface but I couldn’t verbalize “Why?”.  It’s been more than 3 years now since we lived in Mexico and I am just now feeling like I’m ready to talk more about these experiences without crying.  It no longer matters to me how this story sounds to others, it’s my story.  No one can tell me that I over reacted or blew things out of proportion, you weren’t there. It’s my story.  Taking ownership of my story has helped me feel less like a victim and more in control of how I react, what I tell, and in what form I tell it.  It’s my story and I’m ready to tell it.