Tuesday, April 08, 2014

I'm Sorry...

As some of you may know my Grandma on my dad's side passed away two weeks ago.  At the last minute I decided to make the trip to celebrate her life (thanks to my super generous folks) and it was the best decision I've ever made.
I met precious family I had never had the privilege to meet, grieved with them and was able to spend some quality time with just my dad, my mom and me (rare and tremendous.)
If I stopped there, that would not be the WHOLE story and as you know I'm not one to NOT keep it real.

You see, I also decided I needed a little help. I have been struggling with a lot of emotions the past few years and I figured it was about time to talk to someone who might know a little bit about this:) A.K.A. a psychologist.  I spent a few days alone in their cabana talking to an incredible psychologist and his incredible wife.  Between the two of them we figured out a few things:)  Mainly that I deal with a lot of fear.  Fear of failure and fear of being weak amongst many others.  This has caused a lot of ugly reactions and a lot of hurt on my part.  The good news though is that we've called it out, we've faced it and now I'm better equipped for war (as I feel it is sometimes:)
I'm trying to condense this weekend and all the emotional crap that I sifted thru into that last sentence because that's actually not the purpose of this post.  If you want more on that then email me, I'll be glad to talk to about it.  

I've been home for a week now, as of today.  It's been a good week.  I've been talking to friends, having sweet talks with my awesome hubs, spending quality time with my kids (i.e. not yelling at them:) and all in all I feel like I'm heading in the right direction.  Then I called a great friend of mine.... and a long talk led me to this post (this is honestly me trying to condense SOOO much in my mind and my heart and my ADD kicking in, into an organized post.  I'm trying folks!)

While we were talking this is what she shared "Stephanie, I got onto Facebook to look at a friends post about her sick child (she doesn't have her own account which I think might be a smart thing for me too:) and ALL I saw were christians in full-on debates.  About the dumb Noah movie, about World Vision and their stance on gay marriage etc...  How could people that share the same Holy Spirit inside of them that I have, say some of the things they are saying?!?!  My whole life I've never doubted my faith until now.  This has all got to be a joke!  Why in the world could you explain the things being said and the way we treat each other?!?!"

Silence.  What do you say?  What do I say?  The truth is... I have felt the EXACT same way.  I've never been so aware of the way that Christ's lovers treat each other more than I have the past 4 years on the field....as a missionary.

My heart is pounding as I'm typing and I'm trying HARD to practice my deep breathing that I learned in yoga (that's right, I take yoga folks and before you might even think to gear your thoughts one way be careful...because I have had more prayer time and quiet time with God in yoga class then I have ANYwhere else. Ok, I'm done)

You can look back at over 160 posts on this blog or over 150 short blurbs on Facebook and I can almost guarantee that you will not find anything too controversial on there. Why?  Probably a lot of fear (which I mentioned earlier, so see I am tying this together somehow:) but also because the best question is why would I?
As I was talking to my precious friend I told her that I fully felt her heart.  We both have hearts for justice.  In fact we are justice SEEKERS.  I have done a LOT of things wrong in my life as a Christ follower/lover.  I have doubted more times than I can count.  In fact as I mentioned before, I have doubted my faith more as a missionary than I have any other time in my life.  I've been bitter, disappointed, sad and down-right ANGRY about so many things since I've been here.  I've seen churches do some ugly things on account of tradition, I've seen people get hurt on account of "sticking to what is right", I've read words that cut to make a point and I've steered clear of all these debates here in my own little world.

Well folks, I'm coming back. That's right, we are headed back the US next year (I will give you the FULL story in a later post, I promise:) and it's something that has caused a lot of anxiety in me but I have at least 9 months to work through that so that's what I plan on doing and here is how:

LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, LOVE SIMPLY

You know since I have been here in Lima, one of my biggest fears has been to teach the bible to others.  I know you can go ahead and laugh or gasp or whatever.  I've literally tried all I could to avoid that part of mission work (believe me there are many more parts in case you are wondering, we don't do 60 hours of one on one studies each week) out of fear that I will fail someone at the first question they ask that I can't answer.  BUT the other night when I was on the phone I realized something- sometimes relishing in the mystery of God, being in an intimate relationship with God and loving Him and his people is NOT rocket science.  I KNOW how to do that.  I KNOW how to serve and use my gifts and I have been doing that here in spite of the emotional and spiritual turmoil inside my head.

There are some things that I see as black and white but there is SO much gray for me in the Bible that sometimes it makes my eyes cross!  I KNOW I don't have it figured out and I can assure you nobody does.  I've stripped off that fear that "people know SOOO much more than me about the word so who am I to study with someone."  My simple mind has it down to 3 things:

LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE, LOVE SIMPLY

Here is where the title comes in. I'm sure I have NOT been a good example of that to people that don't know Christ, to people that are on the edge of making that decision or to people that have proclaimed the Lord as their savior.  For this I am SO sorry.   I'm sorry for putting doubt into that unbeliever.  I'm sorry if I have said anything on this blog or on Facebook that has caused someone that was curious about this life I lead to be turned off by my words or actions.

I'm NOT here to debate theology, nor to debate gay marriage, not here to discuss the use of a guitar in service, nor my sister in Christ praying in church or not, nor church names,  nor Noah movies, nor water emersion, alcohol drinking or anything else.  If you want that debate, I don't have time. You want to know why?  Cause I'm busy-

LOVING GOD, LOVING PEOPLE, LOVING SIMPLY

Do I think it's actually this simple?  Yeah, I do.  It's how I'm choosing to live and I honestly believe that if we spent HALF of the time we spend debating on Facebook, slandering each other and other precious humans and spent that time loving on them, we might actually have nothing to talk about.

P.S. Just wanted to add (after waking up at 1:00am in a sweat:) that this is NOT to say that I am not going to be stumbling, falling and making MANY mistakes (as I already have, Lord help me) along this journey BUT it just means that I'm hoping that all the others claiming to be on this same journey of loving God and loving people,  will also grant me the same grace we were so graciously given.

P.S.S. This also does not mean that I don't have some strong convictions about certain things.  It just means that God's first two commandments are CLEAR and even when certain things might make me angry, sad or just have me disagree that I am FIRST called to Love.  That means there is a certain arena, manner and loving way in which to handle questions, debates or thoughts.
Ok, now I'm really done.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The One Year Malaria Anniversary (is that seriously a TITLE?!?!)

Ok, so first of all I'm going to have to admit that as I got on the blog to write tonight I could NOT remember how to log in.  That means... I'm not a blogger.  I also noticed (when I finally figured it out) that we had ONE yes ONE post (the adoption announcement) in between when I posted about our awesome jungle trip (you know that place that the CDC here in Lima told us NOT to take malaria medicine because there wasn't any there:)

I honestly can't believe it's been a year since the most awesome man in my life got bit by a dumb mosquito and caused our family to go through two of the worst weeks of our lives.  I don't need to recount those two weeks because I'm sure you know the gist of it but I will say this- I am SO thankful that God answered our fervent prayers in the way we were begging.   I've told the story too many times to count but the part that gets me all teary each time is the way that God POURED out his blessings on our family during the month of March.  I still sometimes recall a kind act that I had forgotten about.  Like as I was planning my kids parties the last couple weeks, it made me remember how the Wissmans and their whole Chorillos crew came an hour early to Maddox's party and literally threw the whole party together in 45 minutes.  I mean people this list could go ON and ON.  My brother was in San Antonio hunting down doctors in random hospitals to get advice.  My teammates spent EVERY hour by my side just so we had two people with Lee at all times.  My best friend from high school (a nurse) was gathering info and emailing me non-stop.  Ok, I better stop or I could seriously go ALL night.

This is just all to say that God is GOOD!  It irritates me to the core that I doubt this so much when I have the perfect example of that every time I see my hotty of a husband walking around our house and wrestling with our kids.  Man, I am blessed.  Anyway, just wanted to acknowledge that it has been a year and we have made it through with flying colors (minus that little relapse in May:)
He is doing awesome and I love him more with every day that goes by.  

Happy Malaria Survival Day!!!



 The day we thought he looked AWESOME!  Then soon to get tons of messages telling me how horrible he looked, HAHA!  Hey in comparison he DID look awesome here:)
This picture of the room gives the chills and I would be ok if we NEVER went there again:) Spent WAY too many hours here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Our Journey Continues to Get Exciting!!!!


It’s only been over a year since I posted on this blog so I thought I would come back with a BANG!!!
This blog all started with our journey to Peru.  You journeyed with us to Costa Rica for language school.  You grieved with us at the loss of our unborn baby Levi.  You laughed (and probably rolled your eyes a few times) at our ups and downs about living the crazy life of missionaries in Lima, Peru.   You prayed for our family through mission projects, fundraising, hard times as parents, health issues with our kids and more recently our malaria craze! Well now we want to ask you all to join us on another journey….Adoption.

As I write that word A LOT of emotions flood my mind and my heart.  I’m excited and scared to death all at the same time.   It’s no secret that parenting has been a journey in itself for me and some people are probably reading this thinking “what in the WORLD are you guys thinking!?!?!” and well, they would be right.

It’s something that I have dreamed about since I was 14 years old and started going on mission trips to Haiti and Romania.  I dreamed of adopting two little Haitians with afros as big as mine and NOTHING would stop me.  I was even blessed enough to marry a man who also wanted to adopt children one day.  Then something happened… I had kids of my own.  All these fears and negative feelings I never had before started creeping into my heart and soul.  Words like “you don’t have enough patience for more”, “you have a hard enough time with the 3 you already have!”, "you don't like crafts, playing barbies for hours and can't even keep up with chore charts! , "what if you feel differently about your adopted kids than your biological kids?" and on and on and on.  

So, I started talking and thinking about it less.  It was still a hope that Lee and I would talk about every once in a while but soon became a touchy subject with us.  He was still 100% in and I was just not there.  This past year Lee and I had some hard talks and he shared how hard my "backing out" of adoption was.  I told him I wasn't backing out, I was just needing some time to get ready (I think I was waiting for a sign like having a kid dropped off on my doorstep as one of those "sure signs.") We quickly found out that even our views on adoption weren't quite the same and wondered how in the world we were going to compromise on an issue such as a child.  I wanted slightly older, he wanted younger.  I wanted Haitians or Africans and he wanted whatever.  He wanted them yesterday and I wanted to wait until our kids were older.  Then something else happened at the end of last year.... I read a book and my heart slowly began to change.   Lee and I came to these conclusion:

We realized that those verses in the bible that say to take care of the orphans and widows were for real.
We realized that we had 3 kids that were dying for some siblings and not only open to adoption but begging for it.
We realized that every call isn't necessarily what you want or how you want it but that's the perfect kind of mess that helps us to lean on the One we are suppose to.  
We also realized that lots of kids need loving home and well...we had one available.  Boom.  It was actually that simple.  

When I started viewing adoption as a calling instead of fearing all the unknowns and waiting for something magical to happen in me, the ball started rolling.  I started realizing that there was never going to be a perfect time or I was never going to have enough patience on my own, so I told myself to get over it.  This was a challenge.  A challenge for me to let go of ME and let God move.  I figured I've been called to other things in the past where I didn't feel sufficient (oh I don't know like being a MISSIONARY!)  and God provided in mighty ways, so here we go!  I'm going answer the call (gulp) and then just depend on God for all the rest (Lord knows I hope He has a few tricks up His sleeve:)

So here is the beginning of our story folks.  Our meeting last night was just another confirmation that THIS is right.  We had so many questions and thought at some point that they would tell us we couldn't adopt because of timing, that we already had too many kids, that getting the child into the US would be too hard or that we wouldn't be able to have two.  Well ALL of our questions were met with positivity and encouragement.  

We start our adoption classes next week and they will run for 6 weeks.  During that period we will be SCRAMBLING to get a ton of paperwork done.  We have to have tons of documents notarized in the US then shipped here etc... it will NOT be easy but it will be worth it.  We will also need to find an agency in the US that will agree to 3 years of post-adoption counseling and paperwork.  Were going to take this one day at a time though and not get overwhelmed (who am I kidding?!?!  I know I will have MANY overwhelming days, haha!)  
We should be on the waiting list in 6 months and at that point we can get a call at any time that will give us 7 days to accept or deny that child.  We are going for TWO (we have a thing about wanting two kids that look alike so they have someone they can physically relate to in the family, though Maddox is looking more and more like a Peruvian these days:)  We can't choose gender but lets not lie, we are hoping for a boy and a girl.  Obviously we will be happy with whatever we get:)

Well this is as much as I know at this point.  I love that you all are going to be on this journey with us in so many different capacities!!!  Mostly we just need prayers for peace, for quick paperwork and to prepare all of our hearts for whoever God brings to our family.  

Oh and I will accept any adoption advice ever known to man!  I'm going to need all the help, lawyers, agencies, prayers, advice, books, counseling that you can ever imagine!!!  Let's DO THIS!!!!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Welcome to the Jungle...

...we got fun and games (you knew that was coming, didn't you?).

After a long dry spell, I wanted to break open the blog again with a brief post about our most recent trip in Peru.  Ever since being here, we've wanted to travel and see this place a bit.  Its not always easy to make it happen due to time and work constraints (as well as cash flow, ha!) but when we can we've enjoyed seeing different places here.

Just recently we visited Iquitos.  We'd been to the jungle before but never the deep jungle but now we can say we have.  In short, the trip was amazing.  We got to spend some great time as a family, see some amazing animals, hear the sounds and see the sights, and also spend the trip with some good friends that went with us (the Goodfellows, check out their blog post:  http://www.goodfellowfamily.blogspot.com/).

Apart from a snag at departure (Lee missed our flight to Iquitos because he HAD to take his BB gun and the Peruvians threw a hissy-fit (no worries, he got on the next one soon after) and a trip to the hospital (Maddox got to feeling pretty nasty), we had an amazing time.  We ate the local foods (such as Suri (a grub worm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6aaCTOIzPU)), homemade sausage (wouldn't recommend it), great fruit, amazing fish from the rivers, and even some Texas BBQ at the Yellow Rose of Texas which was good but way overrated and certainly not Texan (I think the guy is actually Cajun.)  We also saw some jaguars, held monkeys (an item on my bucket list!), swam in the rivers, saw the Amazon and road in I don't know how many boats.  Our lodge was in a local village of about 300 people which was an amazing place.  We'd walk the dirt roads in the afternoons and talk to the villagers and Lee even got asked to preach (which he did) at a Catholic church that only has a priest come once every three months.  Picture a small village church, maybe 20 people present, and almost pitch black minus 3 small candles burning.  Those that were there were so kind to us and so sweet to allow Lee to speak.  In short, the trip was wonderful.  We made some memories for a life-time!

I've posted a few pics so you can see a little bit of what we we're blessed to see and do.


   
                           
                              The 3 Stooges                                                          Mogli resting up
                This pic shows their personalities

   

                   Some of the kids out for a row                                               What a cutie!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Worst Missionary Ever...

So obviously if you even come over to our blog anymore and haven't given up on us writing then you are a faithful friend (or have an automatic alert when I post:)  It has been months since I've posted anything and I have been trying to figure out why!

The answer finally came a few days ago...fear.  I've realized that in a world of amazing award winning blogs, unbelievably crafty moms, politically correct readers and all of our income coming from folks that subscribe to this blog I started growing a fear.  I wanted my post to be meaningful, funny, deep, funny, filled with pictures, funny and that would make people go "wow, they are some good missionaries or just good folk!" So.... I quit writing. HA!  I got tired of that feeling of wanting to share with friends and family what was really going on in my heart and not knowing how to contort it, put big words in it, attach the right picture to it, say it to where I still came out on top or to just make it well...pretty.

This post won't have a picture (though don't worry I'll post pictures on the next ones to catch you guys up on MONTHS of adventures:) and I'm not going to make it pretty.  It will probably look more like vomit.

Here is the truth- by some standards I would be considered the WORST MISSIONARY EVER!  I say by SOME standards because this is NOT a pity party.  There are days I've bought into that lie and wondered how in the world God could use me in Lima, Peru and then God throws me a morsel and says "see Steph!  I want to use you.  I don't have to have you but I WANT to use you here!"
But, on those other days when I do buy into that lie it's because of this:

1.  Faith.  For the past 4 years I have struggled a TON with my faith.  I've shared this several times in other posts but I've done a pretty good job of sugar-coating it.  Let me break it down for you.  Since losing Levi 4 years ago september 4th I've struggled with God.  I've struggled to understand our call here though obviously I've been able to live here and truly love it.  I've felt like I've been sliding by on very little and keep having SO many questions with not a ton of answers.  I've struggled with truth vs interpretation.

2.  Words.  Since I've been on the mission field I've struggled with my tongue!  Confession time...I've said more bad words in the past 3 years then I have in my entire life.  Why?  It's called Road Rage.  That's all I can say.  It's not an excuse but when your yelled at, cut off 13 times in one day, cut off from a car in the far right lane that decides to go left, hit by buses and then tried to get talked into the fact that it was my fault since he was illegally cutting me off but did have his "turning signal" on, well that has led to a few bad words and even me hitting a taxi... on purpose.  Yes, I did.  I've repented.  I don't think well be putting a sticker on the back of our car with anything like "I heart missionaries" anytime soon.

3.  Parenting.  I've NOT been a good missionary mama to my children.  Truly parenting has been a struggle.  I dreamed my whole life of being a mom and then when I became one I had to figure out what I had been thinking all those years:)  Don't get me wrong I LOVE my kiddos.  They are hilarious and obnoxious all at the same time.  I had a wise woman tell me that I am the perfect mom for MY kids and that has proven to be so true!  BUT, I know that I have not done my part in a lot of ways and I want to speak differently to them.  I want to speak softly (and not grunt or scream), I want to speak words of truth and encouragement and not have my kids feel defeated after I've spent 10 minutes telling them why their behavior is that of a farm animal.

4. Prayer.   I've also been in a real struggle with my prayer life.  I struggle to feel or hear God in my prayer life.  I've also struggled with this question- "if God already knows the outcome of a situation then what is the purpose of me asking for something different?"  I've had SO many people give me answers for this and they make sense but then I revert back to my same questions and thoughts.  I talk to God, oh do we talk.  I spend so much time begging, asking, talking etc... that I'm not sure I would even hear Him if He was giving me some responses.  I continuously pray for answers and intimacy with Him and all along He's probably just sitting there in a rocking chair rocking back and forth waiting for me to crawl up and have a seat.  

4.  The Bible.  Ok, so let's recap.  I'm a missionary who... struggles with her faith and her disbelief, says bad words, needs to go to parenting etiquette school and has a hard time praying.  Awesome.  So I'll just go ahead and throw in the towel and explain my struggle with the bible.  I have the hardest time being in the word!  That's right, I'm a missionary who struggles reading her bible.  All I know is that I'm really glad that Lee is the one "officially" getting paid as the missionary because I should be fired by now:)  I now am the proud owner of 7 bibles.  All different and holding the promise that THIS one I will understand and do a better job of consistently reading it.
I WANT to read it.  I want to understand it.  I want to be able to quote verses when someone needs it.  I'll just settle for knowing details to most childhood bible stories!  (not really I wouldn't settle for that.  Just being explicit here.)
I will say that I've found several studies that I love and that has really helped me in understanding the bible better but I have this burning desire just to BE in the word, understanding it and applying it.  I don't want to have to rely on a guided study anytime I want to understand the word.   I mean imagine the bible studies that I try to be a part of here, in Spanish for that matter.  I start getting sweaty armpits before it even starts that someone is going to ask me a question and that I won't know the answer.  So there.  It's all out there.

My Hope...
Here is my hope for those of you reading this.  I hope that you are encouraged.  I hope that if you ever thought that missionaries have it all together (I know, that's funny) then this should completely end THAT nonsense.
I hope that if you struggle with any of these that you now know you are not alone.
I hope that if you feel encouraged by reading this, that you might learn that sharing struggles is freeing and that it takes strength away from Satan!
I hope that you will pick one or all of these struggles I've shared and put them on the fore-front of your prayer list.
I hope that some of you more older, wiser women will find younger women and just assume that they could use your wisdom.  Oh how I have wished in the past 4 years that some women would have approached me and just asked me about my faith walk and took me under their wing.  I think older women have such a gift, a gift of experience, a gift of wisdom and there have been so many times I've needed to be put in my place, given a plan, needed to be prayed over, given me parenting wisdom or a just an encouraging word to let me know this will pass.
Please here me say that I have some incredible women in my life that have filled those needs at times but when it comes to mentoring and wisdom more is BETTER!  I also know that there have been times that those needs haven't been met and I know there are other women out there struggling with some of these things (guys too!) and if some of you more "experienced/wise" (trying to stay away from the word "older":) ladiesnhave ever felt weird about asking a younger wife, a younger mom, a younger missionary if they could use your expertise or prayers I'm gonna guess the answer will be "YES!!!"  So my HOPE is that more of this happens or maybe that just one person will feel called to seek out someone younger to take under their wing after this.

The Good News...
Here is the "other side of the story."  As I am still struggling with all of these (and obviously there is a lot more that I struggle with but I try to have some discernment in details of my vomit on a blog:) God has also been gentle and patient.  One of the huge ways He has showed up recently is through two books called 7 and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.   This will have to be left for a different post but let me tell you that I have been changed.  Like I said, I still struggle BUT after reading these books I've realized that I have no desire to go back to who I was and how I was before this lull.  I want to be different.  I want to be extreme and I want to do it ALL because that is who and how I think God has called me to be.   The first thing I learned is exactly what I just did today.  I'm freeing myself from the shell or bubble if you will of where I was living.

Just recently I was talking with a Peruvian sister that had made a mistake and she said "I just don't want to go to church because I'm too embarrassed to show my face."  I was CRUSHED!!!  What image was I, our church here in Lima and thinking bigger here-our Christian community around the world putting on if our new christians were too embarrassed to show up if they had made a mistake?!?!  I sat her down and tried hard to not get loud when I said "what in the world do you think our community is for???  If church was only for people that didn't make mistakes then we would be out of a job and there would be no church!" I continued to explain that that is exactly where she needed to be, among a group of people that loved her and excepted her just the way she was, NO questions asked.   I have to say though, I pondered over this one for days!!!  
I thought to myself "am I doing my part to build a community that encourages confession?  That encourages times of sharing joys, sorrows, pain? That shares my own struggles so that others know that so many others are in the same boat???  What am I doing to make church NOT be about programs, entertainment, award winning crafts, whether or not God prefers a guitar or not etc....?  How am I trying to build pure community, pure worship and a pure relationship with God?

So, that's where I'm at.  I'm a struggling 33 year old wife, mother of 3, missionary here in Lima Peru that is on a journey of something more pure and more extreme.  Easy.

PS If you haven't read Interrupted or 7 can I suggest you do?  Oh and this is coming from someone who NEVER reads self-help or Christian books (there I go again trying to get fired!  Hey there is nothing in the bible that says I have to read those types of books... right???  Oh but I'm on a role with this "new me" and I'm going for my 3rd soon-Mother Teresa!  Surely that ones gotta be good!)