Where is God in All This

We sat on the concrete bench. My eldest son, only five or so at the time, looked out over the city from our perch. Cochabamba boasts of possessing the tallest statue of Christ in the world. We took some visitors up the hill to see it. As they meandered we sat.

“Mama, you know, God is nice to mean people, too,” he said without breaking his gaze.

“Oh, why do you say that?” I asked.

“Well, even if you are nice or mean you still get the air and the rain and the sun,” he explained.

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One of the most ancient names we know of God is ‘I AM’. Later we hear the words of Christ and know that I AM is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our eternal Lord inhabits the expanse of the Heavens and the Earth, He influences all of time and space, He exists.

To know and believe that God exists unconstrained by our human constructs, yet moving and being within them, is to trust that His character and power affect us all. Regardless of the definition one might give to the way she or he relates with God, or avoids relating with God, we are subject to the Sovereignty of His Majesty; Our Humble King reigns.

God is Love. Sovereign Love casts out all fear. He leads me beside still waters, in paths of righteousness, and through valleys shadowed by death, for His name’s sake. But I gotta still move my feet.

I AM in the air, the rain, and the sun.

I AM in the seen, the unseen, and the hoped for.

I AM in all.

I AM with the evil, and with the kind.

I AM with the doubter, eyes wide open, and with the believer, eyes pressed shut tight, in prayer, in denial, in defeat.

I AM with all.

I AM.

So I trust that He is in all this happening in and around me right now, as he has been from the beginning of time, and will be for all eternity.

Side by side we walk, He and I. Sometime I veer this way or that and He enjoys the exploration, as long as we are together. Sometimes I feel Him take my hand and whisper in my ear, and I lean into His woos. Other times He and I commune in the simple talks between friends, in the deep thoughts shared, in the confessions laid bare in intimacy. He is there, He is here, because He is.

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A woman told me that when she was a child she carried one of her mother’s high heeled shoes in her backpack. She was so scared of God’s punishment that she armed herself in the case He should jump out and try to get her. Her plan was to throw the shoe at Him and run away.

Can I tell you that with all these hard times we are living there have been moments when I want to throw a shoe at God? But not so much in fear, rather in indignant anger. I thought I did everything “right”. I thought I followed all the rules. I thought I took the path of greatest devotion. I’m a missionary, for Christ’s sake!

All the while that I am throwing shoes of deserving dutiful devotion laced with manipulative attempts of purchasing a good life at God’s chest, He doesn’t go away. He takes it. He opens His Easter arms, smiles wide and tells me, “Come on, take your best shot, give it all you’ve got, get it all out, I can take it.” He doesn’t run and hide from my insults and fury. He is the I AM Who can withstand my deepest outbursts of rage.

Then my arms fall limp, battle sore and weary. He is, still. He bends His battered form next to mine. He leans my head on His bruised chest. He is, still.

God is in the voice of my counselor. God is in the tears of my friends as they weep with me. God is in the arms of my daughter wrapped around me. God is in this, all this, everywhere. I trust Him.

I trust Him to be able to take it when I question the silence. I trust Him to be able to take it when I want to blame, accuse, and judge. I trust Him to take it all and make it all into something that will be well, and good.

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Firsts Bolivia Gave Me

“It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever,” I said with tears blurring my vision as I spoke with my oldest Bolivian friend sitting in front of me in the coffee shop today.

She gave me a butterfly ring as a going away gift, to match my first tattoo. “These are wings as you go on the next part of the journey God has for you.” I settled in and listened, as I have learned to do when I know the time has come to listen, to her speak out from her heart blessings, encouragement, sweet memories, and kind wishes. Bolivians know how to make heartfelt speeches. I was touched.

butterfly ring

Bolivia has given me many ‘firsts’. I came as a 25 year old mother of three small children, practically a blank canvas just getting started with life. Remember those lists I was talking about in the previous post? Here’s a fun one I did.

Firsts in Bolivia

1. Kiss on the cheek greeting

2. Sushi

3. Pedicure

4. Climbed a mountain to the summit

5. Got a massage

6. Went to a spa

7. Changed my mind about drinking

8. Learned I prefer white wine over red

9. Officiated a wedding

10. Served as a pastor

11. Ate Indian food

12. Stayed at a 5 star hotel

13. Got a tattoo

14. Got on social media

15. Used the sci-fi predicted miracle that is Skype

16. Blogged

17. Wrote a book

18. Bore a Bolivian child

19. Adopted a Bolivian child

20. Had major surgery

21. Learned Spanish

22. Held a baby abandoned on a the doorstep

23. Held the hand of a friend as she was losing her baby at 19 weeks of pregnancy

24. Fell in love with cactus plants

25. Got jumped at knife point

26. Owned a cell phone

27. Owned a good camera

28. Became the mother of teenagers

29. Co-founded an orphanage

30. Co-founded a school

31. Co-founded an international collective blog

32. Traveled internationally by myself

33. Traveled internationally with only my nursing baby as company

34. Traveled internationally with only my five children as company

35. Built a snowman with my kids

36. Won an award for my photography

37. Visited children who live in a prison with their criminal parents

38. Ate Bolivian food

 

Since I am now 38 years old I’ll stop there.

We are looking at a season of some new firsts for our family. Some will be fun, some terrifying, some silly, and some very serious.

Please pray with us about a huge first for our youngest, Kaitlynn. She will soon, by the grace of God, become for the first time in her life a citizen of the United States of America. There is paperwork, appointments, and other rigamarole to get through for this to happen. Not impossible, just needs to get done along with all the other stuff that is happening right now. Thanks so much for praying with us.

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Transition Tools

Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning

Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning

Since we started moving in the direction of moving I started moving towards resources to help with the move. More specifically, I started to gather aids to help our family with this impending Time of Transition.

One thing I have learned from being on the team of A Life Overseas is to not take the resilience of the children for granted. Third Culture Kids need to be given the gift of vocabulary to be able to communicate as they process their transient life. They need to know where they belong and how they fit; and it is our privilege as parents to guide their eyes to the truth of who they are.

I have also picked up on the fact that transition is inescapable in life. We can choose to be intentional about the work it is doing in our lives, or we can ignore it and become emotionally constipated and bitter. The emotional ups and downs and sideways and backwards and loop-do-loops that everyone in our family is experiencing all at once must be validated.

Funny thing, too, I have discovered that we are not the only ones doing this kind of thing. Tons of others have been-there-done-that and tons more are right here in-the-thick thickness of it all. Following is a list of some of the things we are using to help us through this transition. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box. Also, following the list I have included a very special request about a “dream tool” I would like to add to our Transition Tool Box.

Twenty Transition Tools to Try:

1. Counselor via Skype

2. Book – –  Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by: William Bridges

3. Book – –  As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir, by: Kay Bruner

4. Velvet Ashes Article – – I Have Listened to Your Stories, by: Melissa Chaplin

5. A Life Overseas archive – – Third Culture Kid

6. YouTube: Canadian lady, Robin Pascoe on Repatriation

7. Video from a French lady, Anne Gillme: “7 Tragic Mistakes Families Make When Moving Abroad

8. Email subscription through the website of the French lady: Expatriate Connection

9. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: Geographically close people who I can be intimately authentic with

10. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: I call, skype with, email, facebook chat, etc. who I can also pour myself out to without fear of rejection

11. Journal – – A magical awakening of my spirit stirs to life as my hand makes the shapes of letters, words, and phrases. As my ears hear the slight scrape of the pencil on the page the crusty, dry encasement of my soul scrapes away to reveal a clarity not known before the slow quieting of writing.

12. Reading aloud to my children – – I read a portion from a book or a new article I have found about transition, third culture kids, etc. aloud and then we talk about it. I ask leading questions to get them to voice what is going on inside of them. This has also built a beautiful trust within the siblings.

13. Charts around the house – – Like the image above

14. Lists – – I make some kind of list or chart every day for all kinds of things. Allowing myself to go a little overboard with the list making as we go through this transition has been soothing and helpful.

15. Crying, Laughing, Shouting, Sleeping, Watching Shows, Saying the Hard Things… living in the moment. For most of my life I shunned emotions. This has been a huge point of growth for me to value emotions, and not be scared of any of them. Attentive to my emotion at the moment I allow it to be expressed in a healthy manner, then I move on.

16. Coffee

17. Enneagram study- – This is an ancient tool aiding in self awareness and appreciation for the diversity in the people around us

18. Travel – – If I don’t have a trip to look forward to I can become stir crazy; I know this about myself. To keep sane I plan trips.

19. Exercise – – I jog

20. Nails – – Self-care is the catch phrase I hear often as I educate myself about transition. Getting my nails done is a tiny bit of that. Every time I see my cute nails I am reminded that it is good and necessary to take measures to care for myself.

Dream Tool:

Almost every missionary who has been through a similar transition speaks of debriefing. Most recommend this one in Colorado called MTI. Here is what a friend had to say:

“…the program at MTI is just wonderful for the kids. That is one of the reasons we went there rather than somewhere else. Just wanted to let you know, too, that the debriefing program is not actually counseling. They will recommend counseling afterwards if they think you need it but they don’t do counseling. It’s really just a place to share your story and process what you have been through. The most valuable part for us was being with others who were sharing their stories and realizing that even though locations and circumstances were different, we were all going through the same processes and we were not alone! Just normalizing our experiences was so beneficial. The program at MTI is also just one week.”

Here’s the thing folks, and I am just being real here, the week for our family would cost thousands of dollars. Oftentimes when a missionary is connected to an organization these kind of services are provided. As independent missionaries in a bit of a money bind this idea sounds unreachable to me. But I want so much for our family to being able to do this! Can you pray with me? Should God desire for us to attend a debriefing I trust that He will provide for it. Thanks friends.

Join the Facebook group a friend started for us if you would like to help with practical needs as we set up our new home:

Welcome Back Washingtons

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