Wednesday, June 30th

Am spending most of the day at home today, organizing my room, answering emails, doing laundry, and just catching up on "stuff."  As Bill and Peg Pearson told me, much of missionary life is just doing those everyday activities that we all have to do!  Rather than bore you with details of the hum-drum facts of live here, thought I'd share with you something I read in the book Gracias! by Henri Nouwen.

In it he quotes an unidentified Latin American Catholic Bishop who has a message for all of us who go to Latin America as missionaries. I think it's worth sharing since many of my friends are interested in and/or support missions. Here are the Bishop's words to us:

Walk with Us in Our Search
  • Help us discover our own riches; don't judge us poor because we lack what you have.
  • Help us discover our chains; don't judge us slaves by the type of shackles you wear.
  • Be patient with us as a people; don't judge us backward simply because we don't follow your stride.
  • Be patient with our pace; don't judge us lazy simply because we can't follow your tempo.
  • Be patient with our symbols; don't judge us ignornatnt because we can't read your signs.
  • Be with us and proclaim the richness of your life which you can share with us.
  • Be with us and be open to what we can give.
  • Be with us as a companion who walks with us--neither behind nor in front--in our search for life, and ultimately for God. (From Gracias, a Latin American Journal, by Henri Nouwen) 
I've sought for years for the right way to say this, and this man comes as close to my heart as anyone ever has. On my first trip to Nicaragua in 2001, I arrogantly went down thinking I was taking Jesus to people who desperately need Him. This was true. The Nicaraguans desperately need Him. My arrogance was in thinking that as an educated North American, I could share Him "better" than the nationals could.

How humbling it was when, early on my first morning there, an elderly lady who I'd helped down the hillside embraced me saying (in Spanish), "You are my sister in Christ. Someday I will see you in heaven." That lady taught me that I'd not come to Nicaragua to bring Jesus (at least not any more than I am called to do this in my daily life in the United States), but that I'd come to meet Him who was already there in His people. I immediately fell off my elevated estimation of what I could give, and began to walk alongside this woman, and many others, seeking Jesus together. I will forever be grateful to this poor, uneducated, godly lady in San Francisco del Norte, Nicaragua, for teaching me more about missions in one sentence than all the books I've read or the seminars I attended.

So, as we go to Latin America (or anywhere else), let us take Jesus there. In the same way we do each day, by the fact that He lives in us and through us. But let us also look to meet Him wherever we go. Remember, He told us He was present in the "least of these." Let's not miss Him and what He has to teach us through our "foreign" brothers and sisters as we seek His face together.

And, if given the opportunity, do go. You'll never be the same if you do!

Tuesday--June 29th

Woke up this morning to bright sunshine.  Was a real treat after expecting 48 hours of heavy rain.  Evidently Alex changed direction a bit.  I kinda half know what is going on in the world, as I'm watching/listening to the news in Spanish and catch about every other word.  It's getting to be easier to speak only Spanish, but every morning it seems I have to "reorient" my mind, as I still dream in English!

It struck me this morning at breakfast, how eating here is used as a "de-stresser."  I know I seem to be writing a lot about food, but the social customs associated with eating fascinate me.  I was so used to eating at the kitchen counter while I worked around the house, I don't think I ever really enjoyed the relaxation property of a good meal. 

Guess I'm writing this to encourage those of you in the US to consider implementing a family dinner one night a week.  Not just to eat together and then rush off to watch TV or other activities.  But to eat slowly, savoring the company as much as the food.  Somehow this practice seems to help me reconnect with my heart and spirit.  I can feel the tension drain away as we visit about nothing of any importance.  The emphasis is on the connection, not the content.  I realize this was one of the things that drew me to Guatemala in the first place!

When I got to the orphanage today, I found a young woman I have known for a number of years waiting for me.  She has been having great difficulties in her life and wanted to talk with me.  If I ever thought it was difficult to give Biblical counsel in English, it's nothing compared to how hard it is for me to do in Spanish.  But, thanks to God's grace, I think I was able to speak the truth with love.  Please pray for Lily as she makes some difficult decisions.

When I got to the children's area, I discovered that Bobbi (whose picture began this entry) was not in his bed, but right next to the nurses' desk.  He is having a lot of chest congestion, and some vomiting, so they started him on an IV.  Please pray for him.  I know it doesn't sound like much, but these guys are so medically fragile that even a small cold or the flu can become life threatening overnight.

Later in the day, Dick, two of his neighborhood kids (Esbin & Brian) and I took four of the kids from Hermano Pedro to lunch.  I took Carlitos who is fairly new to the orphanage and had never been to Pollo Campero before.  What a treat it was.  He usually eats a type of mush at the home, and I wasn't too sure how he would do with real food.  Not only could he eat it, he fed himself most of it.  He didn't know how to drink from a straw at first, but once he tasted Pepsi, he figured it out quickly.  Dick thinks Carlitos has found a new "mama" (me) and I'm pretty sure I've got another "favorite" to visit each day. 

We let the kids play on the playground for a while, though Carlitos' legs are so twisted he can't really get around without a lot of help.  He seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching the other kids climbing and sliding.  Carlitos has a belly laugh that warms my heart.

On the way home I got caught in a sudden cloud burst, and didn't manage to find a tuk-tuk (a Guatemalan scooter taxi) until about half way home.  As I walked in the door, Mari told me to hurry and change.  She had a surprise for me, and we were going out. 

We ended up at the small village of San Pedro, close to Antigua, and up the side of the Agua volcano.  This village has a week long fiesta to honor the feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ).  The fiesta began today and runs through Sunday.  There were many religious displays, four marimba bands, Gigantes dancers (giants) and LOTS of food (what else would there be in Guatemala?).  

Today I broke the rule of never eating "street food" and tasted some wonderful new dishes served by the lady who runs the local grocery store in San Pedro.  We started our walking dinner with corn-on-the-cob, covered with lime juice and salt.  Very different from the butter we smother it with, and I think I like it better.  We then had deep fried tortillas filled with cheese, and covered with tomato sauce and cabbage.  Dessert was milk and rice served as a drink.  It doesn't sound very appealing, I know, and I was hesitant to try it at first.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was like a drinkable rice pudding. 

It was a bit strange when I realized I was probably the only white person in the entire town, but no one seemed to mind.  This was a new experience for me, though, because whenever I've gone into villages before, I've always been with American missionaries.  This time I was with a bunch of Guatemalan women.  I am grateful for the way they have accepted me, and they seem to delight in exposing me to all things Guatemalan.  I imagine I will learn a lot more from them in the coming days.

(Since I didn't know where we were going, I didn't take my camera.  I'm filling in tonight with a couple pictures from the internet!)

Monday, June 28

I rode along to take Donna to the airport this morning.  I was sad to see her go, but I know she's anxious to get back to her family, and it will be good for me to find a routine to settle into as I work with the kids.  Thank you, Donna for all you did and will continue to do for the kids at Hermano Pedro. 

Estella, the lady who runs the shuttle we use, is becoming a friend.  I'm learning the truth of the adage that in Hispanic communities "the friend of my friend is my friend."  After we dropped Donna off at the airport, she asked if I minded if we ran a few errands.  Eager to see more of Guatemala City, of course I agreed.

Our first stop was the Internation Bank where Estelle needed to have some papers copied.  We entered a building that could have been any large bank in the US, except that we had to go through a metal detector and show identification and be issued a visitor's pass before we were allowed in.  As we waited for her papers to be copied, Estelle told me some of her story.  I continue to be amazed by the transparency of the Gautemalan women as they share their lives with me. 

Next she took me to Cemaco, a store she said has "everything from the United States."  I felt like I was in a Walmart and TJ Max combined, with a little bit of Ace Hardware thrown in for good measure.  If I had been worried about having access to American goods, I no longer have any concern about this.  I think I could outfit a whole house from that one store!  I bought a few things to make my room more homey, and we were off to our next stop.

I've written before about the tradition of  "cafecito" (coffee break) in Guatemala.  Today I found out it happens not only in late afternoon, but whenever friends get together.  Estelle treated me to coffee and croissants before we returned to Antigua.  I arrived home just in time for, you guessed it, lunch!  Sharing food and fellowship is a huge part of this culture I'm learning.  The pace of meals here is so relaxed and the conversation at the table so rich.  I think we Americans could learn something from this tradition of the Guatemalans.

In the afternoon I went to Hermano Pedro, and met up with Dick Rutgers for the first time this trip.  He was working on giving Leslie, a little girl from Santa Rosa, a new wheelchair.  Leslie's father was visiting her today, and I was happy to get to meet him.  A team coming from Westside Church in Omaha (my home church) will be building a house for Leslie's family in about a week and a half.  He was so excited as we talked about the house build that he could hardly sit still.  I am enjoying so much getting to meet the parents of the children at Hermano Pedro.  Though they cannot care for their children at home, it is obvious the love and concern they have for them.  I am realizing the sacrifice they make to allow their children to be cared for so far away. 

I indulged myself this afternoon, and spent most of my time rocking Leonel.  Leonel came to Hermano Pedro about 2 years ago, at the age of 8 (I think), weighing in at about 17 pounds.  I've gotten to see his growth and progress each time I've visited, and about a year ago, got to visit his family at their home north of Huehuetenango.  Leonel has very little voluntary movement other than his eyes and facial expressions, but that's enough to let you know what he likes and what he doesn't.  And he makes it clear he doesn't like to be lonely.  So today, Leonel and I just rocked and talked for about an hour.  His smile warms me to my very bones.  How I wish I could know what is going on in the mind behind those beautiful, expressive eyes. 

I did visit with a few of the other children, and then took a ride out to Chimaltenango with Dick to see some of his other kids.  Later we had dinner and caught up on what has been going on in our lives since Easter.  We also did a bit of planning about future ministry, as Dick has found a number of children in villages that he has "volunteered" me to see.  Actually, going on the road to visit kids and set up communication systems is almost as much fun as being with the kids at Hermano Pedro. 

For anyone concerned about my safety (thanks, Joel, for rattling everyone's cages on Facebook), Hurricane Alex is not expected to hit Guatemala, though they predict heavy rain here for the next 48 hours as a result of its course toward Mexico.  The temperature here tonight is quite chilly, and I had to dig out a sweater I'd packed away for the "winter."  We are quite safe here, though a little soggy around the edges. Please pray for the people in the path of the storm.  Those who are poor always suffer the most in these situations, and I'm sure that's true in Mexico and Texas as well as in Guatemala.

Sunday, June 27th

We woke up this morning to a downpour!  Heavy rain, but little wind.  Am told it's courtesy of Tropical Storm Alex in the Caribbean.  Right now the path of the storm is predicted to hit Mexico and Belize, but should not affect Guatemala.  The heavy rains continue to cause problems here, however.  Today there was another mudslide in Solola, a town I've been through a number of times while traveling.  They are not sure of casualties yet.  Please continue to pray for the people of Guatemala. 

It did stop raining in time for us to walk to church at Iglesia del Camino (church of the way).  I felt at home, once again, walking into the worship there.  This time I even knew a number of people there.  Pastor Mike asked a great question in his preaching today, "What is you pain threshold in terms of you willingness ot obey God?"  In other words, how much discomfort are we willing to endure to follow where He leads?  Great sermon, but not a very comfortable one.  I think I will continue to be challenged spiritually attending this church.

On the way home we stopped to visit some ruins along the way.  San Jeronimo (St. Jerome) was a monastery which was destroyed by earthquakes.  The government has made the ruins into a park, and it's a beautiful and peaceful place for a Sunday afternoon stroll.  It was fun to share this with Donna.  I tried to imagine what it would have been like to have lived in that building with stone walls and floors.  Seems very romantic, but think I'm glad God put me in this century.

Pablo, the older of Mari and Leo's 2 youngest sons, came home from medical school to welcome me into the family today.  He's working so hard there that he has not been home since Easter when I was here.  He's a very good student (one of a few chosen to study in Houston next year), and has a very kind heart.  He'll make a great doctor some day.

After lunch we went over to Hermano Pedro for a while.  Donna is leaving tomorrow, so she took the nurses a small gift of some lotions.  They were so excited.  One of them commented that no one ever seems to appreciate what they do.  I know they don't always do things the way I wish they were done, but I believe most of them have a genuine concern for the kids, and believe their way is best.  Today they greeted me by name when I came in, another first for me! 

We spent some time today with Lily, a very bright young lady who seems to understand everything that's said, but cannot communicate except with gestures.  I tried some initial attempts at a communication system, and learned that, while she can see, her visual skills are not very accurate.  Will make some adjustments and try again tomorrow.  Later we helped feed supper to a few of the kids, and headed for home just as it started to rain again. 

It's hard to see Donna leave.  She has been so much fun and a wonderful traveling companion this last week.  I think her leaving is driving home the reality to me that I now live here.  I don't have to leave.   I really get to stay, as Mari says, forever.  I keep looking for signs of regret about this decision, but find none.  I don't think I've ever been this peaceful and content--at least not in a long time.

Living the Dream (6/25-26)

Yesterday (Friday) we started out a La Bodegona (a supermarket with a mini-Nobbies upstairs) getting materials to set up a communication system for one of the older girls at Hermano Pedro. After we finished our shopping, we spent the morning at Hermano Pedro with the kids. There were hardly any volunteers there, so we had the opportunity to interact with many kids. We helped with feeding and diaper changes, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with Ariana, a sweet little girl who is so bland when left alone and comes alive when she receives any attention.  The kids I brought down in April absolutely fell in love with her, and you can see why!

We also got to visit the classroom sponsored by Bethel ministries.  Ninette is an amazing teacher who does much to help the children in her care become independent and successful.  Her room is about the size of an average American bedroom holding about 7 students and a helper.  Cozy would be the polite way to describe it.   Ninette's room seems to keep getting moved around, but she takes it all in stride.  She's an amazing young woman.

In the afternoon we'd planned to go back to the orphanage, but decided to lie down for a few minutes.  I'm embarassed to admit that we woke up at 4:45, and volunteers need to leave by 5:00, so we never made it back.  I suppose you could say that we needed the sleep, but still I felt badly that we didn't get over to help with supper. 

Today (Saturday) we took the morning off, and I got to introduce a new housemate, Kelsey, to the city a little bit.  She's from California, and will be studying Spanish here for 3 weeks.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and I'm really looking forward to getting to know her.  We did some shopping.  Donna had not intended to buy anything, but has done a remarkable job of finding keepsakes from her trip! LOL!

On our way home, we visited La Merced, one of the largest churches in Antigua.  Behind the church, there are ruins of a convent built there in the 16th Century.  I'd wanted to visit these on my last couple of trips, and today we finally did. I love the history that pervades this city. Though destroyed in an earthquate in the 18th Century, the courtyards are somewhat restored, and the view from the roof is absolutely breath-taking. This has got to be the best place in Antigua to just hang out with Jesus!  I think I'll be here often.

Mari was working in Guatemala City today, and asked me to "host" lunch for the students.  I'm really beginning to feel like part of the family.  Tomorrow I get to serve breakfast to the few students who are here over the weekend.  I'm so glad if I can make her work load a bit lighter.  She is up long before me, and is working long after I go to bed, preparing food and caring for all of us living here.

Spent the afternoon at Hermano Pedro.  Feeding kids, changing kids, brushing teeth.  The chores seem never-ending.  While I'm anxious to get started working on communication with the kids, I also want to support and encourage the nurses, who have a tough job that sometimes seems to overwhelm them.  Today, for the first time, a couple of the nurses were joking around with me like the do with each other.  I think I'm starting to earn some level of trust and acceptance from them.  Today I felt as if I somewhat "belonged" there from their perspective.  The charge nurse today even visited with me briefly before we left, thanking me for being willing to help them and not just "visiting" (and I'm sure getting in their way from their point-of-view).

Tonight we ate dinner in the garden.  Actually, dinner started about 5 when we returned from the orphanage and had "cafecito" (coffee and a snack).  Today we had a delicious type of fried custard and cookies with our coffee.  I told Mari that I've worked really hard to lose some weight, and she just laughs and puts more food on my plate, saying I work hard and walk alot, so need energy!  Today, cafecito led straight to dinner, bearing witness to the fact that this family firmly believes in the adage, "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first!"  Actually, we also had fried platains for dessert after our meal, so I guess their philosophy might be more along the lines of , "Life is hard, eat dessert whenever you can!"

After dinner we just sat in the garden, enjoying the breeze (temp. about 70) and visiting.  This is my favorite time of day.  No one is in a hurry to rush off, and many stories are shared.  Tonight, Leo shared about the death of his first wife and how he met Mari.  They will be married 25 years this year, and still treat each other with such tenderness and care.  And they each tell me, at least a dozen times a day, how happy they are that I've come to live with them "forever."  It's hard to imagine that life can be better than this!  I do feel, at times, like I'm living in a dream!

Trip to Camperos

Sonya & Veronica at the fountain

Today we met up with a team from Ohio who have been visiting Guatemala for the past few days.  Daryl Fulp, who is planning to move to Guatemala with his family as soon as they sell their house, brings down teams a couple times a year.  He is a great guy, even if he does tend to be a bit serious. The kids love him, though, despite his personality, and he is passionate in his concern and care for the kids.  We went with them to Pollo Camperos (KFC a la Guatemala) and had a blast.  I think the kids might have enjoyed themselves, too.

Learned today from Sonya and Veronica that they are quite the photographers.  They were so excited when Donna and I let them use our cameras to take pictures.  We may have to develop a photography program for the kids at Hermano Pedro.  Another young man, Bayron, who is deaf, also used my camera very effectively to communicate.  We may be on to something new here.

When we returned to Hermano Pedro, I spent the afternoon with Heidi.  She is a very somber little girl, who often spends her afternoons in her bed screaming.  Playing with her, I was able to do a simple skills assessment, and believe she is a very bright little girl trapped inside a body that doesn't do what she wants it to.  She seldom smiles, but when she does, it takes my breath away.  Pray that we can find a way to unlock the world for her!

Also met a Speech Therapist from Kentucky who brought down five ladies, including her sister who had adopted a child from Guatemala.  This was their last day, and none of them could bear to leave.  I thought when I left care ministry, I would no longer hold women while they cried, but today found out I was wrong.  Am glad I could be the arms of Jesus for them. 

After Donna and I helped feed supper to the kids, we leisurely walked home, chatting all the way.  Getting to the house was, in Donna's words, like "coming home to Mama."  Mari greets us with hugs, and immediately wants to feed us whenever we come in.  It's gonna be really embarassing when I gain weight living in a third world country!  With Mari's cooking though I think this is a real possiblilty :-(

I'm home. . .

It's been a little over 24 hours since I arrived in my new home in Antigua, Guatemala.  Whenever I have visited here, it's felt like home to me.  Now it actually is.  And I've never been more confident of any decision I've made than I am of the "rightness" of this move.

Spent time at Hermano Pedro today, mostly feeding the kids and just reconnecting with them.  I do miss my grandsons already, but have realized that I have about 120 new "adopted grandchildren" to fill my days.  Many of them were excited to see me. The smiles I got when I explained to them I would be able to see them often because I was now living in Antigua have made all the hassles of moving down more than worth it.

My friend Donna has traveled down with me.  This is her first time in Guatemala, and it's fun for me to re-experience all the firsts of a new country through her eyes.  I'll end tonight with a letter she wrote to some friends back in Omaha:

Hello dear friends.

Pat and I arrived in Guatemala yesterday. I expected to land in a third world country full of impoverished people and to experience heartache due to the great need of the local residents. Instead, I find myself in a beautiful country surrounded by plush land and vibrant people. I realize I haven't seen much of the country yet, but Antigua, where Pat and I are staying is so alive - - rich colors, historical landmarks, enticing aromas, joyful music and a flourish of activity. I've been taking pictures right and left because everything I see is so awe inspiring and I don't want to forget any of it.

Pat now resides with a middle-class family in Antigua. I am staying with her for the week. Mary and Leo own the home and are wonderful. They simply radiate God's love and light. Were getting the "family" treatment. Some students who are attending nearby language schools are renting rooms at the house as well. It has been fascinating to hear their personal stories. And, what a great opportunity for Pat to share the good news with them too.

This morning Pat and I walked to the orphanage and I met the disabled children for the first time. It was such a blessing to watch their faces light up when they saw Pat and hear her sweet voice. One boy kept kissing Pat's hand over and over again. I was overwhelmed with a desire to scoop them up in my arms to hug and hold them. I feel so blessed to be here with Pat and I can't wait so see what God is going to do through her. God is so good. My cup is overflowing!!!

God bless you all!

VBX @ Westside--June 7-11, 2010

VBX 2010
Vacation Bible eXperience
to the eXtreme

(Photos courtesy of Trisha Bachelor, Beautiful Photography)

Have spent the week of June 7-11 back at Westside, as a "civilian volunteer" this time.  This was the week of VBX (Vacation Bible eXperience--the the eXtreme) working in the toddler room.  It was quite touching to finish my time at Westside once again serving the little ones.  I had a ball, spending most of my time rocking those who missed their mamas.  I have to admit, though, that getting up and down off the floor was a bit more challenging than it had been a couple of years ago!  Still think that's maybe why God moved me when He did!  Anyway, if you haven't rocked a little one in a while--find one and do it.  It's very therapeutic!  Even got me thinking about volunteering in the nursery @ Caminos (the church I'll attend in Antigua)!

Guatemala Grandma was the mission project for the kids this week.  When Caleb (our Children's Director/Pastor) first asked me about this, I said sure pretty much without thinking about it.  This week, I've realized how hard it is to cut the emotional ties with my home church.  Again, I can think of no better way to do this than with the children of the Church.  One pastor who's no longer at the church used to tell  me that I was "too smart to work with little kids."  Truth is, I was smart enough to do just that!  Didn't Jesus tell us to become like little children?  How can we do this without spending time learning from them?

Each day as part of the worship time, some time was spent talking about my ministry.  I can't begin to put into words how this blessed my heart.  The challenge to the kids was that if they brought in at least $6000, I would get a make-over to look like our twenty-something worship leader, Yancy.  I couldn't imagine them raising that much money, so really thought I was safe!

Well during the week, kids did everything from lemonade stands, to chores, to yard work, to brining in their piggy banks.  Better than that, the kids were excited about missions in a way I haven't seen Westside kids become excited in a while (in fairness, though, I'm not with them that much).  My prayer is that they will understand that they are not just GIVING to missions through their contributions, but that they are DOING missions by giving.  They have become a large part of my ministry through their encouragement, prayers, and generousity.  The stories I've heard from parents this week about their kids planning and finding ways to give have amazed and humbled me at the same time.  And I pray that this enthusiasm for sharing Jesus will be reflected not only in their futures, but in their daily lives right now.

My complacency at the kids' (in)ability to raise money proved to be very much in error.  The kids were amazing in their enthusiasm for missions and creativity in fund-raising. (I'm sure seeing me "punked" didn't influence them at all!) Between the profits from T-shirt sales and the cash the kids (and teachers) brought in, over $9500 was raised for my ministry in one week.  Talk about being "blown over" by what God can do through His people.  This will provide a lot of communication systems, water filters, and educational opportunities for the poor in Guatemala.  Again, I am acutely aware that the kids are not just enabling me to do ministry, they have become an important part of this ministry. 

To help them remember this and grow in their ministry, I am working with a friend, Tara Rye, to develop a blog/website entitled Kids Can Do Missions, Too!  This has grown out of a book Tara wrote by this name, describing her daughter Mikayla's mission trip to Guatemala in 2008.  If you're interested in a great vehicle for talking with your children about missions and missionaries, check out her book on Amazon. com. 

Good to my word, I was Yancy-fied by Tara Seng. Wore eye liner for the first time EVER. (Guess I'm not too old to try new things, though I had to find a teenager to help!  Thanks, Rebecca!) So I'll leave you with a few photos, hoping they don't cause too many nightmares!

(Photo at right,
 courtesy of Mike and Dorena Ahrens)

Reflecting on the last month. . .

I'm in Chicago for a few days, visiting my brother and sister and her family before I leave for Guatemala.  This has been a much needed time to rest and recharge.  It's also given me some time to reflect on the last month or so, and all I've experienced. I think I've experienced higher highs than I ever have, I know I've had sweeter times with Jesus than ever before.  But, honestly, there have been some rough patches, too.

In late May I wrote to a good friend who was returning to Guatemala after a visit to the States:

"I think these last few weeks are going to be hard. There's a part of me that wants to just walk away and fly down with you this week and get the leaving over with. Too much time to think, among other things. Spent this afternoon and evening with my son's family. I can't let myself think about leaving the grandsons--didn't think I was that attached to them, but each time I'm with them now I find myself getting tearful."

My sweet daughter-in-law, Lin, invited me to come with when they had their family pictures taken, so I could have a "portrait" of myself with the boys to take with me.  Not something I ever would have thought of, but am grateful she did!  I have been talking with Zach, the 4 year old, about Grandma moving far away.  His response, at first, was, "I not like that! Not good idea!"  Talk about tearing at my heart.  But he's come to accept that I'll be gone for a while even though he thinks, "You go with Uncle Jon (who's on a ship somewhere in the Pacific!)." 

The other day I actually had a "melt down" in the grocery store of all places. All I needed was milk, bread, eggs and margarine. Lots of good sales that week--and I had to keep saying, nope, I won’t be able to cook that! I think I will miss having my own kitchen more than most things. What a stupid thing to be grieving. . .but I am! Think it has something to do, too, with the fact that I've had my own home since I was 20 years old. . .and I'm struggling at giving up my obstinate independence and solitude. Funny, the things that are bothering me.

Have been surprised at how easily I have been able to part with things (emotionally) and vastly underestimated how long it would take to dispose of my possessions (physically).   I'm storing what I have kept in a friend's basement, and have kept way more than I intended to.  Guess I'll have some sorting and "pruning" to do when I return in September. Why I ever thought I could work all day and move out of my house at the same time, I'll never figure out.  My patient landlord waited an extra week for me to finally get everything cleared out!

My last week working at Westside was harder than I anticipated.  I realized that in some ways, leaving my job would be harder than even leaving my family.  My relationship with the kids will not change, even though I'm far away.   I will no longer be part of the wonderful group of people who staff my church in quite the same way.  Over the last nine years, they truly have become family to me, and, while I know they would do anything for me, I will miss seeing them terribly on a day to day basis.  Thank you, Pastor Curt and staff, for all you have been to me, all you have done for me, and how you have helped me grow! 

May 16, 2010

This was an incredible day.  In fact, it's taken me a few weeks to process the day enough to be able to write about it.  We celebrated the ministry God has let me do at Westside, though worship and fellowship.  I'm used to being "behind the scenes" so all this up front time was pretty overwhelming. 

During the first two worship services, Pastor Curt asked the entire congregation to pray for me, and asked those I'd served with over the years to come up and lay hands on me.  It was one of the sweetest times in my entire life to be surrounded by those who have supported me in ministry over the years.  What was even more humbling, though, were the people in the congregation who I didn't know, who came up to me to wish me well and promise their prayer. 

During the last service, there was a sending off reception.  I could not believe the number of people who waited in line just to say good-bye to me.  I was overwhelmed by the number of folks whose lives I've been allowed to touch, and who have touched mine so deeply.  I was able to see young people, who were in diapers when I cared for them, promise their prayers.  I've seen some begin an interest in missions that wasn't there before.  And, gratefully, I could remember special stories about almost each one of them. 

My kids, grandkids and daughter-in-law, Lindy, stayed through most of the reception.  Above and beyond the call of duty, since I barely got to speak with them.  It was sweet, however, to be able to look over and know they were there supporting me.  Many of you have asked how my family feels about my move.  My kids are an amazing group of young adults, who I tried to raise to be independent and have lives of their own.  Gratefully, they are now returning the favor!  Though I'm not sure they always understand why their crazy mom does what she does, they back me up wonderfully.  I've often said that the adults my children have grown into are a testimony to the grace of God.  More than ever, I believe that now!  Love you all!

As I've been looking back, I've realized just how much I've changed over the years I've been at Westside. How Westside has ministered to me even as I was allowed to serve the church.  I think I've grown more through the groups I've led than any of the participants.  It hurts my heart to give up this part of the ministry.  It's been amazing to sit by and watch as God has brought people to increasing wholeness.  It's been equally amazing how freely these folks have trusted me to walk with them into some of the most tender moments of their lives.  One of my greatest joys has been to watch those I've led grow into ministry themselves.  Curt has always told us that, as staff, our job was to "equip the saints to do the work of the ministry."  These small group leaders help me feel that I've at least partially fulfilled that charge.

I am not the same person I was nine years ago.  Through getting to see God work so clearly in the lives of his people, I've come to trust him in a way I never could before.  I've walked through times of darkness and discouragement, and seen his hand (in retrospect, of course) in each of those seasons of difficulty.  I've gotten to live in his faithfulness.  I been able to experience his mercy.  I've been part of an amazing team of godly men and women.  I still sometimes wonder how I got here, but I'm so grateful.