Almost there.

I wanted to write a quick entry so I don’t forget this C.R.A.Z.Y. time.  Crazy is a complete understatement. We are traveling as a team – so that adds up to 11 kids and 6 adults. Almost half of those kids are mine – that really freaks me out, so I try not to think about it. 11 Kids under the age of 9. We cause a scene. 

We are in Lima now – we fly out tomorrow for Arequipa.

We fly out tomorrow. For Arequipa. Cannot believe it.

Everything still seems very surreal to me. On one hand, the last year flew by so fast and now seems very blurry, but on the other hand I can’t believe we’re finally getting to our long term destination  – it has seemed like forever that we have been talking, planning and preparing, praying and tomorrow we will land in Arequipa.

Surreal.

These last two weeks, we have been living in small, temporary spaces. It has been really difficult for us to be patient with the kids – who seem to continuously bounce off the walls. I tried to keep homeschooling, but it was very hit and miss. I made an announcement today that it is the last homeschool day until after Christmas. I don’t know if the kids are more relieved or me.

My parents will arrive in Arequipa on Saturday to spend Christmas with us. We are beyond thrilled and can’t wait to see them, in person anyway. We see them on the computer screen almost every day.

When we arrived in Lima last week, Jak saw a Christmas tree and immediately asked if we could decorate our house for Christmas. Two problems – first, we don’t have a house. And second – all of our Christmas decorations are on the crate that won’t arrive until February. We will have to figure out how to make our first Christmas in Arequipa memorable without all of the stuff.

Another funny thing happened – Jak saw Santa Clause at the mall in Lima and said, “Hey, Mom, Look! It’s that Christmas man!” I have no idea how that one happened. I seem to forget to explain things to the poor middle child. He doesn’t even know who the “Christmas man” is. Hopefully he’ll always know that the real Christmas man is Jesus.

I hope I can blog about some fun for our first Christmas in Arequipa! Really excited about it!

Please pray for us as we board another plane with 17 people. Also pray for everyone’s health. Carter came down with the croup – so we’ve quarantined him from the team for the last day or so, hoping that we don’t start passing around an ugly virus!

Feliz Navidad Errbody!

Catch ya on the flip side!

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Not as those without hope

In my last post I talked about how I have grieved since I’ve been on the mission field. I grieve the loss of lots of different things in my life, but mostly I grieve the loss of the idols of my heart. The idols of safety and security, materialism and greed, comfort…I could go on and on. The idolotry of focusing on the sacrifice and not the blessing,” the mess and not the miracle”  (I totally stole that quote from somebody) sometimes can almost consume me.

There’s so much beauty in the sacrifice. But it is still A Sacrifice.

Sanctification hurts. Dying to self hurts. Being a living sacrifice hurts. And I’m going to tell you I climb off of that altar Every. Single. Day and I grieve the loss when I lay my idols down.

But I don’t grieve as one without hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13)

It’s not just for missionaries or the military or pastors and evangelists. It’s for every single person purchased by the blood of the Lamb.

The grief is ours, but the hope is ours too.

After my last post, I had a dear friend send me a message saying that she was happy to hear that it wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t because she was happy to see me struggle, but because she just didn’t understand why it was so hard for her when she wasn’t even living on the mission field. And she thought it was easy for us. You know, us “spiritual folk”…

And it made her feel…normal.

Nope, DYING to yourself isn’t going to be sunshine and roses. I would dare say that if you aren’t feeling the pain of taking up your cross DAILY then there just might be something wrong…

Because death just shouldn’t feel good.

Some days I struggle to lay my life down again because I keep crawling right off of that altar.  And I’m not doing anybody any favors by pretending like that isn’t the ugly truth. Those idols are near and dear to my heart and to unclench my tight fists takes a miracle from the Holy Spirit.

A straight miracle.

And sometimes I grieve the loss.

But do you know what all of that does for me? It makes me run to Him.

Sometimes I even run to Him with idols tightly in my hands.

Why?

Because His burden is light, y’all. (You can take the girl out of Mississippi, but…)

Because….And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Because the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Because the One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.

Because the Father is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch you out of the Father’s hand.

Because His love reaches to the heavens, His faithfulness to the skies.

And because whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Because He covers you with his feathers, and under his wings you find refuge.

Because His faithfulness is  your shield and rampart.

And you can say “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Say it. Say it out loud with hope.

He began the work. He will complete it. He doesn’t use us because we’re somehow “worthy”. No, He uses us in spite of ourselves.

Its okay to grieve the loss, but grieve with hope that only comes from the One who can trade beauty for ashes.

Because He is faithful.

 

When she’s not the good missionary

The other day I was on facebook and saw a missionary friend’s status. It had a picture of her two little children being dropped off for their first day of preschool. The caption said “First day of Preschool. It was rough.” The part that struck me was a comment on the status that said something like, “Why was it rough? They will learn Spanish faster than you!” I haven’t been able to get this off my mind. This comment really bothered me and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why.

I’m sure this person really meant to encourage or didn’t mean anything at all, but sometimes I think people just don’t get it.

I wanted to comment back to her and say, “It was rough because she has uprooted her children from everyone and everything that they have ever known. It was rough because they had to wave goodbye to their grandparents in the airport and now when anyone says the word “Bye” they burst into tears and she has to ask the person to please wave and say goodbye to them one more time. Or ten. And they still continue to sob. Even if it’s the pizza delivery man. It was rough because they had to say goodbye to their best friends that they will probably, literally, never see again. It was rough because she had to leave all of her friends, support systems, relatives, memories.

It was rough because, more than likely, she wouldn’t have chosen this life. It was chosen for her and everyday she has to submit herself to it.

It was rough because now she is taking her kids to a school where the children and teachers don’t speak English, where she’s afraid that her children might not be able to communicate their needs. And she has to leave them there even if everything inside of her screams to just take them home because she has to go to language school herself. Its rough because she realizes her kids will say painful goodbyes for the rest of their lives. It was rough because she knows they will struggle to fit into the culture in which they live and the culture in which they were born. It was rough because she realizes that they will see their grandparents faces on a computer screen more than they will feel their kisses on their cheeks. It was rough because she, herself, takes away her parents’ only grandchildren. It. Is. Rough.

It’s not a super cool adventure and she doesn’t really care that her children will learn Spanish more quickly than she will.”

Lets just say this post is not from the good missionary. But she’s honest.

Sometimes I don’t want people to tell me that I’m going on a great adventure or that I’m so lucky or brave. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel that way.  Sometimes I feel like I was dragged into this kicking and screaming, with big alligator tears, feeling like everything I have ever known or loved is being stripped away from me and my children.

Sometimes the thought of cheddar cheese can bring me to tears.

If you’ve ever had any love for me in your heart or cared for me at all, please don’t complain on facebook about the grocery cart at your walmart or post pictures of your girl scout cookies or mention chic-fil-a. Please. Ever.

If I’m just going to put it all out there. I grieve. Missionaries are grieving. When we say it’s rough, that’s because it is.  Missionaries grieve the loss of the life they had. Friendships. Family. Safety. Familiarity. English. Yes, even chic-fil-a and cheddar cheese.

I grieve, but mostly I grieve the loss of my idols. I’m not asking for a different life. I am convinced that right now, this is the life that I was called to. Usually it’s a really good life, especially when I think of other, harder fields. I have friends that are in such dangerous places that they can’t say that they’re missionaries. They risk their lives everyday for the sake of the Gospel. They rarely or never see their family. Then I realized how spoiled we are in Colombia.

I’m reminded of a letter that Adonirum Judson wrote to his fiance’s father. 

Then I feel a little spoiled, but right after that I get on pinterest or I see something on facebook and I grieve the losses all over.

Can you grieve the loss of food coloring? Why, yes, yes you can.

So, when you see her on facebook putting it all out there, just tell her you’re praying for her. Tell her you’re praying for her children. Be sure not to mention chic-fil-a…

…And when she’s not the good missionary you think she should be, give her grace…because today, maybe she got on pinterest.

Today it might just be a rough day.

Follow up post here.

5 Kids, Hoarding, and the Day I Delivered My Own Baby

Can you hoard kids?

I’m thinking of having my own show called “Hoarders: Babies edition”

I already want another one. Or two. 

The fifth time is just  as amazing as the first. It never gets old.

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So, for the highlight.

I know you’re all dying for the story…

Who remembers what happened last time? Yeah, that made us a little worried that we might not make it to the hospital. Here in Bogota, the hospital is about a 45 minute drive. There was even a time that it took us an hour and a half to get to an appointment. It all depends on the time of day. And an ambulance may or may not come…in two hours. Or not.

So, our prayer for the last 6 months of living here has been that the Lord would allow me to get to the hospital BEFORE I delivered the baby.

He did. With 9 hours to spare…

So, Josh and I had decided that we would rather be sent home with a false alarm than have the baby in a taxi. I know. We’re very particular like that. So, at the first twinge I had of thinking I might feel something different, we left.  Immediately.  For the hospital. Did I mention that until that night,  the shortest amount of time it had ever taken us to get to the hospital was 45 minutes?

That night it took us 19. 

Apparently, if you yell out the window “Embarazada!” (the Spanish word for pregnant)  and wave your arms like a crazy person, people will move out of your way. Like the parting of the Red Sea.

By the time we got there, I was pretty sure I wasn’t in labor. I had two more “twinges” on the way and nothing else once we got in a room. I knew this wasn’t labor because the pain of last time is forever seared into my consciousness.  The doctor arrived and told us that he was not going to send us home because of my history of super-lightening fast labors. He told me he wanted to check to see if he needed to break my water.

Let me back up a little. I wanted to go into labor naturally and I wanted to have the baby with no drugs. At the hospital. I did not want to be induced. So, when he told me he thought he needed to break my water, I was very hesitant. At that point, I wasn’t even 38 weeks yet. However, we had seen that the baby’s cord was across his face in the last sonogram. The doctor was concerned that if my water broke spontaneously that the cord could come out first and cause a prolapse.

I agreed to let him break my water. As soon as he did it, I felt like it was a mistake.I was really disappointed in myself for allowing the doctor to do something that I didn’t feel comfortable with. At all.  I knew I wasn’t in labor and I didn’t feel ready. I was really upset because there was no turning back at that point and I was worried that if I didn’t go into labor that I would be pressured to have pitocin. I have had very bad experiences with this particular drug in the past and knew that not only would I have the side effects I have experienced with other deliveries, but it would be more likely that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain and would need an epidural. Having an epidural in a foreign country is NOT something I wanted to do. I’m not super brave.

That was around 9:30 pm.

Nothing happened. All night.

I waited and pretty much stayed up all night praying that I would go into labor. At 5 o’clock am I felt my first real contraction. I recognized it as a true contraction because THE PAIN OF LAST TIME WAS SEARED INTO MY CONSCIOUSNESS.  I knew this baby was much smaller, so I had believed for this entire pregnancy that it couldn’t possibly be as painful as last time.

Vicious Lies.

At around 6am I could feel that I was getting very close. Josh called the nurse and told him that we needed the doctor because it wouldn’t be long.

They never believe us. THIS IS MY FIFTH BABY! I KNOW WHEN I NEED THE DOCTOR! 

About 6 minutes after 6 am. I told Josh I needed to push. The doctor walked in and said, “Well, let’s get you ready to push.” If you know my past experiences, you know that I don’t get “ready” to push.

I push and then there’s a baby. Pronto. The end.

The doctor was facing away from me, doing who knows what to “get ready for me to push” and I did.

I delivered Carter by myself . The doctor turned around because he heard him crying. True story.

What’s funny about this story is that after having a pretty traumatizing labor with no drugs last time – this entire pregnancy I had been saying, “I just wish I could be left alone and deliver the baby myself.” I know that sounds crazy to most people. And it is. I get it. But that’s really what I wanted. I’m just weird like that.

During the entire labor, I felt so scared and disappointed in how it was happening, but looking back, I truly see the Lord’s hand. I felt the same way about my last delivery. I felt that every singe thing that happened was in His control. There was a real possibility that if I had really gone into labor at home that I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital – since once I truly went into labor, it was about an hour, just like last time. Also, if my water had broken on its own, there was the possibility of the cord prolapsing.

And did I say he was only 7 pounds 4 ounces? After having a 10 pounder, the recovery was a walk in the park. I was able to leave the hospital the same day. Did you know that babies born in high altitudes are 15% smaller? I think we should all have the opportunity, nay the privilege, of having a pregnancy at 8,000 feet. God is good. 

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Carter is doing great. He sleeps really well through all the noise of his 4 siblings.

And did I say that the fifth is as amazing as the first?

Maybe I’ll blog before my next birth story. But no promises.

The Kines Heart NYC

So, what’s up?

Lots of you know that we are attending a month long training in New York City.

That’s right. New York Cittaay.

We don’t stick out. We really don’t. There a lots of people that try to get on the subway with 4 children and 2 strollers. Lots.

There are also lots of people who walk into the corner grocery…

with all their chilluns…

and say,

“Jarsh. Look at that there cawfey. You grond it yurself. See. Tole ya. Shore did.”

Lots.

So, we’re lovin’ NYC. Mainly because we blend in.

The first thing I noticed was that New Yorkers are super friendly. I’m not being sarcastic. I can understand why it’s hard to take anything I say seriously. But, New Yorkers are super friendly.

For real.

I have yet to get on the subway (with our entire crew) and not have someone, or groups of people, smile and play with the kids and offer us their seat. Today there were two guys that were soooo too cool. They were trying so hard to stay serious, but could not keep from smiling at Matthew. He can crack the hardest shell. He will beat you at a staring contest. He will.

Trust me.

The first few days were really stressful. First time on the subway and we got separated. Josh had Jak and I had the other three on two separate cars. This would have been fine since we didn’t lose any kids …

Ahem. 

…but I didn’t know where to get off. So the first thing I did was pull out my cellphone to call Josh and find out where to get off. Cell phones don’t work in subways. But I know you knew that.

So, I sat down and started wracking my brain trying to remember the address of the school we were going to. Then I looked up and saw Josh motioning to me through the window into the next car. He was making a square with his hands and pointing to his watch. I just shook my head. I mean, seriously, I had no idea what time it was. Who cares. If we’re late we’re late. He kept waving at me and making motions.

Sounds like….Square….Watch….Square…..Time…..Cube….Time….Square.

Time Square!!!

We’re supposed to get off at Time Square!

Josh told me later that while all this was going on, he was sitting directly across from a man with the word Brooklyn tattooed on one arm and the word Outlaw tattooed on the other.

I didn’t even make that up. That’s really what happened.

Really.

So I was super stressed that first day. Getting around just seemed so hard. But we’ve gradually settled into our routine and getting on the subway is almost like jumping in my minivan. In the garage. Sort of.

Not really.

I was really wanting to subway surf, but I saw this sign. So I won’t.

Really glad I saw it in time.

Where we are…

Honestly, what I’m about to say makes me very uncomfortable. It seems God likes to bring me to that place. A lot. I have prayed so desperately over this post. I have prayed that I would communicate with humility what He has asked me to communicate, but I have also prayed that I would be bold enough to say some hard, even embarrassing things. Even more, I have prayed for you, reading this post.

I remember many times sitting at church and listening to missionaries and wanting to stick my fingers in my ears because I was afraid God might call me to go. It has been a fear in the back of my mind most of my life. I was so surprised one day to find out that there were many other Christians that didn’t dread hearing missionary reports. I’m probably the most unlikely missionary you’ll ever meet. Most of my life has been spent running from Him. It may not have looked like that on the outside, but my heart has always been wild. I don’t submit easily. Come to find out His grace is greater than the sin in my heart.

When I was a pastor’s wife I would get embarrassed just thinking about people’s tithe ending up as my husband’s paycheck. And, honestly, I would hope that all of my friends at church didn’t think about it. It made me uncomfortable.

So when He gave us the grace to obey a call to the mission field, my knees shook when I thought about asking people for money – especially people I know.

Alot of that comes from pride in my heart – it’s awkward to need something from people, but what’s worse than that is never having the ability to repay them. Never being able to square up. Saying: “Please give me your money and you will get a thank you note and our newsletter in return.” leaves you in a perpetual state of vulnerability. I’m beginning to think that’s right where He wants us.

If I (or Josh) could go out and just work harder and make more money, that is what we would do. But I am beginning to discover through this process that that would cause us both to miss out on a huge blessing. We would miss out on watching the Lord provide for us in the most amazing ways through His people and the church would miss out on the gift of investing in His economy. (aka storing up treasures in heaven.)

I never thought I would say I am grateful to be financially supported by the church, but I am.

So why am I telling you this?

Our team has to raise all of our financial support. We have about 25% left to raise. We cannot go until we get 100%. We cannot go without the generosity of God’s people. We need people to pledge to give monthly support, whether it be $20 or $100. We need your monthly support. And I’m asking for it.

I’m asking you to give. If that makes you feel awkward, please know that I feel awkward-er. But I’m not asking you to give to me. I’m asking you to give to God’s work. He has called me to be a part of it and He has called you to be a part of it. One of the greatest misunderstandings in the church today is that missions is optional.

It isn’t.

Missions has already been decided for us. The great commission was given to the church. It is explicit in the Gospel. The only question we have to answer is “How?” How do we respond personally to the only choice we are given – go or send?

God has called some of us to go and He has called some of us to watch over missions from home. Both of these callings are vital. This is the way He ordained it. We cannot go without you. We cannot. It is his plan for you to send us.

When we obey God by participating in missions, we are responding out of love for Him. The most tangible way to love Christ is to make Him known. “If you love Me, feed my sheep.”

We know He will not return until His name has been preached throughout the whole earth, to every tongue and every tribe and every nation. How much do we want to see His face? There are over 3 billion people on planet earth right now living a hopeless life without Christ. We have hope for them. Does that move us to obedience?

Charles Spurgeon was asked this question, “Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?” Spurgeon replied, “It is more a question with me whether we – who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not – can be saved.” We have the awesome privilege of giving the hopeless the hope that we have. The hope that has been given to us freely. I’m asking you to freely give – to invest in God’s economy.

The wonderful thing about this investment is that there is absolutely no risk involved. I am reminded of something Jim Elliot said before he literally gave his life for the Gospel, “He is no fool who gives what He cannot keep to gain what He cannot lose.” When Jesus calls us to give, it is actually an invitation to receive – to gain something eternal. I’m asking you to invest in this eternal treasure with us. Why? Because dying is gain. Because what we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Because He first loved us. Because we long together to see Him face to face.

Because He Is Worth It.

May His kingdom come.

Biggest Announcement Ever

Well, maybe not the biggest…

I think I’m going to start putting that title on all of my posts, except then everyone will think I’m pregnant…and I probably am….

Okay, so big news to share. We (our team) have had a change of plans. I’ll give a little background for those of you who are new here. Our family is moving with another family to the mission field. The original plan was to go to Costa Rica for two years. During our time there, we were going to attend language school and participate in creating a training program for new missionaries going to the field. Our desire, and what we feel the Lord leading our families to do, is start a new work somewhere in Latin America where the Gospel has not taken root. We want to assist national pastors in planting churches where there is a need.

Well…

…two weeks ago we found out that there is a place better suited than Costa Rica to accomplish the training program, so we flipped a coin and decided that we’re moving to Bogota, Colombia. Just kidding about flipping a coin, we drew straws. No really, after much prayer and many conversations with MTW,  we decided that this is a much better fit. In fact we are absolutely thrilled with this change and let me tell you why.

First of all, there is a very reputable language school there that we will attend our first year. Secondly, there is a thriving team there and an established network of churches in Bogota. And if that was not enough, this is my favorite part…national  leaders and pastors are coming to Bogota from all over Latin America asking the team there to pease send missionaries to their countries because they want to duplicate what they are seeing happen in Colombia. God is moving there! Raise your hand if you want to be a part of that! No really, raise your hand!

Okay, for those of you freaking out about the drug cartel, violence, kidnapping and what not, let me speak to that. Colombia is not the place that it was 10 or 15 years ago. The team that is there now was pulled out from 2001 until 2006. The team leader told us that they feel so safe there that his wife walks alone at night. There are so many places here that you wouldn’t feel safe doing that. I think in terms of infectious diseases, not so much gangs and violence, so that was my main concern. I was very happy to hear that Bogota is not a city at high risk for malaria. Whew.

The fact of that matter is, and I know you all will agree with me here, God is in control of my life and your life. He is in control of my children’s lives and my husband’s life. “Which of you by worrying can add one more day to his life?” A hair doesn’t fall from our head without his permission. Any one of us could come down with a disease today or be a victim of a violent crime or a terrible accident. Our trust is in God alone. Our salvation comes from Him. Alone. But I get the concerns. God is teaching me this stuff.

So the last two weeks have been a lot of work. We have had to redo every single brochure, every mailout, packet, letter, card, every video, our website, every single thing said Costa Rica. Josh and Nate made a video (at midnight no less) describing what we are doing and answering questions. Some of you may not know that we have to raise all of our own support. Our plan and desire is that we are able to move to Bogota in August. We will only be able to do that if we have raised 100% of our support. Right now, we are at about 60 or 65%. We are completely dependent on monthly pledges. Please pray that the Lord leads people to give.

I’m going to link the video here. If you don’t care anything about the mission field or what we’re doing and if you have no desire to support us financially or pray for us. You MUST watch this video anyway! The guys recorded it at almost midnight and Josh is talking in his sleep. Seriously, his eyes are CLOSED the entire time. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Go watch it. You can thank me later.

I forgot to mention one of the best things that is coming out of all of this. When I used to tell people that we were moving to the mission field, the first question they would ask was, “Where are you going?” then I would tell them “Costa Rica” and  they would get a huge smile on their face and say “Oh how fun!” like I was just going on an extended vacation. And then I  would smack them. Just kidding, I would never do that. Now, when I tell them I’m moving to the mission field and they ask me where I’m going and I say “Colombia” they get this look of intense concern on their face and immediately tell me that they will be praying for me.

Now that’s more like it.