Monday, July 10, 2017

Not Better or Worse, Just Different

Scott led a team of 23 people from our church to the Dominican Republic last week.  We had one purpose - to support a local Christian school, Makarios International, and we did this by leading VBS in two villages, helping with soccer and basketball camps, participating in a youth outreach event, and completing various projects at the school.  Our team consisted of 6 recent high school graduates, 2 HS seniors, 1 junior, 2 freshmen, 2 seventh graders, and 10 adults. 
One of the finest teams we have ever
worked with on a mission trip.

It was an incredible trip, and it changed our lives.  Here are the top 7 things I discovered for the first time or perhaps rediscovered:

1.  The body of Christ is amazing and beautiful.  We came from different life experiences with different gifts and talents, yet we were truly one, unified team.  We used our gifts and talents to serve the communities, the local church, the school, the staff, and one another. 

2.  Teenagers are AWESOME!  Watching our teenagers jump in and love on the local kiddos was such a joy.  They worked hard and never complained.  They fully immersed themselves in the culture and loved openly, honestly and without judgment.  I think every mission trip should include teenagers because it is life changing for them and their contribution is valuable.  Our world will change for the better, if we encourage and equip this generation to serve and love.

3.  Watching first-timers experience mission trips will forever be one of my MOST favorite things.  I love watching those who are nervous or hesitant learn to relax and enjoy the experience.  I smile when I watch them talk or laugh with locals.  We had the privilege of watching their life and perspectives change forever.

 4.  Some people are truly called to missions.  It might not be as a full-time missionary, but it might.  It is exciting when you see it happen, and now I have the honor to encourage and confirm how they feel.  And if you are not called to full-time missions, it is SO important that we encourage and support those who are called.  Pray.  Give money.  Send hard-to-get items.  They have a hard and lonely job, but we can be a part of the bigger mission of spreading the gospel by loving them well.

5.  Our job on short term mission trips is NOT to rescue the locals from poverty.  My job is NOT to save them.  There is only one Rescuer and Savior and his name is Jesus.  My job is to share truth, encourage the local Christians, and love and serve BIG. 

6.  Happiness is not about what you have or don’t have.  More money does not mean you are happier.  Some of the happiest, most content people are those who live in impoverished areas, because they understand better than most that true contentment comes from relationships.  They live beautifully in community.  They enjoy being with one another and are some of the most generous people.  They have very little, but offer you their chair, a meal, coffee, etc. They give because they believe that by being generous, God will be generous with them. 

7.  In the beginning of the week, many struggle with comparing how Americans do things or the American way of life to how seemingly wrong the locals are doing it or living.  We cannot fully process how hard it is to see a little girl cleaning aluminum foil in dirty water, or the lack of plumbing, or the shack-type homes made from whatever they could find.  We notice the trash thrown in the streets or fields, and the super thin horses, cows, and dogs.  We talk about wanting to take a kid home because somehow, we believe that America would be better for them.  But by the end of the week, we begin to realize that they have families, friends, and communities and they are loved; why would you take them away from that? They care for what they do have instead of hating their homes; they invite you in and are proud of what God has given them.  You stop feeling sorry for them and instead begin to realize that different doesn’t mean worse.  Different is what heaven will look like one day.  Different is beautiful.  Different teaches us to love deeper, wider, and fully.  Different has the power to mold us into a compassionate, empathetic people.  Different is amazing!

Emma Grace patiently working with
a little girl at VBS.
I found Jake outside playing with three boys.
Look at the complete JOY on both of their faces!
Scott and I took our two oldest kiddos with us.  Jacob is 18 and Emma Grace is 16.  This was their 5th international mission trip and the 2nd time to the Dominican Republic.  I haven’t been on a trip with them in over 6 years.  I am reminded, once again, how AWESOME my kids are and that these mission trips have changed them from the inside out.  I watched with admiration as Emma Grace helped with the Bible story skits, danced with kids, and took time to love and support a couple of children with special needs.  Jacob was a kid magnet and within minutes he would have little boys climbing onto his shoulders or sitting in his lap.  He never smiled bigger or more brightly.  He spent hours playing soccer and basketball with high schoolers and never complained about the heat…it was HOT!  If you have the opportunity to take your children on a mission trip, please consider it.  I have never met anyone who has regretted the decision!
The little boys enjoyed our teenage boys!
Emma Grace shining brightly during
one of our Bible story skits.
So now what? So much to process still, but my heart’s desire is that what we saw and experience won’t simply be a momentary feeling.  I pray that God will continue to work in us and through us and that we will slow down and assess how we are living our lives now, here in Texas.  What can we do differently to live better in biblical community? How can we continue to support the Dominican people and Makarios?  How can we continue to bring awareness to those we encounter?  How can we put into practice the truth and observations that we gathered during our time in the Dominican?
I cannot expect anyone to change me, my way of thinking or acting, except for me.  God reveals himself to me and now I must act. 
Scary, but exciting. 
Confusing, yet so clear.
Complicated, but really it is simple.

It starts with me and me alone. 


Monday, March 6, 2017

Trench Foot

"I think I have trench foot."

Jacob, our son who is a few months shy of 18, works every Sunday morning helping at our portable church.  Yesterday was a rainy really never stopped...just rained.  And in our neck of the woods, puddles begin to form immediately. 

Jacob comes home after lunch and goes to bed.  He sleeps for several hours and wakes up and realizes that his feet hurt.  They hurt to walk on and are beginning to blister (ok we didn't actually see the blisters, but he insists they are there).  He must have googled his symptoms to find out what in the world was wrong with him. 

He walks into our room and says, "I think I have trench foot."

Scott replies, "You don't have trench foot."

Jacob says, "No, I think it is trench foot."

Scott asks, "Like World War I trench foot?"

Jacob smiles and replies, "Yes."

Scott reminds Jacob that trench foot happened when men spent days in wet trenches.  Days, not hours.  There is NO way that Jacob's sore feet is the same thing.

Jacob, ever our stubborn child, says, "I have all the symptoms.  Wet feet.  Sore.  Blistering.  Ok you can't see the blisters, but I can feel them.  They are there.  A few more hours in the water and my feet could have been amputated!"

Scott laughs and says again, "You do not have trench foot."

Jacob smirks and says, "Ok.  It could also be wet feet."

I cannot make this stuff up if I tried.  And even in the outlandish declarations of a WW1 condition, I learned a few lessons:
  1. Don't google symptoms.  It won't work out well.
  2. Trying to illicit comfort or advice on a "medical" condition from your parents does not bode well if you choose the WW1 ailment as your own and try to compare your soggy-sock morning with men who served our country in actual wet, unsanitary trenches. 
  3. Although laughing at your children isn't great parenting advice, sometimes there is no other way to react.  And laughing is, after all, good medicine.  I mean it won't help Jacob's "trench foot", but it is good medicine for mom and dad.
  4. Sometimes, we make things bigger than they actually are.  Jacob's trench foot was really just sore feet from working in the rain for a few hours.  No need to boil the water to sanitize our sharpest knife and create a sterile environment because an amputation isn't warranted.  (Although, it would make for a fantastic Grey's Anatomy moment.)
It is the last point that kept me thinking last night.  How many times have I read something or heard something and allowed the what ifs run rampant?  I allow my head to follow illogical and unknown scenarios all the while my emotions begin to get wrapped up in my head game.  I begin to feel anxious, scared, depressed, mournful, angry...over what?  Over what ifs.  Over maybes.  Over made up scenarios.  Over someone else's experiences or opinions that may or may not pertain to me.

I love stories.  One of my favorite things is to sit and ask people questions.  I want to know their story.  I love fiction, Christian non-fiction, movies, reality television, and history.  I want to know the happy parts, the pivotal moments, and the sad, heart hurts.  I am intrigued by all the parts that make up the whole story.

Why would I allow my what ifs and made up scenarios to change how I experience MY story?  The things that I make up in my head are not my reality, and I am exhausting all of this time, energy, and emotions as I play them out in my head. 

What if Scottie lives with us forever?  What will that look like for her?  For us?  What if we die, who will take care of Scottie?  What if Scottie never learns to button her jeans?  What if, as Scottie gets older, people are cruel and stare at her more?  Will she notice?  How will she feel?  As Zoey gets older, will she be embarrassed by Scottie?  What if Zoey is the rebellious child, and we are too old and tired to notice?  What if the relationship between Zoey and Jacob changes when he goes to college?  What if Jacob goes to college and doesn't eat?  Or can't drive?  What if Emma Grace leaves me for college?  What if she gets her heart broken?  What if she is lonely and afraid?  What if I waste all of my time doing laundry instead of discipling her? 

In Exodus, God told Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh because it was time for God's people to no longer be slaves.  Moses played the what if game.  What if they don't believe me?  Who should I say sent me?  What if they don't understand me or take me seriously because I am not very eloquent?  What happens if Pharaoh doesn't do what I say?  And for every what if, God had an answer.  God always has the answer. 

Ultimately, God is the I Am.  And the truth is that the I Am can do all and be my all.  God has a plan and I just need to walk into that plan.  I don't need to what if new plans... I am told to just step into the plan God already designed for me and do life by loving God and loving others. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10 
  • When I begin to what if, I must stop and remember that the I Am is the one who created me and is the Author of my story.
  • When I begin to what if, I must trust that the I Am knows my past, present and future; He has prepared (before now, from the beginning) my good works (my story), and I just need to walk into them.
  • When I begin to what if, I must have faith that the One who knows and loves me the most has THE plan.
No more outlandish trench foot declarations because often the truth is quieter, less dramatic and not found by googling!

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Mom, I did it."

We have 4 kids and they have all taken turns being sick over the last 6 weeks.  Flu. Fever. Coughing.  Zoey had fever for a week, a little cough, but energetic and running around the house playing and laughing.  But after a week, we began to wonder and took her in to see the doc.  She had pneumonia.  I missed it.  Wouldn't have guessed it.  What kind of mom lets her kid go a week with fever?


Zoey pretending to be sick so the doctor
wouldn't think we were crazy for coming in for a sick visit.

Scottie has fever for over a week and coughing ALL the stinking time.  I finally take her in to the doctor and guess what?  Pneumonia!  What kind of mom let's her kid (no, both kids) go a week with fever and coughing?


I second guess myself constantly.  I don't want to spend the $50 copay if it is just a little virus that just needs to run its course.  Wait...I am waiting too long.  What if something is really wrong and I waited because of money?  What will the pediatrician think of me?  A mom who waits a week with not just one sick kid, but two, what kind of mom is that?  Will they write something in their chart? I feel embarrassed.  I should have known.  I should have acted.  I should have...something.

The truth is that there is always this voice in my head telling me that I am not enough.  I am not the wife Scott wants.  I am not the mother that my kids deserve.  I am not a good pastor's wife.  I am not a good daughter, sister, friend, neighbor... oh the list is endless.  I can give solid arguments about why I am not good enough.  Sure I can think of a few things that I do well, but they don't come close to the list of the should haves and not enoughs.

Tuesday morning I wake up and make Scottie her doctor appointment.  I am anxious about what the doctor will think, but also how much I will beat myself up afterwards.  I have been sleeping in Zoey's bed next to Scottie at night, so I can pull Scottie to a sitting position when she begins to uncontrollably cough.  The first few nights it was constant.  Pull her up.  Tell her to breathe.  Give her water.  Comfort her as she falls back to sleep.  Repeat every 10 minutes.  I am just tired. 

The doctor had a difficult time listening to Scottie's lungs because she wasn't breathing deeply.  She told me to go to the hospital across the street and get a chest x-ray.  No problem doc, of course I will.  I cannot tell her the truth because the truth is ugly and embarrassing.  The truth of not being enough is one I try to keep very quiet and secret.

It's raining.  Scottie is not a fan of the rain.

I cannot find the stupid building.  Why are there so many buildings and none are labeled well?  I keep texting and calling Scott and he isn't responding.  Why isn't he responding?  I cannot do this.  I cannot be the calm, rational one to help Scottie navigate this new experience.  Scott is the calm one.  Scott is the one who can get Scottie to do almost anything.  He doesn't get as frustrated.  He is sweet.  For goodness sake, he has slept!  She needs him.  I need him.  WHERE IS HE!!! 

I leave and run through Wendy's because Scottie needs to eat lunch and maybe Scott will call me back.  Scottie doesn't want to get out of the minivan because of the rain, so we sit in the parking lot and I call Scott and text him again and again.  I email his assistant and ask if he has a meeting.  He always responds.  I cannot find the building and I cannot do this!

I call the hospital and ask specifically which building the x-rays are in and we head back to the hospital.  I drive around in the rain until I find the right one.  We finally park and Scottie asks to stay in the minivan because she HATES THE RAIN!  At this point, I am not a big fan of the rain either.

We go in and are waiting for our turn to register.  And she spots balloons.  For the love, why balloons.  She HATES BALLOONS!  We check in and they have to put a wrist band on her.  She's not a big fan of those either, but I convince her to wear it.  She's anxious.  Quiet.  Looking around.  I am anxious.  Looking at my phone desperately wanting a response from Scott.  Wanting him to show up and help because I cannot do this.  I feel sick to my stomach.

The x-ray tech calls us back and I tell the sweet lady and her trainee that Scottie is on the spectrum and will need lots of explanation.  We go back to the room and the machine is making its low humming noise.  The lady asks Scottie, "What is your name?"  Scottie replies, "Scottie Denton." (OK I wasn't sure she would answer even though technically it is Cate.)  Then the tech asks, "What is your birthday?"  I hold my breath because I am not sure if she knows or will answer.  Scottie says, "12.  March" and I finish by saying 2004.  The lady says, "Scottie.  My name is Donna and I'm going to take a picture of your chest."  Scottie puts her hand out so she can shake Donna's hand and says, "Nice to meet you."  (I am overwhelmed with her response and wow what progress she has made the last year or two.)

After 30 seconds of trying to get Scottie into position she finally stays in position for the picture, but jumps when they take the pic.  I tell her that it would make that noise for the picture, but then it stops.  Then Donna gives her a heads up for the next picture.  Scottie does it.  Change position.  Scottie does it. 

Donna tells her that they were perfect pictures and she is finished.  Scottie asks, "Can I see my pictures?"  (After all, she is the selfie queen and these are selfies!)  Donna says of course and has her come into the little office and shows her all 3 pictures.  Scottie says, "They look like me!"  Then we thank her for being so sweet to us and we leave.

As we left the room, Scottie says "Mom. I did it."

Yes, Scottie you did.  You did it.  You were brave and awesome and amazing.  So very proud of you.

As we walk to the car Scott calls, but I cannot answer because I am feeling overwhelmed.  Scottie did it, but so did I.  I kept her calm.  I helped her.  I am capable of being what she needs me to be.

Scott was in a meeting at work and it is the one time that they asked all cell phones and computers not be in the room.  What?  What are the chances?  Truth is had Scott answered my first call, he would have dropped everything and left so he could be there the whole time.  He would have come to save help Scottie.  But on that rainy, balloon filled day, Scottie saved the day!

I just finished reading Chasing Slow by Eric Loechner.  (Read this book.  It's awesome.)  She says this...

"Busyness is a by product of our culture.  It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to overschedule, over inform, overprovide.  But the answer is not to lower the expectations we have created.  The answer, I believe, it live up to the expectations we have been created for.  Live up the expectations that you are what your child needs.  That your focus, your time, your attention, your failings-that these are enough."

Live up to the expectations that I was created for NOT the ones I have created.  The expectations I have created are impossible.  I am exactly what my Scottie, my kids, and Scott need.  All of me.  Failures. Anxiety. All of me.  I am enough.

Once again, I learn a valuable, life changing lesson because of our sweet Scottie. 

Scottie did it that Tuesday afternoon, but I also did it because I am enough.

One of Scottie's MANY selfies!