Thursday, March 13, 2014

St. Bryce Missions

has a new web site! I'd love for you to stop by and visit. I think you'll learn so much more about our work and the vision behind what we are doing in the missions. Come back and let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Reading List For An Excessively Long Plane Ride

It is time to start seriously thinking through the minute logistics of our trip to Tanzania. You know what that means, right? Prioritize and attack from most important task on down. So, first things first. Time to make my picks for the books that will help me survive an excessively long plane ride, of course. We can figure out where the kids are going to stay tomorrow. (Just kidding. We know that. How exactly they are getting from place to place...well, that we can figure out tomorrow).

I am starting with a couple of books that have been hanging around on my Kindle half-read for too long now. Time to wrap it up.

Orphan Justice
Evangelical Catholicism

Then it'll be time to gain a little cultural knowledge about Tanzania and read some inspiring stories. There are a ton of great choices here, but I am going with these for this trip:

Tanzania: Culture Smart
Tanzanian Women in Their Own Words
Facing the Lion

I've got a running list of the stories of Jesus-loving world changers to read. This time the winner is

No Greater Love

I tend to keep a book about the issues of poverty, trafficking, or other global issues going at all times too. I read them rather slowly because, quite frankly, they usually break my heart. But it is important to dig in to the hard places if you are going to do the work of justice and loving the poor well, so I am committed to the discipline of learning. I am both excited and a little terrified to finally get to this one:

The Locust Effect

I was feeling a little guilty that I wasn't choosing a "harder" spiritual reading list since it is Lent. But then I realized three things:
1. I have no idea what that actually means.
2. It's part of my fear of not appearing knowledgeable and competent that Tanzania is helping me let go of.
3. I think facing my brothers and sisters in Tanzania will immerse me in Lent perfectly well.

So I am going with two books I have really been wanting to read:

Jesus Feminist
Girl at the End of the World

Of course, every traveler needs to load up on her favorite genre. I tend to vacillate a bit, but, generally speaking, I love a good memoir, so I am adding two of those to my list:

Bird By Bird
I Am Malala

And lately, I am have been devouring young adult fiction and not feeling the least bit guilty about it, so I am going with these two for my "fun", actual books in the hands reads:

The Book Thief

And since I hate linking a thousand links, and I like pretty little visuals, I just made a pretty little Pinterest board with all these titles. I like the idea of changing it out as I read one and add another and keeping a current list going, since sometimes I honestly forget what I had in mind to read next and miss getting to something I really wanted to read. So here it is, my Current Reading List board:

Follow Colleen Mitchell's board Current Reading List on Pinterest.

So what should go on my list for after Africa? What's on your reading list these days?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Letter Tanzania: On Not Knowing Anything

Dear Tanzania,
I am headed in your direction in less than two weeks, and I feel like I just want to write you ahead of time and set the record straight about something. I have no idea what I am doing.

Whew. I am so glad I can just say that. Because, you see, all these people keep asking me why. Why are you going to Africa again? What are you going to be doing there? And I feel this compulsion to have something good to say. A professional sounding answer that is certain and sure.

I talk about water wells and chapels and young priests with lots of new converts who need help. And I do hope to find out more about all those things. But I have no plans for you, Tanzania. You have been you for a very long time and I have had nothing to do with it. I hardly have the right to make a plan before I ever set foot on your soil, listen to your people, learn your ways and your wants and your hopes and your dreams.

And even then, it may turn out that I have nothing to do with it. And I am good with that.

So why I am coming? I am coming in obedience to the Spirit of the Holy One, who built a dream of you in my heart long ago, wove a contact, opened a window, blew through it and said, "Go."

I am coming because I need this time to drink in something new. Step away from my all my knowing and walk in knowing nothing for a while. Hold the hand of my beloved, cling to him, and be good with having nothing to offer.

You see, Tanzania, I think the Lord is sending me to you for something. I know He wants me to open my eyes to His glory that shines is in you, to the myriad ways He has been at work at you, to all you will have to teach me and show me about who He is.

I pray He has a little role for me to play in your story. I hope there are faces and places for me to love and feel forever linked with there in your wide open plains.

And yes, there is a little part of me that dreams of a community of faces having fresh water again and a zealous young missionary priest stepping into a newly constructed chapel for the first time.

But I have no guarantees. And I am coming anyway. And I don't want to have an answer yet.

Because God is teaching me something and using you to do it, dear Tanzania. You see, I fear not knowing. I fear feeling like God is calling me to something and then finding out that, well, no, not so much. I fear that maybe He is calling me and what He is calling me to is having no answers, no way to help, to just sit in the hard place.

I like being capable, having visions, seeing solutions, knowing who to plug in where to get things done. I like knowing. And I fear not knowing.

But you, Tanzania, you are worth stepping into my fear for. I have waited long for you and I will not mess this up with my presumption, my need to have a good answer, to appear professionally competent.

I'm coming on a dream and wind of the Spirit, Tanzania. You will be part of my story. Perhaps I will be a tiny dot in yours. Only our God knows. And I am good with that.

And I'm trusting you Tanzania. Because every time I step on a plane with my whole family, I am comforted by the thought that if we all go now, at least we were all together and we were going somewhere. But when I have to do that same thing without my children? Gripped. By. Fear. Anxiety. Barely breathing in the take off moments. Wondering what on earth I was thinking.

But I am going to fight through Tanzania, because God said go. And you. You are going to make it worth it, right? I know you are.

Linking up at The Grove at Velvet Ashes today.
Join us as we talk about fear.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Posted. Funniest Post.

I am so grateful for Sweet Sarah's awesomely simple link ups which always seem to come along when I have had trouble getting myself to the keyboard and need a quick easy post to get me going again.

This week in no exception. Brutal travel then finally arriving in the arms of family and enjoying their company has kept me away from my blog this week. So, realizing it was time for Posted. made me feel so relieved.

Then she had to go and pick funny. That was kind of hard. I mean, I think I am hilarious. But everyone else? Not so sure. But I was back and forth between two and this is my blog and I can do what I want and I think Sarah would be very patient with my inability to totally follow the script, so I am linking both.

Given our recent travel chaos, which I hope to tortureyouwith  entertain you with some time this week, I have had this post about our border crossing to Panama on my mind. I laugh every time I think about that trip.

And then as I visit with people in the States and try to explain what we are doing and why we are headed to Africa and realize all over again how the life that seems so normal to me does not appear that way to everyone else, I am reminded of this post about how people perceive us when we are trying to make new friends. And laughing at myself once again.

So go ahead, have a few laughs. And check out the other posts in the link up too. I am sure there is some fun to  be had.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Pardon My Dust

I taste it on my lips after a long car ride. I feel it in the pores of my skin at the end of the day. I resign that no matter how much I scrub, my feet with never be free of it. I brush it from my children’s hair at night and from my husband’s boots in the morning.
It is the dust of this place where we live, where we serve. It is the dust of the mission field...Read the rest at A Life Overseas today and join the conversation.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Every Mom Matters

One of my very favorite parts about being pregnant was always choosing a name for my baby. Even in the pain of multiple miscarriages, there was joy to be found in giving my child a name. I always regarded it as an honor and a privilege bestowed on me as a mother by God. But I never regarded it as a privilege of prosperity, as a privilege afforded to me by class and income. Excited to be joining the family as a monthly contributor to their World View Wednesday series. Read the rest here...

Monday, February 24, 2014

To All the Confused, Doubting, Lonely Catholics

My heart is stirring for you tonight. I want to say something to you that you may not have heard in a long time, something maybe you've never heard.

Don't leave. Don't walk away from the Church. We want you. We need you. You are a part of us and we are not fully ourselves without you. 

Don't believe the internet trolls who shout things like, "Well, if you don't believe it or can't agree with Church teaching, stop calling yourself Catholic." I can't pretend to know who they are talking to, because I personally try to keep a very safe distance from religious bullies, but I know they say things like that.

And look, I understand where they're trying to go. If you have decided to proclaim yourself publicly as a Catholic and then openly align yourself with things contradictory to the moral teaching of the Church in a sort of willful public disobedience, then, yes, in all honesty, we'd rather you stop calling yourself Catholic.

But you, you who is just not sure about some things, who is wrestling with how to make Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves fit with moral stances that you know have hurt and distanced people whom you love from feeling worthy of Christ's mercy and salvation? We don't mean you. I don't mean you.

I want you to know that if you are wrestling and struggling and railing at God because He confuses you with His kindness and compassion and demand to be better all at the same time so that you never feel good enough, you are not alone.

If you look at the Church and wonder how it could be that so many Catholics seem to have gone so far off mission of loving people and welcoming them into a relationship with Christ, you are not alone.

If you feel like there is no safe place to say out loud that there are teachings of the Church, that even when you understand their intellectual reasoning, are difficult for you to assent to or proclaim publicly, it's not just you.

If you wonder about the Eucharist and the real of it all and long to understand more, to feel more than you do, but just, don't, that does not make you a bad person, or a bad Catholic.

If you struggle with repeated sin and fall over and over and are tempted to just walk away and find some place where you can rest and they will tell you that you are okay sin and all, we get your weariness. You're not the only sinner here.

If you have watched friends find their way to another church and seen them flourish and grow and find their purpose and be empowered there and you are resentful of that, you are not the first.

But can I ask you a favor? Please don't ditch us just yet. Because the truth is, I know if you walk away, it is not Jesus you are really rejecting, or two thousand years of beautiful tradition and sacramental grace, or the faith of your childhood that was wide-eyed for the wafer that was the Savior. It's us. 

The people next to you in the pews who don't know your name in real life but will happily rake your "type" over the coals publicly and call for your ex-communication. The people who yell and rant and make you feel like a two year old in time out for asking an honest question. The ones who live to use your sin to justify our own.

Can I just offer you my sincerest apology? I don't know how we got here either and I am with you when you think this is surely not the Jesus of the Gospels alive and active. I am not sure how to help you find a safe place for wrestling out the hard stuff, but can I just stand next to you and hope with you that somewhere within our Church there is one? And tell you that I will wait and I will search with you and I will not leave you alone in the dark?

Please don't leave us. We don't need an army of dissenters calling themselves Catholic in the public square. But we also don't need an army of believers who despise honest questions and real seeking and dark places of unbelief and drive out the parts of our own body, the Body of Christ. We need people who walk together. Who stop for the injured and the hurting and rest with them until they are ready to have their wounds bandaged and get back in the race. We need to make sure we remember that you, you stuck in the muck of life that has made you cynical about the Church, you just might be the best part of us if we could stretch ourselves out long enough to invite you to move with us, in communion with us, again.

So stay with us, please? Let us sit with you and wrestle with you and be honest with you about the fact that we too have doubted and wrestled and struggled. That we still do.  Give us a chance to make right our failures to love you where you are and be Christ present to you.

If you feel alone and like there is no way God can love you or you can stay Catholic with the thoughts and the questions you are having, can I just please say to you right here and now that He does and there is.

And can I make you another promise? If you cannot say "yes, I'll stay", if you walk away for reasons that are not mine to know, can I tell you that I won't condemn you, vilify you or stop seeing you as part of the Body of Christ? I will long for you and yearn for you, but I will not ostracize you.

But I can tell you that I will pray and I will hope that you will wrestle your way to the freedom and the joy that was meant to be ours in the sacramental life of the Church, that I will pray that on the other side of your doubt is wild abandonment to grace and a light that cannot be extinguished? That my greatest hope for you is that this place in which you find yourself now is the crossroads that leads you to a love a affair with God and His Church that you cannot help but share with others? Because that is my prayer for all of us, each of every one, those trapped in the dark place and those stuck in obstinate rule measuring and every one of us somewhere in between. Because I firmly believe it is what the Father desires for us as His children and His Church, His brothers and His bride.

And I hope and I pray you will stay and that we can find you a beacon of hope and a safe space and some light in your darkness. That we will be that hope and safety and light for you. Because that is what we were meant to be after all. And I pray you accept my apology for all the times we haven't been it.

Let us pray that the Spirit makes a way for those who long to run together towards him.