The season I am in

It's still winter here in the coastal mountains of Oregon.  There is currently snow on the ground, which is beautiful but I am not really happy about. 

This week the girls had one holiday, one snow day, and two late starts at school.  I was an hour late to an appointment because of the late start, and we had to cancel a commitment that we had this evening because we don't know if there will be more snow tonight and it will be dangerous to drive.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were commenting on the mild winter and the early flowers coming out.  The daffodils were almost ready to bloom.

This morning as we drove to school, everything was coated in white: the pastures, the trees, the distant hills covered in fir trees. It was so beautiful you wanted to just stop and soak it all in. The sun was coming out, beginning to melt the snow, which was falling off of the trees and raining down on the car as we passed.  The river was reflecting the blue of the sky, bordered by the whiteness…

This is only a test

“Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone”
We pass the sign along the highway as we drive into Seaside.  I pass the sign a few times a week, at least.  Seaside is our nearest town, where we go to Safeway, visit the library, the post office, take the recycling, and perhaps the second-hand shop.
I am used to the sign now, I barely notice it as we drive by.  But I am aware of it. Several years ago, scientists made a rather startling discovery.  The looked at the geological record and realized that the Pacific Northwest has a repeated history of big earthquakes, out under the Cascadia Subduction Zone, followed by a large tsunami only minutes later.  Roughly every 250 years.  The last one was exactly 318 years ago.
Basically, we know the “big one” is coming.  It’s pretty much a fact.  There WILL be a large earthquake, 9 on the Richter scale, immediately followed by a devastating tsunami.
I have thought lot about this. How you could not when your family lives near the coast?  When we visit a beach, we…

One year in the US - Culture shock

We have been in the US now for almost a year.  So I wanted to take some time to write about what it's been like, after 18 years in Panama, to be back in the US.

Sometimes, you don't realize how much you have changed, or how far you have disconnected from your home culture until you come back to live.  A lot of thing you glazed over on visits back now come rushing at you in full force. On visits back you didn't have to deal with the school system, health care, or taxes.  You didn't worry about local officials, the state of local roads or the legalization of marijuana.  The health care bills were just distant chatter... you were dealing with getting up at 5:00 AM to be seen a the local clinic, so what did you care about laws that were passed far away?

Now, suddenly, you do care. You have to care.

Culture shock is a reality, but it doesn't really have boundries. It's not something that happens in a neat period of time and then is over.  Culture shock can hit you a…

Sun and Mosquitoes in Panama

Our plane landed bumpily after lots of turbulence.  We had just watched the lights of Panama City come into view. 

It was just like my first view EVER of Panama City, when I first arrived almost 20 years ago now, when I arrived as an 18 year old, recently graduated from high school and trying out something new.  I remember being thrilled at the sight of the locks of the Panama Canal.  I remember feeling in wonder as I watched the lights of the city, then a wave of panic as I realized that I was flying into a foreign country, where I knew no one, to spend the next 5 months of my life.  What if no one met me?  What if I couldn't figure out what to do and I ended up stranded at the airport, unable to speak Spanish, make a call, get help?

Thankfully, that night 20 years ago, the panic subsided, I made my way through immigration and customs, and found friendly faces on the other end.

This evening in December, my feelings were very different.  Next to me, and behind me were Abigail and …

One year in the US - the unexpected transition

Transition is something we talk about a lot in missions.  But that doesn't mean we are good at it.

People transition in and out. New students come, old friends leave.  Every good friend that I have had over the last 18 years has come for a limited time, then left.  Eventually that takes a toll on one.

Our extended time in the US came upon us unexpectedly, and yet now I can see it was unavoidable.  Tensions and stresses had been building up for years, and yet letting go of everything in Panama was an excruciating process.

The transition has been more painful in that it was unplanned.  We didn't have months to prepare, to carefully pack, to properly say goodbye.  We left for 3 months, and didn't return.  Couldn't return.

I found myself turning in paperwork at the local school for our kids, signing up for health insurance, and the most daunting of all, negotiating the immigration process with Alex.

I feel like a hiker who had been following a fairly well marked trail, and…

Is Poverty Good?

Picture yourself a missionary in Panama, or another developing nation.  You are receiving a short term team.  They arrive at the airport, wide-eyed, ready to serve, taking everything in.
undoubtedly, poverty is one of the first things they will notice.  They will see houses that are simple shacks, barefoot children playing in the street, street dogs that are all skin and bones. They will visit a village and observe the children crafting toys from garbage, or playing all morning in the river, not a toy in sight.
Without a doubt, someone will comment, "They seem so happy!"
Who are "they"?  Those others.  Those different from me, those with little, while I have much.  I never realized that I was rich, now it is obvious that I have lived a life of privilege.
But somehow the picture of children smiling and laughing doesn't fit the picture they have in their minds of poverty. Shouldn't they be miserable?  They think, "I'm unhappy with my own lack.  I worry a…

"I could never do what you do..."

I have been told this many times.

"I could never do it!" people have told me.  I understand what they are saying.  Most of them, I believe, mean to communicate admiration.  Admiration is nice, as far as it goes. But it can also be isolating.

When people say this, sometimes as a missionary, this is what we hear....

"I could never do what you are doing.... therefore I put you in another category. You are a super-Christian"

"I could never do what you do..... therefore the challenges that you face must not faze you much."

"I could never do what you do..... therefore I can distance myself from your struggle, and admire you from afar."

I don't believe that most people mean to say those things. Perhaps I am the only missionary who has struggled with this phrase.  But perhaps not.

Missions work can already feel lonely.  I live in a culture foreign to the one I grew up in. And while I have learned to love my adopted country, and love it's people …