Not Mine

The cry has echoed down through the ages, Christian lips opened in a chorus of simultaneous praise and humble submission.

“Not my will, but Thine, be done.” {Luke 22:42}

Is there any place of greater abandon, of total freedom, of absolute peace?

There are times in my life, and no doubt in yours as well, when plans are made. You draw up a timetable, you make decisions and phone calls, you organize and accommodate. They are good things, beneficial with no innate evil.

And yet the Lord says no.

He comes in that still, small voice. Is there ever a greater delight than to hear Him speak? To know that He is choosing to commune with me? To understand His meticulous care in every moment of my day?

He comes at times moving mountains and governments. It is then one feels so small. The greatness of His grandeur and power! There is no obstacle for the Almighty. He reigns with authority and wisdom, the greatest powers of the world like bits of clay in His hand, fit only to be molded and conformed to His divine delight.

I stand in awe and wonder at His grace and love. My heart fills and overflows with gratitude and peace. There is a horror in knowing He could have let me go. He could have watched as I stumbled and fell, rolling down the proverbial hill of my own will and choice. But He didn’t, because our God is the true God. We are His children and His care over us is always abundantly incalculable—if we will humbly accept it.

Our hearts can be so deceptive. We pray back to the Lord, “thy will be done”, purposely neglecting the first part. We try to strike a deal: mine and thine, dear Lord. We march ahead, determined to make it work, resolved to see it through.

It’s not worth it, dear friend. Not all the money in the world, not all the plans, not all the pain, frustration or reaccommodation necessary is worth the cost of plunging forward without the Lord.

Thy precious will, O conqu’ring Saviour,

Doth now embrace and compass me;

All discords hushed, my peace a river,

My soul, a prisoned bird set free.

Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,

Till I am wholly lost in Thee.

Leila Morris, 1900

La Reina

She is often little more than a despotic queen. Demanding and unpredictable yet maddeningly indispensible, she ascertains man’s heart of fear and his soul of dependence. She is a moody monarch: one day deceptively sweet, honeying man out to her depths, the next roaring with insatiable anger and destroying whatever be in her all-encompassing path. She knows he can do nothing against her and will merely wait for the squall to pass before re-entering her enslaving waves to search for a few fish to feed his family. For without her, they will starve. 

It is the story of all fishing villages, of all the world, of all ages. 

Life is found within her watery swells. She yields kilo after kilo of shrimp and fish, putting food on the table and cash in the pocket. It keeps the economy running: women stand huddled around large wooden tables, sorting, processing, dying shrimp for many hours and happily arrive home with a few extra pesos tucked into the top of their shirt. Trucks arrive to haul loads all the way to Mexico City. They can buy their kids’ shoes, finish stuccoing their house, take the Virgin for a spin in their boat to thank her for their success. 

Except it’s not always like that. 

Men go out in the early morning, a few to a boat, loaded up with gasoline, nets and high spirits. All morning, the hot tropical sun beating down on their leathered skin, they throw the nets this way, then that. Nothing. They head back. Again in the evening, another try. Nothing. 

What will their family eat? Never mind meat and vegetables. Just a few pesos for some tortillas, a few fish to fry and share. They have no choice but to try again. 

They go all night, all the long, dark night. Nothing. 

Desperation strikes. They head farther out to open sea, farther from the relative safety of the bay. Out to where there is possibly some hope. 

Far, far out on the eastern horizon the clouds are rising, cumulating into dark, frightening masses. They are out too far, there is so little hope. Some make it home, some do not, their little fishing boats tossed like little toys on the violent sea. Her rage hardly mitigated even for the desperate cries of desperate men. 

But the ones who make it home have no choice. It does not matter they have almost lost their lives. Their family has to eat. 

Out they go, again and again. Searching, hauling, mending. Ceaseless, driving force to provide at least something. 

They head out, just as the bright red sun sends its final rays flickering across the rippling sea.  It’s just two of them this time. The boat is fully loaded, ready for an all-nighter. They wave good-bye to the family on the beach who watches their boat when not in use, and off they go. Gone for a few kilos of fish. 

They go and night falls, the sea rocking to drowsiness her unsuspecting dependents as a mother lulls her baby to sleep. 

Days go by and they don’t return. Not on the first, nor second, nor the third. The families begin to get desperate, but who has money to pay for the gas to go look for your husband, your father, your brother? The fourth, the fifth. 

Some men finally go, out again to the depths of the sea. 

There! Finally one cries. There, oh, there they must be! Oh, the grief, the disillusion! The demolished fragments of what had once been a fishing boat, floating all alone on that azure field of waves. Struck, no doubt by a large ship, unseen in the blackness of midnight. Farther on, what had once been a man, now recognizable only by a chain he wore. The other, lost. Completely lost. 

I am at this moment at a loss for words, for these are true stories. The men lost in a sudden storm happened 3 years ago, the two men just last week. 

They lived here, they worked here. Their wives and children are up the street, grieving. 

There was no option. For all the danger, for all the uncertainty the life of a fisherman affords, there is little choice but to go again and again into those murky waters and hope for just a little catch. The sea, like an abusive relationship, can burn their skin, can steal their sleep, can take their very lives, but man will always go back to her again and again. Civilization demands it, the economy demands it, their children’s empty stomachs demand it most of all. 

And what can one do? I suppose my three year old said it best. 

Mommy, I hope God saves all the fishermen. 

So do I, little man. So do I. 

Wrestler

I confidently clicked the link and waited impatiently for the page to load. Missionaries beheaded in Turkey for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart fell into the deepest pit of my stomach and my throat stifled a threatening NO!! I knew exactly what David was asking me. Except I didn’t want to have to answer. 

We were still just talking about a possible future together, he far away on an island in the gulf of Campeche, I safe and comfy on my creamy suede-covered double bed in a Raspberry Cordial painted room. The article was not him just sharing a piece of interesting, very tragic news in the modern Christian world. He was asking me one of the most serious questions to ever pass through my 17 year old brain. He was not asking me if I loved him, or if I wanted to be a missionary or if I’d mind living in Mexico. It went far beyond marriage and any sort of physical move I would potentially make. He was asking me if I was willing to give my all…my ALL for the gospel. 

I crossed into the ring and started the fight. Yes God, I’ll go. Nooo….don’t ask me too much!! 

I don’t recall how long I was in spiritual agony, only that it was exactly that. An agonizing wrestling match with my God and my Savior. I looked again and again at those nail pierced hands and chided my cowardice. How could I not say yes? I felt thrashed, totally demolished, but full of peace. 

Girlies I met on my very first trip to the island of Carmen, December 2008

Several years later, I sat beside a hotel pool, my heart in shreds, my mind shackled in an absolute dungeon. Three blocks up the street, my nearly two month old, precious baby boy lay sedated in NICU, connected to life support, receiving dialysis and blood transfusions. 

“You can’t have him!” I had been screaming for the past month. “He HAS to get better! He’s my baby and I want him here with me!” There was no way I was giving him up. “While there’s life, there’s hope” I’d say confidently, determined Damian’s Glory Day would be long after mine. But that afternoon I could take it no longer. His suffering, my suffering, David and the other children. I finally let the angel touch my thigh and I limped out, defeated. “Take him, Lord, if you choose. He is yours anyways.” 

And He did. The next day, God sent His angels and lifted my baby from my arms to the arms of Jesus Christ. He went, listening to the lilting strains of  

“See from His head, His hands and feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down, did e’er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

Isaac Watts

and opened his little baby eyes to gaze into the face of the Savior. 

I had fought but finally rescinded. God had won, and through the sorrow the deepest peace, that inexplicable peace that only God can give, coursed through my very empty arms. 

Little Damian Philip, during his first week of hospitalization

Not long after we lost our little Damian, I found myself battling it out with the Lord again. We were being treated very wrongly, very unfairly, very carnally by men we thought we could have trusted. My heart rose in rebellion. It wasn’t fair. We were young, we lived so far away, we didn’t deserve this, we were still grieving. I wanted to make them pay, make them realize their utter horridness. Then, those searching words came again: are you willing to give me your all? It wasn’t life to death God was asking of me. He was asking for my living life. Every drop of it. When our financial aid was compromised, would I still trust Him? When our house and living location were attacked, would I stay and live out His call? When we were abandoned by so, so many, was He my everything? When our reputation, doctrinal beliefs and characters were brutally destroyed, could I leave the sorting out to the righteous Judge? Weeping, the kids eating cereal for dinner because I couldn’t emotionally manage anything more, I gave in to God again. Yes, Lord, I will live in poverty if you so choose, I will live abandoned, hated and humiliated for your Name’s sake, I will never forsake your work though all of Hell’s forces work to push me out. The future no longer mattered, I had found peace again with my God.

Finding comfort in chubby cheeks and the great outdoors.

When I became oh, so sick, my nervous system a complete wreck, lupus destroying system after system, the old fight began again. Why me, Lord? Haven’t I suffered enough? Isn’t there some sort of limit to what you expect me to handle? Look at all those around me, they haven’t had to experience all this! Lying there, in too much pain to move, those ancient words of Psalm 73 soothed my ruffled soul. I went into the sanctuary, then understood their end. It wasn’t for me to dictate to God who should and should not have trials or pain, nor could I demand my preferred timeline of punishment. His will at that moment was to have me subjected, at His mercy, and to be totally ok with that. I had to stop fighting His perfect plan. If I was to serve Him and please Him through an inexplicable illness, then that was exactly what I was going to have to do. His peace again flowed through my tormented mind and broken body. 

Playing at the park during one of Mommy’s maaany doctor visits

A couple weeks ago it became very apparent that unless something drastic changed in my body, I would mostly likely be dead before the end of the year. I couldn’t die! I have a husband, three precious little kids, my whole life still stretched before me. It wouldn’t be fair for our family to lose two members. How, oh Lord, how could this happen to us? I fought valiantly. Prayer yielded the slightly ambiguous answer: trust Me. I was desperate for something more specific. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love.” Then, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” I realized how weak my faith was. How much I depended upon myself, my medications, my doctors. I realized there was only one way to move forward-absolute, unequivocal, undoubting faith. 

There were two counteracting issues that needed to be resolved. On Wednesday, one was resolved. On Thursday, the other. I would not die, and aside from that, I had been healed. Healed from an illness (pulmonary hypertension) all the doctors had said was not only incurable but degenerative as well. Oh, the joy, the relief, the peace that pervaded my fragmented soul! The goodness of God, without limit, without end! 

Thankful doesn’t begin to describe getting to grow old with this man.

Why do I share these distinct wrestlings with you?  Why expose my own shameful sin and doubt? Why tell the world about intimate, painful experiences? 

I have no answers except that when I started this blog, the Lord told me to tell you about Him. I want you to know how faithful, how loving, how merciful He is, no matter what trial you may be experiencing. I want you to know that His will is always sweet and His ways are always marvelous. You can safely cling to Christ through every dark valley, through each storm, through all those long nights. 

Never would I choose to go through these things, never would I ask for such dark nights for supposed days. There were times I hated myself for how far from the Lord I must have been for Him to feel the need to call me so drastically. How cold, how proud, how self-sufficient! 

And yet, looking back, I am thankful and humbled. 

Our God is one of tender mercy who loves to draw His children close to His side. He sees through to the other side of life and patiently works our souls to burn the dross and shine the gold. 

Incineration is never pretty. Here in the jungle, slash and burn is the preferred method for clearing farmland. It’s usually near impassable acreage, filled with dangerous snakes and scorpions, snagging thorns and poisonous plants. Burning is the only way. Walking passed the charred remains leaves a somewhat empty feeling inside, until you spot those neat, long rows of bright green corn, popping its frilly head above the carnage. 

New grass after a fire in Sabidos, Quintana Roo

That’s what we’re looking for here: extermination of every useless, damaging habit to make way for the precious fruit of the Spirit. Like Jacob, may we stop our wrestling and limp forever, completely conformed to the walk He has chosen for our lives.  

Paradise

They rushed out of their mud and palm huts into the dirt streets, eyes shielded against the blazing afternoon sun. It circled around again, sending flamboyant flowers fluttering down from their delicate perch. For the first time, the residents of the Hacienda Paraíso saw a small airplane, glinting like a daytime star, flying overhead. They looked at one another, incredulous. 

Up in the plane, no doubt a couple of men were also looking down. “There they are!” one would have exclaimed, “here, I’ll start the speaker.” The pilot responded, “yes, you do that. I’ll circle around again and the next time we sight them, drop down some 15 packages.” 

Standing next to his grandma Elda, five year old Eduardo watched the plane, amazement in his little mind. But what happened next would be the foundation for the rest of his life. Out from the little plane began to sound the sweet notes of hymns, telling the people of the Lord Jesus and His great love for them. Care packages were dropped, filled with bits of love from absolute strangers. 

Paradise, how I love you

Years went by. I will share with you sometime the story of how the christians in Paraíso were eventually saved and how we came to know them, but that is for another day. 

Paraíso, Yucatán is a small village, originally part of a large hacienda, situated in the middle of nowhere. The chimney stacks are still there, as well as some of the original stone buildings. It´s about an hour outside the beautiful city of Mérida but time has had little say in their mode of life. Mayan is spoken more fluidly and readily than Spanish; most homes would continue the regular use of a mud and palm home with hammocks strung across the rafters for sleeping. Pork, sour orange, lima and freshly milled corn are still the word of the gastronomical day. Women sit in their doorways embroidering beautiful flowers along the edges of white blouses and dresses. Wide and airy, the wind blows through the fabric, refreshing women taut with a life of hard work. 

It’s very much their town. It’s a comfortable feeling to know who everybody is, what time they go to sleep at night, what their favorite food is. It’s nice to know who owns exactly what properties and to which church everyone belongs. 

So the minute a white van comes dieseling in, heads pop out of every window. Anyone who happens to be on the street stops and stares. 

Flying in and out, just to have a meeting with the believers is merely maintenance. It’s no way to win new people, an impossibility to expect an outsider to feel the confidence to attend. You will always be a stranger. 

For a several years, that’s what we have done. Maintenance work. We couldn’t do more. Emotionally, physically, spiritually pushed to our absolute limit, it was all we could do to just get through the day. 

But God is our Healer. He filled us again with the grace and spiritual energy necessary to truly work in His field. 

And it really is work. Systematic evangelization, visiting contacts, listening to stories of witch doctors and curses and dreams, faced with indifference, distrust, spiritual confusion. It´s walking in the hot sun, occasionally shifting your stack of literature so the bottom page doesn´t go totally soggy with sweat. It´s wishing you could cover your children´s ears as they hear of a father and son beating each other up and threatening the other´s death. It´s talking with your mouth and praying with your head. 

It´s leaving all the results with God. 

You can’t force a woman, steeped in idolatry to understand or even want Christ, just because you showed up at her door. You can’t reach in and clear out the cobwebs of ancient superstition to make way for the light of the gospel. You can’t grab the beer bottle from a man’s hand and shove a Bible at him instead.

Slowly, steadily. Through the Spirit’s power. It’s the only way. 

There is little in life that can give greater joy than plopping down in your car, sweat dripping down your back, inhaling a bottle of water, knowing that however many families just heard the gospel or received literature to read and that the Holy Spirit is striving with them. There are so many people, not only here in the south of Mexico, so many who need Christ. 

Please remember the little town of Paraíso in your prayers. There are people there who the Lord wants to save and use for His glory. Pray for the believers and their growth and for their children who still need Christ. Please pray the devil would hinder us no longer and that we would be able to work with freedom in our Lord. 

Obedience, Simply

Pulling up the old horse, Charlie, the D.O.M [Mr. Robert Wilson] turned to Amy. “Which blow breaks the stone?” he asked. Then, pointing with his whip he said, “Thee must never say, thee must never even let thyself think, ‘I won that soul for Christ.’ It is the first blow and the last, and every one in between.”

A chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot
Beach at Emiliano Zapata, Campeche

Mr. Wilson’s words, spoken nearly 130 years ago ring with ageless truth. Can it be that one and one alone is solely responsible for the joy of winning a soul?

About 11 years ago, before we were even married, David and a group of men came to Zapata. The first family they visited were the Mendozas. We visited them off and on throughout the years, with varied success at igniting interest in the gospel.

A full 7 to 8 years later, the first member of the family accepted Christ.

Several months later, a couple came to visit and spent nearly every single day with this family, encouraging them, loving them, laughing with them, teaching them.

A few more trusted the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

Two years later, a brother came and in house meetings spoke through translation. Oh, and that blessed light came shining through again, to another soul, lost and found.

A couple months later, her husband, in the darkness that is a tropical night in the countryside, watering plants in that refreshing sunless moment, he too realized his sin was keeping him far from God and accepted the gift of salvation.

Four months later, another brother was visiting who encouraged them several times to obey the Lord in baptism.

Which blow breaks the stone? How could anyone know? How could any of the 15 or so people alluded to here be marked as the one?

We are simply, humbly, “workers together with him [God]” 2 Corinthians 6:1.

And so, to battle the waves and the currents, two men walked the couple out into the salty sea, through sprinkling rain to show to the world that they are dead to sin and alive in Christ. There was no fanfare, no visitors, certificates or great ceremony. Just a small group, gathered on the shore, witnesses with God to obedience. Simply obedience.

When Glory has Fled

We march into the battle of life, our banners flying, heads held up high. Inevitably, a company of loyal paraders bring up the rear, enthusiastically hurrahing their support.

We tramp through beautiful flat plains, butterflies flitting by and songbirds chirping their sweet approval. The road is well worn, trampled by so many feet who have gone before, the soft grass swishing paradoxically against our combat boots. Out come the peasant children, followed by the routine menagerie of chickens, dogs, goats and a few piglets, shouting and cheering their approval of the shiny flag and man in front. Men stop their wagons, women their wash and stare in admiration of this one who has it all together.

Then night falls. A penetrating chill pervades the air. The mountains are coming and fog rolls down in great blankets of white.

Some of our band raise their eyes to the snowy peaks and muttering out excuses about this or that turn back to the closest village for a place of rest.

Morning dawns, gray and unpromising. A few more whisper their good-byes and hunker out.

Lifting our banner of glory high for all to see, the march goes on, the wind whipping its colors into a dazzling show.

The trail gets rougher, full of rocky boulders, tricky river crossings, frightening precipices.

Turning to survey the view, we are shocked to see hundreds shucking their boots and turning back, heading down into fields of comfort and plenty.

Is there any point in carrying on? Is there any glory in going on alone? We look up at our once beautiful flag, now in fluttering shreds, the bitter mountain winds having done its due diligence.

All glory has fled. There is no banner, no lauding crowds, so few cheers of support.

And so the Lord thrusts our weary souls out to Arabia with Saul. He sends us to Sinai with Moses, to our tent doors with Job.

All of man’s fabricated pride and success, gone in a minute, foot sore and alone, the nagging question remains.

Is it worth it?

Is it worth the pain, the humility, the disregard of man to cross those forsaken paths alone?

I will declare it from the highest peak, from the lowest valley, from the clouds and from the sea beneath—it is worth every single step because when my glory is gone, HE ALONE reigns with glory and might and majesty and honor!

He alone is worthy.

Hello Again

Sweet release. That’s writing for me.

It’s a world of freedom, a world of mental liberation. Those faint blue lines have seen it all. From tears and a bleeding heart, to ranting and frustration, to penitence and poems of hope.

And that’s why I’m here.

Not for this to be the proverbial garbage can of an angry human.

Rather, I am here to pour out from my soul to yours the hope and joy that is found in a life hid in Christ.

Cathedral door in San Cristobal, Chiapas

We live in Southeast Mexico, in the obscure state of Campeche. I hope to be able to share some wonderful stories about the very special people here. Their beautiful voices deserve to be heard.

It is also my desire to share tidbits that have given me hope and peace. Life has not always been beautiful but there is always beauty to be found if we can only look up to the One who is the Creator of all things, who has kindly chosen to love each of us, who fills each and every day with His grace and splendor.

My prayer and simple hope is that this little project will be a blessing to you.