Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mission to Dallas

Two evenings ago, after we had finished eating Alexandra’s birthday cake and were sitting around the table, Larissa sprang the news.

Timidly, quietly, looking at the table as she spoke, she said, “I want to go to Dallas, too.”

It was another case in not pushing and allowing God to do the work.

Once you’ve been on a Global Expeditions (GE) trip, you’re on their call list. Jacob went on three mission trips with GE (two to Mexico, one to Guatemala), Alexandra went on one (Honduras), and I’ve been a leader on two trips (Mexico with Jacob, Honduras with Alexandra). So in the early fall, we started getting phone calls about joining a holiday trip this year.

“I don’t think so,” I said when I answered the call for Jacob. “I don’t think that the timing is right. We’ve already been on two family mission trips this year – to Mexico in the spring and to Ukraine in the summer. Maybe next summer…”

But Global Expeditions kept calling. They called Alexandra. They called me. They called Jacob again. The answer was always the same. Not now. Not this time.

And then God did something with my heart. I love travel, and I do love mission trips. Wouldn’t it be great to get away from my desk and computer where I spend all my work and homeschooling hours, writing manuals for my employer and schedules for my kids. I sit at a desk and correct assignments, and I sit at the desk reading through grammar books, textbooks, and answer keys. Perhaps I could get away over Christmas break, maybe with one of the girls. Living with a tribe in Panama sounded exciting…

But it still didn't feel right, so I kept telling the Global Expeditions folks no.

Then I read Same Kind of Different As Me in three sittings. (I couldn't put it down.) There are so many needs in our own inner cites. I never before wanted to go on a mission trip to an inner city, but God whispered to my heart, Go! My husband said how could he say no to something like this?

Normally they don't pester, but now I know why those Global Expeditions reps kept calling. On their next call I said, “Yes, I’ll go. I’d like to go to Dallas as a Country Assistant.”

Now you don’t always get to pick and choose your trips when you’re a leader, and the holiday trips usually get Country Assistant volunteers quickly. But to my amazement, there was no Country Assistant for the Dallas trip yet. But why should I be surprised if God had put it in my heart to go there?

Although I would have been happy to serve on this youth mission trip without any of my children with me, I did invite all three to join me. It didn’t take Alexandra long to decide to go. Just mention children, and Alexandra will be there. This trip is about working with inner city children.

Alexandra tried to convince Larissa to go, but she just didn’t want to.

“I didn’t want to go on the Honduras trip,” Alexandra admitted. “Meet all these strangers and sleep with them in the same room? I only went because you made me,” she said to me.

I was shocked! When we had gone two years ago, I thought that she was just as excited about going as I was. Alexandra admitted that she was glad that she went, and that she grew more spiritually during that 10-day mission trip then ever before. But she hadn’t wanted to go.

I had considered telling Larissa that she should get out of her comfort zone and let God use her. But I’m glad that God told her before I did.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet sixteen

Yesterday we gained another driver-to-be in the house. Alexandra turned sixteen, and following the precedent set by her brother, I took her to the Department of Motor Vehicles and she got her learner’s permit right on her birthday. She even managed to pass the eye exam without glasses (unfortunately, she rarely wears them). And true to her character, she scored a perfect 100% on the written test.

Because Jacob needed the van to drive to his mechanics class in the morning, Alexandra and I got to the Motor Vehicle Department just before lunch. I’d expected a long line, but there was none, not a single person waiting! It took less than an hour to fill out all the paperwork, take the test, and pay the $92.50 for the permit.

Then I offered to take Alexandra out to lunch.

“I’m not eating until supper,” she announced.

The last several months, she’s been doing a lot of fasting – skipping a meal or two during the day, or not eating for 24 hours. Considering how thin she is, I’m not so happy about this frequent fasting, but she doesn’t do it for weight loss; she does it because the Bible says to pray and fast. I know that she prayed and fasted for our pastor when he had a very serious operation last month, an operation he was told he had only 50% chance of surviving, yet he was back in church within a week! So I said nothing about the day’s meal-skipping.

“Where were you going to take me?” she asked as I turned the van towards home, her interest obviously aroused.

“Olga’s Omelets,” I said. This restaurant specializes in omelets and egg dishes. I had taken all three kids there only once, but it was many years ago, and they still talked about it.

Alexandra sat in silence for a while.

“Where is Olga’s Omelets? How would you get there?”

“I’d take a right on one of these cross streets and drive right through the city. It’s in the city on Commons Avenue.”

More silence.

“OK, let’s go,” Alexandra said, her willpower broken or perhaps her fast put off for a day.

I certainly didn’t want to push her to give up something that she’d promised herself, but I was glad when she agreed to go to lunch with me. This day she was uncharacteristically friendly to me as we went for her permit, and I wanted the moment to last. Unfortunately, for the last several months, she has not been very pleasant toward me and even announced to others that she and I are very different, and she didn’t like me, to which a girl in her youth group said, “I think your mother is pretty cool.” No other mothers in our church travel to Africa, lead mission trips to Mexico, or cook weird (that is, Middle Eastern, Thai, Mexican, etc.) food. Perhaps that embarrasses her.

“She’ll come around,” my husband has assured me over and over as Alexandra’s teenage moods pushed me out of her world.

Didn’t I read somewhere that girls tend to pull away from their mothers during these years? Doesn’t that have something to do with growing less dependent or asserting their own individuality as women? Whatever it is, it’s painful for me. She doesn’t open up to me and often responds in curt, one-word answers. But she fawns on Dad.

At the restaurant, we talked like old friends, shared bites from each other’s omelets, and discussed the mission trip that we’re going to take to Dallas over Christmas break. Through that lunch, I had a peak at what our relationship might become one day after Alexandra outgrows her teenage moods.

Although I had wanted both daughters to go with me on this mission trip, perhaps it was better that Larissa didn’t want to go and that I would spend one on one time with Alexandra.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This moment in time

Driving home from the grocery store last night, I had an odd thought: for this moment in time, all is well. And the odd thing is, I expect things to go on indefinitely just as they are right now.

Mom is back home and functioning OK. Dad is still sitting in front of the TV hours on end, barely walking from bed to chair and back again, but still alive and not even seriously ill – and he's almost 90. My kids are all living at home. They're all teenagers and sometimes we get a bit too much togetherness, but I can't imagine them not living with me, not being here.

For this moment in time, this fall day, this is reality for me: all is well.

It's hard to grasp that idea of perpetually passing time, especially when the passage of time steals away people. My brother died last year, so I'll never hear his voice again, share a story, or have him offer me a cup of coffee in his office. A cousin died not too long ago; we'll never walk together in his village in Ukraine. My mother's friend has a husband with Alzheimer's, another thief of memories and times gone by.

Even though Jacob doesn't know what he'll do next year, what he'll study or whether he'll work (I think he'll end up at the community college), this is trivial, a small trial in the story of his life, and mine.

But my parents and elderly friends and family, they're at the end of the bench, as one man said. Just not sure which one will get pushed off next. Then again, it could be someone young, like my brother.

But this evening, as fall settles in and frost nips the leaves and sends them whirling to the ground, all is well. Chaotic at times, exhausting, full of rabbits and goats, too many of us cooking and too few cleaning up, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jumping another hurdle

That’s what it feels like to complete each of the tests in the Apologia science curriculum. Today the girls jumped hurdle number two in Biology. Fourteen more to go. There are sixteen modules in the book.

I think I sweat out those tests at least as much as my kids do. They aren’t the multiple-choice tests that they used to have in public school; these are all short answer!

I assign the test. The kids put it off. They do all their other subjects so the test would come too late in the day when they’re exhausted. They push it off to another day. They study. They procrastinate some more. I assign them material from the next module to push them along.

Then they take the leap: they take the test.

I nervously grade it.

They pass.

On to the next module. The next hurdle is about two weeks away.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)