Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Stench of Paint Thinner and Guilt

They’ve been piled on top of the dryer for a month now, the turquoise tee that's just my color and my last pair of comfortable jeans.  They speak to me every time I put in a load of wash, “It’s not that hard.  Just get out the paint thinner and take our stains away!” But I drowned out their accusing whispers. 

“Hush,” I say. “I’ll deal with you when I want to.  I hate the smell of paint thinner!”  So there they sit, reminding me of my own selfishness, my embarrassment at my lack of gumption, my shame that I even went so far as to pick up two pairs of thrift store pants to avoid them. 

Still, yesterday their cries were louder and more haunting.  I can't get them out of my ears.  “Doing all you can to avoid what stinks?  You know that what stinks worst of all is inside of you!” 

“Hush, hush!  Let me be!” I cry, but I fall to my knees, broken.  Humbled.  It’s true.  There are piles of stained laundry in my heart.  Some might call them filthy rags.  The cleanser is there, but I don’t want to smell the stink of the revelation, to feel the ache of the process of change.   

I don’t, but I do.  My new man fights with my old man.  “Be new!”  “It’s not worth it!” “It’s been accomplished already” “Lies!  The cost will be too great!”   Back and forth, back and forth they alternately whisper and scream, offering peace then stealing joy.

So I run to the only place I know to silence the struggle.  To truth.  To Him.  I need to hear His voice.  Desperately. 

He speaks.  “You did right to barge into My presence.  Just think how My son’s blood has purified your heart so that you can worship Me.  His blood has made you clean.  You are perfect forever, even though you are still being made holy! ”

Unlike the stink of paint thinner, His perfect cleansing is sweet and soothing because it carries with it no condemnation.  It’s devoid of the acrid, disdainful stench of guilt.  The smell that I had feared so much wasn't the cleanser at all, it was my own guilt.  

When you've been made perfect, there's no need to fear being made holy.

Scripture: Hebrews 9:14, 10:2, 14, 19-22

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's Different - Tea Time (Tereré)

Every day at 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, the people of Paraguay take a collective pause for tea.  This tea is called Tereré (te-re-ray) and is made from yerba maté (Yerba ma-tay) which is a species of holly. 

Everywhere you go, people carry with them a water thermos and their tea supplies.   It's the equivalent of the latte in American culture. 

There is quite a rich culture surrounding this tea, the most important of which is the invitation to and solidification of friendship.  Paraguayans are extremely friendly and accepting.

The tea is served out of a guampa (gwam-pa) and taken through a bombilla (bom-bee-ya) which is a metal straw with a strainer at the end of it. The host fills the guampa with tea, then nestles the bombilla down to the bottom.  Water is poured over the tea and taken through the bombilla.  You should drink until the tea "talks" or makes a little slurp as it is considered uncouth to leave water in the guampa. 

The server (normally the host) takes the first drink because the tea is somewhat bitter in the beginning.  After that, if there is a person of importance present, they would receive the second drink, followed by the next person in clockwise fashion.  If you didn't already catch on, everyone shares the same cup and straw!  

It is considered rude to refuse the tea when it is offered.  Remember, it's not just a tea, it is a sign of friendship.  After two or three rounds, you can finish without giving offense.  A simple "gracias" lets the server know that you are through and he will skip you through the rest of the visit.   

Traditionally, tereré is not mixed with food, though certain sectors of the culture do regularly eat a snack with their tea.  We were advised that it is good to eat a little snack just before you drink Tereré to give a "shelf" for the tea "to rest on" in your stomach.   Tereré should never, ever be mixed with watermelon - though I haven't been able to find out exactly why that is!  :)  

While 9am and 3pm are the "recognized" times, there's never a bad time for a  tea break, especially in this hot climate!  I personally find Tereré refreshing, especially when enjoyed in the company of good friends!   

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Touch of Fall in the Middle of Spring

Down here in Paraguay we are in the middle of Spring.  However, I have to confess that I have been a bit of a rebel today and done some fall decorating!  :)  After spending so much of my life in northern hemisphere, it almost seems like a betrayal to not put out some sort of fall decorations during October and November!

So today I gathered up the pumpkins I have been buying whenever I find one of a good shape, along with some forgotten pot stands from the yard, and some beautiful orange berries from one of our trees.  Here's the result!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Looking Unto Jesus For the Task for Each Day

Looking Unto Jesus to receive from Him 

the task for each day,

with the grace which is sufficient to accomplish the task; 

the grace that enables us to be 

patient with His patience, 

active with His activity, 

loving with His love.

Looking Unto Jesus Translated from the French of Theodore Monrod by Helen Willis

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hospitality at the Zoo

Every once in awhile, you get a glimpse of how God has changed you.  For me that glimpse came last night.

Busy, crazy day.  Clap much too loud for Darling Little Redhead at his end of school program.  Grocery shopping.  In and out of the car with one functioning door.  Lunch, naps, and "what? the groceries still aren't put away?".  Off to a friends for tea.  Hurry home to start dinner for company.  Realize I have a text message saying nephew is in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  Kick into overdrive making phone calls and sending emails.  Hubby picks up other two nephews and niece.  

Chop, chop, dice, dice.  Stir fry ready to hit the pan.  Put kids to work making lemonade and setting the table so they don't worry about their brother.  Company arrives.  Sit down and enjoy scrumptious Teriyaki ribs.    Power goes out halfway through serving dessert.  There are officially two usable candles in the house.  We laugh.  "Oh well.  That's the stuff memories are made of, right?"  Nephew 2 starts an asthma attack so he and hubby run home to get inhaler.  Guest washes dishes in the dark while I put food away.  Hubby and Nephew 2 return. 

Nephew 1 comes through surgery fine.  "Praise God!"  Parents at home while grandparents with Nephew 1 in hospital.  Hubby runs kids back home.  Power returns.  Visit with our guests for a bit before Hubby runs them home.  Call it a night.  

Are you getting the sense that things were rather a zoo at my house last night?  And yet, I was surprised that the chaos didn't settle down into my heart.  Granted, I was a bit distracted and my nephew had to ask for the lemons four times, but I wasn't franticly worried about how it would all turn out or if I had enough food for everyone.  Strangely enough, I was happy (though obviously concerned for my nephew) and at rest.

And that's where the glimpse of growth came.  I used to be so worried about perfection and everything being just so, that I missed the joy of just BEING with our guests.  I rarely let people help and often was snappy with my hubby right up until the moment company arrived when I pulled out Little Miss Perfect.  Hospitality back then was at the expense of the peace of my home.   

What freedom there is in recognizing that we are imperfect and yet, God can redeem all our chaos and bless us...and hopefully make us a blessing as well.  I'm not saying Little Miss Perfect never rears her ugly head...but thanks to His grace there is usually true hospitality...even at the Zoo. 

Photo: Blue Skies Inn

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's Different - Um Hmm...Do we have to talk about this?

One of the things that is probably the hardest for North American's to get used to is having to throw your TP into the trash can, instead of into the toilet.  For us, the idea is just, well, gross.  But believe me, it is much better than a backed up toilet which is what can happen if you put the TP into the toilet as the plumbing system is not designed to handle TP (small pipes).  Enough said.

Photo: nkzs

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Toward a More Inspiring Work Space

My desk is a dresser/vanity that came with the house.  I didn't really enjoy looking at myself as I typed, so I set out to see what I could do about that!  This project did not cost me one cent because I challenged myself to use only items that I already had.

First I covered the mirror with some burlap.  Then I put out my birthday lamps from last year and some other odds and ends I had made.  And this is how it stayed for about a week. 

Then today, I finally got around to putting up some pictures and momentos.  Every single thing has a memory tied to it!  If you didn't already know that I'm're about to find out!  A plaque with my favorite verse was a recent gift from a friend, birthday card from my parents, watercolor of a store we visited on our honeymoon...everything has a story.  When something catches my eye while I am working, it brings a smile to my face!  One feature you can't see well in this photo is that I hung clothes pins and the put stacks of my favorite photos in them so I can change them regularly.   

This mirror was a steal from my birthday last year...Honey took me to Farm Chicks!  It was wonderful! 

The center of this flower is a token from the El train in Philadelphia, PA which Honey and I rode on one of our first dates.  

This thread is the most worthless stuff I have ever encountered in my life for sewing, so I figured it might as well be put to use somewhere else!  :) 

This baby necklace has a tiny mustard seed in it and was given to my grandmother, by my great great grandmother, when she was pregnant with my dad.  My great great grandmother was just sure my dad was going to be a girl!  :)  It also has this verse inscribed on it. 

I definitely enjoy sitting down to work a lot more now!  :)  Does your work space make you smile?  What could you do to make it more inspiring? 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Looking Unto Jesus Who Gives Repentance

Looking Unto Jesus 
who gives repentance
as well as forgiveness of sins
because He gives us the grace to recognize, 
to deplore,
to confess,
and to forsake our transgressions.  

Looking Unto Jesus translated from the French of Theodore Monrod by Helen Willis
Photo: kajrdj

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's Different - Greetings

Here in Paraguay greetings are a little different!  The first time you meet someone, you shake hands.   Generally, after that, you would give that person a kiss on each cheek.   

Here are the rules (as I understand them):
     Man to man - shake hands or hug if a close friend
     Woman to man - man waits for women to lean in, then he knows it is ok to give the kiss greeting.  If woman is uncomfortable for whatever reason, she offers her hand instead.  Normally, however, here is no problem with giving the kiss greeting to a man.  
     Woman to woman - a kiss on each cheek
     Dignitaries or other important people - shake hands to show respect

It's also important to greet everyone in the room when you enter.  North Americans are notorious for entering a room and just giving a "hey, howdy, hey!" to everyone.  That is considered very rude to a Latin.  Here you enter a room, and go around the room greeting each person.  When you depart from a gathering, you should generally also say goodbye to everyone individually.  The handshake or kiss is repeated at departure.

The population of the Paraguayan Chaco where we live is about one half Mennonites.  I just found out that they greet each other with a handshake or a hug if they are close friends.  Oops!   I had been giving the kiss greeting for about two months!  Obviously being Paraguayans they are familiar with the kiss greeting so as far as I understand it wasn't offensive, just not the way they normally do it. 

As a side note, Honey and I found it difficult when we were home in the US last year to remember NOT to give the kiss on the cheek at greeting.  It's funny how you get so used to one way of doing things, you don't even realize it's become a part of you! 

See you next Wednesday for the next installment of What's Different!  If there is something specific you are interested in, let me know in the comments!  I love comments!  :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Looking Unto Jesus Revealed by the Holy Spirit

"Looking unto Jesus
revealed by the Holy Spirit,
to find in constant communion with Him 
the cleansing of our sinstained hearts, 
the illumination of our darkened spirits,

 the transformation of our rebel wills..."

Looking Unto Jesus, Translated from the French of Theodore Monod by Helen Willis
Photo: PocketAces

Friday, October 9, 2009

Creating Beauty for the Glory of God

I love to curl up on the couch with a big thick stack of design magazines.  I’ll admit it.  I love decorating.  I used to feel guilty about that and wondered what use it could possibly have on the mission field.  It seemed so shallow to think about coordinating fabrics when so many have yet to hear the Gospel message.

Recently, though, I’ve come to a place of contentment and gratitude.  The guilt is gone.

To find out why, please visit Missionary Moms where I'm posting for the first time today!  

Photo: Country Living

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's Different - Mopping

The mop in much of South America is a long handled squeegee and a thin absorbent rag.  The rag is dipped in the mop water, wrapped around the squeegee, then passed over the floor until it needs rinsed.  When you are finished mopping, you wash your mop rag.  I personally really like the idea of starting off with a clean mop rag each time, instead of trying to get a mop head clean after each use like we do in the US!   

Come back next Wednesday for more What's Different and if you haven't read about the Widow Maker, click here!  

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hall Table Makeover

We purchased this hall table used shortly after we arrived to the country. I loved the bones of it but it needed a little love.  So I had the drawer fronts replaced and bought a can of green paint.  Then I got a little worried that I was crazy. 

Until I saw this coffee table that Kimba built.  Then I felt not at all crazy and just a little happy! :) 

So somewhere in the ballpark of two months later, I actually got this lovely lady through rehab!

I learned a lot through my first refinishing project!  I'm definitely looking forward to painting something again soon.  (Honey, if you are reading this...just take a deep breath!)  

I'd love to hear what you think!  And may I just apologize ahead of time for the dizzying flooring in our rental!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Looking Unto Jesus Glorified

"Looking Unto Jesus Glorified
to find in Him our Heavenly advocate
completing by His intercession the work inspired by His loving kindness for our salvation, 

who even now is appearing for us before the face of God
the kindly Priest, 
the spotless Victim
continually bearing the iniquity of our holy things." 

Looking Unto Jesus, translated from the French of Theodore Monod by Helen Willis


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