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Reflections of a Mission Trip: The Faith to Go

I got home a couple days ago now from a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. I want to remember what I learned now while it’s still fresh. That being said, I have probably a few subjects on which to reflect, so I’ll spread them out. Otherwise this would be one long post.

Team Pic

Might as well start at the beginning, right?

This was not my first mission trip. It wasn’t even my first mission trip to the same place; it was, in fact, the third mission trip I have taken to Guatemala. Since I’ve done it before, and I like a little sense of adventure in my life, this part was not scary. The unknowns of a foreign country can be a huge obstacle for some, and understandably so. Because of that, I knew when I was asked to be one of the leaders on this trip, that I could be an asset in guiding the team through this and helping them in knowing what to expect.

Ugh! I was going to start at the beginning, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

Brakes.

Reverse.

I went to Guatemala in 2013 and 2014, but it’s been a few years. Life happened and I was just holding my head above water. Doing anything beyond that seemed impossible, so though I had it in my mind I would go back one day, I didn’t think the time was now.

promise

When I got the call from our international mission team leader asking if I would be one of the co-leaders for our church, I said I would talk it over with my husband, we would pray, and I’d let her know. In the back of my mind, or not even so far back, I really thought it would be a no. First, it was my husband’s turn to go, and it wouldn’t be fair to him. Second, mission trips cost money, and we had none. Third, my own life was a mess, so how could I possibly be someone a team could look to?

But after a few days of praying and discussing with my husband, I began to see it differently.  My husband had a focus of school and it had been a life change for us to send him back. I had been feeling depressed and useless. I had been given a new purpose in my life a few years before, but just had it taken away and was having trouble processing who and what I was, and whether I had a purpose or anything to offer to others anymore. Now I was being asked to take on an important role. This meant somebody felt I did have something to offer, and that idea was likely placed there by God. And when God says you have a purpose, you better say yes, strap in, and enjoy the ride, because He will use you if you let him. I knew I was at a point where I needed this.

But still, we were struggling so much financially, I felt it was wrong to do traditional money raising, and we certainly couldn’t do it ourselves. But I remembered just how perfectly the previous trips had worked in financial fundraising, one trip almost to the exact dollar. Of course, the trip was scheduled for three weeks before I had available paid vacation at work, so I would also be losing an entire week of pay when we were already living paycheck to paycheck. So, I decided if God was sending me, the money for the trip itself would come, and so would the money to cover my week of not getting paid.

Then there was still the nagging reminder that though it seemed God wanted me to go, I just couldn’t see how I was going to be effective when my own world was partially shattered.  If I was falling apart, how could I help hold together a team of people with varying personalities.

But God uses the messed up, the falling apart, the broken people. After all, I wasn’t going to do it by my own strength, but through Him. He would just be using me. Having learned over the last few years to live by faith when I couldn’t make sense of the world around me, He knew I was prepared for this. My being broken was what He wanted to use.

el cruz

So after more prayers, more talks with my husband, and some tears, I called the international team leader and told her yes.

There are so many scriptures and so many songs that come to mind about being called, but these two scriptures are the ones that have gotten me through all the pain and heartache of the last few years:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

and Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Sure enough, we had several people on this trip who had never been before, and I was able to help prepare them and help guide them while we were there, to support them and encourage them. What a blessing that was, to watch as they experienced the emotions of such a trip, and to be able to be part of it. The funds were raised quickly and by less people than I would have expected. My portion was over 100% paid faster than any other trip I have gone on. My husband began a job where he is earning more and working more hours, in fact, much overtime right now, and it has more than made up for my missing week of work. And my brokenness? It was just the condition my heart needed to be in.

volcano me

This was just the beginning of my story. I still want to reflect on what we did and the people of Guatemala, the sense of community and how it spans across cultures, and my personal attachments to Guatemala. Stay tuned. Those are coming.

Epic

If you would like to read now about our work, one of my awesome teammates wrote a blog while we were there. Check it out here: epicgoguatemala.com

One of my other teammates shared this video for our team, and I want to share it with you. (Just click on “this video”).

 

 

Hitting the Glass Ceiling While Wearing Glass Slippers

I was coloring with my favorite little girl one afternoon when she suddenly started asking me the origin stories of some of the better known superheroes. Personally, I love Batman and told her about Bruce Wayne’s tragic loss of his parents and his way cool butler.

She really wanted to know about Wonder Woman.  I only knew a little, but we happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night who is a big Wonder Woman fan, so I told her to ask that evening.

That night, she learned about Wonder Woman and watched the pilot episode of the Linda Carter show from the 70’s. By the end of the night she was wearing a replica tiara, bullet proof bracelets, and holding a golden lasso while spinning.

WonderWoman

And she hasn’t stopped since. My little girl IS Wonder Woman, and I’ve become a big fan too. A beautiful, smart, strong, courageous princess who fights for truth, justice, and love. What’s not to love? Or encourage? I could not ask for a better role model in a world saturated with everything I never want my princess to become.

She is a little girl who always favors the female characters, but in her eyes, even Leia couldn’t compete with her curious love of Darth Vader (though Leia has always been a hero to me), and she was still looking for the perfect hero.

But of course, she doesn’t just want to be strong; she wants to be pretty…and a princess. Naturally, she also still loves the Disney Princesses.  We very recently watched the 2015 live-action version of Cinderella, who happens to be one of her beloved princesses.

Now, I know there are arguments out there that these old fairy tale princesses teach young women to be weak and to depend on being saved by their “prince charming,” but I think that just shows a lack of responsibility in teaching our young girls the values and virtues of each of those princesses.  Is Cinderella weak because she has to be whisked away to the castle by her prince? I don’t think so. She was good, kind, and beautiful, and was in the end rewarded for it.

The historic context is the key to making excellent lessons out of these “helpless” princesses.  Our young ladies today need to understand what life was like for women once upon a time, that they were seen as unintelligent property good only for cleaning and having babies. But in these situations, these princesses were strong in the ways they were able to be strong. They were dignified in spite of it, and though women have not quite broken through that glass ceilings around the world, and not even always in the Land of the Free, they gave little girls hope. We cannot discount that today as weak. We should be proud of how far we’ve come. (and let’s not forget the B.A. Mulan, who is based off a Chinese legend)

Princess Diana lived in a land without men, and beyond learning to be strong and to defend herself and what is right physically, her virtues are the same as many of those fairy tale princesses. Many of those values of her femininity are what makes her such an amazing character.

Our little one is not quite old enough that we feel she should see the new Wonder Woman movie yet, but she will one day, and I wonder if she will get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Diana climbs up a ladder and rushes through No Man’s Land the way I did. Will she also get goosebumps and tear-filled eyes when Belle (Emma Watson) dances with the Beast in the grand ballroom brought to life…the way I did? I really hope she does.

Heroes don’t have to only be physically strong. A real hero is also emotionally strong, unafraid to show a tender side, and does right, even when it is hard. Mostly, heroes need to stand for something and reflect something we want in ourselves.

 

Today

I’m not really feeling IT today, whatever IT is. Creativity alludes me, but I promised myself I’d write something today, because I actually have a tiny porthole type window of time to do so today. It’s just a little round window that doesn’t even open to let in any fresh air. Maybe that’s why my creativity is stifled.

creepy road

Nevertheless, I was just able to work in the word nevertheless, so I guess I’m not completely mind numb today.

I had big plans. There were two ideas in my head fighting each other for my attention all day. Now that I’m spending time with my personal laptop, the ideas have vanished. Ok, not completely. I remember the concepts but not the wonderful way I was going to string my words together to make my points poignant. And really, if I cannot write either of these ideas to the best of my ability, I refuse to do it at all! Sometimes it’s ok to write fluff just to be writing; other times your topics require your utmost affections in molding them with your words. Masterpieces require love, time, and inspiration (just as lists require an Oxford comma).

It appears my ideas must wait for a better opportunity. Today is not the day.

 

Mawwage- Here’s to Another 17 Years

mawwage

This man knows me better than anyone, and he loves me anyway. I guess the same can be said the other way too.

Seventeen years is a long time, especially in modern marriages. But we’ve stuck with it. I’m sure we both have wondered why from time to time, but marriages aren’t perfect. None of them. You work at it. You give and receive considerable amounts of grace, and you grow together, even when it means suffering “growing pains.”

Sharing your life and becoming one with someone is bound to get complicated, but you do it together. While one is weak, hopefully the other is strong. Sometimes you are both weak and you just prop each other up and know it will get better because you have each other. The last few years have been the most challenging in our marriage, but we made it to seventeen. During the first ten years we were practically children. I feel like we’ve finally actually grown and matured over the last seven years. The biggest part has been finding God in our marriage and keeping Him at the center…no matter what.

So here’s to another 17 years…and another…and so on. There’s more adventure to come. I love you Robert. Happy Anniversary.

Home is Where the Heart Is

There she was, curled into a dot on the bed, wrapped in a furry dog. I hoped my instincts would kick in as the dog’s had. This was way out of my comfort zone and level of experience… yet here she was, left in my uncertain hands.

The phone call had come just nine days earlier, during a leisurely afternoon nap (I had a feeling naps would be scarce in my new life). My blurry brain was having a hard time comprehending the surreal conversation. Perhaps I was still asleep and this was a  dream.

“Jane took off today. Nobody knows where she is, but I had a feeling this was coming. The kids are both with your father and me, but…” my mother trailed off. “It’s just too much for us with both the kids.”

What was she saying? What was she about to say? I knew there was a reason she had called me, and I think even in that foggy moment, I knew what the question would be. I’d had this conversation with my sister only a few weeks earlier. At the same time as it was a shock Jane had actually left, there had been some signs and a deep feeling it would come.

“Lynn, would you and Michael please consider taking in Diana?” What did that mean, and for how long?

My simple reply was, “Give us a couple days to think this over.” I could have just answered then. I knew what the answer would be. How could we deny taking in an innocent little girl who needed a home? Yet, this was my family, not his blood, and I knew a life-altering decision had to be discussed. That initial discussion lasted about 45 seconds. We knew it was the right thing to do, even if we were both frightened. So frightened.

So we stood in the doorway of the now pink room we had spent days preparing for her, and we watched her sleep, enthralled by what was happening.

She had not gone to sleep peacefully. She had screamed and cried and when there was nothing left for us to do, we had put her to bed where she cried herself to sleep as we helplessly cringed and stared at each other. She was angry, confused, and absolutely inconsolable. Who could blame her? But a four year old doesn’t know how to voice what we knew she was feeling. She didn’t understand where her mother was, why she had just spent a week and a half at her Gran and Pop’s house, and why she was now in our home, her great aunt and uncle she mostly just saw on holidays.

Our hearts went out to her. We knew she was in a tender place, but we also had to set a certain tone of authority, because this could very well be a permanent situation for us and we needed to be the ones in charge. What a crazy balance we would have to learn when we had spent fourteen years avoiding parenting.

She sighed and rolled over, and the dog stirred. The other dog, as uncertain and scared as we were, stepped towards the bed and peered over the top at the tiny creature who had made so much noise earlier, but now only lightly snored. She was a curiosity. Something new to be discovered, for all of us. And she would change us.

**Just a little creative writing draft**

Terri Klaes Harper

Copyright 2017

We Are All Models

A man who does not know how to properly treat a lady has no business in raising one; nor does a woman who does not know how she should be treated.

The behaviors we exhibit for our children in our relationships are the ones they will develop in their own lives. That is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Parents, think about what you are modeling for your children. Is it what you want them to become?

Treat others as you want your children to be treated, and how you want your children to treat others.

wonderwoman

 

Vampire Huntress

Perhaps I should not read Dracula before bed, I had a dream I was teaming up with Van Helsing to go after a band of vampires (one of which was my crazy niece). The setting was modern and for some reason I had wardrobe people. I had to explain to them that wearing heels when hunting vampires was not sensible and I had a conversation with one of them about the time she went to a theme park and a domestic cat had lunged at her, knocked her down, and purred in her face. I woke up to my cat putting next to my head. – Jan 19, 2017

Here is what happens when a Facebook post of my actual dream becomes a challenge to write it out into a short story type something. Anyway, it’s a draft at this point, so I’m just fleshing out what I remember:

Vampire Huntress

Mist hung in wisps among the live oaks tinsled in Spanish moss, creating a haze around the moon from my view hidden behind a tombstone.

“Friend Terri. You must come, now,” Professor Abraham VanHelsing hissed from behind another tombstone. He was the cutest little old Dutchman, with his numerous degrees, his broken English, and a brown corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches. He reached out his hand, which I took, and we were off. Yes, I touched his hand and we were suddenly in the sanctuary of a well lit suburban home, surrounded by people.

“I did not have Host with me, or the garlic. Thank you for come with me, Friend Terri, but I cannot be put you in any more danger, dear, sweet girl.”

“Really, Prof. Van Helsing, I want to help you end these terrible creatures.”

“Dear child, is not one of them a niece to you?”

“Yes, but perhaps it is not too late for her. Maybe we can still give her soul freedom.”

“I fear she has gone too far for that freedom.”

“Then I am ready to make sure they will not do this to any others. What can I do to help you, Professor?”

The lights suddenly dimmed and we found ourselves watching TV monitors of surveillance cameras covering the back corridors of a closed shopping mall. We caught the images of four vampires, two female and two male, moving from one screen to the next. It was almost dawn and they had to find their resting places for the coming day… at a shopping mall.

Part of me wondered why their images could not be reflected in a mirror yet could be captured on video, while another part of me wondered what time period this was. These vampires looked very Lost Boys-ish to me. I could have sworn the blond male was a young Keifer Sutherland.

“Do not worry why they do not reflect in mirrors, Friend Terri. But you must prepare for hunt now. These ones will help you get prepare, and then come find me,” Van Helsing offered as he left five assistants behind for me. “I will be outside Macy’s when you are ready,” he added as he hoisted a Victorian crossbow against his shoulder and left another leaning against the wall for me.

The assistants were apparently my wardrobe people, each sizing me up and sifting through an array of clothes that had suddenly appeared. I didn’t mind the steampunk corset, which was surprisingly comfortable, or the looked-like-leather-but-felt-like-jeans pants they literally threw at me. But I had to draw the line at the high heeled buckle boots.

“Really? How do you suppose I am going to sneak around and hunt dangerous vampires in those? I won’t even be able to walk in them. Don’t you have anything more sensible for vampire hunting?” I pleaded.

“Women always wear heels and leather for such tasks in movies,” one of the wardrobe girls said. The others all shook their heads in agreement.

“Well, this isn’t a movie, and I need something flat and comfortable.”

“How about these?” another of the girls offered as she handed me the perfect pair of boots. They were plaid and leather and flat with buckles and spurs and a comfortable gel insert.

“Yes, I believe I can even run in those,” I said enthusiastically. “Now, let’s talk hair. I’m going to need it back out of my face…”

Ever so quickly, my hair was set in a long sideways braid and I was wearing a top hat that stayed on my head even when I shook it.

“Ladies, thank you. Do you think I am ready now?” I asked as I reached for my crossbow.

“Yes. You look like a vampire huntress.”

A black cat suddenly appeared, rubbing at our ankles. One of the girls reached down and lifted him so she could look him in his green eyes. “I love cats. One time I went to a theme park and saw a cat in some bushes behind a bench. When I called to him, he ran out, jumped into my arms, and knocked me down purring.”

 

 

And that is when I woke up with my own cat purring in my ear on my pillow. I am ready the Dracula sequel, so who knows what else I’ll dream. I like to think Professor Van Helsing and I kicked vampire butt though, even though I’ve never before used a crossbow or worn a top hat.