Monday, December 31, 2018

Last of 2018 Sunday Funday

So this is a Sunday Funday for two weeks, so we have two vlogs (and I am still behind/catching up):
and our Winzeler family vacation to Clifty Falls:
Our life for the past two weeks has been filled with family and fun, as well as lots of snotty noses, traveling, and packing. After getting all organized at Steve's house (where we stayed while in Indiana), after Christmas we packed up and drove to Connecticut to be with Caid's family. Unfortunately, After Sofia's 24 hour food sickness (while at Clifty Falls), she then caught a cold. Graciously, she got better right before Christmas, and Jessica then caught that cold right after Christmas (we had almost a 24 hour not-so-sick period for which we are grateful!).

We had a wonderful Christmas with Winzeler family (and Carina Christmas Eve), and are now snuggling in for a wonderful New Years with Ferguson Family! We have been so blessed to be able to speak at Horizon Central, Shelbyville Community church, Brookville Road Joyland, and to meet with many amazing supporters and friends (in Indiana and Connecticut): it has been quite a wonderful first month back on home assignment!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Two Little Words: made me cry happy tears
2. Mary's Magnificant: love D.L.Mayfield:) and Mary
3. Christmas poem by Madeleine L’Engle
4. You are Jeff Bezos game: what? need to try this...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

I'll get to Sunday Funday eventually, but first: Christmas!
And here is our video of the year:

Sunday (December 23) was a really important day to me last year. I had just given birth and was still in the hospital as they were checking on some things with Jessica. I was alone, as Sofia couldn't stay long visiting, and Caid was taking care of her. It was a lonely time, and I just wanted to go home. It was also our family's first Christmas away from all of our extended family. And I was nervous for my new little human. 

Fast forward to this year, when we are celebrating Jessica's first birthday, surrounded by family and friends. For Sunday Funday, I read Sarah Bessey's field notes (if you want to subscribe, go to, and the tears just started falling. As I wiped them away, I began to ask myself why the words touched me so much. Here they are:


"...Because of the work of scholars like Christena Cleveland and others, I've already thoroughly disabused myself of the notion of white baby Jesus (check out her article here on Why Jesus Skin Colour Matters). Jesus was brown and Jesus was a first century Jew. And so hallelujah. But I was still thinking like a westerner about Christmas. I was still fully entrenched then in the notion of the nativity as I understood it.

And so my grief for Mary, the Mother of God, was acute. As someone who has experienced an unintended unattended birth myself, I was well aware of the fear and the loneliness of those moments. I imagined a teenaged Mary, alone in a smelly cold barn just as I had been in a smelly cold parkade, struggling to give birth on her own with only an ignorant and likely overwhelmed Joseph at her side. 

But this year, I have been so fortunate to learn that I was wrong. Oh, it's fun to be wrong! It means we get to learn! It began when I picked up "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels" by renowned theologian and scholar Kenneth E. Bailey for a read this winter. (I know, I know - I'm a lot of fun at parties, I promise!) As someone who lived and worked in the Middle East for more than forty years while studying theology and scripture, he wrote a surprisingly accessible book for those of us who are theology geeks. And it was in the early pages of that book that I realized I had completely misunderstood the Nativity.

And I'm so glad. For starters, Jesus wasn't born in a barn, folks. Middle Eastern homes of that time did not have the stable for the animals separate from the home at all. Instead, the home was usually made of two rooms: one for the family and the animals and another one at the back or on the roof for the guests. Joseph wasn't turned away from a hotel; he was told that the guest room was already taken. Even there the text has even been misinterpreted itself - it's not that there was no room at "the inn" as we understand a bed and breakfast or a hotel but rather the word is "a place to stay" meaning a guest room as part of an actual home.

So the story is actually one of hospitality - the home where Mary and Joseph stayed was not a guest room but an actual family room. They were welcomed into the family's quarters. They weren't even in the guest room but in the main room of the home.

Besides, Mary and Joseph were not alone, they were part of a caravan. And they were not travelling alone to Bethlehem as strangers. This was their family ancestral home. They were likely part of a travelling community of family members all headed to a place ready to welcome them for the census. It would have been unheard for them to be alone on the road, let alone be utterly friendless in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary probably would have been welcomed immediately into almost every single home in the town given their lineage, let alone the standards of hospitality at the time. 

And let's finish off with what was my biggest ache for Mary, her loneliness and isolation at the time of birth. Birth is a thin place. It's always too much - too much pain, too much waiting, too much joy or sorrow, too much love, and far too messy with too little control. So I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when I read Bailey's assertion that Mary was absolutely not alone at the moment of birth. She was almost certainly and absolutely attended by skilled and present women, likely even community midwives. In fact, she probably had too many helpers given the circumstances. 

Mary wasn't alone. She was in a warm home, surrounded by women who had walked the road ahead of her, who were able to care for her. Jesus had a similar story. He came into the world, not isolated and alone and apart, but fully embedded within a family and a culture, surrounded by women. Jesus was warm, Mary was supported, and they welcomed the shepherds there to that place, as a family.

The Christmas story isn't one of loneliness and quiet isolation in the darkness. This is a story of welcome and hospitality, of lamplight and family, of birth in all its incredible sacred humanness, entrenched in a culture and in a time and within a family." 

I am so happy to revisit and reunderstand this: and it makes me want repaint all the inaccurate pictures I've seen of the nativity. God provides, God cares. And last year? Our own Christmas miracle: they gave Jessica the okay at the very last minute, and by 9pm I was snuggled in my own bed with my new family of four. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday is a time I can relax, catch up on reading blogs and interesting articles, and sort out my thoughts. You know I am busy when I can't get to it until Thursday. But here it is:)
Our weekly (late) vlog:

So we have been in the USA over two weeks now, shown our Brazilian friend around, been to Nashville, Children's Museum, the Zoo, ice skating, lots of family dinners, family vacation at Clifty Falls, Sofia gettting really sick, and Jessica's 1st Birthday. We all have winter clothing, and most of our things (in different locations) have at least been organized. I call that a win! We are getting life organized and gearing up for Christmas and then heading to Connecticut for a month. We are so blessed. In the moments when I did have a chance to stop, think, pray, and be still, I wrote:

"It is so interesting, this "Coming back," this "Reporting of your life" (in 10 minutes or less). The more we talk to people, the better/easier it is to say: but more than that, it is as if the more we talk about it, the more real it becomes. In a way, we make up our own narrative. I am not saying we lie or stretch the truth, but we do choose (intentionally) how we present our lives. I can say "The past 1.5 years were challenging, and we overcame many difficulties" or I can say "The past 1.5 years sucked and I never want to relive that again." Same truth, different perspective. People don't (mostly) want to hear me sort it out, they just want to hear the outcomes.

No matter how much I prepare, I never really know what's going to come out of my mouth until it does. Once it does, I giggle internally at how succinct and easy it sounds: there was so much life lived in those few words! And truth has such a lovely ring to it. Once said, it comforts me. It affirms me. I have a lot of "oh now it makes sense" moments. It is gratifying. I really love coming back. It helps me to give worth to when I was gone. Coming back is hard and it's own kind of work, but it complements the other part. I can't do one (Brazil or home assignment) without the other. That interconnectedness unites me in a life that is very divided."

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Tis the season of Incongruity
2. Gifts for future Missionaries 
3. Ark of the Covenant is where? I love reading things like this:)
4. Do it Scared
5. Homeness-Finding home in a mobile world

Monday, December 10, 2018

Two Weeks of Sunday Fundays

Here is a video from Caid last week:

Here is a video of our last days in Brazil, and flying to the USA (with a couple bumps along the way):

We have been in the USA for a week now (That video will come soon), and everyone is a bit tired still, but happy and healthy and at least resigned to the cold (Caid and Sofia love it, while Jessie and I are tolerating it). Some (of the many) highlights with exclamation points:
* Family! It is so wonderful to see them and hear Sofia ask "Do we get to go back to Grandma's house now?" All. The.Time.
* Church family! Who helped us out of a jam and got us Megabus tickets when we were stranded in Chicago.
* Friends! So many friends who helped get our girls winter clothes and all the stuff you never remember you need.
* Toilet paper goes in the toilet! (In Brazil, it goes in a trashcan next to the toilet)
* Bathtubs! The girls think it is a pool, and love it, as we only have showers in Brazil.
* Christmas at the Zoo! And all the fun Christmassy things around.

Hope you all are enjoying December and Advent and of God's great gifts!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Season of Cynicism
2. What is the average length of service for Missionaries?
3. Free Printouts: Jesus Storybook Bible and Ann Voskamp Ornaments
4. Another article (but my favorite) about John Chau
5. Ideas in the Shower
6. Looking for a place to Land
7. The White Envelope: I want to find some Christmas traditions like this, but right now we are still figuring things out.
8. Gift guide for expats