Thursday, June 13, 2019

A pay cut, no medical insurance, no retirement plan

During my lifetime, the American Dream has been so pervasive in our values, assumptions, and expectations that we have allowed it to be a comfortable, acceptable, welcome part of Christianity.

The American dream: Upward mobility. Abundance. Living the good life.

Back in my twenties, those were my goals. I admit it. In my circles, including my church circles, that was the thing to do—that was the way we lived.

Like I said in “I was chasing the American Dream,” when I was a teenager and a young wife and mother, I never questioned those goals. I never questioned my motives for pursuing them.

What a shock it would have been for me if, back then, I had read David Wilkinson’s words in The Prayer of Jabez: “Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s dream for us? We’re steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure.” 

Christianity and the American dream clash when our motives for getting more money and possessions are to show off our success, to impress others with our lifestyles, to use our status as a way to compete or exert power, or to pursue self-indulgence and self-gratification.

My husband, Dave, sensed I planned to pursue that kind of American dream, and I thank God for giving me a thinking, questioning man. Dave didn’t want that lifestyle for our young family.

This topic is not easily covered in one short blog post, but I’ll highlight Bible verses that spoke to my husband’s heart back in our pre-Lomalinda days (and later, spoke to my heart, and still do):

Jesus said: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes? . . . Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33, NIV).

The New Living Translation words verse 33 this way: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Eventually I realized I needed to look at the American dream in a new way, the better way. Dear Chuck Swindoll—my life and faith would be so different without him!—says, “If I am to seek first in my life God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, then whatever else I do ought to relate to that goal . . . . Every decision I make ought to be filtered through the Matthew 6:33 filter: where I put my money, where and how I spend my time, what I buy, what I sell, what I give away.” (Dear Graduate: Letters of Wisdom from Charles R. Swindoll )

Here’s another of Jesus’ teachings: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:10-21, 24 NIV).

Or, the New Living Translation words verse 24 this way: “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

The New Century Version words verse 24 this way: “You cannot serve both God and worldly riches.”

Each person and family must decide how to apply those teachings of Jesus.

My husband and God eventually persuaded me to let go of chasing after that American dream.

Instead, our family took a big pay cut and moved to Lomalinda—no medical insurance, no retirement plan. We had to believe God would give us everything we needed—and He did! (And there’s a huge difference between what a person needs and wants.)

I recommend the following for more on this topic:

Friday, June 7, 2019

I was chasing the American Dream

I’d always planned to chase the American Dream—I’d marry a guy who’d earn more money next year than this year. And more money each year after that. And we’d get a bigger, nicer house every so often. And increasingly nice furniture and carpets. New cars, too.

And I expected we’d continue our pursuit of happiness—which the Declaration of Independence says is our right. I assumed gaining more and better possessions would lead to that happiness.

Abundance. Upward mobility. Living the good life. When I was a kid and a young wife and mother, that’s what I assumed would be mine.

And I wasn’t alone. In The American Dream: A Cultural History, Lawrence R. Samuel observes that “. . . the American Dream . . . is thoroughly woven into the fabric of everyday life. It plays a vital, active role in who we are, what we do, and why we do it.”

I still remember the house my family moved into when I was about three years old. My dad had finished his duties in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and, thanks to the GI Bill, my parents bought one of the many new houses popping up.

Our house was tiny, but it was new and in an all-new neighborhood in suburban Spokane, Washington. It had one bathroom (tub, no shower) and two bedrooms (smaller than many of today’s closets), one of which my two little brothers and I shared. The living room measured about thirteen feet long and nine feet wide. A small kitchen also served as our only place to eat. But life was good.

A few years later, my dad’s employer transferred him across the state to a tall office building in downtown Seattle. He and Mom were all a-twitter because he’d be wearing suits to work every day. Our family was moving up in the world.

We moved to Seattle’s far northern suburbs (now a city named Shoreline) and bought a house larger than our previous one. This one had three bedrooms—I no longer had to share one with my little brothers. Two bedrooms were tiny, but the master bedroom was a decent size, unlike the one in Spokane. We had one bathroom (tub, no shower), a small kitchen, and our eating space was off the kitchen in one corner of the living room. Yes, indeed, we had moved up in the world.

A year or so after our move, our thickly-forested neighborhood was deforested, and hundreds of new homes popped up—houses a bit bigger and nicer than ours. But my parents spruced ours up here and there as they could afford—they added a shower head to our bathtub (showers seemed to be a status symbol for families who had taken only baths for centuries) and, years later, built a dining room off the back of the house. Yep—we were moving up in the world.

Because of the American Dream, I assumed my husband, Dave, and I would start small and move to increasingly nicer houses. Indeed, we did start small—living in a pathetic little place as newlyweds, later moving to a new-ish apartment at Richmond Beach, Washington, and then into a two-bedroom house on a large wooded lot. 

In 1974, Dave and I bought a house in Edmonds, Washington, an attractive and comfortable town bordering our hometown of Shoreline. Our kids, Matt and Karen, each had their own bedrooms. Dave and I had a half-bath off our bedroom (which neither my parents nor Dave’s had) and in the hallway, we had a full bathroom with an impressive shower. Moving up, indeed.

And we had a fireplace—that was another notable amenity that my parents’ house didn’t have. And it gets better: We had a sliding glass door off of our dining nook. We had definitely moved up in the world.

But I did have dreams of replacing the turquoise rug one day—soon, I hoped. It was in good condition but didn’t match anything we owned.

And I hoped to spruce up the dark-stained kitchen cupboards.

And it would be nice if we could change the master half-bath into a full bath.

And I had dreams of making the kitchen and dining nook just a bit larger by adding on to the back of the house.

I figured this house would suit us well for years to come. I was really happy—until . . . .

Until that fateful February day in 1975 when:

My husband, Dave, burst through the front door of our home and, with a boyish grin and outstretched arms, announced, “We’re moving to Lomalinda! I’m going to teach there!”
 A few seconds passed before I could wheeze in enough air to speak. “Where is Lomalinda?”
 “Colombia, South America!”
 I collapsed to the floor.
 I’d always expected we’d live a normal, predictable, all-American life but, without warning, my husband declared he had other ideas. (from Chapter 1, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir) 

Any day now you should be able to buy Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir as an ebook, and it’s now available in paperback through your favorite independent bookseller, or the following:

Barnes and Noble (10% off with their promo code; 15% off for new customers)
Indigo (Canada) 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

What would you have done?

My husband, Dave, burst through the front door of our Seattle home and, with a boyish grin and outstretched arms, announced, “We’re moving to Lomalinda! I’m going to teach there!” 
A few seconds passed before I could wheeze in enough air to speak. “Where is Lomalinda?”  
“Colombia, South America!”  
I collapsed to the floor.  
I’d always expected we’d live a normal, predictable, all-American life but, without warning, my husband declared he had other ideas.  
It was February 1975 and, as youth director for our church, Dave had taken college kids to a Wycliffe BibleTranslators’ event hoping some would consider missions work. 
The meeting failed to persuade any of his young people but, when Dave learned Wycliffe needed teachers for their missionaries’ kids in Lomalinda, he was hooked. He wanted to move the four of us, including our preschoolers, Matt and Karen, to a dinky outpost in the middle of nowhere. . . .  
The thought of living in Colombia scared me out of my wits. And that was before I’d learned about guerrillas and kidnappings. But, like Abraham, Dave had heard God’s voice, “Leave your homeland.”  
I begged in prayer, “Please, God, don’t make me go!”  
Dave longed to hear me say, “Sure, let’s go!” But I didn’t like his idea. Not at all. The plans I’d made for my life did not include living in Lomalinda. The thought of moving to a patch of grassland in South America made me choke. Uttering the word “yes” was unthinkable.

If you’d been in my place, what would you have done?

Dave’s new plan interrupted the dreams and plans I had for myself as his wife and as the mother of his children.

I don’t appreciate interruptions in general—but this interruption was a doozie . . . . Moving to rural South America?!

And this was not just an interruption, it was a surprise—shocking, traumatic. Dave had given no hints that he’d been thinking along those lines. His desire to teach missionaries’ kids in Colombia left me stunned—as evidenced by my reaction: collapsing to the floor.

What would you have done? 

Feel free to leave a comment or send a private message.

Come on back and we’ll talk more about this.

Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger's Memoir is on special right now at Barnes and Noble for $14.84! That’s an 18% savings! The memoir will be published on June 4, but you can pre-order it now.

You can also pre-order the memoir through your independent bookseller, or Powell’s Books in Portland, Books-A-Million, and Amazon. Those in the UK can order it through Eden Co UK.

Any day now it will be available as an ebook.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Welcome to my adventures—some of them almost other-worldly

Welcome! I hope you’ll find a few laughs here, a few adventures, plus some encouragement and inspiration along the way.

In coming months, you and I will delve into the challenges and unwelcome surprises—but also the joys and wonders—of living in Lomalinda, a mission center built on a cluster of hills in rural Colombia, South America. (In Spanish, Lomalinda means pretty hill.)

I’ll show you pictures from my scrapbook, intrigue you with links to related info, share recipes with you, and tell you stories you won't find in Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go! A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.

Sometimes you’ll hear from—and maybe interact with—people you’ve met in my book.

You’ll join my family and me in our discoveries and adventures (some of them almost other-worldly), but you’ll also learn about and, I hope, learn from my lack of faith and my struggle to trust God—who never gave up on me.

And so, be forewarned: Reading this memoir and this blog could change your life!

Here’s a glimpse into what you’ll find in Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: AFoot-Dragger’s Memoir:

What’s a comfortable—and cowardly—suburbanite to do when her husband wants to move the family to rural Colombia, South America, so he can teach missionaries’ kids?

Linda begs God, “Please don’t make me go!” but He sides with her husband, Dave. So, with a good attitude—well, a pretty good attitude—she turns her back on the American dream and, with timid faith and wobbly courage, sets out with Dave and their kids on a life-changing adventure.

But when culture shock, tropical heat, and a certain boa constrictor threaten to undo her, she considers running away and hiking back to the U.S. Instead, she fights through it and soon falls in love with her work alongside current-day heroes of the faith disguised as regular folks.

Once life is under control, predictable, and easy, Linda receives an unwelcome surprise—a request to travel to one of the world’s most dangerous drug-dealing regions where hundreds of Colombians and Americans have recently died. In fact, most of Colombia is dangerous. Marxist guerrillas don’t like Americans, proving it with bombs, kidnapping, and eventually murder. Linda doesn’t want to leave the only safe place—the mission center—because she doesn’t trust God or herself to make the trip.

Again she begs, “Please, God, don’t make me go!” But she does go. How does she find the faith and courage to set out?

In this heartwarming, sometimes humorous, and sometimes shocking memoir, you’ll walk alongside this young wife and mother as she must choose between:
  • her plans and God’s,
  • cowardice and courage,
  • fear and faith.

Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go will inspire you to cancel membership in the Society of the Faint-hearted, enjoy God more, take a quaking leap of faith, and relish the adventures God dreams up.

Be sure to join us on Facebook at Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.

Come back next week. I’ll tell you more about my escapades in South America.

You can pre-order Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go! A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir at Amazon or, if you’re in the UK, click on Soon my memoir will be available through many more distributors and retailers.

A pay cut, no medical insurance, no retirement plan

During my lifetime, the American Dream has been so pervasive in our values, assumptions, and expectations that we have allowed it to be a ...