Sunday, April 21

Thinking about grace

I have been thinking a lot of about grace in the last few months.

It occurs to me that I don't really know how to define grace. I know how to use it and can share examples of grace, but to say this is what it is...that is where I draw a blank.

I have felt grace when I have been really emotional and easily angered and my friends have asked me what is wrong, told me they pray for me, and offer to help. Or when another friend told me that she just assumed I was dealing with transitional stuff, having only been here less than a year, which was exactly what I needed to hear but hadn't occurred to me until she said it.

I have felt grace in gifts from others that have touched and amazed and exceeded far more than what I imagined.

I have felt grace from Mexican friends as they have oh-so-patiently listened to me oh-so-slowly put together a spanish sentence and when they provide the word I am missing or stumbling over or in how they continually and lovingly try to engage me in conversation even when they know I am by no means fluent.

I have felt grace by family and friends who supported me and have cheered me on even if coming to Mexico wasn't on the top 10 list of places of where they'd like me to go, just because they know that I was going where God was leading.

I feel flooded with grace whenever whenever I think about the Lord and how He has blessed me so much over the years despite the fact that I have not been as faithful as I should have been or as grateful as I should have been.

I just recalled that from Sunday School days, we were told "Grace is getting what we don't deserve." Looking back over what I just shared, I guess that is close...grace takes the form of blessings when we haven't earned it, love despite our selfish moments, friendships despite being too busy, acceptance despite our shortcomings, and encouragement when we deserve a rebuke.

Not to be at all confused with mercy, which I feel I can easily wrap my mind around...forgiveness when we deserve punishment. Maybe a working definition that I can start with is that "Grace is gifts that we haven't earned."

Friday, April 19

Water? or Something else?

Every culture has it's unique terminology. Words that are considered normal but are not universally applied the same way, even between countries that use the same language.

One thing I have learned down here in Mexico is that they use the word agua (water) for both water and juice (jugo). Can we say awkward? Someone asks if you want agua and then they give you juice! Or last summer, at one event we had both juice and water. I believe I even asked the kid if he wanted juice or water. He responded water so I gave him water. But his look of surprise told me that he wanted juice.

Or this past Tuesday, my friend Erin and I had a girl's day, up in San Diego, with three of our Mexican friends. Erin made the comment at the hotel, "there's strawberry water if you're thirsty." The eyes of all three of our friends lit up and they went to get some but starting laughing when they realized it was water, not juice like they were expecting.

It's not like the word jugo is hard to say...just as many syllables and letters. But agua it is.
Oh silly Mexico!

Monday, April 15

Just because you know a Spanish word doesn't mean you know the correct word!

Who doesn't like to hear language blunders from people who live overseas?!?! People who say one word, thinking it is correct, only to find out that it is wrong...sometimes very wrong. And the more wrong it is, the funnier the story is, usually.

On a scale of 1-10, this story won't be a 10, although my most embarrassing moment, which also happens to involve spanish, was about a 9...but I'd rather not post that story here at this time.

Anyhow, this story takes place in Tijuana, last week.

We were constructing a 20x20 addition to a house that will be used to provide care and housing for individuals who have been deported from the United States. Ofttimes people are dumped off at the border without extra clothes, necessities, and any place to go. Their birth home may be 4-5 days away, depending where in Mexico they are from, but they are still taken to Tijuana and let go. Then they are vulnerable to crime or other awful situations, which is what this house ministry hopes to prevent. funny in the back of this house there is a peach tree that was getting in the way of the roof we were trying to construct. My friend Brian asked for a I meandered across the street to ask the neighboring pastors, Roberto and Bety, if they had a rope.

As soon as I saw Bety, I asked (in spanish) if she had a rope...only I said, "tienes una ropa?" She looked at me a bit quizzically and asked if the ropa was for me to which I said yes. Then she said she thought she had some and went inside her house. She came out holding a bag of clothes at which point I remembered that ropa means clothes. I started laughing and quickly told her no, sorry, I need this (and pointed to her rope clothesline). She started laughing and went to get me a rope. I asked her, "how do you say this?" The answer: Un lasso. As I walked away, both Bety and I were still laughing.

I doubt I will be forgetting lasso any time soon!

Saturday, April 13

Gracias a Dios

This week I had the opportunity to share prayer, and bread, and oranges, and laughter with a Mexican woman named Gaby, and three of her kids.

I love going to people's houses to pray. There's a natural fellowship that takes place when we commune together with God and when we intercede on other's behalf to God. Plus, this woman is just delightful...she has a beautiful smile, bright eyes, and a pleasant, serving disposition.

We asked Gaby what we could pray about and she began sharing about a couple of her kids (she has about 5-6, I can't remember the exact number). She shared a common prayer request that her 19 year old son would find a job...a request that came up regularly in our home visits. There isn't enough jobs in Tijuana (or the rest of Mexico) to support the need, even for those with education. But as she was sharing, she made a comment that has stuck with me.

As she shared, she mentioned that her son didn't have a job, "gracias a Dios," which means "Thanks to God." I heard and understood her but figured I didn't understand her meaning...was she thankful her son didn't have a job and if so, why? Thankfully, the woman translating was equally confused over her meaning and questioned it..."why thanks to God? are you thankful he doesn't have a job?" To which she said, it isn't about whether or not her son has a job but the importance of giving thanks to God in all circumstances (my paraphrase). Give thanks to God in the rainy seasons and in the sunny seasons. When walking through seasons of blessings or seasons of hardships. Whether your prayers are being answered the way you desire or not, thanks to God.

A beautiful reminder. A great lesson to learn.
Gracias a Dios.
Thanks to God.
For everything.
All the time.