The Only Life Worth Living

Featured

I’ve been taking a small break from writing these past couple of weeks. We are visiting our daughter who is in boarding school. And it’s been wonderful.

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece for my friends over at Taking Route. They are posting it today. It’s about our first night overseas as a family. It’s one of those stories I want our kids to remember. I want them to know that chasing Jesus is difficult and crazy. It may seem overwhelming. I want them to know that in those times, the Holy Spirit gives us what we need. He is faithful to His children. He is worth it. As my husband, Max, says, “It’s the only life worth living.”

Here is an excerpt…

We first arrived in Southeast Asia five months after the destructive tsunami of 2004. My husband was leading our family on an adventure and I was excited about it. We were going to live on a base camp with our children and receive volunteers who were flooding into the affected areas. These volunteers were going to do everything from clean up the destructed areas to build fishing boats for fisherman who had lost everything. We had read books like “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper and “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge and we were ready to live for something greater than ourselves. Our family verse is Psalm 119:32: “I run in the paths of your commands for you have set my heart free!” We felt like we were running after Jesus. We had romantic dreams of building a life that mattered. So what if we didn’t know the language. So what if the area we were going to had been in a 25 year war. It was a beautiful dream filled with lots of unknowns, yes, but we would persevere. All adventures have obstacles, right?

The unknowns quickly became known when I saw where we were going to live. There was a small wood shack that was being built next to the beach just for our family. It had one room for all four of us. And did I mention it was unfinished? Until the house was finished we were going to have to camp in a pavilion on the beach. I was in shock. In my romantic, adventurous dreams I never once imagined bringing my kids to such a place.

Continued on…http://takingroute.net/2014/11/11/when-dreams-and-reality-dont-add-up/

Advertisements

Risk

Featured

Risk

Risk is one of my favorite words. It’s defined as a noun – exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance. I love that! I especially love the “dangerous chance” part of that definition. When I looked up synonyms to risk a flood of fun words popped up: danger, gamble, opportunity, possibility. This is what I love about risk, the possibility that something better…more…great is around the corner. Now, of course you can’t have true risk without also the possibility of loss, injury or hazard. But that’s what makes risk worth even more. I’ve written about risk before…my risk to pray for people in the name of Jesus, Max’s risk to follow Jesus. But today I want to share with you the art of practicing risk everyday. I think that if we make faith and risk a part of our everyday, the bigger decisions in life that require some risk won’t be quite so intimidating.

When I talk about risk, I’m not talking about foolishness. I don’t purposely look for ways to injure myself. I’m actually pretty much a chicken when it comes to the possibility of physical pain. But I do like to practice risk in the form of creativity. Whether it be cooking, painting, writing a blog piece or decorating, I like to incorporate risk into my day. Maybe I’ll try a new recipe that doesn’t exactly line up with my family’s palate. Or maybe I will try to paint a canvas that I saw on Pinterest. I’ve never taken art lessons but there’s lots of easy paintable projects on Pinterest.

One of my latest adventures with risk has been to stain a huge pillar I have in my living room. A few years ago I painted big bright colorful letters on my pillar that spell out L – O – V – E. Painting those letters was another adventure in risk. I thought to myself that the letters in “love” we’re very easy to paint. I picked out colors that I enjoyed and painted away. This is what it looked like…

image

I have “loved” those letters and all they define in my life, my family and for all those who enter my house. They speak my heart and what I want for my home. But lately the glaring white pillar they were painted on has been bothering me. It was too white. I could have painted the pillar, but I didn’t want to lose my beloved letters. What to do? And so begins a crazy idea. I wondered if I tried to stain the pillar would my letters survive? Would I be able to spread some kind of stain over the pillar to darken it a bit while at the same time save my letters? Enter the value of risk. If I risk staining my pillar I could ruin my letters. Of course I could always paint over the whole thing again, but that would be labor intensive and I might not get around to it.

I reminded myself that I try to practice risk everyday and I try to practice creativity everyday. With great fear and trembling…but a little excitement and joy…I began to stain my pillar with Restore-A-Finish, a product that restores color to faded wood…No it’s not created for cement pillars, but that’s the risk, right?

image

At first I just spread it around the bottom and back of the pillar…in case I changed my mind all I would have to do is paint over that part. But the more I stained the more I got excited. I loved it! I loved the color and what it did to my letters. It wasn’t just that the pillar was too white, it was also that my letters were too bright. What fun to see my pillar that I already loved change into something I adored. The risk paid off and I am so happy about it. Here it is midway through the project…

image

Does this seem silly? What I’m trying to illustrate is that we can be too safe in life. I want my life to be full of stepping out into the unknown…daily. I don’t want to live in the safe or predictable. Let’s try something new, step out of our comfort zone and play.

What about you? Is there a way you’ve practiced risk in your home? In your work? In your life?

Max’s Story

Featured

**I have been given full permission to share this with you. 🙂 It’s about my husband. He’s my favorite. I thought it would be nice if you all got to know us a bit more.**

Can I tell you Max’s story? I respect him more than any other person on this planet. He is my guy and I want to tell you how he came to know Jesus.

Max grew up in LA. He spoke only Spanish until he went to kindergarten. He grew up in the Catholic church and went through Catechism and took his first Holy Communion.

In Jr. High, Max began to be interested in gangs. He was drawn to the idea of being a part of something…to be included. He did not have a good relationship with his own father and the gangs offered him an escape from his home life and dysfunction.

When Max was eleven or twelve years old he started drinking alcohol. At thirteen he used marijuana for the first time. This snowballed into a lifestyle of alcoholism and experimental drug use that lasted well over fifteen years.

LA in the seventies was a crazy place. During these years, Max transitioned from the Cholo gang to a fraternity of Chicano friends. During this time Max and his friends were heavy into the LA clubbing scene. This lifestyle included a lot of violence because they were usually in the wrong place at the wrong time. Testosterone mixed with women, drugs and alcohol became a recipe for many, many violent encounters.

It is a miracle that Max was not killed during this time of his life. Not only was he involved in violence but he also drove while drinking. He totaled his car and spent a night in jail for a DUI.

His life deteriorated to the point that he could not get high anymore. No matter how much alcohol he drank or how many drugs he put into his system, he could not numb his pain. Max realized that he would end up dead if something didn’t change. So he enrolled himself in rehab and got clean and sober.

The first years of sobriety, Max focused on becoming a healthy member of society. During all the years of alcohol and drug abuse, Max was still able to keep a stable job as an operations manager. But he was not a good employee. Now that he was clean and sober he focused on working hard and making a good living. He tried to become a good person.

After four years of being clean and trying to be good, Max began to have thoughts that the sober life was no better than being drunk. In AA they have a term for this, it’s called being a “Dry Drunk. “It means that nothing other than the lack of alcohol had changed. It was just a matter of time before he took another drink. He acknowledges now that if he had taken that drink, he would probably be dead.

At this time a follower of Jesus began working at Max’s company. She was different than anyone Max had ever met. She was free. He knew immediately that she did not live under the same “rules” that he lived under. She invited him to a small group in our fellowship.

Max began attending our fellowship and at first we all thought he hated small group. He would sit in a corner with his arms crossed and scowl at us. He can be intimidating. 🙂 But little by little we began to see that he was looking for Jesus. Or more accurately that Jesus was pursuing him. Max speaks of being drawn to believers and to the Word of God. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. He knew in his spirit that the truth of what he looked for in Cholos and Chicanos was in this vagabond broken group of follower’s of Jesus.

We all shared with Max many times. He wanted to follow Jesus but at first he struggled with the idea of becoming a follower. Did this mean he had to turn his back on his family and heritage? To be Mexican is to be Catholic. What happens when you stop being Catholic? Do you stop being Mexican? It was a real struggle at first. But the more Max read God’s Word, the more he wanted Jesus.

Finally, on July 25, 1993, Max gave his life to Jesus in the Baker’s Square on Beverly Blvd in Montebello, California. He and our pastor had gone to lunch together after church one Sunday and there on that crowded Sunday afternoon, Max knew his Savior.

Many changes happened after that. Max cleaned out his apartment of paraphernalia he was still holding onto. He sold an extensive gun collection (reminders of the violence) and began to make amends and ask forgiveness of those he had hurt.

The most confusing part for his parents was when Max was baptized. They were unsure and hurt by his turning away from Catholicism. But they could not deny the huge changes they saw in his life.

One of the hardest things for Max was to quit smoking. It took him three months of throwing away cigarettes and then returning to them again and again. He went back and forth until he completely released them to Jesus.

Max forgave his father. He reconciled his relationship with his older brother who he hadn’t spoken to in several years. And he told his family all about his relationship with Jesus.

The prevailing thought was, I have been forgiven so much. How can I not forgive anyone else?

“Even though I was once…a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”   (I Tim 1:13-16)

Anyone who knows Max now, knows that he is the gentlest and kindest of men. The Lord has redeemed what was death and He has given Max life. Jesus is his life.

I pray Max’s story is an example to you of Jesus’ mercy and patience. There are none too far gone that the grace of Jesus cannot reach them.

Love from the islands,
Colette

Greater Than My Fear

Featured

When we first moved overseas, we were volunteers in a tsunami-devastated area. We lived in a very remote area, just a small village an hour away from a town and roughly 18 hours away from a city. Because this area had been involved in a civil war for over 25 years, most people in this village had only seen white people on TV. They were very curious about us. We lived there for six months. There was very little working infrastructure and everything was destroyed. There was not one standing building in that village. People who had once had beautiful cement and tile homes were building small shacks out of wood to provide shelter for their families.

We had no language training. We had a one-week orientation from a couple who knew the language and culture. The woman became a life-long mentor. Even though I did not know any language, she encouraged me to go into the village everyday and find people to practice language with. I had a random vocabulary/grammar book in the local language and I was supposed to read it, teach myself language and practice with the local people. It was very intimidating. But I did as my mentor suggested. Faithfully, while my husband built boats with fishermen, I would go into the village and awkwardly practice, “Hello. How are you? I like blue and you?” The people were always very gracious. Even though they had very little time to sit and talk with a strange lady, they would smile and try to answer my crazy questions about cows, breakfast and bathrooms.

One day, on my usual route, a friend…I call her friend, because she was the only person in the village that could say more than, “Hello” in English…took me to one of the homes. I sat on the floor in the main room drinking hot, sweet water. They did not have much to offer me, not even tea, but they spared a few spoons of sugar to sweeten my water. As we were trying to communicate, my friend told me that there was an uncle in the back room who had broken his back in the tsunami and had been bed-ridden ever since. She said that he would die soon because there wasn’t any way to get him any medical help and they could not afford to send him to the big city. I was stunned.

To this day, I don’t know what prompted me to ask this, but I asked them if I could see him. In this culture, men and women hardly communicate, let alone see each other in their beds. But my friend asked the family and maybe because they were curious, the family allowed me to visit with their uncle. When I entered the small room, only big enough for a small bed on the floor, I began to weep. The man was just a skeleton with skin hanging off. He was in great pain. I had not seen suffering like this in my life. I grew up around profound poverty, but I had never seen so much pain show on someone’s face. He wasn’t just in physical pain. He seemed hopeless.

The culture towards suffering was callous. Not much time or thought was put into mercy or gentleness. They had never heard the good news of the gospel. They didn’t know anything of God’s love or forgiveness. They were also antagonistic toward any other religion but their own. They had a grim acceptance of death. Crying was seen as a weakness. Maybe because they had been through so many traumas it was their way to accept and cope. Whatever the reason, their cold acceptance of this man’s impending death wrecked me.

I sat down on the floor next to the bed and I asked my friend if she could ask them if I could pray for this man. I asked if I could pray in the name of Jesus, a name that was foreign to them. She asked them and surprisingly they said, yes. I prayed in English. I prayed for the man’s healing…that he would be able to not only live but that he would be able to walk again. I asked Jesus to glorify Himself through this man and this village. And I wept as I prayed.

No one could understand my prayer. Later, my friend who spoke a little English said she didn’t know what I was saying because I was crying so hard. And when I finished and looked up everyone was laughing at me. They thought my crying was hysterical. Everyone, that is, but the man on the mattress on the floor. His eyes were glistening. Through the different cultures, through the different languages, this man knew that something greater than him and something greater than me transpired in that room.

As we walked back to our shack on the beach, my friend wiped laughing tears from her eyes. She was still laughing about this peculiar white woman and her peculiar prayer and her peculiar crying. But as we walked home, a woman walked up to us and grabbed my hand and started pulling me. As she pulled she explained to my friend that she wanted me to pray and cry for her grandmother who was very sick. My friend was indignant. “No!” she said. This was not right that I should do this crazy thing again. But the woman was insistent. After a somewhat catty exchange of words I didn’t understand, my friend relented and we went to the woman’s house. There I met, prayed and cried for the grandmother.

That day I prayed for multiple people…all people who I believe were desperate for some affection and mercy, all people who had been written off as hopeless. They were scared, they were starving for love, and they were looking for hope. After that day, I was asked many times to visit people and pray for them.

The culture says this is not important. Jesus says, “Everyone is priceless in my eyes. I will shine my light in the darkness. Even the gates of hell cannot stand against my love.”

Whatever the eternal outcomes are of that day, I heard this message: The gospel is greater than any obstacle. It is greater than my fear. It is greater than my language ability. There is always a way to show Jesus’ love and mercy. Language and culture cannot stop it.

When I returned to that village a year later, the uncle I prayed for met me at the door…walking. There is nothing God cannot do. Nothing.

Keeping it Real

Featured

My husband recently challenged me regarding the tagline under “Colette is Alive.” It used to say “living, loving and enjoying life in Southeast Asia.” He asked, “Do you really enjoy life in Southeast Asia?” At first I was offended that he would think that I would lie in my tag line. “Of course I enjoy life here, don’t you?” I answered. I felt pretty proud of myself because I’m an optimistic person…a Pollyana really.  I wouldn’t change our lives. I wouldn’t change living here and sharing Jesus in this place. But the question nagged at me. Like sand in your swimsuit, I felt uncomfortable with the question and its implications.

What was it about his question that wouldn’t release me? I thought about it all day. I felt trapped by it. I talked to Jesus. “Lord, do I not enjoy life here? Am I deceiving myself?” And little by little I awakened to the fact that it’s not that the statement isn’t true. It’s that I was putting forth an image of myself…to bring attention to to my “sacrifice” of living here. I was seeking to make myself look together and successful. Many people find it difficult to live here. I was shouting, “I don’t! I’m really good at living here! Look at me, I ENJOY living here! Aren’t I something special?” Humbling realization to say the least.

This may seem trivial, but I share this to make a point. Writing blogs is in itself a self-centered occupation. We share our thoughts, opinions and beliefs with the world. Whether anyone reads them or cares about them is beside the point. It is time spent in self-revelation. That is not in and of itself a bad thing. It’s just the reality of the business. To be sure, blogging can be a narrow precipice with a cliff of self-exaltation on one side and a cliff of not speaking truth for fear of self-centeredness on the other. But I think I know a way to stay grounded. I need to share my story. But I can speak truth without making my life seem more than it is. I can inspire without creating a utopian life in written form that may or may not mirror reality. I don’t want this blog to be about me and for me. If it is then it will be a complete waste of time…my time and your time. My life has to be about sharing my story of following Jesus if it’s going to amount to anything. If I want any kind of joy or peace or purpose, my life has to glorify and honor Jesus. I need to tell my story, sure. But may it be about what it looks like to bring attention to Jesus. May it be about what it looks like when a wife and mother of teenagers chases Jesus. Do middle-aged women risk everything to follow Jesus? Yes, they do! I know a bunch of them personally and I want to be one of them.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach in every post. We’re gonna have fun too. I just needed this reminder this week.

So here’s to keeping it real. I commit to keeping the stories about Jesus and how we follow Him…the good, the bad and the ugly. Life is a lovely risk but sometimes we must go through some ugly parts to reach the loveliness. I commit to share not just the loveliness but also the ugly process so we can all reach the goal of glorifying and praising Jesus. That’s the happy ending I’m striving for.

Love from the islands,

Colette

Chasing Jesus

Featured

“I run in the paths of your commands for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32)

This verse has become, over the years, our family theme. It is what we fall back on whenever we are facing difficult choices and decisions. We first used it to help us make the decision to come to Southeast Asia.

The tsunami of 2004 devastated many parts of Southeast Asia. My husband was glued to the television set that Christmas night of 2004. His heart was torn and broken over the loss of life and physical destruction. But what could we do sitting in Los Angeles? There was a need for immediate action and we were stuck in middle class American life. Three weeks after the tsunami he was on a plane to Southeast Asia.

Why? What could possibly motivate a man to pick up and leave like that? Only Jesus can do that. Only following Him with all you have can cause grown people to change their entire lives and redirect all their efforts. In our family we call it, “Chasing Jesus.” Whenever there is a call to do something that is beyond ourselves or our ability, we call each other to “run in the paths of His commands for He has set our hearts free.” We want to live in a constant state of gratefulness that causes the hardships or trials of following Him to dim in the presence of His glorious grace in our lives.

“Chasing Jesus,” doesn’t that sound fun? I imagine playing “Chase” with Jesus. He’s laughing and running to broken person after broken person looking to see if we will follow Him in this marvelous adventure. Will we camp on the beach in a broken part of the tsunami devastation? Will we get eaten up by bugs and be taken advantage of by those we trust in the culture? Yes! Because we chase Him. We long to continue on the adventure with Him.

These verses have also set in motion a desire to not “straddle the fence” of obedience. Many times I find myself looking at the other side…you know the “grass is greener,” other side. I know Jesus has called me to this side of the fence, but boy, that other side can sure look good. This life of always wanting the other side can be life-draining. If I am lingering at the fence looking at what I want instead of running in His commands I am missing that great adventure of His path. I want to leave the fence and run as far as I can in His commands. Why? Because He has set my heart free.

What waits for me at the end of the path? Jesus! “…set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I see glimpses of Him and it moves me forward…”Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9, 13)

Does this seem like “pie in the sky?” I worry about that. That you will think I am just an emotional, crazy person. But then verses like the one above remind me that I AM out of my mind and that I do love Him and am filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. My inadequate words are just the tip of the iceberg of trying to describe what is inexpressible.

Love from the islands,

Colette

i love writing but i hate blogging

Hi friends! Thanks for visiting me here on “Colette is Alive.” I have a confession to make. I love to write but I hate blogging. I have been writing a few pieces for my friends over at takingroute.net. It’s been so much fun, but I ran into a problem. I couldn’t interact with all the fun people commenting on my pieces. My first piece, I See You, was written to encourage all the moms living expat lives. Someone commented and asked if I had a blog they could follow. That comment began weeks of arguing with myself to see if I should begin yet another blog. You see this is the third blog I’ve started and needless to say the other two were abandoned. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing…love.it. But I really do not enjoy the detail-oriented tasks that come with keeping up a blog. Maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s tedium. Just figuring out how to insert the links above to Taking Route has caused me to snap at my son. I really am a dork when it comes to technology. Whatever it is, this is my confession. I hope this lasts longer than my last blog. It only had one post to it.

I hope to write about living life in Southeast Asia, being a follower of Jesus, my husband and my kids. I love God’s Word and may try to work out how it speaks to me and leads me. Mostly I want to share about living life to the fullest, no matter the circumstances.

I have some struggles. My girl is in boarding school and that has been a challenge, but I’m finding grace even in things I wouldn’t have chosen. I homeschool my son and we are trying to figure out Algebra together.

Whatever happens, I am really happy to be able to interact with you all. I hope you will comment and ask questions. I really do want to hear all about your adventures living this expat life. I hope you’re encouraged. Life is a risk, a crazy lovely risk.