Saturday, April 16, 2016

The "D" Word......

DEPUTATION ........(you didn't think I was talking about another "D" word did you??? In all fairness, sometimes it's called itineration - but somehow "the 'I' word" just didn't sound as interesting)......It is a word that can simultaneously create a sense of excitement and dread in missionaries. It's a word that is sometimes misunderstood. In Africa, when a missionary is leaving for an extended time for deputation, it's not uncommon to hear African friends call it "vacation". "Oh, you get to go to America for a year for vacation" or "Enjoy your vacation!" While being able to return to one's home culture is definitely a "changement d'air" as the French would say, and there are many enjoyable aspects to it- it is definitely not a year long vacation!

What is deputation? I would never try to answer that question for every missionary or every missions organization as there could be subtle differences in what different people hope to accomplish. But, for us, deputation is a time of RECONNECTING, EXPANDING and FUND-RAISING.

The reconnecting part is great!! I LOVE our partners - seriously, I am constantly humbled by the generosity in time, prayer and money that we are shown. I enjoy seeing friends, family and ministry partners, thanking them for the tangible ways that they support us, telling them stories that demonstrate how their support is making a difference in Central Africa and hearing about their lives and their ministries. I like being in our American churches, seeing the changes, challenges and victories. I love the road trips, traveling around the Pacific Northwest as we visit churches, fun meals with friends and meeting new people.

Expanding - and NO, I do not mean expanding our waistlines....although that is a common side effect of deputation. Every deputation we hope to expand our partnership base. We want more and more people to be excited about what God is doing in Central Africa. We want to know more churches, see how they do missions and listen to their ideas. We like seeing the changes in America and the expressions of American Christianity - the good, the bad and the ugly. Change happens and we like growing and learning - expanding our knowledge base and our understanding as we interact with others. We also like helping people expand their worldview - bringing a bit of understanding about our corner of Africa, what is happening there, the needs, the adventures and the  opportunities.

The reconnecting and expanding parts are fun. They usually seem to happen naturally as we share our lives with you, and you share your lives with us. Being able to visit new churches and meet new pastors and other Christians is great - something we LOVE.

The "dread" part of deputation, for us anyway, comes with fund-raising. I totally understand fund-raising, I understand the biblical examples and principles of it, I understand how it takes all of us, in partnership, to accomplish world evangelism - goers, givers, prayers - and often we are all a combination of those. But, I'm being extremely honest here, it's soooooooo hard to ask for money and it's soooooo humbling to receive. I have found that I love to give, but it's kind of hard to receive. I always want to be able to pay someone back - but the reality is, in a monetary sense, we can't. 

At heart, I'm a Midwest farm girl. Raised in Iowa I grew up with a very hard, honest work ethic. My dad had no boys, so us 3 girls drove tractors, helped with livestock and worked in the fields. My parents were very careful with money - a quality that I'm thankful to have grown up with. If us girls ever did something that seemed a bit frivolous to them, financially, we would hear the dreaded line "you don't work hard enough for your money". Honestly - if you could have seen how hard we worked in those fields under the hot Iowa sun, or shoveling snow during the harsh winters. parents were great - I'm not fussing about them, just trying to give you a glimpse of my upbringing. 

I remember once, I was probably in about ninth grade (i.e. before cell phones!) and I had to call my mom and ask her something. Remember PAY PHONES?? Remember how you could use a dime or a quarter in a pay phone? Well, this particular time I didn't have a dime and I didn't feel like running into a gas station for change so I used a quarter to call my mom........yep, you guessed it - when she found out that I had spent .15 cents more than necessary she said "You don't work hard enough for your money!!" Sigh.......I can still hear that phrase in my mind!

Fund-raising is humbling and a bit frightening, to be honest. Humbling for the obvious reasons I already mentioned and frightening because, well, the reality for any missionary is that if we don't raise the necessary funds, we can't go back to the land of our calling. And even though the land of our calling is often without electricity and running water, has frequent protests and riots, 5 hour traffic jams to go just a few miles, sweltering heat and humidity, constant harassment by police and military - the thought of not being able to go back is horrifying. I guess that's part of the call - it's not some mysterious thing that makes you immune to on the ground realities - but it is mysterious in the sense that if you're not following the call, not walking in obedience, you're pretty miserable. 

So today, I choose to be thankful for deputation. I am easily thankful for the chance to see our partners, to share what God is doing in Central Africa, to listen to and connect with pastors and friends and to expand our friends, partners and understanding of one another. But I'm also going to be thankful for fund-raising, is what it is and when it's done, we get to go back, work for Jesus, be a small representative of YOU in Central Africa and basically, we get to be obedient. 

Thank YOU......for letting us share with you, for being our friends, for your prayers and for your financial support. 

If you are interested in joining our Central Africa team by giving a one time offering or making a monthly pledge, click HERE.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Will You Be My Neighbor....Will You Be My Friend...?

It's been said that there are only six degrees of separation between any individual and another - on the entire planet. 

That certainly can seem to be the case here in the Congo. It has always amazed me that wherever I go in this huge, sprawling mass of humanity, and no matter who I go with, my Congolese colleagues can always find someone they know - someone who knows someone who is a cousin to someone.  

A few years ago I did a health seminar in a part of the city that is quite a distance from where I live. I had a driver take me as it was a very complicated, not real safe part of town. He had to stop and get directions several times as he was not at all familiar with this particular neighborhood any more than I was. 

We drove and drove and drove, the roads got smaller and more crowded. At one point, we had to stop, ask a family if we could leave the truck in front of their house and walk the rest  of the way (about 1/2 mile) to the church. 

As we approached the church, suddenly a man, sitting randomly on the side of the road, cried out to Albert (the driver). Albert stopped, seemed very surprised and then the two men ran up to one another with enthusiastic greetings. Albert explained to me that the man had been his neighbor in another completely part of town. He had moved several years ago and they had not seen one another since......yet there they were, running into one another, remembering one another and having a jolly good time of a reunion! 

Today I had a similar experience. I had a meeting with a Congolese doctor about some research I am involved in. When I entered his office I had this vague sense of familiarity. Did I know him? Had I seen him before? Kinshasa is a city of over 10 million, so since I could not decide if we had met before or not, I just let it go. 

We exchanged pleasantries and began to discuss the reason that I was there. At one point, he brought up a past health situation in the town of Isiro. I mentioned that we used to live in Isiro (our first term). He looked at me and said "I used to live there too - when did you live there?" I explained that we were there in the 1990's and had to evacuate when the big war started. So did he......he asked where I had lived. I described where we lived and said that at the time I had 3 small children. He said "I thought you looked familiar - you were my neighbor!" He had been a busy doctor - I was a stay at home mom with 3 small kids.......we didn't have a lot of interactions, but somehow we were imprinted on one another's memory. 

We had a fun time discussing our love for Isiro and then finished the conversation. I left feeling....."known". 

Sometimes it's lonely living overseas, navigating a culture that I feel so comfortable in, yet I look so obviously the part of a stranger. But, really, in Africa, where I have lived anyway, you don't ever have to be alone. That's one thing I have grown to love. With such a value on relationships, people remember.....if you have ever crossed their path - they remember and that thin thread of time that you spent in the same GPS coordinates bonds you for the rest of your life. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Empty Nest - It's Not ALL Bad.......

Last August Pat and I entered into the new life phase of empty-nesters. Since that time, many have asked us how we're doing, and those who are quickly approaching empty nest want to know if it's awful.....can one adjust to not having children there anything good about it???

So I just want to say....Yes, Yes and ......well, quite frankly - Yes.

Is it awful? "Awful" is a bit of a strong word, but it has been a change. For over 20 years our lives were dominated by children. While we tried to not make everything revolve around them - not wanting totally narcissistic kids - you still can't avoid the dynamics in a family with kids. Whether you're spoiling them, driving them around or disciplining them - it's still largely about "them." And even when it's not all about them - your mind is on them. You can't stop thinking about them, worrying about them. That is one thing that does not change when they leave home.

I remember when we took our oldest to college and left him, flying back here to Congo. I seriously questioned God's wisdom on the whole "free will" thing.......why did He have to create that????? I didn't want Ben to have free will - I wanted him to do exactly as he had always been taught! Free will scared me. I was no longer in charge of the choices my kids would make.

When my kids were little I remember a friend saying "little kids - little problems/worries, big kids - big problems/worries." And I do have some of those bigger worries - all of a sudden I realize that they could make certain choices that would affect the rest of their lives. It is definitely something that improves your prayer life!!

I do miss my kids and at times I have such an ache in my heart, especially when it's been months and months since I've seen them. I miss their laughter, the energy and activity that they bring to the house, I miss their friends. I even miss driving them around. Ben, Abby and Emmy - if you are reading this (and I doubt that you are - what kid reads their parent's blog???) know that you are loved and missed!!

Despite missing them - Can one adjust to not having children around? Definitely!! As many who have gone before me counseled me, life does not end with empty nest. A totally new life begins - or maybe I should say that we get to go back to our life B.K. - Before Kids. Pat and I were married for 6 years (on purpose) before having children. Honestly, we had a lot of fun. So this leads me to the last question - is there anything good about it? Of course there is!! We get to enjoy one another as husband and wife - which we always tried to do, but let's face it - parenting is demanding and time consuming, it's easy to relate to one another more as "mom and dad." Now we get to be husband and wife - I'll just stop there.......  And while the house is quiet and different, I put things up and, believe it or not, THEY STAY THERE. I can actually find things!!

In Africa, there are some definite advantages (kids - remember - we love you and miss you!!).......there is no whining when the electricity goes off - now would MY kids whine???? NEVER......but I've HEARD that some do..........whatever. When there's no city water our water tank lasts much longer when it's just Pat and I. Travel is MUCH cheaper - buying 1 or 2 tickets instead of 5.

In January, we realized another positive to empty nest - it's much easier to go through civil unrest when you're not worrying about your kids. We had a week of riots, protest and general insecurity in January. According to all sources Kinshasa came "this close" to all out fighting and lawlessness. In the middle of it all, a good friend of mine here in the city called me. We live in different parts of the city and we were giving one another updates. She's been an empty nester for a few years now and has encouraged me during this process. After filling one another in on the events in our respective parts of town she said "isn't it easier going through this when it's just you and Pat - and you know that your kids are safe??" Wow, was she right. I'm not saying that all kids are safe in the U.S. I know that there are dangers there as well. But right now, I'm just talking about our context here in Africa. I thought back to all the times over the past 25 years that we have had serious unrest and security issues. Bullet holes in the house, unable to leave our compound, rumors, fears, shooting, etc. Those things are unsettling enough - but when you have kids......and I have to say, especially when you have girls - all you can do is think about how you're going to protect them. You have to discipline your mind to not go to all the "what if's....."

I remember during our presidential elections in November 2012 - I would lie in bed at night and think about where I would try to hide the girls if people came over the wall. Those are not things that mom's like to deal with.

So, an unexpected, unanticipated positive of empty nest - while there are plenty of things that we have to worry about when they're's nice to not have them here when all kinds of rowdiness is happening.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kids, Change, Worry and all that Stuff!

Well, it's happening. You know when you have babies and little kids and, even though you love them like crazy, there are days when you just feel like you will never have a moment to yourself, never get caught up on your sleep, and never have a clean house? And older people would say something like "cherish these moments - they go by so fast...." and you would kind of roll your eyes (respectfully of course) and think "yeah, right"......Well, I am now THAT older person! Tomorrow, our youngest, Emily, graduates from high school and Pat and I will officially enter into the ranks of "empty nesters".  And I will say - in all sincerity - IT GOES BY SO FAST!!

My heart feels so many things; sadness, turmoil over all the change, trepidation at the future, excitement for the future, pride in our kids, you name it and I'm probably feeling it to some degree. But my overarching emotion is an incredible awe and gratefulness to God. 

Most of you know our story - Pat and I are farm/small town kids from Iowa. Naive, never traveled outside of the U.S. (okay, one summer our family drove to Canada for vacation......), Pat had never even been on an airplane before and when we were in our early 20's we took off for what was then Zaire for a 2-year missionary associate assignment. During that time we had several friends who were our age, but who had grown up as MK's (missionary kids). We were in such awe of them - they were SO COOL. They spoke other languages with such ease, they navigated international travel and cultures effortlessly and they had great stories. Several of them talked about the fun they had while attending boarding school during their high school years. Pat and I would talk and say how we wanted our kids to grow up like that. Boarding school would be great for them - goodness, look how our friends turned out! We were going to be such cool and laid back parents.

Fast forward to several years later.....January 10th, 1991.....Ben was born and placed in my arms. Wow, my heart has never been the same. Being a parent is utterly overwhelming. I remember looking at Pat, bursting into tears and saying " I WILL NOT send him to boarding school!!" Now this is NOT a commentary on boarding school. It's just our story of kids, love, this incredible call of God on our lives, and our struggles as we try to be obedient. 

I remember when we flew back into Zaire for the second time - this time instead of a young married couple we were career missionaries and a family of 5. The flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Isiro, Zaire was interesting. We flew on a missionary plane and with each stop for fuel the terrain became more rugged, less inhabited, and the "airports" smaller and more run down. Ben was 4 1/2, Abigail was 22 months and Emily was 7 weeks old, having just been born in Nairobi. Suddenly the "coolness" of raising kids overseas paled in comparison to the utter FEAR that I was feeling. What was I doing??? Why was I taking 3 small children into this isolated place? On our flight was an older, American missionary couple. They had raised their children in Northern Zaire and now their children were grown and raising their grandchildren there. However this was a heartbreaking trip for them. Their 7 year old granddaughter had just died from malaria. The poor grandmother was understandably heartbroken. She was seated next to me and she cried and talked about how her granddaughter died. My heart hurt for her as I listened.....but I also felt terrified at her story, as I held baby Emily in my lap. 

Throughout the years I have had many, many moments of fear. Malaria, civil unrest, government meltdowns, and random acts of violence have occupied the timeline of our years in Africa. And I worried....I have worried so much for my kids - I worried about their safety, I worried about their spiritual and emotional health, I worried about their social life, I worried about the fact that they didn't have all the "normal" experiences that Pat and I had growing up in small town Iowa. 

Honestly - truth be told, I am a worrier. My mom was a worrier before that and I have one child in particular (who will go unnamed) who is a Pat says - I come from a long line of worriers. At one point I memorized several verses of Psalm 37.....which ended with "do not fret, it only leads to evil". Yes, I am a fretter! But through all the fear and worry and fretting....that quiet, gentle voice of God always reminded me that we were called to do what we were doing. That He was God and nothing was going to happen to our family that wasn't in His plan, and that, believe it or not, He loved my kids even more than Pat and I. 

I will be honest - being a missionary, raising kids overseas, living in undeveloped countries that are full of disease and unrest - it's not easy. I had a friend who, when she realized how much worry and fear I dealt with, was amazed. She said "I always thought that missionaries were never afraid - that the call of God on their lives just covered all of that up" (insert hysterical laughter here!). I think that mom's (and dad's) all over the world deal with worry and fear for their kids. 

But it's over! Not being a parent! I will always be a mom. And, honestly, I will always struggle over worrying about my kids. But today, I stand in amazement. WE DID IT!!!  Or, really I should say "GOD DID IT"!! We raised our kids in Africa. On Saturday we will get on an airplane and take our final child back to the United States for college. I think back over all the years - fear, worry, fun, ministry, so many times of packing up and moving, languages, adventures.......and now this chapter in our lives comes to a close. Tearful? Of course! But my overriding emotion is one of incredible gratefulness. Our kids have not had perfect lives - and their years growing up in Africa have not been all fun and games. There has been loneliness, temptation, and fear for them as well. But all 3 of them have adamantly said that they absolutely love their upbringing. They are very grateful to have had the childhood of an MK. 

Following's definitely not always the easy road and it can be a road that is full of twists and turns. But in the end (and this is not THE end.....but it is AN end) all He asks for is obedience, and He'll take care of the rest. He even takes care of the children of a worrying mom.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reflections on Mandela......

In the wake of Nelson Mandela's death this week there has been an outpouring of sentiment worldwide.  While most of it is grief, respect, and talk about how one life really can make a difference, there have also been a few articles or posts taking a less than complimentary view of the man.

What Madiba (as he was affectionately called by his fellow South Africans) was or was not throughout the entire course of his 95 years is not what touches me about his legacy.  In youth, many of us did things that we are not proud of, or we held beliefs that as we grew and matured we no longer hold.  

Mandela spent 27 years in prison........and at the end of those almost 3 decades, he came out a changed man - not changed in his dream to have equality, but changed in his spirit and his heart.  After 27 years of being beaten and horribly treated by his oppressors, after 27years of not being in contact with family, and spending a great deal of time in solitary confinement.....I think that a lot of us would be ANGRY.  We would be even more empowered and activist minded than ever to get back at "the man" - or the system - or the government.  

His famous quote saying "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom I knew that if I didn't leave my bitterness and hate behind, I'd still be in prison" leaves me speechless - and teary.  How HONEST.  I think of how many of us carry bitterness over feeling like we don't get enough recognition, feeling like we are the ones who should have gotten the promotion or the title, feeling like we weren't treated well, feeling like life is just too hard.......and all the while being being able to enjoy "freedom" - we shop, we travel, we talk to who we want, yet we allow ourselves to remain in prison.  

Mandela came out of prison determined to have peace and reconciliation - even with his captors.  Now in my opinion, that is a great man!

He was a one term president, graciously stepping aside and not pulling strings, changing constitutions and basically doing whatever was necessary to desperately hold on to power.  That is not a common thing in this part of the world.  He died at age 95....he could have died still being the president of South Africa if he had wanted - if he had been willing to do whatever it would take to hold onto the power.  Believe me, others have tried, some are in the process of doing it - no names here, but it's not hard to figure out.  

He went on to establish the 46664 campaign for HIV awareness and care.  46664.....I read that some people felt that was a satanic number and further proved his ties to all things dark and evil.  In reality - white people gave him that number, it was his prison number.  He was reduced to a number.  He left prison and entered a South Africa that was suddenly in a growing crisis of death due to HIV.  People were marginalized, shunned, left to die without care.  I remember reading an article where he said that no one should only be known as a number....whether in prison....or whether an HIV statistic.  

I have incredible respect for anyone who can take such difficult circumstances and not only survive, but thrive....and come out of them humble, loving, and full of forgiveness.  We visited Robben Island one year.  We did the tour and at one point they allow you to go into his room that he occupied for ....I can't remember how long - but I want to say for 10-15 years of his imprisonment.  Solitary, he was allowed something like one hour a day out in the yard and the rest of the 23 hours was spent in that very small room.  It had a window, high up, small.  I remember standing there, looking out it, thinking "this is the piece of sky that he was limited to for so many hours, so many years".  On days when I feel claustrophobic by the incredible crowding and stress of life in Kinshasa, on days when I wish that our little mission house had a yard and a bit of beauty on the outside, I stand and look out the window (which looks right to a wall with razor wire on it) and I think of Mandela's window and how blessed I little piece of sky is much bigger than what he had and I can leave it when I want.

That we should all have this commitment to forgiveness and the humility to not see our own self-importance.....that whatever influence we have that we would use it to promote love and kindness and reconciliation.  That our own actions would speak as loud as his.  

I'm not easily impressed by names or titles.  I'm a farm girl - I don't know that that has much to do with it, but I was raised to work hard and appreciate what I had.  As a missionary I've seen many people with many titles......and felt very disillusioned and disappointed at how they flaunt those titles and use their prominence and influence for their own gain.  The people who impress me are the ones who suffer, who take life as it happens and thrive!  Who become even better people through difficulty and use their experience, not as a chip on their shoulder to flout to all, but as a conduit of blessing and positive change in their sphere of influence.  

When my kids were little they'd always ask, "mom, if you could meet anyone in the world - alive or dead - who would you want to meet?"  Well, obviously Jesus.....and to be honest Noah (who doesn't want to hear first person "tales from the ark"??).....and thenI'd always say "Nelson Mandela."  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Home is Where the Heart is…..

"HOME"…'s a concept that many missionaries struggle with, especially if you've moved several times during your missionary career.  MK's, and even missionaries, laugh about not knowing how to answer a normal, small talk question like, "Where are you from?"  Where am I from?  I'm a farm girl from Iowa, but I haven't lived in Iowa since I graduated from high school.  I haven't lived long-term in the United States for over 20 years now.  

As a family, we've laughed at how easily we call wherever we're going to be sleeping that night, "home".  Be it a hotel, a friends house, our house where we're living in Africa…….if we're going to sleep there, we just call it "home".  Obviously HOME-HOME (somehow when you say it twice it signifies a stronger connection) would be where our own beds and pillows are, but there is still a sense of non-permanence even there.  As an American living in Africa, I always know that I'm a foreigner.  No matter how comfortable I am here, no matter how well I speak the language, I do stand out.  I can't deny the fact that I am here on a visa, I'm not from Africa.  

As a mother, just being together, the five of us, feels like home.  But now, even that concept is being challenged.  I have my home in Kinshasa and I love it.  But two of my kids are in the US.  My heart is constantly torn.  I miss Ben and Abby…….after several months, my heart hurts, wanting to see them.  But I don't want to leave Emily in order to do that.  When I'm here with Emmy I love it, but then Pat travels and I miss him - and I also miss the other two!!  My heart is confused!!

Last January we were getting ready to come back to Congo after a 6 month mini-furlough.  A friend of mine said "I bet you just can't wait to get back there".  I didn't know how to answer.  Kinshasa is not really the type of place that people "can't wait" to get to in the first place.  Don't get me wrong - I am very content here, I am happy to be in God's will, I love the people and the ministry - but let's be honest, it's not one of the easiest places to live and we don't have people coming here for holiday!  But what was really running through my mind was the reality that, while leaving to come back to Africa, I was also leaving Ben and Abby.  That was the first time I'd left Abby in the US, the first time we'd gone to Africa minus a daughter.  And even
after 4 years, I still cry when I say goodbye to Ben!  

Every night, when I go to bed, I make sure my phone is by my bed.  We don't have landlines here, only cell phones.  Because of  having kids in another country, I always want to be accessible to them - in case of an emergency I need to be able to hear my phone at all times, even during the night.  So when we're all together, it's very significant to me that I don't really care where my phone is when I go to bed.  It's a symbol of togetherness…..not having my phone on the bedside stand.  

Emily is now a senior in high school and empty nest is looming.  It's a period of life that you hear a lot of people talk about.  Books are written on the subject.  It looms even larger when there's an ocean between us and our kids.  Ben is preparing to go to a sensitive country in East Africa, Abigail and Emily will be in university in the U.S., Pat and I will be in Central Africa.  We'll be spread across 3 countries, trying to organize Skype calls around various time zones.  

I love Hebrews chapter 11 where it talks about Abraham living in tents - living as a foreigner in a distant land because he knew this was not his home.  HOME-HOME……it's not down here folks!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Are You Packin'??

Missionaries are professional packers!!  Moving, traveling, and bringing enough Crisco, or chocolate chips, or Crystal Light for several years makes us pros at packing it and getting our luggage to the limit of the weight allowance.  We can also be very picky about suitcases - surprisingly opinionated, in fact.  The all important "carry on" piece is one of particular interest for many of us as it's not safe to put any valuables in our check in luggage…..yet airlines are becoming more and more strict on the size of the carry on.  That said, I just got a new carry on ….I love it.  It's light, it's big enough for my stuff, but not big enough to get me flagged.  I can even fit it in the smaller "United Express" flight overhead compartment when flying from Chicago to Springfield, MO!!  

WARNING: Random, bizarre subject change……and you will see how all of this ties together if you make it to the end of this post…….  

We periodically fight a mouse infestation.  In the U.S. I would never admit this as, as sometimes it can have a certain “stigma” in regards to housekeeping.  Now no one has ever called me a meticulous housekeeper.  But I do have my limits of "mess" and in a "normal" American setting have never had issues with mice.  But in Africa……well, let's just say it's more a question of "control" than "elimination.  We live in a city of over 10 million, with very poor infrastructure.  Waste is tossed wherever it's convenient, poor drainage in the streets, etc. makes for a very habitable place for mice.  We also live on a very busy, populated corner.  There's a taxi stop right across the street, people are everywhere eating, drinking, throwing their garbage on the ground, sewage backs up……you get the picture.  So, although we try to keep things clean, we do go through periods of having mice in the house.  I put out poison to kill them and after a few days, they're gone, only to return again at some point.  Remember – control….not elimination!

We just had one of our "mouse moments"…….seeing little droppings of "evidence" here and there and in the evening, if we were "lucky" we'd see one scurrying across the floor towards the closet.  So I did my thing and put out the poison.  A day or two later I was packing to make a quick trip to the U.S. for Ben's graduation.  I could smell the effects of my rat poison- there was definitely a dead mouse somewhere.  It was found in the closet and removed.  But all day (I was leaving that evening), I still kept smelling it!  I asked the man who helps me in the house to clean the area with bleach water, thinking that maybe the unfortunate mouse had lingered a bit longer than normal.  In the meantime I was packing and preparing. The last thing to be packed, of course, is the all important carry one…….are you seeing where this is going????  

I took my carry on into the bedroom and all of a sudden I could smell dead mouse again.  This was strange - my bedroom hadn't been smelling like dead mouse all day.  It hit me - was there a dead mouse in my carry on????????  I took it to my wonderful helper and told him I couldn't look inside, but to please look.  He found nothing….puzzled I went back to my bedroom to finish packing and there, lying on the carpet was the mouse.  It must have fallen out when I took my carry on out of the room.  We quickly removed the corpse and all was well.  I had my helper wipe out the inside of my carry on with bleach water, just to make sure, packed up and was on my way.

However, at the airport, I kept smelling dead mouse!!!!!  Was this a curse???  Why couldn't I get away from that stupid smell??  I was sitting in a lounge, taking with some businessmen who were on my flight.  My trusty carry on was right there next to me.  You know that little place on the top where the handle pulls out?  There's usually a little zipper there, in case you want to zip that spot closed.  And all of a sudden I saw it, on that opened zipper flap ……mouse…..bodily fluids.  The mouse had not died inside the carry on.  He had died in that little zipper place by the handle!!!  IT STUNK!!  I went into the bathroom and got hand soap and scrubbed and scrubbed.  It helped some, but the entire flight (in fact all 4 flights that it took to get me to Springfield), every time someone opened the overhead compartment where my carry on was stored……that awful mouse smell wafted through the cabin.  

There is, of course, a spiritual analogy here.  What are we packing in our suitcases?  Not the Samsonite ones, but the suitcases of our lives…….if we're not careful, we can lug around a big ole smelly something that is eventually obvious to everyone.  And even if we think we've removed the "body"…..we have to make sure we've given everything to Jesus, dealt with everything we need to deal with - or that smell remains.  

But I also like the very practical lessons here - check all zipped pockets before packing - you never know what might be in there!!