Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mission Therapy

Thanks to my friend Jenna for sharing this insight today:

"There is no better feeling than having the means to support missions you believe in, be it through time or treasure, it's a natural anti-depression treatment. :-)"

When I was the grand ole age of 20, it was discovered that my genetic heart condition was more serious than previously thought, and I needed a STAT! I had never had surgery in my life (unless you count being knocked out for wisdom teeth extraction) and I was freaked out! 

Detail warning! May not be for the faint of heart!

When the surgery was over I was in tremendous pain. This was in 1994 (oops, now you know my real age). Pacemakers were larger than they are now, and given the fact I was so young, my world-renowned cardiologist made the decision to place the pacemaker in a "pocket" he created within the muscle just below my collar bone. 

If you've ever seen a pacemaker in an older person, you can practically read the serial number through their skin.  In order to place mine where he wanted, he had to cut the muscle. But this would hide the pacemaker and give me some cosmetic comfort and, in the long run, allow me to live a more active lifestyle. Needless to say, all I have is the scar to flash at people when they don't believe that I have a pacemaker (works really well with airport security, btw.) 

The trade-off? MORE PAIN!

Have you ever swallowed a piece of food prematurely by mistake and you can feel it move all the way down your throat and into your stomach? Painful, right? Yeah, times that by about 100. Hello! Foreign body where it shouldn't be! OUCH!

Lying there in the hospital bed awakening from surgery I realized the intense pain. What I got for it was Tylenol with Codeine. What I needed was morphine and a shot of whiskey!! Apparently, insurance companies don't see pacemakers placed within the muscle as a standard procedure and didn't figure it was any different than the old guy in the room next door, so all I got was a wimpy drug that barely took the edge off. I don't even think the nurses had seen this procedure done before. (Remember, my cardiologist was world-renowned.) So they probably just thought I was being wimpy. 

The solution? Touch therapy. My mom, the best take-care-of-you-when-you're-sick person in the world, was at my bedside lightly rubbing and "tickling" (in a good way) my arms and legs. She brushed my hair and traced my face. And it worked. I felt a little less pain and my mom's heart was full because she was helping me feel better, even if just a little.

You see, the brain can only send out one signal at a time. Either it's telling you you're in pain, or it's telling you something feels good. And while there were still plenty of times when the pain would overpower my brain in the days following my surgery, my mom was there to at least try to confuse it a little so it would hurt less.

Imagine if we applied this principle to our lives and the lives of others in need. When we're in emotional pain, what makes it better? I am willing to bet it's when someone puts their arm around us or gives us a hug and speaks words of comfort and encouragement. Prayer and empathy (and the occasional unexpected card or flower bouquet) can do amazing things.

I can honestly say that I am my happiest when I am serving and loving others in need, be it a lonely child at the homeless shelter or my daughter when she stubs her toe. We were created to serve and love on others. Whether locally or globally, community is in our nature. We want to help others feel better!

Imagine if we applied the touch therapy principle to all areas of our lives? (Marriages, friendships, communities, and so on and on.) Emotional connections during times of strife can be just as impactful as gentle physical touch in times of physical pain. And its beneficial to both parties. Imagine that.

Maybe we can call it Mission Therapy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So What is a Missionary Wannabe Anyway?

Why, it's anyone who wants to be a missionary, of course. DUH!

Ok, seriously, this term has so many layers for me, I don't think I can put them all into one single post. (Lucky you!) I'm finding that being a missionary means different things to different people. I don't believe there is a black-and-white definition for it. I'm sure there are people out there for which there is no gray area. (Only if you do ____ can you truly call yourself a missionary.) Yikes. (You've probably guessed by now that I'm here to share my thoughts on why I think otherwise.)

So let me start with my own personal definition of a missionary:
Anyone who is selflessly on a mission to do a good work for the sake of others.

You can agree with me or you can disagree with me (and we'll just agree to disagree.) I'm NOT here to debate or win anyone over to "my side." I honestly don't think I have a "side." I'm really just here to explore what it means to be a missionary, grow from what I discover, and encourage anyone who finds themselves in a place where I've been (or currently am) by sharing what I've learned (or am learning) so far. 

Now, its really just recently I've come up with this personal definition. I used to think that in order to be a missionary, I'd have to sell all my things and leave my comfortable life for a third world country, never to return. Again, kudos to the countless people who do that on a regular basis (or have permanently made that as a life choice.) I used to want to be one of them! (Deep down I still do, but I have my own family to think about now.)

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would radically disagree with my definition. (Again, I'm not here for controversy.) There have been a lot of events over the past several years that have made me take a good look at what I thought it meant to be a missionary (more detail on those in upcoming posts.) It really has been only in the past six months I've been truly discovering what I think it really means.

There are two things I firmly believe (that are related to this post, anyway.):
1. We were ALL created for a higher purpose.
2. Because of #1, we are all missionaries at the core of our being.

Now, as I said at the beginning of this post, there are a LOT of layers to this, and I'll share my thoughts on those in future posts (so don't forget to follow my blog!) But for now, I wanted to keep it simple for now.

#1. - I don't think many of you will disagree with Number 1 above. In fact, the majority of the world, despite religion, culture, or influence believes we're here for some greater purpose. The problem is, the majority of that majority don't do anything about it.

While there are different interpretations (or, in some cases, debates) on what the actual higher purpose is, regardless of your religion, culture, or influence, the bottom line is the same. Our higher purpose has nothing to do with ourselves and everything to do with living an others-centered life.

#2. -  So, assuming you agree with #1, that we are created to live out our higher purpose by focusing on others, and assuming you agree that being a missionary can be defined as selflessly doing good works for the sake of others, then wouldn't you agree that we are all truly missionaries at the core of our being? (Yikes. I'm having high school flashbacks of mathematical proofs.)

So, if you desire to live out the higher purpose in #1, then, really, you're a missionary wannabe at heart.

Who's in?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why am I here?

[Feel free to insert Valley Girl accent here] Hi there. My name is Cheri. I'm a missionary wannabe. 

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you are too. Or, you've been one and now you're the "real deal." (In which case, please follow my blog and share your positive-but-real input!)

So, I have a whole other post that will answer your questions of what the heck I think it means to be a missionary wannabe. Watch for that to come in the next few days. 

For now, welcome to my blog! I'm sure you are wondering why I started this blog. Good question. I don't really have a good answer. I don't think I truly have the time to devote to regular blogging like some of the amazing blogs I follow (see my growing list, at right!) But something just stirred inside - ok, several things actually - and they have all come together in perfect alignment pointing me in this direction. So we'll see where it ends up.

Disclaimer Alert! You should know I am a Christian and I will include scriptures and references to how God is working in my life. However, THIS BLOG IS FOR EVERYONE! Please take from it what is helpful and useful to YOU in YOUR faith, whatever that may be. My intention here is not to "convert" anyone (though I do hope all will see and be inspired by the power of God working through us.) I am NOT here to preach, judge, or rebuke. Everyone is welcome.

I'm sure you want to know about me. Who am I and why am I here? There's nothing really fascinating to tell you (I'll let you be the judge as we go.) I'm really just an ordinary person, trying to (humbly) be God's hands and feet while sharing his heart (and, simultaneously, keep my head above water.) I definitely don't do it perfectly. I definitely OVER do it at times. Sometimes I wonder if I've caused more harm than good. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the opportunity God put in front of me, and sometimes I feel like I just emotionally broke even. But over the past ten years or so, I've learned A LOT about life in general, and what it truly means to love, be loved, and live your best life. (And now I sound like Oprah.) Again, I don't always do it well!! (Just ask my husband and my kids...and the dog...and maybe the cat.) But I do always remind myself that each day is a new day...a clean slate...and that it doesn't matter where on the journey we find ourselves, as long as we're on it!

I do believe we were created for a higher purpose. But before we go any further, let's make sure we are on the same page:

Missionary – noun Also, mis·sion·er.

a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospitalwork.
a person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles,etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others.
a person who is sent on a mission.

There are several "types" of missionaries. And, by far, the definition most people think of when they hear the term "missionary"  is #1 above. The simple definition, though, really is "one who is sent on a mission." Now, I'm not saying if I send my husband to three different grocery stores to find me the lowest price on bread that I would classify him as a missionary, even though he might feel (and claim 100 times over) that he was on a mission from hell. I do believe the context must be such that you are on a mission to do a good work for the sake of others. That's my own personal definition anyway.

My point is this: You don't have to leave the country to be a true missionary. You don't even have to leave your state or city or town. If you have a dream about something, if you feel strongly about making a difference for something good, and you go after that with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, you are, for all intents and purposes, a missionary. We were created to be missionaries. Actually, I believe it's our responsibility to be missionaries. 

This blog is for everyone who wants to enter into this vast mission field and truly make a difference. As it says above, it's for the youth looking for direction, the college grad wondering what's next, the middle-aged (that's me-though I don't want to admit it) who've found themselves at a crossroads, and for those who wonder if it's too late (for which I have these words of encouragement: If you're still breathing, it's not too late!) 

I don't claim to be an expert on ANYTHING. I'm just a regular person with regular problems and regular dreams. I'm just putting them on display for all who read my blog to see. 

But my hope is this...

That through this blog, you will find the peace and contentment you need to know that making a difference is not about selling all your belongings or denying yourself the latest iWhatever and moving to a remote village in a faraway country (though super kudos to those who do that!) This blog is about finding out who we really are at our core. It's about realizing our talents and dreams to make a difference, somehow. It's about doing for ONE what we wish we could do for ALL. It's about discovering why we are truly here.

So, welcome! Welcome to the journey of being a missionary wannabe. It's gonna be a great ride (I hope!)