My life has actually been EASIER since my son died . . . by Teresa

Ezekiel about a month before he died.  Notice the dirty ole face!  That boy was constantly in need of a bath (though he often received at least a couple a day!)

Ezekiel about a month before he died. Notice the dirty ole face! That boy was constantly in need of a bath (though he often received at least a couple a day!)

It’s crazy to think how busy I was just two months ago, before Ezekiel died. I almost never had a moments rest. When we were at home in between missionary ministries, and once all the house work was done, I was still running around like a chicken with its head chopped off. As most mothers and fathers of an 18 month old can attest to, there is almost no moment when you can say that all your work is finished. There is a constant string of picking up after the child, wiping noses, wiping rear-ends, preparing food, giving food, cleaning up faces, hands and hair once they have finished eating, not to mention cleaning up the food from the floor, chair and walls that was invariably thrown on all surrounding objects. We also were blessed with not having easy access to sippy cups, so even though our 18 month old was proficient at drinking from a cup without a lid, his skill in no way negated the fun of pouring every last drop of beverage out all over everywhere when he was done. The minute he left his seat he would run outside to go play in the dirt.  Your should have seen his clothes- the hours I spent to trying to get the dirt out!  When we were out doing our ministries, having stressed and rushed out the door after making sure everything was packed in the diaper bag (Lord forbid that we would have forgotten Ezekiel’s pacifier!), I would end up chasing after the little rascal for at least half the service, or trying to act as a strait-jacket for the little stinker while he struggled to get free.

He loved to play in the yard (which is a nice way of saying "play in the dirt outside")

He loved to play in the yard (which is a nice way of saying “play in the dirt outside”).

As a matter of fact, when I look back on his life, I realize that from the time of his birth and for the whole time he was here with us (shoot, even the pregnancy and delivery), was just like one big huge chore. It was sooooo much more work. I never seemed to be able to find that sacred “me” time that everyone seems to say is necessary. I did find time to pray after everyone went to sleep or during nap time, and most often I had to say to myself that since my prayer time was more important, all the chores that I hadn’t yet finished would just have to be put off until my prayer time was over. I was always so busy I almost never even had time to check Facebook!
Now, when all the children have gone to school, we go to our ministries and I can fully participate. If we are at home, I have time after the chores are done to read a book, or pray, or even draw! I have time to do. . . whatever I choose. Many times I just sit with a cup of coffee (that’s still HOT even!) and think about just how much work I used to have and how much easier my life is now, with so little to do. And this thought always brings me to tears . . . ALWAYS. I am crying even as I write these words. How can it be that I liked my life so much before Ezekiel died when all that has changed really, is that I now have more free time; more “ME” time? It’s not like Ezekiel was old enough to tell me how much he loved me. He barely spoke. He could not do things for me. He did not give me flowers or draw me pictures like my other children. The sweetest things he could do for me were limited to smiling at me, or laughing at things he thought were silly. He had just started trying to kiss us, if you could call it kissing. He would make a popping sound with his lips and either proceeding this sound or immediately following it head-butt us. And that’s about it as far as his showing us affection went. He was incapable of doing much more than just demanding our attention, our time, our effort, our love.

And herein lies what God has revealed to me, in a powerful way, is the meaning of life: To love. We have heard this a billion times, but I don’t know if we always let the meaning of this sink in as deeply as it should. We are called to LOVE.  What does that even mean? Love is action.  Love is a choice.  Love is hard.  Love is sacrifice. Love is relational–it requires another. The reason why God is Trinitarian is because God is love, and love cannot exist without another! Jesus exemplified this by giving his life, literally to the point of death, because he loved us!

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The chaos of dinner for a family of 8 in missions!

This realization is yet one more beautiful gift the Lord has given us not only since Ezekiel died, but because he died. I know the hurt of no longer having this object of my love. It is painful, and it is profound. I don’t know if I would have been able to come to understand this depth of meaning if I had lost an older child. There is a real beauty and blessing in being able to love another, EVEN IF THEY CAN NOT RETURN YOUR LOVE!  We should not “love another” if it is for what we will receive in return.  Can we even call that real love?  Love is what gives our life its meaning. It is what gives our life its fullness. If all I ever did all day was give of myself to another I would be the happiest person alive! For the whole of Ezekiel’s short life I chose to give myself to him because I loved him and I was so happy because of the love I chose to give to him.

Now, after his death, I can see in such a real way that this is the calling we all have: to choose to love others, to forget about ourselves and our wants (though we often call them our needs!) and to give and give without counting the costs. As a matter of fact, the greatest comfort I find now, while grieving the loss of our beautiful boy, is doing things for others.  I can find happiness when my actions can bring happiness and comfort to others.  It is when I sit at home trying to enjoy my “me time” that I am most sad because I am consumed with thinking about myself and my loss. My life was made to be given away!   Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox, if you love until it hurts, there is no more hurt, only more love.”  I now truly know what this means and it is the summary of our vocation for our life on earth. I challenge you all as well as myself—Let us seek to love and love and love until it hurts because it is there that we will be completely happy!!!!

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Welcome to the fishbowl! by Teresa

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I was told, or perhaps it is better to say, I was warned that living life as a missionary was much like living life in a fishbowl. Everyone watches everything you do. So true . . . so true . . .

My family and I, as a diversion during our month long Spanish language school experience in Guadalajara, decided to visit the local zoo.  It was priced right and what could be more fun than taking the fam to a zoo!  We even splurged and paid an extra couple bucks to ride the SkyZoo, which is the ski lift that covers the length of the park.  I admit, I was really excited about it.  It wasn’t one of those ski lifts you see often in the US where everyone is all inclosed, almost like a bus on a cable.  No, this was one of those ski lifts that just had a bar in front of you and your feet are happily dangling high above the earth and the whole time you are hoping your shoes don’t fall off, cause there ain’t no way you will be able to find them again.  And it wasn’t short either.  It took almost 30 minutes round trip!  I LOVED it!  I was blessed to ride with my 3 year old, Isaac.  He was so excited to see the animals.  He couldn’t stop telling me about everything he could see.  We had a great time!

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Isaac watching the buffalo!

As we were floating high above the world, I started thinking, as I typically do when I visit the zoo, just how weird it must be for these animals.  I mean, all day long they have hundreds and hundreds of people staring at them and wondering what they are up to.  Are they going to do anything cool, or are they just going to sit there sleeping the whole time?

After we dismounted, my family reconvened and we began our exploration of the zoo on foot.  As we walked, we could hear, as is common, people counting the members of our family, “Mira estos gringos!  Quantas personas. . . ?  Hay quatro, no cinco, no seis niños!  Verdad?!”  Yes, our family is quite used to having people notice us.  Our family size is a bit out of the norm for almost everyone alive today.  When walking around in Georgia, when we only had 5 children, we were used to looks and questions.  But now we live in Mexico.   And we have six kids.  Even in the US we were pretty white compared to everyone else.  Now we are a bunch of extremely white people, with 6 children whose hair is so very, very, blonde.  Do you think we stand out among the Mexican population? You betcha!

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Our family at the zoo. Back left to right: Gemma, Teresa, Ezekiel, Jonathan. Front left to right: Elijah, Micah, Isaac, Moses

As we passed the billionth person and heard them counting up our family, my husband leaned over to me and said, “We are a walking math problem!”  Literally everyone on this very crowded Saturday at the zoo took the time to look at us and count us up.  Out loud.  As if we couldn’t understand what was being said!  Some were incredulous, some were shocked, others were in awe.  It was quite obvious that we were one of the zoo’s attractions for the weekend.

Then I realized, this is a microcosm of our lives as missionaries.  We are a very large, very white family living in Mexico, where we obviously don’t fit in.  But we aren’t here to fit in.  WE ARE HERE TO STAND OUT. To be a, “light to the nations. . .  a city set on a hill . .  .” (Mt. 5: 14-16)  We cannot be hidden, and nor should we want to be.  We need to stand out, not be comfortable hiding in a dark corner, merely avoiding evil.  Instead we need to be out in the world.  We need to be an example.  We need to remember that we are Jesus to those around us.  This is our calling.  And it’s not just a calling for my family of missionaries, but for every baptized Christian.  We have the greatest gift, the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We need to be out in the world sharing that knowledge.  We need to be ready and willing to share the reason for our joy!  Praise God our family, simply by virtue of what we are, stand out among the people in which we live!  It makes our work that much easier.  Ask us, come on, ask us why we have so many kids.  Ask us why we are so happy.  Ask us why we left our life in the United States to come here, to live among the poor.  Ask us why we brought our whole family, and even chose to give birth here with iffy medical care.  I’ll tell you why.  Because we have a God who is so great, who loves us so much, who provides for our every need, who can be trusted with every aspect of our lives, who comforts us when times are hard, who carries us when we can not walk on our own, who sent His ONLY son so that we can live with Him forever.  This news is too good to keep to ourselves!  Everyone needs to have the opportunity to know about our God!  My heart overflows with the desire to share this with everyone I can.

So the next time I hear someone counting up my family, I will be sure to smile all the more.  This is an opportunity! This is a gift!  This is the reason we are here!  Are the spectators of my life (or should I say . . . zoo, hehehe) gonna catch me sleeping?  Are they gonna think, man they don’t do anything?  Why are they even here? Or are they going to find themselves thinking, “Wow, look over here!  Everyone needs to see this,”  because when they look at us, they don’t see us, but rather Christ who lives and works through us.  It’s a challenge, and we are ready to accept!

Until the whole world hears!

The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, `Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I am going.  Zechariah 8:21