That Dirty Rat!

Robbie and I have been going through something lately, an issue that I feel pretty sure was not covered in our marital vows. Just so we're each sure about our obligations in this scenario, I am compelled to write it all out. It all started in the building out back that houses our laundry area...

Christine's role: Notice little pieces of trash on the laundry room floor. Sweep them up, only to rediscover more a day later.

Robbie's role: Listen to Christine complain about how quickly the laundry room gets dirty.

Christine's role: Become more curious about the messy laundry room floor and decide to move the appliances. Lift the dryer, feel something scutter across left foot, shriek frantically, drop the dryer, hop on top of it.

Robbie's role: Come running from the house with concern when he hears the shriek. Laugh when he finds out it's over a rat who's decided to live under the dryer. Move a few Rubbermaids of cleaning supplies. Look a little pale himself when he actually sees the size of the rodent.

Christine's role: Say "I told you so" a few hundred times (with a "Who's the sissy now?" thrown in for good measure).

Robbie's role: Watch the rat race out of the laundry room into an adjoining lot and set out poison in case he returns.

Christine's job: Start the dryer the next day only to hear a sickening thud when the fan starts up.

Robbie's job: Take the back panel and vent off the dryer and laugh when the dead rat falls out.

Christine's job: Dispose of rat carcass.

Robbie's job: Turn to open-mouthed single guy who is interning with Team Honduras and advise, "Before you get married, you need to make sure your wife can do that!"

Christine's job: Disinfect and reassemble dryer. Figure out some way to blog about the ordeal.

After not just one, but now two rats caught in the world's most expensive rat trap, a.k.a. our clothes dryer, we are getting good at this!

I think we make a great team!

Ready to Bail: Elena's Story

I won't lie to you. Going to Elena's house was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. She needed counseling for marital problems. Serious ones. She and her husband were not on speaking terms and had not shared a bedroom for months. He and boys slept in their room, and she had moved in with the girls. She was ready to leave; if it were not for their five children, she'd have been gone already.

Going to Christian college and marrying a pastor did not make me an expert in counseling. In fact, counseling is the ministry of a pastor's wife that makes me most nervous and uncertain. There have been many times in a counseling session when someone has unloaded a big problem on me and I struggle with what to say. What usually pops into my mind is something like Whoa. Good luck with all that!

I asked Elena to describe her marriage and let her pour out her heart for about an hour. Then we came to the part I dreaded. The part where I was supposed to tell her what to do. The Holy Spirit had given me what to say, but it would be hard to hear. She had criticized and demeaned her husband for years. She had not trusted his leadership or submitted to his authority. She had even gone behind his back to get her way. Words like obedience, respect, and submission were not what she wanted to hear. But they were what she needed. So I took a deep breath and made the words come out.

To my surprise, Elena listened carefully and thoughtfully to each Bible verse I read and the counsel I offered. Then she tearfully admitted to manipulating and disrespecting her husband. We prayed together and outlined a step-by-step plan to apologize to her husband and change her habits, without expecting any reciprocation. He had made more than his share of mistakes as well. But Elena determined to change her own heart, and leave his to the Lord.

I left feeling sure that God's Word had spoken to her heart. But whether or not she would choose to obey it was yet to be seen...

Just three days later, Elena found me at church. "He bought tickets to the church Couples' Banquet" she whispered excitedly. "He wants to go with me!"

The next week, their oldest daughter Alicia confided in me: "Hermana Cristina, you won't believe the changes we've had at our house! I used to dread coming home. Just last week, I was walking home from school and smelled someone on our street frying fish. I thought, I wish we could have fish at our house or even at least eat together like a real family. But when I got closer, I realized the aroma was coming from my house! I saw my dad in the kitchen frying fish and making a salad! When my mom got home from the factory, we all sat down and ate and talked together like we hadn't done in a long time."

Elena and I kept praying and meeting regularly for several weeks. Finally, I got the news I was waiting for. She came in one night, all aglow and giggling like a teenager. "Hermana Cristina, you'll never guess what happened! I came home and my husband had moved the boys back into their room and said I was moving back in with him! He said, 'I am a new husband because I have a new wife. And we need a new bed.' He had gone out and bought a brand-new bed with new sheets and pillows and everything!"

Every time I see Elena's husband smile at her lovingly with his hand on the small of her back, I am reminded that God's Word still changes lives. I don't have to know exactly what to say in every situation; I usually don't. But if I simply share the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will convict of sin. At that point, many decide to ignore counsel and continue on their unhappy path; maybe change seems too hard, or they only wanted to vent. But for those who follow biblical principles, joy and peace are waiting.

With [the Lord] is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding. -Job 12:13

What Would It Take?

“Look! Hermana Cristina! I made a swing for Angie!” Carlos proudly showed me the scrap rubber strip that he had tied to a long piece of rope and hung from the avocado tree. His sister Angie happily swung back and forth on their new creation.

“That’s really creative, Carlos!” As I entered their backyard, I saw the other children playing in the dirt. Four barefoot boys crouched on their hands and knees, carefully constructing streets and tunnels. Scraps of wood and metal became their houses and bridges. The only real toy they had was an old Tonka truck. They methodically passed it from one boy to the next, each taking a short turn to maneuver the dirt roads. They laughed and talked happily, swatting mosquitoes all the while.

What would it take to make us happy? A different job? A newer house? An expensive car? More respect from our spouse? More compliant children?

According to Paul, we simply need a lesson in contentment. He writes in Philippians 4:11-12: “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Contentment is an acquired skill that requires discipline of the mind and humility of the heart. It is not dependent on circumstances or the actions of others.

People often ask us, “Do you like living in Honduras? Don’t you miss hot water? You don’t have a dishwasher? Isn’t it really hot?” Actually, we struggled just as much with contentment in the States as we do now. Change of surroundings make no difference at all. When our hearts focus on seeking “first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” we are happy and content. When we take our eyes off Him, we allow room for complaining and resentment.

One of my favorite shows to watch is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which we can occasionally see here in Honduras. One day, Cinthia, a girl from our church was visiting, and we watched it together. As the workers began to demolish the house, she exclaimed, “They are tearing down that house! What’s wrong with it?” In that moment, I pictured Cinthia’s little two-room cinderblock house with an outdoor shower and clay stove. The house they were tearing down was a dream house to her. It was all a matter of perspective.

Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can be content, no matter the situation. Ask the Lord to give you the right perspective—His perspective.

Faithful, One Hundred Per Cent!

Just this morning, I read (for maybe the hundreth time!) "Horton Hatches the Egg" to Claire. It's a classic Dr. Seuss tale of an lazy bird who delegates her egg-sitting job to Horton the elephant. He faithfully warms the egg, enduring many difficulties while Mayzie the bird lives it up in Palm Beach. She returns just as the egg is hatching to reclaim it. To everyone's surprise, the baby that emerges from the egg is "something brand new"--it's an "elephant-bird" complete with large ears and a trunk!

Dr. Seuss asserts, "And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that!
Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat!"

As we celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, I thought of my mother's faithfulness to me and my sister for the past 30 years. She had a much tougher job than just sitting on an egg, yet she didn't delegate it to another. She embraced her role as mother and sacrificed to spend as much time with us as possible. I have memories of picnics, trips to the library, and homemade apple pies. There were walks around the neighborhood at dusk, endless board games, and heart-to-heart talks. She was like Horton: "Faithful--one hundred per cent!"

A poem she cross-stitched to hang on the wall in my nursery describes her perfectly:

I hope my children will look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up while we're not looking.
Dusting and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow fast we learn to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.

Claire giggled with delight when I read about Horton seeing his little one for the first time.


Dr. Seuss was definitely on to something. Only when a mother sacrificially invests her life in her child will she have a great influence on the person he becomes.

Someone once said, "The greatest compliment anyone could give me is to say, 'You remind me so much of your mother.'" If I am just a shadow of the woman my mother is, I know Claire will be very blessed.

I want to be just like my momma: "faithful--one hundred per cent!"

I love you, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!

Medicine for the Hurting

“Christine, there is something wrong with my baby, and I think I have it, too. Could you take me to the hospital?” Lourdes was a single mom, who had recently trusted Christ. Even over the phone, she sounded very worried.

We picked up the young mother and her three-month old baby girl a few minutes later. I immediately saw the reason for her concern. Their skin was covered with scabs, beginning at the abdomen and concentrated around their lower limbs. The baby’s tiny legs and feet were almost completely covered. Both had been ill with respiratory infections the week before; the skin condition had set in shortly after. It looked a lot like impetigo. I walked with them immediately to the public hospital to get treatment.

During the long wait in the emergency room, I assured Lourdes everything would be just fine. "They'll give you some medicine to clear it up--don't worry." As a new mom myself, I sympathized with her. There's nothing worse than seeing your child suffer.

When Lourdes finally emerged from seeing the doctor, I asked to see her prescriptions. To my surprise, there were only two; both were for the baby. One medicine was for the symptoms of the respiratory infection, and the other was simply a written instruction to buy acetaminophen drops. “Where are your prescriptions? And why didn’t she give you something for the baby’s skin?” I asked.

“She said she would only treat one of us, so I told her to treat the baby,” Lourdes tearfully replied.

I tried to control my frustration as I back-tracked to the doctor who had seen Lourdes. “Why have you not seen both of these patients? And where is the prescription to treat the skin bacteria? They are going to keep infecting each other unless you treat both mother and daughter!”

“Oh! Yes, you are right, doctora! Just a minute and I will have those for you!” Her reply caught me off guard—it took me a minute to realize what was going on. She thinks I'm a doctor, visiting with some foreign medical brigade! As she rushed around preparing an injection and filling out more prescriptions, I couldn’t help but enjoy my undeserved power—I decided that on my next trip to the public hospital, I should borrow a white coat and stethoscope to see that our patients got the best of care!

So many times, so-called “mission” works treat people the same way the dilapidated public hospital in El Progreso does. They address a few surface symptoms instead of dealing with the root of the problem. Some short-term relief may follow, but these people are ultimately doomed to return to the same miserable condition. Any assistance, whether economic, educational, or medical, must be given with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we fail to give the gospel, all of our other efforts are temporal at best. Let’s remember the real reason we give to others—we must bring dying men to the Savior before it is too late.

Hospital El Progreso
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