Thirty and Thriving

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Thirty. That seems really old to me. But one of my single friends who is also turning thirty this year said to me, “Yeah. It sounds old. Like old enough to be married and have kids.” She winked at me. Even though Thirteen Going On Thirty is one of my favorite movies, I will not be prancing around like Jennifer Garner as a thirty-year-old. I can, though, hold the title as “thirty, flirty (only with Greg McKinzie), and thriving.”

My blog posts are slowly coming. There have been numerous times when I want to blog about something, an experience here on the mission field, thoughts on my spiritual journey, things about my kids, but this 29 turning to 30 year has kicked my tail. I am worn out (I think it has more to do with that third kid rather than my age). But I thought about a birthday post, and I decided I would sit down and try to think of thirty nuggets of wisdom I have learned in my life thus far. Most of these come from the past year or so. This post will probably be hilarious to me when I turn 60. πŸ™‚

So, here we go. These are not in any particular order unless you count the order in which I think of them.

1. Growing up on a farm teaches a ton of life lessons that prepares you for adulthood. There were days that I hated it, but my parents knew exactly what they were doing.

2. I am a people pleaser, and I think some of that is because I am smack dab in the middle of five siblings. Being a people pleaser can be a good thing when it helps me to think of others around me, but it can be a bad thing when I care too much about what others think of me.

3. I am a home body, but I have traveled to quite a few places in my life. It is good to take adventures for the experiences, even if one is not adventurous. (But I would take hanging out at home with my family over a trip to a foreign country any day.)

4. It is a blessing to grow up in a church for your entire childhood and then be supported by that church in the mission field.

5. I love being a mother, but there are days when I wish my kids were already on their own so Greg and I can have our couple time back. And I think it is okay to feel this way sometimes. It means that I love my husband a whole lot. (And it stinks to not live close to grandparents or family that can babysit.)

6. The person you marry doesn’t have to be your best friend, but they do have to be your soul mate. Greg and I have so many things that we enjoy doing that we don’t enjoy together, but we have really good friends that share that with us. We find things to do together, but what I have found to be the most important thing in our marriage is that he is my partner in ministry for kingdom work. I had always heard that you marry your best friend, but if Greg and I had hung out in high school together (non-romantically) he would not have been my best friend. Some do marry their best friend, but it is okay to not be best friends with your spouse. I hope that comes across the way I want. It depends on how you define “best friend” I guess. Oh, and if I could chooses one person in the world to be with, it would be Greg. He knows me better than anyone.

7. Throwing up is one of the worst kinds of sick, especially when you have to nurse an infant through the night.

8. Best friends keep in touch and think of each other often. Life can change who your best friends are but there are those few kindred spirits that remain your friend for life even if life changes drastically around you.

9. Parenting advice is the worst (when it comes from someone that just thinks they should tell you something). All kids are different. All parents are different. Oh, and all cultures are different. πŸ™‚

10. Grandparents and great-grandparents are a blessing. I was blessed to grow up in the same town as my great-Granny and Granny and Granddad. They are some of the most precious relationships to me. I hope my kids can say that one day about their grands.

11. I openly communicate to my parents and have a very good relationship with them. I think the reasons for this are: 1. They have always cared to listen to me. 2. They have never been “hoverers.” There was a distinct difference between my parents being a “friend” and being my mom and dad. 3. They have respected me in making my own decisions even if they knew from wisdom that I was making a bad decision. 4. They always made “quality time” important in strengthening our relationship. 5. They always encouraged open communication.

12. My dad told me that the best thing for my marriage would be to move far from both families so that my spouse and I could make our own little family. I never thought Peru would be the place, but I think that Greg and I have matured about 10 times faster than we would have if we had been closer to family.

13. Family is a blessing from God. That is why he calls the church “family.” It is a blessing to have family all over the world.

14. When you hang out with people that gossip it is really easy to participate. Pray to be able to hold your tongue or be an influence when you are around those people. If you can’t do this, avoid being in conversation with them.

15. Listening is can be better than talking 90% of the time. I need to listen more.

16. It is good to find something that releases stress. I love trying new recipes and it is something that I love to do by myself.

17. Potty-training is one of the worst parts of early parenting.

18. You learn a ton more about your spouse after having children.

19. One of the best things that parents can do to be good parents is to be on the same page when it comes to discipline. It is a team sport.

20. I have a world of respect for my mom after becoming a mother. I never realized just how many things she sacrificed to be a stay-at-home mom.

21. I love peppermint tea and it is an incredible relaxer in the evening after the kids are in bed.

22. Living in a different culture transforms ones mind, and I will never be able to live in the US and think the way I used to about many things.

23. God really does do more than we ask or imagine.

24. Missionaries are blessed beyond measure to witness the generosity of people that would never brag about what they give or do.

25. When you stink at learning languages being a people-person and extrovert really comes in handy. It also comes in handy to be married to a language pro.

26. Something that makes a momma of three very happy is to have all the laundry done and a clean kitchen. This is a rare occasion in my house, but when it happens bliss. Oh, and hanging laundry is a wonderful way to relax and have time to think and pray.

27. If I don’t put my husband’s clothes away for him I will stare at a pile of folded laundry in our bedroom floor for a long time. He can function just fine without a wardrobe, and as much as I want what bothers me to bother him, it won’t.

28. When you assume the best in someone it makes you a more positive person. Trust is a beautiful thing.

29. I chose the right career path, and as a stay-at-home-mom it is important to find venues to use my gifts and talents that I would have used in the work world. I have been blessed to be a part of the library program here.

30. As much as I can plan and think about what to expect in the coming year, God always shows up and surprises me with his plan.

So… here’s to hoping that I can thrive for thirty more.

Thirty and Thriving

Stupendous Beef Tenderloin

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This recipe has definitely made it into my list of “special occasion recipes” folder. I found the recipe on allrecipes.com. It is worth seeing the comments if you don’t believe me, “It was soooooooooo incredibly good.” Here is the link if you want to see it with the original title: Fabulous Beef Tenderloin.

The cut of meat is super expensive here (“lomo fino” to all my Peruvian friends), but so worth it for a special occasion like Christmas or New Year’s. I bought little hoagie style rolls and we ate mini-steak sandwiches for 2 days afterward. If there was an Arby’s Super Gourmet restaurant, I am pretty sure they would serve something like these.

I followed the recipe exactly and got excellent results. The only critical feedback I received from Greg is that he wished I had doubled the sauce. I totally agree with him. There wasn’t enough of the sauce to drench our mashed potatoes for every meal. πŸ™‚ And what I really love… it is super easy. So easy that I am not going to make you go to the link if you don’t want to. I can type it out from memory.

Fabulous Beef Tenderloin (serves 6)

1-3 lb beef tenderloin (or 1.5 k lomo fino)

3/4 c soy sauce

1/2 c melted butter (but we will be doubling the bottom 2 ingredients next time)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place tenderloin in shallow baking dish and pour sauce over the meat.

2. Bake 10 minutes, and then flip over continuing to cook the roast another 35-40 minutes. Baste occasionally. (when interal temp is 140 F it is medium). Cook to desired doneness. After taking it out, allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

We like ours medium and 40 minutes was PERFECT. If you are looking for a yummy, special meal try this out.

Stupendous Beef Tenderloin

Alfredo Sauce Pasta (my twist)

Chicken Alfredo is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Recently, as a mom that has nights when I really don’t feel like cooking, this has become one of my favorite one-dish meals to prepare. I took two recipes that I had saved and combined them. The easiest version I prepare just has bacon, but if I have time to add grilled chicken I do. It is multiple steps, and this is how it all goes down for me…

You will need:
half a stick of butter
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cup parmesan (real grated parmesan is the best)
1 package of frozen bacon
1 onion (diced and I always use red onion)
1/2 pound of pasta
generous handful of peas
large pot of boiling water
1 large grilled chicken breast (cut up)–optional

1. Take a package of frozen bacon and cut up into bite-size pieces (thanks for teaching me this trick, Deborah Bills!). Start frying in a skillet.

2. While bacon is frying, boil a pot of water in order to cook the pasta (bow-tie is actually my favorite for this dish). Also start melting the butter in an additional pot. Yes, that is three burners going at once.

3. When bacon is looking unfrozen and starting to cook, throw the cut onion in with it. When the water is boiling, put the pasta in with a generous handful of frozen peas (my pasta cooks for 16 minutes and I love using the boiling water to cook the peas at the same time).

4. When butter has melted, add cream, stir and turn off burner when mixture has thickened. Add half of the parmesan cheese to melt in the mixture.

5. When pasta is done, drain water from pot and add the crisped bacon and onion. Toss well. Next, add the cream mixture. After it is all looking yummified, add the other half of the parmesan cheese. Add your grilled chicken too if it wasn’t a crazy busy night. (My husband prefers to have the sauce doubled, but I don’t mind not having it drenched in butter.) Enjoy your one-dish meal!

Alfredo Sauce Pasta (my twist)

Quinoa Chili

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This was DELICIOUS. We love chili. We love black beans. We love lots of vegetables and eating healthy. Quinoa is a food that has become popular as one of the “super foods” in the world. It is pronounced “keen-wah.” Guess what? We live in the area of the world where they get quinoa. It is a type of grain, but it cooks very similarly to rice. I am just going to post the link from allrecipes.com:

The recipe for QUINOA CHILI

Also, this chili comes out really thick. I added about 4 extra cups of beef broth to the mixture so that it would be more soup like and tripled the spices. Left-overs are delicious with tortilla chips or as a mixture to add to Spanish rice in a tortilla. Oh… and we added Rotel cheese dip to oursβ€”even better!

Quinoa Chili

Sweet Seven

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December 18, 2004–The date that Greg and I got married SEVEN years ago. Well… time in grad school, moving to a different country, and three kids later, here we are to celebrate. In honor of the seven years I want to list seven things I love about Greg:

1. He is the father of Anastasia Grace, Margaret Kathryn, and Cohen Timothy, and he is a GREAT daddy.

2. He can build things, hunt, repair things, fish–he is a manly man.

3. ALSO… He can cook, wash dishes, fold clothes, straighten the house, feed a baby, change diapers–he can play the role of Mr. Mom when I need him to.

4. He likes to watch the XFactor with me. πŸ™‚

5. He is absolutely delighted with some very simple things in life: cooking him a meal he likes, saving the “crunchies” in a popcorn bowl for him, being served a cup of coffee in the morning.

6. He is such a thoughtful gift-giver.

7. I am told by so many of my Christian brothers and sisters (in the states and in Peru) that they have so much respect for Greg. That makes me so proud.

Greg arranged a surprise anniversary date night for me. That is a wonderful way to make a girl feel special. He arranged for childcare and told me that I needed to be ready to go out Friday evening. He even bought me a new dress for the occasion (I don’t dress up very often here). When Friday arrived, that morning he gave me a small bag from one of the nice Peruvian jewelry stores we have here. Inside was this sterling silver handcrafted Peruvian bracelet. He told me he thought it would look good with my black dress.

Around 5:15 we took the kids to our friends’ home. On our way into the center, I realized that I had forgotten Cohen’s pacifier (perfect mistake for the 7th! Ha.). It took us 45 minutes to go back home, get the pacifier, drive it to Cohen, and get back into the center. Boy did I feel like an idiot. Those three kids caused me to lose so many brain cells, especially the ones for memory, I am afraid.

Greg took me to share a frapuccino. We then walked to an art gallery that was featuring an Arequipan artist (which we loved). From there we went to eat at our favorite steak restaurant. It was a wonderful evening full of time without kids to distract me (except for forgetting the pacifier) and conversation over our past year, the ways we have grown, and looking into the future.

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Thank you, Lord, for seven sweet years with a godly man that strives to serve you with all that he is. Continue to bless him with wisdom to serve you and lead his family.

I love you, Greg McKinzie, with all of my heart! Thank you for choosing me to be your one and only.

Sweet Seven

The King Jesus Gospel… started

Scot McKnight is definitely one of my new favorite authors. I follow his blog. There is a mountain of information he pumps through that blog: book reviews, recent topics discussed among Christians, guest bloggers, thoughts of news reports from a Christian perspective. I read his book The Blue Parakeet: Rediscovering How to Read the Bible and absolutely loved it. It will definitely be one of those books that I can write down in my list of “books used to spiritually transform me.” So, when I read about his newest book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, I immediately ordered it along with one (that my big brother recommeded to me) called Embracing Grace so that Diane could bring it to me when she came. I started The King Jesus Gospel tonight. I absolutely loved the foreword written by NT Wright and Dallas Willard.

Here is a clip from Wright’s piece that I love:

… The Christian faith is kaleidoscopic, and most of us are color-blind. It is multidimensional, and most of us manage to hold at most two dimensions in our heads at any one time. It is symphonic, and we can just about whistle one of the tunes. So we shouldn’t be surprised if someone comes along and draws our attention to other colors and patterns that we hadn’t noticed. We shouldn’t be alarmed if someone sketches a third, fourth, or even a fifth dimension that we had overlooked. We ought to welcome it if a musician plays new parts of the harmony to the tune we thought we knew.

We ought, in other words, to welcome a book like this one from Scot McKnight… (page 11)

I am so excited to get into this. I am also in a place in our ministry here where I feel that God is pushing me, stretching me, calling me to do things I have never done before. In all things it is my prayer that I walk with his Spirit. He leadeth me.

The King Jesus Gospel… started

I am well pleased

Tonight I began a study of Mark with a girl here. I am using N. T. Wright’s Mark for Everyone as a companion guide to our conversations. In the account of Jesus’ baptism, Wright points out something that I never considered in the story. When God the Father opens the heavens and says, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” Wright comments that we should all hear this message when we are baptized. We are all God’s children. He has chosen us; he loves us; he is pleased with us. I love that, and I have never taken that part of the story so personally.

Well, soon after that study I was catching up on reading some blog posts. I know that I have referenced Katie so many times, but she just has a way with words. Her post today couldn’t have been more perfect to go along with the idea above. I love when that happens!

Click here for Katie’s words

I am well pleased

Halloween 2011

I really love Halloween, and it really ocurred to me this year that daughter #1 really gets into this holiday. Every year we have lived here we have gone trick-or-treating with a little group of her friends from preschool. We were planning on doing that this year, but two of the three girls attend a school that hosts a big festival and they were not able to trick-or-treat together. Ana was majorly bummed (I didn’t find out the news until the morning of Halloween). She loves getting dressed up in her costume and loading up on candy.

This year Rachel, our teammate, asked Ana if she wanted her to make a costume. Ana told her she wanted to be the mermaid, Ariel, and Rachel made a rockin’ mermaid costume for her! I could not let this day go to waste just because we had no trick-or-treat option so I tried to make it as special as I could. Before lunch the girls designed a giant pumpkin cookie. They decorated it with M&M’s, chocolate chips, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

This evening, we had fun getting ready. I had a blast putting the girls’ makeup on. I have fond memories of my mom allowing me to wear her makeup for Halloween, and I definitely had one of those moments where I felt like I was in my mom’s shoes. πŸ™‚ They knew they were hot stuff and we headed to the roof for a costume photoshoot as if we were about to go out. Cohen woke up and I put him in his costume (actually a monkey coat that my mom bought him). Maggie wore Ana’s old ballerina recital costume. We headed to the living room for the McKinzie Three 2011 Halloween shoot. They were so cute.

After pictures, Cirilo joined us, and we made s’mores on the open flame of our gas stove! We ended the evening with three games of UNO Attack. I think that Ana ended up enjoying her Halloween despite the missing ingredient of trick-or-treating. There are not too many neighborhoods here in Peru that have trick-or-treaters. If we are ever in the states for Halloween she will not know what to do with herself.

I will post the link to all the pictures of Facebook at the end of the post. Here are a few of the kids in their costumes:

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cohen

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CLICK HERE TO SEE FACEBOOK ALBUM

Halloween 2011

Jeannie and Diane Visit 2011

the girls

There is just something about having kindred spirits in your life. Mid-October, Greg left for the states to attend a conference and make visits to some universities leaving me in Peru alone with the three kiddos. He was gone for 2 weeks. I knew that if I could just survive that first week by myself, life would get tons better because Jeannie and Diane arrived the Friday of the week Greg left. Well, I survived, and boy was I happy to see those two beautiful faces when they arrived.

We had a blast. It wasn’t quite a “girls getaway.” My kids were part of the picture the entire time they were here, but I loved having them as company and LOVED the one-on-one defense we had with the kids. Jeannie is my life-long best friend of close to 30 years. We have a history that no one will ever replace. My kids adore her, and there is just something about that girl that I love. πŸ˜‰ I got to know Diane during our time spent in the 6 months with Cedar Lane. Greg loves hanging out with her husband, Mark, and they are kind of the first really good friends that Greg and I made as a married couple–people that neither of us knew before marriage. Diane is laid back and so easy-going, and we just really click when it comes to how we see life and how we should live it. They are part of our mission support team there at CL.

Since both of the girls have been to Peru to visit before, we didn’t have to worry about the touristy stuff. We just hung out, went out to eat when we wanted, varied shifts so we could take naps when we needed, and talked like kindred spirits do (we missed you so much, Claudia!!!). I think the things we will remember from this trip are the Gilmore Girl marathon we started ( a series I love and neither of the two had seen), all the funny things that the kids were doing at this particular stage, riding in the back of a tiny taxi with each of us holding a child in our lap, and praying together one night over things we could openly share about. It was a beautiful time. Those girls have seen me at my best and at my worst as a momma, but I am glad that they can empathize with me a little more when I call them on Skype.

Diane left on Thursday, and Jeannie left Sunday evening (the same day that Greg arrived).

To Jeans and Marlee: I love you girls more than words can express, and I appreciate you and thank you more than you will ever know for the time you took to be here with me. I know you sacrificed to come, and I will cherish the time we spent together for years to come. I can’t wait to see you two again next year on furlough.

Here is our “silly picture” we took right before Diane headed to the airport…

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And to see more pictures from their time here, click this link: FACEBOOK ALBUM

Jeannie and Diane Visit 2011

Evangelism

I am a missionary. Even if I were not sent to Arequipa, Peru with the title “missionary” I would still be a missionary. It isn’t my vocation. It is my life, what I am called to do, be. Through my teenage years and into my college years I struggled with the word “evangelism.” I had some major misconceptions about what it meant to evangelize. A few are: 1. I had to have some major sob story to really bring people to Christ. 2. I had to know a lot more than I do to even try and talk to someone about Christ. 3. Getting a person to come to church with me on a Sunday morning is evangelism.

So much of my thinking has changed. People evangelize in many different ways, and I am going to be honest with you. I have been in groups to “evangelize the lost” and I don’t think I was doing it in a way that was pleasing to God. Evanglizing isn’t only about telling. It is about being. We tell others about Christ, but it does no good if we are not being Christ in their lives. If I had to sum up evangelism in one word it would be “relationship.” That is how Jesus did it. It is true that people listened to his preaching and believed. It is true that Jesus would right-out confront people of their sins without first inviting them over for dinner. I do believe that there is a time and place for some of those actions, but I step back and think, “He was the Son of God. I am not.” I believe there are many gifted teachers and preachers. There are people that have horrible pasts with a story resulting in redemption, and when they share their story people cry and sometimes come to faith because of it. Well… I don’t think of myself as a gifted teacher. I don’t have that personal story that brings people to tears. But I do have the Holy Spirit. And I do have a love for God’s creation.

To address the three statements I listed above:

1. I had to have some major sob story to really bring people to Christ.

I have a story. Everyone does. I have something to share. His name is Jesus, and he transforms my life. I really believe that if someone struggles to know what to share, they may have some searching to do. Seek and you will find. When Jesus is truly transforming one’s life, there is plenty to share–it flows from you. You see, you don’t even always have to use Jesus’ name. His power and work is evident in the most mundane things going on. At least for me, that is what I have discovered. Recently we met with another NGO here in the city. We call our development work “holistic ministry.” I was talking to one of the NGO leaders and expressing my excitement of how much has occurred in our work in the last three years. I have no clue what faith these volunteers have or share. I wasn’t used to trying to describe the good being done without mentioning God. Yet I found myself trying to be careful about too much “religious talk.” But it is evident in our work here. What has been done is because of a power bigger than ourselves. We are the feet and hands of Jesus. Any good that comes about is in accordance with his kingdom plan.

2. I had to know a lot more than I do to even try and talk to someone about Christ.

I will never “know” enough. My Christian journey is a constant path of learning, reflecting, changing, being molded. Things are hard for me to “get” sometimes. The Bible is hard to understand in certain places. There are cultural things going on, arguments that I need to understand more fully (when Paul is specifically writing to different churches). I used to just flip through my Bible and think, “If I could just memorize enough of the ‘right’ verses to quote to an unbeliever…” I believe that God works powerfully through his word. But I think I had replaced sharing God with just a desire to know the Bible. The Bible is wonderful. It is a book of love letters from God through the hearts of so many of his people. But I think that there is a major reason that John calls Jesus the Word. The Word isn’t a book. The Word is God made into flesh among us, loving his people, serving his people, building relationship with his people. I love that there are four different gospel accounts. I want to know Jesus. I want to hear from the people that walked beside him or were friends with those that walked beside him. I love that we pick up on so many different things from all four different accounts. Isn’t that human? We relate differently. In the Bible, we have four different people to try and relate. I love to learn more about him. I love to read the stories that I have read my entire life with new eyes because of the way the Holy Spirit is guiding me, changing me. Everyone is in a different place. All I can do is share what I know and why I believe it. I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to have all the answers for someone’s doubts. I still doubt, but isn’t that really where the faith part comes in? You know what has come to be such a comfort to me? God has left us with the “Comforter–the Holy Spirit.” He is the one that does the convincing. It isn’t all up to me to bring someone to Christ. God and me, we are a team. Apparently I am not the only one that has struggled with that idea. I seem to remember Paul having to remind the early Christians about the watering and growing process. When that really clicked with me, there was such a burden lifted.

3. Getting a person to come to church with me on a Sunday morning is evangelism.

I remember limiting my thinking to evangelism as the “Bring a friend Sunday” that my home church would host. I think a special Sunday where the outsiders are invited in is a wonderful idea and wonderful way for the church family to open themselves to the public, but I sadly viewed it as “the way” to help save someone. Church buildings serve some wonderful purposes. There is a blessing to hear 500+ people in an auditorium lifting up their voices together in song to God (I have really come to appreciate that since being away from such a large group of believers). A building can serve as a wonderful outreach tool to a community, but when it becomes the outreach tool, when we pour all of ourselves into making that our only personal outreach tool, we have missed it… big time. Getting people to come to a place is not what evangelism is about. Jesus didn’t tell us to tell others to “come.” He told us to “go.” We are to be in other’s lives. Remember? We are the hands and feet of Jesus. So much of what we read about him takes place in people’s lives: their workplace, a boat, a well, their home. We don’t have a number of the people Jesus preached to and saved. But we do have the part of the story where he devoted three long years to a specific 12 men. We do have the many stories of where he took the time to sit and know someone. That is some major relationship building. Have you read Acts? Have you seen what came from the fruit of investing himself fully in those men’s lives? I have prayed for relationships here that I have now. I am disappointed if something doesn’t happen in three meetings with someone. Well, first of all, I need to make myself available. Secondly, I need to care about a person and invest in them not solely because I want to “bring them to Christ” but because they are God’s child and I am called to love them. Thirdly, with the Spirit’s prompting, I need to be ready to share what I do know. And fourthly, I need to depend on God’s power transforming them. It isn’t me that changes them. It is God’s Spirit and them coming into faith in him.

I have a long way to go still in forming my strategy to evangelize. I wasn’t planning this post, but this morning I read from two different blogs that really hit home with me. Here are the links if anyone is interested:

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/09/24/saturday-book-review-dale-and-jonalyn-fincher/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PatheosJesusCreed+%28Jesus+Creed%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2011/09/missionary-positions-how-barista-does.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JamieTheVeryWorstMissionary+%28Jamie+the+Very+Worst+Missionary%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

So, what do you think? Do you have anything to add?

Evangelism