Always the Foreigner, Never the Friend

I have feared that no matter how much time we spend in this country, how fluent I become in the language, or how comfortable I become with my surroundings, that I will always be viewed as the foreigner and never truly be “in” and considered a friend to any person outside of the expat community.

I’ll never speak like a native. I’ll never have dark skin. I’ll never look good in traditional dress. I won’t get the inside jokes or know the little songs and stories that children grow up with. Culturally, I am coming from a totally different planet. No matter how much I adapt and adjust, I will never truly belong.

I desire and ask God for a close friend of national ethnicity. I know that I can learn and grow so much in this context if I develop deep and meaningful friendships in the midst of the enigma that is culture and language adaptation.

But will this person ever look at me in the same way I look at them? Will I be their friend…or just a foreigner with new and fun things with which to introduce them…just the person who tries really hard but will never really get where they are coming from?

Can I find common ground with someone whose life resembles mine in so few ways? Is it possible to bridge the gaps between our worlds and create an atmosphere where a budding relationship can thrive? 

For this reason, I love what the Word says about friendship.

Friends…

  • are friendly (Prov. 18:24)
  • love at all times (Prov. 17:17)
  • comfort and edify (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • encourage to love and live better (Heb. 10:24-25)
  • live selflessly and sacrificially (John 15:13)

So we don’t have to have the same skin tone and cultural background? Phew! That’s a relief! I don’t have to get all their jokes? Well that makes sense because, well, let’s be honest, I don’t always get my husband’s.

And the biggest-and maybe the hardest- thing I am learning is that I can be a friend without being a friend. Someone doesn’t have to welcome me into their inner circle for me to be friendly and to love, comfort, edify and encourage them. I can live selflessly and sacrificially to their benefit without them inviting me into the intimate parts of their life.

I have never really felt as though I had to try to make friends because I could always find someone like me, who appreciated me and understood where I was coming from amid the plethora of potential pals I had to choose from.

That will never be my reality here. But that doesn’t mean that the months and years of sowing seeds of friendship won’t eventually pay off. And I hope that when they do, I will have everlasting fruit in the form of new sisters in Christ for the time and heart invested.

It’s certainly not an easy or rewarding task investing in people who don’t want much to do with you or only want what they can get from you…which is basically the reason I don’t like Twitter, but that’s besides the point…really.

So I’ll never be a Nepali… but I can be a friend to many, and maybe a few will be my friends too!

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Have you ever been put into a situation where you had to bridge cultural or social gaps to be a friend?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

 

Pinterest Fails, Perfectly Plowed Plans, and Reveling in My God-given Reality

I have found that in this place and in this season of my life, something that resembles “Pinterest perfection” is not attainable.

When we arrived here, I had this idea that this was my time to furnish a home and make it this beautiful, dreamy safe-haven for my family. I pinned and planned, but as I searched and scavenged this town with little to show, I realized that all my perfectly laid plans would be put to rest.

The taupe walls I asked for turned out pink. We settled for a too-small-for-our-bed comforter so we didn’t have to choose a funky floral pattern. We worried that the wall art contained Hindu imagery that we didn’t understand, and as we looked for others, we came up empty handed. Oh,and then there was that earthquake that forced a change of location (at least I got the right color walls now!).

I also thought, however naively, that free from the crazy schedule and lack of routine of deputation, I would be able to serve my family by cooking, keeping home, and doing fun things with my kids. But once we started language school and my husband began studies with a tutor, I realized just how foolish this fantasy was. Now I feel successful if my kids are bathed and surrender that spaghetti twice in the same week won’t kill us, though it won’t win me any home-making competitions.

When I compare myself to mom bloggers and veteran missionaries, I feel that I come up short. I’ve heard many times that comparison steals my joy but am only now realizing how true this is as I’m falling so short of those I aspire to resemble or what I think I would like to be.

I will slowly build the house of my dreams as I relax my standards. And I will be comfortable and content with the things that make up my life as I kick the habit of comparison. As I accept and love the life God has given me to live right now, in this place, in this season, I will let go of the falsified fantasy and revel in the reality of my abundantly blessed life!

And if I do compare, I hope that I will compare myself to those that are lost without the gospel and realize how perfect my life really is because what Christ has done in it. Reveling in the greatest reality of my life motivates me to the only thing that really matters: perfecting the lives of others by introducing them to the only Man who lived a perfect life and giving them an opportunity to allow Him to do a marvelous work in their hearts.

And when I realize that this is my job…my life… I realize that I really am living the dream! 

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Have you learned to accept and love your less than picture perfect life?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

Maintaining a Heart of Thanksgiving in Circumstances I Can’t Change

I have failed to always maintain a heart of thanksgiving when I am in the midst of circumstances I wish I could change.

When the windows of heaven are open, and the blessings are heaping upon my lap, it is natural to have joy and to be thankful. But my flesh fights thankfulness when my world unravels and my meticulous schedule is thrown through the shredder. When my plans don’t come to fruition and the peace in my heart begins to dissipate, the anxious thoughts and relentless questions threaten to drown out His voice that offers to fill me again.

The following command sure seems impossible in the midst of these all too familiar feelings…

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:4-6)

God expects me to REJOICE when my life is turned upside down? I’m supposed to pray away these terrorizing thoughts and be thankful instead? Nope. Can’t do it.

But… Something inside of me tells me God doesn’t ask the impossible. It sounds like a Sunday school answer but sometimes the most profound things are the most simple. God doesn’t ask the impossible…because He makes everything possible. He doesn’t require of me anything I can’t do in His power.

He wants me to bring my cares and concerns to Him in the circumstances I cannot change. He wants me to cry out to Him and beg Him to extend His grace and mercy into my life, to give me wisdom, patience, and peace. 

But He wants me to do so with a thankful heart. A heart that says, You brought me to this hard place, but You have never left me. Thank you for giving me a reason to know you more and fall into a deeper trust of You. I ask you to change my circumstances, but thank You for working in my life according to Your will.

This year, much like a few years ago, I have to choose thankfulness in the midst of less than desirable situations. But the choice is easy when I follow the instructions that come with the command and tap into His limitless grace.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (7)

So thankful my heart is in his hands! That’s one thing in my life I can’t change and wouldn’t want to if I could! And upon closer inspection, along with his limitless grace comes limitless gifts, and I have SO much to be thankful for!

[I’ve enjoyed gathering around the table with my friends in the Lord and in ministry and dwelling on the many blessings we enjoy.]

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Have you had to choose thankfulness in some seasons of life?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

Faithfulness in Little Things

I have found that, though I’ve followed the Lord by doing the big thing of moving with my family across the world in service to Him, my days are comprised of little things in which still faithfulness is required.

It seems like a little thing

… to serve breakfast to my family and to sit together around the table, but these moments help us have a peaceful start to the day.

…to spend time with the Lord, but the days that I carve out time to do this, I am able to focus my mind and heart on Him going forward.

…to say goodbye to my babies as I go off to language school, but my reluctant willingness to do so will result in our learning and my children’s learning of the Nepali language.

…to go back to school after all these years and devote myself to language study, but eventually all these brain draining moments will accumulate into fluency in this foreign tongue.

…to discuss my husband’s ministry dreams over a cup of coffee, but my encouragement of his God-given aspirations may give him the boost he needs to make them come true.

…to be faithful to church even when I don’t understand a lick and my kids keep me out of half the service, but I am teaching them that church attendance is important and that comfort and ease doesn’t reign in our lives.

…to lovingly care for my children after a long day of study, but my time with them is fleeting and precious and I must take advantage of it to pump them full of the Christ’s love.

…to embrace and encourage my husband after an intense work day and to serve him in whatever way he needs, but this may sometimes be the only thing that keeps him going.

…to make the effort to bridge the cultural and language barriers in order to form relationships, but these actions just may lead to open doors for the gospel.

It is my prayer that, in all these little things and the many more my days are made of, the Lord will find me faithful. I believe and hope that these little things will grow over time into big and beautiful works of the Master’s hand, and I am so thrilled and thankful to have my hand in His as He weaves all them all together.

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? (Luke 16:10-11).

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Two of my favorite “little things”

Have you found fulfillment in faithfulness to the little things God has given you to do for Him?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

 

My Family: My Greatest Gospel Testimony

I have found that my marriage and family may be my greatest gospel testimony.

Many have commented on how happy Paul and I are together, noting that we obviously enjoy being together, laughing, playing, and sharing our thoughts and ideas. In this culture, women are taught to reverence their husbands to an extent that they become an idol in their lives. Behavior like ours would often be considered foolish and disrespectful.

However, many long for a marriage with mutual love and respect. What they don’t understand is what they see in us is not what Western movies are made of. We don’t live in a romantic comedy and we don’t sleep on a bed of money.

We live in real life. And real life is hard! Loving people is messy! What they see in us is Christ working in and through us and spilling over into our marriage.

Certainly, there are lost people with marriages that survive the test of time, and I don’t know what those are like. But I am thankful for His presence and the sanctification we have undergone as we have walked this road together. I don’t want to know what our marriage would look like  without Him.

We teach our children that Jesus loves them sin and all. We pray that Christ will change their life and that they will become proclaimers of the gospel. We teach them that serving God is more important than anything else in our lives.

Children here are taught to please the gods so they can receive success and prosperity in return. To do good deeds so they can be blessed in the afterlife.

Their parents work hard to give them the best life possible. They send them to the best school they can afford 6 days a week, make sure they learn English and get good grades so they can attend a good college, make a lot of money, and maybe get out of Nepal.

The focus is on self, success, and gain. Ours is on Christ and His kingdom. 

Though we may not be successful by worldly standards, He has met our every need. He has given us peace and joy in our marriage and family.He has allowed us to confront sin, forgive, and grow. He has given us grace upon grace to give back to each other. And it shows.

I pray that we don’t waste the opportunities that the testimony of His grace in our live gives us. That through His power, we can have a marriage and family that brings Him glory. I hope above all that my children receive Christ and go on to have God-honoring marriages and families of their own.

I dream of the impact families that love the Lord and give all for Him could make in this world!

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Have you been able to reap fruit for Christ because of the testimony of your marriage or family?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!