Materialism on the Mission Field?

I have found that materialism is a real temptation to a missionary on the foreign field.

What I have seen as tempting is not necessarily stockpiling goods (though I did a bit of that today in preparation for the coming holiday). Rather, it is a focus on the presence or absence of material things.

It is tempting to find comfort in goods both vital and superfluous to a typical American’s existence. Chocolate chips and marshmallows might not seem like a big deal to you, but I can’t deny that there was a HUGE smile on my face when I opened a care package containing these precious ingredients just in time for a Thanksgiving feast.

The problem does not lie in my love of these sweet morsels. I cross into dangerous territory, however, when I allow my happiness to rise and fall with what is on the supermarket shelf or waiting at the post-office for my prompt pick-up.

If there is any seed of discontentment inside, it will be well-watered with the steady-flow of complaint when faced with a lack of some item I’ve dubbed necessary.

While it is not wrong to desire things that make me feel just a little bit more at home, when they cease to fill my cupboards, I am forced to face myself.

Am I the puddle who cries over spilled milk and empty boxes of fruit snacks? Or am I the glue that holds my family together, shoots for two into the dustbin and says, “Well, that was fun!”

I want to be like Paul who finds his happy place despite a time of going without.

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Here, Paul expresses gratitude for the gift of love provided by the church of Philippi. He notes that he had not received such care for some time, but not to send them on a guilt trip. Rather, he wants them to know that he wasn’t hurting or pining for this gift that didn’t come. Though it may not have been an easy lesson, he had learned to be content. He had even learned to suffer with grace and contentment.

But how did he do it? Through Christ-supplied strength! When the support came, and when it didn’t, he knew he would be okay.

When the supermarket shelves are fresh out of whatever it is I think I really need at the moment, so will I. When the comforts of home just don’t find their way to my mailbox, I can be content.

But not because I am some super-human missionary woman that doesn’t have natural feelings. But because I can learn through Christ-supplied strength to face the day with the things I think I need to face it…or without.

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Have you found contentment in Christ despite the familiar pull of materialism?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

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!