Just One Thing? — Expectations and Overseas Life

A few weeks ago, as I prepared my heart for my parents to return back to America after visiting for two weeks, I asked my Instagram followers to do me a solid and use the new questions feature to distract me for a few moments. I got some great questions, some silly questions, and a few unsolicited compliments (yes, I agree my kids are gorgeous!). One friend commented that we seemed to be doing amazing, and I was happy to confirm that we are happy here and love the missions life with all its adventure and challenges. I thought I’d turn a few of them into blog posts as I train myself to make writing a habit again — like online, not just three pages a day in my journal.

“What was one thing that was hard to adjust to on the mission field?”

Wow! It felt like such a loaded request to just pick one thing that was hard to adjust to after moving overseas because literally every aspect of my life has changed as a result. This inquiry came from a young woman who attends a very missions driven church where she may also train for ministry one day, so I felt added pressure to encourage her and not freak her out — the ever present search for balance of transparency and gentle truth.

I’ve learned so much, but one of the biggest things has been to let go of my expectations about what doing ministry, making a home, and raising my kids would be like here. We have a unique set of circumstances and challenges, but God has a unique plan for our life and ministry.

I guess that sums up so much about all the feelings that bombarded me upon our arrival and the months following. On paper, it seemed our dreams were coming true. We were FINALLY on the field after years of preparation. But earthquakes and loneliness and the realities of setting up a home overseas all came to take away the beauty of dreams realized. Life overseas turned out to be just that — life, with all its hardships and disappointments in tow.

I didn’t realize at the time that I had painted a picture of what I thought our life here would be like. I would have a close friend, of course. My kids would play with neighborhood kids and learn the language quickly. We would find a good school for our daughter where she would thrive and grow beyond what we could give her at home. We’d enjoy setting up a new home and decorating it to our liking, and, oh yeah, it would be in the perfect location and even have a small yard.

What God has had for our family, however, has been so much different — and so much better. His plans for me have not met my expectations but have exceeded them. I cannot say that the portrait God painted for me instead has not been heavily crafted with pain and trial. It’s been harder — and sweeter — than I ever thought possible, as are most of the best things in life. The best thing God has given me is nothing I hoped for and everything I wasn’t wise enough to want.

It turns out, God is far less interested in making my dreams a reality and far more interested in working out His way in my life. God’s best for me, in any season, is to learn hard into Him and trust Him even when chaos seems to reign. All my dreams come untrue have brought me into the place I need to be — the place where I submit to every disappointing reality and joyous victory.

He hasn’t asked me to totally surrender all of my dreams but has, rather, loved me hard through every twist and transition. When the story changes, I know the author doesn’t, and it’s a good thing I’ve already seen Him write so many great narratives. As my heart becomes one with Christ, my desires will inevitably change. All I can expect, then, are wonderfully hard, beautifully messy works wrought by the hand of God which makes no mistakes.

Truly, we have a unique set of circumstances and challenges in this overseas life. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that our God has a unique plan. I just feel privileged to watch it unfold.

Cold Coffee Confessions

It’s no secret that I’ve gone silent on my blog for quite some time. I’ve been thankfully and happily busy in life with my crazy clan and our adventurous interns/downstairs neighbors. As we host these two, I think back often on the time I spent being  downstairs neighbors to a family of seven some time ago in that musty, unfinished basement (that we loved!) on Spot Road, and I am trying to be half of the considerate and sweet friend my neighbor was to me.

While I haven’t been showing up here often to share with you what in the world is going on on my side of the world, I will tell you that God has been faithful. We have experienced both great victories and defeats like I never imagined would touch us. The events of our days and subsequent emotions are often hard to put into words that I want to bring before the world — or the few people that read my little blog, but you know what I mean.

If we were friends sitting down to a cup of coffee — preferably, iced because it is a billion degrees in my home as I write this — I would tell you that often sleep eludes me, and I lie awake wondering what the Master weaver could be working in our lives and ministries because it seems like nothing more than a blundered mess of good intentions and well-laid plans. I’d tell you how exhausting it is to plan and revise, dream and doubt, serve and surrender day after day after day.

I’d reveal to you that I have baked chocolate chip cookies when I knew of no other way to encourage my husband and offered them to him with a weak smile that said, “I know it doesn’t help, but I tried.” We’ve whispered, “I love yous” and held pinkies as he shifted gears in our Maruti sazuki jam-packed with our growing children and a few too many members of our growing church body. We’ve lost each other countless times amidst all that is marriage and ministry mingled together but have — by God’s grace — made our way back to each other every time.

I would tell you that the highs and lows of ministry are sometimes more than I can bear, and that the lines between work and life often get blurred. I would tell you that the mama bear comes out fierce and strong, and sometimes I am ashamed at the ways I don’t trust God with my children. I would tell you the million-and-one ways I’ve messed everything up yet God has redeemed every bit of it. At this point, I would hope you wouldn’t walk away in shock of all that I’ve revealed to you, and I would regret that I let it all out.

But if that’s what’s left at the end of this conversation on this imaginary coffee-date, then we have really missed it. I’ve said all that to only say that God is faithful — again. To encourage you and me that this life of service to God is worth it. To remind us that our Redeemer is still at work in our lives. I know this because in all the ways I’ve failed to live up to His standard in marriage, motherhood, and missional living, He has done a work in each of those areas. When I’m sailing through life and everything makes sense, He is good and He is faithful. When I’m struggling to pull myself out from under my sheets and just feed my kids, He is good and faithful. And all these things I struggle to juggle, He has given me to hold. They are gifts that sometimes make me want to pull my hair out, but they are precious just the same!

Don’t abandon your coffee, friend. I imagine you have your stories, too. I hope you’ll see in them that while things haven’t been perfect, they have had purpose. And, if you’re willing to admit you’ve failed, that He has been faithful.

Life is good, friend, and I am happy to share it with you.

Gospel Rich in an Impoverished Land

Five Minute Friday (a few days late!): PRIVILEGE

My heart is often heavy and I feel insecure about our position of wealth among those around us who have much less. I worry about the way we decorate our home, what we eat each day, or how we spend our money on other things. I am generally satisfied with our discipline with money, but I still find myself feeling guilty over my privilege while others around me struggle to make ends meet.

While I am certainly open to ideas of how to meet the needs around me in productive ways, I have also been comforted by the words my husband has spoken to me time and time again: “People won’t resent us if we share our wealth with them.” It’s amazing to me how he can get right down to my deepest fear even if it was not even close to being clearly communicated. I fear being resented.

Photo by Niels Steeman on Unsplash

I know I can’t control the feelings of others towards me, but I do believe there is wisdom in this advice. I’ve since found great joy in inviting others into my home to watch our “Internet TV,” eat desserts made in my “foreigner-style” oven, and even wash clothes in my washing machine. Children particularly enjoy our abundance of toys and books. My son’s school has even borrowed some Dr. Seuss books for the last few weeks! I try not to show up empty handed when visiting friends, and I try to offer up my best even when unexpected visits occur.

Yes, we have inherent privilege in terms of financial wealth. But it occurs to me that we also have a greater privilege. We have Gospel privilege — a privilege many in this world do not have. And this is the why of it all — much more than materially wealthy, I am spiritually wealthy. I have received the immeasurably precious gift of the Gospel and will inherit eternal life.

So while I share any material wealth I acquire as I follow God’s urgings to give and to open my home, I am also impressed to share my spiritual wealth. Not in an effort to not be resented because, as it appears, many resent me for telling them a truth that is hard to hear because of what accepting our message would mean in this culture. Rather, I share my gospel privilege so that others may be rich like me — Gospel rich.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday

Looking into the Light during the Darkest Times of Missional Living [day 22: light]

I smell burning incense in the air, hear rhythmic chanting and ringing bells, and step over shrines set out for the goddess of wealth. Our people miss services to visit family and not one visitor darkens the doors of our church plant. We have to have conversations with our oldest about religion and culture — things I truly haven’t wrapped my head all the way around yet. For those who don’t celebrate like Hindus, this festival season can be a very discouraging or depressing time. The darkness is real and overwhelming.

It’s so easy to dwell on the darkness, but God calls me to look into the Light. In the book of John, Jesus is called the Light. When it seems darkness is all around me, I have to remain focused on Jesus and let His light shine into my life.  It shows me all the graces of God and the good that is present among the darkness. Yes, it’s a difficult time in this country for believers. But when I choose to celebrate small, I see how God has changed people from this time last year until this year’s festival. I see boldness and beauty and opportunity. I see a nation lost in darkness but loved by God. When I see the Light, I see all these good things.

I think of times as a child when I would deny myself water or a bathroom break because I feared the dark. I thought something would snatch me from under my bed if my feet touched the floor! In the same way, fear of the darkness of the world can render me useless as I hide from it.  I can stock up on our necessities, and shut our doors and windows, and play Christian hymns at eardrum-busting volumes to drown out the happenings outside….

OR I can remember that God is Light, and He lives in me. What good is the light in me if I’m not shining it into dark places? Of course, this doesn’t mean I am joining the Hindus in idol worship, but it does mean I’m not afraid to walk around my neighborhood and enjoy the sight of hanging lights. It means I sit with a friend and eat the traditional meal as she teaches me about the history and customs that make this time of year special for her. It means obedience to share my light.

Now more than ever, my fear of God has to outweigh my fear of darkness. My praise must outdo my pity. My trust must surpass my trepidation. And how can any of this be? Because my Light outshines the darkness.

How can you let your Light shine in the darkness around you?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

Discover God’s Heart for the Lost [day 20: discover]

Five Minute Friday: DISCOVER

00:00

We are 6 months into a church plant. 6 months of planting, sowing, praying, and planning. I’ve watched my husband work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen with a passion I’ve never seen paralleled — of course, I am a bit biased on that matter. God has placed a big dream in our hearts to see a gospel movement in this country. At times, we have been discouraged because we have found the work to be slow going just as language learning proved to be. We trust God knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect, but big dreams leave us wanting.

God has been teaching me that minimal is still movement and painstaking is still progress. If we glimpse to see it, there is evidence of God’s passionate pursuit of our people. Not only that — I have also discovered God’s heart for the lost. He desires that all men be saved. Each and every one. He tells us in His word that He rejoices with each repentant heart that passes from death to life. And so should we. If every convert takes 6 months or more, they are worthy of every effort expended because He is worthy to receive them into His fold. And he is looking for them, calling them to Himself.

So I choose to celebrate small in what we’ve seen in 6 months — one soul trust Christ. Praise be to God!

05:00

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

 

There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10 b).

What have you discovered about God’s heart for the lost?

Talk to me in the comment section below!