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.

Courage to Live a Quiet Life

We don’t travel to the post office in the middle of the city much, but when we do, I can count on a few greeting cards for the last few holidays (significant or not) from two of our supporting churches who regularly send us notes of encouragement. More often than not, there is also a postmarked gift of love all the way from Middletown, Ohio. I smile while I read over the small, formerly blank card scripted in perfect penmanship with nothing but Scriptures to encourage my soul. There are very few words other than an “I love you” or “God bless you” — the sweet woman of God lets the Word of God speak for itself. I am always amazed at how spot on some of the chosen passages are for what I am currently dealing with in life or ministry.

I picture this precious silver-haired lady who spent what should have been her child-free moments when her own were at school caring for me as a baby and long into my childhood. She always reminded me when I complained about any particular set of circumstances that, “Some days are like that.” Her TV tray always had an open Bible, notebooks, and note cards at the ready except for when she loaned it to me to color on while putting the time in potty-training. I didn’t know then how special these things were.

I’ve been thinking lately how, all my life, the women I have admired the most were those quietly serving Jesus in their corner of the world without fanfare or even recognition most of the time. I saw the depth of their character ooze out in small bits of Sunday school lessons and crockpot hospitality. I was encouraged by faithfulness exemplified in folded arms cradling feverish babies and stolen opportunities for sharing the Good News. I greatly admire the Nancy Leigh DeMosses and the Katie Majors of the world who steward large ministries in incredible ways, but there is something particularly moving about the unrecognized saints quietly doing the Lord’s work wherever their daily paths take them.

My desires to love big and serve God with my life are clearly not wrong desires, but I so often long for them on a scale that may be beyond what God has for me. Can I be content with my quiet life while also preparing my heart for whatever else He has for me?

These desires are from God, and I must allow Him to be Lord over them just like the rest of my life. Whether He ever extends the borders of my sphere of influence is completely subject to His divine discretion. He will enable me to complete each tiny task or insurmountable agenda through His power alone, and I must train myself to be thankful for each and every good work He springs up in my life.

As I advance in age, I hope I lose any ambition to be something other than smitten with the Savior. I pray I’ll have the courage to quietly tend to the work He has given me to do no matter how insignificant it may seem when stacked against what someone else may be doing. And I hope if there is some younger gal looking into my less-than-mind-blowing life, she will be inspired to glorify God in her own quietly faithful way.

We can teach and clean and care and serve until God takes us home to begin our full-time worship. Because we know and trust Him, we can be sure He will tell us, “Well done” for our faithfulness on a small scale. When He does, all we will be able to say is, “You’ve done great things.”

 

 

The Truth I need Reminded of when I’m just too Tired

Five Minute Friday: TIRED

I’m tired of inviting people to church who never come and sharing the Gospel with those who seem like they will never accept it.

I’m tired of giving my time and energy to preparing meals for children who say “eww” when I set it on the table — I know, we are working on that.

I’m tired of not feeling seen by my husband when I’m in over my head in a million different ways.

I’m just tired. Aren’t you?

Photo by Krista McPhee on Unsplash

Recently, I have been reading None Like Him by Jen Wilkin which outlines all the ways God is different than us and why that’s actually a really good thing. It has been so humbling for me to see in Him the abundant fulfillment of all my shortcomings. It is empowering to know that I am lifted above all my failures by the One who has not failed once. When I’m stressed by deadlines or timelines, He holds it all together unbound by time.

One way God is most definitely NOT like me is he doesn’t grow tired — EVER. He doesn’t get tired of my constant striving for perfection, endless complaints, and utter inability to remember anything for more than two seconds (I’m not kidding, my friend wished for me to receive brain power from the Lord for my birthday!). He rested when He was finished with Creation but not because He needed to; he rested to show us a pattern of how we ought to live. How humbling it is to need rest and time away form the affairs of life and the anxieties they bring! What a great gift it is that the Lord grants me that rest in the form of sleep, communion with Him, and moments of peace and prayer scattered throughout my day.

This need for rest shows me how much I’m not like God and how much I need Him. I’m literally going to sleep for a third of my life and rest another sizable fraction of it. And all that time, I have to trust that God is in control because He is. Because He is not bound by time, His power is unlimited, and He is not even capable of turning His back on me for even a moment.

He doesn’t need me because He doesn’t need anything. Yet, He loves me. He provides for me, and He walks with me as I stumble through this life of mine. And when my strength doesn’t feel like enough to meet the needs of the day ahead, I can smile because I know it’s not supposed to. I am made to tire out. I am made to need God and to rest in His provision.

Linking up with: Five Minute Friday

I Don’t Need to Write Anymore

After I finished language school, I filled my time with writing. I connected with a writer online who encouraged me and showed me some ways to get started with writing for websites and other publications. It was thrilling. I was in over my head, but I was learning each day.

I didn’t recognize this endeavor for what it was at the time. It was an effort to validate me. My formal language training had ended, and while I did spend time chatting with my friends and neighbors, it all felt sort of empty.

I had employed a nanny while I was studying language, and I did not feel right about sending her back home without a job. So I spent a couple hours each day out of her hair while she played with my baby boy, dressed him, and put him down for a nap. By this time, he seemed to prefer her over me when she was there, so I would hide out in my bedroom and write for a little bit of time each day. I didn’t know what else to do.

I felt unneeded, unnecessary, and generally lonely and isolated. Writing helped. I needed it.

I’m thankful for the friend that writing was to me during that time in my life, but I am also thankful that God has abundantly blessed me with various ministry opportunities since that time. I spend a few days each week with unbelievers in my neighborhood, and I spend the other days catching up on the cleaning, cooking, and shopping I’ve neglected. We are busy with our church plant and spending time with those that God has graciously brought into our congregation.

When my kids get home from school, I am not distracted by the urge to write. I’m ready to be with them. I don’t feel bogged down by play time. I welcome it at the end of the day when my babies have been away from me all day. When they give in to slumber, I am available to my husband untethered to deadlines or schedules. The desire to write is ever present, but it feels less and less like a need as time goes on. My goals have not changed, but my priorities have.

All the things God has given me to do for His glory don’t whisper worth to my soul anymore like writing once did. I’m certain Christ is pleased with me because I am his child and he is my ABBA FATHER — My daddy. While I’ll never truly be worthy of the sacrifice He has made for me, I find great comfort in His great love for me.

He is my closest friend, generous in giving good things. Writing is one of them, but it does not define me anymore. It adds value to my life, but it does not give me value. When weeks pass without writing, I am not a dusty, unused vessel, I am a cherished treasure of God.

I’m not done writing. Not even close, but I am done needing to do it.

A Personal Pep-Talk from the Pages of my Journal

I had to give myself a pep-talk yesterday. In a matter of days, I had gone from a moment of great victory to the depths of defeat — but only in my mind. I was certain that I had no one who cared for me and no purpose in my life in this country. Saying it now, it feels so silly.

Tears stung my eyes as I walked home from dropping my son off at pre-school. I already feel like the crazy foreigner when I’m not balling my eyes out while walking down the road, so I tried to keep my composure until I reached my gate.  I retreated to my room with my Bible, notebook, and pen. I picked up where I left off in Philippians, and I came to chapter 4. I’ve read it countless times, but I knew I needed its truth in a new way. I paraphrased it into a motivational speech for myself.

I imagine I’m not the only one who needs to hear it today, so I share it with you now — prayerfully, as it feels so raw and personal. I trust this vulnerability is not in vain, and this message will reach someone who will benefit from it today.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

First of all, God grabbed me with this — God is all about granting me His peace, but I have a part in maintaining it with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. I have to hold onto Him with all I’ve got when the darkness creeps in and the enemy claims territory in my mind. My focus must remain on Christ as I trust Him to transform my thinking.

I ask Him to change things according to His will, but first I ask Him to change me. In order to facilitate this change, I must order my thoughts according to the truths of Scripture. Guidance for this step of this transformative process comes in the next verse:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


6 Things to Think about when I Need God’s Peace

When I need God’s peace, I think on things that are…
True

Think about God (duh!). Think on the precious truths of His Word which say you are loved and accepted in spite of you. Your God is good and loves you perfectly. Absolutely nothing changes that.

Honest

Think about the brevity of life in a way that frees you from bondage to the present. Live in light of eternity, saying “no” to the things that feed your flesh and “yes” to the things that build the kingdom of God.

Just

Think of your holy, perfect God and how He empowers you to be like Him on a small scale. Surely, this is an enormous gift. Steward it by striving to be like Him in every way you can.

Pure

Think of how you have been made pure, and live like the righteous being you have been made to be. Refuse to let the world mar our muddy your re-made reputation.

Lovely

Think always on Jesus and on His sacrifice at Calvary. Dwell on the precious gifts He gives each day.

Good Report

Think about what’s good about this day and this moment. Choose to see it in every situation and believe the best about others. 

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Finally…

Do what you know to do and leave the rest in the capable hands of Christ. Let His peace rule in your heart and dictate your steps. Change your stinking thinking and be conformed to the image of Christ. It’s all good.


And that was it. Simple enough but stirring, too. It wasn’t an immediate fix but rather a goal for which I must keep striving. The tears continued to fall, and I cried out to the Lord who knows and understands my heart better than I do. I asked Him to change things, but even more, I asked Him to change me.

Today, I am running my thoughts through the Scriptural filter of Philippians 4 and recognizing these unwelcome words for what they are — lies. Today, I am certain I am cared for, and my purpose is renewed.

All thanks to a little pep-talk I didn’t want to hear but knew I needed. Sure beats a pity-party.