Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter in Color

In Latin America, everything is done in color, and Easter is no exception! Our family has started a tradition of viewing the colorful "alfombras" (carpets) which fill the streets each Good Friday. These alfombras are made of sand and sawdust which is dyed and used to create beautiful images depicting Christ's life and death. Many people get up at dawn to begin work on their space, and they spend all day in the bright sun creating a vibrant carpet where the Good Friday procession will pass on their way to evening services. We love taking the time each Good Friday to remember Christ's death, and enjoy the culture where we live.

Here is some of the color we saw in the streets yesterday:

Happy Easter to those of you who will be celebrating tomorrow! How does your family celebrate? What traditions have you incorporated from your host country to make Easter more meaningful for your family?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pintrest Fun

Welcome to Semana Santa...errrr...Holy Week...well, for some of us anyway.  Some of you are in parts of the world where the calendar is a bit different, right?  It's been a week around here, sorry for my lack of a brain!

free printable from aka design

Well, anyway, we are closing in on Resurrection Sunday.  I don't know about you, but we've been scurrying around here trying to get all our preparations done.  We are hosting Easter dinner at our house on Sunday, complete with a turkey because they were mega on sale here!  Like $9 USD instead of $60 USD around the winter holidays!  We also have a birthday on Monday and English Night with our college aged Costa Rican voluteers on Tuesday.  Yikes!!  That means a whole lot of cooking and creating.

But I enjoy the preparations, and I love the time it gives me to meditated on the season.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
                                                                                                                        Romans 5:6-11

Now that, my friends, is something worth making a big deal about!!!  With turkey or ham or fish or whatever!  Let's celebrate!!!

This also seemed like a good time to roll out our brand new Missionary Moms' Companion Pintrest Page.  After the response from the Valentine's craft post, we got to thinking, a Pintrest board just for missionary moms would be a great idea!  You know, no cream of something soup, or fancy craft supplies, but more like things we can make with the sometimes limited resources we have living overseas.

I spent time today pinning some fun ideas for Easter just for you all.  

So hey, click on over to  MissionaryMoms on Pintrest and start following us! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Team dynamics

Thank you so much for sending in your questions! If you have more, please send them. Watch for what you have already sent to appear in the weeks ahead....

An anonymous question: If you serve on a team, do you see your relationship together more as co-workers or as family? How do team relationships look for you in daily life? Did your team easily fall into a pattern of relationship, or do people have differing desires when it comes to how interconnected your lives are? I'd also love to hear any ideas that you might have about how to help deepen relationships on a team.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Going fishing...

...for answers ~ 

Last time I wrote, I shared a list of "intangibles:" questions that I've been using to help bring closure to this term and to figure out if there are any things we need to focus on "finishing" well these last few months, in that intangible sense of the world. They are those items that cannot easily be put on a checklist and then crossed through once accomplished; they are still subjects that need to be addressed - by my husband and I, but also by our children.

  • "What has/have been the high point/s of this term?"
  • “What were some of the most difficult experiences?”
  • "Where do I feel I've succeeded?"
  • "How do I feel I have failed? Is this failure due to sin?"
  • “How have I spied God working in my life personally, professionally and spiritually?”
  • “What did I hope to achieve - long term goals and short term objectives?" 
  • "Did I accomplish them, have I not yet achieved them, or are they currently in progress?”
  • “The activities I have been involved with during this term - would I describe them as satisfying or fulfilling? Are they consistent with my reasons for becoming a missionary in this particular place? Am I doing what I told our partners back in my home country I'd be doing? Do my activities apply to my specific responsibilities?"
  • “What did/is God accomplish/ing through me?"
  • “What have been the greatest roadblocks and frustrations I have encountered?"
  • “Are there unresolved on-field relationships (expat and local colleagues) I need to reconcile before leaving?”
  • "What goodbyes need to be said, how do they need to be said and what memories do I hope to make in the time remaining? How do I say goodbye well?"
And so we've been talking - the two of us, as a family and then taking opportunities to talk with our kids individually, to listen and to really hear what they are saying.

There has been a key idea come clearly to the forefront in these conversations. Each one of us (with maybe the exception of the littlest two) began this term in Niger with certain expectations and those expectations impact our perspectives and evaluations of what has or has not happened throughout the course of this term. There are many types of expectations, and the following is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point to encouraging further reflection.

Some expectations are ones we set for ourselves. I knew this term I wanted to help the local international school for TCKs initiate and establish a program/department to help address the needs of students with special needs. A significant amount of my time and attention has been directed towards that goal. 

Other expectations we control very minimally, if at all. One year into this term, our mission organization back in the States began the process of dissolution (the nonprofit's option - similar, but different - to filing for bankruptcy). This has left a pile of "externally determined" expectations sitting on the shoulders of my husband as field director, some of which he's been able to meet while others are still in process and their completion will most likely have to be handled by whoever steps into his role when we fly out in June.

There are those expectations we've intentionally or unintentionally laid upon the shoulders of others. Intentionally, my husband and I asked our older children to help with the Sunday School program at our local church. Unintentionally, this developed into the two of them actually coordinating and leading the program - and a lot more responsibility for them to carry than we had envisioned in that initial expectation.

There are also those expectations that are assumed - and often unspoken, never very clearly spelled out or "habits" that no longer need spelling out, but that are, nonetheless, important. Often that happens within the family unit (i.e. I expect my children to launder, hang out, fold and put away their laundry without specifying all of those steps every single load - often times I'll simply ask who needs the laundry machine next and they know what is expected), but it can also occur where cultures collide and one person assumes something is automatic while the other remains clueless.

When I expect something good to happen, I look forward to it and call it hope. The opposite is expecting something bad, resulting in feelings of anxiety, avoidance and dread. And, of course, there is the whole continuum in between those two expectation extremes. High expectations can produce great effort and hard work in the attempts to achieve them. Or they can result in a greater sense of failure and worthlessness when a goal is not achieved. Low expectations sometimes feels safer, but they also minimize any sense of accomplishment after achieving an objective.

I've been using this idea of expectations to help myself and my children process some of these intangible questions. 

How does this work? 

I've been having a conversation with my first grader about her experience of first grade. She has no problem saying that she wasn't excited about starting back to school this year except for four things: 1) She knew she liked her teacher because one of our other daughters had had her the year before - she thought her teacher seemed nice and was really pretty and so that was cool, 2) She is an extrovert and loves making friends and being with other people, 3) She also wanted to learn to become an independent reader but wasn't sure if she'd rather learn at home or at school, and 4) She new first grade came before second grade and all of her older friends have loved second grade. When it comes to seeing how well her expectations have been fulfilled, she has expressed several things. 
  • Her teacher has been really nice and she still thinks she is pretty so she likes being in her class every day. That expectation has been met. 
  • In her class, she met a little Australian gal who could be her identical twin personality wise, and the two have a blast together, sometimes too much. Again, that was a hope beautifully realized. 
  • She has learned to read this year. Although she isn't presently reading at the level her teachers would like to see, my girl feels good about how she is doing. She is reading, she likes to read, her little sister likes to sit and let her read stories to her and she can see that she keeps getting better.
  • The last key school expectation is that she will complete first grade ready to move to super fun second grade - which is clearly still a work in progress.
Thus, in my first grader's eyes, first grade is well on its way to being a complete success, in every way... 

What about a similar conversation with an older child? Our oldest daughter has been taking horseback riding lessons on and off for the last several years - including until just recently this year. Because of the institution where she believes she wants to start her post-secondary education, she returned to Niger planning to take these lessons to better prepare her for this school. We weren't on the ball the first year back, however, and she missed the enrollment period and was only able to ride sporadically. Last year and up until a month ago, she was taking lessons, usually 1 per week. But she came to us and said that she was tired and wanted to stop last month and we respected her decision. Ultimately, it came down to a few things: 1) She wasn't progressing as quickly as the other kids in her group because we can only afford for her to go once a week; thus she felt she had plateau-ed and was tired of feeling like she never measured up, 2) Her friends are important to her and she didn't really feel like she had friends at her lessons - her classmates all attend a different school and the only time their paths crossed was during that class. She would enjoy talking with the girls, but it never went beyond that casual conversation and it wasn't satisfying her need for someone to share the whole experience with her. 3) She is beginning a period of intense examinations for 9th and 10th graders that occur each year and she was already feeling tired. She felt that to do well, she would need more rest and riding was the thing she was most willing to remove from her schedule. Thus, that block of time every Thursday was not meeting her expectations and was, in some way, conflicting and preventing her from working towards other goals and expectations she had set - so stepping back for a time seemed to be a wise decision. 

Clearly, we agreed. Recently, I asked her about her choice. She has discovered that she does miss those lessons and the opportunity to interact with the horses and is looking forward to having that opportunity again someday in the future. She didn't expect to miss the class, but she is... but this whole experience has cemented (at least at this moment - she still has 2 years to go) her original thoughts in regard to future schooling.

Thus, building a discussion centered on expectations is helping me to walk my children through those intangibles. We're fishing for the answers to those questions with the expectation that they can reach a good point of closure as we finish, maybe permanently, our family's time in Niger.


How about you? How would you approach helping your children work through the types of questions listed at the beginning of this article?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Lotus Buds" book review

I reviewed Amy Carmichael's Things As They Are not too long ago. Lotus Buds is another of hers that I hadn't read, although much of it seems very familiar to me. I think some of the biographical material about Amy Carmichael in other books (like A Chance to Die: my favorite!) is taken from here. She says right at the beginning that this "book has been written for lovers of children." I am, and I'm loving the little written sketches of the "babies." The pictures and stories of how they got those photographs are fun, too. I haven't finished reading yet, though, and it's going rather slowly for me. However, this is a book that I can pick up and read a bit with pleasure, then put it down for a while and not lose where I was in it. The chapters are short and give me something to think about and to love in each one.

The writing is beautiful and poetic. I wish I could tell about my own children like this, with such detail, charm and insight. I think I'll just give you the first short chapter, as a sample of what it's like:
NEAR an ancient temple in Southern India is a large calm, beautiful pool, enclosed by stone walls, broken here and there by wide spaces fitted with steps leading down to the water's edge; and almost within reach of the hand of one standing on the lowest step are pink Lotus lilies floating serenely on the quiet water or standing up from it in a certain proud loveliness all their own.

We were travelling to the neighbouring town when we came upon this pool. We could not pass it with only a glance, so we stopped our bullock-carts and unpacked ourselves—we were four or five to a cart—and we climbed down the broken, time-worn steps and gazed and gazed till the beauty entered into us.

Who can describe that harmony of colour, a Lotus-pool in blossom in clear shining after rain! The grey old walls, the brown water, the dark green of the Lotus leaves, the delicate pink of the flowers; overhead, infinite crystalline blue; and beyond the old walls, palms.

With us was a young Indian friend. "I will gather some of the lilies for you," he said, with the quick Indian desire to give pleasure; but some one interposed: "They must not be gathered by us. The pool belongs to the Temple."

It was as if a stone had been flung straight at a mirror. There was a sense of crash and the shattering of some bright image. The Lotus-pool was a Temple pool; its flowers are Temple flowers. The little buds that float and open on the water, lifting young innocent faces up to the light as it smiles down upon them and fills them through with almost a tremor of joyousness, these Lotus buds are sacred things—sacred to whom?

For a single moment that thought had its way, but only for a moment. It flashed and was gone, for the thought was a false thought: it could not stand against this—"All souls are Mine."

All souls are His, all flowers. An alien power has possessed them, counted them his for so many generations, that we have almost acquiesced in the shameful confiscation. But neither souls nor flowers are his who did not make them. They were never truly his. They belong to the Lord of all the earth, the Creator, the Redeemer. The little Lotus buds are His—His and not another's. The children of the temples of South India are His—His and not another's.

So now we go forth with the Owner Himself to claim His own possession. There is hope in the thought, and confidence and the purest inspiration. And, stirred to the very depths, as we are and must be many a time when we see the tender Lotus buds gathered by a hand that has no right to them, and crushed underfoot; bewildered and sore troubled, as the heart cannot help being sometimes, when the mystery of the apparent victory of evil over good is overwhelming: even so there will be always a hush, a rest, a repose of spirit, as we stand by the Lotus-pools of life and seek in His Name to gather His flowers.
That last little bit, the part that I bolded, is what really stood out to me. Yes. I might have to print it out and post it somewhere that I'll see it often. "When the mystery of the apparent victory of evil over good is overwhelming: even so there will be always a hush, a rest, a repose of spirit...."

And from that opening, the book goes on to chat about the little "lotus buds" that God allowed them to gather.

Have you read Lotus Buds? What is your favorite missionary book or author? What are you reading now, and what would you recommend to the rest of us now?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Femininity on the Field

This may seem like a very superficial topic, but can I tell you a secret, between us girls?  Sometimes I don’t feel very feminine, very girlie.  Mind you, I’ve never been a fru-fru girl.  While others were dreaming of being cheerleaders or prom queen, I was fishing or camping. (Oops, did I just show my redneck side?)

But as a grown woman, especially a married grown woman, I have found myself approaching this differently, wanting the way I look and behave to reflect my femininity.  I’d pretty much worked out what that meant to me personally in rural South Carolina, but now that we live in Latin America, there are definite differences on what a woman is expected to look like.   So what’s a girl to do?

My Post
For the visual learners among us, you can check out my
rendition of this post and skip a few paragraphs.  ;)
The problem for me starts with the shoes.  I have particularly high arches, so even if I wanted to wear those crazy high heels, I’d probably get about 3 steps before doubling over in foot spasms and tripping on the curb.  Nothing graceful about that!

Women don’t leave the house here without being totally “done,” either.  Full make-up, including vibrant eye shadow and lip colors and often some really long, fake, glittery lashes.  Nails long and painted, with swirly designs or little drawings on each one.  Hair is always coiffed and usually dons some sort of feather or barrette or flower, clipped just so.  The heat and humidity here leave my natural curls making their own way, so any attempt to stick a flower in it would look more like a wild weed in a briar patch.

Here in the land of machista men and oversexualized women, it’s nothing to see pornographic images plastered in public places, on commercials, or as part of TV shows.   You can imagine what that does to fashion…plunging necklines, painted-on pants, tiny skirts.  Nah, that’s not me.

I am apt to pull my hair up in a pony-tail or wear a ball cap when working in the community with kids, with or without my minimal makeup.  I find myself most often wearing what has been called pajamas here (cotton or denim pants/shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes, flat sandals) for reasons of comfort, heat (how DO they wear those tight pants in 110 degree weather?!), ease, or habit. 

I struggle with differences in the definition of modesty, with having to analyze everything I wear or say or do for what message it conveys to men, with what my girls are learning about what it means to be a woman.  And I notice that I lose a certain bit of credibility with women, believers and nonbelievers alike, because I don’t “look the part.”

Sometimes I feel I’ve gotten sucked back into that high school drama of peer pressure and worrying about my image, but with real-world consequences this time.  Now, before you comment, don't hit me with "a genuine smile, a sweet spirit, the beauty of holiness."  I really do get all that.  But if we walk out of the house in nothing but a smile and the beauty of holiness, well, some heads really would turn!  

I know that we should assimilate as much as possible into our cultures, but I struggle with where to draw the line on this one.  I think of  those missionary women in cultures where they are expected to cover up more than they are used to or be more conservative in their behavior, and I wonder if they have to redefine that “look” that makes them feel pretty, too. 

Do you find that the way you look in the mirror on the field is different than how you look on furlough?  How do you reconcile or express your femininity within the culture where you live?   

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Comparison Game

I've learned a lot about contentment these past few years. It's easy to look at others and want what they have. More money, nicer house, well-behaved kids, romantic husband, prettier face, skinnier body, etc. I enjoy reading blogs and on the screen I read about well-put together families, moms who do lots of projects with their kids, moms who decorate better than Martha Stewart, or cook better than the Pioneer Woman, husbands who are more romantic than Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail. It's easy to get caught up in the "oh, I wish I had that life". Is this you, do you sometime get bit by the jealousy bug? Or is it just me?
Don't get me wrong. I am very content with my life right now. I really am. I love where God has put us (and I'm quite excited about the future!), I love my husband, I love my kids. But, oh, sometimes, I let my mind drift to the "what ifs".
What if we still lived in America?
What if our church was bigger?
What if we had more money?
What if...
Satan likes that. Because when I allow those thoughts to run through my mind, I become discontent with the life has given me. So how do I combat this?
I don't have some great advice, well, actually I do. I quote Scripture. Some of my favorites are...
"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."
Philippians 4:8
"For we dare not make ourselves of the number,
or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves:
but they measuring themselves by themselves,
and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise."
I Corinthians 10:12
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19
By quoting Scripture, I am able to refocus. I need to be careful of the things I think. Coveting what others have is not pure or lovely or of good report. Comparing myself with others is not wise. And lastly, I need to remember that God has supplied all my needs (and many of my wants). God has given me exactly what He wants me to have in this season of my life.
Often what we don't see behind those blogs or status' on facebook is the struggles, the heartaches, the cranky kids, the dirty houses. We put up our best photo (often the 20th take), pics of our kids on their best days, the fun quote of the day, or whatever it is to hope no one sees behind that screen is a family who is imperfect. A family who struggles with sinful children, a sinful husband, a sinful wife.
Don't get me wrong. I post all the good stuff, too. I don't like reading about people's fights or whatever is bothering so and so. What I am trying to say is that we need to keep in mind that everyone has something going on in their life. It's not all roses.
So the next time you hear or read about someone else's blessing. Praise the Lord with them. Don't be envious. Keep in mind that everyone is facing some kind of battle. And although it may seem like the grass is always greener on the other side, keep in mind that yours could be too if you just watered it.
Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others?  What do you do to help keep yourself content with where you are?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Topic: "Me time"

I am out of topics! Please send in your suggestions!

I think this goes well with yesterday's post and the recent great discussion of couple time: How do you get time for yourself? And how do you find a balance there, not tipping towards selfishness, but also avoiding burnout? Do you have a regular time set aside to be alone? What do you use it for if you do, or what would you want to use time alone for, if you could have it? It also might be interesting to hear where you are on the introvert-extrovert continuum, when you answer.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Keep on Going When the Road Seems Long

Do you ever feel like all your hard work is in vain?

You clean your house, but it’s dirty again the next day. 

You strive to teach your children something, but it seems like they never learn. 

You want to change a bad habit but fall back into the same trap. 

You resolve to be more patient, but once again you find your nerves on edge and your voice rising.

Here in the Mslm World we share our faith and sow seed in hard ground, but few respond. 

A few weeks ago I woke up on a Sunday exhausted and unready for the day. I stared at my bible, unable to understand the passage, even after reading it a few times.  Monday morning I felt the same: too tired to even pray. More than physical tiredness, I felt spiritually weary: tired of caring for my family’s needs, tired of praying and seeing slow results in our ministry.   

“God, I’m tired,” was all I could pray.

God answered me that same day:

We were reading scripture with our kids before bed, and Galatians 3:9 jumped off the page at me.   “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  I felt God’s Spirit stirring my heart and whispering encouragement to me. Three days later at a prayer meeting, one of our co-workers shared the very same verse.  I was sure it was God speaking.

I heard two things:
  • An encouraging command:  “Let us not become weary in doing good.”
  • And a promise: “We will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Do you ever feel discouraged and burdened by what seems like a lot of work for few results? Don’t forget the simple principle of sowing and harvesting: if you don’t give up, you’ll reap a reward. If you keep on going, sooner or later your kids will grow and respond to you. Your relationship with your spouse will change. If you keep on going, sooner or later you’ll achieve the goal that seems far off.

So how do you keep on going when the road seems long?

Keep your eyes on the Lord. “Moses persevered because he saw the one who is invisible.”

Resist the urge to carry the burden yourself. His burden is easy and His load is light.

Give thanks in all things.  It’s the truest path to joy.

Return to the simple truths: You are God’s beloved child. You are forgiven.

Remain in the vine and trust Him for fruit.

Put first things first and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Smile and laugh more.

Have some fun.

If you’re tired, cancel your activities for a week and hide out.

Get enough sleep.  (It’s amazing how sleep can change your perspective!)

Don’t lose hope.

If you are feeling discouraged and weary, may God give you grace to keep on going one day at a time! 

Comments? How do you keep on going?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

News and notes

Hi all! I hope you're doing well. Spring is just around the corner here, and we're enjoying warmer days. I've also been even a little busier than usual. Weekends have become my main time to answer emails and work on this blog. So, if you've written to me, and I haven't answered right away, that's all that is going on. Thank you for your patience. If you did wait until the weekend, and still didn't get an answer, please feel free to write again!

I finally got the bio posted for our most recent new blog contributor: Ashley. Ashley isn't really new; she's the one who wrote the other blog that inspired this one. But now she's writing here. Let's cover her with prayer now, since she's expecting her fourth baby very soon! We also have another new writer joining us in the next quarter, and I'm excited about that.

I'll go ahead and start to ask now about scheduling the next quarter. If you want to publish a guest post in April-May-June, please let me know. Regular writers, please expect an email soon.

You might have noticed that we didn't have a Tuesday Topic last week. Sad. That's one of my favorite parts of this blog. But, I just didn't have any new questions to ask. So, please, if you have anything you want to discuss, send it in now: Let me know if you want your question to be anonymous, or if I should use your name and/or blog address. Thanks!

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Wasting" time for the glory of God!

A couple of weeks ago, we went through the process of registering two of our children for a new pre-school.  This sounds simple enough, but in Russia, signing up for pre-school is a big (loooong) ordeal. 

First were the medical tests. All children must have a clinical blood analysis, clinical urine analysis, test for worms, tests for some other types of parasite, and test for TB. Then, they must have an evaluation by these doctors: orthopedic doctor, eye doctor, dermatologist, neurologist, speech pathologist, psychologist, surgeon. We went to doctor’s appointments nearly every day for 2 weeks to fulfill all of the requirements, and of course had many failed attempts when we either had the wrong hours, had brought the wrong container for the analysis samples, or simply needed a second opinion from yet another doctor.

Next, there is a whole battery of documents to collect. Everything must be properly translated, stamped, notarized, etc. otherwise the whole batch becomes worthless and you must start again. My husband scurried around here and there to get everything in order, to figure out which office to go to, and to then spend hours in line before actually getting our documents in. And now we wait to see if we’re accepted. And this is just for pre-school!

I am sure that many of you can relate to this in one aspect of life or another. We come from a culture of convenience and when we bump up against things that are just not what we’re accustomed to in the way of efficiency and speed, it can be downright frustrating and just seem wrong!

I found myself being annoyed by the total waste of time in these procedures. My husband was having to take multiple hours away from ministry in order to fulfill these bureaucratic tasks and I was exhausted after waddling my largely pregnant self around with two pre-schoolers in tow for hours on end. It just felt like a waste.

But God reminded us of several things during this process. First, as Philippians 2:14 tells us, we are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” All things… even things that feel pointless! When I had failed at this one morning and had sent my husband a really whiny text message about being given the run around at the medical clinic yet again, he gently reminded me that not only are we commanded not to complain, but that doing so truly will do nothing to help us. So true! 

Secondly, we were reminded that all things that we are called to do, regardless of how seemingly pointless they appear, are part of the Lord’s will for us. If He is sovereign over all things, He certainly could save precious ministry hours by speeding up lines and giving us favor. But often in His better judgment, He chooses not to. We can do nothing about the inefficiencies that we have to face, and they are in fact useful and ordained by God! These trials can be used to refine us and grow us, we can have the opportunity to be salt and light (or the opposite!) in how we endure before others, and I am sure there are many other reasons that God sees the use in allowing us to “waste our time” in these ways.

Can you relate to this struggle in dealing with inefficiency? What is one inconvenience that you face that you are tempted to view as a waste, or where you are most tempted to complain?  Please also share some of the things that have helped you to endure with a godly attitude during such trials, or instances where you've seen inconvenience used to God's glory!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Three months AND three days AND counting...

...with both a sense of anticipation, nervousness and,
depending on the day,
either a little bit or a lotta bit of dread!

We've accomplished a lot since Christmas (in no particular order):
  • Home assignment housing secured?     
  • Plane tickets purchased?     
  • Hotel reservations made?       
  • Travel vehicles, where required, rented     
  • Furlough vehicle purchased?     
  • Sell list/spread sheet made?     
  • 3 major recording studio projects?     1.5 
  • Plan for the studio while we are gone?     
  • Homes found for our pets (43 goats, 54 pigeons, 3 cats, 2 dogs)?         
  • luggage that could be sent on ahead?     
  • Final packing lists?     
  • Brendan's senior pictures?     
  • College paperwork completed?     
  • Scholarship paperwork completed?     
  • Drivers' licenses renewed?     
  • Family vacation scheduled?     
  • Family vacation planned?     
  • House repairs and walls painted?     
  • Sell vehicle 1?     
  • Sell vehicle 2?     
  • Home school curriculum sorted, stored or delivered?     
  • Educational options/possibilities for our 8 children explored... discussed... evaluated... decided?     
  • Schedule meetings with home/sending church     
  • Schedule meetings with financial and prayer partners     

In some senses, though? Those are all the easy things. They take time, but they are all relatively concrete and tangible. They can be put on a list and checked off as they are completed... and completion is usually pretty cut and dried. Either it is done or it isn't.

What about the intangibles that we have on our list?

Photo by Jessica Neff
Of course, many of those "intangibles" have to do with people - colleagues, friends, neighbors... all those dear folks we've come to love over the past years, those people who've become our family when we weren't near to our blood families.

Photo by Christine Banke
Whether or not there is the intention to return after a time of home assignment, preparing to leave well and recognizing that there is no guarantee for what the Lord might bring into our lives underscores the importance of ending well each term we spend in this expat world. Those preparations will inevitably include asking some probing, uncomfortable or even downright hard questions: 
  • "What has/have been the high point/s of this term?"
  • “What were some of the most difficult experiences?”
  • "Where do I feel I've succeeded?"
  • "How do I feel I have failed? Is this failure due to sin?"
  • “How have I spied God working in my life personally, professionally and spiritually?”
  • “What did I hope to achieve - long term goals and short term objectives?" 
  • "Did I accomplish them, have I not yet achieved them, or are they currently in progress?”
  • “The activities I have been involved with during this term - would I describe them as satisfying or fulfilling?  Are they consistent with my reasons for becoming a missionary in this particular place? Am I doing what I told our partners back in my home country I'd be doing? Do my activities apply to my specific responsibilities?"
  • “What did/is God accomplish/ing through me?"
  • “What have been the greatest roadblocks and frustrations I have encountered?"
  • “Are there unresolved on-field relationships (expat and local colleagues) I need to reconcile before leaving?”
  • "What goodbyes need to be said, how do they need to be said and what memories do I hope to make in the time remaining? How do I say goodbye well?"
  • "What will I miss most when I am not here? How can I treasure that unique aspect of my life in these final times?" 
  • "How do I help my children to ask, work through and answer all of these same types of questions?"

Photo by Sally Manhard 

What intangibles and questions to ask would be top of the list for you and your family... if you were leaving for home assignment this summer?

Other posts in this series of preparing to leave the field: