Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saving Time vs. Conserving Energy

I’m going to write something that may be controversial. Your life as a missionary is in many ways probably a lot harder than it would have been had you never left your home country. I say that this might be controversial because I join with many of you in believing that we as missionary women need to be so very careful not to get caught up in “the grass is always greener” fantasies about life back "home." I think these fantasies, which many of them really are just fantasies and not reality at all, can damage our contentedness while on the field. Many things are in fact harder in the States! The grass is not green anywhere other than in heaven! It’s dying everywhere on this fallen earth.

BUT, I do want to write in hopes of helping to free some of us from feelings of defeat that are common to us as missionary moms when we sometimes look at our day/week/month/year… and wonder, how on earth is this that ALL that we’ve managed to do?!  One thing that I do think is generally true is that we get to enjoy more conveniences in the US and therefore can often do more in less time there. Now we're on the overseas mission field, with a huge passion to see much supernatural eternity-changing transformation, yet at times it is all that we can do to keep up with the basics. Sometimes we can’t even do that without help!

(One daily reality of my life in Russia is that for much of the year, I spend a lot of time dressing kids in countless layers of clothing, shoveling snow, struggling to park at home/school/preschool/the grocery store... it takes a lot of time!)

I remember a revelation during our first year overseas. In my previous life in the States, I was all about time management and efficiency. I also loved to multi-task. I tried to carry these values over to life here in Russia and within a couple of months I was DEAD TIRED. I had been thinking things like “Oh, my daughter needs a walk and we need groceries. We’ll walk to the grocery store and play a bit on the way home and, bingo, I’ve lumped both needs into one trip. Time saved!”  But this simplification left me laying on the living-room floor feeling like I was going to die by 7:30pm at night. What was wrong with me?!

Well, I had failed to factor things in like the stress of a language, the stress not knowing what things were in the grocery store, the work of trying to figure out what to cook with such unfamiliar foods, the challenge of trying to figure out how to quickly bag my own groceries, the added physical work of having to carry the stroller/child/groceries up and down multiple flights of stairs, the stress of trying to keep my newly walking little one away from the broken glass strewn all about on the playground, the stress of being scolded by strangers for my child being inappropriately dressed for the weather (despite my best attempts to do what was culturally right)…. All of these little things add up into a huge amount of energy spent that I just didn’t think to factor into my “walk+groceries=time saved” equation. 

It was just too much stress at once. I eventually realized that I needed to change my value from “time saved” to “energy saved.” I had to accept that to save energy, I likely was going to need to spend time, multi-task less, and drastically adjust my expectations on how much could get done in a day.

 (This walk with two of my kids occurred after learning that walking with the kids and errands often needed to be separate events. We're all peaceful here rather than feeling like we're all about to be reduced to a puddle of tears. Taking the kids out for walks went from my most dreaded experience to a most joyful one, and one where I was also available to spend time interacting with neighbors rather than just speeding through my checklist. )

Of course now that we’re in our 8th year overseas, these stresses have significantly lessened, but in all honesty, life does just take more energy than if I were to do the same things in my home culture. Sometimes I still forget that as I calculate my capacity for a given day. The language is still not my own, I’m still not a cultural insider, appliances and things around the house are still poorer quality and break all of the time, we go through longer seasons without common conveniences (hot-water, a vehicle, a dryer…), we don’t have the support of extended family, etc.  I forget about these things all of the time because I truly love my life here and would not trade it, BUT, it does affect how much I can do in a day’s time.

(Doing dishes in the bathtub... The water in our kitchen had a habit of going out frequently for a season, so dish-doing at that time was quite a time-consuming task.)

Sometimes when I look at my friends’ lives back home via facebook, or when I read blogs, or see things that people have posted from Pintrest, I feel defeated and wonder, “Why can’t I do things like that?” God kindly has been reminding me lately that one of the sacrifices that He has asked me to make in order to serve Him here and to receive the many blessing of this life on the overseas mission field is that of efficiency. I have often fought feelings of frustration about my reduced capacity here, yet when I think of it rightly, I remember that God called me here and He is the one who gave me the capacity that I have and allows for life to be as time and energy consuming as it is. My all, no matter how small I may feel that it is, is enough for my Almighty God who is more than able to make it count greatly for eternity.

Have you noticed a shift in your prioritization of time/energy since moving overseas? How have your average daily tasks changed as compared to your life back in the States?

(Also, check out this great post by Laura Parker. It has some very interesting things to say about the average stress levels of missionaries.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Topic?

I'm sorry. I don't have anything for this spot. We have guests for two weeks (yay!), so there might not be anything next week either. Although, if you send a question, I will find a moment to get it scheduled. So, 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! And Tuesday Topics will be back soon.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hope When Your Faith is Faltering

I smile as I think of you, my sisters serving in different ministries on different parts of the globe.  You are caring for children, cooking, cleaning, teaching, discipling, leading Bible studies, and supporting your husbands. You are amazing. 

I know Paul was describing you when he said, “We always thank God for all of you…We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith,  your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 1:3) Our service is motivated by faith, hope, and love, but I have to tell you sisters, my faith is flagging before the new challenge I’m facing. 

Three years ago my husband and I started the biggest faith adventure of our lives.  As if working 8 years in the Middle East wasn’t challenging enough, the Lord asked us to leave the comfortable fellowship we were a part of and start a new church with one other couple.

We had great faith expectations, but none of us had the slightest idea what we were getting ourselves into! 

The first year almost no locals came to our meetings. We spent most Sundays looking at that one couple sitting across from us in our living room.  By God’s grace, we kept going, and now three years later, we have a close knit team of 4 families, two local families, and a growing community of contacts that visit our fellowship. 

We are standing on the brink of another challenge. We need to rent a public meeting place for our church. The obstacles include fundraising and getting legal permission from the government. Although I’ve seen God do many great things in the past, once again I find my faith faltering.

Do you ever feel your faith crumbling when you face challenges like these?

  • Cross-cultural adaptation
  • Language learning
  • People who are closed to the gospel
  • Husbands on the verge of burn-out
  • Struggling Children
  • Financial issues
  • Sickness
  • Depression

Any time we face challenges, doubt comes creeping in.   “You won’t be able to raise the money.” “Your kids are not thriving here.” “That friend you’re praying for will never place her faith in Christ.” I need God to renew my faith each day, so I’m going to take two baby steps: 

1. Ask God to increase my faith. 

I love the prayer in Mark 9: “I believe! Help my unbelief!” I can so relate. Lately I’ve been asking God to increase my faith, and He’s answering me! It’s a no-brainer, but I don’t always think to pray for more faith.

2. Keep Reading God’s Word. 

Romans says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Nothing renews my mind like God’s Word, so I’m sticking with it. I’m going to read it, memorize it, and proclaim it. I’m going to stand on it and pray it.

Whatever faith challenge you are facing, dear sister, will you joing me in continuing to walk forward? If you like, share your challenge in the comment box, so we can pray for each other.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Topic: "Hats"

This is from Olive:
We missionary moms come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. Our husbands wear different hats: pilots, doctors, Bible translators, church planters, disciplers, seminary professors, teachers and businessmen! Obviously many of us wear the "Mom and Housekeeper" hat most of the time. Some of us are doing language study.

I have a hard time remembering what everyone is doing, so I thought it would be fun if we share a bit about the ministry that has us serving overseas.

1. What is the role that you and/or your husband carry out on the field?

2. What is the biggest ministry challenge you face?

3. What is the biggest joy of your ministry?

(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, November 4, 2013

Who's your hero?

One of the things I love about home assignment years is watching my kids try some things that are totally new to them... and then seeing how they grow through those new experiences.

Choir/Drama Tour, both a learning and a ministry opportunity for students attending the Baptist academy they attend while living in the States, is one of them. Tonight, the tour opened with the first performance, at our home...or sending... or commissioning church. Tour consists of the school's choir and drama class collaborating for a performance - and traveling around the State over the course of three days to perform eight or nine times in different Christian schools.

My girls, although part of the drama class, do not have parts or stage roles in the drama. They do sing in the choir, though, and so they will be gone the first half of this week, on tour!

The play that is being performed this year is based off of the lives of John and Betty Stamm. The Stamms were a young missionary couple who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in China with China Inland Mission.

Are you familiar with their story?

I wasn't - until some years ago one of my son's math teachers at the international school for expats and missionary kids where my children attend while we are overseas, with the last name of Stamm, mentioned that he was a part of THAT Stamm family.

The Stamms' story is tragic; yet it also inspires. And until just few years ago, it was unknown to me. Their story did motivate many to missions service and continues (if the response at church tonight was any indication) to encourage others to selfless service.

Looking at the past, remembering historical examples of ministry, service, passion for the Lord, bravery, devotion and sacrifice? Sometimes I find this a good way to re-stoke the wholehearted commitment to the call God placed in my heart years ago. It encourages me to persevere and to refocus my attention and intentions. But then again, so can looking all around me, at the amazing people God has placed right beside me and with whom I'm working and ministering. Or I consider the ministries of amazing people scattered all over the globe, right now.

What about you? Who is your missionary hero... or heroes?

Can you please share about someone... historical or present day... that inspires you? A flesh and blood someone whose story as a Jesus-follower motivates you to hold fast to hope and to continue pursuit of that purpose for which you are serving?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Younger older woman?

After five years in a rather out-of-the-way location, in a church that was overwhelming made up of middle-aged and elderly women, I find myself in a new location with a very different community. Also, my children are getting older. Now I'm surrounded by women my age and younger, and some of them even seem to be looking up at me as a "veteran missionary." Odd. Really, very strange.

But then, I am 33 years old, and we've been in this part of the world for more than 12 years now! That's not long, compared to some real veterans, but, yes, we didn't arrive yesterday. It really was odd when I was very young, very new on the field, and found myself kind of mentoring much older women, just because I was the only one who had grown up in a Christian family. However, I should be getting used to it now and stepping into that role more.

But how? I'm not quite out of the demanding early years of mothering yet, but I'm already fully immersed in homeschooling. This year it feels like I dive in on Monday morning and don't come up for air until Friday afternoon. Recently, I desperately wanted to reach out to someone because I thought she could probably use some practical help, but by the time I got around to asking, her situation was better and she didn't need anything.

The actual verse that I've been thinking about says we should be admonishing
"the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands" (Titus 2:4-5).
Even when I still have so much to learn myself, I pray that I can help others around me with some of those things. I do know that when we had to leave Russia, what people told us over and over was that they had learned from watching our family. And maybe a lot of what is there in Titus 2 really is caught, not taught? So, I need to be making time to spend with these other women. Then we can learn from each other.

And, I'm encouraged to see that it's working out! I may be busy at home all week, but so far, in our new location our weekends are usually filled with hospitality and fellowship. Also, God has me leading someone through a Bible study distance, by phone; that's an opportunity that I certainly didn't go looking for. It's not only about chronological age: who are the older women and who are the younger. We all need to be open to sharing and learning to and from the sisters God has put around us. Exciting, eh?

Are you more in an "older woman" time or "younger woman" role now? How is God providing ways for you to mentor others?