Monday, March 21, 2016

Words, Words... and more W.O.R.D.S!

an agency by which something is accomplished, conveyed, or transferred

Communication can happen in many, many different ways.

That statement is absolutely true.

However, probably the most common "medium" by which information, feelings and ideas are communicated is, whether written or spoken, the medium of words.

A followers of the God of the Bible, we know words are significant to God, because while He often chooses to reveal His glory, power and majesty through His creation, He also has also placed an inestimable significance on the revelation of His love, grace, mercy, justice and salvation through this medium of words:

His Word as in the written Word, the Bible

The Word, as in the living Word, His Son, Jesus Christ

Praying, usually using words, we communicate our hearts to God; words allow us to commune with Him

I don't, therefore, believe it to be a stretch to say that God cares about the words we use and how we use them as we communicate with anyone and everyone around us, be it via the written, spoken or broadcast word.

And I can  back that statement up with God's very own words. Consider verses like these:
  • Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4.29 NASB)
  • Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. (Ecclesiastes 10.12 NIV) 
  • Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4.6 NASB)
  • A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15.4 ESV)
  • Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances. (Proverbs 15.11 NASB)
  • For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3.2-10 NASB)

Communicating wholesome, edifying and gracious truth is no easy feat, even if we just look at the actual words that we use. Yet it isn't just the words: in many biblical contexts, the word conversation refers not just to the actual words used, but behavior, manner and the intent with which they are communicated.

I know I mess up myriads of times each and every day - in my home with my family, at work where I minister, on line as I respond to people and share things that I deem important.

A few years back, a song hit the Christian radio airwaves and it has become a daily... or more accurately, a several times a day... prayer. These words are on the images in this post, and I usually, intentionally, think through them and pray them before I leave the house, while driving in my car to an English lesson or riding to church when teaching Sunday School, before I sit to write... I should probably pray them before I get out of bed each morning, as well as make a greater effort to do so before I catch up on (and am tempted to react to what I see) on social media. 

Prayer is powerful and I know it changes me...

...however there are also a few additional strategies that I find beneficial, ones I try to remember to use when it comes to communicating through this medium of words:
  1. Respond, don't react. In other words, take my time. Give prayer an opportunity to change my reaction to a response that reflects God's voice.
  2. Remember. Most are familiar with this saying (usually attributed to Epictetus), but it bears repeating - "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."
  3. Research my reasons. Am I using words for me? Or because I have another's best at heart?
  4. Respect. Will these words communicate gently, with integrity and be honoring to others, even if they are confrontational in nature?
  5. Reverence. Will these words reflect rightly my holy, gracious God? Are they words I would want to say with Him standing right beside me?

How about you? What strategies do you use to police your own speech as you seek to communicate God's Gospel message at home and in your worlds?


If you aren't familiar with the song and want to watch the video... or if you are and just love it like we do at my house... here you go!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Communication and Loneliness

With this month’s topic of communication, I’ve been thinking about why it is so important to us to be able to communicate, and to do it as well as possible. Like Richelle posted in the opening post on this topic, communication is the sharing of information from one person to another or others.  Perhaps a stereotype, but one that I think is generally true, is that women are wired to value and desire communication. However, we don’t simply value the mere ability to transfer information to another person, but we value the result of that transfer of information; we desire relationships where we are known and understood and where we know and understand others.

Coffee with dear teammates

Women in general value being known, pursued, and understood.  When we have ample opportunities to know and be known, a vital part of our self thrives and this overflows to many other aspects of our life. When we don’t have opportunities to share of ourselves or to have others share of themselves with us, we suffer. This can happen for many reasons, whether it is struggling to relate on a heart level in a foreign language like Liz discussed, or because there simply aren’t many people around with whom we can truly relate, or because of conflict in relationships with people that we otherwise would connect with most deeply.

 One of the topics that we have talked about here often and that is always discussed in missionary trainings and with regards to missionary care is the issue of loneliness, which is the result of not having enough communication and true connection, resulting in our feeling unknown.  

As you all know, completely avoiding loneliness on the foreign mission field is nearly impossible. We will all have seasons, whether short of long, where we feel quite alone apart from our family and the Lord, or perhaps times when we even feel separated from those constants as well. I think it is through this struggle that many of us learn to depend on the Lord more deeply than ever before. And though I would never for a second diminish the value of what we experience with the Lord during these times, I also know that He has created us as relational beings with true and legitimate needs for deep and life giving relationships.  To deny these needs is denying how God has made us. Sometimes I think it is okay and actually very necessary to acknowledge our relational needs as significant and deserving of focused attention and even sacrifice.

A weekend trip to Helsinki with a close friend; an oasis during a season of much loneliness

I can think times when I ignored my relational needs for too long, to the detriment of myself and others, and also of other situations where my loneliness caused our family to make some significant sacrifices that made big differences. One sacrifice was my husband taking 3 days off of work to watch the kids so I  could attend a gathering of missionary women in another country, specifically for the purpose of fellowship and connection. Another was a Christmas gift from my husband of a weekend away with a good friend to spend time resting, having fun, and staying up late talking.  Another was even larger when we decide to switch our children’s schooling option from Russian to international school, and even decided that we'd be willing to move to a less convenient part of the city largely so that I could have a community of women to connect with. All of these were sacrifices in different ways, but they were also very  life-giving not only for me, but also for the rest of my family.

If you are feeling lonely, here are a few ways out of countless options of how you might be able to pursue more life-giving connection despite an isolating situation:

-Set aside time one day a week/every other week/once a month or as often as you feel that you need, for the sake of connecting with a friend in a life giving way. This could even involve traveling to another city if that is an option. 

-Consider those friends that you miss most and  with most deeply who are not close to where you live. Consider setting up a regular time have coffee with them over Skype. 

-Invest in a retreat with friends or attend an organized retreat for missionary women through an organization like Thrive.

- Perhaps consider whether moving to a different location in your town would provide greater fellowship opportunities and if this might be possible for your family. 

- Write emails and letters to friends that you wish you were in better touch with to see if you can re-establish connections. 

-Join a club or group where there are women that you feel you might connect with. 

-Adjust your budget to include babysitting money so you might be able to do something relational that you are currently hindered from due to having children in tow.

-Take risks by being open with women in your daily life that you don't yet have a deep friendship with but might like to. Sometimes all that stands between an acquaintance and a deep friendship is a willingness to be the first one to open up. Sometimes good friends end up being people that you would never have expected. 

One of the keys to addressing loneliness is to recognize our need for relationship as a truly significant and legitimate need. It may take some real sacrifice and courage to find ways to meet these needs in seasons and situations of loneliness, but it is worth it!

How are you feeling with regards to loneliness? Do you have opportunities to communicate deeply with others in your near vicinity? If not, are there any ways that you have found to meet your needs for connection where there are few options? Could any of you friends use prayer for right now for the struggle of loneliness?

Monday, March 14, 2016

His Words, Not Mine

We are quickly coming up on our 5th anniversary of living in Costa Rica.  I am not really sure how that happened.  I am pretty sure that it was just last year we were in Language School, stumbling through learning how to live in a new place.  But apparently it really was 5 years ago we packed everything into duffel bags in the belly of a plane and moved here.

I think 5 years ago, I had some pretty naive ideas about language learning.  I know I thought that 5 years in I would be more proficient than I am.  I still struggle to communicate at a heart level with nationals.  Ok, let's be honest, sometimes I struggle to communicate on an informational level.  I am pretty sure that this baby I am carrying right now is sucking all the Spanish out of me through the placenta.  That's a thing, right?

In all seriousness, I am still a foreigner, still  trying to pick up the broad strokes of the language at times.  Anybody else there with me?  I can get really discouraged by that fact.  I am not where I want to be language wise.  It's not for trying.  We've done a year of language school, a couple of years of private tutoring and living away from other expats.  It's just hard and probably will always be a challenge for me for a lot of reasons.  I joke with my tutor that my problem is my mom never spoke to me in Spanish.   Seriously though, I don't have the gift like my husband does.  I also don't have as much interaction in Spanish like he does since I'm home with kids.  I have some learning struggles that make language learning that much harder.  I most likely will always speak with an accent.

God reminded me the other day though that it isn't about me. It's about Him.  Huh.  You would think I might have gotten that lesson by now, but apparently not quite yet.

No, this is about Him.  Like Paul said to the Corinthians

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words (yeah, maybe more like the vocab of a 4 year old!), but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

God chose, in His infinite wisdom to have me born to North American, English speaking parents.  That was His plan.  If He had wanted my primary language to be Spanish, He would have done it.  He wants to work through me in my weakness to demonstrate the Spirit's power.

So for as frustrating as that is, it's comforting.  It means that any good that comes of a conversation with someone, it's because of God, which actually is a pretty great place to be!

How about you? Do you feel discouraged by your language proficiency?  How do you keep sharp in your second or third language?  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Ray Tomlinson died on Saturday morning.

You may have heard of him, but I'm guessing most of you probably haven't.

Yet he is credited with an invention that has greatly impacted most, if not all, of us...


He is credited with inventing email, back in 1971-1972. I checked several sources and they couldn't seem to agree on an "exact" date. Technically, email evolved from a very common idea, no more complicated than leaving a stick-it note on a colleague's desk. A file was sent (or placed) in a specific folder on a computer so that the user's attention would be drawn to that file the next time s/he logged in.

Much has changed about email in the intervening 45ish years... except for one particularity: Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to address emails: name-of-user@name-of-the-computer. Today, it is name-of-user@name-of-ESP. 

Cliché but true: "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

When I went away to college, personal desktop computers were the new thing. In the early 1990s, I spent a year in SE Asia on a missions trip. Mail came via the post and was hardly guaranteed or private. One birthday card had the picture neatly sliced off the front so that I could still read the message on the inside of the cover. If you really wanted to splurge, you booked an international phone call through the operator and waited...

Just a few short years later, 1995, my husband went to visit our future home in Africa. We emailed exclusively to communicate - using the address of the middle school library of the school where I was then teaching with my name in the subject line. I still have those emails somewhere in a box, printed out. One specific thing I remember about that particular season? It wasn't at all unusual to hear people refer to the Internet as a tool of the devil.

As we began raising our support to head overseas, all official correspondence was still done via the post, but that was rapidly changing, too. Within a few years and by the time we'd moved out of the States, Yahoo Messenger chatting was our informal mode of communication; emails, with the exception of our regular paper prayer letters, had become our most frequent mode of contact with anyone at the official or business level.

Our communication styles have continued to evolve. Sometimes, it is age/generation dependent: I tend to rely on blogging, Facebook and texting; our kids like Tumblr, SnapChat, Pinterest, Instagram and, of course, texting. I'm still trying to figure out Twitter - sort of. I guess I haven't bothered to spend too much time on it because to date, it hasn't been necessary. Hubby, on the other hand and even though he's tons more techie than myself, still prefers to pick up a phone. Very occasionally, I'll choose pen and paper and write an actual letter. Seems even rarer to receive one, but it is always a treat.

What I've described is probably pretty comparable to what anyone my age has lived - missionary/expat or not. Of course, living on the back side of the desert sometimes meant that electricity and internet service couldn't coordinate well enough to both be working at the same time... but those were, generally, short seasons. Our prayer letters are sent via MailChimp - although we do still send a hard copy quarterly for the 200ish folks that still remain on that list. That number is down from 600ish when we first started this journey.

I can honestly say that most of these new technologies, I've embraced - moving right along with the crowd... except for the one that has now become, probably, my primary mode of communication: Facebook. I finally "caved" when my son was rapidly approaching the magical age of 13 and would be able to set up his own account. I wanted to know what he was getting in to...

I wonder how we'll be passing information back and forth just a few years down the road. 

Don't you?


How have your communication styles evolved?

Do you look forward to these changes, whatever the next one will be... or do you dread them?

How do you typically communicate with family? Friends? Local colleagues? Ministry partners back in your home country or otherwise physically far away?

You can't really see it, but just before I snapped this picture, she was doing something on her smart phone... in a just shy of blizzardish snow storm... while walking her dog and taking the baby for a stroll.

first photo credit: Moving! via photopin (license)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It's a Fine Art...

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. 

The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

Alexander Graham Bell is credited with having said those words. Born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland, both his mother and eventually his wife, were deaf. As a result, much of his life was spent researching hearing and speech.

This research then progressed into experimentation with hearing devices and sound transmission. One culmination of these efforts, the one for which Mr. Bell is well-known, is the telephone. 

from Wikipedia public domain images

His initial efforts focused on work to ameliorate the telegraph. A thorough understanding of the nature of sound (from his work with the deaf) plus an aptitude for music gave him the idea that perhaps multiple messages could be sent simultaneously over the same telegraph line, and then, he began to wonder how sound could be converted to electrical impulses. 

On March 10, 1876, the first successful telephone transmission occurred.  Using a liquid transmitter, Bell spoke into a mouthpiece, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you." In another room, Watson heard each word distinctly through a receiver. The impracticality of a liquid transmitter eventually led to the development of one constructed using electromagnets.

Some consider Bell to have been a brilliant communicator.

His invention certainly changed the world as it was then known, connecting people, enabling real time communication even when long distances separated, encouraged growth of businesses and, in general facilitated communication.


It is, in some ways, a loaded word. Very broadly and simply, communication is nothing more than the transfer of information from one place to another. Where it gets tricky is the when, the why, the where, the who and the how it gets done. And while the possibilities probably aren't infinite, they are numerous with lots of "connections" where information can disappear, be deformed or destroyed, delayed, devalued or, thankfully, properly distributed. 

As missionaries, we are concerned about communication: 
  • with family near and far, 
  • with our local partners as well as those supporting us back in our sending organizations, 
  • with friends, 
  • with colleagues, 
  • with neighbors, 
  • with government officials, 
  • with businesses...
We communicate verbally and non-verbally, orally and in writing... even our sometimes lack of communication communicates. There are times when the intent of the message we wish to share is not perceived or received and people end up hurt, or angry, or worse.

Our communication needs to be genuine and authentic, kind, truthful and intentional... not just the words that come out of our mouths and the words that we write, but the expressions on our face, our body language and the choices we make. Our communication, in every way and in every aspect, needs to reflect the One we say we strive to reflect.

Consider these words:

"Night after night [the heavens] communicate knowledge..." (Ps 19.2, HCSB)

"'Because I am the LORD, I'll speak and the message that I communicate will be accomplished without delay. While you continue to be a rebellious house, I'll speak the message and then fulfill it,' declares the Lord GOD." (Ez 12.25, ISV)

"But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Gal 6.6, ASV)

Charge those that are rich in this world, that they not be high minded, not placing their hope in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; but charge them to do good, that they be rich in good works, liberal to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the future, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim 6.17-19, JB2000)
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Heb 13.16, ASV)

I've always happily considered "doing good" a sacrifice that God finds pleasing. I've never, ever considered communicating to be one as well.

In honor of the anniversary Alexander Graham Bell's birthday as well as the anniversary of the first successful phone transmission - both of which occurred in March - this month's focus here at Missionary Mom's Companion will be communication! I, for one, am looking forward to hear what others have to say!


As we share our thoughts on this topic, we'd love if you'd communicate back with us!

 Comment and let us know what you are thinking or your response to what has been shared!