Four Things You Could Do

by Tara Livesay on September 1, 2014

There is no shortage of  instructions on the interweb.

In any given month it is quite likely you will be instructed on multiple topics.  The list could include:

 Ten things not to say to your single friends

Five things Christians should stop saying

Ten things for a healthy marriage.

Five reasons your teen is rebelling.

Those never ending lists just serve to overwhelm me.  Say this. Don’t say this. Do that. NEVER do this.

I can barely follow directions. Kraft Mac and Cheese has one step too many for me.

There are SO many instructions and they all run together and before I know it I have applied one of the items to the wrong problem.  After reading all those articles I learned that my teen was rebelling because I was too controlling. Somehow I got mixed up and became certain one of the keys to a happier marriage was to be more controlling.

As you can see, there is a HUGE margin of error here.

 *             *             *

Today, I shall add fuel to the fire…

My list of things you “should” do to care for yourself.

One caveat, I don’t actually care if you reject my entire list. These are just some things that have been helpful to us in eight years overseas.

Guess what?  Just because they helped us, doesn’t mean they will necessarily work for all of you.

Therefore, today I present to you:

Four things you could do.  (Four possible not mandatory ways to care for yourselves and your families while working/living/serving and growing “overseas” .)

  1. Time Away/Rest
  2. Community
  3. EMDR and Counseling
  4. Prayer

Time Away/Rest - I don’t have to tell you this, you have heard it a kajillion times. “Even Jesus took time away”.   So do that.  Be like Jesus.

We all do what we do because we believe it to be important, even necessary, work.  There is a tendency in all of us to cast ourselves in a role that is irreplaceable, as in “without me this cannot happen” – so I cannot rest. Well,  here is the thing: If that is true, you have got larger problems than just needing a rest.

Take time off. Leave work and “mission” for a time and regroup. I am not suggesting you be  a lazy lard. I am suggesting that within a system of accountability you take time away every so often because that is good for you and your family.

Community – This is easier for some than it is for others.  There is a great benefit to living in community with other believers.  In this day and age there is a way to have an on-line community and an in-real-life community. If you can have both, you have the best of both worlds.  There should be a few people in your life that you can share your deepest fears and joys with on a semi-regular basis. There should be people that you allow to speak into those things.

EMDR and Counseling – Right now you are wondering where the heck the train left the track, you did not see it coming.  Stick with me, please. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it is a type of trauma treatment.  Any of us that spend significant amount of time living cross culturally are almost guaranteed some trauma.  I could give you sixteen examples but I will simply share this testimonial:  After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti we discovered that PTSD was not just something soldiers in combat have.  EMDR seemed like hocus pocus to us at first, but we can tell you it absolutely helped us with the trauma of the earthquake and other previous trauma we had not dealt with at that time. It was an effective way of dealing with small and very large traumatic happenings.

If trauma is not your issue, perhaps basic therapy/counseling would be a way to process some of the stressors of living cross-culturally.  Going to talk to a professional to get some advice, feedback, or help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being a real, living, feeling, human being.  Marriages fall apart under stress and living abroad is stressful.  I am no math expert, but after some rudimentary calculations I can see that perhaps counseling would be helpful for those doing marriage outside of their home culture.

Prayer- This is a big one…Maybe even the biggest one. There are two parts to this suggestion.

First, have a team of people in place that you know you can count on when you call or write them with a prayer request or urgent need.  Whether they are your parents and siblings, your home church, or a circle of friends, you will find that you need a group that will carry you when things are very difficult.

During one of our years in Haiti we had a personally devastating set-back that made it hard for us to get out of bed for a couple of weeks let alone accomplish our daily tasks.  There were those “back home” that carried us in prayer until we were back on our feet and able to face life again.  On another occasion we were in a parking lot in Port au Prince when I sensed danger. I could not identify what it was, but I knew I needed to go back to the car with our kids.  That afternoon when I returned home I had an email from my Dad that said, “Where were you at noon? I had a strong sense you were in danger and I prayed for you guys until it passed.”  You will likely have times when these intercessory prayers will absolutely matter.

Second, make prayer a part of your breathing. As you go about your day, be seeking God in each interaction and task. Try to make family and spouse prayer times a high priority.  Try to pray with your community and carry one another’s burdens. None of us were meant to do this work alone, call on your Heavenly Papa and ask for His help.

As soon as I finished this list I remembered that there is a fifth thing.  I guess I failed at internet bossing, cannot even count it out correctly.

5. Excercise Regular exercise will help you feel better about everything that is hard about your life. You could give that a try too.

 

photo copy 8

This ^ combines prayer, community, and excercise – three of the five happening on one run.

 

That is my list of four five. 

What else would you add? 

What ways have you found helpful when taking care of yourself?

{ 14 comments }

Missionary Mommy Wars

by Jonathan Trotter on August 28, 2014

I just want to come out and say it; I’m not a mommy. Shoot, I’m not even a woman. (OK, those were some of the weirdest sentences I’ve ever written.) But despite my obvious shortcomings, I’m still writing this article. Here’s why:

I look around and see young moms and experienced moms who are serving cross-culturally, and they’re under siege. I see them, battle-weary and bleary-eyed, burdened by expectations that would crush the strongest. I see them wrangle toddlers and tonal languages. I watch them brave open-air markets with raw meat hanging on hooks and open-air homes with neighbors peering in through windows.

A814AB Section of barbed wire. Image shot 2003. Exact date unknown.

Missionary moms are exposed on all fronts, and they feel it. Everyone’s watching them. The local people watch every move, confused by the foreigner and her progeny; when she returns “home” for a visit, she feels watched just the same. (And for the record, jet lag does strange things to children, so any misbehavior can and should be blamed on jet lag, for at least the first two months.)

The mom on the foreign mission field is stretched thin. She must take care of her household, figuring out how to do all the stuff she used to know how to do. She must learn the local language and culture, educate her children, save the world, communicate with senders, support her husband, and convert everyone through her calm spirit and mild demeanor.

I’m speaking with slight hyperbole. Sort of. But if you pause and observe, you too will see that missionary moms, especially the newbies, have a whole lot on their plate. And it’s stressing them out big time.

Missionary dads are expected to do “the work.” Period. They are judged, for better or worse, on their work product: how is the ministry going? Not so with moms. The missionary mom is judged by how well her kids behave, how well her kids transition, how well her kids are educated, how healthy her marriage is, how well she knows the local language, in addition to how well the ministry is going.

It’s not fair, and I’m calling it. We need to pause and care for the women among us who are being crushed by unrealistic expectations.

So can we call a cease-fire? Can we stop taking aim at missionary moms, expecting them to be EVERYTHING and then criticizing them when they fail to accomplish the impossible?

And can you, missionary mom, stop taking aim at yourself? You can’t do it all, but that doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:16, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

No part does ALL the work. Each part does its own work, and that work is special. What is the special work to which God is calling you?

Maybe, right now, your primary task on the mission field is taking care of your own little people. That is special work that helps the whole body to be healthy and growing and full of love. It’s not less-than. Maybe it’s leading an entire mission. That too is special work that helps the whole body to be healthy and growing and full of love. It’s not less-than.

When missionary moms, due to external pressure or internal insecurities, try to do EVERYTHING, the whole body ends up being hurt, not helped. The most important thing for you to do is the work God has called you to do.

I’ll say it again, a healthy mission field does not depend on you doing it all. Health and growth and love come when each person does the work that God is asking her to do. No comparisons allowed.

The mirage of the perfect missionary mom is alluring and dangerous. If you try to follow her, you will be perpetually discouraged, depressed, and exhausted. On the flip side, if you feel like you are the perfect missionary mom, you will be perpetually arrogant, haughty, and annoying.

What would change if you forgot the mirage of the perfect missionary mom and started remembering the Perfect One instead?

Remember, his burden is light.

He is the Lord of Rest, the Bridegroom, longing for his Bride.

He is not a taskmaster, demanding more widgets.

He is a loving Husband, pursuing his favorite girl.

He is a tender Father, splashing in the ocean with his children.

He is a Warrior, protecting his people.

He is a Comforter who really sees.

He knows you are human, and he’s glad about it.

He knows you can’t do it all, and he’s ok with it.

He is jealous for you, longing for your whole heart.

He wants your gaze fixed on him, not the mirage.

The next time you’re tempted to criticize another mom, lay down your weapon and state what she is doing instead of what she’s not doing?

Before you criticize yourself, identify and declare what you are doing instead of what you’re not doing.

Are you doing what you feel like God has led you to do? Wonderful! The Body of Christ needs you to do that. The mission field need you to do that. Your family needs you to do that.

So here’s to the missionary mom, the one in the trenches with the toddlers.

The one who raises kids abroad and then sends them “home.”

Here’s to the missionary mom, far away from pediatricians and emergency services, who lives with constant awareness that help might not be coming.

Here’s to the missionary mom who lives in a glass bowl, aware of the stares.

The one who liked shopping when shopping was simple.

The one who would really like a Starbucks coffee. Like, right now.

Here’s to the missionary mom whose children experience more goodbyes than most.

The one whose kitchen looks more like Bear Grylls than Martha Stewart.

Here’s to the mom on mission, the one who rocks the cradle and changes the world.

——————————————————–

Resources:

I’m a Proverbs 31 Failure

Expectation and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission

*photo credit

{ 67 comments }

A Thousand Tongues

by Angie Washington on August 27, 2014

Think of all the languages in the world. Each language captures a unique concept of life separate from all other tongues. The words connected to ideas like family, soul, eternity, intelligence, and even something as simple as meal communicate vast varieties of images and knowledge. These myriad sounds combined in just the right way also convey facets of truth only grasped by those with the ability to process the specific pronunciation produced by the air flowing from the throats of the speakers of that language.

Now, multiply those facets of truth by the thousands of languages alive in the world. Truth, then, in all its facets, exceeds our singular abilities to conceive it in its complete entirety.

God communicates in every language. He is a God of a thousand tongues, and more. He connects with speakers of Arabic and American Sign Language. He delights in the praise sung by silent Koreans and cacophonous Kenyans alike. The prayers of Urdu, Yue, and Aymara reverberate with equal clarity in the ears of our ever attentive, omnipresent, Jehovah Shammah.

Enough

If I can only relate with God in one, maybe two, languages with authenticity and earnest this means I only know the truth of God’s character as revealed in those few tongues. I must concede that I know very little of my God, then, since He is more than capable of communicating with deft proficiency in thousands of tongues. His fluency in the truth of thousands of tongues speaks to the unfathomable depth of His character, the expansive width of His capabilities, and the immense height of His empathic compassion.

He is present

Yet, I know Him. He knows me. The sliver of His being He allows me to know through my limited abilities of relating with another being, is enough. To know that all I have come to know and will ever know is enough, yet that it is infinitesimal in comparison to all who He is, speaks volumes to divine sovereignty.

With supreme wisdom He allows us to set up our strategies, our denominations, and our constructs. And He is present. He permits us to do what we perceive to be appropriate. And He is present. He watches us make moves, take steps, connect with people as our conviction drives us. And He is present. He walks alongside us, arm in arm, as a dear friend.

Who am I to dare try to fit Him into my limited perception? Who am I to exclude any one of His dearly beloved speakers of the thousands of tongues? Who am I to declare my hate as holy, my indignant prejudice as righteous, or my nit-picking as justified?

Sides

The only side God takes is love. He doesn’t draw battle lines and stand in one camp. He doesn’t pick players for His team and leave the rejects as His opponents. He loves every person on every side we humans devise. He loves every person of all the thousands of tongues alive on all lands.

One of my Bolivian friends and I chatted about a little get-together I hosted in my home. The ladies who came for coffee had only one thing in common: we were foreigners. My Bolivian friend asked, “What’s the difference between you all? I know you are missionaries, but I don’t think you are with the same organization? So what do each of you believe?”

I told her, “Usually when we get together we speak about culture stuff, parenting, and whatever is going on in our every day lives. We rarely speak about theology or religion. Sometimes we talk about the social aid aspects of our different projects, but we have an unspoken agreement to not bring up the topic of what we believe. We assume everyone at the table loves God and loves people – and that seems to be enough for us.”

This deliberate avoidance of conversations regarding the lines that might divide us creates a safe space. The defenses come down and inclusion defines us. We acknowledge that passionate commitment to our causes exists. Instead of trying to convert one another based on our various convictions, we accept the differences and lean in with love.

wall of doors

Fluency

Please allow your heart expand with the vastness of all who God is in your life. Know that you are His beloved.

May the love of the Speaker of a thousand tongues be the language of fluency we possess.

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Making Friends With Short Term Workers

by Elizabeth Trotter on August 25, 2014

This is the time of year when summer interns head back “home.” The time when short term teams taper off, and kids go back to school. The time when life on the field supposedly returns to ”normal.” So as summer winds down, I want to take some time to honor the short term workers who have touched my life over the past few years.

I didn’t know my life would intersect with so many short term workers when I first moved overseas. It all started when we’d lived in Cambodia for six months, and we met a girl volunteering at the orphanage next door to us. She’d been surprised most of the volunteers weren’t believers and was desperate for some Christian fellowship. So we took her to church with us.

When we hugged her goodbye at the end of the summer, she connected us with a friend of hers. Her friend had a roommate, and both of them introduced us to another girl. They were all working short term for NGOs, and over a period of about six months, they all came to church with us on Sunday mornings.

They managed to squeeze into our mini-van with our four rambunctious kids. We ate donuts for breakfast, and after church we often ate lunch together. We laughed over homeschool jokes – both my husband and one of the girls had been homeschooled. And we introduced Anne of Green Gables to one of the girls, who had never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Anne Shirley.

God kept giving us opportunities to host more people in our home. One girl’s work kept her very culturally immersed. After she finished her work commitment, she stayed in our guest room a short while. She needed a chance to rest, and our daughters had a blast doing cooking projects with her.

When it came time for those girls to leave on a jet plane, I cried. I didn’t know I could get so attached to someone who was only here for a short time. I didn’t know it would be that hard to bid farewell to someone I knew wasn’t staying long. But we had spent time together, made memories, forged friendships.

Our family and two of "our girls," at some of the only green space in the city.

Our family and two of “our girls,” at some of the only green space in the city.

I’m coming up on another goodbye: our summer intern is leaving soon. She’s been part of our family life for over 3 months, and we will send her on her way with our blessing. God is doing some neat stuff in her life, and we’ve had a front row ticket to watch. We’ve pondered life together, shared countless meals, and laughed hysterically over nothing. . . and everything.

Each of these girls became part of our family. They leave a part of themselves with us when they go, and they go with our love. I still miss each of them. I’m so thankful I can follow their continuing journeys on Facebook — when they start grad school, when they finish grad school, when they get engaged, when they get married. Being able to see these things unfold in their lives brings me joy.

They were real-life friends for a season, but friends-at-heart forever. These short term workers have enriched my life as I have learned their stories, enjoyed their senses of humor, and discovered what brought them to Cambodia in the first place. It all seemed to be an accident, this habit of taking girls to church. But I sometimes wonder if the reason we were willing to open our home to new people is because older Christians opened their homes to us when we were younger, teaching us by example what hospitality looks and feels like.

When I was a lonely young college student, church ladies took care of me. One let me do laundry at her house, another let me cry to her when I was stressed. Both let me hang out at their houses on my 18th birthday. And incidentally, these ladies took me to church when I was without a car.

Later, when we were freshly married and still in college, church families continued to welcome my new husband and me into their lives. They included us at Christmas dinners and birthday parties. They invited us over to build campfires and watch meteor showers.

One family in particular shared their life with us. Nearly every Saturday found us driving to their house in the country, where we ate homemade bread and kielbasa soup, played board games, and sang songs with the guitar. Their family was our family, and I felt like I had a mom and a dad nearby. I believe it was out of these good experiences that we were willing to offer our own family to other people.

I’ve talked before about how goodbyes are hard for me. Sometimes goodbyes can make us reluctant to form new relationships. But if we’re reluctant to reach out to new people, we may be missing out on what they have to offer us: new perspectives, unique senses of humor, life stories that can illuminate ours. We’re missing out on the global nature of the body of Christ — and so are the new workers. They’re missing out on what we have to offer them – a “home” away from home, someone to sit next to in church, someone to debrief with over coffee.

Short term workers are a gift to us. They are only given to us for a short time, but we can make the most of that time. We can invite them into our homes and into our lives, we can make a place for them in our hearts. And they, in turn, can make a place for us in their hearts. We can remember forever the sojourners who were with us in body only a short time, but are with us in spirit always.

So don’t be afraid to welcome new people into your life, whether they’re with you for ten weeks or ten years. And remember that the love you show a college student today might be passed on to a missionary tomorrow.

 

Whether you were the short term worker or the long term worker,

how have you let people enter your life for a time, and your heart forever?

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{ 4 comments }

What to Write

by Editor August 20, 2014

Productivity and results. These are hallmarks of the west, demonstrations of success that prove our worth. And when you are accountable to others, even if you live a world away, the pressure can build to show results, to document success. Our guest poster, Laura, takes us into this topic with gracious honesty. You can read [...]

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Coming Home (through & to war zones)

by Kelley Nikondeha August 18, 2014

Two weeks ago I was in transit from Burundi (East Africa) to the United States. The news flashing across multiple media outlets – CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC – highlighted the Israeli incursion into Gaza, the advancing of ISIS in Iraq, the confusion around the downed Malaysian airline in Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in West [...]

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“Banish the onion!”

by Richelle Wright August 15, 2014

If you “google” family menu planning, you end up with over 87 million results in just a fraction of a second. I guess a lot of people really like to plan menus. Menu planning used to be a pretty big deal for me. Once upon a time, I grocery shopped once every two weeks, with a [...]

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Not an Afterthought

by Marilyn August 13, 2014

I grew up in a Muslim country where women were largely absent in the public space. The inner courtyards of my Muslim friends were where women socialized. This is where talk, laughter, eating, and discussions on birth control took place. The inner courtyards were wonderful places. Places where smells and colors mingled and to this [...]

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Language Learning Methods – Whatever It Takes

by Rachel Pieh Jones August 11, 2014

There are all kinds of language learning methods. LAMP (Language Acquisition Made Practical), GPA (Growing Participator Approach), community education classes, hiring tutors. Some methods require people to only listen for a set period of time, no speaking allowed. Some require classroom study. Some prohibit grammar study. My personal favorite is one called: Whatever It Takes [...]

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New Girl

by Laura Parker August 8, 2014

The following post is one I have been re-living as of late, as we re-enter living in SE Asia after a two year stint in the States (original post is here). The whole family is thrust constantly into those awkward situations of being the new kids on the block, and I’m reminded of how hard [...]

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When People Hate My Home

by Editor August 6, 2014

If there is anything that convicts a third culture kid it is a post like this! Because it’s not easy to love our passport countries and sometimes we fall into the category of the biggest criticizers. And that’s why I love this post by Lindsey Lautsbaugh – because she walks us through what it means [...]

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When You Second-Guess Your Life

by Lisa McKay August 4, 2014

Last night while we were getting ready for bed, my two year old started to tell me a story. He told me this story three times in a row, getting more excited and delighted every time. Was this story about the herd of cows we’d seen blocking the road to our house that morning? Or [...]

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