Saturday, June 11, 2016

"When out on those highways and byways..." (1)

Dear faithful missionary mom readers,

Are you all celebrating that it is June and that June means summer is here, or just around the corner... if you live in the northern hemisphere, of course? We are. It has been a long and intense year and God is opening up some amazing opportunities for our family and me personally. As a result, this is my last post in this lovely space, a place that has become an online home. I will miss being here. I'd hoped to really take time to pray... to write... to maybe summarize a bit some of the things I've learned during the time I've been writing for Missionary Moms - but earlier this week we learned that my husband's dad is on the threshold of eternity. So we are leaving tonight... and in all of the busyness of arrangements, I've not had the time I would have wished to devote to this post. Instead, I've edited an older post that I wrote for a different site a few years back... all about traveling mercies and time on the road, a common summer/holiday occurrence!

Thankful for you ~ may God continue to bless you and your ministries richly!


I used to find it some combination of mildly amusing and slightly annoying when I’d hear people pray for “traveling mercies,” even though at the time we were crisscrossing the state of Michigan (as well as a few adjacent states) almost every weekend seeking the financial support to head to West Africa as missionaries.

Then one wintry Sunday, we literally crept on four wheels, all night through a genuine winter blizzard only to arrive home, in the wee hours of the morning, and find a man we’d never met before sleeping in our bed (a story for another time and definitely over tea and coffee). We ended up on the rickety pull-out sofa in the basement, struggling to drag ourselves out of bed and get up and around in time for the beginning of our home church’s missions conference just a few hours later. After that fiasco, I’d occasionally catch myself silently asking God for “traveling mercies,” particularly during those unexpectedly long trips.
There was also that time late one August. We drove nonstop from Lansing, Michigan to Miami, Florida. Well… nonstop except for a few hours in a Georgia Walmart escaping massive summer heat. Our car at that time was minus air conditioning and plus three little ones in car seats! Several hours later, I actually prayed spontaneously, aloud, thanking the Lord for “traveling mercies…” and then woke my husband up. He’d fallen asleep at the final stoplight, just prior to reaching our destination.
We still hadn’t even begun the adventure of international travel. Once that started, we experienced
  • long airplane rides,
  • sandstorms while boarding which then delayed our flight,
  • close connections,
  • stacks of luggage that had to be lugged through developing world airports,
  • reroutings,
  • long layovers with children crashed and sleeping sprawled anywhere,
  • difficult fellow passengers, difficult airline personnel,
  • discovering that even though we’d reserved seats together , our reality was far different – my family scattered all over the plane, the two year old sitting by herself, and no one willing to switch seats,
  • hopeless searches for something both edible and affordable to eat.
One other key detail? I’m terrified of flying – like panic attack terrified! It usually lasts from the moment I climb on the plane and fasten my seat belt until we reach cruising altitude. At that point I can almost distract myself from that feeling of imminent doom. It isn’t one of those fears that has gotten better with time or experience. I pray, quite literally starting dayweeks months before, that God will grant me His “mercies as I travel” and enough relief from my terror that I can at least function.
I stopped  laughing or considering those prayers for “traveling mercies” to be trivial. 
Then we began traveling in Africa

It took me two years to get brave enough to consider driving in town, on my own. The problem wasn’t the standard transmission – that was pretty much all I’d ever driven. Rather it was driving in a place where traffic laws were merely suggestions, stop lights and stop signs were optional, and four lanes of traffic regularly squeezed onto a two lane bridge. Drivers were often inexperienced, erratic, unpredictable and impulsive. Roads were shared with pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, goats, sheep, dogs, donkeys and carts, camels piled high and wide with straw, herds of cattle, food vendors, newspaper sellers, beggars and unsupervised toddlers. That axiom, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” was the rule of the road, regardless of pre-existing traffic patterns. We discovered that walking around your car wasn’t sufficient – you had to be sure to look under it too before beginning to drive – after my husband ran over the leg of a toddler sleeping unsupervised under our car one afternoon. I found out first hand that signaling a right hand turn and then proceeding to make that right turn from the right hand lane where’d I’d been all along wouldn’t inhibit motorists from trying to pass  at that moment… on the right. I’ll never forget the day another vehicle nudged a bicyclist, knocking him over right in front of the tire of my Land Cruiser, and I felt that tire slowly roll up and over something. Fortunately, it was the bike wheel and not the bicyclist.
Every. Single. Time. we left our house in a car and nothing bad happened, it became an opportunity to thank God for His “traveling mercies.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vehicular accidents result in more deaths worldwide than malaria. They are the primary cause of death for those falling in the five to 29 years old age bracket. This is particularly true in the developing world. (1)
Now, less I give a wrong impression, not all of our road experiences were bad. I’ve had more flat tires than I’d care to count – I’ve never actually changed one myself. Someone would always volunteer to do it for me… and sometimes even refused a gift of money.
We’ve also seen Africans accomplish both amazing and hilarious things while operating motor vehicles:
  • A mouthy Tabaski sheep wrestled into submission between motorcycle operator and passenger, all during rush hour traffic.
  • Several large cattle sleeping peacefully on the roof of a minibus. The bus was cruising at 80km/hr…
  • A motorcyclist transporting a full-sized mattress balanced on his head… while driving through sand deep enough to stall other vehicles.
  • Young camels loaded inside Peugeot taxis.
  • Guys riding on top of huge trucks packed with fire wood. Their purpose was to lift power, phone and other lines as the trucks traveled through town.
Praying for traveling mercies, pleading with God for His protection as we were out and about, became a preoccupation. But it also served to continually remind me that safety was an illusion, often out of my control… Our complete and absolute dependence was on God and God alone. Driving in the developing world also actively cultivated a spirit of thankfulness. After all, every non-eventful vehicular outing was cause to thank God for His “traveling mercies.”

I thought things might get better after returning to the States. Except now I expect drivers to behave as was typical overseas. My younger son was riding with me on one trip when he asked, “Mama, why do you get ready to honk every time we pass by a big truck?” I hadn’t even realized I’d maintained that West African habit of driving with my hand on the horn – just in case! Additionally, it probably hasn’t helped that we’ve now reached that stage of life which includes young adult and student drivers… Yikes!
What strange, incredible or amusing things have you seen as you have traveled the roads where you live?
Share about an everyday thing you used to take for granted, but which God now uses to make you more thankful and continually aware of your dependence on Him.

(1) First line from the hymn Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B Wilson, Tune: Schuler
Original post

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sabbath Rest with Small Children

(Reposted from our previous blog, 

Ever since my first child was born, I have struggled with what it means to have true Sabbath rest. Before kids, my husband and I would reserve one day a week for extra time in the word and prayer, extra time with each other, extra sleep, and rest from our work.

Then along came our first child and suddenly I had a new job that came with 7 twenty-four hour shifts each week. It has been and continues to be a learning process to figure out how to find time to truly rest, as well as to fulfill all my responsibilities as a mother that don’t have the option of being put on hold. Here are a few ideas that we’ve come up with in our family for keeping a Sabbath day restful and truly refreshing. It would be great to hear your ideas too! In our schedule, Saturday is generally our Sabbath day, so I’ll refer to that.

-“My soul finds rest in God alone…” Ps. 62:1 Whether or not our days are physically restful, our souls are always able to find rest. Try to find special ways to focus on God on your own and with your family. Perhaps have a special time reading and talking about a Bible story, take time to pray for each other, take some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in nature or in art, or do something that your family loves doing and thank God for the blessing of one another and for giving you things that you love doing together…

-Prepare beforehand. In biblical times, there was much preparation prior to the Sabbath in order that the Sabbath day itself was protected and free from work. I know that meal prep and clean-up takes a large amount of time each day, so here are some ideas to reduce that time on your day of rest:   prepare food the day before, plan to eat left overs, have easy meals reserved that don’t take much time to prepare or clean up, freeze a meal earlier in the week to have on your day of rest, have necessary groceries on hand, etc. Another thing that I like to do is have my major house cleaning day the day before so I can enjoy a clean home and not be tempted to spend my extra rest time doing house work.

-Don’t get sucked into unnecessary tasks. Often times I do various tasks just because they come to mind and I am afraid that I will forget about them if I don’t just get them done right then.  A way to avoid your rest time being slowly etched away is to keep a small piece of paper where you can write down these tasks as they come to mind. Then you won’t forget them and won’t have to spend your precious moments of rest on things that you can easily do later.

-Think about Sunday on Friday (or whatever days this works out to be for you). Since I usually prepare for the next day the night before, it makes sense for me to take a couple of minutes preparing for Sunday on Friday night. Make sure clothes are clean for church, set aside stuff for the diaper bag, etc.

-Use paper plates/cups. I don’t do this much since we don’t have recycling here, but on occasion it is nice to have a meal with easy clean up. As all moms know, even an extra 10-15 minutes of rest is a huge blessing!

-Don't feel guilty about saying no to invitations. Sometimes I actually pencil "rest" into various slots on my calendar when I know I will need protected time of rest. Then, if someone asks me if I am available to do something, I can honestly say that I have plans for that time.  I've planned to rest, but the details of my plans don't necessarily need to be elaborated on. We don't need to feel guilty about declining invitations, even good ones, for the sake of needed rest.

-Have different standards for the Sabbath. For example, I like to make my bed each morning and clean up the house some before nap time each day. On Saturdays I just close the door to our room and don’t worry about making the bed or straightening up. I also generally don’t take much time to clean up the house when the kids are napping since this is the longest stretch of physical rest that I can get during the day.

-Take turns getting some time away. My husband and I usually take turns getting a little bit of alone time out of the house on our day of rest. I usually just go to a nearby cafe to read for a little bit, but it feels so refreshing! With little kids who are always needing me, getting a little time out does wonders for helping me rest. I am sure the day will come when our kids are older that we can all just have a restful day at home, but with little kids, “rest” has a different meaning.

-Spend time with people, or spend time alone. I am sure we are all familiar with whether or not we are introverts or extroverts. I am an extrovert and am very refreshed by spending time with people. I love good, deep conversations and talking about what God is doing in my life and hearing what He is doing in the lives of others on my day of rest. My husband on the other hand is an introvert, and in order for him to rest well, he prefers to spend time alone or just with our family. I think it is helpful to know yourself and your family with regards to this and make sure that everyone has a chance to feel rested.

In all of the extra opportunities for rest that we can create with a little bit of planning, the important part of course is keeping our focus on God and finding our rest in Him, through the word, prayer, praise, and having our hearts focused on Him. I know that no matter how physically restful a day turns out to be, my soul will not be rested apart from Him. It encourages me to know that the flip side of this is also true.  Even though there are many days , even Sabbath days, that are physically and emotionally exhausting, God does provide rest for us in supernatural ways apart from our circumstances.

How do you approach the Sabbath with the non-stop demands of motherhood? Please share what is most helpful for you in preserving rest on the Sabbath day!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Birth Stories

So have you noticed that most women, in almost all cultures love a good birth store?  We gravite to them over the course of getting to know each other.  I can remember one time I had a conversation with a Costa Rica lady and a South Korean lady about our labor expereinces.  It's just universal.

We just had our 4th baby, and this time around we opted to stay here in Costa Rica for the birth.  Lucía Joy was born April 6th here in San José. And she has quite the birth story!

Because of past c sections we had scheduled the c section for 39 1/2 weeks, and for a while it looked like we might not make it to that date.  Starting about around 34 weeks, I began to have a lot of contractions. Since I've never gone into labor on my own, this was a bit of a surprise.  My doctor had me come in for monitoring and told me stay off my feet.  And just to make sure I knew he was serious, he added "or you can rest in the hospital for the next couple of weeks."  Yeah, no.

Two days before the scheduled c section I had my last pre natal appointment.  There was a quick ultrasound to make sure baby was doing well and fluid levels were good.  We were given a "Everything looks great!  See you Wednesday!"  and we were off to pick up my mom from the airport (insert a huge sigh of relief that we made it to then without having to use plan B or C or D!)

Wednesday morning we headed to the hospital before dawn. I had joked with my OB that all of my Spanish went to the baby, and he was great about it!  He told the surgical team that while my Spanish is perfect (bwhahah, he was being far to kind and lying!) to use English with me.  Our family doctor was there as well, which was a huge help as he is bilingual and works with missionary families all the time.

In the operating room, it took a while for my husband to be brought in, but he was in time for Lucía's birth.  Except her birth wasn't quite right.  Remember, I couldn't see anything and had a spinal so things were a bit fuzzy, but I remember her not crying.  And not crying and not crying.  I asked again and again if she was ok, and the doctors and my husband did a good job at downplaying what was really going on.  When Lucía was born she wasn't breathing and had no tone or movement.  Her heart was beating, but that was about it.

Our OB told us afterwards that it was a miracle she was alive.  He thinks that early that morning the placenta had started to detach, something they call placenta abruption.  This caused bleeding into the uterus, which meant Lucía was not getting the life support she needed from the placenta anymore.  It also meant that as she swallowed amniotic fluid (something babies do) she was swallowing blood as well.  Most of the time, if a woman has a placenta abruption, she has a lot of abdominal pain and she starts to bleed.  I had none of that.  It wasn't until the doctors started the procedure that they knew anything was wrong.

As soon as Lucía was born, the pediatrician used a CPR mask and bag to breath for her.  She didn't breath on her own for around 7 minutes.  Once she started to breath, the pediatrician brought her to my face so I could touch her and then it was off to the NICU.  She was given oxygen, they put a glucose IV into her belly button, and began to monitor her.  I went to the recovery room and my husband went with Lucía.  He spent a lot of time in the NICU with her, singing and praying.

Because they had her under a plexiglass tent for the oxygen, we weren't able to hold her until the next day at around 1pm.  I think that was one of the longest 30 hours of my life.  And because I was recovering from a c section it was around 5pm the night she was born before I really got to see her when the nurses took me in a wheel chair to the NICU.

The doctors and nurses were amazed at how well Lucía did.  When the OB came to check on me the next day he said "It was only God!  Everything was fine on Monday and had the c section been scheduled for the next day or even a few hours later, she probably would have been a stillborn."  He also told me that he was able to hold it together while he saw patients that day, but when he got home that night he just started crying and praying for us.  He said "sometimes this job is really hard." There is something very nice about having doctors that acknowledge that it was God.

It was interesting, in all of the time of bed rest, a friend of mine said she was praying for God's timing for Lucía's birth, not the doctors.  We started to pray that way too, which is sort of a strange prayer for a planned c section, but my goodness, did God answer!!  That morning when I was getting ready to head to the hospital I asked the Lord for something to get me through the day.  He started to talk to me from Isaiah 43
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Except I stopped listening as soon as He said "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you." It scared me.  I was afraid of what might be coming.  But He did exactly what He said!  He was right there in the midst of something that could have been so very, very bad.  He kept the waters from overcoming us and Lucía.   He had us surrounded by doctors and nurses who kept Lucía breathing and did what it took to get her stable.

All of Lucía's test have come back saying she is just fine.  She is acting just like any other new born, eating and sleeping like a it's no big deal.  Her name means Light and her little life is already a testament to how great our God is!  We're thankful, very, very thankful!

What about you?  Did you have any of your babies in your host country?  How about in a second language?  Come on, share!  We all love a great birth story!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Worth Fighting For

I've recently started something new... and NOW... I'm wondering why in the world I fought it so long.

It literally seems crazy that it has taken me so long to even give it a try, but then again, I've got eight kids and the past 20+ years have been mind-foggingly busy. I didn't think I had time to try and figure out how to fit one more thing in my schedule, especially something that required time and resulted in very little that could be considered "productive."

I've begun taking a "mini-sabbatical" day - aiming for one such day once every two weeks. During that day, I mostly don't do any of the normal daily work/chores/etc. Instead I read, sleep, try a new recipe, work on the kids' scrapbooks, watch TV or movies, write letters just for the fun of it, just write without the purpose of publishing on a blog or in a partnership building letter, read some more, participate in ministries/volunteer/community stuff that I've never tried before, etc... I'm sure you get the idea.

I say "mostly" because I still have to help pack lunches and get the kids off to school. I still have to help with homework. Dinner still needs to be prepared. Sometimes bills need to be paid on that day, or a kid needs to see the dentist. But for the most part, my husband takes the kids to school and I have an entire day to do what I want instead of trying to get done all that needs to be done, all that I think others expect of me.

I'm discovering that while it's not necessarily been a good practice for crossing things off of that ever-growing to do list, it has been good for my health - particularly emotionally and spiritually. And as I'm not getting any younger, I'm finding that the stress of not ever having any (enough remains on the bucket list) down time has a definite physical impact on my body.

On one of my recent "mini-sabbaticals," I was watching an episode from a favorite television show we'd downloaded, and there was an interesting bit of conversation-leading-to-reconciliation between a young adult daughter and her mom. 


Daughter confesses that she needs to stop defining Mom based on her mother's very worst moments. Instead, Daughter recognizes that life is complicated, that they can disagree and that even in the midst of those disagreements, she can respect Mom for the pretty incredible things her mother has accomplished, as well as the values she has consistently modeled for Daughter.


Stop and think about that.

What if I fought defining the people in my life by their worst moments? That doesn't mean I forget those bad moments or that I continue to allow someone who's hurt me to continue to hurt me and/or others. But it does mean I choose a conscious recognition that people are far more than a two-dimensional caricature. It means acknowledging that every single person is multifaceted, a sinner in complex and broken world, and that probably most of them do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Thus, I am judging without real knowledge if I try and use a single act or a particular exposure to define him or her. 

In John 7, Jesus gives the instruction to ""Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly." In other words, judgments - as in pronouncing judgment and passing sentence - shouldn't be made prior to a complete - or at the very least, more complete - picture.

I can't help but wonder.

How much better might my relationships (casual or intimate, business or pleasure, lifelong or "seasonal") be if simply refused to give those those momentary glimpses of someone at their worst more weight than any or all others, if I focused more on seeing God's image in that person, and the potential of what h/she could be?

Sadly, it doesn't appear to be a mindset that comes easily or naturally. 

Unlike my new "mini-sabbatical" habit - something that I fought against for a really long time but that is quickly becoming a habit almost as necessary and welcome as breathing, learning to not define people by those vivid and worst moments will be something I'll have to fight for, every day, for the rest of my life as it does not appear to be a governing tendency, desire or instinct that just characteristically flows out of my being.

Besides all that, there's another reality.

As Wayne Dyer so aptly said, "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."

Any strategies, teachings, practices you use... or that you'd recommend... to help those of us who struggle with this sort of judgmentalism fight for something different? Something better?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Giving What I Hope to Receive

As a child, I thought that grace was a sacred word that only belonged in conversations about God reaching down and saving a wretch like me. Like only my Heavenly Father could extend grace, and it applied solely to that moment when He welcomed me into His family.

I still think it's a sacred word, but I've come to understand the fullness of its application. 

Since moving back from South America to South Carolina this past year, I have repeatedly asked for and been given grace during our immediate adjustment period. Sometimes I didn't quite know how to ask for it and just hoped people would understand and extend me grace without having to actually be told how badly I needed it.  Most days, I wished I could wear a t-shirt that said, "WARNING: Missionary in re-entry. Stand back."

by KoKoNut at
The Wal-Mart checkout gal and all those people behind me in line who wonder why I can't operate the debit card reader or figure out where to put my buggy.

The church people who reach out to shake my hand about the time I'm going in for cheek kisses, so we end in some awkward hug that sometimes results in accidentally kissing on the mouth.

Family members who want us all to pile in on Sunday dinners and holidays that last way past the tolerance level of my daughters, who now prefer large groups in small windows of time only.

Friends who hold their breath while I am trying to complete a sentence in English, even though the words won't come. Even better, friends who try to interpret my hand signals and grunts.

I silently or loudly plead for grace in these and so many more daily moments of chaos.

But it took me a bit to realize that as much as I need grace during this time, so do the folks who were here going through normal American life while I was off globetrotting.

They need me to understand that they don't understand.

I'm quick to notice my shortcomings and those of my immediate family, that are a result of culture shock, but I forget that these people around us don't know where we are coming from. They don't know what we've lived through beyond what they've read on our blog or gleaned from the newsletter or maybe, a few of them, seen in person for a few days at a time.

They don't know how different my gut reactions are from theirs now, how many of my thoughts come to me in another language, and what I am very used to doing as everyday activities.

They don't know that I'm a totally different person than when I left in 2008.

When they have expectations of me that I can't meet, when they just don't get it, when they assume things that are way off base, I have to be able to recognize how little they actually know of what I've lived, and then extend them the same grace I expect to receive.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.      Luke 6:38 NLT

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?