Archive for March, 2009

I quit cooking

This week is a crazy one at our house on all fronts. First I am co-leading a semi-important (and somewhat intimidating to me) ministry event that requires both time for prayer and planning. Secondly, we’ve finally hit a point where it is an absolute necessity to do some significant sleep training, if you could call it that, with our 3 year old who is very strong willed and likes to play “Jack-in-the-Box” when it comes to bedtime. She pulls out EVERY excuse imaginable to try to get out of bed (fears, ailments, sudden pangs of hunger, missing stuffed animals, random biting bug visitors, theological questions…). After enough experience sorting through this mass of semi-reasonable requests (reasonable in isolation, that is),  it boils down to the fact that she is just very persuasive and actually is perfectly fine and doesn’t need any of this extra attention. Soooo, we’re in the midst of a few rough nights trying to help our little lass understand that bedtime indeed means bedtime. And on top of that, language learning is getting hard and my brain is starting to reach overload. When that happens the good old brain starts ejecting vocabulary and cases at random, leaving me with a confused jumble of conjugations and adjective endings and an only semi-completed grammatical framework in which to “isporzovat” (use) them. Yes, my brain is fried. Can you relate? I think you probably can!

So, in a tiny effort to steal a few extra moments, I have decided to quit cooking for the rest of the week. Here is what we will be eating:

-The giant pasta salad I just made. That was the last cooking effort. (Pasta, various beans, pesto sauce, tomatoes, green onions, Italian seasoning, pine nuts… should have had chicken, but like I said, I am too tired to get that complicated).

-Hard boiled eggs

-Carrot sticks

-Yogurt with flax seed and wheat germ and/or granola

-Pears, oranges

-Cheese and crackers

-Frozen soup that I made last week

-Probably some extra healthy (ha ha) frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and Russian dumplings.

-Ice-cream… a definite must during a week like this.

So, the question of the day is, how do you create extra time in your schedule during busy weeks? Also, can you help me/us with other healthy no-prep food options?

Oh, and in case you wondered how it works out that I am too busy to cook, yet not busy enough to forgoe writing this post, the answer is that it is fun for me, and even in the midst of busy days, I think it is important to have a few minutes worth of fun. It motivates me to know that I even have 5 minutes of leisure to do whatever I choose! On that note though, my 5 minutes is up. Sorry, no pretty picture today! I hope and pray that each of you are having a wonderful week, busy or not, and that you are enjoying God, your family, and your ministry in the midst of it!

Loneliness

lone-tree

When was the last time you felt lonely or isolated? Whether it be due to a language barrier, being primarily at home with small children, lack of other Americans in the city, team difficulties, being the only wife/mom on the team, or simply just the reality of being thousands of miles away from “home,” I am sure that each one of us has felt alone at some point in our life as a missionary.

My first year here was the time so far that I felt most lonely, despite the fact that I was surrounded with probably the most supportive team imaginable with all of the perfect dynamics. For me, the difficulty came in not having a shared history with anyone other than my husband, not yet being able to speak Russian, and just the fact that getting out and about with a child was so much more draining than it had been in the U.S.  Not only that, but our phone and internet situation was such that communication back “home” was either difficult, or at times even impossible. I had a very early miscarriage during that first year, and I remember my phone connection cutting out in the middle of my call to my parents. I was in tears telling them about what had happened, and then suddenly the line cut out and I couldn’t even call them back.  I felt so very isolated in that moment. It was probably from around that time and then through the next two months or so that I really grappled with the reality of the loneliness that I was feeling and sought God’s guidance and provision. I realized that loneliness would likely be a struggle that I’d experience again and again as we continue living overseas, and am thankful for God teaching me so much and leading me so gently during that first experience.

Thankfully since that time the feelings of loneliness, though of course they come and go, have improved greatly. This is not because circumstances look a ton better on paper than my first year, but rather because God has shown me more clearly how He is fully capable and ready to be my strength, comfort, and provider in those times. Each year has come with its own challenges that would like to lend themselves to loneliness, but God has a unique provision of each of those challenges if we seek Him, trust Him, and accept those provisions.

I think often times we look at the circumstance and realize that doing the math, loneliness should be an inescapable reality. That is not the reality though. Not to say we won’t of course struggle with it from time to time, but God has resources and provision available to Him that can and will meet each one of us where we are at if we come to Him humbly in faith, allowing Him to teach us and to meet our needs in whatever way He sees best. One of His names is Jehovah Gyra, or “God Will Provide.” I believe that what God asks of us is to come to Him in faith trusting that He is the provider of our every need, like He tells us in His word that He is. We need to pray to Him and ask him for this provision. We also need to seek our relationship with Him first as we seek to escape the feeling of being alone, and then look only secondarily to other relationships to fill those feelings of loneliness.

Part of my heart for this site is to encourage all of us as moms across the world that we are not alone in the challenges that we face. There are so many of us living this unique lifestyle, and God is far more than capable of taking care of each one of us with the utmost love and tender care. It is comforting for me to know that there are so many other moms out there with the same struggles, and that God is powerful, loving, and personal enough to meet the needs of each one of us individually.

What has helped you most to deal with loneliness? Do you have a story of a time that you felt lonely and God met you in the midst of it? Also, if you are feeling lonely right now, please feel free to share that so we can be praying for you. We all take our turns with loneliness and it would be wonderful if we could support one another in this!


Lastly, here are some passages that I find encouraging in times of loneliness:

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:17-19

For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” Psalm 25:11-18

‘”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”‘ Matthew 11:28-30

‘”Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters and he who has no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”‘ Isaiah 55:1

Psalm 139- The whole Psalm is so encouraging to as we realize the depth in which we are truly known by God.

Enjoying the Journey

tck

I listed the book “Third Culture Kids” in the sidebar awhile ago, and if you don’t already have it, it is a great resource. We got it at our organization’s cross-cultural training and it has been such a help as we prepare to meet the unique needs that our children will as they are raised overseas.

I was just reading through part of this book and came across a great chapter called “Enjoying the Journey.”  It is about creating stability and an enjoyable experience for your kids as they are raised cross-culturally. Here is a summary, but please check the book out for yourselves!

1) Set aside special times for family and make family traditions. This is of course important in every family, but especially in our lifestyle that is often full of transition and where it can be difficult to establish identity. Having deep relationships, quality times together, and special traditions helps create stability and identity and a sense of being known.

2) Build strong ties with the community. Though our kids don’t live close to their extended family, we can help them build valuable relationships with those on our team, in the ministry, and in our community that will become like aunts, uncles, and grandparents to our kids. Of course they will never take the place of true family, but these relationships are also very special and will have a special impact on our children. I love how our team members have always been my kids’ substitute aunts and uncles.

3) Build strong ties with relatives. Though we live far away from family, these relationships are incredibly important and should be continually deepening. We live in a blessed time where there are so many ways to make this happen. (See here for a few ideas). One idea highlighted in this chapter as being incredibly valuable for building these close relationships is to have family come visit your family where you live if possible. That way family members can understand our kids (and us too) when we talk about our daily life. We have been so blessed to have both sets of grandparents, and 2 of our kids 3 aunts and uncles come out to visit. It was so special to be able to show them our world and it is amazing to be able to talk with them now and to know that they can visualize what we are talking about!

3) Build strong ties with friends. Not only is this important for their enjoyment of life in general, but it helps kids to adjust to their culture. Friends from the past are also important as they can “validate the TCK (third culture kid) experience and prove that the third culture world and experiences aren’t a dream.”

4) Return to the same “home” during each leave. This also can help with stability and identity. It is helpful for a TCK to have one place (city, not specifically a house) to identify as home in their passport country. I know that this isn’t always possible though, especially when extended family is split across the country and the value is building those relationships. It does help with stability though to have the same school, church, friends, etc. to return to.

5) Tour when traveling between countries. What a blessing to “have to” travel the world! Taking time between destinations (like staying a day or two rather than an hour or two for a layover) is a great way to expand our kids’ world view all the more as well as to create some amazing memories.

6) Explore and become involved in the surroundings. “Don’t neglect actively learning about the history, geography, and culture of the host country.” Often times when grown TCKs talk about their experiences, this is a highlight. On the flip side, this book mentions that a common complaint of TCKs is that they regret not being more involved in their surrounding culture and wish they would have really been able to make the most out of that amazing learning experience.

7) Acquire “sacred” objects. I love this one. This is the idea of collecting special objects that in a sense become a child’s “portable history.” Special memories are attached to these possessions, and they can be very comforting to TCKs as they travel from place to place throughout life. It helps them “connect all of the places and experiences of their lives.”

Also, here is an interesting link to some resources on TCKs that I stumbled across. It isn’t from exclusively a Christian perspective, but it seems to have a lot of resources that might be helpful or interesting. I am looking forward to checking out some of the blogs of TCKs that are listed, just to hear first hand what kids feel are the highlights and hard parts of their experiences.

What other things have you heard or are you making sure to do in order to help your children really love their experience as a TCK?

Sweet Confused Multi-Lingual Children

happy

One of my absolute favortie things about getting to serve overseas is the fact that my kids are getting the opportunity to learn a second language! It is so adorable to hear Russian words and phrases coming out of their little mouths. For today’s post and question, I thought we could share some of those cute stories!

Here are mine:

1)My daughter (3 and a half) loves the old cartoon version of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” except that the word “wardrobe” is a bit strange for her since we never use it. We do however use the Russian word for wardrobe (“shkoff”) all the time because we have several “shkoffs” in our home and it is just easier to say than “wardrobe.” Whenever my sweet daughter asks if she can watch her favorite movie, she says, “Mommy, can I watch “The Lion, The Witch, and the Shkoff?”

2)Also, my son (one and a half) has been responding to questions with “niet” rather than “no,” and prefers to say “paka” over “bye-bye.” He also often says “foo-ka-ka” instead of “yucky.”

3)My daughter LOVES to run up the old women in our community and shout “Babushka!” as she gives them a big hug. The “babushkas” here love it. I am just waiting for the time, though, where this happens in America on our furlough this summer! Should be hilarious!

4)We were eating “pelmeni” (traditional Russian dumplings) one day, and after finishing her bowl, my daughter exclaimed, “Look! I ate all of my pelicans!”

Ok, now it’s your turn! What is the cutest/funniest things your kids have said? Feel free to share even if it wasn’t in a foreign language!

Enjoying a Small Home

Kitchen Table and Chairs
I know all of us live in various types of homes depending on our location, the culture, our ministry, and our personal choices with regards to how we feel called to live, but I know that for one reason or another, a number of us end up in smaller homes than perhaps we were used to growing up, or than we would likely consider ideal for the sake of comfort. We have found ourselves in this situation and have had a good time trying to figure out how to make our place work well for us, even as our family grows and space doesn’t.

Though our place is small, we love it and feel very at home and blessed. I am however always looking for new ideas for organization, de-cluttering, and decorating, especially on a budget.  I love finding tips and ideas for making things look more organized and peaceful, despite the fact that there are lots of things crammed into a small amount of space. Also, my personal favorite organizational tip is: get rid of it! On the saver-tosser scale, I am definitely a tosser. Throwing/giving away things that we don’t use is such a liberating feeling!

I am not an expert on organization or decor, and I am sure that any of you could come to my place and offer me tons of help, but here are a few of the things that have helped us get our home in better order:

-Baskets: They are attractive, relatively inexpensive, available in probably most if not every culture, and do a great job of storing pretty much anything. We have some nice baskets under the foot of our bed, and then behind them we put our suitcases, also full of things that aren’t currently in use. These baskets were also great at helping our bedroom not be overrun by baby diapers and baby stuff when our son was in the room with us. It kept it feeling like it was still our room and not just a nursery. We also have a few other baskets on top of our refrigerator and throughout our home to store various items that would otherwise add to the appearance of clutter.

-Hanging shoe/sweater holders: These are probably one of my favorite organizational inventions ever! I feel like I can get so much more into our closets, and in a much more organized fashion with these. I was so happy to find that they are widely available in Russia.

-Draping cloths: I have implemented this in our kitchen. Since we have such little space to store things, we have to stack things on top of our cupboards. It used to look terribly cluttered until I draped a nice red cloth over some less frequently used appliances up there, and used some nice mugs and decorative boxes of coffee as a sort of functional decor. I still use the mugs and coffee, but they double as my kitchen decor.

-Subtle colors: For the kids room, my dream colors would not have tended towards pastels, just based on my personal preferences, but given what I found available, the kids’ room has end up light pink and sage green. Though I wouldn’t have thought to choose it, I really like it! It is so peaceful and calming in there, and it makes it less chaotic even with toys strewn everywhere.

-Couch covers: This is a love hate relationship actually. I honestly hate couch covers. They are a huge pain, but they definitely can mellow things a bit if you are experiencing “death by patterns” in your home. They helped our place a ton.  I looked online awhile ago and there are a ton of sites that show you how to make your own covers. Some of them don’t even require sewing, though they definitely still require some work.

Also, here are a few websites that I have come across that are related.

Fly-Lady: I love this site! It has tons of information (overwhelming amounts at first, be warned) about organizing, cleaning, de-cluttering, etc.

The Jewel Box Home: This is a whole site devoted to decorating and entertaining in a small home.

Small Place Style and Decorating Your Small Home: Two more sites about decorating small spaces

RealSimple.com: If you enjoy the magazine and can’t get it where you live, here is a fun alternative. It has lots of ideas, though I have found that a lot of them rely on things that we can’t get here. I have gotten some good ideas though, especially with regards to finding new uses for old things.

(These sites are obviously working with the styles of and with items available in the US, but I think there are some good principles that could be used in any home, regardless of what type of cultural flare you might have or how little/much you might have available to you.)

What unique ideas do you have for organizing and decorating and finding space? What have you done to help your home feel more usable and enjoyable?

(photo courtesy of allposters.com)

Souls Unseen

Hope: Baby Hands and Feet by Laura Monahan

Where we live, children are often viewed as a burden. Most people have only one child, largely for financial reasons, but I also believe it is just as much because of how the culture devalues motherhood and children, a sad trend that is infiltrating so many cultures. I saddens me deeply every time a mom asks me if both kids are mine, and why I don’t put my kids in daycare, implying that my life must be terribly boring if I “have to” stay home with them every day. I have even been asked blatantly why I don’t sign my kids up for the free state-run daycare so I could have more free time to enjoy myself. It breaks my heart that so many children grow up feeling un-valued. Many of our friends were such children. (Of course there are some amazing parents here as well, but I am merely talking about a prominent trend).

Another reality of where we live is that routine abortion is an acceptable form of birth control. Russia has one of the the highest abortion rates in the world. The mentality is to enjoy life, and if a pregnancy results, that’s ok because abortions are available to take care of such problems. Again, it deeply troubles my soul to see women so influenced by a fallen culture that they don’t see the wrong in terminating lives and living promiscuously.  I am not mad a these women, but rather my heart breaks for them and their babies because I honestly believe they don’t understand the gravity of what they are doing. But who can I get mad at? The culture? The answer of course is Satan, the great deceiver. He has deceived this culture about the value of human life and of the human soul. He has deceived women into sacrificing one of the most amazing blessings that God gives specifically to us as women; the blessing of motherhood.

These distressing cultural realities (that I assume are probably true in many of the locations in which you live) are why the following story is all the more significant to me.

One sunny afternoon, the kids and I were heading out on a walk near our home. Both kids were laughing and playing together, and we were all just authentically enjoying life.

As we walked along, a mom pushing a one year old child in a stroller walked up to me and asked shyly, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?”  “Sure!” I replied. She then went on to ask, “How many months apart are your children?” I told her that they were 21 months apart. She then hesitated for a minute and said, “How is it? Is it really hard? Do you like having two kids that are so close in age?” I didn’t realize that there was a reason behind her asking these questions, but I replied by saying, “I LOVE it! Of course it has its challenges, but my kids are such great friends because of their close age. They love to play together, they keep each other entertained… It is really wonderful and I love being the mom of two children!” She smiled and then hesitantly said, “Thank you so much… I just found out that I am pregnant and have been really scared and worried. I was trying to figure out what I should do.” Then it clicked for me. This mom was trying to figure out if she should have an abortion, and probably was feeling in her heart of hearts that she didn’t want to, but was more than likely hearing from the people around her about how “unwise” it would be to continue on with the pregnancy. I continued to encourage her about what a blessing from God children are, and to congratulate her on her pregnancy. She smiled and seemed truly relieved by the conversation. She said thank you and continued walking.

This isn’t a typical ministry or conversion story, but it opened my eyes to yet another way that our family can be a witness to those around us, this time by delighting openly in our children and speaking often about how the call to parenthood is a joyous and worthwhile one.

As we model this by our lives, we must also point clearly towards Christ and openly communicate the gospel as the source of these values and the strength to live by them. So often it seems that people who don’t appear to be seeking are suddenly much more interested when they see how practically a relationship with God makes a difference in our lives. We’ve seen this a number of times while talking with people in our community about children and parenting.

Since that conversation awhile back, I have been passionate about speaking openly and often of the blessing of motherhood, of how children are a gift from God, and how parenthood is an incredibly high calling. We are here in Russia specifically to minister to college students, but I pray also that God will use us to help save souls of mothers and fathers, as well as the lives of little babies that would otherwise be lost to abortion. I pray that God will use us to help cause mothers and fathers to value their children as He does.

How are children and parenthood viewed in your country? Have you had any unique opportunities to point towards Christ or share the gospel in regards to this issue?

*****This post was written for the Missionary-Blogs.com “blog carnival.” Click here if you would like to join in on sharing about what God is doing around the world.*****

(Image courtesy of allposters.com)

A Missionary Mom’s Prayers

Child Kneels in Prayer at Its Mother's Knee
As I raise my kids in a culture that is not my own, and often in circumstances far beyond my control, God has shown me all the more how much I absolutely must depend on Him and come to Him in prayer. I know my tendency has been to feel self-sufficient and in control when in actuality I am not, and this lifestyle has been the perfect recipe for growth.

Here are some things that God has placed on my heart to be praying for my children as we live life here on the field. Please share the unique things that you pray for your kids as well!

-For our kids to love the Lord. Just because we are missionaries doesn’t pre-determine our children’s salvation. They need God’s saving grace and mercy just as much as those to whom we minister, and it is my desire that God would make  us wonderfully effective missionaries to our children’s hearts.

-For our kids to be in the world but not of it. I want our kids to love Russia. I want them to love Russians! I want them to be at home and to feel a part of the culture in which they live, but at the same time, there are so many things about the culture that I don’t want my children to love. I don’t want my daughter dressing like 98% of the women here. I don’t want my son running around painting graffiti and looking at porn at age 10 like I have had to scold little boys in our courtyard for doing. It will be the divine intervention of God that enables my kids to really be a part of this culture, to love it, and to not be swayed away from God because of it. I used to think of missionary life as an escape from this type of influence, but sadly this world is quite depraved, no matter where you go.

-For our kids to learn the language. We all know that third culture kids don’t 100% identify with their host culture or home culture, but communication is one of the most basic needs for cultural adaptation.

-For deep friendships and relationships. I pray that even though our kids are not Russian that they will go through life with good friends and people to relate to. I pray also for the relationships that my husband and I have with our children, that they will always be open and deep and characterized by love and trust. I pray that my children will have deep relationships with their extended family, despite the many miles between us.

-For safety and health. I am so thankful for the health care that we do have here. It is better than what the majority of people throughout history have had, but at the same time, the thought of taking my child to the hospital here terrifies me. Again, this is as much a prayer for protection for my children as it is a prayer for faith for myself.

-For our kids to personally feel called to and feel a part of our ministry. God didn’t just call my husband and I when we came, he called our kids and future kids as well.  I do pray though that our kids would have a strong  vision of how they uniquely and individually are called and fit into the picture of our life in ministry. I know God can and will use them!

-For the future spouses of my kids. I know this isn’t exactly related to living overseas (though it might depending on where they/we are when they are at that age), but I desire for my kids to fall in love with and marry faithful, loving, godly people. I remember my pastor encouraging parents to pray about this for their children.  Since it will absolutely be one of the most shaping aspect of the majority of their life, I want to be faithfully praying for their future in this way.

How about you? What are some other ways that you have felt called to pray for kids?


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