Archive for December, 2011

New Years Goals

There is something beautiful about the new year and the possibilities that it brings with it. I love setting goals and dreams, so new years resolutions have always been about dreaming big and setting my goals high for the coming year.

Often these goals inspire me to love God and my family more deeply, but everything in life has a season. This season of goal setting for our family looks much simpler than in years past. We just welcomed our fourth child into the world and are in the process of raising support and moving to South Sudan. With our house filled with the noise brought by four children under six, it is easy to think of many good goals for the coming year.  I could categorize these goals into categories such as educational, financial, spiritual, family, marriage and many more,  but instead I find myself stepping back and trying to simplify my goals into what is really important for our family.

This year as we cuddle our newest addition and look toward moving to another continent, I find myself seeking to do three things; to  that ensure my family has clean clothes to wear,  clean dishes to eat from, and to begin each day with time set aside to know God more.

I have the opportunity to set the tone of my home, this tone can be one of organization, chaos, stress, or peace and this tone overlays every activity or disruption that life brings (especially life in another culture). But the best tone that I can give my family is one of gratitude and worship which comes only from seeking to know God. Other responsibilities and goals are important but if I can focus on this one main thing, the other pieces fall into place.

When I say that my goals are to simply to seek God (and feed and clothe my family) it is not that I do not value things such as my children’s education, our support raising process, housework, finances, or marital relationship with my spouse, rather it is that I cherish those things so much, meaning that I choose to do the one thing that makes them all work together. Simplifying goals also helps me focus my time and efforts on things that truly matter and challenges me to let go of the things that do not. At the end of the day I can look back and see a home that may not be as clean as I had hoped, a to do list likely full of un-checked boxes, and I can measure success not by what is unimportant, but by what matters. If the tone of my home is one of gratitude and worship, the other items become details of lesser importance.

What about you?  What are some simple goals you mothers have as you look to set the tone for your family this coming year?

(Post by: Amie)

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Christ-focused Christmas

I love that Christmas in Russia, it its purest form at least, it is reserved exclusively for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa Clause, Christmas trees (Yolki), and presents, along with fireworks and a big feast, are instead all a part of the New Year’s celebration. (It’s kind of like if you took all of the major American holidays and crammed them into one. Amazing!)  As far as I know, there aren’t alternate options for the meaning behind Christmas like we have in our culture. (And we’ll ignore for the moment that they do, however, do the equivalent of trick-or-treating on Christmas!)

As a mom with young kids who wants to help my kids focus on joyfully celebrating Jesus during the Christmas season, I kind of think it is great to have a sort of natural delineation marked out. Russian kids have all the fun of the gifts, and giving, and Father Frost, as well as a whole separate day to celebrate Jesus’ birth! Of course the rather significant problem with this equation is that most people here don’t really celebrate Jesus at all,  so Christmas is hardly even noticed,  but for believers, what great potential to still enjoy all of the other special festive holiday traditions without inadvertently pushing Jesus to the sidelines on Christmas day!

I’m not saying that I’m ready to forsake my beloved American Christmas traditions that also can be such great opportunities to show love and generosity as a reflection of Christ, but it definitely has crossed my mind as I see toys and gifts vying for my children’s heart over Jesus. Whether or not we ever decided to go with Russian tradition in this way, it keeps me thinking of how we can enjoy the season’s festivities and spirit of generosity while never loosing sight of the central meaning and joy of Christmas… Jesus Christ!!

What are some things that help your family keep the focus on Christ during the Christmas season? Is there anything about the culture where you live that makes it easier or harder? And just for fun, if you were our family, would you keep the holidays according to American tradition, or would you celebrate the Russian way with gifts, trees, and Santa on New Years? 

(Post by: Ashley)

Guest Post: Surviving the New Adventure

(Jolene, who has been serving in Ukraine for the past ten years, has kindly offered to share this honest and deeply encouraging post that I think will strike a cord, either in our past or present experience, with each one of us serving overseas. And what a blessing for moms preparing for the field to learn and store up this wisdom for the future!)
You have waited many years for this moment.  You surrendered to the mission field, graduated from Bible college, spent many months on deputation, and now you are headed to the field!  Life could not be more exciting, more adventurous!  The moment you have anticipated, dreamt about, and talked about is finally here.
When you get to the field, it is exactly as you dreamed.  Everything is so different, yet so intriguing.  The people live differently, shopping takes a whole adventurous day, the local language sounds just like you stepped into a foreign film setting.  It is a lot to take in, but you are basking in the thrill of it all.  “Yes, this was exactly what I had in mind.  This is exactly what I have been looking forward to all of my life,” you reflect.
The people do quirky things, and you think it is charming.  Things happen that you just know the people at home will not believe, so you write home about it with great pleasure, knowing your friends and family will be just as amused as you are.  You journal each day (whether on paper or on your blog) about the incredulous things you are seeing and experiencing.  This is the life!
And then, a few months down the road, those funny things slowly start to lose their humor.  They start becoming ordinary, and the excitement that got you through those first few months starts to subside.  You have thrown yourself whole-heartedly into learning the language, and you are coming to the realization that learning a language is a much slower process than you anticipated.  After all, you have been here nearly a year and still cannot say an intelligible full sentence correctly.  People still ask you where you are from everywhere you turn, especially whenever you speak.  Winter comes and it is bitterly cold (or even the opposite extreme and in the 90’s!)…. not at all like back home.  Christmas Day arrives and you might find yourself completely alone or, at best, with another missionary family; and well, quite frankly, you are slightly disappointed because you were not able to celebrate like you know your family was celebrating at home.
Living on the mission field becomes harder and harder, and suddenly you look back and realize that it is no longer an adventure.  Those customs that were “cute” to you at first are, really, just rather annoying.  After all, don’t these people know that there are better ways of doing things?
And slowly, little by little, the adventure has worn completely off.  Life trudges on and does not always take the directions you had anticipated.  People are not asking “What must I do to be saved?” like you always dreamed they would.  In fact, if they were to ask, you would not even be able to tell them.  “Does everyone realize how hard it is to learn a foreign language?” you wonder as you think about how embarrasing it is that you have not been able to lead one person to Christ’s sweet salvation yet.
The letters from home stop coming as often, and everyone expects that you have settled into a happy, little routine.  And you have… except that you feel kind of stuck.  “This is where I am supposed to be, but I did not realize it would be so lonely.  Every time I open my mouth to speak, people hang onto my words trying to understand me like a mother watches her toddler trying to speak.”  You feel foolish and want to crawl into a shell and hide.  And it does not help that you do not understand anything that is being preached at church either.  You, the “great missionary” who left all behind to serve Christ, even start feeling un-churched.  Of course, you sit faithfully in every service (while training under a veteran missionary) but still only catch words here and there – certainly not enough to feel conviction or encouragement.  You miss your home church; you miss traveling to the greatest churches of America and being in the greatest Missions Conferences ever to be conducted.  Forget all of that… you just miss hearing English everywhere you turn!
Slowly, discouragement sets in.  “I will never fit in here.  I will never speak this language correctly.  I will never adapt to the way they do things, etc…”  And then you find that you are in a place you never thought you would be.  After all, was it not you who, when you talked about foreign missions to children’s Sunday school classes, watched as those small eyes widened in wonder at the adventure of taking the Gospel to a foreign mission field?  Was it not you who gave touching testimonies to ladies’ groups about your burning desire to reach these people?
But, oh, dear young missionary wife!  You are crossing a bridge between two mountains.  The first mountain is the one you left back home, and the second mountain is the one you will reach once you start making friends and learning to adapt in your new home.  But, right now you are caught between those two mountains, on a shaky, rattling, swinging bridge.  It seems so much safer to turn around and run back to the first, comfortable mountain that you left not so long ago.  But, if you will just endure and keep taking one small, shaky step at a time, one day you will find that you have reached the other side.  And, it is a beautiful mountaintop, filled with the greatest pleasures and beauty one could ever imagine!   From one who has made it to that second mountain, I encourage you to hang on!
I often wonder, if young missionary wives understood this transition process… from adventure to loneliness and change and, finally, to adaption, would there be more missionaries who made it through those first, transitioning years?  Most missionaries who give up on their calling, do so during the first four or five years.
I also wonder if praying friends back home truly realize the lonely tears that are shed during that transition period.  If they did, I am sure they would be more faithful to write little notes and send little care packages to those young missionary families.  If you are one of those praying friends, let me encourage you to find a missionary family who has been on the field anywhere from one to five years and focus on that family.  And when the devil comes and tries to rattle that already-unsteady bridge, the missionary family will hold on tighter and take another step forward…. another step toward their future of staying.
Where are you today on this journey? Are you on the first mountain top preparing to leave? On that shaking, rattling, swinging bridge, feeling lonely and discouraged? On that second mountain top of adaptation? Let’s join together in praying for our dear sisters in Christ who are crossing that bridge. And if you are looking on that bridge, do you have a minute to share a word or two of encouragement to spur your sisters on?
Post by: Jolene

Tuesday Topic: Special Blessings

From Noelle in Kenya: I have been thinking about your post on being thankful for the simplicity of life on the mission field, and it has got me thinking about other things I am thankful for. I am thankful that we get to see wild animals all the time, so my daughter can learn their names and what they look like in person. I am thankful that I get to spend so much quality family time with my husband and daughter. I’m thankful that some things are much cheaper here: doctors, fruits & vegetables and nice restaurants. So, I’m wondering what other missionary moms are thankful for…?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Hermeneutics!

Hello Friends!

Well, I had planned to keep things going here this week, but it looks like I’ll be taking a break for the next few days or so. I am away in Moscow, Russia right now taking a week-long intensive hermeneutics class…. all by myself! My loving husband stayed behind and is taking care of our 3 kids so I could have this chance to study, visit with friends, and even go to Starbucks! I miss my family terribly, but what a great week it has been! I thought I’d have more down time to get posts up (we have a couple of great guest posts coming up soon!), but there have just been too many great people to spend time with (and lots of homework to do) that I haven’t had as much computer time as I had anticipated. I look forward to getting things going again next week!

~Ashley

 

Tuesday Topic: Slowing Down on Furlough

From Phyllis in Ukraine: Does anyone have tips for how to slow down and not wear ourselves out while on those visits to the States?

Last time we tried to put a some space between us and our home base for a time, specifically to recharge, and it seemed to me like that backfired. It seemed like we were rushing even more, because the demands were still there, we just had to go farther to meet them! I’ve been thinking that for this next time, we just need to go for a very short time, pack it full, and then plan on crashing when we get back. Would that work?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Making time with God

God greatly desires relationship with us and for us to continually acknowledge and experience His presence. We need His love, encouragement, and instruction and to be filled by His Spirit in order to succeed each day in what He has called us to do! How do we do this when the duties of motherhood don’t really come a with a whole lot of spare time or freedom from interruption? Here are some of my ideas, but what I’d really love is if you could share your wisdom and ideas in the comments! Let’s encourage each other to make our relationship with the Lord of utmost importance and priority!

1) Pray or listen to sermons while doing laundry or dishes- One of my dear friends here has a collection of little spiral note-pads by her sink, and on each page she has different prayer requests. Some are for our team, some are for our ministry, some for family, some for friends… She spends her dish washing time praying through those requests.  Another thing that I love to do sometimes is to listen to sermons on my computer as I do the dishes.

2) Listen to the Bible in the car or on headphones as you walk if you’re traveling alone- There is really something amazing about listening to God’s word!  I have heard many people say that it is good to engage as many of our senses as possible when learning, as it aids in understanding and retention. This is true for study of the word! If you haven’t already, I think you will be surprised at the little nuances that you pick up while listening that you might not catch as easily while reading. You may also find that you remember it even more easily! (And as a quick note, you can listen to the Bible for free at Biblegateway.com . I’ve been listening to the ESV version, also during dish time, and though I don’t really love the narration style, I still find that I get a lot out of it!)

3) Memorize scripture with your kids– Find verses that you would like to memorize that you can also teach to your kids! It is so great for  both us and for our children to store up God’s word in our hearts, and it is more fun to do together! One thing my daughter and I like to do is choose a verse and then draw a picture or make a craft that goes along with it. Again, engaging with the word through various means helps with memorization.

4) Pray or meditate on scripture as you wait- If there is a place where you often find yourself waiting, either in line, or for a child to get out of a lesson, etc, (living in a former soviet country, the post office immediately springs to my mind!), perhaps designate that time as a time for prayer meditating on memorized scripture.

5) Listen to praise music at home– You can be busy at home doing pretty much anything, but the words of worship songs can serve to edify you and the rest of your family throughout the day.

6) Post scripture around your home- I have seen many beautiful pieces of art lately where people have incorporated scripture into their home decor. Whether it be something artistic in a frame, or simply a verse on a note-card on your bathroom mirror, having scripture around your home gives you opportunities to reflect on scripture all throughout the day.

7) Set aside time when the kids are sleeping or are otherwise independently occupied where you will make a habit of reading the Bible and praying- This is not really an easy thing to just squeeze in wherever, but we simply need to be spending time in the word each day!  Other “needs” should come after our need to be with God, and though it is often easiest to push to the edges of our schedule, meeting with God and being in His word is the most vital of tasks. We cannot live and continue to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit without this source of strength, truth and communion with the Lord! I was recently reminded that if you do something each day for 7 weeks, it is more likely to form a habit. If you struggle with making consistent time for study of the word, pray and make a commitment to read your Bible and pray every day at about the same time for 7 weeks and see if it doesn’t become much more of a habit after that time!

Ok, like I said, those are a few ideas, but I’d really love to hear other things that work for you! Please share your ideas!

(Post by: Ashley)


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