Archive for February, 2012

Tuesday Topic: What do you want to discuss?

Well, it seems that Tuesday has now escaped me for two weeks in a row. Yesterday I had an actual excuse because I was at the doctor’s office getting a cast put on my son’s hand during what would have been my blogging time. My poor little guy had a run-in with a large mirror at a shoe store and broke his pinky finger. What a sad and yet original way to break a bone.

(A huge cast for a tiny break!)

But that is not the point of this Wednesday Tuesday Topic. The point is that I’m fresh out of Tuesday Topics! So, I have a favor to ask. Would you consider taking a moment to email me a topic that you’d enjoy seeing discussed here at Missionary Moms? I love the issues that you bring up and so value each of the pieces of wisdom that you share in response each week. Email your topics/questions to: formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Thanks so much!

(Post by: Ashley)

Putting Down Roots

I’ve mentioned this great analogy before, but during our cross-cultural training, we transplanted a living plant from one pot to another and talked about the process of being transplanted from one culture to another. What an amazing illustration! Here was our little plant, perfectly happy in it’s little pot when suddenly it is uprooted and it’s comfy dirt and pot shaken off and left behind.  Some roots are broken in the process and some are carried along and planted in the new  pot. This freshly transplanted little flower is in a precarious situation now where in order to survive, it needs to be watered and cared for and must work hard to put down roots into this new and foreign soil. If it fails to do so, it will begin to wither.

We know that God is the one who chooses this new soil, who places us just right in this new “pot,” who waters us, who tends to us, and who even ultimately enables roots to grow, so the analogy is imperfect, but I think it has some good parallels as we strive to do the things that we can in order to thrive.

Being uprooted, as many can attest to, can be traumatic as our roots are untangled from our home and some are even broken in the process. We arrive  in our new soil alive and in much the same appearance as when we were uprooted, but we must soon grow new roots in order to survive.

While thinking of the idea of putting down new roots, I’ve thought it important to consider the roots that held me firmly in place back “home” and that used to served as little channels of life. Loved ones, a church family, hobbies, special places, parts of the culture that I loved, appreciation for the history of my country and city, cultural understanding and feeling like an insider, knowledge of the language…. There were so many roots that made me really thrive in that soil.

Thinking now about thriving in this new soil, I’ve realized that I need similar roots here. These roots aren’t exactly the same, but they need to channel health to my various areas of need. Here are a few of the more significant new roots that have been most life-giving to me personally:

-Love for the people. For me, loving the people of Russia means truly knowing them on a heart level. It is very hard to feel love for a person unless you spend time getting to know them. I want to know and truly love the people of Russia. This for me means meaningful relationships, sharing life, and learning to appreciate and participate in normal Russian daily life. This takes more energy and effort than most other things, but is so incredibly life-giving. From this one root, so many others can grow.

-Prayer for the people and country. The more I pray for Russia, the more I love this country and its people because I participate in God’s heart for Russians. In order to pray effectively, I need to know Russia’s needs and to feel heartache over them. The more I learn about Russia and its needs, the more I am motivated to pray, and the deeper the roots go that attach my heart to this land.

-Thankfulness and enjoyment of the culture. Though the culture here is very different and some of the things that I miss from back “home” can never be exactly replaced, there are unique aspects of beauty in this new culture that I would have never experienced had I never come here. I make it a conscious effort to observe the parts of Russian culture that I personally enjoy and admire and to thank God for the opportunity to experience them. It can also be great fun to find new hobbies in your new culture. I took Caucus dancing for awhile when living in Southwest Russia, and it was so fun!

-Growth in knowledge. Specifically growing in cultural understanding and language ability are the main ways that growing in knowledge causes me to establish stronger roots. The more that I understand the culture, the better I am able to process and appreciate the differences between Russian culture and my own without being critical. The more that I have the language at my disposal, the more that my world here in Russia opens up.

I wanted to end by saying that though there is much that we can do to put down strong roots in order to thrive, we must also accept that by God’s divine plan, sometimes floods and storms do come and uproot even the most firmly rooted of plants, not to mention that sometimes The Gardener simply comes gently along and decides to move our little plant once again to new place that He’d simply prefer having us. A transplant may be permanent, or temporary, depending on the will of The Gardener, and our job is simply to try to put down those roots whenever and wherever He plants us so that we can thrive as best as possible for the time that He has us there.

What are some things that have personally helped you put down roots in your host culture? Do you relate to the ones above, or are there some that you would like to add? Are there any parts of your plant that are still needing to find a source of life? And remember, God is ultimately our source of all things! Even if the soil around you appears to be nothing but desert sand, God still has heavenly provision for your growth (and that is a whole different post)!

(Post by: Ashley)

Surviving and Thriving while Dad is Away

While my husband was away at a ministry conference a couple of weeks ago, I made a goal for myself to try to figure out how to have a fun, non-exhausting, meaningful week even though I was alone holding down the fort with all three kids.  Sometimes such weeks pass soooo slowly, but this time, with some intentionality, we had a great time!  Here were my ideas for making the week doable and even enjoyable:

1) Have fun! It’s just plain rough having to do all of the parenting work by yourself, so I tried to give my kids lots of extra reasons to be happy and fun to be around, as well as to give myself things to look forward to each day. The work doesn’t feel so hard when you’re having a good time! Your “fun” may look different than mine, but we spent lots of time with friends (the kids’ friends and mine too), made trips out for ice-cream, went to our mall with an indoor play area (since it was -20 degrees Celcius or even colder all week), and took a fun trip the toy store to spend some of the kids’ Christmas money that we had saved.

(My kids after spending their Christmas money from their great-grandma! Sorry for the poor photo quality, but my husband had our good camera!)

2) Minimize housework. I spent the couple of days before my husband left working a little extra to get the house into decent shape so I wouldn’t have to spend much time cleaning. And I also just let some tasks slide that didn’t matter to me.

3) Simple meals. I cooked larger meals for a few days before we were on our own, which meant I had lots of left overs. I then made a big pot of stew to fill in as an instant meal for visitors as well as a random lunch or dinner here or there when needed. Chicken nuggets and hot dogs also played their part!

4) Paper plates. We don’t have a dish washer, so dish-washing is always the most time consuming chore of my day. During this particular week, for several dinners we used paper plates that  I had left over from Christmas. It was so nice to just eat dinner and throw away the mess!

5) “Play and Pray!” Some friends whose husbands were also at the conference came over to our place Sunday morning with their children in place of church. Obviously, if you can manage going to church, wonderful, but in our situation it isn’t very manageable with all of our kids and without our husbands. In order to still have fellowship, we got together and did a little Bible story for the kids (my friend had the kids act out Jesus feeds the 5,000 and Jesus walks on water with toys), sang some worship songs, and then prayed with our kids. Then as the kids played, the moms and spent time talking and praying for one another. It was such a fun alternative to church!

(We had 9 great kids at our “Play and Pray!”)

6) Pray for your husband and the ministry event.  My husband was at a conference that I would have very much loved to have attended, but was unable to (with any sort of sanity) on the account of our kids. I love knowing that I can play a vital role through prayer and tried to be intentional about praying for the conference and for my husband and his various roles throughout the day.

Those were some of the things that really helped me to not just survive but honestly have a great week during my husband’s absence. What things do you do to survive and even thrive during those times when you’re left parenting on your own? Please share your ideas with us all!

(Post by: Ashley)

American Craving of the Week: Cheez-Its

I don’t know why, but I could NOT satisfy my appetite for Cheez-Its  this past Summer while we were in the US on furlough.  I didn’t even eat them all that often growing up, but I think they just tasted so familiar and 100% American that I could hardly stop eating them.

This week I have had the biggest Cheez-Its craving ever… totally insatiable.  So, I decided that I must make Cheez-Its. And I did. And they are amazing (and easy!). You should try it if you find yourself in need of a little taste of home!


I followed this recipe from at TheThinChef.com, although I used a white cheese that wasn’t low-fat instead of the recommended low-fat cheddar since we don’t have that here. They turned out great.

What is the most American craving that you’ve had recently? Have you stumbled upon any great and truly American recipes lately? Feel free to share a link or two!

(Post by: Ashley)

 

Tuesday Topic: Strengthening Love in Marriage

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I hope you and your husbands enjoy a wonderful day celebrating your love for one another! My husband is off at a ministry event tonight, giving a talk to students about true love and the gospel. I am home with the kids and looking forward to his return so we can celebrate together a little bit! It’s a bit non-traditional, but we’re making vegetarian sushi for our celebration.  Should be fun!

For today’s Tuesday Topic, what is one thing that you as a couple do or value in order to strengthen your marriage? What has helped you to grow in love for one another?

(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!)

Thank you God for the fleas…

I wanted to share this dialogue between Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, after arriving at the barracks of the Ravensbruck extermination camp in Germany during WWII: (Taken from: “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom… Thank you, Laura, for the comment that inspired me to read this book!)

“Oh yes: ‘… to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus-‘”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks.” …….

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–“

 The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas area part of this place where God has put us.”

(And as you read on further in the book, you come to learn that Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, were able to hold massive Bible studies in the sleeping quarters of their barracks without being discovered because the guards were too afraid of the fleas to enter. The fleas were what God used to allow the gospel of eternal hope to reach hundreds of women, many of whom lost their lives shortly thereafter.)

I doubt that any of us reading here are in the dire circumstances that Corrie and Betsie found themselves in, but we each certainly have our own very real and very difficult trials that threaten to steal our joy, sap our strength, and cause us to grumble. Sometimes, like for Corrie and Betsie, it is the hard realities of the places that we live that weigh us down and tempt us toward bitterness.

I write this for myself after getting unusually angry a few moments ago after scalding my hand as  boiling hot water, for the 5 millionth time, came pouring unexpectedly out of my faucet while doing the dishes.  Though this is not nearly as terrible as sleeping in flea-infested straw, it was one of those moments when I just wanted to get angry at the entire country of Russia. Thankful that I just finished reading “The Hiding Place,” and praising God for the perspective, I am choosing to repent of that anger and thank God tonight even for the water that scalds my hands at random.

Will you join me in thanking God for the hard things today, no matter how big or small? What is one hard thing that you want to thank God for in faith today? Let’s pray for one another that God would help us to thank Him even for these things.

(Post by: Ashley)

Ambassadors, Bread, Fish, and Motherhood

Have you ever struggled to believe in the value of your contribution to your ministry as a mom? This feeling will certainly differ widely among us for many reasons, but from my experience, even though I believe our whole family is called to ministry, once I finish devoting my necessary time and energy to my family, there is not a whole lot left over to pour out elsewhere, meaning that this issue has crossed my mind many times. Some older mothers have told me that it gets easier as kids get older, and from others I have heard that this is not the case. Whatever the future may hold, I know that with 3 kids ages six and under, our normal family life is busy and tiring.

Though I wholeheartedly believe that my first priority aside from abiding in Christ is to love and serve my family, as I’ve wrestled with the issue of my own personal role in ministry, I’ve become convinced that God has me here in Russia for a specific reason. Yes, probably the majority of that reason for now is to support my husband and raise my kids, but I think He has other special things here prepared for me specifically to do too!

By the simple fact that we do not live life in a vacuum but are surrounded by others in community, whether or not we have a big visible ministry responsibility, we have been given gifts and opportunities and people in our lives to purposefully invest in.  I believe that God planned and placed each of us exactly where we are for special and unique purposes.

Some of us might have official ministry roles, and some of us might have a quieter daily-life ministry of keeping our eyes open to the needs around us and looking for open doors to share Christ with friends and neighbors and shopkeepers, etc., but the fact is, we are all ambassadors for Christ! You have been entrusted with vital ministry designed just for you (or you for it), whether or not you get a paycheck with your name on it or ever organize any sort of formal event.

I think it is so important to remember that, yes, we’ve been called as a family unit to our ministries, but also very much so  as individuals to be His ambassadors wherever in the world that we are.  But do you ever find it hard to believe that you are actually contributing much of consequence? All sorts of little lies love to try to plant themselves in my mind along those lines. Things like, “You have such little time, how is anything that you have the time or energy for going to make any sort of difference?” or “With your language abilities, how are they ever going to hear the gospel fully, let alone have their hardest questions answered?” and so on.

Over the past few years, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 has taken on such dear significance to me. I feel like that is exactly what my ministry outside of my home is like at this life stage. I am that kid, with an inconsequential little sack lunch that on its own could do nothing to satisfy the appetites of that overwhelming crowd. But we all know this story so well! In Jesus’ economy, 5 loaves and 2 fishes means a filling meal for 5,000 men, plus even more women and children, and left overs for tomorrow! Why should I let the size of my offering prevent me from giving it to Jesus in faith?

I fully believe that God has given us just enough to offer back to Him to equate to nothing short of a miracle.  We may see results right away, or we may wait a lifetime and never know what was accomplished by our efforts, but we must never forget stories like the feeding of the five thousand, as well beautiful promise like this from God’s word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

God can use us to accomplish the miraculous if we humbly yet faithfully give our small offerings to Him by seeking to love our neighbors both in word and deed. The only way we cannot be fruitful is to keep our offering to ourselves, believing them too insignificant for God to use.

How have you felt about your personal call to ministry as a mother? Do you ever struggle with whether or not you are able to contribute anything of worth? What is one thing this week that you can do to offer a fish or loaf to Jesus? Be encouraged friends, God desires to work in great ways through YOU!!!

(Post by: Ashley)


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