Archive for the 'Encouragement' Category

Tearing Down High Places- Part 1

My mother-in-law died last year, just before Christmas. This year, we’ve walked through the one year anniversary of her promotion to glory. In some ways, it feels surreal. After all, it wasn’t our first time to celebrate the Savior’s birth without her presence. As missionaries serving far from our families, that is actually the norm. But we couldn’t call… or video Skype… and just knowing that Dad was facing a second Christmas without her? …it made my heart ache. It also reminds me of a heart-aching lesson the Lord taught me in that season, a lesson about the cost of gifting sacrificial love.

When we returned to our place of service in July, 2010, we knew my husband’s mother’s health was fragile; we never dreamed she’d see her Savior face to face before that Christmas. Thankfully, Tim was able to make a whirlwind trip back to the States for that Thanksgiving, spending it with his parents, and having the opportunity to say a final earthly goodbye to his mama. I know that time, while heartbreaking for the rest of us who couldn’t go and be with Mom/Grandma, was a treasured and precious time for both my husband and his parents.

While he was gone, I started scheming. Our 16th wedding anniversary was coming up shortly after his return… We hadn’t gone away together, just the two of us, for over 8 years… A friend volunteered to take our kids for the weekend, to let us get away to a lovely-for-West-Africa little resort literally just minutes away from our house for the weekend… Offers like that don’t grow on trees! What’s more? We actually had a bit of surplus in the budget and could afford to retreat, together…

As I said, I started scheming… dreaming… anticipating time… just the two of us… after some very long, difficult and stressful weeks apart. I was excited; friends were excited for me – for us. Raising eight children – the youngest of which was just winding up nursing – busy lives, and a limited budget? That meant that those sorts of opportunities truly were few and far between. Then factor in the reality that even thinking about all the prep work required to leave this family often discourages any desire to do so. But this time? I was more than ready. One night, while chatting on-line, I quietly typed these dreamy ideas to Tim as our littlest one slept on my lap, sweet little hands cupping my face. He seemed as excited about this little get-away as I was… and I couldn’t wait for him to be home.

Literally, just days after he left the States and returned to Niger, his mother’s situation turned critical.  It was not long before the decision was made to remove one of the gentlest, sweetest women I’ve ever known from life support. Tim was devastated… we all were… There’d been unexpected moments of hope- talk of transplants and even some plans for the future. So, while not unexpected, reality still seized us by surprise, accosting our already aching hearts.  We couldn’t afford another trip home that quickly for him to attend her funeral. As Tim grieved, he started talking about wanting to just get away from the city, away from all of the people asking him how he was doing and the well-meaning but sorrowful, sympathetic looks directed his way. He wanted to take our older children to a wild game park/reserve and just camp out for 2 or 3 days, accomplishing in his mind two things: 1) escape and time alone with his big kids who are much better than his wife at living in, enjoying… the present moment and 2) scoping the place out and seeing if it might be a place we could vacation as a family.

If he took this camping trip, however, our just-the-two-of-us-get-away simply wouldn’t… couldn’t… happen. He decided – and it wasn’t the decision I wanted.

I was hurt. Hurt soon turned to anger.

I sullenly nursed anger and wounded pride (After all, what would I say to all those friends with husbands who would never choose something over a weekend away with their gal?) until a still small voice gently confronted me, stopping me in my internal foot-stomping tracks and prolific self-pity party. The Holy Spirit pointed out that my hurt-turned-angry feelings sprang from jealousy more than anything else. I had wanted to be the one Tim turned to in his grief. I wanted him to need me above all else, to choose me as the one upon whom he’d lean. In reality, he was telling me he needed time alone and away with THE Comforter. That truth should have delighted my heart… but it didn’t.

So what do we wives do when the Lord shows us that we’ve tried to set ourselves up as our husband’s idol, expecting our man to have needs met by us when he should be running first to God? In the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to tear down and destroy high places tempting idol worship. (Deuteronomy 12:1-5 is an example.) The word translated tear down is, in other places, also translated “utterly destroy,” “obliterate,” “make perish completely…”  I see no other choice than to choose to die to self and free my husband from this subtly insidious expectation that he worship, adore and run to me first and foremost. To love well, I must obliterate that idolatrous construction of my expectations for what our marriage and our friendship… our relationship… will look like.

It is one thing to recognize that you have “high places” – areas that tempt you to worship someone or something other than God. It is another to realize, as you examine your life, that the Holy Spirit is gently pointing out high places I have constructed for my husband… my children… my friends, etc.?  

Might He be showing you one or two?

If so, how do we go about tearing down those places?

(Post by: Richelle)

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Jesus loves me, this I know…

Sometime the tiniest gestures are what make me feel especially loved by my husband. Perhaps it’s a little love note left on the bathroom mirror, or him coming home with a piece of my favorite lemon pie or the cactus-lime juice that I so enjoy, or his chivalry when he offers to lift or carry something for me even though I could do it myself. Those little moments display his love, attentive care, and desires to bless me, and I feel so loved!

The other day I had a silly little moment that made me feel loved by God in that same sort of way. I found not just one, but two varieties of coffee yogurt at our local grocery store! It felt as if God was leaving me a little metaphorical love note since coffee yogurt has been one of my favorite breakfast foods since childhood and is something that I never expected to find here in Russia. Who in America even likes coffee yogurt other than me?!  I texted my husband a note saying, “Jesus loves me! I just found two kinds of coffee yogurt here at the store!” and as silly as it sounds, I really felt in that moment that Jesus was showing me the depth of his intimate care, even down to the tiniest detail of sending my favorite breakfast food all the way here to Russia.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17… Certainly this verse relates to deeper things than coffee yogurt at a grocery store in Russia, but those tiny things often speak so loudly of the ultimate gift of His love perfect love for us

In what ways has God recently shown you His attentive and intimate love for you personally?

(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)

Tuesday Topic: Encouragment from the Word

From Noelle in Kenya:  What Bible verse has strengthened or encouraged you the most during your time as a missionary mom? I have had chronic tummy problems since moving overseas, and am looking for some perspective and encouragement from God’s Word. Thanks!

(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!)

Guest post: Serving From the Mess

My little girl crawled behind me as I ran into the kitchen to grab a piece of bread to give her for an improvised breakfast. I wanted to keep running—from my own stench. But I supposed I should return to my surprise guests who caught me finishing up an early morning workout.

My 3-year-old son saw the bread and wanted one, too. So, I excused myself again to get one for him, looking longingly at the bathroom—its promise of cleanliness calling out to me.

I returned, and smiled, though the sweat rings were still wet on my t-shirt, and my hair was plastered all greasy and sweaty on my head. I racked my brain for the polite thing to do in this culture. Excuse myself for 10 minutes so I could shower and just hope the kids don’t cry and pound on the bathroom door like they often do? Excuse myself for five minutes to change into the more appropriate long pants and long-sleeved shirt, and run a comb through my hair? Excuse myself for 30 seconds to go scream my embarrassment in a locked room?

But nothing felt right and they didn’t teach me what to do with 7 a.m. visitors in language school. And so I sat in my smelliness, hoping my guests had stuffed noses.

They must not have minded because they stayed for a couple of hours and we had one of the best conversations I’ve had since moving to Indonesia six years ago. Though we differ in our religions, we talked about beliefs and life and struggles and faith.

To be completely honest, even when I get a shower in, I spend my days here messy. Sweaty from the relentless tropical humidity. Covered in spit-up or sticky granola or flour from making bread. Confused at words I don’t yet know. Annoyed at something that goes wrong, then annoyed that I’m annoyed since I really want to face all this with grace.

My kids are sometimes fussy, or rude, or just shy. And I am sometimes fussy, and rude or just shy. And though some cultural stress eases as the years pass, I have managed to counter balance that with extra challenges of having kids, and therefore, multiplying all that mess.

And yet… when I learn to serve out of the messiness and receive the grace I wish I always gave, I live the Gospel Truth in its purest essence. When I open my home up to others, even when dinner is boiling over on the stove, I am demonstrating the importance of relationship over works. When I share my struggles, my own heartbreaks with those whose own souls hurt daily, I show the need we all have for a Heart Healer. When I act from my own sin, then return, humbly seeking forgiveness, I seek what I want to offer others—a second chance…and a third one and a fourth.

And I pray that His aroma overcomes my own stench; His grace shows through my need; and His plan is made perfect despite, and maybe just maybe, through all my messiness.

What does messiness look like in your life? What has it looked like for you to strive to continue to serve from the mess?

Rebecca Hopkins lives in Indonesia with her handsome Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot hubby and two cute kids. She blogs about Living for More in a World of Less at www.borneowife.blogspot.com .

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)

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

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