February 15, 2018

We are family!

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Noah, Jacob, Ellie, Me and Jenny Beth, Feb 2012

I’ve often written about expat life and the hardships that come along with this life style. However, this post is not about hardships. It’s about community and how people have circled up to help the kids and me. Ben has been gone for two weeks now, and still has two more to go. He is consultant checking the books of James and Mark in nine languages, while I have stayed here at Ukarumpa with the kids as it was too soon after furlough to put our teens in the hostel and take the little ones out for a village stay.

I haven’t had a chance to feel overwhelmed or lonely or sorry for myself because our community has been here for me. From phone calls checking in, offers of childcare and meals, help with fixing our dog run, to the chief helicopter pilot arranging for Ben to make it back a week early in time for Noah’s play, the feeling of being part of a community has really made these two weeks go by quickly. I am not saying that everything is easy, but I am grateful for all of the little and big things that people do for me. I am a fairly independent person and it’s not easy to accept help. However, in doing so, I remember how much joy it gives me when I am able to help out a friend. And so the circle of giving keeps going here, over and over, time and time again. All of us expats are separated from relatives in our home countries and so part of the thriving happens when we stand in for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I know that this is a treasure I sometimes take for granted but for today (and hopefully future ones), I am full of gratitude.

Furthermore, I am grateful for the people whose jobs directly impact me and my family. These hardworking  missionaries and Papua New Guineans are running the schools, flying and fixing aircraft, fixing computers, stocking the store, keeping our internet running (oh how wonderful it was to talk to my college aged son yesterday!!) arranging for visas and passport renewals, and countless other jobs. All of these people are here to see the work of Bible translation going on in Papua New Guinea. So thank you from our family, and from the people of the Aitape West for your service.

I can’t finish here without mentioning our partners, friends and family back home. When I think about the host of people who are keenly invested in our work and in the lives of the other missionaries here, it is overwhelming.  You are an important part of the picture, so thank you.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 

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February 6, 2018

Shifting

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(above) Ben and 2 year old Ellie.

Ben has left for Arop village, where he is consultant checking James and Mark with our teammate John. Since we only arrived back in PNG three weeks ago, I decided to stay here with the kids. It always takes a little distance from Ben to realize how much we do together and how much I rely on him for daily things. For instance, he always puts our twins to bed, ever since they were babies. I also rely on him to calmly talk through an episode where one of the kids is “cracking it” (a helpful phrase I picked up from my Aussie friends) Yesterday after a minor altercation with her brother, Jenny Beth declared she was NOT going to school. I had forgotten in that moment that Ben was gone and was about to call for him, and realized that this was my job to handle.  Thankfully we were able to talk and pray together, and she was fine with going to school. I don’t know if I would have realized that if Ben were still here because my instinct is to let him handle the big conflicts because he’s so good at it, and ….let’s just be honest, it’s hard and unpredictable and messy.

I have had a lifetime of pushing down negative emotions for fear that at some point, they will take over and I’ll really crack it. It’s a conditioning that I learned in childhood to keep going on no matter how many things came at me. Last week before Ben left, I realized that I didn’t want to always keep being the good soldier. I don’t always want to live in fear of other people’s expectations or measuring myself against their moral muscle (see Romans 8 below). I want to be able to say that I’m struggling without feeling like it’s a weakness. I want to admit that yes, I do need my husband and partner especially in the area of parenting our five children. I want to embrace the true freedom of walking in the Spirit. I have found a lot of freedom in this shifting, admitting I can’t do it all on my own, and knowing there’s a Father who knows exactly what I’m going through. I love the way The Message puts this,

Romans 8:5-8
 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

I love this whole chapter and urge you to read it for yourself, but here’s another couple of verses that stood out to me,

Romans 8:12-17
So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

It’s not a grave-tending life. Amen!

January 29, 2018

Rusty Ole Missionary

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As many of you know, we spent the last six months in Spring Hill, Tennessee, USA,  to help our oldest son transition to life in the U.S. It was a fairly big undertaking, to uproot our family for that period of time, but we haven’t regretted the decision to do this. We feel satisfied that he is doing well with college life and adulthood.

Thoughts on returning to the field after a six month absence…
I realize my experience isn’t unique, in some ways, as many of my fellow missionaries have come and gone from their place of assignment, only to feel the gears inside them noisily turning to adjust to being back. Papua New Guinea is home to our family. We wholeheartedly embraced the land and culture here in 2002, and haven’t looked back. At the same time, we have had trips away, and each time the process of transitioning hits us painfully. It’s a costly venture, this twisting and turning and questioning the space and longing for the stability that seems elusive. All of this has been compounded by dealing with grief of losing one of the most important people in my life, and I’m finding this transition to be the most challenging and painful one so far.

The first week of our return, I hiked up and down my porch stairs hanging up laundry multiple times per day. Although I was grateful to have a covered space to hang out everything, I inwardly groaned because every muscle in my body ached from the exertion. This should tell you how much exercising I did on furlough… little to none!  Added to the physical adjustments, my mind felt like an empty balloon. One of my friends called and was asking me some very simple questions and I couldn’t even answer her. It made us laugh later but was an ‘aha!’ moment… yep. I’m not running on all cylinders as they say.  Then there was that time when I overreacted emotionally… actually it was more than once!

Added to all of that was the great feeling of being back amongst our community. After six months of not living in close proximity to friends, it felt extremely refreshing to see our loved ones again. The youth directors rented two vans for friends and teens to come to the airstrip to greet us, what a feeling to step off the plane and hug so many friends!  The friendships that we have here are deep and comfortable. Ben and I sat in complete gratitude to be back with our small group, knowing that this was a safe place for us to just be ourselves, without having to justify or explain who we are. It felt good to be amongst people who were sincerely interested and invested in us. The years we have spent in that group have paid off a million times over.  Similarly, other close friends have also circled up and welcomed me back, giving me a chance to debrief and process while also sharing their last six months with me.  To say I’m grateful is minimizing the feeling… it’s much more than that.

Along with the joy of seeing loved ones again comes the challenges of community. There is the question of when to speak up in love or when to stay silent. I am sure it’s the same anywhere, but perhaps more intense here in a small community where we have people from many cultures and denominational backgrounds.

Before I left the U.S., a friend gave me ‘Of Mess and Moxie,” by Jen Hatmaker, and yesterday I read this timely advice from Hatmaker

We listen sincerely, we don’t just reload while someone else’s mouth is moving. Dialogue is easily spooked, so you must be vigilant against fear, dismissal, manipulation and apathy—true enemies of safe dialogue.  You’ll feel it at first, deep down, the urge to rebut, rebuke, refute. It will be a cold rock in your gut, tempting you to correct or disagree, or to be offended and center yourself in that person’s story. But that instinct can be overcome, and the results of someone feeling heard and respected are immediate and palpable. It takes a fairly high level of humility, empathy, and courage to keep a space open and healthy. It’s a developed skill that takes practice. To me, that is what love looks and feels like. (p. 81)

My biggest problem is that I want to add something, anything to make a person feel better when she’s pouring out her heart to me. But as my training in debriefing has taught me, the best way to help someone is to listen and not put myself into her story. I struggle especially with my older kids in this area because I want to fix them so badly. I realize that they need my love and empathy more than my fear that something bad will happen if I don’t say the right thing. That’s what I’m rusty on, and where I’m wanting to grease my squeaky gears so that I can be the kind of friend and mother who offers safety and love.

And so we press on…

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14

May 14, 2017

A New Kind of Transition

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(above) Noah, Joe and Jacob after the school play “Almost, Maine!”

Transition is this wildly unpredictable Thing that happens constantly to us. In our 20 years of marriage, we’ve lived in over 10 different locations in three different countries. We travel between our village home and Ukarumpa home 3-4 times a year when we are in PNG.  We’ve done the Moving Transition many  times and we usually know what’s coming…

a week of chaos and misery on either end
challenging travel
lots of preparation (food, homeschooling materials, computer updates)
anxiety and stress
heightened emotions
goodbyes and grieving
reverse culture stress

and

anticipation of seeing friends again
a chance to use the transition for good (and reestablish good habits)
purging and try to make a stab at a more simple existence (this has been elusive, but without transitions it would be completely unattainable).

However, we are now at the precipice of a transition we’ve never had before: launching Josiah into his new life as a college student/adult. In the past two years, he has proven that he’s ready for this. He capably makes all of his own decisions and manages his own schedule. He processes hard questions in an emotionally intelligent way. We’ve raised him, and the rest of his life is up to him.

But, as with most transitions, this one comes with plethora of emotions and sometimes they come all at once. At other times, there is just an overwhelming amount of one or another. If I had a picture for my emotions at this point, it would look like a child’s scribble. Lots and lots of colors. No real pattern. No easy answers.

In the past decade, I’ve worked hard to notice my emotions, be authentic and tell the truth to others. However, there is still the stubborn independent part of me who refuses to allow negative emotions to surface or to tell the truth to myself.  One of my best friends has noted that if I say “I’m okay” enough times, it’s an indication that I’m really not. So as this transition for our first child to college begins, I’m admitting to myself that I’m sad.  But alongside the sad comes other emotions: happy, excited, proud. I have moments where I think my heart is going to burst when all five of my children are together, laughing, giving advice to each other and debriefing their days. I know that in a little less than 9 months, we’ll be be back here in PNG with only 4 kids around our table.

Joe’s a grown man, I know that. But there’s a bit of loss that comes with this transition that is more costly than the others we’ve experienced thus far in our missionary career. We’re preparing for all the lasts for a while: last birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and most of all what I’ll miss is the daily sight of him and being able to know how The Things in his life are going.  I’ll miss making his favorite meals for him and trying to trick him into eating breakfast.

But, most of all, I want to savor the time we’ve got left, and be thankful for the opportunity we have to have a short furlough to get him settled into his passport country.  I’m thankful he’s going to a school that has the degree he feels called to study, and that he has family and friends who will look after him when we can’t be there for him.

In the quiet moments when I start to feel sad, I want to focus on these words of David:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

These nine words are what keep me from being a perpetual martyr. I don’t need to feel sorry for myself, because God is GOOD. He will sustain us through this next transition, as He has done through every single other one. He’s got Joe, as He’s often reminded me. He’s our counselor, comforter and friend, and as we mourn, He will lift us up.

He is Good.

He’s got this.

September 6, 2016

Vulnerability and Telling the Truth

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I used to have a hard time telling the truth, especially if it had the potential to cause someone to be unhappy with me.  I couldn’t reconcile the command to “speak the truth” with the “in love” part. So often in Christian circles the “love” part is emphasized but we don’t call each other out because we want to avoid shame to the other person or to ourselves.  I have also seen many people hurt by immovable idealists.  What I mean is people who think they are telling the truth but really are dogmatic in their own beliefs and unwilling to hear other points of view. The tension of living cross culturally is that you are always going to run into someone who makes different choices. It’s the lack of grace that makes people feel like they’ve been thrown into the gutter. I’ve been thrown into the gutter and I know I’ve been guilty of throwing others in. That’s the hard thing about being human…we will hurt each other. But if we can’t talk about it, there’s no way to move forward.

I began boundaries training with my friend Kay many years ago, and it started with me approaching strangers politely asking for more cream in my coffee, or asking for something in the store that wasn’t on the shelf. This progressed to me saying that I had to think about an invitation or request before saying “yes” or “no” to them.  It meant listening to the Holy Spirit (and to my heart instead of denying my thoughts and feelings as I was conditioned to do) and facing my paralyzing fear of disappointing people. I had to keep asking myself “what if I say ‘no’ to …….?” what could happen? (For example: she could get mad. I might lose a friend. I won’t die. I might be able to say ‘no’ more easily next time.) And “am I responsible for ………’s response?” (nope!) I had to remind myself that I have value (and so does the other person) and to say “yes” when I really mean “no” is a way of devaluing myself (or my family). Often I find that the fallout extends to my husband and kids as well as myself.

What I learned was that I needed to accept the consequences of telling the truth and practice it, even if it meant that it cost me something. No longer would I be angry at someone for asking me for a favor. Because it was my responsibility to respond appropriately. I can’t say the gut wrenching feelings ended with me learning to speak truthfully/honestly, but I think they have subsided some as I’ve put what Kay taught me into practice.

Telling the truth means that there will be personal consequences. Here’s where the vulnerability comes in. It’s a risk to tell the truth. Someone won’t like what I said. We might have completely different ideas of what is “respectful” behavior or even what is normal. Or, sometimes I get it wrong by the story I told myself about what happened. Sometimes I confront on my own strength without seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sometimes the thing I said gets blown out of proportion and the thing I was hoping to convey gets lost in the conflict. Another result is that I’ve said my peace and there is no response or worse, a hostile one. At that point, I can choose to stop engaging with the crazy. I usually conclude in the end that I’m glad I said something because it’s worth it not to allow myself to be victimized. My previous efforts to be ‘nice’ damaged me because I lived in a constant state of fear of making people unhappy. In his book, ‘When Panic Attacks’, David Burns writes, “If you show me a hundred people who are anxious, I’ll show you a hundred of the nicest people you ever met!”

One of my friends tells the truth unapologetically. She has no problem approaching others to find out what really happened, and I think she’s really good at diffusing a situation that could get ugly. The reason I find safety in our friendship (and others like it) is that I know she’s going to tell me the truth every time. We don’t have to agree on everything but we both know each other’s hearts so we can assume good intentions right from the start.

It took time to build up our friendship and trust each other. She would never put me above her family or relationship with her husband and nor would she expect me to do that for her. We both have other close friends and freely expect each other to spend time with them. When I’m with her, it’s common for her to share with me what she’s studying in the Scriptures. Her desire to grow spiritually is infectious.  Also, she makes me laugh. I don’t have time for emotional games or drama in friendships, because I am stretched with all that I’m called to do here (wife, mother, teammate, etc.) I have several friendships here like this, where there are no ‘shoulds’ or guilt trips and for that I’m really thankful!

Living in community means more opportunities for truth telling and for loving confrontation.

 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending  life, the real life! ( The Message, Jude 20-21)

May 9, 2016

Bitterness and Rest

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I find it really hard to admit that I’ve been hurt by another human being. I might joke about it or rant, or even numb my feelings (since this is my default for dealing with negative emotions.) Part of it is trying to avoid the shame of what has happened or has been done to me, or the shame that I let someone get close enough to hurt me. (My battle with unholy shame is a story for another day.) I also feel the weight of my ministry calling, and I have a strong belief that the gospel compels me to love my God and my neighbor. The easiest thing for me to do is deny or minimize antagonistic feelings towards another person. The problem is that the hurt turns into bitterness, which then turns into anger. Although I may have numbed the emotions temporarily, they are like an ulcer that grows and poisons my spirit. I know I’ve gotten to this point when any mention or thought of the person results in me obsessively thinking about the impact the other person has had on me or others.

In the past, I’ve prayed about the bitterness and anger that rooted themselves in my heart.. The hardest thing about it is living with the tension of the conflict that I can’t fix. Some conflicts, in my opinion, will not resolve without the Holy Spirit’s intervention…it’s not up to me. I’ve spoken the truth in love, but ended up becoming a target because of that. Even though I’ve prayed, I still have to live with the emotion, day in, day out, month by month. It’s something I continually need to bring before the Lord. I also tend to complain to God, “why did you ask me to tell the truth?” The reply is, “I gave you a heart for justice. I want you to trust Me for the consequences because I’m walking with you.”

At the same time, I’ve been doing a word study on the word rest. All over the Old Testament, I find verses about God giving the Israelites rest from their enemies.

Like here

But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. 1 Kings 5:4 (MSG)

and here

Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.           1 Kings 8:56 (MSG)

I feel like I am entering a place of rest, too, because what needed to be said was said. And yet, sometimes forgiveness eludes me as much as I have prayed for it. Bitterness impacts me deeply and hinders me from caring for others (my primary job at the moment) and having joy in my daily life. I really like what this article from Psychology Today says,

Consider that if you obsessively ruminate on the righteousness of your anger, your wrath will only become further inflamed. For it exists in the first place to mask your underlying emotional distress by prompting you to focus not on the personal injury you’ve suffered—and certainly not on what you need to do to heal that hurt—but on the one who so wronged you. Besides, you don’t really have any control over the other person.

I read Psalms 55 as part of my ‘Read through the Bible in One Year’ plan, and this jumped out at me,

This isn’t the neighborhood bully
    mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
    invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
    You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
    arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation. Psalm 55:12-14 (MSG)

I don’t see much in the way of David forgiving his enemies in this Psalm, but here he acknowledges the depth of friendship that he had with his enemy. It’s easier to overlook the insults and hurtful actions of someone who isn’t a family member, colleague or close friend. I don’t have as much to lose with a stranger.

And here, David mentions the other people hurt by his enemy:

And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I’ve been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he’d turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart. Psalm 55:20-21 (MSG)

Here in the trenches of missionary life, secondary trauma is common. Our relationships go deep, and so we hurt when our friends hurt. We grieve and feel each other’s pain. I will readily admit to obsessing over my friend’s issues even more than my own (and believe me, I know it’s not healthy!!) It means that I have to forgive in a secondary way, even for things that were not done to me directly.

I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but God’s Word is the spiritual food I needed today, to accept the state of rest I’m in, and to grieve the injustices that I (and my friends) have encountered. After all, Jesus says,

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

March 15, 2016

His Strength is Perfect

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I took this on Saturday on the road to Lae, normally a 3 hour drive away. Impossible to cross? No, thanks to our friend’s all wheel drive car. Difficult? Scary? Yes.

His Strength Is Perfect
I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me?
No great success to show, no glory on my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

We can only know the power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins, where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect

–Steven Curtis Chapman

Since I revealed my struggle with anxiety and depression a few weeks ago, I have heard verbally and electronically from many other expats that they struggle with similar issues. This morning, I read through an update from a colleague that I had met as a teenager. His life has been full of physical hardship, sickness, loss and grief. He also suffered alongside the people he served as they faced persecution and even the threat of losing their lives for following Jesus. Throughout the email, he emphasized the power of prayer and praised God for the believers who exist now because of the translated Word of God’s transforming power.

How does this relate to me, as I plan for our next village stay? Those who have gone before us in extremely difficult circumstances and yet remained faithful are the encouragement I needed to persevere today. My colleague’s experience challenges me to look to our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father. This isn’t something I am able to do on my own. I might as well pack it up and go back to the U.S., where my kids could see their grandparents regularly, I wouldn’t have to hang out my laundry, cook everything from scratch and to deal with the cross cultural and relational stress our family regularly experiences along with this life . No, I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength, as the song I quoted above says. [I want to emphasize, too, that God has used the songs and verses I learned as a child innumerable times during my career as a missionary.]

My prayer today is,

Lord, in my weakness show your strength. Use me for your glory and help me to be your instrument in everything I do today.


March 11, 2016

“I’ve got this.”

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(above) The flowers in our village and here in Ukarumpa lure a multitude of butterflies so I rarely go a day without seeing several. Each time I see one, it is a reminder to me of God’s love for me and of his transforming grace. They often appear at times when I need encouragement the most, or when the daily grind of the mundane has me teetering on the ledge of self pity…

Periodically, I encounter the “what if’s.”

  • There’s a decision we need to make about our near future. What if we make the wrong decision?
  • Ben and I are leaving for the weekend. What if one of our children needs a medevac while we are gone? What if the little ones end up being a lot to handle for their aunties who have kindly offered to look after them?
  • Our son is researching colleges and universities. What if we don’t know how to best help him with this process?
  • There are often concerns in the missionary community where we live. What if the truth gets minimized or buried?
  • We encounter needs and important tasks for our our project and family life: what if we can’t handle it and end up burned out again?

These are just a few of questions swirling around (incidentally, it actually helps to get them out of my head an write them down because some of them I wasn’t even aware of until just now!)

This morning, I fed my soul with God’s Word. Comfort and direction come without fail. Here’s what I read today:

Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off. Proverbs 13: 11 (The Message)

My coffee is cold, vegetables waiting to be soaked, bread dough is unmade….but I can’t give up.

I read Acts 22-23 as well as all of Proverbs 13 and once again felt encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I may not hear an audible voice as the Apostle Paul did at times, but I do receive clear direction from the Word and from the Voice speaking to my heart. I’ve come to rely on it, so much that it’s easy to discern it from my own thoughts.

But here’s the difficulty. I know I need Quiet to hear. I know I need Solitude. Yet, as a missionary, mom of five, and wife to Ben, I feel like I can barely remember to brush my hair sometimes, much less sit down with my Bible. The crazy seems to be hiding in the next room and being quiet is often a luxury I don’t give myself. I’ve come to realize, however, that spiritual food is as necessary to me as physical food. My awareness of God in everything and worship is also as necessary as me being conscious of my ‘to do’ list.

That night the Master appeared to Paul: ‘It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best.’ Acts 23:11 (The Message)

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….to me, the Master says, “I’ve got this.”

 

February 15, 2016

In Sickness and in Health

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Valentine’s Day in the village is a little anti climactic in a way…nowhere to go for a date night, buy chocolate or other gifts. However, when I got up, Ben had already made coffee and since it was Sunday, he and I ate homemade granola together (made by a lovely friend before we left Ukarumpa). On other days, I start the day off rehydrating vegetables, plan out the homeschooling activities, and Ben goes to devotions with the translation team.

But my favorite part of Valentine’s Day came in the evening. One of our translators came asking for prayer for his sick wife. Often when the men come for prayer, they ask for Ben…but he specifically asked for both of us.

We sat across the table as he told us about his wife’s illness, both of us full of emotion and empathy for this man whose wife is a 4 hour walk away, through jungle roads. He told us that he had talked to her and he said many times, “mi laikim em tru!” (I love her very much!) Not being medical professionals, we had no idea what the symptoms meant, but it sounded serious to us.

Ben picked up on a key anxiety our friend had, even though he hadn’t said it explicitly. Did she get sick because of something he or she had done, or because of some problems they had? Or, did someone work magic to cause it? Here in PNG, the cultural perspective is that there is always a reason behind illness or death. People suspect that something or someone has caused this to happen. Ben said, “I know that here, you all have the cultural perspective that sickness happens as a result of problems or someone deliberately caused it. But this isn’t always the case.” He shared story of the blind man….

 The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”  He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.  John 9:2-8 The Message

Ben explained that illness doesn’t necessarily mean that they had done anything wrong, and our friend’s face changed from grief and worry to one of relief and joy. I told him that if he wanted to go and take his wife to the hospital in town, we would support him, because, although the work of translation is important, his wife and family are even more so. Ben confirmed what I said, and added that he would stand up for our friend if anyone said anything about him leaving. Also, he added that we would leave the decision in his hands. We both prayed and I sat there, taking it in, feeling like this was the best way to spend Valentine’s Day with Ben.

 

February 10, 2016

Nothing is wasted…

by mendibpng

2016-02-10 10.24.44.jpg

Nothing is wasted,” says Brene’ Brown, in her book, ‘Rising Strong.’ Those words marinated in my heart and mind for he past week. Why would they be so important? And, after so many months, why would I take up blogging again?

Regrets:

The girl/teenager/young woman Me was a person who, though unusually resilient, (according to a counselor who knows me well) was an extremely numb people pleaser. Sometimes I cringe thinking about what I was like back then.

The expat life:

I’ve covered topics like transition, culture stress, living in community, parenting and marriage here on this blog. What if I had known earlier what I know now about myself and boundaries? Would I have been able to bypass some of the grief and pain?

Goodbyes:

This one is a hard one. We have extraordinarily deep friendships with our missionary friends and colleagues. I have heard it said that this is not only due to a common purpose and sacrifice, (leaving behind the comforts of our home countries) but it’s also because we live and work in the trenches together. We don’t have our family around in times of crisis or trauma, but we do have our expat friends and colleagues. Also, since we live in community, we do life together easily. The longer we stay overseas, the more of these precious friends are led elsewhere. It is an intense grief that I have talked about here. So, why invest in people if the parting will bring such grief?

And now to the reason I have had a break from blogging. While we were on furlough last year, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My main symptom was extreme fatigue….until I sat through several hours of testing, and we were surprised by the severity of my depression and anxiety.  While we were overseas, I knew I was not well and so I began doing everything I could to get better….exercise regularly, take vitamin B tablets, cut out sugar (but not coffee!) and practice good boundaries. I saw a doctor who ordered tests for my blood sugar and thyroid, and those checked out fine. What he didn’t know was, both my husband and I were burned out and that resiliency was used up. My furlough doctor described it as ‘air in my tires.’ I began taking medication to help me sleep and also to ‘get the air back in my tires.’ Ben went to every appointment and completely supportive me. By the time we were ready to go back overseas, I was taking meds that I felt good on, and we had strategies in place to ensure that we wouldn’t end up in burnout again. The single thing that haunted me once the meds began to make a difference in my ability to thrive was, why didn’t I pursue this earlier? What if it all started with adrenaline depletion and post partum depression after having the twins five years before?

Fast forward now to today. We arrived back in country, and we poured ourselves into our family and into team building. We navigated some devastating news of friends leaving, worked through some difficult issues in an expat relationship, and helped our kids transition back to life here. I decided to focus on living in the moment.

Brene’ Brown also said this in her book ‘Rising Strong.’ (I can relate to this because of being in boarding school self at age six, this is NOT how my family operates)

You were raised in an environment where emotion was minimized, seen as weakness, invalidated, shut down, perceived as wasteful (e.g., crying won’t help), or even punished, then giving yourself permission to feel, recognize, and explore may be a bigger challenge. You might be the first person in your life to grant yourself the permission you need to experience emotion. If you’re worried that giving permission to experience and engage with emotion will turn you into something you’re not or someone you don’t want to become— it won’t. It will, however, give you the opportunity to be your most authentic self. We are wired to be emotional beings. When that part of us is shut down, we’re not whole.

I don’t know the answers to the questions of why I went through so many things as a child, or had to face myself now, instead of early on in my career in missions. But those words from Brene’ reminded me that the broken pieces exist for a reason. I don’t need to go on as if my history is not important to who I’ve become today.

I’ll end with truth from God’s Word:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15New International Version (NIV)A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2     a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot, and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6     a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7     a time to tear and a time to mend,

and a time to speak,

8     a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; no one can fahom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for people to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat or drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  13 know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

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