Confessions of a missionary wife: inner voices and building altars

by mendibpng

About eight months ago, I sat under my mosquito net on my bed (my one place of refuge in our village house) feeling pretty overwhelmed and lost. I looked at all the things I did every day and felt like I couldn’t do anything well. I would drag myself out of bed only to retreat to it as soon as I completed my ‘mom’ duties each day. In a word, I felt miserable. The causes are complicated and difficult to explain in concrete terms but I think it boiled down to me trying to navigate being a wife, mother, missionary and friend all alone. I pictured myself on an empty island. By myself. Daily I was being poured out, piece by piece, and never having the time or energy to put me back together. Every meltdown I had in the privacy of my room took me a step closer to burnout, and I couldn’t fix myself anymore.

It took hours of talking with Ben and others to figure out what I really really wanted. Purpose. Inner Peace. I read a book that one of our churches sent to us called “Pathway to Purpose” and all of a sudden it clicked. I needed something to hang on to…something that tied it all together. I started praying that God would show me His purpose for my life: what it was that I needed to walk in obedience to Him and love it at the same time? He showed me that I needed to stop ignoring myself. In the busy-ness of caring for others, I let myself get poured out to the point that I didn’t know who I was anymore.

So in the months that followed, I’ve tried to notice more, speak up for myself if needed and (gulp!) ask for help if needed. Part of that meant battening down the boundaries with my kids and requiring more from them. I’ve been praying for their character growth and asking God to help me teach them things like self sufficiency (anti-entitlement), humility, gratitude and serving others. I realize now that doing everything for my kids isn’t really the way I want to love them. This applies no only to my kids but also my husband. It turns out, he’s been willing and able to help me: I just made it look like I didn’t need anything from him. It’s a little hard to admit I can’t do everything myself, but I’m finding that I love doing things with him together and relying on his expertise and strength. That man doesn’t give up when something is hard. Never. (just look at our water tank that he has fixed FIVE times!)

I’ve dabbled in these ideas for years now, but only since that time 8 months ago have I really started choosing to listen to my inner voices.

The result? I am not sure yet…practically speaking I’m adjusting and growing. We as a family try to speak truth in love and to be authentic here. I’m looking for ways to navigate the chaos and find inner rest by trusting my feelings rather than ignoring them. I still struggle with compulsive caregiving and neglecting myself but I think I’m catching myself more quickly than before. I don’t always feel happy all the time (which is ok!) but Jesus is giving me that inner peace that I wanted so badly. I’ll end with a poem that I love that caused me to build the altar all the months ago.

Building an Altar

I have not listened
to my inner voices,

I have trampled
on sacred ground

I have chosen to tie up
the strong woman

and allowed my house
to be robbed.

Let this place be marked

I will gather stones,
heavy and rough edged,
and build an altar, here,
at this place in my life,

to honor the Spirit
who has led me

to this sacred ground where
the strong woman listens

to her Inner voices.

Carol Tyx (in May/June 1991 issue of Daughters of Sarah)


10 Comments to “Confessions of a missionary wife: inner voices and building altars”

  1. Bless you, M, for your transparency!! Oh, how this hits home with me and, I’m sure, so many others will resonate with it as well. Love you!

  2. You’ve been in my Prayers, right along with my nephew Christopher and his wife Darlene and their kids.

    I Really Appreciate your openness and honesty and sharing. I just retired from a 50 yr. career in Nursing; I understand the “compulsive caregiving” bit 🙂

    You’re running the race well! And I’m cheering you on.

    Sent from my iPad

    • Thank you Susan for stopping by. Yes, I can imagine that being in nursing for 50 years could put you at risk for burnout…glad that you are retired and hope that you have a break for now. Yes, I know Christopher and Darlene…sometimes he flies us to our village! thank you for the encouragement.

  3. It’s beautiful soul work you are doing, Mandy. All your conclusions are God led. The family-wide journey in God for your health and joy will end up in a big payoff for each and every one. Caregiving is a beautiful outgrowth of Holy Spirit compassion. But you are learning to exercise it within humanoid boundaries….knowing none of us is divine. God alive and and your wonderful family are with you. Receive afresh His love and peace for you. xxoo Mom

  4. LOVE you and the way you pour deeply from yourself. Yes, it’s a struggle to find balance I know, but your gushing generosity and caring and willingness to be vulnerable and take risks gives me the swift kick in the pants I need. You, Carrie and Kristen are my motivators!!!

  5. Mandy, I can relate to your level of exhaustion and service…and the struggle to request/equip/instruct/discipline others to step in and come alongside. This note is from Mary Walker, missionary rep in the Bridges class at Wheaton Bible Church. When you have a moment — ha!! — could you please ask Ben, I guess, to respond to my request on Facebook to friend me –> I am pathetic when it comes to navigating Facebook, afraid I’ll get sucked in and never accomplish anything at home. HOWEVER, I have requested several missionaries to Friend me, so that I can get their updates — for myself AND for the class.

    Thanks a bunch. ~Mary Walker


    • hi Mary! Thank you for commenting, and for your encouraging comments. 🙂 Please say ‘hello’ to everyone in the Bridges class and thank them for praying for us! Right now Ben and our teammate John are consultant checking 1 and 2 Timothy for six different languages–please pray that they will be able to find ways to make the translations understandable and clear. 🙂 thanks again for writing!

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