Archive for ‘marriage’

February 15, 2016

In Sickness and in Health

by mendibpng

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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.

 

November 12, 2014

This Guy!

by mendibpng

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All that food you see in the picture is what we buy for one stay in Arop village. Once we get to the village, we have to put everything into rat/ant proof containers. On many occasions, Ben has helped me with this overwhelming task, and has been known to wash each of our unrefrigerated eggs (if one cracks enroute to the village, it can spoil all the others.) One of our teammates called him “indefatigable” a while back, and I would echo that…he is great at solving *impossible* problems and will take time to finish a task well, two areas where I am extremely weak. Isn’t it humorous how God puts opposites together? (humorous, infuriating at times?)

On top of that, he isn’t afraid to admit when we struggle, and is willing to do whatever he can to get to a place where we are thriving. We are by far less than perfect. But the fact that he’s trying to do whatever he can, seeking God, gives me hope. Also the fact that we can admit we aren’t perfect gives me hope! If you are around long enough, you’ll see us for who we really are–sinners who fail and ask forgiveness on a frequent basis. Having now lived most of our married life as expats/strangers means that we need extra grace to handle the cumulative stress and overseas living together. So, today I’m thankful for him.

September 14, 2014

Furlough: some old and new thoughts

by mendibpng

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(above) I saw these flags at Navy Pier a few weeks ago and found myself surprised at the emotion they evoked in me. I must have looked like a crazy person, yelling at Ben, “look at the flags. THE FLAGS!!!” and then I proceeded to take like 10 pictures in a row. Although I have lived overseas most of my life, my passport country is a big part of who I am. Coming back with our five children to the U.S. who are going through major transition similar what I experienced as a child is helping me appreciate the heritage I have.

Transition is tough. Furlough can be a significant stress because physically we are fighting jet lag and going through all of the emotions of grieving and letting go at the same time. On top of that, we have to figure out how to get everything from storage and get oriented to our new surroundings while our kids are falling apart. We did what we could to prepare our kids for our furlough year by talking about new things they would experience, and the older kids helped educate the little ones so that helped a little. But that was just the ‘prep-work.’

First, my disclaimers: these are just a few thoughts that I’ve collected from the last few furloughs and now this one….my apologies that it ended up being so long. Also, other missionaries will have their own lists and ideas which could completely look different. And, I planned to write 1-2 paragraphs but apparently the thoughts just kept coming! Sorry for the extreme length of this post!

Boundaries with Speaking Events
We don’t plan to attend or speak at any events right away. On our first furlough, we attended a missionary get together the day after we arrived in Wheaton. I can remember a huge panic trying to find something decent to wear, and ended up taking our 18 month old daughter to the event because she was having a hard time with transition.

Expectations and Stability
We asked ourselves really hard questions before we left PNG: what do we want to do on furlough and what is going to be realistic for our family? The truth is, we’ve been gone for four years and haven’t been able to take family holidays very often, so we’d love to go coast to coast and visit every friend and historical site. The reality is, we came home with very little margin and we all (especially our kids) need stability. So we had to scale down our expectations and work on compromises.

#iloveamerica
We’ve tried to be really positive about things we love about America. Leaving the home they love (and their friends) is hard for our kids, and part of the grieving process is letting go of (not completely) what they love and embracing things they enjoy here. With the older kids, we’ve had to balance required events and giving them a choice. In recent days, when we’ve given the teenagers a choice on an event (even ones that might seem like ‘little kids events’) they have chosen to do it, and have enjoyed themselves. Also, having preschoolers and teens means that sometimes Ben will take the older kids and I take the little ones to age appropriate events.

Purpose
We’ve been giving the kids something purposeful to do. The first couple of weeks after we returned, Ben and I were busy trying to get ourselves sorted, getting driver’s licenses renewed, changing the utilities to our name, buying homeschooling materials, registering our oldest for online home school, etc. We expected our kids would just entertain themselves as they do in PNG. However, they had no friends close by and being out of their normal environment meant that they didn’t know what to do with themselves (besides ask repeatedly to watch movies) We had planned to start homeschooling after a family trip in August but I could see that some of our kids were struggling with lack of purpose to their days, so I started school earlier and had them write out a list of (non-screen) things they could possibly do on their own. Also, Ellie initially hard time getting into reading, so I’ve offered a reward for 10 chapter books she reads: going out for breakfast with Ben. Likewise, Noah wanted to increase his cooking skills, so he has a similar list going for new recipes he tries.

Shopping
To avoid being overwhelmed in stores: we research online for items we need. This week I googled “top toys for 2014” From there I had ideas of prices and what might work–my goal was one or two small presents for each of our twins birthday this week. It turns out we had a coupon for Learning Express close to our house, and their prices were really similar to Amazon.com. So we went there to see the items in person. We bought different things but I wasn’t overwhelmed at all because I already had an inkling of ‘what was out there.’

stained glass

Marriage
Another thing we discovered is that we have to be really intentional about taking time as a couple…Ben and I left the children in the care of his very capable parents (thank you mom and dad!) for 3 days while we went to Chicago. We took this photo at the free stained glass museum at Navy Pier, that was one of my favorite things we did! We don’t always plan time for ourselves with having five kids and others we want to spend time with, but this is something we are working on more intentionally.

Other People’s Expectations
I’ve tried to steer myself away from worrying about other people’s expectations for us on this furlough. Ben doesn’t struggle with this but as a ‘people pleaser’ I have really had to make a conscious effort to stop, ask myself the truth and then be completely honest. Sometimes that means disappointing people (or dealing with my own perceived expectations of their disappointment) but as my friend Kay Bruner says “do the right thing and learn to live with a little guilt.” I love that.

Kids in Transition
We’ve been really open about each kids specific reactions to transition to family members or friends we might be seeing. One furlough I wrote ahead to people we would visit about each child, thinking it would help them understand what each kid was going through. (From comments I heard at the time, our kids’ behavior looked odd or unreasonable  to some people.) At the same time for us as parents, we’re still trying to figure it out and it can be really distressing to not be able to ‘fix’ our kids when they are distressed. Ben and I are learning, however, that overreacting to our kids makes things much worse! Mostly, they really need assurance and validation in the middle of transition.

Some examples from the last two furloughs and now the beginning of this one:

  • screaming for a week every time we arrived at a new place.
  • hiding or throwing a tantrum when it was time to go through leave taking…
  • finding a quiet/private space for hours (like under a table) and read
  • making strong statements about missing ‘home,’ like last week when one of our preschoolers said “I really miss my friends. I feel like they are dead.”
  • having potty accidents at every big transition. At first we were bewildered until we realized transition triggered the accidents…
  • daily crying and vomiting from stress
  • nightmares
  • more behavior issues from being tired and disoriented. It doesn’t mean we don’t discipline them, but we try to apply grace.
  • acting ‘unsociable’ when people come to visit[I’m not saying that all of our kids do all of these things all the time, these are just examples of a few things we’ve experienced through the years.]

Last thoughts….
There is much more to be said on this topic but I thought I’d get the ball rolling at first. This furlough is unique for us because we decided to home school in order to give ourselves freedom to travel. It turns out it’s quite a challenge and we’re trying to figure it all out, especially because we’re supposed to be spending time recuperating and preparing to go back to PNG. I guess it all comes with giving grace to ourselves as well in the midst of all the chaos.

Yesterday I read this verse from the Apostle Paul, “don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT) I used to think about this verse primarily about our physical needs but what if it also applies to our emotional, spiritual and mental well being? Can I trust God to give Ben and me the grace and wisdom to parent our kids through this transition? Can I trust Him to bring healing to our marriage and emotional well being while we’re doing the hard work of home schooling and transitioning to life here?

Yes.

p.s. I thought I’d add a couple of book recommendations to this topic:

“As Soon As I Fell” by Kay Bruner. A few weeks after I arrived, I had the chance to read Kay’s memoir. I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants a glimpse into a life of a missionary who struggled with a lot of things that those of us who serve overseas deal with. I loved the message of hope she gives!!

“The Way Of Transition” by William Bridges. I bought this book on my first furlough and have read and re-read this book. It has been helpful in framing my thoughts about transition, which you can see mirrored here often on my blog.

“Expectations and Burnout” by Robyn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg. Ben bought me this book last year for my birthday. I loved it because it explained how we as missionaries come to the field with expectations that we don’t even know we have (often they are only revealed when they are unmet!) As a result of reading this, I ended up writing a document about our project for new members (still in draft) so that we can help them transition to our team.

November 20, 2013

Giving Thanks for Unmet Expectations and Burnout

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This topic is a little heavy for the week of Thanksgiving. However, I can’t seem to get away from the burning issue that is upfront in my heart and mind today. Here it is:  I’m thankful for every crack in the road that took Ben and me from our fledgling newly married life to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I guess you could say we grew up together here. I think about the deep caverns of richness that have built up from the struggles we have had. I don’t really ever want to go back and do it again. (well, if I did, I’m sure I’d do a lot of things differently, but that’s another story.) BUT I am thankful for each of those hardships because I’m essentially not the same person I was twelve years ago. I started writing this post weeks ago, after reading Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss. It became a reflection of the expectations I had as a brand new missionary. I wonder if I had read the book before I came here, would it have opened my eyes to things I hadn’t been aware of, or if the ideas would have been way over my head?  I am not quite sure!

Here are some words that come to mind when I think about the “new missionary” me:
idealistic
untested
dreamy

Back in 2002, I knew I was heading into one of the most beautiful, untouched lands. I was going to share the Love of God with Those Who Did Not Know Him. Little did I know about God’s love myself and little did I know Him like I do now! I will add here that I didn’t really know much about  joy, either, because I didn’t believe it was possible or necessary. I had blocked off many of my strongest emotions–anger, fear, joy, sadness–in order to protect myself.

I knew that mission work was going to be hard–I had seen my missionary parents suffer in many ways as a child–but I knew that God had called me to it. I knew I was leaving for a great adventure with Ben. I was all in!

There was NOTHING wrong with being idealistic or excited. But I was unprepared for the traumatic realities ahead of me. Some of my most guarded secrets began to rise to the surface within weeks, even months of arriving. I didn’t want to admit that depression consumed me, making it hard for me to function or sleep at times.

Expectation #1: I was tough. I was a missionary kid after all…shouldn’t I be able to handle cross cultural living with a smile on my face?
On the day we first met, I rolled an apple on the floor and took a bite out of it, after Ben challenged me by saying “you really are a missionary kid, aren’t you?”
I stomped through the creek and slathered myself in clay.
I walked barefoot over rocks at a national park.
And yet, that college girl looks a lot different from the woman I am today. I’m still up for adventure, but only safe ones! (I suspect the change in my desire to go after safe adventures now has to do with me being a mom.) I’ve learned that my highly sensitive nature is both a blessing and a curse: it’s ok to be vulnerable because it creates safety for others who might relate to my struggles….the other side of it is, I have to deal with strong emotions as they come and respect them because they tell me a lot about what I think. (as opposed to squishing them and living in the world of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts.’)

Expectation #2: I thought that service to God meant denying myself the ability to say “no.”
I spoke to counselors on furlough and learned from a good friend that it takes practice to look at my life and see what I could say “yes” to and what I had to say “no” to. If I didn’t notice where I was spiritually and emotionally, I quickly began to burn out. I began putting things in place, like a self care plan, before heading back to our second term here.

Expectation #3: I thought that God needed me to do work for Him. That’s all.
I didn’t really understand or believe that He loved me. (I never could have verbalized this though!) I had a vague idea of Him being distantly aware of what we were doing, providing enough money for us to be here and being pleased if we followed the Right Way of doing things, rather than the Wrong Ones. My perception included a lot of pretending…that we were o.k. even though we weren’t.

I am still devoted to serving God as long as He gives me strength to do it.  In all honesty, there’s not much of ‘me’ left to boast about now. Don’t get me wrong. I am not speaking as a jaded disgruntled missionary. Rather, I’m writing as someone who realizes that I’m nothing without God’s help. It’s so easy to write those words but even now as I write them, I must admit that I have so little understanding of how that works practically because I tend to grab control back as soon as I’m starting to feel on top of things. I suppose my life has been a constant ‘catch up’ game between what I believe and how I truly act or speak in my heart.

Newer Realizations: If I believe God loves me…then…He is enough
The authors of the “Expectations and Burnout” book say that we often don’t even know what expectations we have until they are unmet. I planned on having infinite strength to do literacy work…until I realized that the bare essentials of living, cooking, and caring for my children took a great deal of my time and mental energy. I could do both literacy and my work at home until we went from a family of five to seven when the twins joined us.

Similarly, I had planned on having harmonious relationships with the people I lived amongst, both expats and Papua New Guineans. Once again, my expectations began to slide into a completely different picture. Not a bad one, just different than I had expected. At the time, it looked like I was being used, rejected, left to navigate my stresses by myself, or that my family was being targeted. Even if those perceptions were true, they were the best things that could have ever happened to me. Because, if I had everything I had expected, I don’t think I would have been quite as willing to throw myself at God’s mercy.

Now that I’ve been here a few years, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who has had to shift her expectations. Some come here grieving the loss of convenience food or comfortable furniture. Others come, thinking that it’s going to be easy to maintain relationships at a distance but then realize how much they miss their families back home, particularly in times of great joy or major crisis. Some grieve the loss of autonomy or freedom to travel safely that they might have in their home countries. Still more find it really hard to maintain a close relationship with their spouse when there are no places to go for date nights and the stress of work and living cross culturally and raising Third Culture Kids piles up. It can also be a shock and sorrowing to see a spouse struggling with his or her own issues, which, essentially cannot be separated from the rest of the family. The possibilities are endless. Whatever one’s expectations are, it’s not fun and sometimes it can last for months, even years, for some until their service overseas is completed.

Some things I’ve been able to process and receive healing from but I suspect there are other things that I will find hard until the Lord takes me Home. I’m thankful that I’m here despite all of that. I’m thankful for the things I see now that I never noticed before–the deeper things I had thought were just a part of me that are coming to light. Where God is taking those broken bits and putting them back together in a healing way.

A couple of days ago came the Voice I have come to recognize and love so much whispered, “Just wait and see what I’m going to do with you…” every time I think of that, I smile, because that’s what I deeply desire the most. I am all in!

for further reading (or, “Books I wish I had read before heading overseas….”)
“Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission,” by Sue Eenignburg and Robynn Bliss“Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
“Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
(there’s a whole series: “Boundaries in Marriage,” “Boundaries with Kids”)
“Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero
“The Way of Transition,” by William Bridges
“The Inner Voice of Love,” by Henri Nouwen
“Grace Based Parenting,” by Tim Kimmel

August 10, 2013

Wade in the Water

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I’ve been rereading The Shack by William P. Young. I read it long ago when a friend sent it to me. I like how the characters challenge my notion of who God is and what kind of relationship the two of us can have. Here’s one of the quotes that stuck with me…

Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’ it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside of you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and touch with our hands, and think like we do. But, we will never force that union on you. If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side. (Jesus)

I remember knowing and experiencing what Jesus is talking about here: as a teenager, I started listening for the voice of God. Not just through my reading of the Bible but also in my prayer life. Life giving words came to me–things I knew without a doubt came from Him. Those moments of hearing God speak in the years that followed have been so profound, I can remember where I was when I heard them.

But here’s the thing. He’s always been around, wanting to speak to me. But other things crowd my heart and mind: preparing food for my large family (most of which is made from scratch), dealing with cross cultural ‘hevis’ (problems) with expats and local people, worrying about the emotional health of my Third Culture kids, coping with the reality of the ‘unexpected’ which is really the expected here, and preparing for transitions to and from our translation workshops. In order to survive these things, I’ve ‘treated’ myself to quick fixes: distractions, really, which provide quick relief but don’t really provide the peace and solitude I really need.

Two weeks ago, our three year old twins began preschool. I have two full mornings a week to myself in which I don’t schedule anything but ‘self care’, and I’ve devoted that time to finding myself and being quiet enough to listen for God to speak. Occasionally that means going back to bed and sleeping because God told me a long time ago, through the words of a wise minister that sometimes the best thing you can do for your walk with God is to rest. Another thing I’ve done is to unplug a little…only checking Facebook and email once a day, for instance, and turning on music instead of a TV show when I have ‘discretionary’ time. I love noticing God through the beauty I encounter at every step I take outside my door or out my living room window. And finally, Ben and I have been debriefing more regularly about what needs to happen daily with our kids and ministry. There have been times when life has spiraled out of control and we can go days or even a week without sitting down to talk about what’s going on. With both of us taking time to hear God and each other, our jobs as partners in parenting and ministry has been so much better.

I love that saying that goes, “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” It’s never too late to seek solitude and listen for God’s voice. Do you know what He has said to me recently, when I voiced concerns about some key relationships I have? “Don’t worry about his/her heart. I’ll take care of it.” and then he’s given me something specific for me to work on myself or to do in that situation, often something I didn’t consider before, like humbling myself, particularly when I really want to address the injustice of a situation. Instead of the dire outcome I expected, a miracle happens. This has come to pass often enough in recent weeks that it’s starting to make me think about the quote from The Shack. Following Jesus is really about giving up my ideas of how to ‘fix’ things and asking Him what He wants me to do.

So here’s to today.
And the rest of my life.

Seek God while he’s here to be found,
pray to him while he’s close at hand. (Isaiah 55:6 The Message)

July 8, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: inner voices and building altars

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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)

January 8, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: self pity or gratitude?

by mendibpng

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I’ve been struggling with some kind of flu since Christmas day. Because it hit me so severely, we cancelled our family holiday and we never had Christmas dinner until Friday of this week. I spent the next week basically in bed while my family fended for themselves. I’ve slowly started getting better; however, if I have a really good day (like yesterday) then I am tempted to do too much and end up with exhaustion, sinus pain, etc. Three other frustrations hit me this morning on top of feeling sick and tired and I wanted to just sit in my room behind a closed door and shirk my responsibilities. (ie looking after the twins, taking down Christmas decorations, cleaning the house, getting ready to leave for the village…) After he washed the mountain of dishes that I had already planned to do, Ben came in and reminded me of James 1 where we are supposed to consider it joy when we face troubles of any kind. I had quoted the same verse to Ben just a few days ago in the midst of a major computer failure while he was trying to get translation done. (SHOOT!)  Even though I know that my small ‘troubles’ of today are minuscule compared to people I am constantly in prayer for, I wanted to have my moment of self pity and frankly I wanted to stay in my room and avoid one person that I would need to confront this morning. Have I mentioned I hate conflict and disharmony? I would rather stuff all negative feelings as far down as they can go, thankyouverymuch!

Since getting sick, I’ve been so intent on keeping my family of eight fed and keeping things going (and if you are reading this and I haven’t answered an email please accept this as an apology!) I ignored the prodding from the Holy Spirit to write a post about what I’m thankful for. I’ve been so absorbed in my health (or lack of it!) that it’s really hard for me to actually think of anything I’m thankful for. So here it goes….

  1. Stability. I am thankful for my home and the stability it provides my family when we are in transition going to and from our village for translation workshops.
  2. Flowers. I am thankful for the previous owners of this house, who nurtured amazing flowers, creating an Aloha Path in front of the house. There are roses, several varieties of orchids and many other kinds of plants that I don’t know the name of! All I have to do is walk out my door to drink in their beauty.
  3. My kids. Having five of my own kids and an intern living with us means that my world is full of kids from the crack of dawn until late at night. I am never lonely!
  4. New team members. A few months ago, God spoke to me through the story in Exodus 18:13-22, where Jethro told Moses (please forgive my loose paraphrase) “what the heck are you thinking?? You can’t do this alone. You’ll burn out!” We tried to do too much with few personnel and began asking God to send help. Our team went from us, the Nystroms (working remotely), Beth, and Jessie to adding three more couples and another single, at least for the short term! It spoke volumes to me that God heard our cry for help and came through for us and for the 20,000 people of the Aitape West, who desperately need to hear the gospel through God’s Word in their own language(s).
  5. Aviation. We have been able to get in and out of our village fairly easily the last few times because of the provision of the helicopter!
  6. Ben. I have a husband who loves me and isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. He listens to me without trying to ‘fix’ my issues and tries to understand me. He values my perspective as his equal. Six months ago he ordered things to come on a ship which make our kitchen so much easier to navigate. (Incidentally, this means he’s happier to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up!)
  7. Shared purpose. Ben and I are both sold out for why we are here in Papua New Guinea. Early on, I asked God to make it clear to me that He wanted me to come to Papua New Guinea. He DID. And no matter how hard things get over here or how much I miss my family, I know I am supposed to be here. I’ve never once felt like Ben dragged me over to live out his dream. Never. And there’s nothing quite like sharing work that we both believe in.
  8. Health. If I am going to be honest here, my affliction is really just a blip in the whole scheme of life. I haven’t ever had a terminal illness or ongoing sickness, although being sick for weeks and weeks does give me a greater compassion for those who are struggling with these things.
  9. Safe friends. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where my closest friends are the ones I feel the safest with. I love the verse from Proverbs 13:20“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”  Added to the friends I have here, in the fall I joined an email bible study including three women (two I’ve never met in person) who are navigating a lot of the same areas I deal with: ministry, motherhood and faith. There is no pressure to pull off an in depth study each week (we do it when we can) and I am encouraged by the things these women have written.
  10. Partners. The churches, individuals and families who pray for us and support us financially share a big part of our lives and ministry here. Almost every day we have an email asking us what our current prayer requests are, and this is an encouragement that we are not forgotten back in our home country. We are also grateful for those who are sacrificially giving to our ministry so that we can do our work here.
June 27, 2012

You know you are in Ukarumpa when…(a mom’s perspective)

by mendibpng

My friend Clare helped me come up with a few of these… J

  • Seeing liquid dish soap (or some other item you’ve been pining for) in the store makes you excited
  • A package from your home country is the highlight of the week…or month…or year!
  • All of your friends live within walking distance.
  • Your kids have dried mud on their legs from the knees down
  • You know when to expect your children home from school because you hear the school bell from your house
  • You encounter people from many different nationalities at the store. I once counted seven nationalities from one trip alone!
  • Herbs and veggies grow year ‘round in your garden.
  • The sun coming out means you can have a hot shower and get your laundry dry.
  • You buy a crazy supply of the thing you love to cook with because next week it may not be available for several months. (I have 3 bottles of Hot Wings sauce in my pantry.)
  • Bible study is your ‘night out’ with your husband.
  • A trip to the nearest town (30 minutes drive away) is the first outing off center you’ve had in months. We call it ‘retail therapy.’
  • You try to sneak out to the fruit and vegetable market at 6.30 am, but your children all wake up and want to come with you.
  • A sun shiny day means you can get the baby pool out but you have to add several buckets of warm water so that the kids lips don’t turn blue.
  • You take the time to roll out tortillas and make pizza from scratch because food from your home country is comforting.
  • A girl’s night out can be a sleepover at the volunteer center, a trip to the sauna or a movie night at someone’s house.
  • A ‘date’ night with your husband is putting the kids to bed early and having a late candlelight supper at home because there are no places to eat out.
March 29, 2012

The Secret of Contentment

by mendibpng

“Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being that you desire? Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fill my deepest desire.” But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment, you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know hat this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.” –Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction

Do you think it’s possible that life lessons just keep cycling back in order to keep us humble? For me, the temptation to be dissatisfied with life creeps up on me in very small ways, particularly when exhaustion threatens to take over. Here are some of the ‘if onlys’ that I’ve had kicking around in my head the last couple of days…

If only…

I had this extra kitchen appliance to make my cooking-from-scratch easier

my twins were a little older and not so toddlerish, I wouldn’t feel like I’m constantly saying “no!” “stop!” and “come here!”

Ben weren’t away, I wouldn’t have to deal with the rat running around in my house.

I had a purposeful job to do (besides stay at home mom) I would feel more fulfilled and less like I’m running in circles.

I could figure out childcare, I could exercise and lose some baby weight that I’ve been accumulating for the last 12 years!

Ben and I communicated well every day and were of one mind spiritually, mentally and emotionally

And the one that gives me a lot of thought: If only my personality was completely different, I would have better boundaries with people. In short, I wish I could trade my NF for an ST. (cf Meyers Briggs)

So to counteract spiraling into self pity, I will list what I am thankful for:

I am thankful….

for my daughter, who flipped tortillas on the stove, leaving me free to roll them out more quickly

that the twins are having a nap, the first time in a few days! And they won’t be two forever. Pretty soon I’m going to wish that they were small and crawling into my lap again!

that friends loaned us a rat trap. My oldest son set it, and killed the rat that we caught this morning.

that I GET to stay home with my five children. Our organization does not force me to work outside the home—since I have the freedom to choose, I choose to be home with them!

that my house has two flights of stairs that I am constantly going up and down. If I don’t have an exercise program, at least I’m getting some exercise in here and there!

that I have a husband who loves me and cares about my well being. Although we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, we are learning how to communicate better all the time.

that my life is full of people I love and care about and who are patient with me as I learn how to function better in community life.

THERE! I feel much better, and grateful that I am here, with a few toddler-free moments to write this blog post! A few moments ago, before I wrote this post, I was feeling very sorry for myself over some fairly trivial things, and now I am feeling the presence of God washing over me.

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March 22, 2012

Twins: the best and hardest two years of my life!

by mendibpng

The past two and a half years have been the best and hardest in my life. When Jacob and Jenny Beth joined our family, there were times when I thought I was going to die of exhaustion. I remember being afraid to go to bed at night knowing that one of them would wake up shortly for a feeding. I struggled with fears about continuing to live cross culturally and taking care of five children at the same time. Could we really return to PNG and live in a village??? Was I going to fall apart once we got there?

Other twin parents comforted me by saying that these two little ones wouldn’t be little forever. And they were right!! At the time it seemed like forever stretched out in front of me…but here we are, 2 ½ years into this journey and I’M STILL ALIVE!

I’ve been thinking about our twins recently as I have learned about a friend who is expecting five babies. FIVE. I thought having two at once was difficult. My heart just goes out to her!

So here is why having the twins has made these last two years the BEST in my life:

1) I’ve had to work on being less codependent with everybody I know and more careful about caregiving with friends in a healthy way. If I am falling apart, I can’t take care of the family God has entrusted me with. It makes Ben’s life difficult if I get so wrapped up in other people’s problems that I can’t function. I am still learning about this and constantly working on balance.

2) My older kids have become more compassionate and sensitive to other people’s needs since having two little siblings to love. Yesterday Jacob broke a glass window pane, cutting his fingers, and both of the older boys rushed to his side to comfort him before I could get there.

3) Ben and I have had to work together more just to survive. I saw myself as a pretty independent person before Jacob and Jenny Beth came along. I didn’t like to ask for help—I liked being the one giving it. But suddenly, I couldn’t do it all. I have learned to depend on Ben much more these past few years, and he has come through for me! Sometimes I start to wonder if I rely on him too much for emotional support and he assures me that this is healthy for a marriage. He should be the one I can confess anything to. I love that guy more now than I did before. J

4) I’ve had to rely on God as my shelter more. Sometimes when I think about each of my five kids, I wonder if I am enough. But then I realize I don’t have to be. That’s God’s work.

Lately the two year old tantrums have been exhausting, and even more so this week since Ben is gone—I think they miss him and don’t know how to articulate it. I’m adjusting to new stages my kids are moving through and praying for wisdom for Ben and I in our parenting (next year our oldest will officially be a teenager!!!) My prayer is that God will help me love them well and stay sane in the process.

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