Thoughts for the Journey

Welcome to my journey! Perhaps you'll find some encouragement, laughter, or just a thought as you walk along with me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cinderella Was a Liar

She knows it too. Just look at her face.
"These are unreasonable expectations!"
(here, a free coloring page for your kids)

Ok wait, before you throw out your hate speech, Cinderella has been my favorite Disney princess for many years.

But seriously... she was a liar.

It just simply is not possible to carry a loaded breakfast tray in each hand AND one on your head AND glide gracefully up a marble staircase in dress shoes. I'VE TRIED IT. And it just doesn't work. I am simply not enough to accomplish that feat.

To anyone who, like me, has applied the Cinderella analogy to their own life (i.e. "That's me! I'm Cinderella!"), it simply is unreasonable to put that much expectation on one 'normal', hormonal woman and count on it all being done so amazingly. So I call her bluff.

When I left the USA with my husband and kids to be a tribal church planter, I'm pretty sure that I had the expectation that I could not only 'do it all', but do it all AWESOMELY.

(Don't misunderstand- I'm not talking about "Spiritual Giant-hood" here. I am NO spiritual giant. I have a long way to go in becoming Christ-like, and like you, I have good days and bad days.)

But I thought that 'doing it all awesomely' was me simultaneously and daily being:
  • a super wife
  • a gentle, totally loving mama
  • keeping my house spotless
  • never again over-cooking chicken (this is my nemesis, folks. I need help.)
  • being a wonderful friend
  • putting in several hours of CLA each day
  • doing extra homeschool activities (outside of the basic curriculum) (sorry girls. Someday when you read this, believe me that I'm genuinely sorry that I hate crafts. Isn't being an Unpinterest Mom a thing yet?)
  • being out in the village every single day
As the months rolled by, I became increasingly overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and even guilty about what I had or hadn't accomplished in a day. 

Finally, as I felt myself breaking down emotionally, I brought it again before the Lord (yes, I had been bringing it before Him already) and asked Him, "But what if I can't be all that? Would my offering still be enough?" (i.e. ... if "all" I have to offer in a day is taking care of my house? Or "just" being a mom even though I'm here in the village? Or only having 30 minutes to work on CLA some days? Would that be enough?) 

Well, as I was pouring out my heart before Him, before I had even finished my question, the story from Scripture of the widow who offered the two mites as her offering came to my mind. Jesus told His disciples that this woman gave more than the others, for she had given all she had.

I believe the Lord was beyond gracious with me in that moment. In my heart, I immediately felt like He had given me an immediate answer, similar to the way that a young child begins to express a fear, but the loving parent understands the question before it's even been fully asked, and immediately embraces the child and says, "No, no, don't you even worry about that!" 

The second thing that came into my mind, immediately after the story of the widow giving her two mites, was His purpose for providing Eve as the wife for Adam. God created her and gave her the specific role and privilege of being Adam's "suitable helper". He made her perfectly for that task. And not only this, but in Ephesians, Paul reminds us that our marriages are really a picture of our relationship as believers with Jesus Christ, our bridegroom. So how could there be shame or guilt in taking the time to fulfill that role whole-heartedly? And not only being a wife, but being a mother to the children He has entrusted to us.

So is it enough, for the missionary wife and mom, to not on a daily basis attempt to offer everything on that (ridiculous) list above? Ok sure, some days I definitely have super-charged days and accomplish a ton off of that list really well! But the reality is that most days, I'm having a good day if I do one of them well. But I believe what He showed me from Scripture is that doing that one thing well is beautiful to Him. Plus, this is a lesson I'm trying so hard to teach my darling daughters, one of whom is becoming a "Tween" (LORD HELP!)... "Whatever you do, do it whole-heartedly, as if doing it for the Lord and not for men." If I don't believe it myself, it'll be much harder for me to teach it to my girls.

This does not mean He doesn't want me to learn and grow and excel at things. Not at all. And it doesn't mean I shouldn't work hard. There is urgency in the Gospel! And it's important as we raise our kids that they see us willing to work hard and make sacrifices because Christ alone is worth living and dying for. Also, it doesn't serve as some excuse to hole up in my house for days and weeks on end and never set foot into the village. Rather, it is my opportunity to MODEL what is so beautifully laid out for the woman after His own heart in Titus 2... Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exhorts the older women (older in age or in spiritual maturity or sometimes both) to teach the younger women: 

to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.

And yes, sometimes that means that I don't leave the house today. Sometimes it means I have only a few minutes to learn language. On the flipside, sometimes it means that we don't do a piano lesson because we need to spend some time in the village. But in each activity I do or don't do in a day, it's an opportunity to model the life lived in Christ. It's an opportunity to model doing each thing well, beautifully, and to do it as unto the Lord. I don't always do that well, but I believe that is the goal: to grow in these things, both to become more and more like Christ, and to model His love and grace to others.

So as for Cinderella... what a bunch of hogwash. Those are unrealistic expectations, guys. But I guess it wasn't a true story anyway.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to Be There

"My dear friend, we are back in the ER. His symptoms got worse, and the MRI shows that his brain bleed has gotten bigger."

30 minutes later...

"They are getting ready to fly us to San Francisco for emergency brain surgery. Please pray."

One of the most difficult things about living overseas is not being able to be there for your family or your dearest friends, both in times of crisis, and in times of great joy*.

It was difficult to watch my dear friend go through a life-threatening situation with her husband, and not be there to help in any way. Not be there to sit by her. Not be there to get her a cup of coffee or force her to eat breakfast.

But sometimes physically 'being there' can be just as difficult- when your culture is so vastly different than the other person's.

"Well, your husband doesn't beat you, so..." ( you can't know what I'm going through.)

Here in PNG, it is unfortunately all too common for men to beat their wives. And some of the believers still carry that struggle. The struggle between:

  • what is 'normal' in many parts of PNG, and
  • what God teaches us in His Word
And so it goes that some of the women that my coworker Aimee and I are here to disciple, carry the burden of being beaten by their husbands from time to time. 

How do I "be there" for a woman who is hesitant to open her ears because she knows that my husband does not beat me? 

These are just some of my recent thoughts and questions. If you were expecting an Ann Voskamp-style revelation at the end, well sorry, there isn't one. There are enough real** bloggers out there now to tickle our ears. How about the wannabe*** bloggers who just have questions? Do we have time as sisters in Christ to just ask questions of each other? 
Actually.... that's what it came down to for BOTH of the scenarios I shared today. Asking questions, and giving answers, and asking more questions, and giving more answers. Why does it come down to that? Because within that kind of open communication lies relationship. How? Because both asking questions and giving answers demonstrates that we are listening, not only with our ears, but with our hearts. Without communicating, relationship fizzles out into mere acquaintance. And there is usually very little trust between mere acquaintances. 

For my dear friend, she and I were able to send emails and texts back and forth throughout that week. She told me how much she cherished the communication we shared during her crisis. I had told her I was so sorry I couldn't 'be there', but she rebuked me saying, "No, you were SO there."

one of the Tigak ladies

For the women here in the tribe, the only way I can continue getting to know them is to ask questions, be a good listener, ask more questions from their answers, and seek the Lord's wisdom for when to ask questions and when to offer Biblical answers. In this way, I can 'be there' for them, even though we are so very different. Culturally, I may never be able to 'be there' for them they way one of their Tigak sisters in Christ can, because I am, in its simplest human form, a foreigner, and always will be. That's just a reality. But with good discipleship, it's a beautiful reality that the Tigak ladies will learn to love and pour into and be there for one another as sisters in Christ, spurring each other on to become more and more like Him.


*There are VERY good and important reasons for missionaries to go home. Some life events are irreplaceable, and wisdom is always needed in knowing when to go home, and when to send a greeting.
**More than 10 followers
***Less than 10 followers, like me. Ha! But I'm not after followers, or being "known" as a 'blogger', just for the record.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In Brokenness

"He didn't wait for us to be cleaned up and living perfect lives first. No, He sent Jesus to die for us while we were still in the midst of our sin!"

A Tigak sister in Christ sat with me after church yesterday, and together we marveled at God's tremendous grace toward us. How in the midst of our sin and our brokenness was the exact, purposeful moment He chose to save us.

How incredibly freeing, that Jesus didn't ask me to clean up my act before saving me.

Likewise, He did not ask me to clean up my act before USING me. He didn't require me to 'get all my ducks in a row' and attain to some measure of perfection, and THEN He would be able to use me. Rather, He took me in my brokenness and delighted in me! That just blows me away.

Don't misunderstand me, there was work to be done first! In high school, I sat in my English class, knowing wholeheartedly that I wanted nothing in this life but to be a part of His mission, to tell those who had never heard the Gospel of grace. I told Him, "I'm ready to get on a plane and go. Now!" But He had wonderful plans for me then, just as He does now. Those wonderful plans sure sounded unwonderful at the time. But He had a lot of refining work to do in my heart, much growing and maturing, simple life experience, and incredibly valuable equipping. And it would be almost 15 years before I actually stepped into the life I wanted to be a part of back in high school.

Now again, don't misunderstand me! He was not waiting for me to become the epitome of loveliness and grace that women everywhere would marvel at and find themselves squinting at my halo as I waltzed around sweating life-giving water with my angelic children strolling daintily alongside me and always having a spotless home and gracing my every waking moment with insurmountable beauty as Scripture flowed off my tongue and fell upon eager ears like fragrant rose petals.

Oh for heaven's sake!  I am still the same struggling daughter of His now that I was then, wrestling to rest in my identity in Him versus what the world and the evil one try to convince me of. Unsure many times how to interact with people in ways that are relatable. Fighting the perpetual mountain of dirty dishes, reeeeeeeeally dirty clothes, piles of termite residue and roach poop and spider webs (*no, I haven't made any progress in this area, thanks for asking) and ant trails that are really just a 'front' for the fact that our house is most likely held up entirely by ant hills. Longing to be 'Mother Goose' mama to my darling daughters but wishing so many times I had better control of my emotions and my (dare I say it?) tongue. Wanting to be the 'Proverbs 31 wife' but knowing I'm still in my early 30's and have a long way to go since that woman was probably much older than I and I will probably be much older than she was if that can EVER be said of me, and I also don't know much about merchant ships. Asking Him to produce the fruits of the Spirit in me since 'for some reason' I still cannot produce them on my own. Still being surprised and disappointed that I don't always have 'the right word of wisdom' to give to a sister in Christ, here in Tigak or back home, when a need arises, and wondering if that is my negligence to be in His Word and in fellowship with Him enough, or if He simply doesn't need me to be the one to always give the answers on the spot.
[Sidenote to young people considering missions: 1) Becoming a missionary will not make you holier. 2) Moving overseas will not make your struggles magically disappear. 3) There is no such thing as 'holy sweat'. Please pack deodorant.]

But in all of this...
All of this asking and longing and searching and wrestling...
I see Him not asking me to be the face of perfection. Frankly, that would be no good for these beautiful Tigak ladies. If He ever wanted something from me, it is that I would be pointing only to Him, who alone is the face of perfection. It is that my life would be the fragrance of Christ Himself. Jesus' disciples did not say, "Follow me, for I've got it all together." No no no. Just no. They said, "Follow me*, for I follow Christ!"

(*me = me in all of my human-ness, weakness, 'not-enough-ness')

And seriously, guys, we have experienced so many moments when folks here have considered that we 'white-skins' do indeed "have it all together", whether that be spiritually or financially or... (the list could go on). We MUST point to Him in everything we do. Is He the reason behind everything we do? If not, we have some re-evaluating to do.

He didn't ask me to be perfect before He was willing to use me. He asked me to be faithful. And He asks me to give Him the glory. How do I do that? By pointing to Him in all things. How so? By willingly sharing my weaknesses and struggles and my brokenness with those He has put in my path.

You know what the irony is in all of this?

It is FREEING. I think we sometimes get stuck thinking that our brokenness is crippling. Our shortcomings and weaknesses then keep us from moving and living and being effective. I have had more than enough moments of such thinking. But when I took a step back and looked at the big picture of what He is doing in me and in this world, my perspective changed. I no longer felt a slave to my brokenness and shortcomings. I felt free to use them for His glory! Oh and what a deep sigh of relief and joy there is when we can come to that place.

It's not that I rejoice THAT I am broken. And in all of this we're not talking about rejoicing over sin. No, but I rejoice that "He is" in the midst of my "I am not". And what blows my mind is that He is not ashamed to use me. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says that "we have this treasure in jars of clay (or 'earthen vessels'), to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." With all of my cracks and crevices, and chips and stains and flaws, and times when I fought against His best for me, and times when I thought I had what I needed apart from Him, and times when I felt like a useless vessel because my 'world' was falling apart (oh how blind)...
In all of those things and despite them, He is not ashamed of me, because of Jesus Christ! And He wants to use me in my brokenness, and He wants to actually use my brokenness to meet others in theirs. TODAY. Not tomorrow, after I've straightened some more things out. Today. Now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Comfort of the Ground

Most revelations come through hindsight.

I feel like a couple days ago I 'woke up' and my comfort level when walking around the village has increased! In this context, when a group of people are sitting around talking, if you walk by, they don't invite you to come sit down with them. You have to invite yourself, or simply walk in and sit down with them. But they're generally glad you did! (And if they're not, they will start making excuses one by one why they need to leave, until you're the last one sitting there, haha!)

Anyway, I'm glad that I am starting to feel more comfortable here. Time has begun to pave a path of relationships, and of understanding who people are, what they're about, and what they believe. This gives me SO much more joy as I leave my house and walk around in the village.

Choosing to take time for relationships with people creates these bonds. Asking and answering questions keeps conversation going and strengthens the relationship. 

Sometimes it's difficult for me to choose to take time for relationships. Sometimes my eyes get overly distracted by housework, or the back of my eyelids, pride, insecurity, or simply my own selfish agenda. There are things like that, (especially housework, amen?) that will ALWAYS be before me. But relationships are not automatically there to greet me like a sink of dirty dishes is. In contrast, relationships take effort to be strong and fruitful. They take me denying myself and my agenda. And they take me thinking of the other person in the way that Christ thinks of them. I don't believe He has me here on this earth to ignore people, or to walk alongside sisters in Christ at a surface level. It's much more comfortable to do that, though! Especially with a language and culture barrier, let me tell you!

But the comfort of this ground is not what He desires for me. In fact, I think it's pretty clear throughout Scripture that comfort on this ground was never His plan or intention for His children. Looking toward our heavenly Home is His desire- which is looking toward Christ. And there we have it again in its purest form: relationships.

The comfort I'm starting to experience here in Tigak has NOTHING to do with my house, with the weather (ha!), with the bugs, with the lifestyle... not. at. all. It has EVERYTHING to do with the building of relationships. 

Now I don't know, but I'm guessing that when Jesus was born on that day we now remember as 'Christmas day", I'm pretty sure He didn't wake up in that feeding trough (and its remarkable, high-class context) and think, "Ah, how great is THIS!!" It wasn't about the comfort of this ground, it was about His goal, His mission- relationships.

And so it is my hope and my endeavor to learn and choose daily to be relational. I have the chance everyday to love others in how I communicate and relate to them. I can take that- OR I can leave that. It's up to me, each and every day.

Merry Christmas! Let's go and be intentional to build relationships:
~ with believers, to strengthen each other in the faith and give each other joy (as 1 John says)
~ and with unbelievers, that we may understand their belief system so that we may truly know how to share the gospel of grace with them

Our girls with some friends from another tribe.
Relationships are just as important for MK's!
Did you know you and/or your kids can write to Naya and Jocie?
You can send letters in the mail, OR through Maily,
a safe and free kids' email program. Ask us about it!

Monday, November 23, 2015

When Christ is Not Enough

If the title of this blog post alone doesn't cut your heart...

Imagine for a moment that a woman in your church has a seriously sick relative, but instead of taking him to the hospital, she takes him to go see a witchdoctor. This yields no results, but she continues this practice, because many in the community are saying that his sickness was caused by 'black magic'. And he gets sicker and sicker by the day...

What do you think caused this woman, who you believe is a born-again believer, to make such choices? Does she believe that Christ is not enough? That He does not have the power to heal her relative?**

Why do we, at times, live as though Christ is not enough?

Is He insufficient in any way? Think through every area of your life. In what ways Has he fallen short? And if you are believing this, where are you taking your burdens?

When you ask Him for something, and He chooses to answer with a 'no' for the result you were hoping for... does that mean that He failed you? Does that mean He is not enough for your satisfaction and for your joy?

...His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness..

...for in Him we live and move and have our being...

---and He is able to make all grace abound to you...

...He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together...

...with thanksgiving, present your requests to God...

...for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses...

What would you say to a sister in Christ who is leaning on things of the world or of the evil one, rather than on Christ?

Please join me in praying for this sister in Christ, and for her relative whose health is deteriorating each week.

**from Scripture, we know fully that indeed He has the power to heal physical ailments. What we also know is that He does not promise to do so. His ways are not are ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. But we are freely invited to confidently lay our requests before Him, believing that He has all power and authority, and that He cares deeply for us- that He may receive the glory. And so we ought to. Amen?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Brooms ~ Part 4

Disclaimer: This is NOT a photography blog. Do not expect great photos! (For added effect, one of the photos below is even blurry! Just trying to be consistent...)

This post is simply to update you... if you go ALL the way back to the original Brooms post, you will read at the very end a little idea that I had, to write YOUR names on my broom handle. By doing this, I would be reminded of YOU, and pray for YOU as I went about my daily responsibilities.

I'm here to tell you that I have now done this, and it is one of the BEST "little things" I have ever done! Why?

  1. It reminds me of your beautiful faces, each of whom I miss very much.
  2. It reminds me that we are all in this together, as moms raising our little ones in the mist of becoming like Christ (and all the joys and sorrows that these endeavors bring, thank you Holy Spirit!).
  3. It engages my heart and mind in a VERY good way - instead of feeling grumpy or discontent, it gives me the opportunity to think of you and pray for YOU. And in some cases, reminds me that I haven't written to you in a long time.
  4. It reminds me of your darling children, and how precious their friendship is to MY children.
  5. It simply makes sweeping a happier task.

In the photos, you can see a few names, but as you will notice, I decided to write them 'randomly', encompassing the handle. No matter how I am holding the broom, I see names of my fellow moms/friends to think of and pray for. I have at least 20 names, and I add more whenever I think of it!

Ladies... I couldn't recommend this more! It's been SUCH an encouragement already! (I bet you crafty types would make yours even cuter, too. You can make me my next one after I break this one killing spiders.)

So get your Sharpie out and do it! :)

Also, I love and miss you all.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Now I Understand!"

"It's NOT because you are whiteskins!"

She went on to say, "I've been looking at both of you missionary families, and the missionary family that was here before, and I have always thought what I've seen is so nice. I have always thought it was because you are whiteskins, but reading this talk, now I understand! It's because you are following God's talk."

We've been studying through Ephesians (more of an overview) with the Tigak believers for the last few months. For most, this is their first time reading these powerful and precious words. This past couple weeks, the Scripture discussed was about husbands loving their wives, wives respecting their husbands, children obeying their parents, and fathers not exasperating their children. Powerful, powerful stuff!

Listening to their testimonies filled me with joy, and the Lord used their words to remind me that He has a huge purpose for us here.

Some of the ladies told us how thankful they are to God for giving us these words, as they haven't really known how to parent their children (or raise their grandchildren, in some cases), especially not in a Biblical way.

Regarding the responsibilities God has given to husbands and wives, here were some of the testimonies the ladies shared:

  • "I have treated my husband badly. I am the worst woman ever. I'm so thankful to have this talk so I can learn to respect my husband."
  • "It's true... (tears)... I don't respect my husband."
  • "I'm so thankful to God for giving us this talk. This will help all of us! Thank you, God!"

And one man shared this testimony on two separate occasions:

  • "I have struggled to love my wife. I've been hearing this talk for years in English (in Tok Pisin, the national/trade language), but now I am hearing it in my own Tok Ples (tribal/local language) and finally it is speaking into my life."

If you are like me, you've been blessed to have the whole Word of God in your own language for your entire life. Your grandparents and parents may have even modeled Biblical marriage and Biblical parenting for you, and now you are following it because you have His Word in your heart.

Imagine for a moment, as you look at the pictures below, that you are hearing it for the first time!

Would you stop for a moment and pray for these sisters of yours in Christ? Pray also for your brothers in Him. Think with me - Christ said "I will build My Church." That's incredibly exciting, isn't it? Join me in asking Him to strengthen in maturity the current believers. This growth and maturity will allow them to be self-sustaining, to love one another (fellow believers, marriages, families, etc), and ultimately to expand the Gospel to the thousands of Tigak speakers scattered throughout this region of the world!