Vunerable

Slowly I’m beginning to write…but the words I pen leave me feeling vulnerable. I’m not sure I have the courage to post them, to let you into my world. It’s not that I have any dark hidden secrets. Anyone who knows me, knows I share my battles freely. I am honest and open, but it’s easier to speak freely when I can look into your eyes…to see your response and when you can look at me too and see my heart which inspires my words.

Sixteen years, almost two decades we have lived in another country. Our girls know it as home, but to me, it will never be home. I will always be a stranger, outsider, foreigner. One day I came to this realization; Mexico will never be home. I will never understand fully their customs, motives or attitudes towards Americans. I won’t understand why they insist on burning trash and brush in March when the winds are at their height, nor why they sprinkle water on the dirt to keep the dust down, all the while making a muddy mess, or why they think that all Americans are rich. I will never think it’s natural to sweep the street in front of my house or throw my trash down on the sidewalk or pick fruit off it trees that don’t belong to me. I will never understand why starting a children’s home automatically means I’m out to take advantage of the children and makes me a suspect of wrong doing.

Oh there are so many more things that I could tell you …more than I want to tell and more than you want to know. It reminds me of a book by Missionary Amy Carmichael entitled, “Things As They Are”, she shared about the struggles she faced being a missionary in India, how people were more interested in her hair and clothes than they were hearing about Jesus.

I feel that way. So many interested in what they could get from us instead of being interested in WHO they could know because of us. Oh there are some who have genuinely been changed by Christ working through us, but others have taken advantage and abused our good nature and it’s left me emotionally exhausted.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time around us, knows that this calling, this mission has taken its toll. Physically I continue to suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. Emotionally, I’m drained. Even last week my back gave way and I am reminded of my frailty. Fortunately spiritually, I’m stable, stronger than when I began this journey. My roots have grown deep in the midst of adversity. And although I’m restless like a fish out of water, I know this season is necessary. This sabbatical that God has called us to, a time of rest and refreshment is necessary for our wellbeing and that of our family and ministry. But rest does not come easy after years of 24/7 work and crisis management. Ironically, it feels like there is something I’m not doing, something I’m forgetting to do. And we’ll that is sort of the point, isn’t it.

Before coming here, as we prepared for this sabbatical, I read that sabbath rest is not easy. That I would be confronted with thoughts, feelings and attitudes that I don’t necessarily enjoy. (And so it is.)

I am no longer enamored with Mexico or Mexicans. Can I say that? Probably not! But I have, and to take it back would not be true to the much needed process. We have been used and taken advantage of and that allows us to understand a slight bit of what it’s like to partake in the sufferings of Jesus. That’s not a bad thing, but it is also not an easy one.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my boys! And I do not regret any part of starting Hope House. It was worth every heartache and tear. Knowing those boys have a safe and loving home and the opportunity to know Jesus as savior, It was worth it! I would do it again knowing the adversity that lie ahead, but that doesn’t change the fact that these 16 years have taken its toll on me and I need a little time to recuperate.

So here we are stateside after nearly two decades of living south of the border. It’s a strange feeling, a strange feeling indeed.

Advertisements

Catching Up

Since we’ve been back in the States, I’ve been spending some time with family, catching up. My aunt invited my mom and our family to go to the beach. Rodney stayed behind, so we made it just a girls trip. It was the first time ever that we have gone on vacation together. It was good to share time with family.

After that, I drove 6 hours by myself to visit my dad. I wasn’t sure how I would do driving alone. (Driving in Mexico is much different than in the states, and it’s not something that you do alone.) But the trip proved to be a good opportunity to decompress and enjoy some alone time. It was nice to see the country side, talk with God and just be. (In a family if 6, one rarely gets time alone.) Anyway, I haven’t seen my dad since November of 2016 when he had his first chemo treatment. It’s hard to believe that he’s been through 2 complete cycles of chemotherapy and stem cell replacement all without me around. The Bible says, “…everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29, NLT) I don’t exactly understand what that means, but I feel like I might qualify.

As an only child, I have missed a lot of moments with my family over the last 16 years. I’ve missed weddings and funerals, graduations and holidays, sicknesses and surgeries, years and moments. I don’t begrudge those absences. I know that what I was doing is important. In the eternal scheme of life, we have given children who had no hope, HOPE for a better future. We have given them a home, a safe place, a loving family. I know that the time invested has been worth it. But now that Hope House is established, I am glad to be here…Glad to be able to spend time with my parents as they (and I) grow older.

I’m not sure what the next phase of life will hold. I’m not sure that it is necessary for us to return to Mexico full-time. Our ministry has grown a lot since 2002 when we set off in our truck with all of our belongings packed in the back and a 2 year old and 2 month old sitting in the back seat. A lot has changed indeed. So, as I take time to catch up with my family, I take time to catch up with me too. I’m not the same person I was before Mexico. I’m a much stronger person in many ways and for sure a much gentler version of myself. It’s nice to be able to “catch up”.

A Way Through

I’m tired of helping people!(Oops, Did I say that out loud?!?) It’s not that I think helping people is bad, it’s just that I personally am tired of giving and giving, probably more accurately, I have nothing left to give. Over the last 16 years we have been in the full-time business of helping people…meeting their needs. When you are in that type of work it doesn’t take long before you are surrounded by people that need something from you. After a while you get numb to their stories.

I’ve heard every sob story there is to hear and they no longer effect me like before. It’s called compassion fatigue. I’ve given and given until there is nothing left within me to give. Somehow I’m supposed to recover from this. This sabbatical is supposed to help. And I’m sure in time it will help.

To be honest I don’t know when I got like this. I know it didn’t happen over night, but I suspect my emotions have been dry for a long time. It’s an awful feeling. It’s not where I want to be, not who I want to be. But it is my current reality.

They say this is normal. Missionaries and aid workers alike struggle from Compassion fatigue. I’m following one blog and she talks about the compassion fatigue she suffered after just months on the mission field. So I guess being a little exhausted after 16 years of full-time missions is understandable. Yet I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings. I don’t know how to organize my thoughts and move forward. I guess it will take time. I didn’t get this way over night and I won’t heal overnight either. So the sabbatical is necessary. Necessary to rest, necessary to process, necessary to heal, necessary to become whole again, necessary to be able to give again.

Some days I’m disoriented and have a hard time concentrating. I pray and my thoughts drift off or circle around in my mind. It’s frustrating. Seems like we are in a holding pattern. Circling around and around waiting to land. I feel so strange. I’ve been so driven…Always pushing, accomplishing. But here, there is nothing that I can do to help this process move more quickly. I go through the daily motions, but they are the same: wake, eat devotional, exercise, cook, clean, wash clothes. I thought that I would write, but at times I can’t even collect my thoughts to do that. I know I’m glad to be here. I know I need this rest.

Pray for our family and our ministry. Change is not easy, and re-entering your passport country after years away is tough. For our girls the States is a foreign country. For the most part they have never lived here. So they too have a lot to process. Financial support for our family and the ministry is down. (People get antsy when they see change.) Instead of reaching out for clarification, some just withdraw financial support until they are satisfied that the ministry is going to continue normally. So pray for Hope House as the leadership there strives to meet the boys’ needs during this lean season. And If God brings our family to mind, please pray for us, that we will keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him through this season and allow Him to lead us into the next.

Being Stretched

Seems like God is always stretching us, asking us to do what seems impossible. Today I am sitting in Tennessee, in a clean house. I went to church and then ate brunch at Cracker Barrel. I took an afternoon nap and spent time with my family. It was a picture perfect day and yet I am restless. This move has taken more faith than anything I’ve ever done. (Yes, more faith than even moving to Mexico in the first place!)

You know it is easy to work, to stay busy for God’s kingdom, but learning to rest, now that is a different type of work. “Take a sabbatical”, God said! And here we are, trying to rest and all the while feeling like a locomotive derailed. We have run so fast and hard for so long it’s difficult to know how to rest in God’s presence. I thought I would write, but writing has not come easy. It’s not that I don’t have feelings to process, it’s just that sharing leaves you vulnerable and I’m already emotionally exhausted. I’m not ready to hear a barrage of well intended opinions about what others think we should be doing. Mexico, missions, Hope House, Honduras, living in another country with different customs and language, I am left emotionally spent. Those in aid work call it compassion fatigue; and I know I suffer from it. I’ve seen and experienced vicarious trama. The poverty, the pain, the suffering that exists in the world has taken its toll. Now God encourages us to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate, refresh, relax and be revived. But I don’t know how to do that. And so we begin a new phase of this journey called life and I’m being stretched once again by the hand of the almighty.

The Lord’s Prayer- Amen

pexels-photo-267559.jpeg

For the last 7 weeks we have been looking at The Lord’s Prayer, the example He gave us on How to pray. Often we take this gem for granted, missing its depth.

Our Father- We have the wonderful privilege of calling Him father! No one in the Old Testament dared to refer to God as father. Christ bought us that glorious right.

Who art in Heaven- God is not of this world. He is all knowing, all powerful, almighty, eternal, everlasting, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is bigger, greater and more powerful than our enemies. Nothing stands a chance to thwart His plans. He is like nothing and no one that we know.

Hallowed Be Thy Name- His name is holy and He is worthy of all respect and honor. No one out ranks him!

Thy Kingdom Come- May His reign be established everywhere: in my life, in the world.

Thy Will Be Done- May everything happen according to His will.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven- May God reign and may His will prevail on Earth just like it does in Heaven.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread- All that we need for life, we ask you to provide.

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us- Forgive us Lord and help us show the same grace to others.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil- Lead us far from evil and temptation. Rescue us from the Evil One.

For Thine Is The Kingdom, The Power And The Glory Forever- I proclaim that you are King of the Kingdom! You have all power! All Glory is due You, now and forever more!

Praying as Jesus taught is powerful and effective. His prayer encompasses all of our needs and He alone can meet those needs. Not only can He meet our needs but He desires to meet them according to His riches in glory. This model prayer is but a tool given us by Jesus and we should not forget to use it. In doing so we invite the God of the Universe to work on our behalf.

A Little Time Away

Home Assignment, it’s a term that is new to us. After 16 years living full time on the mission field, I need a little time away. I’ve had a difficult time putting into words what I’m thinking and feeling. As I researched I came across the term “home Assignment”. (A time when missionaries return to their home country to strengthen their relationship with family, friends, and supporters. A time to further education. A time to step outside of the culture they are working and serving in and refocus to gain perspective. ) Yes that is what I need!

We have been working so hard for so long that we never stopped to breath. We ran as if in a race against time, learning language & culture; living hand to mouth, watching God do amazing things, and living under constant spiritual attack. We have been betrayed, beguiled, and belittled. My resolve isn’t what it once was. I am tired. Tired of sprinting this marathon. It is time to catch my breath.

In speaking of mission work, Karl Dahlfred wrote”…there is a certain level of culture stress that never goes away. Living day in and day out in a culture with different values, beliefs, and language than your own can create … stress. You can never fully identify or understand the people around you, nor they you.” Wow, I can identify with his statement.

I’ve passed through many stages in the years we have lived in Mexico. First we had to learn the language. After we understood the words, we had to work on comprehension. We could know every word that a person was saying and still entirely miss the meaning. Then we began to understand the nuances of the language and culture and that was even worse than not knowing. In this stage we found ourselves asking questions like, “Did he really say what I think he said?” or “Certainly I didn’t understand her correctly!” This was a frustrating season. But after many years we felt right at home in Mexico. We could communicate with others and understood the basics of situations, but as we got older there was one profound notion that began to ring true with both of us. “We will always be the outsiders, the foreigners, the ones that don’t belong!” We will never fully understand all the idiosincrasias of living in a culture not our own and we will never truly be at home there. That is a heavy burden to bear.

So we’ve come to the fork in the road and after 16 years we decided to step away an take a little time. A break from 24/7 crisis management, a break from Mexico, a break from putting out fires and struggling to live in a foreign country.

It’s strange sitting in the crisp air of the Tennessee mountains. It’s so quiet here, I hear the crickets chirp and the fish splash in the pond and I’m reassured that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us from Evil

This is one of my favorite parts of The Lord’s Prayer. I think I like it because it is such a practical plea. Temptation is a part of life that everyone has experienced. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are warned, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (NLT) In teaching us to pray, Jesus knew that we needed a straightforward answer to temptation and to overcoming the Evil One. Because of our great need, He taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil.”

While I find this verse comforting, some get bogged down in the wording, wondering why God would lead us into temptation. According to James 1:13 God can not be tempted nor does He tempt anyone, so clearly this verse is not intended to imply that God leads us into temptation. Proverbs 20:24 does say that our steps are ordered from the Lord. “So God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations.” (John Piper)

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to not be overtaken with temptation, and teaches us to ask for deliverance from the Evil one. “The inclusion of a request for God not to lead us into temptation teaches us that avoiding temptation should be one of the primary concerns of the Christian life.” (GotQuestions Ministries) Likewise, “The petition in the Lord’s Prayer not to be led into temptation reflects the believer’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether.” Simply put, we are asking God to lead us away from temptation and to save us from the Devil’s schemes.

When Andrew Murray spoke of the Lord’s Prayer he said, “Our daily bread, the pardon of our sins, and then our being kept from all sin and the power of the evil one, in these three petitions all our personal need is comprehended.” In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has given us the key which unlocks the secret to all life’s need, but it is up to us to use it.

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Resources:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/does-god-lead-us-into-temptation

https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/lead-us-not-into-temptation.html

The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works

Andrew Murray

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=642937609