Building Fences

I have a friend who serves in full-time ministry. Everyone loves her! She is ALWAYS available to friends and church members who need her and is a real advocate for those who are hurting and the underprivileged. She loves Jesus with a passion that makes others pale in comparison. However, while she is busy ministering to others, her husband and kids sit at home feeling neglected and second best. Not surprisingly, her marriage and family are suffering. The crazy thing is, even though her husband openly states that he feels unimportant and neglected, she is so emotionally focused on ministry, she doesn’t even realize the imbalance.

How many of us have had a similar experience? Either being the one to neglect family or being the one neglected! Rodney and I walked through this just after starting Hope House, we were so busy with “ministry” that we didn’t make time for us or our children. (I used the word “make” intentionally, because as we set our calendar if we don’t “make” space for self and family, we will never “have” time for them.)

In last weeks blog, we discussed the need to set boundaries when we are trying to prioritize family and ministry. I walked you through some steps to help you identify areas where you might need to establish them and I recommended a book entitled: Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

In the book, the authors describe boundaries like fences on property lines. These fences place a physical boundary to help you and others to distinguish the difference between your property and their property. In life, these fences are invisable. We are the ones who have to tell others the location of our boundaries. Unfortunately, at times, we don’t even know where they are or even where they should be. In order to identify our boundaries for others, we must first identify them for ourselves.

The good news is, the first step to solving any problem is to realize that the problem exists. If you are asking how to prioritize family and ministry, then you are already thinking in the right direction and that’s a good thing!

Hopefully, by working through the questions in last weeks’ blog, you were able to identify areas in your life and ministry that subtlety (or maybe not so subtlety) make prioritizing family difficult.

So where do we go from here?

Once we have identified where your boundaries need to be established, the next step is to make them “visable” for others.

Step one:

While you are in the process of setting up your boundaries, I suggest that you developed a new habit. What I mean by this is for a period of time do not say yes to any new projects or commitments.

I realize that may be easier said than done. Saying “No!” can be scary, especially if you aren’t accustomed to saying it, so let me give you a simple phrase to practice. The next time someone asks something of you, respond with these words: “I will pray about it.”

If you aren’t ready for the big N. O., these 5 words can set you free! They can also buy you a little space until you can muster your courage to stand up for yourself and say no.

Now don’t lie, actually pray about it. But if you are trying to make space for your family and marriage, you already know that family and marriage are the priority and therefore your new default answer can NOT be yes.

Step Two:

Now let’s look at the areas you identified from last weeks questions and divide them into two categories: A) Ministries you are not in charge of and B) Ministries you are in charge of.

A) Ministries you are not in charge of:

As you can imagine, ministries you are involved in, but not in charge of will be much easier to eliminate from your schedule.

Here is the secret: Simply stop attending. Just don’t go. More than likely you will have someone ask you why, and responding with the simple truth should suffice. “I’m choosing to work on making my family a priority right now therefore I am cutting back on my outside activities.” Now, don’t be naive enough to think that everyone will understand. They won’t! But that is ok. Stand confident knowing that building your marriage and family are more important than what Sister Opinionated thinks.

B) Ministries where you are in charge:

This area can be a little more challenging to navigate and can ultimately take more time to restructure. If the commitment, responsibility or event is close to being fulfilled, by all means follow through with your commitment and then don’t re-enlist. If the responsibility is not close to completion, there are several things you can do. First, you can try to find someone else to take over your responsibilities. Deligation is key in growing any ministry and keeping your sanity. If you are unable to find someone to replace you, try restructuring the activity so that it requires less of your time. Ideas include: enlisting guest teachers & speakers, having participants take an active role in the responsibility of the ministry and finally seek helpers who can assist you complete part of your responsibilities. You CAN learn to delegate. But whatever you do, your goal is to eventually scale back your responsibilities and commitments to something manageable which makes room for prioritizing your family and marriage.

*Disclaimer*

Please understand, I am NOT suggesting that you quit all involvement with ministry. I am simply saying that you need to be certain that the areas of ministry in which you are involved are ones that God has called you to do and not ones that you got roped into by others.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to establish some visible boundaries for your marriage and family, next week we will discover how to make room for the people who are most important to us.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

Psalm 91

Prioritizing Family in Ministry

Let’s face it, Ministry is often exhausting! And while it CAN be extremely fulfilling, It can also suck the life out of you, your marriage and your family.

The first thing that I’ve learned about prioritizing family and ministry is this: Prioritizing means learning to say, “No!” (Yes!, you heard me correctly.) If your family is going to be priority, there are some things that you will not be able to do. Therefore learning to say no is an essential skill to master.

Like many of you, my husband and I started out sprinting this marathon. We were always busy! For years we were the first to arrive at church and almost always the last to leave. We were there every time the doors were opened. (And I’ll tell you, those doors were opened ALOT!) Six days a week there was something that we were in charge of or required to attend. Saturday began with sunrise prayer, continued with neighborhood Kid’s Club and included worship practice and evening bible study. To top that off, for a while the church actually met in our home, so when there wasn’t “ministry” to do, we were cleaning up from a meeting or preparing for a meeting. After all that ministry, there was barely enough time to do the basic necessities like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. And we certainly did not have time for enjoyable activities, fellowshipping with friends, neighbors or family or resting. During those years most all of our activities and conversations revolved around ministry and as you can guess, our marriage was suffering.

So here is the deal, the only way to prioritize family and full-time ministry is to learn to set boundaries! Repeat after me! “It’s ok to say No!” Now believe me, I understand that you love The Lord and want to serve Him. I also know that 20% of the people always do 80% of the work. And what I’ve come to believe even more is, there ARE people perfectly capable of doing many of these things. However, because we always volunteer or think that no one can do it as well as we can, they never get the opportunity to try. Beyond that, it’s ok to just let some things go undone.

There is a great book that someone recommended to me several years ago when I was struggling with this very thing. I have read it & listened to the audio several times over the years. I think it might be helpful for you too. in fact, I think I might revisit it again as I prepare for my next blog.

Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Believe me, I know that setting boundaries is not easy, but it does get easier with practice! (We’ll discuss how to do that more another day.)

So where do we go from here?

Step one:

Identify some areas of ministry where you might need to set boundaries. In order to do that, prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

1) Am I currently involved with any aspect of ministry that I do not believe God has specifically asked me to do?

2) Am I currently involved in any part of ministry simply because someone coerced, obligated or guilted me into doing? Am I involved because others think I should be? Am I involved because others will think poorly of me if I’m not in charge or don’t participate?

3) Am I involved in anything that is sucking the life out of me, my family, or my marriage?

4) Do I enjoy something, but it is taking up way too much time and energy? Am I spread too thin?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you most likely do not have proper boundaries set to protect you, your family or marriage.

(If you answered “no” to all of the above questions…well then this blog is probably not written for you.)

Step Two:

Now make a list of the areas that came to mind when you answered yes to the above questions.

These are the areas where you need to set boundaries!

What’s next?:

Now that you have identified the areas where you need to set boundaries, next week we will look at how to actually make that happen.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91

A New Direction

For over 6 years my writings in this blog have been little more than me processing life, this life that I have lived safely and extravagantly Under the Shadow of God’s protective wings. Some blogs have fallen on deaf ears, others were beloved by many and still others encouraged friends walking similar roads. Sometimes I wrote often and at other times sporadic, but the goal of practicing writing has always stayed before me. Since 2012 I have practiced vulnerability by exposing glimpses of the secrets that hovered safely in my mind just out of others’ sight.

Over the years, many of you have encouraged me to write a book, and while that remains one of my life goals, I can’t imagine what it is that I could actually write about that would be “book worthy”. Then there is the little detail, that I know NOTHING about writing a book. But there are many things that God has asked me to do over the years that I knew nothing of before I started. So if and when He tells me it’s time, I suspect He will show me the way.

I was inspired recently by comments friends have made to me, that perhaps my blog could serve a higher purpose. One comment was by a young missionary, the other a new friend stateside and the other by someone who has “been in the ministry” for many years. Each story was slightly different, yet all were agonizing over the enormity of the task that God had set before them, their struggle to fill the shoes which God had call them to wear and the weight of it all.

I too find myself in a new place, wearing new & heavy shoes. For the last several months, since moving from Mexico back to Tennessee, I have struggled with identity. As I seek to figure out who I am in this new season of life, I remember the words of a dear friend who challenged me to ask a different question. She encouraged, “It is not who you are, but Whose you are that really matters!” And she is right! So much of ME has been wrapped up in being a missionary that I somehow lost sight that BEING GOD’S is all that really matters. Weather I find myself in Mexico, Honduras or East Tennessee, the only location my identity is dependent on is continuing to live Under the Shadow of HIS wings.

Like an arrow aimed at a target for the first time, I now have a direction, other than “practice writing” for this blog.

I’m not sure this blog will really change much, but rather my focus has changed. Instead of writing for me, I’ve decided to write for you. To my friend who left comforts behind to be a missionary and struggles with just wanting to throw in the towel & go home, this blog is for you. To my friend who at God’s leading used her retirement to start a new business, and just wants to hear Jesus say, “well done” this blog is for you. To those who have faithfully served the Lord through good and bad times, this blog is for you. To all my friends (new, old & yet to come) who have made the choice to follow God when all those closest to you thought you had gone crazy. You guessed it…I’m writing for you!

I know what it’s like to take the risk and follow God when no one around you understands. I know what it’s like to be afraid of failure on one hand and desperately want to quit on the other. I know what it’s like to cry out in prayer reminding God, “I am still here!” Be encouraged and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Ministry, and quite frankly life, can be a lonely place. So as I weave my stories, I will try my best to connect with you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Even when you don’t understand and even when you think that He has forgotten you, He holds you as the apple of His eye. The fact that you are reading this blog is His way of gently reminding you that you are not forgotten and you are not alone.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

“…I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5 ESV

Be encouraged today friend, The Lord has great plans for you!

KD

Learning Contentment

(This blog was written as a response to the August 14 devotional found in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.)

Oswald, You never cease to speak to me! Oh if you had know how mightily God would use you. More than a century has passed since your homecoming with Our Lord, and still He uses you to speak to me and so many others. Today, your words cut deep into my being. “Don’t be blind to this point anymore-you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were.” As I tread new waters, this statement resonates with me.

After years of struggle on the mission field, being a Christian had become easy. Trials made life such, that calling on The Lord was second nature. Everything in my life there moved and found its being…its purpose in God. But here, there are so many distractions. Abundance of things, ease of life and constant entertainment via for my attention and I find myself once again in God’s school. I am learning again to cling to The One who sustains me.

As a missionary, I learned and practiced lessons of clinging to God through difficulties and adversity. When Faith died, I learned to breath God’s breath of life in the midst of great sorrow. Through the pain of Fibromyalgia, I learned to embrace God’s comfort. When we started Hope House, I learned that God will provide all of our needs according to His riches in glory and that He is the defender of orphans. But this battle is much different than those I experienced while living in Mexico. Here in the United States, the playing field has been changed. Here, I must learn to shut out the noise and run to the “secret place”; to avoid distractions and choose time alone with God instead of the countless options that constantly come my way. The battle to not get derailed by the levity in life but instead remember that any ease we experience is only because of God’s grace.

I can so identify with the psalmist David when he said, “When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken!”…but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.” (Psalm 30: 6 & 7) It is not that God has hidden his face from me; but in the crowd, sometimes, it is difficult for me to see Him.

Oswald goes on to challenge me with a question. “Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of himself?” Then he drives the question home when he reminds me something about the process of becoming holy. “Sanctification, is not my idea of what I want God to do for me. Sanctification, is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.” You see, the integrity of my spirituality is only strong, if it holds in all circumstances. Like the Apostle Paul, I must learn to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” (Phil 4:11) By default, that means that God must place me in new classrooms and circumstances for my learning to be complete.

Do you find yourself in a new classroom? If so ask God what new material He has for you to learn.

KD

Guilty

I’ve tried to be open about the burnout (aka: compassion fatigue) that I am experiencing. But as I’ve said, it’s not easy to be transparent. But since I have a Masters Degree in Counseling, I know the healing value of processing, so I continue to write and share.

My current battle is guilt! As far back as I can remember I have loved Missions. When I was a child I was fascinated by the stories that visiting missionaries told. When I was in middle school I attended an annual missions conference and knew then that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. Missions is in my blood, it’s what I know, what I’m good at and who I am. So no wonder I’m feeling guilty. If Missions makes up so much of who I am, how can I be happy to return stateside? Is that even ok?

The truth is, I am enjoying being in Tennessee. I love to look at the breathtaking Smokey Mountains and imagine what they will look like in the fall. I’m looking forward to the colors of Autumn, a sight I have not seen for many years. I like the cleanliness here. Even with 2 inside dogs and one that sheds extensively there is no comparison to the dirt in my home in Mexico. Here there is no mud or dirt inside, no scorpions, no mice, no roaches nor mold. I don’t have to sweep, mop and dust daily. It’s just not dirty here like it is there.

Crisis in the states are different than in Mexico. In fact, I can’t name one real crisis that we’ve suffered since returning stateside. Oh we’ve had inconviences, setbacks and the like, but for the most part life is easy here. In Mexico life is raw. There, the day is filled with a million tasks of survival. Food must be sanitized and prepared from scratch. You can’t buy or cook ahead because of the frequent power shortages (which can last for days and can ruin everything you have in your fridge and freezer). Running water and electricity are never taken for granted. Many days one, if not both, are non-existent. Dust and dirt whirl through the air and cover your house inside and out. My sinuses are stopped up every morning and at 5,000+ ft above sea level the oxygen is thin and Fibromyalgia pain at times is unbearable. There, common cuts can lead to massive infections and people easily get sick from parasites. In Mexico life is hand to mouth and it is difficult living there. The thought of returning overwhelms me! And that makes me feel embarrassed and….guilty.

Before you think I am completely down on Mexico, let me say…There are many wonderful things about Mexico. There, people are important in a way that they aren’t here. People are more important than things. The slow pace of society helps cultivate friendships. Family is honored and close knit. There, all ages hang out together: grandparents, middle age adults, teenagers, children and babies. Mexicans appreciate and enjoy children and I have learned to enjoy my daughters in a way that I possibly never would have had I not lived there.

I am thankful for my 16 years of living in Mexico, but I am glad to be stateside taking a break from raw living. And when I think of my friends there and the hardships they endure just to survive, well it makes me feel a little (Can you guess?)…..guilty.

KD

The Point

“I feel like there is something left undone!”

That’s the whole point of a sabbatical. Doing nothing, learning to rest in His presence. But like most people, I’m not good at doing that. So far I’ve been busy with administrative work for the ministry. Things that have gone undone because we were so busy meeting needs and putting out fires that we never got around to them. Then there is the day to day practical side of ministry. Is there enough money to feed the boys, pay the staff? How do we get money efficiently to Hope House without us in Mexico? Will people continue to support Hope House if we aren’t there? Will people continue to support our family if we aren’t in Mexico? What about the outreach teams we have scheduled for this summer, how will that workout with me in the States? There are endless questions that need resolution… so I work.

But work is not the point of sabbath! Rest instead of business, peace over worry and frustration, refreshment rather than exhaustion, that is what should characterize this time.

As we prepared for this sabbatical I went through a sabbatical preperation guide that compared taking a sabbatical to getting off a major interstate. It suggested that we needed an off ramp before beginning sabbatical and an acceleration lane at the end. These lanes will help the transition from full-time ministry to rest and then back again to full-time ministry.

I’ve found that even if we had not planned it, the off ramp found its way into our daily routine. There has been so much to do upon arrival in the states. We’re a few months in and we’re just starting to get to a place where we can rest.

I’ve been pondering sabbath rest when I read a blog by fellow missionary and friend Isaiah Cory entitled, “Rest Like It’s Your Job”

(http://www.shepherds-heart-ministries.org/single-post/2018/05/19/Rest-Like-Its-Your-Job)

Isaiah’s words encouraged me that this sabbatical is not only important, but needed as part of my job. Sabbatical is necessary to rest securely in the Lord’s protective care and to be refreshed and alert to give our best to the Lird’s work. It reminds me that Psalm 23 is the embodiment of sabbatical.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalms 23

Prayer:

Lord as I set aside sabbath time, help me to learn to rest in You. Help me to see this sabbatical as a necessary part of my work. Help me to “rest like it’s my job!” Thank you for taking care of all of the ministry details and thank you for taking care of us.

Before and After

Before-

Last week we were in Mexico. As I prepared for the trip I wrote….

I’ve spent every summer in Mexico since 1998 except the summer of 2000; the year when Genesis was born. But this summer, I’m not looking forward to being there. It took a lot of effort, prayers, godly counsel and muscle to get our family of 6 along with two of our dogs to the states and now after being here 2 months, I must return South of the Border. As far as I can remember, this is the first time since September of 2004 that I have not wanted to return.

I remember traveling with Rodney and 3 of the girls. Zion was only 8 weeks old and I did not want to return to Mexico. Life there was difficult, we didn’t know the language, we didn’t have many friends, the house we were renting was moldy. In fact, there was a time when Rodney, Trin and I all had mold growing under our fingernails. We were poor, felt alone and life was tough.

After spending a few extra days at the boarder wrestling with our negative feelings and with God, we decided to return to Mexico. We didn’t want to spend our lives wondering what God would have done through us had we only been faithful.

Over the years the hardships and struggles only served to strengthen our faith and deepen our relationship with each other and our Lord.

This week as I struggled, once again, with my feelings of not wanting to return to Mexico, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It didn’t take long for me to adjust my attitude. I have so many things to be thankful for. And now after all these years I can look back with thankfulness at all that God has accomplished in spite of the difficulties that we faced.

After-

Fast Forward to the end of our trip…..

Lord-I thank you for this trip! I did not want to come, but I’m glad I did. You have blessed us and loved on us while we were here. Thank you to our friends LeAnna and Jerry who have blessed us with their “little house”. Staying here has given us privacy and precious downtime we both desperately need. While here we have gotten to visit friends and loved ones, we have shared laughs and tears. Thank you, Lord, that we were here to be able to comfort our friend Lucinda as L.C. passed into glory. Thanks that I got to sing once again with my friends, who I’ve missed, in the LCBC Choir. Thanks for Hope House! Annel and Ismael are doing a FANTASTIC job, much better than Rodney and I could do at this point. They are standing on our shoulders and advancing God’s Kingdom and changing lives. Investing 15 1/2 years in her life was worth it! Thank you that she and Ismael embrace the vision You Father gave us for Hope House and they are not only maintaining in our absence, but thriving. This trip has reassured me that we are exactly where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing. It has brought much healing to my weary heart. Thank you for blessing me with peace that YOU have got this under control. Thank you for encouraging me to rest in You.

Thought-

There are times when life is difficult and there are times when we just imagine that life will be difficult. I know that God has a plan and purpose in each of them. I pray that God gives us the wisdom to know the difference and to be thankful for both seasons.