Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Maybe this is what separates me from the big time writers and speakers: I still can't reconcile my personal life with my (very limited) public life.
How to the "real" writers do it? How do they keep writing, talking, and encouraging others when they have dry times spiritually, when God seems silent, and when relationships are sticky? I picture them firmly on the pedestal where I have placed them, continuing faithfully in the Word, trusting God in prayer, and finding spiritual applications to share with us average Christians who are slogging our way through life's difficulties.
Somehow as much as I want to be "real" with you here, I keep slipping into my preferred stance as an expert-wannabe, and then I groan when "being real" forces me to acknowledge that I am in the same trenches with you, fighting similar battles. The glitch is that I can't freely share the nature of my battles, since the story involves some seriously messed up, intertwined lives. People would be hurt if I broadcast our squabbles on a public forum like this.
With my apologies for being so vague, let me just say that after a prolonged conflict, I feel like the end is in sight. It's been a doozy, let me tell you! For the past few weeks, I have decided to stop making excuses for sticking my head in the sand, and I've started spending one solid hour in prayer every day, almost without fail. As a result, I am seeing answered prayer and breakthroughs in the battle. Maybe next time I won't be so slow to return to the Power Source.
Rather than reprinting the story here, you can read about a similar lesson in prayer on my personal blog, Memories and Musings from Mexico: Mixed-up Prayers. It's a true story that happened in Guatemala after my third son was born in 1989. Back then the only time I could be quiet and alone for devotions was when the baby woke up to be fed at 2:00 A.M.
That's what I'm trying to do again, meet with God for a solid hour when the rest of the family is asleep. Nothing needs to be done in the middle of the night. The phone isn't going to ring, no neighbors will be stopping by; the only thing I am missing is sleep. It seems to be harder in my 50's than it was in my 20's, but it's still just as vital to sacrifice whatever it takes to have time to talk to God and listen for my daily marching orders.
Do tell, how do you carve out a private time and place to meet with the Lord each day? Surely there's a better solution that doesn't involve crawling out of bed in the wee hours of the morning. Please share!
IRL: It's good to be out of the fog and back on my knees again in earnest.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Most often I feel like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes: "I say nothing.... I know nothing!"
On Sunday while the more serious football enthusiasts were watching the Super Bowl, I was enjoying a lovely coffee klatsch with a sociable group of lesser football fans. The conversation flew from one topic to another as is typical among my friends. At one juncture, the subject matter centered on cross-cultural child-rearing. Mostly I just listened.
Just as we all have our own ways of coping, surviving, and thriving on the field, either by hunkering down or blending in, or any other variety of ways mentioned in a recent blog post by Rachel Pieh titled, 3 Types of Expatriates, we also have our own personal parenting styles and methods of raising children on the field.
Some will attempt to thoroughly immerse their children in the culture, sending them to the local schools in the local language. Some will keep their kids primarily in the expat community and English speaking schools, with the emphasis on preparing them for life and university in the U.S. someday. Some will keep their kids at home, teaching them in English with the focus on joining in ministry opportunities when they arise. Others will choose a combination of the above.
It’s all well and good. Each couple must decide for themselves which approach is the best for their particular situation and their individual children. There is no one right answer for every missionary family. The trouble comes when we start looking at each other and passing judgment on others’ decisions that conflict with our own. Thankfully I live in a community with a healthy amount of tension that results from differing opinions and experiences, minus any overt criticism.
Once again I refrain from offering the one-size-fits-all solution. I’ll just emphasize that it’s a tough decision that needs to be re-evaluated regularly. Just because one approach worked for a while does not mean we can't change it later. Whatever you choose may leave you with doubts and regrets. How’s that for a depressing thought? All we can do is pray, seek godly wisdom, and agree with our husbands on the right path for our unique families.
For me, I am in a season of reevaluating whether it’s time to drag my three teens out of their comfortable little bubble more frequently, take more forays into Indian villages, and force them to take more cross-cultural risks.
How about you? Where does your family fit in the cross-cultural continuum? Are you happy with your decisions? Ready for a change? Do tell. And do any of you dare to call yourself an expert on raising a family on the field? I'm just curious.
The good news is that most of the time, third culture kids turn out just fine. I cling to that hope.
IRL: Still struggling with the desire to be an “expert” in this whole raising kids overseas, while admitting I am really just learning it all with you.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Duty, obligation, commitment, and obedience.
Don’t those sound like loathsome terms to our 21st century ears? We prefer delight-oriented tasks, learning, serving, and everything else we can possibly choose.
Over the holidays, I started watching the first two seasons of Downton Abbey – a delightful time killer if ever there was one. It’s given me fuel for thought that even enters my dreams at night. I would love some international perspective on this whole idea of duty - and not the kind we pay to bring in our electronics at the airport or border crossing.
Downton Abbey portrays the whole idea of household help as a non-optional institution that benefits both the servant and the master. Many of us live in third world countries where we are expected to hire local gardeners and maids in keeping with our “position in society” (as foreigners), whether we particularly need them or not. Some of us are conversely placed in the position of serving whether we feel like it or not.
Presently I am in both positions at once. I have a gal who has helped in our home since the children were little, and now she is like a member of the family, and my kids would never dream of letting her go. I’d like to believe that Edith works for us with both a sense of duty and delight, but maybe not both simultaneously.
Meanwhile I find myself serving in ways that I would never particularly choose, just because “someone has to do it.” Sometimes there is joy in the deed, but sometimes, not so much.
Daily I struggle with the conflict between duty and delight. So far I’ve not reconciled either. Ideally, I think, delight should come naturally from service done “as unto the Lord.” When I find myself begrudging the time, energy, and sometimes money required by my service, it is only because my attitude is out of whack.
As a friend, please don’t encourage me to quit. Don’t tell me that I don’t have to live under a weight of “ought, should, and must.” The fact is that I sometimes must obey, regardless of how I feel about it. We do each other a huge disservice when we suggest too quickly that maybe "the grace of God is lifting" (whatever that means), and we no longer have to continue in a certain ministry.
My goal is to seek joy in daily service and sacrifice. Do you think that's a worthy ambition?
Sometimes we simply should do our duty, fulfill our commitments, and obediently do what we know we must. Our generation needs to rise up and combine the old-time missionary commitment with the modern joy and delight that is only possible when we do things with a right heart.
It's a fine balance, trying to not make a god out of either duty or delight.
How about you? How are you facing the rest of 2013? Any resolves that might encourage the rest of us? Any lessons learned from Downton Abbey, if you’ve seen it?
IRL* I’m happy to be blogging again after a little break! Hope you'll join me here every other Wednesday or so.