Thursday, June 26, 2008

Words of a Friend

Have you ever had a friend who being with is like taking a deep breath and breathing out in a sigh of relief?

I have a few. They are the type of friends that you can not have many of. There is only so much room in a tight circle.

One of those stepped into my life today.

What a relief! Not just to be talked to by someone who will scold me, not just by someone who will say comforting words to me, but someone who speaks the truth to me plainly because they love me deeply.

Yes, some truth is not easy, but the love behind it makes it worthwhile. And when truth is spoken, the comfort, the encouragement that also comes means so much more. It is not simply words to make me feel better. It is real.

And only a friend will really know how much I am struggling, and how much the last few weeks have hurt me. And only a true friend will tell me they know that, but despite how I feel, I need to make the right choices.

It is good to have a friend.

It does not take away pain. It doesn't get me out of this struggle. But it helps me to get my perspective and gives me the encouragement to go on.

Ps 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man's counsel is sweet to his friend.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blooming in Blazing Sun

I came home the other day after a long difficult week, worn out. There is just so much pressure one can thrive under. When I walked up to my door, I saw these.

Pixie lilies.

They bloom best in blazing sun, thriving in the heat.

A little smile on the day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

When Your Own Side Shoots Arrows

What happens if we talk?

That was my last question. Because I'm struggling. Maybe I am the only one. I doubt it. I heard recently of things which happened to missionary families, broken marriages, lost faith, things we would not whisper of.

I'm struggling. I talked to two friends. Friends who listen, who hug, who pray for us are a blessing. Precious things.

But both said the same. "You need to talk to your leadership. You need help."

I did agree. I was not excited about it. This is the same leadership who has been too busy to respond as this situation slowly worsened. I was never sure if they really believed there was a problem. Or if our "job" or our "abilities" were of more importance than the fact that help is needed.

But I told them. There are struggles, and help is needed.

My field leader listened. He sounded so sympathetic, so kind. Of course, I am concerned, and will help.

Two days later, a phone call. Accusing me of making things up, of exaggerating things.

Where do we go when we hurt? I already knew this would be his response. I knew because he has responded this way many times over the last several years as this problem increased and grew worse. Ah, but it hurts all the same. Deep, scarring pain.

So where do we go when we hurt? Today, I don't know.

A verse came into my head today as I worked, alternating between anger and tears at the treatment I am facing. I don't want to dishonor God's name. I don't want to destroy people. I simply need help. My kids need help. But we are ignored, set aside. Your needs are not as important as your uses. Being accused of lying, of many things. It hurts.

The quiet voice which comes when I get to the end of my fussings and tears, and look up at God with quieted tears. "But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head." Ps 3:3.

Oh God who sees, You, Yourself, are my shield. Shield me from the attacks of men who should be on my side, but who are today shooting arrows, lies, unseeing of our pain. My glory. You, Yourself, are my glory, my honor. The One who lifts my head. When people judge, when people accuse, when people cover their eyes and stop their ears and walk on and say "a real missionary would...", You don't. You stoop down and lift my head again. Give me grace to live, strength to act as Your child. God, who sees, my eyes are on You.

Some arrows hit hard and sink deep. Lord, catch my tears.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where do we go when....?

There is one thing I rarely hear talked about in missionary circles, yet I know it exists. I see it. Real struggles. But we whisper if we do talk about it.

Where do we go when we hurt? When we need help? How do we deal with our struggles honestly?

I am not talking about the "acceptable list". There are some struggles that we are allowed to have. Everyone expects them. Struggles with homesickness, struggles with loneliness, with adapting, with impatience, with feelings of inadequacies, doubts, etc. Struggles after trauma. These are acceptable struggles. We are allowed them.

But what about the other ones? Where do we go when we are in real pain? When our lives are falling down around our ears? When we struggle with things we fear that if we talk about our struggles, people will yank us off the field in shame and disgrace? What then? Do we talk or do we try to ignore it and struggle on on our own trying to "get better" so we can "do"?

Is this a position unique to missionaries? I know that all people struggle with things, with talking openly about issues, with transparency. But how about us? If we talk, we risk so much. If we don't, we also risk. And who do we talk to? Our coworkers who we have to see every day? Our field leaders who have so much to do and may not see the situation the way we see it? Our church who think we are better than we are and also are our source of financial support that we worked so hard to raise? Who do you talk to? What has worked? What hasn't?

It is hard when you live a life with eyes always on you to deal with your struggles honestly. Today, I hurt. But today, I have to.... So do I go on stuffing the pain and the struggles under my shirt, put my smile on, and go on doing? Or do I say, "I hurt here"? And what are the consequences of that?

I'm leaning towards the "it's time to talk" side. But to who? And what will be the result? I don't know. I'm leaving that in God's hands - or I'm trying to. I keep coming back to Him, grabbing it out of His hands and saying, "hey, have You thought about this? What if....?" Then I have to realize again that I can not live my life by the "what ifs". I have to leave those to God.

Funny how we can trust Him to move us across the world, care for details, open doors, reach out to the lost through us (that takes some faith at times!), protect us from harm, but we have a hard time trusting Him to deal with our own hearts.

I'm struggling today. Hurt by some things. And I wonder... how do we talk? Are we honest with each other?

I began to talk to two people, sharing what is going on. I half expected scoldings. But I got tears. One is struggling with that, too. Perhaps further ahead than I am, but still hurting. We can at least hug each other now, pray for each other. The other one struggled with it years ago, but not so many years that the tears did not come for them too. They know it hurts. But they have walked through it and out the other side. They could give me hope.

It does not fix my situation. But today I have someone who I can talk to. I still do not know what God will do in this situation. But I am not alone. I still feel alone at times, but I am not. Working with, fellowshipping with, being with the same people can at times be too close for comfort, too close to share all problems, but I have two people who can look me in the eyes when they pass me in the halls, and I know they are praying.... not just that we will be safe, effective, used, blessed, but for this, for my struggles today.

I still have to decide what is the next step. I haven't done that yet. But I am beginning. I'm hoping, like sky-diving, that it is the first step that is the hardest, and the rest just sort of happens after that. I doubt it, but it would sure be nice!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Living in the Mundane

It was about fifteen years ago that I spent a summer helping out a missionary family with small kids through a difficult time in their lives. Health problems and ministry requirements meant that the family could just use an extra pair of hands. I had a spare pair that summer, so I went.

A group of people had breakfast with me that last morning before the flight. They all shared verses with me and prayed for me. I took off, fairly excited and slightly proud of myself. It was going to be an exciting summer...

Weeks later, as I mopped up pee for the third time that day - potty training was taking awhile to sink in, but thank God for cement floors! - I sat back on my heels and thought about the day I flew over here. Such big thoughts filled my head. But here I sit, mopping up pee. Tonight, again, I will try to wrangle a few wiggly, dirty kids through their bath in the round, plastic basin, trying not to get soaked myself. It is not exactly what I thought.

You would have thought that my life as an MK would have prepared me for this day, the routine of the mundane setting in. Later, as a mother of many, I realize that nothing can quite mentally prepare us for the repetitive tasks that lay ahead... "Didn't I just mop this floor two minutes ago?" "Ahh! What is on your shirt?! Go get a new one on, and then stand by the door and do nothing except breathe until I get the others dressed!"

I found out I was not the only one. Another young man had also ended up down in the same city helping out in another area. Unlike me, he had never even been outside his own state. His dreams of adventure were even greater than mine. Right before we left, our hosts must have felt sorry that we had not seen much of this great country, so they sent us off on a few days trip with one missionary. It was fun. But as we stood looking over one of this country's magnificent attractions, the young man turned to me and said, "whew! This missionary stuff sure isn't one adventure after another like I thought it would be, is it?"

There are days that I remember his comment and laugh. No, it isn't. There are still people in my home church who think that. "How exciting it must be!" Well, maybe. There are exciting things, yes. But this morning... well, I spent an hour sorting through used clothes to find clothes for my kids for next year, trying to guess how fast they will grow. Now I am home. One set of guests has gone, and in a week or two another set will arrive. I am staring at eight beds that need to be changed, washed, rearranged, and set up again.

No, there are days that it is even boring. (Just don't tell my kids that I used that word!)

Then I remember a dusty quote from Hudson Taylor. I can't even remember how he said it. But the gist of it was this: "When you don't know what to do, start by doing your duty. God will meet you there." So today, with lots on my heart, worries about loved ones, worries about what consequences of choices will be, all this filling my mind with "what if's", I chose to do my duty. I'll wait for God to meet me there.

Off to change eight beds... don't even think about the laundry and scrubbing that will come next...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where are you from? When we can not say...

Ah.. the question we hate as MKs. There is no "good answer". I sat down tonight after I got home way too late already and read blogs from other missionary women. I had to confess that I was jealous.

Jealous? Why?

Because I would love to write a blog, to share my life, to post cute pictures of my great kids, to chat and get responses back. But as I read through the blogs, I noticed that there are a large percentage from South America, some from Africa, and a few from Europe. (That is as far as I got reading tonight.) I loved your blogs! I am not jealous of your life... well, maybe a bit. I spent a few years in South America, and it is a special place to me. I'm jealous of your ability to write publically about what you do.

Where are you from? Where do you live?

How many of us missionaries can not answer that question? Some of us work in countries that we may not talk about. How much we would love to share our lives, let you laugh with us at our children, cry with us in our struggles, and just be a part of our lives. We can't. So we read your blogs and stay in the shadows. Slightly jealous, yes, of your ability to talk freely.

I can not tell you what is happening in my life. I can not post a photo of my children. I can not tell you what I struggle with right now. I can not even tell you what exactly I do. Nor where I am. It makes blogging difficult.

There are probably many of us silent readers, unable to share our lives. Yet, thank-you for posting yours. We may be slightly jealous of your ability, but we love to look into your lives and laugh with you.

Right now, I am currently in a "safe country". But still, I can not talk about my life. It leaves only my thoughts to talk about, my kids, generic things. I may try a generic blog. I don't know if it will work. But, I wonder, are there others of us who dare not answer those questions, "where are you, and what do you do" in public? Can we talk without talking? Tonight, I am praying for all of you who read in the shadows quietly, unable to share your world, unable to even post your name on a blog. It is a lonely position at times.

Today, I am struggling with things in my life. Tomorrow looks pretty dark to me. And yet, I am still in a position where I am very limited in who I can talk to about it. So my tears fall quietly in the dark, and I am listening for the quiet voice. I know God sees me. I don't always feel it, but I know it. And I am sitting here reading blogs way too late at night to remind me that God sees His children, and He is in the habit of coming through for them.

So hi to all you other missionary wives and moms out there! I may be slightly jealous about your ability to speak, but it is still special to be a part of your lives, even sitting in the shadows reading your blogs.