Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When You're Draining Your Own Bucket

You know the feeling...your bucket is empty. You are physically, emotionally, and mentally empty and dry. You given all you have and life just keeps coming, like the waves, hard and fast, and you are just surviving. Trying to keep your head above water and not drown.

But this isn't a situation that you can just walk out of. It's very different than you imagined it would be. The life you are living is your calling. It's the path God has put you feet on and asked you to walk out of love for Him. With joy. It started out that way. When you began your journey, life was beautiful and everything was green and you danced in the rain. Your eyes were lifted up and bright. You were up for adventure and new things. It was exciting. But now, it just seems like you are dragging your feet down this dry and dirty road. The green is gone and you feel like you're in a desert. The rain that you once danced in now feels cold and you curse it as it falls...

This past year has been a rough one. For me personally, not just as a family or in ministry. Moves, goodbyes, expectations, realizations, family, withdrawals, homeschooling, new ministry, hubby not doing what he loves, a 12-year-old son, emotions, hormones...just this past week, we found out that a 10 month ongoing deal for land for our new hangar feel through and we are back at square one. As I was talking to a dear friend, we were talking about what to do when your bucket is empty and how every time you are emptied, the bottom gets a little deeper and a full bucket doesn't feel as full as it used to.

When the Lord first called us to the mission field, we were on fire and full of passion and energy. We were so excited to start our new ministry in the Philippines using aircraft to help speed up the process of getting the Gospel to people who were lost without Christ. Almost 8 years later, I can tell you that it has looked nothing like what we imagined it would. We have lived a dream life some of the time, doing what we love and what we believed God called us to. But we have also done a lot of things that we did not dream of. Several years of not flying, filling in needs here and there, feeling unwanted or not needed, moving and traveling ALOT with kids, saying goodbye to coworkers that we thought would be here with us longer, and so so many unknowns and LONG periods of waiting.

Over the past few weeks, we have been convicted and of those times where you feel and hear God speaking to you in EVERYTHING. Songs, books, friends...and to sum it up, He has asked us a question. "Will you choose joy and excitement and be passionate about doing whatever it is I ask you to do, even if it's not what you 'dreamed of?'"

Yeah...and basically we have realized that by allowing cynicism, complaining, frustration, and impatience to creep in, we have drained our on buckets.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of things beyond our control that drain us. Living in a country other than your home country will do that to you, as well as being in full time ministry.  Anyone who is understands what I mean when I talk about tiredness that doesn't go away no matter how much you sleep. But the Lord is showing us things that we have CHOSEN to do that drain us. And what's even more awesome is that He has shown us some very practical ways to work on changing.

1. Complaining kills.
We have realized how often we complain, especially under the disguise of "venting." My complaining ruins the atmosphere of my home and my bad attitude becomes everyone else's bad attitude, especially my kids and my husband. One way we are fixing this is that at dinner, we are all going around the table telling our favorite thing that happened that day. Focusing on the fun and joyful things that happen instead of being so quick to voice whatever it is that is bothering us. Also singing and praying together as a family more. A friend of ours told about his 6th grade teacher who required pushups for every mean thing that was said. We are now trying something like that for complaining just to help make us aware of how often we complain. So if you notice that we are all getting buff in pictures, you'll know why.

2. When sharing something with my spouse, timing and necessity can be key.
When something happens that frustrates me, my automatic response is to immediately tell Josh how frustrated I am and tell him about how so-in-so did this and it really bothered me. Any loving spouse's response is going to be to sympathize. But for us, this leads to feeding off of each other's frustrations. It quickly turns into a back and forth narrative on how this person or this thing has offended or frustrated both of us and it grows and grows until it's out of control. So we have tried to start asking ourselves 2 things before we share something- "Does this need said right now?" and "Do I really need to say this at all?" This allows time for frustration to lessen and the Lord to deal with the sin that is probably driving the frustration.

3. Choose to think the best.
I remember first hearing this years ago in the "Love and Respect" study in reference to husband/wife relationships. But this applies to every relationship and for us especially in cross-cultural situations. Why do I always assume the person is just trying to be annoying and is out to get me? Just because you've been burned in the past doesn't mean everyone is trying to set you on fire.  Choose to think the best.

4. Be adventurers.
When you're frustrated, hurt, and tired, you want to be safe. No new things. No change. But the reality is, we live a life of change and new things almost daily. I can drudge through each day just "taking what I'm given" or I can see life as a wild and exciting adventure with Jesus and accept each things He gives with joy knowing it's the best He has for me.

People. This takes grace. Daily grace. Minute grace. Nanosecond grace. Josh & I had a weekend away last week for our anniversary and I was so energized and excited to put into practice the things the Lord had been showing us. I began the week great. This afternoon? Well, Josh is at home with the kids and I'm at a coffee shop blogging if that tells you anything. Every day, I find myself more desperate and desperate for Jesus. He is real. He is there. And He knows and answers. I need Him every second for every breath.

So many things in this life drain our buckets. Lord Jesus, help me not to drain my own bucket.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Of Course He Isn't Safe

As a missionary, we get asked some weird questions, especially while on furlough. And we get asked a lot of the same questions. Common ones include- "So, don't you just love it there?" Is it like being on vacation all the time?" (ha!) "How many people have you led to Christ?" And probably one of the top ones is- "Is it safe over there?"

The dictionary describes safe as: protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost; uninjured with no harm done. I guess I understand what people are asking, but sometimes I want to ask them the same thing- "Are you safe here?"
Don't get me wrong. I am all about safety and being aware and careful, but it seems more like a fear loaded question of, "Are you sure you should be doing what you are doing? Because you might get killed you know."
Being the nerd I am, a good Lord of The Rings quote always brings balance...
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to..."

Any one of us, whether I am stepping out my door in a jungle in the Philippines, or stepping out my door on my way to work in America- We aren't safe. We are not guaranteed safety from harm, danger, risk, or death. We could all easily let this knowledge completely paralyze us with fear. Maybe, if you locked yourself in your house on a deserted island and never left, you might be "safe."

Yes, the job we do has completely different risks and concerns than living in America. Sometimes, thinking about my husband, flying into some of the most difficult airstrips in the world makes me nervous. Sometimes, living where we live and the things that go on make me concerned. But being in the center of God's will is always the safest place to be. And on an island in the Philippines is where His will is for us.

As Josh was reading aloud to the kids last night before bed from The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, I overheard him read something I've read many times, but it struck me because "safety" has been on my mind a lot lately.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

Our God isn't safe! He is mighty, just, & all-powerful. But oh, He is GOOD! Our trust is not in safety, but in His goodness.

Monday, June 27, 2016

When Your Kids Are Grieving

Over the past couple of weeks, we have experienced something new with our kids. Grief. Not just crying over someone they missed but deep grieving over the losses they have experienced in their few short years of living in this fallen world. I was totally unprepared and have felt utterly helpless.

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of attending our annual mission conference. It is a great time to catch up on what all God is doing in the Philippines and reconnect with friends. Although we serve in the same country, serving on different islands makes it difficult for us to get together and it will sometimes even be a couple years in between visits. Our kids have friends here that they have grown up with since they were born, so it is a special time for them especially.

After two weeks of fun and friends, we started our long trip back to our island. And that's when the tears began. I thought it was just the normal crying when we say goodbyes and gave my normal "comfort"talk and let them cry. I knew it would go away as soon as we got home.

But as the days went by, it just got worse. Sobbing and sobbing. And that's when I knew we were dealing with more than just the normal goodbye cries. They were talking for hours about things, people, and places they missed. And the questions...the questions are what got me.

We have always been very honest and open with the whys and wheres and hows of our ministry. The kids have seen us struggle and cry, but we realized that they are not little anymore and aren't just taking our word for things. They are grappling with the whys, the wheres, and the hows for themselves.

"Why can't we tell people about Jesus in America?"
"Why were we called to the mission field and to say goodbye to our family but so-in-so doesn't have to?"
"Why can't we live near our friends?"
"How is flying a helicopter really telling people about Jesus?"
"If all Christians are supposed to tell people about Jesus, then why aren't more people going where people don't know?"
"Why are goodbyes so hard?"
"Why do we miss people so much?"
"Why did we have to move from Palawan?"
"Why do we have to move all the time?"
"Why can't we just go to heaven now so we don't have to cry anymore?"

Yeah...try and answer those to an 11 and 9 year old...

My first reaction is to try and distract them with something else so they will stop crying and maybe forget about the questions they are asking and the struggles they are having. But that's just selfish because really that reaction is because I don't want to have to deal with it and I don't want to see them hurt.

The past few weeks have driven Josh & I to our knees. I have so desperately needed Jesus because I don't have answers for all those questions. I cannot take their pain away. We have sought the Lord, His word, and the wisdom of other missionaries and missionary kids who have walked through this before us. We definitely do not have the answers, but in our seeking, God has answered in some powerful ways.

1. Grieving takes time and you can't rush it. Letting them cry. Listening to them talk.  Even if it's for several hours everyday. They need to get it out.

2. Notice and acknowledge when they are struggling. Don't minimize it or "try to make it better."
Be a safe place they can come to and even seek them out when you see they are hurting.

3. Transitions take time too. A friend told us that it takes about a year to feel at home in a new place. It makes so much since even considering that a lot of things happen annually. Christmas, birthdays, things you do that create memories. I think one of the reasons it was so hard for our kids to return "home" this time is because it was the first time to return "home". They have no memories yet of coming back here.

4. What they are going through now is preparing them for what God has for them in the future. They will be able to relate to and minister to people who are walking through loss, missing people, and moving in a way that many others won't be able to.

5. Loving a lot means hurting a lot. When you love people, it hurts.

6. Everything that we do is because we love Jesus and because we are thankful for what Jesus did for us. We have talked about how Jesus left his daddy and went to a place far from His home to tell make a way for people to be saved and come to God. They are relating to this with having left their family in America and realize why we are here- to tell those who haven't heard about our Jesus that people in America have access to by almost every avenue.

7. Serving Jesus is a privilege. And they get to do so many things that most other kids don't! More airline flights than we can count, snorkeling in the ocean, swimming in rivers in the jungle, watching people open God's Word for the first time, traveling all over the world, friends from all over the world. They live a life of privilege.

8. And sometimes serving Jesus calls for sacrifice- my kids have moved an average of once a year since they have been born & say real and long goodbyes multiple times a year sometimes not knowing when or if they will see family or friends again. They also live a life of loss.

9. It's not just our ministry. It's theirs. God didn't just call Josh & I to the Philippines. He called our family and making sure that they are a part is crucial. We have tried to let them help with things they can help with as much as possible. And they often open doors with neighbors and local people in a way that would be harder for us as adults.

10. Heaven is our real home. If our life was always good here and we were never sad then we wouldn't want to go to heaven. They long for heaven like no kids I have ever known. It is very real to them. This is probably the thing I am most excited about that I see God doing in their lives. And in Josh & I's too. We live life in the here and now, so focused on the visible and tangible. But we were not made for here. We were made for a place unseen. There are battles going on right before our eyes,  an entire realm exists that we can't see with our physical eyes. I want my kids to know and have a purpose on this earth and live it out to the fullest for Jesus with their eyes on their eternal destination. And God is working that in their hearts. It's hard, but it is beautiful.

Please continue to pray for us, for all four of us. Pray that we will fall to our knees before the One who brings comfort and peace. Pray that we will know our purpose and live it to the fullest. Pray that we will learn to grieve well and help others who are grieving. Pray that we will live our life on Earth but live it for Heaven.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

True Confessions- My Story Of Healing

True confessions- Over the past few weeks, a lot of things have come to the surface for me that I feel like I have buried.  I am going to be very honest because I am just a normal person and even missionaries struggle and sin. I wanted to share about this not for you to feel sorry for me, but to show how awesome and faithful God has been to me.

A year or so before we moved to the Philippines, I started having some anxiety symptoms, mind racing, constant stomach cramps, fatigue, and sadness, though at that time I didn't know that was what it was. After struggling for several months, I went to see our family doctor who is also a strong believer and good friend. He prescribed me a low dose of anxiety meds that helped with my symptoms and I have been on it for the past 7 years. 

Three weeks after moving to the Philippines, my mom suffered a complete mental, emotional, and physical breakdown. Only by God's grace was I able to commit myself to being where I was, knowing that my dad and brother were doing everything they could to take care of her. After over a year. they were finally able to get her stabilized and she is doing well to this day. That was a hard and dark year that I am glad is over. Being a parent to your parent and quoting scripture and truth over the phone to your crying, sick Mom who is on the other side of the world is not easy.

After being in the Philippines for a year and a half, right after moving to Palawan, I found out that I was pregnant for the fourth time, having miscarried a baby in between our kids. When I went to the doctor for the first time around 10 weeks, I was only measuring 6 weeks, and realized that something was wrong. After finally finding a doctor who didn't just want to to a D&C and "take care of it", I was told that I had a "non embryonic" pregnancy- all the signs, including morning sickness, weight gain, and no periods, but no baby. I decided to just let my body deal with it on its own and at almost 20 weeks, it did. I am not sure why, but that experience left my body a physical wreck. I felt like I dealt with it well emotionally, but ever since then, my body has been different. I have put on a considerable amount of weight since then and have not been able to lose it, no matter how hard I have tried.

Most of you who have read my blog or know me also know that I have a pretty crazy family. 15 brothers and sisters. Since being in the Philippines, my parents have gone through more than any two people can handle with a bunch of my siblings. Every time they call, I wonder which one it is this time that is in jail, has lost a job, or has a new child out of wedlock. I wondered how much more my parents could take and part of me wanted to go scream and shake my siblings into reality. It got to the point that whenever I would hear whatever the latest scandal was, I could actually feel myself getting calloused and almost like I didn't care. I don't know if that was just my way of handling it or what.

The life of a missionary is exciting. We get to travel the world and see new places and cultures. But when you don't like change and you are a planner/list maker type of person, the exciting and new wears off kind of fast. In the almost seven years we have been on the field, we have lived on 3 different islands & flown across the world 10 times. There have been days when I literally couldn't plan my week, let alone my day, because I had no idea what we were doing. Months of uncertainty about if we are moving, where we are moving, how we are moving, to here, to there, flight program closed, flight program open...I could go on. It's been a stretch for me.

And all of this bring me to recent events (and my point, promise!)-
We are nearing the 4 month mark of living on our new island, Mindanao. We packed up and moved all of our belongings and car from Palawan and said goodbye to all our friends there. The transition has gone smoothly and well for us- it helps when your close friends and coworkers live a couple blocks away. I have really been struggling with my weight and after some prayer, Josh and I decided that I would wean myself off of my anxiety meds to see if that would help. Right at about a month of being completely off, things were going pretty well with none of the symptoms coming back. About three weeks ago, we went as a family to a big city about 4 hours away to await the helicopter's arrival. Josh and our coworker, Brian, would be assembling it and getting it ready to fly. We waited a week before it was finally released and the guys could start working. It felt like we were sitting on a time bomb, like literally waiting on pins and needles for the phone call that it was released. It was a tad trying on the patience. While in the city, we stayed at a small guesthouse. It was during that week when I really started to feel the pressure building up inside me. We were having daily power outages for 4-8 hours and no water during the day. It was really hot and humid. We had to share our kitchen and space and I was not a happy camper. (My next post is about complaining.) I realized that I was having withdrawal symptoms from the meds. I also realized that I did not like myself. I didn't like the way I looked, the way I felt, or the way I was acting. My husband told me that because I didn't myself, I assumed he didn't either and had seriously pulled away from him emotionally and physically.

Over the past two weeks, I have done some serious soul searching. I realized that the anxiety meds were God's way of healing me from anxiety and helping me through the past few years, but they also had kept me from dealing with loss and sorrow. I could count a handful of times that I have cried in the last 7 years. I don't think it was all the meds because I also know that I just didn't want to deal with my feelings of loss, anger, or sadness at those times. I stuffed it because it was easier. So I began to cry out to the Lord to teach me how to deal- how to grieve.

I think I have cried at least twice every single day in the last 10 days. Things will just hit me. My mom. My siblings. All the goodbyes. Being so far away from people I love. How I have treated Josh or my kids. Change. And its been beautiful. A hard beautiful. And it has also shown me how God has used all of these things to change me and show me how awesome He is.

He healed my Mom without me! He took care of her and taught me how to trust Him with those I love. Sometimes I am afraid that something will happen to someone in my family when I'm so far away- and He reminds me, "Something did happen. And I proved myself trustworthy. You still doubt me?"

He used the weird pregnancy experience to teach me how to trust Him with my own health in a foreign country and to help me to learn to be content with how many children He gave. (I always wanted at least 6.)

He has used my crazy family to teach me unconditional love and that its only by His grace that I am not the one in jail. And that sometimes love does not look like we think it does. I pray for my siblings everyday and I completely trust that the Lord will bring them back to Himself.

All of the moving and change has taught me that God has a plan, even when I don't and I can't see His. He has taught me that I am not entitled to or do I deserve anything that I have. It is all a gift. From having hot water for a shower to what kind of house I live in or knowing where I am going to live.

Healing and learning to "deal" often comes through grieving. You can grieve and trust our faithful Father at the same time.

And all this to say, He is faithful. He shines brightest in the darkest places, in the hard places.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Be A Risky Adventurer

Our whirlwind year began with flying back to the Philippines and preparations for moving all of our stuff from one island to another. As we were spending time with family around the holidays and packing up to come back to the Philippines, we were blessed with some encouragement from several people in our family that helped to change my perspective on things that were coming.

You all know I don't like change. I blog about it pretty much every post. And I realized that I was so focused on the change that some of the excitement was being lost. Instead, our family kept saying how excited they were for us as we began our next adventure. And I thought- "Adventure. Hu. Sounds a lot more exciting than lots of change." And God whispered to my heart- "Living your life for me is and always will be an adventure." So that has become our word for this year. ADVENTURE.

The definition of adventure is-
1. An exciting or very unusual experience.
2. Participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises.
3. A bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
4. To take the risk involved. 

Adventure is exciting and unusual. Adventurers experience and see things that others don't. Adventure is bold. And adventure is risky. That's the part I don't really like. Risk. Risk seems bad. Kind of irresponsible. Especially when you have children.

I read a little book last year by John Piper that said this: "Therefore, it is right to risk for the cause of Christ. It is right to engage the enemy and say, “May the Lord do what seems good to him.” It is right to serve the people of God, and say, “If I perish, I perish!” It is right to stand before the fiery furnace of affliction and refuse to bow down to the gods of this world...
For the good of our souls and for the glory of our Saviour, risk is most assuredly right."

When you look at the mighty men and women of the Bible, they all lived lives of risk. Everyone though Noah was crazy. Abraham went but didn't know where He was going. Joseph went to prison because He stood for the right. David, the prophets, Esther, Nehemiah, the disciples, Peter, Paul, JESUS! Why should I expect my life to be void of risk? If you are a believer, you should expect it. So, as we embark on this new adventure- a new island, a new language, a new aircraft, many more moves, unsettledness- I am excited to be living our very own GODventure. Being exactly where He wants us to be, sharing His love to those who have never heard, encouraging those along side us- it is pretty awesome.
Be encouraged dear ones. Risk is right. And living your Godventure is what you were made for.