Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

Masthead header

Just Keepin’ It Real {Oversharing & Overcaring}

If you’re not big into confession, this post is not for you. If you write one or more Facebook statuses a day…yep, go ahead and read.

————–

Holidays are funny. There must be a magic about cranberry sauce that brings Grandpa George, little Ella Mae, and crazy Aunt Sue all together for a few days of family time.

For my in-law Christmas meal last week, there were four generations represented around the table. I watched as the values and temperaments bounced off one another, sometimes clashing and sometimes complementing.

Fox News met The Sing Off. Mamaw’s sweet potato casserole was served along with the latest Pinterest peppermint mocha cake. Nokia flip phones sat beside piles of iPads and iPhones.

But the most interesting thing to observe over the past couple of weeks has been the different perspectives and social standards of my family members.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not living in 1950 anymore. Wal-Mart is full of shoppers in their pajamas. Corsets and hair spray are a thing of the past. Shoot, just washing and styling your hair is considered trying too hard.

Let me try to sum up what you’ve probably already figured out, but what I’m just now able to articulate.

My grandparents’ generation has a lot of pride in how they look. Their yard is kept tidy, their clothes are always pressed, and their cars are spic-and-span.

To the outside world, their life is practically perfect in every way. No marital problems, no relational issues…retirement is peachy and packaged quite nicely.

My parents’ generation put a premium on being independent. They woke up and realized one day that June Cleaver must have gotten mad once or twice and that marriage really did take some work. Good things don’t just automatically happen, and hard times take some resolve to get through.

They have found a huge need for community in sharing their feelings, but also respect others around them enough to not drag them through life’s junk.

Then my people come along. We don’t know how to do much more than talk about how we feel. We vomit our every opinion and thought onto a social media status and check for updates with affirmation constantly.

We have learned how to share our feelings, and if someone looks perfect on the outside, they’re obviously not keeping it real.

Here’s a little graphic for you:

generations

I won’t speak to the lives my grandparents or parents had to lead. I didn’t walk in their shoes. I don’t fully understand their social pressures.

But I can speak to my generation. And I just want to say one thing.

We need to get over some things.

Maybe stomach viruses, marital squabbles, and hurt feelings are hard. Ok, yes, actually. They are hard.

But for the love, sometimes we need to stop whining over things and just move on.

I firmly believe there is a solid place for confession. For honesty about our struggles in our families, our workplaces, and our churches.

But I’m starting to get exhausted from all the ‘just keeping it real.’

Here’s my dirty house. Just keeping it real.
Here’s my kid on the toilet. Just keeping it real.
Here’s how my husband annoys me. Just keeping it real.

Everybody’s a victim. And everybody’s got a story to tell. The blogging world is full of titles like ‘Confessions of a {fill in the blank}.’

Hey, I’ve even written my own posts with titles like this. And again, let me reiterate that confession is NOT a bad thing. It’s great to validate one another’s feelings and share our life experiences.

All I’m saying is, every small thing we suffer shouldn’t send us straight to a counseling center.

I’m a huge advocate for counseling. Seriously. One of the best investments of my life.

But I look at my mother and I see all she’s been through in her life, from losing her parents to house fires to break-ins. That woman is a rock.

And she doesn’t have time to whine. She’s too busy moving on with her life so that she can remain healthy and happy. She’s got more to live for than dwelling on her grievances.

I want to be like that. I want my children to look at me with confidence that I can move on when things don’t go my way. When I’m hurt or sad or even treated wrongly.

I almost feel guilty when people ask for prayer requests and I don’t have something bad to share. I have a lot of things to sing praises about. God has shown me His providence in difficult times.

We’ve tried so hard to create times of sharing and confession that it’s become socially unacceptable to be thankful, happy, and confident in God’s protection.

Now, seriously. There are days when I don’t feel so thankful or happy or confident. God seems far away and I have to work hard to seek Him.

But all in all, those times need to be short. My apartment is small, but I have what I need. My husband was on call every fourth night, but I had him for the other three. And yes, sometimes I’m tired. All I need is to take a NAP.

————–

Now I sound like an insensitive know-it-all that’s got it all together. That’s entirely not true.

I just don’t want to always sound like a victim of something. Sometimes I think it’s ok to accept a bad situation, deal with it, and get over it.

I think most of us would rather have our own issues than somebody else’s anyway.

So here’s to 2014: The year of getting over it.

Cindy SidwellJanuary 2, 2014 - 8:09 pm

from your mother’s generation, just let me say “Well said!”

Lola-Margaret HallJanuary 3, 2014 - 2:29 am

From your mother’s generation ( I stole that from someone I don’t even know!): I do not use hair spray and I wash my hair when I want to! My house is moderately straight, I have vacuumed 2 times, dusted maybe 3 times and cleaned my floors a couple since mid March. I live in a double wide and love it. I have ironed 2 times in in the last, at least, 4 years. I don’t succumb to whining and gossip. We have never had a perfect marriage, despite the fact that we serve as missionaries half way around the world. I am not perfect, but I refuse to be a victim, either. I am moving on! Thanks for giving me the cause to ponder these things.

The Problem with the Hurried Life

It’s a day of last-minute gift buying, no shame line-cutting, and absolute madness.

I mean it’s the day before the day before Christmas.

When I narrowly escaped the claws of Wal-Mart tonight, I was pleased that I only forgot hand soap…and that I didn’t lose any articles of clothing while hurdling through the mosh pit on the pecan aisle.

It’s crazy out there. I’m the truest form of extrovert God could create, but the hustle and bustle of the holidays makes me crave the serenity of my home.

Last week, my husband led a discussion in our Bible class about living the hurried life. We took a look at the example of Christ and examined His balance between being busy yet respecting the quiet.

Do you remember the story of Jairus? A ruler of the synagogue, he probably had some clout in the community. But when his daughter fell ill, he lost all pride. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged that his only girl, twelve years old, be healed. So Jesus agreed to help.

They walked and people pressed all around Christ {I can only image this was much worse than Wal-Mart’s baking aisle tonight}. One of the people surrounding Him was suffering from her own set of troubles.

She had been bleeding for twelve years. TWELVE. YEARS. She was completely broke because she spent all of her money paying doctors to help heal her. There was nobody that could do anything for her, and without money, there was nothing she could do for herself.

But maybe this Jesus man could.

So here we have Jesus, on his way to heal a twelve-year-old dying girl. He’s walking, with no personal space and no time to spare. He was obviously busy.

This woman, desperate for anything to make her well, sees an opportunity to be relieved of the misery she’s experienced for so long. If she could only touch the fringe of his coat, maybe she could be healed.

And in that moment, brokenness met the supernatural.

Jesus didn’t have to respond. When He felt the power leave Him, the woman had already been healed. He had places to be, after all.

But He turned around. He looked the woman in the eyes. And He made her the most important thing in His life at that moment.

————–

I recently met with one of my blogger/mother/expat mentors, Laura Parker. She spent several years working in SE Asia, and I was honored to sit at her feet for an hour and learn some lessons from the field.

She shared with me a story from her personal mentor, a mother who spearheads a work called Free Burma Rangers {please come back and click this link…this video about their work is fascinating.}

Anyways, when Laura and the FBR leader met, she asked what would be the best advice she could give about living a life sold out for Christ.

This woman told how she asked God to give her clarity when she moved to work with the Karen people of Burma {Myanmar}. His only instructions were this:

Love well the person in front of you. When you are able to do this, I will give you your next assignment.

She’s been working there for over 15 years and she’s still waiting on her next assignment.

————–

My mind goes back to Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. He was a busy man. There was a never-ending mob of people surrounding Him, incessantly asking for things.

The thing is, Jesus was never hurried. It seems like He soaked up whatever situation He was in. He saw people. He saw needs. He saw opportunities to love well.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the amount of need in the world. I read articles in world news about mass killings and I watch videos about refugee injustices and I write papers on mental health issues.

Sometimes I wonder why I even try. Why I even invest in people who don’t seem to care about truly following the Way. Why I give to the homeless man when there are dozens more just down the street. Why I spend hours preparing another meal for the people I love.

It’s because I am supposed to follow the model of Christ.

Love well the person in front of you.

Today, it might be a person in the hospital waiting room. Tomorrow, it might be a woman trying to recover from years of addiction. Every single day, it will be my husband and daughter.

I think it’s possible that God could never give me a great mission. It won’t always look glittery and fancy. Sometimes it might just look like wiping another naked booty or letting someone take the closer parking spot.
Nobody will write books about me or give me awards for doing these small things. But what a tragedy to miss them.

For now, I will consider the small thing a truly great thing. Loving well the person right in front of me.

IMG_1551

Jennifer Bailey ArgoDecember 24, 2013 - 4:17 pm

We have to remember that loving those children God has blessed us with is a mission field in itself! Instilling them with God’s love and his desire for us to serve others is sowing unimaginable seeds for his kingdom! Praying over them for God to take them and use them for His service will not return void. What a precious baby!!!

Suzy Stone GlymphDecember 24, 2013 - 5:26 pm

God bless you for your heart to love others where they are :)

Mourning My Losses: The Last Christmas

We contacted our travel agent this week to book our one-way flight to SE Asia.

One-way flight. What. Is. Happening.

We’ve been planning this phase of our lives for eight years. Before my husband and I were married or even said I love you, we were planning for this.

Please pardon me while I reminisce.

I remember a night in 2007 when Gavin and I were on a date. He pulled out a map of Southeast Asia and said, I want to show you something.

I remember 2008, when we met with some friends and dreamed about the future of working among the unreached in this part of the world.

I remember looking into the eyes of my groom in 2009, vowing to walk hand in hand with him as we followed God on this journey. I think there was a part of that vow where I promised to always be okay eating PB&Js when we were poor. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t said that.

I remember boarding a plane in 2010 to explore Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. We had no travel plans, no hotels booked, and no vaccinations. The Lord guided our steps in unimaginable ways.

I remember quitting my first grad program in 2011. I felt like a failure. But when my husband asked what I really wanted to do, I surprised myself when I said, I want to work to develop the poor. And now I’ve completed the coursework for a doctorate in international studies doing just that. {By the grace of God, I might add.}

I remember when we visited our future home in 2012. We walked the streets and prayed over the city…the government building, the schools, the businesses, and the homes. We reached out to a family of Americans we didn’t know, and they invited us over for dinner. That family is now a part of our team and will be working to supply our visas.

I remember 2013, when we moved to work with a very special body of believers. They approached us and committed to fully support our work, financially and prayerfully. We never asked a single person for a dime of financial assistance. God is so gracious.

————–

It goes without saying that this journey has been led by the One we praise. It’s obvious that He has put all things into motion to bring us to this point. I’m so thankful for His providence!

And yet, I mourn.

There are things that I grieve because there are things that I’m losing.

I took this picture last week: My beautiful Christmas tree with my homemade ornaments and matching wrapping paper from Target.

IMG_2142

I cried as I put it up and I cry now thinking about taking it down. My Christmases in Asia will look nothing like My Christmases here.

I’ve never seen an evergreen in the tropical land where I’m moving. I’ll be lucky if the cheap wrapping paper there covers any boxes without ripping to pieces. Who knows if I will have room to pack my homemade ornaments in the few bags we are able to take with us.

And there are no Targets in Asia. That’s enough for anybody to weep over.

It seems so trivial, what with all the persecution and war and starvation and injustice in the world. I’m crying over my Christmas tree.

But loss is real. And anyone who has moved overseas has to have felt it.

————–

My husband and I went shopping yesterday to finish up some last-minute gift buying. I just realized this is another Target story.

I walked past the home décor aisles and had to physically turn my head the opposite direction. There were beautiful dishes and cushions and baskets and rugs. I wanted it all.

No, really. I wanted to buy it all and decorate a new big house and set up camp and live the American dream. What was all this for anyway??

This is Kingdom living, my husband reminded me. We aren’t called to have all these things.

Man, I love that man. He speaks truth into my life when I’m not strong enough to lean on it myself.

When we came home, I spent the evening researching the best option for moving our belongings to the other side of the planet. {I’m starting to think that digging a hole through the center of the Earth really could be a good idea.}

It just felt wrong. This whole Christmas just feels so wrong.

Usually, I am addressing Christmas cards and inviting people to our home. I’m making goodies and taking care of others.

This year, I’m opening Christmas cards and people are inviting us into their home. They’re giving us goodies and taking care of us.

I’m thankful for this last Christmas at ‘home’ for a while, whatever ‘home’ means anymore. I’m thankful for bowl games and egg nog and twinkling lights.

But inside I feel a part of me dying.

I think of our families graciously rearranging years of traditions in order to spend some final days with us. I think of my daughter who hasn’t even sat on Santa’s lap yet. And I want to climb into a flying sleigh and jump down the chimneys of everyone I love and say, Thank you & I’m sorry.

Instead, I sit here and write. I name my losses and I give myself time to grieve.

And my Redeemer reminds me yet again that I’m not alone.

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. {Psalm 139:9-10}

————–

 How did you cope with missing special holidays overseas? What memories were the hardest to miss out on?

Matt CookDecember 21, 2013 - 9:13 pm

This is a great post Lauren…I have actually found myself several times this month reminiscing on the things I miss about Christmas in Peru. They, of course, celebrated Christmas in Peru, even if it was much different than in the U.S. My guess is that Laos doesn’t sell Christmas trees in the market like they did in Peru.
You’ll miss things about Christmas in the U.S. (primarily being with family), but you’ll come to love the new traditions that you create and spending holidays with your teammates. As glad as I am to be spending Christmas with family here, I genuinely miss Christmas in Peru. It’s funny how we are looking at this from completely opposite points of view…you looking ahead and me looking back.
Thanks for your honesty and sharing!

Bethany McGillDecember 21, 2013 - 9:27 pm

It was hard for me when we found out I was pregnant and I thought my family would never meet my new baby (fact is this year I have seen them less living 3 hrs away in Tennessee than when we lived thousands of miles away in Shenzhen). Jeremy and I both lost a grandparent on each side we were close to and had to grieve by phone and it felt lonely not being able to be with family for those funerals. My brother’s wife had a miscarriage just to find out a couple days later it was bc she had leukemia.. It was TOUGH dealing with loss while we were so far from our loved ones that were hurting. The fear of losing loved ones was my biggest fear while in china. Milestones with Journey as a baby, and stupid as this sounds lack of delicious American food bc I was craving everything china did NOT have…luckily going to Hong Kong every few months helped the food situation.

BUT then when we had times with people in villages and Jeremy got to go back and take bibles to the men who carried him out if the jungle after his elephant attack, we remembered that our sacrifice of the other stuff was nothing. God was our GREAT COMFORTER in our tough times and through the culture shock times (where when I thought I was so well traveled and the pits Of Africa trips, to the dumps of Cambodia when I taught there for a summer, to living with the Lords people in Honduras temporarily working.. It didnt prepare me for living away long term when the culture shock really hit and I thought I was able to avoid it)

Jeremy and I were closest in our marriage when in China, compared to before. Way closer.
Holidays weren’t bad bc you have a whole other set to celebrate there. But I didn’t get the chance to miss thanksgiving and Christmas bc we came back earlier than planned to the states.
Skype was a big help. Well..When we had Internet access.

But by far, you already have the best cope for every trivial or hard thing that comes along. The ALMIGHTY and prayer! And you’re awesome husband and your sweet baby girl. And friends there. And if family sends a package that makes it through that always helps too!!

And know its ok to cry :) And it’s ok to get mad. Cause you laugh a lot and love more and Eliza is gonna have such awesome culture to learn from!

Joanna AshlockDecember 21, 2013 - 10:21 pm

Thank you for sharing those very real feelings. I didn’t feel so sad last year, our last Christmas in the states, probably because our move was such a whirlwind and our friends and family works very hard to make it so special. My sadness comes this year, our first Christmas away. Partly because China doesn’t celebrate Christmas and although you can find a plethora of decorations, it looks like you’ve been transported back to the neon tackiness of 1980. And I honestly don’t feel that homesick, but I feel a desperate need for normalcy. I want to walk into a store and be blown away by all the gift ideas. I want our income back so I can spend money on all those who won’t get much Christmas. And I want a regular oven so we can have monkey bread (our toaster oven is sufficient all year except Thanksgiving and Christmas!). I want two weeks off instead of the one day we get with a Saturday work day to make it up. Deep down I’m ok. I’m surrounded by great friends and a community of Americans who miss the same things I do, and together we make the best of what we have and laugh together. I just wasn’t quite prepared to give myself permission to focus on our family and get through this first Christmas. This may not be overly encouraging for you except to know you aren’t alone just as your post reminded me of the same thing.

Kim EdwardsDecember 21, 2013 - 11:23 pm

Lauren, your friends have all shared wonderful words of encouragement, so I will just add one short comment. When you have made the difficult choices, be it becoming a transracial family, or raising your children in a foreign land, there are losses that you must grieve over. But along with those losses will come immeasurable joy. “Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” You will add to your family memories. We have are Italian memories, and our Greek memories, and our Alabama memories, now. And we are able to see how God continues to bless us.

Rachel KyleDecember 22, 2013 - 3:17 am

Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have felt. I have been there and sometimes I find myself there unexpectedly. I have no words that will bring you instant peace. I do, however, welcome you to the world of perpetual homesickness. When you are in Asia, sometimes you will want to be in America. And sometimes when you are visiting and surrounded by friends and family in the States, you will desperately want that one thing that you can only get in Asia. It is hard moving and changing everything. The greatest help to me was to realize that the things that matter [people and relationships]…you don’t lose those. Everything that you are doing now, will only add to your life and faith. I know you have not asked for advice but I am going to give it anyway.

Find a moment before you leave and pause. It may be in the middle of the floor on Christmas morning or after you put your girl into bed for the night. Sit and look at what is going on and tell yourself to capture that specific moment. Think of your brain as a camera and capture how that very moment feels, looks and smells. Store it away for one of those days when you are feeling sad. You can pull it out and feel the happiness and snuggle into it like a blanket of familiarity. Cry. Feel it. You are doing what some dare not even dream. Own how you feel because you don’t want it all to bubble out one day in the middle of the supermarket. :)
It is totally understandable to feel overwhelmed, to second-guess and to ask God if He is REALLY sure you are supposed to go…but go anyway. He will bless you in more ways than He already has. Life without Target is possible and there are special lovely things that you can bring back or can be sent to you. it’s surprising how much more special they will feel than if you bought them by yourself. Make sure to take a candle that smells like home. :) Love you, praying for you and cheering you on from way down under!

Megan SheltonDecember 22, 2013 - 3:18 am

I’m crying with you, praying for you, and loving you dearly.

Tina HickmanDecember 22, 2013 - 3:22 am

Bless your heart Lauren you are gonna make me cry. What you and Gavin are doing will be a wonderful work I hope and pray but as a mom it touched my heart. I know how much your family and tradition has made you who you are and filled your heart with wonderful memories. HOWEVER, I truly feel that once you get to Laos and get settled it will be a little easier. The last I heard this was a five year commitment and who knows what the future holds. I think time will pass quicker than you think. I will keep you all in my prayers for much good to come from your work there. I know this is something you both have always wanted to do and I don’t think you would be satisfied otherwise. Who knows maybe you will have visitors from Tennessee while you are there! Love you :)

Johnnie Marie EllisDecember 22, 2013 - 4:35 am

Your soul is so honest & beautiful, Lauren. Please keep writing. I’ve been drawn to your blog like a magnet from the very first one I read. With every post, I find myself nodding my head and saying, “YES! Exactly!”
You make me want to be a better missionary in my everyday life and for that, I thank you!
Not wishing your life away…but, I can’t wait to read your post a year from now. I would bet that it will be so much better than you would ever imagine. I remember going to Aruba on one of our mission trips, thinking, I have GOT to bring my son here, so that he can meet these people & see God move. I know that Skylar can see God move here at home, but I wanted him to experience the simplicity of the gospel. In Aruba, I experienced that. We’ve made the gospel into such a complicated thing, by adding a list (that is forever growing) of do’s & don’ts and sometimes, I get so frustrated with the church. I want my children to see what I witnessed in Aruba. Someday, I just may pack those boys up & go on a mini mission trip of my own. 😉 Your kids will have a front row seat in that everyday, Lauren! THAT is better than any Santa with a fake beard & ill-fitting suit. I don’t mean to make light of your worries. They are real & the only thing I have to compare to what you are feeling is when I moved 1200 miles away from my family. I will pray so hard for you guys as you go through this transition. Anything new is scary. But, I know that God will bless you and your family on this amazing journey.
God bless you, girl. <3

Sara @ GaijinMomDecember 22, 2013 - 6:33 pm

First, I’ll give you some spiritual encouragement: Regardless of what we do or don’t teach in our home Sunday school, Christmas is a perfect, ready opportunity to share the Reason, especially in nations that don’t know it. Two of my friends learned who Mary is last week, purely because of an interest in what Christmas has to do with church. (In Japan, Christmas is basically just a time to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken with your significant other. Seriously.) They never knew there WAS a reason for it. When you watch someone learning the Story for the first time, your mood will be significantly lifted.

Second, things that helped me:
– Music. Anywhere that Hanson: Snowed In is playing, it’s Christmas. I also bought jazz albums that my dad always plays so I would feel closer to him. iTunes is your best friend.
– Movies. I didn’t think about it ahead of time, but try to stock up on your favorites now, OR just get them on iTunes as you think of them (that’s what I’ve done) (you can rent a lot of them without buying, too).
– Your mom’s decorations. I have a small box of decorations from my parents’ house, and that definitely helped me. Ask her which she’d be willing to give you.
– Christmas lights. Again, I didn’t think about it ahead of time, but grab a couple packs to add to your shipment. Cheap and easy.
– Carry on your traditions in your new country! My family always bakes loads of cookies on Christmas Eve and spends the evening delivering them to all of our friends’ houses. I did the same for my entire apartment building last year, and plan to do it again this year. It will be a little different (in Japan they don’t answer their door unless you say who you are… which is hard when you have no clue about that custom and can’t speak the language) (we also ended up with a reciprocal gift of a bag full of beer from our neighbor), but the general family feeling will still be there.
– Paula Deen eggnog. Girl, I may never drink eggnog from a carton even when I move back to the States. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/mamas-eggnog-recipe/index.html
– Candles! My mom always has candles burning in her house, so I found a tart warmer and brought as many tarts as I could.
– Care packages. Don’t be afraid to ask people to send them, and to specify things that you really, really want. People WANT to help you out, and knowing that a small box of candy canes just made your entire Christmas season blesses them as much as it does you. :)

I don’t know anything, really, about where you’re moving to. We’re very blessed to live in such a developed country as Japan, but I was still surprised by what I could find. We actually have an IKEA here, and were able to buy an American-sized Christmas tree. (I still cried over the fact that I’d never had a fake Christmas tree before. Yankee Candle Balsam and Cedar to the rescue!) We use Japan’s Amazon site frequently, and have been pleased by their inventory. I’ve even found decent decorations at our equivalent to a dollar store.

And you can always write sobbing emails to friends. I do this at least twice every holiday season. 😉

Deborah Brown WilsonDecember 22, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Boy, can I ever relate…… Thankfully, I am blessed to be able to visit my child, her husband and my grandchildren at least once a year in that far away place where they serve. I am so proud of them all, even as I know your parents are also proud of you and your commitment. Blessings on you as you complete preparations to make this move. And, I cry (mourn), too…… but there are so many joys in getting to ‘share’ in what you and they are doing 😀

AprilDecember 23, 2013 - 9:31 am

Hi Lauren! You probably do not remember who I am but I used to live in Adamsville and my parents were friends with your parents when I was little. My Mom is Cathy Smith and she was married to my Dad (the late Randy Smith) at the time. Anyways I remember seeing you in Christmas cards they sent us each year and I know we met one time that we visited when I was a teenager and attended your church. Anyways I stumbled on your blog and just wanted you to know I am praying for you in what sounds like is going to be a very big change in your life. Looking forward to keeping up with your journey.

Kimberly Rowe WasherDecember 23, 2013 - 2:18 pm

Even though we didn’t live out of the country for too terribly long we did miss the holidays that year. We kept pretty busy because we went and visited some family friends who are missionaries in India, so I can’t say that the holidays were the hardest part. The hardest part for me was seeing (or hearing) my friends and family doing normal activities; going out to dinner, spending the night at mom and dad’s, just hanging out with each other. Those types of things really got to me. Gary would remind me constantly that even though I was missing out on that stuff, I was getting to experience even greater things! Things that none of them were getting to see or do. He would bring back to the moment so that I could truly enjoy the time we had over there. I pray that you stay ‘in the moment’ and don’t wish to be anywhere else. Y’all are going to do awesome and I can’t wait!!

Tricia CherryJanuary 4, 2014 - 12:30 am

Lauren I cant even begin to imagine the different emotions you must be facing at this time. I can tell you that in 1999 I spent Christmas in Laos mourning the loss of a Grandmother. I was with my Father, Mother, and Twin brother at the time while my 3 younger sisters remained in the states with family (actually they spent their christmas just a couple houses down from Gavin’s parents at my Aunt’s house). As hard as we thought it would be to be without the rest of our loved ones during this precious season it was and probably always will be the Christmas that I will never forget and will cherish in my heart for the rest of my life.

The majority of my father’s family is from Louangphrabang and that is where we spent our Christmas. No electricity after dark without the use of a generator, sleeping under misqito nettings, eating Pho for breakfast lunch and dinner not to mention the lovely concrete hole in the ground for the camode! With all that how in the world could it not be a Christmas to remember? But it was! It didnt matter where or how we celebrated the birth of Christ it was and still felt like Christmas even in this third world country with only half of my family.

My father’s family did not and probably still dont understand the signifigance of Christmas and what it means to us as Christians but they still went out of their way with what little money they had to ensure that we had a gift to open that night. That night I opened a little christmas ornament of a doll in a wicker basket that to this day sits on my tree at home. There was no Christmas tree there that night but yet they managed to find a Christmas ornament for me within that small city’s marketplace!

I guess what i’m trying to say and get to is that as bittersweet as this moment in your life may seem soak it up and cherish every moment at home with your loved ones this season, and get ready for the adventure and new memories that you are about to embark on with your beautiful little family. Eliza is one blessed child to have such wonderful parents!

Sending all my love and prayers to the Pinkston Family!!!

Tricia Sychantha Cherry

Sarah CJanuary 27, 2014 - 5:01 am

I’ve felt this. I still feel it sometimes. I’ve lived in SE Asia for 2.5 years and have been here for 2 Christmas seasons now. This Christmas was easier than last, but still I yearn for parts of the “Christmas” I left behind… that includes Target. 😉 I’m totally a party-thrower. I love planning and executing good times to be had by all my loved ones… that was a hard one to give up. And the cold, I miss being cold. Ha. No boots, scarves and sweaters in this tropical paradise. Tanks & shorts for the holidays… it’s just weird.
It’s interesting how you realize you are mourning things and situations and places right along with the people you’ll be missing too. It feels silly sometimes, but it’s still very much real. Thankful His grace is more than sufficient – in the big and small things.
Thanks for writing. Nice to know I am not alone. I wish you are your family all the best in this exciting new journey you are about to embark on!

Lauren PinkstonJanuary 31, 2014 - 9:53 pm

Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I’m always thankful to hear from someone in our part of the world. This has been the coldest winter I remember experiencing in the Southeastern US…so I’m partly excited to step off a plane in March into the tropical heat. I’m sure my excitement will last about 15 minutes, but it’s still something to look forward to!

Jesus is Offensive

This is not a post about Phil Robertson.

But can I just say, Give the guy a break? And A&E, too, for that matter.

11174 You couldn’t pay me enough money to be sitting around the dinner table this week with the Robertson clan. It may seem like this family is riding high and living well, but I feel confident the Duck Dynasty guys would say something different.

I know that they’ve sacrificed. They’ve given up mealtimes together, holiday traditions, and a simple life in Louisiana for the sake of the Kingdom.

It looks like fame. It looks like big cars and fancy houses and designer clothes. But the Robertsons have faced outrageous criticism from the media over the past couple of years {and some from their own church community, I might add}.

They have taken an unpopular stand for marriage and morals against the wishes of their employer, and America has watched closely.

I don’t know Phil personally, but I could guess what he’s thinking. And I doubt it’s about his current state of unemployment.

Because when our God is under attack, we take it personally.

It hurts. It’s a direct jab at who we are and what we stand for. It’s a nasty round of defensiveness and retaliation.

The argument exploding on social media is not really about Phil Robertson or A&E. It’s about the tension that exists between those with Christ and those without.

I didn’t even want to discuss this hot topic because it stirs up more drama. But what a perfect reflection of the reason so many reject Christ:

Jesus is offensive.

I wouldn’t write about it unless I had felt it.

People raise eyebrows at our adoption and question our motives. We’re on a church’s salary, after all.

People roll their eyes when I express my love for buying fair trade products. That language is too sophisticated, okay?

People try to talk me out of my desire to work with rescued victims of sex trafficking. That work is dangerous, you know.

We shouldn’t move to Asia. We shouldn’t give away our cars. We shouldn’t go without.

I would expect to hear these things from the unreached. Sadly, I’ve heard these comments from fellow believers.

When Christ takes control of your life, you die to yourself. And your self-sacrifice makes other people feel bad about looking in the mirror.

They wish they had given up a few more things. They wish they could speak more truth.

But instead of being uncomfortable, it’s easier to discourage others from living a life of full abandonment to God.

That way, we all look the same and get along nicely.

————–

This week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. When you blog your life, you put yourself in a vulnerable place to welcome criticism and questions from anybody with the internet.

I want desperately to use this space as a method of journaling my Spiritual formation. I pray before touching a keyboard each time I write, but I’m sure that I will look back one day and think, I can’t believe I actually thought that!

Every time I click the publish button, I have a nervousness in the pit of my stomach. Every. Single. Time.

Who am I going to offend today because of the words God’s Spirit gave me?

The bottom line is, somebody is always going to be uncomfortable by your profound obedience to the word of God. It might be your coworker. It might be your best friend. Or it could be the little lady you find yourself talking to in the grocery store checkout lane.

Christ is offensive.

He shows us that we are nothing without Him. He reveals to us our need for a Savior. He teaches that the words self-sufficient and redeemed can never be used together.

He asks us to be poor, to be last, to be weak.

Just so that He can shine through us.

—————

Please don’t hear me say that I am like Christ. I don’t claim that the choices I’ve made for the future are anywhere near righteous.

But I do know that without words, my measly sacrifices for the Kingdom have caused hurt, blame, and guilt.

Some will use these feelings to change. They will start to do something in order to obtain the peace I enjoy through Christ Jesus.

Others will just sit around being offended. Apparently that’s the easy thing to do.

If Christ is revealing something to you, some sin in your life, don’t waste your time being defensive.

Reconcile your marriage. Sell all you have. Stop sleeping with your boyfriend. Say no to an extra commitment.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. {Psalm 30:5}

There is nothing greater than living in the goodness of God’s graces, where we recognize our unrighteousness and watch as He lifts us up to perfection.

The Kingdom of God is not reliant on whether or not Phil Robertson is getting along with A&E. It’s not reliant on whether or not everybody likes what you preach. And it’s not reliant on everyone being comfortable with your ministry.

The Kingdom of God is reliant on individuals dying to self so that Christ can be glorified. The Kingdom will grow beyond our wildest dreams when we stop being offended by what Jesus said and live a life that’s fully devoted to the Healer who wants to make us new.

————–

Thanks so much to everyone who has provided immense encouragement through this blog. I am overwhelmed by your generous words. And my apologies for using a trendy topic to illustrate a point…

Layne NorrisDecember 19, 2013 - 7:48 am

I just want to say how much I enjoy your blogs and admire your work. Being as I’m not an eloquent writer (or speaker) I liked this specific post so much because my hubs and I were just discussing this last night…..and you pretty much mirrored a lot of my thoughts….my husband’s only reply to the topic was, “welcome to the United States of the Offended.”…..sad but I was in agreement.

Ann EvansDecember 19, 2013 - 8:06 am

“But instead of being uncomfortable, it’s easier to discourage others from living a life of full abandonment to God.

That way, we all look the same and get along nicely.”

How accurate and simply cuts to the bone! Our own days to offend because we follow Christ are coming or have come. May we stand for Him with humbleness and love. Thank you for an excellent article!

Lucy O'NealDecember 19, 2013 - 9:22 am

Lauren-I totally agree-thanks for speaking out for the kingdom of God!! I’ve been praying for you and your husband’s ministry for a long time-you have a special place in my heart!!Thank you for what you share so eloquently!!!
Ms. Lucy

SalemDecember 19, 2013 - 12:24 pm

Love love love this perspective! Following God has been & always will be offensive to some. Just found your blog & love hearing your heart. I love Jesus so much & am incredibly broken over sex trafficking. I am a blogger, want to adopt in the near future & I minister to women in the sex industry…so I just found a soul sister in you! Blessings my sister in Christ! Keep representing Him boldly :)

Deborah WilsonDecember 19, 2013 - 2:07 pm

As I was listening to some of those who are “defending” Phil, I was reminded of what John the Baptizer faced when he stood up to King Herod and let him now he was sinning by living with his brother’s wife (similar to what Phil has publicly espoused as far as morality from God’s viewpoint is concerned)….. just a thought 😀 Thank you, Lauren, for making yourself “vulnerable” in your blog. We believers should all be so bold to making a stand for/with our Lord and Savior.

johnnyDecember 19, 2013 - 3:37 pm

I am looking forward to a change that might give me the kinda of faith that you are speaking of in this blog . I just found your blog and it has made me long for his grace again in my life . I look forward to reading more heart changing post from you in the future and I will be following your from now on .

LaurenDecember 19, 2013 - 4:09 pm

thanks, johnny! i’m so glad you found some encouragement here. His grace is something i don’t think i’ll ever be able to really understand. i hope this place continues to bless you!

LaurenDecember 19, 2013 - 4:10 pm

great thought, deborah! we aren’t always called to make friends with the word of God. you are always and encouragement!

LaurenDecember 19, 2013 - 4:12 pm

so nice to ‘meet’ you, salem! i checked out your blogspot – it’s great to know that we are working toward the same goals! keep it up, sister!

Billene L. HembyDecember 20, 2013 - 12:50 am

So very true.

Pat ElkinsDecember 20, 2013 - 12:53 am

Thank you

Deborah EvansDecember 20, 2013 - 2:00 am

Excellent comment! We all need to be more tenderhearted, loving and kind. We need to realize that the WORLD is going to hate us if we are truly following Christ. Some will hear the WORD we sow and grow stronger, others will let the cares of this WORLD come in and choke the WORD out of us and we will die. I thank God that you are doing a job which needs to be done. May God be with you as work to serve HIM.

Brenda PivinskiJanuary 2, 2014 - 10:48 pm

wonderful read, it is great to see young people that love the Lord so much, but your background could have been nothing less, Christian upbringing by parents that believe in the Restoration movement, and that I love dearly. will be in prayer for you in your new endeavors….granny b

Leigh WayJanuary 2, 2014 - 11:23 pm

This is beautifully written and so true!!

Don’t Be Like Me {Do What YOU Do}

Once I was a summer camp counselor. Each night, I gathered young, impressionable ladies into my cabin for a devotional before lights out.

One illustration I often used involved a deck of cards. I walked around and gave each girl a different card from the deck. One girl received a two of hearts. Another an ace of spades. Someone else held a plain old eight of diamonds.

We had a discussion about how, as girls, we compare ourselves to others and want what they have. We want to be the cheerleader type. Or the athlete or the musician. We want to be popular or intelligent.

I used 1 Corinthians 12 to teach these young ladies that we are all important parts of the body of Christ. Each of us has a gift that God wants us to use.

Skip ahead a few years. I’m now a wife, a mother, and a woman who pays bills. The funny thing is, I’m still not always happy with the hand that I’ve been dealt.

I take personality tests and spiritual gift inventories, hoping every time that they will shoot out an unbelievable result:

Why, Lauren! You are Mother Teresa incarnate!

Ugh. This never happens.

I joke and tell people that I have the least feminine spiritual gifts there are. I might as well wear a suit and tie around and lower my voice.

Administration. Shepherding. Evangelism. Teaching.

These are the gifts God has chosen to give to me.

I hang my head and look at the results, trying to figure out how I could have answered inventory questions differently so that my gifts are hospitality, exhortation, and service.

For the love, I just want to be a gifts of mercy person!

And guys, I keep trying to practice mercy on people so that maybe my gift set will change.

Five years ago, I was driving down the interstate in Memphis. I saw a woman walking down the road in the rain. So I pulled off on the next exit, bought a bag full of McDoubles and a large sweet tea, and turned around to find that woman. I was going to pick her up and save her day. And she was gone.

A few weeks ago, I saw a woman walking down the road, visibly crying. We’ve got to do something! I urged my husband. So we turned around. But she was gone. Seriously. Nowhere to be found. I looked through the fields and over the bridges. Gavin drove down the center emergency lane after me. It looked like I was trying to kill myself and he was begging me to get back into the car.

The other day, I saw a woman walking down the road carrying a bag of groceries. I stopped to ask if she wanted a ride. After she wiped the freaked out look off her face, she informed me that she lived across the street.

I’m starting to wonder if God is trying to humor me. I’m obviously not cut out for picking up women on the side of the street.

————–

The bottom line is, God made me for a specific mission. He made you for a specific mission.

As I studied 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 today, I was reminded that every physical body has a lot of different parts…tiny, intricate functions that work together for a common goal.

We experience this metaphor first-hand in the body of Christ. All body parts aren’t the same, but they work well cohesively.

When we try to serve another person’s function in the body, we are failing to fulfill the function we were made to do.

We look around and see what other people do and wish we could be more like them. We wish we could preach better or teach classes better or cook better or sing better.

People tell me that they wish they could move to another country or have enough faith to adopt. Wow, I wish I could be more like you!

I have one thing to say to that.

Don’t be like me.

I know a lot of sweet ladies sitting in nursing homes who don’t think I’m anything great. I know a lot of teenagers who realize I have a hard time connecting with their age group. I know a lot of toilets that wish I cared more about cleaning them.

All people are given the same opportunity to pursue God and to let Him point them toward a meaningful ministry.

Mother-Teresa

No matter your perception of yourself, God gives you the value that He sees you deserve. Some gifts may be upheld more than others in this life, but each person’s function is equally valuable.

One day, God will uphold what is not given due recognition in this life. The most humble of His servants will receive the ultimate acknowledgement.

I’ll never be a good Mother Teresa. I’m better at having ideas and bossing people around. In a loving way I hope.

Once I tried to go a week without speaking up in Bible class. I thought the top of my head was going to explode. I’m learning to accept that it’s ok that God made me to be opinionated, vocal, and enthusiastic.

I appreciate my sisters and brothers who are meek, quiet, and behind-the-scenes. I continue to learn from them and try to apply their strengths into my skill set.

We all fulfill a vital role in the kingdom. So, whatever you do, do it!

Don’t be like me. I’ll stop trying to be like you. And hopefully we can reach all people in all places by using all the gifts God has so graciously given us.

————–

What are your gifts? Where has God designed you to serve? If you are looking for a place to start, I like this spiritual gift resources on this site.

Lola Margaret HallDecember 17, 2013 - 8:43 am

Lauren, you just wrote the short form of my biography! It really sinks in when you see it written down. Love you.

Lola Margaret HallDecember 17, 2013 - 8:48 am

Lauren, I just read my biography in short form. However, short didn’t mean you missed a thing. Wow! Have you been hiding in my back pocket. Thank you, it was very powerful to see it written down in words before my eyes. Love you.

janice ripleyDecember 17, 2013 - 2:21 pm

Lauren – I so enjoy reading your posts and following what’s going on with your precious family. Please keep up the great work and encouragement you provide to so many! Merry Christmas.