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

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I’m More Hot Mess than Scripted Ministry

It’s been an incredibly busy week month of meetings, personal check-ins, and soul care for our friends in SE Asia.

Our NGO team is preparing to send three families on home assignment, for various reasons and various lengths of stay. We typically have 11 adults to spread out the work, but in a few short days, Gavin and I will be carrying the weight for half of the team’s responsibilities.

The daily grind is the least of our worries. It’s hard to describe to you how insignificant our work is here.

Gavin is regularly at a national hospital for training and project assistance. He is implementing a program where he teaches medical doctors to teach their own colleagues effectively using the topics in the World Health Organization Pocketbook.

He has also been teaching English to at-risk youth employed at one of our favorite restaurants. Now he has taken on the role of coordinating the summer internship program we will be looking after in a few months.

I am regularly with trafficking victims at a local outreach, spending time putting together emotional healing activities and an English teaching program. I also spend a good amount of time with the local director, supporting her and communicating to donors on her behalf.

I network with a lot of people in our city. I try to build up my résumé through published journals. I’m also coordinating the childcare at a conference this fall.

Do we sound important yet? My greatest fear is that the answer is yes.

And if that answer is truly yes, then I have some work to do in telling you what our lives REALLY look like.

Because most days I’m so tired by noon I want to check out for the rest of the day.

What I’m really doing is getting my toddler out the door by 7:15 AM so that we don’t have to fight so much traffic on the way to school. A good 45 minutes and bazillion potholes later, she’s nestled in her playroom and I’m getting myself physically psyched for three hours of admin time.

Sometimes my mornings are spent doing research for grad school. Research that no one will ever read. Research that I’m not convinced is even important to anyone.

Sometimes my mornings are spent in meetings about the trafficking outreach. But I always leave with more questions than answers, completely overwhelmed by the complexity of cross-cultural ministry and my inability to have control.

Sometimes I take on the noble task of working through my email inbox. THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN APPLAUD MY AWESOMENESS.

But guys, seriously. I just need to tell you that my life is much more of a hot mess than it is some beautifully scripted ministry.

The story of yesterday is a perfect example.

On the way to Eliza’s school, I stopped on the side of the road to buy a gift basket to give her teachers for the national New Year celebration at school. I stopped at another roadside stand to buy a floral wreath for baby girl’s pretty little head.

IMG_8700After dropping her off, I did one of those quarterly donor-report meetings for the trafficking outreach, then ran back to Eliza’s school and did all the culturally appropriate practices for the New Year party.

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I focused really hard and sat on the ground with my feet hidden correctly and taught Eliza how to bless her teachers in the appropriate way. I tried to keep the damage from snack time minimal, and then I threw her in the swimming pool with all the other kids in her class. BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT ALL GOOD MOTHERS DO.

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When I’d had enough of the water crazy and my need for control kicked back in, I took E to change her diaper and put her kind-of-dry dress back on. She peed all over the diaper and the place in front of the new school mom I was meeting, which was not embarrassing at all, and I realized I had left her towel at home.

I wrangled her for a few twenty minutes more while I made friends with this new mom, and then walked her wet feet through the dusty road to the car. We used way too many wipes to try and clean up the muddy chaos, and then headed to a lunch meeting.

But after I ordered food and let Eliza loose in the play area of the restaurant, I learned the meeting wasn’t going to happen after all. So we stayed and ate the food we didn’t really need to buy in the first place.

By the time I got home and unpacked the car full of wet diapers and empty cups and exploding bags of junk, I had just enough time to put Eliza down before our language lesson began.

And as I physically psyched myself for tonal language and grammar structure, I realized I had locked my cell phone in our car. With the only set of car keys.

Let me just spare you the details of scavenging a piece of wire from the construction lot next door and failed attempts at breaking into our car to say: When something goes wrong in a country you don’t understand, you don’t just know how to fix it.

There are no yellow pages. There’s no app for that. You have no idea who to call.

And even if you did, YOUR PHONE IS LOCKED IN YOUR CAR.

Praise the Lord for a language helper who helps us in every other aspect of life here. She saved the day by running off to find a locksmith.

Dinnertime was a complete creative masterpiece of french toast and mango, because I had no meat and there is no such thing as a drive-thru in this country.

So by 7:00 PM, I was ready to sit and stare at the wall.

Gavin and I put in the last movie of the Bourne trilogy and called it a day.

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This day is pretty typical of our life lately.

I don’t tell you any of this for a pat on the back. I don’t try and explain the reality of a life overseas so that you can tell us how incredibly faithful we are.

I want so badly to give you a picture of our life so that you can see how weak, broken, and helpless we are when it comes to producing outcomes and results.

There are so many things working against us. Traffic violations. Impossible paperwork. Cultural misunderstandings.

We work our booties off all week long, running here and there, meeting about this and that, and on Friday we sit down and realize we accomplished absolutely nothing.

If you read the description of our work and our projects, you would think we are saving the world. But the reality is, we need to be carried.

We rejoice in the fact that we have a God who has already saved the world, and we recognize our insignificance in the grand scheme of His Good Plan.

So when it starts to look like we’re doing something more important or something of a higher calling, let me call out that lie.

We’re just like anybody else who is overwhelmed by a broken world, trying our best to be obedient in the day-to-day tasks that only God can make produce fruit.

My Team is My Body {Velvet Ashes}

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When people ask me, “What is the hardest part of living overseas?” my immediate response is “Getting along with other expats.”

 It sounds so incredibly 7th grade, I know. But we are a strong-willed, convicted, highly emotional crew. And when you stick a bunch of us on a team and say, “Now go be best friends,” well, it doesn’t just happen that easily.

The storming happens. The annoyances occur. The feelings are hurt.

There was one day that I found myself so frustrated with certain people on my team that I hoped they would fail overseas and choose to go home.

It would be so much easier to do this work by myself. It would be so much faster and more efficient to put team meetings and team fellowship aside and just DO THE WORK.

After all, I came here to serve native people, didn’t I? I never intended to spend all my time coddling the emotional needs of my teammates abroad!

I would honestly never want *the field* to claim anyone. Yet there I was that day anyway, wishing this very thing on my teammates.

Wow. Sin. Sin in my heart.

I am being overly vulnerable here making you privy to my ugly thoughts. Give me some grace, girls.

Because after spending some time in Romans 12, I’ve been jolted back to a new reality. GOD’S reality.

And that reality is this:

AS A FAITH-FILLED EXPATRIATE, MY TEAM IS MY CHURCH

Read more here

My Womb Aches for Life, While My Baby Is In Another Woman’s Arms

This post originally appeared at Missional Women.

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I don’t know how to tell this story.

Across the globe, there are countless women grieving over a failed pregnancy test or a sudden miscarriage. I haven’t walked in their shoes, and I can only imagine the heavy burdens they carry.

Those women are writing such inspired pieces about their journeys, and I am often in awe of their faithfulness as they cling to a hope of carrying their very own child to the point of a healthy delivery one day.

I have had the ultimate honor of doing just this. I have rejoiced over the conception, pregnancy, and birth of my first-born, and what an incredible journey it has been.

All of the changes to my body, all of the kicks and punches, all of the first cries and giggles and yawns. My initiation into motherhood has been a glorious experience. 

But before I ever planned to grow our family the old-fashioned way, there was a spot in my heart for another woman’s child. 

A baby I did not conceive, whose kicks and punches I never felt from my own womb. A baby whose first cries and giggles and yawns I completely missed. 
 
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As I pulled back the bedroom curtains this morning, welcoming the bright sunlight and crisp breeze into the room, I took in some slow, deep breaths and lay back down for a few more minutes of meditation. 
 
The feelings that panged my spirit were not new to me, but seemed to press more firmly into my bones than they have recently.
 
They are the same feelings I have when I see friends announcing new pregnancies. When I see families expanding naturally. When I feel weak and discouraged and think, I could do that, too!

My womb aches for life. My body longs to grow another human just as I did before. 
 
When we started the adoption process, I didn’t expect the temptation to *fix* our desire for more children myself. But that seed of selfishness and desire for control is present. And I would be lying about the beauty of this story if I didn’t tell you about it.
 
There is an empty spot in my arms that is waiting so eagerly to welcome our next child into this family. Even though we have no picture, name, or even a specified gender to help us craft an image of this precious being, he or she is consistently nestled in our hearts and minds as we dream of the day we are a family of four.
 
I knew the wait would be excruciating. I knew the path would be unpredictable.

But I was so sure of the future God wanted for our family unit that I didn’t anticipate my body to react in such strong opposition towards the divine leading to adopt. 

And yet, here again is the honest truth about the tension that exists because of Christ’s reign in my mortal body. It’s the same conflict every time my flesh and my spirit collide. 

Me, wanting what I think is best for me, and the Father, wanting what He knows will teach me about His affectionate provision. 
 
When I’m all wrapped up in the clash of different desires—namely, God’s and mine—I have to remember that I am simply a willing participant in the story my Heavenly Father is writing. 
 
Only He knows best how to restore all brokenness and bring glory to Himself. He didn’t leave any of us as orphans spiritually, and there’s a little one who’s likely already living who He promised to not leave as an orphan physically.

That’s why my womb will have to wait. There’s something better for the four of us as we anticipate growing our family through this adoption-in-progress.

Restoration belongs to our God, the Creator of life and the Author of family.

Allowing Our Hearts to Be Shepherded Abroad {Velvet Ashes}

I really can’t begin to tell you the amount of crazy that has been my life the month of March. I spent three weeks of intense research and writing as I prepared my Comprehensive Exams for my working degree. A load of stress and sixty pages later, I’m so happy to say that this phase of my schooling is complete!

I submitted my papers last Sunday morning at 3:30 AM, a few hours before my ENTIRE family flew in to visit us here in SE Asia. Wow! This week has been such a blast introducing my parents and siblings to the place I’ve called home for the last year. They have embraced this city and culture more than I could have ever dreamed. My cup is more than running over, it is a volcanic eruption of joy and peace and happiness.

So this is why my blog space has been quiet for a while! I have been jotting down notes and thoughts over the last few weeks, and I’m excited to spend April catching up with you here. I have continued to stay present at Velvet Ashes, though, and I’m writing over there again this week. I reallyhope you’ll read this post, because I think it’s an important one for all people who send and are sent out. Join me over there? Here’s a preview:

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The thing that used to scare me most about working overseas was the thought of answering to supporters back home.

I had heard the horror stories.

We had friends scraping the bottom of their budget to make ends meet each month.

We knew of overseas servants losing essential funding without a warning or an opportunity to raise more support.

We had heard about expats forced to come home when their sending fellowships weren’t pleased with their success.

Will this be my story? I thought. Will I have to continually defend myself and the work the Father has asked me to do? I don’t have the energy for that!

So at the first sign of misunderstanding between our supporters and us, I balked.

I’m telling you girls. This was not my most shining moment as a Superstar Christian.

I told my husband we didn’t need our sending fellowship or its money. I told him that the Father would provide somehow because it was obvious to me what He had asked us to do. Even if other people didn’t get it.

We got this, team, I said.
We’ll show them, I said.

We don’t need no inexperienced, uncultured committee to tell us how to do ministry.

That’s what I told my husband on Conflict Day 1. In a ghetto accent, mind you.

I’m confessing this to you, in this little corner of the Internet, because I think we’ve all felt threatened by the volatile relationship between our senders and us.

Sometimes it feels impractical that we answer to boards and overseers that have no idea what our daily lives look like.

They don’t understand our cultures like we do.
They don’t understand our ministry like we do.
They don’t understand our limitations like we do.

But it seems they want success stories. It seems they are only interested in a good return on their investment (i.e. our paychecks).

So we are tempted to embellish our reports. This little tightrope walk of clinging to our financial support is tricky business, you know.

Coffee outings with girlfriends become ‘ministry debriefings.’
Wet market runs are reported as ‘building relationships with nationals.’
Family Sabbaths are labeled ‘personal prayer and study time.’

We over-spiritualize and exaggerate the reality of the mundane in this life abroad. And while I totally understand this temptation, I believe it’s only driving a greater wedge between those who send and those who are sent.

Let me tell you the rest of my story…(click here).

Define Your Role as Servant {Velvet Ashes}

I felt invalidated for a long time.

It began in a faith culture where women were to be quiet and keep their spiritual convictions to themselves.

It moved into my first working environment where my success was excused as youthful energy.

And then motherhood—how in the world do you validate yourself in motherhood? I’ve decided it’s nearly impossible.

So the fact that I am passionate about my faith, young and new to overseas work, and a mother to a toddler stirred up a perfect storm in my life.

This is the story of my mid-twenties identity crisis.

Keep reading here

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