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.


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.


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.


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.