Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Contingency plans

Once again--sadly--I don't have any questions from readers. (Send some!)

So, I'll ask questions of my own. Things are still unstable in Ukraine, and I'm starting to hear phrases like "contingency plan" from the missionary community on the internet and in real life. What kinds of plans do you and/or your mission have? How detailed do you get with those, and do you have any guidelines for when they go in to action?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Overseas Friendly DIY Chalkboard

So, let's talk a little DIY, shall we?

I have wanted a chalkboard since we left the states.  I had one in Michigan in our playroom.  The boys and I loved it and it was a sweet reminder of my years in Sunday School because it came from the church I grew up in. 

But chalkboards don't fit nicely in a duffel bag or foot locker.  The things we give up, huh?

I finally had mental energy and time to figure out how to get my hands on a chalkboard.  It only took 3 years folks.  Things just take time on the mission field. Ha!

After asking around, I finally decieded to just make one.  The results aren't too shabby!

So here's the deal.  All you need is paint, whatever color you want, and some unsanded grout.  I figured grout would be incredibly easy to find here, since there are entire rooms that are tiled.  No, I am not joking.  There are three rooms in my house alone that are covered from floor to ceiling with tile.  Anyway.

Overseas Friendly Chalkboard Paint
1/2 cup of paint  I used Dark Secret (the blackest I could get)

1 Tablespoon of unsanded grout (I used midnight black, but if you picked a different color paint, you should use something lighter...but you are all smart and knew that already!)

A smooth surface  (My husband found me some particle board type stuff that I didn't have to sand or mess with in anyway.  It's not real wood, but it was great for this purpose.)

Use something disposable to mix your paint and grout in.  And just know, as soon as you start mixing this, it will start to harden.  So don't go mixing an entire liter of paint with grout thinking you can save it for later. 

I used a small roller brush and put three coats on my 60 x 80 cm board.  The  1/2 cup paint to 1 Tbs of grout recipe was the perfect amount for that sized board.  So maybe you could go in on this project with someone because you are going to have a TON of leftover supplies.

After the board is completely dry, take a piece of chalk and cover the whole board with it.  No really.  Then wipe it down with a damp rag.  Drill a couple of holes, find some twine and you are all set!  And just so you know, this isn't like a real slate chalk board.  You will probably need to wipe it with a wet rag to actually get the writing off of it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Supporting our parents

Recently a thoughtful commenter asked some questions. She wanted to know: How can others support the parents of missionaries? How can people encourage the parents and grandparents who are left behind? Also, do you know of any ministries or other resources specifically for mothers and fathers of missionaries?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

When You Feel Like It Never Rains, But It Pours

You know the old saying, “It never rains, but it pours?”

Photo Credit: Timothy Sullivan (Creative Commons)

Last weekend I was racing to speed clean our living room when the vacuum cleaner broke, and I almost burst into tears. “God, what is happening?” I asked.  If you’re thinking I overreacted, let me explain. Three days before the vacuum cleaner, our stove broke. And the week before that my cell phone broke.

But things go back even further. In the last six months I bought TWO hand mixers, a blender, AND a microwave, all purchased because the originals had broken. (And just this morning my coffee grinder broke!)

With each new—no pun intended—broken appliance my frustration level rises.  Inconvenience aside, they represent a financial burden at a time when we have a host of other needs like braces, airline tickets, and eye glasses for three family members. I’m sure many of you can relate. God is faithful to provide all we need, but sometimes money is short. 

I even asked God, “Are You trying to tell me something? Because if there’s something spiritual behind this, believe me, I want to take care of it!” However, the only reason that comes to my mind is that we live in a country where quality control is VERY LOW, we’ve been here over ten years, and well, stuff does break!

So I have two choices:

I can throw myself a huge pity party.

It’s tempting to bemoan the fact that our support level is not higher and to lament over the fact that appliances are more expensive here than they are back home. I can complain, which affects my husband and our kids negatively.  I can play the martyr; here we are serving the Lord, and we don’t even have the money to buy a new vacuum.  You get the general idea.

Or I can keep on giving thanks.

 After all, I was able to buy a cute, blue, not-so-smart cell phone last week. Thank you, God. And we HAVE a vacuum cleaner in the first place. (How many people in this world never even have a vacuum cleaner?) Thank you, God. I have a faithful husband and happy kids. Thank you, Lord.

As I give thanks, my faith increases just a little bit, and it’s easier to trust God to continue providing all we need, even though it looks like we’re buying each new item by the skin of our teeth.

Ann Voskamp wrote recently about how a musician gets lost if he loses count, but if he keeps counting and moving forward, he’ll make it through even the most difficult piece of music.

So I don’t want to lose count. I want to keep counting my blessings: counting God’s gifts, the million ways in which He blesses me. Even on the weeks when it seems like everything’s falling apart. I want to keep on keeping on. Keep calm and keep counting.

Do you ever feel tempted to throw yourself a huge pity party? What is the most difficult thing about serving overseas for you? What is the thing you’re most thankful for right now?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

When You Say, "I Am Praying For You"...

I've been pondering this sentence quite a bit lately, and as I write this, I realize I've thought about this for years.  When I share a burden with a friend and they reply, "I'm praying for you."  I often think, do they really?  Are we really praying for each other, or do we simply hope things work out.   My husband often says,
"We often accuse others of what we are guilty of ourselves." 
But I do have to wonder, if I am guilty of telling someone I am praying for them, and then don't, how often do people tell me and later forget to pray.  Telling someone you are going to do something, and don't is a lie, plain and simple.
Maybe it's just me, and you all are doing fine in this area.  If so, great.  But I know the Lord has been working in my heart lately to pray.  To stop and pray for people. To be more intentional (my word of the year).   Not a quick, "Dear Lord, please be with so and so, Amen."  No, not anymore.  I stop and put focused time on praying for my friends, even people I don't know if someone asks.
When someone shares a prayer request on facebook, I will not reply "praying for you" until I have stopped and prayed for them.  Because I know, that when I shut my computer and go on with my day that I will probably forget. 
This verse has been a good reminder to me:
"Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you:
but I will teach you the good and the right way:"  I Samuel 12:23
More thoughts on prayer coming soon.
Do you have a prayer request that I can pray for?  Please leave a comment or email, and I promise I will pray for you.
Written by Jen Bauer, missionary wife and homeschooling mum in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Monday, January 13, 2014

keepin it real ...

As I was praying about what to write, my latest blog post for my personal blog kept coming to mind. 2013 was, by far, one of the hardest years I've had to endure, but God. Wherever we find ourselves, whether in the states or abroad, in lack or abundance, in sickness or health ... He is our anchor. He is our rock. He is our peace. He is our healer. He is our provider. 

I pray that today you take a moment to stop and breathe. Bask in His love. Rest in His peace.

Breathe ... that's just what I'm reminding myself to do at the moment. Breathe

Just Breathe. 

The first week of 2014 has been a whirlwind of emotions, saying good-byes, tears, bad news, a few impossible situations and really leaning on God because there have been moments when I literally didn't think I could stand any longer. And as I was forwarding the picture below to my email so I could use it in this blog post, I found the following quote ... 

"Your legs may be weary and your heart may be heavy and your questions may be many, but whatever you are facing, it is always named Mount Moriah: "The Lord will Appear, The Lord will be Seen, The Lord will Provide." 
-Ann Voskamp

God is so right on time, isn't He? and I breathe again because He is. 

Simply because He is. 

So, in a span of 4 days Dale, my husband, left for the US and will be in the states for 7 weeks ... yep, 7, Jordan, my son, went back to school in Stuttgart and for some reason it felt like I was saying good bye for the first time ... heart wrenching, tear soaked cheeks. The house was quiet after Dale left, now Jordan ... pin dropping quiet. Along with them leaving, a couple of bills arrive that are larger than expected and I realize that our giving report is, let's say, not so good news.

Feeling like I'm being overrun by a "bigger than life size wave," I run to the bathroom to wipe my eyes and there it is ... written on the window in the bathroom "THE KEY IS THANKFULNESS." That has been on our bathroom window since we've moved in. The previous renters, now pastors in Australia, wrote it. It's a great reminder so we've left it.

2 Choices ... worry or be thankful .... 

I put the leash on the dog and went for a long walk around our village. As I walked, I thanked God for everything. Take a step, thank God, Breathe, repeat. I prayed out loud around the entire village and I was about half way when tears began streaming down my face, not from dread or worry, but because I felt such a calmness cover me. I smiled, laughed, cried and thanked Him the whole way home. Each day I choose to give thanks. 

Pretty simply, huh?             Be thankful.               Put your focus on Jesus.             Ride the wave. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Courage to Move Forward

As I think about this beginning of 2014, I find myself setting goals again. And then I realised something startling. I tend to have the same goals every year. I start out with the best intentions, but I never seem to meet all my goals.

We do it every year, don’t we? We set new goals and reevaluate our life's direction. How many of our goals change and how many remain the same year after year? Why do we have to keep setting the same goals, and what keeps us from changing?

It's a battle with our flesh.

We're born with this sin-nature that causes us to keep going against our pursuit of the holy. The enemy doesn't want us to change, to become more godly. He works against all the things that God wants us to be and do. And when we fail to meet a certain goal, he makes us feel bad for it. At least that's how I feel about it.

We can also be tempted to look back too much.

My almost two-year old son recently learned how to walk backwards a few weeks ago. Now he likes to walk around backward really fast. The problem with this is that he doesn't always watch where he's going and has to turn around to gain his bearings on where he's going again.

We can do the same thing when we're too retrospective. We get so busy looking back that life takes us by surprise, and it takes us awhile to figure out where we're going again. It's great to reflect on how God has worked in our lives, especially if we're going through a particularly trying time. It's even better to look forward because too much looking back can distract us from the ways God wants us move forward and grow.

In setting my goals this year, I've been asking myself: Where does God want me, and how does He want me to align my heart with His?

We're now a week into 2014. Let's look forward to what the Lord has in store for us!

What keeps you from meeting your goals and/or resolutions?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Consecrated Negligence"


Another new year.

And probably like most people - at least in western societies and cultures - I've been taking stock of the past twelve months, evaluating successes, analyzing failures and trying to figure out what I need to change to better be obedient to God, love and honor Him while also genuinely loving the people around me. 

Thanks to a book I've been reading, one recommended by a trusted friend and mentor, the words "consecrated negligence" probably best describe one of my key goals for this next year. I'm sharing them with you because they are words from which many of us missionary types would benefit if we would only take them to heart. 

This year is a furlough/home assignment year. Our Nigerien colleagues always called it a vacation or holiday. Most missionaries know that it is anything but. 

Six months in, I'm feeling the exhaustion/exultation all mixed up... Piled on top of that, there's the exhaustion of an intense ministry term in West Africa and then just the transition of coming back to our home country and readjusting to life here - it has been a huge learning curve... and what I'm learning is that I can't do it all the way I've managed in the past. I've not yet determined if it is because I'm getting older or it is because as my kids get older, their needs actually become more demanding (not to mention the stakes seem a lot higher) and I'm being stretched in so many more and different ways... 

Things that I want... that I believe should... be happening just aren't. Like the ladies' Bible study I was looking forward to attending. Or learning to make a sourdough starter and bake sourdough bread... Not to mention just keeping up with the laundry (with consistent electricity and water) and a dryer! More than once I've felt like these trees might have felt (if I believed that trees had feelings) after the huge ice storm that rolled through our part of the world a few weeks back... bent over, weighed down, knowing that something soon - any more piled on or hanging off - just might cause me to crack and crash to the ground... or reshape me so much that there is little hope of bouncing back.

Thus, as I'm reading about expat workers and emotional fatigue and realizing I'm more or less in that zone - the phrase "consecrated negligence" has bored its way into the fog, and is something that God will be teaching me more about this year.

What is "consecrated negligence?"

It isn't a term I coined and I don't even know who to credit - other than the vague credit given in the book I've been reading: 
One Christian worker in Denver practices what he calls consecrated negligence. He just chooses not to do certain things even though they need to be done. He says, "If those tasks aren't critical and I feel like I've done all I can handle, I just consecrate the to God and neglect them."
I guess some would call that prioritizing. Others might call it delegating.

But for driven, perfectionist types like myself, there is a key difference. Prioritizing doesn't remove or ever look the other way. It simply says that I'll do that other job once I get these more imperative things done first. Delegating takes a job that I'm convinced is important and gives or assigns it to someone else, for someone else to accomplish.

Neglect, on the other hand, is abandoning and failing to look after; it implies choosing not to cherish and disregarding, often because other things have already captured your time and attention. One synonym is "shirk." 

Put that way, it sounds unbiblical.

But is it any less unbiblical than forgetting that it all doesn't depend on me? That God actually doesn't need me? 

And so this year, one of my hopes is that I'll take some steps in practicing this consecrated negligence. I want to be able to realize that some things I'm doing because they are my ideas, not necessarily God's. For those things that I just can't do and the times when I can't keep up - I want to learn to purposefully step away and recognize that what God wants done, He ultimately handles it or impresses someone to serve in that way. Sometimes the stepping away might be from something mundane - like making sure the house is picked up each night before bed. Sometimes it might include higher stakes, like an upcoming and potentially life changing ministry opportunity. But in either circumstance as well as an infinity of other ones landing anywhere along said continuum, I know there are times God wants me to abandon my ideas of what needs to be done and rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign.

I'm still figuring out how to figure this all out...

What about you?
What do you think of this idea of consecrated negligence? 
Do you already practice the same thing by another name? 
Is this something you think you need to start learning, practicing and applying in your life?