Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Less time for ministry?

From Rebecca: Are there any moms on the mission field struggling with being stay home moms and housekeepers most of the time? Any recommendations on how to deal with this situation?

This is a good question, and it reminded me of this older article: Called Overseas to Cook and Clean? Are there any others on this topic from the archives that we should revisit?

(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, February 24, 2014

Ever seen a baby lizard dressed in Polly Pocket clothing?

I have. I wish I had a picture… But I don’t. All I have is the memory.

And that memory often gets me thinking about this fact.

Sometimes, we missionary types take ourselves a little too seriously. We want to
  • be effective,
  • impact lives,
  • not just do what we do well but very well – if not perfectly,
  • look good while doing it,
  • maybe garner a few more ministry partners, and
  • have at least a few great stories to share.
We sometimes forget we’re just ordinary folks serving an extraordinary God, often in not-your-run-of-the-mill locations.

My son is off for his freshman year of college. One of the things that so impressed us about the university he is attending was their rather extensive program and system of support in place to help international students and TCKs transition to this new phase of life. During his most recent trip home, I was asking him about his friends, and in particular, if he spent much time hanging out with his fellow TCK-types. His comment went something along the lines of, “Yeah, I do hang out with them sometimes. But sometimes I get tired of being part of a group of people that thinks they are more special and unique than everyone else. Sometimes, I think they’d be more fun if they’d just get over it.”


But back to my lizard story…

I don't just write for Missionary Mom's Companion... and today I've ended up scheduled to post both places on the same day! So...

Pop on over to a life overseas: the missions conversation... to read the rest
of this lizard story as well as my thoughts about ordinary missionaries and tcks.

I'd love for you to jump on in, join the conversation - here or there, wherever you are most comfortable; I so appreciate your input!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Overseas Friendly Growth Chart

I seem to be in a season of creating here.  I don't know if it's because my husband had a week off at the end of our summer camp season (yes, it's summer here in Costa Rica.  No, don't try to figure it out.  Yes, we are north of the equator, but they still call this time of year summer.)  I digress.

Ok.  So back to the Overseas Friendly DIY stuff...

So my husband has a thing for recording the boys heights on the wall.  Which works wonderfully if we were to stay in the same house from now until the baby is in college.  But, being that we are kind of global nomads, the likelihood of that happening is virtually 0.

So.  One day I realized I could make a fabric one!  What?!  We have a fabric advent calendar that is so easy to pack, and as we all know, we can always use a bit more padding in those suitcases.  And unless you are making one of these out of denim it shouldn't add too much to the overall weight. Really, denim would just be like another pair of jeans.

Ok, so here's how we did it.  I say we because I am mathematically challenged and needed my husband to help with the measuring.  I know. Lame.  Anyway.

Noah (my husband) decided we should make it 6 foot 5 inches tall.  Yes, our boys could grow that tall.  Vamos a ver.  He also decided that it doesn't need to reach the ground, just down to about 37 inches.  Yep, this means that the baby won't be measured any time soon, but that's fine too.  Do what you want.

I found a piece of cream muslin in my stash and cut it in half.  Then I found some other brown leafy fabric and sewed it with the right sides facing each other, you know like making a pillow case.  The brown fabric was wider than the muslin which is what I wanted.  I liked the idea of having the leafy pattern on the front side too.  Then I top stitch it down the side with the brown fabric.

Next, I marked the inches and half inches.  With some cream cotton yarn I had, I made the inch marks.  I didn't do that as neatly as I was hoping, but hey, this ain't rocket science.  I had a brown pen and used it to add the inches in and to mark the big boys heights from this last year.  Goodness they have grown!!

And now we can have those heights for posterity.  And it's portable!

Does your family record the kids' heights?  What other things do you do to keep memories of childhood?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Visas

This is just out of curiosity, but it reflects what my own family is right in the midst of now: What is the document situation like in your country? Can you briefly explain what it takes for you to live there legally? (I didn't have a question for you last week, because we were traveling to work on... residency documents.)

(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, February 17, 2014

How to Handle Kids Who'd Rather Eat Cacık than Captain Crunch

Can I tell you a secret? My American kids hate Captain Crunch.  In fact they don’t want to eat any breakfast cereal. Period.  Not even Lucky Charms.  And they won't touch sandwiches with a ten foot pole. But they love stuffed grape leaves and eggplant, and they'll down a bowl of cacık any day. (Cacık is yogurt, raw garlic, cucumber and mint.)

For me the hardest part about living overseas is worrying about Andres and Camille. I wonder if we've messed up their childhoods by bringing them to Turkey. As my kids grow up, the challenges they face change from year to year. Here is more about our experience and approach to helping our kids adjust.

Our Experience:

After living in Turkey seven years, our family decided to go back “home” to America in 2009 for a whole year to get my husband’s US citizenship. I was shocked to realize that neither of our kids wanted to go.  Back in America my daughter cried every night the first month, but slowly the kids adjusted to a new life and made friends. Thanks to a supportive family and church, we had a positive experience.

About the time we got re-acclimated to life in America, it was time to turn around and come back to Turkey. Going through re-entry culture shock twice in two years was tough, but it drew our family closer together.

The last three years our kids have faced new challenges. My husband and I decided to leave our Turkish church of nine years to start a new fellowship, so for the kids that meant leaving their secure community of Turkish and international church friends. Their TCK youth group has dwindled because most families leave our city by the time their kids reach high school age due to the lack of educational opportunity here. Many friends went to Black Forest Academy in Germany or started college in America, so  Andres and Camille have said goodbye more times than I can count.

What We’ve Learned About Helping Our Kids Adapt:

1. Be proactive in communicating with your kids about their experience. 
Listen to them if they express sadness about leaving family and home behind. Validate their feelings.  Ask them what is difficult for them and what they like about living overseas.

2. Help them maintain relationships with family back home.
It takes effort, but out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind.  Our kids call my mother about once a week. E-mail and Facebook help them connect with other family members.

3. Nurture a solid family environment.
Family dinners and devotional times help us to reconnect nightly. Sometimes we do weekly games nights, anything to make spending time together a priority. Each month, my husband takes our son out for breakfast, and I take our daughter.

4. Preserve family traditions for a sense of continuity.
What are your traditions?  We celebrate Thanksgiving with the same international group of friends every year. We eat pancakes every Sunday.

5. Hang in there if your child is struggling.
I used to agonize if one of my kids had a problem or difficulty adjusting.  With time, I’ve learned to hang in there and keep praying.  Easier times are usually around the corner.

6. Avoid the expatriate bubble.
In our early days I made lots of effort to get together with local moms and their kids, and we sent our children to Turkish pre-school. Now my kids are in their eleventh year of home school, but my son has participated in sports and tutors two Turkish boys. He also helps with the sound system and plays bass for another local church. My daughter sticks closer to home, but she skated with a local team for two years and now does tutoring.

7. Promote appreciation for the national culture in your home.
When we find ourselves or our kids criticizing Turks, we try to stop and remind ourselves that different is not necessarily better. 

8. Emphasize the positive.
Don’t worry that you’re messing up your kids. (I'm talking to myself here.) Undoubtedly God will use their TCK experience to shape them into the unique individuals He created them to be. My kids face challenges, but they're learning resilience. They have an invaluable opportunity to rub shoulders with Turkish believers, real live people who face persecution for their faith. My 16 year old has three years of experience with sound equipment and leading worship, something he probably could have never done in America. 

I'm sure your kids have many unique opportunities as well.  Let's celebrate these opportunities God gives our kids as they grow up overseas!

Question: Do any of you out there have kids who are struggling? What works for your family in helping them adjust?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Am So Glad That Jesus Loves Me

This is often sung as a kid's song, but a few weeks ago we sang this in church, and the tune has been stuck in my mind and heart.  At our church, we put the words to the songs on an overhead.  This keeps people from singing into their songbooks!  Each week I type the words to the songs that we will be singing that Sunday morning in our worship service.  This makes me stop and think of the actual words we are singing.

Have often do we sings songs and realize at the end that we don't remember what we sang?  Our minds drift, we have kids to keep still, so and so just walked in, or whatever distractions you have in your church, and song time becomes routine and we mumble our way through it, singing empty words.

Song time is part of our worship to God, and I'm as guilty as every one else, but shame on us for allowing ourselves to just go through the motions!

Ok, enough parenting from me!  I want to share the words to this song, and hope you'll take a minute to think of the words, and that they will bless your heart today.

I am so glad that our Father in Heaven
Tells of His love in the Book He has given
Wonderful things in the Bible I see
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me

Aren't you glad God gave us His Word?  His Word is filled with so many promises, and over and over it tells us that He loves us!  John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 are two of my favorites.

Though I forget Him and wander away
Still He doth love me wherever I stray
Back to His dear loving arms would I flee
When I remember that Jesus loves me

I love this verse.  Though I forget Him and wander away, still He doth love me wherever I stray.  Praise the Lord!  I John 1:9 - He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin...oh, how undeserving we are of the grace and mercy of our God!

Oh, if there’s only one song I can sing
When in His beauty I see the great King
This shall my song through eternity be
“Oh, what a wonder that Jesus loves me!"

Can you imagine walking in Heaven, beholding the glory of our Savior?  We are so unworthy...oh what a wonder that Jesus loves me!  I am so glad that Jesus loves me...aren't you?

What songs have touched your heart recently?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feeling alone

"You are not alone. You are never alone."

I heard those words whispered to me as I was driving home from Basel, Switzerland. 

We live in Germany just over the border of Switzerland and France. My husband, Dale, had left a few weeks earlier to go to the states for seven weeks so that left me, my 17 year old daughter, Ashleigh, and our dog. I have always savored "alone" time. Being an introvert I don't mind silence. My energy tank is filled when I'm alone. But something was different ... 

Why was I having such a hard time being alone after Dale left for the states? 

I wasn't lonely, but I felt alone. I can't explain the feeling, but I was weepy at strange times during the day. I was spending more time in prayer so why was I feeling this way? 

On that particular day I was meeting a Swiss friend of ours just right over the border. He wanted to make sure Ashleigh and I were doing alright and he wanted to bless us with some money. It was needed and truly a blessing. Michael has been a friend of ours for about 9 years and he's more like family. We sat and had a coffee and talked for about an hour. As I was walking to the car, tears welled up in my eyes. I quickly brushed them away, said goodbye to Michael and got in my car. 

The flood that threatened to come in the parking lot now gave way on the highway to Germany. Sobs wracked my body until it felt like I would have to pull over. I didn't understand what was happening, but I knew it was necessary. About 2 km from home the tears stopped, a sweet peace came and I heard, "You are not alone. You are never alone." 

He knows what we need even when we think we don't have a need in a particular area. 

He knows how to reach us. 

He knows us. 

Each circumstance and situation is an opportunity to experience a deeper revelation of who His is and His love for us. 

I am overwhelmed by His love for me. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Am I Becoming Religious?

I don’t think of myself as “religious.” At least not in the sense that I am willing to mindlessly repeat actions because that’s “right” or “required.” I like to think that I consistently act from the heart.
Apparently I’m not as consistent as I thought, and it took a six year old to show me that. Sometimes my kids are my best teachers.
Last week we had some friends at our house, and everyone was downstairs talking while I went upstairs to rush the kids through the bedtime routine so that I could get back to my company. I quickly tucked my son in with his stuffed animals, and said a standard bedtime prayer thanking God for the day and requesting a peaceful rest for my son.
And then a small voice asked me two big questions.
“How do you think God feels about that? Do you think He likes hearing the same prayer every night?”
Some self-reflection was in order. Do I pray the same thing? Do I mindlessly mouth words to the God of the universe? Do I even care about what I am saying, or am I just trying to check a box and get to the next thing? Am I (gulp) religious about it?
My son could see through the outer exterior and right into the heart of me. He knew I was rushing, and he knew I didn’t really mean it. What did God think?
“You can do better, Mommy. Try again.”
So I did. I prayed again thanking God for the beauty I saw, and the fact that my son can run and kick, and I asked for not only peace, but also for patience and forgiveness.
“That’s better,” said my son as he snuggled, satisfied, under the covers and went to sleep.
But I am still troubled. Am I becoming religious? Is that what happens when you are talking about God, and working for God? Do I say the same prayers for bedtime, and morning devotions? What about the standard Spanish prayer that I have spoken and spoken until it loses all meaning for me?
Have I forgotten that it’s all grace?
It’s grace that I’m here today, and it’s grace that I need to give. It’s simple trust in God and daily talks and getting to know Him more. It’s thanking Him for the good and the bad and all the moments in between. It’s experiencing Him beyond the routine religion that I would reduce my relationship of God to. So I must ask, how does God feel about my prayers when they no longer mean anything to me?
Thank you, dear son, for helping me to remember. Thank you God for using a six year old boy to speak to my heart and remind me of who you are. Please, God, don’t let me become religious. Help me to know today and every day that it’s all grace.
What about you? Do you find that when your life is all about serving God, it's easy to lose sight of the grace He gives us everyday? 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Dating

Hurrah! A question from a reader:
Hi! My family are missionaries with 2 teenage daughters. We have discussed dating within the community with our daughters, as well as our sending organization. We have all come to agreement that it's not something that we want them to do for fear of creating unnecessary problems for our organization and the work that we are doing here. My daughters and I have also discussed that dating shouldn't be taken lightly. We discussed that, if we could not answer the question "Could I marry this guy?" then what is the use in dating him. For now, we are all in agreement. However, I have been a teenage girl at one time (many years ago!), and I understand how hard this is for them. 
How do most missionaries handle dating on the mission field with your teens?

(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, February 3, 2014

Wading Through Our Trials

"We're going on a bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day! We're not scared.
Uh-uh, a river! A deep cold river.
We can't go over it, we can't go under it,
Oh, no! We've got to go through it!"

These words have become all too familiar as I read my son's favourite book to him. Every. Single. Day. Do you know the story? Children go on a hunt to find a bear, but they face various obstacles that they can't master unless they go through them. The book was a Christmas gift for my son, and I can't tell you how many times I've read the story since then.
But having to face those obstacles in We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a bit like our real lives.
We face trials in our lives. When we come upon a trial, we're faced with a decision to make. We can't avoid the trial, so our options are to stop moving forward or go through the trial.
It's scary to go through a trial even when God is right there by our sides. It's kind of like a river in our story—deep and cold. We don't really know what to expect when we step into that river. It might be deep and cold. The current might sweep us away, yet we forge ahead, trusting God will walk with us to the other side.
We don't know what kind of pain we'll need to deal with as we stare our trials in the face. We don't know what losses we may face. We don't even know how long we may be in the midst of the trial. But we do know God will use the trial for His glory and our good.
Wading through the rivers of our trials may be difficult, but there are things we can do to make it easier.

Seek to be secure in your walk with the Lord.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13, ESV

Give thanks. Daily.

Yes, I know it's incredibly difficult in the midst of a trial, but we need to give thanks in all our circumstances.
 ...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV

Remember that Jesus has "been there" and can understand your sufferings. 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15, ESV
When we step into that river by faith, we will eventually get to the other side. It's then we've discovered how much we've grown because of the trial that God has walked us through.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Loud Time

I don’t know about you, but I’ve at times been perplexed trying to figure out how to have a quality quiet time with so many little ones around.  I’ve tried to get up early, but sneaking out of our room without waking the baby is nearly impossible. I’ve done my quiet time after the kids go down for bed, but I’m often so exhausted by that time that I sometimes end up crashed out on my kitchen table studying the word by osmosis.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how some things really are all about perspective, or at least largely about perspective, and I’ve come to see that some of my issues with quiet times as just such an issue. This perspective change came in the form of a simple change in wording that has transformed my expectations and freed me from much irritation. I’ve stopped calling my time in the word a “quiet time” and have started calling it my “loud time!”  It sounds really silly, but renaming this time helps me not be unnecessarily frustrated when my time in the word and prayer is interrupted or less than serene. I need that time with the Lord, and though peace and uninterrupted time are wonderful and to be sought after, and even at times necessary, they are not always absolute necessities for meeting with Him.

I like to have my “loud time” each afternoon when the littlest ones are napping and the bigger ones are semi-occupied doing homework, playing games, or doing crafts.  This is about the quietest that my day gets, but seeing as the three of us are often cramped in our little kitchen since all of the other rooms are occupied by nappers or a working husband, it isn’t exactly quiet uninterrupted time. But that’s ok!

God knows my season of life and the loudness that surrounds me at nearly every waking moment. I truly believe that He receives my “loud time” sacrifice just as much as He would if I actually managed to find many consecutive quiet moments each day. It’s about prioritizing our relationship with the Lord and making sure to spend time with Him however we can.  He loves to meet with us and desires to speak with us, and it comes as no surprise, but the Lord is perfectly able to speak up loud enough that I can hear Him loud and clear above the noise of my young and busy family. 

How about you? Are you in a quiet-time or a loud-time season of life with your kids? How have you met with the Lord throughout the various seasons of mothering?