Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Advice before moving

From a reader who is preparing to move overseas:
What would be your advice to someone about to move abroad/afraid to move abroad?

I think we have some older posts about this question. We can link to those in the comments, too.

(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, July 26, 2014

Longevity in Ministry ~ Just think About a Horseshoe

For I am now ready to be offered, 
and the time of my departure is at hand. 
I have fought a good fight, 
I have finished my course, 
I have kept the faith: 
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, 
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: 
and not to me only, 
but unto all them also that love his appearing.

The senior pastor at my sending church recently preached a packed-full-of-great-stuff sermon - and I spent the entire time listening intently while scribbling notes like mad. Afterwards, I was talking with another missionary friend (who's also been home on furlough this year as well - talk about a treat for my family, having another missionary family with kids the age of my teens, but that would be another story for another day), and the first comment out of both of our mouths was that his sermon had such great practicability and application for those like us who find themselves seeking to serve the Lord while far from "home." 

Thus, over the course of the next several times I write, I want to share the principles our pastor outlined, along with my further study... with you. I hope you find it both as practical and encouraging as I have.


"Like longevity in life, some basic things are needed - right genes [children of God], right diet [God's Word], right exercise [involvement in ministry] and right environment [a place in God's community - the Church]. The Apostle Paul set it as his goal to walk worthy and finish well. So should we!"

But what do we mean by longevity? "Very simply, it is the number of years that God, in His sovereignty, allots you, no more and no less." The key word in that definition? Sovereignty. Theologia defines sovereignty as: 
The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God's rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto (in practice).

John MacArthur has this to say about God's sovereignty: 
No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work....
I have to agree with MacArthur... 

People balk at accepting the sovereignty of God for many reasons. Another reason might be that God's sovereignty, while always perfect and just, just isn't always fair in the sense that everyone has the same challenges and/or opportunities. With that in mind, we must keep in mind that longevity for me might look different than longevity for you because God has different plans and trajectories for our lives.

Regardless of our personal opinions, the Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign. Pagan kings understood and proclaimed that truth. God's Word, the existence of creation, the rules of physics, the intricacy of the human body... So many things reveal to men that there must be a sovereign God.

It is a truth to which we must grasp and cling tenaciously, however, if we hope to achieve longevity in the ministries in which God has placed us. Sometimes that is hard to do because it involves trusting in the sufficiency and sovereignty of God even when we can't see any reason to do so because nothing in life or ministry is making sense, no matter how hard we work, how we strive to obey, how intently we seek the Savior's face.

My pastor shared an illustration that I found very helpful when it comes to looking at the sovereignty of God. He'd heard it, I believe, from one of his Bible teachers. 

As men and women with limited perspective and a very finite view, we look at a crazy oxymoron where God says He is divine and yet, that we are responsible. His Word teaches both. It doesn't make sense, no matter how hard we try.

But that is because we can only see as if we are the standing at the open side of an enormous horseshoe, so enormous that we cannot see the U-shaped part of the horseshoe. Human responsibility is on one of the separate ends; divine sovereignty at the other. Our perception, and rightly so if we lived our lives based only on what we see, is that those two are separated by a wide space... irreconcilable... and made of material that bends or changes shape only under great pressure or heat.

There is great danger if we decide that because we can't see how they meet, they can't... that one or the other is more true... should take more priority... than the other and therefore we can discount the other. Those who believe the whole is God's divine sovereignty risk an extreme fatalism. Those who believe the whole is human responsibility risk extreme humanism. Neither extreme pleases or honors God.

God, however, looks at that horseshoe from above. He looks down and sees the whole and how those two principles fusing together and forming a single amazing, protecting, correcting, steadying and sustaining, healing and building reality. 

Those truths - God is sovereign and man is responsible - are so important... so necessary, as we consider this issue of longevity. 

How does a horseshoe serve a horse?

  • It protects from bruising and extensive wear, 
  • It corrects or improves performance/presentation issues (i.e. stride length, overreaching, etc.), 
  • It helps steady draft or trail horses by maintaining or providing traction as they work, 
  • It is therapeutic, aiding in recovery from injury or while building strength. 
Put simply, people use them because horseshoes extend the longevity of the horse.

And perhaps this image of the horseshoe will help you remember to trust God in His sovereignty... but all the while know that there is a rest of the story to come.

Do you ever find yourself swinging on that proverbial pendulum, seeking balance between divine sovereignty and man's responsibility?

What do you think when you hear these words, usually attributed to Augustine: 
Pray as though everything depended on God. 
Work as though everything depended on you."

Please join us again in 2 weeks, 
as we look more specifically at the sovereignty of God.


horseshoe photo credit: w0LD via photopin cc
all other photos are mine

Please note: 
Italicized words are from my notes or from the guided notes in the church bulletin
and are, to the best of my recall, actual content from the sermon.
The rest comes from my continued study and meditation prompted by that sermon.

To listen to the actual sermon "Start, Run and Finish Well," click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tuning out

Language learning. (shudder) Yes, I'm in the process of learning German. I have Rosetta Stone, a language partner and I'm enrolled in an intensive German course in the Fall. Unfortunately I haven't been blessed with a bent on learning foreign languages so this process will be, well, a process and quite possibly long and arduous. Yikes! 

My family attends a local German church and they offer headsets with English translation. Last Saturday my daughter and I attended "Be The Change" which is an outreach program consisting of helping at nursing homes, shelters, orphanages, etc. Everyone gathers at the church then disperses to the places in need of help on that particular Saturday. We saw another North American missionary family and decided to join their group to make it a bit easier while in the language learning process. So, the different leaders explain about the different locations and tasks and while they were speaking I zoned out. Literally tuned them out. I leaned over to my daughter to ask her if she "caught" anything at all and found out that she tuned it all out too. 

How will I ever learn if I tune out what I can't / don't understand? 

Recently, my mom was fitted with cochlear implants in both ears. (She's had severe hearing loss since she was a child.) She explained to me that she was hearing sounds for things that she never thought made noise. The dinging of microwaves. The clacking of the keyboard. The sounds were so overwhelming to her because she hasn't learned how to tune them out. For the first time I understood her world a bit better. 

How many sounds or voices do we tune out on a daily basis? Not out of hearing loss, but a choice. 

Are you in the foreign language learning process? Any tips for those of us in the thick of it? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Skills to learn

From a reader who is preparing to move overseas:
Is there anything for my household that I need to learn while still in the comfort of my own home? (like doing laundry by hand, etc.)

(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, July 19, 2014

New Word

A few weeks ago we found a smokin' deal on a used trampoline here in Costa Rica.  And by smokin' I mean 1/4 the price of a new one here.  We went in on it with our neighbors (they have a little boy too) and my boys can't scarf thier breakfasts fast enough in the morning to get out and jump.

The other day I overheard one of them saying something about a brincaline.  I burst out lauging.  Here in Costa Rica, the word we use for jump is brincar.  So, Brincar + Trampoline = Brincaline. 

I love bilingual kids!

What is the best bilingual story you have?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jehovah Jireh

14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.” Gen 22:14 Msg

For years, I have heard "Jehovah Jireh, my provider," yet sometime ago I've also heard, "Jehovah Jireh - the one who has seen ahead and already provided." I've come to realize that the latter is, in fact, true. We can sometimes lose sight of this truth - He is my provider. Not the supporters, not our employer, but God. 

"He realized that God alone was able, and in that realization the puny supplies of man dwarfed beside the reservoirs of God's grace which he tapped by faith. He learned not to bind God by the limits of his own faith. He asked, knowing that God, Who heard, was able."
George Muller / Man of Faith and Miracles

We were just given a ton of furniture and furnishings by a friend of ours going through a divorce and since we live in a community of missionaries we thought this would be a good opportunity to bless some people. After three truck loads of furniture to our small apartment and one load to the recycling center, we were finally finished. We were literally swimming in furniture. I'm happy to say that many families have been blessed by the furniture and we still have more to give. 

But there is one family that comes to mind when thinking about Jehovah Jireh ... 

My daughter traded her twin bed for a double that was recently given. We found a home for the twin bed and in washing clothes the day after I realized that I had several twin fitted sheets and a duvet cover but no longer owned a twin bed. So, I contacted the lady, Esther, who was the lucky recipient of the twin bed. She picked them up last night and as I was loading the 4 fitted sheet, 2 top sheets, a duvet cover and 2 pillow cases in a shopping bag, she said, "I know I need these things since we have a twin bed now, but I haven't even gotten around to praying about it." and it stopped me right in my packing. I looked over at her and smiled and said, "Yeah, God is good that way." 

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil 4:6 ESV

Sometimes it seems that even before we can utter that prayer, God has already provided. When we were moving from the US to Germany 1.5 years ago we sold or gave most of our belongings. On our last day of packing I couldn't find space for my Kitchen Aid stand up mixer and I frantically looked at every box and in the end, decided to give up. I picked up the mixer and handed it to a pastor who was helping us with moving and said, "be blessed." I have missed that mixer like nobody's business and every time I think of it I pray for the pastor and his family. 

Well .... *drum roll please* 

A friend of ours in Switzerland called and said he wanted to give me something. After giving all the furniture and other stuff I couldn't possibly think of what could be left. 

Yes, you guessed it! A KITCHEN AID STAND UP MIXER! But not just any old Kitchen Aid mixer. This baby has every attachment known to man! 

I was overwhelmed and giddy when I set that mixer on my counter. I've often wondered if I would ever have another one, but God, who knows the end from the beginning, knew all along. Whether we are waiting in prayer or those things are here before we pray, He is Jehovah Jireh. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Climate/Clothing

From a reader who is preparing to move overseas:
What is the climate like where you are and how do you typically dress there?

(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, July 14, 2014

Easy Furlough Socials with Young Kids

Before we headed back to the US about 8 weeks ago for our summer furlough and support raising trip, I had literally found myself in tears multiple times over the stress of the obligations to come. Two and a half months sounds so long, but as we looked at the amount of support that we’d need to raise, and as the invitations from family and friends started pouring in by the dozens, I’d become practically short of breath just looking at my email or Facebook inbox and imagining dragging our four young kids to an endless stream of social engagements. It took no time at all to discover that the potential pace of our summer was setting us up for massive stress and un-health.

Thankfully we stumbled upon a great solution for at least part of the problem! I absolutely hate disappointing people and refusing loving invitations is so hard for me, but I’ve realized that it works a lot better to be the one doing the inviting vs. responding to invitations that might not be the best situations for our family.  For us right now, taking our four young kids to dinner after dinner with people that they don’t know in places that are often not kid-friendly is just really exhausting and stressful. This summer we explained to our friends and ministry partners that we need to creatively help our kids to manage a highly social summer, and the main solution that we’ve come upon is to visit with friends in parks. It is so simple, but it has absolutely made all the difference in removing a tremendous amount of the stress of trying to see everyone in a short time! Each week that we're available, we post a day when we’ll be hanging out at a local park and invite friends to come and join us and bring a picnic if they’d like to picnic with us. It allows us to be in control of the scheduling as we plan the visit for the most convenient time and location for our family, it makes sure that everyone knows that they have been given multiple opportunities to see us if they would like, which removes the guilt of not being able to squeeze one-on-one time with everyone, it makes for simple hospitality as there is little meal prep and no house cleaning, and with naps and the reality of nobody really wanting to spend all day at the park it naturally limits the time so we are less likely to expend all of our energy and overwhelm our kids. It has been so great!

(This time we had a gathering at a "spray park." 
The kids had a blast and we had a great visit with ministry partners)

I know this idea is not earth-shattering, but I thought I’d share my furlough tip with you all in case you too are looking for ways to fit lots of social visits without the stress.

What are your ideas for reducing the stress of social obligations during furlough? What are your tips for managing a busy social schedule with kids?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"My Precious" ...or otherwise known as my Amish rocking chair

One of my friends recently wrote a post at a life overseas... and thus you know know the inspiration for this "true confession..."

We'd only been married for a short time when we discovered that our first child would be arriving in time to celebrate our first anniversary with us. Talk about instant delight with a good mix of terror and "Ummm... God, that's not quite the timing we were thinking..."! However, it wasn't look before we settled into our new reality: WE. WERE. PARENTS.

No, we hadn't officially met Wrightling #1. Not yet. But our lives had already changed and would continue to so, all because we had a little one on the way.

Of course, grandparents on both sides were super excited; hubby's mom squealed and did a happy dance... both grandfathers just looked at us with surprised and goofy grins. My mom promptly purchased a first gift - an Amish rocking chair! I love that chair! It was the one chair in which I could sit after a long day on my feet teaching middle school ...and my back wouldn't hurt. It was my favorite place to be as I sat and rocked my little guy while nursing him or trying to calm the colicky him. It was where we snuggled together on long and feverishly sleepless nights, played peek-a-boo, sang "Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood,..." The list could go on and on.

Yes, I love that rocker!

Then there were more babies, several moves and finally, a move to Qu├ębec to learn to speak French. We hauled it to our little apartment, later up four flights of stairs to the new and slightly bigger apartment. I spent hours trying to stay awake while studying after long days, very pregnant with Wrightling #4, at the university... 

And once again, there were those even longer nights after she arrived.

I'll never forget the day we found out we could have some space on a container heading to W. Africa. That rocker made the priority list. It became my favorite place to sit down, take a break and pray when I heard the muezzin. At some point during long sleepless nights with Wrightling #6 it finally dawned on me - I could delight in those long sessions of methodical movement and snuggling an uncomfortable one until they metamorphosed into quiet, prayerful moments. After I adopted that attitude, baby more readily relaxed (which meant I did, too). I actually learned to sleep comfortably while holding a little one in that chair.

Then came the moment when I realized we were going back to the States without plans to return to W. Africa. I made up a list of "all our stuff to sell."

I just couldn't put that chair on the list. 

Missing a few nails. 
A few broken pieces. 
Covered with years of finely ground Sahara sand-dust.
Splattered in one spot with paint.
Permanent marker art could also be spotted if you looked closely.

Definitely more than a bit worse for the wear.

Yet infinitely valuable to me... 

That chair was, in my heart and mind, worth far more in memories than it would ever be to anyone who might pay a few CFA* for it. 

The price to ship it back via one of the airlines was more than we could justify. 

Hubby offered to buy me a brand new one once we got back to the States. I almost agreed to that compromise.

Then, after many hours of staring at that chair and having the tears well up each time, I decided to take that crazy rocker apart somehow, and then somehow pack it in our luggage.

People laugh when I tell them that. 

In retrospect, it is pretty hilarious. 

I spent at least eight hours, almost nonstop and telling my family to fend for themselves for dinner, trying to disassemble the rocker into small enough pieces that I would then be able to fit into either a foot locker, the largest dimension suitcase allowed, an action packer, a duffle bag... or some combo of all of the above.

Hubby certainly wasn't amused or laughing while I frantically worked to tear it apart in time to catch an earlier flight (friends traveling back had a few extra bags and they agreed to transport it for us which also meant it wouldn't have to bounce around Scotland with us on our way home). He was trying to sleep. Then I had the audacity to pull him out of bed and enlist his help to get those last few stubborn pieces apart. At that point, I didn't care if I could never sit in it again because we'd glued the thing back together and had become nothing more than a conversation piece. I just had to get that rocking chair back to Michigan. 

Thankfully, hubby insisted I take a ton of photos of the chair prior to beginning the demolition thinking we he would have some sort of guide when we he tried to put it back together. Once we unpacked and sorted through everything, a single look at the photos next to the pile of parts collected quickly convinced both of us that we needed professional help.

We shared this little desire with one of our churches... 

Today, I sat in my Amish rocker as I typed some of these words... It actually looks better than it did before I started prying and yanking and pulling and levering it apart. It certainly feels sturdier. 

Sometimes I feel a little foolish for insisting and then going to all that work to get a. rocking. chair. (of all things) both over and back.

Then I look at it (seems like I hardly have time to sit these days), my grandmother's quilt laying across the arm, the floodgate of memories opens and I remember just exactly why!

How about you? 
What's the craziest thing you've ever carried overseas in your luggage?

first photo credit: 

* W. African franc

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Practical love

Practical love ... tangible love ... Being God's feet and hands to a world desperate for love. This was part of the message I recently heard at Hillsongs Germany. Living life and loving people in a practical way. 

Awesome message and really cool church! 

Here's a real life story of practical love in action ...  

While packing Ashleigh's lunch on Monday morning I realized we didn't have any bread so we left early to get her a sandwich at the local grocery store. As we walked into the store we saw a guy selling newspapers. I hurried by not wanting Ash to be late for school and didn't give the guy another thought. 

After I got off of work the same day I needed to go back to the same store (yes, a little planning would be good) for a few more things. As I was walking in I saw the same guy selling newspapers right outside the front doors. I asked God to bless him as I walked by him and I kept thinking about him as I walked through the store. When I got to the check out counter I noticed a young guy named Tim that goes to school with Ashleigh at BFA. He was in another line and I offered for him to go in front of me so he wouldn't have to wait. He turned down the offer and asked if I was connected to BFA. I told him I was Ashleigh's mom and then he did the strangest thing ... 

he asked me for .50 so he could buy a newspaper from a guy outside. 

Yes, the very same guy I asked God to bless! I was more than a little stunned and I thanked God for allowing me to share in the blessing. Tim said he felt bad for the guy and wanted to bless him. He noticed the guy Monday morning as well. He said he didn't read German, but he would give the paper to the German teacher at BFA. I handed over the .50 and Tim walked out. You see, Tim wasn't in the store to buy anything. Tim was in the store to find someone to share in the blessing. 

I paid for my things, drove over to the school to pick up Ashleigh and i saw Tim. He smiled really big, held up the paper and said, "thank you." I smiled back and thanked God once again. Through his dorm mom I found out that Tim went back to the store and bought 2 more newspapers later that afternoon. 

No matter where we are in the line of blessing we simply need to be obedient with our part. It's in the small details that we know people care. It's when a seemingly insignificant need is met that we feel and experience the love of a Dad who cares about our every need. Let's be on the lookout to bless and let those around us experience His love through us. Let's be intentional with our giving of time, resources, words of wisdom, listening ears and so on. Intentional. 

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.   2 Corinthians 9:11-12

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Support

From a reader who is preparing to move overseas:
How is everyone funded?

(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, July 5, 2014

Do You Have Friends?

"Do you have friends?"

This is one of the most common questions that I get from my friends back home, my family, and visiting volunteers. Before moving to El Salvador 4 1/2 years ago, I had lots of friends. Close friends from college, moms from my daughter's preschool class, friends at church, and childhood friends that I still connected with. Grieving those friendships was a process that I went through transitioning from our "old life." 

In El Salvador, friendships are important and it's a small country where everyone seems to already know everyone else. Breaking in as a foreigner has been tough. But when people ask me that question, it is an opportunity to reflect on all the rich friendships that I have in my life because we came to live in El Salvador. 

I have missionary mom friends who have been here for as long as we have, and others who are new arrivals. I have friends on the Parent Committee at the international school where my children attend, I have friends at church, and friends who co-labor with us in the ministry. 

I have friends that I only speak Spanish too, and I have friends because I don't have to speak Spanish to them. I have learned from my friends about politics, the country, and the places they have come from. I have friendships that have formed quickly and deeply, and others that have grown slowly with time. 

Yes, I do have friends and there are so many days that I need them. Homesick days, like yesterday, where I longed for an understanding ear or an encouraging conversation.  I got that yesterday as we joined with other missionaries for a 4th of July cookout, and then later in the evening as we celebrated the birthday of a dear Salvadoran friend. I was reminded of the rich diversity I have found in the relationships around me. 

God knows what He is doing when He connects us with our friends. Maybe it's for a moment, or a season, or for life. He uses those friends to bless us, encourage us, and remind us that He cares. So I thank Him for this life I lead, and for the friends that walk with me through it. 

What about you? Has it been difficult to connect with friends on the field? Have you been surprised by unlikely friendships that you have formed? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blog news

We're two years old! Actually a little more than two years. It's hard to believe. I've been looking back a little, and also looking forward....

Right now we're planning the next quarter's posts. Does anyone want to share a guest post? Or suggest something you'd like to hear about? Email me (fylliska@gmail.com). Also, we have some Tuesday Topics queued, but I'd love to have more.

One thing we've noticed is that commenting and discussion seems to be down a little. Does it seem that way to you? Or is it just a passing summer slump?

Please interact with us as you read here; we love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tuesday Topic: What to take?

From a reader who is preparing to move overseas:
What did you wish you brought along when you first moved overseas that they didn't have there?
And the other side:
What did you bring along that you ended up thinking "Why did I do this, they totally have it here!"?
Obviously, this will vary for different parts of the world, but it will be quite interesting to see the various answers.

(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!)