Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ministry Focused vs. Homeward Focused?

I’ve been thinking lately about a concept that I increasingly hear mothers and specifically missionary mothers discuss. I often hear us define ourselves as being in seasons of ministry, or in contrast, seasons of homeward focus. Though I do definitely agree that there are so many different seasons of a mother’s life in ministry, I have recently wondered about whether this clear-cut distinction is healthy.

If we think about it, the Lord does not state any conditions for when we should be ambassadors for Christ, when we should make disciples of all nations, when we should love our neighbor as our self, when we should be salt and light, when we should become all things to all people…. The idea of having seasons of ministry and seasons without is just not something that comes from scripture. Loving others and sharing about Jesus is very much innate to what God calls us to as His children all of the time! The commission toward outward focus of loving nonbelievers and pointing them towards Christ is given to all Christians, regardless of life stage or occupation. That means that even our homeward focused seasons are still seasons of ministry to non-believers!

Doing some "ministry," a.k.a. hanging out with a neighbor friend while our kids play, and talking about life and God's plan and love for us.

I want to be very careful that you don’t get the wrong impression of what I am saying here. I don’t mean at all to guilt any of us busy and sometimes overwhelmed mothers into feeling that we need to do more or add more to our plates than is healthy.  I believe that also would not be what God wants from us! In fact, for the sake of my own health and well-being, I have personally had to resolve to take on fewer obligations for this particular season than I have in recent years. I trust that I am glorifying God in my doing less for this season. 

What I want to suggest, though, is that we many not necessarily need to distinguish a difference between seasons of ministry and seasons of homeward focus, and that it could in some ways be detrimental to do so. We could certainly describe seasons as being more one way or the other, as they certainly are, but I believe even in those times when we are filled to the brim with responsibilities at home, that God still has many joyous opportunities for us to be his light to those around us. The danger in labeling seasons as specifically homeward focused seems that we might then be less inclined to consciously keep our eyes open to the many opportunities that God sends our way to reach out to others in the context of our homeward focused season of life. 

I fully believe that we are glorifying the Lord in our vital ministry to our families, but I also have a passion to see each one of us sharing the love of Christ beyond the walls of our homes during every season. My passion is also not that mothers will be burdened to do more and stretch themselves thin, but that we will make the most of every opportunity that we have, big or small, whether it be hanging out on the playground, befriending shop keepers, getting to know neighbors, extending help to a needy person that comes across your path... May we always have our eyes wide open, actively looking for the opportunities that God has for us each day to be His light to others.

(And this is already long, but I could write a whole second post about why it would be equally as wrong for us to negate the necessity of devoting ourselves to serving our families for the sake of ministry! In embracing His call to be ambassadors for Christ to the lost, we still can and should fully embrace His call to love and serve our families! Oh the great joys of being called to both motherhood and ministry!)

What do you think, mom friends? I have definitely defined my own seasons of life as being ministry focused or homeward focused, but now I’m wondering about this idea. What do you feel the benefits or detriments are of defining seasons in this sort of a way?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seeking Peace

Yesterday I was driving around and around the city. Driving to a meeting, to stop by our church, to the office, to pick up the kids, around and around. It was a spectacular day and as I drove up and down and around the city, the volcanoes ringing San Salvador could clearly be seen. Tall and green and so beautiful that they broke my heart.  

My heart broke at the beauty and the majesty of the volcanoes and hills that surround a city that I have come to love because the people I love are struggling on those beautiful slopes. That is the great paradox of our call. We are called to admire and love and yearn for those we serve, but our heart can be broken in the process. 

As I drove through the city streets, Jeremiah 29:7 stepped into my mind:

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
These words were written long ago to God’s people far from home. We may have willingly embraced the call to fling ourselves far from all that is familiar and safe, but God’s exiled people had no choice. Some days we can imagine what it feels like to be exiled strangers in a strange land.

But we are called to more than mere habitation in a city. We are called to dig deep into the places where  God has called us, to work there, to make it our home, and to tie ourselves in tight to the future of those cities.

We don’t work for peace in our lands simply because that is our mission. We work for peace in our lands because that is our home. Our future becomes inseparable from that of the place we serve, and our prosperity and hope comes from a peace that we are part of creating.

Peace is not easy, and we labor for it, and we pray for it. We question if it is even possible, and we wonder if our part will even matter. We stumble through a new language, and relearn systems, and face new fears. We feel like foreigners and have days where we feel like we can’t fathom ever prospering in this place.

And then a miracle happens, a transformation of sorts. Maybe it takes many days, or maybe it is a growing realization. We wake up one day and find that we are home. Of course we still have our foreign moments, we don’t conjugate correctly, and we don’t always fit in. But we feel like we have become part of this land, and like it has become part of us. In those moments we know that God has called us here to love, and be loved.  He has called us to help build, and to be built ourselves.

We are digging in deep and working for this future, and our future, and something new is happening as we find our prosperity cannot be pulled out and separated. We find that we will not have peace until there is peace here and that is something worth living for.  In His goodness, He has written us right into the story and we know it is the very best place that we can be. 

What about you? Do you feel like you are home in the country where you serve? What kind of process did you walk through to get to that point? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Together: Time for Tea (or coffee)

Yes, I said I was inviting you over for coffee. Do you mind if I change that to chai? This recipe just sounded good to me. I'll actually try it after I finish typing here, so I can't tell you for sure what I think of it yet. What about you? Will you try it? (By the way, I find "chai tea" to be very funny, when we're in the USA. In Russian, chai IS tea, so when I hear someone say "chai tea" in English, I think "tea tea?"!)

Get yourself some chai, or coffee, or whatever, and settle in to learn a little more about our community here. First, we'll hear from Melissa:
-What are some of the greatest joys and blessings in your life and calling right now?
Oh, how I love holding my children close and the great privilege of hugging them and teaching them.  I love naptime/rest time when I get to lay in a hammock and read the bible and listen to birds and quietly playing children.  I love hugging my husband and knowing that those strong arms are working so hard to serve both our family and the sweet people around us.

-What are some of the greatest challenges?
It breaks my heart to hear my Mom or mother-in-law mention how much they wish they could see their grandkids grow up and visit with them more regularly.  Seriously breaks my heart.  It is also hard to get laundry done and keep food in the house and all -- everything requires more physical work here it seems.  And then there is the lack of privacy - don't get me wrong, we are so blessed to have people stop by and come fix things and to clean our house!  Because people are here so often, though it really does change the dynamic of the home to have an audience while disciplining/potty training/sleep training/homeschooling and that has been hard for my introverted self to get used to.

-If you are serving overseas, what has it been like to learn to live and serve in another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been an unexpected joy? Has there been anything in particular that has been harder than you would have thought?
Unexpected joy - Never feeling 'alone' and a very joyful culture.
Unexpected hardship - Never feeling 'alone' and a kind of opinionated culture ;)


Now Rosemary shares:
Greatest joys and blessings:
I'm a mom of two kids with oldest being two. My second is starting to walk. So a lot of my joy comes out of watching my kids grow up. But other things that bring me joy are seeing my husband succeed and grow in his new position. He is one of the Canada's promoters for Teen Missions (which sends kids of most ages on short term mission trips over the summer). I also enjoy seeing the summer mission trip fill with teenagers, especially Canadian teens. It makes me feel that what we do actually does have an impact.

Being away from family. I still feel awkward asking non-family members to watch the kids. Feeling like I am a apart of the ministry. I'm with the kids all day. So, I rarely participate in anything that happens at the office or at promotion events. I get the stories afterwards, but it is not the same. 


Thank you, Rosemary! Next is Ashley:
-What are some of the greatest joys and blessings in your life and calling right now? Currently some of my biggest joys are the relationships that I get to enjoy as part of my "non-official" ministry. By that I mean that I am not able to attend a lot of our actual ministry events due to my kids' schedules and our family needs, but that God has still given me lots of opportunities to reach out to my neighbors and others that I interact with in my daily life. I feel like though I am less actively involved in vocational ministry during this particular season, God has actually given me more opportunity to share about Him with others than I have had in awhile! And since these relationships are ones that just happen in daily life, I am thankful for how natural they are and for the depth of relationship that comes with growing and building into these friendships over time. 

-What are some of the greatest challenges? 
I have been struggling with some health issues that have really limited my capacity. It has been a season of rediscovering the Lord's love for me and acceptance of me apart from my works. I of course know perfectly well that I am not saved by works and only by His grace, but I am amazed at how much the works mentality can still work its way into my practical theology. The long snowy winter is also very wearing on me, so that is another challenge. 

What has it been like to learn to live and serve in another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been an unexpected joy? Has there been anything in particular that has been harder than you would have thought? Learning to live cross-culturally has been quite a process! My first year was so hard and exhausting. I didn't think we'd make it to see year two! It was definitely harder than I had expected. Then, to my great surprise and delight, I found sometime during our second year that I truly loved living overseas! What had originally been shock, hardship, confusion, physical and emotional exhaustion, frustration.... eventually transformed largely into adventure, peace, enjoyable challenge, and fulfilment. Of course life is never free from challenges, but overall I have been surprised after that first year to see how much God has given me joy and even great enjoyment in my life overseas. I would say that the hardest things for me about living overseas have been the initial hurdle of learning to communicate freely in a 2nd language, dealing with life in a snowy, cold, and dark climate, and the various seasons of loneliness that I've gone through, but God has met me so deeply through these struggles and used them to deepen my dependence on Him and to bless me in ways that I wouldn't have experienced otherwise.


And Christie:
-What are some of the greatest joys and blessings in your life and calling right now?
Joys and blessings--our homeschool year is ending and we have a little break. Our youth coffee house is getting new kids all the time. The English class I teach has opened lots of doors lately.
-What are some of the greatest challenges?
My kids are having tough times right now, and trying to guide them through these teen years with the complications that our ministry adds to that, can be a real challenge.
-If you are serving overseas, what has it been like to learn to live and serve in another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been an unexpected joy? Has there been anything in particular that has been harder than you would have thought?
For the most part, it has been easier than expected for me, harder than I expected for the rest of my family. This creates a certain tension. Making friends within the culture connecting to the nationals has been harder than I thought. We lived in a rural, more traditional setting the first few years, and the people there were much more open and welcoming. They are still friendly here in town, but in a more stand-offish, superficial way. I miss having connections. I think the biggest challenge, however, is not having a solid church home. I didn't realize how much of my world revolved around church and friends from church, and now that we lack that, I sure feel it.

Then there's me, Phyllis:
-What are some of the greatest joys and blessings in your life and calling right now?
My children! and being able to homeschool them. Also, for the first time in over a decade, I am able to minister outside my home, too; once a week I visit an orphanage for handicapped children, and I love that.
-What are some of the greatest challenges? 
My children? No, not really, but sometimes just parenting and teaching them seems to be all I can take. Really, the biggest challenge in my life right now is the unrest in Ukraine. War. It's a dark cloud hanging over everything. Please pray for our country!
-What has it been like to learn to live and serve in another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been an unexpected joy? Has there been anything in particular that has been harder than you would have thought?
This is terrible. I can't really answer, because I honestly don't remember my early days. (Please, if you're new to overseas life, keep a journal!) Of course, I'm still learning every day, but I don't feel like it's "another culture" anymore. Anyway... I don't know if this is an unexpected joy, because I always wanted to live in Russia--and I can extend that to Ukraine--but I really do just love life here; it's really is a wonderful joy and just what I always wanted. Some unexpected challenges: changing Russia to Ukraine over 6 years ago, and then the violence that has developed over the past year was definitely unexpected, and definitely hard. What is harder than I would have thought is trying to live with one foot in each of two countries. I don't do well with that at all.


Thank you to everyone who participated! Now, if you didn't already send in answers, but still want to, please comment below with your answers. Also, please feel free to continue the discussion in whatever direction you want. I noticed that several answers here are very similar. Most of us can probably relate to them. Add your voice!

For next week, I would like to do another day in the life. Isn't there someone out there who would like to let us follow you through a day? If so, please email me (

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Together: Coffee Chat, part 2

Remember when we gathered--virtually--for coffee last time? Today starts a second round of that. Again, I'm going back to Ashley's questions. I ask that you send your answers to me, instead of posting them here. I'll compile what comes in, and I hope that will have a nice, long chat to read through and interact with next Tuesday.

Here are the questions:
-What are some of the greatest joys and blessings in your life and calling right now?
-What are some of the greatest challenges?
-If you are serving overseas, what has it been like to learn to live and serve in another culture? Has it been easier or harder than you expected? What has been an unexpected joy? Has there been anything in particular that has been harder than you would have thought?
Send your answers to Thanks!

Did you write your email, and you still have time? I don't have much else to give you today, but we can make some small talk. What is the weather like where you are right now? I spent the whole day on the road in some of the thickest fog I've ever seen; what about you? Leave a comment below and tell us.

Monday, January 19, 2015

How Dare We!!?

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24.17,18)

I'll never forget how physically sick I felt... the day a dangerous individual who had harmed others and sinned greatly died... was killed... and my Facebook feed was littered with celebration that said individual deserved even worse than the consequences already received.

True enough. I really can't argue that.

Justice had been served.

But the celebration? It broke my heart to know that a soul, one most likely not prepared to stand before God, had entered eternity. No longer did any opportunity exist for a change of heart for that individual. And people who I believe love Jesus with abandon felt no sorrow that someone, as best as I know, was condemned to hell.

Actions have consequences... Absolutely! 

The consequences of my actions make hell a just destination for me... but for God's mercy and grace.

Sometimes I forget that. I get all caught up in the hating of an antagonistic adversary or despicable foe; I totally lose sight of the fact that the only reason I only look any different in God's eyes is because He sees me clothed in Christ's righteousness. Somehow, I've started wondering, maybe even suspecting, that my own righteousness and efforts are impressing the Almighty... just a little bit.

When that mindset creeps in, when I'm glad... rejoicing... celebrating... because of another's 
  • tottering
  • wavering and weakening of what was once strong,
  • stumbling and falling,
  • fainting,
  • experiencing bereavement, 
  • being cast down, 
  • decaying, 
  • failing, 
  • falling into feebleness, 
  • experiencing ruin?
I do not please God.

The only think I can think of that begins to compare in my own life is when I see one of my children delighting and gloating in a deserved comeuppance of a sibling. Discipline is necessary and so critical as parents disciple children, but it pains to see one I love so much suffering through shame, guilt, conviction and/or consequences. It pains just as deeply, though, to see another one of my children enjoying their sibling's sadness by making merry as another reaps the aftermath they've brought on themselves... A more godly response would be sober sorrow.

That sober sorrow, however, must be the evidence of God's grace. This proverb warns, "Do not let..." which indicates that rejoicing is the natural, worldly, fleshly, sinful response. 

It is God's unfettered grace that enables His own to control, to "not let" rejoicing ensue.

After events that transpired this weekend in our other home, I needed to reread these words again, today.

1st photo credit: adedip via photopin cc
2nd photo credit: Amarand Agasi via photopin cc
*originally published here, and slightly edited for Missionary Mom's Companion

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kids and Transition

Let's talk kids and transition mmmmk?

We're in the States for the next six month doing that thing that used to be called furlough.  I really am not sure what we are suppose to be calling it now, but whatever.  I just know it means some upheaval in the family, learning and relearning how to live in a different culture and for us a very different climate!

The last time we were in the United States was 2 1/2 years ago.  We were here to finish support raising and to have our third little guy.  Our two big boys weren't in school yet and we had a lot of flexibility.

This time around we have two school aged kids and a 2 1/2 year old.  It's been different to watch the big two kids process being here.  Initially, they talked about Michigan as home, and when people would ask us where we live, they would be quick to say Michigan.  But just last week, that changed.  They started to tell people we are from Costa Rica.  There have been definite moments of sadness and tears over our dog not being with us, over the lack of sun here, of missing our church family and friends.

It's killed me as a mom to see my kids hurting, to watch their upheaval.  I say this so often, but if it was just me in pain, well, whatever.  But when it's your kids...

I don't know about you, but I have to be conscious not to rush my kids through the process.  It's easy to just say "oh honey, it'll be just fine.  We'll be back in just a few months." I want to make it better and see them smiling and enjoying life.  But I think what is the better approach is to come alongside them in the sadness, to hug them, to cry with them, and say "yeah, I miss our dog too." To let them know that it's ok to feel the sadness.  I don't want them to become hardened and calloused. 

In the hopes that this will help someone else, here are few things we've stumbled on that have helped in those hard moments.

  • We made a photo book of our life in Costa Rica.  We included photos of our house, their rooms, our pets, yard and friends.
  • Everyone in the family got a special t shirt from Costa Rica for Christmas this year.  Many days the boys will say they want to wear it.
  • We found that talking about home, remembering the fun parts helps
  • Speaking Spanish.  One of our boys declared one night at dinner that it was going to be an all Spanish dinner.  No English allowed!
  • Listening to music that we sing at our church in Costa Rica
Now it's your turn!  What nuggets of wisdom do you have as you have walked your kids through transition?  What's been the hardest part of transition for your family?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Together: Helping culture shock

This week, to get myself back into the routine of posting, after all these holidays, I just have a simple Tuesday Topic: How do you respond and help when someone close to you is feeling culture shock? Just listen? Point out that there really are good things about the culture, even when all looks bad? Join in and agree? Or what?

If you have any questions that you would like to discuss here, please send them to me at Thanks!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Biggest Daily Life Struggles

It’s snow season here in St. Petersburg, Russia, and it is COLD! For a family of 6 living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 4 kids ages 9 and under, the frigid weather does not negate the need for getting out of the house to burn off energy. I feel like such a scrooge saying it, but if I’m honest, I really do not like snow. I agree that it is beautiful. I also agree that building snowmen, snowball fights, and sledding down hills are tremendous fun, but as soon as the snow piles up, my life as a mother during this season with little kids becomes infinitely more difficult.

Snow mounds piled higher than the cars and into the trees! 

Yesterday my husband took 3 of our kids out sledding. Since I was only getting them ready instead of dressing them, as well as myself and my twenty-month-old, I took a moment to count every article of clothing that I had to ensure was on each of my children before they went outside. Do you know how many there were? 50. FIFTY!! And like I said, that was only 3 kids. Some of those 50 items also have to be paired, which means that between trips outdoors I have to keep each of those pairs clean and in a place that we can locate the both parts easily upon exit. 

Though bundling takes a ton of energy, I do have to admit that bundled babies are adorable.

Then the bundling begins. Trying to get between 50 and 75 articles of clothing on my kids and self in a cramped, warm hallway before we can exit into the cool air is, shall I say, not the best part of anyone’s day. It takes forever, people are falling over each other as they try to find space, items get lost in the shuffle, inevitably the toddler begins undressing about as fast as I manage to try to get him clothed… Then there is coming inside and trying to get in the door without tracking snow into the house, and trying to remove the dozens upon dozens of clothing items and figuring out which items need drying, which hanging on the coat rack, which washing, which into drawers, etc.

Success! The kids enjoying their reward from enduring the craziness of the bundling feat.

Ok, so I don’t need to continue about this reality of life in this freezing land, but honestly, this is one of the truest physical and spiritual battles that I face on a daily basis. I struggle trying to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to be patient and kind during the throes of the bundling phase.  I battle to choose joy when simply going outside saps so much of my day’s limited portion of physical strength. I regularly need to ask the Lord for forgiveness for my attitude and frustration with the kids when I fail to control my emotions in the heat of the stress of just trying to get outside. 

I often feel the need to relate to friends about this very real struggle in life that often lasts for literally about half of my year each year, but there are few people who can relate. My friends back “home” can’t relate because we’re not from a snowy part of the US. My Russian friends can’t relate because most of them have only one or perhaps two children, often spaced far apart. It is my missionary mom friends around me who can empathize and say,“Yes! It is so hard!” and then pray for me about this seemingly trivial but very real daily battle.

I wanted to ask you women, what is the hardest thing that you deal with as a mom where you are living? Do you have people who can relate to you in this struggle or do you feel alone in it? Would you take a moment to share what that hardship is like so that we can pray for you? It is likely that you will find women on this blog who live similar lives and share similar struggles, but even if not, we can all understand what it is like to have a very real daily life challenge that others might not understand. Let’s pray for one another in these challenges as missionary moms.