Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kinda Like Childbirth and Toddlerhood: Fond Memories and Pain Amnesia

We recently had the blessing of getting together with some friends whom we had met when we did our cross-cultural training six years ago. They are serving in Europe and they will go back for another term at the end of the summer.

I loved seeing them. AND, seeing them made me realize a few things.

  • I am still very much processing our time in Nicaragua. I realized this as I heard myself start every other sentence with: "When we were in Nicaragua...." 
  • While I want to work with missionaries in the member care arena, I am not 'there' yet. During our time of debriefing last summer, the analogy of a "Transition Bridge" was illustrated. We have crossed over the 'chaos' portion of the bridge, but we are still in the 'resettling' zone and I believe we need to be further into the 're-settling' zone (or even 'settled' zone) before I am ready to really come alongside others in an objective, helpful and healthy way. 
The Transition Bridge

I found myself feeling a little envious that they will return to their host country in a few weeks. Crazy, right? I think that 'serving cross-culturally' is like pregnancy (or the toddler years of my kids) for me. That season was really, REALLY hard but I seem to only remember the sweet moments. OR it could be analogous to childbirth. Several months after giving birth, I had pain amnesia. The pain memories had faded and I only remembered the sweetness of holding my newborn for the first time. Yet, I am thankful for the sweet memories I have of our time in Nicaragua. That time changed me profoundly. I am grateful to have experienced that depth of change. I also made sweet, sweet friends who may be far away now, but I will have for forever in Eternity.

This re-settling thing is interesting for sure. Thanks for walking it out with me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"The Follow-Up"

I am so glad that people took me up on my offer to email and push back on my last blog regarding "dichotomies" and "newsletters." Some of the responses that I've received have given me much to think about and reconsider. Sometimes I want to take a grey issue and make it black and white. But alas, God speaks of mystery and things we can not understand...and those are colored grey! As a research-obsessed nerd, I am enjoying digging into Scripture to find greater clarity. It is fun!
I have been stretched and challenged. It's a good thing to be stretched and challenged. I will continue to ponder these issues. 

A few thoughts or conclusions:
  • The connections that my mind makes between things are NOT the connections that other people's minds make between things...or at least not to the same degree.  For example, the issue of a missionary's newsletter writing and accountability to donors (in relation to raising support) is not necessarily related to the spiritual vs. secular dichotomy in the minds of others.
  • The secular vs. spiritual dichotomy is the main issue that motivated me to write a post. In processing aspects of this blog post with my kids, it became clear to me that I want to be certain that our family doesn't give credit to the notion that one job is more 'valuable' or 'worthy' in God's eyes than another provided that they are glorifying Him in what they do. It was an enlightening conversation as I asked them to label jobs as 'secular' or 'spiritual'. We then debriefed the effect of that labeling and discussed that as believers in Christ there should not be a difference in professions based on the verse of 1 Corinthians 10:31.
As I said in the original post, I am NOT opposed to sending a newsletter or being held accountable to others. Communication and accountability between donor and receiver was not and is not my main point--it was an example of the dichotomy, that in my mind, made sense. It might just be in MY mind! Scripturally there is clear evidence of missional giving, financial responsibility, accountability and partnering with one another in God's Work. We certainly have enjoyed the privilege to partner with others in whatever and wherever God has placed us.  

As I process our time in Nicaragua, I have had the opportunity to see things from a slightly different perspective -- 'margin' and lower humidity do that!  I might post other controversial musings. I hope you will stay engaged. I promise to post fun stuff in between the serious stuff! 

***[Feel free to continue to email me your thoughts regarding this...this follow-up is not the end of the discussion!]***

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The False Dichotomy and the Ensuing Struggle

Are you ready for a controversial post (or what might turn into a series of posts)?
Ok, here we go...

"While we believe there is an inherent separation between things that are of God and of "not God," we uphold that what is often touted as the dichotomy between the sacred and secular is largely false. God is God of all. The Holy Spirit is also at work in practices that happen outside of what gets labeled "church" and "ministry." (From the book Faith Coaching)

That largely false dichotomy between sacred and secular bothers me. This divide between realms has been especially bothersome to me in light of our shift from our work cross-culturally (labeled missions) and our current situation stateside (labeled bi-vocational ministry).

As you know, historically we have sent out newsletters (or updates) every other month for over five years. Now, hear me when I say that I am not opposed to sharing what is happening in our life and ministry--but I am opposed to the idea that I am required to give a report because what we do falls into some sort of 'ministry' category that necessitates a report.  Let's flip it around -- I don't expect anyone to send me a report of what they do at their jobs at banks, schools, businesses, or engineering firms. Of course, amongst friends, I am more than happy to hear what you are doing and how God may be working through you in your workplaces, but I don't have the expectation that you will send me a newsletter outlining the details of that. So, that makes me wonder...why is this expected of me? Again, it's not that I don't want to share what is going on...but rather because I question the motivation of why it is 'expected' that I share. I think that the answer in that lies in the chasm that is created by this dichotomy.

That dichotomy has some nasty side effects. It can tempt those on the "ministry side" to embellish/skew/alter the news they share or even hide certain aspects of life. This is dangerous. This starts to effect one's own personal view of their life...or even their 'worthiness.'  On the other side of this dichotomy, someone who works on the "secular side" may question their worthiness in God's Kingdom. Yet, if we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says -- "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" -- then whether I work work at homeless shelter or on Wall Street, it matters only that I should be doing what I'm doing for the glory of God.

Is there a difference between things of Earth and things of Heaven? YES. But as the quote with which I started states..."God is God of all." I am both struck and stuck at the divide we create (and allow) between that which happens in the 'secular' work place and the 'ministry' work place. It gets even more complicated when you throw "raising support" into the discussion. (That might necessitate a 'part 2' to this blog post!) And now that I've sent Pandora's box lid flying, let me just say that I feel like I've only scratched the service. I think so far, we are merely looking at a meta-theme when it comes to dichotomies that exist in the Christian culture. We can get a lot smaller (and controversial) than this. Dare I mention the dichotomy that exists between stateside ministry vs. overseas missions OR missionaries to un-reached vs. reached cultures.

So...what do you think?

Do you believe this dichotomy exists?

Where do you see yourself acknowledging a gap where God doesn't intend one to exist?

Are there jobs that are more 'holy' or 'worthy' than others?  Would you rank these jobs as having different 'value' or 'significance': pastor, ditch digger, barista, doctor, missionary, stay-at-home mom, banker, teacher?

Clearly, this is something that I am pondering deeply, especially, since returning stateside. While I love a good debate, I hope my motivation for bringing this to light functions more to help close the gap that has been allowed between the 'secular and the spiritual'.  I mean, really, if you think about it...we'd live so much more integrated lives if we close that gap. Of course, that is far easier blogged than done.

[End rant.]

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this.
Email me.
You can even push back a little.
Ready? GO!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reflecting Creativity

As some of you know, I have been working on and documenting my DIY coffee table project. Now, I'll be the first to admit...I, generally, am not a fan of DIY posts. Yeah, it's true. I am not a big fan of Pinterest...but I do have a Pinterest account. My dislike of these things is not because I don't like the stuff...but it is SUCH a temptation to compare myself to others and then take that comparison and let it affect my sense of self-worth. And admittedly, I am quick to judge it as being superficial and show-off-y. Yet...

There is another side to DIY posts and the sharing of creative ideas. We are, after all, created in God's image...and none is more CREATIVE than HE. He has decorated this world far more intricately and beautifully than our minds can truly comprehend. He cares about the 'environment' in which we live and enjoy Him. He adorns this world with amazing and beautiful things. As image-bearers of God, we reflect and express that creativity. Some of us 'express' God's creativity in ways that can be easily pinned to a Pinterest board...others reflect and express it in more linear and scientific ways. Thus, the 'showing off' of DIY projects in its purest form may be an expression of creativity that has been gifted to us by God. For example, my friend Yeymi in Nicaragua enjoys making amazing creations out of fomi. She will use these creations as gifts to bless others. Yeymi reflects God's creativity [Yeymi se refleja la creatividad de Dios.]. DIY projects are not a first world luxury. Creating and constructing are not bound by culture or economics. Creativity and its expression is inherent in being God's created.

For me, 'creating' is an outlet and expression that I really enjoy. I like building, painting, constructing, and using power tools. It touches a place deeper inside my spirit. While we lived in Nicaragua, I didn't have the bandwidth in my spirit to fully express this creativity. It was, at times, stifling. Admittedly, now, I have more margin for my creative expression...not to mention a pile of free pallets! I have really enjoyed the opportunity, as of late, to 'be creative' in building furniture. I do love functional and unique creations! It is even therapeutic and worshipful. I listen to music and spend time conversing with God as I sand or paint. I get to exercise the part of me that reflects God's Creativity. It is a way for me to glorify God.

Just for is a picture of the coffee table that I made from a pallet. NOW, don't be like me and be tempted to compare yourself. But DO take a minute to ponder the amazing ways that you bear the image of God.

Monday, July 4, 2016

It Takes Time

Someone recently asked me, "Now that you finished your DIY bedroom furniture project, does it feel more like home?"

No. Not really.

Just because my clothes are now placed in the newly painted dresser doesn't mean I am settled. Don't get me wrong--I am SUPER excited to have a dresser, night stands and headboard & footboard. I've never actually had matching bedroom furniture before--it is a lovely thing to behold.  Yet, I am still in the process of re-settling.

I am learning that 'feels like home' takes time. It takes more time than you think. It takes more time than, perhaps, others would like to 'give you.' You can't rush it and you can't predict how much time you will need to 'settle'. I am still kind of 'surviving'. I am accustomed to 'surviving'. It is how I've made it this far without sofas and proper dining room chairs. However, surviving isn't necessarily the healthiest approach or place to camp out. On certain levels, I survived living cross-culturally. I have also survived, in different ways, moving back to the States. Yet, I am in the process of re-settling. After re-settling is 'settled' and that is where 'thriving' takes place. I am not there yet...and it takes time to get there.

Now tomorrow, we will will move forward one more step. Our three-piece sofa set will be delivered tomorrow. That means we can all sit on a sofa in the living room. That means guests can sit on something other than the floor. It is another step toward being settled.  See, having 'seating' options means you can have people over...and with people come relationships. Relationships are key to thriving...because God made us for relationship...without them, we merely survive.