24 days until we board that plane! Which brings all sorts of excited, nervous, teary butterflies.
For a few months, I’ve been praying about how to keep perspective when culture shock hits. Somewhere in there, a note to self was started. It has been in process for awhile. But it’s big enough on my heart that I would love to hear your insight as well!
I would like to be an idealist. I can do a really good job at ignoring reality. Like right now, I am relaxing at our dining room table while someone drills through our concrete walls downstairs. The crazy thing is I hadn’t even noticed how ridiculously loud it is until Andy decided to meet someone outside because we can barely hear each other speak. Perhaps it’s the effect of having 3 lively boys, but I’ve gotten used to tuning out inconsequential noises (you know..farting sounds, mild squabbling, elephants dancing to Toby Mac in their room upstairs, drilling through concrete walls below me).
But when it comes to moving overseas, I am more of a realist.
I will do my best to block out how ridiculously-loud cultural differences can be, to relax and embrace and adore. To laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31). But let’s face it, culture shock can be fierce. We have read enough about what happens when well-meaning Americans make their home among a completely-different set of rules. Tragically, we have sat with dear friends and have seen and heard its effects. The outrageous stress levels it created. The havoc it wreaked on their marriage. The destruction it brought to friendships.
It’s been enough to know we will probably not be an exception.
Missionaries can get funky.
In other words, we may get funky.
And when we do…
Dear future funky self,
- Remember it’s not about you.
If it were, Lord help us all! Considering all that has passed and all that is to come, your life is such a microscopic part. An itsy-bitsy seed in the middle of all of the fields in this world. And you could choose to spend these days in a way that seems “easier”–a place that has hot water or seems “safer” or speaks English. Or, you can think beyond your personal comforts. That maybe, just maybe, God would use your minuscule seed of a life planted in a foreign field, dying to yourself, to reap a harvest of worshipers. That His grace may be made known in a land it has yet to be sown. Isn’t that what this life is about? However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20.24).
- Remember why you are there.
You didn’t leave to escape to a better life. You left because you could no longer sit comfortably on that brown leather chair next to your fireplace in your living room with 10 lights and everything you ever wanted. You left because I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light (John Keith Falconer). This is your teeny-tiny part in making it possible for others to know the Truth that will set them free. You are not the hero. You are just there to shine the light on Jesus Christ–the Author of life, the Perfector of our faith, our true Hero! And yes, you may miss all the comforts you once knew, but you will never regret learning learning what it is to Live simply so that others may simply live (Mother Teresa).
- Remember this was not Andy’s idea.
That dear husband of yours waited 13 years! He would have waited even longer until you knew for sure this is what God is calling you to! God led you to take these steps. He showed up. He made it clear. Over and over again. Jonah 2.8. Revelation 21. Matthew 10.28-31
I mean, He even gave you TWO cast iron skillets down there when no one knew you even wanted ONE! The One who called you is faithful. So, don’t hold Andy responsible for the difficult. You are in this together. You need each other. There are enough battles to face – tearing each other down should never be one of them.
- Remember Whose you are.
You are a daughter of the High King of heaven! He has given everything to purchase your salvation, to free you from a life enslaved to sin. He has withheld nothing. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe only seems fitting. He did not send you there on your own. The more grace you need, the more He will give! He never meant for you to go through this alone. He is WITH you! Italicized. Bold. Underlined. WITH you!! So do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31.8).
All fear is the lie that God’s love ends. Untie that lie.
Untie that lie that strangles you by circling your life with Truth: Give Thanks to The Lord, His Love Endures—endures cancer, teenagers, laundry, infertility, sleepless nights, debt, despair, betrayal, broken dreams, toddler tantrums, a thousand pressures—His love Endures Forever (Ann Voskamp).
- Remember to look up.
When you just can’t make sense of a situation… When you feel unable to face what is going on around you… When you start to lose your bearings… look up.
His faithfulness reaches to the skies (Psalm 36.5).
Until you find your way, look UP!
He must increase, and I must decrease (John 3.30). Sometimes all it take is to gaze into the grandeur of the skies for Him to become greater. And sometimes that is all it takes to regain perspective.
- Remember also to look around.
Look into the eyes of those around your dinner table and let your heart fill with affection for them. Each one of them that you share this life with is a gift from God.
Look into the faces of those you encounter. You are not the only one struggling right now. Everyone has something that’s weighing on them. Yours may seem “heavier” or “harder” than everyone else. But it’s not. You never regret turning your attention to others. The more you focus on your burden, the heavier it will get. The more you look within, the more pitiful it will seem. Cast those cares upon our caring and carrying God. Then consider how you can care for others. Be a bridge, not an island.
- Remember your priorities.
Sometimes you just need to get back to the basics.
Let the peripherals go if they are getting in the way of what is priority.
- Remember you have 3 little people watching you.
All day. Every day.
You may start to think you are there to serve those outside your home, but the greatest influence you are having is on those in your home. You are raising 3 observant boys. Intentionally or not, you are shaping how they view their world and how they will respond to it. The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice (Peggy O’Mara).
Be learners together. Don’t be afraid to show your failures. But always model for them how you will make it right.
- Remember to laugh.
It’s pretty hard for me to imagine I would need reminded of this, but the joy of the Lord is my strength. And if the enemy is all about making us feel defeated and weak, he will attack your joy. So, do what you can to laugh. Let JOY live loud in your soul! Watch old Kristin Wiig skits. Call a friend. Read some comics.
(Feel free to comment with ideas to invoke laughter! 🙂
Never let go of the ability to laugh at yourself! Don’t ever take yourself too serious. Loosen up and laugh a little. Or alot! That should be easy…just try to hold a conversation in Portuguese. And continue to learn what it means to Laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31).
Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy (Anne Frank).
If she can, you surely should be able to. Which leads me to the last, but never the least.
- Remember to give thanks.
It is impossible to be filled with fear or anxiety when your heart is already full of gratitude.
Today. Right now. Our present…It is a gift.
Let go of fear and inhibition. Tear into the gift of today! Unwrap what is before you.
Let your heart fill with gratitude for this present.
There is always ALwAYs ALWAYS something to be thankful for!
Don’t wish a moment away. You’ve been to the nursing home enough to know what the “end” looks like. Enter into the moment. Fully engage the right now. And enJOY!
I would love to hear anything you have to add to my note to (my future-funky) self.
Some of you have been here. Worked through these things. I am a firm believer that God doesn’t waste pain. While we may not always know His purposes for it, we can encourage others with the lessons we learned while hurting.
Some of you know someone in a funky state. (Gee, I hope it’s not us :))
I just have 2 more notes to (your) self.
1. Proceed Cautiously. I can’t imagine being offended by someone reminding us of these truths. But that’s me, now, when my mind is clear and my back is massaged. This can be more complicated and messy than a quick quote-a-scripture-and-hang-up conversation. Especially when it involves years of isolation mixed with culture confusion and ministry exhaustion.
May we be slow to formulize and quick to empathize, because life is so very hard and until God makes all things new, people are dying for a cold cup of water in their suffering (Jen Hatmaker).
2. Don’t Walk Away. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to be there. Patiently listen to the layers of pain and misunderstanding. It may be as stinky and teary as helping someone unpeel layers from an onion. But, isn’t that what our Father does again and again? He doesn’t wait for us to shine ourselves up for Him. He meets us where we are. In our stinkin’ rotten mess, He doesn’t walk away.
May we have more of His kind of love.
The kind that never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13.7).