- What’s your go-to self-care, the thing that feeds your soul? (can be physical, emotional, spiritual)
Ideally? Morning stillness (that includes knowing each of my children are happily engaged in life) with a good cup of coffee, preferably solitude, a view of nature, and undesignated hours stretching into the day with enough time for communion with Jesus and exercise, study, art, or relaxed conversation with my husband. Minimally, at least enough morning stillness for communion and then everything else is a plus.
- How do you achieve (or aim for) balance between blooming where you are planted (“fully present”) and staying connected with friends, family, and supporters?
I prioritize the first. Or I could say I keep the see-saw balanced at an angle? I don’t nurture expectations of much correspondence with supporters. I try to be transparent so that readers/supporters will know that I’ve simply been preoccupied with the things Christ has preoccupied me with. I find/maintain that peace of having Christ-designated supporters who accept us as we are/at our level of correspondence. Friends family and supporters are encouraged in their lives when I bloom where I’m planted. Given time, such people see that blooming is happening and that I’m grateful for their support. They get to share the joys and the sorrows in prayers and are apparently genuinely satisfied with that.
Staying connected with children in boarding school, college, and adult life has proven harder. We entered that phase before the internet could do us much good (considering we were on a prolonged learning curve). I have been pleasantly surprised that over the years I’ve become more and more able to stay in touch via Skype and WhatsApp.
Friends are those people who are likewise preoccupied with the work at hand and so thoroughly peaceful to know that it is a mutually agreed upon yet unspoken rule of relationship that regardless of frequency, we will be genuinely happy to see each other again and “catch up” whenever we cross paths.
I have found being “fully present” on furlough harder. I’m not home for one thing. Home is back overseas. And I’m not busy about my usual work or relationships and neither are whichever of our children (who were still with us at the time of furlough) so a big part of my identity isn’t present on a furlough except in narrative form as we speak with people. I can start feeling shallow like a paper-doll on someone’s canvas.
- How do you keep your marriage thriving on the field? (Tell us something you do together in the place where you serve, or a story of something special you’ve done with your spouse to infuse your marriage with depth and connection.)
This is the hardest question to answer. My husband and I are opposites in most every way other than that our feet and hearts are pointed the same direction. I think, frankly, that we haven’t succeeded in keeping our affection thriving all the time but we’ve kept our commitment and usually kept our “bottom line” hope intact regardless.
In the areas we lived in there were no options really for dates and there were months and years of isolation from other westerners. We learned (thank God!) to pray together but that cannot be driven only from one side. So the issue becomes responding to the LORD and one another in such a way that both hearts meet by agreement at the prayer place. And we know that our prayer picture is not static. We don’t attain a rhythm and take it for granted. Just as corporate prayer goes through seasons successfully if the pray-ers cooperate, responding to mundane pressures in creative prayer-prioritizing ways, our own marital corporate prayer goes through changes in detail as we let it be a malleable constant. However, when we set it aside several days in a row because of seemingly unavoidable conflicts of interest, then we are at risk of undergoing a tough period of “righting the ship”.
As I look back over thirty years of marriage of which half were spent in remote and even militant areas, as my husband and I have been spouses, parents, team members, and friends of lost souls through those years, I think perhaps it is the feelings of desperation, poverty, and discouragement, as well as the feelings of enthusiasm, passion, and hope, those very strong feelings which have been the best substance of communion with one another and the LORD and with our children and friends.
- Tell us about someone you’ve admired who is thriving on the field. What’s her secret? (guess?)
The woman I think of is a 61-year-old grandma who loves to worship exuberantly and share her faith in a joyful strong matter-of-fact way with her non-believing coworkers. She remains amazed and grateful for the Lord’s saving her fifteen years ago. I’d say her one fault is that she is too independent to spend much time with the rest of the body of Christ. But she is thriving now two years on the field…
- What’s one lie you are prone to believe that could keep you from thriving?
That I can’t really do anything other than manage a house. Sometimes feelings of profitlessness, uselessness, and insignificance creep up to the edges of my being.
- Insights: How has God nourished your thriving? Turned you around when you were failing to thrive? What truth(s) has He spoken to you when you were in a tough place?
The first time I had a “failure to thrive” crisis on the field – and way too far into it – I believe Jesus led me (of myself, I was too timid and conventional) to select a handful of women friends whom I knew to be prayerful and then I wrote to them saying that I needed them. I needed them to let me be painfully honest and transparent about my struggles on the field so that the adversary would not be able to twist my arm about any gray areas, so that I could bring out any skeletons and never put any more into any closeted area. The victory was phenomenal and so I just continued writing in the same manner over the years although many others joined that small group of women.
“There are new ways (for me) to know God” or, in biblical words, “the nearness of God is my good” taken on an adventure to find a different scenario. When a period of time seems to be concerning for lack of spiritual emotion or desire or because of the arm-twisting depression mentioned above, it is time to be willing for and anticipating and proactive in trying a change-up, some personally radical change (which I presume to be the Holy Spirit’s undertaking anyway). Either in the change or the fall-out from it, I will find God’s grace as I know Him better.
- What’s one thing your organization (or home church) does well to care for you? (that others can learn from)
Our most amazing supporting churches went overboard early on and that just propelled us into a peaceful supportedness we’ve continually thanked God for and benefited from. Our churches immediately, above-and-beyond-generously meet any needs we share with them. I appreciate that more so because I discovered that was the best way to respond to the beggars at my own gate: give more than the standard expectation. What does that do? For me, the giver, it sets me free into hilarious giving. It takes me out of a norm where I control by “wise” “responsible” feelings and lets me taste the goodness of God; it sets me free from fear-anchors onto a sea of sailing according to the knowledge of God. It became my lifeline to Jesus in the very practical moments of walking the sixteen steps to answer a knock at my gate because I found He always led the way and let me put my hand on His as He received the beggar. The place for wisdom and responsibility is in the predisposition of the mind and heart and in the previous setting aside of resources for disbursing. Only God knows which desperate beggar will come to the gate or missionary will come to the church in any given hour. Sometimes I’ve given all the day’s bread in my hand to one and told the remainder that I had none left in my hand. Other times I’ve portioned it out case by case. But it has to all be led by Jesus. And that I believe is how churches have served us as they serve God. They can freely tell us they can give such-and-such an amount this time and another time they can tell us they want to cover the entire need. There becomes a growing historical knowledge of one-another which makes the day to day month to month trust stronger.
- The best-ever care package ever arrives in the mail, and it contains three items. What are they?
A letter from a home church indicating they have several church families who are ready and joyfully willing to foster parent my high school children for a summer break or a school year.
A letter from a home church indicating they have a financial gift earmarked for our children/family to have a fun vacation (rather than a furlough/home ministry assignment).
A letter from a home church offering paid-in-full routine marriage counseling on furloughs with a weekend getaway thrown in somewhere.