Private thoughts of a short-term missionary

Monday morning greets me with mixed emotions. I woke up today feeling very frustrated. I have been consistently diligent in putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and working with all the logic that’s in my crazy brain to get things ready for an upcoming mission trip. On paper everything looks good. But, read in between the lines and there are struggles and doubts and frustrations that eat away at my thoughts.

I am grateful for the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s devotions that appear in my inbox every day. Today, it’s like Lysa Terkeurst read my heart. Her words speak more clearly than mine as I sit here tired and sick. Here is an excerpt from her devotion, “When God’s Assignments Feel Almost Impossible”

* * * * * * * * * *

I pulled into my driveway and stared at this gathering place my people call “home.” And my heart whispered …

Lord, am I doing all of this right?

This life You’ve entrusted to me, these people You’ve entrusted to me, this calling You’ve entrusted to me … I desperately want to get it right. To live without painful regret gnawing deep within. To know that I gave it my very best. To please You. Love them. Smile more than frowning. Laugh more than I complain. See the beauty tucked within all these sacred moments of just being together and remember to whisper, Thank You.

Thank You for all of it. The whole package deal of good and bad and highs and lows. For all that mixed together sets about a process of making me. The me that needs the tough stuff to mature me. The sad moments to soften me. The thrilling moments to invigorate me. The poignant moments to endear me. The complicated moments to challenge me. The quiet moments to unrush me.

I need it all.

But sometimes, in the midst of all the moments that are making me into the woman You created me to be, I get awfully tired and discouraged.

And I find myself sitting in my driveway wondering. Staring at the culmination of thousands of decisions I’ve made that have brought me here. To this home. This family. This life. I made my decisions and then my decisions made me.

I’m thankful, yes. So very thankful. But I need You to whisper reassurance into my heart that You’re with me. That You see me. And that You are pleased with me. I just need to know, Lord, am I doing this right?

Jesus instructed us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16:15). That seems an impossible task for someone who sits in her driveway and feels fragile and wonders all the things I sometimes wonder.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fragile indeed. I told Bruce the other day that I wrestle with opposite dichotomies warring within:

* Continue to pursue short-term global and local missions as long as God allows and I am physically able.

* Sell it all and move to a distant land to serve full-time.

* Move to a tropical island and forget everything (just kidding, sort of!).

I feel like a nomad. When I am home doing the suburban housewife and mom thing, my heart is restless even though serving my family sometimes takes everything in me! When I am serving abroad, I reach a tipping point where I need normalcy and a sense of home. When I serve locally, I feel I am not doing enough. It makes my heart spin.

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my favorite people. She is the mother-in-law of one of my dearest friends and she turns 80 this month. I just love talking with her! Her mind is sharp as a tack and conversations with her are thought-provoking and always entertaining.

She’s been through some major unexpected illnesses lately that have left her fragile, frail and in spinal therapy. Her already tiny frame of less than 5 feet is now curled over and even thinner than she was before. She asked me all kinds of questions about our mission trip as she has always had a keen interest in them. Once we talked through the logistics of the trip, she turned the conversation to why we go.

She asked questions that she really wanted sincere answers to. Questions like – You feel this is right for your family? And you enjoy this? Do the kids enjoy it? What do they get out of if? How long do you think you will continue to do these mission trips?

I answered each question with a thoughtful answer: For now, this is what God has called our family to. Everyone has a purpose, and we believe this is ours. Yes, we enjoy it very much. It’s the hardest, most demanding thing we’ve ever done (besides parenting) and it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tear. The kids love it! Mission trips are great to strip away the entitlement and materialism that our society imposes and encourages. Although our children don’t have overt problems with these anyway, still if we live in a society long enough its way of thinking creeps into our thoughts as being normal. These missions remind them that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that’s a good and necessary truth to know. More importantly, it’s training them to share the Gospel whenever, wherever God leads. We will go as long as the Lord allows and we are physically able.

To every answer she smiled, nodded her head and replied, Okay. Alright. However, she paused at my last answer about being physically able. As we stood in the kitchen, she asked if I wanted a piece of cake and I said yes. She carefully, slowly, struggled to cut and serve it to me, but I knew I needed to let her do it. It was a beautiful moment. I felt God whisper, She needs to do this. Let her. As she worked on the slice of cake, she said, You know, one day you have your health and then the next day you don’t. It’s taken away without warning. I never thought I would go through what I’ve been through, and getting back to where I was is a great struggle. Do what you can while you can do it. Enjoy life. Go on these mission trips. Do it all before you no longer can. Wise words which brought a tear to my eye as I bent over to hear her talk above the white noise in the crowded room of her grandson’s graduation party.

I’ve told Bruce this before. We were walking through Wal-Mart one day and I said, You know, it would only take one car accident. One illness. One life change that could keep one of us from ever being able to go on mission again. Life is fragile. Health is fragile although no one wants to admit it out loud. It’s partially this thought that makes me second guess if I really am doing what God purposed for me in Psalm 139:16 –

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This is where Lysa Terkeurst and I share the same wonderings and ponderings. Are we getting it right?

Do I feel restless here because we are supposed to be there? Do I miss home there because we are supposed to be here? It’s maddening, really.

Life is so so short. As proactive and intentional as I have been about preserving my body specifically for ministry with all of the surgeries, procedures and physical therapy I’ve had since 2008, I can’t figure out how to stop time. It marches on and takes no prisoners. At the end of my life, whether that be in a year or 40+, I yearn for no regrets – not that I checked off everything on my bucket list, but that I checked off everything on God’s bucket for me. I desperately want to please Him even when human nature screams otherwise. I am starving for Isaiah 30:21 to be read over my life –

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.

My job is to reject my idols and images and run with passion in the direction He leads (v 22). This is much easier said than done. But, when I think about my dear friend who is struggling just to once again stand erect after her physical struggles, I hear a clock ticking in my head and heart. So I write openly on a blog what I’ve been praying in my heart, in a thousand different ways for a long time, that which Psalm 139:23-24 sums up best –

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Lead on, God. I will follow You all the way home no matter where the journey takes me to get there.

 

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