when life hurts

There is no possible way to update this blog and catch up on all that has happened since my last post. So I’ll say this: October, November, and December were great months for us. We settled in, we adjusted, we made friends, and all was well. We even got to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, which was an added blessing. Mark and I had a wonderful anniversary trip in Prague, and we were beginning to think about the possibility of buying a house in our area because we felt like it was where we wanted to settle. And if we still weren’t allowed to buy a house, then we wanted to stay in our rental because we were happy there. At the same time, we were gearing up for classes to start at our training centre, and we had a workshop lined up for the month of January in a local church. Life was full, super exciting, and it felt like we were finally settling into a lot of good things.

Then January came, and I had this nagging feeling that change was coming. (If you haven’t followed this blog for a long time, then you may not know that we have been through more change than most couples.) I thought the change was that Mark’s job would be transitioning or that things would take off so quickly with the school that we’d be able to get our own building . . .

I should have known really as that settled feeling is never a good thing to allow in.

So ten days into January and I’m meeting with a colleague as we prepare to co-teach our first class. As we were finishing our meeting, I notice that I have an email regarding our house. I quickly check it and go into shock as the landlord wants to sell the house ASAP. And we have to show it to prospective buyers. All my “plans” for 2017 hit the fan, and very quickly, my picture of life in our little area that we were happy in just fully disintegrated. Rentals in our price range and in a livable condition are super hard to find. We were forced to consider areas that were far out of the area we wanted to be in, and it soon became clear that we couldn’t stay where we were. And then to add insult to injury, everything possible started to go wrong. Things are still going wrong.

In the midst of packing our house, showing it to possible buyers, and also in the beginning months of a brand new Bible training centre, I had a trip planned to a homeschooling conference for missionaries. I so debated about whether to cancel the trip as the timing was so horrible. However, my mom and my teammates convinced me to go, and Mark lovingly assured me he was fine with watching the kids and adjusting to a new house. So after being in our new house for only about 10 days, I left for a 6 day trip to Eastern Europe. I traveled with a new missionary friend who also homeschools, and she was so gracious to put up with my tired, worn out, heartsick self. We hit the ground running and attended workshops, courses, consultations, forums, and whatever else they jammed our week with, and it was total information overload. The hotel was the hottest place I have been in since moving to Scotland, and I didn’t sleep the first three nights. I felt totally exhausted! However, I could see and feel God’s eyes on me.

There were so many God moments at the conference; so many times when I thought “wow, what if I had not come?! What would I have missed out on?” Each morning began with chapel, and the worship was so therapeutic. I had no qualms about crying while singing or simply raising my hands and just being quiet. It was a safe space in a room filled with missionaries (who were probably crying as well). It was a time of just being ourselves before the Lord without cultural inhibitions, without wondering if I’d offend someone if I worshipped in my way, and without any sense that it would be wrong for me to just be who I needed to be. It was home. And there were so many classes and moments during the conference where I was allowed to see other moms and their struggles. So many moments where I was allowed to just see from a different perspective. And a huge moment where I got to sit with a therapist who understood what I meant when I said, “my child does this, this, and this and I think it’s all because of this.” I got to cry out my frustration in parenting while she understood exactly what I was going through. And then lastly, God showed me all the dreams and ideas I had as a 20 something in seminary who simply wanted to help those in ministry. Here I was over 10 years later walking in the very shoes of those I have wanted to help, and I was the one getting the help! That spoke so much to me. It awoke dreams that I thought were long gone…

Fast forward a week and I’ve now been back at our new rental for about 6 days; 6 days filled with things breaking, things not fitting, things being in an absolute mess. I’m behind in my duties at the Bible training centre; I haven’t even looked at our taxes or bills as I can’t even sort out a space to do those things. And yet the things that I learned and saw last week keep coming to me over and over. The reminder that my children are gifts from the Lord; they are my main ministry and priority. The reminder that my family unit and how healthy we are speaks loads to our neighbors regarding the God we serve and the life that we lead. As we live in a society that prioritizes things in such a different way than we do, we get the privilege of just shining our lights. We get the privilege of just loving one another, living for our Lord, and doing life in a way that honours Him. And the best way that I can do that is by putting aside all pretense and just being who I am and doing what God has called me to do. Who cares that my accent is different, that our English-American family lives in a culture that we don’t fully understand, that we homeschool when that is not what the government wants, or that we have days when we’re all just off and can’t sort out how to fit in to any certain way of being. What matters is that we live our lives in worship to the God who has called us. What matters is that I love my husband and my children and that I show them a life that lives genuinely and humbly in service to my God. What matters is that I remember that He is faithful. He who has known me and has seen all of my days is faithful. He is faithful even when I’ve lost the plot, when the toilet is flooding, when I’ve yelled at my son, or have just forgotten why we’re here. He knows, He sees, and He is faithful. So I have sung on the days when I don’t feel like it; I’ve played the worship music on repeat. And I’ve opened my heart to Him even when it hurts, because I have known 39 years of faithfulness. His faithfulness qualifies Him to get to see my hurt as I know that He doesn’t add to the hurt. His faithfulness has proven that He is trustworthy. And I know with certainty that He has not lost the plot. He has not forgotten why He brought us here. He doesn’t lose His purpose for my life. The overwhelming details that feel suffocating to us are not discouraging Him. And so I’ll leave the lyrics to this song as they have ministered to me so much, and I want them embedded on my heart and mind so that I will not forget His faithfulness to me and my family.

“Faithful To The End”

We’re heaven-spun creations
His pride and adoration
Treasures woven by his love

His careful hands they hold us
Safe within His promise
Of calling and of destiny

I will sing of all You’ve done
I’ll remember how far You carried me
From beginning until the end
You are faithful, faithful to the end

A Father’s heart that’s for me
A never ending story
Of love that’s always chasing me

His kindness overwhelming
And hope for me unending
He’s never given up on me

I will sing of all You’ve done
I’ll remember how far You carried me
From beginning until the end
You are faithful, faithful to the end

There wasn’t a day
That You weren’t by my side
There wasn’t a day
That You let me fall
All of my life
Your love has been true
All of my life
I will worship You

by Hannah and Paul McClure (Bethel Music)

the reality of here

In one week, we will have been in the UK for one year. And yesterday marked our tenth completed month in Scotland. I haven’t been able to really put my thoughts into words until tonight…so bear with me as this starts bad and ends somewhat better.

Since July, we’ve had numerous difficult things happen, and I get it that life is made up of difficult things with lots of mundane and good things in the middle. Life happens no matter where you live. For most of the summer, I think I was in the worst of culture shock and difficult things felt magnified. Then after much prayer, things shifted in a positive direction in the middle of August, and I could see with a new perspective. I think my view of Scotland became very balanced and real, but at the same time, I had numerous conversations in which people told us that we have to be in this for the long haul as that’s what’s needed for effective ministry in Scotland. And reality hit harder. On top of it, Mark is heavily preparing for a new career and the unknown of how and what is coming for him and us is pressing at times. Will he have a three hour round trip commute by bus, will he need us to drive him to work which requires a new boldness in my driving, will he get a full time, good paying job right when the other job ends??? And even though we haven’t verbally worried, these times of transition are never easy. We’ve done enough transition to last us the next ten years, and so I think I’ve been off kilter a bit for a while.

Edinburgh and Scotland itself are not easy environments to live in. Yes, it’s beautiful and there are some truly kind and wonderful people here. I think we have the best set of neighbors in all the world, and so I’m very aware that there are lots of good things here. Yet for an outsider, there’s also a lot that I struggle with. The top one being that the government is very socialist, and politics matter to me. The socialist mindset and all it entails has infiltrated everything. We, Americans, take so much in the States for granted. I could write a whole book on this, but I won’t. It’s just very evident once you’re away for some time. I will say though that we, as a team, are learning how much we need Jesus in order to thrive here. We’ve left churches that we loved and that were home for us, and while there are solid, good churches here, they’re not what we left. My heart has been crying as there’s no freedom here to dance or cry or get yourself where you need to be during worship at church. And many of you will be like what?! Yes, this quiet, reserved, white girl needs worship time to express my heart; I need the freedom to worship in my unique expression of that. Therefore, I have felt like my right arm is missing at church, so last week, I did it anyway, danced for just two minutes, and avoided all eye contact!! LOL! If we cannot be free to worship God in church, then what are we doing?!? So I’m telling you that to lead to this…the spiritual atmosphere is tough. It is dry; it is filled with stuff that is not Godly. And as much as we welcome talking to anyone who will talk to us, it can get old to always stand out in your beliefs, your politics, your accent, etc. Sometimes, I have to catch myself as I feel that all I’m doing is defending myself when instead I just need to be me. It’s also hard to hear about all the ministries that have come and gone. Yet we know nothing about why they came and left. All we know is that if we’re here for the long haul, then we’d better just get on with being who God made us to be…even in all the uncomfortable, awkward moments. So I’ve been wrestling and struggling with just not wanting to commit to the long haul with this government and this atmosphere.

And then it got worse….I (driving myself and two kids) bravely ventured to the nearest town to run some errands. It’s a bit of a rough town; it’s not posh or wealthy. It’s real life. It’s not in a Jane Austen film. As we’re running errands, Ryder had an emergency bathroom urge, and British public toilets are rough. Cleanliness is lacking, so I tend to avoid them at all costs. Because I had Eden in a stroller, I sent him in and waited by the door with Eden. He then needed help, so Eden, the stroller, and I went in and I just completely freaked as someone had left an STD test + urine + packaging/instructions spread out all over the bathroom sink right next to where my son had just been sitting. I immediately thought “Lord, I cannot do this! I can’t raise my kids here!! I’m struggling with child laws I don’t agree with, mean kids in the neighborhood, dirty bathrooms, super markets where kids are fighting in line, people working in those stores who don’t care and don’t try, terrible customer service, and now STDs on the toilet that my son has been sitting on!!” and my mind just shouted all the ugliness I could think of. Not a proud moment. And Mark had to talk me down from crazy, upset mama mode. But it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And I tend to crash, and God comes in and calmly, lovingly teaches me. Over the past year, I have fought so much fear about raising my kids here. I’ve fought massive insecurity about homeschooling and parenting in this culture. Our neighbor kids know nothing about Jesus. Absolutely nothing, and yes, that’s why we are here. But I’m also sending my kids out there to play with these kids every single day while I trust them to the Lord. I have no idea what’s talked about unless they tell me, and this is new for us. We went from having them in Christian schools and church to a very different environment here. This is real life, but my kids are young and this hurts my heart. And so honestly, I have to give my children and my parenting to Him every day. Ryder ran in yesterday to say that the neighbor kid gave him the finger, and it actually became a good moment for us as we had a great discussion about it. It’s not what I want my 7, 5, and 3 year olds seeing, but I am there to talk them through it. I thank God for that. And I realize that American kids swear, give the finger, deal with STDs, etc. This is where the cultural gap is unexplainable because I can’t visibly give you a comparison of the two countries and all that I’m seeing and explaining. Both countries are flawed; both countries have high points and low points. Both countries have lovers of Jesus and those that are lost. The things that I’m experiencing now are things that I can’t explain to you until you’ve been there and then come here. You just have to read this and hopefully hear my heart.

Scotland is a beautiful country filled with history and strong, independent people. I do think this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I wish the Scottish as a whole took care of it. I know that God adores these people, and He is building a strong Church here. So even though I do not know how to reach or love those I encounter here, I know that I can confidently rest and go about my day being led by Him as He perfectly knows how to love those I meet. However, to learn His ways and His heart, I have to spend more time with Him. I already feel like I’m juggling too much, but my heart is saying that it’s time to make much more room for Him. If we are here to fulfill our part and are staying here, we need much more of Him. So whatever I need to do to make that happen, it has to happen. Just as I have to be super intentional in teaching my children about Jesus, I have to be super intentional in renewing my mind and in seeking His heart.

And so this is an ugly post written by a tired and very human missionary living very far from home. I pray that God sees my heart and sees my rough days and uses them to just teach me more. I want more of Him. The next time I encounter a situation that takes me totally off guard, I want to react by praying for that one who is dealing with the results of an STD test. I want to meet the neighbor kid who thinks she can just wave her middle finger at little ones and talk to her about why she’s doing it. I want to say a kind word to the mom whose sons are smacking each other in the line at the grocery store. I want to see the Scots free to dance or shout or do whatever they need to worship Jesus in their own expression. I want to just be a vessel that flows in His leading. So I’m totally okay to be the awkward American if it helps someone to realize they can get out of the norm and be who God made them. And God will provide and be all we need Him to no matter if we’re here 10 or 50 years. He is always enough, and He is more than enough for my kids and their future.

the reality of missions

Yesterday, we spent our afternoon at our church’s all church picnic. It might have been in the top 5 of lowest low points for me since moving here. It highlighted so many of the struggles I’ve had since moving here, and it left me feeling isolated and beyond discouraged. And it also brought things to a head for me, which is why I’m writing now as I want to be very real and share what it’s like to do missions . . . from my vantage point. Read more

processing during adjustment

I’ve been trying to write a proper update/newsletter for weeks now, and every time I sit to type, I write a bunch of stuff out and then leave it. I just can’t seem to
process everything right now. Nor can I seem to write out what I’d really like to say. So I’ll just be perfectly honest and not worry about what you, the reader, may or may not think.
Read more

pearls

I was going to edit my previous post and add this, but instead, I think I just want to let it flow as it is . . .

Over the past 6 months of living in Scotland, we’ve discovered a few things: the Scottish are different from the English; the politics, the culture, and the societal norm are very different from us and our values, which can be scary in the natural; Read more

an update

As our eighth month in the UK comes to a close, three things are clear: I need an office assistant, we are in a stretching season, and nothing is easy. Yet the one thing that overrides all of those is that God is good. We cling to His goodness always, and we’re learning more and more about Him and Who He is.

Read more

6 months in . . .

I realize I need to post more updates about what we’re up to and how things are going, so this is less of a processing post and more of a status update:

January and February were incredibly busy for us as we visited churches, looked for a location for the school, met with pastors, finished the final round in immigration for our teammates, and tried to get our finances into some sort of order. We finally got into a groove with homeschooling, which was a big relief, but felt like we were all exhausted from our move, from being sick all winter, from our busyness, etc. So we took the only opportunity we had to go on vacation. Read more

busy and resting

I have no idea where the month of February is flying off to as it seems like the days are moving far more quickly than normal. And I’m trying to not let that scare me as we have so much going on and so much to do right now!! So this will be a bit of a news update as well as a processing post; please bear with me. Read more

counting the cost

I thought this blog had probably died, yet there has been one post that I’ve wanted to write and haven’t been able to word clearly. I’ve only wanted to write this if I could say it the way that I actually see it. So I hope that those who read this will hear my heart and read to the end where the best part is. Read more