2018 Reflections

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Our digital Christmas card

The time leading up to Christmas I felt this ache in the pit of my stomach. Part of it was remembering how hard my first holidays were here in Honduras last year and feeling anxious to do something, anything differently for my emotional well-being; and part of it was guilt for even having expectations of grandeur. I shared this reflection on Facebook and Instagram on Dec. 14:

I have to admit that this time of year is hard emotionally for me. Not only do I miss home and traditions I grew up with but on top of that I honestly just resent how big my expectations are of the holidays. My question is, “Why did I grow up expecting SO MUCH out of the Christmas season?”

2018-12-14 10.11.19Working in rural Honduras + hearing stories of my husband’s childhood always gives me good perspective. I’m still learning.

Here is my end-of-the-year reflection:

•••••

S I M P L I C I T Y

when thanking the Lord for food on the table is because you’ve experienced days without it. when the concept of a “Christmas list” is completely foreign because the best way you can imagine celebrating the holiday is with a pile of plump tamales and maybe a “new” piece of clothing. when your nostalgia for the season isn’t tied to materialism and you’re actually free to enjoy the holiday whether in abundance or in lack. when you have no expectations of extravagance, no entitlement, and you can find joy in the simple things.

SIMPLICITY: some of us are so rich we can’t afford it.

•••••

Here’s wishing you and yours a cozy Christmas season; may we take joy in the simple things.

 


Then, I saw someone nonchalantly post something on social media while visiting Honduras on a short term mission trip that said, “this is so easy!” referring to missions. So, I wrote a little response to that on Dec. 22 while also realizing that is not a common opinion… I just wanted to address it for anyone who would be naive to think that a short term trip would actually represent the reality of living on the mission field full time:

“Missions is easy”

I recently heard someone say this… while they were on a short term trip. This would be like me babysitting my niece for a day and saying, “parenting is easy!” And all the moms said “amen.” You can’t compare the two.

(This post is less about me and more of an homage to the faithful servants who have been doing this cross-cultural ministry thing for years.)2018-12-14 10.08.34-3

Missions isn’t easy. Vacationing is easy. Learning a second language well enough to connect at a heart level isn’t easy. Wading the waters of cultural norms and social faux pas and constantly feeling like someone somewhere doesn’t approve or questions your motives isn’t easy.

Living by faith and not having a steady income isn’t easy. Not being understood by those back home for choosing to live this way isn’t easy. Swaying in the tension of feeling inadequate for not having the “success markers” that some people at home have yet feeling painfully fortunate for what you do have… isn’t easy.

Working in an environment with individuals who have suffered from trauma and inferiority complexes isn’t easy. Recognizing and repenting for your own god-complexes isn’t easy. Releasing control of schedules and timelines and comforts and conveniences and sometimes safety isn’t easy.

I’m just getting started at this. God-willing, I’ll have many more good years of service ahead of me. Is the work fulfilling and does it have significant moments of joy along the way? Absolutely. But it’s not easy.

I’ve observed missionaries who have been doing this thing for decades and am always in awe at their quiet diligence. Someone from the states will visit them for a week and be praised for their sacrifice. Short term trips can certainly be noble but… do you know what sacrifices that missionary who’s been on the field for twenty years has made??

I can promise you, she might use any adjective to describe her journey but it wouldn’t be “easy.”


THEN, I found this blog entry that eloquently depicted everything I’ve ever tried to say about living abroad. I’ll quote an excerpt below but read the whole thing here.

MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE

“Most of us try to help needs. Many of us give until it hurts, but it’s never enough.  We live in the “Middle”; in between two worlds which contrast themselves in a million different ways.  To Americans, we are the missionaries who are always in need and the ones who gave up so much. To many people in our host country, we are the wealthy; the glowing answers to meeting their needs and who just need to give more.

…I thought about taking a picture and posting it. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to document our Christmas morning for either one of my two worlds to either pity or envy.”


I’m a sucker for new years, new seasons, new possibilities, and new beginnings. I’ve been trying to decide my word for the year like many are doing. I have an idea but I can’t get the grammar of it straight. Supposedly it has to be a noun but I just come up with an adjective: UNINHIBITED… basically the opposite of inhibition… confidence? Anyway, that’s what I’m praying for this year. I’m not one of those people who blames everything on the devil but I do recognize his sneaky tactics to get us to feel unqualified, unimportant, and inhibited. So I’m standing up for myself and reclaiming that part of my personality. Here’s a little manifesto I wrote for the new year:

*me watching 2018 leave and not feeling sad about it*
EDIT-7581There is no reason to mourn the passing of years. We mourn opportunities missed or loved ones lost, but time moves on. Instead of regretting the past we have to embrace each new day, each new year as a fresh start and a world of possibility.

Starting NOW I can make better decisions. Starting NOW I can break old habits and form new ones. Starting NOW I can get my priorities in order. Starting NOW I can stop beating myself up for things I can’t control and take responsibility for the things I can. Starting NOW I can spend my time and energy on things that actually matter.

There’s no time like the present and that’s a gift too precious to squander.

So, here’s to a productive, happy, and healthy 2019!

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The Worlds of Excess and Lack

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Take about a minute to study the illustration above. Move your eyes back and forth between the child with the iPad and the child eating off the ground. What do you feel?

This hit me like a punch in the stomach.

Shocking.

True.

How can I do more?

It says what I haven’t been able to find the words to say for a while now. Here in Central America I live in the tension that you feel when you look at this image. It’s an uncomfortable place, I admit.

I’m much more comfortable in my middle class home in Alabama, watching House Hunters on TV, surrounded by all my iThings and justifying the couple hundred dollars of recent purchases I just made on frivolous stuff for myself. I mean, I’m not rich and wasteful like those people, right?

We play the comparison game. The truth is that in the U.S. I feel borderline poor and almost convinced that I deserve more: more convenience and comfort, better service, newer gadgets, faster technology, the latest styles. But who is making me feel this lack in my life? Advertising companies? The family down the street? That friend from high school who flaunts her lavish lifestyle on Instagram? Maybe it’s time to cut those things out. I’ve recently started a discipline online of unfollowing people/media/companies that feed that insecurity in me, that insatiable hunger that tells me I need and deserve more more more. They. Are. Lies. (For parents, it might be those that convince you that you should take out a 2nd mortgage just to get your kid all those gifts for Christmas.)

As an adult (more specifically, an adult living as a foreigner in a developing country) I am fully #woke to the fact that in my family we were lavishly spoiled as children during Christmas. (which I loved as a kid, don’t get me wrong) But I think it fed that little materialism monster in me and now it’s my job to try to starve him.

It’s the reason I have a hard time answering when someone cheerfully asks, “Do you love living in Honduras?” Well, part of the time, yes, but not because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself or super comfy or even “living the adventure of a lifetime.” My lifestyle here is very different and a lot of days are hard. It helps keep me grounded and more aware of the majority world’s reality and I value that far more. In the states I can easily and comfortably forget the suffering of those outside my door – the ignorance is bliss kind of thing. Even when I go back home and spend an extended length of time I start to forget. We humans have such short attention spans.

Here, the suffering is unavoidable.

father

Now that I have seen I am responsible. – Brooke Fraser


If you’re still wondering if you might be considered rich or not by global standards, Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.20.26 PMcheck out the Global Rich List and see how you compare. I can bet you’re at least in the top 3% richest in the world. 😉

  • sidebar: It certainly isn’t a USA vs. majority world problem either. Economic inequality is sometimes the most extreme within the borders of one single country. The gap between rich and poor in Honduras is painfully obvious.

I just finished reading the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker – I’m behind the times, I know. The tagline is “an experimental mutiny against excess.” Yes. It encouraged me (Again. I will forever and ever need these reminders) that there is value in living more simply and that most of the things we think we need aren’t really necessities but, in fact, excess. The premise of the book is to free ourselves of the bondage of materialism while at the same time opening our eyes to the needs of others around the world. liberation + solidarity.40e6ebd24f7c0e79951a2463ca2290e6--truth-quotes-a-quotes

A good friend of mine used to say, “The most important things in life aren’t things.” Amen.

A few years ago I blogged about something similar after reading Jeff Shinabarger’s book More or Less.

I wrote, “the real kicker is that the kind of life I live here (Honduras), which at first I considered sacrificial, is still seen by many around me as living in abundance. That blows my mind.” The car I felt embarrassed to drive during college now looks like a huge blessing when I consider that most families here do well to buy one used shared vehicle. And mine was one of FIVE vehicles that my immediate family owned – practically unheard of here in Honduras.

I’m caught between these two worlds – but I want so badly that they understand each other.” (Full blog post here.)

My great frustration in life is feeling misunderstood. (My Myers-Briggs [INFP] and Enneagram [4 w 5] personality type results confirm this) So, as if to complicate things even more I decided to move to and marry into a new country and culture and language. Communicating effectively and achieving “being understood” is even more challenging yet at the same time more rewarding when it happens.

And it’s not just on the Honduras end. Sometimes it’s hard for family and friends back home to relate to my daily life (no fault of their own) or to understand that the values, norms, and status quo in Honduran society are different. It gets tricky trying to balance two different value systems. Small talk becomes even more painful when you have so much heaviness weighing on you. Very few in the states truly understand the plight of an average individual trying to make ends meet in a developing country like Honduras and even fewer truly grasp the reality that: The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. The inequality is staggering and it’s an inequality that has actual faces and names here.

Did you know? The money spent on diet plans in the U.S. alone could feed all starving children around the globe? The 60 billion dollars spent on Black Friday in the U.S. could solve the food crisis TWICE and the water crisis 6 TIMES?

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The wonderful thing is that statistically, Americans are more likely than any other country to voluntarily give to help the poor in other countries. Ironically, those with lower incomes actually give a higher percentage. We could improve on the fact that there is still 33% in our country who do not donate to charity at all.

On my previous short-term trips I would come home to the U.S. to my big comfortable bed and just cry because I didn’t know what to do with what I had just experienced. I knew something was terribly wrong with how I saw the majority of Americans living – their skewed priorities, their indifference to “outsiders.” Unfortunately after a few weeks, those strong feelings of unrest and conviction would start to wane. The awareness that 62% of the population of Honduras live below the poverty line would fade to the background of my consciousness because it was no longer right in front of my face. I would continue with my life and get caught up in the same trivial first world problems. I now consciously choose to keep it in the forefront of my mind no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

I also choose to keep speaking up about it. I’ll be like that annoying dripping in the kitchen sink that just won’t. shut. up.

You’re welcome.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matt. 6:19

What are some practical ways you liberate yourself and your family from the bondage of materialism and/or stand in solidarity with those suffering in and outside our borders?

*Two other life changing books on my shelf regarding this topic are Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider and The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.*

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