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Modern Missionary Mamas

Because you are the light of the world.

MMM Podcast Episode 2: International Travel with Small Children

Here’s how to listen:

-Right in this post! Just click play. You can also download it from here. (Amazing, eh? I know your internet stinks, mamas; I’ve got your back.)

-On Soundcloud. They have a nice app for your phone and if you add to a playlist or a station, you’ll always see when a new one’s posted (I think). And please, if you like it, hit like and share it! Let’s spread the word.

And if you’ve got more questions for me, don’t miss out on our first Twitter chat! Here’s the post on that, in case you missed it. 

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Portable Height Record!

I LOVE this idea! We have a fabric growth chart for Peter, but it hasn’t gotten rehung since we moved (two years ago…).

Come on and work it on out!

Last week, I set this year’s real-olution.

Oh, what’s a “real-olution,” you ask? Well, mamas, that’s simple. It’s a resolution that you suddenly realize you have done n.o.t.h.i.n.g. to achieve since January 21st, and you decide to get real about it, since the year’s half over.

And the biggest one that most people have?

Exercise.

Well, losing weight, but for most of us, it’s the same, n’est-ce pas? But as we all know, working out got ten times more complicated when you acquired that first kid. So since I’m just getting back into working out, here’s what’s helping me:

*Reject that this is a tedious burden. Yeah, I know, it’s hot. But your body in motion glorifies the One who made it, because you are made to move. So stop with the attitude and commit to it as an act of gratitude for a body that works as it (mostly) should. I realized on my run yesterday morning that the only promises I break are the ones I make to myself. Mamas, this should not be. 

*Pray for self-control. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, right? You’re not in this alone.

*Accept that you will be interrupted. As with your Bible reading, this is no longer a solo, spa-like, stress-reducing activity. It’s sometimes helpful to give them a snack just before you start to give yourself a head start. Let them know that you would rather not pause it unless it’s really important. (Clarify that fixing the bike bell that broke six months ago is not really important.)

*Involve your kids. If your kids are small, try a babywearing workout like this one. If your kids are medium-sized like mine, I put out a second yoga mat for them to fight over  share. They dance along and make up their own “workouts” to the music, and it all works okay, so long as they stay off MY mat. We use canned food for weights, and they get their own water bottles. If your kids are a little bigger, try something like a coin-flip workout, an alphabet workout where you can spell their names, or a playground workout while they play. They love making Mom work! Give them the stopwatch and see how fast you can lap the house.

*Start small. No, I mean, small. When I first started working out a few years ago, I did not plan to run three miles or do a thirty-minute workout. You know how long my first run was? Five minutes. Then I stopped and walked home. Then the next time, I went for six minutes. Then seven. Forget baby steps–for some of us, that’s too big, even. Think insect steps. Ants get it done, mamas–observe their ways and be wise, especially when it comes to building a new habit.

*Think about what’s preventing you from enjoying it. I run with a hat on because I realized a year ago that I hated sweat in my eyes. No more sweat now! You may need to change something small to make it more fun. Get a better yoga mat. Some new shoes. You’ll save money on health costs in the future.

*Get some structure. Here’s a few that I’ve encountered at different points in mommyhood:

  1. Moms into Fitness. Her Pretty Fierce Weight Loss videos are ones I keep going back to. You can get a taste of it here. 
  2. Sworkit. This is a no-equipment required workout app with premade workouts as well as the option to customize a workout for strength, yoga, cardio or stretching. You can choose the length of the workout in five minute increments and it builds in a warmup as well as thirty-second breaks. It’s also easy to pause (that’s a Mom Essential). And it’s free! You don’t even need a smartphone.
  3. Wii Fit. We’re blessed with the electricity to make this work; I realize not everyone is. But the Wii does use less power than most gaming units–just make sure it gets unplugged from the wall when you’re done. But I did find it motivating to play games!
  4. Couch to 5K. This is a popular plan for true beginners. A 5K is a little over three miles; you can TOTALLY achieve that. And they’re addictive.
  5. Zombie app. My sister-in-law uses this one, and it cracks me up. If you don’t run fast enough, you can hear the zombies getting closer. I’m laughing even now. Whatever motivates you, mamas!
  6. Start a Pinterest board. TONS of ideas here! If you need inspiration, you can follow mine. (No judgment, okay? I know you want perkier breasts, too. Don’t pretend.)

*Schedule it. The night before, I lay out my workout clothes next to my regular clothes. Yeah, it’s nerdy, but it reminds me. I also put it into my schedule: what time, exactly, am I going to do this? It’s working for me to do it right after homeschool, while kids are killing their brain cells via Netflix and snacking.

More thoughts:

The Art of Simple Podcast: Exercise

Your thoughts: Anything to share with us? How have you found success with this?

Supporting the family you left behind

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Photo by Adam Sherez on Unsplash

One of the things that came out of a trip to our organizational headquarters last year was a sense that we could be doing more for parents/family of missionaries. This isn’t a calling they chose, like we did. This is a sacrifice they’re making, this is dreams that aren’t coming true, having us far away. It’s not how they pictured birthdays and holidays, right? And it’s especially not easy, when the church body tends to lean toward “aren’t we so thrilled for them?” instead of being willing to genuinely walk beside them, even when they’re not happy we’re overseas. Maybe especially then.

So I made a thing that you can give your church body, to help start the conversation about how to better support the part of your family you’re leaving behind. Feel free to distribute it far and wide! Let me know what you think of it: good or bad, I’m open to suggestions.

Love you, mamas.

Supporting the Stateside Family of Missionaries

Letting go is like Jenga

A friend of mine, Meredith, who teaches at Peter’s school, posted this fantastic analogy a few weeks ago. Transition is tough: hang in there, mamas. We get it. 

jenga

Life currently feels a little like being a carefully constructed (but not perfect) Jenga tower about to be dismantled by a bunch of 5th graders. Even though we have 2.5 weeks of school left, adjusted schedules meant yesterday was the last time I got to teach this years 5th grade. I told them I was leaving at the end of the school year. I wasn’t expecting to cry but fat tears rolled down my face when I said it.

At the end of class, a group of my students were playing this game (I have different stations available during check out time #librarian), and all I could think about was Jenga life metaphors. How living this Haiti life has been like slowly building a life here and feeling like each new connection was a wooden block in my Jenga structure. I am out of building blocks so the game’s focus changes.

If you have ever played Jenga, you know that to play, you have to carefully plan which block to tap on, push out, and add to the top. Some blocks move easily, they don’t really shake the foundation and it’s easy to be fearless that you won’t knock over the tower. Some of those pieces stick, you hold your breath as you gently pull them out, and pray that the tower won’t fall on your turn. But there are always those blocks you think are easy to move, you attack them fearlessly, and they stick a little.

Saying goodbye to 5th grade was like taking out a block of life that stuck a little when I didn’t expect it to.

The Strawberry Paradox: Why having it all isn’t everything.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Stumbled across this in a book called Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey…

When I speak to church or medical groups I often tell stories from my childhood or my surgical career in India. “Oh, you poor thing,” someone may respond, “growing up without plumbing or electricity or even radio. And the sacrifices you made working such sad people in those harsh conditions!” I stare dumbfounded at the sympathizer, realizing how differently we must view pleasure and fulfillment. With the luxury of age I can look back on three-quarters of a century, and without a doubt the times that seemed to involve personal struggle now shine with a peculiar radiance. In my work with leprosy patients, our medical team faced hardship, yes, and many barriers, but the very process of working together to surmount those barriers yielded what I now remember as the most ecstatic moments of my life. And as I watch my grandchildren growing up in suburban America, I covet for them the richness of life that I enjoyed in the “primitive” conditions of the Kolli Malai range in India.

And then came this sweet little third culture kid moment, which is what I really wanted to share with you:

I have vivid childhood memories of strawberries. When Mother tried to grow strawberries in our garden, bugs, birds, cattle and the unfriendly climate of the mountains conspired against them. If a few hardy fruits did manage to defeat their enemies, we would hold the ceremony of strawberries. With no refrigerator for storage, we had to eat them right away. My sister, Connie, and I shivered with anticipation. We gathered around the table with our parents and ogled, smelled, and savored the one or two bright, luscious strawberries. Then, under intense scrutiny from Connie and me, Mother divided the berries into four equal portions. We arranged the fruit on a plate, added milk or cream, and ate each portion slowly and delectably. Half the enjoyment came from the taste of the strawberry and half from the joy of sharing. Today, of course, I can go to a corner market near my home and buy a pint of strawberries from Chile or Australia, any month of the year. But the pleasure I get from eating those strawberries does not compare with my experience from childhood.

Oh mamas, don’t ever think that giving your kids a small treat is proportionate to the blessing in their hearts. They’re not dumb. They know money is tight. They know you’re doing your best. But you don’t have to break the bank to spoil them–don’t forget to give them the other half of the enjoyment–sharing it with your family. Making a memory together! That experience that was forged in pain, the pain of a mom not home to eat familiar fruits in the summer, the pain of her gardening failures, the pain of having little to celebrate with–it broke up that cold, hard ground and blossomed into a beautiful example of determination, sacrifice and delight for this adult TCK. Gratitude changes everything, doesn’t it?

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: missionary kids are the luckiest kids in the world. You are giving them an incredible gift, whether they realize it now or not.

Do you have any “strawberry paradox” moments to share?

Electricity-free cooling

Has anybody tried this? I’m tempted to try it for fruits and veggies that don’t fit in the fridge…

Also, “discovery” seems a bit strong, since I’m pretty sure ancient cultures have done this for centuries…but hey, sure, it’s a discovery.

Summer PSA

Replace “wine” with “vegan chocolate,” and that’d be fine, thanks. Happy almost summer, mamas!

Guilt: a re-entry story

Liz Schandorff is with us once again to share how her re-entry is going. I’ve felt some of these same things on furlough: out of sight seldom seems to equal out of mind for a missionary mama, and there’s never enough to meet legitimate needs in our friends’ lives. Read on, mamas…enjoy!

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We’re about to spend our tax return on a sprinkler system. I’ll decline to mention the precise amount we’re going to pay but it’s more than $1,000, more than $2,000, more than $3,000… and (insert incredibly painful cringe here), more than $4,000.

Oh my word. Can’t believe I’m saying any of this publicly; sharing personal finances in public is scary! CRINGE again.

I should preface (to try and make myself feel better, at least a little) that my yard is a certified disaster area. Let me back up. We bought a fixer upper that had been foreclosed two owners ago. The owners previous to us, according to the neighbors, bought the foreclosure (also then fixer-upper) aiming to fix it up… and then spent their renovation money on alcohol. Seriously. I’m still finding broken beer bottle glass in the yard.

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Neglected yard, but not Liz’s yard. But it could be. 

Two years ago, the yard was chest high with weeds. Not even exaggerating. We have tamed the beast until the weeds are now ankle height or below and I have spent hours upon hours hand-weeding the front yard, which was the least-awful-and-most-likely-to-be-redeemable area. But the back is kind of still a wreck. It’s uneven, with trenches and random potholes sprinkled throughout but still manages to slope entirely towards the house. Idaho doesn’t get a ton of rain but it doesn’t take a genius to know that a yard that drains right into the foundation of your house is less than ideal.

And I’m a gardener. I love to have my hands in the dirt, creating beauty from, well, dirt! Right now my front garden beds are full of tulips and daffodils; the crocuses are done already but the irises are just about to start. My budget is limited (single-earner non-profit income, anyone? I know you missionary mamas can relate!) but I have begged plant starts from several family members and neighbors (and the occasional generous craigslister) and the front garden beds are starting to look downright respectable.

And my family thrives outside; my husband is never happier than when out in the fresh air and my soul is most at peace on my porch in the mornings when the rising rays of sun hit my face and the potential of a new day stretches out in front of me. My sons enjoy swinging and playing with the dog, whacking croquet balls and tossing bocce balls, swinging for (and missing, let’s be honest here!) baseballs, tossing Frisbees, finding bugs and playing in mud.

So sprinklers make sense, right? Let’s review: 1) Yard is a disaster zone ripe for the “before” setup of an HGTV show. 2) Family loves to be outside and spend quality time with each other; 3) Tax return will cover said sprinkler system as well as leveling the back yard safely away from the house and planting grass.

So… why do I feel paralyzed with guilt about this decision? Why do I feel the need to write such a lengthy tome justifying this purchase? We need it, we can do it, we will appreciate the heck out of it… should be simple, right?

Nope. Because those funds could help fix G & C’s house in Port-au-Prince… they wrote recently saying water is leaking in and they ran out of money before they could complete the roof. Because W has school registration fees to pay this summer and the primary donor who was helping with that has had a change to their income and may not be able to help with that this year. I keep hearing reports that J doesn’t have food to eat and gentle N is still trying to build a block house for his wife and children – an upgrade from the tin shanty on the bare hillside they currently live in.

How can I spend on myself when their needs are so grave? I have food and shelter; my children have multiple educational options. We have clothing, furniture, and extra money to spend on a pet. My older son is going on a (not cheap) youth group trip to a family fun zone this Friday and my younger is taking martial arts lessons… because he wants to and we can.

What would Jesus do? Would he sacrifice sprinklers and the foundation of his home to give it all away? Would he take care of his family this year and give generously next year? Would he get a second job so he could do both – but then not see his kids as much? Would he give half away this year and save half, and hope to get sprinklers next year? This may sound ludicrous but these are the thoughts going through my mind. I feel horribly selfish because I think we are going to go ahead and get sprinklers; the choice is all but made. Bids have been submitted and we will soon sign on the dotted line.

This is a larger amount of money and I’m now 3,000 miles away from the needs mentioned above, but I had the same struggles while living on the mission field. Should we spend this $1,000 on a sorely-needed vacation or give it to the orphanage? Replace the rotting futon or supplement our guard’s meager income so he can get medical care for his son with the broken arm? Buy the ice cream with the inflated, imported price as a treat after an awful week or give it to someone at the gate who doesn’t have rice and beans?

The struggle is real and, I believe, the struggle is right. After 5 years on the field I decided that the Lord values the struggle. He appreciates the thought we put into it. Not that we should obsess over each big decision, but we should pray. Not to nit-pick each purchase, but to carefully consider. This may be heretical, but at the end of the day, but for me, I’m not even sure that choosing Option A or Option B is the important part. It is embracing the struggle that is key.

Why? Because it means you care enough about the needs of those around you to pause and think. It means you are unselfish enough to wonder if spending your resources on yourself is the best choice. So embrace the struggle, mamas. Sometimes you’ll choose yourself, sometimes you’ll choose others – and you know that. Jesus knows it too, and I think he’s ok with it. After all, we are to love our neighbor as yourself. Sometimes we missionaries feel guilty about the “as yourself” part – but remember that it’s there, it’s Biblical too. We need to take care of ourselves as needed so we can keep ministering. That’s going to look different for different people. And that’s okay, too.

As for me? I’m also going to be praying about those needs (which are all real and current, by the way – not fictionalized or generalities for the sake of a blog post) and how the Lord might want to use me to meet them. But I’m also going to be giddy when those sprinklers are installed and I can wiggle my toes in that silky grass while my kids whiff those baseball pitches!

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