He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let God provide your village

I have been very thankful lately for seasons of life.   Thankful that, as always, my God knew what He was doing in setting times for "every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  Of course I have days when my joy far outweighs my grieving or sorrow, but lately it seems the scale has tipped more towards the negative side of things.  I've been experiencing a fairly difficult season, made even more difficult by the fact that some days I can't even fully describe what exactly is so hard, but suffice it to say life has just been hard.   This kid is sick, that one has a pretty hefty school assignment, this one doesn't think it's fun to sleep at night anymore, that one is overwhelmed by the multitude of activities SOMEONE (hmmm) allowed her to sign up for...  All these things in and of themselves should be fairly manageable but combined with the daily grind, the intricacies of doing life overseas, and let's just say I have had more than my share of throwing up my hands and declaring that I am officially done type of moments.  Thankfully there's usually no one there over the age of 2 to hear my declaration so it typically means very little.  Regardless, the heart attitude has been there, and I have recognized that in this season, my heart needs some work.  As I've prayed through my desire to move more towards a time to laugh, a season of joy, God has been faithful in gently reminding me of His truths and convicting my heart all at the same time.

It was on of those hard days recently, you know the ones especially if you're a mom of toddlers- the days that are just SO hard, and you have absolutely nothing to pinpoint the hardness on, but you feel like you've been hit by a MACK truck, your laundry is multiplying like rabbits, the refrigerator is STILL not complying in spitting out meals with absolutely no work on your part, the list goes on and the hands go up in the air in surrender.  Then you collapse on the couch in despair and so the pity party begins.  Anyway, it was one of those days when my pity party was at it's worst, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and call my mom and ask if we could come over for dinner.  Which only made the pity party worse, because, duh, there are a few oceans separating me and my mom at this moment.  On this day, I read the blog of a fellow overseas worker who quipped, "they say it takes a village (to raise kids)...  and today I miss my village!"   And I thought, YES!   I miss my village!   I miss knowing that my mom, dad, brother, sisters and brother-in-laws, mother and father-n-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents are just a phone call away.  I miss knowing that, if needed, I could collapse on my mom's couch and have her feed me and all my people if I so desired.  I miss being able to give my kids the opportunity to run around with their cousins until they collapse from exhaustion.  I MISS MY VILLAGE.

And then I remembered Facebook.  And I thought, "ooh ooh- my village is right there in my computer!".  So I got online and took quizzes that other relatives took and we "liked" that we were the same Downton Abbey character or that we were destined to live in the same US state together. (my brother and I should apparently both be living in Virginia...)  I had a few Skype chats with others.  I read some blogs.  Then I shut my computer and felt God's gentle nudging....

"Do you feel better, child?"  

"Did your "village" encourage you?"

And I felt empty and not encouraged or fulfilled and still frustrated....

And then I reminded God (ever so gently mind you), that HE was the one who called me away from my village and made things so amazingly difficult in the first place.  

And then (shockingly), He gently reminded me that He desires to be the source of my strength and that as my shepherd, He will lead me to the exact streams whose sustenance I need, and He also showed me that I was attempting to be filled by something that is possibly more draining than filling (the internet)

(I feel I should take this moment to remind you that I am totally preaching at myself here, but God has shown me that it could also be something that others (especially moms) experience so for that reason I am compelled to share)

So that's the background for the life lessons God's been teaching me over the last few weeks.  To clarify, especially compared to some, I don't really spend THAT much time on the internet.  Yes, I do Facebook.  Yes, I read blogs.  But I also have 4 kids and a fairly busy household to run so the quantity of time is not necessarily that great.  What I have really felt led to consider, though, is my motivation for internet time.  What am I seeking to accomplish through time perusing various sites? 

If I'm being completely real, I am amazingly thankful for the internet and what it provides especially for those of us living oceans away from our extended family.   My husband grew up overseas in the 80s long before email was even a possibility, much less Skype, Facebook, instagram and the many other options that I am totally unaware of in my old age...  To communicate with their family back in the states, they didn't even make phone calls on a regular basis.  To even hear each others voices, they recorded themselves on cassette tapes and mailed them back and forth.  Imagine!  For that reason, every time Skype connects and my girls can look into the eyes of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, I am amazingly thankful.

Yet, as thankful as I am for the connectivity of our world today, I am realizing that in some ways, in some situations, it hurts more than it helps.  Don't get me wrong,   I wouldn't trade the face to face Skype chats for anything, but I have been convicted to consider my motivations for running to Facebook or blogs for my encouragement and support.  When my first inclination is to look something up online or ask the Facebook world for their opinion as opposed to knocking on a neighbors door or talking to a real live person face to face, then something is a little off.

Instead of shaking my finger at God for calling me out of my village and away from my people, I need to remember that in His infinite wisdom,  He has placed me in a different village and provided me with a unique community.  I, however, have to be the one to open my eyes to that village and be willing to BE where He has placed me.  Not just live there and exist there, but truly BE ALL THERE.  

Scripture clearly shows us with it's many references to the Body of Christ and descriptions of the believers in the early church (Acts 2 and 4) that God highly values living life in community.  Jesus's own parents were so comfortable in their traveling village when they were returning home from the Passover Feast that it was a full day before they even realized that their Son was not with their company of travelers- their village so to speak (Luke 2:41-52).  However, God has also been known to call us specifically OUT of those communities.  In Genesis 12:1, He specifically tells Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household."   So what gives?  How can I, as one called to leave my most comfortable village, balance the call to go, with the need to function within the comforts of a village?

For me, I am realizing that I need to be carefully examining my motivations for internet "therapy".  What am I doing on Facebook and blogs and what am I seeking to gain from it?  Have I first sought answers from the Word and from the people that I live among?  I am discovering that figuring out the balance between the blessing of modern technology and the temptation to let that virtual world take the place of the village God has called me to is a difficult task indeed!  

I definitely don't have all the answers for this, but I think just being aware of the temptations and risks for me is a big step.  Obviously, some things are irreplaceable- my parents couch, my grandmothers kitchen- I am not seeking to replace those comforts of my original village.  They are invaluable to me every few years when I return to my village.  However, the awareness that God has given me another village if I will just plug into it is comforting and challenging all at the same time.  And no, the irony that I am writing this on a blog accessible through the internet, is not lost on me.   It is what it is.  

There are two key verses that God has challenged me with recently.  Acts 17:26-27 says "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."  Wow.  So not only did God determine the best times for us to live in and establish where we should live, but His purpose in doing so was that we, mankind, could more effectively reach out for Him and find Him.   The application for me is simple.  God has placed me here.  He has placed my family here, and He has a divine purpose in doing so.  His message to me is BE where I have placed you.  THRIVE where I have placed you.  Eek!!  How can I not be obedient with eternity at stake?!  

The next challenge for me is from 1 Thessalonians 2 where Paul is describing his first visit to the people in Thessalonica.  Verses 7-8 of chapter 2 say, "but we were gently among you, like a mother wring for her little children.  we loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."  Again, eek!  Sometimes it is far too easy to not be delighted by the people God has planted me among.  And I think that can be true for any of us no matter where we live.  How is it that the grass is always greener elsewhere?!  

My challenge and pray for myself is that I will be delighted to share life with the people where I am, and that I will not be guilty of wishing for my other village so much that I miss opportunities to be blessed by the one God has placed me in.  Obviously there will be days of homesickness.  That is unavoidable.  But how I choose to deal with that homesickness and get the support that I need from the body of Christ is key in my ability to survive long term in the village God has provided.  Am i pining away for my original village that I am no longer in, or am I allowing myself to be ministered to and to minister among my new village?

How the internet plays into all this?  I'm not completely sure, but I do know that I need to be very aware of my choices and motivations.  To my original village- don't worry, I'm not about to cut you off!  I'm just praying for ways to be more effective in the village that God has given me right out my front door.

So this is where I am.  It's been a season of tears in many ways, often unexplainable tears (which I guess I should be used to in a houseful of females!).  But it is a season.  I am so thankful for God's guidance that can turn a season of tears into a season of laughter, dancing and joy.  So today, I am deliberately choosing to thank God for my village and to choose to be joyful that I am exactly where He knows I should be.  

1 comment:

James Larry Cox said...

Great insight, Kelli. Here is what you have shown me: I should enjoy visiting former villages as well as new villages, but I will find the perfect peace by abiding with the Father in the village where He has led me. with love from papa