So obviously if you even come over to our blog anymore and haven't given up on us writing then you are a faithful friend (or have an automatic alert when I post:) It has been months since I've posted anything and I have been trying to figure out why!
The answer finally came a few days ago...fear. I've realized that in a world of amazing award winning blogs, unbelievably crafty moms, politically correct readers and all of our income coming from folks that subscribe to this blog I started growing a fear. I wanted my post to be meaningful, funny, deep, funny, filled with pictures, funny and that would make people go "wow, they are some good missionaries or just good folk!" So.... I quit writing. HA! I got tired of that feeling of wanting to share with friends and family what was really going on in my heart and not knowing how to contort it, put big words in it, attach the right picture to it, say it to where I still came out on top or to just make it well...pretty.
This post won't have a picture (though don't worry I'll post pictures on the next ones to catch you guys up on MONTHS of adventures:) and I'm not going to make it pretty. It will probably look more like vomit.
Here is the truth- by some standards I would be considered the WORST MISSIONARY EVER! I say by SOME standards because this is NOT a pity party. There are days I've bought into that lie and wondered how in the world God could use me in Lima, Peru and then God throws me a morsel and says "see Steph! I want to use you. I don't have to have you but I WANT to use you here!"
But, on those other days when I do buy into that lie it's because of this:
1. Faith. For the past 4 years I have struggled a TON with my faith. I've shared this several times in other posts but I've done a pretty good job of sugar-coating it. Let me break it down for you. Since losing Levi 4 years ago september 4th I've struggled with God. I've struggled to understand our call here though obviously I've been able to live here and truly love it. I've felt like I've been sliding by on very little and keep having SO many questions with not a ton of answers. I've struggled with truth vs interpretation.
2. Words. Since I've been on the mission field I've struggled with my tongue! Confession time...I've said more bad words in the past 3 years then I have in my entire life. Why? It's called Road Rage. That's all I can say. It's not an excuse but when your yelled at, cut off 13 times in one day, cut off from a car in the far right lane that decides to go left, hit by buses and then tried to get talked into the fact that it was my fault since he was illegally cutting me off but did have his "turning signal" on, well that has led to a few bad words and even me hitting a taxi... on purpose. Yes, I did. I've repented. I don't think well be putting a sticker on the back of our car with anything like "I heart missionaries" anytime soon.
3. Parenting. I've NOT been a good missionary mama to my children. Truly parenting has been a struggle. I dreamed my whole life of being a mom and then when I became one I had to figure out what I had been thinking all those years:) Don't get me wrong I LOVE my kiddos. They are hilarious and obnoxious all at the same time. I had a wise woman tell me that I am the perfect mom for MY kids and that has proven to be so true! BUT, I know that I have not done my part in a lot of ways and I want to speak differently to them. I want to speak softly (and not grunt or scream), I want to speak words of truth and encouragement and not have my kids feel defeated after I've spent 10 minutes telling them why their behavior is that of a farm animal.
4. Prayer. I've also been in a real struggle with my prayer life. I struggle to feel or hear God in my prayer life. I've also struggled with this question- "if God already knows the outcome of a situation then what is the purpose of me asking for something different?" I've had SO many people give me answers for this and they make sense but then I revert back to my same questions and thoughts. I talk to God, oh do we talk. I spend so much time begging, asking, talking etc... that I'm not sure I would even hear Him if He was giving me some responses. I continuously pray for answers and intimacy with Him and all along He's probably just sitting there in a rocking chair rocking back and forth waiting for me to crawl up and have a seat.
4. The Bible. Ok, so let's recap. I'm a missionary who... struggles with her faith and her disbelief, says bad words, needs to go to parenting etiquette school and has a hard time praying. Awesome. So I'll just go ahead and throw in the towel and explain my struggle with the bible. I have the hardest time being in the word! That's right, I'm a missionary who struggles reading her bible. All I know is that I'm really glad that Lee is the one "officially" getting paid as the missionary because I should be fired by now:) I now am the proud owner of 7 bibles. All different and holding the promise that THIS one I will understand and do a better job of consistently reading it.
I WANT to read it. I want to understand it. I want to be able to quote verses when someone needs it. I'll just settle for knowing details to most childhood bible stories! (not really I wouldn't settle for that. Just being explicit here.)
I will say that I've found several studies that I love and that has really helped me in understanding the bible better but I have this burning desire just to BE in the word, understanding it and applying it. I don't want to have to rely on a guided study anytime I want to understand the word. I mean imagine the bible studies that I try to be a part of here, in Spanish for that matter. I start getting sweaty armpits before it even starts that someone is going to ask me a question and that I won't know the answer. So there. It's all out there.
Here is my hope for those of you reading this. I hope that you are encouraged. I hope that if you ever thought that missionaries have it all together (I know, that's funny) then this should completely end THAT nonsense.
I hope that if you struggle with any of these that you now know you are not alone.
I hope that if you feel encouraged by reading this, that you might learn that sharing struggles is freeing and that it takes strength away from Satan!
I hope that you will pick one or all of these struggles I've shared and put them on the fore-front of your prayer list.
I hope that some of you more older, wiser women will find younger women and just assume that they could use your wisdom. Oh how I have wished in the past 4 years that some women would have approached me and just asked me about my faith walk and took me under their wing. I think older women have such a gift, a gift of experience, a gift of wisdom and there have been so many times I've needed to be put in my place, given a plan, needed to be prayed over, given me parenting wisdom or a just an encouraging word to let me know this will pass.
Please here me say that I have some incredible women in my life that have filled those needs at times but when it comes to mentoring and wisdom more is BETTER! I also know that there have been times that those needs haven't been met and I know there are other women out there struggling with some of these things (guys too!) and if some of you more "experienced/wise" (trying to stay away from the word "older":) ladiesnhave ever felt weird about asking a younger wife, a younger mom, a younger missionary if they could use your expertise or prayers I'm gonna guess the answer will be "YES!!!" So my HOPE is that more of this happens or maybe that just one person will feel called to seek out someone younger to take under their wing after this.
The Good News...
Here is the "other side of the story." As I am still struggling with all of these (and obviously there is a lot more that I struggle with but I try to have some discernment in details of my vomit on a blog:) God has also been gentle and patient. One of the huge ways He has showed up recently is through two books called 7 and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. This will have to be left for a different post but let me tell you that I have been changed. Like I said, I still struggle BUT after reading these books I've realized that I have no desire to go back to who I was and how I was before this lull. I want to be different. I want to be extreme and I want to do it ALL because that is who and how I think God has called me to be. The first thing I learned is exactly what I just did today. I'm freeing myself from the shell or bubble if you will of where I was living.
Just recently I was talking with a Peruvian sister that had made a mistake and she said "I just don't want to go to church because I'm too embarrassed to show my face." I was CRUSHED!!! What image was I, our church here in Lima and thinking bigger here-our Christian community around the world putting on if our new christians were too embarrassed to show up if they had made a mistake?!?! I sat her down and tried hard to not get loud when I said "what in the world do you think our community is for??? If church was only for people that didn't make mistakes then we would be out of a job and there would be no church!" I continued to explain that that is exactly where she needed to be, among a group of people that loved her and excepted her just the way she was, NO questions asked. I have to say though, I pondered over this one for days!!!
I thought to myself "am I doing my part to build a community that encourages confession? That encourages times of sharing joys, sorrows, pain? That shares my own struggles so that others know that so many others are in the same boat??? What am I doing to make church NOT be about programs, entertainment, award winning crafts, whether or not God prefers a guitar or not etc....? How am I trying to build pure community, pure worship and a pure relationship with God?
So, that's where I'm at. I'm a struggling 33 year old wife, mother of 3, missionary here in Lima Peru that is on a journey of something more pure and more extreme. Easy.
PS If you haven't read Interrupted or 7 can I suggest you do? Oh and this is coming from someone who NEVER reads self-help or Christian books (there I go again trying to get fired! Hey there is nothing in the bible that says I have to read those types of books... right??? Oh but I'm on a role with this "new me" and I'm going for my 3rd soon-Mother Teresa! Surely that ones gotta be good!)