Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Criticism Trap

As someone with perfectionist tendencies and an innate desire to please people and be well-respected, learning to accept criticism gracefully has been one of my struggles in spiritual maturation.  I don't know that there is anyone out there that really ENJOYS criticism, but for me, it went beyond that.  In my younger days, criticism was a personal affront.   I could spend hours and days stewing on a criticism, no matter how mildly-given, blowing it up in my mind to epic proportions.  But the beauty of daily through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading that James and I have done annually for several years now, is that the more subtle scriptures that maybe you missed last time stand out to you in a fresh reading as you grow up in your salvation.  Unbeknownst to me, this time around, the Lord has been plowing over my heart (and yes, that visual is not a comfortable, gentle thing - because it's not MEANT to be) to learn to be a wiser woman who can accept criticism and use it to grow in obedience and spiritual awareness.  Of course, one doesn't become more skilled in anything without practice, which means, yes, I've been given charitable instruction on how I might do things better (because we are new missionaries on deputation, there's PLENTY of room for learning and mistakes, that's for sure).  And the lusts of the flesh are still there.  I still feel the sting of offense and rejection at first.  But the Lord has been gracious to still my tongue and immediately remind me of the many places in Scripture where we are reminded that accepting rebuke with joy and humility is a requirement of the mature believer.  I'm continually reminded of God's great grace in working through me -- a broken vessel who, on my own, can do nothing but continually disappoint the very people I love and am ministering to.  Thank God we have a merciful Father, a loving Son who accepted the penalty due us for our grievous sins, and a Spirit who is given to us as a Comforter and Counselor.


Friday, March 3, 2017

How I Keep My House Tidy Without Going Crazy

This is a paraphrase of Romans 12:13, but it's a good one, I think

I feel a bit strange to be writing this, because I'm far from a master housekeeper. In fact, I would say I'm just very average.  I prefer an organized, tidy space, but I'm not super fussy about details.  But I've had people ask me before how I keep my house mostly clean, most of the time, and I finally decided that maybe an average person can be a good resource for most of us.  First of all, routine is super important to having a clean house more often than not.  If I get thrown out of my routine, my house is NOT going to stay tidy, and will require a more time and energy intensive cleaning at some point.  And those days are not my favorite.  So, I mostly try to do the same things on a rotating basis, especially during the weekdays, when my schedule is quite predictable.  For me, there's a magical time when I'm most motivated and most productive.  I think most of us probably have that period.  Mine falls between when I get home from dropping the older kids off at school until lunch time (8:30-11:30).  So, that's the time I have to tackle the house, baking, and most of my other chores/responsibilities.  Many days I can just dive right in, but on the days I'm lacking discipline, I resort to ye old Timer method.  It works for kids, and I think it works for adults too.  I force myself to stop the "fun" stuff (whether that's being online or reading) and set my kitchen timer for just 10 minutes, and turn on some music.  I start in one corner of my kitchen and work my way around.  I can usually finish up the kitchen in that first 10 minutes, but there's something strange about at least getting started to me - more often than not I regain my motivation and finish up a full tidy of my lower level.  I might just go for it all at once, or I might do a 10 and 10 minute mashup of rotating cleaning interspersed with 10 minutes of leisure time.  And let me tell you, it feels SO good to have that clean-enough house.  It's not pristine.  With 9 (soon to be 10) people living in this home, and a busy and full life, that's just not even something I particularly desire.  But it's homey and inviting, and I'm never ashamed to open my door to an unexpected visitor (which is such a biblical but unWestern concept).  I'll share a few photos, taken just today after my morning sweep that shows what I mean in terms of "livable, hospitable tidiness".  If I can do it, you can do it too!

Music Room - the room our front door opens into.  As you can see, there's still work in progress - some ironed clothing on one chair that I'm in the process of taking pictures of in order to list in my eBay store (I do this twice a year, so it's not a normal thing, but you know what, right now it's what I'm working on, and that's nothing I need to be ashamed about)

Kitchen - Again, it's lived in.  Everything is put in its place, but there are some sticky notes on the counter that have the kids' chores written on them and a bowl of cornflakes that some unknown child poured but didn't eat that will stay on the counter for said culprit's afternoon snack

This is the dining room.  It's not swept (sweeping is a never-ending chore because of our dark wood floors that is more difficult at 8 months pregnant, so it doesn't always happen and I can live with that) and there are boy shoes at the door into the backyard, but the table top is cleaned off, which is big to me - I don't like anything on the table if we aren't eating

Living Room - This room right now looks the most "lived in".  Today is boys' laundry day.  So, one sofa is my laundry station.  There's also some stacks of clothes that are outgrown but need to be put out in storage in the garage up by the tv and some clothes that need to be ironed.  Again, this is a working house, so that's okay!

Office/Playroom - This room unabashedly is a home for the kids, with toys and books.  They all have a storage place, and I try to keep them in there multiple times a day (the kids do too), but I wouldn't have been frantic if some were on the floor either.  The table you can partially see has folded clothes on it that is waiting to be listed on eBay.  Again, it's a workspace, and it's tidy, but there's stuff there waiting to be done. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Facing Discouragement

Over my 38 years, I've grown to "know myself" a lot better.  I know, I know, that sounds mighty corny.  But bear with me for a moment.  I am an empathetic "feeler".  Being an introvert, people might not know that immediately, as I also place a high value on emotional modesty.  And that's not all bad.  In fact, I think it's often a beautiful thing, and I wouldn't trade it in order to feel less.  But the flip side of that is that I'm easily prone to discouragement.  And, I'll admit, January's been a month of struggle for me.  The weather, the homeboundedness, the political climate, my partner in life being gone for two weeks.  Probably the biggest struggle I've met with is spiritual discouragement.  Not with the Lord or the Word, mercy no!  But the pre-field ministry has been hard this month.  I've seen so many great successes by fellow pre-fielders.  And that's a glorious thing, praise God! I wouldn't begrudge them that in a heartbeat.  But sometimes, in private moments, the smile slips and discouragement seeps into my heart.  What are WE doing wrong?  What could I do better that would more readily communicate the need to those around me? But that's the trouble right there.  I'm spending too much time thinking about me.  I must keep my eye on the prize, which is to run the race that's been marked out for me, the course that God mapped out specially for ME before the foundations of the earth were even layed.  Although all followers of Jesus Christ share the same end goal of growing in holiness and Christlikeness, my race is not the same as anyone else's race, so why compare?  As Teddy Roosevelt (or maybe Dwight Edwards, but that's neither here nor there) famously said, "Comparison is the thief of joy".  And it's so true.  Here's the best news of all, the antidote to all the discouragement, comparison, and sadness - I don't have to deal with that all on my own and neither do you!  Jesus promised us a Comforter.  The only true and perfect Counselor - the Holy Spirit.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Year-End Goal

With full confidence in the Lord's provision, we are hoping to reach our 2016 goal of being 25% funded.  If you feel God calling for you to partner in this ministry to the people of Togo, please consider joining our partner team.  December can be a tough time of year to find extra funds, of course - did you know that ABWE allows you to commit to monthly support (which counts towards our goal) now with an actual support start date begining in January of 2017, or February, or April, or whenever?  God has a great work for his Church in West Africa - a place in desperate need of the gospel: the harvest is ripe!  Some he calls to be goers, and some he calls to be senders, but one thing is certain.  He calls ALL of his children to carry out the Great Commission, in one way or another, in one place or another.  We are so grateful to all of you who remember us in your prayers regularly and lend your support and encouragement of any kind.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Are you bold enough?

I'm currently doing a 31 day Christmas Scripture writing challenge.  Day 3 was too good not to share.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.  He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
Isaiah 11:1-5

Jesus promised us his Spirit, which means WE can pray for the very things Isaiah promises of the Messiah-- wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  Are you bold enough to ask this of God?  Am I?

Friday, October 28, 2016

How Does Missionary Support Work?

Let's be real.  No one wants to talk about money.  It's awkward and uncomfortable.  But we know you have questions, and that's okay!  We thought it might be helpful to explain things in a blog post in response to some queries about how monthly support works (and why our numbers are as high as they are), especially for those who are used to religious denominations sending out missionaries as employees of the denomination.  First of all, monthly support includes our salary.  All missionaries with ABWE, whether they are surgeons or mechanics, make the same salary.  Our salary is $1560 per month.  For our eight children, we receive $1625 per month plus a $400 monthly educational stipend (homeschooling and online school is pretty pricey!).  Then we have a housing allowance of $650 a month.  We pay a bit under $800 per month in self-employment Social Security.  We pay $825 per month in health insurance, $25 in accident/life/vision insurance, $200 towards a medical expense account, and $243 monthly into a retirement account.  The remainder of our monthly support in the order of $2050 goes directly towards ministry expenses, as missionaries, through their financial partners, contribute to things like the hospital, the radio ministry, and all of the other ministries in the area.  So, as you can see, there's a lot going on, and truly our support partners are not just paying for the Fifes to be on the field, but also paying directly into the actual ministries in Togo, like the Hospital of Hope.  Pretty neat, huh?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A(nother) Big Announcement!

It's the week of big announcements for The Merry Band of Fife!  First we publicly announced that we are blessed to be expecting our eighth baby in April.  As if that isn't big enough, we have another huge announcement - we are stepping out in faith and will become full-time missionaries as of October 1st, 2016!  We noticed a trend as we returned from Candidate class in July.  As much as we were on fire for the Lord in this new capacity of missions, it was just so hard to balance secular jobs, family, and ministry.  We weren't getting as much accomplished as we wanted to - we had grand plans to have multiple face-to-face meetings scheduled beginning in August, but we hadn't had time to schedule a single one.  And so, the Lord made it abundantly clear to James that he was calling us, not this summer, not in a few months, to full-time ministry NOW.  It took me a little bit to process, but now I'm ready to step out with him, hand-in-hand, and we are SO excited to make this next step.  If you would keep us in our prayers as we step into deep waters, relying on His providence and guidance, we would sure appreciate it.  Our God is a great and mighty god!