Tipping Buckets

I went from zero to sixty in the time it took to realize that the internet was down. Again. From nurturing wife planning a trip to the grocery store, to snipping, snapping grumpiness.

The last 10 days were busy with blessings. A long brunch at a cozy café shared with other missionary ladies of the area. The end of homeschool year wrap up and our first official whack at standardized testing online. A mission team from our awesome home church serving alongside us at the children’s home. Five dinners for 31 prepared and shared. My heart-story laid out before new friends. Even a rare date night, courtesy of a kind team member’s willingness to watch our children.

In tandem with the high-octane push of hosting a group, we prayed (and are still praying) Matt through his installment of the coughing crud I spent two weeks kicking. The illness is legit if the man will actually drink hot honey lemon tea, y’all. The good Lord didn’t put him together with a natural appreciation for it. Our modem was fried by lightning strike for the second time in 3 weeks, and the technicians couldn’t drop by to fix it until 5 long days later. Workmen were scheduled to come make repairs on various parts of the house we rent. Like a winter snowstorm—you never know exactly when it will hit, how long it will last, or how bad it will be.

Golden Shower Tree FlowersSo when the little spinny connection icon at the top of my phone screen went unglued for the third time in four weeks, so did I. These moments always catch me (and my beloved) off guard. I’m like the huge bucket at the water park that fills quietly over time and suddenly dumps unannounced with the force of a tidal wave. Okay, I didn’t break anything, say any bad words, or do anything more than be short and cross with Matt, then stomp off to regain my reason. Like the monumental splash, it passed quickly enough for me to ask forgiveness and “hug it right” before I grabbed my keys for the milk run.

What am I learning about myself in this life of serving in a different country and culture?  I like things to work the way they are supposed to. Sometimes it’s fun to play pioneer and improvise by catching rainwater from the downspout to flush toilets when city water is out of service. But every once in a while the rolls really do need to be baked when the power goes out. I miss the control of owning my nest and of telling workmen the way things should be done rather than being told what they are going to do and when they may invade my space to do it. I like to be good at things. When my Spanish heads off the fairway into the rough, I feel it like buzz of speaker feedback during a worship song.

I love the role that we have been given to serve the Lord here. We see him moving in ways great and small all the time. We feel him drawing us into closer surrender, showing us his infinite care, our infinite need. Child after child, team after team, the Lord changes lives at Hogar de Vida. Matt in leadership, myself in our kitchen, we really do fit like puzzle pieces crafted to complete the picture for this time and place. It’s an honor to be here, the loving hands of so many in the states supporting this work.

So why the deluge? How can I make holes in the bucket to release the weight of life’s cross cultural, ministerial idiosyncrasies? We are three and three-quarters of a year here. Shouldn’t I have this down by now?

No.

I really mean it. No.

Listen one more time, self that expected to fling her whole being into new language and culture like a baby duckling following momma-duck off of a bridge into a sunset pond.  And then realized that being momma-duck in this beautiful family meant most of my hours are spent serving behind my own front door.

No. You aren’t supposed to have it all figured out yet. Life doesn’t work like that.

2016_01_12_0105 edit.jpgI have heard a repeated theme recently from anointed missionary friends, fully immersed in the culture, whose Spanish knocks my Gallo Pinto off:

After all the years, all the effort, I’m still different from the surrounding culture. I will always be different to them. Not unloved. Not without great impact. But yes, different. Still making mistakes and working through misunderstandings.

In this season, I, Kris, am not out in the culture much. Fail. My Spanish is passable but highly imperfect. Fail. My boys have little to no interest in learning another language. Fail.  After 2.5 years of honest effort to engage a great local Spanish church, we felt led to join an English-speaking congregation. Fail.

And yet, we have seen the Lord move endearingly in our children through this new church body. Win. We’ve made new friendships and laughed more than I can remember since we left language school. Win. I’ve conquered my fear of navigating my way around the country. Win. I surrendered my pride in doing homeschool completely myself and enrolled the two older E’s in an online program. They were challenged and learned all sorts of new skills.  Just as important, our relationship got a chance to blossom with someone else in charge of the class work.  The entire family enjoyed their first year. Total win.

Understanding that I don’t have to have it all down perfect is perhaps the greatest release valve I can open. Giving myself grace to do my best and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands engages the sprinkler to make a fountain.  All those expectations don’t belong in my bucket anyway. I need to give myself time and space to recharge, freedom to not know it all.  I need to remember that sometimes life is messy and the Internet stops working when you have exactly one day left to finish the Stanford 10 Math tests. It’s okay to not be okay. Everyone has a unique journey. My job is not to achieve perfection. My calling is to live with those stresses trickling over open hands, through fingers extended to receive what the Lord has in each moment. To be the blessing that only I am capable of being to those around me.

To be a watering can, rather than a tipping bucket.

 

2016_01_07_0031 edit.jpgEven the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar. . . 

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
    it will become a place of refreshing springs.
    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
 They will continue to grow stronger,
    and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

                   Psalm 84:3a, 5-7 NLT

One Thing Remains

Language.  Culture.  Climate.  Currency.  Source of provision.  Available products and prices thereof.  Food.  Church.  Profession.  With our upcoming launch to serve at The Home of Life children’s home in Costa Rica, so much is going to change in our lives over the next year.  In a moment of humorous inspiration, I sat down and made a list of what will stay the same (mostly).  It brings me comfort to recognize some stability and makes me smile over what my heart values.  Here’s a non-exhaustive, unordered peek.

1.) Our family being together.  When the Lord called us to homeschool 5 1/2 years ago, I had a sinking feeling that He was setting us up for the mission field.  Turns out I was right.  Only now I don’t feel so sinking about it.  What a comfort to already have a good familiarity with how to do school as a family before we venture out into the nations.  The kids will attend one year of traditional school while Matt and I are up to our eardrums in Spanish immersion classes, then it will be back to the kitchen table for lessons together.  We know that this call to go and serve is for our children just as much as us grown-ups.  We have seen the impact of their smiles and Spanish phrases on Tico hearts.  They have a unique anointing that’s an essential part of what the Lord is doing.  I’m so thankful to be able to walk this path as a family.

2.) God.  Life serving the Lord in Costa Rica won’t be any more spiritual than serving Him in the Midwest  but the change is certainly pressing us into His arms.  As He meets us here, we know He will meet us there.  Perhaps even more so, because we will be so much more aware of our need for Him.

3.) Rice and beans.  It’s like a Dr. Seuss book.  We eat them here, we’ll eat them there.  We’d probably eat them anywhere.  After our first global journey to Guatemala in 2006, I started our family’s exploration into the land of legumes.  Toss a rice cooker into the mix and we had some yummy dinners afoot.  Matt is no longer dubious when I come home with a 20 lb. bag of rice.  Gallo Pinto, anyone?

4.) Books, worship, and working out.  How awesome that some of my very favorite things are completely portable.  We may not be able to drive to a public library full of material in English, but modern technology can still keep us learning, recreating, and soaking in the Lord’s presence.  It’s on our heart to start a small group that gathers for contemporary worship (courtesy of mp3 files– none of our family plays an instrument).  Thank you, Lord, for Kindles, the internet, iPods, laptops, and Jillian Michaels’ dvds.  And while the sidewalks may be more of a challenge in Costa Rica, the weather certainly won’t be, so I’ll have little excuse not to lace up my running shoes.

5.) Making things from scratch.  I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a do-it-yourself-er.    If you can make something cheaper or better (preferably both) than you can buy it, then I’m game to try it.  This especially goes for food.  Lately I’ve been aflutter to learn to make the things that we love to eat here, but probably won’t be able to get there.  Chicken Tikka Masala.  Naan.  Auntie Anne’s pretzels.  You should really come over.  Company motivates me to cook.  Part of my role at the Home of Life will be to prepare meals for visiting teams, and there couldn’t be a better spot for my heart to sing.  Penzeys Spices’ motto says it perfectly: “Love People.  Cook them tasty food.”

But where there are lessons, they will be handed in (and possibly forgotten).  Where Jillian is pounding you with reps, cool down time will eventually begin.  Intriguing plots will conclude.  Recipes will be enjoyed and cleared from the table.  But one thing will remain:  Love.  The love we share with the Lord, with each other, and with the people He puts into our lives on the journey.