Friday, May 27, 2011

Living with our Purpose in Mind

I mentioned last week that sometimes it feels like I’m juggling my roles of wife, homeschooling mother, homemaker, cross-cultural worker and friend.  How to keep the right balls in motion at the right time?

I’m intrigued by the thought of life-planning.  I want my life to be more than just a series of reactions to the people and events around me. I want to invest my time in what is truly important.

Several years ago when I read Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, I was challenged to think about my passions. I wrote a life vision statement for the first time.  Since then every year or so I review and revise my vision and goals statement.  I’ve kept it simple, spending a few hours writing a few pages.

When I turned 47 a few weeks ago, I spent some time updating my life plan.   This year I’ve been encouraged by Michael Hyatt's writing on life planning.. He makes the point that many people spend more time planning their yearly vacation than they do planning for their lives! He presents a simple system for life planning.

Here is my life vision statement followed by 7 general goals.  For each goal I have a supporting verse and specific commitments.  (For the sake of brevity I’m omitting the supporting verses and specific commitments for goals 3-7.)

Vision Statement: I want to live for Jesus, to know Him and to make Him known through my character, actions and words. I want to remain in Him and bear fruit!

Verse: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

1. I want to know God and grow to be more like Jesus.

  • Cultivate intimacy with God  
  • Work on developing Christ-like character. 
  • Live a life of love, joy and peace.

  1. Daily Quiet time
  2. Maintain and use a prayer List           
  3. Read Christian books
  4. Weekly time for reflection
2. I want to love and encourage my husband.
  • Cultivate my relationship with Jose.
  • Encourage and support Jose in his roles.
  • Become a better listener
  1. Weekly date time with Jose
  2. Daily prayer together.
3. I want to model God’s love for my children and help them develop into the people God is calling them to be.
  • Model and teach loving God
  • Encourage a healthy self concept
  • Help them discover their gifts and interests
4. I want to encourage and empower others to know God, be like Jesus and serve Him.
  • Cultivate friendships
  • Pray for my friends
  • Share with them what God is doing in my life.
5. I want to be an ambassador and witness for Christ, a fisher of men.
  • Share His love with lost people
  • Daily Intercession for non-Christian friends
  • Cultivate friendships
  • Pray for and seek out divine appointments 
6. I want to grow and develop skills of writing and teaching to encourage others.

7. I want to care for myself and invest in my own growth.

This year I hope to grow in living purposefully by glancing at my vision statement when I do weekly planning, 
so I can make sure I’m planning goals in all of the areas that are important to me.

Have you ever written a vision and goals statement for your life? What kind of life planning do you do?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Management for the Fast Lane

Do you ever feel like you’re juggling?  I do. Home school, Ministry, Caring for my family, and Outreach.  How to keep all of the balls going?

 Last week I had a particularly intense week.  A team of 10 young people visited our city.  Three of them stayed with us, and we planned several outreach activities with the group.  The day before the team arrived, we hosted the closing of our home school speech club for five families.  During the team’s stay, I hosted another meeting for Latin workers in our city.  All week long while young people came in and out of my house, I tried to carry on homeschooling as usual.

The week went well but ended on a crisis note. An extra person stayed at our house on their last night.  In the morning our guests got up, ate breakfast and were finishing last minute packing when the team leader got an emergency call.  One of the boys had collapsed at his hotel near our home. The leader rushed to the hotel and called an ambulance. My husband drove to the hospital.  I focused on keeping the kids on track with school while trying to encourage team members on the side.  Two hours later we learned that the young man had a kidney stone, and I realized that five people would be staying one more night.

On one hand I enjoyed having a great group of young people in my home and getting to know them, but on the other hand it was a challenging week.   Somehow God gave me supernatural grace and strength for each day.  Here are some life management skills I tried to remember along the way:

  • One step at a time

 I mentally prepared myself not to think about the next day’s activities in advance.  I enjoyed my speech club closing without worrying about how I was going to clean my house for three guests who would arrive the next day.  The following day I took care of everything as best I could.  Over planning adds stress.

  • Let go of control

 I have strong leadership tendencies.  (Ask my poor husband!)  But this week I let others take charge of things rather than striving to do everything myself. A few times my husband handled things with the team differently than I would have.  Rather than stepping in to get things done the way I wanted, I focused on keeping our home school and family running while supporting him and the team as best I could.

  • Stay positive

 When things turn out differently than I hope, I have a tendency to fret and fume. One evening at 9:30 we learned that the plan we had for the team the following day had fallen through.  Another day our plans for street outreach were foiled by rain. Fretting and fuming gets me nowhere. I tried to stay positive.

  • Let go of perfectionism

 The floor didn’t get mopped every day, I wasn’t focused on home school one hundred percent, but I tried to relax and do what I could.

  • Be flexible.

 The ultimate flexibility test came when I was secretly feeling relieved that our dear guests would be leaving, and I found out they’d be staying an extra night instead.  At times like that you take a deep breath and roll with the punches.

Remembering these strategies helped me not get overwhelmed (most of the time) and they probably made life easier for those around me as well!

What are your life management strategies for busy weeks?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking at Change Through the Right Lenses

Does it ever seem to you that right when you have life figured out, things change on you? After spending one year in America, last year I moved back to a new house and a new ministry in the Middle East. Talk about change!

Last week I turned 47. For me this birthday is a natural turning point to reflect on my calling, recent changes, and the future.

My calling and passion:

I discovered my calling the year I met an Iranian girl named Fariba. I was a student at the University of Texas. She introduced me to about 20 Iranian friends. I shared my faith with them, had an English conversation club for women, and lived through the horror of accidently serving pork lasagna to Fariba’s M mother! That year God gave me a passion to share His love with M women.  

Fifteen years later my husband and I brought our family to the Middle East. We grew into a mentoring/discipleship ministry in a local church. God gave me many opportunities to use my gifts to encourage women.  It was a fruitful time, and I settled into feeling secure. I felt like I was in my element.


Last year God called me to leave that security to step out of the boat with my husband and start a new church plant. He gave us new ministry partners. Although we’ve been working seven months sharing the good news with M friends, we don’t see many results yet. Others who have planted fellowships in this country tell me I’d better dig in my heels and keep my eyes on Jesus for the long haul.

Walking by faith:

I know God is calling us, but things don’t feel so safe or predictable right now.  This is a new level of walking by faith.  We’re on the road to discovering how God can use our gifts in evangelism and church planting.  I have questions: What if we fail?  How can I use my gifts to reach M women? This is an in between time when I need to keep taking steps towards our new vision.

Three years ago God gave me a new life verse, and it gives me a great lens through which to look at life in the midst of change.

But I am like an olive tree
Flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.
I will praise you forever for what you have done;
In your name I will hope, for your name is good.
Psalm 52:8,9a

These verses show me several things to hold onto right now:
  • Hope for the Future
The image of the olive tree flourishing in God’s house gives me hope that I’ll stay fresh, green, and fruitful, even as I get older.  I want to continue bearing fruit for His Kingdom.
  • Trust in God’s goodness and love
Though I can’t see the end of the road, I can trust that God will be good to me, that He loves me and has plans to bless me and give me a future and a hope.
  • Praise for what God has done
I can look back and thank God for what He has already done in my life. I am grateful for a faithful husband I can laugh with, great kids I enjoy, and supportive friends. I can look to the future knowing that the same God who blessed me in the past will be with me in the future.

Have you gone through any changes lately?  How are you coping?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sisters Across Cultures

Last week I wrote about looking at the bright side of cross cultural living rather than grumbling about the challenges. What I enjoy most about living in the Middle East is friendship. Let me tell you about my Turkish sister:

Unlikely friends

“Would this bright, beautiful girl even be interested in spending time with a middle aged American housewife like me?” That was my question when I met Bahar about 7 years ago. She was a believing graduate student from a Muslim background, a social butterfly with a million friends. I was a stay at home mother, unsure about what kind of ministry I could possibly have outside my home since caring for my husband and two kids already overwhelmed me.

I sensed the Lord leading me to encourage younger women like Bahar in our church, but I felt unsure of myself. I began by simply praying for her and calling occasionally to ask how she was.  Even making a phone call to Bahar was intimidating for me.  What if I was bothering her?  What if she really didn’t want to talk to me?  In the beginning I would force myself to dial the numbers, but slowly our relationship grew as I realized how she appreciated someone asking questions about her life and listening to her.

Mentor and Disciple

I wasn’t sure how to disciple a younger woman, so I just tried what came naturally.  I spent time getting to know her and discovered we had several interests in common and shared a passion for God’s word.  We read scripture and prayed together, but I realized that Bahar did not need to be someone’s discipleship project; she needed an older sister to take an interest in her life and enjoy her. 

I also shared with her what God was doing in my own life, trying to be transparent about my struggles in an appropriate way. “You face these issues too?” she would ask. “It’s good to know that I’m not the only one.”

Over several years I watched Bahar grow in love and commitment to Christ. We led a small group and two different short term women’s discipleship groups together. Her gifts of leadership and service bloomed as she became a co-worker and leader.


Bahar became the sister I never had, and my family has grown to love her. We have talked and laughed over many dinners and late night phone calls. We’ve played games and thrown parties together.  We’ve been through hard times and emergencies.  I helped edit her minor doctoral dissertation. She was there to support our family when my husband had a mini-stroke, both at the hospital and at home later. We’ve had cross-cultural conflicts and worked them out. I've grown to appreciate what a special gift our friendship is.

I've learned and received from my faithful Turkish sister much more than I've given, and along the way I’ve discovered some relationship principles. I’m still on the road to learning these, mind you, but I share them nonetheless:

  • Mentoring is about relationship, not making people our projects.
  • Listening to understand is more life giving than trying to fix people.
  • Being transparent and sharing my weaknesses builds bridges.
  • Accepting others instead of judging them is vital.
  • Being willing to give and receive brings health to friendships.

Sometimes I laugh to think that it all started with a phone call I was almost too scared to make!

What about you?  Is there someone you can reach out to with a phone call today?  You never know where it might lead!

Any comments about friendship across cultures?