The Day I Left

I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes for their theme on Parents. ~Elizabeth

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Seven years ago I left Kansas City for Phnom Penh. In the early hours of a frigid January morning my husband and I boarded a plane with our four small children, leaving behind two devoted grandparents and a very full life.

I threw myself into life in Asia and began to identify Cambodia as home. It was where my life was. It was where my husband and children were. I embraced my inner Third Culture Kid, threw off the shackles of American culture, and flattered myself that I was becoming a more global citizen. But roots grow down deep, don’t they?

This past summer when I visited Kansas City, I had strong feelings of “this is home.” That this was my city. Although I have always felt at home at my parents’ house, on my two previous U.S. visits I had not felt that attachment for the metropolitan area as a whole. But being in KC in the summer is different from being there in the winter. It’s friendlier. Happier. This past summer was the most magical summer of my life. It stirred up a host of good memories and reminded me of a former life — a life that I don’t want to forget.

I recently found my journal entry from that day and was surprised by the intensity of my feelings of “home” towards Kansas City and by the sheer volume of memories. I find that in the span of seven years, I have come full circle, back to the feelings of this original journal entry:

Kansas City is my home. After moving a lot as a military kid, I’ve been in KC 18 years. It is home.

Driving through the Grandview Triangle to church hundreds of times. Going to the dentist. Going to LSHS. Running, biking, swimming in Bridgehampton in the summer. Babysitting the Craddocks.

Falling in love with God at Red Bridge. Falling in love with Jonathan at Red Bridge. Youth ministry and four babies. Burying Mark and seeing a counselor at Christian Family Services. Living in the Parsonage for five and a half years. Some of my favorite memories in life.

Closing the garage door that last time to drive away was harder than I anticipated. Even when I come back, I can’t go back there. So many good memories of family life. So much life.

During the farewells at KCI I cried and shook telling Mom goodbye. We’ve had a wonderful friendship, and I love her dearly. I worry about her being alone. I wish she could keep kissing the grandkids twice a week. I want them all to know her as well as I do.

I’m thankful that after seven years, my children do know my parents well. My parents Skype or FaceTime my kids once a week. They’ve visited us here. And of course we live at their house — my home — while on furlough. The girls cook and garden with Mom, and the boys help Dad with car, fence, and yard work. We all watch movies and eat popcorn together. We sit around the back yard fire late into the night and talk and sing and stargaze.

After a childhood of military moves where we never stayed in a house more than four years, the 18 years my parents have lived in their current home seems a lifetime, and I love both the house and the stability it’s given me and my family.

My kids don’t remember as well, but when we lived in KC before, we often saw my mom more than twice a week at church (which was a given). Since I was pregnant so frequently, I often had to go to prenatal or postnatal appointments. Mom would watch the kids while I went. Then we would eat lunch together and, many times, spend the rest of the day together. Some days I would just sit in her kitchen nursing a baby and talking for hours on end.

Jonathan was on staff at church and left early on Sunday mornings. Mom showed up at the Parsonage and helped me get the kids dressed and across the parking lot in time for Bible class. She brought books and toys, and we sat together in church while Jonathan sat up front leading worship. After Wednesday night service my parents often came to our house for a few minutes to hang out.

Our relationship has been cemented by all those times together. I can’t think what I would do without parents like these. Thank you, God, for good parents — all across the globe.

The Missionary Life Cycle (in Five Stages)

by Jonathan

Like any really good assessment, these five categories are totally made up.

There are no peer-reviewed studies parsing these five stages of cross-cultural work. There is no quantified, objective data set; still, please feel free to say you’re in “Stage 3 – Wing 4.” That would make me happy. And remember, if you say anything with exactitude, we’ll all think you know what you’re talking about.

The lines of demarcation between these stages are blurred, and in some cases overlapping. Just roll with it. And remember, this isn’t the Rubicon, so feel free to cross back over to an earlier stage if you’d like.

Are you ready?

We’ll look at the two options within each stage, we’ll list some common statements you might hear from folks taking each option, and then we’ll look at some primary goals for each stage.

This is more Wiki than Webster’s, so please add your thoughts, explanations, arguments, additions, or funny jokes in the comment section.

 

Idealist/Ignorant – Pre-field

You know the idealist, right? If you’re on the field, you probably were one. Once.

We need the idealist. Often, the idealism of youth or new belief motivates people to the field in the first place; that’s not bad. In fact, idealism is a fantastic place to start; it’s just not a fantastic place to stay.

Idealism is not what’s dangerous; ignorance is.

The main difference here is that the ignorant person doesn’t know what it is that they don’t know. And it’s a lot. The idealist knows they don’t know everything, so they’re safer. The idealist is a day-dreamer, aware of the reality around them, while the ignorant is lost in a fantasy dream world at night, unaware that their sick child is vomiting in the bathroom down the hall and their wife has been up three times already and the dog just peed on the clean laundry. Yeah, ignorance is dangerous.

Things you might hear the idealist say: “This is all so amazing! God’s going to do amazing, new, prophetic things in this glorious season of fresh wind. He is calling the nations to himself and he’s calling me to the nations. Will you donate?”

Things you might hear the ignorant say: “I don’t need a sending church or org or agency. I read a book and I feel super called! Also, I served a person once on a short-term trip and now I’m going to save the world. Will you donate?”

Goals for this stage:

  1. Don’t be ignorant.
  2. Protect your ideals, while purposefully listening to the reality of some who’ve gone before you. You’re not the first person God’s called across cultures, and you won’t be the last.

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Read about the other four stages at A Life Overseas.

A Few of My Favorite Things {November, December, January}

by Elizabeth

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I have been so out of touch with blogging the past several months. In fact it’s been three long months since I’ve even published a Favorite Things post. I could explain how homeschooling a high school student and junior high school student as well as two elementary students and keeping up with coop activities and ballet classes and youth group and finishing writing and editing a book with my husband and editing a larger missions blog, etc, has kept me from regular blog writing.

But the truth is that I have also been heavily distracted by my struggle with anxiety these last several months. I don’t have a lot of room for writing, because I am using all my head space either worrying or attempting to figure out how to stop worrying. I’ve read some books and made some life changes, but that didn’t seem to be making enough of an impact. So I’m returning to counseling as well. After the first session I do feel more hopeful.

So even while my life stage feels crazy and my brain at times feels even crazier, here are the best things from the past few months:

Prince Caspian play with our homeschool coop. I was incredibly proud of my kids for their work on this performance last December. Three of them had major parts in this production: King Peter, Trumpkin the Dwarf, and Queen Lucy. There were also several TCK moments in the play that brought me to tears. (For those of you who were there, it was the treasure chest scene, the final goodbye scene, and the song the band sang at the end.)

Medieval dance, post-play. This event matched the historical/costume themes in the play. Our coop director is also a dance teacher, and we learned two group dances: a circle dance and a double line dance. I enjoyed both so much. If this is what traditional dancing is like, I’m all in.

Carols with friends. Singing a cappella brings me joy, and I know the busy Christmas season can easily get away from us without taking the time to worship our Incarnate God in song. So our family got together with a couple other families for a hymn sing.

Christmas Eve supper. My mom’s Czech family has a Christmas Eve tradition of soup and apple, and even though we’re gone from family, we now celebrate it here in Cambodia. We have other family traditions too, which absolutely must happen in the days leading up to Christmas. Thankfully we had a whole weekend prior to fit it all in!

Boxing day party. Another set of friends always hosts a Boxing Day party (the day after Christmas), and I’ve been able to attend the last several years. It’s a lot of fun, and we get to sing carols there too.

Red tea. I had been wanting some of this caffeine-free tea and received some for Christmas. I could drink this all day (but I don’t). It’s a good substitute for black tea. I drink mine with milk. I’ve also successfully quit regular coffee. It took me two months to cut from 3-4 cups per day down to 2 cups, to 1 cup, and then to a cup of half-caf, and finally down to decaf only. Finding decaf grounds at the local Starbucks was a fun surprise that helped in this effort (although they don’t always sell decaf grounds).

Mary Poppins. We watched this as a family at the theatre. The music was a lot of fun, and Mary Poppins’s character is a lot closer to her character in the book than in the original movie. There were a lot of references to and reflections of the original movie, however I thought they really increased the narrative tension over the original film. Thankfully it’s a family movie with a happy ending!

 

GLOBAL WORKER BLOG POSTS

Home for Christmas by Anisha Hopkinson. Not just for Christmas! “We are not just British, or American, or Chinese, or Indonesian – we are Hopkinsons. No matter where we are, we are home when we are together.”

Looking for a Place to Land by Kate Motaung. Beautiful and hopeful in its yearning.

When Life Gives You a Chicken by Emily Raan. Funny and relatable.

Saying “God Called Me” Can Be Dangerous by Amy Medina. On point as always.

Welcoming Broken Missionaries Back at A Life Overseas. Food for thought.

Go Ahead and Criticize Missions (Constructively) by Amy Medina. Important.

In the wake of John Chau’s death, here are some questions to consider by Arthur Davis. The Davises (his wife Tamie writes too) are always thoughtful, in a way that continually surprises me yet has me shaking my head in agreement.

Witnesses of the Kingdom by Rachel Pieh Jones. Important thoughts on global ministry.

Marrying Across Cultures by Hannah Edington. Such great advice even for mono-cultural couples, this is even more important for cross-cultural couples. I hope this advice can point the way for workers who want to help local marriages, cross-cultural or not.

 

OTHER BLOG POSTS

A Liturgy for the Fog by Rachel Zimmerman for Velvet Ashes.

This is Not a Dead End by Karen Huber. Hopeful and just the encouragement I needed that day.

Learn the Difference Between Right and Almost Right by Jen Pollock Michel. I love both Jen (you probably already know this) and Hannah Anderson, whose book Jen is reviewing here.

Coming Home to Our Bodies by Simona Chitescu Weik. I’m on a journey to learn to live more in my body.

The 4 Biggest Myths About Emotions You Probably Learned in Church by Marc Alan Schelske. Shared by my husband, and very good.

Bad enough yet? by Kay Bruner. Yes, for me it got bad enough to seek help. But only after a friend told me how worried she was about me, and after all the things she walked with me through, she had never seen me like this. I woke up enough to seek help. Because the “self-help” of reading books, trying to implement them, and praying on my own wasn’t enough.

There’s Nothing Sketchy About Cross-Gender Friendships in the Church by Aimee Byrd. I have so much I could say about this. Something that concerns me is the way the Billy Graham Rule has tended to reduce women to sexual objects. When I’m with men who believe strongly in separating the sexes even at church, I can’t get away from feeling like a piece of meat. Contrarywise, when I’m with men who don’t consider separation of the utmost importance, I feel like a human being, valued and listened to for my thoughts, not avoided because of my body. For me, the “piece of meat” experience is quite pronounced among both Americans and Cambodians. It is refreshingly absent from interactions with Europeans and Australians and New Zealanders. This may not be everyone’s experience, but it is mine, and it seems to tell me something about American Christian culture. According to this article, the Gospel should be powerful enough to transform cross-gender relationships into something good and holy.

The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend by Celeste Headlee. Hit me between the eyes.

Nutritional advice from Aviva Romm and Karen Hurd. Visit their websites and poke around. My diet needed a complete overhaul, and these two ladies were my main guides. Learning about nutrition has been fun, so if nutrition is your thing, feel free to talk to me in the comments.

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

Quiet, a project from two girls we know through our ballet studio. Inspirational.

Another good interview with Angelina Stanford, by Pam Barnhill.

Gillette video on toxic masculinity.

Upworthy video about gender assumptions.

 

SONGS

No Longer Slaves, an international version.

Raise a Hallelujah by Jonathan and Melissa Helser. Our coop’s choir class (the fact that my kids are getting to be part of a music class is another yay!) is practicing this song. Just happens to be the perfect song for me in this time.

Cover Me by Laura Hackett Park. Recommended by my husband during a major spike in anxiety a couple months ago. I listened to it for days.

Douwe Eisenga, For Mattia. From my dance class.

Peder B. Helland — Always. From the driad dance scene from Prince Caspian.

Gaslighting

by Elizabeth

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Gaslighting. The first time it happens to you, you may be unimaginably confused. You may not know what is going on for years — maybe even decades. But once you see gaslighting for the manipulative mess it really is, you won’t be so easily confused (or controlled) the next time.

I’m going to describe just one aspect of gaslighting, the aspect I’m most familiar with: false accusations. For years I was confused by false accusations. I knew I had not done the things I and my loved ones were accused of doing. I thought if I could just explain what really happened, that my accuser would finally understand and agree that I — and we — did not do those things.

I misunderstood. I thought truth was the goal. I was wrong. Truth was never the goal. Manipulation was the goal. Control was the goal. But truth was never the goal. Unfortunately, pain was the result.

Today we are in an era of Me Too, a long-overdue time when victims of abuse absolutely must be heard and cared for. I’ve been an advocate for victims in the past. So has my husband.

But I was double minded. On the one hand, I knew we needed to believe victims when they get brave enough to tell their (oftentimes horrific) stories. On the other hand, I was afraid that advocating for victim stories meant that all accusations should be believed, even and including the false accusations that I (and other loved ones) had been receiving for years.

I feared that advocating for Me Too would automatically mean that all accusations of abuse of any kind would be believed. I feared that in an atmosphere of victims speaking out, that someone might believe the kinds of accusations that had been leveled against us. Being in public ministry, this was a double fear. It was not just about the truth, it was not just about my good name. I was also afraid of false accusations wrecking our ministry. Destroying any positive influence we had. And even dissolving our salary.

This is a false fear. Just because we need to listen to the stories of abuse victims doesn’t mean that there aren’t also false accusations out there. We must take in the entire context of a story. And the entire context is that an abuser will abuse. They will hurt you on purpose, over and over and over again. And a gaslighter will gaslight. They will accuse you of doing and saying things you never, ever did. Things you would never, ever dream of doing or saying. That’s why it’s so confusing.

To top it all off, the things the gaslighter accuses you of are often the very sins they are themselves guilty of. But until you know your gaslighter much better, you won’t realize they are accusing you of their own sins, their own crimes. That’s part of why it can take so long to see it, the first time it happens to you. Gaslighters are masters at control and manipulation, so they will hide their sins from you. You won’t know they are projecting their sins onto you. You won’t know where the false allegations came from. You will think they are coming out of thin air. You will think you can clear up the “misunderstanding” with better communication. But you can’t clear it up, because those accusations didn’t come out of thin air: they came from inside the gaslighter.

But you don’t know any of this the first time it happens to you. The first time it happens, it feels like the ground is falling out from under you. You start to doubt your memory, even if you (like me) have always had an exceptional memory. You think to yourself that you never did that thing. You KNOW you never did that thing. But when someone else is so insistent that you did or said that thing, you start to wonder if maybe you did do that thing, and that you just don’t remember it. It’s absolutely crazymaking.

Eventually you might receive such outrageous accusations that you do in fact know you never did those things. That is about the time you start to see the gaslighting for what it is: behavior meant to entrap you.

But wait, there’s more to it than that. Sometimes a gaslighter will pop in with wonderful acts of kindness. They will spend money on you, give you a gift, spend a lovely afternoon with you. They will suddenly be super sweet and kind to you after months or years of nastiness. Don’t be fooled by this tactic, either. It’s also meant to confuse you. You will think, that person was so cruel to me, but now they are being so kind, maybe they really aren’t that bad. Maybe they are someone I really do want in my life.

Except they aren’t someone you want in your life. You will always be on edge around them, fearing the next false accusation while simultaneously hoping like a heroine addict for the next act of kindness. That heroine reference is no joke. Experiments have been done showing that rats get more addicted to drug dispensers that unpredictably dispense the drugs. More addicted to unpredictable dispenser than predictable dispensers. Being rewarded unevenly is more addictive that being rewarded evenly. That’s because you never know what you’re going to get, and you’re always hoping that this will be the time you will get the drug (or the kindness).

So you stay. You wait. You hope for goodness, you hope for change. You hope for something better. And because you occasionally get treated better, you keep sticking around thinking it’s going to happen again. Even though most of the treatment is cruel and manipulative. Even though you don’t feel safe, ever — even when the kindness is pouring out, because you know deep down the kindness won’t last. But those confusing messages of cruelty and kindness will keep you there in the clutches of the gaslighter.

It’s very difficult to see, the first time it happens to you. It may take years of pain and even time in a counselor’s office, working through what you think are YOUR issues, to see that the issue was never yours to begin with. The simple truth is that you were dealing with a manipulator. A gaslighter. And it’s not your fault. But it is your responsibility. To run. To put up boundaries between yourself and your gaslighter. To do the hard work of releasing yourself from guilt over staying in an unhealthy relationship so long, because you didn’t know any better. And truly, you didn’t know. But when you do know, you can protect yourself. You can get out.

And you need to get out, even if getting out means that your gaslighter will tell lies about you to other people, lies that are believed because gaslighters are very good at manipulating emotions in other people (beginning with yours!). Getting out of a relationship with a gaslighter means you have to accept that other people might believe the gaslighter. That’s ok. What other people believe about you is not your responsibility, even if it’s unjust and unfair. (And believe me, I know how unjust and unfair it is!) Getting away from a toxic person is good and healthy for you, even if your reputation takes a hit. Being with a toxic person is a continuous hit on your heart and your soul. It’s better to get out, even if false accusations come later.

Here’s the thing about false accusations: they’re false. You know, and God knows, and the people who really know you, also know that they are false. Of course an accuser is going to accuse. Of course an abuser is going to abuse. That is what they do. That is what you can expect them to do. It shouldn’t surprise us when liars lie and stealers steal and abusers abuse and gaslighters gaslight. If we are still afraid of our gaslighter making public, false accusations, then we are living in fear. We are still under their control. We are still under their spell. We are always looking over our shoulders, desperately afraid the other shoe will drop, and they will “ruin” everything.

But I think we need to tell and live a different story. In situations like these I think the bravest, sanest thing we can do is refuse to be afraid of false accusations from a habitual false accuser. We can choose to live FREE.

The Key to Being a Human Christian

I love the Psalms.

In my work as a pastoral counselor and occasional preacher, I talk about them a lot. The hope is that by developing an awareness of the Psalms, folks would feel free to start feeling their feelings, talking about their feelings, and perhaps even talking to God about their feelings. That would be a good thing.

But I didn’t know I talked about them this much. As is evident by the lists below, I’ve talked and sung and written a bunch about the Psalms. And I’m not stopping.

Because although the Psalms do not help us to become super Christians, the Psalms do in fact help us to become human Christians. And the world (and global missions) needs as many of those types as we can get…

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Articles
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 1)

The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 2)

A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and Deeper Emotional Intelligence

Some thoughts on how to combine the Psalms with Discovery Bible Studies and inner healing ministries.

Here’s a three-minute video showing one way to interface with the Psalms. You can read more on this method here.

 

Podcasts/Sermons
Despair is Where Hope Lives (Psalm 130)

Pilgrim Songs (Psalms 120-124)

On Peace, Busyness, and Remembering that I’m Not God (Psalm 131)

Teleporting, Editing, and Borrowing (Psalm 31)

On Rest, Loss, and Revenge (Psalm 3)

The Posture of God (Psalm 116)

Psalms – Songs for our time

 

Songs
Follow Close (Psalm 63)

 

Spiritual Warfare Lullaby (Psalm 23, Psalm 91)

 

Psalm 13

 

One Thing I Ask (Psalm 27)