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Being a long-term missionary has, time and again, been a lesson in humility. Having been exposed to missions throughout my life, I had a good handle of the pressures and pitfalls of missionary life. Since childhood I observed my parents and other missionaries struggle to make decisions that they hoped were for the best of their families. Where to attend church, where in the community to live, whether to homeschool their children or not...all of these considerations have real-life long-term implications.

One such decision that missionaries make is concerning vacation and rest. When people live off of the generosity of others' financial support, the idea of taking a vacation is terrifying. There's an unspoken understanding that to serve overseas full-time is to forego vacation indefinitely. After all, isn't missionary life glamourous? Doesn't serving the Lord fill you with unending joy and vigor? I can't tell you how many times people have asked if living in Belize feels like I'm on vacation all the time. The short and resounding answer is "No, not even a little."

Living in a foreign culture, dealing with governmental red-tape, often within a lower standard of living than you had "back home" wears on you. Being watched and observed as a white person wears on you. Continually putting yourself out there to make friends and build relationships is wearing. Not having family around is lonely. The constant worry of being under-funded only adds to the stress. Stressful enough to wonder if, four years in, it's time to throw in the towel.

When your soul is done, but the Spirit hasn't released you to leave, what do you do? You keep trying. You look for resources that might help. You reach out to friends and ask for prayer. You pray and ask for breakthrough and you keep doing what you came to do. Over a year ago I started back on depression medication. Recently Eddie and I reached out for pastoral support from a nonprofit organization. And still we are worn out and feeling "done."

When I was a young 22 year-old serving in Belize for a year, I didn't understand the mental and emotional toll that more seasoned missionaries withstand. I was naïve, thinking I could integrate so thoroughly that I wouldn't feel the loss of "home" so acutely. Actually, during that year I did integrate and wasn't ready to leave when the year was up. Living here long-term is another thing entirely. It's something you don't understand until you live it.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

The Bible promises that hope in the Lord will sustain us. If we aren't soaring, maybe we can run. If running is too much, He can help us not to faint. Lately, my hope in the Lord sustains me enough to get through one day at a time; hanging on to His promises. With His help, I will walk and not faint.

An important part of this walk is not to walk it alone. Connecting face-to-face with close friends is crucial. I've decided to take the time and resources to meet-up with a soul sister next month for a few days. We'll travel to a city where neither of us has attachments and connect with each other. We'll laugh and cry and pray and encourage each other to keep walking. There may be some who will see my social media posts and won't understand the importance of this trip and I'm ok with that. I will gladly invest in relationship and well-being if it will help me hold on.

Please pray for our family as we continue to seek ways to walk and not faint.

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I am so challenged this morning about how I see blessing in my life. I'm preparing to speak to the youth group this weekend about the Beatitudes and it's honestly kicking my butt. The definition of blessed is holy, consecrated. I don't usually think about blessings in those terms. I think about little things that make life easier. I am blessed when our dryer works and I don't have to hang the clothes on the line. I am blessed when we have a functioning vehicle. I am blessed when the kids are healthy or the bills are paid on time. None of those things have anything to do with being holy, set-apart, consecrated to the Lord.

While looking around online, I came across this definition of blessings: Anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in Him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. All those small things I listed are ways that my flesh is satisfied; they are not things that lead me to find satisfaction in Christ. Being comfortable almost never leads me to worship. Being content almost never draws me closer to Jesus. Pain, rejection, poverty, depression, sickness, all the things I would consider curses might actually be the blessings that "God gives that make [sic] us fully satisfied in Him." Man, have I got it all wrong!

Sacrifice is a very strong image and theme in Christianity. In the Old Testament, we see God's people offering burnt sacrifices on the altar, in worship to the One True God. They burnt the flesh of their most prized possessions as an act of faith, obedience and trust in God. In the New Testament, Paul tells us to offer ourselves as an offering, a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

My default when my flesh is bothered is to complain or check-out. If there's nothing I can do to remedy the situation, then I decide to ignore it. I'll pray a bit about it, but I typically won't war the heavens for the little annoyances and frustrations in my day-to-day. What I'll do is look for ways to feed my flesh, to make me feel better. I'll read a book. I'll eat a sweet snack. I'll watch a movie...all of these are me escaping into my flesh instead of escaping into the presence of God. If I were to take these hardships as opportunities to press-into God, they would turn into blessings in my life.

I've got to change my mindset and see the hidden blessings: the stuff that isn't easy, but draws me to Him. Those struggles can lead me to the altar or I can keep running and miss-out on the blessing that would come through it.

How about you? Do you also miss the blessings because you're running from God? Do you chose to escape into flesh instead of battling through the sadness, the disappointment or the pain? God is drawing us closer to Him if we will allow Him to.

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“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10:29 & 30

This passage has been marinating in my heart for the last few weeks, since we covered it in our young adult Bible study. It comes from a story in the Bible of a rich young man who wanted to know how he could inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him to give up his riches and give them to the poor, the young man balked and ultimately couldn't do it.

While I'm familiar with the story, what struck me this time was the promise that God will replenish all that is sacrificed "in this present age." Not only that, but he will replace it one hundred fold. I made a mental list of all the things I've given up for the gospel, specifically in moving to Belize: my friends, my parents living nearby, my career, my house, 2 cars, my home church, good schools for my kids, a salary, health benefits....all things that I have walked away from, in order to walk in obedience and faith.

Sometimes when you lose so much it's hard to appreciate what comes in its place. Sometimes when we miss our favorite friends, our home church or the house we raised our kids in, we don't acknowledge the blessings God has brought into our lives since. So I've been counting my blessings. For the church ladies who check on me like a mom would. For having a house here that doesn't carry a mortgage. For connections with new churches who have taken a genuine interest in knowing and encouraging us. For new friendships and small groups where we can walk out our faith in community with others.

The life God is building here is beautiful. It isn't convenient or comfortable. It doesn't "feel like home" the way living in North America does. But God is filling in the pieces. He is restoring what was lost. He is enlarging our lives in subtle ways that we can miss if we aren't looking.

Have you sacrificed something for the Lord? Have you given up a loved one, a lifestyle, something that comforts you? God says He will replace it one hundred-fold. When we show that our allegiance is with Him, no matter the cost, He showers us with everything we need in this present age. His bartering system isn't one-for-one, but one hundred-for-one. He generously overcompensates us, out of His love and joy at seeing our faithfulness and trust in Him. The journey is terrifying, the cost is worth it. The rewards are more than enough in this beautiful barter.

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