Editors Note: Ginger, her husband and two boys live in a country where the gospel is not welcomed, but the people are desperate for it. In this article that was originally published on June 30th in her private, password-protected blog, Ginger shares how the difficulties of raising two boys in a foreign country can only be handled with a perspective of the gospel in every day life. For their protection, we have taken out the names of the country where they reside and the names of her husband and two boys. Ginger, thank you for sharing this incredibly raw story and the truth that inspires you to press on.
To be honest, many days I hate living here. On those days, everything seems to culminate to a breaking point, leaving me sulking in a pit of despair. It makes me long for America. On those days, seeing pictures of friends in a Whole Foods leaves me bemoaning the caution I have to take with food here, reminded of how difficult it feels to feed my family healthy meals when eating raw vegetables and fruits makes you vulnerable to a host of bacteria and illnesses and I don’t have access to many of the healthy foods I buy in America. On those days, the lack of a backyard and church nurseries and play-dates, parks, bakeries, libraries, a pediatrician, comfort foods, farmers’ markets, clean air and blue skies seems like too great a sacrifice. I long to go to church where I can read the words to the songs so I can sing, understand the sermon, and put my children in the nursery so I can actually be in the service most weeks. And then I start to enumerate in my head all of the difficulties I face and how sorry I should feel for myself and how sorry others should feel for me. Today was one of those days.
I woke up to find that my bread and fruit had molded overnight (made me want central A/C), as there was no room for it in the fridge (made me want a normal-sized refrigerator). We walked in the rain with a stroller to find a taxi (found myself longing for a car and a compact stroller than can hold 2 kids). We walked in the rain again getting out of the cab (thus affirming my desire for said car and stroller).
I sat sweltering in church (wishing the people of this country didn’t think that A/C was bad for you and that they actually had enough A/C for the room) while shushing my oldest son who repeatedly asked for snacks, poked at my youngest son and squirmed across 4 seats while people were praying (dreaming of church nurseries). I strained my eyes to try to read the limited foreign phrases I can to be able to occasionally spurt out words like “grace”, “God”, “I”, “sin”, and “love” and trying to worship with that, even though I could not follow the theme of the song or what I was actually singing. (All of this while still trying to contain the aforementioned unruly 3-year old.)
I then took this sweet, squirming 3-year old to use the potty (a ceramic hole in the ground) where he proceeded to touch everything he could. When I tried to use the potty, I realized that I had forgotten to bring tissues (longing for American bathrooms that supply toilet paper for you). I sanitized our hands (because there is also no soap supplied). I then took my oldest up to Sunday School class where I couldn’t even understand enough of the Bible story to translate for him. He was so restless, I could not get him to even sit with the other kids. I tried to leave him at snack time so that I could at least join the end of the service, and he cried his heart out for 3 minutes while I waited at the bottom of the steps to see if he would calm down. He did not. I re-joined him in Sunday School, feeling utterly sorry for myself, and waited for the service to end.
The cab on the way home wouldn’t give me change, told me to get change at a nearby store and come back. It was still raining. We got inside our apartment to realize I have no food for lunch, so we called one of the little restaurants outside our apartment building to deliver food. Turns out, they don’t deliver in the rain. My stress level feels through the roof.
My youngest is crying and pulling up stools, trying to find food in the kitchen. My oldest continues to disobey and run wild through the house. I’m not even sure what exactly happened in the moment before I lost it, but I couldn’t take any more screaming, crying, or demands. I couldn’t hear “mama” on repeat with crescendo-ing noise levels any longer. I just screamed (loudly), “I can’t do this!!!!!!!” and ran to our bedroom, slammed the door (our oldest gets in trouble for slamming his door) and dove onto my bed and screamed as loud as I could into my pillow.
I share all this because I want to burst apart the thought that I am different from anyone else because of the call God has given to us to live here. People (including myself) often have such a romantic view of “M” work. We hear a sermon on it and we feel ignited to reach the nations. But we don’t know that reaching the nations might look like the day I had today. In fact, many days I don’t feel like I’m reaching my own family, much less the nations. I daily fight the idols of my heart that long to shop at Whole Foods, drive a car, have backyard cookouts, eat dinner with friends, and have all the comforts of America. I know that for many, mothering very little ones is one of the hardest and loneliest jobs. That’s why I am rarely on Facebook or Pinterest, because I feel like it looks so natural and easy and fun for everyone else and it leaves me discouraged, discontent, and feeling like an utter failure.
But I know that I am not alone in feeling like this. The reality is that mothering in the little years is HARD. And, yes, some things would be easier in America. But I delude myself if I think the same sin does not exist in me in America. The great gift about suffering and hardship is that it gives my sin an opportunity to come out and then God can begin changing me. It is painful and hard, and on a day like today, it makes me want to scream and jump out a window. But the part of me that feels sorry for myself and wants others to feel sorry for me too reveals that I see my cross as too much to bear, too difficult, and unfair.
Today, at the height of the fall-apart-screaming-door-slamming-adult-tantrum I had, it was nap time and simultaneously time for my husband to leave to go lead an orientation seminar. He, of course, felt terrible to leave in such a moment, but came over to me and said, “Go back to what you know is true.”
In the past couple of months, there is a little book called The Loveliness of Christ that has lifted my soul to the side of our Savior. It is a collection of quotes from the letters of Samuel Rutherford, a 17th century Scottish theologian. It has since been my daily companion and is filled with reminders of the loveliness of Christ Jesus. In the foreword written in 1909, Ellen Lister speaks of how rare it is in our days (1909) to find those who look upon suffering as it is expressed in Rutherford’s writings. These words that Lister wrote have echoed in my heart continually since I read them:
“People seem now to consider it more than unfair to have to bear the weakest cross, and certainly not to ‘count it all joy’ with St. James (James 1:2).”
I am ashamed that many days my heart has viewed this move to this foreign country as an unbearable cross – as more than unfair to bear this weakest cross, considering it to be the worst cross. But herein lies this struggle. This is the Christian life! I can, on one hand, be ashamed that I view this as unfair and as such a heavy cross. But on the other hand, I feel the very real struggle of loneliness, sadness over the things that I’ve lost, and frustration in a very different culture. It is a continuing process of me coming to the Lord with all of the brokenness, sadness, sin, disappointment, and fear and asking Him to fill me with faith to believe Him and trust Him to provide all that I need and lack.
So today, at the guidance of my husband, I went back to what I know to be true. I know that He has not forsaken me. I know that He has called me to “count it all joy” because He is rooting sin out of my heart. And I know that it is not unfair, it is merciful. It is merciful because I know Jesus more today than I did a year ago, and my love for Him is deeper than it was before the difficulties began.
The day was still hard. I still feel sad as I write this, but I’m committing to bring truth before my eyes so that I do not despair. I’m not living this extra spiritual life because of where I live … my heart is full of sin, and my days filled battling that sin, particularly when it clashes with the little tiny sinners I mother and the sin found in the culture around me. We live where He plants us. One of our callings is not more pleasing than that of another; we are simply called to be faithful where He chooses to plant us.
I hope you find encouragement today in the call God has given to you and that you learn, along with me, to rejoice in your sufferings because you know more of Jesus through them.
“The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide til the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” – Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ, (italics mine)