"not what i expected": the foreign field...of motherhood

Eighty-five to ninety, even occasionally ninety-five, percent of a cross-cultural, mission-minded individual's time can be taken up with just what it takes to live in a foreign setting: lesson plans or other business, shopping for groceries (which may in that culture be a daily event as contrasted to weekly), food preparation (which may require extra time too), laundry, correspondence, sleep (which really is necessary)....

And I'm not sure where we get this idea of being able to ignore "normal life" and giving ourselves so fully to "ministry." But it's a great expectation that sets us up perfectly for even greater disappointment.

But I was sitting in this session this past weekend at the FX missions conference up at The Wilds, listening to a brother sharing his experience teaching English in a cross-cultural setting, sharing his (sometimes literally) rude awakening to this new land.

The session's title: "It's Not What I Expected!"

And I found myself not just listening to, but connecting with, the challenge of our own pre-conceived expectations falling flat and needing to be adjusted. Having given the above statistic about eight-five to ninety-five percent, and having shared some of the ways God had to work in his heart, when this brother began to read Philippians 2:14-17, a tear trickled down my cheek.

There I was, sitting with my legs comfortably criss-crossed in my chair, relaxed, enjoying having my husband next to me, the kiddos safely cared for in homes of trusted friends...in another state....

And as he read Phippians 2:14-17, the Spirit applied this "Not What I Expected" session to my heart. He reminded me of my current mission, the one He's called me to, that hasn't been what I expected either. 

I jotted in my conference notebook: "My cross-cultural mission field right now is motherhood."

Motherhood. This land of pre-conceived notions and crazy expectations. This isn't how I thought God would use me. This isn't what I expected. And I certainly spend between eighty-five and ninety-five percent of my time just doing what it takes to live with little people in my home: laundry and dishes and diapers and making sure everyone has sufficient food in their faces, that their homework is done, that the lost library book is found before it incurs a twenty-seven dollar replacement fee, that they learn how to work with their hands and be brave when they scrape their knee or someone is not kind to them, packing lunches, making beds, and on and on....

And Philippians 2:14-17 speaks into my life, interrupts my thinking, gives me some spiritual chiropractic care and helps me realign my expectations:

"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud [unashamed] that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all."

And the Spirit is applying these things to my life from that passage:

  • All things. All...
  • Don't complain. Don't question what I've given you right now.
  • And in this generation, I need you, my child, to be pure.
  • Shine where you are.
  • Make my Word a priority.
  • You won't be sorry, and your work will not be for nothing.
  • You feel like you're being drained, poured out till you're empty. You are.
  • But it's for the faith of those you're serving.
  • So be happy about it. Rejoice with those you're serving.
  • It's worth it. :)

And I think about Titus 2, where the older women are to instruct the younger women to love their husbands and love their children,etc., for the purpose of the Word of God not being blasphemed or thought little of.

And being a wife has as many concocted expectations as being a mom does. And loving that man isn't always what I expected it to look like, holding down the fort while he pours himself into a dissertation.

But I know this is what He's called me to. It's "not what I expected" but it's good.

And the dividends are often reaped in faith: "I have no greater joy than to hear [or, see] my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4).

We're all going to have to face adjusted expectations of what the ministry God's given us is supposed to look like. It's not going to look like what we might have thought or hoped.

"His thoughts are different from our thoughts; His ways are better than our ways" (Isaiah).

And if I'll walk by faith, love my husband, love my children, love Him, love His Word...

It'll be worth it. He said so.

And I can trust Him.


And so I read Philippians 2 again. And again. And I'm happier, just believing He's doing this.

His Word is watering me, and I'm growing...right where He's planted me (for now). Who knows where He'll replant us down the road, but either way...here or there...He's fulfilling His purposes!

And I can't help but smile.

Grace and peace,
with love,


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