Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Goodbye. Oh, Hello.

The past two weeks - like all last two weeks of school have been incredibly busy. However, this year I have a new perspective.  A new sorrow.  A new direction.

Living in an overseas missionary community has far greater benefits than it does drawbacks.  However, the constant transition of the people around you can be draining.  At the end of each school year we are so overwhelmed by the completion of the school year - grades, packing our offices/classrooms - that is is so hard to add on the goodbyes that come along with living in this community.  This year was the same - trying to get a job done while in mourning over friends that are leaving.  As well, trying to be intentional about new staff coming in - connecting with them, praying for them, and being excited for their new adventure.  

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the weird balance we have to maintain between deep sorrow and joy.  It is an odd balance.  I am not sure I would have ever understood it before living here in this community.  Now that I am here - I get it.  Now that I see it for what it is, what do I do with it?  

God's word never fails us - He knows and communicates with us - we just need the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  So if you are experiencing transition of this nature - I urge you to not get swept away in the emotion or busyness of it all.  Draw in closer to God.  He will give you the exact portion you need to sustain you through this time.  Here are five transition tips for the "stayers" that I have so far realized.  I hope they are helpful to you as well.

1.  Don't stop laughing.  It is so easy to withdraw because you are so busy getting "it" done.  It is also easier than facing the realities that are headed your way.  However, it is so important to remember that the relationship you are mourning was built on so many very good things.  Especially laughter.  This year I said, "See you later" to my "adopted" daughter.  She is headed home to Colorado for the next adventure that God has in store for her.  Her goodbye has hit me hard.  She oozes joy.  Her smile is infectious and I came to love her as my own.  We spent time as combatants in our "Survivor" allegiances.  My office was right across the hall from her classroom and I was fortunate to be able to hear all of the PK/K stories.  She even managed to put up with my "Gummy Bear" dancing with her students.  Our relationship was full of laughter.  Don't miss out on the fun and fellowship because you are afraid of the goodbye.  
"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16:11 (NIV)"

2.  Be excited for the ones leaving.  It is so easy to beg them to stay - but the truth is if we really love them we have to let them go.  We need to want for them what God wants for them.  In our selfishness it is understandable to want them to stay - some try and approach this with serious, logical sense; some with humor; some with outright desperation - but we need to let them go so they can follow the path God has for them.  But we also must give them permission and support.  I know it is hard to hear about their future plans, but they need to know they are supported.  God's Word tells us "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10.  We need to trust God's promises that the good works that are next for them were prepared for them and they need to walk in them.  I just gave a hug to another leaver - he has an interview shortly after his plane lands for a job back in the U.S. - I certainly didn't want to say goodbye.  BUT - I am excited for his next steps.  I pray that he is given wisdom in future choices.  It does not mean I will not miss him - I saved the tears until he drove away.  :) But I do want him to be right where God wants him to be.

3.  It's ok to cry.  My mother-in-law said everyone needs someone to cry over them sometimes.  I forget why she said it and what was happening - but the words have stuck and I find them to be more and more true as I experience life.  Now, I will be honest here and say I am extremely emotional.  Commercials have been known to cause a tear or two.  My kids just pat me on the back and say, "Oh, mom." So I have to "reign it in" sometimes.  But people do need to know they will be missed.  When they leave after four or five years they want to have good closure and know they have impacted someone's heart.  Even Christ - who knew His power and the reality of eternity much better than we ever will cried because Lazarus had impacted His life.  (John 11) Let them know you are sad - but then don't forget #1 & #2.  :)

4.  Don't stop loving people.  Ok - I admit - it gets painful.  I get tired of saying goodbye and become emotionally wrung out.  I realized a few weeks ago though that if I had never said goodbye to some fabulous people - I never would have been able to say hello to more fabulous people.  My husband and I are introverted.  We need to withdraw from the world to regain energy.  So it would be so easy for us to withdraw and not do the whole hello and goodbye thing.  As a matter of fact - that is a balance we have to negotiate often.  (Pure extrovert?  Sorry - I know this is a confusing idea for you!)  But we are getting ready to welcome in 13 new staff members and 10 new staff kids - WHOA! Here's the thing - they deserve to be celebrated - they deserve to make friends and establish a community. In the difficulties of saying goodbye - don't forget to open your heart to new hellos.  I bet they will also be fabulous.    Oh - and it's God's command to us - AND beneficial for us:  1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."

5.  Be intentional.  I love that my world grows and grows every year - I have people I have come to truly love in all parts of this big, big world.  I certainly can't be best friends with them all - but I can be intentional.  A quick note on Facebook, a short email, maybe even a Skype call - technology has opened doors that make this an easy thing to do.  So be intentional to keep reaching out to say hello and keep in touch.  They want to know they are not forgotten - and you need to be reminded of God's goodness through these connections with others.  Most importantly - be intentional in prayer.  Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us that we should be continually doing for others. We should be humble and mindful of others.  Many read this verse and immediately think about service projects or giving.  Those things are important - but I have learned the best thing I can do for my friends and loved ones is pray.  It costs me nothing but the returns are great.  The ability to pray for one another is a great privilege.  

Goodbyes are not an easy task.  They are emotionally draining and sad.  However, we do have eternity.  It is so hard to comprehend and understand what it will be like - but in God's family we never have a final goodbye.  For all of you who live this transitional life - for those leaving and those staying - I pray you are renewed in the strength and hope of the Lord.  Blessings!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grateful for Goodbyes?

After six years of being in this missions community, it has not become any easier to say goodbye to those you grow to love.  I assume this is partly because our community is small and tightly knit.  You end up loving deeply and quickly those who God brings into your community.  In the world prior to missions it took years to cultivate a relationship that is steeped in God's goodness.  Here - in our bubble - we know that our hellos may be followed with a short goodbye.  It is not necessary to wade in slowly.  We jump in to the deep in and swim without abandon!
Each November we sit in anxious silence as people stand up in random meetings with an announcement.  Could God be calling them elsewhere?  We receive the letters in our boxes inviting us back and although most of us have been praying over this decision for quite some time - the prayers during the month of November become earnest and desperate for many.

It is ironic and beautiful that during the countdown near the end of November we have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving holidays.  It is during this time we are reminded that whatever the decision may be - we have so much to be thankful for and no need to worry - God has a beautiful plan.
As we start this month of November, I ask for your prayers.  Not just for the Newell family - but for our BAIS family - our organization's family, Network of International Christian Schools.  There are 100s of teachers, administrators, chaplains, counselors, etc. that have a decision to make.  Many times this is far more than a choice of location but a prayer for God to reveal himself - because it causes family moves, school changes for children, loss of prayer partners, loss of community, desire to be home, desire for family, needs of aging parents, loss of small groups, new cultural transitions, etc.
God moves us each to a place for a time and a season.  Sometimes that is a hard choice because we are so blessed and comfortable where we are serving currently.  As this organization prays and considers what God's plan is for them next year - I ask for your faithful prayers.  
Lastly, as we lose many wonderful colleagues during this season - please pray for those God will call. Help them to hear God's calling clearly - and even before they know it - help them start preparing their lives for the beautiful, hard transition that is to come.
It is a privilege to come together and pray.  It is a privilege to know that many of you who are so far away join us in our prayers here in Indonesia.

Blessings to you all!  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Living in Community

It would be hard for me to say that living in community is easy. It is a beautiful thing and when we were headed here to Indonesia I had great excitement about living in the midst of missionaries. We were always going to be holding hands, loving each other and singing "Kumbaya". However, I forgot one vital thing - we are all broken people who desperately need Christ. Many days we come to Him, hat in hand and acknowledge that need - other days, well you know. It is hard. Living in a tight-knit bubble in a foreign country takes it toll on all of us.
Through the five years we have been here we have had many communal ups and downs. Many of the downs because of our own sin: pride, selfishness, and so on. Most of the ups are solely due to God's grace in each of our lives. But one thing is for sure - it is hard.
We have had to say goodbye too many times, many times not knowing if we will see the other person or family again. We have had the blessing of many hellos along the way as well. But that has its own challenges. In our transitional community it seems you are always adjusting, always trying to figure out the rhythm.
The Bible has a lot to say about community:
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Indeed how good and pleasant it is - but we must not forget to fix our eyes on Jesus. He carries our community and teaches us grace, love, understanding, and compassion. Often we get so bogged down with life that we sometimes miss these lessons.
In short, this community is amazing. I will never forget so many of the moments that I have experienced here. I have shared deep laughter and deep mourning with some of the most amazing people. Many years ago we had a director of another school come to visit as part of our schools accreditation process and I will never forget him laughingly saying that he was convinced that his coming to the mission field was more about making him uncomfortable and moving him somewhere he could be broken for Christ more than the "mission" in itself. How true that is!
I can only close my eyes and imagine this community times one million or more in heaven - as we know the fullness of God and His grace and mercy. I long for it and sweetly anticipate that time with these people and so, so many more believers.
I encourage you today to look around and be more aware of the community in which you live. See those around you as God sees them. Try so hard to get past yourself and jus simply praise God for those He has purposely placed in your life. Cause, man, it is so sweet.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Absolute Delight - loving the Indonesian Way of Life

After being here a while, I thought it would be interesting for you to share some "Indonesian" living experiences.  

As a mom and wife, I found myself struggling a bit with my place here when we first moved.  As uncomfortable as it was to have an Indonesian helper in my home then - it is such a godsend now.  The number one reason is laundry!  To help you understand what I mean:
 - stop reading now
- walk over to your dryer and give it a big hug.  Don't be shy, hug it for at least 30 seconds.

There you go - feel the love.

Here is my dryer -

Don't be jealous.  No big deal, right?  Just a little sacrifice of luxury.  True.  If not for my Indonesian helper who is here in the morning to do as pictured above, I am left with this:

Ok - not that extreme - although these are actual photos of laundry drying in Indonesia - we don't have near as much.  BUT - praise God for my helper who will get it all in before I return home from school and before the rain comes each afternoon.  

  Praise God this is not what I have to do...  but it is common for many.  (Keep in mind, this is also the place where their sewage is dumped since a sewer system is uncommon in the villages - it also works for many as their bathtub.)

Speaking of rain....  most of the year we experience what is referred to as rainy season.  Each day about 3pm it begins and continues through the night.  It makes for interesting living.  You have to learn how to work around it.  Without helpers, clothes never get dry and start to mildew.  
And believe me - you DO NOT want to be the smelly, mildewy person at the table!

As well, travel is harder.  We live in a country that laughs at the American idea of traffic.  What I would have referred to as traffic 5 years ago I now consider a good traffic flow.  Oh how I long to weave back in forth in my large lane that others do not invade....

 The majority travel by motor bike - imagine that in the rain every day on your commute home.

  When sitting in traffic you will quickly become surrounded - motor bikes do not play by normal traffic rules - well, who does here?  They weave in and out of every spare inch of space - it can feel claustrophobic.

Traffic here is such an issue it has created a job force...

You will see so many men and women who have started their own store in a cardboard box that they carry with them.  Have you been sitting for an hour in traffic?  Thirsty?  No worries - you can buy bottled water for about $.50.  
Are even better - are you a smoker (heaven forbid :/) - run out of smokes?  No worries, they will sell you a SINGLE cigarette from their cardboard box store for about the same.  
Running low on gas in traffic?  Not to worry - again - just wave one of these guys over and let them know your dilemma.  They will gladly go or find someone to run fill up one of those old water bottles with a bit of gas to get you though the traffic.  Just pay them a bit of a finders fee - they are there for your convenience. :D  However - if the traffic is too much - take a rickshaw.  They go where cars fear to tread and get you there for about $1.

But with the traffic also opens the door for those who beg.  Whether they are trying to make it day by day, handicapped, or children - who are most often being used and exploited and many times even forced to beg.  They are there - always.  This was a hard thing for us to grapple with when we first came - what is our responsibility?

This cutie's sales pitch is most effective - how can you say no?

  Travel for a family of four - feeling like giving it a try?

  This is often seen - kids get tired - even from begging.  It is hard to see.

  Flash flooding can be a problem - this man has a restaurant on wheels - just in case you are hungry while sitting in traffic - or a flood. 

  Yes this small girl is running over in the crazy traffic for money - after five years it has become so normal to see - and that makes me a bit sad.

  But the rain is good for farming - so many rely on farming to feed their families and make their very small salaries.

  And the kids will often play - naked.  Hey, why not?

But oh the beauty of this country. Laundry, traffic, flooding aside - we are in a place that is an obvious fingerprint of God.  There are sacrifices - but the view is out of this world....  so are the beautiful people...

So I have had to let go of so many of the assumptions I had - what is being a mom?  What does it mean to have convenience?  
Focusing on relationships. focusing on the work God is doing in this beautiful place.  

Hope you enjoy a little bit of my Indonesian home. :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Crazy about Crazy

Crazy, I was crazy once.

And, I assume, crazy is genetic....

Life can many times be crazy.  For everyone.  Regardless of your walk and circumstances in life, we all get a special dose of craziness heaped upon us at times.  Sometimes the craziness makes me, well.. crazy.  What do I do, do i do anything, how do I respond?  To be honest, I, many times, respond with my own specially brewed batch of craziness.
Prior to moving into international ministry, I was able to keep my craziness somewhat contained.  I truly believe that in America, we are subtly taught to wear masks every day to match our perception of what the world arounds us thinks is normal.  Moving to Indonesia blew that ability out of the water.  The perception is warped - a somewhat moving target - and mask wearing is not all that easy.
Many of us here refer to our small expat community as a bubble.  The bubble we work in, play in,pray in, and overall where we reside.  It has its benefits, but also its drawbacks.  Sometimes the bubble makes you crazier.  You tend to respond at times with a "What in the world?"  take instead of one of grace and love.  Oops.  Many times, you don't know your crazy until much later.  Oops again.
So what to do?  How do you handle the craziness that life offers?  Why are you asking me? I just told you I was crazy!  But now I just kind of embrace the crazy.
God made me this way - all the bumps and warts.  AND... He is working them out in His time.  I am so grateful for this work.  It molds me into a more Christ-like image.  However, no less crazy.
If you look at a situation and think through what your responses should be - know this - my potential responses are not even on your list!  Why?  Because you are not crazy? Nope, it is just because my brand of craziness is unique.  Oh yes, I am one of a kind.  Don't even try to figure me out - as soon as you think you have me figured out, I will explode your thesis with a new brand of crazy.  Just ask my husband.
As a young bride I often did the comparison game with other wives.  Many times with wives who had years of experience behind them.  The comparison was foolish, but I am.... crazy.  Then as a mom the game started again.  As a professional?  Yep, you guessed it.  I am certain I am not the only one.  If so, I am talking to myself I assume - that is a WHOLE other level of crazy.
So what to do?  EMBRACE THE CRAZY.  That's right - roll in it like a pig in mud.  Lavish the crazy upon yourself and cry out to the world - I am loony!  And I love it!
And then.. admit it.  When you go a bit off the deep end and unintentionally show your crazy underneath it all - admit it.  Apologize when necessary, and be wiling to laugh at yourself when that is the right thing to do. Most of all, the grace you give yourself - give it away to the other crazy ones in your life.
This is the time of year where all teachers everywhere are barely holding their crazy in.  It has been a long year and the self-control to act normal is losing the battle.  What if everyone knew the real you?  The you that over analyzes things.  The you that thinks irrational thoughts.  The you that has irrational dreams and expectations.  What if everyone saw you for who you really are?
Well then, you wouldn't then have to work so hard to pretend to be normal. After all, what is normal? I do not know anyone normal.  Maybe my definition is off?  Is there a community standard we can all agree on to give us a barometer for normal?  Maybe crazy is the community standard.  Oh for shame, if so.  We would all be running around without masks being transparent.  Who would want that? Don't we love the cruel game of guessing what another person's expectations are of you and then working hard to be that?  It is a lovely game. One we most often get so very wrong.  It is like we are all hunting normal.
But I believe normal may be just like Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster.  Is it really there?  If we spend all of our time searching for it - are we then like those crazies who are tracking Bigfoot?  Oh dear me, say it isn't so.
So here is to crazy.  In each and every one of us.  Let's laugh at it and move forward.  Maybe - just maybe - if we embrace our own brand of crazy we give permission to others in our lives to let down their guard.  Have true friendships, true prayer partners, and true relationships.  Who could believe that embracing our crazy would be God honoring?  I believe it could.  But why are you listening to me - I am crazy.
I am crazy, she is crazy, wouldn't YOU like to be a little crazy too?

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Over the past three and a half years I have found myself becoming more and more aware of the fear that I have in my life.  Before I came to the field, I would never have described myself as fearful.  As a matter of fact, I would have used confident as a word to describe myself.  Little did I know then that I would have the experiences I would have and the realization that I am a fearful woman.
In many ways I believe that coming to the mission field is more about me than others.  God had some transforming work to do in me and had to relocate me to make that happen. A year ago I was tasked to pick up an accreditor from the airport.  He was a director at another school in SE Asia tasked to be a part of our school's accreditation team.  As we sat at the airport having coffee he jokingly said that he now believed that being a missionary and moving across the world was God's way of taking those who need a little extra work out of their comfort zone in order to accomplish the work that needed to be accomplished.  He said missionaries tend to have rougher edge that need to be smoothed so they need a bit more work - work that could not be completed in our hometown.  He laughed.  I sat and let those words ring in my ears.  He may have been joking but for me those words resonated in a huge way.  In a way that was a bit comforting.  It's ok to not be perfect and let God work on me as I serve here in these foreign surroundings.
As we were preparing to head to the field in 2010 we had so many say to us that they were so proud of us.  It was awkward.  All I could do is muster a simple thank you.  The truth is, I am not worthy of this calling.  I am not worthy of so many of the blessings that I have been given in my life.  I am in no way different from any other mother or wife that is trying her best to be the best wife and mother that God has called me to be.  I fail daily, what were they proud of?
So what have I learned?
Fear is satan's tool to make me doubt my call.  Fear is what satan uses to make me feel like less than a mom, wife, friend than I should be - FEAR can immobilize me, make me panic and cause me to do nothing.  With fear I stand paralyzed - afraid to make a choice, afraid to fail, afraid to not meet the expectations that I have decided people have for me in this life.  
I do not have answers beyond acknowledging the source of my fear - I do know that:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1-3
I confess that I have fear for my children and their well-being, I fear for the loss of people I love back home as I am so far away, I fear that I have been forgotten by those I love, I fear that I am less than who I should be for the people around me, I fear that I am not thin enough, too old, too tired, too much grey hair, I fear I lack strength to support my husband as I need to, I fear that I am not patient enough or take enough time for my children, I fear they are hurting.
However, I do know that God is there with me.
This is a new journey for me, one that will surely change me from within.  This is a subject that I will come back to.  Until then, is fear in your life?  How do you fight it?  How do you rise above it?


I praise you that you are all powerful and all knowing in my life.  Nothing takes you by surprise - nothing causes you fear.  I praise you for your unconditional love for me and I praise you that when I am fearful you do not leave my side.  Father, I confess to you that I give in to the lies and I stumble and become terrified by fear.  I confess that I do not always live as if I believe your Word.  Father, I ask you to give me the courage to stand up to the lies of fear in my life, the lies of being less than you have called me to be.  Although the lessons may be stretching and painful Father - I ask that you continue to mold me and make me to be who you need me to be - not to further me or my ambitions or dreams but to further your Kingdom work - in whatever capacity.  Thank you Father for who you are, thank you for your grace and mercy, thank you for the lessons I have learned and the lessons that are ahead.  I praise you for them all. Amen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Good Place to Start

For the last two years I have been slowly compiling thoughts, prayers and ponderings as I walk along the journey of our family's ministry here in Indonesia.  After a bit of encouragement from others, I will start putting some of those things here.  I pray that as I stand exposed and vulnerable in my writings and my experiences, you will find encouragement that you are not alone.  Through each victory and triumph in our lives we stand together as the body of Christ.  This is written specifically with other moms, wives, daughters, women in mind who served, are serving or are preparing to serve in the mission field.  However, I invite anyone to read, pray and comment as they are moved.  Happy New Year!