Might I be so bold as to ask something of you?
I recently had a visit from some dear friends who are also members of my home and sending church. It was a much different type of visit that I am used to, since these same people are usually in a leadership role guiding 30+ teenagers for the 7 days that they are here, whereas this time it was just the 5 of them. There was a lot more time for discussion, sharing of plans, thoughts, opinions and hopes. I was surprised by a few of their observations, as I am sure they have been taken aback by mine, which has led me to think a lot more about expectations; theirs, mine, and most importantly God's.
One example was when it was said to me, while discussing leadership and head of households, that I was in a unique position of being a single mom that was something I needed to take into account, though it had been my choice.
My choice? I thought about that for a few days before I responded. Had it been my choice to pursue parenting without a husband? Sure, I was the one who said "yes" when the opportunity presented itself to care for my first foster child, but I guess I had never really considered it a choice. Since before I can remember I always knew that I would be a mom: not in a Cinderella fantasy kind of way, where I dreamt I would meet my Prince Charming and have babies and live happily ever after, but more of a certain knowing-I-was-made-to-be-a-mom kind of way.
I'm not bringing this up to pick on my friend - I was fairly certain that he hadn't intended it in the way I was taking it (and I was right) but I thought it brought up an interesting point. People have a lot of interesting expectations of missionaries, and the fishbowl in which we live can be taxing at the best of times. It made me wonder how many people have wondered what is wrong with me - why I am not married, why I 'decided' to become a single mom. Is it because I have a problem with authority? Do I just want to have everything go my own way? Did I just get tired of waiting on God to deliver on my deep desire to be a mother? Am I expected to do what I am "supposed to" and get married, so I can fit into a regular mold?
I can only think to liken this situation to the way I knew I was to come to Baja in the first place. I had no good "reason" other than the fact that I just knew that this was what God had in mind for me. And just like back then, before I took in children I sought counsel, talked to God about it, wondered if I was crazy for even considering it.
Yet I already knew. I just knew that this was God's heart for me, so in reality the 'choice' was much less so than a decision to obey and to follow.
Other questions surfaced during this visit, questions that I have and continue to wrestle with on a daily basis. It was wonderful to be able to discuss these things with people who I know love and care about me, who are working alongside me to see God's will done. How I have missed that connection to my church family back home!
So this is where the favour comes in. Whoever is reading this, if you know or love someone - anyone, but especially a woman - or if you ARE a women in cross-culturally ministry, please do what you can to read this book:
"Expectations and Burnout", by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg.
You may be thinking I am only looking for sympathy or attention (well, that is if you don't know me that well), but I truly believe that you will be blessed by this book and its honest look at ministry and missionaries. It is so helpful in understanding the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows of cross-cultural ministry. It was so refreshing to read about others who struggle in the same ways as I have, and to be inspired to keep going! Maybe you have wondered about the validity of missions in general - this book does talk a lot on missionary burnout, however the main focus is on the expectations that can cause it. Unmet expectations could be causing the feelings you may be having toward the subject of missions in general, or specifically to a missionary who is supported by your church. Expectations that perhaps you didn't even realize you had until they weren't met.
While you or others may have many expectations, I can promise you that they are not more than the expectations that I have of myself. Thankfully I am starting to see some of the unrealistic ones, even the ones I have of God, of what my role is in His plan and what He expects of me.
So whether you end up reading the book or not, please join me in praying that God's will be done, His Name be glorified, and that the only expectations we strive to meet are the ones He has laid out for us in His precious Word! Thank You Jesus that Your yoke is light and your burden is easy.