Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

A month or so ago we stood, surrounded by cardboard boxes, to restock our huge kitchen cupboard. I looked up and mentioned to Danny that this cupboard and I actually had a few things in common. And yes, being the wise man that he is, he just looked at me, looked at the seven foot tall cupboard, and said nothing. As I placed can after can of refried beans and sliced peaches on the shelves, I thought about how, like me, this cupboard gets filled up and then depleted, slowly but surely, during our weeks, or months at a time, in the village. I realize our life here is anything but normal, but it is our “normal” to be in the village for about 2 months and then we head to town for about a week, mainly to stock up on supplies, but also, just to have a break from life and ministry in the village. However, I can tell you that these past months I have been depleted a lot more quickly than I remember in times past.

A few Saturday mornings ago, I mentioned to Danny that I would love to be able to go out for breakfast, and my dear hubby said, ‘So let’s do it.” Now friends, we live in the middle of nowhere and the closest little town that has anything worth eating is a three hour drive round-trip. But, the truth is, we love the drive. It is actually the best part. Three hours to sit and enjoy our air-conditioned truck, music playing, kids rocked to sleep on the bumpy road and beautiful scenery all along the way. The little town we drive to doesn’t have a whole lot to offer but it does have a quaint little restaurant up on a hill, overlooking an old fort where they serve brewed coffee, amongst other things.  Perfect (except for Bruce, the huge black dog that likes to place himself next to your feet.) The kids played, sitting on a little step in the empty restaurant, and Danny and I chatted about life, dreams, ministry and, of course, the kiddos. We enjoyed our breakfast retreat and then made our way to the little market. After buying two dozen eggs, an umbrella and some frozen figurines at a little stall on the side of the street, we got in the car and headed home.

As we drove home through the, now familiar, territory of rice field after rice field, I stared out the window and noticed some of the fields did not look so well (in my humble/non-farming background opinion). I may have made a comment about the work ethic or some of these farmers and their overgrown rice fields, when Danny told me that actually they were doing exactly the right thing. They were being wise, long-term thinking farmers by not just planting and replanting in their field, even with the huge demands for rice all around them.  This life-taught farmer knows that by letting his field rest, he is investing in a richer, fuller harvest, for the seasons of planting ahead. I thought about that, took out my camera and shot some photos of those overgrown fields. I felt the freedom of the truth that grew in my heart in that moment. Living a life in ministry, there will always be needs to attend to, and giving more of me, my time, my words and my energy will not put an end to the needs.  There is nothing that can deplete my peace, contentment and joy more than an attitude of striving to make things happen. Surrender on the other hand, is so freeing, knowing that as I walk in obedience to God’s will, He will use my life as He sees fit. I need feel no guilt if sometimes He leads me by still waters, or to seasons of sitting on the sidelines.

Matthew 11:28-29: “Come unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  As I write it out here today, the words “learn of me” pop right out. There was no one more aware of the spiritual, emotional and physical needs that surrounded Him daily on this earth, than our dear Lord Jesus. And yet, He came, not to deal with every need, ache and hurt in this world, but instead, to fulfill His Father’s will. I am reminded that rest is not a place to escape to, it’s not a reward to claim for a task completed, but a lifestyle, a heart attitude and a mindset in which I see myself in light of who I am in Christ. To hold dear and true to my position before my Heavenly Father instead of seeking my place in this world. As I draw near to God, seeking His will with all my heart and soul and mind, the comparisons, the guilt trips, the pressures that us mamas (and missionaries) can so easily begin to listen to; they fall silent before a Holy God.

So after spending Sunday night writing this blog post out, I woke up on Monday morning with a new week laying before me. I had breakfast to get out of the way, an ant problem in the kitchen to take care of and then I would get to the things that were numbered down my list. Izzy decided her usual breakfast of cereal was not a good choice anymore and she wanted scrambled eggs instead. Judah nodded his approval of her breakfast order and so I got going with my multi-tasking ways; scrambling eggs, brewing coffee, wiping up ants and writing an email in my head as I went. I soon had the eggs made, placed them on the appropriate tractor and then horse plate for my two little loves, along with complimentary mugs of milk. I scooted their chairs in, while kissing the tops of their heads, and reminded them not to spill. I then went on to tackle the next thing on the to-do-list, glancing of course, at the clock on the way. As I poured my coffee, I heard a little voice from across the room. “Judah” she said, while reaching for his hand, “Let’s pray.” To my amazement, I watched my little girl, the big sister, take her little brother’s hand and then this followed; ” Dear Jesus, we love you. Thank you for our eggs and milk and for our Mama who made them, we love her too. Amen.” Again, Judah nodded his approval, repeated his “Amen” and they started on their eggs and milk, making sure not to spill. They were in their own little world, totally unaware of their Mama’s eyes, listening ears and now aching heart.

I grabbed my phone and took this picture above. I wanted to remember this sweet moment firstly as a Mama, but also as a child of God, who needs every reminder to give thanks. I want to be mindful of resting in Him and His presence with me, rather than running ahead to accomplish my will and goals, (even when they are good.) I took my coffee, sat down and as the ants crawled over the counter, I thanked God for two little souls who teach me more and more every day. As I listen to their childish wonder and attentiveness to the small things in life I realize that, so often, I miss the opportunity of being present to the people right in front of me. I can also labour along in ministry, not fully relying on the Presence of God, going before me. I don’t want to trade my joy for all the striving a mother can feel she required to do, or all the needs a missionary can think are up to her. I know I will fail often, but instead of being ashamed, frustrated or surprised by my inadequacies and weaknesses, I can be grateful because they lift me to our great and mighty God. “But first, give thanks.” In his book “The Rest of God” Mark Buchanan says this; “…at the heart of worship is rest – a stopping from all work, all worry, all scheming, all fleeing – to stand amazed and thankful before God and His work. There can be no real worship without true rest.”

Motherhood and church planting may actually have a lot in common, in that, these roles are not likened to a sprint, but more to; “a long obedience in the same direction.” I am so grateful for the Lord’s grace, to remind me not to strive for results as a missionary, or as a mother, but instead to live a life fully surrendered, to the perfect will and plan, of my dear Heavenly Father.

Love to all,
Philippa. xx

4 thoughts on “Rest {Part 1}

  1. Deb says:

    Such wise words! Even now, with my children no longer children, I tend to strive to fix everything in their lives. I also get burdened down by needs all around me. SURRENDER! That's the word I needed today. Thank you.

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  2. Jenari Skye says:

    Wonderful post, Philippa! Grateful for your shared words of what the Lord is teaching you! 🙂

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  3. Yes, Debbie surrender is a life long lesson to be learned. I actually called this “Part 2” not because I have another post I have prepared but because I know I will learning more (so much more) on this as the days go by. Loving the pics of your newest little grand baby, he is adorable!

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  4. Thanks Jenny, I always struggle to hit “publish” on a post, but hoping my words may encourage someone along in their day,helps me to take the plunge. 🙂 Hope you and your little family are all well.

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