Monday, May 11, 2015

The Struggle of the Missionary Mom

I had to struggle through something last week, a bit of wrestling with myself and even with God. See, an issue that has haunted my 10 years of being a mother and 8 years of being on the missionfield crept up again. And that is the lie that I am not doing enough.
When I first came to Sudan in 2007, I arrived in a remote area of the country with an almost 3 year old and a one year old who was barely walking. Even with these two young ones, somehow I thought I was going to be able to be mom and wife but also have time to teach literacy classes and Bible studies for women. Oh and I thought I could pick up Arabic too, one of the hardest languages to learn! Boy did I have a reality check! And over the last 8 years I have had different seasons: some where I am home most of the time with the boys and others where God allows me, for a time, to teach a class or be involved in something outside of the home. And even when I’ve been heavily involved outside of the home, there is always this nagging thought in the back of my mind that I should be doing more. I’m not doing enough.
I don’t think this is only something that missionary moms struggle with. I remember when my first little guy was only 6 months old wondering, “So is this it? Am I going to wash diapers, feed a baby, and clean house for the rest of my life?” Even then I tried to find what I called “meaningful” things to do – like help a neighbor from Laos learn to speak English or watch someone else’s kids so she could homeschool her older children. Even as a young mom, before I even got on a plane and crossed the world, I felt like I needed to do more.
But let me stop there for a minute. Did I really think I needed to find something outside of the home for it to be meaningful? As my children are now 6, 9 and 10, I am seeing what all those months and years of hard work, prayer, discipline, training, and teaching have amounted to! It was so worth it and boy is it meaningful!
Now, a month after being in Melut, the dust has settled, we are back into routine, and that age-old, nagging phrase is at work again whispering, “Bethany, you could push harder. You could do more.” But everything inside of me is resisting. I know what my capacity is and I want to do what I’m doing well, so I know, without a shadow of a doubt that This. Is. Enough.
Pouring myself into giving my boys a solid education, taking care of everything in the home and freeing Eli up to do all that he’s doing is enough. It is good. It is meaningful. And it is what God brought me all the way to Melut, South Sudan to do!
Two different friends shared these verses with me this week and they came at just the perfect time while I was wresling, yet again, with all of this: “Her husband is well know at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” Prov. 31:23,25-30
Honestly, there is so much I could share about this topic but I wanted to share it for several reasons:
1.      So you would know that even though our newsletters have fun photos and stories of great ministry opportunities, we do struggle at times to know if we’re really doing what we should be doing. We are also tempted to push beyond our limits.
2.      I want to encourage any of my mama friends (and especially my little sister who is about to be a new mother) that our ministry as mothers is soooo meaningful and significant. Raising our children to love and follow the Lord is possibly the most important thing we do in our entire life!
3.      In putting this down in public, I’m acknowledging what God has been teaching me and committing to be content in this season.
To close I would like to share how God is confirming this lesson for me. Though I haven’t been able to get off campus as much as I’d like lately, God has been bringing people to me, here to my house. I am realizing that God is giving me the ministry of hospitality. Whether it’s a cold glass of water, a shared meal, or an encouraging conversation, God is bringing ministry opportunities to my doorstep and I’m asking Him to help me make the most of those moments. Isn’t He so good?


Congdons in Sudan said...

Thanks, Bethany. We understand, and continue to thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy upon you, Eli, and the family.

Heidi said...

Thank you for posting that! It's so relevant to every mom. I was encouraged and needed that reminder.

mitchqna said...

Bethany, You are so right that your job as a mom is so important! I really struggled with that when we were in Benin as well--just not feeling like the little we did was enough.

BTW, can you check your email for today and for May 11th for a message from me (Teresa Mittower)? It's important! Thanks.

mitchqna said...

Can I add that it is your email where my message appears?

Abby said...

I needed to read this today! Since God has moved us away from the mission field I have often felt that I am not doing enough, in fact sometimes I look at your life and other missionary friends and think that if I was in your shoes I would be so fulfilled. Needed to hear that the struggle is the same no matter where in the world we are! I love you dear friend, and I am praying for you guys!

Seth and Anya said...

Oh my goodness Bethany....I feel like I could have written this myself! I have/do felt/feel this way. I know it is an ongoing lession for me as well. Thanks for sharing. Your words were encouraging and sometimes it helps to hear another mama is struggling with similar thoughts! I love you so much! Anya