Thursday, February 16, 2017

Walking Barefoot Down the Mountain

It's Monday at about 9:30 am and I am sitting in the middle of a pile of clothes and shoes and curtains and medicines and toys and books (though not many books- thank you Kindle!) and many other random items that we are trying to take back with us to PNG. My 5th grader approaches me with a math question. Because like a masochistic lunatic, I am simultaneously trying to home school and pack. I gave a quick glance and "hint" and told her to try the problem again.

Five minutes later she comes back, still needing help. I sigh in annoyance and give a slightly longer glance and firmly convince her that she can do it herself if she just tries hard enough.

Five minutes later and I was wrong. This time I lost my "patience" (yes, I know the above display was nothing resembling patience) and fussed at her for needing help. Of course that's not what I said...what I said was some jumble of sharp words about "trying" and "not doing your work" when really I was just fussing because she needed help. And you know...that's kind of  actually is my job as a home school teachermom. Sure... it's also my job to pack and make sure my children and windows aren't naked (go ahead and laugh, but if my windows don't have curtains, then people will actually see my children- and anyone else in the house- naked, so they are important...very important). Anyway...

Yeah, I needed to pack, but not on school time. The problem is there was/is a lot of things I needed to do and they weren't looking like they would fit in the eight day time frame we had left. So after that I finally realized I was being totally unfair to my child, apologized, and helped her with her math problem.

Then I locked myself in the bathroom and cried.

Then I felt better.

 And then I decided that this would was the last day of school until we get back to PNG*! Hooray for home school and making my own schedule! I have been trying so hard this whole furlough to keep us on track school-wise and it hasn't been easy with all the traveling, moving, and doctor appointments. But on Monday I realized that just pushing through in order to "get done" was not really helping my kids and it would be better to just wait for a time when I can give them my undivided  slightly less divided attention...even if that means we don't finish until the end of June.

Home school is one of my biggest areas of struggle. I constantly feel inadequate and overwhelmed. I am never confident that I am making the right decisions.  I am never confident that they are getting an adequate education. I am never confident that I am not actually making my children dumber. I am never confident.

And this lack of confidence frequently sends me into a downward spiral of doubt.

"What am I doing here?"

"Why am I a missionary?"

"I am terrible at all the basic requirements of this job."

"God, why do you have me here?"

"Isn't there someone WAY more qualified at all these things?"

"God, do you have me here? Or is this something I got myself and my family into?"

You see I had very different expectations of what I would look like as a missionary. I grew up reading Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael and I had grand delusions of being someone at least somewhat resembling those ladies.

Turns out I'm just kind of a housewife whose house happens to be in the middle of the jungle...and not a very good housewife at that. I'm not really a great cook. Or decorator. Or teacher. And I'm not great at plenty of the other aspects of my job either... I don't like packing. Or flying. Or transition.

I did kind of know all of those things going in, but I just had this idea that God would miraculously grant me those skills as soon as my feet made first contact with PNG soil.

I didn't really understand the concept of God using the weak and foolish in His work. I kinda thought, "yeah, I'm weak and foolish, but God is going to make me strong. Make me capable... equip me" with gifts and talents. I didn't realize that I was just going to be the same old me. Introverted and awkward and a mediocre cook and a terrible teacher.* But somehow God was going to make it work.

He takes all of my lack of talents and abilities and somehow makes everything work. People are fed and children are educated... and even more miraculously people come to know Him and grow in their relationships with Him.

He turns my mediocrity into the miraculous. All I have to do is just keep going. Keep doing what He asks even if it doesn't look as good as someone who is particularly gifted in that area. Sometimes He works through incredible talents and sometimes He works through the overwhelmingly mundane.

It reminds me of the time my husband went on a hike with some of the Hewa guys. On the way up the mountain (you either go up or down on hikes around our village- flat ground is scarce) he wore some nice hiking boots that not-so-nicely rubbed huge blisters on the backs of his ankles. There was no way he could get the boots back on his feet for the hike back down so he decided to go barefoot. This is not an easy task. Words like "perilous" and "atrocious" come to mind.

John Michael's feet while walking down the mountain barefoot. He had just pulled a leech off of this blister. That's why it is so bloody.

But he did it. Without falling. It's not something that white people can usually do. And man was he proud. The guys he was with congratulated him, "Now you're one of us!"

I was proud of and for him. And the next day I sat with some of the Hewa ladies telling them all about it. But their reaction was a little different than I expected. One particularly bold and saucy friend told me,"Yeah the ONLY reason he was able to do that was because we prayed for him. We saw that he was about to go down the trail with no shoes and we stopped and prayed that he would make it. God carried him down that mountain, and that is why he didn't die (yes they fully expected him to die from walking barefoot down the mountain). "

And I realize that in everything we accomplish over there and for every day that we simply don't die it is only because God intervenes. He takes our feeble offerings and turns them into something useful. Something eternal.

So when I feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and completely useless in this ministry, I can be confident that as long as I am faithful in my mediocrity then He can turn it into something fruitful. I can walk barefoot down the mountain knowing that He will carry me.

*We decided not to do full school, but are still doing our reading everyday.


  1. I love this! You put it so well. Praying for you and your transition!

    1. Thank you! Hoping we'll all be sane (at least somewhat) by then end of it! ;)

  2. 1. I had no idea pulling leeches out caused so much blood. You never see that in movies.

    2. I am a homeschool mom too, except instead of living in the jungle, I live in rural Texas. And I STILL feel the way you do half the time. You are not alone sister, and I appreciate you encouraging yourself in the Lord, because in the process, you encouraged me.

    3. I am so glad you are on your way back to PNG. What a ride you have been on!

    1. Thanks Shannon! Leeches in inject an anticoagulant to thin your blood so they can drink more of it. Gross, right? Here is a virtual HIGH FIVE for being a fellow home school mom! We are excited/nervous/stressed/loving the fact that we are headed back. (as usual) :)

  3. I love this, Jessi. I'm with you in the overwhelmed-homeschool-teacher category...I definitely feel inadequate and unqualified! I know my kids are somewhat behind, which makes me not excited for school testing in a couple weeks! sigh. I'm with you sister. Can't wait to see you!

  4. Jessi, missed seeing you and family while back here on leave. Take it from me as someone who has known home school moms---you are doing a much better job of teaching your children then the education they receive now days in public school. A few do a very POOR job home schooling their kids by not making it consistent and on a regular scheduling and giving hardly any help. You do wonderful work with your girls. They are VERY smart girls. High 5 for you. You are beautiful, VERY talented, terrific mother and wife. House----??? but neither dam I. Do not take yourself so lightly. You are brave----I could not take my family to go to the other side of the world like you and make my home in the jungle. WOW, what wonderful stories you and your children can tell your grandchildren!!! God is so good, will not give us more than we can handle. The kids here in states are not doing that well. Have a fantastic day. Love you all. Papa Cecil and Nanny Barbara

  5. I love your transparency as you describe the challenges you are faced with. Susan and I are super proud of you for your perseverance and passion to use your strengths (and even weaknesses) to honor the Lord under very difficult circomstances. Great job.

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