Stay Salty, My Friends

If we are writing as a ministry to you gals, we should probably have our junk together.

Probably.

But the blasted reality of being human is that we keep finding more junk that we just can’t keep together.

May I be honest for one moment? I researched expat mental health for two years prior to moving to the field. I could talk your ears off about textbook definitions of culture shock and burnout.

So according to the books, I thought by 18 months into my life overseas, I would be good. G-O-O-D. But I woke up today and realized I’m not even fine.

I’m kind of a wreck, actually.

It’s been written on the wall for months. Our guest room has been full for most of this year. Our team has experienced major trauma. Our workloads have increased and changed and been not what we expected.

Oh, and mothering a two-year-old. Lord, help me. (My hat is off to all you gals with a whole bunch of chicks in your nests.)

I have seen friends move in and back out of our city in the short year and a half we’ve lived in SE Asia. I’ve spoken a tonal language to the point that I can’t even communicate simple thoughts anymore. I’ve hosted interns and walked with teammates through loss and missed out on major events happening back home.

I feel all dried up and un-useful, I texted a friend in Uganda.

And that’s when I realized I’ve been pouring out and pouring out myself without allowing myself to be refilled. I really am dried up.

Elephant skin.
Prunes.
The sex drive of an eight-months-pregnant woman.

These are all the illustrations that come to mind when I think about the vivacity of my cross-cultural living these days.

Praise God that He never stops pursuing His children. He woke me up at 2 AM this morning and I could.not.sleep. I tried scrolling Facebook and Instagram to help, but nope. No sleepy.

So I practiced my yoga corpse pose, trying to meditate on relaxing my brain and body muscles.

No dice.

Finally, I realized God was calling me into the quiet with Him.

Come, be filled.

And I thought for a second about waiting to be filled at a more opportune hour of the morning.

But then I remembered work deadlines and toddler tantrums and dirty laundry. So I walked into my living room, flipped on a lamp, and grabbed the Good Book.

You know that thing where you ask for a word from the Lord and then you open your Bible to a random page and try to figure out which verse God wants you to read?

I did that.

And it was immediately obvious. Hysterically obvious, actually.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall
its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except
to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13

I admit this post is incredibly unhelpful, uninspiring, and un-Velvet Ashes. {Editor inserts: It is very VA!}

But sometimes, girls, we just don’t have our junk together. And for me in this season, it has a lot to do with thinking I can keep pouring out myself without being filled up. Specifically being filled up by protecting my quiet time with the Father.

So I want and need to confess this to you. To tell you that I needed a divine kick-butt moment to remind me that I AM NOT THE SOURCE OF MY OWN SUSTENANCE.

If salt can lose its flavor, surely I can cease to be effective in the Kingdom.

So in light of this week’s theme, I’m reminding myself to receive, RECEIVE HIM.

Receive a word from the Lord.

Receive being filled up in order to pour out.

Receive those living minerals so that I can continue to be salt to this earth.

Thanks for being a community I can confess openly to and move forward with.

*****

How do keep your commitment to quiet time before the Lord? What systems do you have in place?

If you’re a mom of littles, when and how do you practice receiving God?

36 Comments

  1. Jennifer Ott September 1, 2015

    Yes and Amen!  We are days away from leaving for the field, and I am a wreck.  I keep feeling like I should be either desperately sad for leaving or ecstatic for going.  I am neither.  I just want to be done packing.  Sleepless nights in strange places as we’ve traveled haven’t helped.  Ugh.  Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.  I imagine we all need this honest dialogue!

  2. Lauren Pinkston September 2, 2015

    You are never alone, Jennifer! But you know that already. I’ve enjoyed watching your journeys. Praying now for some kind of rest and a clear mind to help you leave well and enter well. Our thoughts are definitely with you!

  3. M'Lynn September 2, 2015

    This is timely for me. And, thanks for being yourself. I just shared with a group here that I’m tempted to censure myself for my next VA post and this has given me the encouragement to just stop worrying about it and be me. And, funny thing is that the group happens to be made up of moms with littles. We studied 1 Peter 1 today while managing toddler sharing tantrums and the like. It was real and actually very enjoyable. I think the key to receiving God when you have a baby/toddler/preschooler in the house is to be flexible. Finding “quiet time” and “getting in the word” is going to look different than it used to and that’s completely okay!

    1. M'Lynn September 2, 2015

      I meant *censor* goodness. never write anything immediately after a language lesson!!

      1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

        First of all, I didn’t even notice a misspelling. I’m with you on language study killing my ability to write and speak in English!

        I loved hearing about your group. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a group like that, and I should prioritize Bible study in community. Thanks for sharing that! We can do it, even if it is with kids all around our feet. 🙂

        Can’t wait to read your post!

  4. Elizabeth September 2, 2015

    {I agree with editor: it is very VA}

    You’re not alone in this struggle Lauren! I think this is a constant balancing act for me, pouring myself out and then retreating for more inflow. It can be really messy to mop it up after you’ve poured yourself out, or have overcommitted to pouring yourself out and then have to walk out those commitments (ask me how I know. . . ).

    I cycle through this a few times a year I think. I’ve only recently identified it as a cycle (with my husband’s special insight 🙂 ). Ugg. Wish it were a one-time thing, but it’s not. And I think it’s not just you and me; it’s everyone. We forget we need something in us in order to pour it out. Or sometimes we don’t forget — we just get too busy and too tired.

    “I am not the source of my own sustenance” — love that. We should all remind ourselves of that every day! And I love the topic for this week: Receive. It’s become a big idea for me this past year. It’s changed me a lot. Could go on and on but I won’t 😉

    Also just want to comment on life with littles. When I was having babies I was part of a small group Bible study. SO MUCH of my spiritual growth happened in that group. It had low commitment requirements — the homework was super fast, just a few verses a day — but what was really valuable was praying in community, and talking about the Bible in community, and learning I was NOT ALONE in my struggles (was really struggling to understand grace at that point in my life, and all the older ladies had gone through that as well at one point, so they could really empathize). For me, back then, that WAS my spiritual formation. Didn’t have these long extended quiet times like I can have now. So I agree with M’Lynn: Any amount of time with God, His people, and His Word is going to bear fruit, but at this point in life, it’s got to be flexible. 🙂

    Here’s to hoping you can retreat and receive some more, and soon. xoxoxoxoxo

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Elizabeth, I appreciate you so much! When I read M’Lynn’s comment, I desperately wanted that Bible study in community like I’ve had at other times in my life. Things change so often here, we’ve been in a really weird season of having no Family to worship with on Sundays and my mid-week prayer time partner is in the States now.
      I think I have had this unrealistic expectation that my quiet time needs to be at least 30 minutes and include a journal and coffee. Whew. That is just not even realistic. I’m encouraged by the reminder that it can come in short chunks of time…just enough to keep me moving forward.

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      The Father is providing some opportunities this week to retreat and receive. Thank you for you heart here!

      1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

        Well that is a crazy response. Hope you can decode it. 😉

      2. Elizabeth September 4, 2015

        Not having life-giving community (whether on Sundays or another day) is really tough!! No wonder you’re worn out!

        Yes it can come in small chunks! We’re SO hard on ourselves, don’t you think? It’s almost as if we have to apply grace to the idea of Receiving from God — you know, like when we don’t get quiet times “just right.” Even in our desire to receive from God, I think we need to receive grace for not measuring up to our own expectations of ourselves. It’s really hard to get to that place of relaxing and not fretting over how I spent time with God. Often we ask, What if what I did with God, or how long I took, or how often I did it, wasn’t good enough for Him??  But maybe that’s not a very helpful question.

        So it’s ok, Lauren. It’s ok that you got emptied out. It’s ok that you want to leave and take a break. It’s ok that your quiet times aren’t perfect. It’s ok even when you’re not ok with it! Sometimes we go into this downward spiral of being hard on ourselves, and then we’re hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves, and then we’re hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves. (Again, ask me how I know . . . )

        So . . . I hope you can breathe this weekend — and beyond. Take whatever time you can get with God, in whatever amount and in whatever format, and let yourself off the hook of performing even in intimacy with Him. So glad to hear you have that on the horizon already!

        And not trying to lecture here 🙂 Just want you to feel free, just want to inhale and exhale alongside you. Love you bunches!!

  5. Danielle Wheeler September 2, 2015

    Sooo good, Lauren.  This is absolutely what Velvet Ashes is about.  It’s that place to say, “Me too!” To be blessedly reminded we are not alone in feeling like a wreck!  And it’s that place to come and receive the gentle nudge that He wants to fill us again.  You have done exactly all of that in your post.

    And I echo Elizabeth.  Crazy how many times I have to cycle through this.  I sometimes feel guilty for those seasons when I feel all poured out, like I should have had it together more so I didn’t reach this point.  But I’m learning that some seasons are just crazy intense and no balancing act of my own would have prevented it.

    Yes, we have to be wise and intentional in planning our commitments.  But also, life just happens.  And sometimes our buckets get dumped out!  Love hearing how he’s leading you to fill up again.  He’s pretty awesome like that, isn’t he? 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

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      Danielle, your words are dripping with everything I needed to hear. I pride myself in work/rest balance and preventing breakdowns. But we can’t control the stress that comes from situations out of our control. And I suppose living overseas serves unexpected stress on a silver platter: friends moving away unexpectedly, teammates’ lives directly affecting yours, continued misunderstandings in your local context…and so much more.

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      I’ve felt guilty for allowing myself to get to this point, but it’s refreshing to hear you say that sometimes, life just happens. Thank you!

      1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

        Agh! I’m sorry! My internet wasn’t working so I typed my response comments in Word, but clearly I can’t simply paste them here. So sorry for all the coding!

  6. Rachel September 2, 2015

    Thanks for your honesty (and humor!).  Something that helps me with keeping a daily quiet time is having a Bible reading plan.  I found one online and printed it out.  It’s a plan to read through the Bible in a year.  This keeps me motivated to read daily.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Thanks for sharing, Rachel! I have appreciated those plans in the past. Maybe I need to look for a new one myself!

  7. Ashley Felder September 2, 2015

    First, yes. Amen to everything above.

    For, me, with my 3 under 6, this is how I’ve been doing things lately:

    DANCE PARTIES! When I feel the tension (in me) rising, the 2 older ones are at each other’s throats or just bored, I crank some Christian rap or fast-paced music, and they dance (actually, spin..forever…without puking) while I sing at the top of my lungs, praising Jesus. Check out this song..super fun, and easy to belt out (my 4yo requests it daily): https://eaglerockgospelsingers.bandcamp.com/track/mmlj

    Also, an app that I can pull up on my phone when I’m crawling in bed (sadly, it’s the quietest time I have at this time of life). I can read a short devo and meditate on some scripture before I fall asleep. I don’t love doing it at night, but right now, my eyes struggle to peel open, no matter what hour a child wakes me up, so the thought of waking up earlier is painful. My fave right now: She Reads Truth app.

    And, finally, I’ve recently begun meditating on just one verse, a short passage, or a simple truth. More than ever, I feel like I can easily be inundated with things to learn…from fellowship, blogs, books, online teachings, etc. It’s too hard to focus on all of them. Lately, I’ve been feeling God nudge me to stay on one thing for a while. This forgetful mama needs all the repetition she can get! And, I’ve noticed this strategy helping me pray more and think more throughout the day…you know, during those random quiet minutes we get. 🙂

    1. Elizabeth September 3, 2015

      I love She Reads Truth! Also IF:Equip — have you heard of that? Short little bite-sized pieces 🙂

      And I agree — sometimes it’s just one word or thought that can make the deepest impact on us, if we keep returning to it and meditating on it.

      Love your dance parties. Maybe we need to adopt that practice in our house!

    2. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Ashley, thank you!! I love dance parties. Haven’t thought of using gospel rock/rap though. So fun!

      I had the She Reads Truth app at one time. And I was steady in IF:Equip for a season, too. I’m totally resonating with what you said about being inundated with information, even online Christian resources. I think I’ve been so bad at consistency because I’ve wanted to commit to reading everything/seeing everything. That’s just not going to work in 2015 – there’s too much! If I choose one outlet and hone in on what SRT or IF is sharing, ignoring other information, maybe I’ll be able to stay focused. Great thoughts! <3

  8. Lindsy Wallace September 2, 2015

    Love ya girl, and your honesty. There’s freedom is speaking our wreckedness out loud. Prayed for you in the shower this morning, how’s that for transparency? 😉

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Oh Lindsy, I love it. And shower prayers are my jive. Praise hands for alone time!

  9. Dre September 2, 2015

    Been there. “You are not the source of your own sustenence” so amazing. I know everyone’s journey is so different, but my life was much more hectic when i had one toddler and  was pregnant than it is now! In the early days i deluded myself into thinking i could do anything, now that there is three (4 and under) there is a beautiful surrender in being completly consumed by motherhood, a wonderful admission that I am so weak, so that HE can be so strong in me.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      I love this, Dre. So much encouragement here, including the hope that one day I will really soak up motherhood as a beautiful thing I’m happy to be consumed by. Thank you!

  10. Cassidy Lancaster September 2, 2015

    Yes, this is so great!

    I have been on the brink of burnout all year and have had to keep reminding myself that I can’t give if I don’t receive. I’ve had to give myself “permission” to go read a book or do something for myself this year (like an extra ice cream cone) so that I can take care of me.

    I’m leaving the field in December to complete some obligations in the States and I am pretty sad about it, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s for the best. I need to RECEIVE and I think this leave will help me with that.

    This week I’ve really been receiving from the Lord, a little bit unexpectedly due to some changes in my schedule, and it’s been absolutely amazing. He is just so, so good.

    Thanks for sharing the true story with us. THIS is what we need to be reminded of sometimes.

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Great to hear it, Cassidy. I have felt the need to get out of Asia for a while now, but I rejected my feelings because I didn’t want to be weak or admit that I needed a break. So silly of me, but we have such a hard time taking a break from ‘working’ for the Lord, don’t we?!

      I hope so much that the upcoming season in your life is a positive one, and that the Father continues to reveal His love and mercy to you, even if you aren’t on a foreign field.

  11. Carolyn September 3, 2015

    love the vulnerability in this comment thread.  To be honest, we all need more of this.  I know I do.  I have been hearing “rest” from God all year this year, but we are still on the field, and I am homeschooling my three kids, so what that actually looks like is challenging!  If I’m completely honest, this summer was the hardest I have ever spent overseas.  I felt depressed, disillusioned, and I wanted to quit.  In 10 years of working with this people group, I have not been privileged to introduce one single person into our global Family.  Most days I can just carry on trusting God and waiting on His timing, planting seeds, etc… this summer I hit a wall.  All I wanted to do was color and listen to audiobooks – I found it hard to even leave my house!

    With the start of the school year it’s been a little easier, actually, even though we’re more busy, because I feel like I have a concrete purpose and task from God every day to homeschool my kids.  But I’m still feeling discouraged about how little I actually get to interact with local women in this phase of life, and how much effort it takes to put down my vices and just get out my front door.

    So… thanks, girls for sharing from your hearts, and for being vulnerable!  This mama needed you today.  Love you guys!

    P.S. Even though I don’t comment on here very much, I read every single post you all put up and LOVE being part of of this community.  Thank you for all your efforts, Danielle and team, to make this a welcoming, REAL, genuine, authentic place to connect for women overseas!  <3

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Carolyn! We are so thankful to have you in this community! 10 years is a long time…and plenty of time to see cycles of feeling this way, I’m sure. Knowing that there’s no magic to hitting certain milestones of time overseas, it’s comforting for me to hear your situation and realize that I shouldn’t be ‘fixed’ by now or have it all figured out. The learning comes and goes, as does the feelings of fatigue or rejoicing or exhaustion or excitement…if I’m lucky enough to be in SE Asia in ten years, I hope I’m as faithful as you seem to be.

      1. Carolyn September 4, 2015

        It feels like just putting one foot in front of the other… just doing the next “next thing.” My husband and I will celebrate our 10-year anniversary this year, and I canNOT believe it has already been that long – I feel like we’re just getting started!  (We met on the field, during my first year working with this people group.)  So, it’s God’s faithfulness to me that I’m astounded by – how He never gives up or throws us away, or “fires” us, even though we make so many mistakes, and how He continues to give us opportunities to let His glory shine through our cracked places.

  12. Carolyn September 3, 2015

    P.P.S. Lauren, this post is EXACTLY what VA is all about… not having our junk together.  Amen, and amen.  If more of us shared honestly what we don’t have together, I think the sweet “togetherness” of vulnerability and empathy would begin to redefine how we see “having it together”.  I want that! Together in our brokenness.  Yes.  This.

  13. Carolyn September 3, 2015

    (Ok, one more. Then I’m done, promise!)  I’m reading an incredible book right now called Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton. How she shares her own journey and the practical suggestions she includes are perfect for a season of burn-out and discouragement – or any season of life where you’re feeling tired, apathetic and frustrated with your lack of “success” or feelings of “failure”, or where you’re just hungry and desperate for a closer relationship with God.  Highly recommended!  Daily engaging with solitude and silence (during nap time) is increasing and deepening my intimacy with Jesus, and settling my heart into Him in beautiful and nourishing ways… absolutely delightful.  Try it!

  14. Lauren Pinkston September 4, 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing this book, too! I can’t wait to look it up!

  15. Anna September 4, 2015

    You’re right- just because I am in “ministry” doesn’t mean I have it together.  In fact, most of the time, I feel less together than before.  But that is because my life is in such a state of transition constantly, that there is really no normal- except knowing things are constantly changing.

    My littles are a bit bigger now, but I can relate to the times that you describe.  There was once when I told someone that my time with God was basically just watching Veggie-tales.  (She thought I was kidding, but it really seemed that way at the time.)

    A few things I tried were:

    listening to praise music as much as possible

    taping up some verses on 3×5 cards in various spots I would see

    praying through mundane tasks (praying for each family member as I fold laundry, thanking God for blessings while washing dishes, things like that.)

    At times I find that I’ve taken on too much, and I can whittle down my schedule or responsibilities.  And sometimes it’s a matter of survival, and just hanging in there *with lots of prayers* until things get better.  🙂 

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 9, 2015

      This was encouraging, Anna. Thanks! And I don’t know exactly what it means to be ‘in ministry’…anyone with the Good News should fit into this category. But the full-time work of serving abroad is quite a load to carry. And it doesn’t look like full adjustment ever comes, eh?

      I’ve been listening to lots of worship music this week, and it just settles my spirit, even through mundane tasks. It focuses me, and puts my mind on things above. Such perspective. Thanks for sharing your tips, and for reminding me that the time with littles is just a season. Onto different stressors in other phases… 🙂

  16. ErinMP September 8, 2015

    I had a really similar experience last week. I got hit with the flu and, lying in bed totally sick, realized “I’m tired…tired because of the flu…but I mean I completely crashed. Why??” And then I looked back and realized I hadn’t, as you eloquently and aptly put it, been protecting my time with God. I needed to get the stomach flu to realize I had to sit down and read the Bible and meditate with Jesus! Trying to do that completely changed my energy level, happiness, etc. You are not alone in this…when we let it slip, stop spending quality time with our Maker…it messes us up! Thanks for sharing this post! 🙂

    1. Lauren Pinkston September 9, 2015

      Ugh if I had a dollar for every time I’d slipped! Praise God for the flu, if I may say that. It’s wonderful to receive His reminders.

      This Sunday we were meditating on Psalm 23. Ummm, I memorized this when I was like 9, I thought. But His word has a way of speaking new life into us at different stages, doesn’t it? I was struck by the verse, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Living in a city full of brown buildings and brown dirt and brown dust, the thought of a green pasture was so appealing. And then I clung to the thought that He MAKES us lie down. In green pastures. In beautiful things. We aren’t created to only suffer through and work our tails off in the dirt our whole lives. He provides joy and peace and rest in the beautiful, too. I need to create more space for this in my life!

  17. ErinMP September 9, 2015

    Love the psalm 23 connection! You’re right, he provides it, and sometimes…He makes it happen when we stray too far away from the rivers and pastures! Amen!

  18. Monica F September 23, 2015

    Thank you Lauren- I love your honesty, and have been touched by you!  Right before our Sabbatical started, a little over a year ago (we’re ‘done’ now), I heard my husband tell a good friend of ours, he couldn’t wait for me to pull away from so many of responsibilities, and just ‘rest’.  He described me as the rebellious airplane passenger who disregards the flight instructions when they say, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”  He said, “Monica goes around putting oxygen masks on other people while she is gasping for air.”  That really hit me hard.  Over the course of our sabbatical year, I was ‘forced’ to confront myself and my withered spirit.  Thankfully, I am in a much different space now, and although not ‘completely recharged’, I am on the road to recovery, and I don’t feel guilty (as much) anymore when I can’t ‘do it all’.   Thanks again for being real- and am praying you RECEIVE all the nourishment you need, and the wisdom to know what to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to.

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