Bending Into the Comfort Stripping {The Grove: Comfort}

You gals have provided such a rich conversation surrounding comfort and thriving in the last few weeks. It was a joy to chat with you about the expectation to live modestly, and I really appreciated the way Ruth tied austerity into her post on Monday.

I am your biggest advocate when it comes to keeping yourself healthy on the field. That’s why you will hear me talking a lot about resting, reflecting, and being nice to yourself. You know, all the comfortable things.

But this is only because I’m standing with you in the life overseas, completely stripped of anything and everything I once understood and valued.

I can’t think of another word to describe this transition abroad other than the one I’ve already used: stripping. 

This year has felt as if everything has been stripped from me:

Identity.
Purpose.
Power.

Control.
Confidence.
Material possessions.

Relationships.
My understanding of the world.
My understanding of my God.

My sin has been exposed, I’m emotionally unraveled, and frankly I’m left with only a few crumbs of faith that seem to disappear every day like the manna and the quail.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

But no matter what comforts have been stripped from us, WE ARE STILL HERE. 

We’re soaking our dried beans and reading the directions to that pressure cooker again. We are working through those difficult relationships with teammates. We’re kindly explaining to our supporters one more time that, actually…ministry looks a tad bit different over here.

We’re embracing the sweaty, slicked-back ponytail. We’re starting to like the taste of durian (ahem…starting). We’re driving stick shifts while wiping snotty noses and smiling at the neighbor lady who calls us fat.

As Christine Cain says, The devil on his best day couldn’t take us out on our worst day, so can I just get a HALLELUJAH!?

We’re being transformed from women of perfectly packaged belief systems into women who aren’t afraid to admit we don’t have all the answers.

We’re being transformed from women who rely on retail therapy into women who can’t exist without our personal quiet time with Jesus.

We’re being transformed from women of monotonous lifestyles into women who are living, breathing, and tasting the Kingdom Come.

No amount of comfort is worth the joy of what we’re becoming.

So…

Let’s name our losses, yes.

Let’s take vacations, absolutely do-not-argue-with-this YES.

But let’s also celebrate the magnificent works of the Father as He transforms us from women who need worldly comforts into women who just need Heavenly Assurance.

We could give it all and still have too much because of the mercy poured out over each of our heads.

And this mercy keeps me bending into the comfort stripping a little bit more. Are you with me?

*****

What comforts have been stripped from you?  How is this transforming you?

This is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.

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29 Comments

  1. Melissa Toews February 19, 2015

    This.  is. so. exactly what I needed to hear this week, Lauren. Thank you!

  2. Jen February 20, 2015

    Loved this Lauren. I remember clearly a moment in my kitchen during my first year in Asia. I was boiling water to wash dishes and smacking my pet cockroaches when I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of losings all things familiar. I walked over to my window with the broken screen and looked around at the apartments around me. I’m sure I was preparing a pity party for myself. Then I looked up. There was the sky. Still the same sky I had loved to stare at as a little girl. And then I cried. All the comfort I needed was right there. His creation reminding me of what is truly necessary for me to have comfort. Just Him. There are days when He gives me amazing little gifts of comfort in other ways, but there is a joy in knowing He is all I need. “…as He transforms us from women who need worldly comforts into women who just need Heavenly Assurance.”

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 20, 2015

      What a great story, Jen. I love that this is the story the Father is writing for so many of us. Teaching us what it means to appreciate Him more than we hate our ‘pet cockroaches’ – so great!

  3. Lydia February 20, 2015

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for this post. One year and two weeks on the field and I’m resonating with almost every line. I was struggling so much last night I barely showed up to my language lesson… and with mascara smudges. My tutor is a sweetheart but also calls it like she sees it and basically told me “Take care of yourself! Wash your face! Put on some lipstick. And go buy something! Lots of things! You’ll feel better.” Thank you for the reminder that it’s Jesus I need and some good time with Him. Washing my face is also a good idea. 🙂 But first things first.

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Oh Lydia, we aren’t far apart in our experiences. We’ve been abroad 11 months ourselves. I can always tell when I haven’t been with Jesus…cultural frustrations, marriage hiccups, and mothering woes always push me down fast and hard. But after the quiet morning and seeking all of His goodness, yes…I believe it’s still okay to be nice to yourself. Good luck with your continued language lessons – I’m right there with you!

  4. Amy February 20, 2015

    I feel so blessed to have found this community. We have been in South Africa for 5 weeks – just purchased a car but can’t get a traffic registration number. We can move into our rental house on 1 March so are finding comfort in house/pet sitting. Right in the middle of amazing (and hard) transitioning. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Welcome to the field, Amy! We are also stuck in a car paperwork situation…it’s been 8 months and we STILL don’t have it figure out! I’m rejoicing in the rental house, the excitement of setting up home, and learning so much about yourself through this transition. We are SO GLAD you’re here!

  5. Brittany February 20, 2015

    No amount of comfort is worth the joy of what we’re becoming.

    This line made me cry.  Wow, I have been stripped of so much this last year (we’ve been on the field for 16 months).  And sometimes, my heart just really hurts.  This past week has been a very difficult one and in the midst of raw emotions, it seems that my eyes are super sensitive to all the uncomfortable around me.  I mean, seriously, can I not go anywhere without smelling the stench of cigarette smoke (it even is in our apartment because of neighbors).  It’s hard to get comfortable when you are afraid to breathe (5 months pregnant makes me extra sensitive…).  And I’m used to Texas weather and this 4 months of freezing cold has about driven me insane because I can’t seem to get warm!  And really, the list goes on as I am acutely aware of how much comfort matters to me.

    Yet.  There is the joy of what I am becoming.  Sometimes, I feel bad for all the people back home supporting us because, sometimes, I feel like what they are supporting is just my heart being drawn deeper into the Father’s.  And I think, man, it would be great if everyone could be stripped of all that they’ve known and learn to press harder into the King of kings!  I’ve experienced sorrow like I have never in my life experienced since being in the field, but I’ve also experienced greater joy.  I’m closer to my Jesus than I have ever been and I’ve seen Him reveal Himself to me in new ways *because* of my suffering.  No, I wouldn’t trade that for all the comforts.  I’ll take a vacation and enjoy a different type of “refilling” by being around the comfortable sometimes (because that is a grace of God, too, and a good gift meant also to bring us to Him), but I will also see my discomforts as a way to know Him more.  I was reading in James 1 this week and it seems to fit perfectly with this thought.

    1. Victoria February 20, 2015

      Thank you for sharing! That quote is also what stood out to me. . . sure there are lots of difficulties in life overseas, but the joy of what I am becoming is what inspires me every morning! I was just thinking about how all the little (and big) struggles in life are tests to determine the genuineness of our faith (I Peter 1). And praise God that He uses those tests to reveal our true nature to ourselves so we can fall into His everlasting arms and be changed into His image!

    2. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Brittany, wow! It sounds like you could have written this post yourself. I love reading about our transitions in this light. I’ve said the same thing to my husband so many times…I feel guilty that others are pouring so much money and prayer into the work we’re doing, because it feels like I’M the one reaping all the benefits! I’m growing, changing, and evolving in my love and obedience…I’m so thankful for the ways He is molding me and teaching me. It doesn’t seem that others should have to support something that’s SO GOOD for me–even if it does involve so much grief and pain. All for His glory…all for His glory. You better post a picture of that sweet baby when it comes, by the way!

  6. Ellie February 20, 2015

    “Oh wow” and “AMEN”……… but also: “OW!” and “I want to run away and just keep running”.

    Yes, God takes us and strips us down and refines us and washes out some of the nitty gritty stuff we didn’t even know was in there to make us better able to see him and dare I say it, reflect him (because I don’t know if I’m doing it very well at all sometimes..)

    And yes to that quote that the Devil on his best day can’t take us down on our worst. So encouraging.

    (And yes, to the taking holidays, thank you for being real and encouraging.)

    But OW the constant transition and instability. Six years in and just when I think something might be stable something else major changes.

    It hurts and I feel so very vulnerable. And yet, and YET, yes, we are being stripped down and becoming more dependent on, more aware of the reality of God.. (even when we think we aren’t, I think!)

    THANKYOU for reminding me as I go into deep deep anxiety that that glorious truth is behind us, even if I find it hard to be so enthusiastic as you at the moment:

    “We could give it all and still have too much because of the mercy poured out over each of our heads.

    And this mercy keeps me bending into the comfort stripping a little bit more. Are you with me?”

    I’m not there. I feel a long way from it in some ways, I want to run and hide my head in the warmest darkest pillow nest, and perhaps some of that is because of not having taken enough holidays and self-care steps until recently we’re getting the idea. But I guess in my heart I desire this and instead of running away (although God is gracious with us when we do) I want to run to Him and trust him to patch me up and heal me deeply.. to serve him and know him better.

    That CS Lewis quote had me thinking the other day: “Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever.” I guess we’re working on those eternal things 🙂

     

     

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Ellie, thank you so much for your raw honesty here. I hear your desire for healing right alongside your earnest devotion to the One Above. How encouraging to me, and what a testimony of your faithfulness. I have felt the anxiety…and wishfulness of a dark pillow nest. And while I’m hopeful and energetic at this moment, I’m not far from that heavy heart on either side of my current state. I remember it all too well, and I know that it will likely cycle through again soon. The stripping never stops because there’s always another layer…and even when I feel I’m rubbed bare, doggonit if once I’m healed He don’t reveal another layer that must be stripped. I’m thinking about the Vinedresser and how he must prune each season in order to produce fruit…it all becomes so real when we allow ourselves to be that vine, doesn’t it?

      Keep being nice to yourself…and don’t feel guilty about that at all. There are so many women on this space who know everything you’ve describe here. And I am so thankful that we keep coming back for refuge in Him rather than running from the stripping again and again.

  7. Jean Young February 20, 2015

    We have spent most off the last 15 1/2 years in Ghana, and most of that in Northern Ghana in deprived rural areas. I am an American pediatric and general surgeon with an MPh in Tropical Medicine. Bob, my husband is a welder, maintenance mechanic, and jack of all trades. I am here to tell you that the stripping never stops; God just changes locations on/in you! Just when you think you have lost everything in one area, God starts in somewhere else.  BUT when I look around me, I realize that God is paying me the ultimate compliment of treating me just the same way He does my Ghanaian brothers and sisters. Incarnational ministry is just that and many days it is not easy. Due to my husband’s dyslexia, I am also the family scribe and computer geek – in fact, I also do quite a bit for our small bush hospital (95 beds.) But at the same time, there are compensations. We are seen as local people, not necessarily as strangers. We are accepted into the community. People invite us to baby namings and to funerals. My patients are also my friends and neighbors.

    Comfort means different things at different times. Sometimes it may just mean the chance to sleep in air conditioning for a night – something that requires a trip out of town. (Currently our days are 120+ F.) Many times it is the chance to unburden myself to someone who understands what it is like to be one of the few expatriates in a tight-knit village community. Many times it means just being with my husband, who is still my best friend after so many years. So thanks to everyone – your contributions are all wonderful!

     

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Jean – I appreciate this so much! My husband is also an American doctor (just not with quite the experience and training you have!) so I’m resonating deeply with the community of the hospital and the workload you’re carrying.

      I’m thankful for your discussion of incarnational ministry. After I wrote a few weeks ago about the expectation to live just like our local friends, I hesitated a bit because in rural settings incarnational living carries such greater weights than it does for us in urban areas. When I hear about different skin colors, education levels, and economic statuses coming together to live in community, I just clap my hands and rejoice…that’s what I loved about what you shared. It’s clear to me that you have entered a community and built trust amongst those you serve through your consistency, selflessness, and being approachable.

      May HE be glorified for the might works done in you, and may we all be mentored by His mighty works through you!

  8. Michele Womble February 20, 2015

    “we’re being transformed from women who rely on….into women who can’t exist without our personal quiet time with Jesus”

    Yes – because we are being stripped of everything we would rely on for comfort and learning to rely on the one who is our only real comfort.

  9. Laurie February 20, 2015

    I read this post last night. It made an impression as I dream about it all night. In my dreams, I was an overseas worker on the field again, in Africa this time. I was bereft of home, a nice bathroom, and such. In my dream, my eye glasses shattered. So I couldn’t see properly and it was the rainy season. Ugh! Starting our anew on the overseas field is not comfortable. I remember my first year in Honduras. I also recall that I had a deeper prayer life than I do now during that year of discomfort. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Thanks for sharing this, Laurie. The first year abroad is definitely something you can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. That’s about as far as my experience goes, but I’m glad there are women here who understand. My prayers have never been so strong and bold.

  10. S February 20, 2015

    So beautiful, so true. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  11. Kim February 20, 2015

    Such a good post! And the comments are always helpful, as well. Had to smile at Jean’s comment that the stripping never stops, just the location 🙂 How true! We’ve just gone through (yet another) tough six months topped off by an experience this past week that felt like someone kicked the ladder out from underneath us. While we would not have chosen what has happened, we rest in the promise that God is sovereign and trust that He is using this experience to refine us. We are so thankful for God’s grace in all of this, and know that now matter how hard it is in the right-here-and-now, He has a purpose and He is our source of strength and peace. We would hope that the stripping is not in vain 🙂

     

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Kim – Amen! If you are on a team, those are some lucky individuals. I think I would enjoy being led by someone like you!

  12. Bayta February 20, 2015

    Oh this rings so very very true!  Interestingly probably even more so in re-entry than it ever did when I first went overseas… I avoided most of the physically challenging stuff by only moving between different western countries but the rest… oh my…

    Relationships.
    My understanding of the world.
    My understanding of my God.

    So so much!  The first one I was expecting (which of course still doesn’t make it easy).  The other two took me completely by surprise.  The last one leads on to this (and I loved how you put it): We’re being transformed from women of perfectly packaged belief systems into women who aren’t afraid to admit we don’t have all the answers.

    This is has been such a major theme in my life these past few years! So many “certainties” of life and faith and God completely blown to pieces. Life probably does that to you anyway and major changes doubly so. Yet somehow in the midst of it all, a deeper confidence in God’s character has started to emerge. And for that I am deeply grateful.

    “No amount of comfort is worth the joy of what we’re becoming.” Often it doesn’t feel that way but deep down… Yes!  Absolutely!

    1. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

      Bayta – what rich commentary! I’m like you…I think what I’m appreciating most about my transformation is what I’m learning about God–and what I’m learning to let go of about God! He’s so much greater and higher than I ever imagined…and I would never give back the losses just to put Him back in the box I once had Him in. : )

  13. Elizabeth February 20, 2015

    “We’re being transformed from women of perfectly packaged belief systems into women who aren’t afraid to admit we don’t have all the answers.
    We’re being transformed from women who rely on retail therapy into women who can’t exist without our personal quiet time with Jesus.”
    YES. These are the truest of the true statements in this post, for me. Definitely had to let go of perfectly packaged belief systems — and although I don’t have answers for many things, my faith is actually stronger than it was before my unraveling. This doesn’t make any earthly sense at all, I know, but it’s true. I’m still sort of in awe (a mouth-gaping type of awe) that some people still have those neatly packaged systems and can boldly claim the Bible is easy to understand if we read it right. I want to ask, “Isn’t your relationship with the Bible more complicated than that??” It’s simple enough for a child to grasp, yes, but also complicated enough that highly trained doctors of theology don’t have all the answers, either. Which is a good thing, because if we humans could understand a transcendent God, that would be bad news for both of us!!
    Maybe it was that faith-shaking experience, in my first term, that brought me closer to God than ever before. Maybe it was the establishment of sustained daily devotional times last year that brought me closer than ever. All I know is that if I get nothing else out of this life than a closer walk with Jesus, THAT will be enough. It is more precious than I can tell. The healing that’s taken place in my life because of preparing to move overseas and actually living overseas, well, it’s just not something I ever imagined happening, but it’s something that’s so amazingly worth it.
    “Let’s name our losses, yes.” Agreed!!
    “Let’s take vacations, absolutely do-not-argue-with-this YES.” Agreed!!
    “But let’s also celebrate the magnificent works of the Father as He transforms us from women who need worldly comforts into women who just need Heavenly Assurance.” Thank you for focusing today’s conversation on transformation. It’s what we long to see in the cross-cultural places where we live, yes, and it’s also what God longs to see and do in us. He.is.so.amazing. Thank you, God, for being YOU.

  14. Lauren Pinkston February 21, 2015

    Elizabeth, I always appreciate your words so much. I’m like you – sometimes I am shell-shocked by the kinds of theological debates I see taking place back home and I wonder, “Is God still that small to you?!” It takes a lot of patience and grace for me to keep my mouth shut. But it’s disheartening at the same time, because I want so desperately for everyone to the know the Creator that has redeemed me! Wow…He’s just so much more complex than a basic one-sided argument.

    Before I moved to SE Asia, I felt strongly that we had missed the point on several Biblical topics, but I didn’t have the confidence to speak up on behalf of the Father. Maybe it’s in the way He’s provided for me, maybe it’s in the amazing works I’ve seen Him do, but now I can’t NOT speak in defense of the Almighty. He’s too magnificent and wonderful to stay quiet.

    Transformation, Lord, for ourselves and those we desire to teach. Amen.

  15. Cecily February 21, 2015

    “Will you lay this down, too?  Will you give this to me?  I know how much it hurts, but will you trust me?”  These are the questions the Lord has been asking me lately as it seems that so many things I thought were of Him seem to be disappearing.

    I keep asking the question, “Why am I here?  Is this all there is?”  These are the questions that hound me when the ministries that I thought I had are taken away.  Why, Lord?

    How many times I have said, “Father, I am here because I thought I was following you.  But so much of the time I am full of uncertainty.  What is of you and what is of me?  How can I know the difference?”  So maybe that is what the stripping is about?  He takes away that which is unnecessary to make room for what is necessary.  But, in His mercy, He doesn’t take it all away all at once.  That’s why the stripping is incremental.

    But it isn’t a punishment, either.  It isn’t chastisement.  It’s just part of the process.  God is not angry.  He is just doing His work.  It’s pruning, right?  Well, I would rather be pruned than cut off, and those are the only options!

    I know I am rambling.  But one more thing:  Look at Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!  He became nothing.  He died naked, in public view, on a cross.  Will I really follow Him all the way to there?  I still have so much, but He relinquished everything.

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