Confessions of a Black Sheep

If I could go back in time to the moment I arrived on the field with my first baby in tow, I would pull myself aside and give this piece of advice: you don’t have to sacrifice the needs of your family on the altar of ministry because your family is your biggest ministry. I especially needed these words of wisdom when it came to the big decisions we’d face during our decade abroad.

As our children approached school age, I found myself failing to fall in line with the status quo and battling thoughts that I must be inferior or rebellious because I couldn’t suck it up and homeschool my children like most of the mothers in our organization. I repeatedly approached God in prayer and asked Him to change the desires of my heart if He would have me homeschool, and the peace never came. In fact, the anxiety grew! Because of the lack of educational options available to us outside of homeschooling, we ended up leaving an organization we loved so that we could stay in our country of service and educate our kids in a way that kept our family sane. It was a difficult choice, but I don’t regret it!

Another instance in which we made such a choice came as I wrestled over the decision about where to deliver our third child. Part of me wanted to be a hero and stay put and have the baby in the city where we lived (like all my closest mom friends were doing), but I had zero peace with the scenario. I’ll never forget a wise friend looking me in the face and saying, “You do whatever you think is best for YOU and YOUR BABY.” Her words gave me freedom and released me from unreasonable expectations I placed on myself to be like everyone else!

Even though traveling to another city in our country of service to give birth was a hassle, it was the plan God set in motion before us. I felt like the ONLY woman in the organization who chose to leave the city of my residence during the school year to travel to another city to give birth. (I knew of other families who returned to America to have babies, but their children were always conveniently born during summer vacation, so it didn’t seem like they were bucking the system!)

Just like choosing whether to homeschool, it was an extremely tough choice in which I battled thoughts such as “Why can’t I just be like everyone else? Is there something wrong with me? Why do I have ZERO peace about delivering this baby here?” However, after it was all said and done, I know that God ordained it just as it came to pass.

Even though homeschooling and city-of-residence birthing weren’t specifically written in stone, it felt like our sending organizations had preferred answers for certain scenarios. I see the need for organizational preference, but I wonder if I’m not alone in wondering where we could and should draw the line. I’m sad that whenever cross-cultural workers openly seek options beyond the “guidelines” laid before them, they feel as if they’ve done something wrong.

It’s a very confusing life raising a family away from all that’s familiar while also surrounded by an organizational culture that dictates what you can and can’t do. I was brave enough to look for other options (in child birth and education), yet the feeling that I must be “less than” in some way because I chose to do things differently can still sneak up on me at times. I’d rather just keep that feeling to myself, but I have an inkling there’s someone out there who needs to be released from “organizational disobedience guilt” and grab on to the idea that sometimes God moves us to new places, puts us on a different path than others and has a good plan for all of it! I’m not saying we have a blank check for doing whatever we want, but every situation will not fit in the nifty little box the field handbook has created.

How do you reconcile doing what’s best for your family with submitting to the authority of your sending organization? Are we to automatically assume the established status quo is best for our family, whether it be birthplace of our children, educational options or even the NUMBER of children we can have? Are those of us who choose to do things a little differently entitled, rebellious or hard-headed for not stepping in line with every policy handed out when it comes to our families, or does that make us innovators?

Photo by Topich on Unsplash

9 Comments

  1. MG June 10, 2018

    Girl! You are so right on target…. breaking away from any of the established norms on kid stuff, especially if the leadership directly above you has strong opinions on it is incredibly difficult. Like being branded with the A in the Scarlett Letter! What’s funny is my organizational preferences are opposite yours (national school and out of country birth). We’re pregnant with #3 and (lucky me) I have extreme morning sickness…. our leadership has been so unsupportive! I think because their wives had easier births abroad, there is no grace or mercy for a different situation. It’s like “Buck up and deal with it” is their mantra. It’s been one of the hardest things about being abroad…. Christian people not acting in love towards one another!! It baffles my brain.

    1. M'Lynn Taylor June 10, 2018

      Hi, MG. You bring up a good point. I think it’s easy for people who have served with the same organization in the same country for an extended period of time to lose their empathy. Leadership has to deal with so many stressful situations and so many difficult people (yes, even Christian people, but also unfinished, difficult people) while dealing with their own loss, grief, day-to-day tasks, relational stress, marriage woes, child rearing challenges, team conflicts, etc. I don’t want to be too hard on those in leadership, but I will say it’s very easy for them to categorize everyone who doesn’t toe the line they’ve drawn in the sand as a “whiner” and move on! LOL. I’m praying you’ll be able to get the medical care you need (oh my dear, I’m so sorry about the extreme morning sickness…that’s awful and extremely hard!!!) and even if you’re not getting any empathy from those around you, I pray you’ll sense the grace and peace that only the presence of Jesus can give! He sees you and He cares for you!!!

      1. MG June 11, 2018

        Your right girl… it’s easy to forget the weight of responsibility leaders have. And to forget the amount of HELPFUL advice and insight they give us. Man the call to forbear is heavy huh? Thanks for the reminders!

  2. Joyce June 10, 2018

    Hello! I do not understand this one. Can someone elaborate it more?
    The bible is very clear:

    DEVOTEDNESS TO GOD
    THE CONCEPT OF “JESUS MORE THAN”

    Matt 10:37-39
    37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
    38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
    39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

    1. FAMILY Matt 10:37
    37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or
    daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
    Luke 14:25-26
    25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
    26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and
    sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.

    2. WILL Matt 10:38
    38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
    Luke 14:27
    27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    3. LIFE Matt 10:39
    39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
    Lk 14:26
    26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters
    — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.

    4. EVERYTHING Luke 14:33
    33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple

    1. AW June 10, 2018

      I love this reminder that obedience to God isn’t always submission to organizational establishments! I don’t have children/a family of my own so I can’t relate in that way, but I am a black sheep in the town where God has placed me – single, professional, black hair, no family around. I feel like the church organization here has a different idea of what a faithful (#blessed) Christ-follower should look like, and yet God had ordained a different path. I’ve got to admit though, sometimes sticking out like a sore thumb is where God’s grace has been revealed most to me and (hopefully) through me.

    2. M'Lynn Taylor June 10, 2018

      Hi, Joyce! Glad you chimed in for some discussion. I agree with you that the Bible is very clear that we must follow Jesus above all else. I’m not at all saying that anyone should disobey the call that Jesus has placed on their lives. The only thing I am questioning is where do you draw the line when it seems like what Jesus is calling you to is different than what your organization or ministry requires of you? Does the organizations’ requirement automatically equal God’s call? Prayerful consideration is always needed when answering such questions. If Jesus places a cross in my life to carry, I will carry it and trust he’ll provide the strength for me to see me through (as I mentioned in the post about praying and asking the Lord to change the desires of my heart if he would have me home school or give birth in my city of residence). However, there’s no need to take up a cross that isn’t mine to bear. In John, chapter 21, verses 19-23 Jesus tells Peter the kind of death Peter will suffer. “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me?” John 21: 19-23. In God’s loving kindness toward me, He shows me the path He has for my life and I follow him, even if it’s different than that of others.

      1. Amy Young June 11, 2018

        Wise! In these types of situations this is a helpful distinction! “Is Jesus requiring this? Or is it more a norm in my organization?” One is more up for discussion than they other :).

  3. Kim June 11, 2018

    I was pregnant with our last two while we were in South Asia and both times we had thought we “ought” stay and deliver there. Finding a doctor, hospital, etc, was so stressful! Ironically, God had already orchestrated unexpected events with our visas that required us to leave right around both of my delivery times, so I had no choice but to go back to the US for both deliveries. I can’t say I was disappointed, in fact, I was relieved to have had the support of family and friends the way I had had with my earlier deliveries! And I can completely relate to the homeschool feelings. I homeschooled our first two for kindergarten, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me and my kiddos have even asked me to never homeschool them… what does that mean?! And I can safely say I have always felt like a bit of a black sheep both at home and abroad — but that’s a whole other story 😉

    1. M'Lynn Taylor June 11, 2018

      Hi, Kim! I’ve seen so many examples of what you mentioned…the birth is planned for this or that location and somehow God orchestrates a completely different plan. Seeing these scenarios work themselves out has given me so much peace that He’s in control (even though so often we try so hard to figure things out for Him!) I LOVE stories like yours that take an unexpected turn, and seen some where the baby needed a NICU that would not have been available elsewhere. It’s been equally amazing seeing women completely at peace staying put to give birth and having fantastic experiences as well. About that homeschooling thing… I’m so happy for anyone who can pull it off, but I know my God-given limits and choose to obey them! Ha!

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