Give and Take + Curry Chicken Salad

give and take

Our first 3 years on the field were the worst years of our marriage. We had only been married 3.5 years when we left for the field, a 1-year-old in tow. Expectations were high. Needs were unmet. Tempers flared.

It was an especially rough start. We skipped right over the honeymoon phase. On the flight over, our oldest spent half of the 13 hours of the long flight screaming. Our new teammates tried to help. The flight attendants even came and offered special drinks and snacks—I’m sure because others were complaining about the screaming child. By hour 8, I was bawling with him. I thrust him into my husband’s hands, spent. We still don’t know what was wrong with our normally happy baby, but he was back to his happy self as soon as we stepped off the plane.

We arrived in our host country at 2am, having not slept for too many hours already. We stumbled into our hotel room, where we’d attend training for the next month. The accommodations were far less than I expected. The food was sub-par and my son refused to eat more than crackers and yogurt. We washed our laundry by hand in the hotel sink. All of this, paired with jet lag and culture shock, led to stress, which often led to arguments with my husband.

But I didn’t catch it, so I kept spiraling downward.

We finally arrived in our new home and began the semester. My husband dove into planning lessons, hanging out with students, and loving our new life.

Meanwhile, I spent most of our time at our apartment with our son, wondering why we moved across the world so I could simply raise our son in a different place. I sure wasn’t doing much else!

In the following months, I had a miscarriage (which included some very insensitive cultural experiences), failed in the kitchen time and time again, and could count on one hand how many times I had contact with students.

We were clearly called, so I clung to that calling. But why, oh why, was I even here? I pelted this question at my husband often. Thankfully, he only had encouraging, loving answers.

Fast forward to the following year. I brought our toddler and 5-week-old back from the US without my husband. It was nuts, but we made it. After we got settled, and we emerged from the sleepless nights and young baby stage, the same feelings of uselessness in ministry started creeping in again.

My husband saw it early this time and we brainstormed ways I could feasibly interact with students while still caring for two young boys. We settled on inviting a group of girls (5-6) once a week to our home to have a sort of cultural exchange. I knew I couldn’t plan and execute too much in that stage, but I could invite them over for a few games and store-bought snacks. The next week, we would switch and they would teach me something about their culture. They would cook, take me somewhere cultural (with baby, of course), or show me a cultural craft. It still took a lot of effort, but I was elated each time. I was finally involved!

So why am I telling you these stories? Because the underlying force behind this was my husband paying attention to me, seeing that I was frustrated with the stay-at-home status. He knew it would take sacrifice on his part, but he found a way to get me involved because he knew that was a big part of us staying overseas.

He threw me a big curve ball at the end of our second year by suggesting we go to language school, and I should study first. It wasn’t easy to quiet the fears of learning such a difficult language, but, again, he sacrificed to make it happen. He stayed at home with our two young boys while I went to school 6 hours a day. We would then hand the baton off and he would hit the books for 2 hours. It was an exhausting year, but he knew that if I learned the language, I’d be able to live life a little easier.

He was right. Learning the language opened up my world! I finally began making local friends, being part of Bible studies with locals, answer all the grannies’ questions about our kids, and feeling like I could actually thrive.

Even when I was at my worst, my lowest, my ugliest, he didn’t give up. He kept praying for wisdom on what to do with his wife that was losing it and ready to hop on a plane back to the US.

Marriage is hard. Marriage on the field, in my opinion, is harder. So many comforts and all things familiar are stripped away. You have to make a million decisions a day, in another language. You have to find your rhythm in the foreign cultural dance. You have to do it in front of your spouse and maybe little people that are looking up to you. It’s messy.

If you’re married, look out for your spouse and make sure they’re looking out for you. If you’re not married, ask a teammate or close friend to do so. Watch for signs of disconnection and discontentment. Hold each other up. Pray each other out of the valleys. Ask what their needs and expectations are and, if they seem to be in line with the Lord’s, figure out a way to help meet them. The longevity of service could depend on it.

*****

Chicken salad has always been a quick go-to, I-don’t-feel-like-cooking kind of meal. My very normal recipe with a mayo sauce and apples or grapes was getting old. When I spotted this recipe, I knew it’d be a great change-up! We love the flavorful chicken, crunchy nuts, and sweet bursts of fruit. It’s versatile and easy to change to whatever you like. Since it’s made with Greek or plain yogurt, it’s much healthier than most versions!

Prepping this chicken is fast and easy!
Keeping the pieces thin ensure they stay juicy while cooking quickly.
If you have a food processor, even better! I’m old-fashioned and don’t mind the chopping.
Greek yogurt, nuts and dried fruit make a healthy, yummy chicken salad.
I always at least double the batch for our family. They love it!
Good on whatever vehicle you choose to eat it with. Or, by the fork-ful. 🙂

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves: 4

Ready in: 30 minutes

Slightly adapted from: Pinch of Yum

1 lb. chicken breasts

curry powder, garlic powder, onion powder

3/4 cup Greek yogurt (or plain, thick yogurt)

2 tablespoons olive oil or water

2 tablespoons honey

a handful of golden raisins or choice of fruit, chopped

a handful of pistachios or your choice of nut, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally so they are very thin. Sprinkle chicken with an even coating of curry powder, garlic powder, and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until golden brown and cooked through. When cooled, chop the chicken into small pieces and chill in the fridge.

Once the chicken is cool enough, mix in a medium bowl with all remaining ingredients. Season to taste with more curry powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Serve over greens, on a croissant, on toast, in a wrap, bagel, crackers…or just dive in with a fork.

Photo by Jenna Jacobs on Unsplash

6 Comments

  1. Spring May 27, 2019

    Thanks Ashley you spoke right to my heart. I realized I am not alone in the feelings of being “stuck” with culture and language. I also get that a lot of women who don’t serve cross culturally struggle with this issue. For me it didn’t happen till we moved overseas. As a nurse, I had a job for 90% of our married life. (off for 10 months because I was laid off while pregnant with our son). You are right that it is important to find a way to thrive, and someone to look after your well being.

    1. Ashley Felder May 28, 2019

      Spring, you indeed are not alone! It’s great to be aware that we need to be checked on every now and then. Glad you have someone to do that for you!

  2. Juliane Rottmann May 28, 2019

    Thank you, Ashley, for your sharing your experience and the chicken salad (I’ll try it out). I rejoice with you for your husband saw your situation and took initiative.
    We’re now in our 4th year overseas and I think I have an idea of how you felt in those valleys.
    Being at home with our children was exactly what I have been doing in our home country, feeling fullfilled and priviledged. But here, being a stranger, who came with a strong desire to conect with and serve people, for me this task also started to feel not enough, somehow unfullfilling, not very usefull in missions. (What a lie!) I started to feel being treated unfair and even angry against my husband and God. Wasn’t I also called and gifted? Why then did they put me aside? Specially when husbands seem to “dove” in their work, it becomes easier for the Enemy to tell us such lies. He has a severe interest in frustrating us, accusing others and ourselves of not being enough day and night.
    But the truth is, we’re perfectly made and chosen by God to support and look out for each other – I need my husband the way he is AND HE NEEDS ME. Even when there are times we might not feel this, we can believe it and pray for God to take control. He will.

    1. Ashley Felder May 28, 2019

      Yes, yes, yes! Those are some common lies I think a lot of us hear. Even though we may feel a pull to ministry, we all know (but I struggle to accept sometimes!) that our primary ministry is to serve and raise our kiddos. It gets messy when we have expectations to do more. Thanks for the reminders that our husbands need us, too…right where we are.

  3. Diane June 3, 2019

    Ashley, it’s uncanny (and kind of unfortunate for us both) how many of our experiences have been similar. I know we’ve talked about some stuff, but don’t remember what exactly. We arrived over here close to midnight…on the Lunar New Year’s eve (no idea who thought that was a good idea!). Our first night of sleep in the hotel was violently interrupted by capitol city celebrations (before it was all banned). I also miscarried a few months after we arrived. I also felt sidelined, but didn’t know what to do about it and, as I was spiraling down in depression (because of said miscarriage and a number of other things that happened), didn’t know how to find the oomph to do anything anyway. My husband was quick to engage and loved what he was doing, but also says the hardest part of our first season of work here is that he didn’t know how to help me. He tried and we did similar things to your girls group. It took actually being abruptly relocated back to the US after 5 years and having a 2-year time of recovery to find myself again, but it did happen. Thank God for husbands that are attentive and caring and willing to push and sacrifice for the good of the family and us. I’m thankful that, as things are easier, but still hard, he’s still doing so.

    1. Ashley Felder June 14, 2019

      I didn’t know how similar our stories were, either! Thankful both our menfolk are tuned into the HS to be on the lookout for us. It’s important in any marriage, but even more so in the crucible of overseas living!

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