Battling the Doubts + Crispy Pulled Pork

The last 5 years of serving in our host country, rules and regulations surrounding our work and lives have gotten tighter and tighter. Fewer and fewer foreigners are in-country; the pandemic has only exacerbated that. Foreigners can no longer run non-profits. Foreign English teachers, once a very easy job to obtain, no matter your qualifications, are slowly being pushed out. Our brand-new English consulting business took a hard hit a few months ago after huge education reforms rolled out, making half of our business impossible to continue. Leaders and officials often have a chip on their shoulder when talking about or dealing with foreigners.

It seems like the whammies just keep coming. If I’m honest, these last few years have made me question our presence here.

Throw into all of that a pandemic and all of its ramifications, especially towards foreigners, as I wrote about here.

And then I can’t forget the quiet doubts that linger when living across the world from the culture I grew up in. Are my kids thriving here? They’re missing out on so many opportunities I perceive as “normal childhood activities” that I had. What if something tragic happens to a loved one? Will we be able to go back in time? Should we go back, or is that suffering part of the sacrifice of our calling? Are we even being effective here? Opportunities to serve and share our lives now require lots of creativity, prolonging the process of influence even more.

And yet we’re still here.

Many have been kicked out for good. Hundreds are still waiting for the borders to open to return. But a tiny percentage of us have been given the grace to remain.

When the doubts and questions fly around my head, I take a moment to remember. Remembering and recalling is a powerful way for me to adjust my perspective. When I can recall all the times God has been faithful, given abundant grace, or pulled us through an issue I couldn’t see the end of, my heart is grateful once again. I’m able to understand when James commands us to “consider it all joy,” because when I have the right perspective, how could I not rejoice at the Father of the universe directing my steps?

As I reflect, and if I’m aware enough in the midst of a trial, I can see where God encourages me along the way in big and small ways.

If the skies are clear and I can see the sun or even some puffy clouds, I rejoice at such a gift. The air is getting cleaner year-by-year, but blue skies are still precious!

In the midst of facing lots of discrimination a few months ago, we were deeply encouraged one day when we visited a friend’s village and we felt welcomed and wanted. Pre-pandemic, we were often treated like mini celebrities, but that all came to a screeching halt and often people were terrified of us. When we were in the village, people were kind and gathered around to take pictures. One family even sent their daughter to hug and kiss me. Pandemic, what? It truly touched my soul to feel wanted and welcomed.

When we found out we couldn’t return for a summer break, we stuck our necks out and asked friends and supporters if anyone would send us some items we needed replenished. Several responded and followed through with the time-consuming and expensive process it takes to send a package! Each time one arrives, our entire family is giddy with excitement, reminded we are loved and not forgotten.

Music and lyrics can also have a deep impact on me. I’ve been playing these 3 songs on repeat lately:

“Man of Your Word” – Maverick City Music

This song has deep Truths in it, reminding me that the Lord has promised me so many things that I often forget, resulting in anxiousness or fear of the unknown.

“You Get the Glory” – Jonathan Traylor

During recent challenging times, this song has been an anthem I sometimes have to force myself to declare—no matter what happens, God will get the glory because he ordained it all to happen, in His perfect time and way, all for my good. (Psalm 84:11)

“Joyful” – Dante Bowe

This song is just fun! The lyrics are simple and reminiscent of a childhood song, but also remind me that each day is a gift and I alone get to choose my attitude and response, no matter what comes along.

I can’t predict what will happen anytime soon, or even what life and work will look like in 10 years. I do know we’re called to serve here until God calls us elsewhere, so until then, we’ll stay and endure the changes that are sure to come. When the doubts arise, as I’m sure the enemy will continue to throw them, I hope I can choose to remember and reflect on His goodness. And perhaps have a jam session.

What helps you through times of doubt? Do you have a scripture, book, or song you like to revisit during anxious times?

*****

I used to spend hours in the kitchen nearly every day–cooking, baking, or keeping up the supply of other homemade items. Recently, our lives have shifted to another gear and I’m finding myself looking for quicker meals or ones I can prep in the morning and finish quickly later. I want to be someone who loves crock pot meals, but I just don’t love chicken that’s been cooked forever, beef is mega expensive, and we don’t eat much pork. However, this pork is delicious! Every time I’ve served it, my family or guests are going back for seconds and thirds. Enjoy!

I usually buy the back part of the leg. You’re looking for some marble, but not too much. Mine always comes with a giant layer of fat that I leave on for cooking, and toss when it’s done. It also comes with the skin on, but the butchers always cut it off for me and save it for themselves. Does wonders for our own skin, so I hear!
Simple ingredients make this super easy to prep!
I don’t know all the science behind it, but a can of Coke works its wonders during the cooking process, turning the meat into succulent deliciousness!
It’s torture smelling this all day long, but the rewards are worth the wait!
When it’s this easy to pull apart, you know it’ll be good.
You could absolutely just stop and eat it here. But, broiling it for a few minutes crisps up some of the edges, making it even better!
At this point, I have to guard the pan from everyone wanting “just a taste.”
We often put the meat into tacos, but you can eat it as is, or add some BBQ sauce!

Crispy Pulled Pork

Serves: 6

Ready in: 5-10 hours

Slightly adapted from: Cafe Delites

3-4 pounds (or 2 kg) skinless, boneless pork butt (or shoulder)

3-4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano 

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 onion , cut into wedges

8 cloves garlic , smashed

2 limes , juiced (or 4 Tbsp of lime juice)

2 large oranges , juiced (or 3/4 cup orange juice)

1 12oz can Coke

Rinse and pat dry pork with a paper towel.

In the bowl of a 6-quart slow cooker, add pork, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, lime juice, orange juice, Coke, and bay leaves.

Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until the meat falls apart).

Remove pork and shred with two forks (DO NOT DISCARD THE LIQUID!)

Transfer the pork to a baking sheet or 9×13 pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil spray (or lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper).

Pour 1 ladle full (about 1 cup) of the liquid from the slow cooker over the pork to season. Broil for 5-10 minutes on high heat until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.

Season with a little extra salt and pepper if desired. Pour over more of the slow cooker juices once the meat has crisped for added flavor, just before serving! Serve in tacos, burritos, salad, or just fork-fuls.

Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

8 Comments

  1. Stephanie Dias October 19, 2021

    Velvet Ashes does it again! It’s like you’ve bugged my brain! What a timely post. My husband and I just had a long talk tonight and I shared most, if not all, of these same doubts with him. Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings on a page and letting me know I’m not alone in this season of doubt. And I’m right there with you with the jam sesh. I have to have my refocus songs and my gratitude reminder songs. Hugs and Blessings!

    1. Ashley Felder October 20, 2021

      Stephanie, we are truly not alone! Thanks for sharing that you’re in a similar spot. Which songs help you during times like this? Always looking for encouraging music!

  2. Grace L October 19, 2021

    I admire your willingness and your ability to stay when so many others (including us) had to leave. It is truly a privilege that Father is blessing you with. I am sure that He has a plan for you and your family as He allows you to stay. I know what it is like to feel so warmly welcomed and loved in your country, but how disheartening it must be to face the skepticism of the locals. I love your story of being so welcomed in the village. I have such wonderful memories of being with the locals in their villages. I am sorry to hear that fear is creeping in when it comes to the attitudes toward foreigners. And especially distressing that your new business was so affected by the education reforms. God must have a very special plan for you as He has continued to keep the door open for you to be there. Now may He give you the grace for His plan.

    For me, when I am facing doubts, I go to His Word and stand on His promises. And these doubts will come whether you are in your passport country or your ministry country. We are all on a journey with the Lord as we choose to trust in Him with all our hearts.

    And every time I read one of your posts, I am encouraged and excited to know that you and some other expats are still there. Hang in there…

    1. Ashley Felder October 20, 2021

      Grace, thank you for your continued encouragement! It’s true that we face these doubts and challenges no matter where we are residing. The refining process is life-long, for sure! Like you said, it’s important to continue to fill our mind and heart with the Truths God provides for us to block out the doubts and fears! Thanks for your encouragement! 🙂

      1. Grace L October 23, 2021

        Just thinking about this some more this week, Ashley. After we had to quite abruptly leave the country you are in, we have had many doubts about the effectiveness of our time there. Some projects were completely cut off with no hope of the locals continuing them. Was it all a waste? That is where faith came in – faith that God was going to continue what He had started and He was and is moving in peoples’ lives there, and that His Word that went forth will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55) Faith that He loves these people more than we did. Faith that He will bring to completion the good work that He started in and through us.

        I pray that God will give you peace about where He has you now and peace about where He will take you and your family next. Yes, we all need faith to surrender to His sovereign will for our lives. One of my favorite verses is from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” May God bless you with abundant grace in this season.

        1. Ashley Felder October 24, 2021

          Thank you for coming back to encourage some more. It’s definitely needed in times like these! This post was written soon before it was posted, so all these feelings are still true and raw, with continue “whammies” happening almost daily. Working hard to fight the lies!

  3. Jenny October 20, 2021

    Yes to the jam session!! So many times the best way to shake off the doubts (especially with a good beat) and focus on God’s promises.

    1. Ashley Felder October 20, 2021

      Amen! So thankful for a variety of encouraging music!!

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