Remaining for a Purpose + Creamy Sweet Potato and Squash Soup

Remaining for a Purpose + Creamy Sweet Potato and Squash Soup

Can I make a confession? Sometimes, during this crazy pandemic year, I’ve wished I was somewhere else being forced to remain. America or Thailand have been the most often visited places during my daydreams.

When I’m done wallowing and wishing my toes were in the sand, breathing clean air or letting my eyes soak in blue skies and green trees or eating some of my favorite foods in the world, I remember. He reminds me. He has us here for such a time as this.

A few months ago, I wrote about our return just as the pandemic was getting serious in our country. It was a hard decision and didn’t happen easily…actually, I threw a bit of a tantrum at first.

I’m so glad God finally broke my pride and helped me to see I needed to follow my husband’s lead to return. God has done so many things we would’ve missed out on had we not come back.

The biggest and most surprising is we’ve started a business! At the very end of 2020, the year we’ll all remember for multiple not-so-great things, God propelled us through the process of getting a business license. Let me tell you, this is no easy task for foreigners here. Past teammates have worked tirelessly for years to get licensed. We got ours in 2 weeks. We had a mountain of support to raise for 3 different budgets, the tallest mountain being for the business. We sat in awe as we watched the money pour in in a matter of a few months.

God knew He had big plans for us. We just had to do our small part to return.

This summer, we are supposed to return home for a short visit. We’ve been in a rhythm of returning for short and long stints every two years. Not this year. Like many others, our plans have been disrupted because there is no clear path to return if we leave.

As I processed this reality last month, I felt more and more trapped. Why were we chosen to remain?! I’m so weak. I’d rather have the comforts of being elsewhere. If I were in ___ I wouldn’t have to deal with daily discrimination surrounding the virus. We just started a business…we can’t leave now. What if we need to leave, but can’t?

As I processed these griefs with my husband, he gently reminded me of overseas workers in past generations. I’ve been reading aloud many of their stories to our kids recently. Their hardships were great, sacrifices many. Yet their faith endured and they were used greatly, despite the troubles they went through.

I’ve been pondering more lately about how spoiled we (speaking personally) are in this line of work these days. We can Facetime family and friends in seconds instead of sending and receiving mail over the course of months and years. We can get many items we miss from home at import stores. We can hop on a plane in a matter of hours if needed and be back home within a day or two…a far cry from the weeks and months it took people of the past.

This humbling process helped me swallow my ever-rising pride and be a tad more ready for my husband’s next conversation: perhaps this is our time to drink from their (past overseas workers) cup. Because what if we don’t get to go home again? Am I ready to accept that?

In Mark 10, James and John were chatting with Jesus about their wishes of sitting on His right and left in heaven. Jesus replies with, “You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I drink…?” We know Jesus’ cup was not one full of sweetness. I think it’s no coincidence that a few verses earlier, Jesus shares with his disciples what it means to pack up everything, leave all your loved ones, and go out to share the Gospel. It takes sacrifice. Our cups will be bitter. But it’s all worth it for the kingdom.

However long we must remain, may we continue to find comfort in the One who makes the most perfect plans…and may we find joy in the process.

Where you’re remaining right now, what has been challenging? What have you seen God do during this unexpected time of staying put?


When visiting a French/Chinese couple who used to live in France, I fell in love with this simple soup. I couldn’t believe there was no sort of cream in it! Just yummy veggies cooked down and blended into creamy goodness. Serve it up with a good hunk of bread or as an appetizer to some pasta. It’s good anytime!

I forgot to take pics until this point! But you know how to chop veggies and throw them in a pot!
Quite a bit of liquid is needed to cook down the veggies, but then needs to be discarded so you don’t end up with a super watery soup.
An immersion blender makes this super easy.
Having my son help me pour while I snapped the pic proved challenging, but you get the idea. Creamy goodness!

Creamy Sweet Potato and Squash Soup

Serves: 6

Ready in: about 1 hour

Slightly adapted from: NYT Cooking

1 tablespoon oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium-size potato, peeled and diced

6 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash, sweet potatoes, regular potato, and water or stock, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly tender.

Using a cup or ladle, remove 2-3 cups of liquid to produce a thicker, creamier soup. (Optional)

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or you can put it through the fine blade of a food mill or use a regular blender, working in batches and placing a kitchen towel over the top to avoid splashing). Return to the pot and stir with a whisk to even out the texture. Heat through, adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

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  1. Grace L March 30, 2021

    Ashley, I can relate to what you are feeling and experiencing. One year ago we were in the country you are in and had just gotten 2 year residence permits. I had mixed feelings about staying for a very long time with the excitement that we could stay in the city we had been working in for 14 years. We had a flourishing business and really good relationships with the locals, and we had no Covid cases in our county. But I would also feel anxiety about how we would get our medications or concerns if we had to stay a really long time. We loved being there and we knew if we made a trip back to the states, we would probably not be let back in.

    All that came to a quick halt when we were asked to leave by the authorities and had 4 days to pack. God has given us the grace to be back in the states near family and the direction to slightly change our approach to the work. But it is sad to know that we can never go back even for a visit. Because of Covid all around the world and the issues of the country you are living in, it is very complex. I pray that you can be at peace for remaining in the country you are in and see it as a privilege that many others would yearn for. So many cannot get back in. I have to believe that the Lord has a purpose for you to be there. And if you ever want me to send you something from “home”, let me know. I can imagine what you are going through.

    And thanks for the recipe. We are going to try it here. It looks yummy and healthy!

    1. Ashley Felder April 4, 2021

      Grace, you have always been so kind and encouraging to me via your comments. Thank you for that! I know so many want to return. It’s definitely a “grass is greener on the other side” situation. I’m still surrendering my plans and understandings often, knowing that His are far better.

      I’m glad you’ve found a way to continue your work, even though it looks so different. May God continue to bless your work as you stay flexible to His changes.

      Thank you for your very sweet gesture to send us items from there. We’re mostly covered with my retired PO worker father keeps the packages coming to “pour into his retirement.” 🙂

  2. Becki March 31, 2021

    I was just reading some of those stories to my children this morning. I have no idea what that cup was like for them really. And yet I long to walk with God. So, am I willing? Thanks for the good reminder. And congrats on the new business even if it doesn’t always feel like a gift. He is with you, Immanuel.

    1. Ashley Felder April 4, 2021

      I’m so glad those stories were written down to encourage those of us in the trenches (similar, although different in many ways) many decades later! Be encouraged, sister.

  3. Kathleen Smith April 3, 2021

    You brought to mind the time when God asked me to make this new country my home, and then changed my heart so I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! Well done for recognising this challenging part of the journey for many.

    1. Ashley Felder April 4, 2021

      I tend to be a slow learner! I have to rely on the constant grace and perspective shift He provides at just the right times. How awesome to feel so sure in your current location and work—truly a gift!

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