Settling For Less Than Perfect

He was there on the wall, waiting for me as I walked into the kitchen – a nasty, nasty roach. Thankfully, roaches found in Northeastern China are smaller than the ones we experienced in Southern China, but they’re all pretty disgusting if you ask me. Jeremy wasn’t home, so bug killing duty fell on me. The boys ran into the kitchen from the next room, wide-eyed and wondering why mommy screamed so loud.

“Oh, nothing!” I said, forcing a smile, “I just killed a bug.”

No problem?! It was actually a BIG problem. I hate roaches. Growing up in West Texas, they were not a part of my daily life. Rattle snakes, tarantulas, the occasional scorpion, sure. But roaches? No! They make me cry and feel dirty and insecure.

The very next day, I walked into my bathroom at 3 am after feeding the baby, and there was another. He was just sitting there on the floor, chilling with his creepy roach antennae bobbing up and down, waiting for me. I threw my slipper on top of him, trying hard not to hear the dreaded sound of crunchy roach death as I ran back to bed, attempting to put it out of my mind. I gave Jeremy the pleasure of disposing of it the next morning.

Day three, I walked in the kitchen, first thing in the morning (which means before coffee!!!) and discovered yet another roach friend waiting for me. This time, he was on the kitchen counter. My skin crawled, my heart leapt, my stomach churned and my fury raged. I placed a coffee cup over the intruder and let Jeremy know there was a surprise waiting for him in the kitchen (for some reason, it’s his fault when creepy crawlies invade our living space).

Like the good husband he is, Jeremy put out more roach killing goop in the kitchen, even though we did that just a few short months ago and were told that should solve the problem for two years. Two days later, Ayi found a roach in the washing machine! That was the last straw for me. I immediately sent Jeremy a text message at work: “Roach in the washing machine. Sign us up to move apartments. I’m done.”

We’d been going back and forth in our usual indecisive way about whether or not we should find a different apartment. The addition of a third kid and her stuff made the place feel smaller, and we’re on the sixth floor with no elevator. However, we love so many things about the place- the view, the shower for tall people (a golden find in China), roof access, the washing machine isn’t in the bathroom, a vacant apartment beneath us which translates to no neighbors complaining about our noisy kids running around overhead…BUT…roaches!!!

After a few weeks of deliberating, exterminating, apartment viewing, we decided to stay put; to settle. Not to give in to the urge to constantly change the circumstances when they present trouble. To stick it out. To choose contentment. Sometimes, I can buy into the lie that if something is not up to par and I’m able to change it, I deserve to change it. In this case, I felt like God wanted us to stay put. To settle for an apartment that doesn’t meet our exact specifications, to endure the trial of roach intruders and trust his provision in this place that he has for us right now.

That’s also where we’re at with China (and life overseas). There are days when the trials seems to come out of the woodwork like roaches – waiting and greeting us at unexpected times and places. Even though choosing to stay put and settle far from home can be a challenge and we’re faced with the temptation to chase after a more “suitable situation” back in the States because, at times, it seems like the only reasonable solution, we feel the Lord’s peace come again assuring us that this is the place he’s prepared for us and invite us to STAY. To settle for less than perfect, less than ideal (at least in the world’s eyes), to be content in this place. In our staying and obeying we’re blessed and positioned to bless others.

Have you experienced a time when you felt like settling for less than ideal was the thing you were called to do? I’m wondering how it turned out for you (and how it will turn out for me) as I start a new school year in apartment we decided to settle in, hoping the roaches stay hidden, at least while I unpack.

Photo Credit: _namtaf_ via Compfight cc

15 Comments

  1. J'Layne August 25, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading that Miggs!  I can just see all of it vividly!  I’m so sorry about your roach problems, but I’m glad you have peace where you are for now. I do pray that you’ll know and follow when you’re being lead back home, but am glad you are where you’re made to be in the meanwhile.  My cockroaches would be crazy oilfield traffic that makes everything more dangerous around here and keeps changing the face of our small home town. However, we are also called to stay and shine bright right where HE planted us. So here’s to the Taylor’s shining bright in a China this year.  Love you little sis.

    1. M'Lynn August 26, 2014

      J’Layne, thanks for taking the time to read it and share about your own “cockroaches”! K’Lann’s pack rat problem this summer helped me remember there are potential critter problems anywhere…not just China. And, I agree…the timing to go back to America is definitely in God’s hands.

  2. Elizabeth August 25, 2014

    This is a fantastic perspective. And although I believe it, and generally try to live by this principle of settling in, and settling for less-than-perfect, I’ve been having doubts and grumblings lately. I worry about how our cheap-house-with-no-yard will affect our kids, I worry about how homeschooling will affect them. In general just thinking I’m ruining my kids for life with our decisions to stay where we are.

    I don’t doubt the call God has given us. I just look at the outworkings of it sometimes, and have lots of unanswered questions. But I SO needed this today, frustrated with the noise of construction next door, and trying to figure out how to get my kids enough active playtime. I really do believe in settling our hearts where we are. I had just . . . forgotten.

    1. M'Lynn August 26, 2014

      “I don’t doubt the call God has given us. I just look at the outworkings of it sometimes, and have lots of unanswered questions” Elizabeth, don’t we all! You are not alone. The first thing the speaker said at a TCK conference I attended last year was “you aren’t ruining your kids for life.” Ha! A teammate also reminded me once that God has a plan for our children’s lives as well and he’s using all of their experiences (good and bad) for His ultimate glory in their individual lives. We know this…but it’s good to remember it and live it out on a daily basis.

  3. Karen Huber August 25, 2014

    I loved this post. This line especially: “Sometimes, I can buy into the lie that if something is not up to par and I’m able to change it, I deserve to change it.” Though I haven’t had to deal with ubiquitous cockroaches (yet, please God!), I remember moving into our house and feeling like we were living in a fixer-upper that belonged to someone else and all these things (a lot of non-toxic mold and mildew, old food left in the stove, rubbish everywhere) just reminded me of what I didn’t have, what wasn’t mine, or what I had given up. Now a year and a half later I love it – and keep loving it. It’s the act of loving, I guess, and of – like you said – choosing to embrace that this is where God prepared a home for me, and where we choose to stay. Thank you for sharing a bit of the place He prepared for you…

    1. M'Lynn August 26, 2014

      Old food left in the stove?! Wow. That would be quite the welcome. Way to persevere! I’m glad you’re loving your place and finding ways to make it yours.

  4. Jennifer August 25, 2014

    M’Lynn,

    The thing I like most in this is how it is made so clear that often the first step in actually “settling” is in simply making the choice to settle when challenges and imperfections make us in our humanness want to do just the opposite. For me that has been when the “I don’t know how to do this”, “I’m not strong enough to do this” are the strongest and I need to simply walk one day at a time, or one single step at a time, trusting God to help me to do what I know I cannot do. The greatest thing is I do not have to do it. My call and challenges is to rest in him and allow him to do it.

    1. M'Lynn August 26, 2014

      So true, Jennifer! I’m always reminded of the verse where Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough trouble of its’ own. (Matt. 6: 34) I really cling to that one during each year’s re-adjustment period while jet-lagging, unpacking and trying to switch cultures. One day at a time…one moment at a time. His strength is enough!

  5. Amy Young August 25, 2014

    My very first night in my first home in China, we arrived late at night and one school official stopped by before bed and said in a lovely British accent, “Please mind the doors, this city is famous for mice.”

    WHAT the WHAT?!

    Mice? In my home? Like a lot?

    That was more disturbing than no hot water (because the pipes were broken) for three years (until pipes were changed). OK, so being settled in this place will involve me learning to kill mice. And so I did. Funny how settling will look different than we might imagine what you think before arriving :). I now can smash or drown mice with the best of them!

  6. M'Lynn August 26, 2014

    Amy, pardon my randomness, but I just read a feature on BBC about Cambodians trapping rats from their rice fields and shipping them to Vietnam where rat meat is a delicacy. It told of a family where a 12 year old boy would snatch the rats out of the cage and slam them against a rock so his mother could them skin them and prepare the meat for sale. I thought it was amazing how people can get used to dealing with rats on a daily basis…not just as a pest, but as a way of life! I guess we really can get used to anything!  It helps that just as I encountered a pest problem in China, my sister was in Texas finding pack rats in her house! And, I have a friend on Facebook in Georgia who found a snake in her bedroom. I’m tempted to blame it on China…but this can be reality anywhere.

    1. Amy Young August 27, 2014

      I love randomness! This reminds me of how my students would get this far away look in their eyes and wax poetic about the rat and baby mice they’d eaten in their childhood but no longer could because of the danger of injesting rat poison. At first I thought it was a joke on the foreigner. Then I realized they were serious and it did help me think about them a little bit differently (the vermin, not my students!)

  7. Alex King August 26, 2014

    Oh, i can relate to all parts of this… and needed to hear this today. We currently have a major bug problem in our kitchen in India. They are everywhere. We cannot get rid of them. I don’t know where they come from, but they are making me a crazy person (as is living overseas some days). Thankful i’m not the only one learning to endure and how to stay.  Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ashley Felder August 26, 2014

    Yep, I’m (slowly) coming to face the fact that no matter where we live (no matter the country), there will be pest problems. It usually irritates me, but like you and others have said, we’re given the grace to deal with it. In our first apartment in the US after we got married, we had these huge jumping bug things. (Not grasshoppers–they jumped higher!) I couldn’t deal with them. I ran and screamed for my new hubby to save me. Then there were the ants. In the same place, then for the next 2 apartments in China. Did I pack some with me or something?! My hubby went nuts caulking every crack (and you KNOW that’s a lot in China!) he could find. And finally in our last place in the good ol’ DongBei, we were with ya…roaches. But I lost count. All over the kitchen. (But somehow they never made it to the food! Just the dishes. Weird.) There wasn’t a day in the 2 years there that I didn’t open the kitchen cabinets and find their droppings. I finally concluded it probably had protein in it. Gross, right? Well, I just couldn’t keep up. Oh, the stories we have!!

  9. Phyllis August 29, 2014

    Hah! I laughed when I read your question (but not at you). My question is: have we ever had an ideal home?!?! Every apartment we’ve moved into has needed at least a week of deep cleaning, and I’m not a picky housewife. This one was the first that was clean, and I do think it’s ideal… unless I zoom out and look at it with someone else’s eyes. Two rooms for six people? Tiny kitchen? No living room? Rats? (The rats are staying outside–PTL!–but I still hate to see them scurrying around.)

     

    Your words here are so encouraging and so REAL! Thank you!

     

    “STAY. To settle for less than perfect, less than ideal (at least in the world’s eyes), to be content in this place. In our staying and obeying we’re blessed and positioned to bless others.” Amen.

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