Tuesday, May 13, 2014

6 reasons women give so they don't have to move overseas

One of the things I treasure about living overseas is that people often ask us questions about moving their families overseas. We take our role in this Goliath-sized decision as an honor and take it pretty seriously.

Many of the people we get to talk with are just finishing up college and weighing the options laid out before them. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of these conversations are happening with women. (More on why men are shoving their fingers in their ears when it comes to moving overseas in a later post.)

Here are 6 reasons I've heard as to why, "I just need to hear God more clearly," is code for, "Moving overseas scares the marrow in my bones and so therefore I'll just keep praying so that one day I can have a job in America and not have to get on that plane after all."






1.  God hasn’t called me.

At some point in modern Christendom, we've decided that we cannot hear God unless he visits us as a Siri-spirit and guides us audibly down every alley and stop sign we meet along the way. Certainly he speaks audibly to us at times, but he has also given us two wonderful megaphones to magnify his desires for us. One is Scripture and the other is community. 

If you are on board with the Great Commission, you need to know that God's will is that the nations be reached. With that, we can know 100% that God's will is for people to go overseas. There is confidence in this that if it isn't clear to us what the Lord's will is, serving overseas is. My hope is that more believers would default to going overseas and instead be "called" to stay in America. Unfortunately, the default is to staying in America.


2.  I want to have a husband first. Or, I want to let my kids get a little older and then we'll move.

I find myself often reminding young women that God never promises you a husband. This is a great video addressing singleness on mission.

About the kids things, actually, it is easier for them to acculturate when they don't know any differently. When kids are raised overseas, they don't miss things like 4th of July parades and choir practice because they've never had experience with those things. When you take an older child, sit them down one day, and tell them that you're moving 7,000 miles away from their soccer team, drama club, and best friend, things actually get a lot harder. They play a constant comparison with their new culture. Older kids can move overseas and flourish, but if you are waiting to move until they get a little older, I would say don't wait and move before they have roots established in America. 

3. I just want to get established for a few years and get some work experience.

You will never feel financially stable enough to move overseas, get married, have kids, or die. You just have to do it and then spend lots of time in prayer.



4. My parents will freak out. 

Yes they will. Expect this. They have dreams of bouncing a bubbly 2-year grandson on their knees and baking mud cakes with their grand daughters. You will be taking that from them. They will worry about your health, your safety, and your sanity. 

Parents are going to need time to let you go. Line up all the details you have and let them know you have a plan. Pray with them. Introduce them to someone who has just gotten back from where you are going. Show them how to cook a meal from your new country. At the end of the day, your parents simply want to know you are going to be ok. 


5. I'll do it for a few years and then I'll come back and get a "real" job.

I have some rather large rants in, "Redefining Home," about the lack of long term commitment to be overseas. Reaching the nations isn't an adventure or a hobby. It's a word from our Father in which he promises to be faithful. 

Living overseas is a real job concerning real people. They aren't projects or statistics. They are people. 

Enough on that. 


6.  I could never do that. That kind of life is for people stronger, braver, smarter, and godlier than me. 

If you've ever met me in real life, you wouldn't still be saying this. That aside, most of the men and women living overseas were at times seized in fear and doubt. 

Moses was confident in one thing as he looked at leading the Israelites. He was confident that he couldn't do it. Lead the people, stand up to Pharaoh, cross a river! All God had to do was remind Moses who he was. "I am your God."

He's our God too. He will remain faithful to his children when we do crazy things like pack up our family and move to a foreign culture, language, and people. It's when we forget who God actually is that we allow fear to continue to call the shots. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4 things I learned by leaving social media for Lent

I’m not a normal subscriber to fasting for Lent. I’ve done it a few times, tossing out a token chocolate fast for good measure. This year, I decided to give up Facebook and Instagram for these 40 days. I had been feeling the strangle of social media for several months and decided there needed to be an untangling. A colon cleansing of sorts. 

I was thinking this through and trying to avoid it altogether when I was skyping with my best friend and she told me she was going to give up social media for Lent. I almost feigned a bad Skype connection so that I didn’t have to admit to her that I was thinking of doing the same thing. Now I had that blasted thing called accountability.

I learned a lot about my character and about owning my own junk these past 40 days. Blaming social media was replaced by naming my own misshaped desires and insufficient heart.





1. Social Media isn’t evil, but my heart can be.

    While social media can become a vacuum for productivity, sometimes we forget just where the problem lies. 
      
      With us.
     
      Squarely with us.
      
      If I am choosing to scrape through Facebook instead of making dinner, then I’m choosing indulgence over responsibility.

      Jeremiah 17 reminds us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desparately sick…

      A sick heart needs healing, not to my ignoring it by bandaging it with social media trivialities. But again, it’s not social media's fault. The apple wasn’t at fault in the garden. It was Eve’s deciding that God wasn’t enough that was her heart’s deception. I think there’s similar danger in our social media addictions. 

   2. Social media has exposed my desire to be known

One of the most vulnerable things I’ve learned was just how much I crave being known by people. I’ve struggled a lot with loneliness these last two years. Living overseas is isolating. But giving up social media made me realize that most of my loneliness was not a craving for community, but rather a craving for people to pay attention to me. I wanted someone to notice that I wasn’t at that birthday party and be sad because of it. This was especially apparent for the first week of the fast. I replaced my Facebook "quick looks," with email "quick looks."

It’s been good to separate loneliness from attention craving. I now understand that when I start to sense loneliness, I need to be sure it’s labeled correctly for my own heart’s sake.


3.   Social media reminds us of our need for community

I was grieved several times when I missed big events in my friends’ lives. I had several friends who would periodically send me emails to update me on things like: this person’s dad just had a heart attack; our adoption was denied; our adoption went through; I leave for South Sudan today. I missed getting to tell them I was praying for them or ask them how that doctor’s appointment went.

As long as it does not become an unhealthy dependency, our need for people is from the Lord. I Cor. 12 tells us that, “For in one Spirit we were ALL baptized into ONE body…” One functioning, synchronized body of Christ.

My natural disposition is to do it by myself.

My natural disposition is to get stressed out, overwhelmed, and void of joy.

I should not be surprised at the cause and effect.

I need community and I’m thankful to the Lord that we have social media that allows me to see that first birthday party of the friend’s daughter whom I’ve yet to hold. While social media can take us tempt us to avoid face to face interactions, it also allows to remain connected that is unprecedented in history.

4.   When we categorize social media as merely a time drain, we strip it’s ability for good.

We Americans like categories. Democrat/Republican; liberal/conservative; pro-life/pro-choice. When we slip social media into the “waste of time” file, we discount all the good things that can be done with it. Plenty of organizations are using it for advocacy and raising money for great causes. I’ve seen families decide to adopt because of a video they saw or article they read off Facebook. I’ve learned how to be better mom through blogs and articles found online. Redeeming social media is key-using it to move forward Christianly things in a progressive and gracious manner. God knew we’d have this push and pull with social media as we sit here in 2014. Let’s let it revolutionize the world instead of feeding our gluttonous hearts.



The pile of nastiness that can be dumped in and around our hearts can be overwhelming. But I know that tomorrow morning, new mercies are offered to me by the most generous of all Fathers. Thank you Jesus that I don’t have to muster up these heart changes on my own.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MTV music video is done. Oh buddy.

I've been on a social media fast for Lent. I've also put a hold on blogging for awhile.

I'll probably write on my thoughts on that soon.

But, I break my blogging break to bring you our Chinese music video debut. If you missed the details about the filming, here they are...in all their blackmailing material glory.




Since the release of this video, we've had friends text and tell us they've seen it in their hotels and on the bus. As you watch, notice the lack of close ups on my fingers as I play the piano. It might be because they had to bring in a piano teacher to show me how to position my hands. It might also be that once I learned how to position my hands, I just pretended to type my name like it was a keyboard.


Yes, I still have the dress.


For a single that's put out by someone with actual musical talent (unlike me), check out this new single:





It will bless your soul.










Saturday, January 04, 2014

Little Blogging Break

I'm taking a blogging break. I could take your hand and walk you down a romantic diatribe of why I need to step back for a bit. Here's the bottom of it:

I'm tired.

I have an uneasy feeling that 2014 is going to be a year of me coming to terms with my weaknesses. One of my disillusionments is that I can do anything I want to. I've bought into the American mantra and now I'm tired.

I don't have a theme or a word for this year. Only a task: Lose Control.

I am hoping that my brain will find its functionality in the next few months and I'll pick up writing again. I need writing, so I'm praying that the Lord would refresh my soul in the next few months and I'll be back at it soon enough.

We also started watching Downton Abbey. That's not helping me with setting healthy margin in my life.

I just jumped into the instagram game. Thank you 21st century. I'm going to try and still post pics there if you want to follow along, you can find me here:  cvaughn

Until then...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My First Magazine Article Published!

Hey guys!

My first magazine article was published today and I'm pumped. This whole magazine article thing could get addictive. You sit down, write, edit, and only self-doubt for a page or two of a Word document. It's bliss.





This online publication is fantastically encouraging, especially to women who are involved in overseas work. It's clean, beautiful, and symmetrically laid out. I have issues with symmetry.

I wrote about how the neediness of Mary Magdalene makes me panic. Here's the first little bit:


Mary Magdalene freaks me out. Her underlying, desperate neediness with Jesus can be unnerving. When I read her stories I picture a pasty, scrawny seventh-grader pathetically eager to join the kickball game at recess.


The rest can be found here. 


Check it out and while you're at it, browse the rest of the site. It really is that good. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Getting Kids Writing

My kids have been writing in journals since they could form a coherent sentence. While I've had to veto words like 'Poop' and 'Butt,' I've loved watching their minds open to imagination. I feel like imagination is what lets us humans breathe. It's in those moments of creative abandon that I feel we are truly human. It allows us to breathe in our souls and breathe out things created by a force other than reason and logic.  In this post I'll focus on some helpful websites. Once I locate my motivation I'll post about some original ideas. But man that motivation can be an elusive creature to find sometimes.



Here are three of my favorite writing prompt sites for middle/high school students. I loved these because they are based on pictures or .gif files to get their brains cranking out creative energy.




Writing Prompts






Photo Prompts



Wilson College has a list of some fantastic prompts that will get high schoolers writing a more lengthy passage. If you have an advanced Jr. High student I think they can handle most of these also. 

A sample entry:

 Describe the room of one of the following: a high school student about to drop out; a cashier who has just won the lottery; a faded movie star who still thinks she's famous; a paranoid person, etc (see full list of suggestions in What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers). Be as detailed as possible.
 



A few favorites for elementary age:


Age K-6. You can choose the age-appropriate level on the first screen. 











These are fun ones to get them writing more short story types of entries. They are geared towards maybe 3-5 graders. These have spurred on many that I can take and branch off of to create my own prompts for them. 

Here are a few:

  1. Imagine if cows gave green juice instead of milk!  What would the world look like?
  2. Imagine that all the streets are rivers? How do you get around?
  3. What would happen if it really did rain cats and dogs?



If you're a Pinterester, here's a board with tons of links to great writing helps for elementary-aged students.



All ages:

This site (Daily Teaching Tools) has 180 journal prompts, one for every school day. These are fairly age neutral, maybe tweeking a few so as to make them fit the specific age-level. There are so many here that even if you only journal once a week you'll have plenty to pick from. 

Here are two examples:

 *Write a thank you note to a friend who gave you onion and garlic-flavored chewing gum.
journal writing prompts
 *Draw an imaginary constellation. Write a story such as ancient people might have told about it.



This site has some thoughtful questions to get them thinking about worldview and current events. This is maybe for slightly older kids, but some of them could be modified for a younger writer. I have found that my younger kids can be asked some pretty deep questions and they actually have insightful ideas on how to answer them. For younger kids, you could even use some of these but have them answer them orally while you write their answers down. 


Here are a few they gave:


  1. What do you like and dislike about elderly people?
  2. Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Why or why not?
  3. Write about a time you had high hopes for something and got let down.
  4. Is war ever justified?

And remember, journaling is all about creativity. I try not to correct spelling or grammar in these. I just want them writing and expressing their thoughts. I do veto certain words because well, not every story has to end up with pooping horses.

I hope this helps. If you've got other sites that have been helpful, leave them in the comments so that others can steal them too. 












Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Raising or Resenting our Kids



 
In my brief years of raising children, I have discovered that parents fall into one of two categories. Either parents become resentful or satisfied as their children grow up. The resentful parent will go through their children’s younger years pushing them from behind; hurried for them to become independent. They become tired and resentful because it requires so much from them. Or they jump in with both feet and become satisfied and thankful for their children. Consequently they experience the joys alongside of their kids. I realize that these are clear-cut categories that are actually murkier in real life. In general though I think that parents can be fit into one of these two categories of thinking.

The idea of becoming parents is tempting and satisfying because it’s the next logical step in life. I think that most people get to a point where they are prepared for parenthood, but not prepared for the sacrifice. Those who accept the sacrifice as a reality and even as a gift end up becoming parents who see kids as a joy instead of a burden.

As Christians we cry out our life’s goal as becoming more and more like Jesus. While this is an important goal, we need to remember Jesus’ life as a whole. We prefer to live like Jesus when he was showing mercy to the hemorrhaging woman or restoring the demoniac. We lay him out at the last supper, feeding and washing the feet of the disciples. Our minds seem to skip past the betrayal, suffering, mockery, and pain Jesus experienced here on earth. We picture the wonderful times he and the disciples spent feeding thousands and fishing late into the night. Or the times he had to rebuke the disciples for going about healing in a wrong way. He even went so far as to call Peter a name-Satan.

But Jesus continued to walk with them. He looked to the disciples as his children. Children who would get messy and say inappropriate things in the market. He was going to be needed to bind up wounds and explain why people gossip. He didn’t look down at them as children unworthy of his time or resources. He understood that his time with them would be short. He also knew that they would turn from him, thankless for the lives that he had given them. Yet he continued to walk with them, not resent them.

Did he have other things to do?  Sure. People from every crevice near and far wanted his attention. But over and over again, we see him piecing off and living with his disciples. He didn’t see his nurture and care for them as a waste of time. He saw it as part of his purpose on this earth. To help them understand what the Kingdom of God was like by knitting consistency and trust into the hearts of the disciples.

When we treat our kids like they are a burden or getting in the way of things we’d rather be doing, we are knitting holes into their understanding of the Lord. These holes add up to a shoddy, weak understanding of a faithful God. We won’t be perfect, but if we are consistent, repentant, humble, and honest then at least all the strings will be attached. The knitting might look lopsided or the wrong color, but at least there are not holes and gaps that are difficult to fill after that little one is old enough to fill it with other things. Let’s commit together as parents to put our whole selves into the task of parenting. To teach our children that committing to them is not only our gift to them, but a gift to us as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our MTV Movie Debut

I have had a dream of being a rockstar. Flipping my hair in an "I don't really care that I'm singing, playing guitar, and all of you are chanting my name" kind of way. Ripped jeans, cool scarves, and swanky coffee shops. When I sat down this weekend to play the piano in an MTV movie, this is not quite how I envisioned my rockstar debut as going. 

 Several weeks ago, our landlord asked us for a favor. Favors are how things are done over here. So we agreed to perform in an MTV movie about a man named Milton Gardner




We did hair and make-up for a really long time. This whole getting pretty stuff takes a long time, that's why I don't do it very often. They tried putting make-up on Makaria. I just stood by and laughed. She looked like she had run through a dust storm, tripped, and dragged her face through a sand pile. After the make-up artist looked up at me with desperation, I told her that none of her make-up would look right on my gloriously black child. 




They spent forever on my hair. I then went to another hair lady and she did it all over again. 




As we started shooting the first few scenes, I realized that I had received no direction from the director. I cannot play the piano, so I just pretended like I was typing my name on a keyboard. That is apparently not correct. They called someone in to teach me how to put my hands and gave me direction on where to look and when to smile. 



Kesed managed to get a picture with the most glamorous Chinese woman on set. All before lunch. 



Malachi and Charis had to jump rope in a scene. The Chinese kid got the ax when we heard the director tell him, "You are an ugly jump-roper!" This took several takes because Malachi had to run in while Charis was jumping. The smaller kids had to be jumping up and down, counting, and clapping. There was lots of hand-eye coordination happening and well, you're dealing with 8 kids under the age of 10. 




The director was so patient though and did a fantastic job instructing the kids. Another time he told a Chinese boy, "You are handsome, but you're a wuss!" 




I was supposed to be teaching a music class. Without knowing how to play the piano or any ability to sing, it required an Oscar-like performance. I'm really not into theatre, so this was quite a stretch for me.  But getting to watch my kids learn what it is like on a real life movie set was totally worth every hour we spent on that mountain. 



Then they had Malachi (who was playing Gardner as a young boy) and a boy climb a 1,300 year old tree. It's a local historical landmark that I'm sure we didn't have permission to be climbing. They made a call to local officials to take a sign down because it was interfering with the shot. They made the call, but I'm not sure they ever got an answer. The kids yelled and jumped while the tree climbers beckoned them to come up. 


Then we headed to a grassy area to play ball and other games. 



All the family actors.


Then they brought out the piano that I was supposed to be gaily playing while the kids pranced around the yard. 


We headed to another location where at one point, my son and a girl were dangling from a large wall. 


The director explained things to the kids and kept commenting on how wonderfully my children were being raised. I was so humbled and also proud of how well they did.  


They told Selah that had she been a few years younger, she could've performed too. The kids spent lots of time watching playbacks with the director. 


In the middle of the shoot, an old woman shuffled by to fill her bucket at the well. We were making a movie and she was trying to cook dinner. Look how tiny she is! She would've taken me out in an arm wrestling match, no contest. 


We had to buckle down the mountain a ways to get to the ancient well.  


Losing daylight, the director asked for everyone's iPhones. They shot the second half of the scene being lit by seven iPhone flashlights. 


The Chinese boy dropped his bucket in the well and no joke, 2.3 seconds later a mysterious 80-year old man come bouncing up onto the well. He hoisted himself down into the well and fished out the bucket with his feet. Then he pulled himself back up! WHAT?! Nobody knew where this guy came from. But all three of his teeth were beaming as we clapped his heroic rescue. 



We aren't sure when the movie is coming out. They still have to come over one more time to film a dinner scene. They have said that they will give us a copy when it's finished with production. It was a long 12 hour day on the mountain, but we learned a ton and had a blast doing it. 

And somewhere along the way my dream was full-filled of being a music star :).

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Flower Grandpa




A few weeks ago I started trying to breathe in people's stories. Not in the nod your head and smile kind of way, but in a slow me down and let me understand you kind of way. 





While I am boiling dumplings at my archaic stove, this man has become a mini-series of stories for my mind to enjoy. Daily he wanders downstairs to water his plants or dry out red beans in the afternoon sun. His lanky shoulders tower over dainty dandelions as he steals dirt and puts it into his house plants. He shifts the dirt into piles so that passersby won’t notice what he’s doing. But I see. I watch his sly grin purse as he pats down the new dirt and he gingerly tends to the garden already there. As if being gentle minimizes the fact that he is stealing their dirt.

My kids roll through and talk to him. I watch him teach them about uses of the sunlight and how much water to feed a potted aloe plant. He laughs and sometimes scolds as my kids take off their shoes to run around in bare-footed freedom.

I’ve never seen a wife, son, or daughter with him. But his connection with his plants has become a stop in curiosity for me. He tenderly wipes their leaves with a soft rag. The flowers are spoken to. I haven’t listened to what he is saying, but I imagine he is telling them that he will be back tomorrow. That tonight it’s going to rain, so they will need to be brave. But he will be back tomorrow. As he exhorts the tiny dandelions all tucked in for the night, I see his sense of purpose straighten out his shoulders.


With retirement he was replaced by talent and youth. That did not go unnoticed. But he walked into retirement determined to find his place. While he is no longer a manager of hundreds of people, he knew he could be a manager of a few. He knew that instead of letting retirement be defined by self-indulgence and pity, he could still serve someone else. He walks down those concrete stairs each late afternoon, looking around to try to find a need to be met. It requires keen observation to see a need that is buried beneath the surface of things. It requires patience and thoughtful digging to bring resolution. But because he is willing to engage the world in such a way, rows of dandelions march through the summer breeze in confidence. My kids run downstairs to ask him questions because they know he will take the time to answer. He is present. Presence sees the person in front of you not as a task but as a story.  And in that presence he is listening.





Thursday, October 03, 2013

Entrepreneurial Fails



Last night, the hubs and I went on an all too rare night out. We joined the other 6 million people in our city who went out to eat during this holiday week. Within 25 walking steps of each other, I snapped these few pictures. This top one was my favorite. It's a coffee bar/cat playground. No joke, you go in and buy something to drink. As you do so, cats are walking around and on the tables. It was filled with young college girls are sitting on the floors, hanging out with the cats while drinking green tea. 


Next up was a "Unique and Artless" children's play place. At least they aren't faking a creative billing. You walk in and play. There is no creative art happening. But at least those wide-eyed non-Chinese children decals look happy in their non-tactile play place. 


Rounding the corner, we ran into sushi cakes. That honestly sounds like slang for cow patties. But in case you are looking for an edgy kindergarten birthday party snack, Sponge Bob sushi cakes will definitely do the trick. 

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