This picture is taken under a New York sky while my husband, three kids and I took a quick furlough from our church-planting time in Southern France. I suppose the sky looks the same wherever you view it, but to me, this sky delighted me. Because it meant I stood away from France’s sky. After that trip, we returned to France, only to move back home in a matter of months. It’s still hard for me to understand the whys of everything.
You might envision missionary work as noble, beautiful, and rewarding. You’d be right. But it’s also painful, bewildering and sometimes debilitating. There, from the moment we landed in France, we felt the little black rain cloud, made famous by Winnie the Pooh, follow us, elongate, gather steam, then burst its fury over our family. In every way I felt its wetness. And like enduring rain storms for days, I allowed the rain cloud to win sometimes. I certainly didn’t splash beneath it.
In that state, I learned how to grit my way through the shadows beneath the clouds. I became tenacious. Or sometimes just plain tired. There were days that the bed looked more appealing than interacting in French with people who had little patience for me. I wish I could say that I thrived there. I didn’t always. I tried. But there were things I learned that helped me rejoice under the cloud, to dance through the puddles of stress. Maybe they’ll help you. They’re wrapped up neatly in this verse:
“On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. ” Psalm 100:1, MSG
I learned to stand on fearful feet. Sometimes simply choosing to pull myself out of bed was enough to jump start my energy and keep me going. On my feet I could busy myself with tasks, love my children, bake bread, and walk to school to pick up my youngest two. Simply standing helped a lot.
I learned to applaud God. Anything good that came out of a stressful ministry day became a place for me to hand-clap God’s faithfulness. In gratitude, even for small things, I found the day brighter.
I learned to bring a gift of laughter. Living in a foreign country had its moments. I had to laugh when I tried to pantomime the first Thanksgiving to a horrified grocery clerk. She couldn’t understand why I’d ordered such a large dinde. I still laugh thinking about it.
I learned to sing myself into God’s presence. There were days when my shower became my cathedral. In the car, I learned to praise. On my runs through the hills of Southern France, I stacked my ipod with overcoming songs, worship songs, happy songs. Bringing music into my stress helped me cope with the worries.
I live in Texas now, under this sky:
The lessons from living cross-culturally stick with me today. But more than that, the lessons of learning to splash under a rain cloud have enriched me when more clouds come. And they come. Even this week as I sent an email to my prayer team, I used the Winnie the Pooh illustration. Through all those things I mentioned plus a hefty dose of girlfriend prayer, I danced in the puddles. It’s my prayer that you dance and splash too.
By Mary DeMuth