A Life Overseas – Failed Missionaries and “But God”….


Readers – I’m at A Life Overseas today talking about failure. I would love to have you join me!

When my husband and I left what was supposed to be a three-year missions commitment in Pakistan after one year, we were angry, hurt, and deeply wounded. We didn’t leave Pakistan, but we did leave a missions community that I had been a part of since birth. This community had raised me, loved me well, and shown me a lot of grace. Though there had been times of deep pain, loneliness, and misunderstanding in my childhood, I had been nurtured and loved in extraordinary ways, and those were the memories that I held to.

I had failed at the one thing that I thought I would be great at.

We moved to the capital city, Islamabad, and my husband began working for a USAID program. Pregnant with our second child, I stayed home with our little girl and began to meet other expatriates in the community. We ended up making deep friendships at our international church, and on the surface we were doing well.

A Time of Cynicism

But the wounds of failure went deep and soon gave birth to cynicism and anger toward the entire missionary community. “They” had hurt us.
“They” were hypocrites. “They” were spiritually superior. “They” made stuff up. “They” embellished facts to get money.

WE however? WE were real. WE were genuine. WE admitted failure. WE lived off our own hard-earned money, thank you very much. WE loved Pakistanis more than “they” did.

It was exhausting. Because we all know that bitterness and hatred are a bitter poison to drink. And while cynicism, when analyzed, can be a tool for discernment, we didn’t analyze our feelings. Because that would have taken work. Yes, we were hurt, but we were also lazy. We did what we had always challenged others not to do – we made broad, sweeping judgments and used labels. Ultimately, labels are lazy.

The Problem

We desperately wanted to cut ourselves off completely from missionaries, but here was one of the problems: My entire family was involved in missions in some capacity. My parents were career missionaries. I had brothers who were connected with missions in tent-making roles. I had other brothers who were pastors, or on missions committees. And then there were our friends around the world, working in some amazing, quietly world-changing projects. A Christian Ashram in Varanasi; medical work in various parts of the world; work in translation and education – people working in these projects couldn’t just be labeled, because they were our family and friends and we did believe that their work mattered, that they mattered. There were times when we longed to wear the title of missionary again. We had been schooled well, but incorrectly, that missionaries were a level above average. We struggled, feeling like we had fallen out of favor with an exclusive club. Sometimes it left us angry and cut off from connection with like-minded people. Other times it was a relief.

But God in His gracious big picture view knew that it wasn’t the title or the place for us.

Read the rest of the piece here. 

A Life Overseas – A Note from an Impostor


Readers – will you join me this Monday at A Life Overseas? Here is an excerpt from my brutally honest past history with missions.

On Wednesday of last week, Laura Parker announced changes and new leadership at A Life Overseas. Later that day I received a lovely note on Twitter from Denise James, co-author of the amazing blog Taking Route. Two days later, I received another encouraging note from Jillian Rogers, another woman from this community.

And with that encouragement and love from afar, I write this honest response to this community.

As a missionary kid/TCK I never wanted to be a missionary. When good folk at the Baptist churches that gave sacrificially of their time and money, not to mention a good part of their prayer lives, asked me if I wanted to be a missionary when I “grew up,” I would look at them and pray they didn’t see the panic under my response. No. No. NO. I did not want that. My best friend and I — we were heading off to Emory University to wear mini skirts and smoke cigarettes. Oh yes we were. Nancy was from Macon, Georgia, and I had fallen in love with Macon through her, though I had never been there.

And yet, a few years later I did not go to Emory. Instead, I headed to Chicago and chose nursing as a career — largely because I knew I could use this skill overseas. I knew just one thing: there was no way I was raising my family in my passport country. I couldn’t fathom living in the Western Hemisphere, more specifically the United States. So as soon as I became a nurse, I began making plans to go back to Pakistan and work.

The year following my graduation into the real adult world of patients, supervisors, night shifts, and more was one of the most difficult of my life. While God’s voice was whispering into my heart, I wanted no part of it. Though on the surface I taught Sunday School to junior high students, and sang “special music” during services, I was dead inside. My days were spent with patients, my evenings at punk rock bars in Chicago. And so I decided I needed to go home. The easiest way for me to go home was to get other people (you know, the ones who give sacrificially) to pay for it.

So I joined a short-term mission. The impostor act was in full swing at this point.

Read the rest at A Life Overseas.

Have you ever felt like an impostor? How did that go for you? 

And Failure Comes on Like a Virus

Failure came on like a virus this week, only instead of the runny nose, headache, and feverish brow it was the self hate, the loathing, the sense of inadequacy.

And there was no Tylenol PM or cold medicine for this virus. Just tears and sadness and “if only’s”.

I felt uniquely unqualified. 

The tears started early morning when the alarm went off and I was bone tired. They turned into anger when I realized I hadn’t planned well and would be late to the meeting where I was expected. Continuing through the day every where I looked were signs of my inadequacy — work undone, home in need of organizing, emails never responded to, and reminders that I am inadequate as a mom.

I was miserable in my virus of failure. The tears brought a cathartic release to the pent-up feelings. While they trickled in the morning, they poured like a monsoon rain in the afternoon. With each tear came a confession of failure.

These times, during these viruses, when Tylenol or Advil  have little effect, this is when I need the voice of God, when I need the truth of God. Truth about who I am, and truth about who He is.

And truth is that I join the “march of the unqualified”, that group of people I read about who were inadequate, who failed. The King who stayed home from battle and slept with another man’s wife; the prophet who ran from the call of God and ended up in the belly of a whale; the man raised in the Pharaoh’s household who said “I can’t do it! I can’t speak! Let my brother speak for me”; the woman who said “Let’s trick your dad into thinking you are your brother so that you can get the birthright”.*

All these, uniquely unqualified, somehow survived the virus of failure, and were met by God, were used by God.

None of my circumstances have changed, I still feel the after effects of this virus. And just like after a fever, I am weak. But the tears have changed. Instead of self loathing and inadequacy I cry out to God for his love and his adequacy and exhausted I kneel in confession.

And with confession come this truth – that when the virus of failure envelopes me, He who does not fail surrounds me.

*Biblical characters – David, Jonah, Moses, Rebekah

WWWP5k Failure on the Freedom Trail

I wanted to succeed. I really did. When Automattic announced that they would have a Worldwide WordPress 5K (WWWP5K) I was without excuse. While I have never pretended at athletic ability, all year I’ve had a disciplined marathoner colleague sitting at my lunch table eating “Marathon training food” (not even going to tell you what that means) to compete in the Boston Marathon. For the WWWP5K event all I would have to do was run speed walk 5K!  Not only that, I’m not great at building blogging community and this was one way and day I could stretch beyond my comfort zone. Also with people participating world-wide through WordPress it fit with my love for the world….I was so in.

And what better place to do this than the famous Freedom Trail in Boston? The red-brick trail that takes people through history by showing various sites significant to the founding of the United States. In this way I could show readers history and springtime in Boston all while getting exercise by participating in the WWWP5K. I would create a fancy sign that I could hold up at the end and have someone photograph me as a “Finisher”. I had it all planned. I even set the date for Saturday the 28th, the day before the official 5K.


I failed.


I’d like to blame it on hurting my ribs or on my cheap Payless sneakers or on my crazy schedule but I won’t do that. I will admit defeat. Admit that it seemed doable but I couldn’t complete the goal in the time I had. And it’s freeing to admit failure. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Sometimes you can’t work full-time, parent, blog, spend time with the man behind the blog, and take part in a 5K.

So I failed to complete the speed walk. But I did succeed in capturing some pictures that will introduce those that have never been here to the Freedom Trail. I call it the “Failed 5K on the Freedom Trail Collectors Album” and hope it will convince you to book a trip to Boston this summer.

At what have you failed lately? Go on – tell us! You know you want to.

Emblem of the Freedom Trail
Old South Meeting House

Old City Hall
Better view of the Old City Hall

Brass Donkey Statue - symbol of the Democratic Party
Did you know the history of the Donkey and the Elephant - symbols of the two major political parties in the United States? Well .... now you do!
Granary Burying Ground - Resting place of the likes of John Hancock and Paul Revere
The sign challenges the "Youth of Today when they visit this old house be inspired by the patriotism of Paul Revere"