Our culture is so ridiculously busy. We have gone from an attitude of “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” to lives that are too busy to be concerned with anyone else but me. The tendency toward a packed schedule has been my life story. Even as a child, I was a extremely active: afterschool jobs, sports, music lessons, speech, drama, band, 4H, and church activities. There was rarely a day that I did not have an event to go to. And though I was busy and managed to stay out of trouble, looking back I can see that there was not a ton of quality family time. I was pretty consumed by me: what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. I think that my crazy pace (though it was filled with many, many “good” things), enabled me to become very self-centered.

I am not advocating dropping all extracurriculars, afterschool jobs, and the like. We don’t want to be creating a generation of lazy bums. But I wonder if there is a happy medium to be had: a schedule that allows for kids explore their interests, but not at the cost of quality and quantity family time. Is there a sweet spot that allows our children to be active, but also creates space in their lives to appreciate rest and give of their time to others?

I think one of the serious dangers of not creating margin in our families is that we are not only being selfish with our own time, but we are also leading (by example) our children to be selfish with their time. Time is precious. Time is fleeting. And when we fill our schedules so full of activities that we have no flexibility to meet the needs of others, we have severely limited how God can use us to be a blessing in the lives of others. We have no space/availability to be about our Father’s business.

I think there are a few questions we can ask ourselves to evaluate whether or not we have entered the camp of “too busy, no margin”;

  • Do we have a day where we rest together as a family, with no commitments (a day of Sabbath)?

  • Do we regularly (not every day, but frequently) sit down at the dinner table and eat together as a family?

  • Are we spending more than an hour a day in the car driving to school or extracurricular activities?

  • Do we have evenings available in a week where we can show hospitality to others, either by opening our home or meeting people elsewhere for fellowship?

  • Do we have enough time in our day to bring a meal to someone in need, pray as a family for someone who is hurting, help someone move, or another random act of kindness?

I am absolutely convinced that when our kids are adults, they will not remember the gifts they received, or the trophies, medals and ribbons they earned. Those things will all collect dust somewhere and fade from memory. But the things they will treasure, that will stay with them forever, are the experiences they had with their family and friends. I want to make space for my children (who like me are sinful and selfish by nature) to learn to open their eyes to observe the needs of those around them, to use their minds and hearts to consider how they can meet those needs, and to use their time and abilities to meet those needs. But if I let my kids’ schedules get too full with no margin, there will literally be no space for our kids to learn that selflessness and practice sacrificial love. I can’t make my kids selfless, but I can create an environment in our daily lives that creates space for those opportunities to learn and practice selflessness, kindness, and rest.

If you want to see more about how I schedule our homeschool days, click on the link: How I Schedule Our Homeschool

What challenges does your family face in creating space for margin and rest in your home? Do you have any insights or tools that you can share with other Doing Life Deliberately readers so that they can have success in this area? PLEASE, share your thoughts below!! We’d love to hear from you!!

Until next time, keep Doing Life Deliberately!

~Trisha

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This morning started off with a bang. Well, not literally, but close. Our missions team to Mexico boarded our plane only to find out 45 minutes later that our radio transmitter is broken and either needs to be repaired OR we will have to board another plane. Either way, we will most likely miss our connecting flight. We’ll see. 😬

On the upside of things, I have the great privilege of going to Mexico with 14 outstanding individuals- one of which is my daughter, Hannah. The last time she was on an airplane she was 10 months old. And this is her first international experience and missions trip. We are all kinds of excited over here! I have literally dreamed of taking our children on missions trips since before they were born.  My various experiences on short term missions trips have had such a profound impact on my life: learning about other cultures, stepping out of my comfort zone to share the Gospel, doing things I would never do at home, deepening relationships with people from our home church as we share a cross cultural experience, worshiping God in a different language, etc.  I want my kids to see that God is not an American God. He is active and present throughout the entire world. His Son, Jesus Christ, came to be a savior for ALL people of every nation, language and skin color.  I want them to see real need and understand how much we have both been entrusted with and have excess of .  I want them to get a glimpse of God’s purpose for their lives- which somehow seems to gain clarity when one is removed from the distractions of our American materialism. I want them to see that this life is not about them- it is about Jesus Christ and living to be useful to Him in whatever vocations or contexts He gives us.

So… if you think about us this week, will you please say a prayer for our team? We have many young people on our team. Pray that:

  • this trip would have a profound impact on their lives
  • we would have hearts to see the physical and spiritual needs of others and a quickness to serve
  • we would bond tightly as a team- laugh, cry and be authentic with one another
  • we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and respond to His promptings
  • we would have safe travels and logistics for our disrupted flights would be worked out
  • we would have great personal times in the Word and as a team
  • our families with be protected from harm, illness and attack in our absence

Thank you so much for your prayers- they are the greatest blessing to us as a team!! Stay tuned for more updates here through the week.

A short term missions trip changed my life.

No joke. No exaggeration.

As an 18 year old, newly committed follower of Christ, I traveled to Kharkov, Ukraine with 5 other members of my church. It took planes, trains and automobiles to get to our destination, where we spent two weeks teaching the scriptures, sharing the gospel, and loving orphans. Along with my senior pastor and our translator, I stayed with a tent making pastor and his beautiful wife and children.   

(From left to right) My teammate, Jennifer, Elena, myself and Natasha. Elena and Natasha are the daughters of my then houseparents in Ukraine.

This amazing family sacrificed their food, beds, privacy and comforts to host this insignificant teen. That week I experienced a God who loves His church around the world. I saw the smiles, heard the laughter of orphans who played soccer with us and delighted in the taste of gummy worms. I saw fearful hearts soften with compassion as we shared the gospel with their former communist neighbors. My heart was bound up with those that I traveled and served with- memories of laughter, illness, stepping out of our comfort zones, receiving sacrificial hospitality, and so much more.  

These beautiful people are the pastors and their families of the church we ministered with during our time in Ukraine.

And my experience in Ukraine is not unique. Since that time, I have been to Rwanda and multiple times to Belize. The joy of serving Christ with those at my church is irreplaceable- linking us together in a common hope and mission- sharing the gospel and strengthening the global Church. Consistently, my fellow team mates and myself return home fired up, ready to serve God in new ways at home, passionate for the Lord’s church. 

This is the cabin I lived in for two months in Belize (2000)- no electricity or hot water, nightly bed checks for geckos and scorpions, regular extermination of tarantulas and snakes. We often awoke to the sounds of Macaws and monkeys playing in the nearby trees.

Short terms missions trips provide opportunities for team members to do things they have never done before. When I went to Rwanda, multiple teammates shared the gospel- an experience they had never had before. The joy they felt prompted them to come home and serve in the local church in ways they had never served before! In Belize, teammates taught scripture and led worship- things they had never dared to do at home before. But now that those barriers of self-consciousness have been broken, who knows what they might dare to do in the name of Christ!  

Prior to my service in Belize in 2000, I had been terrified of singing solo and leading worship. That experience helped give me the confidence to lead worship in my local church as an adult.

I do not know what kind of impact I have made in others during these trips. I trust that somehow God has used these times to encourage other believers, spread the Good News of Jesus, and draw unbelievers to Himself. I know I am forever changed by each country, culture, church and person I have had the privilege of meeting. I have seen prayers answered in profound ways, come to understand God’s Word in a new light, and learned to appreciate different ways of worshipping God.

Have you ever served on a short term missions trip? If not, is it possible that God is calling YOU to step out of your comfort zone to serve Him in a new country and culture??  Is He calling you to go again?? I’d love to hear from YOU!! 

This is the team of my most recent missions trip to Belize. Our purpose was to equip and encourage the Church in Belize, mainly through teaching and the sharing of the Gospel.

When people return home from a missions trip, they are often asked, “How was your trip?!” Generally speaking, people want to hear, “It was great,” and then be relinquished to go about their business. It’s no one’s fault, really, but for those returning from a trip, whose lives have been forever impacted, it can be disheartening to so flippantly respond about our time away. I have been pondering how to briefly, but honestly relay to others about our time in Belize. The phrase that comes to mind:

It was hard to come home.

I was privileged to share the Gospel with this man, Tash, and a lovely Mayan woman named Angelcita while we were in Placencia.  Suddenly I found myself looking for opportunities to share the gospel where I might have otherwise tried to avoid talking to strangers.
I was privileged to share the Gospel with this man, Tash, and a lovely Mayan woman named Angelcita while we were in Placencia. Suddenly I found myself looking for opportunities to share the gospel where I might have otherwise tried to avoid talking to strangers.
It was hard to come home.  And probably not for the reasons you think. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it was HOT after being in frigid Wisconsin all winter. Yes, it was a break from my regular responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and homeschooling.   But that’s not why it was hard to come home.  I have developed a love for the missionaries we partner with.  They are people that I want to be like- in them I observed people who purposefully encounter strangers, ready to share the Gospel or intentionally seeking to encourage a brother or sister in Christ.  Man, I want to be like that! I want to be so Kingdom-minded that I seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ with others, rather than hoping a stranger won’t strike up an awkward conversation with me in the local coffee shop.

It was hard to come home because it was the first time that I returned to the same place of ministry, able to reconnect with people I had met before.  How SWEET it was to see familiar faces and receive a smile, or even a hug, of recognition!  How wonderful to be warmly welcomed by missionaries and pastors, knowing that we are partnering together to lead people to Christ and to strengthen the Church through teaching and equipping.

This is Zelda and I, working together again after we met initially at Camp Machaca in 2000.
This is Zelda and I, working together again after we met initially at Camp Machaca in 2000.
It was amazing to meet up with Zelda, a young woman I had worked with at Machaca Summer Camp in 2000.  How sweet it is to see her steadfastly serving the Lord 15 years later! It was wonderful to once again see little girls we played with last October.  Where six months ago there were shy smiles and play time, now there were warm hugs, selfies, singing, showing us their homes, learning about their lives and growing in relationship.

It was so fun to reconnect with these little cuties when we visited their home village of Machaca in April.  Our team initially met them in October 2014.
It was so fun to reconnect with these little cuties when we visited their home village of Machaca in April. Our team initially met them in October 2014.
It was hard to come home because life is relatively simple in Belize- or atleast it appeared that way to me.  Part of the simplicity is due to poverty- if you don’t have money to spend on stuff, you don’t have stuff to complicate your life.  Joe and I came away with a strong desire to simplify our lives- from diminishing our excessive wardrobes, to purging the ridiculous amount of toys our kids own, to limiting the media that our family has access to.  All of our “stuff” gets in the way of our family’s relationship with Christ- time spent managing our excess is time spent distracted from our Lord. 

I come away from our time in Belize with new perspective regarding what it important, what is of eternal value, and what some of the distractions are that I need to eliminate from my life.  I have a renewed sense of mission- God has called me to be a missionary at all times, wherever I may be.  I am to love my neighbor (everyone) and seize every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those I encounter.  That means I have to be prepared to share the Gospel!  Nothing is more important than fulfilling that mission- whether it is training up my children to know the Lord, discipling the women in my small group, or traveling around the world on a short term missions trip.  My desire is to be useful to the Lord by Doing Life Deliberately!!

In His Love,

Trisha