In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. I am excited to share with you a guest post written by my friend, Julie. She and her beautiful family of six are missionaries living in Chiapas, Mexico. You can find Julie in her little corner of the blogging world – Thoughts From Paradise. Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to be in her shoes. ~ Ginger
It was Nov 5, 2005. My little family, (husband and 8 month old Cloe), and I were packed into our Pathfinder, headed towards the border. I was a huge mess of mixed emotions. Excitement for this new adventure and chapter in our lives. Heart-broken for leaving my family and home state of Colorado… where I was born and lived my entire life. Terrified for the possibilities of what life on the mission field in Southern Mexico might mean. Happiness for the realization that I had never seen my husband so thrilled. Sadness for what I was sure would be the death of “me”. Not like, literally. I wasn’t convinced that I was heading towards my physical annihilation. But rather that the “me” I knew had to stay behind with my old life. Because that “me” couldn’t really be a “good missionary.”
It sounds weird now that I type it out. But really, what words come to your mind when you hear the term “missionary wife”? I can tell you what words *didn’t* come to mind for me. Fun. Normal. Happy. Fashionable. Well-liked. Yes, I realize that it sounds shallow to say “that’s what I want to be” but I’m being honest here. I didn’t know too many missionaries at the time, but the ones I knew were not particularly happy, normal people. And who doesn’t want to be liked?? I was almost certain that I would either have to change to be an acceptable missionary, or perhaps the mission field itself would change me against my will.
I was partially right. We had not lived here a month yet when I realized that no other missionary women wore pants. Ever. I discovered this when I arrived at an “English meeting” where several other missionary families were getting together. I was SO excited to be attending a meeting where everyone spoke ENGLISH, since I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish at that point. I was so desperately looking forward to some fellowship, singing, praying, and meeting new friends. But it was not what I was expecting. My jeans and sweatshirt earned me several double-takes. More than one person commented that they’ve never seen a missionary wear so much makeup (mascara and lip gloss was apparently overkill), and one kind grandma-type asked if I needed to borrow a head-covering for our prayer time. It was confirmed.
Who I am is not acceptable for the field God has called me to.
I spent the next several months trying to fit into the mold I had been handed by my fellow missionaries. I bought more skirts, tried growing my hair out, and was careful to be very minimalistic with my makeup.
I’m sure I’m the only woman who has ever attempted to change herself just to please the people around her.
What a toll that took on me! I became more miserable by the day. Not only do I not know this new culture, new language, or the new “friends” I had, I didn’t know who I was anymore. What’s more, I didn’t like the way this mold fit. I felt hypocritical.
One day, out of nowhere, something snapped. Maybe it was just God bringing back to mind a verse that I had memorized years before. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you what is good and what the Lord expects from you: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God!” Well that’s a lot simpler than all of the external things I was trying to conform to! Sweet relief!!! I suddenly felt such a freedom from all the expectations of others. Ever since that day, I have been learning to live as ME. The person God made me to be. The one that would fit a niche here that no one else could fit. The me that God made for this very calling that I’m living right now!
I’ve discovered that this lesson has applied to me many times since then. For example, the time when my choice to home-school was met with dire disapproval from a peer. Or the time that a relative was vocal about my way-too-worldly nose stud. And again when yet another relative voiced her refusal to support us in our mission work. The freedom that I have to do what God has called me to do is stunning. The peace that I feel, knowing that my only goal is to please Jesus, is tangible. It frees up me from the questions that used to plague my every move. Like “but how will this look?” or “what will ____ think?”
I hope you know this applies to you, too. In your mothering, your personal choices, your extra-curricular activities… throw away that mold you’re trying to squish yourself into. God made you the way He made you ON PURPOSE. Ask *Him* how to use that for His glory, and run with it! I don’t mean to make it sound *easier*. Because truthfully, sometimes it’s easier to just do what you’re told and follow all the rules than to step outside the box and go where God leads. But the freedom. Oh the freedom is worth the growing pains!
“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Julie! What a wonderful encouragement to be the people that we are meant to be – without fear of what others think! I needed to read this inspiration today, and I will carry it with me!
To read more stories, or if you would are interested in sharing your story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, G
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