The last blog was a little rough, I will be the first to admit. However, I cannot disregard those feelings I held in for SO LONG. We were so often told it was going to be hard here- but little did I imagine the ways hardship would find me. It was not always banging down the door, but sometimes a gentle tapping disguised as a friendly stranger. Hardship is no discriminator of persons either, it is truly accepting of everyone and every circumstance.
But I am not just talking about my own hardship, I am talking about the exposure to a world of hardship. I am talking about being surrounded by need upon need and a world of chaos and sin, just to survive. We dove in head first- no trauma training, not quite prepared for what we would encounter day in and day out. We were pouring out daily; we were pouring out but not sure of how to pour back in and replenish what was gone.
One of the hardest parts of being here at first was standard. Am I doing enough? Were we seeing the kids enough- we would be there from 7:00 AM until 10 or 11:00 PM Sunday to Sunday. We spent and spent at the expense of our property getting broken into every time we left because they quickly learned no one was coming to catch them. On the way to see the kids we would pass neighbors in need, kids who were hungry, sad little boney dogs. So much sadness that was vastly different from what we had left. I never felt like we were doing enough. To cope with missing the mark daily I became numb. I accepted the poverty. I had to look past- and you would too.
If there is nothing pouring into you, nothing replenishing the water that leaves the cup- well its not philosophical at all- your cup stays empty. It is that simple. We were serving beyond the means we had- we were not making time for bible studies or community or church that we could understand on Sunday. We were given spiritually and completely poured out. This led to a lot fighting and stress and empty feelings inside of me. I could not fathom that we were even making a difference living here because we could never do enough. Nothing was ever enough.
Sound familiar? I can bet you have felt that way a time or two? Or maybe you deal more with Not-Enough's twin: Not-Right. Am I even doing this right?! I compared myself to every scale and type out there. Comparison is a motive killer. My cup is in a much healthier place and I can tell you if you want to be empty and broken just compare yourself to everyone else. That is a never fails strategy to burn out.
God is a good God. I stand firmly behind this everyday forever and ever. We had such a difficult season and I will always proclaim this to the ends of the earth. Eventually we realized we could not do enough EVER. We trusted in God to tell us what was enough. He is the standard. He is the measuring cup I go by for the sprinkles of this life. He sustains me and paces me. He waited patiently for me to take up this revelation and still has to give me peace for my shortcomings (to my standards).
The numbness- that was a coping mechanism. We all have them. Honestly, its still a struggle. More recently, since pressing into my God time more I am seeing all that can be done and all the heartache, wrapped up ugly, and letting it hit my heart. I have been coming face to face with it as a motivator. Staring right into this spiritual war and proclaiming victory over hopeless situations. I then entrust it to the one who can strategize a victory. He knows whats best even when we cannot see it yet.
Keep pouring out. I am not writing all of this to discourage or deter you from the mission field. More to encourage you to run harder, faster, and stronger than you ever have before. But run right into the arms of the one who replenishes you. Let Him pour you out wherever you are. Maybe your not called to foreign nations but to ministry within your own family. Maybe your called to listen more and advise less. I believe we are all called to be missionaries where our feet touch everyday. Bring that Good News with you! Just make sure you prioritize the replenishing. Or rather, the One who replenishes. Empty cups continue pouring but at the expense of heart. You will pour yourself right out and you really need to be pouring God's abundance out.
Focus on Him. I know how that inner turmoil of self doubt works. It darkens every corner and bogs down with hopelessness weighty and full. The best way to fight these battles is to do nothing- to just be still. Let Him fight your battles for you. Praise, bow down, and stay still while He goes ahead. That is the ultimate trust and He will honor it. He will lead you out the darkness, to His everlasting light. He will refill your cup and allow you to pour out continuously. He will also allow brokenness to happen, and in those times just face Him and trust. His promises will never fail and He will always be good.
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Kristen & Alex Bradshaw