The First Year {On My Crap}

by Laura on April 7, 2011

We started this year with stars in our eyes– big plans to save the world and all that.  We were stuffed-full of glossy-idealism and the dramatic-Following.  And maybe I’m being too hard on myself, on us, but somehow, I don’t really think so.  Because when the heat gets turned up, the true gold shines through– and I’m afraid I’ve realized I had a lot more cheap alumininum in me than I wanted to admit or even knew existed.

Because this year– this year of “serving God on the mission field”– has been the year

when I’ve been the worst mother,

when I’ve yelled the most in anger,

when I’ve struggled to make friends,

when I’ve slipped into a hardened cynicsm,

and a numb faith.

And this, this, is not at all what I had planned when I pushed off the boat docks last year and set off for New Horizons.

And yet, and yet, I sit here one year into this spiritual-chemotherapy, and I have to hold to the idea that often you have to be broken before you can be truly set right,

that sometimes things have to be burned, before they can really thrive.


Enjoy this posting from the archives as a continuing part of the series looking back at our first year living overseas.  The following was written about 4 months after leaving America.

“What happens when trying to follow Jesus turns you into an awful person?”This was the honest question Matt and I talked about last night on our downstairs couch, in the 15 minute-window we had where the kids were asleep and we had the energy to talk about the important.  It was a question born from another disappointing day.

A day when we both spoke too harshly to our kids.  A day when I was hot and annoyed and impatient.  A day when I chose to hide in the air conditioned bedroom by myself instead of reading with my kids.  A day when Matt left the house, and I didn’t even stop to say a proper goodbye.  A day when I felt sorry for myself and generally ungrateful and really just wanted to

Go. Home.

And last night in our 15 minutes of commiserating, we talked about an idea we had never thought of before. What if  the men who dropped nets to follow Jesus, became awful people in the process? What if they were more cheerful and less angry when they were just normal fishermen?

Because we dropped nets.  And here we are. And we both feel a whole lot awfuler.

And, somehow, I don’t think that’s what following Jesus should look like.  I mean, you step out in love and faith, and it’s supposed to make you a better person, right?  A more loving spouse, a better parent, a gentler soul? But what if your pursuit of the better makes you just worser in the process?

But, then we thought of Peter, and we crappy missionaries tasted a small bite of hope. Because this fisherman-turned-disciple seemed like a fairly awful person at times over his three years walking after Jesus.  He spoke too quickly and too harshly, and one time, Jesus himself equated him with Satan {not the best person to be compared to}.  And, at the end, when it really counted, Peter bailed on Jesus completely.  And that all seems pretty awful.

But the hope-part comes when we look into the last half of Peter’s life.  After Jesus had left, this big fisherman became Something Else entirely — inspirational, powerful, better.

And we got to thinking that maybe it’s not that the awful in his life {or in ours} was birthed by the journey away from the docks. Maybe the ugly was always there, but with the heat rising and the comforts being stripped, it just sloshed out more often and in bigger amounts.

And that is most definitely something we can identify with– the ugly spilling out more often and in bigger amounts.

And I don’t have answers {again} except to say that greater awfulness was most definitelynot something I expected when trying to follow and obey and love.

But, then again, maybe the greater awful is just a gateway into Something Else.

Too bad it feels like such a stinkin’-long gateway.”


What is the biggest “awful” you are struggling with right now?


  • Andy Cowen

    Wow, I love the honesty and humility of this post. I won’t dare patronize you with remarks about how much of an inspiration you guys are to so many, because I don’t think that cuts it really.
    It really strikes a chord with me but for wildly different reasons. I find myself in a church that is moving quickly, that is stretching and challenging me, and I have found it easy to discover ‘offences’ that would prompt me to remove myself from the crucible. But I’m finding God telling me to stay put, to let him turn the heat up even more, to let the crap rise to the surface, then to hand it over to Him. The Old Testament mentions gold that was ‘refined seven times’. Sometimes that sounds encouraging, other times like a slap to the head!

  • Connie

    Wow, Laura! What an amazing writer you are!…and what a huge sacrifice your family is making. We just made a big move, over a year ago in our military service. At first, I felt the same, kind of like a fish flailing out of water, wondering why God lead us so far away from our loved ones. But, as our family embarks on our first year as homeschoolers, God’s plan becomes more and more clear! I’m so grateful for the honesty in your post as I can remember days and weeks of feeling this way through many deployments and last year’s move. How empowering it is for us all to realize that we are all such imperfect beings living within God’s wonderful and amazing grace. Hang in there, I think sometimes we don’t know “why” for many years. Stay the course, finish well and BLESSED!

  • Laura

    Andy, what a great comment, Dude. Love the honesty you give, too. Loved that you said that our natural tendency is to want to

    ” remove myself from the crucible.”

    Yes, it is so hard to drag yourself into the fire and choose, somehow, to stay there as best you can.

  • Mela Kamin

    Oh, Laura – this is so right on. I have felt this – feel this still sometimes. I used to think our troubles stemmed from Satan attacking us as we were stepping out there for God. And, sure – some of it is … but some is just what bubbles up to the surface – our attitudes, motives, pride all crawl out when we’re not expecting it. Thank God for grace – for Peter, for us, for all.

    • Laura

      Mela . . . Loved that you wrote this–

      “ome is just what bubbles up to the surface – our attitudes, motives, pride all crawl out when we’re not expecting it. ”

      Yes, totally– like all of that has always been there but when our defenses are down more because of intense struggle, they have an easier time “crawling” out.

      Grace, Grace, and more Grace, right??

  • Sarah

    Laura, I really appreciate the honesty you share in your writing. I know we never met (I’m a friend of Amy Rambikur and I sponsor a couple of Breanna’s girls) but I have been following your blog since my return from Thailand in August and I have been able to relate to a lot of the things you’ve written about. I’m a teacher so I just started following your new teacher blog too! I just really wanted to thank you for being so open. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has these kinds of struggles. This post in particular hits very close to home for me so I thank you for the encouragement & hope you’ve shared. I think of and pray for you and your family often. God bless,

    • Laura

      Sarah– Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by and for your kind words. I love Amy– and I know you do, too! I love that you are sponsoring a few of the BHJ girls, too– what a gift to them.

      And, absolutely– none of us are alone in the STRUGGLE– isn’t that perhaps one of the most universal things? That we Want to “get it right”– but just can’t seem to?

      Reckon that’s where grace and Jesus comes in . . .

  • Shannon

    Thanks for posting and for always being honest. Lately I’ve been getting over whelmed and frankly depressed at all the crap that has been bubbling to the surface in my life! But maybe it’s where God wants me; maybe I should see it as a good thing. He’s not leaving me here, he’s pulling me up and out!

    • Laura

      Yup, love that, Shannon– “up and out.” I remember a line from a song that says “You have every right to break me, cuz you never walk away.”

      THat’s it, isn’t it?

  • Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight

    So appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. ‘Cause even without the noble overseas mission-calling…I find that in the hard places of being called to another baby, or another year of home schooling, or welcoming people to stay in my home…when things get tough, I discover the awfuler in me too.

    Thanks for helping us ALL bring that cheap aluminum out into the light, and into the fire.

    Blessings – Teri

    • Laura

      Teri– you are amazing and can I say your comments are always so so encouraging and honest and real– thanks, friend. Can’t wait to see you soon!

  • Laura Tovar Dietrick

    It is always smart to take time to see where you have been, recheck your expectations, reevaluate what you are doing when an anniversary to goal date is on the horizon.
    You have been brutally honest with yourself, scrutinized your every motive, written boldly about it all and shared your deepest thoughts. Now, I challenge you to ALSO make a list of all the good stuff you have done, all the stuff you are proud of and have accomplished. Note what you like about what you are doing and how good it makes you feel. Make this list longer than the one that reveals your shortcomings.
    Letting God love you and loving yourself is much, much harder than the self deprecating, beat yourself up stuff.
    You have done well…at least I and many others who follow this blog believe so. Now, it’s time for you to believe it as well!

    • Laura

      Laura, thanks for the encouragement! Really, thank you. Yes, you are so right that it is important to also view honestly where and how you have been used for good, for love, for sharing truth. I think that I have always struggled more with a pride issue on all that I have “done well” so for me, personally, in my own story, it is such a good practice to be brutally authentic– gives my pride a kick in the teeth.

      I like what you wrote here:

      “Letting God love you and loving yourself is much, much harder than the self deprecating, beat yourself up stuff.”

      I agree that is so often the case with all of us– I hope that my honesty doesn’t feel too harsh on myself. I don’t mean it to be “woe-is-me, I’m worthless”. I mean it to be more of an honest look at my own brokenness, when I usually operate from a place of pride and self-sufficiency. I don’t know– does that make sense?

      ANyway, thanks so much, as always!– for your encouragement! It means so, so much.


  • Todd

    Laura, this speaks to me! Thanks for reminding me that following Jesus and walking in His Light always exposes my crappyness more. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The closer we get to the Light the more everyone sees what’s really inside. Peter is a great example… thanks for reminding me…. we should take a few months and study Peter’s life…. there’s something very human and fleshy about that guy. The Spirit is speaking to me through you. wow!

    • Laura

      Todd– you are such an encouragement. Glad it was helpful to you and God used it on your side of the world . . .

      Give Kristin a hug from me . . .

  • Amy Sullivan

    If there is one thing that is not here it’s cheap alumininum.

    • Laura

      Amy . ..

      I think we should hang out. I think you would be one of those friends who I’d like to have a weekly Starbucks with or something . . .

      Thanks, Really.

  • richelle

    “You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies — though that never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.”

    i love this quote from Jean Pierre de Caussade…

    and as we struggle with sick kids, phone staff at the internet place wanting a bribe or something to keep our internet service regularly turned on, rising prices of staple items and and continually shrinking budget, cooling devices that break on top of exhausting and discouraging heat, our local brethren who disappoint and leave us horrified (as their mentors/employers) and embarrassed by their nonbiblical behavior… even after 10 years i find it hard and frustrating and discouraging to see all the junk that comes floating to the surface for all to see…

    and then i talk with some of my sisters here ( who thank God for the ick because it ultimately causes them to take shelter in Him alone…

    or those 30 year vets who are my heroes and who i want to be like when i “grow up” and say it never changes, you just begin to thank God for the hard and for the ick because you see Him in everything…

    pride, thoughts of me… those begin to fall away… and i thank Him for persistently teaching me the same lesson over and over and over, even though it hurts and is frustrating… because i really do want to learn.

    • Laura

      Richelle, I love your honesty. I love your story. I love that way you KEEP. LOOKING. UP.

      No matter what.

      Sounds like you guys have gotten knocked around quite a bit lately . . . so sorry to hear that, and I will be praying for your family and your encouragement as you hack out a life in Africa . . .

  • Casey

    Hi Laura-
    We are a family of four serving full time in Cambodia. We are in our third year. My husband found your blog and e-mailed it to me because we relate so much to what you are saying!!! I feel like I could have wrote that! What a humbling process it is, isn’t it? Sometimes I don’t even feel like I am a christian. Sometimes I don’t know how I can make another day. I think God is so in the business to working on our character and He does not want to share His glory with anyone. Yet, in spite of how I feel, He uses us anyway. Wow, so much to learn. Many blessings to your family as you serve Him where ever you go. Peace and grace,

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