10 Reasons It’s Awkward Being on Support While Living at Home

by Laura on December 13, 2012

So, we’ve been back in the States now for 5 months, and we’re still living on full financial support– which we did while living overseas, but somehow seems harder now that we’re back in the ol’ U.S. of A. (Notice our latest “prayer card family picture” above. Cool, but not as cool as the one in front of the rice field or crammed on a motorbike, right?) Here are some other reasons why:

Top Ten Reasons It’s Awkward Being on Support While Living at Home

10. You feel like you have to sneak to the wine shop.

9. You hear the phrase “real job” and your heart starts to palpitate because you think that what they think is that you don’t have one.

8. If you get caught out at lunch or around town midday doing something practical or -gasp!-fun, you fight the urge to duck and cover. Even if your husband’s already logged 468 hours overseas that month, you consistently work after the kids are in bed, or have meetings most weekends.

7. Monthly newsletters are much more difficult to pull off in the picture arena because you have to start recycling old photos of when you were overseas. No one wants to see your kids at their normal, average school in America or your husband working at the local Starbucks with his laptop. It’s much more exciting to pose your kids in front of a rice field or snap a photo of your husband talking to a local in tribal dress.

6. You have to pay for your own independent health insurance and self-employment taxes. Unfortunately, neither of which fluctuate as much as your monthly paycheck.

5. You have to travel a lot. Or your husband travels a lot, leaving you to man the home front alone, a lot. Resulting in peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, a lot. (There’s a whole post about this one.)

4. You have to graciously field the statement from potential full-time ministry workers, “Oh, I could never live on support.” (Seriously, how is a supported missionary supposed to respond to that sentence?)

3. You feel like you are sending the wrong message when you show up somewhere halfway-fashionably dressed. “Isn’t she on support? They must be doing just fine. Look at her nice boots.” Nevermind that literally your entire outift came from Goodwill, including the socks.

2. You experience paranoia in the checkout line, assuming supporters are evaluating the items in your cart. Like if you splurged that one time and bought an extravagantly gorgeous Christmas wreath for $20 whole bucks that you really, really loved, only to find yourself in line behind a sweet grandmotherly-type who faithfully writes you a check for $20 monthly. Somehow you feel you should put the wreath back and pick up some generic macaroni and cheese for dinner instead.

1. You are not nearly as cool on Missions Sunday because everyone sees your very-average family every Sunday, anyway.

And later this week? A post entitled: 10 Ways I’ve Grown from Living on Support. (Lest you leave with the opinion that it’s all bad.)

**********

So, let’s have it– ever lived on support stateside? How’s that worked out for you? Anything “awkward” to add?

And ‘fess up, are you a judgey-cart-supporter? Are you more apt to give internationally or locally to a missionary-type?

Related. Two Missionaries Walked Up to a Bar  |  8 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary

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  • Justin Schneider

    Thanks for sharing. I was one of those people who hated living on support while overseas. When we returned I was so thankful to be living off of the dwindling savings account. I can’t imagine those things here in the States. When I was on support, I was a judgey-cart-supporter for about half the time. Then I realized that I wanted some of these “luxuries” as much as anyone. So, I encourage you in the wine, fun, wreath, and, please, a shiny, new pair of socks.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      I STILL hate living on support. I think at the heart of it, though, for me is pride. I hate being dependent on people, hate how vulnerable and “needy” that feels.

      New socks, deal. :)

  • http://twitter.com/rubberbacon Rachel Molder

    I don’t have anything to add to your list but in my opinion, as long as you live within your means no one should care or comment on how you spend your money. Giving should never be tied to expectations.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Love that Rachel–

      Giving should never be tied to expectations.

      True, but, gosh it’s hard to live that sometimes, right?

      • http://twitter.com/rubberbacon Rachel Molder

        Yes, it’s hard but don’t we all have the same struggle? How to honor God with our finances when the world is looking on. Our pastor tells a story of a man who was a new christian and came to him with a confession that he might have to quit his job because he worked at a custom tire place and he thought it might be to extravagant but he enjoyed working on custom cars. Our pastor said are you paying your bills on time, tithing and giving to charity? Then enjoy your life. I like this perspective. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to expectations.

        • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

          YES, expectations– that’s the core of it, isn’t it? Living up to other’s expectations, or our own, when the only ones we need to be concerned about are God’s.
          Thanks, Rachel.

  • dkruid

    Great to see a picture of the beautiful family. Merry Christmas Parkers.
    -Daniel K.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      And Merry Christmas to ya’ll too! Enjoy that new little baby this season! :)

  • Melody

    “judgey-cart supporter” – hilarious way to put it. Love this post……I think this post would do well being circulated among “missions teams”/”missions committees” in churches and Mission boards. Really good stuff.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thanks, Melody. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    • ngwilke

      I agree, Melody. Sometimes, the people that are supposed to be the most supportive are actually the most hurtful and judgmental.

  • http://hikingtowardhome.com/ Sharon@HikingTowardHome

    Oh so familiar… and most of this also applies to pastor’s wives too. (being a former one of each) And I even find/found myself feeling guilty about nice stuff my parents bought me or my kids that I didn’t even shell money out for!! (like a new pair of nice boots for example :0 )
    “What do you at home all day long? since you live off other people’s money and don’t work.”

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Sharon, YES! We lived on pastor’s salary, too, and essentially it IS the same thing, but somehow it feels different don’t you think?

      And I totally hear you about feeling bad when we do have nice stuff. I feel like I have to justify where it came from, too! Usually from the grandparents or goodwill!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Oh, and Sharon, are you going to Allume next year? I’ll be there for sure and would sooooo love to hang out!

      • http://hikingtowardhome.com/ Sharon@HikingTowardHome

        I am hoping to! I just (literally minutes ago) made plans to have coffee with Deidra Riggs at Allume next year!

        • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

          Yay!!! See you there– for real!!

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    YES. But some of this goes for living oversees, you just are hidden. You hate to admit the mini vacations to supporters, but of course, they dont’ realize how stressful your life is, and how a two day break can be the difference between going off the deep end, or not.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Totally get the need for breaks for personal sanity! Absolutely.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    You guys are the exact opposite of an average family to me.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Well, you haven’t seen us at Walmart when the kids have missed naps or we’ve caved and given them too much sugar . . .

      But, seriously,

      thanks.

      It’s been fun working with you and Christine and a real honor. . . . :)

  • http://www.ntm.org/david-abbott David Abbott

    Our family relies on God to supply our needs each month through voluntary donations — based in the USA since 2001. It can be a struggle to keep our eyes on Jesus when we no longer have the “real missionary” hero status in the eyes of many. …And not too many people who live in close proximity to us partner with us financially likely because of the same familiarity reasons you mention. However, I can testify that God has kept up His end of the bargain to supply our needs — often only just when we need it and not before. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, …he rewards those who seek him.” …So while it is often difficult, when we struggle with the unseen we must keep our faith in Jesus and be most concerned about what He thinks.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      This was awesome:

      However, I can testify that God has kept up His end of the bargain to supply our needs

      And I’m finding this to be true, as well . . . . Thanks for your encouragement, David!

  • Heather

    I get this in many ways, friend. We’ve accepted SO much from others over the last several years. We also get financial support from the government for our kids. Every time I take my little guy to therapy I’m
    wondering if the therapist is thinking,”hmm, they can’t afford to pay their medical bills but they can afford that nice coat she’s wearing…” Or, like you, when I’m at the store and I see people that may or may
    not have given to us, but for sure know our story, I feel self conscious about what is in my cart. I don’t know if therapists and anonymous donors are judge-y like that or not—but it is just probably true that some people are and some people aren’t. I’m trying to trust that most people aren’t.

    I go through a lot of guilt over accepting help while still having a nice house (with decorations on the walls that are completely unnecessary) and a pretty decent wardrobe (although most of my clothes are from the thrift store too, but most people don’t know that) and a full refrigerator and lots of technology.

    Sometimes those guilty feelings serve me well as a gauge to keep me humble, grateful, and cognizant of my choices. But, unfortunately, they can also serve as a tool that creates shame and self-defeating thoughts.

    I struggle with guilt a lot, and it is for sure a tough chain to drop.

    I can’t wait to read your “10 ways (you’ve) grown living on support.” I can speak to this too—and I’m guessing that the things we’ve learned are pretty much along the same lines. (like complete, desperate
    dependence on God’s will—and continually needing to grow into that dependence).

    THANK YOU for speaking so vulnerably and honestly about this. I just love you bunches. <3

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Heather–

      oh, the battle against guilt and shame. It’s a tough, sneaky one, right?
      Love your connection with medical help . . . . totally get that connection and think it probably feels very much the same.

      Love you, too. :)

  • http://www.hagermans.blogspot.com Christie Hagerman

    You are so brave! I’ve written this post in my head a trillion times and never got the guts to put it on the screen. We’ve only been stateside on support once, and thankfully it was short, but man, is it awkward!

    There are all those expenses with the constant travel in the US. We also still have expenses to keep going here (don’t want to lose the house we’re renting just because we are away for a few months, so we keep paying the bills for life on the field). And then some supporters don’t send because we’re “on vacation”, even though we’re running around to churches and making visits and doing PR and–well, you know–the entire time.

    And I feel that constant need to explain that my clothes are either at least 10 years old, they were given to me, or I bought them on the half-off rack at Goodwill. I felt like I was living under a microscope the whole time–miserable!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      This comment made me smile. Because I soooo get it.

      Microscope living is no joke.

      Thanks for commenting, Christie. Love hearing from you!

      L

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      YEs– totally get that being home on furlough to do fundraising and running around a million places is NOT a vacation!! But can be so expensive!
      Loved reading your comment . . . :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    living on support here or there has ups and downs, for sure. i have a love/hate relationship with that position of knowing i’m dependent on God and sometimes experiencing first hand how He helps us to make do when He doesn’t provide according to my expectations (…ummm… demands??). i also have a love/hate relationship with that expected accountability to our partners because while it keeps me honest it is also true that those partners (sometimes unknowingly) place expectations on us that they’d never even try to adhere to themselves (i.e. considering house help overseas a luxury or the birthday pedicure for my teen who’s never had one or the date night at starbucks an extravagant waste of support money they’ve donated).

    what really drives me nuts, thought, is when i catch myself slipping into that same sort of donor mentality: overseas with those who show up at my door asking for help – AGAIN and back in the states when i see my church spending money on something i qualify as frivolous and unnecessary when i have friends starving).

    i just loved seeing a picture of you and your family – it is so much fun to put visuals with someone you are getting to know on line, ya know?

  • http://cevallosadoption.blogspot.com/ ThreeCulturesOneFamily

    Ahhh!!! Everytime I order a Starbucks there is like a little twinge of guilt! This post is awesome! We are living halfways on support now (I still work as a Special Ed. Director, but my husband travels every month too!). We are however, moving to Bangkok, where I will be teaching and we will again be living halfway on support…so we will see if it is any different living there!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Fun that you will be in Bkk!

      Love that you are teaching AND doing humanitarian stuff. . . . that seems like a great way to work it and not solo draining on the finances. All the best as you travel! They totally need Special Ed teachers overseas in so many areas– a speciality that often gets overlooked.

  • http://www.ramblingbarba.com/ Ken Hagerman

    Our last trip back to the US overall puts behind on our goals financially. It seems that while out of the US we are “out of sight, out of mind” and when we came back we were “Oh yeah, they’re back to the good life they don’t need us for a while.”

    That “good life” was hard to find. Four people living in one or two rooms for months, borrowing a car and deciding home much we could get by with and still send money back to our host country to keep our life alive there, too.

    The loss we experienced in ministry while out of the day to day loop of our host country was tremendous. It wasn’t as bad as starting over fresh but we did have a starting over of sorts in many areas.

    It was disappointing to really grasp how much we are creatures of habit. Time after time we would go to a church to present. We would hang around afterwards to field questions. Then we would walk out to the parking lot to find it empty. We never expected anyone to buy our meal we just wanted to go out with the cool kids for lunch and chat it up in our own language.

    It was culture shock all over again. I am just relating things pertinent to the post. it wasn’t all bad, we ejoyed our time back.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Wow, Ken, this was a great picture of the challenges of being on furlough. You painted the pictures of the struggle, both financially and otherwise, really well here . . .

  • http://twitter.com/Kirstekirst Kirsten Stokes

    My husband and I have been in full time ministry for the last 9 years and even though we aren’t considered “support” and have received a salary from the church, I can so relate to everything you wrote! Praise God though! He is always a provider and His faithfulness to provide for EVERY need in the right timing has blown me away over and over again. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas!

  • Ericka Jackson

    YES! To all this! Ha – you hit the nail on the head. For our first anniversary, my husband surprised me with a trip to Disneyworld. We were broke – but we had some amazing people in our life. One dear friend let us use his skymiles to fly to Orlando and his time-share to stay at the beach for a few days. Our church pastor and his wife bought our tickets to DisneyWorld one day. That meant our only cost was a rental car, our 2nd day of Disney tickets, and our food for the whole vacation! It was a HUGE blessing! But when my family found out they said, “You better not share pictures on your blog! Your supporters might stop giving.” Ughhhh….

    Also, the “real job” comments can be so cutting. I really want those people to come visit in December (our busiest month) while I’m working my third 18 or 20 hour day in a week (while everyone else I know is out at a Christmas party drinking eggnog). Or when we’re skyping with our partners overseas at midnight (and all our friends with “real jobs” are in bed). No one sees how demanding this non-profit work can be. It’s tough to feel like you have to defend yourself and justify every decision!

    But I am still so very grateful for those awesome supporters we have… the ones who don’t judge us for what’s in our cart… the ones who stuff extra cash in our pockets when we meet them for lunch “just because”… the ones who sacrificially give because they love us and they believe in what we’re doing. I’m grateful for the ones who “get it!”

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