When we moved overseas, I thought the adjustment would be easy.

I had already lived in our host country for three months as a single woman, so I knew what I was getting into. (Ha!) Of course I knew that going back married with a 3-month-old baby would be different. But still, I could quickly adjust. I was flexible. I had been in cross-cultural ministry for years already. I loved cultures and people, and I was outgoing and not afraid to try new things. There might be a bit of initial culture shock, but I wouldn’t have any serious problems with the adjustment.

Was I ever in for a surprise.

Join me over at Velvet Ashes to read the rest of this guest post!

Today's post is part of "The Grove" - a link-up over at Velvet Ashes, where the theme this week was "Marriage Abroad". Head over there to read some great articles on the challenges and blessings of being married overseas!

There are so many things about having children that seem to sabotage a romantic relationship. Starting with pregnancy that brings changes in your body and unpredictable mood swings . . . then through the experience of childbirth and the dawning of overwhelming responsibilities and emotions . . . then sleepless nights and brain-fog days which after a year or two blur into toddler tantrums and potty-training woes . . . many women wake up one day to find that being a mom has completely crowded out any romantic relationship in their life.

How much more so when you are a mom overseas? Everyday life just takes longer, and you are supposed to be doing ministry on top of all your responsibilities as a mom. It's so easy to let your marriage take a back burner . . . your husband doesn't need you the way the kids do. There's nothing romantic to do anyway, right? I mean, who feels like candlelight and cuddling when it's 105 degrees in the house?!

But it doesn't work that way, and one day we will find ourselves married to a stranger. Maybe our marriage will survive and maybe it won't. Let's not go there. Instead, let's talk about the key to staying in love even in the crazy, busy, messy days of motherhood on the field.

Be intentional.

No relationship just "happens". It takes work to keep romance alive. When we are dating, or as newly-weds, we are putting a lot into our relationship, but it doesn't feel like work. Spending time together and doing special things for each other comes naturally and easily. But as other responsibilities overtake your life, it is so easy for romance to be crowded out.

Don't. Let. It. Make a choice to keep your husband a top priority in your life. What are some ways you can do that?

1) Use the little moments you have. Long evenings curled up on the couch together, or leisurely Saturday mornings, are a thing of the past. I get that! So now you have to make the little moments count. Snatch kisses whenever you pass each other. Smile at him when he walks into the room. Sneak up behind him when he doesn't expect it and whisper sweet talk in his ear. Send him a text on his lunch break to say "I love you." None of these things take planning, but they keep the spark alive between you.

2) Have regular connection times. You can't have a relationship without communication, but communication doesn't happen naturally when you have a busy schedule and so many others vying for your attention. You have to be intentional about taking time to talk. Put it in your schedule and make it happen. That can mean finding a babysitter and taking a date night, or it can mean sitting down with a quart of ice cream after the baby is sleeping.

3) Don't just talk, listen. This goes along with #2. I don't know about you, but I tend to store up all my emotions and questions and problems, and then when I finally get a chance I DUMP them all in one huge pile and want my man to give me all the sympathy, understanding, answers and solutions that I need. If he manages to give me the right responses, I'm happy and our "communication" is over. Or NOT! I am finally realizing that even though he doesn't feel the need to dump on me (like I do!) and even though he doesn't love to talk (like I do!) it is just as important for my husband to have time and space to communicate his needs, dreams, problems, and emotions. Communication is a two-way street. Be intentional about listening to your man.

4) Make intimacy happen. This can be a big frustration for couples. As a mom, we are tired, our bodies are not our own, we may be interrupted by the baby crying, we don't feel desirable. Living overseas, we're stressed out, we're exhausted, it's too hot, there's not enough privacy. The reasons are endless, and valid, but the fact is - you both need intimacy. It's another way of intentionally connecting that will keep your relationship alive. Be creative, don't get stuck in a rut. Make sure intimacy happens, try to get in the mood, and even initiate it sometimes!


So there's just a few of my ideas for being intentional in our marriages to keep the romance alive. What would you add to the list?

I haven't been sure how to write this post, and so I've been puting it off for a week or more already. But I do want to continue TCKmom and it can't continue without new content . . . so at last I sit down at my keyboard determined to find the words to explain the absence of the last 2+ months.

I want to share a little bit of our story. Not as an excuse, but because maybe it can help someone else. Maybe you can learn from our mistakes, or if you're already struggling, maybe you can be encouraged that you're not alone.

Over a year ago, while we were still overseas, my husband went through burnout & depression. It was a dark time for both of us. For months, it felt like we were barely surviving. We clung to the hope that returning to the States and having a time of rest would fix everything . . . but it didn't. As our time in the US went on, and we realized that we wouldn't be able to return to our foreign home as planned, I became as depressed as my husband. We knew we needed help but didn't know where to turn. It felt like a very hopeless time.

We finally found a counseling program for hurting overseas workers and enrolled for the next available session. It was a very intense time, dealing with a lot of emotions and issues, but those three weeks changed our lives! As my husband described it - there's light at the end of the tunnel now. We turned around and realized that the light was behind us and now there's hope - we're headed in the right direction!

There is so much I could share from the experiences of the past year or more, and maybe over time, I will. For now, I'd like to encourage you in one of the biggest things that might have prevented our situation.

PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. As a wife and mother, you have a demanding job. As a wife and mother living in a foreign culture, you have a gigantic, overwhelming job. Don't try to be superwoman. Don't try to do it all.

1) Take breaks. Take a few little breaks throughout the day, to breathe, to pray, to read a few inspirational paragraphs or smell a flower. Take a bigger break once a week, to recharge your emotional "batteries" by reading a good book, enjoying a hobby, journaling, drawing, or whatever energizes you. And please, as a family, be sure to take regular vacation time to focus on each other and get away from work for a while. Breaks will keep you from burnout.

2) Lower your expectations. Evaluate what are the real priorities and let the other things go. Don't be afraid to say no.

3) Don't feel guilty. We often feel like we shouldn't take time for ourselves, shouldn't do things for ourselves. But what do they tell you when flying - in case of emergency, put the oxygen mask ON YOURSELF FIRST before you help dependent passengers. You have to get the oxygen you need - spiritually and emotionally - in order to keep going for those who are depending on you. It's not selfish. It's essential. Identify your needs, make sure you're doing what you need to so that those needs are being met, and don't feel guilty about it. Take care of yourself.

And lastly - if you're already struggling, if it feels like you're trapped, if life is dark and hopeless, if you're not sure how to survive the next week - please get help. THERE IS HOPE. Don't keep struggling on alone. Don't tell yourself that you just need to pray harder and be more spiritual. There is help available. Please find it.

 Blessings to each of you dear ladies! Thank you for being patient as TCKmom has been on hold through this time. New content is on the way!

Our guest post this morning comes from Jennifer Yzbick. Let's take a few minute to consider WHO God is and how that should affect our lives today!

"Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations." Ps. 46:10

"Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him." Ps. 98:1

"Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool. Holy is He." Ps. 99:5

I am so short sighted. I don't know how I continually walk the same path, but I do. I sing, I rejoice, I give thanks to the Lord. I rejoice in all that he has done and I am filled to overflowing. I repent and weep, I am overcome with emotion and humbled. I lay prostrate before Him.

Then, evening comes.

My children scream and refuse to nap, my husband forgets to take out the trash, dinner i bland and burnt, my phone overflows with teenage girl problems of doubt and worry, yet another person wants to come over before bedtime, and I am ready to scream. what began as a joyful, Spirit-filled day ended tired and defeated because somewhere in the midst of it all I became god.

HE is to be feared.

HE is to be praised.

HE is above all peoples,all nations, all gods.

HE can do all things.

HE, HE, HE . . .

Somewhere, somehow, I began to carry a burden not mine to carry. I took on responsibility that was not mine. In the course of the day I began to believe that my children's behavior meant I was failing as a mother and teacher. My husband's forgetfulness something else that I had failed to remedy. My lack of culinary skills just more proof of my deficiency. Others' spiritual success was clearly mine to mold and shape. And so, I end the day defeated and lacking joy. Angry with myself and frustrated with God.

Then, as I reflected on the day and this cycle of success and failure, I realized the faulty logic that led to this defeat. When others in my sphere of influence fail, I take it as my own fault and failure. Now wait a second . . . somehow I believed that I was responsible for my behavior, my husband's behavior, my children's behavior, and my disciple's behavior. Well, if that is the case ... I must be God.

Wow, I had to pause for a while to let this truly sink in.

Here I was, a missionary and church planter in a foreign land. Those back home would probably classify me as humble and with a servant heart. I am sure in the eyes of many, I am a super-Christian . . . and sometimes I believe it myself. So imagine my surprise when I realized that my faulty theology left me trying to play God. Not so humble any way you cut it.

How did this happen? And how did this happen so quickly?

As I wrestled with God a bit on this I realized a few things:

1) I had a small view of God.

2) I stopped being thankful.

3) I failed to worship.

My small view of God led to an aggrandized view of myself. As I stopped focusing on His power and might, I stopped being thankful. In ceasing to thank God, I began to believe I was responsible for the good and the bad that was happening around me, and so I ceased to worship.

That's it folks. Sad but true.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave us? (Because I don't think I am the only one who steps into this cycle.)

1) Put God in His rightful place. God is bigger and greater and more awesome than anything and anyone we can possibly imagine. We need to stop having such a small view of god. He is able. Whatever the situation, the problem, the pain, HE IS ABLE.

2) Repent. Wanting to be god is no small thing. Repent, acknowledging our pride and trust that He is faithful and will forgive. He is so gracious.

3) Reflecting on God's bigness, power and forgiveness, choose to worship Him. Sing to the Lord, worship His holy name, thank Him and praise Him because no matter the season or storm, HE IS GOD.

We may be tempted to step into this cycle again. Let us remember to praise Him, let us be sober in Spirit and ask that He would reveal to us when we are trying to play god. Let us also encourage each other as we learn to walk by the Spirit. There are no super-Christians, but there is one SUPER God.

I am going to quote this morning from an email that I wrote about a year ago. A new couple was preparing to move into our area (although not with our organization) and they were emailing with questions about what to pack. Of course those specifics vary so much from one situation to another, so I will not include the whole email!  But here are the last few paragraphs . . .

"One more thing I will add, totally unrelated to packing. This is something that I wish someone had told me before we came . . .

EXPECT THAT THE ADJUSTMENT WILL BE REALLY HARD!  Maybe it will not be as hard as you expect, and that will be a pleasant surprise. :-) But I was expecting life overseas to be one big, fun, exciting adventure. My short-term trips as a young person were certainly fun and exciting. And those I knew who were living overseas told me how wonderful ----  is, how they love their life here, how much fun the markets are, how nice the people are (and it's all true) so I guess I expected to just love everything as soon as I got here!

But seriously, even moving from one place to another within the U.S. is hard - getting used to a new house, new neighbors, new stores, missing your family and friends. So obviously moving across the world into a totally foreign culture is ten times harder!! I'm not saying this so that you will dread it, or to scare you. You will get used to life here and I have no doubt that you will learn to love it. But I'm just saying that you should give yourself time. Don't feel like a failure if you don't feel immediate love for the people, or if you don't like some of the foods, or if you cry at the thought of going to market by yourself . . . it's TOTALLY normal!

I wish someone had told me that, because I spent my first year here feeling like an absolute failure because I was struggling. No one else told me (at the time) that it was hard for them too. I thought I was the only one. Now I realize that actually it was completely normal and basically ALL expats struggle to adjust! Give yourself grace - it might not be hard right away, it might not hit after you've been here several months. It might be hard in different ways than you expect. The things you think will be a challenge might turn out to be a non-issue, and other things may take you by surprise instead. Just don't have too many expectations, and don't feel alone if you're struggling - because you're NOT ALONE!"


So that's my two-cents. What about you? What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you moved overseas? What would you tell a friend who is moving overseas for the first time? Or maybe you're right in the throes of the adjustment yourself, and you need a place to "dump" - or ask a question. This is your chance!