Before and After

Before-

Last week we were in Mexico. As I prepared for the trip I wrote….

I’ve spent every summer in Mexico since 1998 except the summer of 2000; the year when Genesis was born. But this summer, I’m not looking forward to being there. It took a lot of effort, prayers, godly counsel and muscle to get our family of 6 along with two of our dogs to the states and now after being here 2 months, I must return South of the Border. As far as I can remember, this is the first time since September of 2004 that I have not wanted to return.

I remember traveling with Rodney and 3 of the girls. Zion was only 8 weeks old and I did not want to return to Mexico. Life there was difficult, we didn’t know the language, we didn’t have many friends, the house we were renting was moldy. In fact, there was a time when Rodney, Trin and I all had mold growing under our fingernails. We were poor, felt alone and life was tough.

After spending a few extra days at the boarder wrestling with our negative feelings and with God, we decided to return to Mexico. We didn’t want to spend our lives wondering what God would have done through us had we only been faithful.

Over the years the hardships and struggles only served to strengthen our faith and deepen our relationship with each other and our Lord.

This week as I struggled, once again, with my feelings of not wanting to return to Mexico, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It didn’t take long for me to adjust my attitude. I have so many things to be thankful for. And now after all these years I can look back with thankfulness at all that God has accomplished in spite of the difficulties that we faced.

After-

Fast Forward to the end of our trip…..

Lord-I thank you for this trip! I did not want to come, but I’m glad I did. You have blessed us and loved on us while we were here. Thank you to our friends LeAnna and Jerry who have blessed us with their “little house”. Staying here has given us privacy and precious downtime we both desperately need. While here we have gotten to visit friends and loved ones, we have shared laughs and tears. Thank you, Lord, that we were here to be able to comfort our friend Lucinda as L.C. passed into glory. Thanks that I got to sing once again with my friends, who I’ve missed, in the LCBC Choir. Thanks for Hope House! Annel and Ismael are doing a FANTASTIC job, much better than Rodney and I could do at this point. They are standing on our shoulders and advancing God’s Kingdom and changing lives. Investing 15 1/2 years in her life was worth it! Thank you that she and Ismael embrace the vision You Father gave us for Hope House and they are not only maintaining in our absence, but thriving. This trip has reassured me that we are exactly where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing. It has brought much healing to my weary heart. Thank you for blessing me with peace that YOU have got this under control. Thank you for encouraging me to rest in You.

Thought-

There are times when life is difficult and there are times when we just imagine that life will be difficult. I know that God has a plan and purpose in each of them. I pray that God gives us the wisdom to know the difference and to be thankful for both seasons.

Faithful Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

—Jeremiah 29:11

It took a while for us to decide to follow through with the plans to come to the states. In many ways it was easier to simply stay where we were. But God, has a way of moving mountains instantaneously to accomplish His plans. So here we are 10 weeks into our stateside sabbatical.

I remember a few years ago standing on the patio of the outreach dorms at Hope House. I looked over the bare property and thought about what was left to build. In my mind’s eye I could see the vast building that was still only a dream. “Ten years”, I said to myself. “I estimate that it will take another 10 years before we have accomplished all the vision that God has given us for building Hope House.” Little did I know that God was working behind the scenes in the heart of a man from Kentucky. A man who God called to spearhead the vast project of the Transition House, a place for our older boys to continue growing into men.

That was 3 short summers ago and today I sit in Tennessee wondering what this next season of life will look like as another team from Kentucky arrives in Mexico to put the finishing touches on a handful of rooms at the Transition House. Their work will help us meet the goal of having 3 rooms and the Kitchen finished by next spring so Ricardo and Ulesis will have a place to live when they turn 18.

That day as I stood praying, envisioning and wondering how many more years it would take to complete all that God had placed in our hearts, I would have never imagined how quickly it would all come together.

And once again I stand amazed at God’s

faithfulness.

Vunerable

Slowly I’m beginning to write…but the words I pen leave me feeling vulnerable. I’m not sure I have the courage to post them, to let you into my world. It’s not that I have any dark hidden secrets. Anyone who knows me, knows I share my battles freely. I am honest and open, but it’s easier to speak freely when I can look into your eyes…to see your response and when you can look at me too and see my heart which inspires my words.

Sixteen years, almost two decades we have lived in another country. Our girls know it as home, but to me, it will never be home. I will always be a stranger, outsider, foreigner. One day I came to this realization; Mexico will never be home. I will never understand fully their customs, motives or attitudes towards Americans. I won’t understand why they insist on burning trash and brush in March when the winds are at their height, nor why they sprinkle water on the dirt to keep the dust down, all the while making a muddy mess, or why they think that all Americans are rich. I will never think it’s natural to sweep the street in front of my house or throw my trash down on the sidewalk or pick fruit off it trees that don’t belong to me. I will never understand why starting a children’s home automatically means I’m out to take advantage of the children and makes me a suspect of wrong doing.

Oh there are so many more things that I could tell you …more than I want to tell and more than you want to know. It reminds me of a book by Missionary Amy Carmichael entitled, “Things As They Are”, she shared about the struggles she faced being a missionary in India, how people were more interested in her hair and clothes than they were hearing about Jesus.

I feel that way. So many interested in what they could get from us instead of being interested in WHO they could know because of us. Oh there are some who have genuinely been changed by Christ working through us, but others have taken advantage and abused our good nature and it’s left me emotionally exhausted.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time around us, knows that this calling, this mission has taken its toll. Physically I continue to suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. Emotionally, I’m drained. Even last week my back gave way and I am reminded of my frailty. Fortunately spiritually, I’m stable, stronger than when I began this journey. My roots have grown deep in the midst of adversity. And although I’m restless like a fish out of water, I know this season is necessary. This sabbatical that God has called us to, a time of rest and refreshment is necessary for our wellbeing and that of our family and ministry. But rest does not come easy after years of 24/7 work and crisis management. Ironically, it feels like there is something I’m not doing, something I’m forgetting to do. And we’ll that is sort of the point, isn’t it.

Before coming here, as we prepared for this sabbatical, I read that sabbath rest is not easy. That I would be confronted with thoughts, feelings and attitudes that I don’t necessarily enjoy. (And so it is.)

I am no longer enamored with Mexico or Mexicans. Can I say that? Probably not! But I have, and to take it back would not be true to the much needed process. We have been used and taken advantage of and that allows us to understand a slight bit of what it’s like to partake in the sufferings of Jesus. That’s not a bad thing, but it is also not an easy one.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my boys! And I do not regret any part of starting Hope House. It was worth every heartache and tear. Knowing those boys have a safe and loving home and the opportunity to know Jesus as savior, It was worth it! I would do it again knowing the adversity that lie ahead, but that doesn’t change the fact that these 16 years have taken its toll on me and I need a little time to recuperate.

So here we are stateside after nearly two decades of living south of the border. It’s a strange feeling, a strange feeling indeed.

Catching Up

Since we’ve been back in the States, I’ve been spending some time with family, catching up. My aunt invited my mom and our family to go to the beach. Rodney stayed behind, so we made it just a girls trip. It was the first time ever that we have gone on vacation together. It was good to share time with family.

After that, I drove 6 hours by myself to visit my dad. I wasn’t sure how I would do driving alone. (Driving in Mexico is much different than in the states, and it’s not something that you do alone.) But the trip proved to be a good opportunity to decompress and enjoy some alone time. It was nice to see the country side, talk with God and just be. (In a family if 6, one rarely gets time alone.) Anyway, I haven’t seen my dad since November of 2016 when he had his first chemo treatment. It’s hard to believe that he’s been through 2 complete cycles of chemotherapy and stem cell replacement all without me around. The Bible says, “…everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29, NLT) I don’t exactly understand what that means, but I feel like I might qualify.

As an only child, I have missed a lot of moments with my family over the last 16 years. I’ve missed weddings and funerals, graduations and holidays, sicknesses and surgeries, years and moments. I don’t begrudge those absences. I know that what I was doing is important. In the eternal scheme of life, we have given children who had no hope, HOPE for a better future. We have given them a home, a safe place, a loving family. I know that the time invested has been worth it. But now that Hope House is established, I am glad to be here…Glad to be able to spend time with my parents as they (and I) grow older.

I’m not sure what the next phase of life will hold. I’m not sure that it is necessary for us to return to Mexico full-time. Our ministry has grown a lot since 2002 when we set off in our truck with all of our belongings packed in the back and a 2 year old and 2 month old sitting in the back seat. A lot has changed indeed. So, as I take time to catch up with my family, I take time to catch up with me too. I’m not the same person I was before Mexico. I’m a much stronger person in many ways and for sure a much gentler version of myself. It’s nice to be able to “catch up”.

A Way Through

I’m tired of helping people!(Oops, Did I say that out loud?!?) It’s not that I think helping people is bad, it’s just that I personally am tired of giving and giving, probably more accurately, I have nothing left to give. Over the last 16 years we have been in the full-time business of helping people…meeting their needs. When you are in that type of work it doesn’t take long before you are surrounded by people that need something from you. After a while you get numb to their stories.

I’ve heard every sob story there is to hear and they no longer effect me like before. It’s called compassion fatigue. I’ve given and given until there is nothing left within me to give. Somehow I’m supposed to recover from this. This sabbatical is supposed to help. And I’m sure in time it will help.

To be honest I don’t know when I got like this. I know it didn’t happen over night, but I suspect my emotions have been dry for a long time. It’s an awful feeling. It’s not where I want to be, not who I want to be. But it is my current reality.

They say this is normal. Missionaries and aid workers alike struggle from Compassion fatigue. I’m following one blog and she talks about the compassion fatigue she suffered after just months on the mission field. So I guess being a little exhausted after 16 years of full-time missions is understandable. Yet I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings. I don’t know how to organize my thoughts and move forward. I guess it will take time. I didn’t get this way over night and I won’t heal overnight either. So the sabbatical is necessary. Necessary to rest, necessary to process, necessary to heal, necessary to become whole again, necessary to be able to give again.

Some days I’m disoriented and have a hard time concentrating. I pray and my thoughts drift off or circle around in my mind. It’s frustrating. Seems like we are in a holding pattern. Circling around and around waiting to land. I feel so strange. I’ve been so driven…Always pushing, accomplishing. But here, there is nothing that I can do to help this process move more quickly. I go through the daily motions, but they are the same: wake, eat devotional, exercise, cook, clean, wash clothes. I thought that I would write, but at times I can’t even collect my thoughts to do that. I know I’m glad to be here. I know I need this rest.

Pray for our family and our ministry. Change is not easy, and re-entering your passport country after years away is tough. For our girls the States is a foreign country. For the most part they have never lived here. So they too have a lot to process. Financial support for our family and the ministry is down. (People get antsy when they see change.) Instead of reaching out for clarification, some just withdraw financial support until they are satisfied that the ministry is going to continue normally. So pray for Hope House as the leadership there strives to meet the boys’ needs during this lean season. And If God brings our family to mind, please pray for us, that we will keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him through this season and allow Him to lead us into the next.