The Process

It’s a process: learning to live here…learning to be ok with this season…this chapter of my life.

Like a glass with residue on the sides to prove it was once full but has now been depleted, my emotional cup is empty. In my eagerness, I would like to skip the cleaning process, but to fill my cup now would only result in a murky mess. This cup needs to be cleaned…and cleaning takes time. In the book of Ephesians there is a phrase that comes to my mind, which talks about using The Word of God to wash and cleanse. (Eph. 5:26) So that is what I’m doing. Sunday afternoons I spend in the rocking chair on our porch. My goal? Wash the glass! Think, Contemplate, Read, Write, Pray, Sing, Listen. It’s all part of the process.

And as much as I would like to snap my fingers and have a clean glass, I know this is a processs which will take time.

I appreciate having time, and I appreciate having a God who loves me even when my glass is messy. Eventually it will be all sparkly again: clean, filled with pure water and ready for a new season of pouring.

And that too will be part of the process.

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Guilty

I’ve tried to be open about the burnout (aka: compassion fatigue) that I am experiencing. But as I’ve said, it’s not easy to be transparent. But since I have a Masters Degree in Counseling, I know the healing value of processing, so I continue to write and share.

My current battle is guilt! As far back as I can remember I have loved Missions. When I was a child I was fascinated by the stories that visiting missionaries told. When I was in middle school I attended an annual missions conference and knew then that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. Missions is in my blood, it’s what I know, what I’m good at and who I am. So no wonder I’m feeling guilty. If Missions makes up so much of who I am, how can I be happy to return stateside? Is that even ok?

The truth is, I am enjoying being in Tennessee. I love to look at the breathtaking Smokey Mountains and imagine what they will look like in the fall. I’m looking forward to the colors of Autumn, a sight I have not seen for many years. I like the cleanliness here. Even with 2 inside dogs and one that sheds extensively there is no comparison to the dirt in my home in Mexico. Here there is no mud or dirt inside, no scorpions, no mice, no roaches nor mold. I don’t have to sweep, mop and dust daily. It’s just not dirty here like it is there.

Crisis in the states are different than in Mexico. In fact, I can’t name one real crisis that we’ve suffered since returning stateside. Oh we’ve had inconviences, setbacks and the like, but for the most part life is easy here. In Mexico life is raw. There, the day is filled with a million tasks of survival. Food must be sanitized and prepared from scratch. You can’t buy or cook ahead because of the frequent power shortages (which can last for days and can ruin everything you have in your fridge and freezer). Running water and electricity are never taken for granted. Many days one, if not both, are non-existent. Dust and dirt whirl through the air and cover your house inside and out. My sinuses are stopped up every morning and at 5,000+ ft above sea level the oxygen is thin and Fibromyalgia pain at times is unbearable. There, common cuts can lead to massive infections and people easily get sick from parasites. In Mexico life is hand to mouth and it is difficult living there. The thought of returning overwhelms me! And that makes me feel embarrassed and….guilty.

Before you think I am completely down on Mexico, let me say…There are many wonderful things about Mexico. There, people are important in a way that they aren’t here. People are more important than things. The slow pace of society helps cultivate friendships. Family is honored and close knit. There, all ages hang out together: grandparents, middle age adults, teenagers, children and babies. Mexicans appreciate and enjoy children and I have learned to enjoy my daughters in a way that I possibly never would have had I not lived there.

I am thankful for my 16 years of living in Mexico, but I am glad to be stateside taking a break from raw living. And when I think of my friends there and the hardships they endure just to survive, well it makes me feel a little (Can you guess?)…..guilty.

KD

The Point

“I feel like there is something left undone!”

That’s the whole point of a sabbatical. Doing nothing, learning to rest in His presence. But like most people, I’m not good at doing that. So far I’ve been busy with administrative work for the ministry. Things that have gone undone because we were so busy meeting needs and putting out fires that we never got around to them. Then there is the day to day practical side of ministry. Is there enough money to feed the boys, pay the staff? How do we get money efficiently to Hope House without us in Mexico? Will people continue to support Hope House if we aren’t there? Will people continue to support our family if we aren’t in Mexico? What about the outreach teams we have scheduled for this summer, how will that workout with me in the States? There are endless questions that need resolution… so I work.

But work is not the point of sabbath! Rest instead of business, peace over worry and frustration, refreshment rather than exhaustion, that is what should characterize this time.

As we prepared for this sabbatical I went through a sabbatical preperation guide that compared taking a sabbatical to getting off a major interstate. It suggested that we needed an off ramp before beginning sabbatical and an acceleration lane at the end. These lanes will help the transition from full-time ministry to rest and then back again to full-time ministry.

I’ve found that even if we had not planned it, the off ramp found its way into our daily routine. There has been so much to do upon arrival in the states. We’re a few months in and we’re just starting to get to a place where we can rest.

I’ve been pondering sabbath rest when I read a blog by fellow missionary and friend Isaiah Cory entitled, “Rest Like It’s Your Job”

(http://www.shepherds-heart-ministries.org/single-post/2018/05/19/Rest-Like-Its-Your-Job)

Isaiah’s words encouraged me that this sabbatical is not only important, but needed as part of my job. Sabbatical is necessary to rest securely in the Lord’s protective care and to be refreshed and alert to give our best to the Lird’s work. It reminds me that Psalm 23 is the embodiment of sabbatical.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalms 23

Prayer:

Lord as I set aside sabbath time, help me to learn to rest in You. Help me to see this sabbatical as a necessary part of my work. Help me to “rest like it’s my job!” Thank you for taking care of all of the ministry details and thank you for taking care of us.

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.

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”.

Being Stretched

Seems like God is always stretching us, asking us to do what seems impossible. Today I am sitting in Tennessee, in a clean house. I went to church and then ate brunch at Cracker Barrel. I took an afternoon nap and spent time with my family. It was a picture perfect day and yet I am restless. This move has taken more faith than anything I’ve ever done. (Yes, more faith than even moving to Mexico in the first place!)

You know it is easy to work, to stay busy for God’s kingdom, but learning to rest, now that is a different type of work. “Take a sabbatical”, God said! And here we are, trying to rest and all the while feeling like a locomotive derailed. We have run so fast and hard for so long it’s difficult to know how to rest in God’s presence. I thought I would write, but writing has not come easy. It’s not that I don’t have feelings to process, it’s just that sharing leaves you vulnerable and I’m already emotionally exhausted. I’m not ready to hear a barrage of well intended opinions about what others think we should be doing. Mexico, missions, Hope House, Honduras, living in another country with different customs and language, I am left emotionally spent. Those in aid work call it compassion fatigue; and I know I suffer from it. I’ve seen and experienced vicarious trama. The poverty, the pain, the suffering that exists in the world has taken its toll. Now God encourages us to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate, refresh, relax and be revived. But I don’t know how to do that. And so we begin a new phase of this journey called life and I’m being stretched once again by the hand of the almighty.