As I repurpose my blog to focus on you, what topics, thoughts, questions, struggles do you have that you would like for me to write about? What topics would help you most?
My eyes glistening wet, holding back the tears I admit, “It has taken more faith for me to return to Tennessee than it did to go to Mexico in the first place.” The Mexican village that once forced me from my comfort zone has become like a well worn shoe, or should I say, huarache (Mexican sandal). Language, customs and mannerisms which were once foreign to me, had become my norm. Now, don’t get me wrong, living in Mexico was far from easy. In fact those 16 years were filled with constant crisis management. The vicarious trauma & personal hardship that we have experienced are enough to make anyone a little overwhelmed. Stories, I could tell, but refrain…. At times it seemed like it would never end, yet today I sit in another country. One where people call me “Sweetheart” & “Honey” and then say, “Chew ain’t frum round here, are ya!?!” I must “re”tune my ears to understand their Southern draw, and then reply, “Well actually I am from here, it’s just been a while since I’ve lived here.”
What was once my normal, has now become strange and unusual. Sometimes when people speak to me, I stare blankly. I’m processing, translating & trying to understand. As I am once again stretched beyond my comfort zone, I struggle with the question, “Why am I here?” Over the years, I’ve heard many missionaries say that it was difficult for them to return to their home country. And so it is! The familiar…now unfamiliar, my identity…challenged. Who am I? Where is my place? Then unexpectedly, I heard God’s still steady voice…”America has become the mission field.” I look around, I listen, I contemplate and I know that this is true.
A lot has changed in the last 16 years! America, Tennessee, you have changed! Then again, I have changed too. His reassuring voice, comfortingly familiar, “Everything that you’ve learned the last 16 years is to prepare you for this!”
I knew coming here would bring clarity for the next step and next season. And little by little I am starting to piece together His purpose in asking me once again to take off my comfortable shoes.
What comfortable shoes is God asking you to take off inorder to follow Him?
As a missionary I have come to understand a little of what the Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians when he penned, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV) Physically and emotionally I am spent, but spiritually I am much stronger than I was before becoming a missionary.
Our time south of the border has been characterized by hardship and challenges. It seems like we experienced a steady 16 year downpour of them. Friday’s devistating storm in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillo (where Hope House is located) served to remind me just how raw hardship is there. It comes in waves often so violent that you can barely catch your breath before being pelted with another wave of difficulty. In those storms, there is One who stands ready to rescue us.
When life is easy, we often drift away from God, but when life is characterized by difficulties they can propel us toward Christ. Because of the hardships I experienced while on the mission field, I learned to trust the Lord in ways I never would have otherwise. Honestly there was no other way. No one to turn to but God and so we were forced to draw near to Him, to seek His council and guidance, through it all.
The Father of Modern Gospel, Andre Crous’s song “Through it All”, speaks of this truth. He sings: “I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
Now stateside, our trials are different, but I am drawing from my years of experience trusting in Jesus and know that through it all, God is faithful and cares about even the smallest details of life.
(Friday night around midnight a massive hail storm reeks havoc in the town where Hope House is located. Baseball size hail fell for about 2 hours straight. Hope House sustained considerable damage to its facility. Fortunately no one was hurt. A couple blocks from Hope House a friend’s vehicles were severely damaged with all the windows and windshield being shattered.Please pray for Hope House and the towns people as they seek to repair and recuperate from the devastation.)
Three mornings a week all 6 of us load into the car and head to the gym. It’s a family activity that we all enjoy. It’s safe to say that we are the only family of six that goes to the gym together. We make quite the entrance when we walk through the door. On Friday a week ago, we piled into the car heading home after working out. The girls were in the back talking and laughing, I was in the passenger seat, talking on the cell with my mom and Rodney was driving. It was a typical morning as we drove two short miles home. Then in a moment we came around the curve and the car in the opposite lane began to drift into our lane. On that one lane country road, there was no where for us to go! I yelled and Rodney blasted the horn and floored the accelerator, while swerving the best he could while trying not to run off the road. It’s amazing how easily life can be forever changed!
Fortunately, by the grace of God the oncoming driver noticed and began to correct his path. He literally came within inches of hitting us head on. I really don’t know how we managed to escape with our lives, much less unharmed! I have thought a lot about those few quick seconds this week. I am awed and grateful to have my life and my family. I am so very thankful for God’s protection, because in a split second our life could have been forever changed.
Thank you to all of our friends who pray for us. We know your prayers make a difference!!
You get the censored version of my life. Oh there are things I force myself to share openly and other things I keep to myself. Some parts of missionary life are just to difficult to share with anyone who has not experienced them. They seem to me like a heavy weight. So I talk freely with friends who similarly struggle and I put on a smile for you. The problem is, I’ve never been good at wearing masks. My face betrays me every time!
This week I’m restless. I just returned from Mexico. I know the games that they play in the culture, and I’m uneasy. I keep telling myself to not worry and to present my requests to God. I know the drill. But sometimes scripture is easier said than done. And taking my thoughts captive, at times is like trying to restrain the wind…impossible.
Lord, help me as I wrestle with these thoughts and feelings, emotions that only you truly understand. Help me to overcome these concerns and give them to you to carry, for they are too heavy for my heart.
“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.”
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
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.