As I’ve been in the States traveling around and talking about our past year with people, I have been forced to process through some of the things that we have experienced a little more in depth. People have been so amazing, and I have discovered as I close each time with a chance to ask questions, I start to be emotional when I am forced to go “off script” and really think about my feelings, hopes, and expectations. For the most part I feel like I cannot answer those questions clearly yet. I am excited to get back to Nairobi and start figuring out life with my family. Yet I’m grieving the loss of the plans and hopes we had as a team and a family in South Sudan. I am so happy to know that we are a part of a church in Nairobi that is truly seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the city, yet it still new and foreign, and I long for it to feel like family. I am at complete peace with John going to Nyack and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right place for him, yet that leaves a big hole in our family. I hear news from South Sudan and wonder if things will ever change for the happy, easy-going, peace-desiring people I know and love there, and still struggle with the whys that keep coming up in my heart and mind as far as justice and freedom.
So while I have been silent on here for a while, there have been many thoughts and ideas for blogs churning around inside. Here’s the thing, though…I can’t seem to figure out how to put voice to any of them in an accurate, satisfactory way. In the middle of a sentence I realize I am rambling and have already changed my mind about what I was saying three times. I’ve written out blog after blog and wadded up the paper and thrown it out just as often. It’s not writers block so much as emotional constipation. It seems to be building up and wanting to come out, but I can’t quite make it happen. Wow…even that example could go in a really graphic direction that I think I will avoid-ha!
I recently heard the quote again from The Hobbit movie, and I think it sums up a lot of why this is. Gandalf is telling Bilbo that he should go on this incredible adventure. Bilbo, being the cautious hobbit that he is says, ” Can you promise I will come back?” Gandalf responds in his usual honest way by saying, “No. And if you do, you will not be the same.”
Thats where I feel like I’m at. Back, but not the same. And as I try to talk with people- friends, family, strangers, etc- it’s become clear that there are times even I don’t recognize the things that have changed in me this year. Most of the time I’m ok with that- I feel a steadiness in me that comes when you are at the point of looking back on something hard and knowing God was in it all. But sometimes, when I’m sitting and wanting to say something to make myself clear, yet I’m not sure what words to say or even how to put words to a thought, I feel lost. Sometimes I get ready to give the response to a question I would have given a year ago, and I realize that my answer is different. It’s funny, I remember saying to someone last year when I turned 40 what a good feeling it was to be at a place in life where I knew who I was, and was comfortable in that. Then God answered all those prayers sung in that beautiful, emotion-stirring song about a trust without borders and keeping my eyes above the waves, and I am caught up in the wave and have not touched bottom since.
It’s hard. And confusing. And so very right and good- even when I don’t want to admit it.
So I apologize for long periods of silence, and I won’t make any promises of that changing soon. But then again- how do I know what God has in mind? I do promise to keep it real and honest with you all, and hope you do the same with us. Thanks for your continued prayers and for your faithfulness.
(Originally posted 2013)
This morning I had the fun task of taking RJ to the dentist. For some reason my youngest two have bad teeth – weak enamel or the fact that they only floss when I am standing over them glaring are probably the biggest reasons, because we don’t eat a lot of sticky, sweet things! A couple years ago I had to take Andrew to the dentist and he was put under conscious sedation. It was one of the worst experiences of my life! After over an hour of yelling, screaming, crying out for help and calling my name as I held him down so they could operate, they fixed 8 cavities and pulled several teeth. (They also cleaned them while he was under!) They were right – he didn’t remember a thing – but I was scarred for life.
Today they gave RJ laughing gas and then Novocaine, but he still had a hard time when they actually started pulling. Watching him grab the chair and cry was terrible. For one thing, I had inadvertently lied to him. I was under the assumption the reason I was paying extra for the laughing gas was so he wouldn’t feel anything – but he obviously did. And now we get to go back in another two weeks to get the other side done. Fun times.
I know that these things are sometimes painful, and can cause anxiety in my children (and me!) – but ultimately they are for their own good. Getting shots to prevent disease, removing infection from the body, and fixing things that are broken are all beneficial things that can seem not-so-beneficial at the moment. When RJ was just 6 months old he went in for open heart surgery to repair 2 holes (ASD and VSD for those of you medical people.) It was AWFUL! Not being able to feed him in the morning and hearing his pathetic whines because he was hungry and too young to understand; seeing the tubes and the not being able to hold him afterwards; he started getting an infection, and they had to beat on his back every few hours after breaking open his sternum – the whole thing was terrible. Yet it was this very thing that caused him to be able to live and have a life that doesn’t revolve around hospitals and surgeries. I hated it, but God got us through it and he is healthy and alive.
I think about parents who have to watch their child go through sickness or tragedy. It broke my heart today just to hear RJ crying, and have him know that I was there and allowing it to happen. But what about those parents that have to watch as their child goes through cancer treatments? Or dies slowly because of lack of food or clean drinking water? What about the moms and dads in South Sudan and other countries like it that have seen their children raped, maimed, killed, and taken by their own country? How does one heal after that? How does one cope? It’s hard to see the purpose in those things – they are not like getting life healing surgery or having an infection taken out of your mouth. It’s just plain evil and sin in this world. But these parents, these families, still need to know God’s healing and his love.
When we were in the hospital for RJ’s surgery there was a little girl there that was only around 6 – and she was going through her second round cancer. She could no longer walk because of the treatments, and she had no hair. Her mother was taking her around trick or treating that day in the kid’s ward (it was Halloween) and I met them on the elevator. I was nervous and sad for RJ, but I knew I would be taking him home in a few days and he would be healthy and happy. There was not that promise for this little girl. Watching her mom broke me in ways I can’t describe.
As we go to South Sudan we will meet parents who have lost kids in all ways – famine, war, poverty, childbirth, disease – even preventable ones. I am asking God to keep my heart tender and breakable, even though it will hurt badly at times. I want to always see people through his eyes and with his heart. It’s not a prayer I take lightly – but I believe it’s an important one.