I’ve been writing this post in my head for weeks. Continually putting off the inevitable. Pushing the words back down as they’ve dared to break the sound barrier and be spoken into existence.
Reflect: To think deeply and carefully about something or someone.
synonyms: think about, give thought to, consider, give consideration to, review, mull over, contemplate, cogitate about/on, meditate on, muse on, brood on/over, turn over in one’s mind.
Do you take time to reflect on the years, months, days? So much perspective can be gained by simply taking time to look back and reflect. Dwelling on the past may not be healthy, but I do think there is value in reflection, value in “sitting” in something whether it’s grief, or gratitude and allowing those emotions to exist and even co-exist. This past year, I often found myself wading through the murky waters of allowing grief and gratitude to co-exist in my heart as I did my best to move forward in a way that brought healing.
Where do you start when you feel like everyday is a new beginning? To appreciate the new it’s important to reflect on the past.
If I close my eyes long enough, my chest begins to swells as I breathe in deep and I find myself transported back to the day I arrived in the DR, May 25, 2007. In those days, you walked right off the plane and onto the tarmac. I arrived with two suitcases, ready to start the rest of my life. Wide-eyed, I stared out the big bus windows as we drove from the airport to my new home as we passed children and adults alike in torn pants and dirty shirts sitting on the sidewalks crouched over or walking up and down the streets begging for spare change. I’d seen this before but now this was my home.
It was sticky and hot outside- 100% humidity and this Vegas dry heat girl had some learning to do. My birthday was just 4 days after I arrived. My friend Jen took me to a Dominican cowboy restaurant where they gave out shots instead of birthday cake. I would only have a mere 13 days to settle into my room at the ministry house before our staff would gather for our first meeting and we would find out where we would be working for the week. I was going to Haiti. Tears fill my eyes even as I type. I always thought I would end up living in Haiti. The Lord still has more of our story to write and I take comfort in knowing that just maybe someday our future may still include a connection with a country and a people that I loved so dearly. I spent several weeks my first summer in the DR traveling to both Haiti and the Bateys (camps in sugar cane farming communities). I’ll never forget Guillande; a Haitian orphan who was partially blind and around 4 or 5. I always dreamed of being her mom. I wonder where she is now. I had never really thought much about being a mom or having kids until her. She opened my eyes both to motherhood and adoption- another dream I pray God writes into our story somehow, someday if it’s his will.
Over the years, I would experience immense joy and both personal and professional growth. I would get married and have twins. I would continue to be a part of some of the most rewarding work both in the redemption and renewal of people and their communities through finding Jesus, to seeing kids with full bellies after eating lunch provided by our nutrition centers all over the country to people finding healing through medical outreach and the ultimate healer.
And then there was the work with our teams and the mission to revive a generation of believers in the United States to change their communities as a result of their work alongside of the local leaders in the Dominican and Haiti over the course of a week. It certainly felt like a dream most days.
I also saw some incredibly heart wrenching things. I watched two of my missionary friends drive off in the back of our pickup truck while one held a bleeding Haitian man who had just been “machete-ed” by another man for allegedly stealing a bike. He died at the hospital after no one wanted to treat him. I saw one of my first Dominican friend’s husband die from complications of diabetes. I remember the scene at the hospital of him lying in the bed in a pool of blood and urine, with no one there to change him. His wife, scraping together all the money she had, just to buy the blood glucose test strips so the nurses could check his levels. These were not things provided to patients and she would have to bring sheets to change his bed, water for him to drink, and purchase any medicine he needed in advance. He was sent home to die and had an aneurysm just days later. Ill never forget the sound of a dying man’s breathing or his children wailing over his dead body, or the long processional walk to his final burial after 10 days of mourning.
The Dominican represents a decade of hope and sorrow, joy and mourning. Its where I learned the meaning of community. I learned how to have healthy confrontation, I learned how to respectfully disagree. I found some of the deepest and fiercest friendships I have known. I learned how I was going to lead (and how I was going to not lead). It was the place I saw God so vividly at work and it’s the place I experienced some of the darkest pits of hell through miscarriages and a fractured marriage. I suffered a major mental breakdown. I learned for the first time about anxiety disorder (and how I’d probably had it most of my life). I felt the communal ripple effects of sin and the healing in confession. It was eventually the place that I spiraled out of control. It was Alan’s rock bottom and thus became my rock bottom too.
It was the place I loved so deeply, and the very thought of losing it would quite literally take my breath away. That would ultimately become the reason I knew it must be sacrificed. Idols must always be placed on the altar before God himself. He will either remove it from our lives, or provide another way, sometimes both. After a decade, and thinking this beautiful life would go on forever, everything stopped and time stood still. For a brief moment I lived inside the eye of a hurricane. The calm in the middle of the storm. Inside the eye, everything moved slowly, and everything was so muted, life was swirling around me, and I could see it all happening in slow motion, until I was thrust out of the eye and into the vivid reality of the hurricane, and everything was moving at breakneck speed all around me. Emotions flying, our littles in tow along for the horrific ride and realization that we would be moving on. We would all be moving on. Alan and I both made the choice and felt we had no other choice. We knew it was time, and knew there was no other way. We desired to stay, but knew we never could. It was the most pain-filled, gut wrenching, chest exploding, heart breaking thing to leave behind a life we built. That once spectacular part our lives over. Some days I am still sad. Tears flow like truth serum. My heart aches for my home. Everyday Vegas feels a little more like home, but it will take time and that is okay.
I spent the last decade focusing on some of the most fulfilling work personally that I have ever been a part of. That piece of me, that special gift of a decade in a foreign land will never be erased. Even though that specific chapter is closed for now, the lessons and love are in my bones. It’s a part of my DNA. I think differently, I act differently, I process differently. I know this about myself. I always consider this to be a tremendous blessing. For now, I am choosing to look back on the beauty, on the pain, to allow myself time and space to grieve. The grieving has certainly lessened and for that I am truly grateful. As the summer here in Vegas is ending, a new season is upon us literally, and I can feel it ushering in a new season in my soul too. More on that to come…