looking back

looking back 1

I wrote this back in December but never got around to posting it, so here it is:

 

2016.

I had some of my greatest joys and some of my toughest days. Preparing for the Dominican, living there, coming back to this culture.. It changed me considerably. God has been teaching me so much, and honestly at times it’s been quite painful. It’s like the pruning part of growth. There’s no real growth until the pain level is high enough.

While it has been hard, He has continually showed me His goodness and His sheer faithfulness time and time again throughout this year. Confía en Dios is what I’ve learned. Trust in God. Heading to the Dominican, knowing no one, was quite terrifying and exciting at the same time. The Lord has given me a heart for the Dominican and the people there. I saw the Lord’s faithfulness in the support I received to go. Oftentimes I didn’t have the support I needed, would pray and within days have the donations needed. I was nervous to go alone, but He provided me with a great community of friends in the Dominican that I consider family now. He has shown me that there is beauty in brokenness. That when we are at our lowest, He is still there. He has shown me that He is my rock and will always be the one stable thing in my life.

I learned things in the Dominican that I don’t know if I ever could have learned in this materialistic culture of America. I have to practice daily choosing to be content and grateful for what I have instead of continually seeking more. I learned what it was like to live out of a suitcase and loved living so simply. I saw the love of the church in the Dominican in a way I had never previously experienced. I have never felt so welcomed and so at home then I did at Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana. I learned how to be bold and communicate how I felt and what I believed to the Dominicans in a way I had never needed to before. Talking to people from a different country allowed me the freedom to be who I was and not who they expected me to be. They accepted me for me and valued me because of who I was. Their culture values people in a way that I strive to emulate.

Coming back was difficult though. I’ve written previously about how everything felt foreign. I knew I would have some reverse culture shock, but it completely surpassed what I had expected. When I came back, I thought it was hard because everything felt different: being with my family, friends, being at home, driving my car, having freedom to choose what I wanted to do and eat and what not.. It all felt so weird. But looking back, I think the hardest part for me to accept was myself. While I looked at everything as if it was different, it was me. I was different. I changed.

I think of my life kind of like a snow globe sometimes with its perfectly laid snow laying peacefully at the bottom. Tranquil and settled. Then imagine someone coming, picking it up and shaking it violently. That’s how this year has felt. Like Jesus has taken my calm and comfortable life and shook it up. Like he’s tearing up my foundation to help me be founded in Him and His truth.

I came back and felt lost and confused. Who was I? My whole life I felt like I was this quiet, shy, obedient, submissive rule follower that wanted nothing but to be comfortable and safe, but I came back feeling totally different. I want to go and do things. I want to life to be an adventure. I want to travel the world and see the beauty of nature. I want to follow Him wherever He takes me. I want to go with boldness. I want to live simply, take risks, and enjoy people.

The very first week in the Dominican I was talking to Noe, one of the lead missionaries where I was interning (basically my Dominican dad for the summer), and he started telling me about what he was thinking- how all of us American interns would finish the summer and what we would take from it. He told me this quote, that even at the time I thought was quite inciteful: “a missionary never goes home.”

A missionary never goes home.

I figured at the time that he knew what he was talking about, the Dominican would end up keeping a piece of my heart. Even when I first got back that’s what I thought; I would have two homes after coming back.

But as time passed, I realized that I still didn’t feel at home in America. And I wrestled with that a lot. Why? The Dominican felt like home after a couple of weeks, why couldn’t I get back to normal and feel ‘at home’ here in America? I had been back for much longer then I was gone for. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. And it’s hard.

Here’s one thing I learned. Hebrews 11:8 mentions the obedience of Abraham to move to the place he is called to receive as an inheritance. He leaves his homeland with a calling, but without a destination given to him. By faith he lives in the promise land, but it remains foreign to him. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) This chapter mentions many dominant Biblical characters who live as strangers and exiles on this earth, clearly seeking a better homeland. “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16) Abraham, along with many others, left a civilized life to follow the Lord’s calling. They lived a foreign life because they knew where they were going and what their purposes were.

It was such an encouragement to me to remember, this earth was never meant to be our home. The saying ‘a missionary never goes home’ reigns true for me. Heaven is our home. The closest thing we’ll get to home here is connecting to people through the love of Christ. 2016 was a year full of travel, change, and learning for me. Learning to trust and depend on Him through the trials and joys of life.

 

A Year Ago Today

When you hear the words “a year ago today,” you know something really great or something terrible happened. Something worth remembering. Maybe a graduation,  a first date, a wedding, first day of a new job… But sometimes when you hear the words “a year ago today..” It means something more. It means something that broke you and changed you. Something you will never get over. And never forget.

For me this is what that is. Just a little over a month ago, I had a “year ago today” moment. August 14th, 2014. Forever ingrained in my memory. I got the call while I was working at camp, the call that changed me, broke me. It was the day I experienced death truly for the first time. But it wasn’t just any death. It was a life that was stolen from this earth. He felt he had no reason to live, so for him that meant he had a reason to die. A reason to not live. A reason to leave this lonely world in hope of something better. The pain he carried in his life, is now carried by those who loved him. Those whose lives were impacted by him. There were a lot. A lot more than you would expect for someone who felt he didn’t matter.

I read an article recently called “the day after I killed myself.” It’s written from the view of someone who did just that. But what she writes is interesting. She wrote that the day after she killed herself, she fell in love. She fell in love with the way her mom looked at every little picture of her and cherished her old stuffed animals. How her mom went into her closet and held her clothes just to smell her scent as if she was still there. It’s hard to accept reality sometimes. She fell in love with how her dad took all the gifts she had given him and cradled them. How he kept calling her number just to listen to her voicemail. Just to hear her voice. One. More. Time. She fell in love with the way her brother broke over her. The love he expressed for her. The way he could talk to no one. Because they were best friends.

How can you explain that to someone? How do you explain the way death effects you? You can’t. She fell in love with the fact that she was needed. She was wanted. She fell in love when she saw her dog walking happily along the trail they used to walk together. The beauty of the outdoors. The shining sun she had never quite noticed before. The warm gentle breeze that wraps itself around you. The day after she killed herself she went back to her corpse and tried to convince herself not to do it. But it was too late.

Everyone has an impact they don’t realize.

Always remember that.