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.

 

Wandering

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I’m currently transitioning between two totally opposite cultures and it’s hard. There are positives and negatives to both cultures, but they are very very different from each other.

It’s funny cause I still find myself trying to control things and the Lord just being like-do you trust me?

I wrote in an earlier blog about how I was learning to trust God. –

“He created me. Doesn’t that make him worthy and capable to fulfill my needs? To be my friend when I’m lonely?”

But the funny thing is, I never felt that lonely in the Dominican. God gave me people that became family to me. It’s actually been the transition back that I have felt alone in. Disconnected to everything here in America and back in the Dominican. It’s like my minds trying to decide where I’m going/ where I’m headed/ where is my home? What is my purpose here? The foreignness makes me feel lost in my own culture. I’m in this awkward middle ground that I honestly don’t understand. Everything still feels weird. I get frustrated easily with people around me and the excessiveness and high maintenance requests that some have. Sometimes I pridefully think to myself – ‘oh wow you could never live in the Dominican.’ As if I was perfect and not excessive before I went. As if I am not guilty of the exact same thing even now. Maybe not anymore, not to the extent I was prior to the Dominican. It really has changed me.

Everything feels foreign. Things that use to feel normal, that I expected to feel normal feel weird in a way that’s hard to put into words. I knew it would feel weird coming back. I lived there for 10 weeks. Life there became my new normal. But I never expected being “home” to feel this foreign. Sleeping in my bed at home feels weird, the quietness is weird. It made it hard to sleep at first. Hanging out with my family is weird. Even being with my friends is hard sometimes. I miss the community I had in the Dominican.

I don’t know what to do with all I learned. Honestly I don’t even know what all I learned. I’ve never gone through so much and seen so many things and met so many people in a span of 10 weeks before. It’s like I just had a life time of experiences packed into that 10 weeks and how do I process that in just a couple days? Weeks even? I’ll probably be processing that for the rest of my life.

I came home so drained in every way, and I still feel that way. More needy then I’ve ever felt in my life. I just feel like I have nothing to give. Like I’m so poured out that I need to recharge. I’m not sure what that looks like as I continue to remember to depend on Him through it all. I’ve never been so spent in my life.

One thing one of my camp leaders used to say is to be spent for the Kingdom. And that’s how I feel. Completely and utterly 100% spent and it kind of feels terrible. Like I gave and gave and gave and I have nothing left to give. Maybe I didn’t depend on God as much as I should have? He definitely sustained me but I have scars from this summer. I came home dehydrated and malnourished (it was difficult being GF in the Dominican) and exhausted in every way shape and form. I came home with a lot of anxiety and a continual feeling of burden in attempting to process it all and re-adapt to the fast-paced and overly materialistic American culture.

The more I connect here, the more I long for the relationships I had in the Dominican.