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.

 

Flashbacks

I’ve never had a lot of pain in my life. That is, pain from someone leaving.In the past year and a half, two people I love passed away, but one was especially dear to my heart. The pain I went through the week my Papaw passed was insurmountable. It compares to no pain I’ve ever felt in my life. It was horrific and terrible. I cried more that week then I ever have in my life. I didn’t just cry, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.

No. Life’s not fair. And no, I didn’t think I could get through that week. But I did. With the help of Jesus, family, and my dear friends. But you never really “get over” these things. They stay with you. You carry them forever. I will never forget Papaw and the tremendous impact he had on my life. I made it through that week and thought that the worst was far behind me. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been worse. But there have been some really tough times since then. Times I miss him so much it hurts. I wish I could just call him. Talk to him. Hear his voice. Give him a hug one last time. Tell him how much I love him and miss him. But last week I experienced something worse than just missing him. I experienced a flashback. A flashback that felt like it was all happening over again.

My other granddad was in a horrible motorcycle accident a week ago, Wednesday. After sustaining life-threatening injuries, he was resuscitated and care flighted to the hospital in Tyler. This hospital also happened to be the exact same hospital that we found out Papaw had cancer in. A “good” cancer to have they told us. A “bump in the road” they told us. “Totally manageable” they told us. He was gone within 2 months of that diagnosis. And now my other granddad was there, injured and hurting. And I had to go back. Go back to that dreadful place that started everything. Go past that room we spent thanksgiving in. The last thanksgiving with Papaw. The room that we took our very last family picture he will ever be in. The place that I headed to after I found out about his cancer. As I drove to Tyler Wednesday, I sobbed. I cried out. My vision was blurry as I was driving. I couldn’t stop. I was having a mini panic attack. All I could think was I CANT DO THIS. This CANNOT be happening again. It brought back all of the fears and emotions of that night with a renewed vigor. The night I knew he was dying. The night my mom said come home now. Come see him. The night I said goodbye to him. It all came rushing back. And I couldn’t go back. The memories and pain flooded in. I couldn’t stop it.

Pain. Life is pain. If we had no joy, we would have no pain. It’s those we love, that will hurt us the most. Because when you love someone, they become a part of you, you give them a little piece of your heart. And when they leave it feels like they’re ripping your heart right out. Your very breath. I couldn’t do it again that night. But the good news is that I didn’t have to. And neither do you. Jesus sustains us.

As I drove, sobbing, back to Tyler, I called one of my best friends. She lives out her love for Jesus more than anyone I know. As I talked to her she listened. And then she prayed for me. That I would have the strength to go for my granddad and family who needed me. Immediately I felt calmer. I felt peace. A part of me wanted to live in that pain. Because it reminded me of the life my Papaw lived, and the impact he had on my own life. It’s easier to remember it all when I feel the pain. I feel guilty when I’m not hurting for him. But we can’t live in that pain. Yes, when bad things happen, grieve. Let. It. Out. But let Jesus be with you in your pain. He doesn’t take it away. He sits with you in it. He feels it. And He brings peace. As soon as my friend prayed, I calmed down. Because I knew I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t do it, but there was someone who could.

We aren’t meant to live in that pain. Jesus blessed me that night. With that peace and strength to go back, but also because of what ended up happening when I got to the hospital. When I arrived, I was still nervous of reliving those memories. Thinking about walking on that skywalk from the parking garage to the hospital, to my granddad, still scared me. Seeing the room Papaw was in would be so incredibly hard. Why did the circumstances have to feel so similar. But because I got there after midnight, all the normal entrances were closed, even the skywalk I had walked so many times to go see Papaw. The only entrance open was one I had never entered, the ER entrance. It felt like a totally different hospital.