Regrets and Lessons

As our project in Chad is finishing up, I look back and think of a few regrets I have. The biggest is that I never formed a community of people that I can be vulnerable with. I have friends here, and we spend time with other missionary families, but I can’t say that I took the time to find safe people here.

I learned about safe people when Robert and I started marriage counseling and recovery 7 years ago. During that time, I learned that safe relationships are where we can be present with one another, connecting on a deep level; we receive grace and acceptance with no condemnation, giving us freedom from the fear of rejection; we can speak the truth to one another, confronting each other as needed. (Cloud-Townsend, Safe People) These types of relationships are not easily formed. They take time and energy and vulnerability.

Being an introvert, it’s never been easy for me to make safe friends. I have lots of friends whom I don’t mind sharing some intimate details, but there aren’t many with whom I’m truly vulnerable.

I wasn’t always this guarded. I built a lot of walls to guard my emotions after my dad passed away. And I built these walls even higher when my marriage fell apart. I was embarrassed, angry, and disappointed and wasn’t ready to share those feelings with anyone. Through counseling and support groups, I learned who my safe people are, but I still struggle with letting my walls down around them.

I thought this would make being a missionary easier – that it would help me to not be lonely while so far from family and friends. But this year has taught me that I was wrong. I’ve learned that wherever I am, I need to be vulnerable with people who are physically close to me – not a phone call, text, or email away.

I noticed on our first trip to Chad that there was a great missionary community here. I thought we’d fit in right away. I didn’t think my walls would keep me from immediately connecting with new people. But they did.

When we first arrived, I was exhausted from the transition and enjoyed spending time alone and with the friends we already had here. It wasn’t until the New Year when I realized that while these friends are great, they’re not as familiar or safe to me as my friends back home are. I was so homesick then that I didn’t have the energy to try and connect deeper, to be vulnerable with these friends.

I wish I would have responded differently. If I could go back to last September, I would try and force myself to be vulnerable and develop a safe community among the missionaries here in Chad.

But since going back is impossible, I can only take this regret and learn from it.
I can fully embrace my safe people from now on. I realize how important they are and how much I need my them around me. I want to sit on their couches and have them sit on mine and talk to them face to face. I want to tear down my walls and let them in completely.

I don’t want to take these friendships for granted. I don’t want to hold myself back from them. I don’t want my walls to keep me from being open. I want to embrace the community around me…no matter where I live.

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Be Strong and Courageous

Last Wednesday, Robert came home telling me there were two deaths in the village where the school we work with is located, and he would like to join a group of men driving up there for the funeral this weekend. He would be gone for 3-4 days up in the desert where he may not have any cell service. I agreed he should go of course, but the thought made me a bit nervous.

I’m no stranger to him traveling for days or weeks at a time while I stay home with the kids. But this is the first time I’ve had to experience it while in a country where I don’t drive or speak the language. To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement. I was anxious to the point of needing a Xanax. Not only anxious for him driving up into the desert, but also for myself and the kids staying here alone. I would have to call a taxi if we needed to go anywhere, but I don’t speak French. I would have to go buy bread at the corner store, but I don’t speak French. My anxieties were getting the best of me.

Then Thursday night, the night before he was to leave, I sat down on my yoga mat, pulled out my Holy Listening book, and opened it where I last left off. The title for the day was “BOLD.”

Coincidence? I think not. I believe God was sending me a message.

The yoga pose was Warrior and the scripture reference was Deuteronomy 31:6. This verse makes me smile. I memorized this verse when I was in 7th grade. I made up a little song to help me remember it. I have sung this song to myself many, many times over the years when I’ve needed strength.

Again, a coincidence? No! This was God speaking to me in a powerful way.

There I was, warrior-ing on my yoga mat, in a mess of tears, singing Deuteronomy 31:6 to myself in the quiet of my bedroom. A bold faith washed over me. God’s peace and assurance engulfed me. I knew in that moment that I was not alone and that I would conquer this weekend while Robert was away. (Spoiler: the kids and I are having a great weekend!)

I’ve stayed on this prayer and pose for a few days now, not ready to move on to the next. Boldness is something I struggle to find. This may be shocking for a lot of my friends and family to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’ve had to be bold and warrior through a lot of hard situations in my life, and I’ve struggled to stay strong. I like to think of myself as being strong, but I am truly a weak woman. Any strength I find to warrior through my life is found in Jesus. It’s his Spirit and his word that pulls me through. The grace and love and forgiveness he gives me when all I do is struggle, is what keeps my faith in him.

I’ve had people ask me before how I know God is real. My answer is always “it’s in the ways he responds to my faith.” When I reach out to him, he shows up. It’s not always right when I want it or in the way I expect it, but he never fails.

Just like this weekend – I was scared and anxious, but God showed up with peace and strength, and I’ve been completely calm all weekend. The kids and I have had a great time, I’ve handled a couple of meltdowns without having one myself, the house is clean, and I’ve actually been serving up healthy meals. All miracles!

I must throw some shout outs to Shiloh’s teacher who reminded our taxi guy that she needed to be picked up Saturday for her youth group meeting and to my neighbors who helped me get bread. Thank you, God, for putting a great missionary community here to help me out…just another way of him showing up in my life!

The love of rhythm and routine

What a week this has been! School was out, so the kids and I were home all week. I still don’t know the area well enough to make a bunch of plans, and I’m not sure yet if it’s appropriate for the kids and I to head to a corner shop or an import store and browse. We don’t speak French so I do know that would be a problem.

The compound we live on has a small library, playground, trampoline, and a kids’ soccer game every Wednesday afternoon, so there is plenty to do right here. But we are on this compound all the time, which is great for me since I would be happy being a hermit, but it’s not so great for my outgoing family. We’re used to doing special things when we are on break, so there was some disappointment.

Robert came down sick with a kidney stone, so it was best that we didn’t have any plans. He has passed a kidney stone once before, so when the pain started he knew the drill. He drank a bunch of water, took some pain meds, and kept a vomit bucket close by. But two days later, he became dehydrated and felt miserable. Thankfully, a missionary doctor is staying in the apartment above us. She gave him 2 liters of IV fluids and monitored his progress. By the 4th bag of IV, he began feeling like himself again. He’s had little pain since then, and is doing much better. Praise God!

Side note – it was shocking and amazing that the doctor had everything she needed on hand. She used my yarn to tie the IV bag to our bed and I “assisted” her in getting it all ready. When the time came, we sat outside on the dusty walkway in front of our apartment while she removed the IV. Hashtag missionary life. Ha! I’m so thankful we didn’t have to make a trip the hospital. If you know a missionary doctor, you should send them an extra donation for Christmas this year. If you don’t any, I know two here in Chad that are amazing…I can give you their names. 😉

The sickness stint on top of not having anything to do sent us all into a funk. We had moments of feeling blue, snapping at each other in anger, and just feeling bored and useless. It took a lot of patience and grace to get us through last week. I’m thankful for the all games and DVDs we brought with us; they were very helpful!

Tomorrow is a new day and school and work resume. Woohoo! We will get back into our normal rhythm and fill our days with books, work, and friends. Thank God for routine!

It’s crazy, but I can remember a time not that long ago when I hated routine. I felt tied down, boxed in. My free-spirit wanted spontaneity, no deadlines, freedom to choose whatever I wanted. While I’m still very much a free spirit and like a little spontaneity, I’ve learned to appreciate certain boxes and deadlines, which makes me feel like I’ve finally grown up. I’m about to turn 38, so I guess it’s about time. Ha!

Thank you to everyone who is praying for us! We feel encouraged and strengthened by your prayers.

 

After getting the IV

Dr. Ruth checking on things

The kids enjoy playing in the rain when it comes.