From seat 10A of my 5:30 a.m. flight, my nose is pressed against the glass as the whirring hum of the plane throttles towards the darkened heavens. A sliver of brilliant orange on the horizon is like a highlighter pointing to the ominous shadow of storm clouds that light up the darkness in the distance. The puffy, ominous clouds being electrified from the inside out, are like corn kernels frying in a hot, oily pan, bursting into brilliant expansion like popcorn overflowing in a bowl. The storm is beautiful from afar but it terrifies me and my soul feels scorched, like I've been dangerously close to something TOO hot, TOO heavy, TOO MUCH. I am moving towards the storm in a metal conduit, and I perceive the pain of being in the threatening middle of its electricity. However, the pops of light remind me that the Lord God is Almighty, and the rattling of the plane shakes the internal windows of my soul. Lord help me.
The heavens DO in fact declare the glory of God, and the sherbet morning is a reminder of who it is that is ACTUALLY in charge here. My smile is tired, but it turns upwards even in the darkness because I'm reminded that HOPE is coming. Hope is ALIVE. Hope keeps me staring into the glorious light that illuminates what was recently obscure.
My smile isn't a cover-up because even though things have been tough, I know the hope I have in Jesus, and I'm blessed beyond measure to love, live and serve in a community of missionaries that show up for others. The sky continues to fade from deep darkness to bright pastels, and I continue to marvel at the glory of God in my window seat with my iphone's eye as a tool to remember it.
How blessed have I been to have friends that know the singe of my soul and have carried me through dark days with daily prayers, scriptures and words of encouragement?! They have been the voice of Jesus for me when I needed a personal word or reminder from Him. They've fed me spiritually when I was too wiped for words, and they've literally supplied food for my super capable yet weary husband to put on the table for hungry kids. They've sent Marco Polo messages in the wee hours of the morning to check on me. Even fellow friends, ravenged by their own storms, have been prayer warriors and encouragers, us staring at each other with tears in our eyes.
When you show up on the mission field with babies, and even have babies on the field, you don't really dream of the day that they will leave your physical side, a seemingly far off event, or when the visits of your parents will roll to a crawl and then a stop. On foreign soil, there isn't a playbook for death, heartache, let alone how to navigate situations like kids moving away to another country and aging parents.
There have been big and little events, here and there, along the way of 17 years that have compounded the grief that has been experienced. This is an all too common missionary lament, but lament and move forward we do! Can I just say it gently and honestly: sometimes dealing with grief on the field feels like just so much MUCHNESS. It's not like being here makes things harder, it's just that being removed is a familiar loss, and like ruts in saturated grass, driving over them over and over and over again makes them deeper. Being removed never gets easier. People who are "there" rather than here have their fair share of heaviness, difficult life situations that carry so much heartache and gut ache. I've witnessed this myself in the weary posture, voices, eyes of those I love who are exhausted by front line situations that create a worn-ness that is hard to patch. Prayers are the best gift I can offer up in my far-ness. It's hard to want to help, but not be helpful because of distance. It's hard to show up for others when you're geographically far, and to be present in two places. It sometimes feels like rising water has your nose tilted upward for breath, but liquid slurps in where air was meant to go, simply breathing an impossibility and drowning feels most certain. Hope is like a snorkel when drowning feels imminent.
In case you're wondering if I'm ok, I AM. I'm not trying to be poetic and purposely vague. Some details are too personal for a vulnerable heart to publish. I just want to express that heartache and joy can fill the same space. The antidote for despair, heaviness, drowning (on or off the field): PRAISE the Lord, express gratitude for ALL that He has done, remember that He is faithful. His promises are true. When I feel lost, I know I have HOPE because of Him, and all I have to do is look around, and I see Him everywhere. Yes, Hope is coming. Hope is already here. Thank you, Lord.
In this advent season, I'm currently camped out on the names given to the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9:6; Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace and have been spending time pondering how these characteristics of Jesus, the baby in the manger, the savior on the cross, the King of Kings Lord of Lords, impact me. I've loved thinking about the supernatural insight that Christ has as the Wonderful Counselor, how strong and mighty He is as Almighty God, the everlasting nature of His reign and His relationship to his children (a Father who never departs), and how as the Prince of Peace he can settle and squelch any war within me as I trust in Him. Hope is coming. Hope is here.