Saturday, April 30, 2011

Slow Burn...

There once was a low.
Then there was a high.
Now there is a slow burn.

To my readers in the UK, proceed with caution, because talk of leaving for home is involved in this blog.

You know, I always saw student missionaries in a cookie-cutter way, no offense.  They seemed to go off to serve like they were the pick of the spiritual litter and then returned home even more amazing, ready to blaze some more trails.  Any drama that didn't have to do with the stereotypical mission field had a tight lid on it, because it always seemed that life's mess got put on hold so the only struggles they'd have would be in their new posting.  The whole thing looked so clean cut.  Sure, it changes you, but there's an orientation class to prep you and a re-entry retreat to prep you some more.  Case closed.


Thanks to life experience, which never waits - let alone for when you're ready - I'll bet every student missionary who's ever left home was grateful for their orientation class but still felt scared to death and not ready to leave home as they numbly went through the airport red tape.  I'll bet every student missionary had at least one or two either unresolved or ongoing situations back home when they left.

You see... I wonder if I'm a bad student missionary for being thrilled out of my mind to return to my beloved Berrien Springs on May 21, 2011.  Because I hear that "the awesome ones" didn't want to leave when it was time to go.

Do NOT get me wrong.

I don't even want to say that I'm leaving a piece of my heart in England.  That doesn't do the past 9 months justice.  A piece?  Just a piece?  Are you kidding?  "Well how about half?"  Oh pleeeeeeease, let's not get anatomical and mathematical.  Metaphors can get a person into so much trouble...  Too bad they're so handy so often...

They did tell us beforehand that where we were headed for 9 months would become a part of us.  But that still sounds so clinical...

Something torn takes longer to heal than something cut or broken.  It's not something easy to analyze.  You just have to give it lots of TLC, do whatever else you can & pray.  As it heals, start rehabilitating what got torn.

My junior year at Andrews University (2009-2010) ended and many beloved, true friends left.  Tear.
I stayed in Berrien Springs - my hometown.  Problem is, I couldn't "go home" in my hometown now that school was over, because my parents have moved to California.  But I stayed there 'til the end of June to be with the friends who lived there and hadn't left.  I sang in the choir at GC and was temporarily reunited with some friends I'd shared goodbyes with 2 months prior.  And we said goodbye again.  Tear.

Then came time to leave my two best friends (Kayleen & Christie), close family friends, mentors - and overall the most familiar geography I'd ever known - to go to "my house" in California.  Tear.

My time in California was only a lonely stepping stone before completely leaving the country.  Lonely because while I love my parents and soaked up the quality time with them, you can't help but struggle with loss when you go from a year full of friends all around you to not being able to see or touch any of them, though I was grateful to still talk on the phone with a few of them.  And there was the undertow of burnout; being free of class pressures but not knowing how to still my soul, since my restlessness wasn't a physical problem, though it certainly affected me that way.  I could not have worked a job very well during that time, (though I couldn't get one anyway) but I was going nuts feeling I had nothing to do except pack when my visa came through...  Asleep or awake, bad mood or fair, I always had a feeling - right behind my temples - that everything I thought I knew was falling apart and any control I'd ever had was slipping through my fingers though I was trying to cup them together...  That was a bad slow burn.

Then my visa came through, I got everything packed (which meant transporting all my stuff to the living room + my 4 suitcases [I'm determined to go home with only 3] and sleeping on the couch 'til the deed was done; I watched nearly every film in the house, packing to leave took so long), almost threw up on the way to the airport and after taking "send-off" pictures with my parents, I made myself put one foot in front of the other through security & customs.  My face felt so hot...  Maybe all the blood rushing to the area because of all the self-control I was calling on...  I waited for the flight to board, eventually got on the airplane and FINALLY it left ground.  Tear.

I don't recall feeling torn about adjusting here.  I felt like part of me could finally collapse, though that was not something to be showy about.  Being a student missionary calls on every energy reserve you've got, but it's not about you - it's about the menagerie of people you're serving.  A menagerie is certainly what I got, since my post was a church.  Apparently, my main title is youth worker, but heavens I didn't feel that way at first.  There's a club for most age groups in the lifespan (neatly bookended by Toddler Club and Senior Club), a committee for most of the clubs, Main Service for traditional Sabbath worship and Parallel for alternative Sabbath worship - Parallel is a reclamation ministry.  Sara and I have been involved in the committees, the clubs and the clean-up.

You get quite the inside look at a church when you don't just work in one but you live there, too.  As student missionaries, while we're encouraged and reminded by some personalities to take care of ourselves, other more intense types are worried about appearances because of the judgments people make from the outside and the internal results that follow.  We're instructed to make sure our tanks get refilled with fuel, except that we're human beings dealing with other human beings who all have mismatched clocks, clashing schedules and emotional needs, which sometimes seem like land mines.

On the flip side, it's working with PEOPLE that makes this all work.  I believe we can each find at least one thing lovable about someone we don't know or don't get along with very well.  And as you work with people whom you know even better and have a better mesh with, the lovable traits rack up.  When you live to see what's lovable about a person - not just what drives you crazy or makes you furious - like this, it then makes those you know you love such a pleasure...!

There's been a LOT to love about Watford and the people I've lived & worked with here at Stanborough Park Church SINCE MY FIRST DAY HERE.

I started to fall in love with this place and its people in October.  I don't remember the date but I remember it was a Tuesday night when we were cleaning up in the kitchen after Pastor Boyle's Tuesday Talk.  I like it that I can't remember every single detail.  It makes the one thing I vividly remember more magical.  The one thing was that someone made me laugh (not the first time), but a scale got tipped somewhere inside and more laughter started to come - I bent in half and came back up still laughing.  I was no longer laughing just at the joke - I was laughing for the feeling of joy bubbling up inside of me again.  Not all laughter is the same...  Something began to change for me that night.  That is one memory that did not get lost in the rush.  Afterwards I started loosening up, hugs and conversation once more seemed natural to me a little at a time.  I wondered what had been my problem for so long...

And now I'm leaving in 3 weeks.

While I've been content to let life at Andrews University continue without me and to know the dramas through Facebook, I never didn't miss my people from back home and I never didn't wish I could be there for both their struggles and shining moments, of which there's been a lot this year...

I'll get to see them again soon in a slow trickle through the summer and then BOOM school starts at the end of August - woohoo!  I'm ready to face classes again at last.  But while I'm biting the bit to return to what's familiar, I know it will never be the same as it was.  It's one thing to hear about the drama through the internet, but it's another thing to return and BE in the effects of said drama.  Tear.

When I leave here, the lives of more people I love and the events of a place I don't yet know how badly I'll miss (it WILL be badly) will be going on without me and once more, Facebook/Skype will be all I've got to stay in touch and share love with.  Tear.

And then Sabbath morning (April 30) I received an email letting me know my Grammie - who has been on hospice since February - is likely to pass away in the next 2 weeks.  Max.  Mom and I set a time for me to get on skype so I could say, "I love you," but for a yet-unexplained reason, that fell through and I still haven't seen her since I got the news.  Tear.  Promise of a future tear.

Right now is another slow burn, but unlike last summer, I don't feel lonely, mistrustful or miserable.  I think I feel right now what Paul wrote about:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair..."
2 Corinthians 4:8.

I feel perfectly capable about my responsibilities.  When I do them, these days, they seem to fly right past me.  Yet life is not easy.  But life isn't horrible at all.  Right now, life feels 6-7 months pregnant with mysteries that will later be solved and promises I know will come true but aren't true yet.  Life feels like a heavy backpack, but I know there's nothing in there I don't need, so I don't mind the weight.  I'm surrounded by people who love me and I'm returning home to more people who love me and who are anxious to see me.

Word has gotten around here that I'm leaving soon (not everyone has Facebook) and nearly everyone has commented on how I must be feeling mixed emotions.

Mixed emotions?

Understatement of the year.

I can only really call it a slow burn.
It's a good burn, but a slow one all the same, and I'm feeling all of it.

It fills me with gratitude for all that's been.
And it pours in a hunger to spend lingering evenings saying goodbye to people but without the pressure of me actually leaving the day after.
You know those memories that feel like a little piece of heaven...
You just forget the world for awhile and enjoy each other...

This slow burn makes me cry with relief when I think of going home soon.
And as I cry, a warm feeling spreads over at the thought that reunion is coming very soon.
Reunion with the people and the places that I just KNOW a part of me somehow feared I'd never see again, since I'd never left them that way before...


ALL OF THIS makes me think how unspeakably wonderful it will be to go to heaven someday.  We'll all have each other.  No more goodbyes, no more pain, tears, slow burns or distance.  No more "it's complicated," no more danger or risk...  We'll get to enjoy adventure and know we're safe at the same time.  We can rest without shame, because the spirit of frantic busyness has been sent to the abyss.  We can shriek and sing for joy and revel in what and who we love - all without shame or worry of how it'll affect one another, because in heaven, all will be as it should be.  As it was meant to be.  As it will always be at last.


Coming down from those glorious thoughts - which are sometimes just heartbreaking on earth - I'm not in pain.  I feel it on the fringes sometimes, I know there'll be crying to do and growing pains and all that, but God has done a new saving work in my hear this year.  I'm still a bit tender from some parts of the process, but the dragon scales are gone.  A whole big "new leaf" adventure is ahead of me!  I'm excited about it :-)  God has definitely been a shepherd to me this year.  I've been silly and stupid plenty of times.  I've needed a lot of leading.  I'm grateful He gave me the grace to see my errors so I could try to make it right with people here in England I messed up with and others who aren't in England.  I think God has been able to use me this year, because I've been stunned and humbled by how people have responded to my service performance - particularly on certain occasions when I felt very out of shape to do my job.  To God be the glory for my successes and second chances.  And soon I'll be flying home.

Until then, bring on this slow burn!  I know I'll never have these 3 weeks back again...

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