Today marks five years since our place touched down in Costa Rica without a return ticket home.
I could leave the the story at that, the fact we are celebrating the first five years of missionary
However, I want to share with you the story behind the easy celebratory post. The confession part, the parts that don’t make the newsletters and fbposts.
To be able to celebrate today, came at great loss to us. Loss that can’t be easily expressed.
We lost things that were familiar to us. We lost going to ballet and horseback riding lessons with the same friends that we went to school and church with. We lost Friday night football. We lost the growth chart on the laundry room wall that marks the big growth spurt the summer one learned to ride a bike and the other lost her front tooth. We lost stability. We lost the neighborhood that we went trick or treating and Christmas caroling in. We lost the finical stability that comes with having a secular job, and the ability to work an extra shift for your vacation savings account.
We lost close friends, not out of spite or malice, simply because of distance, you miss the every day subtle changes that make friendships stick.
What no one told us, is that at some point, you will need to grieve the things that you lost, or gave up. Perhaps not everyone does, but I was about to experience grief on so many different levels, that it was hard to distinguish where one thing stopped and the other started.
When we started itinerating or raising money, we sold almost everything we owned. It was a process for me to watch things come off the walls, and leave through the front door, but I accepted that, it was something I was expecting.
Since that time, both of my parents passed away. I was not expecting that. When we answered the call to be missionaries, I tell people I felt like a plant ripped out of the ground (I always picture a blue hydrangea, they are my favorite) and my roots are exposed, they are not where they belong, in the ground. After my parent’s died, I felt like those roots were chopped off, leaving no place to really belong to anymore. South Carolina all of a sudden became part of my story, but not a place I would long for.
After our plane touched down and we started unpacking, we had no idea what the next season would hold for us. Our first year here in Costa Rica, was the most painful, difficult year of our lives. We were in language school at the time, and missionary leader after missionary leader would pass through the school, and all would offer their advice/wisdom about language school. Without fail, every single one would say, ‘this will be the easiest time of your missionary career. Soak it all in, focus on language learning, it just gets harder from here”.
Since this is CONFESSION of a missionary wife, I was ready to physically harm the next person that said that. Infact, I told my area director, “If this is as good as it gets, I’m out.” I was completely serious. Checking flights serious.
We felt like life was closing in on us, we were completely stripped of who we thought we were. The painful truth is that our family was one decision from falling apart. Our family held on by a tiny thread. It would have been far easier to purchase a plane ticket home, than it was to stay. Nothing can prepare you for that. Dr. Dobson doesn’t even have a book, on how to help your children struggle with situations you never faced in your childhood, and the only obvious answer, is to move back to what is “normal” childhood experiences.
At times, staying is the absolutely most difficult part of being a missionary.
There comes a point, when you realize that you have been striped, chiseled down to almost nothing. You can’t cook the same, because the ingredients all have different names, and come in different packages and Lord knows you can’t ask for the ingredient, because even if you can word the questions, you aren’t prepared for the response that they are going to give you. You can’t parent the same, you can’t drive, you can’t answer the phone, you can’t . . . .do a lot of things. You certainly aren’t part of the neighborhood carpool, your not teaching classes at the hospital, and your not on the pta. . .
your chiseled down.
You are then faced with the decision, do you pick up the broken pieces, or do you offer what is left, to the One who created you. Do you allow him, to change the features that are left and form you into what He wants you to be, forgetting what you thought you knew, or who you thought you were.
That was a slow process, of becoming a new creation . You have no other option than allow him to create you all over again. Our ministry, our lives, look nothing like we thought that it would.
And it is all for the better.
Our story is not defined by what we lost.
It could if we lingered there.
It changed us, that much is certain.
The loss, the grief, the pain, it was a season.
We now absolutely love Costa Rica, we love the people, the national church, the idigenous, the refugees we get a glimpse of. . . we couldn’t be happier (ok not true, If target and chick-fil-a would come, we could be happier).
We love the Amazing ministry opportunities we have been given, far bigger than we could have dreamed.
The story behind the 5 year celebration changed us.
We have a jar on the table, that has cards from the missionaries we know, or support, from all over the world. We pick one out a night to pray for, I noticed a shift. We pray differently now than we ever did. Instead of just praying that their needs be met, we pray over their families, their marriages, their relationships, their scope of influence. The story behind the prayer card, the story that is too painful to share.
We are so thankful for the people who have our prayer cards, and who pray over us. Your prayer maintained us, through a season of pain and loss. Your support when we started a new ministry overwhelmed us. You cheer for us, you have cried with us, you have celebrated with us, you have walked beside us.
Recently I asked a supporting church/FRIENDS to help with a personal project. I was blown away by not only the physical response, but also the intangible, She sent a message that said, “you need to be reminded of how much you’re loved and remembered.”
Thank you for remembering and loving us.
Today is a true celebration,
because by God’s grace, and gentle ways. . .
Costa Rica is our home.