It was during this time of the year in 2008 when I began to understand how vastly my life was about to change. Jonathan and I were writing and were set to meet face to face early next month. Both of our parents had basically given us the "go ahead" and we were tentatively talking wedding plans in the semi-near future. While I was dreamy and excited about my new life with Jonathan, I began to grieve the life I was leaving behind. My beloved parents and brothers, precious little sisters and a few close friends were the focus of my grief, as I, at 17, tried to prepare myself for leaving them permanently. I started cherishing each day more than I ever had before. During our engagement, I was giddy about our upcoming wedding and devastated at the reality of moving away. Two nights before our wedding, I sobbed as as I packed for our honeymoon. Stress? Maybe so. But, it was also the result of months of trying to grasp what was coming next... A life very far from anything I had ever known. The high level of emotion surrounding our wedding might also explain my dad and me sobbing during our father/daughter dance. I wasn't ready to leave him. How could I be?
When we left for Mexico in January 2010, I genuinely thought it was for good. We were only planning to be in that specific area for nine months, but upon returning we never expected that it would take us a over two years to get redirected into a permanent full time ministry. I expected we might spend a few months back in the States and then somewhat seamlessly transition into our next assignment. After that, we would be away for the rest of our lives, with occasional furloughs in between assignments. The Lord had other plans, and I can see now many of the reasons why He has taken this time to grow, mold and prepare us for the future ahead of us.
It was in July of 2010, while Jonathan and I were still in Mexico, that my parents decided to adopt Caleb. At that time, I honestly thought I'd barely ever know him. I figured he would always hear about his big sister, a missionary who lived in a faraway land with her husband and son. I assumed he would know me, possibly even meet me, in a Skype window. But, the Lord had even those details worked into His miraculous plans for my life. I suppose God knew I would need this time to build a relationship with my little brother, invest more time in my growing sisters and cherish the priceless friendship I share with my parents.
At the end of our nine months in Mexico, I felt like I was making strides in my attempt to acclimate myself to life in a foreign culture. Since we've been here (in my hometown no less) it has been hard not to get used to the cushioned life we all enjoy. As I anticipate leaving again, I find myself cherishing seemingly insignificant things like shopping in my favorite grocery store or eating at my favorite restaurant.
It has been like a dream to be here in the States for nearly two years. Yet it has been bittersweet the entire time, knowing we were only here temporarily. Each time we visit our families, I wonder how many more times we'll get to see them before we leave. As I spend time with my close friends, I ponder the few months we'll have together before I move around the world. I find myself writing at the end of each family related blog post something like, "we truly cherish this time together and know it will be an encouragement to us when we are far away and lonely." Often times, I end up erasing the last part of my posts because it seems to go without saying. I love family. I don't want to leave my family. I wish I could pack up my entire family and take them with me.
I truly feel stuck in the middle of excitement about our calling and the future ahead of us and grief over what and who we are leaving behind. At times, it feels backwards to be tirelessly trying to raise our support because the more that comes in, the closer we are to leaving. Don't get me wrong, I want to go! I daydream constantly of what my life may look like in five or ten years. I wonder if we'll all be fluent in some obscure African language or if I'll be able to make a delectable pot of lamb stew. But, I also wonder how lonely I'll be on days when the reality of living on the other side of the world weighs heavy on my heart. I wonder what kind of friends we'll make there and how we'll see the Lord at work. I wonder what kind of exciting events like weddings and births we'll miss here and only get to experience through pictures. I also wonder how many funerals we'll miss and to whom we'll never get to say goodbye. I dream of my children growing up African. Yet I wonder how they'll feel hardly knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
I am excited. I am ready to go. But will I ever be ready to leave? How do I prepare for the day when I'll be standing in an airport with my husband and son, waving goodbye to those I love the most? I cry just thinking about it. How will I take Kyle from my mom's arms for the last time? In my head I know it's not like we're dying, but in my heart I sometimes feel that way. Jesus will sustain me, I know. My beloved companion and dear son I do get to keep with me and for that, I am grateful beyond expression. But, for now you'll know better how to pray for our family as we are in the middle -between here and there!