Transitioning out of Africa has been hard.
Emotional ties, friendships that change, a new place, a different language, planning a wedding, uncertainty about the future, longing to go back to where things seemed to make sense (and not make any sense at the same time), distance from family while being incorporated into a different family and lifestyle, a fight for what is right and no clue in how to do it for the people who I left behind, a desire to hear God, to know Him again, to fall in love and see the world through His eyes, they all swirl around inside of me, coming out in the physical.
The most painful manifestation has been the headaches. Since coming to Holland my once a month pain has turned into almost daily, debilitating headaches. Sometimes they pierce through mornings and threaten my whole day. Other times they creep in with the afternoon, dull and steady. Some last for 4 days accompanied by absolute innability to process sunshine and music or the smell of good food because I can't tolerate the stimulation.
Joy stealers, these headaches.
The nurse in me has diagnosed at least a dozen physical contributers that could lead to this. The little girl inside wants to crawl into bed and pull the covers safely over her head and wait for the pain to go away. The brave woman pours a cup of tea and presses on, trying to deny the pain while she makes invitations and favors for her wedding. The wife-to-be tries hard to be the supporter and rock but then has a short temper when her husband-to-be doesn't seem to do exactly what she needs, even though she doesn't know what that need is.
Until last Friday this is how I have been living from day to day. I read the New Testament each night, feeling a hunger for something that until now lacked a bit. I want to understand more, I don't know where to start, so I go to Jesus. I prayed for the pain to go away. I prayed quickly before bed, as usual, and nothing changed. I wasn't surprised considering the canyon I felt between myself and God.
Last Friday a book came that I ordered. I saw it on someones blog, one of a woman who inspires me. I knew her recomendation would be a good one.
Until last Friday I was reading books about Africa, about the 'Hole in our Gospel', reading them like a person who hasn't seen food for days. The binging on these books fueled my "this is what I know" fire with more burdens for Africa, for her people. The books then were just right, I needed that connection, to read about people who 'got it' and wanted to change it.
What I didn't realize is that huge part I was leaving out. MY connection to God. MY half of the deal. I wanted Him to come and make sense of it all, to speak in a powerful way, to lift me up.
But I wasn't doing anything about it.
And then last Friday the book came and I stopped everything I was doing and sunk into the couch, cup of tea by my side.
'One Thousand Gifts, a dare to live fully right where you are.' (Ann Voskamp)
Was I up to this challenge? Was this another self help book that I would read and be inspired by for 5 minutes?
I thank God that it isn't, that in just a few days my life, my connection to Him, feels familiar again, all while being brand new.
I won't go into a full synopsis of this book, but suffice to say it is good. Like good for the soul good. The basis is thanksgiving, how to do this in all things. I started with my headaches and then promptly cried about it because the pain that day was especially bad. I lay in bed that night and out loud, started listing the things I was thankful for. The next morning I smiled before I even lifted my head from the pillow. I can't remember the last time I did that. I realized how much I had missed that feeling. When I grew frustrated over menial things that day, I thanked God. I continued my list through the day, sometimes repeating the things that I was really really thankful for. It is so simple, this list, but it is working. My attitude is lighter and less critical. The pain and guilt and sorrow, the longing to go back and hesitation about my future still lingering from the last two years and since then is lifiting as I thank God for it all.
I am learning that the burden for Africa is engraved on my heart, it isn't going anywhere, but it doesn't mean I have to live in the past. My joy won't come from things of the past or looking into the future, it will come in being present, with God, today.
So today I am thankful because my headaches the last 3 days have been much less intense. I thank God that these headaches are what He used to spark me back into action. I'm thankful that God renews my burdens for things of His heart and promises me He has a good and perfect plan for my life, that He will see it through until completion.
I'm thankful my joy is coing back fully restored and with a vengence.
Today I'm thankful that I can show Michiel love by making him a grilled cheese sandwich just the way he likes it for breakfast, because thats what he wanted and it made me smile to see him enjoy it this morning, sweet chille sauce and all. I'm thankful I have the ability to spend hours making favors look pretty but mostly that I will have friends and family who come all the way here just to share in this very special day with us.
Today I will continue my list and feel myself entering Gods presence each time I do. I will smile and grow warm with the love of my savior who knows my pain. I will rest in the comfort that I am a child, a nurse, a woman and a wife of the King who loves me.
Today I am thankful I have this outlet, this comfort of writing down my life to share it with others. I have a record of Gods love for me, written down in black and white. Yeah, I'm really thankful for that one today.