I took a walk in our neighborhood park tonight. It was a typical misty evening here, and the occasional drops that fell on my hair matched the drops falling from my eyes.
If someone were to tell me 5 years ago as I was planning on coming here that it would hurt this much to leave, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Even in my first month, it felt odd to sleep in the same bed for a month straight. I’d been a vagabond for so long that I didn’t know what it was to have a routine… seeing the same people everyday… having to actually change my clothes more than 2x in a week… letting people in to those deep places of my soul that hadn’t known roots not easily pulled up by the next gig or town waiting for my arrival. I was used to leaving.
As I walked around this evening, I watched scenes from the last 4 1/2 years.
I saw my summer with Leo’s teenage cousin… teaching him how to throw a softball for the first time. It took him a few days, but he finally stopped throwing like a girl. 🙂
I saw the sleepovers I’ve had with my kids from the south… the mudsliding and laughter. The frightful smiles as I pushed them higher on the swings than they’d ever gone before. The fear on their eyes as we passed the security guards on our way up to the apartment, sopping wet with grass hanging from our clothes. Their hidden laughter as I joked with the guards about how incredible the mud puddles were.
I saw the deep conversations that happened with dear friends and students on the various benches… conversations that defined our walks with the Lord. Conversations that made us laugh so hard we almost peed our pants (or did, maybe just a little).
I walked the cement path winding through the park that my students ran while ringing unsuspecting neighbor’s doorbells.
I walked on the grass that I have so often laid down on watching the clouds pass… only to realize each time that the neighbor’s dogs often “walked on” the same grass. Gross.
The sleep-overs, volleyball games, impromptu dance parties with music from cell-phones…
I realized that I let myself put down roots here, in this park… in this neighborhood… in this city… in this country.
“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.” Eph. 3:17
In a way, I’ve done this before. I’ve left a place I love… people I love… a season that I dearly loved. This time it’s different simply because it’s not quite how I imagined. Each time previous, there was Someone gently leading me through a season of good-byes, a season of “it’s time to go”. This feels much more violent. Even when I got malaria, it was basically just leaving a dream behind… a list of “could-have-beens”… not tearing up the roots of love that had planted themselves so snug in my heart.
The last 4 1/2 years in this place have been some of the most challenging, growing times I’ve faced thus far. ECA, while it was truly my dream “job”, was filled with trials and disappointments… sometimes on a daily basis. I did many things well after often failing miserably (except grades, writing curriculum and lesson plans… for my “bosses” who are reading this… I know I continued to fail at those things). I loved deeply and gave much of myself for the cause of Christ, so that people would truly know His love for them. I buried wanderlust for the call of discipleship and relationship. I saw needs that God had fitted me perfectly for (with daily chiseling, of course), and had many of those “this is what I was born for” moments… from finally conquering the hardened heart of an abused, crying child with the love of Christ, to writing Christmas musicals that spoke to the heart of our unique situation here, to leading worship for different groups of people, to spending time with incredible teenagers in the Amazon. There are so many moments that I am grateful to have had the honor of living!
I am an all-or-nothing kind of person, and looking back I can say that I gave all of myself (for better or worse) to the people that I was called to serve, and I wish I was given more time to give even more.
I have 3 more weeks here, and many things on my “to do” list before I leave. Hopefully, there will be at least one more sleep-over and a few more bench conversations.
But, tonight, it was just me and the Lord. He was reminding me of His faithfulness through the other seasons of my life; how I let Him lead, and how He led me here to find much more than friends… but my family. And, He reminded me to continue to trust Him through the pain.
This world is not my home, but yet He let me find a beautiful resting place for a while.
I know I always come back to the following verses… they have become my solid footing through different seasons now.
Jeremiah 29: 4-5,7,10-11
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”… side-note: for some reason, for me, going back to the States now always seems like “exile”. But, God keeps sending me back.
“Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce…”
Then, a long bit about making babies and grandbabies.
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”
Then, a part about not listening to false prophets who probably tell them that it’s going to be over quickly.
“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fufill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
So, our command for this next season is to settle in, pray, wait.
I don’t know what kinds of roots are waiting for us in the States. I DO know that the best plants grow in soil that is up-rooted, sometimes violently, in preparation for what is coming.
The deepest roots however, the ones that are truly planted in the soil of God’s marvelous love, keep growing deeper, no matter what is re-planted around it.