I sat in our crudely built Hewa church building one Sunday morning going nuts because I couldn't figure out what was leaking or where it was leaking from. It wasn't currently raining, though it was the RAIN FOREST so it had probably rained at least 5 five minutes ago. It had to be coming from the roof, right? I mean I could see holes from the old tin that had been "repurposed" as the church roof. But I could only see sunlight streaming through those holes, no leaking or dripping.Then...
S P L A S H
The drip had now become a splash on my leg. I made the rookie mistake of looking down to see what exactly had splashed on my leg when the next
S P L A S H
landed on my face. I wiped my cheek with my hand and turned towards the direction of the splash and quickly discovered the source of the leak. It was definitely a leak. Just not a WATER leak.
You see we sit very close to each other and very close to the dirt floor in Hewa church and my very close neighbor just happened to be a new mother.
A new mother whose baby was asleep.
A new mother whose baby was asleep, but whose body said it was actually time for baby to eat.
A new mother in a remote jungle setting who has never seen or heard of nursing pads.
So the leak that had been dripping and splashing on me for the last 30 minutes was her breast milk dripping through her shirt, making a small puddle on her skirt, then slowly dripping through the skirt onto the ground beneath her and next to me.
"Oh, so that's what that dripping is, " was my response, and having discovered the source of the leak went on listening to the sermon without another thought.
I think I officially became a missionary that day. I didn't get freaked out or grossed out. I didn't go home and wash my face or leg. It wasn't a big deal to me. I was used to all manner of bodily fluids ending up on me at church, and of all the bodily fluid possibilities in that small building, breast milk was definitely one of the better options.
This was my new normal.
It just sort of happened. Gradually. Each day the strange became a little more familiar, the new became a little more customary, and the gross became a little less...well...gross.
Sure there are some things that you absolutely have to work at to fit in to a totally new culture and people group, but some things just come by living day by day alongside people as their normal practices and activities just rub off on you or splash off onto you as in this case.
But if you'd have asked me before we moved to Papua New Guinea, if I would have just been cool with some lady's breast milk splattering on my leg and face then I'm sure I would have told you, "No! Ew! Gross!" I never would have imagined that this would become part of the my new normal in tribal life, yet there I was Christened into a new life of community and extreme poverty and bodily fluids.
|None of these pictures are of the day or mother in the story. They are just here to show you how close we sit and to help you picture how this incident may have occurred.|
I am yet again stepping into a new and strange phase of life. A phase that if you'd have asked me 15 years ago if I'd ever be entering I would have told you, "No! Ew! Gross!"I never would have imagined my life NOT on the mission field or at least not serving in some way Stateside. It was never part of the plan. I was this one person who would only, could only do this one thing.
The end of this month will be the end of our time with Ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission). And I feel like I'm hanging on the edge of cliff holding onto a rope where all but one strand has frayed and broken. I know I need to let go. I know that "cliff" is really just a short hop down, but it doesn't FEEL that way.
It feels strange and wrong. It feels like grief.
I feel guilty even calling it "grief" when I have watched friends and loved ones go through horrific tragedies and true GRIEF, but I just don't know what else to call it.
It's still a loss. Loss of a life style and dream and all the time, effort, energy, and money that we (and most of you) have poured into for the last 15 years.
It's still starting over...
At almost 40
And it is way scarier than going ever was.
It's still me crying almost everyday even when I really don't know what I'm crying about. It's like my body allocated a certain amount of tears for PNG and it WILL spend them no matter what. No matter how inappropriate the time and place. (Sorry to the Barista in the Starbucks drive-thru. The line was long and when I ordered my coffee I was fine, but by the time I pulled up, the tears were flowing and there was nothing I could do to stop them). Apparently this not feeling normal when repatriating IS actually normal. So normal that they even have a phrase for it- Reverse Culture Shock. Only this is harder because people don't expect you to have culture shock. YOU GREW UP IN THIS CULTURE FOR GOODNESS SAKE! But there are a lot things that I still don't know how to do as an American. I've never been a mom to teenagers in America. I've only had very little practice with my kids in school in America and it was very weird and intimidating and we just sort of got through it rather than really engaged in school culture and community.
It also doesn't help that the whole world is upside down right now, and everyone is searching for their new normal.
I will say, though, that the scripture, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted" (Psalm 34:18) has been so true during this phase. Yes, I am brokenhearted, and while he is not taking the hurt away, He has been so faithful to stay close, to allow me to feel His presence, and to bless me with special things that I certainly don't deserve (like this dog pictured below that I swear the Lord designed and created exactly for me). He has given me a loving and understanding husband and He is loving my kids and helping them with their losses as well.
|Please resist trying to count my chins in this picture|
When I began to realize that this was happening I started reading all kinds of books about suffering, the loss of dreams, and life not turning out the way we hoped or planned. They were all very helpful. The most helpful was Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb if you're looking for something in the sad, lonely, depressed genre. (But seriously very good book with sound Godly advice).
Anyway even with all that I know the Lord just kept reminding me of what Elisabeth Elliot wrote after she lost her husband on the mission field. "Just do the next thing." The Lord keeps putting those "next things" in my path and I just have to do them. He put a small Christian school where I could teach and the girls could attend in our my path, so I submitted my resume. I got a job and the girls are excited to not have to home school (I'm not taking it personally or anything) and we feel like it is a great Christian environment that will help us all transition a little easier.
The Lord also put a house in our path that belonged to John Michael's grandparents. His family very generously made it affordable to us, so we now have a roof over our heads. It is an older house that needs some updating, but maybe the fact that it doesn't have central air and heat or a dishwasher is the Lord's way of keeping me from going soft in America. *chuckle chuckle*
John Michael is still looking for a permanent job, but right now he is working for a friend in construction and is enjoying working with his hands. We are praying that he will find something soon that will provide our family with insurance, since you know the main reason we are home is to try to get my health under control, and it is kinda hard to see doctors without insurance. *nervous chuckle*
So as I take the next steps on this path that the Lord lays out, hopefully things will start to feel more normal and maybe even in a year or two I'll be in a restaurant or public place and some stranger's breast milk will splash on me and maybe I will be so comfortable in my new American life that I will freak out, gag, immediately rush home to shower, and burn all the clothes I was wearing.
One can only hope.