Monday, 2 January 2017

Days That Seem Dark

“No matter how long we’ve walked with God, we will still have days that seem dark. In those times rely on who He is.” Beth Moore

I found this quote in my journal this week when I opened it to write some New Year goals and dreams for the year. I was struck with how appropriate those words are for me in this season. The darks days seem to stretch on and on, with definite glimpses of light and beauty but always a shadow of darkness.
It feels as though leaving Mercy Ships has stripped me of my purpose. I lived and breathed Africa and her people, meeting new friends and having adventures. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things to love about being back in Australia and around my family, but I’m a different person now and won’t ever fit back into the place I left. The place that I have left has changed too. My community has dispersed over the last six years and is no longer as it was.
To make matters worse for me, I am single in a world of married women who have become mums in the last few years. So not only do I not fit into this Aussie culture, I’m husbandless and childless. Talk about not fitting in. When I’m looking for projects to occupy my time outside of work, my mum friends are run off their feet. Am I the only one in the world with this dilemma?

I recently watched the documentary The Insanity of God created by Open Doors and had the opportunity to hear Nik and Ruth Ripken speak at a church in town. I highly recommend watching the documentary or reading the book (although I haven’t read it yet) because their story and the stories they tell of persecuted Christians across the world are absolutely amazing. One thing that Nik said the night that I heard him speak was, when the persecuted Christians were told by authorities to stop praising God and gathering together, they knew that if they obeyed the authorities, the enemy would win, so they decided to do the opposite. Despite the fact that we live such free lives in Australia, the principle can still be applied here. I felt encouraged to turn my defeated, negative feelings around and not let the enemy win, to choose joy and thankfulness in all circumstances. I’ve had to practice this a lot since coming home. I made a list of things I’m thankful for:

For praying family and friends
For the ability to grow plants and nurture them and see them flourish
For good coffee, all the time
For being able to walk around home in my pyjamas with bed-hair for as long as I want
For having a bedroom and bathroom to myself
For having a car to drive around in and not count kilometres travelled
For being able to eat whenever and whatever I want
For being able to cook fresh foods and add lots of spice to my meals
For having windows that open
For hearing the birds out my window
For warm weather
For electrical storms, hearing the thunder, seeing the lightening and smelling and feeling the rain
For yummy cheese
For a job that pays good money
For a good team of nurses to work with
For family close by
For friends that include me in their daily lives
For being able to light candles in my house
For a washing machine that I can use any time of the day or night and there is no one waiting after me to finish
For a clothes line in the sunshine
For FaceTime and across the world face to face conversations
For ship friends in Brisbane
For my little home, all the space and comfort of having a place to call my own and be at peace


I’m waiting, semi-patiently, for a few new opportunities to open up in the new year but in the meantime I have to keep going back to the reminder in that quote. I don’t know where God has me, where He is leading me, but I have to trust and rely on who He is, to choose joy and thankfulness and for now that is enough.


“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isa 42:16

Three of my little lights

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Beautiful Things to Come



Gungor’s song Beautiful Things is a song that I used to play in the ship ward often at handover time when we prayed together. The chorus sings,

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

The words seemed so applicable not just to my maxillofacial patients who were having their faces reconstructed and being loved despite lack of outward beauty but to each of our lives as nurses, each on a journey with God. If you haven’t heard the song clink on the link and just have a listen.


This morning I sat listening to Pandora radio and this song came on. Tears immediately sprung to my eyes as I contemplated these words again, but instead of having a ward full of maxillofacial patients in front of me, I’m in my little house lounge room, alone.

Verse 1 says,

All this pain
I wonder if I'll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change at all?
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

I just wonder if at the end of this year in Australia I’ll be able to say “That year was made beautiful”. I don’t mean beautiful in a shallow way. I think the deepest beauty comes through rising through massive challenge, so there’s definitely hope for me, but right now I don’t feel like I’ve gotten very far. There is certainly beauty around me, but I don’t really feel like I’m needed in any part of it. I’m an extra. Maybe that is part of what I’m learning this year too, that I am still loved just as deeply by God despite not ‘doing’ anything or being needed by anyone. It’s just a big change from the last 5+ years.


Do you know how this transition feels? I’ve read lots of blogs that talk about a ‘fog’ and it really does feel like that. I often feel quite emotionless, flat and very tired. It’s hard to drag myself out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to be motivated about anything because I don’t feel passionate about much here. I haven’t wanted to look for a different job because I feel scared to commit to something that might not be what I hoped for. I go through the motions of life but without much purpose. Not thriving, just surviving in this foggy place.

There is joy to be found in every day but when I sit down and the world goes quiet and I search my heart, it’s just plain old sad. 

 

I guess now, more than ever, I must practice praising God despite how I might feel.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Grieving

Today I’m a bit of an emotional basket-case. I mean while watching the news I saw a report on a young family who escaped being harmed in a car accident with a truck and I actually had to choke back tears. That’s not normal for me or anyone I know.

I think it began this morning when I was filling out an application for a volunteer position with a local organisation. The lady asked me for two character referees. It couldn’t be a family member and so after I wrote down one friend’s name, I actually drew a blank with whom else to write. I had to blink back tears and explain that I’d just left my community and world for the past 5 years. Even writing that makes tears run down my face. Leaving your community, close friends, favourite job in the world and life of adventure is just plain old hard and painful.

After I did a debrief in New Zealand a few weeks ago I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t clench my teeth and hold the tears back anymore, but it comes at a cost to my pride. The other day at work I was almost reduced to tears in a conversation with the other nurses and had to just tell them I couldn’t talk about it anymore, because we were about to start handover and I could barely walk into a patient’s room all red-eyed and teary.


The thing is, I just wanted to feel welcomed home after being gone for so many years. My family welcomed me home with open arms and a few friends, but I feel at a loss for the rest of my old community. It's gone. I grew up in this town and so I know a fair population and called many friends but a few years away have changed most of their single status’, not just to married but married with children. They all have their own lives and I've had mine, so far away from anything they can connect to. So instead conversations are about the now. ‘What are you up to now?’ ‘Are you working?’ ‘How long are you staying around for this time?’ And sometimes ‘Are you settling in?’ Which really just makes me want to burst into tears. How do you settle into a different world? I want to tell them that I don’t want to forget everything I learnt but I don’t know how to fit that into this world here in Australia, but it would be lost on them.

I'm grieving. I’m grieving so many losses. In fact the loss part makes me so introverted I'd prefer to stay home and when I think about what I'm doing here now I feel tired and just plain sad. So sad that I don't want to connect with people I used to call friends because if I'm perfectly honest, if they ask how I really am I'll probably cry and if they don't ask how I am, I'll go home and cry. I'm just at a loss.


Some day I will not feel overwhelmed so easily.
Some day I will not cry every time I sing in church.
Some day I will have community again.
Some day I will not feel like a foreigner in my own town and country.
Some day I will feel as welcome in church as I do at work.
Some day I will feel like I belong again.
Some day I will not be on the verge of tears or cry so frequently.
Some day I will have a job I love.
Some day I will realise it doesn't hurt anymore to see the Africa Mercy carrying on, not needing me.


Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for people and things here. I wouldn’t have made it this many weeks without my family and a couple of friends, but I have to keep a check on myself to make sure I’m choosing healthy ways to grieve. At least I know that God called me to be here and as painful and restless as it feels in the every day, deep down I know I'm following him.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Taking a Deep Breath

Stacia and I arrived in Charleston totally done with sitting in the car for hours. By this stage we’d clocked up more than 1,000 miles together driving through four different states.
Charleston is a beautiful city, despite the unrelenting heat we walked around the city enjoying the flower window boxes and the pretty British Colonial homes. It boasts being the friendliest city in America and we saw that play out one afternoon in a restaurant when a middle aged man and his adult son struck up a conversation which ended by us eating some of their food (weird I know) and him buying us another round of drinks before they left for a meeting. Quite a funny story.





My last stop was a small town called Potter Valley, two and a half hours drive north of San Francisco in California, staying with some dear friends Ben and Hannah and meeting their 18 month old son Levi. Every day we sat outside on their deck under the sun umbrella drinking coffee, eating, throwing the ball or stick for Charlie the dog, watching Levi run and play in the yard and chatting. It was a beautiful slow pace to round the trip up nicely. It was really a deep breath for me before getting on a plane back to Australia and facing the world there. We also had a few adventures which included going to Glass Beach, a place I had seen on Instagram but had no idea it was nearby!

Glass Beach California









My flight to Australia was through LA but I didn’t check my second plane ticket until I was getting off the plane in LA. When I checked it I realised it was the wrong flight number and didn’t depart until the following morning. Thinking the check-in desk has made an error I headed for the inquiry desk but couldn’t find any signs for it. After asking the nearest person I could find (who happened to be a very nice looking young male pilot) where I could locate the Virgin Australia desk, the lady at the desk informed me that the flight had been cancelled and to follow a list of verbal directions to find the shuttle to the hotel and return the following morning as my plane ticket already said. So I proceeded out of the terminal without my luggage to look for the hotel shuttle pickup spot. By this time it was about 11pm, I hadn’t eaten since 3pm, I was tired and stressed and there was so much traffic, vehicles beeping at each other and I couldn't see the shuttle I needed, that I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t want to stay overnight in LA, I just wanted to get home!
Eventually the hotel shuttle that I was waiting for turned up and I sighed a massive sigh of relief. Arriving at the hotel there was a really long line of passengers in the same situation as mine and by the time I had a room key it was past midnight. Waiting again, this time for the kitchen to make me a cold salad as dinner, I eventually made it up to the top floor. They said I was upgraded and had to use my room key just to get up to the top floor, but I only had 6 hours before I had to be out the door again and back at the airport. I certainly appreciated the massive bed despite not sleeping well, too afraid I’d miss my alarm and consequently my flight if I slept too deeply.

Arriving in Brisbane in the afternoon meant that I was able to walk into the arms of my dad and my little sister who’d had a baby boy 12 weeks ago. A couple of hours later we were driving up the range to my home town and here I am two weeks later.

In the past two weeks I have spent time with my family, cuddling the baby and playing games with the toddler as well as having real conversations with adult family members. I’ve been welcomed back by the Missions Prayer Team which was so lovely. They gave me a hamper of all things that I love which was a beautiful surprise.
I’ve seen a small handful of friends. I’ve been wishing that just for once when I returned home that I wouldn’t have to be the one contacting people asking to see them. I recognise that they already have their lives, their routines and that my return doesn’t impact their daily life, but at a time when I’m grieving the loss of my former life and trying to figure out my way forward in this one, I don’t want to be the one reaching out.

I’ve already returned to work. I survived three night shifts and was actually welcomed back heartily by the few I still knew but also by those I hadn’t yet met. It will certainly be a transition to work in the Australian system again but at least I have great colleagues to do it with.

If you are interested there is a blog called Velvet Ashes which has a post called How to Welcome Her Back. It gives some good tips for how to deal with a friend who has returned from living overseas.

And now I will turn my attention back to my cup of coffee and the Rio 2016 Olympics and how lovely it is that there is a team of refugees who are able to compete and who have been embraced by the world.

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