Sunday, May 30, 2010

Here We Go Again...

One of the more awkward things about my blog is the sheer fact that I can not say much.  I would love to say what we do or even what part of the world we work with.  Can't.  It is that simple.  All I can really say is that it is a difficult area of the world.... yeah, which area isn't? :)

So we work in a difficult area among people who do not exactly welcome us with open arms.  As a result, there are times that things get difficult.  Sometimes they are more difficult than other times.

Then there is the difficulty of how to ask for prayer at times without saying what is going on.  When we can't say, how do we ask?

But it is time to be praying again.  It is a different situation, but still needing prayer.  Pray for God's hand in the situation, controlling, leading, and protecting.  Pray for our country - there is a lot of tension right now under the surface.  I feel worried, but also in another way, hopeful.  God is working in a big way, things are happening.  There will be opposition.  It is to be expected.... but it also concerns us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Guess You Won't EVER Do That Again!

People's reactions to this event we went through have been interesting to me recently. My own reaction was interesting to me, too! But it has been the dealing with other's reactions that has thrown us over the last weeks.

It hasn't been that there haven't been those who have reacted very well. There has. Our church here has done well. Our home church has done very well, too. I wish we could go there and see them. I wish initially we could have gone and walked in and been with them. They have done well.

Then there are others. Team members, family members, others.  Each with their own reaction.

My grandma's was pretty clear:

We talked for a few minutes, and she expressed gratitude and relief that my husband is home safely. I agreed that it was wonderful because we had been worried he would never come home. Then she said, "I guess he learned not to do that again! At least not while you have kids still at home."

I didn't say anything. She is my grandma, and by default, older than me so I will show her respect, but I bit my tongue. Why not? I mean, of course not right now... if his "doing that again" will put others or a work in danger, then of course not... not now. But why not?

So he won't face danger?

Is that a good enough reason?

Because it is risky?

Do we quit because of that?

So my kids can grow up with a daddy to play catch with them?

I'm sorry if I sound harsh and uncaring here, but is that so important? I agree that it IS important... but is it the most important thing? If our comfort and the needs of our kids were the first things in our minds, we would be home... on a few acres with a few dogs and other odd pets and spending our weekends swimming, biking, and rafting.  There is no way I would be raising my kids in a city in a place that is not home to me!

We went into missions because we were called, yes.  But we were called into missions because there are a few things worth living for, yes, even worth dying for.  There are people who do not know Christ.  Telling people about Christ can be dangerous.  In some countries it is more dangerous than others, but no one ever said it would be a walk in the park!  We could retire now that we've been frightened and walk away, but why?  Nothing has changed.  There are still people who need to hear.  Being frightened once is NOT a reason to quit.  Staring death in the face is not a reason to quit.

We drove with our kids on one of our long cross country trips once.  (You know, furlough... that lovely "vacation" you get to take every so often where you get to drag four kids across the country and sleep on people's floors and speak in meetings.)  I think we have hit every state in the Union now except Hawaii and Alaska (hey, I'm open to going there!) and perhaps Maine.  This time, we drove through Washington State and saw a sign for the Whitman Mission.  I remembered reading way back in 6th grade the story of the Whitmans, but hadn't remembered that it was out in Washington!  We stopped and walked with our kids through the remains of the mission burned to the ground by the Indians.

Now whatever one might say about the Whitmans - I am sure they, like all of us, made their share of mistakes - they did leave everything and go live out in the middle of nowhere with a real desire to see people hear about God.  They lost their daughter to a tragic accident there.  They struggled to get along with their fellow missionaries.  They adopted seven children who made it across the Oregon Trail on their own after the death of their family (another story I had read in elementary school!).  Ultimately, they were killed - shot and hacked to death by Indians who blamed them for the death of their children from measles.  It was a gruesome and gory account of the massacre and the survival of a few women and several children who then spent a month as captives at the hands of those who murdered their families.

I stood there with my children and read the story to them.  We stood on the hill where they are buried and looked out at the surrounding area.  On the drive off the highway to the mission, we had passed at least ten churches.  We had just come from speaking in a church where there were a high population of Native Americans.  My family is a mix of immigrant and native American ourselves.  ( I did laugh one time when an old man, a patient of mine, said in shock when he saw my mom, "Oh!  I didn't know your mother was a half-breed!)  I stood there with my children and told them to stand by the graves and look out over to the town in the distance and count the steeples of the churches.

To remember.

We did not become Christians without cost.  From the time of Acts through to the Reformation through to the settling of America and still to this day, sharing the truth has come at cost.  It cost others that we might stand here today looking out at a town in a valley with several steeples rising from the churches in it.  People suffered, endured, and died to bring the gospel to this land.


Then I told them that as history has been, so is the present.  The gospel will only spread in the face of risk and great cost.  Do not think it is strange if we endure suffering or are called to lay down our lives.  Do not back down from fear.  It will only be with a cost, but look out at the sight here.  Look and remember.  God will always build His church.  He will build it and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Not even when the ultimate cost is paid.

So, in answer to my grandma, "yes, we will do that again!".  When God leads us, we will do that again.

It is about having an eternal perspective.  We are not living in the here and now for the here and now.  We live here, in a point in time, but we are bigger than that.  We are part of God's church... walking in the footsteps of those who have walked before us and here for a purpose - to glorify God by obedience to what He asks.  One day, sooner or later, we will die, and then we will be alive forever, together with those who walked before us and those who walked after us.

It is not that I do not enjoy life or hold it dear.  It is just that we are designed for the eternal.  I don't want to hang on to this life with both hands and miss out on the greater.  There is more than the here and now to be wrapped up in.

So, Grandma, yes, we will do that again!  Not foolishly, not haphazardly, but we will continue to do what God calls us to even when it means facing danger.

Hey, you could walk across the street to the mailbox and be hit by a speeding car too!  What guarantee do you have on a long, safe life over here?

But standing at the Whitman mission had a profound impact on me.  I think it was the first time I actually realized that people had died in bringing the gospel to us - to us here in our "safe" America, too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It Comes Down to Choices

Having the week off was wonderful. We had a break from the odd paranoia and accusations going on at home.

On our way home, before we even got home, we got a phone call from the one couple who had been acting so difficult with us. The ones who had been so angry and accusatory of us. They were in a difficult situation and needed some assistance. We listened, and told them we'd phone back in a short time.

We drove towards our house with sleeping children in the back and discussed our reaction to this situation. It was really a difficulty of their own making. They had chosen not to ask advice and gone and done something, and now needed help in it. We talked about how they had hurt us and how easy it would be to shrug our shoulders and walk away. We talked about how they were still accusing us and would likely not stop that. But we talked about what we were called to do. We are to walk right. That does not depend on their behavior. Together, late that night in the car, we chose to go on showing love to them. To ignore all that had happened and go on serving them. We serve them and love them not because of who they are, not because of how they act, but because we are called to lead them and leadership is service.

So we phoned them back, and offered what we could do. Then early the next morning, our phone rang again. They had another problem and needed us to take over the whole task for them. My husband got up early, and drove a two day trip to help them with a family situation.

Two days later, when he returned, we phoned them to express our concern for their situation and see how things were. They were surprised and told us thank-you for stepping in. Our response was simple, "No problem. You are our brother and sister and we love you."

It is an uphill battle right now. We are committed to showing love and we are, but our hearts are hurt. We continue to act as we have always acted towards them - loving and serving... but we are aware of what they said about us and how they treated us when we were hurting. So we continue to love, but it is a love that has to be willing to accept hurt. In order to love, we have to chose to love. We have to chose to forgive. That means that there is no accounting for the wrong, no accounting for the hurt, but a quiet acceptance of its existence. We know they hurt us and don't see that, but we continue to give love, not for the sake of it being returned in the measure it is poured out, but for the sake of love. We love, because He loved us.

But peace came with that acceptance. Our job is not to change our coworkers. It is to love them. It is not to perfect them, but to accept them. They are also God's children, and there are things to respect and admire about them. There are things that are failings in them. Those we trust to God, and we continue to serve.

But there is a closeness missing. A joy in being together that is gone. We love, but trust and joy is missing.

And we still struggle with dealing with what happened to us. It is just that it had to take a back seat to dealing with other people's stress and problems. It means that our team becomes not a support to us in coping with what we went through, but a liability. Whereever the journey to normal will lead, we will have to walk that path alone.

And there is a sadness in that.

The Good Things

There were some good things that happened after that first week home.

We shared with our church where we live. That evening was a special one. We had been through it together. Several people from the school came too. Together we shared the story, and they listened. Here was the only place where we shared a little of how we were feeling - some of the thoughts going through our heads, our struggles, the things that lay beneath the surface of "this happened and then that".

My husband spoke first, then called me to tell my story, then was going to finish his story of the amazing ending and the fun thing that God allowed them to do right after being safe. But when I finished, our youngest son stood up. He wanted to go up on stage and share how he felt. Ok. So we let him.

He stood up behind the hastily adjusted mike and said, "When I first heard what had happened to my daddy, my heart broke into a gajillion pieces. And I went upstairs and was very worried. But after a little while, I remembered that God had promised to take care of us, so I remembered that God was with my daddy wherever he was, and He would take care of him. So I decided to not be afraid. Then when I heard he was out, I was so happy that I can not tell you how happy I was. But hen we missed him when he couldn't come home right away, and now he is home."

Later in the car, #3 explained to my daughter who had been in nursery during the service that he had spoken in the front. He said, "I probably talked for a few minutes. I could have probably had enough to say to talk for half an hour, but I only talked for two minutes!" We laughed. He likely could have, too!

We left my daughter in the nursery to help with the babies. There were some parts of the story that she just didn't need to hear yet. When she is older, we will let her listen to the recording of that day.

After my husband finished and we stood and gave thanks as a church for the safe return of these men, I stepped off the stage, and my oldest came over. He wrapped his arms around me, buried his face on my shoulder and cried. He had not yet cried with me, but that evening he did. He just let himself be held and cried. And my church graciously stood back and let him have his time with me, waiting until he was done and had walked away before they came with all they wanted to say and ask.

It was a good evening. An evening to finally tell some of the emotions behind this. But there are only so many of those feelings you can process in front of a group. It was also a chance to stand and publicly thank those who had been there for us - for the large things like taking over for an afternoon to the littler things like coming over with a quick hug and a plate of cookies.

We felt loved and cared for.

Then we left for our week break. We had asked permission and asked the leadership to step up and tell the team that we were going away. To explain it well so we would not face more criticism. They did a good job. Slowly, I think, they were learning. The week was wonderful, too. We did not get the chance to sit down with any one person and share our hearts, but we did get spoiled. We got chances to rest and to talk. It was a chance to allow all the turmoil at work to settle down without us there, and a chance to catch our breath after the unexpected reactions by our team. It was a chance to allow our kids to relax with us and play.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Confusion of the Journey

I still puzzle over the events of that afternoon, and the following days got even stranger. Our leadership left having things they needed to do. That left my husband, on his third day home after the crisis, managing the team again - a team heavily fractured after the crisis.

He spent his next days listening to people. One had a lot of fears since he and his wife had walked through something else like this before with a friend of theirs. These two became worried about the smallest details and began to spread the fear throughout the others.

One working closely with him picked up on the fear, and carried it to new heights. He began to accuse us of unbelievable things... of outright lying, of making up the whole story, of hiding things from him... We watched this man totally puzzled. He is our brother, one we were very close to, one we love. And overnight, he changed.

There was nothing my husband could do, but day after day listen to one and then the other, trying to let them talk, let them say what was on their minds, to listen. Day after day, he would come home broken, hurt, and sit. Then he had to be a happy daddy to four little kids who needed him. As soon as we had the kids in bed, we would crawl in bed ourselves, and lay just curled up next to each other hardly talking, but drawing comfort from each other.

There was an intense sense of sadness along with all the confusion and hurt. Sadness because this was supposed to be such a happy time. God had done the impossible, and we should all be rejoicing together, thankful. Instead we lay here in shock after yet another day of hearing absurd accusations against us.

We responded woodenly to people outside the team. Our friends and our churches would phone so happy with the news, eager to talk to us... and what could we say? Do we admit how we really felt - shamed and confused and struggling? They wanted to rejoice - God had done a great thing!

We talked late into the night after the first days. Do we stay with this group? Do we leave? Is this the final straw? But our hearts are with this work. And we love our team... people who have been closer than family to us for years. What is going on here? We had thankfully already decided not to make any decisions right then, so we didn't, but we talked. Those are decisions that will have to be made at some point, but not right now.

The blessing that came through this time, the only blessing, was that we began to share more deeply with each other - not so much about the crisis itself, but about our feelings. We began to exercise and practice that new trust in each other, and we found that we could lean on each other - even when there was no one else there to lean on.

And we cried together. Cried at the pain of what was being accused. We took walks. We didn't answer the phone at night. We ignored people. We visited a few we knew that we could count on. But mostly, we ate, curled up and cried and talked with each other, and slept.

Night after night, my sleep was still interrupted by nightmare after nightmare. Dreams of all types woke me with my heart pounding, and again my husband would reach for me and wrap his arms around me tight. Only up against his warm skin would I slowly relax and go back to sleep.. to be woken again in an hour or so with another.

We're still confused by all that happened. And there is a sense of mourning. Our normal has gone. They are back safe, but there is no getting back to normal since normal has disappeared. We find ourselves in a strange new world with little familiar. Still with no map.

For awhile, we sat paralyzed in shock. There is a part of us that still is stunned even now, but we realize that we need to learn to act instead of reacting. It was just that even thinking took a lot of work and we had little energy in those first weeks. A few hours of work would exhaust us.

But there is a loneliness in our lives now. Who do we trust? Who can we lean on? Is there any safe place? Most of the story and our feelings about it all still lay buried - we're too busy trying to heal our team to deal with what the crisis did to us. We're too nervous to share how we feel with others. And time is passing... people expect us to be normal now. We look normal. We sound normal. They've forgotten what an impact that had on us. So we go on.

And there are times we just stop and stare blankly for awhile. Then we shake ourselves and go on again.

A few things came after these events, but very little. We did have a time we bumped into our country director at an event and had a few minutes to talk. We received a letter from him a few days after the team meetings. He praised us for how well we had done in the crisis and stated that he knew it was difficult, but we did well. The first praise from anyone within our team that was not immediately followed by criticism. These things meant something to us.

We had a wooden apology from one person - the fruit of another telling him he had to apologize. Later, the men met with him and came away with a slightly better result than the last meetings.

We took a week off. The team slowly readjusted to just one family accusing us and the others either quietly backing us or silent. We took a week off, risking criticism again, but just needing to pull ourselves out of the situation hoping it would calm down while we were gone. We enjoyed our week, rested, were with people we knew and loved...

but no one asked to hear our hearts.

I think that is why I started blogging this story. The chance to say what happened and how I felt. Because I never got that. All that met us was pain and confusion.

Only one person has asked to hear my heart, and that is only much later. And I find myself unable to talk about it. As if it is awkward.... too much time has passed... I don't know if I really can open those boxes of packed up pain. I have never cried the bucket of unshed tears. I've cried out the pain of those first meetings with our team... but not yet even cried from the pain of those days of the crisis. I've unpacked the boxes enough now to sort out the events and some of the feelings... but then I stop. Is anyone even listening? It's been too long now. I shouldn't cry - it's been too long. So I am silent. It has become a habit.

But just the other day, I looked at one of my friends in the parking lot late at night after a meeting and said, "I'm struggling. I'm trying to pretend I'm normal and go on, but sometimes I just zone out and stare. I have trouble focusing. I'm just still struggling still."

I don't know where I will go from there. I am still on this journey without a map. And we're still puzzled by where the journey has led.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That Afternoon

I think this is by far the hardest blog post for me to write about the whole events.  I started a few times only to erase it.  But the story would not be complete without some explanation of the rest of that day.

We went on with the meetings after lunch and other people shared what they had gone through.  There were some strange inconsistencies that had me puzzled.... some gaps in information.  Of course, these colored how they saw events and affected their reactions.

One thing bothered me during the stories.  It was when one member who had a job to do said he was so tired one night that he took a sleeping pill, turned his computer off, and slept deeply for one night.  I just sat and looked at him.  Hmm.... there is perhaps the difference between a wife and a team member.  It was my husband.  It was another who I loved also.  I understand that we have to take care of ourselves and be ready for the long term in a such a crisis... but.... I struggled with that thought of him soundly sleeping with a pill that makes you unable to wake up and respond.  I had trusted him to be doing his job...

They complained that we worried them because the men said they would go to one place and then fly to another and they all waited and were worried when the men did not show up at the first place.  But in their mailbox was an e-mail sent hours before with the news that they would not stop in the one place but go straight on to the next.  I can't help it if they did not read their mail.  And I was on a plane at that time, but if they were worried, all they had to do was phone the other wife who would have told them exactly what was going on.  They didn't, so I didn't see how they could complain about being worried and blame us for that.

But the biggest problem in the afternoon came when we were soundly criticized for not coming straight home.  We replied that the two men wanted time together since they had not seen each other much and needed to see each other and process some of what had happened, and they wanted their wives with them.  All four of us needed to be together.  This met immediate and angry responses that they (our team here) are our family and deserved to see us right away.

I really struggled with that reason.  If they were our family and needed to see us right away, where were they during the crisis?  Where were they when I was all alone?  Why did I have to curl up on my kitchen floor late at night that first day trying to face the fear and panic with no one with me?

Why was I responsible in the immediate aftermath of comforting their fear and panic before I even had time to wrap my arms around my husband and cry?

We left that for the time being and went on into things that we can learn from this and changes that should be made.  Then we discussed lessons learned – so when we encounter a situation like this again, we will know how to act.  We discussed security, ways to behave, etc.  Then we talked about communication and recovery after such events.  At this point, I told them that it would be better to think about what people have gone through and give them some time in the beginning to be undisturbed and to rest and heal.

The effect was like lighting a match in a room filled with gas fumes.  An explosion. 

On one side, one member was telling us that we were so wrong not to take calls, no matter what the time because anyone serving in the forces would be required to do that before they spent time with family. 

Yes, but the men already had had extensive discussions with people in charge.  They had not left without the critical information being given.

On the other side, other team members were saying that we should have talked to them all right away because they hadn’t talked to us and didn’t we realize that they needed to talk to us right away because “we had only heard that he was out, but we hadn’t been able to ask him ourselves if he was injured or anything.”  

True, you hadn’t, but the leadership had and should have been able to communicate that to you.  And even if you had to be in suspense one more day about what, if any, injuries they had, was it more important than them and us who had not slept for five nights being able to curl up with each other and sleep?  How about our worries for each other - "Are you really ok?"  Wasn't it more important that we had time to ask and answer that to each other first - first, before answering that to others outside?

I do understand that they were frightened and worried by the events.  But I wondered if they understood that we were, and that we needed some time, just some time to sit quietly and let the fact that we were together sink in.

The room grew very loud and very angry with most of it aimed at me.  I was the one who said that in a future crisis, people need to give the people involved a little time to recover and sleep.  Person after person got upset at me and told me reason after reason why they all needed to talk to my husband that first night and how upset they were with me for not letting them.

Finally, my husband stepped in and said, “What I expect you all to understand is that that night, I needed my wife.  I needed to be with her, and I expected you all to understand that!  And we needed to sleep.”

The room grew a little calmer after that, but the discussion kept going.  There were the few on our team who, when they heard of how the first day went were horrified.  "You mean you wanted to talk to them right then??!!  What were you thinking?!"  Others sat quietly not wanting to get involved in the discussion.  Still others were angry and upset with us.  What was strange is during the whole time, our team leader just sat quietly working on his computer totally ignoring most of the conversation going on around him.  As if how we had felt and how we had hurt was totally unimportant to him.

All I wanted him to do was listen.  To hear.  To know what it meant.  To learn, so that another time, this would not happen.  Another time, someone going through it would be better protected, better cared for.

And he sat ignoring the whole conversation.  Only at one point when the room got very loud with his wife and a few others quite upset at us, he raised his head, sighed, and asked his wife, "Would it help if I apologized for that phone call?"

I looked at him again stunned by his complete lack of seeing.  Then told him, "No.  It is not that we are angry or holding a grudge that we want an apology for.  We have already forgiven you.  It is that we are trying to learn how to do things better next time.  All I want is for us to learn from our mistakes so we don't repeat this one again.  So that next time, we take better care of our wounded.  I just want to see us learn, and I don't see that there is any learning happening at all."

The conversation went on between others, and our team leader continued shuffling his papers and working on something else in the middle of the meeting.  Then after five more minutes, he got up and walked out of the room.

He didn't even try to understand, but walked away from our pain.

So then the attacks turned nasty and personal.  One woman there, the wife of the team leader told me that what the enemy could not do from outside, I am letting him do from the inside.  I am destroying the team from inside by saying that I was hurt and by refusing to just forgive and let it go.

I told her that I have no problem forgiving, but that we need to learn lessons.  So far I have only seen defense of what was done.  The point is to learn how to do better, and the only point I am trying to make is that we need to consider the needs of the families involved in a crisis and work to protect their time to heal.  If we don't learn that, what will happen next crisis?  Are they going to do the same to that person, too?  Because next crisis, you are going to find me camped out outside in order to protect and care for the people involved if that is what it takes!

At that point, I began to cry again, silent tears tracing a rapid path down my face.  I was hurting, wanting to he heard, and now I was being accused of doing what the enemy could not do through the crisis - bring down the team... at that point, I gave up and quit.

 But my husband stepped in.  He told the, "You know what?  That night, I needed my wife.  That was all.  I didn't need to talk to you all and I needed you to understand that."  They didn't.  They still don't.  Then they said we are letting the devil in to cause trouble.

It still hurts.  Welcome home.  Welcome back, injured and limping, to be thrown to the sharks.

You know what we needed?  We needed to be heard.  We needed to be hugged.  We needed to be prayed with.  We needed support.  We needed to hear other's stories - stories of how God worked, telling people to pray, encouraging others, working behind the scenes.  We did not need to be thrown to the sharks.  We did not need to be abandoned by our team leader to the frenzy of uninformed, stressed, and angry team members.  It was a time for clear leadership, for setting ground rules of debriefing - people are allowed to say how they felt and not be attacked.  It was not the time for one leader to walk out and leave the other poor one stunned by the shark frenzy and paralyzed.

Eventually, the country director pulled it together and stopped the tirades against us and suggested that we all saw things differently because we had different stories, and that why don't we just pray.

We did.  All of us stood to pray.  And after a few minutes, I walked out, again to a back room to dry my face and throw myself into the arms of the only One that I knew saw my heart right then.

I came back in before the prayers ended.  Our team leader was leaving, so everyone was saying goodbye to everyone.  Our team leader's wife came over to me and said this, "I know you probably don't want me to, but I am going to hug you" and proceeded to hug me goodbye.

I'm sorry.  If you know someone doesn't want you to do something, don't do it.

Especially if you know that person has a past of abuse, you just don't force a hug, an unwanted hug after you have degraded and hurt them publicly.

But I stood there and let her hug me.  What else could I do?  And then went back to my husband's arms, to safety.

I left that day numb.  Not even sure if I had any feelings left.  Blank and staring.  When we were hurting, we were attacked.  Then we were accused of letting the devil use us to destroy.  We went home and stared at the walls.  We went to bed that night and just held each other and cried.  Too ashamed even to think about asking for help.  We had asked for help, we had stated that we were hurting, and we were met with anger.  Where do we go for help if even our own attack us for feeling vulnerable and needy?  For asking for time to heal?  We did not sleep, but just lay in bed staring most of the night.  Too hurt even to cry.

We felt shamed.  Shamed publicly.  Accused.  Ashamed for being weak, for having needs, for putting our own needs above others.  Just shamed.  Abandoned and attacked by our own.  Healing wounds in my own heart ripped open that night.... am I not valuable enough to be cared for?  Not worth enough to be listened to?  He just walked out... he just walked out not even caring.  Accused again.  Hurt again, and then judged harshly on my reactions under unbelievable hurt and stress.  Left alone to deal with pain.

How would we go on from here?

That night, we lay awake and stared at the ceiling stunned.  Wounded and bleeding and pretty sure at that point that there would be no healing.  There sure wasn't going to be any trusting anyone with just how much we were struggling.  Not if this was the reaction we would face.

We were ready to quit.  To go home and quit.

And the next days did not get any easier...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We Interrupt This Story For..... um, THE Talk

Ok, I think we need to have THE talk with my kids.  We were driving home late tonight from a wedding and a visit with friends and my kids were talking.  We drove through farmland, so the kids asked if they could get a goat.  I would like a goat, but don't think we will get one.  But anyway this is how the conversation went from there:

"We could get a male goat and a female goat, and then we could have babies!" exclaimed #3 excitedly.

"We don't need a male goat.  All we need is a female." I told them, not at all interested in baby goats.

"But what if we want babies?" asked #2

"We can always take the female goat to a farm to visit a male goat." I told him.

"Or we could buy sperm!" interrupted #2

(What?!  Yeah, I can just see me going down to the local goat sperm store!!!)

"No, it is much simpler to just take the female to visit a male goat and let them do it themselves." I explained, hoping to change the subject.

"Or, maybe we could get two female goats" chirps up #2 happily, "then they could have babies and all the babies would be female, too!"

(Umm... what is that again?!)

"No, that is not how it works!" #1 said very wisely.

"No, that doesn't work like that in animals", #2 added in, "It only works like that with birds!"

My husband and I turned to look at each other blinking in confusions... then giggled.  I think it is time to have THE talk and get their information straight!

Especially where the conversation went after that... I couldn't record it exactly because their voices were quieter, but it was something about Jesus being a miracle because He was a boy born from a woman without a man....

So apparently a virgin birth would have been no big deal if she had given birth to a girl... because apparently girls can have girls without a man in the picture!

Next on the agenda - getting our facts straight!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

They Never Came

The next day of meetings started out normally enough.  We started with two more devotions.  Note for future meetings - don't do two devotions back to back.  It sounds funny.  Rather one in the morning and one after lunch.  But this day, our director for the whole country had also joined us.  We were a big crowd all together!

The day started off with the other wife beginning to share.  This was where she cried and someone told her not to be so emotional.  I should have got a hint from that comment, but I did not hear it.

Then it was my turn to share.  I did not get emotional and cry.  That is just not me in a big group.  But I shared what had gone on over here.  I shared about the people who came to help, the calls I got, the help I received.  I shared about what had been asked of me during the crisis and what that was like to do that job.  I shared details that would help others who had to do that job another time.  I shared how the experience went.  Just telling the story.

After my turn, we had other members of the team share.  They told their stories and a few of them said what was so wonderful during the whole event was how much they were there for each other and how much they supported each other through it all.

I quietly got up and walked out.  I walked as far away as one could get in the building and shut the door of the small room I went to.  I was shaking, in tears.

During the whole time, NO ONE from our team came to visit me.  Not one.

Ok, to clarify, we belong to a small team, like tadpoles in a puddle.  My husband is the leader of this puddle.  We have a bigger team leader who is the leader of a few puddles.  My husband is his assistant sort of, second down in charge of a few puddles.  Then we are all part of a bigger organization.  Someone from the bigger organization who lives near us did come to see me.  They really helped me with anything I needed.  I remain very grateful to them for their support during all this.  Without them, I would not have survived as well as I did.

But they are not from our little puddle.  From our team, no one came.  Well, I take that back - we have a new comer, a new family.  They haven't been here that long, and they were gone during the first half of the events.  But as soon as they arrived back in town, they phoned.  They came over on the last day, knocking on my door just to come be with me.  I appreciated that so much.

But of the team that we have been a part of for seven years, no one came.

I could not sit there in that meeting and listen to them talk about how great it was to be a community and support each other during the crisis.  I walked away before the tears started.

I felt so left out.  Did they not even care?  I have been there for them for every crisis, every emergency, every complication in their lives.... where were they?

So I shut the door in the back room and stood shaking, not yet able to cry.  Hurt.  Then the door opened again.  It was my husband.  He walked over, wrapped his arms around me, and held me tight.  He let me sob against him, and understood what I said through all the sobbing and tears..."they never came! not once!".  He understood all the past, the seven years, and what that meant to me.... they left me in pain and ignored me.

I still don't understand it at all.  The afternoon later on showed some reasons, but the reasons were as hard to hear as the facts.  I still don't understand.

But my husband held me for a long time while I cried and cried.  Then he left to go have lunch.  I stayed for awhile to calm down before going back into the room.  On the way back in, I sat quietly at a spare computer reading mail, and our country director stopped by.  He just stood quietly at the desk, and then said, "I know we placed a big burden on you in asking you to do what you did, and I wanted to tell you thank-you for doing it."  I assured him that I hadn't minded the job and had thoroughly understood why it had to be handed to me.  He stood quietly a little longer with me, and so I told him.  "It is just that they are talking about how great it was to be there for each other during the event, and no one was there for me.  No one, except the new guys, came to see me."  He listened, but like me, had no answers.  There really still are no answers for that.  Just pain.

I think what was hard for me and what hurt almost as bad as the whole crisis were these things.  It was when life slowed down enough to realize that no one came... that they abandoned me when I needed help.  It was when we were criticized for our decision to be together with the "other couple" for a few days first.  It was when we were disturbed that first night and criticized for not calming everyone else's fears and comforting their questions that first day or so.  It was how our own treated us that hurt.

But this was a shadow compared to what was going to come after lunch.  That was when the sharks attacked and the water ran red.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time Heals All Things

Our team leader was coming into town to meet with us, and he had e-mailed his plan for the meetings before he arrived.  I looked at it and shook my head and laughed.  I know he is famous for cramming more in a schedule than can possibly fit, and he arrives here and tries to do ten things at once at high speed, runs out of time, and then leaves with half of it undone; but this was even a little much for him!  The schedule had on the first morning 'debrief from the trip" as well as "evaluate changes in regards to this crisis".  By afternoon, he was going to move on to re-evaluating our mission statement, and the next day was slated for strategy meetings for next year.

I showed it to my husband and he smiled.  Debrief four people AND plan new security all in ONE morning - oh, and that is AFTER fitting in two devotionals?!  I envisioned the chipmunk speed talking and laughed.  I knew what it would end up as - we would run out of time and be hurried along.  It is what always happens.

It was almost noon before the devotionals were done.  Then an unusual member of our team decided a impromptu funny skit would help relax everyone and help them talk about their feelings.  So she rounded up people to do that.  It was not funny and was really awkward, but we all tried to play along.  It really made us cringe because it involved tying up my husband and beating him (yes, with something soft, but still!).  It just wasn't funny.  But this person is unique, and she thought it would help.  Got to love her even with quirks... she did come through later with some wisdom!  But as the weeks went on in the "recovery phase", I began to see that many people are like her.  They all have ideas of what we need to be "fixed" or to "help us recover".  So people did things, said things, acted in certain ways.  Some thought we needed to just go on, so they did.  They tried not to talk about it so we would not have to think about it.  Others were sure we needed to tell them just then what we felt, so they pried.  Others tried more 'unique" methods like this awkward drama.

I've thought about it since then wondering what did I really need.  I am not sure I have a solid answer.  I didn't know myself.  But I needed someone who had time for me.  Someone who asked me what  I needed and had time to wait for me to think through the answer to that.  I needed someone who wasn't looking for the exciting story, someone who wasn't trying to make it go away, someone who wasn't looking for results right then... but who had time to drink coffee with me and be quiet in case I thought of something I wanted to say.

I still have those things I think of that I want to say - even now - but who do I say them to?  I can't pop up in a conversation about the end of school party and just say, "I remember thinking that when they kill him that at least the other one will get out and ... and... if there is anyone I want to be telling me about the last things we know about my husband, it is that one with him."  But these thoughts still come up in my head... the quieter things... in the middle of the normal life going on around me, and it just doesn't work to drop those into conversations.

I needed someone to go for a walk with me, to sit and say nothing and throw stones into the pond with me just in case after thirty minutes that I think of something to say.... something I am not saying in my ten minutes I have with one or another when they want to hear the story.

They say time heals all things.  I think it does... but not just time passing by, but people having time.  If I've been hurt, have time for me.  Time heals.  You can't rush me through healing.  You can't schedule when I open my heart.  Time heals all things - give me your time.

After the drama, we began with the telling the story.  The one who was able to walk away, but who saw and reported was there.  We began with him, and it was good to hear his story.  That cleared up questions I had about the time-line and why I was the last to hear and why it took four and a half hours before I was told.  It was also good, as a group, and especially as the two of us, to look him in the eyes and thank him for walking away.  We worried that he would second guess his decision, and feel guilty.  One stayed and one walked away.  But we needed the one who walked away in order to get help for those who could not.  So we thanked him.

Then my husband told his story after lunch.  It was a good time.  All in all, once the awkwardness of the odd skit was gone, the day went well.

At least I thought it went well.  Later I learned that when the wife of the one who got away shared how she felt and began to cry over how thankful she was to have her husband and how she realized how much he meant to her, that one person leaned over to her and said, "Get control of yourself, and quit being so emotional!"  I did not hear that one since I was on the other side of the room.  But I would have been tempted to snap back at that point.  When, if not now, are you going to let this woman cry after all she's been through?

The day ended, and we would begin the next day.  It was a pretty good day, and the group of us were happy to be together.  I looked forward to the next day, and we went home and had a quiet evening with the kids.

We had no idea what would hit the next day, and no idea that much of the pain of this crisis had yet to hit us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Quiet Day

The next day, we slept in.  Holidays are nice for that.  Most of our kids do not crawl in bed in the mornings anymore, but this morning most of them ended up there.  We had a very relaxed day with them.  We knew that people were coming into town for meetings the next day and would be dropping by to visit people, but we had again asked not to have visitors.  My mom was leaving soon, and we did want to spend some time with her, too.  But mostly, it was the last day of our kid's holiday and we promised to do something special with them.  It was a struggle to find energy and make a decision as to what to do since we didn't think well, but we finally took them all to the park in the center of town.  Some of them tried their new rollerblades, and others met friends to play with.  We sat on a bench in the sun and watched them.

Towards evening, we all wanted to see someone, but weren't sure who.  So, we decided to drop in at some friends.  This was my friend who I had called the first day and the one who sat with me the day we got the call that he was safe and coming home.  We knocked at their door and went in for coffee, cookies, cake, and a nice visit.

So good to be home, to be with people we know, to be doing normal things.  We did not feel normal at all, but it was a slow step towards it.  We felt stunned still.  In shock maybe?  Unable still to sort through our feelings.  Feeling like watchers of our lives, not the ones in it ourselves.  Confused.  Able to talk about what had happened, but still as if it were a dream or an event that happened to someone else.

Sitting drinking coffee with these friends and talking did help.  As we began to tell the story, we began to listen to the story, too.  This did happen.  It happened to us.  And then we would sit and be quiet - unable yet to actually feel what had happened, but able to describe events.  Beginning the journey.  But we came again to these friend's house over the weeks to come.  Just to sit and drink coffee and rest.  With these ones, we were under no obligation to have answers or to have it all together.

The next day would hold the first of two team meetings, and we were looking forward to seeing the team again.  Our team leader would be there, and we wondered how that would go, but we looked forward to seeing them and celebrating all that God had done together.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Best Easter Yet

That first Sunday home was one of those perfect days - one you wish you could freeze frame and keep, much like the first morning after meeting the plane.  Happy family, happy people all thoroughly delighted to be together.  Tears, laughter, hugs.  Time to give thanks for what God had done.

We had bought Easter outfits for our kids - something we hadn't done since they were small, but this year was a special year.  We bought the boys matching shirts and my daughter a beautiful purple dress.  The sun cooperated by shining and the day was as gorgeous as you could order.  We stood in front of our house by some bushes to take a picture - you know, before someone spilled juice on their clothes!  The neighbor - the one who had stopped by just to hug me when he had found out at midnight - was pulling out of his house to go to church, too.  When we saw us all gathered together, he stopped his car right in the middle of the street and jumped out leaving the door open and the motor on, and came running across our yard.  "You're back!"  He grabbed my husband and hugged him.  "Oh, I am so happy to see all of you together!"

Walking into church was such a wonderful thing.  Together as a church, we had gone through this.  They had cried with me, carried as much of by burden as they could carry, and prayed through the whole time.  They had been with us through it all, and when we walked in that morning, there were a lot of tears!  Happy tears, but tears.  All the crying we had not done those first days, was cried now.  My poor husband was passed around from person to person who simply hugged him and cried!  We celebrated together, and when the pastor finally got us to gather for service, he had tears in his voice when he said that today we celebrate Easter when Jesus rose from the dead, and this Easter is a special one for us since we have one of our own back almost it seems from the dead, too.  Now, we go to a fairly quiet church... we don't even clap during singing!.... but when he said that, the church erupted into applause!  Tears, smiles, laughter, applause, and more tears.  We were home.  Back with our church family and it was over.

No one left church anywhere close to on time that day.  Easter Sunday dinners waited while we all stood around drinking coffee for over an hour and talking.  People sharing with each other, with us, and with our kids how they felt, what they prayed for, how they were affected.  Several people simple stated "Before this, I really didn't stop to think about my priorities or what it really meant to follow Jesus, but I am really starting to think now."  Two came and told us that now they are feeling called to missions, too.  But mostly, we gathered in groups talking about what a wonderful thing God had done.  Later, on the way home, my husband said, "Did you notice today?  People were all talking, and they weren't in their usual groups of friends.  They were outside their cliques and just talking with others."  Old talking to young. Deaf and hearing struggling through communication.  Those who are more elegant and those who live in rough neighborhoods hugging each other and sharing in the joy of the moment with each other.  It was a beautiful day!

But for me, there was also a quiet sense of sadness in this day.  As I stood to sing in the very same row where two weeks ago I struggled with the decision to praise God no matter what, I looked up and down the row and saw my whole family gathered.  And I was silent for a moment.  Why me?  Here I stand where I never imagined I would stand.  So blessed.  Not that I am at all upset with the blessing - no, not at all!!  But that it was a blessing that I was not guaranteed.  I think as kids in Sunday School, we grow up and hear, "Don't worry.  Pray.  God will fix all your problems." and we almost get this "automatic answer" type of faith.  We pray, and God gives us what we want, right?

But I knew that was not true.  I knew it in a different sense than just knowing it.  I had seen it.  And my mind went back through the ones I have known and loved who didn't get their husbands or their wives back.  Through those still missing somewhere unknown.  Through those who suffered and died.  I saw the faces of the children who lived without their fathers, without their parents.... and I paused.  I am so blessed, so thankful...  but there was a sadness and an awesomeness.  This blessing I have that we all stand here - it was not a guaranteed blessing, not an automatic "of course" answer to prayer.  It is an awesome blessing.  And receiving it with thankfulness, I was also very aware of those who received different answers to just as much prayer.

Thinking of a friend of mine and her three children she raised alone.

Of another friend who was killed and left a wife and four little kids.

Of my friend recently who so greatly comforted me during the crisis.  She is facing her second Easter alone with her four kids.

Of others whose families mark yet another year.  Years that will go by without their children, never to have grandchildren, never to grow old and have their children to care for them.

People I've known.  Others I have only heard about.  Ones who walk a road that I was not asked to walk.

Thankfulness, praise, joy.... tempered with a deep sense of quietness, an awareness that others were not so blessed.

Why us, God?  Why do we stand here so blessed, so joyful?  A gift we did not deserve.  Life when we did not expect it.  And an awareness that this very joy we have, this very life we have now, is because Jesus Himself chose death for our sakes.  We did stand facing a death penalty, but He chose to pay it for us.

We are all so blessed by that.  Delivered from death.  Just this Easter, we were twice so blessed.

It was a difficult day to describe - covering such a range of emotions.  To be together, to be with our church family, to praise God, to worship, to remember His death and His victory, to remember others who paid the price also for others to hear, to be given our lives back again...  Quietly to realize that as wonderful as it is to be given this life on this earth back, which it is! and we are SO grateful!, that it is still not something worth hanging on to with both hands.  Only something to be laid back down again.

Our real life - where we are really alive, as God showed me up on the top of my "hill", is with Him.  That is the only thing worth hanging on to with both hands.  Life, real life, is eternal.


Interesting thing I found out writing through this - I was working at a pretty steady pace of one or two posts a day when I had time, and it was going well.  As I wrote through it more and more, it began to feel like slowly putting a burden down.  Being able to sort through it and look at each step, each piece of this puzzle.  And as I did, I felt lighter and lighter.

Then came the day that I thought, "Ok, I will just finish up and get through this section" and I wrote more posts all in one day.  Oops - mistake!  That evening, I struggled again.  Too many feelings and too much invisible baggage pulled out at once.  I struggled with my emotions again and had bad dreams that night.  I think I felt a little like when we decided to clean up a closet and just pull everything out and then realize that it is too much to sort through before bedtime.... a little overwhelmed!

I'm ok now.  And determined just to walk slowly through it, piece by piece.  It works better than way.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Finally Home

I had an interesting trip home.  I was going to meet my husband who was flying from where he was, and we would fly the rest of the way together.  When I got to the check-in, they told me that the plane was full and that they would bump me to the next plane.

No way!  Now, most of the time, I am a mild enough person and usually don't mind too much being bumped if I am traveling alone - it is an adventure, right?  Go with it and see what happens.  But on the other end of that flight were four little kids who had sent their daddy off on a plane and then he didn't show when he was supposed to.  They would not understand a delay.  So I walked over to the desk, and told the lady - "Listen.  I have to be on that plane!  My kids have been through enough already."  I briefly explained the situation to her. "If that plane lands and only one parent comes off again, and one is missing, they just are NOT going to be able to cope with that."

It took her all of thirty seconds to find me a seat!  No where near my husband, but that was fine.  We were ON a plane headed home!

This plane was crowded!  And crowded with a huge group of wild teens with supervisors who cared little about how they acted.  They jumped over seats, played hide-and-seek in the bathrooms, slamming the doors, yelled across the plane to each other, and threw things down the length of the plane.  Over and over the flight attendants told them to quit, but they just laughed in their face.  I was ready to recommend them to the "no-fly" list!

Then we finally arrived.  My husband had been in a different section, so he appeared looking fresh and rested.  I dragged myself out of the plane with my head spinning!  We went through customs and immigration helping another lady who was traveling for the first time.  We waited for our bag, and then headed to the doors.

We stepped out of the sliding doors and were mobbed by four little ones hurling their bodies into our arms!  Laughing and crying, they hugged us and shoved pictures they had drawn for us in our faces.  They pulled our arms and grabbed our stuff, trying to get us to come - they had hatched up some great surprise for us!

My mom was behind them, looking tired, but relieved.  Trying not to cry also, so as not to ruin the kid's joy.  Waiting to hug my husband herself - to finally hug him and know he is safe.

We had asked people not to phone those first days.  We wanted time alone with our kids.  It was so great to go home and curl up with the kids.  After an hour or so, my husband stayed up with them since he had a quiet flight that he slept through, and I went to nap for an hour to recover from the wild teens on a plane!

We ate that evening all together, and my husband tucked his kids in bed.  Finally, finally, our oldest one cried, sobbing on his daddy's shoulder.

We were home.

When God Shows Up

It is interesting that when God shows up, we calm down.  Not that He wasn't there before, but that we forget to look at Him and take a deep breath.  When He was in the boat, the disciples thought that because He was sleeping, He wasn't there.  He was.  And still in control.  But there is in us, the need to see Him.  To know.

That song that kept repeating in my head - one I had taught a small boy years ago, and one he sang to me now.  A simple song, but one I loved when I taught small kids because it had a truth that I so needed to know.  God is there, able to listen to me no matter what is going on around me.  The simpleness of that truth sang over and over in my head as I traveled giving me peace again.  It's ok.  I'm here.

Things did not go like I thought they would.  There was conflict where there was supposed to be rest.  There was disturbing where there was supposed to be peace.  There was sadness where there was supposed to be joy.  There was silence where there was supposed to be talking.  There was more conflict where there was supposed to be sharing feelings.

But God was there.  He was.  Still there.  Unsurprised by it all.  Not at all rocked, not at all taken off guard unable to meet in the situation.  Still there.

When I turned and saw Him there, I calmed down.  Still hurting, still raw, still sad, but calmer.  He's here.  He's listening to me.

I think later, if I had to go through something like this again, I hope I would remember to expect conflict.  I wasn't ready for that.  No one had told me it was normal.  And there was no one outside of the situation able to handle that or able to help us see that it was normal and help us find the way back to the path.

But I traveled that day in relative peace.  I napped and listened to my mp3 player.  When I wasn't listening to that, this little song played over and over in my head.... "talk to God... tell Him you need a friend...pray... believe..."  Slow warming of the isolation that I was wrapped in.

During the time we were with family, on the few times I had internet access, I was able to talk with two friends.  Just being able to say what had happened, what was happening, was a relief.  To be able to share even a little of how I was feeling.  To take a breath and talk!  And to get their letters back, to have someone hear me.  It was a good thing.

So I traveled back with a lighter heart.  Also knowing I was finally going home.  I wanted to get home - missed my babies, missed my friends, missed "normal".  What I came for, I did not get.  But now I was going home - at home, things would be better...  And I was heading back to see some friends for one afternoon.  Hopefully a good time there.... maybe even we get to talk....

I love traveling when I can see things around me.  I love traveling alone where I can look out and see the world.  The day was full of watching early spring with its bright greenness and new baby animals.  Watching people, but feeling absolutely no need to talk to them unless I wanted.  Not needing to smile unless I felt like it.  Not needing to pretend, not needing to care for anyone around me at all.  Just rest and watch the world out of the windows.

Then I got back to my friend's house.  It was a bright sunny day, if a little cold, and it was nice to sit outside and have some tea.  But when I heard about their day, I realized that they had spent it talking... and they were tired of talking.  Ok.  So I did not open my box.  Just leave it tied together and packed up.  My two invisible pieces of baggage still traveling with me.

But it was still a good day.  To have peace again, to go outside, to eat, play games, and pray.  And it was here where we read the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  And here, quietly, God whispered to me... "look at how Jesus treated His disciples when He saw them again..."  This is how I will treat you - with gentleness...  And I began to smile...  All that had gone on, and all that was going to go on next that thankfully I had no idea was coming, is not from God.... it is not how He would treat someone.  I could trust Him, look to Him in all the confusion and hurt and silence... He treated His disciples with gentleness after what they had been through, and He would be a place of gentleness for me to run to.

So I rested, and began to smile.  Still injured, still carrying a bucketful of unshed tears and a box of packed up feelings, but knowing that God will be gentle with me and I can trust Him in the middle of all the incapabilities and failing and mistakes of people around me.

I was going to need that knowledge more than I knew in the week to come.

This day ended in peace with prayer, and I was glad I had come - even if no one could still see what I was carrying.  And I left more ready to face what was ahead.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Unexpected Treats

God always has those for us, doesn't He?  When we think we can't go on in silence forever, He has a special thing waiting for us.  This time it came in the unexpected visit with friends.

We had to go to visit someone while we were in this area, so we planned that visit.  It was a visit to one who is one of us, and we wondered how it would go, but it was a good time.  There were tears and long talks.  It was a time to be amazed at what God had done and to give thanks.

But then from there, we went to visit someone I had no idea would be in this area of the world!  I had met him as a five year old boy on a totally different continent, but now he was married and here!!  So we went to visit.  What a wonderful day!  We shared our lives, our work, and after lunch, we sat and my husband briefly told the story.  It was a relief to sit together, to tell the story, and to hear the emotions.  This time, not just the facts came out, but some emotion, and our new friends listened well.  It was an unexpected treat in the middle of a journey with so much enforced silence to even be able to share the little we could in the two hours we spent with them!  We left refreshed and feeling loved.

An unexpected blessing.  This was a child who I had cared for and taught.  He smiled when he saw me and said, "I honestly could not remember what you looked like, but I did remember what you taught us.  I remembered this one song you taught us, too, and we sang it for years!"  Then he began to sing for me,

Did you ever talk to God above?
Tell Him that you need a friend to love.
Pray in Jesus’ name believing
that God answers prayer.

Have you told Him all your cares and woes?
Ev’ry tiny little fear He knows.
You can know He’ll always hear
And He will answer prayer.

You can whisper in a crowd to Him.
You can cry when you’re alone to Him.
You don’t have to pray out loud to Him;
He knows your thoughts.

On a lofty mountain peak, He’s there.
In a meadow by a stream, He’s there.
Anywhere on earth you go,
He’s been there from the start.

Find the answer in His Word; it’s true.
You’ll be strong because He walks with you.
By His faithfulness He’ll change you, too.
God answers prayer.

The very fact that I could teach them a song is a miracle in itself, since this is also the kid who looked up at me when I was trying to sing the ABC's to him and said, "Miss Ellie, I know that song... but to a different tune."!  Yeah, thanks kid!
But as we drove that day and as I traveled the next, that song stuck in my head... one I used to teach children, and one I needed to hear then.  Over and over it played in my head for the next several days, quietly calming me.

An unexpected treat.

Learning to Listen

We spent a few days with family.  The days were filled with shopping, discussions over what to buy, what to cook, what to eat, and where to go on holiday.  If we weren't talking about that, we talked about what we bought, what we cooked, what we ate, and where we went on holiday.  All in two different languages that I had to struggle to keep up in!  Still it was good to be there - to sit with them, to let them see us.

And here, I began to sleep.  My sleep was still filled with nightmares, and I woke often with my heart thudding in my chest, but I would drift back into sleep again.  I covered myself with heavy blankets which kept me warm and gave me a sense of security and slept.  I slept at least ten hours every night and napped in the day.  That was a welcome break.

During the whole time, the event was rarely mentioned.  Once there was a fight about it.... which saddened me.  People fighting because they had strong emotions and needed to be heard, but without being heard, they began to yell at each other.  So quietly, over the next few days, I tried to listen to the few I could.  My sister-in-law was furious, but when I got her alone and acknowledged that she had been terrified, she began to cry.  She told me how frightened she had felt and now how that fear carried over into all sorts of things... what if she had an accident on the road and her baby was killed?  What if they got some terrible disease?  These things happen like lightening striking, and what can you do?!

How do you answer someone who has no God?  She no hope, nothing.  I shared with her again how we prayed and God answered, and told her I will pray for her.  Then I asked her about her friend's baby - the one that looked like it would be completely brain damaged because of the trauma at birth.  Her face brightened and she shook her head in confusion as she said, "He is actually doing well!  It is amazing, but he is making eye contact and holding up his head and eating like any normal baby.  I mean, he may still have some learning problems in school, but he seems pretty normal!"  My heart did a little dance inside me (Thank-you God!) and I told her I had asked my friends to pray and we had been praying for this little boy.

That was all we had together - just a few minutes in the kitchen stirring pots, but it was something.

I had a few minutes with my mother-in-law.  Sitting drinking coffee while others shopped, I yawned.  She smiled and asked if I was tired.  I said that I was - that all the stress the last weeks has made me tired.  She shuddered and said it was hard for her, too.  That she couldn't eat for days when she found out and was so worried.  We sat quietly and drank coffee together.  After a silence, I told her that we can thank God that they are safe.  She agreed.  Then she smiled at me and said, "You should come again to visit.  Just come alone sometime and spend a week here with me."  I told her that it sounded wonderful, and maybe I would bring my daughter so we can just have a "girl's time".  I hope to be able to do that next year.

Connecting in small moments with them.  Hearing their stress.  That was what made that time special.  Being able to tell the few, "I see you."

I was also thankful for the hours of sleep I got.  Sleep, food, and more sleep.  With no way to unpack my emotions over the next month or so, I began to sleep a lot.  I still tire easily today and sleep more than I normally would.

But, endless shopping, partying, crowds, and discussions on what to buy or cook tired me out.  When it came time to go home, there were two ways for me to go.  One was to go from here and the other was to return to where we had come from to go from there.  My husband had to leave from here.  It was the way his ticket worked.  But I had a choice.

I chose to go back.  It would mean one more afternoon with my friends - the other ones who had gone through this with us.  It would also mean a few hours of a quiet trip all alone to where they were.  Right then, I would love a few hours of solitude!  So I said goodbye to the family and left early in the morning.

I carried only my small backpack.  I love traveling light, and smile when I see others struggling with huge suitcases... oh, I've done it, too, on moves; but unless I am moving, I travel very light!  Life is so easy without baggage!  But I was still carrying invisible baggage - my bucketful of unshed tears and my box of packed up emotions.

The quiet ride was a chance to rest from holding this heavy load and trying to smile.  At least alone, I could set them down by my feet and stare out the windows in quiet thought.

Packing Up

I want to finish this story - to finally say it somewhere, and then be able to pack it away again.... said, felt, thought through, and filed away.  Now, if I could only organize my photos, too, while I am in the mood for sorting and filing away properly!  Half of them are all still stored in boxes in a mess - oh, they are carefully hidden under my table beside my bed with a pretty tablecloth over the table so no one knows they are there.... no one except me!

Packed up in boxes... my photos, my life, my "special things", and at times my emotions...

Sunday morning dawned and it was time to begin packing.  Just as we gathered our clothes and stuff and began to put them in our suitcase early that morning, I also began to pack up my feelings.... all that had happened and that I felt during this whole crisis situation, unceremoniously dumped into boxes... ready to be hidden under a pretty tablecloth.  Maybe one day, I would get around to sorting them out...

But that morning, I checked my e-mail.  Four comments from my blog and two letters from friends.  One was from a friend who knows what is going on, who has known me for years... Reading through her letter, tears began to fall.  It was as if she had reached right through the computer and gave me a hug and held me.

To be seen.  Likely one of the most beautiful of words.  To be seen.  Not to be invisible.  To have someone say, "I am ready to listen.  I see you."  The words she used - "I know you and your husband must have taken a battering." I smiled - someone had given my feelings words, validating me, what I went through.  Words I could see, visualize, hold on to, describe with...  A battering.  Yes, that is it!

Six letters that brought a smile to my face and began to warm me up from the paralyzing cold of silence.

And one letter - and answer to the one I had written yesterday.  To be honest, I had really expected a "oops! I didn't think about the time and what your days had been like.  I'm sorry."  Then we would have gone on in the relationship... would have just been a reminder to check your time zones and to allow family time.  But it wasn't.  It was a letter that was really offended - "What did I do wrong?  There was absolutely nothing wrong with what I did!"  Wrong?  maybe not - debatable... Insensitive? yes, definitely!  The letter shocked me.  Stunned me.  Not at all the response I expected.  Not even close.

But a six to one ratio is pretty good, and I went to church feeling loved and cared for for the first time in many days.  Feeling bewildered by the one response... angry - again our "use" is valued much more than our "being" by this person.  But generally happy... so loved especially by this one who wrote in!

Church was great.  Thinking back to a week before when I stood with my kids and sang thinking we might never see their daddy and now I sat between these two.  Couldn't sing today since it was in a language that I don't know well enough to sing - but I do know well enough to know what is being sung.  So we stood and smiled.  Happy to be together.  To look to either side of me and shake my head in the sheer wonder of all that went on since last week.

I tried to follow the sermon, but got tired.  My mind really wasn't in it, so I began to write.  The anger from the one letter that morning came in my mind.  I turned the situation over and over in my mind.  It was so not right.  On many fronts it was so not right.  Why was it not a simple thing for this person to understand that it was insensitive to insist on phoning (again!) at almost midnight our first night together?  A simple, "I'm sorry.  I didn't think about what you needed right then." would have been all that was needed to fix it.  I wrinkled my forehead in total confusion - why was he so adamant about defending that?  It rubbed the hurt in.  It was not enough to do it - but to insist it was right was baffling!

But, in the end, it comes back to the basics.  God loves this man - even with his faults.  Just like He loves me even with mine.  I picked up my journal and began to write:

I'm upset, hurt, angry.  This man's insensitivity to common decency hurts me.

But in the middle of all that, there is an ache.  Besides living my life as one of many of God's children, I live my life in front of God.  He is not pleased when His children fight.  Even though I have  valid case, even though he did wrong, even though he is so blind that he ain't got a clue what he did, what he stole from me.... I still live my life in front of God.  God still calls to me, "Child?"


"Child, you know I love him."

I know, but he hurt me!  He hurt me when I was hurt.  He stole from me what can not be given back, a precious thing and broke it.

"I know."

And it hurts!

"I know.  But I love him."

But I don't want to!"

Gently, but firmly, "He is mine, and I love him."

My hear roars within me, "No!  Don't make me do this!"  But God sits quietly.  Waiting.

Then, quieter, "Ah, God, no.  Please don't ask this, not now.  You see what he did.  Don't ask me.  Heal my heart first; I'm hurting.  I need You."  But God sits quietly waiting.

I want to cry, to settle down and cry at what God asks of me.  Even harder to give forgiveness where it is not asked, where even there is no awareness of wrongdoing.  But God sits quietly.  We've walked this path before, and He knows I know the way.

So I have a choice.  As a crying child of a Father with a foolish and ignorant sibling who has no idea of the value of what he broke, I sob and throw myself on my Father knowing that He knows how precious it was to me.  And he destroyed it, and he doesn't care one bit!  Ah, God, if only he knew and cared a little about what he did, it would make the forgiveness more easy.  I want to be able to stand and give a victim impact statement.  But God sits quietly.

So I chose to turn my eyes up.  No choice because I value my Father's approval most.  The gaping hole still raw, but I turn my eyes up.  Ok, ok, I will chose.

(It will be a choice, not a feeling, but a choice of will... forgiveness often is.)

So I chose to forgive him for his stupid and careless act of stealing that evening, of ruining the peace and joy.  I chose to do this knowing full well that he doesn't know or care about what he has done, feels no remorse or compassion at all.  Choosing to forgive does not mean that I have surrendered my rights to set limits or to lodge a complaint aimed at correction of behavior.  These I will still do!  But I chose to forgive - to put down the right to demand payment and hold grudges.  Choosing to accept that God loves him as He loves me, despite his faults.  It is not an acceptance of those faults, but a setting down of my anger for an unjust offense and choosing to accept that God loves him.

I am a mother of a few children.  I often am the one to sit and try to negotiate conflicts - hearing the pain, hearing the protests, working towards a solution.  I often try to look at situations from the point of view as God being the Father of us all.  We are siblings, brothers and sisters...  Sometimes when my children are really offended and can't calm down their anger, after I listen to their pain, I ask them, "Well, he did do something wrong, and I understand that you are hurt.  What do you think we should do to him because he hurt you?  Should we kill him?"  Their eyes widen and often they giggle, and they exclaim, "no!".  So I smile and say, "Then your other option is to forgive them."  There is no in-between.  It is either hate which kills or love which forgives and chooses to love and give grace.  Put that way, so far, my kids have always opted to forgive!  I don't see myself as having any other option, either.

But then I turn to the offender privately, away from the offended, and talk about what they did.  Time for correction, for seeing what effect his actions had on his brother.  Time for correction and repentance.  Why do I rarely do that in front of the offended?  It isn't helpful, and it often feeds the anger of the offended.  In the same way, I need to let God, the Father, do His correcting of His son privately.  I need to trust that He will do it.

Forgiveness - involves both a setting down of the right to hold anger and the relinquishing the correction needed into the hands of One who is much more capable of it than I am.  It is not that I am not worth standing up for.  It is that there is someone much more capable of doing that than I am.  Handing over the offense into His hands.  This means learning to trust that He will - a struggle for some of us.

So, with that settled, the day was brighter.  I had got through the crisis by knowing what to carry and what to delegate - this was something to delegate to God!  But that afternoon, I responded to the letter with an apology for my tone in the first one.  I said that while I still stand by what I said, I apologize for how I said it.  I should have been gentler.  He was also under stress, and I did not make allowance for that.  He was close to my husband also, and this event must have also been hard for him, so I should have been gentle and remembered he was under stress, too.  I never heard back from him after that letter.

I reread the good letters, and wrote a letter back to my friend.  Just having her there made me feel less alone, less invisible.

But the day was a day for packing.  We packed up our suitcases, and I packed up my emotions - as unsorted, unspoken, and unfelt as they were, and shut the lid on their box.  It was time to go see family.

So we did.  We met the family at a relative's and spent the day eating, laughing, dancing, and listening to music.  With my emotions mostly packed up, I did well.  I smiled, talked, smiled some more, respected my elders appropriately, negotiated the rocky ground of a large family get-together well.  Pleasing everyone.

The problem is that I am not so good at packing up my emotions as I used to be.  And they rumbled and strained at the lid of their box, making their presence known.  When it was too much, I would sneak away briefly from the crowd... needing the facilities, needing some fresh air because it was too hot, wanting to help with dishes... all these are good excuses for a few minutes of quietness.