Somehow, even though I should have felt better after that conversation at lunch, I didn't. I was still restless and irritated. Feeling the weight again of that bucket of tears that I had bottled up during the week of recovery where no one listened and I was left alone to carry my emotions. When I need to cry and I can't, I get really, really irritated, and I start pushing all people away. I need to be held, to be heard, and I had been told to be quiet, told I had done things wrong, left alone, and then just got caught up in all the busyness of other people's trauma, legitimately! but still being busy with that did not heal the unhealed wounds. It just set them aside for a later date.
I left the meetings because I wasn't really needed there and went to a location that had been home to me for a few years. There I had friends and planned to just rest and walk and have a few days break. I arrived just in time for a prayer meeting- these people believe in prayer! I shared one request for someone else, something urgent. After the meeting, a young woman who I did not know came over, sat behind me, leaned forward and wrapped her arms around me as I rested my head on the chair. She just held me and prayed and then just held me while we talked. I began to cry and told her just of the events of the last year - all the trauma one after the other and how we are tired. It isn't easy, and even though I haven't lost faith in God, I don't have that happy-go-lucky assurance that "everything will be fine". I grew up as an MK. I know that God does not always keep harm from us. And the problem is that when bad things happen to people we love, IT HURTS!
She just held me. She held me and talked and listened. I began to relax.
The next day, I met a good friend of ours who had been through a severe illness which left him incapacitated. We talked - both of us glad to see each other for the first time, both of us having prayed often for each other. But then we began to talk about the real side of traumatic experiences... about the pressure from others to "be fine", to "be thankful", to.... It isn't that we aren't. It is just that these events changed us in a dramatic way, and it is hard to cope with that change. It happened without our permission or agreement. It happened suddenly. Even though for both of us, there were good endings (he is getting better), it has been TOUGH! And it is not always easy in a Christian setting to say that. People aren't listening for that. There are days we are just depressed - when it looks like we should be happy. Perhaps it is just that we both deal with crisis well at the time, but need to process it later. Perhaps it is a normal thing - just one people watching us aren't ready to hear. I don't know what it is, but that meeting was good for both of us. To affirm our love for each other, our prayers and our joy in seeing God answer prayers, and also to talk honestly about what going through a crisis has been like for both of our families. To feel normal about still dealing with the lingering after- effects.
The next day, I was eating lunch when an older friend walked in and stole my lunch out from under my nose. she had walked into a class I had been roped into teaching at the last minute and heard about some of the events of the last year. She said, "go change, we're going out for lunch!" I had been playing volleyball and was all sweaty and dusty! I am still a MK, and can shower and be presentable in less than five minutes! We went out to a quiet place to eat, ordered food, and she sat back and said, "So, TALK!"
Ah.... why can't we do that more often?! I shared some of our struggles - of things going on in the family, of work, of fighting through the PTSD, of the kids,.... we talked. She said, "I should have taken you to talk when I saw you over there after the crisis, but we assumed because everything turned out ok, that you would be ok." A common perception, I think. It was good to be able to talk to her and to encourage her to do exactly what she was doing now with other missionaries when she meets them. She also thanked me for telling her students to be real. I had taken a few minutes to sit down and tell them the answer to, "If I could talk to myself back where you are now and tell myself what looking back now I wish I had known, it would be....."
We talked and ate and drank glasses and glasses of tea and kept talking. She was able to hash out with me the fine line between forgiveness of what went wrong and the need to advocate for change. Both are important, and yet neither can be done well without the other. I have admired this woman and her wisdom since I was a teen, and to have those hours with her undivided attention were wonderful. Also knowing I have her prayers for what I am struggling through was huge.
That evening, I invited myself over to another house where I used to babysit as a teen. The little newborn who spent his first time away from his mom vigorously sucking on the tip of my finger now towers above me. His sister who used to stand in her crib shooting me disapproving looks as I rocked her brother biked home from her job as a chef and sat down to eat her mom's cookies and drink coffee with me late that evening. We laughed and cried and curled up and ate chocolate together. Never underestimate the ministry of eating chocolate together late at night!
The next morning, I stopped in at one last house - another good friend who happens right now to be the busy mother of many kids. We ate day old donuts and drank more coffee and talked. Here is a place, because I have lived here as a teen, and am known well, that I relax and can trust.
As I left my friend's house, she smiled at me and said, "Ellie, you are always such an encouragement to me. I know where you've come from and to see you now and see what God is doing... it encourages me never to give up on people." I smiled because she did know me. Then I grinned and said, "Well, it is because both God and I are too stubborn to give up!" She laughed and agreed that that was likely the truth.
I left comforted. Taken back in by people that are family to me, held, listened to, able to share the deeper struggles, had friends to eat chocolate with, played volleyball like I was 20 again, laughed, and heard.
Being there reminded me that no matter how much certain people had failed us, God had not failed us. He had people like these - who were intimately involved during the crisis, and who were able to comfort me and hear me later. These people are as close to a home as I will ever likely have - something consistent, stable, and available where I am known, but loved.
That side trip was a blessing of these meetings. I left there more whole than I had been in quite awhile.