I remember my first “merging” lesson with my driving instructor. I was on I-495 (the beltway) and it was rather busy. The instructor told me to merge. I think I literally held my breath and when I proceeded, I did it all wrong! She told me to get off the beltway! I was happy to do so, I think my heart was thumping so quickly it would beat out of my chest. Well, you can’t get away with living in the DC area and not learn how to merge well. Eventually merging became easy and second nature. Well, after barely driving in Belize and having no merging lanes for three and a half years, when I faced my first “merge” just two weeks ago it was an epic fail. Someone was merging on to the highway and I literally stopped my car as if there was a stop sign in the middle of a 70 mph highway. My mom was stunned and I was confused. What just happened? I had forgotten how to merge.
It is the same I think for some of us missionaries that return from the field. After FINALLY learning how to merge in a foreign country we are taken out of that country and put back into our “homeland”, only we have forgotten how to merge there, and it does not feel “homey”, it feels….weird. Here we are not really Belizean but not fully American anymore. Something has changed and now we must relearn how to merge, and we must learn how to do it, merging is important-it’s how traffic on a busy highway keeps flowing.
For almost four years of our lives we have been under a tremendous amount of stress, and within that stress, God has taught us some amazing things. We are not walking away unchanged. We are CHANGED from the inside out. Every heartache, tear, laughter, birth, disaster, triumph, disagreement, and understanding has been used by God to conform us more into His image. We will never be the same and we don’t want to. Imagine leaving the states one way but returning a different person. The way we navigated the USA before may not be the way we want to navigate it now, so we have to relearn some things.
We left as a couple with one 12 month old and we are returning as parents of three young children. We never really had an opportunity to be parents in the United States; MOPS, library reading time, taking the kids to the park, are ALL NEW. I find myself thinking, “What do I do? How do I act?” Then those thoughts sound so silly. I am an American in the USA! This is my culture. Even so, we have spent the last 3.5 years learning a new culture, learning how to say things in a different way, learning how to approach people differently than what we would in the USA, so we come home and you can see why we may feel disoriented at times. In some ways I feel we left as young adults and we have come back and graduated to just “Adults”. We survived a foreign country and lived to tell about it! Not to mention the fact that we kept three kids alive there as well! Ha!
On top of the old merging lanes that we have to relearn there is a new merging lane. Malachi. The only way I can adequately describe what is happening in my heart is this way: I see two people when I look at myself in regards to Malachi’s diagnosis. I see a confident woman who has to explain what is going on with him to almost everyone I meet. I see her calmly explaining his disability. I see her going from appointment to appointment, doing what she has to to get things done. But the other “me” is standing next to that confident woman and she is not strong or confident at all. She is doing what that confident woman really wants to do: sitting down, head buried in her hands, crying. Every time I speak of Malachi calmly, every time I see a “normal” baby, that is what I want to do and how I see myself… crying. Mostly because it is so overwhelming. I don’t mind talking about Malachi, and I do love seeing the other kids, but, this is where I am at right now. I am NOT hopeless, but I am still mourning and I don’t know when it will end. So I find myself not only “reentering” the USA, but also learning a new language and a new culture of having a disabled child.
What I know for sure is that my hope is in the Lord and that hope will not disappoint. We have witnessed so many miracles in Belize that know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord will take care of us. I know He will guard my heart in all these things I am feeling right now. I know He will continue to be with Evangeline and Ellis as they continue to adjust. I know things will get easier because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
We are so grateful to all those who are making our reentry and merging process much smoother. We ask for your continued prayers.