A year or so before we moved to the Philippines, I started having some anxiety symptoms, mind racing, constant stomach cramps, fatigue, and sadness, though at that time I didn't know that was what it was. After struggling for several months, I went to see our family doctor who is also a strong believer and good friend. He prescribed me a low dose of anxiety meds that helped with my symptoms and I have been on it for the past 7 years.
Three weeks after moving to the Philippines, my mom suffered a complete mental, emotional, and physical breakdown. Only by God's grace was I able to commit myself to being where I was, knowing that my dad and brother were doing everything they could to take care of her. After over a year. they were finally able to get her stabilized and she is doing well to this day. That was a hard and dark year that I am glad is over. Being a parent to your parent and quoting scripture and truth over the phone to your crying, sick Mom who is on the other side of the world is not easy.
After being in the Philippines for a year and a half, right after moving to Palawan, I found out that I was pregnant for the fourth time, having miscarried a baby in between our kids. When I went to the doctor for the first time around 10 weeks, I was only measuring 6 weeks, and realized that something was wrong. After finally finding a doctor who didn't just want to to a D&C and "take care of it", I was told that I had a "non embryonic" pregnancy- all the signs, including morning sickness, weight gain, and no periods, but no baby. I decided to just let my body deal with it on its own and at almost 20 weeks, it did. I am not sure why, but that experience left my body a physical wreck. I felt like I dealt with it well emotionally, but ever since then, my body has been different. I have put on a considerable amount of weight since then and have not been able to lose it, no matter how hard I have tried.
Most of you who have read my blog or know me also know that I have a pretty crazy family. 15 brothers and sisters. Since being in the Philippines, my parents have gone through more than any two people can handle with a bunch of my siblings. Every time they call, I wonder which one it is this time that is in jail, has lost a job, or has a new child out of wedlock. I wondered how much more my parents could take and part of me wanted to go scream and shake my siblings into reality. It got to the point that whenever I would hear whatever the latest scandal was, I could actually feel myself getting calloused and almost like I didn't care. I don't know if that was just my way of handling it or what.
The life of a missionary is exciting. We get to travel the world and see new places and cultures. But when you don't like change and you are a planner/list maker type of person, the exciting and new wears off kind of fast. In the almost seven years we have been on the field, we have lived on 3 different islands & flown across the world 10 times. There have been days when I literally couldn't plan my week, let alone my day, because I had no idea what we were doing. Months of uncertainty about if we are moving, where we are moving, how we are moving, to here, to there, flight program closed, flight program open...I could go on. It's been a stretch for me.
And all of this bring me to recent events (and my point, promise!)-
We are nearing the 4 month mark of living on our new island, Mindanao. We packed up and moved all of our belongings and car from Palawan and said goodbye to all our friends there. The transition has gone smoothly and well for us- it helps when your close friends and coworkers live a couple blocks away. I have really been struggling with my weight and after some prayer, Josh and I decided that I would wean myself off of my anxiety meds to see if that would help. Right at about a month of being completely off, things were going pretty well with none of the symptoms coming back. About three weeks ago, we went as a family to a big city about 4 hours away to await the helicopter's arrival. Josh and our coworker, Brian, would be assembling it and getting it ready to fly. We waited a week before it was finally released and the guys could start working. It felt like we were sitting on a time bomb, like literally waiting on pins and needles for the phone call that it was released. It was a tad trying on the patience. While in the city, we stayed at a small guesthouse. It was during that week when I really started to feel the pressure building up inside me. We were having daily power outages for 4-8 hours and no water during the day. It was really hot and humid. We had to share our kitchen and space and I was not a happy camper. (My next post is about complaining.) I realized that I was having withdrawal symptoms from the meds. I also realized that I did not like myself. I didn't like the way I looked, the way I felt, or the way I was acting. My husband told me that because I didn't myself, I assumed he didn't either and had seriously pulled away from him emotionally and physically.
Over the past two weeks, I have done some serious soul searching. I realized that the anxiety meds were God's way of healing me from anxiety and helping me through the past few years, but they also had kept me from dealing with loss and sorrow. I could count a handful of times that I have cried in the last 7 years. I don't think it was all the meds because I also know that I just didn't want to deal with my feelings of loss, anger, or sadness at those times. I stuffed it because it was easier. So I began to cry out to the Lord to teach me how to deal- how to grieve.
I think I have cried at least twice every single day in the last 10 days. Things will just hit me. My mom. My siblings. All the goodbyes. Being so far away from people I love. How I have treated Josh or my kids. Change. And its been beautiful. A hard beautiful. And it has also shown me how God has used all of these things to change me and show me how awesome He is.
He healed my Mom without me! He took care of her and taught me how to trust Him with those I love. Sometimes I am afraid that something will happen to someone in my family when I'm so far away- and He reminds me, "Something did happen. And I proved myself trustworthy. You still doubt me?"
He used the weird pregnancy experience to teach me how to trust Him with my own health in a foreign country and to help me to learn to be content with how many children He gave. (I always wanted at least 6.)
He has used my crazy family to teach me unconditional love and that its only by His grace that I am not the one in jail. And that sometimes love does not look like we think it does. I pray for my siblings everyday and I completely trust that the Lord will bring them back to Himself.
All of the moving and change has taught me that God has a plan, even when I don't and I can't see His. He has taught me that I am not entitled to or do I deserve anything that I have. It is all a gift. From having hot water for a shower to what kind of house I live in or knowing where I am going to live.
Healing and learning to "deal" often comes through grieving. You can grieve and trust our faithful Father at the same time.
And all this to say, He is faithful. He shines brightest in the darkest places, in the hard places.