When we were going through our interviews for Wycliffe, one of the things we talked about was flexibility. The PA asked me about times in my life things haven’t gone the way I’ve planned, and mentioned that flexibility is one of the most important characteristics a missionary can have.
Over the past ten years that David and I have been together, we have gone through some major life adjustments that required flexibility. We moved about every six months the first several years of our marriage, changed jobs several times, started over in new churches and new friendships. I didn’t think I was being arrogant, but I felt like I knew a fair amount about what it means to be flexible.
The last week has shown me I still have some learning to do.
David’s grandfather passed away Sunday. We knew Pawpaw was in poor health, but he went from a projected six months or year, to passing away two weeks after the last time he went to church. Just a month after being moved to hospice care. It was a shock to lose him so suddenly, although I am thankful for his sake that he didn’t linger through a long, slow deterioration.
Monday I wrote a post on my other blog honoring Pawpaw, trying to sort through my feelings, David went to work, and we started getting ready for the 6 hour drive each way that we would make Tuesday to attend Pawpaw’s funeral two states away. But around 3:30 in the afternoon, while running in her room, our eight year old Makaylah slipped on a book and broke both her right tibia and fibula, the bones in her lower leg. David rushed home from work, and instead of getting ready for a trip, he spent the evening in urgent care and the ER, watching our daughter in some of the worst pain she’s ever experienced.
In the midst of all of that, David’s brother Drew and his wife welcomed their daughter Lillian Cara into their arms. At 41 weeks and 4 days of gestation, we were all getting anxious to meet her! But David’s parents were on their way to Georgia to prepare for the funeral, I was at home without a vehicle taking care of our youngest three, and David was at the ER. This was not how any of us envisioned her birth going, and it was so hard not getting to be there with them as they welcomed her.
Tuesday we spent taking Makaylah to the orthopedist and then to pre-op. Praise God her leg did not need surgery (a possibility that had been discussed at both urgent care and the ER), but because of her age and the severity of the break, the doctor didn’t want to cast it with her awake. Getting in and out of the van for all of these appointments was excruciatingly painful for Makaylah. David and I felt torn in so many directions. Heartbroken watching our daughter suffer, and so conscious of the fact that we were missing the celebration of Pawpaw’s life, and the chance to say good-bye to him in that way. He was laid to rest with full military honors, and when my mother-in-law gave each of the kids a shell from the 21 gun salute after she got back in town late that night, and told us about the flag being presented to David’s brother (who is also a veteran, has served in the Marines, and is currently in the Army) I broke down in tears. I hate that our family didn’t get to be there.
Wednesday we took Makaylah to the hospital to get her cast put on, and then David went to work. I was able to sneak in a quick visit with Lillian that night after the kids went to bed, which I was so thankful for. Wednesday was also our son Isaiah’s fourth birthday, but the day was full of so many other things we barely had a chance to acknowledge it.
We set Isaiah’s party for Friday night, and Friday morning my mother-in-law came to sit with the kids while I went to get his presents and the things for his party. While I was shopping, I got a text about another family crisis. It turned out okay, but left us all very shaken. David sent me a text with the comment, “What else can possibly go wrong this week?” I got home and unloaded my birthday things, and my mother-in-law leaned in to kiss Nehemiah goodbye. She made the comment that he was burning up, and we checked his temperature. Sure enough, he was running a fever.
We decided to go through with Isaiah’s party, because who knew when things would be calmer! We had a great celebration, although we were sad that Drew and his family couldn’t make it (newborns and fevers don’t mix!).
Last night Nehemiah’s fever soared up and stayed up all night, so I took him in to the doctor today, which involved waiting for over two hours, and seeing my least favorite doctor in the entire practice. I haven’t run into him in three years, but it seemed only fitting that I would see him this week! And Nehemiah has strep, so we are just praying that it won’t make the rounds of all of us.
That’s what this week has looked like. It has felt like an overwhelming fire. I haven’t gotten anywhere close to a decent night of sleep all week because I am caring for Makaylah at night, and both boys have woken up more because of everything. People in pain aren’t always the nicest (who knew? lol), and Makaylah’s full-leg cast makes caring for her very physically demanding. Sophia and Isaiah are reacting to all the stress of the week, and have been even wilder than normal, and have also fought with each other, me, and David almost constantly. David is working his full-time job, plus has a large side project with a looming deadline. He is also trying to find time to spend with his brother Vernon who is in town from the other side of the country. He still hasn’t had a chance to meet our niece.
I’ve been trying to articulate to myself why this week has been so hard. Beyond all the physical, mental, and financial stresses, there has been another layer to it that has made me want to stomp my feet with the unfairness of it. I think what it comes down to is that I felt like I had counted the cost of moving our family overseas. We desperately want to help the mission of Bible translation. I am overjoyed at the opportunity to be a part of that. But I recognize that it means losing certain things. I had recognized that Pawpaw could pass away after we left the country, and us be unable to return for the funeral. I know that we could lose other people. That there will be baby’s born that we don’t get to hold until they are toddlers or preschoolers. I had accepted that. But to be missing those things now, when we haven’t left yet? In light of all the things we will be missing? It just feels so, so wrong.
But God has slowly been chipping away at me this week. At my self-assurance. At my independence. At my closed hands that try to grasp tightly to control – especially of the things and people I love. He’s reminded me that my life is His. Every part of it, for His glory. If He is most glorified by the circumstances of this past week, who am I to argue with the God of creation? Here in the states, or in Papua New Guinea, I need to bend with the direction of His wind.
I don’t want to sound like I have it all together. I have not exemplified perfect Christ-likeness this week. I have snapped at David. I have yelled at my kids. I have cried tears of frustration and exhaustion.
But I pray that through it all I have learned to lean on Him more. That I have learned better how to be flexible, moldable, bendable in the hands of God.