I was having serious second thoughts.
We were flying on a small airplane through breath-taking, snow-capped into the Alaskan bush where we used to live.
My second thoughts were not about our decision to visit our favorite bush community of Port Alsworth when we still couldn’t think straight from jet lag. Not about the lack of warm winter clothes I’d packed for our May, but still-freezing-cold trip to Alaska. Not about going on furlough after a four-year term in Indonesia.
Instead, I was having second thoughts about doing this at all. This overseas thing. This working as an MAF family in Indonesia with our three kids. This living-on-the-other-side-of-the-world from all the things that used to be familiar that now sometimes feels foreign.
Don’t get me wrong. I love our work. I love our home in Indonesia. I love living a life of purpose and sacrifice and service. I love our friends there. I love seeing God do His divine best in and through our human mess.
But every once in a while, I lose my nerve. I start to think that we’re crazy doing this. That this was all a bad idea.
Like when I’ve hardly slept in three days as we traveled from Indonesia through Korea to the lower 48 and then up to Alaska. With a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and a baby. Like when I don’t feel prepared, despite the fact that I’ve been working on a miles-long list of furlough-prep stuff for months.
Like when I forget what it’s like to live in America and still don’t have Asian life completely figured out, but am asking myself and my family to straddle both without making a scene in the airport security line.
Like when we’re leaving for furlough when the needs are great and the workers are few.
And like when I have to swing from giving, giving, giving to receiving, and accepting and needing. Which, at that point, felt harder than having not much electricity, too many shrews, and what felt like endless stress of the past few months.
There’s something about being on the receiving end that is humbling and makes me feel vulnerable and is just plain hard to accept.
From the moment we arrived in Port Alsworth, our friends started giving to us. Things we hadn’t used or tasted in years. Snuggly winter clothes. Cheetos. Mexican food with cheesy nacho sauce, a respite in a beautiful apartment in a gorgeous, quiet part of the world.
All this goodness kept coming as we traveled to Idaho, then Colorado, then Texas, even as I was adjusting from the sparseness that has become my life overseas, as a mom of young kids.
After an especially hard year in Indonesia, I’ve gotten used to things going wrong. To being disappointed. To having no more than a few minutes to myself each day. To getting hardly any sleep due to pregnancy, a newborn, roosters, calls-to-prayer, traffic that never stops, off-key karaoke from our neighborhood eatery, fighting cats, and power outages that turn into long, sticky nights.
And I’ve gotten used to giving more than I thought I even had and watching it still not be enough.
And as we flew into Alaska, with the sweat barely dried from our time in Indonesia, I thought that’s how it would continue. I thought we’d freeze in our too-thin jackets. I thought we wouldn’t have any food to eat until I ordered it from town to make it on another airplane that would arrive who-knows-when.
And to be completely honest, I thought people would have forgotten who we were. After all, it’s been a particularly long four years.
But even as I knew that a burnout meltdown was threatening to break through my try-hard smile, the gifts kept coming.
I pried open my fatigued, but clenched-tight-to-keep-from-falling hands to receive gift cards for treats from special friends, envelopes filled with others’ generosity, delicious meals, encouraging conversations, toys for my kids, a birthday party for my son, a week at a cabin in the Idaho mountains, offers of help and baby-sitting, free or cheap places to live. On and on the list goes with a zillion other acts of kindness.
And most of all, I had to accept the truth that comes with those gifts.The truth that it’s OK to receive. That I’m not the only one giving. That it’s OK to say that I need, too. That I’m not alone. That I have friends who won't let me disappear no matter how far away I live or how rarely they see me.
And the funny thing is, this truth has been there all along while I’ve lived in Indonesia…in the prayers and the giving and the friendship that spans the miles and the friends who live next door and in the God who loves to bless. I just couldn’t always see it with all that sweat blurring my vision.
And even though I look forward to returning to the life of giving in Indonesia in a few months, I'm learning it’s OK to spend a season healing, recovering, resting, and letting God use others to fill me up.
So, thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of His abundance, grace and crazy, crazy love.