Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Going Back

“Do you want to go back?” The woman asked as she held one of my Mom’s peanut butter brownies in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. And she wasn’t even sweating.

Neither was I.

We were standing in my parents’ cozy family room on a cool Colorado summer evening, talking about our life and work in Indonesia, which felt really far away right then.

Just two months into a seven-month stay in the States, I was still getting used to the fact that I could put makeup on in the morning and it wouldn’t drip off my face in tropical sweat an hour later. And that I had choices of how to do my hair—curled, straightened, scrunched. Instead of the usual choice I had in Indonesia—frizzy.

I was getting used to pizza delivery and hubby’s availability to get up with the baby in the middle of the night and no fears of break-ins or airplane crashes or cobras.

And I was getting used to being honest about how exhausted I really was.

“Um, today? Do I want to go back? Maybe not today,” I said to the woman with a smile and a laugh to cover my almost-truthful answer.

I had just met this woman, after all, though she and her husband had been making donations to our work with MAF for the past few months. But maybe it was my dark eye circles from caring for still-jet-lagged kids all throughout the night, or maybe it was her own fears she’d admitted about ever doing what we’re doing. But most likely, it was the panic I knew I couldn’t keep out of my eyes.

She raised an eyebrow, looked me over and nodded. She knew.

No. I didn’t want to go back. All I wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. For a very long time.

Fast forward five months and many nights away by myself or with hubby with grandparents watching the kids, and many more of Mom’s cooking and convenience shopping and a baby who almost is sleeping through the night when he’s not sick or teething or moving to yet another house.  Fast forward to getting all my shots taken care of, and my teeth cleaned and fixed and my new stash of vitamins and bags packed with the items from my list. Fast forward to getting spoiled by friends giving us dinners out, vacations to rest, a chance to share, space to breathe.

And I'm ready. To go back. 

In a couple of weeks, we will board the plane and hope we have enough diapers and toys and clothes for the 20-something hour journey from the States to Japan to Singapore to Balikpapan to Tarakan in Indonesia. 

I’ve done the trip a few times before, the first time some nine years ago when I went to Indonesia sight-unseen, full of fears and dreams, ready for an adventure, but expecting a disaster.

I did it again five years ago with my first born baby boy—a year old at the time, and with a new set of mommy fears and my eyes much more wide open, but with the hopes that this time, I’d finally know what I’m doing.

You’d think it would get easier each time I go back to Indonesia, and in some ways it does. I know so much more than I did when I first went. I know how to drive on the other side of the world, how to trap a shrew, how to send my husband off to fly over the jungle without a fear in my heart.

I know how to be gracious when an Indonesian visitor arrives four hours late, and how to face down those mean dogs who bite at me on my morning run and how to use Skype to call all the way back to poison control in the States when a kid drinks something wrong.

But I also know other things.  That the goodbyes are always hard with things never said quite right. That I’m jealous that my sisters’ kids will grow up knowing each other while they’ll forget my name. That between running after my little kids and trying to figure out how to respond to endless needs around us, it will be hard to catch my breath until I return back to the States for a break…three-and-a-half years from now.

I know that this work is messy and the relationships can be hard and that my insecurities follow me to the other side of the world.  My husband who loves to save loves will spend many days disappointing people no matter how many times he says yes to that extra flight, that additional need. I know I’ll have bad attitudes about power outages.

I know that bad things could happen. That things will get taken. My kids will get sick and I’ll worry that it’s dengue fever.

People we love might die.

When I started this journey nine years ago, I only thought I wasn’t cut out for this. That I didn’t know what I was doing. That I would fail.

Now I know all that will happen.

My eyes are wide open and my thoughts are buzzing and my hands are shaking.

But I’ve learned some other things along the way. I know that things that cost a lot are worth a lot.

I know that relationships that rip your heart apart end up saving you in the end. I know that a country that both breaks my heart also fills my heart. I know I want adventure more than comfort zones, change more than same old same old, a life story of hope more a life sentence of paralyzing fear.

I know that living a life of purpose satisfies me more than the cute house with the white picket fence. 

I know that miracles happen in Borneo jungles and that sometimes that miracle is the change in my own heart.

And I’ve learned that though I am small and afraid and so very incapable, I am not alone.

So, I go back with things I know how to do and things I may never get right.  I go with preparations made and plans that will crumble in the face of reality. And I go my heart full of things I want and full of things I don’t.

But I go with Him. The Invisible whose hand in all of this is so very clear. The All-Powerful who is patient with my feet of clay. The Most-High who reaches down from heaven to hold my trembling fingers.

And so we go back and at the same time, move forward.


  1. I'm glad you are ready to go back Rebecca-and I'm even more glad you do not go alone, and even more glad that Someone has gone before you... will pray for these two weeks as you enjoy these last few days and special visits.... Hugging you! Holding you close in prayer!

  2. I can so relate! Getting ready to head back to Congo in 2 months. :)

  3. Hi, Anna! Wow, Congo! I hope and pray you have a very restful next couple of months. I hope you feel the freedom to say no when you need to. That's something that I've learned to do and is still hard for me. Anyway, thanks for posting!

  4. Hi, I am new to your page. Joy B. sent me. We served in Nicaragua in the Rain Forest when the first kids were little. Now that number 5 is on the way, our lives are so different. I feel the "loss" that comes with not living overseas sometimes. That "extra grace" is not with us and it seems we don't belong here in the in-between some times. Blessings in your life journey. The LORD is with you. always.

  5. My husband reminded me of this blog post, so I just re-read it. We've been in the US for a month now, and I am totally at the
    "All I wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. For a very long time" point. I hope and trust that I'll eventually want to go back, like you did. I read your post on surviving transitions too. Sometimes I wish that I was just naturally not afraid and didn't need so much courage to do each little thing! Blessings to you...thanks for sharing your heart on your blog.


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