the song we’ll first dance to as husband and wife

love I made it mine
I made it small I made it blind
I followed hard only to find
it wasn’t love
it wasn’t love

love of songs and pen
oh love of movie endings
takes out the break
leaves out the bend
misses love

love not of you 
love not of me
come hold us up
come set us free
not as we know it
but as it can be

love’s reality 
is not a passing bravery
it holds out hope beyond what’s seen
the hope of love

love not of you 
love not of me
come hold us up
come set us free
not as we know it
but as it can be

[‘Love‘, Sara Groves]

circles

I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
 
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
-Rilke

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

 

-Bertrand Russell

things I have been doing, maybe

Learning to make the space for oneself, for time to sit and really think, there in the quiet.  Making space to breath and rest when the panic of perceived failure encroaches.  Learning to see God, even when I don’t exactly want to or feel like I deserve to do so.  Fighting through the silences to put  fear into words, when that is all there is to be voiced in my prayers.  Sitting and letting the words flow until tears follow, filling the silence.

Each time I begin to think through the story of my jman days in order to finish this public retelling, the nightmares return — the torment and resistance.  There’s too much pain and rawness yet; it’s so bound up with my current struggle to find a place in the Evangelical world, in these churches filled often with so many self-satisfied non-seekers.  I am the greatest of these.

I’ll pick up the threads soon, I hope.  No more promising timelines.  I’ll leave you with two photos, though.  The first is me sitting in the airport in Istanbul at the very end of March.  The second is several months later, after moving out to Washington and beginning to rebuild.  My eyes had grown dead from 8 months of endless conflict and anguish; they are rekindled.

 

 

iii

I pick up the threads of my story as two girls step off a plane into a strange, deserted airport on the other side of the world, in the dead of the night. The first few days were a blur of being introduced to strangers, eating strange new foods, moving into the barren dorm room that would be home for the foreseeable future, and registering for classes. We had only three brief weeks before our supervisors were to head back to the states for a fairly long leave, and orientation was a mad rush of meetings between classes.

I must skip back a few months here, and tell you about the boy. In June of last year, I used up my final weeks of vacation leftover from the job I was leaving to do something I long dreamed of — visit the Pacific Northwest. I had good friends here, and it promised to be a time of encouragement and respite from the emotional goodbyes already in progress back in Kansas City. The thing I least expected happened — for the first time in my life, I fell for someone at first sight. We started talking over the internet a bit, which turned into often, which turned into a question, just as I left for training. “Should we try?” “Okay, we’ll give it a shot.  You’re out of your mind.”  So was I. Chalk it up to the intense emotional turmoil of saying a slow farewell to everything I’d known, the closest, most loving community I’d ever been a part of, and thought I would not be seeing again for 2 whole years. So after two months training in Virginia, despite all odds, through late night emails and skype chats, we felt like this thing needed a fair chance. It was something we’d never experienced before with anyone else. He flew out to Kansas City for three golden days; met my family and friends. Then we said goodbye.  

Coming back to my story — I was just beginning to figure out what to do with this unexpected turn of events when I arrived in that distant city that would be my new home. I only knew that, though my partner already knew about the boy, I needed to communicate the situation to my supervisor and submit to his guidance. [Moving right past the creepy patriarchal weirdness of this, which will be a blog post for another day.] So a week into our orientation, I mustered my courage and told my supervisor and his wife everything about the relationship. Silent uproar. This despite the Board’s clearly-stated policy allowing correspondence with members of the opposite sex during employment, the apparent subtext of which was “this is open to very wide interpretation at the whim of one’s supervisor”. Oh.

I’ve been on the field less than two weeks and now I’m already the Problem Journeyman. The one they’re considering sending home already, for not understanding all the nuances of the 300-some page manual of protocols I’d been given. Believe me, I agonized over this choice. As the disapproval unfolded, I begged the Father for guidance and clarity. My journal was filled with verses, with statements that I was willing to give up whatever I needed to and submit to the authority I’d been placed under, even if it meant not talking to the one I loved for 22 more months. [ ‘But would the organization really require that?’] It was acute mental anguish. In the end, though, I was willing to do whatever was required of my by the Board, so strongly did I believe God had called me to that place at that time.

[part iv coming shortly. thanks for bearing with me in this narrative. I miss and love each of you.]

ii

I feel that I ought to offer a sort of disclaimer; that I do not take the telling of these things lightly.  I am fully aware of the effects they might have on the other people involved if told poorly, with an attitude of blame-shifting or seeking justification.  That is not at all what I desire.  I hope you can see a desire for transparency in these posts, not a compulsion to defend myself.  I’m a flawed, weak, stumbling person, being sanctified bit by bit through the work of the Spirit, ministering understanding and grace and love to me.    So I write these posts in humility, simply desiring to be heard by the people I care about, the people in my life that care about what has happened to me and have been in the dark for months now.

Alright, disclaimer complete.

A little bit of background might be in order, since my friends in Kansas City knows that part of my story, and many in my FPO community know the Richmond part, but there are gaps in the narrative for each group.  In the spring of 2009, God clearly shut the door on my application process to become a Journeyman with the IMB — the organization had sharp decrease in giving that year and had to cut job opportunities.  I moved back to KC after college, found a job and a new community at Redeemer KC, the most loving and genuine group of people I’ve encountered in any one church.  In the middle of those two initial post-college years, I started volunteering with refugees in Kansas City and began to feel called to living and ministering cross-culturally.  In the fall of 2010, I reopened my Jman application, interviewed, was accepted, and last July — finally — left home to train and then head across the world for 2 years in Central Asia.  Everyone in my life was affirming of this decision and calling.  The Father seemed to open every door.

Except that from the first day of training, the narrative of those two years with the IMB began to diverge from my expectations.  I was assigned another girl as a partner, with whom I was expected to study, live, eat, sleep, teach, and minister for the next 24 months.  We made each other miserable.  We pre-judged each other.  We came from the most disparate backgrounds imaginable and couldn’t overcome  the cultural barriers between us, not to mention the wounds in her that I seemed to brush up against unknowingly.  After only two weeks, I was in retreat, stung by her behavior toward me, frustrated, discouraged.  Seeking counseling help through the organization proved fruitless.  One counselor expressed deep concerns about her fitness for being on the field, but that was not communicated to anyone else outside that counseling session.  I felt powerless to do anything about the situation, even after doing every single thing others counseled me to do or say.  I begged God to forgive me for my insensitivity and tried harder to reach out to her.  I repented to her for any unkind words.  I searched my heart.  I prayed and fasted.  I clung to the thought that God was sovereign even in the choice of partners for the field, so He must be using M in my life somehow.

Eventually, training ended.  I tried to be optimistic about the remaining 22 months — but the reality was that once in Astana, I would have no community around me to buffer the situation.  It would most likely be a far more difficult situation.  Little did I know.

freedom

I’ve been reading Kathy Escobar’s blog a lot these past couple months.  She’s like an awesome older sister, mentor, and friend rolled into one.  She’s been on a similar journey of deconstruction and rebuilding.  She writes the narratives that give form to my roiling barely-conscious thoughts.  Here’s an excerpt:

i know so many women–and men, too–who are being set free.

free from the bondage of religion.
free from the shackles of the system.
free from the oppression of abusive power structures.
free from being called nasty names & having our dignity stripped. 
free from limitations on our faith.
free from a squelching of our gifts.

and freedom is costly.

when we choose the path of leaving systems & structures that continue to keep us in bondage, we choose a lonelier, scarier road.

but nothing tastes better than freedom.”