Nine weeks ago if someone told me I was going to Africa in September I would have laughed. Yeah, right.
As y’all know, I’ve been looking for a job. Not for fun, I need one. We’ve got a kid in college and another who is a senior in high school. We’ve got medical expenses. Our deck is rotting. Our fence is falling down. We haven’t let our son get his license because the cost of insuring him is just too high.
Reality. You know. It bites.
So, how am I going to Africa? Jim and Elysa, after raising their support, have paid my way. I cannot tell you how humbling it is to have someone hand you a gift of this magnitude. I didn’t want to accept it but Elysa said if I didn’t they would ask someone else. So I did.
I wrote them the following letter (slightly edited for the blog). It is pretty personal and not the easiest of things to share. However, it is real and it is true.
August 10, 2010
Dear Jim and Elysa,
My goodness… I’m not even sure how or where to begin…
Oy. Last week was a very difficult week for me. I was a candidate for a job and did not get it. I was told that I was a “close second”. I’d been told the same by ** a couple months back in regard to a job there. We’ve been under financial stress and have been counting on my being able to get a job now that I have my voice back. I cannot tell you how hard I prayed for these jobs.
This is actually a hard letter for me to write. I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen. There is just so much…
I just looked back in the journal I started writing in again not long ago. It is a journal that was actually begun at your house the night before Lisa’s memorial. I only wrote in it a few times before June of this year. I wrote in it that you texted me about Swaziland and just said, “I wish.” (July 21) I was waiting to hear about the job when you sent that text and was hoping to be working soon.
The truth is I’ve wanted to write about Africa. I’ve wanted to go there and see things for myself. I’ve wanted to write about the history, the politics, how what is happening in Africa relates to the rest of the world, and our part in things. I don’t even understand all of these things but have read enough to know it is extremely complicated. I’ve wanted to find God in the suffering, if that makes sense. So many non-Christians point to Africa as proof that there is no God. Honestly, looking at the situation for so many all over the world you have to ask yourself where God is in it.
Well over a year ago I told ** God was going to send me to Africa. That was after I’d been told by my doctor that there was nothing more that could be done about my voice. I remember the moment I felt I was going to go. I didn’t write it down but ** does remember me telling him. He has always gotten grumpy when I talk about doing anything like that.
Sometimes we are inundated with support requests for mission trips. It can be overwhelming. We have not been involved in that way. ** did go serve at Camp Barnabas in Missouri in 2007 (camp for disabled children and their families) but she paid for it herself with money she earned babysitting and that she got for her birthday. We didn’t even give her any for it. I figured that if and when I ever got to do a trip of that sort that it would be because we had the money to pay for it. I don’t have a problem with people raising support for trips like that, and ** doesn’t really either, but I don’t think we’d do that for ourselves.
Well, I didn’t get the job. Being told I was a “close second” again brought up some strong feelings. When I was a kid I was on a competitive swim team and swam every stroke. In fact, swimming the butterfly I often came in 3rd or 4th but ended up with the first place ribbon because the others would be disqualified due to their form. There was one trophy awarded per stroke per age division each year. I wanted a trophy, desperately. With each trophy that was awarded someone was given a certificate for being a runner up or “close second”. My last year, I got the certificate for all four strokes in my age division. I never got a trophy for anything ever. It makes me feel stupid and foolish to admit that I felt like I did back then.
The guy that started the homeless ministry I’m involved in on Saturdays wrote a book and his mom gave me a copy. He talks about God speaking to him in it and how he got a tattoo of a cross on his hand as a sort of monument to remind him. God usually “speaks” to me through His Word.
This part is hard for me to tell you… I had been looking at all your pictures on facebook and your house is beautiful. I wish I could tell you that I was happy for all of you but instead I was jealous. Normally, I don’t really struggle that way but every once in awhile I do. It was so bad that I felt like I did years ago…
When we were living in California I met a gal through my bible study that had turned her life around. She had been married before and had three children by two different men, neither of which were her husband. She had been into drugs/alcohol, etc. I really liked her and we introduced her to a single friend of ours who was “pure”. They fell in love. ** went with him to L.A. the day M was going to propose to pick up J’s ring. It was super hot and they were gone hours and hours longer than they said they would be. We were going to watch her children that night and I was grumpy because it was so hot and I was worried about her youngest, who was still breastfed and screamed when his mother wasn’t around.
I’ve never cared about jewelry much but when I saw the ring M had got her I couldn’t believe it. In my inner ugliness I suppose I felt she did not deserve a ring like that. I am never comfortable when I have feelings that I think I shouldn’t… feelings I think are beneath me but I sometimes have. Anyway, when M came to our house later to pick J up he came with the biggest bouquet of flowers I had ever seen (to this day!). J oooohed and aaaaahhhed and then M thrust them at me and told me to take care of them for her.
The baby was already screaming and I was a bit offended. Right after they left ** told me he was going to work (which happened to be air conditioned) and I had a fit. I was going to be left with 6 kids in blistering heat and I thought he was going to be there to help me. Words were said and then he nastily told me to take care of J’s flowers before they started wilting and left.
I was seething as I was sawing through the stems while holding them steady with my left hand when I noticed the diamond was missing from my engagement ring and at that very moment I heard, “You could have nothing.”
I immediately burst into tears. I was so incredibly ashamed. Who was I to judge? Of course, I repented right then and there. I apologized to ** when he got home. And I was happy for M and J when they came back later that evening. I was the Matron of Honor at their wedding. Sadly, they divorced 2 years later.
Those ugly feelings of envy over your house made me feel like I did when I first saw J’s ring. Reading about JO tattooing his hand as a reminder of when God spoke to him made me go looking for that ring. I didn’t even know if I still had it. I did. I took off the ring ** replaced it with (years after that happened) and put the ring with the missing diamond back on. I was so terribly ashamed and prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for God’s continued blessing in your lives. I prayed to be content with my life. I prayed for God to increase my faith and to believe that our needs will be met whether I get a job or not. I let my dream of going to Africa go…
That happened on Thursday. Friday we left on our camping trip. Saturday morning I was fixing breakfast and you, Elysa, called. The last several days have been so strange. I laugh. I cry. I stare…
I’m still… overwhelmed. I will call you tomorrow to find out what all I need to do.
To be continued…