Traveling to an island just off the coast of our city with my sisters when we see a dog wearing sunglasses and “driving” a scooter. This is my life. Brain working in overtime because of language barriers every time I venture out of my home to do anything. This is my life. Being challenged daily as I teach precious kids, many of whom are completely blind to the truth of the Gospel. This is my life. Living single…and yet up many nights to feed crying infants. This is my life. Having the first surgery of my life in a foreign country where almost everything about the medical system is different. This is my life. Being far, far away from the country in which I grew up and the family that I love. This is my life. And through it all, continually being blessed by seeing God’s hand at work around me. This is my life.
I feel like I’ve been living a “what you see is what you get” existence for the past several months. The school year started off in a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, big decisions, and new work. What people saw was a frazzled and often emotional me. Tears flowed, frustration boiled, and I found myself at wit’s end, just barely making it, more often than I liked. Friends, family, and co-workers helped in every way imaginable: covering classes, accompanying me to doctor’s visits, praying fervently, and even flying halfway around the world to be with me for surgery (thanks, Dad). During this time, it wasn’t easy to mask what I was feeling. Embarrassed though I was, people saw the real, weak, overwhelmed, emotional me.
But things are better now, right? I mean, the surgery is over, the tumor was benign, my neck is healing well, and my blood results show that the thyroid is functioning normally. We’re halfway through second quarter, so I’ve settled into teaching my new sixth grade language arts classes, and this is my second year with ELL. Things should be great. Then why do I still feel broken and transparently vulnerable? It probably has something to do with my level of exhaustion; having surgery in the middle of the school year takes the energy out of a person. I’m also realizing that I’ve reached the end of the “honeymoon stage” here in Taiwan. Life is settling down to a new normal, and it’s good, but the excitement of the first year has died down, and with it the adrenaline rush that kept me moving in overdrive. My feeling low is probably also related to the changes of this year: friends gone from Taiwan, Mom and Dad moving to New York, Ashleigh here for six months but leaving in less than two weeks, and the list goes on. Regardless of the reasons, I feel that some of my joy has seeped away from me over the last couple of months, and it’s been easy to wallow in self-pity and let the sadness take over.
So where does that leave me right now, today? It leaves me seeking God’s will for my ministry in Taiwan (through Morrison, my church, His Hands Taiwan, or whatever else God has planned). It leaves me asking for God’s grace when I fall down on my face again and again. It leaves me believing that my life and my future are in God’s hands and that His purpose will prevail (Prov. 19:21). It leaves me trusting His leading to extend my time in Taiwan (yep, I signed another two-year contract at Morrison!) until He leads elsewhere. It leaves me remembering that my joy is not dependent on my circumstances and that I am called to absolute devotion to God because he first loved me (Gal. 2:20).
Am I completely fixed? Not in the least. Is this the last I’ll write about this topic, about the healing process (physical and spiritual) I’m going through, about the things I’m experiencing in this crazy adventure of being a missionary in Taiwan? Nope . (And if you answered “yes,” then you really don’t know me.) Am I finished being sad? I’m guessing that’s a no. But do I see this as a turning point in my struggle? Yes. Do I believe this is a lesson that God wants to teach me and something I need to share with others? You bet.
My hope is that I’ll still be a “what you see is what you get” kind of person but that you’ll see a lot more Christ and a little less Christel. This is Christ’s life.