Wherever you are be all there. -Jim Elliot-
Every time that I read this quote it gets to me. I know exactly why. I struggle to live this way, and have for as long as I can remember. God is so tender and patient with me, as He continually impresses on me this weakness of being fully present exactly where I am in life. Because I am super sentimental, sensitive, and nostalgic, I can often find myself longing for what was. My mind and memories are very selective with the past, and I hold on to the sweet moments tightly, but usually after the fact, in a nostalgic, missing them, wishing for what was kind of way. The irony is that when they are happening to me, I am unable to be present, because I am longing for the time in my life before that. If you have ever listened to the lyrics of Passenger’s popular song Let her Go, what I am writing will echo the song’s sentiment. In those lyrics, I cringe and find myself.
Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go
This theme of not realizing what I have until it is gone has wrapped itself around the years of my life, but I don’t want to keep missing out on the here and now. It has been years of striving to learn how to be present, of reminding myself to be mindful, purposeful, and intentional in the every day life I am living. I know that the beauty of this moment, of the day before me – the present – is that God has given me all of this as a gift. He is gifting me this life right here and right now, with these people, in this country, in this neighborhood for a great purpose. It’s a purpose I could completely miss out on, if I am constantly looking backward. I don’t want to keep missing the gift of the present.
I think that the people that really understand the gift of the present moment are more content and less filled with stress, and of course that is something that I desire. So, I am continuing on in this long journey of trying to learn how to be present, because it does not come natural to my personality. It is so easy for my mind to wander to the yesterdays, for me to feel and dwell in the pain of missing what was, and to fall into a cycle of depression and sadness. But this week, God in His kindness, brought me into the present a few times in a way that demonstrated the beauty of right now in tangible ways. Every single night this week we have had people in our home. Every person had a different story and a different reason for needing us in those moments, but it became evident that every one needed a moment to be inside of a healthy, loving family – yes, an imperfect, mess of a family at times, but a family who fights for each other, loves each other to the core, and makes time to be in each other’s worlds despite busy schedules and a span of ages. Two out of the three visits were completely unplanned; I had no time to make sure that my house was perfect, or time to prepare the kids to be on their best behavior, and prior to our life in Ethiopia this used to terrify me enough to not even answer my doorbell to let someone in. I couldn’t share any part of my life if it did not meet my expectations of perfect.
This week, I found myself opening the door, with a few floors that could use sweeping, a few dishes in the sink, with obvious signs that children live in this home, and yet I was at peace with letting people in to a real, living, breathing family. I heated up my stove and did what comes so naturally to me, fed people’s bellies, while my husband fed their souls. We work in tandem, merging the physical and spiritual.
I paused this morning after staying up past eleven last night to make teenage guys brownies and banana bread, and waking early to make a breakfast of french toast, eggs, bacon, and sausage. As the smells of fresh roasted coffee and sweet french toast sticky with warm maple syrup wafted through the air, I realized that I was actually living in the moment and loving doing exactly what I know how to do. I found myself smiling in my kitchen and filled with complete all-encompassing joy. Yes, it felt a bit like our life in Ethiopia, but I was really content with the present – with life here in this moment.
This present moment will always be different from the past, because it needs to be. We were not met to live static in one frozen moment. There will still be days ahead where I find myself unable to breathe, because the waves of grief and shock will come again as the realization settles once again over me of the fact that we really no longer live in Ethiopia. But I have hope that the present moments will eventually calm and even still those waves. I am so thankful for my time on the mission field as a missionary. The experiences that I lived through in those two years radically shaped my life, and they taught me a new and a better way to live. I could never have learned the same thing had I remained here. But there is more life to live; there is more good, sweet moments to come. What I now know is that the past in Ethiopia taught me a way to live anywhere that I am in the world. I don’t have to live in Ethiopia to have a house full of people and a table spread with food. I don’t have to live in Ethiopia to meet people where they are and join God in meeting their physical and spiritual needs. I can be anywhere, and that includes right here – learning to be all there while right here.