Mourning

It is fresh in my memory, the first time I met Marta Burke. Marta was the pastor at Fulford United Methodist Church in North Miami Beach, and my mentor. I met her early in the work day one morning after I’d been here for only a couple of weeks. We chatted about the program I’m working on here in Miami, as I certainly wanted her church to be onboard, and we also talked a bit about me. I suppose that’s sort of necessary for a mentor/mentee relationship. I’ll never forget what she told me. She told me that I had moved to just the right place because I was mourning, and the folks in this city are in a constant state of mourning. They are maybe immigrants that are mourning leaving their homes, or friends immigrants that have been deported or moved. Perhaps their house got eaten in a hurricane, or they’ve lost their jobs.

Everyone is mourning.

At the time I was in a place of mixed emotion. I was traveling on public transportation, which was unnecessarily exhausting, and trying to understand the churches in this area as I started this new program. I was also excited to be embarking on this new adventure, being given the reins to shape and mold a ministry; but overwhelmingly I was sad.

Three months later, I am still so sad. I still have moments of anger and frustration and grief. I so deeply miss Ukraine. I so deeply miss my life there, the ministry, the AMAZING people, and the person that I was when I was there. I miss the ways in which God made Herself known and present to me in the everyday ways I messed up in Ukraine. I miss the simplicity and happiness that I’ve never quite known before.

And these feelings are frustrating. Oh my goodness. I want nothing more than to be elated to be in Miami. Now, disclaimer, these feelings have nothing to do with the great people in Miami. I have been received in a most gracious manner, and everyone has been so kind, welcoming, supportive, and hospitable to me. But even in the face of that, I can’t shake this sinking feeling of deep longing for my home….for Ukraine.

I was talking with my good friend Katie the other day, and we were commiserating about how much we miss where we were previously, and we both expressed how frustrated we were with ourselves. My goodness it’s been five months, we should be ‘better’ already, right? I mean seriously, just suck it up and get over it. Goodness knows I’ve tried, but every time I read a new story about the events in Ukraine, or hear about an engagement or cabbage, I’m brought right back to this deep dissatisfaction in my soul. This is not just eat a carton of ice cream sad, although it certainly has some colorings of that, hello Ben and Jerrys, for me this is some kind of consuming emotion that is both dormant and active at the same time. There are times when I feel great and happy, and then all the sudden, BAM, I’m sad, or feel lonely, or am just….missing.

More than that, my emotions are so close at hand. I was in a worship service a few weeks ago, at Marta’s church, and she had a guest preacher, Gary. At the end of the service, Marta got up and thanked Gary and bemoaned her upcoming move. She then gave Gary a stole that her father had given her way back when. I rarely cry in public. I almost lost it in that church. I’ve become that girl.

I hate these feelings; I hate this place in my life. My time in Ukraine was life giving, as only an amazing ministry experience can be, but now at this moment I feel it is life sucking. You know when they were talking about restructuring the program and decoupling the international and domestic service pieces, I didn’t quite understand the logic. They told me that some had had real difficulties with the transition back to the US, and I probably looked at them like they had two heads. I joined this program because I believe in this format of international and domestic service. I believe in affirming domestic service, but I also wanted the international experience.

I never thought it would be this hard, though. And it is so hard.

I get how whiney this sounds, and that two of the last three blog posts I’ve put up are about my transition. I don’t mean to be whiney, but the reality is, I’m not the only one that feels this way. This is hard stuff, and right now, I need to say it out loud. I need to live into these emotions I hate so much so that I might be able to live through them. Because truthfully, I have no other clue what to do.

And I think what Marta said when we first met is true of many of us. We are all in some way mourning. Perhaps it is that we’re mourning our youth, lost relationships, dead pets, or old broken down cars. This is a place that we can reside together for a time, and offer comfort and bottles of wine. I know that I will not always be in this place, that eventually I will no longer be mourning Ukraine, and surely there will be other circumstances in my life that will cause me less, equal, or greater pain than I’m now experiencing. Such is the nature of life. And if it is true for me, friends, it is also true for you. If you’re in the mourning place, I feel ya. I’ll bring the ice cream, but I also know that for you too this shall pass. It is only for a season.

But doesn’t it surely suck?

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One thought on “Mourning

  1. Reblogged this on There Be Method To Madness and commented:
    My friend Erica is Superwoman, and an amazing writer. While I was in South Africa, she served in Ukraine. She was there when the revolution broke out, and left when it hit its peak. When I first read her blog, I was reminded of Henri Nouwen’s “Love Deeply” entry in “The Inner Voice of Love”:

    “Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.

    “The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. They will become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you.

    “Those you have deeply loved become a part of you. The longer you live, there will always be more people to be loved by you and to become part of your inner community. The wider your inner community becomes, the more easily you will recognize your own brothers and sisters in the strangers around you. Those who are alive within you will recognize those who are alive around you. The wider community of your heart, the wider the community around you. Thus the pain of rejection, absence, and death can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”

    If you are reading this blog, please pray for my fellow missionaries and me as we learn to readjust to our mission contexts, be they foreign or familiar.

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