As I write today, we have been stateside for two and a half years. How would I describe this past year and what lessons have I learned? The big lesson seems to be that I am learning to trade unsettled for surrendered. I’ll come back to that.
I am struck by how many people have reached out to us, to include us in their community. When people asked how we were doing, Dave would respond, “Well, we are just trying to find our way.” That described it well. I would find myself sharing with close friends that I wanted to be “integrated,” for God to show me how all my life fits together in His perfect plan. I don’t want to think of my life in independent pieces—the DR life and the US life. I hope to be able to see the flow of it all and be at peace with that. Lately, I am seeing how blogging connects my worlds. Another surprise and gift.
I love that my husband and I pray together. The sound of his voice, strong yet soft, during prayer always calms me and brings joy to my heart. I wrote in my journal of a prayer time with Dave where he prayed, “God, I love Cherry and want this to be the best time of our life. We want to do ministry together, to serve you Lord. Take away anything hindering that.” I join my husband in that prayer and trust that God is answering it.
I continue to meet with my recovery sponsor as we each live out the twelve steps. As I’ve mentioned, the steps are powerful spiritual disciplines, especially the 4th and 5th steps where one takes a thorough moral inventory and then shares that with a trusted other and steps 8 and 9 where one makes amends to those who have been harmed. I made amends to my husband and he made amends to me. I was also able to reconcile with extended family members. Each of those were powerful encounters. A sincere apology and desire to restore a relationship can bring healing to all involved. It opens us to God’s love and frees us to be fully alive. What a gift it was to us and many others to be able to do this. Another step in feeling more “integrated” and “whole”. Faith, like sobriety, is worked out in community.
Our visits back to the Dominican Republic have also been times of asking forgiveness and making amends. A wise missionary friend described us now as “apostles” coming back to visit those to whom we had ministered. He said this would be both a significant and enjoyable role. His words encouraged me when we left the island and filled me with hope when we returned. I can gratefully say that his words came to pass. Dave and I both planned on making amends to a number of people, and God faithfully brought them to us. It set a wonderful tone to our visits. Many also came to us seeking counsel, and we felt God’s love and wisdom flow through us to them. To be used by God in a very natural way. Some call this the “ministry of presence”. Having lived on the mission field, we know firsthand how valuable a sincere visit can be. One of our missionary friends shared how we had refreshed and revived him; he had a fresh desire for God, his marriage and ministry. Oh, that we could each do that for the other!!
“Show me the way you would have me go Lord” is a constant prayer of mine. I keep asking the question, “What is a good use of my time now?” What am I uniquely qualified to do? I am aware that as I follow God’s leading, He is giving me opportunities to do the things I truly love and feel He has designed me to do. I am regularly asked to write small articles, and I am now finishing my reentry piece. I was asked to write (in Spanish) for a women’s conference in the DR. My days are filled with meeting with women I love and feel honored to walk alongside in their spiritual journeys. I sense that Dave and I bless and are blessed by our local recovery community.
So, what am I learning?
- To exchange “unsettled” for “surrendered”. A favorite Advent meditation reads “Mary sang her Magnificat from the very first moment she yielded her life to God. She didn’t wait until God’s plan was complete before she rejoiced” —“From the moment you agree to yield your life, the Glory will begin to flow.” I want to live in sweet surrender and joyful anticipation of what God is doing and will do in my life—living fully in the now, hopeful of the future. I want to live out the passage Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” That translates in recovery language as “Life on Life’s Terms” (or God’s terms) taking “First Things First.”
- To pay attention to what I feel drawn to. We were counseled to “Find our people” and “Catch the scent and follow.” This takes time and patience. My routine now includes group times of Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, and monthly meetings with a spiritual director. And we have decided to make St. Mary’s our church home. (That process may be the topic of another blog post.) So, these are some of “my people”. And my husband has become more precious to me because only the two of us truly understand the road we have been on. It’s not just my story, it’s our story. And…
- To ask for help and keep asking. God and others. God is mystery and God is community. We were not created to walk this journey alone. Connection happens when we reach out for help. We are held by God’s love and surrounded by the Divine.
“Each man’s life represents a road to Himself.” Herman Hesse
“We are not in control of this journey but Jesus says ‘BE NOT AFRAID.’” Father Bob