“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.”Isaiah 35:1-2 (From an advent devotional Rica introduced me to! Daily Text with J.D. Walt).
These verses gripped my heart early this morning, as the house was still quietly asleep. I could see evidence of this promise in my own life.
As a young christian at Auburn University, my life took on specific meaning and purpose when I heard a missionary speak of bringing hope to those hurting after the fall of communism in Russia. People talk about having a sense of “calling.” This was my moment. I wasn’t sure how it would all happen, but I wanted to spend my life bringing hope to broken places. At the time, this goal seemed beautiful. I had no idea.
Bear with me as I paint a few brush strokes–defining moments that would occur over the next 24 years.
I lost my father.
I lost my sweet community at Auburn.
I lost my little brother.
My family lay in ruins.
Then two years in Haiti. So hard. So intense. And yet, I came home with a deep commitment to return overseas some day. For the first time, I saw strength in the culture of another people. I experienced giving and receiving. I had something to offer, and much to gain.
Lincoln Village Ministry showed me the Haiti within my own country. I found a place I wanted to stay forever! Children needed an advocate and safe place. Parents needed someone to love the broken child within them. I gained perspective and understanding for deeper compassion.
And then, one child needed a home that only I could give. So I moved. I left the place I had decided to call home. I left the children I loved so dearly. I left the broken community that had given me their trust–and it broke my heart.
Nothing had prepared me for life as a single mom to a child affected by trauma and autism. Nothing. Isolation, helplessness, panic, fear, rage, and grief were the themes of these long years. I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently (except to ask for more help sooner), but I still live with its effect on me. I get triggered and go back to places of rage and despair I never thought possible. I get sensory overload pretty quickly and have to ask my family to tone down the chaos (which really is just the busy-ness of a large family, not really chaos). I need Prozac now. I need daily time being washed by God’s word, healthy food, regular exercise, and less stress… or I crumble.
And yet, because of all that, I can be a safe place for other struggling parents. I can enter into the lives of grieving children. I have courage entering dark and messy places. And in those places, with my own weaknesses exposed, I can point others to the ultimate Safe Place, my only Hope – Jesus.
When Chris shared the need for, and his desire to plant, a multilingual church among immigrants and refugees, I panicked. I could not see the great blessing that was waiting for me. He slowed down, and just kept patiently networking and planning. Meanwhile, Jesus was strengthening my torn up roots, and was growing them back down toward life-giving water.
This fall, the crocus has bloomed in the desert! As we’ve been meeting with our international brothers and sisters, sharing life alongside their families, more joy than I imagined possible has blossomed! The dead dreams of my 18 year old heart were brought back to life. It’s like God said, “Naomi, you can have what’s behind Door #1 AND Door #2!!!!” Let me explain…
When I took on the responsibility of caring for my nephew (Door #2), I knew I would never go back overseas (Door #1). A part of my heart died, but I was willing to let it die. Well, as it turns out, God had a plan when he brought me to Northern Virginia (I came kicking and screaming by the way). In this busy swirl of traffic and chaos, two very special special things exist: incredible resources for David, and people from all over the world! My dear husband’s labor of love, One Voice Fellowship, has given me back the desires of my little missionary heart.
Merry Christmas friends! Jesus really is the reason for the season–and I love him so much!