07 May 2011

Adios and vaya con Dios!

I don’t want to go.

The thought exploded in my mind during an unguarded moment laughing with a friend a couple of weeks before my travel date. I didn’t know where those words came from, but like a blindside corner blitz, suddenly they were there, catching me off-guard and knocking the wind out of me. I had guarded my thoughts for a long time, not letting myself linger on the painful parts of what was coming. But eventually the truth burst out: I didn’t want to go. I surprised even myself, and before the pain from that realization could subside, in swept the guilt.

I’m not supposed to feel like this! I’m a missionary for crying out loud! I’m supposed to be thrilled about having this rarefied privilege to go to far-off lands and tell people about Jesus. It’s not like someone is forcing me, I volunteered for this. I worked hard for this! I danced around in my office like an idiot when I found out I got the job. I’m supposed to be so passionate about sharing the Good News that I count everything else as loss. I’m supposed to want to go!

But the truth was, I didn’t. I didn’t want to go through any of it. I didn’t want to try to shop for everything I might possibly need for two years. I didn’t want to pack my life into two (okay, okay…4) suitcases. I didn’t want to leave behind my wardrobe or…*gasp*…my shoes, my beautiful high-heeled shoes! I didn’t want to pick just a few precious photos and knick-knacks to remind me of home, and trade my stacks of books for a Kindle app. I didn’t want to give up driving and leave Gerald with my mom. I didn’t want to exchange my independence and personal space, my comfy bed and house to go live in a rented room with a Costa Rican family, living by their schedules and customs. I didn’t want the sweet cards and thoughtful gifts from the people who care so much about me. I didn’t want the last meals at my favorite restaurants, or one last plate of mom’s spaghetti. I didn’t want a final Friday Night Bible Study or a “Day o’ Lyndsey” to say goodbye to so many wonderful people. I didn’t want the beautiful prayers of blessing, the accolades and recognition, or people telling me how proud they are of me. I didn’t want to be held up as someone to be admired, after all, if they knew how I felt, they wouldn’t. I didn’t want to leave the beach or drive through the darkened streets of my hometown knowing it won’t be the same when I come back. I didn’t want to cling to the people I love and watch the minutes drain from the clock, knowing what was coming. I didn’t want to hug and kiss my friends and family one last time. I didn’t want to feel my heart breaking or cry with so much anguish I thought I’d never stop. I didn’t want to leave my comfortable home and pleasant life. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go. Not one little bit.

But I did.

5:00am at DAB with Daddy and Timmy and a farewell Dr. Pepper

And you know what…it hurt! Really, really bad. I wasn’t expecting it to be so painful. I really thought that I could handle it. I’ve left home and moved to foreign cultures for extended periods of time before. Sure it was sad, but I was okay. But I was suddenly very aware that this really is an entirely different bag of cats. Moving to Europe for a school year when all of your friends are still off in college is a different challenge from leaving the USA for 2 years when everyone is in the midst of making critical career and life decisions. And I’m a different person than I was back when I moved to Paris. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age? ;-) Whatever it is, I’ve cried more in the last 4 weeks than I have in the last 4 years, and I think my sudden sensitivity was even more alarming to myself than to the close friends who had to deal with my atypical meltdowns. For someone who usually has their emotions in check, the amount of tears that I have shed in recent days is disconcerting.

I’d like to tell you that nearly two weeks after the big goodbye I have some amazing story to tell you about how being obedient to Christ has completely erased the pain and filled my heart with gladness and enthusiasm and I’ve already seen fruit. But the truth is, it still hurts and it’s still hard. It took me a week before I made it a single day without tears, and that was less because I didn’t feel like crying, and mostly because I was simply too tired. Life in a foreign culture is exhausting.

Before you start really worrying about me and my emotional stability and go calling Member Care to get me some counseling, let me assure you I am fine. The first morning I woke up here, my immediate thought was, “Hey. I live in Costa Rica.” And that thought strikes me again at random times and makes me smile. I love learning about the culture. The mountains and plant life are beautiful, the people pretty friendly, and the food not half bad. I like the Tico (Costa Rican) family that I live with and have settled into a comfortable routine.  School has started and my Spanish is improving rapidly. Perhaps nicest of all is that we’ve been welcomed into the community of other staff from our organization that either live here permanently or who are in longer-term language study. They have gone out of their way to get us settled and show us around and are quickly becoming our family away from home. We’ve gone to church, had some gringo gatherings, and experienced a Tico birthday party complete with piñata and a cake fight, and we have laughed a LOT. I really can’t complain.

Piñata at a welcome fiesta at school. Who doesn't love a good piñata?! (Except maybe Donkey from Shrek...)

At the good times I’m amused that I live here, I enjoy the challenge of learning a new language, and I appreciate the unique culture of this place. Anytime I want, I can walk out my front door of my upscale home and buy a coconut with a straw from the guy in the truck on the street. No joke, there’s a coconut guy. But there are still times when I am lonely and the pain of missing people is raw, when I don’t want to learn a language I managed to avoid for 9 years in school, when I want to point out that I never signed up for Costa Rica. I hate to say it, but there are times when I simply don’t want to be here. In my younger years I would never had admitted any of this in a blog that everyone and their grandmother can read. I like to be seen as the one who “has it all together,” who’s competent and strong, not phased by anything. Admit my weaknesses? What weaknesses? Let’s just talk about how interesting everything is and tell clever anecdotes about not being able to flush toilet paper (for real, you don’t do that here). But I am slowly learning to let my guard down. So instead, I’d rather be transparent and show you as real a picture of me right now as I dare. It’s what I like to call “ugly honest.” So I hope I haven’t horrified any of you with what I’ve shared so far, and I hope you aren’t too disappointed with me if I admit that this hasn’t been a walk in the park and that sometimes I don’t feel like being where I am or doing what I’m doing.

As I said at the beginning of these ramblings, I didn’t really want to leave or do any of the hard things that got me here. But I did them and I’m here because that’s obedience. We don’t wait to obey until we feel like obeying. “Living by faith mean obeying God’s Word in spite of feelings, circumstances or consequences. It means holding on to God’s truth no matter how heavy the burden or how dark the day, knowing that He is working out His perfect plan.” People love to tell you to “follow your heart,” but I think that’s some of the most dangerous advice out there. If I were following my heart right now I’d be on a plane headed back to the US, because at this moment my heart is still in sunny Daytona Beach.

Can you blame me?
In Jeremiah 17:9 the Bible tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things.” Sometimes we have to obey even when we don’t want to, but when we do, right feelings eventually follow right actions. So I think it’s okay if we don’t always feel like doing that to which we’re called, so long as we go ahead and do it anyway. And we don’t do it because we’ve been promised blessings on the other side, but because we were simply asked to obey. Like I’ve said, being obedient doesn’t protect us from hurt, sometimes it leads us right to it, but how sweet to know that while we walk that road we never walk alone.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” –Psalm 34:18

And so, on the good days I will praise Him for bringing me here, for walking beside me, and for His abundant blessings… and on the bad days I will thank Him for bringing me here, for walking beside me, and for His abundant blessings. And when I am weak and crushed in spirit I can rest in His arms and in the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I hope that I can learn to say, as Paul did, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Leaving church on our first Sunday in Costa Rica.

*Thank you so much for all the outpourings of support and continued prayer during my last days at home and this transition to Costa Rica. It’s a tremendous comfort and blessing to know so many are interceding on my behalf. I mean it when I say, I couldn’t do it without you! Right now would you specifically pray that we will learn the language rapidly, that we will be good stewards of our brief time here in CR, for divine appointments and opportunities to serve, and for the continued health of team relationships. And please let me know how I can pray for you!*


  1. Hi Love! I am so grateful for your honesty. If you didn't feel this way, you might actually hurt my feelings. (And by that I mean, I miss you, too!) No one in their right mind would say that what you're doing is easy. It takes a very special person, and the Lord has chosen the very best for this job. You are amazing!

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