I have to say that April has been an extremely tough month, maybe one of the tougher months that I’ve had in a while. Nothing really seemed to flow well just April shower after shower. Seemed as if were underwater with work with no lifeline in sight. I was stretched and stressed on all levels and wondering if there was anyway for me to be even half of my best self.
Facebook sent daily reminders of year end events from my days in Student Affairs. Times when it seems that I was thriving and full of life. Happy pictures that reflected growth of myself and students. Smiles and faces that reminded me of the amazing students and staff I worked with over the years. Pictures that popped up made me go back and find other pictures which reminded me of struggles and how I’d worked through or helped others to work through. The smiles and memories reminded me of how I in someway tried to make a difference in the lives of others. As I sat in the present looking at the past floods of emotions consumed the month. Questions upon questions; Am I yet adding value, leaving an impact, making a difference in my current environment? Yes, I work at an international missionary school so I’m yet labeled as a missionary and living on a missionary budget but am I helping to make a difference? Am I learning and growing or constantly feeling as if I’m going in endless circles of never getting things right or good enough? Is my being here in vain and now just a place that’s on repeat without a defining reason? Reflections mixed with high expectations of self, fears and even some tears seemed to consume most of the past 30 days along with the morning rains of rainy season that cause all sorts of unplanned hairstyles
Thankfully I’d signed up for a retreat called Velvet Ashes. Velvet Ashes is designed for women serving as overseas missionaries. It can be done online or in groups. I participated in a group retreat with 12 other women most of whom I didn’t know but we all had a common connection. I have to say that the week leading up to the retreat was spent with many sleepless nights and I honestly thought ‘Do I really have the energy for this?’ Is this just another thing that I’m ‘doing’ while not taking the time to just ‘be?’
Although I overslept I still pushed myself to ‘do’ one more thing and I’m glad I made the push. The retreat gave me space to think and be around like minded women, some who were facing the same struggles and questions that have been glaring at me. The key passages of scripture for the day helped me see ways to fight burnout and to be okay with asking for help (Exodus 18), to focus on having comfort and hope in Christ (Psalms 131) and to stop and ask myself what am I afraid of if my life is in Christ who speaks peace to the seas (Mark 4.) I can’t say that I left the retreat bouncing off the walls and feeling 100 but I can say that I left with a few more tools under my umbrella and packed in my personal sustainability toolbox. And as I write, I know that it’s one thing to be aware of the tools and to have them all in the box but the important thing is to use the tools I’ve been given. Prayerfully I will use the tools I’ve been given and I will call upon others around me to walk under my umbrella, as iron sharpens iron.
I can’t say that this is the type of update I like to send, with mess and stress and flaws exposed but I do hope that my vulnerability and sharing can in some way can be a blessing. I hope that you too will open your toolbox and use the tools inside and if you’re missing a tool I pray you have the strength to ask for someone to come along with their toolbox and fearlessly walk with you under your umbrella. Today you may be the one who needs sharpening but I’m positive there will be a day when you’ll be needed to sharpen another.
- Those who sharpen me and the opportunities I‘ve had and will have to sharpen others
- Velvet Ashes retreat
- Self awareness even in the tough places
- A great worship team Sunday
- The ability to share
Places of prayer:
- For balance of work, rest and play
- To manage expectations
- A strong finish to my first year back at work; staffing needs met, contracts signed and renewed, August orientations planned and all the little details in between
- Things to come together for a July trip to the states; tickets, travel within the states,seeing everyone and even a time of rest
- The final Parent Teacher Fellowship event to be a success in both fun and funds