Emotions are a funny thing. We go through so many emotions in the course of one day: happy, sad, angry, joy, etc. Usually they are reactions from things that happen throughout the day, or when we start thinking about something, a certain situation, hear some news, relationships. Ever since I moved to Guatemala, I have been allowing myself to feel, acknowledge, express my emotions more. I’m told it’s a good thing. But man, some days it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like the emotions hit all at once and way too fast and hard at times. When I first moved, it was the emotions of leaving friends and family thousands of miles behind. It definitely helps to be able to have different ways to communicate and frequent teams coming to visit and help us. Then, the emotions of starting to have kids living with us, who also are trying to figure out this who emotion thing, new life, new people taking the roles of their guardians, their parents, their new family. Emotions of when a child leaves for various reasons. The betrayal. The feeling like a failure. The constant wondering if you could have done anything differently. The pain of watching them make some really tough, rough decisions in their lives, despite our guidance. The realization, as hard as it is to accept, that no matter how hard you try to help a child, they have to want it and do their part to achieve it. We can’t force them to make the right decisions in life or change bad habits if they aren’t willing to take that responsibility. The pain in working with biological families of these children. How we can’t force them to do what’s best for their child and their family either if they don’t want to take that responsibility. The attachment issues. The identity issues that goes with being in a new home with a new family, while still having their biological family in the picture somewhat at least. It’s a struggle for the kids, the biological families, and for us. How do you step into that role as mom and dad, without stepping on anyone’s toes? That balance between biological family and us.
Then, there’s the issue with the rest of the world not necessarily acknowledging or accepting the fact that these kids living with you are your children as well. Anyone who has fostered or adopted understand that these kids, whether living with you since a baby or come in as a teen, are your kids. Yes, someone else gave birth to them and they have a biological mother and father somewhere. But that doesn’t mean that you, as the foster or adoptive mother/father, can’t be a mom or dad to this baby, child, teen. It really hurts when people refuse to acknowledge or accept that these are your kids too. Everyone belongs in a family, whether it’s biological, foster, adopted, or a friend’s family who took someone in as their own. Family isn’t necessarily blood related. It’s about a group of people who love one another, will do anything they can for each other, have each other’s backs.
Recently one of our kids living with us went back to his biological family. It was tough for all of us. A lot of emotions passed through each of us. We have had quite a few kids pass through our house. Some for a short period of time. Some longer and continue to be with us. You still have to go through a grieving process no matter what length of time they were with you. It shows you care. You love them as your own child. You were a family.
Another part of life here that causes emotions to run at times is clinic. A few nights ago, we lost a patient who more than likely had esophageal varices that ruptured. We had told this young man that he was very sick months ago, had an ultrasound done confirming all of that, and the tech said, “I don’t know how this man is alive right now. His insides are holding on by a thread.” We had told him at that point that there was really nothing we could do medically, other than treat any symptoms he was having and for him to remain sober. When Peter told that he had died after he began vomiting blood, I cried. I know there was nothing we could have done. This was going to happen. But there’s something about truly knowing your patients. Seeing them working, out on the streets as you walk or drive by. Knowing all of their family members. Having the nephews in kids’ club, youth group, coming to your mother-in-law’s house almost daily to say hi and hang out. It just seems so much more personal than when I worked at the hospital. At the hospital, I had more patients than I can count who were on their deathbed, did CPR on, and had to tell family that we did everything we could, but the patient died. Yes, it hit and was hard to handle, especially kids. But you didn’t have that long-term connection with them like you do here, where you’re considered the community “doctor,” youth leader, kids’ program director, have a relationship formed with practically everyone. Plus, at the hospital, you didn’t have time to feel. As soon as you finished a code, you had to put on your happy face and go to the next patient. It was never ending. You never could truly feel anything until you left the hospital, and by then you were just exhausted beyond measure. We need to grieve our patients, no matter where you work, whether in a foreign country as a missionary, or in a hospital, or as home health aide. It’s just depending on where you work and the relationships formed, it’s a different kind of grief.
Different circumstances and situations have happened recently that help you to re-evaluate what really matters in this life. Scary situations that we can see how God protected us. A missionary family with special needs children, losing a child. A friend diagnosed with cancer. It’s situations like that where you think that yes, money is tight. We may not be able to do everything we want. But, you know what, that’s not what’s most important. We have each other. We have another day with one another. So let’s make the best of it...at this very moment. We can’t be worried about everything in the future. It’s not guaranteed. What we have is the present, this moment right now. I recently was in the States, visiting friends and family. It wasn’t a long trip. But, I did my best to see as many people as possible who are a huge part of our lives and make the best of it. We’re not guaranteed even our next second. Let’s re-evaluate what matters. Our relationships with one another. Enjoying the time we have, even if it doesn’t seem adequate at times. It’s better than nothing. I would much rather live a full, joyful life. Rather than a life of regret, anger, resentment, conflict, bitterness.
It’s healthy to feel emotions. It’s ok to feel them. Just need to learn how to let them out in a healthy manner. And it may really suck sometimes. I’ve always had a tendency to bottle them up, shove them away, and just keep pushing through. That’s what a “strong” person does, right? Wrong. I’m learning more than ever that the healthy, courageous, strong thing to do is to work through the emotions and process them. It allows a much more joyful attitude to grow within you when you let out the emotions, and let go. There’s something freeing about processing your emotions, addressing what is bothering you, and letting go. Letting go of the pain, the hurt, the grief, the betrayal. Letting God cover you with his grace, mercy, peace, and comfort. Allowing joy to enter your life, no matter what the circumstances are. And moving forward where God wants you to be, who he wants you to be with. I am so thankful for my amazing husband he placed in my path, our kids, our missionary community here, our Guatemalan community, and our community scattered throughout the world. What started as a small community of friends and family for me in PA, has spread literally all over the world for Peter and I and we are eternally grateful for each and every one of you who have a part of this ministry. Even if you think your contribution is small, it’s huge to us and those who are blessed by it. So thank you! And let’s all allow joy to fill our hearts, enjoy the time you are given at this very moment, and encourage one another.