Years 13 – 16 – decision time.
Our move was made from Raleigh, NC to Virginia Beach, VA in the height of the housing craziness. After stressful time of living apart for 6 months, we sold our home in Raleigh and moved with high expectations to buy in Virginia Beach. Alas, though, it was not to be. What we could afford was not something a family of 5 could live in for long. Through situations only the Lord could orchestrate, we ended up renting a house in Sandbridge beach – just three rows from our glorious Atlantic Ocean – for 3 years.
It was a special time for our family as a whole. Since we were so close to the beach, we had over 30 ‘house guests’ each summer we were there. Though I love having people over and enjoy sharing with others, I was WORN OUT at the end of those summers. And, I learned some great things about how to be a good guest at someone else’s house! 🙂 The girls all have great memories of the ocean being so close and our afternoons spent on the beach.
Our marriage was good – not perfect, but good. We enjoyed time together and time away and it seemed that we were finally hitting a new groove as our girls began to all be in preschool or elementary school. I felt as if I were finally getting small pieces of myself back and having the few moments a day to think uninterrupted. We found a good church, made some good friends, led a great community group, and were enjoying our beach life. And then, the opportunity arose for me to go to Kenya on a missions trip with our church. The once impossible dream was now becoming a reality.
As a little girl, I always wondered why people would say they never wanted God to call them to Africa as a missionary….why not? What an adventure and how wonderful would that be? I would LOVE to do that and thought that God was calling me to be a missionary in a far away place for a very long time. But, the Lord has other plans for me and that dream was set aside and almost forgotten about…almost. Funny how the Lord’s timing of things is so different than ours, but He remembers those desires of our heart.
So, off I went – a mother of 3 children and wife of a husband for 14 years – to Kenya with a team of 15 folks. For the first time in a very very long time I was simply Chris. I wasn’t known as wife to Dean or mother to Rabekah, Moriah and Anna. I was Chris. My canvas was blank and I could write on it as I wish.
The time in Kenya was amazing and I didn’t realize how much it had affected me until I returned home. Days would go by and I could only dream of those Kenyan children I hugged, or replay conversation after conversation I had with Kenyan women under the bright blue African sky. And to be brutally honest, I ignored my own husband and children for longer than I wish to admit. It was very very difficult for me to embrace my own reality of home. I dreamt of ways to return, to escape from my reality…and then cursed myself under the guilt of how I could think those things, want those things, desire those things.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t the greatest time in our marriage either. All those things that were tucked down years ago were now resurfacing. We had many many hard conversations, many long nights of discussing in loud voices to resolve an issue as we refused to go to bed angry, many weary looks from my husband as to what happened to his wife.
Scripture talks about iron sharpening iron, and truly during this time Dean and I were iron – stubborn, relentless, and painfully being sharpened by one another. Deep down we both had to make the choice to stick through this – to honor the covenant we made before God many years before, and to trust that our God would pull us through this. And, He did.