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Although I am not a consistent blogger, this particular stretch of silence has reflected my inability to process in words the new territory we are in as individuals, as a country and as a world.  Others have written beautifully in ways that have ministered deeply to my heart, mind and soul.  But I’ve been unable to write about the deep and big issues in any sort of meaningful way.

Now, several months in, with discussions of racial injustice joining Covid-19 in the public arena, I remain unsure of what to say.  Still, it is time to give an update.  I am coming out of the slowdown and moving into new rhythms that will shape what work and life looks like for the future.

An aside:  This is a personal update about how I’ve been navigating the past few months.  I don’t want to minimize the big picture issues, but at this point I don’t have a lot to say that adds to those conversations.  

I saw the strength, skill and wisdom of the Adventures in Missions staff.  In mid-March, as borders began to close faster than anyone imagined, we brought home 570 international participants, from about 25 squads, in 6 days – working literally around the clock.  Priorities were set and squad locations were reevaluated almost hourly against those filters.  Plans were made and then had to change.  At the home office, departments worked together in unprecedented ways.  Those not on the front lines provided encouragement and food.  Squad leadership cared for Racers deeply disappointed by a trip cut short.  It was Adventures at its best and it felt like a privilege to be part of the team.

The physical reset has been a good one for me.  I have worked at least 50-60 hours a week, being on call for parents essentially 24/7, for several years.  I do love what I get to do and I choose to work those hours.  I do consider that my “job” and my “ministry” morph into one so I expect to pour into it more than a “normal work week”.  But I was tired and overwhelmed.  As the need to serve parents decreased drastically once the Racers were back on U.S. soil, I rested deeply.  I slept more.  My steps per day (which had dropped to an abysmally low level) are back where they should be.  I’ve lost some weight that had crept back on.  And other smaller things feel like a mini-reset as well – turns out I don’t particularly miss having my hair highlighted every few months.  I like that my fingernails are my own again instead of artificially supplemented.  I may go back to some of those luxuries – because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them – but for now it feels like both a time and budget savings, freeing those resources up for other uses.

I gave myself permission to not feel pressure to “do the big projects”.  This overlaps with resting.  Everywhere I looked people were building things, renovating things, tackling yard projects, painting rooms and every other variety of “big project” work.  And it was an ideal time to be thinking that way – reduced work load, essentially everything on my calendar cancelled.  To move from “to do list” mode to “rest and listen” mode is not always easy.  But it was such a wise decision for me.  And eventually I got to some of those projects and it felt like a leisurely accomplishment that brought great satisfaction.  

The loneliness that never completely goes away has ebbed and flowed with greater intensity.  The lack of a partner to share my life with is felt more acutely.  There is no one to talk to in person, eat with, do life with.  The house is emptier when I can’t host dinners.  Hospitality is constrained in a way that is hard for me.  I’m an introvert, so I know I have it easier than the extroverts do, but it is more of a struggle than I expected.  And I desperately miss face to face community.  Even now, writing this, the tears are closer to the surface than they normally are.

I’m grieving some of the changes.  Between the pre-pandemic decline in participant numbers and the impact of the pandemic on most of our 2020 programs, the Adventures in Missions staff has been reduced by half.  I no longer have a team to work with me in Parent Ministry – and while I am nervous about the workload implications, the deepest grief is the loss of Michelle.  Our friendship will continue – I know that.  But the loss of a co-worker who brought such lift and wisdom and skill is hard.  And it compounds the grief of losing another team member in a layoff a year ago.

The reality that travel is impossible or unwise gets harder. And while I do miss the further flung “fun” travel, it’s the heart connection travel that I miss the most.  Many of the people and places that feed my soul are largely out of reach for a while. I will do the right thing.  But knowing that I can’t go visit friends in Connecticut without quarantining for 14 days upon arrival is hard.  Keeping the need to remain “clean” in mind when you have elderly relatives means you limit contact with the relatives caring more directly for them.  

The world weighs heavily on me these days.  It’s true that I have hope as a believer, but I am deeply grieved and concerned about the issues we’re facing.  Conversations that should have been held in the past are understandably filled with pain and frustration as injustice continues.  Scientific evidence and statistics are disputed and weighed against “rights” as we learn more about Covid. And discussions about the economy are important ones too.  Credentials are questioned. Character and policy are discussed as if there should be an obvious “right” candidate – but both sides feel that way.  Even among brothers and sisters in Christ, there is often a lack of humility, grace and mercy.  Is wearing a mask our way of caring for others?  Or is it a dangerous infringement of our rights that will open the door to irreparable harm?  Or is it just inconvenient?  How do we have the right conversations about racial injustice – and have them in the right way?  What is the right way forward to bring deeply needed change in deeply rooted, sometimes unconscious, thoughts and actions?  And then we get to statements about those who lead our country, or seek to lead it.  The depth of the viciousness and accusations and personal attacks grieve my heart.  How do we speak truth in love in the political arena where there is so much at stake?  What does humility look like in conversations that flow from deep and passionate beliefs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had this kind of “learning” season.  The need to read broadly, listen well, educate myself and dig deeper is operating at a higher level than it has in a while.  I want to make sure I don’t limit myself to resources and voices that are familiar or safe to me.  I like hearing the perspective of those whose thinking, opinions and experiences are different than mine.  But I also have to ultimately choose who to believe.  Discernment is crucial.  In the end, how do I stay open to being educated but also decide where to land?  At some point, I have to decide whose data interpretation I trust most – and do that in a way that still allows for continued learning and growth.  Whose path forward seems right when tested by my own discernment and my own understanding of the issues.  Whose political agenda is most trustworthy, as best I can discern.

It’s a new era.  And I do believe we are being given an opportunity to reset priorities, to commit to community in new ways, to grow and make some necessary changes.  To learn that contentment does not come from our control of our own schedules and agendas.  To learn to love each other sacrificially.  And to deepen our belief that hope can still sustain us.