View from White Mountains in the clouds
One year ago a friend gave to me a gift that I treasure today as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. This gift enabled me to unleash the torrent of words that would otherwise swim in my mind. Though I cannot physically feel the gift in the palms of my hands, I feel it as time and time again it lifts my spirit. It directs my sight. It lifts me up. This unspoken gift is this blog. With this platform I share my love of words and learnings from life. To be good at something is a gift. To realize what we do best is a gift. Even to love is a gift. And so I ask myself now as I approach my mission in Mexico, “How can I love? And how does love intermingle with support?” For the next few months I hope my posts will bless you, my support team, as I share about my journey to Mexico and beyond.
This first blog is the first of many in the upcoming weeks and months. It is both for myself and for others as I read aloud the next chapter in my life. Before I attempt to answer the questions I have set for myself concerning love and support, I must explain. Though many of you, my faithful friends and supporters, have already heard this story I must tell it again.
Eight years ago I determined to become a missionary nurse. Of all the people who hated math and science I probably despised it the most because, to be very honest, I was not good at it. I, who preferred a book conversation than a life one, was going to talk with real people who didn’t speak my language? I, the introvert, was determined to go to Africa? May we all pause and thank God that our personalities change and develop. Amen? Amen! Let’s just say I firmly believe my personality and attitude has changed since the years of awkward introvertiness (if you are having trouble reading that word…it’s not you. It’s not a word, but for my purposes, it is now! Think nerdy but introvert…y) yet while I will always value my moments of peace and quiet I have grown to love my extroverted moments when I learn about the amazing lives of people and when I get to goof around on the piano for anyone willing to listen to my unpolished piano pieces. These are moments I treasure as equally as silence, solitude, and self-reflection. Where was I? Oh yes. Africa!
Well to be honest, Africa never happened. And as of this last year I am quite convinced nursing will not happen either. How can it be that after eight years of knowing exactly what I was going to do with my life, the winds of change just picked me up and dropped me off in this unexpected place? And it is not Africa.
My response was to choose instead Honduras. Yet again, weeks before departure, the winds of change picked me up and dropped me off, not in Honduras where I would be right now, but at an intersection with two schools on either side of me and a journey to Mexico straight ahead. The winds blow at my back nudging me forward to a new people, a new land, a new experience. That summarizes where I sit now on the curb of the intersection with college 1 on the left and college 2 on the right and a journey straight ahead that will shape my whether I turn left or right at the end of a Mexico trip. College 1? Or college 2?
What does it mean to love? I admit in the process of growing I experienced a growing pain that was not the physical speed at which I grew but which concerned the mental growth of my inquisitive mind. What is to love? And thus at a young age, I began asking the rhetorical questions that only I could contemplate. I experienced the hard realization that if i wanted to love people like in Africa, I had to first love the people here in the small world in which I live. Over the years I realized I did not have to love people. It was a gift to love all people. That is what to love means–seeing the gift in loving someone.
And now the question that I have just begun to ask. What is support? And how does it relate to love?
To be honest, I have paid little attention to support because like the trees in the backyard who have and always will be there, support was freely given to me because those who surrounded me, my family, always had and always would support me.
I take a moment to reflect on the earliest remembrance of support. I was eight. Our family decided to take a walk with another large family. Kids. Kids everywhere. In front and behind. Above (in the trees) and below (in the swampy marsh). I remember walking in the middle of the pack of wild children. I kept just ahead of the adults as to feel like a big girl but far enough behind the pack of boys that I would not get in their way. I mostly looked down and watched one new, white sneaker follow the other. I can’t remember if they sparkled when I walked, but at the time I don’t think it mattered since the whiteness practically glittered. It happened so quickly. The herd ahead of me had stopped. I kept moving forward absorbed in my shoes. But I remember hearing from my brother, “Kathryn, wait for someone.” “Humph” I proudly responded. The trail ahead was mine! How exciting to roam the trails all by myself. I walked faster. Soon I had outpaced everyone happily jogging and trotting my way out of sight. I enjoyed my new found freedom leading the big kids. “It would only be a few moments before their big strides had outpaced mine.” But none followed. I stopped and turned. No one was there. I waited. No one came. I knew the loop made a circle and I would run as many times as I needed until I caught back up. So I walk-trotted, trying to keep the panic out of my eyes and focusing the energy into my stubby legs.
I passed a bench of women. They tried to speak to me, clearly concerned that I was walking alone. At the time they looked to me like the witches out of the brother’s grim fairy tales. I scurried past like a mouse afraid to look and afraid to speak. They wanted to tie my shoe for me but that was like allowing myself to be captured. Lap after lap I felt certain that I would see my herd. Each time I completed a loop I passed that bench of scary people. The women cackled among themselves. Towards the end of yet another loop I finally broke. I plopped down on the side of the trail and wept. I would rather get eaten by lions beside the trail then face humiliation in front of those women. It wasn’t long before I felt arms around me. They picked me up and I knew i was supported by the only arms that could lift a car off a man, bench press hundreds of pounds, and send me flying into my bed from a fifteen foot distance. I sobbed. Terrified. Mortified. Exhausted. My untied shoe lace hung loose as my leg swayed weightlessly in air.
As I grew I saw new ways in which those who loved me supported me. My siblings lovingly dared me into performing acts of stupidity, yet it is firmly believed in our household that any dumb plan executed violently is bound to succeed. When my brothers clapped and cheered (even if the plan wasn’t so bright) was a form of support. That was the sibling support in middle school. In high school family always cheered me on with each hurdle I jumped (or broke) and over each pole vault bar I cleared. What I don’t think I observed was how my relations supported me through the bad situations as equally as the good. When I think of the support showed to me, I mostly remember the thrill of success, but on harder reflection I can only imagine the heaviness I would have felt if people had not supported me in the difficulties of life. Support is to hold someone up in the good and the bad. Family supports for better for worse. I have some pretty stellar parent examples to learn from.
Now as an individual ready to serve, I had to learn to seek support. I seek support in multiple ways. I am entering a new world found in México, with a list of physical needs. Who will stand beside me as I step across the street? Support is one of those things that warms like a cup of cocoa or a favorite fleece or even a little nook for reading. Support is a a hand, a monetary gift, or a note saying “we are praying for you.”
You know who you are. A friend told me, “raising support is one of the hardest parts of preparing for a mission, but it is this support that keeps me going and makes what I do worth it.” I could not agree more. With a few weeks to organize a month long trip, I hardly know where to start. I can only say, “please.” I can only humble myself and say, “I need help” for help to come. That is all I am capable of. And so I write. Pleading with myself to be very honest about why I am making this trip and seeking aid with humility. I trembled with emotion from each generous demonstration of support because with each letter that found its way into my palm I was assured that here was yet another person who believed in the work that God was using me for. There was no longer any doubt in my mind that I was alone in this journey.
On the edge of my bed I slipped a finger under the lip of one such envelope. I folded back the paper and read the contents. I could only gasp and close my eyes, shaking my head gently from side to side. Me? Imperfect me. Unworthy. Mortal. Broken. Me. I am going to Mexico, but I am not going alone. And this love and support I give to those less fortunate children who never had the comfort of being carried in someone’s arms. To one little child who never tasted the sweet warmth of hot chocolate. To one who has never known what security feels like. Support and love causes security, and security initiates the truth that each of us is loved. With your love and support I go to México. To the orphanges. “Niño querido. Jesús te ama. ¿Cómo sé? Porque Él ama todos.