His Plan For Me: Community
As I shared in a recent post, I stayed home here in Arkansas for the majority of the summer, while Eric served in Haiti.
After posting this I received so many messages, emails and texts from you guys, identifying with how I was feeling. Thank you so much. There’s nothing like putting your heart out for the world to read and having a good response back. So with that, I thought I’d update you all on my summer and the ways I was affirmed that it was God’s plan for me – that trusting His will was worth it.
In all transparency, one of the things I’ve struggled with in the past year is the lack of community I feel living in Arkansas and working in this ministry. The disconnect that can happen with your local support system while working in a non-traditional or traditional missions role, the ministry or any job where you’re travelling a lot is not uncommon. From the countless books and seminars to the conversations I have with friends in many areas of missions, it’s evident that maintaining your local community is incredibly important. Community helps you process your emotions and experiences, keeps you grounded, gives some stability.
Don’t get me wrong! I have a ton of great family, friends and church family that love and support me. But when you’re travelling and spending time away so often, it can be hard to invest in relationships in a way that furthers and grows them healthily. And most of the time, the fault is placed squarely upon my shoulders. We get the huge blessing of working in Haiti, but it can be hard to remain disciplined in keeping up relationships at home and church. And that’s why it’s so important to stay plugged in to a local body of believers and good friends to hold you accountable.
So, I had found myself whispering to Eric in late-night conversations that I just didn’t feel deeply connected to this town anymore. I felt to blame for that disconnect. I didn’t feel as connected at church as I wanted to be, that my relationships in all areas of life were feeling very surface level. That I missed my family and spending quality time with them, that I often feel like our friends give more to us than we can ever return. I knew those relationships and support system were there, like a safety net hanging underneath me.. but I guess I’d never had to test that net before. And let’s face it – I’m a big girl, I fall hard.
With a 2 month Haiti stay coming up, we were both SO pumped to get back on the ground in country and get our trips going. But, I also still had this nagging feeling in my stomach that said, “But what about your community here? When will you make the time, Bethany? When will you make a change?”
As I pushed those thoughts down deep and promised to “come back to the issue” after we returned from our summer, we stepped out of our doctor’s office with the shocking advice for me to stay home for the summer. 24 hours before we were set to fly out.
I was heartbroken. You all know the love in my heart for Haiti and her people, our staff, our pastors, our interns and friends there. And of course, being away from Eric in the midst of our first pregnancy, I knew would be hard.
As I laid my head on Eric’s chest and cried tears realizing I would be apart from him and Haiti for the first time, he said to me “God has a plan.. just think of all the time you have to invest here.” And it all clicked.
As soon as I thought about it, it made sense. The knot in my chest loosened a little. God had subtly and quietly worked out all the details for Haiti to happen without me. Trips were shuffled around, group leaders were beyond gracious and Eric took on so much extra work in my place. Meanwhile, God placed me here in the US with literally a wide-open schedule and a little red Nissan Altima that needed driven. And at that moment I realized, He’d heard me. He had a greater plan all along.
I spent the first month of my summer overwhelmed by the community that Christ re-affirmed for me. I would receive phone calls, texts, messages and invites for dinner. Girlfriends would call to go to lunch, family would check in on me. Co-workers checked in on me, made room for me in their schedules and gave me new tasks to help out with. Neighbors would help me with my groceries, my friends would take me baby shopping. My small group prayed for me, kept in contact with me for our weekly meetings.
My days were wrapped up in…
- Late night conversations with girlfriends, deepening friendships.
- Take-out with friends and watching movies.
- Visiting family for the whole weekend.
- Picking my niece up from daycare.
- Doing work with my father-in-law at the house.
- Eating lunch with my mother-in-law.
- Spending Father’s Day with my dad, uncle and grandma.
- Spending weeks of my time with my mom, getting to talk about life and love and all things baby.
- Having people come and sit with me at church so I wasn’t alone.
- Spending time with our small group, hearing them call Eric by name in prayer every night.
Community was rising up all around me – as it had been there the whole time, I just could’t see it.
What I learned is this: community is important.
It’s worth the time it takes to invest and travel and give of yourself. Community connects you. It gives you people to walk through life with, and to be your support system. It’s worth the potential for heartache that can come from giving so much of yourself to help another person and the potential for it to not be received well. It’s worth it to uncover harsh truths along the way and realize who is authentic in your life.
But what I learned even more than that is: you have to allow others to be your community.
So much of the time, I don’t give people who want to take care of me and support me the opportunity to do so. When someone offers to detail my car or clean my house or take me to lunch or whatever it may be.. I turn them away. Maybe it’s the southerner in me, I never want others to have to DO for me. I don’t want to be a burden on them.
But it’s like a friend of mine used to say: “Just let me bless you today.”
That’s so important! So many times, we want to help others and we secretly crave help for ourselves, but we put up walls. Maybe it’s pride that stands in the way of our community, or maybe it’s a need for control that keeps people at arms length.
I pray that you’ll find freedom to let go of whatever is holding you back. Allow others to step into your life in a real, up close and personal way. And that Christ can begin building community around you.
Now, looking back on the summer, my heart is so full. It was such a beautiful time, and one that I will never forget. Oh, how important it was for me to gain the foundation of community I was worried I had lost!
Now I sit and bask in the all-knowing power of our Father. I fully believe He carved out a plan for me this summer. Even when it looked like things were the farthest from His plan, He had me right on track.
I want to say thank you for everyone who supported me in the past 2 months. Everyone from work, everyone from Haiti, everyone from Arkansas, all of my friends and family and church family. All my group leaders, all our Haiti staff and all of our interns.
Thanks for everyone who looked after Eric and made sure he got enough sleep and didn’t drink a Toro everyday. 😉
Every single person who texted me, called to check in, stopped by for visits at the house and especially those who lifted heavy objects for me when I couldn’t. 😀
I’m so thankful that I feel so connected in this life and to this little tiny town and to the path Christ has for me.
May we all continue to follow Him, wherever He may lead.
Father, may I continue to follow You, wherever You may lead.