this week has been tough for me. my heart is tender and tired, and i have to fight the tears back multiple times a day. i’ve been meeting with the girls in my small groups, the same girls i have loved + taught + mentored + laughed + cried with for the past four years. i’ve watched some of them grow into young women, others from little girls to teens. i’ve prayed for them, listened to them, encouraged them, held their hands in mine and simply been with them.
and this week, i had to sit them down, had to tell them that i’m leaving Liberia in July–and not just for a few months. more like for a few years.
yes, that’s right. for reasons i do not need to go into here, i will be saying goodbye to my beloved Liberia this summer + transitioning out of full-time missions; i will return to the States and transition back into full-time life there. Liberia will always be a part of me, and i fully expect to come back and visit in the years ahead. but until then, the time has come for me to walk away. i have prayed long and hard about this decision, and i have deep peace about it. but it is still hard to think about saying goodbye, and it was really, really hard to break the news to my girls. i wanted to tell them early on so they have time to get used to the idea, but truthfully, it would have been just as difficult had i waited.
so many of them already struggle with abandonment issues, and i fear that i’m adding insult to injury. i know all too well what it’s like to feel discarded, forgotten and alone, and i weep at the thought of them feeling the same way. i don’t want their hearts to hurt. we have been through so much with one another, and though i know our hearts are forever knitted together, there is a deep pain that comes with the physical separation. i have not yet birthed children of my own, but i know what it is to have a mother’s heart. in these four years, God has entrusted His little ones to me, and i have taken them into my soul + into my arms as my own. and in a few short months, my arms will be empty, and my heart aches.
and that says nothing about how it feels to be saying goodbye to Liberia as a whole, saying goodbye to this season, to this chapter of life. it’s been over four years, and so much about this place has become home. it is a nation that has etched itself into my skin, and my affection for it + its people is as strong and real and alive as the blood that flows through my veins. i don’t want to forget. i want to remember what i saw here, what i felt here, what i lived through here. even the dark + painful, the grit, the mess. i don’t want to return to life in America + have my heart grow cold. i want to stay soft, to keep hurting for the things that are unjust and unfair. i want the burden to stay with me, even after i’m gone.
again, let me reiterate that i know with every fiber in my being that me leaving is right. i know it is God, and i know it is time. i am prepared, and there are new and exciting things for me in this next chapter. and i also know that is this the way of life, that seasons come and seasons go, and some stories come to an end, and everything, at some point, has to change.
still–it is sad. the grieving process is never easy. truly, July will be like an end of an era for me. i’ve given blood + sweat + tears here, so many tears, and today, even now, they still keep falling. i have grown as a person and in my faith so very much during these years. i’m no longer the broken shell of a woman that i was when i first stepped foot on Liberian soil back in 2008. this place and its people, the kids and the love i’ve felt with them and for them have healed me from the inside out. Liberia has given me so many things:: unspeakable joy, unspeakable heartbreak, unspeakable beauty, stories i’m determined to never forget. my heart is full and heavy, and that is the part that also hurts.
i know that the goodbyes will not be easy. as i’ve seen this week, even speaking of the goodbyes is hard. i know i’ll need to let myself grieve and hurt and cry–and i also know it will be okay.
i was listening to a song this morning, and found myself forming a prayer out of these lyrics::
take my life, take all that i am; with all that i am, i will love you. take my heart, take all that i have; Jesus, how i adore you.
and that’s really what all this comes down to, when i think about it:: worship. surrender. love. i gave myself fully to Jesus when i came to Liberia, and i’ll give myself fully to him again when it’s time to leave. it is my prayer that he truly does take my heart, the weight and all of its fullness. he can take the sadness, the grief, the pain, the longing, the ache, the hope, the excitement, the love. he can take the kids and my girls, the staff, my friends. he can take the past and the future, the unknown, what is still to be seen. he can take the sunsets, the breeze, my porch, the laughter, the prayers, the colors, the smells. everything i have opened my heart to, everything that has settled itself into the deepest part of me–it’s his, all his.
for now, i am nothing more than a tangled mess of emotions, and i suppose that’s natural. as i said, this week was hard. really hard. and hard weeks will come my way again, especially as the time of my departure grows near. but, as i told the girls this week, for now, i’m still here. i am present in body + heart + soul. i am still determined to dig my heels in here, to live fully in every moment, to suck the marrow from the days i have left in Liberia.
i share all this with you because, whether you know it or not, you are a part of this journey i am on. many of you have stood by my side during these four years, held my hand when i felt fearful, encouraged me when i wanted to walk away. and i also share this with you because, to be brutally, transparently honest, i need you now. i need your prayers. i need your encouragement. i need your support. i need shoulders to cry on and people to lean up against when i’m weak + sad + scared + trying to figure out this crazy mess called life, the continual changing of tides, the turning of seasons. old gives way to new, and sometimes we get caught in the in-between place, and that is where i find myself now:: grieving what was, anticipating what will come, learning to embrace the season i am in while looking ahead to the next one–the hope-full, the new.