It’s different this time.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow it’s different this time around. Last fall, our family moved to France. We moved into a sort of mini-chateau in the French countryside, and began preparing it for a big, beautiful purpose: to host missionaries and their families who need a sanctuary. It was a beautiful dream that turned into reality in just a few short months. What we didn’t realize was that buying the house wasn’t going to be the hardest part. Not by a long shot. Everything that is hard about moving, and setting up a new house in a new town was ten times harder in another language. Compound that with the fact that we are foreigners without complete citizenship, and that made the simplest of tasks feel impossible. In those first three months we faced overwhelm, homesickness, culture shock, loneliness, and fatigue. Then…we went back to America. Our visas were only good for three months, and to apply for a longer stay visa that would allow us to apply for residency, we needed to be in the U.S. So, we locked the doors with the big, heavy iron keys, and said goodbye to our little village.
You’d think that would be when things got better, but for a little while they got worse. A lot worse. I felt lost, and more than a little afraid that we’d taken on more than we could handle. Fear turned to depression, and I spent weeks struggling to get my footing on this new slippery terrain as we moved from France to Arkansas, to Virginia, and back to Arkansas. Finally, after weeks of paperwork, and long to-do lists that felt impossible, I found myself sitting on the back porch of my in-law’s home. The creek trickled by while birds sang in the trees overhead, and for the first time in what felt like a year, I was still. I sat. I cried. I prayed. And over the course of a week, I slowly let go of all that fear that had been piling up inside of me. I’m not really sure when it happened, but one day I stood beside my mother in law doing dishes, and she turned to me with a sweet smile. “I’m so glad you have had this time here. I know it wasn’t what you had planned, but you look so much more….rested.”
I knew she was right. I had finally found some peace, and I was certain of my purpose again. What I wanted more than anything was to return to France and do the work we’d set out to do from the beginning, because I knew there were others out there feeling overwhelmed, afraid, and alone. I wanted to give them the same thing I’d been given, a place to rest. A place to sit and be quiet. A place to be reminded of your purpose, and your passion. A place to be restored, and renewed.
That’s why we’re here. And now as I move through the long to-do list, I know that every item has a deeper purpose behind it. Every step of preparing the house for guests is so that someone can come and find their rest here at the chateau. So, I pray. I pray for the weary wife and mother who has been too long away from her own mother, whose marriage is strained from all the stress of the work abroad, and yet her heart can’t stand the thought of leaving behind those she’s ministered to in her adopted home. I pray for the missionary who has become disillusioned with life, and fears he’s lost his passion. He wonders if he’s made a terrible mistake, wasted his life, and the fear weighs him down until his prayers feel like lead that never rise to meet God. I pray for the friend, the sister, the brother who are a world away where loved ones can’t reach them to help when the tears begin, and the calls grow shorter, or stop coming altogether. My heart aches for each of them, but I know there is a place here where they can find healing, and rest. I will cook a delicious meal, and welcome them with a hug, and show them their room in the little chateau on the hill where all is peaceful, and quiet. And there…there they will be restored to the Father.