You'd think after more than a month of not blogging, that I'd finally hit you hard with a nice big 'ol summary of all things Ecuador and ministry. That was my intention but something else has been on my mind. (Side note: I'm realizing that keeping an online journal up to date is a lot harder than I thought. It certainly isn't because I'm lacking inspiration. The ministry is amazing, the studies leave me absolutely giddy and the differences between life here and the United states give me enough material for about 5 years of writing. But I'm learning it comes more naturally to me to approach writing here the same way I approach writing songs. Songwriting is how I process my thoughts and feelings and when I don't feel the need to purge, creating just feels forced and I'd rather strum old tunes I've written than just write for the sake of writing...That said, I still want to be better at documenting our experiences here, so I will try harder!)
So today I listened to the band The Lumineers while getting ready and this was kind of a big deal. In about the spring of 2013, that band for me ended what I call "the years the music died" or in other words, the music drought during my four years at bethel. Ok, I know, very dramatic. But I'm not saying it was necessarily a bad thing. Before getting married and going to bethel, writing music, discovering music, listening to music was my everything, everything! I wrote and played guitar almost everyday, sometimes for hours. But my focus soon changed. After getting married, my focus during my time at bethel was on my two husbands, Matt and Bethel (yes bethel most certainly felt like a second relationship I had to nurture and respect and grow a deep love for just like in a marriage.) So although I still enjoyed music while there, my obsessive attachment to it had lessened while other things blossomed.
Well around the time I started commuting between Wallkill and Patterson to help the dental department there every 3-4 weeks, I decided it was time to load up my mp3 player with some new tunes to make the shuttle rides more enjoyable. So began my love affair with The Lumineers. That is ALL I listened to for months. As I squished between fellow bethelites in the shuttle van, I couldn't wait to pop in my ear buds and watch the sun come up to an awesome soundtrack as I mentally prepared for a day of radiographs, probing and scaling. Each note, strum and gritty vocal track became encoded and memorized. Yes encoded right up until Monday June 10th, the day Matt surprised me at Patterson to drive me back to Wallkill, yes instead of that small white shuttle van. Monday June 10th, the day he broke the news to me as I fastened my seatbelt, that we were leaving bethel, we had been reassigned to the field.
The first hour in that car after he told me to be honest, felt dreadful. With just a few simple words our world, our goals, our life was turned upside down. Like when a gigantic ocean wave knocks you off your feet and in those moments of submersion you can't quite figure out what is up or down and the sandy floor feels like it has betrayed you. Instead of giving you a place to firmly plant your feet, you feel it's grains of sand and pebbles grate your shoulders and back. Your situation feels desperate even though you know the wave will eventually disperse and the sky will offer just enough light to orient you back to your feet, upright with exasperated lungs ready to breathe again.
So it was after an hour of complete breakdown, that with Jehovah's help, I gained my orientation again. I could see how this reassignment was a clear answer to ongoing prayers that we had been making for a couple years, prayers begging for crystal clear direction about our service to Jehovah. Well after that, we were able to stay focused and positive and forward looking. I didn't really give myself the option of looking longingly backwards, honestly there were too many things to be excited about on the horizon. Pioneering with the man I love, travelling, occasionally sleeping in... with the strong sense of Jehovah's backing in this swift change of events, the future possibilities were thrilling. So as the waves receded back to wherever waves are born, we started carefully planning our trip to Ecuador. And I stopped listening to The Lumineers.
I know that at the time it wasn't a conscious decision but looking back now, I realize why I gave that album space. As you know, music has this almost miraculous ability to latch on to entire groups of memories, specific emotions and moments, even spans of years. The Lumineers had become a soundtrack not only to the mundane rides back and forth between the Patterson and Wallkill complexes, but also to an area of personal transition between "bethelite" and ...well, "question mark". The melodies were permanently etched to a time and place that didn't feel the same anymore. Yes their notes had become scored and glued to feelings as well, feelings I didn't want to acknowledge inwardly or out loud yet... feelings of rejection possibly? Separation anxiety? A reluctance to say goodbye to our newly wed home and all of our family members? Yes a relationship had ended and Wallkill had become my ex...husband? As expressive as I seem one thing I can do pretty darn well is avoid and deny certain emotions. Especially those that I'm scared will be too raw to touch.
SO! The last couple weeks, as the excitement of a new country and life has thawed out a little, I discovered a small aching ember that had been buried deep underneath months of newly built memories, fresh feelings of excitement as well as anxieties. It had burrowed underneath the layers of our new life. Yes this small ember glowed somewhere between my throat and the deepest parts of my chest and it flickered and fluttered at the oddest of times, anonymous and often fleeting. And every so often in the moments of stillness and quiet before falling asleep, this little ember would burn..until I finally put my finger on it. In all the months of looking forward after our reassignment, of fierce determination to attack our future with gusto and zeal, a piece of my heart still remained raw and untouched and just a little bit broken. Yes I missed "Him". I missed Wallkill.
So ten months after hearing the news that our life would change I began to finally mourn the end of it. My wonderful Matt, patiently listened and stayed awake during hours designed for sleeping as I finally turned my attention towards feelings I had neglected and refused to acknowledge fully. He held me close as tears were shed and grieving was done for a beautiful part of our life that simply is no more. Focusing on the past can certainly be unhealthy if done immodestly. But sometimes, I think processing feelings is completely necessary to digest and eliminate anxiety and move forward with joy.
I'm actually quite happy that there are days I miss being at bethel. I wouldn't want it any other way because it means that, despite the challenges of adjusting to bethel life, I managed to hold on to all the wonderful aspects, to remember the really GREAT things. No bitter breakup here. Yes, "He" may be my ex now but we split on quite amicable terms. (Excuse me while I exhaust this metaphor:))
So this morning as I moisturized and brushed and cleansed I decided some music was needed. And scanning through my Pandora radio stations I realized something was missing...yes, a Lumineers station. Is it silly to say my heart started beating faster as I typed the band into the radio program? I was actually nervous that at the sound of those familiar chords I would start playing with sentiments that were not quite ready to be combined with sentimental music. But you know what? The most reassuring thing happened as my tablet sung out one of my favorite Lumineers songs, Stubborn Love: I couldn't stop smiling. Because I just love that song and also because I felt triumph that, although those notes slightly pressed against the most subtle ache in my heart, I felt at a real peace with the sudden turns our life had taken. I realized I can love and hold dear an era that has ended while falling in love all over again with another form of service. Yes as the music flooded our bathroom, I kind of felt like I had bumped into an old flame. But instead of getting burned, well, my hips began to swing.
(Click the link for the official music video for Stubborn Love by The Lumineers)