I have been reflecting back to over a year ago when it was the first time James had to travel for an extended period of time, leaving me alone with the boys. On this very blog, I counted down the days. That time was extremely stressful and extremely lonely for me. We had only been in China for a month and a half and we only knew one other family (our MCC co-volunteers). They helped me a great deal and as much as they were able. But it is hard to fill the gap of being alone in the dark house after the boys go to bed at 8:00 for days on end. Additionally, back then I was extremely reluctant to admit that I was having a hard time. I figured that it was better to deal with it alone, than to have people feel sorry for me, thereby making me feel even worse. I know without a doubt that God helped me through that time and I grew because of it, but there was a definite emptiness that can only be filled by community (not just a few people).
So much has changed in the time since then. Even though these are the most stressful circumstances that James has been gone under, I feel surrounded by people who care about me. Part of it is because we know a lot more people, but another part is that I have chosen to open up about my struggle. Pretending to be strong sucks. Surprisingly, I have found that opening up about my struggle has released mounds of pressure and has, in itself, strengthened me. I have let go of the struggle and joy has come in its place. My Chinese friends have helped me and supported me. My expat friends have been spending a lot of time around our house, playing with the boys or having a meal with us. I have a friend, Sarah, who is living with me and we have spent late nights just chatting with each other (or watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman!). My family has written to encourage me. My MCC co-volunteer has listened to me break down at the office. It has been a humbling experience for me to receive all these different forms of help, but I feel that they are absolutely God sent.
God is certainly the one who maintains me in this time. I'm learning that instead of just trying to draw strength from him, I can tell him about exactly what is bothering me, and strength comes from that. If he continues to be with me right now, then I do not have to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will eventually become now. Another good thing is that James was able to call me four days ago, when he normally does not have access to phones. He is also is discovering the benefits of community, having randomly found a group of Canadians to spend his evenings with.
Even though I do not savor this situation, I feel very blessed and I feel very provided for. On Saturday night I had a girl party. We made cinnamon buns and painted our toenails and spent the whole evening laughing. I haven't had so much fun in years! I think I sounded like I was 14 again from all of my laughing, but I couldn't believe how light I felt afterwards. Crying can help relieve pressure, but laughing can too. Its the proverbial "good medicine".
It has also been wonderful having Sarah here with me. Just having her here keeps me accountable for the way that I treat the boys. I sometimes find that when James is gone, I have a much shorter temper than usual with the boys, since I take out my frustrations on them. If there is no one to hear me yell at them, then it is almost as if it didn't happen ...but then I feel guilty. With her here, I have to be more patient and creative than usual. Not only am I getting along with them better, I also don't have the crushingly guilty feeling of being a bad parent.
Three more days.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good... His love endures forever.