A few days ago I received an email from a friend asking "How's China?" Little did he know what a loaded question that was. Thankfully for him, we haven't talked in quite a while so I gave him a brief synopsis and left it at that.
My response: crazy.
That's the first word that came to mind and the only one that could truly encompass my feelings at the present time. Not crazy in a bad way necessarily, but in an out of control, unpredictable, frustrating at times, exhausting, but *can* be fun kind of way. There's really no way to describe it, and words don't truly do it justice; you just have to experience it. Some of it (well, most) is due to cultural differences, some is the nature of the work we do.
Last weekend we went camping. Mikey and I had tested out a spot and felt it would be a great place to take the Martin family. It was great; tents, a fire, hot dogs, marshmallows, all the stuff you need for a perfect camp-out. The next day was a bit different. We made it until about noon and then, we were spotted. Within an hour, we were literally surrounded by people and shortly after, they had taken over the space. We decided after a while that they weren't going anywhere, so we started to pack up and headed to a little amusement park they had down the road. We came to the conclusion that we couldn't be stationary for more than 30 seconds without being mobbed (by "we" I really mean Mikey and me; Steve and Laura have an amazing way of handling the crowds' reaction to their blond-haired, blue-eyed children). I share all of that, not to complain or criticize, but just to give an example of what I mean when I tell you that things can be crazy here. It's just the way it is.
Later on in the week, as I was working in the office (which is a shared space with some of our nurses), one of our babies was brought in who was in respiratory distress; they were giving her oxygen and making her as comfortable as possible as she took what they thought might be her last breaths. As I sat there doing some work the hard reality hit me that in the same room was a baby who was taking her last breaths. What do you do with that? I know that we work with very sick children, but I also realize that I shield myself from that very often, because to be honest, I don't know what to do with that. I've never watched anyone take their last breaths, and to watch a baby at just a few months old was almost more than I could take at that moment.
I share that, again, not in a complaining way. I can genuinely say without a doubt that I would not choose to be anywhere else. Yes, it is hard. It is draining. It is frustrating and some days I wonder what difference, if any, I am making or what purpose I have for being here. But then there are those moments, when I walk into a nursery and I hear Jessica calling out "Becca!" and then Fahlin plops down on my lap; or when Milton runs over smiling with arms outstretched and holds my pant legs until I pick him up; when Jillian giggles when I kiss her, and Riley (who used to cry every time I got too close) walks up with a big smile and says "mama"; when I can hear Judah coming down the hall so excited that it's time for preschool. It's those moments that make the difficulty worth it, and it's those moments that I would not trade for anything.
I have realized that in my flesh, I don't have the energy to deal with difficulty very well. I can only take so many stares and so many pictures before I want to scream or tell people to leave us alone. I want so badly to love, but in my flesh, I am irritable and selfish. I have so far to go and know that I am desperate for grace. I can do nothing of worth or value or meaning unless I remain in Him. But how often I forget, and I wander and think that I can do this on my own, just to find myself once again in a place where I realize my desperation.
That's where have been for the past couple of months. I would not be truthful if I said it hasn't been hard. I have difficulty admitting that it's hard, because I genuinely love it here and don't want to be anywhere else, and I think we often assume that when we're in that place, things should be "easy" or "good," but that isn't always the case. In a prideful sense, I also have a difficult time admitting when things are hard because I don't want it to seem as though I can't do it. But, the reality is that I can't do it. At least not alone.
"Remain in Me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot bear fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me. Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing." -Jesus, John 15