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I Don’t Think It’s Just the Jet-lag Talking ~ Life:Unmasked

I’m [relatively] safe and sound at home, 8,000 miles from Sri Lanka, today. The time change has been rough, compounded by the 33 hours of travel to get home. My body keeps telling me to stop pulling all-nighters. It begins to shut down mid-afternoon in protest of the total routine inversion I’ve inflicted on it twice in two weeks. I can barely focus my eyes, my thoughts plod slowly except when they snap at childishness. I fall asleep during bedtime prayers, propped up in the elbow between the wall and the boy’s dresser.

team waiting at JFK

I repeat Matthew’s advice constantly. “Go easy on them. They didn’t have this experience.” But I’m angry when one child grumbles about picking up toys, another won’t eat the food in front of them, and that one nags me for something new. I’m angry at myself for letting them get sucked into consuming and collecting and one-upping. Have I failed as a mother? As I rip open bills and look at bank accounts, I’m angry at myself for falling into it too. Have I failed as human being? I bite my tongue and try to hide my anguish. Go easy on them. They didn’t have this experience. But what about me? I did have it. Twice. How am I changed? Have I done right by this?

hut and pots outside

I turn the water on at the sink to fill my coffee pot. It’s so easy. Mala’s face flashes before me. She walks 2 kilometers for water to wash with, and has to buy drinking water in jugs each day. She has no faucet, no air conditioner, no windows, no fans. She only has light when the solar panel they were given works (or when the sun shines). She goes hungry to make sure her children have food and books for school. I think of my little cockroach friend in my hotel bathroom and how I left the light on all night so he wouldn’t come out and play. I think how they have no such luxury, and I shudder.

boys laughing

I’m haunted by these precious beautiful people, and I don’t know what to do about it. It doesn’t get any easier the second time you take a trip like this. The tears are just under the surface as I pull food out of refrigerator and pantry for dinner, as I hop into my van to drop my son off at school, as I curl up on my mattress under our ceiling fan’s whir and burrow under the sheets and blankets. My life is so easy when I think about the challenges they face.

I know what I wrote before:

This whole thing? It isn’t about me. It’s about God and what He is doing. I’ve been given a small part, and broken is exactly how I need to be.  I’m just a pot with cracks that give you a glimpse of how God is planting and cultivating hope in the desperately poor. Those cracks work the other way too, giving the people of Sri Lanka, both those in need and those serving, a glimpse of your love for them.

father and son

I saw how it touched our sponsored boys’ moms that I, a stranger from the other side of the world, cared enough about them and their sons to bring them presents and partner with them to help them make a better future. They are just like me, when someone cares enough about my children to invest in them. My breath catches in my throat when I remember playing ball with those boys.

playing ball with the boys

I know that where I live should determine what I give. I know this. And we are giving. But it doesn’t make the stark contrast, the whiplash, any easier. Everyone on our team is experiencing this same agony. Tony wrote us last night that one week ago, we threw an 8th birthday party for the girl he and his wife sponsor, and today he threw an 8th birthday party for his son. It’s almost too much.

They say ignorance is bliss. And it is. But I don’t want to go back, even if I could. What we’ve seen is real and these questions I have are important. I want to, no I need to find what it is that we are to do, the lucky ones. Every person we’ve met and every story we’ve heard is a treasure, and now we are their caretakers. I want to be a good steward of them.

Disclosure: Thank you to World Vision USA for inviting me to join the Sri Lanka bloggers trip this year and for paying my travel expenses.


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  1. Oh friend. You are changed and it can’t be undone. I will say, over time that change begins to thread it’s way into every fiber of who you are. When you look back at the tapestry God has woven, called “your life”, this new run of thread will forever change the way that tapestry looks. And from here on out a new pattern will emerge. At first it’s such a stark contrast to the way it was woven before. But over time you’ll look back and see that fabric needed to be richer, more vibrant, more thoughtful, more earnest. This change will become a part of you and you’ll eventually put it on and it will feel right. Your choices from here on out, the way you look at life, the way you form relationships, see our country, interact with your kids will be different. But before long, so natural. Sending hugs your way!

  2. I loved this. I know this feeling well – it was the same feeling that brought me out In near panic attack and weeping when I first went into a British supermarket after coming back from Mozambique. It’s the relief of being at home, and finally being able to relax, and the guilt – and the anger at the injustice and the ignorance of everyone around – they should know about this! They should care! – and the anger at myself that it should make a differenc to me but I don’t know what kind of difference, and anything less than 100% would not be worthy of the huge inequality but I don’t really want to change 100% really – and what would 100% look like anyway?

    Thanks for reminding me again of that feeling. It pops up with some regularlity, but is fainter now. I don’t like it, because I don’t know what to do with it. I’m completely with you.

  3. Oh I hear you … I have been to West Africa two times – once for a year upon completing high school and once in 2010 with my then 2 and 3 year old for 5 weeks.

    Two years later I still find myself wondering “why do I desire (insert random consumable luxury) when I literally KNOW people who have dirt floors and plastic lids for their kids to play with?”

    It’s a blessing to have that wider view of the world, to have expanded myself beyond my own reality into a much wider one. To some degree it has tamed my inner selfish desires. But more than that, it’s given me a contentedness and ability to stretch myself further than I ever could have imagined while we’re walking through our own current season of unemployment.

  4. I would liken the experience my wife and I had to an addict coming off of substance. We were miserable for weeks after returning from short trips. Our solution was we moved to Paraguay, South America four years ago as independent missionaries. Clearly this is not the answer for everyone but in our case our misery was the precursor to a call.

  5. Joy, thank you so much for this. You have bravely crawled behind the anger that shows itself on the surface to the hurt, fear and tenderness that stirs that anger. THAT’S where we need to go, that’s what we need to see. All of you who traveled to this place are living in the middle of the greatest paradox of all – the unfairness of life, and you are seeing first hand the ways in which those of us living in the materially blessed world can partner with those who are not. And I underscore the material part of that statement. Because so many of the stories you all have told reflect different kinds of blessedness in the people you’ve met. A strong sense of community, an openness to people from different places, an ability to rejoice in the smallest of gifts – these are blessings, too. And while we need to continually be working to make the material blessings abound, we also need to pay attention to what the people who live without them can teach us, can share with us. So I thank you for urging us to do both – to give more and to look more carefully, too. You are stewarding them well, Joy. You are.

  6. Practice gentleness my friend…with your loved ones, but most importantly, with yourself.


  7. Beautiful and honest, Joy, as always.Couldn’t agree with Kristin more.

  8. Love what Kristin said. She is so wise.

    Praying for your soul, friend, as it weaves the old and new together and makes a new Joy.

  9. so so hard to see and then come home.

  10. Your trip must have been fantastic ! It does touch ones heart to view others in other lands

  11. Those trips take us places we’ve never truly thought about, truly understand until we’ve been there. Watched it with our own eyes. Thank you for sharing and for linking up with me! Blessings from Simply Helping Him!


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