I'm still expecting to wake up and this all just be a dream. This year has been a complete whirlwind, and I think I'm only beginning to come up for air and process just how dramatically my life has changed within a matter of months.
By now many of you know that I've relocated to Miami, Florida to pursue a master's degree in social work from Barry University. But, in order to tell this story in totality I should really start at the beginning.
In early 2017 I began my training to become a certified yoga instructor -- something I had desired to pursue for several years. In addition to becoming a 200-hour certified instructor, there was also an opportunity for specialized training and certification for trauma-sensitive yoga -- I immediately enrolled.
For nine weeks the course dove deep into the psychology of trauma and how deeply it affects the brain. Trauma has the ability to alter a person's entire personality and create behavioral disorders and mental illness if left untreated.
This newfound knowledge was exploding in my brain and igniting a passion deep within me I never knew could exist.
As I was beginning to have a deeper understanding of trauma, and its relation to mental illness, I couldn't help but realize just how revolutionary these ideas would be to the work of Jasper House Haiti in working with women who have experienced severe trauma. How amazing would it be to be able to translate this information in way to create resources and methods that could help these precious women truly find freedom from the horrors of their past once and for all?
I was coming to the realization that maybe I was always meant to be a moving piece for Jasper House. Perhaps I was supposed to take a leap of faith, and go back to school after seven years to pursue an education in something that would make such an impactful difference in the lives of those I seek to serve.
However, in the midst of this whirlwind of revelation I was fighting my own demons.
There's a lot they don't tell you about life as a missionary, aid worker, humanitarian, or whatever word you want to use to describe someone living abroad in a developing country doing some type of charitable work.
They don't tell you about the isolation, loneliness, and depression.
They don't warn you about the days you want to give up and totally check out.
There's no preparation for just how draining and exhausting the work can be, and how you will always fight feelings of guilt for being tired, burnt out, or wanting to do anything for yourself.
My excitement and enthusiasm for the possibility of going back to school was quickly put out and overtaken by the swirling feelings of doubt and guilt for even considering the idea of leaving Haiti to pursue something more.
Over the last year I really struggled and never knew how to fully express it in words, or even admit it to myself. I did everything I could to convince myself I was fine and the idea of school was too farfetched to ever become a reality.
There were moments I felt so incredibly alone - as though I was screaming and no one could hear me. Drowning without anyone to send me a life-jacket.
And that's when I began to realize, when did I buy into this lie that I wasn't allowed to take care of myself and admit when things were too much to bear on my own anymore?
Where did I learn this martyr mentality that if I wasn't suffering I wasn't doing God's work?
It's a load of crap is what it is.
These types of martyr and savior mentalities are the very things that can break individuals down to point where they feel so low and defeated they lose all hope in the vision they once had. Working through the lens that you are there to save, and no one can do the work but you will not only exhaust you to a point where you're drained of every ounce of passion, but also be extremely damaging to the communities in which you work.
My passion was burning out and my energy running thin. I was coming to the humbling realization that I in fact do not know it all. There was so much more I needed to learn and understand in order to provide our women with the best possible care - and to improve as an individual.
The church really fails us when they preach messages about mission work and being a "goer". There's no emphasis on being prepared, equipped, and qualified to do whatever it is you feel God calling you to do. While having a willing and obedient heart is so very important, having training and education in the fields in which you desire to work are equally if not even more crucial to being successful and supported in your aims.
Following where God calls you is the first step. Preparing yourself is the next.
This is where I found myself. Caught on the verge of burn out, and humbly admitting that I had reached a fork in the road where further training and education was the only way that not only Jasper House, but myself as an individual would truly be able to move forward.
There's another issue I see with people working abroad, or in any realm of ministry really.
The work becomes their identity. No longer are they an individual person, but the work is their entire being and they are the work. This creates a tragic divide as they begin to lose their ability to relate and engage with others. Everyone becomes a threat and you no longer know how to interact without being defensive and guarded. Relationships are broken and the isolation and loneliness grow more intense as you feel as though you have no one and your ability to trust and let others in is completely gone.
To be successful in ministry you must come to the realization that you are not an owner, but a steward.
You have been chosen to be a vessel of hope, freedom, and love. When we move into the position of owner our pride takes over and can virtually destroy all we set out to achieve.
At the beginning of 2018 I was allowing myself to come to these realizations and admit that perhaps it was time to step back and allow my more than equipped and capable Haitian staff to take the reigns and do what I always believed they could do - lead, empower, and inspire.
Maybe it wasn't me who made Jasper House operate. Maybe I was the one who merely lit the match and the others who came alongside of me set the fire ablaze.
Maybe I was becoming an owner and my pride was getting in the way, hardening my heart, and creating friction in my ability to create relationships and even go deeper in my walk with the Lord.
Perhaps it was time that I humbled myself and publicly admitted it was time to go and learn. To educate myself to help prevent any potential damage that could be done to our women due to my ignorance and lack of experience.
I had a breakthrough one evening as I was listening to a song that had been recently released by Hilsong Worship called New Wine.
The words penetrated my heart and sank deep into my soul with resounding, yet painful truth.
It was time for new wine. It was time to be renewed and refined so a new fire and power could flow from this vessel that I was created to be.
It was time to let go and trust God to continue to carry Jasper House without my constant presence. It was time to trust Him to take me to new places and begin to allow new wine to flow out of me.
It was time to allow myself to heal and to learn to love and trust again.
So for the second time in my life, I said yes. I said yes to following the Lord with blind faith not knowing how He would open the doors or provide for me to take such a huge leap and once again make a dramatic transition in my life.
But just like Jesus in all His goodness and faithfulness, He opened every door. Every person I told showed extreme support and confirmed that this truly was the direction I was supposed to go.
So here we are, almost a year and a half later from when I first began to consider the idea of going back to school. I now live in Miami and will start school in just a few weeks. My daily life looks very different from my island home, but my heart is happy and has complete peace that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.
I'm sure many more thoughts and emotions will come as I continue to settle into this new lifestyle, but one thing is certain.
I'm ready for new wine.
I'm ready to be a renewed vessel.
I'm ready to heal, grow, and learn all that I can so I can be poured out once again.
Jesus, bring new wine out of me.