This last year has been a roller coaster of a ride for me and my husband, Jason. Last Christmas, we very suddenly came back to the states after 7 years living in China. For a number of reasons, it was a very quick goodbye to all of our friends there and it felt as if we grabbed whatever we could carry, and, with the clothes on our backs, hopped on a plane back to Texas.
Because it was such a whirlwind of a goodbye, in many ways, we feel as if some ghost of ourselves are still living in that sweet apartment on Da Wan Bei Street. No closure.
We’ve been trying our best not to numb out on chocolate and cable TV and intentionally grieve this huge loss. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is that, in order to truly process anything significant in my life, I need to do that in deep communion with the Lord.
Growing up spiritually in a conservative Bible church, I thought for a long time that this only looked like hours in deep Bible study, taking notes, and silent prayer. I didn’t have many other examples, other than worship through music, of being with the Lord and processing through something with Him. And I’m so not musical, guys. I can dance to music like nobody’s business, but play an instrument? Sing? You do not want to hear that. Cuz…yikes.
While I still very much need that deep Bible study and silent prayer, I also found I needed to acknowledge how I was made and who I was. Having been an artist most of my life, I always felt that deep connection with the Lord when I worked, but it wasn’t until this year that I feel like I’ve fully and unashamedly embraced it.
The painting above is part of my grieving process. It is a picture of what I felt for many years in my marriage and in my relationship with the Lord. The shit hit the fan while we were in China, and it would’ve been super easy to blame all our problems on China and our circumstances, and for a while I did. But, thankfully, we had some amazing friends who pointed us toward our own hearts.
If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country, even for a month or two, after the romance wears off, things get really ugly. Everything that was new and exciting now seems unfamiliar, stupid, annoying, frustrating, dirty, gross, smelly, and just plain wrong. Living as an expat has a way of ripping away all your normal coping mechanisms (cheese, margaritas and English TV) and bringing up all this nasty muck that was hiding deep inside some dark place in your heart.
All that muck, it’s just all over yourself, and then it gets on the people you love most, like your long suffering husband. You find yourself yelling things at each other you’ve only seen on Jerry Springer, and then, after a while the yelling stops, but there isn’t much talking at all, except what needs to get done. There’s a lot of silence. Heartbreaking silence.
That was the lowest place Jason and I had ever been in our marriage. I hope we’re never, ever back there again. It took a lot of work and help from other people who pointed us back to each other and back to the Lord, and we’re grateful that we’ve healed from all those ways we hurt each other.
“It Wasn’t China, It Was Us,” though it’s a reminder of such a deep pain that I can still feel it in the pit of my stomach when I look at it sometimes, it’s also a piece that is full of hope, healing and real love. It is why Jesus came to us. He makes broken things whole again.