With the burden of Tenele and taking on the mothering role of her two kids, I had felt my energy depleting. Negativity had taken over me; certain things about Swazi that I once appreciated started irritating me more and more, and I was even getting aggressive in my slight hint of road rage (I like to think I inherited it from my father). I felt plagued with constant yearnings for home and complained to myself (and Rachel and Kiley) about all the things I was missing out from home, all the people and relationships I had lost. But the worst part of it all, was I didn’t know how to fix it. I just got angry and infuriated with myself because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t shake it. I had never felt so inadequate to be here and my shortcomings snowballed.
To help me get some weekly away time, Rachel and Kiley and I decided once a week, I would switch places with one of them for a night. So Kiley and I switched places last Thursday, and in that quiet time away all it took was two phrases from a song to shatter the hardened shell of my heart. “If You are all you claim to be, then I will not have lost anything.” I’ve heard the song “You Can Have Me” at least a dozen times, but for some reason I felt as if I had never heard those words before.
“I will not have lost a single thing!” I nearly exclaimed aloud. “Ha!” I said to my jaded spirit. “What am I complaining about? Why am I aching for home when God is telling me He is enough!”
It sounds so silly now that I’m writing about it, but it was my lightbulb moment. The lessons from the lyrics continued into the chorus: “When did love become unmoving? When did love become unconsuming?” It was as if God were telling me, “Kate, when did I ever say that love should not move you? When did I ever say that love should not consume you? If you truly love me, you will move where I send you and build your life around where I place you. Stop looking back at what you lost, look at me to see what you have gained!” Furthermore, I had accidentally flipped open my Bible to a page in Isaiah. A verse in the upper right hand page was underlined and caught my eye: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us? And I said, ‘Here I am, send me!’” It was as if God was reminding me, “Why are you acting so surprised at the hardship and complaining about being here? Afterall, it was you who said, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me!’” Indeed, that had been my coined verse and prayer since my first trip in 2008.
After that night, I felt so renewed. Nothing could get me down, not even Tenele’s escape to her old life for one night. For I know that the Lord has a plan for her, and I know she will get there, with or without me. My joy enabled me to let her go, knowing that she is in a crossroads moment in life and must make this decision on her own, without me.
Following this lightbulb moment, I’ve been filled this past week with so much joy. I received several letters from old students back home and an incredible package from my second family, the Conways! I felt so loved and cared for with messages and emails and connections along the way. Moreover, one of the older girls surprised me one night. She asked for me to give her some time so we could talk. Admittedly, I didn’t want to talk because I figured it’d be more drama or baggage or something I had to worry about. Instead all she said was, “I want to thank you. Thank you for loving me. My whole life, all I’ve wanted is someone to tell me I’m beautiful, someone to love me and fight for me. I struggled to see how God could exist as I was left alone in my pain. But now I am starting to see Him. Now I can start to believe because my situation has brought me to this home. I now have someone who tells me I’m beautiful, hugs me goodnight, and truly loves me. I just wanted to say thank you. I can’t promise I will not fail you, but I promise I will do my best so that you can be there when I graduate and when I start my own home someday.”
God truly has shown me, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.