If you’re a parent, I think you’ll agree, one of the most important things to create for your child is routine. From a morning routine to a bedtime routine, it creates trust and stability and kids just need it. This is a post reflecting on my lack of routine and how it’s affected me, plus some advice for you, my cherished reader, on how to love those in your life who are living a life in limbo.
Last February I traveled to Iowa with Rubie for what was suppose to be a quick ten day trip. Three days after arriving Stateside, Haiti had a very intense country-wide shutdown for two long weeks. Many people, including my dad, had to be evacuated out of the country. Webert had me stay Stateside for the entire month before agreeing it was safe enough for me to go back. While I made the best of a month in the States, it was a weird space to be in, not knowing when I would be back in Haiti with the rest of my family, not knowing when things would be safe again and then navigating a way to be productive and positive while Stateside. Creating a routine during that time was impossible.
Sidenote: I also found out I was pregnant during this month away from my family.
People kept saying to me during this time, “we’re so glad you’re here” and I smiled on the outside at their kind remarks because I knew they were well intended, but on the inside, I was in total conflict with myself.
I felt guilty for being here, safe and sound. I felt like a bad mom being away from the other kids for that month. I felt like an even worse wife, knowing the reality of my husband’s life while I was away. I felt like a bad boss being away from my business and employees for such a long and unexpected time period. But yet, I wanted to be in Iowa during that time. There were friends to see, meetings to be had and plenty of good food to indulge in. The intense tug-of-war between wanting to be here but wanting to be there but knowing the reality there so just wanting to stay here and then feeling guilty for wanting to stay here led me back to wanting to be there.
I kept buying supplies to bring back to Haiti, slowly packing and preparing to leave for Haiti, yet I had no idea when that day would come. It could have been the next day, it could have been another two weeks. I filled my schedule, but always added a note, “if I’m still here.”
The if’s and the unknowns just in that month left me feeling out of place and out of sorts. The well-intended “we are glad you’re here” reminded me over and over that I wasn’t suppose to be here. The half packed suitcases reminded me of my family I was so far away from and the positive pregnancy test made me thrilled yet nauseous all at the same time. Living in limbo means a lack of routine which leads to a lack of trust in just about everything.
I found my way back to my Haiti home the first week of March and one of the first things Webert and I decided was that we needed a longer break outside of Haiti for the arrival of our new baby. We had brought Rubie to Haiti when she was four weeks old and I learned very quickly how bad of a decision that was for me, so now here we are, in the middle of that long break and things still seem out of sorts as the future still remains so unknown for our family.
I’ll sort through all of that tomorrow and let you in on what we do know for sure concerning Webert’s green card application and the kids’ visas.
What I want to leave you with is some of my own advice when it comes to loving and supporting someone living in limbo. Instead of asking questions like, “how long are you here for?” or saying things like, “I’m so glad you’re here where it’s safe” try the following:
Is there anything you need while you’re here?
Almost every time I travel, I need to buy supplies to bring back to Haiti, whether it’s for my family, Rosie’s or something in the ministry. Some trips I honestly just really need new underwear and sandals. Whatever it may be, make this an opportunity for you to help financially with the person’s needs. The person may just need emotional support and this could be an opportunity for you to cover him/her in prayer.
How’s God been working in your life lately?
It gives us, the person in limbo, an opportunity to reflect on how God has been working and share a story we might not typically share. It also allows us the chance to not think about all the unknown and rest in the peace of knowing He is still at work in our life.
How can I be praying for you?
Take it from me, when you’re living in limbo, you mostly just want to be seen. All of the limbo makes you feel pretty lost and confused inside. It’s mostly an internal battle that’s easy to hide on the outside. When people intentionally ask me this question, it’s when I feel the most seen and typically when I open up the most.
Other things that are not beneficial to ask:
What are you back for?
From my experience, this causes me to feel self-conscious and like I have to have a reason to come “home.” I’ll then find myself listing every little excuse I have for traveling, making a case for the legitimacy of my trip. Remember, we are a people in limbo and we lost our trust in knowing where we belong, where we are going and any future plans we may have had can’t be trusted either. The last thing you want to make us feel is like we don’t belong or that we have to have a reason for being here. All we are looking for is a space to just “be” in.
How long are you here for?
We may not know, which leads to another uncomfortable search inside for answers that we try to come up with to make you feel more comfortable. Odds are, you aren’t comfortable with our reality of living in limbo. You like plans and knowing what the future holds, hence why you’re asking the question in the first place. But, since our life is a balancing act and limbo has become our life motto, our answer to this question is hard for both of us to swallow, so it’s best if you just avoid this one altogether!
A few week-ends ago I had two really great friends come visit. The three of us lived in Haiti together for a few years and they have both fully transitioned back to the States now. The one friend spent her first six months back in the States debriefing and just taking a whole season to heal from all she had gone through. She’s now passionate about debriefing for people coming off the missionary field, people who have experienced trauma, etc. She’s opened my eyes to the importance of healing and processing and how valuable my story is. She’s actually a big reason I’m taking this month to write every day.
She’s also one of the reasons why my last piece of advice to you is this:
Invest in the people in limbo. Whether it be financially, emotionally, whatever. Invest in them. The longer we (mostly speaking for myself here, but I’m thinking of so many other people as I write these words, too) stay broken, lost and confused, the longer we go not being who we were created to be. I know my purpose, guys. I know I’m my truest, most joyful self when I’m creating, loving and advocating for my mamas in Haiti. I know being a mom to my five kids is the holiest responsibility I’ll ever hold. I know God has entrusted me with so much, but man, I’m also in the weirdest, longest season of limbo, and I just need t i m e . I’m anxiously awaiting the day I feel whole enough to excitedly get back on a plane and fly to my beloved Haiti, but today, there’s not a fiber in me that wants to go back. I hate feeling this way, I hate admitting that I don’t know the last time I excitedly boarded a plane, I hate not knowing when I’ll be ready again.
Like I said, people in limbo are a lot more broken than you’d think.
The people you’ll be investing in are more than likely very aware of their purpose as well. Their season of limbo is a result of so many factors; maybe it’s past trauma or it’s an unknown future due to complicated factors, whatever it is, it more than likely can’t be fixed overnight. So, don’t invest expecting a quick process. Actually, don’t invest expecting anything at all. Limbo is complicated. Limbo is unchartered territory. Limbo can’t be trusted.
What I do trust, though, is that limbo won’t last forever. God will use our limbo for good and the wandering in the limbo won’t be wasted.