my heart’s identity issues

by Kayla Raymond

It’s been half a year since I last wrote. I don’t know how many blogs I start by acknowledging the fact that time just passes way too fast. I spent the month of December intentionally writing every day and then we jumped into 2020 with so many hopes and expectations and I think it is safe to say we have all been wildly disappointed by what the year has held. I mean, a worldwide pandemic and countrywide shutdown? It still feels like a universal prank at moments.

I had a hard time adjusting in those first few weeks back in March. The entire reason we transitioned our family Stateside after seven full years of ministry in Haiti was to have consistency, education for our kiddos and normalcy. Our last year and a half in Haiti was full of up’s and down’s as the country was in constant political unrest and we really just needed out of that rollercoaster ride, but COVID sure has brought more unexpected thrills into our lives!

On top of COVID, I had some personal health conditions come with it. I got up early one Sunday morning to run on our treadmill and when I stepped off, my entire right leg went numb. I figured I was truly just that out of shape and my leg was paying the price that morning. A few days passed and nothing seemed to change so I started seeing a chiropractor for adjustments. We thought that surely it was just a pinched nerve as I had tons of sciatica issues during both of my pregnancies. After a few adjustments there, still nothing seemed to be improving so then I headed into my family doctor. She, too, thought it was a pinched nerve and gave me a week of oral steroids. That week passed too and still nothing changed. My entire right leg felt tingly and almost as if I had an epidural yet I still had 90% functionality. I was asked to do an MRI on my lower back which led to a consult with a neurologist which led to a three hour long MRI on my brain, neck and spine which then led to the diagnosis of MS (multiple sclerosis).

I’ve been sitting with that diagnosis for three good months now and this diagnosis too, just like COVID, felt like a prank as well.

Then last month I sat at my computer early one morning and watched the tragic murder of George Floyd and my entire being – mind, heart and soul – exploded. Because again, I held these expectations in my heart and mind that America was suppose to our place of refuge and all I could see as George cried out for his mother with his last breaths was my husband’s face. I mean, I knew these things still happened in America; I knew police brutality was a real thing and injustice still happened but something with George’s death resonated deeply within me.

I’ve now spent the last month kind of obsessively watching movies and documentaries on Netflix about black lives in America. From Martin Luther King’s walk in Selma (Selma) the corrupt prison system in America (13th) to a docu-series on hate groups across America (Hate Thy Neighbor) to Facebook live events with different influencers and pastors, I’ve learned so much and all it’s done is stripped me of my identity again.

You see, here’s what’s going on in my heart:

The overall transition to Iowa was a complete identity makeover for me. I had spent seven years in Haiti and left there with a worldly perspective that no longer allows me to see only black and white. I moved back to my super small and conservative hometown, where most people don’t talk about hard issues because it feels almost not acceptable to. So when it comes to my trauma from Haiti, to my super complicated adoption journey and Webert’s immigration process, to now health issues and the unspoken evil in our entire country – racism – it all just seems off the table. It’s been somewhat difficult to “fit” back in.

Plus, all my roles changed. In Haiti, Webert did so much for our family, because I simply wasn’t safe to do them. Going to the bank, yup. For seven years, I never went to the bank. Webert handled all of our finances. Filling our forms and getting the kids vaccinated and handling e-mails from the school and setting up wi-fi in our home…all things Webert would have either handled or helped me figure out in Haiti, I all of a sudden was doing them by myself because Webert either couldn’t sign the papers without his American residency or it was simply just easier for me to figure out. Fun fact, Webert can be the signer on our bank account but he can’t have a debit card because he doesn’t have his green card yet. It’s little things like that that drive me nuts! Also fun fact, Webert’s green card interview was to be April 30th and was canceled and now indefinitely on hold until immigration offices get back to running at full capacity. So, we continue to wait and not know what the our future holds. We are thankful, however, that his work permit showed up right before the COVID shutdown and he has been working for the last six weeks.

Moving on now, because talking about paperwork is overrated.

For seven years I was identified as the “girl from Haiti” and now that I was becoming not the “girl from Haiti” people almost didn’t know what to do with that, nor did I.

And then COVID happened. I’ll be honest, for the last year and a half we lived in Haiti, all I wanted was out. I was so burnt out and so done with the living in Haiti. I wasn’t done with her people or our ministry and business; but I was done with the traffic and awful traffic jams and the dead bodies on the road and the constant not-knowing if it was safe to drive and the gas shortages and the hot days and a thousand other things that are hard to articulate unless you’ve simply just lived it. Things that brought me joy and made me feel all adventurous back in those early days only felt like burdens as those years passed on. So, we finally left our Haiti, and then COVID happened.

And then, MS happened. And it felt like Haiti was being taken away from us. And again, that feeling like I was being pranked felt overwhelming all over again. I remember crying out to God and apologizing for feeling so strongly against Haiti, because it felt He was taking it away from us for good and that wasn’t what I actually wanted. That phrase, “be careful what you ask for” felt relevantly cruel and for the millionth time in my life, it was hard to understand how we had even arrived here, in this moment.

And then, they wanted me be a homeschool mom and I can’t even go there.

And then, George Floyd happened.

People keep making the argument that we shouldn’t make George a “hero” because of his past and I can’t quite get over this. Yes, George had a shady past. Is my rap sheet as shady as George’s? Surely not. I keep putting myself (and Webert) into George’s shoes. If I (or Webert) had been murdered the way he had, I would hope people would go on and on about how good of people we were. They could talk about our family and our ministry. Hopefully they’d say how contagious Webert’s smile and joy was or talk about how good looking and funny I was (ha!)

But, I can’t help and examine my heart as I think about George. My heart has so many issues. People only want to see what we do, but I know my God cares only for the condition of my heart. And at the end of the day, when George got to heaven’s gates of gold, God only examined his heart. He didn’t waste a millisecond of time looking at his past.

My heart is in the middle of an identity crisis. It longs for consistency and the world, no matter which country we are in, continues to throw us curveballs. My heart longs to serve and my doctors now tell me I have to focus on myself and there may be days I can’t go 110% anymore. My heart longs for answers and paperwork continues to push those all away. My heart longs for justice yet all the world continues to reveal is how evil it truly is. My heart holds feelings of bitterness and trauma likes to hold fast to those feelings. It seems as though my heart is its own worst enemy.

I can’t get the picture of Jesus kneeling down in the dirt out of my mind though. The Pharisees had their arms cocked back, ready to execute the adulteress woman. Doesn’t it seem like thats the situation of our entire nation – our world – right now? Everyone with loaded guns, insults and opinions, ready to execute any one that disagrees or looks different than them. Look back at the argument against George, who, let me remind you, was murdered in broad daylight by having a knee pushed into his neck for over eight entire minutes. People all want to argue, “but look at his past” and my Jesus responds by saying, “well okay, but let’s look at yours first.” Surely, no one wants to play that game.

And, so I see my Jesus kneeling in the dirt before me as the world continues to throw overwhelming rocks our way. I know I’m not an adulterer like the woman being accused in the story of John 8, but I feel like our heart’s conditions are somewhat the same: bruised, traumatized, sick and exhausted.

I can’t help but see the kindness of Jesus’s eyes as he tells the woman – as he tells me – that we are no longer condemned and can go on. I see him, right now, kindly just pushing us on, nodding with a smile on his face…there’s freedom.

My heart is in the middle of an identity crisis, it’s true. But my heart is also so ready to meet Jesus. And all I want is for the world to meet the same Jesus I have met. The one who will kneel down in the dirt to those who divide, judge and insult, while sending the broken away free of condemnation. Friends, we seriously need to be aware of which side we are on.

Poor George, but…there is no argument to be made against him. We can have a million facts against him, yet we will never know what the condition of his heart was that day, the day he met Jesus face to face.

Poor Kayla, she has MS. Nope, no poor Kayla here. Kayla’s working on that, but more importantly, she’s working on her heart, making sure it’s ready for Jesus.

The only ones I consider “poor” are those who hold the hate in their hearts, those who can’t see one another as flesh and blood, those who cast judgement and spread hate, those who have yet to accept Jesus into their heart…those who have yet to experience the kindness of Jesus and won’t accept the invitation to walk away free of condemnation.

Jesus is coming, friends. Are you ready?