Guest post by Abigail (Abby) Alleman
I sit, head bowed low and back arched forward and down, on the slate gray IKEA patio chair. I stare at the overgrown brush of our garden and hear one word: failure.
My legs feel the rub, a back and forth itch. The fabric–a spectrum splayed amid tiny-tulip-smattering-over-midnight—is that of a journal purchased in the summer of 1994. It lays open before me and the darkened underside moves a touch of rough. It triggers a gnawing pain of wound or scar. I do not know which.
I am in the middle of Jo Ann’s Free Your Story workshop. She asks us to harvest our journals. I am not sure I can find any for all the purging before our move overseas. But I do. And in this moment, looking at a visible mess of living-dead, green and brown, I am undone.
It is the chronicle of my maiden missionary voyage. These pages run an array of rounded neat bright pinks, greens, blues and purples. Words strung click to click to click of a rainbow ball-point pen. I am a farm girl come thirty miles to the inner city. I spill heartache in a mismatch of happy color for the all-too-quick-ebbing of future. These kids, they burrow in deep with their smooth caramel skin, espresso hair and shining velvety chocolate eyes. I knock door to door asking parents to send children to the place where Love can wrap them tight.
I pledge incessant to lay down my life. So that, one child at a time, these street corners will rise in clear hope. I sing crazy and dance too. I teach the Bible and play kick ball. My bottom grows sore hanging out on cement church steps in the golden haze of summer twilight. Nine weeks I run hard and do not grow weary. I know this is my life calling.
Then I leave. And though I carry these kids in my heart, I never return.
Now, twenty years later, I grieve the lives anew. Abel. Martin. Lakeisha. Cecilia.* I wonder if my worst fears have been realized. Are they in jail? Gangs? Prostitution?
And the bright clear dreams fly further, scattered. There are a hundred kids at VBS in Reynosa. And another hundred more in Ciudad del Carmen. And families like Maria & Felix’s* whose homes I help re-build in Guanaja, Honduras after the destruction of Hurricane Mitch. I never return to those places either.
Is my life just this trailing flickering flame? Snuffed out by winds of safety and heaving breath of my own fickle desire? Even the years teaching a thousand and more students seem flimsy. For I know the tide of darkness that hunts each hard after I leave to begin another adventure.
I am small. So small. As I walk the hill in my Budapest neighborhood, I pour out a heart full of the pain of so many tattered-turned-shattered ends. ‘Lord, what story do I have? Is it just a once-promising stack of empty white burned to ash for all the leaving?’
Ever-Faithful, Ever-Good, Ever-Compassionate, He pokes through my tear-blurred vision and wipes clear to the hope. I hear Him say, “the seeing is the story.”
These fragments are His Home. His heart takes residence in Gospel seeds wherever in the world they are sown. And my story is the telling of what He gifts a starry-eyed, naïve, oh-so-sincere and oh-so-lost girl.
And I find the hushed, hallowed once again. My life is a winding, often-wandering wilderness as I search to find who I am and who He is and what it means to know and more, be known. He graces me in the sacred faraway with the deep set of soul eyes that teach me to love; to see. And when the weary and broken-heart rip me straight through, His arms enfold a lost girl who is finally ready to be loved; be seen. He brings me back to mama and papa. They love me long and hard to chase away the night. I am prodigal-come-home. It’s the end of all the years of running away from broken things I cannot fix. I find salvation from the hard blinding that threatens.
The seeing is the story. And it is worth a journey that treads this wide world over. In all the comings and goings, the Beauty that weaves yesterday into today and on and on forever, remains. It’s the faith turned towards hope rising to stand in Love that wraps tight, whole. It’s the knocking on soul’s door opening deeper into the lost, yet-to-be-written of stories lining this life-trail. The grief finds itself bound in longing with all of creation for that Great Revealing. It’s the eager expectation of Redemption’s Glorious Unveiling.
There is but one thing left. And so, I rise to tell the story.
*Some names have been changed as a protective measure.
Is God pressing your heart to tell the unwritten, untold story? Leave us a comment below and we’ll commit to pray for you.
Abigail (Abby) Alleman is a math geek who loves to craft flowing lines of poetry with a hint of rhyme. She lives in Budapest, Hungary with her husband and three young children. She has spent twenty years in various forms of ministry as a youth leader, high school teacher, Spanish translator and for the last nine years with her husband as a missionary with CRU. Her story is finding her in the people, language and soul of her new home. So she is weaving together her life in a memoir that begins on a farm in Pennsylvania and threads through continents and languages into wife and mother and a city of millions. She has big dreams, but rests all of her hopes on the Love that reaches down and draws Home. She blogs regularly at Abigail Alleman and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.