On Self Care

Recently someone whom I love very much (and who amazingly, still loves me!) sent me to Florida for a little self-care weekend.  She asked me what I needed – I told her the ocean speaks to my soul – so she sent me there.  She is a life-giver.  Though she doesn’t want any credit, I am beyond thankful that she gave me this gift.


First sight of the water – I couldn’t help myself. Don’t take pictures while driving, kids.

For as long as I can remember, the beach has been a source of wonder for me.  From childhood through adulthood the awe has never faded, the fresh saltwater air begs you to breathe deeply and just “be” when you take that first barefoot step on the sand.  Staring out at the ocean I am always small and reminded of how big the world is.  The anticipation and excitement in finding beautiful shells takes me to this place of “I have no clue how these are made” – and I’m realizing I love that place.

Admittingly, I was a little nervous about how I would handle the flights.  For the last several years I struggled with having panic attacks on planes as we flew back and forth overseas – as I was always terrified that God was going to let something terrible happen “for a reason” and we would all surely die.  Yes, this fear is irrational, as most of the fears we deal with are – but anything is possible, and my view of God (based on the Bible and experiences with leaders in ministry) had produced much fear in me.

This time around as I boarded that first flight I decided to take God out of the equation (bear with me here).  These pilots had surely flown thousands and thousands of hours before landing a job with a commercial airline, so they must be good and trustworthy.  They are well equipped to handle the weather and do not want to crash the plane – as they likely have families to go home to.  We will all be fine, and I will be in Florida soon.

And you know what??  It worked!!  No Xanax needed, no panic whatsoever.  I was fine.  I had accepted and trusted their knowledge, intentions, and capabilities – and though there was turbulence, I felt no fear.  This was mind-blowing for me.  I cannot even remember the last time I did not panic on a plane.  I had discovered something new.

For the rest of the trip, I decided I would have no fear.  I honed into my inner doula – I would treat the earth as I treat the birth process – with respect first and then trust.  Knowing that things could go wrong but they most likely won’t – and if they do I will call 911. 😉  I decided to respect and trust my surroundings with carefulness but with a sense of adventure – not allowing the “worst case scenario” to creep into my mind at any time.

And yes, it was amazing.


I explored endless beaches.  I visited places that were familiar, I visited places that were new.  I went out into the ocean over and over again, not afraid of what I could not see.  I did bucket list activities, including kayaking ( I have always wanted to – never thought my first time would be on the ocean alone!!)


Who knew kayaks are heavy? That was tricky to get off the rack…and down into the water…


Omg, I’m in the kayak…and I’m heading out to the bay…! Deep. Breaths.

It was truly beautiful out on the water.  My heart was racing, but I told myself “You are not bleeding, the sharks want nothing to do with you.”  I was all alone – but I was fine.  I loved the experience…but learned that next time I would rather share it with someone.

For sentimental reasons, I drove by my grandparent’s old house in Longboat Key.  It didn’t look the same, so I didn’t take a picture of it – but I know my family will enjoy this shot of the street sign 🙂  Lots of feelings, lots of memories.


Most importantly, I had loads of time to just walk the beach by myself and think.  I tried laying out on the sand and being still – but apparently I’m not so good at that – ha.  I preferred to explore while processing life in my head…and that worked just as well. 🙂


An old spot from my younger years ❤

As I pondered many things, what I found that I kept coming back to is that I am deeply wired to be honest.  When I looked back on my life, this is how I’ve always been.  And this is what has gotten me into trouble time and time again in Christian circles and in ministry – my honesty.  In college I changed my major and devoted all of my time, energy and heart to loving others through the outlet of campus ministry. When I applied to join staff I was asked to wait 6 months and re-apply because I was too honest on the application and over-shared.  Were they just in asking me to wait?  No.  Had I done anything wrong?  No.  Am I so glad that I was not accepted onto their staff team?  YES.

The cycle continued over the following decade of my life, as I lived honestly and was repeatedly reprimanded, asked to change things about myself (that were just part of who I am), asked to wait, asked to leave, etc. etc. etc.  Being alive and being honest was always wrong, even though my heart and my intentions were good, and I loved Jesus and people more than anything.

As I struggled through questions regarding the character of God in the Bible and the truth in stories such as the book of Job, and in the whys of what happens to people on this earth I was constantly hushed, told to just “have faith” and un-friended in subtle ways.  I have struggled for years with the character differences between God & Jesus yet was told over and over to believe they are one in the same “because the Bible says” – and I need to not question these things.  I need to just keep believing that “everyone needs Jesus” and then they will be fine – end of story.

But I had Jesus, was fine for a few years and then not fine.  My soul has been empty and unfulfilled, even though I have a family and a home and we’re doing “ok.”  I spent years living under the mindset of “You must die to yourself, Melissa!  So that HE can live!”  But guys, this was getting me nowhere.  I tried, I really did.  “Oh, it’s because you need to let go and let God!!” Ok, but what?  What does that mean?  Go live out in a village and don’t complain about the squatty potties and just accept the fact that every single person here is going to hell unless God uses you to save them?!?!  Otherwise, damn.  Too bad.

And so I thought about all of these things during my self-care weekend.  I thought about how over the last half of my life I had lost myself…because I believed that sacrificing our wants and needs for the greater good is what’s really important.  But is it so selfish to want to be happy?  Is it so selfish to want to (occasionally) spend time in beautiful places?  Is it so selfish to want to discover who you really are – and to start truly living?


I saw this at a shop and I thought it was really funny.  Inappropriate or not – appreciation for humor is something I do know about myself…and that hasn’t changed! 


On the last morning of my trip, I knew what I needed to do.  I woke up early to a storm, drank my coffee and got ready.  As the storm passed I got in my rental car (did I mention I rented a car by myself?! Little firsts..) and drove to a familiar beach that I had not been to yet on this trip.  I had yet to “hear from God” or “feel his presence”… but what I was really longing for was to have an experience where I felt my grandma’s presence, too – because Florida was such a special place for her and cancer is a jack-ass and took her way too soon.

So I did what she would have done – I went out to a sandbar after the storm.


“The treasures are just under the sand” she used to tell me as we would look for sand dollars together.  I stepped up to the sandbar, took a deep breath, looked up to the sky and then looked down.  And there it was —


It’s a good thing I was alone because I could not stop crying…like, ugly crying.

Right when I saw it I started sobbing – as I bent down to pick it up I immediately felt her presence.  I looked up at the sky and said “Thank you, Grammy!  Thank you so much, I miss you so much..I know that you’re here…I miss you..” In between tears I would walk and see another one, and another, then another.  As I stacked the sand dollars on my hand I remembered her smile when I found my first “treasure” as a child – the excitement we shared was mutual and I felt the joy of discovery at 36 just as I felt it at 6.


And so, it’s ok.  It’s all going to be ok.  I still don’t know what’s true – and that’s ok.  I’m at peace with that.  Maybe there is an after-life…but I don’t have to believe there’s an eternal punishment.  Maybe there is a God…but I don’t have to believe in a book written solely by men in a patriarchal culture.  No one knows for sure what is true – and the freedom in accepting and embracing that reality is a freedom I have never felt before.  Everyone’s life is different – and the best we can do is live each day being true to ourselves and good to others.  Honesty is what brings us back to discovering who we are, life is too short and frail to pretend anything else.


Goodbye ocean. And thank you —






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On Being ‘OK’ with the Unknown

Blogging can be a tricky pastime to navigate.  Those of us who write often do so to share our thoughts, experiences, and ideas with others to find some kind of common ground.  It often brings a sense of release to get the words in our heads out onto a screen (no longer paper!), helps us to process and think about all sides from different viewpoints.  When I first starting writing, I don’t think I intended to expose my entire spiritual journey / faith shifting process to the public eye…but if there’s one thing I always hope to be it’s authentic – and life happens for most of us differently than we ever anticipated.

What makes the writing tricky though can be the responses from vastly different types of people.  In being vulnerable I hope to encourage and be relatable to others who also may be struggling or confused with the faith that they were brought up in.  This does happen, however what also happens is I offend and upset people who are secure in their faith.  I understand that this is to be expected – but it’s taken me awhile to be OK with that reality and keep moving forward.

So, here we go.

To be honest, I don’t have many real life friends who are also in a “faith shift” – i.e. re-evaluating what they once held to be 100% true and infallible and shifting those beliefs based on life experience and the world around them.  As a former Evangelical, sharing these struggles with others in that community often does not evoke a good response.  Evangelicals (with good intentions) always try to rope me back into the beliefs I once held, using scripture and often reminding me “But you know what’s true…”. Not allowing me to be in the process of figuring out truth only adds to the internal struggle of something is wrong with me…and I’ll never get better.

As I wrestle with these thoughts and questions, there are still things that I hold in my core to be right or wrong, and other things my opinions have gradually changed on.  For example, I still believe with all my heart that ending a life is wrong.  No matter how big or small or who they are, it is not our job to end anyone’s life.  We are to be life-givers.

Is there really a hell?  After living in a Muslim country where the Bible would tell me that my neighbors and 94% of the population are going to hell, I have had to re-evaluate.  In fact, according to Christianity about 70% of the earth’s population are going (and has been going) to hell, and I just can’t swallow it anymore.  It’s too cruel.

I’ve also learned that love is more about a person than it is about a gender.  I know heterosexuals that are staying in their marriages because it’s the “right thing to do”… regardless of whether or not either person is happy.  And I have friends in same sex relationships who truly live out love.  So, who am I to say what is right or wrong?  Love is a good thing, hate is not.  These are things I’ve learned.

But, is there a God?  Was/Is Jesus God?  Does prayer do anything?  How much of the Bible is true?  I don’t know the answers to any of these questions anymore.

And so, I reasoned in my soul that 2017 would be the year of accepting the unknown – and being OK with it.  Not “comfortable”… because I’m not quite sure yet if that’s possible?! 🙂  I am open to what 2018 (InshAllah) will bring, and in the mean time I will continue to read, check out churches, and engage in open dialogue with anyone who wants to chat about these things (without lecturing me back into Christianity, please!).  I’m accepting my Agnosticism because acceptance without condition is the only way we can grow.  I will continue to extend grace to others who are in process, because it’s a hard place to be and I know that having just one person who understands is like a breath of fresh air.

Love to you, friends who struggle ~


An old photo…but my happy place where the world “makes sense”…




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One year out

One year.  This Friday (Seva’s birthday, ironically) marks one year since she and I left Azerbaijan.  Jason and the big kids left one month later.  So much was a mess at that time – her skin (which is still a daily battle), my hormones, and all of our emotions.

I’ve been trying to determine over the last several weeks why I’ve felt so down.  We’re back in the U.S…isn’t that what I wanted?  We got to see the leaves change varying colors after missing it the last two falls…and though beautiful…there was still a deep void.  Should I adjust my Zoloft?  Maybe, but probably not.  Breastfeeding hormones?  Maybe.  PMS?  Always a contributor.  Exhaustion?  Of course – but what parent isn’t exhausted??  Ha.

Then last week while I was driving alone I realized, as I saw the last of the colorful leaves falling, I was still grieving.  November has always been a somewhat difficult month – remembering two miscarriages that happened the week before Thanksgiving several years apart.  But now there is more.  November was the time I failed at overseas living a second time.  Not only failed as a missionary (I had done that long ago), but failed as a Christian.  November marks the time when fear took over and I threw in the towel.  I fully acknowledged that faith had left my soul, and I had no confidence in God being in control, I needed to leave.  I was terrified that if I gave birth there my baby would die.  Because God is not always good.  And I was tired of seeing my three year old itch non-stop and hate being in her own skin.  Skin that I gave her.  Skin that my body and my husband made, or God made, either way the feelings were/are negative.

After my last post, I received a few messages from people inquiring what I meant by spiritual abuse.  Once again, I am horrible at responding (I’m sorry)…mostly because re-surfacing the wounds are too painful, so I shove them down further and further hoping that one day I will forget.  Forget the way my godly leaders made me feel.  The other day I saw the word “crisis” written in a letter to my husband from someone above him in ministry.  I instantly had a knee-jerk reaction, heart racing, hearing the heavy accented voice in my head from years back… “You sure do have a lot of crises out there.”

Yes.  As a twenty-something American mom of a two and three and a half year old living out in the village with no mom friends who spoke English we had some crises.  Every time my kids were sick I was terrified.  Sure, I was being ridiculous.  Any other Christian mom would have handled it just fine.  God brought you there, of course He will keep you safe.  And if your kids get a mysterious village illness and don’t make it – it’s all for the gospel – it’s all worth it.  And by the way, put your kids in child care all day so you can perfect the language and check all the boxes on the “perfect organized missionary” list, ok?  You should know how to make the local dishes by now.  You should know the ins and outs of the bazaar by now.  You should be at this spot on the cultural adaptation curve.  You should be managing your time better.  It’s a shame that your husband has to help with the dishes because you don’t have it all together.

Oh, it was all a damn shame to them.  The godly leaders (that our former church always praised) didn’t approve of me from the start, and I get it.  I don’t have the best filter and I say things that make people uncomfortable.  But if I were to list all the hurtful things they said to me, and about me, this blog would be too long to read.  And as a young woman who looked up to them, I interpreted their words as words from God, because clearly they were really close to Him.  As the wounds got deeper and affected my daily mindset, we still “just didn’t get it” and all problems were clearly with me.  It didn’t matter that I had a heart for women in that country, I didn’t have my $hit together, and that affected the team and ultimately the leader’s success.

One would think that after a three year hiatus, returning again in the absence of those leaders would be no problem.  After all, we won’t live in the village this time.  We will have community with other English speaking families.  We will have access to more “comforts.”  We can do this if we just try again.  Jason will thrive, I will exist day to day.

But it was too late. My faith had dwindled, and the fear became too much.  I believed that if there was a God I was afraid of Him, and He was through with me so He would let anything happen.  The more I read of the Bible the more upset I became, so I had to put it away.  A Christian family living in a Muslim country and the wife has to hide her Bible because the contents are too disturbing, great.  There were so many days I was hanging the laundry out on the balcony and I imagined that if I would just accidentally fall over this could all be over-with…my husband could get one of those amazing faithful Christian wives and everyone would be happy and fulfill their calling.

One year.  One year of grieving the loss of a relationship with my Savior.  Though truthfully it had been longer.  “You just need to come back to Jesus,” those with good intentions say.  Oh, if only.  I have seen the behind-the-scenes strategies of “Don’t follow your heart, follow this model” for winning the lost to Christ, both during college and as a career.  The emptiness and loneliness started so long ago that it has taken over my heart.

I think that when expats return to their home country they have these visions of good times with old friends, re-connecting with old relationships and picking up where you left off.  After our first return this was the case, but after the second return my identity was too changed for old relationships to resume.  Loneliness follows me everywhere, and when you go through a faith shift you lose community.  I have accepted the words that those leaders spoke to me long ago, that I “just don’t understand how I make people feel”, and that explains my lack of relationship.

Never would I have imagined that I’d be at this point.  No one ever hopes that their spiritual life will go from healthy and thriving to “gone.”  I carry the guilt everywhere, and hope that my kids will have a good life in spite of the 10 moves they’ve had.  The baby has no concept of where we lived before he was here, and has been spared from seeing his mom have panic attacks about x,y, and z overseas.  But now he is stuck with a faith-less mom.  He will know that there is more to this world than white picket fences and VBS with treats because the kids will tell him stories of Azerbaijan, for that I am thankful.

One year out.  My schedule is full with work and helping others, because I don’t ever want to be a burden again.  I take each day as it comes and struggle to make concrete plans.  I went to counseling for a time, but life is currently too busy and during this season the wounds are too painful.

Yesterday I went to an Azeri friend’s house to celebrate her birthday.  It was a good time of mom community, and I empathized with the ladies struggling with our language.  I hope that I can love the immigrants (legal or otherwise) that are here, in the same way that local Azerbaijanis and other expats loved and accepted me.  I hope that I can be Christ to them, even though this whole Christianity thing has brought be to the lowest point in my life.  Because Jesus was a pretty great guy, who didn’t exclude people because they didn’t have their $hit together.  In fact, I think it was the perfectly religious people he had issues with.  He came for the sick, not the healthy.  And boy are we all sick.


Last fall, having “my drink” there.   A gift from another expat friend…good memories of bonding with expats over coffee.


This fall, having “their drink” here.  New memories of bonding with foreigners here.  Life is a paradox. 







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Seven months out

It’s been more than half a year since we moved back to the U.S.

A few weeks ago, on the kid’s last day of school, our oldest said: “Mom, it’s the end of the school year – where are we moving to next?” Sigh.

I’ve lost track of how many different homes we’ve had along the way…maybe 10-12?  Somewhere in there.

The girls have adjusted relatively well to being back.  Seva cycles through phobias but her eczema is so much better.  Vera has tics that come and go, and vary in frequency and intensity, but we know these tics are associated with her nerves and stressors and they eventually calm down.  She has improved so much with her reading, and for that we are thankful.

Jonah has had a more difficult time, he misses his friends in Azerbaijan and buries his feelings by getting absorbed in other things.  It makes me sad for his heart.  I feel guilty more days than not, but I am trying to choose to look at our last several months in Azerbaijan as a gift – considering I wasn’t quite mentally/emotionally stable enough to return.  He is making new friends, thankfully.

The kids have picked up all kinds of lovely inappropriate words and ideas from being back in public school again…but it is what it is and we’re all doing our best to adapt and cope. I’m trying to teach them we don’t say things like “scare the hell out of Coen” etc. 😮

Jason and I also have our ups and downs.

It’s a process.


A few months ago my lovely cousin offered to pay for me to see a counselor.  Oh, I need it?  Haha.

After some procrastination, we finally scheduled the first appointment.  Then, a baby wanted to be born on that day (not mine, a client’s 🙂 ) so my husband went – kids in tow.

He said it went really well, and that I would like her a lot.

The next day, the pastor from that church offered (for the church) to pay for my first 10 sessions.  Guess I really needed it? 😉  It’s ok, I know.

During our first visit, she asked if I “felt the freedom to end up wherever I end up on this spiritual journey.”  I said I did not, but I so long to.

We have met several times, and it has been really good.  She too lived overseas for a time, and has experienced a lot outside of our country.  It has been good to process with someone who understands.  There have been tears, to say the least.

Without sharing too much detail (as I tend to do), perhaps the most meaningful thing so far has been the acknowledgement of events that happened years ago as spiritual abuse.  Unresolved events that caused deep hurt have fed into my {anger} issues with Christianity.  And just as we wouldn’t expect someone who had been physically or sexually abused to return to that same relationship, I can’t just return to the source of my wounds.

And so.  The journey continues, life goes on each day and I am hoping for peace.  Our family takes each day at a time – just like every other family.  Jason takes the kids to church, and I stay home to rest and think.  I try to pray, but since I don’t know if I’m being heard – it’s hard.  And it’s lonely.

Thankfully, we still love people and we miss a lot of you, so if you’re an old friend and want to meet for coffee Jason or I would enjoy that.  We know we’re “different” now and life is hectic for everyone, but life is also short and YOLO. Thanks for reading – ❤










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On Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy is wonderful and difficult.  There is no need to list the reasons why – most women talk about it so openly.  The joy of baby kicks and a growing belly, the pain of aching muscles and lack of comfortable sleep.  The excitement grows each week that passes by – trading nausea for leaky…everything – looking ahead toward the end goal of a dreamy birth and an even dreamier baby.  We tolerate the changes and can easily explain away our tearful emotions – pregnancy hormones!  Soon this will all pass and I’ll be holding my sleeping, smiling baby while wearing my skinny jeans and feeling fabulously in love with my new little family.

Yet what we don’t talk about so often is the reality of missed expectations and the changes that affect every aspect of our health and well being after pregnancy.  We create a birth plan and commit our souls to it – but when does life ever go as planned?  Without flexibility in our birthing hopes we start out our postpartum journey already in a pit of “should haves” and mom-guilt.  Even when birth goes about 50% according to plan, there is often still grieving that must take place – even with a healthy mom and a healthy baby.  We invest so much mental and physical effort (and excitement) in preparation for labor and delivery that we fail to give any thought to the healing process – stitches, bleeding, new pain, a tiredness like none other and oh yeah…a crying baby.

Of great significance are the hormonal changes taking place the moment baby is born.  Our bodies go from growing a human(s) to creating food for the human – and the switch is fast.  From the moment we deliver the placenta our breasts begin to produce food – whether we have the energy to do so or not – our bodies are always putting baby first.  Before we know it we are weepy and feel emotions of thrill, sorrow and joy within the same minute.  We feed our baby(ies) more than we feed ourselves and we ache to hold and protect our baby whenever anyone else holds them – even though sleep is needed now more than ever.  Hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that were increasing during pregnancy now decrease, and we might think and feel things we have never felt before.  Some might equate these feelings to PMS on steroids, or the sort of depression that comes with grieving a loss – even though we have reason for such joy.  For others anxiety kicks in and every decision is plagued with worry and second guessing.

Before baby is born, we think of things like breastfeeding and bonding with such blissful anticipation.  Yet when we find ourselves sitting in bed at 3am in the dark after what feels like only minutes of sleep and now feeding again, sore nipples and spit-up soaked clothes and a baby that cries unless he’s nursing…the reality of selflessness kicks in and there was no “plan” for how to cope with this.  We see our partner sleeping and feel angry, jealous and maybe even bitter – why do we get the pain of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum??  Initial pain with breastfeeding can be just as difficult to get through as labor, and we start to feel like “the whole package” is just unfair.  It might even feel like a cruel joke on women – and we lose sight of the fact that eventually there will be the baby bliss that everyone talks about.  We instead think I must be different and something is wrong.

And then, once the thrill of new baby wears off and no one comes to visit anymore…the loneliness hits.  Oh, the loneliness.

And this…I fear, is where our culture and recent generations have gone wrong.  In talking only about the good things, we negate the hard times (because yes, they will pass) and we allow women to isolate and sink into depression that often goes unnoticed.  While there is nothing wrong with medication* (been there) to help us cope with these changes I think what we’re missing is that the postpartum process is meant to show us we need community.  In our country in particular, we have adapted a mindset of handling everything on our own and just getting through it.  In the past and still today around the world, family and friends come alongside the mother for 40 days so that she can rest and invest all her energy into healing herself and caring for her baby.  Yet must importantly of all – aside from the help with meals and cleaning (which is awesome!) – she isn’t alone.  She has the community of other women.  Women who have been though it, are going through it, and will go through it.  The assurance of “You’re normal and things will get better” is more of a gift than anything else.

What if – instead of pretending everything was great every minute with our new babies, we responded honestly to questions of “How are you doing?” with “Well, I’m in love with my baby…but I feel quite like $hit.  I’m leaking from everywhere and haven’t showered for 3 days.  I’m starving and smelly but I just keep holding the baby because I don’t want him/her to cry.  I feel guilty sleeping because my house is a mess and my other kids need attention.  I think I brushed my teeth today, though, so that’s good.” And then maybe that friend would respond with “Oh, I remember the feeling!!” and we breathe a sigh of relief.  Instead of crying maybe that new (or experienced) mom will smile, or even laugh. Or maybe she’ll cry and her friend will tell her it’s OK.  When we feel understood or known we can more easily cope – whereas loneliness and isolation only feed into depression.

We live in a fast paced world, and unfortunately we don’t always have time to visit with each other or help ease the burdens of our friends.  But if postpartum depression is something that as many as 1 in 5 women deal with – whether they’ve admitted it or not – how much good could we do by simply texting or calling a new mom and asking “How are you doing?” Be prepared for them to say “Like $hit” and offer them the gift of empathy.  We’re in this together ladies – and we get the gift of bonding with these sweet (and not always sweet) kids that make us cry, cuss, and curse our x chromosomes.


A bad day.


A good day – the following week.

P.S.  I’m still not in my skinny jeans.  But I love my family.  Chaos and all.

*Anti-depressants are good and often necessary.  Please talk to your doctor if you have signs of postpartum depression.  And don’t be afraid to talk to a friend, too.


















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Two months out

It’s been over two months since Seva and I left Baku, and just over one month since Jason and the big kids left.  The range of emotions everyone has experienced have varied from one extreme to another, and while I can handle (for the most part) talking with the kids though their grieving process I have buried processing my own.  When the kid’s pediatrician asked the other day if this last pregnancy was any different than the others (aside from bouts of food poisoning) I said “Well, I was a little more stressed…” and tried not to cry.  He asked how I was doing now (again trying not to cry) and kindly suggested I should consider going on medication again at some point.  I suppose post postpartum hormones plus several major life changes plus guilt might not be a great combo?

Unfortunately our exit from the country wasn’t nearly as graceful as we had hoped or planned.  From difficult conversations with our landlord (who we love) over money and then a horrible experience at the airport – I was ready to get on the plane and never look back.  The drama at the airport went something like this….

The guy at check-in thought I was lying about my gestation, despite the fact that I had a stamped letter from a doctor and the fact that I wasn’t lying.  He didn’t want me to sign the waiver because he was adamant that I shouldn’t fly.  When he saw that my layover in Italy was only 90 minutes, he made a firm decision that I was NOT going to board the plane, because I would most definitely miss my connection and I would blame them.

IMG_6943 (1)

Simple enough?  Nope.


Cue tired and angry pregnant woman.

I *might* have raised my voice a little… I *might* have used words like “stupid” (and worse)… I *might* have said something along the lines of “I will never come back to this country and I will never tell anyone to ever come here if you do not let me on that plane.”

He begrudgingly let me on the plane.  A woman working beside him looked worried and got me some water.  The kids and I were crying…it wasn’t pretty.

I apologized.  I told him it had been a stressful week (or month, year, whatever).

He said “Well if anything happens it’s not our fault.  You can’t blame us.”

No problem.  I just wanted to be on my way home.  Combine all this drama with my flight anxiety…I was a hot.mess.  Calming Seva’s nerves served a dual purpose in calming my own.  And I won’t say that I didn’t give the child some Benadryl and myself a small glass of wine while halfway over the Atlantic.

Needless to say, I did not have a baby on the flights, nor did I miss my connections.


New York I think?  I was delirious.

I was quite relieved to make it back.

Yet Seva’s skin troubles didn’t disappear the moment we were on American soil.  She was still waking up 4-5 times a night itchy and was having many tantrums – apparently jetlag and eczema aren’t compatible.  It wasn’t until I got some good advice about making changes in her diet and I changed every product that I was using on her skin that the eczema really started to disappear.  Those things combined with a new anti-histamine, less stress, clean air, and clean water – and you would never know to look at her now the condition her skin was in just a few months ago.

I also lived in fear practically every day that the baby would be born early – before Jason and the kids were home.  I had crossed over the first hurdle (not giving birth in Azerbaijan) but now I just needed him to stay put a while longer.  I think almost every pregnant mom worries to some degree about the baby being born too early, or about something happening (even late in pregnancy), and I know I am not alone in counting each day that they stay put a victory!  But fear can be crippling, and eventually I’ll have to address that.  Not now though – #aintnobodygottime!!  He was not born early – and maybe his birth story will be shared in another post – but maybe not?  We’ll see.


In all honesty, I have tried not to think about Azerbaijan at all in the last two months.  It is too hard and too painful.  Too much failure, too much guilt, and things that remind me of the country make me actually feel sick.  I have found that the only thing I miss deeply are expat friends and some local friends.  I truly love and appreciate those people.  Not just Americans, Koreans and Azeris…but who knew Finns are so wonderfully real?  I was thankful to have someone to cuss with about the woes of life. 🙂  And we all miss our dear “family” over there – you know who you are!

But when I think about the country itself – the corruption, the way people always stared at me like I was crazy, the cold concrete house, the not-so-fresh air, the isolation etc…those things pale in contrast to the fact that this is the place where all of my spiritual questions and loneliness took root and eventually grew out of control.  I feel like I could write a book – ‘The Missionary who Stopped Hearing from God.’  Too depressing, I’m sure.

It’s all still so raw that I have little to no desire to go to church – both for fear that I’d have to talk with people or actually participate in something.  I’d like to sneak into a Catholic mass or something similar and just sit in the back and listen.  I don’t have any energy to be fake and my soul is too empty to tolerate fluff.  I can’t sing and I can’t pray – I just want to listen.  If there were such a thing as an Agnostic church I’d have been there by now – “We think this is true but we don’t know for sure and we won’t judge you if you don’t know for sure either.”  Aren’t there a lot of us just trying to figure life out?

Two months out and a long way to go.  For now, we’re just trying to survive as a family of six…#chaos!!  Thanks for being on the journey with us, I have so enjoyed getting messages from many of you who are struggling too.  You’re not alone!












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When you need a Hiatus from “The Church.”

It’s been a rough week.  For some reason a season that is usually a little kinder to Seva’s skin has been more harsh.  Those of you on Facebook have likely seen that our battle with her eczema has been worsening, and we seem to have hit a wall in finding relief for her for now.  There’s a little bit (ok a lot) of stress in the house.

Before I say anything else, I need to emphasize that my husband and I are not the same person.  Yes, he is still in ministry and is not having struggles with his faith.  I am no longer in ministry, I just happen to live overseas because this is where my husband works.  There have been comments that I shouldn’t say certain things, and that my words have weight because of what we’re doing – but again – I no longer am in that line of work.  I have admitted defeat years ago, and I’m just along for the ride while he does what he feels called to.  Some have expressed their sympathy to him for having to leave this country just as God has been “opening doors” for His work…but if God letting my kid suffer worse here than in our home country is part of that package, then I’m out.  Sorry for putting this so bluntly – but just because my husband has a certain career (one that I used to be part of, but no longer am) does not mean that I have that same job.  I hope this clears some things up.  I’m just a human trying to figure out life – who would much rather be working in a hospital in patient care than hanging out on this side of the world waiting for time to pass.

Yesterday, in expressing my frustration after one of our most difficult days with Seva (because I’m an extrovert – and this is what we do) I received some encouraging words to which I am thankful for.  There were also things said that I know were completely meant to encourage and help, but sadly when it comes to quoting Bible passages in relation to these difficult circumstances it just sends me spiraling down in the other direction.

In the midst of my confusion over the last few years I have been feeling as though a break from the church would be healthy – but I just haven’t had the guts to do it because of all the baggage that comes with that choice.  What do I tell my kids?  They are getting old enough to realize that I always leave church on Sundays feeling frustrated – is it best for me to just not be there anyways?  They ask me questions about God…and I have to tell them I don’t know…because I don’t.  Going to Bible studies leaves me frustrated because I always have more questions than answers, and everything I read leaves me with a “But…?” question.  Hearing people say “The Lord told me this or that…the Lord is just so great…he gave me this…” leaves me feeling like I’m going to throw up in my mouth because I think of all the tragedy and suffering in the world and then really – God gave you that new car and took you on a coffee date and blessed you with a free drink and you heard your favorite song on the way there that was just so encouraging??  Wow.

I’m really overdue for a break.

The passage that was sent to me yesterday in regards to Seva’s skin was Deuteronomy 28.  So I read it.  And I got pissed off.  So, my child’s suffering is the result of generational disobedience to God somewhere along the way – nothing she did but someone else in the family line – and we need to repent and obey to rid her of the curse?  And, verses like 63: “Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you.” tend to rub me the wrong way.  There are countless Christians who will say “My God is loving, my God heals, my God would never inflict pain on his children.”  Well, huh. 

So I decided to read all of Deuteronomy last night because I couldn’t fall asleep.  Seva had already awoken before midnight itchy and bleeding and I figured I might as well get the whole context of what Moses was saying.  So I started at the beginning and kept going…

Isn’t it so cute how we all love to triple underline and highlight the feel good verses – print them on memory cards and sell them for $5?  For example, Deut. 4:29 “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and soul.”  Oh how great!  I had underlined and starred this in college.  But right before this, we are told that we will perish and be destroyed if we make any kind of idol and provoke God to anger.  Oops, hadn’t underlined that part.

Deut. 6:5 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” 6:13 “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…”  Yes!  Got them all underlined.  Or else… 6:15 “For Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.”  Ouch.  This one isn’t on the bookmarks and memory cards…

I kept reading.  Found this part interesting: Deut. 11:13-17 “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.  Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.  Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.”

OK, so do you see where I’m going with this?  Here’s where I always end up.  Every time.  God and Jesus don’t match.  My whole life I’ve been taught they are one…God is love…Jesus is the the image of God on earth…Father, Son, Holy Spirit…you know what I’m saying.  But even this simple statement about God sending/not sending rain is contradicted by Jesus himself: Matthew 5:45 “He (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Ok, so wait, does God give you good or bad weather based on your obedience, or not??  Is it all just random??  Did God suddenly change his mind about the rain – or did Moses have that part wrong?  I get so stuck.

So I read through the rest of Deuteronomy, got especially heated up during the bits about women (I won’t even get started) and I find no relief in the common response of we are no longer under the law, Jesus has made all things new, etc. etc…because I can’t get past God’s heart and his constant anger and selfishness to be worshiped and obeyed 24/7…or else.  We all believe that God never changes, right?  That circumstances change but he doesn’t, right?  And so I feel sick – pondering the possibility that Seva’s skin condition is due to my disobedience and that I may have done this to her by disobeying God.  Because The Bible Tells Me So.

And so, the hiatus begins, and I am choosing to give myself freedom to slowly discover truth on my own time without being preached at by people who “know everything about God” (because, none of us do, and that’s OK).  Do I love this reality?  No.  But do I have to live honestly where I’m at?  Yes.  Can I still attempt to love God and love others in the meantime?  Yes.

Seva has had “healing prayer” numerous times over the last few years which has changed nothing and leaves me more discouraged and upset – so I am hopeful to learn her triggers and heal her skin in a more scientific way.

Trusting I will not be struck down dead because of this post – but if I am – then you all have your answers. ❤

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