From the Ground Up

My first Dominican “couch” and “coffee table” (futon and washing mashine box with tablecloth on it).

One of the reasons I moved to Jarabacoa from San Pedro de Macoris three years ago was to “build my life from the ground up.”

When I moved to San Pedro (three months after graduating from college), I felt very much like I was plopped down into a life. People I had never met before arranged everything so I could have a comfortable apartment full of furniture when I arrived in the Dominican Republic.

When I arrived, I filled the need of a preschool English teacher at the school. I went to church where everyone else went to church. I was friends with all of the Americans. Other people had already done the hard work to establish what life looks like in San Pedro for American missionary teacher people, and all I had to do was show up.

(Of course it was much more complicated and hard than that. But overall I had a ton of support and guidance in those years that led me towards living the same kind of life as most of the Americans around me.)

There came a point during my four years in San Pedro when I felt a little stifled. I once explained it how I saw it in my brain: This ministry is a table full of round holes and we, the participants in this ministry, are the round pegs meant to fill all of these holes. But what if I don’t just want to fill this first grade teacher hole? What if I want to do other things? What if I’m not a round peg?

(This is not a critique of the ministry I worked with in San Pedro. They are amazing people doing amazing things and many of my friends have spread their wings so far into other ministries, neighborhoods, relationships, and calling. This is MY perspective based on MY growing up as a human woman. I moved to San Pedro right out of college. I needed the support and structure of a round hole to fit my round life into. But I grew up and grew out and for me growing out meant OUT of San Pedro. Not because San Pedro or that ministry or those people are bad, but because all of journies are different.)

So I moved to Jarabacoa to start my life from the ground up. Turns out moving to a new place with no support system is actually really super hard and lonely. My first year in Jarabacoa was the hardest of my life. Without the support of my parents and friends back home (and my then-new pal Amanda!) I honestly don’t know how I would have survived. Like literally I don’t know how I would have paid rent and also bought groceries. One time during that year I had to leave a grocery store crying with all of my carefully chosen food left unpaid for on the conveyor belt because my debit card was declined. Humbling.

BUT I asked for help and was graciously helped and I kept building and digging and growing and trying.

This morning I went over to my friend Melody’s house. We had lattes and sat on her back balcony and looked at the river and the moutains and talked about everything. This has become a routine of ours and I love it. Then I went to the Clifford family’s house to hitch a ride with them up to Young Life Camp. I’m not a Young Life leader this year (because I’m tired) but I am a high school teacher and all of my students were all, “You HAVE to come to camp!” Plus it’s camp and I love camp. So I rode up with the Clifford family to camp.

At camp I got to see so many friends I hadn’t seen in a while, play some games, and watch some brave JCS gals take a turn on the giant swing. I felt – yet again – so proud to be a part of the Jarabacoa Christian School family. Our students really are the dang best.

Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and the guy behind me in line is a JCS parent. I taught his daugther first grade and taught two of his other children in my garage for two years. My day 1 Jarabacoa friend David picked me up from camp (it’s up a mountain that I’m too scared to drive up on my moped) and on the way home I saw a motoconcho friend, Rudy, who said hi. This evening I went over to a friend’s house to let their dog out (they’re at camp).

I’m saying this all to say that I am so grateful. I didn’t know any of these people three years ago when I moved to Jarabacoa (except for David, hence the “day 1” label) and now look how rich in relationships my life is! I am so humbled and grateful for this very, very full life that I get to live.

God knew that I needed four years to acclimate to being an adult American human in the Dominican Republic. He knew I needed that structure and support and all of the knowledge and experience I gained from teaching at Las Palmas alongside and under the guidance of some amazing teachers. And then, after four years of structure and support and learning, in so many ways, He set me free.

A friend posted this question on her social media the other day: what do you like about yourself? I answered that I like how I try to always be learning something. I am constantly learning about what it looks like for me to soften, to give grace, to lead well, to speak Spanish well, to be a white American woman living in the DR, to be a dog mom, to be a neighbor in this neighborhood, to teach! (always something to learn), and to live my very best life, which is the one Jesus planned for me and is inviting me into.

I want to always be learning, moving, and growing, but this school year already feels in so many ways like a time of preparation and rest and settling. It feels like a season to take the time (to have the time) to actually look around and be intentionally and deeply grateful.

Thank You, God. Thank You, God. Thank You, God. This life is so nice and I’m so glad it’s mine.

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