Weak me, Good God
The boys were in bed, the day was drawing to a close and Nathan and I were relaxed in the living room, watching a movie. It gets dark at about 6pm year round for us, so it was already dark out. Our couch sits to the left of the back door and I was sitting on the end closest to it. Amid the noise of the movie, I suddenly heard the familiar click sound of the door opening. It startled me, and I looked to my left. Sure enough, the door was about an inch open. I immediately felt alarmed. I said “Nathan! someone just opened the door!” He jumped up and ran to the door, grabbed the handle and yelled in Indonesian “Who’s out there?!” The door wouldn’t open because whoever was trying to open it was trying to pull it closed again. Nathan yelled again and yanked the door open and started chasing a man into the dark. At that exact moment the power went out. I was standing in the middle of the living room in pitch black, listening to footsteps disappear into the darkness. I shakily scrambled around for my phone and turned on the flashlight. Waiting. Wondering who had tried to come into our house when they could obviously see that I was there and the TV was on. The power flickered back on and Nathan came back, saying he chased the guy down the road before he slipped down a side street. It was too dark to tell who it was.
Was it the young man who I had already had 2 awkward and inappropriate interactions with on the road recently? The way Nathan had been sitting in the corner may have blocked his visibility from the window. Was he trying to come in because he thought I was alone? Uncomfortable thoughts that bothered me the next few days. I found myself glancing at the door frequently throughout the next day, and locking it during the day whenever Nathan was gone for anything.
This had already been a seriously stressful few months with moving into a house that needed to be totally gutted and being the only western family in town for months at a time. I was exhausted emotionally and physically from so many bouts of sickness with either me or the kids. Then a handful of incidents with men in the community made me question going out on my own (with the kids or without) anymore.
I noticed that I wasn’t looking people in the eye anymore when I went out into town or to the market. I generally hold my head up and smile and nod at those in passing but I realised I wasn’t doing that anymore. My eyes were down and I was avoiding any eye contact with men especially. I didn’t want another awkward interaction. At times I was on edge almost constantly, jumping at sudden sounds like doors slamming or phones ringing.
The physical symptoms came during all of this too. I won’t go into detail, but it was a pretty traumatic thing to feel so many things going on in my body and have nowhere to go for help. Looking back it’s pretty obvious it was stress, but I had never had experience with anxiety or any of these other things so it was very hard to accept or believe that it was “just stress’ when it was affecting me so strongly that I couldn’t even function. My body couldn’t cope anymore. It had gotten itself stuck in stress response and would be triggered by almost anything.
We decided to move up our furlough time to get to the bottom of my health struggles. Our time in the states has been enlightening to me regarding stress and trauma. I had to learn for myself what my body was doing in order to believe it. I’ve been reading a lot of books, have had lots of info from doctors regarding stress and its amazing impact on the body. Now, I do have a mild case of autoimmune thyroiditis, which definitely exacerbates the affects of stress. I think the meds I am on now for that are really helping! A huge piece of my “healing journey” (I’m gonna be cheesy and use that phrase) was actually believing 100% that this is all stemming from a sensitive nervous system that is hyper reactive to stress. It couldn’t be someone else just telling me that, I had to find it out for myself.
Brain science is so fascinating! It’s really fun to learn about this stuff. (Maybe I should have been a neurologist...) I have been doing a program that retrains the brain to get it out of chronic stress response. I do an hour (most days!) of practice a day to retrain my brain! How crazy is that! I believe it is actually working. God’s design is incredible! He has designed us so intelligently and it’s a testimony of His great wisdom in the way He has designed the brain to protect us.
I asked myself why I am sharing this, and the main reason I guess is that we are going back to Indonesia hopefully at the end of August and I wanted people who pray for me to know a little more of the kind of stresses I personally have been facing overseas. I hope it will help you to know how to pray!
Some may be wondering why I am going back after all the stress. I believe through your many prayers on my behalf that God has rekindled an excitement in me to go back. For a while there I was willing to go back, but there wasn’t a real excitement about it. I feel that in the past month specifically I have regained the desire and excitement of going back to our ministry. I don’t think this could be from any other source than God. He is so patient and kind to me. I don’t feel afraid, even though it is always hard to leave our friends here in America.
I’ve never felt so weak or helpless as I have in the last year and half, but I also know that God doesn’t waste trials. He will work all things together for good to those who love Him. He is teaching me how to love Him!
I have been thinking about my good friends there, and the opportunity to share Christ with them in these next few years. Lord willing, He can speak through my non-eloquent words and ways to share His truth with them. I am so glad He will do the work and that it’s not up to me.
7/28/2019 10:34:37 am
I will be praying for you sweet gal. Yes there are giants in the land but our God is able to give the strength and peace you need because of His great love for you.
7/28/2019 08:29:11 pm
Hello Abby, so glad you were able to write about this, it will help. It is so stressful overseas and because one lives it daily it easy to think our bodies are handling it. I call it hitting a wall, you go and do, go and do, go and do some more then all of sudden you hit a wall. I have hit a physical wall before and it stunned me for a while. I am glad you guys came home to get this looked into and glad we got to touch base with you both and see the kids. I will be praying for you both as you get back into the stress. It does work to retrain our minds, it helps to handle stress of any kind because for sure we will have it.
7/30/2019 07:18:55 pm
I also have found it very helpful to research cognitive neuroscience when involving trauma, stress and the way our bodies respond to situations way out of our control. It is inspiring to read your story and the hope you feel about returning to the place that induced the stress related responses. I feel there is so much love and courage in that. What sort of retraining are you doing? Is it a type of neurofeedback?
7/31/2019 09:04:27 am
So very glad to hear of your progress, Abby! Stress is never "just." We were designed to respond to stress, one way or the other. Our whole lives are responses to stress, positive and negative. You're right - neuroscience is fascinating. We are holistic beings: body, soul, spirit. Dealing with stressful living conditions is not simply a spiritual issue that your faith will conquer. We are excited for you guys, too.
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Burris Family, living in Asia Pacific