(Post #6 in a collaborative series)
Guest Blogger: Dawn Stark
Throughout my 20’s I worked for an international airline and traveled the world for almost nothing. But all I really wanted was a baby. I mourned continually over my empty arms. Nothing else would appease me: Hawaii, the Greek Islands, Europe, sailing down the Nile – a decade of beautiful places and experiences that I mainly viewed through the lens of pain. I didn’t understand God’s love language to me in the waiting season. I missed so many amazing places of worship on the way to my arms being filled to overflowing.
The way I spent my 20’s shrouded in mourning is a life regret.
Today I am traveling again, for different reasons, but still very similar to the way I did so many years ago. I know without a doubt God has once again given me this season as a gift in a beautiful way of merging mission and passion. It’s a do-over of sorts. Life is full of long, complicated, and painful journeys; infertility was only one of many that I’ve endured. In my early 50’s now, with 5 miracle children in my life, there is sufficient evidence that I cannot fret or worry or mourn my way through this life.
Recently, work led me to Puerto Rico. A traveler to my core, I was so excited about this new adventure I couldn’t fall asleep the night before my flight. I’ve been to the island years ago on two other occasions, but only in the San Juan area. This trip required me to rent a car and travel to Mayaguez, on the western side of PR. I padded my travel time on each side of work events to allow for moments of spontaneity: pulling over to enjoy look-out points, taking the temperature of the Caribbean water with a quick dip, snapping photos of interesting sites, and choosing local eats over convenient chain options.
Puerto Rico did not disappoint! I so enjoyed spending time with ministry partners, learning about the heart-breaking impact of Hurricane Maria, and discovering the resilience of the people. I intently practiced present-moment mindfulness by not letting my thoughts creep back to other weighty matters and instead choosing to focus on the “great and small” of life happening right in front of me:
- the vibrant colors saturating the Puerto Rican culture through nature and art.
- the proud rooster walking down the sidewalk, crowing like he totally belonged in that human space.
- the irony of eating St. Louis (my hometown) style rib from the BBQ joint I just happened to stop at for dinner.
- the newlywed who coaxed me to jump into the rough shore break and enjoy the sunset with her family.
- the experience of driving in San Juan’s rush hour traffic when 12 lanes of inbound cars merged into 4 without traffic lines or signals of any sort.
While travel is all a little harder on my body these days, I am intent on not missing the moments made for worshipping along the way this time. I cannot reverse the way I lived my 20’s, doubting the goodness of God, but I can learn from that experience. My trip to Puerto Rico reminded me – again – to savor the gifts I’ve been given. The song, Peace, written by Michael McDonald and recorded by Russ Taff, perfectly captures my thoughts:
I have come from so far away
Down the road of my own mistakes
In the hope you could hear me pray
Oh Lord, keep me in your reach.
How I’ve longed through these wasted years
To outrun all my pain and fears
Turn to stone from own cried tears
And now its your grace I see
Love won’t compromise
It’s a gift, it’s a sacrifice
My soul renewed, and my heart released
In you I find my peace.
Wonderous child of whom the angels sing
Know my joy, feel my suffering
Shining star make this love you bring
So bring that I may believe
That my way will not be lost
From now on, ‘till that river’s crossed
My soul renewed, and my spirit free
In you I’ll find my peace