At age 25, after four years of marriage, Nathan and I packed up our 2 and 3 year old and moved to a small island in the West Indies. It was definitely the hardest and best thing we have ever done. Living there was a game-changer for our family. I’ve waited for more than 10 years to tell you much about it, but now I’m ready.
We spent our first few days on the island doing some team training with our supervisor and his wife and another couple that would be going to a nearby island. And then we left on our own for our new home, a village town about an hour and a half away from the city. Our new life was a big adjustment. In our new place, we had no phone, internet, vehicle, washing machine, hot water, clean water, or air conditioning. Some of that changed over time, but not all of it. A day or two later before leaving the island, our four colleagues (and dear friends) came to our village home to see us one more time before they flew out. I guess upon looking around our house, my friends Lisa and Nancy noticed that I had a problem with the kitchen.
You see, the house we were renting wasn’t empty. It was furnished, and it was also full of leftover stuff. It was owned by a man that basically lived by himself, and he was storing tools and outdoor-type items in the kitchen cabinets. Bug spray. Motor oil. And….wait for it…there were roaches. Lots and lots of roaches. And then, there were some really dirty dishes in the top cabinets, and also more roaches. Did I mention roaches already?
I had a very few kitchen items that I’d brought from the US, but the kitchen was so dirty and so full of junk that there was nowhere to put those items. And I had no clue where to put the items that belonged to the man. So, for the first two days, I’d done nothing in the kitchen. I really didn’t go in there. We had eaten bread and peanut butter with no plates. We really hadn’t figured out yet where to get food locally and were just basically eating the stuff we’d brought on the trip. We were all drinking from one water bottle that had a built in filter. The kitchen–I could not. This was an overwhelming time for me. A time when obeying God was very hard, and everything about our new life was hard to take in all at once. I was completely paralyzed.
My friends realized that we could not live like this and I’m sure could tell that I had no plan at that point. Those two ladies got in my yucky new kitchen and got busy. They cleared out a main section of the top shelves and found a place to stash the items that had belonged to the man. They wiped out those cabinets and cleaned surfaces to make them usable. Seriously, I was so paralyzed that I didn’t help them. I didn’t even go into the kitchen to watch, because it was too much. They also brought food from the grocery store in town. They didn’t clean that entire kitchen, because that would have taken a week. But they gave me the start I needed, and a clean section to work with until I could handle more.They made a way for me to function somewhat in this new life.
Can you think of a time when you’ve been paralyzed? Sometimes amidst grief, major changes or just the overwhelmingness of life, you can become paralyzed. The steps forward in a particular area feel like they are impossible to take. But guess what? Sometimes God sends someone to take them for you. What these friends did for me on that day will stick with me forever. At the time, I was in such a state that I barely knew what was happening. They pulled me from a place where I could not move myself. And it was a beautiful gift to me that meant so much more than just that moment. The paralysis in the kitchen was probably the first of many life-changing lessons that I learned on the island. I’m planning to tell you more about that soon.