Even if the river otters leave

You’re a failure. You should just give up.

Discouragement had been whispering in my ear all week, and sitting across the dinner table from one of my students as they said they wanted to leave TLC a month early hit me right where it hurt most. I tried to form a response, any response, but the only thing that came to my mind were more accusations and lies.

You suck at this. You haven’t loved them well enough. You already lost one student this year and now you’re about to lose another. You’re gonna spend your last month in Alaska here, in this house, alone. Some ministry… What a waste…

I drew a deep breath and excused myself from the table with a cracking voice. Unsure of where to go, I escaped to my bathroom where I crumbled onto my knees, a silently sobbing heap at the feet of Jesus.

What. The. Heck. Lord. It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard to keep two students in a house for a year… but some days it is; it’s so freaking hard.

~

The beauty of bush life is that just about anything goes here. Because we don’t have roads in our village, we don’t technically have addresses other than our PO box numbers. As life would have it, I’ve learned that some things just don’t ship to PO boxes. Thus, our team has gotten a little creative in putting down roots where the Lord has us by making up our own addresses.

My boss and his family? They live at 44 Magnum Drive, because… Alaska. Two of my most dear friends? You can find them by walking 200 yards north of my house. The trail looks the same, but you’ll “find yourself” at HemmingWay. (Oh, how I adore Heather and all her English nerdiness.) Naturally, my girls and I live at self-proclaimed 723 Jesus Loves River Otters Lane. Because… Jesus. And because we have a pair of mildly vicious river otters who often frolic in the bay in our “backyard”.

~

As I cried, hunched over on my bathroom floor, I begged God to keep my sweet student here at the Tanalian Leadership Center, where I’ve seen Him do so much in her life this year. I prayed over our little house– for Grace to make Himself at home here at our made-up address, because in all honesty, I was so exhausted and discouraged that night that I just wanted to snap back, “JUST LEAVE THEN” with everything in my wounded momma heart.

I battled the doubt and discouragement that was waging war inside of me, twisting my every thought. And I thanked God when He sent me reinforcements in prayer via text message, right as I needed them.

As I sat on the floor battling the lies and the doubt they caused, I tried to differentiate what success and failure would look like in this situation. I sat stumped.

I don’t know what calculating success or failure as a missionary looks like. Logically, I suppose I know I’m not a failure. But that night Jesus reminded me of the struggle against myself and the innate desire to “succeed” I’ve felt nearly every day since moving to Port Alsworth. Most days it’s so tempting to try and measure the success of ministry the way my American upbringing tells me I should—quantitatively. But when I get sucked into the numbers game, I quickly find myself counting the things that feel like failures and not those that seem like success.

  • 1, possibly 2, students gone.
  • 1 student sitting alone, upset at the dinner table as I sobbed on the other side of our house.
  • 3 pots and pans that wouldn’t get washed that night because I was mentally fried.
  • 4 other students I should’ve been preparing to play soccer with after dinner instead of crying.
  • 5…
  • 6…

My list of failures, my questions about success, and my prayers swirled around in my brain until a peace that truly surpassed any (and all) of my understanding washed over me.

“Stop striving, Kacy. Everyone could leave. Everything could ‘go wrong’. Even then, I would still love you. My love for you has never been based on the number of times you succeed or fail. You are Mine and therefore, you are more than enough. Come on, come off the floor, My sweet hot mess of a child… Go and love the ones I’ve placed you with out of the freedom of My fullness instead of the fear of your failure.”

I eventually made it off the floor that night. (Although I never did make it to soccer…Such is life.) A few quiet days passed in our house as I prayed and prayed that my sweet student would decide not to leave TLC prematurely. In the silence of those days, I couldn’t help but earnestly question my deep-seeded need to “succeed” in life, rather than just “be” the woman God has called me to be, where He has called me.

I stood at my stove cooking dinner in the familiar silence Monday night, mulling over the situation for the millionth time when I heard our front door bang open and the voice of  one of my boys. “Mail plane!” he shouted before chucking my packages and letters on the entry way floor and slamming the door shut behind himself.

I made my way over to the pile, picked up a red envelope with the address 723 Jesus Loves River Otters Lane scrawled in my friend’s familiar handwriting, and laughed at the absurdity of this whole season of life. Inside that envelope were the exact words my soul needed from a woman who has delicately reminded me of the Truth of the gospel for nearly four years. Amy wrote:

“No matter what the day has held or what tomorrow will hold, there is sweet purpose and enough-ness in being a daughter of The Father. He has not made a mistake in sending you to Jesus Loves River Otters Lane… even if the river otters leave. May you find sweet satisfaction in Him today.”

riverotters
I have found such sweet contentment drinking in this view (and countless cups of coffee) morning after morning with Jesus. Seeing the squirmy river otters in the bay are always a welcome bonus, but I am daily reminded that they are not the prize; being where I’m meant to be, with Who I was created to be with? That’s the most beautiful thing of all.

“Even if the willow tree does not blossom, nor fresh fruit be in my grocery order, even if the produce I ordered for ‘family dinner’ freezes at altitude in the plane and rots before it makes it to my kitchen, and the ‘fields of future believers’ that I thought would be ripe for harvest refuse Jesus… Even if the students/river otters I love leave me and silence fills my house, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. For God, the Lord, is my strength: He makes my feet like the Dahl Sheep’s; He allows me tread on His mountain tops (and lovingly meets me when I am low on my knees).”

(Habakkuk 3:17-19, The Alaska edition)

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One Reply to “Even if the river otters leave”

  1. What you are doing is beautiful. Praying for you right now, that God would be strengthening you. A “beautiful and pure heart” is what I hear God telling me about you.

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