Monday, June 21, 2010

Then and Now

This photo was taken a couple of weeks after we sold our vehicles, garage-saled a quarter of what we owned, put the rest in storage and left Littleton, Colorado to live briefly in the beautiful country of Uganda. This was the girls' first day as students at the Kabira International School and it was Brian's very first day of teaching his own class!

Now, nearly four years later, we are about to return to Colorado, the place we used to call home. It's strange to think that it no longer feels like home. At about the three month mark of our time in Uganda I remember thinking that there was no way we could handle being away from all of our friends and family for the three years it would take me to complete a masters degree at MHGS. The months we spent living in a foreign country almost entirely on our own left us feeling a kind of loneliness that I think few people experience in their lifetime. We were fortunate to have one another - and at the same time it was that level of "togetherness" that revealed so much of the brokenness that had been covered up by the distractions of our daily lives before that season.

It was the isolation we experienced in Uganda that Brian and I were forced to face the fracture of our marriage. And it was because of this fracture that we decided not to return after we had traveled to Colorado for Christmas that year. Unsure of what our next step should be, we moved to California to live with my dad so that both Brian and I could work and attempt to save up the necessary funds we would need in order to relocate to the Pacific Northwest so that I could pursue further education. The six months we spent living in California were not necessarily any easier than living in another country. It was the first time since I was five years of age that I had spent any extended amount of time with my father. There I was, a grown woman with three kids of her own, discovering that the wound from his absence in my life was still very much a part of who I had come to be and how I had come to relate to others.

In that six months Brian and I wrestled with our plans for our future. We questioned if such a thing as "our future" even existed anymore. After having grown up in a broken family I never imagined that divorce would be a word in my own relational vocabulary. And yet, we were at our breaking point. Neither of us knew what to do. Years of marriage counseling. Years of seeking out advice from spiritual advisors, friends, and family. Nothing seemed to help. We couldn't help but wonder if the stress of relocating a family of five and the demands of grad school were just simply too much for our fragile relationship to withstand.

So Brian and I were forced to get really real with each other. I know that's horrible grammar...but there's no other way for me to describe it. We had to speak honestly to one really honest. The kind of stuff you only write in journals when you think no one else will ever read them. We spoke of the possibility of divorce and wondered about what that would look like. We talked about our ideas around custody and how we would still be co-parents and that we would have to get over ourselves so that we could celebrate every holiday and birthday together as a family. It was perhaps the most difficult conversation of my life. We also talked about the financial struggles such a decision would inevitably create. And that's when we both agreed that we simply had to move so that I could acquire the degree necessary for me to pursue a career that would make it possible for me to survive with while raising our three girls in a joint-custody situation.

It's so crazy for me to think that it was because we were contemplating divorce that we set sail on this journey three years ago. Sure there were plenty of other things set in motion to point me in this particular direction towards this particular school. But the possibility of us divorcing was one of the deciding factors. We were both hopeful that the experience would help us find one another again, but I don't think either of us really believed such a thing actually was possible.

There were a lot of things that happened in this journey that I never would have believed possible three years ago. And the most surprising has been that somewhere along this road I fell in love with my husband. I had always cared deeply for him before...but I'm not sure that I had really been capable of loving another...choosing to love another...until I began to discover my own true voice, true face, true beauty. In discovering my real self I became truly free to choose.

I am 5 days out from graduating from Mars Hill Graduate School with a Masters in Counseling Psychology. There truly are no words to describe my gratitude for this experience. It is not just an institution that I am thankful for - because anyone who has experienced Mars Hill quickly discovers that it is about the people you walk beside on this journey. So I am thankful for the people that make up this institution. I am thankful for the books I've read and the papers I've wrestled through. I am thankful for God's hand in it all. It truly is a place where text.soul.culture are embodied...they are made tangible, real, fleshy.

One week from tomorrow I will be returning to Colorado. It is no longer the place that I call home because I have actually discovered a home in my own soul. It is there that I have taken up residency and don't plan on ever leaving. Thank you MHGS, for helping me find home...a place where love simply abounds.


Our Four Kids said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Shauna! Congratulations on finishing your degree and so glad to read of how your marriage has healed. I'm sad we won't see you in the fall, but look forward to hearing about what God will be doing in your life!


laurie said...

Oh Shauna, I'm totally crying now. You're story is so beautiful, and I totally understand the gratitude and pain involved in leaving MHGS. I will miss you, specifically as our time there comes to quite a bittersweet close. Thank you for this story.

Laura said...

I hardly know what to say as I sit here crying. Thank you for sharing this story. I am grateful for your friendship and the journey. I will miss you.

Holly Priscilla said...

Wow. Thank you, I am blessed by your sharing. So powerful, so good. Now I totally get the fire with which you piped up that day in class something to the effect of it IS possible for two very different people to love one another. I feel so much joy for you and your family, and grateful to have shared this time with you at MH. Go in peace!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous testimony! I get it that MHGS could be a redemptive element for a marriage (from another MHGS fan -- no degree, "just" conferences).