There is nothing like a quick 5 day trip home (our “other” home) to San Juan, Dominican Republic to add a little perspective to my journey towards finding a healthier balance in life. Our visits here are always full of laughter with friends and family, intense theological debates between my husband and his dearest friends, busy schedules, good food, and of course a hard slap in the face with reality.
Reality is something we have a tendency to define based on our own experiences, I mean how else can we define it if we do not live it? Robert and I have a unique version of reality because of one simple fact: we come from two different worlds and part of this journey towards balance includes finding room in our current life for the mezcla of both worlds. I use the word mezcla, which is Spanish for mixture, to emphasize the fact that our life now HAS to be a mix of both our lived experiences, cultures, languages – our worlds that now collide and mix into something brand new.
Mezcla, in Spanish, carries multiple meanings depending upon context, but as a missionary and now pastor who leads mission teams to the DR, the one most common to me has to do with construction. Mezcla is a mixture of sand, water, and powdered cement to create cement. This cement is used to glue blocks together, lay foundations, and to make walls and ceilings. It is literally the glue that holds the building together. And the “mezcla” has to be perfectly balanced to function properly. This part of the construction process usually amazes the Americans who come to work because there is no exact measurement of the three ingredients, but simply the knowledge that comes with experience. The Maestro Conductor, the expert in charge of cement mixing, eyeballs it – and knows when it is perfect. In our country we call this a cement truck, whereas often in the DR we call it hard working men and women who frantically mix the three ingredients together (in the hot Caribbean sun) in a huge pile right there in the middle of the construction site – looking for the perfect balance. The strength of the building depends on it.
I apply the same concept to our marriage, our family, and our life together: we have to find the perfect way of mixing it all together. We have to know what to let go of, what to change, what to hold onto, what to learn from, in other words: what matters most. Because if it is not a balance of all the necessary ingredients, it won’t stick, and it won’t hold up. It is the strength of our marriage and family- of our life.
Of course the one, and most important, common ingredient Robert and I each bring to the marriage is Jesus. This is the strength and foundation of our marriage, and therefore our family. Our balance is found in his grace and through his strength. He is what helps us know what to hold on to and what to let go of. Scripture reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak . . .”.
And as we return home to the reality Robert grew up in (one I lived in for a short time years ago) we are reminded of many things. One that seems to dominate this trip: Simplicity. Seems obvious that in an effort to seek balance simplicity should be part of the process. But let’s face it, in our culture that isn’t always the easiest thing.
So here we are, blessed beyond belief, with the opportunity to be reminded of it every time we travel home to plan a mission trip, lead one, or simply visit loved ones. Every time we enter an impoverished community we are reminded of what really matters.
Like the community we visited today, La Florida. It is 16 kilometers outside of the city of San Juan. Yet it takes an hour to get there with a 4-wheel drive truck because of the roads. The photo of the road shows the beginning part of the trip with actual roads. The last 6 kilometers are off road, over rock, and through rivers to “La Florida” – the forgotten community. Here you will find about 300 people living, mostly kids, and one school that serves 1-4 grade. Want to continue on in school? You need to walk the terrain and rocks in the dry sun for 6 kilometers to the next community. And High School? That is only available in the city of San Juan, so pretty much your done.
Perspective. Check. Reality. Check. Simplicity. Check.
This redefines the concept of finding balance for me. Of course this community is not where Robert grew up, but it is less than 10 miles from where he did. A little different than my roots in Woodstown, NJ. Therefore, you can imagine the differences we bring to the relationship, and how they effect the life we are building together. But this week God has reminded us about the importance of simplicity through a trip to La Florida. He has reminded me that the balance I seek has to be based in the simple things of life, the important things. It has to include the necessary ingredients that only God can use to create the perfect balance – the mezcla that allows our life to stick- to stand strong in Him.