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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)

TITLE: Losing Myself
By Jan Ackerson


Dan and I married young—we were children, really—but I was charmed by the curls that played at his neck, and by his raspy chuckle. Those were reasons enough to marry, as it turns out. Years later, those same qualities still quicken my breath.

Not long ago, we waved at our darling Lily as she embarked on a new life with her own curly-haired charmer, in a flurry of lace. Dan’s arm tightened around my waist as their car disappeared, and he whispered in my ear. “We’re still young, sweetheart. Time to do something new.”

Something new was a spiritual itch that had plagued him for months. Dan wanted to be a missionary—had felt the call and started to research mission fields and financial arrangements while I was occupied with Lily’s wedding. I strained to hear the same voice that had reached my husband’s ears, but God was silent to me. I followed Dan anyway, transported to a distant land by the power of my love for him.

The air in my new country was richer than that of my home, thicker with exotic smells. Colors were more brilliant, the music filled with stranger harmonies. The language, when I learned it, fell softly from my tongue. The children were precious with their quick and dazzling smiles, the women sweetly shy. Yet I resisted falling in love with my new residence. My heart was home with Lily and her husband, with the granddaughter whose growth was documented for me in a well-worn photo album.

A few mornings ago, I awoke realizing that I had dreamed not in English but in my adopted tongue. I felt bemused, as if I was losing myself. The feeling intensified as I shopped for vegetables in the open-air market. Surrounded by the liquid syllables of native speakers, I was startled when an English-speaking tourist grasped my elbow and asked for directions. I blinked at her, uncomprehending, having to translate her words mentally before I could formulate a reply.

And yesterday, I sat in the front row of our cinder-block church, listening to the linguistic dance of Dan and his co-pastor, partners in the Lord. Dan spoke, his partner translated, the congregation laughed at his self-deprecating humor—and I realized that I had not heard Dan’s words at all, but had waited for the translation. I am fading away, I thought. If we stay here, I will disappear.

I spent the afternoon in something more closely resembling whining than prayer. Your work is flourishing here, Lord. Dan loves it. But I have done nothing for Your kingdom, and I am all alone. Why did You bring me here if only to watch me evaporate? How can I serve You if I don’t know who I am? My vaulted and chained spirit locked out God’s reply.

This morning, I kissed Dan good-bye, wrapped a colorful skirt around my waist, and prepared a cup of the local tea, spicy and sweet. While I sipped, I listened to the cacophony of accusing birds in the trees outside and explored the borders of my soul. My reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door.

It was my neighbor, a quiet woman with whom I’d occasionally shared a loaf of flat bread or a fruit-filled treat. Tears streaked her cheeks and she fell into my arms, weeping her husband’s name. He had been unfaithful to her, I learned, because of her inability to bear him a child. His mistress was now pregnant, and he had put her from their home, penniless and bereft.

I held her stiffly at first, unsure how to minister to this grieving woman, but my arms relaxed as a peacefulness settled upon me—a warmth that spread from the roots of my hair to my sandaled feet. My neighbor’s tears subsided, and she whimpered a proverb used to communicate despair: literally translated, she told me with every rising of the sun, my teeth are broken anew.

God’s words filled all of the empty spaces in my spirit. “He is faithful,” I said, using the pronoun that means the Holy one. “With every rising of the sun, His mercy comes anew.”

She cradled her head on my shoulder, drawing deep breaths. The mirror on the wall reflected my blonde hair mingling with her raven tresses, her chocolate arms intertwining with my pale ones. I locked eyes with the missionary in the mirror and smiled.

We held each other for many minutes, two women discovering grace.

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This article has been read 1639 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 10/26/06
Lovely piece - held me to the end. This line (and the last) were especially great: "I locked eyes with the missionary in the mirror and smiled."
One small detail that hit my eye - I'd move "in a flurry of lace" a little closer to the subject - it reads like the bridegroom is the one in lace. Just nit-picking cause this is well-done in any case.
Birdie Courtright10/27/06
This is beautiful. I felt like I could see right into your heart as I was reading. What a gift you have!
william price10/27/06
A lovely, lovely tale. Expertly written, developed and expressed. The second to last paragraph is one of the best I have read in a long while. This is the type of story you feel comfortable reading because you know you are in the hands of a master. Beyond, well done. God bless.
Betty Castleberry10/29/06
I've never been a missionary, but you certainly made me understand "losing myself." I'm assuming part of the message here is that in the end, she actually found herself. Very well done, and a good read.
Anita Neuman10/29/06
I loved the comparison of the "sayings'. Beautiful work!
Jen Davis10/29/06
Such a lovely story and so very nicely written. You conveyed her emotions so beautifully: "I am fading away...If we stay here, I will disappear." I also loved the image of "...her chocolate arms intertwining with my pale ones." The conclusion really pulled this piece together. Great job!
Donna Powers 10/29/06
Oh, this was so lovely. I truly loved reading this. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story of God's grace and serendipity.
Jan Ross10/29/06
Masterfully written, capturing my emotions from the beginning. I love your way with words -- so descriptive, so poetic, so powerful. One sentence that frames mankind's dilemna: "My vaulted and chained spirit locked out God’s reply." God is speaking just as He did to this precious woman. We just need to unlock our "chained spirit" and listen to God's reply! Awesome work -- your gift is so obvious, Jan. You're an incredible writer!
Pat Guy 10/29/06
Awesome ...
Lynda Lee Schab 10/30/06
You have such a wonderful way with prose. Your words always flow like honey on the page. You drew me in, connected me to your character and held me captive til the end. Beautifully written.
Sandra Petersen 10/30/06
Wow! I loved the images toward the conclusion of the piece. The two women, the comparisons, and the realization that she was now a missionary. Beautifully done!
Pat Guy 11/01/06
I think this is one of my favorites of yours so far. It's exquisitely lovely.
Ann Grover11/01/06
I loved the imagery, every sense explored... well-written, as always.
dub W11/01/06
Lovely, thank you for sharing.
Sara Harricharan 11/01/06
This is a very realistic-you-are-there feeling that came across in this piece. Amazing writing. I could identify with the emotions and thoughts. Good job!
Deborah Bauers11/01/06
So picturesque! Eloquently done. This piece flows beautifully. One of my favorite pieces out of all of ours that I have read.
Debbie Sickler11/01/06
I found myself relating to her in many ways and loved that you left her new home unnamed. :)
Aylin Smith 11/01/06
I really enjoyed this story.
david grant11/03/06
The depth and beauty of your writing moved me. A DAVEY for you! Thank you for this lovely work of art.
Amy Michelle Wiley 11/26/06
I just happened across this story as I was browsing around. Wonderful job!