Putting Pen to Paper…

I’ve always been a writer. It’s been an outlet for me since I was 12 years old. 

During our time living and working in East Africa, this hobby became a necessity. In order to process what was happening, writing was a critical exercise in articulating my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it led to a greater understanding of what I was going through, other times it helped me put trauma to bed. The exercise of writing, editing, publishing — it was a catharsis that I desperately needed. 

The true purpose of my writing has always been an internal one. Something that I needed to do. The possibility that anything I wrote might have been read by someone else, let alone impacting or touching them in any way of significance, was secondary. I know that sounds selfish, but I don’t think I’m confident enough to ever write anything and say, “Oh yeah, they’re going to LOVE this.” I write for myself – no ego, no desire for recognition. 

Over the past year, I told myself I didn’t have anything to write about. Our adventure was over, we had moved back to Canada, who wants to reflect on that? How was day 205 of unemployment different from day 453? 

The truth? I was very much broken, and I just didn’t want to process it, let alone tell anyone else. 

Nadine and I both got COVID-19 when we moved from Uganda to Canada. It hit us both hard. After a few weeks, Nadine got better. 

I didn’t. 

When my health was taken away from me, it took away other things. My ability to work, my ability to run, my ability to…. you name it. But worst of all, it took away my ability – the physical, mental, spiritual ability to meet the demands of being a Father, and to be a supportive, present husband. 

My heart stopped working properly. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs. I would lose my breath and pass out. If I worked too hard in a single instant, I could be bed-ridden for days.

It took away my dreams. It took away my coping mechanisms, it took away the things I loved to do. But ultimately, what was most devastating was how it took me away from my family. 

I battled through burnout, PTSD, severe anxiety, night terrors, insomnia and depression. All the while attempting to seek treatment and feeling like a failure. 

Who wants to talk about stuff like this? Who wants to hear about it? How do I begin to process any of it, as it’s happening in real time?  

So I stopped. I stopped processing, I stopped writing. I stopped going to church. It was so much easier to stop and hide. 

I spent most of January 2022 in my basement, hidden away from my family. Our first Christmas back home, navigating family, get togethers, hosting dinner, had taken so much energy from me that I crashed afterwards. Having some distance from it now, I think I can recognize it as one of the lowest points of my life. 

Nadine — “Hey, do you want to join us for supper?”                       No. 

Finn — “Daddy, are you going to come skating with us?”               No, not today buddy.

Oliver — “Daddy, do you want to come play with us?”                    I’m sorry, I can’t. 

I’ve always had professional aspirations. I’ve always known that I wanted to go out into the world and serve. But my family will know that my greatest desire has always been to be a great husband and father. I was failing them, over and over again. It was soul crushing. 

I couldn’t process what was happening to me. Any time I tried, it would just end in a spiral of depression, despair, and self-hate. We’ve struggled through the death of loved ones and friends, through infertility, through violence and near-death experiences, through illness and pain, but none of it could have prepared me to confront my debilitation. 

As I’ve progressed in my physical recovery, and with the unconditional love and support of my wife, children, parents and extended family, I am learning to move on. I plan on writing and processing more of what our move in 2021 and 2022 was like, and what it was like to endure and push through. What it was like to fail, and to feel like a failure. What it was like to feel completely useless and purposeless. 

I’ve committed myself to start writing again for a ton of different reasons, but probably the biggest one is that I have recognized that I need to process what happened, in order to keep moving forward. 

And there’s so much to look forward to.

I want to share more about that as well. For now I just want to say how grateful I am, that even though I’ve been silent, I know how many of you have been praying for my family and I, and thinking of us so consistently. 

Massive transitions (like moving your whole family and life across continents in the middle of a pandemic) can be really difficult on their own. Add a few wrinkles, and the challenges just become exponential. 

But we’ve managed. The boys have done so well. Nadine was our rock and foundation. She was a single parent for so long, full of love, patience, grace, strength and compassion. Just as the challenges come, we can be thankful and full of gratitude for so many things. 

So, I’ll keep writing.

Love to you all, 

Josh. 

14 thoughts on “Putting Pen to Paper…

  1. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for sharing from your heart. I am on the verge of tears. Keep plodding on, brother. Keep giving thanks for your loving wife and kids and our God of grace.

    Lynda and I will hold you in our prayers. Keep being a blessing to others and you will be blessed.

    Kindly send us a picture of the family, as we’d love to see how Finn and Oliver have grown.

    Love and prayers.

    Peter and Lynda

    You can do all things in Christ who strengthens you.

  2. Welcome back to Alberta Josh and Nadine, we have been keeping updated from Lisa and Tim, and were told that you were not ready to visit with friends, since you got back. It is nice to hear from you and know that you are starting to feel some better and reaching out to your friends from “the past”. Please send us a picture of the boys, if not a family picture. Yes, Keep writing Josh, it is usually a good “healer helper”. Joe and I are still the same, a little slower, but still full of ideas to keep us busy. We would love to visit you and your family, whenever you are ready for us! Blessings and we will keep you all in prayer. If any specific prayer requests, please let us now. Love Joe and Iola

  3. Josh this was heartbreaking so real raw and vulnerable. Thank you it’s what our world needs and we need to hear more. I often have thought about how you guys are doing and wondered where you are at. May God bless you in this time. Sending my love and prayers. Cyndi

  4. Dear Josh~

    I am very sorry to hear that Covid did such a long-term number on your heath, and at such a challenging time as the middle of your move back.  Thanks for being vulnerable.  Thanks for committing to processing.  Definitely keep writing. I can think of a lot of “powerhouse” missionaries who have also gone through seasons of extreme brokenness, depression.  It’s where they finally learned that God loved them unconditionally after all.  It was often a watershed “before” and “after” thing which transformed how they did things from then on.  There’s hope.  Physically, there’s hope as well.  I know people who have been healed from devastating injuries from both Covid and vaccinations, Praise God.  So grateful to hear that Nadine and the kids have had grace and support to make it through this transition without being taken down with you.  That in itself is so huge!  Praise God.  We’ve been home from China over four years now.  People said it would take that long to really settle, and they were right.  I wrote a book, took Freedom Sessions, we did the Marriage Course…it was all helpful to enable us to process, to recover from burn out and isolation.  God will continue to provide opportunities for your family as well, to promote growth and healing, to give beauty for ashes.  At the beginning all we can do is kneel and worship in the ashes.  Praying for you guys,

    Christie

  5. Thank you so much for your vulnerability. It speaks volumes of who you both are. You guys have definitely been on my heart. I’m looking forward to reading more and following along!

  6. Josh, it breaks my heart to hear of the dark season you’ve been enduring since your return to Canada. What grit it takes to keep on when it feels the rug has been pulled out from under you. I am so thankful the Lord gave you a beautiful, strong family to walk with you; may He bless Nadine in particular for her Christ-like love! And may He bless your tenacity, for choosing vulnerability and the hard work of plodding on and processing through writing again.

    Lately, I have found great comfort in music that speaks what I don’t have the strength or eloquence to put to words. Maybe you will find this song, written by someone who recently went through a dark night of the soul, too, a comfort?

    We will keep you in our prayers 💗

  7. thank for your honesty, Josh. You have been through a Valley of the Shadow of Death. But God never left your side even when you wondered if He had.
    Many of us (me included) find our value and identity in what we do and how we can serve others and when that is no longer possible, it is easy to doubt our value and purpose. But God loves us and accepts us even when we can’t contribute or serve, we can just be. Hey, I know you know that. But when we are in the Valley, we don’t know when it will end, when the sun will penetrate to the bottom, when the path will rise to the pass. We are cast on God. I am sure in years to come you will see the hand of God in this testing phase. You have had the blessing of Nadine by your side throughout and now you are regaining your energy and strength to be the father you want to be to Oliver and Finn.
    How are boys settling into Canadian life? Have they discovered hockey yet? How is Nadine doing? I am pleased to know you have a job connecting you to Africa. Will you be travelling to Eswatini?
    As for me, I arrived in Guildford (50km SW of London) exactly a year ago to work for the Diocese of Guildford, Church of England. It took 9 months to really find my place but it seems to be going well. My contract runs for another 12 months when I will be approaching 65 but I intend to continue working. Part of my heart remains in East Africa but I think my international days are over. I am a member of a New Frontiers church in Guildford.
    The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace.

  8. Josh, i tried to comment on the website, but it gives me a msg that I can’t moment now? So replying instead…..
    what you wrote…there’s so much to speak into but I’ll just comment on a couple of sentences. “ who wants to talk about it?” “Who wants to hear about it?” It took incredible bravery to put your innermost thoughts and feelings not just on paper, but on the internet. When you share the pain, or struggles, it gives the family of believers around you the opportunity and the privilege to take a tiny bit of that burden off you. Scripture tells us we are not meant to be alone, not only do we need the accountability, support, wisdom, love, etc of Christian community, we need to be honest and open. Christian or otherwise, there’s so much pressure to put on a good front, when really what we need is exactly what you did. Your words shake us out of complacency, because you’re honest about your struggles. We become more the ppl God wants us to be when we are honest and vulnerable and share it with church family. Scripture tells us to confess, and in confession we find healing and hope. You are confessing your fears and struggles and that strips it of some of its power over you. You’ve exposed this darkness in you to the light, and I have faith that so many ppl that read your words will pray for hope and healing for you and your family.
    God is with you, He will never leave you or forsake you, seek Him through prayer, scripture reading, worship, and in His spirit of other believers. God will see you through this.🙏🏻
    In Christ,
    Nathalie

  9. Thank you for sharing this Josh! So well written, and we appreciate you sharing you and your family’s journey. We love you guys! Continuing to Pray for you.
    Love Dean and Melissa

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