There seemed to be nothing "good" or redemptive about the deaths of our two children. Two lives that would have been raised as Christians and as responsible, giving adults were snuffed out. Who can see any good in that except the devil himself? As I crashed and burned into depression years after their deaths- where was the good in that? A missionary, sent to share God's word and His love, disintegrated into a pile of brokenness in front of the very people she was sent to minister to. My life nearly destroyed, and everything we had hoped for in seeming ruin. How was any of it good? Our future seemed to be burned up, but God had begun a redemptive work. The new position for Rob had been a positive thing, and I received the help I needed, but the question remained; where is the good?
In the midst of my recovery, God began to give a new vision; something was being birthed in our hearts. Tiny seeds of flowers and grasses are incubated beneath the blackened, burned up forest floor after a devastating fire; then tiny slender green shoots push up past the ashes to reach for the sun, stretching and growing, ready to reproduce and start a new life in their post-inferno world. Life is restored. This was what was happening in our hearts. God was restoring vision, and the tiny seeds of what He had planted were beginning to sprout and grow beneath the ashes of our once held dear dreams.
One day Rob and I began to reminisce over coffee at a small cafe. Much to his annoyance at times, I like to analyze things to the nth degree. On this day, we were talking about the treatment I had experienced while walking through the depression. I like to look at these things and ask, "What would I do differently? What have I learned, so that I can help others better; especially those who are in more "high profile", or visible positions? If the shoe was on the other foot, what would I do for the person hurting?" We talked about the needs of a person recovering from depression or any other type of devastating life event. What did we find helpful? What wasn't? What could we do to help others and what would that look like? God doesn't heal us just so we can be whole. He heals us so we can help others, as well.
The first item that came to mind was safety. People need a place to recover away from the traffic of life; away from inquisitive eyes and gossiping mouths. They need to be in a place where there is utter and complete confidentiality. No matter the cause of their condition, whether it was through some act of their own, or something done to them, they don't need anyone condemning them or assigning blame. They do that enough themselves. They need a place where they can be completely honest and transparent. They need love. God will provide the conviction if and when it is needed. He knows when the person's heart is ready to receive it. If we make assumptions, we can cause further damage, leading to even more withdrawal and "shutting down"; the last thing the person needs.
They need effective counseling. We believe in Biblical counseling mixed with traditional clinical psychological counseling. Clinical psychologists understand the mind and its workings, but the spiritual must be addressed as well. We are both emotional and spiritual beings.
There needs to be proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise. We are also physical beings, and when any one of the three areas of our lives is damaged, all three are affected. All three need attention.
I dream big- or maybe I should say, God gives me big dreams. As Rob and I sat and talked, I took a napkin and began to draw. It's funny how God knows us so intimately that He incorporates the things we enjoy into the dreams He gives us. The drawing was of a house, our house. It would have separate suites, suitable for guests staying extended periods of time. It would have a large kitchen; God knows I love to cook. It would have a communal living and dining area and a room which could be used as a library or reading room. It would have many windows to let in the light, keeping the ambiance bright and cheery. It would be set on at least 5 acres of land with winding trails; benches strategically placed amidst fields of wildflowers or wooded, restful places when times of solitude and reflection were needed. There would be an exercise room, and a pool for needed physical activity. It would be located in a place where the weather is primarily warm and sunny; gray skies and cold do nothing for recovery from depression. It mirrors the mentality of the one suffering, confirming that the world is indeed a dismal place. The house would be in a Mediterranean/Italian style we like so well, reflecting our unending attachment and love for the land we had lived in so briefly. The hurting would be invited to come and stay for the length of time needed to recover, or at least get to the point where they were no longer in crisis.
That afternoon, as Rob and I talked and discussed our new dream, we christened the house, "The Villa", and it became the "good" we could see rising from our ashes. The word "villa" can mean manor or estate, and when further investigated, it can mean "dominion", or "territory". It was fitting that "The Villa" would be used as a place to establish God's dominion in the lives of broken individuals, and His territory would be retaken from the enemy. It is God's dream to see the hurting helped and restored, too. This would be our home, but His villa.
A few weeks later, the immensity of the Villa dream hit home and our belief in its existence began to fade, until a shopping trip renewed our faith. I was trolling the home decorating aisle when I spied the edge of a wooden framed piece of art, half buried beneath a rack of other wall hangings. I dug it out, and then nearly burst into tears when I saw it fully. The rustic wooden frame was hung from a twisted black bar; its hooks meant for hanging on a wall, or over a doorway. The wooden frame contained five black metal letters: v-i-l-l-a. It was a sign, my sign. I grabbed it and clutched it to me knowing that this particular piece was coming home with me. The dream was real, and reassurance had just been given in the form of wood and metal. I never saw a sign like it before, or since. It hangs in our living room; a reminder that good can, and will come.
Over time, God has continued to give me pieces to the Villa dream, including a suitable floor plan for the building. He keeps feeding the dream. Will it ever come to fruition? I believe it will. When remains a mystery, along with all of the details, but ultimately it belongs to God. I know God gave the vision. We are simply holding it until He makes it happen.