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Editor’s Note: Missioner Janice Smullen shares how she’s found comfort learning more about herself as she adjusts to a new life in Jamaica.

Putting down new roots is so difficult.  Being new to Jamaica, I feel as if I am continually struggling to find a good foothold, stand secure among swirling cultural forces, and just find the energy to stretch tall.  

I have found guidance from a book in the convent library about the Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery by Maria Beesing, O.P. I was already familiar with much of the compulsion and fear that can rule my type, but, just as Scripture takes on new meaning when heard at different points in my life, a new review in a new environment granted new insights.

I tend to have a “No big deal” attitude. Yet in the classroom with five year olds who always want to touch my skin and hair and gaze at my eyes, the physical differences between us ARE a big deal for them and me and this presents an opportunity for me to explain God’s great variety and tell them how beautiful they are.

I also tend to feel more comfortable in the background of events, but mission requires initiative. I have to lead prayer and initiate reflection with the high school girls that I accompany on their two  hour service trips to orphanages or nursing homes.

One of my strong points is patience which can translate into not doing anything. I found one bit in this book by Maria Beesing to be very humorous as applied to me: At the scene of the Ascension, the angels had to prod the disciples to stop watching and waiting and go out into the world!

Much of my journey with the Enneagram is about recognizing and breaking down the walls I have built while trying to maintain my small inner reality. Expanding my boundaries allows me to grow into a wider, more inter-dependent and loving “garden”,- if I want to continue that metaphor!  I really needed this outside guidance to help point out my weak points.

I see the struggle portrayed in the parable of the weeds and wheat (Matt. 13:24-30) and am so grateful for God’s patience with me.  Now, I can begin to recognize the strangling weeds that hold me back and, on a good day, even laugh at myself. I  know that mission time will be a time of growth for me and I will, eventually, be able to tie the weeds together and burn them.

As I was venting one night, writing about my fear and frustration over  growing into my new home, I noticed the quote on the bottom of my journal page, Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and on your own intelligence, rely not;  In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”  

Such a relief! I do not have to depend on my small self!

Look at the wonderful roots that God created: carrots, potatoes, tulips and all kinds of beautiful flowers and cacti, cassava, cypress, mighty oaks from tiny acorns!

Thank you, Lord, for the growth you guide in me!

Reflection Question: What are the “weeds” in your life that are holding you back?

Janice has been granted the fruits of a family vocation and many community volunteer experiences during the past 40 years. Each experience has helped to build her faith in God's unending and unconditional love. She has been a CCD teacher, doula, ESL instructor, retreat facilitator, and mentor to refugee families. Now, Janice is grateful for the freedom and health and the opportunity to continue service and growth overseas. She lived most recently in Greensboro, NC, and loves to garden, sew, read, hike, and do yoga. Janice has been in Kingston, Jamaica since March 2016.