Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Crooked Path

Everyone knows crooked paths conjure up images of dishonesty, or evil. No one wants to be on the crooked path. No--we want to be on the straight and narrow.

Grudgingly we accept that sometimes the straight and narrow might split and we're stuck momentarily at a cross-roads. We don't like that either, of course. Making decisions one way means turning away from the other way, and we just love having our cake and eating it too. And why not? Why would you have a cake  you weren't planning on eating? I've never understood that one. And I've never enjoyed cross-roads.

I thought I was at a cross-roads. Back in the US on Stateside for 12 months. Back in the US to get help for our son. And after that...a cross-roads. On one side, a return to Kenya. On the other, staying in America.

On one side--indescribable traffic, cultural stress, best friends, impossible school lunches, a deep sense of meaning, water shortages, eternal sunshine, adventure and instability and travel.

On the other side--stability, freeways and stoplights, superficiality, clothes dryers, snack-packs, bone-chilling cold, efficiency, influenza, hot water, isolation, and life-on-cruise-control.

So I thought...ok. I'm at a crossroad, and I'd best just accept it. Embrace it. Go with it. So one day, I made a list of all the things I need to buy for Kenya. The next, I saw a job opportunity in Missouri, and I found the perfect house there, and I furnished it all from Craig's List. Then, I found a job in Ohio, and I found several homes to buy there--because the market is apparently hot and people kept buying my houses out from under me! And Craig's List set me up well there too. And just ask me about the cutest puppy I found to add to our family!!! Oh--and then wouldn't it be awesome to think outside the box? What's to stop us from buying this place in Costa Rica, where I could work as an NP consultant on-line and Chad could be a tour guide? What would we do for school? No problem--I found the perfect place with enough room to have my brother and his family come too, and they are both teachers! That same day, I bought new curtains for our house in Nairobi, and I stocked up on all the new sandals I would need in Africa. And oh the hours of paperwork it took getting the kids set up for starting school back at Rosslyn again. But then there was this perfect job in Oregon, and we already have a house there, so that's obviously perfect--let's do that. And there's this great town here in North Carolina where the houses are cheap and one even comes with a pool, and I've always wanted a pool, and the winters aren't too bad...

Dizzy yet?

This isn't a cross-road. It's a loop-the-loop death trap and I want off the ride!!!

During the past 8 years in Africa, I've embraced my identity of Mzungu. Dictionaries will tell you that word in most Bantu languages means "white person". Fair enough. But for anyone willing to look a little deeper --isn't it curious that it forms the root of the words for wandering? And spinning in circles? And being dizzy? One friend told me it was related to the early explorers looking at their compasses to find 'North' all the time. Another implied something about white people always running in circles (a la chicken-without-a-head) compared to the no hurry in Africa mentality.

Either way, I am a mzungu. I am zunguka. I am zunguzungu. Wandering. Turning in circles. Dizzy.

Like many crossroads, we're looking at good things all around--not one good and one bad. Options that all come with tremendous blessings and spirit-crushing challenges. Places that are easy in some ways and hard in others. Places that are all within God's sovereignty, under God's management. Places I believe with all my heart that God could and would use us in meaningful ways. Places where we will take our dysfunctions and our brokenness along with us, because that's what happens on earth.

This passage out of Jeremiah has been meaningful to me lately, as you can imagine. The ancient ways must mean godliness, following the spirit of the law, walking with God.
So I've looked deeply. And I've asked faithfully. And God has given me a certain rest for my soul--what some might call a 'peace that surpasses all understanding,' in fact. But even it feels temporary, like manna, enough to get me through the day but no more. And right or wrong--I want more.


The Crooked River, Central Oregon
Then I stumbled upon this gem in Ecclesiastes 7--

                              13Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
    what he has made crooked?
14 When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.
 
 
Cue the mic drop. Sometimes, God goes before us and straightens the path. Sometimes God makes it crooked, and no one can discover anything about their future. It appears the road God has prepared for us has taken us into Ecclesiastes for now.
 
So I'm enough of trying to straighten the path--I'm tired. Yes, I know that we're supposed to be wheels up in 71 days. I know that we don't know if we'll be on that plane. I know that I want to return to Kenya and I want to stay in America and I want life to be easy from now into eternity, and I know I'm not going to get everything I want. I'll just keep eating the manna day after day, trusting that eventually we will know something more--in 71 days at least, though I pray God has mercy and gives us a hint a little sooner than that!
 
I can't promise I'll stop 'window-shopping' on Craig's List, and if anyone is thinking of moving to Costa Rica, I've got the perfect place...but it's time to stop turning in circles. I can be a Mzungu on this path God has given us, without being kizunguzungu.
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Thrift-shop Provisions

Anya is in Virginia, living out a teenager's dream with her own room, own TV, own computer, and no siblings at her grandparent's house for the next 2 weeks.

Chad is in New Mexico, living out an extrovert college minister's dream, networking with collegiate workers from around the US.


I'm in Raleigh, NC, living out a missionary-mom's nightmare, helping 3 emotionally-fragile TCKs adjust to a new place yet again, solo. But I have craig's list and Google Maps, so we've stocked up on wheels for this 'Wheels Warrior' gang. Only--no helmets. I wasn't that worried, since they were just doing circles in the empty church parking lot, but then I got adventurous and took them to a bike trail. Turns out my kids have the need for speed. I'm sure you could have told me that, any of you who know them. But I underestimated the speed at which Isaac would fly down the hills on that flimsy piece of tin, and I could almost see the nurse-shaming headlines reading, "Nurse Practitioner-Mom fails to provide helmets; son in ICU, husband considers bringing charges of malpractice."

So I did what any self-respecting cheap-skate would do; piled the kids back in the car and googled 'thrift stores near me' and hit 'GO.'

1.3 miles made me smile, and I tried not to think about how badly things could go in a thrift store with 3 grumpy, hot kids who would rather be flying down hills on two wheels. But when I saw the store-front, I almost passed it by. Run down, some ugly particle-board end tables outside, an older couple smoking in plastic chairs at the entrance looking like they were most definitely speaking something other than English. I wasn't afraid, let me clarify. Not at all. I just doubted the effort:gain ratio was worth it. But honestly, I didn't really want to take the kids home and listen to their whining, and I figured I could find a cheap toy to bribe them into temporary peace there.

The woman welcomed us warmly, and then proceeded to find perfect items for everything I rattled off on my list. 3 brand-new helmets that fit each kid. New roller blades for me. Plastic plates and cups. Nice coffee mugs. And of course, the impulse buys as well--2 full sets of original Lincoln Logs, 4 puzzles, 2 games, 2 light sabers, a leather reading pillow. And while I was browsing, she sat on the floor and played with the kids. Teased them and gave them free ice cream bars. It was the most peace I've had in 3 days, that 2 hours in a thrift shop.

I was there for so long because a sudden thunder storm hit and the rain was torrential, so she wouldn't let me consider checking out. Instead, we sat and talked. I told her we were new to the area, and she offered to take me around and help in any way she could. She's from Syria, but she's been in the US for years, living all over but liking Raleigh best for raising a family. Her kids are all grown, but she has stayed because it's home now.

5pm hit, and their phone-app call to prayer went off. Her business partner, from Egypt, left the room quietly, but she and I continued to talk. When she asked why we had been in Kenya, I experienced another momentary pause. But why beat around the bush? I told her my husband is a minister.

She repeatedly exclaimed how wonderful that was--us serving other people. And she wanted to bless us in return. She would only charge us what I offered, and no more, even if I only offered her $1. For everything. Of course I couldn't give her only $1; I'm pretty sure we were both happy with the final arrangement.

When I tried to get the kids out the door, Ethan came running up with an electronic key-board. "Oh, he must have that! Take it, too." she exclaimed. "And come back and visit with me again!"

I definitely will.

It's a nice story, isn't it? God cares for us so creatively! But careful. Do you catch the irony?

One of the warmest blessings/welcomes we have received as weary returning global workers came from a Muslim woman. From Syria.

Don't worry--I don't have the energy to get into politics here. But I do know this.

A Syrian-American Muslim woman welcomed me back to the US with sacrificial generosity. If America gives in to its delusional idea that 'we' can do a single thing to protect ourselves from danger by fearing 'different' and excluding 'other,' then we will have lost. We will have lifted our (illusion of) safety as our ultimate god, over human kindness, generosity, and God's mandate to care for the powerless, the widow and the orphan. There is nothing great in that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Textures of the Northwest

As we've been hiking and exploring Oregon, I've been enthralled by the beauty that is so different than East Africa's. The texture of the landscapes is what I love most--so many different greens and browns spots of stunning flowers scattered around.  Here are some of my favorite captures.
 
 
 





 








 


 

 


 



 



Monday, July 4, 2016

"Home"

The view from our driveway
Landing in Central Oregon felt more like 'coming home' this time than it did last time we came back in 2013. The scraggly trees, the rocks and fields and hay. And oh, the mountains. It's really amazing, actually, that the entire population of the US doesn't up and move here just to wake up every morning and see those mountains!

We have had moments of culture shock, as expected. So much skin being shown. So much PDA

Omara at Tumalo Falls
even in church, where people hold hands (gasp!) and stroke each other's backs (the scandal!). So many options at the grocery store. I've spend literally hours inside Fred Meyers, just wandering the aisles to look at everything. The kids are amazed at dish washers, and that people would just throw away bottles and cans worth 5cents. Gluten-free communion. A sun that won't set until 9:30pm and then wakes up at 4:45am. 
Ethan playing in Elk Lake, in the Cascade Mountains

We've eaten our weight in Oregon berries (strawberries and blueberries) and Washington cherries--with a touch of Angel Food cake and whipped cream whenever possible. And tortillas, and non-stinky cheese...amazing! I really could go on and on, but only a few of you will actually understand the pure joy that can be achieved by simply pulling a meal together on the fly, with no tears or sweat. Unfortunately the washer seems to be shrinking our clothes a little bit--especially mine and Chad's. So annoying. But that's totally a different issue, right????

Anya and Isaac having a real snow-ball
fight after swimming in Elk Lake
Each of the kids has asked when we'll go home at some point this month. And every one of them was referring to a different home in a different place. The farm we're on now? The house we own but have never lived in? The house we're going to live in but have never been to yet in North Carolina? Kenya? Omara keeps getting confused and asking, 'Is this Kenya or America?'. She knows we live in one and visit the other, but she can never remember what each is called.

Chad and the kids hiking Smith Rock
I have twinges of sadness over how hard it is to answer the 'home' questions. My heart sometimes cries, 'my children shouldn't have to be so confused about what home means!' But then I listen to some of the narrow conversations going on around me (because I can understand EVERYTHING now, because it's all in English! It's almost overwhelming!) and I remember how great their world-understanding is. I saw an 8th grade graduation with 1 African-American in the class, and I remember how good they are at relating to people different than themselves. I watch them react in awe to smooth roads, and efficient gas stations, and short errands, and clean parks, and I remember how good it is for them to appreciate the blessings that so many take for granted.
Anya owning the mountains!

The only photo proof that I was along for
the fun. Pardon Isaac's cut-off head!!!
We have stayed in the Central Oregon area, not even making it to Portland or the coast, and not making it up into Washington. I am grieved that we couldn't see everyone, and do everything, but these weeks have been short. The kids--unsettled by the lack of routine and the multiple transitions. Chad and me--physically and emotionally exhausted from the past 3 years. So we stayed put, mostly, and we drank in the beauty and the new-again wonder of the Northwest, and we readied ourselves for the next step in Raleigh, NC.

This is a new adventure...living day by day without knowing more than a few months ahead what God's plan might be. Not that I always knew. I just thought I did. It was easier to pretend that life was predictable and steady and I had the "power" to plan. Nothing has really changed other than my consciousness of my dependency, and of my poor future-vision. So I keep moving forward, trying to enjoy each day and live in the moment. It's easier to do here than...uhem...some places we've lived recently!!!!






 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Run with Endurance...

Sports Day at Rosslyn Academy. In some ways I dread the day, sitting out on the field in the blistering sun for 6 hours to cheer on a 2 minute race for each kid. It rubs my to-do list the wrong way. But I remembered the last field day, and how inspired it made me. So off I went, with my water bottle, sunscreen, and packed lunch.
Isaac had been practicing for 2 weeks--by running up and down the hall in our small house over and over again until sweat beaded on his lip and my sanity lost its grip. Thankfully, his race was first. 200m down the track against the other 1st grade boys.

On your mark. Get set! GO!!!!!

Off he flew, quickly establishing a lead. I know our kids are small, but man--they're FAST!

And then...he ran right out of his shoe. Literally. Left it all on the track. And what is a boy to do when his shoe comes off in the middle of a race???





Mom's always said to NEVER play outside in your socks, so you turn around.






But then you realize that all the others have kept running, and you've been left in the dust. After all that practice. All that effort. All the desire. It was heart-breaking!

He was absolutely devastated. He jogged the rest of the way, tears streaming down his face, but he finished the race. In dead last.    His big sister Anya was waiting for him on the finish line. She picked him up, and let him sob on her shoulder. She comforted him. And then she took him to the race officials and asked if they would allow him to run again in the next race. Against the 3rd graders. Just so he could finish well.
.

So they let him. And he ran barefoot to make sure he didn't loose a shoe again. And Anya ran beside him, cheering him on the whole race. The crowd was roaring. He was grinning all 200 meters.
And he smoked them all.

 
Oh, the lessons I can learn from my children about running with endurance the race set before us! 
 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fun, Fellowship, and Nyama Choma

How does one build community among church attenders? Well, we're Baptist, so food has to be involved! And we're in Kenya, so being outdoors is always awesome. And God has seen fit to bless us with a house that has an incredible yard. So...come on, y'all! We invited everyone over after church, and had 30-40 people enjoying the best of life. It was a fantastic day, and we look forward to doing it once a month. Enjoy the photos!










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