Friday, September 24, 2010

More Simplifying: A Change of Heart

I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little ashamed of myself. Or a lot. It just kind of depends on my mood.

Africa taught me so many things and changed me in so many ways I could never have anticipated. One of the few I did anticipate is that I would long to live more simply, especially in regards to material possessions. Thankfully, Josh feels the same way, and thus we have embarked on a hard-core self-imposed simplification.
It started before we even got back, when we gave most of our belongings away. It has continued over the summer, with a huge front porch sale, lots of sorting and organizing, and an effort to buy very little.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I find things to get rid of that I didn’t need to buy in the first place. We have 4 or 5 pairs of scissors. Three packages of cup hooks. More than a dozen skeins of yarn. Tons of wrapping paper and gift bags. Things that are certainly not enriching our life. Things bought with money that is needed so much more by others. Even when cutting us some slack because we had to buy some things we already had when our stuff was in storage, it is still too much. And, this is all after already having gotten rid of lots of stuff before we left. Sadly, I would have told you that we had significantly fewer possessions than most people then…and I probably would have been right.

But in all reality, simplifying is not as easy as just getting rid of stuff. That is simply called a “Salvation Army run,” and is a one-time deal. Simplifying requires a change of heart, and a willingness to constantly push against a society that encourages consumerism.

And it is hard.

This is the society we grew up in. We are used to that kind of lifestyle, and a year overseas doesn’t change that. We have made certain decisions to help us out, like focusing on helping others by giving away, and not having a TV with which to receive more brainwashing. Seriously, brainwashing is really not an exaggeration: you do not “need” a certain kind of shampoo or makeup or restaurant food, and don’t even get me started on “must-see” TV… ugh. In order for this change to take root in our heart, it will take time and God’s help. I am trying to be patient, and am trying to remember it is a process and will not happen overnight. I am trying to take it one scissor, one cup hook, one prayer at a time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Update:

It’s been a long time since I gave a general update, and as usual so much has happened.

After we got back in April, we spent a month living with my parents so we would have the opportunity to rest up and ease back into American culture. This time was invaluable; not only were we able to spend a lot of time with them and with God, but we were able to take a few weeks off before going back to work.

We were able to give presentations to several classes in the schools around our hometown, which was an absolute privilege. It’s pretty unusual for people in our area to live across the world, so it was fun to be able to encourage them to think big and realize their full potential. They were so attentive to or stories and pictures of the kids we had worked with. We tried to get them to realize that they could have been born in Namibia in those same situations. Empathy can’t be taught, but compassion can be encouraged. Of course, given the fact the schools were public, we could share very little in terms of the Gospel, but we were able to answer a few insightful questions regarding our philosophy of missions. It was an absolute privilege.

Over the summer we lived in a wonderful, furnished home owned by a sweet couple in our hometown. They have a cabin up north that they stay at during the summer, so staying at their house was the perfect situation for us because we were able to rent it without having to sign a long lease while knowing we’ be moving for graduate school in September.

Josh got a job working at a trucking and manufacturing company he worked for in college, and continued to look for employment in his field. He was eventually hired on by a company that builds and maintains cell phone towers, and is really enjoying it. He is able to do work that counts towards his journeyman’s license, and will hopefully be able to get that within the next year.

I started my own photography company, and have been staying busy with that. I am learning so much, have had a great response so far, and a ton of fun. I am getting ready to push to a new level soon, with some promotions and advertising coming up. I am excited to see how God uses this.

We taught VBS, and were able to give a presentation to the kids. Two years ago, the VBS mission offering went to us, and last year we used that money for a VBS for our kids in Africa, as well as for the youth program. We thought it was important to show the kids that, when you donate money to missionaries, it really does go toward important things. Sometimes I think kids just think the offering money disappears, but we showed them pictures to prove otherwise! : ) We are hoping to do more presentations at our supporting churches this winter, so that we have time to let everything sink in, pray about what God wants us to share, and put together a presentation. We don’t want to waste this opportunity to show others about God’s love for all of His people. If you would like us to speak at your church, please leave a comment or email me.

We were able to buy a car a couple of weeks ago, which was a huge blessing filling an absolute need. It’s not anything beautiful, but it does the job. We only had one car between the two of us, as Josh’s had died just weeks before we left for Africa, and we needed one so he would be able to drive back and forth to work (he commutes an hour each way on average) and I could drive to school. It was a much-appreciate answer to lots of prayer, and a reminder of Gods provision.

Other than that, we have been spending lots of time with friends and family. It has been at times challenging, at times wonderful, but always exciting being able to become reacquainted with one another. We were able to have dinner with each side of our family almost once per week since coming home, and have spent almost every Friday night with a few of our best friend from… well, forever. We have been so mightily blessed.

We continue to pray about our future in missions, and would appreciate your prayers for clarity regarding Gods will.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Next Step

Last week, I started graduate school. I am not even sure what to think as I move into this next phase of life and my academic career. To begin with, we’re still adjusting to life back in the United States. I know some of you are probably like, “geez, it’s been 5 months already (I can’t believe it’s already been that long!), but it’s a blink of an eye considering the adjustment we are trying to make. We lived in what seemed like an entirely different world. We had our hearts broken in ways most can only imagine, if even that. It’s a struggle to adjust, and something that will take time.

Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to give this season of our lives full attention and presence. In some ways, even this next phase seems like a transition period. People are constantly asking us when we are going “back,” as if our return is a given, even thought that was never part of the plan (although it could be now). Even once we decided to go on the mission field, we thought it would only be for 6 months or so. On the one hand, it is comforting, as people obviously see something in us that would encourage them to think we would be a good fit for serving God in this capacity. It’s humbling and reassuring and a quiet confirmation of where we think God may be leaving us. At the same time, it can be frustrating to deal with people’s somewhat demanding expectations, and makes it difficult to be present and focused on where God has put us right now. I don’t believe God wastes time. He is always teaching us and using us. It is just a new challenge for me to be focusing on here and now, even while knowing what is [possibly] next (you never really know- He may just not have revealed His whole plan about that yet!).

I never expected to attend graduate school. I always wanted to go to medical school, and there are times even now when I question my decision to take another path. Since then, I have decided to go to graduate school, applied to one type of program, decided to go to Africa instead, worked in the field, decide on a different type of program, applied, was offered a great deal of money and prestige in a terrific program, and instead turned them down and decided to accept a different program’s offer, which to the average person would seem significantly less enticing.

Rereading that last sentence, it basically sound like I just can’t make up my mind! As someone who loves order and routine and repetition (not that you’d know it from my life as of late), this constant change in direction has been a bit of a challenge. However, I don’t think it means I am crazy or indecisive or unfocused; rather, I think of it as an example of God’s wisdom. I believe He knew (and knows) precisely where He wants me to be, but He also knew I couldn’t take the change in direction all in one step. I am certain there will be many more similar instances of change and growth in my life, but I find it so comforting to be the child of a gracious God who knows my limits. So many times lately, they have been and are being pushed to their borders. I am so glad to now He is loving an merciful enough to accommodate my weakness with His love and grace, even while helping me to overcome them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On the Move

I remember the first time I moved, about 7 years ago. I had lived in the same house since birth, and for me the place completely embodied “home.” In fact, the attachment runs so deep that there are parts of “family” and “home” and “security” that are so strongly linked to that place that they are almost inseparable. I imagined I might move to college, then move back to the area of my youth and call it good.

Instead, last week marked my 21st move. In order that you might understand the gravity of the situation, you should know that I am a complete homebody. I stayed home most nights during high school- because I thought it was fun. I regularly came home during college, sometimes even in the middle of the week. Even though I’ve traveled all over the world, there is no sight more beautiful to me than that of the road leading to my childhood home. So, to move 21 times has been a matter of obedience and circumstance, rather than choice.

However, although I still despise the mess moving makes and the pervasive feeling of being “in transition,” I was surprised to noticed how I’ve grown in relation to moving. The first time I moved away from home, there were lots of tears, fear, and a good-bye dinner with family and friends. At this point, we just pack up and go, and expect that email and Facebook will fill the gap with loved ones until the next time we can see them. Somewhat necessarily, most emotion has been forced out of the equation. I mean, honestly, can you imagine if I broke down every one of these times? I’d accomplish nothing!

As a student of psychology, perhaps what intrigues me the most is the function that the attachment/detachment cycle of moving can play in our lives. After all these moves (and while knowing there will be more in the foreseeable future), and am both surprised and comforted by that fact that our connection to our roots seems to grow stronger. It’s as if, instead of breaking them or cutting them off, they’ve just been shaken loose, allowing us to go and grow in the direction that God wants. They’ve responded to these challenges by becoming stronger, and I guess you could say we have to. Don’t get me wrong, moving is something that is still extremely difficult to me, and certainly doesn’t come naturally. I am looking forward to settling in for awhile, even though I don’t expect (or even want)it to be forever. However, I am so grateful God is slowly (and repeatedly!) releasing me from fear of moving, and is allowing me to better be able to trust His will for our lives, no matter where it takes us. I truly want to do His will, and don’t really see any point to staying somewhere where there is no use for me. I am excited to see what He has in store for us in our new location. Besides, if all else fails, there’s still Facebook ; )

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog Philosophy

I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging, writing posts, who blogs, why blog, my philosophy of blogging, etc. If you follow this blog at all, you’ll know I am certainly not that consistent about it, let alone someone who is dedicated enough to post every day. I have been away from blogging much this summer, for so many reasons.

At the top of the list would be time. Josh and I have had an extremely busy summer- we’ve moved twice, been trying to reconnect with family and friends, I had mono, he started a new job, and then switched to a different job that was a better fit for him, I started and am running a full-time businesses (which has lately taken up most of my blogging energies), I start grad school this fall, we are trying to simplify our possessions and way of life (which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to happen overnight), not to mention the fact we’ve been readjusting to our own home culture.

The other biggest factor in my blogging hiatus is probably lack of direction. I am just not sure what the point of this blog is anymore. Although I know I have so much more to tell you, both about Africa and about life and what God is teaching me, there has been so much going on that I am not sure what to share. In all reality, there have been many things I have wanted to share- about transition back to our own culture, about leaving our second home in Namibia, about what God has taught us about love and missions and service and ministry, about the way people responded to us when they saw us for the first time after getting home or things they said- that just aren’t appropriate because some people are not a a position to be able to understand certain things, and we don’t want to hurt any feelings. We recognized we have gained a different perspective than some, which we firmly believe is from God, but we don’t want to cause any divisiveness in the Body of Christ.

So, consider this a warning: this blog is not limited to Africa. Don’t be surprised to read about moving one day, a pet peeve the next, a fun event in our lives the next, pictures and a story from our time in Africa the next, a spiritual revelation the next… you get the idea. I know there are tons of people out there who write incredible blogs that are dedicated to certain subjects. It looks like that need is taken care of, so check back here if you want some random doses of everyday real life. I do not consider myself to be a blogger, but rather someone who writes just to share with you and get some of my thoughts out of my head. I enjoy it. I need the release. It’s really okay if nobody reads it, because I can’t be in this to please others. I can’t tell you what it will be about, because I just don’t know what my own life will look like in a week, a month, a year. I guess we’re both in for a surprise.