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Monday, November 29, 2010

Part II

Holy people are supposed to forgive. A Christian lives differently. He answers to a higher calling. But sometimes it doesn't happen. He bleeds and hurts and gets stuck in unforgiveness. It is unnatural to look the other way and forgive. We naturally hang onto grudges and remember how we got hurt. We feel the pain. It stings. People do need to be held accountable for their actions. At the same time we can also forgive them so that the action doesn't keep replaying over and over again in our minds. If someone steals something they need to give it back or make restitution. I can forgive them for their bad choice, and it would also make sense to protect my belongings and not lend to that person. It's good to set healthy boundaries.

The choice to forgive exonerates me from resentment and hate. It liberates me from living in the trap of  wrong emotional ties. People hurt people sometimes because they are hurting and have lots of baggage they don't know how to unpack, or just don't want to do the hard work. Forgiveness doesn't get entangled in another person's unresolved issues. It buries me in a new life.   

Monday, November 22, 2010

Love Someone Enough To Use The “F” Word

I am in a room filled with beautiful brilliant light from the morning sun that radiates rays of joy through the window pane. A sweet feeling sweeps over me as I stand in the warmth. Walking over to the window, I reach up for the little plastic ring connected to the bottom of the roman shade and with great ease of motion, pull the shade down, knocking out those white hot rays of gleaming bright light. Unforgiveness pulls the shade down on the window of my heart. When I am hurt, my automatic reaction is to believe I have to live in the shame of the wound and allow unforgiveness to hurl ugly taunts in my face. In that moment of pain I can choose to open my heart to ingest the putrid pieces of this lie and allow it to fester inside my heart, or reject it and forgive. I am a Christian, but have at times become disillusioned with the term, especially as I see the way I respond to those around me in light of what is written about me, as a Christian, in the Bible.

Jesus could have been saving Himself at the same moment He saved the whole world. He chose to wrap Himself onto a rugged cross with His own blood staining the wood after hours of cruel torture. He didn’t hold that horrendous injustice against a crowd of self-proclaimed judges. No doubt, I am numbered among those self-righteous judges. But He chose to let me off the hook today, and forgive my many actions when He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” I think we do know the kind of action we take against this perfect man, but have no idea the consequences of unleashing what is inside our hearts. Some of the manuscripts from Christian scribes or ‘other ancient authorities’ lack this sentence. How could this be?

Return Wednesday for Part II

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Place For Dreamers

Bryce Courtenay writes in his book, The Power of One, in each of us there burns a flame of independence that must never be allowed to go out. That as long as it exists within us we cannot be destroyed.  I like this. My culture wants to put expectation upon us to be and complete certain tasks at appropriate age levels. It demands a kind of generic similarity. In a brief and very simplistic overview, on average, each economic level has familiar family accomplishments. Children go to school, some begin at 2 years of age if they are potty trained and thus begins a long process of education, after school sports and extra-curricular activities – as much as you can pile onto an individual and cram into a day. Little time is left to think, meditate, ponder and mull over, learning from your parents/relatives experiences, or even to be taught their ways in areas of their expertise. Media stimulation has become a huge influence on lifestyle, demanding a larger portion of our time. Parental units are working very hard to pay for everything that goes along with the lifestyle. In another economic level, more parental units don’t stay intact and home life is more dysfunctional than functional and children are relegated to whatever is available through government programs and school initiatives. On another economic level, children are afforded the best of schools, even boarding and prep schools. Some leave their homes for training at an early age during a school year to take advantage of expensive intellectual stimulation. The outcome is usually, what kind of a job/career you will engage in for the rest of our life. But these days, for economic stability, many do not have the luxury of one lifetime career, but find themselves thrown into a situation that demands them to break out of a routine and decide to get creative about their money supply, the lack of, and think outside the generic box.  These survivors are independent thinkers and their flames burn white hot. It’s the kind of flame that brings life to many precarious circumstances. Many are drawn to its heat that burns a new kind of challenge into the fabric of society. It burns out a place for dreamers.            

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cinderella's Sandal

     She rummaged through her purse for a moment.
     "Here they are!"
     She was bursting with excitement as she pulled the treasures out and placed one in my hand.
     "This one is made from goat skins." She said.
     The sandals were small enough to fit a child's foot. The soles were worn and the strap was left unfastened and had lost it's button long ago. She held the other pair with pride and a longing look in her eyes as her gaze turned back the hands of time to long days walking the sands in Niger,Africa. She had just returned from West Virginia where she and her family spent their final days with the family patriarch. He was celebrated with love and care and she was remembering those tender years of her childhood spent in the land that was most precious to her father.
     When they were looking through his mementos and boxes of memories kept in closets and spaces unused in the daily scheme of life, she found 2 pairs of sandals wrapped up in a shower curtain. It hardly occurred to her that it was rather odd that they were packed in plastic curtains, because the thought of her daddy keeping her favorite sandals and bringing them all the way back to the states was precious.
     "Can you put them on?" I asked incredulously.
     I placed the sandal in her hand, anxious to see her slip her foot into the goat skins. She rolled her pants up and lifted her foot up to place it in the sandal. It was just like Cinderella slipping her foot into that glass slipper.
     "It still fits!" I exclaimed.
     And she just marveled at the sandals on her feet. Maybe she was remembering the hot earth under her feet, the dark night sky filled with bright stars lighting her path as she walked in her goat sandals, breathing in the night air, moments before she climbed up onto the roof to sleep under nets and a canopy of stars.
     Cinderella is all grown up now, far away from Niger, but somehow I think she still awaits her Prince, the one who rides upon the great white horse.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

   About 5 years ago we returned to the states from Africa and I experienced a huge culture shock.  I was so surprised and extremely unprepared for the emotional roller coaster and had very few tools to help me understand these conflicting views and philosophical musings I found myself engaging in about life. I wanted to be neutral, but knew that everything was skewed by my personal experiences. I had to be comfortable with that knowledge and accept the truth about myself and those around me.  And the truth is that I had come to realize that I understand people from a limited viewpoint, and I don't always agree with certain cultural norms. I saw a rugged, organic kind of care and compassion that comes in community that can't be purchased. 

Everything seemed to be shared corporately where we were living in Zambia.  If you had a well with running water, you shared it with all your friends. And you were happy to do it. Actually it was an honor because water was prized - especially clean water. Your neighbors came to wash their clothes and you helped them. Their children brought plastic gas containers recycled into water carriers and filled them at your spigot or hose.  Or you gave a friend a piece of soap and they had a jolly time bathing in your water supply. Plates and dishes, pots for boiling water over the fire were all washed at your well. This went on all day long, into the dark night and they never ran out of conversation or smiles. Their need became a social event filled with laughter, sharing, caring and honoring the needs of others.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweat, Dust and African Pop Music

     Lily and I were jogging late in the morning and I spotted my neighbor standing on the side of the road, at what I assumed was a bus stop.  And sure enough as I peered up ahead there was a white mid-sized bus with big black letters that said something about transit. Within a few seconds I was back on a road trip from Ndola. We had just finished haggling over how much money we were going to hand over for ten stuffed dolls and animals at the postal service.

     "500,000 Kwacha!  That's obscene for a few puppets," I moaned under my breath!  It's for the children!" I pleaded with the postal worker.

     That didn't seem to dent the look of disdain on her face.  I'm not sure at what price we ended our negotiations, but after a long, arduous and hot wait in line and another long and heated debate over a few stuffed toys, we made our way to the bus terminal. She didn't know it, but these toys were puppets, a precious gift from the states - the efforts of a fund-raiser initiated by a handful of teens who wanted to make a difference. They wanted to help us. We trained the Zambian and Congolese teachers how to tell bible stories to the children using these puppets.  Most of them had never seen a puppet.

     I couldn't make sense of the tangled mass of buses, and so we began rapping on the doors of a few buses with drivers, seeking the nearest transport to Luanshya.  After several inquiries - most understood English, we were directed to a bus toward the back of the lot.

     "When do you leave for Luanshya?" Dan (my husband) asked the driver.

     "It is full, we go," said the driver.

     "Well, that narrows it down," I thought, but we climbed into the empty bus anyway and made our way to a metal seat near a window.  A few minutes later an older black man stepped onto the bus rattling off a message of sorts in what sounded like Lunda, and we were promptly ushered off, following him to another bus that looked so full it was about to explode!  Dan squeezed into a seat with 3 large, sweaty black men, while I opted to use my precious cargo as a seat in the aisle, facing the back of the bus.  Baskets full of fish, greens and plantain were stuffed under seats and in between riders.  A chicken was squawking somewhere in the back and a crying baby was loosened from it's mother's back, swaddled in a colorful chitenge, to rest comfortably on mama's lap.

     We roared off onto the city streets making our way to the only highway in Zambia, careening at about 120 kilometers.  Jarring bounces, the loud motor sounds, Swahili banter and laughter were all part of the ride and I rather enjoyed the adventure, except for the temperature.  Even with the windows open and the dust breezing in, the heat was unbearable. Perspiration ran down my face and body.  Relief did come when a dusty whoosh of air blew through my window and cooled me off as the breeze touched streams of sweat against my flesh.

     Vendors poked trinkets, roasted corn and fruit through open windows at bus stops.  African pop music blared on radios, the rhythms were beginning to sound and feel familiar to me.  Inexpensive wood furniture lay sprawled against the dusty terrain along the road.  I never saw trash or litter, even on the busy streets in the center of town.  Nothing lay unused.

     Two hours later, we stopped at our destination. We stepped off the bus and my body was still vibrating from the bumps and loud vibrations, making a lasting impression in my African memories.  Clutching my valuable box, I imagined the looks on small black faces, the children excited to see the surprise that awaited them behind the curtain.  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mosi - oa - Tunya

             "The Smoke That Thunders"
     A wall of foam behind us, plunging 300 feet into the Zambezi River.  Moso-oa-Tunya or "the smoke that thunders" takes your breath away.  When I encountered this 'wonder of the world' it captured my attention and inspired me.  I knew then, that my destiny was something bigger than I could have imagined, forming on the horizon of my mind.  I really didn't have to travel half-way around the world to find it, but my journey has become part of my destiny.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Defer and Prefer

When I prefer the inklings of someone else, especially when they are in disagreement with my own preferences, the delicious outcome is the appreciation that flows out of your friend, spouse, significant other or even a stranger, when they realize what you have done on their behalf.  Often times they may not have a clue about your 'sacrifice', however, preferring and deferring has it's own reward.

Five years ago when my husband sent me an e-mail from Zambia, I read between the lines and replied,"when are we all going back to Zambia?!" If I didn't go back with him, I would have missed all those struggles, challenges and life-changing experiences that have helped to shape our lives, especially our son.  We can look back and review the outrageous moments and laugh, and share in the pride of making it through incredible hardships. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here's my girl Lily! She had some fun in the water when we took her down to the river!

The Day We Found Lily

I felt nervous, excited and a touch anxious all at the same time. We were kind of quiet in the car, on our way.

     “We should call her and let her know we’re driving out to her house and we’re just about there. Here, use my phone, she’s in my contacts,” I said to my son.
     “1100 that’s the street number mom, turn here!”
     “Oh, I love this house. It’s beautiful out here. What a place – lots of wide open space for them to run,” I said as we pulled into the drive, parked up closer to the barn and walked up to where a young woman was standing.
     “Hi, I’m Jennifer, nice to meet you. They’re all in the barn.”
     “So nice to meet you too Jennifer!” Big day for us – we had a dog in Africa, but we left Simba with the rest of his family. It wasn’t right to take him from his home. He’s an African dog and it’s nothing like Africa here. He may not have survived the culture shock!
Before the door swung all the way open, we could see 2 or 3 snouts pushed through the crack.
     “They’re so cute – beautiful! How old are they?”
     “3 -4 months. Do you want to see the father? He’s the lab.”

     So that’s how it all began last week– the day we met Lily, part German Sheppard, part Lab. When Chad woke up that morning he stepped on the case for Lily Allen’s CD, and so it was how Lily got her name. She was a very shy and bashful puppy….at first. The owners named her The Shy One. Docile didn’t even begin to describe her. At first we had to literally carry her everywhere because she was too timid to even move. But not anymore! The parsonage is in the city, so she began to have a little whine when she was missing us that grew into kind of a louder whine/grunt and last night she found her voice when a moped turned down the alley and sped by her domain!

I’m on the same page with Lily. Like her, I am finding my voice. I hope it’s strong and beautiful but not too loud to scare you off!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12, 2010

While in Africa, my supervisor spoke to me about his work as both a missionary and businessman which spanned most of his adult life. He struggled to get projects up and running, perfected in all of the details of operation before launching into another much needed enterprise. So much was needed among the people he was co-laboring with in this corner of the world. There was farming, planting, building and producing hand-made pieces to be sold in the free market - just to name a few. He was also involved with various ministry activities in several neighboring countries. He came to the conclusion that they would work simultaneously on all the projects - each in different stages of development, and not require that any of it had to be at a certain level of completion before they gave themselves permission to begin work on something else. He said it was very messy and chaotic most of the time. He learned to thrive in the chaos and not lose his momentum to dream, do, believe and conquor. So I will do the same. While my blog is under construction, I will continue writing as my design ideas bubble up to the surface of my thoughts.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's A Giveaway!

My entry for DL Hammon's High Drama Giveaway is the first post on my blog which I just began creating yesterday at about 2pm at The Best of Blogging with River Lin.  Even though it's under construction, for the sake of High Drama, I've decided to jump right in and submit my post!

We were 2 weeks from homelessness. And did I mention unemployed? Fourteen days inside the all-time adventure of our lives: how many websites, telephone inquiries, job leads and inside connections could we navigate in the next 336 hours? This evening I put myself in the back of the boat. I was riding in the surreal tranquility found in the center of this raging storm. I was tempted to turn my gaze toward those tumultuous waves, splashing a wet appetite for despair trying to drown me, but I kept my focus straight ahead.

Sail on! I said to myself. I’ve no other choice but to ride the helm as my Sea Captain sliced into the biggest career change of his late-forties. Was there any kind of precursor to avoid this arduous adventure in unemployment? Because we did promise our daughter to keep her securely wedged into her academic environment. It was an expensive private academy, but oh so validating to her as a writer in the making, a teen who gets in your face asking questions and doesn’t accept an idea just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Camille is creating and learning to think; to figure out life in her own way, often at times on her own terms, facing her fears.

Tomorrow, my captain told me we should divide and conquer. He would continue his Wi-Fi infinite internet postings, promising paradise in employment and I was to inquire about a room at the homeless shelter.

Would I what?! How did we get here?! I moaned, brushing the tears aside as they gathered in a wet puddle on my lap. Even in our current circumstances I wanted to keep that promise to our Camille, but it’s impossible. I can’t climb that mountain in front of us; neither can I bore through it. But I felt pressed to communicate to my man, our captain, that it is exciting to ride the crest of his dream. And I am thrilled to squint through the spray of a crested wave, watching him drive his spear headlong into the unknown.

Did I say thrilled? Shut up! What were we thinking when we just loaded up the U-Haul with all our stuff, leaving Delaware because we were ‘let go’. I was down-sized and Joe wouldn’t give into the sexual advances of his Supervisor. We called it an opportunity to chase after our dreams!

Along the way, Camille begins to facebook her frustration about being on such an emotional rollercoaster. She finds friends whose parents are working through similar hardships of job loss and moving around the country to stay with family, making all kinds of changes in their lives, learning to find security in relationships and hope in the unknown.

“But in further meditation and prayer, she writes, I have come to believe that the past 8 months have been a test of faith. He is my father, and I admit I am biased, but my dad is definitely a warrior for God!”

Did she say warrior?! She seems to have a kind of intuitive understanding about suffering and fighting. I want to be hopeful and optimistic too! But the circumstances against us are so dismal and overwhelming that I find myself acquiescing to the defeated.

Ugh! Why is this happening? A small crack of light squeezes under the door of my despair. John did get a job at the shelter, so we bypassed living with the homeless, but we can’t afford a place of our own with his current stipend. Is this why we finished seminary and graduate school, I muse? Is this some kind of mission!? No! Its death and humiliation all rolled up in a mattress on the floor with no frame. We’re sharing a home with a divorcee who took a risk to let us into his life after he got burned by an ex-con. I’ve thought about living in a tent, but the rain is pretty wicked here in Texas. And I’m really not ready for that kind of drama!