Thursday, April 28, 2016

This...


This was last Wednesday, when we finished "the unstapling project" (which is really just part of a bigger project, "the scanning project").

There are thirty-six drawers filled with files that need to be scanned.  First, though, all the staples needed to be taken out so the records would be ready to scan one at a time.  It sounds simple.  And it is.  It's just...well, you multiply a dozen or staples in each file, by all the files in a drawer, by thirty-six drawers...and you have a project that takes longer than just a week or so.  Actually, though, with Tamara, Linda, and I all working on it regularly (and a couple other ladies helping as they were able), we got it done in about two months.  Now the real fun can begin: scanning every single one of those documents into our database...


Tamara's holding a jar of all the staples we pulled out.  It was a fun way to see our progress.


This was the school picnic on Saturday.


It was beautifully sunny day.  A bit on the chilly side, but still a good day for a picnic.  I'd forgotten how much I like picnics.



This was the lake we ate next to.  So gorgeous.



This was a gloriously foggy Tuesday morning.



This was in the school cleaning supplies room, and it made me laugh.


This is my friend Kayla, who came over last night for pizza and laughs and good conversations.  I'm happy right down to my toes that she's going to be around for another year.


This is my one weakness: tulips.  They're blooming everywhere right now.  I take walks everyday after work - even when it's wet and cloudy (like today) because there are tulips to see!  It's like a scavenger hunt.  "Find all the new tulips opening!"


- - -

Thought: it hasn't been a particularly easy week on a lot of levels.  But God keeps reminding me of His goodness, His faithfulness, and His unshakable love.  I'm so thankful that He is who He is.

Monday, April 25, 2016

She's Gotta Trust Him Too

Ling wasn't the easiest semester of training for me; I've told you guys that before.  There were a few especially memorable bad times.

One was a day when class had already been very challenging and we took a break for our usual mid-morning prayer time with the other classes.  The Ling class ahead of us was in Oklahoma for their practicum, but their teacher was there and gave us an update on how they were doing.  One of the ladies had two kids and was expecting her third during their time in Oklahoma.  She went into labor during one of her language sessions, but didn't let that stop her from finishing the. entire. session.  She gave birth that night - and the next day she had her language helper there, ready to keep going with sessions.  Talk about a rock star mama.

I went back to class feeling so small, so close to tears.  This is pathetic, I thought.  She's got three kids and can totally handle this but it's crazy hard for me and I don't even have a family.
I sensed the Lord saying, "She's got to trust Me, too.  You look at her life, and it may seem so easy.  Maybe linguistics really does come easy for her and maybe it isn't something she struggles to trust Me for.  But there's something else, something you may never know about, that she has to trust Me for."

Perhaps my posts over the last few months have painted an overly-rosy picture.  I do love being here.  I do love my life and what God is giving me and teaching me in this season.  You may be sitting in the middle of your own struggles right now; maybe it seems like my life is easy by comparison and that I don't have to make much of an effort to trust God.

My coworkers are great (a blessing I realize not everyone enjoys).  I enjoy my roles.  I'm content with the church I've found.  It hasn't necessarily been a huge struggle to trust Him in those areas.

And yet...I still have such a desperate need to depend on Him.  There are things I need His wisdom in, situations I don't know how to handle, priorities I'm not sure how to manage, areas of stretching and even painful growth that may not be obvious to others.

What I'm trying to say is this: We. all. need. Him.  No matter what it looks like on the outside, nobody has it all under control.  The Lord gives us different talents, different circumstances, and different abilities.  Looking at someone else's life, it may seem like they'd have an easier time of it than we do.

Truth says we all have to trust and God gives each of us different opportunities to learn that.  Your opportunity to trust may not be mine, but I will have another opportunity to trust.  So much discouragement could be avoided if we stopped comparing what God is doing in someone else's life to how He chooses to work in our own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Home Sweet Home {Wherever THAT Is}

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where your story begins.

Home is not a place, it's a feeling.


There are all kinds of sentiments out there about what home is.  It's something that I've thought a lot about in the last couple months, mostly thanks to the move here.

People ask me where home is sometimes...and it's funny to me.  Usually, in this context, they mean, "Where are you from?"

Easy.  California.  In a sense it'll always be home; it's where I spent all of my childhood and it's where my parents and sisters still live.

But it doesn't feel entirely like home anymore.

In just a month, I'm going back to Senegal for a visit.  That was home at one point, too.   Home enough that - in spite of all the challenges - leaving was very difficult.

But that isn't home anymore, either.

Sometimes I wonder how I'd describe home and what actually determines where (or what) that is.  I don't know that I necessarily agree with three statements above.

The fact is that every place God has brought me to has eventually become home, if only for a little while.  And maybe any place can be home if we choose to accept it as such.  If we choose to be all there wherever God leads us, maybe that's home.

I don't know.  Just thinking. :)

- - -

Some of life (in "Home Sweet Home") right now -



Kayla, my next-dorm-neighbor, gave me half a dozen plantlets the other week (so sweet!).   I got them to root in water...



...and then turned my kitchen into a potting station.



I added a couple pots to my apartment collection and took the others down to my office.




Have I told y'all how much I love plants?



I have really been enjoying the ladies study at church.  We're going through a book called Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted (which I'd highly recommend).  I went through this study at a ladies retreat when I was in Missouri ('way back in 2010!), and it's been so cool to go through it again.   Obviously I'm at a completely different point in life than I was then, and just seeing the growth and change in perspective that the Lord has brought about since then is so encouraging to me.



My new kitchen table and chairs.  The picture is lame, but the table is really lovely.  Exactly what I was hoping to find.



Oh, and then there's this part of life.



I may have left nephews in Senegal and California, but happily there are still adorable little boys in my life and I'm so glad I get to claim them.















Spring has come!  Almost overnight, it seemed, the trees just burst into bloom.  And I cannot even begin to express how happy I am to see tulips in bloom.  (So happy, apparently, that I forgot to take pictures.)



Daily walks are now possible (without the risk of freezing, I mean).  It hardly seems possible that only a week passed between this picture and one with a thick blanket of snow covering everything.



The office has a few more frames now...



...and a couple plants.  The three frames on the right are ones I made with fabric I brought back from Senegal.

And that's all for today, friends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is It Worth It?



Oh, third semester of training, how well I remember you.  How well I remember the weight of goodbyes and the dreadful amount of tears shed.

I'd never before had so many goodbyes at once.  Or such hard ones.

My class was small so we'd gotten to know each pretty well over that year and a half, and after graduation, we were literally going all over the world: Indonesia, the US, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Romania...

It seemed like my heart was getting pulled into pieces, and it was dreadful.

I've thought a million times since then, For someone who hates goodbyes so much, I sure picked an unfortunate life path.

People come into (and out of) my life with a no-longer-surprising frequency.  And every time I have a choice.

C.S. Lewis said: "To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But it that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable."

It's true.  So. true.  Experience has thoroughly convinced me of that.

When I moved here, I'd start getting to know a student, and inevitably the question would come up, "What semester are you in?"  Something in me always sighed if they answered, "A senior."  If I get close to this person, I'm just going to have to goodbye in a couple months, I'd think.  And the closer I am, the harder the goodbye will be...

And there's that choice.

God doesn't want my heart to look like the dead, airless, impenetrable one that Lewis described.  He calls us to love.  To reach out.  To invest in each other.

Gulp.

I ask myself...Is it worth it?  Is it worth the possibility of pain, or betrayal, or goodbye?  Do I really want that?

On the one hand, no.  I don't.  But, as Lewis points out, I can't enjoy any of the blessings of friendships if I lock myself up in a coffin.

Love is a risk.  Sometimes we'll get hurt.  Sometimes we'll have to say teary goodbyes with no promise of a quick reunion.  Sometimes our heart may even break.

All that's true, but I don't want it to make me a cynic.  I don't want it to withdraw from people in an attempt at self-protection.

God is challenging me to choose to love.  He doesn't promise that it'll always be easy, but He calls us to it - and it will be so worth it.

It is so worth it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Gift of Seasons


As a little girl, I remember wishing a lot.  In the warm days of summer, I'd sigh to myself and wish it were winter.  Winter would come and then I'd wish for the sun and warmer weather.

I'm not sure why I didn't simply enjoy the current season.  Maybe it's just because I was too young to appreciate the beauty of each and realize how silly it was to waste time wishing for the next thing.

How much better to take the seasons each in their turn - to see their beauty, to notice the fingerprints of the Master Artist in each.

Winter has a still, quiet beauty, bare trees stark against cloudy sky.  The world sleeps, waiting peacefully beneath a blanket of snow or frost.  We retreat indoors, chasing away the chill with our own blankets and steaming mugs, watching the magic of a snow globe from the windows.

After the months of waiting, spring bursts forth with green and hope and new life.  The birds start singing.  The trees bud and the daffodils show their sunny faces.  Snow melts, a steady drip-drip-drip outside open windows.

Spring slowly gives way to summer with all its sun-drenched glory, its carefree days stretching out, one slipping gracefully into another.  The bugs sing evening songs.  The gardens start ripening, spilling their sun-kissed gifts into our arms.  It's the time for picnics, for wading in creeks, for campfires, for grilled hot dogs and watermelon, and for bare, tanned feet.

Fall follows on summer's heels, crisp air and rich changing colors.  The cold nips lightly and the trees start to give up their leaves.  Evenings come sooner.  Geese fly overhead, their honking telling the story of coming winter days.  The gardens offer up their last and slowly turn to dry stalks, and the whole world seems to sigh for well-earned rest.

Then winter comes again, and then spring and summer and fall, year after glorious year - just like He promised it would.

And so it is with life.  We have seasons.  Seasons of still waiting, of new hope, of carefree fullness, of satisfied rest, all in their turn.

Oh, that we would see the beauty in each and embrace the seasons as gifts from God's very heart.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Good-Bye to the Action Packers



Those action packers have been sitting around for a while, always stacked against a wall or staring at me from a corner.

Somehow they seemed to capture the last several years of life.  The packing.  The moving.  The transitions.  I've joked that you have to have action packers to be a "real" missionary.  It's not true, of course, but it sure seems like a lot of the missionaries I know (at least the ones living overseas) have them.

Well, as of the other week, mine are gone.  And so is a lot of what they represented.

It seems odd not having them stacked in awkward places, reminding me that I just moved or that I'll be moving (again) soon.  Even though I know I don't need them now, I feel like I should have kept them just in case.

This is such a new chapter for me in so many ways.
Ministry in the States.
Probably a long(er)-term one, or at the very least, an indefinite one.

I keep catching myself.  Whenever I go to buy furniture or hang stuff up on the wall or make plans for next semester, part of me hangs back a little.  I've gotten so used to temporary situations, I'm just a wee bit afraid to settle in too much, to hang pictures up, to call this place home.  What if I just end up moving again?

It's like I'm trying to crane my neck and look around the corner into the future.  Deep down inside, I want some assurance of stability before I let my heart get too attached to this place.  "You know, Lord, it sure would be nice if You let me know if there's another move coming up soon.  I could plan my life so much better that way."

He knows it all, of course - the twists and turns and detours my life will take.  If there is another move in the non-distant future, well, He certainly hasn't given me any indication of that.

And I've slowly started to realize He's revealed exactly what I need to know: that I am here for now, and there is no move that I need to be thinking about or planning for at this point.

Might there be something around the corner that I can't see yet?  Yes.  Yes, there might be.  But it's foolish to live all my todays in fear of someday.  To trudge through life always thinking What if? and Just in case.

Where's the joy in that?
Where's the confidence in a good, big, faithful God?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Works in Progress

A work in progress.  It seems like that describes nearly every area of life right now.




My home...from the chest that needs sanding to the dresser that's sitting all uneven against the wall.

The Guest House.

The documents sitting on my desk in the office.

Relationships at church and here at the school.

No sooner is one thing checked off my list than another one (or two) seem to pop on my list.

It's not confined to tasks but spills over into my heart, my growth, my walk with God.  In the past week or so, He's brought some things to my attention.  Lessons I thought I'd already learned - grace and trust.

I have truth in my head, you know, but when I bump right into real life, it all gets jumbled up and I realize I don't have as firm a grip on it as I thought.

When you don't have a firm grip on truth, you end up doing dumb things.  Like sobbing over what kind of furniture to buy.  (For real, people.)  "Lord, where in the world is this coming from?!  I mean, it's furniture, for goodness' sake!"

Yes, I know grace, but somewhere deep inside a part of me still believes that if I mess up (e.g. buy "the wrong kind of furniture"...if such a thing is possible in the first place), I've somehow disappointed God.

It sounds monstrously ridiculous.  And it is.



Or how about my penchant for control that still hasn't died?  I've definitely seen growth in trusting God with His plans for my life, of releasing my desire for control and resting in the knowledge that He's got this.  But somehow, I let myself get sucked into a downward spiral of anxiety over His plans for someone else.  Anxiety sunk its roots in so deeply that my stomach would get tied up in knots at the very thought of the situation.  It was as if I couldn't trust that the God who had good, perfect plans for me would have good, perfect plans for that person's life as well.

Again - monstrously ridiculous.  Both lessons I should have learned a long time ago, I feel.  Yet I haven't, not entirely anyway.

And now I'm sitting here at the beginning of another week, a whole stack of works in progress staring me in the face.  I kind of feel like I should just get used to it, that this is the way it's going to be for a while...a long while.  Really, if I stop to think about it, my whole life is a work in progress; a work started by God.  And He promised to complete it.

This gives me hope.

- - -


He loves dancing.

I love him.


When more than half the dishes in your drainer are green...you may be slightly obsessed.


Sarah and Brian took the little dude to the zoo last week.


Oh, what I wouldn't give to kiss those cheeks right now...


He insisted on petting every. single. sheep and goat in the petting zoo.



Ah, the wonder of a child.

- - -

One last thing: did you know today it's been three months since I moved here?  Crazy.

Here's to new friends, to adventuring, to growing, and to seeing God, my ever-present Hero, at work through it all!