Thursday, August 20, 2015

Everyone Who Leaves

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold...  (Matthew 19:29)
This is not a long-winded or particularly deep post.  It's just that this verse has come to mind quite a bit over the last several months, and I want to affirm that God - as usual - is faithful to keep His promises.
When He led me to say good-bye to home and family in the States two years ago, I couldn't see too far beyond what I was leaving.  I'm afraid I gave into self-pity more than once.  But, true to His word, He gave me more family.  I gained a sister, two adorable nephews, a sweet grandma, and a whole collection of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
There's some sweet sort of mystery in that promise.  I don't understand it entirely, but I've seen it fulfilled, and that's satisfying enough for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Martha, Martha

Today started out an overcast Wednesday morning.

I stared at the clock, then at my to-do list, then back at the clock.  The minutes were ticking, I was accomplishing nothing, and my mind keeping running through everything I had to do this morning, the next week, and two months down the road.

I could feel the anxiety creeping up.  There's just. so. much. to think about right now.

Worried and troubled about many things.

I've found myself in that same place over and over again recently.  I know it's foolish, I know I need to trust the Lord instead of fretting, but...I'll admit, it's too often my default.  Then I started fretting over the fact that I was fretting, and thinking about how I do too much thinking.

A few minutes later, an email showed up in my inbox with a short video by one of my favorite authors.  She said that our souls need to be still, that sometimes we need to just sit and remember that we are in the presence of a God who loves us immensely.

So I thought.

I tuned out the to-do list, if only for a few minutes, and remembered.

I remembered how He's been good and faithful and caring, how He's showered me with love and grace.

Like how not one of my suitcases was overweight on the flight back from West Africa (although they were all perilously close!), and how I made my connecting flight in New York just in time (although the gate area was entirely empty by the time I made it through customs).

Like the rare but delightful thunderstorm when I arrived in California, a welcome present with God's bold signature across it.

Like the emails from NTMers I don't even know personally, saying they're praying for me right now, that they've been through similar transitions and unknowns, and that God has a plan in all this.

...And so many other things, big and small.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Readjusting.  It comes in many forms...

A case of brain paralysis every time I'm confronted with a menu.  ("Too many choices!  Help me!")

Having a French word or phrase on the tip of my tongue, then realizing it would make no sense to those around me.

Fixing lunch, hearing Dad talk to a stranger out front, and thinking that we need to invite him to eat with us.  ('Cause if someone happens to be around at a meal time, aren't you supposed to invite them to stay?)

Congratulating myself on a successful grocery run entirely on my own...only to realize it's silly to count that a success in my home country.

The amazement of being able to continually understand everything being said around me (along with the wish that sometimes, I wouldn't).

Being astounded at prices, especially of food.

Feeling like I need to dress up somewhat to go out (i.e. wearing something nicer than just a plain t-shirt), but realizing that here, one can wear whatever one feels like wearing to go out.  Even pajamas.  Not that I would do that.  But I digress.

Surprise at many conveniences that are simply taken for granted here.  ("Washing clothes?  Oh, yeah.  There's a machine for that.  Hot water for a shower?  It comes right out of the faucet.")

Being mind-boggled at the sheer variety of things consistently available in a single store, particularly supermarkets...and realizing that it's once again possible to plan a weekly menu with some degree of confidence.

Uncertainty over clothing styles and knowing that - once again! - I probably look out of place.  (Well, that's the story of my life, so I suppose I should be used to it by now.)

Trying to explain a thought or idea and then realizing, "That might have been reasonable in Africa, but it probably sounds crazy to an American, which means I sound crazy."

- - -

It's rather odd: this whole thing of having to adjust to the culture, the place, the life one grew up in.  But hey, if I survived culture adjustment in one direction, I suppose I'll survive it in the opposite direction as well!

As long as I can laugh at myself. :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Auntie Corner

Pictures have a way of accumulating, and since I haven't featured our little sweetheart here in a while...
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super-Malachi!
This was his first experience with a cracker.  In spite of his face, he did actually like it. :)
Food.  It's his one weakness.  (For real - he loves to eat!)
Seriously, that pose...
He's my little morning companion.  He sleeps while I work at my desk.  Sometimes he snores.
But I forgive him, of course, because my heart melts every time I look over at him.
"Caption this.  Go on, I dare you."
He frequently sports a Mohawk...
...And a variety of facial expressions.
I freely admit that I am biased.  But doesn't he melt your heart, too?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Of Boxes and Other Stuff

Okay, okay, the ones in my room right now aren't boxes.  They're those ActionPackers and suitcases I lugged to Africa and back.  They're sitting at the foot of my bed 'cause there's no place for them anywhere else in the house.  Or the garage.  Or the shed.

It would have driven me crazy a couple years ago, anything that wasn't just so.  But I'm be okay with less than perfect.

I guess, too, since it looks like I'll be moving out of state around the end of the year, I'm not particularly motivated to settle here completely.  Don't get me wrong.  I intend to fully enjoy my time with family and friends here, and I certainly want to get into good, healthy routines while I'm here in California.  But as far as it looks, God isn't going to have me here forever.

I'll admit, too, that while Africa isn't going to be erased from my heart so easily, the rawness of the goodbyes has started to mellow at least a little, and I'm more at peace with God wanting me in the States for the foreseeable future.

However, what exactly that "foreseeable future" will entail is still somewhat up in the air.  Pretty much any ministry with NTM in the US would involve moving out of state.

It's something on my mind about every day, so that's what I'm going to write about now. :)

When the possibility of moving to Florida (where our Home Office is) first came up, I was like...

Florida?  No thanks.  Not at all my cup of tea.  It's hot, it's humid, there are wayyyy too many bugs, and it's on the other side of the US.  And I so do not want to start all over again in some new place where I don't know anyone.

I kind of realized how silly that sounded when I stopped to think about it.  I mean, goodness, I moved to Africa.  Hot, humid, lots-of-bugs, halfway-around-the-world, never-been-there-before, Africa.  And I survived.  Because God was utterly, amazingly, beautifully faithful.  For all of it.

I know that.

I believe it, I really do.

But I forget so often.  Every day I have to remind myself that I don't need to freak out; God really does have this all under control.  The other day I had a mental conversation about support and percentages and contacts and stateside vs. overseas...which may have resulted in some tears and a bit of panic.

And it hit me: I was totally putting God in a little box the size of my imagination!  But He's able to do so far beyond what I could ask or even imagine.  Labels and geography and dollar amounts are no obstacles to Him.  Who am I kidding?  This is the God who made the universe.  He's way bigger than all that.

Bigger than the new, the scary, the unknown.

Big enough to lead the way, hold my hand, and bring up the rear.  (As one of my favorite authors said.)

Anyway, I still don't know if I'll be moving to Florida or not.  I've also been in touch with our Bible Institutes and Training Center about ministry opportunities there.  For now, I suppose, there will be a lot of waiting and thinking and praying.

I'll get excited sometimes.  I'll have freak-out moments too.

But in spite of the change - around and within me - He doesn't change.  I can stake my life on it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Grand Tour, Part 6

You thought I was done with trip posts, didn't you?
Well, this is the last one.  Ironically, the first quarter of the trip got five blog posts - and the last three quarters get one.  Just one.
Not that nothing happened.  I just didn't take as many pictures.
Abigail and Emily dropped me off in Houston.  From there I flew to Colorado to spend several days with my friend Brittany.  After that I flew on to Michigan to visit my friend Esther.  Finally, I flew to Maryland and stayed with Mom's Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom for a bit.
And then, almost three weeks after leaving, I returned to California...and normal life.  (Whatever that is supposed to mean!)
Anyway, here is photo documentation and a bit of commentary on the rest of the trip.
Colorado -
I hadn't seen Brittany in well over two years - since Sarah and Brian's wedding.  When she met me at the airport, there was predictable squealing and great big hugs, followed by exclamations like...
"I can't believe you've been in Africa for two years!"
"And I can't believe you're married now!"
It's been a long-standing tradition that when our families get together, we get pizza.  Well, that Sunday we stopped at Costco after church and grabbed some pizza when our shopping was done.  Tradition lives on. :)
Side note: major reverse culture shock going into Costco!  Bigger is not necessarily better...but it certainly is American.  It was enough to make my head spin.  I was like, Why do these people want to buy so much of the same stuff at once?
Another side note: Brittany and her family served in South America.  I can't even tell you how much it meant to be able to talk with someone who had been through the whole cross-cultural experience (and returning to the US).  It such a relief to let everything out and know that she'd understand.
She took me to see her classroom one day.  Doesn't she look so cute sitting at her desk, all teacher-y?
Colorado is breathtakingly beautiful.  I enjoyed the scenery to the fullest.  (Although the dryness killed me!)  And it was fun to check another state off my list.
California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia, Florida, and now Colorado. :)
One day we took a tour of Celestial Seasonings.
"This was great.  I love tea!  It's my one weakness."
"Rach, that's like the third 'one weakness' you've had today."
Oh.  I'd lost track.
This was her "Come on, you need to be in the picture, too" face.

This was my "Really, Britt, I don't need my picture taken" face...after she grabbed the camera from me.  She's a rascal like that. ;)

Another day, we visited a park called "Garden of the Gods".  I'm not exactly where the name came from, but the park was impressive, with all those jagged rock formations towering above our heads.
God is a most amazing artist.
An African meal: mafé, bissap, and bouye.

I think the dinner was a success. :)
(Thanks to Brittany for pictures 1, 8, 27, 28, 31, and 33.)
Michigan -
Esther didn't have too much planned, which ended up being quite nice.  We mostly just hung out, took evening strolls around the neighborhood, watched Cranford and some Hallmark series.
It was honestly the first time in...well, I'm almost ashamed to admit how long...that I had a chance to really just be.  I'm sure I was in much more desperate need of that than I had realized.  Since I got back, I hadn't really had to do that much processing of the move, the future, etc..  It was as if it was all waiting to pounce on me the minute I stopped going, going, going.
But I digress. :)
Esther and Harold were very good company indeed, and I'm so happy it worked out to visit when it did.

Meet Harold.  Or Harold the Cat, as Esther's friend's little boy calls him.

He had a penchant for boxes.
And beds.  Specifically, sleeping on them.
I know, I know.  Nothing unusual for a cat.
Jackie joined us one morning for we a walk at a local conservation park.  (Jackie and her husband were two of our small group leaders at MTC.  And a fabulous small group it was. :))
Nature walks are my one weakness.
We saw a bunch of cool plants and wildflowers, chipmunks, woodpeckers, tiny frogs.  And a snake - a snake that we thought was either dead or fake (that's not as strange an idea as you might think; there was a fake bird near one of the park signs).  It didn't move when Jackie threw a stick at it in the pond, but when we walked past later on our way out, it was gone.
After our walk we had a little picnic.  It was just the thing.
(I stole those two park pictures from Esther.  Clearly I was very bad about taking any pictures while I was there...)
Maryland -

It had been nearly three years since I was last there, and it was just as gorgeous as I remembered.  Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom are the most wonderful hosts.  They're fun, good story-tellers, and Aunt Linda is a great cook.
(Psst!  Patty, I saw these two fawns in their yard one day and had to take pictures for you.)
Family get-together!

I got to meet a few relatives I hadn't met before: a first cousin once removed, two first cousins-in-law once removed (I'm pretty sure that isn't a real term, but it works for me), and two second cousins.

It was so great to see everyone, to laugh and eat and tell stories together.

And there you go.  My brilliant grand tour.