Didn’t I just post that blog about being here 3 months last week? Maybe the week before? How is it that I’ve been in Kenya SIX MONTHS already?!?!
Well, the calendar doesn’t lie. At least I don’t think it does.
That is one quarter of the way through my initial two year commitment. I look around and try to gauge my progress… I’m not sure what to think. In some areas, there is definite evidence of growth, but mostly personal. As far as ministry goes, I’m not so sure. Things haven’t developed quite as I envisioned, but I try to keep the big picture in mind, knowing that I am working toward a larger goal. There are plenty of frustrations, but plenty of joys. Life here can be ridiculously simple, yet awfully difficult at the same time.
I hope through my writings, sporadic as they may be, that I have found a way to articulate the sheer joy and blessing of walking this journey, while being honest about the struggles. I hope I never romanticize the call to leave all behind to follow where God leads – any way you slice it, it is difficult. But I hope just as much that I never live a life marked by complaining that would indicate in any way that this difficult calling isn’t worth it, because it is absolutely worth whatever the cost.
The hope of this calling is worth every birthday party attended via FaceTime instead of in person. It is worth every kiss blown at a computer screen and every missed hug. It is worth every solo dinner spent imagining the family gathered around mama and daddy’s table.
It’s been said that a missionary is someone who leaves their family temporarily so others may spend eternity with theirs. That is my hope. It is worth it to be so far away from the family I love so much, to live life with them at a distance, to miss out on big moments and small ones… it is worth it if even one child has the opportunity to know and experience the love of Christ.
A while ago I posted a quote by Rachel Held Evans: “Faith isn’t about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quiet voice of God without having everything figured out ahead of time.”
I have this quote stuck to my door. I read it multiple times every day. It has almost become my life mantra for this stage. Following without all the answers. That’s tough.
My life is full of questions; my life has always been full of questions. Best I can remember, I’ve always been inquisitive, so even as a child I was always asking questions. Or at least thinking them even when I didn’t ask them.
Honestly, some of the questions I’m currently asking are the same questions I’ve been asking for years. There are hows and whys and whens that I am still waiting to be resolved.
Lately, I feel like God has been reminding me that the answers aren’t what’s most important. I don’t need to have everything figured out. I don’t need all the answers, all the reasons, all the hows and whys and whens. All I need is to trust. Trust that there are answers, even if I don’t know what they are.
In some ways, knowledge is the antithesis of faith. Obviously, if you know me you know I’m definitely not advocating against knowledge. But sometimes we need to not know. We need to allow ourselves to marinate in the uncertainty of life so that we can be infused with faith. You ever just sit in silence and allow all the questions to roll over you like waves? Not seeking answers, just sitting with the questions. It can be an incredibly revealing experience. It can open your eyes to your own doubts and lack of faith. Somehow, by sitting with our uncertainties, we can gain a measure of strength and understanding that could never be found in the actual answers.
So here I sit, in my tiny apartment, in a town far away from my home and family and all that has shaped me to this point. I sit with my questions; they are my constant companions. I haven’t stopped looking for the answers, but I know the answers aren’t the end goal. Because most of the time, answers simply bring new questions. New questions to sit with and learn from. And we begin again with the process of following the voice of God without having everything figured out…
I guess it’s kinda cheating, reposting a Mother’s Day post… like recycling a card from 3 years ago. But, I really couldn’t say it any better than I did back then. Trust me, I tried. I can add, though, that her love and support for me has continued to shape me in the years since writing this. We’ve added a few more adventures and some mishaps to our story and I’m sure that will continue, too. I’m sure 30 years ago, she never could’ve imagined all the nonsense she would go through because of me. I’ve enjoyed the ride; I hope she has too.
Mama, I love you. I can’t be there today to give you a hug or a card or make dinner or sing you a song, but here’s a blog post in your honor. I hope you have an amazing Mother’s Day. I’m blessed to be yours.
Last week I wrote about my Daddy and since today is Mother’s Day, I figured I’d do a little post about my Mama.
While I’m like my Daddy in a lot of ways, I carry Debbie around with me everywhere I go.
I see her eyes when I look in the mirror…
But she also taught me how to look through those eyes. To see beauty in the world. To love those I see. To know that God’s glory and blessings are everywhere.
When I’m worn out and just don’t wanna anymore, I feel her strength deep inside me…
My Mama probably would deny it, but she has a fierce strength. I think back to the time when my Daddy was sick and honestly, my memories are good, happy. In the midst of certain tragedy and trauma, she held us together with her determined faith, constant prayers and overwhelming love. John-Paul and I came out of that chapter of our family’s life relatively unscathed because of God’s grace and the gifts he has given our mother – strength, faith, love. And fortunately for me, she passed those down, too.
And probably most importantly, I hear her voice in my head.
When I’m uncertain about a decision, I hear her… “when in doubt, don’t.” When I can’t understand or see God’s answer, I hear her… “God always answers… sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes wait.” Every single time I sit at a traffic light I hear her… “Red means no, green means go.” (That little phrase has far more applications than one would think!) When I’m scared or nervous or just in really bad traffic, I hear her simple prayer, “JesusJesusJesus.” When I’m questioning where my life is going, I hear her quote her favorite verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” When I’m really tired and maybe a little lonely, I lay in my bed and hear her singing… “We love you Becky, oh yes we do. We love you Becky, there’s none like you. When you’re not near us, we’re blue. Oh Becky, we love you.”
This is just to say… I love you Mama, oh yes I do.
So the most important one might actually be this last one…
I inherited her love of Rod Stewart.
Please excuse our bedraggled state. This was taken just after the concert.
Quite honestly, the older I become and the farther from home I go, the more important these lessons are to me. I still hear her songs and her prayers. I sing them over the children I meet. I pray them over myself when there’s no one around to pray them for me. I wish every child could have a mother like mine.
My life is surreal.
On the one hand, I cannot believe I live on another continent doing things I only ever dreamed of. There are nights I look up at the stars, awestruck at all the ways God is working in my life. I visit places, I see people and things that I’ve read about but couldn’t begin to believe I would one day see with my own eyes. There are times I close my eyes and suddenly I’m a little girl again, sitting on the floor spinning a globe, wondering and imagining what I might find if I ever got to go to those far away countries. I sit in a moment and marvel. Yet here I am, living a life beyond my wildest imaginings.
On the other hand, there are days when I look around me and all I see are statistics come to life. Things I studied, things I’ve read or researched, in human form. The theoretical becomes the lived. And again, life is surreal. It can be very difficult to reconcile what you have known only as “information” with the people now in front of you. I find myself asking over and over, “Is this real?” How can it be that girls are married off at 12 or 13 and that is totally acceptable? How can people actually justify and participate in practices like female genital cutting? Sometimes I look around and wonder how some things are more than just facts in a book.
This is my life… an amazing mix a wonder and beauty and questions.
Yes, my life is surreal.
It’s a little bit hard to believe that I’ve been in Kenya for 3 months already. On the other hand, there are days I feel like I’ve been here much, much longer.
Everyone told me and every book about cross-cultural adjustment I’ve ever read all agreed that the third month is the most difficult when adjusting to a new culture. Well, having completed my third month, I will add my wholehearted agreement! At three months, you’ve come through the honeymoon period. The novelty starts to wear off and the reality starts to set in. You start to tire of the constant challenges. It’s still an adventure, but it’s real life now, too.
There have been days I just canNOT deal with one more bug, or rat after this last week.
Days when I’m tired of saying “What? I don’t understand? Can you repeat that? I still don’t understand…” This is even more frustrating when we are all speaking English. Okay, I’m technically speaking American-English, but still. Come on!
When I said I would be glad to “help” I did not mean I have an unending bank account to which you can have full access. I also did not mean I will take over and do it all.
Would you please just come out and tell me what you want from me? I’m tired of trying to read between the lines…
No, random man who just came up to me in the market, I do not want to marry you. Yes, I’m sure if I call my father, he will not want me to marry you either. I think I currently stand at 5 marriage proposals of varying degrees of seriousness.
Laughter in the middle of my prayer. What did I say? Oh, when you said the international students were having a hard time being away from home, you were implying they are missing their wives… physically. So, I essentially just prayed for the sex lives of my students? Great. Well, if it’s important to you it’s important to God. Please see the point above about being more direct in your communication…
There have been multiple misunderstandings which result in confrontations I would much rather not deal with.
I found myself losing patience a bit easier (which if you know me, I generally have a decent measure of patience).
Days I just wanted to cocoon myself into my little semi-American bubble of an apartment.
Days I missed my family fiercely. I don’t think my heart has ever hurt so much as when my sweet niece asked me if I would come play with her on Sunday after church and I had to say “No…”
But on the other hand…
The third month has been beautiful and blessed, with open doors and new relationships.
Invitations to share at churches.
Realizing that I’m starting to understand Kiswahili… just a little. And can speak it… kidogo.
Being welcomed into the homes of new friends.
People recognizing me when I’m out and about in town and greeting me as an old friend, rather than the relative stranger that I feel like on the inside.
Achievement! Even if it’s just something as simple as actually understanding the directions given and finding the place I’m looking for.
Opportunities to visit ministries, to see the work being done in nearby villages and communities.
That brilliant moment when you can literally see revelation dawning on the face of a student and the accompanying overflow of emotion as they grasp the new thing that God has for them.
So many hugs from little arms and little fingers in my hair.
Singing, praying, laughing, dancing… so much dancing.
Standing back and watching as years of imagining and dreaming come to life right before my eyes.
I am human. I am currently earth-bound. But we serve an amazing God who is transcendent above all my earthly failings.
My frustration bubbles over; God is there with an extra measure of peace.
I feel homesick and heartsick; God is faithful to surround me with the family of believers.
I’m done, can’t do it; God’s strength carries me one more step.
Yes, three months of living in a foreign country with foreign customs hits some unseen limit of adaptability. But this natural limitation results in a supernatural longing that pulls my heart closer to the heart of God. When I hit my limit, I am driven to greater trust and dependency on the God who has called me and brought me to this place.
Honestly, I wouldn’t trade one difficult moment for the immeasurable blessings I’ve found.
There is a little chorus we used to sing when I was a kid.
Oh Lord, I need you.
Oh Lord, I need you.
Every day, every hour,
I’m sustained by your power.
Oh Lord, I need you
The other day I was standing at my sink washing dishes during a rain storm. Seemingly out of nowhere, this song flooded my mind. I stood there singing this little song and as the rain came harder, God’s presence filled my little kitchen.
This song wasn’t a cry of desperation. There wasn’t any harrowing event that precipitated my singing. It wasn’t a cry of “OH GOD I NEED YOU!!!” It was simply a reminder that God is our sustenance. Every single day. Every hour of every day. God is the one who provides our strength, our resources, our food, our finances, our creativity, our rest. Every breath is dependent upon God’s sustaining power. And in the quiet moment, without the pressure of immediate need, I saw so clearly not only God’s provision, but God’s desire to provide.
We are the children of God, created as God’s handiwork.
Each person is the intentional creation of God. Even when we aren’t aware of our need for God, God desires to provide for us. How is it possible that the God of the universe not only knows and loves us, but desires to provide every good gift, desires to sustain and preserve us.
Our sustenance has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with our great God.