Friday, June 08, 2007

A Change

There's been a change in venue, friends. Due to anticipated access problems in Ethiopia, I've republished my blog. I'm still working on it, but I'll be posting HERE from now on. Thanks to the good folks at Wordpress who managed to not confuse me too much in my republishing attempts! I despise change more than most people, I think, and I'm a little sad to leave Blogspot since I've finally figured out how it works! But life always involves twists and turns in the paths we walk on, and this is my small attempt to be flexible in response to the bumps:-)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sorrow and Sufficiency

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Is that really true? I'm not Juliet saying goodnight to her Romeo and I'm nothing near a literary expert, but I cannot understand these words. We weren't really meant to part, to separate, to disconnect from our relationships. So the sorrow overwhelms, for the parting is result of brokenness in our world.
These past weeks, I have driven away from people I love, who I will not see again for a long time, if ever. And on Thursday it wasn't my windshield that was wet, but the tears in my eyes that were threatening to obscure my vision. "Is it worth it to come back, just to leave again, to say goodbye again?" I asked myself. The pain is fresh again, the wound of distance is raw. I felt very alone as I sped through the winding Mississippi hills, knowing that there are more goodbyes to come, more sorrow to be felt, more tears to be shed. I know that for many I have the joy of saying, "Till we meet again"--but even in that, there is a goodbye. To life as I know it, for it will keep moving and changing while I am away. To relationships, knowing they too will change and grow distant with the separation of 10000 miles. Sitting in my car, in the middle of nowhere-land, my tears came. I choked back sobs of fear that I would always feel alone, would not be able to bear the sorrow of the partings. As I fought off the grief, I heard the song that had just begun in my CD player.

Father, You're all I need
My soul's sufficiency

My strength when I am weak

The love that carries me
Your arms enfold me, till I am only
A child of God
--Kathryn Scott

That is the truth. Not some platitude trying to make me think this is all ok, this is normal. But the truth that I am weak, I am not enough for myself, that no one and nothing on this earth will ever really satisfy me. I expect more tears, more sorrow, more pain at the breaking of community--both on this side of the ocean and in Ethiopia. Yet through all those crushing moments in time, my soul's Sufficiency will remain.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Well, obviously I wouldn't have won the race

I'm still laughing about this! I had forgotten all about this sunny day in Ethiopia from a few months back until Daniel emailed this photo to me. I'm afraid I spoiled the pic--it was supposed to look like a race with Derek and Mr. Turtle, but I think I made it look like a somersault contest instead!
This is on the track of one of the international schools in Addis, and we were there to be supportive fans for a soccer game. This turtle, however, had other plans. He made it onto the field twice during the game and had to be manhandled off. One maintenance guy put him on this flat cart thing, only for Mr. Turtle to topple off!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Now I'm tired and I haven't done anything yet!

Today I've been busy . . . but I'm not sure I've accomplished much! I got back from Texas last night, stayed up waaay too late talking to my little brother, and then headed into Jackson this morning for a lovely breakfast with these three dear friends.
I'm feeling the crunch of this looming GRE . . . I don't think I'd worry about it much if I wasn't a modern-day gypsy living on the road out of suitcases:) Ok, in all honesty I'd probably still worry about it too much. Nonetheless, today I spent what turned out to be a ridiculous number of hours researching grad programs. There were some encouraging finds in there, but I still feel like I haven't done anything yet today!
In my online traveling, I re-read this post on Charity and Justice that really struck me a few days ago when I first read it. Our diluted understanding of charity is about us. Justice does not encourage us to continue along in our unchallenged lives of excess and greed; justice demands we change.
I hope that I have changed. I hope that I am being changed. I hope all of us are changing, growing in our desire and actions to bring justice into this broken world. I don't know how to do it, but I hope we all learn a little bit more every day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm not perfidious, and I try not to be garrulous

Seeing as how I am not erudite, I do not know how I will be able to emulate my pedantic friends who have scored so well on the GRE. My studying thus far has been inchoate, but I have a plethora of excuses for that. Or, perhaps, I have just prevaricated to myself regarding my ability to study. Every time I sit down, my being is overcome with torpor. This test has become onerous, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to mollify my anxiety. I have thought about malingering, but I fear I will not have that choice. I'm becoming inimical to those around me because all I can think about is how I don't have time to think about the GRE. My mind is diffident--how can I ameliorate my fears?? Chicanery is not going to improve my score, and I can not simply be a dilettante with regard to the task at hand. But the good news is that this is an ephemeral pressure! If I approach it with the proper attitude and understand the exigent nature of the material in front of me, I hope to avoid any opprobrium from those around me. I may not become a paragon on June 19, but I do hope that my current studying will engender a positive result on that fateful morning.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Filled Up to Overflowing

It's been good to be here. To see family and friends, to eat familiar foods, to easily get to and from places, to be able to buy what you want to, to be refreshed and encouraged. I'm really thankful for all of these things, and I think they strike me so much more profoundly now. Do you know how good sushi really is?

I spent last week traipsing around Texas--it was wonderful to catch up with friends and a few cousins. I was driving from Tyler to Waco one rainy morning, and after awhile in a car you can go slightly crazy . . . so I started talking to myself. And then I started exclaiming excitedly things like, "HEB!!! Yes!! I love HEB!!" (It's just a grocery store for you non-HEBers!) and "Braum's! Mmmm, I can just taste the cappuccino chunky chocolate frozen yogurt!" (and I did, just a few days later. It didn't disappoint.) and finally, the best of all was, "Bluebonnets!! There are still bluebonnets!! And I got to SEE them!!" Needless to say, I enjoyed my wanderings. The sweetest part of all, though, was good hugs and talks with old friends.
I confess that I have never understood what it meant to truly EAT of the Bread of Life. It's not because I didn't know I needed it--I did, but too often it was in a very philosophical way. But over the past year, I have been drained and emptied, and I have been hungry for that which cannot ever come from me. Thus, the best part of being back in the US has been worshiping with Redeemer, my home church. To be challenged, encouraged, and fed . . . yes, I am filled up to overflowing. I am rich.

But for all the joys, being here means I am not there. I am not in my other home of Ethiopia, I am not around my co-workers, the beneficiaries, injera bih wut, music, hugs and kisses in greeting . . . I miss all of that deeply. It's a part of me, a part of my heart and mind and soul. There is no one here to say "Endemanesh?" to in the mornings . . . or if I do people think I am crazy after all.
Since I have been in the US, two of our precious beneficiaries have died. I cry for them here, but I feel alone in my sorrow. Not because the people around me here don't want to care--I know they do. But they did not know Henok and Abrehat, and they will not know what it means to go back to my other world and those two not be there. My deepest privilege of the past year has been to know people--their faces, names, stories, and lives. But it leads to a deep pain at the loss of those same people. I want to do more, so much more. And here in this world I feel like I can do so very little. I pray. I cry. I try to tell their stories. But really I just wish their stories would have had a very different ending. I wish that Henok had lived to see 2 years . . . that he would have lived and laughed and kicked a soccer ball around. I wish that Abrehat hadn't been so beaten by life, that she had seen her children live and not die, that now she would be sharing the joy of the grandkids she never had. To keep pleading and fighting for different endings to these stories--that's the task before me, before all of us. If He will not give up until justice is established, we must follow in the fight.
May we be strong for the battle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

To The Other Side

I'm here, I'm really here. Sitting in my bed in Mississippi, still in my PJs at 11:30 am, wondering how I can still be so very tired.
The last few days in Ethiopia were full and good and hard. Saying goodbye, packing up my house and suitcases, running errands, hugging friends.

With Andy and Bev Warren at their house a few minutes before we left for the airport

Some of my friends in Addis right before I left

I arrived in Jackson Monday night, in time to pull off the birthday surprise for my Dad (and Mom). It wouldn't have happened without my brothers and Robin and Jeremy--they made it work:) My flights were of course long and slightly miserable, but really pretty smooth. I sat in the "adopted Ethiopian babies" section of the airplane for the 14 hour flight from Addis to DC--that was fun but not at all conducive so sleep, which I don't do in an airplane very well anyway. I spent a rather frantic hour in DC at the Delta counter, trying not to freak out that my tickets were showing up in the system as expired. I could just see the whole birthday-with-a-surprise crumbling before me:) But it all worked out, and when I arrived breathless at the gate, I realized the flight had been delayed. A very kind lady I had met in the Addis airport watched my stuff while I traipsed through the airport in search of the perfect Diet Coke. It was sooooo good. Icy cold, burning sweetness.
I was glad when I made it to America. For all her faults, America is a blessed place. I breathed this sigh of relief when I entered immigration in DC under a big sign proclaiming, "Welcome to the USA." I felt welcomed indeed and was astounded by the kindness of American people. We are often perceived as loud and rude, but I was overcome by the friendliness of the diverse faces staring back at me. From the security man who heard one of those adopted kids wailing way back in the line and let that family go to the front, to the baggage guy who stopped my strained luggage-cart-pushing and offered to recheck my bags from there all the way to Jackson, to the two guys who assured me they would figure out my "expired" ticket and get me on the flight, which they did, to the realization that I was truly in the US headed to the deep South when the flight attendant drawled out, "Thank you, baby"!!
I was met in the airport by a random unexpected act of Providence by my good friends Nathan and Becky and their little baby Owen--they were there to pick up Nathan's mom, who was also flying in from Africa. The odds of us both flying in at the same time are astoundingly small, but it was a sweet reunion. But the best part was seeing the darting, squealing form of my dear, dear friend Robin!! What a great hug that was! Her husband Jeremy picked us up in the parking lot, I picked up the diet Coke waiting on the floorboard for me, and we headed straight to Marble Slab, where I had possibly the best ice cream of my life! We got to hang out for awhile before going to my brother's place where I showered in attempt to look like I was in the land of the living. From there the plan was set into motion . . . my brothers had arranged to take my parent's out to dinner for my dad's birthday. Jeremy entered a few minutes later and made my whole family feel extraordinarily awkward by hurriedly asking them if they would mind taking in some stranger for dinner who he thought really needed to be ministered to, but he and Robin just didn't have time. Seconds later, Robin and I entered. My mom saw me first and just stared, jaw dropped. My dad hadn't noticed us yet and mom kept jabbing his elbow, "Steve! Stephen!!" It was a wonderful reunion indeed!
So now I am trying to recover from jet lag and plan out the craziness of the next couple of months!! Thanks for all your prayers for me, even though most of you didn't know what you were praying for!