Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lessons Relearned

(excerpt from a letter to friends)

I have lots of things rumbling around in my mind today (even though a bit sluggishly!). The main ones are fairly simple lessons but ones that I seem to need to learn repeatedly in my life in different circumstances. I'll share them with you in case you can relate.

The first one is centered around my grieving at the changes coming up in our family soon that I've mentioned frequently for months now! I'd thought I'd gotten past it a number of times only to have it come back again. When we were getting near the end of the trip in the States I was equating coming back here with Aaron going to boarding school soon and my emotions were getting the best of me again. One day as we were all traveling in a car and talking, Steve reminded us of a verse in a totally unrelated way that spoke right to my heart. It was:
"If you cling to your life, you will lose it,
and if you let your life go, you will save it." Luke 17:33

It made me realize that what I was grieving was the way things have been for so long with my kids by my side and that that's what I was wanting to cling to. But our relationship is not over! It's going to change a bit, but I can't cling to the way it's been.

There are many things in my life that I've let go of already only to find that He IS more than faithful and I've found life richer because of it. I've just never applied that verse to my life in this circumstance before.

Another thing is from that same conversation in the car. As we talked we all expressed that the main thing that we weren't looking forward to on our return here was the sp1r1tual atmosphere that we live under. It's just very oppressive here that way and it's difficult to live above the hopelessness, anger, and despair that we feel around us every day. We don't mind the dirt, heat, and daily living challenges nearly as much as the oppressive weight that we often feel. We talked about how much we appreciate those of you who remember us faithfully and how we need to remember to do the same for ourselves.

Right before we came back I heard that a book I'd intended to read sometime was on sale for Kindle so I got it. It's called 'One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Were You Are" by Ann Voskamp. Her writing is a bit poetically flowery but through it she really paints a picture that touches the heart. Through it I've been reminded of the old phrase, "Attitude is Everything," something that I had to learn over and over in my years in Fiji. The premise of the book so far (still reading it) is that while we live our day to day lives through up's and downs that the way to live 'fully' is by cultivating joy in our hearts through an attitude of thankfulness. I'm saying this very simplistically, but it's been a good reminder that attitudes are a habit, habits take an effort to change, and that in the oppressive environment here I'd begun responding with the habit of a heavy heart.

I remember years ago on an outreach in China when things were still pretty simple in my young life recognizing this very truth and walking around singing "The joy of the L-0-0-0-rd is my strength," until it became true in my heart. Sometimes we should take notes from our younger selves!

Anyway, in the book Ann V. talks about how making a list of 1000 things that she loves changed the habit of her heart after a lifetime of living drearily because of hard things in her life. So while I may not (or may!) end up making a physical list myself, I'm going to work on applying that concept afresh to my life here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fresh Eyes

We've been back from the US for a couple of days now. I'm finding that after being away I'm able to look at the place that we live with fresh eyes.

A photographer who was here a few months ago commented on how the city with all of its contrasts is a photographer's dream. When we first got here the not-so-pleasant sights and sounds distracted me so much that it took me a while to see the beauty as well. Since we've come back I've been able to see some of the loveliness more clearly than ever before. It's an exotic place!

My fresh eyes are also singling out things that were commonplace before the break and making me notice now:
-A little girl who's obviously been given the privilege to carefully hold the morning's sacrifice to the gods while walking proudly before her mother on the way to a nearby shrine.
-An old woman of the lowest caste scraping up dried human dung off of a lane as part of her job in keeping it clean.
-The constant aggression that people in this city have just to survive and make their way in the mass of humanity.
-The contrast of the surprising generosity of someone going out of their way to interpret for a foreigner who's gone past their language capability.
-The watchful eyes of men that look at me like I've stepped out of a fashion magazine (while I'm in basic local clothing) simply because of the color of my skin, and the assumption that I probably have the morals to match.
-The lovely faces of the women at FS!!! They make it worth it and it's good to be back!