(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.