Life

Yesterday was a holiday here, so Freddy and I spent the day together. I was feeling like a pretty awesome mom – took Freddy to the pool, made homemade fingerpaints and let Freddy have fun, played outside. But then he also fell in a hole at the pool and scraped his knee, cried in his crib for 30 minutes after nap when I couldn’t hear him, fell and busted his lip, and burnt his hand on a pot. (He’s fine! All minor injuries.) So maybe it was just an average day after all.

It’s finally May! April felt so incredibly loooooooong. Hoping that May flies by so we can get home for some R&R. We need a break. Life is so easy here in many ways, we have more time alone, help with lots of the mundane tasks, etc., but the cultural exhaustion can be overwhelming.

The anticipation of seeing family is enough, but then there are the simple things like fast internet, reliably hot showers, sharing the road with people who’ve had their license for more than 10 minutes, convenient cooking and food, and on and on.

I had a dream last night that I was in a grocery store and only had 10 minutes to grab everything I wanted – lunchmeat, yogurt, cheese, cereal, baby spinach! I couldn’t stop grabbing things. I might need to be supervised when I go shopping.

At the same time, in other ways it feels like the time has flown by. I can’t believe it’s May – the month we go home. There are so many things that we said we were going to do this year that we didn’t. It’s nice to have a few things to look forward to upon our return.

I look forward to having time to debrief this experience, along with friends and family. It’s kind of hard to say what we have learned and how we’ve grown (or not) when I am in the middle of experiencing it. At times, I feel like I haven’t learned anything except how to make a pie crust by hand (which is extremely good knowledge, but still…).

So, suffice it to say, we are excited and ready to be reunited with our people in the U.S. of A.

20140502-193145.jpg

Breathe

When I moved to Africa, I believed the creeping, crawling things would be the hardest part. The thought of a cockroach can keep me up all night. One night I awoke and saw one on the outside of the mosquito net at eye level. I managed to not scream as though an intruder was in the house, but my husband still didn’t get to sleep through it. After a few months, I’ve adjusted. One even touched my leg the other day, and I barely shrieked. I call this spiritual growth.

So that I won’t get too comfortable (I guess? Why else God?), we now have rats. Three have been killed so far (this is when I am thankful for those annoying dogs), one continues to torment me and keep me up all night.

But it turns out that there are other more real fears brought to mind y living here that keep me up at night. The oppression and weight of this life are much scarier. The feeling of ineffectiveness is enough to keep me in bed. The reality of what’s outside my gate threatens to drown me in hopelessness. I want to quit, but I haven’t even yet figured out what exactly I would be quitting.

Remember to breathe. It’s a phrase we say when we are panicked, in pain, afraid. Breathe through the loneliness. Breathe through the frustration that everything is hard. Breathe through the feeling of suffocation as you watch the world burning around you.

THe Spirit leads me back to God’s Word.

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Psalm 33:6

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16

I need the Word of God like I need air in my lungs. The fresh, calming breath of God.

Perform

I grew up performing. When I was in the first grade, I must have sung a song in class because my teacher, Mrs. Irwin, sent a note home to my parents that they should put me in voice lessons. I spent the next 14 years performing so much that it’s really weird that most people in my current life have no idea about that part of my past.

The thing that’s great about performing is exactly what Lorne Michaels tells the SNL cast according to Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, which I may have read five times and will read again because it is awesome and hilarious. “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”

When the curtain goes up, you are never ready. There’s always more that could have been done. And I feel like that’s my life right now. I’m a huge mess, but the audience is here, and the curtain is up. It’s too late to rehearse any more.

Confession time. I don’t know what I’m doing. Ever. About anything. 

But I had to take the stage because the curtain is up.

I want so desperately to have it together. I spend so much time thinking about all the things I should be doing or should have done to prepare. I wish I could tell you how to do it. How to be a mom, a wife, a Christ-follower, a servant, a daughter, a world-changer.

But I’m just up here faking it, and I think God’s ok with that.

Sometimes people think performers have thick skin. That we must have an easier time with rejection or criticism because we get so much of it. But I actually think it’s just the opposite. I think we can be more sensitive because we’ve been conditioned to care a whole lot what people think and because we are so often criticized that we come to expect it. Maybe what we are good at is stuffing the anxiety away and getting up on stage anyway. A part of acting, I suppose.

I’m filled with fear and anxiety, and I don’t know what I am doing. Is my son safe in Rwanda? Can my marriage withstand the pressure of life? Will our parents forgive us for moving? Am I doing anything worthwhile at all? Can God use such a weak and trembling person?

But if I get stuck on these questions, I will never take the stage. There are no easy answers. There are no short cuts in life. Only trusting in the One who knows. The One who holds the cards, and the One who will never forsake.

The show must go on.

 

 

Gisenyi

First I have to thank everyone who sent me such lovely birthday greetings! I was quite overwhelmed by the texts, calls, emails, and FB posts. I felt very loved. I celebrated by going to the bank, changing money, grocery shopping, and buying internet credit. Just kidding…sort of. I did do all that, but BB also took me out a lovely dinner where the wait staff sang me a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.

We also had a fabulous weekend in Gisenyi with a few other families. It was probably our best family vacation yet! Freddy is at the perfect age to enjoy the sand and the baby pool.P1040690 P1040703

Gisenyi is on Lake Kivu in the north west part of Rwanda, on the DRC border. Across the border is Goma and North Kivu, DRC, which are notoriously dangerous places due to many different warring groups, but it’s (relatively) stable right now and Gisenyi is quite safe. It’s beautiful to look across the lake into DRC and look north and see the volcanoes.

P1040710 P1040711 P1040718

 

We feel incredibly blessed to be able to live life in such a beautiful place. While we slept, we heard the waves crashing into the shore. It was a lovely end to my 31st year, and I think I’m ready for what the next year has in store.

Should I stay or should I go?

I’ve been in a spiritual funk for a couple of months. On Tuesday I finally bought a coffee maker. It’s possible that the spiritual funk was misidentified and that I was actually just not properly caffeinated.

We are knee-deep in deciding whether to stay in Rwanda or go back to the US. And by knee-deep, I mean that we are supposed to decide, but we are ignoring that and watching Friends instead.

I’m confronted by the pressure of life in the fast lane with this decision. As we begin to plan time back in the States and think about the future, all the stress of our life in America comes flooding back. All of sudden it’s emails, phone calls and internet searches, and then discussions about housing and jobs, spending time with family and friends, Fred’s health, money.

Um. No thank you.

This isn’t to say that we aren’t excited to be back in America for (at least) the month of June. I am now day dreaming of sitting by my parent’s pool, driving 70 mph down a paved highway with other drivers who actually know how to drive, walking into Target and buying whatever I want. And that pales in comparison to dinners with family, laughs with friends, church in Chicago, and seeing Freddy with his cousins.

But I don’t feel ready to re-enter. I don’t want to go back there – where every moment was scheduled and over-programmed, where we worried about career and money and future, where we almost never stared out the window, where we didn’t just eat breakfast leisurely and read our Bibles.

It’s not America’s fault. It’s ours. But I don’t know whether I’m changed enough that we won’t go back to the exact same life. And it wasn’t a really happy life.

Everyone says you shouldn’t change your circumstances to change yourself, and that’s probably wise advice. But sometimes it does help me to radically change my circumstances. By eating only 7 foods for 30 days, I was changed.

By living with less and in this radically different place, I am changed. But am I changed enough? Will one year be enough? Because I want lasting change. I don’t want to just run with the pack and wake up in 10 years the same person I am today. I want to barely recognize myself.

Maybe it’s ok not to know. Maybe it’s just a decision as to whether we buy a returning flight. It feels like it really really matters where we live and what we do, but maybe it doesn’t.

 

 

 

Plans

Recently said by BB in response to me asking him whether he would like to go away with me for a night while my parents were here: “I would love to get away from you.” A true Freudian slip if I’ve heard one.

I spend a lot of my days around here wondering what I am doing. I feel like I’ve spent the last four years trying to DO something with my life, and I think it’s time for me to accept that this is it.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a famous movie star, preferably one who sang a lot. It was a good thing there was no American Idol back then or my poor parents would have had to schlep me around to auditions and listen to even more Celine Dion than they already did.

I thought I was meant for the big stage. I loved to perform. I loved applause.

When it became obvious – sometime in the last few months – that my dreams of being a famous movie star were becoming less likely, I moved on to being famous for something else – maybe an author, a world-changer.

Still grasping for the audience and wanting to make a big impact, I thought maybe adopting three kids would give me some of the street credibility I sought. When that failed, I moved to Rwanda.

Now I spend my days in Rwanda fighting with the internet, changing diapers, killing beetles, and trying to come up with another meal out of beans, rice, tomato, and eggplant.

I’m not DOING anything! No lives are changing. There’s no fruit. And I’m a bit frustrated.

But I think it’s time to accept it. I’m not saying that all my motives were wrong. I don’t actually think we made wrong choices to get to this point. I’m just starting to think that maybe I’m missing what God has for me right as I struggle to make my plans come through. The more time I spend in his Word, the more I think that God cares less about my impact and much more about my heart. And to be honest, my heart needs a lot of work.

I planned on having a big career as a lawyer, then to have lots of babies, then to adopt lots of babies, then to work for IJM, then to move to Rwanda and help people. While I’ve tried to make my goals holier, they’ve still just been my goals. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.

The only way I can explain my current state in life and the continued failures of my plans is that God is clearing the space in my life. I’m here in Rwanda with no job, no hobbies, no family, none of my close friends, and all the free time in the world while someone else cleans and takes care of my son. My plate has never been more clear. In most ways I hate it, but maybe it’s what God wants for me right now.

Space. Space for him. Space for my thoughts.

So now I have no plan. Ask me what I’m doing, and I’ll tell you that I have no idea. Will we live in Kigali next year? Who knows? Will we move to Chicago? Beats me. What will I do for work? Your guess is as good as mine!

I surrender.

KigAlo

We just finished up a beautiful holiday season here in Kigali and an almost three-week visit with my parents. They travelled from the frigid Chicago weather to sunny, warm Rwanda. A new snowbird destination, perhaps?

P1040388

My parents are rock stars. My mom hates travel, especially flying. So the fact that she was willing to spend over twenty hours one way on a plane is a sure sign of how much she loves me (really, Fred).

Fred’s favorite game is peek-a-boo, and he will play with anyone – real or not.

P1040382

We met them at baggage claim, and when my mom came out and saw Fred (and me too?) she started weeping. It was one of the sweetest moments that everyone in baggage claim had ever seen. Fred promptly bit her on the face.

We spent 18 days seeing Kigali, visiting clients, worshiping God, talking talking talking, and playing with Fred. It was (almost) pure bliss, and I’m so sad they are gone! (Note: BB may have a slightly more moderate view of said bliss, but this isn’t his blog.)

We attended a friend’s church in Ndera, and BB decided to accompany the choir. Dad spoke, but I was too slow to get the camera out! The first time he was ever brief with words. 🙂

P1040316

We celebrated Fred’s first birthday with chocolate cake and vanilla frosting (from scratch!). Mom patiently iced the cake and did the lettering. P1040146

Fred was super spoiled by his doting grandparents. They took him in the mornings so we could sleep, and they played with him non-stop. But the best part was that they got to see him start walking!P1040127

Fred got his first Cubs baseball…which the dogs promptly destroyed.P1040083

My dad is a kid-magnet. He loves kids. He loves playing with kids and making them laugh. Large groups of kids wanting attention are in no short supply in Rwanda.

P1040456

 

They watched Fred for a night so BB and I could go to Sorwathe tea plantation – one of the most beautiful places in all of Rwanda! We drank lots of tea, went on a tour of the factory, and SLEPT. It was fabulous.

P1040484 P1040473

We feel so blessed to have had this special time with them. While it’s hard to be far away and not see family as often as you would like, only by moving 8000 miles away would we have spent 18 uninterrupted days together! We love you soooooo much, Mom and Dad!

P1040626