Friday, August 31, 2012

Smile because it happened...

The other day while painting the Envision center with Leanne I found myself saying, "Yeah, it's been hard, really hard, but worth it."  In that moment I realized it was true.  What a gift!  In the recent past I've had thought patterns that run a rut around the same mountain of thought, that mountain being all the difficult and heart-wrenching challenges of the past few years.  And it's been truly the most challenging time in my adult life.  But here I am with different thought patterns running around a different mountain of thought, that mountain being gratitude.

The reason Leanne and I were painting at the Envision center is because Envision is leaving Gabon.  The rented house that has been home to Envision for the last five years or so needs to be painted by Gabonese law before returning to it's owners at the end of an occupancy.  It seems a bit backwards to have the renters responsible for the interior painting instead of the owners, but that is just one of many perplexing Gabonese laws.  So Envision is leaving.  It is deeply saddening to contemplate the loss of Envision and all the people it encompasses.  It will mean losing our closest teammates and my dearest friends.  We live in the city and the rest of our team lives in the jungle near the hospital, an 8 hour car ride (on a good day) or an 1 hour 45 minute flight.

Leanne and Hannah have been fearlessly leading Envision for nearly two years now.  They are kindred spirits and I have loved living life with them.  We have shared everything from the mundane to special trips and holidays together.  We have ministered side-by-side and laughed and cried together.  Living in a foreign land is an adventure, one fraught with joy and pain.  To have cultural mates, that is, someone who intrinsically understands where you come from, who is able to share in the heartache and hilarity and sometimes the furious frustration that makes up the day to day living in this foreign place, is profoundly encouraging .  Leanne and Hannah have been that support and lifeline in the midst of this beautiful disaster I call life in Libreville.  I love them dearly and will miss them greatly.

So there we were painting and talking while the music played.  The room empty of furniture, full of paint fumes and memories, echoed as we talked.  Leanne was recounting many of the challenges I've faced living here and I found myself saying it's all been worth it.  Today when I read through my fb newsfeed someone had posted a pinterest-type image of muted colors with a profile of a girl in a hooded sweatshirt hunched over as cold rain splattered, in the background lights from a city are blurred bringing focus to the hooded girl, the mood of the photo is dark, bold words state, "Don't lose faith.  I didn't promise it would be easy.  I promised it would be worth it. -- God"  I usually don't like those often cheesy sayings splashed across images.  I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to those things.  However since I've been living this one it struck a chord within.  It is worth it, the pain of loss, the pain of growth as God shapes and stretches.  I am grateful for it all.

When we first began to process the closing of Envision Gabon Hannah brought up the Dr. Seuss quote, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."  Envision closing is a huge loss to us all, especially as Hannah and Leanne have poured their hearts and souls into this vibrant ministry that has touched many lives.  It's always heartbreaking when something good ends and it would be easy to lament its loss in strident tones of anger and blame but at the end of it all we rejoice that Envision Gabon existed and breathed life into so many people.  We rejoice at the friendships made and buildings built, medical trips made, Gabonese people coming to Christ, the Hope House kids and their infectious smiles, all in partnership with the Gabonese national church and our dear friends at the OSPAC/RBC clinic.  We smile because interns have drawn closer to God and others because Envision Gabon happened.  I am a better person because of Envision Gabon.  I have been enriched by the people and ministry.  I am inspired by Hannah and Leanne and the way they are ending well.  I am grateful for the mountain of memories that will forever be a part of my interior landscape.


Monday, August 27, 2012

My confession and explanation of Facebook stalking my kids... and their friends...

So Steve has strongly encouraged me to write a blog.  He's just looking out for me.  He loves me.  In fact last night as I lay in bed, with sleep eluding me, I marveled at his love for me.  We've been married 19 years and he still makes me feel beautiful and witty and wise.  I'm not trying to brag but I am married to a stud pilot with stunning blue eyes that sparkle with humor more often than not.  He just gets better with age.

That being said life lately has been somewhat challenging.  My latest challenges being that I have become a facebook stalker trolling the profiles of my kids (and I must admit, sheepishly, also their friends) for any photos or comments that shed a bit of light of their far away life in Cameroon.  This is the third year we have taken them to a foreign country and moved them into a home and then either driven or flown away.  It still seems crazy to me.  I love the people my kids have become.  They are funny and wise and kind and love Jesus.  Part of the journey from there to here has been this sending our kids off to school in a foreign land and in the midst of all the changes and challenges God has been God and loved them in a uniquely personal way for each of my kids transforming them into the people they are now and are becoming.

After getting over the shock that my kids can in fact survive and even thrive without my constant presence in their day to day.  And what a shock it was, glad they are thriving but a bit grieved and humbled that their need of me is on the less and less end of things.  It's ultimately what parenting is all about right?  Working yourself out of a job...  But early retiring from full-time to part-time is challenging, thus enters the facebook stalking.

I know it's got creepy written all over it but let me explain before you judge me so harshly!  So my kids LIVE in another country, and the internet is sketchy and slow and since they've been away we haven't been able to skype.  Our main form of communication is facebook chat.  Oh how I've come to love that little green dot next to my kids names indicating that they are online live!  My heart jumps up within me and my fingers twitch and start tapping out an overly exuberant greeting.  Then I wait with my heart in my throat for a reply.  Moments pass... painfully... as I steel myself for the disappointment of the false green dot or worse the internet cutting out at that precise moment.  Then I see a little message that says something like, "seen at 4:27" and I glance at the time realizing that they've just received my chat.  Oh joy!  Then I see the message, "Megan is typing" and I can hardly believe in just moments I will receive precious words from my daughter.  Then nothing happens, the message disappears and I am left with nothing.  Curses facebook chat!  I lather up to a furious frustration when a sound rings out and the little chat box flashes with the new message from my beloved!  She has said "Hi".  I am over the moon with gladness at the glowing screen.  Truly.  It's the highlight of my day.  (I've used Megan in this example, it could be any of my three darlings that cause these heart palpitations of glee.)  And for a few moments we have a back and forth dialogue and I hear a bit of her day and before I am nearly ready she types out, "gotta go mom, dinner bell, homework, etc, love you and I'll give you more details tomorrow."  ... And like that she is gone and the green dot accompanying her name is gone as well.

So this is when the real stalking begins... I look at other profiles seeing if anyone has posted pics or statuses about life at RFIS and I've even been known to chat with a friend of my kids just to, you know, say hi and work in something about one of my kids just to get any fresh information.  It's sick, I know.  Sometimes I have to just walk away.  I don't want to be the scary stalker mom of FB.  I don't want to freak out my kids friends and have them report back to my kids that their mom has yet again chatted with them asking lame questions about how their day went at school.  My background in youth ministry doesn't help as I am quite fond of teens and miss hanging out with them in general, which when you aren't in active youth ministry can actually come across as really creepy.  I promise I'm not really creepy in real life.  Ask anyone... except maybe my kids and my kids friends... shudder.

So I am trying to be less facebook stalker and more facebook walker-away.  I am missing my kids so completely.  I thought it would get easier with time but I am just as devastated each time I say goodbye.  I mourn the loss again.  The only solace I have is that they are thriving and have great friends and are growing spiritually and physically and emotionally and educationally and I have the teachers and staff and students of RFIS and the hostel parents (past and present) and kids of UBAC hostel to thank for their love and care of my kids.  Joe, Megan and Sam are truly God's kids first and He provides mightily for them, generously and lovingly.  I am overwhelmed by gratitude in the midst of missing my kids.  I guess that is the testimony of God's presence in my life and in the lives of my kids and their friends. So please don't judge me too harshly when you see the little green dot next to my name on FB chat, feel free to say hi, it just might make my day!

p.s.  I wonder if the joy I feel at receiving fresh messages from my kids can compare to the joy our Father feels when we (His children) pray genuine prayers communicating the details of our day, just to keep Him in the loop and express our love and appreciation for all He does and Is for us?  It reminds me of the time when I prayed for answers about a specific situation for months and was met with silence until one day God whispered in my heart the gentle reminder, "Seek Me alone, not just My answers." Perhaps God has allowed me to experience this time to draw near to Him and know that He wants to dialogue with me and hear about my day and all it's silly details in vivid color.