Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I am avoiding cleaning out our back bathroom.  It has this really ugly wooden closet that is literally falling apart and holds all kinds of medicines and bathroom stuff.  The odor of the closet is repelling.  The bathroom itself is functional but far from any place you'd want to spend time in.  So I read a book.  I planned English class for today.  I washed dishes.  And all the while that back bathroom mocks me.  It is winning at keeping me distant and disgusted at myself for not just tackling the disfunction.  I mean it's only a bathroom filled with bathroom stuff.  I was supposed to start on it yesterday and I successfully avoided it.  So today to put it off again I logged onto my email.  There in my inbox was a blog I subscribe to entitled, "Life is Messy".  Don't I know it!  I don't want to open up that ugly stinky closet and clean it out.  I don't want to deal with all the expired junk.  Who knows there might even be a mouse or two!  Also it's really hot in there.  There are no fans to stir the sticky humid air.  The cat's litter boxes are in there.  I have English class in less than an hour so I can't possibly begin sorting through the mess...   I'll just deal with it later.  Maybe tonight...  


The blog ends with stating the first step in dealing with the mess is admitting the mess and admitting the mess gets us closer to grace.  I realize the blog is talking about deeper spiritual messes that lurk within, dark, smelly, crumbling, interior closets filled with junk that must go.  And dealing with interior junk is a life-long process.  Little by little we must be about letting the light shine in and expose all that is hidden.  We must allow growth and change to be part of the process.  Otherwise we are left procrastinating and stagnating.  And like stagnant water it neither refreshes nor quenches but instead sickens and might even lead to death.

 Pray that I will have the fortitude to sort and deep clean all the junk that is languishing within and without.

Even as I write these words my cat is tossing and batting at a large-ish dead lizard right beside me.  The lizard is tailless and soon to be eaten.  What a bloody mess!  Hope the cat doesn't vomit up partially digested lizard.... he's done it before and will certainly do it again...  UGH.

I hear the little pathetic cat retches now... I'm afraid to look.  I've decided not to look.  I've got an English class to teach!  No time for partially digested lizard vomit now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The fusing of imperfect lives ...something of the divine

"I think of how sometimes God puts people together, maybe more often than we realize.  We can disregard it, lie to ourselves, find the reasons why it's impractical.  But something within the creation of them connects.  I've been afraid of it.  There is something fearful in revealing our true selves, allowing others to peer intimately inside.  It takes such trust, and none of us are completely trustworthy.  It's a risk, and there will be disappointment, opposing views, disenchantment, but the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine." -- "The Salt Garden" by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

Years ago Amanda and I challenged each other to define friendship.  It seemed such an easy thing, to define something both so ordinary and extraordinary and something so intrinsically woven into the human experience.   I mean childhood friendships predate being able to tie our own shoes or print our own names.  Yet I found it to be so illusive and difficult to put to paper, to put words together to definitively define it.  And so I never did complete that challenge.  It was, to me, like trying to capture a wild creature.  Amanda never showed me her definition of friendship either.  We continued our friendship but never defined it and to this day haven't brought back up our failure of that seemingly simple challenge.  I, however, have thought of that challenge from time to time wondering if I could define it yet.  If I could capture friendship on paper, word by word.

Today I was reading "The Salt Garden" on my kindle and the closest thing to a good definition leapt off the screen and stopped me in my tracks.  "... the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine."  That is the best definition of friendship I have ever come across.  God is inherently involved as the author and developer of friendship.  He made the first introductions and has been doing it ever since.  Friendship is often the greatest motivator for me to grow and move forward.  To lean in and drink deep from the fountain of friendship requires trust and risk and care and discernment.  And once those waters get polluted with toxic friendships it becomes even more challenging and an even greater risk.  Some people stand by and watch poisoned waters slowly pass by with bits of refuse floating and sinking up the general area.  You won't find those people drinking deeply from that source.  They stand by, alone and bitter, with sour stomachs and matching drawn faces unable to move forward.  The risk and hard work it would take to filter and clean that stream is just too much trouble.

I've been that person.  I've watched what seemed to be a sparkling source of refreshing and quenching friendship turn blood-red with death, malodorous in it's rapid decay, driving me to my knees in trembling disbelief.  Perhaps that description seems a bit too melodramatic?  Perhaps you have forgotten.  Perhaps you don't allow yourself to swim deeply in those waters.  I have been both the cause of polluting and the recipient of such pollution.  And it does require much courage and strength to filter and try again.  Miraculously we have God to step in and purify and prompt us with the Holy Spirit to dive deep again.

Just yesterday I found out that my Dutch friend Leonie whom I met through my friend Wendy while I was visiting her in Macedonia during my spring break at language school in France made friends with my Dutch friends Jan and Tabitha whom I met in Bongolo before they moved to Senegal where Leonie and her family recently moved to with their work as Dutch diplomats.  So I sent along Leonie's phone number to Jan and that led to a lovely dinner for both families.  I introduced two sets of friends living in a foreign country I have yet to visit.  They are expats from the same country speaking the same heart language living in the same foreign country.  They are Christ followers and I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Isn't that truly amazing?  And can I really take credit for something so incredible?  The divine has to be involved.  Such things are not native of this small spinning globe hung so delicately within the fragile framework of galaxies and universes and beyond.  I will end my feeble attempts to define friendship with a quote from the great Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!"

Friday, November 16, 2012

And so it begins, a new normal

The dreaded time of being the last teammates in Libreville has arrived.  Hannah has flown away, Leanne has flown away, the Envision center is just a memory, and it is back down to just Steve and me as we live and breathe here in the sweltering capital city by the grey-green sea.  I skyped briefly with Hannah last night (before losing power) and we marveled that just over a week has passed since she left.  It seems much longer.  The last time we lost teammates here in Libreville marked the beginning of a very challenging and lonely time and I very much did not want to go back to that thorny place, thank you very much!  I felt we were fairly well recovered from that difficult time and on track for a new normal that involved being actively engaged with teammates and sharing in ministry together.  So I was sorely grieved to realize that new normal was to be tossed out and we were to be ushered into another period of adjustment.  One that did not include close teammates.  One that might take us back to that prickly land I thought we had left behind. Though that time did produce greater growth and dependance on God, like never before experienced, it came with the high, high price tag of pain and uncertainty.  But we are not the same people we were then.  God has strengthened us and given me a strong dose of thanksgiving in the months leading up to this moment.  I am being very proactive in my thought patterns and how I am choosing to order my day to day.  So far so good.

"In the Land of Blue Burkas" is the title of a book (recently downloaded into my kindle) written by a single Christian American woman sharing stories of living in Afghanistan while working for an NGO.  She brings to life the Muslim women living there through her candid conversational stories.  It has lead me into a stunningly fresh appreciation for my Savior Jesus Christ.  As the writer tells stories of the realities of the Muslim women there I am able to see afresh with startling clarity why Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  In the chapter entitled "Choosing Love" the author very honestly maps out the difficulties she faced daily living in that foreign place.  She shared the staggering weight of her responsibilities in directing the efforts of the NGO which included managing projects, writing proposals, maintaining financial records, attending government meetings, etc, the list goes on, all while leading both an Afghan and foreign staff.  During that time she worked with sketchy electricity, slow internet connection, oppressive heat in the summer and blindingly cold brutal winters.  She poignantly points out she was there ultimately to express love to her neighbors.  And those neighbors were made up of bearded men and blue burka-ed women living lives following hard after their Muslim teachings. She shares many conversations where she and whomever she was with would talk about life and faith.  They about theirs and she about hers.  It is amazing to see the contrast of the Muslim faith and the Christian faith.  Reading this book has been a gift of inspiration to me during this time.  I recommend it  highly. 

I am truly enjoying teaching my beginners English class.  I have about 11 students, mostly made up of the nurses and staff of the clinics at Avea II.  They are a joy to teach!  It is giving me a tangible way to contribute other than just running the guest house.  My favorite part of the days I teach (other than the actual teaching) are the glimpses I get of spectacular sunsets, each one uniquely and brilliantly coloring the sky and clouds, changing minute by minute in aching beauty with a spectrum of pink, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple hues reflected in the shining sea as I drive home by way of Bord de Mer amidst the crush of pedestrians and clotted traffic.  So far life in Libreville adjusting to a new normal has been a lesson of being strong and courageous, of not being discouraged.  I was led to Joshua 1:9 the very day after Hannah left.  I penned these words in my prayer journal, "The US has elected a president, Hannah has flown to Senegal and Steve is flying to Bongolo.  And I sit alone in a hot house, music playing and fans whirling, praying to you Holy God."  And so it has begun, a new normal.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you where ever you go."  Joshua 1:9