Author’s note: It was two years ago that our family received unsettling news that began an extended holding pattern for us, news which wouldn’t be resolved for another eleven months. That period of gray, unsettled twilight will stand out in my life as one where I became well-acquainted–more than I would have wished, for sure–with the chisel of God that is waiting.
Yet in an odd way, it also brought me to love its sculpting edges, planing away curls of my own impatience and distrust.
Author’s note: This post is not at all intended to be a political statement regarding the recent controversy over refugees (see this article for a Christian point of view on the tension between security and compassion). It’s simply a memo to myself as I look at Thanksgiving this year, in light of what I’ve learned from the crazy-fun group of refugees I teach on a weekly basis here in Uganda.
Sometimes I’m as much a student of them as they are of me, as they sprawl in their chairs there in the sticky heat or the lazy afternoon sun.
Sometimes when they stand next to me, I have nothing to do but laugh out loud at the picture we must make: me with my German build and American clothing, my skin that best stay out of the sun after fifteen minutes, sky-colored eyes—and them, some even built like ebony marionettes, towering above me at six feet-two or –four, their toothy ivory grins and an arm around my shoulder, their tribal language to a friend resounding like African drums.
I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, dreams.
Since I’ve already confessed that I’m a feeler, I’ll tell you that a lot of feelings and thoughts swirl around them too: Hope. Confusion. Anxiety. Zeal. Guilt.
They’ve come center stage lately as I wait…and wait some more. It’s to see, really, if my dreams match up with God’s as future plans unspool. If my idea of green pastures and still waters are really His—or just the “good thing” that is not His best thing. As Donald Whitney writes, One way to clarify your spirituality is to clarify your ambition.
Missed part I? Get it here.
I knew last week was going to be killer.
I was stoked for the opportunities, while bracing myself for days of training students 9-5 (and honestly, the three hours of traffic. Yuck). I confess to spending some lunches in the reclined driver’s seat of my minivan, snoozing until my phone’s alarm set me back in full gear.
And it was killer: an incredible chance to take every class at our refugee center through a peacemaking/conflict management training, building on a clear message of what God had done—and is doing—for us in our conflict with Him.
Considering the vast majority had trickled into Uganda from war-ravaged nations, a message of how to make peace practically in all our relationships was, I discovered, diametrically opposed to what many of them had been taught—or were teaching their children—from the time they could speak. Realistically, many emerged from nations that had been in conflict from before they were born. More than one student told me they had never known peace until they moved to Uganda.
What I didn’t anticipate was my own heart twisting inside me like a dishrag.
“Mom! It’s the one with the crossed bill!”
I ducked my head at his urgent whisper, peering out the glass. Sure enough—an Openbill Stork. Three feet in height and layered in glossy black, this one seemed shiny enough that it might have just glided in from Murchison Bay, a handful of kilometers from our home. Weeks before, my son and I had sat quietly together, watching the same variety of stork leverage that gapped bill upon of the fist-sized snails that creep somberly across our yard.
Somehow, it’s another way that God tips my chin upwards in the midst of all that’s sprinting past me at the speed of life. It helps me catch my breath; twists the zoom lens of my soul to Someone so much greater than I. Reminds me that so much of gratitude, of worship, is learning to see all the God that surrounds us.
1. I set a goal for myself while jogging: If I can only make it to that goat.
- Everyone speaks more languages than I do.
- I have partaken of creatures I would normally not consume by choice, e.g. fish eyes, grasshoppers, and the like.
- People dispose of trash by simply throwing it out the window.
- A healthy percentage of my most delightful friends were born a hemisphere away from where I was.
- I avoid unfiltered water like the Plague. Because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the Plague in there.
- My pothole-per-mile ratio exceeds 136:1.
- The concept of “home” feels bewildering.
- I answer to a wide variety of names that sound entirely different than the one I’ve answered to for the majority of my adult life.
- Fruit and other materials labeled “exotic” in my home country are available at that little wooden stand down the street.
- My children asked for a raise in their allowance based on the increasing value of the dollar.
- My electrical company is perpetually listed in my phone’s recent contacts.
- Sometimes home feels like camping.
- Despite the lack of familiarity, there is something about the place I live that makes I feel so…alive.
- I adopt an accent when speaking, say, at the supermarket.
- My suitcase is filled with odd items, like 6 of the same deodorant, 18 months of underwear for six people, eight pounds of chocolate chips, and 12 jars of B vitamins. My carry-on is where I stash the Hot Tamales and six packs of Slim Jims.
- People attempt to compliment me by calling me “fat”, or in regards to my status, a “big woman.” …Yeah. Thanks.
- Ants in my home don’t even capture my attention anymore unless in vast quantities or floating in my drink.
- The last trip to the States found me saying, “What in the world is ‘Apple TV’?”
- I are content with my “dumb” phone, because pretty much everyone else has one, and if it falls in the toilet (or pit latrine) I can afford to replace it.
- Cops stop me because I are more likely to be a source of cash.
- “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” gets me all sniffy.
- My bed is shrouded in netting, but somehow my arms and legs still have telltale welts of those little (literal) suckers.
- I keep toilet paper in my glove box. Because public toilets, when I can find them, are BYO TP.
- I give up asking for decaffeinated coffee, because people don’t really know what that is (or why you would drink it), nor do they have it.
- I can pronounce all of the ingredients in my food.
- I am feeling a whole lot more deft with the metric system lately.
- My employer contemplates sending out regular deworming reminders via e-mail.
Man, it was a tweeny sort of day.
That whole thing about drama being reserved for girls? Fogeddaboutit. His attitude wafted through the house like rank gym socks. Nothing is right, the world is against me, why did God give me siblings, yada yada yada.
Howdy! I’m guest posting again on WeareTHATFamily.com again about The Hole Truth: Peer Pressure, Sex, and the Connection to Our Kids’ Identity. Hop on over if you’re interested!