Thursday, January 19, 2012

The past few mornings, it's been difficult to get going. Canada is officially in the throes of winter and Saskatoon, particularly, is in the deep freeze. Darkness, -38 degree weather and no school buses have combined to make for early mornings, extra runs out to the vehicles to ensure they start and driving the kids to and from school...which yes, if you're wondering, is still in session regardless of the temperatures. To be fair, it's been a pretty balmy winter so far which I think has made this sudden plunge to sub zero particularly jolting.

The other night, we had Jason's Aunt Margie and her friend, John, stay with us on their way through to Alberta. They are in their later years (not mentioning any numbers) but so amazingly vibrant. We were talking about their travels and they mentioned that while in New Zealand, they had bungy jumped in Queenstown. The same bungy jump that I took the chicken exit on while there when I was 19! So, while I'm not going to mention numbers, let me just say that they are old enough to have been able to bungy jump for FREE. Humbling to say the least in my quest to be more adventurous. While they were here, I had to run out to a meeting with a good friend I used to share an office with, Cathy. We met up and made a plan for her to join us in Africa in the last few weeks of our time there. I came home so energized and positive about life and adventure and this whole crazy thing we've decided to do. Later that evening, before we fell asleep, I mentioned to Jason that talking with Cathy and John and Margie that I felt like it was such an encouraging night and that I felt so good about what we were doing. His response? He felt like we were nuts. And, that, in a nutshell, is how things are going these days. We live in the tension between adventure and sensibility, the logical and the lively, the practical and the possible.

When I get to the point where I just don't know which way is up anymore, I retreat to a little corner of my room where I have my chair and lamp and letters from Zambia and I remember why we ever thought this was the way to go in the first place. There's are some photos beside my chair of Eva and Annie, a clipping of a father in Somalia cradling his malnourished son in the dust of a refugee camp and a particular photo that lately has become my inspiration. It's a small girl whose name is Marg. It's a photo of her and her baby brother, Caith, at the feeding point in Mulenga. She carries Caith on her back to bring him to the feeding point and he's a lovely baby, big and beautiful, and large for her small frame to bear. She brought him everyday while I was there and she prepared her plate of food while carrying him and then, at the time of the photo, she swung him around to sit on her lap and fed him off of her plate. She's perhaps 10 or 12, it's hard to tell, she's small and slim. In the photo on my wall, she's looking deep into the camera with Caith's lovely round face beside hers and to me, it reminds me that there are children taking care of each other that need someone to say that they care. The careworkers in Mulenga are amazing, and they deserve someone to stand with them and say, "We're with you. Keep going. We are together." So that they can keep pouring into these kids' lives and show them that they are not alone in their day to day difficulties.

This is one of those days that I have to believe that all these loose ends are going to finally tie themselves together and allow us to go. I'm choosing to believe that it's all coming together even though right now, it's looking like the pieces of the puzzle are scattered across the table, some aren't even right side up at the moment and one or two may have fallen to the floor. The picture is barely coming together and we've lost the box for reference right now. But, what I do know is that we have a place to build the puzzle, and that the outer edges are starting to take shape and we just keep filling in the pieces that are easy to fit.
I hope that in a few weeks, it's going to resemble something recognizable and we'll be able to fill in the rest of the holes along the way.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Purging and Packing

So, to be fair, this isn't really an update. It's actually just a form of procrastination. I'm surrounded by boxes and packing paper and can't even seem to get the Christmas tree down! That's right, January 9th and there's still a Christmas tree (or two...but who's counting) up in the house. I dropped the boys off to school this morning in an effort to extract myself from the nice warm bed and snuggly brown dog and came home to get started, and now, hours later, I'm still just puttering around!

Many of you have been asking about supporting our trip or sending needed items along with us. Here's the details of that:

First of all, not to be blunt (ahem...) but we can certainly use financial support for our trip. If you'd like a tax receipt for a donation, make out a cheque to Hands at Work and either send it to the US or Canada Office addresses listed in the sidebar. Please put the project number LTV-12-22 in the memo line. You can also make out the cheque to Hands at Work and give it to either Jason or myself and we can send it in for you. Just so you know, if you send a cheque to Hands directly, because of privacy laws, we will only see the donation amount, we won't be given donor information and therefore won't know who made it. So, if you do this and we don't send you a heartfelt thanks, that's why!

Also, we will not be bringing any extra donated items along. Truthfully, there's very little that we could "bring" that would alleviate the suffering and poverty. If you feel strongly about helping in this way, we will take cash donations along and pass those along to the Hands at Work service centres we're involved with to be put to best use. For those of you who would like, we'll gladly play "postman" and pass along letters of encouragement and cards to those in Africa. A good friend of mine, Cathy, has sent letters along with me on past trips and now has a semi-annual letter exchange with our friend, Cynthia, in Mulenga. It's amazing to be in Zambia and have someone ask how Cathy is and what is new in her life. These letters mean a lot to those who receive them and it's a beautiful way to encourage someone whose life is difficult at best.

And now, for the reality, we are just weeks away from Africa. Our house is going on the market. I have mixed emotions about this but if it needs to sell for us to afford to go, then go it will. Originally, I was holding tightly to the house in an effort to have something to come back to, you know..."for the boys' sake". I've slowly unravelling my white knuckles off all of these things, as I've said before. There's much to let go of but I keep reminding myself that I can't fully grab what's in front of us if my hands are full of all this. So, on to purging and packing...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

This is one of my favorite photos of Easton...just whizzing through the air with the wind in his hair.

In many ways, 2011 felt a bit like this photo. We were set adrift on January 1st last year to a new way of life - one in which neither Jason or I were working in a church. The things we stood on and surrounded ourselves with in ministry and vocation were gone, like the ground beneath us. In many ways, it was unnerving -loss of income is always scary, the unknown of what comes next, all the practicalities that go along with it. Although, as the year went on, we began to recognize the gift that the year was. A year in which our family remained fed and clothed and sheltered and admittedly, priorities shifted a bit in spending. It was the year that Jason stayed home with the boys for the most part and I worked full time for the first time since the boys were born. It turned into a really great role reversal and it was quite extraordinary to watch Jason do an amazing job planning meals, getting laundry done, making sure the boys had lunches and were picked up on time...he made me look really bad! I was reluctant at first to admit how bloody good at it he was, my pride took a bit of a beating! And so, we went into the summer of 2011 quite optimistically, still not knowing where we would land. Jason took the boys to Ohio for a month while they filled in for our friend, Dean, at his church there. They went camping. Golfing. Stayed up late and watched far too many movies. Last night, as the countdown to the New Year began, we took turns telling our favorite memories of 2011 and at one point, I mentioned to each of them that I was not involved in most of their best memories. Yeesh. I was feeling pretty crabby about that but then I realized that this was the gift that a year of unemployment gave us. It gave our boys and their dad time to make memories together and to spend time together that would not have happened otherwise.
For me, as I look back on 2011, I think of a year without church. I'm not bashing the church, a church, Church...for the record... but I will say what a restful year it's been. And, truthfully, it's allowed me and God time to make memories together and to spend time together that would not have happened otherwise. He's met me in some pretty unorthodox places, particularly in a van driving neighbours' party guests home after a long night of drinking...on the floor of a multimillion dollar store perpetuating consumerism, in the eyes of a bare headed, bare handed woman hitchhiking in -20 weather, at the rink, in a low income housing project, even at home on my third day of crying in pyjamas. I've spent the year figuring out what the heck do I really believe? Why? Maybe most importantly, what the heck does that have to do with what we do on Sundays in a building down the road? I don't have more answers, mostly more questions, but I did come away with this. I think when God looks at me, he sees me in focus just like when I look at this photo of Easton. Easton is all I can distinguish in the photograph...everything else is a blurry backdrop to the one that I care most about. I know the setting and the circumstances of what surrounds Easton but all I care about is that he is loving life, life that we gave him...and to the fullest, just as promised. (John 10:10) I think when God looks at me, he maybe laughs a little that I don't often have my arms outstretched to the life that is whizzing by me, but maybe I'm a little whiteknuckled on the safety bar. And I think He knows that I am loving life and remember who gave it to me, along with a promise, that we will have it to the fullest.