Friday, November 25, 2005


i hope you all had a happy thanksgiving! i had a very happy and very interesting one myself.

an american woman who works for mercy ships called faye a week or so ago and asked if we wanted to come to their house for thanksgiving dinner... heck yeah! then we found out that it was a carry-in and we had to actually cook thanksgiving-like foods to bring with us. now, i'm usually all about the carry-in/potluck/schmorgasboard meal, but you can't make greenbean caserole on a kerosene stove. and of course, we were asked to bring the greenbean caserole. but that was okay, we've gotten good at improvising, so we tried. and we used the mercy ships oven. as you might imagine, we couldn't find french-fried onions, so we went with the corn chips option. it didn't work out too well. don't try it if you're ever trying to cook thanksgiving dinner in africa.

the moral of the story (or rather, the point of this post) is that i recognize that i have much to be thankful for. the common Krio (sierra leonean language) response to the question "how are you?" is "i tell God 'thank you.'" maybe it isn't even thought about when it is said, and i admit that it doesn't always register with me when i hear it, but it is a striking phrase in the context of this place and these people who have suffered and continue to suffer so much. it is easy for me to tell God 'thank you' when my belly is full and i know my mom loves me. but how thankful would i be if i hadn't eaten for 2 days and my mom gave me bruises on a regular basis? if my husband was dead? if my home was under water?

thanksgiving is worship. it is something that i must choose. i hope that i have learned enough from the people of freetown that i can choose to be thankful in spite of circumstance. i have seen that thankfulness isn't about the things that i have, it is about acknowledging that i serve a good God. a God who gives not so that we will thank him, but simply because He is good. all the time. everywhere.

i choose to be thankful today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

traffic jam

being stuck in traffic is rarely all that fun, so i'm not going to pretend like i've gained a ton of patience during my diesel-fume-ridden stay in africa, but today i was grateful for the pace at which our taxi was moving. in case you're wondering, that pace was slow enough that it only took a minute or so for a 7ish-year-old boy on foot to overtake us. not that he even knew we were there... he was completely in his own 7-year-old boy world. and don't think for a second that it was a different world than your own kid - or neighbor, or nephew, or any other 7 year old - lives in. i think that my mom would probably say he was be-bopping, and that's as good a description as any. strides as long as he was tall, chest pointed to the sky, head high, arms swinging like mad, emmersed in serious dialog with someone only he could see... i laughed out loud.

the beauty of it is that, in spite of the layers of difference that our eyes see, we're not really all that different, are we?

i thank God for 7-year-olds, and for the reminder that we all look the same through His eyes.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

why should your heart not dance?

okay i told you all last time how much i loved reading "till we have faces"... i have to do a little reflecting for you. can't help myself... let me quote the relevant part first:

"we had come into the sunlight now, too bright to look into, and warm (i threw back my cloak). heavy dew made the grass jewel-bright. the mountain, far greater yet also far further off than i expected, seen with the sun hanging a hand-breadth above its topmost crags, did not look like a solid thing. between us and it was a vast tumble of valley and hill, woods and cliffs, and more little lakes than i could count. to left and right, and behind us, the whole coloured world with all its hills was heaped up and up to the sky, with, far away, a gleam of what we call the sea... there was a lark singing; but for that, huge and ancient stillness.

and my struggle was this. you may well believe that i had set out sad enough; i came on a sad errand. now, flung at me like frolic or insolence, there came as if it were a voice -- no words -- but if you made it into words it would be, "why should your heart not dance?" it's the measure of my folly that my heart almost answered, "why not?" i had to tell myself over like a lesson the infinite reasons i had not to dance. my heart to dance? mine whose love was taken from me, I, the ugly princess who must never look for other love, the drudge of the King, the jailer of Redival, perhaps to be murdered or turned out as a beggar when my father died... and yet, it was a lesson i could hardly keep in my mind. the sight of the huge world put mad ideas into me, as if i could wander away, wander forever, see strange and beautiful things, one after the other to the world's end. the freshness and wetness all about me made me feel that i had misjudged the world; it seemed kind, and laughing, as if its heart also danced. even my ugliness i could not quite believe in. who can feel ugly when the heart meets delight? it is as if, somewhere inside, within the hideous face and bony limbs, one is soft, fresh, lissom and desirable."

okay, the first thing that strikes me is how ugly, sad, and worthelss she feels. it tears at my heart that she would feel that about herself, but i hate to admit that i've actually felt those same things a lot since i've been here... sometimes freetown (or any other challenging life situation) makes me close in on myself. i let my focus and my thoughts turn inward which is always a dangerous (but occasionally neccessary) idea. the result of the inward focus is that i am overwhelmed with questions about a lot of things. i question the reality of hope, victory, love; and the possibility of freedom, justice, peace. but most of all, i question my own worth, lovability (if that's a word), adequacy. it's hard to admit that i feel these things, but i believe that this may be a sorrow that we all share... no matter our age, race, sex, nationality, at some time or another don't we all question whether or not we are loved?

total downer, i know, but self-pity isn't the point of the story... the point is that something outside of us is the source of an immense joy - a joy that the story-teller literally has to struggle against, telling herself that she is ugly, worthless, hopeless. but the beauty outside of her overpowers the sad mask that she wears. and when she delights in the things around her, she somehow senses that she is loved - but more than that - that she is desirable!

this has been a powerful message for me lately. i can't even tell you the ways that this story has worked its way into my days. it is a striking illustration of what i sense is felt by many people in Freetown - people who live their lives on pavement, waiting to be recognized, to be touched... but i feel like their sorrow is the same as mine - i just have the luxury to mask it. i can attest that God is showing me His love through many of my friends here, and i feel like that's helping me removc the mask. as i get to know these amazing people, hear their stories, understand their dreams, i can clearly see a God who is present and active and that itself is a source of joy in my life. as you can see, i have a lot of thoughts, and they aren't completely linear, so i'm going to spare you some of them!

anyway, i hope that God is showing you, as he is showing me, that you are lovely and desired in spite of yourself!