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Friday, June 25, 2010

Birthday Highs and Lows

Our family often uses "highs and lows" (sometimes three of each, sometimes one or two) around the table as a way to share about the day as we eat dinner.
Low #1: burning life. Somehow I thought the freedom of divesting our selves of so much accumulated junk would feel happier. Instead, it is painful. Yesterday we attacked some shelves that were crammed with school notes. The typical Ugandan educational method is for a teacher to dictate and transcribe a lesson on the chalk board, so the students can enter the sentences word by word into their blank lined-paper books. Imagine the pre-printing-press monks copying the Bible, and you have the basic idea, texts are too expensive so copying is the preferred means of information transfer. Realistically, Luke at Yale and Caleb at RVA will use a library, and internet access . . . they will not need to refer to the pencil-diagrams of flowers or chemical equations in his old notes. But as we piled them up in a wheelbarrow and took them to burn in the trash pit, it felt like we were negating the value of all that effort, erasing all those years of cross-cultural struggle in the classroom. Hard. And from there to the boxes of files under our bed (our bedroom is our office). Old calendars for planning travel and retreats, team meeting notes about issues like school schedules and ministry goals. Documents written up as we planned our nutrition program in 2003. Interviews our interns conducted to research cultural ideas. Letters from people in the US. Bible study notes from my old cell group days. Notes about patients. All to the burn pile, clearing space for whomever will inhabit this house, protecting the privacy of the people in our past . . . but also giving me the sinking feeling of loss, as if by burning the evidence those things did not happen, or are no longer important.
Low #2: discordance. Emails and phone calls about the specifics of what date we can arrive here, or there, and whom we'll see, in countries far away from here. While life here, also goes on. So we're living in the future as well as the present and the past; in three time periods on three continents as we plan our movements for the rest of 2010. And while I know it will all fall together eventually (and much of it already has), when it doesn't seem to, or the dates conflict or the advertised fares are not available, it's hard to focus.
High #1: gifts of friendship. Pies and locally crafted ear rings and a funny story from team mates. Sweet cards from my family. Phone calls from a few different countries. And the graciousness of Pat, who allowed me to invite 5 of my closest Ugandan friends along with Amy to a "tea" at her house in the afternoon. What a gift these women are: Melen, first and foremost, with whom we have gone through births and deaths, the deepest and most significant times of our lives here, from the days we arrived until now, strong and faithful and continuing against the odds. Asita, a real neighbor, the practical support of survival and a hard-working testimony that shines in the community. Olupah and Assusi, women of skill and valor, who battle disease with me shoulder to shoulder day by day. And Juliet, sweet humility and family loyalty, a teacher who is also willing to ask and learn. There's a line in "It's a Wonderful LIfe" about no person being poor who has friends like this. I am blessedly rich in relationship here. But that leads us to . . .
Low #3: making my friends cry. Of course what began as pleasant conversation, shared stories, cold lemonade and cookies, ended in tears and prayer. Because the deeper the truth of friendship, the more excruciating the impending reality of separation. These women have poured into my life at cost to themselves, and right now that cost is very high. Amy shared an image from Psalm 1 on fruit, that was picked up by several in prayer, and came up in my reading again in Isaiah (44) this morning, the promise of our legacy in people springing up as willows along the river banks. Weeping and watering and growth.
High #2: "this dinner". That is often a high of the day as we sit down to the table. Not necessarily the food, though often it is worthy of a high. But after the tearful tea, coming home to cheery kids and Scott grilling chicken, lighting candles with Pat around the table, reminiscing. The feast of family that will move, with us. And lastly . .
High #3: faith. Reading in Joshua again, this post-Bday morning, about Achan, one of those sort of depressing, not-so-inspiring, a-bit-too-violent stories that one might prefer to skip. First steps into the Promised Land and he already refused to burn the loot, and instead hid some for himself, burying it under his tent. Where he could not enjoy it, really, but it made him feel secure. And this made God angry. I could sympathize this time with Achan. Because it's really a matter of faith, burning all the loot. It is a way of saying: God will provide, this is His world, we don't need to grasp. It's OK to let go of the stuff, to burn, to lighten the load for the journey, because the land ahead is good. Let me release my grip on old papers and baby clothes and favorite books, in faith. Not that those things aren't good, or important, or valuable. But like the Israelites, the extravagance of the burn is a way of saying that we know God is more than all of this. Which is definitely a high.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Thanks for sharing - feeling with you in the joys and sorrows - Happy Belated!