Some days ago, I bought some Kroger brand coffee. Before those of you who know me condemn me as a hypocrite and a heretic, let me share with you the reasons why. The train of thought was something like this:
My Ugandan coffee won't last forever. Perhaps I should get someone to bring me more. But I don't know if that will work consistently! People come and go so sporadically. Maybe I should just use it more slowly.
WAIT! Haunt me no more, evil thoughts! Making less coffee is an unacceptable option!
...Though sometimes, when I make coffee, it's just to keep me awake during delirious hours when I'm not appreciating it fully anyway...so...what if I got some cheap, substandard coffee for those times, and kept the good stuff for the times when I can truly savor the full, rich goodness? That could work. The Ugandan coffee would last longer and the substandard stuff would give me a true appreciation for the marvelous goodness of true coffee.
I guess that ended up looking like kind of a derailed train, but that's how it went. I liked my idea, so I got cheap coffee at Kroger the next time I could bring myself to step into a grocery store. I'm too cheap to buy the good stuff here in America.
Well. It's....half bad. I mean, it's coffee. That's the good part. The bad part is that it's just not really coffee. Those of you who are true connoisseurs know what I mean.
I don't think I'm going to be getting Kroger brand again. I'm not going to give up, though. Because the thing is, the idea is still good. The Kroger brand stuff isn't bad enough for me to not finish the tin. I'll keep using it til it's gone. Wal-Mart brand might be better. If not, then something else. I'm going to go through all the cheap coffee brands available in Searcy and find the best. It'll be tough, but I think it's a quest both for the betterment of humanity and for my personal wakefulness. I'll sacrifice, and in a few months, the readers of this blog will know what the best cheap coffee in Searcy is.
Be blessed, friends.
-High speed, usually functional internet.
-People - family, friends, my wonderful boyfriend. (Though it should be noted that I detest the term boyfriend. Too many ridiculous connotations.)
-Electricity - all the time!
-Hot water for showers.
-Professors who love what they're teaching.
-Traffic laws that people actually follow. Except that it makes driving boring.
-Easy availability of...everything.
-Churches that really try to help the communities.
-Fruit like peaches and strawberries that couldn't be found cheaply in Uganda.
-Organizations that really care about getting resources to people who need them in an effective way.
I realized a couple of hours ago that I've now been in America for 6 months straight. That's the greatest amount of time I've spent here since I was 4.
You know, I think I'm getting used to it. People told me that I would be shocked and upset when I realized that this isn't just another furlough, but I don't really think it's going to pan out that way. I came into this with a very un-furlough mindset. I knew this was going to have to become my home.
And in some very real ways, Searcy has become home more surely than anywhere else in America. Harding has become home. Not home in the same way that Uganda was home, but Uganda isn't even home in the way it used to be home.
I am American.
The beginnings of spring have been absolutely incredible! I've been awestruck as seemingly dead twigs grew bulbous on the ends, then changed color and texture, and finally burst out into the most beautiful flowers. I love sitting on yellow grass and seeing brand new green shoots coming up through it. New life is just so ridiculously awesome. God gave us a world that's just bursting with complexity, beauty and unique truth when he could have been bland and utilitarian.
-Kids shouting "Mzungu!"
-Floaties in every hot drink.
-Discombobulated tennis courts.
-Cold showers when the power's off.
-The often gross Mbale Resort Hotel pool.
-People asking for bribes.
-Talking my way out of paying bribes.
-Feeling awkward being in town wearing trousers rather than a skirt.
-Always saying "trousers" and "serviettes."
-Matatus, bodas and pikis.
Coming up next: things I appreciate about Searcy, Arkansas. :)
-People. All the dear friends I left behind.
-Being able to walk everywhere easily.
-Pots of strong, loose leaf tea in ceramic teapots with knitted tea cozies.
-Fresh food, milk, cheese.
-Lively singing at church.
-Wednesday night devos.
-Sunrises over the mountain.
-Bartering in the market.
-The New Vision and its typos.
-Time to sit and read books.
-Knowing that being a good friend is more important than being on time.
-Community Bible study.
-Open diversity of perspective.
-Constantly being around people who weren't my age.
-The music on pancake nights.
-Eldima and Taufiq.
That's all for now - I'm making myself homesick. Coming soon: the parts of Uganda I miss that I didn't appreciate when I was there.
Now I know how I feel about fall.
First, I should say that I don't like the word "fall." I much prefer "autumn."
And I like autumn. I've decided. I love the colors and the coolness and the leaves underfoot. I love the contrast, the perfect deep blue sky framed by a thousand orange and yellow and brown leaves.
Time passes, and the world keeps spinning around on its axis and hurtling through space in a gigantic ellipse around a ball of immensely hot gas that we call the sun. God ordains the passage of seasons, and they are good in his eyes.
I think that accepting that is the important thing. Beauty can be found in any season change.
Even when the change signifies the death of life and the onset of winter.
Even when the change means the end of a beautiful part of life.
Even when what's coming seems dismal compared to what passed.
Even when anything.
God brings beauty when we find his peace in our chaos.
I guess I asked for it. Lofty terms such as "good education," "intellectual," and "academically sound," float across the surface of my subconscious and I remember that I like learning. Yes, I like learning. Honest I do.
It's the time orientation that gets to me. Midterms, papers, be-in-class-at-8-sharp-or-else. Stuff like that. Call me crazy, but I love being in class. Most professors teach because they love their field of expertise, and that's so cool to me. I like just kind of soaking up all the knowledge they want to impart. Tests...I'm okay with them, but they take something away from my love of learning in some ways. I wish I could go back in time and discuss philosophy on Mars Hill or something, except that I'm female and wouldn't have been allowed.
So I'm not ready for the weekend to be over. I'm not ready to fall back into a schedule that demands my constant attention. I like being able to drift along, unaware of time. At the same time, I guess I'm pretty okay with it. My mind is reveling in all the new information, so I guess I can make it work a little at maintaining a diligent schedule.
Crazy time oriented world.
Wait. What was I thinking? Dictionary? A dictionary sat 4 feet away, gathering dust on a shelf. The fact that I automatically turned to the internet and dictionary.com suddenly made me sick.
Don't get me wrong. I love technology. Still, it makes me sad that I'm so wrapped up in the technology world that I won't take time to search for something within the pages of a book.
Because that's not all. I realize as I type this that I've become dependent on the internet to find so much. Sure, I could go look for a certain Bible verse in a concordance, but if I just Google this phrase...
I'm buying into an instant gratification obsession, and I hate it. God is not about instant gratification, and if I don't have the patience to search for a word, do I really have the patience it takes to seek his will day after day? I pray that I can find a balance between the external value of convenience and the internal value of perseverance.
In some ways, I'm amazed at how easy this transition has been. I moved to America from Africa - doesn't that warrant some fireworks in my emotional makeup or something? Fireworks didn't happen. Nothing really happened. The adjustment to college in America has been so easy and smooth for the most part.
That wasn't something I expected, partly because I was never one of the kids who couldn't wait to get out of the house. Up until the end, I was content to be with my family. I didn't push much to get more independence. My parents always gave me quite a bit of independence, and I was never in a big hurry to be grown up.
So it threw me for a loop when I slipped into America, college life, and much greater independence like it was something for which I'd been preparing for years. Maybe I was. Or maybe God was preparing me for it. I imagine that's a bit more likely.
And now I'm changing. I slipped into this world, and now the influences in it are shaping me. I pray that these changes are good, that my priorities are staying right. I pray that the part of me that is chasing after God's heart grows through this time, and that I become more and more like him. I want these years to lessen the parts of me that change from culture to culture and reveal the part of me that is true and unchanged by the world.
Because in the end, the important thing is not where in the world I'm found; it's that I'm found in God.
Sometimes I can walk outside, stand up under the coldness, breathe in the cold air, and appreciate the freshness of it. More often, I walk out and the cold wind bites my face spitefully, trying to blow me all the way back to equatorial warmth and sunshine.
I don't know if I can get used to this. Right now, getting out from under my warm covers in the morning is an exercise in strength of will, and I hate the process of deciding what to wear. I know that whatever I choose, it won't be warm enough, and it will just get wet in Searcy's current never ending drizzle or the new Harding Sidewalks River.
You know what though? Life is okay. I'm a pretty big fan. My hands stay cold, but my heart is pretty warm. God is blessing me a whole lot. And that's really all I want to say with this rambling blog post.
Be blessed, friends.
Yeah, I understand where we're all coming from. Of course - it's obvious. We don't want to offend people, don't want to get into arguments, don't want to place strain on relationships. Yep, perfectly valid reasons - if we're going to sit back and accept the sin of pride that is threatening to take over our hearts and minds.
Pride pushes, wheedles, digs, seeps into my conversations, makes me feel like backing down would be a cop-out. I find myself arguing religion and politics every once in a while, and every time the argument is over I wish I had avoided it. I wish I'd stood up to pride a little better.
Only it doesn't work that way, does it? Standing up to pride - it's more or less impossible. That's why, at some point, we need to just let go and fall back into grace. Grace - the concept that rarely makes it into conversations about religion and politics.
Standing up to pride is itself a prideful stance; falling back on grace is a blessed surrender. I want to learn to surrender a little more and argue a little less. I want to learn to infuse my opinions with grace and speak them in love. I want to drop my pride and realize that the end goal of everything in my life is God, and only in him do any of my arguments have legitimacy.
Soften my heart, God.
I was walking along tonight, looking up at the sky and I noticed the way the light hit raindrops. It made them shine, letting them stand out against the dark sky as they fell in a haphazard dance toward the ground. That is amazing, so beautiful and perfect. And rainbows - what a crazy show-off kind of creation. It's like God is singing to us, trying to get our attention through the beauty with which he saturates our surroundings. He didn't have to paint the sky with a million brilliant colours every sunset, or create infinite different kinds of plants and animals with perfectly unique features, or infuse the tiniest organism with mind-boggling complexity. But...he did.
Creation is extravagant. It's a freewheeling love song with no end in sight, and my artistic side rejoices at the awesomeness of the ultimate Creator God.
10 years ago, I was an accident-prone third grader in Mbale, Uganda. I definitely went through more than my share of band-aids. I think at one point, I was told that I had to bring my own band-aids to school because I used too many. I think the record was eight different injuries in one day. I couldn't stay on my feet to save my life. My head was often in the clouds, so I wasn't much good at watching where I was going. I loved being with friends. We'd make up elaborate scenarios and act them out in our front yard, or just sit around and tell stories.
5 years ago, I was 13. I think at that point, I'd just decided that believing in God was worthwhile. My faith wasn't all that strong, and it was a rough year, but I was headed in the right direction. I hung out with Lydia, Jonah, Natalie, Abby, and Zachel as much as possible. We made and ate lots of chocolate, watched a lot of movies, and created enough lame inside jokes to last a lifetime. I liked sports and writing and I think I was starting to appreciate playing the piano.
1 year ago, I was 17, and a senior in high school, still in Mbale. I still hung out with the same people sometimes, though I also spent a lot of time with the younger adults on our mission team and with Diana. The inside jokes really only got more lame. I spent a lot of time playing piano and guitar, writing poetry, running, and playing volleyball and tennis. I loved deep conversations and hard rains. I was dealing with a lot of pain, trying to reconcile the brokenness of the world around me with what I knew of God's goodness. I had applied to this one university in a small town in Arkansas because it had trees and a good study abroad program.
And now here I am. Harding University, small town Arkansas, October 2009. I'm still a bit accident prone, mostly because I have the incredible talent of tripping over flat surfaces. Inside jokes, chocolate, piano, guitar, rain, and deep conversations still make me happy. I live in America for the first time since I was 4 years old, and before I go back to Uganda for a visit I will have lived here longer than ever before. I have absolutely no doubt that God is love and is working in the world. I have so many opportunities before me, so many people to meet and places to go.
So let the weak say I am strong. Let the poor say I am rich. Let the blind say I can see. It's what the Lord has done in me, and I would not be where I am today if not for him.
Growing up, I hated the fact that people came and left Mbale so quickly. I could never get used to the endless cycle of awkward hellos and painful goodbyes. Loving people when I knew they were leaving soon never got easy.
This weekend, I realized that it was all worth it. Seeing the people I grew to love in Uganda again now fills my heart with joy and my mind with memories. I watch my worlds collide and the collision is beautiful and blessed.
God is so good.
And I realize as I write this that people affect me so much, so deeply. I don't think I'm overly ruled by peer pressure and the opinions of those around me; for the most part, I think I pretty well know who I am and what I believe. I don't totally know how to reconcile those truths, except to say that I think people are supposed to affect us. We're supposed to be encouraged by being with other Christians. That's community.
T.I.A. - This Is Arkansas. It's not Africa. I miss Africa, but God is blessing me so greatly here with this newfound community. And there's nowhere else that I'd rather be.
"If you say go, I will go. If you say stay, I will stay. If you say 'Step out on the water,' and they say it can't be done, I'll fix my eyes on you and I will come."
We have such a funny load of ideas about what love is. We fall in love. We love chocolate and coffee. We love cool weather and juicy black pens and good books and music and playing with fire. And those are just the things I personally love. Some people love shopping and liver and playing golf and pretty much everything else under the sun. The list ranges all over the place. When I think about it, though, I realize that there's something that all this stuff has in common.
Everything in that paragraph up there makes us feel good. When we have those things, we have warm fuzzies inside us and life seems pretty okay. So we say we love them.
Guess what? That's not love. We don't love that stuff. If we think we do when we're really thinking...well, it's just because we don't have any of the real thing, the real love, to compare it to. How about this?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. -John
Now THAT'S love. That's our ultimate. Our love of tacos just doesn't even approach that. And how about when we try to love?
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." -Jesus
So love for God is expressed through our obedience to God? Even that's complicated today. What is obedience? Doing what someone tells you to do? Nate Saint, a Christian martyr, knew the answer to that question.
"Obedience is not a momentary option; it is a die cast decision made beforehand." -Nate Saint
So. Obedience. Love. They're connected. And they aren't at all based on the whim of the moment. They are pre-established and rooted in eternity. Let's be people who love. All the time. And show it through our dedication to obedience. Because that's true love.
This quote amazes me. It's so bold and strong and...true. Yeah, that's it. So true. And so hard to accept. It just kind of goes against everything that we typically believe. Murder is so bad, yeah? We debate whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for murder, but no one debates whether it should be severely punished. At least a ton of jail time is called for, right?
But unforgiveness. It's not something we talk about as a serious sin. We hardly talk about it period because it's such a touchy subject. It's so obscure that firefox doesn't even recognize it as a word. Well...maybe that's not relevant. Firefox also sometimes doesn't recognize "doesn't" as a word. The point is, we don't tend to challenge people on issues of forgiveness. Most people have someone in their lives who "shouldn't be forgiven." That person who's hurt them so badly that it's "understandable" that they can't forgive. So we don't touch it. Sure, maybe it's not that great, but it's a little sin. Doesn't hurt anyone. Doesn't make that much difference.
Um...yeah right. Unforgiveness rots your heart. It poisons you against someone who was created in Christ's image. When you murder someone, you kill them once with your actions. When you don't forgive someone, you do so much worse than that. You kill their value as a person every single time you think about them.
That isn't ever okay. Forgive people who hurt you. In the end, it's your heart that is healed, because it's your heart that is damaged when you consistently devalue Jesus's sacrifice for the people around you.
Think about it.
Here's a bit of information about my personality: I change things up compulsively. I can't stand mundane. If things fall into a schedule, I feel a powerful compulsion to make a change. As a result, I tend to be spontaneous and random, especially at times when order is probably called for.
Sometimes I like to pretend like this means I'm taking risks and living on the edge, because it's nice to label myself a risk-taker when I do nutty things like dropping my whole routine in favor of doing something exciting and maybe a little dangerous. The truth is, it's not the same. Spontaneity is hardly risky when my only aim is to get to a different outcome and shake life up.
Taking a risk means taking a chance on being hurt. I've been avoiding that - avoiding close relationships, avoiding investment, avoiding the deep kind of honesty that hurts sometimes.
In the next couple of weeks, I'm hoping to take some risks. I need to do and say some things that might hurt. I need to open up and be the person that God wants me to be.
It's gonna be an adventure, guys. Join me. We aren't supposed to be controlled by fear. Let's live like God's right behind us every step of the way. Because he absolutely forever is.
Autumn is coming up here in middle America. I've lived right by the equator for most of my life, so season changes are something new for me. The days are getting shorter. The nights are getting longer. Leaves aren't staying on trees quite as well as they did a month ago. It's amazing. Most of the world dies every year, and from that death comes new life.
God, if there ever comes a time that I'm not in awe of your creation, strike me with lightning so I remember your glory. Help me marvel at your greatness. Remind me of the beauty in everyday life. Challenge me when I don't want to be challenged. Give me a new song, and create in me a clean heart.