Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oaks of Righteousness

Today found me out of bed long before dawn once again, during which time I spent the better part of an hour in tears. This is a necessary outlet for me on occasion and I love that God understands it and meets me there. I read Lamentations 3 and Isaiah 61 and was thrilled to think that my Abba gives beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3). As if that weren't enough, the next part of the verse is even better. "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Those who know some of my strange quirks know that I love trees. Oak trees are strong and beautiful, produce thousands of acorns, and have a root system to be envied. It is lovely that God has used this illustration in His Word... I will think about it all day.

Mother of the Groom

Isn't my mumsy gorgeous?!? We had such an enjoyable day together yesterday. Since she is the mother of the groom, she must be outfitted appropriately!!! Dress shopping led to lunch, then a parting of directions so that I could go to the bookstore and wound up sitting on a couch talking and people watching with my BFFE Emma... the best sighting was a gentleman in a big rush leaving a trail of tator tots, Hansel and Gretel style, behind him. He will find his way out of the mall with no trouble. Then my mom and I went to meet with a good friend of ours. Nancy and her husband and three children live in Central Asia, and she and the kids are in Fargo for three weeks. Her husband is an engineer and she is a teacher, and mentored me for two years during college. It was a total gift to me that she was home right at this time. Nancy is fascinating and full of life and depth. Her beauty is radiant and she is one of those people who will never grow old. Those who ooze with love never do, it seems, and love is Nancy's heartbeat. What treasure!! By the time we made it home I was exhausted, and climbed onto Nina's top bunk bed (the double on the bottom is far too overwhelming... who needs all of that space?!?) with a mug of tea, my nearly life-size Care Bear named Mimi, and my favorite purchase of the day... Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich". There will be many more thoughts on this one once it is finished.

Monday, July 30, 2007


It's 4am. In Mozambique I got up around this time and enjoyed the silence immensely, so I am giving it a try here too. However, I have been going to bed much later at night than my African 9pm, so 4am might be a stretch. Thinking about the coming day is odd. It is a Monday. Sarah and I should be preparing to go the hospital. We were always nervous on Mondays, not knowing what to expect. Every week held surprises... some good and some very bad. Once, after a particularly hard day, we packed a picnic and went to enjoy God's beauty, read, and enjoy each other's company. I loved that day, even though I cried through a lot of it because of things I had seen that morning. It was in the brokenness that God showed me beauty and wonder.

In a few minutes I will start applying Band-Aids to my battered feet for a long run. Training for this marathon has been wonderful in that it is a fleshed-out, deeply felt, real life demonstration of what it is like to walk with Christ. Incredibly challenging... often exhilarating... definitely painful... but will be worth it in the end. After running 15 miles (hopefully) around the wide open spaces of the Red River Valley I will come back inside to nurse my wounds and eat breakfast. Breakfast is a challenge. I never realized all of the choices we have to make here! Should I have Blueberry Morning today or Cinnamon Life? Special K Vanilla Almond or Maple Pecan Crunch? I do not know yet, but I have 15 miles to think about it.

For the remainder of the day my mom and I are going shopping in Fargo, and will spend the afternoon with a dear friend. My shopping list contains mascara and very little else. It's much harder for me to think now about "needs". I have a whole new perspective on that word... please do me the favor of reminding me of this if I am being overly silly and frivalous in the future.

Other recent activities. I am planning a bridal shower for my future sister-in-law. I am enjoying coffee dates with friends. I am spending every moment that I can laughing with my family. I am planning a 5 year class reunion with my friend Tiffany. Hopefully all 14 of us will be there:). Mostly I am enjoying as much solitude as possible, needing to talk with God about many things and needing to hear from Him.

I am enjoying these activities very much. But except for the last one they are a far stretch from the activities of the past year and I can't help wondering a little bit, "What is my purpose?" I can't help longing to sit in a hut beside dear Mozambiquan friends, or to hold little Elias at the baby clinic... even if he pees all over me. It is great being home, but I miss Africa. My heart is in more than one place. Of course this is to be expected and everyone is being beautifully gracious in understanding...

It is approaching 5am and I want to get outside... bird songs are sheer loveliness in the morning and I don't want to miss them. I imagine them sitting up in the trees somewhere and think, they seem pleased with each other...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Frappucinos and Measuring Tape Suspenders


Upon arrival in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, Sarah and I could not believe we were back in the States. We were tired from long hours of flying... looking greasy and probably not smelling like daisies. Finding the nearest bathroom we set out to try to improve the situation... getting lots of interesting glances as we washed our hair in the sink, brushed our teeth, and gradually morphed back into something like human beings. Those of you who have traveled internationally know exactly what I am talking about. We wondered... "Do people do things like this in the States? Oh well, if they don't that's fine." Strange how we felt a bit like foreigners in our own home land. Next stop for us was, of course, STARBUCKS. The classic look was the same... the only difference was a few shufflings of the menu. A few drinks replaced with new ones. The changes looked good to me, and we both ordered raspberry mocha frappucinos. Sweet coffee delicous-ness. After sitting down we quickly realized that Cinnabon was also necessary, and we grinned in sheer delight while devouring our North American treats. Still there remained an hour before boarding our flight to Fargo. This was fine with me, and the time passed incredibly quickly as we sat at our gate watching the passers-by. I have never spent a great deal of time thinking about American "culture", but certainly discovered that it is here in abundance. Some of my favorite sightings were a little girl on her dad's shoulders... I imagined headed for Disney World, and a sweet old man wearing a red t-shirt with thick, yellow measuring tape suspenders. Fashion has changed since August 3rd, 2006, which is a little bit scary. I must admit feelings of terror with all of the pencil-leg jeans walking by our gate. My personal opinion is that this look does not flatter anyone and should be avoided at all costs. We will see how I feel in a month or two.

I cried a good portion of the flight from Chicago to Fargo. There were many reasons... excitement, fear, gratefulness for the past year and sadness that it was over. The airplane was freezing and I desperately wanted to get off of it and into the arms of family and friends. Stepping onto the jetway was like stepping inside a hair dryer. The heat and humidity covered like a blanket as we waited for our carry ons, then ran the short distance to where our loved ones waited for us. Just like that, we were back. Amazing!!! I felt so loved. My friends had brought flowers, cards, balloons, chocolate, banners, and my Auntie Wanda had even called the news. God has blessed me so richly... I have no idea how to begin saying thank you.
Here I am with my beloved Rach the Dach and Luke the Duke this past Friday. A whole troop of soldiers had just returned from 18 months in Iraq and much of Fargo/Moorhead turned out to greet them as they drove by.

This morning I awoke much earlier than necessary (generally it is difficult for me to adjust to a time change) and watched the sun rise over endless rows of tassling corn from the vantage point of a nobby old tree. Hard work from my sister, Nina, helped this endeavor very much. She has created a little treehouse wonderland in our backyard woods, and after climbing a ladder and placing my Bible and journal on the platform I was able to quite easily shimmy up a strong, round limb to lay flat and welcome the sun. This was a regular custom in Mozambique... marveling at God as He stunned me yet again with matchless beauty. The past few days have been chaotic and difficult, so to find the stillness of the morning was loveliness for my broken heart. Gazing at the endless stretches of corn I could hear my dad's voice telling me over and over again through the years, "the rows must be straight." Straight. I thought about God and my life... how He asks us to walk the stright and narrow and how I am constantly failing to do so. Lately I have been feeling very very very small. Yet even at times when I feel the strong desire to hide from God, knowing that I do not deserve His love or His grace, I find that I cannot escape it. His mercy covers me like flesh. I cannot shake it off and I am glad, for I would die if it went away.

In the coming days I will write much more about thoughts such as these... writing helps me to bring clarity to what is spinning, disoriented and confused, in my mind. I am so thankful that my Abba is patient with me as I try to process and obey all that He is saying and doing...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

See You Soon...

Sarah and I said this an awful lot over the past week as we avoided saying 'goodbye' like the plague. We realized more than ever before that Mozambique truly has become home to us, and we were forced to leave precious family and incredible friends there in much the same way that we needed to say goodbye to loved ones in the USA nearly one year ago. It seems that we are doubly blessed with the privilege of calling "home" two entirely different corners of the planet, but this also means that no matter where I am for the rest of my life I will be missing people and places where I cannot be. God has given us much. We had a terrible time saying goodbye to Carlos and Pascua, the other families on Maforga mission and the local volunteers we spent days and days with in the community. Without intending for this to happen, I have discovered that my heart is buried in African soil. This shocks me to a degree, and makes me wonder about the future. I would be so content to start working in the states and develop some sort of 'normalcy'. However, having seen the things that God has allowed me to see and experience over the past 12 months I do not know if this is possible. Whatever happens in the future, my life certainly will never be the same.

Currently we are spending a week of debriefing and planning for the months to come at Hands at Work in South Africa. We are enjoying our time, and very much looking forward to getting off the plane in Fargo. For all of you dear ones in the states... I AM COMING HOME!!!! Only 10 more days!!!!! I can imagine wanting to talk to and hug all of you at once. What treasure...

Please pray for the coming days. We are putting together video presentation and testimonies from Mozambique for speaking engagements in the future. I am excited.

Hands at Work has a new website up and running, and it is fantastic!!! I highly recommend checking it out... www.handsatwork.org

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Most of the time things in Mozambique take significantly longer to get done than the same task would in the States. I have learned to accept this, usually with a chuckle.

This week our internet is down. There is no specific reason for this, it just is. I am in Beira today to pick up two people from Hands at Work who will spend 5 days here and am enjoying a few minutes at an internet cafe. Our Toyota is quite dirty so I thought it would be nice to spruce it up a bit. At the petrol station when I place my inquiry, the attendant asked if perhaps I could return in the morning for a wash. Poor Suzie will have to stay dirty I am afraid.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Glimpse of Home Visits

You have heard me refer again and again over the past year to making home visits. In case you have ever wondered what that means or what the homes look like that we actually visit, here are a few pictures. You can clearly see that I am blessed with an amazing job. As for the hat, well, it is cold now... and I like it:).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Real Life

With both arms locked around my waist and her head in my chest she screamed in agony. Her body had been rejecting the 3-month-old life inside her for several hours, and now she was forced to lay still on a cold metal table while the nurse scraped out the inside of her womb with nothing to dull the pain. Sarah stood at her head, speaking softly to her and, because I know the look she gets in her eyes, praying for the girl. Sarah is always praying, everywhere she goes.

Our Mondays are spent in the local Gondola hospital, helping where we can and mostly just building relationships and finding out firsthand what life is like for a Mozambiquan. We don't know the circumstances behind this young woman's miscarriage. What we do know is that a common method of abortion in this area is to drink a homemade poison which rejects the fetus. However, it doesn't do the job completely, and this is not the first woman we have seen in unbelievable pain on the metal table. As the nurse scrapes she yells out in Portuguese, "STOP!" "It hurts so bad!" "Let me rest a minute!" "Enough, I can't take it anymore!" We grit our teeth and want to flee from this awful sight, but cannot will ourselves to do so. As often happens, I find myself wondering about the baby and grieving its death. For a split second I am angry, until compassion finds its way back. I do not know what life has held for this 19-year-old. I can hear her screams, and feel that perhaps they stem from much more than just this current agony.

We move then, from maternity to patient wards. Our first stop was to see the children. There were five of them, all severly malnourished with puffy ankles and skin peeling off like tissue paper. They were with their mothers, who we chatted with for quite some time. One little girl's name was Emma, and I was drawn to her. Perhaps it was her eyes which held me... the empty look in them. Or perhaps it was because my lifelong dearest friend's name is Emma, and I yearned for the joy she has to also be given to this little one who shares her name. Regardless of cause, she touched my heart.

After conversation and before prayer Sarah suggested we sing. As we did so, the most wonderful thing happened! Sweet little Emma sat up on her bed, grinned from ear to ear, and began to clap. No photograph can ever be taken of moments as sacred as this one, but the sight will never leave my mind as long as I live. At least, I pray that God will not allow me to forget.

What I have seen and heard I share now with you. The young girl needs youto hear her screaming, and little Emma needs you to see her smiling and clapping to the melody of a simple song. Of all the myriads of things I wade through when thinking about what God has taught me while being in Africa, one thing soars high above many others. Africa has a face and a voice to me now. There are many appalling statistics to be found about Africa, and all of them are helpful to put into perspective what we are dealing with. But they don't give us a face or a voice... humanity is what we can relate to because we ourselves are human. As children of God we are called to love our neighbor, and with transportation being what it is the African people certainly qualify. We can make a difference, one person at a time, if we will.