25 September 2011

the woods: a soggy tale

camping. me and camping have a somewhat sordid history. camping was one of those things growing up that my family was always really excited about....everyone except me. I think it was the annoyance of having to walk farther to the bathroom and cooking involved more work as did doing the dishes (most importantly as this was usually my job)...HA! city girl. See, the thing is, once we got there, I always had a BLAST! and life in Africa and camping have quite a bit in common, so I guess it's a good thing I found myself enjoying it :)

However, I digress.

My church here in St. Louis goes camping every September. This was the weekend and I was glad not to be scheduled for work. I packed up my food, my brother's sleeping bag and mat, several layers of clothes, piled it into my friend Katie's car and we drove to Rend Lake, IL. We made it before dark, ate our take-out while waiting for mom to arrive with the real gear. Then it started to rain. boo.

We helped others arriving to get their tents up quickly so they wouldn't be soaked before anyone even got in them...then they helped us set ours up when mom arrived in the dark. We piled our sleeping stuff into the tent and then pretty much went to sleep. It rained some more. On and off (mostly on) throughout the night.

Mom's grand plan of pancakes and coffee on her new birthday cookstove fell to the wayside when it was still raining as we crawled out of the soggy tent in the morning as the campsite chatter got to a point where it's just better to get out of bed than to wish the chattering people would go back to bed :)

The campground was overrun with puddles, so by the time I arrived at the pavilion where some had gathered to cook their breakfasts my pants and shoes were soggy. I began wondering if it was worth sticking around, what fun is camping if it rains the whole time...I finally owned up to the fact, out loud, that I have a hard time when things don't go like I hope they will, like they always have...it's called disappointment, I guess, isn't it?

But we stuck it out and the rain paused mid morning. You never know if the pause is a stop or just a pause do you? Tentatively people stood around the fire pit and the the fire began to grow, with various people chipping in kindling and matches and logs and heavy sharp objects for log splitting and so forth. People gathered around, pulled up camping chairs since the benches were soggy...not sure yet if they were committing to staying or just hanging around until the rain started again - wanting to stay but not sure if it was safe to hope - for fear of what? disappointment.

Most of us hung around and after a while, choosing not to leave means a default choice to stay.

Lunch happened, smores happened, reading happened, chatting happened, laughing happened, the fire continued to happen - then dinner happened, more smores happened, beer happened, holding precious friends' precious children happened, wine happened, singing happened, the fire continued to happen, question asking happened - conversation happened, debate happened, reminders of God's purposes happened, reminders of our failure to live out those purposes happened. And then it was time to sleep again.

Because of thoughts stimulated by our conversation around the fire, I crawled into my sleeping bag and before drifting off to Lilly White's party, I found myself praying. Maybe as an attempt to push back against the disappointment I had owned up to some of earlier, I found myself praying for a gift from God. I found myself praying, as I do from time to time that He might see fit to give me a husband. Crazy, I know. And it only gets crazier. I prayed that this man would be one who loves me, who respects me and who God has made me to be, who is willing to protect me, who is willing to fight back against my ridiculousness with strength and gentleness, who is willing to remind me of what (and Who) is True, who is willing to walk with me through disappointment (his and mine), who will compliment my strengths and weaknesses, and who is willing to lead...and that's as far as I got before...well, before I don't remember anymore...I didn't get to the part where I pray that I would be able to do mostly the same...but I'm sure that's what I would have said next.

Not long after, the rain started back up again. It continued through the night, and when I heard the hatchet splitting logs I knew it was time to get out of bed for another go round of a soggy life. Still raining, but this time, it was Sunday. Even campout weekends have church services, and John spoke from Jonah. He reminded us of Jonah's attempt to flee the presence of the Lord, his willingness even to lose his life in that flight during the battle through a storm, and his inability to escape God's calling on his life. Sometimes I wanna run from God and what He wants for my life, like Jonah did. But 3 days in the belly of a large fish is not my idea of a good time, so despite the likelihood of my own fear and disappointment in response to how God sees fit to answer my prayers, I'm headed towards Ninevah.

PS - I might need some encouragement along the way. Said encouragement may or may not look like fresh bread baking in the oven when I arrive home from soggy weekends in the woods. Thanks Jeff!

14 September 2011

the hair twirl

so, I was crossing a street today when a minivan passed and as I glanced in the window as it passed I noticed the woman in the drivers' seat twirling her hair with her finger. You know, the way a teenage girl does when she's nervous or restless. I immediately jumped to judgement - "women driving mini-vans don't twirl their hair"...or in other words, women who drive mini-vans are moms and moms are too mature for hair twirling.

now. before I go any further, you need to know a little bit about my place in life right now. I spend a lot of time with moms. Most of my dearest friends here in St. Louis and scattered around the country are moms. But I am not a mom. I have a mom, and I talk to a lot of moms. But I relate to them by telling stories of other friends who are moms.

Most of these moms I talk to, tell me - "I have no idea what I'm doing." My own parents said the same thing. "We had no idea what we were doing." But the tendency, as illustrated by my reaction to the hair-twirling woman in the minivan, is for the outside observer to assume maturity - even a confidence or lack of nervousness - in the role. Clearly this assumption is off base according to the reports of my friends.

My dad said recently that despite the fact that parents never know what they're doing from the get-go, God somehow decided that this is how He wanted his world to look and function....in families. He decided He wanted to entrust these little lives into the hands of His people, knowing their fallenness!

I'm not quite sure what the missionary equivalent of the hair twirling mom in the minivan is, but maybe it's the prayer letter or blog photo of a white woman in her long skirt, chaco sandals, and unkempt hair, in a hazy, harried, "foreign" city with a puzzled look on her face. "Wait" you might say to yourself when you see the picture as you read the prayer letter, "missionaries don't get lost."

If only you knew.

Missionaries totally get lost. And not only in big hazy, harried, cities (although it happens there for sure) but on a daily basis in the hazy harried tasks of trying to sort out cross cultural cues in conversations and roles in the community and words in other languages and responsibilities to love one another. Like moms - we have no idea what we're doing. (Sorry guys for blowing your cover!) We've been well trained, prepared as well as possible for what awaits us in the field, but when it comes down to it, we have to figure it out as we go along. And God designed it that way!!!

God made His Word missional and entrusted it to us, knowing our fallenness. He entrusted the task of being His hands and feet to our neighbors to us, knowing our fallenness.

I can't personally relate to details of infant sleep schedules or toddler discipline techniques, but I can relate to not knowing what I'm doing...to a lack of confidence...to feeling inept...to feeling the seemingly impossible implications of a daunting calling. But the truth is, my mom friends and I can both take comfort in the fact that God knows all our shortcomings very well, and He's still called us - and will use those shortcomings and ineptitudes - those ways we don't fit the expectations - those hair twirls and puzzled looks - for His glory. Now THAT my friends, is good news.

02 September 2011


  • how am I to reconcile the following two paraphrased points from the Convocation address given this morning from the story of Mary and Martha?
  1. Mary was recognized for doing the most important thing by being off her feet and sitting at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was on her feet busy serving.
  2. As Presbyterians we so often pride ourselves in what we consider to be a "deep" faith, when in reality our faith is only deep when it so penetrates our being that it can only escape through our hands and feet.
  • the most appropriate latin medical term ever: acne vulgaris - seen on my billing sheet as I left the dermatologist's office the other day. At 32 I think I have earned the right, after 20 years of treatments of all shapes and sizes, to deem acne to be vulgar indeed. When will the tyranny be over, FOR THE LOVE OF IT!?!?! (ok, just so you know, I am completely aware that this is totally the rant of a young American single woman who in all reality needs to be on her knees in gratitude for the health she has been given - but it's still annoying. and ugly. and vulgar.) (PS - wikipedia tells me that vulgaris only means "common" in Latin which takes every ounce of satisfaction out of the diagnosis) (PPS - is it sacrilegious to speak of "deep faith" and acne vulgaris in the same blog post?)
  • overused seminary word of the day: ministry - what does it even mean anyways...aren't our whole lives supposed to be "ministries" of sorts?
  • the philosophy of knowing...truth...how do we decide what is true? Was Descartes really the hero we make him out to be in the field of science? These are things a mind like mine has no business trying to tackle but it seems important, like the kind of important that shapes people and thoughts and work and words. There are several people - scattered all over the US and the world - who I wish I could be sitting with over a glass of something fun talking about these things...the closest of which is my papa, but he's on vacation - so it will have to wait. Until then, more reading.
  • how is it that a few hundred American Presbyterian theology students and faculty (garbed in their academic regalia of wide sleeved gowns and floppy hats) belting out "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" with beginning of the semester fervor while accompanied by the organ with hymnals in hand:
Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him
a couple dozen Ugandans (garbed either in clothes that the Goodwill was giving away or bright beautiful batik wax prints) belting out "Okwesigwa Kwaawe" a cappella from memory with clapping and drums and dancing in a mud walled church as they sweat and sway:
Okwesigwa kwaawe, ai yesu, bukya bukya kuloho
koona eki ndukwetaaga
omukono gwaawe, taata, gukakimpa

BOTH feel like heaven is just a step away?!?!?...it's gonna be some kinda place, heaven is.
Bring it on!