23 January 2012


...started tonight. But this time around, in the shadow of the news of a good family friend who yesterday lost a baby that was almost full term...cord tied in a knot. The sickening feeling during the trip to the ER with no movement from the little one inside...the world shattering news of no heartbeat. the painful and grief filled ordeal of the labor of a stillborn baby girl. Her name is Darcy. Her dear mom and dad held her and said goodbye, before they even had a chance to say hello...I can't even begin to imagine.

Oh how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to know, to be with, to be known by, to laugh with, to cry with those that I will say goodbye to this week and next. What an honor and privilege this life is...this life of hellos and goodbyes. They are meant to be experienced in that order. And each one is a gift.

So, as I mourn the loss of the daily presence of my dear brother, of dear friendships, I am reminded to also rejoice in the gift of the time I have been given with them. As I grieve in my goodbyes, I also grieve with my friends, these friends and many others, in their deep loss of even a hello.

22 January 2012

hit the ground running

hm. how'd that happen? yesterday I was up until about now packing for 3 weeks in Colorado...training and skiing. sweaters and balaclava's. this evening I landed on a Southwest flight back in foggy St. Louis, arrived home, dropped those bags back on the floor and within the hour began the 3 loads of laundry from the 3 weeks of travel...or at least it seems that way. where in the world did the last 3 weeks go?!?!

tonight was a flurry of activity here in the Lutjens' residence on Etzel. I stepped foot on the ground here in Missouri and back into my preparations for Africa and Jeff stepped back into preparations for Haiti. It's kinda nice not to be the only one preparing to leave the country :) I was setting aside skirts and sandals and cookbooks, printing financial documents, packing up school books and ski clothes. The Giants - 49ers game was on in the living room as Jeff made trips out to the back yard to burn confidential/personal papers that had been accumulating, paying bills, printing travel documents and instructions, investigating photo transfer options, and somewhere in the mix there was a "dinner" of sorts...

one more week in St. Louis. Strange mix of daunting ("how in the world did the time fly by?" and "oh my goodness will everything get done?" and "oh dear, the goodbyes.") and relieving ("let's get this show on the road!" and "I can't wait to have all these details taken care of, decisions made, things packed, and just get there already!").

The old spiritual comes to mind -
"I want Jesus, to walk with me...all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord I want Jesus, to walk with me..."

11 January 2012

"your brain is bigger than you think!"

On a blustery and snowy day in Colorado, this is the view out the window where I am writing from. My favorite time of day = dusk, and the mountains and the snow are magnificent and mysterious. Language is also magnificent and mysterious - and the exact purpose for which I am here. "So how's your Juba Arabic coming?" you might ask. It isn't. "So you're doing what for 2 weeks?"

PILAT = Program In Language Acquisition Techniques

We are not learning a language, we are learning how to learn a language. Still vague? fricatives and stops and flapped r's vs. trilled r's - was that a voiceless K or a G? low to mid tone or mid to high? Put this picture of a potato on top of the picture of a frying pan and mimic the sentence your helper has said in Hindi for "I fry the potato." Then put the picture of "you" on top of the potato on top of the frying pan and mimic the sentence your helper gives you for "you fry the potato." And on and on. Lots of phoenetics - learning to make new sounds, learning to hear the often very subtle differences in sounds made in other languages - in other words: ear training. Or learning to listen and glean from your language helper what order words go in a sentence by simply listening to several different versions of very similar sentences: method training. Oh, the word for "give" that I just used in your language is insulting in this context? Hm, that's what the dictionary told me to say, but let me see if I can understand what the feeling/sense of this word for "give" is as compared to another word you might have for "give"...you mean you have 7 words for give? oh, you mean pants and trousers are different here? :)

It's exhausting, its fascinating, it's intriguing, it's frustrating...it's good.

One of the biggest things the program thus far has accomplished for me is helping me realize just how big the wall I've built between me and language learning is. "I'm never going to really be able to communicate with the woman I find myself sitting next to in church in Mundri. It's going to be so hard to find a language helper, and I'm never going to be able to structure my time or be disciplined enough to do this well, I'm going to get frustrated and resign myself to situations in which I can get by in english."

That's where this phrase about the surprising size of your brain comes in. It really has been surprising how much I can retain from one step to the next in these projects we're being exposed to. It has been surprising how many new sounds I can learn to make with my mouth. It has been surprising to realize that I haven't lost my intrigue with words, with communicating, with the puzzle that is another language. I am encouraged. And I hope to plaster these phrases of encouragement around my dukul in Mundri (hope that's okay, Larissa!) so as not to despair when it gets really hard and I don't seem to be making any progress. If I go into this endeavor with my mind made up that I will fail, I will fail. Lord knows, I don't want to fail.

"Lord give me grace in this. And help me trust you to do it."

~ Learn another language. Gain another soul. ~