this Friday afternoon…

when the rain gets too loud for conversation
and a breeze blows through
I eat the last bite of papaya
and say thank you
because,

despite all the
little tiny,
normal, or
potentially life-changing
stressors
we face,

peace is sweet…and it’s Friday!

even when days off means
days to catch up,
it’s nice to have a chance
to breathe.

Less is More.

Simplicity. There are times when choosing simplicity requires all sorts of effort. And then, my friend, there are times when you are blessed with simplicity out of sheer grace.

That feels like now.

Simplicity is relative, too. Two suitcases is a pared-down version of stuff for me right now. There is a lovely freedom in wearing the same clothes, drinking from the same mug, and having very little mess because there’s not a lot of mess to make.

But I still have more stuff than many of the people who live in my municipality. That’s a humbling but odd feeling, too. The range of socio-economic status here is not so simple, and I don’t think I’ll ever have a simple answer for the questions it raises.

For now, I’m settling in less-is-more mode. Fewer solid relationships mean more culture learning and deeper understanding. Fewer commitments means more adjusting, wrestling with the questions, and seeing the more.

Less is more.

What traffic teaches

Traffic is a great teacher.

No, seriously! In the months of preparation to move to the Philippines, two things were common. One- I was encouraged to spend a lot of time thinking about how I function, my personality, and how I deal with stress. Two- I was warned about the traffic.

And then I got here. ūüôā I have done very little driving and even less driving in traffic, so I speak from hours riding on public transportation and in the cars of my awesome roommates. Even riding in traffic is a lesson, though, and here’s my latest observation:

Lack of predictability increases my stress level.

Traffic illustrates this well. You have:
-unpredictable where (Which lane will that truck be in? Where will that truck be, and how close to our mirrors will that jeepney be?
-unpredictable when (How long will it take to get there?)
-unpredictable what (What will conditions be? What will you find along the way? Will it flood?)

For some personality types, a lack of predictability is stressful. Maybe, though this is a little hard for me to understand, some people prefer some unpredictability as an antidote for boredom. I’m on the far side of preferring predictability, and have been since I was very young. It may have been true since before I was born. As a result, I have put coping strategies in place.

In my classroom, I try I decrease stress in my students by increasing predictability. I post the schedule for each day and give kids a chance to ask questions about the day during morning meeting. I give them an overview of a new project before breaking it down into pieces.

So how do I keep from going crazy in a less-predictable-than-ever life? I don’t know about you, but consciously remembering my need for flexibility helps me. “Flexico” is what my team called Mexico on many missions trips- it was a reminder that we needed to be consciously flexible in the midst of unpredictability. This translates into planning for things to take longer, planning for more decision-making conversation, and having a mental plan for several options.

Over the weekend, I listened as another teacher at school and mom to a 9 month old as she said, “If you fall asleep on the way home, that’s ok. And if you don’t fall asleep, that’s ok too.” She prepared herself for the possibilities and modeled flexible thinking for her daughter, even at a young age.

Another helpful piece for me is remembering what won’t change. When it comes down to it, the unchanging truths in my life are the foundation for everything else. I am ok because of Jesus; He knows everything I find unpredictable.

And the jeepneys help, too! Even in traffic, you may be reminded of:

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To those of you without built-in reminders, I offer my condolences.

Count Your Blessings Two by Two

Mentors near and far:
Having been down this road,
They share and listen and
laugh and love in
purposeful and practical ways.

Peers near and far:
Walking this road together,
Thankful lists around the table
Littles pop into the FaceTime screen
It’s so good to be together.

Emails short and sweet:
“I’m missing you. Love, Dad”
“Your box is coming! Love, Mom”

Ipad everyday, making my life so much easier!
Clipboard too- sometimes low-tech is best.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread
Mango Coconut Ice Cream
Pinterest wins, thank-you-very-much!

Teaching a unit for the second time in a year
Learning how to mummify a chicken…I’m gonna call that a blessing in faith that I’ll survive the actual project…

So much grace,
so much peace,
so nice to settle in.
Ahhh…

General Disclaimer

Wanna know the #1 reason I don’t hit “publish” on some posts? Wanna know why some posts never make it to the draft stage, even? It’s a single thought, innocent enough on its face:

It could be worse.

You see, my life is relatively easy. I don’t say that to boast; it’s not because of what I have done. I say it rather to acknowledge that there are many hard/terrible/tragic things that I have never experienced. There are daily complexities of life with children, life at different ages, and life with more of this or less of that.

It’s not that I want bad things to happen.

But I know that when I write a post about failure, it’s not because I invested my life savings in a new business that failed. I didn’t make a major movie that got awful reviews or lose an election (besides for V.P. of my sophomore class). You get the point.

I recognize that some people would love to be able to complain about the things I fuss about and worry about the things I ponder. So sometimes, I don’t fuss and ponder here.

However, I can only tell the story I’ve lived. I do my best to live it and tell it faithfully and sensitively, hoping and praying that the telling honors the One Who ultimately writes it.

Sneaky Stress and Red Flags

Once upon a time, I thought that stress was something you would feel, something that would consume your thoughts and fill your heart with worry. So when I didn’t think I was worried about something consciously, I assumed that I wasn’t experience stress. (Side note: I did learn about stress in psych classes in college…I just didn’t take the bit on stress to heart.)

But when I discovered that stress was forcing me into silence (see May/June 2011 posts), I realized that I was experiencing more stress than I thought about. Repeatedly, even while silent from muscle tension, I professed how much less stressed I felt than ever before! The aftermath brought a lot of lessons about what my body can take (whether or not I want my limits to be so placed).

The last few months have been a reminder of this. Of course, the transition of moving to a new country, starting a new job, etc. has been stressful. But I didn’t feel worried and everything went well…so when my arms and legs started tingling and feeling like they were going to sleep a few weeks in, I didn’t even consider that stress could be playing a part.

Instead, I googled it and came up with all sorts of terrible options for what could cause this symptom. A few weeks of wondering and trying not to worry passed, and I was grateful that it wasn’t super uncomfortable…but still. I was just about to go to the doctor when I talked with the physical therapist/trainer at school (who also happens to be dad to one of my students). It turns out that muscle tension was putting pressure on my nerves, which were then freaking out.

What’s the point of this? Stress can be sneaky. Sometimes Often, my body does a better job of speaking up than my mind does. So my challenge is to heed the red flags and not power through the not-so-bad results, choosing instead to be grateful for peace in my heart and the two-by-fours of warning that I sometimes need!

Dear America,

Please import the following as soon as possible:

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Lights to indicate the status of a parking stall

Green means go; red means full. This is especially lovely when those compact cars hide and deceive you into thinking you’ve hit the parking jackpot when you haven’t.

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Two-dollar SIM cards

The SIM card doesn’t fit in your phone slot? Just trim it down!

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A government-sponsored hotline for bad driving

I don’t know what qualifies as bad driving here yet, but I’ll let you know when I find out!

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And last but not least, my personal favorite: escalator-ramps

How else would you get your grocery cart down to your car?

With thanks from Manila,
Angela

Malls, McDo, and Traffic

What do you do for fun around here? You go to the mall! The malls here put other malls to shame. Consider this: you could go to the doctor, get your groceries, visit Ace Hardware, check out the surplus (American leftovers) clothes, get lunch, get your teeth cleaned at the dentist, visit a department store, see a movie, play a game at the arcade, and more at the mall. At a few malls, you could even get a pudding Frappecino from Starbucks. (No, I haven’t tried it yet.)

I went with the roomies (Amanda, Nicole, and Kelsie) and Mark to the mall last night to get some setting-up-house supplies. I am trying to avoid that “totally tourist” look, so I didn’t take a picture of the pillow that said, “Hug a WHITE” in the department store. There were others that said “Hug a RED” and “Hug a GREEN” but in a country where I feel whiter than ever, the white one stuck out. I also bought some facial moisturizer, but had to ask for help to find the two types that did not promise to further whiten my skin. I’m white enough, thank you very much!

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Oh yeah- and you could get spaghetti from McDo (pronounced “mick-dough”). I stuck to chicken nuggets myself.

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When you hear people talk about traffic in Manila, they’re serious. Moving slowly is one thing; just about getting crushed by trucks and vans is another. I will need to practice the polite “I’m here- don’t run me over” horn tap. It is frequently necessary.

Today was church! That’ll be another post at some point soon, as will my list of things America really should consider importing. For now, good night from this side of the world!

The A-B-Cs of Strep Throat

When I said that I needed more time to write here, I wasn’t exactly hoping for a few days in bed, 102.7 degrees, or strep throat.

And yet, here I am with approximately 22 hours of antibiotic treatment before my¬†contagion¬†ends…just enough time to write.

As I laid on the couch yesterday, I considered how to use my forced down-time. ¬†Using the computer required too much energy; calling a friend to catch up required use of my throat. ¬†My vocal cords only rebelled on occasion, but talking meant swallowing which meant pain. ¬†I’m a wimp.

So I laid on the couch looking for a silent, still activity…and came upon an idea I used when I would swim laps in college: A-B-C prayer.

A- adored

B- beautiful

C- Christ, etc.

I started with¬†attributes¬†of God and finished up with things I’m grateful for. ¬†I don’t think I made it past C on the second one before I was again asleep under the mountain of blankets.

You know what?  God showed up.  In my mushy-brain, shivering-with-fever state, He reminded me that I am His.  That was enough.

Life, fortune, sacred honor

Thomas Nelson Jr. did.

In the battle at Yorktown this American general directed his men to aim their cannon at his home, then under control of occupying British forces led by General Cornwallis. When they would not out of respect for him, he aimed the cannon himself.

Nelson did not attack foolishly, though. His home was the second largest in Yorktown, and after the British had their first headquarters destroyed, it was logical to assume that they would move to the next best building. As it happened, the British simply housed soldiers in Nelson’s home. When the attack began, the forces moved out.

To this day, a cannonball from the Revolutionary War remains in the wall of Nelson’s home. Whether it is one he shot himself or not is unknown.

What is known is this: Nelson pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor when he signed the Declaration of Independence. He kept his word despite the cost for a cause he believed in.

As I rode away from his house on a Segway, enjoying a vacation with my family and sacrificing nothing greater than my preferences, my mind wandered. What would I sacrifice for Christ, the “cause” and delight of my life? When the time comes to aim the cannon, will my own comfort be so readily injured? Will my security be so rooted in allegiance to Christ that all may suffer but my commitment to Him?

What small steps today and tomorrow will prepare me? Sometimes the cost cannot be counted in advance. However, the declaration can be signed. My life, my fortune, and my sacred honor are due to the One Who gave His for me.