A Beautiful Day

I’m sitting here with a dumb smile on my face, my room filled with the steady whir of my fan. (It’s not really necessary as the weather has cooled to a chill 79*, but I’ve become accustomed to the white noise.) Today was beautiful.

Not easy, mind you, but beautiful. Grace peeked out here and there- teaching Sunday School to some littles and the grace of a translator (thanks, Jasmine!), washing dishes after the meal together, playing prayers in the form of songs, sharing the pain of transition with a unified body, seeing Jesus in Micah 6:8, and an accidentally correct turn on the way home. Coffee and merienda and life-talk with Florence rounded out the day with delight.

It’s good to belong. What grace that in this Body, you don’t have to look the same/act the same/speak the same language/know the rules/have it all figured out to belong. The song says, “There’s a welcome here,” and it is true. It’s beautiful to belong even when you don’t “fit.”

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Blame it on the chicken mummy.

They warn you about this when you come to be a missionary teacher.

They say, “You will be overwhelmed- don’t worry. It’s normal.”

They prepare you for a whole process of adjustment.

But they don’t prepare you for mummifying chickens. And the chicken mummies were the last straw today.

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With a few hours distance and the help of an awesome parent, I can now say that it was a great experience for my kids. Tomorrow, we’ll continue the learning as we compare and contrast our life experience with the non-fiction texts we are reading about the mummification process. 12 hours ago, though, it was all I could do to hold back tears during morning meeting.

Let me back up.

At Faith Academy, third grade mummifies chickens. Period. It’s tradition- kids talk and write about it for years to come. So in my mind, this was more than just a fun activity for our Egypt unit. It was my unsworn but serious duty to provide my students with this experience.

What was not my duty, however, was to schedule it three days before parent-teacher conferences, at quarter end when I am supposed to be stressing over things like progress reports. (Side note: my personal chicken drama makes grades look like a walk in the park. I’m being only slightly dramatic when I say that.) Nor was it my duty to add papyrus making and cartouche design to the same day. But…I did all that.

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(They probably did say something about not going crazy because of poor choices in training…perhaps I was out during that session.)

It didn’t help that the day started with 1) the realization that I left several packages in the grocery basket last night and 2) running out of cash at the cash-only store while picking up the item I forgot while at the grocery store last night and 3) running across the road to my sweetly waiting roommates to borrow a few hundred pesos. By the time I got to school, I was wound a little tightly (to put it nicely).

So bless their hearts, two colleagues stopped by, let me cry on their shoulders (I wish I was speaking figuratively), and prayed for me. Once I got through the residual sniffles (I’m a terrible crier) and my kiddos had been basically amazing, we had a great morning. Carol took my lunch duty so I could finish running around like a chicken on its way to mummification, and Amanda showed up to set up the papyrus making.

While it’s entirely possible that we are not completely following Faith Academy tradition in the way we are caring for the three deceased fowl in our care, they will make it to mummification, a sarcophagus, and proper burial in a few months. For now, they are happily ziplocked on the counter in my classroom, and the deodorizing power of salt/cinnamon/baking soda is amazing.

And I am home, considering the lessons of this day:
-This too, shall pass. Even chicken mummifying will come to an end.

-It wasn’t about the chickens, really. I’m pretty good at putting pressure on myself and making things bigger in my mind than they really are. This is a pretty good example of that.

-I’m surrounded by awesome people. From “good morning” and “I’ll pray” texts to a hug and a prayer to “How’s it going?” and hands-on-chicken so I could take pictures, I felt the love all day, especially when I didn’t feel so lovely.

So instead of blaming the chicken mummy, I think I’m ready to be thankful for the lessons I didn’t choose and a God who knows better than I do what this third grade teacher needs to learn.

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Emotional Dimes and Expectations

Dedicated to the Baucks, who shared this analogy with me during my first week in country.

You get 10 emotional dimes each day.

No matter what happens, you don’t get any more.

You can choose how to spend them.

So when it takes two hours to get a new bank account, you may spend a dime or two or three. But you may will almost certainly hit traffic on the way home, on which you may spend a dime or two or three. And you may want to make a new recipe but cannot find an ingredient for it. Your washing machine may break. You may have trouble unlocking the gate with your arms full of groceries.

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If you have spent three emotional dimes on each of the first three issues, you will have trouble on the fourth one and lose.your.mind. on the fifth one.

So when the gate becomes your undoing, you are probably out of emotional dimes. You may not borrow from tomorrow, either. (You’ll probably need them then anyway!)

I find this analogy helpful for life anywhere, but it’s especially helpful in a new culture where there’s a lot I don’t know. When I adjust my expectations, I need fewer emotional dimes for the little things. If you expect to hit traffic, there’s no surprise (and fewer dimes spent).

It has also been helpful to think about the things that require emotional energy from me that may or may not require as much from someone else. I can only be me, so I’m learning to plan my spending well!

On Gratitude

Why I am grateful?

The theme of All-Staff Retreat is “With Grateful Hearts,” so the songs and speakers have focused on being people filled with gratitude. It’s been fun to spend some concentrated time focused on one topic, but I’m glad I’m not the last speaker who has to find a fresh angle! 🙂

Yesterday, I came to a realization in the middle of the song (appropriately titled) “Give Thanks.”

And now let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Because of what the Lord has done for us.
Give thanks.

Why am I grateful? Generally, I think about being grateful because of some good thing that has happened- something that aligns well with the way I think the world should operate. And that’s all well and good, until things don’t go my way. This song (and correct me if I’m wrong) seems to be saying that in the midst of the bad- the weakness, the poverty- we can give thanks, because of what God has done for us. It reminds me of Romans 4:18-20, which basically says that Abraham and Sarah’s chances of having a son were about 0%, but Abraham was strong in faith anyway, “giving glory to God” (vs. 20).

There must be something beyond good circumstances, then, as a basis for gratitude, if we are to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and I think it just might be not only what God has done for us, but also who He is. We could say, “Thank You that You are my strength when I am weak” and “Thank You for the hospitality of the Hendersons because You are the ultimate welcome to those who are alone” and “Thank You for that fun conversation on educational theory because You are the source and giver of all truth as well as the great teacher.”

So that’s my goal- to build a habit of being thankful both for what God does but also the way the little things show Who He is. If you try it out, let me know how it goes! I’m having a lot of fun!

“Thank You, Lord, that You are creative and give me fresh ways to worship You. Thank You that all joy and delight are ultimately found in You.”

Greetings from Manila!

Hello from Manila!

I arrived last (Saturday) night after 14 hours in the air, three meals in the air, one and a half movies (I fell asleep part way through the second), and 3 Reader’s Digests (thanks, Mom!) Everything went smoothly, I picked up my luggage, and Rich and Marla met me at the shiny Manila airport. (It was built since I was last here.)

Rich is the OC/Philippine Challenge team leader, and he has helped me to get everything in order to come. He and his wife, Marla, offered to let me stay with them for a bit to get adjusted, and I crashed last night after face-timing the fam to let them know I’d arrived safely.

This morning, we went to church and out to Dominos (yes, pizza!) afterward. We’ll leave soon to take one of their sons to Faith Academy (FA) to leave for camp, and I’ll get a tour.

It’s a little crazy to be here after so many years of praying, hoping, and preparing. I am very grateful for a few days to get on this schedule, adjust to the heat and humidity (so far, so good!), and get some help in finding the grocery store, etc. The teacher in me can’t wait to get started on planning, putting my room together, etc. but I’m really trying to enjoy these moments now.

Love to all!
Angela

Happy brain

Nothing excites me quite like new learning. It doesn’t need to be new to the world- it’s usually not! But when I wrap my brain around a new-to-me idea, especially when it relates to missions and theology, two of my favorite subjects, I feel like a kid in a doughnut shop with all the glass removed.

This week I got some training in cultural tendencies and preferences. One day, we focused on the worldviews* of culture. The predominant worldview in most western cultures is guilt-innocence. That is to say that it is good/respected to be innocent and the worst thing is to be guilty. (I see this at work in the way we discipline. When an incident occurs, an investigation is conducted to ascertain the guilt and innocence or the involved parties.)

Therefore, most western Christians have been taught and see the Gospel-the good news of Jesus- through this lens. Jesus came to take the punishment that we, the guilty, deserved. And the scriptures bear this out. (Romans Road, anyone?)

But there are other worldviews, too. And my new learning this week was that the Gospel is no less powerful when seen through another lens.

We had the resident missiologist sitting in on our cultural training sessions this week, and he kept reminding us that all nations, tribes, and tongues will be represented at the throne someday. Their cultural distinctions will be present, glorifying the Lamb in their uniqueness.

So it makes sense that the Gospel applies to every culture now!

More to come…

Ephesians 1

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Thanks to my friend, Lorina, for her lovely work on these canvases! After spending a formative year with Ephesians 1, I asked her to paint 7 small canvases with key words on them.

So why canvases? Why a photo of a word cloud on a Christmas card?

In short, because my thinking has changed dramatically as a result of God’s gracious work through His Word- literally! Ephesians 1 says over and over again that believers are defined by being in Christ. That’s a message I need to remember everyday and a message that backs up the idea that Christ came to bring joy to the world.

Dear Sher, (an open letter on the event of your graduation)

This weekend we celebrated your graduation from college. Instead of having an open house, we went to Great Wolf Lodge and played. I think it was a good choice.

You’re not the only one graduating, and this year marks ten years since I graduated from high school. I’ve been thinking about how different I am from the day I graduated from college, not to mention high school, and I want to warn you about what may be ahead. (I say may because we are two different people, despite looking like twins. :))

You may feel as smart right now as you ever will. That’s not to say that you are as smart as you will ever be. To the contrary- given your love of learning and desire to grow as a person physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, you will certainly grow wiser and accumulate more knowledge than you currently have.

It’s just that the more you learn, the more you’ll discover that you don’t know. Every time you start a new job, or take on a new challenge, you’ll see a little more of the mystery. You may well master that mystery, but in the meantime, find another one around the corner.

Take it in stride, and don’t freak out. You’ll work hard, do what you need to do, come to the end of yourself, and that’s ok. If you go too long without realizing that you don’t know it all, take some time to bask in the grace you already know but may, on occasion, forget.

All this is to say that there’s a lot more grace than I knew when I graduated. Grace to be real with Jesus, real with yourself, and real with the people who love you- like me.

I love you, and I love that we get to journey through life together. If none of this applies to you, thanks in advance for grace.

Your big sister

Sufficiency

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

This verse sums up my week perfectly. I found myself deeply challenged and encouraged.

The fact is that I generally wish I was sufficient. It would be fabulous to be an amazing teacher, leader, sister, auntie, friend, etc. due to talent and skill. I’m sure that I would also be naturally humble and others-centered, perfectly implementing Philippians 2, if my fantasy were to be real.

And…it’s not!

I felt anxious about a meeting, spent an hour and a half (from 3:00-4:30am) trying to not give in to thoughts about all that I haven’t accomplished at work this school year, worried about others’ perceptions of me, and somewhat rudely interrupted a meeting with a non-urgent message. Clearly, sufficiency is not inborn here!

And yet…

I ended the meeting with peace, woke up the next night without anxiety and went back to sleep, learned (again!) to believe God for help at work, and watched as He worked internally and externally to bring fresh hope and joy.

How sufficient He is!