Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This elusive thing called balance

Sometimes we have to celebrate our victories in our life, no matter how small they might seem.

Like when we say no to a bowl of ice cream. Or hold our tongue from saying that mean word that could wound.

As hard as it is to have grace with ourselves, it's just as important as having grace with others.

Stopping to celebrate our victories is an act of stopping to give thanks. 

I realized the other day that often my life feels like a long to-do list and my iphone is full of more apps on keeping my list straight then it is full of pictures. (Even though I love my Clear app) I wish I had more pictures of experiences. Of life.

I'm often more concerned with checking things off my to do list than engaging in real relationships. Or in taking the time to be loving.

To be honest, sometimes I feel guilty when I just "enjoy life."
It's like I don't remember how to do it.

I've been out there on the edge so long listening to rape stories, or trying to figure out how to parent a bunch of growing girls in Africa, or how to successfully run a growing ministry that needs about 100 more me's.....that I don't have time or brain energy to just be----well, happy.

In the last week, I ran a total of 13.5 miles. Which might not seem like much, to all you work-out buffs out there, but it's the farthest I've ever consistently run. I also drank juice smoothies all week. With kale in them. Yeah, that green stuff. I'm going extreme. And it feels great!

This is all part of my new regimen to "get healthy."
Since Africa made me tired....and well, fat. (for all your girls out there thinking that moving to Africa will make you skinny---sorry to break your dreams)

When you can find something edible to eat, it's usually carbs.

Long-term stress also doesn't do a lot for your figure.

This whole health kick started around the time that I stopped wanting to see myself in pictures. You know, that feeling when you realize you haven't been photographed in a while, and then all of a sudden you see yourself, and you're like what!! Is that me? And want to run and hide yourself in a large, oversized potato sack.

Women in their thirties will understand this better.

So I'm trying to establish some balance in my life. Because I'm supposed to be working on taking care of me, and working less hard, and being more well-rounded.

We as women, struggle so hard at this. How to balance being a woman, a job-holder, a wife, a mother, a leader, a friend, being in shape, making a good meal, being a nice person or even a person who occasionally does her hair and remembers to send that birthday card.

And sometimes we can get so busy with "saving the world," that we forget that we actually need saving too.

I know I have a long ways to go, but to be honest, I feel really proud of myself that I've begun. That I've started this journey of health, in ALL areas of my life, and that whether or not I can see the differences yet, I know the resolve is there.

I also wrote two blogs. Walked in the sun. Laughed 'til my sides hurt with a girlfriend. Read a book. Went on a date. And watched the Life of Pi. All in all, I think I'm onto something here.

I'm learning to live.
And learning not to feel bad about it.

And realizing that ultimately true balance comes from being obedient to what God asks us to do. Not responding to needs. Not more. Not less. 

And saying goodbye to all the guilt.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's the big deal about a pillow?

I didn't really think about how different it would be and how hard to face this world of luxury again and not let it seep inside me, to take over my will.

As I try to bridge my two worlds of Africa, love, and lack, and the over-abundance of where I live, I feel off-kilter as I straddle these two extremes.

I'm going to make a faux pas here and bring up a tabooed subject. And believe me, I'm just as uncomfortable with it as you are.

Poverty and Plenty. Lack and Abundance. Things We Need vs Things We Want.

How we can have so much when the rest of the world has so little.

The life we are told to want instead of the life we actually desire to live.

My husband and I talk late into the night about these things. The path that we've chosen. The costs associated therein.

Our quality of life versus the quantity of what we have.

We're in our thirties and we don't own a house, any property, and barely a car which we both share.

We've spent the last six years giving our lives away in Africa and we're trying to take a break without letting the world we've entered become our reality. Without feeling inadequate. But that's hard.

I try to listen to the advice of our older, ex-Peacecorps friends who have a world of wisdom underneath their belt after having lived in and left multiple countries.

That we've chosen an alternative path and it's going to look different than most people, but the rewards are great as long as we can learn to be content with what we've chosen, and be kind to ourselves. (paraphrasing their brilliance)

I admit, I'm not doing a very good job.

What it looks like most often is coveting something I definitely "have" to have for my new nest, buying it, and then two days later returning it out of guilt. Or lack of funds.

I have as much Carrie Bradshaw in me as the next girl, but it got me thinking......

It's crazy what we can convince ourselves we need. And it's even crazier we can live on credit.
And scary.

In Africa, there is no credit. 

Think about it: If you don't have money for food, you don't eat. That simple. 

I feel like a hungry kid who wandered into a candy shop.

Here our things own us. Our mortgage, our cars, our Gucci bag, our debt.

You won't believe how many people tell me they wish they could do what I do, but they can't because of debt. And it makes me so sad.

But here I am, back in America, staring at that gorgeous new designer pillow. (I HAVE to have it!)

But do I really have to have it?

Does that really directly impact the life I want to have in a positive way?

A life where time instead of money, is my most precious resource. 
Where love is my most traded commodity. 

Where the hours with my husband matter more than the amount of money he can bring home.

Where I can invest in my own growth, in God, in relationships, and in traveling the world to experience new things, with my hot husband.

How often do we trade real life for the allure of something we can own. 

Or even real life for fake life. You know, TV.  (I cringe as I write this because I'm the biggest hypocrite. I love TV shows.)

I'm at war with these things, as I try to settle into "real life," but not get caught up in the American dream.

The reality is that having a mortgage and driving a LandRover isn't really my dream, even though the world will tell me different.

It will say that it's what I want. Because others have it.

But it's just not true.

When what I really want looks more like being a healthy, whole person, and sitting with my sisters in the dust of a land many thousands of miles away.

What I really want looks more like being a supportive wife and eventually the coolest mom on the block.

What I really want is to hug the beautiful, black arms of so many I love, and to see their lives transformed.

What I really want is to bring beauty to the darkest places on earth. 

But how to tell myself that when I'm staring at a gorgeous pillow that exactly matches my color scheme.

What's weird is I actually think that Jesus wants us to be happy. And balanced. And that the abundant life, the prosperous life, is His desire for us, as long as it doesn't consume our heart.

Money isn't the root of all evil. Our orientation to it though, can be. Whether we are rich or poor. 

What dominates the thoughts of our heart?
Envy is an equal sin to greed.

How to walk the line of self-denial, while still allowing for things that bring me happiness.

How to sacrifice without turning away blessings.
How to be content with both poverty and wealth.
How to believe for abundance, but still live within our means.
How to be comfortable in a mansion or a mud hut.

That's where I am, in the middle, trying to figure it all out. 

Trying to figure out if we are brave enough to follow our own hearts, our own spirit, our own gut, instead of the way of the world.

Even if it means looking less "normal."

And when my husband makes the right choices, when I make the right choices, when you make the right choices, maybe it's ok to splurge a little on that pillow that's going to make your house, a home.

Thoughts on justice

It's been a few weeks since I returned from the Justice Conference in Philly. But many of the thoughts, emotions, and inspirations sit with me as I go back to my new existence in America that I'm still getting used to.

I've been compelled to write about something I've been thinking of for a while.

This Justice movement, so beautiful and brave, and yet how do we make it more than just a fad?
More than something "cool" to get involved with or post on our facebook.

More than something other people will pat us on the back for.

What does love look like when the feelings seep away?

When justice is just, as Gary Haugen says, "A long obedience in the same direction."

When the paperwork, and hospital stays, and endless meetings squelch out that glamorous dream we had of changing lives. Or "saving the world."

When we realize we aren't White Saviors.

Just broken people trying to love on and heal up other broken people.

Above all, justice is commitment. 

When it's not fun anymore. When the heart gets used to seeing terrible things, when the shiny glimmer of thinking I'd just hold beautiful African babies all day, dies away.

Justice is love when it's hard. When the ring gets tarnished over years. When it all seems like more emails to answer, or problems to solve, than picture-perfect moments.

Will we stay when we can't find the reasons anymore. When it doesn't serve us?

Because that's where true sacrifice begins.
Where true love begins.

Somewhere after the novelty wears off.

And we have to tuck deeper and deeper into Jesus to find the love, to give away.

This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. And this is what we must know before we begin.

Justice has to be inside us. Saturating all our relationships. We can't seek to free the sex slave, when we can't offer love to our families, husbands, friends. Or even ourselves.

It has to be our whole person.

Justice is not what is fair. Justice is what ought to be. The redemption of ALL things.

It must be more than the sexy buzz words, than the twitter feed, than Toms shoes.

It requires more tedious acts of love than we know are necessary to bear.

All our staff, all our volunteers, have to move past the rosy-colored version of service, into real life, real pain, real loss, and sometimes real disappointment.

It's the only way to get to real reward.

And it is so worth the fight.

So ask yourself, what are you really ready to sign up for?