Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Shouldn't Laugh But...

I asked one of the chowkidars the other day to bring me back some chili peppers when he went to the bazaar.  I spent a long time trying to explain that I didn’t want the bell peppers he had brought last time, I wanted chili peppers.  I described that they were long and skinny, not round and fat and that they were smaller than the other ones.  He came back with five bell peppers that were almost as big as golf balls…

Tonight after we had supper together as a team, the kids were jumping on the trampoline while the adults were on our neighbors’ patio, chatting and finishing their dessert.  The kids starting saying Mr. J, trying to get one of the guys to go jump with them.  When he ignored them, they started chanting Mark Mark (all 8 of them made it pretty loud). He didn’t give in, so they tried to get A in on the action, but he declined as well.  Finally they started chanting “Old Men, Old Men, Old Men”, in reference to the two older guys in attendance! Needless to say, everyone chuckled…maybe not the ‘old men’ so much, but it was pretty funny.

Angel khAla walked around all morning while working in the house with a dish towel on her head…over her scarf…I have no idea why, but I couldn’t take her seriously at.all.

Little t is infatuated with putting a scarf on. He is always finding them and asking me to put them on his head and then he walks around the house quite proudly.  His father is not so thrilled. Yesterday we caught him watching a movie with a scarf on his head…he had found it on the chair and put it on himself.

A rumor was started a few years ago that God turned a woman into a cat because she didn’t say her prayers and watched a popular soap-operaish show instead.  People (even educated people who work for us) were convinced that it was true.  They began asking our British team-mates if they had seen the cat and what she looked like.  The whole town was believing this craziness until the woman (who at the time lived in the big city 4 hours away) returned and made an appearance in town (as a human obviously).

A got many approving looks and comments from the police at the airport in the capital city as we walked through.  Apparently they assumed that the Finnish woman and her four children traveling with us were his other family…

Little t was quite proud of himself when he opened the container of bullion cubes a few days ago.  After promptly popping one in his mouth and sucking on it for a few minutes, he wasn’t smiling. 

Our local administrator is a very nice and very interesting man…though somewhat of a mystery. He does all of the finance and administration quite capably. He tested as being strong in Science when he graduated from high school and is now studying Biology at the university in town (though he doesn’t like it…because of the system it is the only thing he can go to school for…). But his real love and passion seems to be interior design…especially curtains.  He has a thing for designing and making curtains.  It is no surprise then that the curtains behind his desk in the office are…a work of art.  He is quite proud of them.  One day he was being rather difficult and Em, our rather strong and mischievous British teammate was having a hard time getting him to comply with the work that needed to be done for the day.  As a last ditch effort to get his rear in gear, Em said, “Al, if you don’t get this done by the deadline of noon today, I am going to cut your curtains in half.” She said he went pale, then got a little teary and excused himself to the bathroom.  The report was turned in by noon and he breathed a sigh of relief as his curtains remained in one piece!

During language school in the capital city, our favorite language teacher was a constant source of entertainment for us.  He was very into all things western and was always asking advice on ‘cool’ words to use, etc.  One day he used the word tramp in relation to a lady in a story he was telling.  It didn’t really sink it until it had happened more than once and we realized that an intervention had to happen!  When we brought it up to him that it probably wasn’t the best word to use when talking about women, we also asked where he had heard that word.  One of the language lessons used the story of Lady and the Tramp and he had assumed that the word was fair game!

Here, velvet is the fabric of choice.  The bazaar is full of shops that are full of bolts of velvet in every color and sparkle imaginable.  Yesterday, I bought some new fabric to get a few new summer dresses made. My current ones are all old and very thick and boiling summer weather is right around the corner.  Angel khAla got excited when she saw the bags with the fabric sticking out…until she saw that they were cotton.  She said in a very disappointed voice, ‘oh, it’s just cotton.’  Once again I have let someone down that I refuse to jump on the velvet train…especially in the summer, I just can’t do it. 

When we were in Lal (our previous location) life was not exactly luxurious.  Upon arriving in the Philippines for vacation, one of the first things I did was go to get my hair cut.  The woman who was cutting my hair was horrified at it’s poor condition and gave many recommendations of what I should do to take better care of it (expensive shampoos, intensive conditioning sessions twice a week, just the right temperature of water, etc.). I couldn’t help but laugh as I considered my location and the craziness of what she was suggesting.  Little did she know, my hair was lucky if it got washed once a week…especially in the winter!

When we came back from the capital a few weeks ago, we were reminded of how horrible the airport scene is there.  It is so much hassle, numerous security checks and getting in and out with all of your luggage, etc.  As we parked and began to unload for the final time in order to make the ½ mile long walk to the airport building, I mentally prepared myself.  I had the 22 pound child to carry, a diaper bag across my shoulder, a backpack and a small roller to pull.  I had myself almost psyched up when I heard a small voice. It was 4 1/2 year old Charlotte declaring that “she didn’t feel like carrying her backpack and I would need to carry it for her.”  I have to be honest that I laughed out loud.  I told her that I had a lot to carry and she would have to take care of it. Again, she insisted that it was my job.  I basically told her tough luck and her mom carried it for her in the end.

Little t has discovered he is a boy.  We don’t make a big deal out of it, just call it what it is and then move his hands.  He does get a very very cute little grin on his face accompanied by a sweet little giggle every time he makes this discovery. It is adorable now, though I know it won’t be sooner than later…

The ‘head’ local guy in the project that A works for just had his 9th baby…that plus the 2 kids he has adopted from his brother who was killed make an impressive 11 kids!  A had a somewhat rough day with him in the office last week and decided that a peace offering was in order.  A had the great idea that we I should make them all supper and then he would deliver it to their house…  HA-HA-HA!!!  That is like making food for 30 people because you make at least two servings per person when you have guests…I about died when I found out that his plan was not a joke.  And then begged and pleaded with him to reconsider the insanity.  After I walked him through the unbelievably ridiculous lengths that I would have to go to in order to make food for that many people…and DELIVER.IT.TO.THEM…he agreed that baking them a cake would be just fine for the occasion.

A few weeks ago Little t came down with a nasty cough/cold thing.  The next day the first thing I said to Angel KhAla when she came to work was that she should not kiss Little t because I didn’t want her carrying his germs back to her little one at home and getting her sick.  She said, ‘Oh don’t worry Zara has been sick for a few days!” and then gave Little t her customary morning smack on the lips…the mystery bug was no longer a mystery.

Not So Much...

I used to have this mental picture of evacuation and let me tell you, it was far too sunny.  I used to picture myself walking elegantly down the hallway of an airport like someone out of a movie – disheveled and tired, but effortlessly beautiful.  My small bag would pull behind me easily (unlike the ridiculous loads of luggage we usually travel with) while I strode alongside my ruggedly handsome husband.  We would hide away in some little bungalow on a beach somewhere and wait for the craziness to die down before we would return to the valiant efforts we make in life, or to our home country complete with a hero’s welcome. 

Not so much…

A few events in our time in the country have shocked me back into the reality of what evacuation is/looks like.

When we had been in the country for a month or two we had our first “scare”. There had been a time of relative unrest in the capital city, but all of the attacks were far from our little neighborhood and out of the scope of our na├»ve little minds that were focused on learning language and culture.  One morning however, we began to get nervous.  Right after we had gotten out of bed, there was a loud boom that shook the windows and the floor of our house.  Wide-eyed we looked at each other and tried to make excuses.  Fifteen minutes later, another boom shook us again.  For an hour and a half this went on every few minutes. 

We were freaked!

A went out to talk with the chowkidar and I started throwing stuff in bags.  I was certain that the world was crashing down around us and I wanted out of there!  The glamorous mental picture of evacuation was far far from my mind! 

We were told by the chowkidar after he got more information that it was actually just an exercise to detonate landmines and explosives done by the army. “just a routine thing done in the mountains, not a big deal at all,” he chuckled. Right…

Then, a year later, when we were in our own blissful ignorance a.k.a. Lal, we had a situation that almost warranted evacuating. It had nothing to do with our current surroundings or situation, but more of a country-wide scenario. (Later we found out that it fizzled out to be nothing in the end.)  Because I was not necessarily healthy in Lal, I was begging and pleading with God to allow it to turn into a full-blown mess so I could get out of there. 

The glamorous picture again sprang to mind and tempted and teased…until I got a grip. And realized that I had frizzy hair, hillbilly clothes that smelled like smoke and manure, constant diahrrea and fleas…not exactly material for a glamorous exit!.

My husband helped slap me back into reality (not literally…he isn’t like that) when he reminded me of what all happens if we leave and our project stops. 

And it wasn’t pretty.

Once again, I felt a little like Jonah, trying to run from what God wanted me to be about.  Just because it was hard, I felt I was justified in finding an out.  And just because I was miserable, I stopped caring about the people around me. 

See, the thing is, if it gets bad enough that we have to evacuate, our local staff and neighbors and friends are stuck here to pick up the pieces and try to continue to survive in this place. They can’t leave when the going gets tough, or when they are tired, etc.

Two weeks ago we actually did have to evacuate. The beginning of the week was tense and the end of the week brought security issues as well that caused us to need to leave.  Even though nothing much came out of the situation and we are back now, it was enough to quell once and for all my visions of dramatic and glamorous evacuations. 

The situation could have been a lot worse, but it still sucked.  We were all exhausted and sick, none of us slept, we were grubby and mooching off of wonderfully generous friends.  We missed home and our beds and our routine. And yes, we pouted about it, dangit! 

I found myself feeling very very guilty as every reference to us being refugees made me think of real ones and we were SO far from that.  Twice in the capital city (on the day that it rained so hard the streets were covered in 1 ½ feet of water) we drove by a small cluster of tents, surrounded by trash and puddles of muddy water.  Real refugees. The lump in my throat stuck for a long time as I thought about how hard life has to be for them.  They have no pilots to pull them out when the going gets tough, they don’t have generous friends to take them in.  Their baby gets sick and will most likely die instead of having the possibility of good health care.  Their floors are covered in the mud that creeps in from the outside.  The stench of smoke and rotting garbage permeates their clothes and skin and lives. 

I have it so easy. I am not a refugee…just a whiner.

I was reminded once again that I have nothing to complain about in this place and my current state. Perspective is a beautiful, though somewhat painful thing.  The glamorous images of evacuation have been replaced with the reality…and it makes me want to stay just where I am. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Grace in the Chaos

In this place, life has a way of slipping by. Days come and go. Time takes on a different meaning and is fluid.  Especially at this time of year, it is easy to forget to contemplate and reflect, to stop and celebrate.  We are not (thankfully) inundated with commercialized attempts at getting people to remember anything really, so our holidays have a way of sneaking up on us and occasionally just slipping on by if we are not careful.

But the reminders and symbols have flooded in these last few days. All around us, the signs of grace are abundant and for that I am grateful.

I do not think it was a coincidence that the neighbors purchased a young lamb or goat from the animal bazaar yesterday.  All morning long, it’s fragile bleating voice has wafted over the wall…a reminder of another Lamb that came into this dark and hopeless world. 

During our Good Friday service, the speaker touched on the physical pain that Jesus endured while He was beaten, whipped and placed on the cross.  In that moment the wail of a child pierced the air. His tortured screams brought home the agony that was endured upon that wooden structure, with you and me in mind.

Minutes later as we prayed for this country and thanked the Father for sending the Lamb for all who are poor and hopeless and broken, a man’s voice filled the air.  As he talked loudly on the phone, he shouted M-ville several times…a stark reminder that yes the Savior came too for this dark corner of the world.

A rooster crows from the neighbor’s wall. Little t is fascinated. I am reminded of a night that a similar bird crowed three times.  Oh how often my life and actions reflect that of the one who denied. Oh how much I have to learn.

As I hang laundry, my eyes scan the hills that surround this place.  The shrines that our local friends revere sit like silent pillars.  Filled with the decaying bones of ancient heroes, they gather dust and icons and prayers and hopes…and they sit. I am struck with the words ‘He is not here, He is risen’. My heart swells with gratitude.  While throngs of hopefuls place their worries on a pile of bones, my worries go to the throne of grace.

During church Little t and I took a break from the service to swing. His face shone with delight as we flew back and forth through the air.  The words
“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, now matter what men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer.
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today…”
escaped my lips as we floated back and forth.  Outside the walls of our safe little compound the world exploded with sounds, a baby crying in the street, a motorcycle being driven over a speedbump too fast, kids playing soccer, a donkey braying, a helicopter flying low overhead.  In the midst of it all, we had gathered to remember. The battle rages around us, but we stop to remember.  We sang about the One who came to give His life for all. We thanked Him for His love.

How amazing that the Giver of all things good and holy, the One who brings hope and peace and truth came down to this dirty, dusty and noisy world to be the ransom for many.  His feet walked dusty streets like ours.  He reclined on the floor as he ate with friends and with sinners.  He spoke Truth where is seemed darkness prevailed.  He blessed the children.  He showed interested in the poor and the forgotten. He brought power to the powerless and sight to the blind.  He brought hope for people, and life for all who believe. 

He has not forgotten us.  A thousand ways every day, He reminds us of His faithfulness.  Over and over, He shines light into this darkness.  He is Grace lived out in the midst of this chaos. A man filled with power and truth, poured out for all.  Dwelling among us, dying for us, rising again to set us free.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Know You Live in M-ville When...

You get excited about a trip to the bazaar to buy raisins...

Life has been quiet here M-ville...quiet meaning security has been good and quiet meaning security has been tight. So we haven't been doing much.

We have had guests in town this week (hence the lack of blogging) and though we have loved it, it hasn't been overly exciting for them.  Not there there is a lot to see or do in M-vill anyway, but when you are not allowed to walk or go many places...it makes life pretty quiet. Some would say boring, but I prefer quiet. It is all about perspective really.

Thankfully our bosses from our sending org (who are wonderful) were understanding about this season of life.

Also thankfully, our other guest has worked in country for a while, so she gets the whole gig.

And most thankfully, they were all thrilled with a short trip to the rug bazaar, a shop to buy scarves and a short trip to buy raisins.

You can't please everyone, but can be very happy when your guests are easily entertained!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Anyone else beginning to notice this trend of me getting caught up in life and behind on blogs?  It has happened again. Life is busy right now...this week it is a good busy...last week wasn't so good.  In the midst of trying to keep on top of stuff and get Little t to actually sleep and hosting guests (who we are absolutely enjoying) and very questionable electricity and internet, I just haven't had time to sit down.  A and I finally sat down yesterday and processed all that has been going on. It was good...so we are getting there.  All that to say, we are still here (in M-ville and in existence) and doing well...just a little swamped.

I realized that I had written this a few weeks ago, but hadn't posted it yet. So, though it is a few weeks old, I still wanted to share it.  Enjoy.

I was going to say that I have to go and rescue the box of kleenex from Little t who was making an attempt to pull out every.single.last once.  but he succeeded...oh well. Could be worse.

Our God Is Greater

We have been on the quest to see a camel ever since we arrived in M-ville 3 ½ months ago.  We went to the animal bazaar when my mom was here in hopes to see one, but there were none and we were told it was too cold. We saw one through the car window one Friday afternoon, but the car was full of hungry kids, so we decided to continue in the direction of lunch (home) instead of stop. Tariq and I saw the butt of one as it walked past our house one day, but I wasn’t dressed appropriately to go out on the street. Even if I had been, it would have been slightly awkward to chase after a shepherd and his herd of sheep, goats, cows, donkeys and camel just to…look at the camel. 

So, with three strikes against us, we headed to the animal bazaar on Thursday.  The temperatures had been in the 70’s for two weeks and angel khAla had been assuring me that there would be camels there.  That morning, kAkA also told us that there would be camels there. A joked with him that we wanted to buy one and kAkA laughed and said, “you can only buy one if you buy a dozen…so don’t come home with one unless you come home with a dozen!”  I am not sure if he was just joking or somewhere in his thinking about crazy foreigners he assumed that we just might be loony enough to buy one and keep it in the yard, ‘just for fun’. Maybe he decided that he didn’t want to have any part if that craziness so he decided to try to turn us off to the idea.  I don’t know. 

Anyway, we arrived at the animal bazaar/dry riverbed full of trash and rocks and rotting oranges and men and sheep/goats/donkeys/horses/cows/camels. 

Immediately the staring began…because that is just what happens here.  When your wife doesn’t wear her chadAri (burka) and your son is impossibly cute with piercing blue eyes, the stares just happen. And so we rolled with it like usual. Trying not to bump into anyone, or step in poop, or get ran over by the horses and donkeys that were being taken for test drives i.e. being ran up and down the riverbed at breakneck speed (though breakneck speed is a relative term for donkeys…). 

Little t freaked out when he saw all the animals. Poor little guy couldn’t make donkey and sheep and cow noises fast enough.  We let him get down and walk up to some little baby goats and sheep in a herd.  He was dancing around he was so excited, squealing, trying to touch them, and clapping his hands.  We took some pictures, we drew a crowd, we kept him away from the big ones with horns. 

After a few minutes, we migrated over toward the main attraction. We had spotted him when we had first arrived and couldn’t wait any longer.  A went to talk to the owner of the huge camel that stood up on a small hill in the river.  When I say huge, I mean the thing was about the size of our house.  It was 10 years old…and for a cool thousand (dollars) it could have been ours.  Tempting…

 A few pictures later, we were about to walk away when an old man with a horse said hello to A.  He and A exchanged greetings and the man offered to let A ride his horse.  A chuckled and declined (a few too many unpleasant horse experiences have turned him off). The man offered again and A politely declined again.  Finally the man asked A to let Little t sit on the horse and then motioned for me to take a picture. 

The men talked for a few more minutes. The older man asking what we were doing here, if we lived in town, what work we did, why we work for the government (we assured him we don’t), the usual questions that we answered honestly but very vaguely.  Then after asking if we were Mu.slims, casually the phrase “why don’t you say the statement of belief” slipped into the conversation.  A told the man that he didn’t know what he was talking about.  The man said, “it’s easy, just repeat after me ‘la e la e la la ba la ba da’ (not a direct translation or how you actually say it, just what is sounds like) and then you will be a good M.uslim.”

Once again he repeated the phrase and said to A, “just say it”.  By now we were surrounded by a large crowd of men.  There are times when having rational conversations about your faith with people are good and appropriate. There are other times were it will be hopeless and it is safer to just leave.  This time was one of the latter.  A asked for permission (culturally appropriate), said goodbye and we left.  We saw a few more goats and sheep before making our way back down the riverbed and towards home.   

All in all, it was a lovely morning, we saw a camel, Little t loved it and we got some exercise and fresh air.  But the pressure to utter those words put a slight damper on an otherwise lovely experience. 

Mind you, we weren’t scared in the midst of the crowd, but it was a little tense. The man was obviously testing to see if we were M.uslims or not (if we would have been we would have said the statement quickly and easily). Often we can be mistaken for locals, especially when we don’t have Little t with us, A is thought to be local and I am thought to be from Iran. There were a lot of eyes and ears turned in our direction…and I found myself sad that we didn’t have a great way to refute what they were saying. While it may have seemed like the perfect opportunity to hop up on our soapbox and preach, it definitely wasn’t.

It is just discouraging because many times our hands feel tied in this place. Oh, how we want to share about the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, the One who flung stars into space and yet despite that power is gentle enough to breathe life into each tiny baby.  We so long to speak of the Hope and Truth that has beautifully ruined our lives forever, to share of freedom and wholeness that is far beyond our comprehension. 

As I was making lunch after we returned home, I heard this song by Chris Tomlin and I wept as I realized that this was the cry of my heart as we stood in the midst of those men. To be able to tell them that truly our God is greater. 

And not to say it in a competitive third grader on the playground “na-na-na-na-na our God is better than your god!” way. But with conviction and promise:

Our God opens the eyes of the blind.
Out of the ashes He will rise.
There is no one like Him.

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
Our God is higher than any other

Our God is the healer
He is awesome in power
He is our great God. 

This is what we long to tell people in this place – in ways that are sensitive and respectful. But we also want to tell them in ways that will blow them out of the water.  Because that is who God is, isn’t it?  One who will completely and totally transform and change life to make it something beautiful that rises from the ashes. 

So, please pr.ay for us in this place and in these days. Pr.ay that we will have opportunities to share with people about who our great God is and what He has done in our lives.  And pr.ay for wisdom and clarity of speech when those pressures to convert do come – that we would be able to have sensible and meaningful conversations – to be able to share about our great God instead of just tucking tail and running. 

By the way, I am pretty sure kAkA let out a sigh of relief when we returned camel-less. He did, however, tell us he would give us a loan if we wanted to buy a camel…he would have the money to lend us as soon as he could borrow it from someone else…who most likely would have to borrow it from someone else…tempting…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back and Forth

I have been at home all day and I like it very much. I have also had Internet all day…which has caused me to not be as productive in other areas as I would have liked…but you know…

A just skipped in from the office and commented on how great it is to work.  He stunk like mutton and onions from lunch but said he wasn’t complaining!  Little t spent the morning jumping on the trampoline with kAkA while I cleaned and caught up on e-mail.  So, we have all done ‘normal’ things today and it feels nice.  The beginning of the week was laughable…in the sense that we didn’t really get anything done.  It went down like this:

8:00 pm Friday night our teammate M comes over to tell us that there has “been demonstrations turned bad” (could be the title of a new reality t.v. series…) in the country over the Q’ran being burned in the States.

9:00 pm Friday M returns again to tell us that all projects in the country are closed for the next day and we are essentially on lock-down. Meaning, we all travel to the other side of town to the house of teammates there.  It is closer to the airport and to the military base and farther away from our office and the UN office, etc. We are told to pack our bags and bring evacuation stuff In case things get ugly and we have to get out. 

We spend the rest of the night packing. I pack a ton of food and filtered water, etc. I keep thinking that we will be at the house of team members who are not in country right now and therefore don’t have anything in their house. Turns out we aren’t there and I have WAY overpacked.  We head to bed exhausted…we have stayed up way too late for way too many nights…it will be a long week…

7:30 am – we are lugging our bags to the van and the guard is joking about how much junk we are bringing…it looks ridiculous, but what can you do?  We have never done this before (thankfully) we don’t know how to prepare. 

We notice on the way across town that people are out and about, women are walking in the streets, kids are out, shops are open.  We are fairly certain that nothing exciting is going to happen in M-ville today.

7:40 am – 12 noon  We drink coffee, have breakfast, sit around and talk, read books, chase Little t around and have visits from neighbors before eventually deciding that it is quiet today and we will return home after lunch. Local staff members and friends have been out surveying the situation and say that nothing is happening.  At noon the neighbors bring over lunch which is amazing.  We eat it and then sigh with relief that Little t will get to nap in his own bed. 

12:20 pm – we arrive home, the guards laugh that we have returned...with ALL of our bags. We feed Little t and get him down for his nap.   A goes to the office to try to get some work done.  I sit down with my Bible and a book. I read about God clothing the birds of the air and whisper thanks for the care He takes for my family and team and the people of this place.

For the next two hours I read and look at my workout clothes lying on the floor…trying to motivate myself to get off my butt.  I eat a piece of cake while I look at my clothes.  Finally I realize that I need to sort and repack our bags and do that instead of working out. 

3:00 pm – Little t wakes up an hour before I am expecting him to…the floor is still covered in stuff, I am still watching t.v. and eating cake.  He mixes up my piles and drops crumbs from his own snack all over. 

5:00 pm – A comes home and takes over packing while I take Little t outside to swing…he ends up playing in a giant mud puddle – he is happy, I am too tired to care.  After he gets cleaned up, kAkA takes him outside to jump on the trampoline while I make supper. 

As I watch them out the window in the yard bathed in golden/orange evening light I choke back tears.  The excitement of getting out of here that I felt earlier in the day is pushed down by the reality of the beauty of life here…our necessity to be here at this time. We are so blessed with simple treasures in this place.

The rest of the evening is spent doing the supper thing, getting Little t to bed and making sure bags are packed for the next time we need to split.  We catch up on laundry – washing stuff we would want to have ready for wearing if we have to leave.  Fall into bed exhausted.

7:55 am – we have all been up for a while (some of us longer than others) and Little t and I make our way to the bedroom to finally change out of our pajamas while A finishes getting ready for the day.  A walks out of the house and I hear him say “I am ready to go now”. I know then that we are repeating the drill… He reenters the house with E, M’s wife and tells us that we have to go now. Demonstrations have been planned for that morning and we need to be on the other side of town before they happen.

8:05 am – we are in the yard and packing the car (we are later given an unofficial award for being the quickest to go from pajamas to out the door). We are taking a local staff member’s car and he very proudly tells us to get in.  E, Little t and I get in the backseat. He reassures us that he will bring our husbands and the rest of our bags (which we have trimmed from 7 to 4) on the next trip. He turns the ignition and there is nothing. He smiles nervously and says “Yak problem” (one problem). He tries again, nothing. The men yell at him to hurry up and go, but we are not going to go anywhere in his fancy little car!  We get out and throw the bags into the back of the pickup. Our husbands join us and we make it to the other side of town. 

8:20 am – 12 noon – we sit around, drink coffee, talk politics, pray, read books, get reports from local staff…notice a pattern here?!? Demonstrations happened but were quiet. We are told that people have “gotten it out of their system” and things will be quiet now. Once again I breathe a sigh of relief when we are going home in time for Little t’s nap. 

1:00 pm – Little t is down, A and I eat some lunch and watch a little t.v.

2:00 -4:15 pm – Little t keeps sleeping while I work in the garden. It is lovely.

We do the evening thing and get a little more rest. We do our dishes again, not knowing what the next day will bring.

7:30 am – I lay in bed nursing Little t and as I pray, I wonder what we will actually do if we are at home all morning…only to be interrupted by A telling me that we are heading out again. 

As we change and get ready he explains that local staff had called as they began getting news in their own neighborhoods of more demonstrations trying to be rustled up for the day.  Monday is a ‘bazaar day’ meaning that a lot of people from outlying villages come in to M-ville to shop and sell stuff.

Logic would say that the best way to have a rousing demonstration is to pay villagers who come into town to carry a sign and walk around shouting Death to America.  So so effective, let me tell you…

Effective enough that we believed it and made our way to the other side of town. 

Day three of spending the morning drinking coffee, chatting, praying, chasing Little t (who by day three was a little wigged out by all of the craziness). Reports from local staff said that people were demonstrating (such a weird word useage to me…but I digress) but seemed to be peaceful.  We start to talk about going home at noon. The guard returns to tell us that some shop keepers are closing up shop (ha ha) and that there is a strong military presence in the city.  The bomber plane has been doing low fly-bys all morning long.  So, we decide to sit tight for the day. 

11:30 am or so – the guard returns (and we also get calls from local co-workers) that there has been an ‘accident’ between the military and locals.  We send people out to scout it out.  115 versions of the story later we are no closer to realizing what actually happened, but do realize that we aren’t going home anytime soon.

Each minute closer to naptime…A and I begin to get more and more nervous about what we do with the beast who refuses to sleep if he is not in his own bed. The day becomes slow-motion long…A sets up a make-shift bed for Little t. 

12 noon We eat lunch – the whole time Little t is rubbing his eyes and asking to go to bed.  

1 pm - I nurse Little t and he falls asleep almost instantly like usual. I go to put him down in the bed and his eyes fly open and the hysterics set in.  I sit out of view hoping he will calm down but he only gets more frantic.  I try nursing him to sleep again…he is suspicious now and won’t close his eyes. I lay down with him…he thinks it is a game. I realize that we have the rest of the day with a wild child who has gotten 5 minutes of sleep. Lovely.

1:30 pm - We go play with the big kids, snoop around the yard, walk through the alfalfa patch, chat, drink coffee, laugh and pray.  Neighbors come to say hello and tell us they will be bringing us supper…because that is just what they do. 

4 pm – we get permission to go across town at 5 so we can sleep in our own beds and get some space.  A and I are SO thankful that we won’t have to endure Little t attempting to sleep somewhere else. 

5 pm – we make it home. Little t, the big kids and I jump on the trampoline. A puts Little t in the stroller while I water the garden. After 10 minutes Little t is asleep and stays that way for 40 minutes until A brings him in for supper.

He eats and then snuggles in to nurse before bed. I whisper a prayer of thanks that we have made it through another day.

Tuesday – things were quiet today and we are thankful.  We are lying low, but quite honestly don’t have anywhere to go anyway.  

We are so thankful for the little ways that God was working in this – things that we could so easily take for granted.  We washed diapers on Friday…had just put them in the wash when M came over with the news the first time. So we didn’t have a pile of dirty diaper to potentially leave sitting in our house for an undefined amount of time.  Our team mates were so good to help with Little t, giving us breaks just when we needed them.  Our local staff takes such good care of us – checking in, passing along information, coming to visit, bringing us food, etc.  God’s words have been so simple, but so good for me in these days – such beautiful reminders that He is walking with us through all of this.

And that is our crazy week so far…here’s to praising God for His protection and faithfulness…and also hoping that the rest of the week is quiet! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Read this...please?

Here I am again...deferring you to other things to read instead of writing anything myself...

We are tired - it has been a long few days. I will write about it soon. Let's just say it has been a long few days of doing nothing and sometimes that is what makes us the most tired.  So tonight we ate supper, watched a little t.v. and sat in front of our computers and just stared at them.  Well, A actually did something productive. Me...not so much... story of our lives.

Anyway, A wrote a really good post on his blog here that you should read.  It will make you think.

I also liked what this article had to say about unrest these days over the burning of the Qu'ran...especially the part I have copied and pasted below.  This is so far out of a Western way of thinking, but this mindset is the reality we deal with EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. and I will write a whole different post on that (hopefully) soon.

"In speaking with Afghans about the incident, it’s surprised me how many people support the spirit of the protests. No one I’ve talked to supports the killings of the UN workers. But even well-educated, informed Afghans tell me that it’s good that people are speaking out against the desecration of the Quran.
Much of the support stems from the inability of many people here to contextualize the March 20 Quran burning. A translator who works for a fellow journalist here in Kabul did not know that Florida pastor Terry Jones was the same person who threatened to burn the Quran last September.
This led to the perception that many Americans share his beliefs, even if he heads a small church of about 30 people who have so little support that they’ve had to sell their furniture on eBay to stay afloat. Mr. Jones is now trying to sell the church property.
In a place like Afghanistan, where the vast majority of the populace is illiterate and many lack regular access to reliable news outlets, perception and rumors often become more important than facts. Now that the story of the Quran burning has spread, it almost does not matter how strongly US officials – from President Barack Obama to Gen. David Petraeus – condemn Jones’s actions. The damage has been done."
I feel the need to summarize this somehow...but I am too tired. So I will go to bed instead. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Have A Maker

Sometimes it is the simplest truths that I forget and later God stuns me with.  When the days run together and you strive hard to live healthy and be well in a place, it can be the foundational things that aren’t given much attention.  I am so thankful for God’s ways of bringing these nuggets of Truth to light, sometimes in very beautiful and meaningful ways. 

A week or so ago, we took a little family ride in the car.  It is nice at times to get out in this manner – less hassle and staring eyes.  We were headed in the direction of the two houses occupied by our foreign team members on the other side of town.  We keep going back and forth on whether or not we should relocate to that side of town (more on that in another post), so we were going to see the house again and pray about the decision.  Truth be told, we had had a very long and clausterphobic day in our own yard and just needed some time outside in the gorgeous weather without anyone else’s kids. 

It was that time of day. The time of day where the golden glow of the sun shines on everything in it’s last ditch effort to bathe the world in the color of honey.  The air was clear and warm. Kids were playing on the sides of the road, men were walking home from work.  At a main intersection, A pulled the truck over to buy some veggies.  Little t and I stayed in the vehicle. 

From the cab of the truck I watched life go by. Groups of women walked along the main street, their chadArI’s floating in the breeze.  Young boys played around the truck trying to get my attention.  Cars, trucks and motorcycles zipped past. Donkeys laden with bags of flour and rice lumbered by slowly.  Men bought vegetables from carts on the sides of the road. A woman haggled the price of a cut of meat from a man seated on a cart – he was hopeful that she would buy the last scrap of mutton he had hanging there so that he could call it a day. 

On the edges of the side street where we sat, men were cleaning potatoes and onions and putting them away for the day - folding up the burlap sacks that they had displayed their goods on.  A pair of men, an older and a younger, worked together to shake the onions in a burlap sack.  They tossed them up in the air and as they did, the dust from the bustle of the day floated off the vegetables and lazily up the street towards us, looking like golden snow as it glinted in the late afternoon sun. 

The man A was buying potatoes and onions from caused me to chuckle. He sat at the back of his tarp and combed his long snow-white beard with a comb as he shouted orders to a younger boy.  Obliging, the boy weighed and bagged A’s purchase before taking his money. 

The words to a song popped into my head and immediately tears sprang to my eyes as I meditated on the words there in that truck, surrounded by potatoes and onions, golden sunshine and bearded men.

I have a maker,
He formed my heart
Before even time began,
My life was in Hand.

I have a Father,
He calls me his own.
He’ll never leave me,
No matter where I go.

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call.

Emotionally I was rattled. The depth and power of those words sunk in to my heart and into the reality of my surroundings – opening my eyes to see those around me in a whole new light.  Though the golden sun made them shine physically…suddenly they were bathed in an even more precious light. 

The tired man who hauled a heavy bag on his back, God had formed him in his mother’s womb. He had created Him with love and care.

Every hair on the old potato seller’s head is numbered by the One who flung stars into space.

The lover of my soul is so taken with the women who float by in their chadArI’s. He knows so intimately the prisons (figuratively and sometimes literally) they endure. He captures each one of their tears in a bottle.  He longs to bind up their broken hearts, to be the healer of their hurts. 

Before time began, the God of the Heavens spoke this place – barren and yet so devastatingly beautiful – into existence. Now His heart longs for those who dwell in this place to rest in the fact that He knows their name – a small symbol of how deeply He cares for them. 

He knows every thought in their heads – their frustrations with a broken society, their fears of not measuring up to the impossible standards placed on them by Is.lam, the worries they have about sick kids and little money and scarce water and poor crops and, and, and…He hears them. 

These people that the world would love to hate, or forget, or damn or dispose of; He created them, knit them together, loves them deeply, and longs to gather them to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks.  He has not forgotten the least of these. 


I was moved.

I was convicted.

I was crying, and thankful for the reminder.

That evening, the beauty surrounding us didn’t come from the sun saying it’s final goodbyes for the day. It came from eyes that were opened to see God’s fingerprints all over these people and this place.