Sunday, May 20, 2018

Be All There.

Last summer at my parents' house--handprints in cement.

Last night at bath time Johnny said, Mommy, I have an owie on my knee. He stood there with his big mournful eyes, and I noticed how tall he is now. He is almost to the end of kindergarten. And I thought about how it's not going to be much longer that a child of mine shows me his owie.

Today was the annual garage sale at HOPAC, so yesterday we went through the house to find what we could get rid of. We loaded the car up with the booster seat and the foam blocks and the Ikea train set. You are taking away all of my memories! I whined to Gil. And he just rolled his eyes.

When you're in the midst of it, every season of life feels like it will last forever. You can't imagine yourself ever being old enough to get married and then suddenly you are; it feels like the babies will never be out of diapers and then one day you realize that everyone's pee has made it into the toilet (mostly) for quite some time now. The years at home with toddlers feel like eternity and then one night you think you could be looking at your last owie.

The passage of time here in Tanzania has surprised me. Living as overseas as a foreigner feels like it should be temporary. But days have a way of blending into years, which have eventually become Grace's entire childhood. And me? I was 23 when we moved to Tanzania. I'm 41 now. Enough time has gone by that we have replaced our wedding towels and watched trees grow from seedlings to towers and seen first teeth grow in and later get covered by braces.

So much of life is sullied by longing for the next thing. But then you get to 41 years old and realize that the next thing always comes, no matter how far away it seems.

I like Now. I want to live in Now. As Jim Elliot exhorted, I want to be All there. Until that Day, the Day when all will be made new, all I have is Now.

I'm listening to Grace and her best friend in the backyard while I write this. They are supposed to be working on a science project, but judging from the hysterical laughter, I'm not sure how much is being accomplished.

I sit here, and I listen to them laugh.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

When Your Mom is the Principal

1. School becomes your second home. You help yourself to office supplies, you leave your shoes under the secretary's desk, and you have free reign of the staff lounge.

2. Your friends start to get a little nervous around you, because if they are naughty, it always gets back to the principal.

3. But this isn't such a big deal because you yourself keep your mom humble by managing to be naughty in almost the exact same ways as the other naughty kids who get sent to her office.

4. Which means you can't get away with anything. Which kind of stinks.

5. Your parents don't get surprised or depressed or anything when you bring home your report cards. Because your mom has already seen them and signed them and told your dad about them, so the report card just gets tossed on the table.

6. Speaking of which, your mom sees your teachers every day and visits your class all the time. Which means that she knows everything.

7. This also means there's nothing exciting to tell your mom. At dinner, you could say, "Hey Mom, next week is Book Week!" and she will say, "Yes, Darling, I organized it." On the other hand, you also get inside information about upcoming events. This comes in very useful with your social status.

8.  Your mom is always around, so you get to hug her multiple times a day. This is great, unless you are a 10-year-old boy. Then you just give your mom glances that say, "Please don't embarrass me." But she inevitably still does.

Josiah helping Johnny during "Buddy Time."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

We Went to Slovenia

I decided I needed new shoes.

All but one pair of my shoes are sandals. I was going to be traveling to Slovenia, so I figured I definitely needed another pair of closed-toed shoes.

That was a week ago Friday, and Gil and I were scheduled to leave for the ACSI administrator's conference in Slovenia that night. But I didn't think about my shoe deficit until a few days earlier, and market day is only on Fridays. Which meant I had to go to the market to find shoes just a few hours before I got on a plane.

The Friday market is just down the road from our house. So after school last Friday, I dropped off Gil and the kids at home and rushed over to the market.

As usual, hundreds of vendors were out. Some had set up tables, but most used large pieces of plastic on the ground. Some were selling vegetables, kitchen supplies, toiletries, or school supplies, but most were selling piles of clothes and shoes, second-hand cast-offs from American thrift stores.

I pushed my way through the crowds, my eye out for black shoes. Luckily, about half of the shoes for sale in the market are black. Not because they originated that color, but because the vendors dye as many shoes black as possible. It's the color required for school uniforms.

You look beautiful, the vendors would tell me every time I tried on a pair of shoes. I shook my head. These are too small, I would complain. Like Cinderella's step-sisters, they would insist, No, they're not! See? They will stretch!  

Finally I settled on Aerosole flats (dyed black) that would have to do. I wove my way back through the crowds, finished packing, and left for the airport at midnight.

Fourteen hours later, I was standing on the canal-lined streets of Venice, Italy.

The conference took up a good portion of our time, which meant we had just four afternoons to cram in as much European sight-seeing as possible. So we spent an evening in Venice and visited the famous Postojna caves. We toured the Slovenian town of Piran with its medieval architecture and stepped into the postcard that is Lake Bled, complete with castle and lake island church.

We stuffed ourselves with grapes and pasta and salami, and ate dessert way too many times. We walked along cobblestone streets with flowers poking through wooden fences. We delighted in the glass trinkets in Venice, the gelato shops on every corner, the pristine beauty of the Adriatic Sea.

And it all seemed like a universe away from the market down the street from my house in Tanzania.

I loved this trip. The conference was energizing, the weather was incredible (I could have worn my sandals after all!), and we were with best friends. The beauty filled our souls and we joked repeatedly that maybe God was calling us to be missionaries in Slovenia.


Piran, Slovenia

Postojna caves, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

It was amazing.

But you know what?

I love the market down the street in Dar es Salaam. I love treasure-hunting there; I love the friendliness of the people; I love the unpredictability. I would much rather buy one dollar second-hand shoes at that market than the designer high-heels that are standard for European women.

Europe is extraordinarily beautiful, but so is Tanzania. Dar es Salaam can be dusty and humid, but Venice was covered in graffiti. Beauty and brokenness always live side by side. On any continent.


Home--Dar es Salaam.