getting back to soaring

last night i wrote a post that sounded a lot like the beginnings of ‘burn out’- that state of emotional and spiritual and physical exhaustion that can happen with prolonged stress or struggle.  that state that often reveals itself as lack of motivation- the inability to accomplish and the strong feeling that you are in fact, accomplishing nothing.  and it spirals into those questions: who am i? why am i here anyway? what am i doing? why did i ever think this was a good idea? and finally when can i go?

i must back up and say that this feels very silly to write because i don’t look at our life and see a tremendous amount of stress- especially compared to those around us.  i look at our life and see a lot of goodness and much to be thankful for and a whole lot of blessing.  we now almost always have electricity.  we have running water in our house.  we are generally healthy.  we have enough food and never go hungry.  we even have chocolate and starbucks instant coffee.  i mean really- what is there to complain about?

but.

i think it’s the cumulative other things.

this morning mike and i spent a lot of time together reading some verses and mostly talking and then finally praying a brief prayer that went something like- ‘help kris today – give her spirit strength’ for which i was profoundly grateful.

mike reminded me that while all the above are true- we are so fortunate and not in need physically- there are things that we don’t have here- that our ugandan friends do have. they have their extended families- they have the village that they grew up in and can escape to for holidays- they have their support systems- they are living in their own culture- they are anonymous- they aren’t starred at- no one shouts ‘muzungu’ at them when they walk- people they don’t know don’t come to their door asking for sponsorship. every. day. they live in their place- with their people.

and we don’t.

one of my ugandan friends yesterday made two comments that accidentally made me feel so foreign and alone.  ” you white people always……”  and “an african would never do that.”  i can’t even remember what was being talked about- but it felt so bad.  i felt so helplessly different.  i felt so alone and removed and sad- but the truth is- i am not african nor will i ever be- no matter how long i am here.  the truth is, i am white, and always will be.  the truth is, i am american, and always will be.   these are the facts.  i have chosen to live in a place that is foreign to me.

last night i found myself googling ‘missionary burn-out’.  it talked about signs and symptoms and  prevention strategies- things that are obvious but easy to forget- take breaks, eat lunch, leave work at work, take vacation.

mike and i realized that we haven’t been away for a weekend alone, with out the kids, in over a year.  we began to look into options and get excited, but they also all looked so expensive.  i kept thinking- yeah that place looks great! we could do it, or…. we could pay someones rent for the YEAR!  i began to feel that my ‘break’ wasn’t important enough- that the disparity was too loud- that life was just so unfair and i couldn’t be part of it.

this morning mike pointed out our cumulative stress.  he pointed out that there will always be a sense of living in two worlds here- that we are always going to struggle with this balance- but.  he said we needed to go away. he said ‘book it.’ period.  he said if we don’t take care of ourselves we won’t be here to pay anyone’s rent and the bigger question is why would we pay their rent anyway? he said that we came here to help support people and educate and mentor them, so that they can pay their rent.  he said that what we are doing is hard.

i said that i was wondering if a better way was to do like some of my friends who fly in for 10 days and fix lots of kids hearts or lips or legs surgically and teach ugandan doctors while they are here and then fly home.

he said what they are doing is great- but they are coming into a system that is already set up and we are trying to set up systems.  we are on the ground, looking at what is broken or not available, and trying to fix or build it.  he said it takes longer- it’s way more frustrating- it’s about relationship building- and our ‘results’ can be harder to measure.  he said what we are doing is important and lasting and as we teach planning and setting up and fixing- then we enable more ugandans to pay their own rent and know when to biopsy lumps, and operate on the hearts and legs of their people, and build and create and dream and believe and be empowered.

right. of course.
i love this man.

when he went for work- i walked up monkey hill to listen to God.  i wanted to hear what i’d ‘get’ to give my spirit strength beside the wise words of my man. and She delivered – i got isaiah 40:13-

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like
eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.

there will be seasons of walking, and of running and even of soaring.  i am tired yes, but i’m walking, and i’m even running and i can’t wait to be back to soaring.

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have i….

it’s the quiet of the morning on boxing day. the day that Christmas is over but the house still holds it’s lights and scents and people who are home from work and school. it’s the quiet morning before the heat comes and i am outside enjoying it alone.
today begins my week of in between time.  i’ve come to love this week sandwiched between Christmas and new year- this time at the very end of one year and right at the beginning of another.  it seems the perfect time to stop and think- to look back and lean forward- to be filled with the wonder of what has been and the anticipation of what will come. it’s a good week.  a good time to be in all the places- jjo, leero, enkya- yesterday, today, tomorrow.

mike gave me a book of mary oliver poems.  i love mary oliver’s poems.  the beginning of the gardener speaks to me today:

have i lived enough?
have i loved enough?
have i considered Right Action enough, have i
come to any conclusion?
have i experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
have i endured loneliness with grace?

i’m trying to hold my mind still and ask myself these questions, and others.

have i walked with God enough?
have i listened enough?
have i done the things that i knew i was being asked to do?
have i avoided the things i was asked not to do?
have i grown? have i practiced hearing that still small voice?
or have i been too busy, too loud, too distracted?

have i lived out thanks? have i lived out gratitude? have i lived the grace that i’ve been given?
have i been the hands and feet of our God where i am, in this small spot of the world?

i have been in this small spot- mukono, uganda for a year an a half.
0-21-12 n, 32-45-19 e
this is where i am.  where we are.  i gave mike a bracelet with the gps coordinates hammered into a tin plate that was sewn onto a leather band- to remember where we are now.  where we feel we should be.

i’ve watched things change this year. for me. here. in my head and my heart.  in how i think of this place. of how i think of my place in this place.  it has happened through relationships and through time and it is good.  thank God life is dynamic and not static.

i need so little.  so very little. and i have so much.
caring for others is so important and so is sharing.
it’s better to give more and maybe think about it less.
this life here will always be a about drawing boundaries, erasing them, adjusting them, drawing again, erasing again and trying again. or maybe life will be about arriving at some magic boundary-less place- where we just live with one another.

i have been going to the village of a old woman who is the grandmother of one of zoe’s friends.  she has been sick for a while and has a nasty wound on her leg that i’ve been attempting to tend to.  i’ve been going everyday- and really- doing very little.  i wash it, change the dressing, check her antibiotics and her pain medications, and lately, bring her things she needs to live- like food and sheets and a mattress.  this is easy to do- i can do it- what i’ve been feeling badly about is that i can’t seem to get her leg healed up.  but.

on Christmas eve, when i went to her, again feeling badly that the wound looks about the same, i was welcomed with an abundance of gifts.  ears of corn, bags of beans, pumpkins and avocados and a live chicken.  it was so generous. it was so full. it was so reciprocal. they were caring for me now. they were giving out of what they had- because they could.

this is what it’s about. it’s about relationships.
it’s not just about big massive change- it’s not always about implementing large scale programs.  that is fine.  that can be good.  but it’s always about loving each other, and being there, even when it’s taking too long to heal and part of you wants to avoid it, even when it’s christmas eve and you could be home with your own family.

the change for me is that now- it didn’t occur to me to not go on Christmas eve- in fact i almost went on Christmas day. maybe this doesn’t make much sense to anyone except me- and that is okay.

but. whatever our gps coordinates are, let us ask:
have i? and will i? and won’t i? and should i? and could i?
let us ask: what is enough?
maybe this year- enough will become more- maybe enough will break through our self-protective boundaries and love will pour out. and grace will pour down. and the world will become smaller still.

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eyes wide open

i haven’t been doing much thinking lately.  but i’ve been doing much observing and learning and calculating the difference between shillings and dollars.  i’ve been listening to different accents- the beautiful sounds of the foreign english tongue- and to different languages- variations of the bantu languages- lugandan, lougbara, lousoga.  all those soft sounds swimming around me and the endless bird songs.

today we took the boys into kampala.  it was their first trip in daylight outside of the campus where we live.  their first time to see a new world- to have their eyes wide open.

they did great.  buying furniture off the side of the road in the red dirt.

i think their eyes were tired, and their minds- looking at the differences and finding the similarities.  taking it in.  processing.

in some ways being here is like going back in time.

last night while writing this, the power went out, and stayed out.  so we cooked by candle light because we haven’t bought a kerosene lantern yet, and ate by candle light and did dishes and baked cookies by candle light and everyone went to bed early.  and there was something about it that was calming and settling and unifying.  life has to slow down when technology is not around to keep things going when the dark comes.  it feels natural and rhythmed and it happens here every other night- the odd nights are the black out nights- and then there are some not scheduled ones.

the sun sets here at the same time each night- around 7.  and it takes with it the warmth and the sounds of the day.  the darkness comes and brings so, so many stars and new sounds, night sounds. can you feel it?

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