Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Swiss Getaway

Wednesday, July 8th I left Africa for the first time in a year to enjoy short holiday with some friends in Switzerland!  Needless to say, I had an amazing time.  The contrast between the two countries is quite real, giving me an even deeper appreciation for the beauty I saw and felt while away.

This past year, I had the privilege of meeting one of the kindest friends I know.  She worked with SIM Education in Niamey, helping to train kindergarten teachers in local schools.  When she found out that I was staying in Niger for the summer, she invited me to retreat to Switzerland for a couple weeks with her and her sister.  And what a retreat it was!

Our time was filled with walks at sunset, bike rides to church and along the river, swimming in Lake Lucerne, eating meals and dessert with friends and family, my first cheese fondue!, visiting cheese and chocolate factories, hiking in the mountains, and lazily reading in the hammock.

After my friends picked me up at the airport, I realized that stepping in and out of the car was oddly interesting.  I anticipated a wall of heat and to instantly start sweating once I exited the vehicle, as it is in Niger.  To my pleasant surprise, the air was cool, much like being in air conditioning!  It was lovely and refreshing, a break I didn't realize I needed.

Our first stop was the grocery store.  Oh!  The options!  I picked out some blueberries and we snacked on those while we waited for our post-shopping ice cream.  We then visited mom, who has a beautiful garden and a breath-taking view!  Rolling hills covered with bright green trees and grass, small farms and fields kissed by the sun.  I had my fair share of freshly picked home-grown raspberries and then snacked on a juicy apricot while taking in the view.  Water for my soul.  

All in all, it was an amazing trip.  I visited my friends' grandparents and their 300 year old house, talked with their uncle and learned how he milks 75 cows twice a day and knows them all by name!, and we even saw The Lion King musical in Basel!  It was incredible to be so welcomed by the culture, family, and this place they call home.  Though quite busy, between our trip to the mountains and 4 day stay at Lake Lucerne and the Friday grill nights at the church, it was absolutely refreshing and restful.

Praise God for mountains, lakes, grass, cows, hammocks, flowers, sunsets and sunrises, raspberries fresh off the vine, homemade pasta, and new family.  I am so thankful for my time to travel and find new energy.  God is so faithful to give me rest when I need it.  Praise God!

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."  -Psalm 68:19

"Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.  Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies."  Psalm 148:1, 3-4

Friday, July 17, 2015


I've been stuck on this thought for awhile now.  I have lived in Niger just over 11 months, August 1st marking one year.  And the further in time I am from the day that I left the States, the more distant I feel from people back "home."

What you know of my life is based on what I happen to post on my blog, what you read in my newsletter, or the pictures you see on Facebook.  Granted, I do my best to share as much as I can. Pictures and blog posts can often provide a helpful glimpse into my life.  Yet, there is so much more that takes place and shapes me than what floats about in cyberspace.

This distance has created a sense of loneliness, or perhaps a feeling of being unknown.  There have been many times when I wished a friend from back home could be here to share an inside joke or to listen to my woes of the day.   And after 11 months of living in Niger, I know that there is a significant part of my life that many people I love and care about will never fully understand.  No matter how much I share and communicate (which is often limited by time and internet connections), a part of me will be misunderstood.  I am tempted to think, "If only you knew..." or "Why don't you understand...?"  When questions go unasked because a friend doesn't even know where to start, I find myself disappointed.

Perhaps you share this deep desire to be known, to be understood.

But think about this with me for a moment. (Cheesy illustration time).  How many tools and machines do we use everyday that we really have no idea how they work?  For instance, a cell phone sends messages and calls your friends, but if you were asked to replicate this device, to make your own cell phone, would you be able to do it?  Of course not!  You don't understand how it was made!  (Unless of course, you are some sort of cell phone manufacturer).  The one who made the device will naturally know it best, because he made it!  I would venture to say that our hearts work the same way.  Who better to know me, understand me like I want to be understood, than the One who made me?

I want to lean into the knowledge that Christ's love for me reaches the deepest parts of my heart where I feel the least known.  Life in Niger is drastically different from life in the States (or anywhere else, it seems!).  But God knows that.  He knows my toughest struggles and my deepest joys.  What better friend to rely on than our Heavenly Father?  My heart rejoices as I think of the rich friendship he calls us into with His Holy Spirit.  I serve a God who desires His people.  The same God who created the Universe knows me and intimately pursues me.

I must admit that I can often be quite ignorant of the Lord's pursuing.  I have become fairly skilled at the practice of hardening my heart to the Holy Spirit's drawing.  Yet my mind rests and my heart finds peace knowing that God doesn't leave me.  He is constant.  He is consistent.  He is faithful.  He is unchanging.  This is the God who satisfies my cravings to be understood.

I've come to the conclusion that I spend too much time trying to be understood.  Perhaps, I should invest more of my energy into trying to understand those around me and especially, the One who made me.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me."  
Psalm 139:1

"God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
1 Corinthians 1:9  

"I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people."
Leviticus 26:12

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let's Dance!

"First position, round those arms, pinch the penny!"  My voice echoed off the walls of Hope Hall this summer every Tuesday and Thursday morning this past month.  Though I've never taught a dance class before, I had the pleasure of sharing my love for dancing with about a dozen  4-10 year old girls.

We had a blast exploring different elements of dance, i.e. quick, slow, sharp, smooth, high, low, big, small.  We explored how to dance with streamers and hula hoops!  We learned about the importance of stretching and even did a bit of line dancing!  And of course, we learned ballet!  The girls were ecstatic to learn and practice their positions and ballet technique.  Using the backs of chairs for our "bar" and clearing a few rows for circle exercises, we managed quite well.

Though the age range was challenging, I was happy to see progress in each student.  At the end of each class, we held hands in a circle to pray and thank God for giving us the gift of dance.  We always discussed that one of the main reasons we dance is to bring glory to our Heavenly Father.  I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to bring dance to some of the girls at Sahel Academy and within the community.  Bringing joy to these little dancers has definitely been a summer highlight!

"Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp."  Psalm 149:3