Saturday, June 24, 2017

Here am I

I've been home for almost 2 weeks now.

I left a home, a place I grew to love, and people, with whom I shared life.  I left African heat and rain and crazy traffic, 3 hour church services in French and Hausa.  I left students, kids I loved and grew alongside.  I left family dinners every Wednesday night, girls high school Bible Study every Monday night, and prayer group every Saturday afternoon.  I left incredible coworkers and parents and neighbors who felt like parents.  I left worship-leading with Abby, the smell of dust after it rains, and French conversations with the workers at Sahel.  I left laughter and community.  My heart feels the ache of leaving.  No, no one has died.  But I still grieve the loss of these beautiful things in my life.  I still grieve.

And life moves on here in Pennsylvania.  I'm glad it does.  I'm thankful that I'm busy and I have things to do and people to see, appointments to make.  The things, the to-do list acts as a distraction in a lot of ways, hopefully in a healthy way.  I'm applying for jobs, visiting schools, seeing friends, traveling for weddings, and finally getting to those annual check-ups.

This transition has been different than the other couple times that I've come home.  Before, I knew I would be returning to my Niger-home, to all the things familiar, the smells, the people, the school, and a clear sense of purpose.  And this time, when August 9th comes around and everyone is starting school at Sahel Academy, I will be in Pennsylvania.  And I think of my fourth graders this past year who cried when I left on the last day of school.  I think of the class I taught last year and how I spoke at their fifth grade recognition and how they will be middle schoolers and I'm missing it.  I think of how short-staffed Sahel is and how they are combing elementary classes and how they still don't have a kindergarten teacher.  I think of all the memories I made with close friends who will still be teaching at Sahel next school year and how I won't be with them this time.

Transition books tell you to lean into the grief.  They say to maintain routine and to know yourself.  And here I am, discovering that transition isn't really about me at all.  Life in general, for that matter, isn't about me at all!  What brought meaning and purpose in my life has always been the Lord.  And that truth hasn't changed.  Ministry is daily life, Christianity lived out, continual opportunities to love much.   

"Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier." - Albert Schweitzer

I am so grateful for the experiences from the past 3 years.  And I am overwhelmed by the incredible people I met along the way who mean so much to me now (part of the reason why it's so hard to say goodbye).  And that's exactly where I want to stay - in a place of thankfulness.  It's tempting to compare one place to another or one culture to another.  But that brings criticism and judgement.  I want to remain in a posture of gratitude.

"Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. ...thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life."  -Ann Voskamp  

My hands are open and my arms spread wide, ready to embrace whatever God would like to set before me.  Ready to worship and thank Him, because He is trustworthy.  I speak from experience.

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am determined to make life all about Jesus.  My life is not mine at all.  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body." -1 Corinthians 6:19-20

God called me to Niger.  Now He's called me to Pennsylvania.  "Here am I." -Isaiah 6:8