Monday, April 21, 2014

Poetry and Zebras

Hello!  (Best photo-bomb to date.  I'm kind of proud of it.)

I was feeling a little poem-ish a while ago.  It happens.  Usually, when it happens, I write something in my journal and that's that. But sometimes I feel compelled to share what I've written, and this is one of those times.  As with most poems, it's pretty sentimental.  Feel free to skip to the bottom if you want.  You're not being graded for this. 

Let's get this straight:
I will never know what it feels like to be you.
I was born in the wrong time and place for that.
I'm not the answer to your questions--
not even close.
You should know that I
can't carry much before my knees begin to buckle,
and I make a pretty useless bodyguard, 
(though not for lack of trying.)
In the heat of battle I am just as likely to be a liability 
as a help.  In other words, I could very well be 
the first to fall.

But if you'd like someone to listen while you're
sorting through your heart,
to hold the world at bay so you can rest,
if you want someone to count your tears,
and add some of their own,
to love the things you love because of you,
if it helps to have a witness of how very much 
you matter,
who still insists "those idiots" matter, too,
if you want a friend to walk with,
and don't mind the occasional curve,
then, friend, look no further.
I'm your man.

I think at the time, I was meditating on what it means to be a good friend.  I've been working on this, lately, although sometimes I wonder what my friends would have to say about my progress.  Anyway, the first few lines popped into my head while I was walking down the beach on a camping trip.  The rest had to be wrestled out, but eventually it came.  It's a nice counter-balance to this little gem that dribbled out of my pen, fully formed, a couple months ago.

We are stars.  
Immeasurable depths of fire and light burn out of our souls—
too beautiful to look at directly—we sustain life and destroy it.  
Our gravity pulls in anything that gets close enough to be caught.

But however big we think we are, space is bigger.

Lonely stars.

Dramatic much?  Sometimes, when I've gone real quiet, and the person I'm with asks me what I'm thinking about, well, this is it.  Only in the moment, the words aren't usually that coherent.  So I just say something plausible, and soothe my conscience by thinking about the plausible thing for a while.
I know.  Weird.
Here's the thing, though: you don't get to choose your weirdness.  You only get to choose whether you're going to lean in and own it, or wander around like a restless spirit, trying to get away from yourself.
It's not a disappointment, really, just a readjusting of expectations and priorities.  I can do that.  I've been doing it for years.

In other news, this happened:

Yes, that is a real wildebeest and those are real zebras behind me.  There were no fences between us or anything!  (See, Dad?  Real live African animals in their own natural habitat!)  My fellow teachers and I had the opportunity to go to a special conference for educators in christian international schools in Africa, and this little game park walkabout was our treat afterwards.  The conference took place at the beautiful Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya.  Not only were we able to meet with other teachers who deal with similar situations (like having to wait for a container to pass through customs before you can access your school supplies, etc.), we also got to listen to some really fascinating speakers.  This guy shared a wonderful new perspective on the different ways our own cultural assumptions influence the way we understand and interpret the Bible.  For instance, the whole dichotomy between "natural" and "supernatural" turns out to be a Western construct (gosh darn you, Aristotle!).  Drawing an imaginary line between what we understand (the natural) and what we don't yet understand (the supernatural), and then banishing God to the latter side of the line is something we Westerners do without even thinking about it.  In fact, in the original Hebrew, the word for Angel and the word for Messenger are the same.  From God's perspective, it's probably all "natural."  Isn't that a cool (and yet kind of unnerving) thought?  Teaching in an international setting is guaranteed to stretch your brain.  It was rather a relief to find that at least there are others whose minds are pretzled on a regular basis.

But before we could ever make it to Kenya, we had to raise a heap of money.  First, we had an auction on the ship (we called it "Auction of Dreams," pictured below).  It was a wonderful evening.  It's a beautiful thing when people who are already giving so much to be here can be so very generous (and have so much fun at the same time)!  Still, with all that generosity, we were several thousand dollars shy of being able to go.  It was the plane tickets that really put us back.  Flying across Africa is a complicated thing, friends.  
But then, an anonymous donor agreed to pay the difference for us!  Honestly, I don't know why I even bother to worry about money anymore.  It obviously doesn't stop God from doing what he wants, especially when people are willing to listen to him.  Once again, I am incredibly and undeservedly blessed.

Amazing conferences in beautiful places notwithstanding, I was a happy woman when we got back to our dear old Africa Mercy, to be welcomed back by eager friends and (secretly) eager students.  Even with all the wonderful people I talked to and all the cool places they live and work in, I couldn't find any place that was quite like the AFM.  My community lives here.  My students are here, and right now, I belong here.

Today, this is home.  And it is very good to be home.