Today I was home with a fever and just feeling a bit ‘blah’.Otherwise healthy folks, life in a foreign country has afforded Taylor and me a membership into the virus-a-month club. Just one of those things where you suck it up and move on. And thus I embarked upon the rhythms of a sick day with a move from the bed, to a little reading on the couch, a soak in the bath, a walk onto the porch, back to the couch- antsy to say the least, yet not up for going anywhere. I found myself here- on the porch with a breeze blowing in, a hat on my head to shield the afternoon rays, watching a rain shower come in and blow by, stopping as quickly as it began. And so I began to wonder, to let my mind get lost in thoughts, reflecting.
As the days tick by and the time for us to board a plane for a visit back to our dear homeland approaches, and as we await embraces by the people we know and love the most, we have begun to cover our hearts in prayer. Lord, please help us stay focused on you HERE for the next few weeks. Increase our desire to return to our South African home after weeks of breathing that sweet Tennessee air and soaking in those South Carolina summer nights. God, remind us constantly that obedience comes before comfort. Let those things that we will miss about these African people and this valley continually multiply in number and keep us grounded. Above all, set our hearts on things above, not on earthly things. The best part about those prayers is that I have already begun to see God answer them, meeting us with gentle reminders of His Hand in our lives here. Moments. Glimpses. Conversations. Quiet thoughts. Little joys. Strong convictions. All these things draw our attention from us and back to Him on a daily basis. So as I sit here on this sick day, I revel in the beauty of all the blessings that pour in when we agree to pour out. I shall give an attempt at putting these moments to words. These moments that we notice, feel, remember.
Our early evenings typically consist of Taylor on a surfboard and me wearing running shoes. And I have a favorite spot. I meet Taylor at the beach parking lot, steal a kiss, send him off into the waves, and then put my feet to the pavement on a stretch of road that winds around the coastline. The lighthouse comes into view just as the sun sets over the water, and I feel so alive. Sound like some cheesy, inspirational movie? Quite possibly. But how thankful I am for those moments of freedom, clarity, and deep, refreshing breaths in this life of mine.
I took a new running route one morning last week because of the public holiday. Kids were out of school, people milling about, and I was on the sidewalk doing my thing. As I neared the entrance to a community called Masiphumelele, a group of several young boys start running toward me, holding out their hands, and with exuberant cheers we all high fived as I breezed past. Oh the joy that bubbles over in moments like these!
The tunnels are a place where we can daily measure the work God is doing. In the past several weeks I have looked on (and fed a hungry husband) as a really great team of people at Living Way have torn down, taken apart, moved over, built up, replanted, cleaned up, shaped up, and got the ball rolling on a whole new farm with an entirely fresh crop all the while finishing off the final harvest from the old crop. From one farm to another, the move is complete and there are over 7,000 tomato plants that look a little fuller and a little taller each time I walk in the greenhouse door. The first tomatoes have appeared and God continues to blow us away with His constant provision.
Taylor comes home often with stories of how farming is so much more than just producing a big red fruit. There are soccer competitions that lend out some extra smiles on lunch break with a few American guys trying to hang in with a few Africans. There are blossoming leaders gaining confidence, pride, and responsibility with their heads held high and their hands working hard. There are connections with individuals and organizations that undeniably remind us that God is in this and is Sovereign, promising to provide in ways beyond what we could ever imagine. And as my Taylor seeks to reach people for our Lord, there are also men speaking such truth into his own life, shaping him into a man of God of whom I am so proud. We are humbled, to say the least.
Behind the wheel a few days ago, driving through the Ocean View Community that has become so close to my heart, I found myself just looking and noticing. I passed the masses of green uniformed school kids after the freedom of dismissal, the man that sells soft serve ice cream right out of the back of his pickup, the drug dealers on the corner, the taxis blaring music and honking horns as they try to fill every seat, and the laundry ever-hanging between the flats. And then I passed a little boy holding a string attached to an old, cardboard orange juice box. On each corner of the box were wheels made out of milk carton lids, and he was pulling that homemade car along with such delight, bouncing with each step. I reveled in the “childlikeness” represented in that moment- full of innocence, pride, and joy, and I thanked God that He cares about that little boy and his orange juice car. I pray for more innocence and less kids that skip right past childhood and just survive. I praise God that He can allow simple joys to shine through the desperate darkness.
Pride. I watched as men and women-of this color, that culture, this age, that belief- all walked with heads held high to cast a vote for this country’s next president, a freedom that has not always been free to South African citizens. Does this country have social problems that seem to spiral out of control and beyond return? Indeed, we live in a troubled nation. But how cool it was to watch ALL people of this country go make their mark on a ballot, knowing that in that moment they mattered, regardless of who they were. In SA, the past is one that screams of pain and the present one that beckons for help. But the future is held by a God that knows each and every person by name.
Winter is almost here. And the rains and wind and chill in your body that just never quite goes away are here with it. Because of the typically Mediterranean climate here, mild and beautiful, it’s rare to find central heating and air in a home. So, last weekend we bought a little space heater, and how that tiny machine has increased our thankfulness tenfold! In a former life, we may have thought a space heater to be inconvenient and maybe not quite good enough. Here and now, however, we find ourselves so grateful to flip the switch and feel our toes start to relax into the warmth. What a luxury it is to be warm, when we know so many who will be cold tonight.
Our Sunday habits are beginning to include teenage girls strewn throughout our house. We eat, we talk, we force them to watch Andy Griffith. It’s the simple pleasures they enjoy and they are a joy to have in our home- painting nails, using mascara, taking photos, making a Mother’s Day card. Last Sunday, however, it was the simplest of things that brought them to a state of bubbly joy. A thing I take for granted more often than not. They washed their hair in our bathtub and then combed it out in the mirror, looking back at themselves with perfect eye contact. They went on and on about how beautiful they looked. Shouldn’t every teenage girl have the chance to feel so beautiful? Do I realize that something I do at least once a day is something of such luxury to most people? Oh what a privilege it was to tell them how pretty they are and have them look back as if they believe me./
There is not much else that makes my heart sing as it does when I walk through the Mountain View community and hear my name in the voices of those precious children, teens, and families. Maybe it’s for prideful reasons. Maybe it’s in celebration of time passing and relationships building, slowly but surely. Either way, how great it is to know and be known. My prayer is that the Lord’s name will be on their lips one day soon, telling me of all He’s done in their lives. Join me in that prayer.
These thoughts of mine are reflections of God’s goodness. They are moments that remind us, “Of course this is where we belong!” As much as we miss America and family and friends, and as much as we will relish the time to soak it all in for a few weeks, we are finding it more and more natural to think in terms of this life, our African life. New friends that now feel familiar. Purpose that decides our daily schedules. A church home to call ours. Questions that are finding answers. This is our life….It wasn’t put on pause when we came here. It is playing out before us now and showing us in exciting ways that God is good. Always.