Wednesday, November 20, 2013

love in the time of chaos

So, I haven’t written a blog post in quite a while. I have many excuses for this, but the biggest reason is that my life has felt fairly mundane in 2013 and not quite worth blogging about. But seeing as November is typically when Americans get mushy over thankfulness and moustaches, I began to follow suit and reflect on the tiny things that have made up this big year.

A few years ago I read the book Love in the Time of Cholera by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. I judged that book by its cover and was intrigued by the whimsical and slightly morbid title (I remember my mother agreeing that only I would relish literature with cholera in the title). For whatever reason, lately my mind has wandered back to this unconventional love story as my own unconventional stories of love have unfolded.

Last week was super stressful. In the midst of my wedding planning frenzy in Maputo, duty called me to Beira to help lead part of the general meeting of all MCC Mozambique partners. My goal was to refresh the partners on the essentials of planning, gear them up for project monitoring, detail the excitement of evaluation (when I’m the only one remotely excited about that prospect of their work), and convey complex new reporting terms that MCC has unveiled globally. Oh yeah, all in Portuguese. And what better time and context than this for my body to spaz out with a three day marathon migraine. But by the end of the week, I suddenly shook myself out of my drugged and caffeinated stupor to realize that I made it through. The presentations were done. In that time some wedding preparations came together. And most importantly, I had survived (barely).

In this current season of reflection, I’ve realized that I’ve been somehow carried through numerous comparable situations in this past year. This cycle of dread—panic—event—relief has not only occurred a few times this year, but it has led me to some really great successes, memories, and growth. Back in May, I was coerced into leading a group of seven Canadians—from a church that financially supports MCC projects—and showing them the projects their church supports in Mozambique. I had never done anything like this before and was panicked with all that could go wrong. But it turned out to be the coolest blessing to spend time with delightful people, see Mozambique from a fresh perspective, and feel that it’s really okay when things don’t go according to plan.

Then in September, I had another first as I was supposed to walk my colleagues through re-defining and clarifying the plans for their peace program. I was still confused on how to use MCC’s new planning and reporting terminology, charts, and tables, let alone clearly articulate the nuances to Mozambicans who know far more about their job than I do of mine. But again, after the dread, bracing myself, and gritting of my teeth, we knocked out an excellent plan.

The stories don’t sound like much, and because of that they stayed untold to my blog. But I’ve come to see continual lessons of the depth of God’s love for me in carrying me through these mundane dread—panic—event—relief cycles. These past few months have resulted in greater professional knowledge, a renewed love for the context in which I work, Portuguese-laced dreams, and more growth than before.

These chaotic instances and their counterparts are helpful reminders as I brace myself for upcoming chaos. Wedding planning in Mozambique has been more stressful than I ever intended, and it will only continue to be chaotic until it is all over. And today’s mayoral elections in Mozambique is just one stop on a long line of intimidation, violence, and broken promises that will most likely stretch until the presidential elections next November. But God’s consistent love serves as promise enough that all of this chaos will work out as it is supposed to. After all, Márquez writes: “Be calm. God awaits you at the door.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

an expatriate’s prayer for independence

God, I’m not proud to be an American.
But I’m thankful that You haven’t given up on us.
Forgive us when we’ve used our standards as the only standards.
And free us from ourselves.

I’m not proud of our history.
But I am thankful that You teach us lessons.
Forgive us when we used the means of injustice for the ends of advancement.
And free us to a better future.

I’m not proud of my individualism.
But I’m thankful that You offer me fellowship.
Forgive us when we think we can do it alone.
And free us into communities.

I’m not proud of our legacy in other countries.
But I’m thankful that You have seen us through conflicts.
Forgive us for the times we’ve picked up weapons to fight instead of microphones to listen.
And free us from ignoring our mistakes.

I’m not proud to wear an invisible dollar sign when I travel.
But I’m thankful that You’ve shown us a better way.
Forgive us for our worshiping of the material.
And free us from our dependence on purchases.

I’m not proud of our politics.
But I’m thankful that you are bipartisan.
Forgive us of our name-calling, mud-slinging, and judgment-bringing.
And free of what is not important.

I’m not proud of my consumption.
But I’m thankful that You are all I need.
Forgive us for the natural, human, and monetary resources we have exploited.
And free us to intentionality.

I’m not proud of our popular culture.
But I’m thankful You offer us a new identity.
Forgive us of our egocentrism and excuses.
And free us of our ignorance.

I’m not proud that I take my blessings for granted.
But I’m thankful that You continue to provide.
Forgive us when we think we don’t need you.
And free us of our entitlement.

I’m not proud when our Church fails You.
But I’m thankful Your presence is constant.
Forgive us when we bless ourselves more than others.
And free us of the harm we cause.

God, I’m proud to follow you.
And I’m thankful of the independence you have granted.
Forgive me as I forgive my fellow citizens.
And free us anew each day.