So, with the trip to NC, catching up here at home, and my insane amount of crochet orders (that's not a complaint, it's a blessing...sometimes a little overwhelming, but a blessing...) I've stayed pretty busy. I want to put together a presentation to share at some churches, as soon as my laptop comes back from having that pesky power jack repaired. Apparently I'm hard on them - this is the second time.
Coming home has brought a lot of questions and comments. For your convenience, I'll answer the most common ones below. Perhaps these answers will be a little more interesting than the ones I have given you individually - I apologize - I'm not so great at thinking on my feet. This is not me trying to ward off questions - I like talking to people face to face, please keep doing that! This is just my attempt at giving you some more intelligent answers than the ones I've been giving...
Was there Ebola?
No. We were very far away. I believe about three thousand miles, although I'm a little foggy on the numbers. Actually, there are/were more cases in the US than there are in SA - we had NONE. Also, we had good medical care, should we have needed to avail ourselves of it. If I cough or sneeze on you (which is gross, I'll try not to) you will NOT catch Ebola.
Do you miss the babies?
Yes. Maybe not so much the first week, when I was enjoying not being needed by little people. (Although honestly, it's not like I needed a break - I think I worked twice the last week I was there because we were doing all our last minute stuff.) But after that, yes, I miss my babies now. I want to snuggle Owlie and Small, and I miss tying a baby on my back and doing my morning chores. I was starting to get used to baby care, African style. I came home and I was like, "Really? You actually carry that big clunky awkward carseat around everywhere? How strange." There is a whole new crop of babies here, but it's not the same when they aren't yours. You hand them back to their parents after a few minutes, and they really aren't dependent on you. It does help my baby fix a little tiny bit though. =)
How was it?/How was your trip?/Did you have a good experience?/Did you like it?
These four similar questions are the most frequently asked questions, and it's wonderful that you are asking - you care about me, and that's great - but they are the hardest to answer! Well, technically, I guess they aren't - the simple answers are "great, great, it was wonderful, and yes, I did." I feel like I owe people more than that, though. I think the difficulty lies in that I don't see it as a trip or an experience, even though technically it is both of those things. It was, and is, more than just that - it's life, and it's an amazing and wonderful thing! I've been told, "You know, this is great, but eventually you have to get back to real life." This is my real life! I don't see this as an isolated event, like a two-week missions trip would be. It's more like a chapter in my life story - I know it will eventually end, but while it happens, I am continuing on with what is now my normal life. You settle down, get into a routine. It's not a mountaintop event, like a weekend youth conference or something. It became even less like one once I started extending, and then when I got the opportunity to go back - for now, this is my "normal." And if you were wondering - people haven't really asked me that much about my plans farther out - no, I haven't the slightest idea what the next chapter will look like.
Did you find a guy?
No, much to the chagrin of my African friends.
Are you going back? When?
Lord willing, yes. Whenever I get support raised. I'm hoping that is early next year.
I also want to respond to a comment, or more specifically, a genre of comment that I keep getting over and over since I have come home. It takes various forms, but it usually sounds something like, "Wow, that's such a wonderful thing you are doing" or "I'm so proud of you."
These are very nice things to say. Please don't stop saying nice things to me - I much prefer it to the alternatives - unkind things, which none of you would say anyway, or just not talking to me. I am, however, usually at a loss as to how to respond with anything besides, "Well, it's great, I love it..." Sometimes I wonder what exactly people are meaning when they say it...I mean, it's nice, and it's true that it's a wonderful thing. But you know? It's not a sacrifice for me to do this. I mean, in a way I suppose it is - taking care of babies IS taxing and I DO get homesick and there ARE conflicts to work through with people. But, this is my passion and I love it. I find so much joy in it. Isn't it amazing that serving God is not burdensome? Because He totally doesn't have to make it so wonderful for us. We have no right to this, but His grace is just so good. (Just so you know, I'm not trying to downplay those who are in really, really hard circumstances, like those persecuted for their faith. Who, I have heard, still find an awful lot of joy in following God - He sustains them.) Also, Romans 12:1 tells me that presenting myself as a living sacrifice is my "reasonable service." Not something out of the ordinary that is extra-special.
So when you tell me, "It's such a wonderful thing that you are doing" and I mumble, "ahem, yeah, sure, I like it a lot" and struggle to remain intelligently verbal (I'm working on this, I think it's a pretty necessary communication skill), I want you to know that me doing this is actually an amazing, wonderful thing that God is doing and I'm pretty much completely in awe of what He's doing, too! It's just kind of really hard to figure out a way to say that without making it sound fake. Also, I don't feel like this 100% of the time, because I am a sinner, and sometimes I get really angry at newborns who cry for hours in the middle of the night. Just so you know.
Another comment - which I don't get directly too often, but is kind of implied in the above statements - is, "You are such a wonderful person."
This one, I will answer straight out. I am not a wonderful person. I spent the entire year living in community and learning what a wonderful person I am NOT. There is no one like a housemate/sister to bring out the sin that is already in your heart! Unless it's living with a whole lot of people who are different from you. Or, the above mentioned crying baby at 2 am who won't sleep. Empirical evidence aside, the Bible says we are all sinners. Only, it goes a whole lot further than that. I don't just make mistakes or messes or errors in judgment. I actually sin against a holy God. In fact, it's to the point where, before God saved me, I was dead in my sin. You can't get much worse than that. That was really pounded into my heart this year.
And I am so grateful.
Because the more you understand your complete hopelessness before God, the judgment you deserve, the more you realize how incredible His grace is. Wonderful and crazy and absolutely ridiculous. Folks, even my attempts at good deeds were sin. My righteousness was like filthy rags - the actual Biblical term for that is pretty gross, so we won't get into it here. There was nothing, nothing, NOTHING I could do, and God extended His grace to me and forgave me.
He loves me.
It has given me so much freedom to understand this. Although it's still a struggle at times (especially around non-Christians who don't understand in the same way), I don't have to worry about people seeing my sin. I can openly confess because I know I am a sinner, but I know my position before God and I am NOT CONDEMNED. Like I said, this is still hard, but it is SO much easier and I'm not running around constantly trying to look good at all costs, like I never make a mistake.
God is good. His grace is so good. This year, I've fallen in love with the Gospel. I always thought it was something to learn, appreciate, and then kind of move on to something "deeper." I didn't realize that you move on deeper...into the Gospel.
So no, I'm not a wonderful person.
But I do serve an incredible God.