the Estuary {week three}

I spent last weekend at the estuary of the Volta River, the place where the Volta meets the Atlantic. I stayed on a finger-like sliver of land separating river from ocean, and each morning I sat on a weathered wooden chair gazing out at the river while I listened to the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore behind me.

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And I thought about that sliver of land I was sitting on, this sandy separator between the chaotic, crashing ocean and the peaceful, winding river. I sometimes feel like I’m straddling that line between the ocean and the river, between the adventure and the calm. I crave the wild, strong adventure found within the open sea, all at once furious and beautiful. But other times I long for the river, for its gentle, peaceful, soothing rhythm, its predictability and grace.

Ada, Ghana

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Sunday morning I walked to the end of that sliver of sand separating river and ocean. To the Estuary. To that space where the river meets the ocean and the lines blur and you can’t quite tell which body of water is which. It was as if in that brief space where ocean met river (or river met ocean) there was a pause. An oh-so-fleeting moment where they coexisted, where you couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. Where safety and danger met. Where the water was all at once wild and calm, furious and beautiful, strong and graceful.

And I thought that maybe God is a little bit like that sliver of land I was standing on, this Holy Separator between ocean and river, the Mediator between wild adventure and peaceful calm. This place of safety, where I can retreat to when the ocean’s chaos is too much or can escape to when the river’s predictability begins to wear at my soul.

And I realized maybe I could have both the winding river and open sea. Maybe I just need to find that brief space where they meet, my own Estuary.

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This is Africa {week one}

At first I wasn’t sure I would like it.

Africa, that is.

City of Refuge

It was hot and humid and when the power went off (a regular occurrence) the fans went off and I could feel every inch of me glisten in the heat. It was very different than Southeast Asia and I felt like I was betraying Thailand, a land and a people I love so much. There were no rocky crags to climb or mountains in the distance and oh how my constantly sticky skin missed the dryness of Colorado. And I was tired and burned out and this laid-back African pace was difficult to adjust to after ten months of nonstop chaos.

But I’ve quickly come to appreciate even the briefest surges of power that allows me to charge my computer and cool my face. I’ve met the Ghanaian “Three Musketeers” trio of my co-workers Leo, Collins, and Stanley who never fail to provide entertainment and encouragement. I’ve been directed to a brightly painted room and a desk next to two windows overlooking the expansive City of Refuge campus, where I can see the kids playing soccer at recess and hear the teachers’ bells ring when it’s time for class. I’ve visited an oceanside shanty and met the beautiful Millicent, Monica, Janet, Joanna, and Alice, some of the artisans I will be working with weekly.

7 Continents

The kids. Oh, the kids. I’m here to work primarily with the women in that oceanside shanty but I can’t help but make a little time each week to hold hands, take pictures, and read books about happy worms and hungry caterpillars. These kids are overcoming such odds – some have been rescued from trafficking, some from abusive homes, and others walk miles just to attend this school that promises a sound education.

Faith roots international academy

So as I’m sitting at that desk in this big empty room, as the afternoon breeze drifts through the windows and the low-hanging clouds promise more rain, as the fan spins and the internet runs, as laughter floats from the school to the east and roosters crow from the coop down the dirt road, as I (almost) forgot the chaos that is life back in America, I am happy.

This is Africa.

 

 

 

Highways and Off-Beaten Paths

There are so many voices in our heads.

Saying go there, do this, buy that. Saying be safe, be stable, stay on the highways.

Somewhere deep within, though, buried under those voices is a different voice, one telling me to exit the highway and forge my own way. Telling me to stop worrying about life making sense. Telling me it’s okay to be different.

The voice is small and fragile and a lot of days it’s completely drowned out.

But when I summon the courage to listen to that whisper of a voice, when I get off that paved road and cross the border from the known to the unknown, when I foray into new territories and go my own way and not the world’s, I find adventure.

I find my dreams.

I find myself.

And in some serendipitous manner, a path always appears where before there was nothing.

It’s so tempting to stay on those highways where we can set our cruise control and turn off our minds. The first step is the most difficult…the initial decision to turn off that paved road and take that remote-looking exist leading who knows where, to turn your back on the fear and doubt and the questions still ringing through your head.

The smallest voice is usually the wisest.

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Though it tarry

“Though it tarry, wait for it.”

This Christmas, the word in my soul is wait.

For most people, Christmas is the end of waiting. The wait of thousands of years for the birth of the babe in Bethlehem is over. We are done waiting, they say, Rejoice!

And that’s true. There is much to rejoice for.

But with the birth of that babe in Bethlehem, we are also asked anew to wait. Continue reading

The crooked ways

When I lived in Thailand a friend and I took a “jungle trek.” The second day the guide told us that because of the rain we hiked through on the first day, the original route for day two was too dangerous and slick. He proposed an alternate, easier route. But if any of us wanted to take the original route — which ended at a fantastically beautiful waterfall — we could do so at our own risk. A new guide was assigned to our more adventuresome group, and off we went. Continue reading

Nine fingers and thousand-piece puzzles

I’m typing this with nine fingers.

It’s pretty difficult.

You see, I took a knife to my left index finger last week. Completely by accident, I assure you. But it resulted in a chunk of flesh missing and a late night trip to the emergency room. Continue reading

Dissonance

In my college communication classes, we called it cognitive dissonance, that feeling of friction you get when what you’re doing doesn’t necessarily line up with what you believe.

That’s where I’m at.

Cognitively dissonant.

I’m in graduate school right now, studying human rights and human trafficking. I’m here because I lived in Thailand a couple years ago, where I actually saw human rights abuse and human trafficking happen all around me. I lived it out. And when I got home, there was no way I could do anything but spend the duration of my years fighting those things.

So that brought me to Colorado. To one of the best graduate schools in the country for international studies. And now I spend my days listening to long lectures. I spend my nights reading endless books on human rights. I spend my Saturdays doing hours and hours of research. And I’m learning things that are completely altering how I think about these issues and the needs that exist within this field. I’m getting a better handle on exactly what I want I want to do someday.

But today, I’m cognitively dissonant.

Because I want to be back there. Maybe back in Thailand, because God, how I miss those brilliantly smiling faces gracing my bedroom walls. But maybe elsewhere. Anywhere, really, where I can help. Where I can bring restore dignity and create change. Because as I sit here staring at those smiling faces on my bedroom walls, it’s hard to realize that, for a season, I have left them, in order to live this completely comfortable Western life, to pay a lot of money for this fancy little degree in this incredibly privileged, academic setting.

Dissonance.

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Pattaya 1 Pattaya 2

And in this same moment I could expound to you all the reasons why I’m here. And I do know I am called here, that this is my role and my task right now. And He whispers those reasons to me daily: that I am being prepared, that right now I am called to learn, that He wants to use my intellect and not just my heart, that before I can create change, I must learn how to best do so. And already in these first weeks of school, my thoughts on human rights and human trafficking have been turned upside down. The ways I thought were best are clearly not. The things I thought I wanted to do are clearly not the most effective ways of bringing the greatest, most lasting change. I can already see how the knowledge I’m gaining is going to completely alter my future. And that’s a good thing. It’s an affirming thing.

But yet.

That doesn’t stop the dissonance. That doesn’t stop the tears that well up in my eyes when I hear my friends’ stories of moving to Africa, or my cousins’ stories of traveling to Thailand to pick up their adopted son, or my best friend’s plans to move to Guatemala, or the stories of advocacy workers right here in Colorado who are changing lives. That’s where I want to be, and sometimes spending an entire Saturday researching “the efficacy of the raid and rescue model” doesn’t quite satisfy my heart.

But I suppose the Lord doesn’t always ask us to do exactly what we want, in our own timing. He doesn’t bring us to what we want, but rather to the things that we are perfectly fitted, by His will, to do. So I trust that. And I trust that these months and years of school are fitting me to carry out His purpose for my life in better waysI trust that while He has me here, He has other people who are bravely and beautifully carrying out His other works. 

So today I’m trusting that the dissonance resolves. Because it always does, right? Just when you think you can’t handle that dissonant chord, when the melody isn’t quite coming together, it does. And when you hear that chord, you breathe a bit easier, and you understand the purpose of the dissonance.

the Immeasurably More

Lately I’ve had several conversations with friends about not settling for “good enough” lives. “Good” is easy. It’s comfortable, predictable, and fairly straightforward. And there’s nothing wrong with it, per se. Because God is good always, in any situation,  good is, well, good.

The thing is, if good exists, then better also exists. Continue reading