Highs and Lows

Hello again world! I feel my life is too full to put on paper (or in this case, screen) sometimes. And right about now my mind feels like my desk looks, messy, full and completely unorganized. I’m almost positive that my personal to-do list hasn’t changed a bit in the last 2 weeks as things never get crossed off. Anyways, I’ll split this blog into three main parts (in my feeble attempts to keep from rambling). 1. Another brief comment about my time translating at the SAD Council, 2. Thoughts of work, and 3. How I’m feeling about leaving. Oh, but before I start all that, my mom’s visiting this week and next (which is a good thing) so I’m enjoying showing her my life first-hand. And hopefully she’s enjoyed at least 20% of it.

Point 1. (not how you’re supposed to make transitions when writing if I remember correctly, but I call this “breaking the rules”) One thing I absolutely loved about the SAD Council was walking out of the meetings (which were much too cold due to men in suits liking air-conditioning) and straight into sunny happiness. You’ve already seen pictures of the pool and of pastors playing soccer, but it was so nice in any free time to be able to spend time outside (something I will miss when I’m back in frozen Iowa). In many of those opportunities I went out and walked. And as many of you know, I love to talk, so I always found someone to chat with on my journeys. One of my favorite of these was walking with the division president’s wife, who is a sweetheart of a person. She had been working so hard the whole week to communicate in English with Nancy Wilson, and it was nice to hear what she thought of the experience. And as many people here who have studied English in the past, she actually speaks better than she thinks. But she is another woman with such a heart for service and an indispensable support for her husband. It takes a very special woman to do the work that she does as an administrator’s wife.

It really impresses me how much both people give up when one spouse travels. Obviously what I hear most is from the family’s side while the husbands are traveling, since I stay at the division. Here they are called widows of the living. But what was even more interesting was being at the Council and seeing the husband’s side of the story. Every opportunity for prayer requests was for their wives and children at home. Lunch conversation also often revolved around what their wives were probably doing right now and activities they had planned for the week. And as one pastor put it, “they’re at home and at least they’re with the rest of the family and friends, I’m with different people every week.” But on the other side of the coin, when they are at home, it’s adorable seeing how the couples sit closer to each other than most married couples I see. There are more soft touches, loving glances and strong hand holding. There’s a strong appreciation from both sides of the time they get to have together. Obviously I’m not saying it’s ideal, but it’s nice to see how some people are strong enough to do it. Moving on. (Like I said, breaking all the rules of smooth transitions here).

Point 2. As I near the end of my time of service I’m taking a much closer look at my students. And I must admit this is an experience filled with pride and frustration. There are some students I see such a passion in and I can’t help but be excited to see where they end up in their learning. Then there are the others that really know how to break a teacher’s heart. And as any volunteer will tell you, we come to do our best to make a difference and the really special part about us is that we have such a heart for helping. And yes, that’s a generalization, but think of a person that gives up their ‘normal life’ for a year (or more), goes somewhere completely new to work and gets enough financial support to survive (if that). There are many motivations to serve, but wanting to help is really the main thing that drives every person into this field. So it’s hard looking at students who don’t study and don’t push themselves when you know your time is limited. There’s just so far you can get in a year of teaching someone 15 minutes a week. And I will say it’s even harder now because I truly love these people, and because of that I want them to have every opportunity in the world.

But as many people have reminded me, you can’t force people to learn. And yes, I think there is a very spiritual application here. I’m not sure if I think it’s more applicable to the work of God or the world of preaching, but I’ll pretty much apply it to both, bear with me here. God offers the same opportunity (of both salvation as well as a relationship with Him) to everyone, but He doesn’t force us to accept it. It’s there if we’re interested, but we can’t just sit back and be lazy about it. Many people do this in their spiritual life as well, “I love God, but I don’t have to go through the trouble of reading my Bible, I hear enough of it at church.” But I’m sorry, if my students say, “I love English, but I don’t need to study the lesson for this week because I’ll hear enough of it when Angela comes to my office for 10 minutes on Friday,” they’re certainly not going to grow. That’s what Bonheoffer calls “cheap grace,” grace that doesn’t lead to action. Anyways, it’s our responsibility as Christians to give this same opportunity to everyone (sometimes called preaching or evangelizing, but I prefer the word “communicating”) but we can’t take it personally if not everyone accepts it. We do our best to help, but there’s only so far our human efforts can take us when impacting others. Moving on.

Point 3. I’m scared spitless about coming ‘home.’ As anyone who’s lived for a long period outside of the States can tell you, it’s almost harder going back than it was coming. When you go to a new country you expect it to be different and to feel out of place. When you go home you never expect that. For me, I was excited to come here because it was a new adventure and I was so interested to see what lay ahead for me. Well, I head home with NO idea of what lays ahead of me, but I have a hard time seeing “jobless” as an adventure. Not to mention, even once I solve this problem of finding work, I still face a new job, new city, new home, new friends, new patterns, new culture in many ways, along with many other new challenges. And after a year here, I feel so happy with my job (other than the occasional teaching frustrations), city, home, friends and everything I have here. I know it was a temporary reality, but there have been so many blessings in my life here, I wonder how long it will take for me to feel this comfortable and loved again.

Home isn’t always a place

I intend to be proactive about finding a new normal when I arrive back in the States though, but it still takes time. And the worst part is that I know the feeling of emotional conflict I’m facing now will only get worse. I get back just in time for one of my best friends’ wedding on New Year’s day, which will be such a happy time for her, not to mention how THRILLED I am to see her again, but I know that it won’t be without such a deep sadness for the friends I am leaving from here. And I always struggle feeling like every person in my life deserves seeing or receiving only the feeling that they create in me. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. But for example, my friends here, I don’t mind showing that I am sad, but I feel bad if I let them know how happy I am. And my friends back home should see how happy I am to see them, and not deal with how sad I am at having lost others. I probably just make this more complex than it has to be. But as they say in Portuguese “faz parte” (not to be a language snob, but I just really don’t know how to communicate that in English, sorry).
Well, off I go to accomplish some work today.  But for what it’s worth, this was one thing on my to-do list.  At least I’ve made progress.  Now if I could just get around to cleaning off my desk…

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