Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Million Miles... and here

Malawi was a million miles away (actually…10,170 miles). It was a place that I never imagined setting foot. A land on the other side of the world, on the other side of the equator. A distant culture. A different language. An unknown people. But now it’s here. It’s closer than next door. It’s hanging in my closet. It’s stuck to the soles of my shoes (and probably still between my toes). It’s ringing in my ears. It’s under every conversation I have. It’s in my memories and it’s in my heart- Forever. Permanently.

At first glace, Malawi was what I expected. Simple. Communal. Rural.

It was dusty- with a dry, red dust that swirled around you, coated your lungs and stuck to every inch of exposed skin. It was quiet- not an eery hush, but the sense of a slower pace of life lingered in the warm air. There was a contentedness and peacefulness. It was desolate and impoverished. Bumpy dirt roads. Thatched roofs. Goats meandering. People sitting in the noonday sun. Children with tattered clothes hanging on distended bellies. Women carrying water from the single village well.

It was the picture I had painted in my mind… except that it wasn’t.

I thought I would be shocked.

I thought Malawi would rock my core and cause me restless nights on tear drenched pillows.

I thought I would feel uncomfortable and forced to confront a radically different understanding of the world.

I thought I would be perpetually fatigued from heartbreak.

But I wasn’t, not entirely.

Because Malawi was more than I expected.

There was life. Real VIBRANT Life. It wasn’t a shell of existence. Or bleak hopelessness. It wasn’t a cracked and barren wasteland. No- there was LIFE. Color erupted from every chitenje and plastic water bucket. Laughter burst forth from the children playing with makeshift balls. Joy and hardship mingled in aged hands and weathered eyes. Vitality erupted from a different part of their soul through song. There was community. Rich. Deep. Community.

I didn’t expect to find so much life in Malawi. I didn’t expect to find such kindness and warmth in their smiles and handshakes. I didn’t expect to feel such love from people with so little. But there it was.  I was reminded that blessings don't only come in the form of development.  That sometimes, less actually can be more.  That family and community is supposed to be treasured.  That God's people are everywhere. That Love is a universal language.  Malawi was beautiful life.

It looked me in the eyes. It resounded in my ears. It held my hand.
And now… it cradles my heart.


Monday, July 25, 2011

When prayer works...

[pre-Malawi:  June 16, 2011]

As I was driving to work the other day I was struck by the realization that my relationship with God has slowly been drifting towards stagnant territory.  There hasn't been any massive chasms in faith or great barriers to intimacy... its just been the subtle, slow busyness of the world skootching my time with God off the schedule.  I couldn't remember the last time that I had enjoyed a day filled with small conversations with my creator- praises, concerns, supplications and confessions.  And so as I drove, I turned off the radio and quieted my heart and sat in His peace.  (why do I so easily forget how good this is?!)

I have been overwhelmed lately.  Stress and Anxiety has been draining me like a swarm of hungry mosquitos.  Turning my joy to frustration.  Causing me to bark at my friends instead of speak with love.  Pulling me out of community and into an emo-esk state of self-dispair.  There is such a clear parallel between my walk and my mood. 

On top of life's normal encroachment, I have felt under fire the last couple days. The proximity to our trip, the amount of work still to be done, the simultaneous barrage of past wounds rearing their heads could not be coincidence.  This was an attack.  And at just the moment when I thought I was going to crack... when I couldn't take the strain of the burdens being heaped upon my shoulders... when I knew, just KNEW, that everything was going to fall apart and there was nothing I could do... i remembered that it was Prayer and Worship night at Flood. 

I had signed up to be on the pre-event prayer team and upon arrival Linsey asked me to lead the group.  How was I supposed to help create a space for people to shed the day and experience God when I was up to my eyeballs in life's muck?!  But I had no where else to go... so I stepped into that space.  Out of obedience I took one step at a time towards righting my heart and surrendering my cares.  I invited the team to first pray for our prayer team before we presumed to pray over the multipurpose room.  And moment by moment layers began to fall from me.  I journaled His trusts and felt the stress begin to melt.  Anxiety turn into submission. And His peaceful presence envelop me again.

Today, I got up with a smile and praised Him. (even though i wanted to stay snuggled in my warm cozy bed). I signed on to my computer at work to find emails working out the problems that had felt sufficating yesterday.  I recieved a call from the automotive center saying my car was not only fixed- but the cost was cheaper than orignally quoted! 

If I don't pray, how can God answer my prayers?  If I don't turn to Him, how can he comfort me?
Today I rejoice!  My mood is restored.  My joy secure.  If God is for us... who can be against us!?