Monday, August 06, 2007

34 days in America . . . but . . .

. . . it feels like we've lived 340!

This American life is full of activity, fun, fellowship, community, opportunities, and a host of people to share it with. It is shocking to us that we just passed the ONE month mark since our departure from Africa. It feels like it was another lifetime ago. We've used it before, but I continue to go back to the "Chronicles of Narnia" imagery of the wardrobe. We have now been thrust out of the wardrobe and back into American life. To think of our life in Africa is almost like thinking of a dream, another life, a fairy tale, and another set of characters. I think of a different me.

My one month analysis of myself is this: when I lived in Benin 40 days ago, I knew my role, I understandood (for the most part) the language and culture around me, I grasped the purpose of my days and I knew how to channel my unique God-given gifts and abilities for His purposes. On the other side of life, the American me seems completely stupefied by America.

On the higher spiritual side of things, I must rejoice in God's continual purpose at work in our lives, no matter where we live, no matter our occupation, no matter our circumstances. So, in general terms, we are humbly walking through these days of re-entry, looking for ways to give God praise. We want to continue living our lives for His glory. For His mission. To share the love of Jesus with people around us. That's the mission that transcends all us.

On the lower reality side of things, I astonish myself (and others I'm sure) about how little I know how to do. It's comical. We received some generous gift cards to Home Depot recently, so I thought I'd run out one night and stock up on some tools since I left every one of mine in Benin. I drove to HD with a giddy anticipation (I'll add that I find myself more loyal to HD over Lowes if anyone cares). Who out there wouldn't love a bunch of gift cards to buy new tools?!

I did well with the first few items, yet increasingly feeling the threat of choice hovering around me on every aisle. So many choices! I turned the corner to look at cordless drills. I had even done this trip to Home Depot a few weeks earlier, simply looking and exploring with Donny. But now I was all alone, facing a wall full of colors, brands, specs, and prices. I was overwhelmed! Yes, so much that before I could go any further in my shopping spree (and before I welled up in tears in this very testosterone-feeling place), I pulled out my cellphone and called for backup! I called Donny and he had to walk me through this selection! In retrospect, it is humorous to me, but I was aware at that moment of my awkward feeling of being out of touch with this life. It has revisited me several times (Donny always seems to be around to witness these breakdowns, too). This weekend, I mowed and edged my own lawn for the first time in over a decade. I felt I should have 911 on my speed-dial as I examined myself attempting to manipulate all these high-powered gas motors and complicated equipment.

Perhaps I exaggerate my feelings, but it does illustrate some of how we are feeling at this point (I should speak for myself here I guess since Kelly and I will navigate these waters differently). Not too long ago in Africa, I was sure of who I was and what I was doing, where I lived and to whom I ministered. As we re-enter our homeland, even with all its familiarities, I feel like a stranger in a foreign place. In funny ways, the simplest of tasks seems almost complicated or overwhelming. In other ways, the newness of our life here breeds excitement and anticipation. Still in many days, we are just barely wet and it seems like the freight train has taken off even before I could settle in and get adjusted to my seat. That's the exciting part, but the terrifying part as well. When we left Africa, we left behind a pace of life that is so unique and one that I will always cherish. It seems virtually impossible to mimic it in this place. It's sad to me, yet I don't wish to linger in the past, but rather embrace the future.

So after a week of visiting family in West Texas, I will jump right in and start my new employment. I am equally energized and equally terrified at the same time. It's the same as any new job, new experience, or new opportunity. I totally expect God to walk with me each day in this new environment. Kelly and I were talking today about whether we feel "peace" about where we are at and how it is going. It's difficult to have peace be defined by one particular thing. Can you feel physically tired and still feel peaceful? Can you feel terrified about what's ahead and still feel peaceful? Can you almost dread the day yet still feel at peace about where God has you? As we relived our memories of our opening days in Benin back in 1999, I would say a resounding yes to all of the above. The peace that I'm talking about is not the peace that is defined by the at-the-moment emotion or feeling. It is a peace that does transcend all understanding. It is a perpetual peace that sustains us through times of fear, inadequacy, or the feeling of being lost and out of place. It is a peace that carries us at all times. This is the peace that drove us to Benin, carried us through the ups and downs of life there and the same peace that allowed us to finish strong. So now, we continue in this same peace here . . .

OK, enough for now. I've included some pictures of the kids and also one of us with Tessa Tunnell. We enjoyed a special evening with Tessa and her parents. Tessa will be leaving to spend the fall semester in Zambia, Africa (through Harding University). It was a thrill for us to have them in our home and hear about Tessa's excitement and faith. We had the privilege of sharing our experience with her and praying for her and Todd and Gail. Thanks guys for letting us share in this moment with you all!

We'll try and blog a little over the week as we visit my folks, my older brother and his family, my Granny and alot of other wonderful people.



Sandi said...


I appreciate your being candid in sharing what you're experiencing this side of the wardrobe. It is helpful for those who have never experienced something similar and for those of us who have (although I was overseas for a lot less time than you guys), it is always somewhat healing to read of others' experiences and to know that we're not alone. May God continue to give you that peace that you've experienced along the way.

What is your new job? I don't remember hearing?

Becky Reeves said...

I'm so thankful and amazed at the way God is blessing you all so faithfully! I have just skimmed down so many of your recent pictures and have read your last two entries. OUr internet service is expensive at the moment so I'm limited on time. i just wanted you to know I'm praying for and love you guys. YOu've been in my thoughts and in our family's prayers lately. Please say Hi to KElly for me!

Monica said...

I can't imagine the culture shock you guys are going through. I can imagine one thing though, I have a strong feeling your brother Donny was no where to be found when you had those gas powered tools out. After not mowing and edgeing your yard for a decade I don't think you are going to get any help from him on that one. : ) In fact he may feel you need to make up for lost time and come mow his yard. Sure love you guys. Hope you and your family stay healthy after your visit in Littlefield. : )