Thoughts on Mississippi

Well, my last post here was in August. As in, nearly eleven months ago. John had just been through track select and was settling into the final phase of pilot training. Approximately one million things have happened since then. While the days of pilot training can be incredibly long, the weeks are mysteriously fast. They melt into months at quite the alarming rate so that before you know it, it’s all over. A new chapter begins.

So far, that chapter has been unbelievably hectic and overwhelmingly good. We find ourselves on the brink of many, many life changes. In light of this, it seems all the more necessary to take a step back and reflect. To take a breath. To pause from organizing suitcases and attempt to organize my thoughts about what this year has been and all that lies before us. First up, a few thoughts on Mississippi.

Oh, Mississippi.

I’d be lying if I told you we’ll really miss it. The place, that is.

We don’t love mosquito bites in January. We’re convinced that Mississippi drivers are some of the worst in the country. We don’t particularly care for Southern food. We really miss mountains and large bodies of water. We realized that for most of our lives, we’ve taken for granted access to airports and larger cities with a greater variety of opportunities- theater, music, art, culture, etc. My insect tolerance is pretty remarkable right now.

But the people make a place, and we know that this will be true of any assignment, anywhere. C. S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one…”

Until this past year in Mississippi, we had yet to experience a military community. We’d heard time and again that this community becomes your family. I’ll freely admit that this seemed a bit too mushy to be true- we already have family. We even like our families.

But there is no doubt that we have begun to see the truth in this. We’re so thankful that despite our original intentions in moving to Columbus, we lived on base. It was refreshing to live among people encountering the same challenges and celebrating similar joys. I was encouraged by the common understanding shared among the wives- women who in nearly every way could say “me too”.

I’m thankful for these women who were willing to meet each week for Bible study over a pot (or several) of coffee. I’ll miss the days when we were still together five hours later with no shortage of things to talk about. I’m grateful for honesty and transparency and discussions about identity and value and purpose, about finding our place during a very busy, transient year. I’m grateful for people willing to plant roots and invest, all the while knowing that we’d eventually be sent our separate ways.

I’m thankful for spontaneous day trips to Tuscaloosa for the sake of Target and Starbucks, or outings to Starkville for an afternoon at 929 Coffee Bar or just a change of scenery. We loved shared dinners and evenings of board games. When the heat really arrived, spending free afternoons at the pool with friends was just about perfect.

I’m thankful for Kaia, who has brought such joy into our lives. She has been an especially wonderful companion to me while John is away. We enjoyed many hours at the swamp lake together.

I’m thankful to have had the freedom this past year to support John through a rigorous yet rewarding program. I watched a little boy several days a week- a schedule that allowed me to be out of the house and busy, yet available to adapt to John’s ever changing schedule. It often meant 4 AM breakfasts one week and 10 PM dinners the next… and while far from perfectly, we made the most of it. John worked incredibly hard and put in long hours studying and preparing for flights. Our conversations mostly revolved around future assignments. Somewhere deep down, I’m hopeful we still have the social skills to discuss something other than airplanes!

It was a year of creating home…again. We hung photos and rearranged furniture and tried to garden–mostly unsuccessfully. Mississippi’s heat and humidity were not kind to our vegetables, though our indoor herbs and succulents thrived. We also learned enough woodworking to build a table together.

It was, all in all, a good year. We left Mississippi with such incredible blessings. We have a wonderful dog and good friends. John finished pilot training and earned his wings just as I completed my degree through Moody. We’re welcoming a baby in only a few short weeks. God is good!

26 years of John: 11.30.12

Today is John’s 26th birthday! He has no choice now but to admit that his “early twenties” are really, truly over. Since we can’t be together today to celebrate, we’ll have to make up for it in a few weeks. But for now, to mark the occasion, 26 blessings: 
1. I’m thankful for the parents who raised him. I’m thankful for their patience, their sacrifice and their love that helped to shape John into the man he is today. 
2. I’m thankful that we share a love for the beach. I’m sure that was on my criteria list somewhere…
3. I’m thankful for the relationships John has with his siblings. I really enjoy his family! 

4. John is an excellent breakfast maker. Seriously, I almost never make breakfast because he does it so well! 
5. John also makes the best chocolate lava cakes EVER. 
6. John is a great pianist. I love that our home will always be filled with music. 
7. John is a kid magnet. I love watching him interact with our friends’ children and imagining the type of father he’ll be one day. 

8. John opens the door for me. Always. 

9. John makes the bed even if I was the last one out of it. He helps out around the house all the time.
10. John is interested in everything. He pushes me to broaden my perspectives. 

11. John makes me coffee even though he hates it. We’re working on that…

12. John loves my family. I appreciate his effort to invest in my sisters. 

Enjoying Muir Woods
Dinner at our place in LA, August 2012
11. John loves to explore nature and I love experiencing it with him. We’ve been blessed to have the chance to do so much of this in the past year! 
12. John is very articulate and willing to stand up for his convictions, even when they may be unpopular. He is passionate. 

13. He loves to surprise me! 

A surprise parasailing trip to celebrate my birthday, March 2012

13. John keeps me grounded. He helps me to organize my thoughts, no matter how jumbled they are. He reasons with me even when I am most unreasonable. 


14. John is a great provider. He organizes our finances and plans responsibly for our future. He also takes care of our car, which is a huge deal. 

15. He is spontaneous. I love that he’ll agree to drive up the coast at midnight to watch the stars or to chase the sunset, just because. 

16. John is very thoughtful. All the time. 

17. He has a pretty cool job! I appreciate John’s willingness to serve his country. I also love that John is able to share the joy of flying with other people. 

Enjoying clear, summer skies in Santa Monica, July 2012

18. John always seeks to put God first. He challenges me spiritually. 


19. He’s pretty handsome, if I do say so myself. Also an excellent rock skipper. 

Enjoying the Oregon Coast, October 2012
19. John is very intelligent. He’s also a great procrastinator. 😉  I love to see John succeed and I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished, seemingly against all odds, in the past year. 

Commencement for John’s Masters. We hope to travel back to LA in 2014 to celebrate his PhD
(the ceremony is only held every two years).
20. He let me run away to Africa. Twice. He also came with me once.
Saying goodbye at the airport, October 2012

21. He makes me feel beautiful. 

22. He’s not too old or too cool to dig giant sand pits or watch Disney movies. 

24. He’s my handyman. Hanging pictures, reupholstering chairs, fixing clogged sink drains, helping me with an assortment of items I trash picked… the list can only grow. 

25. John is committed to continue learning about me. The pursuit doesn’t end in marriage. 
26. He’s made the last year and a half of my life the most exciting, adventurous, fun one yet. I think we’ve learned a ton, both about one another and about the Lord. Apart from salvation, John is God’s greatest gift to me. 

Happy Birthday! 

thankful: November 26-29

11.16.12
1. Two great hours of Bible study with Carlene.

2. A productive afternoon of school work.

3. Rest. Much needed rest.

11.27.12
1. Tutoring resumed today! So happy to spend time with the kids again!

2. Making upcycled Christmas cards and playing outside to celebrate the end of term.

3. Butternut soup with Amy.

4. Planning for Choose to Wait next week. It’s good to get the ball rolling, however slowly.

5. An unexpected opportunity to talk to John for a few minutes.

11.28.12
1. An absolutely gorgeous day. I’m so much happier, energetic and productive when the sun is shining!

2. Assembly this morning and the chance to share these truths: I have value; you have value; sex has value.

3. The ability to simply laugh when tutoring is canceled yet again because the students are not coming to school.

3. Taco night with guests.

11.29.12
1. Themba’s Camp Zion t-shirt–it put a huge smile on my face.

2. “What to do with your Thanksgiving”, an excellent sermon from Rankin Wilborne at Pacific Crossroads, our church in Los Angeles. You can (and should!) check it out here.

3. That Sunbury’s internet is capable of downloading a podcast, period! Living alone in a quiet house, I’ve been listening to many, many sermons.

4. This soup for dinner. After a smoothie and nuts and fruit all day, tonight called for a get-every-pan-in-the-kitchen-dirty sort of meal. So worth it!

Check out the recipe here at 101cookbooks.com. I’ve never been disappointed by anything on this site. 

5. That God is for me!

Siyabonga, Baba!

Thank you, Father. 
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” -Psalm 95:1-7
1. Great joy! The more I count blessings, the more I take notice of God’s grace in my life, the more fully I experience Him. I think this is, by far, my most thankful Thanksgiving. 
2. A perfectly baked squash dish, despite a finicky oven and limited ingredients. 
3. My tiny kitchen filled with the delicious aroma of roasting squash. 
4. The chance to share Thanksgiving with the men and women who work here from San Souci. 
5. That John has friends with which to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner today. 
6. The unexpected chance to talk to John, however briefly, because OUR INTERNET IS REPAIRED!
7. Thanksgiving dinner with 30 others, gathered not merely for the sake of preserving American tradition, but in celebration of the Lord’s goodness every day of our lives. Sometimes distance and a change of routine helps to remind us what holidays are really about. 
8. Hundreds of thanks shared and translated around the table.
9. Washing dishes with my Uncle Dick. Dishes are always more fun with other people. 
10. Prayers immediately answered. 
11. Pumpkin pie, of course.

thankful: November 23-25

11.13.12

1. I’m thankful for a great assembly this morning where we talked about how God’s Word is the “Maker’s Manual” for our lives.

2. I’m thankful for lots and lots of dirty dishes, which means lots of people here for graduation this weekend.

3. I’m thankful for time in the kitchen with my Aunt Laurel and Carlene. What a blessing it is to travel to the other side of the world and have the opportunity to serve with family.

11.14.12

1. I’m thankful for the chance to be here for ZEBS graduation, which you can read more about here. What an awesome picture of God’s faithfulness in this ministry!

2. Dancing. I don’t dance, but I’m beginning to wish that I did, or think that maybe I should? Worship isn’t about how I feel. It’s not about me at all!

The Bible is full of dancing. There’s something about an outward, physical expression of joy before the Lord. When I watch the amaZioni dance, I witness their love for God.

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

3. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of absolute exhaustion.

4. My Uncle Dick’s cookies.

5. Watching the first half of the first Christmas movie of the season with everyone here at Sunbury. The most climactic kiss of White Christmas was interrupted by a power outage, which we all thought was perfect.

6. The power outage also meant an early bedtime, which was much, much needed.

11.25.12

1. An awesome sermon this morning by Paul Esteves at Community Connection. The gospel, the true Christian life is not about rules; it’s about grace lavished upon your life. When you understand this grace, you will leave the old self. We are free; let us not continue to live as though we are enslaved to sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” – Colossians 3:5-10

2. Coffee and conversation with Uncle Dick, Aunt Laurel and Kyle at Zara’s, a cute little Greek cafe, after church.

3. Uncle Dick treating everyone to a delicious lunch.

4. Simple roasted vegetables.

5. The Piano Guys. The joy they experience through their music drives me to worship our Creator.

6. The other half of White Christmas. Any excuse to have popcorn again….especially stovetop popcorn.

a week of thanks: November 14-21

Last week, Sunbury was hit by a lightning storm that took out, among many other things, our internet. Today, repairs were finally completed, allowing me to post a week’s worth of belated thanks. 
11.14.12
1. Impromptu girls movie nights. Carlene, Amy and I were all separately working at our computers when a massive lightning strike put an end to any productivity we had hoped for. Instead, we  got together and watched a movie on Amy’s laptop, which still had a full charge.

2. Safety in a pretty big storm. The lightning struck very, very close, possibly hitting the tower on top of my house. The blinding white flash and deafening crack were enough to make it feel like my heart stopped for a few seconds!

3. A change to spend some time getting to know Bobbie while running errands in town. We stopped to see this new oddity just down the road from Sunbury. How did anyone, in the middle of sugar cane fields, get a motor bike on top of a telephone pole? We have no idea.

4. That we worship the one true God. Today, Zandi, who works here at Sunbury, was explaining to us that her husband is training to become a sangoma (or witch doctor). Zandi is actually planning on starting ZEBS (Zion Evangelical Bible School) in January, so it will be interesting to see how she handles the collision of contradicting faith and culture. Without the Lord, wouldn’t it make sense to turn to the only “hope” you know? How scary and uncertain and confusing our lives would be without the hope of the gospel! Please pray!

5. Because of the students’ exams, tutoring has been canceled for the next two weeks. I’m not entirely sure what that will mean for my schedule yet, though I am disappointed that my time with the kids has, at the least, been cut in half. Still, I’m thankful that the change or failure of our plans comes as no surprise to God. I am reminded again to come before Him with open hands. 
11.15.12
1. The safe arrival of my Uncle Dick and Aunt Laurel (Carlene Seghers’ parents) who are here at Sunbury for the next six months.

2. The internet guys who were here ALL day working to restore our connection.

3. The simplicity of a shared meal.

11.16.12
1. Waking up to the sunrise.

2. A full, long, productive day taking care of fried routers and printers in Durban. The damage could always be worse! 

2. Cold coffee on hot drives.

3. Quiet, restful nights.

11.17.12
1. God’s divine appointments in my life- the way He can take a situation that seems at first a disappointment and turn it in to incredible blessing.

2. Hot-from-the-dryer laundry (and neighbors who let me use their dryer, particularly on rainy days when my nifty laundry tree isn’t an option).

3. Dinner and coffee with friends.

11.18.12
1. This reminder from James 1: 26-27
    “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Sobering.

2. Any chance to “talk” to John. I’m thankful that God cares about even the little details and answers prayers about quickly passing lightning storms and cooperative (albeit terrible, which really makes the cooperative part all the more impressive) internet connections.

3. Lively games and fellowship with the Seghers family and my Uncle Dick and Aunt Laurel.

11.19.12
1. Freshly baked muffins that make my kitchen smell wonderful.

2. Being able to finally finish calendars for ZEBS with minimal frustration!

3. Precious time each day with Carlene.

4. Homemade happy chicken soup for chilly, quiet evenings.

5. For unique demonstrations of God’s creativity.

Almost missed this guy.

Baby gecko

This palm-sized spider was, thankfully, very dead. 

11.20.12
1. Mornings that begin with God’s Word and coffee. Every morning should start like this.
2. Sunshine! It seems so very rare lately.
3. The opportunity to serve by organizing Sunbury’s library. Vuvuzelas, anyone?

I came across a bunch of very old, illustrated children’s songs, including this gem from the fifties. Fitting, don’t you think?

3. The truth of Philippians 1:6 which says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God isn’t finished with us. He is working good in us. Sanctification is a process.

11.21.12
1. For families I miss dearly.

2. For a morning “away” in Ballito to run errands and restock my kitchen.

3. For comfort in a foreign country. I could feel at home here.

4. For simple pleasures, like the discovery of free range eggs and poppyseeds at the grocery store.

5. Running into familiar faces unexpectedly, especially when you’re the foreigner with very few potential connections in the first place. 

6. Friendly conversations with the checkers at the grocery store. 

7. For homemade pizzas and the community of brothers and sisters who gather each Wednesday evening to share a meal. 

8. For my mom’s willingness to help with an online order I couldn’t place myself. Birthday shopping: check! 

9. Perpetually muddy feet. 

10. The smell of fresh basil. 

thankful: 11.13.12

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances,
 for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Today I am thankful for: 
1. My giant brick of a study Bible. People in other parts of the world would do just about anything to have unrestricted access to this book. I should be more grateful. 
2. The religious freedom we still have in America. 
3.  Rain that held off long enough to get through both tutoring sessions. 
The storm rolling in. 
4. The joy of kids who love to read. I so enjoy having to tell the children that yes, it’s really time to stop reading now and no, we don’t have time for one more story because I really don’t want them to walk home in a downpour. They love books and I love that they love books. 
Sphelele and Lihlethemba
Philasande
5. The joy of reconnecting with the same children I tutored in 2011. Zinhle, for one, has grown up from a shy, quiet, pretty serious little girl into the sweetest, talkative, thoughtful young lady—or slightly older little girl! I’ve said so many goodbyes that I thought would be forever, or at least this side of heaven. What a blessing to meet again much sooner!
 I’m in deep trouble, falling in love all over again. I don’t want to think about the goodbyes to come. 
Saying goodbye to Zinhle in May 2011. 
Sweet Zinhle today.