Whine and Jesus

Sometime last week, without my permission, my rose-coloured glasses slipped right off of my face.

How does that happen? How does something you love become annoying in the blink of an eye? (I think the married people just snorted.)

Stepping out in faith is kind of like crossing this bridge - thankfully I'm tethered to God and I've got my full gear on!
Stepping out in faith is kind of like crossing this bridge – thankfully I’m tethered to God and I’ve got my full gear on!

Suddenly petty little things became SO IMPORTANT. And IRRITATING. The quiet pace of life in Swaziland was holding me back. And where can I get a decent coffee? And, if I emailed it yesterday, why hasn’t anyone responded yet?

Ah, you see, the problem with leaving one life and starting somewhere else is this….wherever you go, there you are.

You – as in me. The one in the mirror who stopped counting blessings. The one who let the beauty become mundane and the joy become humdrum. The one who took her eyes off of God and focused instead on the things that weren’t perfect.

This is where the whine comes in – a sip here, a sip there and before you know it I was in full-on complaining mode. Getting intoxicated on the ‘did you hear’ and giddy on the ‘woe is me’. Gradually, just like turning up the heat on the frog in boiling water, my peace and my zeal for this adventure had cooled when I wasn’t paying attention. The subtle signs of discontent started to show until they culminated in a full celebration of ‘Meltdown Monday’.

You see, I never considered that I might fail at this escapade. That I might not have what it takes to work in a country that is truly hurting. Where I have no ability to solve the problems for people who die from poverty, and where I even though I know that my trivial problems and inconveniences don’t matter I still have the urge to let them splatter over someone else. I never even imagined that, less than three months into my one-year commitment I’d be sitting at my desk crying because I have no idea what to do, and my ‘career’ didn’t prepare me for this.

On my own, I don’t have the ability to be completely selfless. Even in the face of such poverty, I still cry “what about me?”

And that’s where Jesus comes in. Regardless of what I think should be done or why I think I’m here, it’s all up to Him. When I came here, I chose to be obedient and so, until He says otherwise, here I am, warts and all.

I’m starting to see that it has nothing to do with my work and everything to do with my heart. With learning to respond in love when the lady whose garden we planted neglects it for a week or so. With remembering that hurt people hurt people, and that I’ve been there, done that. With being humble enough, at age 48, to admit I don’t know how to cook a meal for 16 people. With getting my own needs out of the way when the ministry needs something of me. With learning that my value doesn’t have anything to do with my resume.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2 NKJV)

So I’m putting a cork in my whine and dining on the power and guidance of Jesus. Thankfully there’s plenty to go around.


Life. Pure and Simple.

My pen ran out the other day. I can remember when I bought that pen, and can honestly say I used it from start to finish. How often does that happen? Usually my half-used pens are in a drawer, in my car, in the pocket of an un-used briefcase or left behind somewhere. And so often, I have no idea where I picked up the pen I’m using.

Here's how you fix a hole in the watering hose!
Here’s how you fix a hole in the watering hose!

But that’s how life works here in Swaziland. You have something, and you use it until it doesn’t work anymore. And then, where possible, you use it for something else. You don’t go buy a newer, shinier one just because you’re bored or there’s one that says ‘New and Improved’ on the package.

One day I decided to wash my shoes. I took out a brush, some ‘green bar’ soap (a true miracle product, really!) and put some warm water in a bucket. I sat on the ground, in the sun, and scrubbed out the grime. It was surprisingly gratifying. As I watched my dull Nike’s return to a bright white, I thought of all the shoes I had given away to charity over the years. I’m no shop-a-holic , but looking back I’m embarrassed to say that the only problem with some of them is that they were dirty.

car arrow
Looking back to where we started — this is the view from the garden. The arrow points to my car.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I loaded up a few of the Life Skills School students and we set off into the community. Our mission was to plant a garden for a lady living close to the farm (and by close I mean a 10-minute drive on hilly, rough roads and a 20-minute walk across the valley to her homestead).  When I had met the lady a few weeks before, she was telling Pastor Sipho (SEE-poe) about needing seedlings for her garden. At the time I had the impulse to drive to town and buy them, but I’m resisting the urge to just ‘throw money’ at any problem I hear about – I’ve heard too many stories of westerners, with all good intention, spending a fortune on projects without thinking of the long-term results. (Plus, I don’t have any money haha) As the days passed my mind kept returning to this lady and her bare garden. Pastor Sipho encouraged me to follow my heart and reassured me that planting a garden for her wouldn’t cause problems in the community or perpetuate any ‘dependency’ mindset.

She was so happy! This is one hard-working woman and the new garden can help her start a business.

So, armed with the students and 600 vegetable plants (cost of about 600 Emalegeni, or $60), off we went; excited to simply bless someone. I had no idea what she had in mind for her garden; but had  just picked up whatever I could find that might grow at the higher altitude in winter. Cabbage, beetroot, green pepper, onions, spinach, carrots.

As we planted, Lusito translated for me and we got to know a bit more about this lady and her family. She had been praying for the chance to start a business making Achar (picture kimchee or chutney – spicy and chunky and usually served with meat). Turns out the ‘random’ plants I’d purchased  were the exact ingredients for Achar. Trippy, right? For me, that’s the sign of living a life simple enough that the ‘still, small voice’ of God can speak to me when I’m buying plants. Sometimes he even lets me believe it’s my idea. I get goosebumps every time I think of it – it’s a ‘wheeeeeeeee!’ feeling knowing that God has used me for a small part of His plan, and I somehow paid attention long enough to be obedient .

My Nike’s and I are partners now. We’re in this for the long haul. Not only would replacement shoes be difficult to find here, I couldn’t afford them if I did. They have to last until they just can’t walk another step, and I have to keep cleaning them. As for my pen, I’m back to the plain ol’ Bic, and I have just one.

With the home owners (far left and far right) and Life Skills School student Sandile (second from left)
With the home owners (far left and far right) and Life Skills School student Sandile (second from left)

And I’m content – with my hand-washed shoes and my  single pen. With where I am – where the fruit still tastes like sunshine, and with what I have – all of the necessities and a few of the comforts. I’m not trying to get anywhere or prove anything – I’m just here. Fully present and drinking deeply from each day and its offerings. And listening; waiting for the next time God speaks.