Saturday, April 26, 2014

20. Worry

The final entry in 20 Things to Give Up for Lent, even though Lent is over. Worry. It'll eat you alive if you let it. We all know that it does no good and it can consume us and devour us and cause all sorts of problems. But we do it because we want to participate in our demise and hold on to our grief and pains and problems to feel we are at least playing a part and somehow controlling this gravity holding our lives together. But will we ever learn that it simply doesn't work that way? That worry gets us no where. Worry is nothing more than a lack of trust in God. What would our lives be like if we truly did as He asked us and not worry about what we would eat or drink or wear? To trust Him for every single thing that we could ever need? I learned a lot from the poor about trusting and living by faith and believing in a God who has to show up or you'll die. I can never put myself in their shoes but they showed me what unwavering faith looks like. I've learned to hold onto the peace. I remember boarding a plane one time in Atlanta headed for Mozambique and realizing that I had the wrong visa. I had a 30 day visa instead of a 180 day one. I would have to leave the country every 30 days, a very costly trip. My mind wanted to freak but my heart said, "I trust you." I watched how God used that whole possibly bankrupting event and used it to get me precisely where I am today. If I had not had the wrong visa, I never would have gone to Zambia. Friends I met there would not have told me about their friend in Nashville and I would not be here, making money, writing curriculum and planning my next adventure. Nor would I own that really great painting I bought at the market in Lusaka. All that seemed like a disaster was in retrospect, a little detour right into the very center of where I was supposed to be. Now when I start to want to worry, which occurs most daily, I remind myself of my own testimonies and sometimes of yours. Write them on your heart, you'll need them. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

19. Pride

I could deny being prideful because most of the time my insecurity prevents my pride from taking over. There, of course, is good pride and bad pride. For the purposes of our Lent season that, yes I know is over, we will look at the bad kind- cocky, arrogant pride. It goes hand in hand with entitlement. And we know what the Bible says about it- the part in Proverbs about it coming before destruction. That’s a strong word. Pride will destroy you? That beautifully controversial Message version says it like this, “First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” But humility is wisdom. And humility is putting others first. The great C. S. Lewis says it best in this well-known quote, ““True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

18. Lack of counsel

You can never have enough of this, wise people who hear from God and seek His face, speaking into your life. I crave it. I can tell when their words hit like arrows and ignite something. Some words fall flat. Some people are full of nuggets of wisdom and truth. Some share their own experiences and lessons from their pasts and some can somehow see into the future. Some, are just full of hot air. God knows we need strong counsel and He is an expert at linking His children together. My friends are my greatest treasures and I always ask their advice. I can see God's hand on my life most abundantly in the true friends He's given me. "Quality" doesn't even begin to describe them. My friends are the best of the best; they are all ages, various nationalities, faiths and political persuasions. My friends put up with my selfish lifestyle, my constant coming and going, my passions, my griefs. I want to be the kind of friend they are to me. I want to also be hearing and listening, responding and giving in the same way they so loving pour into me. - G

Monday, April 21, 2014

i'm not really a waitress

After accepting the teaching position I now have 14 consecutive weeks where I will be in the U.S. and can work! I have wanted to work for ages. It's the American way. I just haven't been in one spot for very long. My heart wanted to stay in Hartwell for afternoon pontoon boat rides and morning tennis, but Nashville fell in my lap. The generous offer of a place to stay gave me the opportunity to start looking there. Within 24 hours I had a job. I began by applying at all the high end restaurants in the city and then the local country clubs. Apparently Cherokee Town & Country has a stellar reputation among other country clubs. Who knew? That name alone got me offers at the two top clubs in Nashville. Both clubs wanted to talk "hospitality industry" talk which I really know nothing about. I nodded and I took the higher offer and start on Friday. Now I have to go pretending like I am a waitress again and pump myself up for lots of physical labor and smiling and small talk. I can do this. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

no place like home

I've been home since October. I surprised the whole family with my arrival and then curled up in the fetal position next to the roaring fireplace in my parent's basement under a blanket and read magazines. I slowly began to emerge and go on glorious trips to the supermarket for fresh fruit and vegetables and dark chocolate. I then began to speak to local groups and share the adventures of the past year in Mozambique. I was encouraged and hugged and blessed and loved on by my community so aptly named, Hartwell.

I spent all my spare time with nieces, nephews and the Old Folks on the tennis courts. Nathaniel and I went on a road trip to Kentucky to see Laura and her family, played in the snow and toured Mammoth Cave. Michael Stuckey graciously helped me finally move all my furniture and belongings out of my Atlanta house and into a sad little storage space in Reed Creek. I moved from The Cabin to The Treehouse, a perfect studio apartment for a transient missionary. I went to Texas to hear Heidi speak, sell our Galeria dos Sonhos items and see fellow missionaries, Jim & Twyla Taylor and amazing friends, Wanda & Perry Gaspard. Then I went to Nashville for a writer's conference hosted by the Nashville Treehouse as it seemed like such the ideal weekend. I went to learn how to make these entries better and to learn about the world of writing, blogging, journalism and publishing. Little did I know I would walk away with so much more.

It was there I learned of Thistle Farms and went back to Nashville to visit this organization that functions as a social enterprise. They will be ordering from us at Galeria dos Sonhos. It was in our conversations that I realized that I have a skill to offer similar organizations. I see a need for persons experienced in working cross-culturally to step into an international social enterprise and work with local goods and resources to set up a business plan and oversee quality control. Thistle Farms is already partnering with several small overseas organizations but has no way to truly oversee production, cut costs and improve quality. For example, the essential oils they sell to Whole Foods are packed in small purple and gold bags handmade in South America, but the bags vary in size and some in the last lot were too small to use. They need someone to oversee production and cut out middle men in purchasing raw materials.

For years my personal motto has been, "job creation is key to eradicating poverty". I get excited about creating jobs in third world countries. During this week of dreaming about how I could help Thistle Farms and their international partnerships, I was offered a teaching and administration position in a school in the U.S. The school is focused on international missions. I would get to teach a six-week course on social entrepreneurship and then take a team of students abroad to implement what they learn and help start a small business. I even get to choose the location. The offer was too good to refuse. It also happens to be in picturesque, Lake Tahoe. I accepted the position and will be taking a team to Cameroon in late September! I will be living in  Lake Tahoe from August 1st (happy birthday to me) to September 23 and from there boarding a plane to Cameroon. Thoughts of arriving back in my beloved Africa remind of this passage from Alexandra Fuller's book, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness:

The farther south the ship sailed, the more Mum rejoiced. As Africa swelled into view, she pinned herself to the railings of the deck and felt the dampness of the last three years lift from her shoulders. When a hint of the shimmering purple ribbon on the horizon bespoke Kenya, she held her face to the west and tried to inhale the perfect equatorial light. And as the ship veered around the tip of Africa, Mum held me up to the earthy, wood-fire-spiced air. A hot African wind blew my black bowl cut into a halo. "Smell that," Mum whispered in my ear. "That's home."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

17. Excuses

Excuses are a way to appease the guilt. They are little lies to free our way out. Rather than admit mistakes or failures we throw up excuses in the air to distract the gaze of others from targeting us and our shortcomings. The thing is, we are not really fooling any one. As we are all great authors of our own excuses, we know one when we hear one. Excuses are part of our human weakness; our fear and insecurity and failures. Moses made them and so do I. But with the use of excuses we are selling ourselves short. Excuses grow into unbelief and lack of faith in who we are ultimately called to be.

Graham Cooke writes, “There isn’t any excuse you could invent that gets you out of your persona (how you are seen in Heaven). God will give you all the training, all the support, all the development you need to establish your persona but you will establish it…Who are you? Who has God called you to be? Everything in your life right now is about the development of that persona. It’s about you understanding that this is how you are perceived in Heaven. When you step into that place and you begin to say to yourself, “THIS is who I am” it’s like standing under a spotlight, it’s like standing under an open Heaven; your provision can come, your power can come, your significance can come because this is WHO you are and God has already said YES to all of that... Your persona is your permission to step outside the confines of your personality and into the fullness of God.”

My personality is the weak and frail one that makes excuses for mediocrity and failure. But my true identity in Him (persona) is called to greatness. My identity in Him is drawn to compassion and moved by others. My identity in Him rises up for justice and trusts His endless provision and peace. Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” This wasn’t to get His identity from His disciples but to get them to realize who they were as His followers. To not wallow in their mediocrity and humanness but rise up to their destiny and calling in spite of their failure. 

Who do you say that He is? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Now What?" in Nashville

As usual I am rarely in one place for very long. I spent a few days last week in Hartwell pulling out my pitiful Spring/Summer wardrobe from my storage bin. Then packing for another trip to Nashville. I am here now having attended an education day at Thistle Farms. I met with them last week to see if they would be interested in partnering with Galeria dos Sonhos. The story kinda goes like this: I went to the Writer's Conference at The Treehouse in Nashville that my friend Paulette was hosting just because I knew I was supposed to and I wanted to do something for myself and this was it. While there I met Wendy who at the words, "Mozambique" and "social business" insisted that I meet the gang at Thistle Farms. I came as soon as I could and after simply attending their Wednesday morning prayer group suddenly found myself at a table with their marketing director, chairman of the board and intern. I thought they were going to tell me their best practices but they wanted to know all about our work at Galeria dos Sonhos. They were really, really impressed with our quality and business model and essentially want to partner with us. It would eventually look like a website where you can buy our goods and hopefully their selling our goods in their retail space. They have a cafe' in Nashville. They are having a huge seminar in October to raise money and awareness about social issues including sex trafficking and want to sell our goods there. We will have a large order to fill and a big order like that is huge for us and could sustain is for a few months, which is wonderful. I also foresee this relationship is a way for the staff in Mozambique to have moral support. Thistle Farms has access to a wide range of doctors, counselors and social workers which our staff would love access to in working with former prostitutes and alcoholics. So the partnership is exactly what we need. I came to attend the education day to take a closer look at the organization, their budget and how they run day to day. I also met others who want to create like models in their cities. I stayed over an extra day to attend the prayer group this morning and loved, loved being around these women. They remind me so much of my strong, resilient Mozambican friends and it feels like home. I had been feeling like I was not doing enough to get the business up and running and getting our goods on shelves, but I also had a feeling that I was to hold out for the perfect partnership and I feel that this is a beautiful start. It has taken time and days just sitting around Nashville. Today I volunteered by making cards in their paper making/stationary department and made a new friend who is also "in between jobs". We swapped stories and renounced lies and encouraged one another and it was so perfect. In between feeling like I need to be doing something grand rather than sitting in a folding chair poking holes in handmade paper God shows up and lets me see that He is in control.