Reflections on Training: Week One

It’s my third day in Colorado, and I think I’m finally getting used to the altitude—or at least I’m beginning to adapt to it. My altitude-sickness headache has finally gone away, and I think I’m fully hydrated. The weather is really dry, and I’m applying lotion like crazy. I have a humidifier, and it is helping matters. The scenery outside my bedroom window is stark and gray with a gruff and harsh beauty.

Training is going well, and each day is getting better. There are missionaries from various denominations, and they are going to various countries. A young OBY/GYN from Knoxville is going to Cape Town, and a family is going to Johannesburg; so South Africa has a strong representation. (Plus, our main trainer is from South Africa.) I’m the only Episcopalian and “brown spot” here.

So far our training has focused on our own American culture and has challenged us to distinguish our culture from what is universal. We’re learning how to identify potential stressors and obstacles in our lives that will hinder us from adapting to our host country. In a nutshell, we’re learning how to live and to minister cross-culturally.

I’m learning a lot about myself and my personal hang-ups. I’m learning how truly American I am, and I don’t think I will fully grasp this reality until I’m living abroad. Knowing how much I have to learn about my new culture frightens me; I know the learning curve is going to be steep and that I will make countless mistakes. I will have to depend on grace—both from God and the people of South Africa. I know my new South African family in Cape Town will help me to adapt and to adjust and will guide me with love. I am already grateful for their patience.

Advertisements

Grateful

Sisters
Hanging with Little Sis in North Carolina

The past seven days have been full of change—a tearful goodbye to a guy who had become very special to me this past year, a bittersweet farewell to my work family, a sorrowful goodbye to my wonderful neighbors. I moved out of my condo and left the city that had been my home for thirteen years. I’m back in my hometown; and all of my worldly goods, which aren’t much after the moving sale, are spread among three places. I’m feeling a bit displaced, but it feels good to be back home, to be back in my old bedroom.

The year has flown by quickly, and I can’t believe that in two months I’ll be on the plane to Cape Town. On Monday, I leave for three weeks of training in Colorado. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it. I just hope I don’t get snowed in.

All year, I have been trying to cultivate a practice of expressing gratitude; and since today is Thanksgiving, I think it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on and to list the people, places, and things that played a significant role in my life this year, for which I am most grateful.

  • My sending committee
  • My work family at The Upper Room for the past 13 years
  • Trevor, Estelle, Michael—my new work family at Growing the Church

    Joey
    Joey Gets a Sweater
  • Joey, my puppy nephew
  • Family holiday in North Carolina
  • My dad, brothers, and Ray, my neighbor, who moved me out on Monday
  • My friend Gina who served as a calm presence and voice of reason
  • My BFF, Anna, who was there for me doing some very tough times
  • St. George’s, my church family
  • My sister Brittany, my constant companion
  • Mom, who spent several days with me, helping me to sort, pack, and clean
  • God, who has provided beyond measure for me
  • The people who hosted support raising events for me
  • My donors and prayer partners
  • The churches that invited me to speak and to share my story
  • My friends who reminded me to laugh and play
  • My friends Cathy, Ralph, and Aileen who brought a bit of Cape Town to Nashville

This is not a complete list, and I have probably left out some important people and things; but I hope you’ll appreciate the spirit of my attempt to express gratitude.

At this point in my journey, I’m reminded of this Dag Hammarskjöld quote: “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.”

An Evening with the Sisters

Rockin the FroI don’t really celebrate Halloween; but I wanted to dress up this year, so I did. When a friend invited me to attend the Vigil of All Saints at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, I wanted to go; so I went, although that meant canceling a previous commitment.

I’m so glad I went to the vigil. After getting over my initial surprise about how young the nuns were (most looked my age or younger) and over the newness of the liturgy, I settled into the service and began to listen to what was being spoken and sung. Two things really struck me. One was the priest’s homily, in which he talked about only one thing being needed in our lives—realizing and accepting that God gave his son for us and responding in love. The other thing that struck me was the sisters’ chanting of the litany of the saints, which for me has shed new light on the meaning of Hebrews 12:1.

Today is All Saints’ Day, and I tend to think of this holy day in three ways—remembering the saints of old, acknowledging the everyday saints of today, and remembering my friends and family members who have died. I never really think of the saints (whether extraordinary or ordinary) who have died as being living saints, but I find it interesting that the writer of Hebrews uses the present tense: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1a, NRSV). The saints who have gone before us are a living and breathing cloud of witnesses.

As I continue to think about this scripture, I’m challenged to think about my identity. Over the past few months, I have been struggling consciously and subconsciously about my identity. In two weeks, I will be leaving my job at The Upper Room. I will no longer be able to refer to myself as an editor. I fought hard not to tie up my identity with my line of work, but I did. That’s what we do as Americans. But the other night, when a friend was helping me sort out my clothes, I realized that I had also tied up my identity in my clothes, my shoes, my books, and all manner of stuff. As I’m scaling down my material possessions, stripping down to the bare necessities, I believe God is also stripping down the trappings of my soul, the clutter of my heart.

Who am I, truly? Beyond all the clutter, trappings, and labels, I think I would find God’s beloved daughter and a member of this great cloud of witnesses of ordinary and extraordinary saints.  As the hymn goes, “I sing the song of the saints of God . . . and I mean to be one too.”

*This post is dedicated to two friends and two saints in my life, Stuart and Gina.