Living for Today

“Living for today” is a phrase probably everyone has heard before. I know I have! All my life I’ve heard quotes, song lyrics, advice from my parents and others; I’ve seen billboards and posts all about “living for today”. So why am I talking about it if it’s something I’ve heard so much and am so familiar with? Well, because it’s something I fail at…It’s one of those phrases that became far to cliché in my mind and never really resonated in my brain. Living for today is one of those things that didn’t seem very important or as worthwhile to focus on doing as other things did…

I’m a dreamer. Long car rides don’t bother me a bit (well, unless my brothers are kicking my seat or blowing saliva on me out the end of a straw) because I enjoy staring out the window, listening to music, and simply thinking…imagining the future…remembering the past…

Basically, I love to think; and my thoughts often turn to the future or what I’d rather be doing in the present. The future is a scary thing sometimes! There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future. We may be able to plan some things out, but there’s always something we can’t foresee; or maybe something we can foresee that isn’t pleasant. The present moment only happens once and instead of taking what comes to me for what it’s worth and finding the joy in it, I often think about what things I could be doing instead that I’d enjoy for more…(when really, if I just found the joy in what was given me, I’d find I often enjoy it just as much…keep reading.)

Not only am I a dreamer, but I’m also a detailed, overly analytic planner who “has” to have all the answers to every problem far in advance. This, along with the fact that I just like to think about the future, makes me highly susceptible to fall into worry, fear, lack or trust in the Lord, and impatience regarding my future and lack of joy; not living life to the fullest in the present.

God has really been working on this area of my life. He has been helping me see the value, purpose, and beauty in each day as it comes and not focus as much on the future or what I’d “rather be doing”. I had a day last week where my mind was COMPLETELY preoccupied with an aspect of my future that has a lot of unanswered questions. Not to mention, I received some really sad news that day that will affect my near future in some ways; so I was just bogged down with a lot of uncertainty. The truth is, no matter how much I thought about it, how long I talked about it, how many details I explored, it all came down to the fact that I have to be patient and wait on the Lord to guide me and help me. I wasn’t doing a very good job of waiting that day…I wanted answers and I wanted them NOW. I wasn’t even living for that day. I wasn’t full of joy in that day’s activities. All I was concerned about were the unanswered questions about the future.

That day, God was working in my heart to help me let go and trust Him more. The truth is, all we really have for certain is today; right now; this very moment! Nothing else is certain!

Without even realizing exactly what I was doing, I started “living for today” and more specifically, living for the moment after this day. The next day, I hardly thought about those future uncertainties. I prayed about them and was always listening for God to give me His answers, but I wasn’t worried. I had a renewed faith and trust and was able to enjoy each moment of the day…

The following day, my mom, Cameron, and I went to Wiphan. I have my favorite places, activities, and people I spend time with at Wiphan and where Mom, Cam, and I went (and the amount of time we spent there) wouldn’t normally be my favorite or preferred place to go; but I just went with it without thinking about where I could be and what I could be doing instead. And you know what?? I had a BLAST that day!! My arms were sore by the end from spending over two hours sanding woodwork and carrying the weight 200 necklaces on my arm for 20 minutes, but it was such a GOOD day! A day full of joy, happiness, contentment, and new memories!

I wasn’t the only one sanding woodwork…three other teens/young adults were helping and we had a really fun time laughing, visiting, and listening to music while we worked.

Mwape, one of the girls sanding with me, is a very dedicated young lady who walks 45 minutes one way to school every day. I was able to spend an extensive amount of time learning more about her and walking a mile or so with her running an errand for someone. On the walk, I met this kind lady who was eager to test my Bemba skills and while walking back to where we started, taking a different route through the village; I was able to greet numerous children I know from Wiphan! Just saying, “Good morning Mike! Good morning Elizabeth! Good morning Davis and Francis!” and hearing kids call me by name or even by “musungu belela”, it sent a thrill of joy through me that, again, I would’ve missed out on had I not lived in the moment helping Mwape and the others…

Carrying 200 necklaces wasn’t exactly what I imagined I’d be doing that day; but collecting the necklaces from each of the women (all widows) who made them and seeing their beautiful smiles, it was such a joy and such a sweet moment to me! I saw the uniqueness in each of their designs, styles, and colors…The necklaces are all similar, but each lady had her own way of creating them. I was able to play with one of the lady’s little baby boys and make him laugh; I was able to greet people in the homes nearby; and so many other things I would’ve missed out on had I not been there or chosen to enjoy being there.

I even had a chance back at Wiphan’s headquarters, to spend some time with the newest hospitality class (if you remember, my friends in the other class are gone until January). I greeted the ones whose names I knew and learned some new names. Some of the ones I already knew started asking me questions about “America” and it turned into them wanting to see my driver’s license and asking if I could just use it in Zambia. They assured me it would be valid (unfortunately no..)! I had such a fun time laughing and developing stronger relationships with them…

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First grade students at Wiphan Mapalo

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Later on in the week, I had the opportunity to teach a class of first graders for an hour or so…This was definitely a job (a lot of energy was contained in that room), but in the end we had so much fun! I learned many of their names and was able to tell them the story of David and Goliath in broken Bemba (I did have to use some English though). We did math problems together and even learned a memory verse…That day I also had the chance to spend time with a couple of the teachers at the school and we laughed and laughed together!! I helped Mamma Jackie (the cook) serve food to all the kids and got to see all their sweet smiles!

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Serving lunch at Wiphan Mapalo with Mamma Jackie! (Photo Cred: my Mom)

Again, these are all things I would’ve probably missed out on if I concerned myself with where I could’ve been or what I could’ve been doing. Instead, at the end of each of these days, I wouldn’t have changed a thing! The ONLY thing I could’ve wished differently was that I could’ve stayed at Wiphan longer (that’s always the case with me); but it worked out just as God wanted it to…

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Playing and singing a Bemba song with the first graders (Mamma Jackie had to come join in… 😉 ) The song is saying that “there is no one like Jesus…I walk, search, and turn around here and there, but there is no one like Him” (Photo Cred: my Mom)

So here’s what I’ve determined: when we bog ourselves down with fears about the future, regrets about the past, or different wishes for the present we take away from the joy that moment could possess if we just let everything else go and saw the beauty in right now. We learn from the past and the future takes some planning, but never let it downplay and steal your joy in the here and now. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today is a gift…that’s why it is called the present.” Cherish the gift of the present and don’t wish for a different gift. Right now is the only moment we can be certain of…no other time is certain. Take this moment; right now, today, this stage in your life, however you want to define “moment”; and live it to the fullest! Live it to glorify your Maker!!

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The Many Faces of Rachel

Rachel is one of our sweet neighbor girls; the younger sister to our dear friend Angel. This 3 year old is such a sweetie with a very expressive, funny, sassy personality… 😉 She also insists on calling me “musungu” (white person) because she can’t remember my name. Today, my friend and I TRIED to get her to remember “Megan”; but even still, she would say, “Musungu Megan”…haha.Not sure how long she’ll remember “Megan”.  She was also pointing to all the trees in our yard asking, “What is that?”. I have no idea HOW many times I said, “Tree” or “citmuti” (Bemba for tree) today in response…She also insisted on asking me what every individual blade of grass was. I finally told her in Bemba it is ALL the same thing! This sweet girl adds so many smiles to our time with our neighbors. =)

I’ve taken SO many pictures of/with her in the last 8 months, but today she was on a roll making silly faces at herself in selfie mode and eager to pose for a photo or two! Plus, she looked absolutely adorable today! 😉 There are even a couple of videos of her (some of these are screenshots of that video) dancing and making faces at and talking to herself…The photos are too adorable not to share with you all!! ❤

So here you go; photos of our sweet Rachel:

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Change…

Before moving to Zambia I’d heard some semblance of this phrase from many people: “As soon as you step onto the foreign mission field, ‘goodbye’ becomes a much more prevalent part of your life.”

I never doubted the people who told me this per-say…but I willed myself not to believe them; or at least not accept what they were saying. See, goodbyes are ESPECIALLY hard for me. I guess they’re hard for everyone…not just me. I just feel like they are exceptionally hard for me.

I don’t adapt well to big change. Rearrange my room? Awesome. Begin a new schedule? Brilliant. But move across the ocean? Leave friends or have friends who leave? Well, moving across the ocean to Zambia has been AWESOME, but it was very difficult at first; as for the latter mentioned: NEVER brilliant or awesome to me…I love making new friends, but I hate leaving old ones. If someone’s my friend I’m incredibly loyal to that person. I don’t like being separated from those friends because I care about and love them.

Since moving to Zambia, I have had to come to grips with the reality of the statement above. SO many goodbyes have taken place since we’ve lived here; and it’s only been 7 ½ months! We’ve had to say goodbye to a friend who worked with us at Wiphan. We’ve had missionary friends who have gone on leave for different amounts of time. We were playing with our neighbor friends one day and learned that one of our dearest friends had shifted (moved) suddenly. We had to say goodbye to my mom for a month (a sudden trip to the states). And most recently (though while mom was away) I had to say goodbye to nearly all my dearest Zambian friends for 3 months…

Anyone who has followed my blog long knows about my “hospitality friends”, but I’ll quickly recap. There is a class at Wiphan dedicated to teaching skills in hospitality such as how to run a lodge, cook, be a waiter/waitress, etc. In this year’s class (class 10), there are about 10 people with whom I became VERY close friends! Of course, with that large a group, I was closer to some than others, but still…we were a GROUP that stuck together and had fun together!

I’ve spent so much time with these friends over the last seven months in their classroom, visiting with them before class starts, going to lunch with a couple of them, and having them over to my house. I’ve spent so much time in their classroom in fact, people refer to me as a part of the class! I even had a specific seat I sat in. 😉

The truth is, I finally had “best friends” here in Zambia. My desire was to get to know Zambian teens/young adults and become best friends with them. And I did. In no way did they replace my friends in the U.S. (I still talk to some of them almost daily via email, FB, phone, etc.). And in no way could they take the place of the other missionary friends I’ve made here (who can relate to me on levels no one else can); but they made the transition from the states to Zambia so much easier for me just by being friends and by helping me learn and adapt to the culture here.

They made me feel like one of them. When I was with them, I felt Zambian! My white skin didn’t feel so conspicuous after a while. They didn’t provide me with translation of Bemba anymore because they expected me to learn and understand. We talked and laughed about so many things and I truly felt like I fit in!

I know, I’m writing this whole spiel when they’re only going to be gone for three months, but when I was seeing them 2-3 times a week, it feels like a long time! Not to mention, staying in touch with some of them is a bit complicated. And even when they come back, they won’t be in Wiphan’s classroom every day singing and dancing, praying and studying…They’ll graduate and then be done at Wiphan. So in reality, we won’t have experiences and times like we had ever again.

On their last day of school (which just so happened to fall on my 17th birthday =P), I went to Wiphan to spend the day with them. It was such a fun day! But in heart, everyone was sad…It was like our family was breaking apart…The class, Madam Getrude (the teacher), we were a family and now everyone was scattering.

That day was probably the hardest day I’ve had since being here in Zambia. I came home feeling really lonely. My friends in the states who I always talked to were busy that day and besides, they weren’t actually here for me to hug. I missed them….My friends in the hospitality class just left for 3 months. I missed them too…My mom was in the states and I couldn’t vent to her. I missed her…My dad and my brothers were here and I told Dad what a hard time I was having; but even still, I missed everyone.

I struggled with knowing that life is never going to truly be “normal”. Changes will come. Goodbyes will be present. A “groove” may last for a while, but it won’t always be there. This was a hard thing to accept and come to grips with. And I don’t feel like I’ve fully done either of those things (accepted or come to grips); but I’m getting there.

Through these hard times, I know it’s okay to grieve. It’s natural for goodbyes and change to be hard. I know that. (Before I moved to Zambia, a man from our church wisely said to me, “I think there would be something wrong with you if this wasn’t at least a little hard for you.” lol)  But on the other hand, I’m coming to realize Christ is enough for me! I don’t mean I don’t need friends or now value my friends any less. Heck no! What I’m saying is I’m valuing Christ more. I’m seeing the beauty of an intimate relationship with Him. He binds up the brokenhearted as he has proven to me over and over when different changes have come in my life and I have been that “brokenhearted” person.

Do I still miss my friends in the states? Y.E.S.!!! Do I miss my hospitality friends! YESS! Did I miss my mom that night when I was really sad? You know it! But in that moment, as in many others, I found my comfort in Christ. I found comfort and contentment in my Savior who truly is enough for me…!! I’m thankful the Lord is my friend whom I can call upon at any time…I don’t truly know what I would do without Him in my life!