This entire trip has been illustration after illustration of juxtaposition. For instance, today, day eight, ended with a visit to the Israel Museum and its Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. We entered through a narrow cave-like passageway, as though walking into … Continue reading
Every day in Israel has been full of surprises — the beautiful and excellent food, the wide variety of geographical features, the incredible detail of the archeological finds, and today, the leathery knees and elbows of camels. However, the best surprise I have had is the quality of the group that I am traveling with.
I’ve already mentioned Hela, our guide, a Messianic Jew from New York City; she is rich in knowledge of Israel after extensive training and twenty-two years on the job. She keeps spewing out facts, answering questions, and throwing in an occasional pun. Oy. Then there’s Dan, a friend and colleague from Ann Arbor; this is his fourth trip to Israel. He started planning this trip about eighteen months ago, brought John into the plan over a year ago, and added me last Spring when the number of students necessitated a third chaperone.
Of course I am thrilled to have my husband and best friend, John, on this trip of a lifetime. He is very conscientious, not only of me, but of everyone on the trip. He is so aware of what everyone’s needs are and anticipates how he can best be of service on the trip. He’s our Johnny on the Spot. Beyond that, he is fun to be with. He is always ready to try something new, like float on the frigid deep sea water before breakfast this morning, climb onto the back of a camel with me and ride it across the sand of the Negev, or eat candied mushrooms — I promise you, they were amazing!
But most amazing of all? The students we are traveling with. I gotta admit that in the days leading up to the trip, I might have had some reservations about traveling to the other side of the world with thirty college students. I had met almost half of them in Ann Arbor, but the rest were absolute strangers to me. Not only would I have to co-exist with these people, who, by the way, are aged 19 to 56, but I would be responsible for leading ten of them in small group meetings every evening, keeping track of them throughout the day, and being available for any crises that might arise. What if we had one (or more!) high maintenance travelers? What if roommate conflicts arose? What if students got lost? What if they refused to follow the rules? Well, I thought, we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them.
All of my worries were unfounded. Seriously, all of them. From the moment we gathered on the morning of January 6, these students have been easy going, friendly, receptive to one another, willing to lend a hand, and genuinely interested in all the information they are being exposed to. Granted, they are getting a grade for this adventure, but they could still be apathetic. Many students are, but these kids are engaged. Let me show you what I mean.
Almost every day, they have had to be up, packed, finished with breakfast, and on the bus by or before 8am. They ALWAYS are. We have not had to wait once for anyone. Several times a day, we stop at a site, Hela says, “bring your Bible and your camera,” and all thirty jump off the bus, follow Hela, and start taking pictures and notes the minute she starts talking. When she says, “go,” they disperse and milk the site for as much information as they can squeeze out of it. If Hela says we are staying together, they stay together. If she says, we are going to eat falafel, they eat falafel. If she says, “You should order the St. Peter’s fish,” they order the St. Peter’s fish. I am telling you, they don’t whine, they don’t complain, they don’t wrinkle their noses, they are all in. Always.
And in the evenings, after we have all had dinner and Hela has retired to her room for the evening, the rest of us convene to worship and debrief. Again, no one has ever been late. Two of our students take turns playing the guitar and leading worship. Others have volunteered to pray or read Scripture. After some announcements and singing, we break into groups of ten — the same groups every night — where we share about the experiences of the day, ask questions, and encourage one another. This all happens at 8pm, twelve hours after they boarded the bus! And they are still engaged and invested, sharing their hearts and listening to one another.
I know, I know, I sound like I am gushing. And, yes, I know, I always am bragging about my students; it’s like I think I have better students than anyone else in the world. And, you know, I think I do!!
This morning, when John and I walked down to the beach to float in the Dead Sea, we passed two young men who were working out together, one coaching the other. We found another girl, sitting alone, practicing the Hebrew alphabet. In the water, we met up with three students who hadn’t met before this trip, who were floating, laughing, and taking pictures of one another. While we were in the water, others joined, then Dan walked down to the beach to take our picture for the video he is publishing online most evenings. Because the water was very cold, John and I left the beach and walked inside the hotel where there is a pool full of filtered, heated Dead Sea water. In the pool, we joined Dan, some other students, and the last member of our tour, our driver, Elan.
Let me talk about Elan for a minute. He is a Jewish native of Israel in his fifties. His first language is, of course, Hebrew, but he speaks English rather well, too. The guy can drive that bus, a fifty-five passenger Mercedes, in places I wouldn’t drive my car. Today he wound us through hairpin curves from 700+ feet below sea level to 2500 feet above sea level and back again. He fits that bus through gates, into parking spots, and past busses and truck with inches to spare — I promise I am not exaggerating. He joins us at dinner and in the pool, cracks jokes, and is quick with a witty response. Two times he has missed a turn and said, dead pan, “I went a different way to show you the cows.”
If I had to interview and hand-select traveling companions, I couldn’t have compiled a group this magnificent. They are becoming members of my extended family — people who will matter to me for the rest of my life. I wasn’t anticipating that; it is a bonus blessing. I am so thankful for these traveling companions.
“walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility, bearing with one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Yesterday morning, we got up at 6am, showered, repacked our bags, ate breakfast, jumped on the bus, and drove around the Sea of Galilee where we boarded a large wooden boat. Yes, we rode on the same water where Peter … Continue reading
Although I carried my iPhone — a device that is a computer, a camera, a phone, and a fitness tracker all in one — I marveled today at the technological feats of people who lived across the centuries. We started … Continue reading
My eyes are bleary. I’ve got a headache. I could really use a shower and about eight hours of sleep, but I’m smiling. In the past twenty-four hours I have travelled via a fifteen-passenger van, an Amtrak train, the Chicago L, a train at O’Hare International Airport, and two jets. Within the hour, thirty-two of my travel partners and I will land in Tel Aviv Israel.
When the group from Ann Arbor met up with the group from Mequon last night, we all grabbed something to eat then broke into three smaller groups of ten students and one leader each. I don’t know what the other groups talked about, but my group and I did some round robin discussions, one of which was, “What are you most looking forward to?” The responses included:
Ride in a first century boat on the Sea of Galilee;
Float in the Dead Sea;
Ride on a Camel;
Go to the old city of Jerusalem.
As we shared, we were practically giddy. Some of these students have travelled much more than I have; some have travelled very little. Some are excited to try new foods and meet new people; some are uneasy with all the newness surrounding us. Yet all of them have chosen to invest a great deal of time and money and set any insecurities behind in order to walk where Jesus walked and see what Jesus saw.
It’s now almost four hours later. I have had an extremely satisfying dinner (I am sure one post this week will be all about the food.); I’ve finally satisfied my thirst with many glasses of water, so my headache is gone; I’ve showered; and I’m resting in clean sheets and jotting down a few things before I nod off. We’ve got a 6am wakeup call so that we can get up, shower, dress, and have our packed suitcases outside our doors by 7am. Porters will move them to the bus while we eat more delicious food and then board for our first day of touring.
Get this: We are going to Caesarea where we will gather shells on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Then, we will see a Roman Aqueduct, Megiddo, and Mt. Arbel before we hike the Jesus Trail and spend the night in Galilee. That’s all tomorrow.
Because we flew in to Tel Aviv after dark, and probably because I’m so exhausted, Israel feels like many other places I have been. For Heaven’s sake, we saw McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Toys R Us, and even an Ikea on our drive to the hotel. However, I can hear the waves of the Mediterranean hitting the beach below my window, and I’m promised an amazing view when I awake in the morning. I’m going to fall asleep now to the rhythm of the tide and try to imagine what tomorrow has in store.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
In the midst of The Great Sunglasses Search, I may have lost my sense of humor. Now, you could probably guess that it wasn’t just the sunglasses, or the way a friend called me out for being inconsiderate, or the way I reacted to someone else being inconsiderate, or the many errands I have run over the past couple of days, or even my obsession with the Minimalist Challenge (I’ve completed 15 days in 2 days — that’s 120 items so far, but who’s counting?).
No, it wasn’t any one of those things that made me lose my sense of humor — it was a cumulative effect. I was chugging along with tons of energy, feeling very positive about this trip to Israel, when I suddenly noticed that the space between my eyebrows was wrinkled, my jaw was set, and little things were starting to bug me. Eh, whatever, I thought, so I’m a little irked. I’ve still got to mail two packages, stop by the library, pick up a few things at Target, print out two documents, and doggone it, did I look in those other suitcases? Maybe my sunglasses are in there!
Yes, yes, I know, I need to pace myself. How many times have we been over this. Fortunately, my body hasn’t revolted and flung me on the couch. That is probably due to the fact that although I accomplished all of the above, I also sat at the puzzle table for a few hours last night and had the satisfaction of completing a 1000-piecer, tossing it back in the box, and adding it to the donation pile. (Yes, I’m a little out of control.) Also, I know myself well enough that I made sure to do yoga twice last week and twice this week already, following each 75-minute session with a soak in the jacuzzi.
Nevertheless, I’ve got to calm down a little. I mean, we are leaving TOMORROW with THIRTY STUDENTS for TWELVE DAYS! The one thing I can’t leave at home is my sense of humor!!
So, you know, in the spirit of my commitment to Return to the Lord, I came home after yoga this morning, did three more things on my to-do list, then grouchily opened my Bible Reading plan. If you have read this blog more than three times, you know what happened. I was convicted right in the middle of my reading, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: …enmity, strife,…fits of anger, …dissensions, divisions,…and things like these.” Darn flesh.
Keep reading, Rathje, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Well, of course not, silly. Who would outlaw kindness or gentleness? patience? peace? Nah, we don’t have to outlaw those things — those are the things we forget to do, the things we turn away from. The things that need to be outlawed are the ones we are bent on doing — like getting irritated and ticked off!
So, what’s a girl to do? Ahem, keep reading, “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Really? Because my flesh seems to be alive and kicking, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
There it is. My flesh is alive and kicking; it’s true. It’s got to be crucified moment by moment. It’s a continual act of turning away from the flesh and toward the Spirit. That’ll probably be easier to do in the Holy Land, right? Ha-ha. That’s funny.
Alright, guys, I’m headed out one more time this afternoon. I’m not coming home tonight until I have located one pair of sunglasses, two travel umbrellas, a pile of cash in small denominations, and a well-fortified sense of humor.
Because tomorrow, my friends, we go to Israel.
“…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
(I Peter 5:10)
It all started with me wanting to find the sunglasses that clip on to my prescription glasses. I picked out these glasses because they came with magnetized sunglasses that I can just attach whenever I am in the sun. I purchased them in August and enjoyed them on our trip to South Africa in October. Because I am prone to lose things, I mechanically placed the sunglasses in their case and slipped them into the same compartment of my purse over and over again so that I would not lose them. It is no small miracle that they made it back from South Africa with me. However, I think it was within the week of returning that they went missing.
So much happened that week. I unpacked and immediately went back to teaching and tutoring. I switched so many bags around. I have a travel purse, a tutoring bag, and a teaching bag. I am sure the glasses were moved around from bag to bag, but then what happened?
Because we returned from our trip at the end of October, which was midterm, I didn’t spend the time I should’ve spent to find them immediately. I kept thinking that surely they would appear. They didn’t.
Then Thanksgiving happened. After that, we had five family birthdays and Christmas in December. Finally on New Year’s Day I started thinking about packing for our trip to Israel. Near the top of our packing list I saw the words, “bring sunglasses, you will be surprised how bright it is.” Sigh.
Sunglasses are particularly important to me. A complication of my autoimmune disease is that I have struggled with ocular herpes and, more recently, scleritis. I have not had a flare of either of these conditions for over six months, however, even when I am not flaring, I am no longer able to wear contacts as I had for over thirty years. Also, even when I am not flaring, my eyes are particularly sensitive to light. Hence the purchase of prescription glasses that come with ‘clip on’ sunglasses.
Most reasonable people would’ve called the optometrist long ago to secure a replacement pair. Not me. I have lost so many things over the years. My philosophy is, “hang in there, it’ll show up.” Now it’s forty-eight hours before we leave for Israel and I don’t have sunglasses. Sigh.
I started yesterday, the morning after the last visitor left, cleaning out my office. It seems that my office was the last known location of the sunglasses. I really cleaned. I got on hands and knees, I pulled out everything. I took items off shelves. I dusted. I vacuumed. I inverted every bag I own. Nothing.
Well, in the process of doing all of that cleaning, I got sidetracked into making a pile of donations. I mean, who needs all this stuff anyway? As my donation pile was growing, I thought to myself, “you might as well do the minimalist challenge. It’s been two years. Clearly you have enough stuff here.” So, in true Kristin fashion, I got three plates spinning at once — packing for an international trip, searching for my sunglasses, and accumulating a mountain of stuff to donate. (Insert eye-roll here.)
The good news is that my bag is packed with a short list of last-minute items placed neatly on top. The other good news is that I’m already thirteen days into the minimalist challenge after only two days of cleaning and packing!! The bad news? Still no sunglasses.
I really hate making phone calls, so I tried one more strategy this morning. I was in the shower thinking of other places I could check when I thought to myself, “hey, my eyes feel pretty good! maybe I should try my contacts today! wouldn’t it be great if I could wear contacts the whole time I am in Israel?” I got out of the shower and put them in. Hey, they didn’t feel too bad! So, I headed off to our last Israel trip leaders’ planning meeting feeling very hopeful. Two hours later I was headed straight to the bathroom to get them out of my eyes. Scratch that.
I mean, I could call the optometrist, but what are the odds that they can help me? What are the odds that they are going to have a replacement pair of magnetized sunglasses in stock? Sigh.
I’m dialing now. All opticians are currently with other patients. I’m on hold. Wait, wait! The optician came to the phone, heard my request and didn’t laugh at me! He’s going to check to see what they have in stock. No, no they don’t have any. If they order now, they won’t be here in time. Yeah, I know. I should’ve called sooner. Sigh.
So, what’s a girl to do? I have no idea. I guess I’m gonna keep cleaning and putting things in the donate pile. A miracle could still happen, couldn’t it? If not, I’ll squint my way through Israel. Who knows, maybe it’ll be cloudy the whole time we’re there.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We’re back in the states. After seven days in South Africa, we spent about twenty-four hours traveling to Michigan. We got home, unpacked our suitcases, started laundry, and tried to re-acclimate ourselves to our former lives before reality struck this morning.
Several hours later, I’ve already taught three sections of students and interacted with a number of people who wondered, “Well, how was your trip?” I’m really glad they asked, because as I answered people, I began to learn what impact this trip to South Africa has had on me.
It became rather clear early in the journey that our purpose, or at least my purpose, was to be an observer. This was a new role for me. Often I am a leader, presenter, director, and planner. This past week, I was a follower, listener, observer, and receiver. In this role, I was free to take in South African culture, to hear the stories of a variety of people, to let go of responsibility, and to bear witness to the contrast between my life in the United States and the lives of the people I met in South Africa.
First of all, although I often think I need more, I recognize now how much I have in contrast with many of the people I saw. For example, I complained at the beginning of my semester because the classroom where I teach didn’t come equipped with dry erase markers or an eraser, even though it did come equipped with a computer, projection, and wifi. I easily purchased a pack of markers and an eraser for less than $5, a textbook was provided to me, and I am paid a fair salary to teach under 25 students in each of my three classes. In contrast, my colleagues in South Africa have no internet in their classrooms at all — not even dial-up. They have a few mostly outdated textbooks, worn posters on the walls, drying up markers, and classrooms crammed with up to 40 students — and that was in a kindergarten class! And guys, despite the fact that they earn very little, they aren’t complaining. They are teaching and learning. The instructors are engaging their students. The students take pride in their work.
Yes, the contrast was palpable.
It was also evident in the ways that I noticed people interacting with one another. Each time people see each other during the day, they greet one another, “Good morning! How are you?” Even if they have seen each other several times, they still formally greet one another before they move on in conversation. This was a challenge for me! I am known to jump right in with “Hey, did you get my email?” For a week, I practiced acknowledging the person in front of me instead of the task that he or she could perform for me. The simple practice of speaking a greeting shifted my perspective. That, plus the fact that I had no real responsibilities, allowed me to see people and listen more carefully than I am typically apt to do.
In fact, I noticed today, here in Michigan, that I was looking at people in the eyes a bit more, listening a little more intently, worrying a little less about getting to the next task on my list. I hope it lasts.
The third difference I will note today is the energetic spirit I saw in the people of South Africa — particularly the black South Africans. Apartheid ended a number of years ago, but the differences and division between whites and blacks could not be more obvious. In one week’s time I noticed that black South Africans have less — less status, less power, less money, and less opportunity than the white South Africans. Yet they do not seem defeated. Their spirit propels them to walk great distances along red clay paths — rain or shine — to work and to school. They sit up tall in their classrooms, raise their hands high, and open their mouths to sing as they work, whether their tasks are menial or meaningful. Rather than seeming angry or sad, they exude joy! Their worship was filled with dancing, clapping, and even marching! They smiled, laughed, and played with one another — despite their seeming disadvantage. I was struck by this. I have not experienced the kind of disadvantage that all of them have experienced. I have led a life of plenty. I have not gone one day without food, clothing, or shelter in my fifty years of life. I have had every opportunity for education, employment, and entertainment that I have ever desired. Yet I am often discouraged, stressed, and even angry about what I don’t have.
So, you know what’s coming, don’t you? I opened my Bible study today and turned to the reading in Psalm 37. (I really can’t make this stuff up.) When I read the words, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” I pictured my new South African friends smiling, clapping, and dancing — delighting themselves in the Lord. They are happy and celebrating the fact that they have Him, regardless of the things that they don’t have.
I can learn a lot from these people. I think I have begun to.
Psalm 37: 23-24
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong.
We’re halfway through day three in South Africa, and I am not surprised that my body demanded to be ‘grounded’ today. I mean, we left Ann Arbor less than 90 hours ago and when all we’ve done, you’ll wonder why I didn’t get benched sooner. I already know the reason why — I have been flying high on adrenaline and intrigue. I have not stopped being amazed since I got here. And, you know, I’m not even upset that I’ve been plunked down on a couch for the day. I am enjoying the time to reflect and process all that we’ve seen and heard. Want to join me?
For forty-eight hours before we left on this trip, I kept telling people, “I’m a bit anxious about being on a plane for fourteen hours straight.” I was worried about claustrophobia mostly, but I was also concerned about the wear and tear on my body. As it turns out, it wasn’t terrible! We had a little hiccup in Detroit when I made it easily through the security lines only to see that all the machines had shut down just as my husband’s backpack went into the x-ray machine. Not to worry, within fifteen minutes, someone restored the machine and we were on our way to our gate.
We were also a little concerned that although I had purchased side by side seats for the long leg of the journey our boarding passes had us sitting one behind the other. We checked with the gate agent in Atlanta, but he said he was unable to help us. Not to worry, the woman sitting next to me, a nurse on a mission trip, offered her seat to my husband even though she had already wiped it down with disinfectant, unpacked her belongings, and situated herself.
Then, when it was time for take-off and everyone was comfortably seated with their items stowed, the captain informed us of a delay — the baggage compartment wouldn’t lock. We waited and chatted, wondering if we would have to de-plane and reload before we took off. Not to worry, the problem was resolved and we were on our way. I will say that flying coach for fourteen hours is a bit cramped and sleeping is difficult; however, we both did sleep for large chunks of time — even without taking the melatonin we packed. We ate well (they even provided me with all gluten-free trays), we chatted, we read, and we watched three movies each as we crossed the Atlantic.
We arrived in Johannesburg and wondered how we would connect with our friend who was picking us up. We didn’t think our cell phones would work in South Africa. We didn’t know how long it would take to get through customs or how long we would wait for our bags. Once again, not to worry. We waited in line at customs for what seemed like fifteen minutes; our bags arrived in about that much time, too. When we exited the secure area, our friend was right there, waiting to buy us bottled water and tea.
We had arrived unscathed in South Africa.
You would think that after twenty-four hours of travel we would have collapsed. Not at all. We arrived at our guest house and met our new friends. This couple, retired teachers/administrators from Texas, have volunteered three months of their time to come alongside the teachers here in Middleburg. They are observing, evaluating, coaching, and supporting these teachers. Over glasses of South African red wine, we discovered our shared purpose and kindred spirits. We chatted late into the evening.
The next morning, (and, yes, we slept that first night — despite our confused body clocks), we made our way to St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Church for its 27th Anniversary Celebration Worship. I’m pretty sure that this service should have its own dedicated post, but let me summarize here by saying that for three and half hours my eyes were wide and my smile was broad as I witnessed these people singing, dancing, celebrating, and worshiping.
From there, we walked a short distance to the elementary school, which is called St. Peter’s Lutheran College. At this site, we were ushered to VIP seating inside a tent. Many people were acknowledged and recognized, we were entertained by a local jazz/brass ensemble, and then we were fed. I suspect a whole post will be dedicated to the food and beverages we’ve enjoyed, but just know that the red carpet has been rolled out for us — this group of about a dozen Americans who have come to celebrate what God has done and dream about what He has yet to do here.
After the meal, we were entertained by a local group of male dancers and then a group of female dancers. By this time, I will admit, I was utterly exhausted. The festivities were wrapping up, so we headed back to our guest house where I decided to lie down for a few minutes. After a short but intense power nap, I was whisked away to visit our friends, the Bersons. We enjoyed snacks and more South African wine, played with our soon-to-be five year old “niece”, and were then delivered back to our guest home where we ‘slept the sleep of the dead.’ And that was just day one!
Yesterday, day two, we toured the preschool and the elementary school. The schools are just several years old and have grown from several dozen students to almost 900 between the two sites. Classrooms are crammed with bodies and very few resources, yet the children are well-behaved and very attentive to their instructors. Classrooms are continuously being built.
We ate lunch, then traveled about an hour to the home of a local naturopath — a doctor who uses nutrition, herbs, and the like to treat maladies. He is partnering with one of St. Peter’s pastors to build a worship location where people can receive not only physical but spiritual healing. Right now, about forty people are worshiping in his home/clinic every Sunday while they plan to build a worship site.
The doctor and his wife joined us for dinner and then we began our journey home. My body was already in distress, but I was drinking in all the details. Over dinner, I heard the stories of a couple from Chicago who are on their third trip to this ministry. I chatted with my husband and a friend from MI as we sat in the back seat of a van. When we arrived back at the guest house, we sat up until late again, sipping great South African wine and sharing our observations and our hearts.
My body cried all night long; it wouldn’t let me sleep. I wasn’t angry or disappointed but rather apologetic. “Yes, yes, I know. I have expected so much of you, haven’t I? Shall we stay home today to rest, reflect, and recover?” A resounding yes could be heard throughout Middleburg.
Most of our group traveled today to another site — a location that wants to build an orphanage. They will drive a bit, tour the site, eat lunch, then visit another site. I am sorry to miss these experiences, but I am looking forward to joining the group this evening to hear their stories.
Right now I am drinking in details. I am filing evidence in folders called ‘juxtaposition’, ‘contentment’, ‘vision’, and ‘commitment.’ I am learning, to be sure, but the fullness of the lessons has not yet been made clear. I will keep you posted, but right now, I am going to put my feet up and enjoy being grounded.
A week ago I packed a suitcase with jeans, yoga pants, an MSU T-shirt, and tennis shoes. I was headed to Cincinnati to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I pictured lots of snuggling and laughing, a glass of wine or two, a Spartan win, and a weekend of refreshment.
I was disappointed on all counts.
We were supposed to leave on Friday morning, but I became ill and had to watch, instead, as my husband left to take the trip on his own. No snuggling, no wine, and I don’t want to discuss what happened to the Spartans.
Granted, I was thankful to have the time to recover. I read an entire book. I crocheted two scarves. I laughed quite a bit with my son. I watched an entire season of Call the Midwife. Yes, it tugged at my heartstrings when my husband sent me photos of our granddaughter, but I knew I was where I needed to be.
This week I’m packing my suitcase again. It’s a much bigger suitcase for a much bigger trip. I’ve packed dresses and slacks, gifts and snacks, and all the necessities to carry me through a week in South Africa. I’ve got to admit that, looking back on how last week turned out, I’m a little anxious. Just one week ago, I was fully planning on going to Cincinnati, but I didn’t make it. Today I am fully planning on leaving for South Africa in forty-eight hours. What if I feel this Friday like I felt last Friday?
It could happen. After all, I didn’t have the flu or a head cold; I had an autoimmune flare. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck while recovering from the flu. I call it “getting knocked down” because I am literally doing fine one minute, and then I notice that I feel nauseous, my guts are in knots, I have all over body aches, and I can’t do anything but lie in bed. That’s phase one, which lasts a few hours. During phase one, I typically am so uncomfortable that I can’t even read or watch Netflix. I usually fill a tub with warm water, epsom salt, and baking soda, slither in and lie there groaning. After about an hour in the tub, I can usually move on to phase two. During phase two, I eat popsicles while reading or watching Netflix. I put an ice pack on my right SI and heated flaxseed pillows across my abdomen to continue the soothing that started in the tub. This past weekend I moved in and out of phase two for about forty-eight hours. I got spurts of ambition during which I organized my desk, graded papers, and did laundry, but then I headed back to the couch.
Traveling to South Africa is ambitious. It would be ambitious if I wasn’t teaching and tutoring. It would be ambitious if I didn’t have an autoimmune disease. It’s super ambitious because I am teaching and tutoring and I do have an autoimmune disease. Last weekend, while lying on the couch watching the fourth or fifth episode of Call the Midwife, the thought might have crossed my mind — what, are you crazy? Who do you think you are? Why are you even going on this trip?
Why, indeed? I probably won’t be able to fully answer that question until I get back. That’s usually the way with these things. We were invited. We’re going. While my husband has some ‘official business’ while we are there, my role, as far as I can see, is more to be a witness to what is happening and, possibly, to write about it. That’s my hope, anyway.
But I can’t help but wonder what else I will find in South Africa. How will this adventure shape my heart? How will it alter my views? How will it direct my path? I don’t know, but I want to find out. So, I’m trusting that God, who provided the opportunity for this trip, will provide the health that I need to get on that plane this Friday.
God is faithful; won’t He do it?
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.