Permission to Go or to Stay?

Our minds weren’t set, but they were open. In many different areas of our lives, we felt an increasing tug of our hearts toward Africa.

Henry Blackaby wrote in Experiencing God Day-By-Day, “Our Master commands us to ‘go.’ We need permission to stay!” Was God asking us to go long-term? Short-term? We needed help answering that question.

Ken and I both wanted to explore opportunities to serve The Wesleyan Church in Africa through their international ministry, Global Partners.

Early on August 6th, two months after our original conversation,  we participated in a Skype call with Bob Bagley, the Global Partners Area Director for Africa, to learn more about the areas of need in Africa, and how we might be able to fill those needs.

Immediately, I was impressed with how clearly and compassionately Bob understood our unique family dynamics, and the gifts that we bring. In order for Africa to be a good fit for our family, we would need:

  1. A place where Ken would have easy access to internet and transportation, so that he could help with the French-speaking churches of Africa, and with business management.
  2. A place where the kids could attend international school. Boarding school wouldn’t be a good option for our family, and homeschooling might limit our ability to build relationships, especially for our kids, who have already had to make new friends many times over in their short lives.
  3. A place where I would be able to find needs and be able to fill those in the medical field. Physician assistants are not able to practice medicine in all countries, so I cannot just move anywhere and use my skills in medicine.

In advance of our conversation that day, Bob had already thought through all of these complex issues for our family, and suggested the country of Ghana.

Ghana is an English-speaking country that has many international schools that could be excellent options for our kids. Though Ghana is a Christian country, the northern part of Ghana and its northern neighbor Burkina Faso are predominantly Muslim — and this is where the church is rapidly growing! There are many churches being planted in northern Ghana and in Burkina Faso whose pastors need mentoring, training, and encouragement.

 

Overall, Ghana also has a tremendous need for medical providers, with a ratio of one medical provider for every 10,000 people. In southern Ghana, there is even a clinic run by The Wesleyan Church. In northern Ghana there are fewer medical resources and the ratio is one physician for every 93,000 —  the needs are critical.

At the close of our conversation, Bob recommended two things: that we consider taking a vision trip to Ghana and Burkina Faso to see for ourselves what God is doing in Africa, and to begin to fill out our applications to become long-term missionaries.

As for the trip that we spoke of with Bob in August, we are leaving for that very vision trip this Friday, October 24th. Ken will be preaching and meeting with several of the new pastors in the area to encourage them, and I will be seeking opportunities for creating sustainable health practices in Ghana using networks of the local church to address medical needs. We are excited to see what God is doing in West Africa, and to explore how God might use our family in this part of His kingdom!

Things are just about to get very interesting.

Along the Way

After nearly two months of praying, considering, seeking advice, Ken and I decided to start talking about Africa. Had he been hearing from God in ways that I had?

Honestly, no. Ken’s primary concern was for me. The funny thing about Ken and me is that we always worry more about the other person. I love the fact that my husband protects me more than I do myself. And in this case, he was worried about me, and more specifically, my lungs.

As many of you know, I have suffered from asthma since 2004, shortly after I moved to Tennessee. I’ve had up and down times, but it’s been manageable as an outpatient. It’s been mostly more of an annoyance than anything, but sometimes it’s been more. I’ve always had the medications and tools to manage it myself, and I’ve learned how to juggle all of the medicines and titrate them appropriately. But how would my lungs adjust to Africa? Last time we were there, they did great, but Africa is a big place.

Along our journey, God has spoken to each of us through this Scripture passage:

Luke 17:11-14 HCSB

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed.

In this passage, it is interesting that Jesus didn’t heal the ten men with skin diseases (lepers) right away, as He had with so many others. Instead, Jesus asked for their obedience, and then their healing came along the way. Now, because the ten lepers were considered unclean, there really was no justification for them to go see the priest, unless they were already healed. So to even begin their journey as men with leprosy, they had to have enough faith in Jesus the believe that their journey would end without leprosy. Then the priest would declare them “clean” and they could rejoin society. The healing only took place while they were taking steps of obedience in faith.

Sometimes God uses the very act of our obedience as the means of our healing.

We both decided to commit my asthma to God for healing.

“So,” I asked Ken, “If my lungs were to not be  a factor, what would you want to do?”

“I would go to Africa in a heartbeat.”

It was time to start making phone calls, trusting in God’s healing along the way.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I am now off of all asthma medicines for the first time in more than 10 years.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Where I Am I Needed Most of All?

Ken and I were both disappointed in each other for not responding to the altar call.

Wait. Disappointed?

Did we both each really want to move to Africa instead of taking the easy path of staying put in our new home in North Carolina? Were either of us hearing God’s call, but waiting for the other to have the same clarity? Can God call a person through their spouse?

The only way to sort this out was to pray and let the Holy Spirit do the sorting.

For many years, Ken and I had decided that when it came to important decisions to trust the Holy Spirit to bring us to agreement. In fact, for years, I wanted children, and Ken didn’t, until God changed Ken’s mind. On important issues, I don’t want to convince Ken to do something he is resistant to doing, so I don’t. I trust that the Holy Spirit will bring us together as we each follow Him. So my prayer for us is that God would always make our hearts one, especially on big decisions.

So we didn’t talk about moving to Africa a lot — to each other. We read Scripture, we consulted other believers who have walked similar journeys, used our God-given reason, and waited.

For me, issues of social justice have long been close to my heart, and it has made its way into my home through two adorable African children who have opened my eyes to not only parenthood, but the world. Biblical social justice has also heavily influenced my approach to the classroom. One day as I was preparing for a class, I came across a really interesting interactive page on the website of the World Health Organization. It details the person to physician ratio in every country. (Give it a try!) What I saw was mind-boggling.

There is roughly 1 physician for every 400 people in the United States. In the Congo, it is roughly 1 to 10,000. In fact it is the same or worse in most of sub-Saharan Africa. In Liberia, there is 1 physician for every 72,000. How can one physician treat so many patients under normal circumstances, much less during an Ebola epidemic? Note that the countries below in yellow below have fewer than 1 physician for every 2000 people. Do you notice a geographic trend in healthcare shortage? I did, and my heart sunk. Why had I never seen this before?

Screenshot 2014-10-12 at 9.58.48 PM

Then one day, riding in the back of the van, Palmer asked me, “Mommy, why are there so many doctors in America, and none in Africa? My baby brother died because there weren’t any doctors.”

Any answer I could come up with sounded hollow. “Doctors don’t make enough money in Africa, so they stay here or come here after being trained in Africa,” or “Many places in Africa don’t have the right kind of schools to train doctors,” or “People cannot afford to go to medical school there.” Ultimately, I knew what the Holy Spirit was asking through my son was: Why am I here, when there is a much greater need in Africa?

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” — I John 3:17-18 NLT

For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:42-46. HCSB

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25 HCSB

I could not forget what I had heard. I could not forget what I had seen. I could not forget that my children lost beloved family members because of the disproportion of healthcare workers around the world.

And I was one of those healthcare workers.

At the same time, there is no easy solution. If I go for one week, two weeks, or more and only see patients, it will still be only a drop in the bucket in a continent dealing with desperate medical needs. Could there be a better solution? A more sustainable solution?

With my years of teaching in medical education and my love for the church, God began to create a vision in me for how He has already uniquely gifted me to serve the people of Africa.

But would anyone let me do it? Would people think I was crazy for even wanting to pursue healthcare in West Africa? Was God calling me long-term or short term? What about Ken? How was the Holy Spirit speaking to him? What would the children think? Was God speaking to them too?

After a whole month of not talking to each other about it, Ken and I sat down to talk about how God was working in my life, and in his.

And then it would be time to talk to the children.

Here I Am, Lord, Send . . . Someone Else!

Ken and I took a full a week to even speak about our conversation with Bob Bagley. Ken had laughed it off as an impossibility. I was afraid that it wasn’t.

Riding home from East Gold Street Wesleyan church the following Sunday, the ice was finally broken. We were discussing attending North Carolina West District Conference to try to make connections in the hopes that Ken could transfer his ordination from the Nazarenes back to the Wesleyans. The District Superintendent would be there, as well as Jo Anne Lyon, the General Superintendent. The speaker for the night was Dennis Jackson, Executive Director of Global Partners.

Ken and I had both been familiar with Global Partners for years. Ken’s college roommate, Peter, was the Director of Operations, and Ken had participated in numerous mission trips with the organization. I had been working with Global Partners for three years in mobilizing physician assistant students to do international rotations, in the hopes that exposure to the world’s shortage of medical care and theological teachings on holiness would inspire students to pursue mission work as a career and calling.

The physician assistant programs in which I have taught have been Christian programs, each with an emphasis on raising up medical missionaries. While each program has sought out applicants who have a desire to serve the poor, the number who actually became long-term missionaries was low in one program (2 in 10 years) and the other program is so new, it has yet to graduate any students. I have begun to feel wildly unsuccessful in regard to mobilizing medical missionaries, in spite of the word’s great need. Students have come to my programs wanting to do good, and the vast majority of students have left the program wanting to do well. The lure of paychecks and the skyrocketing school debt leave many hopeless that missions is a possibility for them. I don’t blame them, but I mourn my lack of success of being able to produce missionary medical providers. When I have pleaded with God to send me, the God’s answer has always been that some people are called to be “go-ers” and some people are called to be “senders.” God had put me in the senders category.

As the conversation turned to going to hear Dennis Jackson, the subject of our conversation with Bob Bagley, who also serves with Global Partners, came up.

“Wasn’t that crazy that Bob straight up told you he needed you in Africa?”

“I was wondering if you even remembered that,” Ken replied.

Remembered it? I’ll never forget it. As Ken and I talked about it, we reviewed all of the reasons why moving to Africa was a bad idea. We just bought a house, we had moved only weeks prior, our kids have unique educational needs, we have two dogs that we would have to leave behind, I still have school loans, we don’t like raising money, our last trip to Africa had been less-than-ideal, our kids may not want to go back, I just started a new job, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The list was pretty long. But nothing on the list was bigger than God.

A life of sanctification means giving God the power of veto on anything. God had called both of us when we were young to live lives of total surrender to God, and now that commitment was being challenged. Ken and I agreed that we had to at least be open to hearing the call of God on our lives. But was it God calling, or Bob Bagley asking?

The next night, Ken and I found ourselves at North Carolina West District Conference with the kids in tow. The music was moving, the atmosphere spirit-filled, and Dennis Jackson’s words were challenging. The phrase that I’ll never for get is, “We find that the best people to raise up other missionaries are missionaries themselves.” This should not have been a profound thought to me, but it was. All these years I have been trying to be a sender without ever being a go-er. But I’ve never been called to be a go-er. Was God now releasing me to go?

Finally, the moment came: the altar call. The music played softly. In a powerful moment, Dennis broke a snow globe on stage, challenging us all to break out of our tidy lives and ask if God was calling us to serve on the mission field. I waited for the prompting of the Holy Spirit — the compulsion to go forward, the pounding heartbeat, the mild nausea, the “Holy Spirit sweats” but they never came. Instead, I stood there thinking how much I thought KEN should go forward. I thought to myself, “Why isn’t Ken going to the altar? Didn’t we just talk about this? Ken is so gifted in so many ways — preaching, teaching, administration. Did Ken not hear Bob Bagley say that he needed him in Africa?”  Though strong, I resisted the temptation to give Ken a little push out into the aisle.

And then it was over. The lights came up, the service was dismissed. We socialized. We stopped by Five Guys and bought some burgers for the road.

The ride home was quiet, until the silence was broken by Ken. “Robin, I was really surprised that you didn’t go forward tonight during the altar call. I know God could really use you in Africa.”

The Not-So-Black-And-White of Our Black and White World

We always knew there would be challenges raising black children in a Caucasian home and a predominantly Caucasian culture. However, recognizing the need for homes for children in desperate need, we were willing to accept the risk of being a “different” family. After all, isn’t a child better off healthy and well educated in a culture where they don’t quite fit in, than having a sense of belonging in a culture where they would not receive education, health care, and proper nutrition?

So in August of 2012, we brought our very black children into our very white world. Our son now recounts the scariest moment of the entire time he’s been with us as the moment we walked off the plane in Nashville and into the arms of dozens of our friends. Our Caucasian friends. Our kids were given balloons, toys, signs, handshakes, high fives, and hugs. But all Palmer could see was all of the whiteness all around them. This is a child who has endured severe burns, wild animals, abandonment, starvation, and all manner of unspeakable evil, but the thing that frightened him the most was a bunch of white people?

As the kids began to speak more and more English, we realized that the differences in their color from ours was becoming a big deal to them. There were frequent questions like, “Why are there no black people at the zoo?” and “Why are there no black hockey players on our team?”. When we enrolled them in an all-Black summer enrichment program so they could be around other children who looked like them, they were bullied and teased, not only for being from Africa but for having white parents. Both kids showed subtle but clear signs of stress because they didn’t fit in with black kids, and yet they clearly weren’t white. And unfortunately, there is a severe lack of black children with white parents with whom they could identify in books, television, movies, and real life.

At Christmas time in 2013, I remember as I reflected on Christ coming to earth to live among us, how we had done just the opposite with our kids. Ken and I compelled our kids come to where we were comfortable, where people looked and sounded like us, where the food was familiar to us, and the spoken language was one in which we were fluent. But it wasn’t comfortable for Addie and Palmer. Our kids will likely always struggle with finding a place to fit in because we removed them from the culture to which they belonged. Ken and I had inadvertently laid this burden at the feet of our kids — who had already been through unimaginable tragedy.

If Jesus were in my shoes, would He not go to the needy and live among them? Would it not have been Him to take on the burden of not fitting in, to learning new ways of doing things, to feel uncomfortable in His own skin? Had we missed our opportunity to live incarnationally as Christ had done?

For the first time in our adoption process, I began to feel selfish. I had forced my two children to make the difficult transition here, when I am supposed to be the parent, the strong one, the sacrificial one. I felt imperialistic and arrogant for having assumed that the right answer for my children was moving them to where I felt comfortable. Why had I not been willing to move to them, instead of them to me?

I knew that moving our kids into a predominantly black neighborhood in the United States wouldn’t be the solution — they had suffered the most bullying from kids of the same skin color as they are. Skin color is not the same as culture or ethnicity. At least in a white neighborhood, we would be somewhat of a novelty, as long as we lived in an area where mixed race families were accepted. But that would still be my culture on my terms.

Was there any place where our family could safely, yet incarnationally, allow our children to live where they felt they belonged?

When the words, “I need you in Africa” floated across the table on June 8th, I wondered if this was our incarnational opportunity.

But how would our kids react to being asked to go back to Africa? Back to a continent where they had experienced so much pain and loss? Away from the affluent culture that they had come to love? Away from their new grandma and grandpa, whom they adore? Away from the excellent educational opportunities that had propelled them to success?

While moving them out of their culture seemed a bit unfair, was moving them back to Africa any better?

When Bob Bagley Ruins Your Life

My stomach felt like it had just been punched. How could he say that? Was he serious? The moment is ingrained in my memory. 

We had no idea what lay in store for us when we awoke on that warm Sunday in early June. We had just moved to Boiling Springs, North Carolina and bought a home three weeks prior. It was a large home — over 2500 square feet — with a fenced in yard, jacuzzi tub, bonus room for the kids, and huge kitchen. Our master bedroom suite alone was about the size of our former tiny house in Nashville. This new home was exactly what we wanted at a price that could not be beat, and in a friendly little town straight out of a classic American tale. The kids had adjusted well to school. We were making new friends. My students were great. Life was looking as close to perfect as it ever had.Jewett (47) (1)

Still, we were trying to figure out a few details. While I had a job, Ken was planning on staying home with the children over the summer, prior to finding a employment. We had been considering planting a church in Boiling Springs, since there were no Wesleyan churches to be found in the immediate area, but we discovered that Boiling Springs had more than one church for every 100 people, including a brand new church plant by a prominent author and speaker just a mile from our house. For us, a church plant seemed like an idea whose time had not come, so we began to look for a church home in an established Wesleyan church.

On that particular Sunday, Ken had preached at Shelby First Wesleyan in the morning, then we were having lunch at the home of the pastor of East Gold Street Wesleyan. He had children the same age as our children, and we were looking forward for a chance to let our kids play with new friends. Also present that day were Bob and Brenda Bagley, who serve with Global Partners in Africa.

As we dined on grilled chicken, macaroni and cheese, and salad, we soon found our lunch conversation turning to Africa– the cultural challenges our children face here, and the difficulties we encountered in the process of adoption. Bob chuckled as we told him our tales of the DR Congo because he understood exactly the kinds of things that we faced when we were there. Bob asked Ken about his French-speaking when he was in Congo, and about my efforts to help students answer God’s call to serve the poor through the ministry of medicine.

Eventually, Bob sighed, leaned back in his chair and said, “Ken, I need to be direct with you. I need you in Africa. I need your help with French-speaking pastors who are moving to Burkina Faso. It takes a long time to train someone with no French background, but with your education, experience, and years of exposure to French in Canada, it would be much easier for you.”

I don’t remember Ken’s response. I don’t even remember mine. I do remember recognizing that those words were something that we would have to wrestle with for the days, weeks, and months to come.

I was pretty sure with five simple words, Bob Bagley had “ruined” our lives.

Palmer’s Change for Good

Perhaps it was a moment of insanity, or my intestinal fortitude had increased, or maybe I was running a fever, but I decided to take both kids grocery shopping with me at two different grocery stores last week. After hearing nightmarish stories of culture shock from other adoptive parents who took their kids shopping in the early days when they were home, we avoided taking Addie and Palmer to the store at all costs for the first year we were home. So because stores are still somewhat new to our kids, and because our kids have an insatiable curiosity, and because they both really like to ask questions, comments and questions are usually hurled in my direction in machine-gun fashion.

Addie: “Mommy, why are some peppers red and some peppers green?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why do you have to put a quarter in there to get a shopping cart?”

Addie” “Mommy, why are there people in the back of the refrigerator?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why does hamburger meat look like spaghetti?”

Addie: “Mommy, Palmer pushed the cart last week. Can I push it today?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why is some of the food cold and some of the food not? Why isn’t any of the food hot?”

Addie: “Mommy, why are there so many kinds of cereal?”

Palmer: “Mommy, why do we go shopping at two stores instead of one? Why doesn’t Aldi have sesame oil and cilantro?”

Bless them.

After 5 months of Addie and Palmer not talking to us when they first came to America, I swore to myself I would never regret when they spoke. But sometimes it’s just a wee bit easier to concentrate on figuring out what we need at the store without the 3rd degree. Just sayin’.

I managed to survive grocery shopping with the kids, but we decided to stop and get Wendy’s because the kids both wanted the new Superman kid’s meal, and I realized that with all the grocery shopping we had done, we were hungry and had nothing to eat.

As we were standing at the cash register, Palmer was pelting me with questions, which I was deflecting with the skill of a ninja Jedi.

“Mommy, do they have hamburgers and chicken here? Mommy what does that machine do? Mommy can I choose my toy in my kids meal?Mommy, why is there money in this box? Can we have it?”

I explained to Palmer that there was a box at the register collecting change for families who are adopting. “Adopting is expensive, I said, so if anybody wants to help another family who is adopting, they can put their money in there.”

Palmer reached into his pocket, and pulled out some change. “Can I put money in there?”

“Of course.”

In the midst of questions, Palmer had asked one that, for him, was life-changing. It was the first time he had ever asked if he could give money away. HIS money, not mine.

Since Addie and Palmer grew up in destitution, their obsession with money has been natural. They pick up every penny. They save and scrimp. They talk about money with great love and great passion. When they are given money to put in the offering, they ask if they can keep it instead. The lack of money in their African lives had disastrous consequences in their early childhood. Their earliest memories were about not having enough. To keep a tight handle on money is understandable. But he gave his money away to support adoption. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but maybe deep down inside he feels blessed for the results of the gut-wrenchingly difficult journey he has been on.

As we stood in Wendy’s, I recounted all the times when he had chosen to hold on to his money. Through all of the fundraisers at school, the offering plates that have passed them by, the chances to give to others, our kids just haven’t been ready to share. They wouldn’t be ready to share until they realized they had enough.  Until they knew that giving away a quarter wouldn’t mean going without food for the next two days. Until they felt secure. When Palmer dropped his money in that box, it was a momentous sign that he felt safe enough to give to others. I couldn’t have been more proud of him, and more pleased with his choice. My eyes brimmed with tears of joy in the line at Wendy’s.

I think the same is true with giving our resources, our best efforts, our lives to God. Until we know that He is enough, we will hoard, protect, guard what we hold most precious to us. And He is patient, waiting for us to come to understand that our security is in Him. I can also imagine how God’s eyes fill with tears of joy when we decide to trust Him enough to give back to Him what we value most.

I’m thankful every day for my giggly-goofy-happy-smart-strong-sensitive-inquisitive boy who teaches me to let go and love.

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Missing Mabel

Of all the people and I things I miss about Nashville, the one that I miss the most is my friend Mabel.

 

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Actually, Mabel isn’t her real name. Her real name means “beautiful,” but I’ll call her Mabel. I met her around three years ago, and it took me a few months to get to know her. I eventually started helping her with some of the things she had to read for our workshops. She was fairly quiet, until the day she finally shared her story with me.

While I can’t share the details of her story, I’ll just suffice it to say that life had dealt her many unfortunate circumstances, none of which were her fault. She couldn’t finish school, she never learned to read well, and had struggled more than she deserved.

I had met Mabel in the transitional housing complex that I went to once a week, and it wasn’t long after Mabel shared her story that we became friends. She begged me for her picture, week after week. She said that she didn’t do much reading or writing, so she went to two different churches when she could, and she spend much of the rest of her time praying for all the people in the pictures on her wall.

While life had certainly surrounded her with more than her fair share of tragedy, her positive outlook on life was refreshing. After all, if she had joy in spite all she had been through, what could I possibly have to complain about?  Mabel was never shy about telling me how much she loved me, and that Jesus loved me. She prayed for me every day, and even though she didn’t know the details of my life, she didn’t need to. Jesus knew them, and that was enough for her. She said every day that she saw me was a good day, and that I was so pretty I made her smile.

And then one day, after months of seeing Mabel week after week, I began to see what Jesus sees: Mabel is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Beautiful, just like her name.

Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned from Mabel came from the time that I spent with her, and some quotes that remind me of her:

  • Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, we tend to find whatever we are looking for in people, and in life.
  • “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Like a jelly donut, what is inside of us is best revealed when we are “squeezed.”
  • “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • “It is wise to wonder whether those you consider to be naïve are perhaps just showing more Fruit of the Spirit than you are.” –David Drury

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5: 22-26 The Message

 

I hope one day to be just as beautiful as Mabel.

Quirky Qualities of Boiling Springs

Last week, I posted about my favorite things about Boiling Springs. It is a really great place to live. But as with all new cultures and communities, there are some quirky things about living here too. Being quirky isn’t bad, it’s just interesting. Let’s face it, I live in a house of cultural diversity, and we celebrate what is different about each of us as much as what we have in common. So please understand, these quirks make me love Boiling Springs all the more. But there are some things that give me a giggle. Every. Time.

1. Livermush. It’s on every menu. Though I have lived in the South for the last 11 years, I apparently missed out on this delicacy of disgust. I had to ask our realtor what is was, and then I looked it up. Wikipedia defines it as “a Southern United States food product composed of pig liver, head parts, and cornmeal. It is commonly spiced with pepper and sage.” Oh the humanity, what!? As if liver wasn’t bad enough, “head parts?” I can’t think of anything in a pigs head that would make me think: Yummy! It is served on buns, deep fried, and even in sushi at local restaurants. Each serving contains approximately 30 grams of fat. Was this dish created on a dare? I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater. I love things like kimchi, barg, okonomiyaki, and falafel. I draw the line at livermush.

 

2. Our kids teachers are Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Wesson. That’s right, Smith and Wesson. Addie and Palmer have been extraordinarily good at their new school. Do they really have a choice?

 

3. Everyone is related to just about everyone else. I have literally had this conversation with multiple people: “Since you are related to everyone in the area, which one of your relatives is an _______________? (auto mechanic, photographer, social worker, etc.). The answer usually goes something like, “I’m not related to everyone! Although my cousin _______________ is a _________________.” Never fails.

 

4. Now, since everyone is related to just about everyone else, there is little need for the internet when looking up local products and services. The most efficient way to get information is to ask someone. If that fails, should one look it up on the internet? No! One should pick up one of these nifty little things called a PHONE BOOK. I’m not kidding. I thought phone books were only used as booster seats for small children and to put in the bottom of your outdoor garbage can to keep it from tipping over on windy days. Here, they use these phone books to look up addresses and information because most local businesses don’t have a web site. And since the phone book covers several different towns, but does not always list which one, it can be slightly confusing to try and use the phone book too. This is why relatives are the primary means of finding out about products and services.

 

5. This entire confusion about how to source information in Boiling Springs has led to delayed discovery of this fact: We are living in a Baptist commune. Out of the 2 dozen or so churches in population-3800 town of Boiling Springs, all are Baptist, except for one United Methodist church. And if you have known us for any length of time, you know how we feel about the United Methodists after our experience working for them. (Our married senior pastor with a wife and four kids was having a homosexual affair with two men on staff at the church, and embezzling money from the church’s stewardship campaign to pay off one of his lover’s mother, who had hired a private investigator to find out about the affair. We were given 72 hours to get out of our house when we brought what we knew to light to the church board. When the senior pastor confessed, he was given several months sabbatical and then promoted to a larger United Methodist church in another area of the country.) Our chances of attending a United Methodist church are just slightly higher than converting to Mormonism. And while we love the Baptists, there are several theological implications that are difficult for our family, such as limited atonement. Our children already have the sense that they were cheated out of a lot by being born in the Congo. After all, the tooth fairy has had to do back pay, and Santa has had some serious explaining to do. While those are just childhood tales to explain away, being cheated out of being “chosen” until they came to America is not something I want them deal with. Women in ministry is another. I want my children to grow up seeing women in ministry as Christ intended, not being limited to only teaching children or other women. I tend to think that the Holy Spirit has used me to speak to males in many instances over the course of my life. I want that to be celebrated, not shamed. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes in who He chooses to communicate through or to.

 

6. The last peculiarity about Boiling Springs comes in regard to cuisine. There are 4 fast food restaurants, and 5 other casual dining restaurants in town. The variety is adequate, but we have missed the upscale street food of the Nashville food trucks. I had conferred with my food truck foodies before I left Nashville, and they had assured me that there were great food trucks in Asheville and Charlotte. When I saw that the Boiling Springs annual street festival was going to feature famous food trucks, I was elated! However, when we arrived at the festival, I found that their famous food trucks were concessionaires — with hot dogs and hamburgers and fried stuff with cheese, not farm fresh upscale fusion cuisine. It was like a knife through my foodie heart. Fixing my foodie craving for exotic foods will take some work. But in the words of Robert Browning, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

 

Boiling Springs is definitely growing on us — like another member of the family, quirks and all. We’ve found more sweetness and hospitality in this town than we ever expected, and we’re looking forward to staying a long time!

The Beauty of Boiling Springs

We’ve been in Boiling Springs almost 2 weeks now, and we are really enjoying it. Many of the things that caused us undue stress have melted away, and we are enjoying getting to know our new community. Most people are surprised that I love living in a small town again, but having grown up in a town of 1,520, the 3800 population of Boiling Springs is just right. Here are some of my favorite things about our new town.

1. We live in the “law enforcement” subdivision. We knew that our neighbor was a police officer, but our neighbor across the street is the magistrate. And when I went to get fingerprinted for my North Carolina medical license, I met 5 of the town police officers (of a total of 9) and they told me there are 5 law enforcement officers in our neighborhood of about 50 homes. Crime is virtually nonexistent in our town — and they even joke that because they are not responding to shots-fired calls or burglaries, they have plenty of time to spend with a radar gun.

Which leads me to my next point . . .

2. No one speeds in Boiling Springs. People use their turn signals. We have yet to be cut off, tailgated, flipped off, or experience road rage. Either we’ve suddenly become better drivers, or the drivers around us have much fewer anger issues.

3. The commute to anywhere in town is 5 minutes. To drop the kids off at school in the morning and then drive to work takes 7 minutes. Total. I have actually decided to go to a bigger grocery store when I need specialty items in the next town. It takes 8 minutes to get there.

4. Our house is 2 1/2 times the size of our previous home. We have TWO bathrooms with FOUR sinks. In our previous home, we had one bathroom with no vanity and just a pedestal sink. Now we each have our own vanity. More than one person can be in our kitchen comfortably. We can have conversations without everyone in the whole house hearing every single word. The kids have their own bedroom, and their own playroom. While I don’t regret being super close to our kids the first 18 months they were home, we were all ready for a little more space. The fact that we have a larger home doesn’t have much to do with living in Boiling Springs, except for this — our mortgage payment didn’t go up.

5. There is one stoplight in Boiling Springs. We previously had 27 stoplights between us and the church, which meant we had to tack on an hour to every church event for the commute, and what time we would actually arrive was completely unpredictable. We actually get to places –like Lowe’s, Chick Fil A, and Sonic — faster, even though they are in the next town.

6. No one seems to be in a hurry. Perhaps because no one is sitting in their car in rush hour traffic every day, the pace just seems slower. Everyone seems to have a joke or story to tell. And they want to know our story too.

I have still yet to get to really know our town, but what I’ve experienced so far has been delightful. I’m thankful for a good start to a new chapter.

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