Posts Tagged ‘contentment’

Swaziland Recap

March 18th, 2011 No comments

I am sitting on the couch in what will be our new Swazi residence come July.  It is a humble duplex-style place: tile floors, two bedrooms, a small kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower stall.  Nothing fancy and maybe 700 square feet (at the most).  But, it is comfortable and I already feel at home here.  I am scheduled to fly back to the states later today after a bit over a week of working with Cabrini Ministries doing some long-range planning, problem solving and networking.  And while it was great to get some work done and to prepare a few things for our move, the most important part of my time has been the feeling.

If nothing else, spending a week at Cabrini, working in the bush of Swaziland, has given me a feel for what to expect.  Obviously it is just a glimpse and I am sure there will be many “surprises” in store for us.  But, just experiencing these things helps us to plan for the transition.  This week I experienced:

  • Power and water outages
  • 110+ degree temperatures
  • Major storms and serious dryness
  • Difficulties in communication (phone lines down, no cell coverage)
  • Lack of internet
  • Crazy roads and crazier drivers
  • Long drives to get anything
  • Difficulty in coordinating overseas conversations due to time differences
  • Constantly having “the system” be down, preventing things from getting done
  • Abject poverty and even death

While in my current life in the States, I may experience one or two of those things in a year, having them all come at once didn’t bother me.  All of the difficulties were overshadowed by the other things I experienced:

  • People dedicated to Cabrini’s vision of “Restoring Life”
  • Playing soccer with the children at the hostel and hearing them sing
  • Seeing true “local empowerment” such as the woman who manages the database that hadn’t even seen a computer until 2 years go; professional office staff who grew up on homesteads in the area; all the managers being local and fully competent; continuous training for all staff; a standard-setting clinic run by mostly local nurses and support staff
  • Participating in the larger system of support in a country with great need
  • Working with dedicated staff who know all the details of patients and children they work with
  • Getting to know my neighbors who are deeply rooted in the local chiefdom
  • Visiting former students across the country who have graduated from Cabrini services
  • Seeing the incredible amount of work and extensive services being completed in this tiny village deep in the bush.

We certainly have a lot to learn and the transition is going to be tough; but, after spending a week here I am more confident in our decision than ever before.  July will come quick and I am certainly looking forward to it.

The Inner Beauty of a 6 Month Old

November 19th, 2009 1 comment

I think I have the most beautiful daughter in the world.  Just check out this picture from Halloween:

2009-October and November 177

Every chance I get, I tell her she is beautiful.  Beth and I constantly ask ourselves, “Honestly, could she get any cuter?”  I feel like we were playing Russian Roulette with my looks being in the gene pool, and luckily she turned out pretty good looking (if in 10 years she has a uni-brow and a beard, you know who to blame).

But I will be honest with you, sometimes I worry about her being so beautiful.  Will she grow up and be vain?  Will she have difficulty understanding inner beauty because she always possessed outer beauty?  If (when) her outer beauty fades, will she allow it to bother her?

I ask these questions but at the end of the day I don’t really worry about them.  That’s because Mikayla has an amazing personality for a baby. She is content and inquisitive.  She would rather smile than cry.  She enjoys company and can play alone.

In fact, instead of worrying about her, I have found she has many things she can teach me.

  • The joy of discovery – I am going to take credit for her constant fascination with everything around her.  I am pretty sure she gets spirit of inquiry from me.  However, whereas I usually approach things with a great deal of skepticism, Mikayla also approaches new things with joy and wonder.  She is excited about every new thing…. even when it turns out she does not like it (like with avocados).  Sometimes my own questioning brings about negativity.  I wish I were more like Mikayla and could find joy in every question and discovery.
  • Approach everything with a smile – Mikayla’s first response to a situation is to smile.  It doesn’t matter if it is her mother reaching for her, or someone she has never met.  She is always happy to see you.  This is even true of things that might threaten her.  Our dog sometimes get skitish when Mikayla is on the floor.  Sometimes Shiloh will bark at her.  Still though, she smiles and laughs and loves.  If only I were so accepting.
  • Explore your possibilities, but be content where you are – Mikayla is usually very happy where ever she is, whether it in her crib, on the floor, in someone’s arms, or in her car seat.  At the same time though, she is always looking around and exploring every nook and cranny.  However, she does not allow that inquiry to make her discontent.  She wants to know what’s on the other side of the crib, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy it there.  Mikayla uses the discovery process to better understand her current situation – not simply to try and replace it.  I wish I could have such an attitude.
  • Let people know when you are hurting and how they can help – Beth and I have learned Mikayla’s various cries.  She lets us know when she is hungry or tired or has gas or when she just wants to be held.  She is able to tell us how we can help her.   Looking at myself, that is something I need to do better.  Even when I know I am hurting, it is rare for me to let people into my world so they can know how they can help me.
    There is plenty we can learn from babies.  Unfortunately instead of letting them teach us, we all to often try to make them see things our way.  I hope in the years to come I can be a loving and effective teacher for my beautiful daughter, but more importantly, I hope I can always be her student and let her constantly teach me.

10 Things (to do before I die)

July 17th, 2009 3 comments

Today Beth and I look to the future with our list of 10 things we want to do before we die.  Some items on this list represent things we already have in the works.  Other items represent things we simply need to make happen.  Finally, a few things on this list are so far out there, I have no idea how to make them happen, but by listing them, hopefully I will move that direction.

  1. Live overseas – Beth and I are very serious about spending a significant amount time in a place where our worldview is forced to expand, and where life is redefined.  Furthermore, we want to make sure Mikayla is a part of this experience.  You can read more about our plans to move to Swaziland in the next few years here, here and here.
  2. Know everything about something and something about everything – This is taken from a quote by Thomas H. Huxley, but does a great job at summing up my educational goals.  I do foresee a time when I pursue a Ph.D., but even if I don’t, I want to be intentional about knowing enough about one subject that I can be a resource to others.  Likewise, I want to know a little about everything so that my perspective of the world is more rounded, and so I can share in the appreciation others have for their passions.  (I love talking with people about what they do for a living — especially if they are really excited about their job).
  3. Adopt a child – Beth and I have been committed to adopting a child since our first conversations about our future plans.  It just makes sense — with so many children without families, why wouldn’t we bring on of them into our home.  Plus, Mikayla is so perfect (healthy, content, good looking), I think we could only go downhill.  I am even ready to get fixed.  Chances are we will adopt while overseas.
  4. Get my pilot’s license – This has been a goal of mine for quite a while.  There is a good chance I will begin training in the next 6 months.  While it is expensive, when you compare it to other educational costs, it is no more than a semester of graduate classes.
  5. Live off the grid – There are two reason behind this.  1.) I want to be a better steward of creation.  2.) I want to live more simply.  There is a good chance this will occur while we are in Swaziland, but if it doesn’t, I want to make sure it happens when we get back.
  6. Speak at least one other language fluently – So far I have ancient Greek and Hebrew under my belt from my days at Asbury.  But being able to ready 2,000 year old texts doesn’t do you much good when you want to communicate with someone today.  Right now Beth and I are beginning to work on our siSwati so we can speak the second national language of Swaziland.  It might not be the most practical language (only 1M in the world speak it), but it will certainly help us with our time overseas.  Once we are back, I may work on my Spanish.
  7. Watch a space shuttle launch – Not as profound as some of the other items on my list, but ever since my 5th grade class did a whole unit on space and learned about the whole launch process, I have been fascinated.  I think it would be awesome to see a launch live — especially a night launch.
  8. Visit all 7 continents – I have 2 down and will get a 3rd shortly.  Antarctica will be tough, but if I get the other 6, I am pretty sure I could make it happen.  I actually have several friends who work there during the southern summer.
  9. Complete an epic backpacking trip – I doubt I will ever complete the AT, the CDT, or the PCT, but I want to do something major.  Maybe it won’t even be stateside.  I want to experience the thrill of completion along with the time to reexamine life that comes with such a trip.

    Grave Peak sunset.  July 4, 2001

    Grave Peak sunset. July 4, 2001

  10. Celebrate my 50th anniversary, walk my daughter down the aisle, die content – How is that for a final goal?  I list these last and together because these require a lifetime of dedication.  I want to be happy with my life when it is through and be able to say I have been a good husband a good father.

Honorable Mention: Camp overnight in an interstate mediumHere is the place I have my eye on… easy access, wide area, cover of trees.  Anyone up for it?