Sunday, October 27, 2013


My journey is a puzzle that I am working on. But this puzzle is one of those puzzles that doesn't have a defined edge, so any piece can go anywhere. And I don’t have the box with a picture to help me know what the final piece will look like.

So I puzzle.

Each piece I ponder over, turn it in different ways and try fitting it in.

When I learn where a piece goes I rejoice. Each new word I learn or cultural concept that I understand is a moment to celebrate. My puzzle becomes more and more filled in and clear.

Then I return to the pieces I have. These cause me to think, wonder, question, and search. I sometimes become frustrated and annoyed when I can’t seem to fit them in anywhere. I wonder if the puzzle will be a rectangle or some animal. I never know if a piece is the edge or not. Sometimes I collect like pieces, fuss with them for a while and then just leave them collected together on a section of the table. Sometimes I leave them liking the progress I made and sometimes I leave them to save my sanity.

Another catch to this puzzle is that I didn't start with all the pieces and I don’t know how many there are. As I walk through my day I find them. Sometimes they come out of my mouth in conversation. I find them when I walk down the street. Some are picked out of my food. Others fall off of my friends. Sometimes there is just one and other times it is a collection. But each time I find a new piece, new emotions are brought about; Joy to have new pieces to play with; Anxiety because I already have enough to fit in; Excitement because I know exactly where it will go; Frustration to have a random useless piece.

There are also helping hands, for puzzles always are more fun when you do them with someone else. My companions in my journey help me puzzle. Sometimes they work with me on a section and we can organize it way better than when I was trying to by myself. They help me to find like pieces to collect. Sometimes they even bring my attention to pieces that I have dropped on the floor which connect to other pieces.

For anyone who has done a large puzzle before, you know that it can be tiring and can take a few days (or at least many hours if you choose to just chug along). So as I puzzle, I need breaks. But each time before I break, whether due to exhaustion, dizziness, frustration, or just a change of scenery, I take a good breath and step back. I look at the work that I have done on the beautiful puzzle that is forming and I smile. I break for a while to clear my head and rest, and then I come back later to continue, curious to know what new insight I will bring with me.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

God is Community

Before I begin I want to let you know I cannot take credit for some of the wonderful insight that I have been pondering over. My YAGM loved ones have been teaching me more than they even know. Credit goes to Tessa-God is community. Emily-we are human beings not human doings.

I am a human being. God help me to remember that I am not a human doing.

I have been stuck on thoughts of what I am doing. They are not aggressive thoughts (thankfully) but curious ones. Wondering what am I doing, what worth do I have to give to my community and how do I do so? To counter this I have been trying to think more about the relationships that I form or deepen as opposed to the works that I do. I try to rework my brain into thinking about who I've talked to or what information I learned about someone that day. This is a hard job for the task minded person. But it is also hard for an introverted, shy, and prideful (afraid of rejection or looking dumb, also fear that language will get in the way and we will spend the whole time either just nodding to move the conversation along or asking over and over “what? what does that mean?” and becoming frustrated) person like me. Putting myself out there, going out of my way to find someone to say hi to, start a conversation with, or sit with is hard. It can be scary and at times it can seem exhausting. But that is also why it is considered work.

Getting to know my community. God is community. The more I learn about my community, the more I learn about God. God is like a book, it may be a good book but I won’t know it until I take the initiative, open it up, and spend the time to read it. Just like my community, they are wonderful, but I don’t know that until I step out of my house. It requires work, and sometimes will and determination to get out of my room or off the couch. But, I must say, every time I have, I have returned more joyful than when I left and I return having talked with a friend or met someone new, seen something beautiful, or laughed. I am filled by my community, by God. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Space to Remember

Upon entering a new culture your brain can become filled with many new things. My mind usually spins with different thoughts, and now as I walk with my community and experience life differently my mind seems to never stop processing. I think about the new experiences, sights, smells, textures, relationships, events, outings, sounds, silences, nature, and all the roles that these play within each other. As you can start to sense, continual spinning.

And yet I have noticed space. The first few weeks I did not have a “job” to attend to. I was getting to know the community and area and they were getting to know me to find where I would fit and where some of my skills could be used. I encountered different places and people because I have a lovely host mom who takes me everywhere she goes. She tells me “let’s go” and we go. I usually don’t know any of the details about our trip, but that is not a concern that I should have, I travel in the safety of her hands. Because of this I don’t have to think or worry about future things. If you think about your brain space in three parts, past, present, and future, I have realized that I have a third of my brain space that is not being occupied by chattering thoughts. And I only realize this when encounters happen with people I have met where I remember something that they told me. Usually I have a hard time remembering details about another person’s life; I am busy trying to remember what is going to happen next in my busy, super jam packed filled life. But being here and not having to worry about planning, I have been able to remember birthdays (which I have never been able to remember my friends’ birthdays who I’ve known for years) and different weekend trips that people in my community have gone on, and I can remember enough to even ask them about how it was!

I have space to remember and build and nurture relationships. There are many good things with being busy and involved, but there are also so many good things that come with simplicity. Culturally there is a difference between South Africans and Americans and their ideas of planning. I am starting to like not having many things planned and not having to worry about where I have to be next because there is more space (both time space and mental space) for me to be in the present and with those whom I am surrounded by.