Friday, June 14, 2013

Keepin' on

It was evening; the nights are slightly cooler now, even more pleasant than usual. I was chatting with our guard, Joseph, whose oldest son is the age of my youngest. He and his family have resided in the boys' quarters of now two of our eMi families, both of whom have homeschooled at different times. Joseph looked at me.

"I think I am going to homeschool [my son] a bit to help him keep up in preschool," he said. "Because I think"--he paused here--"that even a parent can teach a child."

I grinned. Yes, Joseph. You can teach your son.

This was a big deal: a shift in cultural thinking. Parents creating an educational environment in their home, taking an interest in the next level of parenting beyond providing food and shelter and school fees, is an admirable step.

I dashed inside, scrounging around in the materials I'd brought to my YMCA class, some of J.'s favorite file folder games, a piece of chalk. We sat on the cement porch of our boys' quarters and flipped through the games. I drew "Mickey Mouse Math" on the pavement, for addition with g. nuts: A large circle for Mickey's face, two small ones for the ears, where you place the addends. Slide them to the face, count 'em up, and your kids get to eat all their correct answers.

The next night, I stepped into the twilight with mild, giddy anticipation. How did his kids like it? "So much!" He exclaimed, describing their favorites. I reveled in his toothy grin. He'll switch these activities out for more in July, and is looking forward to his day off to play games with them most of the day. It was fun to celebrate with him, to hear of such exceptional fatherhood. Being a dad looks entirely different here--if it exists at all in many families--and a man taking such devoted interest in his kids gave me a glittering hope inside.

More than that, it was a unique, small, brightly-wrapped package of grace. I haven't written much about my latest YMCA classes, partially because I'm concerned about being myopic about my own interests. But I have also found myself in that wordless dearth of creativity, of happily blogging our lives. I have been mucking around in that silent swamp that is discouragement.

It's been things like the majority of ladies in my class failing or cheating on my quizzes, ignoring my assignments, dodging class. So then it was me pulling out all the stops, spending hours during a brief anniversary trip so my students would finally get it, so their classes would change. Then it was arriving at the Y after forty minutes in traffic, arms heavy with bags of homemade playdough and graded quizzes and copies I'd paid for and hauled half a mile through the construction, to find out the faculty had cancelled afternoon classes and forgotten to call me. (Oops.) Then it was being cancelled again without them calling me for a second week. (I'd wised up and called a few times until someone returned my call on my way there.) It was asking my students a week after I'd shared the Gospel: "So! Can you earn your salvation?" and half of the class answering with a resounding "YES!"

I sagged against the flaking cupboards of my kitchen one night, missing the bubbly little niece I haven't seen yet, chewing her toes in photos around a drooly grin. I was missing grabbing a bag of pita chips from my mom's cupboard near her pleasant-smelling laundry room. I was frustrated because ants had again commandeered the biscuits I'd laid on the counter for dinner, yet another infestation (3 species of ants, 2 species of cockroaches, a mouse, bats) just beyond my control. I was feeling used because of a number of cultural run-ins where I felt pounced upon as a frizzy-haired ATM for total strangers, including a policeman with a large rifle. I looked at the floor and mumbled to my husband, "It doesn't feel like my righteousness is breaking forth like the dawn." There may have been some tears. (If not then, certainly later.)

I've continued to remind myself that the Cross looked like the ultimate defeat; that God's timing and vision of success are far, far beyond my eyes. I feel secure that God has not wasted my time or money or energy, or my family's. I am just tired, poured out (feels more like dumped out at this point), and with what looks to human eyes like a very low cost-benefit ratio.

So I consider it a personal treasure from God that Joseph's family is changing because of the people who have left their families, and snack foods, to come to live here. I feel encouraged God brought another friend to my door yesterday for a conversation that helped her to make a big life decision. Discipleship is S-L-O-W whether you're in Scranton or Mogadishu. The cost is steep. But it is unquestionably worth the price. My home is not here any more than it is in the U.S. of A., land of relatively uninfested kitchens. God's doing something.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Hebrews 10:35-36


Ruthie H. said...

Thank you for sharing, for being honest and for again pointing back to God's grace. I have to keep reminding myself to return to that "home base," especially when I too face discouraging days. Philippians 1:6 has become a personal favorite and I claim it for those I have the privilege to work and share life with, and I so need that promise, too!

John and Janel Breitenstein said...

Ruthie, that is such a perfect promise for all this! Thanks for a great reminder and for once again encouraging me.

Kara said...

Love hearing that about Joseph, brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes its those little grace's that God gives that help keep us afloat. Praying for strength and peace that can only come from Him through these trying times. Miss all of you!!

mhutsell said...

I am always glad when you share your reality. Your pain and your joy. A clear picture of what God is doing in you. Sorry about the ants and the biscuits. Always the last straw, the little things. Sorry too about your cancelled classes. Major bummer. God always reminding us that our efforts are never for others, always for Him, so never ever wasted or unnoticed. Love you dear friend. Press on!

John and Janel Breitenstein said...

Kara, I hope you know that you and Pat are a huge reason Joseph's story exists! It is wonderful to see him play with Jacob, to see him love on his kids. Your work--God's work!--keeps going on over here. We miss you, too.