Back to the Beginning
I shared on my podcast this past week a little bit about where I come from: my fun Colorado childhood; the beauty of my years at Hope International University and the friendships that continue to define me from that place; my short, but life-changing trip to Kenya; my years in the Bay area that shaped the teacher that I am today; and my transition to Ghana--a single woman, to a mother, to a wife and mother of even more! There's something about thinking of the beginnings of things that makes my faith rise up. It's like looking back at the pictures, sometimes you forget the hard bits, but you sense the emotion of seeing something through to the other side.
As a little girl, our family went camping a lot in the summertime. We would load up our camper, and set off for destinations all over the Western U.S., stopping at National Parks and campgrounds along the way. When we would stop for the evening, the bikes would come out of our camper trailer, and my brother and sister and I would race around the campground to locate the nearest bathrooms or get a look at the ranger station for any cool programs they would be hosting during our night stay. Though I have incredibly fond memories of these camping trips, I know that these trips also tested me. I have never been a great outdoors woman. I tended to enjoy the quiet solitude of my bedroom playing inside with dolls or reading book after book that I had checked out from the library, but family vacations weren't intended for indoor play. We hiked, we rode our bikes, we fished, and we cooked over an open fire. Though I clearly remember sometimes being afraid of getting lost or getting hurt when we were hiking or more concerned about who was playing on my walkman than winning the bike race, the memories of those summer camping trips all the way back at the beginning of my life shaped me.
Those moments with my family showed me that one of the greatest gifts you can give your family isn't given with money or in tangible items we can put in their hands, but in time. Time. It's beautiful in its simplicity, but challenging in its application. Back then, in those beginning days of my life, there was no such thing as social media. There weren't the many distractions that we face today.
Yet, I think the value of time is still as valuable to our relationships, our husbands, and children, and friendships. Maybe even more so! And as I reflect on these beginnings with my family, it challenges me and encourages me to put aside my phone and my computer and be present. Oh, how I want to be remembered by my children, not for how much work I put in on my laptop, but for my presence. I want to be remembered for noticing the little things, for finding the fun in the moments that may feel hard or scary (like my fear of hiking), and for creating memories that they will look back on one day and be so immensely grateful for.
I think of the beginnings in my friendship. My group of friends in college, we lovingly called ourselves The Beatniks. This group of friends has probably shaped me more than any other in my life. They were there in the hardest of hard moments. They have prayed for me, and walked with me through seasons of darkness and in seasons of hopeful joy. They have provided vulnerable accountability, spoken truth over lies, and made me laugh so hard I wasn't sure I'd make it to the bathroom in time.
We met when we were 18 years old, and now we are all 40+, but our friendships are still some of the most important ones in my life. They are those friends that even if you haven't seen them for a few years, you can pick off right where you left off by just sitting down next to them. Their love is unconditional and such an example of how much Jesus loves me. Though we all have different lives spread all over the world with husbands and children and busy jobs, these people are my people. Thinking back to those beginning days reminds me of the importance of having friendships that aren't just fun, but are filled with truth and love and a willingness to walk with you in the middle of all the mess. I'm so grateful for these ladies (and their husbands and kids) and the lessons that they have and continue to teach me.
And I think back to the beginning of first arriving in Ghana.
I taught twelve students in five different grade levels with no textbooks in a little building with no electricity or indoor plumbing. My first few months had me in tears most days as they didn't understand my accent and I didn't understand the cultural expectations for learning. Here I was, supposed to teach these students who had very little previous learning experience in a culture that I didn't understand and I felt like I was swimming upstream against a very strong current. But, I didn't give up. And neither did they. We were resilient and we learned and grew together.
Our living arrangements were also quite an adventure! When I first arrived in Ghana, we lived in the city of Tema, but that was a short-lived stay. After receiving donated land in the village of Doryumu (a faith story all on its own), approximately 25km from Tema, all of City of Refuge Ministries moved out to Doryumu to begin building. Close to 20 children (between the rescued children & John and Stacy's children) and 10 staff members all piled into one house together. We were crowded and had no personal space. We all shared bathrooms without running water, shared meals together under starry night skies, and shared all kinds of ailments together as the result of overcrowded living, but we have endless memories from that time. We danced a lot together. We sang songs. We laughed together and cried together. We welcomed in new children and new staff (yes, into our already tight living quarters). Every night, we tucked in kids with goodnight kisses, tickles, and giggles (the boys especially "hated" this part). And it was in that place that we saw the miracles of God take place. We saw God provide monies for buildings when we were down to nothing in the bank accounts. We saw children set free from their literal chains of slavery into the light of the love of Jesus Christ. We saw God pave the way for electricity to be brought to CORM's land after our own human toiling could not make it happen. Over and over and over again, God made a way where we thought there was no way.
That is the beauty of beginnings. We never see the end when we are sitting at the starting point, but from the finish line, we can celebrate all that was accomplished along the way.
When I think of these beginnings, each and every one of them reminds me of a faithful God. He is so very faithful. And if He was faithful in those seasons, though they were each filled with their own moments of hardship and tears and wonderings, won't He continue to be faithful in today's hardships and tears and wonderings? Absolutely. And for that, I am grateful.