Monday, November 09, 2009

Back To Reality and Monday's Menu

Well, we are back! My husband and I had a glorious, soul-wrecking, beautiful, exhausting, joyful, heart-wrenching, energizing, physically-draining week in Ethiopia last week. Notice how all the descriptors in the previous sentence seem to be at odds? That about sums it up. Conflicting emotions. All week long. One minute I would be joyfully dancing with children, singing songs in their language that I learned to sing with my own Ethiopian son at home, thinking "It just doesn't get any better than this!!" The next minute I was squatting down on a small stool on the side of a high mountain, praying with a husband and wife both infected with HIV, holding their small son whom they so desperately want to survive to raise, surrounded by the tents in which they and their "refugee" community live as outcasts from their families and communities. One minute I would be at a beautiful restaurant, enjoying the amazing food and absorbing the culture of that enchanting and ancient country, the next I would be looking out the car window at the street people who live huddled under a blanket and starving on the median of a busy street, or handing packets of my snack crackers and trail mix through my car window to a starving child, or mother with a hungry baby on her back. How? How am I supposed to feel?

We landed at the Frankfurt airport as we have this time of year on previous trips to Africa... straight from huts, orphans, poverty and need to holiday glitz, commercialism and excess. Once home, we drove our Suburban through the streets of our upper middle class subdivision, on our way to pick up our dogs from the kennel where they lived in more comfort than some of the people we had seen just hours before. As we turned out of our subdivision, the trees are already lit for the Christmas season, greenery and bows adorn the entrance...a reminder that one of my main tasks in the weeks ahead is to shop, spend and consume. How am I supposed to feel?

I used to feel extreme guilt. I used to question our whole life, geographical location and lifestyle. I used to come home and immediately feel like I was carrying a heavy weight. One thing I have never felt, and to which I feel a certain aversion, is the "Well, it just makes me realize how blessed I am" sentiment. While I absolutely believe in living a life of gratitude, I have never felt comfortable letting the stark contrast between my life and that of a mother in an African village lead me to (indirectly) thank the Lord that I somehow ended up with a better lot than her. But, how? How am I supposed to feel?

I don't believe I'm supposed to feel guilt or condemnation. That only pulls me down and doesn't edify or help anyone. I'm supposed to sift through my feelings, bring them to Jesus and let Him help me feel what He has placed in my heart to feel for HIS children. If any of those feelings bring conviction, that will pull me up... toward Him and His character. So that is what I'm doing this week. I used to question if we were supposed to leave this life here and plunk down in a hut there. Some are. We aren't. We can better leverage our skills and resources from here. I know we aren't supposed to live here unchanged by what we've experienced on our mission trips, but how does my giving up new cars and recreational decorating directly benefit that mom on the street in Africa? How do my tears translate into real hope for someone else? By action. Only action. Christ's love is demonstrated love. And I'm still on the journey to figuring out what that is. Some are called to leave it all and go there. Some of us are called to leave it short term, go there, come back here, save more money, go back there, on and on. I do believe it has blessed some of our ministry partners to know that we would continue to leave here and go there. Over and over. I actually had a full time vocational missionary tell me she thinks that's harder. In a way I think she's right.

Why am I sharing all of this in the same post as I'm going to do my usual "Monday Menu" post? Isn't that a bit odd? Well, yes and no. Mentally, I need to do what I always do. I've got to get back to my routine, of which planning menus is a part. I also want to keep it real. At least half of what I have planned this week is of the Stouffer's frozen variety. Many women wouldn't even post that on their blogs, but really? After what I've seen in recent days, and what we all know to be reality around the world, we would be ashamed or even dare to think that USDA-approved prepackaged food isn't good enough?

Another reason is that people "click on by" from the Monday Menu link that may never visit my blog any other time. And I want to tell them (you, if that's you!) a piece of our story.

Another reason is what I mentioned above: gratitude. Every mom with a blog could post a menu and feel like it is blog-worthy. Peanut butter sandwiches. Cereal. Cans of soup. Spaghettios. Macaroni and cheese. Frozen dinners. Chicken nuggets. Do you know what all of that has in common? It's God's provision!! Prepare it, post it and be thankful for it, giving Him the glory for providing it.

I have sooooo many more thoughts to post, as you might imagine, but I've already been on here too long, with a Monday's worth of school to put together and a week's worth of Africa to wash out of our clothes. I have missed my blog (no reliable internet there), I have missed my kids, I have missed my weenie dog, I have missed my bed. I have been physically ill and mentally drained. I am ready to tackle what God has for me here at home but I would pack it all up again tomorrow and go back if I could.

One gift I gave myself the week before we left is a planned menu and stocked freezer/pantry for when we returned. So here is what I have planned... by God's grace:

Monday: Stouffer's frozen chicken enchiladas, black beans, salad
Tuesday: Frozen lasagna, frozen garlic bread, bagged caesar salad, frozen peas
Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye Misr Wet (Hot Split Lentil Stew), Fosoleay (carrots and green beans)
Thursday: YO YO (you're on you're own)
Friday: Slow Cooked Corn Chowder, wheat rolls

For more menus, or to share yours (no matter what it is!!) visit Laura at

I will be sharing more of our week in Ethiopia in the coming days. Thank you to all who went along with us in spirit and lifted us up in prayer. I know some of us will be returning there together someday. God is good.

Eph. 3:20!!


Cyndi said...

Oh, the pictures. I've got so many more to post!! But the top one is in Bole Bulbulla, a small impoverished village in Addis Ababa. It feels like you're out in the country, but you're actually literally right behind the airport. What incredible children, and what incredible ministry is taking place there.

The second photo was taken as we were driving up Entoto mountain. Notice the woman with the large bundle of sticks on her back. The women (some very old) climb that mountain every day, gather sticks into bundles taller and bigger around than they are, strap them on their backs and walk back down the mountain to sell them. At the top of that mountain there is a "camp" of HIV sufferers who live there because of what they believe is holy water at the oldest Orthodox church there. An amazing ministry is not only dispensing anti retroviral drugs to them for HIV, but encouraging them to take them, seeing the medication as God's provision. Incredible work going on there, this very day. Glory to God. I've got SO much more to write! Love to you all. Cyndi

A said...

"Peanut butter sandwiches. Cereal. Cans of soup. Spaghettios. Macaroni and cheese. Frozen dinners. Chicken nuggets. Do you know what all of that has in common? It's God's provision!! Prepare it, post it and be thankful for it."

Preach it, sister! What a refreshing breath of fresh air when something is put in a different perspective for you.

Jill said...

Thank you for sharing your "take away" - well, at least your game plan on how to process what you saw. I am sad to say it has taken me, what, 11 months to finally know how to PROCESS my trip in January much less even know what TO DO with it. I am so glad I am not alone in the overwhelming aftermath of "what to do". Looking forward to hearing so much more about your trip!!

Tammi said...

Wow! I can't wait to hear more and see more photos of your trip. Your thoughts and reflections are so insightful. You truly inspire me!

Ashley said...

I LOVE this post! Love it. :)

Daisy said...

Taking it all in....thank you once again, Cyndi!

Donna said...

Well lived, well processed, well written!!! When I talk to people about Ethiopia I STILL grasp and grope to wrap words around the experience.
I cannot wait to hear more, see more, and process more along with you. Thanks for sharing.

Linda said...

You have given me much to ponder Cyndi. I think you have put so beautifully many of the things I've thought and felt. Perhaps if we are all faithful and obedient to whatever the Father asks of us everything will be as it should be. It is the being perfectly obedient and faithful that is the difficult part. I want so much to simply do what you have faithfully done - walk in obedience.
Thank you for sharing your heart dear one.

Organizing Mommy said...

Amazing! I saw you on my "blog frog" and had to come and see. I don't think I've been to your blog in a while. I'm not sure what I would be feeling either! I had a friend who just came home with an Ethiopian baby (planned adoption). But I think Stouffers is a fine plan for jet lagging it and all that!

Gary and Michelle said...

Beautifully written.

We are moving to Zambia next month and am wondering how I will deal with the conflicting feelings of the extravagance in the West and the desperation in Africa.

Thank you for being so honest in the way you feel.