Friday, April 21, 2017

One Fat Digression

Let's see... When we left off last time, I had just gotten word from JD that my favorite house on the hill met all of our criteria (electricity, indoor plumbing, at least 5 bedrooms, and on the main road). It wasn't finished yet, but the owner said that it could be livable in the 11 days we had remaining on our current lease, and he just so happened to own the bank of boutique shops directly out front. AND he would rent it all to us for half the price we were currently paying!

  1. a temporary departure from the main subject in speech or writing.

    "let's return to the main topic after that brief digression"

So, just to unpack all of that a little, I don't think I ever seriously considered moving. One, for the last lots of months we had been working on renovating our house. Making it a home. We painted almost every room, hung actual decorations and pictures on the walls, our veggie garden had just started yielding fruit, the flowers in our new window boxes were filling out, we just built a chicken house... And two, moving in Africa. Yeah, I didn't know either.

I realize now that all of the renovations were about me, and about me finding little ways to take baby steps back to myself. The thing is, a long time ago, I couldn't even pinpoint when, I lost myself in the identity of No.41. Which was a bit of a pickle, because I'm not No.41, and No.41 is not about me. Especially in Rwanda, I hide behind it; I hide behind the girls and behind JD because it's not about me, it never was, and it never should be. To put it lightly, they are true heroes of this story and to even stand behind them is my greatest honor. In the States, it's a bit more tricky, knowing how to best convey the life, struggles, and value of one culture while sharing the basic life, perspective, and values of another. All the while, trying to own what's mine, from both sides. I haven't always (or maybe ever) been graceful about it. The second part of that is, in recent years as No.41 struggled, and wrestled with it's own identity, I fell even further into the unknown. "What if this was nothing? Did that mean I was also nothing? If we failed, that could only mean I was a failure." But I digress.

The point is, I was looking for who I was, like really was, and I started to find it loving this house and loving the family who made it a home. I've needed to say that for a long time because I've carried guilt about what you must think, if you've felt my life shift from No.41 to our family. I needed a life, a real life, outside of my work. Outside of my passion. Because I am so passionate about No.41, but I had forgotten. God, obviously, knew that and He was about to take it one step further with a clean slate. Our own space. Their own space. Together. With the girls taking the lead.

Ok, so we weren't looking to move, but with the news of this house and the price, we set the wheels in motion. We gave our landlord a, post-dated, 2 week notice; by the time we told him we were only remaining with 11 days. And we had been advised (wrongly, we would soon find out) that the 2 week notice, even if it was after the lease expired, was already covered in the rental agreement. To put it mildly, the landlord wasn't happy about us leaving and immediately set out on his rampage to get any and every thing he could out of us before we were gone, starting with a lawyers request to pay for the 14 days. There was (a lot) more to come.

This brings us to our next blessing. The money. One of the things smart people probably think about is the cost of expanding a family. Maybe especially when your growing family includes 5 teenage(ish) boys. I've never professed to be smart. I couldn't understand for myself what was happening and if I couldn't, how could I ask for support? The kids came and we (read: He) just worked it out. Somehow we always have what we need. The ladies at No.41 had started working on their own, supporting themselves with local business; which on so many levels is amazing and necessary and what you would hope for, but at the same time, I felt like I was letting them down. (FYI: Healthy Tara knows it was never my job to hold them up.) So, as the ladies moved forward creating and selling their own line of bags and clothes in their community, that was great, but someone still needed to feed these students. And He always did. I don't know why I continue to be surprised at God's provision, but I guess Your student sponsorships kept us going, a couple of half-hearted fundraising efforts on my part helped a bit, and Fair Trade Friday.... Digression ahead.

Fair Trade Friday, on two different occasions, was the reason I didn't quit. The reason we were able to keep going. They offer the most beautiful Fair Trade products, from all around the world, delivered to your door every month. It's a subscription box, like Birch Box, but way more beautiful and purposeful. I'll never forget crying out in prayer, the first time on my mom's living room floor, that He would just get us through the year. "Send the money and we'll be done." The second time, on the concrete floor of my bedroom in Rwanda. "Why won't You just let this die?!" I'm dramatic, it's a gifting. But seriously, FTF is life changing. And mine is just one of thousands and thousands. One order from them employed our women for the better part of 6 months and, in turn, fed our students when I didn't know how we could. God ordained No.41 and, in spite me and my many shortcomings, He intends to sustain it. One day I'll remember that.

And we're back. To recap, we weren't looking to move. We didn't (don't) have any money. No.41 had been in transition for some time, but had been gaining ground. Well, they had been gaining confidence in themselves, outside of me, and I had been finding myself, outside of them. I think maybe I had been praying, or mostly just pinning on a secret board on Pinterest, about a shop for No.41. They needed to get out of our house. Out of our backyard. They needed a space where people knew they existed. Where they could thrive. Our short term solution was for them to work in the driveway and open up the gates because, again, we didn't have funds and I didn't have the headspace or confidence to ask for it. Turns out, in God's economy, none of that matters. He didn't send the money. He sent the shop. In front of the house. And saved us money. Because He can. And He does. Every time.

So, now, I think there is nothing left to tell, except to finally get to how the actual house is everything I never knew to pray for. To tell you about when I took the first tour how I felt like each room had a name on it, one for each of us. And one room with a bunk bed, just in case. To tell you about the day the girls saw their new shop and were blown away. To give you a little tour. But that's for another time...


P.S. I would love for you go "meet" some of the No.41 crew.
And you should 100% get a FTF box. It would make such a great Mother's Day gift. I just subscribed to the 'Earring of the Month' Club. For myself. (But you can borrow them until I get home, Mom.) :)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trust Fall

Things change on dime. And I generally consider myself to be pretty good at change. Ironically, it's been one of the constants in my life, at least over the last 6 years. I can always count on it.

Last week I told you what's been going on in our life lately. Even though the post wasn't fully positive, the ability to be honest, and ok with it, came from an overwhelming sense of hope and thankfulness that this new season (why can't I find another word for that...) has brought. One of the biggest changes, for all of us, has been moving to a new house.

When I moved to Rwanda, I lived in the orphanage that we had visited on a recent mission trip. When I moved out of the orphanage, 9 months later to start No.41, I moved a few doors down into a house that had just been built. The house was way too big for just me and, at the time, I was reading Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (which I have now read a few times and highly recommend) so I walked circles around the house and around each room praying for every person I hoped God would bless through this house. And He did, more than I could have ever dreamed. He filled the dining room with buzzing sewing machines and the living room with training classes and bible studies. He filled every bedroom with friends and sisters and with the bonds of family. And then He built another house, in our backyard.

The No.41 crew happily moved into the new space and again I prayed that God's will would be done there; a four bedroom house was quite and upgrade from the dining room and again this felt like so much more than we needed. Until it wasn't. It was exactly what we needed. The girls worked in the "living room" and made product like crazy. One bedroom became a stock overflow and one bedroom became a manager's office. The "dining room" became a new, gifted leather business. The other two bedrooms were a revolving door of anyone who happened to need it. Which would eventually be my sons.

I didn't think it would be possible to find another place that would fit our needs they way this little compound did. Sometimes I tried, like every March when our contract came up for "discussion", but it was always pretty short lived. Our landlord, even though he would never admit it, was thankful for us and we were equally thankful for his houses. And, it turns out, pretty sentimental about them as well.

March snuck up on me this year and I didn't even realize it was time for our annual discussion. When I got the text from our landlord I thought he was texting to apologize about an argument we had a few days prior, but he was telling me our yearly rent was due. I told him we would need to make some updates to the contract before that happened and I would get back with him by Monday. Then I grabbed Moses and we went for a reeeeeeally long walk to look at some houses. We spoke to a few people and took a few pictures, we chatted about what we thought were the most important things. Electricity, indoor plumbing, at least 5 bedrooms, and on the main road. Just like in previous years, I figured this little trip would get back to our current landlord and let him know we were looking at other options and, in the process, I would have a few more bargaining chips for when he explained to me how lucky we were to be in his house.

I sent the pictures Mo and I had taken to JD and asked him if he could look into a couple of the houses (or something like them) and just get me a ballpark price. I really had no idea what to expect. I explained that the last photo, the house on the hill, just behind a bank of boutique shops, was my favorite. I asked him to ask if we could track down the owner of those shops, too; they appeared to be empty. He got back with me the following day and said, "You are not going to believe this."

"The house has 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. The kitchen is inside!!" (A luxury were didn't currently have.) "It's not finished, but the owner says it can be. Also, the shops belong to him and he has offered ALL, the house and three shops, for half the price you are paying now!" And just like that, in one phone call, God showed up and showed off. Faithful. When maybe I wasn't. Faithful. When I couldn't see. Faithful. When I didn't know how. Faithful, as always.

Most years I pray over a word that God would give me. One that He wants to teach me about or use as a kind of guide for the year. This year, that word is rise and I landed on that word after hearing, clear as a bell, in the depths of my soul, "Arise, my daughter." (Maybe I'll tell you more about that another time.) For too long I had been down, but He wasn't out, and it was time to get up and continue this fight. And he had just provided the perfect battleground.

Are y'all about done here? This is getting pretty lengthy and we're just getting started. One of the downsides of not communicating, I suppose. Well, I guess that just means more soon. :)


Friday, April 14, 2017

Our Lately

Hi. There's no real casual way to crawl back into a blog, that you're not even really sure is relevant anymore, after you've been gone for almost a year. And written about once a year for last three... But here goes nothing. (wink.)

Last time I was here, way back when, I told you I was crazy. But I knew why. And I felt pretty good about it. I've learned a lot over this last year, like more than maybe a year should really allow. Except that maybe I didn't really learn it all as much I just remembered some of it and settled down with the rest of it. With the help of my counselor, I've also laid down a good number of the burdens I somehow decided were mine and had been dragging around. I've learned what it feels like when I start to sink and I know better what to do, where to go, and who to go to when it happens. When I'm unhealthy, I isolate myself, because I tell myself there is no way anyone could understand, not the complexities of it all. But when I'm good I know it's not about understanding it all, opening up and letting people in is the point; same, same can look really different, different on the outside. I've got some really rad "me too" ladies in my life who have shown me that friends don't have understand completely to love and support fully.

So, lately. Lately, as in since Thanksgiving. I guess I moved back to Rwanda, full-time. I didn't really intend to, I don't think. Not yet anyway. But I knew it needed to probably happen and would eventually. You know I have these boys that I'm obsessed with.... Obsessed with in the way that they saved me. When I was sinking hard they made me laugh, and helped me let go, and gave me something to hang on to. I fought for them; fought to be able to love them well and fought for them to allow me the honor. They fight for me, too. Sometimes literally. We belong to each other and it's been nice to have this long stretch of time without me popping in and out so often.

My mom was here for Christmas and New Years, which felt so normal. In the most unconventional way. It was 70 degrees and we wore matching flannel pjs, and drank hot chocolate, and worked in the garden, and ate goat brochettes. As long as I've been in Rwanda, people always comment on how lucky I am to still have my grandma; I call her Gran. This year, my mom wasn't Mom, she was Grandma, and everyone was so right, we are the luckiest.

In January, just after my mom left, we finally got word that 4 out 4 boys passed the National Exam and would be continuing their education into secondary school!! (Terry, number 5, is already in secondary school, if you're counting.) This was HUGE! All of the boys are much older than their grade level and education here really leaves a lot to be desired, but they finished primary school and I think even surprised themselves how well they did on the National Exam. School started a couple weeks later and JD and I still catch ourselves with our jaws on the ground over all the positive changes secondary school and a little consistency has brought. For almost all of them.

This year, for the first time, all five boys go to Kanama, the school that No.41 feeds, which is super convenient since JD and I both office there most days. But this is the second year at Kanama for two of them and one had earned himself a pretty poor reputation in his first year. We were cautiously optimistic that having them all together would help everyone settle in a bit. The school was somehow less optimistic and we had a few meetings with the leaders, hoping to ease their concerns, and to assure them that the boys were serious. We made a lot of promises and made good on most of them, but some reputations and some labels are harder to overcome than others. Especially when they are mostly self-imposed. I can't speak for my youngest guy, but I've spoken to him until I'm purple in face, and the heartbreaking truth is I can't want anything for him that he doesn't want for himself. On the second day of school our baby made a choice that he knew would move him out of the house. Though he continued to attend school, sporadically, and did finish out Term 1, it doesn't look like he'll be returning to school in Term 2 and that means he also won't be returning to the house. We have walked every step with him. My head knows this is the right thing, my heart is still trying to catch up.

Speaking of the house, WE MOVED, and that whole debacle/miracle deserves it's own post. The No.41 ladies have graduated to their very own space, kinda. They are now working in a row of boutique shops on the main road (that has a back door that opens into our backyard) and this house on the hill, just for our family, is making me crazy and making my life all at the same time.

Well, I've babbled a lot here, more than I thought I would, and at least now we're all caught up to this year. :) I'll come back next week and fill you in on all rest!


Monday, July 25, 2016

The Truth

Back in May, I was ranting to you about my lost luggage (which did eventually show up, after a month!) and I was disappointed in myself and losing my temper so quickly. See, last time I left Rwanda I wasn't healthy. In fact, that's been true at several points in this journey,  but I knew it was time to finally get some help. I was in the process of drafting the post below, and am finally getting around to finishing it up. So here we are.....

At the top of my list when I got home from Rwanda in March was to find a counselor. I knew something wasn't right. I wasn't right. I knew I needed to talk to someone, I knew I needed help untangling the knots I had tied inside and around myself.

I reached out to my pastor and he recommended a woman in Oklahoma; I made it a priority to meet with her as often as possible when I was in town. Before our first appointment, she asked my why I wanted to meet with her and what I was hoping to get out of our time together. I explained, I wanted to know that I wasn't crazy (or that, even if I was), there was a reason I was feeling this way. I wanted to know what it was and I wanted some tools to better handle it. At our first appointment, she gave me several pages of "homework" and, on our second appointment, I found out that I tested high for compassion fatigue and secondary trauma, I also showed signs of acute anxiety and depression. Finally.

I know that I haven't blogged much recently, but as I've started to dig myself out of this hole, trying to get back to myself, I've alluded to hard times and haven't really come right out and said what. The truth is, I don't know what, or don't know that I could put my finger on it being any one thing, in particular. It was more of a series of events, or warning signs, that I left unaddressed and that I used to isolate myself from... everything. It feels easier to keep quiet about it because I don't want to complain or I don't think people would understand or I don't want anyone to think I'm ungrateful or somehow unwilling. I wouldn't change a single thing about this crazy life. I just want to navigate it a little better. I don't want to bottom out every time things don't go my way. I want to remember who I am. Whose I am. And why we're here. Maybe I was (or am) supposed to be ashamed of the new diagnosis(?), but I, honestly, could not have been more excited just to know. My friend Becca speaks of "struggling under the weight of becoming" and YES, because, dang, becoming is messy.

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” -Anne Lamott

So, it's been a long season of transition, in so many ways, but with several more counseling appointments under my belt, a fresh journal, and all the oils, it feels like the light is returning. I do remember who I am (she's a'ight) and I am proud of who I'm becoming. As I unclench my fists, I remember how fun it is to just trust and see. It will maybe never be easy living a life half a world away from everything you've known, but right smack dab in the middle of (most) everything you love. Running a business will never be full steam ahead. And raising kids you didn't birth and relying on others to support you while you do it will always be... a challenge. And see, I've had this thing, this perfect idea of life, in my mind, and this desire to translate that. I've held this belief that I somehow owe that perfection in order to be loved or accepted. Worthy. But if I owe anything, I owe myself the truth. And the space and grace to become. Life doesn't always happen in the black, sometimes you have to dip into the red for a bit to find out who you are, BUT fun is allowed and hard doesn't equal failure, so you might as well throw your hands up and enjoy the ride.
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