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Even in the desert, life finds a way.

Even in the desert, life finds a way.

I was going to write a post about my anxiety over our financial situation. Tax season has drawn my focus to our finances and caused muscle tension from my eyebrows to my toes. But then I remembered the gratitude journaling I’ve been doing. Counting my one thousand gifts. And I remembered the sermon I listened to yesterday, from the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

And does this mean we should try to be last in an attempt to be first in God’s kingdom? No, the preacher says, that is not the point of this parable. The point is that there is no first and last in God’s kingdom. The point is that there is enough for all.

There is enough. There is enough for all. God’s abundant provision is enough. Our economy is based on the myth of scarcity, that there are only enough resources for a few and so we should buy more now and fill our large houses with possessions we don’t need.

What if we only took what we needed? What if instead of living in homes large enough to house an entire African village, we lived in tiny but functional homes? What if we lived simply so that others may simply live?

Over these last years of financial insecurity, God has been teaching me the importance of daily bread. We’re receiving enough for each day. We’re trying to make good choices with what we are given. We’re learning to trust. Our faith is being shaped.

When I was in Ghana, a woman told me, “We are a hungry country.” It’s true. Many Ghanaians live in tin shacks with no access to clean water. These people know what it is to suffer. I thought of how much we have in America, and how we are hungry too. We’re hungry, but we think we are full. There’s a nagging emptiness inside that cannot be filled. We try to dull it with shopping. We try antidepressants. We try eating too much, or not enough. We try creating a Facebook profile that will make our friends jealous. But it doesn’t work.

It is only when we come to the place of brokenness that we can find fulfillment. When we discover that we cannot go another day without complete dependence on God’s grace, that we are not the ones earning our daily bread but it is God who gives it to us. I have been learning this lesson. In our brokenness we are made complete.

I can be grateful for that.

 

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It’s been almost ten years and still I can’t forget. Even on vacation at a gated golf course community in the Palm Desert, I have Africa on my mind.

Ghanaian children playing in the street. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford).

Ghanaian children playing in the street. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford).

I feel her in the unrelenting beating sun. I smell her in diesel fumes, a freshly cut mango. Memories return: Guard holds an AK-47 to his chest, tells me, “Why don’t you go back home obroni.” Beggarwoman breastfeeds twins. Leper holds misshapen hand outstretched, seeking coins of mercy.

I remember: My colleague at the newspaper walks me to the station, sees there is no tro-tro for me to ride home tonight. “Tonight we will have to suffer,” she says.

I shake my head. No. I will not suffer the African way, not tonight. I have white skin and a first-world passport. “I have money for a taxi.”

A page from my Ghana scrapbook.

A page from my Ghana scrapbook.

She looks surprised, then hails one and negotiates a fair price for me, not the obroni price I usually pay. I ride safely back to the house I’m renting with other American students, the big house with running water, a security guard and wall to keep Africans out.

Africa, I remember you, the thin space where the very air is electrified with the presence of God and I barely even notice. I see the tin shacks and open sewers, the child beggars surrounding me. I still visit you in my dreams, always searching, never satisfied.

Roadside shop selling American soft drinks. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford)

Roadside shop selling American soft drinks. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford)

Now that I’m a mommy, I sometimes wish that I had lived a more exciting life in my pre-mommy days. You know, now that it’s incredibly difficult even to leave the house to go to the grocery store. Sometimes I wish that Spencer and I had spent a year living in southern France like our friends Jay and Holly, or a year backpacking around the world like our friends Ted and Bethany.

But then I thought, I actually have had quite a few adventures in my day. I have:

Been booed off a karaoke stage in Ghana. My first time attempting public karaoke, and I was booed off. I didn’t even know this was possible! Apparently, people take their karaoke quite seriously in Ghana. Who knew? I felt like Simon Cowell was in the audience. If you have a trip to Ghana in your future, and you want to get your karaoke on, be sure to practice the song beforehand.

Climbed 10, 358 foot South Sister. The peak (ha!) of my mountain climbing career so far, I summited South Sister when I was just seven years old. I carried my stuffed kitty, Jennifer Snowball Husk, in my pink backpack. It was a slow climb, and when we reached the top, the late afternoon storm clouds were rolling in. Yes, we reached the top just in time for a lightning storm! After spending some time wedged under a giant boulder with my mom huddled against me to act as a human shield against the lightning, we eventually ran down the mountain, only to find our sleeping bags soaking wet because my parents had neglected to put up the rain fly. Exhausted, but glad to have survived, we packed up our gear and began the late drive across the Cascades, homeward to Eugene.

Swam with dolphins in the wild. Despite the fact that I’m not a great swimmer and I have an extreme phobia of sharks (stemming from too many childhood viewings of Jaws), I swam halfway across a Hawaiian bay to be in the midst of a dolphin pod. I had heard that dolphins sometimes protect people from sharks, so I decided I had nothing to fear. Watching the dolphins swim around me and hearing them talk to each other underwater was an amazing experience.

Appeared on a poster alongside Slick Rick. Need I say more? Okay, I was in a theater troupe in high school; we both had upcoming shows at the WOW Hall in Eugene.

Landed a double salchow. Perhaps the weirdest named of any figure skating jump, I nailed it the summer of 1998, before I quite skating. Fourteen years later, I still dream often of flying through the air above the ice.
So yes, I’ve had some adventures. And there are many more to come, now with my sweet Baby Bear in tow.

A few more memories:

Camping in the San Juan Islands.

Me (on the right) at Buckingham Palace.

With Spencer at the Dave Matthews Band concert in the Gorge.

Having the first dance with Spencer. (photo by TJ Cameron)