In two days there are 48 hours. If adults are lucky (or blessed) we’ll sleep for at least 10 hours of that 48 hours. Others who are more scheduled (or gifted in resting) will sleep for 18 of those 48, making it 32 liveable hours.
I have lived 48 years today...18 of those years were programmed for me by life’s natural patterns of childhood, school, and being a child in my parents’ home. Thankfully, most of them were happy and memorable. I had a strong parental influence; good schools; painful and helpful loneliness in school; popularity in high school (then the only thing that mattered) and later a great validation of professors and fellow students that I had a fine mind.
This is when I chose to walk away from programmed life and live away from my parents, rules and school. I usually call this period my “crash and burn”.
Everything culminated in my behaviours exposing deep troubled waters in my soul. Addiction. Irresponsible sexual behaviour. Dark, depressive thoughts. This led to a period of my life I call my addict days. In these days, even though I was penniless and a drug addict, I was strangely happy...and in love. My boyfriend and I soon had a child and it was then that I woke up. The child was a reminder that my life was “off kilter” (then I think I said “f---ed up”) and I ran home, where I was now a child with a child living in my parents’ home.
In those days of "waking up", I experienced more miracles than I ever had imagined I could. I sought God out to know Him myself, not just live in a house where He was. I chased Him, and He was found... and spoke to me with a voice that was validating like no other, causing my wounded places to become crowded with healing. Soon, my low valleys were there for a purpose, and my high places were wonderfully unconquered and beckoning to me.
Then I met Mario. That name...that image...that intense time of destiny is indescribably delicious, but still... a little off-kilter. I was a mess and he was a mess...and we sought healing together (thank God) unwittingly from a pastor’s wife who was a licensed counsellor. She reflected back to us an image that was functional, but filled with unhealed places. She invited us to church and that’s when the whole thing began. Our church family beginnings....
We got married in the dead of winter, one day after my 25th birthday. He came to me with David and Joe, I came to him with Vince and soon after we had Alicia. We moved to an idyllic mountain retreat where we both worked full time, but nestled into a truly beautiful church and we were introduced to the power of the Word of God...and the Holy Spirit. This is the time I call our (my) Spiritual Awakening. Prophetic words... speaking in tongues... dreams, visions, songs, worship. Friendships that ran deeper than blood. Memories of fishing, snow sports and hot chocolate.
As with most things, we had to leave that place for a reason. We began again in the asphalt jungle of Sacramento- an unholy place devoid of tall trees and separate our new church family. Still, a career and life change was at hand, and as Mario began the pinnacle of his career, I left the workplace to home-school Vince and Alicia. This season I call “The Home-schooling Years”. I was the new owner of a new home and a new life in a newly developed place with new parks and new schools surrounding us.
It took awhile to find the right church, but we finally made a home at the Vineyard and soaked in more of the same “Awakening”, only to go through radical change as the church grew. As it grew, so did we, moving into new and dangerous waters of serving God...not just knowing Him. God spoke to us during those years, and I was always wishing I was more sure of myself – more sure of myself in marriage, in parenting, in teaching, in this Christian life. I experienced depression for the first time in my life, decided against medication, and slowly trudged through the uncharted waters that lay before me. Those days were a mixed blessing. The pain and sorrow could only be balanced by the major blessings of loving and being loved... I loved my children more than my own life and really began to stress if I were doing the whole thing the right way....?
Was it me, or do kids just take over your life?
At some point, the kids broke away and ran ahead. We enrolled them in a small private school that seemed like the right thing at the time. They became gifted in sports, drama, academics, friendships and I struggled to keep up. I returned to the workplace teaching there, trying my best to remain in their lives. It was then that we took our first trip to Africa.
Whatever I thought I knew about life, blessings, God, knowledge, happiness....was blown out of the water. It was there that all of my life came together and made sense. I looked beyond my surroundings to see an entirely larger picture that we were a part of, and as I looked at Mario, I knew he saw it too. This period I call “The decision-making days” where we began to travel internationally with the kids, and plan a future that would mean deciding to move to Africa, or deciding to stay in the States. Our church family now circled the globe.
To pre-emptively strike our decision, Vince moved out (a very painful time), and we grieved and continued.... Alicia grew and challenged us and our decisions to leave, then finally came with us. We moved in 2006. The move was miraculous and painful at the same time... and we began to know the glory and pain of living whole-heartedly as “Christian Missionaries”, even though we didn’t fit the normal connotation. We separated from our families (our families of origin and our church family) and moved to the wild, untamed South Africa that everyone told us was so like America.
The first year here we learned a saying in Afrikaans: “The boer mak a plan” which means “The farmer will make a plan”. It sounds relatively harmless, doesn’t it?? Know what it means?? It means that you can’t count on anyone in the end but yourself and you’re gonna have to make it work when everything breaks down. Ugh. It’s true. We took our first-world attitudes and chucked them out the door. No one even applauded. It’s expected here that things will go wrong and you musn’t complain, you must just make it work.
Alicia decided to go back to the States. We objected, but supported her decision in the end. Vince and she seemed so remarkably SEPARATED from us... after a lifetime of us staying so closely to one another. Here, the work of God included international travel, delightful presence of God and love, love, love of the people. It was wonderful and painful. The best and worst of times... everything that the Bible talks about. Take up your cross and follow me. Leaving house and home and country and family to answer a call to make disciples of all nations. The Africa Years... and me here.
Here I am.
I have four grandchildren now. My daughter has a daughter. She just got engaged. Vince is in love and works a dangerous job. Two of my nephews hardly know me.
One of my best friends here lives in a township. I went to a wedding last week given by a family that makes less than eight hundred dollars a month. Our church just built a Community Center in the North of Joburg. Mario did two weddings last week and will do another next week. In the last month, we have had electricity for 12 days.
For most of my life I have been wide awake... but at 48 I am fully alive and barely touching my destiny.
Pain. Growth. Change. Miracles. Tears. Laughter...