Tag Archives: Grace

making good correction

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Oops I did it again.

I managed to not only attend two wedding ceremonies in one weekend, but for one of them, I didn’t even know it was a wedding until I arrived. Once I realized what was happening, I hurled over in laughter. OF COURSE. This would happen.
Oh! And it gets better.

Divine had outfitted me in a red bandana by tying it around my neck. This is the symbol for our church group and we were all wearing these to the ceremony because we were the choir for the day. Yes, I have participated in weddings as an attendant, a greeter, a brides maid, a maid of honor, and now, as a member of the choir. Just when I thought I had seen it all when it comes to Rwandan weddings.

It wasn’t that Divine had hidden this information, it’s just in the consistent cross-cultural communication I live among, you don’t know what is going on most of the time. This was a classic case.

No matter, we sang (well they did, I just moved my mouth to the rhythmic hymns and danced enthusiastically) and it all went on without a hitch.

*

This weekend was a long one for me; because with my two off days (Friday and Tuesday) and the parliamentary elections on Monday, I had 5 days free from teaching. It went by swiftly as if time was being poured like a fresh cup of steamed milk. I barely even noticed the passage of days.

In these days I have found myself entrenched in the Word of God more than I have been in the last few months. And believe me, that’s a good thing. The danger we risk in life is floating. I actually think it’s in this middle ground of feeling NOTHING, doing NOTHING, and becoming AMBIVALENT where we lose our way. I say this because that is how and where my heart has been for a couple of weeks. ABSENT.

People – my neighbors and friends – call my name and instead of a wide open smile and response, I have been raising my hand as a mere acknowledgement.

When I’m home alone and taking the time to think intentionally, I don’t feel rooted in my joys. I drift off into a world of anxiety, fear, and questions. I become glazed over from too much. My presence in such an opportunity is weakened.

Even with Divine, my best friend, I have been overly sensitive to her attempts to “help me make good correction.” If I am being culturally inappropriate and she says something to me about it, I have been defensive, snappy, and for no good reason.

My patience in the classroom has run dry like an empty well and in moments that would usually warrant laughter on my part, I’ve felt myself skimming it over, ready to move to the next point in the lesson.

WHERE AM I?

In these days, in this long weekend, I’ve tried (and I think succeeded) to get back on track. I’ve allowed myself for a small time to disconnect but this is NOT how I live my life. But, being human, I’m unable to correct this myself. We MUST turn to God.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Isaiah 60: 1-2).

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On Friday, representatives from Girl Hub (a part of the Nike Foundation) came to my school to film my GLOW girls reading statements and declarations about the future of girls in the world. These snipets will appear in a film for the United Nations on the International Day of the Girl next month.

On Saturday, I was lost in the banana trees on my morning run but I found a small path to guide me home.

In the evening, for the first time in our two-year friendship, Divine told me about her family’s experience during the Rwandan genocide. She told me what happened, as it was retold to her by her mother because Divine was only a small 1-year old child at the time. She spoke slowly and deliberately (as she always does) but took frequent pauses to control the tears trying to escape her eyes.

“Heather, people don’t discuss this topic not because of fear, but because it brings the pain. But, if you have the high friend, you can do it.”

On Sunday, the lesson at church was about the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son (all from Luke 15).

On Monday, election day, my students, old men and women, and everybody who was willing able, traveled to the primary school to vote.

And on Tuesday, my coffee was a perfect temperature after a completely solid night of sleep.

*

God rescues us, little by little, performing small miracles in such a way that we forget and lose sight of how miraculous it all really is. That’s exactly it: we disconnect when we forget. When we’re tired. When we’re lonely. When we fear. But everything beautiful – big or small – comes from Him. And we are able to take heart in the biggest miracle of all; in all of our mistakes, mishaps, and wrong-doings, we’re always loved because God forgives us every single day. He gave us Jesus, and Jesus embodies the sacrifice of humanity. I feel like I am absorbing how grand this is for the first time; I don’t want to sound preachy but I can’t help but want to say, Y’ALL! THIS IS A MIRACLE!

I thought about this as I replayed my weekend through memories, sounds, and experiences. This was the weekend I re-connected; this was the weekend I celebrated ubuntu (God’s grace). And this was the weekend that God helped me make the good correction. I feel alive again. I feel renewed.

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin. In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15: 8-10)

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how to be cool for an 8-year old in rwanda

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My little sister was called Garase. As in, Ga-rah-say.

It took me approximately 5 weeks for me to fully realize her name was actually Grace (you know, the feminine name that has a Latin origin and usually refers to grace that God gives us as believers, spoken like gray-ce); the only difference was the pronunciation. Because, hello, I’m not in America, and not everything sounds the same.

And, get this, the only reason I found out was because of a small purple flashlight that had the word “GRACE” printed on it in green lettering. Grandpa and Glenda, my sweet, awesome, God-fearing grandparents by way of my mother had sent me a package all the way from Hooker, Oklahoma (population just over 1,000) full of fun goodies in preparation for Christmas. They also had sent this flashlight because my daily life included no electricity. Clearly, it came from a church related event, conference, revival, what have you, and when Mama saw it she instantly went bejerk. I, of course thought it was because it was a cool looking flashlight or “torch” as they refer to it over here.

But no. She was squealing and laughing and gesturing aggressively because she saw her daughter’s name printed on something. Apparently this is really cool. The second time a Rwandan saw a recognizable name in my presence was when Divine saw a Christmas ornament in the shape of a snowman that read “Heather” at the bottom. She held it in the air as if she had located a valuable piece of gold and told me that this was the nicest thing she had seen all day. I just smiled. It’s funny what we miss in our own lives, isn’t it? What is “cool” to you is barely a passing thought to someone else.

Anyway, Mama pointed this name out, explained it was Grace’s name (not Garase as I previously thought) and I shook my head and enthusiastically replied, “Mhmmmmmmmmmmmm. *that’s a universal Rwandan sound of approval* Ni byiza cyane!” (basically, I told mama that this little flashlight was really awesome). And, I chuckled along too, acting as if I had known this the entire time of my host family experience.

So, Grace.
She’s actually really bad ass for an 8 year old.

First of all, she’s Rwandan, so she’s got super human strength. For example, when I would come home after a long day of training, drenched in dirt, groggy from studying Kinyarwanda for an ungodly amount of time, I would get the best hugs from this girl. Except, they were like what 3 cups of coffee can do for me in the morning–it woke me up fast! She would run towards me, use her bird like arms and wrap them around me in a full on collision. If I was tired, cranky, or grumpy, her hugs would always do the trick. Especially since they usually knocked the wind out of me.

She would always be humming songs, jumping around, and generally just being really cool. She was so much cooler than me. And so, it became my mission, among other things (like accurately peeing in a hole) to make Grace think I was cool.

I would share my nail polish, play cards, and play hide and seek with her and her posse of 7, 8, and 9 year olds. I taught her to snap her fingers when shaking a person’s hand (a greeting a learned while studying in Ghana) and would often willfully submit my hair so she could play salon. Eventually, I think, I won her approval.

But, it took a lot. It took Booboo.

Booboo is (or was) my elephant. My stuffed grey elephant that is, and I brought him all the way to Rwanda. Yep. I had to pack for 2 years of my life in 2 bags and I used precious space for my toy. You see why I was so desperate to be cool, yes?

Anyway, Booboo had seen me through thick and thin while I was with my host family and in that 3 month “training” (I’d actually describe it more like cultural boot camp–let’s call it like it is).

When mosquitoes bit my face or when it really was just acne and 15 people would ask me about in one day, I had Booboo to console with. Yes, my face is sick. I would say. This did no favors for my self-esteem.

When I was coffee-starved and went a bit manic, I might have tossed Booboo frustratingly across the room. Which, in my defense, was no bigger than a 7 x 7 space. So, hey, at least it wasn’t far, right?

And when really hard things happened like my grandmother dying right after I had resettled in Rwanda, Booboo was a great place for me to blow my nose. Don’t judge, I ran out of tissue a lot.

So yeah, Booboo was there.

As I was preparing to leave my host family and go out into the real world of Rwanda and Peace Corps (this means I was going to live alone and go change the world or something-I still haven’t figured it out), I wanted to give Grace something that would show her just how much I love her.

Papa and Mama got a bulk of printed photos that we had hour long photo shoots with (yes, this actually became painful) and a few coffee mugs to represent all the milk tea they had given me on the daily. They do love their tea.

The two brothers I had – Dani and Simon – got some play cars and a book to color with.
Hakiza, the house boy, got some pens (no need to scoff, pens are a cultural staple, gem, and proverbial sweet nectarine of life for Rwandans, especially of the BIC variety).

But Grace?
Well, she was the big winner.

I gave her a pack of nailpolish. And Booboo.

At first I wasn’t sure if she understood what a catamount event this was. Her reaction was enthused delight at best. I was hoping for unrestrained shouting for joy as if the Pentecosts had come over for lunch. I was a bit underwhelmed to say the least. However, I later stepped out from my room in the afternoon and saw Grace in the hall. With a string attached as a leash, she was preparing to take Booboo for a walk. She was talking to him softly and making sure he was ready for their adventure.

I knew then that I had made a great decision. He was in good hands. Booboo would be happy, Grace would be content, and just maybe, I would be cool.

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evidence that Grace is the coolest kid around. She’s here on the far left.

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Grace on the right. She’s got the smoldering look DOWN.