Monday, April 25, 2011

I Bless the Rain Down in Africa....

I want to go to Africa.  I actually have been dreaming of this continent since I was a little girl.

You see, I grew up going to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church.  While our church's focus was unreached people in Southeast Asia, for some reason I always had Africa in my head.  I remember in high school a friend went on a mission with Youth With a Mission to an island somewhere in South America.  In that moment I knew I had a call to the nations, but because I was so scared about what it meant, I denied it for years.  I would think about what it would mean to be a missionary and inevitably my  mind would turn toward Africa. I just thought about the worst case scenario, and to me that meant a place that was most unlike the place I live....and I don't think you can get much further from Western Washington than Africa.

Fast forward a number of years and a restored Erin starts to emerge.  I actually start to embrace my love for the nations and I am excited about the what it means to GO....and I do "go" a little.  Africa is still hovering on the edges of my mind.  This is fueled by a blog I read about a 20-something woman in Africa who adopts orphaned and sick babies in Africa.  You can see her blog to the left of my blog titled "The Journey."

The good news is that this dream is looking more and more like a reality.  The bad news is that a lot of stuff has to fall into place to make it happen.

Here are the details:
The powers that be with the governing body that runs the zoo finally realized that they were losing people in my job classification right and left. To give a little background, my position classification had been listed as "part time temporary" which meant that I did not have benefits and sick leave and that I could be let go at a moment's notice.  Others in my similar classification would get hired and leave once a better paying or benefited job came along.  In the two+ years I have worked at the zoo I have seen this happen with three people.  This is a pretty high turnover rate for a job that really takes a decent amount of time to figure out.  So....this winter it was decided that we would officially be reclassified as "career" employees and be given benefits and a raise.  So, as of April 1, I now have benefits and sick leave leave.

This is not the end of the good news.  While I am not a "full time" employee, I am a 0.9 employee.  This is where I have a choice: I can chose to either work 36 hours per week (which is actually four more than I was working) or I can work 40 hours per week and take five weeks of unpaid leave throughout the year. 

Since I have to take time off, my plan is to take the five weeks all at the same time in the fall, which is my least busy time of the year.  Since I can do this all at the same time, this will enable me to GO somewhere.  Specifically, somewhere in Africa.

I'm looking into orphanages, AIDS houses, a hospital, halfway house for women getting out of prostitution/sex trafficking or something like that.  I am exploring my options right now.  I have lots of contacts within the continent of Africa, specifically in Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. 

The hard part of this is going to be raising money to go.  I won't be getting a paycheck for those five weeks, but I'll still have bills at home to pay.  Additionally, I'll have expenses in Africa to attend to such as flight and maybe even transportation and housing costs while I am there.

However, the thought of going makes me really excited.  Just the possibility encourages me in a way I haven't been in a long time, even more than the trip to Turkey last year.

So, stay tuned for updates on all of this!  We'll see how it goes!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jane Eyre and other Romantic notions

I have been accused before of spending too much time thinking/blogging about my singleness, and I realize that lots of my posts are about this particular subject.  As a result I have been thinking about this post for a long time before finally deciding to post about.   If I was a mom and I posted about mom stuff a lot, no one would blink an eye.  If I was a police officer and I posted about crime a lot no one would blink an eye...This is where I am at in life right now, it's what is on my mind, so I am going to quit feeling like I need to apologize for blogging about what is happening in my world.

I made a mistake this weekend.  The mistake was thinking I could see a romantic movie and not have it stir up within me longings I do a really good job of suppressing most of the time. 

The movie was Jane Eyre, which I think is a widely enough read book and movie that I don't think I'll spoil any of the plot by talking about the movie.  The movie, set in the 1840s, is about a girl who goes to be a governess in a house after growing up under some pretty horrible circumstances.  Jane is a character I can relate to a lot.  She is described as "plain, and a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral."  She moves into the home of wealthy Mr. Rochester to teach his ward.  Rochester and Jane fall in love, as he is smitten with her straightforwardness, her lack of simpering towards him and her ability to stand her ground in conversations with him.  In short, he falls in love with her intellect and character. 

Now, Rochester is a capricious character, at best.  He fights his feelings for Jane by openly courting another woman in front of her, and he baits her into arguments.  However, the thing that strikes me most about this character, and the thing that makes this movie linger with me several days after seeing it is this: he is relentless in his pursuit of her in spite of convention.  He falls in love with her as his intellectual equal and does not seem to care about her plainness, lack of wealth or status.

I think in the heart of every women is an intense longing to be pursued.  I know that this is true of me.  The scenes that run through my head and pierce my heart are the ones in which Rochester cannot seem to help himself and runs after Jane, or the things he says to her, "You transfix me, quite."  There is a decided ache in my soul to be pursued in this way. 

I had a conversation with a good friend about a gentleman she had been seeing who was not pursuing her.  In fact, he was decidedly passive towards her in this area and she had decided to end things with him.  In this conversation she told me about a male friend of hers who had said that a "spirit of pursuit comes upon a man when he finds the one he is going to marry."  I feel as though I have observed this in many men around me who are now married....they saw and they pursued.

But, I'll be honest.  I struggle with knowing how much "being out there" is my responsibility too.  I wrestle with questions about what it looks like to put myself out there or how much I am supposed to initiate.  I certainly don't feel like I am a hermit, but I also know that I generally wait for guys to start conversations with me. 

I read a book called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye (and as a side-note, I HIGHLY recommend this book for older, single, Christian women.  Other than some interpretations of "singleness being a gift," it is a book I would have written on this subject if I was able!), and in it she has a quote: "Therefore, if you are in a room full of people and your eyeballs land on some guy who you think is awfully cute, you just need to keep that comment to yourself and keep right on stepping if he doesn't approach you.  Why? Because if he doesn't approach you, he wasn't moved enough by what he saw when he looked at you.  "Well, maybe he didn't notice me," you say.  Well, if he didn't notice you, all the more reason to leave him right where you found him!  If you have to make him notice you, you are starting off on the wrong foot already."

I get what the author is saying, and I have even myself written about how I feel like when a new guy comes around we single women can act like vultures hovering over some fresh road kill, but I still struggle with knowing how much of my longing to be pursued is wrapped up in some romantic notion a la Jane Eyre, how much of it is the Lord's heart for me, and what exactly my role is in the whole thing.  Clearly being some princess sitting on her tuffet waiting around for a knight in shining armor on a white horse to ride up and sweep her away, which so many movies and books portray, is not truth.  I also don't want to be some bra-burning "Sex and the City" have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too gal.  I am finding that there is a LOT of gray area to navigate in between these extremes, and I am finding it really hard to land on truth somewhere in there.

If only there were some "Dating for Dummies" book out there.  Maybe I should write one some day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Known for...

My prayer is that it would be said of me after I have died, no matter what I accomplish in this life or no matter what circumstances I have faced, that I leave this world more passionately in love with Jesus than the day before I depart.  I would rather be remembered for that than for anything I accomplish or for anything I have overcome.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


Because I am not Jesus, forgiveness is more like a journey than a destination for me.  I know I am getting close to the end of the journey when I can see someone whom I feel has wronged me and genuinely greet them with joy or rejoice in their good news.  After the pain of these last few years and all of the friendships I have lost, I am finally arriving at this place.  I am so grateful for all of the teaching I have had on this, over the years.  I could easily become a bitter and hard woman if not for the power of forgiveness. 

Injustices and evil happen every day, sometimes even to me.  I chose to forgive not because it absolves the person of what they've done, or sets them free but because it sets *me* free.  In the same way I am the main one affected by unforgiveness and bitterness, I am the main one affected by my decision to forgive.