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On Amazing Grace, Cheesy Christian 80s Music, and God’s Plan

This year in Kenya looks much different for me than the last two years. Tim is still plugging away – and being used by God to do truly AMAZING things in the surgical and surgery education realms – but my work has changed dramatically.

For one, our third child flew the nest and is now a freshman at Baylor more than 8,000 miles away, instead of a busy senior at RVA, just a mile up the hill from our house.

Next, our 4th child (and our baby for 14 years) is now applying to colleges and enjoying his senior year. Wah! I’m struggling to grasp all of this leaving business that my kids keep doing……and right now, I’m not sure what to think of it all.

For another, I now spend my days teaching Desté (age 9) the way I taught our other four kids at this age – one on one, at home. This setting, while familiar to me, varies greatly from the last two years’ environment, in which I taught British Lit to 75ish high school seniors. Even though I know it is good to be helping Desté in this intensive tutoring manner, I can’t even really express how much I miss teaching seniors in the classroom – especially knowing that one of those seniors is my son. And especially knowing that the English department has lost teachers due to illness this year already and the seniors have had multiple fill-ins for the first few weeks – not optimal at all. I may have been unorthodox and approached education differently than the norm, but by this time last year, my students had at least read, discussed, and understood (and appreciated? I hope so!) the classic, entire epic poem, Beowulf, and had begun their video projects on said poem. It makes me so sad – very sad – to not be able to share my love for teens and of British Lit with this year’s group of seniors. But, I guess this is just not the plan for now. And I’m trying to trust God with that.

On the bright side, Desté learns quickly in this relaxed, low pressure, you-can-always-ask-a-question-b/c-you’re-the-only-kid-in-the-room school – so, more and more each day, we are seeing God’s wisdom in directing us down this unexpected, even initially undesired path.

Whenever I turn mournful and sad about missing the opportunity I thought I would have to teach Sam and his classmates English this year, I try to stop my downward emotional spiral by pausing to pray – asking God to lift me of that unhealthy cycle, and also to help me to count my blessings – and not just any blessings, but blessings that have come specifically from my staying home this year.

A huge blessing is that Desté is, slowly but surely, catching up with his peers. He loves playing with friends – so his goal is to be able to return to school at some point – but in the meantime, we are home, and I get to watch his new-found academic confidence peek out from under the rocks of self-doubt and insecurity as a learner. He is just beginning to believe he CAN learn – and it thrills me to watch as this new attitude blossoms and begins to emerge.

A second blessing is the chance I’ve had to cook a bit more often – I just hadn’t had the energy to create much in the kitchen the last couple years – but now, I’m starting to find my way in there a little more frequently, and am enjoying picking new dishes out from recipes.com and the like.

A third super special blessing is that I can copy my friend Jennifer M, who used to live here, and who hosted Thursday lunches for a bunch of kids (including mine!) from RVA. Thursday lunches at the Bergs have become a “thing” this year for Sam and his buds – and getting to see them at least once a week is such a thrill for me. We usually have tacos, which doesn’t fit with the digraph TH – so we just added an H in the taco word – and we now enjoy Thaco Thursdays at the Berg Place. It’s so fun.

Another blessing of being home is the amazing chance I have to rest and reflect sometimes – rather than work in overdrive seemingly all the time. As I reflect and pray,  all sorts of things come to mind, and today was no exception.

Sitting on my porch, I started thinking what an amazing fact it is that Tim and I came to Africa six years ago. We’d long dreamed of leaving the States and trying to serve people with the skills we had by working in a 3rd world country (Kenya is not 3rd world) but…. it never happened. Then, wow. Right when we thought we were “too old” to come, we came!

I started reminiscing about the beautiful people we’ve known here, about things God has taught us about love (endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and is patient and kind), surrender (laying down our lives and taking up His cross = the best life possible), giving (that we can NEVER outgive God – never, never, never – He has given us everything! Even his own son!), and so much more. I wondered, “Why Me, Lord? Why on earth would you pick me in the first place, and then why would you send me on this amazing, sometimes exhausting and scary, but always wonderful adventure? I know you could have picked someone more talented, stronger, younger……but you picked me. You picked us.”

Then I remembered something. I remembered a song that I used to LOVE back in the 1980s when I had first become a Christian. I listened to this song so many times back then — like, all the time, b/c it so reminded me of how I met Jesus and first started along the His path. Later, when I met and married Tim, I realized the song very accurately described how Tim first met Jesus, too. Though we didn’t know each other in college, we both became believers at that time in our lives – Tim at the beginning of his freshman year, and me, at the end of my senior year.

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it, to look back and think – If it weren’t for that moment in time, on that otherwise very ordinary day – the entire rest of my life would have been so different!

I certainly wouldn’t be writing this blog from here in Kenya! And of course, so many other things wouldn’t have happened, either.

So, when I think – How did I get here? I realize, it all started in a dorm room at Trinity University, 30 years ago. (My 30 year college reunion is this October!) When I gave my life to Jesus that day, of course I had no way of knowing where He would take me or what would happen next. Funny thing is, at the time, I was a bit concerned about all I would be “giving up” and “forfeiting” if I told Him I believed in Him and would live for Him. Ha! Turned out, all I gave up was a bunch of stuff that would have ruined my life. After I surrendered, for a while, it seemed everything was the same. I was still a college student, still in the same sorority, still wondering what I would do after graduation in two months’ time.

All I knew was, now I was trusting Someone other than myself or my parents to order my days and direct my steps. And somehow, I knew this was a much better choice than trying to do life “my way”.

Turns out, God loves to pick “Little League” level players and then let them go run the bases on a professional field!

And that is how I ended up getting to love Him and live with Him and serve others in His name while living in the beautiful land of Kenya (and earlier, Rwanda).

If you got this far in this lengthy blog post, maybe you’ll want to read the (cheesy) lyrics to this song that so well describes my conversion (except the part of it being about a guy and I’m a girl). Here it is. Lyrics by Philip Sandifer.

“Brian”

by Phillip Sandifer

On the right side of midnight

On a warm summer morning

In a room like yours and mine

Sat a young man having quite a time

Brian said he’d had enough

Of the pain that kept him running

From the things that he really loved

Thinking maybe it’s too much.

And as he stared into the darkness

Of a room that had suddenly grown cold

He thought of what his father told him years ago.

And he finally realized he understood what he had told him.

When he said: “Son, you will reap what you sow, and I’m right –

Should you want to be the loner, keep living the loner’s life.

Oh, but should you decide you want to walk with the King,

Give him your burden, and he’ll give you everything.”

 

So, Brian fell to his knees with a prayer

And knowing that alone life was just too much to bear,

Whispered, “King, come to me, help me learn to live your way.

Brighten my darkness …..

….. and turn my night into your day.”

Now as we stare into the darkness

Of a world that has suddenly grown cold,

Listen as our Father tells us, everyday,

And join with me and we’ll all understand Him, as He tells us….

People: You will reap what you sow, and I’m right.

If you want to be the loner, keep living the loner’s life.

Ah, but should you decide you want to walk with the King,

Give me your burdens, and I’ll give you everything.”

So, wondering what you should do with your life? Wondering where to go? Hoping to “make the most of life” but don’t know how to do that? I encourage you to do what Brian did. Surrender to the One who made you and loves you. Ask Him to help you learn to live His way – He always says “yes” to that request, and He always gives us so much more than we could ever dream. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (And no, no one ever learns how nor manages to “live his way” even close to all the time – it is more of a desire He gives than it is managing to live it perfectly!)

Might you die while following Him?
Yes, you might. But, news flash: You’re going to die, anyway.

Might you lose a lot of money following Him?
Yes, you might. But money doesn’t last, anyway.

Might you be beaten, or ridiculed, or get sick, or lose friends or family?
…….Again, yes. But guess what? Those things could happen for much lesser reasons. And, those things pale in comparison to the Joy of Knowing Him. Seriously.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and tell the MAKER of the UNIVERSE (and of you!) – of the stars, the planets, the trees, and the mountains – that you want to follow His Way — and get ready for REAL JOY, REAL ADVENTURE, REAL MEANING, AND REAL LOVE IN YOUR LIFE……FOREVER.

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