I’m in an airport for the tenth time in a month. My flight is delayed, so I’ve been sitting here for several hours surfing the web, and allowing my mind to wander aimlessly. Its nearly 1 a.m. and admittedly, I’m exhausted, so there’s not a lot of productive thought happening.
[Three days later.]
Obviously those aimless thoughts didn’t turn into much, as I never even finished my blog post. I did eventually make it back to Dar es Salaam–arriving home at 3:30 a.m., in time to get about two hours of sleep before getting up to go surfing with two of my YoungLife girls. The sunrise over the ocean was beautiful and we had a great day on the waves–so it was totally worth it!
Here are a few of those “aimless thoughts” and some of the things I’ve been up to recently:
Its Not About Me
This is just one of those things that I knew, but that God keeps reminding me of. Over and over and over. I attend the YoungLife Ladies’ Bible Study where we are going through “Gideon” by Priscilla Shirer and in the first page of the first chapter it says, “Gideon’s story is much bigger than…well…Gideon. Like everything else in the Bible, his story is actually about God and His people.” It doesn’t take much to see that this applies directly to me and my story: Its not about me. Its about God and His love for His people. The very next night, as I lead my Connect Group through the book of Ephesians, we studied an entire section where the theme seemed to be Paul telling the Ephesians that their salvation was not about them, who they were, or anything they had done, but only by the grace of God. Hey Ephesians, its not about you! And its not about me either. Then, in my own personal study of Scripture, I see the same thing. In Psalms. In Matthew. In 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Even in various circumstances that I’ve found myself in–some of them I’d even consider emotionally trying circumstances that attempted to steal my joy–there is the sense that God is saying, “Abi, its not about you. This is about Me and My story.” Over and over and over. Its not about me.
The other key word that seems to be prolific in my life these days is the Hebrew word “hesed” (or “chesed”), which means “steadfast love.” My first recent encounter with this word was at the YoungLife International Schools’ Leadership training in Nairobi that I attended a few weeks ago. There, we were encouraged to spend time meditating on Psalm 108, and pointed specifically to verse 4: “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” The phrase “steadfast love” is that word, “hesed.” Then, once I saw it in Psalm 108, I started seeing it everywhere. In Psalm 69, where the Psalmist is clearly in the midst of a trying time of suffering, he rests in the confidence of God’s steadfast love for him. In Psalm 78, where the history of the Israelites forms the all-too-familiar pattern of blessing, forgetfulness and sin, consequence, and, then, “hesed”–God’s unfailing love. It showed up in the Gideon study: “…the Hebrew word hesed…means love, faithfulness, or covenantal faithfulness.” Its there in the “But God” of Ephesians 2:4. Even when life doesn’t make sense, or I feel overwhelmed, I can choose to obey with joy–because I can be confident in the steadfast, hesed love of God for me. It might be my next tattoo…
I am incredibly excited about YoungLife this year. I’m continuing #surfsunday each month with several of my YoungLife girls and this month’s morning on the waves was absolutely fantastic. I’m considering inviting a few more girls along next month–but need to check on the status of what surfboards would be available for them to use. And of course, here’s hoping that there’s still waves in a month!
This week Friday is our HOPAC YoungLife kickoff event–the Back-to-School Burger Beans BBQ Banana Boats Brownie Bash!!! I clearly had a bit of fun designing the fliers for the event, and managed to hand out my allotment of 35 invitations all in just one day’s lunch break at school. We are praying for a good turnout of students and that we would be able to infuse YoungLife club with a new energy and excitement that gets kids enthusiastic about coming to club this year.
Americanah & Feminism & Oppression
For A2 Literature (grade 12, for all you non-British readers) this year, one of the examined texts is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Adiche is one of my heroes. She’s brilliant. Her novel deals with oppression in its various forms in both American and Nigerian culture, as well as the complexities of identity. As such, it is an excellent text to spark in-depth discussion about such issues. As a part of our study, we watched Adiche’s TED talk: We Should All Be Feminists (which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should watch). As defined by Adiche, a feminist is “a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” This has been key in our class discussion of the novel, but also in my own thought processes. I’ve been accused of being a feminist before, but, much like my accusers, I somehow considered that label to be a negative one–or to be only about the empowerment of women over men (which I don’t agree with). Perhaps through the influence of Americanah or Adiche or the multicultural education class I took this spring, or maybe merely through life experience and observation, I’ve begun to reconsider my stance. I do think I’m a feminist. But not merely a feminist. Because its not just gender inequality and oppression that bothers me. Its oppression in all its forms. Its racial oppression. Its class and socioeconomic oppression. Its religious oppression. And somewhere along the line, I also began to see a problem: that we don’t have a word for someone who opposes oppression and desires equality. I can be a feminist (with all its negative connotations and perceptions). Or a… what?
Photography: Dignity & Hope
As I traveled to Arusha to do some photography this past weekend (thus the airport), I also had the opportunity to think through some of the ideology that informs my photography. I’ve said in the past that I want to see people’s eyes dancing in my photos, and I do believe that’s true. In fact, my thinking about why I take the photos I take actually started with the line: Shooting stars. Sparkles of light. Clearly, I was thinking I might work on a poem…but that didn’t happen. Instead, I got philosophical. My worldview informs my photography. When I capture people, I don’t want to create images that portray hopelessness and loss and desperation. No, because I believe that my subjects are more than what they seem. I believe that each one of those children has infinite value and worth. I believe that they were created by a good God. I believe that they are beautiful. As a result, my aim is to create images that communicate dignity and hope.