Saturday, October 26, 2013

Turn! Turn! Turn!: Change is for the Byrds*

During my time at Tenwek back in 2006, a missionary mom made a passing comment (which she probably does not even remember) that I have pondered periodically for the last seven years.

We were planning regular prayer/fellowship meetings for missionaries here on the compound and one younger mom proposed that each family take turns babysitting the kids. So every month or so, one family would be responsible for child care and thus miss the prayer meeting. 

One of the moms of older kids spoke up and declined to participate. Her kids were old enough to take care of themselves and she felt fine leaving them at home without adult supervision. “I missed a lot of meetings in the past to take my turn with the kids,” she explained. “But my kids are older now and that season of my life is over.” 

I was young then and had not given much thought to the different seasons of life, but I do now. (Granted, I like to think I am not that much older, but do have a little more life experience than I did when I first moved overseas seven years ago.) 

In case you cannot make out the words, it says: "Dear Miss Lewis,
I'm sad that your leaving. I want you to stay at LCA to be the art techer.
I will be heart broken when you Leave." And there are lots of pictures of
broken hearts, as well as a picture of that student crying, and quite
insightfully, a picture of me smiling and crying.
I am mulling over that thought as I settle into life back at Tenwek.

I have just left a particularly wonderful season behind me. I loved my job at Lexington Christian, my coworkers, my students, and my bosses. I even loved subbing this past year and the chance to see kids in different environments and interact (however briefly) with teachers I hadn’t really known well before. 

I loved my winsome and uninhibited roommates. I loved our little brick house with the massive backyard, sunny kitchen, and cheerful blue living room. I loved the unpredictable scenarios and accompanying laughter that became the hallmark of our lives in that home. 

But, as hard as it is for my mind to grasp, that season of my life is over. My wonderful and winsome roommates have moved onto to other seasons of their own. One has moved to different part of town with another friend and the other two roommates will soon shift to a smaller apartment downtown. Before long, someone else’s family will sit in our sunny kitchen and (I hope) laugh in the cheerful blue living room. 

Today, I sit in a different living room, on a different continent, having just bid a good day to a new roommate I didn’t know until after I moved in. In some ways, I feel at home here at Tenwek, but the truth is, this is not a return to a previous season of my life. It’s a whole new one. There are changes here at Tenwek, beyond the new paint jobs, updated wi-fi, and renovated buildings. 
My new porch (or more accurately, the porch of the house
where I am living until January when the family who actually
lives here returns from the U.S.)

There are so many new faces and new kids to learn. New challenges and new curriculum. (Guess what, guys? I am teaching Latin!) Friends from five years ago are no longer here to lend a listening ear and I have to fight the habit to take the sidewalk to my old apartment. (Someone else lives there now and might be a little startled if I were to walk in and toss my keys on the table.) With the plethora of new families comes an even greater number of expectations and relational dynamics and I have yet to get a grasp on how to understand all of them. (Notice I did not say satisfy all of them. And, yes, I am very aware some of the moms can and probably will read this blog post.) 

I am very aware that my move to Tenwek seven years ago came on the heels of a particularly difficult season. As much as I loved my friends in Virginia Beach, I never really settled in or harbored any notion of staying very long in that area. I hated my job and was never really attached to my apartment. Coming here was such a welcome change, and while there were certainly challenges, rebuilding my life in the middle of rural sub-Saharan Africa seemed down right relaxing compared to the job I had dragged myself through for the past ten months. 

Left to Right: Ashley, Lydia, Wil and Luke in 2006
My season at Tenwek in 2006-2008 was a breath of fresh air. The season that began three weeks ago will be different. I am leaving behind a life that I could have happily lived for much longer, not escaping from one I was desperate to leave. 

Thankfully, while I anticipated a particularly rough transition, things have been smoother than I thought. (However, I have to confess that during the first flight from Atlanta to London, I made the mistake of watching a TV show about four wacky roommates and, consequently, had a very tearful and probably poorly-concealed pity party as I thought about the roommates I was leaving behind. If the very nice and reserved British couple who sat next to me happen to read this--and wouldn’t that be the coincidence of the century!--I apologize if I made you uncomfortable. Sometimes a girl just needs to cry.)
Left to Right: Luke, Wil, Elizabeth, and Ashley

So, while I miss my roommates terribly, and am a little bummed when I come home from work and realize, once again, that they are on another continent and not hanging out in the living room or fixing dinner in the kitchen, I am adjusting. 

For good or ill, we were not created to dwell in one season forever. As I contemplate the blessings and challenges I have left behind and look at the ones I am currently facing, I realize I am not alone in my ponderings. As it turns out, people have been thinking about these kinds of things for centuries.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

“The fatal metaphor of progress,” G. K. Chesterton once said, “which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us”.  (I know have used that quote before, but it bears repeating.)

As I think about all the changes in the world around me, it is easy to forget the most important changes are those that happen in our own hearts and minds. God gives us different seasons, not just for the sake of change, but because He always has a purpose and that purpose is always to draw us closer to Him.

It seems God has given me a season to uproot from that little brick house in Kentucky and now is the time to replant myself here in Kenya. I know I cannot fathom all the reasons for the changes, but I am grateful for the assurance that He will make it all beautiful in His time. 

*One hundred points will be awarded to the first person to correctly identify the inspiration for the blog post title. Please note that the points mean absolutely nothing.