Sunday, September 18, 2016

One Month to Togo; Thoughts on Being the Light

     Exactly one month from today, I will be leaving for Africa. I am very excited for this opportunity that is finally feeling like a reality after months of preparation. However, I've started to avoid mentioning it very much lately, because I've been  feeling very oversensitive to any comment or opinion about what I am doing that is not completely positive.
     Yes, I know there are people who live closer than Africa who need help. Several individuals have pointed that out to me in various degrees over the past few months. The original thoughts in my head after those comments were not nice am not proud of them, but if I was a better person I would simply answer with  "Well friend, if you are feeling concerned about those people, then perhaps helping them is your mission." It hurts me that some people seem to pick apart and judge something good I am trying to do, but the positive comments and encouragement have far outweighed the negative, 
     Another reason I've been hesitant to say much about my plans for Africa lately is that they feel in a way very personal. It's hard for me to explain how significant it feels that there are people who have been lead to believe that a disability makes you bad or worthless, and I have a unique opportunity to prove that wrong in a way that few people can. Every circumstance of the way this plan came together has given me reassurance that going to Africa is exactly what God is asking me to do at this time in my life. 
     I've been tempted to stay quiet about my plans lately because I don't feel like hearing criticism or even questions about my plans, but last night I had an eye opening experience. As I listened to a good friend share her testimony about her mission that has just been completed, I was reminded just how important it is for each of us to share our testimony, whether we are at the end of a mission or just beginning.
 Maybe I'm not to the place yet where I know exactly what I want to say or how I want to say it. All I know at this point is that I do have something to say. I will have some access to Wi-fi while I am in Africa (another thing I've hesitated to mention because of implications that because of this access these people must be doing just fine) and I plan to update my blog as much as possible. Sometimes when there are no comments or other forms of feedback, I get discouraged that no one is paying attention to or relating to the things I write, but I continue on. I would love to have more people become aware of this blog before I get to Africa so that the light I find there can be spread as far as possible. So, I humbly ask those of you who have been faithfully reading what I have to say to consider sharing with a friend. I am thankful to the people in my life who are a light to me, and I hope that in some way, the things I share through writing can be a light to each of you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Making Connections

     There was a time in my life when I believed I was a very good friend. I had a couple "close" friends who I think knew I would always listen to their problems, and while can be a sign of a good friend, I eventually realized that friendships can get strained when one person does most of the talking and the other does most of the listening. Even the best listeners need to talk sometimes, and they too need someone to listen. There was another event at that time in my life that changed my belief that I was good at friendship, and it is one that I talk about very cautiously because it involves a friend I lost, and his memory is not something I want to casually discuss for blog views. But his death did play a role in how I viewed my abilities as a friend, and tiptoeing around that would prevent me from portraying that process honestly.
     Even though I knew his death was not something I could have prevented, there is still some dark corner in the back of my brain that sometimes tries to convince me that because I did not help him, because I did not even know he was hurting until it was too late, I must not be a good friend. How could a true friend overlook what must have been such a deep hurt?
     One of the most beneficial factors in putting those thoughts to rest when they rise up was a psychology professor I had at Richard Bland. With sensitivity and an impressive knowledge of her field, she taught my class about how the chemicals in our brains can get out of balance just like the rest of our bodies can get sick, and even though I can't explain what she taught me very eloquently, it helped me tremendously. It took the shame out of my friends death, and allowed me to miss him without trying to place blame, whether it be on myself, him, or some other person. It allowed me to slowly start trying to make connections again.
     I am still learning how to be a good friend, and even though it seems like something that should just come naturally, it often seems very confusing to me. I worry about being too vulnerable and sharing my most sensitive thoughts and feelings with the wrong people. I sometimes get frustrated when I see social media posts  about friends who claim to be so close in every way, and I constantly have to remind myself that comparison is not helping me and the internet often only tells half of the story. I took a class last week for my new job, and at one point the teacher talked about how making connections in the workplace takes practice. I think the same thing is true for friendships. And I think just maybe, as we discover the people who are patient with our practice, including the mistakes that come with it, we discover our true friends.