Saturday, September 21, 2013

Homeland Security

Is it weird to say that I felt safer with my family
  • living in W Africa with all the possibilities for disease, injury or illness
  • knowing (as we watched military planes fly up river and then return) that there was a full-fledged war going on just a couple hundred miles up river
  • recognizing that terrorist activity was all around us... and probably infiltrating our "neighborhood" as well
  • driving in developing country traffic every single day...
than I do living in the developed west?

photo from one of the local Niamey newspapers

It may be weird, but it is true ~ and this is the first furlough I've EVER felt this way.

Usually, it has been a huge sigh of relief to land back in this land and re-realize that
  • the hospital and emergency room are literally down the road and around the corner - like 3 minutes away
  • reading about wars and rumors of wars that now seem distant and far away although still heartbreaking
  • not even hardly thinking about terrorist activity unless we get a warning from the US embassy that used to be just down the road and then worrying and praying and worrying and praying... for our friends
  • driving on freeways where 60 mph is taken for granted - almost every single day and there are real road signs to give me a clue where I am...

but this time, I'm struggling to feel that same peace and relief!

This is the first time I've ever seriously worried about the affects of living in the United States for more than a vacation on my family... on my children... on me.

It hit home, not suddenly and right away, but has crept up a bit stealthily.

We landed at the Detroit airport and were met there by a grandfather, an aunt and dear friends - a family we dearly love and count among some of our favorite people. Of course, our big kids were all excited to see and greet a few favorite peers. The two littlest girls, however, really didn't remember anyone from our previous home assignment, and were initially quite hesitant. It didn't take them long to connect with our dear friend, however... and now every time they see their "auntie-by-choice" they go running for a hug.

One thing that has both amused and embarrassed me, however, has been my girls' fascination with our friend's fingernails. She goes fairly regularly to a salon and has her nails manicured. A new thing for these girls (their mama tends to bite her fingernails and has never even painted them, much less gone for a manicure), their fascination - at least at first - bordered on, if it didn't fall right over the line, downright obsessive. So much so that at times, I think our friend has not quite been sure what to do.

At first, I just found this funny. I mean, they've grown up with women and girls regularly getting intricate henna designs inked onto their hands and feet or spending hours having tiny, detailed patterns and braids woven into their hair. It isn't like this is the first time they've had a friend go to a salon to have something fancy and beautiful done to look dressed up and feel pretty. I really didn't understand why they were so caught up in someone who had their fingernails done. Of course now they beg to get fancy nails themselves. Thankfully, my friend remains sweetly patient - and just laughs when our often goofy Elsie Mae grabs her hands to stare mesmerized at her fingernails... even if its the 83rd time and she did the exact same thing the day before.

So what's so scary?

I'm watching a similar pattern repeat itself in a myriad of ways - where that fascination with something different and new and lovely becomes a consuming compulsion and never fail recipe for discontentment.

Back in Niger, we could never forget that we were among those in this world who did have what we needed, and in abundance: shelter, clothing, food, water, friends who loved us, a calling for which we felt passionately, a God in whom we hoped and trusted... We also recognized quite often that we couldn't have everything we wanted or even thought we might need and that that really was better than okay. Our kids were quite familiar with regularly choosing contentment over entitlement. In other words, we loved (and devoured with our reconstituted milk) Oreos when someone sent or brought them from the States; we thrilled when we occasionally actually found them in one of the local grocery boutiques; but for the most part, those cookies never actually crossed our mind and were quite easy to live without, without a second thought.

Here, it is a totally different world. 

Within weeks, the abundance and overwhelming selection in the cereal aisle at the grocery store becomes a taken-for-granted sort of thing. Readily available abundance allows hearts to callous.. and then assume... and then insist. A single option in the house at breakfast time becomes not enough -  3 or 4 or more choices are necessary just for things to feel right, for children (and their parents - if I'm brutally honest) to be just barely satisfied, much less bask in overwhelmed gratitude for such an amazing and rich profusion of every imaginable opportunity. 

It becomes so easy, so commonplace... so expected... to focus on what this person or that person has that I don't... be it something simple like food, stylish jeans, a smart phone, or regular manicures. Maybe even worse? When God does, perchance, bless with said sorts of things, they become our source of security. They become our illusion of safety and control, replacing an ever present awareness of an absolute dependence on God.

And right now, I'm finding this reality scares me more than all those scary things back in Niger ever did.
"What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.   And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body..." (Matthew 10:27-28)


  1. Amen, sister! The cereal thing is driving me crazy! It was too expensive in UG... now if we don't have 3 different types there is suddenly "nothing to eat" Ugh! Praying for grace eyes and thankful hearts!

    1. yeah... over there, it was physical safety that scared me. here, it is their souls and their spirits i worry about.

  2. We have so much here in the States that the temptation is very great and easy for Christians to NOT rely on God. We will pray for you and yours - especially the littles, for whom the U.S. is largely a foreign country.

    1. What's hard is it is easy to be lulled into a complacency about that very truth... in other words, focus on all that i want but don't have and then somehow forget how very blessed i am... and it is hard to parent because i find myself saying no so much more - because my kids never asked for so much. it is a challenging transition and we thank you for those prayers.

  3. Well said, Richelle. Although I have never lived anywhere but here, I find it overwhelming to shop where there is so much that I don't need. It has to be a conscious deliberate mindset to not be sucked in by the world's way of thinking. And my children are grown. I pray the Lord gives you the grace needed to deal with your littles in a way that they can learn from. Joyce

    1. thanks, Joyce. i know i'm not the only parent fighting this battle. :-) thanks for popping in over here and for your prayers for grace.


  4. My husband and I are currently on our first furlough here in the states. So many choices everywhere. Comfortable Americans will never understand the blessing of choices that I see as a cause for discontent and confusion. It was hard to find the Pumpkin Pie Pop-tarts in the midst of 25 different colorful boxes and flavors.

    1. i've never heard of pumpkin pie pop tarts.... where DO you find those! they sound delish. :-)

      it most certainly is eye opening - but i think we have to let what we've seen and heard and experienced change us or else at least i will slip back to comfortable - and it scares me how quickly that can happen.