Thursday, June 05, 2014

How this house and living in Texas is good preparation for life overseas

As I was bending over the bath tub in my very dark bathroom (because it has no power at the moment) filling bowls with water to take to the kitchen to wash dishes in my sink that currently has no faucet I was thinking of how living in Texas, and this rental house in particular, is good preparation for life overseas. Here are a few reasons I've come up with in no particular order:

1. Electricity outages: at random times while we've lived here part of our home has been without power because of various electrical issues while we wait for someone to come and fix it. It's an old house and has those cloth covered wires run through metal pipes. Every electrician who's been here shakes their head and is concerned for our safety. Thankfully the house is being totally re-wired so I won't need to fear fire as much but while its happening large chunks of the house are without power. For the last couple of days all of the bedrooms, the main bathroom and the kitchen have been without power because they are all on the same circuit. The ceiling fan/ light in our bedroom started working today for the first time in almost a month. Many of my friends who live overseas experience frequent power outages. We've gotten to practice here in this house.

2. Cockroaches: 2 inch cockroaches are a semi-common sight around our house. We've recently discovered they aren't fans of diatomaceous earth so hopefully that will help deplete our population. I think only people who have not lived in the south think that the exhibits of Madagascar hissing cockroaches like there were in our zoos in NY are cool. They move quick, sound horrible when they crunch when you step on them to kill them and still wiggle their legs and tentacles when you pick them up with toilet paper to flush them. I'm not a fan.

3. Cold temps in our house. We rented our house without a source of heat. This winter, during the ice storm, before we bought our heater and got it hooked up, at times it got into the lower 40s in our house. It was possibly colder in parts of the house but I only ever put the thermometer in the main areas. I was reminded of a picture a friend sent from his classroom in China where all the kids were wearing winter coats in class. Heat is not a requirement. I'm grateful we have lots of layers and that we didn't get rid of our wool socks. I didn't think I'd need them in Texas but I was sure glad to have them!

4. Hot temps in our house. Last summer we just had one, old, inefficient window a/c unit for our 2400 sq foot house. We live in Texas. Though it was a "mild" summer there were still 31 days over 100 and many more in the 90s. It got hot in here. I never moved the thermometer from the dining room (where the a/c was) and the highest I saw it reach was 96 in our home last summer and rarely was it below 85. I have no idea how hot it got in the far reaches of our house. Almost every night all summer we dragged our mattresses to the dining room to camp out with the a/c and lots of fans and sheets we'd put in the fridge or freezer. I figured it was good training for living closer to the equator in a place where a/c is not even an option. I thank God that our landlord decided to put in central heat and air last month though. It will make hosting other people much more pleasant.

5. Fire ants. These are something that we did not have in NY. Their bites hurt. Don't walk through the grass.

6. Our break in. Almost every missionary I know of has been stolen from at least once. It gives you an icky, violated feeling to be stolen from which we learned first and second times in Rochester and got to experience again here. Our break ins have been humbling experiences where we've been reminded that everything we have has been given to us by God and is really just on loan to us. He chose to allow His computer to be taken from us last summer. We still mourn the 13 months of pictures we lost but we trust Him that He knows best.

7. Many of our neighbors' first language is not English. According to city data about 1/4 of the residents in our neighborhood were born in a different country and speak English either not well or not at all. Most of the kids speak English really well, having learned it at school, and many of them serve as translators for their parents.

8. Fighting fleas. We defeated lice and bedbugs during our time in Syracuse but, since our dog adopted us here, we have had the opportunity to fight fleas. At this point I feel like we're losing the battle. I have no idea what insidious insect will be a problem wherever we end up but I am sure some kind of insect will.

9. Being close in proximity to the ministry we're involved in. We didn't chose this house for it's proximity to a church but we decided, since we live across the street from it, we might as well go there. It's definitely not the church I would have chosen had I lived elsewhere and visited but it's not a bad church and, if we move overseas, our options for churches will be few so it is good practice jumping in and getting involved in a ministry close by. We have enjoyed our class, the ministries for our kids and getting involved in serving weekly with the benevolence ministry.

10. Dr. Dad working long hours, often with patients whose first language he doesn't share. Glenn has worked long hours as an intern this year and he is often dependent on translators since he has many Hispanic and refugee patients here.

I know I could go on but I've decided to stop at 10. Many of these are things have caused me to struggle with contentment over the last year. Many times over the past year, especially last summer, I've gone to my fridge and had a talk with God and Ella Spees. Ella Spees was a missionary for 52 years long ago in Africa where she had to bring her thermometer inside because it would break when it got over 120 degrees (why on earth would I ever complain about it being 96 in my house??). I first read her "prescription for contentment" in Linda Dillow's Calm My Anxious Heart years ago and it has been a challenge and inspiration to me ever since. I have it written out on a 3x5 card on my fridge so I can read it when I need a reminder:
* Never allow yourself to complain about anything - not even the weather.
* Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
* Never compare your lot with another's.
* Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
* Never dwell on tomorrow - remember that [tomorrow] is God's, not ours.

Chatting with God, reading Ella's prescription and my favorite quote from Andrew Murray helps me to put things in perspective. God has taught me a lot this past year. Why He always has to re-teach me contentment when "I thought I got it last time" I don't know. I am grateful that He keeps working on me and that He is teaching me how to deal with these new and different things in a place where I speak the local language and at least partly understand the culture that surrounds me.

Lord willing, someday soon we will have reliable power in our house and all the electricity will be turned on and I won't have to go to the bathtub to get water to wash dishes. How grateful I am that I have indoor plumbing and don't have to walk two miles one way to a muddy, disease infested well. How grateful I am that God allows trials in my life to give me a better perspective. He is good and does good.

Oh Lord, thank You for all You are continuing to teach me. Thank You allowing circumstances to refine us and make us more like You. I don't know what You have for us when we are done with our training here but I pray that You will help me to be faithful today where I am and trust You for our future. Please help me to always keep my eyes on You and not on my circumstances. I love You, Lord Jesus. Amen.