Friday, August 31, 2012

Because Love is Hard

It's been three weeks since I've been back in Cairo and I'll be honest - I'm exhausted.  The plane touched down at 5:30 a.m. on the 12th and since then, I have had two days of semi-rest.  Between One Wild Week (VBS meets day camp), newbie orientation, and the first week of prep back at school, it's been a lot.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it has tossed me around like a rag doll.  Every day as I get ready, I've been praying to just get through the day - help me prioritize, give me clarity of thought, grant wisdom with the time I've got today, don't let me be forgetful or drop the ball anywhere, help me not to overcommit, and let me love them well.  Overall, most of that has gone well (I think) but I question the last bit.

Let me love them well.

From my seven year olds to the newbies to my team to my friends - I question it all.  Did those little ones get the best I could give them coming straight from vacation?  Was I understanding and patient enough with the people moving to Cairo and beginning to adjust?  Have I chosen correct words and tone with my new team?  Have I helped them in whatever way I could?  And my amazing friends who have actually made me laugh and tolerated a brain dead Dana over the past three weeks - have I been as appreciative as I should have been and have I reciprocated?

Because here's the deal - love is hard.

Love is hard because it involves other people.  From seven to 107, people are hard to love. People don't listen.  People are stubborn.  People should know more than they do.  People hurt our feelings.  People demand our time.  People have expectations that pull us in a hundred different directions.

And I am one of those people.  Yet, I've been loved.

As tired as I've been, I've been loved well.  I have people who listen to crazy stories.  I have people who gently push me to not be set in my ways.  I have people who let me admit I was wrong about big and small things.  I have people who correct me when I'm harsh, short, or unkind.  I have people who let me invade their lives through their homes and their computers.  I have people who give of themselves and don't complain.  I have people who listen until I fall asleep and they don't get mad that I've passed out on them.  I have people who make me laugh and humor me.  I have people who pray with me and over me.  They are patient and kind and tolerant of me.  I have taken from them for three weeks straight and have not asked for anything in return.

They push me to be better and try harder because they embody love.

I want to be that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Happy Ending

The cherry on top of an already amazing summer was South Africa.  With Christa and the Sheasbys there, it made perfect sense to take in a bit of winter and beauty before heading back to Cairo.  I went in expecting this to be a fun trip but it exceeded my expectations in just about every way!

Having never been and never really knowing much about South Africa, this made for a really interesting trip.  While there were a lot of fun things along the way, it was really interesting to talk to different locals and get their takes on the countries history, current standings, and anticipations of what the future holds.  There were some pretty diverse opinions and views on things.  Even though the future is pretty uncertain, I know one thing for sure - South Africans love their home!

While we didn't make it to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town provided some beautiful things to see.  From Shark Cage Diving to Penguins to amazing views, I loved it.  Christa was a great hostess and provided an amazing tour.  She shared some of her favorite places, opened up her home, and humored ever whim that hit.

After Cape Town, it was off to the Sheasbys and Durban.  I don't know how I got away without pictures of this amazing family.  It was so good to see my friends again and see what they are doing now.  I fell in love with their kids all over again.  One day was spent in Valley of 1,000 Hills.  I had heard a lot about it and really wanted to go.  So glad that happened!  I think I said "Wow!" or "It's so beautiful!" about 527 time that day.  Maybe more.  Be thankful I'm limiting it to one photo.

After Durban, it was off to Johannesburg.  We got to see another type of township, learn more of the history, see a play, and drive right up to rhinos and lions.

One thing that makes a trip so wonderful is your travel buddy.  I mean - 10 days with lots of plane and car rides ensures you need to choose carefully.  Not only someone who you can laugh with, have good conversation with, be silly with, and make decisions with, but someone who can tolerate you for that long as well as giving you time with your friends.  Thankfully, I found that.  Kris made this an amazing trip and I could not be more thankful to have had him there.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Houston Top Ten

1. Gregg - Gregg Johnson is the best brother in law in the world.  He is one of the most giving people I have ever met.  I mean - he gave us four get aways and kept the kids.  One of these was the night he got in from a week on a business trip.  Jet lag + three very tired kids.  He's a keeper!  He is full of grace in all things.  He loves my sister well.  I didn't know it eight years ago but I was getting the best brother in the world.

2.  Erin - Finally time with my sister!!!  After seven months, time to just be with her - on the couch, in the kitchen, being crawled on by kids, in the car, hiding in her bedroom watching Jimmy Fallon, shopping, eating out, and talking.  Just talking.  Face to face.  Laughing and crying together.  Watching her be an amazing mother in the easy and in the hard.  People watching at fun concerts, planning musicals, walking on the beach, eating ice cream, playing in bounce houses and water hoses.  She's my favorite person in the entire world.  Three weeks is not enough but I'll take each second I can get.

3.  Liz - Little girl isn't so little anymore.  She is a fireball of three year old glory.  I cannot believe how grown up she has become.  She talks in points while counting them off on her fingers.  She says things like, "Ummm....of course!" and "It's a deal!"  She is learning the oldest sibling tricks of sending in the little brother to ask for things you've told her no about.  Girl can climb and has an adventurous spirit about her that I absolutely adore!  Yet, no matter how big she gets, some things never change.  Her smile can still soften your heart.  She sings nonstop.  She doesn't like to sit still.  She is a girlie girl.  That is my favorite.

4.  Bladen - My little man.  I'm not going to lie - He's my favorite little boy in the world!  And that's what he is - all boy!  Running around with swords, wrestling, tickling, crashing cars, building with legos, chasing, throwing balls up and down the stairs, grrrr-ing, and loving blue.  Like I said, all boy and I love every single ounce of him.  From sliding down the stairs on his belly to the "ta-da" kick at the end of jumping on the trampoline, he puts me in stitches.  The best part is that he is still a cuddle bug.

5.  Ginny - Oh. My. Goodness.  I have only spent three weeks with her but she has stolen my heart.  This is the happiest little girl I have ever met.  When she smiles, it not only lights up her whole face but mine as well.  She has the best little belly laugh.  She has this little pout when she starts crying that is the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.  Waking up at 7:00 with this little girl was no problem.  At all.  Ever.

6.  Mom and Dad - My parents are so supportive!  They gave up weekends to see me, shared their music with us via a Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert, looked at photos for hours, and watched their step to avoid toys in their living room so we could invade their house.  I could not ask for more supportive parents.

7.  BCF - The church I could worship with if I were there.  I love their heart for Jesus, for others, and for my family.

8.  The girls! - Fajitas are never as good as when I'm with Sarah, Kim, and Mandie.  It was so good to catch up, talk, do pedis, and just be with these girls!

9.  Emily's wedding - So beautifully Emily.  I didn't expect anything less.  She was stunning!  We had a great time seeing friends and meeting people I've only heard about.

10.  Watching my world's collide - Seeing the Johnson children in gallabayas.  Shopping and going to Black Walnut with AIS people.  Having Jen over to Erin's house for Fry Night.  Seeing my world's intersect makes me feel less segmented and more whole.