How to Return from Africa

March 15, 2013

I didn’t really think about how different it would be and how hard to face this world of luxury again and not let it seep inside me, to take over my will.

As I try to bridge my two worlds of Africa, love, and lack, and the over-abundance of where I live, I feel off-kilter as I straddle these two extremes.I’m going to make a faux pas here and bring up a tabooed subject. And believe me, I’m just as uncomfortable with it as you are.

Poverty and Plenty. Lack and Abundance. Things We Need vs Things We Want.

How we can have so much when the rest of the world has so little.

The life we are told to want instead of the life we actually desire to live.

My husband and I talk late into the night about these things. The path that we’ve chosen. The costs associated therein.

Our quality of life versus the quantity of what we have.

We’re in our thirties and we don’t own a house, any property, and barely a car which we both share.

We’ve spent the last six years giving our lives away in Africa and we’re trying to take a break without letting the world we’ve entered become our reality. Without feeling inadequate. But that’s hard.

I try to listen to the advice of our older, ex-Peacecorps friends who have a world of wisdom underneath their belt after having lived in and left multiple countries.

That we’ve chosen an alternative path and it’s going to look different than most people, but the rewards are great as long as we can learn to be content with what we’ve chosen, and be kind to ourselves. (paraphrasing their brilliance)

I admit, I’m not doing a very good job.

What it looks like most often is coveting something I definitely “have” to have for my new nest, buying it, and then two days later returning it out of guilt. Or lack of funds.

I have as much Carrie Bradshaw in me as the next girl, but it got me thinking……

It’s crazy what we can convince ourselves we need. And it’s even crazier we can live on credit.
And scary.

In Africa, there is no credit. 

Think about it: If you don’t have money for food, you don’t eat. That simple. 

I feel like a hungry kid who wandered into a candy shop.

Here our things own us. Our mortgage, our cars, our Gucci bag, our debt.

You won’t believe how many people tell me they wish they could do what I do, but they can’t because of debt. And it makes me so sad.

But here I am, back in America, staring at that gorgeous new designer pillow. (I HAVE to have it!)

But do I really have to have it?

Does that really directly impact the life I want to have in a positive way?

A life where time instead of money, is my most precious resource. 
Where love is my most traded commodity. 

Where the hours with my husband matter more than the amount of money he can bring home.

Where I can invest in my own growth, in God, in relationships, and in traveling the world to experience new things, with my hot husband.

How often do we trade real life for the allure of something we can own. 

Or even real life for fake life. You know, TV.  (I cringe as I write this because I’m the biggest hypocrite. I love TV shows.)

I’m at war with these things, as I try to settle into “real life,” but not get caught up in the American dream.

The reality is that having a mortgage and driving a LandRover isn’t really my dream, even though the world will tell me different.

It will say that it’s what I want. Because others have it.

But it’s just not true.
When what I really want looks more like being a healthy, whole person, and sitting with my sisters in the dust of a land many thousands of miles away.What I really want looks more like being a supportive wife and eventually the coolest mom on the block.

What I really want is to hug the beautiful, black arms of so many I love, and to see their lives transformed.

What I really want is to bring beauty to the darkest places on earth. 

But how to tell myself that when I’m staring at a gorgeous pillow that exactly matches my color scheme.

What’s weird is I actually think that Jesus wants us to be happy. And balanced. And that the abundant life, the prosperous life, is His desire for us, as long as it doesn’t consume our heart.

Money isn’t the root of all evil. Our orientation to it though, can be. Whether we are rich or poor. 

What dominates the thoughts of our heart?
Envy is an equal sin to greed.

How to walk the line of self-denial, while still allowing for things that bring me happiness.

How to sacrifice without turning away blessings.
How to be content with both poverty and wealth.
How to believe for abundance, but still live within our means.
How to be comfortable in a mansion or a mud hut.

That’s where I am, in the middle, trying to figure it all out. 

Trying to figure out if we are brave enough to follow our own hearts, our own spirit, our own gut, instead of the way of the world.

Even if it means looking less “normal.”

And when my husband makes the right choices, when I make the right choices, when you make the right choices, maybe it’s ok to splurge a little on that pillow that’s going to make your house, a home.

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