Monday, August 4, 2008

Live Simply

Saturday night we went to church and we were just so glad that we went. We are doing a Sermon On The Mount (The End Of Religion) study that has been extremely heart piercing and life changing. Saturday's study was titled "Hands Free" (which was very appropriate in many ways. Here in California, since July 1st, it is now illegal to use your cell phone while driving without a hands free devise, which is pretty much the most ridiculous law I have ever heard of BUT that is another blog entirely).

He talked about about money, living simply, taking care of those around us, not being so stressed out about tomorrow and living in today, knowing that the God of all is taking care of us. Of course I cannot do it justice, even in the least. So go and listen to it here.

It got Will and I thinking about a lot. We have so much. Now, the world might see us as living off of school loans, just being able to pay our bills most months, living in my mom's guest house, BUT WOW, we have SO much! Todd (one of the pastors at Rock Harbor) read an email about a really young couple who decided that they wanted to live on only 50-60% of their income, and find ways to give the rest away. It was really a challenging thing to think about, much less to even consider. How many of us could do that? Well, all of us really. It requires an immeasurable sacrifice, or so it seems from a normal middle class American. We are in the upper 5% of the richest people in the world. How's that for sobering...I really implore you to take 40 minutes and listen to this service. (and if you are one of those over-achievers, start fromt he beginning)

My life was completely changed after my first visit to Uganda in 1999. Flying over the continent of Africa in itself was just about the MOST sobering thing that I thought could ever happen to me...until the plane landed. I road in the back of a cattle lorrie for two and half hours atop my luggage and saw things I never imagined were real. I saw little children running, jumping, yelling "hello muzungu" (foreigner) just because they saw me. I remember seeing a little boy about 7 with his little baby brother/sister strapped to his back, no adult in sight for miles, carrying a heavy jerrycan full of water up a pretty steep incline on Bombo Road. I was 17 years old and I was really scared and lonely and I cried my self to sleep for about 6 nights. But then... I fell in love. I got out of myself, I got out of my brainwashed American mind, and I fell in love. I fell in love with simplicity, with joy in spite of pain, with tender souls who had been through/seen things that you and I can only imagine. Yet, despite it all, they had a joy, a light shining from within that I had never in my life seen before...and I wanted more...

I returned to Uganda in 2001 where I stayed from March until September. I assisted a nurse in the on site clinic at the orphanage that I worked with. I taught math for a primary 4 class at the school on site. It was a tremendous experience. I made life long friends. I felt God closer than I have ever felt Him before. I experienced things that, in a lifetime, I cannot adequately express to anyone. I truly thought I would go there and just really, you know, "help" people...ha...what do I have to give? I was given more that I have ever even understood...and I will never ever forget my time there. My life was simple. No electricity, no running water, no entertaining outside of little ones, and friends I had made there. We'd play cards, have tea and talk, go for a walk or a bike ride, and that was about it in ways of entertaining ourselves. Simplicity... It allowed for genuine relationships, with friends, with children, with God. Simplicity... I came home, not wearing make up, not buying all kinds of unnecessary things, just, being simple... and then I slowly forgot all about it...

I went back a third time, where I also got to visit the war torn and slowly recovering Rwanda. I got to visit Sudanese refugee camps, and again, I was back in my Uganda. My heart skipped several beats as the plane landed. I stepped out on the stair case pushed up to the plane, I tipped my face toward the sun, tears streaming down my cheeks and I breathed in a breath of that Ugandan air that I had ached for for over a year... "Oh Uganda", I swore to myself, "I will never forget your simple beauty, this time, I will truly take you home with me, forever..."

(please stay with me...there is a point)

Today, I cleaned out (for about the forth time this year) Solomon's toys. I weeded through all the madness. Will and I always promised (before we had ever had children...I was pregnant) that Solomon would have one medium sized basket of toys...and if it didn't fit inside the basket, we didn't need it...well that didn't happen. I filled up another huge garbage bag of things that he has acquired over the last month or two since I last did this...just of things that he doesn't need. Oh gosh... I cried. I just got so sad. We have so much, too much, Solomon probably has 30 shirts...WHY? Why do I have that many shirts? Why do I have so many pairs of shoes?

I forgot you, Uganda...I forgot you, simplicity. I forgot all about you. In wanting to give my husband and my son "the life" I forgot all about the true and lasting joy that IS simplicity. I lost sight of what is most important...

I have a friend, Sennyonjo, and his wife and three little sons, who work to care for orphans. Sennyonjo, an orphan himself, watched his family be killed by rebels in the genocide of the 90's. He has three kids who probably have very few toys. I have a friend April who is Canadian. Her and her husband live in Uganda ministering to broken people. They have three little ones, who do not have a lot. I know many people like this. Happy children, happy people, living with very little. I talked to April today via email and she said they would be SO happy to receive some DVD's for her and her husband, and the kids, and toys or whatever fun treats we wanted to send their way. I am going to do a good bit of this...hoping that I can cut our family's belongings in half, while giving to people around us who need it.

The city of Lira is in Uganda...kind of northern/central-ish. A new city official was elected not too long ago. He had this great vision for this desolate, abandoned, broken, war torn, yes, he had this huge vision for this place. In three years...he wanted every person to...are you ready...?

To own 2 shirts...

How do I go about my day, living in this sad, over consuming world? In my heart, I would sell everything I have, cars, clothes, take my family and go back to Uganda... Unfortunately, that isn't where God has us, as a family, now. My ministry is my husband, my son, the people around me, here, now.

I am working hard at being content here. But because of this entire study I am learning how to live out what is in my heart, even if buried deep down, here, now, with what I have been given.

Our new goals, as a family, is to really get ride of many many many things. We want to start giving ourselves away more. We want to do more for the people in our lives who need things more than we do. It's a start...and tiny tiny tiny start...but it is a living simply.


KelliAnn Christensen said...

Wow, Amber. This was so beautiful. I have heard you talk about Uganda, but I have never HEARD you talk about it. Wow. I just can't even comprehend. Thank you so much for sharing. You have definitely given me a lot to think about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing on this subject...just what I needed to hear. I forget so quickly how much we have and that part of my job as being a follower of Jesus is to give to the poor. I am excited of the changes I am going to pray about making and ask that God lead me and guide me down the path HE wants for my life.


Deanna said...

Hi there. I found your blog via Slightly Crunchy! I saw you are moving to PA - that's where we are. I loved this post on Africa. We are leaving the country to go work in an orphanage on Ukraine and every time I leave there, I have a hard time putting my feelings into words. Your post did that for me.