Cracking my eyes open, I headed over to Joe and Natalie Reed’s house early Thursday morning for breakfast with our NieuCommunities Staff team, which is always a fun time around the table as the Reed’s have 3 children under 5! Malachi, their youngest, is in the early walking/touching everything/exploring stage, which means that he experiments with things like how to tear his bacon, egg + cheese biscuit all apart in every which way, dropping pieces of cheese all over the floor in an effort to follow his big sister Keziah around the table. Usually, I lose my shoes at least once every Thursday morning, this week being no exception, as Keziah loves playing under the table being silly (This week’s episode: Keziah as a horse, Malachi riding her by sitting on her head!).
We lingered over the breakfast table with the crisp autumn air bringing a chill into the dining room surrounding us, creating a sluggish, yet homey feel to the morning. It has been a long series of weeks for our team, from moving forward in new ministry initiatives to saying goodbye (for now) to Jody and his Rwandan fiance, Francine, to someone preparing for marriage in our team’s midst (Woo-hoo!). It seemed like no one really wanted to move forward into the morning’s activities, in which I was going to introduce some meditative reflection around the concept of God desiring connection with us, and then facilitating group spiritual direction for our team.
So we made the call: Let’s just scrap morning plans, keep chatting, and leave early! We did just that, and I must tell you, I think everyone sighed a bit, refreshed with the freedom to choose what we needed most as a team in that moment, as opposed to forcing ourselves forward. Sometimes giving yourself permission to choose what you truly need is the hardest thing, is it not?
The afternoon was spent in a flurry of wedding/my life is changing and I am becoming ‘two’ not one activities, which seem a part of each day in this season, and which I actually kind of enjoy most of the time. It truly is a revolutionary thing in our society for two people to make a willful choice to commit to each other, and then join separate lives together in a merged and growing union. I find it surreal that this is happening between Maxie and I, and yet am growing both in excitement and a settled sense of peace that this is what I want more than anything else.
Hence, a 2-hour Skype with Johnny Wilson filled most of our afternoon. Johnny is a part of the Church Resource Ministries family with me, and has served as a part of the Staff Care and Development team for several years now. Johnny has loosely coached me via Skype for this past year, and mentioned to me once Maxie and I were engaged that he had facilitated hundreds of couples in working through a marriage enrichment curriculum entitled “Prepare and Enrich.” It’s essentially an assessment that both individuals take that is scored and then expanded upon for Johnny’s eyes only, consisting of 7 or 8 topics central to most struggles within marriage (The classics: Sex, Family, Conflict, Communication Styles, Finances, Expectations, Spiritual Beliefs, etc). This was our 3rd session with him with another coming prior to our wedding and likely some followup afterwards.
It really takes some effort to get used to counseling/sharing via Skype, particularly when bandwidth limitations prevent the usage of video most of the time (Bandwidth remains expensive and not unlimited for most in South Africa). Presence with another involves focus and largely looking at someone, and when this is not present, concentration is super hard! Nonetheless, Johnny shared some valuable insights with us and continues to cheer us on as we head towards marriage from his home in North Carolina. The big insight from yesterday: Continued understanding just how much marriage is a choice of commitment and love that is something to be built into, and grown throughout the years. I was blown away when he mentioned that he has been married to Sue now for 40 years!
All in all, a tiring, but great afternoon!
(Each day this week I will post a story or reflection about some aspect of my work and life that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the questions, ‘What does a week in my life look like? while framing that within the larger question of ‘What stories are you co-writing with God in South Africa, and how does this story fulfill your unique mandate to apprentice South African leaders in the way of Jesus into sustainable mission around the globe?’)