God provides

I’m a cash-strapped Peace Corps Volunteer. A lot of it is due to my monthly salary of around $250. But a lot of it too is on my extravagant spending: a weekend by the lake. A $15 meal and a trip to the capital. Hours of phone calls to the states and in-country friends. A new shirt or hat or bag or a couple beers at the end of the day. The money never seems to fit my budget, or more honestly, my budget never seems to fit the money.

I found myself running especially low this month. But a surprise trip to the capital for medical leave gave me per diem to get through. And then just when I thought maybe my $6 a day wasn’t going to cut it, a reimbursement for underpaid housing payments appeared in my bank account.

A couple days later, Akmoor and I went to see a movie. It was the new historical film about Kurmanjan Datka, a queen of some Kyrgyz tribes around the turn of the 19th century. We were standing in line hoping to get tickets for a later showing so we could first go get something to eat. The line was several people long but what made it longer were the couple of people who cut in to buy tickets ahead of everyone else.

I complained loudly in Kyrgyz—the man who cut in said he needed a ticket for an earlier showing. I told him we were all in a hurry and he should have come earlier. He just laughed. His wife asked where I was from and I said, “I’m from an offended country!” She didn’t think that was funny. When the line moved on and the guy who had been right in front of us bought his tickets, he turned and handed us his change. It was 500 som, or $10, almost 2 days worth of per diem for me living in the city. He mumbled something about me speaking Kyrgyz, handed Akmoor the money, and walked away. It was exceedingly generous and very humbling.

So we got to see the movie and eat dinner for free.

These were awesome reminders of the way God provides. And then suddenly I was flooded with reminders of all the ways he takes care of me: A family back in the states who has helped me come home. A host father who slips me small pieces of wisdom and a host mother who always makes sure there’s food on the table, even when she’s not around. Peace Corps doctors who mediate health treatments and rally to my side. Friends who provide emotional support and reach out with community and humor. Locals so willing to host and cheer on and be resilient in the face of adversity.

These are all blessings that God rains down so abundantly and so generously. In our lives God provides for us. He provides for our joy. And in the end, he provides a place for us with him, forever. And in that place of golden streets and crystal sea, I think my salary for serving in God’s kingdom is going to be enough.

Laugh. Pretty much always.

I was walking down the street and saw this Lexus with initials embossed into the seats and I thought, “That’s pretentious.” (You have to spit a little on the first “T.”) Being in a dismal mood I was ready to write anything off as ridiculous, preposterous or just plain stupid. But then I was pulled back to the days when I lived in America and drove a car with plates that had the initials LAF. My initials.

I had gotten those letters embossed on my plates because I always wanted to be reminded to. My parents gave me a gift, or God maybe, and that was to see the laughter each time I agreed to the regulations for a driver’s license or finished an arcade game.

I thought about those days, driving that car to the disc golf course in Rapid City, or across vast stretches of Dakota land, or spinning in an empty parking lot after a shift at the restaurant. I got lost in these thoughts for a while, reminiscing about happy times.

I must have looked actually lost because I was suddenly pulled back by a man asking me if I was looking for something. “Happiness,” I replied, with a wistful look. “Ha, that’s good!” he said, and laughing again, “That’s a good answer!”

And I thought back over those last few moments – the sweetest girl, with a smile to match answering my question in the local language, a poster in Japanese advertising the sukuri matsuri, or summer festival, and now this man, a beam of light in answer to an off-handed remark.

And then it hit me – I had completely missed it. Completely missed the joy that was inherently present in each interaction, in each sign, in each moment, waiting to be drawn out. My own pretentions had covered them all like a blanket, smothering the spark of happiness that would ignite into a warm flame if I would only whisper a breath of hope.

Sometimes pretentions aren’t pretentious. Sometimes they’re just joy without worry or hope without fear. I hope you search for that joy wherever you are and in whatever you do. If that means initials on your leather seats, then heck – enjoy it!

imageThe least pretentious family you’ll ever meet – and the most joyful