fieldnotes from the single life

He asks me what I’ve learned in singleness. It takes me a moment, but I can tell you the most important thing that I know:

God is good. God is good at being God, and His goodness is never tied to a person. It’s who He is.

He will be good no matter what. No matter who He plants in your life, even if it’s just a season, and no matter who He takes away.

He might take you onto the mountain top, like He did with Abraham, and He might ask you to lay that person or that relationship down, not knowing what will come next. But this is the thing: you might not know what comes next, but you can know with absolute certainty Who will be there:

God.

What else have I learned? Somehow it’s okay to both desire something and be content. They aren’t mutually exclusive. God gave us two hands for a reason: to remind us we can hold more than one thing at once and still remain balanced. So it is with singleness: you can both love it and desire a relationship, too.

And one last thing: you are whole. You are whole, fully you, complete, not because of your relationship status but because of who you are. You are not lacking because you go to bed alone or because there is no ring on your finger. You are complete. Live life that way. Anne Lamott writes that if you are not enough without the gold medal, you’ll never be enough when you have it. And a relationship is the same: if you are not sure of your completeness outside of one, a relationship will always leave you empty in ways you hoped it would fill you.

You are enough. I am enough.

God is enough.

And this season God’s got you in?

Hold your head up high and keep searching for meaning in it. It’s there. I promise.

Triumph.

When she entered the world, she entered it with potential. Newness stretched across her taught, reddened skin, eyes offended by the bright lights. Her voice had never been heard before, her fingers untouched, her smile undiscovered. She held the whole world in her tiny, curled up hands.

When her mother wrapped her hands around her, the beginning of life formed as skin touched skin. Cries mixed in with tears and words and prayers created a masterpiece far more beautiful than any her mother had ever laid eyes on. Life was breathed into that hospital room; it was heard, it was felt, it was a Presence all on its own. It was tangible; life in human form.

Her mother admired the way her hair pressed against her chest, the way the  breathing of the child in her arms mimicked her own. She was there, fully present. Not imagining the day before as it used to be; not imagining a tomorrow. There was just a today, a today that delivered a family of three that moments before had not existed.

Life begins in triumph. It emerges in a cacophony of sounds and smells and in a way that will never be repeated. It will never be felt that way again. It will never be revealed with the same cry, nor felt with the same touch. The clock that ticks as life enters will never tick by those seconds again. It is an extraordinary moment, etched in memory but never to be felt in its beauty again.

In the same way, just as her life began in triumph, so too did it end. Her body, wrinkled and weathered, no longer was new. Her skin had been touched tenderly by her love; it had been stretched taught as life grew within her. It held the scars of a life lived well and at times, foolishly. Her eyes, so long ago white in their newness, were gray, but still held the light that had always danced when her lips turned up into a smile.

Her voice, once unheard of, had been heard of and never forgotten by those she passed by. She built up with that voice, she whispered love even when tears fell. She also hurt with that voice, sometimes intentionally and other times with deep regret. She clung to her words though. She adored them. Not only her own, but those around her, and conversation – words mixing with others, creating that beautiful sound every other noise paled in comparison to – was her favourite sound.

Her fingers no longer remained untouched. They had been tugged by little ones she had bore and ones she had loved as if they were her own. They had gathered her own tears; they had curled themselves around her in the moments she felt most alone. They had caressed, and they had held. That was what she was most proud of. That those plump, reddened fingers had been instruments of life in the broken places.

When she smiled, she was open and most herself. They were never dishonest smiles; they were the kind that revealed the heart behind them. If she was broken, the smile curled just the slightest up towards her eyes. If she felt the joy down to the tips of her toes, her smile was a doorway that let it all out so that it was no longer just hers. That smile, oh how it pointed to the one who gave it to her. It was always a mirror: of the one across from her, or the One above her.

The moment she entered the world, in that hospital room, she was merely a beginning. The day that she left this world, she was everything in between. She once was the one who held the world in her hand, but when she left, the world held her. It held her in the lives that she had been a part of, and it held her in the echoes of her laughter that wouldn’t be forgotten. It held her in the lives she had formed inside of her, and it held her with the words that filled journals and conversations and letters and cards. In the beginning she held; in the end, as breath left her lungs and Life left her side, the final brushstroke was completed.

A masterpiece, a life both beginning and ending in triumph.

Empty parking lots, the bead market, and teaching

I can’t believe it has been almost a week since I’ve written! I had started to write a blog post last weekend, but got interrupted by a power outage (our first since having been here – I’m told they are a common occurence, but we had yet to experience one). Last weekend was fairly relaxing; we spent the time doing laundry, cleaning, and enjoying the hot African sun out in the backyard. I didn’t expect the sun would feel hotter here, but it really does – my skin literally burns in the afternoon sun some days! But I just slather on the sunscreen and am determined to be as dark as possible when I return home! 🙂
This week marked a busy week for us. The kids are incredibly difficult to control in the classroom, which continues to be our biggest challenge here. Our methods of discipline in Canada are very different than here, as children are quickly hit with a cane or a hand as a way of creating obedience. So here we are, a small group of Canadians, entering an entirely different culture, and expecting these children to understand what it means not to hit, not to bite, and what a time out means. They don’t. So we leave the school quite exhausted from chasing children who run away, holding crying students who’ve been bitten or beaten up, and swallowing sarcastic comments when children laugh at our instructions. Consequently our evenings are filled with laying on the couch, eating fandangos or fanmilk, and watching a movie. 
Needless to say, when Lesley and I took off Thursday to go to nearby Kofuridua, we were quite excited for a breather! It is a town about two hours away that has a famous bead market on Thursdays. We hired Issac, Belinda’s friend, to taxi us there. We left around 9, and I have to say although I was exhausted and tempted to sleep the ride there, the drive was beautiul! We seemed ot be driving in more of the hilly and jungle-y areas, so it was mesmerizing to this artist’s eye. We had lunch at a nice air-conditioned resaturant (had a burger and cheese – so lovely! haha). Then we headed out to walk to the market. On the way there, we veered off the main street into a fairly empty (but huge) parking lot. Lesley and I sort of looked at each other, then at Isaac, who said, “Last night Auntie Jo told me to take you guys here. This is where funerals are held.” Les and I managed to hold in our laughs, because apparently this was a big deal for Auntie Jo, this empty parking lot, but to us it was just that – an empty parking lot!
We continued on our way to the bead market, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing! Beads of every colour, of every shape and pattern were scattered among vendors. There were beads made from Ghanaian glass and beads imported too, but all were handcrafted by the vendors (as you could see, because most of them were busy making necklaces right in front of us). We spent almost three hours walking through the stalls, trying on necklaces and rings and earrings. Everything was beautiful. They had really old beads there too – they said that some where a hundred years old. But these were incredibly expensive. 
By the time we were finished looking at the market, and found our way back to the restaurant where we’d left the car (and made an impromptu stop at a fairly modern looking store for jam), we assumed that becaue of the late hour (it was probably almost four) Isaac would take us home then. We had hoped to have enough time to visit Boti Falls, which was a waterfall about an hour away, but Isaac had said it was quite late so we just assumed we were headed home. Never assume here, is a lesson I’ve learned – too much gets lost in translation!! So about an hour into our drive of what we thought was headed home, we pull through a set of wooden gates and have arrived at Boti Falls. Les and I look at each other with a look much similar to when we first saw the parking lot earlier that day, and just laugh.
Boti Falls turned out to be a lovely sight, even without there being much water since it’s the dry season right now. There are 250 steps down to the falls, and along the way we saw not only gigantic trees, but gigantic slugs as well! I managed to wait until we were heading back up at the end of our trek before asking if there were snakes in the area (answer: yes, black cobras and vipers, but much deeper in the jungle than where we were). The falls were beautiful; Les and I took our time exploring and taking pictures.
So, as we left the fall area, it was beginning to get closer and closer to dusk. We were sure we were headed home at this point, but as we are driving off, Isaac tells us he has one more thing to show us. A palm tree with three trunks. Not sure why this is significant, but once again, Les and I just laughed and agreed we wanted to see it. It was literally in the middle of no where; down a dirt road, through a valley (which was beautiful – pictures can’t seem to capture the beauty here) and up a path. At the foot of this three trunked palm, there lies a rock engraved with an insignia of some sorts on it. Isaac pointed out that it is considered by locals to be a magical stone, which, if you sit on it, will bless you with the birth of twins. Lesley laughed and she no longer needed that blessing; I stepped forward gladly, but Isaac grabbed me and wouldn’t let me sit on. Oh well! Haha!
Across the road from where the palm tree was was a cemetary. We headed back to the car, but Isaac kept walking towards the cemetery, so Les and I followed him, down a long winding path up this amazing rock. It’s hard to describe it to you, but it was basically a bunch of smaller rocks with a HUGE slab of rock placed on top of it. And this rock overlooks a huge valley. There was a rickety ladder that you could climb to the top (which I almost climbed all the way, then decided it was too safe to risk it and climbed back down), but even without being on top the view was amazing. I want to go back at sunset, because by then it was dusk, but even still, it was spectacular. I think this was my favorite spot I’ve discovered here – I wish it was closer!
It was a long ride back again, because of our many detours, but it was so worth it. We had an amazing day.
So after our day away on Thursday, Friday marked my first day of teaching on my own. Lesley is still here, but I am feeling a bit hesitant in regards to teaching – I feel like a fish out of water. I didn’t realize how much work goes into teaching kindergarten, from lesson planning to different types of learning to understand curriculum. It’s hard! But I managed to make it through the day, and for the most part the kids listened – it was during play time and outdoor play that they got wild again. This weekend Lesley and I have been going over more teaching things – I feel like I am getting my BEd in just a day – but she sadly is sick and in bed. So I am getting caught up on blogging and emails. Tomorrow us girls plan on getting up at the crack of dawn (by that I mean 5:30) to go see a friend, Smart’s, soccer game and then we are going to forgo three hours of Twi church and do a Bible study here at home. Last weekend we visited Auntie Jo’s church, and it was a great experience, minus not understanding a word spoken! I love how joyful church is here, filled with dancing and so much singing. But, I do however love understanding the sermon and the hymns being sung as well! Belinda told us that there’s an English speaking church here in Asamankese, so we are going to visit there next weekend.
Hard to believe we are already half way through September. Thinking of you all at home and missing everyone very much!
Lots of love,
Angie