Thursday, May 16, 2013

on being stoned to death with popcorn (and other things i don't like)

When we first came to Uganda in Feb. 2011, a friend of ours, who was a very seasoned expat after living here almost 7 yrs, told us something we have never forgot -

"Living in Africa is sometimes like being stoned to death with popcorn." 

We thought it was funny and clever then.  Now, we know it is profound and very true. 

It isn't a matter of life and death emergencies that make us want to evacuate.  It is a thousand little inconveniences, misunderstandings, delays that come from living in a third-world country.  That never. seem. to. stop. Day after Day.  Then, suddenly, I think I am going to snap if one more petty thing annoys me!

It was a comforting thought our first year here.  T and I would look at each other, sigh deeply, and say, "It's just a popcorn day."  And we knew (or hoped!) that tomorrow would be better.  I believed that after our one-year mark here, the popcorn would eventually seem inconsequential  - maybe even humorous.  

Well, we are well past that mark now, and, while we have definitely "chilled out" in many ways, there are still days that I vacillate between wanting to sit down amid the piles of popcorn and have a pity party or else stomp in the mess and throw a bona fide tantrum.

There's been a lot of pummeling popcorn lately, and I've been keeping a pretty good mental record of it all:
- no hot water in our shower head for 3 wks now.  not that it was ever really "hot" to begin with, but still...
- T's backpack stolen in town last wk.  fortunately, he didn't have his laptop or passport in it, but still...
- not being able to walk off the village into the community without being followed by children begging for "sweets"
- not being able to sit in peace and quiet in my own home bc of children loitering in my doorway and screaming outside my windows
- neighbors who borrow things and don't return them
- friends who are constantly asking for money
- a stomach bug that lingered longer than I would have liked
- T graciously allowing a young man (who needs driving experience) to drive our van in town and (of course) he rear-ends a taxi van and we have to foot the bill
- feeling every single one of the 8,000 miles between me and my family multiplied in my heart... as well as the six attempts it took to finally make a decent phone connection with my mom!

I know I sound very much like Oscar the Grouch right now.

Really, what is more exasperating than the popcorn without is the popcorn within.

I feel the heat and the pressure, and, without warning, something pops up inside of me.  Something very ugly.  Something I had no idea was there.  Or at least, I could pretend it wasn't there.  But, then, my selfishness and immaturity is on full display and I can't ignore it anymore.  I thought a lot better about myself before we moved to Africa, and that's the truth.  I find that it is much easier for me to worry than trust, to be indulgent than disciplined, to retreat behind a wall of excuses than keep my heart soft and vulnerable.  Some days, I don't really like myself... and I esp. don't want to contemplate what my sweet husband must think about me at that moment!

Early this week, I got a msg on fb from my Mimi. (yes, both of my grandmas are on facebook - they are so cool! :))  It was short, thanking me for a Mother's Day package and telling me that she is praying for me everyday.  Lots of people tell me that they pray for us, and I am always grateful, but, you know, when your grandma tells you she is praying... well, it means something on a whole other level.  She specifically said she was praying that I would "be able to sit in Heavenly places."   My was heart immediately gripped with longing.  YES, oh, yes, please!  to sit in a Heavenly place ... how long since I have done that?  I knew that is what I needed.  I knew that I had been trying to equate what I wanted with what I needed.

I WANT a long, hot shower - preferably with no gecko poo in sight.
I WANT a long, uninterrupted conversation with my family - preferable face to face!
I WANT a get-away to a pretty, exotic place - not a day away to stinky, crowded Kampala.
I WANT an extra stash of $, so that we can be generous with those who need it... but not so generous that it actually hurts our bank account, of course.

But these things I want are not going to lead me to a Heavenly place.

I NEED to stop counting the kernels at my feet and shift my focus upward.
I NEED His Word to be my life and my treasure.
I NEED to notice the beauty in the ordinary and the blessings I take for granted.
I NEED the sting, the pressure, the refining fire.  I need the dross to rise and the whole ugly, humbling process of it.

I need to come to the end of myself and remember what I need is Jesus.  All I need is Jesus. 

You have made known to me the path of life.  
You will fill me with joy in Your presence.  Ps. 16:11


  1. So beautiful the person within all your family such a blessing I was just praying for you all today your picture is on my frigerator we take life for granted so much hear in the states so glad you share your life with us to remind us how much we are blessed thank you and thank you for giving your lives to the children and ministrie there love Tina Locke

  2. Thank you, Tina! thanks for the encouragement and allowing me to "share my life" with you. hope your day is blessed!

  3. Well, Mika and Thomas, I reread your post twice just for the feel it gave me, a good feeling! There is a lesson in what you are sharing (yet again) and it will remain. How's that for remembering all you need is Jesus? He is always there (hot or no shower...we live on a tiny island off the PNW and I can attest power shortages are numerous here too!)
    God bless,

  4. Thanks, Noelle! help me out... what does PNW stand for? trying to place where you are...

    1. Oops, sorry! Pacific North West (getting into the Yankee way of using initials for everything, ah!)

  5. I just sent you a long Facebook message...I wanted to know how you were doing. I didn't know I could just read your blog to find out...Be encouraged.