Sunday, June 30, 2019

On Rest and Escape (by Hannah Reed)

I (Renita) just had a delightful nine days, starting with celebrating the graduation of my daughter Hannah with her Masters in Social Work (MSW) and then on to a one week vacation in Arizona with Michael, my mom, Hannah, Noah, Noah's girlfriend Hannah. To say it was needed and beautiful would be an understatement. I was home for just three hours from Arizon before heading back to the airport to Nigeria.

Hannah volunteered to write this blog from her perspective on these last couple of weeks, so here it is from her in her own words, written as we returned from AZ:

I officially graduated with my Masters in Social Work on June 21st.  It will, I’m sure, feel great at some point to not have any classes to attend or homework to complete. However, on June 21, though I was happy and relieved, I was too tired to feel much of the real sense of relief and excitement that I imagine I should have felt based on how much it took out of me to get here. 

Over the past six months or so, and even more in the past month, people have asked what I plan to do now that I have attained this long-term goal.  My answer has varied but recently has been more consistent: Nothing.  At least, nothing different in the short term.  I plan to continue to be at my same job, not worrying about job applications or frantically studying for my licensing exam, and just allow myself to enjoy being where I am.  No immediate plans for change.  Changes will come- and when they do, I want to be ready for them.  

My answer to “what’s next?” has also recently included “Vacation”.  

Attending graduate school for the past few years, both to get certified as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor and as a masters level social worker (both of which require additional tests in order to be licensed) has been a privilege and something that I am very grateful for.  I recognize that I am privileged to be where I am and to have received the level of education I have been able to receive.  It has also drained me of energy.  I love social work but I also tend to want to give 100% to everything, and so when I have a class, work, church work, and an internship that I am trying to give 100% to, something (most things) loses out and I lose energy.  I thought that without class or an internship, I would have more of a shot to give more to the things that are left.  More time for friends, time to be creative and energetic at work with my clients, time to develop good, solid relationships with coworkers, time for my church community.  But I realized, coming up on May and June, that I had very little left to give.  I couldn’t recharge myself by escaping into a tv show or a book- I never wanted to leave those forms of escape and was immediately tired upon re-entering the “real world”.  Little things gave me anxiety.  Big things gave me more anxiety.  I was exhausted, lacking in joy, resentful of my responsibilities, but unable to say no to them due to feelings of guilt. I was burned out.  And felt guilty for being so, because each different thing that I had committed to and was passionate for wasn’t getting 100% from me, so how could any of them understand that I was burned out? Despite all the rational reasons for why I shouldn’t be burned out, I was still burned out.  I eventually acknowledged the guilt and the exhaustion, stopped trying to fight them or explain them away, and began to long for a break.  

Thankfully, one was planned right after the day I graduated.  I was able to leave Grand Rapids, get a whole week off of work (which I don’t think I have ever taken before, and am incredibly grateful for the job and boss that I have), and go to Arizona with my family.  

I love Arizona- it is one of my favorite places and the beauty here is breathtaking.  I spent a week not looking at email, barely able to access the internet as we were in the mountains where internet reception was spotty, and just be.  We did a lot and saw a lot.  There were good moments, great moments, and okay moments, but I didn’t worry about homework, or feel guilty about missing work, or anxious about not being a part of this meeting or that meeting.  I was able to both rest and escape, existing in the moment and in the mountains of Arizona.  

Escaping is something that I try to do too often in ineffective ways - I turn on the tv, open a book, try to drown out real life with something different and contrived.  Sometimes that is just enough of a break to help my brain feel rested.  But it is not the real rest that I need.  In Arizona, I climbed up rocky slopes, ran down paths of the Grand Canyon, stood on the edge of cliffs, felt the wind rushing through my hair and the sun warming me from head to toe.  I was not cold (which is unusual for me) and had no headaches (two years post-concussion headaches are a constant companion still). I have not had a week as free from headaches as this week in recent memory.  My body was active, but my mind was at rest.  I had escaped, in a way, from my everyday real life, but not from the real world.  I found rest and joy and escape.  

As soon as I get back on Sunday, I will go to a meeting at church.  Then, on Monday, work starts again as normal.  The difference between now and a week ago is that I do not feel like crying at the prospect of either of these things; I do not feel angry or resentful towards my responsibilities or guilty about feeling resentful, as I would have without the rest I have received.

Real rest for me comes not just in escaping to a contrived world on a page or a screen - both have their place, but neither last very long.  Real rest comes in being outside, experiencing the joys of Creation, hiking and walking and even zip lining.  It comes from exerting energy in a new way.  I needed rest.  I still need rest.  I won’t look for a new job yet - I love my job, and hope to stay there a while.  At some point, I will find a job that fits my degree, but waiting a while to make sure I have recaptured my energy and passion is important.  I am grateful for this past week, for my family who shared it with me, and for the friends and coworkers who have supported me through all the ups and downs of graduate school.  

One journey is at its end; the celebration for its ending is also at its end.  Now, I begin a period of rest and re-discovering who I am underneath the stress of this past journey, before I gear up for the next one.

I enjoyed taking pictures on this trip as well - I took more than 900 shots!

Antelope Canyon, on the Navaho Reservation - incredible beauty.  

Noah strikes a pose in the amazing Antelope Canyon

Enjoying time with my brother, Noah, and his girlfriend!
Mom and Michael taking in the si

My Oma, who joined us in ziplining at the Grand Canyon at the age of (almost) 83!  Happy Birthday, Oma!

On top of the Hoover Dam - I did say I love to feel the wind in my hair, right?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Work as Worship Retreat(s)

I am back home after what felt like a very long month in East and West Africa.  I am thankful for safe travel and for the many events that took place.  One such event is the one I describe here:

Discipling Marketplace Leaders has partnered with RightNow Media, who produces the Work as Worship Retreat, in order to bring this opportunity to Africa.  These are hosted like the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), if you are familiar with those, with recorded speakers from the actual live event in February, as well as local speakers.

We invited our DML country partners to host these retreats in their given contexts, and four of our partners were able to do so (for some of our partners it was not an option as the retreat is only in English).  In Nigeria, they were able to host three events (Abuja, Kaduna, and Jos).  In Cameroon, they were able to host two events (both in Yaounde) with more scheduled.  In Kenya, they will be holding theirs at the end of June.  And in Ghana, they were able to hold three (one in Sandema, one in Tamale, and one in Accra).  I was able to help organize the one in Accra, which was fun for me.  It was good to be a part of this maiden edition!

We made sure that after each speaker there was time for discussion, which was very important to allow the message to settle in better.  Hearing the discussions about how to do our work as an act of worship, in very practical ways, was inspiring for many.  Talking about what that looks like in our various contexts, with our various challenges, was helpful.  People reported being encouraged, some rededicated their lives to Christ, some dedicated their work to the Lord, and there was good talk about next steps as well.

So many view worship as the songs that we sing on a church service.  Remembering that worship is so much broader than that is critical.  When we actively remember that the focus of our work is not on ourselves but rather to glorify God, and to help customers and employees flourish, it can change so much.

As this was our first year, we are thankful to have been able to hold nine such events and pray that next year there may be even more.
The organizing team for the Work as Worship Retreat, Accra

Fanny, me, and Sister Afia:  Three women passionate about getting this message out!

Our local speaker was Rev. Thelma Odonko, who worked as the head of an insurance agency for 24 years.  She was interviewed by Sister Afia, and shared about the challenges of integrating faith and work in her environment.  She gave very practical ways of how to do this and encouraged many people.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Our brother in Christ, Steve Kennedy

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, our Discipling Marketplace Leaders brother, Steve Kennedy from the UK, fell and hit his head.  There was significant brain damage and yesterday Steve passed from this life into the next.

Our hearts are broken by this.  Steve was an intercessor and was coordinating our prayer effort for the DML movement across Africa.  He just recently was with me teaching in Tanzania.  Last November he was with us in Ghana where he met the entire DML team and had been leading this team in monthly prayer calls.  He joined us for our weekly prayer calls in the US and he has been such a blessing to our team.  We were planning a prayer retreat for the team for early next year.

He breathed a breath of fresh air into us with his perspective of God and his faith.

And now he is gone.  Just like that.  He leaves a wife and two daughters, as well as the DML team (and many others!) and we are mourning.

Yesterday, as the DML team in Ghana was holding a Work as Worship retreat, we spent time in Psalm 90.  Verse twelve tells us this:  Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.  I can hear Steve's voice saying, "Amen, amen" to this.  He would want us to use his death for the good of the Lord in some way.  When we see how Steve lived, and we see the brevity of life, we need to be shaken from any complacency and seek to work and live with an eternal purpose.  We grow in wisdom when we are able to focus and recognize what is important in this world and what is not.

On my phone, I have a note from my recent trip with Steve where we shared more with each other about our stories and testimonies.  Steve told me that I need to write a book about my life and then gave me the title:  And God Meant It for Good.  He said that was a theme in my story.  Maybe someday that will come to pass.

I am thankful for this friendship with Steve that was too short.  But I look forward to seeing how God may use this for good.  Please pray for Steve's family and our team at this time.

Steve teaching in Tanzania

He loved taking selfies!  (with James Kamau)