Figuring Life Out? Maybe.

Don't you hate it when people ask you how you've been when they really don't care at all how you've been? There are always people who do that. They ask you how you're doing passively while glancing over your shoulder, looking for someone else to talk to.
I always wondered how amusing it would be to totally be honest with someone like that.
"How are you?"
"I've been terrible!"
The look on their face might almost be worth it. Anyways, on with the point. I am going to pretend that everyone who is reading this just asked me "Hey Emma, how have you been?"
Well, this is my answer.....I've been great! I mean, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. I have been step-in mother of five this weekend, no way of transporting them to and from soccer practice, soccer games, choir, play rehearsal, etc. Cooking and cleaning and cleaning and cooking.....guys, appreciate your mothers. They've got their work cut out for them!
Yeah, it's been stressful but it also helps my relationship with my siblings alot. They seem to have much more respect for me when I am in charge, thus I can show them more affection when I'm not having to battle them for the upper-hand.
I have been absolutely splendid lately. I mean, this past week hasn't been without its downsides. I had a few strange days where all I wanted to do was get on a plane and go home, but moreover I had a really touching, encouraging week.
Last weekend was the Staff Retreat for Camp David, and it was not really retreat weather. It was cold. It was rainy. It was cold. It was windy. It was cold. It was cloudy. And it was cold.
But it was such a perfect time to be with people and to just huddle together in sweaters and steal each others' hats and
I had so many wonderful, direly needed one-on-ones with people. Moonlit walks. Crazy capture the flag. I sang a Colbie Caillat song with Twila Grace in the talent show. We even played football (my football which many of you call "soccer") in the freezing cold rain and mud. It was worth it. Totally worth it.
But it was today that put my life into perspective big time. So here it goes.

There is a thing in Rolla called the Celebration of Nations, and it's a big festival that pretty much just celebrates the diversity in cultures due to the international students and I was asked to carry the Ivorian flag in the parade. It was a huge may seem silly to some people but to me it was like they were asking me to carry the torch at the Olympics. They need two people, one to hold the flag, one to hold the sign, and so I asked Austin, of course, and he said he didn't want to. So it ended up being Twila and I, and we got there at 9:00 a.m. like we were told....the parade didn't start until 11:00 and we were grouped into continents. So I got to spend 2 hours surrounded by guys from Benin, Congo, Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
I got to sit and talk to them for two hours, speaking French, having them tell me how Ivorienne I sounded, talking about political problems, arguing with the Nigerian. They're just so accepting, so willing to just bring me into their African family that they've formed. They all were just! There is no way to explain it. It felt like home again. They all called me "Petite Soeur." and then gave me the nickname "Ivory Coast"  and invited me to play with them when they have "African Football Games" and invited me to watch English Premiere Leagues with them.
Like I said, I felt like I was home again. And I absolutely loved the way Twila took it all as an honor and a learning experience with grace and sweetness.
I can't even begin to explain the way my heart sang when I stood with that beautiful flag in my hands, looking out over the sea of people, all different colors, religions, languages, uniting as one people. My soul came alive at the sight of the dazzling, shifting kaleidescope of colors, the breeze pulling each banner out. It gave a whole new meaning to the part of the Revelation Song "Clothed in rainbows of living color".
I could see the pride in these students' faces as they raised their countries' symbol and honored their people, and all I wanted to do the same.
They are all so brave. They left everything they ever knew, everyone they ever loved to come to this place that is so cold, so intimidating and they have made a way for themselves, still relying on each other and reveling in the comfort of familiarity but never being afraid of this new world they've entered. But still, they don't lose that part of them that will always remain different from Americans. They don't lose their roots, the essence of their very spirit. They inspire me.
The whole world inspires me. If they can be so brave, so willing to just step out and risk it all for a college education, then I should be willing to step out and be brave for faith.
They make me want to be better. They make me want to be stronger, find the joys in life here. Find the joys in community here....but never lose that part of me. Because that is truly all my Africa-Emma's just a small part of the Whole-Emma. There is so much more to me now, and so much more to come!
It's exciting, this new prospect. I mean, I have experiences here I never would have had otherwise.
Take Josh for example. He is the older brother I never had. (Of course, I have an older brother I adore) But Josh is honestly one of those people I really needed lately, and one of those people I never wanted to admit I needed. He is helping me understand this whole guy thing....something I never was very well versed in. And I never would have met him if I hadn't moved here.
If I hadn't moved here, I never would have gone to Camp, led those little girls to Christ, met those amazing people, grown in my faith.
If I hadn't moved here I never would have discovered the true meaning of family. Sometimes they are the only ones who will always be there for you.
If I hadn't moved here I wouldn't have met Twila. The girl who brings waffle batter and orange juice to your house at 7:00 a.m. and then comes home with you at 9:00 p.m. to do your dishes and fold your laundry then collapse in comfortable silence on the living room floor.
If I hadn't moved here, I wouldn't have grown. There are always going to be growing pains, and life is always going to hurt, sometimes it will hurt almost more than we can bear, but I know the heart of life is good.
Once again, disclaimer....I don't have it all figured out and I never, ever will. But for once, I think I am actually getting close to being at peace with the season I am in.

That's all from me tonight. It's time to actually get a bit of sleep.


Old Journals

So I have very little to write about. My mind hasn't been allowed to wander, I haven't had any life-changing experiences...Life has been decently mellow lately. No drama to report. I had my first photo shoot the other day, it went splendidly. It would seem I am designing and creating and taking pictures for a million people this week.
I took some time yesterday to go through some old journals and I decided I would post some of my entries from our trip home last spring.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010
Well, I'm on my way home for 6 weeks! It's not nearly long enough. It's been almost a year since I journaled...It's taken me a long time to be able to journal again, write again. When we left Africa my world fell apart. Watching those gates close as we drove away, taking me away from all I knew and loved. If that wasn't heartbreak then I don't know what is! When we got to the States, my friends were not my friends, my life was not my life.
In Grandma's dark house I was depressed. I watched TV, I ate food because it was there, I stared at the computer screen, blank. Words no longer obeyed me. They no longer made beautiful worlds for me to hide away in. A writed who runs out of words? It's like I lost EVERYTHING. I found no joy in life. I can hardly remember those months. But slowly the world got a bit more prominent and reality hit me hard. I spent the winter being angry but when spring came I decided to change. I got better at being happy. I found friends again, I found purpose and I felt okay. But now...Now I am so excited. I am ready to go home.
But I'm scared.
What if I get there and I don't belong any more? What if home isn't home? I don't belong in America, and if I don't belong in RCI...then where? Where do I go? And what if I do belong? What if I feel wonderful and amazing and then have to leave all over again? I don't want to feel that again. I can't. But then again, what if I get closure? What if I am able to move on? Do I really want the African part of my life to be over? So anyway we look at it, I get hurt. Like I got hurt so many times before.
I am so torn. I don't want to repeat the process but I don't want to hurt anymore. I want to feel happy again.....we're getting ready to land....I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Okay, so it's time to unravel my feelings. I don't know...this place is perfect! When we got here I didn't get overjoyed or ecstatic. I just felt...right. Like, this is it. This is where I am supposed to be. Air so moist and sweet, it is the glue that put my hear back together again. Everything is green. Everything is thriving and alive. People, animals, cars, colors, smells, everywhere! And that night, in the thundering rain, I longed to leap into the past. I want my old life so, so badly it tore me to peices. I want my house with the jungle-like yard, my bedroom with the matress with the rusty springs and my red tile floor. I want my living room that was home to so many memories. I want my familiar kitchen and my terrace, the squeak of mom's bathroom door, the all-too normal knock at the gate. I want to go to church every sunday and teach those beautiful kids. I want to fell the drums reverberate in my chest. I want to sit at Elo's making croquettes, laughing at Lewis. I want to go to the market, I want to play football with Moussa and Abou. I want to see every single Harmatan sunset and I want to dance in every rain storm. I dont want to miss another semenair, I dont want to hear about Christmas, summer and sleep overs! I want it all back so much it makes me physically hurt. And I didn't know how much I needed Africa. I've been away from home for so long I almost forgot where I belong. Here I am, beautiful and whole again. Oh, I need to come home. I love Shelby and Brinley and Noel and Lea but I grew up with Elo and Carol, Jinan and Dalal, Moussa and Abou and Lewis. I know them and they know me. The real me. We are such deep, unshakable friends that a year apart has done nothing to mar our friendship.I love it here. I love every aspect of it. Even the bad parts only serve to illuminate and heighten the wonderful parts. Africa just fills me with passion. Passion for the world and for making a difference. I want to write, to paint, to sing, to dance. I love the people. I love the feel of their proximity, their hands in mine...this may sound naive but it feels like anything is possible here. It's never going to be the same, I know. And sometimes it makes me sick to think of it. But for now? Well for now, I am going to enjoy every teeny tiny second of it

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my trip home last year. It's all I've got for you for now. Goodnight Bloggers!