I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a difficult time reflecting on a whole year. My memories don't go much further than the past 3 months, for being in Brazil was a huge part of 2012 for this Rivers fam. If I were to look at pictures I know I'd remember birthday celebrations, weddings, traveling to BC, canoeing on the Grand, teaching ESL, going to graduations.
Right now it all feels so serious and weighty. We're on the cusp of the new year, Jake and I have returned home, and everyone has thoughts, ideas, and resolutions for how to make 2013 the best year ever.
I, for one, have a few resolutions of my own to make. But I was reminded in church yesterday that if they're not made with dependency in God, and if, rather than life changing, they're merely words uttered in the wind, I might as well not make them.
Being in Brazil was absolutely life changing for us. It put so many things into perspective, and I don't want to lose sight of that. So here are a few of my reflections on 2012 and advice for a new year:
1. Don't move if you don't need to
Living in a one room apartment that was half the size of my Canadian living room really helped me to see that we don't need more space. Before we left for Brazil, Jake and I had been contemplating moving into a two-bedroom apartment on our return. My goodness, when I walked into our one-bedroom apartment after arriving in Cambridge last night, I was blown away at the sheer grandness of it. Jake just keeps calling it lavish, which is truly a word I would use. We were led to the realization that we don't need more space than this.
2. Spend more time building and investing in relationships
One thing we missed while being away was not having the space to have people over. "Have a seat on the bed, or that tiny space in the corner" is not really something a guest ever wants to hear. We are so elated to begin hosting again, and I was even inspired to start keeping a guestbook, not only to remember who we fellowship with, but to challenge ourselves in not letting too much time pass between guests. We came to appreciate our Canadian friends and family even more, while making new and equally special Brazilian friendships.
3. Get rid of the 'stuff'
Some people erroneously lump Brazil into the category of other central or south american countries that might be considered more 'third world'. I have had some people come up to me and say, "Has it been hard being back?" and before I have a chance to answer, "Yes, the snow has been so cold and horrible!" they continue with, "It's so tough to see people here with so much, and to remember how happy those poor people are with nothing!" First of all, can I have my input now? Thanks. Secondly, yes, there is huge disparity between the poor and the rich in this lavish country. Brazilians like to look good, though, especially when it comes to clothing and beauty. Brazilian homes, on the other hand, are generally very simple. Sure, I missed my nice, sharp Pampered Chef knives. But do I really need two loaf pans, or that massive bread maker that I've only used three times? Jake and I have a plan to go through everything-including those piles of paper which are the bane of my existence-and re-evaluate the necessity.
4. Love recklessly like Nina
I often wish that we could have spent a longer time in Brazil, something like 6 months. Being there for only 3 months, I sometimes couldn't see the benefit in making deep relationships. I am generally a very open person, and it was strange to feel myself guarding my heart. Eventually God broke through my wall, and in the last month we were there I was able to give more of myself to the friendships we were making (which was sad, because we had to leave!). There was one little pup, however, who broke through to me right away. The little mutt we looked after, Nina, was just so loveable. I couldn't help but lavish affection on her, and she with me. She didn't know when we were leaving, nor did she know why she wanted to spend time playing and walking with us, but she loved us anyways. Animals are like this, no? She taught me about what it means to love without trying to protect myself.
5. Love your enemies like Jesus
Jesus gave me an even greater piece about love, in particular about loving my enemies. I generally approach difficult relationships two-fold:
a. I don't want to work at them
b. I want to work at them in my own strength
I was struggling with this while in Brazil, and it got to me, fraying my ends. I was doubting my character and maturity in Christ.
One morning, Jake and I were doing a devotional on loving one another (our brothers and sisters in Christ), and God spoke to me. He taught me that I can't love people on my own. I am, by nature, a selfish person. On my own, I don't even want to love people in general, so how can I expect to learn how to love my enemies without depending on Christ, who is the lover of my soul? Christ is the standard in loving His enemies- He has it down! I need to depend on God and ask Him to give me the love that I lack for my enemies.
I was thankful for this insight and tangible advice in such a difficult area.
Jake and I have been thinking about these things for a couple of months, and I hope they will stay with me for a long time. They seem like such simple things, don't they?
And yet, sometimes it's the simple things that make the most impact in the course of life.
Let me tell you, we learned so much more in Brazil, and both Jake and I are looking forward to sharing stories, thoughts feelings about the three months we spent there. I am also looking forward to many more blogs to come regarding our last couple of weeks there, our goodbyes, and our travels back home.
|Our trip to Union Station in Chicago, with snow behind us and brave smiles on our faces. I was grateful for the winter coat the TEAM staff provided for me!|
For now, I want to wish everyone wonderful New Year's Eve celebrations with whomever you will be with. Jake and I will be spending it with his immediate fam, since it's also his mom's birthday!
May God bless you with relfections/advice for your new year, for 2013.