In the absence of family, we celebrated with friends. Four of us American families in language school gathered. My mashed potatoes were sticky because of a different type of potatoes. The chicken was baked in an oven that had to be propped closed with a chair and water bucket. The green bean casserole was stove-top, anything with cream of mushroom soup had to be recreated from scratch, and the the sweet potato casserole was white.
But we sat and laughed and chatted with children running around our feet, and I loved it. We came home and sat under the twinkling lights of our tree and .... I am thankful.
I wouldn't trade this for the world.
I have been pondering my joy at being here, and a lot of it has to do with beauty. For me, I am brought to overflowing jubilation when I am surrounded by beauty. On our honeymoon road trip Isaac started making fun of me for squealing, "PREEEEEETY" as we drove past beautiful things. The joke has lasted because I'm so consistent! I am a beauty seeker - I am drive outside to walk, to take pictures, to look for beauty. And then, when I see beauty, I rejoice. I pray. I sing. Beauty turns me to my Creator in a way nothing else does. It is the language of my soul, the way I connect to God. I have heard some say that for my generation of postmoderns, beauty is the strongest apologetic for God. If I am representative of my generation, that is true.
I am not sure if it's just that this place is so beautiful or if it's just so beautiful to me, but.... I feel like I am surrounded by beauty in a way I can't describe. I often think I want to write to describe it all but it's so constant that I never do. It's the big things, the little things. The sunset over the mountains. The sound of a tropical rainstorm. The way the earth smells in the jungle. The sight of a toothless wrinkled woman in her sarong carrying her basket to market. The pattern of papaya leaves. The brilliant green of the banana leaves outside of our classroom windows when the sun shines through them. The wind on my face driving home in the evening. The smile of Ibu Ning as I drive home. The little kids walking home from school in their uniforms holding hands.
When I get my homework done early and can spare an hour, I fill my driving urge to explore. I drive to the lake, to the rice paddies, up the mountain. I take pictures because if I can just show one tiny bit of it, of the beauty, maybe others will understand.
So - I rejoice. On a daily level. My heart sings. Psalm 16 has been my song since coming here because it is an outflow of thankfulness. "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."
Let me never be so taken with the gifts of God that I forget the Giver. I don't want my joy to be dependent on the place I am. I have experienced living in a place I did not enjoy. Now I live in a place I deeply love. Who knows what tomorrow holds. My joy should not be less in the first situation, nor should it be caused by the second. My "chosen portion" is the beautiful Creator. "I have set the Lord always before me.... therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices.... In your presence there is fullness of joy."