If any good has come of the last several years, it is that we’re moving forward; and by forward, I mean that we are being shaped, and intentionally so, for the work that is to come.

I’ve been trying to put words to this for some time now, and they never sound quite right. So perhaps I need to stop trying and just say what I feel. 

I am certain that this intentional forward moving is something of the work of God in our lives. 

In considering the past few years, I see so much growth and change, a shaping that has without a doubt prepared us for this next season of life in Tanzania. 

When we first moved to Seattle, we took only what we could fit in our SUV, which sounds great, but the majority of it was so unnecessary. Upon arriving, we agreed that we’d be intentional in our selection of the furniture pieces that would make our home. We bought things that were well-made, pieces that would only retain their value. These were expensive purchases, but craigslist was a wonderful resource. They were timeless, and we just knew we’d keep them for the rest of our lives. That was the plan, anyway.

When we moved into our second apartment, we began to realize how unnecessary much of what we had brought with us to Seattle was, and how we hardly used it the year before. So we began a much needed purge and got rid of so much stuff.

Having recently moved back to North Carolina, we thought that everything we were bringing was all so important and we wanted to keep it. But now we’ve lived for over a year with the majority of our belongings in storage, and we’re realizing again just how much we don’t need. We share a tiny closet and cycle through the same pieces of clothing we’ve had for the last two years and we’re okay with this.

Our eating has changed drastically as well. We eat so much better than when we first moved to Seattle. Of course Seattle played a role in this being an incredible foodie city. We also didn’t have a lot of money to spend on food so I learned to cook pretty well and we ate out on occasion. But in North Carolina, we’re in a food desert. We have to drive about 35 minutes or so to the nearest grocery store with organic food. We’ve grown accustomed to a few staples, such as any variation on the combination of black beans and sweet potatoes. Now that I’m thinking about it, these foods have a longer shelf life making them easy to have on hand. All to say, I think our eating has become simplified as well. Not to suggest our simple way of eating is less delicious. On the contrary, our food made at home tastes incredible, despite its simplicity. 

This past year has been an emotional roller coaster. Which is to say, our feelings from week to week change drastically. Some days we’re excited about the work of After Trade and trying to get to Tanzania. On these days we feel confident that if we can just say more about this work, or say it differently, that people will somehow get it and want to be part of it. Fundraising is both humbling and humiliating. It seems we’ve been taught our whole lives how not to ask for help, and in one year, we’ve been trying to figure out how to unlearn what this means in a context of fundraising and trying to establish intentional relationships with those who believe in this work. 

A few days ago, Steven and I agreed that we don’t care if we have to survive on the most basic of sustenance, so long as we were in Tanzania, learning the language, and beginning the work of intentional community among coffee farmers. I realize that in saying this, it sounds both arduous and ambitious. But I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything with these words, other than the hunch that we are being formed for just this sort of life. 

I’ll end with an excerpt from Common Prayer that inspired me to finally get these thoughts out, and perhaps says it better or at least more concise than I’ve attempted here:

“And most people don’t miss the old life much anyway. A reporter once told Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” She responded, “Me neither.” We live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for. Not only does it give life to others, but it gives us life as well.”

// aftertrade.org