Change is the Only Constant

Through the month of December, I couldn’t help but think about how transient this life is. I was transitioning from student teaching in Niger, coming back to the States, back to my parents’ home, back to icy roads and free water in restaurants. I thought about my friends whom I was saying goodbye to. I thought about an aging friend in Cedarville; I almost had to say my last goodbye to her. I thought about the fact that life would not have been this tumultuous in Eden. The way God started this earth, the way we could have lived, in perfection, we wouldn’t have had all of this change. No death. One language. Perfect communion with God. People would still grow and mature and learn and develop, but I don’t think the changes would have been as painful as they are now.

But change is a part of this life. And, like all things in this life, God redeems it and uses it for His glory, for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. As much as I fear and resist change, I’m learning more and more that change mandates trust. Either I try to trust in myself or I can surrender and trust the almighty, sovereign, good Savior of the universe. Such a tough decision for my weakling heart.

The life of a substitute

I’ve started substitute teaching! It’s a real thing now. I officially love when I can accept a job before the morning-of. Those 5am calls are rough. In the past few weeks, I’ve been a teacher for high school PE (almost all boys), for 1st grade, for high school history, and for middle school drama. 🙂 I’ve also been blessed to join some special education classrooms recently. In my 8 days of subbing so far, 4 of those days have been in some kind of special education classroom. I’m really excited for how God’s been opening my eyes to the needs, the joys, and the opportunities of students who learn differently.

Subbing can be terrifying. I mean, ok, all I have to do is fill in for a teacher for a few hours, right? No big deal. And even when I had multiple sections of 40 high school guys for PE, I only had them each for 50 minutes at a time. What’s the worst that could happen? Please don’t answer that question. (Also, don’t worry—no fights, no broken bones, and some of them might actually have remembered my name by the end of the class period. )

The terrifying bit is the fact that each morning I get ready for a day full of unknowns. Sometimes, I’ve never even been in the building before. I don’t know who the other teachers are. I don’t know when classes change. For my first subbing job, I didn’t even know where the bathrooms were. Thankfully, I was only there for half the day. And almost every morning, I have a slight internal freak out: what if I can’t make it through the whole day? What if completely botch the lesson plans? Why did I ever think this was a good idea?? Of course, I keep these doubts to myself, I try to focus on breathing like a normal human, and I remind myself that God is so much bigger. And remember that one time He helped me teach in Africa? Oh yeah. That happened. Remember how He’s the same God now? Oh. Right. 🙂

Subbing is teaching me a lot about how I don’t know all the answers. It’s also been really cool to step in to fill needs. I like that a lot about subbing. Like most humans, I like being needed. Subbing allows me to, sometimes literally, respond to a call for help. I like that. And I already have 5 more jobs scheduled for February. Thanks for providing, God!!

Middle child—only child

Hey. What do middle children rarely get from their parents?

Any breaks.

Badum-cha!

But really. We also rarely get one-on-one time with parents. Sarah got Mom and Dad all to herself for a couple years before her baby “sisser” arrived, and Evan had their full attention after I went away to Cedarville. I always had to share my parents with my siblings, until now. 🙂

Thankfully, this truly is a blessing. Somehow my parents and I have navigated the transition to your-daughter-is-actually-an-adult-now land without too many bumps or scrapes. I love being able to have evenings with them. I try to help with housework and taking care of our horses. They’re both really understanding of me having my own schedule while also wanting to spend time with them. Especially since Stephen and I hope that we might eventually live and serve overseas, I’m really cherishing this time with my amazing parents. I mean, good food, great company, and free rent? What more could I want?!

The Door Analogy

Have you ever heard people talk about God’s will and doors? Forget about the whole, “If God closes a door, he also opens a window,” thing. First of all, how does free will lend itself to an image of us being trapped in a room with only two means of escape? Anyway. I’m thinking more about the Christianese jargon that “if doors are open, then I’ll continue going this direction. If God closes doors, though, then I’ll know not to go that way.” Is this doctrinally sound? I’m probably not explaining it very well, but I do have some questions:

  • Should you always walk through these spiritual open doors? Just because a door is open, an opportunity is available, does that mean that God wants you to “walk through it”?
  • What if a door is stuck due to humidity? Does that mean that God wants you to give up because the door is closed? Or are you supposed to hip and shoulder check that bad boy open?
  • What if I’m actually completely missing the point and overcomplicating an analogy that was intended to simplify things? What if the important thing is to pray? Just pray. Romans 12:2—“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Okay. Enough with the rant. Here’s the real reason why I’ve been thinking about doors and God’s will and my need to pray more:

Heading back to Niger

I’m currently applying with SIM to be a short-term missionary to Niamey, Niger, for mid-April through early-June of this year, 2015.

I agree. This is crazy. My mentor teacher and his wife will be returning to the States earlier than they had originally planned. Consequently, Sahel Academy needs a high school English teacher for the last 2 months of the school year. My visa to Niger and my yellow fever vaccine are still good through July of this year. I’ve talked with parents, boyfriend, siblings, pastor, SIM representative, Sahel representative, and a few friends in Niamey. I’m going back. 🙂

General feelings: I’m terrified. And ecstatic. And I once again have a deep awareness of my need for God. I cannot do this by myself. I should not and will not do this by myself. I need His guidance and blessing. I also need lots and lots of prayers. Feel free to contribute your prayers generously. 🙂 (Yes, eventually I’ll need cash, but we’ll talk about that later. 🙂 ) I can’t wait to see my friends and students again. It still feels surreal that I might be going back so soon. Gosh. God is so generous and good.

As I’m thinking about returning, I’m also thinking about what I’ll be walking into. Hopefully, dear reader, you are aware of the demonstrations and devastations that happened in Niamey a few weekends ago, on January 17th. In reaction to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, groups of Nigeriens burned and vandalized many churches, pastors’ homes, and some Christian schools, mostly in Zinder and in Niamey. While this tragedy brought me to tears and to my knees here in the States, it is still deeply affecting my friends and students at Sahel. I’m humbled and honored that I’ll be able to come walk with them as they continue processing and growing through those trials.

To read more about the devastation in Niger January 17th, to see pictures, and to learn how you can pray and help, please read some of my friends’ blogs:

From the Michigander French teacher, Madame Rachel: http://racheltoniger.weebly.com/my-entries/hope

From Ms. Knox, the second grade teacher: http://hannahjoyinafrica.blogspot.com/ (Her post “From my eyes” discusses the burnings)

Continuing from here                               

One of my favorite attributes of God is His constancy. I struggle to describe it. He’s faithful, and that’s part of what I love. He never changes, and I depend on that, too. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. This also means that He’s the same God in Kecskemet, Hungary; in Niamey, Niger; in Akron, Ohio; in Freeland, Michigan. He’s the same, constant, faithful God. And He’s so, so good.

So really, change is not the only constant. Yes, our lives will consistently change. I’m no longer a college student. I’m only living in Michigan for 2 more months this winter before—hopefully—heading back to Niger. And I’ll only be there for another 2 months. I’m a substitute teacher, a riding instructor, and a soon-to-be long-term sub at Sahel. I can only see a few short steps ahead of me, and even those steps sometimes terrify me.

But there is one Being, one Truth, one Assurance more constant than change: God. For Believers, God is our true constant. He is my constant. I’m praying that I keep seeking Him and serving Him through the upcoming changes He has in store for me. 🙂

And no worries—I’ll keep you updated.

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A Month Later

Laziness. Fear. Time with family. Unrealistic expectations. Lack of confidence in my ability to effectively explain my life. I think these are the top reasons why it’s been a month since I’ve written for my blog. I’ve had some ideas of what to write. I’ve certainly had ample opportunity to actually sit down and do the writing. But I haven’t—until now.

Since it’s been so long, this will be a fly-by of reflections, thanksgivings, updates, and processing. Sounds like most of my conversations, to be honest…

 The Time Warp Game

My mom likes to play a Time Warp game. (I just made up that name for it, though. There isn’t actually a name for it. This is just how my mom thinks. 🙂 ) She’s frequently saying, “Can you believe that a week ago today, you were finishing your last semester at Cedarville?” or “How crazy is that two weeks from right now, we’ll be in Pentwater again?” Sometimes it really does boggle the mind, thinking of how quickly life can change. I’ve been playing the Time Warp game in my mind the past few days because a month ago today, I was in Paris, en route to Michigan, leaving Niger. When I verbalize that, it makes more sense why my mind and emotions feel discombobulated.

It’s been a crazy, good month. Hard, certainly. My first night home, I wept myself to sleep. (Crying doesn’t do it justice. This was tears galore, not trying to stop it, just allowing the act of weeping to exhaust me into sleep.) I miss my friends. I miss my roommate and our neighbor. I miss my students. Gosh, I miss them. I miss the warmth, the skirts, the constant refilling of water bottles, the planning and collaborating of our teacher workroom. I miss both planned and spontaneous prayer sessions. I miss that level of community and courage and dependence. I miss Sahel Academy like crazy.

However, it probably isn’t surprising that I’ve kept myself rather busy. Here are some fun (albeit exhausting) facts about what December 2014 included in the life of Abby Cline:

  • 3 countries on 3 continents—Niger, Africa; France, Europe; USA, North America
  • Finishing my student teaching and consequently, my undergraduate degree
  • 9 months of dating the man I love—and being reunited with him after 4 months of legit long distance 🙂
  • 8 different states—MI, OH, PA, NY, CT, MA, VT, and ME—en route to the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Kurt and Molly Stultz. 😉
  • Christmas with my entire family together
  • Continuing registering as a substitute teacher, you know, for that grown-up, real life thing
  • Saying too many goodbyes
  • Just a crap ton of change.

 Truth reminders

For my fellow Hunger Games fans, I have an analogy: please think of the beginning of Mockingjay. So, Katniss is a hot mess of emotions and confusion, right? And she’s repeating to herself the few facts that she feels she can trust: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped.” Etc. (If you’re that curious, read the books. You’ll thank me later.)

Let me clarify first that my life transitions have not been traumatic. I was never in a life-threatening situation. (No, Ebola still has not reached Niger.) But I’m still finding myself in need of some reminders, some reassurance, I suppose. So, here goes:

My name is Abby Cline. I am 23 years old. I live in Freeland, Michigan, in my parents’ house. I just taught for four months at an incredible school in Niamey, Niger. I spent 3 cold, early morning hours in Paris, France. I have friends in Niger, Hungary, Maine, Ohio, and various other states and countries; I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Oh, and by the way, I’m slightly terrified of my future.

You may have noticed some important truths that I left out. I think that’s why I’m terrified of my future—substitute teaching, looking for an actual teaching job, navigating living at home again, being an “adult.” Let’s try the truth reminders again:

 My name is Abby Cline. I am a sinner, redeemed by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This is not of myself; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). I serve a faithful, loving God who will never leave me nor forsake me (Joshua 1:5). God has a plan (Eph 1:7-10). I am part of that plan.

I need more truth reminders than I realize. It’s almost like God knew that, so He decided to give simple, forgetful humans the Bible. Crazy, huh.

More to come

This whole processing thing is going to take a while. I’ve decided that I do want to keep up with this blog, even though I’m back in the States where my life is “boring.” (I don’t actually believe that, don’t worry.) There may be some more in-depth, reflection-type posts in the future. But I’m going to try to be realistic and not promise anything. 🙂 For now, this is the update. And here are the pictures. Because my internet is now processing more than just KB per second. Weird. 🙂

My wonderful, amazing, gracious roommate and friend, Kathy. We took this picture right before I left for the airport (hence the jeans).

My wonderful, amazing, gracious roommate and friend, Kathy. We took this picture right before I left for the airport (hence the jeans).

At one of the Indian restaurants in Niamey, hours before they took me to the airport. L to R: me, Hannah, Rachel, Mal, Susan.

At one of the Indian restaurants in Niamey, hours before they took me to the airport. L to R: me, Hannah, Rachel, Mal, Susan.

I was actually there!

I was actually there!

Mom, Sarah, and I went to see WICKED in Detroit my second weekend home.

Mom, Sarah, and I went to see WICKED in Detroit my second weekend home.

While there wasn't snow on my first New England winter voyage, there were still breathtaking views.

While there wasn’t snow on my first New England winter voyage, there were still breathtaking views.

Stephen and I at our friends' wedding in Portland, Maine on Dec 19th.

Stephen and I at our friends’ wedding in Portland, Maine on Dec 19th.

One of my trips to Ohio included quality time with my dear friend Pat.

One of my trips to Ohio included quality time with my dear friend Pat.

While wrapping Christmas presents, I tried to stay modest while practicing some Niger skillz.

While wrapping Christmas presents, I tried to stay modest while practicing some Niger skillz.