As we crunch through snow and slide our way along icy paths, with me (Lisa) managing one solid, hip-banging fall, it seems fair to say that spring is not quite here yet in Novosibirsk, Siberia. The temps are up significantly from January, but I think even the hearty residents of this city would love to see a flower or two and an end to the need for multiple layers. I’m aware that we get to head on in a few days, while our new friends here have at least another month of relative cold ahead. I’m hoping this is our last really wintry locale, as we head south to Georgia on Thursday and as spring comes to Eastern Europe/Eurasia. I’m counting on it, because I plan to leave a few layers here to lighten my duffle bag. I found a huge shawl on sale in London in February, which has subbed in nicely for a parka, covering my legs in ways my short jacket couldn’t. But it’s bulky. I’m leaving it here along with the cute furry earmuffs I bought in a desperate moment in Moldova, my winter pj’s, a worn white turtleneck from Boston days, and some ancient long underwear from that era as well. It’s spring-cleaning for my luggage, if you will, in the absence of floors to mop this year. This will be my third shedding round on this trip. I hit moments when the impulse to lighten the load outweighs the value to me of the stuff I’m carting around. Shedding always involves a certain feeling of risk—what if I miss it once I’ve let go of it? What if I’m sorry I don’t have it any more? It’s a microcosm of the losses and gains involved any time we venture out, risk, or even give ourselves to others. Will we be rejected? Will it be worth it?
The arrival of spring (at least on the calendar, if not in Siberian temps) also makes me aware that we have been away from our home for a stinking long time. A solid three seasons ago, we shed the comfort and stability that our home offered us, for the opportunity of ministry that duffle bags and many temporary homes provided. We paid a cost as we began, in all the effort it took to clear out our home, arrange renters, sell our car, etc. And we pay certain costs all along the way—it’s been a joy-filled journey but I especially am weary of the suitcase life. We have gone hard the last few weeks, no question. That is good--we’d much rather that than be sitting around underutilized, as we have experienced in a couple of places. But we are tired. We have one more stop, which promises to be full as well, in Georgia. Then we get a blessed vacation, thanks to the amazing generosity of friends of friends. We hope it will be a kind of spring-cleaning for our hearts and renewing to our bodies, giving us the ‘spring’ in our steps that we need for the final stretch.
But in four months we will pay a different set of costs, as we return ‘home’ in late July but aren’t able to move into our actual home until September. We’re immensely grateful for the housing God has provided for those five weeks, but we and our kids, when they come to LA in August, will no doubt be wistful for our own home, with its rusty old barn, oranges, lemons and backyard fire-pit in the evenings. It’s worth counting that cost ahead of time, praying for the grace to be willing to gladly pay it, and confidently hoping we’ll still say, “We wouldn’t trade the stability we lost this past year for the joy that the year has been.” While we can’t name or post photos of the faithful servants we’ve met here, the memories of the opportunities to come alongside them will form part of what helps us pay that cost in August.
Thanks for your prayers as we continue the journey. I (Lisa) would humbly ask for your prayers for work in the year ahead: I have applied for several jobs, been a finalist but not the finalist for one, heard nothing from a few, and am waiting on one more. I trust that God has good work for me to do next year, but I’m frankly a little discouraged on that front these days. Thanks.
Rich and Lisa Lamb