I have moments, call them Peru moments if you like. They are moments when the reality of what I am doing comes crashing down on me. Tonight it happened while I was buying dishwasher tabs. The boxes were on sale for 2/$7.00. Any reasonable person would go ahead and buy two. It’s a decent think to have on stock, it won’t go bad, and it’s on sale. The problem is, there were 20 in each box. As a single person, I run my dishwasher about once a week. I’m standing in the grocery store, staring at the dishwasher tabs, wondering whether I’ll still be in the country in 20 weeks. Two boxes, or 40 tabs, would last nearly 9 months! The reality is that I will probably only use one of the two boxes that I bought, if I even finish the first. I likely bought my last American dishwasher tabs tonight.

This weekend I’m headed on a retreat with my young adult community at church. We go on two retreats a year: the beach in the spring and the mountains in the fall. Not only will this almost certainly be my last fall retreat, but it may be my last retreat at all unless I luck up and attend one during a future home assignment (furlough).  Some of my fondest times were at retreats. Well, actually some of my fondest times were planning the retreats and then pulling it off, but you know what I mean. The point being, it’s the end of an era. I’ve been a part of these retreats since June of 2003. This is probably my last retreat.

I suppose that’s what I mean by a “Peru moment.” A moment when I reach the last entry of an particular kind in my life journal: the last time my cat greeted me at the door, the last box of trash bags purchased, the last Halloween decorating contest at work, or my last day teaching Zumba this past Monday. Soon I’ll be facing my last holiday season and birthday as a resident of the US. In March I’ll bake the last birthday cake for my niece (she reminded me on Monday night, “You’ll bake my cake, and then you’ll go.”). What other “lasts” am I having and not realizing it?

I could easily wallow in all the Peru moments, because I suspect they will get even more frequent as time progresses! When I find that I’m a bit sad about those things that are coming to an end, I begin running through my ever-growing list of reminders that I am moving in the right direction. Some might call them “signs.” I just prefer to think of them as gentle reminders that God is in control and that He is trustworthy in this process. To counteract the list of Peru moments above, I present you with a list of pro-Peru moments.

  1. Unexpected Yard Sale Success: In June I had my first yard sale in an attempt to de-clutter my home before listing it. I’m not sure what the dollar amount is that most people associate with a successful yard sale, but I made approximately $6 a minute for the time that the sale was going on. Not only did the yard sale pay for all three weeks my summer training at SIM, it also covered the cost of new light fixtures and paint to stage my house. That was a not-so-subtle hint that I am moving in the right direction!
  2. Unexpected roommate: Shortly before my summer training at SIM, I realized that I was gong to have to foot the bill for some immunizations. If you’ve ever had travel immunizations, you know it isn’t cheap! I’d had many shots for my first mission trips to Africa, but some of those I got in 1998 were out-of-date. With a high deductible, insurance wasn’t of much use either. Out of the blue, a friend called, said she needed a home for a month, and offered me rent that just covered my immunization bill.
  3. Unexpected reunions: One neat thing about changing the course of life has been the people that I’ve had a chance to talk with, to whom I otherwise would not have reached out. I’ve reconnected with people from middle school, high school, college, and beyond who are interested to hear what I’m doing. Even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on why I would go to Peru, it’s led to some great conversations and precious reunions.
  4. Unexpected financial support: I baked a dessert one day and had lots left over, so I thought I’d take a plate by my sister’s office since it was on the way home from work. She suggested that we put it in the kitchen with one of my prayer cards (coming soon in a newsletter to your mailbox!). She put it in there and within minutes a coworker came by and said something direct like, “Do you have another one of those cards? We’d love to support you.” I gained a new monthly supporter with some Sever Layer Brownie Bars. Wow! I’m always blown away by the generosity of those around me, so that’s simply one example out of many of the unexpected support that I’ve received.
  5. Unexpected Peruvians: I suppose it’s like buying a new car. As soon as you buy it, you see it everywhere! I can’t begin to tell you how many Peruvians that I’ve met or how many friends who have said, “I know someone from Peru.” I was dining at one of my favorite eateries recently, The Flying Biscuit, and my waitress grew up in Lima!
  6. Unexpected joy: I began looking for a home for Koshka, my cat, in at least June and possibly before. By September I found myself thinking, “At what point do I decide that he needs to move on from here, even if it’s not the right home for him?” Just when I was thinking those unthinkable things, a man named Tarver came along and took Koshka with him. A few days later I got a voicemail from Tarver saying, “Thank you for giving me such joy.”
  7. Unexpected encouragement from half way around the world: A coworker of mine from down under sent me these words: “I heard about [your] upcoming adventure… What you are doing is very noble of spirit and is very inspirational. I spoke to my wife of it and it has certainly refocused out efforts to help those less fortunate in any way we can. Mind you they are on a much smaller scale. Through our church we are seeking to increase our sponsorship of rural villages in Africa and South America and we are currently involved in our son’s ‘mission support drive’ which is raising funds for overseas missionary work through that Catholic Education system. We still support individual children through World Vision and will look to increase our commitment when [my wife] goes back to work. I just mention this [be]cause I want you to know that your actions can have an impact beyond that of the direct work you will be doing. You should be very proud of what you are doing and I wish you all the very best going forward. God bless you and yours.”

There will certainly be more moments when I sadly reach the end or the last – the last day in my home of 7.5 years, the last day at my work… but then there are those moments when I am reminded of the joy and blessing that comes with being about that which He has for me. He is providing for me and granting me the grace to deal with the lasts as they arise. I trusted God with my life when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Now I’m just continuing to turn over control of all the details to Him too (that will be a life-long process!). It is part of my journey to be about that which He has for me and He is certainly worthy of it all.