all the hype that money can buy.

ah the holidays. who can really grasp and/or describe the bizarre happiness that is felt, the tingling hope of new things under a tree piled with trinkets and knick-knacks, the intense nostalgia, a creeping anxiety, the swelling of conflicting emotions when we hear all those those seasonal songs we almost don’t like anymore? i hardly can. so many wonderful things. finding new and amazing themed sweaters; dusting off decorations untouched for eleven months; cutting down a tree on a misty grey day; blasting Christmas music during distributions at work; the mysterious lady i saw the other night hurriedly cutting off branches from the many juniper bushes around the apartments….and the new juniper-branch adornments outside of the apartment entrance ways.

there has been another recent development, speaking of this wonderful land of apartments we live in. our upstairs neighbor joe is an interesting character. often smoking, he is a nice enough guy, and we have had many interesting conversations. he even suggested a book for me to read, his favorite, he said. but i checked a copy out at the library instead of trying to juggle the pages from his batted paperback. that and something about things steeped in cigarette smoke not agreeing with my lungs too well. before i continue i must mention that the door buzzers for these apartments are absurdly loud. loud as if a semi truck blew its mighty horn inside of your ear. once a room full of noisy people was silenced (and momentarily deafened) by the sudden blast. well, joe has this awful tendency to occasionally forget his keys. and thus he, locked out, and knowing i will open the building door for him, buzzes us. the noise makes my stunned heart forget that it usually likes to keep beating. this has happened three times in the last two days. my favorite time was when he buzzed long and vicious at, i kid you not, 3.20 am. boy. sometimes when we talk i wonder how many drinks he has had that day. well, here’s to you joe; may you always remember your keys.

i finished a 1432-page copy of les miserables by victor hugo the other week. longest book i have ever read. but one of the best, too. simply incredible. and very worth it to read the whole thing rather than an abridged version. because sometimes it’s ok to have a fifty page overview of the battle of waterloo, or a history of convents, or a description of the sewers of paris in the middle of the narrative. at the end i sat beneath a gnarled old oak tree in the woods, where i have read many a book before, and listened to a playlist of wonderful instrumental music and let it mix with the sounds of a fall forest. the last pages came and the song that rose in my ears was from the end of the return of the king when they are bidding a final farewell to frodo and gandalf and others. it was so incredibly emotional and perfectly timed. i read the last lines of the immense and beautiful novel, the last melody of the music faded out, i looked up and a dozen birds swooped over my head and flew away. it was all quite  beyond wonderful.

i’ll be honest, one of the more stress-inducing things i have experienced recently is the making of our first ever Christmas card. i made such a holiday greeting once before with my good friend ty, but it was only a picture of us flying through the air at each other with machetes and we just posted it to the facebooks. but this one is as a married couple and as each new day of december closes and Christmas is closer, the pressure to get formatting and address and all details large and small figured out increases. and when do we have time for this anyway with our already ridiculous schedules? but somehow we are making it work. and hopefully it will get out into the wider world before too late.

the super special thing about this Christmas card is that it serves the double purpose of informing our friends and relations (who aren’t already privy) of our recent intention to leave the country. maybe you saw this:, and maybe you didn’t. but word on the street is that the watsons are officially headed to kigali, rwanda in 2013. as in we are going to rwanda. that’s settled.

it’s a bizarre and amazing feeling to have that decision made. we explored the rome option as well over a month of prayer and counsel. one of the big moments in that process came from a friend who i was catching up on the trip at a halloween party. i was talking about the various ministry outlets/opportunities in kigali and she said something like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s you and steph, that’s so perfect.’ and through all the haze of decisions and life changes and questions in my head, that thought was seen quite clear: what awaited us in kigali matched our interests and gifts pretty darn well. on some level that seemed to make it all too easy, as if we wouldn’t be trying because it was so ‘perfect.’ well yeah that seems pretty naive. first of all we shouldn’t kid ourselves, anywhere and anything in this wide world will be pretty rough. and also maybe things seems to line up beautifully because they are supposed to. all that to say, we’re going to kiglai, rwanda. i was scraping the red rwandan earth off my shoes the other day and almost cried from a deep elation, the thought that we would be going back and staying for a while.

and so now to capture that excitement in a letter, to try and fit years of anticipation for this life step on a small piece of paper, condense and make concise incredible passions for people and justice and Jesus so that friends and family actually will want to read the whole thing to the end. and to, well, give. because we don’t do this alone. the first step in this new ministry is hanging out with people we know and kind of know and opening up our hearts to them so that perhaps they too will catch the vision of what God is transforming and redeeming in rwanda…and our small part in that.

there is a lot of room for doubt here, i have noticed. sometimes it sounds easier and good to forget that dream, to just hang around. i mean, wouldn’t it be great to just give that all up – because it’s gonna be really hard and stupid – and try for a well-paying job and buy a house eventually and live forever in my own little world in central illinois? i wouldn’t even want to move anywhere else; too much work. you know those times when you should really tackle the pile of dishes in the sink but it’s so much easier to add another dish to the heap and go sit on the couch? the temptation here is that on steroids. the whole process is too much work, it’s too hard, just give up, just live your life, it’ll be fine, don’t worry about other people, don’t bother. in all honesty those thoughts are pretty comforting. they have the power to instantly turn off my brain to all the next steps, to just relax and forget. (and i laugh because as i write this i am listening to the song plan b by five iron frenzy. you’d laugh, too.) and man, as scary as that is sometimes, it is also good, it keeps me awake, keeps me aware that there are forces that would like steph and i to never get any farther down the road to rwanda. but remember that passion and those years of anticipation i spoke of earlier? all still there.

again, how to sum that up? how to ask people to give money so that we can live and eat and be sheltered and focus fully on trying to be like Jesus and living that passion instead of thinking about a regular job? what a strange and wonderful blessing. would you give to such a thing?

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